Remembering My Creator Volume 4, Number 1, August 31, 2018, Theme: Thoughts From Hebrews

In This Issue

 

  • “Jesus is Superior to Angelic Beings (1:1–2:18)” by Randy Sexton
  • “Warning, a Rest for the People of God (3:7-4:13)” by David Bushnaq
  • “The High Priesthood of Jesus (4:14-10:18)” by Dillon Jarrett
  • “The Full Assurance of Faith (10:19-39)” by Hannah Clark
  • “Sacrifices Pleasing to God (13:1-19)” by John Crawford
  • “Thoughts From Hebrews 13 by William C. Sexton (Reprint)

 

 

“Jesus is Superior to Angelic Beings” (Hebrews 1:1 – 2:18)

By

Randy Sexton

 

Roger Shouse states, in his excellent class material on the book of Hebrews, “Hebrews is considered by many to rank with Romans and Revelation as difficult to understand. Certainly the writer himself believed what he was writing was for the spiritually mature (Hebrews 5:11-6:3). The book contains what is probably the most sustained argument in Scripture. The author makes extensive use of Old Testament quotations and an understanding of the Jewish Scriptures is essential to understanding the book.”

The Hebrew epistle does not tell us who wrote it and various commentators and writers have differing opinions as to authorship. Some believe it was authored by Paul, others Apollos, and still others Clement, or Luke, or Barnabas. Neither does the author of this epistle clearly designate his audience. But he does seem “to be targeting a group of Jewish converts who are facing the temptation of returning to Judaism. The author seeks to show the superiority of the new convenant over the old. The author knows the recipients (Hebrews 5:11f; 10:24f; 1317f), who are clearly a certain group of Hebrew Christians rather than Hebrews in general” (Shouse).

The theme of this entire epistle is that the New Covenant is better than the Old. A Key Verse is Hebrews 8:6: “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.”

“Jews who became Christians faced many hardships. Think about it. Just leaving behind all of the rituals of Old Testament worship would have been hard. They had been doing these things their entire lives. Some were treated as outcasts by their friends and family. Others were persecuted. Because of all these hardships, some considered turning away from Jesus and going back to the Old Law.” (David Banning, A Quick Look at Each New Testament Letter, p. 18)

The primary thoughts in this section of the epistle could be captured under the headings: the supremacy of God’s Son, Warning Against Neglecting Salvation, and the Founder of Salvation. Let us examine these thoughts as presented by the writer of the Hebrew letter.

The Supremacy of God’s Son (1:1-14)

Although God has spoken to His people throughout the ages, the instrumentality He has chosen has varied. And in our case, He has saved the best until last. In these last days He speaks to us through His Son. We may sometimes lose sight of how blessed we are to sit where we do in the “stream of time” and to benefit from those who have lived before us and from the things that “have been written for our learning” (Rom. 15:4).

Warning Against Neglecting Salvation (2:1-4)

To avoid drifting away from our salvation, “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard.” Because we are prone, as humans, to act from what our hearts and minds dwell on, we cannot NEGLECT what we have learned, and still remain steadfast.

The Founder of Salvation (2:5-18)

The writer of this epistle shows the tremendous things that Jesus has done for us in order to demonstrate the value of remaining faithful. Nothing else can compart to Him. The fact that Jesus left heaven to become a man should make us so very grateful for the benefits that accrued to us.

 

 

Warning, a Rest for the People of God” (Hebrews 3:7-4:13)

By

David Bushnaq

Hebrews 3 shows us that there are two types of people, those who will enter God’s rest and those who will not. We also find just how those who failed to enter God’s rest earned that state. Starting in verse 7…

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”

We as children of God know that we too, as those who were lead out by Moses can rebel against God if we wish, however as hindsight is 20/20 we also know what awaits us.

Could you believe the nerve of those following Moses? They saw the plagues, they saw the sea separating right and left so they could walk on dry land, but as soon as things got tough, they wished to return to the Egyptians, undoing all the good God and Moses did for them.

“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

This passage warns, and rightly so, that we can depart from the Living God. In doing so, we lose our salvation, or rest, when this life is over. Not only must we watch out for ourselves, but those in the household of God as well.

We do not have Moses, as they did, but we do have something better. We have God’s holy word and the best defense against deceit is, as Jesus said “it is written.” We must realize where our salvation comes from, and live lives accordingly- steadfast until the end.

Now there is a command for us, we must “hear his voice” and remain open, receptive to it. After all, starting in verse 16 we find that just hearing isn’t enough.

“For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”

This is the finality of life. All will cease- from this life that is. I guess in that regard all will rest, physically, but that’s not the end of it. If we rebel, as those did, our state would be like those who fell in the wilderness. Worse than that, we incur God’s wrath. A wrath there will be no rest from once we die.

So once again, there are two types of people, those who will obey and those who will not. I ask you then, which will you be? We learn that not all died in those 40 years, those who remained faithful did enter the promised rest, everyone else, however, as Matthew 7 states

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

 

http://www.achristiansvoice.com/remembering-my-creator-volume-4-number-1-august-31-2018-theme-thoughts-from-hebrews/high-priesthood-of-jesus-by-dillion-jarrett/             
 Call to Faith and Endurance – The Full Assurance of Faith” (Hebrews 10:19-39)

Thoughts by Hannah Clark

For the passage listed in the title, my Bible contains two division titles, “Hold Fast Your Confession” and “The Just Live by Faith.” I have separated my thoughts to coincide with these headings and hope they will make it easier as you follow along in your Bible.

Hold Fast Your Confession

We are to emulate Christ and one of the characteristics of our Father is that He Himself is faithful. One of the promises made to Abraham was that “all of the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3) Throughout the Old Testament we can see prophecies that foretell the coming of Christ in whom we have salvation. The Hebrew writer even states in chapter 10 verse 23 that “He who promised is faithful.” What a comfort to know that the living God we serve will not forsake us despite how imperfect we are. In this, we can have assurance that our trust in Him will not be misplaced but lead to everlasting life.

The Just Live by Faith

“Therefore do not cast away your confidence which has great reward.” (Heb. 10:35) Our faith will be tested and tried in various ways but in turning to the scriptures, we are warned not to give in. The Hebrew writer includes a warning for those that would turn away in that there is no salvation from sin outside of Christ.

Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:29)

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb. 10:31)

Joshua stated in the Old Testament “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) The first century Christians felt a sense of urgency that has been lost over time. They were awaiting the coming of Christ again and preparing His coming. They knew that their earthly possessions were of little value compared to their home in heaven (Heb. 10:34). The Hebrew writer says that they “…see the Day approaching” and that “for yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.” (Heb. 10:25, 37)  Our lives on this earth may seem long and full of years but that is nothing compared to the expanse of eternity. With the assurance of faith we have in the Lord, we ought to be preparing ourselves for Christ to come again and be waiting to “see the Day approaching.

“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

 

 

“Thoughts on Hebrews 13″               

By

William C. Sexton (Reprint)

 

Introduction: This last chapter of the book to the Hebrews begins with the directions to let brotherly love continue, looking back and remembering, not forgetting some who entertained strangers.

Remembering faithful Christians in “bonds,” is a commendable thing to do. Marriage is described as be “honorable in all,” while the violators of God’s rules in this matter shall be “judged.”(Heb. 13:1-4)

Covetousness is to be avoided, as we are to be “content” with such things as we have. This can be done, if we remember that God has promised that He’ll not leave nor forsake us. Whit that promise, we can know by faith the Lord is our helper, so we’ll not fear what men can do to us (Heb. 13:5-6).

Remember, in the sense that we respect them who have the rule over us. Each of us ought to appreciate the people God has set forth in His church to rule in the sense they are concerned for our souls and are willing to guide us in that which has been revealed, knowing that God knows best and is interested in our well-being! These people have spoken the message from heaven and provide example worthy of imitating, following. We need to look at the results of such living (Heb. 13:7)

We need to recognize the unchangeableness of Jesus, and thus be not carried away with doctrines that are not what God has revealed. The heart needs to be established on the grace of God, rather than being obsessed with carnal matters. In contrast with those who are trying to hold on to the Old Covenant, we have an altar on which they have no right to partake. Those animal sacrifices are no longer doing what they once signified, for Jesus has come and fulfilled His mission. He has accomplished what those offerings of Old could only point to. The appeal is made then for us to go forth committed to Jesus, and humbly carry any and all reproaches that result from our behavior and commitment to Christ. (Heb. 13:8-13).

Christians here are not looking for an earthly city; rather, we are looking for that heavenly place. The “sacrifice” we offer is “Praise to God,” the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. Doing good is to ever be before us. That included understanding what respect we need to give to the elders who watch for our souls. We need to pray for all the servants of God. (Heb. 13:14-19).

Now the God of peace who brought Jesus forth from the dead can make us “perfect in every good work,” as we do His will. The writer appeals to them to accept the word of exhortation, and to “know” brethren who have been “set at liberty.” Salute all them who rule. Grace be with us all. (Heb. 13:20-25)

Questions:

  1. What are we told to continue and remember (Heb. 13:1-2)?
  2. How is marriage described, contrasted with violations of the marriage vowel (Heb. 13:4)?
  3. What is said about covetousness and contentment and why (Heb. 13:5-6)?
  4. What is said relative to them who have the rule over us (Heb. 13:7, 17)?
  5. What is said about Jesus and being carried away with strange doctrine (Heb. 13:8-9))?
  6. What is said about the “altar” we have contrasted with the Old one (Heb. 13:10-13))?
  7. What is said about a city, as distinct to what we are looking for and doing (Heb. 13:14-16)?
  8. What is said about prayer, conscience, and honestly (Heb. 13:18-19)?
  9. What has the “God of peace” done and can and will make you (Heb. 13:20-21)?
  10. What is said about exhortation, knowing certain brethren, and saluting (Heb. 13:22-25)

The Disciplines of Life: Discernment, Decision and Duty

This is the fourth article in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have studied: Solitude, Discipleship and Dependability & Determination thus far. There are many disciplines that should be evident in the life of the Christian. In this article, we want to look at the disciplines of discernment, decision, and duty.

As we have been emphasizing in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360). Please consider …

 

Discernment

One of the disciplines of life that we must develop is that of discernment. As we go through life, we are impacted by people, places and events. We might consider those things stimuli (i.e. something that incites to action or exertion or quickens action, feeling, thought, etc.). As Christians, it is important that we exercise discernment in determining the source of those stimuli; are they of God or of Satan?

 

The writer of the Hebrew letter tells us that we must be disciplined to discern both good and evil and that this is a work of spiritual maturity (Heb. 5:11-14). One who has not fed upon the Word of God, first with the “milk,” and then progressing to the “strong meat” (KJV) of the Word is NOT able to properly make these right decisions!

Think about the contrast we see between the actions of God vs. actions of Satan upon our lives:

Area of Influence God Satan
Our Mistakes Offers the blood of Jesus that washes whiter than snow (Isa. 1:18; 1Jn. 1:9) Takes pleasure in them, especially if his “wiles” have contributed (Eph. 6:11)
Our Motivations Points us to the pathway of self-denial and selfless service (Mt. 16:24-26 Tempts us with self-interests, physical needs, social position, etc. (Mt. 4:3, 8; 16:23
Our Perspective Exalts the present help of the Lord (Ps. 46:1). Reminds us of the promises, whereby we can hope against hope (Rom. 5:3-5). Emphasizes the past, with its mistakes and heartaches. Magnifies our problems, by showing their hoplessness, impossibility, and pail
Our Guide Walk by faith (2Cor. 5:7; Heb. 11:6). Forget the past and reach forward (Phil. 3:13-14). Walk by sight and earthly wisdom (“the counsel of the ungodly” Ps. 1:1).

 

It is so very important, as we attempt to live for Jesus here, that we focus our attention on developing the discipline of discernment. Won’t you be persuaded, dear friend, to do that?

 

 Decision

Secondly, consider the discipline of decision. In the course of a lifetime there are many decisions to be made. Some of these decisions seem very trivial at the time and others may weigh on us because of their importance in setting the future course of our lives.  The Scriptures promise guidance in these decisions to the trusting Christian (Ps. 32:8; 25:9). The “way which you should go” often become more clear after meditation and prayer! Seeking guidance from God before making a decision is never a bad thing!

Of particular interest in considering this discipline is Jeremiah 42:3-10. First consider the context of this passage. “Jeremiah lived during troubled times. He became a prophet during Josiah’s reign (640-609 B.C.). Josiah was the last faithful king in Judah’s history (2Kings 22:1-23:7). His death (2Kings 23:28-30) marked the beginning of the last years of the nation of Judah…. Jeremiah was a biblical theologian…. Whom the Holy Spirit inspired to write fresh treatments of old themes and some ideas that were new when Jeremiah penned them…. the prophet asks people over 100 times to ‘turn around’ or ‘repent.’ ” (ESV Study Bible, pp. 1364-1367).   From this passage we glean three outstanding factors that determine the discipline of decision:

  1. Willingness to ask guidance from God (vv3 and 6, Js. 1:5). They said, “Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God…” We have many examples in Scripture of those who were willing to seek guidance from God before embarking on an important activity: “Moses at the Red Sea, Joshua at passage of the Jordan, Ruth in the village of Bethlehem, David in the wilderness, Nehemiah in the court of the king, Jeremiah in the prison, Peter on the housetop, and Paul on board the storm-tossed sailing craft” (Erdman, p. 40)
  2. Willingness to wait for God’s guidance (v7). They had to wait for ten days for the word of the Lord to come to Jeremiah after he asked God on their behalf. There is a song by Stuart Hamblen that speaks to the need to wait for God. The lyrics of that song are as follows:

Teach Me Lord to Wait

Teach me Lord to wait right down on my knees,
Till in Your own good time You answer my pleas;
Teach me not to rely on what others do,
But to wait in prayer for an answer from You.

 

Refrain:

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,
They shall mount up with wings like eagles.
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.”
Teach me Lord, teach me Lorde, to wait

 

Teach me Lord to wait while hearts are a-flame,
Let me humble my price and call on your name.
Keep my faith renewed, my eyes on Thee,
Let me be on this earth what you want me to be

 

  1. Willingness to obey the will of God (v. 10). The word from Jeremiah to the people was, “If you will indeed stay in this land, then I will build you up and not tear you down, and I will plant you and not uproot you; for I will relent concerning the calamity that I have inflicted on you.” This was not really what they wanted to hear. Secretly they desired to flee into the land of Egypt where they would not see pestilence nor warfare; but they wanted God’s approval of their preference.

 

Sadly, in the following chapter we find the description of their failure to obey, “Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, “You are telling a lie! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, ‘You are not to enter Egypt to reside there’; 3 but Baruch the son of Neriah is inciting you against us to give us over into the hand of the Chaldeans, so they will put us to death or exile us to Babylon.” 4 So Johanan the son of Kareah and all the [a]commanders of the forces, and all the people, did not obey the voice of the Lord to stay in the land of Judah” (Jer. 43:2-4).

 

The question for all of us is, are we willing to obey the voice of the Lord “whether it be good or whether it be evil.”

 

Duty

“Is there delight deeper or more delectable than that of duty diligently done? To know one’s responsibility, to face its circumstances, both favorable and unfavorable, to follow the line of duty without deviation caused by difficulties or distraction, and to fulfill the task as assigned – all this brings great joy. Between finding out our task and fulfilling the same there lies the discipline of duty, often arduous and difficult, even to the point of impossibility”

(Edman, p. 247).

 

We have many Bible examples of those who responded when the will of God called them to duty. The Apostle Paul obeyed when he was called to bear witness in Rome (Acts 23:11). Abraham went when called to go out to a land that he knew nothing about and had not seen with the promise that he would inherit that land (Gen. 12). Joseph responded to God’s call to become the ruler and benefactor of his brethren (Gen. 39). Moses, though feeling unqualified followed God’s direction to lead his enslaved people from the iron furnace of Egypt (Ex. 3). David said “yes” when God called him to leave his duties as a shepherd boy to become king over Israel (1Sam. 16). Cyrus the Persian became God’s hands and feet to order the restoration of Jerusalem (Ezra 1). Mary humbled herself to become the mother of the messiah, to see the performance of those things told her from the Lord (Lk. 1:26ff).

 

Forces that may oppose our performance of Duty include the wrath of men, the waste of years, the waves of despair, and the wickedness of the Adversary.

 

  1. The Wrath of Men

They plotted to take Paul’s life the morning after the Lord called him to witness at Rome (Acts 23:12-13).  When David became King, the Philistines came up to seek him to thwart that from happening (2Sam. 5:17). When Nehemiah sought to rebuild his city, the adversaries were present with intimidation, innuendo, intrigue, and insinuation, to resist his efforts.

 

  1. Waste of Years

“Paul was taken from Jerusalem to Caesarea on his way to Rome, only to languish for an undefined and interminable period. There was no case against him, but he had no friends at court, nor would he stoop to bribery (Acts 24:26); with the result that he remained immobile in the dungeon. His soul entered into delay and darkness, caused by the negligence and selfishness of others” (Erdman, p. 250). Moses was rejected by his people and spent 40 years in the wilderness. David was hunted by an insanely jealous Saul and spent years fleeing to escape his attempts to kill him. Elijah sat by the brook when Ahab ruled the land.

 

  1. Waves of Despair

Paul did not perish in prison. He was compelled to appeal to Caesar. The indifference on the part of others comes to an end. Moses is called by God to go down into Egypt. Elijah is sent to Ahab. Paul at Tarsus is called to Antioch. “When God’s hour strikes, you will go forward into His will. Not perhaps as you had planned but in a way which He sees is best for you.” (Erdman, p. 251). The Lord often takes the storm out of the life of His children before He takes them out of the storm.

 

  1. The Wickedness of the Adversary

And then sometimes when all of the other forces have failed to hinder the performance of duty, the adversary makes a direct attack. Sometime that may come by sickness (Lk. 13:16), other times by self-pity (Mt. 16:21-25) or by self-sufficiency (1Tim. 3:6).

 

“The Discipline of Duty is not easy nor light, its performance is painful and perilous, but its culmination is delight” (Erdman. P. 253)

 

Conclusion:

Discernment, Decision, and Duty are disciplines worthy of our pursuit! Do you possess them? If not won’t you consider carefully what we have said and determine to grow by adding them to your character?

(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Erdman, pp. 39–43, 167–171, 247-253)

The Disciplines of Life: Dependability & Determination

Dependability and Determination are key disciplines that should be prevalent in the life of the Christian. This is the third lesson in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have studied: Solitude and Discipleship thus far. In this lesson we want to look at the disciplines of dependability and diligence.

As we have been emphasizing in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360). We have also been pointing out the exhortations found in scripture. Paul told the Corinthians, “I discipline my body …” (2Cor. 9:27). Peter wrote to those Christians who were scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, “…prepare your minds for action …” (1Pet. 1:13)

Please  Consider …

Dependability (Lamentations 3:27)

The Strength or Weakness of Mature Years is Determined Largely in the Days of Youth. This includes the following features of one’s character:

  1. The dependability or irresponsibility,
  2. The sturdiness or vacillation of character,
  3. The sunshine or shadow of personality,
  4. The strength or weakness of body

God needs strong men and women, who can bear heavy burdens in dark and difficult days; and they can do so, if they have borne the yoke in their youth”  (Erdman, p. 91).

Dependable Performance of Duties Helps Prepare for the Stirring Service of God

Though sometimes these duties may be “boring” they discipline for further service. Thought they sometimes may be outside our “comfort zones” they stimulate growth. Dependable performance of duties from a young age helps to prepare for the stern realities of life.

What it means to bear the Yoke in one’s Youth

Bearing the yoke in one’s youth means to become accustomed early to do with cheerfulness one’s share of duties, however small that may be at first. It also means to complete one’s assignment conscientiously and thoroughly, even though no one sees us. It means to profit by one’s mistakes and to take correction gratefully. It means to serve for the love of service rather than for reward. To bear the yoke in youth is to be able to bear burdens in later years, and to bring glory to God in doing so.

Bible Example: David

David had a heart that loved God (1Sam 13:14; Ps. 89:20; Acts 13:22; 1Sam. 16:7, 12). He knew his future clearly (1Sam. 16:13).

“David was faithful in the tasks assigned to him, and in the extra opportunities which were available. He was required to care for his father’s sheep, a menial and uninspiring routine. He practiced on his harp upon his own initiative; and he applied himself with good zeal to both opportunities. We know something of his faithfulness to his father in his fearlessness of the lion and bear that attacked his flock (I Sam. 17:34, 35). We need more of that devotion in the duties assigned to children and young people, devotion that will stick to the job despite lions of laziness and bears of boredom. Loyalty to parents and employers, at the risk of loss to ourselves, leads to gain over Goliaths in the large conflicts of later life (I Sam. 17:36-51).”

 Others have as well:

  1. Joseph – called to be a statesman (Gen. 37:5-11).
  2. Joshua – called to be a military leader (Gen. 27: 18-23).
  3. John – called to be a forerunner for Jesus (Lk. 1:76-77; Jn. 1:22-23)

Others did not learn until late in life (but in plenty of time for their real service):

  1. Moses at the burning bush (Exod. 3:1-10).
  2. Simon Peter on the beach of Bethsaida (Luke 5:1-11).
  3. Saul of Tarsus at the Damascus gate (Acts 9:1-6).

Whether they know their life’s calling or not, the most important consideration about the future is to do faithfully what is before them today, for the discipline of dependability demands tasks thoroughly done” (Erdman, p. 95).

Doing their duty today will not leave them in darkness indefinitely. The light will come! (Psalm 112:4; Job 22:28; 23:8-12).Faithfulness leads to fulfillment of dreams, not futility; dependability, to delight of duty.

Now consider another discipline to be developed by all Christians …

Determination (Eph. 6:13)

The story is told that Henry Ford, the pioneer auto manufacturer, was often asked by young people, “How can I make my life a success?” His response was always, “If you start a thing, finish it!” He would then illustrate with a personal example:

“Plausible reasons for quitting are always at hand. Mr. Ford told us one day that when he was making his first car in that little brick building on the alley in the rear of his home, he work away with all the ardor of young enthusiasm looking forward to great results. Then the thrill and interest simply evaporated. Why? He said he had gone far enough on that first car to see how he could build a second and a better one, and the glowing new vision got in the way of his work. What was the use of finishing the car he had started? Some untaught inner wisdom must have warned him, for he forced himself on. He soon discovered he was learning more and more about his second car by going on to complete his first…. Following faithfully on never leads anyone into permanent darkness. But for the quitter, all he is likely to get is a stronger habit of quitting and a lower place to begin again. The man who will not give up, even if he fail of his objective, is led through to another objective; the man who hangs on as if he were paid to hang on can always start again at par or better – he has strengthened himself….Quitting makes a dead end of any road—often just as it was ready to open. Transfer if you must; catch another wavelength; change your level to a higher one, but don’t quit—it is always too soon to quit.”” (“Too Soon To Quit,” W. J. Cameron, the Ford Sunday Evening Hour, January 10, 1937. Quoted by V. Raymond Edmon on pp. 137-140 of The Disciplines of Life.)

Determination to finish what we have begun is a discipline we need!

This discipline is exemplified in the life of our Lord Jesus. At an early age He was about His Father’s business (Luke 2:49). In the strength of manhood He declared, ”My food is to do the will of him that sent me, and finish his work” (John 4:34). When His earthly service was complete He could pray, ”I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4); and from Calvary’s Cross rang out His triumph, ”It is finished” (John 19:30).

“Can we not follow His footsteps, filled with His Spirit, to finish the task appointed, with heart aglow and hurrying feet, with strong hands and steady mind, with shield of faith and sword of Spirit, with patience to run the race that is set before us? Can we not trust Him for grace that is sufficient, for strength that is perfected in weakness, for help that is sure, and for faithfulness that will not fail, in order that we may know the discipline of doing our duty? Then it is always too soon to quit” (Erdman, p. 141).

Conclusion:

  1. These are the fundamentals in the deep discipline of dependability”
  • A heart that loves God
  • Confidence of a future life that is in His hands
  • Faithfulness in duty
  • Fearlessness before dangers, in associations, and in the fiery trial of envy of elders
  1. Determination to faithfully run the race that is set before us is a needed discipline.
  2. Dependability and determination go hand in hand to equip the Christian for all good works! May we ever strive to develop them as part of our character.

(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 91-99, 137-141)

The Disciplines of Life: Discipleship

There are many disciplines that should be evident in the life of the Christian. Paul told the Corinthians, “I discipline my body …” (2Cor. 9:27). Peter wrote to those Christians who were scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, “…prepare your minds for action …” (1Pet. 1:13)

In the N.T. the words connected to discipleship are applied chiefly to the followers of Jesus and describe the life of faith… Discipleship then is the whole process of accepting the call of Jesus, obeying and enrolling in His service, imitating his example, learning his teaching, and serving Him as your master!” (Dictionary of N.T. Theology, Colon Brown, Vol. 1, p.480).

Let’s consider the requirements of discipleship … 

To Be Taught By the Master and Then to Teach Others

 Discipleship means ‘discipline!’ The disciple is the one who has been taught or trained by the Master, who has come with his ignorance, superstition, and sin, to find learning, truth, and forgiveness from the Saviour. Without discipline we are not disciples, even though we profess His name and pass for a follower of the lowly Nazarene. In an undisciplined age when liberty and license have replaced law and loyalty, there is greater need than ever before that we be disciplined to be His disciples.” (Disciplines of Life, V. Raymond Edman, p. 9)

Discipleship is carrying out the Great Commission! (Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-16; 2Tim. 2:2).

The gospels detail the 3 ½ years Jesus spent preparing His apostles. “Apart from his atoning sacrifice, the main work of Jesus on earth was to train His disciples on whom would rest the future of the Kingdom of God” (Peter Wilson).

In His prayer to His father, he said, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which you have given Me to do” (Jn. 17:4)

When the apostles were told to “go make disciples” it brought back to their minds the 3 ½ years He had taught them.

  1. Having right priorities in life
  2. Watching out for false doctrine
  3. Being humble
  4. Not being materialistic

We too have a responsibility to the great commission.

“The invitation of Jesus was come and learn of me. The charge that followed was go and teach. Upon everyone who has learned, the Lord has placed the responsibility of telling others what he has learned. When he said to the Apostles, ‘teach them to observe all thing whatsoever I have commanded you,” the command was passed on to those who should obey the gospel. From that time, it has been the responsibility of the baptized disciple to follow that command!” (Let’s Go Fishing For Men, Homer Hailey, p. 7).

The Discipline of Conversion

We recognize our lost state (Isa. 53:6; Rom. 3:23; Gal. 3:22; Eph. 2:3, 12). This discipline is difficult for the natural heart because we don’t like to admit our sin and guilt. It takes a person with a good and honest heart to accept. Condider those who did …

  1. David did (2Sam. 12:13)
  2. Peter did (Lk. 5:8)
  3. The woman who washed Jesus feet with her tears did (Lk. 7:48, 50)
  4. The Publican did (Lk. 18:13)

When we come in faith, He will save us by His grace (Tit. 3:5; Jn. 1:12). He wants to “disciple” – teach and train – those who come to Him (Mt. 11:28-30). Without discipline we are not his sons; but as His sons we need the exhortation of Heb. 12:5-6, even though it may at the time be “grevious” (12:11).

The Discipline of Cost

 Jesus taught the importance of sacrifice in following Him (Mt. 10:37; Lk. 14:26). We must have the same attitude the Apostle Paul had (Phil. 3:8). “This denial of all, including ourselves, is the deepest discipline of discipleship. There are those who are dearer to us than life itself but they should not be dearer than the Saviour” (Eman, p. 7). Two strong illustrations about counting the cost are given by Jesus in Lk. 14:28.33.

The Discipline of Cross-Bearing

 Three things are necessary for us each day

  1. Daily food (for which we are to pray) (Mt. 6:11)
  2. Daily work (in which we are to be faithful) (1Thess. 4:11-12; 2Thess. 3:10-13)
  3. Daily cross (which we are to take up and follow Him) (Lk. 9:23; 14:27; Mt. 16:24). This cross is the denial of self, in the deepest meaning of that word, and of all that life has to offer, in full surrender to the will of God; in the spirit of Calvary’s Cross, to be sure” (Edman, p. 14)
Conclusion:

We must all understand discipleship if we are to do the Lord’s bidding. May recalling to mind the successes of the First Century Christians motivate us to “keep on keeping on!” Are you His disciple? Are you teaching others as you were taught?

(Sources: The Disciplines of Life, V. Raymond Edman; Celebration of Discipline, Richard J. Foster; Sermon Outline by Randy Sexton preached at County Line Rd, St. Joseph, MO, 5/17/1992)

The Disciplines of Life: Solitude

Jesus often separated himself from others to be alone, to pray, to spend time of quiet in the presence of His Father. This was a “discipline” that he incorporated into His earthly life.

Paul told the Corinthians, “… I discipline my body…” (2Cor 9:27) Usually when we think of bodily discipline, we think of diet & nutrition, exercise, and life style. I don’t believe this is what Paul had in mind. (See Foot Note). Peter said, “…prepare your minds for action” (1Pet. 1:13).“Discipline” is “Training the corrects, molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360).

These words were written 70 years ago, and are even truer today than they were then, “Ours is an undisciplined age. The old disciplines are breaking down, and the foundations of society appear to be crumbling. The discipline of the home seems to be vanishing in the new psychology which teaches: parents obey your children! The discipline of the schoolroom is becoming anathema, according to the so-called Progressive Education, lest the personality of the child be thwarted by the imposition of a will higher than his own. The old academic ‘disciplines’: mathematics, ancient language, grammar, are being ignored as obsolete and unimportant. Above all, the discipline of divine grace is derided as legalism or is entirely unknown to a generation that is largely illiterate in the Scriptures. We need the rugged strength of Christian character that can come only from discipline: the discipline of spirit, of mind, of body, of society. Otherwise, the home will lose its heart as well as its hearth, the schoolroom its strength, the textbooks their exactness, the Scriptures their sanction” (The Disciplines of Life, V. Raymond Edman, Preface)(underlining is mine).

One of the disciplines that we need to incorporate into our lives is “solitude.” As I have studied men and women of faith from the Bible, I am more convinced than ever of this. One of my favorite authors, who has written about many of these men and women of faith says, “A survey of the Scriptures reveals that those God used greatly were often prepared for those exploits during periods of solitude, quietness, and obscurity” (Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit, Charles Swindoll, p.46)

Bible Examples of God Using the Discipline of Solitude in the Lives of His Servants

Moses (Ex. 2:1-4:31; Acts 7:20-43; Heb. 11:23-29). Moses was positioned to embrace a remarkable political future. As he approached the age of 40, he visited his Israelite brethren and observed one being treated unjustly (Acts 7:23-24). After murdering the Egyptian, he fled to the plains of Midian and married the daughter of a local priest (Ex. 2:11-12). He spent the next 40 years tending his father-in-law, Jethro’s sheep (Gen. 3:1; Acts 7:30). Not until he was 80 years old did God bring him out of obscurity to lead His people

David (1Sam. 16:12-13; 17:34-58 and chapters 18 – 31). Anointed king over Israel as a teen, he didn’t assume the throne until age 30. After defeating Goliath, he spent the next 13 years as a fugitive, hiding in the caves of Engedi from King Saul. During this period of solitude, he wrote some of his beloved Psalms, but mostly he lived in obscurity in the Judean wilderness.

Joseph (Gen. chapters 39 -41). Thrown in jail because of the accusations of Potiphar’s wife (39:19-20), he spent 2 years (41:1) in the prisons of Egypt. “Though his sentence was unfair, Joseph learned much in that cell of confinement” (Swindoll). At age of 30, he was made “ruler” 2nd only to Pharaoh (41:38-43).

Elijah (1Ki. 17:1-16). Elijah stood toe-to-toe with Ahab the King to boldly declare no rain or dew would fall on the kingdom for as long as it would take for them to repent! To protect him from the expected backlash, the Lord hid Elijah by the brook Cherith. During this “brookside retreat” Elijah was renewed and refreshed by God.

John the Baptist (Lk. 3:1-22; 7:18-30; Mt. 3:1-17; 11:7-15; 14:1-12; Mk.6:14-29). “He lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel” (Lk. 1:80). … the word of God came to him in the wilderness and he spent much of his adult life preaching in the there (Lk. 3:1-3)… No distinction, no prominent place of ministry, no compelling message that appealed to the masses. Only years of solitude, silence, and obscurity, which ended when he was beheaded at the request of a silly dancing girl (Mt. 14:3-12)…. Yet, God called him to the desert. He had His reasons and John submitted to the plan” (Swindoll)

The Apostle Paul (Acts chapters 9, 22 and 26). We first meet him as a “raging bull,” persecuting followers of Christ. God interrupts his march to Damascus by striking him blind. “In less than a week, God transformed Saul from a vicious Christian-hating murderer into a passionate preacher…. God’s on-going process of preparing Saul was time away, all alone, to think through the implications of his newfound faith, to begin to know his Savior much more intimately, to come to terms with what it meant to be a messenger of grace” (Swindoll). Read Galatians 1:10-17 for Paul’s further explanation of the events that occurred during this time in his life. “Saul of Tarsus lived with the ever-imposing drive to please people. He lived for the approval of the Sanhedrin; it fed his pride. But all of that changed … Saul of Tarsus was poised to take a top leadership role in the Jewish religion but that all changed …” 9 (Swindoll).

Paul did NOT … 1) Immediately consult with flesh and blood nor 2) Go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before him.

“The Place and Purpose of Arabia – it was probably a vast expanse of desert – a barren wilderness – a thousand days spent alone thinking, praying, wrestling within, listening to God … Paul developed his theology here, meeting God intimately and deeply – “a three-year crash course in sound doctrine from which would flow a lifetime of preaching, teaching, and writing” (Swindoll).

Jesus…

  1. Inaugurated His ministry by spending 40 days alone in the desert (Mt. 4:1-11).
  2. Spent the entire night alone in the desert hill, before choosing the twelve (Lk. 6:12).
  3. Upon receiving the news of John the Baptist’s death, “withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself” (Mt. 14:13).
  4. After the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, “went into the hills by himself…” (Mt. 14:23).
  5. Following a long night of work, “in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went to a secluded place, and was praying there …” (Mk. 1:35)
  6. Other instances in Mk. 6:31; Lk. 5:16; Mt. 17:1-9; Mt. 26:36-46.

The Discipline of Solitude Involves

  1. Being Alone With God Free of Distractions
  2. Meditating on the Scriptures
  3. Deliberately Setting Aside Time
  4. The Patience of Hindered Purpose
  5. The Discipline of Delay

How to Grow Deep

Slow Down and Rethink
  1. Take time to discover what really matters
  2. Focus on lifting the curse of superficiality that shadows your life
  3. Grow roots deep into the soil of those things that truly matter
  4. Rework your priorities and rethink your motives
Be Quiet and Reflect
  1. Silence is rarely tolerated in our culture
  2. As soon as you get in your car, you turn on the radio
  3. How desperately we need to push the mute button on all this noise
Be Still and Release
  1. We often battle pride and prestige and seek a place of power
  2. Richard Foster suggests the following as “steps into solitude”: Take advantage of the “little solitudes” that fill our day – “those early morning moments in bed before the family awakens … a morning cup of coffee before beginning the work of the day … the solitude of bumper-to-bumper traffic during the freeway rush hour …”

 “We can find or develop a ‘quiet place’ designed for silence and solitude.” 

“Let’s discipline ourselves so that our words are few and full. Let’s become known as people who have something to say when we speak. Let’s maintain plain speech: do what we say we will do.”

Conclusion:

Please consider the examples of Moses, David, Joseph, Elijah, John the Baptist, and Jesus. Note how they used periods of solitude to grow their relationship with the Father.

We encourage you to follow in the “footprints of Jesus that make the pathway glow “to “Follow the steps of Jesus where-e’er they go.”

(Sources: Chapter 4, “The Necessity of Solitude, Quietness, and Obscurity,” Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit, Charles Swindoll, pp. 45-60; The Disciplines of Life, V. Raymond Edman; Celebration of Discipline, Richard J. Foster, pp. 96-109)

Remembering My Creator: Vol. 3, No. 5, December 5, 2013

Theme: Thoughts from the New Testament Epistles – Philippians & Colossians

 

 

In This Issue

 

  • “Exhortation to Humble Service” (Phil. 2:1–30) by Hannah & Sarah Crawford
  • “Paul’s Response to the Opponents of the Gospel: The True Source of Righteousness” (Phil. 3:1–21) by Randy Sexton
  • “The Apostle Paul’s Labor for the Gospel” (Eph. 1:3 – 3:21) by Hannah & Sara Crawford

 

 

 

“Exhortation to Humble Service”

(Philippians 2:1-30)

By Hannah & Sarah Crawford

 

 

What is humility and service? To some it may mean obeying our parents and not complaining about what we are asked to do. But in order to truly be active in humble service we must understand what God’s expectations are regarding these works. To gain that wisdom, we can read Philippians 2 and learn the many components of these two words. Humility, mentioned in verses 3 and 8, is described as putting away our “selfishness or empty conceit” and instead to “regard one another as more important than ourselves”. We are given the example of Christ’s humility in verse 8 when He sacrificed Himself for our needs. Just as Christ put His fleshly desires away to save us, we must be willing to put our lusts and passions to the side so that we might care for others. The word “willing” is key in these actions because God does not judge us by our outward appearance, but rather by our hearts (1 Sam. 16:7; Heb. 4:12). Humility is a matter of the heart and is not something that people are born with, but a quality that we learn and grow to understand through practice (Matt. 11:29).

 

Service is a word with many definitions, all of which depend on the context it is used in. We may think of worship services, serving food, or even serving a tennis ball. All of these examples involve a form of action, so we can conclude that service is not something passive that requires little effort on our part. Also, in every instance, service requires more than one person/entity to be involved. It’s not something we can sit in our rooms doing by ourselves. Philippians 2:17, 22, 30 all use the word service in regards to furthering the gospel. Our faith can be used not only as a service to the Lord, but as encouragement and edification to fellow brethren or nonbelievers. Just as our works are meaningless if our heart is not in the right place, faith without works is dead (James 2:17-22). Believing Jesus is Lord and God is our creator means nothing if we do not demonstrate that belief through our actions and lives. In Romans 13:14 we are given the command to “put on Jesus Christ” and by following His examples of humble service we show those of the world how they ought to be living their lives. As Moses condemned the world through his actions, we also condemn the world of their lusts and evil desires through the way we live our lives. We would like to leave the reader with one last command, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,” (Philippians 2:14-15).

 

 

 

“Paul’s Response to the Opponents of the Gospel: The True Source of Righteousness”

(Phil. 3:1–21)

By Randy Sexton

 

The Apostle Paul is one of my heroes. Some of the first sermons that I preached were based upon things that he said. While still a teenager, and while still learning how to stand before a group of people to deliver a message from God’s Word, I developed sermons based on his epistles to various churches. Those passages are some of my very favorite in all of scripture.

 

Philippians contains many meaningful and touching words. My own sons hear me refer them quite often to the words of this epistle when they are mistreating one another out of selfishness. I remind them of the words, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).

 

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul expresses the special significance that these saints had to him because of their continued support of him and his ministry. Writing from prison, he wants them to know that he is still in high spirits, because of the gospel. He expresses his desire for them to continue to progress in their spiritual growth.

 

In chapter 3, Paul begins to deal with those of his day who diluted the message of the gospel, by teaching that Christians had to obey all of the Old Testament ceremonial laws. He says that their motivation for this opposition is their “confidence in the flesh” (v. 3). He contrasts these opponents with the true people of God. Renouncing fleshly privilege for the sake of knowing Christ, he describes his progress in the gospel. Paul concludes this chapter with a call to the Philippians to follow his example of commitment to Jesus. One way to look at the contents of this chapter is under the three headings: Paul’s past (vv.1-11), Paul’s present (vv. 12-16) and Paul’s future (vv. 17-21).

 

Paul says that righteousness comes through Christ, not from the law. In another place, Paul calls it “letting Christ live in me” (Galatians 2:20). That process of letting Christ live in me is described by Paul in this epistle; he says it comes from God on the basis of faith. In describing all of the earthly privileges that he had willingly given up, he says, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith… “ (verses 7-9).

 

If my memory is accurate, my very first sermon was “The Four-Fold Secret of Success” based upon the thoughts expressed by Paul in verses 13 – 14 of this chapter, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” The four points made in these verses is that righteousness comes from a sense of personal unworthiness, a singleness of purpose, oblivion of the past and having a spirit of progress.

 

A Sense of Personal Unworthiness

He says, “I do not count myself to have apprehended…” Paul had made much spiritual progress since the day he was baptized into Christ. But he was always acutely aware that it was only because of God’s grace that he was able to be forgiven of his past mistakes. It was through God’s power that he was chosen as an instrument for taking the gospel to the Gentiles. It was not because of the fleshly advantages that he outlines in verses 5 and 6.

 

Singleness of Purpose

He says, “but one thing I do ….” Paul focused his energies. He did one thing. He “pressed on.” A runner that enters a race undecided as to his purpose and direction never wins. A runner’s actions must be decided and effective. In the Christian race, we must make every step count.

 

Oblivion of the Past

He says, “forgetting those things which are behind….” Does it really matter what I have done in the past? In terms of my continued spiritual progress it does not. Our past sins and mistakes should keep us humble, but they should never hinder our forward progress in growing and maturing as a Christian.

 

Spirit of Progress

He says, “…reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul moved constantly forward. He likens the Christian life to running a race in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. His description implies continuous, intense action and movement in one direction – toward the mark. Like a runner, when we reach the mark, we will get the prize. In the Christian race, this prize is eternal life which Paul describes in II Timothy 4:7-8 with these words, “in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

 

We would do well to imitate Paul’s example, as he urged the Philippians, to “keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us … “ and to beware of those who “…walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (vv. 17-19 – ESV). We would do well to remember the final words of the chapter, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” May the Lord bless you in your walk with Him.

 

 

 

“The Apostle Paul’s Labor for the Gospel”

(Col. 1:24-2:3)

By Hannah & Sarah Crawford

 

Many teachings have admonished Paul as being a great evangelist suffering for the mission of spreading God’s word. And while this is true, something for all of us to keep in mind is that Paul was a man and had faced sins of his own like we do today. We often look up to Paul without thinking ourselves capable of his perseverance and devotion. However we, just like Timothy, as disciples of God are commanded to “preach the word” in 2 Timothy 4:1-2. People will not always tolerate what we say and we may face persecution and suffering as Paul did, but we are still to spread the word. Where many may disbelieve there may also be one or two that fervently repent and seek the Lord. Are we to turn our backs and withhold the truth from those few just because our neighbors and friends might not like what we have to say? In Gal. 1:10 Paul asks the churches of Galatia “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God?” Who are we trying to please with our lives? Matt. 6:24 tells us that “No one can serve two masters” and although the message is directed toward trying to serve God and wealth, we can apply it to our service to God or man. For what reward would we be able to reap by serving man for they cannot grant us eternal life as God can? We must also consider the fact that we are not giving God our best if our devotion is divided.

 

Through Paul’s example from our passage in Colossians we not only see that he suffered, but that he rejoiced in it. Paul’s attitude in serving God was one of joy. James 1:2-4 tells us to “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” because these trials will test our faith, endurance, and will allow us to fill any deficit of knowledge so that we may be “lacking in nothing”. If we spread God’s word with this attitude then regardless of how people may respond, at the least we will grow in knowledge and understanding that may encourage one another as well. Paul states this as his purpose in Col. 1:28-29 “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ”. True, we are not perfect, but we are capable of striving towards perfection through Christ’s sacrifice that cleanses us of our sins. We are to be encouraged by Paul’s example knowing that the love we have for one another and God will tie our hearts together so that we might labor for the “hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge” through Jesus Christ.

Remembering My Creator: Vol. 3, No. 4, July/August, 2013

Theme: Thoughts from the New Testament Epistles – Galatians & Ephesians

 

 

In This Issue

 

  • “Paul’s Defense of the Gospel Through a Defense of His Apostleship” ( Gal. 1:11 – 2:21) by Dillon Jarrett
  • “Justification by Faith Apart from Works of the Mosaical Law Defended” ( Gal. 3:1 – 4:31) by Sean Cavender
  • “God’s Eternal Purpose in Christ” (Eph. 1:3 – 3:21) by Jordan Shouse
  • “Life in Keeping With God’s Eternal Purpose” (Eph. 4:1 – 6:24) by Hannah & Sarah Crawford

 

 

 

“Paul’s Defense of the Gospel through a Defense of His Apostleship” (Gal. 1:11 – 2:21)

By

Dillon Jarrett

Understanding many of Paul’s writings can be tedious and difficult as Peter explains in 2 Peter 3:15-16 when he states, “And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” Note the difference in the manner he addresses the Galatians in the 1st and 2nd chapters.

 

That difference is his approach. Often, as in other letters, Paul will begin his discussion with salutations and commendations to his audience. He does not waste any time in this letter, however, in addressing his point and is quite clear on his intentions. He says, “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me.” There are two distinctions made illustrating where this letter will go in the coming paragraphs. First, who he is “an apostle—not from men nor through man,” and where the validity of his presentations will arise, “Jesus Christ and God the Father.” Secondly, the next sentences regarding his concern for their lack of desire for the truth are made apparent. He states, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed,” (Galatians 1:6-9).

 

When those points are made initially, it only makes sense why he begins to provide a detailed Defense of the Gospel through his Apostleship. Please allow me to explain.

 

Our first explanation comes immediately in verses 11-16. It is astounding to Paul, as it certainly is today in our society, how quickly people depart from the truth by which they were called. In the case of the Galatians, they were swayed by a mockery and a perversion of the Gospel from what it was, God’s word. As we know of Paul along with the other writers of the New Testament, the words, which they spoke unto the early church and unto us today, are from the mouth of God. We know that from many passages such as 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Everything we need to know about God is given to us through his teachings. In the times of the early century, that which the Galatians should have known was directly from the mouth of God, not from the devious and conniving minds of the Judiazing teachers. He makes that point by illustrating it through his background as an apostle. Galatians 1:11-16 state, “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.” These points immediately address the problem and expose the nature of the teachings they were receiving involving a perversion of the gospel. Notice the points:

1. What he knew of the gospel wasn’t from men.

2. Becoming an apostle was at great cost, but worth it to him based on the result in his life.

3. Everything he learned of Jesus and the gospel couldn’t have come from the other disciples and apostles because he intentionally spent time away from them.

Knowing these three points, the Galatians would need to ask two questions: 1) If he had received the teaching he did, but not from the other apostles, then how could it not be the truth? 2) Would it have made sense for him to leave those old teachings behind in Judaism if it weren’t for a specific reason? Paul again offers more validity to his apostleship (and in turn the gospel) through his next paragraph. He says, “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, ‘He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified God because of me.” Again, Paul explains that it wouldn’t make sense for him to have received the teachings of this new gospel if it hadn’t been from Jesus. The timing of everything is important to note as well. Notice the amount of time he spends away before he even consults with any of the other apostles and disciples. Now, in knowing this, again, he portrays more evidence that his teachings and beliefs could not have come from a secondary source. Those who had seen and walked with Jesus could not have given the depth of knowledge he received. There is further evidence provided that even when he made contact with the brethren in Jerusalem, he did not meet with all of the apostles. He only met with Peter and James. The point in all of this is magnified in his final sentence, “And they glorified God because of me.” Why? Because they knew who he was and what he had done. However, for whatever reason, as he had already explained in previous times, this was all for the glory of God. How else could one man receive the depth of teaching he understood without divine revelation.? It is simply this: unfathomable.

 

Our final point in this defense is made in the beginning of the 2nd chapter. We read the following in verses 1-10, “Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” He finally draws the point to a momentary close in these verses. There is reference to more years in service. There is explanation as to why his apostleship was different than those before him in regards to the Gentile brethren that he and Barnabas had taught. He goes on to add that even though strong and influential men opposed them to their face, they did not yield to proclaim the truth. Case in point, Paul was not interested in monetary gain of acquiring anything from his teachings except for this: furtherance of the gospel.

If that meant losing his life and previous reputation, so be it. In contrast, losing Christians to the enemy because their minds had been perverted either in ignorance or stupidity was unacceptable. The Galatians were falling into myths and teachings much like those in Colossae had become prey to. He says in Colossians 2:1-14, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the un-circumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” The Judaizing teachers were something Christ and the Father knew were going to come. Difficulty arose when people had to make a choice. They had to decide who to trust and who spoke the truth. Notice what Jesus says in Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” That which the Galatians had received from Paul represented the truth because of its source. The nature in which he becomes an apostle along with the events that follow lead to the conclusion Paul hoped they would understand. Whatever men may speak unto them had to be verified. What they had seen and heard in Paul represented the truth because of his history and again, the origin of his teachings. It wasn’t about Paul. It was about the furtherance of the gospel. This time, the only difference is he found it necessary to make it personal by using his past experience to illustrate a point.

Many words will be spoken to us just as the Galatians had seen or heard in the first century. The question we must ask ourselves as they did when we read his defense is this: Is what I am being taught from the teachings of God or the teachings of men? The question will at many times in your life define your discipleship. Remember who you are and who has called you. He (the Lord) provides all you need in the scriptures. However, those words and teachings will never help you unless you meditate on them daily. So, stay at it and may all the glory and praise be given to our Lord Jesus Christ!

 

 

“Justification By Faith” (Gal. 3:1-4:31)

By

Sean P. Cavender

Paul addresses the issues within the churches of Galatia in a straight forward manner, dealing with the root of their problems (Galatians 3:1-5). They had “begun,” but now were attempting to be perfected by the flesh (Galatians 3:3). These churches had been led astray by the preaching of the Judaizing teachers, who were perverting the gospel of Christ. The Judaizing teachers were adding the requirement upon the Gentiles to keep the Law of Moses as essential in order to be saved. Paul’s frustration is clearly seen as he is dealing with this problem. He then sets forth a strong argument for justification apart from the Law of Moses.

 

Abraham Was Justified By Faith

“Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Galatians 3:6). Paul appeals to the example of Abraham and how he was justified by faith. The conclusion is presented rather simply: those who are of faith are the children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7). The Scripture attests to the justification of the Gentiles upon the condition of faith, and not upon the condition of keeping the Law of Moses (Galatians 3:8). Abraham was justified by his faith in God, not by keeping circumcision and matters of the law. His faith was a remarkable faith, one which was alive, demonstrated, and obeyed. It was faith in God that led Abraham to obedience (Hebrews 11:8). It was by his works that he was justified (James 2:24). This must be the kind of faith that we demonstrate to be justified in God’s sight.

 

The Law Served Its Purpose

Faith in Christ is what justifies a man, but that faith was previously hidden. The law was given in order to bring us to Christ. The Law of Moses was given as a schoolmaster, or a tutor (Galatians 3:24). It was given to teach us of concepts about obedience, sacrifice, sin, judgment, grace, and forgiveness. It also taught the need for a Savior. However, now faith has been revealed and we are no longer in need of the schoolmaster. By the gospel, we are in the full participation and knowledge of the things the law was striving to teach. It is incorrect to assume that the Law of Moses was pointless. The Law of Moses had a purpose, primarily the purpose of teaching. It had a purpose, but now that purpose was accomplished in Christ. Christ came to fulfill the law, not to rebel against the law (cf. Matthew 5:17). After the fulfillment of the law had come the law was no longer necessary. The Law of Moses was incomplete until Christ came. Justification and completion is through the faith in the Son of God (Galatians 3:26; Colossians 2:10; Philippians 3:9). Therefore, the Judaizing teacher is deferring back to something that was always incomplete. In context of the issues that Paul was dealing with, he is rendering the agenda of the Judaizing teachers as incomplete and pointless.

 

Christ Redeemed Those That Were Under The Law

Consider the role of the old law and how it had concluded all to be under sin (Galatians 3:22). Jews and Gentiles had the problems of sin and both groups needed justification. Christ came to redeem all of mankind, but He came to redeem those who were under the law (Galatians 4:5). The Law of Moses had concluded that all were under sin and in need of salvation. Therefore, the law was imperfect due to the transgressions of the people that were under that system of law. Christ came to redeem the people that were under that law. Why would the Judaizing teachers attempt to bind the Gentiles with a system that they themselves needed to be redeemed from? It was irrational and unfair for the Judaizers to require Gentiles keep the Law of Moses to be saved.

 

Justification Produces Liberty

The grandest result from being justified by faith in Christ is our freedom. Those who are binding heavy burdens of the Law of Moses rule upon fear, inequality, and unfairness. Those things are done away through the gospel of Christ. It is by faith that we are made free. Paul presents an inspired allegory based upon Sarah and Hagar, the mothers of Abraham’s children (Galatians 4:24-31). Hagar was a servant of Sarah, the mother of Ishmael. She was not the mother of the child of promise, neither was she free. Sarah was the wife of Abraham, the mother of Isaac, who was the promised child. Paul argues that the justified are the children of promise. Therefore, we are children of the freed woman (Galatians 4:31). The wonderful blessing of liberty in Christ Jesus must never be squandered nor wasted. We ought to appreciate and be thankful for the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Conclusion

Through careful study and consideration of these matters, we can begin to understand the wonderful scheme of redemption. God has acted out of love and grace to free us from our sins. Our justification is by faith in Christ. If we will believe in the Son of God, the promise of forgiveness, and we obey God, then we can be assured of our liberty.

 

 

“God’s Eternal Purpose in Christ” (Ephesians 1-3)

By

Jordan Shouse

 

Paul’s letter to the brethren in Ephesus begins with the description of God’s eternal purpose, which was fulfilled in Christ. This may sound like an intimidating thought, but what it simply means is that God had a plan before beginning of the time (eternal), and it was a plan which came about (fulfilled) through Jesus.

 

It is an impressive thought, that before the beginning of time God had a plan concerning us. Paul would reference this eternal plan in phrases such as:

• “…chose us in Him before the beginning of the world,” (1:4)

• “…predestined us to adoption as sons” (1:5)

• “…having been predestined according to His purpose” (1:11)

• “…which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (2:10)

• “…in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out..” (3:11)

 

Before we were created, before the world was formed, God had a plan concerning the world. God works all things after the counsel of His will (1:11), or according to His purpose/plan. So God has had a plan from the beginning, and has kept to that plan or will in all He does. This ought to reminds us of the wisdom and intelligence of God. His eternal plan involved us, people guilty of sin, separated from God. His plan also involved Jesus. As 3:11 states, the eternal plan was carried out or accomplished through Jesus. Paul would again make reference to this fact through several verses such as:

• “…adoption as sons through Jesus Christ..” (1:5)

• “In Him we have redemption..” (1:7)

• “…which He purposed in Him” (1:9)

• “…In Him also we have obtained an inheritance” (1:11)

• “In Him…” (1:12)

• “…which He brought about in Christ” (1:20)

• “…made us alive together with Christ” (2:5)

• “..raised us up with Him….in Christ Jesus” (2:6)

• “…kindness towards us in Christ Jesus” (2:7)

• “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (2:10)

• “But now in Christ Jesus….brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:13)

• “by abolishing in His flesh….so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man” (2:15)

• “might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross” (2:16)

• “for through Him we both have our access… (2:18)

• “…fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus” (3:6)

• “…which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord” (3:11)

 

As you can see from the verses cited, God’s eternal purpose came about by Jesus. Through His sacrifice upon the cross, God’s plan could be accomplished, fulfilled. This leads us to the question, “What is this eternal purpose which God fulfilled in Jesus?” God’s plan was the redemption of mankind, the forgiveness of their sins through the death of Jesus on the cross, as the atoning sacrifice. Notice how this is described in the words of Paul:

• “…blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (1:3)

• “…would be holy and blameless before Him.” (1:4)

• “…adoption as sons..” (1:5)

• “…to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us” (1:6)

• “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (1:7)

• “…having obtained an inheritance” (1:11)

• “…who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession,” (1:14)

• “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins….but God being rich in mercy, because of His great love which He love us, even when we were dead in our transgression, made us alive together with Christ” (2:1, 4-5)

• “raised us up with Him…seated us with Him in the heavenly places” (2:6)

• “…show the surpassing riches of His grace” (2:7)

• “For by grace you have been saved through faith..” (2:8)

• “…you who were formerly far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:13)

• “For He Himself is our peace…” (2:14)

• “…might reconcile them both in one body to God” (2:16)

• “…have access in One Spirit to the Father” (2:18)

• “so then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints…” (2:19)

• “…being built together into a dwelling of God” (2:22)

• “to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (3:6)

 

What was the eternal purpose of God in Jesus? It was a spiritual purpose, planned for the reconciliation of man to man (Jews and Gentiles), and of God and man (forgiveness of sins). God had the plan to bring all people of all nations together, united in one spiritual kingdom, His church, forgiven of their sins; a people purposed to offer spiritual sacrifices of worship to God (1 Peter 2:9). Does this plan involve you? Yes! God’s plan to redeem mankind of their sins includes you. God wants you to be forgiven, which He proved through Jesus (Rom. 5:8). God wants you to be in His Kingdom, the church. We belong to a wonderful, loving, wise God who knew what we needed before we were even made, and set about to bring that purpose to completion, even though it involved His Son on the cross. With the cross we have forgiveness, hope, and a future. All of this God purposed from the very beginning. It is His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus.

 

 

“Life in Keeping With God’s Eternal Purpose (Ephesians 4-6)

 

By

Hannah and Sarah Crawford

 

Chapter 4

In the first part of chapter 4 (verses 1-6), we are told how to walk in a manner worthy of serving the Lord and that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (vs. 5). By doing so, we are an example to others and allow our lights to shine in the world so that others may see the glory of God and come to Him. At the same time, it shows us that we are one in the Lord and that we are to have a sense of unity.

 

This chapter later goes on to say that we each have gifts, “some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (vs. 11). At times it is easy to feel that we aren’t as good as some other people in our service to the Lord. Everyone has been equipped “for the edifying of the body of Christ” (vs. 12) and it is up to us to find what we are good at and how we can serve others. Some are great song leaders while others prefer to preach a sermon and some converse easily with others while some are better at working behind the scenes (cards, phone calls, etc.). Each person and their task have a place in “which every part does its share, caus[ing] growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (vs. 16).

 

By putting on Christ, we no longer walk in the ways of the world. We have made a vow to turn away from sin and live our lives in accordance with God’s will. Verses 31-32 convey it well by saying “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

 

We are also commanded not to give the devil an opportunity to corrupt us (vs. 27). Many times we find ourselves rationalizing a poor decision. For example, “It’s okay if I watch this show that uses profanity as long as I don’t say anything bad”. Even if we don’t intend to sin, if we place ourselves in a situation where we know there will be sin occurring then we’ve basically shown the devil to our house and invited him to come in. The old saying, “Bad company, corrupts good morals” is also something we have to watch out for. Just because people we know at work or school are friendly doesn’t mean they act Christianly. By spending extra time at parties or get togethers where we know sin will be conducted, then we have condoned those actions even if we don’t participate in them. Just following God’s word and hoping that others will learn from our example is not enough. We have to stand up to sin and say no. By refusing to take part in these activities we are letting the world know that their actions are not acceptable and what God’s will is.

 

Chapter 5

The section headings in my Bible for the beginning of this chapter say “Walk in Love” (vs. 1-7), “Walk in Light” (vs. 8-14), and “Walk in Wisdom” (vs. 15-21). In walking in love, we must turn from the ways of the world and not emulate them. There are many people that will twist the Bible or totally disregard its authority but we are told to “let no one deceive you with empty words for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them” (vs. 6-7). A majority of the world is walking in darkness, but in following Christ, we walk in the light. Part of that is “finding out what is acceptable to the Lord” (vs. 10) and this requires us to study. This leads to verse 17 which states “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” By doing these things, we can better serve the Lord and one another.

 

The end of the chapter compares the relationship between husband and wife to Christ and the church. “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (vs. 23)…”For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones” (vs.30). This is another reason we are to walk in unity. How are we to spread God’s word and teach others what is right if we, as a group of Christians, are stumbling and lacking in wisdom and knowledge? We must be ready to answer questions and study the Bible with others at any time. We don’t know when someone may be curious about our faith in God, but if we aren’t ready then what will that teach others? We would be sending out a message that we don’t know what we believe or worse, we might turn them away from the gospel and that person’s soul might be lost. Now ask yourself, is losing someone’s soul worth the time you spent playing video games or goofing off on the internet instead of studying the Bible? Our immediate reaction is “No, of course not”, but too many times have we looked back at the end of the day and thought we could have done more. God’s given us specific instruction in chapter 6 on what we can do.

 

Chapter 6

The Whole Armor of God – people put on armor to prepare themselves for battle. The world we live in hosts a spiritual war in which we must be properly girded for combat; this means we must take care of our armor and use our weapons, not neglect them or leave them in their sheath. This is necessary so that we may “stand against the wiles of the devil” (vs. 11) and “be able to withstand the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (vs.13). As mentioned earlier, we don’t know when we’ll be attacked and have to defend ourselves. We must take the time daily to polish our weapons and practice with them so that we will have the skill and tools necessary to overcome the devil and the deceit he’s placed in the minds of others. As Paul said in verses 18-19, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel”.

 

We leave you with this thought, are you prepared with the knowledge and boldness to go out as an example to the world, spreading God’s word?

Remembering My Creator: Vol. 3, No 3, April 2013

Theme: Thoughts From the New Testament Epistles – II Corinthians

In This Issue:

  • “The Hope of the Unveiled Heart” (2nd Cor.3:1-18) by Sean Cavender
  • “Paul’s Appeal to the Repentant Church in Corinth Regarding the Collection (2nd Cor. 8:1–9:15)” by David Deuster
  • “Paul’s Appeal to the Rebellious Minority in Corinth (2nd Cor. 10:1–13:10)” by Hannah & Sarah Crawford

 

 

 

The Hope of the Unveiled Heart

By Sean P. Cavender

Throughout the second epistle to the church at Corinth, Paul was defending his apostleship and authority as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Paul was constantly answering the objections made by the Judaizing teachers, who demanded the Gentiles keep matters of the Law of Moses to be saved, attacks were made towards Paul. Time and again we find when false teachers are unable to answer the objections that are brought forth, they will begin to attack the man who is making the objection. Thus, they turned against the apostle Paul. Their attempts were so that they might thoroughly discredit the apostle, so that no one would listen to him. If the man was discredited, then his message could easily be discredited.

 

It is within the context of the epistle that Paul explains of the constant threats he was forced to deal with. His life was constantly in danger. He was imprisoned, beaten, and shipwrecked. All of these things were connected to the problem with the Judaizing teachers.

 

Therefore, much of Paul’s teachings were attempts to thwart the influence of the Judaizing teachers. He was a man of boldness. Paul was not going to back down from his defense of the gospel of Christ. In Second Corinthians chapter three, Paul reveals the weakness of the old covenant, the glory contained in the gospel of Christ, and the superiority of the new covenant.

 

The Confidence in Christ

The ministry of the apostles of Jesus was not looking for the approval of men, and certainly neither was Paul. The teaching and preaching of the apostles, including Paul, was done with the motives of sincerity, and devotion towards God. They were a sweet smelling aroma towards the Father in heaven (2 Corinthians 2:15-17). You can almost feel the tension, weariness, and exasperation as Paul writes, “Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters from you?” (2 Corinthians 3:1)

 

Paul states that the brethren at Corinth ought to stand as his letter of approval, and certificate of authenticity (2 Corinthians 3:2). These brethren had seen the works of Paul, they had heard him powerfully refute the Jews, and they had been taught by the apostle for at least a year and a half. There was no sense in Paul having to write back to these brethren defending his apostleship and ministry. They ought to know whether he was sincere or not by simply looking at the fruit of his labor.

 

However, Paul managed to put these things aside because he was not looking for the approval of any man. The apostle was longing to please the Lord in his apostleship. “And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward” (2 Corinthians 3:4). Paul knew that the message he taught was made by God, while Paul was simply proclaiming it (2 Corinthians 3:5, 12). Paul recognized he had a message that was new, or better, and one that was able to give life (2 Corinthians 3:6).

The picture that Paul paints, contrasting the old and new covenant, is startling. The old covenant is described as merely ink (2 Corinthians 3:3), only carved in tablets of stone (2 Corinthians 3:3), as a letter (2 Corinthians 3:6), and as the instrument of death (2 Corinthians 3:6). The new covenant was not written with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God (2 Corinthians 3:3), which penetrated the heart (2 Corinthians 3:3). It was “of the spirit,” and offered life (2 Corinthians 3:6).

 

The Glory of the New Covenant

The old covenant brought forth death, or spiritual separation from God (2 Corinthians 3:7; Romans 7:7-12). However, the old covenant came with a certain amount of glory (2 Corinthians 3:7, 9). The old law was holy, righteous, and good (Romans 7:12). While the Law was intended for what was right, it was weak because it could not forgive sins. The old law brought condemnation, and bondage due to a knowledge of sin (Hebrews 10:3).

 

The glory of Moses was intended to be done away (2 Corinthians 3:7). Moses’ face was shining when he came down from Sinai with the law and commandments (cf. Exodus 34:29-35). The question that ought to come to mind is: if the old covenant came with that amount of glory, then how much glorious is the new covenant? This is exactly the question that Paul asks, and is answering (2 Corinthians 3:8). The new covenant produces righteousness (2 Corinthians 3:9), and it forgives sins (Hebrews 10:4). This new covenant is built upon a better priesthood, a better ministry, and better promises (Hebrews 8:6, 7).

Paul’s argument did not consist of how useless the law of Moses was. The thrust of his argument was in how much better the new covenant is, compared to the old covenant. And if the new is that much better, then why constantly struggle with the temptation to go back to a weaker system. The old law had been passed away because it was fulfilled in Christ. The new covenant would remain forever (2 Corinthians 3:11).

 

The Veil-Covered Heart

Paul was unashamed of the gospel of the new covenant. It is why he preached so boldly (2 Corinthians 3:12). The confidence that a believer has is in the assurance that the gospel will remain steadfast. Fading away was not in the plan for the gospel of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:13).

 

Judaizing teachers who were demanding the Gentile converts keep circumcision and the law of Moses were blinded and hardened to the gospel. They were willing to put a veil over their hearts, preventing them from seeing the true blessings in the gospel (2 Corinthians 3:14). They were ultimately rejecting the gospel of Christ. Even while the reading and practice of the old testament remained, along with keeping the works of the law, and living according to the flesh, the veil continued to remain. The veil that Moses wore was hiding the true glory that he had witnessed. This is why Paul is using this illustration to make his point. The Judaizing teachers had willfully placed a veil over their hearts to hide the true glory of the gospel of Christ.

 

The Unveiled Face of Glory

However, when a heart of unbelief is turned to the Lord, the veil is taken away (2 Corinthians 3:16). But they must come to the Lord, as He is identified in verse 16. “The Lord is that Spirit” can be a difficult phrase in Scripture (2 Corinthians 3:17). The passage is not about the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. The passage is not teaching that Jesus is the same as the spirit of God. The term “spirit” has been used to describe the new covenant in contrast to the old covenant throughout the chapter (2 Corinthians 3:6-9).

 

In the previous verse, Paul writes about the person that takes away the veil from his heart, accepting the Lord Jesus Christ. “That Spirit” is the belief in Jesus as the Son of God, and faithful obedience to the gospel. It is this spirit, the gospel, which sets us at liberty. It is the spirit of life that sets you free (Romans 8:2). The Judaizing teachers were setting brethren as captives. There was no freedom in their system of doctrine.

 

When one finally accepts the gospel, there is a transformation we each undergo. We are changed into the glory of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18). We become a new creature, delivered from the evil one. We are a new creature in Christ to bear the same image, united with Christ, to live in newness of life (Romans 6:4-6; 7:6).

Conclusion

We must refuse to cover our hearts and minds from the gospel. If there is any veil that may prevent us from witnessing and participating in the true glory of Jesus Christ and His glorious gospel, then we must remove that from our life. The greatest blessing of the gospel is the true power that lies within it. The gospel is able to transform our lives. Certainty, assurance and hope are all a result of the life that comes with the gospel. It was this assurance that moved Paul to continue to preach the gospel (2 Corinthians 3:12). This must be the same assurance that we live with every day of our lives. Assurances ought to motivate us to continue in service to the Lord, no matter who may attempt to destroy us.

 

 

Paul’s Appeal to the Repentant Church in Corinth Regarding the Collection

 

By David Deuster

 

One of the unique events of the New Testament is that of the special collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Scripture reveals that on at least two occasions the church in Jerusalem received relief from other congregations in order to provide for its needy. The first of these is found in Acts 11:29-30. Agabus, a prophet, foretold of the coming of a great famine. “Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea: which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.” (Acts 11:27-30) Thus a record of the Antioch church sending “relief unto the brethren in Judea. This “relief” was not sent to nor through some man-made benevolent society. The “relief” was sent to the elders in Judea.

 

Nearly thirteen years later the Jerusalem church was in “want.” In writing to the churches of Galatia, Paul mentions in chapter 2 and verse 10 that he would “remember the poor.” This was not to be a general relief of the needy but rather was the work of reliving the needy saints in Jerusalem (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:3; Romans 15:26). Paul urged the churches in Macedonia, Galatia ,and Corinth to send to relieve the “want” of these saints. (1 Corinthians 16:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8-9) This “collection for the saints” had been urged and promised a year before it was finally gathered up for delivery. The brethren at Rome, Galatia, Achaia, Macedonia, Corinth and perhaps Asia all participated in this effort to help relieve “the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.”

 

The eighth and ninth chapters of 2 Corinthians provide a great deal of information concerning this relief. From the context we will notice the attitude which led brethren to participate, the methods used for the collection, the selection of the messengers, the sending of the relief and finally the distribution of the relief.

the attitude

The apostle begins his admonition for the Corinthians to complete their “fellowship” by appealing to the example of the churches in Macedonia: Thessalonica and Philippi. Both were sound Churches noted for their work in the Lord (1 Thess 1:7-8; Phil 1:3-5). Yet the also suffered from “deep poverty” (2 Corinthians 8:2) due to their stand for Christ (1 Thess. 1:14, Phil 1:27-29). Paul not only commends these brethren as giving “beyond their power” but also identifies the motivation and attitude behind their liberality. “They were willing of themselves” and “first gave their own selves to the Lord.” In this act of grace they completely sacrificed themselves, holding back nothing.

 

The apostle continues his appeal by directing the Corinthians attention to the voluntary self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Through his sacrifice, the brethren at Corinth had received immeasurable grace and joy as a result of reconciliation. The loving self-sacrifice of Christ provided a pattern for their loving response tot he needs of others. If the Gentiles were made partakers of their spiritual things, it was their duty to minister to them in carnal things (Romans 15:27). Having laid the foundation for the proper attitude and motivation towards their liberality, Paul now directs his attention towards the method concerning the collection that he himself had given though his previous letter.

 

the method

Jerusalem was in need. Corinth was a congregation where there existed an abundance. The apostles desire was “that there may be equality” among the churches (2 Corinthians 9:14). Other churches, including Corinth, were able to help the Jerusalem church in this time of need. From their “abundance” they were to, “supply” the “want”—make up the deficiency of the Jerusalem church so she (Jerusalem) could meet her exclusive obligation of caring for her own.

There is only one divine arrangement for how a church is to authorized to collect the funds necessary to carry out the Lord’s work. That pattern is Christians laying by in store on the first day of the week as God has prospered them. This precept is found in 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 where Paul lays down a principle for giving, which is systematic and orderly, benevolent in its purpose, and divine in its authority.

 

The collection was built up by divine arrangement as a collective action of the assembly. Each individual was to examine themselves and to give as they had prospered. Paul reminds the Corinthians again that their collection must “be of a willing mind” (2 Corinthians 8:12). Likewise, the apostle exhorts them in their giving to liberality rather than covetousness. “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

The mention of “the first day of every week” along with the purpose “that when I come no collections will have to be made” suggests that the setting aside of money would not be just the setting apart within one’s own possessions but the setting aside of the money by presenting it to the leaders of the church (cf. Acts 4:34-5:2). The “collection” in question was an ongoing, every week occurrence, on the day when the church gathered together, for something Paul was taking as a pooled, singular gift from the entire church there (v3), that he didn’t want them to be trying to get-together in a hurry when he arrived.

 

The passage in 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 is a command, a command for each Christian to give into the common treasury on each first day of the week. The text sets forth the only scriptural means the local church has for raising its money. Whatever funds the church needs to accomplish the work it is authorized to do are to be gathered by saints laying by in store on the first day of the week. Concerning the great collection for Jerusalem, once the relief was laid at the feet of the leadership, the congregations chose entrusted messengers from among themselves who were appointed by the elders to deliver the relief to the needy

.

the messengers

Each congregation that participated in this collection was to safeguard its own funds, which were delivered to the Jerusalem brethren by its own representative chosen by the local church to accompany Paul (1 Corinthians 16:3; 2 Corinthians 8:19; cf. Acts 20:1-4). Serious charges had been leveled against Paul as to his integrity in handling funds given by local churches (2 Corinthians 11:8; 12:16-18). However, the apostle leaves no doubt in the minds of the Corinthians as to the trustworthiness that both he and the ones whom the appoint to deliver the relief posses.

 

The messengers were trusted men of good reputation (cf Acts 6:3), entrusted by their own brethren with conveying the relief all the way to Jerusalem. Each of the churches placed their approval upon those messengers. The other messengers who will accompany Paul to Corinth on his way to Jerusalem will also be able to serve as witnesses as to the integrity of these men. Therefore, there is no critique or valid concern that could be expressed towards Paul concerning how he handled the relief sent to the church in Jerusalem. As Paul states, these men were “an honor to Christ” (2 Corinthians 8:24) and their lives reflect the glory of Christ.

 

the deliverance

While the record of Luke in the book of Acts does not reveal whether or not the gift achieved its end results, we are not left without precept as to what happened to the funds once they made their way to Jerusalem.

Once the relief arrived in Jerusalem, the same pattern established in the book of Acts would have been followed. The relief would have been placed under the charge of the overseers of the needy church (cf. Acts 4:34, 35). Again we need to be reminded this collection was not for a general benevolent relief, but was collected for the purpose of relieving the needy saints in Jerusalem. Those who received this relief would have been the elders who oversaw the churches where the need existed. At this time in the churches history, we know of at least three in Jerusalem that are identified by name in Scripture: Jerusalem, Joppa and Lydda. Furthermore, we know there were elders in these congregations to both receive and to oversee the distribution of the relief (cf Acts 11:29; 15:2). Once the collection was brought by the messengers and placed under the charge of the needy churches overseers (Acts 4:34-35) distribution made to each according to his need (Acts 6:1; 4:35).

 

the distribution

The need among the saints in Jerusalem was genuine (2 Corinthians 9:12; Romans 15:26). How did the church relieve its needy? Again, scripture provides us the answer for how the local church is to meet its needs. That pattern is set forth in Acts chapter 6.

 

Not first, that the Apostles did not commission a separate institution, a benevolent society, to do this work of relieving it’s needy. The Holy Spirit gave this work to the church, regarding it sufficient as it was established, to do this work. The duty was imposed upon the local church and this is the only organization which was authorized to engage in this work of benevolence. Also notice that “the Twelve,” having been given the oversight of the Jerusalem church, charged the members of the church not only with their duty, but also with their role in the manner in which it was to be accomplished saying: “Look ye out among you seven men…whom we may appoint over this business” (v. 3). The oversight of the local church directed it’s members to choose its servants from certain specially qualified men within the local church. Once chosen by the local church, these servants were given the responsibility of making “distribution…unto every man as he had need” (Acts 4:35).

 

The oversight of the local church alone must determine the need, provide the means to meet the need, maintain a diligent oversight respecting the relief of the need and choose the personnel qualified by the Word of God to be entrusted with the care of those in need (Acts 6:1-3).

 

Though other congregations had sent relief to the brethren at Jerusalem, they did not oversee the work of relief in Jerusalem. No congregation has the right to oversee the flock at any other place nor are they given authority to oversee the work at another place. The local churches who received the funds oversaw their own work (cf Acts 20:28). Likewise, the local churches in Jerusalem controlled the resources they received from the collection. The congregation had charge of those resources and made distribution as was its scriptural right to do. The relief was not turned over to some other congregation to make distribution at its discretion, but remained under the oversight of the local eldership where the need existed. Providing for the needy among its own embers to the extent of its ability is the right of every congregation. For the churches in Jerusalem to surrender their right to manage their affairs would have resulted in a loss of their autonomy. It has lost its autonomy on that portion of its resources, used to discharge its own responsibility and placed it in the hands and under the oversight of the elders of another congregation. The result is denominationalism and is unscriptural.

 

the result

The relief of the saints in Jerusalem was more than an act of benevolence, for it expressed the effect of Christ’s reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles through the grace of giving and receiving. If the Gentiles were made partakers of their spiritual things, it was their duty to minister to them in carnal things (Romans 15:27). Such offerings would alleviate suffering in Jurusalem, but they would also demonstrate genuine concern on the part of Gentile Christians for Jewish Christians. This in turn would help promote unity and love among believers and help prevent the kinds of misunderstandings which were undermining the Galatian churches. When the church of Christ executed this pattern there was a definite blessing that came upon it, namely, spiritual peace and prosperity.

The same is true today. When God’s people meed the needs that arise according the divine pattern the results will be evident. It will be a wonderful blessing to the church, an inestimable benefit to the needy and a powerful influence upon the lost of our nation (Acts 6:5).

 

 

 

Paul’s Appeal to the Rebellious Minority in Corinth

By Hannah & Sarah Crawford

 

Something that many Christians face today is the worldly attitude that we can believe whatever we want so it doesn’t matter what religion we belong to. 2 Corinthians 10 clears up this argument by making the statement in verse 5, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God”. For us to truly be confident and speak boldly to others about God’s word we must first know what His word says and make sure we are following it so as to be examples for others to look to. Our beliefs should be based solely on God’s word and not on man made ideals and things that tickle our ears. Our teaching comes from God and just as His son showed love for the world by dying for it, we are to show that same love when spreading His word and correcting others. No where in the scriptures are we commanded to be hateful towards sinners, for if we hate sinners then we end up hating everyone, including ourselves for we too are sinners. This doesn’t mean we accept the willful sinning of others. It is our job to proclaim God’s glory by condemning sin as Christ did. Many people will say that Jesus loved everyone so it’s alright for them to sin, but in John 8, when the adulterous woman was brought before Jesus, instead of condemning her Jesus gave her the commandment to “Go. From now on sin no more”. We are to give that same commandment to others that they will turn away from their wickedness and seek to please the Lord.

 

2 Corinthians 10:3 says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses”. We have been commanded to gird ourselves with the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10-17) which includes truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and lastly the word of God. As Christians, we are engaged in a spiritual warfare in which God is “pulling down strongholds” and “casting down arguments” (2 Cor. 10:4-5). We are also called to set ourselves apart from the world (Rom. 12:2) and to boast not in our own power but in that of the Lord’s (Gal. 6:14). God takes care of us and all we have comes from Him (Matt. 6:31-34, Rom. 8:28). Verse 17 of 2 Corinthians 10 says that “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord” and we should also remember that we find strength in Christ (Phil. 4:13).

 

We as Christians are not the only ones spreading religious beliefs as chapter 11 addresses the false doctrines being taught under the guise of righteous persons. Another concept that is popular today is that if you are truly sincere in your intentions then what you’re doing is okay. This is another false doctrine that sounds right, but goes against God’s word. For example, suicide bombers are very sincere in the beliefs so much that they are willing to die for them, but we understand that their actions are sinful. There will also be times when people twist God’s word and use it out of context to fit their argument. This is one reason we must be vigilant always seeking to grow in our understanding of God’s word that we will be ready to reproof His word and commandments (Matt. 24:11; 2 Cor. 11:13-15). Many worldly arguments and beliefs will sound good and may even seem logical, but we are to remember that Satan is a roaring lion always creeping up on us without our having any knowledge (1 Peter 5:8-9). We are told to be “firm in our faith” and we can’t do this unless we are grounded in the scriptures, meditating on His word day and night (Psalm 1: 1-3). As Paul says in verse 6, even if we are unskillful in our speech, we must have the knowledge of God’s word, which we can then show through our actions and livelihoods. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). Paul has given us examples of all the suffering he went through to proclaim the glory of God and there are many others examples of the sufferings Christians had to face for being steadfast (vs. 22-33). We are so blest to be able to speak and worship God without fear of persecution, but are we really as fervent and zealous as the New Testament Christians were. We are reminded by this how Christ never said it was going to be easy, but that we would be saved if we endure (Matt. 10:22, Jn. 20-21, Heb. 12:1-2).

When we speak boldly and boast of our salvation it is not because of our strength, but the strength and power of God. For if it was our own strength then we would have nothing to boast in since we were the ones who chose to dwell in sin. Yet through Christ’s sacrifice and His strength to suffer for us we are able to be reconciled to God by following His word (Gal.6:14). We have not done anything on our own but through the strength God has given us (Phil. 4:13; 2 Cor. 12:9-10). Paul did not take advantage of the Corinthians or burden them, but sought to edify them in the knowledge of God’s word (vs. 19). Our main goal is to edify others through reproving the scriptures, rebuking those who are sinning, and then exhorting them with patience and instruction (2 Tim. 3:16 – 4:2). Lastly, chapter 13 commands us to examine ourselves. It means nothing to other people if we tell them to follow God’s word, but we ourselves are conducting our lives in sin. We are to be lights in the world and in order to do so we must also be seeking God’s glory by praising His name and living our lives in accordance with His word (2 Cor. 13:5).

Remembering My Creator: Vol. 3, No 2, March 2013

Theme: Thoughts from the New

Testament Epistles

 

In This Issue:

  • “Factions Exalting Men Are Wrong Because …” (1st Corinthians 1 – 4) by Warren Berkley
  • “Report of Sexual Immorality & Legal Wrangling” (1st Corinthians 5:1 – 6:20) by David Deuster
  • “Three Issues from a Corinthian Letter” (1st Corinthians 7:1 – 11:1) by Hannah & Sarah Crawford
  • “The Futility of Faith if the Dead Are Not Raised” (1st Corinthians 15:1-58) by Sean Cavender

 

 

 

 

“Factions Exalting Men Are Wrong Because …” (1st Corinthians 1 – 4)

By

Warren E. Berkley

 

The first problem Paul addressed in First Corinthians was – Factions Exalting Men. In the first four chapters of the letter, Paul hauls out this ugly mess and demonstrates how wrong it is. There were rival factions, of human origin, exalting their favorite men. And from this we ought to learn that whenever people profess the name of Christ over their religious practices, but follow men, and honor the names of men (openly or by stealth), there is sin. Legitimate militancy in sincerely upholding the truth is one thing, but factions exalting men must be defeated.

 

Factions are wrong – because Christ isn’t divided (1:13). The body of Christ is not something that has been or can be cut in pieces and parceled out to human leaders! This is why it isn’t appropriate to speak of “Paul’s body of Christ,” or “Simon Peter’s body of Christ.” Christ is one; His body is one (Eph. 4:4), and this is an argument against the fragmentation and promotion of parties by men. All such division and rivalry is wrong. {Note – scripturally administered discipline is right (1 Cor. 5); marking to avoid is right (Rom. 16:17,18); but the kind of fragmentation rebuked in 1 Corinthians 1 cannot be justified.}

 

Factions are wrong – because we are not saved by the name of Paul or any other man (1:13b-16). When you are baptized, it is not the authority of some man that you are submitting to. And, when you are baptized, it is not allegiance to man that is called for, but allegiance to Christ. Well, if you were baptized into the name of Christ (not any man), and your baptism reflected your agreement to recognize allegiance to Him (not any man), this is another reason why human factions should not exists.

 

Factions are wrong – because they detract from the gospel (1:17). The primary thrust and priority of Paul’s work was to preach the gospel. His job was not to go out and baptize people into allegiance to some man. And, his job wasn’t just to go out and immerse people. His primary work was to preach the gospel of Christ; and he was to do this “not in wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ be made of no effect.” In the preaching of the gospel, the emphasis or attention should never be on the man doing the speaking (or writing); attention must be paid to the Christ and His message. Human factions detract from the pure and holy gospel, and direct attention to men.

 

Factions are wrong – because human wisdom is not compatible with the cross (1:18-31). The preaching of the cross, with a mixture of human wisdom, is a perversion (see Gal. 1:6-12). Yet, when men create human factions through human personality, charm or false doctrine, that blending in of human wisdom is not compatible with the divine message.

 

Factions are wrong – because revelation from God has come, through the Spirit-inspired apostles (1 Cor. 2). The apostles – in their preaching and writing – were imparting truth from the mind of God. We are privileged to have that message on the pages of the New Testament. Why, therefore, would anyone desire to promote human factions, when we have access to divine truth, that saves, instructs and unites us?

 

Factions are wrong – because their origin is carnal (1 Cor. 3:1-4). One problem in Corinth was, the dangerous esteem they had toward men; the misplaced loyalty they had toward certain individuals, and the resulting factions. I would maintain, this was a symptom of an underlying problem – they were carnal! “For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal?” To be carnal is to be dominated by something other than the spiritual reign of Christ in your heart; it is to be ruled by the flesh, by immature desires. In our efforts to militantly uphold the truth of the gospel, we must constantly watch out for the creeping carnal spirit. We must pray for wisdom, check our motives and strive for objectivity, justice and balance.

 

Factions are wrong – because men only function as servants, who must build with care (1 Cor. 3:5-8; 4:1,2). In Corinth, there was a wrong concept of man, and the role of men in God’s plan. One thing we need to get back to and stress is: Who are these men (who preach, teach and write)? What is their legitimate function? How should we regard them? Certainly, from our perspective, we must distinguish between the inspired men of the first century, through whom the gospel was given; and the uninspired teachers and preachers today. But there’s more to be said: Whether we are talking about the inspired men, like Paul, Apollos and Cephas, or the uninspired teachers, preachers and writers of today, still – they function as servants, who are accountable for their conduct. Those of us who preach, teach and write – are ministers and servants, not masters or lords. We need to hear what Paul is saying (if I may paraphrase): “We are not Saviors; we are not gods … we are only ministers by whom you have believed, as the Lord gave to each one; our function is to serve; to deliver a message from God, to impart truth that all of us are accountable to. Do not attach yourselves to us … attach yourself to the Lord!”

 

Brethren & Friends! There is a place for legitimate, properly motivated militancy in upholding the truth of the gospel. But there is no place for the promotion of

factions of carnal origin which exalt men and human wisdom. “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

 

(From Expository Files 1.2; February, 1994 – Reprinted by Permission)

 

 

 

“Report of Sexual Immorality & Legal Wrangling” (1st Corinthians 5:1 – 6:20)

By

David Deuster

In the fifth and sixth chapters of 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul further shows how the actions at Corinth are inconsistent with the unity that salvation in Christ produces. As a result of their carnality, there is sexual immorality reported amongst them and brother is going to law against brother over matters of personal liberty. Such things ought not to be so named amongst those who were “washed, sanctified and justified.” The purpose of the apostle is to not only offer corrective instruction concerning these matters, but also is to expose the attitude that has led to these particular issues. In doing so, Paul admonishes the Corinthians to be “joined together” and “of the same mind and in the same judgment.”

Settling Issues Arising Over Immorality

Discipline is foundational. It is as old as the Garden of Eden. No one can become a Christian without discipline and likewise, no one can remain a Christian without discipline (Matthew 28:18-20). Sadly, there exists the extremist attitudes of loving tolerance and of self-righteous ‘witch hunting,’ both which cause a variety of emotional misunderstanding towards this topic. However, love and discipline cannot properly exist without one another. Discipline is proper, but only when it is motivated by love.

Not all discipline requires withdrawing fellowship. The withdrawal of fellowship is corrective discipline and is to be the final resort in spiritual matters. Discipline exists primarily in the form of instructive discipline that is preventive in its nature. Teaching is discipline and, when faithfully administered by a church that is zealous for the building up of its members to maturity, will help to prevent the necessity of severing fellowship.

In the particular case cited at Corinth, the adultery was just a symptom of the real problem – the arrogant attitude that had allowed for such a one to exist in the local fellowship. Failing to purge out the leaven, i.e., the continued influence of this mindset, would result in the whole lump being affected. Simply removing the adulterer from their fellowship would not fix the problem. There needed to first be a purging of the carnal attitude (v 7, “malice and wickedness”) that allowed this gross immorality to continue in fellowship. When the elements of love and discipline are missing, the structure is flawed and will suffer as a result. Developing a tolerant attitude toward sin and ‘looking in the other direction’ does as much good as ignoring a terminal disease and hoping that it will go away. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to purge out the leaven of their tolerant attitude toward the sinner in order that the whole church might remain pure (1 Corinthians 5:7-9). By developing the right mindset, that of the spiritual man, the Corinthians would be prepared to faithfully execute the task of administering corrective discipline to the man who had his father’s wife.

Why would the church need to exercise such action? The immediate purpose of delivering the impenitent disciple unto Satan is for the “destruction of the flesh.” Flesh refers to the works of the flesh that the unruly disciple continues to involve themselves with (1 Corinthians 5:5; 6:9-10). Notice in 1 Corinthians 5 how the apostle describes this “delivery.” First, that he “might be taken away from you” (5:2) so that you“Not company with” (5:9) and thus “put away from yourselves that wicked person” (5:13). It must be understood that this action and declaration does not make one a child of the devil, rather it is their actions that have already done that (John 8:44). In 2 Thessalonians 3:14, Paul expresses the reason for “having no company” is to the end that “he may be ashamed.” Vine defines this as meaning, “to turn upon himself and so produce a feeling of shame, a wholesome shame which involves a change of conduct.” This is the greater purpose in mind when it comes to the discipline and that is the saving of the soul in the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:5).

The action of church discipline causes others to examine their own lives. If members knew to expect discipline when sin is allowed to rule their lives, very little corrective discipline would be necessary. We need to develop the faith and moral courage to stand against sin in the church as adamantly as we have when we preach and teach baptism for the remission of sins. As with all of God’s instructions, preaching, practicing and applying God’s word will produce fear in the hearts of all who are desirous of doing his will (Acts 5:11; 1 Timothy 5:20).

Settling Issues Arising Over Liberties

1 Corinthians 6:1-8 does not introduce a new subject but continues the argument presented in chapter five, concerning the judgements that the local church can and should make. Paul sets forth a principle in dealing with the jurisdiction of the authority of the local church. That authority does not extend to those outside of the church; therefore there is a clear limitation of the local church’s authority. Paul is simply asking, who is to judge upon these quarrels, the righteous or the unrighteous?

It is important to recognize that Paul is not contending it is wrong for a Christian to take legal action against another Christian in a civil court of law. Common sense teaches us that some disputes among brethren should be settled by the church. Just as civil courts are not qualified to judge doctrinal and disciplinary matters which may arise in the church (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:12,13; 6:1-8), there are disputes which may arise among brethren which the church would not be qualified to decide, i.e., divorce suits, alimony, custody of children, recovery of financial loss as a result of fraud, etc. God’s appointed instrument for civil justice is the civil government. Government is authorized to be God’s “avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (Rom 13:4) Using the courts in the manner God ordained them would not be sinful.

Just as the refusal to disfellowship the adulterer in chapter 5, the problem Paul addresses in chapter 6 results from an improper attitude towards disagreements with a brother, specifically with respect to the exercise of liberties. Thus, the sinful practice which the apostle seeks to correct is viewing those disagreements as so offensive as to seek judgment and retribution before the world. Therefore, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 is not intended as a universal prohibition against the Christian utilizing civil government but instead addresses internal problems among brethren within the local church. The governments of the world have no standing in church affairs and the crossing of the two would only be perpetrated by the carnal man, an issue that certainly was present at Corinth.

Two reasons are given for not allowing the unrighteous judges to settle disputes between brethren: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” and “Do you not know that we shall judge angels?” The spiritual man who is to “judge the world” is able to do so because of his ability to decide between right and wrong in life’s endeavors. He judges the world daily through righteous living. In contrast, the carnal man seeks to turn over the “maters of this life” to the courts, taking those who have no standing in the church and exalting them to the position of judges. The carnal man sought to go out into the world to get what he couldn’t get, by reason and truth, from his brother. The spiritual man would not seek “his rights” at the expense of God and his brethren. He understands and applies the principles of justice and brotherly love. When there is an issue between he and his brother, the spiritual man acts in accordance with the teaching of Jesus. “…whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” (Matthew 5:22-24).

Paul exposes the carnal man’s motives and the practice of that day. The abuses of civil authority in Corinth were sinfully driven by a carnal mind and were no different than the immoral sins of the society around them.

Being Joined Together is the Product of Righteousness

Chapter 6 concludes with a final rebuke towards the carnality. Only the child of God knows what true spiritual freedom is. Paul reminds the Corinthians that while he has the right (as do all Christians) to exercise his liberties he will not become a slave to his liberties. It is not enough for the child of God to merely control his desires, he must prioritize and change his desires to be consistent with his life as a Christian (1 Corinthians 6:11). In order to illustrate this point on liberties, Paul uses the concept of fornication. Liberties are actions that in and of themselves are not sinful, likewise the sexual act in and of itself is not sinful. However, when we become slaves to the sex act, fulfilling this “good” thing in a sinful way, then that which is meant for our good becomes our sin. As a result we violate our bodies and we violate the will of God. Those things which will affect us in a positive way eternally we must devote ourselves to. Those things which will affect us negatively we must “flee” (vs. 18). The body is meant for eternity, however the present appetites of the body are not, therefore we must not give undue consideration to those appetites, especially not the extent that we are willing to harm our brother.

The bodies we live in, while suited for living in this life, are intended for eternal life and to be joined with Christ. Fornication, more so than any other sin we might commit violates the very purpose for which we were given these bodies. The application to the use of liberties is seen in the local church or local “body” as a picture of unity being “joined together” (1 Corinthians 6:17; cf Acts 9:26). We cannot be joined together in serving Christ, be united in thought and action if we are “mastered” by the exercise of our liberties, and certainly not if so concerned with them that we are willing to abuse our brethren to achieve what we feel we deserve.

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

 

 

“Three Issues from a Corinthian Letter” (1st Corinthians 7:1 – 11:1)

By

Hannah & Sarah Crawford

The first of the 3 issues addressed by Paul in 1 Cor. 7 is marriage and the guidelines pertaining to it. In this chapter, we are instructed to have only one spouse (vs. 2) regardless of other cultures beliefs or traditions concerning polygamy. Also, we notice here that Paul states, “But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (vs. 9). Many of the youths in the church today feel the need to be married and sometimes rush into it. It is good, whether the person (male/female) is married or not, as long as their focus is on the Lord. The problem comes when one or both of the spouses turn away from God because of marriage. This is why it is better to marry a Christian who has a firm belief in God, so as not to be led astray by a worldly spouse for it is easier to pull someone down than lift someone up. However, Paul instructs us that if a spouse is unbelieving then stay with them so that they may be edified through your example (vs. 12-16). If, however, the unbelieving spouse chooses to leave then let them leave. Some Christians married to unbelievers focus so much on staying with their spouse for the sole purpose of converting them that they will sometimes steer away from the church and God so as to keep their spouse from leaving. If anything, a Christian, no matter their circumstances, should keep God as their first priority (vs. 32-35). By marrying an unbeliever or a Christian who does not follow God’s word, we lose that “undistracted devotion to the Lord”. However, being united to a spouse that has God listed as their biggest priority will edify the other spouse to continue their devotion to God.

 

In chapters 8 and 9 we learn about the liberties we do and don’t have as Christians and what our responsibilities are to fellow brethren as well as nonbelievers. These liberties can be divided into two subcategories: being a stumbling block and reaping what we sow. We will start with how to avoid being a stumbling block to our brothers and sisters and also to those who may be studying the Bible but have not chosen to devote their life to God yet. Many perspectives produced by society tell us to focus on ourselves and to do what we want to (Rom. 1:20-25, 28-32). This view of selfishness does nothing to help the individual or those around them draw closer to God. Instead, it pushes true believers and those seeking the truth further away when Christians participate in selfishness. Verse 1 of chapter 8 tells us, “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies”. We can’t edify others through love if we are too busy loving ourselves (see I Thess. 5:11-18, Rom. 14:19, and Heb. 10:24-25).

 

The use of our liberties determines what’s in our hearts and where our focus is in life. Paul explains in chapter 9 through the use of various examples that what we reap is what we’ll sow. Some Christians today have not applied themselves as much they could to edify others and spread God’s word. Showing up to church every Sunday and on Wednesday nights can be a big encouragement to those who may not be frequent comers, but if that’s all we do then have we really used the gifts God’s given us? We shouldn’t run the race with the hopes of just finishing or getting by, but we should give everything we’ve got so that we might win the prize (Heb. 12:1-2, 2 Tim. 2:1-7). If we work daily to grow as Christians and help others grow by utilizing our talents then think how much stronger the church will become and the influence it will have on nonbelievers. If a visitor comes to services and notices that we are just going through the motions of being a Christian then how are they encouraged? As far as they can tell, who we’re worshipping isn’t important enough for us to give our best. God gave His best by sending His Son to die a horrible death because of our sins and shortcomings. At the least, God deserves our full passion and focus on living according to His laws. It’s just like the story of the ten talents. The man who buried his talent and gave back to his master what was given to him didn’t receive any reward (Matt. 25:14-30 and Lk. 19:12-27). Just as God has given us abilities of our own, we must use them or we will not receive a reward (and it won’t matter how many services we’ve sat through).

 

The last issue we see in these passages is in chapter 10 where Paul preaches to the people that we can’t worship God and demons (vs. 21). The demons refer to the worldly pleasures we partake in. When we sin we are choosing to be of the world instead of being servants after God’s will. Sure we all sin, but what do we do once we realize it. Do we keep going on with our life as if nothing happened or do we change a part of our life to ensure that we don’t fall into that same temptation again? We must be constantly vigilant for devil “walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:8).

 

“If There Be No Resurrection”

By

Sean P. Cavender

 

The apostle Paul addresses the nature of the bodily resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. The principle of the resurrection from the dead is fundamental to the faith of the child of God. Our hope and confidence is founded upon the resurrection of Christ, and our future bodily resurrection. Concerning the resurrection, it is something that is declared affirmatively in the gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The Scriptures attest to the fact of the resurrection, therefore it is something that we must believe and accept. If we deny the resurrection then we deny the gospel.

 

Some in Corinth were denying the resurrection saying, “there is no resurrection of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:11). Paul deliberately shows the consequences of such a teaching. He reduces this falsehood to an absurdity, proving the principle of a resurrection is essential to Christianity.

 

First, if there is no resurrection, then Christ is not raised (1 Corinthians 15:13). Christ’s resurrection is essential to our common salvation in Christ (1 Peter 3:21). We were all baptized into Christ’s death and raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3,4). If Christ is not raised then salvation in Christ is meaningless, thus rendering useless the act of water baptism. This is the reason for Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15:29.

 

Secondly, preaching the gospel is vanity, thus faith is useless (1 Corinthians 15:14). The goal in preaching the gospel is that people may hear the gospel and come to faith (Romans 10:17). If the gospel is built upon the truthfulness of the resurrection of Christ, and it did not happen, then what is the point of preaching a lie? What is the point in believing that lie and confessing faith in Christ, if there is no resurrection from the dead? Ultimately, if your faith is in vain then you remain in your sins (1 Corinthians 15:17; Ephesians 2:8).

 

Thirdly, if the dead are not raised then the apostles’ testimony of Christ’s resurrection make God a liar (1 Corinthians 15:15). If the proposition is true, the apostles are false witnesses of God, and the gospel they preach ought to be rejected since they claim God did something that He really did not do. The apostles were strong in their statements concerning God’s raising Christ from the dead (Acts 4:10-12). If the dead are not raised, then Christ was not raised by the power of God, and the gospel makes God a liar. Therefore, if the dead are not raised, and yet people believe the gospel and trust in God’s power to save, then they are to be pitied for believing a lie (1 Corinthians 15:19).

 

The conclusion to denying the resurrection is that once we die, we remain in the grave. The grave continues to hold power and strength over us. Therefore, if the dead are not raised “let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). Denying the bodily resurrection denies us the salvation in Christ, the truthfulness of the gospel, and the assurance of God’s power. It renders meaningless the belief in eternity. So why be concerned about living to please God? If there is no resurrection, enjoy life now because there will be no consequences later.

 

Throughout the remainder of the chapter, Paul presents the assurance of the bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:35-53). He concludes with the assurance that the corruptible will be changed to be incorruptible, so that we may live in eternity (1 Corinthians 15:54). Since the resurrection is true, then the blessedness of the teaching is “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54-56). The grave is rendered useless, not our faith. There is victory in overcoming death, and that victory has been given to us through Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). The grand conclusion to the doctrine of the bodily resurrection is this: continue working, persevere for the sake of the Lord. We do not have to “eat and drink for tomorrow we die”; we have the hope for everlasting life. We have the assurance through our resurrection that we are the sons of God, and we will be changed. Do not give up hope. Do not let others corrupt you. Those who deny the resurrection of the dead have not remained steadfast, nor do they abound in the work of the Lord. They have made their work and labor in vain. However, do not give up hope. Remain confident and continue to work for the Lord because your reward will be great.

Remembering My Creator: Vol. 3, No 1, February 2013

Theme: Thoughts From the New Testament Epistles

 

In This Issue:

  • “All Have Sinned” (Romans 1 -3) by Jordan Shouse
  • “The Redemption in Christ: An Examination of Romans 3:19-5:21″ by Sean Cavender
  • “Development of the New Life in Christ” (Ch. 6 – 8) by Shannon Harden
  • “The Gospel, as It Relates to Israel” (Ch. 9 – 11) by David Deuster
  • “Practical Application of the Law of Christ” (12:1 – 15:7) by Hannah & Sarah Crawford

 

 

“All Have Sinned” (Romans 1-3)

By

Jordan Shouse

The book of Romans is one of the most fascinating and deep writings in, not only the New Testament, but also the Bible. Luther once wrote that Romans, “is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. It can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes.”

 

The main theme of this book can be summarized in Romans 1:16-17 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’”

 

Paul states that the gospel is the power for salvation. The word salvation implies that man is lost and in need of saving. Thus, one of the first themes addressed in this letter is the problem of sin. The church in Rome was comprised of Jews and Gentiles. These are two different backgrounds, which had a major influence in their thinking. Jews, for instance, considered themselves more special and privileged to God from their ancestry. What Paul seeks to show the brethren of this church, is how all people of all backgrounds are justly condemned because of our sins. God made it clear that price or punishment for sin is death (Genesis 2:17; Ezekiel 18:4). Paul stated in this book that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The Apostle stresses to the brethren how all of them, despite their background, have sinned.

 

  • Romans 1:18-32 – God gave them over to their sins. This includes those who do not believe in God, as well as those who know the law of God but live against it (v.32).
  • Romans 2:9-11 – God will judge both Jews and Gentiles for their deeds done in the flesh
  • Romans 2:12-16 – Even though the Gentiles were “without the Law”, they too have sinned, done things detestable to God
  • Romans 2:17-24 – Jews who had the Law of God sinned, disobeyed God
  • Romans 3:9-18 – both Jews and Gentiles are under sin, they have lived in iniquity, and are thus deserving of death.

 

Paul summarizes this is Romans 3:23 – “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” All have sinned. The Jew and the Gentile, man and woman, all people of all races; we are all guilty before God in sin, and thus we are justly condemned for our sins. There is no special privilege for certain individuals – all who have sinned are justly condemned, and in need of saving, in need of a Savior. It showed the Jews that they were no better than the Gentiles though they came from a special ancestry. It ought to remind us that we are no better than another, for we have sinned through our decisions, in in such have been apart from God and deserving death.

 

This is an excellent place to begin a study, or in Paul’s case, a letter. People will not be willing to change if they do not accept that they are in need of change, that there is a true problem. At times we, who are Christians and saved by the blood of Jesus, forget that we were once apart from God through our own doing, deserving a most horrible fate. Yet, the love and grace of God appeared through the form of His Son who died for us unworthy people. May we not become calloused to sin. May we not forget that we have sinned, and through such sin were apart from God. And may we never forget the love of God and His Son who gave His life for us. Such love ought to change the way we live our life. It ought to change our perspective of sin, and create a true, genuine devotion to Jesus. “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, being justified by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;” Rom. 3:23-24

 

 

The Redemption In Christ

An Examination of Romans 3:19-5:21

By Sean P. Cavender

 

Paul indicted all people, both Jew and Gentile, as guilty of sin before God (Romans 3:19). It is due to man’s ungodliness that the wrath of God is revealed, and He will judge all sin as worthy of death (Romans 1:18,32). The reality of sin is frightening, and condemning. What is even more frightening is the reality of God’s judgment of sin. Those who commit such iniquity, and unrighteousness must come to accept the reality of their guilt for transgressing God’s commandments. Those who are guilty are condemned because of their sin. Sin is a universal, and widespread problem; it has touched all people. Therefore, that guilt belongs to everyone who has ever committed sin.

 

What happens to a person that has committed sin, realizes that guilt, and acknowledges that God will bring condemnation upon them for their wickedness? Is there any system of forgiveness, and mercy that someone may appeal to in order to obtain good standing in the sight of God? Paul answers the latter question with an affirmative response. The Roman letter is all about the system of righteousness (right-standing before God), justification (the pronouncement of being freed from guilt), and forgiveness (the removal of guilt). Please become familiar with these terms, and using them in this way because it is the way in which we will use them in this article.

 

Justification By Grace Through Faith

The system of justification, and righteousness is not by the works of the law of Moses (Romans 3:20,21). To be justified by any system of law would require keeping the law perfectly (Galatians 3:10,12). The law of Moses was actually given as a system which would point to the need of God’s grace; it produced a knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20). “But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient…” (1 Timothy 1:8,9). God gave the Israelites a law which should have allowed them to see their transgression, and to make apparent unto them the burden of sin. The law of Moses also provided an understanding of punishment for sin (Hebrews 2:2). But most importantly, the Law established a system of sacrifices, and the anticipation of atonement through the shedding of blood. The Law’s purpose was to point the Israelites unto Christ. The law of Moses was not intended to be a permanent framework, and it certainly was not God’s method to justify a nation of people that were already guilty of sin (1 Timothy 1:9). For anyone to argue that one will be justified by perfect law-keeping, especially in the debate concerning circumcision, Paul carefully refutes such a thought.

 

Instead of justification coming through works of the Law, the righteousness of God is by faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:22). God’s righteousness is made available unto all that believe because all believers are guilty of sin, and are in need of God’s forgiveness. No matter if they were members of the nation of Israel, and had received the law of Moses, or whether they were uncircumcised Gentiles, they were all guilty of sin (Romans 3:23). They each had the same opportunity to be justified by God through faith in Christ Jesus. Jew and Gentile would be justified in the same way. The Jew was not going to be justified through works of the Law; neither was the Gentile.

 

For those who wish to obtain salvation, it is found in the system of grace by faith. “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forebearance of God;” (Romans 3:24,25). This justification that is available is offered freely by God’s grace. Salvation is unearned. Those who are guilty of sin are deserving of punishment, and condemnation. It is by God’s grace that we are saved. If it were not for the grace of God, then we would have no hope. We would be left to wallow in mire of sin. The conditional aspect of God’s grace is faith on the part of the sinner.

 

Thankfully God provided a propitiation for us. He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, who offered Himself freely upon the cross, shedding His blood for the remission of sins. The term propitiation means to appease, or to satisfy. Who was appeased, and satisfied? What were the implications of this satisfaction? Christ appeased the requirement that blood be shed. In Leviticus chapters 16 and 17 we learn of the day of atonement, and the propitiatory sacrifice. A lamb was slaughtered, and its blood was taken into the Most Holy Place, and sprinkled upon the mercy seat. Blood was necessary for atonement to be made (Leviticus 17:11). This was a foreshadowing of the Christ and His death. The principle is stated in Hebrews 9:22, “and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” It was necessary that the blood of the perfect Lamb of God be shed. God required the shedding of blood for the remission of sins. Blood is necessary to give life. We have no spiritual life apart from Christ Jesus and His death. It is in this sense that Christ is our propitiation – He satisfied the requirement of atonement, blood from the perfect and spotless Lamb of God. Through Christ’s sacrifice, God was appeased and atonement was made, and through Him the remission of sins is accessible.

 

The righteousness of God is demonstrated, and made available for those who avail themselves to the grace of God by faith. That is how God is just, and the justifier (Romans 3:26). God is perfectly just in the exercise of His forgiveness upon the system of justification by grace through the condition of faith in His Son. He is the One that is satisfied with the blood of Christ. Therefore, He is the justifier of all those who exercise faith in Christ.

 

Boasting in works of the Law were excluded because that was not going to justify the sinner (Romans 3:27,28). God is over all, and He has determined He will save all men in the same fashion – by grace through faith (Romans 3:30).

 

“Blessed Is The Man To Whom The Lord Will Not Impute Sin”

The apostle Paul then appeals to the example of faithful Abraham. This is key to Paul’s defense of justification by faith. Paul’s argumentation in Romans 4 is the death blow to the Jews who prided themselves in being descendants of Abraham, and argued that their justification was in circumcision (Romans 4:1).

 

Abraham was not justified by works, Paul argues (Romans 4:2). What kind of works is the apostle speaking of? He is speaking of the works, and deeds of the law of Moses. Throughout the context he uses the term ‘works’ and ‘deeds’ in the connection with how a man is not justified (Romans 3:20, 27-28). Now in chapter four, Paul argues neither was Abraham justified by the works of the law of Moses because Abraham was justified by faith! It is evident that Abraham was not justified by the works of the law of Moses simply because when Abraham lived there was no law of Moses. Much of what Paul was trying to prove was in answer to the Judaizing teachers who were demanding the Gentiles keep the works of the Law in respect to the matter of circumcision. Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness (Romans 4:3; Genesis 15:6), which occurred before the covenant of circumcision was ever instituted (Romans 4:10-16; Genesis 17:1-14). The conclusion is: Abraham was justified by faith.

 

It is important to note the false teaching surrounding this passage by those who believe in the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. They correctly point out that if we were saved by works it would not be by grace, but simply what we have earned (Romans 4:4). However, the incorrectly define the term works. They argue the term works refers to obedience to God. According to their doctrine, since a man is not saved by works, but is saved by grace, then any act of obedience would somehow be earning one’s salvation. Thus, a man is not saved by any act of obedience, namely, water baptism. If that understanding of the passage were true, then just consider how strange Paul’s statement in verse 5 would appear.

 

“But to him that worketh not [obeys not], but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”

 

Is this what Paul was affirming in this passage? God is going to save a man by faith alone without any act of obedience towards God? Certainly not! Surely our denominational friends do not believe that concept. They recognize the need for good works in the life of the Christian (Ephesians 2:10). To argue that obedience is not essential, and has no role in the faith of the child of God is outrageous.

 

Abraham’s faith was an active, and obedient faith. He believed God and he acted upon that trust in the promises God made unto him. Abraham “staggered not at the promise” through unbelief. He was obedient to the Lord by not considering the deadness of Sarah’s womb. It was by faith that Abraham, a man who was one hundred years old, and Sarah who was ninety years old, received strength and conceived a child (Romans 4:19,20; Hebrews 11:11). The kind of faith that Abraham had, and the kind of faith that justifies a man, is the faith that is fully persuaded in the promise of God, and acts upon that faith. “By faith Abraham obeyed,” (Hebrews 11:8). Obedience does not nullify the grace of God. Grace and obedience are not opposed to one another. In fact, they are perfectly joined in harmony with one another. If obedience is not necessary then how does a man access the grace of God? By sinning more? God forbid! (Romans 6:1,2). Obedience is that which ultimately proves one’s faith in God (James 2:14-26).

 

Abraham is the example which Paul uses to illustrate the principle of justification by grace through faith. If Abraham was justified by the grace of God, then how do you suppose we might be saved? “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification,” (Romans 4:23-25).

 

Another Old Testament example that Paul uses to prove the principle of justification by grace through faith, apart from works is David (Romans 4:6-8). God imputes righteousness to the believer. This is not an imputation of the personal righteousness of Christ. To use Romans 4:6-8 as a passage which teaches the believer receives Christ’s righteousness is to read something that is not in the context. God imputes, or places upon someone’s account, righteousness. It is through faith in Christ Jesus, that righteousness is imputed. It is by God’s grace, certainly not by works. Furthermore, those who do argue that we are somehow imputed with the personal righteousness of Jesus Christ, destroy the concept of grace. Through the goodness and grace of God He has pronounced a man righteous. Can God do that if He so chooses out of His love and grace? Certainly. To argue that somehow the righteousness of Christ must be transferred to my account makes a mockery of grace. Nothing is actually forgiven. At best, the righteousness of Christ just overbalances my sin. There is no true justification and forgiveness.

 

The imputation of righteousness is the forgiveness of sins that we receive when we respond in the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5; 16:26). “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered” (Romans 4:7; Psalm 32:1). It is out of God’s goodness that He forgives our sins, and removes the guilt and condemnation associated with that sin, making us righteous in His sight.

 

“We Shall Be Saved From Wrath”

Drawing this section of the Roman epistle to a close, Paul returns to the main theme of the book: salvation in Christ Jesus. The system of justification by grace through faith has been established, exampled, and proven. Thus, we have access to God, and peace with the Lord (Romans 5:1,2). We were at one time enemies found in sin (Romans 5:10). However, there is salvation from the judgment and death that sinners are deserving of (Romans 1:32; 5:9)

 

When sin entered the world through Adam, death was introduced, and death passed upon all men, “for all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). What kind of death was introduced through Adam because of sin? Adam did not physically die the day that sin was introduced to the world, but he did die that day. Adam died spiritually the day that he sinned in the Garden of Eden. The death which is passed upon all men is due to the reality of the sins that all have committed (Romans 3:23). It is the death which Ezekiel wrote of, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). The death of Romans 5:12 is caused because “all have sinned.” Sin is not inherited, neither is it necessary that a person sin. All sin will result in spiritual separation, or death, from God.

 

 

Death reigned in the world through the transgression of Adam. Until Christ came, there was no sacrifice that could atone for sins. For all of those who have followed the footsteps of Adam, and have transgressed God’s commands, all were made sinners (Romans 5:19). However, those who come to faith in Christ may become righteous (Romans 5:19). Death has reigned, but it will be rendered powerless through Christ. Guilt was impossible to be removed, but now grace has been shown. We have sinned, but now we shall be saved from wrath.

 

“That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Romans 5:21).

 

Praise be to God for His mercy, and His grace. We who have sinned and were worthy of punishment, have been made righteous through the system of justification by grace through faith in the Son of God. The epistle to Romans is a wonderful study, and should cause everyone to realize the wonderful grace of God.

 

 

“The Gospel, as It Relates to Israel” (Romans 9 – 11)

 

By

David Deuster

 

The ninth chapter of Romans is one of the most difficult and controversial passages in the entire Bible. Within its writings Paul argues concerning the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, Israel and the Church, God’s plan of salvation, human will and the sovereignty of the Almighty. This being the case it is not surprising that the text before us has led to many erroneous conclusions and doctrines concerning the aforementioned topics. In particular Romans 9-11 is the most contested territory over Calvinistic theology and its consequences concerning the character of God and man’s salvation. The inspired words of the apostle are often used to uphold the Calvinistic view of God’s absolute sovereignty in particular to the irrevocable election of certain individuals to salvation or reprobation. Therefore it is good that we not seek to understand this passage isolated from the rest of the epistle and the whole of Scripture.

 

Understanding that Paul addressed the letter to a church which he could characterize as Gentile (1:5-6), but contained Jews (ch 16) helps us to understand the broader context of these verses and their importance to the brethren at Rome. The fact that there were tensions between the Jew and Gentile in the church brought Paul great concern. Though originally preached among the Jews the gospel concerning Jesus Christ would eventually be rejected by Paul’s kinsmen in the flesh leading he and Barnabas to turn unto the Gentiles. As time passed those coming into the church were almost all Gentiles. Therefore the theme that Paul addresses in epistle, particularly in this text, is “How the gospel can be the fulfillment of Judaism/the Old Testament and its promises to Israel when the vast majority of Jews had rejected Christ and were therefore excluded from God’s salvation and promises to them.”

 

After having demonstrated that both Jew and Gentile were guilty before God (Romans 3:9, 19, 20) and were, thus, in need of grace through a submissive faith in the Lord, it was important that the chief Jewish objections to the faith of Christ be answered definitively. In this text Paul addresses three of the most prominent Jewish objections to the gospel, which all centered on the singular truth of God’s expression of mercy to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. In doing so, Paul offers an inspired response to those who would attempt to restrict God’s mercy to physical Israel (Romans 11:32).

 

The apostle Paul was saddened at the present condition of his kinsmen in the flesh in light of the Lord’s divine purpose in the election of physical Israel. Sadly, those whom God had chosen to bring Messiah into the world to bless all men were the same people who were rejecting the promised Christ. Paul’s desire was in harmony with God’s love for all of mankind (Romans 10:1-3; 11:15).

1. THE GOD OF THE GOSPEL IS FAITHFUL

Paul begins by answering the Jewish objection that the gospel had caused God to be unfaithful in his promises (Romans 9:6-9). The Jews had missed the promise itself because their confidence and security was in the fact they were Jews. Their understanding was that the promises of God were to be enjoyed as a result of a national, fleshly association. Paul answers the objection by showing that not all of those who were members of physical Israel were a part of spiritual Israel (9:6). He distinguishes between the “children of God,” as the class of believers and the “children of the flesh,” as the class of unbelievers. What the unbelieving Jew needed to hear was that it is not physical descent, but spiritual descent that comprises the faithful of God (Romans 2:28-29).

In order to further emphasize this point, Paul spoke of God choosing Jacob over Esau in order to demonstrate that God did not choose Israel as a nation for salvation, but that He chose Israel as a nation to provide the Savior. Isaac wasn’t saved because he was a Jew but was saved by faith (Hebrews 11:20). The “word of promise” throughout this section identifies Messiah as God’s provision of salvation for mankind. Messiah would be brought into the world through the Jewish people, i.e, “Sarah shall have a son.” Thus, Paul’s conclusion is that God’s promise and his word has not failed because physical Israel had fulfilled the purpose for which God had chosen them as a nation. The choice of God in accordance with His divine purpose, to bless all nations through the seed of Abraham, would stand through the lineage of Jacob, not Esau. God’s choice to use ethnic Israel to fulfill His purpose was not dependent upon their goodness, evil, or works, but God’s faithfulness (9:16; 11:28).

2. THE GOD OF THE GOSPEL IS RIGHTEOUS

The Jews were insulted by the truth that believing Gentiles would be included in spiritual Israel whereas unbelieving Jews would be excluded. Paul writes, “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not” (Romans 9:14). Paul affirms that God is righteous in offering mercy to the Gentiles through faith in Christ, as well as to believing Jews (Romans 9:30-33).

 

God has always been willing to extend his mercy to those who seek him by faith, without respect of persons. In Romans 10, Paul again expresses his concern for Israel that they might seek the righteousness of God according to knowledge and submit themselves unto the righteousness of God, i.e, the gospel. He again sets forth the terms of gospel as being justification by grace through faith and not based on national lineage. “Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:11-13).

 

Paul writes, “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Romans 9:16). The Jews’ disdain for the gospel being inclusive of the Gentiles would never dispense with God’s plan to “show mercy.” God’s choice that physical Israel would bring the Messiah into the world and, thus, be a blessing to Jewish and Gentile believers could not be revoked even by those who rejected Christ (Romans 11:28; Ephesians 3:1-5). It is in this sense that God’s Messianic promise was not based on the Jews’ will, but His choice.

 

It is as this point that Paul speaks of Pharaoh’s interaction with Jehovah in order to demonstrate that God sets the terms of mercy and not Israel. This well known event from Israel’s history would serve as an affirmation of the futility of resisting God’s purpose to extend mercy to “whosoever wills.” God has allowed Pharaoh the opportunity to do what he desired by maintaining circumstances that would allow the choice (Exodus 9:15-16). God hardened Pharaoh the same way in which he hardens all men, by his truth. When faced with a choice in obeying or disobeying the truth of God our response, i.e, obedience or disobedience, is what results in us being hardened or softened.

 

Just as Pharaoh had rejected God’s word to his own demise, likewise, Israel was rejecting God’s word to their own condemnation (Romans 9:27-29). God’s mercy and deliverance for his true people hardened those who remained in unbelief. This is a point that cannot be missed: God’s purpose was not thwarted by their rebellion. If anyone should have remembered the end of Pharaoh it should have been the Jews. Yet, they were following in his footsteps by their attempt to interfere with his expression of mercy to those who would serve Him.

3. THE GOD OF THE GOSPEL IS FAIR

The unbelieving Jews understanding that since God established Israel as His people through Abraham and through the Law, God is unfair if He rejects circumcised Jews who refuse to believe in Jesus Christ (Romans 2:17-24; 9:14). Their accusation against the gospel according to Paul was in reality slander against God Himself. To argue that God’s use of unbelievers to accomplish His purposes renders Him responsible for their wickedness is slanderous. Israel should have known that it was in accordance with God’s righteousness to include the Gentiles for even their own history and prophets had taught them so. “But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people” (Romans 10:18-20).

 

Paul rebukes the perverse rebelliousness of the unbelieving Jew, “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” (Romans 9:20-21). The unbelieving Jews had no right to demand God to be answerable to them – God sets the criteria for justification, not the Jew and not any man (Romans 10:1-3). The Jews were attempting to obligate God to fulfill their false concepts of His purpose, which were contrary to Old Testament scripture.

 

The apostle employs a final illustration, the Potter-Clay metaphor, in order to demonstrate from Old Testament scripture man’s need and ability to repent and God’s sovereign right to demand that he do so. God has chosen what He will do regarding the clay, (sinner), in that he has chosen to respond to the clay, (sinner), according to his/her repentance or lack of repentance. By quoting the potter-clay metaphor Paul essentially tells the Jews that God will deal with men based on their repentance—as he has always said he would deal with them. The image is that of the vessel of dishonor blaming its position on the Potter, rather than humbly submitting to God. The Potter determines the standard or criteria of acceptance, i.e., vessel of honor or vessel of dishonor. God’s patience and grace was an overt expression of God’s love and mercy and an indication that the greater glory redounds to God by the salvation of sinners than by their destruction. This instruction is carried out further in chapter 11 with Paul’s explanation regarding the “natural branches,” i.e. unbelieving Jews, being cut off and his warning to “wild branches,” i.e. Gentile believers. Israel’s salvation was dependent upon faith in Christ as Messiah (10:1-3). The notion that Gentiles were to be a part of the body of Christ had been prophesied by Hosea. Additionally, the fact that there would be a remnant of physical Israel saved had been prophesied by Isaiah. All of Israel that would be saved, would be saved in the same manner as the Gentiles, i.e. through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 11:26).

 

Conclusion

Paul’s illustrations demonstrated irrefutably that the Jewish objections to the gospel were without merit and an expression of disrespect toward God Himself.

He spoke of God choosing Jacob over Esau in order to demonstrate that God did not choose Israel as a nation for salvation, but that He chose Israel as a nation to provide the Savior. He spoke of Pharaoh’s interaction with Jehovah in order to demonstrate that God sets the terms of mercy and not Israel. Finally, he used the Potter-Clay metaphor in order to demonstrate from Old Testament scripture man’s need and ability to repent and God’s sovereign right to demand that he do so.

 

 

“Practical Application of the Law of Christ” (Romans 12:1 – 15:7)

By

Hannah & Sarah Crawford

 

When reading Romans 12:1-2, we are instructed to present ourselves as a sacrifice presentable to God. So it is safe to say that if something is not considered “presentable” to God, it isn’t to other people either. This applies to what we wear and how we conduct ourselves in public or in private. We may not be able to do everything we want to, but that is why our lives are a “sacrifice” and ones that are according to God’s word. We can do this by “renewing our minds”, which means to constantly dwell on God’s word and incorporate it into our lives to “prove what the will of God is”. This should be our goal as the younger generation influencing both the young and old. What we do has a great impact on others as well as ourselves. Verses 3-8 give us instruction on how to live our lives to the fullest in the sense of giving our best to God. Not everyone has the same talent and even with different talents we can edify each other by helping one another to grow in all areas of praise and worship to God. As the passage goes on in verses 9-17, we are told to love one another even our enemies and pay back good for evil. However, we are to be “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord”. This means that we shouldn’t “act” nice to others because we have to, but we should be sincere in our actions towards others. Otherwise, we are lying to them and ourselves thinking we actually benefitted from being insincere. The rest of the chapter discusses how we are to leave vengeance to God knowing that He will deal out perfect justice. With this being said, we are still to treat our enemies with kindness, “not being overcome with evil, but overcoming evil with good”. Verse 20 can be taken incorrectly in the part where it states, “in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head”. We are not to be considerate towards others with the intent of God punishing them because of their evil, but to be an example to them as they ought to act and treat others. Our goal is to help save as many people as we can and leading our lives based on Christ’s example so that others will see Him working in us and believe.

 

Romans 13:1-5 explains our subjection to the authorities and why we are to obey the laws. Whether good or bad, the rulers (presidents, kings, etc.) are placed into power by God’s will. We do not know the future and what God’s plans are, but we do know that God will be with us through the easy and hard times. We are not to question God’s will but believe and trust in Him. Rulers were set in power to bring fear to those who practice evil, not good. So as long as we are following God’s word and do no evil acts then we are not to be afraid. However, there will be times when authority goes against God’s word and when this happens we are to stay true to God. God is our main focus and purpose for life which is why we obey His word. Verse 4 states that, “it is a minister of God to you for good”. The whole reason authority was set up by God’s word was to benefit us by protecting us and maintaining order and justice. Verses 6-7 tells us the reason for paying taxes and who to submit to for certain things. It tells us that, “rulers are servants of God”. As servants of God, whether or not they know it, we are to give them what is theirs and give God what is His. Later, love is discussed in verses 8-10. It states that we are to owe no one anything, but love. God sent His Son for everyone, not just us. Obviously, we are not “greater than God” so we have no excuse for refusing another person love. By loving others as ourselves we fulfill the law. Loving your neighbor as yourself sums up all other commandments and gives us the relationship we need with God. Now many people will use this commandment as an excuse to accept those who practice sin. When we are told to love one another that does not mean that anything goes. If we see someone living in sin we are to reveal God’s word, rebuke, and exhort them. By allowing someone to continue living in sin we are showing a lack of love. Do our parents correct us when they see us committing evil? Of course they do because they love us and they don’t want us to continue doing something that will eventually lead us into trouble. Just as God is our Father, He does not want to see us living in sin and has given us the knowledge of His word so that we might know what is right and wrong. It’s our job to continue teaching others what they ought and ought not to do. The rest of the chapter tells us how to behave and to put on Christ. This means that when people see us they should see Christ living in us because we act and behave just as He would. It also states, “make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts”. By this we are told not to put ourselves in situations where we know we’ll be tempted and have lusts. We are to be edifying to others and not allow worldly influences to be in our way. The places and people we hang out with influence us and our beliefs so it’s important to put ourselves in an environment where outside power, especially peer pressure, won’t cause us to stumble.

 

Romans 14 is sometimes a confusing passage and can lead people to false assumptions about its content as well as the context to which it is applied. The main message in this passage is that we should lead our lives in a way that will not cause a fellow brother/sister to stumble. For example, alcohol is a big problem today. If there is a brother/sister who has struggled with drinking in the past and has put it behind them and they see or hear that we were hanging out with people who were drinking, whether it’s at a party, dance, or even a restaurant, they may assume that we were drinking and view us as hypocrites. They will then either turn back to alcohol or turn away from the church believing that we are not sincere about God’s word. Even if we are not drinking or participating in any sinful actions, our presence shows our approval and can give false assumptions to others. By being selfish and only caring about what and who we wanted to hang around, we could easily cause a brother/sister to fall away from Christ. Ask yourself this question, “Is what I’m doing worth causing a fellow Christian to lose salvation in Christ?” We are not to judge or fellow brother/sister if they are doing something for God. However, some people have taken this passage to mean that as long as God is their reason for their actions then they can do whatever they want. This is not true because we are to follow God’s word and laws and by correcting a brother/sister when they disobey God’s word we are helping to save them.

 

In Romans 15:1-7 mentions that the strong should bear the weaknesses of others to please our neighbors and edify them. By bearing others struggles and being there for them when they need comforting, we show the love and kindness Christ has made to dwell in us. This, in turn, will cause others to look towards Christ for the same comfort and love. Also, it discusses how we are not to please ourselves, but just as Jesus sought to please God, we should live our lives seeking to please God according to His will. God’s word, the scriptures, were written for our instruction so that we might have hope knowing what is expected of us and that with perseverance through struggles and encouragement from one another we can fulfill God’s word. We are also to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, which means that we should all be seeking to glorify and praise God by following His word and His Son, Jesus, who is the perfect example. Verse 7 is similar to Romans 13:9 in that both are misinterpreted to mean that we should accept everyone for who they are. We are to accept one another as fellow sinners of the world who are seeking to put their life of sin behind them and follow God’s word. If one is not willing to repent of their sins then they are not truly concerned with drawing closer to God and living their lives for Him.