Thursday, July 31, 2014

Why Hell Grows

Isaiah 5:14 KJV
Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.

It seems to me that the context of this verse extends up to verse 11. The Bible pronounces a woe for three things:
  • The consumption of alcoholic drink
  • The preoccupation with a party lifestyle
  • The neglecting of the things of God
It is because of these sins that God says:
  • The people are captives
  • The leaders are famished and
  • The multitudes are thirsty
Everyone is a slave to sin, those whose place is to lead the people to liberty are themselves starved of the truth and the whole of them want for the living water only the Lord can give.

It is at this juncture the Word of God gives us the passage we now consider.

"Therefore", because of these consequences of sin, hell hath enlarged herself.

The soul that goes eternally to hell doesn't go there suddenly or without warning. Though we are born into this world with the sin nature and our course is set for hell from the beginning, no one has to end up there and everyone is given ample opportunity and repeated efforts to see them saved.

The soul that goes to hell gets there through a process.

  • They embrace the world and ignore the eternal. In doing so
  • They heap to themselves leaders with no convictions and no ability to help them when they finally see they need help. Their friends, family and neighbors are in the same plight and
  • They go to hell without a savior because they created an environment for themselves that has refused the Saviour.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Ultimate Expresssion of Liberty

1 Corinthians 8:10 KJV
For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;

The two men eat the same meat, from the same table at the same time but they do have the same heart.
The one eats the meat knowing that there is but one true and living God. He knows that idols are
  • Empty
  • Powerless before God and
  • Nothing
He eats the meat to nourish his body and thanks the living God for providing it.

The other eats the meat believing it to be a sacrifice to other gods. The context tells me that he is either a believer or else he is interested in the truth but not yet come to the truth. He sees the more mature Christian at the table and makes assumptions that, though false, hinder him in knowing the truth. He believes the more mature Christian also eats in honor of the idol.

The lesson of the passage for the Christian is that, as unfair as it may seem, our place is to go the extra mile to prevent these false assumptions to be made of us. If it means setting aside our liberty, not doing for a time what we know we may do, we set liberty down for the good of someone else.

This may be the ultimate expression of liberty; to take upon ourselves a yoke that is not necessary for ourselves but is helpful to another.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Great Baptist Distinctive

1 Corinthians 7:17 KJV
But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

Here is another passage of instruction on what I believe to be the great Baptist distinctive; soul liberty, the freedom to worship God according to the dictates of ones own conscience. Other distinctives, such as baptism by immersion after salvation, are a product of this.[1]

Baptists have historically
  • Believed
  • Preached and fervently
  • Practiced
the doctrine of soul liberty. They have ardently promoted the cause of allowing each man to worship God as he sees the Word of God teaching him to do.
  • He has encouraged that all men should have access to the Bible for their own soul liberty
  • He has instructed so that children would be able to read and understand the Bible and gain their soul liberty
  • He has lobbied those who framed the Constitution of the United States so that there was a country that offered men soul liberty
  • He has died both in the practice of soul liberty and in support of others soul liberty

[1] Not that the doctrine of Baptism is a product of this one but that the fact that Baptists became distinct for their practice of baptism die to their understanding of this truth.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Way I Travel

1 Corinthians 6:3 KJV
Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

1 Corinthians 6:9 KJV
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

1 Corinthians 6:15 KJV
Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.

This chapter is tied together by the same  phrase, "Know ye not…"  used three times:[1]

It seems to me then that we should not view this chapter as having two separate themes dividing approximately between verses eight and nine. This is a whole; it is a complete thought.
  • The reason we deal with our own matters
  • The reason we rather suffer wrong than to take a brother or sister to court, further
  • The reason we turn from worldly sin and the reason we refrain even from things that are lawful but not expedient
is because we travel toward a place where all such things can find no home.  These are incompatible with heaven and as such can never inherit the kingdom of God.

We who have been justified by the blood of Christ must then be sanctified from such things.

[1]  Phrases similar to this are found in verses 2, 16 and 19. Verses 16 and 19 contain the same phrase but they do not begin the verse.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Purpose of the Song of Songs

Song of Solomon 6:1 KJV
Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee.

It may be that this verse is the purpose of the entire book of the Song of Solomon. Better students than I disagree as to whether this book contains an historical record or if it is written as an metaphor. The metaphor seems wisest in my opinion. Solomon's real life relationships with women are hardly the stuff from which come prize making examples of marriage and romance. It is reasonable to me to see him reflecting rather in his mistakes than successes with his many wives and composing what an ideal relationship should have been.

Modern writers have pointed to this book as a Biblical resource for godly marriages. This however appears to be a more modern application as the majority of earlier writers saw it as referring to Christ and the church. They seldom see anything sensual in the book even referencing those verses which speak of the anatomy to things other than sexual experience.

I am going with these earlier writers. I see the Song of Solomon as a picture of the love relationship between Christ and His church. It is intended to demonstrate how the believer's affection for the Saviour, in harmony with his church, can lead others to desire to know and love the Saviour too. The love implied

  • Is pure and holy, not at all smutty and distasteful
  • It is beautiful to watch and in no way illicit
  • It inspires others to godliness and not to immorality

Saturday, July 26, 2014

What Sort of Steward?

1 Corinthians 4:1 KJV
Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.

It can hardly be argued that the "us" the Apostle references is himself and the other Apostles and ministers of the Lord. The context implies it. Reason connects it.
But it is also possible to attribute the "us" to the whole of his audience:
·         Himself
·         His hearers and in fact,
·         Us-the present day student of this passage
It would be wise to see
·         Not just the Apostle Paul
·         Not just the Twelve Apostles
·         Not just the ministers of that era
·         Not just the preachers of our day
But ourselves, each of us, all of us, as both ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

All of us manage a valuable treasure entrusted to us. It is the Word recorded in the pages of our Bible.
·         We have accepted them as from God
·         We have obeyed them in calling upon the Lord for salvation
·         We have embraced them as the code of our lives
We have this treasure but it is not yet clear what we will so with that treasure.
·         Will we hide it as the unjust steward? Or
·         Will we let it out to see what it might gain as the others did?
·         Will we come to know it well?
·         Will we come to live out all of what it says?
·         Will we tell others what we have discovered within?

We are stewards. We possess this treasure of inestimable worth. How will we perform our stewardship?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Godliness Over Giftedness

1 Corinthians 3:1 KJV
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

Paul had previously assured this church that they came behind in no gift. They were undoubtedly then a:
  • Gifted
  • Dynamic
  • Vibrant
bunch. But here he says they were both carnal and babes.

I am reminded of the gifted child. Often it is the one who is the most gifted, whose mind conceives things advanced beyond his peers, who becomes the biggest trouble maker among the children. A natural leader, these gifted ones become bored with the status quo. They want to move more quickly than the established pace allows. They often become more than trail blazers but rebels and even criminals.

Here is the strange twist; though they are gifted, because of their immaturity, they could only receive the milk of God's Word and not meat. Though they are the ones we would most think are ready for meat, and they certainly are the ones who are not satisfied with milk but believe themselves to be advanced and ready for meat, these are the very ones God confines to the milk of the Word.

Humility and patience are always qualities in vogue. They never grow old fashioned. Through them spiritual gifts become refined and usable. Through them giftedness becomes godliness.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Object of Ministry

1 Corinthians 2:5 KJV
That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

  • Desire
  • Goal
  • Object and
  • Aim
of every:
  • Pastor
  • Evangelist and
  • Soul winner
ought to be found within this passage. Our place is not to make converts after ourselves. No man would be better off eternally for being a follower of any Christian. The purpose and cause of Christ is in no way advanced by collecting any number of people together under a charismatic and even well meaning Christian leader.

  • What men need
  • What our world needs
  • What Bible  preaching is intended to do

is to bring souls to faith in Jesus Christ. The temptation to use the dynamic means of the Christian message  to effect cultural and political change is enormous. To use that same means to develop our own following is almost inescapable. But the true servant of the Lord will stay on target. His desire is to help people have faith in God and not in men.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Best Time to Plan for Old Age

Ecclesiastes 12:1 KJV
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;

This verse ties closely with Ecclesiastes 11:9-10
Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.
Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

The preacher finishes this book by reminding all, especially the young man, that years pass on and old age is coming more quickly than he can possibly imagine. There comes a day when the sensory pleasures of life fail us:
  • We cannot see the beauties of creation
  • We cannot hear the melodies of music
  • We cannot taste the delicacies of dishes
  • We cannot smell the aromas of fragrances
The senses all but leave us as age overtakes us. The pleasures that are such a powerful draw to the youth have no meaning to us in old age. It is then that a man finds pleasure in two courses of thought:
In what the future holds
Heaven and the pleasure of Christ's company become more meaningful daily as we approach what we know to be our end in this life.

In what the memory recalls
Events, occasions and the relationships of years gone by become treasures in the memory as we bring them to mind in conversation, contemplation and re-creation in photos and film.

Unless of course youth was wasted in wantonness and sin. In this case there is no heaven to look forward to but "…a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation"[1]. Neither is there much to look back upon but a trail of rubble and brokenness.

The young person is the one who needs most to reflect on the coming of age. It is in youth, the younger the better, a person most wisely chooses to fulfill the whole duty of man.

[1] Hebrews 10:27

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hope for the Living

Ecclesiastes 9:4 KJV
For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.

The hope of every Christian lies beyond this life. The best we may have it in the earth is but a bauble in comparison to the lowest of blessings in glory. To be saved yet so as by fire is so much better than to not be saved at all it is hardly worth comparing. Death is a graduation exercise for the believer.

But for the unsaved, hope lies in this life alone.
  • If the circumstances are poor, as long as they are alive they might hope for an improvement
  • If he is lonely, so long as he is alive, he might still find companionship
  • If his name is soiled, as long as he is alive, he has opportunity to redeem it
  • As a lost man, as long as he is alive, he may hear God's Word and be saved 

To the saved man life now merely prepares him for eternal life. The saved man lives for the day when this life becomes life beyond. For the lost man, all he has is the few years given him in this world. His only hope is for one more day.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Real Defense

Ecclesiastes 7:12 KJV
For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.

I recently enjoyed a documentary on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Cassidy[1] was homeschooled by his Mormon mother and fairly educated, but he watched his father work himself to nothing trying to scrape out an honest living. As a teenager he met a small time cattle rustler named Mike Cassidy and decided there was a better life to be made in theft than in honesty.

Cassidy used his education to pull off bank robberies without shooting anyone and without anyone getting shot. Because of his "skill" he soon had a large gang of followers, including Sundance Kid.[2]

The gang was successful for some amount of time, never killing anyone and eventually pulling off a train robbery worth $50,000, the equivalent of one million dollars in our economy. Cassidy and Sundance enjoyed their share of the money, making a fine trip to New York and eventually moving to Argentina and buying a cattle ranch. Cassidy's money appeared to have provided for him what his father's hard work never did.

But the train companies never gave up looking for the thieves. Sundance wrote a letter home and disclosed their location. The Pinkerton Detective agency found their location and distributed their wanted posters throughout Argentina. Cassidy and Sundance were forced to leave behind their ranch and flee to Bolivia. There the two, desperate for money, robbed a bank but were not successful in escaping. The house they were hiding in was surrounded and a gunfight ensued. Morning time the locals made their way into the house to find that the two men had commuted suicide.

Money can provide a sort of defense and shelter. But money gained without the wisdom of The Lord provides only a shadow or illusion of protection. Only the wisdom of the Lord gives life both now and eternal. The man, like Cassidy's father, may work honestly to earn a living, but not knowing the true Saviour Jesus Christ, could only provide for life in the temporal world. The knowledge of Jesus Christ provides a defense from the consequences of sin, from the devil himself, from hell and from death itself, giving eternal life with Christ in Heaven.

[1] Whose real name was Robert Leroy Parker.
[2] Real name, Harry Longebaugh.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Working for the Wind

Ecclesiastes 5:6 KJV
Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?

The majority of the world would think that living for heaven is laboring for the wind. They would see it as fruitless and wasteful to live for "pie in the sky" rewards. The Lord Jesus and the Old Testament preacher both disagree.

This preacher expressly declared the obvious; regardless of what a man might gain on the earth, he can't take it with him when he dies. The one who has gained much in this world and the one who has gained nothing are equals in death. They may be laid to rest in different boxes but neither cares.

Lost men know this to be true as well as do the saved. We just have different answers for the situation. The lost man will give one of two responses:
He will console himself in making a name for himself
Oftentimes he will attempt to do something great. He will try to get his name written in history. Other times he will have something built in his name. Though he is gone, he reasons, his name is not in that it exists on some structure.
He will content himself that his name lives on through his children
The preacher saw this to be a vanity because we can never know what our children will do with what we leave behind. Many a wealthy man has had his fortune squandered by children whose character or qualities were not as developed as their benefactor.

The Christian response[1]  is to labor not for riches and fame and reward on the earth but to lay up for themselves treasures in heaven.

So the difference between the Christian and the worldly is essentially a disagreement of what it means to be "laboring for the wind."
  • The worldly believe their eyes and view heaven, which they can't see, as wind
  • The Christian believes God and views the world, which he has observed as temporary, as the wind

[1] Though I confess it is not the response of everyone who claims Christianity.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Eternity in the Heart

Ecclesiastes 3:11 KJV
He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

That the world God placed in man's heart is not literally the earth is obvious. The passage therefore requires we look to a larger view of the meaning of the word.

He could be speaking of the explorative nature of man
the desire to see and conquer lands hitherto unknown.

He could be speaking of the thirst for knowledge
to discover more than land but all there is to learn in this world.  Certainly we can not claim that we have learned it all.

The Hebrew word indicates what I think is the meaning of this passage

It gives as one definition, eternity. God has placed in the heart of man the desire for eternity. To live in a world without end. To live and to not die. This is the work of God in our hearts, to draw us to a place where we search out that land that never ends.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Many Members, Many Functions

Romans 12:4 KJV
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:

I am interested in the word, "office."

We generally think of that as a position of recognition or authority:
  • The office of the President
  • Officers of the court
  • Etc.

The definition of this word, in the Greek, is "act" or "function."

In a New Testament Baptist Church there are only two offices: pastor and deacon. In that same New Testament Baptist Church there are many functions. There are, in fact, as many functions as there are members. Each member has:
  • A role
  • A function
  • An activity

within the church that is theirs alone to perform.

Sometimes those functions will be similar[1] as in:
  • Sunday school teachers
  • Nursery workers
  • Bus workers
  • Cleaners
but every function is essential to the church.

Sometimes that function will be a developing one.
When  a person unites with the church their function will be limited. Over the course of time it may expand and change many times.

Sometimes that function is quite silent.
Most may never witness it being performed. It is nonetheless essential to the body.

[1] Many people performing the same function.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

It's About the Root

Romans 11:18 KJV
Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.

So often we make this passage about:
  • One person or another person
  • One group of people or another group of people
  • One nation or another nation 
But the truth is that the message of the Bible here is not about any:
  • Person
  • Group of persons or
  • Nation of persons
The passage is about the root. It stays constant. It never changes. Branches come and go but this root remains. Sentiments toward God change. The Jews began as a people fixed upon God but eventually turned from Him. The Gentiles seemed originally to embrace the faith of Christ but, as the years progress, have turned to other religions. That one thing that has never changed is God Himself.

And it is to Him alone that we must place our faith. Amid the fluctuations of mankind God alone has never changed.

  • His promise of salvation is constant
  • His message of coming is changeless
  • His Pronouncement of victory is immutable

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Energy Spent On the Wrong Person

Romans 10:20-21 KJV
 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.

There is the one who has been daily courted to have a walk with God. There is another who began a walk with God without such courting.
  • Israel is an example of the first
  • The Gentiles of the latter 

Often we give our energies to the wrong persons. We stretch forth our hands to those we wish would be saved and nearly neglect those who have almost accidentally.[1] Ministry is about caring for those whose hearts have been drawn to the Lord. It is about feeding the flock God has give us. We do go out to care for the fallen but we must not neglect the faithful for the sake of the fallen.

Those whom the Lord gives will come naturally and of their own accord. They will hear in our ministry the Lord's voice and follow. Those who do not are not (yet at least) of this flock.

[1] I speak from the man's vantage.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Salvation By the Will of God

Romans 9:11 KJV
(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

God's choosing Jacob over Esau while they were both yet in the womb and before either had done good or evil demonstrates the omniscience of God. He knows the future because there is no future with God. Time is of no consequence to Him. He sees the ending with the beginning.

God's purpose in choosing Jacob over Esau is to demonstrate that God's election (in context this refers to salvation) is of God's calling and not of works. The object of the lesson is not that one is chosen for heaven and the other for hell. The object or purpose of the lesson is that salvation is of God's calling and not based on our works. Salvation is of the will of God. It is a gift provided by the Gospel of Christ and not a package purchased by the goodness of men. This "election" then is available to all who will accept it. It is of God, who would have all men to come to the knowledge of the truth, and therefore for all men who will come to that truth.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Holiness is Required to Create Holiness

Romans 8:3 KJV
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

The problem with the law is the same problem with all religion;[1] it is weak through the flesh.

Religion is an attempt to be holy in the strength and power of the sin nature. It can never work. Just as a pot can never be cleansed with a contaminated cloth, so sin can never be reconciled in the strength of the sin nature. Something holy is required to create holiness.

That's why Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh but not in sinful flesh. The holy flesh of Christ, suffering in the place of the sinful flesh of man, once and for all condemned sin in the flesh.

[1] Though unlike religions, the law is righteous and holy and good.