Sunday, August 31, 2014

This Truth is Still True

Ephesians 5:9 KJV
(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)

The fruit of the Spirit, according to Galatians, is:
 love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. Here we learn that this fruit manifests itself in three qualities:
  • Goodness
  • Righteousness
  • Truth
It works as a light in that:
  • All goodness, 
  • All righteousness and 
  • All truth
are evidences of the fruit of the Spirit. 
  • There is no true goodness except it is the fruit of the Spirit. 
  • There is no true righteousness except it is the fruit of the Spirit. 
  • There is no true truth except it is the fruit of the Spirit. 
The forces of this world will deny this and point to goodness or righteousness or truth which proceeded forth from something other than God's Spirit. 

First, who is man to judge what is good or righteous or true? 
It is the very sin nature of man to take upon himself an authority belonging solely to God. 

Second, the Spirit of God, for reasons of His own, is capable of and often chooses to work through people who would never credit the living God. 
At least one reason I believe is to demonstrate His sovereignty over all. Another reason is to humble His own people lest they become pharisaical and self righteous. 

Regardless of the denials of men this truth is still true; all goodness, righteousness and truth are evidences of the working of the fruit of the Spirit.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

That He Died

Ephesians 4:9-10 KJV
(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

That Christ descended has at least three implications:
  • That He left heaven to come as a man to earth
  • That He died as a man while on this earth
  • That having died, he descended to lower parts of the earth
where He preached to the subjects in hell and released the souls of those in paradise to rise to heaven where they now await the resurrection of their bodies.

I focus today on the fact that He died.

The gospel message centers around 
  • The death
  • The burial and 
  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ
It is no small wonder then that the apostle stops here to refresh this gospel truth into the hearts of his readers. 

Jesus Christ did ascend into heaven in the presence of many witnesses. But prior to that He resurrected from the grave and proved Himself alive by many infallible proofs. 

  • He came from heaven
  • He descended to the earth
  • He descended from the earth through death to the lowest parts of the earth
  • He ascended from the lowest parts to the living through resurrection
  • He ascended then the His Fathers house where He now lives making intercession for us

Friday, August 29, 2014

Grace, Mysteries and Manifold Wisdom

Ephesians 3:8-10 KJV
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

Grace is given three names in these verses:
  • Grace
  • Mystery
  • Manifold wisdom
And each is a perception had of the thing by different bodies of persons:
To the individual who is saved it is grace
Say what you will, those of us who are saved know that our salvation is only of grace. We could never deserve it. We can only receive it. It is 
  • Undeserved
  • Unexpected and
  • Unimaginably blessed
to be saved

To the world of unsaved men it is a mystery
They cannot comprehend it. That an all powerful God would also be all loving and gracious is beyond their logic. That He knows us in our fullest details and yet still loves us is too good, in their eyes, to be true.

To the principalities and powers in heavenly places it is the manifold wisdom of God
They cannot know grace except as it is demonstrated upon sinful man. They are not jealous of grace as those given to such evil thoughts have already fallen, but they do wonder and marvel at such a thing.

  • Salvation
  • Redemption
  • Forgiveness 
  • Adoption
These are: 

  • Graces to the saved
  • Mysteries to the world and 
  • Manifold wisdom to the angels

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Whose Course is Your Course?

Ephesians 2:2 KJV
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

The spirit that presently works in the children of disobedience (whether they are lost or whether they are professing believers who continue on with a spirit of disobedience) is marked, according to the Word of God, by two things:
The course of this world
There is a course this world is set upon. It is a course that it began at the moment Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit God had forbidden them to have.
  • It is a course of self righteousness
  • It is a course of humanism and the deification of man
  • It is a course that replaces God as the base line for morality, with the opinion of men

The prince of the power of the air
The irony of the whole thing is that men, by disobeying God,  believe that they are
  • Their own masters
  • Their own gods
  • They have rule over their own destinies

But nothing could be farther from the truth. Men who choose their own course always end up on the course of Satan.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Solid Comfort

Ephesians 1:1 KJV
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:

The words “counsel” and “will” are both closely connected to the concept of volition. Barnes says, "The phrase “counsel of his own will” is remarkable. It is designed to express in the strongest manner the fact that it is not by human counsel or advice." The things God has determined such as:
  • Salvation through the work of Christ
  • Salvation only for those who come through Christ and
  • A joint inheritance with Christ for all those who come to Christ
are solely and completely based upon the agreement of God's own wisdom and will. There is no pressure from the forces of men or angels. God is neither surprised by those who reject Him or stunned by the plotting of Satan to prevent souls from salvation. He has determined a course of salvation that is suitable for any man at any time, in any part of the world. 
  • No logic of man
  • No appeals from background
  • No exceptions for ethnic prejudices
mitigate or in anyway influence the purpose of God because it is predestinated and worked out after the counsel of His own will.

There is rock solid comfort and assurance in this.
  • What God has promised
  • What God has proclaimed and
  • What God has purposed

is unchanging and true and never subject to the ever shifting sands of human thought, preferences and whims.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Consider Yourself

Galatians 6:1 KJV
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

The general principle of Christianity is that we think of others:
  • In honour , preferring one another
  • Esteeming others better than ourselves
  • Be subject one to another

Here we are expressly instructed to consider ourselves
  • Consider our relationship to the rest of the church body
  • Consider God's grace that has placed us in that body
  • Consider our measure and that we have yet much spiritual grace to attain
  • Consider that we are corruptible and still able to fall

I must prefer others and think of their interests and their needs. But in doing so I must consider the weakness I own in my body lest they get the better of me.

Monday, August 25, 2014

It's His Fault

Galatians 5:10 KJV
I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.

Albert Barnes makes the following observation concerning the phrase, “but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment,
"Shall be responsible for it, and will receive proper treatment from you. He gently states this general principle, which is so obvious; states that he does not believe that the defection is to be traced to themselves; and designs to prepare their minds for a proposition which he intends to submit (Galatians 5:12), that the offending person or persons should be disowned and cut off."

The judgment that Paul advocated the church exercise was severe but not of their doing. This was completely the responsibility of the offender.
  • Assembly
  • Unity
  • Connection
  • Fellowship

These are the targets and the aim of Christ's church. Though they cannot ever be attained perfectly on this earth, they are that thing we are most interested in. They are the ideal we aspire to. And if, from time to time, we must exercise a discipline that seems contrary to this ideal it is a burden that must be laid on the one who turns from the faith delivered to them and not to the church.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Loss of Remaining Spiritually Immature

Galatians 4:1 KJV
Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;

What's the Difference?

Speaking in reference especially to the Jews, the apostle tells us that the heir, so long as he is a child, is no different than a servant.
  • He is the lord of all the family possessions
  • He will one day control the family business
  • He will one day inherit all the family estate
But as a child, he is no different than any employee on the estate. He was under tutors and governors (themselves servants) until he reached maturity.

The Jews were to compare this to before and after the coming of Christ. Prior to Christ the Law served as a schoolmaster. They were under the authority of the law though the itself was a lesser vessel, destined to be done away, until such a time as their Heavenly Father appointed them.

I see an application to the Christian here, and I think it is the point the apostle is aiming at; that the Christian, as long as he remains spiritually immature, is little different than the one who is yet lost. He is possessor of a great inheritance, but in his immaturity he gets little benefit from it.

Paul spoke of such childishness in 1 Corinthians 13 and said there comes a time, in maturity, that we must put away childish things. He said in Ephesians 4 that God gave us in the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for our equipping, perfecting and ultimately maturing.

It behooves us to avail ourselves to their ministry that we may out away childish things and enjoy the benefits of our Heavenly Father.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

By Faith

Galatians 3:14 KJV
That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

The blessing of Abraham was righteousness by faith. It was:

  • A promise he trusted but did not fully receive in this life
  • Reinforced through the sign of circumcision and later the law
  • Before the law and not disannulled by it

Friday, August 22, 2014

Genuinely Saved People

Isaiah 48:1-2 KJV
Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the LORD, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness.
For they call themselves of the holy city, and stay themselves upon the God of Israel; The LORD of hosts is his name.

God's Word gives us the many qualifications that the Jews cited as the credentials of their faith:
  • They are called by the name God gave them
  • They come from the "waters" or heritage of Judah
  • They make the oaths in the name of the Lord
  • They speak of God in conversation
  • They identify with the city of Jerusalem
  • They even claim to depend upon God
But then God makes this one observation which disqualifies all of their qualifications; none of this is either in truth or in righteousness.

We have much the same in the world of Christianity today where people make bold and emphatic statements of faith:
  • They claim their spiritual history, maybe reminding us of a "decision" made for Christ as a child
  • They speak of their years of church membership
  • They point out that they are part of Christian America
  • They perhaps have taught a Sunday school class
  • They will certainly tell you about their baptism
  • They will unwaveringly call themselves Christian
  • They will not hesitate to say they believe in God
But none of this has been life transforming to them. They will very likely be as corrupt as the heathen. Their so called faith will have nothing to do with their choices in the business place. The God they make mention of is not permitted to influence them outside of the world of their spirituality. Their claims to faith are neither in truth or in righteousness.

A faith that is not founded upon the sure truth of God's Word and that does not result in life transformation has not resulted in righteousness with God. Two things are true of genuinely saved people:
  • They are new creatures
  • They have been made the righteousness of God in Christ

If their faith is not founded in the truth of God's Word it will be obvious by life with no transformation. That in turn gives away that they have not the righteousness of God in Christ.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Better Thing to Do the Right Thing

2 Corinthians 13:7 KJV
Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates.

Paul's prayer for the believers in Corinth was that they would do no evil. He said that the reason he sought that for them was not that he would look better and appear to be approved by them, but because it was a better thing to do the right thing.

Even if, in the end, they still believed him to be in the wrong his desire was that honesty prevail and not evil.

Our motives for doing right and seeking that others (such as our children) do right should be more about
  • Honesty
  • Righteousness and
  • Truth than about our
  • Reputation
Of course a good testimony is a grand thing and one to be desired, but it must not be our primary motive. To look good for appearance sake is nothing but a pharisaical "whited sepulcher". But to do honestly for the sake of honesty is glorifying

  • To the Lord
  • To His church and
  • To the believer himself

Soul Liberty

Galatians 1:12 KJV
For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The ministry of the apostle has been the model for all sorts of ministries:
  • The missionary claims Paul
  • The evangelist claims him
  • The pastor (myself included) claims him
No doubt those involved in extra church and para church ministries also find in Paul some justification for their work and a model by which to accomplish it.

I see no problem with any of this. Paul's ministry as an apostle is unique to all modern ministries and is, in my view, set forth as a model for all legitimate ministry.

Paul here describes one of those qualifications belonging to him that exists in no ministry today; he was given his education from the Lord and no other man. This could not be said of any who come after the apostles, for the ministry of the apostles was that of teaching men. They received from The Lord and they passed on to us. The Bible then gives place for pastors, evangelists and teachers who instruct, equip and mature believers after them. All of us nowadays have been influenced by some teacher.

But I see in this passage an indication of one of the doctrines of the Anabaptists, and now most Baptists; individual soul liberty and the right to worship God according to the dictates of one's own conscience. I would go so far as to suggest the responsibility to worship God according to the dictates of one's own conscience. While none of us will receive true gospel from any source other than the Bible, there are no extra biblical revelations, the Bible is a direct communication to man from God. I am, just as is every Christian, responsible to go to the source of God's teaching and become persuaded of it on my own. I must never settle for merely assenting to the teachings of others, though I may come to the same convictions as they. I must search for myself to see if these things are so.

A Baptist church, then, should not be an institution where people are molded into one thought, but a place of enablement where believers are urged to receive for themselves the mind of Christ through free study and the exposition of the Word of God. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Most Remarkable Sign of Genuineness

2 Corinthians 12:12 KJV
Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.

Perhaps the most remarkable sign of the apostleship was the one first mentioned in this verse; patience.

Patience is a quality rarely possessed and seldom sought. Yet it is a virtue the Lord prizes and the Bible says we need. It is something we often wish for in the time of trial but reject the trials that would develop patience.

Patience was a sign of Paul's Apostleship in that:
  • Though he was opposed he continued in the course of his ministry
  • Though he was challenged he persisted in his calling
Faith in Christ would most surely have ended with the twelve had they given up over trouble.

  • Patience to keep on in the path that we have been set upon
  • Patience to stay at the path though others refuse it
  • Patience to walk on when an easier course tempts us to turn aside

This is the most remarkable sign of genuineness of all.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cutting Off Occasion

2 Corinthians 11:12 KJV
But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we.

Though Paul could have asked for financial help from the church in Corinth he had refused to do so.[1] Paul made the choice to do as he had done so he might "cut off occasion" from his critics. It, of course, did not prevent them from criticizing but it did take the teeth out of their criticism.

Christians have had and will always have critics and opponents. Those critics have often had some reason for their criticisms; a kind of false Christianity has, historically, acted very badly. But there have also always been those Christians who have refused to give the critics just cause. They have lived:
  • Humbly
  • Honestly and
  • With earnest integrity
They have never been perfect as no man other than Christ ever has been, but they have been honest about their faith.

We can do the same if we choose. We can determine by God's grace to so live out our faith as to leave the critic with little or no ammunition. We can do this by humble obedience to the Word of God.

[1] Thank God for other believers who cared enough for his work to provide for him so he did not have to.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

God's Grace is Proof of His Graciousness not Our Worthiness

Isaiah 38:17 KJV
Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.

Hezekiah had been a good king but not a sinless king. He had led Jerusalem through some terrible times and had done so admirably. Having recovered from a deadly illness and being promised fifteen more years of life it is no wonder he burst into this song. God had thrown his sins behind his back, never to be remembered again.

But neither:
  • His spared life
  • The miracle sign to prove it or
  • The promise of sins forgiven
absolved him from the responsibility to make good and wise choices in his future. When Hezekiah made a foolish decision in regard to the Babylonian messengers he was as soundly rebuked as he would have been before his miraculous recovery.

Often Christians mistake God's mercy as God's approval of their foolishness and sin. Nothing could be farther from the truth. That God is gracious to us is a proof of His grace and not our worthiness. No matter what we have "gotten away with" as a people, the Bible is still and will always be the guide of right and wrong.  Despite God's grace, we still do best to abide by it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Assyria Underestimated God

Isaiah 36:4 KJV
And Rabshakeh said unto them, Say ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?

Sennacherib and Rabshakeh had heard of the God of Jews. These were not barbarian people with no education and little going for them but brute strength. They were knowledgeable enough to be able to speak the Jew's own language. They were knowledgeable enough then, to know of the Jew's God.

But knowing of God and knowing God are two different things. They could see no reason that the God of the Jews was any different than the idols of every other nation around Israel. As far as they knew, who was to say that the God of the Jews had not sent them to defeat Jerusalem? The tenor of the whole account betrays the fact that they did not know and understand God.

And it cost them.

Seems we live is a similar time. False gods abound on every side from the various religions that seem to be gaining steam to the idolatry of the average person toward:
  • Money
  • Materialism
  • Humanism
Everyone has a god today and though they have generally heard of the true and Living God (in many cases they can even speak the language of the Christian) yet
  • Their actions
  • Their words and
  • Their very belief system
betrays that they do not know our God.

Just as Rabshakeh and Sennacherib ignored the signs that they were treading on thin ice in surrounding Jerusalem, people today have ignored the signs of our times. The God who delivered Jerusalem from Assyria is still alive. He is still active in the affairs of mankind. He will still have His will done. And it would still be wise for the naysayer and modern Rabshakeh to repent and turn to Him.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Discipline, Plan and Prepare

2 Corinthians 8:11 KJV
Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.

Paul knew that the church at Corinth would be willing to contribute to an offering to help suffering believers in Jerusalem but he also knew they would not be able to give to their fullest potential unless they began preparations well ahead of time. The giving of tithes, gifts and special offerings at church is greatly improved when people discipline themselves to prepare for these offerings. Rather than waiting for the last minute and giving what little is in the pocket so to speak, it is far better to plan ahead that, when the offering is received, we can give as abundantly. God blesses the bountiful giver.[1]

This principle can be applied to any number of areas of life:
  • A particular job
  • A desire to pastor
  • A Longing for a long and happy marriage

Being willing to do a thing is not always the same as doing it. The difference between desiring something and accomplishing it is usually in the preparation. In some cases of course, that preparation is in education. In most cases that preparation begins long before education in the development of discipline and character.

We, of course, will never be able to accomplish all we would like to accomplish in this life. Time, resources and the limits of this corruptible body will hinder us until we reach eternity. But we can accomplish much more if we
  • Discipline ourselves
  • Plan ahead and
  • Prepare

[1] 2 Corinthians 9:6 KJV
But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

An Honest Appeal for Affection

2 Corinthians 7:2 KJV
Receive us; we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man.

There is a great deal of pathos in this passage. The apostle nearly pleads for the affection of the members of this church. After his stern correction, in his first letter to the church in Corinth of certain offending members, he had been concerned for their heart toward him. He here expresses that nothing he had done was meant to wrong, corrupt or defraud anyone.

But apart from the pathos, there are some wise lessons for every believer. We must bear witness to the truth. We must be strong in our convictions. But we must never be purposely injurious to others.
  • Ours is to correct those who do wrong and comfort those who have been wronged but never to do the wrong
  • Ours is to give sound doctrine and principles. We must take care to not place a stumbling block before others or to point them in the broad way of destruction
  • Ours is to be servants of others and not to use others for our own means and ends
Paul could honestly appeal to their affections because he had done nothing to alienate their affections. Any distance that may have existed between them was the result of one of two things:
  • The negative influence of false teachers
  • The rejection of honest preaching and teaching

In either case, the apostle's conscience was free to earnestly appeal for love and affection.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

So Much Waste

Isaiah 31:7 KJV
For in that day every man shall cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your own hands have made unto you for a sin.

Isaiah preached that, during the Assyrian invasion, the people would find out that their idols were useless. They would cast them away as they fled for their lives. At one time they
  • Bowed down to them
  • Placed value in them and
  • Made sacrifices to them
Now they are just so much waste, a hindrance in their flight.

Contrast that with Christ. Countless are the accounts of foxhole and prison cell conversions where men and women who, having ignored Christ previously, in peril cry out to the Lord. Criticize the sincerity of those conversions if you please they do demonstrate the difference between the idol and the Lord. So far from fleeing Christ in a time of peril, they now flee to Him.

  • How much better would it be then to come to the Lord previous to peril?
  • How much better to have assurances of His presence, His care and His aide in the time of flight?
  • How much wiser is the one who, in youth, comes to know Christ as Saviour, friend and companion?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Better to View People This Way

2 Corinthians 5:16 KJV
Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.

Barnes' Notes gives us this thought,
"In view of the fact that the Lord Jesus died for all people, and rose again. The effect of that has been to change all our feelings, and to give us entirely new views of people, of ourselves, and of the Messiah…"

Paul had determined to see every human being, not for who they were physically, but who a God intended them to be spiritually. This sort of view would:
  • Eliminate issues of prejudice and intimidation on account of office
  • Squelch the bitterness of grudgery and
  • Inoculate against inward hatred of those who had in some way harmed us
It is a position no Christian can hold perfectly because, though we have been born of the Spirit, yet we still live in a body of the flesh. Paul's lesson does, nevertheless, equip us with a tool to strengthen the foundations of our heart in regards to others.

  • It is impossible but that offenses will come, but it is possible to not be offended by them
  • It is impossible but that there will be inequality of wealth and privilege in this world, but it is possible not to be envious of others
  • It is impossible but that we will experience enmity from others, but it is possible that we hold no ought against them

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Honest Preacher's Method

2 Corinthians 4:2 KJV
But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

The Apostle's ministry had been severely attacked by false apostles and teachers who had come to the church in Corinth. Paul said he had not handled the Word of God deceitfully, neither had he practiced craftiness (an insinuation that that is exactly what these false apostles had done). He said that his practice was simply to put the truth out there and leave himself exposed to the consciences of the people.

This is exactly what a New Testament preacher ought to practice. Our work is not to somehow frame things in such a way that people are drawn in without having heard the message we preach.
  • We need do nothing in secret
  • We need do nothing in back rooms and in hidden corners
The work of the preacher is to lay his message out there and commend himself to the consciences of every man.

  • Some will be offended and stumble
  • Some will be blinded and miss the truth but
  • Some will hear and believe