Matthew 16:13-20, Part I-III

Matthew 16:13-20, Part I: Who Is Jesus?

Question One: The People’s Answers

 

This question, and its answer, was relevant in Jesus’ day and it is today. Who Jesus is will remain a question for all seasons because Jesus is the man for all seasons. Moreover, the person and work of Christ and the eternal design of the Triune God is under attack from within and without the Church. It is vital that the Church answer the question correctly.

Jesus’s question moved to the heart of the issue: the disciples’ heart. God designed mankind a duplex being, inner and outer man. Often man’s Duplexity is characterized as a dichotomy. In reality, man is a unit. He has a body but he is more than body. He has a spirt but he is more than spiritual. Man is a whole person. As such, he thinks and desires in both the outer man (the body particularly the brain) and the inner man (the heart – Proverbs 4:23; 16:21, 23). Jesus’ question cut to the very core of one’s whole being. The answer is based on one’s view of God and self.

In Matthew 16, Jesus is with His disciples. In the preceding verses (16:5-12), Jesus warned the disciples to be on guard against the yeast of the spiritual leaders. The disciples came to realize that Jesus was not speaking of physical yeast and its effects. He referenced the teaching of the Pharisee’s and their manner of life and leadership (16:12; 11:28-30). The Pharisees taught that no spiritual messiah was needed for them and those under their teaching (Matt. 9:13; 12:7). Personal law-making and personal law-keeping was adequate and should be accepted by God. The Pharisees and their followers had endorsed the adequacy of their own law-making and law-keeping. They had themselves as their own messiah. They did not need a spiritual messiah, only a physical one. They needed freedom from Rome and her domination. They denied their spiritual bondage.

Jesus and the disciples moved into pagan territory in part for privacy and quietness (16:13).  Beginning with Matthew 16:13, Jesus began to teach and instruct the disciples about Himself. His motif was question-asking. He probed their hearts by asking several questions. He waited for an answer and then moved to instruction. This is an excellent tool for one-on-one ministry.

The first question is noted in verse 13: Who do the people say the Son of Man is. Several points are noteworthy.

  • Jesus is referencing the common people as to their view of the messiah and Him. Did they link the two?
  • The question probed the disciples in several ways. Jesus wanted to know how much other-orientation the disciples had. Knowing where people are is a key ingredient for godly one-on-one ministry. Jesus was challenging them as He ministered appropriate biblical truth to them in their situation given their level of spiritual maturity and their level of willingness to understand and apply the truth. Questions tend to probe the heart and accusations often make it easy for a person to harden himself.
  • Taking a spiritual inventory is worthwhile for the both the one ministering and the one receiving truth.
  • Jesus called Himself the Son of Man which was in marked contrast to the people’s response. The Jewish expectation was one of a nationalistic messiah to remove the burden of Rome. The tile Son of Man is used some 80 times in the gospels and all but one by Jesus (John 12:34). It was Jesus’ most common designation for Himself. It is a generally thought to be a Messianic title. The Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and be raised (Mark 8:31). Most likely, Jesus referenced Daniel 7:13-14. The use of the designation by Christ implied that Jesus expected the disciples to know their Scripture. The Messiah had come and He was Him.

The disciples wasted little time in answering. The people gave varying false opinions: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Basically the answers indicated that the people thought of Jesus as the ghost of a dead man. The disciples must have heard the people speaking and knew the prevailing opinions. There was a diversity of human opinions. The idea of Messiah as intended by the title Son of Man was not included in any answer. The prevailing view consisted only of a physical bondage and a savior from that bondage. The people’s answers as reported by the disciples reflected a lack of understanding of Jesus the person and His message and mission. It also reflected a wrong understanding of who they were. It indicated a wrong view of sin, sinners, sinfulness, and its consequences. Jesus was considered a “good guy,” miracle worker, and even a good teacher. He could provide relief from physical burdens but He was not considered to be God.

 

Application:

  1. Who do you say Christ is?
  2. What is your source of information and standard for your answer?
  3. How are you are able to declare the truth about Christ?

Matthew 16:13-20, Part II: Who is Jesus?

Second Question: The Disciples’ Answer

 

Matthew recorded a second question in verse 15. Jesus probed the hearts of the disciples by asking: But what about you – who do you say I am? Jesus’ second question distinguished the disciples from the people. In His second question, Jesus placed the plural you in an emphatic position. Jesus was getting personal as He honed in on the crux of the matter. Jesus wanted to know for their sake if their answer contained more truth than that of the common people. By questions, Jesus was helping the disciples form a right view of God, Him, and themselves.

Matthew used the verb to be – I am. In the original language I am is an infinitival form of the verb to be. The importance of that fact rested on Jesus and His purpose. He asked an ontological question. He coned down on their understanding of His being and essence. A proper understanding of who Jesus was would provide the disciples with a proper view of Jesus, His message, His mission; and a proper view of their message and ministry as God’s agents. All of these aspects were linked but the disciples did not understand this linkage. However, their understanding would increase in manifold fashion at the Spirit’s coming as recorded in John 21 and at Pentecost.

Earlier, as recorded in Matthew 14:22-33, two men walked on water. When the disciples saw Jesus alone walking on the water, the disciples responded fearfully. What they saw with their physical eyes exceeded their comprehension. Jesus admonished them to be of courage and not to fear. He was exhorting them to consider people and events from the vantage point of spiritual eyes, the eyes of saving faith. He gave them the reason: it is I. Very God was in their midst. They were not alone left to their own resources. Jesus was in control and He had chosen them. By using the verb to be Jesus equated Himself with God (John 8:58; 10:30). Sinful fear looks away from God and His promises and resources and looks to self as an impotent provider.

In Matthew 16:15, Jesus’ but-you question probed the hearts of His disciples. How truly were they in the faith? The question is a good one for every believer. Jesus’ question left the disciples with little wiggle room. Jesus focused on the threat of the teaching (yeast) of the Pharisees. The disciples were tempted to accept their teaching as logical and even commendable. They were tempted to be tossed back and forth by accepting human speculations (Col. 2:8; James 1:5-8). Interestingly, Judas was included in this group.

The disciples came face to face with the living God whose time was growing short on the earth. Jesus’ question to the disciples was an in-your-face question. It was a defining-moment question. Jesus did not need to know the answer for Himself. Rather, He was addressing the disciples who were in their infancy in terms of their development as Christ’s disciples. Jesus expected and deserved fruit bearing especially from these men who were with Him. When much is given much is required (Matt. 25:29; Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18; 12:48). Jesus knew that the disciples needed to be properly informed in regard to their own salvation and in order to grow as a child of God. Moreover, they needed gospel truth and the gospel message firmly under their belts in order to carry the gospel message forward. If the gospel message had no impact on them individually in terms of changed thinking, wanting, and doing, it would have impact on others. The Word of God filets the heart and confronts the person with God’s truth (Heb. 4:12). Change is of the essence for the believer. Knowing Christ – facts about Him – and intimacy with Him by faith was vital for their salvation, growth in grace, and completion of their mission.

 

Application:

  1. God’s presence can be a burden or blessing: see the book of Job and see David in Psalms 32 and 38. How do you view God’s presence and on what basis?
  2. Jesus’ second question (who do you say I am?) was intended to be personal. How do you answer the question? What do you know about Jesus?
  3. Salvation is personal but it is never to remain personal. Explain.

 

Matthew 16:13-20, Part III: Who is Jesus?

The Source of the Disciples’ Answer

 

In this portion of Scripture, Jesus revealed Himself as the Teacher. He conducted a question-and-answer session with His disciples. He was taking the pulse of the disciples and Israel. He knew their answers to the questions but wanted to put the issue before the disciples. The answers were a matter of life and death and still are. In verse 16, Peter answered the question asked in verse 15: who do say I am. Peter responded for the group: You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Peter’s response was knowledgeable, personal, and relational. It contrasted the people’s perspective of Jesus. Peter’s answer echoed Yahweh’s self-designation in Exodus 3:6 (Acts 7:32) and Jesus’ declaration in Matthew 22:32 and John 8:56-58. In contrast to the crowd, Peter referred to only one person – the living God-man Jesus. Peter acknowledged the deity of Christ. The disciples as a group had acknowledged Jesus to be God’s Son (Matt. 14:33).

As believers Peter and the disciples were known by God. But they were lacking in their understanding of Who Christ was and what their relationship to and with Him would mean for them. However, their answer was a step in a progressive unveiling of eyes and hearts to the reality of Jesus Christ. Jesus was beginning to intensify His personal instruction to them. He was on a timetable and the disciples needed to be on board.

Christ put Peter’s answer into a proper perspective. He acknowledged the source of the truth expressed in Peter’s words as divine revelation (Matt. 16:17).  Peter by nature was a human son of a human father. In contrast, Jesus was by nature and from all eternity, the divine Son of the Divine Father. Natural human knowledge unaffected by knowledge imparted supernaturally by the Holy Spirit would never prepare man to plumb the depths of God’s mind and truth (Rom. 1:18-20; 11:33-36; 1 Cor. 2:10-16). Humanly speaking, no one can proclaim Jesus as the true Messiah unless the Holy Spirit has worked within the heart of that person (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). Unlike the people, Peter spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Peter proclaimed truth about Jesus the Person – His essence and being.

Implied in Christ’s proclamation of the source of Peter’s answer is a third and most important question. The question is: Who does God say Jesus is? Jesus alluded to this when He declared that supernatural thinking is humanly impossible without the Holy Spirit (Matt.16:17). Do you agree with Jesus and on what basis? Matthew recorded the Father proclamation regarding Jesus in two places: This is my beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). The Father’s admonition to the three disciples on the mountain was to listen to Jesus (Matt. 17:5). The Father and the Son are one (John 10:30). Listening to Jesus was tantamount to listening to the Father (John 14:6-9).  Jesus taught that God is the source of all truth. Truth is personal, objective, absolute, and revelational (John 14:6 – Jesus is truth; 17:17 – Scripture is truth). Truth is life changing (John 8:31-32). In Matthew 16:17, Jesus pronounced a blessing on Peter and all those who agreed with him. Today we listen to the Triune God as we read, recite, meditate, memorize, verbalize, personalize, and actualize God’s truth. Believers, as were the disciples, are to be busy applying biblical truth daily.

Who, and what, do YOU think Jesus is? And why do you believe what you believe?  How do your beliefs impact your daily thoughts, desires, and actions? The questions imply that Jesus is and that all people have some knowledge of Him. As a believer, God knows you comprehensively and intimately. Your knowledge of Him is relational and it is to be growing. The answer to the questions posed in Matthew 16:13ff center on three facets: you, the knower; the object of your knowledge which should be Jesus Christ alone through the Holy Spirit; and the standard and source for your answer. There is only one true source – God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. True knowledge of Christ is God’s gift to the believer. God expects and deserves a return on His gift and investment. Salvation and growth in Christlikeness are keys to returning to God what is rightfully His. He deserves all of a person given His way for His glory. Returning to God what is His begins at salvation and continues all the way into heaven. Eternally, the believer will continue to grow in Christlikeness.

 

Application:

  1. Who is Christ? What did He come to do and why?
  2. Do your answers agree with God’s answers?
  3. How have these facts/truths affected your thoughts, desires, and actions daily – 24/7?

 

Surrender or Submit

Surrender or Submit: Part I

The Biblical Concept

 

What do you think when you hear the word submission? If you are a history major with an interest in wars, you may think of General Lee turning himself, his troops and his arms over to General Grant. If you are police officer you may think of a “bad guy” turning himself over to the authorities. The English Thesaurus includes such terms for surrender as give in, give up, lay down your arms, capitulate, and admit defeat. What is striking about those terms? They tend to be or are decidedly passive. Yet the person does something – he gives in and gives up to some higher authority or at least someone who holds the upper hand. The person gives into something outside of himself.  Other terms that may substitute for the term surrender or capture the idea of surrender include submit and yield. Submission moves us closer to the biblical concept of dying to self and living to God or what theologians would call progressive sanctification.

I often hear the word surrender used by Christians. They tell me that their pastor calls them to surrender to Jesus. I ask them to define the term and how they intend to accomplish the command. Too often, it is to stop what they are doing and do something positive. Often it is let go and let God. A proper definition of what the believer does and does not do at and after salvation, is fundamental to a proper understanding of salvation.

Salvation includes humbling oneself before God based on the proper knowledge of God and self which results in the proper motivation for coming to Christ.  For a full-orbed understanding of what it means to bow one’s knee we must consider what is involved in surrendering, and how a person will know whether he has or not. A logical question that follows is: by what power is anyone able to surrender? Further, should the Christian use the term surrender?

The English word surrender is used very infrequently in the Old or New Testaments. In the Old Testaments the term refers to laying down one’s weapons or handing over a wicked person (Judges 20:13; 1 Samuel 11:3, 11; Jer. 38:17-18). The word is rare in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 13:3, the word surrender translates the word meaning to entrust or to deposit: If I give all I have to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  The term surrender indicates resolution and even passivity.  In this case, the fire does a work on the body.

In terms of how to surrender, most people tell me that they have to turn it over Jesus, let go and let God, and to stop fighting Him. They believe that they have made a decision for Christ based on their feelings or the decision itself. Most often the decision is made in one’s own strength. These are very interesting concepts that are presented in the answers. Painted in the best and biblical light, I think the term surrender is intended to  have the person acknowledge his rebellion against God and have him cease in that action. The believer may be aware that change must come. This desire to change characterizes the believer given his changed heart. This blog presents truths that help to decide if the term surrender captures the believer’s move from self to God.

The magnitude, intensity, pervasiveness, and frequency of the pull and inclination to please self are something to behold individually (self) and in others. It seems amazing that even a short duration as a member of Satan’s family and kingdom should have such profound influence on a person’s thoughts, desires, and actions. At the moment of conception, man is anti-God and pro-self (Ps. 51:1-5). No one today gives much credence to what some would consider a heartless statement. However, the Bible teaches that man was conceived and born as a sinner. Yes, sin is the problem, but we must remember that sinners are the problem. God saves sinners not sin.

Man does not learn to sin. It is part of his nature. What man won’t acknowledge is the fact that sin, any and every sin, is an attack on God and His goodness and God-ness. That is the bad news. There is good news! Jesus came to and for His own, but His own did not receive Him (John 1:4-5). That rejection did not deter Christ. He saved a people in order to please the Father. The unbeliever is a member in Satan’s family and kingdom but the believer has been removed from that family and kingdom. He will function at various times and in various ways as if he was still a member of Satan’s family. Previous membership in Satan’s kingdom exerts a tremendous influence. It is a sad but true reality of living in the continuing present evil age as a believer (Gal. 1:4).

As above, the call to surrender is not found in the Bible unless you equate, and perhaps confuse the call to submit as surrender. The Bible locates the believer’s moral drama within , in his own heart, regenerated though it is. The Triune God knows that saved sinners are still sinners. Sinning is patterned in terms of thoughts, desires, and actions. Unfortunately, believers, in varying degrees, continue to do what they have done for so long and are too comfortable with their patterned approach to God, self, and others. Surrendering tends to look at the consequences of doing or not doing. Submission focuses on the God of this universe and the war that the sinner has been arrogantly, ignorantly, and miserably carrying on against Him. The call is for the person to submit.

 

Application

  1. Catch the difference in meaning between surrender and submit. What is the difference?
  2. How is submission and surrender similar and contrasted?
  3. What does God’s call to submit entail? See Ephesians 5:21-22, 24; Hebrews 12:9; James 4:7; 1 Peter 2:13.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surrender or Submit: Part II

The Biblical Concept

 

Once saved the believer is called to grow in Christ-like character (Rom. 8:28-29; 2 Cor. 3:18; 2 Peter 3:18). Progressive sanctification is an ongoing process. The believer is called and equipped to walk (conduct himself) in a radically different manner than he did as an unbeliever (Rom. 3:12-14; Eph. 2:1-3, 4-7; Col. 3:8-10).  He is called to a radically changed lifestyle that involves the whole person: thoughts, desires/affections, and actions. The believer is called and equipped to step down and move over because he has lived the lie as an unbeliever. He has competed with God. No man, pre-fall or post-fall, has been in charge or on the throne.  God will not share His glory with any man (Isa. 42:8; 48:11).

The New Testament is replete with the call for every believer to become more like Christ. Said another way, the believer is to put on the character of Christ. The call has many different facets, but underlying the call is its priority and aggressiveness. Growth in Christlikeness is certainly not passive.  It means coming to one’s senses as did the prodigal (Luke 15:17-18).  It means taking off the mantle of self-pleasing, self-righteousness, and self dependence; it means acknowledging being clothed in Christ’s righteousness; and as a result, it means conducting oneself as a child of the King energized by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit will not let the believer, who is prone to wander, do his own thing and thereby live the lie. The Holy Spirit, through the double grip of the Father and the Son , will not let the believer leave the God Who loved the believer in spite of himself (John 10:28-30; Rom. 5:6-10; 8:32-37). God is not interested in a simple surrender, a putting down of one’s rebellious spirit. God has changed people and He expects a return on His work through the Holy Spirit. Putting on Christ as one puts off self is key (Rom. 13:12-14).

One problem for every believer is the continued practice of me-ism. Every believer, again in varying degrees and in various ways, thinks and acts as if he is in control and thereby he lives the lie. In reality, this is God’s world and man was created and placed in it by God’s design. God’s design for man included privilege and blessing because the believer has been rescued from Satan’s kingdom and placed in God’s kingdom and family (Col. 1:13-14). Whenever a believer sins he is saying, among other things, that this is his world and he can run it his way. He goes back to Garden and follows Adam’s choice to side with Satan against God. The believer is telling God to move over. In a real sense, sin and sinning is illogical. It is involvement in a deadly exchange – the glory of God for the pleasure and glory of the creature. The Creator-creature relationship is disrupted. The worker wants to be and functions as the boss.

Every sin is a legacy from the Garden. Moreover, sin is agreeing to Satan’s logic which was embedded in his challenge given to Adam and Eve. He encouraged lawbreaking and sinning as the way to be like God. What a sad day it was! But Adam’s and Eve’s response was the real issue. More correctly, Adam’s response was the deciding factor for God’s response. God judged Adam and the whole human race in him. But God was not and is not finished with His people and His world. God promised salvation through the seed of Eve and His promise was partially fulfilled at Christ’s first coming. Christ’s first coming pointed to and assured His second coming which ushered in the new creation and the fulfillment of bringing a people to Himself.  Surrender is not part of the new creation unless surrender means denying self and putting on Christ and biblical truth. Clarity in understanding is a major key for proper growth in Christ.

 

Application:

  1. Rethink your use of the word surrender. Define it and prove it from the Bible.
  2. Make a spiritual inventory according to Hebrews 4:12 and James 1:22: determine your “beef” with God and answer the question: whose world is this? (See Psalms 24:1-2.).
  3. How have you lived the lie and what have been the results?
  4. Study Psalm 46:10: what do you learn about God and yourself?

 

 

 

 

Surrender or Submit: Part III

The Biblical Concept

 

Several aspects of the surrendering mentality are worth highlighting. The term as defined in the dictionary does indicate warfare and the benefit of stopping it. The term highlights the major combatant – the person. Too often we mention Satan as one of the combatants. However, Scripture focuses on the believer. Growth through submission, trust, obedience, and love are essential to growth in Christ.

The call is for every believer to become more like Christ in thought, desire, and action. Believers still carry too much of satanic resemblance from previous membership in his kingdom and family. One of the wonders of regeneration is its radical and supernatural character. A new heart has been given to the believer (John 3:3-8; Ezek. 36:24-26). Grace, both saving and enabling, are part of God’s gift to the believer so growth in Christ is viewed as a privilege, blessing, and duty.

Here is a smattering of passages from the New Testament that call for growth rather than surrender. The believer is to:

  • Pursue holiness: Hebrews 12:14; 1 Timothy 6:11
  • Be diligent in his Christian growth: 2 Peter 1:10
  • Be zealous for good works: Titus 2:14
  • Purify and circumcise himself: Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6
  • Practice radical amputation: Matthew 5:27-30; Hebrews 12:1-2
  • Submit to God and others: Ephesian 5:21-24; James 4:7

Someone may say that one must surrender before he can submit. When one surrenders often conditions and terms are presented and person makes an effort to obtain preservation of some dignity and even rights. The surrendering party often negotiates for better conditions. The believer is to submit and not simply to surrender. He is not in any position to negotiate terms.

The term submission carries the idea of standing up under. It means to place oneself under something or someone in an orderly fashion for proper function.  It is a dynamic word. It stems from an active inner man who desires to please God. Functionally, it is stepping down from a position that was never the person’s.

Biblical submission requires humility. Biblically, humility is not humiliation. Jesus was placed, and He placed Himself, in humiliating circumstances. Those circumstances did not humble Him. Rather He responded by humbling Himself because He had a proper understanding of who He was, who His Father was, and what the Father desired. Jesus was focused on one thing: pleasing the Father (John 4:31-34). His humiliating circumstances were the stage on which He displayed His God-ness as the faithful Son of God, fully God and fully man. His commitment to the Triune God took shape as He fulfilled God’s eternal design of salvation.

His commitment is simply amazing given the fact that He was God. Yet He hid His God-ness and glory in order for God to be glorified. He was after achieving the greater good. It is miraculous that God could hide His glory. Picture the sun and its heat (10,000 degrees on the surface) coming to earth and all is well. Such an example tends to illustrate in a small way the greatness of the miracle of Jesus’ Messiahship that was birthed in eternity past and first began evident on the earth at the Incarnation.

By saving a people for Himself God would be most glorified. Jesus was focused on honoring the Father and the Father’s glory such that He left heaven, lived under the law even though He is the lawmaker, went to the cross, went to hell on the cross, and received the full measure of God’s wrath. Jesus did not surrender to the Father. Rather He aggressively functioned as less than He was. Again He hid His glory. He did not consider holding on to His glory for His time on earth was necessary (Phil 2:5-8, 9-11). Rather it was of much greater significance for Him to please the Father. And please Him He did!!

Submission is looking at the big picture and actively placing oneself in the position of serving God for His glory and the good of all believers. Submission requires a changed, and even new, view of self and of God. Biblical submission requires removing or changing demands about self and for self in order to get. It means replacing demands with thoughts, desires, and actions that please God. Submission for the believer must imitate Christ’s submission to the Father (Heb. 2:10; 5:8).

 

Application:

  1. Distinguish submit and surrender.
  2. Did Christ surrender or submit?
  3. What is required to submit? See James 4:7-10; 1 Peter 5:6-7.

 

 

 

Surrender or Submit: Part IV

The Biblical Concept

 

Biblical submission is a grace-filled and Holy Spirit-energized activity. Only the believer can submit. Salvation and life after salvation does not require surrendering. The believer actively gets busy doing things God’s way for His sake and glory. God’s way means to put off or exchange one’s patterned lifestyle for a new way of thinking, desiring, and acting. Paul uses the expression of put off and put on (see Rom, 13:12-14; Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:8-10). The put off and put on dynamic is shorthand for progressive sanctification. It is simultaneously a dual activity. The believer replaces – puts off, takes off, and undresses himself. He puts off anti-God, pro-self thoughts, desires and actions. At the same time, he dresses himself as he puts on Christlikeness. The believer dies to self because he is alive and motivated by the desire to please God.  Simply he is alive to God as God and dead to self as a God-wanna-be.

What does the believer put off and put on? The believer actively and aggressively puts off himself – his thoughts, desires, and actions of self-pleasing. There is only one God and the believer is not Him. Each person has his own style of self-pleasing activity. Styles of self-pleasing thoughts, desires, and actions to be put off are identified through a spiritual inventory (2 Cor. 13:5; Heb. 4:12; James 1:22). The person and perhaps a trusted brother or sister in Christ helps define specific patterns of self-pleasing  and any situations, triggers, and excuses for that lead and or facilitate self-pleasing activity. It is best that the person is to be specific. The believer will identify thoughts, desires, and actions that indicate trust-in-self and wise in his own eyes and replace them (Prov. 3:5-8).

The goal is to put off a me-first, good-feeling approach to life and replace it with a God-pleasing lifestyle. For the believer, change occurs in the concrete and in specifics usually one thought, desire, and action at a time.

Submission does not involve morbid self-introspection. A person can’t plumb the depths to find out how bad he is. He would have to go to hell and experience complete separation from God. Christ has already done that on the cross. Rather, submission is active. It means putting God and others first (Phil. 2:3-5; James 3:13-18). It means counting the cost of becoming more like Christ through the eyes of the cost to the Triune God who sent the Son to earth. God wants and deserves every bit of every believer. Jesus gave all of Himself to the Father for His children. The believer will imitate Christ for the sheer joy of it by developing full allegiance to the Triune God. .

The cross, rightly understood, demonstrates how bad any person is. The miseries of this life and the reality of hell in the next bring any person face-to-face with the reality of how bad he is. It is only the believer’s union with Christ or, better Christ’s union with him that there is hope and help. The believer does not need to go to hell. Christ did on the cross! The fact that the believer is a new creature in Christ with a new heart makes all the difference.

Duty (trust and obedience) including growth in Christlikeness will not be a burden but a blessing and privilege. The privilege of bowing the knee to King Christ was accomplished by Christ at the cross. However, God won’t let His children stay on their knees. Christ didn’t. Believers have work to do. It is becoming more like Christ.

Yet, change does not occur automatically or easily. It requires denying self (put off) and renewal – putting on that which pleases God one thought, desire, and action at a time.  Pleasing God is to become a patterned way of life – a lifestyle from the inside out and not simply an activity.  Submission is two-sided. The believer bows his knees as he puts off self and self-pleasing in its many forms. At the same time he is putting on Christ – biblical thoughts and desires which lead to godly actions. Pleasing God has its own fruit. It is the only way that the believer will live a satisfied and contented life this side of heaven (Matt. 11:28-30; 1 John 3:1-3; 5:3-4).

 

Application:

  1. Develop a self-pleasing list. You will be surprised. Ask your spouse or a mature Christian friend to critique it.
  2. Then take Galatians 5:22-23 – the fruit of the Spirit – and develop a plan to replace one self-pleasing thought, desire, and action daily with one or two fruits of the Spirit.
  3. Keep track of your progress.
  4. Rejoice in God’s grace as you demonstrate your gratitude and love for God in Christ by the Holy Spirit.

 

The Science of Division and Separation Part I-IV

The Science of Division and Separation: Part I

One-ism or Two-ism, Unity or Diversity, Trans-whatever

One-ism and Two-ism

 

The title is intended to attract your attention. The American culture is in the throes of change of gigantic proportions. However, the change is not new. In fact, it has its roots in the angelic world prior to the creation of man and in the Garden after the fall. Yes, there is a real Adam and Eve! For whatever reason, Adam chose to decide for himself, his wife, and his posterity, how he, and they should live. The fundamental choice of human existence is and always been worshipping and pleasing the Creator or the creature (self and others). Mankind can’t have it both ways. Throughout the ages man continues with those two mutually exclusive choices.

The American culture looks very much like Ephesus and Rome of biblical times. Those cultures were dominated by the mantra: for me, to me, and by me. Feelings, logic divorced from biblical truth, experience/tradition, and subjectivity ruled. Self-realization and self-actualization – me first, second, and third was at the expense of others. There was no appeal to the God of the universe. The me-first mindset will continue until Christ’s return.

The Christian Church and individual Christians have bought into the movement and the influence of Eastern mysticism and spirituality, psychology, and Greek philosophy. As a result, the culture and the people are naturalized, materialized, Eastern-ized, psychologized, and spiritualized as opposed to being supernatural-ized and Holy Spirit-energized. The inward work of the Holy Spirit was and seems to be non-existent. Sadly, churches have bought the lie. There has been a return to the New Age thinking of Gnosticism – which is really old age! There is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9).

Dr. Peter Jones uses the terms One-ism and Two-ism when he speaks of the attack on the Creator-creature distinction. Fundamentally, the issue is truth vs. falsehood and light vs. darkness (Rom. 1:18-23). Some speak of this phenomenon as culture wars. Psalm 2 labels it rebellion against Yahweh and His Anointed. So-called marriage problems are actually people problems. Marriage and culture are not the problem. They are the milieu in which hearts are exposed and choice id expressed – me or God.

Cultural One-ism is in contrast to biblical One-ism – God is God, Creator and Controller God, and the creature is not. Cultural One-ism is in conflict with a biblical worldview and is at odds with true spirituality as defined by the Bible. Cultural One-ism focuses on a self-created reality which divinized nature; mankind worships himself as he worships the creation. This One-ism is based on the impersonal and sameness of everything and everybody. It disallows distinctions and separation. Consequently, it denies the transcendent and the holy as defined in the Bible as self-apartness, otherness and distinctiveness which are words used to describe the Triune God.

Cultural One-ism denies and works aggressively against biblical One-ism and biblical Two-ism. It works against the biblical notion that everything and everyone has its rightful and distinctive place. It denies biblical One-ism because it denies the essence of God as the holy, other God. It denies the twin pillars of the Trinity which are unity and diversity. Consequently, it denies all Intratrinitarian activity such as creation, re-creation and redemption, and heard and answered prayer.

Dr. Jones equates Two-ism and biblical spirituality. He defines this biblical worldview as the biblical insistence on the truth of distinctions – good and evil, true and false, male and female, God and creation. In essence, Two-ism refers, in part, to the doctrine of two ways: clean and unclean, holy and unholy (Lev. 10:10-11).

Man, the creature, is not the Creator and God is distinct from His creation. In Two-ism, holiness is normative for God. Remember, holiness refers to otherness, separateness, distinctiveness, and worth of all honor and glory. God is Lord of lords and King of kings whether acknowledged or not. God is worthy to be worshipped for who He is. Worship of any other object or being is idolatry.

According to Scripture, Two-ism is God’s revelation of Himself and is one key to the cosmos. This latter point is of extreme importance today as culture is caught up with its self and pushes and demands oneness and consequently, human autonomy as was demonstrated in the Garden. Each individual becomes their own supreme being.

It is interesting how culture has linked oneness and autonomy. Autonomy refers to self-expression and rule. The concept and actions that flow from it compete with the Triune God.  By popular demand the one consumes mankind and has decided for me, by me, and to me. The one is me. The one has thrown a web around the many so that the one and the many are one. Sameness is key but to what? Without distinctions there will be no progress in any area of society. The program of all chiefs and no Indians sounds communistic and socialistic. It is anti-God. Someone has to be different but this fact is denied. Yet the one who is setting the rules is different as he functions as number one. There should be no number two’s unless you are number one!  In non-biblical two-ism, all are number one.  Others follow. The definition of cultural one-ism is used to justify all that is non-biblical. It calls right wrong and wrong right which is an abomination to the Lord. (Isa. 5:20).

 

Application:

  1. What does the phrase: “All is one” signify to you?
  2. If all is one then all is God or part of him. If true, there is no hierarchy. Yet the one espousing this oneness is number one! What significance would that have for creation and control of the universe? How could Adam be wrong using that definition of oneness?
  3. If all is one, where does authority, ethics, morality, and worship fit and why?

 

The Science of Division: Part II

One or Two, Unity or Diversity, Trans-whatever

The Significance of Distinction

 

Our discussion must begin with the Bible. The Bible is God’s self-revelation, the only standard of truth. Otherwise a person starts with self and ends with self. God Himself is three-in one and therein is unity and diversity. There is order within diversity. At creation, God demonstrated His way of operating in His world. From the beginning God is the God of order. He has been and will continue to be the Separator and Orderer. The book of Genesis opens by recording God’s eternal existence and His creative activity: In the beginning God was…. The Bible presupposes an eternal, active God.

The Triune God created chaos and from chaos came the cosmos (Gen. 1:1-2: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and void and the Spirit of the Lord was hovering over the water.). God brings order to His world His way for His glory. Later in Genesis 1, Moses uses the refrain that God commanded separation: 1:4 (light from darkness); 1:6-7 (the waters); and 1:14, 18 (the lights). Genesis 1 closes with the concise statement: God saw all that he had made and it was very good ... (Gen 1:31).

Genesis 2 teaches that God created the animals and He created Adam and Eve, the crown of His creative activity (se Psalm 8). The Triune God created mankind specifically male and female. Gender was not neutral or an afterthought. It was ordained by God. In the creation account of Genesis 1-2 we learn the non-negotiable truth that God is Creator and Controller and He is a God of separation and distinctions for His purpose and glory. The good of His creation and mankind follow God’s zeal for His name and character.

Turning to the rest of the Pentateuch, we learn more about the science of division. As Moses taught in the book of Leviticus it was a matter of life and death – it still is. The overarching theme of the Pentateuch is God opening a way for sinful humanity to dwell in His Presence. One of the themes of the book of Exodus is intimate knowledge of God which highlights the separation-distinction motif. True knowledge of God leads to true knowledge of self which leads to fear of the Lord and life in His Presence. Hope, comfort, and joy follow.

God used a variety of means to reveal Himself so that both Pharaoh and Israel would know that I am the Lord your God.. (Exodus 6:7-8; 14:4, 18; 16:6, 12). God’s revelation of Himself had a purpose: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is living, trustworthy, and makes and keeps His promises (Exodus 3:14-15; 6:6-7). Therefore He saved His people at the expense of the Egyptians who were enemies of Israel and His enemies.

The so-called plagues (actually miracles) were signs and wonders used by God to reveal Himself as Controller and Deliverer. They fit the separation-distinction motif described in Genesis. God separated Israel from the Egyptians and vice versa (see Exodus 7-12 and 8:23; 9:4-6, 26; 10:23; 11:7; 12:13, 25, 27). God’s power was evident as the Egyptians received the wrath of God and Israel was saved. The ultimate sign and revelation of God and His separating activity was the Passover (Exodus 12-13). The blood on the doorpost was God’s sign to spare the Israelites and kill the firstborn of Egypt. Distinction was the key – it was a matter of life and death.

Application:

  1. Define One-ism and Two-ism using culture and the Bible as reference points.
  2. The Trinity is an example of One-ism and Two-ism: how?
  3. Marriage is an example of One-ism and Two-ism: how?
  4. Discuss the separation-distinction motif.

The Science of Division: Part III

One or Two, Unity or Diversity, Trans-whatever

The Significance of Distinction

 

The book of Leviticus further delineates the science of division. The book focuses on how God opened a way into His presence. Mankind’s descent began when God judged Adam and Eve and exiled them from the Garden and His presence. Prior to their expulsion, God promised hope through salvation (Gen. 3:15). Adam was faced with an ultimate question: how could man, unholy and sinful, be allowed into the presence of a holy God? We know the question was a prominent concern of Adam (Gen. 3:20-21; 4:1). In fact the question is captured by the psalmist in Psalms 15 and 24. He asked the question: who can ascend the holy hill? The immediate context was worship in God’s presence but it rings the note: how can unholy man enter into a holy God’s presence and live and enjoy fellowship (15:1; 24:3)?

Israel experienced God’s holiness and dwelling in His presence as a purified and consecrated people through the sacrificial system. When you read the Pentateuch, especially the book of Leviticus, you can’t fail to miss the constant refrain: be holy as I am (11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; 21:8, 15; 22:9, 16, 32). The sacrificial system was put in place so that the Israelites could enter God’s presence symbolically and enjoy fellowship with Him. Proper separation, distinguishing clean and unclean, was God’s way to enter into His presence and glory. For the Israelites it was a matter of life and death (Lev. 9:6, 22-24; 10:1-3; 16:1ff). The book of Hebrews shows us that the Old Testament sacrificial system pointed to Christ, the true Passover Lamb (Heb. 6:13-20; 10:19-22; John 1:29, 36; 1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

Another message of the book of Leviticus is atonement. In the ritual, sacrificial system, the principle of separation and distinction was manifested with the daily choice of a male animal without defect. Gender mattered. Entering into a holy God’s presence, which was signified as a consuming fire, could be deadly unless it was done God’s way, at God’s time, and in God’s house. Ask Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-3). Several passages later God tells Aaron, the high priest, that he (and the people) must distinguish clean from unclean (Lev.10:10-11). The clean/unclean system (found in Leviticus 11-15, 17-27) was a means of alerting the Israelites, singularly and corporately, to the fact that all day, every day, in whatever they thought and did, they must consciously choose God and His way. Separation and distinction was a daily, constant refrain of the Israelite. In the New Testament, Matthew 25:31-46 affirms the divine right and privilege of separation and distinction: at the last judgment God will separate the sheep and the goats.

When the creature assumes the position of Creator, he advocates gender neutrality and non-biblical One-ism. As a consequence, he separates himself from God which is a deadly activity because the creature dishonors God. Such it is today. There is nothing new under the sun. Our culture has returned to chaos: darkness and deadness. Culture today has returned to the pre-creation, anti-creational state of chaos described in Genesis 1:1-2 and typified by Pharaoh’s anti-life measures against Israel.

God’s eternal design is to use sinful man and his activity to rectify the situation. Throughout the ages, arrogant and ignorant man attempts to blur all distinctions (Cultural One-ism). In contrast, God separates for order, for structure, and for purpose (Two-ism) – fellowship and intimacy with Him. As the priests in Leviticus were commanded, all believers must learn the science of division as a matter of life and death. The priests were to distinguish between sacred and common, clean and unclean, and Creator-creature. If you attempt to destroy division eventually you will fail. God won’t allow His world to remain in pre-creation darkness and death. Ask Pharaoh.

 

Application:

  1. Where are you on the issue of separation-distinction?
  2. Are you a One-ist so that the god you know is in everything and has nothing to say about your thoughts, desires, and actions?
  3. If are a Two-ist, what is your science of division? Are you wise and in the light – God’s light and truth – as you apply Prov. 3:5-8; 5:21-22, and 26:11 regularly? It is a matter of life and death.

 

Part IV: The Science of Division and Separation: One-ism or Two-ism, Unity or Diversity, Trans-whatever

 

This question about existence/being is age-old, inherently complex, and the philosopher’s delight. It is easy, a no-brainer, to conclude that man exists. I am because I am. My senses and my reason give me facts. I must interpret them. A logical question follows. The fact that man can ask questions, get data, and interpret data is proof of existence/being and a rational reality.  Another question surfaces: what reality? The fact that man exists does not answer the question of his origin (where did man come from?) or a corollary question: what is man?  These are simple questions but have invoked a plethora of thought, consternation, and answers through the ages.

Human beings can only answer the question if man is a rational, faith-based, question-asking, and answering being. And he is! Every answer that man gives is to some degree based on an informed faith. The combination of faith and rationality brings to the forefront trust and belief in something or someone.

Enter the concept of One-ism and Two-ism which moves us into the realm of the Creator-creature. Is the Creator and the creature the same and how would you know? All people agree that there is reality, truth, and faith. Even that agreement confirms the existence of a rational, faith-based being. One-ism and Two-ism are terms that describe a faith-based interpretation of reality as a person thinks he knows it; the interpretation is based on truth from some source, within or without. The truth may be his and or as defined by someone else. Faith has a subject, an object, a standard, and content. Faith is based on truth by whatever standard a person declares.

One-ism is based on “natural” faith and focuses on nature – the natural, physical, and material. Man’s origin and the origin of matter can be summarized by the illogical belief that nothing plus time plus chance equals order and complexity (a phrase coined by RC Sproul). A seemingly, self-described, self-professed logical person concludes that the supernatural is non-existent especially in terms of origin and being. God has no place in the person’s existence. All is considered one such that distinctions are non-existent. Causeless effect is the key to reality, man, and the material universe. Chance, a powerless abstraction, has been raised to the status of a thing and a force that has power in its self.

One-ism teaches that nature is the origin of all things and divine; that human beings are part of nature and therefore divine; that all people are pure and innocent; that there are no distinctions within mankind; and therefore the creature is exalted and worshipped. Thus there is no Creator especially a divine One. I call this creature equality. There is no maleness or femaleness. This is called gender equality. Truth is considered subjective, relative, amoral, and personal. I call this pseudo-truth equality. Feelings rule. People with this mindset follow Adam’s example in the Garden. Attempting to push God aside, they do their own thing. Choice becomes for me, by me, and to me. Selfishness reigns. You would think that since distinctions are not allowed and non-existent, there would be no graded selfishness and there would be peace and harmony – one for all. On the contrary, when the cultural one-ist’s virtual reality is invaded by someone who is more selfish, there is hell to pay. The old adage, “don’t rain on my parade,” describes the hypocrisy of one-ist and cultural one-ism.

Biblical Two-ism is biblically defined. It too is faith based. It is Holy Spirit directed and energized. Scripture is its standard and its source of truth. Scripture declares that God is; that He is Creator and Controller; and that mankind (without distinction!) suppresses the truth of God and consequently themselves (Rom. 1:18-20). Truth suppression implies truth, a Truth-teller and Revealer, and a suppresser. The Bible leaves no doubt regarding distinction. The Creator-creature distinction is the greatest, the most magnificent, the most wonderful, and the most profitable distinction that mankind (without distinction!) can have. It is a gift.

 

Application:

 

  1. God’s essence is one of unity and diversity rightly understood. He is the Triune, three-in-one God. What significance does that fact have for you and the culture you live in?
  2. God’s unity is unity of being/essence. He is one. Examples of that unity are given in Scripture and include the Church (Eph. 2:11-15), believers (Gal.3:27-29), and marriage (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:24). What significance does God’s unity have for you?
  3. God’s diversity is one of function. Within the Godhead, there is order and function so that the one God is the Creator, Controller, and Redeemer. Each member of the Godhead has different functions which are summarized by: saved from God, by God, for God, and to God. How do you respond?

 

 

 

Life Before and After Salvation Part I-VIII

Life Before and After Salvation: Part A

Saved: So What?

Introduction By Way of a Brief Summary

 

We hear much talk regarding salvation. You might have been asked: are you saved? How would answer that question? Being saved means different things to different people. Some have no interest in “being saved.” They would answer by asking: “saved from what and by whom? I am able to take care of myself. I am just fine.”

Others might say they belong to a church, go to church, or have been baptized. Others might say they have made a decision for Christ or that they have accepted him. When pushed they might say that they have taken Jesus into their hearts and surrendered to Him. All of these are interesting phrases but are they correct and what do they mean?

The words translated in the Bible as salvation and saved are pregnant terms and carry the intent of rescue and deliverance. To be saved means that a rescue operation has occurred, deliverance has happened. Notice, each meaning indicates something was done to the person. That something indicates that the person – his whole person including thoughts, desires, and actions – underwent a change. What kind of change? In the surgery suite, on the operating table, a patient may have his bad appendix or gallbladder removed. He was a passive bystander to something done to him. .He was operated upon; he was rescued and delivered from a physical illness.

In a similar way, being saved means an operation occurred in the person. However, it was a divine operation done within the person’s heart by the holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). There are many results of this heart operation one of which is the person is now a believer – a child of God (Galatians 4:4-5) and a new creature in Christ in a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Radical changes have occurred.

Yet the Bible also teaches that a response to the question, “what must I do to be saved” is necessary. Paul and Silas answered the Philippian jailer’s question by encouraging him “to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you and your household will be saved” Acts 16:31).  He did and he was saved.

Salvation is a gift received by saving faith (Eph. 2:8-9). Saving faith does not initiate the gift of salvation. Rather, it is the response to the offer of salvation. The response to the offer is testimony that the person has been given the gift of saving faith. Scripture uses various terms for saving faith such as believe on, believe in, or believe upon Jesus Christ. By this terminology, Scripture teaches that saving faith is more than mere assent or acknowledgment of a person. Saving faith involves knowledge of and trust in, reliance upon, and dependence on Jesus Christ in contrast to trusting self. The object of faith has changed radically.

Life after salvation is a major corollary of the “so what” of salvation. Once saved, what is the big deal? The big deal includes saved from something to something. The believer is saved from the misery of this life and hell eternally. He is saved to a life of God-pleasing as opposed to self-pleasing. As a new creation, the old is gone and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). The believer is equipped to put off the habituation of self-pleasing developed while a member of Satan’s kingdom and family (Romans 13:12-14; Eph. 4:22-24). He does this by putting on God-pleasing thoughts, desires, and actions.

Being saved means approaching self, others, and daily life in a completely different way. Pleasing-God becomes a modus operandi. Passages such as 2 Corinthians 5:9 (making it your ambition to please God) helps you reevaluate your life situations from God’s perspective and respond in a God-honoring manner.

 

Application:

  1. As one saved, how has your thinking about God and self changed? To help you, write out your thoughts about God and self prior to your salvation and since your salvation.
  2. Do the same for desires.
  3. As one saved, how does changed thinking and wanting affect your daily actions?
  4. Put thoughts, desires, and actions together. Repent when any or al of them are self-pleasing and rejoice in the Lord when there is evidence of God-pleasing daily.

Blessings as you do.

 

Life Before and After Salvation: Part B

The Gospel: Defined

 

In Christian ministry there is emphasis on preaching the gospel and rightly so. The audiences are varied. From the pulpit the gospel message is preached in the context of the passage. Some groups have emphasized preaching or speaking the gospel to themselves. In that scenario, the individual functions as the preacher and the audience. There is value in knowing and telling the gospel truth because the truth sets you free. Jesus Christ and the Scripture are truth (John 14:6; 17:17).

In a different vein, the term gospel is often mentioned in evangelistic terms. That is, the gospel is used in “getting people saved.” One other area in which the term gospel is used is in the area of life after salvation. However, this life is often described in terms of using the means of grace such as attending worship services, receiving the sacraments, praying, reading the Bible, and evangelizing. A gospel emphasis is a wonderful thing. However, in order to help people individually and corporately to get victory daily, it is important to define the gospel. It is also important to define how to use the gospel and biblical truth to fulfill God’s original design for mankind. I order to do that we must go back into the eternal counsel of the Godhead. From eternity past, God determined that His people would be in His presence forever in worship and fellowship. Creation and redemption are linked and are the means by which the Triune God accomplishes His original design.

The term gospel means the good news or good tidings. Later the term meant God-story – the story about God. Today the word refers to the message that Christ and the prophets before Him and His disciples after Him announced and lived out. In Mark 1:14-15, Jesus proclaimed the gospel as the fulfillment of the times and the coming of the kingdom of God and the call to repent and believe (see Matt. 4:17). John the Baptist preached the same message (Matt. 3:2). The message of the coming of the kingdom is linked with the salvation of God’s people (Luke 4:18-22; Isa. 61:1-3). Throughout the Bible the coming of the kingdom and the salvation of God’s people are linked to the salvation which includes judgment.

The fulfilment of the times was a reference to Israel’s expectations. Israel was wrong. Paul further defines the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and Romans 1:1-4. Paul and Peter preached the fulfillment by Jesus of all Old Testament expectations (Acts 2:16-36; 13:16-41). The gospel message and its proclamation is linked with the Old Testament. The gospel of the kingdom comes through the acts of God in the history of His people (see Romans 4 and Galatians 3-4). The gospel was preached to Abraham (Gal. 3:8).  The gospel message is truly the old, old story.

The good news is always linked to bad news. In explaining the gospel it is helpful to define both the good news and the bad news. The bad news refers to man and mankind’s lost condition. He is blind yet sees only the things of unsaved man and the unsaved world think relevant to their own interests. He is deaf to the things of God but is attuned to things of self. He is dead and in darkness because his heart is far away from God. He has no desire to or will to move toward God (Rom. 8:5-8; Eph. 2:1-3). To deny the presence and severity of the bad news is to deny the beauty and awesomeness of the good news. The good news is the continued apostolic message that the Godman Jesus is the Savior of the world who has come to do His Father’s will and save a people for the Triune God.

The gospel then is God’s full-orbed message of the what, the why, and the how of salvation. It has been given by His messengers throughout the ages and reached its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Paul wrote in Romans 1:16-17: I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes, first the Jews then the Gentile. For a righteousness from God is being revealed, a righteousness that comes by faith, from first to last just as it is written: “the righteous will live by faith.” This was not a new message. Elsewhere he wrote: Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:  Christ came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst (1 Tim. 1:15). Five times in the Pastoral Epistles Paul used the phrase, here is a trustworthy saying, to emphasize a key truth (1 Tim. 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11; Titus 3:8).

 

Application:

  1. God has preserved His message of salvation for many reasons. Name some.
  2. The gospel message is twofold: what are the two sides?
  3. What are the key ingredients of the gospel?

 

 

 

 

Life Before and After Salvation: Part C

The Gospel: Trinity

 

Succinctly, the gospel is the good news of salvation for hell-deserving sinners through the Person and work of Jesus Christ applied by the Holy Spirit. The gospel is good news to be believed; not good deeds to be done. But good deeds will follow once a person is saved. News has to do with something that has already happened; not with something yet to be done. The good news of the gospel is that Christ humbled himself as the Godman, lived perfectly, and died on the cross for guilty and condemned sinners. Christ is not only a crucified Savior. He is a resurrected and seated Savior as the Author and Perfector of saving faith and the Pioneer of entrance into God’s presence (Eph.1:3; 2:6; Col. 3:1-3; Heb. 4:14-16; 6:18-20; 9:11-14). Christ’s sacrificial work as both the Sacrifice and the high Priest is finished but he continues His priestly work of intercession in two venues. First, He returned to heaven as the exalted Son of God (Heb. 12:1-3). He is seated at the place of prominence and He is always interceding for His people (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). Catch the truths: Jesus descended and He ascended. He is enthroned and He is glorified. He is sitting down indicating that His work was complete as Savior. Yet He is, and always will, remember the Triune God’s plan to save a people and His finished work. The Triune God will not renege on His promise to save a people for Himself. Second, Jesus continues His priestly work through the Holy Spirit, who among other activities presents the prayers of believers to the throne of God. He energizes and motivates the saints for growth in Christ (Rom. 8:26-27).

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Paul described the gospel in terms of a message preached, a message received, and a message acted upon. Paul was making the same gospel message known to them and others. Nothing was new under the sun. In contrast, Paul emphasized that everything was new under the SON.  In verse three Paul gives the gospel message according to Scripture. The gospel message is a Savior who died for believers’ in their sins and for their sins according to the Scripture. Further, the message speaks of Savior who was buried and rose from the dead. Paul emphasized as did the Scriptures that Jesus lived, died, was buried, and rose. Salvation and resurrection are linked. In Romans 6:9-11, Paul carried this thought into the individual’s growth in Christ. In those passages Paul taught that resurrection life begins on this earth at regeneration. Therefore the believer is the think forgiven and act forgiven (v.11).

For Paul and all the apostles, the gospel is a message about a Person, Jesus Christ under the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ the Savior lived perfectly and He died perfectly. He is a buried and risen Savior, all according to Scripture. Paul gives the good news but the bad news assumed: mankind was in a horrible condition helpless and hopeless but blind to his condition and God’s answer.  Biblically speaking there is no good news without bad news. The two are linked in God’s redemptive plan.

In 1 Corinthians 1:18 ff, Paul described the gospel as the message of the cross: For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. You must remember the context of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Paul addressed the congregation in order to resolve a number of serious problems were evident in the Church. The situation ridiculed God and the gospel. These problems resulted from self-serving, self-grasping, self-exalting individualism. The people were convinced of their spiritual vitality but factionalism, division, and strife abounded (1 Cor. 1:11-17). It was in this context that Paul brought biblical, gospel truth. Throughout the letter Paul used the motif of contrast: a true theology of the cross in contrast to wisdom of the world. The letter can be considered as an application of truth given in the context of a contrast: the counterfeit wisdom of the world or the wisdom of the cross which is considered foolishness to unbelievers.

The gospel preached and heard is the presentation of God Himself as He gives Himself in His Son by the Holy Spirit. It always demands and gets a response. Gospel truth heard and applied was necessary if the Corinthian people were to honor God individually and corporately.

 

Application:

  1. What is the value for hearing and knowing the gospel?
  2. What does one need to hear it correctly and apply it in his or her life?
  3. Paul contrasted gospel truth with what? Biblical truth influences a person’s thoughts, desires, and actions. How would knowing and applying gospel truth resolve the problems in the Corinthian church (see 1:11-17)?

 

 

 

Life Before and After Salvation: Part D

The Gospel: Saved From God the Judge

 

In order to correctly understand the gospel message, we must determine what sinners are saved from and what they are saved to. The answers link the bad news and the good news. The foregoing sentences assume the presence of sin, sinners, and a Savior who is willing and able to accomplish the redemptive goal of salvation. They also assume a present journey and an eternal destiny for every person.

Every person is conceived and born into a state of condemnation, guilt, misery, and trouble. The sinner remains in that condition unless something happens. Sometimes the sinner continues in his rebellion against God. As a result there is misery in this life and hell eternally (Rom. 5:12-14; 6:23). The sinner may recognize that he is “not right” and seek to save himself or he seeks some help, a nudge, from someone or something. In either case, he is his own savior. That person may or may be saved. The person who preaches personal lawkeeping to earn the favor or acceptance of God is preaching a false gospel. Paul cursed these preachers (Gal. 1:6-9). Those who live by this creed have accepted the false gospel.

Salvation involves many aspects. Biblically the doctrine of salvation incorporates such terms as redemption, reconciliation, deliverance, rescue, and escape. All of the words are predicated on the condition of the person: misery, trouble, condemnation, and guilt. From these and more the individual is delivered. The sinner has been acted upon by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). The Holy Spirit is the prime mover. The saved sinner recognizes his true condition as he exercises the gift of saving faith. He recalls, remembers, and mediates on the gospel message of Jesus and John the Baptist and repents and believes (Mark 1:15; Matt. 3:2; 4:17). Fruits of repentance and growth in Christ are continuations of the initial heart change through enabling or sanctifying grace (Matt.3:8-10; Luke 3:10-14; Acts 2:36-39; 2 Cor. 5:9, 14-15; Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Thess. 4:1-3; Heb.12:14).

Salvation is comprehensive in a number of ways. There is the initial heart change and the truths surrounding it and thee is a life lived as a believer. The individual as a whole person – thoughts, desires, and actions – is saved. As a result of the heart change he will begin to think God’s thoughts, desire what God desires, and obey not simply out of duty but out of privilege and blessing. In another sense the comprehensiveness of salvation is pictured by the answers to these questions: who is saved, from what is he saved AND what is he saved to. The sinner is saved from God, sin, himself, and Satan. He is saved to God for God by God.

First, the sinner is saved from God by God because God is the just Judge of His creation (Gen 18:25; Ps. 62:12; Matt. 3:10; 8:12; 24:51). His very nature of holiness, purity, and justice demands that He right all wrongs and punish sinners (2 Thess. 1:5-10). He acts this way in part to protect and honor His name – He is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5; 34:7-8, 14; Deut. 4:24).  It is important to remember that God saves sinners as Judge for Him. He saves sinners as Redeemer by Him. He saves sinners as Father to Him. In eternity past, the Triune God determined that the Father gifted a people to Jesus (John 6:37-43; 17:1-5). Jesus would live a perfect life and take the death penalty in place of the sinner – as his substitute (Rom. 3:21-26; 2 Cor. 5:21). All mankind deserves the full wrath of God and hell. All mankind deserves the cross but NOT as payment but as penalty. Perfection, active and passive is the key in redemption. No mere man is perfection. Prior to the cross, Jesus kept the law perfectly and completely. He ALWAYS pleased His Father. Jesus went to the cross and stayed on the cross as the Perfect Sacrifice in place of the sinner (1 Peter 1:18-19). He completed His Messianic work and declared it complete-done (John 19:38). Jesus went to hell on the cross. He fulfilled the good Law’s righteous requirement of death to sinners. He satisfied the justice of God (Rom. 3:21-26). As a result, God removed His wrath. The enmity and hostility of God toward the sinner was removed as far as the east from the west – totally and completely never to return again (Ps. 103:8-12; Rom. 5:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:18-21).

The redemptive story is an amazing story of divine origin. Human logic could not and did not conceive of the Triune’s God redemptive plan. Fallen man who suppresses and resists the truth of God’s Being and power, rejects God (Rom. 1:18-20). Synonymously man rejects the truth about himself. Therefore unsaved men reject God’s plan of redemption.

As a corollary, the sinner is saved from something to something. The sinner is saved to God for God by God. The Bible pictures the concept of saving-to in several ways. The now-believer has been rescued from Satan’s family and kingdom and transferred to God’s family and kingdom (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13). He has a firm foundation and an inseparable relationship with Christ so that He is God’s forever. God is his Father and Jesus is his Brother as his Redeemer. The believer’s one purpose in the kingdom is to grow in Christlikeness as he helps advance the kingdom and grow the Church. Salvation is an Intratrinitarian activity as given by Paul Ephesians 2:18 and 3:12. Believers are saved to God, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit.

 

Application:

  1. Summarize the gospel message.
  2. What do you learn about Christ and about mankind?
  3. What is your understanding of God, you, and the gospel message? What difference does it?

 

 

Life Before and After Salvation: Part E

The Gospel: Saved From Sin’s Power

 

To reiterate every sinner is saved from God, sin, himself, and Satan. The subject of the previous blog was saved from God, to God, by God, and for God. Saved from sin has a number of facets. It includes being saved from the power of sin and sin itself.

By way of reminder, the Bible emphasizes a marked concern with sin and sinners. In fact, the Bible radically proclaims the fact of sin, denounces it, and announces consequences of unrepentant sin and God’s judgment. One of the primary purposes of Christ’s mission was to deal with sin and sinners. Sin is what creates the problem between God and mankind (Isa. 59:1-2). It is impossible to separate sin and the sinner.

Man was born a sinner as a result of God’s judgment upon Adam because of his first sin. As a result all sinned in Adam (Rom. 5:12-14; 6:23). As a result, every person of ordinary generation is conceived and born in sin, and as a result he sins (Ps. 51:5; 58:3; Gen. 8:21). These are a universal truths that if missed have dire consequences for this life and the next.

Scripture teaches that the sinner is saved from sin. Christ died for sins/our sins (Matt.1:21; John 1:29; Gal. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:3; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 2:2; 4:10; Rev. 1:5). Yet we know that sin is not hell – sinners are. Scripture also teaches that Christ died for sinners (Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31-32; 19:10; Rom. 5:8; 1 Tim. 1:15). What does it mean that the sinner is saved from sin? Consider these several nuances. Saved from sin and saved from sinning are different. Sinners do sin even saved ones. But saved sinners don’t continue in sin as a patterned lifestyle (1 John 3:6, 9; 4:10). Moreover, the believer is steeped in several truths. If the believer does sin, he knows that there is no condemnation from God as Judge (Rom. 8:1). He also knows that there has been, is, and will be Fatherly forgiveness (1 John 1:7-9).  If he sins, and he will, he knows attempting to that forgive himself is competing with God. It is saying that God’s redemptive plan did not deliver and the person must do the job that God failed to do.

We need to be careful. The word sin can be used as a noun or verb. Sinner is always a noun. Man sins because he is a sinner as described above. Sin as a verb indicates that the sinner has missed the mark, crossed over the boundary, or is out of step with God’s standard. Ethically, sin is an act of omission or commission in relationship to God’s law and to God. Thus sin is always relational and vertical. It is Coram Deo; every sin is against God and may or may be against another person. Sin is always legal and judicial.

In addition, saved from sin and saved from sinfulness are not synonymous. By sinfulness I mean the continued bent, inclination, and orientation that every saved sinner has due to his prior membership in Satan’s kingdom and family. Every person is born with the nature – capacity, bent, inclination, and or orientation – to serve self and oppose God.

When sin is a noun, it is more than an ethical act. It is revolt against God. That is what Adam did in the Garden and that is what every person does when he sins. From an eschatological perspective (the last days), sin is Satan’s hated of God played in the life of an individual. Such is the influence of membership in Satan’s family and kingdom. Sin as a verb is the display of the satanic influence in the world and within the person including the believer. Sin as a noun is much worse than any human logic can perceive. The cross affirms this fact.

Sin as a noun is interesting. At its core, sin is anti-god and self-pleasing: for me, to me, by me. As a noun sin can mean a governing principle such as in Romans 6:14: For sin shall not be your master because you are not under law but grace. Here Paul perceives sin as an enslaving power or influence. Sin is thus personified. Certainly sin is more than a principle or an abstraction. Sin is real. The sinner is real. Paul’s point here is that sin functions as an operating principle for the whole person. In verses 16-19 of Romans 6, Paul speaks of two kinds of slavery: that to unrighteousness – sin – and that to righteousness. Paul presents the unbeliever as a sinner and one who is under the influence – either satanic influence that leads is self-pleasing and antigod thoughts, desires, and actions in some form vs. Holy-Spirit wrought and directed activity in the believer of Christlike growth and God-pleasing thoughts, desires, and actions. Paul captures this contrast in such passages as Galatians 2:20 and 5:16-18.

 

Application:

  1. In the Bible sin is both a noun and a verb. What is the significance?
  2. Give some characteristics of sin.
  3. How do you know sin is a big deal?

 

 

Life Before and After Salvation: Part F

The Gospel: Saved From Sin’s Power and Penalty

 

The believer is saved from the power of sin but not from sinning. What is sin’s power? It is the patterned desire to please self and thereby compete with God as His enemy and as a rebel. Sin holds a person in bondage. Sin and its resultant lifestyle offers much but delivers little (Ps. 36:1-2; Proverbs 5:21-22; 13:15b). However unless there is a supernatural change from the inside-out, the sinner persists always and eventually returning to the vomit of self-pleasing (Prov. 26:11). Self remains on the throne to the degree it can as if it deserves to be there. When the Bible teaches that the believer has been saved from the power of sin, it refers to the bondage of sin as an operating principle, a driving force, a lifestyle patterned after Satan as a legacy from membership in Satan’s family and kingdom. Yes sin is more than that as discussed in the previous blog but it at least that which drives a person to please self in lieu of God and others. Sin is anti-Matthew 22:37-40.

What gives sin its power? It is the law and death (1 Cor. 15:56; Heb. 2:14-15; 9:27). Man ignorantly and arrogantly seeks to be his own lawmaker and lawkeeper. This is inherent in all men post-fall. The law calls for more lawkeeping. God’s law is good and for a good purpose (Exodus 20:18-21; Rom. 7:7-12, 13; 1 Tim. 1:8-11). Try as a person might perfect obedience to God’s law is impossible. In response a person will generate more efforts to obey, establish a new law that can be kept by him, or depend on Christ’s personal lawkeeping. God’s purpose for the law is also given in Romans 5:20-21 and Galatians 3:19. The law has a condemning function to drive people to Christ and His lawkeeping. Moreover the law has a knowledge function, a constraining function, and a humbling function. It points out who God is, who man is, and what sin is. It shows sin’s deception and the sinner’s sinful view of self and God.

Sin as a verb and as a noun was an ever-present reality. There was physical death prior to Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Thus the sting of death and the power of sin have also been a present realty post-fall. Personal lawkeeping by sinners has never been God’s design for salvation. God require perfect obedience from Adam prior to the fall. As given in Romans 5:20-21 and Galatians 3:19, the purpose of the law was never for salvation. It functioned as “pointer.” It pointed to the way of salvation through a perfect Lawkeeper who kept the law to its fullest. The law pointed to Christ.

A person will either establish laws other than God’s such as the Pharisees did. Their laws were not God’s law but they were keep-able in their own strength. Who needs a personal Savior when we have ourselves? The sting of death is sin. If no law and no required lawkeeping, then there would be no sin. If no sin, then there would be no death. The power of sin is the law. Man by nature is a covenant being, a worshipper, and a lawkeeper. The issue for every person is which law, by whose lawkeeping, and for what reason?

The power of sin is the law and its call for lawkeeping. Moreover what lies behind lawkeeping is crucial.  Every person is aware that there is a God who they will meet at the Judgement seat. An atheist can deny this fact verbally but the Bible teaches that everyone must and will give an account (Matt. 12:33-36).

At salvation the power of sin or sin as an operating principle or an influence has been broken. The believer has been saved from his bad heart. Indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the believer does have the capacity to please God in all areas of life. The believer has the capacity not to sin. There has been a radical transformation! What the believer has is the capacity and orientation to please God.

The believer has been saved from the penalty of sin. He has been saved from the condemning function of the law (Rom. 7:1-6; 8:1-3). At salvation the now-believer renounced his allegiance to self and his own lawkeeping. Simultaneously he professed trust and rest upon Christ and His lawkeeping. Therefore, even though miseries in this life continue the believer trusts, hopes, and obeys and enjoys salvation life because he enjoys God (Genesis 3:8-10; Proverbs 13:15; Rom. 5:12-14; 2 Cor. 5:9, 14-15; 1 John 5:3-4; Ps. 34:8). Life is simplified so that pleasing God becomes an ever-increasing present reality (Rom. 6:9-10; 1 John 3:1-3).

The believer is set free from the condemnation, guilt, and shame that came from God’s judgment of Adam’s first and the sinner’s present sins. The law has a convicting function. Aware of his sinfulness and even sinning thoughts, desires, and actions, the believer knows that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. The believer knows and trusts that he has been saved from his bad record (Romans 3:21-26; 8:1). This was possible because Jesus took upon himself the now-believer’s record of enmity and rebellion against God. Jesus was considered guilty and paid the price of hell on the cross. Jesus paid it all. Yet the true believer never uses his freedom as an excuse to sin (verb) or to have sin be his guiding light (sin as noun) – see Romans 6:1, 15.

Sin as a noun and sin as a verb are both associated with separation from God. However, the Bible teaches that God is no longer separated from the now-believer. God took the initiative to place on Christ the bad record of every now-believer. He reconciled himself to the believer as only He can as a true Promise-maker and Promise-keeper (Rom. 5:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20-21).

 

Application:

  1. The believer is saved from the power and penalty of sin. What is the significance of these facts?
  2. What is the power of sin?
  3. What is the penalty of sin?
  4. Where does Christ fit?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Before and After Salvation: Part G

The Gospel: Saved From Himself and from Satan

 

Let me complete the thought that the sinner is saved from sin. Yes he is saved from its power and its penalty. But the believer is not saved from its practice. The saved sinner is able not to sin in principle but in practice he still does. The believer is saved from sin but not sinfulness which is summarized as the tendency and acts of self-pleasing that continue throughout his earthly life.

A question arises: is the sinner saved from the presence of sin? Again terms needs clarification. Is the question referring to sin as a verb? In other words, is the believer saved from sinning? The answer is no. The believer will continue to please himself. Is the question referring to continued corruption in the believer’s heart? The usual answer is yes, there is remaining corruption in the whole person.  Even though the believer is a new creation living in the new creation ushered in by Christ’s first coming, the believer still sins (2 Cor. 5:17; 1 John 1:8-10 – 2:1).

The coming of Christ and the new kingdom is much bigger than an individual believer. That fact should be a blessing, comfort, and encouragement to every believer. Jesus’ coming ushered in a new world order – the new creation (John 1:4-5). Jesus’ coming was fulfillment of the promised and long-awaited Messiah, who would lead His people out of bondage and oppression into a new existence. Jesus’ coming changed the whole world order. The new order includes salvation and life after salvation.

The believer has been regenerated – given a hew heart and a new nature. He is a believer because he has been regenerated (John 3:3-8). Also he has positional holiness – he has been set apart by God for God (1 Cor. 1:2; Acts 20:32; 26:18). According to Romans 6:9-10 and Romans 8:30, resurrection life and glorification begin now for the believer. There is a future fulfillment but eternal life begins on this earth. Yet we all know that the believer – you and me – still sins. In that case, sin is a verb and an ethical act. Sin as a noun, an operating principle of self-pleasing, continues until the believer goes home. On earth, the believer dies more and more to self and sinfulness as he lives as the new creature he is in the new creation.

To repeat: first, the sinner is saved from God; second, the sinner is saved from sin’s power and penalty, Third the sinner is saved from himself. Left to himself and his own resources the unbeliever thinks, desires, and acts as if he is his own god and this is his world. He lives the lie. He exchanged truth – the reality that God is Creator and Controller – for the lie that man is number one and God does not exist or is not the Being that the Bible teaches that He is (Rom. 1:18-23).  Proverbs 4:18-19 provides a contrast: The path of the righteous is like the first glean of dawn, shining brighter till the full light of day; but the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. Unfortunately, for a time believers functioned in the same manner as an unbeliever. The habituation of self-pleasing is a result of membership in Satan’s kingdom and family. The unbeliever is destined to a life of darkness and deadness thinking all the while that he is top dog and making headway to somewhere. Left to himself he has no use for God and does not seek him. His life is one of discontent, dissatisfaction, and misery all the while denying the reality of his condition.

One of the beauties of salvation is the reality that the truth sets you free. The believer does not live a patterned lifestyle of denying and exchanging the truth for a lie. Rather he denies himself by denying self-pleasing. He is busy being enamored with and enjoying God. His desire is to honor God by pleasing Him thereby imitating Christ.

Fourth, the sinner is saved from Satan. 1 John 5:18 expresses this fact: We know that anyone born of God does not continue in sin. The one who was born of God keeps him safe and the evil one cannot harm him. Although satanic influence remains in the believer, the believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and not Satan. The believer’s heart is exclusive the Holy Spirit’s dominion. Satan and the Holy Spirit don’t co-exist. Man believer and unbeliever, have only one nature. The saved sinner was a member in Satan’s family and kingdom. Membership in that kingdom had devastating results. It consumed and motivated the unbeliever in some form daily. Within every believer, a legacy of self pleasing remains which is manifested by the mantras of I wants and I deserves. Satan is the master of this lifestyle. The believer has been removed and transferred into God’s family and kingdom (Col. 1:13). Even this removal leaves its mark: habituation in thoughts, desires, and action that are anti-God and pro-self. At salvation the believer has a new heart (John 3) and is a new creation (2 Cor.5:17) but satanic influence remains but doesn’t control him. Again, this is a radical supernatural change. There is a war within (Gal. 5:16-18).

 

Application:

  1. Write out your view of the bad and the good news.
  2. Personalize the bad news: how does it fit you as an unbeliever and now as a believer? Write out how the bad news is really bad.
  3. Do the same with the good news and write out how the good news is really good.
  4. Consider how you functioned as a member of Satan’s family and kingdom with all your self-pleasing tendencies and activities.
  5. Consider how you are to function as a believer and member of God’s kingdom and household.
  6. Consider the fact that unless God saves you, what awaits you in this life and the next life is the bad news. If God has saved you, what awaits you in this life and the next is summarized in the good news. Write out your response.

 

 

Life Before and After Salvation: Part H

Progressive Sanctification: Saved to God, for God

 

Not only is the sinner saved from God as Judge; from sin’s penalty and power; from himself; and from Satan, the sinner is saved to something. He is saved to God, for God, by God. Accordingly, he properly praises God as Paul did in Romans 11:33-36. Paul had completed expounding God’s redemptive plan in terms of: a. Persons – the Father who planned, the Son who purchased, and the Spirit who applied the benefits of Christ’s meditorial work; b. persons – salvation came to both Jews and Gentiles; c. means:  salvation and life after salvation came by grace both  saving and sanctifying, alone through faith alone.  In chapters 1-3 of the book of Romans, Paul had set forth mankind’s (both Jew and Gentile) depravity, deadness, defiance, and darkness – the bad news, really horrible news. Beginning in the later part of chapter 3 though chapter 8 or some say chapter 11, Paul expounded the good news about a great God. The Triune God had saved a people for Himself, both Jew and Gentile!

In response, Paul burst out with a doxology – a type of Gloria Excelsis Deo: glory to God in the highest (Luke 2:14). Verse 36 of Romans 11 reads: For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever amen. Paul reflected back on mankind’s condition and God’s wisdom, knowledge, power, love, and justice. He was in awe personally, corporately, and cosmically. His logical response was to glorify his God.

The believer has been supernaturally removed from Satan’s kingdom and family and placed into God’s family and kingdom (Col. 1:13). This is a remarkable and majestic transfer to say the least (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). The believer is God’s. He has been saved by God to God – he is a member of God’s family and kingdom; and he has saved for God – as His child he is grow in Christlikeness and pleasing the Father.

The believer is now a God-pleaser in principle and develops more and more as a God-pleaser. The believer is called into God’s service and is equipped for that work. The believer is to “work out” his salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12-13). The working out of one’s salvation is called progressive sanctification. Progressive sanctification is another term for life after salvation.

Believers are saved as a testimony to God’s love, mercy, and trustworthiness. The believer’s salvation – both regeneration and growth in grace – are truths to be known, enjoyed, and lived out to the praise and glory of God. Moreover, God saves/saved individuals and corporately. God’s Church, as well as individual believers, is to be growing in Christlikeness (Eph. 2:11-16; 4:11-14).

Paul knew himself (1 Tim. 1:12-16 – chief of sinners; Eph. 3:8 – least of the saints; 1 Cor. 15:9 – least of the apostles). For Paul, his salvation was “out-of-this-world.” It was unbelievable. His view of salvation linked the bad news – man’s total depravity and enmity for God – and the good news – the wisdom, power, love, mercy, and justice. God saved not simply sinners but His enemies. Paul took his salvation seriously, in part, because God took it seriously. God gave Himself and of Himself. He did what no Being can or desired to do (Rom. 5:6-10). Paul knew that his God was an awesome God which is truly an understatement.

Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews (Phil. 3:3-6). He was steeped in the sacrificial ritual system detailed in the book of Leviticus. Daily the head of the family would bring a choice male animal without defect. The offering cost the person and his family. From the heart, the offering was the best the family had to offer. The man would slit the throat, blood would be spilled, and the high priest would complete the offering as atonement. Clean and unclean would not mix. The offering was the Lord’s, for the Lord, and to the Lord who deserved the best. Once a year, the privileged high priest took the blood of the animal – bull and ram – and presented it as a sin offering. Paul understood the holy/clean-unholy/unclean motif. He understood the cost to enter into the presence of God.

Today, on this side of the cross, believers have received the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. They have been bought and are no longer their own. The ransom has been paid in full. The believer is God’s. Now the believer offers himself, not a dead animal to God (Rom. 12:1-2). This offering is to be daily or better – 24/7. God sets the rules, gives insight and encouragement through the Holy Spirit by the Word, and gives sustaining grace so that the believer develops as Christ did – pleasing the Father. Following in Christ’s steps is logical because the believer is not his own and Jesus is the only person the Father was well-pleased (Matt. 3:17; 17:5).

Saved for God is summarized as becoming more like Christ in thought, desire, and action for God’s sake and glory. God is most glorified when His people are becoming more like Christ simply because Christ is Lord of lords and King of kings and the believer’s Brother. It is putting on Christlikeness thought by thought, desire by desire, and action by action daily. It means growing in knowledge and grace (2 Peter 3:18). As Jesus learned, it means to trust and obey in the problem for God’s glory and the good of His people (Heb. 5:8).

 

Application:

  1. What does the phrase, saved to God for God mean to you? What is its significance?
  2. The trilogy: saved by God, to God, for God – focuses on salvation and life salvation. Explain.
  3. Saved for God involves growth in Christlikeness and producing the fruit of the Spirt. How are you doing in these areas?

Law What is the Big Deal? Part I-III

Law: Part I: What is the Big Deal?

Eternal Origin: Love and Law

 

There is much in the news regarding the law. A person may be thinking of civil law, moral law, church law, and or God’s law.  Some people raise the issue of whose law, for what reason. Others asked about how much law keeping is necessary and required and for what reason. In the political scene of today (2018), some may wonder if they consequences for lawbreaking and if so what?  Public schools face these questions regularly. Where will we go to answer those types of questions? Since there are laws, it makes sense to find the lawgiver and learn about him and his ways. Is there an ultimate lawgiver and if so where do we go to meet him?

The dictionary defines law as a set of rules that are advisable and or obligatory to observe. Law carries with it the idea of a rule maker, the product of his thinking and action, who gives and enforces laws for a purpose. Where should we begin in our search regarding law? Let’s begin with God. The reasons will become apparent. Others refuse to begin or even consult God in the matter of law. Let’s focus on eternity. Only the Triune God was present. There was unity and diversity in the three-in-one God. Within the Trinity there was perfect order and harmony. Lawmaking and lawkeeping was present eternity past.

Next consider heaven before the creation of the world. There is order in heaven. Read Revelation chapters 4, 5, and 21-22. There was much activity that is directed and controlled, by rules and the Rulemaker. Moreover, fallen angels broke the law (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Rev. 20:13).  Rules have been around eternally.

Now let’s focus on the Garden of Eden before the fall. God added man to His creation, wrote the moral law on his heart (Rom. 1:18-20; 2:14-15). He gave him law – three positive commands (fruitful, subdue, and rule) and one negative command – don’t eat (Gen. 1:28; 2:16-17). Rules have been present eternally even before sin entered into the world. There is a Lawmaker and a Lawgiver – the eternal God. Therefore, rules and laws are good because God is good.

Since God is relational (within the Trinity and God to man), man, as His image bearer, is relational. Every relationship requires some set of rules by some standard. Moreover, since God is ethical and religious, so, too, is man as His image bearer. Religion, morality, and ethics did not evolve. They are God’s design for man and His world. Since God is the Lawgiver, the law is good. Many today disagree with these conclusions.

Adam in the Garden was not excluded from lawkeeping (obedience). However, he set himself as lawmaker and he followed the examples of the fallen angels. He became a law unto himself. He was the lawgiver. The issue was not the presence of law and lawkeeping but whose law.

As a result of Adam’s sin and God’s judgment, sin and misery entered into the world (Rom. 5:12-14). As a consequence, man took a completely different view of the God, himself, and the law (God’s or his?). Such is the problem today. Acknowledged or not man does not correctly understand God or himself (Rom. 1:18-23). He substitutes himself as the lawgiver and lawkeeper for his glory. Man is on a collision course with God daily unless there is a supernatural change in man.  An eternal  non-negotiable truth exclaims that there is only one Lawgiver and He is God. Man does set rules but they are to be in accordance with a proper biblical understanding of the Lawgiver and lawkeeping.

Return your focus to heaven which is every believer’s destiny. There is much activity. The saints in heaven are the recipients of Christ’s perfect lawkeeping. They are enjoying fellowship with God because of it. In Romans 13:8-10, Paul wrote that the debt of love – to love others – is forever. He summed up the fulfillment of the law in the same way that John did (1 John 4:7-12). Love is the fulfillment of the law. The Bible has terms for Jesus: Light, Life, and Truth. Christ is Lover par excellence which he demonstrated by pleasing His Father and completing His work (John 4:31-34). Moreover, Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul wrote that love is the greatest of faith, hope, and love. It will continue eternally. Love points to the law, the one Lawkeeper, and the One Lawgiver. Law without love is not law God’s way and love without love is not love. The two are linked (John 14:15, 21, 23).  The fulfillment of the law is via love and the fulfillment of love comes only because of law. Lawkeeping began in eternity past, begins here on the earth as believers’ apply Matthew 22:37-40 daily: love of God and love of neighbor summarizes the law. The law facilitates love and love accentuates the law. The law gives insight and wisdom into Who God is, the essence of the cross, and man as a lawbreaker.

 

Application:

  1. What is your view of law/rules, the Lawgiver, and Christ the Lawkeeper?
  2. What effect does the fact that law has existed with God since eternity past have on you?
  3. Biblically, think of some purposes of the law (for starters, you may want to look at Romans 3:19; 4:15; 5:20-21; 7:7-12).

 

 

Law: Part 2: The Law is a Big Deal

The Purpose of the Law

 

Law and order are eternal because God is a God of order and peace (1 Cor. 14:33). Although the passage is normally associated with worship and church life, it does describe God’s nature. God orders His world according to non-negotiable truths. God can’t lie – He is truth and a truth teller (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2). These facts alone indicate that God is trustworthy – He makes promises and keeps them. He can’t deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:11-13). God does not change. Therefore His promises do not change. He gives Law – the Ten Commandments and the moral law which is written in the heart of all people – for several reasons.  Lawmaking and lawgiving is His nature; man is His image bearer; and it best for mankind.

In terms of law these truths about God are significant. God gave Israel the Law (the Ten Words or Commandments) and prefaced the giving of the Law with the words recorded in Exodus 20:1-2: I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of the house of slavery. God’s statement about Himself and His relationship with Israel can be summarized in seven “P’s”: He is personal, present, powerful, a promise-maker, a planner, purposeful, and provides for His people. He had delivered His people in a mighty way from Egypt and their bondage, hardness, and misery. This delivery pointed to the great delivery in Christ.

After the giving of the Ten Words, Moses spoke to the fearful, hesitant, confused people: …Do not be afraid. God has come to test you that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning (Exodus 20:20). The passage gives a summary statement about God and the giving of the Law. The Law was given as an antidote for competing with God. Moses proscribed fear. He was not referring to fear of God; otherwise Moses would not have added the motivation for the giving of the Law as God’s tool to keep Israel from sinning. Fear of the Lord is designed to do that. Moses is speaking of fear of man which is actually a self-focus on control. Moses taught the people, and us, that the purpose of the Law is a good one. Rather than sinfully fearing God and His providence hoping to control the situation and outcome, the people were to put on wisdom – that is, fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7: fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom). Here wisdom and trust are synonymous. Mankind has two basic choices that every person faces daily: trust in God or self. The Law was intended to help people to choose to trust God.

God was in the business of growing wise people. His people were to be true reflectors of Him. Rightly understood, Moses taught the people one of the purposes of the Law: the development of wisdom. Wise people understand sin for what it is. They use the Law to examine themselves and to grow in wisdom and Christlikeness.

Properly understood, lawkeeping is a way of life for the believer. His relationship to the Law has changed. God and Law have not changed. The believer has changed. He views lawgiving and lawkeeping from God’s perspective and not his own. God in His word teaches that the Law shows the way of life for the believer (Leviticus 18:5; Ezekiel 20:11, 13, 21; John 14:15, 21, 23). In those last passages found in John’s gospel, Jesus told the apostles: if you love me keep my commands. Obedience is linked to wisdom and love. Lawkeeping is a way of life for the believer because lawkeeping is not to be mere duty to earn. Rather, it is duty out of love and respect for the Lawgiver and Christ’s lawkeeping. Therefore lawkeeping is privilege and blessing (1 John 5:3). Being a child of God and pleasing the Father were two great truths that John relished as expressed in 1 John 3:1-3. John knew his theology, his God, and Christ’s lawkeeping.

The motivation for lawkeeping is critical. Ask yourself your motivation for obedience. Lawkeeping done out of gratitude for salvation carries with it sweetness and contentment.

Lawkeeping is not a way of salvation or a way of life for the unbeliever (Rom. 10:5; Gal 3:10-13). The Law is an external summation of the mind of God. It captures the attention of every person: the fool rejects it and the Lawgiver at his peril now and eternally. The fool becomes a law unto himself and thereby competes with God. God will not share His glory with anyone (Isa. 42:8; 48:11). The wise man embraces the Law and Christ’s lawkeeping and rejoices. He imitates Christ and His lawkeeping, imperfectly and non-redemptively. The more he does the more he grows in the sweet understanding and appreciation of Jesus Christ, his Substitute. The believer trusts and obeys because of who God is and out of gratitude for what the Law is and for Christ and His lawkeeping.

 

Application:

  1. What is your view of the Law and lawkeeping?
  2. Your view of the law is linked to your view of God and to your view of yourself. Is the Law your friend? Why or why not?
  3. Your view of the law is tied with your understanding of such passages as Ps 119:9-11, 99, and 105. How do you interpret these passages and how do you apply them daily?

 

 

Law: The Law is a Big Deal: Part III

The Purpose and Uses of the Law

 

In this series of blogs I have looked at Law as a reflection of the nature of God. I expanded the concept of Law to rules and took us back into eternity. Rules and laws govern Intratrinitarian activity toward each member of the Trinity and to mankind. It is God’s nature to be a law to Himself because He is the Lawmaker. What is proper and even natural (His nature) for God is good for mankind because man is God’s image bearer.

We have to limit our definition to God’s Law as spelled out in the Ten Commandments. Although some may disagree, all the Ten Commandments have continued relevance into the New Testament. In fact, the Law of God is central to the Bible’s message. The giving of the Law teaches us about Christ the great Lawkeeper. The giving of the Law helps establish the fact of a Lawgiver and the expectation of lawkeeping.

Christianity is a lawkeeping religion. But the lawkeeping demanded is perfect lawkeeping with a purpose. Unsaved sinners are unwilling and unable to bow the knee to God and His Law. They create their own law. They are imperfect lawmakers and lawkeepers. In marked distinction, a perfect Law from the perfect Lawgiver demands perfect lawkeeping.  The Jews prided themselves on their relationship with Moses as their great lawgiver. The law came through Moses but Jesus addressed their hard hearts when He told them that Moses wrote about Him (John 1:17; 5:45-47). They had the wrong view of God, Jesus, the Law, themselves and lawkeeping.

Jesus Christ is the perfect Lawkeeper. The Ten Commandments give full expression to the very nature of Christ as the perfect Lawkeeper. They are an external summation of the mind of God in terms of Who He is and what He deserves and demands. The first four commandments summarize man’s duty toward God. These first four commandments are summarized in Matthew 22:37-38: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  The last six commandments summarize man’s duty to man and they are summarized in Matthew 22:37:39-40:  And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. All of the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.  Christ fulfilled the whole Law perfectly, completely, and redemptively (Luke 24:25-27).

Not only is the Law central to the Bible’s message but so too is lawkeeping. Therefore theologians have tried to summarize the uses of the Law. Scripture teaches that the law is good (Exodus 20:18-21; Rom. 7:12; 1 Tim. 1:8-11). What is the law good for? Theologians speak of several uses of the Law. They include:

  1. Its mirror function: on the one hand, the Law of God reflects and mirrors the perfect righteousness of God. The law tells us much about who God is. Perhaps more important, the Law illumines human sinfulness, inability, and lack of desire to be God’s kind of lawkeeper. After failing to keep the law, the law drives mankind to grace because it points to the true Lawkeeper. The law highlights our weakness so that we might seek the strength found in Christ (Romans. 5:20-21; Gal 3:19). Here the law acts as a severe schoolmaster who drives us to Christ.
  2. It restraining function, the so-called civil function of the Law: the Law restrains evil. It, in and of itself, cannot change human hearts. It can, however, serve to protect the righteous from the unjust. The law allows for a limited measure of peace and justice on this earth, until the last judgment is realized (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Tim 2:1-2). This function of the law demonstrates God’s common grace and kindness.
  3. Its revealing function: the Law reveals what is pleasing to God and increases our knowledge of sin and sinfulness. The Law for believers is a lamp and a light. (Ps. 119:99, 105). The Law in its summary from enlightens believers as to what is pleasing to God as believers seek to please the Triune God.  The Law stimulates believers to study the Word which elaborates the fullness of the Law (Rom. 7:7-12). The Christian delights in the law as God Himself delights in it. Jesus said, If you love Me, keep My commandments (John 14:15). This is the highest function of the law, to serve as an instrument for the people of God to give Him honor and glory by growing in Christlikeness.

Christianity is a law-friendly religion. How can it not be? God had revealed Himself as the Lawgiver and Lawkeeper. The gospel message can be summarized as lawgiving and lawkeeping.  Sadly these simple truths are so misinterpreted. Post-fall, the beauty of lawgiving and lawkeeping is summarized in two words: Jesus Christ. If you understand Jesus you understand the Law and yourself. If you rightly understand the Law, you understand Jesus and yourself.

 

Application:

  1. Most people miss the value of the Law. Review the uses as given by theologian and write down your understanding and use of them.
  2. Explain the statement: lawkeeping is alive and well. How is it true?
  3. What is your understanding of Jesus’ role as Lawgiver and Lawkeeper and how are those truths a blessing to you?

Part I-III: The Resurrection

The Resurrection: Christ’s and the Believers: Part A

The First Truth: The Gospel

 

Is Easter Sunday simply another Sunday, another Sabbath Day, and another Easter day? It is a fact that Easter does not receive the attention that Christmas does. This is evident in both the secular and religious worlds. In contrast to Christmas, when faced with Easter, some may complain that they don’t have any holidays or that it is over so quickly. Others may approach Easter with a ho-hum mindset.

How would you answer the question: what is the big deal about Easter? Would you include the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ in your answer? If you did, what is the significance of the resurrection? Is it just another event, even a miraculous one in the life of Jesus?  The Holy Spirit deemed the resurrection of Christ so important that He had Paul devote a whole chapter to it in the first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 15).  It is an understatement to say that the resurrection is essential for all believers in every age.

The Corinthian congregation had multiple problems. In his first letter to them, Paul addressed a number of serious problems that resulted from self-serving, self-grasping, and self-exalting individualism. They were convinced of their spiritual vitality. They were proud people. The result of their approach to God and each other was factionalism, division, and strife. Paul wrote to help resolve the problems God’s way for His glory and the good of the congregation and individual believers.

Paul’s teaching in regard to the resurrection was to help the congregation properly respond to God and to each other in the midst of their problems. Their problem-filled world was a result of bad theology. They had a wrong view of God and His providence, Christ, self, and others. The truth of a resurrected Christ was one key in helping them get victory. It remains the same for believers and churches throughout the ages.

What follows are several thoughts (five over the next several blogs) regarding the importance of the resurrection. These thoughts are pump primers to help every believer focus on the magnificent and monumental significance and blessings of a resurrected Savior. Christianity is a religion of exclusives: a Triune God who saves His people by becoming one of them; a crucified Savior who lived and died unlike the King He was; a resurrected Savior Who returned to the Father the people He purchased; and the presence of the Holy Spirit in believers and His church. There is no other religion like Christianity.  Easter highlights these facts. See what you think.

First, consider the gospel. Without the resurrection there is no gospel. Paul began the chapter 15 with the words:  I want to remind you of the gospel which I preached to you, which you received, and on which you have taken your stand (15:1).  Apparently, the congregation had made an about-face (see 1 Cor. 1:10-17 for an outline of the problem). The congregation was changing. Previously, the people had addressed problems selfishly. Now they were beginning to examine themselves first and then move out to the problem and to others (Matt. 7:1-6). Relational issues were being addressed. They began to think vertically (Godward) in order to solve problems. They came to realize that their relationship with God was through Christ by the Holy Spirit. As a result they were able to move horizontally – toward each other – in a God-honoring way.

Paul knew that Christ was both a crucified and resurrected Savior. He is the living God and the God of the living (Exodus 3:6; Matthew 22:29-32; Acts 7:52). However, death, physical and spiritual, was and is a reality. Then what? Paul encouraged the congregation by teaching the reality of the bodily resurrection of Christ, the reality of the bodily resurrection of believers, the movement into God’s presence by union with Christ, and the fact that resurrection life starts now (Rom. 6:9-10 1 Cor. 15:54-57). His teaching was to serve as a catalyst for them to continue to solve problems God’s way as they grew in Christlikeness.

In verses 3-4, Paul wrote that the gospel was more than a crucified, dead Savior. Other men had died via crucifixion and they were buried. But the Corinthians’ Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, was a resurrected Savior who did all things well according to Scripture: He died for believers as their Substitute, was buried, was raised, and appeared post-resurrection before He ascended. A resurrected Christ made all the difference to Paul. Paul emphasized that Christ’s life, death, and resurrection were linked and were accomplished according to Scripture. They occurred on God’s timetable.

The resurrection points to the good, powerful, and purposeful God. It affirms that the Father accepted Jesus as the true Sacrifice, the ransom price God required and deserved (Rom. 4:25). The debt was paid in full (Rom. 8:1). The penalty God demanded as a Just judge had been made (Rom. 3:21-26). Christ died for sins (its penalty), to sin (its power), and for undeserving sinners. The resurrection was and is God’s well done good and faithful Servant to the Son for us. It is an acknowledgement of the truthfulness of Father’s words in Matthew 3:17 and 17:5 and of Jesus’ words in John 19:30. Christ’s work was finished as the perfect Sacrifice but Christ’s resurrection initiated the believer’s resurrection life which began at regeneration and continues as the believer grows in Christlikeness (Rom. 6:9-11; 1 John 3:1-3).

 

Application:

  1. What is your view of the resurrection and what significance does it have in your life?
  2. Read Chapter 15 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and write down at least five truths that grip you.
  3. The supernatural and miracles is a major feature of Christianity. How do you bring together reason and faith when you consider Christianity?

 

 

The Resurrection: Christ’s and the Believers: Part B

The Second Truth: Redemption Accomplished and Applied

 

In this blog I continue to spell out truths regarding the resurrection. In the previous blog, I began with the gospel as given in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. The resurrection is an integral part of the gospel and God’s redemptive story. The resurrection is a testimony to God’s trustworthiness and His supernatural divine power and purpose. Those facts help highlight the beauty and magnificence of a resurrected Christ. Without a resurrected Savior, the believer has no savior. Without redemption there will no redemption applied. The work of Christ and the work of the Spirit are linked and coessential. There is no redemption without a crucified and risen Savior. There is no redemption without the work of the Holy Spirit.

Once redemption is accomplished through Christ’s perfect life and death, there is also redemption applied through the Holy Spirit. The term redemption accomplished refers to Christ’s atoning work before and on the cross. Redemption applied speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit who indwells believers so that what Christ has accomplished as the Messiah becomes a reality to and in the believer.

Resurrection life begins the moment of regeneration. At regeneration, the Holy Spirit implants a new principle of life within the believer (John 3:3-8). The believer is joined to Christ. That union, bought with the blood of Christ, is unbreakable and effective through the work of the Holy Spirit. As a result of the union, the believer is in Christ and only then shares in the saving benefits of Christ’s redemptive work. Union with Christ is the vehicle by which Christ’s saving works become a reality in an individual believer. Union points to the necessity of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. Union with Christ is effectively produced by the Holy Spirit as He indwells the believer. Every spiritual blessing which believers receive flows out of Christ and is due to union with Christ by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:3-14).

One spiritual blessing is resurrection life. The believer has been raised with Christ (Rom. 6:5-10). Therefore resurrection life begins now. It does not await heaven although its fullness does.  Post-regeneration, the Holy Spirit makes the benefits of salvation alive in the now-believer through union with Christ and the Spirit’s indwelling. The blessings and benefits include: a. justification: The believer has been declared right before God such that there is no condemnation for those in Christ’s Jesus (Rom. 8:1); b. adoption: The believer has been rescued from the kingdom of darkness and transferred into the family and kingdom of God and is given all the privileges and duties that belong to God’s children (Col. 1:13-14; Rom. 8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5); c. sanctification: the believer has positional holiness before God as a saint and will grow in progressive holiness he grows in Christlikeness (Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Cor. 1:2; Rom. 8:28-29; 2 Cor. 5:9, 14-15); d. and glorification: this awaits the fullness of being in God’s presence (Rom. 6:9-10; 1 John 3:1-3). For the believer, there is excitement in this life as he anticipates the fullness of his union with Christ.

Christ’s resurrection means that Christ lived, died, and was buried. Consider these resurrection truths: 1. Jesus ascended into heaven as the exalted Lord of lords and Kings of kings; 2. He is in session interceding for His people (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). He continues the priestly function for His people; 3. He is awaiting the Triune God’s fullness of time when He will return to judge the universe and receive what is rightfully His (Phil. 2:9-11). In this way the Triune God will be fully glorified.

Christ’s return will verify and testify before the entire universe that God is trustworthy. God plans and He brings to pass what He plans. He planned for a people to be in His presence eternally. Christ’s return will usher in the new heavens and new earth which is pictured in Revelation 21-22. One reality of the magnificence of redemptive history is progressive movement from creation, to redemption, to the second coming, and to the new heavens and earth. All of these facts far surpass human comprehension and are revealed in Scripture. The second coming of Christ will be the concluding, consummating event in all redemptive history and the fulfillment of the promise to Adam and Eve given in Genesis 3:15 but ordained in eternity past (John 6:37-43). By definition, the believer is enamored by God’s covenantal faithfulness. Therefore he looks forward to what God has in store for himself, fellow believers, and the Church. He prays with a joyful heart: O Lord God, please come quickly.

Resurrection life begins now – the moment after regeneration. One result for the believer is given in Philippians 3:12-14. Paul looked forward as he lived in the now and the already. The now propelled him to live with one foot in heaven and one foot on this earth. He enjoyed earth in spite of his hardships because he looked forward to heaven (Heb. 12:1-3). Resurrection life is a reality and a blessing for every believer. The believer has the privilege of living as one saved and as one resurrected because he is (Rom. 6:5-10).

 

Application:

  1. Explain redemption accomplished. What was accomplished?
  2. Explain the role and work of Christ in redemption accomplished?
  3. Explain resurrection life as given in Romans 6:5-10 and its significance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Resurrection: Christ’s and the Believers: Part C

The Second Truth Continued, Already-Not Yet

 

Yet, Christ has not returned. Therefore believers must live with the reality that Christ’s return is an already but not yet state. Many grow weary and wonder how they can “put up” with God’s providence. They may be experiencing any number of troubles. They picture the now as a burden and the already as to esoteric.

The already refers to the fact that Christ purchased resurrection for the believer. His death meant life for His people, individually and corporately. His resurrection meant life for His people which began at salvation. Union with Christ means that what Christ has gained for himself is the believer’s and where Christ is so is the believer (Col. 3:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3). The believer is something in Christ but those outside of Christ are in serious trouble (1 Cor. 1:30).

Resurrection life on this earth means that the believer is perfected in principle but not in practice. Not yet means that there is more to come, but it only gets better! The believer awaits the full consummation of the identity and majesty of the Triune God as well as his status as a perfected saint. He is not yet, but he is moving toward the not yet which heaven is. On earth, he is enjoying the move even though feelings and others may say otherwise.

Glorification began at regeneration but it is not complete on earth. The not yet means that the believer is not consummated to be all he can and will be in Christ. Perfection awaits heaven. There are some theologians who believe that saints in heaven will grow in their perfected state.

Contemplate the picture of the gospel and redemption. Redemption was accomplished through the active obedience of Christ – His perfect lawkeeping. The Law is a manifestation of the will of God and demands perfection – perfect lawkeeping. Without it a perfect death would be useless. God’s wrath demanded perfection on the cross as the perfect sacrifice. Christ the perfect Lamb of God lived a perfect life and died a perfect death. The penalty was paid in full. The wrath of God was propitiated. The perfect payment for the penalty of sin was achieved at the cross. Further, a crucified and buried Savior only is not a savior. Rather, Jesus is the resurrected, ascended, and interceding Savior. Jesus accomplished salvation according to Scripture (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

Redemption applied is via the work of the Holy Spirit who united the believer to Christ and Christ to the believer. This, too, is supernatural, eternal, and occurred at a point in time for the believer (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64; Eph. 1:4). The benefits of that union include not only regeneration but justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification as discussed above. The gospel as given in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 summarized the truths of redemption with an emphasis on the fulfillment of Scripture and a resurrected Christ. Each of the above doctrinal truths is for the pleasure and use of the believer as he experiences resurrection life and growth in Christlikeness. The believer knows the beginning and the end. This knowledge applied enables him to be of earthly good.

Believers are to remember that because Jesus is the crucified and resurrected Savior, there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). The condemnation and guilt due the now-believer is no more. Jesus went to hell on the cross in his place. Jesus was considered and treated as an undeserving sinner by God (Rom. 3:21-26; 2 Cor. 5:18-21).

Redemption accomplished and applied focuses on and magnifies the greatness and glory of the Triune God. They proclaim the truth that God is the Being who must be considered and that sin and hell are big deals. It is a matter of life and death and one’s eternal destiny. They are monumental realities. There is a destiny for every person. In this context, the Son was resurrected. The resurrection is God’s testimony that the Triune God’s wrath has been satisfied completely. God condemned the believer in Christ. Jesus, as the believer’s substitute, took his place. The now-believer is free from hell, guilt, condemnation, the penalty and the power of sin. He is freed from self to serve the living God. He is now equipped and motivated to please God.

In a real sense, there is no longer a mark of death on the believer. The bounty that was on the head of the now-believer has been paid by Christ in a supernatural transaction. Christ took the death penalty demanded by God and the Law. The now-believer has been sealed by the Holy Spirit as further testimony to resurrection life (2 Cor.1:5; 5:5; Eph. 1:13; Rev. 7:2-3).

Moreover, the believer’s justification (right standing before God) is made secure in Christ’s resurrection (Rom. 4:25). He has a right standing before the just Judge of the entire world. God considers him not guilty because He judged Christ in the believer’s place, as his substitute. Therefore setting up one’s own standard (lawmaking) to keep in one’s own strength (lawkeeping) is competing with God. It denies the reality of the perfect Messiah. Doing and thinking things to earn and gain status is actually an attempt to indebt God to the person. These are an affront to God. Trying to do what Christ has done is sheer folly and futility. Christ’s resurrection confirms the utter sinfulness of man and the greatness of God.

 

Application:

  1. Explain the now/already and the not yet. What is their significance?
  2. Explain redemption applied.
  3. What is the role and work of the Holy Spirit in redemption applied?

 

 

The Resurrection: Christ’s and the Believers: Part D

Third, Fourth and Fifth Truths

 

A third truth to consider is the fact Christ’s first coming ushered in the new age, the new creation and the already. With Christ’s coming, believers are new creatures in Christ in a new creation. They are partakers of resurrection life (2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 6:9-10). Union with Christ unites believers to Christ. The believer has a personal relationship with Christ by the Holy Spirit. What Christ has done and where Christ is, the believer is representatively and functionally. The believer is to function as a child of the King and Father with Christ as his brother.

Only the believer can and does enjoy the fruits of Christ’s labors. Union with Christ is an unbreakable union. Growth in Christlikeness is being realized in the life of every believer. This growth fulfills God’s original design for believers (Ephesians 1:4). Growth in Christlikeness is a foretaste of heaven on earth through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

A fourth truth is the obvious fact that there is a resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:12-19). Everyone has a destiny. There is life to come in heaven or hell. All people will reside in one place or the other. Paul wrote that those who hope in Christ only for this life are to be pitied (v.19). There is more to come at death. For the believer it is the presence of God. For the unbeliever it is the reality of continued misery, anguish, and utter failure which cannot be denied. Don’t misunderstand Paul. Hope in Christ is fundamental for this life as well as the life to come. That was one of Paul’s messages in Philippians 1:21. To live is Christ and to die is gain. Paul’s words indicate that either in life or death, he was an is a winner in Christ. Those are staggering words. Feel their weight. Paul knew that he was living a resurrection life. He looked forward to heaven as he rejoiced in the journey.

The fifth truth to consider is the fact that the removal of the curse of sin on the body is not complete in this life. Salvation does not usher in a new body for the believer. Certainly the proper application of biblical principles in all areas of life leads to good stewardship of the whole person (thoughts, desires, and actions) including the body.  Good stewardship often leads to improved physical well-being. But a child of God is not guaranteed a healthy body in this life.

He is promised a completely new body, a glorified one in heaven (1 Cor. 15:35-49; Phil. 3:20-21). Good physical health is not promised by God nor is it a redemptive right on the earth. However, good stewardship is a fruit of godly living.  God expects his people to return their body to Him as a fragrant sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 5:2).

What is promised the believer is the capacity and desire to use and care for his body as a means of pleasing God. Using bodily problems for growth in Christ is a fundamental aspect of Christina living (Rom. 8:28-29; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 5:9).  Moreover, believers are to eagerly anticipate the reality of a transformed, glorious, resurrection body (1 Cor. 15:35-49). This picture helps believers to think eternally and vertically. Being spiritually-minded helps them to be of the utmost earthly good (Col. 3:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3; Heb. 12:1-3).

 

Application:

  1. Continue to reread 1 Corinthians 15 and record five different truths that griped you.
  2. What significance has the resurrection in your life now?
  3. How will you rethink Easter given the truths of the resurrection?
  4. Define resurrection life (Rom. 6:9-11). It begins now. What does it look like in you?

 

 

Resurrection: Part E

Application by way of A Story

 

For some, death is a distant subject. Their approach is “out of sight, out of mind.”  However, the reality of life in a fallen world makes death a reality. People die. It is a fact of living in God’s world. Sometimes those with failing bodies claim they would prefer death. Sin, misery, and death are linked and are ever present (Rom. 5:12-14).

Many times people – both patients and non-patients – have initially presented with complaints of aches and pains and the desire, even the demand, for them to be gone. They want, even demand, relief. For non-Christians and even Christians, it makes sense to approach the body in that way. Often people as described in the above paragraph live by a creed that resembles the following in some form: I have a life to live, people to help, things to do, and no time for this kind of body. It seems reasonable to demand and pursue relief or something comparable. Sometimes that comparable something is the desire and demand of the person to be heard and understood.

For the Christian the truth of a failing body is reality that must be understood in light of the redemptive story.  The Christian and only the Christian has a choice. If his body is failing some may call it a dilemma. The believer’s choice is one of pleasing God or pleasing self with the body that God has given him whether it is defective or not.  Only the Christian is truly confronted with the choice of sinfulness by grumbling and complaining in contrast to the call for contentment and thankfulness in all situations (Phil. 2:14-17; 1 Thess. 5:16-18; Rom. 8:28-29). What is a believer to do?

Theology, knowledge, wisdom, and fear of the Lord trump feelings, demands, and seemingly impossible “odds.” Stay with me as I elaborate by way of a story.  One person who complained of pain and his body told me he understood that he was complaining against God. This was not his initial reaction. He reached the conclusion after he and I had spent time listening, evaluating, and bringing truth to bear on him and his problem. He said he understood that God was in control and that he did not like that control. He did not like his body and the fact that he hurt. Seemingly, his confession was a major breakthrough. I thought we may be able to move on to greater victory.

Victory had not been a friendly or familiar term for him. I wondered if it would be now. He complained of pain and a “bad body” but his complaint (and maybe yours) could have been about spouse, boss, parents, child, etc. He told me he was convinced that he was actually complaining against God. However, he did not acknowledge God’s control according to Roman 8:28-29.  He felt and envisioned only trouble and not relief. He knew he was not a happy camper. Importantly and tragically, he did not think that his approach to God, to himself, to his body, and to others had any connection with his complaints.

In retrospect, he did not repent. He had not learned the lesson that Job did when faced the living God (Job 38-42). Eventually Job repented (42:2-6). The cross drives the believer to his knees and the resurrection drives him off of them. The resurrection puts Christ life and death in prospective and helps the believer focus on the new life in Christ now. Christ’s new life is now and forever for him and it is the believer’s now to be finalized at the second coming.

The man told me he realized that he was “on God’s case.” He articulated his complaint: God had given him the body that he had. Seemingly, he acknowledged God’s sovereignty. He had sought relief from any number sources in an effort to get relief and none had been productive. He was stuck with his body, his complaints, and a God who would not give him relief. The relief that he wanted and thought he deserved had not come. To him, God had let him down. He was on the merry-go-round, even the rat race, of relief. Apparently, he thought that God owed him better care than God gave His Son.

 

Application:

  1. How does our man view God?
  2. What is salvation to him?
  3. What is his driving goal and how does fit with Romans 8:28-29?
  4. What comfort can you offer him (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, 8-10)?

 

Resurrection: Part F

Conclusions and Further Application

 

I began the story of a man who sought relief from pain and a body he did like or want. He had agreed that he was grumbling and complaining against God being the unhappy camper that he was. He understood but in retrospect did not repent (Phil. 2:14-17).  He did not agree that he wanted better treatment than God gave Jesus. But he did say that the cross was Jesus’ job. God was supposed to heal people  (Matt 8:17; Isa, 53:3-6).

He also told me that he understood another truth. Heaven was a wonderful place mostly because he would have a completely different body. We had looked at portions of 1 Corinthians 15. After doing so, he said he was on the horns of dilemma: he couldn’t complain against God and heaven would “cure him of his bad body.” In response to these realities, he told me that he was unable and unwilling to live with the body he had. The expectation of heaven and the reality of resurrection life were not helpful. His dilemma now was summarized as: how could he live – go on – with the body that he had. He did not seem fazed that he was a grumbler and complainer against God. The seriousness of his activity was never articulated. For him, his situation was so terrible and was unbearable. He thought he was at a theological standstill. Relief was important than pleasing God. The contentment and satisfaction that comes from pleasing God and thereby imitating Christ was even a consideration. His only standard for a good life was the subjectivity of better feelings.

He had set himself up for failure. Life was viewed only through one set of glasses: no body problems as he described it. Better feelings were his only grid and lens to view himself, God, and God’s providence.  He thought he could sit in judgment on God. The creature had turned on the Creator. In his case the more he wanted, even demanded, relief, the less it came and the more complaints he had.

How does the beauty of resurrection life now fit this person or any believer in a similar situation?  How did it fit Christ as the God-man?  The man did not learn one of the lessons of the cross which was death for life. The new life that he had in Christ was resurrection life. He had been set free from the tyranny of self-pleasing but he rejected that release. He remained in bondage to himself. For him, the new life meant no body problems and especially no pain or heartaches. Apparently, he wanted heaven – the good life – without the cross. He wanted heaven now. For him, the joys of heaven were expressed as no body problems now.

Sadly, he did not acknowledge that he had the better life in Christ. He did not connect godly living with the goal to please God as victory. Resurrection life is a gift beginning at salvation. Because Christ died and rose, the believer lives and rose. Resurrection life means a new orientation and a new mindset. It means viewing his providence from God’s perspective. It means using the unpleasantness of life as God’s tool to be more like Jesus Christ. That is one of the lessons of the cross. Christ made it His priority to please His Father so He would gain for the Triune God a people for himself and his own former glory (John 6:37-43; Heb. 12:1-3).

While on earth the church and individual believers are to imitate Christ and follow in his footsteps. Becoming God-pleasers in thought, desire, and action is the essence of progressive sanctification.  It is one of the greatest activities the believer is to be engaged. It is a foretaste of heaven.  The man never took this truth seriously. He lived for the now, the physical, and the material. He lived the lie. He lived as a loser. In effect, he denied God’s design from eternity past. Using irritations and hard times did not fit his idea of godliness.

Perhaps this man was not a believer. He said he was. Perhaps he was one of those who little faith in God and His grace. Perhaps he considered the cost of pleasing God too high. The fact remained: the reality of resurrection life frees the believer from what ifs, why me, I must have, and I deserve. By focusing eternally and heavenward, the believer lives as a victor. Relief must be spelled God’s way and it will come. That takes effort that focuses on pleasing God and not relief. When that happens, the believer will come to realize that pleasing God in all situations brings its own rewards now and eternally.

 

Application

  1. Whatever your situations or situations study through Romans 8:28-29 and write five truths that affect you now.
  2. How have you been a good steward given you situation?
  3. How have you responded to God’s answer: no or wait?

4. What is your view of God and self and how should they be changed?

John 4: Worship in Spirit and in Truth

John 4: Worship in Spirit and in Truth

 

John 4:20-24:

v.20: Our fathers worshipped on this mountain but you claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem

v.21: Jesus declared: Believe woman a time if coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

v.22: You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.

v.23: Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth for they are they kind of worshippers the Father seeks.

v.24: God is spirit and His worshippers must worship in spirit and truth.

 

With these words Jesus concluded His discussion with the Samaritan woman. She had an understanding of spiritual issues based on her theology. She knew that the Messiah was coming and when He comes He will explain everything (v.25).  Jesus seized the moment and revealed himself to her as the Messiah (v.26).

What is happening here? It is something radical and drastic. In a different form Jesus repeats Mark 1:15: …The kingdom of God is near… The Kingdom is Jesus himself and the way His people relate to Him is part of kingdom life. Jesus ushered in a new mode of existence, a new reality. Jesus proclaimed that the time has come. The fulfillment of the ages was at hand in Christ by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 1:1-4; 1 Cor. 15:1-3; Gal. 1:4; 4:4-5).  History was marching along on God’s timetable.

Early in Jesus’ ministry, He touched on the topic of worship. Honor and worship is due God simply because God is worthy and man is a worshipping being. The Old Testament affirmed the proper worship of God by focusing on a locale, the Temple, and God’s presence. Pagan religions had their pantheon of gods that allegedly paroled and controlled their locale. Thus, local deities were established and worshipped. The worship was to a physical god in a physical manner and always to get some favor or to avoid its supposed wrath.  In the book of Deuteronomy these pagan practices were condemned as Israel was about to enter the Promise Land (12:1-4).  Rather worship shall be in the place of the Lord’s choosing in contrast to pagan worship (12:5-7). The site, the where, of worship was important to Moses and to the Holy Spirit.  However, the how of worship, an attitude of joy and devotion was to be an integral part of worship (12:7).  Lastly, the what of worship was outlined (12:15-19).  The people from the heart were to present their sacrifices as an extension of themselves to the Lord as an acceptable offering. In this way the people would enter into God’s presence and live.

Early in Jesus’ ministry, He declared the essence of true worship which had been prefigured in the Old Testament. The declaration was based on the reality that God is Spirit and that the Holy Spirit had come and was coming in a fuller form. In due time, the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost (Acts 2). Both Christ’s and the Spirit’s coming created a different realm of existence for the believer. The Holy Spirit equipped and enabled Jesus to do His work and He equips the Church and the believer to do their work. This includes the proper worship of God.

In John 4, Jesus declared the reality of true worship in His encounter with a Samaritan woman.  Jesus approached worship in the same format: where, how, and what. The venue of the discussion was in itself incredible. A woman and a Samaritan were considered second class citizens and not worthy of fellowship. To drink water from her hand was thought unclean by the Jews – contamination!  During Jesus’ conversation with her she demonstrated her moral impurity. Jesus confronted her and she attempted to turn the subject of the conversation from her to another subject. She chose worship (4:20-24).

Jesus seized the opportunity which was part of God’s providence. He reiterates one of His purposes in coming: worship would be to one God with one motive for the right reason according to the Spirit. Truth and knowledge were to be wedded in worship (v.22).  The woman had made worship according to a place the central fact. She spelled out the issue as one of understanding according to the Jews or the Samaritans. She had missed the importance of a universal church – Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:14-16). In verses 20-21, Jesus gives the women a choice: to believe Jesus or continue in unbelief. Jesus went on to explain that she misunderstood the where of worship as she has defined it. It is not a place issue and it is not a Jew or Gentile issue.  Worship is based on true knowledge and she did not have that knowledge (v.22). As He will explained, if one has the Being and person of God wrong, then worship will be wrong.

Jesus moved to the what and to the how of worship. First, worship is based on the knowledge that God is and that He deserves worship from every creature. Second, God is Spirit and He deserves worship His way and with a right motivation (v.23-24). Third, Jesus declared the presence of true worshippers with His coming. True worshippers were present in the Old Testament. But with Jesus’ coming a radical change occurred. The flood gates of God’s revelation were opened. What had been hidden in the Old Testament was now revealed. After the Holy Spirit was poured out, there would be greater clarity of God and worship through the Son by the Holy Spirit. Jesus ushered in a new existence for His people and for His creation.  The old was going and the new was being ushered in. Part of the new knowledge was the reality that God is spirit (v.24). Because He is, worship must be spiritual.  God is a living Spirit, a living Being in contrast to the dead objects such as a tree-deity, a stone-deity, or a mountain-deity. God’s essence is Spirit. Therefore God must be worshipped spiritually.

 

Application:

  1. Consider the where, how, and what of worship. How do you apply those concepts today to your life?
  2. What is the significance that God is Spirit?
  3. God is looking for true worshippers. Where will He find them and how will he know?

 

 

John 4: Worship in Spirit and in Truth: Part B

In Spirit

 

In Jesus’ ministry to the Samaritan woman and to believers in all ages, He taught basic principles regarding God, worship, and worshippers. In His conversation with her, He met her where she was in terms of theology and its application. She had a wrong view of worship because she had a wrong of God, herself, and others. She could not live and worship any way she chose.

She asked where true worship would be conducted and she gave two options (4:20). Jesus told her she was wrong on both counts (4:21). He then clarified that the true worshipper has proper knowledge of God and worship (4:22). In verse 23, Jesus drops a time-bomb. The hour is now that true worshippers have no specific ethnicity and they are to worship God in spirit and truth.  What hour is Jesus speaking? Jesus refers to His Messianic coming. The fullness of time is now – Christ has come, the new exodus of God’s people from darkness to light is in progress, and the Holy Spirit will soon follow in His fullness (Rom. 1:1-4; Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:9-10; John 20; Acts 2). In verse 24, John declares that God is Spirit. Because He is, worship is to be in spirit and in truth.

Jesus gave the woman a twofold truth about God and herself. She was a worshipper as are all men. There is true and false worship and true and false worshippers. Since she is a worshipper by God’s design and God is to be worshipped His way for His glory, true worshippers must worship Him in spirit and truth.

By worship in spirit, Jesus may be referring to the inner person – the heart. Or He may be referring to worship that is Holy Spirit-informed, Holy Spirit- directed, and Holy Spirit–energized. Or He may be referring to both. It is thought-provoking to consider the fact that Jesus chose the subject of worship as the means to present himself as the Messiah. Jesus met the woman where she was. She brought up the subject most likely to deflect conversation into her own life. She received more than a theology session. She received Jesus. He revealed himself to her because He was in the Spirit and He was truth.

Only the believer can worship in spirit. All men are spiritual beings, image bearers of God. At the least, that fact means that man is a religious and worshiping being. He does and will worship. He worships the God of Scripture God’s way or he worships a god that he has created in the way that he thinks gives him the most advantage. Only the believer has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This indwelling brings God into a Father-child relationship with the believer and the believer into relationship and communication with God. The believer’s union with Christ makes all the difference in terms of living including worship. The believer is able to think God’s thoughts about himself and God. He is able to desire what God desires for God and for the believer. True acts of service to God and to others will follow. The believer knows God because He is known by God. The believer has been changed inside-out and has the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).

Christianity is an inside-out religion that moves out from the heart. For the believer, the activity of the heart should be manifested by concrete God-honoring-thoughts, desires, and actions. The externals are manifestations of a changed heart and should be true expressions of love of God and others (Matt. 22:37-40). Externals are important because they can be a barometer of the content of one’s heart. Heart allegiance and devotion to God and for God whether in a worship service or in daily life is in part what it means to worship in spirit.

Worship in spirit is predicated not only on what man is in relationship to God, but more so on who and what God is. He is Spirit. The very essence of God is that He is Spirit. This point stresses the fact that He is unique and distinct from all other beings. As Spirit, He is immaterial and invisible. He is not composed of parts. Therefore, God cannot be discerned by the bodily senses. Since God is Spirit, He must be acknowledged and worshipped in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The fact that God is Spirit demands that a person be changed by the Spirit and begin to know God as He truly is.

Worship – corporate and individual in and out of church – must be actively dependent upon, regulated, and controlled by the Holy Spirit. Only then will worship be from a heart of love and faith to the true great God out of reverence for Him. Because God is Spirit worship must in accordance with the reality that He is Spirit. Man is body and spirit – inner and outer man, a duplex being. Man has a body but God has no body. Throughout history and today, idolatry is alive and well. Generally idolatry took the form of the worship of some physical object. The object was something that the people experienced with their senses:  they could see, touch, taste, and feel it. The idolater was at home in his world giving honor through ritual to himself as he did homage to this physical object. The believer no longer is a purely sensual being. He interprets what he takes in with his senses through saving faith (1 Cor. 13:12; 2 Cor. 5:7, 9).  He is what I call a suprasensual being.  Since God is Spirit, the believer will and must know and worship Him from a heart changed and growing by the Holy Spirit.

There is one God and only one form of worship – from the inside out according to biblical principles.  At the well, Jesus gave a theology lesson with God as the subject. God is not limited to any one place. He is Spirit and dwells everywhere. God seeks out true worshippers is tantamount to saying God seeks and saves those who are lost (Luke 19:10). God keeps His children and they develop as true lovers and worshippers of God.

 

Application:

  1. What does it mean to worship God is spirit?
  2. What are the reasons given for the call to worship in spirit?
  3. How is it possible for the believer to worship in spirit?
  4. What is necessary for a person to worship in spirit?

 

John 4: Worship in Spirit and in Truth: Part C

In Truth

 

In His ministry to the woman at the well, Jesus has taken the opportunity to teach her, and all believers, the truth about God and people. He meets this woman where she was in terms of her relationship with God. She needed the Spirit and she needed truth.       The woman had some idea of revelation. She acknowledged Jesus a prophet (4:19). She knew God deserved to be worshipped and that Scripture promised a messiah (4:20, 25). The where, how, and what of worship she missed because she did not know God.

Jesus began the theology lesson with knowledge in order for the woman to get the big picture. He taught that God’s revelation is progressive, expanding, and culminates in Jesus – His person and work. Jesus was about to fulfill what the Triune God decided in eternity past (John 6:37-43). Jesus presented himself to her as the Messiah (4:26). In that light, God dwells with His people and they dwell with Him. Locale is not the issue.

However, coming into God’s presence and remaining alive and well was a major concern for the Israelites. The Old Testament taught that to see God meant death (Gen. 16:13; 32:30; Ex. 33:20, 23). Entering into God’s presence and living was a question that was answered throughout redemptive history since Genesis 3:15. Jesus and the Holy Spirit progressively revealed God’s answer. Fellowship with God was His initial design but sin and God’s judgment entered the picture. God established the sacrificial, ritual system in the Old Testament by which a privileged high priest once a year could enter God’s presence and offer a sacrifice for himself and the people. The people could know if the sacrifice was acceptable if the priest returned to them. This system pointed to Christ as the High Priest who entered into the Holy of Holiness once and completed the task of atonement. The Old Testament gave insight into what was coming in Christ as revealed in the New Testament.

Worship in the Old Testament was God-ordained. It was robed in ritual, ordinances, and ceremonies which pointed to Christ. At the cross Christ, the privileged High Priest, entered the Most Holy Place and offered His shed blood as the atoning sacrifice. His resurrection confirmed that the debt God’s people owed to God had been paid in full. After His Ascension, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to indwell His Church and His people. Without the Holy Spirit’s coming, Christ’s meditorial work (redemption accomplished) would have been for naught. The Holy Spirit is the dynamic of the new kingdom.

The Spirit is also the Spirit of truth and the new birth (regeneration). Jesus is truth (John 14:6) and His Word is truth (John 17:17). True worship is based on a proper knowledge of God, worship, and the person – the worshipper. True worship stems from one’s union with Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit. True worship, both individually and corporately, is a whole-person activity – thoughts, desires, and actions.

The Spirit was working in the Old Testament. While glorious, His fullness had not come until Pentecost. The Old Covenant while glorious gave way to the more glorious New Covenant (2 Cor. 3:6-21). A fuller knowledge of who the Triune God is takes the person back into eternity, pushes him into the present, and motivates him to look forward.  The Triune God is the true God of His true people. God was and is calling His people from every tribe and nation.

True knowledge of God compels a believer to assign to God that which is His. It is to give God full worth-ship.  Knowing and growing in the knowledge of God’s true worth-ship is part of worshiping in spirit and in truth. Knowing God and enjoying Him is the duty, privilege, and blessing of every believer. True knowledge of God always leads to true knowledge of self. Truth sets a person free when that truth is Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Otherwise it is not truth (John 8:31-32; 14:6, 16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:13).

In corporate worship, God is present with His Church. The special presence of God is also a privilege and blessing as part of the New Covenant. The Triune God is the audience as believers worship Him in spirit and truth. Every believer is able to relish the time he has with his God, not only in private and individual worship but also corporately as a church family. Corporate worship is the highest expression of worship and is a duty, privilege, and a blessing for God’s covenant people (Ps. 100).

 

Application:

  1. What is your understanding of John 4:20-24?
  2. The believer and the Church are Spirit-filled: what effect does that fact have on your thoughts, desires, and actions?
  3. What will you pray for when you ask the Holy Spirit’s blessing on your private and public worship service?

 

 

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part I-IX

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part I:

Meaning of Come and the Context of the Call

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

How do Jesus’ words strike you?  Are they simply another invitation? What significance do they have for Jesus’ audience, for you, and for others? To answer these questions, we must have an idea of the meaning of the word come.  Moreover, we must know the Speaker, why He spoke, and His audience.

The word (deuro) used here in Matthew 11 is also used by Jesus in Matthew 4:19 and 19:21 and by the master in Matthew 22:3-4. In Matthew 4:19 Jesus called to Peter and Andrew to come and they came. In Matthew 19:21, Jesus made the same call to the rich young ruler who rejected it. Jesus’ call is not simply a call to enter into the kingdom of God. It is also a call to enter into Jesus’ school of discipleship. The call is to and for salvation and for growth in holiness as one saved. The term carries the idea of here, hither to this place. It is used only for a calling or an invitation and for encouragement to heed the call. Movement and a decision for that movement from one place or time are involved.  In Matthew 11:28, Jesus is the Caller or Inviter. There was urgency, necessity, and compassion in Jesus’ words. Jesus knew it was a matter of life and death, now and eternally.

The context of Matthew 11:28-30 help us answer the opening questions. Matthew 11:28-30 is preceded by two major sections with two basic concepts. The first is recorded in 11:20-24. Jesus denounced the unrepentant people in the cities of Korazim and Bethsaida, cities in Israel where most of His miracles had been performed. As a result the people had witnessed His power, authority, and loving concern but they rejected Him. He pronounced a woe on those cities. The people had seen with their physical eyes and heard with their physical ears but not heard spiritually – with their hearts. They did not believe. Jesus delivered a telling accusation: if He had demonstrated Himself to the Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon as He had to Israel, those two cities would not have been destroyed. What a stinging rebuke to a self-righteous people! Jesus claimed that He saves Gentiles and their repentance is accepted by Him. The bulk of Israel thought that they did not need Christ, the Gentiles, and Christ’s way – repentance. The call to repent was the way to come to Christ. Israel rejected the Way and the way (repentance) of and to the Way!

Jesus was speaking to the covenant community – Israel (Matt. 11:1). Both the lost and the remnant were present in the audience (see John 7:13; 9:22; 12:42; 19:36). Jesus knew Israel’s history. There was a marked disconnect between what Jesus knew and what Israel professed (Acts 7:37ff, 44ff, 512-53). As a whole, the nation was a rebellious, idolatrous, prophet-killing people following in the footsteps of their forefathers. Yet through the ages Israel had denied this pattern. Israel had failed to repent despite the voices of the prophets throughout the ages; the ministry of John the Baptist, the penultimate prophet; and the presence of Jesus, the ultimate Prophet and the miracles He performed among them (Matt. 11:7-19, 20-24). The response to John and Jesus was characteristic of Israel’s patterned disdain for God’s voice through the prophets.  Jesus condemned Israel; Israel had not changed.

The spiritual leaders had rightly understood the horrors of the exile. But they denied the nation’s history and role in bringing God’s rightful judgment. They wanted God’s blessing and did not want another exile. They knew that God demanded lawkeeping and assumed that lawbreaking – disobedience – led to the exile. In response, they devised their own game plan by becoming their own lawmaker, lawgiver, and lawkeeper. They added rules and regulations to the Law of Moses. Their laws and their interpretation took precedence over God’s law.

They hoped to keep the law in order to avoid another exile. Their goal was to keep out of an exile. They were more interested in no exile than in pleasing God. But it was their law by their power and wisdom. In doing so, they functioned as the ones who “called the shots.” They were competing with God. They established their laws as they fenced God’s law. They functioned as if their laws were more important than God’s and their efforts more important than Christ’s, the true Messiah. Personal lawkeeping designed by the spiritual leaders was the standard of the day. This system with its resultant mindset and lifestyle was the mechanism by which the spiritual leaders ruled the people. It appeals to proud people. Jesus drew the contrast between God’s law and the traditions of men. He condemned the leaders for breaking God’s law, the very law that they claimed they were keeping (Matthew 15; Mark 7). Their lawmaking and lawkeeping became the standard for the people. The people seemingly accepted this way of life (John 9:22; 12:42-43).

 

Application:

  1. 1. What is the significance of Jesus’ call?
  2. What is the background of it?
  3. What was Israel’s history in regard to heeding the words of the prophets?

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part II:

The Context of the Call

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

To help understand the significance of Jesus’ calling we must understand the context in which Jesus gave it. We know that Jesus was the Caller, Israel was the audience, and one of Jesus’ purposes was to draw Israel’s attention to their dire circumstances. By dire Jesus meant more than physical enslavement by the Romans. Two concepts preceded the record of the Jesus’ invitation: the need for repentance which was covered in the first blog (Matthew 11:20-24).

The second concept is recorded in Matthew 11:25-27 which was a prayer-conversation between Jesus and the Father. These passages teach the necessity and authority of Scripture. Jesus taught that biblical truth is supernatural in its origin and in its application. God is the Revealer and His Son and Scripture are God’s personal, powerful, and purposeful self-revelation (John 14:6; 17:17). Supernatural truth trumps manmade teaching regarding God, man, his problems and solutions, life on earth, and life after death. God, not the Pharisees, was the source of truth.

Jesus acknowledged that Israel’s response was partially understandable. God had chosen to hide spiritual truth from some, if not most, of them (Matt. 13:13-15). Spiritual things are understood only through the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; 6:60-68; 1 Cor. 2:10-16). The disciples and the people, both saved and unsaved, did not understand because they were ignorant. They did not have an understanding of salvation and life after salvation because they did not have a proper understanding of self and God. Therefore, they embraced the religion of the spiritual leaders. Or perhaps they were both ignorant and arrogant. Most had had no inside-out change of regeneration. Both groups of people viewed self and God only through the lens of the physical, material, natural, and temporal. They looked for a “physical fix” to a presumed physical problem.

They are several reasons to explain why the people did not come but they can be summarized as ignorance, arrogance, or both. The people spearheaded by the spiritual leaders of the day did not think they needed to come. Perhaps they did not know how to come. We should not limit the non-coming to the spiritual leaders. We do know that God had preserved His remnant and they did come. All the people heard the call come to me as given here and earlier as repent and believe for the Kingdom of God is here as initially proclaimed by John the Baptist and later Jesus (Mark 1:15; Matt. 3:2; 4:17).

Scripture tells us that the majority of Israel did not heed Jesus’ call because they did not believe they needed to come (Matthew 9:12-13; 12:7; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31-32; 19:10). Seemingly they were comfortable and had their own rest. Most of Israel hadn’t had a spiritual awakening. They were theologically dense and even hardened. As a group and individually, they had physical eyes but they did not see and they had physical ears but did not hear. Their senses were trained for and by self-pleasing and self-worship. Jesus came to His own people but His own did not receive Him (John 1:5-9). For whatever the reasons, the people of Israel as a group were children of darkness and they loved the darkness (John 3:17-21). They accepted the teaching of their spiritual leaders. Consequently, they were on the throne depending on their own lawmaking and lawkeeping. Jesus’ first coming ushered in a more fully defined clash between two world systems and their opposing worldviews. The Israelites had zeal for themselves and their self-made truth but not for Christ. In fact, they had disdain for Him and desired to distance themselves from Him.

In spite of the people and from a desire to please the Father, Jesus offered Himself to His own. What would it take to motivate the people to come to Him? The answer is rather simple. They must change their view of God and themselves. Jesus made clear that the teaching and example of the spiritual leaders was not God’s way. God’s way was through the Messiah – dependence on His lawmaking and lawkeeping and His covenantal trustworthiness. The people were interested in relief and rest but not from themselves and their sin and sinfulness. Many wanted relief from the Romans. Rather, Jesus set forth Himself and His lawmaking and law-keeping in contrast to the spiritual leaders. What did they think? What would you think? They crucified the Messiah the only real hope and help!

 

Application:

  1. How do you respond to the offer of a Person by a Person to come to Him?
  2. Who was the offer to?
  3. What was the context of the call to come?

 

 

 

 

 

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part III

Jesus the Caller

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

The mantra come to Jesus is a common one especially in the evangelical world. However, the call of Christ to come to Him is more than a gospel call. It focuses not simply on salvation but life after salvation as well. The truth of the matter is no one can come to Jesus unless his heart has been supernaturally, miraculously, and radically changed (John 3:3-8; 6:35ff, 60-64). Coming to Jesus is a result and proof of this radical change that is done by the Holy Spirit within the person.

Jesus the Caller called the people to come to Him. Their response was a top priority. The response to the call necessitated movement by the people from one position to another. Coming to Jesus means moving from self, from Satan, and from sin. It means moving in faith and trust to Christ.  In John 6:35, John recorded Jesus’s words:  I am the bread of life.  Jesus offered Himself and He described Himself in terms of substance and sustenance. He is and He gives. Jesus promised that whoever comes to Him will never go hungry and whoever believes in Him will never be thirsty (6:35, 51-54). By the use of these metaphors Jesus explained that He is offering Himself which may have reminded the people of David’s words in Psalm 34:8: Taste and see that the Lord is good …,. Jesus explained that the act of coming to Him means believing in and trusting in Him. Jesus knew that everyone is a truster – he trusts in something.

Man was designed by God as a faith-based being.  God is the object of saving faith and self is the object of non-saving faith (Gal. 2:20). Jesus taught that believing and trusting Him and in Him meant that the person would no longer trust in self. Self-righteousness, self-dependency, self-sufficiency, and self-justification would be replaced by a God-wrought righteousness and right standing before God. These legal activities are due to God’s counting Christ’s lawkeeping to the account of the believer. Christ’s righteousness and God’s judicial action based on Christ’s work as messiah is in contrast to a man-generated standing before God on the basis of the keeping of a man-made law.

Throughout the gospels, the call and the invitation come to Jesus focuses on saving faith and its use (faithfulness). Literally, saving faith means to believe into. It has several elements: acknowledgement of certain facts about self and God, acceptance of those facts, and resting upon what God in Christ by the Holy Spirit has done in and to the person. Resting means that the person relies on biblical truth as his guide and his explanation for living as a God-pleaser, Further, resting means trusting God rather than self (Proverbs 3:5-8). Trusting is always linked to obedience. Jesus is not speaking only of salvation. As before, His call is not simply evangelistic. He spoke to a mixed audience, saved and unsaved. Jesus focused on both salvation and life after salvation. The people were hurting but were ignorant and arrogant.

At Jesus’ first coming He ushered in a new creation. A new world order and a new mode of existence were established at His first coming. Jesus was the beginning installment and partial fulfillment of that which was promised in the Old Testament (Isaiah 11; 35; 40; 41; 43; 49; Jer. 23; 30; 31; Mic. 4; 5; 7; see Matthew 22:1-14).  More was to come!

In Matthew 11, Jesus spoke in relational terms and continues to this day. Jesus asks, and even commands, people to stop, look, and listen. Someone and something else is greater than they are. Jesus spoke about a supernatural awakening. Jesus came to His own but His own did not receive Him because they loved the darkness (John 1:3-5, 9-11; 3:17-21; 7:7). Jesus offered Himself and an insight into the “deeper” things of life. There is nothing deeper than the Triune God, Who He is and how He works.

Jesus knew that these people were heavy burdened. Jesus’ call to come was urgent, merciful, and compassionate. He gave the ultimate contrast: Himself vs. the Pharisees. He contrasted Himself and His teaching with the spiritual leaders and their teaching as the one motivating factor in coming to Him. He was a teacher of God’s truth, meek and humble; the spiritual leaders were teachers of man’s “wisdom,” proud, arrogant, and fault finders. Recognition of this contrast and the futility of self-trust were to be major motivating factors for coming to Him. Sadly, many, if not most, did not get it. Such is true today.

What would it take to motivate the Israelites to come to Him? The answer is rather simple. They must change their view of God and themselves. They must change their view of Messiah. This required regeneration (John 3:3-8). Jesus made clear that the teaching and example of the spiritual leaders was not God’s way. It burdened the people (Matt. 11.28-30). God’s way was through the Messiah – dependence on His lawmaking and His lawkeeping. The people were interested in relief and rest but not from their self-orientation – their sin and sinfulness. They wanted relief from Rome and a return to a high standing before the world. Rather, Jesus set forth Himself and His lawmaking and lawkeeping in contrast to the spiritual leaders and their teaching.  Sadly, as a nation, they persisted in their rebellion and they crucified the Messiah! (Acts 2: 23-24; 4:27). They traded a lawbreaker, Barabbas, for the Lawmaker and Lawkeeper. To their shame and misery, they attempted to keep self on the throne.

 

Application:

  1. What is your view of the phrase come to Me?
  2. How is it possible to come? See John 6:35-45.
  3. Why would anyone not come to Jesus and why would someone come to Him?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come to Jesus: Mathew 11:28-30: Part IV

The Audience and the Yoke

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

Throughout the gospels, Jesus preached and taught truth. In Matthew 11, Jesus emphasized a twofold truth: the people (and you) are heavy-burdened and God has answers. The burden of carrying one’s sins, the guilt and the consequences of sin and sinning, weighs a person down. Man was never designed to be his own savior. At creation, God created Adam and Eve dependent beings with only one source of truth and strength – the Triune God. After sin, self took center stage and with it rebellion. As a consequence, personal lawkeeping and self-trust became a way of life. However the burden and cost of personal lawkeeping becomes very great. People try to rid themselves of the burden of self-righteousness and the resultant heavy burden of guilt that accompanies auto-soteriology (self salvation). They ignore their true condition and their impotence. They blame shift or assume a victim mentality. They may increase their works and or they may attempt to medicate it away. Or they change the rules and the laws as the Pharisees did. All of these activities only lead to further bondage which is usually denied by the lawkeepers.

In Israel, the people were in exile. The exile was twofold: physical and spiritual. Israel was under Roman domination, prisoners of Rome, and in bondage. Of major importance was their spiritual exile. They were not in the physical wilderness as were their forefathers, but their hearts, as were the hearts of their forefathers, were far away from God (Matthew 15:8-9; Mark 7:1-4; John 5-8; 1 Cor. 10:1-14).

Jesus highlighted the fact of Israel’s continued ignorance and arrogance in such passages as Matthew 9:12-13; 12:7; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:30-31; 10:10. Jesus did not come to the righteous and healthy but to sinners. Most of Israel did not think they were sinners so they denied that they were sick spiritually. They believed that they did not need a doctor, certainly not one who confronted them about their idolatrous self-pleasing which was manifested as self-trust, self- dependence, and self-sufficiency. Rather, a radical change was needed but as long as reliance on personal lawkeeping was taught and accepted, Jesus, and His lawkeeping, would not be accepted. Israel needed a true Messiah but Israel refused to believe that fact about them and thus they refused to hear the truth about Jesus and His mission.

The people were both myopic and blind. The activity of personal messiahship was and is fostered by sinful teaching so prevalent in Israel then and now throughout the land. The people listened to the spiritual leaders who apparently tickled their ears but laid heavy burdens on them (Matt. 23; John 9:22; 12:42-43). They prided themselves on self-effort and seeming self-gain. The leaders and the majority of the people believed that what they taught and were taught, and what they were doing was good and proper. The teaching – yoke and burden – of personal lawkeeping was done out of sense of pride and the false hope of refuge. It was fostered by sinful teaching about God and self and was alive and prevalent in Israel. The false teaching that man, in his own strength, can make himself acceptable to God was a burden that the people were never intended to bear. Personal lawkeeping per say would not prevent another exile.

Paul, a Jew of Jews, taught that Israel had a real zeal for the law and personal lawkeeping (Rom. 10:1-4). Paul had been under the same mindset (Phil. 3:3-6).  But he learned, practiced, and taught God’s answer. It was not self and personal lawkeeping that was the truth. Rather it is Christ by His lawkeeping alone through faith alone by grace alone through the Holy Spirit that is truth. Paul was entrusted with a ministry of the Word which he gladly accepted (Rom. 1:16-17).

Coming to Jesus requires a proper understanding of self and Jesus. Many people were coming to Jesus, but too often, it was simply to get (John 6:26). Yet, Jesus offered something that was in contrast to the spiritual leaders. He offered Himself. He was not a user of people. He gave a free offer of contentment and satisfaction that Matthew termed rest (11:28-30). A correct view of self forces one to look outside of self and one’s own lawkeeping. However, simply looking outside of self may not supply the answer that gives you rest. Rather, Jesus gives the answer in John 8:31-32: truth sets you free and Jesus is truth (14:6).

The yoke and burden of the Pharisees meant my lawkeeping is in my strength, by my standard, for my benefit, and for my glory. They were own their lawmaker and lawkeeper. They did not need a savior – they had one – themselves. They wanted release from physical bondage and they wanted a God who would bless them. They entertained no personal or corporate spiritual bondage. There was no need for release from spiritual captivity.

Luke 4:18-22 records Jesus’ inaugural public sermon in the synagogue. In it, He included His mission. Israel rejected Jesus’ claim to be the true and only Bondage-Breaker. Consequently the mantra from Israel was: we need our kind of messiah. He is one that will release us from physical domination. In the meantime, they functioned as religious people based on their understanding of truth. Such was the story of the rich young ruler. In contrast, coming to Jesus requires a proper view of God and self. Further, it requires a proper view of Christ and His lawkeeping. In the end, it is resting, trusting, and obeying God simply because God is God.

 

Application:

  1. How about you: do you have an idea of what it means to come to Christ?
  2. Here in Matt. 11:28-30 it means to reexamine your standard for thinking, desiring, and doing what you do and the means of trying to achieve it. Write out some of your checkpoints and your source of them.
  3. Are you heavy burdened? How would you define those terms and what is Christ’s answer? Compare your checkpoints with God’s word and write out what you find.
  4. Please read Ps. 34:8; Isaiah 55:1-3 and compare them with Jesus’ invitation here. What do you learn about Jesus and yourself?

 

 

 

 

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part V

The Yoke and the Yeast

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

Matthew 11:28-30 contains both a warning as well as an invitation. Come, as previously discussed, is movement away from something to something. Jesus knew that the people had excuses/reasons for not coming. Therefore Jesus warned them about the yoke that they ignorantly and arrogantly were wearing or carrying. He invited the people to make an exchange – His yoke for the yoke of the spiritual leaders.

What is this yoke that Jesus spoke about? In the Jewish literature, yoke represented the sum-total of obligations which a person must take upon himself as a result of the teaching and traditions of the rabbis. Yoke, then, is the system of teaching by which a person is to abide by. Later in Matthew, Jesus termed the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees as yeast (16:6, 12).

Jesus was not through with His instructions. He warned the people to be on guard not only for the yoke and the yeast (teaching) of the Pharisees but their hypocrisy. In Luke 12:1-2, Jesus termed the yeast of the Pharisees hypocrisy. In Mark 8:15, Jesus warned the people regarding the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod. I suspect by yeast that Jesus indicated their hypocrisy.

In Luke 12:1-2, the phrase be on guard addressed proper thinking about God, self, and the spiritual leaders and their teaching. Hypocrisy is pretend. Hypocrisy is looking good on the outside but the inside is cold and hard (Matt. 23:13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29). It is play-acting such that the person is not the person he appears to be. Hypocrisy is deception and dishonesty. Ironically, the true hypocrites charged Jesus with deception which attested to their pride and deception (John 6:41, 52; 7:5, 12, 40-43, 47, 52; 8:48, 52-53, 57). The spiritual leaders and their followers were in serious trouble and denied that fact. They reasoned that personal lawkeeping had worked just fine for them. They had no reason to depend on another’s lawkeeping especially someone like Jesus. Jesus looked just like any other person, seemingly a typical Jew.

Jesus’ answer to hypocrisy was Himself – the Truth – which John expressed as the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32). Personal lawkeeping when it is a way of life does not die quickly because it is habituated and patterned self-pleasing. It takes a supernatural act of God in the heart of a person to bring an initial change. John called this the new birth or more accurately the birth from above – by the Holy Spirit (regeneration: John 3:3-8). After salvation, dying to self and hypocrisy requires not only saving grace but sanctifying grace as well.

Jesus summarized His meaning of teaching (yoke and yeast) and hypocrisy (yeast) in Matthew 5:17-20. Christ taught that unless a person’s righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees, he will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Righteousness may refer to a right standing which is earned or that which is inherent in the person. Or the term may refer to right living however defined. Jesus was teaching an important truth: entranced into the Kingdom was top priority. The Pharisees taught that their righteousness – right standing and right of entrance into God’s favor – consisted of their personal lawmaking and their lawkeeping. In their scheme, self-righteousness was measured by and gained through personal lawmaking and lawkeeping.

Some recent theologians have emphasized that Pharisee’s form of religiosity was not so much to earn a place in the covenant community as to maintain it. Personal lawkeeping was needed not so much for membership in the covenant community but to maintain a person’s position and membership in it. In both schemes, the emphasis was on personal lawmaking and lawkeeping. In the religious system of Jesus’ day, the person functioned as his own messiah. Jesus was not needed. In the system of Jesus’ day and those who discuss the so-called New Perspective on Paul, self-righteousness trumped the righteousness of another person including Christ which was credited to another’s account for salvation. Therefore Israel did not need a Savior, certainly not one like Christ. While some people may have appreciated the miracles, the general view of the day was to heck with Christ. They reasoned that they needed another type of messiah – one who would lead them out of physical bondage. They assumed their spiritual condition was healthy.

 

Application:

  1. Define the yoke and yeast of Pharisees. Give the reasons it was/is so pernicious.
  2. Give examples of self-righteousness (see Luke 18:9-14; The Rich Young Ruler; Phil. 3:3-6). Give reasons it is so God-dishonoring.
  3. What was the hypocrisy of the spiritual leaders?

 

 

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part VI

The Yoke and the Yeast

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

Jesus’ answer to hypocrisy was Himself – the Truth – which John expressed as the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32). Personal lawkeeping when it is a way of life does not die quickly because it is a habituated, patterned self-pleasing. It takes a supernatural act of God in the heart of a person to bring a change. John calls this the new birth or better the birth from above – by the Holy Spirit (regeneration: John 3:3-8).

Paul also took up the yoke of false teaching (see Romans and Galatians).                                                                                                                                                                                                            Abraham had a similar adventure with lawkeeping. In Romans 4:1-3, Paul wrote that Abraham sought truth on the subject of lawkeeping and justification (right standing before God as Judge). Abraham learned that justification by works is unbiblical. It is no match for a saving faith-received justification through grace by faith alone following regeneration (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). In Romans 10:1-5, Paul addressed the subject from another angle. Paul gave a correct view of Israel. Israel had zeal for the law and lawkeeping but this was woefully inadequate and inappropriate. It was not simply a quantitative issue regarding the amount of lawkeeping.  It was far more substantial. Jesus and Paul were touching the heart of the matter- the heart. Israel had such a high view of themselves as lawmakers and lawkeepers that they did not need anyone or anything else. In contrast, Jesus and Paul taught that there must be zeal for God’s lawmaking and zeal for Christ’s lawkeeping rather than for one’s personal lawkeeping.

The call to come to Jesus was and is more than an invitation. It was an exhortation to a people in the throes of bondage. Scripture presents this bondage in a number of ways. In the case of Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus had drawn the contrast between Him and His teaching and that of the spiritual leaders of the day and their teaching. The contrast involved more than simple teaching and doctrine. Jesus contrasted Himself as a Person and Teacher with the spiritual leaders. The people bore a heavy, impossible load.  But both the people and the spiritual leaders were blind and oblivious to their own hardness of heart. Peter drew a similar contrast in 1 Peter 5:1-4. He gives the proper manner for shepherds to shepherd God’s flock.

Christianity is a works religion but the works are not personal lawkeeping as the source of salvation or sanctification. Rather, Christianity focuses on Christ’s lawkeeping of God’s laws and the person dependence on Him and His lawkeeping. Lawkeeping is an expression of one’s salvation. Paul thanked God for His perfect, good law (Rom. 7:12; 1 Tim. 1:8-11) and for Christ’s perfect obedience – His perfect lawkeeping (Rom. 3:21-26; 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:18-21). In the Pharisees’ scheme, self-righteousness trumped Christ’s righteousness. God was not needed to give the law and Christ was not needed to keep the law. They had Moses and what he gave and they had their man-made traditions (John 5:45-47; Matt. 15:1-6; Mark 7:1-5).

Sometimes Christians fall into the same deceptive, God-dishonoring trap when they set up unbiblical checkpoints. One more good work and or one less bad work is hoped to correct the balance-beam so that good outweighs the bad. The truth of the matter is that one sin – the one sin in Adam – so pushes the beam so far down that only divine intervention can change the scales. Therefore no one can or desires to come to Jesus unless his heart has been supernaturally, miraculously, and radically changed (John 3:3-8; 6:35ff, 60-64). Coming to Jesus is a personal choice only as an expression of what God in Christ by the Holy Spirit has done in and for the person. Coming to Jesus is a result and proof of the radical change in a person’s heart. In terms of life after salvation, coming to Jesus is an expression of growth in Christ which pleases the Triune God. Growth in personal holiness and Christlikeness is testimony to what one is in Christ – union with Christ wrought by the Holy Spirit. For the believer, personal lawkeeping is not a burden or even a demand, but a blessing and privilege. It is not to earn but to testify and to please God. It is done as a child of the King to God, for God, in Christ, and by the Holy Spirit.

 

Application:

  1. What is your understanding of salvation and sanctification?
  2. What is your understanding of the Law and lawkeeping?
  3. Articulate the yoke and yeast of the spiritual leaders of Jesus’ day.

 

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part VII

Reasons for Not Coming and Rest

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

            Come to Jesus can occur only if you have some but proper knowledge of who God is and of yourself. That knowledge is imparted by the Holy Spirit as a gift and blessing. Come to Jesus requires denying self. Deny self what? All people are to put off or replace self-dependence, self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, and self-exaltation. They are to put on God-pleasing God-dependence. In order for this to occur, people need an inside-out, supernatural and miraculous operation resulting in a new heart. Only the believer has the capacity to think, desire, and act as God-pleaser for His sake and His glory. Throughout His ministry, Jesus presented the what and the how of denying self. He taught and practiced self-denial. For Christ, denying self meant pleasing His Father in lieu of Himself. In his gospel, John reiterates the truth that Jesus the Son of God was discipled by the Father with the goal of pleasing Him (John 4:31-34). That goal motivated Him to the cross and beyond.

A critical question that requires an answer is: why won’t people come? The answer is a matter of life and death, salvation and condemnation. There was a marked disconnect between what Jesus knew and what Israel knew as a nation. It is critical to remember that Israel of Jesus’ time was following the footsteps of the forefathers (see Acts 7:37ff, 44ff, 51-53). Several reasons can be given as to why the people did not come but they can be summarized as ignorance, arrogance, or both. The people spearheaded by the spiritual leaders and their religious machine, even juggernaut, did not think they needed to come. Perhaps they did not know how to come. The people had heard the call come to me as given here and earlier as repent and believe for the Kingdom of God is here as proclaimed by John the Baptist. We should not limit the non-coming to the spiritual leaders. In general, the nation as a whole was apostate. However, God’s remnant was present in Israel and they did come.

Scripture tells us that Israel as a nation did not come because very few believed that they needed to come (Matt 9:12-13; 12:7; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31-32; 19:10). Seemingly they were comfortable and they rested in self.  Most of Israel had not experienced a spiritual awakening. They were children of darkness and theologically dense. They had physical eyes but they did not see and physical ears but they did not hear. Their senses were trained for self-pleasing and self-worship (Heb. 5:11-14). Jesus had come to His own people, but they did not receive Him – they rejected Him (John 1:5-9).

Jesus described the people as weary and burdened. They were on the treadmill of human effort. They must churn out works and manipulate the rules or be buried in the realization that they can’t measure up. In response to the exile and an earnest desire to avoid that experience, the spiritual leaders changed the standard by establishing their own – the traditions of men. The spiritual leaders had placed on themselves and the people a constant maze of legalistic contortions of keep and do (Matt. 23:4-7; Luke 11:46; 18:9-14). Rule and regulation-keeping functioned as acts of obedience but according to human tradition and human effort. These acts were to outweigh acts of disobedience. Paul followed this same philosophy until he was saved (Phil. 3:3-6).

The spiritual leaders and the people of Jesus’ day were not different from the people of today. So many people practice the balance-beam theory of acceptance before God in salvation and sanctification. The people depend on their own efforts, merits, and achievements to get ahead and to find acceptance. They never do and they never will. But those facts don’t stop their efforts. Jesus knew that!

Jesus is the Knower. He knew the people and their anguish and misery. All believers should draw strength and hope from the fact that Jesus knows and has answers. He described the condition of those that He offered the call and invitation – they were weary and heavy burdened. What was happening to these people? Jesus was not referring to physical problems and physical labor. Jesus was describing a way of life that centered on self for self by self. That way of life was associated with the onerous burden and weight of personal lawkeeping and the constant drive to “measure up.” The people had bought into the false teaching of the Pharisees. Personal effort was mandatory and sufficient to gain and prove a special provision before God. Rather, the law of God was not the problem. The problem was fencing of God’s law in an effort to keep the law for personal gain. The spiritual leaders established their laws in an attempt to keep God’s law in their own strength. The fallacy of constant, perfect or semi-perfect lawkeeping remain today as a symbol of man’s ignorance and arrogance.

Christ makes a promise – the gift of refreshment.  Christ was addressing the sin of self-righteousness with its ignorance and arrogance. Jesus was giving the people a theological lesson.  He was teaching them about Himself and themselves.  Jesus was addressing an age-old problem: how do you get right with God? Some answer by saying there is no God or they are not sure that there is one. So what is the big deal? Others view true religion as doing it yourself. This is a self-righteousness religiosity or moralism. This was introduced in the Garden at the fall.  Many deny their inability choosing instead to believe in themselves. Being on the self-righteous merry-go-round keeps a person stuck on himself and away from God. A proud person steps onto and stays on the merry-go-round of earning self-worth. Pride and ignorance keeps him on it. Grace is God’s gift and ticket off the merry-go-round. This applies for both salvation and sanctification – growth in Christ.

 

Application:

  1. Where are you on works? Are they are blessing or a curse? See John 14:15, 21, 23 and 1 John 5:3 to help you answer.
  2. Read Philippians 3:3-6, 7-11: describe how Paul answered the works question.
  3. Read Philippians 2:12-13 and 2 Peter 1:5-10 and write out how they fit into Jesus’ call? What changes do you need to make in your view of the law and law keeping?

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part VIII

Come

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light

 

Coming to Jesus involves and requires denying self. Deny self what? All people are to put off or replace self-dependence, self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, and self-exaltation. As I have written, in order for this to occur, people need an inside-out operation resulting in a new heart. The Bible speaks of this as regeneration (John 3:3-8). In Matthew 11, Jesus presented the essence of denying self. Denying self means accepting and applying what He taught which was from above and true. Jesus’ origin was heaven and so, too, was His teaching. Denying His teaching is denying Him. It seemed ludicrous and counterintuitive for people to embrace Jesus and His teaching. The Israelites thought they only needed physical freedom and if Jesus could not obtain it for them, they would remain on the lookout for someone who would. In the meantime, they had themselves. For the people, physical problems and their solutions were keys. They conducted their lives as if the physical trumped the spiritual. The people saw no connection with the physical and the spiritual.

As we have discussed Jesu s warned the people to beware of the leaven/yeast of the Pharisees. This leaven/yeast was both their teaching and hypocrisy: personal lawkeeping of their own law in their own strength for their own benefit. They were their lawmaker and law keeper. There was no spiritual need and consequently the mantra was: we need our kind of messiah. He is one that will release us from physical domination of Rome.

Jesus warned the people to be on guard regarding the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (Luke 12:1-2). The phrase Be on guard is addressed proper thinking – about self and the spiritual leaders as well as their teaching. Hypocrisy is pretend. It is play-acting such that the person is not the person he appears to be. Hypocrisy is deception and dishonesty. Ironically, the true hypocrites charged Jesus with deception which attested to their pride and deception (John 6:41, 52; 7:5, 12, 40-43, 47, 52; 8:48, 52-53, 57). The spiritual leaders and their followers were in serious trouble. They denied that fact. Personal lawkeeping had worked just fine for them so they reasoned that they did not need to depend on another’s lawkeeping especially someone like Jesus. Jesus looked just like any other Jew. He had no personal pedigree and He was considered a loser.

Hypocrisy involves trying to look good on the outside but the inside is cold and hard (Matt. 23:13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29). Jesus’ answer to hypocrisy is the same as that for false teaching: Himself. He is Truth.  John expressed this in John 8:31-32: the truth will set you free. Jesus’ statement indicates that every person outside for Christ is outside of the truth/Truth and is in bondage.  Israel was following its history of bondage. Personal lawkeeping when it is a way of life does not die quickly. Again, it requires a supernatural act of God in the heart at salvation and the believer grows in Christlikeness (John 3:3-8; Phil. 2:12-1`3).

The gospels also warned the people to be aware of the yeast of Herod (Mark 8:15). What was his yeast? Herod Antipas was an evil, fearful person. He had beheaded John the Baptist simply to look good before his friends (Matt. 14:9-10; Mark 6:16). Herod hoped to see Jesus perform (Luke 23:8). He made a connection behind John the Baptist and Jesus but he desired to kill Jesus (Luke 9:7-9; 13:31; 23:8). Herod was guilty and on the run from God as taught in Proverbs. 28:1. Herod lived by a now, material, earthly philosophy – for me, by me, to me, and now. Herod’s leaven was little different from that of the Pharisees. Self and hypocrisy took center stage

Come to Me should have been music in the ears (and hearts) of the people. Believing – saving and sanctifying faith – is a most wonderful thing. It is a gift. It ushers in a true conviction of self as a sinner, sin as rebellion against God, and the beauty and majesty of God in Christ via the Holy Spirit. The work of the Triune God ushers in salvation and continues the believer along the path of growth in Christ. Christ intended those truths to be a blessing then and now.

 

Application:

 

  1. What is your leaven?
  2. What is your response to it?
  3. Compare 1 Peter 5:5-7 with Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30: what are the similarities?

 

 

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part IX

Conclusion

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light

 

In this proportion we read that Jesus issues an invitation. The invitation is for people to come to and unite with Him. He offers Himself and their burden. Their burden was themselves and self-righteousness. Jesus knew His people. By design, He was speaking primarily to Jews. He knew that they had been exposed to a false gospel. They were being taught that salvation and sanctification was for self-righteous people which were the proud, few, and hard-working people.

The spiritual leaders thought they knew the consequence of falling short of God’s law – the exile. So in order to “improve” their chances of keeping His law and avoiding another exile, they introduced hedges or fences that assured themselves that they could keep the law. However, the law was not God’s law. It had been manipulated by men so that I real sense it was “keep-able.” The spiritual leaders and people were not concerned about God and His law but about self and their law. They exchanged the truth of God, His lawmaking and lawkeeping, for a lie – their lawmaking and lawkeeping (Rom. 1:18-23). They hoped against hope to prevent the consequences of failing to keep the law. But the law was not God’s law. They became a law unto themselves: they set the law, determined obedience or disobedience, and determined their reward. They lived based on externals. They did not need a spiritual savior or messiah. They had themselves. They only needed physical relief.

The Jews of Jesus’ day were following the footsteps of their forefathers. This external way of life was not new to the Jews/Pharisees. Israel had a long history of idolatrous activities and killing the prophets. The prophets had warned against religious externality (Isa. 1:11-15; 44:3; Jer. 6:19-20; 7:20-23; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:7; Hosea 6:6; 1 S 15:22-23; Ps 50:6-14).  Now Jesus, the ultimate Prophet came to His own and offered a new way of life through Him. Jesus ushered in a new creation and believers were to be new creatures. Jesus understood what the people refused to understand and acknowledge. They were heavy burdened. They had no rest. The daily grind of personal lawkeeping was (and is) tantamount to a boulder around one’s neck. It takes an increasing amount of energy to keep going. There does not seem to be light at the end of the personal lawkeeping tunnel.

Jesus speaks to the people as the beacon of hope, the living water, and the light of the world. He simply says come and offers contrasts in Matthew 11:28-30 to help motivate the people to come and enjoy. Jesus contrasts Himself and His teaching with the Pharisees and their teaching. Jesus was not simply offering the gospel. His call was a call was to a new way of life and a new existence. He called the people to change their whole approach to God and themselves. That was the only way that the people would rest – on the earth and ultimately in heaven. Getting saved and living as one saved were included in Jesus’ call. Salvation and sanctification both involve a right view of lawmaking and lawkeeping and a right view of God, self, and grace.

 

Application:

  1. Do you hear the call? Do you heed the call? Give reasons.
  2. What does heeding the call look like in your life?
  3. How does 1 John 5:3 fit into your answer?
  4. How does Psalm 34:8 fit into your answer?

Part I-III: The Science of Division and Separation: One-ism or Two-ism, Unity or Diversity, Trans-whatever

Part I: The Science of Division and Separation: One-ism or Two-ism, Unity or Diversity, Trans-whatever

 

The title is intended to attract your attention. The American culture is in the throes of change of gigantic proportions. However, the change is not new. In fact, it has its roots in the angelic world prior to creation of man and in the Garden after the fall. Yes, there is a real Adam and Eve! For whatever reason, Adam chose to decide for himself, his wife, and his posterity, how he, and they should live. The fundamental choice of human existence is worshipping and pleasing the creature (self and others) or the Creator. Mankind can’t have it both ways. Throughout the ages man continues with those two mutually exclusive choices.

The American culture looks very much like Ephesus and Rome of biblical times. Those cultures were dominated by the mantra: for me, to me, and by me. Feelings and subjectivity ruled. Self-realization and self-actualization – me first, second, and third was at the expense of others. There was no appeal to the God of the universe. The me-first mindset will continue until Christ’s return. The Christian Church and individual Christians have bought into the movement and the influence of Eastern mysticism and spirituality, psychology, and Greek philosophy. As a result, the culture and the people are naturalized, Eastern-ized, psychologized, and spiritualized as opposed to being supernatural-ized and energized by the inward work of the Holy Spirit. There has been a return to the New Age thinking of Gnosticism – which is really old age! There is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9).

Dr. Peter Jones uses the terms One-ism and Two-ism when he speaks of the attack on the Creator-creature distinction. Fundamentally, the issue is truth vs. falsehood and light vs. darkness (Rom. 1:18-23). Some speak of this phenomenon as culture wars. Psalm 2 labels it rebellion against Yahweh and His Anointed. As in so-called marriage problems, marriage and culture are not the problem, people are.

Cultural One-ism is in contrast to biblical One-ism – God is God, Creator and Controller God, and the creature is not. It is in conflict with a biblical worldview and is at odds with true spirituality as defined by the Bible. Cultural One-ism focuses on a self-created reality which divinized nature; mankind worships himself as he worships the creation. This One-ism is based on the impersonal and sameness of everything and everybody. It disallows distinctions and separation. Consequently, it denies the transcendent and the holy in part defined as self-apartness, otherness and distinctiveness. It denies and works aggressively against biblical One-ism and biblical Two-ism. It works against the biblical notion that everything and everyone has its rightful and distinctive place. It denies biblical One-ism. It denies the essence of God as the holy, other God. It denies the twin pillars of the Trinity which are unity and diversity. Consequently, it denies all Intratrinitarian activity such as creation, re-creation and redemption, and heard and answered prayer.

Dr. Jones equates Two-ism and biblical spirituality. He defines this biblical worldview as the biblical insistence on the truth of distinctions – good and evil, true and false, male and female, God and creation. Man, the creature, is not the Creator God and God is distinct from His creation. In Two-ism, holiness is normative for God. Remember, holiness refers to otherness, separateness, distinctiveness, and worthy of all honor and glory. God is Lord of lords and King of kings whether acknowledged or not. God is worthy to be worshipped for who He is.  Worship of any other object or being is idolatry.

According to Scripture, Two-ism is God’s revelation of Himself and is one key to the cosmos. This latter point is of extreme importance today as culture is caught up with its self and pushes and demands oneness and consequently, human autonomy as was demonstrated in the Garden. Each individual becomes their own supreme being. It is interesting how culture has linked oneness and autonomy. Autonomy refers to self-expression and rule. The concept and actions that flow from it compete with the Triune God.  By popular demand the one consumes mankind and has decided for me, by me, and to me. The one is me. The one has thrown a web around the many so that the one and the many are one. Sameness is key but to what? Without distinctions there will be no progress in any area of society. The program of all chiefs and no Indians sounds communistic and socialistic. It is anti-God. Someone has to be different but this fact is denied. Yet the one who is setting the rules is different as he functions as number 1. There should be no number 2’s. All are number 1’s.  Others follow. The definition of cultural one-ism is used to justify all that is non-biblical. It calls right wrong and wrong right which is an abomination to the Lord. (Isa. 5:20).

 

 

Application:

  1. What does the phrase: “All is one” signify to you?
  2. If all is one then all is God or part of him. If true there is no hierarchy. What significance would that have for creation and control of the universe?
  3. If all is one, where does authority, ethics, morality, and worship fit and why?

 

Part II: The Science of Division: One or Two, Unity or Diversity, Trans-whatever

 

Our discussion must begin with the Bible. The Bible is God’s self-revelation, the only standard of truth. Otherwise a person starts with self and ends with self. God Himself is three-in one and therein is unity and diversity. There is order within diversity. At creation, God demonstrated His way of operating in His world. From the beginning God is the God of order. He has been and will continue to be the Separator and Order-er. The book of Genesis opens by recording God’s eternal existence and His creative activity. The Triune God created chaos and from chaos came the cosmos (Gen. 1:1-2: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and void and the Spirit of the Lord was hovering over the water.). God brings order to His world His way for His glory. Later in Genesis 1, Moses uses the refrain that Yahweh commanded separation: 1:4 (light from darkness); 1:6-7 (the waters); and 1:14, 18 (the lights). Genesis 1 closes with the concise statement: God saw all that he had made and it was very good ...(Gen 1:31).

Genesis 2 teaches that God created the animals and He created Adam and Eve, the crown of His creative activity. He created specifically male and female. Gender was not neutral or an afterthought. It was ordained by God. In the creation account of Genesis 1-2 we learn the non-negotiable truth that God is Creator and Controller and He is a God of separation and distinctions for His purpose and glory.

Turning to the rest of the Pentateuch, we learn more about the science of division. As Moses taught in the book of Leviticus it was a matter of life and death – it still is. The overarching theme of the Pentateuch is Yahweh opening a way for sinful humanity to dwell in His Presence. One of the themes of the book of Exodus is intimate knowledge of Yahweh which highlights the separation-distinction motif. Knowledge of Yahweh would lead to fear of the Lord and life is His Presence. Hope, comfort, and joy would follow.  Yahweh used a variety of means to reveal Himself so that both Pharaoh and Israel would know that I am Yahweh (Exodus 6:7-8; 14:4, 18; 16:6, 12). God’s revelation of Himself had a purpose: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is living, trustworthy, and makes and keeps His promises. Therefore He saved His people at the expense of the Egyptians.  The so-called plagues (actually signs and wonders used by Yahweh to reveal Himself), fit the separation-distinction motif described in Genesis. God separated Israel from the Egyptians and vice versa (see Exodus 7-12 and 8:23; 9:4-6, 26; 10:23; 11:7; 12:13, 25, 27). The Egyptians received the power and wrath of God but Israel was saved. The ultimate sign and revelation of God and His separating activity was the Passover (Exodus 12-13). The blood on the doorpost was God’s sign to spare the Israelites and kill the firstborn of Egypt. Distinction was the key – it was a matter of life and death.

The book of Leviticus further delineates the science of division. The book focuses on how God opened a way into His presence. Mankind’s descent began when God judged Adam and Eve and exiled them from the Garden and His presence. Prior to their expulsion, God promised hope through salvation (Gen. 3:15). Adam was faced with an ultimate question: how could man, unholy and sinful, be allowed into the presence of a holy God? One constant refrain in the book of Leviticus stands out: be holy as I am holy (Lev. 11: 44-45).  Another message of the book of Leviticus is atonement. In the ritual, sacrificial system, the principle of separation and distinction was manifested with the daily choice of a male animal without defect. Gender mattered. Entering into a holy God’s presence, which was signified as a consuming fire, could be deadly unless it was done God’s way, at God’s time, and in God’s house. Ask Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-3). Several passages later Yahweh tells Aaron, the high priest, that he (and the people) must distinguish clean from unclean (Lev.10:10-11). The clean/unclean system (found in Leviticus 11-15, 17-27) was a means of alerting the Israelites, singularly and corporately, to the fact that all day, every day, in whatever they did, they must consciously choose God and His way. Separation and distinction was a daily, constant refrain of the Israelite. In the New Testament, Matthew 25:31-46 affirms the divine right and privilege of separation and distinction: at the last judgment God will separate the sheep and the goats.

When the creature assumes the position of Creator, he advocates gender neutrality and non-biblical One-ism.  As a consequence, he separates himself from God which is deadly activity because the creature dishonors God. Such it is today. There is nothing new under the sun. Our culture has returned to chaos: darkness and deadness. Culture today has returned to the pre-creation, anti-creational state of chaos described in Genesis 1:1-2 and as typified by Pharaoh’s anti-life measures against Israel. God’s eternal design is to use sinful man and his activity to rectify the situation. Throughout the ages, arrogant and ignorant man attempts to blur all distinctions (Cultural One-ism). In contrast, God separates for order, for structure, and for purpose (Two-ism) – fellowship and intimacy with Him. As the priests in Leviticus were commanded, all believers must learn the science of division as a matter of life and death. The priests were to distinguish between sacred and common, clean and unclean, and Creator-creature. If you attempt to destroy division eventually you will fail. God won’t allow His world to remain in pre-creation darkness and death. Ask Pharaoh.

 

Application:

  1. Where are you on the issue of separation-distinction?
  2. Are you a One-ist so that the god you know is in everything and has nothing to say about your thoughts, desires, and actions?
  3. If are a Two-ist, what is your science of division? Are you wise and in the light – God’s light and truth – as you apply Prov. 3:5-8; 5:21-22, and 26:11 regularly? It is a matter of life and death.

 

 

Part III: The Science of Division: One or Two, Unity or Diversity, Trans-whatever

 

Nothing is new under the sun – vanity of vanities, all is vanity (Eccl. 1:2, 9; 12:8). These words appear in the book of Ecclesiastes, an answer book for a universe that seems to be oblivious to its Creator and Controller. The book is part of the wisdom literature of the Old Testament and in part, addresses how man should conduct himself in God’s world. The author, probably Solomon, gets to the heart of the matter which is the heart: See, this alone I found that God made man upright but they sought out many schemes (Eccl. 7:29). Since the fall in the Garden and God’s judgment, every person seeks to please himself using God and others to get for self. Truly there is nothing new under the sun. Man continues to attempt to thwart God’s plan and purpose. That, too, is vanity.

Such it is today with our culture which has failed to acknowledge God’s teaching regarding unity and diversity, separation and distinction, and One-ism and Two-ism.  In the last blog I gave evidence to convince you that God is the Separator. He is a God of distinctions. His creation models that principle and His creatures are to follow suit. By divine, inherent necessity, He is the three-in-one God. Israel experienced God’s holiness and dwelling in His presence as a purified and consecrated people through the sacrificial system. When you read the Pentateuch, especially the book of Leviticus, you can’t fail to miss the constant refrain: be holy as I am (11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; 21:8, 15; 22:9, 16, 32). The sacrificial system was put in place so that the Israelites could enter God’s presence symbolically and enjoy fellowship with Him. Proper separation, distinguishing clean and unclean, was God’s way to enter into His presence and glory. For the Israelites it was a matter of life and death (Lev. 9:6, 22-24; 10:1-3; 16:1ff). The book of Hebrews shows us that the Old Testament sacrificial system pointed to Christ, the true Passover Lamb (Heb. 6:13-20; 10:19-22; John 1:29, 36; 1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

Separation is only one side of the coin (or equation). God is One, a three-in-one unity. The Trinity, tri-unity, helps you, me, and the Church properly understand and apply God’s call for unity or oneness in His Church and mankind. Make no mistake: there is no division in terms of standing before God. For the believer, this truth is part of the great doctrine of adoption. Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, a legal transaction, in which believers are brought into God’s family and receive all the privileges and rights of the children of God. In Ephesians 4, Paul writes that there is one body and one spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all… (v.4-6). Oneness and unity is emphasized. Paul is referring to the Church, the body of believers (se 2:11-15). In Ephesians 5:21, Paul calls all believers, male and female, young and old, officers and non-officers, to submit to one another. Paul is emphasizing unity and oneness AND functionality within that oneness. Please notice that distinctions were not removed. Rather, Paul is teaching a Trinitarian principle: oneness does not extinguish diversity. It is oneness and diversity that helps Christians understand marriage (man and woman) and Christ’s relationship to the Church – His bride (Eph. 5:25-32).

Two other passages are worth noting: Romans 2:28-29 and Galatians 3:27-29. These passages teach that there are no second-class citizens in God’s Church. The passages refer to functionality within the body and must be understood in their context. Gentiles were considered inherently unworthy of salvation. Rather, the Gentile was to become a Jew by law-keeping and ritualism. Israelites were led to believe that the Gentile was on the wrong side of the tracks for God’s saving grace. Paul’s emphatic “it isn’t so” was a joy for the Gentile and a bitter pill for the Israelite. Division was the result of ignorance and arrogance: a “me-first,” and an “I am better” mentality that was a poor reflection on the Trinity and undermined the unity of the Trinity and the Church. Paul said no way.

How do we bring together a proper understanding of unity and diversity? The Bible teaches an often-quoted but easily-ignored truth: what God has brought together (marriage which is a covenant commitment between one man and one woman), let no one separate (Matt. 19:6; Mark 10:9). In like manner, the Bible teaches: what God has separated let no one join together. Males are males and females are females and no amount of hormone manipulation or “corrective” surgery can change God’s original design. The Church must get it right. If the Church and individuals continue to attempt to undo God’s creational design of unity and diversity, they are sinning against the first three commandments. God will not share His glory with another (Isa. 42:8; 48:8-11).  There will be hell to pay.

 

Application:

  1. What is your view of separation and distinction? How does your theology fit with God’s perspective as discussed in the last two blogs?
  2. What rights and privileges do you and the Church have before God?
  3. How does your answer fit with the call to become like Christ in 2 Cor. 5:9 and Rom. 8:28-29?

 

 

1 Corinthians 10:13: Part A-C: Does God give the Believer More Than He Can Handle?

1 Corinthians 10:13: Part A: Does God give the Believer More Than He Can Handle?

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.  (NIV)

The title is intended to pique your interest. Some have written that God does not give you more than you can handle and others have said that he does. How do we resolve this seeming dilemma? The statement: God does not give a believer more than he can handle, addresses two players. Do you see them?  One is God and the other is the believer. The phrase makes a statement about God and about the believer. The statement is a reiteration of the non-negotiable truth that God is good, purposeful, and powerful. In a nutshell he is in control with a purpose – for his glory and the good of the believer. Because God is sovereign he is trustworthy. He is the Promise-maker and Promise-keeper extraordinaire. From God’s perspective he will never exceed your spiritual IQ. Too often the believer may feel God has. That is part of the believer’s problem because a person’s thinking and wanting are linked to feelings. In reality, the Triune God has provided more than enough in His indwelling Holy Spirit and the believer’s union with Christ so that the believer never has to be “under the circumstances.” Rather the believer adopts and acts based on God’s perspective. Paul expressed this truth in our passage (1 Cor. 10:13), and such passages as Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 5:7, 9, and 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. God always provides a way of escape in every situation (1 Cor. 10:13). The way of escape is not necessarily out of the situation but often, it is remaining in the situation but God’s way. That way is thinking, wanting, and acting according to biblical truth as the believer uses the situation to become more like Christ.

How is it that God will never exceed a believer’s spiritual IQ? God had an original design. It was for his children to be in his presence eternally. In order for that to occur, the believer is to grow in Christlikeness. Christ is the only one in whom God was well-pleased. Growth in Christlikeness honors the Godhead and it is best for the believer. However, the truth be known, too often, relief and happiness is the believer’s main focus rather than growth in holiness.

God possesses personal and intimate knowledge of himself, his creation, his creatures, and his children. He knows what the believer needs in order for the believer to fulfill the eternal design of the Godhead. From eternity past, God chose people for himself to be holy and blameless – like Christ (John 6:37-43; Eph. 1:4). In a nutshell God’s choice means that believers are chosen in Christ though the Holy Spirit in order for them to become more like Christ. The believer is the most changed person and he is to be the most changing person. What God has done in eternity will not be thwarted in time and space by God or the believer. Rather he has ordained all that comes to pass for his glory and the good of his people (Job 42:8; Isaiah 41:10-14; 43:13; 46:10). Therefore, God will not burden his people with “something that they can’t handle.” God’s providential control is geared toward manifesting his glory and achieving the believer’s good.  But what does that mean in the everyday existence of the believer? In answering that question, it would be wise to consider if God gave Christ more than he could handle. Obviously the answer is no. The basis for no is the Intratrinitarian relationship.

The other player is the believer. The question, does God give the believer more than he can handle, moves to the heart of the matter, the heart, or the motivation center of every person. The question forces the believer to ask himself from whose perspective he should consider. The question not only addresses God, his providence, control, and provisions and resources but also the believer’s view of God, self, and God’s providence and control. The question focuses on an issue of theological importance: is there any event in the believer’s life that is too much for him to handle? Before you answer the question, please define handle. What does the term mean? Biblically, to handle something means to use the situation (event) as God intended – to become more like Christ in thought, desire, and action. Handle refers to fruit bearing, becoming like Christ in the situation. Handle is a short, six-letter word but it carries quite a theological punch, even a wallop. It focuses on God and the believer in the midst of troubling times.

God is in the business of growing his people. He expresses his desire and expectation by a vine illustration which goes back to the Old Testament. The house of Israel and the men of Judah were Yahweh’s vineyard and garden of delight (Isa. 3:14; 5:1-7; Jer. 2:21; Ps. 80:8-16). In the vineyard was the vine – Israel. Israel was to bear fruit but she did not. John 15 picks up this theme. Jesus is the true Israel, the true vine. Jesus was what Israel was not. He was the restored Son Israel and the true Vine who bore good fruit (John 15). God expects and equips his people to bear fruit. John wrote that love of God meant commandment-keeping (obedience) and that God’s commands are not irksome or burdensome (1 John 5:3). As it was for Christ, obedience is always to be associated with trust. Trust and obedience equate with love and love results in trust and obedience. The three are linked and in fact inseparable (John 14:15, 21, 23). So should it be for the believer. However, too often the believer considers the events of life (actually God’s providence) apart from what he is in Christ indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Such is the underlying dynamic in such states as depression, anxiety, and fear. The believer feels as if he is on his own, alone and without resources and without God. In contrast, Jesus knew who he was (his identity), his origin (from heaven), and his destiny (to heaven). He had a good handle (no pun intended!) on the big picture. Consequently, Jesus was able to put God’s providence – the events in his life – in proper perspective. He used God’s providence for his own growth as he grew as the Messiah (Luke 2:40-52; Heb. 5:8). He was the true fruit-bearer. Therefore he is the true Vine. So, too, is the believer to bear fruit by staying connected to the true Vine. The believer can always use the events in his life the way God intended.

With that introduction we will take a closer at Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and in particular chapter 10.

 

Application:

  1. Define handle.
  2. What does the word refer?
  3. How do you answer the question: does God give the believer more than he can handle?
  4. What is the basis for your answer?

 

1 Corinthians 10:13: Part B: Does Give the Believer More Than He Can Handle?

A brief look at some features of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians will help us correctly understand the Holy Spirit’s message through Paul to the Corinthians and to all believers throughout the ages. Paul ministered to the gifted but sin-laden, strife-filled, side-choosing Corinthian Church with the full force of biblical truth. The motif Paul chose was one of contrast. He contrasted the theology of the cross with that of the wisdom of the world. This letter is one of application in the context of a contrast: the wisdom of the world vs. God’s wisdom as portrayed in the wisdom of the cross (summarized in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31).

Paul had ministered in Corinth for some 18 months. He had one major purpose in writing. He addressed the people in order to resolve a number of serious problems that resulted from self-serving, self-grasping, and self-exalting individualism. Many were controlled by I want and I deserve (James 4:1-3). Many, perhaps most, of the Corinthian people were convinced of their spiritual vitality. They were proud people. This resulted in factionalism, division, and strife. Sinning sufferers and suffering sinners abounded.

There was no growth in Christlikeness but growth in self-pleasing. God’s honor was at stake and the good of the people was being threatened. Left to themselves, the people were following in the footsteps of their forefathers. The activity of growth in Christ – progressive sanctification – was being stilted. In the context of the letter Paul wrote in chapter 10, verse 13:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.  (NIV)

This passage has been a blessing to Christians over the years. It was intended to be a blessing to the Corinthians as well. Many have commented on the passage and written on the subject of hope. A logical question arises: why is this passage in its context such a hope-engendering passage?  Hopefully (no pun intended!) all would agree that the passage is hope-engendering. We must remember that biblical hope is the only true hope. A succinct definition of hope is found in Romans 8:24-25. Biblical hope is the confident expectation that God says what he means and brings to pass all things for his glory and the good of his people. God makes promises and keeps them. God is trustworthy. He is to be trusted. At regeneration and by the indwelling Holy Spirit, God has made believers his children and fellow heirs with Christ. They were rescued from Satan’s family and kingdom AND themselves. He gave them a new label, a new identity. In principle, they are a God- trusting people. Failure to trust God is a control issue. Everyone is a truster from birth. The issue is the object of that trust. The person trusts God or  something else, most likely himself.

Hope is similar to faith (Heb. 11:6). Each is characterized by someone who believes, trusts, and hopes. Each has content. Each has an object. Every person is a truster and a hope-er. The key is the object and content of the trust and hope. In every situation the person expresses his faith and trust and his hope. He will prove himself faithful and hopeful to God or to self.

How should we understand our passage? We begin with the context. Paul ministered to a patterned, proud people. They experienced hard times which are actually God’s providence. They had been sinned against and they had sinned against one another. Strife was rampant in the congregation. Sinners and sinning was the environment of the day as manifested by the presence of sinning sufferers and suffering sinners.

Paul opened chapter 10 by calling on the Corinthians to remember relationships, past and present (v.1-5). He did not want any one ignorant (v.1). Ignorant of what, you might ask. In verses 2-5, Paul reminded the Corinthians of God’s supernatural activity in closing down one relationship (Israel’s to Egypt) and opening another one (Israel’s to Moses and Moses’ to Israel). Yet, Paul goes on to tell the people that the Israelites did not get it. In a like manner the congregation in Corinth was not getting it. Self-pleasing was rampant. People were hurting. They did not like their circumstances (God’s providence), they did not like each other, and they did not like God.  Actually they were living the lie. God was faithful but they were not. Paul called on the congregation to look to the faithfulness of God in their situation and actually do a spiritual inventory (Heb. 4:12; 2 Cor. 13:5). Paul was interested in a growing, God-honoring congregation. He called on the people to look to God. He made the same appeal as he opened the letter (1 Cor. 1:11-17).

 

Application:

  1. Using Romans 8:24-25, define hope. Compare it to the Spirit’s definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:6. What do you learn?
  2. What were the Corinthians to handle? How were they to do it?
  3. What was preventing them from handling God’s providence including being sinned against as well as their own sin?
  4. Where was their theology incorrect and what did it lead to?

 

1 Corinthians 10:13: Part C: Does Give the Believer More Than He Can Handle?

Verse 13 highlights the unfaithfulness of the Corinthians and the Israelites and highlights God’s trustworthiness. It has been said that the passage applies mainly to those sinning and not necessarily to those who are suffering. I find that an interesting dichotomy. The Bible pictures people as sinners and sufferers. Even the non-sinning Christ experienced much turmoil and hard times during his lifetime. All people live in God’s world and are subject to God’s providence. God is faithful no matter the event or situation and no matter the role of the individual in the event. It is people who prove unfaithful. In fact God’s providence is the context in which he displays his love, mercy, and trustworthiness. Those words seem so strange and counter-intuitive when God’s providence includes a tsunami of unpleasantness and hard times. From the believer’s prospective the mountain can seem so high, the hole so deep, and the tunnel so long. The believer sees with physical eyes and he doesn’t see God or God’s provisions. He considers himself resource-less. The believer is in danger of living the lie. The real question is not God’s faithfulness – his power, goodness, and purpose – but the believer’s trusting and trustfulness.

God’s providence may include events not of the person’s own choice. I see patients with various rheumatic conditions that came about in God’s providence without any contribution by the person. God’s providence also includes the believer being sinned against. However, he may have sinned against the other person initially or in response. Such was the case in the Corinthian church. Sinners and sufferers abounded.

No matter. The question remains: does God overextend his people? Does he go beyond the person’s spiritual IQ and capacity? Sometimes a person may find himself in a situation and attribute it to “life” rather God’s providence and say that I can’t. Is that a valid response? When the person cries out that the mountain is too high, the hole too deep, and the tunnel too long, from whose perspective is the person speaking? The passage makes clear that God is faithful. Amen! A person may doubt God’s faithfulness but he should draw strength from the truth about God and himself. The passage tells us that there are things God will not allow (see the Lord’s Prayer). He will not let any believer be tempted beyond his capacity. Paul’s spoke of the capacity to honor God by pleasing him rather than self. The believer is never without the resources that would force him to say he can’t respond to the situation in a God-honoring manner. God-honoring thoughts, desires, and actions are possible and expected by God no matter his providence. This is heavy theology. Therefore, if a believer does sin and functions as if he is “under the circumstances” it is because he failed to acknowledge his identity in Christ and failed to utilize God’s provisions: his relationship with Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and saving and enabling grace to motivate him to grow and change in the situation. Wow! Again this is heavy theology. I hear it often: I am not Paul and I am not Christ. Both are true statements but they have no significance when it comes to the believer growing and changing. God in his providence may keep his people in their particular situation. Such is our God. Some of these situations are not pretty and in fact are unpleasant, burdensome, and even horrifying.

Let’s move to verse 14 of chapter 10. It is rather simple and direct: flee from idolatry. Some relate the passage to what has gone ahead. If we limit idolatry to the worship of physical objects I think we have made a mistake. Verse 14 is similar to the ending of 1 John (5:21). John and Paul give the same message. Idolatry must be seen as self-worship. People are idolaters from birth as unbelievers. Idolatry is manifested as self-worship in both believers and unbelievers. Such is the temptation when any believer is faced with unpleasant situations. John Murray called these God’s frowning providences.  In them and in response, the believer will choose between pleasing and honoring God and pleasing and honoring himself. Even Jesus was tempted to place self over his Father by pleasing himself rather honoring and pleasing his Father (Heb. 4:15).

God’s grace is needed in order to respond in a God-honoring way in every act of God’s providence. We need to guard against the idea that there are small and large providences and therefore, a person only needs grace when he determines his resources are non-existent or he is overextended. Paul gives a commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:13-14 in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Paul knew God’s providence was behind his physical malady. Paul had no doubt that God was in control and the Deliverer. Paul prayed for the removal of his malady. God said no and God gave his reason. Simply, Paul was to depend on God and not self. Paul was encouraged not to be an idolater. In response to God’s explanation, Paul produced good fruit. He cried out to the trustworthy God that he had described in 1 Corinthians. It is interesting that he did not pray for grace! He prayed for more frowning providences! He wanted what God wanted for him rather than relief. Paul wanted what every believer should want. Paul followed Jesus’ example. Both knew God’s game plan (Paul imperfectly) and both wanted to be part of it. Wow and amen! The believer is to imitate both Christ and Paul in every act of God’s providence. God does not and will not forsake his children.

 

Application:

  1. Describe your view of God especially his trustworthiness. How does the hymn, It is well with My Soul, fit your view?
  2. When you “feel” overwhelmed record your thoughts and desires about God, self, others, and God’s providence.
  3. What changes do you need to make in order to be a godly truster and hoper?