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THE EMPTY HOUSE

MATT.12:38-45

white and brown painted house
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Approximately one-third of Our Lord’s teaching, as recorded by the Gospels, was in the form of parables, and the reason is seen in His response to His disciples: “The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them”. <Matt.13:10-11 (NIV)>

In this reply we see that our Lord intended to reveal truth to some of His audience, while at the same time, hiding this truth from others. He wanted to instruct the Jews by the truth concerning Himself without adding responsibility of that truth to the Gentiles. John the Baptist appeared on the scene to introduce the Messiah, calling on the people to repent and prepare themselves for Messiah’s coming. Christ then publicly “offered Himself” as the Messiah <Matt.4:17>, and authenticated His offer by the miracles that He performed, recorded in Matt.8-11, during which time He told only a few parables. A notable change in our Lord’s ministry begins in Matthew 12, where, because of His miraculous healing of the man with the “shrivelled hand”, and the healing of the demon-possessed man, introducing the phase in His ministry where the people were ready to accept Christ as the Messiah; “All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” <Matt.12:23 (NIV)>.

The religious leaders, however, had no intention of accepting Christ as Messiah, the Pharisees “plotted how they might kill Jesus” <Matt.12:14 (NIV)>. Further to this they accused Christ of being Beelzebub (Satan) when He healed the demon-possessed, blind and mute man, leading to the request for a sign of authenticity, for which Christ ignored their request. His purpose was to show that a spiritual relationship of faith was needed, and not a physical or “blood” relationship <Matt.12:49-50>, and all this led to a change in His teaching, with more emphasis on parables, and to the ultimate rejection of Christ resulting in His death upon the cross.

The Parable of the “Empty House” is recorded in Matthew 12: 38 – 45 where “some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.” <Matt.12:38 (NIV)> “SIGN”: the word is most frequently used in the Scriptures to denote a token of coming events or a miracle to confirm faith. It is often an object or event that reveals God’s purpose; such as the rainbow <Gen.9>. God requested that His people perform certain practices as “signs” of their covenant with Him; such as circumcision <Gen.17>; the keeping of the Sabbath <Ex.31>; blood on the door posts <Ex.12>.

God asked of Moses: “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?” <Num.14:11 (NIV)>. Even though king Ahaz of Judah was told to “ask the Lord for a sign” that God would deliver His people from their fierce enemy, Ahaz refused to ask but God gave the sign, which Ahaz did not live to see; <see Isa.7:14 (NIV)>.

“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” <Heb.1:1-2 (NIV)>. Our Lord Jesus performed numerous signs that revealed His identity as the Messiah, but most of the people refused to recognize Him as the Messiah. On one occasion He had to comment: “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders……you will never believe.” <Jn.4:48 (NIV)>. Signs were a familiar way of God confirming the authenticity of a message or messenger to Israel <Deut.18:14-22>, and began at the very outset of their history. God sent Moses to deliver them from their Egyptian slavery and confirmed this by signs <Ex.4:1 – 9:30>. God changed his Rod into a snake and then back to a staff. God made his hand leprous, and made it whole again. God turned the water of the river Nile into blood as Moses poured it upon the ground. “This,” said the LORD, “is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers– the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob– has appeared to you, and Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, and they believed.” <Ex.4:5, 30-31 (NIV)>

Now, approaching the time when God is about to “put the nation aside” because of their unbelief, they still ask for signs and still doubt God’s message and messenger. So here we see our Lord says that no further sign will be given except the sign of the prophet Jonah. Christ had proved His authority over nature; His authority over sickness and disease; His authority over Satan by casting out demons; His authority over death; and His authority to forgive sins. Therefore, no other evidence was necessary.

THE PARABLE <Matt.12:38-45>

Our Lord speaks of a demon-possessed man from whom the evil spirit that possessed him had departed. While possessed of the demon, the man is considered unclean and unfit to live in the community, and when the demon decides to leave the man he can then return to the community and enjoy fellowship with family and friends. The demon suspecting that the man may have already been possessed by other demons, must now find another place of abode, but is unable to find such, or any other company to live with. Upon returning to his old house, the demon finds it cleaned, put in order, and unoccupied; and then goes and finds seven other demons “more wicked than itself”, and returns to take up residence; and the man’s condition is now worse than at first. Our Lord implies that such was the condition of that generation of the Jewish nation.

THE APPLICATION (THEN)

John the Baptist had called the nation to repentance, and confessing their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River <Mark 1:4-5>. This profession of cleansing was represented by the departure of the demon in the parable, but their profession of cleansing however, was only temporary since they came under the influence of the unbelief of their leaders. Because the nation did not turn in faith to Christ as Messiah, their profession of cleansing was not “made permanent” so the people were not delivered from their uncleanness (a profession of the mind and not the heart). Now the condition of the nation that had desired to experience cleansing was in a worse state than before their profession of cleansing, for they were now permanently separated from God.

 THE APPLICATION (TODAY)

Do not seek or expect any other sign but that of Christ Himself: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.” <Heb.1:1-2 (NIV)>. The preaching of the gospel calls sinners to repentance; and by believing in Christ and confession of sins, believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (spiritual baptism); <see Eph.1:13 (NIV)>. God delivers the sinner from Satan – the spiritual enemy – the “possessing demon”, and every effort must now be made to combine belief with a daily exercise of faith, <Heb.4:2> so as to enter and enjoy the “rest of God” <Heb.4:2, 11>. Combining belief with faith is accomplished by a continual “cleansing of the house” through the Word of God <Heb.4:12-13> since unbelief never goes undetected by God and nothing is hidden from the eyes and knowledge of God.

What is the condition of your house? Is it swept clean and empty? Or do you allow Christ to occupy it day by day by joyfully doing the will of our Lord? <John 14:23-24>. In the same way as the contents of a house is added to, and the many maintenance jobs are performed; there is the need to “add to our faith” <2 Pet.1:5-9>.

CONCLUSION

What is your relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ?

  • Have you repented of your sins and sought the forgiveness of God?
  • Is Jesus Christ Lord of your life?
  • Is Jesus Christ living in your house?
  • Or is your house just clean and empty?

“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.   But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” <Heb.3:12-13 (NIV)>

Unbelief is being indisposed to believe; being skeptical. This is the attitude of doubting God and His word. We have thoughts such as: can God really do so? Is God really all that the Bible says that He is? Do I really have to be obedient to His commands? Being fully aware of what the Bible teaches, we completely ignore the teaching and do as we please. God is willing to give us all the direction we need, even signs if He wishes, if only we are obedient to His commands. Do not be like Ahaz! He was more interested in doing things his way rather than seeking to obey God’s commands.

When we ask for a sign, we pre-determine what our action will be – if the sign is what we expect there is no intention to act accordingly. By not believing that the sign is from God, leads to unbelief, or doubting; and a heart of “unbelief” can result in a “falling away” from the living God, and this is a constant menace! The unbelieving heart can cause us to use the words that Job quoted: “Yet they say to God, ‘Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. Who is the Almighty that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him?” <Job 21:14-15 (NIV)>

In Heb. 6: 4-6 two words are used to illustrate what it is to “fall away” from our belief in God: “Enlighten”– to have an intellectual understanding; a characteristic of belief in the power of reasoning; being able to reason intellectually and spiritually: and, “Taste”– to test the flavour; to eat or drink a small amount; to perceive or experience only to a slight degree. (from Webster’s Dictionary). We should be like Jeremiah the prophet in his appreciation of God’s Word: “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.” <Jer.15:16 (NIV)>

Our Lord concludes the parable by the words recorded in Matt. 12: 46-50, and considering what they imply: are you “standing outside” wanting to speak and relate to Him? Are you true and sincere “mothers sisters and brothers” seeking to do His will? Our “houses” should be characterized by, praise and adoration for our Lord and Saviour, by a sincere attitude to do His will! A willful “turning away” from God is the final state from which it is “impossible to be brought back to repentance”.

This is the warning of the parable! And the message to us today!

THE BIRTH OF A KING

As we enter another Christmas season let us contemplate what Christmas is all about; let us reflect on the fact that it speaks to us of God’s great gift to mankind. We were without hope <Eph.2:12> and unable to help ourselves because we were enemies of God. God saw that we were powerless in our attempt to escape the bondage of sin and did for us what we were unable to do; He gave His Son to free mankind from the slavery of sin <Rom.5:6-8>.

THE PROPHESY HIS BIRTH

Scroll“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” <Isa.9:6-7 (NIV)>

To us a Child of hope is born, To us a Son is given;

Him shall the tribes of earth obey, Him all the hosts of heaven.

 

His name shall be the Prince of Peace, For evermore adored,

The Wonderful, the Counsellor, The great and mighty Lord.

 

His power increasing still shall spread, His reign no end shall know;

Justice shall guard His throne above, And peace abound below.

                         [John Morison (1750-1798)]

THE PROCLAMATION OF HIS BIRTH

Birth of Jesus [Source-Google search]

 

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” <Lk.2:10-12 (NIV)>

 

THE INTENT OF HIS BIRTH

Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!” <Phil.2:5-8 (NIV)>

Cross [Source-Google search]

Christ came into this world for the express purpose of offering Himself “the eternal” sacrifice for sins; and through His death on the cross we can be saved from the penalty of sin that we have inherited.

 

HIS ETERNAL REIGN

“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns……The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever…. KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” <Rev.19:6; 11:15; 19:16 (NIV)>

Hallelujah; the intent of His birth has been achieved and salvation from sin has been accomplished, on a future day God will hand over the rule of government to His Son our Lord Jesus Christ; all the nations shall be brought under His righteous rule and He will reign for ever and evermore <Isa.9:7>. Then the redeemed ones, those that have accepted God’s gift, will stand around His Throne in glory and sing His praise forever.

“The strife is o’er the battle done,

The victory of life is won;

The song of triumph has begun – Hallelujah!

God's Throne [Source-Google search]

 

The powers of death have done their worst,

But Christ their legions hath dispersed;

Let shouts of holy joy outburst – Hallelujah!

 

Lord, by the stripes which wounded Thee,

From death’s dread sting Thy servants free,

That we may live, and sing to Thee – Hallelujah!

                 [Francis Pott; from the Presbyterian Book of Praise]

And He shall reign forever and ever, King of kings! and Lord of lords: And He shall reign forever and ever, King of kings! and Lord of lords! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”  [from Handel’s Messiah]

Contemplate the joy it will be to join all the redeemed ones around God’s Throne.

 

[Source for all images – Google search]

 

COURAGE AND CONVICTIONS [Dec. 01]

“Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.” <Dan.1:3-7 (NIV)>

Excellent young men were required to fill the positions being offered; as it is today, many career opportunities require a specific level of expertise and excellence. Showing aptitude for every kind of learning: if a worker wishes to advance in his/her career there must be continual learning and adaptation to function at the required level of competence; he/she must also be well informed in related information to their profession. As is always the situation, one must be quick to understand when and how to act in accordance to change; and above all individuals must be qualified to serve. Such were the requirements given by king Nebuchadnezzar to Ashpenaz his chief court official; the chosen individuals were to be trained for three years before entering the king’s service.

All young people today who are entering college or university for training in higher education for their chosen profession are faced with similar challenges, and sometimes have to make difficult decisions when faced with ideologies that conflict with what they have been taught by their parents. This is even more difficult for those that have come from a Christian family, for most ideologies that they will face are not based on Christian or Biblical foundations, and will be in great conflict to their beliefs. This was the situation for the four Israelites that were chosen to serve the king.

These four men originated from the royal family and the respectability of the kingdom of Judah, accustomed to the Jewish way of life, and were carried off in captivity and exile to Babylon. The Babylonians worshiped at least seven different gods, believed numerous myths, had multitudes of shrines, epic tales, and proverbs. Some forms of their worship closely resembled the Jewish customs but did not have the same meaning, and all were in conflict with Jewish teaching; and for these Jewish young men who were now exposed to the Babylonian way of life, customs and beliefs; major decisions had to be made.

The first difficulty facing them was the food that was served to them: “The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table.” <Dan.1:5 (NIV)> Here we see how the Devil works to test our faith in the One God of the universe, he begins by getting us to fall into his trap using the simple and necessary things in life, in this situation it is the food that was needed to survive. The kings food was first offered to the gods of Babylon; their meat was “ceremonially unclean” to the Jews because it most certainly came from animals that the Jews were ordered, by the Law of God, not to consume; or were slaughtered contrary to the regulations of God’s Law <cf Deut.14:3-21; Lev.11:47; 17:7; 12>; and there was very little that Daniel and his friends could do to identify whether or not this food was ceremonially clean. So, we see Daniel making a decision that demonstrated the courage of his convictions: “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine” <Dan.1:8 (NIV)>. Such a decision could have been interpreted as a rebellion against the king, but Daniel gave Ashpenaz an alternative: “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food” <Dan.1 :12-13 (NIV)>; and at the end of the ten days they were found to be healthier and better nourished than the others that ate of the king’s food. There was nothing that would indicate that their diet was any healthier than the other men, but we can conclude that God had honoured Daniel’s courage and faithfulness. Further help given by God materialized in their knowledge and understanding of all the Babylonian literature and culture <Dan.1:17>, so complete in their knowledge that the king “found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah” <Dan.1:9 (NIV)>, they were ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in the whole kingdom <Dan.1:20>.

This one incident set the course for Daniel and his three friends for the rest of their exile and lives. The Devil did not succeed in tempting them here, nor did he succeed later on when Daniel was called upon to fall down in worship the king rather than his God – The God of Heaven. The Devil will continue with this approach, always attempting to make us substitute our worship of God with something that resembles or imitates what our true worship of God should be, so we must be on our guard and test each suggestion by what is written in God’s Word <cf 1 Jn.4:1-3; 2 Jn.7-11>.

“Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” So the administrators and the satraps went as a group to the king and …. all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions’ den….Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” <Dan.6:5-10 (NIV)>

Here again we see Daniel’s courage and convictions coming to the forefront, he did what he knew was expected of him in his worship habits, he worshiped and prayed to his God – the God of Heaven. What would your beliefs cause you to do in such a situation?

It would appear that in today’s social order there are very few firm convictions; everyone just “goes with the flow”; and unfortunately, this attitude seems to trickle into the Church. Programs are adjusted so as to “attract” outsiders; we do not want to offend them by what is written in God’s Word so our doctrine and preaching is diluted with what is appealing to them. In an attempt to appeal to the intellect, we limit or disallow the Holy Spirit to do His work in the lives of unbelievers <cf Jn.16:7-11>.

IN CONCLUSION, the lesson to be learned here is that we should never let our convictions and beliefs in God be affected, controlled, or changed by ideologies that are foreign to what we are taught in scripture; we must stand by our beliefs at all times and cost.

In all professional life today, workplaces, universities, schools, politics and anywhere else that one can think of, ideologies and beliefs are acceptable and practiced, unless such beliefs are biblical based. Christians – true followers of Christ – are not allowed to live by their beliefs, and the Devil ensures this as he suppresses the senses of unbelievers to the gospel message and society silences the messengers. Is this real freedom of choice, as opposed to the freedom that is allowed for all other ideologies?

How should we as followers of Christ respond to this so-called freedom of choice and expression? Our voices of disapproval may never be heard, but we must be like Daniel and resolve that we will never be defiled by ungodly ideologies. This will no doubt be very difficult but we must be resolved to live by the principles of scripture, our beliefs and convictions; even when we may be silenced by those that block their ears to the warnings of the scriptures.

If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” < Isa.7:9b; cf Ex.14:13; 1 Cor.16:13; 2 Thess.2:15>. 

 

SALVATION [Nov.12]

Salvation is one of the “themes” of the Scriptures, and is expressed in some form in the many accounts and narratives recorded. In the Old Testament, the word salvation sometimes refers to deliverance from danger <Jer.15:20>, from an oppressor <Psa.35:9‑10>. It can also refer to national deliverance from military threat <Ex.14:13>, or release from captivity <Psa.14:7>. Man’s universal need for salvation is one of the clearest teachings of the Bible. Salvation can be described as: “the act of saving or protecting from harm, risk, loss etc:” “the state of being saved or protected……” “a source, cause or means of being saved or protected…” “deliverance from the power and penalty of sin; redemption…” (Webster’s Dictionary) these definitions are observed throughout the Scriptures, and there are other facts about salvation contained in the Scriptures as well.

REQUIREMENT: man’s need for salvation originated in his expulsion from the Garden of Eden, and since then life for mankind has been marked by strife and difficulty; increasingly, corruption and violence has dominated our world. God used the nation of Israel to illustrate the subject of salvation, and the central experience of Old Testament salvation is the Exodus from Egypt. The nation of Israel, although delivered from bondage, consistently disobeyed God’s commands and ended up in captivity once again. God promised a “new and better” Exodus <Jer.31:31‑34>, and Israel’s return from captivity failed to fulfill all these hopes. So, a new understanding arose: the full realization of God’s purpose of salvation would involve the coming of a completely new age <Isa.65:17‑25>; and this doctrine of salvation reached its fulfilment in the death of Christ on our behalf. Jesus’ mission was to save the world from sin and the wrath of God <Matt.1:21; John 12:47; Rom.5:9>. The salvation that comes through Christ may be described in three tenses: past, present and future.

IT WAS PROMISED: at the fall of mankind when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command the promise was made: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” <Gen.3:15 (NIV)>; and again, repeated to Abraham many years later <see Gen.12:2-3 (NIV) >

THE SOURCE/MEANS: (“a source, cause or means of being saved or protected”): the method was ordained by God in the birth, death and resurrection of His Son: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” <Matt.1:21 (NIV); see Jn.3:14, 16-17; Heb.2:14-15 >.

IT IS FOR ALL PEOPLE: although the promise was made to the Jewish nation it encompasses all people: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” <Rom.1:16 (NIV)>

IT WAS ACCOMPLISHED BY SHED BLOOD: (“the act of saving or protecting from harm, risk or loss”), the blood shed on the cross by our saviour The Lord Jesus Christ: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” <Rom.5:8-9 (NIV)>

THE WAY: all sinners must come to God in the same manner: “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” <Rom.10:9 (NIV)>; “[God]… made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions‑‑ it is by grace you have been saved. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith‑‑ and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” <Eph.2:5, 8 (NIV); see also 1 Thess.5:9; 2 Thess.2:13; Jn.3:3, 5>.

IT IS THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS: anyone that was put to death on a cross symbolized being under a curse, and Christ was made a curse as our substitute: “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.” <1 Cor.1:18 (NIV); see also Deut.21:23; Gal.3:13>

IT IS NOT TO BE DELAYED/DISMISSED: for some the message may only be heard once; “For he says…….I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” <2 Cor.6:2 (NIV); Eph.1:13>.

THE SOURCE: Jesus Christ is the ONLY source of salvation: “and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” <Heb.5:9 (NIV) >

THE ACCOMPLISHMENT: Christ’s sacrifice was “once and for all” and there will be no other way to be saved from sin’s penalty and God’s wrath: “so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” <Heb.9:28 (NIV); 1 Pet.1:5 >.

THE BIBLICAL TRUTH: Salvation is the work of God by which man is saved from the eternal doom of sin. In salvation, God gives to man the riches of his grace, meaning, eternal life both now and forever. Salvation, therefore, is the work of God and NOT a work of man for God. Salvation is the “new birth” which Jesus described to Nicodemus <John 3:3‑7>: it is a spiritual birth, and the only way to become a Christian is to be “born again” through the work of The Holy Spirit. The Hebrew and Greek meaning of salvation implies the ideas of deliverance, safety, and preservation; and until a person is “born again”, that person is lost and has no assurance of deliverance, safety or preservation. Good works will never bring salvation, and being a “good person” is not salvation, for the Bible declares that we are not saved by good works <Eph.2:8‑10>.

SALVATION ‑‑ THE PURPOSE OF GOD: It was conceived in the mind of God before the world was formed; “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” <Eph.1:4 (NIV)>. Salvation is the result of God’s foreknowledge ‑ not an afterthought; <1 Pet.1:20; Titus 1:2>. Salvation is the result of the Grace of God, not of anything we can or might do. Grace means “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense”<2 Tim.1:9; Titus 2:11>. Salvation is offered because of God’s love to mankind <Rom.5:8; cf 1 John 4:9>

SALVATION BEFORE THE CROSS: God dealt with sin before the cross by atonement, meaning that sin was “covered” by the Levitical offerings <see Lev.16>, until, and in anticipation of the cross, but did not “take away” those sins <Heb.9:15>. “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished”<Rom.3:25 (NIV)>; note that in this verse the writer states that sins committed before the cross were unpunished, because the Levitical offering was in anticipation of the supreme Sacrifice of Christ. God had promised a Lamb <Gen.3:15; 22:8> and had forgiven sin on the basis of His promise. Paul in his address to the Athenians on Mars Hill indicated that God had overlooked the times of “ignorance” to God’s word, but the new command for all people everywhere is to repent <Acts.17:30>.

SALVATION AFTER THE CROSS: God’s method of dealing with sin since Christ died is based upon ONE OFFERING ‑ which is the offering of Christ upon the cross: “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” <Heb.10:12, 14 (NIV)>; and in His death Christ did not “cover sin” but took away or cleansed sin: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” <Jn.1:29 (NIV); Col.2:14>.

THE PRICE OF SALVATION: God’s Son, Jesus Christ, had to die in order to provide salvation, and by His death, burial and resurrection He provided a way of salvation for all humanity: “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” <Rom.8:11 (NIV)>. Jesus suffered for the sins of the world, “that He might bring us to God”: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit” <1 Pet.3:18 (NIV)>. In His suffering His blood was shed for the remission or forgiveness of sin; <Matt.26:28 (NIV)>

SALVATION – THE THREE PHASES:

[1] PAST: Christ saves from the guilt and penalty of past sins, because Christ became sin for all who will believe: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” <2 Cor.5:21 (NIV); Rom.8:3: Gal.3:13; 1 Jn.3:5 (NIV)>. Christ will save all who come to Him seeking His forgiveness, for He has declared that He is not willing that any should perish. The final decision, however, is left up to the individual; God never forces anyone to accept Him even though it is not His will that any should perish <2 Pet.3:9 (NIV)>. [2] PRESENT: once the past has been forgiven, God now delivers the believer from the Power of sin on a day‑to‑day basis, because Christ “ever lives” to make intercession for us. Even though we may be saved we are still prone to sin: “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” <Rom.6:4 (NIV); Heb.7:25; 1 Jn.2:1>. The Christian can thus live a victorious life over sin, even though the two natures within us are constantly at war striving to control us. The apostle Paul speaks about this conflict in his own life and he tells us that he was victorious, and so can we. The Holy Spirit settles the strife in the believer’s life. <see Rom.7:17‑8:3>. [3] FUTURE: One day the Lord Jesus will take all His redeemed ones from the “presence” of sin, this is His promise to all those who have accepted His salvation. “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” <Jn.14:2-3 (NIV); Heb.9:28; 1 Pet.1:4-5>.  Although Christians are not yet perfect, God sees us as such: we are sons of God NOW, we do not have to wait until some future time. On that day when Christ returns for us, He will make the distinction, and only those who are “sons” will go to be with Him <1 Jn.3:1-2 (NIV)>

SALVATION ‑‑ THE FREE GIFT OF GOD: Salvation is God’s free gift to mankind and is available to ALL who will believe: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith‑‑ and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God‑‑ not by works, so that no one can boast.” <Eph.2:8-9 (NIV)> Since salvation is a free gift it must be accepted by the sinner who must first admit and confess that he/she is a sinner and is worthy of the penalty for sin which is spiritual death or eternal separation from God <Rom.3:23 (NIV); Rom.6:23>. All mankind is faced with the great decision: accept the “wages” or the “gift”; it is an individual decision and the choice is left to every person born into this world. “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live ……..For the LORD is your life” <Deut.30:15, 19-20 (NIV)>

The power to live the Christian life is given to all who believe, even though we are all prone to sinning <Jn.1:12 (NIV); 1 Jn.1:9>. The Lord is willing to forgive; but this is not a licence for believers to willfully sin. When we do sin, as we most definitely will, Jesus Christ is our advocate with the Father, and we must seek God’s pardon by confessing our sin to Him and request His forgiveness.

CONCLUSION: “Salvation comes from God”: rest and confidence are the experience of the child of God <see Psa.62:1-2>. Satan’s job is to capitalize on the fragile condition of saints and sinners. He never gives up and his assault is continuous: he knows that we have no strength of our own to withstand his attacks: we are like the “leaning wall” or “tottering fence”; this was David’s experience because of his enemies and this is also our experience as a result of Satan’s attacks upon us. <see Psa.62:3-4> We are encouraged to “trust” in God at all times and in all situations because our “salvation depends on God”, we are exhorted to “pour out” our hearts to Him. <Psa. 62:5-8> Our social standing means nothing to God, because we can never “measure up” to His standards, “if weighed on a balance they are nothing”; neither riches or wealth can buy us entrance into His kingdom <Psa.62:9-10>. God has spoken and David has heard two things: “You O God are strong…You O Lord are loving” <Psa.62:11-12>.  As we consider God’s salvation these two things should also be evident to us.

SALVATION: Was very costly to God <Gen.22:2,8,13; Psa.22:1‑18; Heb.2:10,14‑17>: is the LORD (JEHOVAH) <Ex.15:2>: is a free gift of a Holy God to a sinful world <John 3:16>: is obtained only by believing on the Son of God and receiving Him as saviour <Acts 16:31,34>: is an act of faith <Eph.2:8>: requires a personal decision <John 1:12>: cannot be attained by Church membership or by anyone acting on our behalf <Acts 4:12>: cannot be inherited or purchased <Isa.55:1>: changes the heart, mind and every part of a person: we become a “new creation” <2 Cor.5:17>: is revealed by the Scriptures <2 Tim.3:15>: is everlasting <Isa.45:17; Heb.5:9>: was not understood by the prophets (or angels) <1 Pet.1:10‑12>: is a promise of God <Psa.34:18; Acts 2:21; 13:26; Rom.10:9; 10:13>. We never become good enough to be saved because we can never attain a degree of excellence good enough for God. Once we trust Christ to be our saviour, however, God sees us as being perfect in Christ <Eph.2:1‑6>, and we can be confident “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” <Phil.1:6>.

Is the word “salvation” relevant in today’s society? Yes, it is! Is the word “salvation” offensive to people today? Yes, it is! Should the word be changed or modernized? No, it should not! It was used by our Lord in His day, and it still carries the same meaning today: it is a word that all can comprehend. Salvation is so simple that all can understand it, but unfortunately there are those today who seek to make it complicated. There are those who say that the normal person cannot understand what God’s word means and they either reject it or give their own interpretation and rules. Some people look for salvation in things and people, rather than looking to God; while others live in fear of what the future without God holds for them. There are people who refuse to accept what God’s word says in regard to sin and its consequences and enter into unnecessary dialogues, debates and arguments as to why the Bible should be rejected.

We are saved by the grace of God, and His divine grace will not last indefinitely for He has set a day in which it will come to an end, therefore:

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

<Heb.4:7b; cf Psa.95:7b-11>.

 

IS THIS ALL THERE IS TO LIFE? [Oct.29th]

A great deal of attention today is directed toward youth. Our society recognizes that the future of our communities depends upon our youth, and so the major programs and interests are designed for the young people. However, the energy and vision of youthful minds fade away as the years progress, and the adults that emerge are disillusioned and earnestly seek some kind of personal satisfaction or reward for the efforts of their all their labours. Solomon, Israel’s greatest king, had to deal with all of this in his lifetime, and as he approached the end of his days he writes of his experiences in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” ……..”Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What does man gain from all his labor?” <Eccl.1:2-3 (NIV)>. He continues to write on the meaningless of life.

LIFE IS MEANINGLESS

He says that “there is nothing new under the sun.” <Eccl.1:9 (NIV)>; from generation to generation, he says, nothing changes, and if one lives long enough all things are repeated. Mark Twain expressed similar thoughts about the meaningless of life in view of man’s inevitable death. Shortly before his death, he wrote, “A myriad of men are born; they labour and sweat and struggle; they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. Death comes at last, the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them; and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence, a world which will lament them a day and forget them forever.”   (Source unknown)

WISDOM IS MEANINGLESS

“For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”   <Eccl.1:18 (NIV)>. The wisdom that God gives must be used for His glory; otherwise all our efforts and work become meaningless. Wisdom gained from human experiences is even more meaningless when not given over to God.

PLEASURES ARE MEANINGLESS

“Come now, I will test you with pleasure………But that also proved to be meaningless. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless” <Eccl.2:1, 10-11 (NIV)> Kelita Haverland (Country Music Artist) (*) writes: “At 18, I was accepted into one of the top theater programs at a Toronto university. I married at 21 after my two-year stint in professional theater. We set out to follow our dream of fame and fortune in the music world. We soon took the Canadian country music scene by storm, gathering numerous awards and nominations. Amongst the success and struggle, not a glimpse of my former spiritual life could be found. I quietly swept my faith in God under the carpet. I didn’t think I needed Him any longer. Feeling stunted, trapped and unloved in the marriage, I began seeking fulfillment outside of it. Drugs, booze and sex played a big part in numbing the insanity of leading a desperately unhappy double life. However, this new lifestyle went against the values I once held dear, and I started to hate myself. I felt lost, empty and unloved. I pleaded with God to show me a way out of this horrid mess.”

TOIL IS MEANINGLESS

We work hard and long hours to earn money to purchase the things we desire. In doing so we have no time for God, consequently our work is in vain and all we acquire in life is meaningless. “So I hated life……….. All of it is meaningless ……So my heart began to despair” <Eccl.2:17, 20 (NIV)>

 TIME AND PLACE FOR EVERYTHING

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” <Eccl.3:11 (NIV)> We must live orderly lives, putting everything in its place. God and the things of God must have first place in our lives, or everything is meaningless.

 OPPRESSION AND FRIENDLESSNESS

“Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed– and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors– and they have no comforter. And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” <Eccl.4:1, 4 (NIV)> Envy leads to fights, fights lead to oppression, and we all become unfriendly to each other.

SUCCESS IS MEANINGLESS

“Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning.” <Eccl.4:13 (NIV)> Billy Diamond (Chief of the Cree Indians – Northern Quebec) (*) states: “I became chief of our Cree community when I was 21. Four years later I became the first Grand Chief of the Cree Grand Council. I used this position to help my people develop. We modernized the villages, built housing and schools and encouraged health and economic development. I was very successful in this position. But like all successes, it had it’s drawbacks, especially in my personal life. I became very prideful. Alcohol and drugs took their toll. I lost contact with my family, with my young wife and children. I knew I had to do something. Even with all the success there was a void in my life. There wasn’t a sense of accomplishment, there was an emptiness, there was no peace.” [Despite growing up in an impoverished Cree community in Northern Quebec and being torn away from his family and placed in a residential school, Billy Diamond has gone on to become a successful businessman and political leader.] In all the success we may have in life, if we forget God and leave Him out of our lives, life becomes meaningless, so we are encouraged: “Therefore stand in awe of God.” <Eccl.5:7 (NIV)>

RICHES ARE MEANINGLESS

“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.” <Eccl.5:10 (NIV)> Tennis star Boris Becker (*) was at the very top of the tennis world ─ yet he was on the brink of suicide. He said, “I had won Wimbledon twice before, once as the youngest player. I was rich. I had all the material possessions I needed. It’s the old song of movie stars and pop stars who commit suicide. They have everything, and yet they are so unhappy. I had no inner peace. I was a puppet on a string.” When riches and material possessions become our only goal in life, life becomes meaningless. Riches, however, can be used to the glory of God, if we understand that it is a gift of God, and we use it for the furtherance of His kingdom. “Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work– this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.” <Eccl.5:19-20 (NIV)>

AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE

“Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?  …..no one has power over the day of his death. ……..so wickedness will not release those who practice it.” <Eccl. 8:7-8 (NIV)> Roger Neilson (National Hockey League Coach) (*) The Only Way To Go“Suddenly finding out that you have cancer is tough. However, as a Christian, I know that no matter what I go through God is always with me. I know that if I trust in God then I don’t have to worry about the future — it’s in His hands. I’ve known the Lord since I was a young kid, and I’ve always felt that death is not something to be afraid of. Knowing Jesus means that when I die I’m going to heaven. I’ve got a place to go when it’s all over. And that’s the only way to go.”

Mike “Pinball” Clemons (Toronto Argonauts Football Team) (*) Real Hope – “Everyone has trials. No one is exempt from that. The difference is that I have a hope in Jesus Christ. One thing that makes me sad is when I see people with no hope. That really bothers me. But I understand it perfectly, because apart from God, there is no hope. If we don’t put our hope in God, then we are putting it in things that perish and fade away. Belief in God is really the only thing that lasts. Everyone has trials. No one is exempt from that. The difference is that I have a hope in Jesus Christ.”

A COMMON DESTINY FOR ALL

“the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, ……Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. ……no man knows when his hour will come….so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.” < Eccl. 9:1,10, 12 (NIV)>

REMEMBER YOUR CREATOR

“However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all. But let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. Everything to come is meaningless. Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.” <Eccl.11:8-9 (NIV)>

 God allows us to use our free will to make decisions in life. We may decide to live life to its fullest enjoying all its pleasures, without any thought of God, but we must remember the dark days and years to come!

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”– before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself  along and desire no longer is stirred. Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets. Remember him– before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!” < Eccl.12:1-8 (NIV)>

“Remember your Creator” <12:1> Before the ‘sunset of time’ – the difficult days that lack all pleasure and enjoyment: “the clouds return after the rain” <12:2> in our youth one easily rebounds from life’s difficulties – but as one grows older the skies never seem to clear, going from struggle to struggle with little or no relief: “the keepers of the house” – arms and hands  are no longer as active: “the strong men” – legs and thighs are no longer straight and strong: “the grinders” – partial or complete loss of teeth: “Those looking through windows” – partial or complete loss of sight: “the doors to the streets”– partial or complete loss of hearing: “when men rise up….” – loss of sleep, one is aware of every sound in the night <12:3-4>: “afraid of heights” <12:5>: no longer able to scale the heights like eagles – there is fear of being alone: “the grasshopper”– a young grasshopper is able to fly long distances and jump vigorously, as the years advance one slows down and looses vigour: “desire no longer is stirred” – old age brings loss of desire for most activities (mental and physical): “man goes to his eternal home” – death finally comes. IS THIS ALL THERE IS TO LIFE?

THE CONCLUSION

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” <Eccl. 12:13-14 (NIV)>

We can live our lives as we please without God, but it is far better to “Fear God” and keep His commands, for this is the whole purpose of life, and the only way that we can be “whole” “for this is the whole [duty] of man.” Whatever our choice, we must understand that we will give an account to God for the way we live our life.  “Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.” <11:9>

 “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'” So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” <Rom.14:10-12 (NIV)>

God has given us the choice: eternal life or eternal death.

“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, ……Nor is it beyond the sea, …….No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life” <Deut.30:11-15, 19 (NIV)>

“But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” ………That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile– the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  <Rom.10:6-10, 12-13 (NIV)>

“Righteousness that is by faith” does not require bringing Christ down from heaven or up from the grave. This has already been accomplished and cannot be repeated. “The word is near you” refers to the accessibility of the gospel. Christ “the Word” is readily available to any and all who call on Him for salvation.

THE FOUR CALLS

The Spirit once came to an innocent child With pleading and tender tone;

“Dear little one, let me come into your heart, And make it forever my own.”

“Oh, Spirit,” he cried, “please go away; For childhood is only for fun and play;

Some other day, some other day, When I am older I’ll bid Thee stay.”

 

The Spirit came back to the fair, stalwart youth, With loving and tender plea;

“The harvest is ready, there’s work to be done, Arise, God is calling for thee.”

“Oh, Spirit,” he cried, “leave me I pray, The pleasures of earth hold me in their

sway; Some other day, some other day; Then, Holy Spirit, I’ll bid Thee stay.”

 

The Spirit plead thus with the toil weary man, “Make haste while God’s grace shall last; 

The years are adorning with silver thy brow, Thy days are now slipping by fast.” 

“Oh, Spirit,” he cried, “I should obey, But I am too busy and tired to pray;

Some other day, some other day; When I have time I will bid Thee stay.”

 

The aged man leans on his frail, trembling staff, With quivering, bitter sigh:

“I’ve wasted a life-time in sin,” he cried, “And now I am going to die:

The Spirit, long slighted, has flown away; No hope and no God, now I cannot pray;

No other day, no other day; The Holy Spirit has gone to stay.”

 (Gertrude Manly Jones)

 

Life will always be meaningless for those who rebel against God, and refuse to honour Him and serve Him. Only those who trust Christ as Saviour and own Him as Lord of their life, will experience the true meaning of life.

 

 ((*) Testimonies extracted from the “Power to Change” website [Aug.2001]:  http://www.powertochange.com)

 

THE MERCY OF GOD

WHAT IS MERCY?

[Mercy: Compassion; kind forbearance; an act of kindness – can also be portrayed as: grace; forgiveness] The scriptures describe God as merciful, depicting His compassion; His forbearance; His acts of kindness, His grace and His forgiveness in various ways. There is a vast difference between the mercy of God and the mercy of man. Very seldom is man merciful to his enemy, yet God’s mercy is shown first and foremost to His enemies: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. For … when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” <Rom.5:6-8, 10 (NIV)>

HOW IS GOD’S MERCY DIFFERENT?

“I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.” <Jer.9:24 (NIV)> “my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,” declares the LORD.” [Ephraim/Israel] <Jer.31:18-20 (NIV)>

“In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer.” <Isa.54:8 (NIV)> “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” <Isa.55:1 (NIV)>. Mercy is God’s undeserved act of kindness to mankind; extended to us, not according to any righteous act that we have done or could do <see Deut.9:5, 18; Rom.9:16; Titus 3:5>. God knew the absolute helplessness of mankind under the curse of sin, and acted in mercy toward us – mercy freely given to mankind <see Psa.84:11>. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” <Eph.2:4-5  (NIV)>

 WHY DO WE NEED GOD’S MERCY?

We are all under the curse of sin! Apart from the mercy of God we could not exist! “What shall we conclude then? …… that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.”Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” <Rom.3:9-20, 23 (NIV)> “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” <Rom.5:12 (NIV)>

There is no one found righteous before God <v10>; all have sinned <v23>, because sin entered the world through Adam and we are all descendants of Adam <5:12>. No one seeks after God <v11>; no exception is allowed. “All have turned away” <v12> echoing the thought of Romans chapter 1, that mankind had opportunity to know God but discarded him to their own detriment and confusion. What effect does sin have on the sinner? The effect is total, because our entire being is corrupted – the throat, tongue, lips, mouth, feet and eyes – total depravity <13-15>; mankind’s entire being is adversely affected by sin – his whole nature is permeated with it. Human relations also suffer, because society can be no better than those who constitute it. Some of the obvious effects – conflict and bloodshed – are specified <vs. 15-17>. The root difficulty is: There is no fear of God” in any one <v18>, and because of this, the Law holds everyone accountable to God <v19>. Consequently, the Law makes us all conscious of sin <v20>; “So that every mouth may be silenced.” <v19>. When human achievement is measured against what God requires, there is no place for pride or boasting, only for silence that lends consent to the guilty verdict. In the various biblical scenes of judgment, the silence of those who are being judged is a notable feature <Rev 20:11-14>, and the reason for the verdict is given: “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'” <Matt.25:44-45 (NIV)>

When the explanation is given, no appeal is attempted, the Judge of all the earth does right <cf Gen 18:25>; therefore, all mankind – “the whole world is accountable to God.” <v19>, and the final word <v. 20> is – justification before God cannot be attained by attempted observance of the law, no matter how much man may take satisfaction in such observance; Jesus indicated that no one had succeeded in keeping the law <John 7:19>. Therefore, for mankind to spend eternity with God, we must accept His mercy! However, the simplicity of the gospel message is often spurned because we are asked to do nothing but only believe and trust God for our salvation, meaning, we cannot work for, or contribute to what Christ has done for us at Calvary! In this is seen the mercy of God! That God would grant us His mercy although we do not deserve it. “He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” <Psa.103:9-10 (NIV); see also 30:5; Hab.3:2>

THE UNIQUENESS OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH

[Philip Yancey in his book “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” makes this observation]: “The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. Of all world religions, only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional”. God’s mercy is unconditional to all sinners for God extends His mercy to us in spite of whom or what we are.

SALVATION IS ONLY BY GOD’S MERCY (GRACE)

“it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved” <Acts 15:11 (NIV); see also Rom.3:24; 11:16; Eph.2:4; 1 Pet.1:3>

GOD’S MERCY (GRACE) EMPOWERS US FOR HIS SERVICE

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them– yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” <1 Cor.15:10 (NIV)> we can never in this life or in eternity repay God for His mercy to us; however, God’s mercy places us under a deep obligation to work hard in serving the Christ who saved us and as we work for Him it is really the grace of God that empowers us.

GOD’S MERCY (GRACE) CAN BE MADE INEFFECTIVE

“As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.” <2 Cor.6:1 (NIV)>; do not allow the gospel message to fall on deaf ears, give careful thought to what you hear; “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard” <Heb.2:1 (NIV) see Heb.3:7-8; Gal.2:21>. God’s unconditional gift of salvation cannot be earned; otherwise it is no longer by grace <Eph.3:7>. The gift of God’s grace to Paul demonstrated God’s power in reaching out to Paul’s self-righteousness, saving him, commissioning him and strengthening him for service, and God can still reach out to self-righteous people today. Those who struggle with life’s difficulties and problems can have comfort in His mercy because we are not left alone to deal with temptations in our own strength, God invites us to approach Him in our time of struggle so that in our difficulties we do not reject His mercy; “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” <Heb.4:16 (NIV)>; His grace is given to the humble <Prov.3:34> not to the proud.

RESPONDING TO GOD’S MERCIES

2 Kings 6:24 – 7:11 records one incident of God’s mercy to His people: the northern kingdom of Israel had sinned greatly against God, Samaria was under siege by Ben-Hadad king of Aram and the siege lasted so long that there was no food left for the people, they sinned even more by eating unclean animals, and worse of all – their children <see curse – Lev. 26:29; Deut. 28:53, 57>. God, in His mercy, caused the Aramean army to hear the sound of chariots, horses and a great army during the night, and assuming that the Hittites and Egyptians were coming to the aid of Samaria, they ran away, leaving behind all their armour, horses and food. “Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die? If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’– the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.” <2 Kings 7:3-4 (NIV)>. Arriving at the Aramean camp they found it deserted, then they went and reported their findings to the guards at the gate to the city; God spared the city even though their sin was so great.

There are those that will call out to God when His mercy is available <see Lk.17:13; 18:38>, but there are those that will wait until it is too late <Lk.16:24>. Today, God’s mercy is extended to us even though we do not deserve it <Rom. 3>; His mercies to us are numberless – they are constant and sure, they follow us all day long, and from day to day, and we cannot repay Him for all His mercies.

We must understand, however, that one day God’s mercies will come to and end for those who continually reject Him! Our response is to accept His mercy and to be faithful in our service to Him

THE MERCIES OF GOD! WHAT A THEME FOR MY SONG

[Author: Thomas O. Chisholm]

The mercies of God What a theme for my song
Oh I never could number them o’er
They’re more than the stars in the heavenly dome
Or the sands of the wavebeaten shore

Chorus
For mercies so great, What return can I make
For mercies so constant and sure
I’ll love him, I’ll serve Him with all that I have
As long as my life shall endure

They greet me at morn when I waken from sleep
And they gladden my heart at the noon
They follow me on into shades of the night
when the day with its labour is done

His angels of mercy encompass me round
Wheresoever my pathway my lead
Each turn of the road some new token reveals
Oh For me life is blessed indeed.

PHILIPPIANS – SECTION 4.

Paul’s Appeal to Have the Peace of Christ   <4:1-23>

(a) Peace with the Brethren     <4:1-3>

Peace with each other as family in Christ is fundamental, in consideration of the fact that as citizens of heaven and the eager anticipation of our final redemption, this should be the encouragement that is needed for such peace; “Therefore…that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” <4:1 (NIV)>. Having our minds set on heavenly things will cause us to stand firm in our faith and not fight and argue over the minor details that Satan will surely bring to the forefront in our daily lives and within the Church <cf 1:27-30; 1 Cor.15:58>. So he appeals to “Euodia and …. Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.” <4:2 (NIV)>, while encouraging those that are closer to the situation, Clement and the rest, to help in settling the conflict <cf 2:2>. The importance of such peace is emphasized by Paul’s statement “whose names are in the book of life.” <4:3 (NIV); cf Rev.3:5; 20:15> God’s heavenly register of all His children; and it is His expectation that all His children live in peace with each other.

(b) Peace with the Lord    <4:4-9>

Paul here gives us the recipe for peace with the Lord, since it is very likely for any of His children to be defeated by circumstance and suffering in life, he encourages us to “rejoice always” <4:4; cf Hab.3:17-18; Jas.1:2; 1 Pet.4:13>, and to exhibit Christ-like consideration to all our brethren <cf 2 Cor.10:1; 1 Tim.3:3; Tit.3:2>, because the Lord is nearby <see Rom.13:11; Jas.5:8-9; Rev.22:7, 12, 20> so we should not be anxious (self-centred, exhibiting counterproductive worry and non legitimate cares and concerns for the spread of the gospel (NIV Study Bible))  for anything <cf 2:28; 2 Cor.11:28; Matt.6:25-31; 1 Pet.5:7>. He encourages them that in every circumstance they should “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” <4:6 (NIV)>, for in doing so “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” <4:7 (NIV)>, and “such peace is not based on a psychological state of mind but an inner tranquility based on peace with God” (NIV Study Bible) <cf Jn.14:27; Rom.5:1>. Such peace is beyond all human intellectual capacity and acts as a guard or protection to the child of God <cf Eph.3:18-20; 1 Pet 1:5>.

Peace with God can also be shattered by what influences our thought life, and when such thoughts are negative it will soon influence our speech and actions. Not only does Paul encourage us to think on the positive things of the Scriptures, he also encourages us to act on them: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” <4:8-9 (NIV); cf Isa.30:1-18>. Not only will this produce a healthy thought pattern, it will produce moral spiritual excellence keeping us at peace with God.

(c) Peace in All Circumstances   <4:10-19>

Paul now expresses that he rejoices “greatly in the Lord” because they have renewed sending their gifts for him, a renewal that was not necessarily a fault of theirs since his arrival in Rome had been delayed for various reasons, and they had no opportunity to send their gift <4:10>; he affirms that his rejoicing is not because he was in need for he had learned “to be content whatever the circumstances.” <4:11 (NIV); cf 2 Cor.4:18>; stating that he knew what is was to be in need and what it was for him to have an abundance <4:12; cf 2 Cor.11:9; 1 Tim.6:6-8; Psa.106:14-15>; but he appreciated their gifts <4:14,18>.

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” <4:13 (NIV)>, everything specifically that is pleasing to God, for it is He that supplies such strength <cf 1 Cor.10:12; 2 Cor.12:9-10; Jn.15:5; Eph.3:16-17; Col.1:11>.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” <4:19 (NIV); cf Matt.6:33-34>; God, who is personal to each of His children, knows our needs and will make sure that they are all supplied, maybe not in our time but in His time; such needs are met according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus which are the true quantity of His blessings to each individual believer <cf Eph.1:7b-8, 18; 3:16-21>.

(d) Conclusion     <4:20-23>

In consideration of he truth he has just expressed, his worshipful expression is “To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” <4:20 (NIV); cf Rom.11:36>; and in a closing remark he sends greetings from the saints in Rome and concludes “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.” <4:23 (NIV)>

PHILIPPIANS – SECTION 3.

Paul’s Appeal to Have the Knowledge of Christ    <3:1-21>

 (a) Warning against Confidence in the Flesh         <3:1-9>

Paul here warns of placing our confidence in physical achievements rather than Spiritual knowledge and accomplishments, for reminding them of this is no trouble for him <3:1>. His use of the term “dogs” shows the aggressiveness of their opposition to the gospel and the seriousness and destructiveness of their error <3:2; cf Gal.5:15> (NIV Study Bible) distorting the real meaning of circumcision. He then gives us three characteristics of the true people of God who are the real circumcision – “we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh” <3:3 (NIV)>. He warns of “men who do evil” <3:2 (NIV)> who force the Gentile believers to be circumcised so as to prove their righteousness <cf Gal.5:1-6>, reminding them that as believers in Christ we worship by The Spirit of God, glory in Christ and have no conviction in physical achievements <3:2>.

Paul could boast of major physical accomplishments, “though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” <3:4-6 (NIV)>, and all these could not produce the righteousness that God requires, since all such are legalistic forms of righteousness. Sad to say that today there are many church-goers who boats of their self-righteousness in similar ways. He explains that his confidence, and so should ours, comes from his knowledge of Christ and things pertaining to the Scriptures; whatever may have determined his physical profit he now considers a loss for the good of the knowledge of Christ which is of exceeding importance for him; and not only knowledge but a proof of righteousness, “that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” <3:8-9 (NIV); cf Rom.2:21-22; 1 Cor.1:30; Gal.2:16>: faith in Christ being the sole ground for God’s acceptance.

(b) Exhortation to Know Christ      <3:10-16>

The alternative to confidence in physical achievements is knowledge of Christ, and the spiritual gains we can accomplish as we mature spiritually. “I want to know Christ” <3:10 (NIV)>; to “know” (absolutely) (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006, 2010 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.). Paul wants to know Christ totally or completely, and like Paul, you and I need to know what the Word of God teaches about Christ; His disciples got to know Him completely by learning form Him and by doing what He asked them to do, and so we too learn from the Scriptures as the Holy Spirit instructs us and are obedient to such instructions <cf Jn.16:13-15>. “the power of his resurrection” <3:10 (NIV)>; the proof of God’s acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, the power that will be expressed in us as we are also raised from the dead or changed as we are called to meet Christ in the air when he comes to take us to be with Him, the power that His disciples witnessed after His resurrection as they preached the gospel in the early days of the Church as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, which is still available to us today as we preach the gospel <cf Rom.1:16; 1 Cor.15:14, 17, 51-52; 1 Thess.4:14-17>. “the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” <3:10 (NIV)>; that is, partnership or participation in His sufferings <cf Rom.6:3-5; 8:17; 1 Pet.4:13-14>, we should remember that Christ told His disciples that they, and we, will suffer with Him as we face persecution in various ways as we partner in His sufferings. “and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” <3:11 (NIV); cf Rom.6:5; 1 Cor.6:14>; this is the promise that we have in Christ that we will attain to the resurrection.

Paul states that he has not yet achieved all this <3:12; cf 1 Cor.9:24-27>, but that he is striving to attain what is ahead; “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” <3:13-14 (NIV)>, and this should be the intent of all believers in Christ, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things” <3:15 (NIV); cf 1 Cor.2:6; 3:1-3; Heb.5:14>.

(c) Warning against Living for the Flesh    <3:17-21>

Those that take pleasure in the “the Flesh”, or boast of their accomplishments in what they have, or can do, to accomplish their own righteousness. Paul declares such to be enemies of the cross of Christ because they deny the work of Christ, that has been accepted by God, which is God’s way of imparting His righteousness to those that believe in Him, by accepting what Christ has accomplished <cf Rom.3:21-26; Gal.3:11-13; Heb.9:11-14; 10:1-10>. Paul further states that their destiny is destruction since their mind is on earthly things <3:19>; while for believers in Christ in contrast, “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” <3:20-21 (NIV); 1 Cor.15:51-52>. One day we will not only know Him as revealed in our humanity, we will know him completely because we will be like Him in glory <cf 1 Jn.3:2>, and this is the heritage promised to all children of God; the true vision of Christ’s return shatters all such misconceptions.

 

 

PHILIPPIANS – SECTION 2

Paul’s Appeal to Have the Mind of Christ      <2:1-30>

(a) Paul’s Exhortation to Humility   <2:1-4>

In his counsel to the Philippian Christians, Paul suggests that if they have been any encouragement through their unity with Christ, or any consolation from His love imparted to them, or if there has been any tenderness or compassion resulting from the relationship of The Spirit of God in them; he would like them to make his rejoicing fulfilled, “then make my joy complete by being like-minded” <2:2 (NIV)>, not uniformity in thought but an agreement with each other to find some common ground. Since it is impossible for any group of people to be able to come to identical conclusions on any topic or discussion, we need to find that common ground on which we can all proceed, and this is very important in any local church for Satan will surely use any disagreement to cause individuals to “take sides” resulting in divisions within the congregation. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” <2:3-4 (NIV)>. Here again we are reminded that the cause of all discontent is selfish ambition, where one individual determines that everyone else should accept that individual’s position; this is the work of the Devil, and he will continue to do this in the congregation as long as he is allowed to do so <cf Gal.5:20; Jn.15:12-17; Jas.4:1-2>. Paul is indicating that the way to avoid such a conflict is not to push our individual interests but to humbly consider the good of others in all decisions.

(b) Christ’s Example of Humility     <2:5-16>

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” <2:5 (NIV)>; and this is the solution to all conflicts. When we consider the humility of Christ; He gave up His “equality with God” by becoming in nature a servant to all mankind; He endured the rejection of mankind, their scorn, He identified in our misery, and finally suffered at the hands of those that rejected Him and murdered Him <Phil.2:6-11; cf Isa.53:1-12>. God’s approval of such humility was to exalt Christ to the highest place. So when conflicts arise let us carefully consider each other’s interests and put our confidence in the leading of The Holy Spirit <cf Matt.20:26-28; Jn.13:1-5, 12-17>.

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” <2:12-13 (NIV); cf Eph.1:5, 9>: therefore continue to work out your salvation, not to work for your salvation; God has already done all that is necessary for our salvation, it is now our duty and responsibility to continue in our salvation <cf 1 Cor.15:58; Heb.4:11; 12:1; 2 Pet.1:5-10; 3:18; Psa.2:11; Isa.66:2b>.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life — in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.” <2:14-16 (NIV)>. The ideal of our conduct in regards to our personal character, our conduct towards other believers and our relationship with unbelievers – having the mind-set of Christ as our way of life will discipline our complaining and conflicts, allowing us to shine as lights in our community as Christ encouraged us; for when this is our manner of living, the outsiders will take note and possibly seek the reason for our freedom from strife.

(c) Paul’s Example of Humility        <2:17-18>

“But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” <2:17 (NIV)>. What did Paul mean by this statement? To gain some understanding, here is a commentary from Barnes’ Notes: “It refers to a drink-offering, where one who was about to offer a sacrifice, or to present a drink-offering to the gods, before he tasted of it himself, poured out a part of it on the altar….. It is used also to denote the fact that, when an animal was about to be slain in sacrifice, wine was poured on it as a solemn act of devoting it to God; compare Num 15:5; 28:7, 14. In like manner, Paul may have regarded himself as a victim prepared for the sacrifice. In the New Testament it is found only in this place, and in 2 Tim 4:6, where it is rendered, “I am ready to be offered;” …. It does not here mean that Paul really expected to be a sacrifice, or to make an expiation for sin by his death; but that he might be called to pour out his blood, or to offer up his life as if he were a sacrifice, or an offering to God. We have a similar use of language, when we say that a man sacrifices himself for his friends or his country.” (from Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997-2014 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.) <cf Rom.12:1>. Paul rejoices in the fact that he regarded his prison experience as a sacrifice for them and they should rejoice with him, “So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” <2:18 (NIV)>, for such is the example set by Christ Himself.

(d) Timothy’s Example of Humility <2:19-24>

Paul now speaks to the obvious expression of Timothy’s humility, “I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” <2:20-21 (NIV)>, for he demonstrates a genuine interest in their well-being while in disregard of his own comfort. Timothy had proved himself by serving with Paul in the work of the gospel <2:22>, and expresses that he, Paul, also expects to return to them soon <2:24>.

(e) Epaphroditus’ Example of Humility      <2:25-30>

Paul also expresses his desire to send Epaphroditus back to them referring to his example of humility; “Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.” <2:29-30 (NIV)>; another example of what Paul referred to previously when he expressed his own example of humility. Epaphroditus’ return will also be a reason for rejoicing, “Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety.” <2:28 (NIV)>.

 So we see five examples of exhibiting the “Mind of Christ” in the conduct of a Christian.

PHILIPPIANS – SECTION 1

PAUL’S ACCOUNT OF HIS PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCE <1:1-30>

(a) Paul’s Prayer of Thanksgiving               <1:1-11>

He addresses his letter “To all the saints ….. together with the overseers and deacons” <1:1 (NIV)>. “Saints” – the status of every N.T. believer, well-known for godliness and integrity; consecrated to God <cf 1 Sam.2:9; 2 Chron.6:41; Ex.28:41; 29:1; Lev.21:6; 1 Pet.2:5>. “Overseers” – a shepherd <Acts 20:28>; a bishop or elder; the term elder originated from ancient times when the older men, because of their experience, were the heads of large families. There is no specific origin of eldership pertaining to the N.T. Church especially to local congregations, but their office was to give direction to the local Church <cf Acts 15:22-29>. The elders of the N.T. Church are referred to as pastors <Eph.4:11>; bishops or overseers <Acts 20:28>; leaders and rulers of the congregation <Heb.13:7; 1 Thess.5:12>. “Deacons”one that executes the commands of another, a servant [Unger’s Bible Dictionary]; in the N.T. they were originally appointed to the duty of ministering to the poor and to oversee the temporal affairs of the local congregation <cf Acts 6:1-4; 1 Tim.3:8-12>.

He continues to speak of his joyful and prayerful thanksgiving for their partnership in supporting his ministry in the gospel “from the first day until now” <1:5; cf. 4:15; cf 1 Thess.2:8>, they had participated from the first day he met them until the present time.

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” <1:6 (NIV); cf Col.2:6-7; 1 Cor.1:8>. He expresses his confidence that God not only begins the work of salvation, He will complete it! The good work that is evident in their lives <1:11> will be completed <cf 1 Cor.1:8> at the time of Christ’s return for His saints; our salvation is initiated, sustained and completed by God.

“all of you share in God’s grace with me.” <1:7 (NIV)>. Their sharing was not deterred by his imprisonment or persecution for they willingly identified themselves with him by their financial gifts sent by Epaphroditus <cf 2:25>, which achieved a Christ like affection in Paul for them and they were constantly present in his thoughts, forming a spiritual unity between them and himself <1:8>.

Paul expresses three petitions that the Philippian Christians should exhibit:

Paul’s prayer for them is: “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” <1:9 (NIV)>: a real Christ like love must exhibit maturity <cf 1 Thess.2:12; 4:10; 2 Thess.1:3>: growth in knowledge <cf Col.1:9>, demonstrate practical discernment (insight) and understanding.

“so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ” <1:10 (NIV)>: to approve and practice a moral and ethical behaviour; to exhibit no combination of evil due to moral or spiritual failure; so that a “good account” can be given when we stand before Christ’ judgment seat <cf 2 Cor.5:10; Rom.14:10-12>.

“filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.” <1:11 (NIV)>: this is expected of all believers <cf Matt.5:20, 48; Heb.12:11; Jas.3:18; Gal.5:22-23>. Such righteousness is produced from union with Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit <cf Jn.15:5; Eph.2:10> for which the ultimate goal is glory and praise to God <cf Eph.1:6, 12, 14>.

(b) Paul’s Afflictions Promote the Gospel     <1:12-18>

To his friends, Paul’s imprisonment seemed like a calamity, but he had a more positive perception on his situation, “what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” <1:12 (NIV)> for this was Christ’s revelation to Paul at his conversion, and God was working out His will in Paul’s life <cf Acts 9:15; Rom.8:28>. Paul’s comment on the perceived tragedy is that it has encouraged most of the Christian believers to speak the Word of God “courageously and fearlessly” <1:14> and this was evident to the entire Palace Guard, and everyone else, that Paul had been imprisoned for his stand on preaching the gospel of Christ <cf Acts 28:16, 30-31>. The advancement of the gospel was also influenced by two other factors: “some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.” <1:15 (NIV)>; the latter group do so in love for Paul acknowledging that he was in prison for his defence of the gospel, while the former group were preaching out of selfish ambition with wrong motives thinking that they would make his imprisonment harder to tolerate. Paul concludes that in consequence of all this, “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice” <1:18 (NIV)>. Paul will continue to rejoice in the fact that regardless of the reason, the gospel will continue to be preached for that was his goal in life.

(c) Paul’s Afflictions Exalt the Lord            <1:19-26>

“through your prayers” <1:19 (NIV)>: Paul is depending on the prayers of the saints in Philippi for his continued ability to preach the gospel under the pressure of his imprisonment <cf Matt.18:19; Eph.6:19; Col.4:3>: “and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ” <1:19 (NIV)>; for it is only by the help of the Holy Spirit that Paul, or any other servant of The Lord Jesus, is able to do the work of God, for that is one function of the indwelling Spirit of God <cf Jn.15:26; 16:13-15; Rom.8:9; Gal.4:6>. He is confident that this being the case it will “turn out for my deliverance.” <1:19 (NIV)>, for one way or the other, by life or death, God will set him free <cf Rom.8:28; 1 Pet.1:7-9; 2 Cor.4:17>.

He continues by expressing his expectation that he will not be ashamed <cf Rom.1:16>, but that he will have all the courage he will need to continue his work with the knowledge that at the present time, and for as long as he is alive, “Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” <1:20-21 (NIV)>.

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” <1:21 (NIV)>: for the believer in Christ, we live by His power and in our death we gain the fulfillment of all His promises to us <cf Jn.14:1-3; Isa.57:1-2; Rom.8:35-39; 2 Cor.5:6; Col.3:4; 1 Thess.4:13-15; Rev.14:13; cf Isa.38:1-20>. For Paul to remain alive will result in rewarding work for him, but it is difficult for him to decide; “I am torn between the two” <1:23 (NIV)>; his desire is to depart this life and to be with Christ which is the better of the two choices, but it is more beneficial for the Philippian believers that he remain alive <1:23-24>. Being convinced of the latter choice he desires that he will continue to live for their progress and joy in their faith “so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.” <1:26 (NIV)>.

(d) Paul’s Exhortation to the Afflicted        <1:27-30>

Regardless of what they were experiencing, persecution or otherwise, Paul’s instruction was, “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” <1:27 (NIV)>, for such conduct would be evidence to both fellow believers as well as curious onlookers who are not believers, as to the worth of their faith <cf Eph.4:1-3; Psa.133:1; Matt12:25; 1Cor.1:10; Jn.17:21>. This would also be evidence to Paul and all others that they were united in the Spirit and in harmony for the gospel of Christ <1:27b>. He also encourages them not to be terrified of those that oppose them for confidence in the power of God would be a sign that God would overthrow their intimidators <1:28; cf Num.14:9; 1 Chron.12:17>. Paul then reminds them, and all other believers in Christ, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” <1:29 (NIV)>, for this was also the word’s of our Lord Jesus to His disciples and their experience <cf Mk.13:9; Lk.21:17; Acts 5:41; Rom.5:3; James 1:2; 1 Peter.4:13; Acts 4:24-31; 14:22; 1 Cor16:13-14; 1 Pet.3:14; 1 Thess.1:6-7; Matt.5:12>, and now the experience of the Philippian believers <1:30>.