TEACHING THE TRUTH [9/17/22]

A study of 1 Tim.4:1-16

“The notion that there are many truths might seem well suited to a diverse society. But when everyone is free to define truth as he or she prefers, as at present, the result is an intellectual and moral shouting match in which the people with the loudest voices are most likely to be heard.” (Citation: Mary Lefkowitz, a professor of classical studies at Wellesley College, in New York Times Book Review (January 23, 2000) [Perfect Illustrations – ‘Many Truths’])

False teaching (doctrine) was not only a problem that faced the early Christian Church, it has been a problem from the beginning of time, for it was Satan’s way to bring sin into the world <see Gen.3:1-5>, and this has continued down through the ages to the present time. The major difficulty we have in the Church today is that Church members do not know what the Bible teaches because it has not been faithfully taught, and most Church members are reluctant to learn for themselves by faithfully reading and studying the Scriptures, for they prefer to only hear it from the pulpit. At the trial of our Lord Jesus Christ, Pilate asked “What is truth?” <Jn.18:38 (NIV)>. The New Testament is filled with Christ’s words “I tell you the truth…” for we learn that Jesus Christ is TRUTH <see Jn.1:17; 14:6a>, also that the Church is the Church of the Living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” <1 Tim.3:15b (NIV)>; and for this very reason it is required of God that the truth be preached and taught to the members of His body – the Church! There is also a warning to those who do not faithfully preach and teach the truth <see Rev.22:18-19>.

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” <1 Tim.4:1-2 (NIV)>. False teachers are described as deceitful liars having no conscience, causing insidious harm or ruin, they are evil (demons) and are wicked, all because they follow deceiving spirits, and their end is judgment by God <see 2 Pet.2:4; Jude 6>. Paul had already warned the Ephesian Leaders to expect this <see Acts 20:28-31>, and here he reminds Timothy that they will attempt to creep into the Church causing spiritual harm and ruin. They will introduce such false teachings as relating to marriage and eating certain foods; “They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods” <1 Tim.4:3 (NIV)>; which is an extreme form of Gnosticism taught by the Nicolaitans. Unfortunately, this doctrine was a major problem facing the Ephesian Church and is quite rampant today. There are those that hold to the belief that Priests and Bishops should remain unmarried (celibacy), but this is not what Paul is teaching here. He has already addressed this by saying that a Bishop must be the husband of one wife (not a polygamist) <1 Tim.3:2>, and a Deacon should abide by the same rule, addressing the subject of the “wives” of Deacons <1 Tim.3:8, 11>. The Scriptures teach that marriage is ordained by God <see Gen.2:20-24; Mal.2:15; Heb.13:4>. Another subject relates to the consumption food, we find that Scripture declares all food in whatever form is provided by God for mankind’s good and nourishment <1 Tim.4:4; cf. Gen.9:3; Mk.7:18-19; Acts 10:14-15; 1 Cor.10:25-26>. Here then, we are warned that such false teaching is, and will always be a threat to the Church, so Elders, Bishops, Deacons and all members should be on guard, and where such teaching, or any other falsehood is introduced, it must be immediately rejected, and the misleading teachers dismissed from the membership.

In order to be a competent teacher in our secular society, one must know the content of the course, what is covered, what is expected to be understood, how is the content going to be processed, what is the “take-away”, how is it going to be evaluated. This is also a requirement for the True Teacher of God’s Word <1 Tim.4:6-10>, and Paul communicates this to Timothy; “If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.” <1 Tim.4:6 (NIV)>. Timothy is to be a good minister of Christ in the Truth of the faith inspired by the good teaching that he has received; and to do so he must “Have nothing to do with godless myths” <1 Tim.4:7 (NIV); cf 1 Tim.4:1-2>, for these have no place in the Truth of the gospel; individually we must “train yourself to be godly” <1 Tim.4:7 (NIV)>. In order to become more efficient in any profession one must commit to constant training, and so it is with the teacher of God’s Word; this requires self-discipline; we must constantly be a student of the Scriptures. In so doing, the teacher will be able to maintain godliness which has a greater value than anything physical or secular since godliness ensures “promise for both the present life and the life to come” <1 Tim.4:8 (NIV); cf Heb.11:1>; meaning that godliness is eternal. Godliness in this present life is possible because “we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.” <1 Tim.4:10 (NIV)>. God does not save every person from eternal punishment, only those individuals that believe in Christ as Saviour and come to Him in faith; to such, godliness is possible. This then, must be the message of the True Teacher.

cropped-mp900443601.jpgThe faithful teacher must “Command and teach these things.” <1 Tim.4:11 (NIV)> and also live by example in: speech, love, faith, and purity; so often what is preached from the pulpit is not practiced in the pulpit or in the pews. We hear what the Word of God teaches: “…set an example for believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” <1 Tim.4:12 (NIV)>; but sometimes it is difficult to put these instructions into practice. Paul emphasizes that Timothy should commit himself <1 Tim.4:13> to three forms of public worship: public reading of the scriptures, preaching and teaching, and this should be done by all teachers as this was the practice in the early churches <see Lk.4:16; Acts 13:14-16; Col.4:16; 1 Thess.5:27>. The faithful teacher should “not neglect your gift” <1 Tim.4:14 (NIV)>; and like Timothy, all teachers must continually update themselves otherwise negligence of the Word of God can lead to preaching and teaching that has no depth or truth. Therefore, the faithful teacher must “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them” <1 Tim.4:15 (NIV)>, so that progress and maturity can be evident in the lives of the teacher and the students; and both teacher and students should “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them” <1 Tim.4:16 (NIV)>, otherwise the teacher has failed to teach or the students have failed to learn <see 1 Cor.9:27>.

GODLINESS IN THE CHURCH [8/21/22]

A Study of 1 Tim.3:14-16

Is it necessary for believers, whether in Paul’s time or in the present age, to consider our conduct in the local Church of which we are members? God expects this and Paul thought it was necessary for he opens this section of his letter by stating; “I am writing you these instructions so that……you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” <1 Tim.3:14-15 (NIV)>. woman-1566154__340Whether it be our own family household, and just as important, in the local assembly (Church) of believers, there must be some standard of conduct that is acceptable and required of each and all of the members. Paul has already addressed some aspects of conduct in his instructions to Timothy in regards to his choice and appointment of Bishops and Deacons, and to the conduct of women in the church <1 Tim.2:9-10 NIV >, which is also applicable to the men as well; but let us look at some other aspects of conduct that affect the function of the local Church.

Most important is the fact that all members including leaders understand the importance of the leadership of The Holy Spirit; this is important because The Holy Spirit represents Christ, and is sent by God to guide us; “”If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you…. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” <Jn.14:15-17; 26 (NIV)>…. “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” <Jn.16:13-14 (NIV)>; and His guidance in necessary for leaders and members alike especially in these days where the truth of Scripture is being challenged. Believers must therefore take this leadership very seriously and depend entirely upon, and continually pursue the leadership and guidance of The Holy Spirit. When this conduct is evident, most, if not all other difficulties can be overcome: “In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.” <2 Chron.31:21 (NIV)>.

Spiritual unity is another factor that can influence our conduct so that divisions can be avoided in the Church; and here we need to remember Christ’s teaching and instructions to His disciples <Jn.17:22-23; Eph.4:3-6>. Spiritual love and care for each other should be that mark of Christian conduct <1 Jn.3:17-19>: spiritual purity is a necessary Christian conduct <1 Cor.5:1>.

Maintaining and nurturing the body (Church) is another necessary conduct <2 Cor.6:16-17; 7:1>; and so is Church discipline <1 Cor.5:1-2>. Another misconduct that we face today in many churches is that of quarrels, fights, and personality conflicts causing divisions <Rom.16:17-18; 1 Cor.1:10-12>; and further to these is the dissatisfaction with leadership by some which can easily spread among the membership <Num.16:1-3, 19-21; Heb.13:17>. Therefore, our conduct in the House of God is an absolute requirement and we should always be aware of our demeanour.

The reason for this comment by Paul is observed at the end of his statement: “the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”; and this truth is the “mystery of godliness” that should influence our conduct; our Lord Jesus Christ is here described as that mystery; a mystery that has been finally revealed to all believers <see Rom.11:25; Col.1:26-27>, and the fact that Jesus Christ has been vindicated in His death and resurrection proving Him to be The Son of God, should be the motivation that controls our conduct, not only in the Church but in our everyday life! “…the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.” <3:16 (NIV)>.

In essence, what Paul is implying to Timothy, and to the members of the Church at Ephesus is, that what is required of Bishops, Elders, and Deacons is also applicable to all the members of the Church, and all must exhibit the same characteristics: “be above reproach, …. temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to… [be taught] not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. ….  worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. …. keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.” <1 Tim.3:2-5, 8-10 (NIV)>. The behaviour of believers in Christ is of primary importance, for the Church (believers) must uphold the truth as a testimony to unbelievers, Christ Himself is truth and the foundation of the Church <see 1 Cor.3:11>, and we must understand that there is a certain demeanor that should characterize all believers. One of the most deplorable evils of our present generation is that of irreverence or the lack of respect for God, and believers must be very conscious of our speech and conversation, our manner of life, the company we keep, the associations we establish; for Satan uses all these to shape our minds and can lead to disarray, bring criticism and dishonour to Christ, and cause the message of the gospel to be mocked by unbelievers <see 1 Cor.10:12>.

Our Lord Jesus Christ not only died to bring us forgiveness, but also to bring about a new life of godliness in us and in His Church; “…. Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word…” <Eph.5:25-26 (NIV)>.

“People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord.

We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.” [NATURAL DRIFT FROM HOLINESS; Citation: D. A. Carson, quoted in “Reflections,” Christianity Today (7-31-00); from Perfect Illustrations].

CHURCH LEADERSHIP [08/07/22

A study of 1 Tim.3:1-13

cropped-mp900443601.jpgPaul presents Timothy with the qualifications of Bishops (Pastors, Elders) <1 Tim.3:1-7>, and begins with another of his “commendable precepts”; “Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.” <1 Tim.3:1 (NIV)>. Anyone desiring to become an overseer, or elder, or bishop; desires an honourable undertaking; for this position in the Church is demanding upon the person that accepts this calling; it is indeed a self-sacrificing position. It is one in which personal characteristics must include; freedom from accusation; moderation; self-discipline; morality; hospitality; not given to alcoholic or such intoxication; gentleness; not argumentative; not devoted to the accumulation of wealth. Abilities should include the aptitude to teach and to cope with family members, which would be required to administer the affairs of the Church, since the bishop is required to preach, and teach <1 Tim.5:17>; to direct the affairs of the Church; to lead the flock of God; and to guard the church from erroneous teachings <Acts 20:28-31>. “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.” <1 Tim.3:6 (NIV)>; Christian experience is very important as Paul expands on this characteristic; arrogance will certainly bring about the same judgment as the devil <see Ezek.28:11-17; 2 Pet.2:4>. Finally, Paul says that the bishop’s general characteristic should have “a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.” <1 Tim.3:7 (NIV)>; “outsiders”, is a reference to those who are not members of the local church. He specifies that the bishop should have a good repute with such people so that disgrace and condemnation will not be a consequence. If there is no good reputation, the bishop (Pastor, Elder) will become subject to the accusations of the outsiders and to the trap of the devil. The devil’s trap is one that Satan sets for those whose lives are not consistent with their Christian calling, and once caught in this trap, Satan upholds them to ridicule, scorn and contempt.

Therefore, those that accept this position should not do so simply because of persuasion by others in the Church; prayerful consideration is necessary. One has to consider all the qualities of the office, and whether or not it is God’s calling, selfish aspiration, or not just the request of associates.

Paul continues with the qualifications of Deacons <1 Tim.3:8-13>, expressing that “Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.” <1 Tim.3:8 (NIV)>. In similarity, Deacons should have the same basic qualifications as Bishops (Pastors, Elders), they should not be “lovers of money” <1 Tim.3:3>, they should “not pursue dishonest gain” (proceeds or earnings); that is, there should be no paybacks or reimbursements for their dealings with members or outsiders for the business of the Church; they should be mindful of the original reason for Deacons <see Acts 6:1-4>. “They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.” <1 Tim.3:9 (NIV)>; and this is necessary in order that they will not fall into the Devil’s trap by becoming lovers of money and pursuance of dishonest gain. Adherence to the deep truths of the faith is a necessity for all believers whether we be Bishops, Deacons or mere members of the Church, for that is how we will become mature Christians, otherwise there will be a departure from a true following of Christ <see Heb.5:11-6:1>. “They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.” <1 Tim.3:10 (NIV)>. Before any appointments of Deacons are made, there should be some form of “testing” so as to be sure that all appointees display the qualifications that have been laid out <see Acts 6:5-6>. “Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.” <1 Tim.3:13 (NIV)>; those that are faithful in their duties as Deacons will most likely progress in their service for God in the Church, as we see the examples of Philip and Stephen, two of the original Deacons, both advancing to become evangelists in the early Church as described in the Book of Acts.

Do you consider yourself to be qualified that you could be appointed to a leadership position in your local Church?

“The foundation of ministry is character.

The nature of ministry is service.

The motive for ministry is love.

The measure of ministry is sacrifice.

The authority of ministry is submission.

The purpose of ministry is the glory of God.

The tools of ministry are the Word of God and prayer.

The privilege of ministry is growth.

The power of ministry is the Holy Spirit,

and the model for ministry is Jesus Christ.”

(Citation: Warren W. Wiersbe and David W. Wiersbe, Making Sense of the Ministry (Moody Press, 1983) Source: Perfect Illustrations)

Many have been appointed, or have been self-appointed, to the office of Bishop (Elder, Pastor, Deacon) in their local Church, and have brought disgrace to the “office”, to the Church, but most of all to our Lord Jesus Christ; because they have fallen into Satan’s trap. There are, however, many more who have been appointed to a leadership position and have served our Lord and the Church faithfully. If you are in a position of leadership do your best, with the help of The Holy Spirit, to serve as the Lord Jesus Christ would have you serve.

CONCERNING PUBLIC WORSHIP [7/12/22]

A Study of 1 Tim.2:1—15

Paul begins this section by addressing prayer in public worship <1Tim.2:1-8>, and it should be understood that when the Church meets for worship, it is accessible to all who wish to attend; therefore, it is a public meeting. Now, Paul sets out the principles of faith for which Timothy is to contend with. First, he instructs “that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone” <1 Tim.2:1-2 (NIV)>. When the Church meets for public worship; prayer requests, intercessions and thanksgivings should be made on behalf of all people, especially for rulers and political officials; so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in a respectful awareness of God, and our responsibility to Him as we live our lives; for “This is good, and pleases God our Savior” <1 Tim.2:3 (NIV)>. It is pleasing to God when His children spend time in prayer to Him, bringing before Him all the concerns that we encounter as we live this life and fight for our faith <cf Acts 2:42>. Secondly, he presents the doctrine of our faith; “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” <1 Tim.2:5 (NIV); see 1 Cor.8:5-6; cf Acts 17:22-31>. In the situation where Timothy found himself, there were many gods being worshipped by the people, the Christian faith honours only one God, and His Son Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as our sacrifice for sins and is now our mediator or intercessor before His Father in heaven. The fact that Christ is our sacrifice gives Him the entitlement to be our intercessor for He knows the struggles that we face <see Heb.2:14-15>. Finally, the reason for our public worship and prayer is to let all individuals know the love God expressed to humanity, for God our Saviour “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” <1 Tim.2:14 (NIV); see also Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11>. Paul speaks to the fact that he was appointed for this very purpose – as a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles <1 Tim.2:7>.

So, our public prayer should include all of these thoughts as the Church intercedes for all members of our society – citizens and those in authority; and also, for each other as believers in Christ since we all cope with the battle for our faith.

Paul now continues by addressing the role of women in public worship <1 Tim.2:9-15>, and the content of this section has caused much controversy as to the role of women in the Church [and I do not wish to add to this], so let us look at the background to the difficulty that faced Timothy.

In Paul’s time Ephesus was the principal commercial city of Asia Minor, wealthy, elegant, and licentious (lustful), and the capital of the Ionian Confederacy, which had its treasury in the temple of Diana. The city was once a centre of wealth and a culture of idolatry [source: The Book of Life -System Bible Study- Historical Digest]. The Church in the first century A.D. was restricted to the Roman Empire and possibly concentrated in Asia Minor and consisted of many converted Gentiles [source: The Macmillan Bible Atlas, by Y. Aharoni & M.  Avi-Yonah]. According to Greek legend, the city was founded by Amazons* – mythical female warriors, and was located crosswise the main line of communication between Rome and the east. Merchants and traders flocked to it. From all over Asia Minor pilgrims came to Ephesus to worship. Under Roman influence, the city’s Greek goddess, Artemis, became identified with the Roman Diana [source: National Geographic Society, Bible Times]. Diana (Artemis) was a protectress of youth, especially those of her own sex. Young girls revered the virgin goddess as the guardian of their maiden years. Once a year there was a public festival in her honour at Ephesus, to which all the Ionians who could do so, repaired with their wives and children, bringing costly offerings for Diana and rich presents for the priests. Great gain came to the silversmiths in making and selling small images of the goddess [source: Unger’s Bible Dictionary].  *(You can read more about the Amazons here: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/amazon-women-there-any-truth-behind-myth-180950188/

The Churches of Asia Minor not only consisted of Gentile believers but also Jewish believers that had migrated from Jerusalem, and these Jewish believers also had traditions from their Jewish past <see Acts 19:18-19, 35-36>. As head of the family, the husband or father presented the sacrifices and offerings on behalf of the entire family; and in the New Testament times Jewish women were not allowed to enter the Inner Court of the Temple, nor were they allowed to read or speak in the synagogue. However, a different picture unfolds in the early Christian Church; Christ, in His earthly ministry encouraged women to accompany Him and to be taught by Him; they also assembled with His disciples when they met together for prayer and communion [source: Manners and Customs of The Bible, J.I. Packer & M.C. Tenney]. 

So, here we see that the Church in Ephesus consisting of both Jewish and Gentile believers, each group predisposed to hold on to their previous traditions, at this point trying to live by their new convictions as believers in Christ. Unfortunately, the old nature never goes away or gives up trying to influence the believer, and this no doubt was a problem in the Church at Ephesus, and Paul had already dealt with this in his letter to the Ephesian Church <see Eph.4:17-24>; and Christ’s message through John the apostle for the Ephesian Church warning them of their pagan influence encouraging them to return to their “first love” <Rev.2:1-7; cf Acts 20:29-30>

Paul does not indicate the reason for his directive to Timothy concerning the role of women in the Ephesian Church, but it no doubt had some bearing on the above background.

“I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety” <1 Tim.2:9 (NIV); cf 1 Pet.3:3-6; Eph.4:22-24; Col.3:5>; they should not allow their previous habits to influence their new convictions, nor should they attempt to be influenced by the society in which they lived; their external beauty should emerge from their new “inner” nature; “appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” <1 Tim.2:10 (NIV)>. The intent here is that women should not dress in a way that will draw attention to them by others in the congregation, rather than to focus on the One who is being worshipped.

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” <1 Tim.2:11-12 (NIV)>; whatever the reason for this directive, again we are not told, but Paul is giving the order of propriety in public worship <see 1 Cor.11:3-16; 14:34-35>. It is God who has decreed that a woman should not have a public teaching ministry in the church, not Paul! However, we find that women are permitted to teach children and younger women <see 2 Tim.1:5; 3:14-15; Tit.2:4>, and this can certainly be done in a church setting.

The questions that we must ask ourselves are: how do we apply these principles in the Church today? Was Paul dealing with specifics of that time period only? Are any of the background qualities or similarities mentioned above present in the Church and society today?

Circumstances and situations are different in our day and these concerns have been addressed by a variety of practices. Who, or what then, is correct in the eyes of God?

INSTRUCTION CONCERNING DOCTRINE [6/4/22]

(A study in 1 Timothy)

1 TIMOTHY 1:1-20

Paul addresses his personal letter to Timothy “my true son in the faith” <1 Tim.1:2 (NIV)> his spiritual son. Each believer in Christ can look back to a time in life where an individual, male or female, guided you to the acceptance of salvation. You now have a Christian mother or father in the faith. Paul then proceeds to instruct Timothy as to his previous assignments in the Church at Ephesus: “I urged you …stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies.” <1 Tim.1:3-4 (NIV)>, since such teaching only promotes controversies and impedes the work of God which is achieved by faith only, and continues to explain why. First, he states that “The goal of this command is love” <1 Tim.1:5 (NIV); cf 1 Cor.13:4-7> and must be the underscoring objective of any Church leader when correcting false teaching.

Secondly, because false teaching has led to controversies, “Some have wandered away” <1 Tim.1:6 (NIV)> from the faith; primarily because they are ignorant of the facts that are taught in the very Law that they are persistently teaching in error. “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.” <1 Tim.1:8 (NIV); cf Gal.3:3, 10-13>; they want to be teachers of the Law but they do not know what they are teaching <1:7>. The Law is good, says Paul, and was not given to condemn the righteous but to condemn the lawbreakers and rebels <1 Tim.1:8-10>, “and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine” <1 Tim.1:10b (NIV)>, and this conforms to the gospel message entrusted to Paul.

Paul then digresses from his instructions to Timothy to express his own experiences of the gospel that he so faithfully preached <1 Tim.1:12-17>. He commences by giving thanks to “Christ Jesus our Lord” who considered him faithful and appointed him to serve in preaching the gospel <cf Gal.2:7; 1 Thess.2:4; 2 Tim.1:14>, and that he has faithfully guarded his responsibility. He also speaks to the fact that “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” <1 Tim.1:14 (NIV)>; and what was true of Paul is also true of every believer in Christ. None of us are worthy of God’s favour, but He freely and abundantly poured out His grace upon us, even though we were rebellious, and even though in our self-righteousness we claimed to live by the Law and commandments <cf Rom.1:32; 3:20-24; 5:1>. This was made possible because “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” <1 Tim.1:15 (NIV)>, reminding Timothy of the fact that our salvation and justification is by faith in Christ only and not by observing or keeping of the Law <see Gal.2:16>. So, Paul concludes this section with praise to God for His wonderful grace to all mankind; “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” <1 Tim.1:17 (NIV)>.

Paul now gives Timothy his first directive <1 Tim.1:18-20>, consistent with the predictions made about him. Nothing is said as to what these prophecies were, but consistent with other instances where men were ordained for specific duties, we can assume that there were some specifics revealed to Timothy at his ordination <cf 1 Tim.4:14; Acts 13:1-3>. “I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight” <1 Tim.1:18 (NIV)>: Timothy is expected to fight the good fight of faith, and the same expectation is required of all Christ’s disciples today.

What does it mean to fight the fight of faith? God expects us to live by faith in Him; this means that we should follow His commands even though we do not know the outcome, acknowledging that whatever happens, God is in control. He does not allow us to see the outcome, but He expects us to follow His leading <Matt.10:39>. “I have vivid memories as a kid of my father taking me to an auction sale, telling me, “Don’t scratch your nose at the wrong time, son.” He said to me, “Always remember this: whenever you go to an auction sale, make sure you know your upper limit price.” That is ingrained in me. The great danger for us is that we walk into the Christian life knowing clearly our upper limit price. Jesus does not allow us to set that. “If you save your life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake and the gospel’s, you will keep it,” said Jesus [Mark 8:35]. Our calling is to a life of unconditional obedience where the price is unknown.” [from Perfect Illustrations; Citation: Colin Smith, pastor of Arlington Heights Evangelical Free Church, Arlington Heights, Illinois; source: Preaching Today #204]

So, like Timothy, we are expected to fight, for that is exactly what it is. Paul, writing to the Ephesian Church reminds them that our struggle is not against the enemy that we know or can see, but against the enemy that is unknown and unseen <Eph.6:12>; and this was what Timothy encountered in carrying out Paul’s charge to him; he was to do so by “holding on to faith and a good conscience.” <1 Tim.1:19 (NIV)>; that is the outcome from the love, pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith that Paul had referred to earlier <see 1 Tim.1:5>. It is unfortunate that some believers in Christ then, and presently, have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.” <1 Tim.1:19 (NIV); cf. 1 Tim.1:6-7; 6:21; 2 Tim.2:18>. It is extremely important that all believers in Christ be cautious of false teaching, avoiding meaningless discussions of subjects that do not pertain to, or are not taught by scripture.  We do so by individually educating ourselves in studying the Bible and not being entirely dependent upon what others teach.

Paul then closes this section by making reference to two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander <1 Tim.1:20>, and very little is said as to who they were, but they are used here as examples of church discipline; he states, “whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.” <1 Tim.1:20 (NIV); cf 1 Cor.5:5, 13>. Being handed over to Satan is a figure of speech where the individual is expelled from the Church fellowship and left in Satan’s “territory” in an attempt to destroy the sinful nature of that individual.

What is Blasphemy as is used in the Scriptures? It signifies speaking evil of God or to curse the Name of God <cf Psa.74:18; Isa.52:5; Rom.2:24>. There are two general forms: (1) Attributing some evil to God, or denying Him some good; (2) Giving the attributes of God to a human being <cf Lk.5:21; Matt.26:65; Jn.10:36> which was the accusation of the Jews given to Christ. The punishment given under the Mosaic Law was either atonement, when committed in ignorance or thoughtlessness; but if when in rebellion against God the punishment was by stoning <see Lev.24:11-16>. In the New Testament Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is also referred to as the “unpardonable sin” <see Matt.12:31-32; Mk.3:29; Lk.12:10>; where it appears to have been based on attributing Christ’s miracles to the power of Satan, and it is questionable whether it may be extended beyond this one limited and special sin [source: Unger’s Bible Dictionary].

In the case of Hymenaeus and Alexander, the punishment was separation from the fellowship and care of the Church, having been sent back into the outside world where they would learn not to blaspheme.

From the very beginning of the Church age false teaching was a problem for the Church elders. During the early years of the Church, Paul and the Apostles were constantly harassed by Judaizers who insisted that all converts to Christ must adhere to the Mosaic Law; that is, a Gentile could not become a Christian unless he or she first became a Jew; further adding that Gentile converts should practice physical rituals of the Law such as circumcision, for faith in Christ alone was not sufficient <see Acts 15:7-11>.  Judaizers caused much turmoil which affected the evangelical work of the apostles and for the Church leadership. Church leaders also had to be careful of Gnostic teachings that crept into the Church; teaching such things as Jesus wasn’t really God’s Son, and that Christ and God could not have united in the person of Jesus; they professed to have special insight to the secret truths of life. There were also those that taught the beliefs of the Nicolaitans, which was a more extreme form of Gnosticism, they claimed that only what their spirits did was important and because their physical bodies were evil, they had freedom to indulge in indiscriminate sexual relationships, that they could do anything they pleased with their bodies, and were free to practice idolatry <cf Rev.2:14-16>. Such doctrines have been combined and modernized in today’s society and have affected the Church in all forms of worship; Satan has duplicated our worship and praise to God and introduced false worship into our Churches and we must be constantly examining anything new that is introduced to our practice of worship to God.

False doctrine in the Church must be swiftly and severely reprimanded!

THE TRIUMPHANT CHRISTIAN LIFE [23/04/22]

There have been numerous ways to express this subject in the Christian circle of life: “Living victoriously”; “Victorious Christian living”; “Living above”; are some that come to mind, but what does all this mean? After our conversion to Christianity our deep desire is to live a holy life, to become more like Christ, to be able to overcome the sins that plague us, to live above the worldly desires; but how do we accomplish this? How do we uphold such deep desires? Some of us keep on trying very hard and when there is no success we drop to a lower standard in our Christian experience, and become helplessly fearful of trying any further. Then there are those Christians who may not be aware that there is victorious Christian living. Victorious Christian living is following hard after God, and A.W. Tozer in his book “The Pursuit of God” expresses it – “We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. ‘No man can come to me,’ said our Lord, ‘except the Father which hath sent me draw him’, and it is by this prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him”. So then, the secret to the victorious life is found in Paul’s instruction to the Colossian believers: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” <Col.3:1-3 (NIV)>. Paul has already expressed this concept to the Ephesian believers where he says that we as believers used to live and follow the behaviours of this world, satisfying the desires of our old sinful nature, but God in His mercy has saved us from our sins and given us a new character making us alive in Christ – “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” <Eph.2:6 (NIV)>; therefore, as such we need to re-focus our thoughts and desires on “heavenly appetites”.

The Scriptures teach the possibility of a victorious life since every believer in Christ has been given the daily victory over sin because we have been “born of God” through our belief in Christ; “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” <1 Jn.5:4 (NIV)>; and where the truth of this is not evident in a believer’s life there is something wrong; additionally, Satan will do all that he can to keep this truth from the Christian. There is not only the possibility, but there is also the promise of victorious living given by Christ; for we read Christ’s promise “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” <Jn.10:10b (NIV)>; every believer needs to claim this promise and not allow Satan to defeat us. We can do so by understanding that sin is not our master <Rom.6:14> for God has given us victory over sin and temptation <2 Cor.2:14; 1 Cor.10:13; Rom.8:37>. Since God has given us this victory then we must understand that as a Christian we must not satisfy the desires of our old (sinful) nature: “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” <Gal.5:16-17 (NIV)>; it should be our desire to be guided daily by The Holy Spirit.

The principle of the victorious life is to live by Faith, understanding that victorious living is a gift of God to us by faith in Christ. It is impossible for us to accomplish victory in our own ability, for any personal attempt only results in our defeat; for in the same way that we were converted by faith, we are required to live by faith <see Rom.1:17; Gal.3:11; Heb.10:38>. Faith is not doing; faith is trusting in God, and victory is not in trying, victory is in trusting!

The secret to victorious living is our identification with Christ. The scriptures teach us that the cross of Christ identifies the substitution of Christ in the death of the sinner, and that the believer is identified in the resurrection of Christ: 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” <Rom.6:4-7 (NIV)>. The believer in Christ is identified with Christ’s death in that we died with Him < 6:5>, and our old nature is crucified with Christ <6:6; cf Gal.2:20>. We are also identified with Christ’s burial <6:4>, and with His resurrection <6:5>. This passage also teaches us that we are identified with Christ in the new life <6:4>, and as such we must not be servant to sin <6:6>; we will also live with Christ in eternity <Rom.6:8>, and in this life we must live unto God <Rom.6:10>. So, we see that the secret to a victorious life is in the fact that Christ indwells the believer for the purpose of being Lord and master of the believer’s life, and gains glorious victory for the believer <Col.1:27>.

Therefore, if it is true that in Christ the believer is dead to sin, then the right thing is for the believer is to yield himself/herself to God: “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” <Rom.6:13 (NIV)>. In so doing, we acknowledge the fact that sin and the world have no hold or control on the believer, and instead of fighting sin by ourselves, yield to the power of the resurrected Christ. As a believer in Christ, we still have our own free will to do as we choose, we can choose victory through Christ or we can continue to live a defeated life, but we must recognize the fact: “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey — whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” <Rom.6:16 (NIV)>; and since we have been liberated from sin, freedom in Christ is ours <Rom.6:18-19>, but we must be mindful of the warning given that we are weak in our old nature; so, then the choice is ours <Rom.6:22>.

There is no doubt that every Christian believer can live triumphantly, for Christ can do all that is necessary in us through the power of the Holy Spirit: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” <Ph.3:20-21 (NIV)>; and Christ makes us triumphant for His glory throughout our life and for individual believers in all generations. The whole purpose of God working in us is to conform us to the image of Christ <see Rom.8:29>, and this is living triumphantly.

In conclusion then, in this life there will always be days in which we fail to be victorious and we need to remember the words penned by the apostle John – <1 Jn.1:9>. Christ will always forgive our failures, so we should not rely on past victories for our future victories, we must rely on Christ alone to live triumphantly <Gal.2:20>; and remember that this is possible because of him who is able to do”; so, set your minds on things above <Col.3:1-2>.  

What then, is your decision?

THE JUDGMENTS [3/5/22]

Throughout the Scriptures there are many references to the judgment of God upon individuals, peoples, and nations who have rebelled and rejected God, such judgments executed by different methods (water, fire, confusion of language) are recorded. There are seven specific judgments to which the Scriptures speak; one has been completed (the judgment that occurred at Calvary), another is on a daily basis (self-judgment <see 1 Cor.11:28-29; Psa.26:1-2; 1Jn.1:9>), one that there is no specific time indicated (fallen angels <see Ezek.28:12-19; Isa.14:12-17; 1 Cor.6:3; Jude 6;  2 Pet.2:4>), and four that are yet to be executed; the judgment-seat of Christ, of the Jewish nation <see Ezek.20:34-38; 1 Sam.8:6-7; Lk.23:13-18; Acts 7:51-53>, of the gentile nations <see Matt.25:31-32, 45; Joel 3:2>, and of the evil dead. We will be looking at the details of three of these judgments. (You may wish to read the prelude to this Post by selecting “Life-Death-Resurrection [2/12/22]” from the list of Current Posts).

THE JUDGMENT EXECUTED AT CALVARY

The Old Testament records the many attempts that God made to bring His people, the Jews, back to Himself from their sinful rebellion; it also records the prophecies of their coming Messiah who would be God’s means of providing salvation for all mankind. The issue of inherited sin in all people had to be dealt with for all eternity, for that is the only way that mankind can be restored or redeemed from sin to be able to spend eternity with God. As the Jewish nation had been taught through the Law given through Moses, the shed blood from a sacrificial animal was the only way for sin to be cleansed, and this is what was accomplished by Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.

When God delivered the Jews from their captivity in Egypt (symbolic of our deliverance from the servitude to sin), He instructed the people through Moses to select a lamb for each household; the animal had to be in good health and should not have any defect; the lamb was to be killed and the blood was to be smeared on the door-posts and the tops of the door-frames <Ex.12:3, 5-7>. On that night God executed judgment upon the land and people of Egypt so that Pharoah would release the slaves; ““On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn — both men and animals — and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” <Ex 12:12-13 (NIV)>; in this way God redeemed His people from their captivity, and instructed them to celebrate this event throughout their generations, reminding them of their deliverance. The Law given through Moses instructed them in the various animal sacrifices for various functions and feasts, showing them that all sin must be dealt with through the shed blood of the animal. These sacrifices, however, were only symbolic in nature until God’s eternal sacrifice was offered in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ <see Heb.9:6-10>. This chapter continues to describe the sacrifices and their purpose by stating: “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” <Heb 9:22 (NIV)>: and since these animal sacrifices were only symbolic, God had to provide a “better” sacrifice, and that provision is His Son Jesus Christ, who offered Himself once and for all eternity, and as “the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” <Heb 9:25-26 (NIV)>

Thus, Christ took our sins in His own body on the Cross, and in our place suffered God’s judgment for our sins: “…John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” <John 1:29 (NIV); cf Heb.2:9; 1 Jn.2:2; 2 Cor.5:21>; and in this we see that God’s wrath against sin was revealed at Calvary as Christ suffered for us in the darkness of the daytime <see Matt.27:45-46>, and paid the price for sin that was ours to pay <Rom.6:23>.

The question that we each have to answer is: What have I done in response to God’s gift of salvation? Have I accepted God’s gift or have I rejected His offer? Our response to this will determine where we stand in the judgments to come <see Jn.1:12-13>.

THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST

This judgment is where all the believers in Christ will be judged and rewarded for their actions after their conversion (belief). It will take place at the second coming of Christ after the first resurrection <see Lk.14:14; Matt.16:27>; and it should be noted that this will not be a question of our salvation, it will be an accountability to Christ: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” <2 Cor 5:10 (NIV)>; good or bad suggests profitable or not. Our sins before conversion will not be judged, for Christ has already cancelled that debt that we owed to God <see Heb.10:14-17>, neither will the sins committed and confessed after our conversion <1 Jn.1:9>. Our deeds and motives will be judged: “…his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” <1 Cor 3:13-15 (NIV)>. Christ will judge our words <Matt.12:36-37>, thoughts <Matt.15:19-19>, and our secrets <Rom.2:16>. Here there will be no favouritism for God knows our heart <Gal.6:7-8>. If the believer’s actions and motives pass the test of Christ’s judgment (fire), the believer will be rewarded.

We prepare for this judgment by constant communion with Christ through His Word and self-examination (judgment), and the daily leading of The Holy Spirit. When this is our lifestyle there should be no cause for concern to the believer; “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” <1 Cor 4:5 (NIV)>

THE JUDGMENT OF THE UNGODLY DEAD

JudgmentDay
(Google Search-Slideplayer.com)

This is God’s final judgment upon all those who throughout their lifetime have totally rejected Him and His offer of salvation, and as is described by the effects and the results of all the judgments during the tribulation period <Rev.16:9> when God is dealing with His people, the Jews, and the nations of the world, there will be a millennial period (a thousand years) after which there will be a resurrection of all the ungodly dead. The Scriptures record the vision of John: “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.” < Rev.20:11-13 (NIV)>; and in this judgment we must understand that the guilty verdict has already been declared and that there is no appeal or withdrawal of this verdict. All who stand before God’s throne at this judgment have already condemned themselves by their actions and motives in the rejection of Jesus Christ and the salvation that he has secured; their names have never been entered in the Book of Life, and the sentence is condemnation to the Lake of fire <Rev.20:15>.

Therefore, we see in this that God will punish all those that reject Him, and there will be no exceptions <Heb.9:27>, for He has declared that nothing impure, sinful or ungodly will enter His heaven <see Rev.21:8, 27>; and He has given us assurance of this, for He has given all judgment to His Son, Jesus Christ <see Jn.5:22, 27-29>.

Again, we are all faced with a great decision; to which resurrection will I answer Christ’s call, the first <1 Thess.4:16-17>, or the second resurrection where we will face God’s final judgment. Let us hear God’s Word; “…They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.” <Rev.20:4-6 (NIV)>; the second death is final separation from God for all eternity!

 

LIFE – DEATH – RESURRECTION [2/12/22]

iStock evie-s-zn4Pl32WgWM-unsplash

When looking up the definition of LIFE in the dictionary we find a number of definitions given, leading us to make a decision as to which one satisfies our individual belief; the fact is that life is very difficult to define. Biblically speaking, life is a trust, it is a loan from God for a short period of time <Job 1:21>, it is a gift from God; it is here today and gone tomorrow. Much to the dismay of many today, life originated, biblically, in the Garden of Eden <Gen.2:7>; and although we are told that life begins when we are born of our parents, according to God’s Word we are told that true life begins at conception <Psa.51:5> for it was at that moment in time that we inherited the sin-nature.

There are many comparisons that can be observed in life: it is like a journey <Gen.47:9>, it is like a shadow <Eccl.6:12>, it is like a vapour <Jas.4:14>; but what is the purpose of life? Basically, it is a short time during which we prepare for a very long eternity! It is a time for each of us to make a personal choice of the place that our soul will spend eternity! Each of us can live in respect and honour of Christ <Phil.1:20-21>, or live our life in total rebellion against the God, who gave us life; thus, suffering the consequences <Rom.2:9>. Let us be fully aware that the length of our life is set by God, and He will call an end to our days when it pleases Him, we do not know when that time will come, for it could be a short period or a long period: “The length of our days is seventy years — or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” <Psa.90:10, 12 (NIV)>. Many live far beyond eighty years today, but there will be an end to life!

iStockphoto-1598146621261-7cdbb2b30d4bLife is saddened by the fact that it will end in DEATH, and as we saw earlier life is difficult to define; death can be defined as the departure or the cessation of life. In death we find that the body is separated from the soul and spirit; the body is placed in the grave and finally disintegrates or “returns to dust” <Eccl.3:20>. The spirit returns to God <Eccl.12:7; cf Gen.2:7>; the soul goes to one of two places; the soul of the rebellious (unsaved) goes to hell (a place of great agony) <Lk.16:23>; while the soul of the righteous (saved) will go to a place of paradise <Lk.16:22; cf Lk.23:43>. The scriptures speak to two kinds of death, Spiritual and Physical; both originating in the Garden of Eden: Spiritual Death was the result of disobedience to God’s command; “And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”” <Gen.2:16-17 (NIV)>, although Adam & Eve did not physically die at that moment of disobedience, the judgment of death came upon them and all mankind, which is spiritual death <Eph.2:1>. The first record of Physical Death is seen in the record of Cain murdering his brother Abel <Gen.4:8; cf Jas.1:15>, which was the result of inherited sin, and physical death is the direct result of sin. So then, we find that because of their sin and spiritual death, God banished Adam and Eve from the garden and has guarded the way to the tree of life for all mankind: “And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” <Gen.3:22-24 (NIV)>.

Although there is nothing that we can do to avoid physical death, for it is determined by God, there is much that we can do avoid spiritual death. The Scriptures teach that spiritual death is an eternal banishment from God: “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power” <2 Thess.1:8-9 (NIV)>: eternal death is also referred to as alienation from God: “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” <Eph.4:18 (NIV)>. As it has already been stated previously that life is a short time during which we prepare for a very long eternity, the message of the Scriptures is that God has provided a way to escape the judgment for sin; and that provision is in the person of His Son Jesus Christ; Christ gave Himself as the required sacrifice for mankind’s sin by His death on the Cross, His burial and His resurrection: “…Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” <1 Jn.2:1-2 (NIV)>; each individual on the face of this earth has the same opportunity to make the decision to accept what Christ has accomplished for us – our salvation from sin – our escape from condemnation, from eternal separation from God, for Christ said “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” <Jn.5:24 (NIV)>; a “cross-over” from eternal death to eternal life with God. Therefore, our only hope of avoiding spiritual death is in Jesus Christ, for when our belief is placed in Christ the Holy Spirit works the miracle of regeneration in our life, transforming us into His image and makes us a child of God <Jn.1:12>.

A final word to this subject: Christ’s death on the cross was no accident, it was appointed by God; for someone had to die to pay sin’s penalty, and that person had to be “without sin” or “sinless” for the sacrifice had to be “spotless” or pure according to the Law given through Moses <Ex.12:5-6; Lk.23:13-15>; “God made him [Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” <2 Cor.5:20 (NIV)>. Christ’s death was necessary for the redemption of all mankind making it the concern of every individual person to accept His sacrifice <see Lk.24:46-47; 1 Cor.15:3-4>.

iStockphoto-1586249411653-2a167d4d5fa5And so, the Scriptures teach that just as Christ was raised from the dead, all mankind will experience a RESURRECTION. Why is the resurrection such an important topic? Daniel, in his final prophecy wrote: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” <Dan.12:2 (NIV)>, and throughout the Scriptures a resurrection is mentioned; Job, in his discourse with his three friends asks the question: “If a man dies, will he live again?” <Job 14:14 (NIV)>; he then answers his own question – “And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes — I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” <Job 19:26-27 (NIV)>. Christ’s disciples preached the same message throughout the New Testament, for indeed that is the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ <see Jn.14:1-3; cf 1 Cor.15:51-53; 1 Thess.4:16-17>.

Some have enquired as to what kind of body we will have in the resurrection; here again the Scriptures have told us that just as Christ had a new body at His resurrection so we too will have a new body, it will be an incorruptible body, incapable of death and decay <1 Cor.15:42-44, 52-53>, it will be a spiritual body not limited to the laws of earth, and we also learn of the reasons for this. We are instructed that “…. man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” <Heb.9:27 (NIV)>; God has appointed a day of accountability! So then, we see that all Christ’s followers, as well as all those that have rebelled against God, will have a new body in the resurrection, a body that will never more see corruption, a body that will never again die. We all then will face God to account to Him for the life that we have lived; all believers will stand before His throne in Heaven where He will reward us for our service to Him <see Matt.25:31-34; cf 2 Cor.5:10; 1 Pet.4:17a>. Unbelievers will also be judged for the life they have lived <see Matt.25:41; 1 Pet.4:17b; Rev.20:12>. The point to observe here is that both believers and unbelievers will live for ever – eternity – alive in the new incorruptible body; all believers will enjoy heaven and the presence of God forever, while all unbelievers will live away from God in agony of judgment FOREVER! <see Lk.16:23-26; cf Ezek.18:20, 32>.

The conclusion to all of this is that in LIFE we have the choice to live as we please, God allows us to do so because He will never force His dictate upon us, we were created with a determination to do what we wish, but this does not excuse us to live a life of rebellion against God. We must understand that God is still in control, we need to understand that we belong to God because He has created us for His glory, and when we rebel and go our own way it is not for His glory. He has given us life to enjoy, but inherited sin drives us away from Him to follow and serve Satan, and our only escape is to turn to God in repentance, accept His salvation and allow His Holy Spirit to control our life. Let us not forget or ignore this, for this life will end in DEATH in a short while, and then there will be no turning back to attempt to make things right, the way we live is the way we will die! RESURRECTION will come, and as has been stated, we will all stand before God’s judgment seat to give account of the way we lived; God is a God of justice and He will never allow sin to go unpunished, whether in this life or in the next.

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”  It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” <Heb.10:26-31 (NIV)>.

In life or in death we all belong to God! <Rom.14:8>.

 

SANCTIFICATION [01-08-22]

(Or HOLINESS)

Sanctification, or to sanctify, literally means “to set apart for special use or purpose”; that is, to make holy or sacred. Therefore, sanctification refers to the state or process of being set apart, i.e., “made holy”, as a vessel, full of the Holy Spirit of God. There are two other words used in the Scriptures, and depending on the context, have a similar meaning; consecrate – indicating to dedicate; and anoint – also indicating to consecrate. Let us examine the institution of sanctification as it is taught in the Holy Scriptures.

At the inception of the nation of Israel, while they were encamped at Mount Sinai, God called Moses to the top of the mountain, gave him specific instructions to go back down and warn the people not to force their way in an attempt to see the Lord which would cause many to perish. The reason was (and is) that God is Holy, and nothing or no unholy person can enter His presence or look upon Him without meeting their death, and this was the fear of individuals as recorded in the Old Testament <see Gen.32:30; Judg.13:22>. God’s instruction to Moses at Sinai was the basis of what it means to be sanctified: “Even the priests, who approach the Lord, must consecrate themselves” <Ex.19:22 (NIV); cf 1 Pet.1:15-16>. God further instructed Moses on this occasion to; “’Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.'” <Ex.19:23 (NIV)> because God’s presence was on the mountain. So, here we see that God sets the standard for any person that desires to come into His presence or desires to serve Him.

This standard was established at the dedication of the Tabernacle (Tent of Meeting) by Moses; the Tabernacle and all its furnishings were anointed and consecrated; Aaron and his sons were dressed in their sacred garments, anointed and consecrated, forming a priesthood that was designed to continue “for all generations” <see Ex.40:9-15>. In this we see a pattern for all believers in Christ outlining the way that God expects each one of us in living the Christian life; the importance of this is also emphasized in the New Testament: “…without holiness no one will see the Lord.” <Heb.12:14 (NIV)>; furthermore, we are instructed that “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified” <1 Thess.4:3 (NIV); 1 Pet.2:9>. Thus, sanctification is a very important subject for all believers in Christ.

Since the basic meaning of sanctification is separation, the Scriptures teach that each believer in Christ is separated or set apart unto God for Him to use us in His service as He pleases. This was true of the priests in the Old Testament <Ex.40:12-15>, and is also true of believers in the New Testament. But here we see that it has a twofold meaning; separation from evil from the example given in the Old Testament <see 2 Chron.29:5, 15-16>; and separation unto God as instructed in the New Testament <see 2 Cor.6:14-17>; “…let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” <2 Cor.7:1 (NIV)>. In recognition of the holiness of God, each and every believer in Christ must be separate from all that is evil and be separated unto God.

Our Sanctification is originated in three ways: first by God the Father <see 1 Thess.5:23-24>; secondly by God the Son <Eph.5:26; cf Jn.3:5; Tit.3:5; 1 Pet.1:23>; and third, by the Holy Spirit <see 2 Thess.2:13>; all three Persons of the Godhead participates in out sanctification. The methods of sanctification include: spending much time in reading and studying the Scriptures; “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” <Jn.17:17 (NIV)>, the Word of God not only brings us to salvation, it also keeps us, purifies us, and keeps us sanctified. We are also kept sanctified by the shed blood of Christ, “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.” <Heb.13:12 (NIV)>, as the Word of God reveals sin in our lives the blood of Christ cleanses us <see 1 Jn.1:9>. We are also disciplined through the Word of God so that we can continue in our sanctification, “…… God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” <Heb.12:10 (NIV)>. Reading and studying the Word of God also teaches us to surrender ourselves to God’s holy way of living, “I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” <Rom.6:19 (NIV)>. Each individual believer therefore, plays a part in their sanctification by searching for the sin in their life, judging it, putting it out of their life, and praying for the help of the Holy Spirit to live a holy life <2 Cor.7:1>.

“When I was a child, my minister father brought home a 12-year-old boy named Roger, whose parents had died from a drug overdose. There was no one to care for Roger, so my folks decided they’d just raise him as if he were one of their own sons. At first it was quite difficult for Roger to adjust to his new home–an environment free of heroin-addicted adults! Every day, several times a day, I heard my parents saying to Roger: “No, no. That’s not how we behave in this family.” “No, no. You don’t have to scream or fight or hurt other people to get what you want.” “No, no, Roger, we expect you to show respect in this family.” And in time Roger began to change. Now, did Roger have to make all those changes in order to become a part of the family? No. He was made a part of the family simply by the grace of my father. But did he then have to do a lot of hard work because he was in the family? You bet he did. It was tough for him to change, and he had to work at it. But he was motivated by gratitude for the incredible love he had received. Do you have a lot of hard work to do now that the Spirit has adopted you into God’s family? Certainly. But not in order to become a son or a daughter of the heavenly Father. No, you make those changes because you are a son or daughter. And every time you start to revert back to the old addictions to sin, the Holy Spirit will say to you, “No, no. That’s not how we act in this family.”[Source: Perfect Illustrations. Citation: Craig Barnes, author and pastor of National Presbyterian Church; Washington, D.C.; from sermon “The Blessed Trinity” (5-30-99)]. The assurance then to a sanctified life is the continuous appropriation of our Saviour’s holy life, and the measure of our sanctification is in relation to that appropriation.

The question that could be asked is: When, or at what time are we sanctified? Here we find that there are many opinions, but as we study the Scriptures, we find that there are at least three phases. First, we find that sanctification is instantaneous with our conversion; in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians addressing their conversion he states; “…But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” <1 Cor.6:11 (NIV)> where sanctification is seen as a past experience. Secondly, we find that it is a progressive undertaking, the instant that some sin is revealed to us we need to take action by confession to God and seek His cleansing; “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.” <Jas.1:22-25 (NIV)>, and we find that this is a continuous task. Thirdly, our sanctification will one day be complete and final, for we know that Christ will return to fulfill His promise <Jn.14:1-3>, at which time we will be forever completely sanctified – made fully perfect, for we know that we will be changed to be like Him; “But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” <1 Jn.3:2-3 (NIV); cf Phil.3:12-14; 1 Thess.4:15-17>.

What then is the reason why we should be sanctified? The simple answer is that our Lord Jesus Christ has set the example for us to follow; “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message”” <Jn.17:19-20 (NIV)>, and we further read that “even Christ did not please himself…” <Rom.15:3a> because He came to obey and do His Father’s will, so it is appropriate for all His followers to keep endeavouring for holiness. And so, we find that our sanctification will result in our perfection through Christ, so where there is a longing for holiness, we need to be always confessing our sins to God, for this is how we attain the perfection that we need to have in and through Christ; “because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” <Heb.10:14 (NIV)>; and in so doing we can be sanctified for His use and service; “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” <Rom.6:22 (NIV)>.

Similar to everything else that is godly, sanctification has a cost, we as believers in Christ need to break away from the sin and uncleanness in our lives, and maintain a sanctified lifestyle in complete obedience to the Word of God; there must be immediate confession of sin to God; there must be a conscious submission to God and resistance to Satan, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” <Jas.4:7 (NIV)>; and be a regular and faithful student of God’s Word.

“People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”  [Source: Perfect Illustrations-Compromise. Citation: D. A. Carson, quoted in “Reflections,” Christianity Today (7-31-00)]. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” <1 Cor.10:12 (NIV)>.

Therefore, let us remember the words of our Saviour that the preaching of His gospel is: “…to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’” <Acts 26:18 (NIV)> and we are sure of this because: “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” <1 Thess.5:24 (NIV)>.

FORGIVENESS OF SIN [12/19/21]

Sin originated in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned against God by disobedience to God’s command; “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” <Gen.2:17 (NIV)>; they believed the lie of Satan and did what God had told them not to do, and so all mankind inherited the sin-nature and the judgment that ensued <see Rom.3:23; 6:23a>. So, we find that sin prohibits all mankind from entering heaven, for heaven is the abode of God and is a holy place, nothing evil will ever enter God’s heaven <see Rev.21:27>. Therefore, to the sinful person the forgiveness of sin by God becomes the most important difficulty to deal with, for the sinner has broken the command (law) of God and only God can forgive the sinner, only God can forgive sin <Mk.2:7b; Acts 5:30-31; 1 Jn.1:9>.

It is imperative that all persons understand that there is no human mediator for the forgiveness of sins, each of us must go directly to the One that we have offended. The person Job, facing the difficulties in his life, asked the question: “But how can a mortal be righteous before God?” <Job 9:2 (NIV)>, and after much deliberation and frustration with his three friends, finally expressed: “If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more.” <Job 9:33-34 (NIV)>; and after our Lord Jesus Christ was revealed to the world the apostle Paul writing to Timothy said: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men” <1 Tim.2:5-6 (NIV)>. Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ is our only means of forgiveness, and forgiveness of sin cannot be obtained by any church, sacrament or ordinance <see Acts 13:38-39; Lk.7:48-50; Mk.2:8-12>.

Three biblical teachings form the basis to forgiveness for sin. First, we see that it is based on God’s compassion for the sinner: “Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.” <Psa.78:38-39 (NIV)>; God’s people, the Jews, had sinned and failed in their relationship with God so often, yet God was compassionate towards them. Secondly, we see that it was based on Divine justice, in that He is able to forgive sin yet remaining holy and just: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” <1 Jn.1:9 (NIV); cf Psa.143:1; Zech. 8:8; Mic.7:18-19>. Third, forgiveness is based on the shed Blood of Christ when he suffered for us on the Cross, as a complete and eternal sacrifice in payment for our eternal redemption: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” <Eph.1:7 (NIV); cf Ezek.18:4b; Lev.17:11>.

God’s forgiveness for our sin is complete, in that, ALL our sins are forgiven, for as we have seen before, nothing evil will enter God’s heaven <see Psa. 103:3; 32:1-2>; and it is important to understand that all sin must be forgiven, for if only one sin remained in the life of any individual that person cannot enter heaven. This means that every believer in Christ has a “present possession” of forgiveness, and does not have to wait until after death to find out if he/she is forgiven, for we have already seen that we have redemption through his blood” <Eph.1:7; cf Lk.7:47; 1 Jn.2:12. This is our assurance that we have eternal life and will spend eternity with God in heaven.

God’s forgiveness of our sins is also conditional on four acts. First, there must be repentance by the individual, for repentance comes before forgiveness <see Acts 2:38> (also, see Post on Repentance [12/2/21]). Second, faith in Christ must be exercised <Lk.7:50>. Then, third, there must be confession of sin <1 Jn. 1:9; Psa.32:5>, since unconfessed sin cannot be forgiven. Finally, there must be the act of us forgiving others for this is one characteristic of a believer in Christ <see Matt.6:15; Eph.4:32>; and should be a continuous exercise <Matt.18:21-22>.

As a believer in Christ, we must also understand that we are not sinless while we are in this world, but our confession of sin to God should also be on a continuous basis <see Rom.7:18-20; 1 Jn.2:1-2>.

But what about you who are not a believer in Christ? From cover to cover, the Bible emphasizes the need to repent and to seek God’s forgiveness for sin. One such record is that of king Belshazzar who had rebelled against God, and God’s finger wrote his sentence on the wall of his palace; “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting” <Dan.5:27; cf Rom.3:23>, and this message of the gospel has been shared many times over the decades. How many times have you heard it? What has been your response? Has your name been recorded in God’s Book? The scriptures close with the account of all those who continue to rebel against God, let this not be your final end to life! Confess your sins to God and repent and seek His forgiveness, for no sin can enter God’s heaven: “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” <Rev.20:11-15 (NIV)>.

“If there is no repentance, there can be no pardon. Some years ago, a mur­derer was sentenced to death. The mur­derer’s brother, to whom the State was deeply indebted for former services, be­sought the governor of the State for his brother’s pardon. The pardon was granted, and the man visited his brother with the pardon in his pocket. “What would you do,” he said to him, “if you received a pardon?”

“The first thing I would do,” he an­swered, “is to track down the judge who sentenced me, and murder him; and the next thing I would do is to track down the chief witness, and murder him.”

The brother rose, and left the prison with the pardon in his pocket.” (Source: Knights Book of Illustrations)

This is typical of all mankind today! God has offered a pardon (forgiveness) to all people, but those who refuse God’s offer will unfortunately face His judgment!