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THE BELIEVER IN CHRIST [7/11/20]

THE TWO PERSONALITIES

We are taught by the Scriptures that every spiritually born-again person possesses two natures; the first received by our natural birth which is the “sin nature” and is anti God; the other is the new birth which is the nature of God Himself that comes through our salvation.

The sin-nature is such because we inherited it from our fore-father Adam who died spiritually because of his disobedience to God’s specific 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); cf Gen.1:27; 2:7; 3:17-19; Rom.5:12>. Consequently, every living person on this earth has been born with the sin-nature, and there is nothing that any one of us can do the escape the ensuing condemnation of spiritual death <see Psa.51:5; Jer.17:9; Rom.3:10-12>. This does not mean that there are no “good” people in the world, many are quite refined and cultured, generous, charitable and even religious, but none are “righteous” or seek after God, and this fact is sometimes difficult to accept especially when it has to do with family and respected friends; because such people continually insult God’s rights, deny the divinity of Christ and are unmoved by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ <see 1 Jn.1:10; 5:10; cf Gen.6:4-5>. Ever since the creation, mankind has struggled to improve, to eradicate wickedness and make the race better, but sadly we have only become worse. The sinful nature that is within us constantly comes about in every thought, word and action <see Mk.7:21-23; 1 Cor.2:14; Rom.8:7-8; Eph.2:3>; thus, such people cannot obey, please or understand God.

Conversely the believer in Christ, although still possessing the “old sin-nature” which is unchanged and unchangeable, has received a “new nature” which is patterned after God in righteousness and true holiness; and this is exhibited as a “new creation” and not merely a transformation. As we received the sin-nature by natural birth, we receive the new-nature by rebirth: “Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”” <Jn.3:3 (NIV); cf 1:12-13>.  We must be careful, however, that we are not confused by the present popular teaching of, “The universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of mankind”, since only those who are born again spiritually are children of God and accepted into the family of God. Adam is referred to as the son of God, but the scriptures are careful to state that Seth is the son of Adam (not God) <cf Gen.1:27; 5:1-3; Lk.3:38>. So the believer is called to “put on the new self” (person) that is a characterization of righteousness and true holiness and in accord with Christ <see Rom.8:10; Eph.4:24; 2; Cor.5:17; Gal.2:20; Col.1:27; 3:3-4; 2 Pet.1:4; 1 Jn.5:11-12>.

It is important to understand that this new nature which is Christ’s, is existent within the believer together with the old sin-nature, and this fact is addressed by Paul where he comments – “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” <Rom.7:21 (NIV)>, and the Scriptures have other examples of this internal conflict <cf Job. 42:6; Dan.10:7-8>. So it is evident that there is constant conflict between these two natures, and is seen in the experience of Paul where he expresses the “I’s” in his effort to overcome the conflict <see Rom.7:14-25>, and this is a discouragement and perplexes all new believers in Christ, and can only be overcome by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as Paul expresses – “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” <Rom.7:24-25 (NIV); cf Rom.6:6; 8:13; 1 Cor.6:19-20; Gal.5:16-17>. Therefore, we are not to allow our old nature to control us causing us to yield to sinful practices, because the conflict is now between the sin-nature and the Holy Spirit <see Rom.6:11; 8:1-4, 12-14, 31; Phil.3:3; Col.3:3>.

THE BELIEVER’S STATUS AND CHARACTER

In studying the N.T. Scriptures it is very important to understand the difference between the “status” (standing) and the state or “character” of the believer in Christ. The status of all believers is the result of the work of Christ from the very moment of faith in Him, and nothing can be added or done to improve or diminish that status that we have in Christ. This places all believers on the same status level, and no one can claim to be any closer to God than another believer. We read, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” <Jn.1:12 (NIV)> and that “…. if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” <Rom.8:17 (NIV)>. All believers are God’s children and have equal rights to an eternal incorruptible inheritance in Christ that is set aside for us in heaven, we are a chosen group, a distinguished priesthood, we are complete in Christ and have direct access to His grace and rejoice in the anticipation of sharing His glory; we have confidence in the fact that we will live eternally with Christ in His kingdom because of the eternal life that has been given to us; we also have courage to enter His holy presence  <see 1 Jn. 3:2; 5:1; 1 Pet.1:4-5; 2:9; Eph.1:11; Col.2:10; Rev.1:5-6; Rom.5:1-2; Jn.3:16; 1 Jn.5:13; Heb.10:19; Eph.1:3, 6, 13; 2:4-6, 13; 5:30; 1 Cor.12:13; 6:19>. All these things are true of every believer in Christ, and not one can be attained by any other means but by faith in the finished work of Christ; we are instantly clothed in the righteousness of God and seated with Him in the heavenly domain <see Rom.3:22; Eph.2:6>. This, then, is our status or where we stand in God’s analysis; but our state or character is no where near the level of what our status is.

Let us now look at some contrasts between our status and our actual character.

  • Our Status declares that we are recipients of God’s grace and that we are expectantly awaiting Christ’s return <1 Cor.1:2-9>; while our character displays controversy, envy, strife and division <1 Cor.1:11; 3:1-3; 5:2>.
  • Our status affirms that we are cleansed, sanctified and justified by God <1 Cor.6:11>; but our character shows our lack of will to endure hardship <1 Cor.6:7>.
  • Our status confirms that we are members of Christ <1 Cor.6:15>; but our character shows our willful indulgence in sinful practices <1 Cor.6:15>.
  • Our status produces an understanding of scriptural truths <Matt.16:16-17>; while we characteristically depend on our human understanding of what the scriptures teach <Matt.16:23>.
  • Our status declares our freedom from the power of darkness <Col.1:12-13>; but our character produces anger, rage, bad language and lies <Col.3:8-9>.

There are many more contrasting differences that could be added to this list but we should observe from these listed that God’s design under grace is to establish the highest possible status for the believer, and then to encourage the believer to maintain that status in accordance with His grace; and that the Scriptures make a clear distinction between the status and the character of the believer. Positionally, God declares the believer to be “perfect” forever <Heb.10:14>; but as the believer examines his/her character in the light of scripture, the finding is like that of Paul – not yet perfect <Phil.3:12>.

In conclusion, we could say that the application of God’s Word to the lifestyle and conscience, the discipline at our Heavenly Father’s hand, the work and teaching of the Holy Spirit, difficulties and trials and the final transformation at Christ’s appearance; are all intended to align the believer’s character with the status that we received at our conversion; and in the end both status and character will be equal <see Jn.17:17; Eph.5:26; Heb.12:10; 1 Cor.11:32; Eph.4:11-12; 1 Pet.4:12-14; 1 Jn.3:2>.

 

LAW VERSUS GRACE [7/3/20]

A detailed study of the Scriptures reveals a noticeable and contrasting division of God’s administration over the Jews (Law) and the Church (Grace): “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” <Jn.1:17 (NIV)>. This quote does not indicate that there was no Law before Moses, since at the creation account God gave specific instructions and the ensuing consequence of breaking His command <see Gen.2:15-17>; neither does it suggest that there was no Grace before Christ came into the world; since in the response of God after Adam and Eve broke His command and sinned, God came down to earth looking for Adam and finally provided for Adam and Eve’s redemption from their sin a means of cleansing and forgiveness (His Grace), by clothing them in the skin of an animal that had to be killed in their place, representing a sacrifice for sin, that which the Law required <see Gen.3:21>; for the Law required the death of the sinner. Here then, we see the very first mention in scripture of the Grace of God and is referenced in the N.T. in the sacrifice of Christ Himself for the salvation of all sinners; “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.5:21 (NIV)>; “He himself [Christ] bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” <1 Pet.2:24 (NIV)>.

It is important to observe that wherever the Law is mentioned in Scripture it refers to the Law given by Moses and covers God’s administration up to the event of Christ’s death on Calvary, the final and eternal sacrifice for all sin. From that point in time, and onward, God’s Grace is the characteristic of His administration over the Church age and will continue until He comes to call all believers (the Church) to be with Himself <see 1 Thess.4:16-17>. Furthermore, it should be observed that in any time period defined by God (dispensation), the Scriptures do not combine the two principles of Law and Grace, and Paul explains this in his letter to the Galatians’. Wherever the Law is mentioned it demands justice, condemnation, curses and the death of the lawbreaker; and a study of the books of Exodus and Leviticus will reveal the demands of the Law <see such passages as Ex.20-23; Lev.19-24>. In contrast then, where the Law brought terror, Grace brought freedom to the worst of sinners <see Lk.23:39-43; Rom.5:8; 1 Cor.6:9-11; 1 Tim.1:15>.

Another important observation that must be made is that the N.T. references to the “law” are to the Law given by Moses, but there are exceptions <see Rom.7:21-23>. In some cases, the reference is to the both the “moral law” (10 commandments) and the “ceremonial law” (offerings and sacrifices), both comprising the whole law. Examples are: of the whole law <Rom.6:14; Gal.2:16; 3:2>, of the moral law <Rom.3:19; 7:7-12>, and of the ceremonial law <Col.2:14-17>. Contained in the ceremonial law are the “types” or “foreshadows” of the Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ as Priest and Sacrifice pictured in the Tabernacle and the Levitical Offerings <see Ex.25-30; Lev.1-7; cf 2 Cor.3:7-18>.

Three errors that have plagued Church teachings are those that affect the relationship between Law and Grace:

  1. ANTINOMIANISM: such maintain that believers in Christ have been freed from the moral law by virtue of faith and grace and therefore are not required to live holy lives: <see Titus 1:16; Jude 4>
  2. CEREMONIALISM: a system of rites and formalities and originally it demanded that believers should observe the Levitical ordinances, and the modern form is in the teaching that such ordinances are essential to salvation: <see Acts 15:1>
  3. GALATIANISM: or the intermixing of law and grace – teaching that justification is partly by grace and partly by law; or that grace is given so that the incapable sinner can keep the law. Such teaching has been addressed in Paul’s letter to the Galatians’ and is God’s conclusive answer: <see Gal 1:6-8; 3:2-3>

The following outline and scripture references, which speak specifically to the moral law, is what the Scriptures teach us on this important subject.

  1. WHAT THE LAW IS: It is holy, just and good <Rom.7:12>; spiritual <Rom.7:14>. It is something in which we should delight ourselves <Rom.7:22>. It is NOT of faith <Gal.3:12>
  2. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW: It exposes, or makes us conscious of sin <Rom.7:7; 13>; it condemns us before God, it cannot justify <Rom.3:20>. It was given because of transgressions <Gal.3:19>, and makes us guilty before a holy God <Rom.3:19>. It demands complete adherence in all it’s elements <Gal.3:10; James 2:10>. It is the administration of death and condemnation <2 Cor.3:7, 9>, and proclaims the death sentence upon all <Rom.7:9>. It is the power of sin <1 Cor.15:56>. It was given (2500 years after Adam) to convict guilty mankind of sin and complete helplessness in view of God’s just requirements – strictly an administration of condemnation and death <Jn.1:17; Gal.3:17>
  3.  WHAT THE LAW CANNOT DO: It cannot justify anyone before God <Acts 13:39; Rom.3:20; Gal.3:11>; or anyone who attempts to obey its principles <Gal.2:16>. It cannot obstruct God’s grace <Gal.2:21>. It cannot pass judgment on the sinful nature (only the sinner) <Rom.8:3>, and cannot make anyone perfect in God’s sight <Heb.7:19>.
  4. THE BELIEVER IS NOT UNDER LAW: Christ, through His death, burial and resurrection has freed us from the demands and condemnation of the Law, and through our faith in His sacrifice we are identified with Him in His death (through baptism), and death exempts us from the Law <see Rom.6:1-10> Now that we have been risen with Christ we should live according to the principles that direct our life-style as believers <Rom.6:11-23>. We are not delivered from the guilt of sin but from the control of sin <Rom.6:14>. However, this should not encourage us to lean toward Antinomianism where we say that a godly life is not important <Rom.6:15>. Another principle that is given to us is that since we are dead to the Law and alive unto Christ, our lives should demonstrate the “fruits” of our new life <Rom.7:1-6; Gal.2:19; 3:23-25; 1 Tim.1:8-9>. Note here that in Rom.7:1-6 Paul is not referring to the Ceremonial Law but to the Moral Law <Rom.7:7>.
  5.  THE BELIEVER’S RULE OF LIFE: The believer should live as Christ did <1 Jn.2:6; Eph.4:1; 5:1, 15-16>; and should love as Christ loved <1 Jn.3:16; Jn.10:11; 13:34-35; 15:13>. The believer must abstain from sinful desires <1 Pet.2:11, 12-23>; having turned from the “darkness” of sin, must live in the “light” of the gospel <Eph.5:8-11>. The believer should not indulge in the desires of the old sinful nature to which he/she has “died” <Gal.5:16-21>; and must follow Christ’s example <Jn.13:15>, in obedience to His commands <Jn.14:21; 15:10, 12; 1 Jn.3:22-23; Heb.10:16>.

In consideration of the above, it is instructive “to remember that God’s appointed place for the tables of the law was within the ark of the testimony [covenant]. With them were “the golden pot that had the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded” (types [pictures], the one of Christ our wilderness bread, the other of resurrection, and both speaking of grace), while they were covered from sight by the golden mercy-seat upon which was sprinkled the blood of atonement. The eye of God could see His law, so badly broken by Israel, only through the blood that completely vindicated His justice and propitiated [appeased] His wrath” (quote from Rightly Dividing The Word Of Truth – Emmaus Correspondence Course) <see Heb.9:4-5; cf Ex.25:21; 34:27-28; 40:20-21>.

WHAT IS GRACE?

Grace is the undeserved mercy and kindness of God to a sinner; even though we as sinners are not deserving of God’s grace: <Rom.5:6-8; Eph.2:7-9>. “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy….” <Titus 3:3-5 (NIV)>

GOD’S PURPOSE IN GRACE – We are saved from God’s wrath by His grace through our faith in Christ, and justified apart from the Law <Rom.3:24; Eph.2:8-9; Gal.2:16>. As a result of His Grace we should look forward expectantly to the hope of all believers – the hope of His return for us <Titus 2:11-13>; we have also been made heirs of salvation <Titus 3:7; Eph.1:13-14>. We now have direct access to the throne-room of God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ <Rom.5:2; Heb.4:16; 10:19-22>, and are maturing through His written Word <Acts 20:32>. The Grace of God is therefore complete and all-inclusive, and these principles cannot be blended together with the Law, “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” <Rom.11:6 (NIV); see also Rom.4:4-5; Gal.3:16-18; 4:21-31>.

In conclusion then, we see that believers in Christ are not classified as “children of the bondwoman (or slave)”, we have been freed from the bondage (slavery) of sin <Gal.4:31>, consequently we have no fear of what the Law demands (death of the sinner), and we should not attempt to divide the Law into “Moral” and “Ceremonial” for we are not bound by what Moses gave to the Israelites at Sinai <see Heb.12:18-24>. This is referred to as “the righteousness of God apart from the law” <Rom.3:21>. So all unbelievers, having violated the Law, should accept the sentence of the Law “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” <Rom.3:23 (NIV); Rom.6:23 >; but such can find in Christ a perfect and eternal salvation for; “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes……..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.10:4, 9 (NIV)>.

 

RESURRECTION AND JUDGMENT [6/21/20]

TWO RESURRECTIONS

One of the basics of Christianity taught in the Word of God – The Bible; is the fact that there will be a resurrection of all the dead. That was confirmed by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:

“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”  <1 Cor 15:12-19 NIV >

However, as we study this subject it is important to understand that not all the dead are raised at the same time, since we find that there has already been a partial resurrection of believers: “The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” <Matt.27:52-53 NIV>. Two other resurrections are still in the future and will be different in respect to who will be raised, and when. These are referred to in the scriptures as “those that will be raised to life everlasting”; and “those that will be raised to condemnation” <see Jn.5:28-29; Dan.12:2>.

In Luke 14:14 our Lord speaks of the “resurrection of the righteous” which is a reference to the first resurrection only <cf 1 Cor.15:22-23; 1 Thess.4:13-16>. Paul in his letter to the Philippians writes: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection …… becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” <Phil.3:10-11 NIV>; and his reference to “the resurrection from the dead” does not imply that all the dead are raised simultaneously for he does not say the “resurrection of the dead”, indicating that some of the dead will remain in that state.

“…. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. 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>; in this passage we see the first resurrection of the righteous and the outcome it will have on those that attain to this event: they will reign with Christ and will not be overcome by the second death.

“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>; this passage describes the second resurrection of “those that will be raised to condemnation” and note here that the condemnation will be “the second death” which takes place when such are “thrown into the lake of fire.” An examination of the details of these two resurrections will also indicate the time between the two events which is 1000 years.

In conclusion, it is clear that the “dead in Christ” or believers in Christ who die before Christ’s coming in the air will be raised from the dead and will be caught up to meet Him in the air one thousand years before “those that will be raised to condemnation” <see 1 Thess.4:16-17>; and that the doctrine of the resurrection concerns only the bodies of the dead, no matter what the state of decay may be, they will be raised either to glory or anguish <cf Lk.16:22-24; 2 Cor.5:8; Phil.1:23>.

THE FIVE JUDGMENTS

In the study of this subject one must be careful of the term “general judgment” that is used by some writers; this term is not scriptural and neither is the theory conceived in the scriptures. The event of Rev.20:11-14 should not be considered as one great event that takes place at the end of the age comprising all people of the earth – saints and sinners. The scriptures speak of five judgments that differ in four respects: the individuals; the location; the time; the consequence.

  1.  The Believer in Christ: these have had their sins judged at the Cross of Christ when He paid the penalty of sin (AD 30) <see Jn.19:17-18; 1 Pet.2:24; 3:18; Gal.3:13; 2 Cor.5:21; Heb.1:3; 9:26; Rom.8:1; Jn5:24>.
  1. The Judgment of Sin in the Believer: this can take place at any time and in any place, and results in discipline by our Lord if the believer fails to assess himself/herself <see 1 Cor.11:31-32; Heb.12:7; 1 Pet.4:17; (cf. 1 Cor.5:5; 2 Sam.7:14-15; 12:13-14; 1 Tim.1:20)>.
  1. The Conduct (deeds) of the Believer: this will take place at the coming of Christ in the air, resulting in a reward or loss to the believer, but whatever the result, the believer will be saved. Every action, thought and word of the believer will be reviewed by our Lord <see 2 Cor.5:8-10; Rom.14:10-12; 1 Cor.3:11-15>. The time of this judgment is also given <see Matt16:27; Lk.14:14; 1 Cor.4:5; 2 Tim.4:8>; and the place is also given <see 1 Thess.4:17>.
  1. The Judgment of the Nations: this will occur at the second advent of Christ in the “Valley of Jehoshaphat” (a symbolic name for a valley near Jerusalem – NIV Study Bible). The result will be that some are saved and some will be lost, the basis being the treatment of these nations to the remnant of Israel “brothers of mine” <see Matt.13:40-41; 25:40-46; Joel 3:1-2, 12-14>. The judgment of the nations should not be confused with the Great White Throne Judgment <Rev.20:11> compare the following distinctions:

NATIONS: No resurrection; nations judged; on earth; no Record Books. Three groups: sheep; goats; brothers of mine”. Time: when Christ appears.

GREAT WHITE THRONE: Resurrection; Judgment of “the dead”; earth and sky have “fled from his presence”; Record Books opened. One group: “the dead”. Time: after Christ has reigned 1000 years. [source: “Rightly Dividing The Word Of Truth”; Emmaus Bible School]. Since the believers (saints) are partnered with Christ in this judgment they cannot be the subjects <1 Cor.6:2; cf. Dan.7:22; Jude 14-15>.

  1. The Judgment of the Wicked Dead: will be on a set day after the Millennium, and will take place before the Great White Throne; the result being “eternal damnation” <see Acts 17:31; Rev.20:5, 7, 11, 15>. The scriptures also refer to a judgment of angels <see 1 Cor.6:3; 2 Peter.2:4; Jude 6>.

The word “day” <see Acts 17:31; Rom.2:16> may be confusing to some, but it simply means a length of time or period of time <see 2 Pet.3:8; Jn.8:56>; and the word “hour” (“time”) <Jn.5:25> has now lasted over 2000 years.

The resurrection of the dead is certain; for as we have seen from the scriptures, our Lord Jesus Christ taught this to His disciples, and the apostles spoke of this in their documents to the Churches. It is also a promise to all believers in Christ <Jn.14:2-3> and a warning to unbelievers <Jn.14:5-6; 20:29, 31; 3:15>. As certain as the resurrection is, so also are the Judgments. The purpose of Christ’s first advent was to bring salvation to a world of sinners through His death on the cross, and all who reject Him and His offer of salvation will pay the penalty of such rejection, and there will be no exceptions <Jn.3:17; 5:24; 12:47-48; Rom.8:1; 9:28>.

“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)>

THE TWO ADVENTS [6/14/20]

“….. the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” <1 Peter 1:10-11 NIV >

Any study of Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of Messiah reveals two contrasting and apparent contradictions. One predicts Him as coming in weakness, humiliation and sorrow: “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” < Isa.53:1-3 NIV; cf Isa.53:3-12; Psa.22:1-8>.

The other prediction seen, reveals an impressive and powerful Sovereign who purges the earth with judgments, and reinstates dispersed Israel and the Throne of David in the land promised to Abraham; introducing a reign of peace and perfection in righteousness: “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. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” < Isa. 9:6-7 NIV; see Isa.11:10-12; Jer.23:5-8; Dan.7:13-14; Micah 5:2; Lk.1:31-33>.

In the right and proper time as appointed by God the first part of the prophecy was literally fulfilled by the birth of Messiah – Christ – to a virgin named Mary: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman…” <Gal.4:4 NIV; cf Matt.1:20-23>; and His life then was a literal fulfillment of all prophecy concerning His first advent <see Matt.21:1-5 (Zech.9:9); Jn.19:15-16>. However, no assumption should be made that the purposes of God concerning Messiah were confounded by the wickedness of mankind in the crucifixion and death of His Son The Christ, or Messiah; for God’s purpose was to include a second advent in which His earthly “glory” will see the same literal fulfillment as was seen in the sufferings of  His first advent <see Hos.3:4-5; Matt.24:29-30>.

In a comparable manner as the Jews were slow to believe, and were “blinded” to the predicted sufferings of Christ their Messiah; we today are also sluggish and “blinded” to believe all the predictions concerning His glory: “He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”” <Isa. 6:9-10 NIV; cf Rom.11:8>. His second advent is described in precisely the same terms as His departure; “This same Jesus….will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” <Acts 1:10-11; cf. 1 Thess.4:16-17>.

In anticipation of this blessed expectation, the scriptures teach us to “watch” <Matt.24:42; Mk.13:33>; “wait” <1 Thess.1:10>; “to be ready” <Matt.24:44>; and to echo the last prayer of the Bible <Rev.22:20>.

From the previous discussion it is abundantly clear that Christ’s second advent will be a personal and bodily appearance; and should not be considered as the death of a believer; the destruction of Jerusalem; the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; nor the gradual dispersion of Christianity. It is the “blessed hope” of the Church that has been promised to all believers <Titus 2:13; 1 Cor.15:51-52>.

In a further examination of the two advents let us look at the following contrasting scripture references:

THE FIRST ADVENT: Luke 2:7; 19:10; Heb. 9:26; John 3:17; 12:47                                     

THE SECOND ADVENT: Matt. 24:30; Heb. 9:28; 2 Thess. 1:7-8; Acts 17:31

These are a few selected references and many more can be found to show that the promises made to both Israel and the Church require a personal return of Christ to the earth; and this visible appearance must be distinguished from those that refer to His divine attributes of Omniscience – in that He knows all things; and His Omnipresence – in that He is always present everywhere even to the end of the age <cf Matt.18:20; 28:20>. It should be a comfort to every believer that our Lord and Saviour is now personally and in bodily form as a man at the right hand of God in heaven, from where He is also present with every believer everywhere <see Acts 1:9-11; 7:55-56; Col.3:1>.  So, by virtue of His divine attributes our Lord is present with the Church now and will be visibly upon the earth at His second advent.

Let us now consider some of the current theories of Christ’s second advent: 

The Prophecies concerning Christ’s return were not fulfilled by the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Such an interpretation would make the Holy Spirit only a manifestation of Christ. Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit as “another comforter” <see Jn.14:16>, and all the writers of the New Testament speak to Christ’s return as a future event – after Pentecost. None of the events predicted to accompany the second advent occurred at Pentecost such as: the resurrection of the “sleeping saints” and living believers being “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air <see 1 Cor.15:22-23, 51-53; 1 Thess.4:13-17; Phil.3:20-21>: nor the anguish of all the nations at His visible coming <see Matt.24:29-30; Rev.1:7>.

The conversion of a sinner is not the coming of the Lord. According to scriptures the conversion of a sinner is a sinner coming to Christ, not the coming of Christ to the sinner <see Matt.11:28; Jn.5:40; 6:37; 7:37>. None of the events predicted for Christ’s second coming occurs at the conversion of a sinner.

The death of a Christian is not the coming of Christ. “Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”  Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.” <John 21:22-24 NIV>. The writers of the scriptures always refer to a believer’s death as a “departure” from this earthly life <see 2 Cor.5:8; Phil.1:23; 2 Tim.4:6>. Again, none of the events       predicted for Christ’s second coming occurs at the death of a Christian.

The Roman destruction of Jerusalem was not the second coming of Christ. Three events are predicted by the discussion between Christ and His disciples in respect to their question – “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”” <Matt 24:3, (4-34) NIV>; and the fulfillment of one event does not constitute a fulfillment of all three, since they are three distinct occurrences. The apostle John who wrote Revelation after the destruction of Jerusalem speaks to Christ’s coming as a future event <see Rev.1:4-7; 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20>. Here again we see that none of the events predicted for Christ’s second coming occurred at the destruction of Jerusalem <see 1 Thess.4:15-17; Matt.24:29-30; 25:31-32>.

The dispersion of Christianity is not the second coming of Christ. The dispersion of Christianity is a gradual process, while the return of Christ will be a sudden and unexpected event <see Matt.24:27, 36-42; 2 Pet.3:10; Rev.3:3>; and it is obvious that the dispersion of Christianity brings salvation to the ungodly whereas the coming of Christ will be sudden destruction <see Matt.25:31-46; 1 Thess.5:2-3; 2 Thess.1:7-10>; and again, none of the events predicted for Christ’s second coming are seen in the dispersion of Christianity.

Although the above theories are wide-spread, none appear in the writings of reputable theologians of any school or denomination, nor are they maintained by any expositor or universally recognized leadership, who all maintain the bodily and visible second coming of Christ.” [quote; Emmaus Bible School-“Rightly Dividing The Word of Truth”]. However, it is said that Christ’s second coming cannot occur until the whole world has been converted by the preaching of the gospel message and submitting to a spiritual reign of Christ for one thousand years. This theory is also erroneous since scripture describes the condition of the earth at Christ’s second coming as one of appalling wickedness <cf Lk.17:26-31; (Gen.6:5-7; 13:13); Lk.18:8; 21:25-27>; and further, an evaluation of the present time-period excludes any possibility of a converted world <see Matt.13:36-43, 49-50; (25:1-10); 1 Tim.4:1-2; 2 Tim.3:1-5, 7; 4:3-4; 2 Pet.3:3-4; Jude 17-19>. God’s purpose in this time-period is not the conversion of the world but to gather out of the Jews and Gentiles a group of people to form His Church, and when the Church is completed He will return, and then we will see the conversion of the world <cf Acts15:14-17; Matt.24:14; Rom.1:5; 11:14; 1 Cor.9:22; Rev.5:9>.

In conclusion, Christ’s first advent was His coming into the world in human form to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind <see 1 Jn.2:1-2>; and His second advent will be His bodily return to reign over His earthly kingdom.

 

SEVEN DIVINELY ORDERED TIME PERIODS (DISPENSATIONS) [6/7/20]

The entire period of time, from the creation until “the new heaven and earth” is in place, is divided by the Scriptures into seven unequal administrations sometimes called “Dispensations”.

“to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment” < Eph.1:10 (NIV)>

“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times” < Eph.1:10 (KJV)>

DISPENSATION

“A period of time under which mankind is answerable to God for how it has obeyed the revelation of God which it has received. The term dispensation is found twice in the NKJV: “The dispensation of the fullness of the times” (Eph 1:10) and “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph 3:2). The KJV uses the term four times (1 Cor 9:17; Eph 1:10; 3:2; Col 1:25).

Many Bible students believe all of history can be divided into several dispensations. According to this view, all of history has been pointing toward the SECOND COMING of Christ, when salvation will be made complete. Others reject this view, insisting that God has had faithful, loyal followers in all times who have lived according to His COVENANT with them.

Seven dispensations are commonly identified: Innocence, from Creation to the Fall of man and God’s sending them out of the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:24); Conscience, the covenant with Adam, ending with the judgment of the Flood (Gen 9); Human government, the covenant with Noah, extending to the time of Abraham; Promise, from Abraham’s call (Gen 12:1) to Moses; Law, from the giving of the Law to Moses (Ex 19:8; 20:1-31:18) to the death of Jesus Christ; Grace, from the death and resurrection of Christ to His Second Coming; Kingdom, the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth and the thousand year reign of Christ over the nations.”   (from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

1. THE INNOCENCE OF MANKIND

Extending from the creation of Adam <Gen.2:7> to the expulsion from Eden. Adam and Eve were created innocent and ignorant of good and evil and placed under the responsibility of abstaining from eating the fruit of the tree of the “knowledge of good and evil” <Gen.2:15-17>. This dispensation ended in the failure of mankind, producing far-reaching effects, resulting in the judgment of God in expulsion from the garden <see Gen.2:17; 3:6, 22-24>.

2. MANKIND UNDER CONSCIENCE

The sin and ultimate “fall” of Adam and Eve caused them to transmit through their descendants, and consequently to all mankind the “knowledge of good and evil” imparting a basis for right moral decisions, and so mankind came under this measure of responsibility. This resulted again in the total failure of mankind <see Gen.4:1-11; 6:1-7; 11-13; 7:24>.

3. MANKIND IN AUTHORITY (HUMAN GOVERNMENT)

After the judgment of the Flood, God gave the purified earth to Noah and his descendants making them responsible to administer it. Again, the failure of mankind is displayed by Noah’s descendants as they attempt to become independent of God, and this dispensation closes in judgment, in the “Confusion of Tongues” <see Gen.11:1-9>.

4. MANKIND UNDER PROMISE

Out of the dispersed descendants of Noah’s sons Japheth, Ham, and Shem, God calls out Abram, a descendant of Shem <Gen.11:10-26>, with whom He enters into covenant. Some of these promises to Abram and his descendants were “unconditional” and have been or will be completely fulfilled literally. Others are “conditional” upon the faithfulness and obedience of the Israelites; however, every one of these have been violated, and this dispensation closed in judgment in their period of slavery in Egypt <see Gen.12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:5; 26:3; 28:12-14; Ex.1:11-14>.

5. MANKIND UNDER LAW

From the outset of the Fall God’s grace has been seen in the way He has dealt with mankind under each dispensation, and again we see this grace extended to the Israelites in their freedom from slavery in Egypt. As they enter the desert to begin their return to their Promised Land God gives them a choice to continue under His grace or to be governed by Law. Their choice being: “The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.” <Ex.19:8 (NIV)>. Their history of journeying through the desert and their life back in the Land was one of constant and persistent violation of the Law, and after numerous warnings from God through the Prophets, this dispensation closed again in judgment. The Jews went into exile and were dispersed throughout all the other nations of the world. A small and feeble remnant returned to the Land under Ezra and Nehemiah of which Christ was born, and they finally sealed their fate when they totally rejected Christ and crucified Him. So, their dispersion continues, and will continue, until God closes this chapter of their history <see Rom.3:19-20; Acts 2:22-23; Rom.10:5; Gal.3:10; cf 2 Kings 17:1-18; 25:1-11; Acts 7:51-52>.

6. MANKIND UNDER GRACE

Christ’s sacrificial death introduced the dispensation of Grace, a period of time when mankind is under the “undeserved favour of God”; God now offers us His righteousness instead of requiring it as the Law does. Salvation (freedom) from sin is now offered to all mankind, regardless of race or circumstance, upon the acknowledgment of sin and repentance, and faith in Christ <see Jn.6:29, 47; 5:24; 10:27-28; Eph.2:8-9>.

The end result of mankind under grace will be God’s judgment upon an unbelieving world and an apostate Church <see Lk.17:26; 18:8; Rev.3:15-16; 2 Thess.2:7-12>.

The first event as this dispensation closes will be the call of Christ for His followers, dead (asleep) and alive, when we will all be “caught up” to meet Him in the clouds <see 1 Thess.4:16-17>. Then follows a period called “the great tribulation” <see Matt.24:21-22; Dan.12:1; Zeph.1:15-18; Jer.30:5-7>.

This dispensation closes with the personal return of Christ and the judgments introducing the final dispensation <see Matt.24:29-30; 25:31-46>.

7. MANKIND UNDER THE PERSONAL REIGN OF CHRIST

Once the purifying judgments are complete at the personal return of Christ to the earth (His second advent), He will reign over the earth for a period of one thousand years called the “Millennium”; ruling from Jerusalem, while the saints, which will include those saved during the Dispensation of Grace – the Church, will be associated with Him in His glory <see Acts 15:14-17; Rev.19:11-21; 20:1-6; Isa.2:1-4; 11:1-16>. After the thousand years “Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth…” <Rev.20:7-8 (NIV)>, finding the “natural heart” of mankind is still prone to sin and rebellion against God, he assembles the nations in battle against God and His saints, and this last dispensation closes, like all the previous six, in judgment. The “great white throne” will be set and all the wicked dead will be raised and will stand before God to give an account of their lives and their total rejection of Christ <see Rev.20:11-15>. Then the “new heaven and the new earth” will come into being as eternity begins <see Rev. 21:1 – 22:21>.

NOTE: This outline should not be considered as the only correct outline. Many competent Bible scholars would suggest the following as a possible alternative:

  1. The age from Adam to Noah             
  2. The age from Noah to Abraham
  3. The age from Abraham to the Cross of Christ
  4. The present age of Grace
  5. The Tribulation Period
  6. The Millennium
  7. The Eternal State

Whichever format of dispensation one chooses to accept, the important truth to remember is that Salvation has always been, and will ever be, by Grace through Faith in Christ. In the O.T. mankind was saved by faith on the basis of the future work of Christ. Today we are saved by Faith on the basis of the work of Christ when He offered Himself as our sacrifice for our sins. (Emmaus Correspondence School)

 

THE JEW, THE GREEK, AND THE CHURCH [5/31/20]

There are three groups of people that the Scriptures refer to, each group is distinct, and in the Scriptures, God deals with each separately and also collectively.

“Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God” <1 Cor.10:32 (NIV)>. Here, Paul is cautioning the Corinthian believers not to be the instrumental in causing the concern of unbelievers or the faith of their fellow believers to falter because of their conduct, in relation to the three groups of peoples to whom the gospel message is proclaimed.

THE JEWS

It is obvious to any Bible student that a large portion of the Scriptures relate to one nation or people, namely the Israelites or Jews. It is also evident that God has a distinct relationship with the Jews. The Old Testament is a record of their history, and the other nations are mentioned as they relate to the Israelites. Jews are descendants of Abraham and were separated from all the other nations and taken into covenant by God for a specific purpose, and if faithful to His commands they were promised earthly blessings, power, and riches; but if unfaithful they would be scattered among all the other peoples of the earth <see Deut.28:1, 15, 29, 36-37, 64-65; cf Rom.3:1-2; 9:4-5; Jn.4:22 >.

THE GREEK (GENTILES)

The phrase “Greek” or “Gentile” (KJV) refers to people described as “heathen,” denoting a person, nation, or people. Since that was the common medium of intercourse in the Roman Empire, Greek and Gentile became more or less interchangeable terms. The use of the word, typically in the Old Testament, is in reference to all other people excepting the Jews; because of their worship of “other gods” as opposed to Jehovah <see Eph.2:11-12; 4:17-18>.

THE CHURCH

Another group of people mentioned only in the New Testament is the Church, and this body of people also have a distinct relationship with God, and has also received specific promises; but the similarity ends there. Instead of being formed only of natural descendants of Abraham, this body of people displays no distinction between Jew and Gentile, and is comprised of all people and nations <see Eph.1:22-23; 2:14; 5:29-33; 1 Pet.2:9; 1 Cor.12:12-13; Gal.3:28>. A further comparison of Scripture reveals that although both share that distinct relationship with God there are some differences between the Jew and the Church. The relationship between God and Israel is a covenant relation, one based on physical birth, one based on obedience, and one based on an earthly inheritance. Conversely, the relationship of the Church is based upon spiritual birth and a heavenly inheritance which is also based to some extent on covenant, but such covenant is based on the Church’s relationship to Christ and His sacrificial love for the Church. So distinctively, Israel is connected to temporal and earthly things while the Church is connected to spiritual and heavenly things.

It should also be noted that the unrepentant Gentiles (heathen), when mentioned, are distinguished in every respect from both the Jews and the Church, and in the end will fall under the same demands of a Holy God. Thus, any comparison between Israel and the Church in what the Scriptures contain concerning origin, calling, promise, worship, principles of conduct, and future destiny, all fall under a subject of contrast.

CONTRASTS

(1) CALLING

Israel: “The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” <Gen.12:1 (NIV)>. Israel’s calling started with God’s call to Abraham, who in response, moved from Ur of the Chaldeans to the land of Canaan. There he settled and some years later his wife Sarai (Sarah) gave birth to a son named Isaac. From Isaac would be born a descendant that was promised (originally to Adam and Eve <see Gen.3:15> and then to Abraham “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” <Gen.12:3 (NIV)>. Isaac’s descendants were Esau and Jacob, and God chose Jacob for the continuation of the promise. Jacob in turn had twelve sons whose descendants eventually became know as the twelve tribes of Israel. Another promise of God to Abraham was that all the land of Canaan would be given to his descendants, the twelve tribes, as an earthly inheritance, and after their exodus from Egypt God gave them the land under the leadership of Joshua <see Deut.8:7-9; Jos.21:43-45>. Throughout the years that Israel lived in the land there was constant rebellion against God, the Prophets were sent to warn of the impending judgment for their disobedience but to no avail, and finally Israel went into captivity and later on, were eventually scattered throughout the world and assimilated into all the nations. God, however, maintained a remnant who would remain faithful to Him. <see also Gen.24:34-35; Deut.28:7; 28:13Gen.24:34-35; Deut.28:7; 28:13>.

The Church“Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling” <Heb.3:1 (NIV)> “But our citizenship is in heaven” <Phil.3:20 (NIV)>. Unlike Israel, the Church’s calling is a “heavenly” or spiritual calling and a heavenly citizenship. Due to the failure of Israel in being the godly witness to all the nations, God called the Church to carry out that mandate <Matt.28:19-20; see also 1 Pet.1:4; 1 Cor.4:11>; and even though there is the promise of  a heavenly inheritance <see Jn.14:1; 1 Thess.4:14-18> there will be great difficulty in serving and in the execution of Christ’s command <see Jn.16:2-4>. In regards to “Calling” it should be understood that godly Jews would go to heaven at death because of their faith in God, but the incentive to godliness in this case was the earthly blessings; but since Christ paid the penalty for sin that the Law demanded, by His death and resurrection, all mankind – Jew and Gentile – can only be saved through faith in Christ <see Jn.3:3, 16; 1 Cor.12:13; Eph.1:22-23>. In the Church the distinction of Jew and Gentile disappears <see 1 Cor.12:2, 13; Gal.3:28; Eph.2:11, 14>.

(2) LIFE-STYLE

Israel: was called to “go in and possess the land of promise” <see Deut.1:21>, and in order to accomplish this they were commanded by God to execute His judgment upon the heathen and wicked nations that inhabited the land, so that godly generations would rule and inhabit the land promised to Abraham. “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations — the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you —  and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.”  <Deut.7:1-5 (NIV)> In this we see that Israel served God in accordance and obedience to the Law given by Moses, and throughout their generations they lived by the Law <see Ex.21:24-25; Deut.21:18-21>.

The Church: we see the opposite of what the Law demanded. The Law demanded death for the citizen or citizens that disobeyed, but there was no way for anyone to be in complete obedience to every demand of the Law, so all were guilty of death <see Jas.2:10>. Christ’s sacrifice, in His death and resurrection, paid the price for all who believe in Him and accept His sacrifice, so the members of the Church are called to a different life-style, one of love for our neighbour <see Matt.5:44; 5:39; 1 Cor.4:12-13; Lk.15:20-23>.

(3) WORSHIP

Israel: could worship in one place only, the Tabernacle (Tent of Meeting) or later in the Temple, they worshiped at a distance and could only approach God through a Priest <see Lev.17:8-9; Lk.1:10; Num.3:10>.

 The Church: can worship wherever the body of believers choose, and can enter God’s presence in boldness because the Church is composed of priests <see Matt.18:20; Heb.10:19-20; Eph.3:11-12; 1 Pet.2:5>.

(4) PERTAINING TO THE FUTURE

Israel: when restored to God and their land will have her greatest earthly splendour and power. Israel’s primary purpose as a nation was to preserve the “Holy seed” or descendant in a world of ungodliness and wickedness; and in spite of her complete failure in obeying God’s commands, and their ultimate dispersion among all the Gentile nations, God maintained a godly remnant from which His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, was born into this world. Christ’s first advent brought about our salvation, for Jew and Gentile, and set up the eventual return and restoration of Israel in preparation for the kingdom reign of their Messiah. “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. <Luke 1:31-33 (NIV)>. “Of the seven promises to Mary, five have already been literally fulfilled” [Scofield] and there is no reason not to believe that the other two will also be fulfilled <see Acts 15:14-16; Rom.11:1, 11, 24-26; Isa.11:11-12; 14:1; Jer.16:14-15; 23:5-6; 32:37-38; Zeph.3:14-15>

The Church: the promise for the future of the Church is to be with Christ in glory <Col.3:3-4>, and this promise was made to His disciples just prior to His crucifixion <Jn.14:1-3>, so unlike Israel’s earthly inheritance the Church’s inheritance is a heavenly one, and will be fulfilled on a future day when Christ returns and calls the Church to be with Him forever <see 1 Thess.4:15-17; Phil.3:20-21; 1 Jn,3:2; Rev.19:7-9; 20:6>.

 

 

GOD’S PLAN FOR SALVATION [5/17/20]

On Sunday, February 18, 2001, NASCAR lost one of its greatest drivers. Dale Earnhardt Sr., also known as “The Intimidator,” was in third place on the last lap of the Daytona 500 when his car was tapped from behind and sent head-on into the wall at 180 mph. In a matter of moments, it was evident something was terribly wrong. Dale Earnhardt died in the crash. On the following Monday an autopsy report revealed he had died of blunt force trauma to the head. Some have suggested that if Earnhardt had been wearing the HANS (Head and Neck Safety Device) he would have survived the crash. Although this device was available, Earnhardt, like many other drivers that day, neglected to use it. His neglect of this safety device may have cost him his life. The Bible tells us that every individual is on a collision course with God’s judgment. God, too, has provided a safety device–one designed to keep people from suffering eternal death and separation from God. But like Dale Earnhardt and the other drivers in the race that day, each of us must decide whether to accept or neglect this offer. (source: Perfect Illustrations; Citation: Michael Owenby; Carrollton, Georgia)

“Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” <Isa.59:1-2 (NIV)>: “the arm” signifies God’s power which is readily available to all that call upon Him <see Isa.30:19>; “your iniquities” speaks of unforgiven sin which is the reason for God’s silence <Isa.59:12>, alienating us from God. Our Sin and iniquity affect our hands and fingers, lips, and tongues; it produces injustice, lies, evil deeds and evil thoughts. <Isa.59:3-8; cf Rom.3:10-18>.

“So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead.” <Isa.59:9-10 (NIV)>

THE RESULTS OF SIN- <59:9-15>: Justice is far away; there is constant darkness as we “grope” along life’s road; truth is nowhere to be found. <see Job 30:26; Psa.5:9; 12:1-2>

GOD’S SOLUTION FOR SIN

“He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes; he will repay the islands their due. From the west, men will fear the name of the LORD, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the LORD drives along.” <59:16-19 (NIV)>

God saw the predicament of His people “no one to intervene”; so His own “arm”, His Son Jesus Christ, brought about salvation. <see Isa.52:10; 53:12; Jer.30:13; Ezek.22:30>; and His righteous salvation is for those individuals that accept His solution <see Rom.3:21-24; Heb.7:25>.

“He put on the garments of vengeance…. According to what they have done so will he repay” <Isa.59:17 (NIV)> but there is wrath and retribution for those that reject God’s solution in the gift of His Son as the sacrifice for mankind’s sin <see Isa.63:1-4>. God has made a way of escape for the sinner, and there will be a day of judgment by God for sin.

GOD’S PROVISION FOR SALVATION

“The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the LORD.” <Isa.59:20 (NIV)> At His first coming He was rejected by Israel; at His second coming He will be welcomed by Israel. <see Jn.1:10-11; Acts 1:9-11; Job 19:25; Rom.11:26-27; Rev.1:7-8>.

GOD’S METHOD FOR SALVATION

“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the LORD.” <Isa.59:21 (NIV)>

“this is my covenant”: God’s Son is the covenant <Isa.42:6> and the covenant will be established in believing Israel and all believing Gentiles <Jer.31:31>: and “my spirit” will be the guiding light <see Ezek.36:27; Jn.16:13-14>; and Israel will be finally and truly God’s people <Isa.51:16; cf Rom.11:25-27>.

GOD’S FINAL OFFER FOR SALVATION

From God’s point of view there was “no one to intervene” <Isa.59:16>; and mankind’s point of view there was “no one to arbitrate” (mediate) <Job 9:32-34>. So, God made provision for our salvation. We must be born again by the work of the Holy Spirit <Jn.3:6-7>; by God’s method <Jn.3:14-15> and provision <Jn.3:16-18>; for God’s judgement will be executed <Jn.3:19-20>.

Our sin must be confessed to God, and God only; and God must forgive our sin. We must accept Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for our sins; this is the only way of Salvation. “Born again” means being born of the Spirit of God into God’s family of believers. Unless you accept God’s offer of Salvation you will forever be under God’s rod of judgment and His terror will frighten you forever. You will have no one to arbitrate or intervene between yourself and God.

THE DECISION IS YOURS ALONE!

 

 

PHILEMON – Principles of Forgiveness

  1. The Prayer of Thanksgiving for Philemon <1:1-7>

Paul addresses this personal letter primarily “To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker” <1:2 (NIV)>, and then to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home”. It is suggested that Apphia was Philemon’s wife, Archippus was their son, and that the church met in their home.

Philemon was a resident of Colosse and a convert of Paul; his house was large enough to serve as a meeting place for the local church. He may have had other slaves beside Onesimus, and was not alone as a slave owner (from Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts). Slave ownership was common in the Roman Empire at that time and it was not uncommon for Christian business people to own slaves <see Col.4:1>, and the guidelines provided here could be applicable to all Christian slave owners of that time period.

In Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving for Philemon he recalls hearing about Philemon’s faith in Christ and his love for all the saints, and he prays that Philemon will be active in sharing his faith and that he will have a full understanding of all the good things that we have in Christ <see Eph.1:3-8>. He states that the love that Philemon demonstrates has brought him joy and encouragement “because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” <1:7 (NIV)>; and this is a great demonstration for all believers to imitate.

  1. The Petition of Paul for Onesimus <1:8-18>

Having completed his greeting to Philemon, Paul now addresses the reason for his letter, stating that in light of Philemon’s love expressed for all the saints <1:5>, he would not dictate what proceedings Philemon should bring against Onesimus, but allow Philemon to deal with the matter guided by his love for all the saints; “I appeal to you on the basis of love.” <1:9 (NIV)>. Onesimus is now one of them <Col.4:9>, because he is now a convert to Christianity, a “brother” in Christ, for he considers Onesimus his son <cf 1 Tim.1:2; 1 Thess.2:11>, having been converted through Paul’s preaching while in Rome.

The account does not give any details as to how Onesimus came in contact with Paul, but one can conclude that The Holy Spirit directed Onesimus so that he made contact with Paul, and this is an encouragement to all Christian parents as we pray for rebellious children, grandchildren, and other family members and friends, that The Holy Spirit would soften their hearts and guide them to someone who will introduce them to the gospel message.

Paul then sends Onesimus back to his master Philemon with a letter that expresses all the principles of God’s forgiveness: the offense; “Formerly he was useless to you” <1:11 (NIV)>. The name Onesimus means profitable or useful, so here Paul uses that meaning to express the concept; he that was unprofitable is now worthwhile. As sinners, we are unworthy and useless to God <cf Rom.3:10-18, 23>, and when we trust Christ in faith as our saviour, God is able to use us for His glory. We see the compassion, of Paul as he expresses his request and concern for both Onesimus and Philemon; it was not easy for Paul to send Onesimus back <1:13-14; cf Col.3:12-14>, it was harder for Onesimus to face his former master; but was most difficult for Philemon to have to forgive and take back his runaway slave. We see the similarity in God’s compassion for sinners in His plan of salvation; while we were still sinners and unaware of our destiny the Scriptures teach that God had prepared a way of escape for all who wish to be saved from the penalty of sin <see Rom. 3:23; 5:8; 6:23>. Next, we see Paul’s intercession on behalf of Onesimus; he states that it could be, they were separated for a time so that they might be united permanently, since Onesimus was “no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.” <1:16 (NIV)>; he was returning as a brother in Christ which would be forever. Christ interceded for us as sinners on the Cross <see Lk.23:34> and still intercedes for us as believers <see Jn.17:20-21>. We also see the substitutionary aspect in God’s forgiveness as Paul expresses “If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.” <1:18 (NIV)>, for there was no way that Onesimus would ever be able to repay his debt to Paul or Philemon; and in this we see the substitutionary act of our Lord Jesus Christ as He gave Himself to God His Father in payment for our debt <see Lk.19:10; 2 Cor.5:21; 1 Pet.2:24>. So, as Onesimus was restored and promoted in his relationship to the one whom he had offended, we see all the aspects of divine forgiveness of sin (New Testament Survey – Merrill C. Tenney).

Where do you stand in light of the above? Do you need God’s forgiveness for your sin? Do you need to forgive someone for injustice done to you? Remember that you can be restored to fellowship with God and with others by simply turning to God and request His forgiveness <see Lk.18:13; Titus 3:5; cf Matt.5:23>. One must understand, however, that continuous rebellion against God will end in certain judgment for sin <see Heb.10:26>.

  1. The Promise of Paul to Philemon <1:19-25>

“I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back” <1:19 (NIV)>; here Paul’s promise to Philemon expresses the fact that as Onesimus was unable to repay his debt, we too as sinners are unable to repay God for our salvation. There is nothing that we can do since the penalty we face is death – eternally separated from God; but since Christ has payed our debt, we have freedom and fellowship with God, just as Onesimus and Philemon experienced <see Eph.2:8, 12-13, 19; Titus 3:4-7>.

So, Paul expresses his confidence in Philemon; “Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.” <1:21 (NIV)>, for in this we see a picture of Christianity in action, for these men were Christians which made all the difference in their behaviour and response to each other; for the teaching of Christ, which we are all called to follow, is: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” <Matt.6:14-15 (NIV)>.

 

LAW AND GRACE [4/25/20]

LAW

Stone Tablets (pinterest.com)What is the difference between Law and Grace? The answer to this question first requires that we establish what is the Law and what was the reason or purpose for its institution. The first thing that is evident is that the purpose of the Law was never to provide salvation from sin; it was given to reveal sin in our lives and show us our need of salvation. The Law also reveals the “perfection” of God as opposed to the “imperfection” of mankind.

 THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW: “What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” <Gal.3:19, 21, 23-24 (NIV)>

Webster’s Dictionary describes LAW as a rule or principle of proper conduct sanctioned by conscience, concepts of natural justice or the will of a deity: a commandment or a revelation from God. “Biblical law is more than a record of human law. It is an expression of what God requires of man. It rests on the eternal moral principles that are consistent with the very nature of God Himself. Therefore, biblical law (the Ten Commandments) is the summary of moral law. As such it sets forth fundamental and universal moral principles.”   (from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary) (Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

The law reveals sin <Rom.3:20; Rom.7:7>; it declares the world guilty before God <Rom.3:19>; and reveals the real nature of sin <Rom.7:9>

The Law is from God, and the Law is holy: <Rom.7:12>. Sin is exceedingly sinful when measured by the standard of the Law: <Rom.7:13>. What then does the Law serve? <see Gal.3:1-19> “it was added because of transgressions”. Just as Abraham believed what God said and it was accounted to him for righteousness; so, it is for all saints, whether Old Testament or New Testament. <Gal.3:7>. Thus, we see that the Law was added to the Abrahamic Covenant, and that the covenant preceded the Law by some 430 years. In effect, God gave Abraham and his descendants a way of salvation 430 years before the Law was introduced <Gal. 3:17>.

 God gave a promise and He kept it! <Gal.3:18>. The Law was “added” to the covenant “until” <Gal.3:19>; the “seed” meaning Christ <see Gal.3:16>. Therefore, no one is justified by the Law in God’s sight <Gal.3:11>, and to substantiate this fact Paul quotes Habakkuk: “but the righteous will live by his faith” <Hab.2:4 (NIV)>

Why then did God introduce the Law? It was given that we might see just how sinful sin is. The Law is a measuring tool to show us that we do not measure up to God’s standards. When we measure ourselves against God’s standards, we all fall short; one person is no better than the other <see Amos 7:7-8; Isa.28:17>

So then, the Law was added because of transgressions to show us how sinful we are. The other reason is, that being found sinners by the standards of the Law, we might all be saved through faith in Christ, who is the descendant (seed) of Abraham. The Law implants into the heart of mankind a sense of sin and a need of a saviour, revealing our sinfulness and our lost condition. Consequently, we are led to seek God’s forgiveness for our sins by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ who bore our penalty that the Law required; introducing us to the subject of Grace.

GRACE

Cross [Source-Google search]Described by Webster’s Dictionary as favor or goodwill; manifestation of favor especially by a superior; mercy, clemency, pardon; favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity; the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. Grace is favour or kindness exhibited in spite of what an individual deserves, and is one of the key attributes of God <see Ex.34:6-7>. It is almost always associated with mercy, love, and compassion, and the supreme example of grace was the redemption of the Hebrew people from Egypt and their establishment in the Promised Land, and this did not happen because of any merit on Israel’s part <Deut.9:5-6>; and although the grace of God is always free and undeserved, it must not be taken for granted. Grace is given by God, <see Amos 5:15>, and is to be humbly requested <Mal.1:9>.  The only way of salvation for any person is by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” <Acts 15:11>.

What then is the difference between Law and Grace? How is Grace made possible? How is God’s grace extended to mankind? The answer to these questions is in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, and what He accomplished in His death, burial and resurrection.

Jesus was born under or subject to the law: being born subject to the Law He was in complete obedience to the Law <Gal.4:4>; and His earthly life was lived in accordance with the requirements of the Law <see Luke 2:21-24>.  He fulfilled the law – he did not destroy or discard the law <Matt.5:17>. He lived in perfect obedience to the Law <Matt.3:17; Matt.17:5 >. He confirmed the promises made to the fathers under the Law <Rom.15:8>. He fulfilled all types of the Law by His life and sacrificial death <see Heb.9:11-26>. He redeemed mankind from the curse of the Law so that the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant might be on all who believe: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” <Gal.3:13-14 (NIV)>. He is the mediator of the New Covenant by His blood: <see Heb.8:6-13>.

Before the Law there was no transgression. One cannot transgress (i.e. “to go beyond”) something that does not exist, the Scriptures make this quite clear: “because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.” <Rom.4:15 (NIV)>. Does this mean then that there was no sin before the Law? There certainly was! Sin was just as wicked and terrible before the law was given; but mankind did not understand the gravity of sin until God’s law revealed the sinfulness of sin; “the sin which had always been morally wrong now became legally wrong”. Thus, the Law revealed sin to be a transgression against God and to convince the sinner of a need for salvation: “for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.” <Rom.5:13 (NIV)>. Sin therefore was present before the Law, and the only specific penalty for sin was death (God said to Adam “…for when you eat of it you will surely die” Gen.2:17); there was no law for specific sins such as murder, theft, adultery etc., only the penalty of death was pronounced.

The Law did not produce sin, nor was the Law itself sin; it revealed the exceeding sinfulness of sin. God gave the Law with detailed instructions and specific penalties, showing the true nature of sin, causing an awakening in the heart of mankind: “The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more” <Rom.5:20 (NIV); Rom.7:5 >. The Law stirred up sin, and guilt was experienced because blame could now be assigned. This is illustrated by a parent’s command to a young child not to do a specific thing or go to a specific place. Prior to this the child had no desire to “do” or “go”, but now curiosity takes over and the desire to disobey is strong. The Law is therefore for sinners not saints: <see 1 Tim.1:5-9>.

Is the believer under or subject to the law? This is a question that is asked whenever we discuss the subject of Law and Grace, and we must answer this from the Scriptures. The Biblical answer to the question is NO!  Christians are NOT under the Law: <see Rom.6:14-15; Gal.5:18; 1 Cor.9:20>. The Law is not a means of anyone being saved: <Rom.3:20; Gal.3:12; Rom.8:3-4; Acts 15:1-11>. The Christian has been delivered from the Law: <Rom.10:4; 2 Cor.3:6-18>.

Since the Believer is no longer subject to the Law, does this mean that a Believer is allowed to live as if the Law is of no consequence? What is the effect or consequence when a Believer sins? Is the Law broken? Is the Believer’s sin a “transgression of the Law”? Many Believers who are faced with these questions arrive at conclusions that are not biblical, attempting to make themselves comfortable with their solutions. “The Bible never separates faith from obedience. Love is no longer love if there is no obedience.  Rather than being some sort of penalty, obedience is what makes faith strong. Far from being oppressive, the commandments are blessings.  God’s love is His law.  Without the law, God’s love becomes meaningless and God Himself is merely a dead abstraction.  Those who live as though God’s law does not matter are guilty of promoting atheism and unbelief.” (Christianity Today, Apr 29, 1991). Therefore, the sin of the Believer breaks the Law of God’s Love; in other words, we spurn His love and disregard His grace and are thus out of fellowship with Him, and can no longer enjoy communion with the Lord. <see Rom.6:1-2, 15-18>. “It must be carefully noted that the Christian is not under law; grace has imparted to him all the merit that he could ever need <John 1:16; Rom. 5:1-2; 8:1-2; Col. 2:9-10>. Being “ related” to Christ <1 Cor. 9:20-21> does not mean that the Christian is without law, but it does mean, as one redeemed by grace, that he has the duty, or rather gracious privilege, of not doing that which is displeasing to God and of fully discharging that which is well pleasing to Him on the basis of a manifestation of spontaneous gratitude for his salvation in grace.”  (from New Unger’s Bible Dictionary) (originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois.  Copyright (C) 1988.)

The knowledge of being free from the Law can cause some Believers to become spiritual “law makers” forcing other Believers to abide by “their laws”: that is, they establish laws by which others are judged, and fellowship among believers is dependent upon whether or not these “laws” are observed; attempting to restrict God’s grace to man-made rules <see Gal.5:13-15; 1 Pet.2:16-17>. “Grace involves applying the Biblical requirements with tenderness in an effort to help, heal, and restore. It means not going beyond what God has said in imposing consequences. Grace demands that we do all we can to minister to the hurts others suffer due to emotional or cultural pressures. It is a matter of grace for a congregation to set up a biblical standard and then to lovingly discipline members who violate that boundary. Grace demands that we work hard to understand the truth of Scripture so that we neither fall short of it because of emotional or cultural pressure or go beyond it and become more severe than God would be.” (Moody, Nov. 1991)

HOW DOES LAW AND GRACE AFFECT US TODAY?

The Law prohibits – Grace invites and gives. Law condemns the sinner- Grace redeems the sinner. The Law curses – Grace blesses. The Law condemns the best person – Grace saves the worst person. The Law reveals sin – Grace atones for sin. The Law demands obedience – Grace gives power to obey. The Law and its demands ended in Christ – Grace abides forever. The Law says “the soul that sins shall die” – Grace says “believe and live”.

Grace then, dismisses all human accomplishment and only requires faith in Christ our Saviour, and any combination of human capability violates the Grace of God.

 

 

COLOSSIANS 3 (a, b, c) [4/18/20]

  1. CONCLUSION <4:7-18>

(a). Commendation of Tychicus      <4:7-9>

Tychicus is mentioned several times as an associate of Paul, a regular helper and companion in travel <see Acts 20:4; Eph.6:21-22; 2 Tim.4:12; Tit.3:12>; here Paul refers to him as “a dear brother” <4:7 (NIV)>, a reference to his valued friendship. He also speaks of him as “a faithful minister”, one that is trustworthy or dedicated to the Church and the spreading of the gospel message; and “fellow servant in the Lord”. Here are three characteristics that should be clearly seen in the life of every believer in Christ. Paul also refers to Onesimus who was a run-away slave belonging to Philemon. Onesimus had been converted by the preaching and teaching of Paul in Rome, and Paul sent him back to Philemon via Colosse with the Letters to the Colossian Church and to Philemon <see Phm. 10, 15-16>. Both men would update the Colossian Church on the events of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome <4:9b>.

(b). Greetings from Paul’s Friends  <4:10-14>

Aristarchus is another of Paul’s faithful workers from Macedonia <see Acts 19:29> who sends greetings, so does Mark, Barnabas’ cousin <see Acts 12:25; 15:38-39; 2 Tim.4:11>. He also makes reference to Jesus called Justus, who was apparently a Roman believer in Christ. These three individuals Paul refers to as “the only Jews” among his fellow workers <4:11>, that had proved a comfort to him; such a difference to all the other Jews that had turned against Paul because he had taken the gospel message to the Gentiles.

He refers to Epaphras saying that “He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” <4:12 (NIV); cf 4:2>; another great quality for a believer in Christ is to persevere in prayer, understanding that Satan will double his efforts to keep us from communicating with our Heavenly Father <cf Eph.6:12>.

(c). Instructions Regarding This Letter      <4:15-18>

He requests that his greetings be passed on to the Church in Laodicea that apparently met together in the home of Nympha; it was common practice for the early churches to meet in the home of a believer in Christ. He also requested that “After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.” <4:16 (NIV)>; however, there is no record of a letter written by Paul to the Laodicean Church (only that written by John <Rev.3:14-22>).