Friday, October 9, 2015

Accurately handling the Word of truth - 2 Tim 2:15

It's not enough to use the Bible as a book of wonderful sayings from which we may choose what we wish for our inspiration. "The Word of truth" must be "accurately handled"; for while it is all given for our spiritual profit, it is not all written directly to us or about us. Therefore, if we truly want to understand and obey God's Word, we must first determine what Scriptures are particularly related to us and study all the rest in the light of these.

Sadly, however, many fail to give the Word of God the respect and reverence it deserves. They take passages out of context, spiritualize them, and give them private interpretations. Finding "precious passages" anywhere at all, no matter to whom addressed or when or why, they put their own spin on them and claim them as promises of God to them. To take isolated statements from the writings of men and use them in such a way would be considered dishonest, but Bible teachers do this all the time with the Word of God!

The Word, accurately handled, is of supreme importance to the Church as a whole as well as to the individual believer.  And it's because this fact has not yet been sufficiently recognized that we have in the Church today so many "children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (Eph 4:14).

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Heb 5:12-14).

Monday, September 28, 2015

Interesting tidbit - 23 (2 Cor 7:9-10)

Q: What exactly do the verses in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 (cf 1 Cor 5) mean?  They seem to be saying that as believers we need to ask for forgiveness when we sin to be saved.  Does this mean we lose our salvation each time we sin and have to ask for forgiveness in order to be saved again?

As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

A:  There are different kinds of salvation in Scripture. Paul spoke about the salvation of our souls in Ephesians 2:8-9, but he also spoke about his physical salvation from prison in Philippians 1:19 (cf. Ex 14:13):

for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance (The KJV uses the word "salvation" instead of "deliverance"; both words are derived from the Greek word sōtērian).

Paul also told Timothy that if he continued in sound doctrine, he would "save" both himself and his hearers from the misery that always comes from not continuing in sound doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16). There is also the salvation from despair that the hope of the Rapture gives (Rom 8:23-24). And the Rapture itself is called a salvation in Romans 13:11.

The salvation in the verses you ask about is yet another kind. Paul says he made the Corinthians sorry "with a letter" (2 Cor 7:8), i.e., his first epistle to them, in which he scolded them for not disciplining a man for his sexual immorality (1 Cor 5). They then "were grieved into repenting" about this (2 Cor 7:9).  And remember, the word repent means to have a change of mind, not to ask for forgiveness.  So the Corinthians changed their minds about allowing this man to stay in their assembly. This "saved" them from the dangerous leavening effect that his presence would otherwise have among them, and so their godly grief produced a repentance that leads to salvation, a salvation they would not regret or repent of (change their minds about) later.

This also worked another kind of salvation among them, one similar to the salvation Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 5:5, where he speaks about the sexually immoral man and tells them:

"to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord."

In context we know that delivering this man to Satan meant putting him out of the assembly (1 Cor 2-5:2-13). Letting him wallow in sin might destroy his flesh, but it would bring him back to the Lord, and "save" him from a loss of rewards at the Judgment Seat (1 Cor 3:15). The Corinthian assembly would also be saved from such loss by their obedience to Paul's instructions. Their godly grief worked this kind of repentance to salvation as well, another salvation they would not regret because no one at the Judgment Seat will ever repent of (change their mind about) having done the right thing.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:10-11).

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Repentance and Grace

When unbelievers, convicted by the Holy Spirit of the seriousness of sin and of judgment to come, cry out to the Lord to save them, they have, of course, repented, or changed their minds, as the Greek word signifies. Many pastors and speakers today, however, thinking only of the fact that unbelievers need this change of mind, conclude that the best way to produce results in their ministry is to stress repentance.

It should be remembered, however, that Israel's response to the calls to repentance under the Law was undeniably meager: John the Baptist called Israel to repent but was beheaded as a result (Matt 3:1-12; 14:3-10). The Lord Jesus took up the cry where John had left off (Matt 4:17), but was crucified for it. After the resurrection, He sent His disciples to preach "repentance and forgiveness of his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47). But Jerusalem refused to repent, and it was not long before blood flowed again as Stephen was stoned to death and a great persecution followed (Acts 8:3).

Israel's hardness of heart increased too as the call to repentance was intensified.  Notice the progression:  While John's murder was permitted by the people, Christ's was demanded by them, and Stephen's was actually committed by them. So the so-called "Great Commission" was bogged down from the start, because if Jerusalem and the covenant people refused to repent, what hope was there that the "nations" (Luke 24:47) would?

"...but where sin increased, GRACE abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, GRACE also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom 5:20-21).

After calls to repentance failed, the ascended Lord reached down to save Saul, who was far from being in a repentant mood, on the road to Damascus. Our Lord didn't speak to him in judgment but rather in the tenderest of tones showed him the glory of His grace.  Paul, this "trophy of grace", was then sent out to proclaim "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24).

Repentance was the theme of God's message from John the Baptist until Paul, while grace, proclaimed through the cross and received by faith alone, gradually displaced it as the theme of God's message for today (Acts 20:24).

Along this same line, most believers know that Paul taught that if you are saved, the Lord has already forgiven you "all our trespasses" (Col 2:13).  But they also know that the apostle John taught that the Lord is "is faithful and just to forgive us our sins" if we confess them (1 John 1:9). So to reconcile these two opposite and contradictory messages, they conclude that believers are forgiven when they are saved, but need just a little more forgiveness when they sin. This despite the fact that forgiveness of sins is something believers receive the moment they are saved, along with salvation, justification, and redemption. Most believers wouldn’t dream of asking for more salvation, justification, or redemption when they sin, but asking for more forgiveness is the only way to get Paul and John to say the same thing.

Yet more reasons why it is so important to observe the progression of Scripture!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Motivations for Obedience (a comparison - under law and under grace)

Under the Law:
(obedience in response to a warning or command) - THEN

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matt 6:14-15).

"See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God..." (Deut 11:26-28a; cf. 1 Pet 3:8-11)

You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always (Deut 11:1; cf. Matt 22:36-40).

"We have to obey...or else..."

Under Grace:
(obedience in response to all He's done for us) - NOW (Gal 5:18)

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Col 3:12-17).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.  In him we have obtained an inheritancehaving been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory (Eph 1:3-14).

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace...Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph 4:1-3; 17-32)

"We are so grateful for all He's done for us that we want to (or should want to!) walk worthy of Him."

Saturday, August 22, 2015


How believers would be thrilled if they but understood the Bible doctrine of sanctification!

Sanctification isn't a negative matter: "Don’t do this" and "Don’t do that." Rather, it's the positive truth that God wants us for Himself as a cherished possession, much like a bridegroom considers his bride his very own in a special and cherished way.

Bible sanctification is a twofold truth, affecting both our standing before God and our practical Christian walk while on this earth. 

In one sense every true believer in Christ has already been sanctified, or set aside to God, by the operation of the Holy Spirit.

…God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth… (2 Thes 2: 13).

according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit… (1 Pet 1:2).

This has nothing to do with our conduct. God did it. Sanctification begins with Him. This is why Paul could write to even the sinful Corinthian believers and say: 

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; cf. Acts 20:32; 26:18).  

In other words, God has set us apart for Himself.  This phase of sanctification — our standing before God — is based on the redemptive work of Christ in our behalf.

...we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb 10:10).

But now, in response to all He's done for us, God wants us to show our appreciation by conducting ourselves accordingly, setting ourselves apart ever more completely to Him. This is practical, progressive sanctification.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God (1 Thes 4:3-5). 

This is the reason for Paul's benediction... 

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thes 5:23), 

...and why he said to Timothy:

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house,ready for every good work (2 Tim 2:21).

How can believers be more wholly set apart to God in their practical walk? By studying His Word!

Our Lord prayed, "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth" (Jn 17:17), 

and Paul declares that, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word" (Eph 5:25-26).

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bearing Good Fruit

When John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ appeared on earth, God's people had been under the law of Moses for fifteen hundred years. No wonder John and Jesus Christ looked for fruit among them.

When the hypocritical religious leaders came to join John's growing audience and asked to be baptized, John called them a "brood of vipers" and told them to "bear fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matt 3:7-8). True repentance, with fruit to prove it, was the basic requirement of the earthly kingdom John proclaimed. This is evident from his declaration:

Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire (Matt 3:10).

Our Lord appeared, proclaiming the same message as John, and also looked for fruit among His people (Matt 7: 16-20; 21:33-43). We know, however, that John the Baptist was beheaded and Christ crucified. The fruit produced under the Law was puny indeed. Even after the resurrection of Christ, the majority of His people refused to repent and failed to produce the required fruit.

But what the Law requires, grace provides. It was at this time that God raised up the Apostle Paul, whose preaching of "the word of the cross" (1 Cor 1:18) showed that Christ had not died an untimely death, but in infinite love had come into the world to die for sinners so that they might be saved by grace, through faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9). Paul's message was called "the gospel [good news] of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24), and where the Law had failed to produce fruit, grace produced it in spades.

When Paul wrote to the Colossians that his good news was going out into all the world, he added: "it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth" (Col 1:5-6 cf. Rom 6: 21-22).

In fact, grace trains us to produce good fruit. 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14).

Monday, August 17, 2015

Why was the law given?

There are three misconceptions entertained about the law of God and its Ten Commandments:
  1. Most people have a vague notion that the law was always in existence and that it must have been given to the first man, Adam, or soon after. Actually, God gave the law to Moses for Israel about 1500 B.C., after about 2500 years of human history had elapsed (John 1:17). So mankind lived on earth for about 2500 years without the law or the Ten Commandment.
  2. Most people suppose that the law and the Ten Commandments were given to mankind in general, when in fact, it was given to Israel alone (Deuteronomy 5:2,3).
  3. Most people suppose that the law and the Ten Commandments were given to help us be good. Even some pastors teach this, although the Bible clearly tells us they were given to show us we are guilty sinners.
It's true that the law, while given to Israel, also shows us that we are sinners. This is why Romans 3:19 says:

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

But most important of all, few people realize that the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins to deliver us from the just condemnation of the law...

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us… (Gal 3:13).

For our sake he made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21). that believers are not under the law.

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (Rom 6:14).

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Interesting tidbit - 22 (Acts 8:14-17)

Q:  Why didn't the Samaritans in Acts 8 immediately receive the Holy Spirit upon believing and being baptized in accordance with Mark 16:16-17 and Acts 2:38?  Why didn't this happen until Peter and John laid their hands on them?

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). 

A:  The answer can be found in the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans. The schism between Jerusalem and Samaria must be healed before Christ can reign.  Israel and Judah, the ten tribes and the two, must be reunited (Ezek 37:15-19) because Christ is to reign over all twelve tribes. The apostles recognized this. After all, hadn't our Lord promised them twelve throne in the kingdom (Matt 19:28)?  But it wasn't enough that the two factions be brought together. It was the ten tribes which had apostatized and had made Samaria their capital city and had set up their own temple at Mt. Gerizim. They must now renounce all this and recognize Jerusalem as the seat of authority, because there Christ and the twelve will reign. This fact was impressed upon the Samaritan believers, for although they had believed and been baptized, they did not receive the Holy Spirit until two apostles had come from Jerusalem and prayed for them and laid their hands upon them. Two apostles were enough for this, for it is written: Only on the evidence of TWO witnesses or of THREE witnesses shall a charge be established (Deut 17:6; 19:15; 2 Cor 13:1) and Peter and John, with Philip, made THREE witnesses. Indeed our Lord had specified that any two of the apostles could act officially for Him in His absence: 'Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if TWO of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where TWO or THREE are gathered in my name, there am I among them.' (Matt 18:18-20). The believers at Samaria recognized the authority of the twelve at Jerusalem and, had the kingdom been accepted, would have become one nation with the Jews. As it is, the restoration of the United Kingdom of Israel under Messiah awaits a future day.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Interesting tidbit - 21 (Mark 2:22)

Q:  Is the new wine in Mark 2:22 the dispensation of grace?

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins Mark 2:22).

A:  No, the dispensation of grace was a mystery that was not revealed until Paul (Eph 3:1-3). That means it cannot be found hidden in the Lord’s parables, for it was still "not made known" at that time (Eph 3:1-9).

Wine is a type of the Holy Spirit, for both are associated with joy (Zech 10:7; 1 Thes 1:6), and new wine is a type of the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. You’ll remember that when the apostles were "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4), men thought that they were “filled with new wine" (Acts 2:13). 

With the parable of the wineskins, the Lord was saying that the new wine of the Holy Spirit could not be put into the "old wineskins" of Israel's religious leaders; it must rather be put in the "fresh wineskins" of His "little flock" (Luke 12:32). 

New wine is first mentioned in the Bible when Israel was gathered back into her land after her captivity (Neh 10:39; 13:5,12), a type of Israel's future gathering back into her land for the kingdom, and so it is associated with the kingdom that was taken from Israel's apostate leaders and given to the little flock (Matt 21:43). New wine was withheld from Israel when she rebelled against God (Isa 24:7; Hos. 9:2; Joel 1:5,10; Hag 1:11) and was given when she was obedient (Prov 3:5-10), and so it will be given in the kingdom (Joel 3:18; Zech. 9:17; Matt 26:29) when God's Spirit will "cause" them to walk in His ways (Ezek 36:27).

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Lord's Prayer - Matthew 6:9-13

Why do so many sincere believers repeat over and over again prayers that have been prepared for them to recite?

Undoubtedly the greatest number of all make it a practice to recite The Lord’s Prayer. I think they must have overlooked that He said, "Pray then like this." (Matt 6:9), not "recite this prayer."

The reason for this seems obvious; there is no one prayer that fits every occasion.

Not only that, The Lord’s Prayer fit perfectly into the circumstances then, but imperfectly fits ours today. One example of this is at the close of His earthly ministry our Lord gave His disciples further instruction about prayer.

Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf" (Jn 16:24-26).

After the Lord’s ascension into heaven the disciples were to make their requests to the Father in Christ's name. This in itself would have excluded their (and our) reciting The Lord's Prayer

Another example of how circumstances have changed from the time of the Lord's Prayer to now can be clearly seen in verses 12, 14 and 15 of Matthew 6:

and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matt 6:12).

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matt 6:14-15).

But look at what Paul says about forgiveness AFTER Christ's death and resurrection:

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive (Col 3:13).

Why the difference?  Because when Jesus Christ walked the earth, people were still under the Law.  In fact, our Lord ramped up the Law, as my Pastor so well explains.  While the Law said "You shall not murder" Jesus said "You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire" (Matt 5:21-22).   

Of course we now know that the Law was given to show us our need for a Savior:  

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin (Rom 3:18-20).

We also know that we are not under the Law today:  

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith (Rom 3:21-25; cf Rom 7:4-6; Eph 2:14-16).

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (Rom 6:14).

So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian (Gal 3:24-25).

Yet both Protestants and Catholics still make much of repeating The Lord's Prayer, saying it in unison in sickness and death, in drought and storm, in peace and war, etc... with almost no regard to its contents.

What a difference there is between praying and "saying prayers."