How Do I Know that All of the Bible is For Me? (Part One)

How Do I Know the Bible is For Me? (Part One)

© 2024 by C. O. Bishop

2nd Timothy 3:16 and many others…

Introduction:

I have frequently taught the idea that “all of God’s Word is for you, but not all of it is to you.” That could sound like heretical teaching, but it is not intended to be that at all. It is only to underscore that when God says “you,” it is important that we see who He means. When He makes a promise, to whom was the promise given? If a command, to whom was it directed?

This is simply a part of careful interpretation, regardless of the text you read. Whether we read the newspaper, a legal document, or a personal letter, the context in which a word is spoken means a great deal in interpreting any document.

A couple of Examples

I like to ask, “When Jesus said, “That thou doest, do quickly” does it mean Christians are always supposed to be in a hurry?” (Of course, this was Jesus’s command to Judas Iscariot, as Judas had just then decided to betray the Lord, in John 13:27.) So, the obvious answer is “No, that command was not to everyone: it was only to Judas!

But, then I might ask, “Well, how about the Great Commission? To whom was it given?” If we only read casually, we would automatically say, “Well, it was directed to the Eleven Disciples!” But a more careful reading would reveal that the Eleven disciples were to produce other disciples across the whole world; and that they were to teach those disciples to obey all that Jesus had commanded the Eleven. (So…what had He just commanded the Eleven to do?)

Yes! The Great Commission is for all believers in the Church age. But, by extension, the Great Commission is also TO all believers! It is a spiritual chain reaction, that began at Pentecost in the second chapter of Acts.

And, we see the continuing command in 2nd Timothy 2:2. Timothy was commanded to teach (make disciples of) reliable, “…faithful men, who could teach others also.”

But, We Believe the Whole Bible, Don’t We?

Yes! We believe the Whole Bible. All of it is true. And all of it is the inspired Word of God. 2nd Timothy 3:16 leaves no doubt about that. But, if we read Genesis, for example, we can see that the entire book is mostly a narrative. The few commands given there are usually given to a single individual. We learn fundamental precepts there, about the nature of God, and we can see in, “seed form,” the principles that fill the entire Word of God. We can especially see the broad patterns there. Usually, though, the “commands” we find are very specific: they were given to specific individuals.

However, when we begin to read the New Testament, we see that Jesus and the Apostles clearly saw the entire Old Testament as being THE Word of God (not just “containing the Word of God.”) They quoted some passages verbatim, but often simply alluded to some narrative about a person or a situation, to demonstrate a concept. And, in those cases, if we were not familiar with the Old Testament history, we would completely miss the point of the New Testament teaching that’s based on that passage…as it was derived from that passage. Let’s look at some examples:

Example 1: What About the Serpent in the Wilderness?

A good example of this is Jesus’s teaching (directed to Nicodemus, but still priceless to us) about why Moses “…lifted up the serpent in the wilderness.” (John 3:14-15)

If we don’t know the story in Numbers 21:5-9 then we will be utterly mystified by the comparison Jesus made between Himself and that bronze serpent. (The one Moses lifted up on a pole, during the desert wanderings of Israel.) It represented God’s judgment for sin! The People were invited to “Look, and Live!

Example 2: What About “The Rock?”

When we read about Moses bringing water from the Rock (twice) during that same period, we might shrug and think, “Oh, yes: I know God miraculously provided water in the desert! That is wonderful, but it has very little application in my life…that was all for Israel!”

But in 1st Corinthians 10:4, we find some astonishing news: that spiritual Rock that followed them in the wilderness…was Christ! And it is not given as an allegory or a metaphor. It is stated as a reality! And…Jesus is with me today! If He is truly that spiritual “Rock” that accompanied Israel through the desert, can He supply the spiritual water of life to me, today? Can He supply the spiritual water to me as freely as He provided physical water to Israel in the physical desert?

What is the Water?

The story of “The Woman at the Well,” in John 4:4-14 helps us to link the two concepts.  She thought Jesus was offering physical water, in an unending supply. But He made it clear that He offered something more. She was invited to receive that Living Water from Jesus! And Jesus’s promise in John 7:37-39 “seals the deal” for us! He offered that same Living Water, but the next verse explains that He meant the indwelling Holy Spirit, who was “not yet given!

Today, however, The Holy Spirit has been given. And, ever since Pentecost, He indwells each believer. What’s more, in John 14:23, Jesus makes it clear, that, in the person of the Holy Spirit, the entire Trinity has taken up residence in us. What an astounding idea!

He is still the Rock of Ages, supplying His cleansing blood for our salvation, and the endless flow of Living Water, for our continuing walk with Him. He invites the sinner to Come to Him, to Look and Live, and to Receive His Grace forever!

Example 3: What about Jonah?

In Matthew 12:39, 40 Jesus cited Jonah’s experience in the belly of the great sea creature, as a rebuke to his enemies who asked for a sign. They demanded yet another sign, and He gave them the sign of Jonah.

And it did two things for us: first, it told us that the story of Jonah is true. It truly happened, just as told. If I am uncomfortable with that idea, I have a problem. If I don’t believe the book of Jonah is true as written, then I am stating that Jesus may be wrong about His own Word! But many deny that the story of Jonah is true. They relegate it to “myth” status. Jesus treated it as a fact! He treated it as history.

And the second thing: it told us that Jonah’s experience was specifically a prophecy of the resurrection of Jesus! (Jesus called Jonah a prophet: what other prophecy did Jonah make? Or is it just that fact that he spoke for God?) But without that Old Testament prophet to read, we would be blind to the message Jesus offered. If we couldn’t go back and read the Book of Jonah we wouldn’t know what He was talking about. We would completely miss the prophecy!

What about the Commands?

Now: were the commands in the book of Jonah directed to You? Did Jesus command you to go to Nineveh? (No…He didn’t.) But in that small book, we can see God’s compassion toward people whom we may consider our enemies. The teaching is there for us …if we are looking for it. How high is the priority you assign to the souls around you who are dying as we watch?

We saw recently that the president of a nation (the self-proclaimed enemy of Western culture, and the USA specifically,) was probably killed in a helicopter crash. What is our response to be? Are we to rejoice that an enemy has ceased to be dangerous? Or do we grieve the fact that one of God’s created beings, created in His image, has perished, and is almost certainly lost?

What is our Response?

Jonah saw that Nineveh (the capital of Assyria) was filled with the enemies of his people, Israel! And God commanded him to extend God’s Grace to them! (No wonder he ran away!) And when God succeeded in bringing Nineveh to faith, Jonah was furious, saying, “I knew You were going to do this!” But God revealed the sin in Jonah’s heart, and the compassion in His own heart.

Do I have that same compassion? Or am I apathetic toward the lost, at best, seeing them only as enemies of the Faith? Jonah’s story is not to me, perhaps, but it surely is for me!

Jonah preached for three days and saw over 120,000 souls saved….and was furious with God for saving them. Jeremiah, in contrast, grieved and wept for the souls to whom he reached with the message of God. And only two (as far as we are told in scripture) accepted his message as truth and responded in faith. Jonah had a huge response and a terrible attitude. Jeremiah had the right heart for the ministry but had an extremely small response.

I would still rather be “on Jeremiah’s team!”

Lord Jesus, we know that we are limited in our understanding of Your Word. Please open our eyes and hearts to understand Your Word, and help us to apply it to our lives.

What Does Paul Really Teach About Marriage?

What Does the Apostle Paul Teach About Marriage?

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 7:7-16

For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.

I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I.

Why would Paul suggest that being unmarried is superior to being married? (That is not what he says!) God already established in His Word, that marriage was a gift to the whole human race. We read the Genesis account, where we saw that Marriage was ordained by God before sin entered the World.

What did the Old Testament Teach About Marriage?

The Old Testament writers uniformly emphasized the blessedness of marriage, and specifically, what a wonderful gift from God it was, to have a good wife.

Proverbs 18:22 says “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the LORD.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 points out the value of the teamwork, and the mutual support, saying,

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

The writer (Solomon) says teamwork can pay rich dividends. Also, there is safety in having a teammate. You will  help one another, and lift one another up when things are tough. He says fellowship with another keeps both people warm. This is true, whether in the sense of “physical warmth,” as in sleeping and being chilled at night, or in the spiritual sense, where each can encourage the other, rather than loneliness becoming a problem.

The Third Strand

And he finally points out that the Lord is the “third strand” in a Godly team. (He does not spell it out, but I believe that is the intent.) Many people claim the “third strand” in this passage is their progeny. However, that would be more than three strands, usually. And, besides, children are sometimes the reason for the breakup of a struggling marriage. (People fight over a variety of things, but how they plan to raise their children is a frequent issue.)

But, if the Lord is the ever-present “third member” in the marriage, then the marriage will probably survive. It will weather the struggles and hardships of life and be stronger for the experience.

Is There Such a Thing as a “Bad Marriage?”

The Old Testament writers also cautioned (in 1st Samuel 25:3; Proverbs 21:9 etc.) that a bad marriage was really a bad thing. It does not say that they were wrong to marry the person. It says their spouse’s character turned out to be bad. And the resulting marriage is very unhappy.

It is important to carefully consider the person you intend to marry. Watch and see how they handle relationships of every kind. How do they treat their parents? And how do they relate to their siblings and their extended family? How do they treat people in business dealings? And, how do they deal with money issues, in general? How do the values they claim to embrace work out in their real life? And, how do they deal with people who mistreat them? How do they respond to God’s Word?

What are the Responsibilities of Marriage?

The Old Testament writers also make it clear (by example) that a man is responsible for his wife and children. (Witness Jacob’s struggles, while working for his father-in-law, and his fear for them as Esau approached.)

The New Testament confirms this idea. 1st Timothy 5:8 says that a man who will not provide for his family “…has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” What an indictment against those who willingly fail to shoulder the responsibility of a family!

Paul did not take lightly the call of duty to a family. He only points out that if you do not have that responsibility (and if you can function reliably while single), there is additional freedom to serve the Lord, as you are unhindered by other relationships.

The Rights of Apostleship

In 1st Corinthians 9:1-6, Paul points out that the other apostles were married. It seems that their wives may even have traveled with them, at least some of the time. As we see the struggles Paul faced in his journeys, it seems obvious that it would have been much more difficult, had he been also worried about his wife.

(But Paul states that he chose to forgo marriage, and he also chose to forgo other privileges he could have claimed as an apostle. He frequently served unsupported by the churches. The other Apostles may have asked for and received support, as seems to be implied in this passage.) Paul had the right to do as the others did, but he chose not to do so.

Paul felt freer to serve the Lord because he had only himself to risk, and to direct. He only suggests that there is a real advantage to unmarried life IF one is capable of living that way.

Not Everyone is Gifted to Live That Way

But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

If the desire for sexual intimacy is so great that the single person is constantly distracted by it, then he says they should feel free to marry, (or to remarry, as the case may be.) He is not denigrating marriage, at all: He only suggests that, if one is capable, then it is fine to work alone. He likens the constant stress (because of desire) to “burning” with desire. The solution?  They would be better advised to marry. Not everyone can work effectively unmarried.

A veteran missionary Steve Karum, who worked with his wife in Thailand bluntly warned the single men in our missionary training, saying, “Thailand is not a good place for a single man! The temptations will be strong and constant, from every direction.” That was wise counsel. He was not “questioning the power of God” to keep such a man safe: he was echoing the counsel of God, in this specific passage!

Divorce Is Not An Option, as a Rule

Next, he confirms that married believers are not to divorce.

10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

God Hates Divorce!

Any of the Jewish believers would undoubtedly have remembered Malachi 2:13-16. God says, “13And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand.

14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.

15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.

16 For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

The Jews Understood the Warning

They knew what that prophecy meant: it said that God was rejecting them (and their sacrifices,) because they were rejecting their wives, whom they had married young, but who now, perhaps, seemed less attractive. They knew that! But Jesus had to rebuke the Jews of His day, anyway, saying that they were not to break a union established by God.

In Luke 16:18 He says, 18 Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.

Jesus made it clear that divorce is not acceptable for believers. It destroys something that He Himself established as an enduring “picture” of Himself and His Bride, the Church.

Paul reiterated this teaching: he also reminded them in verse 10 that it did not originate with himself, but that the Lord had taught extensively on the matter, during His Earthly ministry.

A New Concept

12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord:

Jesus did not address this in His earthly ministry.Paul is the first to teach this specific concept. But it is still God’s Word. Paul does not suggest that this portion of the epistle is “non-inspired.” Rather, he only recognizes that the Lord did not speak about this issue during His lifetime.

If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.

In a later letter, (2nd Corinthians 6:14-16) God warns believers to “be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” This would certainly include a warning not to marry unbelievers, but such unions certainly have happened. And, occasionally, it is because, in a marriage that began between two unbelievers, one partner becomes a believer, while the other resists God’s Grace. Either way, if you find yourself married to an unbeliever, you are called to love that unbeliever, treating them as your precious friend, and faithfully loving and blessing them. You are not to break your covenant by leaving them. Covenant-breaking is wrong behavior, in every case.

Why? What is the Hope?

14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

The word “sanctified” does not mean “saved”…it means “set apart for a purpose.” Could it mean that God will exert extra effort to persuade that rebellious partner? Possibly: It is not a guarantee, of course, but consider this: as long as you two are bound in the bond of marriage, and as long as you continue to pour out the Love of God upon them, they have a better chance than virtually anyone else! They are seeing and experiencing the reality of the Living Christ, as He works through you.

But, if they just can’t stand the transformation they see in you, so they reject you along with the Savior, then you cannot force them to stay. If they insist upon leaving you, and initiate a divorce, over your protests, then be at peace. Let them go. You are no longer bound.

15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

However, so long as they are willing to stay, the believer is commanded to endure the spiritual mismatch, and to pray for their salvation…and, sometimes it happens!

HERE is the Hope!

16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

Consider the joy a husband or wife experiences when their unsaved spouse also chooses to trust in the Savior they serve. Now they are a true team, blessed by God! Now they can serve together in harmony! They can bless one another and be blessed in return! The blessing of their lives can overflow to bless others, and together they can shine as a witness of God’s Grace.

I have known several couples where this exact situation occurred. The transformation in their lives and the lives of their families was profound and permanent.

But for those who are happily married, he has given instructions in the earlier passage and parallel passages elsewhere, as to how to inherit God’s blessing within that relationship. We pray that all of us will learn to walk with the Lord in such a way as to have His approval and blessing.

Lord Jesus, please implant Your Word upon our hearts in such a way as to make us continually responsive to Your leading. Allow us to have a stable walk with You, and live for Your honor.

Given From the Creation: The Principles of a Godly Marriage

Principles of a Godly Marriage, As Given From the Creation:

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 7:1-6; Hebrews 13:4; 1st Peter 3:1-7; Colossians 3:18, 19; Ephesians 5:21-33

1st Corinthians 7:1-6

1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.

Introduction

We have seen several “uncomfortable” passages in sequence. Here, again, is a doctrine that we seldom discuss in church. It touches upon marital relations, and usually, in our culture, we do not even discuss such things…at least not in public. As a teacher,, my problem is that, regardless of how I may feel about it, this is God’s Word. If I am to teach it faithfully, I cannot just focus on the comfortable parts.

Further, this is a pretty important part of a believer’s understanding. It should not be avoided, even if it is uncomfortable to hear. There are numerous parallel passages that we will also examine, and hopefully get past any discomfort.

Evidently the Corinthian believers had written to Paul. They had asked his advice about “abstinence from sexual relations.” Someone was suggesting that total celibacy was a way to achieve godliness. Paul’s initial response then, was, “…concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” But, he immediately qualified that response. He pointed out that for most people, marriage is a genuine necessity in life, and then specifies why.

What Does God Say?

There are (or have been) ascetic cults that teach total celibacy as a way of life. Predictably, they usually die out within a few generations. The American Shakers, for example, (led by Mother Ann Lee, who saw herself as “the second coming of Christ,” and as a “combination of male and female”) taught total celibacy as a cardinal doctrine. But that group continued to attract adherents for a while, due to their productive, generous lifestyle, and their creativity. Unfortunately, they also continued to teach total celibacy, and they frowned upon childbearing. By the year 2000, one Shaker community remained in the United States. It consisted of ten people. That is a pretty sad story.

Celibacy outside of marriage is a good thing: But celibacy as a general rule is definitely not from God. It is unnatural, and it is counterproductive. God says so.

From the Creation, Marriage is the Gift of God

In Genesis 2:18-25, God declared that it was not good that the Man should be alone. God created a suitable partner for the man, in the form of Woman. God created her to be a part of man and yet a separate being. Adam said, “She is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

And in Genesis 2:24, God said “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.”

This was the plan from the beginning. Take note: God ordained the marriage relationship before sin entered the world. Before there was corruption or evil of any kind on this earth, God gave the pure and undefiled gift of the marriage relationship.

The Gift Has Not Changed

In Romans 11:29, Paul says that the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance…without revocation. HE is not changing, and He confirms that His gift has not changed, in Hebrews 13:4“Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled, but whoremongers and adulterers, God will judge.” Notice that He also states the limitation: He restricted this relationship to marriage.

Further, the command in Genesis 1:28, also given to the human race before their fall into sin, was that they should “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

So, we can see, for certain, that procreation was the plan of God. There are ascetic religious groups, still today, which (though they do not go quite as far as the Shakers did) attempt to teach that marriage relations should be restricted to being only for the purpose of childbearing …that wives and husbands are not to enjoy the physical marital relationship.

Here in 1st Corinthians 7, God makes it clear that such teaching is destructive. It denies the believer something that God gave as a gift, before we fell into sin. And because each of us normally has a desire for that relationship, any attempt to wrongfully deny it can result in people seeking to satisfy that desire in wrong ways.

Avoiding Sexual Immorality

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

Notice that this applies to both men and women. I have occasionally heard someone suggest that because God only said, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” it must not apply to women. In the first place, the only time He said that was in the specific case where there was only one human…a man…in existence! God did not say “It is not good for a man (any man) to be alone,” but THE man…Adam.

It was not good, that of all the creation, humans were not yet capable of procreation. All the rest had been made “male and female.” God completed the creation of the human race by producing the female…the woman. In Genesis 1:27, it says, “So God created Man in His own image: in the image of God created He him; Male and Female created He them.” They are equally in the image of God. Genesis 2 simply gives us more detail about how He went about it.

But the desire for one another was built into both of them. The rule laid out in 1st Corinthians 7 is for both men and women.

The Marriage Covenant

Some of the marriage covenant that we recognize in our weddings is the part about mutually caring for one another, and mutually cherishing one another: But another part is the exclusivity of that relationship. We agree before God that we are to restrict ourselves to this relationship with one another, only: “…forsaking all others, as long as we both shall live.”

Within that covenant relationship, however, we are not just “permitted” to enjoy the physical relationship, we are commanded to “not defraud one another” of that enjoyment. We are to seek to please one another, as part of that relationship…not just please ourselves.

Mutual Care

As husband and wife, we have mutually given ourselves to one another. Paul puts it this way, in verses 3 and 4: Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

The word translated “benevolence” here, is the Greek word “eunoia.” It is only used twice in the New Testament. It literally means “good mind,” but it carries the connotation of “pleasure.” The only other place it is used is in Ephesians 6:7, where it says, “With good will doing service, as to the Lord and not to men.”

But if we read both of those passages translated with the same English word, “pleasure,” then the Ephesians passage would say, “With pleasure, doing service, as to the Lord and not to men.” While the verse we are now reading would say “Let the husband give the pleasure he owes to the wife, and the wife to her husband.” I am not attempting to “re-translate the word”…I am only pointing out that the Greek word has a meaning, and that the two places it is used should have similar meanings. And clearly, they do.

The word translated as “power,” here, is the Greek word “exousia.” It means “authority.” My wife has authority regarding my body: it is no longer “just mine.” The reverse is true as well. This in no way suggests that either of us is free to abuse the other, in any fashion. We are a team, devoted to loving and supporting each other, and meeting one another’s needs..

Remember the “Mirror”

In James 1:23-25, we see God’s Word likened unto a mirror. James tells us to “not respond to the mirror of God’s Word as most men respond to a physical mirror.” Most men look into a mirror and walk away, giving it no more thought. We literally “forget what we just saw.”

We are to look into the “Perfect Law of Liberty” and see who we are from God’s perspective and change what needs to be changed. Notice that the mirror is to examine your own reflection, not to check out what other folks need to do.

Sisters, You concentrate on what God is telling YOU to do: Don’t use this teaching to criticize and demoralize your husbands. You are in his “corner” supporting him.

Brothers, use this teaching to see what YOU need to do, to walk obediently, loving and honoring your wife. This is not to “give you ammunition” with which to criticize her. You are in her “corner,” supporting her.

Remember who is identified as the “Accuser of the Brethren.” Don’t start doing his “dirty work,” by accusing one another.

Parallel Teaching Regarding the Church

God demonstrates that the Husband-Wife relationship is given as a physical figure, a “picture.” or an “object lesson” of the relationship between Christ and the Church.

Jesus is never abusive or dismissive toward His bride, the Church. He is our sustainer and defender and our only confidant and our closest friend. He is our guide and teacher, as well. Must a husband be all of those to his wife? That would be great, but it is not always the case. What IS always required? God commands a husband to love his wife, as Christ Loves the church.

1st Peter 3:1-7

In similar manner, a wife is to treat her husband with full respect. He, in turn, is to treat her with tenderness and respect as well, as a fellow heir of the grace of life. A husband is to recognize that there will be times each month when his wife’s body essentially “drugs her” so that she is not going to “feel good,” or she may be cranky, for a few days. He is not to judge her for that. nor to respond in anger, but to “dwell with her according to knowledge.” He is to honor her as the weaker vessel in that regard.

This is not an indicator that “men are smarter,” or that “men are more spiritually alert,” or even that “men are always physically stronger.” They usually are, yes, but if a man suffers an injury or sickness that renders him helplessly weak, physically, this does not change the dynamic God has set up. And if he fails to treat his wife the way Jesus treats the church, then God says his prayers may be hindered. God takes the marriage relationship very seriously. This is an uncomfortable passage, but keep in mind that it is God talking.

Another Warning

Proverbs 14:1 warns the wife that if she behaves wisely, she builds up her household. But if she does not, then she is doing the reverse: she is pulling it down with her own hands. A woman has a unique privilege and gift of making a house a home. But part of that “homemaking” is found in the relationships between the family members. If the wife or mother is strengthening those relationships, through wise interaction, then she builds up her household. But if she is foolishly stirring up strife, then she is tearing it down. We may not want to think about it, but God says it.

In every aspect of the marriage relationship, God commands us to be mutually sharing His Agapé love with one another. That includes mutually fulfilling one another in the physical relationship.

If both the husband and wife mutually agree to “take a break” for a short time, specifically to devote themselves to prayer, that is fine. But he says it is to be a defined length of time and short: they are not to take a chance on their hearts beginning to stray. And finally, he says that they have permission to make such a decision: there is no command to do so.

A marriage relationship that is flourishing under God’s hand, as a joyous partnership between God, a man, and a woman, is a wonderful picture of Christ and the Church: But squabbling, bitterness, or infidelity will ruin that picture and make it a mockery of the true gift of God.

Lord Jesus, we ask that You purify our hearts and minds and allow us to focus on blessing our marriages through full obedience to Your Word,  in full submission to Your Spirit.

Who Owns Your Body? (And Your Spirit?)

Who Owns Your Body? (And Your Spirit?)

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 6:12-20

12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 13Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them.

Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.

15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.

16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.

17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.

18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Introduction:

Paul addresses the question of Personal Autonomy, here: it has been an important topic throughout history. Freemen felt that their most sacred possession was autonomy. Slaves desired to have personal autonomy, but other humans denied them the right to it.

Patrick Henry famously said, “But, as for me, give me Liberty or give me death!” He felt that life without freedom…without personal autonomy…was not worth living. (Remember that while many people shared that feeling, for themselves, they did not extend that same right to everyone else. Slavery did not end in this country until ninety years later.) Physical slavery has been a physical reality among humans for thousands of years, under a variety of possible circumstances. (And, it still is!) But physical slavery is not what this passage is about.)

Paul begins by talking about what we eat…in regard to diet, he was free. The dietary restrictions of the Mosaic Law no longer applied to him. Verses 12 and 13 together point this out as the beginning premise.

But he transitions rapidly to a different kind of issue: one of morality, not diet.

About Food:

Paul says he was (and, by implication, they also were) free to eat the food available to them. He only cautioned that he would not allow himself to be “brought under the power of” any such food (or drink.) And, by implication, that they should not allow themselves to be addicted, either. It is possible to overdo anything: one can become addicted to a particular favorite food, and overeat until they ruin their health. Alcohol, or other “mood-enhancing” substances, whether legal or illegal can fall into that same category, of course. (At one time cocaine and opium were unregulated. They were still dangerous drugs, even though they were not “illegal.”

Temperance–Self Control

In my own case, I know I can either take certain foods in small amounts or very infrequently, as I will almost certainly overindulge, just because I enjoy them so much. I feel fortunate that I have never been able to stand the taste of alcoholic beverages. It might very likely have been brought me “under its power,” as Paul warns, here. I have shown poor discipline in regard to foods, historically, so alcohol could have been a problem, too, if I had liked it at all.

12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 13Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them.

Paul points out that both the food, and the belly into which they go, are temporary in nature, and have mostly temporary consequences.

But Paul is only using the twin topics of “ceremonially clean or unclean food,” and “addiction to foods or drink” as a “springboard” to something that cuts closer to home than either food or drink: sexual immorality.

Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. 14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.

The King James Bible uses the word “fornication,” from the Greek “porneia,  which means “sexual immorality” in general…usually outside of marriage. (There is also a Greek word (“moicheia”)for “adultery:” meaning “violation of marriage by sexual immorality.”)

Sexual Sin

Notice that while sexual sin is still physically associated with the physical body, there is a sense in which sexual sin oversteps the boundaries of “just being bad judgment.” It truly becomes a spiritual issue, reaching beyond just physical consequences. (This is not to say that other sins are not “spiritual issues.” He simply points out that there is a spiritual bond formed in sexual intercourse that violates the sanctity of our spiritual bond with Jesus Christ, as members of the Body of Christ.)

God says that, as believers, we do not have the “right” to be promiscuous. He says we belong to Him. We have been “sanctified” (declared holy) by Him as we read in the previous passage. He says we are His private property.

We may find the concept of our being “someone else’s property” to be repugnant, but it is not always a bad thing. When one person wrongfully claims to own another, and against that person’s will, it is a terrible thing, to be sure.

Owner by Means of Creation and Redemption

But remember that we are talking about the Creator, here: the literal OWNER of every subatomic particle in the universe, by right of Creation, and the Owner of our bodies, souls and spirits, for the same reason, and specifically, in the case of believers, by redemption.

The Lord Jesus, as God, the Son, created the physical materials which comprise our physical bodies , and He created our immaterial parts (soul and spirit.) But then, He also bought us back, out of the marketplace of sin , by giving His own life in our place. That is Redemption!

If I buy something, I own it! He bought us, and He owns us, even though we don’t always admit it.

By the way, this rule carries over into human marriage, as well: 1st Corinthians 7:3, 4 says that my wife has authority over my body, in our marriage…and I have authority over hers! We may not like that, either, but God says it is so. We can accept it or deny it… but that is what He says!

So, What is the Connection?

15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.

16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.

In Ephesians 5:31, Paul quoted Genesis 2:24. He reminding the believers that from the beginning, God had shown that there is a bond created in the marital union, that is not to be broken nor to be “muddled” by misuse. That “muddling” could be from anything from divorce and remarriage to polygamy. In the human marriage relationship, there is a demonstration of the relationship between Christ and the Church, according to Ephesians 5:21-33.

Here in 1st Corinthians 6:15, Paul raises this question, and he points out that for believers, it goes a step further: We have been made members of the Body of Christ (See 1st Corinthians 12:13.) So, in sexual immorality, not only are we violating the union between husband and wife, but we are also violating the union between Christ and the Church!

17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.

Our union with Him is not just physical, nor even just a temporary spiritual union, “mystic” in nature, “for as long as we both shall live.”  Rather, it is an intensely spiritual and permanent bond between our spirits and that of God Himself! It is not to be trifled with. This bond is not to be dragged in the dirt of sin. It cannot be broken, because God has chosen to permanently redeem us. But it can be damaged and rendered ineffective by our sin.

Paul’s Conclusion Regarding the Consequences of Fornication

18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

There is some way in which sexual sin crosses over into a different category. We might think that “all sin is outside the body.” But God says this one affects you directly, and in a deeper way.

By the way, all sin “begins in the heart.” That is not the question here. Proverbs 6:32 also points out that “one who commits adultery destroys his own soul.” People do not forget marital unfaithfulness, and are unlikely to forgive someone who took their husband or wife.

So, Paul says “flee fornication!” Stay completely “away from the edge,” there! It is not just “something that happens,” It has to “build up ahead of time.” There is a time during which a person is “playing with sin” in their mind. (In Matthew 6:27, 28, Jesus said that the adultery first occurred there.) They are “flirting” with destruction.

I have read that the most common “last words” in the Grand Canyon National Park are something to the effect of “Hey, watch this!” People get “too close to the edge,” and fall off to their death. There is no reason you have to “get close to the edge” in terms of sexual sin. You can see it coming a long way off and avoid it.

2nd Timothy 2:22 says, “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

You see, you have options: you have a way to “stay clear of the edge!” Follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

So, Why is it So Important?

19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

This is where we discover that, as believers in Jesus, each of our human bodies has become indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, and that He considers each believer’s body to be a unique “temple of the Holy Spirit.”

The “temple of the Holy Spirit” mentioned here is not the same as the “Temple of God” (singular) in 1st Corinthians 3:16, 17, which is comprised of all members of the Body of Christ. This is plural, and it is directed to every individual believer. Your body, as the dwelling place of The Holy Spirit, is to be kept holy…the food you eat has little to no effect, nor do other temporal things.

But immorality has a direct effect on the relationship you have with the Holy Spirit. He will not leave you, but He can certainly be grieved by our sins. Ephesians 4:30 says, “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” There are some boundaries we are to completely avoid. This is one of them.

The Roots of Our Rebellion

Why? Because we no longer belong to ourselves (as if we ever really did.) We thought we belonged to ourselves, and we fiercely desire to maintain that “personal autonomy.” But the fact is, we have never truly been “self-possessed.” We only desired to be so, just as Lucifer desired to be his own master, in Isaiah 14:12-14.

Ther reason that forgiveness and grace are available to us at all is that we all sin ignorantly. We have never seen God face to face, and we have no real understanding of the terrible reality of our rebellion. The angels who sinned did so in full knowledge, having seen God face to face from the day they were created.

But Paul concludes, “For ye are bought with a price. Therefore, Glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” He says, “You belong to Him by creation and also by redemption! Live in such a way as to say, “Thank You!” Honor Him. Give Him credit for what He has done in your life!

Giving Credit to the One Who Desreves it

None of us like it when we have done something good and someone else takes the credit. If there is anyone in History who deserves full credit, it is the Lord Jesus, as God the Son! He created us, and sustained us, and He bought us back out of our lostness, to be His forever!

Such a lifestyle, committed to honoring the Lord, must exclude the kinds of immorality that shame Him and Grieve the Holy Spirit. Each of us has to start where we are, and choose to honor Jesus…Choose to glorify Jesus. Don’t allow anything to come between you and that choice!

Lord Jesus, awaken in us the desire to please You in all things, and to set aside anything that would shame you. Raise us up as Your disciples.

“Who Are the “Unrighteous?” It’s a Divine Identity Question

A Question of Identity: Who Are the “Unrighteous?”

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 6:9-11

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Introduction

People often take this passage to prove that “sinners can’t get to heaven,” (thus making salvation dependent upon our works.)

There is no one here who does not confess that he or she is a sinner. In fact, had I not confessed that I am a sinner, unable to save myself, I could not have been saved. I had to place my full trust in Jesus, His Blood, and His completed work at the Cross: not in any works of my own!

So, when we read this stark condemnation, that “the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” we have to ask, “Then, who are the unrighteous?” The world would reply that the answer is obvious: “The next sentence lists them by their sins.” And that begs the question, “Well, then: who are the righteous?” And that is the question we truly need to address.

Definition of Biblical Terms

We need to define some central terms, here.

Righteous: “Having a right standing with God.”

Unrighteous:Not having a right standing with God.”

Notice that both of these ideas have a “positional” character: “Where are you with God? What is your standing before Him?” And, what does it take to achieve or receive such a right standing?

In verse 9, the opening statement is that “those who do NOT have a right standing before God” will not “inherit the kingdom of God.” Then Paul goes on to list the general characteristics of the lost, Christless world. He lists things that demonstrate an unregenerate heart: the character of one who has not been “born from above.”

Defined by God: Observed by Behavior and Character

In general, we expect the character of those who have been born from above…born again…to be different from that of the unregenerate world.

But, is this right standing something we “achieve” by strength of character, by “persistence in well-doing,” or through “heroic service” of some sort? Or is it something that we must receive?

An inheritance usually depends upon the written will of someone who died… and no effort by those not included in that will can put them into it so that they can claim that inheritance. Either the Testator wrote them into that “Last Will and Testament,” or He did not.

We may observe that the “worldly heir” of some vast “worldly fortune” may seem to be an undeserving wretch. They may be selfish, spoiled, and vain… and possibly grossly immoral, as well. That does not change the written will that caused them to inherit.

One might protest, “But isn’t that unfair?” Maybe it is! But like it or not, it is reality. We need to embrace reality. We have to accept the fact that life is frequently “unfair.” Sin has ruined the world in which we live. God has not yet lifted the curse. The Psalmists saw this reality and warned us to not fret over the apparent injustice in the world. God’s Justice is supreme, and He sees all of what is happening. As His “born ones,” we need to learn to trust in Him for the eventual outcome. He has “written into His Will,” as His born-again offspring!

Our Past

Paul has cited a list of gross sins. He stated that the people characterized by that list are not God’s heirs. Then he says, “And such were (past tense) some of you!” Your past includes all of your old way of life. Perhaps it did include some of the sins listed here, perhaps it did not. But, if I trust in my own righteousness, then the smallest sin is sufficient to condemn me.

Ezekiel 33:13 says, “When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.”

My past, whether checkered with sins of every kind, or seemingly pure, in the eyes of humans, is all under the Blood of Jesus Christ at the Cross.

In John 5:24, which we frequently quote, Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him who sent Me, HATH everlasting life (present tense,) and SHALL NOT come into condemnation (future tense,) but IS PASSED from death into life (past perfect tense!) All of my past is under the blood of Jesus. His promise guarantees my future is. And, in the here and now, I already have eternal life! Jesus says so!

So…What Changed?

Just for the record, my past was anything but “pure.” I was an atheist, I was immoral, and I was a total rebel against God. I was on God’s Death Row. Ezekiel 18:4 says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die!That is where I was. That was my position, as a lost sinner. And I was cocky and proud, and I had no concept of my peril. There was nothing I could have done to save myself. I had already utterly broken God’s Law. I was guilty.

Potentially, I might have tried to do “good deeds” to earn God’s approval. But my sin contaminated them all! That is why, in Isaiah 64:6, it says, “…all our righteousnesses are as filthy rag.” Our ever-present sin has already contaminated anything “good” we can do, as natural humans. So, what had to change?

But Ye Are Washed!

There is the beginning of the change: He washed us! How did that occur? Jesus spoke of it in John 13:10. He said the disciples (not including Judas) were “washed.” But He did not say by what means He had washed them. In John 15:3, after Judas had departed, He told the remaining disciples, “Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you.”

And in Ephesians 5:26, Paul said that Jesus cleansed the church. He made it holy through the “washing of water by the Word.” That is both a one-time occurrence and a continuing process. Your initial cleansing occurred the moment you believed the Gospel: the moment you placed your sole trust in the Person and Work of Jesus at the Cross for salvation. You were made positionally clean. At that moment, you became one of His heirs, in writing! (Because it says “Whosoever believeth in Him!”)

Remember that Jesus declared that Peter was clean, in John 13 and John 15. Peter’s sin in denying the Lord occurred later that same night! Did that change Peter’s position? Was he no longer “cleansed by the Word?”

No! It changed his condition. He was miserable and despairing and guilty. He was not in fellowship with Jesus or even with the other disciples. Effectively, until that rift was healed, Peter lived as if he was “spiritually dead.” His position had not changed. He was still clean in Christ. But he desperately “needed his feet washed.” He had been in some deep mud!

If you have chosen by faith to place your trust in the cleansing blood of Jesus, then you “are washed!” That is a permanent reality. What else has changed?

Ye Are Sanctified!

“Sanctified” means “made holy.” It means “set apart” for God’s use, as His personal property.

God says you are now Holy! He has permanently declared that you are his child by rebirth. (Not by “adoption:” Biblical adoption comes later… see Romans 8:23.) He declared you to be clean through having believed His Word. He has now declared to be holy unto Him.

As you may remember, the Babylonian army stole the holy vessels of God’s temple in Jerusalem and took them to Nebuchadnezzar’s treasury in Babylon. But a later king, Belshazzar, took those vessels and used them in a worship service to his numerous false gods.

Did that deliberate misuse by Belshazzar and his officials defile those vessels? Yes, it did! They truly needed cleansing, and re-consecration to the service of God! But were they any less Holy? No! They still belonged to God! They were still “set apart for His specific use, in the temple of God.” God says that you now are His own treasure, and you are “set apart” for His use!

Ye Are Justified!

We posed a question, back in the introduction: “Who are the Righteous?” This is the answer! So, here is another term to define:

“Justified” means “declared righteous.” It is obvious, then, that it truly matters who “declared you to be righteous.” If I declare myself righteous, then we call it “self-justification,” and the only possible result is “self-righteousness.”

No one likes self-righteousness, but we all tend toward self-justification. We protest our excuses for our failures and we bolster our fragile egos, usually, by self-justification. Romans 10:3 says, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God,”

Yes, Paul was specifically referring to the Jews in that passage, but it has general application to all those who “justify themselves” at any level. When we self-justify, we fail to avail ourselves of God’s Righteousness.

How Can We Avail Ourselves of the Righteousness Of God?

In 2nd Corinthians 5:21, God says, “He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God, in Him.

In Genesis 15:6, it says Abram believed God and God reckoned it to him as righteousness. (I can hear legalists howling, “But that’s “easy believe-ism!” Sorry: it is God’s Word, telling the means by which GOD declared Abram to be a righteous individual. Like it or not, that is what it says!)

Paul reiterates this concept in Romans 4:1-3. He emphasized that Abraham was declared righteous on the basis of Faith, alone: before any “religious works” were recorded. He cites Psalm 32:1, 2, where David confirmed that the real issue is whether God counts you as righteous.

If God has called you Righteous, based on your faith in Him, then you stand Righteous before Him forever! In Romans 11:29, we read that “the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance”…(without revocation.) He will not “repent,” or change His mind about you. Jesus said, (John 6:37) “He that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out!” In John 10:27, 28, Jesus confirms His promise, saying, “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish!

Do You Desire to be Declared Righteous by God?

If you have not placed your faith in Jesus Christ as God’s chosen sacrifice for your sins, then this is your path! Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” He also said (in John 10:7), “I am the Door of the Sheep!”

If you “want in,” He is the “way in.” And you “access Him” simply by believing Him: By taking Him at His Word and receiving Eternal Life, as a gift from Him to you. You cannot “achieve” Eternal life! You can only receive it. God says, “The wages (earned and deserved) of Sin is Death, but the gift of God (unearned, and undeserved) is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

As a believer, you have received that gift of eternal life. You are eternally secure in Christ. He has already “declared you Righteous” in Him through Faith. God now calls you to live for Him. He says we no longer belong to ourselves (as if we ever truly did.) He says that, as those risen from the dead through His authority, we should be living in the newness of His Resurrected Life. We are to live as a light to the world around us and as a continual act of worship to Him!

The Resulting Reward

This is the sort of life that results in hearing, “Well done, thou Good and Faithful Servant!” That honor is truly the best any believer can hope for. And, it is something we achieve: it is still done by faith, simply by walking with Him and allowing Him to live through us. But the walk with Jesus is not easy: it is impossible, apart from His continued control: It is not just difficult, it’s impossible! “Walking on Water” is not “difficult:” It is impossible, unless Jesus enables us! And that is what Jesus said! “Apart from Me, ye can do Nothing!”

No one had to “explain” to Peter that “walking on water is impossible!” He knew it, and he got out of the boat, knowing that unless Jesus backed him, it was a fatal error! But…he walked! And when he took his eyes off of Jesus, he sank! That is as clear a lesson as we can ask for! You are declared righteous by Faith. But you are also called to walk in Him by faith.

Lord Jesus, teach our hearts to believe in You and to focus on You so that we can faithfully walk with You, in all circumstances. We know hard times are coming, and we want to honor You with our lives through those hard times; not to fail through lack of faith. Make us the Men and Women of God that You have called us to be.

Family Trouble: Handling Interpersonal Dispute in the Church

Family Trouble: Judgment of Interpersonal Issues

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 6:1-8

1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?

Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.

I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?

But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.

Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?

Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.

Introduction:

We have spent six weeks talking about the topic of Judgment. We have not done so because it is enjoyable (it isn’t!) but because it is necessary. The Church at Corinth had some serious problems, requiring a great deal of corrective teaching. As we study through the letters to Corinth, we cannot escape the topic of Judgment.

Paul addressed them as genuine believers. But they were largely “carnal” believers, as he said in 1st Corinthians 3:1-4. They were not living by faith, or walking with Christ in obedience. They were making decisions in their fleshly minds and according to their fleshly desires. Their behavior reflected the results, in every area.

Safety Training

We don’t enjoy reading about all the messes they were making of their lives. Please see this as “training in what to avoid.”

I used to teach Industrial Safety at the company where I worked. I recounted numerous injury accidents, errors, and fatalities that had occurred. Some had happened right there in that plant, or nearby companies, or affiliated companies.

Someone in the Human Resources department scolded me, saying I was going to frighten away potential employees. But, the best way to teach safety is to explain the hazards and explain how to avoid those hazards.” There are hundreds of “potential ways to die,” in heavy industry. My goal was to make sure everyone went home alive, safe, and uninjured.

God teaches “Safety Training” by the same method. Jesus spent far more time and gave far more teaching about the reality of Hell and Eternal Judgment than He spent describing Heaven and the Eternal Joy awaiting believers. Yet some people scold us, and say that such “negative teaching” will turn people away! If that is the case then we need to take it up with the Savior, because He is also the Judge. And He went to great lengths to warn us away from the eternal “hazard” associated with sin, and the lurking enemy who will try to ensnare us there.

Please take the twin books of 1st and 2nd Corinthians as “Safety Training.” It may not be very pleasant, but it could keep us out of trouble, both as individuals and, as a church.

So, What Was the Problem, This Time?

When conflicts arose, the believers in Corinth were quite willing to take one another to court. Today we say such people are “lawsuit-happy” or, “litigious!” They were making no attempt to follow what Jesus said about personal conflicts. The people knew nothing of forgiveness, nor of simply accepting the wound or the loss inflicted by a fellow believer. They were taking one another to court before the unbelieving judges of their society. They were shaming the Church and shaming Jesus as well. (Notice, we are still talking about judgment!) Do you see what Paul points out regarding judgment, here?

1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

Through Paul, Jesus commanded us to judge. He commanded that this judgment not be left to the unbelievers. It is a shameful thing when the Body of Christ requires unbelievers to tell us how to live. Hopefully, when conflicts seem insurmountable, a pattern of coming before the church for spiritual judgment will prevent the more drastic judgment from unbelievers.

Limits of this Judgment

[By the way, this is about civil matters: If it were a matter of criminal offenses, then the situation is already completely out of hand, and the sin has crossed the line into matters where the world takes over and exercises judgment. And God says (Romans 13:1-7) that He put the civil authorities in place for that specific purpose. We just want to avoid that necessity, by obeying His Word all the time; not just when we are in trouble.]

When God says the believers at Corinth are “Saints,” it does not mean “super-spiritual Christians.” It means that they have been claimed by God as His Personal Property. This is true of every single believer. The moment you trusted Christ as your Savior, several things happened:

  1. You were born again as a legitimate Child of God.
  2. You were indwelt by the entire Godhead, in the person of the Holy Spirit.
  3. The Holy Spirit placed you (literally, “baptized” you) into the Body of Christ, by that Spirit.
  4. You were Redeemed: “bought back out of the marketplace of sin, to be set free.”
  5. Your sins (past, present, and future,) were forgiven.
  6. You were washed clean by His Blood.
  7. You were declared His personal property: Holy, for His use alone… A Saint.

Did you “feel” any of that? I seriously doubt it. But all of it is a fact, and there is much more. I only listed these few to show why He could call this mixed-up circus of spiritually immature clowns in Corinth “Saints!” Guess what? It includes us!

Yes, the Church is Qualified to Judge!

And, because we also fit into that category, He says that we should be able to deal with the ordinary conflicts of life without screaming to the unbelieving world for “justice!”

I knew a couple who faced such a dilemma: their house was damaged by fire, and another Christian couple (whom they considered friends) invited them to stay with them for a few months while the repairs were being made. They gladly accepted, and they offered to pay rent, but the other couple refused. But, when their repairs were done and they went to move home, their hosts demanded steep payment for having lived with them…and then threatened a lawsuit.

The couple I knew submitted to this scripture: they sadly paid what was demanded, though it seemed unreasonable. They suffered loss rather than open the church to criticism by the ungodly.

Judge The World? And Angels?

Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

So—When will the Believers “Judge the World?”

So far as we can see in the Bible, the only time in Human history when believers will be judging the world, on Earth, will occur during the Millennial Kingdom. Jesus told his followers that faithfulness would result in rewards. And, that one of their rewards during the kingdom age would be increased responsibility…rulership over cities, etc.

And I’m sorry, but I do not at all know when we will judge angels. However, consider that God says you are already “in Christ.” According to Ephesians 2:6, you are already seated in the throne with Him. So, possibly, in whatever way Jesus exercises judgment, because we are in Him, it could also be said that we are part of that judgment.

So, when Jesus exercises and pronounces judgment on the fallen Angels, we will be there for the occasion, and we will be part of it. Perhaps that is part of what this is about. If not, then I simply don’t know.

But, regardless of whether we fully understand his premise (that we will “judge angels,”) we can easily comprehend his conclusion: “We are worthy to judge the smallest things.”

One does not have to be “certified smart” by an ungodly institution before being competent to discern good and evil, or truth and fiction, or to give good counsel and exercise sound judgment.

Paul says that, as the children of God, we have been given His wisdom in the Scriptures, and that we should be ready to exercise that wisdom and judgment in the everyday affairs of normal life. And, if we cannot, then there is something seriously wrong.

Just How Serious Is This?

If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.

According to Paul, (speaking by the Spirit of God,) we would be better off to set up as a judge the person least qualified in the church, rather than to go before unbelievers and shame the church and one another.

Even that believer whom we consider least qualified (for whatever reason) still is indwelt by the Spirit, of God, and thereby is better qualified to give counsel than any unregenerate person. And, honestly, that is pretty serious!

I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?

“I speak this to your shame” is an old-fashioned way of saying “Shame on you!” They regarded the indwelling Holy Spirit and the Wisdom He offered too poorly. They did not even consider dealing with interpersonal personal matters privately. In that way, they would bring no dishonor to God .

He challenged them to look around them and pick an arbitrator: there has to be someone you can trust to make a fair decision, based on the facts! Is there no one at all, among God’s people, that you would trust to make a good decision?

Or, is it All About “Winning?”

Are you so hung up on “getting your own way,” or “getting some money” out of someone else, that questions of “right and wrong” no longer matter?

In Ephesians 4:31, 32, God says “Let ALL bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor be put away from you will ALL malice, and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you!”

Does that no longer matter? Have you assumed that there must be some sort of “exception clause,” so that the “ALL” in that passage somehow does not really mean “ALL?” (Here’s a tip: “all” means “ALL!” Forgiveness requires that we absorb the loss, not seeking either retribution or revenge. Jesus accepted the full weight of the wrath of God, to satisfy the Righteousness, Holiness, and Justice of God, to provide forgiveness for us. Can’t we absorb the comparatively insignificant hurts and injustices we experience from one another, and accept one another on the same basis by which we have been accepted by God?

Give that some thought!

Paul’s Conclusion:

But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.

7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?

8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.

Paul concludes by pointing out that in taking one another to court, they were not only completely wrong, but in a form of wrong far worse than whatever injustice they had suffered. He said that they would have been far better off to have just “backed off” and accepted the loss at another’s hand. They would be better to forgive the wrong, “losing the case,” (so to speak,) to “win” the approval of God, in an attempt to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Wronging the Church

He reminds them that they are “wronging the brethren” by taking their opponent to court. They are not only wronging the other party. (One might argue that “No! They are wronging us!”) The fact is, they are wronging all the believers by their behavior, and shaming all the believers. And, they were dragging the Name of Jesus in the dirt, in the eyes of the unbelievers.

In Romans 2:24, Paul pointed out that the unbelievers blaspheme the Name of God, because of the behavior of people who claim to be believers. We do not want to be part of that tragedy!

Lord Jesus, free us from our ego so that we can shine as your lamps in the darkness of this world. Keep us from covering our light with such dirt and shame that Your light can no longer be seen. Fill us with Your Love for the believers around us and Your compassion for the Lost, so that we reach out as Your hands and behave as Your ambassadors, loving as You love.

Fail to Address Sin? Pride is Still the Root of the Problem

Pride is Still the Root of the Problem

© 2024 C. O, Bishop

1st Corinthians 5:1-13

1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Pride was the Problem!

Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.

11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. 12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

Introduction:

This is a very uncomfortable passage to study: The immoral behavior of the persons in question repulses us, and the response of the assembly perplexes us. But then, we are also uncomfortable with the response of the apostle in calling for judgment.

The simple fact is, we are uncomfortable “talking about sin,” as sin! We are conscious of our own fallibility: and due to our fragility, we are reluctant to judge sin in others. A friend once encouraged me to sing some sacred songs to a group of hardened unbelievers. I told him I thought it would be inappropriate, as Jesus had said (in Matthew 7:6) “Do not cast your pearls before swine, neither give that which is holy to the dogs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn and rend thee.”

He said, “But, are we supposed to judge such things?”

I retorted, “Of course we are! How else could we obey the command?” He said, “I never thought of that!”  You see, we have to “use good judgment!”

Things to Bear in Mind

There are several points of which we should take note, as we seek to understand this passage: First, simply as a foundation for reading, we need to see that this is not about “condemning” believers. Romans 8:1-4 teaches that “there is now therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ.”

In John 5:24, Jesus promised that “he that heareth my Word and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death into life.” (Again, no condemnation!)

Second, we need to see that, while the correction God extends to his saints may seem harsh, at times, His only goal is to teach us to walk with Him.

Third, we need to remember that Jesus is the Judge, here. This is not an encouragement for believers to attack believers. The only goal is restoration.

Finally, the twin purposes of this chapter are (a) to protect the church by removing someone who was badly affecting the other believers, and (b) to bring that sinning believer to repentance and restore him to a walk with Christ.

What Do We See in 1st Corinthians, chapter 5?

There is a fairly obvious “outline” we can discern as we read through the chapter:

This Was Open, Public, Flagrant Sin

The sin in question was open, flagrant, and unbelievers universally condemned it. Thus, it was truly affecting the testimony of the whole church. This was not some “quiet” thing, that was affecting no one else. Everyone already knew about it. It affected the whole church.

In the past, unmarried couples have attended here and in other churches. They were quietly living in error. But we did not reject, judge, or condemn them. We taught the Bible as the Word of God, and the scriptures soon convicted them. They asked the church to marry them. And we rejoiced with them!

The situation in this chapter was not that sort of thing. Unbelievers universally condemned the sin, and it could not be rectified except by confession and repentance. It had to stop, not just change. Technically, it was incest. Virtually all cultures forbid this sin: usually by law.

This Was Not a “Questionable” Issue

Virtually every culture has things largely disapproved, but which have no bearing on the teachings of the Bible at all. This is not such a thing. Some people think it is sin to subscribe to a Sunday newspaper. Others think it is sin to wear colorful clothing. Some judge others for their haircut, their personal hygiene, or their grooming. This is not that sort of thing.

We have had members who truly desire to stop a bad habit, such as smoking. The Bible does not touch on that at all, yet some people condemn it as a sin, as if it were a definite moral issue. But it is not. Is it unhealthy? Surely, it is! So is welding; as are most heavy construction jobs. So is overeating. So are many other societal patterns. We do not condemn such a person.

If they need help, we offer our support. We pray for one another. In some cases, we go to such a person privately, and we intervene at one level or another, encouraging them to drop the self-destructive behavior and to follow Jesus. But there is no condemnation.

God condemned this particular sin and the unbelieving world rejected it, as well. Everyone knew it was wrong. The man involved was not ignorantly sinning, nor did he just “innocently fall into a bad pattern.” It was not just a “lifestyle choice.” It was open rebellion and sin.

Pride is Still the Root of the Problem

We saw back in the first chapters of the book, that pride was dividing the church and demonstrating the carnality of the church. And pride was still the root of the problems. The believers at Corinth were “proud of their tolerance.” They were “puffed up.” They did not mourn the sin; nor did they consider the damage to their testimony. They approved of the sin and thought they were “spiritual” for doing so!

Romans 1:32 concludes, “Who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but have pleasure in them that do them.” They approve of the sins that God condemns. In Romans, Paul was addressing the sins of the unbelievers.

We still see the same patterns today as those spelled out in Romans chapter one. For example, the movies that receive the highest ratings in terms of popularity are always the ones with the most sin in them, whether violence, nudity, vile language, or immoral sexual behavior. Even when a society “claims to reject such behavior,” they vote with their feet and pocketbooks, and those movies show the overall approval of the population.

Unfortunately, when we tolerate flagrant sin, as believers, one of the possible results is that we can become “proud” of it. We are proud of our reluctance to “judge sin.” But God commanded us to judge sin. Pride has led us astray once again! We are “proud of tolerating evil” and “proud of not admitting that evil is evil.”

And, it still is the problem, today!

This is becoming a very current issue, today, in the modern church: There is a local church group here, who are quite proud of their sin, and they no longer see it for what it is. There are no Bibles in their building. Their teacher no longer addresses the Word of God at all. They have forgotten the repeated teaching in the Bible that Jesus is the Living Word of God. They still claim the name of Christ, but they have turned away from Him entirely, and they have dragged His Name into such deep shame, by their uncleanness, that they are truly a dead church.

In Revelation 2:20, Jesus condemned the behavior of the Church at Thyatira, specifically because they tolerated the sin of the woman he called “Jezebel.” She was teaching believers to commit immorality and idolatry. Yes, He judged the sin of that person and those who followed her into sin, but He also judged the Church for tolerating the sin.

Why is it such a problem? Because it infects the whole Church, one way or another. Verse six compares sin to leaven or yeast. It does not stay in one spot. It spreads and grows until it permeates all of the bread dough it can reach.

What is the Goal of this Warning?

The purpose or goal of this warning, which required the church to unanimously judge sin, was twofold:

  1. to purge the church of that specific uncleanness, or wickedness, and
  2. to restore the sinning believer. (Verse 5)

This is in keeping with Galatians 6:1-5…the purpose of “church discipline” is always restoration, not condemnation of the believer. And, again, notice that the judgment is not directed toward unbelievers: this is about those who call themselves believers, but who are polluting the church by open rebellion against God.

We treat unbelievers kindly: they are welcome here, but they are not allowed to teach, nor to create division. This church does not ask for money from visitors, at all, lest anyone think that contributing to a church brings a right relationship with God. We cannot become a “monastic” society, closing ourselves off from the World. We are here to reach out to the world. Verse 10 points out that we would have to “leave the planet” to achieve such separation.

But a believer, who is bringing shame to Christ by his or her behavior, is in a different category. Those are the ones regarding whom this warning is given.

No Hierarchy of Sin

Finally, when we look at “sin” as a general topic in scripture, we cannot discern a “hierarchy” of sin. God lumps them all together as condemned by His Righteousness. In Proverbs 6:16-19, the one “list” where God says, “these things the LORD hates,” Pride is listed, along with gossip, lying, and talebearing: But sexual immorality is NOT. Does that mean God does not hate all sin? No…but the heart issues that cause all the others are where God points out the root of the outward sins…the heart is the source, and pride is frequently the root.

Everyone sins. There are no exceptions, except for Jesus, who was God in the Flesh. We confess to everyone that we are saved sinners. We continually confess our sins to God, to maintain a fellowship relationship with Him. So, this is not an invitation to a “feeding frenzy” of believers attacking other believers for perceived faults. (Remember, in Revelation 12:10, we see that Satan is the “Accuser of the Brethren.” We do not want to do his “dirty work!”)

The Church at Corinth was in trouble. And the issue was their pride in their tolerance of open rebellion and sin. Not simply that there was “sin in the camp.”

What is the Real issue?

The church can be seen as a “hospital for saints and sinners.” We are not surprised that the “hospital has sinners:” That is why we are here! We confess that Jesus died for our sins. And, yes, our sins grieve us, and our failures grieve us. We are not “surprised that it happens.” We are simply grieved that it continues!

But consider again the “illustration” of a hospital ward. A “patient” may come in with zero desire for healing. Also, he is preventing others from healing. Such a patient is to be quietly and kindly ushered back outside. They do need help, but we can’t help them when they reject the help.

We want them to know we care about them. We assure them that, if they repent, and come back to submit to the Great Physician, desiring to be healed, they will be welcomed with open arms. There is no condemnation. It is simply a matter of protecting the church from those who turn others away from the Christ who bought them with His Blood.

Lord Jesus, help us to read your Word, understand it, and take it to heart. Help us to apply it with the Love and Mercy that You offered through the Cross.

Judgment, Justice, Grace, and Mercy in the Resurrection

Judgment, Justice, Grace, and Mercy

© 2019 C. O. Bishop (Revised 2024)

Introduction:

How does Easter show the Judgment and Justice of God?

We frequently consider what the Bible calls the Day of the LORD: It is the terrible Judgment of God (followed by great blessing) which is to be poured out upon the whole World, but especially upon Israel, since they had the most information, and they failed to respond. We saw how the final warning was given to Israel by Jesus, in His “Palm Sunday” entrance into Jerusalem.

Judgment on Jerusalem

The crowd of disciples who had worshipped him as the King, as he rode into Jerusalem, were not the ones screaming for his death, three days later. Rather, the citizens of Jerusalem rejected their King. We also saw that, since they rejected the King, they inherited the promised Judgment.

The Judgment described thereafter (specifically the fact that not one stone of the temple, proper, would be left standing on another) definitely includes the destruction under the Roman general Titus, in AD 70, but it also includes the Great Tribulation, which has not happened yet. Judgment is definitely coming!

Judgment on Jesus

However, we seldom think of the Judgment that fell upon the Lord Himself that Wednesday: Isaiah 53:4, 5 says, “He bore our griefs, and carried our sorrows…but we thought he was smitten by God (as an evildoer). But (in contrast): He was wounded for our transgressions, and He was bruised for our iniquities…”  The Scriptures make it clear that He didn’t die for anything He had done. He died in the place of the whole World, for all that we have done, or failed to do.

Most Easter sermons focus either on the Lord’s sufferings, in gory detail, or upon the facts of the Resurrection, and the effects it had on the lives of all those who were actually there. I would like to focus, instead, on the reason for His suffering, and the result of His resurrection, for us, who were not there!

The Specific Reasons for The Crucifixion

There were many ways in which prisoners might have been executed in those days. Some were relatively quick, others were deliberately slow and agonizing. The Cross was one of the latter: it usually took several days of torturous struggling to breathe and straining against the spikes holding them to the cross. We can compare crucifixion with the Old Testament law regarding “hanging a criminal on a tree,” which was actually only done to a criminal who was already dead (usually by stoning,) to signify God’s curse on that particular criminal:

The Scriptures had to be Fulfilled

  • According to Deuteronomy 21:23 they were not to be left hanging overnight. They had to be cut down before sundown, according to the Mosaic Law.
    • Jesus was taken down before sundown, though Crucifixion usually took days!
  • When they wanted the execution shortened, they accomplished that end by breaking the legs of the condemned individual, so that he could no longer lift himself to breathe. Thus, he died in minutes, instead of days. (John 19:31)
    • But for the Passover Lamb, which was a picture of Christ, it was specifically forbidden that any bone be broken (Exodus 12:46.)
    • Why did Jesus choose to “cut the suffering short” and “lay down his life?” (Remember, in John 10:18, He specifically said that no man could take his life: He would lay it down of His own accord.) When they came to break the legs of the criminals, he was already dead. Thus, though they broke the legs of the other two men, they did not break a bone of the Messiah…our Passover Lamb!
  • The scourgings and beatings were described in Isaiah 53 (bruised, stripes, etc.)
  • The crucifixion was described in Psalm 22:7-18 (Read it!)
  • The fact that he was to be crucified at Jerusalem, by the Jews, is given in Zechariah 13:6 What are these wounds in thine hands? …Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.”
  • The fact that it is the eternal God who was wounded for our transgressions is given in Zechariah 12:1-10…and it was God the Son!
  • The Old Testament sacrifices were tied to the altar by the four horns of the altar… they were held by four points, just as in the crucifixion.
  • The Original Passover predicted the crucifixion, in that the people were commanded to kill the lamb, catch its blood in a basin, and to dip a bundle of Hyssop into that blood, and then strike it on the lintel and the two doorposts. The physical action of striking the lintel and the two doorposts physically described a bloody cross in the air across that doorway. Those frightened Jews believed God’s Word regarding the imminent destruction of the firstborn. They obeyed the command of God by faith, and chose to accept the blood sacrifice that HE would accept. And, as a result, they were huddled under the blood of the Cross, just as we do today. The difference is that they expressed that faith 1500 years before the Crucifixion, while we do so 2000 years after it.

He Fulfilled the Prophecies!

God’s Judgment for the sins of the whole world fell upon Jesus at the Cross. How do I know? Jesus said so! John 3:16-18 says,

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Notice the parallel with what we just saw, regarding Palm Sunday: Jerusalem rejected her King, and inherited the Judgment. All those who do not believe the Gospel, inherit judgment because they, too, reject the Savior, the King. Also, notice that it does not say they “will be judged,” or “will be condemned:” it says that they are already condemned because they do not believe in the Name of the only begotten Son of God.

So: How does that apply to me? For the first eighteen years of my life, I was on God’s “death row,” as an unbeliever; and as a natural-born rebel against God. I was already condemned. Had Jesus not stepped in and died in my place, I would still be headed for Hell. (That is the “Bad News” of the Gospel! And it is the reason for the “Good News” of the Gospel!)

So, What is The Good News of the Gospel?

According to 1st Corinthians 15:3, 4, the Good News is divided into three parts:

  • The Death of Christ, fulfilling God’s Prophecies
  • The Burial of Christ, also fulfilling His Prophecies (including the time-lapse.)
  • And, the third-day Resurrection: God’s confirmation that the sacrifice was accepted!

Why is His Death Good News?

1st John 2:2 clearly states that Jesus is the satisfactory sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. “And He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”  (“Propitiation” means the sacrifice that satisfies the Justice and Righteousness of God.) The fact that it was for the sins of the whole world is especially reassuring: if God had named a list of people, ethnic groups, or whatever, there is a chance I might not be on that list. If I were called by name, it is still possible that it meant someone else with that name…not me.

But he included the whole world…so I am “on the list.” John 3:16 says “…whosoever believeth in Him…” You see, “whosoever” includes me!ThatBlood Sacrifice, ordained by God the Father, offered by God the Son, and administered by God the Holy Spirit, is full payment for all my sins, past, present and future. All the work of Salvation and Redemption was finished by Jesus at the Cross. All that’s left for me to do, is to place my faith in His finished Work.

Why is His Burial Good News?

The fact that Jesus died on the evening of Passover, as our blood sacrifice—our Passover Lamb—is significant enough. But why do I say he was crucified on Wednesday, when tradition has always held out for Friday? The tradition that Jesus was crucified on a Friday is patently false.

In Matthew 12:39, 40 Jesus Himself said that Jonah, being three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, was a specific prophecy that He, Himself, would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Between Friday evening and Sunday morning, there are two nights and one day! But, if He was Crucified on a Wednesday, then any time after sundown Saturday, by Jewish understanding of time and days, Jesus was free to leave the Grave. This was another sign that He was the Messiah! It had to be that specific time frame.

He also had to have died with criminals, (as in the crucifixion, with thieves beside Him) but also with the rich (Isaiah 53:9)…which would usually be a total paradox. The bodies of criminals were cast into the city dump, and left for the scavengers, vultures, flies, etc., as a statement of the result of their evil deeds.

But rich people had hand-carved stone tombs for their graves. So, this seemed a contradiction, perhaps, or at least very puzzling. But, two rich men (Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea,) asked for the body of Christ, and they buried it in the tomb that Joseph of Arimathea had prepared for his own burial. So, Isaiah 53:9 was fulfilled, just as it was written!

And, The Best News of All: The Resurrection!

So, three days and three nights later (Wednesday night, Thursday, Thursday night, Friday, Friday night, and Saturday: three days and three nights!) Jesus left the grave behind, forever! Mary Magdalene and the other women showed up at the tomb long before daylight, Sunday morning, and He was already gone. The angels had rolled away the stone for the express purpose of letting the women and the disciples see that He was already gone.

What is The Result of the Resurrection?

Remember the result of the Crucifixion: The disciples (all of them, not just the eleven), were scattered, just as Jesus predicted, fearing that they were “next on the list;” slated for execution. When Jesus appeared, the Eleven were hiding; locked in an upper room, fearing the Jews.

But what was the result of the Resurrection, in the lives of those same believers? Confusion and disbelief, initially! But, as they gained confidence that Jesus was really alive, and that He was really all He had claimed to be (literally God in the Flesh,) they became completely bold, where they had previously been in hiding. They committed their lives to His service, as those alive from the dead, as they began to recognize that:

  1. His death was in place of their own deaths;
  2. And, His righteousness had been credited to their own accounts, and that
  3. His resurrection was the guarantee of their own resurrection.

Thus, they had no further fear of death. Their life took on a sense of Eternal Purpose, as they began to allow the Lord to live through them (Galatians 2:19-21; Philippians 1:21,) and their priorities were completely rearranged, as Jesus became the center of their existence.

But, What about Repentance?

We are often told, “Yes, but you have to repent!” That is surely true! But what does that mean? Does it mean “groveling on your knees begging for forgiveness”? Or, “renouncing sin forever?”

The word translated as “Repentance” is the Greek word, “metanoia.” It literally means to change your mind. Change your mind regarding Jesus. Who was He, to you, before you believed the Gospel? A myth? Just a Man? A Prophet? Or, did it even really matter to you? (It didn’t matter to me: I was lost, and I didn’t know it, or even care.) So, when you believed the Good News of Jesus’s Death, and Burial and Resurrection, you “changed your mind” regarding all that you had previously thought about Jesus.

You also “changed your mind” regarding all that you previously thought about sin. Somehow, you came to realize that you, personally, were a lost sinner, and you feared the judgment of God. You changed your mind regarding Jesus’s work, realizing that you could not save yourself, and, at some point, you threw yourself upon the Mercy and Grace of God!

The Result of that Repentance

At that moment, according to Jesus’s promise, in John 5:24, you received eternal life. (That is Grace!) You will never face judgment again. (That is Mercy!) You permanently crossed over from being spiritually dead, to being spiritually alive. Yes, you were truly born again! You received a new nature, and you were permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit! All these are true, even if you were not aware of any of these things, as they happened!

This is why the Resurrection is such a huge joy and relief to all of us. We weren’t there to see the Crucifixion, the Burial, or the Resurrection of the Lord, but those three together still make the best News in history! He is Risen! And we have been forgiven and set free, through Faith!

Lord Jesus, teach us the importance of the facts of the Gospel, especially the fact of Your Resurrection, and make them a living reality in each of our lives.

What Really Happened on Palm Sunday?

What Really Happened on Palm Sunday?

© C. O. Bishop 4/13/19 revised 3/25/2021

Matthew 21:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; Zechariah 12, 14, etc.

Introduction:

I have frequently heard preachers say that the very people who praised Jesus, shouting “Hosanna” to Him as he rode into Jerusalem on the young donkey, were the same ones who, a few days later, were howling for his crucifixion. I’d like to examine that claim this morning. Especially in light of what the scripture says regarding the coming Judgment of Jerusalem, it seems important.

We have read so much of the coming Judgment, in various prophecies. It becomes difficult to even imagine the complete return to blessing that will follow. But let’s look carefully at the frequently made claim; that “Jesus’s followers-at-large turned against Him.”

Matthew 21:1-11

1And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.

All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,

(Here is the Prophecy!)

Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.

And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.

And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.

And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.

10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?

11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.

Fulfilled Prophecy!

Verse five, above is a partial quote of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9

9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.

Not all of the Gospel accounts mention that there were two animals, but this prophecy should have been ringing in the ears of the watching Jews, regardless. So the important question becomes, “Who were the ‘multitudes’ in verses 8, 9, and 11?”

Luke 19:29-40

29 And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples,

30 Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither.

31 And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him. 32 And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them. 33 And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? 34 And they said, The Lord hath need of him.

35 And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon. 36 And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way.

Another Fulfilled Prophecy

37 And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the DISCIPLES began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; 38 Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.

This one originated in Psalm 118:25, 26 and Zechariah 9:9

39 And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. (They were not His disciples, by their own words, but they were amongst the multitude)

40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

41 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,

42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. (This is judicial blindness!)

43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,

44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.

Where Was Jesus Coming From?

If we back up a few verses, to Luke 18:35-43, we see that Jesus had just passed through Jericho, heading up to Jerusalem. En route, if we read all the gospel accounts of this visit, he healed three blind men; one as he entered Jericho, and the other two as he left. He also encountered Zacchaeus, and transformed his life forever. But he was headed for Jerusalem all the time.

When Jesus arrived in Bethany and Bethphage, just outside of Jerusalem, he was in the town where he had raised Lazarus from the dead, and where his friends Mary and Martha still lived with their brother, Lazarus. He was among friends, who had seen His miracles and had heard His teaching. These were people who loved Him. These friends, his disciples, gathered to walk with him to Jerusalem. We are not talking about just the twelve, now: Luke says it was a whole multitude of His disciples…a crowd. But they were a crowd who genuinely liked Jesus, even if they weren’t really sure who He was. So, Jesus was coming from Bethany into Jerusalem.

Who was Following with Him?

Turn back to Matthew, and notice what happened when this multitude of His disciples began to announce His coming as the King, coming in the name of the Lord: as they entered Jerusalem, the whole city (Jerusalem) was stirred up, and asking, “Who is this man??” The crowd of disciples answered that Jesus was the prophet of Nazareth, of Galilee. Did they not understand that He was also the Savior…the Messiah? Maybe not, but the word “Hosanna” means “save us now!” So, they at least saw Him as “a” savior of some sort…a deliverer. Maybe they only thought He would deliver them from the Romans.

But we need to differentiate between the crowd of disciples, confused though they may have been, and the city of Jerusalem, whose response, eventually, was to kill Him.

Turn back to Matthew 23:37-39, please: Jesus is weeping over Jerusalem again (a different day).

37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till YE shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.


Now: compare this passage with the one we just read, in Luke 19:37, 38. In that passage; who were the ones shouting “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord?” It was the multitude of His disciples! The inhabitants of Jerusalem were just “stirred up” by the call—they did not receive Him as their King.

Why Jerusalem?

Jerusalem is the City of the King: they were the ones who had to officially receive Him. God says that the Jews finally will turn to Jesus as their Messiah, weeping over their sin, and the fact of their guilt, having crucified the Messiah. But, where will it occur? At Jerusalem! And, when will it occur? After the tribulation! How do I know? Jesus says so!

In Matthew 24:29-31, Jesus gives the time frame, saying:

29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect (The Tribulation Saints) from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

MORE Fulfilled Prophecy!


Zechariah 14:3-5 gives us the specific location: on the Mount of Olives, just outside Jerusalem, just as the angelic messengers foretold in Acts 1:10, 11.

Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.

And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.

Acts 1:10, 11 (At the ascension.)

10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

Repentance in Jerusalem


Zechariah 12:10 says the inhabitants of Jerusalem will completely repent, weeping over the One they Crucified.

10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.


This is what Palm Sunday was all about: Jesus made His final offer to Jerusalem during that visit, and He was rejected. But the One they judged, illegally, and with total prejudice, is the Judge of all the Earth, and who Judges righteously, without prejudice…without respect of persons. How do I know? Jesus says so! He said that the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son. (John 5:22)

The Day of the LORD

So, the “Day of the Lord” about which we studied some time ago, is the entirety of what Jesus just barely began to warn against in Matthew 24. It begins with what we call the Rapture, as taught in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18; it continues directly into the Tribulation, as seen in 1st Thessalonians 5, and it culminates in the return of Christ and the Millennial Kingdom; ending with the Great White Throne Judgment, in Revelation chapters 19 and 20.

In Matthew 24, Jesus described only the Great Tribulation and the coming of the King: Why? Because Jerusalem had just rejected the King. His disciples were scattered, during the trial and the crucifixion: they were not the ones howling for his death. It was Jerusalem, proper, finally rejecting their King by calling for his execution, just as Jesus had predicted. This is why the message in Isaiah predicts Judgment on Jerusalem, (among other places) as the chief offenders. It was Jerusalem, as Jesus said, who routinely rejected and killed the prophets.

What were the Disciples Doing?

The ones who had shouted, “Hosanna” (the disciples) were terrified that they would be executed next. Remember that when Jesus first met with the eleven after the resurrection, they were hiding in a locked room for fear of the Jews. All the disciples were scattered. Jesus predicted this, too: (Matthew 26:31 “Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.” He was quoting Zechariah 13:7.)

And that is exactly what happened!

But Good News is coming! Next week, on the resurrection day, called Easter, we will examine “The Rest of the Story.”

Lord Jesus, direct our hearts to apply your Word correctly: to read carefully, seeking earnestly to see the light of your countenance in the written Word. Help us to apply your Word to our lives, and to walk as your disciples.

Jesus Said, For Judgment I am come into this World

I came into this World For Judgment

© 2022 C. O. Bishop (revised 2024)

John 9:39-41

Introduction:

As we read this passage, please remember, that Jesus had just healed a blind man, who was born blind. He miraculously gave the man his sight. The Jews persecuted the man, afterward. They did not persecute him because his blindness had healed, but because he credited Jesus with the miracle. And they cast him out of the synagogue….essentially, they “excommunicated” him, for confessing that Jesus had healed him, and for refusing to recant his testimony.

When Jesus found him again and introduced Himself as the Son of God, the formerly blind man spontaneously worshipped Him. We still have people today who resent those who worship Jesus…or anyone who prays to Him. I once had a pastor tell me that he did not want people praying to Jesus. Such people reveal their hearts by their attitude. They reveal what they think of Jesus. And the next verse is what Jesus said in response:

39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.

What a strange thing to say! And, who was He talking to? His disciples were there with him…the healed man was there…and some Pharisees were there. Those are the only ones we know of, for certain.

Context

Remember the context: Jesus had been under attack for the last two days. In John 8:1-11, He dispersed the men who wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery. In John 8:12, He introduced Himself as the Light of the World. The Jews tried to stone Him, when He announced His own eternality, in John 8:58, and the fact that He preexisted Abraham. Then, immediately after miraculously escaping the mob in the temple, he went out of His way to heal a man who had been born physically blind.

This Blindness was not Judgment

In John 9:1, 2, The disciples asked Jesus whether that man or his parents had sinned, to bring this “judgment” of congenital blindness upon the man. Jesus said that neither had sinned…God had prepared this man for the purpose of showing His own mighty works. (Unlike Bartimaeus, this man had not even asked Jesus for healing. He knew nothing about Jesus before this day.)

But, Jesus explained His identity. And this man fell down and worshipped him! Jesus took away not only his physical blindness but also the spiritual blindness of his soul. He saw Jesus for who He was!

Jesus remarked on the irony that His presence gave sight to the physically blind but also revealed the spiritual blindness of those who rejected His light. Remember John 3:19And this is the condemnation; that light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”  

The people had an issue with the light, there, too. They rejected the Light of Christ.

Blindness Can be Judgment for having Disregarded the Light

Samson and others ignored the light of God’s direction and His Word. Samson’s enemies physically him, and enslaved him

Romans 11:25 also records that “…blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”

Most of the Jews rejected Jesus at that time. (And they have done so, ever since then.) Those few Jews who believed became the foundation of the church. (Along with the Jewish proselytes on the day of Pentecost.) They taught the Gentile believers who believed afterward.

When Jesus confronted Saul of Tarsus on the Road to Damascus, two things happened. He fell to the ground, along with the others in his group, and he (alone) became blind. Three days later, Jesus sent another disciple, Ananias, to restore his sight. Saul then changed his name to “Paul.” Jesus healed his physical and spiritual blindness, and He saw Jesus for who He was.

The rest of Israel remains partially blinded, to this day, and in Romans 9:1-3, Paul grieved their loss. But God promises to restore their sight, as a nation, and they will see Him, physically, and, for the first time recognize Him for who He is.

Zechariah 12:10 says “…They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and shall mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and be in bitterness for Him as one is that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”

For Judgment I am Come

Jesus had earlier said that He had come to save the lost.  But, in the same verses (John 3:18, 19) He had said that condemnation was already there in the World. He said, “He that believeth not is condemned already…and this is the condemnation… that light is come into the World, and Men loved darkness rather than light.”

Many people teach, that “if you don’t stop sinning, you’re going to be condemned!” But the truth is, we can’t stop sinning, and we are already condemned! The whole human race was in this same trap of sin…every single one of us was guilty and lost. Our only hope is in Jesus!

Romans 1:21, 22, tells us how that happens. “When they (the human race) knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

By choosing darkness, we, as a race, were filled with darkness, and we perpetuated our role as children of darkness. All that we do, as humans, confirms what God had said from the beginning. He said, “In the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die!” Adam ate, and all his progeny (including Eve) were instantly plunged into the darkness of sin: spiritual separation from the Light of God. We became spiritually blind and spiritually dead!

Jesus is the Light of the World (John 8:12)

His presence revealed the hearts of everyone who came in contact with Him. Those who rejected light rejected Him. Those who yearned toward the light turned to Him in faith. Even today, the same truth applies.

The Light of Christ appears in the World, through his servants, the believers. People will either turn toward that light, in faith, or they will reject that light, and even attempt to extinguish it.

The Blindness of “Religion”

Romans 2:19 tells us that the Jews saw themselves as being “…a light of them which are in darkness.” But Judgment was about to fall on them, because, in truth, they were the opposite of a “light to those in darkness:” They shrouded the light with their corruption, and their hypocrisy, to the extent that no one could see the Light of God in them at all. And they tried to extinguish the Light of Christ when He was there among them. They revealed who they truly were!

40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? 41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.

It is easy for us to sneer at the Pharisees and say, “Yeah, those bad old Pharisees!” But, we are always in danger of doing something similar! We can become so self-satisfied and smug in our “good doctrine,” or our “healthy church,” that we close ourselves off from the unsaved world.

At that point, we are no longer allowing the Holy Spirit to reach out through us to the world around us. We would be “just a bunch of religious folks.” That is what had happened to the Pharisees, and to a certain extent, to the entire nation of Israel. They were “very religious” people, but they denied the reality of the Love and the Power of the God they claimed to serve.

A Modern Example:

Years ago, I visited a church, which was so ingrown and exclusive, that when a shabby-looking stranger arrived on Easter Sunday, they didn’t know what to do. (I was the “stranger!” My car was a beat-up old Toyota, and I was wearing clean, but older, inexpensive clothing.) The four “greeters” looked like “deer in the headlights,” clutching their church bulletins against their suit-clad chests. They stared at me, wide-eyed, but they did not greet me at all. They offered no handshake, nor asked my name: Never offered me a bulletin, nor asked whether I knew the Lord: they said nothing. As “ambassadors,” they had become irrelevant.

The Pharisees had become blind to the light of God. That was Jesus’s judgment of them: He revealed their true blindness. In Revelation 3:19 the church at Laodicea as a group, had become blind, as well, and Jesus shut them down! He still invited them to fellowship with Him, individually, but as a church, He completely shut them down.

Professing themselves to be Wise, they Became Fools

Because the Pharisees still claimed to “see,” and even claimed that they saw better than others, they were under the Judgment of God. In John 5:22, we see that Jesus, alone, as God the Son, is the “Judge of all the Earth,” and He is the One they were rejecting and slandering!

Less than 40 years later, the Romans would destroy the entire temple and everything they held precious. Through repressing a series of bloody revolts, over 70 years, the Romans killed hundreds of thousands of Jews. The Romans eventually eradicated Israel, as a nation. They renamed it “Palestine,” to exterminate the memory of Judaism. And, it stayed that way until 76 years ago, when it was reborn as “Israel,” on May 14th, 1948. But the spiritual blindness remains, even today.

The Assignment of the Church is to Represent Jesus

God called us to be Ambassadors of Christ…we are to represent Him before the World. But the way we apply God’s Word in our daily lives and the way we respond to others because of His presence in our lives will determine the result of our service.

He told us to testify to His Love and His Grace. Our job is to demonstrate His Love and His Mercy. As His Body, we become His hands and feet. God calls us to function as His voice, speaking His Righteousness, Love, and Mercy into the ears of the lost World.

When we partake in communion, we testify before one another that His blood was shed for us, and that we are trusting in His Grace, and looking forward to His return. But the result of that Sacred Relationship should be that we willingly, voluntarily reach out to the people around us, too. This isn’t all about us! Jesus’s agenda reaches out to the whole world.

Changed Lives

The result should be that we desire His righteousness and His wisdom. It means that we should want to see our lives transformed, to be like Him. We should be concerned that the “grime” in our lives does not shroud the light of His presence. The sin in our lives should grieve us as deeply as it does Him. We should want what He wants.

As ministers of the light…servants of the light, we need to make certain that the light we shine is clean and clear. We mentioned some time ago that the headlamps of a vehicle can become so encrusted with road grime that the light burning within seems very dim as seen from the outside.

He wants our lives to be clean enough and clear enough that anyone looking our way will see the light of Jesus. He wants us to “Glow in the dark.” He told us to “shine as lights, in a corrupt nation.” No nation in history has been completely free of corruption, but God’s people are to shine through that darkness, drawing people to Jesus: (not “to church:” to Jesus!)

A Fragrance of Christ

In 2nd Corinthians 2:14-16, we are called to “smell like Jesus.” The Fragrance of Christ is to emanate from our lives at all times. The only way that will happen is if we allow Him to live through us, and allow His presence to permeate our lives.

As we celebrate communion together, please be thinking about what that may mean, to allow Jesus to live through you.

Lord Jesus, we know that we are blind to so much of the truth of God. We yearn to experience Your light in such a way that it transforms us into Your likeness. Let us be true children of the light, and not limit Your light in any way.