The Humility of the Cross

The Humility of the Cross

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 1:25-31

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

Introduction:

Remember that this book is to all people who have responded to Jesus Christ in Faith…not just some specific group. (See verse 2.) That does not change the fact that some passages address things that were specific to the Church at Corinth. It simply reminds us that such passages are the exception rather than the rule.

In verses 10-13, we saw the warning against the arrogance that was already polluting the local assembly, as they divided themselves over who their respective mentors had been.

Paul made it clear that such divisions were wrong, and he begged them to knock it off. He went on to point out that the Gospel is always “counter-cultural.” There is no culture among the human race that will not find themselves condemned by the “bad news” of the Gospel: But the “bad news”  is what makes the “good news” become truly GOOD NEWS! And the result is clear: The ground at the foot of the Cross is level. There is no room for pride there!

How was Pride Set Aside?

Paul says that God has already destroyed the “wisdom” of the “wise men” of this world. He has brought to nothing the understanding of those who think they “know it all.” He has made their collective “wisdom” utterly foolish. It is a “fatal brand” of foolishness.

The key reason that the “wisdom” of this world turns out to be foolishness, is that, at no point does it actually address the true need of the human race. At no point does it admit, “We cannot solve our problems: We need the Grace of the Creator to straighten out this mess.” Thus, in verse 21, God points out that the “wisdom” of man failed to lead people to saving faith. In fact, it universally turns people away from the Savior! It is a shameful thing, not a good thing!

So, God decreed that the way He would reach the Human Race is through the “foolishness of Preaching.” (Never through human wisdom!)

How is Faith Connected to Preaching?

In Romans 10:13-17, We see that “Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord (in faith) shall be saved.” But then it asks a series of logical questions: “How shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?…how shall they hear, without a preacher (someone to “declare His name” to them.) And how shall they preach except they be sent? Then, verse 17 concludes that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

But that also means that we who preach are “tarred with the same brush” as those to whom we preach. We are not better than the people we try to reach: We are sinners who have received forgiveness and who, as a result, have become the Ambassadors of Christ.

We are beggars who have been fed and we now tell other beggars where to find that free food! But, in that foundational transaction of Grace and Faith, we have also become literally the “children of God.” (Not by adoption, which will happen in the future, but by the New Birth, which has already happened, and by which we now legitimately address our Creator as “Father.”) (There is no “Universal Fatherhood” of God. Jesus told the Jews (John 8:44) “Ye are of your father, the Devil…”) We have become His children through the New Birth!

What is The Foolishness of God?

The world sees the Gospel as foolishness. They hold the whole Bible in disdain, except for portions they think might be socially productive. They advocate a teaching that builds “morality and peace,” but they want to leave out the God whose Holiness demands Morality and whose Blood paved the way for Peace. Such people claim to desire peace, but they reject the Prince of Peace.

A man once told me he would like to see two church services: one for those who only want to embrace the social mores and ethics and Judeo-Christian values, and another for those who want to talk about “God and Jesus and that stuff.”

I told him that I would want nothing to do with a church like that. He was offended, and demanded, “Why??”

I replied, “If you take Christ out of Christianity, all that is left is a gutted, rotting corpse!” Jesus Christ is not only the “historical source of the name, Christianity: He is the only reason it works at all!

He alone has the power to change us from the inside and to make us into the Men and Women of God He has called us to be! He is the only one who can give eternal life to sinners and make us into His Saints… His personal property, to be used by Him alone!

What is The Weakness of God?

Throughout our study of the Old Testament, we have seen that the leaders God chose were frequently very flawed individuals. We saw that His power is what won battles and overcame evil and even death itself. All this, though He chose to use such weak vessels. And, He chose to do so especially so that the world could see that it was His Power, not that of the people through whom He chose to work.

What is Our Calling

Paul pointed out that not many Christians were noted “wise men,” before they were saved. Not many were “mighty” from the world’s perspective. Not many were “Noble” from the world’s perspective. (Queen Victoria is said to have commented “I am saved by the letter ‘M.’ If Paul had said ‘not any noble,’ then I could not be saved…but he said, ‘not many noble. Thus, I am saved by the letter ‘M’!”)

But the point Paul makes, in all of this, is that we have nothing to boast about on our own.

Foolish Things, Chosen by God

He says that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.” He does not usually work through the “highly educated,” so much as through the “highly humble:” Those who recognize that they have no wisdom of their own and who yield themselves to God, come what may, so that He can work through them. They are consistently able to “get out of God’s way and let Him work.”

John Bunyan, the author of the classic “A Pilgrim’s Progress,” spent more than twelve years in an English jail because he preached without approval from the Anglican Church.. He did not attend their school nor did he preach their message, so he was silenced under English law. Many other “heroes of the faith” were persecuted or executed for serving God without human approval.

Weak Things, Chosen by God

Remember how God used Gideon? Gideon was not a leader or a soldier: He was a scared young farmer trying to hide some grain from the Midianites. But God used him to defeat the Midianites. God used the Woman at the Well, in Sychar (John 4:7-39) to witness to many in her community. Not because she was “highly respected,” highly educated or a powerful speaker: She was a social reject: an outcast! But God chose to use her, and He received the Glory! She received Eternal life and the blessing of God. (She was also among the “things despised” mentioned here.)

Base Things, Chosen by God

God chose fishermen and farmers, tanners and itinerant fruit pickers to take His message to His people. Did he ever use kings? Surely, He did! But remember that the most famous king he used (King David) began life as the youngest in a family of shepherds. God delights in using the lowest members of human society to bring down those who think they are the “elite.”

Things Which Are Despised, but Chosen by God

This included the “Woman at the Well,” as we noted earlier. But it also includes the people in our own society who are scorned as “religious fools” by virtually everyone, but who have given themselves to the preaching of the Cross. They have steadily been winning souls to Christ. I have known some serious soul-winners who are taken lightly by others, even other believers, but who have been consistently used by God to draw others to safety in Christ.

What are the “Things Which Are Not?”

This might include prophetic utterance about things that currently do not exist. There is no “river proceeding from the temple mount in Jerusalem” today…but Ezekiel 47 says there will be one! When Isaiah (Isaiah 44:28) named Cyrus as the instrument of God who would provide for the rebuilding of the temple, that man did not exist. He was not born until nearly 180 years after the prophecy was given…but he did what God said he would do! (God used him!)

Why? That No Flesh Should Glory

One of the attributes of God is that He gives credit where credit is due, and does not give away the credit that is His alone. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! The created things (including the Human Race) never take precedence over the Creator!

When an architect designs a new building, and it proves to be a magnificent edifice, that architect expects to get the credit. (It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the wealthy people who paid for the construction take credit as if they thought of all the innovations and special features, and designed it all by themselves.)

But God says that He is a jealous God. In Isaiah 42:8, He says, “My Glory will I not give to another!” And the first commandment says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” He forbids idolatry at every level: Even our attempting to take credit for what He alone has done, is an arrogance and a foolishness that is forbidden by God.

Romans 3:27 “Where Then, is Boasting? It is Excluded!”

There is no place left where pride is appropriate in our lives. We are fully aware that all we have has been provided by our Creator. All we are, as believers, is due to His Grace and His Power. All we have to offer to anyone else is that which He has already provided to us! There is no place for Pride. Pride is universally condemned as sin, throughout the Bible. That is one reason the World hates God’s Word: it condemns human pride.

Romans 3:9 says, “What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.

There is a place for boasting, but not about ourself or any other human. It is “of Him” that we are in Christ! I did nothing to earn that position: it was offered as a gift, and I received it as a gift.

Verse 30 goes on to explain that Jesus (by God’s design) has become unto us Wisdom and Righteousness and Sanctification and Redemption. Jesus Christ is our source of Wisdom. His righteousness was transferred to us the day we trusted in Him as our Savior. It is only through His sacrifice that God has declared us to be holy. (That is what “sanctified” means!) And it is only through His sacrifice that we now have redemption. Some people think we are waiting for redemption. Our bodies are waiting for redemption, but we ourselves are already redeemed. (How do I know?)

Ephesians 1:7 says so! (It is written in the present tense: “In whom (in Christ) we HAVE Redemption through His Blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His Grace.”)

So, what is left for us, about which we can boast? Only Jesus!

He that Glorieth, Let Him Glory in the Lord!

How do we “Glory in the Lord?”

When we “boast” of the glory of God, and tell of His Omnipotent Power, and His All-sufficient Grace, what are we really doing? We are telling people about Jesus! We are being a witness to others regarding the person and work of the Savior. Which is precisely the occupation to which ALL of us have been assigned! We are called to rejoice in His person and His presence. And we are called to tell others about it!

It seems appropriate that we should be thinking of these things constantly, as well, so that they will naturally overflow from our lives.

Lord Jesus, please fill us with the Joy of Your presence, and constrain our hearts to obedience to the Great Commission. Let us see the world around us through Your eyes, and care for the souls around us as You care for them.

“Worldly Wisdom” versus “the Preaching of the Cross”

Human Wisdom, as opposed to the Cross and the Power of God

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 1:17-25

17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Introduction:

We have already seen what Paul considered his only job. It was preaching the Gospel of Christ. Specifically, preaching the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Christ—to a dying and lost world.

Today we need to talk about why that is the primary job of all believers. Our job is not “social justice,” though we desire it. Our job is not to end world hunger, however much we want it to end. The “occupation” laid out for all believers is “preaching of the Gospel of  Christ.”

What is Your Occupation?

Some time ago, we presented the example of a fire station, full of firefighters. One person may have the task of maintaining the map books. (This was before GPS existed… there were paper maps of every little road. They showed every building in a given area. Someone had to maintain those maps in an orderly, accurate, up-to-date manner.)

Another two or three people might have the task of maintaining the engines and the running-gear of the firetrucks. Others might have the task of maintaining the hoses and checking to be sure they were in good condition for the next fire.

But if you asked ANYONE in that fire station, “What is your occupation?”,  their answer would be, “I’m a firefighter!

What is Your Calling?

Every believer may have a different task, in their personal life and within the church. But our calling, our vocation, our occupation is to be ambassadors of Christ! 2nd Corinthians 5:20 does not say, “we can be ambassadors.” It does not say, “we should be ambassadors.” It says, “We ARE ambassadors for Christ!”

In Acts 1:8, 9 Jesus did not say, “After the Holy Spirit comes, I’d like you to go tell people about me!” He said “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me, both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

Not a Casual Invitation

You see, the calling is not optional. Every member of the Body of Christ has been “drafted,” (if you want to see it that way.) But we are called to respond as volunteers. He calls every single one of us. But He is looking for the response that says, “Here am I, Lord! Send me!”

The invitation to “take My yoke upon you and learn of Me”—the call to join Jesus in double-harness and serve with Him—is an incredible privilege. It is offered only to those who will respond in faith and in voluntary obedience.

Not with Wisdom of Words

Notice again that Paul stressed the fact that he had not been sent to impress people with his erudite, sophisticated message. He was not sent to argue the facts of the Gospel from a human perspective. Paul was only sent to present the facts and persuade people to respond in faith.

He had experienced the futility of “Human Reasoning” at Athens (Acts 17:22-33.) There, Paul delivered one of the most famous sermons in history…and it was fruitless. We saw, (by looking ahead to 1st Corinthians) that Paul learned from his error. (1st Corinthians 2:1, 2) He vowed from that point forward to “know nothing save Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.”

The Preaching of the Cross (v.18)

One of the essentials often “lost in the crowd” of available messages is the “Preaching of the Cross.” We preach messages advocating “Good Behavior,” and warning against Sin, and so forth. (All of these are appropriate, provided that the audience are all born-again believers already.)

The Gospel, as named in verse 17, is “the message of the Death and Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, for our sins. It has the express purpose of redeeming us from our position as lost sinners.” And that message, being believed in, is the Power of God to save those who believe.

But the very next thing he says about that Gospel, in verses 17, 18, is that it involves the “preaching of the Cross.”

What is “the Gospel?

I have, on more than one occasion, had a man tell me, just before his message from the pulpit, that he was “really going to give ‘em the Gospel!” So, I listened! I listened carefully: Not only did those individuals not “give ‘em the Gospel;” They did not include a single part of the Gospel in their message!

They were advocating regular church attendance, or some other social message…not the three-part message of the Cross. They did not mention the Crucifixion (let alone why Jesus died for us) nor His burial, nor the Resurrection, nor even His soon coming.

To an unbelieving heart, the Preaching of the Cross seems to be foolishness. Unregenerate humanity unanimously rejects the Cross, except in the relatively rare instances when someone believes the bad news, because they see it all around them, and is then hoping for some good news. (That is what the word, “Gospel” means: “Good News!

And that Good News, being believed in, is the Power of God to save Sinners. Nothing else in scripture is described as the power of God to save Sinners. Not “Good behavior,” nor “pious words” nor “religious rituals.” Nothing but the message of the Cross, being received in faith.

So, What about “Human Wisdom?”

All of our lives, we are taught to “trust human wisdom.” But God warns us against trusting it. We are told, “Trust your heart! Your heart will never lead you wrong!” But God says that our hearts, full of our “human wisdom,” are the single thing most likely to deceive us.

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” (Do you really want to make that to be your most trusted counsellor and advisor?)

Proverbs 3:5, 6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding, In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy path!” That is a far superior source for guidance! Look to the Word of God, and His Spirit…not your heart.

Colossians 2:8 says, “Beware lest any man spoil you (rob you) through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments (elementary reasoning) of the World, and not after Christ.

Sources of Wisdom

So, this is the “Wisdom” God warns us against and addresses in 1st Corinthians 1:19-21. He says that He will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and has made foolish the wisdom of the World, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

Three other sources of “wisdom” are listed in James 3:15. Wisdom that is not from God is:

  • Earthly (from the World)
  • Sensual (from our old sin nature—the heart—human reasoning, or
  • Devilish: (from the pit.)

All of us have seen examples of each of these false sources of “wisdom.” Each of us have been forced to admit, “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but it turned out to be a terrible mistake!” Human wisdom can easily deceive us.

All of us have also heard the phrase, “Look! Everybody knows… (insert whatever popular belief you want, here!) All those people can’t be wrong!” (Well, actually, yes, they can!)

Truth and wisdom are not determined by popular acclaim. In fact, more frequently than not, popular opinion and popular acclaim result in simply “pooling ignorance and foolishness.”

Our great enemy, Satan, is quite willing to use either of these sources of misinformation to twist the truth. He works to turn us, just far enough that we ignore God’s offer to apply His righteousness to us and to give us eternal life. Having turned away from His offer, we lose out eternally.

How Much Poison does it Take?

I looked on the label of an old box of “D-Con” mouse poison, and I saw that the concentration of Warfarin in it was only 0.01%. That means that 99.99% of the product was perfectly nutritious mouse food! It took only a concentration of one one-hundredth of one percent of that poison to be fatal to the mice. Some errors are not fatal. Others potentially can be definitely fatal.

Fatal Errors

I read a sad story of an elderly couple who pulled onto the shoulder of a dark road, in their vehicle, one night. The man needed to check something on the car. He got out, walked in the darkness, around the rear bumper to the passenger side, and he simply disappeared.

His wife sat waiting in the car all night, afraid to get out, but with no idea why her husband had not returned. As the day dawned, she could look around outside the car and she realized that they had parked at the very edge of a cliff. Her husband, unable to see in the darkness, had simply walked off the edge. He fell into the ravine below, and was killed. (Pretty sad!)

Had there been only a pothole full of muddy water on the shoulder of the road, he would have been wet, angry, and possibly slightly injured. But there was a cliff, and his error was fatal. He walked in darkness, and he fell to his death!

Errors in Thinking

Some errors in thinking may only render us “less effective” or “less peaceful and happy.” But, error that turns the heart of the hearers away from the person of Christ, so that they never receive the promised redemption, is eternally fatal. And a messenger who delivers that sort of message is in trouble with the Eternal Judge, Jesus Christ. (I would not want to be in their shoes at the final judgment!)

God says that He “has made foolish the wisdom of the World and will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

This “Worldly Wisdom” is the kind of misinformation in which our enemy specializes. He cannot keep a believer away from salvation. The moment any sinner trusts in Jesus’s Blood as full payment for his/her sins, he/she is permanently placed into the body of Christ. Such individuals are eternally secure in Him. But the enemy certainly can work to destroy their faith and peace and fruitfulness.

The Door to the Truth is…

God says that Humans have never “found God” through their own wisdom. Human reasoning constantly turns as away from Him! So, in light of that observation, He says that “it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.”

The World sees preaching as foolishness or worse. They see it as proselyting, and self-serving recruiting, at best. But God says that the only way He saves sinners is through the preaching of the Gospel.

Romans 1:16 says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is THE power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” And it is the only thing so listed. Why? Because we are preaching Jesus Christ, and He, personally, is called “Christ, the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God” in 1st Corinthians 1:24.

What is The Door to the Truth?

The point we have to keep in mind, here, is that the “Door to the Truth is the Will, not the intellect.” People are not “argued into faith.” At some point, every single believer simply “decided to believe God” instead of believing the World. It is “an act of the will,” whereby we simply “make a decision.”

We sometimes claim that “we don’t have sufficient data upon which to make such an important decision.” That is simply not true: God says that we DO have all the information we need…just not necessarily all we “want.” Thus, such a complaint becomes simply an excuse for rejecting the message of Eternal Life.

As stated in verse 25, “… the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” We don’t much like that idea either: We think that we are “the masters of our fate,” and that we arethe captains of our souls,” as William Henley claimed.

Moment by moment, we are faced with the choice: Will we believe our own heart or will we believe God? Will we embrace the values and agendas of the World, or will we embrace the values and agenda of God.

Choose Wisely!

Lord Jesus, help us to constantly see Your Wisdom and hear you call, and be drawn after You as Your Disciples and the Sheep of Your Flock. Lead us moment by moment, for Your Glory!

How Important is Unity? And Why is it so Important?

How Important is Unity? And Why is it so Important?

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 1:9-17

9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;

15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.

16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

Introduction:

We already saw the backstory of the church at Corinth, and how it came about that Paul had arrived there with a new determination to preach the straight, unadorned Message of the Cross.

As we saw earlier, virtually all of the teaching in both Corinthian Epistles is corrective in nature. That is at least partly because of the extremely corrupt environment in which the Corinthian believers lived, This next segment, verses 9-17, addresses the first of those corrective teachings.

Disunity

Disunity, division, and heresies (which means to “pull apart”) can come from a variety of sources, but they always stem from the same root. We behave by nature as self-centered sinners. We easily turn our resentment or jealousy or bitterness toward those around us. Any little fault, (whether real or imagined, and whether doctrinal or behavioral) in any other individual, then becomes grounds for our criticism and rejection of the other person.

In John 13:34, 35 Jesus gave the “Prime Directive” regarding our relationships with one another. He commanded us to “love one another.” It amazes me that we do not see this tendency toward rejection, self-serving criticism, and judgmental thoughts or behavior as direct disobedience to that Primary Commandment.

But we seldom see ourselves in the light of God’s Word. We constantly compare ourselves to others. If we think we are superior to others, we will become smug and vain. If we think that we are inferior to others, we may become depressed and bitter. We may even become convinced that “God does not love me as much as He does them.” Do you see how that quickly became an accusation against God?

Disunity can have Different Outward Forms

Doctrine

Paul addresses doctrinal unity first. He wanted the people to stop bickering over minor things, and learn to be at peace. (How do I know it was “minor things?” In Ephesians 4:3-7, Paul gave seven “unities” that are the core issues. That’s one reason: Those “unities” pretty much have to be there. In the second place, the things he mentioned next were very much “peripheral issues.”)

Historically, the church has split over ridiculously minor issues: (the color of the carpet, which side of the room the piano is on…or whether to even allow a piano… etc.) The unbelieving world laughs to see our silly, sinful infighting, and concludes that our message is a lie!

“Personality Preferences”

Paul next addressed the issues of “respect of persons, and favoritism.” He said that a particular group of believers had shared with him that schisms and “cliques” were forming at Corinth, based on “who claimed who as their mentor,” etc.

Paul saw that the “issue” that was currently causing division in Corinth was, “Whose team are YOU on? Who is YOUR mentor and teacher?” They each said things such as “I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.”

People do that today, too, clinging to some specific teacher (or to a denomination, which is already contrary to God’s will.) He warns us right here that the divisions are not good. We can see that whole churches and denominations have split over such “personality cults.”

Some people completely forsake assembling themselves together with other believers. Why? Because they choose to listen to some teacher on the radio or television at that time, instead. (That is not a good excuse: today it is possible to go online and listen to such teachers at any time, day or night. Listening to your “favorite televangelist” does not force you to disobey the command of God. (Hebrews 10:25—“forsake not the assembling of yourselves together.”)

Respect of Persons

Next, apart from that sort of “low-energy” disunity, there is the foundational issue of “Who is our Master?” To whom do I owe loyalty and obedience? It is not primarily to Paul, or Apollos, or any other human leader: it is primarily to the Person of Jesus Christ. Paul asked these rhetorical questions. The implied answer in every case is, “NO!

  1. Is Christ Divided? (No!)
  2. Was Paul crucified for you? (No!)
  3. Were you baptized in the name of Paul? (No!)

Jesus is not divided. And the “One Body of Christ seen in 1st Corinthians 12:13 is all believers everywhere, as pointed out in verse 2. Therefore, we also should not be divided.

Is there Conflict in Authority?

Does our commitment to the authority of Christ diminish our submission to one another? No! it increases it, as we are commanded in Ephesians 5:21 to “submit yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” This is a little like asking a soldier, “To whom did you swear your oath of allegiance?” He will reply that it was “to the US Constitution!” Does that mean he does not have to obey his immediate supervisor? No! In fact, unless his supervisors clearly abandon obedience to their joint commitment to the Constitution, then he must obey those duly sworn and commissioned officers.

God has set up authorities in all of our lives, all under His supreme authority. In general, we are not free to see ourselves as “Lone Ranger” Christians. Ephesians 3:10 reveals that, God says that His eternal plan is to demonstrate His own righteousness to the Angelic Host in Heaven, through the Church as a whole. His work is always in keeping with His eternal plan. He has chosen to glorify Himself through the behavior of the Church as a whole. And we can fail to cooperate!

So, Who Baptized Who?

It is interesting to read the names of the people Paul listed as the few he baptized. Paul called Crispus and Gaius by name. Crispus would be important to the Corinthian believers because he had been the chief ruler of their Synagogue (before he became a believer and lost that position.) Paul baptized him.

Gaius, however, was not from that town at all—we see him in the next chapter of Acts, serving with Paul at Ephesus, and, in Acts 20, we find out that Gaius was from Derbe. But he was a co-laborer with Paul, and he was known to Paul’s audience. Paul baptized him, too.

In verse 16, (almost as an afterthought,) Paul remembered that he had also baptized the household of Stephanas. But this one verse and again in chapter 16 are the only two places Stephanas was mentioned. 

So, Who was Stephanas?

They knew who he was: 1st Corinthians 16:15-18 says,15I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) 16That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth. 17I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied. 18For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such.

Submitacknowledge”…Those are words with which we are not necessarily comfortable. But both require that we set aside self and look at our fellow-servants through God’s eyes.

And … Who Cares?

Paul concluded that, if there were others whom he had baptized, he had simply forgotten them. (That allows us to see the degree of importance Paul attached to water baptism.) But the main point here, is that there was no special value to having been baptized, or led to Christ, or having been trained by “someone special.” (I have known people who knew J. Vernon McGee personally and used to attend his church. That is certainly a privilege, but they did not hold it up as something that set them apart from other believers.)

In 1st Corinthians 3:5-9, Paul will return to this issue, regarding “who is who:”

5Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers (Servants!) by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? 6I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 8Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: (They are in unity!) and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. 9For we are labourers together with God: (Remember Philippians 2:13!) ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

Why was Paul “Unconcerned” About Who He May have Baptized?

Many missionaries today keep careful records of “who they baptized” and, especially, “how many.” I have even known missionaries whose primary “claim to fame” was how many church buildings they built. If that truly is what God sent them to do, then they are blessed for doing His Will. But it raises some questions in my mind:

Paul said the reason he was unconcerned about “who and how many,” is that baptism was not his primary assignment! He said, 17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”

Paul even set aside the robes of his “superior education.” He saw it as a potential detriment to the assigned goal of winning souls for Christ.

So, Paul claimed that his primary assignment was to preach the Gospel. The Great Commission teaches that our primary job is to preach the Gospel. All the Epistles underscore our assignment as ambassadors of Christ. So, how likely is it that someone truly has a totally different assignment? What chance is there that God has “changed His mind” about the job He assigned us all to do?

But, What about Unity? Why is it So Important?

Go back to the first “correction” Paul addressed: He begged them to practice Unity, in doctrine and in action. Looking back at the Gospels, we see that Jesus gave three ways by which the World is to Judge the Church:

  1. Agapé Love: In John 13:34, 35. He said, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; As I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love, one to another.”
  2. Unity: In John 17:21 Jesus said, “ That they all may be One; as thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be One in us: that the World may believe that thou hast sent me.
  3. Good Works: In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said,  “Ye are the light of the World. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.”

God-Ordained Priorities

God ordained these three things by which the World is to judge the Church. Perhaps we need to especially concern ourselves with those three, as all three affect our testimony as believers in Christ.

How do we get along with other believers? Do we go out of our way to treat them with Agapé Love? Do we seek ways to find common ground, or are we constantly stressing the differences between us and other believers? Remember that the World is watching!

Ephesians 4:3 tells us to “endeavor to maintain the Unity of the Spirit, in the bond of Peace.” God created that unity. We need to find ways to maintain it!

Lord Jesus, please help us to recognize the seeds of disunity and root them out before they can grow to cause broken fellowship. Help us to see opportunities to serve one another with Your Agapé Love. Modify our behavior to consistently reflect your Grace, so that our behavior lights the way for others and brings Glory to You.

Brief Introduction to Paul’s 1st Epistle to the Corinthians

Introduction to 1st Corinthians

© 2023 C. O, Bishop

1st Corinthians 1:1-9

1 Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s:

Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;

That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:

So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Historical and Geographical Background: What do We Know About Corinth?

Corinth was an ancient city positioned at a very narrow isthmus in the southern end of the Grecian Peninsula. That Isthmus separates the Ionian Sea on the West from the Aegean Sea on the East. It is such a low, narrow isthmus that it was actually cheaper and safer to pull the old wooden cargo boats out of the water onto log rollers, and use teams of oxen to transport the ships across the isthmus, than to simply sail around the headland.

Thus, Corinth had several booming businesses going: Ship’s masters paid the owners of the transport service for their services. Furthermore, the Ship’s quartermasters doubtless bought supplies while they were in port. And, finally, the sailors themselves, if allowed a port leave, did what sailors have done throughout the centuries. They ran into town and blew their wages on sin of various kinds. (What kinds, you may ask? In the interest of honoring God, we will not delve into particulars, except to point out that the town’s biggest “business” was the Temple of Aphrodite located there.

As a matter of historical interest, I looked this up in our old Britannica Encyclopedia. I read there, that, in its heyday, that temple employed 10,000 temple prostitutes, both male and female. So, effectively, the entire town was a pit of evil! Therefore it is not surprising to see that the church that was planted there faced many problems associated with carnality.

How Did Paul Happen to Come There?

If we go back and read through Acts 16 and 17, we see that Paul planted a small church in Philippi, but it cost him and Silas a public beating and a brief imprisonment. He left there and he and Silas ended up in Thessalonica. He planted a church there, too, but again was driven out by the violent response of the unbelieving Jews: they were his kinsmen according to the flesh, but they were enemies of the Gospel.

Then he and Silas went to Berea, and they were in process of planting a church there, when the unbelieving Jews of Thessalonica caught up with them (Paul, Silas and Timothy by this time) and Paul was again forced to leave. (Silas and Timothy stayed and taught.)

Paul went alone to Athens, a place already famous for worldly wisdom, learning, and philosophy. The sermon he preached there has been praised ever since, by homiletics teachers and modern preachers. Why? Because it did such a “slick” job of “sneaking the gospel in there, sideways,” But that sermon had nearly zero fruit, and Paul left town without planting a church. He went directly from there to Corinth, just about three miles away. And, he had learned something!

What was Different when Paul Preached in Corinth?

Paul says in 1st Corinthians 1:17 that he was sent there “…not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the preaching of the Cross be made of none effect!”

He took to heart the poor response at Athens, and rather than blaming the hard hearts of the Athenian philosophers, he saw that he had made an error in judgment: In 1st Corinthians 2:1, 2, he said, “1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

So, his approach was different, and the result was different. The Corinthian church was still riddled with sin, as a direct result of the environment in which they lived and everything they thought was “normal.”

The result, for us,is two fairly lengthy letters. And the content of both letters is nearly all some sort of corrective teaching.

Introduction to Chapter One:

Notice how Paul introduces himself and his co-laborer, Sosthenes: “Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,”

You may notice in your Bible that the words “to be” are in italics. That indicates that the italicized words are not in the original manuscript, but were added by the translators, to make the passage fit English grammar and usage. This is a good example of such a thing, and we can easily see the reason they were added.

In English, if I said, “I am called a pastor.” It might mean, “that’s what people say about me, but it isn’t necessarily true.” But the sense of the word “called”, in Greek is not “that’s what people say,” but rather “God called me to do this: I didn’t appoint myself!” He was called by God, through the will of God. We will see a similar thing in verse two, where we find that all believers are called by God to be Saints…His holy People.

What about Sosthenes?

Notice, too, that while he includes “Sosthenes,” as a believing brother and implies that he is his co-worker, he makes no further mention. Paul was the apostle, writing the epistle. He simply acknowledged that he was not alone in the work: Sosthenes was with him. Why would that be important? Because, if we read Acts 18:17, we see that Sosthenes had (briefly) been the chief ruler of the Synagogue in Corinth. Why “briefly?” Because the previous “Chief Ruler of the Synagogue,” Crispus, according to Acts 18:8 had become a Christian, a believer in Jesus!

Evidently that disqualified Crispus as leader of the Synagogue! And, in Acts 18:12-17, we saw that as an unbelieving Jew (at that time) Sosthenes (the new leader) was part of the widespread insurrection of the unbelieving Jews in Corinth. They seized Paul and dragged him into court, before Gallio. But it turned out that Gallio was not at all sympathetic.

What happened to Sosthenes?

Sosthenes, along with his fellow leaders, were driven out of the court by Gallio, because Gallio, as the Roman governor, had zero interest in Jewish Law! And the unbelieving Greeks, there, savagely beat Sosthenes, right in front of the judgment seat…and Gallio didn’t care!

So, this man Sosthenes had gone from being the leader of the unbelieving Jews in Corinth to being a disciple of the Lord Jesus and a co-worker with Paul! Did the beating somehow “wake him up?” We don’t know. But that specific testimony to the believers at Corinth had great importance, and it glorified God immensely, as Sosthenes had once been their enemy!

To Whom is the Epistle Addressed?

Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s:

Notice the people listed:

  1. First, it is not to “the pastor,” nor to the “leaders.” It is to the Church of God at Corinth.
    1. Church, singular.
  2. But it includes…
    1. Them (plural) that are sanctified (set apart for God’s private use!) who are
    1. Called to be Saints! (Declared to be Holy to God!) AND
  3. All (everyone!) that in every place call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord
    1. Their Lord and Ours!

Do you see how the entire Body of Christ is included, for all time? If you have placed your exclusive trust in Jesus Christ as “God’s chosen sacrifice” for your sins, then, according to this verse, this letter is most definitely to YOU! Please take it as God speaking to you! Are there some passages that were specific to just Corinth? Absolutely, there are! And we will come to them. But this letter is to the entire Church, the Body of Christ at large! (Keep that in mind!)

And What is the “Wish of God” for Us?

Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is always given in that order: Grace, then Peace. It is impossible to experience the Peace of God, or even Peace with God, apart from first being the recipients of His Grace. In John 14:27 Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: Not as the World giveth, give I unto You. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (How important is that Peace to you? This verse tells us the beginning of how to receive it. Receive His Grace!)

Paul thanks God for the Church:

Why? What is he thankful for? (vs. 4-8)

“I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;”

  1. That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge. (v. 5)
  2. The testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, (v. 6) so that
    1. Ye come behind in no gift (v. 7) (and you are….)
    1. Waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: (v. 7)
  3. (The Lord Jesus Christ) Who shall also confirm you unto the end, (v. 8) that
    1. ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s Break that Down, Point by Point:

As we have already observed, this letter is to you: It is to us! That means that this verse says we are not lacking any gift that God has offered: He is the One True Shepherd, and He is protecting and feeding His Flock! He sends under-shepherds (such as myself and the other leaders, here) to “carry the buckets of Sheep Food,” and to work as His servants, protecting and guiding the flock, but the flock is always to be under His hand…we are not free to just expound our own ideas. They have to come from Him, through His Word!

How was the testimony confirmed? The believers at Corinth saw the transformed lives of those who believed, and they saw the miraculous defense God gave the newborn church through an unbelieving Governor. They saw the transformation of Sosthenes, and the growth of the Church, there at Corinth. They saw the gifts of the Holy Spirit beginning to be evident in their assembly, and they saw that God was giving the knowledge of His Word, to feed them.

How About Today?

The Testimony of Christ has been confirmed here in our little assembly in similar ways. When our unbelieving governor said that because of Covid, Oregon churches could have no more than 30 people in attendance, we called the Chief of Police in our town, and he stated that the only reason he or any of his officers would be coming to our church is to worship with us! That is a prety amazing response!

We, too, have seen the transformed lives, and the answers to prayer!

As he wrote to them, they were joyfully pressing forward, waiting for the Coming of the Lord. (So are we!)  And they knew that HE is the One who will cause them to appear before Him, blameless, in that day. (So do we! That is our hope, too!)

Were they “Perfect Christians,” then? (Had they “Arrived?”) Most emphatically, NO! They were one of the most carnal churches Paul ever dealt with. But they were eternally secure in Christ, because Jesus was the One who promised to “confirm them to the end.” The result is that they WILL “be blameless in the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And that is our confidence as well!

Paul’s Conclusion:

God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

The same God who called you to faith in Jesus is the One who makes these promises. He is utterly faithful, and He will draw you along to walk with Him, and to serve Him in fellowship and partnership with Jesus.

Yes, He does call us to Service and to Holiness,  but His promise is sure: We will appear before Him, dressed in His righteousness, not our own, and we are bound to Him eternally by His Love, not by our own feeble efforts, or by our own vacillating love and faith. He is the Faithful One!

We need to keep these promises in mind as we study this epistle, and every day realize that these promises are to us! To you! To me! Don’t lose sight of the Faithfulness of the God who has called you into the light of His Son!

Lord Jesus, we ask that you secure our hearts against the attacks of the evil one, and stay our minds upon the Promises of Your Word!

The Question of Religion, You, Me, and Jesus Christ

Religion, You, Me, and Jesus Christ

© 2023 by Randy Olsen

Passages Cited, in the Order Used:

Romans 5:1-4; Acts 25:19; Acts 26:5; Amos 5:21; Amos 8:10; Acts 17:22-23; Colossians 2:16; Hebrews 10:11; James 1:26, 27; 2nd Peter 3:15; 2nd Peter 3:9; 1st Peter 3:15-16.

Introduction:

As we find our way through this rapidly changing world, what we knew as reality, 20 or 30 years ago, is vastly different today. Let’s face it: ten years ago, the landscape we faced in our everyday society was foreign to what we see today. (Remember that I am communicating this to you from the viewpoint of a grey-haired, slightly past middle-aged man.)

Think about what we see on a daily basis. There are more tents along our highways and even on city sidewalks than we have in our forest parks! The State of Oregon, (and, in particular, the City of Portland) has made it legal to use hard narcotics right on our city streets. It is no wonder that the young people of today are having problems getting the footholds in today’s society, that most of us were able to attain at the same age.

Old vs. New

Many of us were born and raised in Northwest Oregon, where, as teenagers and younger, we picked strawberries and other crops for summer employment. This is how we purchased our school clothes for the next year. I’m not sure precisely what today’s employment laws are, but I know, today, a pair of Levi’s jeans can cost $50 or $60, and they already have holes in them!

So, I have said all this to show compassion for the “twenty-somethings” of today, and when they show up in church, my heart goes out to them immediately.

What Else has Changed?

I have been lucky enough to have received 98% of my Bible teaching at True Hope Christian Fellowship. I have been to a few other churches, where I was always greeted by a charming and charismatic person, and they were always polite and “bubbly.”

Then, after we sang some songs, I waited for the teaching; but it never materialized! We were told of the great expansion of their church buildings, or how they were saving money to send a few lucky individuals to the Holy Land. But never about spreading the Gospel. I can look back, now, and see that we were not being taught the words of Christ, but rather, how to be a prosperous member of their congregation.

What was Missing?

Christ calls on each of us to be people of strong and upright character, regardless of our financial status. We are to put our faith in the Grace of God. In Romans 5:1-4, Paul tells us this: 1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Now, by “sufferings,” does he necessarily mean “suffering physical pain?” I don’t think so: He is referring to the trials and issues we deal with in everyday life. I believe we come out the other side stronger for it all.

Brothers and sisters, I do not mean to use this time to give “my life’s testimony.” But, my life is the best example I know of someone starting as an adult, and so completely ignorant of God. So there will be a reference or two of my experience. Please bear with me.

What About “Religion?”

I actually began this study, months ago, to better understand the word “Religion, and how it was used, Biblically. There is no word used in the Old Testament, that actually means “religion.” In the New Testament, as I read the NIV, there are five occurrences of the English word, religion.

The Latin root of the English word, “religion” is “religare” which means “to hold back” or “to restrain.” (What are we being held back from?)

In Greek, the root word is “threskeia” meaning “an outward expression of spiritual devotion.”

How is the Word used?

The word first appears in Acts 25:19 where Festus used the word describing to King Agrippa the accusations against Paul, and again in Acts 26:5, where Paul was defending himself before Festus and King Agrippa. He used the word, describing himself as an upstanding member of the Pharisees (prior to his conversion,) giving credibility to his testimony concerning Jesus Christ.

There are three more occurrences of the word Religion: all have reference to simple worship, and they are mostly in the NIV.

And What About “being Religious?

My study became much more interesting when I moved my focus from “Religion” to “Religious.” Again, in the Old Testament, the KJV does not include a single use of the word. NIV has two, both in the Book of Amos. Both times, God was reprimanding Israel, for idol worship, ultimately. Amos 5:21 reads, “I hate, I despise your religious festivals. Your assemblies are a stench to me!” And Amos 8:10 says, “I will turn your religious festivals into mourning, and all of your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads.”

Now, through all of the Old Testament, we came to know that sackcloth and shaved heads were not signs of joy. (And idol worship does not sit well with God, ever!)

How was this Word used?

In Acts 17, Paul was brought before the Areopagus council in Athens. The “powers that be” in Athens, viewed Paul as nothing more than a babbler, advocating foreign gods and strange ideas. In Acts 17:22, 23, addressed the council, saying, “People of Athens, I see that in every way, you are very religious (KJV says “too superstitious”), for, as I walked around, and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown god.’ So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship.

Paul went on to tell them that the One True God (who is Jesus) makes Himself available to them, but that they must come to know Him as such: The One True God. Paul tried to delineate between truth and superstition. Some of his audience believed, but most just sneered.

There are four more occurrences of the word “religious” in the NIV. You can find them in Colossians 2:16, Hebrews 10:11, and James 1:26, 27. All are in reference to unnecessary actions during festivals and rituals of repetitious prayers to gain attention.

God’s Call

Our Lord calls us to use His Word as a blueprint for our lives and families. Not all of us came to Christ at an early age: I had 40 years to learn how to be self-reliant, self-serving, and really proud of all that I was.

Our Lord is very patient with all of us. 2nd Peter 3:15 says, “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.

Just how patient He is, is spelled out in the KJV, in 2nd Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, (to each of us) not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

What Changes Should Occur?

Brothers and sisters, Our Lord is never going to change. He is the same today as He was yesterday, and the same as He will be tomorrow. In order for us to experience the true measure of the Love He has for us, it is you and I who need to fit into His mold, not the other way around.

We all have differing testimonies as to how we came to faith, but I am lucky enough to know at what moment it took place. And, like all of you, I was made to be a new creation, having a new character, and a very new eternity!

What Makes the Change?

I came across a quote by Oswald Chambers, saying, “It is not the Baptism of the Holy Ghost which changes men, but the power of the Ascended Christ coming into men’s lives by the Holy Ghost, that changes them.” (AMEN!)

Let’s think about that for just a moment: We have the power of Jesus Christ in us. Obviously we cannot perform miracles or walk on water, but we can communicate with the Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

In the course of my study, I came across a statement by J. Vernon McGee: He told of a pastor friend who said, “When I came to Christ, I lost my religion!” (I agree!) I have seen, many times, that when a person labels someone else as “religious,” he himself has no faith.

What’s the Difference?

We are all well aware of our Lord’s command to share the Gospel. Maybe we could use the discussion about “religion” as a springboard to the Gospel, and explain what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ.

1st Peter 3:15, 16 tells us, “But in your hearts, revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

Verse 15 says to share the message with “gentleness and respect,” not with a bunch of screaming or yelling, such as we may see on some platforms, or on television. Not all people are going to respond to the Good News in the same way. Evangelism is a process. It may be a different process for each person to be reached. That process may take five minutes, five days, or five years. The end result is worth it!

What is at Risk?

I recently lost a close family member…a cousin with whom I was very close. I had made several attempts to lead him to a discussion of eternal security. No matter what my lead-in was, his response was the same: He would tell me he believed in God, he believed in Jesus, and he even attended midnight mass a few times on Christmas Eve.

But if I asked him about a personal relationship with Christ, he would raise his hand, and start talking about his favorite sports team, of the week, or last year’s elk hunt, which are both good topics, but they do not remove you from your sins. I continue to have a weight on my shoulders, not knowing whether Steve will be waiting for me in Heaven.

What can be Gained?

I have a friend with whom I have spent countless hours and days, after more than 50 years of friendship. After losing my cousin, I was determined to know whether Dan knew Christ in an intimate manner. Dan is a Catholic, as was Steve. He and I speak of God often, but up until this time, we had never spoken of eternal security.

So, one day, when we were cutting firewood, I asked him directly, “Do you have Jesus, leading you to heaven?” He looked at me with a blank look on his face, and finally replied, “Randy, Jesus is all I’ve got! What else is there??” We both wept, and hugged one another.

I have read that “Religion is Man’s search for God, and the Gospel is God’s search for man.” That statement is one reason why, when someone asks me “what religion I am,” I respond that “I have no religion! I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ!” I explain that I have put my faith in the Savior of the Bible. HE is the reason I attend Wednesday Bible Study, and Sunday morning service. HE is the reason I am standing in front of you now…(with my blood pressure way too high!)

What is the Result?

Almost all of you know that Cheryl, my wife, has terminal cancer. We have “put all our eggs in One Basket,” Jesus Christ! Yes, we still see a lot of doctors, but she nearly died from their answer to the cancer. I made them quit. They argued, but I refused to allow them to continue the chemotherapy and radiation. Those treatments work great for some, but for her, it took six weeks in the hospital to recover from the treatments.

Yes, she still has the cancer, and it is growing, but she is alive and at home. Had she continued the chemotherapy, she would not have recovered. Her oncologist is amazed at how well she is doing. She is alive, and we are together! The Oncologist knows what part we want him to play, and he is good with it.

You who are sitting in front of me now are a huge part of my therapy! I would not do well without you. Many times I have walked through the doors of this building, and it is almost as though I can smell Love! I nearly always arrive early, because I know I have some burdens to shed, before I go before the Lord. I know that greeting my brothers and sisters in Christ is so much sweeter after I have “had a drink of Jesus!”

Who is the Master?

As I go on with my words, some of you may think I am “really a godly man.” Far from it! I am very, very human. My choices have led me to some really dark places. Believe me when I tell you, “I have seen the pit!” But, for some reason, unbeknownst to me, Christ reached out and plucked me from oblivion. And this was many years before I even knew that I needed Jesus Christ! But I can look back now, and see it for what it was. He had a place, in His will, where He wanted me: and I found it! At least for right now, He wants me at True Hope Christian Fellowship.

Channel Markers

God will give you “channel markers” to follow in your life. Just as you would follow such markers when navigating a river, in a boat, you should follow His leading. If you look, you will find them in the scriptures. But as I have found, you will not “absorb them through osmosis.”

You must be in the Word, to find your way! You must follow the light of Christ, and learn to skip over the pitfalls that the enemy sets for you. The Word of God will give you inspiration in times when your life seems empty. It will give you solace and comfort when your world seems full of bitterness and pain. God’s Word gives us a place to gather as His children, and in the Love that is the Person of Jesus Christ.

One last thing: Just as Peter did (and as I have done today,) “Get out of the boat, and keep your eyes on Christ!”

Thank you all!

What are our Choices and Requirements for Mutual Fellowship?

The Choices and Requirements of Fellowship

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

2nd Thessalonians 3:10-18

10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. 13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. 14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

16 Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

17 The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Introduction:

Last week we read 2nd Thessalonians 3:6-9, and we saw that Paul and the other missionaries had set an example by working to earn money to pay for their own food and lodging, during their very brief stay in Thessalonica.

Paul pointed out that he and the others had earned the right to expect compensation, but they chose to set aside that “right,” and deliver the Grace of God to the people of Thessalonica without cost. We have done the same. We have no employees here: all the work is done by volunteers. All of our teaching and sermons are available online, free of charge

Support

In other passages, Paul laid out the need for support for the elders of a church, but he had already established the precedent that a leader can abstain from receiving support; and he gave the reasons why he, himself, had done so.

It is a good thing for the believers to support one another, especially if someone is sick or disabled and needs assistance. But: human nature being what it is, there will always be a tendency for some to try to take advantage of the generosity of believers, and avoid earning their own keep.

So, Paul addresses that problem in these last verses.

Disorderliness

Paul describes the broad issue of disorderliness; but he links it to idleness (not working) and being “busybodies.” We know what it means to “not work”…and Paul specifies in verse ten that he is referring to someone who will not work: not someone who cannot work, for whatever reason (injury, illness, other incapacities.) But what is the biblical meaning of a “busybody?”

In modern English, it usually means a “meddler:” someone who is constantly involving themselves, uninvited, in the affairs of others. Sometimes it is linked to gossip and talebearing.

What is a Busybody?

But in this passage, the Greek word is “periergoi,” meaning “around working.” (Getting around work, perhaps? Or, maybe, being a “runaround,” working the system?)  

In 1st Timothy 5:13 we see the same Greek word used, this time in a context that may offer some explanation, specifically in the context of someone who is capable of function, but who is needlessly being supported by others.13 And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.”

In the Timothy passage, we see several things linked together:

  • Idleness (choosing to not work)
  • Wandering from house to house (as opposed to tending to their own home.)
  • Tattlers (tale-bearers, gossips)
  • Busybodies (periergoi, again)
  • “Speaking things which they ought not.”

In this context, it seems that perhaps our modern definition of “busybody” fits pretty well.

Other Shades of Meaning

It is interesting to note that the passage in 1st Peter 4:15, which uses the same English word, is from an entirely unrelated Greek word, literally meaning “overseeing the business of others:”meddling,” perhaps: trying to exert influence in other people’s affairs. That word comes much closer to our modern definition.

But, collectively, the picture seems to be of someone who “hasn’t got anything better to do” than running around “chatting people up,” and avoiding doing any work of their own. Paul exhorts believers to do what God has called us to do, earn our keep at whatever trade or work we can do, and be a good testimony of the Holy God who has called us. To do otherwise is to be “disorderly,” and such behavior dishonors the Lord. Paul commands such people to work, tend to their own business, earn a living and eat the food they earned.

“Fellowship” means “Partnership:”

Some people try to say that “fellowship” means “two fellows in a ship: both in the same boat.” That is simplistic at best; it is an error. Two people on a ship may hate each other, and they even may be committed to one another’s destruction. That is certainly not fellowship. Fellowship means “having in common.” It implies “partnership.” We are called to join in the fellowship of the suffering of Christ. (Philippians 3:10) The believers at Philippi (Philippians 1:5) were commended for their fellowship in the gospel. They were partners in the work of evangelism.

In 2nd Corinthians 8:4 Paul commended a poverty-stricken church in that they begged the privilege to join in the fellowship of ministering to the needs of the believers in Jerusalem. They wanted to serve as partners in the work! As believers, they chose to function as partners, and they begged him to receive that gift, acknowledging that partnership. It is obviously implied that he did choose to accept it. (This is in the context of correcting the church at Corinth, who evidently were not so eager to participate.)

Fellowship is a Choice

We attach ourselves to a local assembly of like-minded believers and we are willing to be partners with them in worship and in service. Each person has a different ability and different gifts, but we serve together and desire to collectively please the Lord who has called us and who bought us with His blood.

Is it possible to desire the appearance of partnership without actually being committed to that union? Yes, evidently it is. There are thousands of people who are on the membership list at churches across the world, who never attend, and yet will claim membership in “their church” as a part of their credentials as a “fine, upstanding citizen.” But they have no real connection or partnership with that assembly of believers.

We are called to become partners in the work of ministry, and in the work of evangelism and discipleship with the local assembly to which we have attached ourselves. We make a conscious choice to do so.

Requirements of Fellowship

But God has also called us to live in such a way as to not dishonor Him, and not shame the church. We are warned that such behavior is detrimental enough that believers are told to not have “partnership” with such persons. That is a hard thing to do, when we are called to love one another. But that is what it says!

Could this requirement be used wrongly, to attempt to force conformity on a person who is doing no wrong? Certainly, it can, and it has happened many times! Missionaries have been dismissed from  Organizations because they disagreed about some relatively small point of doctrine.

People have been drummed out of churches for things that were none of their doing. I knew a man whose wife left him for another man…and he was told to leave his church! I’m not sure what their accusation was, but he was definitely the victim, and rather than seeking to help or comfort him, they excluded him from fellowship.

So, How can We Prevent the Misuse of This Concept?

Galatians 6:1, 2 spells out a rule for church discipline that should prevent abuse.

1Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Five points:

  1. The one doing the restoring always must be in the Spirit…this is not done in the flesh!.
  2. The motive is always to be restoration, not punishment or rejection.
  3. The approach is always to be one of humility, and gentleness, not condemnation.
  4. The person or persons attempting the restoration must always remember that they, too, are fragile, and that they can easily be drawn into sin, through anger, pride or other flaws.
  5. We are always to help others bear their crushing circumstantial burdens, not just stand back, and watch them struggle.

But, if such a person simply rejects help, rejects correction, and rejects the Word, then there is no place for partnership. We are still reaching out, desiring their restoration, but true fellowship is not possible. (No Condemnation! v.15: He is not an enemy! You treat him as a brother!)

Grounds for Fellowship

Paul lays out the sevenfold basis of our Unity in Christ…the “Unity of the Spirit.”
In Ephesians 4:1-6, he says,

1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

Seven unities:

  1. One Body (1st Corinthians 12:12)
  2. One Spirit (John 14:16)
  3. One Hope of our Calling (Colossians 1:27)
  4. One Lord (1st Corinthians 8:6)
  5. One Faith (Romans 1:5, 16)
  6. One Baptism (1st Corinthians 12:13)
  7. One God and Father (John 17:3)

If all those “unities” are in place, fellowship should be possible. But fellowship can be broken, even among brethren who agree with all these “unities.” That is why it says we are to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace. It is a fragile fellowship, easily damaged by pride and self-will.

We are warned specifically that a “root of bitterness” can spring up and thereby defile many. Others will be affected! None of us live lives disconnected from the believers around us. My sin does not affect just me: it can affect all of my family, and anyone in my sphere of influence.

Maintaining Unity

So, we are to give diligence to maintaining that unity and not allowing small differences to grow into serious divisions. Are we concerned about the overall testimony of the church? Yes, absolutely! But we are equally concerned about the well-being and spiritual health of every person. We are not on some kind of “inspection tour” to “ferret out flaws” and “slap sense into slackers!”  The Command is to “Love One Another!”

(v. 16) Paul reminds us, that we are called to peace! We are called to forbear one another in Love. We are called to forgive one another, just as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven us! Let’s not forget these things!

And the Grace of God (v. 18) is what sustains us all.

Lord Jesus, draw us into close fellowship with Yourself and with one another. Help us to Love one another as You have commanded us. Protect Your flock from Evil, in Jesus’ Name.

What is the “Christian Work Ethic?” What is Disorderly?

What is the “Christian Work Ethic?”
And, What is “Disorderly?

© 2023 by C. O, Bishop

2nd Thessalonians 3:6-9

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought (worked) with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

Introduction:

We noted in the past that Paul and his entourage worked to support their ministry. They did so for several reasons, two of which are listed here:

  1. “That we might not be chargeable to any of you.” No one had any leverage against his walk with Jesus. (Unlike some politicians who find themselves indebted to their financial supporters.) They could not be “squeezed” to do something other than God directed.

  2. “To make ourselves an example unto you to follow us.” Paul and his entourage demonstrated the lifestyle the new believers were expected to emulate.
    A third is listed in 1st Thessalonians 2:6-9

  3. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.

Application:

Think this through: When we send missionaries, we pay their way, as best we can, (other churches and individuals also helping.) But the people to whom they are sent contribute nothing! Paul was that kind of missionary. He did not preach with a hidden agenda of covetousness, or greed. He had a single goal: to preach the Gospel, as Jesus had commanded.

Paul and his entourage sought temporary work whenever they stayed in an area long enough to do so. (They were in Corinth for eighteen months. Two years in Ephesus…but only three weeks or so in Thessalonica. But evidently they had worked there, as well.) They were not looking for a handout, and they commanded the people they taught to follow that example!

Work Ethic

The whole context in verses 6-18 has to do with the Christian Work-Ethic. These first four verses include how Paul and his co-laborers demonstrated this ethic. But it also introduces the fact that this is part of the Christian Testimony, that we are not to be freeloaders.

Are There Exceptions?

Yes, as a matter of fact, there are! If we look ahead to verse ten, we see that, in this context, the command is that those who will not work were not to receive support from those who chose to work. It had nothing to do with those who were disabled in some way, or too old to work. Those are laid out in other passages, where care of ailing family members and the elderly is named.

The primary thrust is to show the example that Paul and his co-laborers had demonstrated. False teachers seeking a profit, and lazy men seeking an easy way of life are not to be rewarded for their wrong motives.

I have known people who sought to enter the ministry specifically because “it was an easy job that paid well.” They had zero heart for the work. They cared nothing for the flock. This is exactly the kind of “bad shepherd” that God condemns in Ezekiel 34:1-10.

Paul and his fellow servants were demonstrating what it meant to care for the flock without charge, for the sake of the Gospel.

What about the Support of Pastors?

In verse 9, Paul pointed out that it was not because he lacked the authority to receive support, but because he chose to go without. (The word “power” in that verse is the Greek word “exousia,” meaning “authority.”)

He used the same word that Jesus did in the Great Commission, where He said “All power is given unto me in Heavan and in Earth…” All authority belongs to Jesus! Paul had the authority as an apostle to require support, but he absolutely avoided such questionable use of his authority. Because he asked nothing, no one could accuse him of wrong motives. No one could say, regarding his service,  “He’s only in it for the money!” It obviously could not be true. He served without charge.

Paul’s Example:

In 1st Corinthians 9:18, he said, “What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.”

Paul said that it would be an abuse of authority for him to “charge money” for people to hear the Gospel of Christ. That is why all of our sermons are on a free podcast in audible form, and all of our sermon notes are available on our website as a free download in written form.

Paul’s Command:

But Paul commanded, in 1st Timothy 5:17, 18 that elders who served well be counted worthy of good support: especially those who labor in the Word, and in Teaching. He supported that concept from the Old Testament passage in Deuteronomy 25:4 where it says that the ox you are using to thresh grain is not to be muzzled while he works.

Paul served without pay: he received funds as people were moved to support his work. The church at Philippi was one of the very few who regularly supported him.

Does that mean that all God’s servants should always work without pay? Obviously not, as Paul commanded the churches to support their teachers and elders well. But, if a pastor is capable of serving without pay, and chooses to do so, it is good! He is just following Paul’s example.

That is one end of the spectrum. The other end includes the people we mentioned earlier, who simply saw it as a gravy-train job, with great security. And God condemns such behavior.

So, What is “Disorderly?”

Notice that the command…(specifically, a “command in the name of Jesus”) was to withdraw from “every brother “…believers…who “walk disorderly.” Don’t fellowship with people who behave in that manner…(whatever it is.)

But, we can’t very well obey commands we don’t understand. (We can try, but it frequently results in confusion.) The infant church in Ethiopia, in 1937, having only small portions of the New Testament in their language when Mussolini expelled the missionaries, decided they should not keep goats, pigs or dogs! Why? Because they read a verse that said “beware of dogs,” and other verses that made negative comparisons regarding goats and still others about pigs. But none of those passages were about animals: in every case, the passages were talking about people. Did their mistake do any real harm? No, but it caused them to miss the real intent of all those passages!

What does it mean?

So, what does it mean, when it says “disorderly,” in the case of believers? What were they doing wrong in this case? Perhaps many things, but, in this context, one issue was certainly slothfulness and “feeding on the work of others” rather than working so as to not only meet the needs of your own family but also to have enough to share with others.

Could it include other kinds of disorderly behavior? Absolutely, it could! In our legal system, there is a legal charge of “Drunk and Disorderly.” Could it include that? Certainly. But the warning here is potentially much broader, as he specifically says it means “not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

Ignoring sound Bible teaching regarding “bad moral behavior” or bad social behavior of any kind could fall under this command. We are commanded to withdraw from believers who rebel against God and His Word. Does that mean anyone who disagrees with how we understand the Written Word? Nope. This has to do with behavior. A man may completely disagree with my understanding of a passage, and still be a wonderful, Godly believer.

But I have known of churches in our geographic area who have encouraged their members to “become relevant to the world” by joining them in their social framework. They specifically meant in bars, and nightclubs. They were not just talking about watching football, or going fishing, or some other harmless thing.

That is an irresponsible teaching:

  1. In the first place, it does not make you “relevant” to the World: it makes you a hypocrite, in their eyes, because they know their behavior is wrong. When you join them in their behavior, it assures them that you are no different than they are, therefore the Gospel must have had no effect in your life! The only thing you have accomplished is the ruin of your testimony!
  2. In the second place, it is a potential trap for any believers who attempt to follow it. God says believers can be trapped by sin. They can permanently ruin their testimony, through debauchery of some sort. They can lose their family to adulterous affairs, or their liberty to some unlawful behavior that crept in. Sometimes they have even lost their lives to violence in a bad relationship. And I have known examples of each of these.

We are going to try to teach sound Biblical understanding and application, here in this assembly., We will urge every believer to mold his or her life around God’s Word.

How Does God Change Lives?

Romans 12:2 commands us to allow God to transform us through the renewing of our minds. That is accomplished from the inside, by the indwelling Holy Spirit. He uses the Written Word of God to do it.

Psalm 119:9 says that the only way humans can cleanse their lives before God, is by the application of the Word of God to their lives. (“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy Word!”) God does not list any other way for us to avoid the traps of sin that surround us. We are to apply God’s Word.

He also says, in 2nd Peter 1:19-21, 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

He specifically tells us that our primary light-source in this dark world is to be the Written Word of God.

And in Philippians 2:15, 16, he says 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.”

How Should We then Live?

We are to shine as lights in the World, and we are to constantly be offering others the Word of Life. (That is the Gospel!)

When we join with the world in their “disorderly ways” we take on the patina of that behavior and the light burning within us cannot be seen, just as the burning light in a dirty headlamp cannot be seen through the mud on the outer lens. Don’t allow your light to be dimmed by disorderly behavior, nor by constant association with others who behave that way.

Lord Jesus, convict our hearts of our need for Your Written Word, applied to our daily lives.  Lead us to learn Your Word, so that the Holy Spirit has the tools to transform our lives.

We are Called to Prayer and Service

We are Called to Prayer and Service

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

2nd Thessalonians 3:1-5

1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you. And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.

Introduction:

Last week we ended our study of 2nd Thessalonians 2, We were looking at the last three verses. We asked, “What should be the result of our having become chosen in Christ?”

As you know, this epistle was a letter to the church at Thessalonica. It had no chapter or verse divisions. So, whatever was being discussed at the end of one chapter usually led into what would begin the next. (For example, we read the teaching about the Rapture, back in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18. But it leads directly into the Tribulation, in 1st Thessalonians 5:1-11.)

So, let’s go back and see the transition between the end of 2nd Thessalonians chapter 2 and the beginning of 2nd Thessalonians chapter 3:

What Should the Result Be? (2nd Thessalonians 2:15-17)

15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. 16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, 17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

He says we are to stand fast, and to hold to sound doctrine. We are to be obedient to the Word of God as we have been taught. We are taught by the Holy Spirit, by Christ Himself, and by whatever teachers He has sent to us.

Ephesians 4:14, 15 says we are to “grow up into Him!” We are to grow to be like Him!

And Ephesians 5:1-20 tells us what that “looks like.” We are to leave behind our old ways, along with all the “unprofitable works of darkness.” We leave the darkness behind, because we now are “children of the light.”

Children of Light

He says that because we are children of the light, we are to walk as the children of light. Behave like a child of God because you have become one, by the new birth. You were born again through placing your full trust in His blood alone for redemption. (Behaving that way as an unbeliever will not save you. But if you truly are a saved child of God, then the results should begin to show in a changed life.)

And (v. 17) as we continue to learn to walk with Him, we can expect that He will “comfort our hearts and establish us in every good word and work.” The result will be that our work and our words will all prove to be to His Glory.

2nd Thessalonians 3

Prayer is Part of That Result

Paul said, 1 Finally, brethren, pray for us.” But, take note of what Paul asks the Thessalonian believers to pray for his sake:

“…that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:

He asked prayer that the Word of the Lord would have “free course,” and be glorified. Flowing water, as in a river or a stream, when unrestricted, is said to have “free course.” The stream’s course, or water-way is not obstructed by anything.

Numerous farmers have had to remove beaver dams. The dams had stopped the flow of water in their irrigation systems. (I am thrilled by God’s creation: that a rodent could instinctively know how to build dams of sticks and mud. And I’m amazed that the dams can hold back thousands of tons of water!) But… I can sympathize with the farmers, who only want the beavers to go somewhere else!) All the farmers hoped to do was to restore the “free course” of the water. That way, the water could freely flow to their fields. In some cases, they needed the water to flow away, draining their fields to prevent flooding.

Praying for “free course” for the Word of God means Paul asked for the obstructions to be removed. He desired that the effect of the Gospel would not be diminished. Also, he said that the unrestricted Word would be glorified in those who heard it. He said, despite their persecution, that the Gospel had  “free course” in Thessalonica.  So, we can see that persecutions are not the “obstructions” to which Paul referred. The obstructions are the arguments of “unreasonable and wicked men.”

And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.”

Looking Back to Berea

Remember what happened in Acts 17:10-14…

10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.

13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. 14 And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still.”

The Bereans

We can see in Acts 17:11 that the people of Berea were receptive. The Word had “Free Course” there. The people “received the Word with all readiness of mind and they searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” That is what we call “free course.” That is the best we can hope for. We want people to hear the word, and go check their Bible to be sure we told them the truth. (Wonderful! That is exactly what we want!)

But, in Acts 17:13 we see that the unbelieving Jews of Thessalonica were not content to have “run Paul out of their own town.” They sent a delegation over to Berea, to do the same thing there! And it worked! The “unreasonable and wicked men” were able to stir up the unbelieving Jews of Berea, just as they did in Thessalonica. So, Paul left town, because he was the one they were mostly clamoring against, but he left Silas and Timothy there to continue teaching the new believers. Paul moved on to Athens, and then to Corinth.

So, How Do We Respond?

Some churches, still today, name themselves after that little town, calling themselves the “Berean Bible Church,” or the “Berean Baptist Church,” or the “Berean Brethren” or some such thing. Why? Because they want to be associated with, and (hopefully) to emulate those who were “noble” in their behavior, at Berea.

Do they actually maintain that attitude? Well…I’m sure it varies. It is easy to start off receptive and obedient to the Written Word. But the tendency is to gather together and work out some sort of  “set-in-stone, no-longer-to-be-questioned DOCTRINAL STATEMENT.” That in itself is not a problem, provided that all it really says is “this is what we have gained so far.”

The problems begin later: The believers may become complacent in their “solid teaching.” And, after that, they frequently quit being receptive. They just “drop anchor” on that document, saying, “This is what WE believe,” and they neglect to “search the scriptures daily, whether these things are so.” At that point, Jesus, the Living Word, no longer has “Free Course” in that assembly, even if the “doctrinal statement” is completely correct. They feel they have “arrived,” and that they no longer need to “Feed on the Word of God.” They have set Jesus aside!

The Hidden Trap of Being “Orthodox”

The word “orthodox” just means having “correct opinions.” But you can have “correct opinions” and still be dead. The whole point is to have those “correct opinions” because the Living Word of God has free course in your life! We need to have those “correct opinions” because we have been born again, and because the Holy Spirit has had the freedom to teach our hearts, not just our minds.

Remember, some time ago, we talked about “having the truth in our library, but not in our living room.” It is entirely possible to “mentally agree” with correct Bible teaching, but not be willing to apply it to one’s own life. Some people claim to “believe the Gospel,” but when they are questioned, it becomes clear that they have never applied it to themselves, personally. It is a good thing for everyone else!

I pray the Lord will grant that we do not make such an error as to become complacent in our “doctrinal correctness.” We must keep feeding on the Word, and searching the scriptures daily. In this way, as we study the Written Word, the Living Word will have “free course” in our lives. We want to eliminate the obstructions in our lives, so that the Holy Spirit is free to flow through us to the world around us.

So, How Can We Avoid the Traps?

3But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.

Our only Hope is in the Person of Christ! In Philippians 2:13, Paul said, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” God both gives us the desire to do His will and carries us through to the doing of it. All we need to do is to be willing, and to make ourselves available to Him for His service, so that we follow Him and obey Him.

Here, in 2nd Thessalonians 3:3, 4. we see the same Hope. Our Hope is in the Person of Christ. As we feed on Jesus, the Living Word, it says, “the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you and keep you from evil.” He is the one to build our “solid teaching” and our “sound doctrine,” and He is the One to continually guide us into deeper truth, and safe relationships and behavior.

We Are Not Alone

We are not left on our own to “build the Church.” In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, “I will build my Church.” Yes, He will use us to accomplish His will, as we submit ourselves to Him, but it is His Church, and He will build it!

In Psalm 23, it says that He makes us lie down in green pastures, and He leads us beside still waters. I am told that sheep only lie down in the pasture when they have been fully fed. They were eating that green grass, and now they are resting in it peacefully. We can rest peacefully because He has fed us on His Word. He “makes us to rest” in that “green pasture.”

Also, we are led by means of His Holy Spirit, the Living Water, because He “leads us beside still waters.” The Holy Spirit does not stir up fear and resentment and chaos among us. There are many loud voices in the world, demanding that we be alarmed. We need to realize that the voice of God brings peace.

The Spirit of Fear or the Spirit of God?

The Holy Spirit does not bring fear and timidity. 2nd Timothy 1:7 says, “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of Love, and of a sound mind.” Remember this when you “hear news” that disturbs you. We are “called to action,” but we are called in Peace.

Gideon was called to do something that would have been terrifying to anyone, in their natural strength. But God provided Strength and Peace. In Judges 7:15, He sent Gideon into the enemy camp at night, along with his servant. There he heard a message from God, through an enemy soldier! That message caused him to worship the Lord for having given them the victory. As a result, he was in complete peace, as they launched an attack against a vast enemy force. He was only allowed to use three hundred men, and all of them had their hands full so that they could not use a weapon!

They were given the same three-fold task as we are given!

  1. Stand fast,
  2. Shine a light, and
  3. Sound the Alarm!

We are to stand fast in Christ, shining the light of transformed lives, in the midst of a dark world. And, as we shine, we are to sound the alarm that Judgment is coming, but that Jesus Saves! And as we do those three things, we can rest in Him.

Current Events and Our Future

Many of you have heard terrible news in the last two days, and we may feel fearful about the outcome. But they had much worse news back then. What did Paul say about responding to their circumstances?

And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.

We are not called to fear the future, but rather to delve deeper into a loving relationship with the Holy God we serve. We are to live in cheerful expectation of His soon return. That is it! And this idea was not new.

Old Testament Truth

Habakkuk expressed this truth in Habakkuk 3:17-19, His “current events” were far worse than ours! In his case, there was no “warning that judgment might fall.” Instead, it was God’s promise that Judgment would fall, and very soon, at that! But Habakkuk chose to find his Peace and Joy in the Person of Christ. He said, “Yet will I rejoice in the LORD. I will joy in the God of my Salvation!

We are called to that same Peace and Joy, regardless of our “current events.” We are called to live every day knowing that He could return today. The only way to do that is to feed daily on His Word, and walk with the Shepherd daily, as His flock, and as His servants.

Lord Jesus, please call us to the three-fold action of Bible Study, Prayer, and Discipleship. Make us aware that the time is short, and that we have only this one opportunity to work with You. Thrill our hearts with the privilege of that opportunity and move us to do Your Will!

What does The Doctrine of “Election” mean, in the Bible?

From the Beginning, God Has Chosen You to Salvation

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

2nd Thessalonians 2:13-17

13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, 17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

Introduction:

There are several key points in this passage. We need to address them one by one: to begin with, notice that this is addressed to believers: “Brethren beloved of the Lord.” If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, then, again, this is to you!

But what about the next phrase: “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation.” How can we understand that, in light of what we know about how people are saved individually, by Grace, through Faith?

How can it be that God has “chosen us to salvation” from the beginning? Have we not already learned that we were born sinners and we were headed for Hell? Are some people “predestined” to Salvation, and others “predestined” to Eternal punishment? (Some people teach exactly that!)

The Doctrine of Election:

The noun phrase, “the elect” means “the chosen.” As a verb, “elect” means, “to choose.” We will run into this idea in several places in the New Testament. So, what, exactly, was the choice that God made before the creation of the World?

According to 1st Peter 1:19, 20, Jesus was “ordained before the foundation of the world” to be the Savior. The word “ordained” means “appointed.” Revelation 13:8 agrees with this, saying that he was the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” But how does that affect us?

In Ephesians 1:4, we see that God chose us “in Him, before the foundation of the World.” So, before the world was created, Jesus, as “God the Eternally Existent Son,” was chosen to become a man. He was sent to die as a sacrifice, providing the full satisfaction of God’s righteousness and holiness.

He was chosen before humans existed…and before sin had entered the world. And those in Him were chosen at that same time! But we were not born “in Him,” originally: we had to be reborn to be placed into Him.

Where did We Start Out?

Ephesians 2:1-5 says we were all dead in our sins. It says that we were all the children of wrath, just like the rest of the world. That is where we began. But we can read in Ephesians 1:12-14 that when we believed the Gospel, placing our trust in Christ, we were sealed in Him by the Holy Spirit. And God sees us as being completely identified with Jesus Christ: He sees us as being holy, blameless, and already dead to sin. We are dead to the Law, and resurrected to a new life in Him.

God’s choice, before the foundation of the World, was that all those who believed His Word concerning Jesus, would be born again as children of God, and placed into the Body of Christ, never to be separated from Him again. He chose us in Him.

Does that mean that some are “predestined” to end up in Heaven, (regardless of what they might choose in life?) While that is commonly believed, it would also require us to believe that the rest of humanity is “predestined” to spend eternity in Hell (regardless of what they choose!)

So, How Can it Be Both Ways?

How can Jesus offer the invitation to “whosoever believeth” when so many people teach that either God chose you to be saved, from eternity past, or He didn’t: and if He didn’t, then you are just without hope and destined for Hell? (“Aw, too bad! You lose!”)

But, you see, the truth is revealed in 1st John 2:2…”And He is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

The word “propitiation” means “satisfaction,” in terms of a legal settlement…a satisfaction of a judgment. In this case, it means that the Holiness of God, and His righteous Judgment was completely satisfied by Jesus dying in our place…but that His death covered the sins of the whole human race, not just the “elect.”

Jesus stated the promise this way: “For God so loved the World…” (meaning, “In this manner God loved the World”) “…that He gave His only Begotten Son…” (The Greek word “monogenés” which is translated “only begotten son,” carries the same idea as the English concept of “crown prince:” The eternal heir…the One who has the eternal relationship of Son to Father, from eternity past. That’s the One whom God gave!) “…that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

You see, that promise of eternal life is offered to “Whosoever!” The sacrifice was offered for the sins of the whole world.

Belief of the Truth

Romans 1:16 very clearly lays out the explanation for this verse. It says that “the Gospel of Christ is THE power of God unto Salvation to everyone that believes…” The “Good News” of Jesus’s death and burial and resurrection for our sins, being believed in, is the only thing God claims as His power to save sinners.

No one has ever been saved apart from the Word of God. 1st Peter 1:23 says that we have been born again “by the Word of God which lives and abides forever.”

So, the “belief of the truth” in 1st Thessalonians 2:13 is in regard to one specific truth: The fact that Jesus shed His Blood for you, personally! This concept is reiterated throughout the New Testament.

What Does Jesus Say About it?

Jesus addressed this idea in John 3:17-1917 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.

19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

Did you see the dividing principle? It was faith! “He that believes” versus “He that does not believe.” He said, “they who believe are not condemned,” and “they who do not believe are condemned already, because of their unbelief.” That is the dividing line!

Then He explained the underlying principle: “Light has come into the World!” (He is the “Light of the World”) and people prefer darkness to light, because their deeds are evil. That is the status of the whole human race! That is our original position. We reject Him as a matter of choice. But, He has now called us to a new positionin Him!

Romans 3:25 makes it even more specific: it states that He is the propitiation… (Remember, that word “propitiation” means the “satisfaction of God’s Holiness and His Righteous judgment”) “…Through faith in His Blood.” It is not just a general statement that “I believe in Jesus:” It means faith in His completed Work at the Cross, as it applies to me, personally!

Sanctification of the Spirit (v. 13)

To “Sanctify” a person (or an object) means to set them (or it) apart for a holy purpose. The vessels in the temple were sanctified for that use, and that use only!

When the Holy Spirit placed you into the Body of Christ, the moment you trusted in His blood sacrifice for your salvation, He also set you apart as God’s private property…for His personal use. He bought you, and you belong to Him. You were permanently sanctified to His use.

He has chosen you to be his personal property as well as the object of His love. He calls us to reflect His holiness in our choices…in our daily lives. That kind of sanctification requires that we set ourselves apart to His service as well. We agree with Him concerning our lives. He calls us to do so continually!  How did He call us?

“He Called you by our Gospel.” (v. 14)

No matter who you are, or when or where you are born, ultimately, you were called to God by the Gospel. Someone told you, or perhaps you were reading something that included the Gospel.

What do I mean by the phrase, “the Gospel?”

I mean the same thing that the Apostle Paul meant, when he cited the “Gospel of Christ” in Romans 1:16, and explained it,in 1st Corinthians 15:3, 4, and it is repeated through all the rest of the epistles. It is the Good News that Jesus Christ died for our sins, in fulfillment of the prophecies and that He was buried, and that He rose again after three days and three nights…and that He is returning for His Bride!

This is what Paul and Silas preached in Thessalonica, and the people heard that call and they believed! That produced a new position! A new Location! And Paul says they were called to “the obtaining of the Glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That is your new location! You have been placed into the Body of Christ, and you are permanently bound to Him, anticipating an eternity of Glory with Him.

What Should the Result Be? (v. 16, 17)

He says we are to stand fast, and to hold to sound doctrine and be obedient to the Word of God as we have been taught by the Holy Spirit and by Christ Himself, and by whatever teachers He has sent to us.

Ephesians 4:14, 15 says we are to “grow up into Him!” We are to grow to be like Him!

And Ephesians 5:1-20 tells us what that “looks like:” We are to leave behind our old ways, along with all the “unprofitable works of darkness,” as we now are “children of the light.”

He says that because we are children of the light, we are to walk as the children of light. Behave like a child of God because you have become one, through the new birth; through placing your full trust in His blood alone for redemption. Behaving that way as an unbeliever will not save you, but if you really are a child of God, then the results should begin to show.

And (v. 17) as we continue to learn to walk with Him, we can expect that He will “comfort our hearts and establish us in every good word and work:” The result will be that our work and our words will all prove to be to His Glory.

Lord Jesus, we desire that our words and our works should be to Your Eternal Glory. Please transform our lives from the inside, by the renewing of our minds through Your engrafted Word. Glorify Yourself in Your people.

What do we Know about The Antichrist?

When Will the Antichrist Be Revealed?

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

2nd Thessalonians 2:1-12

Introduction:

Several times recently, someone has expressed to me concern about “The Antichrist,” or, as he is called in Revelation 13, “the Beast.” Other questions have also come up. (Has the Tribulation already begun? Will the church go through the Tribulation?

The internet is loaded with such suggestions, and we are tempted to feel alarmed, that somehow we have “missed out!” When the Covid vaccinations were being offered, people were saying it was the “Mark of the Beast.” (It absolutely is not!) Whether you choose to take such medicines is up to you. But the “mark” discussed in Revelation 13 is definitely not something that could be hidden in a vaccination. It also is not something that can be “secretly” administered.

So, in light of all these concerns, it seems entirely appropriate that we are just now coming to a passage that will address many of those fears.

Meet the “New Fear!” (Same as The Old Fear!)

There was a fear among the believers in Thessalonica that they had somehow “missed the Rapture.” Or, perhaps, that the Tribulation had already begun. Remember, this is an account from almost 2000 years ago: They didn’t even have television, let alone the internet! But someone told them that the day of the Lord had come! Do you wonder how it happens that the same fear was triggered in Thessalonica 2000 years ago, as is being triggered in us, today? You would almost think that the same deceiver was responsible!  (And he IS!)

Paul assured them that the rumors were not true. Then he gave them the order of events that will begin the tribulation and the final countdown. Let’s read what he said:

1Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

Where did the Fear Come From?

Notice, first, that Paul begged them not to be deceived: He recognized that there were enemies involved. “Someone” may have claimed that a spirit had told them these things. Or perhaps someone said that they had been told by some “authoritative person.” Or it seems that someone had even gone so far as to write a letter, and claim that Paul had sent it to them. Paul said it didn’t matter from where the falsehood had arisen: it was simply false!

Notice that the various possible “sources” still add up to one root source. This is increasingly obvious when we consider that these specific fears and deceptions have been dumped on believers nearly continually, ever since the beginning.

Who would gain by Christians always being afraid and trying to “prepare for a coming tribulation and judgment?” (Especially, as it means we concentrate on that, as opposed to joyfully, fearlessly living out the great Commission which we have received from Jesus?)

What is the Day of Christ?

We have discussed the “Day of the LORD” (all uppercase) as it is addressed throughout the Old Testament Prophets. In the New Testament it is also called the Day of the Lord (normal capitalization.) In several places it says the “Day of the Lord” comes “as a thief in the night.”

The Day of the Lord begins with the Rapture of the Church, as seen in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18. That is the only portion of the Day of the Lord about which it can be said, “it will come as a thief in the night.” All the rest of it is fully laid out in scripture.

It is often given in rather obscure terms, though, and that makes sense. The people who initially received the prophecy (including the prophets themselves) did not understand the message. In Daniel 12:8, 9 Daniel commented that he heard it, but he didn’t understand it! And he was told, effectively, “Write it down, close the book, and run along! The message is not for you, but rather, for the people of the end times!”

Paul’s End-Time Teaching (Eschatology)

In 1st Thessalonians chapters 4 and 5, Paul began to lay out the End-time truths, (sometimes called “eschatology.”) The first “act” in the “Day of the Lord” is the Rapture, and it sweeps directly into the Tribulation, which will culminate in the return of Christ, and the immediate “Judgment of the Living Nations.” (But John tells us this same “Day of the Lord” then continues through the Millennial Kingdom, and it will end with the Great White Throne Judgment.)

As far as I can tell, the “Day of Christ” is identical to the previously named and often referenced “Day of the LORD” (All uppercase, in the Old Testament, showing where the tetragrammaton (YHWH) is used in the Old Testament. The New Testament “Day of the Lord,” (with the lowercase “ord”) is the same event, but using Jesus’s title as “the Master:” the Lord. It is mentioned throughout the New Testament. (Especially, see 1st Thessalonians 5:2)

The only difference might be simply that the New Testament believers are specifically looking forward to the return of Christ, whereas the Old Testament prophecies were including everything from His return at the Rapture and His physical return as Judge and King, all the way through the millennial Kingdom.

When is the Day of the Lord?

In Acts 1:7, Jesus said that it is not given to us to know the times or the seasons. And, here in Thessalonians, Paul makes it clear that neither we nor any other human will know the time of His coming. We won’t know until it is too late to change anything based on that knowledge. But he does give us ample reason to not fear that we have been “left behind.”

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first,…

The Greek word translated “falling away,” here, is “apostasis.” It is where we get our English word, “apostasy.” And it means a “falling away,” just as it is translated, here. It is only used a few times in scripture, and it always is used in a negative sense. While some would like to view it as the catching away of the church at the Rapture, it simply is not used in that way. It is never used in the sense of a “rescue,” or any other “positive” thing.

However! The organized church “falling away from Christ,” and denying Him the honor due Him would be a true apostasy. In Luke 18:8, Jesus posed the question, “When the Son of Man comes, shall He find faith?” (It was a rhetorical question, the implied answer being “NO!”) But, for the complete apostasy of the organized church to occur, the remnant of true believers would have to be entirely removed from the mix, first. And that is what we saw happening, back there, in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18…the removal of the believers.

When Will the Antichrist be Revealed?

With the genuine believers gone, the tribulation can begin, and the “Man of Sin” can be revealed. Paul goes on to describe that person and the events surrounding his entrance on the “World Stage.” (verse three continued.)

3 …and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

This is the one we see in Revelation 13 and in Daniel 9:27. He is the one we call “the Antichrist.” (He is also called the “Son of Perdition:” Ony he and Judas Iscariot are called this name…,and both end up possessed by Satan, personally. There is no other such example.)

Avoid Foolish Speculation

When I was a new Christian, many people speculated that a certain politician was “the Antichrist.” A few years later, they were pointing to a different politician. Obviously, the fifty years of history since then have repeatedly proved them wrong! People repeat this folly every time there is a politician they don’t like. But it is foolish to keep speculating! Right here, in verses three through eight, we read that the Man of Sin will not be revealed until certain things happen. One of those is the apostasy of the church at large. Another, necessarily, is the Rapture which will leave the apostasy of the church complete.

We already read in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18, that the believing church would suddenly be removed. And then, in chapter five, immediately following the departure of the believers, we saw that the Tribulation will begin.

Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?

So, this is the second letter Paul has written to the believers at Thessalonica. And he reminds them that he taught them this when he was still there with them in Thessalonica. (Paul and Silas evidently told them these things before they left town, in Acts 17! We are getting told today!)

What’s the Holdup?

And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth (restrains) will let (restrain), until he be taken out of the way.

So long as the Person, the Holy Spirit, is present, indwelling all the believers, the person of the Antichrist will not be revealed. In 1st John 4:3, we see that the spirit of Antichrist is already in the world and working. But the man called the Antichrist will not be revealed until the Holy Spirit is removed. In John 14:16 we see that the Holy Spirit will be with us forever. Therefore, when He is taken out of the way, we will be going with Him!

When Does all this Take Place?

And then (and not before!) shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

In Revelation chapter 13, we see what kind of “wonders” are in question. Notice that, right here in verse nine, Paul labels those supposed “miracles” as “lying wonders.” They are not “miracles,” but rather, they are false, and specifically intended to deceive.

Most “magicians” today are entertainers. Some are very honest, publicly pointing out that what they are doing is not magic, but rather, a trick that looks like magic. The problem is that, as humans, we are “easily deceived,” and we can be led astray by tricksters who are not honest enough to say, “ This is not magic! It is a trick!” So, we have been warned in advance that such a deceiver is coming and that he will deceive the majority of the world.

Who will be Deceived? (Notice the Tenses, Here:)

The people who (future tense) will be deceived all made choices in the past (before The Rapture unveiled the truth.) And God will (in the future) send them a strong delusion, so that (in the future) they will stick with their earlier (past tense) choice, and so face eternal judgment.

10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not  (past tense) the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall (future tense) send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might (future tense) be damned who (past tense) believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

This is similar to what happened in Egypt: Pharaoh originally hardened his own heart against God. But in the end, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he persisted in his bad decision, past the point of insanity. Everyone else knew God had destroyed Egypt, but Pharaoh was blind to that truth. Those unbelievers who rejected Christ before the Rapture will not “change their minds” when it occurs.

Unbelievers who simply never heard of Him (or who had only heard “bits and pieces,” (never enough to make any sort of decision) will hear the Gospel (through the witnesses God provides during the Tribulation) and millions of them will believe…and many will die for their faith.

But You are NOT to be Deceived!

1st Thessalonians 5:4-11 “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. 11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

So, we are to believe God, and trust Him for the future, and not be deceived by the clamoring voices in the world around us. Then we will be free to serve Him rather than constantly worrying. In doing so, we can comfort one another and build one another up in the Lord. (That is what “edify” means.) That is part of what Jesus calls us to do.

Lord Jesus, we ask that you teach our hearts to trust in you and not to be discouraged by the deceivers in the World. Draw us along to follow you faithfully and fearlessly.