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

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

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 6:9-11

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

Definition of Biblical Terms

We need to define some central terms, here.

Righteous: “Having a right standing with God.”

Unrighteous:Not having a right standing with God.”

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

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

Defined by God: Observed by Behavior and Character

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

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

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

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

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

Our Past

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

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

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

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

So…What Changed?

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

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

But Ye Are Washed!

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

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

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

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

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

Ye Are Sanctified!

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

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

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

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

Ye Are Justified!

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

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

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

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

How Can We Avail Ourselves of the Righteousness Of God?

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

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

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

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

Do You Desire to be Declared Righteous by God?

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

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

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

The Resulting Reward

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

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

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

Judgment, Justice, Grace, and Mercy in the Resurrection

Judgment, Justice, Grace, and Mercy

© 2019 C. O. Bishop (Revised 2024)

Introduction:

How does Easter show the Judgment and Justice of God?

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

Judgment on Jerusalem

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

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

Judgment on Jesus

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

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

The Specific Reasons for The Crucifixion

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

The Scriptures had to be Fulfilled

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

He Fulfilled the Prophecies!

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

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

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

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

So, What is The Good News of the Gospel?

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

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

Why is His Death Good News?

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

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

Why is His Burial Good News?

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

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

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

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

And, The Best News of All: The Resurrection!

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

What is The Result of the Resurrection?

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

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

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

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

But, What about Repentance?

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

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

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

The Result of that Repentance

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

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

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

How To Understand the Coming Judgment

The Coming Judgment

© 2023 C. O, Bishop (Revised 2024)

2nd Thessalonians 1:4-12

So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: 12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Introduction:

We have talked about Judgment as a general Principle, but we only briefly touched upon the Coming Judgment. Some time ago, we studied this passage in 2nd Thessalonians. I’d like to review it so that we can see the broader sense of Judgment, from God: not just between humans.

(Notice that it says in verses six and seven that God will “recompense tribulation to them that trouble you,” and (in contrast,) to you who are troubled, rest, with us.”The believers will receive rest from the harsh realities of living among hostile nations. Those who were their antagonists will face judgment.

There are Five Judgments we should address:

  1. The General Judgment (condemnation) of the World. (John 3:18, 19; Romans 1:18, etc.)
  2. The Judgment of Sin at the Cross. (Colossians 2:14; 1st John 2:2)
  3. The Judgment Seat of Christ (believers) (2nd Corinthians 5:10; 1st Corinthians 3:10-16)
  4. The Judgment of Living Nations (believers and unbelievers Matthew 25:31-46)
  5. The Great White Throne Judgment (unrighteous dead only) (Revelation 20:11-15)

This list is not exhaustive…looking back in time, we can see many judgments. It is important for us to remember that Jesus is always the Judge. He is not “just the Savior:” He is also the Judge. He gave His life to prevent our destruction in the Judgment which His Righteousness requires Him to bring upon the World. But the five I have listed are the judgments we can see ahead of us and which we might be worried about.

Please bear in mind the two promises of God:

  • John 5:24, which says believers will not come into condemnation, and
  • Romans 8:1, 2, which says we have been set free from the Law of Sin and Death, and that “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (these are positional truths. We are “In Christ.” That is our position!

Which of these Five Judgments Affect Believers?

The General Condemnation

Clearly, the General Condemnation of the Human Race once affected every one of us, directly. We all were lost sinners, regardless of our individual qualities or actions. But that is why Jesus went to the Cross! He freed us from that condemnation. It still affects us indirectly, as all the troubles, evil, sickness, suffering, and pain in the world still exist because of the curse that fell in Genesis 3, …and which still has not been lifted. We all die!

The Judgment of Sin at the Cross

Jesus lifted the Judgment of the Curse, by bearing the Judgment of the Cross! Colossians 2:14Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.His blood paid the sin-debt for all humans, past, present, and future. 1st John 2:2 spells it out: “And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole World.”

But the General Condemnation remains for those who reject His sacrifice. (John 3:18 says they are condemned already, because they “have not believed in the only begotten Son of God.”) All that is required of them to escape that Judgment is to choose the Judgment of the Cross, where Jesus bore the judgment of our sins. And the consequence of sin still remains for the whole creation. (See Romans 8:21, 22)

The Judgment Seat of Christ (the “Bema Seat”)

All believers face the Judgment Seat of Christ. (2nd Corinthians 5:10) But this judgment is concerning the works of believers. It is an “awards ceremony.” We can read some details about it in 1st Corinthians 3:10-16. Our works will be evaluated for their lasting, eternal value. Reward for service will be awarded on the basis of that Judgment. And it is for believers only.

When workers “line up for their pay” in a large factory, or in a military organization, perhaps, they have to already be an employee, or already a member of the armed forces. Working without having been an employee does not bring reward: rather, it brings punishment for trespassing, or for impersonating a member of the military. People claiming to be believers who are not are in serious trouble! Until they choose by personal faith, to place themselves under His Blood, for salvation, they are still under His condemnation.

But, a believer’s works can lack eternal value, too. In John 15:5, Jesus said, “Apart from Me ye can do nothing.” So, if we are not walking with Him, and are not working with Him, then our works may “look good,” outwardly, but their value is questionable.

The Judgment of the Living Nations

Matthew 25:31-46 gives us the most details about this judgment. It includes the survivors of the tribulation, both believers and unbelievers. They are all in their natural bodies and all are facing judgment. They will either enter the Millennial Kingdom alive, right then, or enter eternal punishment as enemies of God…right then!

There are numerous mentions of this “division of the people by the omniscient Judge,” but this passage allows us to see when it will happen (at the end of the Tribulation, immediately after Jesus’s physical return to earth. Compare Revelation 19.) It tells us where it will occur: on planet Earth…and, very likely at Jerusalem, as it says, “He shall sit upon the throne of His Glory.” He will be reigning from Jerusalem, so the Judgment will likely take place there.

This Judgment, as usual, will be based upon faith or the lack thereof; but, in this case, that faith will have been evidenced by how the people treated the Jews. The Tribulation saints, people who believed in Jesus as their Savior, will have expressed that faith by caring for His people. People who do not believe will not care for His people. The determining factor is always faith.

The Great White Throne Judgment

Remember that the Judge, in all the cases we have listed, is Jesus Christ. John 5:22 says He is the only Judge. Jesus said, “The Father judgeth no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son.” (That means the “Judge of all the Earth” in Genesis 18:25, with Whom Abraham spoke face-to-face, was also Jesus!) So, the One sitting on the Throne, in Revelation 20:11, is Jesus, in His full Glory.

It is interesting to see that in Genesis 3:8 in the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve heard “the voice of the LORD God walking in the Garden in the cool of the day,” they fled at the sound of His voice, and they hid. (That was Jesus, too! God the Son is the Member of the Trinity who always shows up to walk and talk with humans.)

So, now, at the very end of time, Jesus shows up on the Great White Throne as the Eternal Judge. And all the progeny of Adam and Eve respond the same way they did! It says, “Heaven and Earth fled from before His face.”

And that is when the Judgment of 2nd Peter 3:10 will also occur: “The heavens and earth shall pass away with a fervent heat and a great noise.” (Revelation 21:1confirms this connection.)

What About the Church?

So where will the church-age believers be, during that judgment? We will be with Him on that throne! According to Ephesians 2:6, we are already there. And Jesus promised, saying “…that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:3)

Will we be “happy” to be at that judgment? No! It will be a terrible tragedy, worse than any tragedy in human history! But we will absolutely know and agree that God the Son is doing right, by making that judgment. And it is after that judgment that He says, “He will wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Revelation 21:4 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

You see, that will be the final Judgment and the end of all death, sorrow, crying, and pain.

Psalm 30:5 says, “…weeping may endure for a night, but Joy cometh in the Morning!” Jesus is called the Morning Star, and His Day is eternal. That is the “Morning” we all long to see!

Why are Believers Excluded from these final Judgments?

(2nd Thessalonians 1:10)

“…because our testimony among you was believed…”

We are saved by Grace, through Faith, plus Nothing! The Thessalonian believers were saved sinners, just like us. But Paul said that the Lord will be worshipped and admired by all those who believe in Him, and then he specifically reminds them of how they became believers. Paul and Silas had brought the message of Salvation to Thessalonica, in Acts 17. Those who became believers did so because they believed the testimony of Paul and Silas. They believed the Gospel!

The long-term effect of believers’ faith is the eternal worship of Christ, as our Redeemer. And, when He returns, believers who are still in their natural bodies (those in Matthew 25:31-46) will, for the first time, be seeing Jesus in His full glory!

What Should be the Result of all this “Positional Truth?”

All of the things we have talked about so far, (except the results of the Judgment Seat of Christ) have been positional Truths. They are true because we are “In Christ.” That is our location: our position. But positional truths should result in conditional changes!

Wherefore…

11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: 12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul says that he was praying for the believers that their lives would be pleasing to God so that He would agree that they lived up to their calling: That they were acting in a manner worthy of their family connection to Him.

The Result

And the result in their lives was that God would fulfil the Good Pleasure of His Goodness in them, and that His Grace would be manifested in their lives and that others would Glorify God because of what they could see happening in the lives of those believers. They would see the power of God working in the lives of the believers and the work of faith being done by the believers.

This is why we take seriously His commands that we are to love one another and to work together to glorify Him. We avoid criticizing one another for things that God does not call “sin,” and we collectively avoid doing or saying things that dishonor the Lord.

It requires that we “use good judgment” as we discussed last week, and avoid “bad judgment.”

And the result? “That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you and you in Him”…all according to the Grace of the Father and the Son. We are not to fear condemnation from God, but it is healthy to fear displeasing Him because it means we are missing out on our only opportunity to serve with Him.

We want to reflect His glory, and not shroud it with our own folly and sin. He has called us to shine in this sin-dark world, as we reflect His light.

Lord Jesus, we desire to see you as our Savior and our Lord; We know we will stand before you at the Judgment seat to receive reward, and we desire to be worthy of that reward. Teach us to consistently walk with you, and let our daily behavior have eternal worth.

Salvation or Rewards: A Gift or Wages?

Salvation or Rewards: A Gift or Wages?

© 2024 by C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 3:9-15

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry (a cultivated field), ye are God’s building (In other places this building is called the “Temple” or “habitation” of God).

10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Introduction:

We have seen the difference between the ministry of Paul and the ministry of Apollos. Paul said, “I planted, and Apollos watered. But God gave the increase.” Paul goes on to use a slightly different metaphor. Remember that he used two ideas in verse nine. He likened us first to a cultivated field, and then to a building.

So, as appropriate to the first metaphor, he said that he (Paul) had planted, and Apollos had watered. But then he moves on to the second metaphor…the building…an edifice of some kind. And in verse ten, he says, “I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon.”

Consider the Cultivated Field

When a farmer plants a field with seed, he doesn’t step back and say, “There is a fruitful field!” He waits and watches to see the germination take place and the leafing-out of whatever the young plants are. Finally, he is grateful to see the field bearing the fruit he hoped for.

What About a Building?

Consider how a General Contractor, specializing in concrete work, begins a project. He completes the excavation for the building site. Thinking ahead, he makes allowances for the wiring and plumbing that must also happen. He will lay down the necessary loads of crushed rock, onto which the concrete foundation will be poured. The contractor erects the plywood forms, into which he will pour the concrete. Ultimately, he will pour the concrete, making certain to leave no air-voids.

Finally, after the concrete is sufficiently cured, he will strip the forms from the newly cured concrete. Then he may hand-trowel a layer of finishing mortar onto the portions that may remain exposed. He may also apply various additives or sealants to enhance the longevity or looks of that foundation.

The Foundation is Complete and Permanent!

But at some point, he can say, “I have laid the foundation!” And, as a general contractor, he would then turn the work over to the other builders who will complete the structure in the prescribed manner, according to the plan of the Architect.

This is the metaphor Paul introduces in this passage: And the whole context teaches the result of the efforts of the subsequent builders.

Our question, then, becomes, “What am I accomplishing as I build upon the foundation which has been laid in my life?”

The Foundation

He says, “As a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon.

In the case of the “cultivated field,” once the farmer had planted the seed, others completed the remaining cultivation. Those who watered that field did the rest, and God brought the increase. But, in the case of the building, once the foundation has been laid, the rest of the building is for someone else to accomplish.

In any physical building, if the foundation is of questionable quality, then the subsequent building is unsecure, regardless of the craftsmanship of the builders. If the ground under the “foundation” is unstable, then even the foundation is unsecure.

But, in this case, Paul identifies the Foundation: He explains in verse 13 that the foundation is Jesus Christ. (In other passages, we find that He is also the Monolithic Bedrock under the “foundation” in our lives.) Everything that has become “possible” in our lives, as new believers is only possible because of the absolute security of that foundation. Jesus said, “Upon this Rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” (And He was not referring to Peter!) Jesus is the Rock of our Salvation, and He is the Foundation of the Work God plans to accomplish in our lives.

The Gift

Think clearly about this: You did not lay the foundation! Someone else came to you with the Gospel of Christ and eventually, one way or another, you chose to believe it. God, through the agency of  that other person, laid the Foundation of Christ in your life at that moment. Paul brought Christ to Corinth, and, in doing so, he laid the foundation there in Corinth. They did not do it for themselves. It was the gift of God.

The Foundation was a gift! Salvation is a gift! What you do with that gift after having received it, is another matter. Paul warns that the character of  resulting overall construction is up to you to decide, moment-by-moment and day-by-day.

The Warning: “Let Every Man Take Heed!”

Paul said, “But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.”

“Take Heed!” (Pay attention!) Listen up! There is a caveat, here! A warning: Salvation is a gift! But rewards are not! This matter can easily confused us. Some teach that salvation is the reward for good behavior. That is absolutely false! You cannot earn salvation. You can receive it as the gift of God, precious beyond price and beyond imagination, or you cannot receive it at all.

Example one

I visited in the home of a man in Mexico, many years ago. He was a coppersmith…a very good one. He had personally hand-forged a beautiful copper pan for my wife as a gift. I do not speak even semi-fluent Spanish. However, during that evening I had shared the Gospel with this man. He rejected it, saying, it is too easy: “I have to earn it!” I thought for a moment, then felt in my pocket as if for money, and said, “So, how much do you want for that copper “casserole” you made for Ann?”

He instantly was furious: “No! That was a gift!

“That’s right, “I replied. “You are angry because I offered to pay for the gift you made for Ann, aren’t you?” He was still angry, so he blurted “YES!”

So I asked, “How much more angry do you think God may be, that you are offering to pay for the blood of His only Son?” His countenance changed, and his eyes went round, as he realized what he quite literally had been doing. I never saw him again, but I know that, at that moment, he understood the Gospel for the first time. What he ultimately chose to do about it, I don’t know. But I hope to see him in eternity.

Salvation is a Gift!

We have received a gift, each of us who has placed our trust in Christ. We have eternal life.

Example two

On another occasion, later, not knowing that the young lady to whom I was speaking was not a believer, I was only trying to teach her about her security in Christ. Eventually, I offered her a dime, saying, “Here: take this!”

She took it, and I asked, “Now, whose dime is that?”

She replied, “It’s mine, now!”

So, I asked, “But what did you do to get it?”

And she (bless her heart) said, “Nothing! I just reached out and took it!”  

And then she started crying! I was thoroughly confused, since I really didn’t understand what was happening. So, I finally prayed with her, and she gave me a ferocious hug, and then she and her husband drove away. That was January 9th, 1994.

Two weeks later, she explained to me that she was born again that day, as she simply believed God and received the GIFT of eternal life in Christ. GOD laid the foundation, that day, even though I did not at all understand what was going on!

And it was a gift!

But, Rewards are NOT Gifts!

The warning here is that we can receive rewards…or NOT, depending on how we respond to the Lord after receiving that gift.

I have frequently heard people say of someone who recently died that “He has gone to his reward!” And, in most cases, they were not even saying the person was a believer…only that they were dead! As an unbeliever, had I died before I was eighteen, my “reward” or “wages” would have been eternity in Hell! Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of Sin is Death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord!”

But, here in 1st Corinthians 3:9-15, Paul tells us that a reward is possible! And he says that the reward is commensurate with the work done, as we have either “worked with Jesus” or we have rebelled and “worked on our own…” choosing our own ideas of “how to please God,” as opposed to what His Word says.

The Building Materials

Paul continues his metaphor in verse 12, now likening the product of our lives, the “building” we are producing, as being of “different grades of building materials.” 

He chose two categories of materials: the first group, “Gold, Silver, Precious stones,” when considered as building materials, were completely outside the reach of anyone but the wealthiest of individuals. The second group were materials that even the poorest people could probably acquire, though there was still some expense, most likely, and a good deal of work as well.

It is not just about the cost of the Materials

One group implies “intrinsic value,” while the other does not! However, in verse 13, Paul tells us a far more important difference between the two groups: one is combustible, and one is not!

He says the final test of our works will not be so much upon how much work we did to accomplish it, how “important” it seemed, nor how “skilled” we are, but upon the intrinsic value of the materials and their permanence. He says that our work will be tested by fire.

So, where would a person get the “Gold, and Silver, and Precious Stones” that Paul mentions, here? Think forward a bit: In 2nd Peter 3:10, God also says that in the day of the final judgment, “the elements will pass away with a fervent heat and a great noise!” (Yes… but, “Gold and Silver and Precious Stones” are “elements,” too, aren’t they? Won’t they just be burned up?)

Materials From God are Eternal

Therefore, we are not talking about literal, physical wealth here, which none of those believers had, anyway. (Including the Apostles: Remember, it was Peter (and John) who said, addressing the lame man, “Silver and Gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee: In the Name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”)

The building materials God wants us to use, have to come from Him! That is why Jesus said, in John 15:5, “Apart from Me ye can do nothing!” The work has to be the direct result of our “pulling in double harness” with Jesus! That is why verse 9 says, “We are laborers together with God!”

The Result: Reward or Loss

Finally, in verses 14, and 15, Paul says that the result of the testing for permanence and value will be either that our work simply burns up like a barn with a haymow fire, or that it still remains, and a reward will be given. He points out that the foundation is permanent: He says that if any believer’s work burns up, the believer himself will still be saved, but “as one escaping through the flames.”

Was there a Reward for Lot?

Abraham’s nephew, Lot comes to mind as a prime example: He had already received great riches as a result of his travels with Uncle Abraham. But he squandered that fine start by moving into the City of Sodom. Ultimately, when God destroyed Sodom, Lot and his immediate family were saved, but they lost everything: The angels dragged them out of town, and whatever they dragged with them was all they had left. If it were not for the fact that, in 2nd Peter 2:6-8, God specifically names Lot as being a righteous man, I would never have guessed he was a saved man! And that helps secure my faith that He will save me, too! He laid the foundation!

But the reward is another matter! Lot came out of the City of Sodom with essentially nothing but his life! His salvation was a gift! But, there was no reward for his behavior!

Will there Be a Reward for Us?

Paul tells us that we have a choice: we can learn to “pull with Jesus in double harness,” being “laborers together with God,” thereby receiving from Him (and building with) the materials that have eternal intrinsic value, and eternal substance that will outlast this life…or not.

Let’s pursue the goal of learning to walk with Jesus, as His flock: learning to work with Jesus as His partners in the Work of God. The result, whether we follow or not, will have eternal results, for better or for worse.

Lord Jesus, please teach us to walk with You and to serve as your agents here in the fallen world in which we live. We know that we are Your ambassadors, but we want to be faithful at that work, serving with You looking for eternal results.

Learn to See The Problem and the Symptoms of Carnality

The Problems with (and the Symptoms of) Carnality

© 2023 by C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 3:1-9

1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers (servants) by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

For we are labourers together with God: ye (plural) are God’s husbandry (Greek ”georgion”…a cultivated field, singular)  ye (plural) are God’s building (singular.)

Introduction:

Remember that in chapter two, Paul introduced the difference between a “Natural” man and a “Spiritual“ man. We saw that the “natural” man was unsaved…unregenerate, having only his old sin-nature. The “spiritual” man is in complete contrast. He was not only born again (“regenerate”), but also in direct submission to the Spirit of God. He not only has a new nature, but he is also in fellowship with God, and submitted to God’s direction. We chose to skip ahead to chapter three, to see that there also is a “third category.”

Paul describes the Carnal man, here in chapter three. This is a regenerate person, savedborn again, but one who is not currently in submission to the Lord. He or she is walking “in the flesh.”

The word “carnal” simply means, “of, or pertaining to flesh.”

When a person orders a bowl of “chili con carne,” in a restaurant, the name literally means, “chili with flesh…with meat!

So, Paul is introducing the concept of “fleshly living.” This idea gets treated in several places in the New Testament. It is by no means an “obscure” idea. (In Galatians 5:13-25, Paul addresses this contrast. He shows the difference between walking in the flesh (old sin nature) and walking in the Spirit, in some detail.)

The Problem of Carnality

The primary problem with Carnality is that you are separated from fellowship with God!

1st John 1:5, 6 states that “God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all! If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth!

We are living a lie, when we are out of fellowship with the Holy God who bought us! Especially when we pretendi that “Everything is fine! I’m just praising the Lord!”

John goes on to show the simple act of repentance involved in restoring that condition of fellowship with God. (Your position in Christ is not in question. Your condition of either being in or out of fellowship with Him is in question.)

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confess means (“agree with God”)

This is not a “religious ritual” of any kind. This “confession,” usually, is to God, and not to others, unless others have been affected by our sin. There is no hierarchy of priests through which we must pass to approach God. We approach freely, through the Cross. No “self-flagellation” is called for. Nor is there even any “doing penance” required. (And certainly no “Hail Mary’s,” in which the penitent is actually reciting a prayer of worship to Mary.) Confession is not a “sacrament.” Also, there is no ritualistic “format” for us to follow. Confession is simply agreeing with God concerning your sins and then pressing on to walk with Him in fellowship again.

Another Result of Carnality

A carnal Christian cannot understand much of God’s Word. (And usually isn’t really interested, either, as the Word of God constantly sheds light on the life of the reader. When we are in sin, we don’t like to see ourselves as we are!) But, while we are out of fellowship with Him, we cannot understand beyond the “baby-food” concepts of God’s Word.

We struggle with the “solid food” servings. We either “choke” on them, rejecting the teaching, or we simply don’t understand it, and we walk away confused. Therefore, Paul sadly said that he could not feed them on “solid food.”

They were not able to bear the “solid food” teaching, because they were still babies. He could only feed them on “milk.”

Babies are Wonderful, But…

A newborn believer need feel no shame at being a babe in Christ. He is supposed to be a “baby Christian!” But he also is called to rapidly grow out of that status, by feeding on the milk of God’s Word! (See 1st Peter 2:2, KJV.) There is no shame in physical babyhood, either. We become concerned, however, when a physical baby fails to physically mature at a “normal” rate. We are to progress to the solid food of God’s Word, and to a mature response to God’s Word.

In Hebrews 5:11-14, however, Paul complains that the recipients of that letter should have been teachers by that time, but that, instead, they had regressed to being babes. The reason the Corinthian believers were still babies, is because they were “failing to thrive.” Paul was only correcting them, in this passage, and warning of the consequences if they continued in carnality.

The Hebrew believers, though, were a different case. Because of their Jewish heritage and upbringing, they (perhaps) knew God’s Word better than the Corinthians ever would. But they had backslidden into such deep carnality that they were having to return to baby-food, as opposed to “solid food.” They had to return to the foundational teaching of God’s Word.

Warnings to Pretenders

He scolded the Hebrew believers pretty sharply, and then (in chapter six) he warned that, if they were not really believers at all, but just “fooling themselves,” then the potential was there for eternal loss. This warning was for people who were just pretending to believe: those who were just “going along for the ride.” But those genuine believers in chapter five, who were simply “wallowing in the mire,” so to speak, he sharply admonished to “get up and get moving!”

Lost Opportunities

Later in this chapter of first Corinthians, we will see that there are eternal results for sinning believers, too, but that they themselves will be saved, though their potential rewards will be lost.

Consider what he was saying to the believers in Hebrews 5:12. If they were supposed to be teachers by now and were not, then they were missing out on opportunities to serve with Jesus! (Read 1st Corinthians 3:9 carefully!) We are called to be laborers with God!

The Hebrew believers were missing out on the opportunity to “join Jesus in double harness” and, together with Him, to do the work of God. What a tragic loss! We only get one shot at this target, so to speak: we either use the short life He gives us by investing it in His agenda, or… we don’t!

Eternity is not an opportunity for “do-overs.” We can’t “change our mind,” in eternity, and go back and do the things we should have done. We can “change our minds” now,  and choose to invest our time and our efforts, our abilities and our “wherewithal in general,” to join Him in His work.

Symptoms of Carnality

It seems odd that one of the “Symptoms of Carnality” that Paul first addressed was the pattern of division and sectarianism that was already taking root in Corinth (and elsewhere.)

Today, we still see that pattern of dividing over “who is our preferred teacher.” But, ironically, we frequently are taught to think that such “separatist” behavior is somehow a mark of maturity. The Pharisees seemed to think that way, didn’t they? Jesus called out the praying Pharisee, who claimed to be “Thanking God that he, himself, was one of the Good Guys, not like that poor slob over there!” (Luke 18:9-14) From outward appearance, the Pharisee seemed to be following the Law, but inwardly, it was just pious pride. There was no fellowship with God involved.

When we separate ourselves from other believers (even secretly) over non-essentials, we are in sin. The result will be carnality, and everything we do while out of fellowship is empty of eternal value. Jesus said the tax-collector in Luke 18:13 (“publican” in the KJV) went home justified ( it means “declared righteous”) by God, and the “self-justified” Pharisee, who declared himself to be righteous, did not! God did not approve of his self-righteousness!

There is a “self-satisfaction,” and a “self-justification” rooted in all “I know more than they do,” or, “I serve more than they do,” or even “I listen to a better teacher on the radio than they do….” You see, all of those things come from the flesh. It is carnality!

In Contrast

Paul had the humility to see that Apollos, far from being a “Johnny-come-lately,” was a powerful tool in God’s hand, just as he himself was. He said, “We are both just servants! God is bringing the results!”

Paul pointed out that while he and Apollos did not have the exact same assignment, they were both being used by God to achieve the same goal. Paul was taking the Gospel where it had never gone, as he says in Romans 15:20.

Apollos was being used to teach and to powerfully convict the hearts of those who had already heard the Gospel, but were still unconvinced. (See Acts 18:24-28)

And Paul recognized that neither he nor Apollos was anything “special.” He simply counted it a privilege to have his life be used by God to do the work of God. He lived by Grace, which is “unearned favor.” Some teachers attempt to make “grace” mean “power.” It does not: it means “unearned favor:” a gift. But it is by the gift of God that we are allowed to serve and given the wherewithal to do so.

Future Reward

Paul also knew that a reward for faithfulness was coming. He said, “and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.” That word “every” is pretty important: It means that every single believer has the opportunity to serve. And it means that every single believer who consistently seeks to serve will also receive reward for his or her service.

What an amazing thing! In John 15:5, Jesus said, “apart from me ye can do nothing.” In Philippians 2:13, Paul confirms that “it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” And, here, in 1st Corinthians 3:7, Paul says that “God giveth the increase.”

But: the very next verse promises us that the “tools” through which He accomplishes His work will be rewarded as if they themselves had done it! That is a mind-boggling truth! We are not sent out to work “on our own,” at all! We either serve with Jesus, or not at all! But if we serve with Him, despite the fact that He is the One doing all the work, He promises a reward to us for simply “cooperating” and allowing Him to work through us!

Working With Jesus

He goes on to say that “we are laborers together with God!” God is doing the work. We have the privilege of “going to work with our Heavenly Father,” and doing with Him whatever He “sends us to do.” But he rewards us, as if we were the real workers. And He blesses us as we serve. We are not “blindly slaving away,” hoping what we are doing somehow has eternal value.

In terms of salvation, Jesus did every bit of the work, at the Cross!  But in terms of service, we always have a moment-by-moment choice: “Will I serve the Savior, by serving with Him, or will I just serve myself?

An Example of “Serving Self”

Years ago, when New Tribes Mission was first setting up one of their woodland “Jungle Camp” training programs, in Eastern Oregon, one of the necessary tasks (obviously) was to dig the pits for the various outhouses, there in the woods. It was a hard, thankless task, but it was divided between all the men, so that no one person was bearing the burden alone.

One of the trainees, that year, had been a pastor of a church somewhere before entering the mission. He evidently thought that was “special.” Another man, a friend of mine, when walking past the pit where this man was taking his turn digging, overheard him complaining, over and over, that This is no way to treat a pastor!”  

Do you see the difference between his attitude and that of Paul and Apollos? It was not a surprise to my friend when that man, shortly thereafter, dropped out of the training program. You see, he did not want to be aservant.” So, he was disqualified by God from serving.

How can We Follow Jesus’s Example?

Jesus said, in Matthew 20:28, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many!” We need to examine our own motives and ask ourselves, “Who am I really serving? What would He have me to do? Where is my heart attitude in all of this?

Lord Jesus, please open our eyes to the difference between spirituality and carnality. Lead us to repentance, so that we can serve You in the newness of the Spirit, not allowing our old sin natures to undermine the work of God in our hearts.

“O Holy Night!” Why we Still Celebrate the Birth of Christ

O Holy Night! Why do we Celebrate the Birth of Christ?

© 2023  C. O, Bishop

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining, It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope! The weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born.

Introduction:

Many people ask, “Why do we celebrate the Birth of the Messiah, when His death and resurrection are what are important?”

That is a reasonable question. Unfortunately, others question the truth of (or the relevance of) the Virgin Birth, saying “It really doesn’t matter whether that is true or not!”

Sadly, many of those people claim that all the “supernatural” occurrences in the Bible are mythological at best, and fraudulent at worst. Even worse, they usually deny the existence of true Prophecy, saying, “Daniel could not have known about these things so, obviously, the book is a much later forgery, falsely claiming Daniel as the author.”

Of course, the problem with all of these ideas is, they start with the assumption that the Bible is not the literal Word of God…and that there is no such thing as true prophecy, because “You can’t know things that have not yet happened!”

But, What Does God Say About Prophecy?

God says, in Isaiah 46:9, 10,“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,  Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:”

God demonstrates repeatedly His ability to foretell the future (with 100% accuracy.) He predicted events occurring anywhere between “the next few minutes” to thousands of years future. And, that unique ability is part of the “Credentials of the Creator.” God does not waste time convincing the Human race that He exists. But God does take the trouble to demonstrate Who He is, and What He is like.  He wants us to know Him, but on His terms.

The Earliest Promise of a Savior

God made the first promise of a Savior in Genesis 3:15, immediately after the human race fell into sin. We were spiritually separated from God, and we were dead in sin. But He promised us the Coming Redeemer. We sing a Christmas hymn, “O Holy Night.” Placide Cappeau wrote the original French words in 1843. He eventually entitled it, “Cantique de Noël.”

We sing, “O Night divine, O Night when Christ was born!” But, in the original French, it was “Noel! Noel! (He is Born!) Voici le Redempteur!” (There He is! The Redeemer!”)

The English translator chose to “skirt” the issue of our needing a redeemer. (I do not know why.) He addresses only the Holiness of the Messiah, and what effect He would have upon the World. (All of which is Good…but without specifically redeeming sinners, none of that “Good Effect” can happen!) I don’t know why he avoided that point. But, happily, the French author recognized that the Promise of the Ages, the promise of our redemption, was beginning to be fulfilled in that Holy Birth!

God promised the coming Redeemer in Genesis 3:15. But He included the fact that the Redeemer would be “The Seed of the Woman.” No one else in history has literally fulfilled that promise! Therefore, the Virgin Birth was a critical part of the fulfillment! Isaiah 7:14 confirms it, saying “The Virgin shall be with Child and shall bear a Son, and shall call His Name Emmanuel.” (“God with us!”)

Worshipping the Son of God

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming; With glowing hearts by his cradle we stand:
So, led by light of a star sweetly gleaming, Here come the wise men from Orient land,
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger, In all our trials born to be our friend;
He knows our need, To our weakness no stranger! Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend! Behold your King! your King! before him bend!

Both authors encourage us to hear the worship of the angels, and to join them in worshipping the infant Savior. Several Christian leaders have told me that “We aren’t supposed to worship Jesus.” That is very odd, because in Hebrews 1:6 it says, “…and, again, when He bringeth in the First-begotten into the World, He saith, and let all the angels of God worship Him!”

So… they are evidently saying,  “All the Angels of God are commanded to worship Jesus—God the Son—but we are not supposed to do so!” (How strange!) Jesus did receive worship from humans on several occasions during His earthly ministry… and He did not turn them away! When someone tells me to not worship Jesus, I have to wonder about their motive!

These lyrics correctly tell us to Worship the Redeemer, as did the wise men and the angels!

But, Why is His Birth so Important?

Jesus came to redeem us: to do so, He had to shed His Blood…to lay down His life. He had to fulfill the prophecies of His torture and the shame that was piled on Him: He had to specifically suffer death by crucifixion, as described in the Old Testament (Psalm 22, for example.) But, he couldn’t do it without having a fully human body!

Part of the “Law of the Kinsman Redeemer” was that the Redeemer had to be a near relative (we will be studying this law in the next few weeks in the Wednesday evening Bible Study, in the Book of Ruth.) If Jesus had failed to become Human and live His life out as an ordinary man, he could not be the Redeemer! He would not have been related to us!

How Did Jesus Become our “Near Relative?

Hebrews 10:5-7 says, Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.

When did He say this? When He came into the World! The Virgin Birth was specifically how God the Father provided a fully Human but undefiled body for Jesus to offer at the Cross!

And He Was Free, Himself!

You see, the second point of the Law of the Kinsman Redeemer was that the Redeemer could not be a slave, himself. Jesus was never a slave to Sin, as all of the rest of us are, by birth! He alone had the Virgin Birth, and was born uncontaminated! (“A Body thou hast prepared for me!)

Thus, He Had the Price of Our Redemption

He chose to become a near relative; He demonstrated that He was not a slave to Sin,, Himself, and He had the price of our redemption! Therefore, when we consider that the Savior’s birth was the beginning of the ultimate fulfillment of ALL the promises regarding the redemption of Lost Sinners, then Yes, the Birth of Christ seems very important!

So, Who Is He Going To Be, As an Adult?

This Child was born in Bethlehem. (By the way, that was also spelled out, 700 years in advance! See Micah 5:2) And, he must be someone really special! But how was he to be “special?” Did He have Super-human capabilities? Or was He visibly something special?

No! Isaiah 53:2 says “…He has no form nor comeliness and when we shall see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him.”

Those who watched him growing up were unimpressed, except on a few rare occasions when He showed His wisdom (Luke 2:46, 47.) Their conclusion was that He was “Just a man! Just a Carpenter!” (Mark 6:3)

But, What had God predicted about Him?

Isaiah 9:6, 7 says, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Breaking down the List:

Notice the things we are told in this passage, about the Child who would be born; the Son, who was promised to be given:

  • He is born to us as a Child, and given to us as the Son!
  • The Government shall be upon His Shoulder (He will be the ultimate Ruler!)
  • His name shall be called:
    • Wonderful, Counsellor,
    • The Mighty God!
    • The Everlasting Father!
    • The Prince of Peace!
  • There will be NO END of His Rule, nor of His Peace!
  • This Child will reestablish the throne of David in Jerusalem, and
  • He himself will reign from there!
    • He will forever reign with Judgment and Justice
  • The Zeal of the LORD of Hosts will perform this!

Who is the LORD of Hosts?

One of the Names that appears in the Old Testament is “The LORD of Hosts” (sometimes translated as “Jehovah Sabaoth,” or “Lord Sabaoth.” As many are aware, the four-consonant “tetragrammaton” in the Old Testament is the personal name of the Creator. And yet, He frequently appeared in Person. When He did so, He was recognized as God in the Flesh.

But, John 1:18 says that “No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” So, in passages like Genesis 18, who were people talking to? Abraham not only saw the LORD, but talked with Him, fed him lunch, and argued with Him face-to-face. So, who was he talking to?

By the given facts, we have to confess that the Person with whom Abraham (and others) spoke was God the Son…the only member of the Godhead who ever shows up visibly, and in Human form.

When the Lord of Hosts showed up in the Old Testament, it was Jesus! And, it says that His Zeal would be what would perform all that is in Isaiah 9:7. To me, that is Mind-boggling!

What Effect will He have on His People?

So, we move on to see what effect He has on those who place their trust in Him:

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is Love and His gospel is Peace;
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother, And in his name all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we; Let all within us praise his Holy name!

Christ is the Lord, O praise His Name Forever! His pow’r and glory, evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory, evermore proclaim!

Don’t Circumvent the Cross!

In the English lyrics the fact of the Redemption is passed over and the effect is stressed. Many world religions seek the effect of thepresence of God, without coming to Him on His terms. Cain wanted to bring a worship offering, in Genesis 4, without bringing the sin-offering first. He saw no need for the Blood! He was circumventing the Cross, as so many religions do today.

Jesus became our Redeemer by willingly bringing the required Price of our redemption. The Kinsman Redeemer had to have the “price of redemption (in our case, it was Jesus’s sinless life, laid down for our redemption.) And he had to be willing to pay that price. In the Book of Ruth, we saw that the nearest relative (who was unnamed) had the first three requirements:

  • Whoever he was, he was a near relative,
  • He was free, himself,
  • He had the price of redemption (money, in that example,)

But he was not willing! Boaz had all three of the first requirements, and he also had the fourth: He was willing! So, Boaz stands as an Old Testament figure of the Messiah…our Redeemer!

Jesus came to die! He willingly laid down His life for our redemption! In John 10:17, 18, He says, “No man takes my life from me: I lay it down of my own will, and I will take it up again!”

The Effects are still valid!

  • He taught us to Love One another!
  • His Law is Love.
  • His Gospel is Peace
  • He sets the Prisoners free…we are no longer slaves to Sin.
  • He frees us from the tyranny and oppression of satanic attack in our lives as believers.
  • And, yes, we sing songs of grateful praise!

Fortunately, despite the lack of the doctrine of Redemption in the English lyrics, this hymn still is teaching good doctrine, and it thrills our hearts to sing it. But it is especially good to know that the original French writer understood the core issue: This Child is the Redeemer!

Lord Jesus, awaken in us the Spirit of Worship and Praise. Raise us up as Your servants, and let us Praise Your Name, as the song says! Make us fearless witnesses for your Glory, to proclaim your salvation and redemption to those You came to save.

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 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.

Being Counted Worthy of the Kingdom of God

Being Counted Worthy

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

2nd Thessalonians 1:1-5

Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;

So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:

Introduction (Long):

We are sometimes fearful that somehow we will not “measure up” and that we will be left behind, or booted out of the family of God. We harbor doubts about whether we are “good enough” or consistent enough, or sincere enough, and, despite Jesus’s promises that we are secure in Him, we tend to doubt, just as Peter and the other disciples did.

Peter believed Jesus, sufficient to walk on the water, one stormy night! And, just a few seconds later, he doubted, and he sank! But Jesus caught him and walked with him back to the boat.

Jesus said in John 6:29 that the “work” God asks of sinners, in order to please Him, is to “believe on Him whom He hath sent.”

A few verses later, in John 6:37, He promised, “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me, and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.”

Then, in verse 39, He said, “And, this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which He hath given Me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”

Now: that leaves us with a choice: do we believe Jesus’s clear promises, or do we build doubt, founded upon our misgivings over verses that are less clear?

Peter’s Example:

Going back to Peter’s example, we can see that he asked Jesus for a clear command. And Jesus gave it to him! There was no possibility of a misunderstanding. So, Peter got out of the boat, and stepped onto the surface of that violent, heaving, stormy lake!

Now, consider: Peter knew he could not walk on water. He knew it was physically impossible! So, believing Jesus, enough to get out of the boat during a storm was really incredible faith! And it resulted in his actually walking on the water, for a few steps.

So, why did he begin to add “amendments” to the “constitution” of his faith? He knew walking on water was not possible at ALL! Then he found that under Jesus’s authority, it was possible to walk on water. Then, why did he suddenly think, “…except when the wind and waves are strong!”? Why do we add provisions and exceptions to the promises of God?

No Surprises to God

God is never “surprised” by my failings. I find them very discouraging, but He knew from eternity past, exactly how I would respond (or fail to respond) to His Grace and His authority.

So, Jesus was not surprised by Peter’s failure. Peter was surprised and thrilled to find himself walking on water, and was disappointed when he doubted, and sank. Here’s the question: did either experience (walking or sinking) make him worthy or unworthy of God’s kingdom?

That answer, of course, is “NO!”

Human Opinion

We are not qualified for Heaven by our actions. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to Him as Righteousness. But in James 2:18, we find that humans cannot see faith without works. So, from a human perspective, we may be seen as “unworthy to call ourselves believers” or “unqualified to serve God.”

But it has been God’s specialty to take those “unqualified, unworthy and unlovely” people and use them to His Glory. He says so! (1st Corinthians 1:27 “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.”)

Faith and Love (v. 3)

Paul expressed his gratitude that the church at Thessalonica was growing in Faith and Love. Their Faith in God was growing and constantly being proved by their actions, so that Paul boasted of their walk with God when he spoke to other churches. He knew the persecutions and tribulations they were enduring, and he was pleased and satisfied to have been a part of their beginnings.

You will notice that the King James Version says their “charity” was abounding. “Charity” is the word that the Kong James Version translators used for the “agapé  love, as opposed to the other three or four words which also could be translated “love.”

Their Love (specifically the Agapé Love) was abounding toward one another. They were taking care of one another and accepting one another, and cherishing one another, as brothers and sisters in Christ.

These are the two key things Jesus requires of believers: Faith and Love.

Endurance by Faith (v. 4)

Endurance is what we are to grow into: the King James Bible uses the word “patience” here, but the issue is not one of “patiently waiting,” but rather, enduring the hardships the believers were experiencing. Immature believers might say, “I just can’t understand why a loving God would allow…” whatever it is that they don’t like. (By the way, that is exactly what the unbelieving world says, too.) But a mature believer recognizes that the world is chock-full of evil and danger and tragedy, and that all of it is the long-term result of sin. And he/she endures in faith!

Past, Present and Future Salvation

Jesus saved us (past tense) from the eternal penalty of Sin, at the Cross: that is a “positional truth.” Because I am in Him, I am no longer condemned. That is my position: “in Him!”

He saves us (present tense) from the current power of sin on our own lives, as we walk with Him: that is a “conditional truth.” As I walk with Him, He can guide me and protect me from the traps laid by the Enemy.

He will eventually (future tense) deliver us from the presence of Sin, eternally. That is also a Positional truth: The Thief on the Cross, who was being executed as a consequence of his own sin, is just as free today from the presence of sin as any of us can hope to be.

But the general consequences of sin, which fill this broken, sin-ruined world around us, we usually simply have to endure. Diseases exist for which there is no cure. Believers contract those diseases, too, and there is no guarantee against them. We accept that burden, and we endure it in faith.

In the nations where persecution awaits all those who believe in Jesus, the believers endure that persecution by faith.

A Token of Judgment (v.5)

In John 16:33, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have Peace. In the World ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the World.”

Those who are doing the persecuting face the Judgment of God, whether they know it or not. Jesus said, “they are already condemned because they have not believed on the Name of the Only Begotten Son of God.”

Different Judgments

But the coming judgment, including the tribulation, about which Paul had told them in the previous letter, will be a worldwide judgment on sin, upon all nations, and upon Israel, fulfilling the prophecy in Daniel chapter nine. The seven-year tribulation will pour out the judgment of a righteous God on the unbelieving world.

The judgment of our sins was poured out at the Cross, and that included the sins of the whole World. But the Judgment on the unbelieving World has a specific purpose in Daniel nine. He says it is to complete several things, and that the judgment is upon Israel and the World.

At the end of that time, Jesus will return, as we have read in the previous book. And in the process of His return, (Revelation 19:15) He will speak, and it says that His enemies will be destroyed by the sword that proceeds from His mouth. (His Word!)

But at the end of the Kingdom age, the entire earth will pass away in a flash of supernatural fire.

Not a single believer will be harmed by that final judgment:

How do I know? Because Jesus said so! He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” He said my future is secure: I will not be condemned.

And, in Romans 8, he says “there is now therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” He goes on to say that “the Law of the Spirit of Life, in Christ Jesus has made me free from the Law of Sin and Death.”

So, Are We “Worthy?”

If the question has to do with our own personal “worthiness,” then obviously the answer has to be a resounding “NO!” But if I can reply concerning the “Righteousness without the Law” as Paul mentions in Romans 3:21, then I can freely say that we have been judged worthy, solely on the basis of Jesus’s shed blood: His completed work at the Cross.

As Paul put it in Philippians 3:9, he wanted to ” … be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

That, again, is a positional truth…”in Him!” We are to be found “in Him.” In Him, we have been “accepted in the Beloved.” In Him, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Can Grace be Earned?

Please turn to Romans 11:6.  And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”

Grace specifically means “unearned favor.” If you think that you can “earn” God’s favor, either as an unbeliever or as a believer, you are falling prey to the trap of the Evil One. The entire book of Galatians was written to warn against this trap of “legalism,” supposing that “something I do” can earn God’s Favor.

If at any point, my salvation or my security depends upon my feeble works, instead of Christ alone, then ultimately, it is entirely dependent upon my works, as I guarantee, my works will always be the “weak link.”  Jesus finished His perfect Work at the Cross. He is my only hope.

Does Our Testimony Demonstrate “Worthiness?”

In Ephesians 4:1, we are exhorted to “walk worthy” of the vocation wherewith we have been called. The calling is secure…but are we walking in such a way as to demonstrate that calling?

We do not become a child of God, nor do we maintain that status, by the way we live. We live in such a way as to demonstrate our new life in Christ, because we ARE His children! And we live for Him out of gratitude and Love, not fearing that if we don’t “live up to our calling,” He will cast us out. (Remember the promise of John 6:37? “He that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out!”)

But our testimony to others will either reflect that reality or fail to do so. That is our choice, day by day, and moment by moment.

What do others see?

The world and other believers can only see our faith by our works, according to James 2:18. How I endure hard times is a statement to others, either that Jesus is in control, or that He is not.

Lot’s life was a demonstration that he was not walking with God. If that were the only information we were given, then we might assume he was not a believer at all. But God says he was a believer—that God had declared him righteous! (2nd Peter 2:7, 8) Yes, he was saved, but his life was a sad wreck, due to his own sin.

We want a better experience than that of Lot! We want to walk with God in such a way that our lives shine as a testimony of His Grace…not our own character or works.

Jesus alone is worthy!

Lord Jesus, change our motivation, so that we live to please You, not to impress other people, nor to “prove ourselves.” Draw us along as Your children and as laborers together with You. Teach us to see through Your eyes and care as you care.