Given From the Creation: The Principles of a Godly Marriage

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

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

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

1st Corinthians 7:1-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

What Does God Say?

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

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

From the Creation, Marriage is the Gift of God

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

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

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

The Gift Has Not Changed

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

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

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

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

Avoiding Sexual Immorality

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

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

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

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

The Marriage Covenant

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

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

Mutual Care

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

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

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

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

Remember the “Mirror”

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

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

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

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

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

Parallel Teaching Regarding the Church

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

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

1st Peter 3:1-7

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

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

Another Warning

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

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

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

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

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

Who Owns Your Body? (And Your Spirit?)

Who Owns Your Body? (And Your Spirit?)

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 6:12-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction:

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

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

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

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

About Food:

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

Temperance–Self Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sexual Sin

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

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

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

Owner by Means of Creation and Redemption

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

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

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

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

So, What is the Connection?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul’s Conclusion Regarding the Consequences of Fornication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, Why is it So Important?

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

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

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

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

The Roots of Our Rebellion

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

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

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

Giving Credit to the One Who Desreves it

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

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

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

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

Pride is Still the Root of the Problem

© 2024 C. O, Bishop

1st Corinthians 5:1-13

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

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

Pride was the Problem!

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

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

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

Introduction:

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

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

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

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

Things to Bear in Mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Was Open, Public, Flagrant Sin

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

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

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

This Was Not a “Questionable” Issue

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

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

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

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

Pride is Still the Root of the Problem

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

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

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

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

And, it still is the problem, today!

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

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

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

What is the Goal of this Warning?

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

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

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

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

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

No Hierarchy of Sin

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

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

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

What is the Real issue?

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

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

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

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

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.

What Does The New Testament Say About “Judging?”

What About “Judging?”

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

Introduction:

As a matter of course, this Sunday we would have gone forward into 1st Corinthians 5, simply because last week we completed chapter four. However, the various subjects of chapter 5 are fairly uncomfortable for most people. They include the concepts of sin and judgment, as well as some things such as polygamy, which is illegal in our culture, but fairly common in other cultures. Finally, it deals with “church discipline” which is a very uncomfortable idea for most people.

In particular, Paul names a specific sin of sexual immorality involved, which we may feel is not an appropriate subject for a Church service. But he deals with the subject of judgment rather strongly, there, as well, and not in a “negative” sense. In that passage, he commands the Church to judge something.

Since our modern society tells us that “judgment is a bad thing,” we need to study what God says about judgment and make our best determination about what we are to do. (Are there other things we should consider? Under some circumstances, God commands us to not judge. Under some circumstances God commands that we must judge! And under some circumstances He simply advises us to use good judgment, or to judge carefully what we should do.)

What Can We Learn About Judgment?

We usually think of “judging, and judgment,” only in a negative sense: The unbelieving World acts as if “all judgment is bad.” (But is it?)

Jesus is the Judge of all things, and over all the World. Genesis 18:25, says Abraham recognized Him, face to face, as the Judge of all the earth. And, in John 5:22 Jesus confirmed that He, Himself, God the Son…is that Judge!

So, it follows, at the very least, that not all judgment is “bad.” Further, we use the same word,  saying, “One has to exercise good judgment, to avoid the snares and bad decisions in life!” So, we admit, by our words, that there is such a thing as “good judgment.”

But then we insist that “there must be a different kind of judging, that Jesus condemned!”

Perhaps we need to examine the various Greek words used in the New Testament, and translated as “judge, judging, or judgment,” to see what Jesus truly said about the matter:

Several Greek Roots for the New Testament Passages about Judgment:

Primary Greek Root: Krinō

Krinō is the infinitive verb, “to judge.” It includes, but is not limited to, the concept of condemning. It also includes the concept of making a good decision or discerning between good and bad.

Krinō can also include making an authoritative decree as a Judge, in a civil matter, or making a weighty decision in church matters, that calls for “good judgment.” Or it can even mean just “stating an opinion.” (Krinō is used 110 times in various grammatical forms, and it is translated as “judge” 87 of those times.)

Secondary Greek Root: Krima

This means to judge or condemn. (This is where we get our English words, “crime,” “criminal,” and “incriminate.”.) (It is used only 29 times…and it is translated as “judgment” 13 of those times. The other uses are mostly “condemnation” or “damnation.”)

So, in the following passages, we hope to examine examples of each of those ideas and the particular grammatical changes in the Greek root.

Four Other Greek Roots:

Hegeomai: This means “to consider.” It is only used once in the New Testament, and it carries the idea of “regarding,’ or ‘considering” Hebrews 11:11 (about the faith of Sara) “…because she judged Him faithful Who had promised.” We rarely use this form in modern English, but it was once quite common. (“We judged that a quart of water ought to be enough to prime the pump…”)

There are others: (dikē) is related to the concept of the judgment of a ruler. (It is only used in that way nine times.)

A few other examples related to the concept of knowledge or thinking: (three from the Greek root “gnosko.”) Or the concept of perception, (one from the Greek word “aesthesis.”)

The Majority of Biblical Examples Come from “Krinō”

The majority of the occurrences of the English words, “judge,” or “judgment” in the New Testament are from the root “Krinō,” in various grammatical forms. Here are five examples:

Matthew 7:1  “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (This verse is most commonly quoted.) (krinete with negative prefix “.”) but “krima” (condemnation) appears in the very next verse: “with what judgment (krima) you judge (krinō) ye shall be judged (krinō)….” So, the “krinō” judgment, in this context, is connected to “krima,” implying condemnation.

Matthew 19:28 Judging, as righteous, ordained Judges… (Jesus said that the apostles would serve as judges over Israel.”…ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”) (krinontes…judging)

Acts 13:46 Judge: (krinō, krinete) (meaning, to “give an opinion:” especially an authoritative opinion…a judgment) “…ye put it from you and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life…, and

Acts 15:19 “Wherefore my sentence is that we trouble not them which from among the Gentiles are turned to God.” (“Sentence,” here, is from the word “krinete”… meaning “judgment.”)

John 18:31 “Pilate said, take Him and judge Him according to your law.” (“Judge,” here, is from “krinate” meaning “to sit in Judgment”…in court)

There are Various Concepts of Judgment

1st Corinthians 6:1-8 is a very good passage within which to see the various uses of the verb “krinō.

1Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law (krinesthai) before the unjust, and not before the saints?  Do ye not know that the saints shall judge (krinousin)the world? and if the world shall be judged (krinetai) by you, are ye unworthy to judge (kritērion)the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge (krinoumen) angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

If then ye have judgments (kritēria) of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge (the word “judge” is not in the original, it is only implied by the context…it literally just says, “set them up”) who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge (diakrinai) between his brethren?

But brother goeth to law (krinetai) with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law (krinata) one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.

Multiple Uses: Multiple Implications

We can see that there are ten different uses, with six or eight different implications, all lumped under the Biblical word “judgment,” just in that one passage!

  • Go to judgment in a legal court
  • Judge over the world, in righteousness.
  • To Judge as an arbiter of justice between people of the world
  • Judge as one having to make decisions by good judgment: discernment.
  • Judge over angels (!) No idea where that takes place.
  • Judgments as court cases…civil disagreements.
  • Judge as an arbitrator.
  • Take to court, as opponents

Not all of these examples are negative. God advises some, and commands others, while He prohibits still others. We must read carefully and understand the context, to know what kind of “judgment” is in question.

Another Example:

Romans 14:1-4 gives a pair ofconflicting opinions that may arise between believers. And Paul says that they are not to “judge” each other over such issues.

1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful (“diakrisis:” judgmental)  disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.

Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge (“me krinetō”not judge) him that eateth: for God hath received him.

Who art thou that judgest (“krinōn” judging) another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

One man esteemeth (“krinei” judges…considers) one day above another: another esteemeth (“krinei” judges…considers)  every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

So, there we see another four applications of the word “krinō.”

  • Hold in Disregard
  • Criticize
  • Condemn
  • Consider (judging something to be a certain way.)

What Did Jesus Mean?

Jesus said, “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” I would have guessed that the word He used was “krima,” meaning condemn, as a criminal. But it is not: The word is actually the Greek word “krinē.” And, in the subsequent verse, he uses two other forms of the same root word, “krinō”

He says those who believe on Him (meaning “trust in Him as Savior”) are not judged (“ou krinetai…not condemned,” KJV) but that those who do not believe are already judged (“kekritai…condemned,” KJV) because they have not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

So, we can see that the range of meaning in the infinitive verb krinō (“to judge”) is pretty huge!

Different Kinds of Judges

No one condemns a person for taking a position as a livestock judge in a county fair, or, if they are qualified to do so, a judge in any contest. We require a referee or an umpire, in most sporting events. Sometimes we employ electronic devices to eliminate errors due to human failings. But the judges are still there. And we want them there!

No law-abiding person condemns another person for taking a position as a Judge in a court of Law. We only require that they do that job with integrity and justice; entirely following the law. Kindness and Mercy are additional qualities we admire in a good judge. We see Patience, in listening carefully to testimonies from upset, confused people, as another good trait.

Jesus is that sort of Judge.

He is perfect, and Holy, but He is kind, and just. His Mercy and Love took Him to the Cross to blot out the Holy judgment against us: not by denying it, but by fulfilling it. His blood, spilled at the Cross, fulfilled the righteous demands of His Holiness and made it possible for us to approach Him through that Blood Sacrifice.

We need to learn to emulate Jesus, the One perfect Judge, so that we do not fail to judge correctly and do not exceed His judgment and begin to condemn others.

Lord Jesus, take each of us in hand: Correct our heart attitudes toward those around us. Help us to Love as you Love, and not to harbor ill-will. Free us from our slavery to sin.

How to be Emissaries of God

Emissaries of God

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 4:17-21

17 For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.

18 Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.

19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.

20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.

21 What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?

Introduction:

Several times in our studies, we have seen Timothy mentioned as a companion in Paul’s travels, or as his fellow laborer. But this time, Paul states the reason Timothy was sent… the service that Timothy was to carry out. And, implicit in the assignment, is the authority of God backing His Emissaries.

What is an Emissary? The Dictionary defines an Emissary as “a person sent on a mission to represent another.” Paul was also such a person, then. So are the missionaries we support. So are we all, in the general sense. God has called each of us, individually and collectively, to be Ambassadors of Christ, according to 2nd Corinthians 5:20.

Timothy had a more specific assignment: He was to remind the people (to re-teach the believers) exactly what Paul had taught them originally. He had some other responsibilities as well.

When Jesus sent the eleven apostles, He authorized them to teach and to make disciples in all the world. He specifically commanded them to teach the believers all that He, Himself, had taught the Apostles. He said that they were to teach the believers to behave according to that teaching.

What Were Timothy’s Instructions?

We read in 1st Timothy 1:2-20 that Paul gave Timothy some very specific tasks when he sent him to Ephesus. He was to straighten out some tendencies toward false teaching and corrupt behavior that were springing up in that church.

In 1st Timothy 3:1-8, Paul instructed Timothy regarding how to select and appoint church leadership. (Ordination is not a “popularity contest.” It is not a “general election.” Timothy sorted out the character of the men in question. He determined by scripture who God had raised up to perform that work.

Then he appointed them publicly, and he recognized that calling. That entire process of examining the character and publicly recognizing such a person as an elder (a pastor) is called “ordination.” We see that both Timothy and Titus were commanded to “ordain elders (plural) in every church” (singular.)  

More Specific Instructions

Incidentally, 1st Timothy 4:12-16 underscores this concept. God sent Timothy, but Paul and other elders appointed, and recognized him. Because he had God’s backing as evidenced by prophecy and public ordination, he was to remember that other people’s opinion of his “youth” was no longer a valid concern. Paul told him to allow no one to despise his youth. Instead, Paul said to devote himself to being a good example for the believers, in every way.

12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. 15 Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. 16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

Can we List His Instructions?

  • Let no man despise your youth.
  • Be an example for the believers,
    • in word
    • in conversation
    • in charity
    • in spirit
    • in faith
    • in purity
  • Until I come, give attendance to
    • Reading
    • Exhortation
    • Doctrine (teaching)
  • Don’t Neglect the gift that is in you.
    • In Timothy’s case, prophecy revealed the gift, The elders of his home church ordained him. (Presbytery is a transliteration of the Greek word “presbuteros,” meaning “elders.”)
  • Meditate upon these things.
    • Give yourself completely to the assignment.
    • In this way, the spiritual blessing and flourishing in your life will be obvious to all those around you.
  • Pay close attention to yourself, and to what you are teaching.
    • Continue with this assignment and lifestyle.
    • The result will be salvation for your hearers as well as yourself.
      • (“salvation” has three different tenses: what is meant, here?)

Can We Apply this Assignment to Ourselves?

We are Ambassadors of Christ. There is no question that, at least in some regards, all of this could apply to each of us. One thing I would immediately point out is that we are ambassadors of Christ, directly. We are not to be concerned with whether the Apostle Paul is going to show up in our presence and sharply rebuke us: (He is already doing so in the pages of the Book you hold in your hands!)

But we are to be cognizant of the truth that Jesus is going to return, without further warning, and our opportunity for faithful, voluntary service in this life will end forever. God has given you a gift, but it must be used today, in this life.

We cannot keep “putting off” the idea that we are servants of God, or thinking, “Well, I will do some growing, first, and then I will see how He wants me to serve!” No: the call of God is a “come as you are” event! He wants us to start where we are, today, and then allow Him to do the “cleaning up and straightening out” that is needed in each of our lives.

Choose Obedience First

When Isaiah’s call came in Isaiah 6:1-8, God said “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” And Isaiah immediately replied, “Here am I Lord! Send me!” Notice that Isaiah did not know what the assignment would be. He volunteered first, and then waited while God told him the assignment!

Paul gave Timothy and Titus a very specific ministry: He sent them to travel from church to church, to straighten out doctrinal problems and behavioral issues, and to set up qualified leadership in every church.

They were not pastors. They had an itinerant ministry, whereas the pastors (elders, overseers…always plural) did not. Paul gave the elders strict instructions to “stay put.” He told them to feed (tend) the flock they served. (Acts 20:28-31)

But God calls every believer to be an ambassador! He appointed every believer a priest in the Body of Christ. As such, He calls us to bring spiritual sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, as well as prayers for the other believers and the unbelievers around us. He re specifically commands us to pray for the leaders of the unbelieving world, as well as for the salvation of others.

Every believer has assignments that are specific to him or her alone. God calls each of us to a life of intentional discipleship, learning to follow Christ, and applying His written Word to our lives.

False Teachers

Some teachers rebel against sound teaching, and they teach others to reject God’s Word. Some go so far as to teach that Jesus will not physically return, but only will come in some mystic fashion and permeate the world with His presence in that way. Several cults teach something along this line of thinking. But it is a lie: He will return! He will return physically and visibly, as predicted in Zechariah 12:10 and Zechariah 14:3-5, and where He places his feet (on the Mount of Olives) will split wide open! (There is nothing “mystical” about that!)

The irony is that some of the very people who once taught that Jesus would never return (or that He had already returned in some invisible, mysterious fashion, but would not return physically) will be there, at the end of the Tribulation, to see Him physically return! They will be unable to “go back and change their minds.” Judgment will arrive with Jesus! No one will escape. Whatever they have done and whatever they have become will be permanent at that point.

Paul warned the rebels in Corinth that he would be coming to town to confront them personally. This is a good picture for us of the same warning that is given to the world today. Jesus will return and Judgment comes with Him!

God’s Word is not just rhetoric, not just wishful thinking: the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day had wonderful things to say, promising God’s intervention and saying that the siege of Jerusalem would fail. But God showed that their words were just that: “their words!” He said that they did “dream dreams,” but that they caused the dreams themselves! (Jeremiah 29:8)

So, What is the Difference?

God’s Word is not of human origin! His Word accomplished what He sent it to do! Romans 1:16 says that the Gospel of Christ is “the power of God unto Salvation to them that believe.” We have seen how God’s power has transformed each of our lives to varying degrees, and we can read the scriptural account of how the disciples were transformed. They were terrified men, hiding for fear of execution, when the Holy Spirit came upon them and they were changed into fearless advocates of Christ, cheerfully accepting whatever it cost them to follow Jesus.

Paul says the Kingdom of God is not just about words, but about power…specifically, the power to make things happen! (I had thought the word for “power,” here, might be the Greek word, “exousia,” meaning “authority,” but it is not. It is the Greek word, “dunamis:” meaning, “the “ability to make things happen, physically.”

Paul knew that, if necessary, God would work through him to bring judgment on the rebels at Corinth. As an Apostle, he carried tremendous authority. In my case, I have no such authority. All I have is God’s Written Word. But the Authority behind the Written Word of God is the Living Word of God: Jesus Christ!

His Word will be fulfilled, to the letter! All we can do is either align ourselves with His Word, or ignore His Word, and eventually find that He is forced to oppose us!

Paul’s Conclusion

Paul asked the Corinthian believers how they wanted Him to arrive: In Gentleness and love, or, in Judgment and heavy consequences? We can ask ourselves the same question: When we see Jesus, will we be grateful, glad, and blessed to finally see Him face to face, or will we be dismayed and sorry to have wasted our lives in foolish pursuits?

The choice is ours, and we make our choices every day. We choose, moment by moment, how to respond to Jesus, the Living Word of God, by the way we respond to what we know of His Written Word.

We need to re-read these passages and meditate upon what they mean in our individual lives. God grant that we will make good choices as a result. He says that good choices in this area will result in our own deliverance, and will result in deliverance for others, as well. Our lives always affect others. Consider how your life will affect those in your sphere of influence. Will it turn hearts to Jesus, or will it turn them away?

Lord Jesus, awaken our hearts to follow You faithfully and act as Your Emissaries: Your Ambassadors. Teach us to use our lives wisely, so as to receive Your blessing.

How To Learn The Humility of Discipleship

The Humility of Discipleship

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 4:8-16

Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.

For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.

10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.

11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;

12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:

13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.

15 For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

Introduction:

Remember the context, here, as we begin to study this warning to the Church at Corinth:

They were already displaying a great deal of carnality, division, and pride. Paul had already begun to admonish them regarding their sin, and this is simply a more pointed address to the source of their error.

In verse eight, Paul addresses their self-confidence and self-aggrandizement. He sounds almost as though he is mocking them, but he at least is highlighting their arrogance, by comparing their attitudes to those of the apostles.

Ye are Kings!

The Christians in Corinth had excessively high opinions of themselves: Theythought they were really something special. Possibly in their immaturity as new believers, they had simply become elated at their new position in Christ,  but it led to becoming inflated in their own minds.

They felt self-satisfied and smug, it seems. So, Paul is calling them out because of their pride. He approached them fairly gently about it, compared to some of the preachers of past ages. (Jonathan Edwards, in his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” blasted his hearers and condemned them, saying that they were lower than worms and hanging on the brink of an eternity in Hell!)

Paul is very gently chiding these baby believers and leading them to see themselves accurately. He does something similar in Romans 12:3, where he commands the Roman believers to “not think more highly of themselves than they ought to.”

He went on to make three contrasting comparisons between the believers in Corinth and the Apostles who had actually introduced them to Christ.

Three Contrasts

  1. We are fools, but ye are wise!
  2. We are weak, but you (plural) are strong!
  3. And, we are despised, but you are honorable!

Even today, the church at large has attempted to make itself “attractive to the world” by attempting to look wise, strong, and honorable to the world around us. In a limited sense, that was what was beginning in Corinth. They felt as though they had “arrived,” and had a special “in” with God. But today it has gone further!

The organized churches of every stripe have built huge buildings, with amazing architecture, and tried to attract rich parishioners, even to the extent of rejecting those who “didn’t measure up.” James warned against this practice in James 2:1-4. He says if you are turning the poor away, or treating them differently, then you are in sin!

How Bad did it Become?

In some past ages, the so-called “church” has even taken on “military status,” literally having its own armies to back the armies of “approved” nations against those that were unapproved. The Spanish Armada (also called the “Invincible Armada”) was a classic example. The king of Spain sent it to attack England and force it to return to Catholicism. And, the Pope at that time had guaranteed the Spanish king that if the Armada made landfall in England, then the Pope would send in troops to participate in the invasion!) Providentially, the Armada never made landfall. The “Invincible Armada” turned out to not be so “invincible” after all!)

The Crusades were a similar travesty. And these were by no means the only examples.

Other Examples

The powerful “churches” of that time extorted money from the poor to fill the treasuries of their cathedrals. Then they tortured and killed those who disagreed with them. In no case did such behavior honor the Lord, and in no case did He approve of any of it at all. In fact, in many cases, that “Strong, Wise, and Honorable” organization was imprisoning, torturing, and killing His people! This powerful so-called “Church” considered as an “enemy” anyone who simply believed Jesus for their salvation, and refused to follow their teaching, So they tried to destroy them all.

We remember the Inquisition as a horrible, cruel time in history. But those people who declared themselves “wise, honorable, and strong” carried it out! Other church organizations have committed similar crimes. Jesus does NOT command believers to “attack unbelievers.” The unbelievers are precious souls for whom He died, the same as the Believers! He commanded us to take them the bread of life, and offer hope, not condemn them!

In Romans 1:22, Paul explains the problem: He says, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools!

What is Our Calling?

1st Corinthians 1:26-29 says, 26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

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

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

29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.”

If that is the sort of people God has chosen, then why on earth do we insist on appearing to not be that kind of person? Why are we so desperately trying to show the World that we are “Wise, strong, and honorable?”

You see, that is what the Corinthian believers were doing, too!

But, Aren’t We Supposed to Be Wise?

There is nothing wrong with doing what God says is wise. There is nothing wrong with allowing God’s strength to be our sufficiency, and if it brings good results, then the honor goes to God!

And, of course, if we behave in a manner that God says is honorable, then, the result will be mixed: those who hate the smell of Jesus will despise us along with Him. Those who see Him as their only hope will be drawn to us, along with Him. If Jesus is rejected, we should expect to be rejected along with Him! And we are to accept that rejection with Joy!

Hebrews 13:12, 13 says, 12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

Jesus calls us to join Him in the rejection the World has given Him (and still gives to Him.)

So, What was the Problem in Corinth?

Several times, Paul confronted the believers of Corinth. He condemned their pride. Proverbs 16:18 says “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

Pride always has bad results! The Corinthian believers were not only torpedoing their testimonies by conceit, but they were wrecking their walk with Jesus because God hates pride!

Proverbs 6:16-19 says,16 These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Over and over, God condemns pride, in both the Old Testament and the New! So, Paul begins to offer the contrast between the Apostles and the believers at Corinth. They were heading down a dangerous path.

Isn’t it odd that today the media tells us to be proud? That pride is a wonderful attribute, when God says it results in strife and discord, and war?

What about the Apostles?

What does Paul; say the lives of the Apostles looked like? He said:

  • Hunger,
  • Thirst,
  • Nakedness,
  • Physically buffeted,
  • Homeless!
  • They labored, working with their own hands: (self-supporting)
  • Being reviled, they blessed.
  • When they were persecuted, they accepted and endured it:
  • Being defamed, they intreated
  • They were made as the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things.

(Wow! What a great ministry! Sounds like a “recruiting poster for servanthood,” doesn’t it?) No, it does not! From a human perspective, it sounds like a great occupation to avoid!

Jesus did not say that discipleship would be “fun.” He never said it would be a “source of pride or position.” When the twelve disciples were bickering about who would be greatest in the kingdom of Heaven (the Millennial Kingdom,) He straightened them out by saying that the greatest would be those who approached Him as a child approaches. Without any self-will or arrogance. And that those who served would be the best rewarded. “He who would be chief among you, let him be your slave.”

The Apostles seemed to be the last in line for honor, in this world. As far as we know, the unbelievers eventually executed all of them were for the sake of Jesus, with the possible exception of John. (History is unclear regarding some of them.)

And Paul’s Conclusion?

Notice that he softens the admonition by saying that he is bringing this rebuke in love, as a father to his children. He had no desire to shame them, but he had to warn them of the trap into which they were walking. He reminded them that he, himself, had led them to Christ. His heart toward them was as a father to his children.

His conclusion was, “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me”

In effect, he said, “Please follow our example! We Apostles have led you to Christ, and we have taught you how to walk with Him. Follow our example, and drop all this heady nonsense of pride and personal glory!

Some of this may sound foreign to some of you, but, if you think about it, I would expect that at least some of you may have run into these attitudes before and may even have fallen prey to them yourselves. In either case, God warns us that such conceited self-satisfaction in our “super-spirituality” is a guaranteed recipe for disaster, both as individuals and as a church.

We need to learn and embrace the humility of discipleship.

Lord Jesus, open our eyes to our true condition and help us to change, as You transform us through the renewing of our minds. Teach us to walk with You in true submission and humility, rather than insisting on our own way. Make us able ministers of your truth.

Learning Stewardship and Ministry: Faithfulness and Focus

Stewardship and Ministry: Faithfulness and Focus

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 4:1-7

1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

Introduction:

First, Paul begins chapter four, by asking the Corinthian believers to change their thinking. He called them to consider the apostles as being simply the “servants of Christ.” (The noun, “minister” just means servant.) Furthermore, Paul says, “See us as Stewards of the mysteries of God.”

Lately, we have discussed the concept of ministry several times. We have recognized, in every case, that ministry and servanthood were the same concept.

Stewards and Faithfulness

But, we have barely touched upon the concept of stewardship. A “steward” is someone who with responsibility and limited authority over some matter regarding personnel, or some piece of property, or some investment, perhaps.

Occasionally, the steward may have virtually no “honor” as a part of his or her stewardship. It may simply be “work” that needs doing. On the other hand, he or she may have political prominence, as “the keeper of the keys,” or some such thing. The only thing that all stewardship positions have in common is that the steward must be faithful to that responsibility. Therefore, it says, “It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” (By the way, the Greek simply says “tis” which could be translated as “who” or “one.” This isn’t “just about men!”)

What is Faithfulness?

In some contexts, the word “faithful” simply means the person is a believer in Jesus. This is not that sort of context. In this context, the question is one of “reliability.” Is this person dependable at carrying out the task they have agreed to do, or the task to which they have been assigned?

Living things make this an especially important concept. For example, if you forget to water the house plants for a few days, some of them may die. But all of them will look bad. (Incidentally, “House plant care” is a difficult task for me, as I simply do not think about them: to my eye, they are just “part of the furniture.”)

But what if you have agreed to take care of someone’s pets while they are gone? Those animals are completely dependent upon some human, and, for the prescribed time, that person is YOU!

But, let’s say someone agrees to care for your livestock or pets. If you come home to discover that they have seriously neglected your animals, how will you feel toward the person who proved to be unfaithful? How will you judge yourself for having trusted such a person with your animals?

Now: what if your children are the ones you have entrusted to the care of another, and you find that your children have been neglected or abused?

Some government agencies have been unfaithful. They failed to care for children or the elderly. When the public heard about that failure, everyone was shocked and angry. Everyone wanted the abusers (and/or the “neglectful, careless stewards”) to be held accountable. (Guess what? God holds stewards accountable, too! And it IS God’s children at risk!)

Accountability

Hebrews 13:17 says God will hold the leaders in the churches accountable for “what happens on their watch,” so to speak. (“ Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”)

In a church assembly where the people rebel against God’s Word, the shepherds are not looking forward to standing before Christ and having to answer for their own errors or failures.

In Ezekiel 34:1-10, we see God calling the Shepherds of Israel into account for their behavior, and the result in the flock.

God gave those shepherds a list of seven definite responsibilities toward His flock:

  1. Feed the Flock,
  2. Strengthen the Diseased.
  3. Heal the Sick,
  4. Bind up the Broken,
  5. Bring back those who have been driven away,
  6. Seek the Lost, and
  7. Defend the Flock against all Predators.

Accountability Today

Those responsibilities have not changed: they are still the collective task of the shepherds.

If the shepherds are collectively doing their jobs, in unity, and if the flock is behaving rightly before the Lord, then we can expect His blessing.  If not, then, to the degree we disregard God’s Word, we can expect to see His blessing diminished. That is simply the truth. It is a fact!

In 1st Samuel 2, God held accountable the High Priest Eli for the evil that his sons committed, because he was in a position of sufficient authority that he could have stopped them. But he chose to just “remonstrate with them”…and he got fat on the fruit of their evil doings.

The result? The people of Israel began to despise the Tabernacle and the offerings they brought! God told Eli that he had honored his evil sons more than he had honored God. It cost Eli his own life, the lives of his sons, and a lasting curse on the future of his entire family lineage!

Yes, obviously, the “Stewards of the Mysteries of God” are individually held accountable for their actions and the results of those actions.

Take it Seriously!

James 3:1 warns that we need to take seriously the responsibility of teaching. KJV says “Be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” (Don’t just go “running after the spotlight:” as a teacher, you will also receive more severe judgment.)

In some cases, of course, this condemnation could be just from other people. Even the Unbelieving World is actively scrutinizing teachers and pastors, the shepherds of the flock of God. Obviously, the World is always eager to “catch shepherds in sin,” if possible. And sometimes they have gone so far as to deliberately produce a “trap” to make an innocent person “look bad,” publicly. But when a pastor commits a crime, it will be splashed all over the news.

God warns us to expect this “stricter accountability,” and it makes perfect sense. He has entrusted His flock to those leaders, and if they are guilty of misfeasance (or nonfeasance) of their responsibilities, then He will take action against them. The Ezekiel passage we just read is a clear example of that judgment.

Take it Personally!

Any honest servant of God fears failure in this area. None of us want to face the consequences of having fallen prey to greed, lust, or pride, and as a result of our sin, having led astray an assembly of believers. That is why the previous chapter says, “the temple of God (the flock of God) is Holy. If any man defiles the temple of God, him shall God destroy.” God will judge those who defile His flock through bad (or careless) teaching and bad (or careless) leadership!

And yet, Hebrews 5:12 states that “by this time you should have been teaching!”

God does call us to be His ambassadors and He does call us to grow up into responsibility. These warnings are not to dissuade us from seeking to serve God with our lives. Rather, they are a solemn warning that it is a serious business! Do not take it lightly!

And God is the Judge

Next, in verses 3 and 4, Paul says that the collective “opinions” or “judgment” of the Corinthian believers were not his primary concern. His only “Supervisor” and final Judge of his work was The Lord Jesus!

Romans 14:4 confirms that we are each, individually accountable to God. We are not to sharply criticize one another, nor even to hold one another in disregard. Each of us will stand or fall before God…and Paul goes on to say that “God is able to make us stand.”

On the other hand, Romans 2:16 says that God will judge the secrets of the hearts of men “according to the Gospel.” In terms of Salvation, the Gospel will be the standard… “What did you do with Jesus?

But in terms of Service, the standard will still be the Word of God: “What did you allow Jesus to do through you? What did you do with Him?” Did you walk with Him, and follow His leading?”

I can’t see anyone else’s heart. So, I cannot judge them (or their actions) unless their actions are truly rebellion against God’s Word. All I can do, as a shepherd, is keep declaring all the general commands given to all believers.

However, those who hear it and apply it to their own hearts will find that God leads them according to His Word. (Remember that Jesus is the Living Word of God: He never leads us contrary to the Written Word of God!) And God says that He will reveal it ALL in the end. Everyone will know!

The Apostles’ Example: “We are nothing Special!”

And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

Paul says that he chose himself and Apollos as simple examples, comparing himself and his own ministry with that of Apollos. His conclusion has consistently been that neither of them was anything special! He has repeatedly brought us back to this simple comparison, first to put a stop to the sectarianism that was beginning in Corinth and finally, to root out any tendency toward the believers holding up themselves as “something special.”

The Implication: “And, Neither are You!”

The bottom line seems to be “If Apollos and I are nothing special (and we are NOT) then what makes you think YOU are so special?”

For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, (boast) as if thou hadst not received it?

  • What makes you different than others?
  • What do you have that you did not simply receive as a gift?
  • And if you only have it as a gift that you did nothing to earn, why brag?

We all are called to discipleship! We all are called to service! And we all are called to stewardship at various levels. And we all are called to grow up, by feeding on God’s Word, obeying His Word, and walking with Him. We are called to focus our attention on Christ and His Word. (Compare 2nd Peter 1:19 “Focus on the light of His Word!”)

As a Personal Note:

Having received the gift (and assignment) of teaching and feeding the Flock, I no longer have the option to just “go do something else!” I cannot decide “Y’ know, I’d rather go back to commercial fishing!” (Remember, in John 21, that is exactly what Peter did, and the others followed his example. Jesus called him back and told him that was no longer an option.)

In addition, I cannot choose to go off and be a “hermit luthier:” a recluse, separating myself from other believers, and “just building violins.” I have to Focus on the job I was sent to do!

What about All of Us?

We are no longer our own masters. We are called to follow the leadership and yield to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He is the Savior, the Master, and the final Judge at every level.

We need to keep that in mind.

Lord Jesus, Please teach us to respond to You as our true Master, and as the great shepherd. Teach us to feed upon your Word: to Feed upon You as the Living Word. Cause us to grow up into spiritual maturity and to embrace the responsibility of Discipleship!

How to Understand God’s Warnings Regarding False Wisdom

God’s Warnings Regarding False Wisdom

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 3:16-23

16 Know ye not that ye (plural) are the (singular) temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. (Job 5:13)20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. (Psalm 94:11)

21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are your’s; 22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are your’s; 23 And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

Introduction:

The context, here, you may recall. was from the previous passage. There we learned that “we are laborers together with God.” We saw that the work we accomplish, working with Him has eternal value and brings eternal reward. But we also saw that work which He did not initiate, which we did according to our own plans, ignoring His plans, has no eternal value. “Discipleship” means following Jesus, and doing His Work in His way.

Now Paul goes a little further. He reminds us how important it is that we learn to allow God to lead us. Also, he teaches that we must learn to follow Him. He says that we (collectively) are the Temple of God. In verse nine, he said, “we are laborers together with God.” Paul also said, in that same verse, that, collectively, we are His cultivated field, and His building! (What kind of building? Well, Paul clears that up right here: collectively, he says we are the temple of God.

The Temple of God

Let’s give that some thought. It certainly does not mean that “we are a collection of stacked stones, and rooted to one place for eternity.” Believers are scattered all across the globe. There are very few places on earth where the Gospel has not gone (though, in some cases, it may have been centuries ago.)

In 1st Peter 2:5, he says that we are “living stones.” I used to struggle with that, as I imagined squatting, immobile, in the wall of a stone building, locked into place as a stone. That did not sound attractive. I was glad to discover in the rest of the Scripture that we are living stones; we are already a part of the Living Temple of God: the Church.

But verse 17, there is a stark warning: The Temple of God is Holy. The Church, at large, is Holy to God: We are His private property, set aside for His sole use! We are each individually declared holy before Him, but the Church as a whole is also Holy before Him.

It is not “just an organization.” It is an organism, having some characteristics of “organization” as does any life-form. But, as opposed to a human organization, where each member is often reminded that they are replaceable, each of the members of the “Church as a whole” is a living part of that Body of Christ; and each is precious to Him.

The warning, here, is not against defiling an individual (though there are other warnings about that.) It is a warning against corrupting or defiling the Church…the Body of Christ.

How can one “Corrupt” (or Defile) the Temple of God, the Church?

Teaching Immorality

Down through the centuries, there have repeatedly arisen men (or women) who taught immorality in the Church. There were always those who taught people to disregard God’s Word regarding moral behavior. too.

This goes all the way back to the various “Earth religions,” that all seem to have had their origins in Babylon. The Earth “god and goddess” duo, called Baal and Asherah were supposed to be deities of fertility …but their “worship” called for gross immorality, to be practiced with their “priests and priestesses”…for money, and or goods, which fed into the temples of those deities.

In modern times, various cults arose that also advocated promiscuity and drug use, as well as other evil practices. And all demanded money, to support their practice.

Today there are cults who openly encourage such sin, and it is increasingly showing up in churches that once (years ago) stood solidly as followers of God. In other words, it is nothing new!

Churches who do not join them, in their approval of all lasciviousness and sin, are persecuted, and blasphemed as “hateful,” when they have never behaved in any unloving manner: they have simply clung to the truth of God’s Word. In some places it has actually become illegal to teach the portions of God’s Word that clearly condemn such practices.

Other False Teaching

Historically and currently, some organizations actively try (and have tried) to dissuade believers from personally studying or believing God’s Word. They present themselves as very smooth and highly educated, and their words are framed to “sound like wisdom.” (Very similar to the Serpent in the Garden of Eden!) Organizations that managed to have themselves declared the “State Religion” (wherever they have been) immediately began suppressing the individual use of The Word of God, even burning the Bibles and sometimes burning the believers as well.

Sometimes the false teaching comes in a guise that does not forbid the study of the Word, but systematically misinterprets it to deny certain core doctrines and renders the believers ineffective in our mission as ambassadors of Christ. We truly have to study carefully to avoid such traps.

Warnings against False Wisdom

Colossians 2:8 warns us that we must not allow ourselves to be robbed (spoiled—  looted) by human wisdom and human philosophy, empty deceit, and the elementary principles of the World. We can easily allow ourselves to be drawn away into a condition where we can no longer work with God, and so we can no longer expect reward.

James 3:11-18 gives us some instruction as to “How to tell the difference” between God’s wisdom and so-called “wisdom” from an unreliable source.

11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.

First, James points out that, in general, good and bad do not emanate from the same source. At the very least, a spring that was inconsistent, sometimes having good water and other times not, would be unreliable as a source of drinking water. And, obviously, a Fig tree never bears olives.

Then, he goes on to give some character traits through which a human source of Godly wisdom can be identified, always supposing that we are talking about a believer to begin with. (If you already know that the person denies Christ, or denies the authority of God’s Word, then you avoid their counsel regardless of the outward signs.)

How to Recognize a Source of Godly Wisdom

13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation (lifestyle) his works (overall behavior) with meekness (yieldedness to God, and humility) of wisdom.

The behavior of the teacher or counselor reveals their heart. If the behavior is consistently good, honest, humble, nonaggressive, etc. that is a good sign. If he consistently points people to God’s Word, that is a good thing.

14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.

People who are combative, envious of position, constantly striving against others for dominance, are not a safe source of wisdom. If they can be approached, corrected, etc., without fear of rebuke, then that is a point in their favor. James goes into more detail in the following verses.

Other Possible Sources:

15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.

He leaves no room for doubt about the other three possible sources of so-called “Wisdom.” He says they all are from this list:

  1. Earthly (from the World)
  2. Sensual (literally “soulish:” From the Flesh…the old sin nature)
  3. Devilish (From the enemy, Satan)

Vital Clue:

16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

If there is strife, then the enemy is at work, somewhere. If we follow that brand of wisdom then there will be bad results, whether immediately or in the future. Bad teaching begets bad practices; and together they bring bad results.

Seven Character Traits of Godly Wisdom

17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

Notice that James provides a list of character traits that should accompany Godly Wisdom. And they all are supposed to be there: this is not a “smorgasbord.” The list includes:

  • Pure (No hidden agenda to satisfy his sin nature)
  • Peaceable (Not given to strife or contention)
  • Gentle (Treating people kindly, not sharply, not critical or accusing)
  • Easy to be intreated (approachable…accountable to others)
  • Full of Mercy and Good Fruits (Compare Galatians 5:22, 23)
  • Without Partiality (doesn’t play favorites)
  • Without Hypocrisy (not pretending, with outward piety: but rather living transparently.)

All of those things are supposed to be present and observable in the people to whom we turn for instruction and wisdom.

Consider the Desired Result

18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

Why are all those things so vital? Because they will have results. If you are hoping to see the righteousness of Christ developing and bearing fruit in people’s lives, this is the way to get there. The seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by them that make peace.

If a shepherd or teacher (or parent or spouse) is consistently unkind, grouchy, or argumentative, then the fruit of righteousness will not result in the lives of the flock, the marriage, or the children. The Peace of God, that He promised in John 14:27, has to be present and observable, for the Wisdom of God as seen here, to flow to those around you.

God knows the difference between Worldly wisdom and Godly wisdom, and He gives us clues by which to discern that difference for ourselves. But we have to be aware of the danger, and familiar with the clues, so that we can apply them consistently and correctly.

Paul’s Conclusion Regarding Human Teachers

Remember that the original discussion was about the divisions in the Corinthian church: and part of the arguments were based on “which teacher” people were following. (One said, “I am of Paul;” another said, “I am of Apollos,” while others (who were really “spiritual”) said, “I am of Christ.” Paul pointed out that ALL of them were practicing sectarianism, separating themselves from the rest of the body, and it did not matter “who they claimed,” when the result was disunity! All of it added up to Carnality, not Spirituality!

So, here, he concludes that all the arguments were empty and vain, and that they were to stop it! He said, 21 Therefore let no man glory in men.

So, How do we Apply it?

Don’t boast about “who taught you what!” It is fine to say where you learned something, when all you are saying is that “I didn’t come up with this on my own: another brother or sister pointed it out to me!”  But when we are trying to elevate one person above another, it is not honoring to God. Paul concludes that all the Godly sources of wisdom they had had (including Paul, Apollos Peter, and Christ, as well as the physical world itself, and the life to come, belonged to all of them! This is what we have in common! We are joint-heirs with Jesus!

For all things are your’s; 22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas (Peter), or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are your’s; 23 And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

And, by extension, he adds, because we belong to Jesus, we also belong to God, through Christ. The whole context points us back to the fact that we do not belong to ourselves, but to Him, our Creator and Savior and Master. And we are exhorted to learn to follow Him in His Wisdom, under His direction, and not be divided by petty differences. God help us to obey His Word.

Lord Jesus, bring us to a solid understanding of Your Truth, Your Word, so that we can look at the World with Clear Eyes, and see Your Wisdom as our only Light in the present darkness.

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.