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

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

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 6:9-11

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

Definition of Biblical Terms

We need to define some central terms, here.

Righteous: “Having a right standing with God.”

Unrighteous:Not having a right standing with God.”

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

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

Defined by God: Observed by Behavior and Character

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

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

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

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

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

Our Past

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

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

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

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

So…What Changed?

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

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

But Ye Are Washed!

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

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

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

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

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

Ye Are Sanctified!

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

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

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

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

Ye Are Justified!

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

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

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

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

How Can We Avail Ourselves of the Righteousness Of God?

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

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

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

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

Do You Desire to be Declared Righteous by God?

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

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

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

The Resulting Reward

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

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

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

Judgment, Justice, Grace, and Mercy in the Resurrection

Judgment, Justice, Grace, and Mercy

© 2019 C. O. Bishop (Revised 2024)

Introduction:

How does Easter show the Judgment and Justice of God?

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

Judgment on Jerusalem

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

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

Judgment on Jesus

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

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

The Specific Reasons for The Crucifixion

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

The Scriptures had to be Fulfilled

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

He Fulfilled the Prophecies!

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

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

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

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

So, What is The Good News of the Gospel?

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

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

Why is His Death Good News?

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

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

Why is His Burial Good News?

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

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

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

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

And, The Best News of All: The Resurrection!

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

What is The Result of the Resurrection?

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

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

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

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

But, What about Repentance?

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

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

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

The Result of that Repentance

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

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

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

How To Understand the Coming Judgment

The Coming Judgment

© 2023 C. O, Bishop (Revised 2024)

2nd Thessalonians 1:4-12

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

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

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

Introduction:

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

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

There are Five Judgments we should address:

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

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

Please bear in mind the two promises of God:

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

Which of these Five Judgments Affect Believers?

The General Condemnation

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

The Judgment of Sin at the Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Judgment of the Living Nations

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

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

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

The Great White Throne Judgment

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

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

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

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

What About the Church?

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

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

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

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

Why are Believers Excluded from these final Judgments?

(2nd Thessalonians 1:10)

“…because our testimony among you was believed…”

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

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

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

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

Wherefore…

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

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

The Result

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Learn to See The Problem and the Symptoms of Carnality

The Problems with (and the Symptoms of) Carnality

© 2023 by C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 3:1-9

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

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

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

Introduction:

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

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

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

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

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

The Problem of Carnality

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Result of Carnality

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

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

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

Babies are Wonderful, But…

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

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

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

Warnings to Pretenders

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

Lost Opportunities

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

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

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

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

Symptoms of Carnality

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

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

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

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

In Contrast

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

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

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

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

Future Reward

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

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

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

Working With Jesus

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

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

An Example of “Serving Self”

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

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

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

How can We Follow Jesus’s Example?

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

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

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

From the Beginning, God Has Chosen You to Salvation

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

2nd Thessalonians 2:13-17

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

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

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

Introduction:

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

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

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

The Doctrine of Election:

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

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

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

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

Where did We Start Out?

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

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

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

So, How Can it Be Both Ways?

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

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

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

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

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

Belief of the Truth

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

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

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

What Does Jesus Say About it?

Jesus addressed this idea in John 3:17-1917 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

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

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

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

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

Sanctification of the Spirit (v. 13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Counted Worthy of the Kingdom of God

Being Counted Worthy

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

2nd Thessalonians 1:1-5

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

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

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

Introduction (Long):

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter’s Example:

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

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

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

No Surprises to God

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

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

That answer, of course, is “NO!”

Human Opinion

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

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

Faith and Love (v. 3)

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

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

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

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

Endurance by Faith (v. 4)

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

Past, Present and Future Salvation

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

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

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

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

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

A Token of Judgment (v.5)

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

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

Different Judgments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, Are We “Worthy?”

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

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

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

Can Grace be Earned?

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

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

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

Does Our Testimony Demonstrate “Worthiness?”

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

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

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

What do others see?

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

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

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

Jesus alone is worthy!

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

The Call of God to a Holy Life

The Call of God to a Holy Life

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 4

1Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.

For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;

Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.

For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.

Introduction:

Paul begins to give further instruction to these new believers. Remember that they lived in the Roman world, where, just as in the Grecian Empire before it, the public and private morals were very corrupt. Sexual sin, in particular, was rampant.

Corinth was far worse!

In Corinth, at that same time, where the church had even greater contamination, there was a gigantic temple to Aphrodite. It was called a “temple,” but the acts of “worship” involved having sexual relations with the temple prostitutes (for money.) The Encyclopedia Britannica records that in its heyday, that “temple” had 10,000 prostitutes, both male and female. Business was booming! I assume that sexually transmitted diseases were also flourishing there.

In Thessalonica, no such religiously oriented prostitution existed. But there was still the ungodly influence of the World, just as there is today. Paul begged the believers to live the way the apostles had taught them during their brief stay there. (That is what “beseech” means: “beg!”) They had been taught what sort of lifestyle pleased God. Paul begged them to “abound more and more” in that walk with God. They were to be growing in that relationship.

The Apostles’ Teaching

We can go through the Pauline epistles and see what sort of other things he is “likely” to have told them. Some they probably already knew, as some of these “new” believers in Christ were already well-taught Jewish believers, and others were Gentile proselytes to Judaism.

They all were gaining an understanding of the God of the Bible and a beginning of awareness of His Holiness. Some of the things Paul taught may have seemed to be “new,” and those were probably rooted in the “upgrades” that Jesus pointed out. He sharpened the understanding of the believers, to realize that sin is not just “outward actions:” It also includes the root thought or attitude that fostered the eventual actions.

Why is Sexual Sin a Good Example to Use?

In Romans 7, Paul used the example of covetousness. It is one of the prohibitions in the ten commandments and it is one that is entirely inward, though it will certainly bear outward fruit.

Still today, there are people who teach that “you cannot sin in your mind.” They teach that “until it results in an outward action, it is not sin.” Jesus refuted that, saying that when a person is angry without cause, they are in danger of judgment. In the same passage, He taught that when a man looks upon a woman to desire her, (That is what “lust” means: “desire.”) that he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. That is where sin begins. Every man who is honest with himself already knows this. But we can expand that concept to every other sin.

All sin begins in the heart! And that should not be a surprise: Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” So how can we escape such a cycle of sin and death?

What does it mean to be Holy?

Verse three states that we are to be holy: we are God’s private property. That is what “sanctification” means: It means that we have been declared to be “holy.” It means that we are set aside for God’s private and exclusive use.

Remember that the vessels in the Temple of God were Holy, too. On more than one occasion, the temple was raided, and the vessels were stolen. In Daniel 5:3, 4, we see that the Babylonian king Belshazzar took those stolen vessels and drank from them, specifically “drinking as an act of worship to his idols.” He and all his family, friends and servants drank from those holy vessels and praised the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone.  That was an blatantly blasphemous desecration of God’s property!

Result of Defilement

But here is the question to consider: having been defiled in that manner, were those vessels less holy? Were they not still God’s private property?  The fact is, they did belong to God.  When they eventually were returned to the temple, they had to be washed, and reconsecrated for Temple use: but after that cleansing, they were once again used for their intended purpose.

When we fall into sin, no matter how great or small, we are taking God’s private property and using it in a manner that shames Him, just as Belshazzar did! We still belong to God, but we are defiled by the sins we commit. Until that sin is confessed and fellowship is restored, we are just as defiled as those holy temple vessels had been by the wicked acts of Belshazzar and company.

What Vessels?

It is interesting, too, that, in verse 4, God chose to use the word “vessels” here, regarding us. (What vessels?) Since there was so much information about the “vessels” of the temple, and what happened to them, it is interesting that God chose to refer to our bodies as “vessels.”

In Romans 9:21-24, Paul pointed out that physical “vessels,” made of clay, by a human potter, could be destined for honor or dishonor, according to the intent of the maker. A flowerpot, for example, is usually made of cheap, common, red clay. It is used to hold beautiful ornamental plants, but it is relatively weak, very porous, and fragile.

Fine china, in contrast, is made of expensive kaolin clay. It can be fired at extreme temperatures and, as a result, it is much harder and stronger. Ironically, toilets and other such “vessels” are also made of kaolin clay. Their intended use is not the same as it is for “fine china.”

What is our intended Use?

But what the vessel is made of is not the question, here. The real question is, “What is its  intended use?” We are intended for God’s use. Yes, we are weak and fragile, and we have many “frailties” built into us. But we are made for His honor. Especially after being born again, we belong to Him and are expected to live in such a way as to honor Him. We cannot claim that “our frailties made us do evil.” We choose to sin.

In contrast, the angelic hosts were created with none of our frailties, and yet a third of them chose to follow Satan into rebellion, despite knowing their Creator face to face. The reason God offers His Grace to us and not to them is that we have not seen Him, and we have no idea of the enormity of our rebellion. God says we received Grace because we sinned ignorantly. The angels did not sin ignorantly: they knew their Creator personally, and had seen His glory in person.

Possessing our Vessels

We are immortal spirit beings, dwelling in bodies of mortal flesh. We will exist somewhere, forever, either with the Lord, or apart from Him. Unlike the Spirit of God, our spirits have a “starting point,” at conception. Jeremiah 1:5 makes it clear that God knew us before He created us: He says His foreknowledge precedes the creation of each new spirit. And, from conception, that spirit lives in a body (sometimes called a “temple” or a “tabernacle”…a tent) of flesh. How we use that body, and how we use our minds, will either honor God or fail to do so. Paul teaches that, as born-again children of God, we are to walk with God in a manner that honors him.

Defrauding your Brother

How we live also affects others: For example, if you are unfaithful to your spouse, it doesn’t just affect you. It affects your spouse, and it affects the person with whom you committed adultery, and their other relationships are affected in turn. Children are affected, too: sometimes scarred permanently by the sins of their parents.

We cannot undo the effect of our sin. All we can do is confess it, and stop it! We are told to renounce that kind of behavior and live as the people of God. You cannot serve the flesh and simultaneously serve God. And in verse six, God warns that He still judges sin: don’t get the idea that people are “getting away with” anything.

This is not just an admonition to married people, either: the word he used here, translated as “fornication,” is “porneia.” It is a broader term than “adultery:” it simply means “sexual sin.” It is where we get our word, “pornography.” Satan begins his attack in the mind, luring us to lewd thoughts and tempting through the eyes and ears, as he lures us to sin.

But we are given the weapons of warfare to combat that attack: 2nd Corinthians 10:4, 5 says, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but are mighty through God, to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imagination and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”.

Casting Down Imaginations!

That rather rules out the idea that “our inner thoughts are ok, so long as we don’t act on them,” doesn’t it? And the fact that the weapons are not carnal tells us that we can’t fight this battle in the flesh. Finally, he says that every thought is to be taken captive to the obedience  of Christ.

“Secret sin” is not a secret! God is completely aware of every thought we entertain, for better or worse. Our lives are completely open to His gaze. I don’t know about you, but that is not an entirely comfortable thought, to me. It means that when I am thinking wrong thoughts (regardless of what kind) I am “doing” what those thoughts entail, right in front of God. I am defiling myself in His presence, even though I may protest that “I didn’t do anything!

We are called to cast down our imaginations of sin (of every kind, not just sexual sin) and bring every thought into obedience to Christ.

God has not called us to remain in uncleanness, but to accept our new position (being “holy unto the Lord,”) and live that way!

He Who Despises

Is everyone going to respond well to this message? No…unfortunately, even among born-again believers there is a tendency to rebel. We all still have a Sin nature. But God warns us here, that if we despise this commandment, and rebel against it, we are not rebelling against man’s rules, but against God…the very God who gave us the Holy Spirit to seal us as His property. That is serious business, and sometimes has terrible consequences.

Sin Always has Consequences

Ananias and Sapphira died, physically, because they attempted a “secret sin:” God called them on it, and He made an example of them. He took them home on the spot.

We don’t always know what the consequences will be. I have known more than one believer who fell into sexual sin and contracted incurable diseases: One of them died of that disease. It all could have been avoided by stopping the sins where they began: in the heart.

Anger management is another area that can have terrible results. More than one believer has succumbed to anger, and ruined his or her testimony, or marriage, or has even been imprisoned because of his or her sin.

Ann and I knew a pastor who permanently lost his ministry, because of theft…shoplifting! (What a foolish choice!) And yet, it begins in the heart, just like every other sin. It had already affected his ministry, before he was finally caught. He confessed that he had been plagiarizing his sermons, too…(he called it “stealing” those sermons.) That whole sad story was completely avoidable! And so is the damage we incur in our own lives by our sins.

Embrace the Holiness of God! Allow Him to transform you from the inside, so that your life begins to reflect His holiness and so that His Love can freely flow through you. Only the Holy Spirit can empower you to live in such a way as to continually exhibit His Grace.

Lord Jesus, help us to apply the principle of practical holiness in our daily lives, so that we do not allow the enemy a foothold in our lives, but rather walk close to You, and in safety.

“That You Would Walk Worthy of God:”

That You Would Walk Worthy of God

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 2:1-12

1For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:

But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.

For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:

But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.

For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:

Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.

But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:

So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.

For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.

10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:

11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,

12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

Introduction:

In chapter one, Paul said he was thankful, that wherever he went, even in other nearby countries, people told him what they knew about his own ministry in Thessalonica, and the resulting transformation in the lives of the Thessalonian believers. That would be a thrill to any teacher!

Lost Protegés

When I was teaching welding and other classes in my vocational career, it was very frustrating that our company refused to adequately pay our trainees for the skills they had, after completing our training. Rival companies would routinely offer them a starting pay of $10/hr. more than we paid our trainees, specifically because they knew our training was superb. The result, obviously, was that we frequently lost those employees, and no one could blame them for leaving.

On the other hand, we teachers had the satisfaction of knowing that the people we trained were superior workers, and in demand among all our rivals! Recruiters often stood on the sidewalk outside the plant, offering job opportunities to all our employees as they left at the end of work.

But God’s children are His forever: He has never lost one of them. There is an Enemy, seeking to “derail” the life of any believer who is careless enough to be ensnared by him. But we cannot be “taken away.” Romans 8:38, 39 assures us that nothing can separate us from the Love of God. What Paul was thrilled to hear, in the first chapter, is that his “pupils” were genuinely walking with God. Their testimony preceded him, wherever he went!

Reminder: How the Gospel Came to Thessalonica

We had to read Acts 17:1-10, to see how the Gospel came to Thessalonica. But the Thessalonian believers were there! All Paul needed to do was to remind them of the traumatic situation surrounding his ministry in Thessalonica, and his departure from there. They had experienced it with him.

They also knew what had happened in the previous town, at Philippi. When Paul arrived in Thessalonica, he and Silas bore the recent wounds, still unhealed, from the beatings received at Philippi,. The Thessalonian believers knew exactly what had happened.

The Example of Paul and Silas

They also knew that, rather than being hesitant, or fearful about preaching in Thessalonica, Paul and Silas had plunged right in, and boldly shared the truth of Jesus with the Jews and proselytes at the synagogue. They were fearless in the face of sharp resistance, and even the eventual riots that drove them out of town. Why?

Because (as Paul explains in verse three) their message was the straight truth, and they had no “hidden agenda.” There was nothing in their message that might shame the Messiah. No deceit, no uncleanness, no guile. They had nothing to hide. Paul lists several things that were missing in their lives that were common among false teachers, who had a definite hidden agenda.

What was Missing?

  • No deceit
  • No uncleanness
  • No guile
  • Not trying to please men, but God
  • No flattery at any level: they told the straight truth.
  • They were not “acting pious, to hide their greed for gain.”
  • They were not seeking personal honor, either from the believers or from anyone else.
  • They were never a burden to the believers: they did not seek “handouts,” as Apostles.

In Contrast to the False Teachers::

  • They were gentle toward the believers, not arrogant or judgmental.
  • They freely gave out the Gospel of God…there was no “Cover Charge.”
  • They freely “poured themselves out” for the benefit of the new believers.
  • They found temporary work, by which to pay their own way. (see verse 9)
  • They behaved in such a way that any witness could confirm their personal
    • Holiness,
    • Righteousness ( In Old English, the word “just” means “Righteous.”)
    • and Blamelessness.
  • They exhorted and comforted the believers as a father would his children, and encouraged them to live in a manner worthy of their new calling: the Calling of God, unto His Kingdom and His Glory.

What Can We Learn for Today?

There are two ways to look at this passage, as believers:

  1. We can see the contrast between false teachers and faithful teachers of God’s Word, and learn to be watchful and careful about what kind of teachers we allow to influence us.
  2. We can see what sort of people we ought to be, as we emulate the faithfulness of Paul and other leaders whom God has sent (especially those we can see in God’s Word.) In that case, we learn what to eradicate in our own lives and what to emulate, as we seek to be disciples of Christ.

All of the values listed in this passage, both negative and positive, are taught elsewhere in the New Testament, as specific directives to Church-age believers. The warnings against false teachers and their danger to believers are also expanded upon there.

Warnings against False Teachers

2nd Peter 2:1-22 gives us the most descriptive warnings against false teachers, but it requires careful reading to keep in mind who the passage refers to. The entire chapter is about false teachers and those unbelievers ensnared by them.

Paul warned the Ephesian elders against false teachers, in Acts 20:28-31. He reminded them that such “wolves” would arise even from among the leadership of churches. He said their goal would be to draw away disciples after themselves…that is, away from sound teaching and a core commitment to Jesus. And Jesus said such men were “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

Matthew 7:15-23

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Notice that He does not say, “I once knew you, but you wandered off and got lost!” He says, “I never knew you.” In Luke 6, Jesus also said that the “fruit” He addressed was their teaching, not just their lives. A man can look good on the outside, but be hiding something evil inside.

Luke 6:43-45

43 For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

The fruit in question is both their lives and their teaching! Both have to be good.

A Sad Example:

Ann and I once knew a church leader who seemed an absolutely stellar pastor. His behavior was blameless: he was full of good works. If there was physical work to be done, he was “first in and last out.” If someone was hurt or sick, he was the first one there to help them, or to visit them in the hospital. He seemed to be a wonderful and gracious shepherd.

But there was a persistent pattern of bad teaching, both privately and from the pulpit. He frequently cast doubt on the truth of God’s Word. He gave people books written by pagan philosophers, without warning them, that “This is interesting, but it directly conflicts with God’s Word!” Other times, in a Bible classes, or from the pulpit, he clearly stated that some portion of the Bible was “just mythology:” not to be taken literally.

When he was pressed for a firm answer, he finally admitted that he did not believe the Bible was the Word of God. You see, he “did good things,” but he turned people away from God’s Word. He was a false teacher.

The Imitation of Christ

Ephesians 5:1 says, “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.” We are to take Him as our example, for our values, our priorities, and our practices.

The Hebrew Christians were exhorted to see Jesus as their example and leader, and follow Him.

Hebrews 12:1-41 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

They knew that the Judgment of all the World was coming. Peter addressed these same believers, in 2nd Peter 3:11, and said, “…therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness…?”

A Fragrance of Christ

Our lives are to reflect the presence of Christ. In fact, we are said to be a “fragrance” of Christ.

2nd Corinthians 2:14-16 says that we are a “sweet savour” or “fragrance” of Christ, to the saved and unsaved, alike. Believers will recognize the Holy Spirit in our life, and rejoice. Unbelievers will see the difference as well, but resent it as the smell of coming judgment. They will assume that we are judging them, though we are not. We earnestly desire their salvation and blessing because we also see that coming judgment, and we do not want them to be destroyed by it.

To Review, Then:

What kind of behavior should we desire to emulate?

  • Being gentle toward other believers, as well as to unbelievers.
  • Freely giving out the Gospel of Christ to unbelievers
  • Freely “pouring ourselves out” for the benefit of other believers.
  • Being productive, working to pay our own way, and to help those truly in need.
  • Living so that others can recognize the presence of Jesus in our lives, by personal:
  • Holiness, Righteousness, and Blamelessness.

We hope to exhort and comfort other believers. We hope to encourage one another to live in a manner worthy of the Calling of God, for His Kingdom and His Glory. We do not seek to be honored by other people, but rather to bring honor to Jesus.

We try to avoid any behavior or words that would dishonor Him. The epistle to the Ephesians is largely given to teaching believers how to live for God.

Ephesians 4:25-32 says:

25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Following our Leader

In those seven verses, we see the same characteristics listed for us as were listed in the lives of the Apostles. In fact, in 1st Corinthians 11:1, Paul said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” That is a pretty bold thing to say, as a human “follower of Jesus.”

But the key words, there, are “…even as I also am of Christ.” Paul was not some “cult-leader,” demanding that everyone just blindly follow him. He said, “As far as you see me following Jesus, you can follow me.” The Corinthian believers were with Paul for much longer than these people in Thessalonica, and they still had very messed-up lives. In their case, Paul effectively said, “OK, look! Do you see what I am doing, in following Jesus? Do that!

A Hard Task?

Personally, I would hesitate to tell someone, “Follow me, as I follow Jesus,” because I am keenly aware of my failings. But that is how we are told to live: Our lives are to reflect the light of Christ in such a way that others can confidently follow our examples.

That is a tough assignment! But that is the same assignment we had when we raised our children, and we seldom thought, ”But, I don’t know if I can do this!” We just raised our kids as best we could, living day by day. We tried to set a consistently good example, as well as giving clear direction to our children in their growing up years.

That is how we are to approach the Christian Life, as well. It is not “hard:” it is completely impossible, apart from the Holy Spirit presiding over our lives. Remember that Peter had to “get out of the boat” to begin to walk on the water with Jesus. But he had to focus on Jesus every moment to stay on top.

Lord Jesus, we ask that You keep our attention focused on You, so that we are not entangled and weighed down by the distractions of the World around us. Raise us up to be the Men and Women of God you have called us to be.

Jesus Passed Through Gethsemane

The Path Through Gethsemane

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

John 17:1-18:1; Matthew 26:36-56; Luke 22:39-54; Mark 14:27-50

Introduction

We noted that between the time of John 13:30, when Judas Iscariot left Jesus, and went to betray him to the Chief Priests, to the time of the crucifixion and burial was less than twenty-four hours.

In John 14-16, Jesus had to prepare the disciples for His own departure, and give them solid teaching as to what they should expect regarding the Holy Spirit and His future ministry to the Church. But, beginning in chapter 17, we see the path Jesus walked with the disciples, approaching Gethsemane, and the coming betrayal.

The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus (John 17:1-18:1)

John chapter 17 is frequently called the “High priestly Prayer of Jesus.” This is because He was about to function as the High Priest for the entire human race. As you may remember, the Old Testament High Priest entered within the veil in the temple, once a year, bringing a substitutionary sacrifice for himself, first, and then for the sins of the people of Israel.

The Divine Substitute

Jesus entered once for all time, bringing His own blood as our substitute, but no sacrifice for himself, as His perfect life precluded the need. He brought a sacrifice for the sins of humanity that would take away the sins of all who placed their trust in it. He brought no sacrifice for himself, because He had no sin, so no need for a sin-offering for Himself.

The Old Testament sacrifices served as a substitute, in place of the condemned sinners. Because He is our substitute, there can be no substitute for Jesus. It is good to keep that in mind: There is no substitute for Jesus.

Eternal Life in the Here and Now

Notice in verse 3, Jesus confirms that “…this is Life Eternal, that they may know Thee, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” Eternal life is not found in any creed or ritual, or pageantry, or in pious works of any kind: It is found in an ongoing relationship with Jesus.

Interestingly, entering into that relationship is what ensures eternal life, but to experience it on a daily basis requires continually engaging in that relationship, not just knowing about Him, but in knowing Him in an ongoing relationship.

Set Apart By the Word

Further, in verses 14-17, He states that His having given His Word to the disciples is what set them apart for Him, so that they were no longer part of the World system. John 15:3, agrees, where He said that they were “clean, through the Word” which He had spoken unto them. But He goes on to say that we are to be continually sanctified (set apart…made holy to God) through the Word of God. Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy truth. Thy Word is truth.”

Jesus prayed for the Unity of the church in verses 18-23. It might be easy to assume that He only was praying for the eleven Disciples, as they were the ones with Him at the time. But in verse 20, you can look and see where Jesus prayed for the future believers. He said He was praying for those who would believe in Jesus through the words of the disciples.

Jesus Prayed For You!

Look at it! Jesus was praying for YOU! He knew the future, not just in a general sense of what was coming, as if He were predicting the weather, but rather on an individual basis! He knew you before He created you! Jeremiah 1:5 says that before He (God) formed Jeremiah in his mother’s womb, He knew him and ordained him as a prophet to the nations.

Jesus was praying for you! And, in verse 24, He specifically declared that He wants you to be with Him throughout eternity, and to see Him face to face; to behold Him in His glorified state, which He had before the Creation, and which Peter, James and John briefly glimpsed on the Mount of Transfiguration. That is what Jesus has planned for you! Take it personally!

At Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46)

In John 18:1, we saw that Jesus and the Disciples crossed the Brook Kidron, and went to a place called Gethsemane where there was a garden Jesus liked. Matthew 26:36-46 encapsulates what happened there.

All eleven disciples went with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane, but Jesus had Peter, James and John go further with Him, to pray. He left the three of them to themselves, too, only asking that they “Watch with Him” in Prayer. He went a little further, and He fell on His face before the Father, and He prayed, in agony for what was to come.

What was the Agony of Gethsemane?

Luke 22:44 states that he was in such agony of Spirit that “His sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground.” Please take note that it says the sweat was “like” great drops of blood: it does not say he was sweating blood. Many readers ignore the comparison made, here, and interpret the scripture wrongly. But, regardless of the nature of His sweat; what was the source of His spiritual agony?

We think of it mainly in terms of the physical pain that He was to endure, but in Hebrews 12:2 we see that he “despised the shame” and He endured the agony of the Cross with Joy for what would result. So, if that is how He felt about the physical torture of the Cross, for what cause was he agonizing in prayer, at Gethsemane? (Look at Matthew 27:46.)

Separation From the Father

When Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?” He was quoting Psalm 22:1. In that Psalm, David was prophetically describing the crucifixion. You see, none of the things described in Psalm 22 ever happened to David. It was all about Jesus. And Jesus poured Himself out for our benefit, even enduring separation from the Eternal Father for our sake.

It is difficult for us to understand how the Trinity could separate itself like that, especially since Isaiah 9:6 says that the Son shall be called the Everlasting Father. But that is what happened. And, no, I do not have to understand it. I only need to see it as a fact, and respond in faith. As a teacher, I am required to faithfully teach what God says. I am not required to understand it all.

How Much do We Understand?

In Daniel 12:8 Daniel complained that he did not understand the prophecy God had just given him. But, in the next verse, we see God’s answer: He effectively said, “Write it down and run along, Daniel! That prophecy was not for you but for the people of the future!” It comforts me, to see that I’m in “good company.” It is OK to not understand everything God says.

But, when we consider the separation Jesus faced, there are some things to remember. He saw it as a horrible, unbearable thing. We tend to take it lightly, because we have never experienced the fulness of a relationship with the Father in the same way that Jesus did. He was the Eternal Son, forever in the presence of the Father.

Another thing to remember: as horrible and as unbearable as Jesus saw that separation to be; for Him, it only lasted for three hours. For us, that separation would have been eternal, had Jesus not taken our place at the Cross. He became our substitute, to endure God’s rejection of Sin…our sin, on our behalf!

His soul-felt, spiritual agony was in the fact that God the Father turned away from Him, because Jesus had become the sin of the whole human race. 2nd Corinthians 5:21 says that He (who knew no sin) became sin, for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. That is our new position: “In Him.” And the result is that God the Father sees us as the righteousness of God…in Him. That separation and actually becoming the Sin that He hated, was what Jesus was dreading, there in Gethsemane.

Through Gethsemane (Matthew 26:47-56; John 18:4-13)

After we saw Jesus agonizing in the dark night of Gethsemane, anticipating the Cross, and we saw the disciples unable to stay awake and pray with Him, we see Him awakening them and then turning to face the advancing enemies.

There is an interesting incident, here, involving the soldiers who were sent to arrest Him. These were not Roman soldiers, but rather the temple guards under the authority of the priests, at this point. Rome became involved later in the story. But verse 47 says there was a great multitude carrying swords and staves, sent from the chief priests, and the elders of the people.

Confronting the Mob

(Notice that Israel was involved as a nation in what was about to happen, despite the thousands who had individually believed in Him.) But, in John 18:4-8, we see that Jesus stepped forward to confront the mob, and asked “Whom do ye seek?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

And Jesus said, “I am He.” You will notice in your Bible, in John 18:5, that the word “he” is in italics, indicating that it was not in the original text. Many conjecture that what Jesus actually did was to quietly say His Name, the Great “I AM,” of Biblical History. There are other passages, where the same sentence structure is used without such dramatic results, but: look what happened, here! The whole mob fell backward to the ground!

What Happened?

Something special happened there! They came with swords, torches, and clubs to take Him as if He were a criminal. All He did was speak His Name, and He dropped the whole crowd on their backs! (Please don’t get the idea that they were “slain in the Spirit” or any such thing. This was not a “spiritual blessing:” They got body-slammed! These were the enemies of Christ, getting a warning of the unspeakable Authority and Power of the Incarnate God they were rejecting.)

Also, notice this: He reminded them why they were there, asking again, “Whom seek ye?” Then they cranked up their collective courage and they arrested Him. And, they bound His hands, though He had just knocked them flat with His Word! How strange! He did not need His hands, to manage that crowd. But that is what they tied up.

Judas’ last Move

At some point in this exchange, Judas identified Jesus by greeting Him with a kiss, which is where we get the phrases “the Judas-Kiss,” and “the Kiss of Death.” In Luke 22:48, Jesus commented on the gross inappropriateness of using such an intimate greeting to betray the Son of Man.

But after that point, He ignored Judas and faced the mob, and dealt with them alone. We see in Matthew 26:56, and in Mark 14:50 that after His arrest, all His disciples fled. On the other hand, we see that some of them trickled back, circled around, and followed at a distance, to see what would happen to Him.

What happened to Him, of course, was the trial, the condemnation, the scourgings, the abuse, and finally, the crucifixion, and a brutal, agonizing death. We will look at all of that next week.

What About Gethsemane and Us?

In the meantime, what do we do with the Story of Gethsemane? Is it just a “Biblical drama” for us to vicariously experience, empathizing with Jesus and clicking our tongues over the disciples failure to watch with Him? Or is there something deeper for us to learn, here?

For one thing, I think it is important for us to see that Only Jesus can prevail over the darkness. He is the Light of the World, and only Light overcomes darkness. The darkness of the fear, alone, at Gethsemane, was too much for the disciples. The trial and all that followed was completely outside their ability.

Zechariah 13:7 foretold that the shepherd would be smitten, and the sheep would be scattered. In Mark 14:27 Jesus said the fulfillment of that prophecy was at hand. He said that the disciples would be scattered when He was arrested, and He cited that specific prophecy from Zechariah.

How can we Stand?

We are no more capable of withstanding the attacks of the enemies, in our own strength, than they were! The eleven disciples, who knew Him face to face, still fled from the enemy, and failed to stand fast. We confess that we cannot serve in our own strength. But that does not deny that we are called to “press on, and go ahead and serve!” We are called to be His ambassadors and to function as His representatives, here on Earth. But we are not called to do it on our own!

Remember that the Jesus who is living in you is the same Jesus who knocked down a mob of soldiers just by speaking His name! Does that mean we should expect to “knock down soldiers?” No, it means that we are not to fear the results of standing for Jesus.

Count the Cost!

It may be costly. It may be painful, and we may be rejected by all that know us. It was costly and painful for Jesus as well. Remember that the disciples who were scattered and fled, that night, were later transformed by His Spirit, and they preached fearlessly, in public. It turned out to be costly and painful in each of their lives as well, but they lived through the hardship with Joy, knowing they were working with Jesus.

Set your heart on the goal of working with Jesus. Experience the Joy of knowing that what you are doing today will be valuable for eternity.

Lord Jesus, raise us up to be your disciples. Fill us with Your Spirit, and strengthen us with Your Joy. Let us be increasingly aware of your presence and Leading in our daily lives. Pour your love through us to the world around us and let us feed them with the Bread of Life.