Whatsoever He saith unto you, Do it!

Whatsoever He saith unto you, Do it!

© 2021 C. O. Bishop

John 2:1-11

Introduction:

We have looked at the Wedding Feast at Cana a couple of times now… we have examined God’s Purpose in Miracles, and we have examined what God has to say to us about marriage…but we still haven’t touched on two other important things. Verse 5 has a treasure for us, and verse 9 has a related treasure.

John 2:1-11

1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.

When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew😉 the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,

10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.


We briefly pointed out, two weeks ago, that this is the only command Mary ever gave in Scripture. She is granted no special authority, though she enjoys a most blessed status as the Mother of the Lord: Even before Jesus was born, Mary’s older cousin, Elizabeth, recognized her as the Mother of her Lord. And the baby in her womb, six months along, leaped for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice. (Now, how do we know that he wasn’t just kicking? Or that he wasn’t startled by the noise, or something else that is commonplace and mundane? The way we know that it is true, is that when Elizabeth made this statement, she was filled with the Holy Spirit—under the Holy Spirit’s direct control: she was not speaking of her own accord! Luke 1:41-45 tells us the story:

41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

All these things really are special, and joyful, but Mary also experienced great tragedy in her life. She was prophetically warned of that coming grief, when Jesus was only a few days old, by an old man named Simeon, in Luke 2:34, 35.

My point is that, in spite of all the blessedness and uniqueness of her position, she was never given any special “pull” with God, and no authority. She herself admitted her own need for a Savior, in Luke 1:47…She was a sinner saved by Grace, same as each of us. She did have the privilege of bearing Him, nursing Him, and watching Him grow to adulthood, to emerge as the Lamb of God! But no one prayed to her…no one crowned her “Queen of Heaven,” or any other such thing, and she would have been horrified to know that such things would one day be said of her. So, when she “nudged” Jesus, telling Him the party had run out of wine, she was banking on her special relationship with Him, but He let her know that the choice was His, not hers. So, she turned to the servants of the household and issued her only Command: “Whatsoever He says to you, do it!”

Whatsoever He says to You

Could that have any application in our lives? “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it?” Have you heard His voice? Can you read His Word, and not “hear His voice?” He is speaking, still today, if we are willing to listen. The Bible is literally the written Word of God. Jesus is literally the Living Word of God, and He is given that label more than once in the New Testament.

The Person with whom Abraham chatted while he fed Him beef, bread, butter and milk was Jesus, in one of His preincarnate appearances! Hebrews 11:3 confirms that the Word of God created the World. And Hebrews 1:10 records God the Father, speaking to God the Son, and confirming that God the Son created the Heavens and the Earth! How does that make you feel about the Bible, which is the black-and-white written representation of the Living Word of God? If Jesus is speaking to you (and He is) through the Word of God, doesn’t it follow that you should be deliberately taking time to read it, and to learn to understand it, so that you, like those servants, can do whatever He says?

Mary’s only command happens to also be the most frequent command in the Bible: “Obey God!” So, what might happen if we learned to walk with Him in obedience? Would everything just be happy and easy, like some people teach? Not necessarily!

Those servants obeyed: they hauled the water…a lot of it! And water is heavy! Scholars tell us that those stone pots each held between 20 and 30 gallons…and there were six of them: that means they hauled between 120 and 180 gallons of water, not knowing why they were doing it. Water weighs 8.33 pounds per gallon, so those poor servants, already tired from their work, were called to haul between 1,000 and 1,500 pounds of water, not even counting the weight of the jars or water skins or buckets, they used to haul it.

And then, they dipped the water into the wine containers that they were to carry out to the ruler of the feast: they obeyed! But the next morning they were still lowly servants. Except that, something had changed: Those servants, and Mary, and the disciples, were the only ones beside Jesus who knew what had happened. There was a special blessing for them: a secret joy they shared. They had hauled the water, all right, but He had changed their water into wine!

Turning our Water into Wine

There are going to be some people who have a problem with this passage: I have personally known people who vehemently insisted that “It was grape juice! Jesus would never have created wine!” Their reasoning included the supposition that He was a Nazarite (as was John the Baptist), and couldn’t drink wine…but He said, “John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said he was demon-possessed: the Son of Man comes eating and drinking, and He is accused of being a winebibber and a glutton!”

Besides, in Psalm 104:14, 15 the scripture tells us that God provides food for us, and wine that makes glad the heart of Man” So, that is what Jesus was doing! The word here in John 2 is “oinos:” exactly the same word as in Ephesians 5:18 where we are warned not to be drunk with wine. (It was wine! Deal with it.) Now, I can’t easily relate to any of that because I can’t stand the taste of alcoholic beverages, for which I am grateful, as it means it is never a temptation to me. And there are many in our society and elsewhere who overindulge in alcohol and it is a huge social problem. And it has been since the beginning of time. Noah started a great tradition almost 3,500 years ago: He went for a long cruise on a ship and when he got off the boat, he got drunk…on wine! Sailors have been doing that ever since! (By the way, the Hebrew word for what Noah drank is “Yayin:” the exact same word used in the Psalm we just quoted.) So, the wine isn’t the problem: our propensity for misusing it is the problem.

Water to Wine?

So, how can this part apply in our lives? If we are a bunch of teetotalers (as I am) is there any application for us? Or is this verse just for people who like wine?

Let’s consider: Is Wine necessary for our survival? Of course not: it was given by God as something special to “make glad the hearts of men.” It is one of the thousands of things that God did not need to do for us, but He did it as a gift. (Yes, I understand the danger therein! Many of His gifts can be wrongly used…but we aren’t going there today.) But Water is absolutely necessary for our survival. So, why didn’t He just leave it at water? Why provide alcohol at all? He already explained that! It was to “make glad the heart of Man!” And that fits with the party Jesus attended.

Let’s back up to another story: In the Book of Ruth, Ruth and others were gleaning in the field of Boaz. They had a legal right to do so. The Law required that if the reapers dropped stalks of grain, they were not allowed to pick it up: it was left for the gleaners. And they could not reap the corners of their fields…that also was for the gleaners. But Boaz commanded his servants that when Ruth was near them, they were to drop extra handfuls of stalks of grain on purpose, so that she would have a good harvest! That was pure Grace! Was it necessary? No! The story of Boaz and Ruth is a picture of Christ and the Church! And Jesus does not just give us the minimum: He pours out His Love and Grace to those who love Him and who walk with Him.

That is what Romans 8:28 is about! 28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

If we walk with God, and are looking for His “fingerprints” in our lives, we will learn to find them: He has big hands and He leaves His “fingerprints” everywhere for us to find, in answered prayer, in special Grace by which to overcome the trials of Life, and in the secret Joy of simply walking with Him in Fellowship. He turns our “water” into “wine!”

We thank Him for our daily bread, and humbly trust Him for our sustenance: but He invites us, in Isaiah 55:1, 2, saying “1Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

He says this is not going to be a barren relationship: He will provide joy to the believing heart and grace by which to live…even in hardship, in famine, in disease and even in death.

All we have to do is take personally the command, “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it!”

Walk with Him…that is pretty much the bottom line. Micah 6:8 says, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

John 13:34, 35, Jesus gave us a new commandment by which to walk: “Love one another, as I have loved you!”

If you want God to turn the “water” of your survival needs into the Wine of His Joy, you need to learn to walk with Him, in faith and obedience. That is what those household servants did, hauling a half-ton or more of water, by faith. They filled those pots to the brim, it said. And their reward was the secret joy of having seen the first Miracle Jesus did in His earthly ministry.

The Joy we receive can often be shared…but still, only believers will receive that joy. You can share it with unbelievers and it will be a very strange thing to them. They may be attracted to that joy in your life and become believers, or they may accuse you of hypocrisy, as the pharisees did toward Jesus and the disciples. Either way, the Joy can be yours, if you are willing to patiently walk with Him.

Lord Jesus, lead us into a transparent walk with Yourself, and teach us to look for the Joy You supply in life. Open our hearts to the teaching of Your Word and the leading of Your Holy Spirit. Draw us along to see the transformation You have promised.

What do we Know about Marriage?

What do we Know about Marriage?

© 2021 C. O. Bishop

Genesis 2:22-24; John 2:1-11; John 4:17, 18; Ephesians 5:21-23; 1st Peter 3:1-9; etc.

Introduction:

In light of the fact that we “just happened” to be studying John 2:1-11 (the Marriage feast at Cana) at the same time as Brennan and Addie were getting married, it seems appropriate to talk about Marriage as a concept. But not much is really said about the subject, here, in John 2:1-11.

There are certain passages which are “traditionally” quoted in regard to marriage as a concept, pointing out the fact that it is not only designed by God and ordained by God, and blessed by God, but that it is Holy to God. It is important to Him! I’d like to explore why that is the case: Why is marriage so important to God?

Origin of Marriage

One of the passages frequently cited is the actual origin of marriage, as part of the Creation. It was not a simple “mating” of two members of the “animal kingdom,” as humanists would have us to believe: there was something special that God ordained, here in Genesis 2:22-24. KJV

22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

That passage is cited in virtually every Christian wedding, as evidence that marriage is God-ordained, and blessed by God, etc. But we seldom discuss why it is something special to God.

Examples of Marriages…Good and Bad

We also tend to cite John 2:1-11 as evidence that Jesus honored marriage, and we correctly point out that He performed His first public miracle at a wedding feast.

What about the example cited in John 4:17, 18…”the Woman at the Well?”

17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.


You see, just “living together” does not constitute marriage. Jesus did not say, “you have had five husbands and you are working on a sixth:” He said, “the one you have now is not your husband.” So, we see that there is a standard for marriage, and apparently it varies wildly across the thousands of different cultures in the World. Some cultures require lots of ceremony: others require a simple statement of intent. Some have laws protecting women, whereby, if you spend the night with them, you are married, like it or not. Some are even more strict…if you lure her away with you, and she goes, you are married, even though you never even got out of sight of the girl’s family!

I remember reading of a missionary’s account of such a situation: A young man was interested in a young lady, and evidently believed she was also interested in him. The young fellow crept through the underbrush of the jungle, to the edge of her family’s garden and beckoned the young girl to follow him: and she did, but before they had escaped into the jungle the girl’s mother spotted them and furiously ran to catch up with them. She raged at them, and beat both of them savagely with her digging tool, but she finally went back to her field alone: they were married! So the standard exists everywhere, but it varies a great deal, in appearance.

A Hidden Purpose for Marriage

The Genesis passage is also quoted by God, in Ephesians 5:21-33, almost as a footnote, as the Apostle Paul gives revelation as to how husbands and wives are to relate to one another:

21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

We usually use this passage along with other similar passages, to teach about the marriage relationship. That is a good thing to do, and that is the intentof those verses. But look more closely at what was said, here: Remember that this is God’s Word, not just Paul’s opinion: and He says that the verse He quoted from Genesis demonstrates that marriage is supposed to be a picture of Christ and the Church! We know that; it has been taught many times over. But look at when that pattern was given: it was given before sin entered into the world!

God knew ahead of time that humans would fall into sin, and that Jesus the Messiah would die for the sins of the whole human race, and that those who trusted in Him would enter into a relationship that is unmatched anywhere in the Universe: That the Holy God who created them would actually indwell those who trusted in Him; that they would become one with Him, as a body is One with the Head. And we can see that He was already committed to that relationship before sin became an issue. He is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the World.” (Revelation 13:8) And, we knew that! But He was also already committed to being the Bridegroom, long before the Bride existed!

In 1st Peter 3:1-9, we see an amplification of the commands given in Ephesians 5, along with a warning to the husbands that if we ignore this command, it will affect our relationship with God.

1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

A Two-way Relationship

So, when we choose to respond to one another rightly in marriage, as God teaches, we are demonstrating that Holy relationship between Christ and the Church. Consider the implications of that statement. It goes two ways: it means that the love and respect spoken of here are supposed to be in our relationship with our spouse; but it also gives some insight as to what is available in our relationship with Jesus! It means that, as we learn to walk with Him, there is a partnership being built with Him: one which can actually be enjoyed on a daily basis, and one which we can be excited about, as we work with the Bridegroom, doing His work.

Wives working with their husbands to build a physical house are excited to see it growing into a habitation for the two of them and their family. And usually, they are excited about decorating it, furnishing it, and making it a home, not just a well-built structure. That is why we sometimes refer to such a person as a homemaker…Most men do not naturally think in terms of “making a house a home.” They want it solid, functional, code-compliant, attractive, etc., but they frequently have little imagination beyond that. I do not think I am unusual when I say that, without Ann’s touch, our house would not be nearly so much a “home” as perhaps a “cabin,” or a “hunting lodge,” or something. Possibly even just a “workshop with living quarters attached.” But Ann works constantly to make it a pleasant habitation for us: because of her, and her work, it is a home.

Proverbs 14:1 says that “every wise woman builds her house.” She works to strengthen her household, her home, her family. It goes on to say that a foolish woman “plucks it down with her hands.” She behaves in such a way as to tear down the relationships that make for a secure home environment for all of her family.

Proverbs 31:10-31 describe a woman who is wisely, diligently building up her household. But, if we consider the fact that the Church is compared to the Bride, and that the Marriage relationship is specifically called out as a picture of Christ and the Church, then we can gain some insight as to how the Church is supposed to be carrying on the business of God, here on earth, and pursuing the agenda He has laid out for us.

God says that He is building His Church, and that He involves us in the building process. He says “That which every joint supplieth” is what is strengthening and building up that “Habitation of God” that He has designed us—The Church—to be, for Him.

So, Why is Marriage Holy to God?

Marriage is Holy to God, because it is a living demonstration of the relationship He wants with every believer. So, we need to think about what we are demonstrating: He says we are to Love one another, and that we are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. We see one another as fellow-heirs of the Grace of Life in Him. We love one another with the Agapé Love, in Him. God describes that Love in 1st Corinthians 13:4-8.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth:

Please notice that not one word in this passage has anything to do with “feelings:” this is not about romance; it is not about emotions, or how we feel, at all. Every single descriptor in that passage is an action word: a verb. They are things we can choose to do. That also means they are things we can fail to do. Every moment, we either choose to do them or we fail to do them. And it is a choice, whether a conscious choice, or not.

Ephesians 4:1-3 tells us how to relate to one another, knowing that we are not perfect. It says we are to “Forbear one another in Love.” It says we are to “endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” God created that unity: all we can hope to do is to keep that unity. We are to accept one another as the imperfect humans that we are, looking through the veil of human frailty to see the beauty of the Person of Christ within. God has chosen to set aside our sin, nailing it to the Cross with Jesus. He no longer sees us as sinners, but as His precious saints: holy, and members of His Bride. We need to see one another in that light as well.

Marriage is Permanent, just like our Salvation

Jesus assures us over and over in the Bible that our position in Him is secure forever: His Blood at the Cross has forever made us holy to God. In light of that, your marriage is to be secure for life. Never leave one another, nor even “threaten to leave:” that is a gross denial of Christ.

We may be angry with one another sometimes (hopefully it is quickly resolved, and peace is restored,) but we are never to even imply that we might sever the relationship as a result. That is what our vows are about in marriage. That is why we say, “as long as we both shall live.” Jesus will never abandon his saints. We are never to abandon our loving commitment to one another.

Jesus Himself addressed the permanence of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6.

And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.


Jesus made that pretty clear, didn’t He? But, are there exceptions?

Exceptions

There are passages that seem to make exceptions: Jesus said “Except for the cause of fornication…” Well, there are two different words in Greek, just as there are in English, for premarital sexual sin, and extramarital sexual sin. One is called “fornication” in scripture, the other is called “adultery.”

You see, in their culture, “betrothal,” or “engagement” was such a serious agreement that it required a divorce to break an engagement. (We take engagement pretty lightly by comparison.) Sexual sin during the betrothal period was called fornication, just as it would have been without that engagement. This was the only exception Jesus gave.

This, by the way, is the reason Joseph was about to seek a quiet, secret divorce from Mary, when he found out she was pregnant: He thought she had committed “fornication.” And, he would have been behaving correctly, as Jesus said; but God sent the angel Gabriel to clear up the matter: Mary had not sinned.

Joseph believed God and, by faith, he went ahead with the wedding. (Faith is an obedient response to a revealed truth.)  Joseph lived the rest of his life with others believing he had sinned. Mary lived the rest of her life with others thinking she had sinned. Only the two of them knew the real truth.

Conclusion:

How you view marriage as a concept will affect how your marriage actually functions. If you (both Husband and wife) see it as God sees it, you will find it a total blessing, as you work together in partnership with the Living Christ. If you do not see it that way, nor choose to live that way (and, yes, it takes two,) then, to whatever degree you vary from His plan and purpose, the marriage will suffer accordingly. The World has long abandoned God’s values, and rejected them wholesale: so, marriages and husband-wife relationships suffer, everywhere in the world.

We are to demonstrate the reality of Christ to the World through our marriages, as well as through our spoken testimony and our overall behavior. This is a key example of what it means when Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have Love one to another.” The love that others can observe in action between you and your spouse is one of the two criteria Jesus gave to the World, by which to judge the church. Love is one, and Unity is the other. How you respond to your husband or wife will proclaim to the world the nature of your relationship with Jesus. Give that some thought!

Lord Jesus, all of us desire to have fruitful lives and peaceful, joyful, loving marriages. Grant us the wisdom to apply Your Word to our lives in such a way as to build that reality in our lives. Make us the men and women You have called us to be, and enable us as Your ambassadors.

A Triumphal Procession

Triumphal Procession

© 2021 Rick Flemmer

What is a procession?

Procession:
COUNTABLE NOUN

procession is a group of people who are walking, riding, or driving in a line as part of a public event.

…a funeral procession. 

Synonyms: paradetrainmarchfile   More Synonyms of procession

Can we remember any processions in our history?  I think of my daughter Addie getting married soon.  She has a wedding dress and part of the dress is what we call the train an extra-long portion of fabric proceeding down the aisle for the purpose of showcasing or displaying her beauty.

How about in scripture? Can we think of a time when there was a precession?

Matthew 27:27-32 (New American Standard Bible) Jesus Is Mocked
27
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort to Him. 28 And they stripped Him and put a red cloak on Him. 29 And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and put a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30And they spit on Him, and took the reed and beat Him on the head. 31And after they had mocked Him, they took the cloak off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him. 32 As they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they compelled to carry His cross.

Satan wants you:

Do you think there is an enemy out there?  Yes! And he wants to parade you around as one of  his captives, trophies, and show how he conquered you.  Paul gives us warning about this.

Colossians 2:8 (English Standard Version)
8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Jesus wants you:

John 3:16 (New American Standard Bible)
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.

Romans 6:22-23 (New American Standard Bible)
22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John 4:14 (New American Standard Bible)
14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty; but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.”

John 14:2-3 (New American Standard Bible)

2 In My Father’s house are many rooms; if that were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will take you to Myself, so that where I am, there you also will be.

Questions of a nonbeliever to believers:

How do you protect yourself from becoming captive to philosophy and empty deceit?

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (New American Standard Bible)
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not wage battle according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying arguments and all arrogance raised against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

Our king is the conqueror and triumphantly parades us around as “spoils” to show the world that we have eternity with him. 

Ephesians 4:8 (New American Standard Bible)
8 Therefore it says,

“When He ascended on high,
He led captive the captives,
And He gave gifts to people.

What do you mean “Ascended on high?”

Ephesians 4:9-10 (New American Standard Bible)
9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)

What is meant by “all things?”

Ephesians 1:21-23 (New International Version)
21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

How did he conquer? 

By beating death on the cross and ascending to heaven.

Matthew 16:21 (New American Standard Bible) Jesus Foretells His Death

21 From that time Jesus began to point out to His disciples that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem and to suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and to be killed, and to be raised up on the third day.

Revelation 1:17-18 (New American Standard Bible)
17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

Ok, so he parades you around as a Conqueror and he beat death: So, what are the gifts?

Ephesians 4:1-14 (New American Standard Bible) Unity of the Spirit
4 Therefore I, the prisoner (or captive)of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 being diligent to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you also were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

 8 Therefore it says,

“When He ascended on high,
He led captive the captives,
And He gave gifts to people.”


9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of people, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;

(The gifts are you!)

Another part about a procession from a triumphal standpoint is: the conqueror will also display the shame that is associated to the defeated.

Colossians 2:14-15 (English Standard Version)
14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Conclusion:

As I read and understand scripture there is no mention of Satan triumphantly parading around his spoils in a procession or a train for display. You see, Satan loses!

So now the question is:  How do I get to be one of those beautifully displayed captives that Paul was speaking about in Ephesians? You know, the kind he puts on display, where he is proud to show them in victory from the battle as Conqueror and King. You know… the kind who have eternal life with the King.  You know…the kind who receive gifts from the King.

How?  The answer is so anti-climactic, because everything is done! The battle has been won, and all the glory goes to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! We just need to believe in it.

Acts 16:30-31 (English Standard Version)
30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Nathanael: An Israelite indeed

Nathanael: An Israelite indeed

© 2021 C. O. Bishop

John 1:45-51

Introduction:

We have been studying through the Gospel of John and have seen Jesus through a number of different viewpoints: we have seen Him as the Living Word: we have seen Him as God, the Creator; we have seen Him as the Light of the world, and the only source of life. We have seen Him as the Word made flesh…the incarnate God. We saw Him as the only source of Grace and Truth. We have seen Him as the Lamb of God: God’s chosen sacrifice for sin. We have seen Him as God the Son, specifically the “Only Begotten Son.”

These are just the introductory views that the Gospel presents. As He begins interacting with the disciples and others, we begin to see more things that deepen our understanding of Who Jesus really is. In John 1:45-50, we have His initial meeting with Nathanael. Starting in verse 43, we see:

43 The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. 44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. 46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. 49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. 50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. 51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

Geographic Context

There are some “peculiar” things said in this passage, by both Jesus and Nathanael, as well as a number of other unanswered questions. Perhaps we have some answers, perhaps not. Let’s take it idea by idea: First, remember where they were: they were at a place called Bethabara, beyond Jordan, (John 1:28) This is at least six weeks after Jesus had been baptized by John the Baptist, and about sixty miles north, as John’s continuing ministry moved him from one end of the country to the other. Jesus was baptized near Jericho, at the closest point to Jerusalem (still 20 or thirty miles away…east of Jerusalem, near Jericho.)

They were not far from Galilee, now: They were right across the Jordan, in a province called Peraea, which just means “Beyond,” and about 13 miles south of the sea of Galilee, where most of these men worked as fishermen.

In verse 43, it says that Jesus planned a trip back into Galilee, where His hometown of Nazareth was. He already had called Andrew, and Peter, as well as one other disciple, who was almost certainly John, later to become the Apostle John. (John never referred to himself by name in his Gospel.)

Calling Philip

Jesus found Philip and called him to follow Him as a disciple. We aren’t told much about that exchange, either. Why would Philip want to follow Jesus? Had he heard of Him? Was there some background that we are not given? I can’t be sure…but somehow, Philip knew who Jesus was and was not only willing to lay aside everything else and become his disciple, but he went and found a friend, Nathanael, and invited him to join him, in following Jesus.

Philip was from Bethsaida, the same village where Peter and Andrew lived. Bethsaida means “House of fishing.” We might surmise that Philip was also a commercial fisherman, though we are not told so. We might even assume that he was already friends with Peter and Andrew, and that possibly this was part of why he was easily able to choose discipleship.

Nathanael is named as one of those who followed Peter back to the boats and the fish, in chapter 21. However, Nathanael was not from the same town, but rather from Cana, where Jesus would be going in the next chapter. Cana was about sixteen miles from Bethsaida, as far as I can tell.

(Part of the problem in determining where Bethsaida is in relation to the other places, is that the city of Bethsaida was abandoned after about AD 65, because an earthquake had filled the north end of the Sea of Galilee with silt, putting the fishing village too far from the water, not to mention possibly having buried all the boats. We simply have to accept that things have changed a bit, over the last 2000 years in that area. We have similar occurrences, here: the Salton Sea of southern California is part of what was once a giant inland sea of 2,200 square miles, which today is called “Cahuilla Lake,” But that lake had filled and emptied many times over the preceding millennia, and had been desert again, for centuries, until about 1905, when an accident caused by human meddling diverted the entire Colorado river into that area for about two years, filling it again, flooding towns and much of the local Indian territory. It has dried up again, mostly, but the event significantly changed geography for more than a century.)

But all of these men (Andrew, John, Peter, Philip and Nathanael) were in Peraea, at the village of Bethabara, when Jesus called them: they were 25 miles (or more) away from Bethsaida, and around 20 miles away from Cana or Nazareth, in a different direction. My supposition is that all these men probably had specifically come there because of the preaching of John the Baptist, and all probably had been baptized by him, identifying with his message of the coming Kingdom. And now, in Jesus, they were meeting the King!

Calling Nathanael

Philip either already knew a fair bit about Jesus, or he picked it up from the others very quickly, because he told Nathanael that they had found the predicted King, prophesied by Moses and the prophets, and Philip referred to Him as “Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph.” It is interesting, too, that Philip used the Greek form meaning the heir (huion) of Joseph, not the common “bar-Joseph” which simply means “son of Joseph.” I can only guess that the difference might have specified that Jesus was the eldest Son: the heir. If that isn’t it, then Philip was simply mistaken, as Jesus was not actually Joseph’s son, at all, though He truly was his “Heir-apparent.”

But Nathanael’s response is interesting, too: He asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” We might assume that he simply didn’t think much of Nazareth, and that is certainly a possibility. Even today, people scorn certain towns as being unimportant and even contemptible. (Consider the various towns called “Podunk”—Podunk, MA; Podunk, NY; Podunk, VT; etc.)

But it seems more likely that Nathanael knew the prophecy regarding Bethlehem as being the birthplace of the Messiah, and the bloodline of David being the ancestry. He may simply have been questioning the possibility of the Messiah originating in Nazareth at all. In that case, he would have been correct, but he simply would not have known that Jesus actually had been born in Bethlehem, and was of the lineage of David, fulfilling that portion of the prophecies. But, Philip’s only answer was “Come and See!”

Come and See!

“Come and See” is a good invitation! We can invite a friend to “come and see the promise of Jesus” in John 5:24, and invite them to deal personally with the promise of Eternal Life: Life to be experienced now, not as a vague, “pie-in-the-sky” hope, but as a present knowledge of the Risen Christ. Philip invited Nathanael to come and meet Jesus personally.

As they approached, Jesus saw Nathanael, and said, “Behold: a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile.” (“Guile” is phoniness: sly trickery, deception.”) Jesus was saying that Nathanael was honest, and that he presented no “false front.” No false “show” of religious piety, as the Pharisees were known to do.

And, Nathanael was startled that Jesus (whom he had never met) was making a statement regarding his character. He asked, “Where do you know me from?’ Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.

What about the Fig Tree?

So…what did He see? Was it just that Nathanael “happened to be” under a fig tree before Philip called him? And, did Jesus simply mean, “Yes, I saw you sitting under that fig tree when Philip called you,” Or did he mean, “before Philip called you, back when you were sitting under the fig tree, I saw you.”?

In either case, what was Nathanael doing there, under the fig tree? Was he praying? Was he meditating on God’s Word? Or was he just having a nap? We aren’t actually told, and if it were not for the following exchange, it might not have mattered:

Nathanael completely capitulated on the idea of whether anything good could come out of Nazareth: He blurted out, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.

Now, how could he come to that conclusion with the extremely limited information he had to work with? Jesus asked essentially that very question: He said, “Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.”

And then He said something really strange:

Prophecy

He said Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” I had a hard time following Nathanael’s “jump” to faith, but I have an even harder time following Jesus’s prophetic response! What does one statement have to do with the other?

Is Jesus simply stating something special in Nathanael’s and the other disciples’ future? He didn’t say “You will see Me coming in clouds of Glory and setting up My kingdom here.” He did tell others some things of that sort…but what He said to Nathanael is only matched in one place in the scriptures, as far as I can tell:

Jacob’s Ladder

It matches Jacob’s vision in Genesis 28:10-17, where Jacob was at Bethel, andsaw a vision of a “ladder,” whose top reached to heaven, and he saw “the angels of God ascending and descending upon it.” What a strange vision! The only thing that cleared it up (a little) was that The LORD was at the head of that ladder, and He used that vision to reiterate to Jacob the promises given to Abraham and Isaac. Is that, perhaps, what Nathanael was pondering and wondering about, when he was under the fig tree? I really have no idea.

But much has been made of that “ladder.” People have gotten the idea that we are somehow to “climb” that ladder: Songs are written about it, saying “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder…every step goes higher, higher…etc.” But that is simply not true!

Believers do not “Climb” into Christ

The day you trusted in Christ as your Savior, you were placed in Christ, and you already have been seated with Him in the Heavenlies, according to Ephesians 2:6. There is no hint of our “climbing into God’s presence,” or somehow by our works gaining worthiness to enter in. Jesus paid our way, and He has entered in, and we enter in by faith… in Him.

So, for what cause are the angels going up and down? (They aren’t doing home renovation, or maintenance work. They aren’t changing lightbulbs!) If I look at Job, the first two chapters, I see that Satan had to get permission to do all the terrible things he did to Job. God permitted it for two purposes: our edification and Job’s education. But angels (both holy and fallen) do have access to this world.

If Satan had to have permission to act, perhaps the vision of Jacob’s ladder and the comment Jesus made, together allow us a peek at a spiritual truth: angelic intervention on earth is only possible through Christ. So, even the holy angels only work on earth as God’s messengers: they are not free to come and go, and just do whatever they think of. And it is further evidence that the fallen angels have no power over us, except as God allows testing in our lives.

And what else did we see…or not see…regarding that ladder? Were there people climbing that ladder? Nope. There were not. Even the Old Testament makes it fairly clear that when a wicked person confesses his guilt and repents, his sins are forgotten. (Ezekiel 33:14-16, compare Psalm 103:12) And in the New Testament, far from our “climbing” into God’s Grace by our works or piety, we are placed into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit at the moment we trust in Him; and as a result, we are already fully accepted by God and we are permanently His children.

Transparency and Honesty

I don’t know all that Jesus saw in Nathanael, beyond what He told us: “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile” Apparently Jesus really likes transparency in His relationship with us. He is most certainly not impressed with man-made “piety” and “shows” of “righteousness.” He pretty strongly condemned the Pharisees for that particular behavior:

In Matthew 23:25-27, He said “25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.


The English word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word “hupokrites,” meaning “an actor:” specifically, the kind of actors they had at that time, who literally held up a false-face mask from behind which they read their lines. If they played a “nice guy” they held up a smiling benign-looking mask: if they played a villain, they held up a nasty-guy mask, to show the audience who they were supposed to be. A person who simply fails to do what they really believe is right, is failing, not “acting.” We don’t call a child a hypocrite for falling down when they are trying to learn to walk, nor do we call an adult who has a wreck on a bicycle, a “hypocrite” for failing to maintain his balance…we know he failed. He was in no way “pretending” to ride a bicycle.

The ones Jesus called “hypocrites” were pretending to be Godly men, and hiding a false, evil heart. Nathanael was evidently the opposite of a hypocrite: he was completely transparent, both about his doubts (“How can anything good come out of Nazareth?”) and his faith (“Master, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”) He suffered the same failings as everyone else, but he called them as he saw them. He was not trying to impress anyone. Jesus evidently liked that!

What about us?

Can we be transparent with God, to begin with? Can we then grow in that faith, enough to be transparent with one another? Can we abandon our “Company and Church Face,” and replace it with a Christ-like heart, so that what comes out in the sight of everyone else is genuinely the kind of person Jesus calls us to be?

Believe it or not, people pretty easily see through our “fronts and facades, and fakes” anyway: why not just give up the pretense, confess our faults, and humble ourselves enough to honestly walk with Jesus? Only in that way are we free to love one another, and to help one another, and not suffer shame for who we really are. I may not know, for sure, the connection between Jesus and Jacob’s Ladder; but I can at least lay hold of what Jesus said about Nathanael and try to apply it to my own life. I want to be transparent with God and with my fellow humans, so that the charge of “hypocrite” will never be appropriate.

Lord Jesus, we ask that you open our eyes to the realities of our own lives and allow us to be honest with you and with those around us, about who we are, and the changes that need to happen. Help us to shine as your lights in this world.

Christ the Lamb of God

Christ the Lamb of God

© C. O. Bishop 2011 (revised 2021)

(THCF 2/19/12) Revised 2021

John 1:29 “…Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the World!”

Introduction:

John has already introduced us to Jesus, as the Word of God; the Creator; the Light; the Life; the Source of Grace and Truth. And we have seen him in His incarnation, as the Word made Flesh. Now John (the Apostle) introduces another concept…”Christ, the Lamb of God”.

When I was young (and an unbeliever, by the way), I had no idea what this phrase meant. I knew what a lamb looked like, acted like, and smelled like…and heard people refer to lambs as gentle, or harmless, or cute and cuddly, but I didn’t see how any of those things applied to Jesus, and honestly found the idea somewhat repugnant—silly and sentimental at best.

What I did not understand was that to the Hebrew culture, a Lamb was primarily a sacrificial offering, and that they understood perfectly what kind of Lamb was meant when John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”  They probably did not understand how it could apply to a Man, but they definitely knew what a Lamb was all about.

Further, they probably doubted the second clause: “…which taketh away the sin….” They knew that the blood of the lambs they sacrificed only temporarily covered their sins: so the idea that sins would be permanently removed was somewhat foreign, although we will see that the Old Testament scriptures predicted just that.

Finally, I am sure they completely balked at the idea that the blood of the Lamb could take away “the sins of the World”. It was their idea that the Messiah was to come and save Israel—not the world. And yet, the Prophets had predicted that he would be the savior of the Gentiles as well, and that the Gentiles would be given to Him as His inheritance.

So, John the Baptist really said a mouthful:

  1. He said that a Man would be the sacrificial Lamb.
  2. He stated that that Lamb would take away sin; and
  3. Finally, that He would take away the sins of the World.

Let’s see how that holds up in the light of God’s Word.

Jesus in Genesis

In the Beginning, we saw the creation (and Christ was the Creator), and we saw the Fall of Man into sin. The curse that fell as a result of sin included the prediction of the destruction of the Serpent—not the snake specifically; the Serpent— later identified as Satan. (Genesis 3:15, cp. Revelation 20:2) The One who would fulfill that promise was someone called the “Seed of Woman.” And the only one in History who could qualify as being specifically the Seed of Woman was Jesus, in the virgin birth.

Adam trusted God’s promise of a coming Savior, and God sacrificed animals to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve. This was the first blood sacrifice: it was conducted by God, not Man. The first recorded blood sacrifice brought by a human was by Abel, in Genesis chapter 4. God accepted that sacrifice, and told Cain that if he, too, would do right, then He (God) would also accept his offering. But, Cain refused, and was lost.

Later, in Genesis 23, Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac. Abraham had no way to know that this was “only a test.” But he passed the test: he built the altar, laid the firewood, bound Isaac, and lifted him onto the wood. When he picked up the knife, to actually kill Isaac, God stopped him, and provided a substitute…a ram, which had been there all along, but unseen by Abraham or Isaac until the proper time.

Isaac had earlier asked Abraham, “where is the Lamb?” Abraham had answered with a statement of faith: “God will provide Himself a lamb”. God certainly did provide the Lamb, and He has done so once for all time, at the Cross. But, in Genesis, in the cases of Adam, Eve, Abel and Isaac, there was one lamb for one individual.

Jesus in Old Testament History

In Exodus 12, Israel was in bondage in Egypt. God was about to take them out of that bondage and remove them to another land. Pharaoh had refused permission for them to leave, so God sent ten plagues on Egypt—the last being the death of the firstborn of every household. But He offered an escape from that judgment, through the blood of a lamb.

Every family, house by house, was to choose a flawless lamb from their flock: they were to kill that lamb. They were to catch his blood in a basin, and then dip a bundle of hyssop in the blood and strike that blood onto the lintel and the two doorposts of the house. (try these motions—you are making a cross in the air.) They were to stay inside their houses that night, under the protection of that blood. When the destroying angel went through Egypt, He would pass over that house, sparing all who were under that blood. One lamb died for each family, though each individual was to eat of that lamb, personally. In every house without the blood, someone was dead. The blood of those lambs looked forward to the Cross.

The Passover was to be celebrated every year. They celebrated it as a commemorative feast, every year, with one lamb per family. There were other sacrifices, as well: each to cover sin. The Day of Atonement (“covering”) was observed once every year: one animal for the whole nation. Individual lamb offerings were brought for both individual sins, and for the covering of the firstborn.

In every case, these blood-sacrifices looked forward to the one Lamb of God that would come into the world and bear the sins of the human race. One lamb for the whole world. Judgment has fallen on the whole world, because of sin. We are given the option to place ourselves under the blood of God’s sacrifice and be saved. Every soul who fails to place himself under that blood is lost.

Romans 5:6 says that “in due time” Christ died for the ungodly. Revelation 13:8 says Jesus was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the Earth”—he was there all the time, like the Ram in the story of Abraham and Isaac, but we had not seen him. He died at the proper time in history.

Why So Many Lambs?

Over the centuries, millions of lambs had died sacrificially, in hope of the salvation of Man. Obviously, some were offered by unbelieving hearts, only following a “form.” That is true today as well. Many recite catechisms, or creeds, without applying that truth to their own case. They say the words, but they don’t believe. In those days, the lambs died, but to no advantage. In a sense, that is true today, as well. Jesus truly died for the sins of the whole human race (1st John 2:2,) but for those who do not believe, it is to no advantage.

The lambs, bulls, and goats of the Old Testament sacrifices had three major flaws:

  1. Not being human, (unrelated to the sinner) they could not be the Redeemer—and could not cleanse the sinner. The Law of the substitute (and the Kinsman-Redeemer) required a willing, voluntary substitution of a free individual who was a close relative of the sinner.
  2. Even as a “covering,” though ordained by God, the animal sacrifices could only cover sins temporarily. The Day of Atonement was yearly, by necessity. The sin offerings were repeated every time someone sinned. We need a permanent solution for sin, and animals simply cannot serve that purpose.
  3. Though they truly were ordained by God, the animal sacrifices were only effective until the “Real Deal” came through. Once Jesus was offered at the cross, the animal sacrifices no longer covered the guilt of the sinner. If we reject the offering of Jesus at the Cross, then the animal sacrifices are no more acceptable than the sacrifices offered by pagans.

But there was definitely a time of full forgiveness coming, when God said he would remember their sins no more (Jeremiah 31:34.) And, in Isaiah 1:18, God promised that He would cleanse them from their sins: that though their sins had been red like crimson, they would be clean as newly washed wool. Covering and cleansing are two different things. Maybe the Jews thought that this would only happen in the Messianic Kingdom. They were partly right—it only happens in the Messiah!

And when Messiah comes, God promises that the gentile nations would rejoice in his presence. (Isaiah 11:10, 60:3) These things had evidently been passed over or ignored by Israel. I can understand that—I have frequently found passages that I know I must have read dozens of times and suddenly I see it clearly, as if it had not been there before.

Jesus in New Testament Doctrine

Let’s look at Hebrews chapters nine and ten: In Hebrews 9:19-22 (read it), we see the sprinkling of blood in the Old Testament sacrifices. This was ordained by God. He approved this practice. But, in Hebrews 9:23-28, God goes on to show the superiority of the sacrifice of Christ. (Read this, too). Hebrews 10:1-10 continues the thought, and states that it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Finally, he points out that if we reject Jesus’ sacrifice then the Old Testament sacrifices are no longer valid. (Hebrews 10:26-31 …remember the context: the comparison of animal sacrifice to that of Christ.) The people to whom he was speaking were believing Jews; they had the history of the sacrifices. They evidently felt that they could always go back to the animal sacrifices if they decided they didn’t like Jesus. God warned them that they could not go back: the old animal sacrifices would no longer do any good.

Now: we can compare this with John 1:29, which we read at the beginning, and see that Jesus came to take away sins. He satisfied the holiness of God, as our propitiation (1st John 2:2) and He took away the sins of the whole world, just as John predicted. So, if the sins have all been taken on Christ, and judged at the Cross, why does anyone still face judgment?

In John 3:18, 19 Jesus said,  “He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

Jesus said that the judgment people now face is for not believing the Gospel…not trusting in the blood of His sacrifice. In effect, just as the Egyptians in Exodus, and Cain in Genesis, they have refused to place themselves under the blood of God’s chosen sacrifice—the Lamb of God—and so they fall under the judgment of God, just as if He had not died for their sins.

Finally, unlike the Old Testament temporary sacrifices, Jesus’ blood has a permanent effect. In Hebrews 10:14-18, God explained that Jesus’ one offering cleansed forever those who trusted in Him. A believer becomes literally a child of God, and as such, begins to demonstrate the attributes of God. The sins of a believer are already purged at the cross, and are not being held against him/her. God sees you, the believer, as being Holy…exactly as Holy as Jesus.

Conclusion—Jesus in You

When John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God” it raised some questions in the hearts of those who heard. They probably found it confusing: they thought they knew all about lambs and sacrifices. We may have the same response. The questions we should be asking ourselves are:

  1. If Jesus is truly the chosen sacrifice of God, how can I lay my hands on that sacrifice, and endorse it as the one sacrifice for my own sin?
  2. Am I under the blood of that sacrifice?
  3. Do I care about those around me? Are they under that protection as well, or am I leaving them to be lost? What attributes of God do I demonstrate by my choice?

The answer to the first question, (“…how can I lay claim to that sacrifice?”) is simple: You lay hold by faith; by believing that Jesus died for your sins and placing your dependence on His shed blood as full payment for your sins. Jesus said, “Verily, verily I say unto thee, he that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24)

The second question is one that only you can answer. Either you already have trusted Jesus as your Savior, believing that his blood alone can take away your sins, or you have not. If there was ever a time in your life when you believed that Jesus was your only hope for salvation, and you trusted in Him, then you are under the blood of His sacrifice, and you will be there forever!

The answer to the third question must be addressed daily: Will I show the love of God, and reach out to the dying lost world around me with the hope of the Gospel? Or will I just let them stay lost? What possible excuse could I offer the Lord for having allowed those around me to perish without my having at least made the effort to reach them?

It seems to me that if I am truly under the blood of that sacrifice, and have become literally a child of God, and if am to be displaying the attributes of His character, as His ambassador, then the care that He extends to the world should be mine as well. Sadly, I have to confess that it frequently is not. I am frequently too caught up in my own issues. Yes, I have shared the Gospel with those with whom I work. I have led a few to the Lord, but not many. And usually, when I pray, I am not praying for their souls, but only that I can “get through the day without collapse or anger.” My first concern should be for the salvation of their souls, not my own comfort and happiness.

When I hear John the Baptist’s cry, “Behold the Lamb…”, I need to consider these things, and remember that his blood was shed not for just my sins, but also for the sins of the whole world. This is a call to faithful service, and evangelism, all to be tempered by humility and love, which are also attributes of God.

Please consider daily the challenge of John the Baptist, and behold the Lamb from the perspective of those who have been born again, and who owe our allegiance to the Cross.

God help us as we step forward by faith.

The Word Became Flesh

The Word Became Flesh

© 2021 C. O. Bishop

The Incarnation (Part Two)


John 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8

Introduction

Last week we introduced the subject of the Incarnation, going all the way back to Genesis, showing that while God the Son had appeared repeatedly throughout the whole Old Testament, until He was actually born as a human, with the express purpose of having a mortal body, so that He could die for us, He could not be the Savior; God’s chosen sacrifice for Sin.

We talked about the concept of the Kinsman-Redeemer, (pictured in the person of Boaz, in the Book of Ruth) who had to:

Jesus became our relative by being born: a genuine human, in a genuine human body, lacking only the sin nature. (Evidently the Sin Nature is passed through the man, as we are all called the “seed of Adam.” But Jesus was born without a human father, as “the Seed of Woman,” sired by the Holy Spirit, and so lacked the inborn slavery to sin—He was Free!) Having that clean Human body, unencumbered by Sin, He possessed the price to be paid. And, finally, He went to the Cross willingly. He told his disciples, “No Man taketh my life from me, but I lay it down of myself.” (John 10:18)

Without the Incarnation, as spelled out in the Scriptures, Jesus could not be our Savior…nor could he be the Messiah, nor the King of the Jews as promised in scripture. But “The Word was made Flesh:” the full, Biblical Incarnation is critical to God’s entire plan of Salvation!

So, we need to consider how that affects our lives. What resources does the Incarnation of God the Son, the Living Word of God, provide for our lives?

The Resources of the Incarnation:

What impact does it have in our lives?

We know Jesus really lived and died, and we know that He really was God in the flesh. So…What now? Is this just “good, fun stuff to know and tell?” No!

The Rebuke of the Incarnation.

The Incarnation, as spelled out by the entire Bible, stands as an eternal rebuke to our wayward hearts, because we have no excuse for our bad responses to our circumstances, or our bad responses to those around us. Our irritations, angers, jealousies, vengeful thoughts, and general self-centeredness have to be set aside if we will embrace the Incarnation of Christ.

His perfect life stands as an eternal challenge to those who follow Him. We cannot surpass Him, but He calls us to emulate Him. Ephesians 5:1 says “Be ye therefore followers (imitators) of God, as dear children.” And, 1st John 2:6 says that he who says he abides in Christ “ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.”

So, when I am finally able to recognize that my anger, my impatience, and my self-centeredness are all sin, what can I do to change it? If I had been able to clean myself up, by my own efforts, by self-abasement, self-flagellation, self-denial, or other religious works of “do-it-yourself” piety, then I would not need a Savior! Paul said, in Galatians 5:21, “I do not frustrate the Grace of God, for if righteousness is come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

In fact, Jeremiah 2:22 says that no matter how hard I scrub, and no matter how harsh the cleansing agent is, my sins will still be with me. But Isaiah 1:16-18 says that I can become clean! Psalm 51:7 tells me how: David said, “purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean: wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.

God has to do the cleansing… the “hyssop” refers back to the Passover, where the blood was struck upon the lintel and the two doorposts, using a bundle of hyssop to apply the blood. The means of our cleansing is still through the blood of the Cross. 1st John 1:7 (speaking to believers only)says that “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.”

In John 13:8, Jesus told Peter, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.” Jesus has to do the washing. But then, restored to fellowship, we are free to stand up and walk in the Light with Him again. And that is what we are exhorted to do!

The Exhortation of the Incarnation: Following Jesus

Paul addressed this truth in Philippians 2:5-8

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.


This is the eternal challenge, or exhortation of the Incarnation: Paul first described how we are to live, in verses 1-4,

1 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,

Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.


Notice what Paul did, here: He spelled out the key issues of self-centeredness and pride, but contrasted then with the Love, and Mercy, and Comfort, and Consolation, and Fellowship, and Unity in Christ, resulting in peace, humility, and unselfishness. Then he capped the argument in verses 5-8 by saying that we are to live the way Jesus demonstrated in His Incarnation:

I have no idea what the future holds for any of us, whether individually, or as a church, but God says that we are to embrace the mindset of Christ, in His incarnation.

Every single child of God is also called to be His full-time ambassador. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called, according to His purpose.”

You know, it is strange: I have never heard anyone quote that verse and then say, “Well, yeah, but I don’t feel called!” Furthermore, we often forget the next two verses which clearly state that if you belong to Him, then you are called! There is no “special” order of believers who are “the called” and others who are just saved, but not called to function. We are all called to grow into the full stature of Christ, to become His hands and His feet in this sin-ruined World, and to offer Him as the living Bread and the Living Water to all who will receive Him. We are all called to offer our bodies a living sacrifice to God, which is called our “reasonable service of worship.”

Answering the Call of the Incarnation

If you can grasp the fact that you are called by God, then the only remaining question is “How will I respond to the Call of God?”

Isaiah responded (in Isaiah 6:8) with the famous “Here am I, Lord, send me!

Jonah, of course, ran away, and tried to hide: God gave him a “free water-taxi ride” back to the beach, so he could reconsider the call.

Balaam obeyed, initially, but then went and acted as a traitor to God’s priorities, trying to make money in the bargain, and sell out the nation of Israel.

Jeremiah was called by God, but tried to beg off, saying he was too young to serve. God told him, “Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee and ordained thee as a prophet to the nations.” And Jeremiah reluctantly obeyed the call. He had a rough ministry, too: very few responded well to his ministry.

Saul of Tarsus got “slapped off his mule” by the vision of Christ and the brightness of his glory: But, when Jesus identified himself, Saul gave the straight-forward reply, “What wouldst thou have me to do, Lord?” He committed himself to obedience, carte-blanche…sight-unseen. He accepted the call unquestioningly and took his marching orders immediately thereafter. He eventually became the Apostle Paul. (Incidentally, the name “Saul” means “asked for:” He was named after the first king of Israel. But he abandoned that name and was called “Paul,” meaning, “little” or “insignificant.” That is an interesting transformation: Paul never sought personal glory or pay for his service: He obviously remembered that it was Jesus whom he served.

So…How will you respond? Like Jonah? Like Jeremiah? Or like Isaiah and Paul? One way or another, each of us have been called to serve the Risen Christ. You have to choose how to respond. God help each of us to consistently respond in such a way as to become the men and women of God we have been called to be.

Lord Jesus, add Your divine Mercy and encouragement to the preaching of Your Word, and raise us up as disciples, honoring you in our lives, acting as your ambassadors, Pouring out your Grace to the World around us.

How Should We Live?

How Should We Live?

© 2020 C. O. Bishop

1st Peter 2:11-25 Galatians 5:16-23

Introduction:

We saw last week that there are “changes coming,” for all true believers. No matter who I was in the past, life is not going to be just as it was before. I have a new heritage, and a new Master. It is obvious that things are going to change. So, we need to think about what will change, and how.

We saw last week that there were things destined to be “laid aside and left behind” as we press forward to walk with Jesus. We also saw that there was an expectation that we would begin to display a “family resemblance,” since we have been born again—“born from above,” as some of the passages say—and specifically, we are born into the family of God, as His real children.

Now Peter goes on to admonish and exhort the believers to “live up to” the calling they have received. I can’t lose my position in Christ, but walking with Him does require some attention as to my response to the world around me: without that attention to my walk, I will constantly stumble, and fall back into the mess of my old habits and responses. So, Peter gives fair warning against this trap:

Abstain from Fleshly Lusts

11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

He prefaces it all with the fact that as long as we are in this World, we are literally “strangers and pilgrims:” travelers, nomads…just “camping out,” here; seeking a home not in this world, but in that which is to come. The song, “This World is not my Home” is correct: we are “Just passing through!” But it is so easy to forget that fact. Peter warns us to not forget, but, as strangers and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against our souls.

The goal is that our lives should reflect the truth and grace of God before unbelievers, so that, when they speak evil of us (as He says will happen,) they will eventually have to confess before God that our lives(the Greek word “anastrophe,” translated “conversation,” here, means our “way of life”) and our works actually have shown the truth of our testimony, and that they have rejected and persecuted us without cause…and in so confessing, they will Glorify God in that day—the “day of visitation.” Our reputations should be built upon the truth that people can see in our lives, not just what we say is there. This is the importance of a living testimony, which is expected to agree with our spoken testimony.

If I consider, for a moment, the phrase, “Abstain from fleshly lusts,” I might also step over into Galatians, where the “works of the Flesh” are listed. These are what the lusts of the flesh produce, if I allow them in my life. The word “lusts” simply means “strong desires, and isn’t even always a bad thing, though we use the word that way almost exclusively.

The Lusts Produce the Works (Galatians 5:16-21)

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

I find it fascinating that the “works” (plural) of the flesh (verses 19-21) are listed seventeen strong, with an eighteenth item that is a “catch-all” phrase: “and such like”. The list is literally twice as long as the nine-fold list in verses 22, 23, and that last item extends it to include everything that the human heart can imagine. And it is plural: if I am partaking in any of these, then I am in the flesh; it’s as simple as that. Any one of these marks me as being “in the flesh.”

But the next “list” is half as long, and it is singular: it is not a “smorgasbord” from which you can choose what you would like to exemplify. It is a “nine-fold” fruit (singular), or a single fruit with nine aspects, or characteristics, and all nine aspects, or characteristics, have to be present or it is not the Holy Spirit who is producing it.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Notice that last bit? “Against such there is no law…?” Why is that even an issue? It is because the whole context of the book of Galatians is the separation of Law and Grace. If you are walking in the Spirit, then the Law will have no effect on you because it does not touch the things of the Spirit. That is why God can freely tell us, here in 1st Peter 1:13-15, to submit ourselves to Civil Authority.

Civil Authority

13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

As a general rule, believers are to cheerfully submit themselves to human civil law. Is there a possibility that the law of man can “cross the line,” so to speak, and be in direct conflict with the Law of God? Surely there is! But it is actually pretty rare. Usually civil laws are made to protect the law-abiding people from human predators and to protect their personal rights against those who would take them away. It is a rare thing for the laws of man to require us to do something that is wrong, or to forbid us to do something God says we are to do. But it can happen.

A week ago, we received the news that our governor had mandated “no more than 25 people in church gatherings.” That does not force us to disobey God, though it might have made us work harder to obey Him: we were willing to split the services to keep below 25. But the ruling also said that enforcement was at the discretion of local Law enforcement; so we called the local police chief, to see what he would require, and we were told that he has no intention of enforcing such a mandate, and that if he comes here it will be to worship with us, not to act against us.

So, we obeyed the law, and simultaneously obeyed God. And, in the process, we allowed the local law enforcement to see that we are not in rebellion, which strengthens our testimony with them, whether they are believers or not.

We virtually always have an option to not disobey God, and still be obedient to the law. In the unusual event that there is literally no avenue of escape without bringing down the judgment of an evil, ungodly employer or government, then that becomes our option: we can lose a job, or our belongings or our freedom or even our lives as the final option. Believers have made these hard choices for virtually all of human history.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not go into the furnace because they disobeyed God, but because they obeyed Him. Daniel did not end up in the lion’s den because of dishonoring God, but because of honoring Him. Daniel submitted to every ordinance of Man until the ordinance clearly required him to ignore God, and even then, he was in his own home, praying toward Jerusalem, not out on a street-corner, haranguing crowds of unbelievers in the name of the God of Israel. He was quietly obeying God when they came in and arrested him. We need to keep these examples in mind.

16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

We are truly free in Christ: we are free to serve Him, but we are not free to use our “liberty” as a way to cover sin. We are free to serve and to suffer, as the servants of God. We are not free to use our freedom to damage someone else unnecessarily, nor to express self-will and rebellion cloaked in a show of “piety.”

Honoring Man, while Honoring God

17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

Notice that there was no hint of “backtalk” here: they were to extend respect and honor to all those around them. They were to commit themselves to the Love of the Brethren, in keeping with Jesus’s command in John 13:34, 35, and to fear God above all human authority, and yet, to honor the human government. He goes on to give some examples:

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. 19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

Is it possible that we will suffer grief in return for good behavior? Certainly it is! And, if that is what really happens, then God is glorified by that suffering. But if we are “off in left-field” doing things God has warned us not to do, and end up being punished for our misdemeanors or infractions, then it does not honor God…it dishonors Him. I have heard of Christians losing jobs specifically because they are Christians…and, in anti-Christian countries, people are imprisoned or even killed because of their faith. In those cases, they have honored God by their obedience and their suffering.

But when I have also known believers who were jailed for tax-evasion, or theft, or other crimes, they were not suffering for their faith: they were being punished for wrongdoing. And that does not honor God. Is it possible that the government will use your taxes for evil purposes? I can just about guarantee that they will! When Jesus paid taxes to Caesar, was Rome using that money to promote godliness? Of course not! And yet, we are told to pay our taxes, and not be rebels. We are to take Jesus as our example:

21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

Whole books have been written about what it may mean to “Follow his steps:” I am not going to spend a lot of time on the subject, but I do think we should at least look at this particular context to see what is in focus, here:

In the first place, the subject in this context is the concept of “suffering for doing rightly.” Jesus certainly did nothing but “good, righteous works,” showing compassion and kindness to the poor, and holding the privileged and wicked religious leaders accountable for their sin. However, this passage is not suggesting that we all quit our jobs, and walk around attempting to imitate Jesus in His earthly ministry: I have no gift of healing, nor of any sort of miraculous sign-gift. So I can’t imitate that portion, but I can imitate His righteousness and I can strive to learn His Word, so that I can offer the same message of Hope which He offered.

22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

We can at least see that we are to trust God for justice, not other humans, who are flawed individuals, just as we are. We can also see, obviously, that we are especially to abandon the kinds of wrong behavior that could get us in trouble with civil law, because there is no glory to God in suffering punishment for unrighteousness. Dishonesty and a vengeful, sharp tongue are both mentioned as things Jesus did not exhibit.

But for believers, it goes further, as Jesus judges the hearts, not just the outward actions. There are people who teach that “unless there is an outward action, it isn’t sin.” Sorry…that is simply not true. Every man who is honest with himself knows what it means to “sin in his heart.” And, it is interesting to note that the specific sin Paul addressed in Romans 7 was covetousness! (What part of your body do we use to commit Covetousness?) It is specifically a sin of the heart and the mind! Jesus judges the heart, not just the outward actions!

What is the “Goal” of our Salvation?

24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

We are dead to sins, that we should live unto righteousness. That is the goal!

Now, this last phrase, “by whose stripes ye were healed,” is a direct quote from Isaiah 53:5, but the conclusion is strictly New Testament: We could not be “dead to sin” in the Old Testament. But, according to this passage, along with Romans 6 and Galatians 2, we believers during the Church Age truly are dead to sin, as we died with Christ, and the result is supposed to be that because we are alive to Righteousness and alive to God, we should live for God.

25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

This final passage reminds us that the letter was originally to Jewish Christians: the gentiles were seldom referred to as “sheep,” but the “lost sheep of Israel” was a common theme. In one place, only, John 10:16, Jesus said “16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” I believe in that reference he is talking about the Gentiles who would respond in faith: In the Church Age, there truly is one fold and One Shepherd. The Jews who had strayed from the God of Israel were considered “the lost sheep” of Israel. The Gentiles were simply considered to be foreigners and heathen. In fact, the word “gentile” simply means “heathen.” So these who had once been “lost sheep” of Israel had been returned to the shepherd and “overseer” or “Bishop” of their souls. The word translated “bishop” is “episkopos,” meaning “supervisor” or “overseer.”

We gentiles have been born into the family of God, and He is truly the Shepherd and the Bishop of our souls as well, but we were not the lost sheep of Israel. We did not “wander away from God:” In fact, regarding the lost world, in Matthew 7:23, Jesus said “I never knew you! Depart from me ye workers of iniquity.” He does not say, “I once knew you, but you just wandered off and got lost: too bad!” He says he never knew them. We were born as sinners, just as the lost Jews were born as sinners. That is where we all start out!

This is probably a good time to be reminded of what Jesus says about us who have become His sheep: John 10:27, 28 says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them Eternal Life, and they shall never perish.” Also, in John 6:39, he said “this is my Father’s will who sent me, that of all He has given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” As a gentile believer, you will never become a “lost sheep.” He will keep you for eternity. You have been placed into a new relationship with the Savior, and it is entirely dependent upon Him, not you!

We are His forever! Now we need to learn to walk with Him!

Lord Jesus, allow us to walk with you and reflect your holiness as a testimony to the world that has rejected You. Teach us to walk in Your footsteps!

Rejoicing in the God of Our Salvation

Rejoicing in the God of Our Salvation

© 2020 C. O. Bishop

1st Peter 1:5-12

Introduction:

We have begun a study in the book of first Peter, the first epistle of Peter to the scattered Jewish believers, evidently after the persecution in Jerusalem. We saw a strong encouragement in the first five verses, underscoring the security of these persecuted believers, and the fact that their position “in Christ” was permanent. The last thing we considered was a very brief look at the fact that we are “kept by the Power of God unto Salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

We need to talk about that idea of “Salvation ready to be revealed in the last time:” Aren’t we saved now; already? Let’s read what it says, and then consider:

5Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:

Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:

11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.

12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

“Tenses” of Salvation:

Notice that it says this salvation is “ready to be revealed in the last time.” There are three aspects, or “tenses,” to what we call “Salvation:”

  1. We have been saved from the penalty of our sins. Romans 5:1 says that we have been (or “are”…perfect tense) “justified” (declared righteous) by faith, and that, as a result, we have (present tense) peace with God. This is positional truth.
  2. We are being saved (present tense) from the power of sin in our lives. Romans chapters 6 and 7 point out that while we no longer are slaves to sin, there is a daily battle in progress, and our constant salvation from that power is found in Christ. This is conditional upon our choices.
  3. We will be saved (future tense) from the presence of sin. Revelation chapters 21, 22 tell us of the end result of the salvation God brings: there will be a new heaven and a new earth, in which there is literally no sin, no evil, no suffering. This is positional truth, again.

So the recipients of this letter had been enduring persecution, it seems (which is possibly why they were scattered…compare Acts 8:1, 4.) And they were assured by Peter, that the “last chapter” will bring full deliverance. The words translated “salvation” in both the Old Testament and the New Testament mean “Deliverance.” The words translated “savior” mean “deliverer.” That is why God referred to the judges, leaders, and heroes he sent to “save” Israel from their enemies as “saviors.”

We tend to think of Jesus as the only Savior, because, in terms of salvation from Sin, He IS the only Savior. But the word isn’t always in reference to salvation from sin. It can refer to being delivered from an oppressor, or a danger. But Jesus is our savior in every sense of the word.

Even if He chooses to not spare me from some present disease or danger, He is the Savior. As a rule, every one of us will die of our last illness, if an accident or other calamity does not take us first. All of us face that reality. Hebrews 9:27 says “it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.” But in our current lives, He is our Savior from the penalty of sin, since God’s Judgment for sin fell upon Jesus at the Cross. This is positional truth. Because you are in Christ, you have been eternally saved from the eternal penalty of sin. Jesus said in John 5:24 that you will never again be condemned by God.

He is our Savior from the power of sin as well, according to Romans 7, but that battle is still in progress … and whether I am “being delivered,” in a practical sense, depends on how I am responding to Him. If I am walking with Him, I will be free from the power of sin. If I am not walking with Him, then I will behave as one who is a slave to sin, because in terms of my condition, I have subjected myself to sin instead of to Christ. This is conditional truth.

But in the end, He is our Savior from the presence of Sin. This is positional truth, again, because we are in Him. That is our position. We have been placed there by the Holy Spirit, and Jesus said in John 6:39 that he will not lose any of us, but that He will raise us up at the last day. That is a precious promise!

That truth, alone, is worth our rejoicing. And the people to whom Peter addressed this letter were rejoicing over that deliverance, by faith, in spite of their current distress. We can do the same. As we mentioned last week, from God’s perspective, according to Ephesians 2:6, we are already seated with Him in the heavens! So our eternal position with Him is secure forever!

Rejoicing in spite of Trials

Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

Remember that the reason they were rejoicing was their salvation in Christ. The word, “wherein,” is in reference to the Salvation mentioned in the previous verse. These believers were under intense persecution, not just the normal hardships of life, nor simple unpopularity or public scorn. They were losing their belongings to confiscation, according to Hebrews 10:34 and were in some cases tortured and killed. But their response was to rejoice greatly! They were not just “hanging on and hoping the Lord would bail them out.” Why?

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

The trial of their faith was producing praise and honor and glory to God. This is one of the purposes of trials; the way we respond to the testings can produce glory to God, and reward for us. We can read more about the reasons for sufferings, over in 2nd Corinthians 1:3-11. But look at how Peter described the relationship of these persecuted Jewish believers to their Savior:

Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:

These Jewish believers had not met Jesus during His earthly ministry: if we are correct that these were the believers from the day of Pentecost, in Acts 2 and those thereafter between chapters two and seven, then they were not living in Israel during Jesus’s life on earth: they had come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, and heard about Jesus from Peter and the other apostles. There were thousands of people who became believers during that time in Jerusalem. And, when the persecution arose, evidently they headed back to the countries into which they had been driven hundreds of years earlier. And they did not go home empty: they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they carried with them the Gospel of Christ.

Now Peter is declaring the nature of their relationship with Jesus.

  • They have not seen Him, but they love Him
  • They are still not seeing Him, but because they believe in Him, they are rejoicing with unspeakable joy, and are filled with His Glory.
  • They are (present tense) receiving the result of their faith, the salvation of their souls. Here is another example of the different “aspects” of salvation: Their souls were already delivered from the grip of the Evil One, forever. They were looking to Jesus for daily deliverance, but confident in Him for ultimate deliverance.

Peter goes on to remind them that the Old Testament prophets had desired to know what they now knew: those prophets had enquired and searched diligently, desiring to see it, but all they could do was prophesy of the Grace that was to come. None of them knew of the realities of the Church Age. Paul makes this emphatically clear in Ephesians 3:4-6, that the Old Testament believers (even the prophets) did not know about the Church. It was revealed after the Cross, after the resurrection, after the ascension, and after the giving of the Holy Spirit. All of those things were known to the prophets. They also knew about the coming Tribulation and the Kingdom age to follow. But they knew nothing about the Church.

11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.

Daniel 9:23-27 is a prime example of a great Old Testament prophet knowing everything before and after the church age, but skipping the Church Age entirely. He described events right up to the crucifixion, and then skipped all the way to the Tribulation! He skipped the Church Age!

Isaiah 53 predicted the crucifixion and resurrection of the Messiah. He also predicted the judgment that will fall during the tribulation, and the glory of the Kingdom to come. But he didn’t see the Church Age at all.

12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

In Daniel 12: 8, 9, Daniel told the angelic messenger that he (Daniel) did not understand the message. He was informed rather succinctly, that the message was not for him, but for the people of the end times! He was told, in short, to “write it down, close it up, and run along!” I believe that some of the prophecies in scripture are still in that category. There are some that seem impossible today, but that will become plainly obvious to the people at the end of the age. Some have changed in that regard, just in the last 50 years or so. Some in the last 30 years! (I used to wonder how it could be that the armies of every nation would be there to fight against Israel: It occurred to me a few years ago that they are already there! The UN Peacekeepers are comprised of the armies of all the nations! If they turn against Israel, at some time in the future, then that prophecy will be literally fulfilled! Another thing: I used to wonder how it could be that “every eye” would see Jesus at His return. With the advent of the internet and live video of news coverage, it has literally become a reality.)

So Peter underscored this idea, that it was not for themselves, but for us that those prophecies were given. He also reminded the readers later (2nd Peter 1:19-21) that the messages came by the Holy Spirit, not by the desire or the imagination or the “scheming” of the prophets. It was revelation from God by means of the Holy Spirit. And all the apostles and prophets and evangelists who had shared that message with them (the readers) were empowered by that same Holy Spirit. He concludes with a strange comment, that all of the subject of Grace and salvation are “things the Angels desire to look into.” This is a mystery to them as well! They are waiting “on the edge of their seats,” as it were, to see how it will all be explained. And, over in Ephesians 3:8-11, Paul confirms that the entire experience of mankind, and God’s salvation of those who place their hope in Him, (culminating in the Church Age) is specifically an “object lesson” for the holy angels. He says that God’s eternal purpose was that through the Church might be known unto the angelic hosts in the heavenly places, “the manifold wisdom of God.”

I find that idea simultaneously mind-boggling and encouraging. On the one hand, I think “What could the angels possibly learn from our experience?” But on the other hand, knowing that it is so, because God says it is so, makes all the trials seem somehow more worthwhile. Knowing that our hard times are somehow a blessing and an education to angelic hosts that we can’t even see is such a strange thought! But God says it is so, and we can rejoice in that fact!

Joy is a Choice

I am uncomfortable making this statement, because I have had so much failure to rejoice, in my life: I’m guessing it may be rooted in unthankfulness, or unbelief. But we are so ensnared by what the world tells us that we have a hard time looking past what we see with our eyes, and seeing what God tells us is the reality “behind the veil.”

The fact is that these persecuted saints were rejoicing with “Joy Unspeakable!” They were overflowing with joy at the sheer privilege of walking with God, rather than complaining because they didn’t like the circumstances.

I am constantly having to confess unbelief and ingratitude to God, because I am whining about some inconvenience…all things that we call “First-World Problems.” Others in the world are lacking food, water, shelter and safety, and instead of being grateful that I have all of these, I am distressed about some tiny problem and I’m distracted to the point of ignoring God’s provision.

When I open my eyes to God’s provision, it changes my perspective. I know “Joy is a choice.” Joy has to be a choice, because the command in 1st Thessalonians 5:16-18 includes “Rejoice evermore!” There is always a possible choice to disobey a command. Obedience is a choice!

But what if all those provisions, the visible, tangible ones, are taken away? That is where faith had better be the real basis of my relationship with God! If I am only thankful when things are the way I want them, then I am guilty of that of which Job was accused by Satan! Satan claimed that the only reason Job responded well to God was that he had everything so easy…he was rich! He had everything! So a test followed! Job lost literally everything, including his health. And his response initially, was to worship God and say, The LORD hath given, and the LORD hath taken away! Blessed be the name of the LORD!” Now, it is true that Job’s attitude began to suffer after some time, and the long argument with his supposed comforters began to produce bitterness in his own heart. But God stepped in and corrected him, while rebuking the others. Bear in mind that Job’s troubles were not because of sin: God says so!

I think it would be good to consider the prophet Habakkuk: He recognized the wickedness in God’s people and pleaded with God to clean them up. God replied that He was sending the Chaldeans (who we call the Babylonians) to punish His people, the Jews. Habakkuk was shocked! He said “But they are even more wicked!” God agreed that they were, and said that He would use them to punish the Jews, but He then would punish Babylon even more severely.

Then, in Habakkuk 3:17-19, the prophet concludes “17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:

18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

19 The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.


The things Habakkuk listed were all the things Israel considered to be blessings and provisions from God. And they were all to be taken away, because of sin, in this case. But Habakkuk chose to find his Joy in the Person of the Savior, the God of his salvation. He saw that God was going to lift him above the trials, and “make him to walk in high places” like a sure-footed deer.

And he gave the message to the musicians to make a song about it; evidently so that he and others could sing of the Joy of the Lord! Choosing to rejoice just might include choosing to sing about His goodness! I know it helps me to focus on His goodness when I sing of His Grace and Mercy. Praying and actually verbalizing thanks helps as well. We can choose to do these things!

Lord Jesus, we know that hard times are coming for the world. We ask that you would lift our hearts above the troubles of the World through Faith, and show us your Mercy and Grace, every day. Allow us to shine for you in the darkness of this world.

What Am I Missing?

What Am I Missing?

© Chet Bishop, April 2012 (THCF 4/1/12)

Luke 19:1-44 (whole Passage)

Luke 19: 1-10 (read it)

1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Introduction:

In the parallel passages in the other gospels, we have read how Jesus traveled through Jericho, headed for Jerusalem. We read about the blind men who were healed before and after Jericho…but what happened in Jericho?  A mob of people followed Jesus. They had heard of him, and had seen him heal people. Funny, though, these people were not encouraging those blind men to be healed, but rather were telling them to be quiet. They saw them as a nuisance. Jesus saw them as people—souls whom he created and for whom he was about to die as a life-purchasing sacrifice.

As Jesus passed through Jericho, a man named Zacchaeus saw the mob of people surrounding Jesus as he passed, but could not see Jesus, because he himself was very short, and evidently didn’t even know who he was. He was gripped by curiosity, though, enough to run ahead of the pack and climb a tall tree, because he “…sought to see Jesus who he was…”. This is an odd phrase, and perhaps it is just the King James language for “wanted to see who it was” but it specifically says he wanted to “see Jesus, who he was”. He could have simply asked, as the blind man had asked…but he really wanted to see Jesus, who he was.  I don’t know of anyone else of whom this peculiar statement is made. He had a God-given hunger…I will assume he had heard something of God’s word, simply because he was a Jew….

Remember that there was a whole crowd of people “seeing Jesus” as he walked along. They had seen the healings. But they were missing something.

What about Zacchaeus? Who was he? He was chief among the publicans…a Jewish born tax-collector for the Romans…a collaborator with the enemy. But he wasn’t born that way. He had his training in the synagogue school, his “bar mitzvah”, etc.  It is just that at some point he wandered from the God of Israel, and followed the God of money…he was a rich man as a result. And he had been paying the price for that sin. He was rejected by all his neighbors, so he had no fellowship with them, and no fellowship with his Creator either.

Perhaps the old prophecies that he had memorized in his youth echoed in his mind from time to time, and he wondered if the Messiah would ever come—and whether he himself would even be worthy to own him as his Lord. And then Jesus came to town…. But I don’t want to guess:

Whatever the true background, Zacchaeus climbed that tree because he desperately wanted to see Jesus, “Who he was”. And Jesus saw him “who he was”…and called him by name. Jesus said “Zacchaeus! Hurry down from there…I must stay at your house today!”

What a transformation! Zacchaeus hurried down and received him joyfully. The neighbors (ALL those who saw the transaction) grumbled, saying that Jesus had gone to be a guest with a man that is a sinner. (I’ll bet that made Zacchaeus feel great…he was right there…he knew what they were all saying.) But Zacchaeus responded with works fit for repentance. He stood, during dinner, and told Jesus that he would give half of all he owned to the poor, and that if he had wrongly exacted money from anyone he would restore it fourfold. (That made him the best investment in town. 300% return. J)

I don’t know how the neighbors felt about that. I’m not sure Zacchaeus really cared—he was concerned with a relationship with Jesus. And Jesus saw his heart, because He responded in these words: “This day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham.”

That might have raised some eyebrows too. Paul had to explain the concept later, pointing out that those who were physically the offspring of Abraham were not necessarily the children of Abraham, but that the children of faithful Abraham became so by faith. This man had just demonstrated that he believed in Jesus. Jesus said he had become a son of Abraham. Then (evidently for the benefit of those listening) he stated his purpose in coming. “…the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Zacchaeus had great joy, because his Messiah had come, had called him by name, had eaten at his table, and forgiven him of his sins. As far as we know, he did not see any of the healings. The others did see them, and had walked across town with Jesus. But when Jesus healed the life of “nasty little old Zacchaeus”, they were not filled with joy—they grumbled about the Grace that was extended to Zacchaeus. They missed the joy that was there amongst them—but Zacchaeus did not miss it. He received it. Am I missing the joy that is around me because I am grieved at God’s plans? Do I even have the right to question His wisdom, let alone whether I have the intelligence and wisdom to understand what it is He is doing?

Jesus turned to those who followed and issued the following parable:

A Warning

Luke 19:11-27 (read it)

11 And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. 12 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. 13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. 14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. 15 And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. 16 Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. 17 And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. 18 And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. 19 And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. 20 And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: 21 For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. 22 And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: 23 Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury? 24 And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. 25 (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.) 26 For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. 27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.


This is a warning to all that were following. Most were not believers, even though they were going along with him as he went. Jesus told a parable of a ruler, a nobleman, who went to a far country to receive a kingdom. I am of the opinion that the man in this parable is Jesus Himself. He is going to his Father to receive the Kingdom. Consider the following…the servants are not in danger—the rebellious “citizens” are in serious danger. Even the least faithful of the servants is in far better shape than those enemies who did not want his reign in their lives.

From a human perspective, I understand the feelings of the people. They wanted autonomy. And, from a human perspective there is not much wrong with that plan. However, remember that Jesus is GOD, the Creator, and that he literally owns every atom of which we are made. He literally owns us body and soul—and that was true before we were saved…much more afterward. But he owns the whole world by creation. Now he owns it again by purchase, at the cross. There is no one who can accurately claim to be exempt from his claim on their life. Remember from whence comes this desire for self-will and self-rule: Isaiah 14:12-15.

The servants were each given a responsibility to discharge—some did it well, some did less well, one didn’t try. He lost his reward and the responsibility. The others gained further responsibility as a reward. The only punishment listed here is upon those who were not his servants. So what about that Servant? Since (in this particular parable) he was not in danger of death, what was the cost? He missed his opportunity.

He was given an opportunity to serve, even if in a rather humble way. He chose to reject that opportunity based on his judgment of the Master’s character, and he lost the only opportunity he would have to be rewarded for faithful service. Some of the people there were servants of God. Some were his enemies. Jesus spoke to the whole crowd. All had an opportunity of one sort or another. All had the opportunity to repent, if nothing else. Some had the opportunity for repentance and service, others the opportunity for salvation. Am I missing the opportunities for service? The opportunities to lead others to Christ? The opportunity to draw near to God and be blessed in this life?

Fulfilled Prophecy

Luke 19:28-40 (read it)

28 And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem. 29 And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, 30 Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. 31 And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him. 32 And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them. 33 And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? 34 And they said, The Lord hath need of him. 35 And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon. 36 And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way. 37 And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; 38 Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. 39 And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.

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


The colt: Much has been made of this situation, but we really aren’t told enough to know how much was miracle, and how much simply the narrative of what happened. I see two apparent miracles… one is that a never-ridden animal usually has a disagreement to work out before becoming a docile beast of burden. It is fitting, though, that none was seen here, because it fits the general pattern: People—humans—and fallen angels are the only things that have ever disobeyed God. The young male donkey was acting exactly as a creature is supposed to act under the hand of its Creator.

The other issue is the fact that the owners let the animal go without an argument. J. Vernon McGee suggests that there had been a prior arrangement made by Jesus, and this was just the outworking of it, and that he had given the phrase “the Lord has need of it” to let the owners know that it was he who sent the disciples. That is sheer supposition. All we are told is that they consented. Both of the above seem highly unusual, and if a person wants to find a natural explanation, that is their privilege. But I really think if one wants to do that, they at least should try to stick to what is actually written, and try not to wander astray. Once a person feels free to inject supposition, then anything is possible.

Further, many have supposed that the same individuals that cried out “Hosanna” in the other Gospels, and “Blessed be the King!” in this chapter, are those who cried out “Crucify!”, a few chapters later. But if you will read verse 37, it says that the disciples were the ones who cried out “Hosanna” and other things, while the Pharisees were disturbed by it. The other gospels say that the whole city was stirred up over it. The Pharisees knew that the disciples were publicly recognizing Jesus as the king. They demanded that Jesus shut them up. Essentially they demanded that He deny the truth of what they were shouting. Far from denying it, Jesus strengthened it, saying that if the disciples were silenced, the stones would cry out. The disciples were rejoicing and being blessed. The Multitudes (folks from Jerusalem) were stirred up and disturbed. The Pharisees were angry. They were all missing the point:

Something was happening! Prophecy was being fulfilled in (at least somewhat) miraculous ways! The particular Psalm that was being quoted here is Psalm 118:25, 26. It is nearly an exact quote, even in English. The word “Hosanna”, in the New Testament, does NOT mean “praise the Lord” or anything like it. It means “Save us now”. That is why Psalm 118:25 says “save NOW, Lord…” That is exactly what Jesus came to do. They were all missing the point; probably even those who quoted the Psalm.

Am I missing the point? Am I out of tune with what God wants to accomplish, so that I can’t be walking in step with Him, and rejoicing at the victories He brings? Amos 3:3 asks the rhetorical question, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” (The implied answer being “No!”)

1st John 1:7 states that “if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin”. I want to be in constant enough fellowship with God that I can have some sense of where He is going with things. There is a lot of peace and joy in simply watching God at work. I don’t have to “understand everything.”

A Lament

Luke 19:41-44 (read it)

41 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, 42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. 43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.

Jesus’ lament for Jerusalem stated that because they had “missed the boat” as it were, having failed to recognize their Messiah, they would face destruction from their enemies. This was fulfilled, of course, in AD 70, with the invasion and destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman General Titus. They missed out on the blessing of the promise of God through their willful blindness and pride, and faced destruction as a result.

Don’t Miss Out

You who have trusted Jesus Christ as your savior, who have placed your faith in Hs finished work at the Cross are not in danger of “Missing the Boat”, as those in Jerusalem did. According to Jesus’ promise (John 5:24), if you have heard his word, and believed on Him who sent him, you HAVE eternal life, and can never lose it.

But you can still miss the point of God’s work in your life. You can miss the opportunities for service, blessing and reward. And perhaps saddest of all; you can miss the Joy He offers in the daily relationship with Him.

Choose the path of Zacchaeus and the other disciples. Enter into the Joy of your Lord today— now—not waiting until you die to experience his presence.

The Lord bless you all as you choose to walk with Him.

Believers, Place Your Bets!

Believers, Place Your Bets!

© 4/15/2020 C. O. Bishop

James 2:12-26

Introduction:

We hear a lot of arguments regarding the twin subjects of faith and works. And that is what they really are: twins! Saving faith produces works as a rule. Works are proof of faith as a rule, but not always saving faith: they may only be proof that the one performing the works wants to please God, or even wants to be seen as righteous by his or her fellow-humans.

Here in James, the single verse (26) “26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” is one of the most misused and frequently misquoted passages in the Bible.  Why? Because we tend to isolate that one idea, and thus sever it from the context in which it is given. Let’s back up to verse 12, at least, and see what is being discussed: Remember that James is speaking to believers. “12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

Behavior matters!

13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

We all get one chance— one life—during which to honor God, and present our bodies a living sacrifice as a worship offering. Once it is over, only that which met this standard will have eternal value. Usually, we only have one chance to make a “first impression” with those people around us, too. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to be around folks long enough for them to see that we are not “stuck-up” or rude…but if that is what they really thought, when they first met us, they will probably not come back and give us another chance. Does God see us for what we really are, good or bad? Certainly He does! He is not governed by “impressions.” I am frequently amused by married couples’ testimonies that “when I first met ___, I didn’t like….” Their first impression was bad, but they grew to love one another and eventually were married. Their first impression was wrong, but could have cost them dearly. God sees the truth at all times. He is not the one we are trying to impress, or trying to not cause to stumble, or whatever.

As believers, we have already received God’s Mercy, at the Cross: We are in no danger of His changing His mind, and rejecting us. We are sealed in Christ until the day of redemption, according to Ephesians. But we need to reflect that fact, in reaching out to those around us in a merciful way. Can it backfire? Certainly it can! It did for Jesus, many times. After he fed the 5,000, in John chapter 6; the very next day, those he had fed were back for more; but he offered them the Bread of Life instead, and they immediately turned on him and began to argue, in John 6:30, saying “What sign showest thou then, that we may see and believe thee?” (What? He just fed the whole crowd on five loaves and two fishes, and you ask for another sign?)

We have had people ask for money for food, and when we gave it, we saw them immediately head for the liquor store. So, the next time, when someone asked for money for food, we took them to get food. In one case that worked very well…the woman involved was telling the truth: her husband and several children were waiting in an empty lot beside a school, and they were all very glad to see her show up with a large bag full of sandwiches and other food.

But in another case, the fellow asked for food, and we offered to drive with him right then, and buy a meal. He changed his request, saying he needed gas for his car. We offered to go with him to get gasoline…the story kept changing, and we kept offering to meet the stated need, until he was exasperated, and blurted “Can’t you just give me some money?!” He was lying! He didn’t want any of the things he claimed to need. We were glad we had not given him anything, whereas in the case of the woman with the children, we were only sad that we could offer no better help than food.

What is the Connection?

14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

We need to see the connection between faith and works, then. James poses the question “Can Faith save?” The real issue is “what kind of faith are we talking about?” Saving faith seems to be the issue, but there are other things we, as humans, call faith.

In responding to this passage, I would like to relate an argument I had with an unbelieving co-worker, nearly thirty years ago: He claimed that he could “create his own reality.” He claimed that his beliefs would control the reality that he experienced.

I replied that he did not really believe that, and that the untruth of his statement was made obvious by how he lived his life: He had to live with the same reality as everyone else. He “placed his bets,” so to speak, upon the realities of this world, the same as everyone else. I said, “If you are in the middle of the road and I tell you a truck is coming, you will get out of the road, just like everyone else. You will not ‘create your own reality,’ in which the truck will somehow not hurt you: You are betting on the reality of death, and saving yourself by moving out of harm’s way.” He had no answer, and the conversation ended. But that same rule is applied here, by James:

What you really believe is revealed by your works. If you really believe your house is on fire, you try to save yourself, your loved-ones and your possessions, unless you are suicidal, and desire to die. Where you “place your bets” is the best indicator of what you really believe.

If you really believe that Jesus is your Savior, your Master and your Judge, then your actions should reflect that, as a general rule. So the logic follows: if you see someone else in need, what you really believe about your relationship to Christ and His lordship in your life will be revealed by your works. (Bear in mind the inherent question, “revealed to whom?” Does God know the truth? Or are we constantly having to again prove to God the reality of our faith?)

The kind of faith that produced a love-relationship with an unseen Savior should also produce a compassionate relationship with the visible people around us with their visible needs. 1st John 4:20, 21 agrees, saying, 2If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

The demonstration of the reality of faith is to other humans, not to God. The kind of faith that does not produce appropriate works is called a “dead” faith. We are commanded by Jesus to love one another…a genuine faith should result in a genuine caring for those around us. We should love one another in practical ways, according to this passage.

And, What if we Don’t?

15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

Such neglect is unprofitable and brings a negative shadow on the name of Christ. If we, as believers, don’t even care for one another’s needs, then how can we say we are “brothers” in Christ? Even unbelievers, as a rule, will care for the needs of their families, though perhaps in poor grace, in some cases. Usually, simple cultural norms will demand that a person care for their own immediate family members. Why, then, would it be acceptable to us to not take care of the believers with whom we share an eternal bond of kinship in the person of Christ? That lack, if founded upon a lack of concern, not just ignorance of the need, would show a non-functional faith, at least, and perhaps would give reason to suspect even the validity of that faith…leading us to verse 17, which is closing in on what we wanted to address in the first place:

17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

Such faith, that does nothing to move the will, and causes no change in action, is a useless, non-functional faith. Is it valid? Only God knows! You see, this whole passage on “faith versus works” is couched in the question of “How can the World see faith? How can people see faith?”

God could see the faith of Lot, though no human could see it. When I first read the account of Lot, in Genesis chapters 13-19, I would definitely have supposed (in spite of his Godly Uncle Abraham) that Lot was simply an unbeliever, whose sins finally caught up with him. But God says, in 2nd Peter 2:6-9, that Lot was a righteous man! I certainly would not have come to that conclusion by observing his works, because, except for one feeble attempt to save the angels whom he thought were ordinary men, he was pretty much invisible, in terms of faith, because his works did not reveal his faith, as a rule. Even his sons-in-law did not believe him, when he tried to warn them of the coming destruction. So, the next verse makes it clear:

18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

A man, a fellow human, can only observe faith in action. We cannot see the hearts of our fellow humans. We can only see actions. God says we need works to confirm who we are in Christ, to those around us. Lot’s life was a wreckage that was not only useless as a testimony to unbelievers, but produced enemies to the seed of Abraham, lasting until today. Lot’s sons (by incest with his daughters) were Ben-Ammi and Moab. The Ammonites and the Moabites were bitter enemies to Israel from the beginning, and they still are, today, as they are the people of Jordan, and the Palestinians. It is a sad thing, but “righteous Lot” left a terrible legacy.

19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

“Doctrinal soundness” does not replace a living faith. “Orthodoxy” is simply a case of having correct opinions. One can know the truth, intellectually; accept it as fact; be able to recite a catechism or creed, and yet have no personal interaction with that truth. It is certainly possible to have “correct opinions” regarding theology, and still be absolutely an unbeliever.

But remember that James is speaking to believers. All he says, here, is that knowing the fact that “there is only one God” is not the same as having a living relationship with that one God. He gives the example of the demons, who have known God face-to-face, since before the world was created, and yet are eternally His enemies. They know all about the God of the Bible, and are terrified of their coming judgment. We know the bare facts, as we have been told them, but we are indifferent about the coming judgment, and acting as if it will never come.

Genuine Faith will Change Our Life

If our faith is a real, saving faith, it should be changing our motives, and our behavior. We don’t “make that change” in order to “prove our faith.” Genuine Faith changes us, from the inside out, and proves its own validity.

James goes on to discuss Abraham, whom God justified by faith (Genesis 15:6), but whom men justify because of his works. The scripture that says he was justified by his faith, found visible proof in his later works.
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

The word “perfect”, here, means “completed”…fulfilled. If we compare Ephesians 2:8-10, we can see that while we are saved “by Grace, through Faith,” and specifically not through (or by means of) works, verse ten makes it clear that we are “His workmanship, created unto good works, which He has before ordained that we should walk in them.” So the fulfillment of our faith and God’s Grace, in re-creating us in His own image, is that we are to walk in the good works that he ordained for us ahead of time.
23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

Remember that the word “justified” means “declared righteous.” Bear in mind Who it is, doing the real justification, and who the observers are in this context. In Romans 5:1, Paul states that we have been justified by faith, and that, as a result, we have peace with God. So, looking again at verse 18, we remind ourselves that, in this case, the persons questioning our faith are fellow humans. We can only demonstrate our faith to other humans through appropriate works. Our fellow humans “declare us righteous” based entirely on what they can see. So, in verse 24, we are “justified” or “declared righteous,” on the basis of works, where humans are the judges. We were declared righteous entirely on the basis of Faith, where Jesus is the Judge. (We don’t even like to think of Jesus as being the Judge, but He says He is, in John 5:22) Romans 5:1 addresses our justification before God. James 2:24 refers to our justification before Man. Does it matter? You’d better believe it does! (Remember Lot!)

25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

It somehow seems appropriate, in this context, to remember that “dead”, in scripture, usually has some sort of “separation” in view. A body, separated from the spirit of the person to whom both belong, is considered a dead body: no longer functional. A faith that is separated from the works that should accompany it, is considered a dead faith…not functional. It does not mean that such a person has never been accepted by God, necessarily. There are examples in the Old Testament and the New Testament, of people whose faith faltered, and their testimony was ruined, and who, in some cases, lost their physical lives because of their subsequent disobedience. (Lot, Balaam, Samson, Ananias & Sapphira, Demas, etc.) But in each case, it seems clear that they were real believers who simply fell into a pattern of disobedience… and it cost them heavily.

Place your Bets!

Remember that salvation tract (The Four Spiritual Laws) people used to hand out, which began with the statement (true, by the way) that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!”? Well, here’s the other side of that idea: “Satan hates you and has a TERRIBLE plan for your life!” Now, if you walk with Jesus, staying close to the Great Shepherd, you need have no fear of the Evil One, at all: He is a defeated enemy. But the Enemy does have an agenda:

  1. Satan desires to destroy your fellowship with God, through distractions, through neglect of feeding on the Word, neglect of prayer, and through overt sin.
  2. He desires to destroy your Joy and Peace, through all of the above.
  3. He desires to destroy your testimony, as bitterness and cynicism begin to replace Joy and Peace, and your works show to others the deadness of your faith.
  4. Finally, if he can draw you far enough away from the Shepherd, he desires to destroy your life, either through the destructive results of the bad decisions made in the flesh or through the consequences of overt sin.

God does not need you to “prove your faith” to Him by works. But your works are the result of what you really believe, and are a pretty good indicator of where your heart really is today. They reveal where you are currently “placing your bets.” They should reveal to you how you are doing, spiritually, and they definitely will let your neighbors, friends and family make decisions about the reality of faith in your life.

Look in the “Mirror of God’s Word, and see yourself! Look at where you are “Placing your Bets,” and see whether that is how God wants you to respond to Him.

So you really believe prayer is important? Then place your bet that way: pray! Do you really believe Jesus is the Master? Then obey Him! Do you really believe you should be feeding on God’s Word? Then do so! Do you really believe you should share your faith with others? Then do so! Where you “place your bets”–what you actually do–reveals what you really believe.

The Lord Bless His Word, and His people as they seek His Face.