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

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

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 6:9-11

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

Definition of Biblical Terms

We need to define some central terms, here.

Righteous: “Having a right standing with God.”

Unrighteous:Not having a right standing with God.”

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

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

Defined by God: Observed by Behavior and Character

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

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

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

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

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

Our Past

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

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

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

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

So…What Changed?

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

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

But Ye Are Washed!

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

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

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

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

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

Ye Are Sanctified!

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

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

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

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

Ye Are Justified!

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

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

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

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

How Can We Avail Ourselves of the Righteousness Of God?

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

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

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

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

Do You Desire to be Declared Righteous by God?

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

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

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

The Resulting Reward

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

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

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

Judgment, Justice, Grace, and Mercy in the Resurrection

Judgment, Justice, Grace, and Mercy

© 2019 C. O. Bishop (Revised 2024)

Introduction:

How does Easter show the Judgment and Justice of God?

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

Judgment on Jerusalem

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

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

Judgment on Jesus

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

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

The Specific Reasons for The Crucifixion

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

The Scriptures had to be Fulfilled

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

He Fulfilled the Prophecies!

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

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

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

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

So, What is The Good News of the Gospel?

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

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

Why is His Death Good News?

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

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

Why is His Burial Good News?

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

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

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

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

And, The Best News of All: The Resurrection!

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

What is The Result of the Resurrection?

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

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

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

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

But, What about Repentance?

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

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

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

The Result of that Repentance

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

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

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

Jesus Said, For Judgment I am come into this World

I came into this World For Judgment

© 2022 C. O. Bishop (revised 2024)

John 9:39-41

Introduction:

As we read this passage, please remember, that Jesus had just healed a blind man, who was born blind. He miraculously gave the man his sight. The Jews persecuted the man, afterward. They did not persecute him because his blindness had healed, but because he credited Jesus with the miracle. And they cast him out of the synagogue….essentially, they “excommunicated” him, for confessing that Jesus had healed him, and for refusing to recant his testimony.

When Jesus found him again and introduced Himself as the Son of God, the formerly blind man spontaneously worshipped Him. We still have people today who resent those who worship Jesus…or anyone who prays to Him. I once had a pastor tell me that he did not want people praying to Jesus. Such people reveal their hearts by their attitude. They reveal what they think of Jesus. And the next verse is what Jesus said in response:

39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.

What a strange thing to say! And, who was He talking to? His disciples were there with him…the healed man was there…and some Pharisees were there. Those are the only ones we know of, for certain.

Context

Remember the context: Jesus had been under attack for the last two days. In John 8:1-11, He dispersed the men who wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery. In John 8:12, He introduced Himself as the Light of the World. The Jews tried to stone Him, when He announced His own eternality, in John 8:58, and the fact that He preexisted Abraham. Then, immediately after miraculously escaping the mob in the temple, he went out of His way to heal a man who had been born physically blind.

This Blindness was not Judgment

In John 9:1, 2, The disciples asked Jesus whether that man or his parents had sinned, to bring this “judgment” of congenital blindness upon the man. Jesus said that neither had sinned…God had prepared this man for the purpose of showing His own mighty works. (Unlike Bartimaeus, this man had not even asked Jesus for healing. He knew nothing about Jesus before this day.)

But, Jesus explained His identity. And this man fell down and worshipped him! Jesus took away not only his physical blindness but also the spiritual blindness of his soul. He saw Jesus for who He was!

Jesus remarked on the irony that His presence gave sight to the physically blind but also revealed the spiritual blindness of those who rejected His light. Remember John 3:19And this is the condemnation; that light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”  

The people had an issue with the light, there, too. They rejected the Light of Christ.

Blindness Can be Judgment for having Disregarded the Light

Samson and others ignored the light of God’s direction and His Word. Samson’s enemies physically him, and enslaved him

Romans 11:25 also records that “…blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”

Most of the Jews rejected Jesus at that time. (And they have done so, ever since then.) Those few Jews who believed became the foundation of the church. (Along with the Jewish proselytes on the day of Pentecost.) They taught the Gentile believers who believed afterward.

When Jesus confronted Saul of Tarsus on the Road to Damascus, two things happened. He fell to the ground, along with the others in his group, and he (alone) became blind. Three days later, Jesus sent another disciple, Ananias, to restore his sight. Saul then changed his name to “Paul.” Jesus healed his physical and spiritual blindness, and He saw Jesus for who He was.

The rest of Israel remains partially blinded, to this day, and in Romans 9:1-3, Paul grieved their loss. But God promises to restore their sight, as a nation, and they will see Him, physically, and, for the first time recognize Him for who He is.

Zechariah 12:10 says “…They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and shall mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and be in bitterness for Him as one is that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”

For Judgment I am Come

Jesus had earlier said that He had come to save the lost.  But, in the same verses (John 3:18, 19) He had said that condemnation was already there in the World. He said, “He that believeth not is condemned already…and this is the condemnation… that light is come into the World, and Men loved darkness rather than light.”

Many people teach, that “if you don’t stop sinning, you’re going to be condemned!” But the truth is, we can’t stop sinning, and we are already condemned! The whole human race was in this same trap of sin…every single one of us was guilty and lost. Our only hope is in Jesus!

Romans 1:21, 22, tells us how that happens. “When they (the human race) knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

By choosing darkness, we, as a race, were filled with darkness, and we perpetuated our role as children of darkness. All that we do, as humans, confirms what God had said from the beginning. He said, “In the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die!” Adam ate, and all his progeny (including Eve) were instantly plunged into the darkness of sin: spiritual separation from the Light of God. We became spiritually blind and spiritually dead!

Jesus is the Light of the World (John 8:12)

His presence revealed the hearts of everyone who came in contact with Him. Those who rejected light rejected Him. Those who yearned toward the light turned to Him in faith. Even today, the same truth applies.

The Light of Christ appears in the World, through his servants, the believers. People will either turn toward that light, in faith, or they will reject that light, and even attempt to extinguish it.

The Blindness of “Religion”

Romans 2:19 tells us that the Jews saw themselves as being “…a light of them which are in darkness.” But Judgment was about to fall on them, because, in truth, they were the opposite of a “light to those in darkness:” They shrouded the light with their corruption, and their hypocrisy, to the extent that no one could see the Light of God in them at all. And they tried to extinguish the Light of Christ when He was there among them. They revealed who they truly were!

40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? 41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.

It is easy for us to sneer at the Pharisees and say, “Yeah, those bad old Pharisees!” But, we are always in danger of doing something similar! We can become so self-satisfied and smug in our “good doctrine,” or our “healthy church,” that we close ourselves off from the unsaved world.

At that point, we are no longer allowing the Holy Spirit to reach out through us to the world around us. We would be “just a bunch of religious folks.” That is what had happened to the Pharisees, and to a certain extent, to the entire nation of Israel. They were “very religious” people, but they denied the reality of the Love and the Power of the God they claimed to serve.

A Modern Example:

Years ago, I visited a church, which was so ingrown and exclusive, that when a shabby-looking stranger arrived on Easter Sunday, they didn’t know what to do. (I was the “stranger!” My car was a beat-up old Toyota, and I was wearing clean, but older, inexpensive clothing.) The four “greeters” looked like “deer in the headlights,” clutching their church bulletins against their suit-clad chests. They stared at me, wide-eyed, but they did not greet me at all. They offered no handshake, nor asked my name: Never offered me a bulletin, nor asked whether I knew the Lord: they said nothing. As “ambassadors,” they had become irrelevant.

The Pharisees had become blind to the light of God. That was Jesus’s judgment of them: He revealed their true blindness. In Revelation 3:19 the church at Laodicea as a group, had become blind, as well, and Jesus shut them down! He still invited them to fellowship with Him, individually, but as a church, He completely shut them down.

Professing themselves to be Wise, they Became Fools

Because the Pharisees still claimed to “see,” and even claimed that they saw better than others, they were under the Judgment of God. In John 5:22, we see that Jesus, alone, as God the Son, is the “Judge of all the Earth,” and He is the One they were rejecting and slandering!

Less than 40 years later, the Romans would destroy the entire temple and everything they held precious. Through repressing a series of bloody revolts, over 70 years, the Romans killed hundreds of thousands of Jews. The Romans eventually eradicated Israel, as a nation. They renamed it “Palestine,” to exterminate the memory of Judaism. And, it stayed that way until 76 years ago, when it was reborn as “Israel,” on May 14th, 1948. But the spiritual blindness remains, even today.

The Assignment of the Church is to Represent Jesus

God called us to be Ambassadors of Christ…we are to represent Him before the World. But the way we apply God’s Word in our daily lives and the way we respond to others because of His presence in our lives will determine the result of our service.

He told us to testify to His Love and His Grace. Our job is to demonstrate His Love and His Mercy. As His Body, we become His hands and feet. God calls us to function as His voice, speaking His Righteousness, Love, and Mercy into the ears of the lost World.

When we partake in communion, we testify before one another that His blood was shed for us, and that we are trusting in His Grace, and looking forward to His return. But the result of that Sacred Relationship should be that we willingly, voluntarily reach out to the people around us, too. This isn’t all about us! Jesus’s agenda reaches out to the whole world.

Changed Lives

The result should be that we desire His righteousness and His wisdom. It means that we should want to see our lives transformed, to be like Him. We should be concerned that the “grime” in our lives does not shroud the light of His presence. The sin in our lives should grieve us as deeply as it does Him. We should want what He wants.

As ministers of the light…servants of the light, we need to make certain that the light we shine is clean and clear. We mentioned some time ago that the headlamps of a vehicle can become so encrusted with road grime that the light burning within seems very dim as seen from the outside.

He wants our lives to be clean enough and clear enough that anyone looking our way will see the light of Jesus. He wants us to “Glow in the dark.” He told us to “shine as lights, in a corrupt nation.” No nation in history has been completely free of corruption, but God’s people are to shine through that darkness, drawing people to Jesus: (not “to church:” to Jesus!)

A Fragrance of Christ

In 2nd Corinthians 2:14-16, we are called to “smell like Jesus.” The Fragrance of Christ is to emanate from our lives at all times. The only way that will happen is if we allow Him to live through us, and allow His presence to permeate our lives.

As we celebrate communion together, please be thinking about what that may mean, to allow Jesus to live through you.

Lord Jesus, we know that we are blind to so much of the truth of God. We yearn to experience Your light in such a way that it transforms us into Your likeness. Let us be true children of the light, and not limit Your light in any way.

How To Understand the Coming Judgment

The Coming Judgment

© 2023 C. O, Bishop (Revised 2024)

2nd Thessalonians 1:4-12

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

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

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

Introduction:

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

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

There are Five Judgments we should address:

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

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

Please bear in mind the two promises of God:

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

Which of these Five Judgments Affect Believers?

The General Condemnation

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

The Judgment of Sin at the Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Judgment of the Living Nations

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

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

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

The Great White Throne Judgment

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

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

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

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

What About the Church?

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

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

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

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

Why are Believers Excluded from these final Judgments?

(2nd Thessalonians 1:10)

“…because our testimony among you was believed…”

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

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

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

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

Wherefore…

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

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

The Result

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Learn The Humility of Discipleship

The Humility of Discipleship

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 4:8-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction:

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

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

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

Ye are Kings!

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

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

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

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

Three Contrasts

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

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

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

How Bad did it Become?

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

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

Other Examples

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

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

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

What is Our Calling?

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

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

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

29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.”

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

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

But, Aren’t We Supposed to Be Wise?

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

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

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

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

So, What was the Problem in Corinth?

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

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

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

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

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

What about the Apostles?

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

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

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

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

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

And Paul’s Conclusion?

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

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

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

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

We need to learn and embrace the humility of discipleship.

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

Salvation or Rewards: A Gift or Wages?

Salvation or Rewards: A Gift or Wages?

© 2024 by C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 3:9-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction:

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

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

Consider the Cultivated Field

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

What About a Building?

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

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

The Foundation is Complete and Permanent!

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

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

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

The Foundation

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

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

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

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

The Gift

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

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

The Warning: “Let Every Man Take Heed!”

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

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

Example one

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

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

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

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

Salvation is a Gift!

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

Example two

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

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

She replied, “It’s mine, now!”

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

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

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

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

And it was a gift!

But, Rewards are NOT Gifts!

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

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

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

The Building Materials

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

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

It is not just about the cost of the Materials

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

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

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

Materials From God are Eternal

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

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

The Result: Reward or Loss

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

Was there a Reward for Lot?

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

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

Will there Be a Reward for Us?

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

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

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

Learn to See The Problem and the Symptoms of Carnality

The Problems with (and the Symptoms of) Carnality

© 2023 by C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 3:1-9

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

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

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

Introduction:

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

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

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

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

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

The Problem of Carnality

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Result of Carnality

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

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

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

Babies are Wonderful, But…

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

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

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

Warnings to Pretenders

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

Lost Opportunities

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

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

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

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

Symptoms of Carnality

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

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

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

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

In Contrast

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

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

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

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

Future Reward

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

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

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

Working With Jesus

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

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

An Example of “Serving Self”

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

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

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

How can We Follow Jesus’s Example?

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

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

What Were They Doing on Christmas Morning?

What Were They All Doing on Christmas Morning?

© 12/2016  C. O. Bishop THCF 12/25/2016; Revised 12/2019, Revised 12/2023

Hebrews 1:6; Luke 2:1-20

Introduction:

I used to take some time off work, every year, to spend Christmas with my family. When I got back to work, people greeted me in a friendly fashion, and several always asked, “Did you have a good Christmas?

That is almost just a “rhetorical question,” since the expected answer is always “Yes,” though “qualifiers” are acceptable. Expansion on what was good (or not so good) is also acceptable, to some degree. But what we are always expected to do, at most, is to tell “What we were doing on Christmas Morning.”

So: let’s ask the same question regarding those persons who actually were present the Night of the Lord’s Birth. (By the way, I cannot prove that His birth was on December 25th, although there are some reasons suggesting it might have been. But the weather was not a deterrent. It is pretty warm in Jerusalem right now. Probably it was, that night, as well. So regardless of “when” the Lord was actually born, let’s just consider who was there, and then pose that same question regarding them:

What were They all doing on Christmas Morning?

We sing, “Angels we have heard on High, sweetly singing o’er the plain!” But… were they? Really? We talk about “We three kings, etc.” and we usually forget that the wise men (however many there were) were possibly as much as two years away, on Christmas morning…they were not part of the birthday experience at all.

We say, “Shepherds quake at the sight” (which was true!) But we sing all sorts of nice songs about drummer boys, and donkeys, and lambs, and oxen, and Mary, and Joseph, and…honestly, most of that is just very pleasant fiction. So, let’s set all that aside for just a few moments and ask, seriously, “What were they all doing on Christmas Morning?” Let’s take it one group at a time:

What were the Angels doing?

What were the Angels really doing? (“Sweetly singing o’er the plain?” Nope…sorry!)

To Begin with: Which Angel?

Let’s read and see: Luke 2:8-14 The Angel of the Lord appeared (Think about that one! We’ve done a lot of Old Testament study: Who is the Angel of the LORD? In the Old Testament, it was the preincarnate Christ!) The Glory of the Lord shone around the Shepherds.

The Shepherds were terribly afraid. (I’ll bet they were!) And the Angel of the Lord told them to not be afraid, “because He was bringing them glad tidings (good news) of Great Joy which shall be (future tense) to all people.” (Glad tidings—what is the word we usually associate with “Good News?” It is the Gospel!)

He went on to announce the birth of the “Savior; Christ the Lord.” He told the shepherds to go and find the Baby  (Not Mary; not Joseph …the Baby!) and He told them where to look, and He told them how to recognize Him.

What about the Other Angels?

Immediately there appeared a multitude of other angelic beings (“the heavenly host”—the heavenly army) praising God, and saying (not singing…sorry!) “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth, Peace, Good Will toward Men!” (Could they have been singing, as well? Surely they could! They were singing at the Creation! See Job 38:7 But the question always comes down to “What does God’s Word actually say?”) And then they were gone! They just disappeared into the sky!

But, by God’s command, what were the Angels doing? Let’s read Hebrews 1:6; “…and when He (God) bringeth forth the firstbegotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him (the Baby!)” The Angels were worshipping the Baby! (Not Mary, not Joseph, nor anyone else.)

How Important is Worship?

Now, think: who is the only one (according to God) who can rightfully receive worship? It is God himself! So, this is part of how we recognize and teach the deity of Christ. He is God!

The Angels, who worship no one but God, were worshipping Him. In fact, that is what we really were seeing over in Luke 2:13, 14…they were praising God…the one in the Manger!

They knew Him for who he was! The angels were not distracted by His infancy, nor his appearance of helplessness. They knew who He was! They worshipped Him as their Creator! (Hebrews 1:7 confirms this! It says, “He maketh His Angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire.”) Those angels were not impressed by the surroundings, for better or worse, nor by the other people that were present. They were there for one purpose: to Worship the Newborn King!

But…What was Mary doing?

Well, what should she be doing? Mary was just a very young (probably teen-aged) mother, who had just had a baby, her firstborn Son! She was terribly tired, but probably very happy with her little Baby. She was with her husband, who was caring for her, but she was probably feeling pretty overwhelmed by the events of the last nine months. We are not told whether she even saw (or heard) the angelic host worshipping her Baby. She evidently heard about those events through the shepherds, because we can see in Luke 2:19 that she “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

But, how did she “feel” about the surroundings? Well, we aren’t really told…but even in that culture, women wanted other women around when they gave birth. An aunt, or a mother or a sister, usually…a midwife, if you could afford one. Hospitals weren’t an option, in that time and place, but a stable wasn’t exactly optimal or normal, even then.

How “Special” should “Signs” be?

Some people today argue that the manger bed and the stable birth were commonplace for that era, and even preferable. I think we can safely say that is not true: How do we know that the manger bed and all the rest were not normal…not commonplace? Because the Angel of the Lord gave those facts to the shepherds as being the specific signs by which they would recognize the baby.

Why would he give the shepherds “clues” that were completely ordinary, as “signs by which to recognize the Savior?” The manger and the swaddling clothes, while not unheard of, were unusual enough that they were the signs given by the angel by which to recognize the Savior! If they were that unusual, how did Mary feel about it all? We aren’t told! The songs speculating about her feelings are just that: Speculation!

Mary probably spent the next few hours alternately sleeping, and tending to her Baby. The visit by the shepherds was probably a surprise. She and Joseph were huddling together in a dark stable, trying to stay warm, and trying to re-group—just trying to figure out what they were going to do next.

Suddenly these “grubby shepherds” came bursting in the door, looking for a baby, “dressed in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.” And there he was!

Did they give Mary “special attention?” Probably so, yes! Most people do give special attention to new mothers. But they were there to see the baby! They saw Mary and Joseph, and they saw the Baby lying in the manger, just as they had been told. But the Baby was who they had been sent to find, and He was the One with whom they were primarily concerned…The Savior, Christ the Lord!

And What was Joseph doing?

Well…we really are not told that, either. But consider this: He was evidently an older man, as we see later that he had apparently died, well before Jesus began His ministry. Joseph was an older man and freshly out of work. He had been forced to travel away from Nazareth, (in Galilee, where he had lived and worked,) due to this new “decree” from Caesar. He was eighty miles from home, on foot, and a very poor man. Joseph was probably thinking ahead, wondering what he was going to do for work.

He may also have been thinking back to the visit he had experienced, from the Angel Gabriel, telling him that his fiancée, Mary, had been chosen by God to bear the child who is the Savior.

That must have been a difficult time for both Joseph and Mary: The neighbors were undoubtedly looking at him and assuming that he had committed fornication, and gotten his fiancée pregnant. Or worse, that she herself was immoral and that he had simply chosen to “cover for her.” The stigma was there, and it was not going to go away.

Think about it: they were in the city of his family, of his ancestry, but no one there offered him and Mary a place to stay. How else did they end up in that stable? Why were there no doors open to him and his bride? I would guess it was because he was an embarrassment to them. Perhaps they even openly ostracized him. We really don’t know. All we know for sure are the facts, as revealed in scripture.

So, What were the Shepherds doing?

That is the one question about which we are told a fair amount: They were just “minding their own business,” caring for their flocks at night, in the open fields. Possibly they were having a bit of a chat, to stay awake, or perhaps walking around, watching over the flock to keep them safe from predators. But they were just carrying on business as usual, until the Angel of the Lord dropped in for a visit.

Remember: When God steps into the picture, everything changes!

That line about “Shepherds quake at the sight!” is probably one of the most accurate statements in all the hymns about the birth of Christ. They were frightened, nearly to death!

Isn’t it interesting that all the people in the Bible who really saw angels, or who really met the pre-incarnate Christ, or somehow saw the Lord in his glory, were not “feeling all happy and blessed:” they were afraid!

With or Without the Fear of the Lord?

Why is it that today, all the folk who claim to have seen the Lord say what a “wonderful, peaceful experience” it was, just “flooding their souls with Joy?” My guess is that they really didn’t experience what they say they experienced, becvause the ones who really did experience it were terrified, pretty much without exception. (Especially the men: Jesus seems to be pretty gentle toward the women.)

Calming the Storm and Revealing His Identity

When Jesus calmed the storm, for example, the disciples in the boat didn’t look around and say, “Way cool, Jesus! We didn’t know you could do that!” They had already been afraid that they were all about to drown! These were seasoned, commercial fishermen, who were expert small boat handlers, and they all had been in storms before. But they were seriously expecting to die in this storm!

However, when they woke up the Lord, and asked Him to take a hand, He calmed the storm! And far from being overjoyed and relieved, they were more afraid! They said “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and waves obey him?” They were more afraid of the true presence of God than they were of death itself!

A Supernatural Confrontation

So, when the Angel of the Lord appeared, the shepherds were terrified. They had dealt with jackals, bears, and lions by night, all their lives. (How would you feel if your job was to protect yourself and the flock, but you were dealing with large, wild predators at night, armed with only a stick, a sling, maybe a sword, or some other rather “primitive” weapon?) They were already experienced and courageous, or they could not have done their jobs!

But they were terrified at the sight of the Angel of the Lord! His first words were to calm their fear, so that he could communicate the Joy of Christmas. And that Joy was in the Person of Jesus.

Supernatural Obedience, by Faith

The shepherds left their flocks in the field, which is not normal! (If you leave the flock, you are a bad shepherd!) But they were commanded to do so, and they did. (Maybe they figured that the angels could take a turn watching the flock. And evidently they did!)

The shepherds went to Bethlehem, and they hunted through the stables until they found the Baby and Joseph and Mary. They told other people around the area what had happened. They told about the angelic messenger, and the child…and finally…they went back to their flocks. But they left behind them an amazed village, and within themselves, they had Great Joy for the privilege they had shared. (No vacation, no Christmas dinner, no stockings hung by the chimney…just “Great Joy!”)

Fulfilled Prophecy

Why the Joy? They were Glorifying God, and Praising God for all that they had heard and seen, and the fact that everything had been exactly as they had been told to expect. In other words, they thanked Him for His fulfilled prophecy.

I don’t know whether they had thought through all the other fulfilled prophecies, yet. Consider Micah 5:2 for example: The Lord had promised, 400 years earlier, that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. They were the primary witnesses to the fulfillment of that promise, and others. If they had expanded upon that beginning, and considered Who that Baby was, and what else was prophesied about Him, they might not have wanted to go back to the flock, at all. I don’t think they put it all together, though…we seldom do today, either, really.

Finally…What are You doing on Christmas?

We have been conditioned to think of Christmas as a “time of joy and peace”…and we want it to be so. But we also tend to focus pretty much on family, rest, children, gifts, and food…lots of food. I don’t see a problem with most of that. When God commanded His people to throw a party, and have a national feast day, they focused on all those things, too. But they remembered what they were celebrating…they didn’t forget why they were there!

It is important that we take time to consider who Jesus really is. Consider the fact that, right there in that manger, wrapped up in rags, He was the Creator! He was God! When we sing that song, “Mary did you know…,” I have to tell you, I don’t think she could have known! We look back, from the vantage point (and the safe distance) of 2000 years, and we still don’t really comprehend it.

How do we see Jesus?

If Mary had seen Jesus the same way as the disciples saw him when he calmed the storm, do you think she would have been “snuggling him in her arms and crooning a lullaby?” She couldn’t have seen Him that way!

But it is imperative that we do! It is vital that we experience the utter amazement of the fact of the incarnation, and that we be blessed by the Grace which God has extended to us.

We cannot grasp it all, but we can reach out by faith and receive it as a gift. We can place our faith in His Grace, and know the Peace of God in an eternal relationship. As born-again believers, we are not “dragged in as an orphaned waif,” and simply “called” His child: We are born into His family by the new birth, and we live eternally as His child…His real child, born of His Grace.

Looking Beyond the Manger

When we think about Christmas, we need to be looking beyond the “manger scene.” (Look far enough ahead to see the Cross, and the Tomb, and the Resurrection. Look even further, and see His soon coming, and His eternal reign.)

We need to look beyond the manger, and find Peace and Joy in the fact of the Savior. Mary pondered these things in her heart. It seems good that we should do the same. Think about these things: ponder them in your heart. Consider the enormity of what was really going on that first Christmas.

The Christmas story was not about Mary. It was not about Joseph or the shepherds. It was not about the angels, and they knew it better than anyone: They worshipped the newborn King! They guarded his humanity (though He surely needed no help), but they worshipped Him as God!

We can do the same. Christmas is about Jesus, our Savior! He is God in the flesh, and our only Advocate with God the Father. To the World, He is the Judge, though He offered Himself as the Savior. To us, of course, He is the Savior, though He is still the King, and the Judge and the God of the Universe. You see, in our case, relationally, the fact that He is our Savior takes precedence over all the rest. We no longer have to fear God’s wrath. We have His Grace. This is not a “seasonal” thing. His Grace has been conferred as a permanent gift, in Eternal life!

So… Now What?

The Shepherds told others about what they had seen and heard. We can do that, too: especially because we know who He really is, whereas the Shepherds only knew a little. He is the source of all things, and the key to the Joy of Christmas. And we can be a part of extending that joy to the rest of the world around us. If we really know Him for who He is, and really believe the true Christmas Story, then sharing it with others should be the most natural thing in the world.

Also, none of the people in the Biblical, historical account just “went back to normal” after that night. It was not a “seasonal thing.” It changed their lives forever, and they shared it with others, just as we are called to do.

We need to rise above our “seasonal pattern” of just “putting away the decorations, and getting on with life.” He is the Life! We are not supposed to just “get over” what He is doing in our lives: Rather, we are to grow deeper into that relationship, and allow it to bear eternal fruit!

God grant that we will do so!

Lord Jesus, allow us, momentarily at least, to see You in your Glory, and to worship You as God. Allow us to love You in your humanity, but also to look beyond Your humanity and to worship You, and love You as our faithful Creator. Let us serve as witnesses to Your glory, as did the shepherds. Allow us to continually ponder these things in our hearts, as You transform our lives.

“The Mind of Christ,” and “He that is Spiritual”

“The Mind of Christ,” and “He that is Spiritual”

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 2:9-16

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.

Introduction:

There are a number of questions that ought to come to our minds as we read this passage.

  • Who is the “we” and “us” in this passage?
  • What does it mean to be a “natural man?
  • How can we be “spiritual?” (What does it mean?)
  • How can we “have the mind of Christ?
  • (What other possibilities exist?)

Last time, we ended with verse 9. It says, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.”  We noted that some modern writers claim to tell us, in great detail, “what Heaven is like.” There are several books on the subject.

However, the Bible indicates that they have either deluded themselves, or they are simply lying. God says we do not know, and we cannot even imagine it. He says that no one has seen it or even heard about it from any reliable or authoritative source. (Paul was quoting Isaiah 64:4, here!)

But, in that case, verse 10 seems strange, because it says God has revealed them by His Spirit. God reveals what He wants us to know. He revealed them by the Holy Spirit, in the Written Word. And it isn’t very much. He has told us some very confusing details in Revelation chapters four and five. Those details are very interesting, but not very enlightening. Why? Because what He has in store for us is a surprise!

What is a “Mystery,” in the Bible?

The Bible calls a number of things “mysteries.” In the Bible, a “mystery,” means “something that has not yet been revealed, but (usually) is about to be revealed.”

This is not like an “Agatha Christie murder mystery.” Agatha Christie truly does give you “all the clues.” In her case, (if her readers are reading carefully enough, and not missing her clues,) they can “deduce the identity of the killer,” before the end of the book. Unfortunately, I am too oblivious to catch more than a few of the clues she plants in her story. I can read and enjoy the book, but I will not solve the mystery.

But in God’s case, the “clues” for what awaits believers after the end of measurable time, have never been given. He says the knowledge has never been accessible even by our greatest flights of imagination and fancy.

God does Not Revealall” Mysteries to us.

There are some mysteries in scripture that are simply too deep for humans, though we don’t like to admit it. We think that we should be able to “ferret out all the facts!” We think we should know about all of the universe, including the nature of God. And we think we should understand it all! Consider what folly that assumption is, and what arrogance it reveals in us!

We don’t even understand the physical world around us. But we think we should be able to grasp the deepest knowledge of the One who Created all of it! Only by revelation can we can even learn to know Him. It is only through His Word, as He reveals Himself to us. In our physical lives, much of what He does is invisible, just as He is. We only see the results. Then, we may rejoice in His wisdom and kindness, or, we may scoff and thereby become blind to His presence.

We make up very silly (and dangerous) video games about “fighting demons”…shooting them, as if they were physical beings. They are unseen. they are invisible, just as the Father and the Holy Spirit are unseen, and invisible.

We make such foolish mockery of the unseen world, mostly because we are utterly ignorant of its reality and the danger it poses to the ignorant soul. God takes pains to correct that thinking and to let us know the reality and the danger involved. But He also indwells every believer in the person of the Holy Spirit, so that we do not remain unaware.

Who is “We?”

This one is pretty simple: Paul is speaking “to believers,” as we saw in the first few verses of the book. And, he addresses them as being fellow believers. Therefore, all the time Paul speaks about the revealed Mysteries, he uses the inclusive “we,” and “us,”

When he talks about the unbelievers, he shifts his pronouns to “they” and “them.” It is important to know who the writer is talking to. (Also, who he is talking about, when that is the case.)

How does God reveal the “Things of God” to Human Believers?

Every week, we stress the necessity of learning the things of God as He reveals them in the Word of God. Last week we saw once again the link between The Lord Jesus and the Word of God. We saw in John 1:18 that “No man has seen God at any time, but the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.”

Jesus, the Only Begotten Son, is the One Who declares God! But in John 1:1, a few verses earlier, we can read that “In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word WAS God.”  In John 1:14, we read that “the Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us (and we beheld His Glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of Grace and truth!”)

In Hebrews 1:1, it says, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the Fathers by the Prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed Heir of all things, by whom also He made the Worlds.”

Jesus is literally the revealer of God! He is the only member of the Godhead who shows up in human form to communicate the truth of God to fallen Man. He was the One in the Garden, calling, “Adam, where art thou?”

The Word Declares God

And God calls Jesus “the Word:” the “communication of God.” The declaration of all that He is! Finally, in Revelation 19:13, He is labeled “The Word of God.” So, how does God reveal to us “the things of God?” It is primarily through His Word! Jesus is the Living Word, But He has given us the Written Word and He calls us to read it, to memorize it, to meditate upon it and to learn to use it as the “Sword of the Spirit.”

He is the Living Word, said to be “sharper than any two-edged sword.” But He tells us to master the use of the Written Word, which is the Sword of the Spirit.

His sword, the Written Word of God, is the only effective weapon against our unseen enemies. All that stuff about “zapping demons with faith-bolts” is strictly comic-book stuff. (You can play those video games if that is what you want to believe. But I truly do not recommend it! They are utter folly!)

Not By the Spirit of the World

Notice that Paul says in verse 12, that the only reason we can even receive this sort of communication is that we have received the Spirit of God and are no longer led by the spirit of the world. He will explain this concept in verses 14-16.

An unbeliever can receive the initial message of the Gospel. He or she can make a decision based on that message. If they decide to “Believe God…” to “take Him at His Word,” then at that moment, whether they are aware of it or not, they also receive the Holy Spirit. He will permanently indwell them, and He immediately begins teaching them. After that point, they find that the Bible is increasingly becoming an “Open Book.”

Not by the Wisdom of Man

And in verse 13 he tells us not to take the received message, and try to pass it on to others using the “wisdom of man,” but rather, by the “Wisdom of God.” We are to compare scripture with scripture, so as to compare spiritual things with spiritual things. Remember, in Acts 17:11, God commended the Berean people for their response, “in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind and searched the scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” That is a good response!

But, if we, as the messengers of God, are not “comparing spiritual things with spiritual,” and using scripture to explain scripture, then the listeners cannot hope to “go look it up.” They have no “standard” by which to measure our message. But if we stick to God’s Word as closely as we can, then they can check our messages against the Bible and find assurance that we have faithfully declared the Savior and His Word.

What is “The Natural Man?”

The Natural man is the unbeliever in his “natural state,” whatever it may be. He could be an ignorant laborer or tribal farmer, or hunter-gatherer, with zero formal education, or he could be a highly trained professional of some sort: engineer, scientist, philosopher or theologian. But without the Spirit of God indwelling him, he remains a natural man. He cannot receive the truth of God, and the majority of God’s Word seems to him to be foolishness.

If we reject the “entry-level truth” of the Cross of Christ, then we disqualify ourselves to move deeper into a personal knowledge of God. That is what God says: if you have a problem with that, or if you think it is somehow elitist or exclusive, you would have to take it up with Him. The fact is, the Gospel is the opposite of “Elitist or Exclusive.” Jesus said He came to offer salvation to the whole world. He died for the sins of the whole world. He says, “Whosoever will may come!” And the invitation is to anyone willing to respond in faith.

The Spiritual Man

The Spiritual Man has received the Holy Spirit by faith and is currently in submission to Christ by His Word and by His Spirit. So, it does not include “all saved people:” it includes all saved people who are walking with Jesus, in obedience to His Spirit and to His Word.. There are many examples in scripture of people who were genuine believers, but they ignored God’s Word and “became blind” and in the end, were found to be “working for the Enemy.” (We just recently studied Samson in the evening Bible Study…he was the perfect example of such a person!)

The Third Option

In 1st Corinthians 3:1-3 (we are not going there, just yet: we are just peeking ahead) we will read of a third kind of person: the Carnal Man. He (or she) is living in the flesh: allowing his/her old sin nature to rule. Such a person is living for self, and not in submission to Christ. And it can occur in the life of any believer at any time.

We choose to make decisions in the absence of God’s counsel, just because that is what we desire. The consequence is that we have “re-submitted ourselves” to the tyranny of sin, and, until we repent (change our minds) and confess our sin, so that we can be cleansed, relationally, we cannot “move on with God.” Amos 3:3 says, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” (the assumed answer is “NO!”)

As long as we remain in that state, we cannot understand God’s Word, we cannot grow as believers, and we retreat further and further into spiritual immaturity. Hebrews 5:12-14 complained that those believers had (again) become babes. The ones in 1st Corinthians 3 were still babes, they were failing to grow. The ones in Hebrews 5 were going backward!

The Mind of Christ

This is an odd statement, but Paul says the spiritual man can “discern all things” (KJV says “judge,” but the word actually means to discern.) But then he says that others (unbelievers, perhaps?) cannot discern him. Perhaps it means they cannot understand his motives. I have seen that on several occasions, where I was making a decision by God’s direction, that would be totally clear to any believer, but unbelievers thought I was doing something completely crazy.

Why would that be likely? Paul quotes an Old Testament verse, Isaiah 40:13 to point out that no human is capable of understanding God’s Spirit or His thoughts. That is the reason! He gave us His indwelling Spirit, and He explains His thoughts and causes us to think as He thinks!

Spiritual Transformation!

This is what we saw in Romans 12:2, where we are commanded to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” If you focus on God’s written Word, and look to His Holy Spirit to make it a living reality in your daily life, then you will truly be “thinking the Thoughts of God” and making decisions the way He would have you make them. In so doing, we literally have the mind of Christ! And the World will see us as strange and mystifying people!

They will see that we are doing right things: good things, even when it is to our disadvantage. (Psalm 15:4 “…he that sweareth to his own hurt and changeth not.” You keep your word even when it hurts you! How about Proverbs 25:21, 22? “If thine enemy be hungry, feed him…” You are consistently kind, even to people who hate you!) Yes, they will think you are strange!

Lord Jesus, Raise us up as students of Your Word, and let us feed upon the Living Word until we truly have the mind of Christ! We know that we are strangers in this World, but we are Your Ambassadors as long as we are here! Teach us to honor you by our lives!

Paul’s One Message was Jesus Christ, and His Crucifixion

Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

Paul Preached the Message of Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.

1st Corinthians 2:1-9

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.

For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:

That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

Introduction:

It encourages me to know that Paul saw simplicity and direct reference to God’s truth to be of great value. Paul saw simple, direct truth was more vital than all the human reasoning that he could offer. Paul’s great education qualified and equipped him to contend with the world’s philosophers on their own terms. But he recognized the trap therein, and knew that approaching evangelism in that way would seldom or never bear fruit.

Remember: it says that “the World by Wisdom knew not God.” I

t does not say, “human wisdom was insufficient.” Nor does it say that “Sometimes it worked, but not always.”

It says, “After that, in the wisdom of God, the World by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.” (1st Corinthians 1:21)

He warns us that our “clever approaches” don’t help. Rather, they can actually render the true message ineffective and fruitless.

Paul’s Response to the “Lesson”

Remember that, immediately before coming to Corinth, Paul had preached in Athens. Paul went to Corinth. He was feeling pretty beat-up and discouraged. The unbelieving Jews of the last three towns in which he had preached had run him out of town. Possibly he felt this was a great opportunity to “speak his own language” so to speak.

The world knew that Paul had a very good education, from human perspective. He attempted (just this once) to approach other such“educated men” by appealing to their sense of “reason.” And it simply did not work. He established no church in Athens. They saw themselves as “too smart for God!”

Are they “too good” for God, or “too smart” for God?

1st Corinthians 1:23 shows that the Athenians demonstrated how the message of Christ affected the Greeks. The Gospel offended the Jews (as Paul had seen in Thessalonica.) The Greeks just laughed at it. The Jews thought they were “too good,” or maybe “too religious,” or something, to even consider (let alone simply accept) the message of the Cross. And the Greeks often thought they were “too smart” to accept it!

Paul reflected on that experience, and he commented, “But we preach Christ Crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks, foolishness.”

And we still run into that problem today. Some people utterly reject the idea that they need a Savior. They believe in their own “moral superiority”. Even more numerous are those who believe in their own intellectual superiority. And they reject the concept, out of hand.

Confronting this truth in Person

I remember rejecting the message of God, myself, because I thought it was folly. Back then, I thought I was pretty smart: I thought I had all the answers. But I eventually discovered that I could not free myself from sin. I could not “be holy.” And I continually made errors in judgment! I was neither too good nor too smart: I was a condemned sinner.

For his own account, Paul had already known that truth. But in Athens, for some reason, he attempted to appeal to human reasoning. However, he quickly observed that it was not only ineffective, but it was truly counterproductive. He said such an approach could make the Cross of Christ be made “of none effect.” Paul was determined never to make the same error again!

How did Paul Approach Corinth?

He said he was determined to “know nothing except Christ and Him Crucified.”

He also said, And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Why was Paul in fear?

It could have been partly because of the beating he had received at Philippi. That natural fear may have been compounded in Corinth, when he was dragged before the magistrate, Gallio, until Gallio turned on the Jews and threw them out of the court.

But, he also may have been fearful of producing another failure before God. Athens had been a total bust where evangelism was concerned. Every faithful teacher or preacher of God’s Word is careful and anxious to not teach wrongly. We understand the potential for eternal impact upon the lives of others.

Paul strove to demonstrate the power of God in his own life, and in the Word of God as it transformed the lives of believers.

Why no “Enticing words?”

Paul concluded that his reason for the very careful teaching and his abstinence from “human wisdom” and “enticing words” was for one eternal purpose: “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

An evangelist may preach a brilliant message, and people may flock to hear it. But if they are just “persuaded by his brilliant rhetoric,” then those people may have only become “acolytes” of that particular teacher. Those who responded to the message may not have responded to the Gospel at all! And if he is an honest, sincere man, he would be dismayed to discover that result.

But that is actually the deliberate goal of many false teachers: In Acts 20:30, Paul warned that they will “seek to draw away disciples after themselves.” Paul referred to such people as “grievous wolves.” And Jesus referred to them as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

Godly Fear and the Light of God

Paul desperately desired to not commit errors that might produce false believers…false fruit. So, his earnest desire was that no one would be impressed with his articulate, well-reasoned and erudite speech. He wanted God’s light to come through unshaded and unfiltered by himself.

When we shine a physical light through a glass or plastic lens, we usually want a clear lens, so as to see clearly. Can there be a reason to want to filter physical light, or to reduce its brightness? Yes, of course there are many reasons we might need to do that. But under what circumstances should we want to filter or dim or color the Light of God’s Word? I hope we can agree that we would prefer to see His light clearly and without artificial colors.

As teachers, we want to transmit the full spectrum of God’s light. We want His light to shine without restriction. In the past we have pointed out that when the headlamps on our cars are covered with road grime, It becomes difficult to see the road at night. The light inside the headlamps has not grown dim, but the lens through which it shines is failing.

We do not want the failures and dirt in our lives to diminish the Light of God for others. That may have eternal consequences in their lives. And, that alone should be a major source of “Fear and Trembling” for any honest teacher. And Paul was no exception.

What about Teaching for Mature Believers?

Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

At this point, when a believer is becoming very solid in his or her faith, Paul says he could go ahead and use logic and grammar and all the “proofs” for which people hunger. But it is still not to be the World’s “wisdom.” We are not “going along with the World consensus” as to the meaning of the Bible. Truth is not derived by popular opinion.

We use scripture to interpret scripture, and we show believers how incredibly well the entire Bible fits together as one book. As those entrusted to feed the flock, we teach the truth of His Word, and believers are delighted. We are thrilled by the way God’s Word is deeply and eternally true, not just superficially or temporarily. So we are called to feed the flock, and the specific food is called out.

Sheep Food Only, Please!

We do not “feed the flock” on philosophy, or politics, or current events, or personal opinions. As God commands, we feed the Flock of God on God’s Written Word.

We show the hidden wisdom in the Word of God, to which the unbeliever is blind. God gave us believers only a little of what went on before the creation: just a few solid facts and not much more.

And after the end of time as we know it, we have also been given very little. Just enough that believers can rejoice but nothing to satisfy the rebellious, demanding heart.

Paul points out that had the religious rulers understood the real truth, they would not have rejected Jesus and crucified Him. Their actions proved their position, as emissaries of evil, not of God. The rulers of this world still completely miss the eternal realities God teaches in His Word. World religions make up traditions and lore to explain their own existence and to justify their philosophical position. But there are many questions God simply does not answer.

What is the Alternative?

As a result, many of the religious leaders exercise their imaginations and answer such questions from their own point of view, not the authority of God. They come up with false and dangerous teachings. They tell us all sorts of things regarding the eternal state. Even so-called Christian bookstores, for example, frequently have various books spelling out all the details of heaven. (Where did the information come from? I don’t know! But God says it didn’t come from Him!)

Verse nine says “…as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man…:”  God has not been revealed it at all, nor has anyone ever been able to guess or even imagine what God has in store for His children. So, when people say such things, telling all about the unseen things, you should feel free to ask where that information is found.

If it isn’t clearly laid out in God’s Word, you are under no obligation to believe it! In fact, all the writers warn us to not believe it. Jesus warned against false revelations, in Mark 13:21. He warned specifically of those claiming to have identified some person as the second coming of the Messiah. He said, “Don’t believe them!”

What about Us?

We will do our best to continually feed the flock on God’s Word. We will study carefully;searching anxiously, to be sure we lead no one astray. We have no hidden agenda, and we are accountable to God for the outcome.

This epistle addresses each of you personally. Paul encourages us to feed heavily on God’s Word. We learn to search the scriptures to be sure the teaching is correct. We each are accountable to God for our response to His truth.

Lord Jesus, please raise us up from babyhood, as believers. Teach us how to become the men and women of God that You have called us to be!