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

Pride is Still the Root of the Problem

© 2024 C. O, Bishop

1st Corinthians 5:1-13

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

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

Pride was the Problem!

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

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

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

Introduction:

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

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

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

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

Things to Bear in Mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Was Open, Public, Flagrant Sin

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

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

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

This Was Not a “Questionable” Issue

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

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

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

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

Pride is Still the Root of the Problem

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

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

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

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

And, it still is the problem, today!

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

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

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

What is the Goal of this Warning?

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

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

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

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

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

No Hierarchy of Sin

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

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

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

What is the Real issue?

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

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

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

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

What Does The New Testament Say About “Judging?”

What About “Judging?”

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

Introduction:

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

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

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

What Can We Learn About Judgment?

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

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

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

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

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

Several Greek Roots for the New Testament Passages about Judgment:

Primary Greek Root: Krinō

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

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

Secondary Greek Root: Krima

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

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

Four Other Greek Roots:

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

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

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

The Majority of Biblical Examples Come from “Krinō”

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are Various Concepts of Judgment

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

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

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

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

Multiple Uses: Multiple Implications

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

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

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

Another Example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Did Jesus Mean?

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

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

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

Different Kinds of Judges

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

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

Jesus is that sort of Judge.

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

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

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

What is the “Christian Work Ethic?” What is Disorderly?

What is the “Christian Work Ethic?”
And, What is “Disorderly?

© 2023 by C. O, Bishop

2nd Thessalonians 3:6-9

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought (worked) with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

Introduction:

We noted in the past that Paul and his entourage worked to support their ministry. They did so for several reasons, two of which are listed here:

  1. “That we might not be chargeable to any of you.” No one had any leverage against his walk with Jesus. (Unlike some politicians who find themselves indebted to their financial supporters.) They could not be “squeezed” to do something other than God directed.

  2. “To make ourselves an example unto you to follow us.” Paul and his entourage demonstrated the lifestyle the new believers were expected to emulate.
    A third is listed in 1st Thessalonians 2:6-9

  3. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.

Application:

Think this through: When we send missionaries, we pay their way, as best we can, (other churches and individuals also helping.) But the people to whom they are sent contribute nothing! Paul was that kind of missionary. He did not preach with a hidden agenda of covetousness, or greed. He had a single goal: to preach the Gospel, as Jesus had commanded.

Paul and his entourage sought temporary work whenever they stayed in an area long enough to do so. (They were in Corinth for eighteen months. Two years in Ephesus…but only three weeks or so in Thessalonica. But evidently they had worked there, as well.) They were not looking for a handout, and they commanded the people they taught to follow that example!

Work Ethic

The whole context in verses 6-18 has to do with the Christian Work-Ethic. These first four verses include how Paul and his co-laborers demonstrated this ethic. But it also introduces the fact that this is part of the Christian Testimony, that we are not to be freeloaders.

Are There Exceptions?

Yes, as a matter of fact, there are! If we look ahead to verse ten, we see that, in this context, the command is that those who will not work were not to receive support from those who chose to work. It had nothing to do with those who were disabled in some way, or too old to work. Those are laid out in other passages, where care of ailing family members and the elderly is named.

The primary thrust is to show the example that Paul and his co-laborers had demonstrated. False teachers seeking a profit, and lazy men seeking an easy way of life are not to be rewarded for their wrong motives.

I have known people who sought to enter the ministry specifically because “it was an easy job that paid well.” They had zero heart for the work. They cared nothing for the flock. This is exactly the kind of “bad shepherd” that God condemns in Ezekiel 34:1-10.

Paul and his fellow servants were demonstrating what it meant to care for the flock without charge, for the sake of the Gospel.

What about the Support of Pastors?

In verse 9, Paul pointed out that it was not because he lacked the authority to receive support, but because he chose to go without. (The word “power” in that verse is the Greek word “exousia,” meaning “authority.”)

He used the same word that Jesus did in the Great Commission, where He said “All power is given unto me in Heavan and in Earth…” All authority belongs to Jesus! Paul had the authority as an apostle to require support, but he absolutely avoided such questionable use of his authority. Because he asked nothing, no one could accuse him of wrong motives. No one could say, regarding his service,  “He’s only in it for the money!” It obviously could not be true. He served without charge.

Paul’s Example:

In 1st Corinthians 9:18, he said, “What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.”

Paul said that it would be an abuse of authority for him to “charge money” for people to hear the Gospel of Christ. That is why all of our sermons are on a free podcast in audible form, and all of our sermon notes are available on our website as a free download in written form.

Paul’s Command:

But Paul commanded, in 1st Timothy 5:17, 18 that elders who served well be counted worthy of good support: especially those who labor in the Word, and in Teaching. He supported that concept from the Old Testament passage in Deuteronomy 25:4 where it says that the ox you are using to thresh grain is not to be muzzled while he works.

Paul served without pay: he received funds as people were moved to support his work. The church at Philippi was one of the very few who regularly supported him.

Does that mean that all God’s servants should always work without pay? Obviously not, as Paul commanded the churches to support their teachers and elders well. But, if a pastor is capable of serving without pay, and chooses to do so, it is good! He is just following Paul’s example.

That is one end of the spectrum. The other end includes the people we mentioned earlier, who simply saw it as a gravy-train job, with great security. And God condemns such behavior.

So, What is “Disorderly?”

Notice that the command…(specifically, a “command in the name of Jesus”) was to withdraw from “every brother “…believers…who “walk disorderly.” Don’t fellowship with people who behave in that manner…(whatever it is.)

But, we can’t very well obey commands we don’t understand. (We can try, but it frequently results in confusion.) The infant church in Ethiopia, in 1937, having only small portions of the New Testament in their language when Mussolini expelled the missionaries, decided they should not keep goats, pigs or dogs! Why? Because they read a verse that said “beware of dogs,” and other verses that made negative comparisons regarding goats and still others about pigs. But none of those passages were about animals: in every case, the passages were talking about people. Did their mistake do any real harm? No, but it caused them to miss the real intent of all those passages!

What does it mean?

So, what does it mean, when it says “disorderly,” in the case of believers? What were they doing wrong in this case? Perhaps many things, but, in this context, one issue was certainly slothfulness and “feeding on the work of others” rather than working so as to not only meet the needs of your own family but also to have enough to share with others.

Could it include other kinds of disorderly behavior? Absolutely, it could! In our legal system, there is a legal charge of “Drunk and Disorderly.” Could it include that? Certainly. But the warning here is potentially much broader, as he specifically says it means “not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

Ignoring sound Bible teaching regarding “bad moral behavior” or bad social behavior of any kind could fall under this command. We are commanded to withdraw from believers who rebel against God and His Word. Does that mean anyone who disagrees with how we understand the Written Word? Nope. This has to do with behavior. A man may completely disagree with my understanding of a passage, and still be a wonderful, Godly believer.

But I have known of churches in our geographic area who have encouraged their members to “become relevant to the world” by joining them in their social framework. They specifically meant in bars, and nightclubs. They were not just talking about watching football, or going fishing, or some other harmless thing.

That is an irresponsible teaching:

  1. In the first place, it does not make you “relevant” to the World: it makes you a hypocrite, in their eyes, because they know their behavior is wrong. When you join them in their behavior, it assures them that you are no different than they are, therefore the Gospel must have had no effect in your life! The only thing you have accomplished is the ruin of your testimony!
  2. In the second place, it is a potential trap for any believers who attempt to follow it. God says believers can be trapped by sin. They can permanently ruin their testimony, through debauchery of some sort. They can lose their family to adulterous affairs, or their liberty to some unlawful behavior that crept in. Sometimes they have even lost their lives to violence in a bad relationship. And I have known examples of each of these.

We are going to try to teach sound Biblical understanding and application, here in this assembly., We will urge every believer to mold his or her life around God’s Word.

How Does God Change Lives?

Romans 12:2 commands us to allow God to transform us through the renewing of our minds. That is accomplished from the inside, by the indwelling Holy Spirit. He uses the Written Word of God to do it.

Psalm 119:9 says that the only way humans can cleanse their lives before God, is by the application of the Word of God to their lives. (“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy Word!”) God does not list any other way for us to avoid the traps of sin that surround us. We are to apply God’s Word.

He also says, in 2nd Peter 1:19-21, 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

He specifically tells us that our primary light-source in this dark world is to be the Written Word of God.

And in Philippians 2:15, 16, he says 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.”

How Should We then Live?

We are to shine as lights in the World, and we are to constantly be offering others the Word of Life. (That is the Gospel!)

When we join with the world in their “disorderly ways” we take on the patina of that behavior and the light burning within us cannot be seen, just as the burning light in a dirty headlamp cannot be seen through the mud on the outer lens. Don’t allow your light to be dimmed by disorderly behavior, nor by constant association with others who behave that way.

Lord Jesus, convict our hearts of our need for Your Written Word, applied to our daily lives.  Lead us to learn Your Word, so that the Holy Spirit has the tools to transform our lives.

The Call of God to a Holy Life

The Call of God to a Holy Life

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction:

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

Corinth was far worse!

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

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

The Apostles’ Teaching

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

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

Why is Sexual Sin a Good Example to Use?

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

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

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

What does it mean to be Holy?

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

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

Result of Defilement

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

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

What Vessels?

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

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

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

What is our intended Use?

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

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

Possessing our Vessels

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

Defrauding your Brother

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

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

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

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

Casting Down Imaginations!

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

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

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

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

He Who Despises

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

Sin Always has Consequences

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Gospel do we Preach?

Which Gospel?

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

Romans 1:16; 1st Corinthians 1:17, 18; Ephesians 1:13, 6:15; Matthew 4:23; Galatians 1:6-9

Introduction:

As we read Romans 1:16, it is pretty straightforward: It says “the Gospel of Christ is the power of God to save everyone who believes in it.” And, in 1st Corinthians 15:3, 4, Paul explains the content of that gospel (“Gospel” means “good news.”)

The Gospel is the “good news” of the:

  1. Death (by crucifixion,) the
  2. Burial (for three days and three nights) and the
  3. Resurrection (physical, visible, and eternal) of Christ, for our sins.

God gives these three points as being specifically for the forgiveness of our sins. We must receive them by faith alone. So, it is easy for us to see that the “bad news” of our sin is what makes the sacrificial, voluntary death of Jesus on that Cross, and His burial in the tomb, along with His subsequent resurrection, Good News!

But those three pieces of the Gospel all have to be there! If we omit the crucifixion-death of Jesus for my sins, then we do not have a Savior: The crucifixion was necessary to fulfill the prophecies!

If I leave out the fact that the people buried Him and that he remained buried for three days and three nights, then the hearers might conclude that He “wasn’t really dead,” but “just unconscious;” and the cold of the tomb somehow revived him. (Or perhaps they might conclude that he wasn’t buried at all, and that he just somehow “recovered from His wounds.” )

But, if I leave out the Resurrection, then they have to assume He is still dead, and (again) we have no Savior! (The fact is, “we serve a living Savior!”)

How Many Gospels?

So, the question we need to ask ourselves is, “What Gospel are we to preach?” There are seven true “gospels” mentioned in the New Testament, as related to human preachers. They are the Gospels of:

  1. The Kingdom (Mark 1:14; Matthew 4:23; 9:35, etc.)
  2. Your Salvation (Ephesians 1:13)
  3. Christ (Romans 1:16; Galatians 1:7, etc.)
  4. God (Romans 1:1; 15:16, etc.)
  5. His Son (Romans 1:9)
  6. The Grace of God (Acts 20:24)
  7. Peace (Romans 10:15; Ephesians 6:15)

The New Testament uses some of these phrases only once; and some twice, while it uses others many times. When we compare the seven true Gospels listed above, we also see that some are nearly identical:

The Gospel of Christ, the Gospel of Salvation, the Gospel of God, and the Gospel of His Son all seem to be identical, as the writer uses them interchangeably in some passages. Luke only uses the “Gospel of the Grace of God” once, but it also seems to be identical to these four. So, we can see that five of the seven on the list are essentially identical.

The New Testament defines the Gospel of God as the “good news that God sends, through Jesus Christ, His Son. It includes the promise of Salvation by God’s Grace, through Faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.” All of that fits and fulfills everything we just read, above, in Romans 1:16 (compared to 1st Corinthians 15:3, 4.) By necessity, this Gospel, the Gospel of Christ, always includes the “preaching of the Cross,” as mentioned in 1st Corinthians 1:18 and other places.

The two remaining “Gospels”, from the list above, which are not identical, are the “Gospel of the Kingdom,” and the “Gospel of Peace.”

The Gospel of the Kingdom

John the Baptist and Jesus both initially preached this “good news” in Israel, letting everyone in Israel know that the “Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” John and Jesus were not “preaching the Cross.” They were not “preaching salvation by faith:” Both of them were telling the “good news” that the promised Kingdom was available, then and there. And Jesus (as the King) in offering that kingdom, presented Himself to the people as the fulfillment of all the prophecies. John preached this message during his entire ministry, until Herod imprisoned and executed him. Jesus preached this Gospel of the Kingdom until the Jews firmly rejected the message.

As a nation, the Jews finally rejected the offer of the Kingdom; so God retracted the offer from that generation. After that point, Jesus no longer preached the Gospel of the Kingdom. He headed for the Cross! The Promised Kingdom is still coming, but it will come immediately after the tribulation period. And it will begin with the physical, triumphant return of the King.

The Kingdom still is “good news,” but we can’t really preach that good news today, because (a) we do not know when He will return, and (b) we do know that the Great Tribulation will precede His Kingdom: The Tribulation will be seven years of the worst news anyone has ever heard! So, God calls us to preach the Gospel of the Cross; the Gospel of Christ; the Gospel of Grace; the Gospel of Salvation.  But, what about that last one? What about “the Gospel of Peace?”

The Gospel of Peace

Paul only uses the phrase, “the Gospel of Peace” twice: the first time, in Romans 10:15, he quotes  Isaiah 52:7, and he summarizes what Isaiah said: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that sayeth unto Zion, Thy God Reigneth!”  This was not “the preaching of the Cross:” it was the message to Israel, (to Zion,) that God was sending peace (with God and Man) to Israel, and that God was bringing salvation from their enemies to Israel.

The other time Paul uses that phrase is in Ephesians 6:15, where he tells us Church-age believers that our feet are “shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace.” These “shoes” are part of the sevenfold “armor of God.” We use that armor to arm ourselves for the spiritual battles we all experience. So…what is the “gospel of Peace,” in this context? Remember that Israel had been “at odds with God,” nationally, and as a result, they had experienced chastisement through enemy raids, invading armies, and terrible wars.

Peace With God

Each of us, (all believers, but specifically, we Gentile believers) began life “at odds with” God. We were lost sinners, and Romans 5:10 says we were enemies of God, whether we knew it or not, and whether we admitted it or not. But Romans 5:1 states the good news that, as born-again children of God, “being justified (declared righteous) by faith, we have peace with God!” Yes! That is good news! We are no longer on “God’s list of Enemies:” We are now his “born” children!

And that particular good news, the news that God is on our side, is incredibly good news. That truth should give us “firm, secure footing” in the battles of life. This is the “Gospel of Peace.” We have peace with God. This is our position in Christ. It is a positional promise. (Not the same as the “Peace of God.” That peace is a conditional promise which we are invited to experience; and it is available to us, if we walk with God in faith. It is a conditional promise!)

But there is another “gospel” mentioned, too: A false gospel.

“Another Gospel”

There is one more “gospel” mentioned, in Galatians 1:6-9. It is a false Gospel: a message that turns people away from faith in Jesus. It supplants the Holy sacrifice of the Blood of Jesus with some other means by which to approach God. Usually, it supplants “faith in Jesus’s shed blood” with “Human works and religiosity:” human piety, or rituals. But it is a human-centered gospel, as opposed to a Christ-centered Gospel.

The message could include nearly anything, but it always includes “some other way to approach God.” It also always denies the full deity of Christ, saying that He is not the Almighty God: not God in the Flesh, not the Creator, and the Ruler and the Judge of all the Universe, who chose to be born in Bethlehem of a virgin mother, and who died on the Cross in our place, as the eternal sacrifice for our sins. Such false gospels also will always deny that Jesus’ blood was fully sufficient for our Eternal Salvation.

So, how does God feel about this “Other Gospel?” He condemns it in the strongest terms! And He specifically condemns those who preach it. Galatians 1:6-9 concludes, “…if anyone preaches to you a different gospel, let him be accursed!” (That is pretty strong language!)

What Gospel Should We Preach?

On occasion, I have heard a preacher say that he was going to “really give ‘em the Gospel!” But then, I listened very carefully to their message, and I was dismayed to find that they not only failed to “really give ‘em the Gospel:” they also did not even mention any portion of it!

  • There was no mention of the Holiness of God,
  • Nor was there any mention of personal guilt for sin.
  • They made no mention of coming judgment,
  • Nor did they mention the need for a personal Savior.
  • There was no mention of the Cross,
  • No mention of the Grave, and
  • No mention of the Resurrection!

They left out every bit of both the “Bad News” and the “Good News!”

So, what Gospel DID they preach?

It certainly was not the Gospel of Christ! God could not have saved anyone through hearing that message. The preachers did not address the message of Salvation in any way, nor did they even hint at it. Their message usually was some sort of exhortation to “live a better life,” or to “avoid a particular type of sin,” or possibly expounding the “value of church attendance.” But those messages cannot save. Only the Gospel of Christ, being believed in, can save sinners.

I’m sorry to have to condemn anything people say, and I really don’t like to condemn a preacher for his message, but that is exactly what is commanded in Galatians 1:6-9. And none of those things they were preaching were part of the Gospel of Christ. When those sorts of things are allowed to replace the true Gospel, then the message falls into the category of “another Gospel:” A false Gospel!

The people who persist in bringing such messages are teaching people to approach God by some other means than by the shed blood of Jesus. And Jesus said, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” We need to listen carefully to the messages we hear, and especially, we must consider carefully what message we preach.

What do WE Preach?

Whenever I share with someone, I try to remember to explain all three points of the good news, as well as at least the “core issue” of the bad news: (We need a Savior because we are Lost!)

But, quite honestly, sometimes I have looked back and realized that I accidentally left out one or more points of the Good News, and maybe all of the “Bad News.” That is not acceptable: God is not going to “condemn me” because I forgot to include some part of the Gospel, but the result in the life of the hearer may be that they cannot “place their faith in Christ,” because I did not “give them the message.” I only gave part of the message of Salvation.

1st Corinthians 1:23 says, in part, “but we preach Christ Crucified…” We know ahead of time that it will not be a “popular” message. Why? Because the majority of the people believe either that they are “too good for God,” so that they “don’t need a Savior,” or they are “too smart for God,” so that they think the message is foolish…laughable…stupid! And, in either case, they find the message either repugnant or pointless.

Jesus said that the majority would reject the message: but He also commanded us to share it with all people. Mark 16:15 says “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” (I’m pretty sure that means “all the people.”) There are those who believe that Jesus “only died for the elect:” But 1st John 2:1, 2 clearly says He is the propitiation not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world.

Now What?

I have to conclude that, if Jesus accomplished that much at the Cross, not only on our behalf, but also for the whole world, then we truly are debtors to all people, to offer them that eternal life that He died to provide for them. That’s our job, and it is a Sacred Trust:

(Perhaps you don’t know this, but Angels are not permitted to preach the Gospel of Christ. Only we Humans have that privilege. The “everlasting Gospel,” in Revelation 14:6, is “preached by an Angel,” but it has no salvation content.) We need to take this privilege, this Gospel, and run with it!

Lord Jesus, fill us with the urgency of the message You have told us to proclaim. Help us to see the unspeakable privilege we have. Raise us up as Your witnesses and Your Ambassadors.

“Before Abraham Was, I AM”

Before Abraham Was, I AM

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 8:51-59

Introduction:

Last week we examined the concept of “finding freedom in Christ:” finding ourselves freed daily from the continuing destructive power of sin in our lives, as well as gaining permanent freedom from the eternal penalty of sin. We were able to determine that only believers were eligible for either of those two aspects of freedom. And it follows that only people who have been freed from the penalty of sin, so that they no longer face condemnation from God, will also find the eternal freedom from the presence of sin, which will be enjoyed by all believers.

Security in Eternal Freedom

So, the eternal freedom from the penalty of sin, which was granted to you the moment you believed, is yours forever. The eternal freedom from the presence of Sin, is also ours, guaranteed, in the presence of the Lord, but we will not experience it in this life: so long as we still possess our sin natures, the presence of sin and the problem of sin will persist.

But the freedom from the power of sin, experienced in our lives today, is what Jesus was inviting the believing Jews (in verse 30) to learn and experience. He told them that if they continued in His Word, they would become His true disciples: He told them that they would experientially know (“ginosko”) the Truth (which turned out to be Himself) and that He would make them free. We saw that concept reiterated in verse 36, where He said that the Son would make them free.

Rejecting Freedom and Dishonoring God

We also saw that, while the believing Jews may have rejoiced in His promise, the Pharisees who were also precent, were offended by His promise of freedom.

Jesus spoke to them, saying that if they had been “of God,” (as they claimed to be) they would have received Him and honored Him, because He was of God. But since they were not of God, they could not receive the words He spoke. And they dishonored Him, in spite of His truth.

Who do You Honor?

John 8:48-50

48 Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? 49 Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. 50 And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.

One has to consider, even as a believer, whether one’s words and actions honor the Lord. Years ago, a man who professed to be a believer, and even a bible teacher, suggested some rather “Madison-avenue” ways he advocated for the church or for missionaries to raise money for the ministry. I expressed my feeling of repugnance toward such actions, and he replied, “The bottom line, Chet, is that it works!”  

What is the “Bottom Line,” for Believers?

I was still uncomfortable with that reply, but, as he was much older, and in a position of some honor, I kept my thoughts to myself, as I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was bothering me. Hours later, as his comments echoed in my mind, I realized, that whether something “works” or not should never be the “bottom line” for believers.

The “bottom line,” for believers, has to be the question, “Does it Honor God?!” It has never been the church’s mission to make money, and things that “smell like the World” should be viewed with deep suspicion, and considered very carefully, before engaging in such practices. There are many practices which, while perfectly legal, are still immoral, and never honoring to God.

The people to whom Jesus directed this rebuke were not believers. They claimed to be followers of God: they were the well-respected “pious businessmen” of their day: the “religious professionals,” just short of the priesthood. But they were deliberately dishonoring a man who was honoring God with His life.

That behavior revealed who they really were! We need to carefully avoid doing anything like this, for whatever reason. We don’t want to “trash-talk” other people, whether for political reasons or any other reason. It does not Honor God to do so.

Honoring God through Obedience

Jesus did not seek glory or honor or wealth. He sought to carry out the directives of the Father. Remember John chapter 4: When Jesus entered Samaria, and stopped while the disciples went into the city of Sychar to buy food, he was already on the edge of behavior the Jewish leaders would hate. When He publicly held a conversation with a Samaritan woman, He was crossing the line! Even His disciples were astonished at that behavior! But His motivation became clear, when He said, “My food is to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work!”

Jesus had not been trying to gain social standing, or the favors of the religious authorities. He was not seeking His own honor, either, but rather, that of the Father. And there in John 4:1-42, the immediate result was the salvation of many lost souls in Sychar.

Had the Pharisees realized that Jesus sought no personal honor, but sought only to please and honor God, it should have changed their attitude toward Jesus. But they hated Him and just wanted Him silenced. They were absolutely not interested in what he was teaching, except that they felt it constituted a threat to them.

If a Man Keep My Saying, He shall Never see Death

John 8:51-53

51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. 52 Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. 53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?

Jesus made the “blanket statement” that whoever kept His word would never die. The Pharisees now seized upon His promise of eternal life, and said again that Jesus must be demon-possessed.

They pointed out that Abraham and all the patriarchs and prophets were dead. Their point was that if all the “greats” of the faith had died, what was He claiming for himself?

How could He promise that if someone kept His Word, they would never die?

The Promise of Eternal Life

Remember, back in John 3:16, Jesus had promised that “whoever believed in Him would not perish but would have eternal life.” Again, in John 5:24, He had said “whoever heard His word and believed on Him who had sent Him, had eternal life immediately.” In John 4:14 and John 7:37, 38, he had promised the indwelling Holy Spirit, who would become a “fountain of living water, springing up within the believers.” So, this was nothing new, really. But they seized upon His Word, and challenged Him again.

54 Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: 55 Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.

So, Jesus took them back to the issue of Honor: He said, “if I were to honor myself, it would be valueless.” But He said that the Father was honoring Him. He reminded them of what He had told them earlier, that they did not have a relational knowledge of God, but that He Himself did have that personal, relational, and experiential knowledge of God. He concluded that if he were to knuckle under and imply that He was no different than they, not knowing God, personally, then He would make Himself a liar “…like unto you!” (It is starting to get personal, here!)

Before Abraham Was, I AM

Jesus went on to say that the patriarch Abraham had rejoiced to see my day” (the day of Christ.) Abraham was a prophet, and he had seen the coming deliverance. He had rejoiced, to see that day coming. Further, Abraham had seen Jesus, face-to-face! (Remember the meal of beef, bread and butter, and milk?) He had conversed with Him personally, and addressed Him as the Judge of all the Earth! But Jesus only said,

56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.

Abraham knew Jesus, walked with Him, obeyed Him. and rejoiced in His promises and presence.

57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?

Of course, the Jews were incensed by that statement, too, and they derided Jesus, saying, “You aren’t even fifty years old, yet! How can you claim to have seen Abraham?”

58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

What did Jesus Mean?

Now, in today’s English, we might have simply thought it was bad grammar, and that Jesus was failing to maintain the correct past-tense in the sentence. He began by saying, “before Abraham was” (which clearly is a past-tense condition) but ended by using a strictly present-tense statement of self-existence.  (Did the Jews question His grammar?)

Nope! They took up stones, intending to stone Him to death, for what was clearly blasphemy. They knew Jesus was using the eternal “I AM,” by which the Old Testament God had identified Himself to Moses. They saw that He used it as if He Himself were God! And, the fact is, that is exactly what He was doing! The Pharisees had no question about His intent! They knew that He had just claimed to be the God of Israel!

Seven statements in St. John

When Jesus had earlier claimed to be the Light of the World, they had missed the point: They did not realize that, for Him to be the Light of the World,  He had to be the light of the Gentiles as well as the Light of Israel. He had to be far more than just a carpenter and an itinerant street-preacher.

When He had claimed to be the “Bread of Life that came down from Heaven,” they were offended, but still did not make the connection that He was claiming to be not only their sustenance but their sustainer!

This is only the beginning, as there are five more heavy identifiers which He will use in the Gospel of John, regarding Himself. But this one makes His overall intent very clear: He definitely is claiming to be the God of Israel, in the flesh, and is confronting them face-to-face!

And that is how they understood it, too! Couldn’t they have applied Isaiah 7:14, where the prophecy reads that the child born of the virgin shall be called Immanuel? (meaning “God with us!”)  But they gave no thought to whether what He said was true: they only wanted to silence Him and to kill Him. That proved all His estimation of “who they were” and “what the intent of their hearts was,” to be clearly the truth!

59 Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

They still were not able to carry out their murderous intent. He was still the One in control, and His time had not yet come.

Who are We dealing with, here?

I think we tend to forget who Jesus really is, ourselves. Though we never slander Him, we seldom think of Him as being identical to the God who parted the Red Sea and drowned the entire Egyptian Army. We seldom see Jesus as the One who spoke the World into existence, and who created everything in it, completely by His own authority, and from His own, limitless imagination.

And, even when we briefly consider these things, we may momentarily rejoice at His creativity and power, but we still feel free to “go do our own thing,” whenever the notion hits. Somehow we still feel that we are “free moral agents,” and that we are under no absolute obligation to follow the will of our Creator, Savior, and God. (But we are under just that obligation!)

What Manner of Man?

When Jesus calmed the storm, the disciples in the boat had feared for their lives before He acted, but they were more afraid, afterward: They asked, “what manner of man is He, that even the wind and the waves obey Him?”

And yet, after He had stated His will for their lives, and after His death, burial and resurrection, most of them (in John 21) had decided to go back to commercial fishing. Jesus called them away from the fish for the last time, and redirected their thoughts to His command.

After they received the Holy Spirit, in Acts chapter 2, they seem to never have lost sight of the objective anymore. They all seem to have faithfully walked with Him after that.

So, What about Us?

Each of us already has been born again. Each of us already has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit: So, why are we still so easily distracted? Why do the things of the world so easily entangle us?

In Hebrews 12:1, 2, the writer begs us to consider all those that have gone before us, and take their example:

Hebrews 12:1, 2,

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The great cloud of witnesses he mentions are the whole group named, or alluded to, in the previous chapter. It was not that they are “watching us”, as “witnesses” of our behavior, but rather, that they have all testified to us. They testify as witnesses of what God can do in the lives of believers who are committed to His will. And, on the basis of their testimonies, he commands us to “lay aside every weight.”—”Get rid of anything holding you back, just as a competitive runner would lay aside any heavy clothing or baggage, in order to run well.”

What is Holding You Back?

But he also calls us to lay aside the “sin that so easily besets us.” What is there in our lives that regularly trips us up? What passions do we regularly obey, that are detrimental to our obedience to Christ? These are questions for self-examination. I point no finger at anyone, except myself. And yet, the command is there for us all to see.

Finally, He commands us to “Look to Jesus, the Author and finisher of our faith.” Take Him for our example of commitment and obedience. He says that it was “for the Joy that was set before Him” that he “endured the Cross, despising the shame” of that Cross, and, as the eternal champion, He has “sat down on the right hand of the throne of God” the Father.

Get in the Race!

He calls us to emulate His example: not just sit on the sidelines, and wave flags and cheer. We are to enter the race ourselves and run!

The Pharisees to whom He spoke were his enemies. Most of them would never believe in Him. But there were believers in the group, and those were the ones to whom He extended the invitation to walk with him and learn from Him, and be set free from their sins by His power in their lives.

That invitation has been extended to us, as well. We need to answer that invitation daily, follow Him, and reap the benefits He promised.

Lord Jesus, stir our hearts to follow You, and to follow Your example. Teach us to look for Your will, and listen for Your voice, Teach us to read Your Word, seeing Your face in the pages, and obey Your commands faithfully. Make us the Men and Women of God You have called us to be.

When Ye Have Lifted up the Son of Man

When Ye Have Lifted up the Son of Man

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 8:21-30; (John 8:21, 22; John 8:23-27; John 8:28-30)

Introduction

Last week we examined Jesus’s observation that the Pharisees and their group did not know anything about the Father or the Son: They lacked even a rudimentary knowledge about His Character and His Person, let alone any sort of personal, relational or experiential knowledge.

Obviously, this proud, supposedly well-educated group of Pharisees did not want to hear such things, and they were not going to take it lightly. As we saw back in John 7: 32, 45, 46, they really wanted to have him arrested and done away with…but they had been unable to do so. We saw last week, in John 8:20 that the reason they were unable to arrest Him is that He was the One in control: They could not lay hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come.

And, in the meantime… Jesus was not done telling them “what’s what!” He let them know the consequences of their unbelief.

I go My Way and Ye shall Seek Me.

John 8:21, 22

21 Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come. 22 Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come.

Jesus led up to a challenge, of sorts, and a prophecy concerning the near future. He told them that He would be leaving, and that they would seek Him. Jesus said they would die in their sins, not having found Him. He further said that where He was going, they could not follow.

The Pharisees had no idea what Jesus was talking about. They jumped to the conclusion that He was planning to commit suicide, because He said they would not be able to follow Him. But that only underscored the fact that they had no idea Who He really was.

So, Jesus added to their confusion, but, at the same time He explained Who He was to the other listeners. (Remember, He had been teaching in the temple—there was a crowd present.)

Ye are from Beneath, I am from Above

John 8:23-27

23 And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. 25 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning. 26 I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him. 27 They understood not that he spake to them of the Father.

Jesus began to rebuild the foundation for people to believe in Him. He had told them who He was, as the Savior, as the Son of God, as the Eternal Judge, from the beginning. But the Pharisees had ignored the truth all along, so  they literally did not know who He was. The rest of the people, however, had been gradually catching on, and some believed.

But Jesus had to make a sharp delineation between the status of a natural human being and the “God-Man,” (Fully God and Fully Man) of supernatural birth and Heavenly origin.

He plainly told them, “You (plural) are from beneath: I am from above.” The origin of each was critically important. Our Deliverer could not be a slave to Sin, Himself. The rules for the Kinsman-Redeemer were very clear:

The Kinsman-Redeemer

  1. He had to be a near relative. (Jesus was physically born into the Human Race for this express reason. He had to be “one of us,” in that way. The promised “Seed of the Woman,” predicted in Genesis 3:15 had to be born of a Woman…but not of a man. Jesus was the only One who could qualify.
  2. He had to be free Himself. A slave could not redeem another slave. Jesus was not a slave to Sin, being born without a sin-nature. (Evidently, being without a human father meant that He did not inherit the sin nature from Adam.)
  3. He had to have the Price of Redemption. In Boaz’s case, in the Book of Ruth, it simply meant he had to be physically wealthy enough to purchase the land and take on the financial responsibility involved. In Jesus’s case, however, it meant that He had to have a perfect life and a perfect blood-sacrifice…His own blood, from a sinless Man.
  4. He had to be Willing. Boaz was willing, whereas the other (potentially better qualified) relative, was not willing. Jesus willingly went to the Cross. He voluntarily laid down His life: He said, “No man taketh my life from Me…I lay it down of my own will and I will take it up again of my own will.” (John 10:17, 18 summarized)

If Jesus was not “From Above,” because of His supernatural birth and parentage–If He was not thereby free from the baggage of guilt and sin with which the entire Human race was burdened, then He could not be the Redeemer. He would not be Free Himself, and regardless of whether He was willing to be our Redeemer, He would not be qualified!

“If ye believe not that I am He, Ye shall die in your Sins”

Jesus connected the fact that He was “not of this world” to the fact that they would die in their sins: It was not just the fact that He was from one source, and they were from another: The issue was their unbelief: and it always has been! In Numbers 13:11, The LORD asked Moses, regarding the children of Israel, “How long will it be ere they believe me?

Unbelief is always the barrier. Jesus said, in John 3:18, “…he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Rejecting Light

Part of the problem is that the door to the truth has always been the Will, not the Intellect. People who have heard the Gospel usually don’t need “more light” as badly as they need to respond to the light they have. Jesus went on to say, in John 3:19, that “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the World, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

People reject the Light of God’s Word, out of hand, because they are offended that it exposes them for who they are: it shows them to be sinners. Having rejected that Light, it is senseless for them to stand around, demanding more light: they already have rejected the Light!

If they somehow come to a point of repentance, and are willing to receive light, then things can change. They can begin to see things through God’s eyes, and see the Truth of His Word. But these men were actively rebelling against the Light that Jesus was shining into their lives.

Who is Jesus?

So, when they asked Him again, “Who art thou?” Jesus just reminded them that they had already had that answer, repeatedly. Jesus had presented Himself as the Son of God: He had shown His power in miraculous healings and other ways; providing food for thousands, and miraculously providing wine for a wedding feast. He had even revealed that He was the eternal Judge of all the Earth. Finally, He had told them that He, alone, was the Light of the World and the Bread of Life.

So, now, He only said, “I’m Who I told you I was, from the Beginning.” He went on to say that He had a great deal to tell them, and that the things He was saying were true, because the One who sent Him was true: Jesus was only going to share what the Father told Him to share. They still did not understand that He was referring to the Father, so, Jesus made it more specific, and said that they were not really going to understand until it was too late.

When Ye Have Lifted up the Son of Man

John 8:28-30

28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. 29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. 30 As he spake these words, many believed on him.

In verse 28, Jesus predicted His own Crucifixion. Compare this passage to John 12:32, 33, where Jesus used the same phrase: it specifically explains that he was referring to the crucifixion, that He was predicting the manner in which He would die.

He said that then (after His death) they would realize who He was, and that He had only done as the Father had directed Him. Jesus said that the Father was continually with Him, so that He was not alone.

“Modern advantages”

Now: we “modern Gentiles” have two advantages, if you want to call them that:

  1. We were not born Jews, so we do not feel any resentment at the accusation that “we have killed our own Messiah.” Some Jews have freely recognized and confessed the national error, and have embraced their slain Messiah, as their Risen Christ…the Living Messiah, and their Living God in the Flesh.

    Yes, they are grieved at the tragedy, but they rejoice in His victory! But most of us, as Gentiles, never had that as a stumbling block to begin with. (Of course, the other side of that coin is that we also never had the blessing of being one of the chosen people of God. We did not grow up with the heritage of the Law and the Prophets.)
  2. We did not live back then, so ALL of our view of Jesus is “after the fact.” Also, we did not have to wait for the crucifixion: It already happened. Thus, we see His whole ministry in past tense, including His life and death and burial and resurrection, and it all fits! We believe it!

Who is responsible? (And How do We Reply?)

The truth, though, is: He died for the Whole World: there has never been a human being, (other than Jesus Himself,) whose sins were not on that Cross with Jesus. No one needs to feel “more” guilty of His death than anyone else. On the other hand, none of us can feel “less” accountable to God for His sacrifice. The question in every person’s life, is “What are you going to do with Jesus?”

As an unbeliever, I faced that question because I ignorantly and arrogantly rebelled against Him. But the time came when I saw myself as a helpless sinner. I was unable to “keep the rules” even if I made the rules! It was finally obvious to me that I needed Him as my Savior. I did not understand much else, initially: There is no way I could have explained the Law of the Substitute, nor had I ever heard of the Kinsman-Redeemer. I just knew I needed a Savior, and that Jesus was the One!

The Question For Every Day

Today, as a believer, that question is still at the forefront, every day: Will I respond to Him as my Master, in obedience, as God, in worship: as my Sustainer, Provider and Protector, in faith, prayer, and active trust? Or will I forget He is there at all, until a crisis arises of some sort?

We live long after the time of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. We know who He is and what He has done for us. But we are among those in verse 30, where it says, As he spake these words, many believed on him.”  They placed their faith in Jesus. So have we!

“Shoe-Leather Faith”

But, what did they do later? We are not told. In the next chapter, we will see the story of one man who believed, and who suffered persecution for his faith, but he went on to become a worshipper of Jesus in the midst of that persecution. He “put shoe-leather on his faith!”

What God asks all of us to do, is to “put shoe-leather on our faith.” Put it into practice! “Walk the walk,” as people sometimes say today.

In Ephesians 4:1-3, Paul begs us to “…walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” He goes on to explain what that means, in terms of how we relate to one another. In fact, Paul spends most of the rest of the Book of Ephesians, teaching what that means in every part of life.

Possible Outcomes

Some of the people who believed would go on to be martyred for their faith. Others lived long, quiet lives, blessing those around them and honoring the Lord in every area of their lives. Some did neither: they eventually slipped back into the World’s way of thought and behavior. We can read about each kind of believer throughout the book of Acts and the Epistles.

Choosing Shoe-Leather

Each of you has a will: you make choices. Each of you has an intellect: you think and learn. You can read your Bible to intellectually learn what God wants you to do. But, ultimately, “The door to the truth is the Will, not the intellect.”

You have to decide, day by day, and moment by moment, what you will actually do with Jesus. I have to make that same decision, too, every day. Use your Intellect, but use your Will, as well, to choose to “put Shoe-leather on your faith.”

Lord Jesus, teach us to make right decisions, and to walk with you in the light of your Word, every day. Shape us into your likeness, and use us as tools in Your hands. Let us reflect Your light in all parts of our lives.

“I AM the Light of the World!”

I AM the Light of the World

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 8:12 “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Introduction

We addressed this passage over a year ago, as a part of our treatment of John 1:4, 5, where we saw regarding the Word, that, “In Him was life and the life was the light of men, and the light shined in the darkness, and the darkness was not able to extinguish it.”

I was tempted to just skip over John 8:12, since we covered it so recently, but it seemed good to reexamine the passage, since, for one thing, it is the very next passage after what we studied last week, but, especially, because it is one of the seven “I AM” statements in the book of John.

Seven “I Am” statements

There are seven places in the Book of John where Jesus used the “I AM” phrase, identifying Himself. The “Title” and “Cornerstone” of those seven  “I AM” statements is an eighth example, at the end of this chapter. It leaves no question as to what is being said. We will address that one (John 8:58)when we get there, but it says, Before Abraham was, I AM.” (Not “I was:” I AM!)

The other seven “I AM” statements, identifying Jesus, are given in the following order:

  1. I am The Bread of life (John 6:35, 48, 51)
  2. I am The Light of the World (John 8:12)
  3. I am The Door (John 10:7, 9)
  4. I am The Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14)
  5. I am The Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)
  6. I am The Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)
  7. I am The Vine (John 15:1, 5)

We have already addressed the first one: we saw Jesus as the Bread of Life in John chapter six. We need to give some thought, today, to the fact that He is also the Light of the World.

What is “The World?”

Who or what is “the World?”There are various concepts in the scripture regarding “the world.” One, of course, is the planet, itself: Two words are used to denote the land, as the world: One is the Greek word “Ge” from which we get geology, and geography. It always means the planet.

Another is the Greek word “oikoumene,” which refers to the habitable portions of the earth, and from which we get the word ecumenical. It is a very old word, and it implies all the peoples of the world and their home places.

But, for instance, when a statement is made regarding the “end of the world,” the Greek word translated “world” is actually “aiōnos” meaning eon, or age. The world we live in has a “shelf life,” or a “pull-date.” (We are probably getting close to that “pull-date,” but we do not know when it will come.)

So, when Jesus said, (in the King James Bible) “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” what it really says is “…until the end of the age.” But, this world we live in is about to be replaced, so, the “end of the age” actually is the “end of the world,” as well.

“Kosmos”

Another word which is virtually always translated as “world” is the Greek word “kosmos.” (It is used 188 times in the New Testament, and 187 times it is translated as “world.”) Sometimes it means the people of the world: John 3:16 says “God so loved the World…” and the word, there, is “kosmos.”

1st John 2:2 says that Jesus was the propitiation for not only our sins, but also for the sins of the “whole World.” And, again, the Greek word is “kosmos.

However, sometimes, the exact same word is used to mean the “World system of thought, and its moral stance, etc.” Thus, when John says (1st John 2:15-17) “…love not the World, neither the things that are in the world,” the same word, kosmos, is used. But, in that passage, John also makes it clear that the things he is speaking of are all the sinful practices, motives, thoughts, and desires that are in the World at large. Not the people of the World, for whom He died.

It would have been easier for us, perhaps, if the language were a little more specific, so that we could clearly distinguish the meaning. Which passages are speaking of the people of the world, whom we are commanded to love and to whom we are commanded to offer the light of Christ, and which passages are referring to the evil world system of thought and practice? But we are forced to examine the context to see which is which.

What is the meaning?

As you may have suspected, the word translated as “world,” here in John 8:12, is also “kosmos.” So, from the context, which aspect of the word “kosmos” would you say it means?

Is Jesus “the Light of all the sinful practices, motives, thoughts, and desires that are in the World at large?” Or is He more likely saying that He is the light of all the people in the World, for whom He came to give His life?

In reality, He shines His light on both: Effectively, He is the light of those He came to save, but the light shines for everyone, whether people accept it or not.

What is The Light?

The Greek word translated “light” is phōs” from which we get the words photons, photograph, phosphorescence, and others. It is used widely in the New Testament, covering some uses where it is obvious that literal, physical light, is in question. It covers others where spiritual, moral, or intellectual light is in context. There are other words which specifically mean a lamp or a light-source.

But this word “phōs,” is used 72 times in the New Testament, and all but two times it is translated as “light.” (And in those two, it is translated as “fire.”) So, again, we have to examine the context of each passage and see whether the light is in reference to mere physical light, or something else.

What is the Context?

When Jesus makes this statement: who is He talking to, and what is He intending to convey? We are not given the option to believe that He is talking about the mere physical light of the Sun, though we know (ultimately) He is the source of that light, as well: He is the Creator and sustainer of the Sun, and all other matter.

It is interesting to see that in all but a few passages in the New Testament, the word “light” is always in reference to spiritual light, not physical light. In the few passages where the meaning could go either way, the context shows that spiritual light is the true meaning. But, for instance, when it says “whatsoever maketh manifest is light,” the physical light is used as the practical demonstration of the principle that “light dispels darkness.” And the context shows that the spiritual, moral light of the Holy Spirit, indwelling the believers, is the light that dispels darkness around us in this world.

In Philippians 2:15, we are told to “shine as lights” in the world. The words in that passage, translated “lights” and “world,” as you may guess, are from the roots “phōs,” and “kosmos.” We are to be a constant, reliable source of moral and spiritual light, dispelling darkness in the lives of the people of the World.

What about Jesus?

How is Jesus the Light of the World? He is the One who dispels darkness. He offers the only true light, and people either turn to it, in hope, and faith, or they turn away from it. Jesus said that the majority would reject His Light, reject His Word, Reject His Love. He says that He is the Word, that He is the Light, and He is Love. So, the sad reality is that most people will reject Jesus.

But Jesus still is the Light of the World

He alone shines in the darkness of this world and offers the hope of eternal life: He offers peace with God: He offers rest from our striving to rise above our circumstances, and from our attempting to earn the salvation that is already offered as a gift.

He is the Creator and maintainer of the physical light, by which we perceive the physical world. He is the only true source of the spiritual light by which we can see the way to God, and by which we can read and understand His Word.

He is the One who takes up residence in the life of the believers, and who fills their lives with the Light of God. He is the One who gave us the second birth—being born again— through which we have become “children of the Light,” and we are called to live as children of the light.

He is the Eternal Light, shining in the center of History, to whom the Old Testament saints looked in faith, longing to see Him face to face. He was frequently referred to as the “Light of Israel.”

He was the light in the world; physically present in Israel, temporarily, for the 3-1/2 years of His Earthly Ministry. John the Baptist was a reflection of that light, and Israel rejoiced to see His light…but when Jesus, the True Light of the World arrived, they eventually rejected Him, as a nation, just as they had rejected all the prophets He had sent to them in the past.

How does the World respond to the Light?

We know from John 3:19, 20 that the general response of unbelievers to the light of Christ, shining in the World, is to reject it and to flee from it. Jesus said “…This is the condemnation, that light has come into the World and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

We can observe this truth every day, in the world around us. The darkness is very deep, and it seems to be getting even darker. That makes perfect sense: over the last century, the light of Christ in the people of God has grown more and more dim. We have allowed ourselves to become spotted with the filth of the world, to the extent that our light is coated in grime, and it is sometimes hard to see the light of God in our lives as believers.

I have frequently noticed on a winter evening that the headlights on my car seem to have become dim. But, when I got out and checked, it turned out that the lamps had become encrusted with road-grime, until the light inside could hardly get through the dirt. The light source was as strong as ever, but it was nearly covered by dirt.

Our lives are supposed to show forth the light of Christ. (1st Peter 2:9 specifically says that we have been “called out of darkness into His marvelous light…and that we are to show forth the praises of Him who called us.) He is our light source! Can people see Him in us?

What about Us?

“He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

He is the Light of the World today, shining through His creation, through His Word and through His Church. We are only reflections of His light: that is part of our Job as ambassadors of Christ.

But, Jesus did not say, “everyone who has been born again will shine brightly, and not walk in darkness:” He said those that follow Him shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life. That agrees with 1st John 1:6, where it says, “If  we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth.” Walking with Jesus on a day-by-day basis is what it takes for us to shine as lights in the darkness.

Remember Gideon

When I look back to Judges 7:16-22, I see something peculiar: Gideon’s soldiers were told to do three things: Do you remember what happened? God first trimmed down Gideon’s army from many thousands (who were already vastly outnumbered by the enemy) to a mere 300 so that the battle was utterly in God’s hands. All they had to do was obey. And what they were told was:

  1. Stand fast,
  2. Shine a light,
  3. Sound an alarm.

They were commanded to “surround” the enemy camp, sparse though they were, and stand fast.

Each man, in his left hand, had a torch inside a jug: it was hot, and smoldering, but unable to get enough air to burn brightly. They also had a sword on their belt, but it didn’t get touched, because they had a trumpet in their right hand, so both hands were full! They waited for Gideon’s signal, then they all broke their jugs, allowing a fresh flow of air to the hot firebrands inside, so that they all flared up and shone brightly. They shined a light.

Simultaneously, they sounded an alarm: they began alternating between blowing their war-trumpets, and shouting “The Sword of the LORD, and of Gideon!” That was their alarm!

We are called to do the same things!

  1. Ephesians 6:10-18 says that we are to stand fast, wearing the full armor of God.
  2. Philippians 2:15 says we are to shine as lights in the World…in the midst of a corrupt and perverse nation.
  3. 1st Peter 3:15 says that we are to “sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, and be ready always to give an answer” Sound an Alarm! Share the Gospel! Warn people of the coming Judgment! Offer them the eternal life that Jesus offers!

If we really believe that Jesus is the Light of the World, in every aspect of that truth; and if we really believe that He has called us to do those three things: (Stand fast, Shine a light, and Sound an alarm)…then what should we do about it?

Walk in the Light

It seems to me that each individual has to seek God’s direction as to the specifics, but the core list is the same for every one of us: If Jesus is the Light of the World, then we are called to stand fast in Him, shine the light of a changed life and good works, and sound the alarm of the Gospel. That’s it!

Apart from His Holy Spirit working in us, we can’t do it at all: we know that! But each of us is called to make the necessary choices, daily, to see that “core list” becoming a growing reality in our lives. That is called discipleship! That’s what it means, to Follow Jesus!

Lord Jesus, we know that You have called us to be your disciples: to walk in obedience to you, learning from Your Word, and submitting ourselves to Your Holy Spirit. Draw us closely enough to You that we hear the Heartbeat of God, and that Your priorities become our own.

Go, and Sin No More

Go, and Sin No More

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 8:1-11

Introduction

The opening passage, here, in the beginning of John chapter eight, touches my heart, every time I read it. We were reading in the previous chapters about preaching and promises, ministry and miracles, friends and enemies. But, here in John eight, some enemies show up during His teaching, with a test for Jesus: They brought to him a woman caught in adultery. (Nothing is said about what they may have already done to the man with whom she was found. That sort of thing tended to be dealt with rather summarily.)  But the test they brought was really a trap:

If He condemned the woman, thus agreeing with the Law, then He would seem harsh to the people. They would see Him in league with the Pharisees, their oppressors. Thus, they would probably reject Him as their Savior.

But, if He said to not stone her, then He would be denying God’s Law, and the Pharisees, the scribes, and the chief priests could condemn Him for that. It looks like a classic “damned if you do and damned if you don’t ” type of trap! But let’s read through the passage and see how Jesus handled this situation.

The Teacher and the Accusers

John 8:1-11

1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

Jesus “camped” on the Mount of Olives, overnight, and He returned to the temple, early the next morning. Remember that He had been teaching there, the day before and He had promised the living Water to anyone who believed on Him. The officers (sent to arrest Him) heard Him speak, and refused to arrest him, because of the Spirit with which He spoke. But everyone eventuallywent home. Jesus had gone to the Mount of Olives, to sleep.

But, early in the morning, Jesus was back in the temple, teaching again, and all the people had come again, to hear Him. God does not tell us what He was teaching that morning, but the enemy interrupted the teaching that morning. His enemies came to disrupt his teaching and to test Jesus, trying to find a means by which to accuse Him of sin, and entrap Him.

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

Enemies and Tempters

These men tried to catch Jesus in a disagreement with the Law of God. (It isn’t going to happen: He is the Author of the Law of God!) Jesus initially acted as though He had not heard them: He stooped and wrote on the ground with His finger. (I do wish I knew what He was writing!)

This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

You, see, they offered only two possibilities: but Jesus gave then a third option. They thought that He would have to either agree with their interpretation of His Word, and call for the woman’s execution, or deny the Law altogether, and disobey God. Either way, they thought they had Him trapped. But Jesus presented a third option: Obey God, and condemn her for breaking God’s Moral Law, if (and only if) you, yourself, are worthy to extend condemnation to another…being free of sin, yourself.

And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

Dismissing the Accusers

I find the result pretty astonishing: As humans, we usually feel pretty free to condemn one another. We almost never stop to think whether we have either the authority to accuse, or the secure platform of personal moral purity, from which to condemn someone else.

Jesus simply stood up, and told them, “Whoever among you is sinless, let him cast the first stone.” And then He stooped again and continued writing on the ground with His finger! (What was he writing? We are not told! I don’t think it is wise to make guesses, either.)

But somehow, His quiet authority served to reach their consciences, and to convict their hearts. One by one they slipped away, beginning with the eldest and working toward the younger men, until no one was left to accuse her.

Standing before the Judge

Why was the woman still there? I believe she recognized Jesus as “the Judge of all the Earth.” Abraham saw Him that way, in Genesis 18:25, and Jesus confirmed Himself to be the Judge, in John 5:22. He is the Judge! She could have run away, or perhaps just faded back into the crowd. But she stayed and she waited for His decision, waiting for His judgment concerning herself.

10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

When Jesus asked her where her accusers had gone, and whether no one was left to condemn her, she answered, respectfully, that they were all gone. But she was still standing there, waiting for His word. She knew His authority, somehow. The woman threw herself on His mercy, and trusted in Him as her faithful Creator, as it says in 1st Peter 4:19.

Her actions demonstrated that the accusation was true. She was awaiting judgment from Jesus. (Yes, she “called Him Lord,” but that phrase was often taken very lightly. It usually meant no more, to most speakers, than the word “sir” means, today.) So, her actions are the heaviest statement, here: She stood and waited for Jesus to address her case, as her Judge. And in so doing, she met Him as Her Savior!

Grace and Truth Came by Jesus Christ

We saw the contrast between Law and Grace, clear back in John 1:17. It says, “The Law came by Moses, but Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ.”

The scribes and Pharisees came as proponents of the Law, demanding Judgment against this woman…demanding her execution. Jesus did not deny the Law: He offered Grace in its place. He did not deny the truth of her guilt: He offered Grace in spite of her guilt.

What is Grace? Grace is unearned favor: Unmerited favor. She had no merit to which she could point, saying how she had earned God’s forgiveness or blessing. Apparently, her accusers also recognized their unworthiness, but they did not stay and wait for Grace: they simply left, knowing they were not in a position to accuse. She stayed: her actions confessed her guilt and confessed that Jesus was her Judge. And she received Grace and forgiveness. Not because she deserved it. We don’t know the circumstances, nor do we need to know. Grace and works are completely separated.

The Same Grace is Extended to Us

The fact is, we are each just as guilty as she. We may not necessarily be guilty of the same sin: but read through the extensive list in Romans chapter one. If we are  honest about our hearts, then the truth is, we are all guilty of the same kinds of sin, and we were also condemned before God and hopelessly deep in guilt.

By the time we read as far as Romans 3:19, we see that the whole world is lost, and that Jesus is our only hope. This woman saw herself that way, that morning: she was inescapably caught in sin, for which she expected capital punishment. And she correctly saw Jesus as her Eternal Judge. She silently placed her faith in His judgment, trusting in Him to extend Mercy if it was available. He acknowledged the Truth of her guilt (and, by extension, ours,) but He chose to extend Mercy and Grace.

Grace is Honest and Free

Grace tells the truth: it recognizes the “bad news” of our fatal illness, called Sin, and it offers the only cure for that disease, the Blood of Jesus at the Cross. And that is “Good News!”

Grace is free to us, but it came at a terrible price for Jesus, the Creator God in the Flesh. The Holy, Righteous God of the Universe, the Creator, God, the Son, became Sin for us, so that God the Father could pour out all His righteous wrath upon our Sin, without destroying us: the Sinners.

2nd Corinthians 5:21 makes it clear that He, God the Son, became Sin for us, so that we could be made the righteousness of God in Him. What an incredible trade! He took all my sins and gave me all His righteousness! That is beyond my understanding, and beyond my imagination.

Imputed Righteousness

I can’t see this woman’s heart (nor anyone else’s, for that matter) but it seems that, somewhere along here, she placed her faith in Jesus…both as her Judge and as her Savior. Abraham did exactly the same thing, and he was declared Righteous on the basis of his faith. The Thief on the Cross did exactly the same thing, and he was promised, “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise!” So… How does this happen?

Romans 4:8, (quoting Psalm 32:1, 2) says “blessed is the man whose sins are forgiven…unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity…” How can God fail to impute iniquity to someone who, beyond question, is clearly guilty? The fact of “forgiving sins” presupposes that there are sins to be forgiven. So, right here in this context, we have a hard question. How can God not only forgive sins, but render the sinner permanently righteous: beyond further accusation?

The Unsalvageable Old Man

God says my old sin nature cannot be saved…it cannot be repaired. It is not subject to God, and it cannot be subject to God. Romans 8:7 flatly states that to be the case. So, since my old nature cannot be saved, the only way for me to stand before God at all is through the new birth! God had to give me a new nature. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus, in John 3:3, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” It is the simple truth!

So, in John 1:12, He says He gives the new birth through faith: believing in Him personally, trusting in Him as my Savior. I recognize that He is my Judge, and I fear His devastating Holiness, just as every other honest sinner before me has done. But I also trust in Him as my Savior. I have no other Hope. Either His full payment of His blood at the Cross is sufficient, or I have nothing whatever to offer.

Jesus is the Wise and Gracious Judge and Savior

The Woman stood before Him condemned by her own sin, and confessing that she was a condemned sinner. But she was also submitting herself to Him for that judgment, and trusting in Him to deal mercifully with her. And He did!

That’s what it is all about; right there, my friends!

Can you explain that simple story to your friends and family? To your neighbors? To a stranger?

This is a priceless account of a precious soul for whom Jesus died.  And His counsel to her, on the basis of the received Mercy and Grace, was: “Go, and Sin No More!” That is His counsel to us, as well. Let’s take it seriously.

Lord Jesus, open our hearts to understand Your Gospel well enough to share it with those around us. Free our hearts to serve You in humility and Love. All we have to offer others is what You have already given to us. Mercy, Grace, and Eternal Life, all through faith in Your shed blood!

Ye shall seek me and Not Find Me

Ye shall seek me and Not Find Me

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 7:31-36

Introduction:

Last week we examined Jesus’s disclaimer that “My doctrine is not Mine but His that sent me.” We were able to see that the doctrine we are assigned to teach is also not ours, but His (Christ’s) who sent us. John 20:21 says, “Peace be unto you: As the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you!” And, in Matthew 28:19-20, we see that the command is given in a self-perpetuating form. The Apostles were to teach their students (us) to do exactly as Jesus assigned them.

In spite of the crowd’s general response to His teaching that He was the Son of God (They attempted to “nab” him) some were actually beginning to absorb His message, and look at His miraculous works, and believe Him!

Some Believed!

31 And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?

These who believed were asking the others, in effect, What would it take to convince you??” They were satisfied in their own minds that this “Jesus” was fulfilling the prophecies, and that He very likely was the “real deal!” And, whether openly or secretly, it says that many believed His message… they believed in Him as their Messiah.

Some sought to silence Him!

But that sort of talk spreads! It quickly got back to the ears of the Pharisees and Chief Priests. They were not interested in investigating His claim. They wanted Him silenced. So, they sent officers to arrest Jesus. (Now, is it possible, that, at this time, that this is how they might have begun an investigation? Theoretically, perhaps it is possible.

But they proved, a little later, that it was never their intent to honestly investigate His claim that He was truly the Messiah. They wanted Him silenced! How do I know? Because when He publicly raised the dead, in John 11, those same enemies were there, and their response (in John 12) to a “bona fide” raising to life of an unquestionably dead man, was that they conspired to kill both Jesus and Lazarus!)

 32 The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.

Remember, we already saw, last week, the result of sending those officers. They went back empty handed. But, in the few verses immediately following lasts week’s message, we see Jesus perplexing the crowd once again:

33 Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. 34 Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.

Ye shall seek Me and not Find me!

How would we have taken this remark, today? There have been numerous people in our times, who simply “dropped out of sight:” They disappeared for many years, in some cases, and were thought to be dead. But they were later discovered in another place, living under a different name. Perhaps we would have thought that to be the case, here. All someone has to do today, is abandon their identity, get on a bus, hitchhike, walk, etc., and put down roots elsewhere. To do it permanently, of course, requires some illegal measures to assume the identity of someone else.

But, in those days, travel was not easy, cheap, or fast. There were no identity cards, and no computers, so, there were no “magic tricks” needed, in order to change names. The problem was that travel was slow, and dangerous…and there was always someone who would recall having “seen someone,” and put the pursuers back on the trail again.

So, the Jews had legitimate questions as to how Jesus intended to “disappear.”

35 Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? 36 What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?

It is interesting that, the very next day, He was teaching almost the same things, and they were asking similar questions, and getting a little closer to the correct answer, thinking that somehow He was predicting His own death.

In John 8:20-24, it says, 20 These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come. 21 Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.

Deaf Ears and Blind eyes

Jesus once again informed the people that He was about to leave, and that they would not be able to follow. The previous day, they supposed that perhaps He was going to travel to the Jews in the dispersion among the Gentile nations….and that they simply would not be willing to follow. But they have had time to think it over, and have realized “that can’t be it.”

However, they seem to have ignored what He had plainly told them!  He said, “Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me!” He told them where He was going! They utterly ignored that part of what He said! They were so committed to the opinion that He was Not “God in the Flesh,” that His clear statements as to His origin and destination fell on deaf ears!

Remember, several times, in the last few weeks, we mentioned that it is possible to become “judicially blind” if we disregard the Light of God’s Word. It is also entirely possible to become “judicially deaf,” if we ignore His Voice long enough. God calls, constantly, and the human race has either ignored His voice or fled from His presence. In John 10: 27, 28 Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish!”

How can we recognize those who “hear His voice?” John 1:12 says they “received Him.” They accepted Him for what He said He was. They took His Word for the things He taught. They heard His voice, and they followed Him.

John 3:19-21 “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”

So, the Light of Christ is shining in the World, and some turn to that light. Others flee the light. Those who respond favorably to the Light of God’s Truth become increasingly sensitive to light, and they begin to seek more light; stronger light, so that they can better see the path before them. Those who hate the light, and reject it, eventually deny that it exists: they prefer to hear echoes of their own hearts, rather than hear answers from the heart of God.

Hearing Echoes of Our Own Hearts

I remember reading of an exchange that happened on a golf course, outside the clubhouse. A wealthy, self-important golfer was asking the resident “Golf Pro” for advice about his swing. The Pro initially tried to give honest, clear answers, but the man kept arguing, saying, “No, I think the problem is (…something else.)” (Whatever it was…)

Another golfer was listening, nearby, and noticed the change, when the Golf Pro began to agree with the wealthy patron, that his self-analysis was correct. Eventually the wealthy golfer walked away, satisfied. Then the second golfer privately questioned the Pro: “Why did you agree with him? Everything he said was wrong, and you knew it!” The Golf Pro replied, “Mister, I learned a long time ago to not give ‘answers’ to someone who is only looking for ‘echoes.’ He didn’t want correction; he wanted confirmation! So that’s what I gave him!”

In Romans 10:3, we see what the problem was: “For they, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” They were so intent on establishing their own “rightness,” that they were blind to the overwhelming “Rightness” of the Son of God!

Jesus had told them where He was going, but they were already blind to His Deity, and blind to the evidence that He was the true Messiah. So, He warned them that where He was going, they could not follow. To his disciples, in John 13:36, He said, “…you cannot come now, but you will come later!” But to these unbelieving Jews, he flatly told them that they could not come.

John 8:22-24

22 Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come. 23 And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”

The next day, in answer to the same question, He told them that He was not of this World, but that they were of this world. And He clearly warned them that if they failed to believe that He was who He claimed to be, they would die in their sins!

What does the Future Hold?

In 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 we see that something is coming, which we call the “Rapture.” We speculate about the different possible responses the World may have to the disappearance of millions of people. But what we know, (from 2nd Thessalonians 2:11, 12) is that (future tense) God will send the World a strong delusion, so that they will believe a lie.

They will not recognize the truth and “believe,” after having seen the rapture, though I have heard people say, “Oh, if I see that, I will believe!” No, they won’t! The only ones who will believe during the Tribulation are those who either did not hear or did not understand the Gospel, before the rapture. A careful reading finds that the (future tense) strong delusion, is directed to them who (past tense) “…did not believe the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

This is why the Jews were warned, “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins!” They had the most powerful witness to the truth of God in the history of the World: And they were blind to it!

What About Us?

We don’t want to be blind to the provision of God in our lives, nor to His correction, as He uses His Word to convict our hearts and to change us into His likeness. We don’t want to be deaf to His pleading, as He attempts to lead us in the paths of righteousness. All through the Bible, we see the warning that there will come a time when God allows us to “go our own way,” and we, like Samson, will reap the consequences of our sin. (Remember, Samson was a believer!)

Among the groups to whom He spoke, some of the people actually believed. We will meet them someday, as they eventually became the early Church. But others, in every generation, have rejected everything He said, and hated Him for saying it!

We see that today, as well, as we try to share our faith with others. But, Jesus said, “If the World hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)

Left Behind, and Lost

Jesus was about to go back to His Father, and He warned the unbelievers that they would not only be “left behind,” but that they would “die in their sins!” I’m not sure that we can fully grasp the hopelessness of one who “waits too long,” and “sees the door close,” so to speak, knowing that God is no longer extending His mercy, and only eternal judgment remains.

That is not a comfortable message, but it is the “Ultimate bad news” making the “Ultimate Good News” of the Cross to be Good News at all! If it were not for the enormity of our sin, and our lost estate before God, then the Salvation He offers would seem of lesser importance, and His death would seem tragic instead of being the greatest act of heroism the universe has ever seen.

Once we realize our lostness, and see Jesus as our only Hope, then the Gospel of Christ becomes the center of our lives.

May God help us to focus on the Person of Christ, and see ourselves reflected in His face, not seeking our own way, but truly seeking His!