Love Your Enemies

David was a good king…

He was a real man with real weaknesses and real sinful tendencies. But, what makes a king a good king is fairness, justice, and, in this case, allegiance to YHWH. The man to rule over Israel would have to be a man whose heart is seeking for YHWH and whose life is exhibiting that pursuit. Since David was a good king, and since Israel had been ruled by Saul for so many years, there were people in the nation who did not follow him nor did they hide their animosity toward David. In his dire moments, David could be found in prayer. A series of prayers for David is contained in what are called “Imprecatory Psalms” as found in Psalms 7, 35, 58, 59, 69, 83, 109, 137 & 139 respectively. These Psalms were composed by David as a result of the effect of the enemies of David pursuing him in order to destroy him personally and as king of Israel. They are very informative to read and demand careful study.

 

However, contrary to popular opinion, the heart of David in these Psalms is not brash anger and a wish for personal vengeance. The heart of David is illustrated in Psalm 35:11-16:

 

11 Malicious witnesses rise up;

They ask me of things that I do not know.

12 They repay me evil for good,

To the bereavement of my soul.

13 But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth;

I humbled my soul with fasting,

And my prayer kept returning to my bosom.

14 I went about as though it were my friend or brother;

I bowed down mourning, as one who sorrows for a mother.

15 But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered themselves together;

The smiters whom I did not know gathered together against me,

They slandered me without ceasing.

16 Like godless jesters at a feast,

They gnashed at me with their teeth.

 

Do you see his motives and heart here? They wished for David’s destruction and rejoiced at his stumbling as if David were some stage-play actor. But this was no play. While David’s heart was filled with pain, sorrow, and extreme prayer, their hearts were filled with sneering, slander, and malice. Wbut notice David’s attitude in vv. 13-14:

 

“When they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with fasting, and my prayer kept returning to my bosom. I went about as though it were my friend or brother; I bowed down mourning, as one who sorrows for a mother.”

 

While they were sneering and hoping for David’s anxiety to mount, he was looking upon them as friend, mother, and brother.  Why? How could David be like this in the face of such lying, slander, and deception? I don’t know the history behind this Psalm. However, I don’t need to in order to catch the point that the Holy Spirit is making through the life of this normal man. Once again, David is still leading his rag-tag nobodies through the countryside in pursuit of the kingdom. In this case, it is people like me who hope for the same eternal kingdom promised to David and his Son, Jesus Christ, but know we don’t deserve to enter in.

 

The answer to the reason why David could look upon his adversaries with such affection and love, even while pronouncing just vengeance from God upon them, is because he knows that ultimately these men, and himself as well, will be presented before a holy God who sees the heart and will judge righteously. Here is what David said in Psalm 7:

 

Psalm 7:3–5

3 O Lord my God, if I have done this,

If there is injustice in my hands,

4 If I have rewarded evil to my friend,

Or have plundered him who without cause was my adversary,

5 Let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it;

And let him trample my life down to the ground

And lay my glory in the dust.

Selah.

 

In other words, David’s fear of God, who can cast both body and soul into hell (Matthew 10:28), was far greater than his fear of man. As such, then, if there is cause in His eyes for such actions against him, then God will be right in sending this group of adversaries against him and he will surrender. He deserves it. But if not, God will still judge righteously. Either way, the judgment is the Lord’s.

Listen to Luke’s record of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ:

Luke 23:33–37

33 When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.

34 But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.

35 And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”

36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine,

37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”

 

In this you can see the same spirit as His father David. “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” As the sneers and mockery mounts, Jesus prayed for their redemption. Why? Because, by their actions it is evident that they needed it. No one can treat God in this manner and still claim a right relationship with Him. Jesus’ example strikes me as the same as David’s. Jesus had taught months earlier:

 

Matthew 12:30–32

30 “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

31 “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.

32 “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

 

The people gathered around Jesus, primarily Roman soldiers and onlookers, were being prayed for even though they blasphemed Him. Much like David’s pain at the illness of his enemies, Jesus also looked upon these blind persecutors with pity and love. The compassion here is beyond human ability. Although there are similar circumstances, Jesus’ travail and pain were infinitely greater since the Father Himself even dismissed Himself from His Son for a time:

 

Matthew 27:45–46

45 Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.

46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

 

Jesus taught a righteousness that exceeded the external righteousness of the religious leaders of Judaism of the day. While they were busy arranging their appearance to keep in line with the hypocritical religion they had constructed before the masses, Jesus was walking in a true righteousness that comes only from God, the righteousness of God Himself. That righteousness includes how to treat those who mistreat you, even maliciously.

Jesus taught:

Matthew 5:43–48

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on theevil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 

To be perfect as God is to treat those who persecute you with love and prayer-nothing more. God did that. Jesus Christ loved His enemies and prayed for them, didn’t He? He held to His righteousness until the end. His perseverance and endurance with righteousness is most evident in the response of His lips and actions to those who crucified Him. Incredible.

As I close this little lesson, I want to say, I pray for those who have demonstrated a level of animosity towards my ministry. I love them and will continue to love them. I have prayed for them. I do not wish hardship on them, calamity, nor alienation from God. God is judge and He will judge righteously. May God be glorified.

The Pastor and His Accountability

  To whom is the pastor accountable?

This is a question that gets raised in a variety of ways. It has been raised in our church as well and my position, as pastor, is that my responsibilities as a pastor are solely answerable to the Lord Himself. The reason is that He is the One who can, and will, properly evaluate my work. As a Christian brother, I am mutually submissive to one another (Ephesians 5:20) and the joy of that is immense. Those men and women whom the Lord has redeemed and who come to me and exhort, and encourage, and befriend me are without equal. However, the direction of my work in the Lord and the evaluation of that work as to its quality (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) can only be rightly evaluated by the Lord Himself in that day of evaluation (2 Corinthians 5:10). This is a fearful thing (2 Corinthians 5:11) and does, at least in my case, remind me of such high accountability as to guard me from knowingly sinning against anyone or, especially, practicing private sin.

 

The answer to this question really boils down to what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

1 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 

2 In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. 

3 But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. 

4 For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. 

5 Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. 

 

Herein lies the reality of accountability. In the minds of many, “accountability” would mean that a man or woman is liable to give an account to another for the sake of scrutiny. The examination can take on many forms. In the church, for the elders of a church, examination is ultimately left only to One-Jesus Christ.

 

Let me explain. There are human courts in the world. These courts serve a purpose and are helpful for a myriad of civil issues where a verdict is needed. Further, there are even courts in the church wherein a verdict is needed, as in the case of the “legal” issues between brethren (1 Corinthians 6:1-8). Paul’s bases in that chapter is that the quality of a human court and the quality of the church court are two different things. They are, because one is based upon the Law of the Kingdom of God and the other is not, mutually exclusive. Further, the quality of the court and the law(s) that determine that quality, lead to protocol, and protocol leads to precedence, and precedence determines verdicts. Paul writes to the Corinthians that the differences between both kinds of courts is all the way down to the law upon which each court is built. In other words, the human court is not concerned with breaking the law of love from Christ (John 13:34), but the church court has that as its only standard. And, a human court is required wherein serious civil crimes might be committed by a professing Christian.

 

However, when it comes to those who serve as elders, pastors, teachers, there is an even higher court than these, and this court makes rigorous demand upon the preacher which, then, requires of him the highest level of adherence to the standards of that court (James 3:1). That is to say, to survive my “day in court” with Jesus Christ as my Examiner, my life among the world and especially the brethren must be entirely above reproach. The church is not always in the best spiritual condition to evaluate a preacher and his life. Although, when a man transgresses the Law of Christ, the church will see it. There are repercussions, like church discipline (1 Timothy 5:19-20). However, ultimately, the church is not the court. The future presence of God is (2 Timothy 4:1).

 

Although an elder may not know anything against himself, that does not mean that he will survive in that court. It means that, like Paul, whenever there is an accusation against a pastor’s reputation, we try to “conciliate” (1 Corinthians 4:13). And as often as failures arise, and they do, so also does the work of conciliation arise. When peace is restored between relationships, as much as possible (Romans 12:18), then that case is closed and unity is maintained. When peace is not restored, even after being sought after, it makes for a difficult hardship on the parties involved and there is no peace.

 

To address what so many Christians are concerned with, however, this does not mean that a pastor or elder is above the scrutiny of the people to whom he is ministering. It does not mean that a pastor can sin and be untouchable. It is sad that people are led to that conclusion. But, based upon the history of church leaders who have hidden behind such thinking, I can very much understand why. These hypocrites are very detrimental to the efforts of godly men who are working hard to be above reproach. A pastor who sins and transgresses against God is accountable to God. That accountability is felt and implemented, as determined by Scripture, usually by other godly men. They would have the spiritual maturity to interpret the facts properly so as to render a mature verdict and help the man to reconcile/repent. To minister to that pastor for his building up requires tremendous maturity and wisdom. That is why going to a man caught in a trespass, especially a pastor, is the duty of mature believers (Galatians 6:1). Ideally other godly, qualified, leaders. This behavior fulfills the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

 

It is true, and unfortunate, that men do disqualify themselves. Scandal of hidden lives of church leaders constantly emerge, it seems, and is wearisome to hear about. But, what is even more unfortunate, is the spiritual condition of many more churches who, themselves, are guilty of disobeying the Law of Christ in their daily behavior. It is true that an elder is under even more scrutiny for his work in the church. But it is just as true that the congregation has an obligation to obedience to Jesus Christ to the degree that pastors do. Once under the leadership of such a godly man/men, the church is obligated, for her benefit in time and eternity, to follow his example and faith and serve the Lord alongside him/them (Romans 16:1-24, for example). For many “Christians,” their rebellious self-styled behavior, which if publicly exposed shames the name of Christ, would disqualify them from Christianity.

 

Hebrews 13:17 

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

Romans 14-The Law of Love In Action

The Law of Love In The Local Congregation

 

As we move along in this present age of the world, particularly as I move along in my own age, I have observed increasing laxity as it regards what might be called “standards” in the life of local churches. It is no secret that the world is attacking everything moral, godly, righteous, and clean. In fact, the world does not even care what sex you identify with, regardless of the anatomy of your own birth. We would expect this from the world. We would expect this from those who couldn’t care less for Jesus Christ and His Words. But, should we tolerate it in the church which is supposed to carry on the truth about Jesus Christ and His Words?

In the local church I pastor, Berean Bible Church of Kalispell, MT., we had a discussion concerning differing doctrinal “views.” In essence, the discussion came as a perspective particularly in regards to eschatology, or the study of what the Bible says about end-times events. Inevitably, we ended up in Romans 14, a chapter championed by some to allow for just about any viewpoint or behavior in the church as long as you have “full conviction” about it.

It was, I hope, a precious time of learning and clarification. My desire was to represent this powerful chapter in Romans the way that Paul intended it to be taught and to mean exactly what he intended it to mean. From there we can go on to obeying it. Although the truths written in Romans 14 are not unique to that chapter, the chapter is without equal in condensing how a church can maintain unity, as commanded in Ephesians 4:3, and yet maintain doctrinal accuracy.

My goal is to summarize Paul’s writing in this essay and exhort the church to obedience to it so that true unity can be maintained and the church can mature.

Main Point: Accept one another

 This command bookends the section that Paul uses to address the issues related to relationships in the Roman church. A church filled with Jews and Gentiles, formerly avowed enemies, is bound to have schisms and factions, as evidenced in churches like the churches at Corinth and Galatia. In fact, the issue regarding Jews and Gentiles was so prominent, Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem in order to conclude the matter by the appointed Jerusalem elders and Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 15). Given that Paul addressed the Jews, who were already causing a tremendous stir in the Roman church, in chapters 2-5 respectively, we can see why he now revisits what he wrote back there.

Romans 2:1 

       1        Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.

 

The very first verse addresses the very thing that Paul addresses again in chapters 14 and 15-unrighteous condemnation of the Gentiles by the Jews in the church! The Jews of the church were passing condemning judgment upon the Gentiles for whatever reason. Most likely, it was conformity to the Law of Moses, or the lack of it, that they were being upset about. However, as Paul points out, the Jews themselves were also void of conformity to that very Law by which they were judging the Gentiles. He wrote:

Romans 2:17–24

       17      But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God,

       18      and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law,

       19      and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,

       20      a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth,

       21      you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal?

       22      You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?

       23      You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God?

       24      For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written.

 

Notice, please, he is writing this to the church. He is speaking directly to the Jews who were attending the church in Rome. These are harsh words! However, the reason they were harsh is because they were true! The fact is, God’s riches in kindness, tolerance, and patience towards the weaknesses of His children should be a pattern for us to follow towards one another.

Romans 2:3–4

       3        But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?

       4        Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

 

The Jews were no more obedient to the Law than the uncircumcised were. Yet, Paul writes, the uncircumcised, even without the Law, did, in fact, keep the Law because of the Holy Spirit (2:26-29).

With this in mind, we can see why Paul addresses all that he does in this epistle. From here he writes that the whole world, Jews and Gentiles, are under wrath (Chapters 2-3). Then, he informs the Jews that even those who are Gentiles and yet of the faith of Abraham are heirs of the promise to Abraham, vis-a-vis, the world (chapters 4-5). Then, he exhorts the entire church to holiness and a refusal to submit to anything unrighteous because of that kingdom which is imminently coming (chapters 6-8). Then, he teaches concerning the future of the Jews’s repentance in spite of their very clear apostasy from the covenant they promised to keep (chapters 9-11). From there, he teaches the church as a whole their responsibilities to the body (chapter 12) and to the world (chapter 13). As we get to chapter 14 and a portion of chapter 15, we see Paul further addressing how the Jews and Gentiles are to conduct their relationships in the  body. With all of the past that is real and nearly impossible to surmount, Paul teaches, in these chapters, how to do that. This is crucial for us as well so that the unity of the Spirit, which was granted at the moment of regeneration regardless of Jew or Gentile (Galatians 3:28-29), can be maintained.

Again, the conclusion is: “accept one another”

What Does This Mean?

The verb “accept” is a verb that means, in most contexts, “receive” or “take.”[1] It is a command that is addressed primarily to the strong (v.1). He writes,

Romans 14:1

       1       Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.

 

He is not writing this to the weak because the command is to accept the weak. He is writing this to the strong in order that he might “accept” the weak. Thus, this chapter is meant as a concession for the weak and not for the strong. He writes again in chapter 15 verse 1:

Romans 15:1

       1        Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.

 

 The whole section places the responsibility of “accepting” upon the strong in relation to the weak. Now, imagine what this would have sounded like as it was read by the elder in Rome. People would have looked around and wondered who was weak and who was strong. The proud Jews may have seen themselves as strong or the proud Greek may have seen themselves as strong. However, Paul gives an example in order to evaluate who is strong and who is weak.

Romans 14:2

       2        One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only.

 

Here, Paul identifies the “weak” as the one who “eats vegetables only.” This is a statement that indicates who the weak believer is. He is the one who is simply not convinced that the teachings of Jesus Christ allow for participation in eating meat, meat offered to idols in idol temples (as most meat was processed in that day). “The faith” refers to the content of the faith that is encapsulized in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Not understanding something like Mark 7 wherein Jesus declared all foods clean (acceptable to God) means that that person, not understanding this and consequently being convinced, is not established in his faith and he cannot eat meat but sticks to his vegetables.

This person is considered “weak.” He is not one who in wanton, purposeful, sin. He is not one who has redefined righteousness (Romans 14:17). He is one whose conscience, bound by his weak understanding of the Word of Christ, does not allow him to eat meat in Rome. He is weak.[2]

Paul writes that eating meat is okay on the basis of Christ’s teaching (Romans 14:14, 20). All foods are indeed clean. Jesus said so (Mark 7:14-19). Paul, a stronger brother, says that he is convinced that all foods are clean. But, for the sake of the weaker brother, which is seen as a hardship on the church and not a virtue (see 2 Corinthians 11:29), he says to not criticize that brother towards condemnation, but to get closer to him; pull him closer to yourself.

If that weaker brother, who has not matured to the point of fully embodying the teaching of Jesus Christ, is serving Jesus Christ, don’t stand in his way (Romans 14:13-21). If you both serve Christ in this manner, the manner of keeping stumbling blocks out of the way of a brother ( e.g. see Leviticus 19:14), his service to Jesus Christ is acceptable and pleasing to the Lord.

Summary

 So, as he continues to write in chapter 15, the Law of Love (Romans 14:15) instructs the strong to put up with, in love, the habits, strictures, and concerns of the weak. This is a way to promote godliness in the church and further the ministry of the church.

Conclusion

However, this needs to be said as well. This discussion does not indicate, at all, that false teaching is tolerated. That is, if a Jew came into the church in Rome and said that a Gentile must follow the Law in order to be reconciled to God, that cannot be tolerated (see Acts 15:1-2).[3] Paul always confronted those who, even slightly, redefined what God has established in the true reonciling gospel. Paul is not indicating that doctrine is relative or fluid. He said that he knows and is convinced that the Lord declared all foods clean. We cannot take this passage and redefine it by saying any view of doctrine is viable as long as you are serving Christ. Even in prison, Paul recognized that some preached Christ from selfish motives (Philippians 1:16; 2:21). However, when they were preaching Christ, he was pleased and patient. But, those who distort the gospel of the kingdom of Jesus Christ are condemned and are to be rejected by the church (Philippians 3:2).

[1] προσλαμβάνω   προσλαμβάνω    2aor. προσέλαβον, mid. προσελαβόμην; (1) take aside, take hold of and lead aside (MT 16.22); (2) take along with oneself (AC 17.5); (3) receive hospitably, accept, welcome (PM 17); (4) take, partake of food (AC 27.33) Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker’s Greek New Testament Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 335.

 Here is a good summary: “In the NT the word is found only in the mid. (as in the LXX): “to take to oneself” (men, Ac. 17:5; 18:26; nourishment, Ac. 27:33, 36 [v. 36 part. gen.]) or “with oneself” (Mk. 8:32 and par.), “to receive hospitably” (Phlm. 17; Ac. 28:2). R. 14:1, 3; 15:7: As God (or Christ) has taken every member of the Church into fellowship with Himself, so incorporate each other into your Christian circle with no inner reservations (such as might spring from differences in religious custom).” Ὑπολαμβάνω,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 15.

[2] First Corinthians 8 also deals with this very thing.

[3] I believe, too, that even other doctrines which are not accurate require intolerance in the church body as well (1 Timothy 6:3-5; Romans 16:17-18). For example, 2 Timothy 2:17-18 indicates one such teaching that the Second-Coming resurrection had already happened. That teaching had begun to infiltrate the church in Ephesus and create panic. Paul’s response was to remove those men from leadership and to put them out of the church. He wrote that they were “..men who have gone stray from the truth…” So, know that there is only one truth and the church is supposed to be the support and pillar of truth (2 Timothy 3:15).

The Use of the Incarnation

Because of the influence of self-righteousness….

…many see the birth of Jesus Christ as something to be admired, celebrated, and adored. If we learn anything from Israel, we learn that external behavior towards God does not replace His work in people for holiness. To bring to worship a heart of rebellion and selfishness is to create a horrible noise in the ears of God. This reality brings us to one of the “uses” of the incarnation. Because of the refusal of man to worship God as God, God became a man in order to lead His elect to Himself by means of atonement and propitiation; erasure of sins and satisfaction of righteousness. His birth is our example, not to be fulfilled self-righteously, but to condemn us in our inability to conform. Further, it is meant to call out to God for help.

 

In Philippians, Paul has to remind these dear saints of this very thing. They are commendable in many ways. However, they are on the verge of sliding down the slope that many of the NT churches were sliding. Paul’s teaching that would curb, halt, that slide is dependent upon the fact that Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Godhead, became a man and wore a man’s outer shell. That sacrifice is the only way that we can keep ourselves from falling into the useless position of so many Christians throughout the years-the position of selfishness.

V.1 “Therefore, if (there is) any encouragement in Christ; if (there is) any hope of love; if (there is) any fellowship of spirit; if (there is) any compassion and mercy…”

This verse/section begins with an inferential conjunction that says, “Based upon what is written before, this…”

Philippians 1:27–30 

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with

one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

Paul has been admonishing them to unity and service to Jesus Christ.

Here, he does so by exhorting them to continued faithful unity in service to Jesus Christ by means of the faith of the gospel.

Those opponents to the faith are indicating their destruction and the Philippians’ reward and validation of their regeneration, as they suffer for the faith of the gospel; the content of the faith.

In fact, they are suffering the same way that Paul is suffering.

He is in jail in this letter.

He is writing from a Roman rented room, albeit under chains.

Each of these easily fits into the Roman hypothesis except the travel records. The strongest objection to a Roman hypothesis is the distance between Philippi and Rome. Objectors to the Roman hypothesis point out that the evidence calls for a minimum of four trips between Philippi and Rome, and perhaps as many as six would be necessary. The trips would have been: (1) news of Paul’s imprisonment was sent to Philippi; (2) Epaphroditus was sent from Philippi to Rome with a gift and an offer of help (2:25); (3) news of Epaphroditus’s sickness (after some time?) reached Philippi (2:26); (4) word reached Paul and Epaphroditus that the Philippians were concerned about Epaphroditus (2:26); (5) Paul hoped to send Timothy before he came himself (2:23–24); and (6) Paul possibly expected that Timothy would return and journey with him to Philippi.

The trip to Rome from Philippi was approximately 800 miles. From Rome, the traveler would follow the Appian Way to Brundisium (360 miles), take a ship across the Adriatic to Dyrrachium (2 days with favorable weather), and follow the Ignatian Way to Philippi (370 miles).45 Sir William Ramsay estimated that a foot-traveler covered 15–20 miles per day on the Roman roads.46 That equals 52 days by the slower rate and 39 by the faster. Imperial couriers traveled at a rate of 50 miles per day, perhaps with the help of carriages or horses.47 That makes the travel time only 15 land travel days, 2 sea travel days, and whatever intervals were needed for rest or inclement weather. Some estimate that the travel requirements of 5 months traveling round trip, and thus 10 months total for 4 one-way trips, easily fit into 1 year of time48 It is difficult to see how earlier commentators, such as A. Deissmann, claimed that the travel was impossible in less than 2 years.49 (Melick, Richard R. Philippians, Colossians, Philemon. Vol. 32. The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), pp.34-35.

Paul writes to this church in order to express appreciation for their financial support in light of his imprisonment.

This is his first imprisonment as outlined in Acts 21:27-28:31.

During this timeframe of Acts 21-28 he spent about 2 years in custody in Cesarea in Herod’s summer palace called the Praetorium (See Acts 24:27; cf. Acts 23:34-35) after being arrested for his own protection as he was a Roman citizen (Acts 25-28).

During this arrest, Paul appealed to Ceasar, seeing that he was the center of ugly politics (Acts 25:11).

On to Rome he went, via a turbulent ship voyage on the Mediterranean Sea.

While in prison there, the Philippian church sent financial support to Paul for his needs, as they had done a couple times in Thessalonica (Philippians 4:15-16).

In doing this, they “participated” in his ministry AND his suffering (Philippians 1:7).

However, even in a church committed to Paul and the furtherance of the gospel of the kingdom (Acts 28:30-31), there will be problems-troubles between saints and a disunited condition can result.

This is what Paul addresses here.

As mentioned, Paul urges, after hearing from Epaphroditus about their condition (Philippians 4:18), the church there to strive for unity while Paul is absent from them.

Although they financially supported him, he still holds them accountable to the standards of the Christ he preaches.

If anything, they must see him as a pattern to follow, along with Epaphroditus and others:

Philippians 3:17

Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.

Ultimately, Paul is a follower of the Pattern of Jesus Christ:

1 Corinthians 11:1

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

v.2 “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”

So, Paul’s words here are simple:

If there is any level of (all in Christ; I.e. In the pursuit of Christ’s kingdom):

Encouragement

Consolation of love

Fellowship of spirit

Affection/compassion

Compassion/mercy

Then…

Strengthen my joy by…

Being of the same mind

Maintaining the same love

United in spirit

Intent on one purpose

 

Therefore, for the Philippians to be unified as a whole church, all of them to give joy to their apostle, have the same mind, same love, unity of spirit and purpose, they must meet one objective.

 

V.3 “no longer according to selfish ambition; no longer according to empty (self) glory; but rather, in the lowliness of mind/thinking, be considering one another having above of yourselves.”

This command is given to them from the apostle because Epaphroditus had returned to Paul identifying the particular ways that the church had become a bit splintered.

For example, two women were fighting each other, the very women who had shared with Paul in the purpose of Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:1-3).

They were anxious about life (4:6).

They had sent money to Paul for his needs twice (4:16).

They had participated in Paul’s imprisonment and were willing to identify with him to their detriment (1:3-11).

They were even suffering some influence from “dogs” of the circumcision, which may have been the very source of their strife among themselves (3:1ff.).

Therefore, Paul gives them a set of prohibitions in order to protect themselves from their influence and distraction from the gospel.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition, empty (self) glory…your own personal matters…”

Rather,

“…In humility of mind consider one another as more important than yourselves…(have regard for) the things of others…”

Paul’s teaching here is to let go of the affairs of this world, and protecting your life, and strive for the concerns of other believers.

In fact, the depths of the heart of each believer, in love, must be filled with more of a concern for the affairs of others than for your own affairs.

In other words:

Luke 9:57–62

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.”

And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.”

But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”

Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.”

But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The priority of the kingdom in all things demands a preoccupation with the welfare of other believers over and above a preoccupation with your own.

James 2:14–17

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?

If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,

and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?

Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

The admonition of the apostle is the same as that of another apostle, John.

He wrote the same thing as Paul and as James because it is a consistent tendency:

1 John 3:16–17

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

The perfect law of Christ, love, requires a refusal to be rich in the world and poor towards God.

The perfect law of Christ exhorts us to care for the needs of the saints tangibly and even above our own.

This might not fit into many people’s line items on their budgets, or their day-planner, or their schedule for the day, but you will always know who loves you when they are willing to sacrifice their time, money, health, and needs for yours:

Think of this:

Philippians 2:17-30

1 Thessalonians 2:8–12

Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.

For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers;

just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children,

so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

 

2 Corinthians 12:14–15

Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.

I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?

 

2 Timothy 2:8–10

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel,

for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned.

For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.

Again, I agree with Paul, follow men and women who are willing to sacrifice their very souls for you…for you!

In our contemporary smug American evangelicalism, a mild form of health, wealth, and propsperity, we hold onto our lives…protect them.

Consider:

2 Corinthians 8:8–9

I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

How about you?

Do you practice becoming poor so that the saints around might be made rich?

Do you sacrifice for their interests (not hobbies, or pastimes).

Do you need to be sacrificed for so that you might excel in the provisions of Christ?

How can this be?

How can a church be united, intent on one purpose, and restore the fellowship of the eternal purpose and preaching of the kingdom of Christ?

 

V.5 “Think this among yourselves, even that (which was/is) in Christ Jesus.”

This is the command from the imprisoned apostle to the free disciples: think like Jesus.

The whole church must follow Jesus’ teaching AND example.

To follow His teaching and not do as He did is to ignore His teaching.

To follow His example apart from his teaching is to redefine His example.

Have this mind in yourselves.

It is the same mind which was in Jesus Christ during His earthly stay/ministry.

What kind of mind was it?

What kind of thinking did He have?

What was His purpose, intention, and practice?

Whatever it was, think, intend, purpose the same thing.

1 Peter 2:21–25

21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,

22who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth;

23and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;

24and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

25For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

 

V. 6 “who, while existing in the form of God, did not consider (that) a thing to be grasped, that to be equal with/to God.”

Jesus Christ left the riches of eternal heaven and proximity to the Father in order to enter His fallen kingdom.

He did not enter it as God, in the outward form of God.

Rather, He entered it in the “form” of a man.

“Form of God…” = μορφή outward form; appearance; shape; expression. 

In this case, even though it might say “form of God,” it is impossible to resemble God and not be God.

There are no true imposters of God.

His actual outward appearance is the very expression of His nature:

Hebrews 1:3–4

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.

So, this cannot merely be saying that Jesus was an outward form of God but was not divine in nature.

Further, since he did have the very outward appearance of God, the exact representation of the Father and the Spirit, that is what Paul is focusing upon here.

He is focusing upon Jesus’ “appearance.”

He., apparently, did not consider that appearance a “thing to be seized.”

“Seized” = snatch, seize, grasp.

He did not hold tightly to His outward form as God.

Rather….

“…That to be equal to God…”

Equal in what sense?

Did Jesus release His equality to God in his nature?

No, since Hebrews says that even while on this earth He was the exact representation of His nature and Paul said that He was even then, the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Jesus Christ did not set aside His eternal nature.

Paul called Him God here.

Peter recognized that He is divine in human flesh:

Matthew 16:13–16

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

15He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Even the demons called Him:

Mark 1:23–24

Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,

saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”

If you believe that somehow Jesus set aside His very nature as God and became a mere man, without divine nature, you are not a Christian, the truth is not in you, you have defiled the faith and denied that He is Messiah.

The Christ must be God

1 John 1:1–3

1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—

2and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—

3what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

 

1 John 4:1–3

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

2By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;

3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

What does it mean then?

Well, what was the exchange?

If John, Peter, and even the demons recognize the divine nature of Jesus Christ, then He did not set aside His divine nature, ok?

But, what did he set aside?

What did He do?

“He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped….”

His equal standing with God was not seized and held on to.

 

Vv. 7-8 “But rather, he emptied Himself while taking a form of a slave, while becoming in likeness of men; and while being found in the appearance (function) as a man. He lowered himself while becoming obedient until death, yet, the death of a cross.”

Matthew 20:25–28

25But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.

26“It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,

27and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave;

28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Spiritual Abuse-A New Catch-Phrase

“Spiritual Abuse”

It is a phrase that I heard about 5 years ago from a man who left our church. The accusation came to me in this fashion and was a term I had never heard before.

Also, in recent days, the phrase has come up again, and this time not to myself but to others. Again, I stop and think about that term: “spiritual abuse.”

And, as I think about it, I go back to the Bible and wonder what it has to say about it if anything.

Here is what I found:

Ezekiel 34:1–4

1 Then the word of the Lord came to me saying,

2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?

3 “You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock.

4 “Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them.

There are further scathing statements scattered throughout the OT, too many to number, but listen to the extent of the “abuse” of the rulers of Israel in the days of Micah the prophet:

Micah 3:1–3

1 And I said,

“Hear now, heads of Jacob

And rulers of the house of Israel.

Is it not for you to know justice?

2 “You who hate good and love evil,

Who tear off their skin from them

And their flesh from their bones,

3 Who eat the flesh of my people,

Strip off their skin from them,

Break their bones

And chop them up as for the pot

And as meat in a kettle.”

(see also Jer 23:1; Ezek 22:25; 34:8–10)

Then, go to the NT and see Matthew 23 and John 10 for indications of what an abusive leader looks like.

Overall, what I see is that a spiritual abuser:

  1. Teaches error.
  2. Destroys true believers
  3. Imposes religion with drastic consequences.
  4. Enjoys the spoils of his abuse at the expense of the harm of the followers of God.

However…

…what I hear as “spiritual abuse” from others does not reflect this in fact, but in opinion. It seems to come often from people who are already filled with incurable independence and self-authenticating authority. Doctrinally, they are aberrant at best and often have a pet doctrine that allows for a relaxed discipleship-one without commitments. That is, although the accusation is hurled, the facts are very different. This is called a lie. In the OT, there were serious consequences for bearing false witness:

Deuteronomy 19:15–21

15 “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.

16 “If a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing,

17 then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days.

18 “The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely,

19 then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.

20 “The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you.

21 “Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

In general, pastoral leadership comes with the ongoing potential for accusations. Anyone who understands the Word of God will admit that pastors and elders bear authority in the church (1 Thessalonians 5:12). They have charge over the saints of God and they lead by hard work. They have the right to command the commands of Christ (1 Timothy 4:11). They have an obligation to expect obedience to Christ’s commands from God’s people (Hebrews 13:17).

Given the difficulty that people have with authority in general, it is no surprise that there is a real suspicion towards leaders in the church. In order to alleviate and dispel those suspicions, the lives of leaders:

  1. Must meet high standards: 1 Timothy 3:1ff
  2. Must be examined by others: Hebrews 13:7

The openness of the lives of leaders must allow for scrutiny and examination. Otherwise, suspicion will ensue. Men are mere men. But we do not preach a mere Word. The power of what is accomplished in those who believe in Christ is from the Word itself so that God is displayed and glorified by that process (2 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). That process must be evident in the leaders primarily (1 Timothy 4:15).

Why? So that as leaders command and exhort God’s people, the accusation of ulterior motives can be dismissed when people see their work and their godliness, unless the accusers themselves have hidden agendas. Once an accuser is given a platform, it is very hard to return to normalcy. The destruction that comes from false charges is lasting, and sometimes can bring down and entire ministry.

In conclusion, “spiritual abuse” does not equate with commanding God’s people to obedience to the Words of Christ. If it did, Jesus was the supreme example of a “spiritual abuser” who ever lived: He physically attacked people (John 2:14-16). He expected people to hate their parents and families if they were going to be allowed to follow Him (Luke 14:25-27). He repeated disdain and accusations towards the rulers of the people (Matthew 23). He questioned the salvation of people (Matthew 15:12-14). And, He promised to condemn people who did not follow Him to eternal hell (Matthew 25:41). It is no surprise, then, that His disciples, those who merely repeat what He said, are called the same.

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