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Rules For Trusting Your Pastor’s Teaching

Acts 17:11–12

11  Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

12  Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.

As a pastor, it would be nice if everyone who ever hears a sermon, reads a blog post, says, “Wow! Thank you so very much for causing understanding of this topic.” Even though there will always be those who do say that, and those people are a refreshment, there are also those who simply doubt the conclusions that have been reached. That is not to say that I wish no one would question my conclusions. It is simply a statement of praying and wishing for everyone who hears the Word of God, once having been given the evidence of the Word of God on any one subject, to completely believe it themselves, no matter what needs to be changed in their lives. It is not the desire of the true pastor/elder to have a cult following. Although it is popular today to follow a pastor simply because of his persona or style of dress (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1-4), that is a very embarrassing activity to say the least. But, it certainly would be commendable to follow a pastor after having verified his accuracy in doctrine and righteousness of life.

It is very important to speak to this here. One of the most important realities that a pastor faces is this: he never knows if anyone will be convinced of his teaching. You teach after having studied. You know the text and thus God’s mind on any given subject. You examine your own thinking and conform it to the Word. You read other men of God, and listen to their teaching so as to further examine your own. But to do all of that in the minds and hearts of God’s people is, in a word, impossible. No pastor is the Holy Spirit, Who alone teaches and enlightens (1 John 2:27). However, that does not preclude that we should not examine, scrutinize, study, and expound the written Scriptures. They are inspired, objectively fixed for our examination. Thus, we know that when we come to the meaning of the text, that is the heart and mind of God Himself. 

But. how do the people KNOW that a pastor’s teaching is accurate? How can they know that he has done the work to arrive at that level of accuracy for himself and is not simply parroting some other teacher he is fond of? Let me give 5 guidelines to examining a pastor’s teaching in order to verify if he is teaching the truth or not.

First, listen to him.

Second, take extensive notes.

Third, go to the passages of Scripture to which he refers.

Fourth, repeat.

Fifth, once verified that his teaching is exactly what is presented in Scripture, submit to that teaching without fear..

  • Listen to him.

What I mean by that is to listen with a mind to understand exactly what he actually is saying and not what you are afraid he might be saying, or what you want him to say. I will periodically hear of some who listen to me and misunderstand what I mean. Either there is a slant taken that I was not intending, or the entire sense was missed for whatever reason. That’s okay. Once they come to me and ask for clarification, I can then do so and that is wonderful. However, much of that can be alleviated by careful listening. In our day, listening, as well as thinking in general, has become so superficial and shallow. It would seem the church needs to be taught how to listen carefully with a biblically literate frame of reference. So, listen to what he is saying. If possible, find the main point of his teaching and make note of it.

  • Take extensive notes:

Once you have the main point, develop his supporting points as he develops them. Hopefully, that pastor does this. If he does not, it will be hard to be sure of what he means. Some pastors like to be vague so as to avoid accountability. However, a skillful preacher will make his point from the text, substantiate it from the text and other texts, and then repeat it again in sum. It should be fairly easy to track with a preacher. Write down his main passages to which he refers. Highlight them in your notes. Write extensive questions. Star the ones that you really need clarification on. Then go on to the next step.

  • Go to the passages:

Once you have your notes, read and study the passages, at least the main ones, to which he referred. Examine them. Read the passages, and compare them with others by means of cross-referencing. Use a study Bible or books such as The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (R.A. Torrey; Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1983). Examine the passages in their proper contexts and come to a conclusion about the meaning of those passages apart from trying to see if it means what the pastor says. That will be obvious.

  • Repeat:

Take these steps and repeat them where necessary in order to learn good habits of discipline and learning. This is the normal Christian behavior in the life of the church. The only other option is the idea that the saints gather and watch the pastor perform.

  • Submit:

Once you have verified that the pastor is speaking accurately and comprehensively, take what he says as the Word of God. Paul commended the Thessalonian saints this way:

1 Thessalonians 2:13

13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

When a man is proven credible by means of his accuracy and his own obedience (Hebrews 13:7), then it must be concluded by God’s people that he is speaking with the authority of Jesus Christ on that passage and the only option is…submission. Submission to him as God’s man:

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.

Submission to God’s Word as it speaks with divine authority:

2 Peter 1:19–21

19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

20  But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,

21  for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Humble submission to the authority of Jesus Christ is THE demonstration of a regenerate heart. A willingness to strive toward a maturity that displays submission to God is the desire of every true believer. If that is your desire, the path toward it is given here. It begins with the Word of God. The very Word that is preached by fallible men.

Spiritual Desperation

There is a level of desperation in the true believe in Jesus Christ. He or she does not approach life the same as one who does not believe in Jesus Christ, or even one who says he does but is still unregenerate. We approach life as a desperate battle for righteousness and the pleasure of God. It goes like this:

 

  • We learn a portion of Scripture
  • It holds up for us a level of righteousness that we must obtain.
  • It also reminds us of that impossibility of obtaining it.
  • It then reminds us of our profound, and desperate, need for Jesus Christ.

 

That is the life of the true believer. The vanity of living a life of superficial commitment to a Jesus that only appears on Sundays or during times of distress is simply not enough. We are driven to daily, hourly, desperation…and gladly so. That is the paradox.

2 Corinthians 1:3–11

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

4  who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

5  For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

6  But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer;

7  and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.

8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life;

9  indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;

10  who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us,

11  you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.

And,

 

1 Peter 4:18–19

18  And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?

19  Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

 

The pursuit of the kingdom does not always make this life better. However, it ensures for us a far better life to come. This pursuit, the relentless drive away from sin and toward righteousness with all of its trouble, is not over until we are taken to the heavenly kingdom. And with that hope, we endure – with joy.

Therefore, endure! Look forward to your meeting with Jesus Christ, the Father, and the Spirit, in that day that, without shame, you will see Him as He is and stand in His presence. No trial, failure, weakness, or debilitation in this life can compare.

Matthew 5:3–6

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Whom Jesus Chooses

This post will be brief.

In John 6, we have a narrative of tremendous importance. In the context, the disciples had returned from their first solo ministry tour (Matthew 10; Mark 3; Luke 9) describing to Jesus all that God accomplished through them. Jesus Himself was continuing in His own ministry and the combination of the two ministries was drawing quite a crowd. In fact, John identifies about 5,000 men (John 6:10-with potential for another 5,000 women and even more children). These were fed by Jesus, healed, shepherded, and taught all by the Lord or His delegates. This was a crowd which followed Him across the Sea of Galilee, interrupted their lives for Him, believed in Him, to a limited degree, and for all intents and purposes, were His disciples.

However, as Jesus’ teaching reaches the point that He identifies what He already knows (v.64), that not many of them truly believe, they become increasingly uncomfortable (vv. 26-40). Ultimately, teaching in the synagogue, His teaching hits them hard (vv. 59ff.). He tells them that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood (vv. 48-58). Not only was this unsettling, but He goes on to say that this crowd is grumbling at His teaching (v. 61) and will only get worse (v. 62). He finally drops the news that many do not believe in Him truly and in fact they cannot even follow Him unless it is granted them to do so from the Father (vv. 64-65). The result? Many of the disciples, the crowd, left Jesus, grumbling no doubt, and stopped following Him. There were only twelve left. Jesus tells them that, upon Peter’s confession that He has the words of eternal life (cf. v 63), He chose them to follow Him. Not only that, but He even chose one who is a devil (v. 70). Jesus chose a devil, slanderer, to follow Him. Was this man ever saved? No. He had a part to play, however. Jesus chose him still. He also chose the eleven as well, and they went on to become the apostles.

What does all this mean? It means that “many are called, few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). In fact, of the potentially 20,000 men, women, and children, only twelve were chosen of Christ, drawn of the Father. And, one of them chosen was an enemy of Christ. The direct implication is that at that time, Jesus did not choose the other 20,000 “disciples.” They chose Jesus, and thus were never true disciples.

The sovereign will of Christ and the Father is evident here. Too vast to summarize. Just know that Jesus chooses those whom He desires, even some who remain an adversary, by His own will motivated by the will of the Father.

Family 101: The Children

We have covered the creation of the man, the creation of the woman, and creation itself. Now, we need to turn our attention to the subject of children. Although no children were created, or conceived, in the garden “pre-fall,” we have all that we need to know about children, how to raise them, as well as why they even exist, from the early chapters of Genesis, particularly the garden narrative. This will only be a summary, but will be much to think about.

One of the least developed theologies of the modern church, or historical church for that matter, is the theology of the Family, particularly, as it relates to children. I believe that if we can develop a theology of children from Scripture, and let Scripture instruct us concerning the glorious position of children, much in the family, and in the church, would be corrected. My desire is to introduce this theology here for your consideration.

To begin, I want to consider Jesus’ terms in Mark 10:13-16:

13 And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.

14  But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

15  “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

16  And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.

Without going into a full detail on this passage, it is enough for us to look at Jesus’ reference to children here as those to whom belongs the kingdom. That phrase delineates for us all that we need in order to understand your child. Yes, that is right. It was enough for Jesus, and, when understood, it is enough for us. The result of this understanding will be the action of Christ here-He took them in His arms and began blessing them!

Imagine seeing children as a blessing again to the extent that you express that to them! It stems from the kingdom purpose of children.

To say that to children belongs the kingdom, is to say that children are heirs of the kingdom. That is, the kingdom is for, and made up of, children (John 1:12-13). The Greek here is instructive, obviously. It literally reads, “…for of these kinds of ones is the kingdom of God.” This is not good English, but is good Greek. In other words, the children are pictures, or examples, of those who exist in the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is all that God has created. It has been infiltrated and overrun with tares and goats. Yet, it is still the kingdom and one day Jesus will remove all these stumbling blocks from His kingdom (Matthew 13:41). Until then, they coexist with us. So, because of God’s original design in the garden, which began His eternal design for redemption, the kingdom is (made up of) those who are not only like children, but are children. That is the key to understanding your children from God’s perspective.

Some will look at this and say, “Yes, we must enter the kingdom like a child: humble, meek, helpless,” etc.… These things are true in a sense. To enter the kingdom, you must be poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). However, that is not the point here. The point here is a comparison between biological children and spiritual children such that biological children become the comparison for spiritual children. That is, when God created Adam, He made him to be His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). Adam was called a “son of God” (Luke 3:38) and as such was in the kingdom. When he fell, he was thrust from God’s kingdom and submitted to Satan. Once returned, He was in God’s kingdom once again, however the kingdom had taken on a new component-futility resulting from God’s curse (Genesis 3:17ff.; Romans 8:18-22). That condition exists in the kingdom now and will be purged at the coming of Jesus Christ to reign (Matthew 13:41).

Now, when the man and woman were created, they were given the privilege of procreation. By that would come children. Once born, these unique creations, then, would exemplify what it means to be in God’s kingdom. They were a real-live, physical, examples of the truth of being a son to God. Remember, all of God’s children were predestined to become conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Romans 8:28-30). That was not simply the goal of redemption, but the original creation goal of the Father (Hebrews 2:9-15). This is a theology of sonship that is true of children. They are unique because they are born infants and grow, mature, and develop into a man or woman, who themselves bear the image of God. It is only unique to children that a boy can go from being a son to a father who then can bear sons. That dynamic, it seems, also replicates the glory of God in that He is a Son to a Father, and a Father to a Son. So, in a tremendously unique and distinctly profound sense, children are really the picture of the triune nature of God.

Therefore, children are heirs of the kingdom. To deny them access to Jesus Christ, as the disciples had done, was infuriating to Jesus for this very reason. Your children are pictures to you of the entire purpose of God in creating the kingdom in the first place-to give to the Son sons of His own to enjoy forever (Revelation 21:7)! So, please, treat your children accordingly.

Matthew 25:34

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Family 101–The Woman

The last post discussed, in generalities, the responsibilities of the man, Adam. We saw that the man had many responsibilities and rightfully so, as he was to display the glory and image of God (1 Corinthians 11:7). These responsibilities, as demonstrated before, have not been changed, nor have they been abrogated by the fall, progress of revelation, or time. They are just as expected of men today as they were of Adam the day he was created.

Women also have responsibilities. It might seem that men supersede women or that somehow men are more important than women by stating that Adam was made to bear the image and glory of God. To some, especially in our woman-oriented, matriarchal, society, to say that man is the image and glory of God automatically assumes that women are not. And, once that is assumed, the assumption is also that the esteem of women and their worth are questioned. However, those assumptions indicate a lack of understanding concerning the instruction to women from Scripture. Therefore, to the degree that we must regain the basics concerning the man, we must also regain the basics concerning the woman as well. I believe this will be enlightening and invigorating for women in many ways.

The Creation of a Woman

God has now created the man. It is the middle of the day of day six of creation. The man has been given his instructions, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16). The man has also been made aware that he has no one to live with corresponding to himself (vv. 18-20). It is at this point that we pick up the narrative in order to examine the creation of the woman.

Verse 18 summarizes God’s purpose for the making of the woman: “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” God states here that it is not good for the man to be alone. Putting all emotion aside, the reason it is not good for man to be alone is because God is not alone (John 16:32). God consists of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in perfect unity and existence with willful love for one another. All creation has been good up to this point because it has rightly represented the power and character of God as excellent and skillful (Proverbs 8:1ff.). However, since the man is to be the image and glory of God, and God is not alone, it is not good for man to be alone. Now, from that we also experience the fact that men need a wife for a variety of reasons (companionship, love, friendship, care of children, etc..). However, those things are auxiliary to the fact that a man cannot bear the image and likeness of God alone.

A woman, then, is created as an integral component of the life of the man, the image and glory of God. God will create another person who corresponds to the image of the man in order to provide for the man the capacity to replicate the glory of God, to her, to others, to God. At this point it becomes obvious that the honor of the woman and the glory of a woman is far greater than what is often thought. And, it is true that women are far too often treated as lesser-class citizens by rude, selfish, primate-like men who don’t know Christ, and some who do. In fact, whole societies can oftentimes rise up against women in order to beat her back and teach her a lesson (i.e. many in the Muslim world are becoming exposed as those who promote this thinking, and have, for centuries). The mere creation of a woman in order to compensate for the inability of the man to bear the image and likeness of God alone demonstrates God’s worthy and glorious purpose in the creation of this woman. She would complete for the man the ability to express the image of God, would be the recipient of the love of God and all His perfections of glory, and herself would be a glory to the man as well. This is what Paul meant when he wrote that the woman is the glory of a man (1 Corinthians 11:7). She completes God’s purpose in the creation of the man. Therefore, a woman who truly wants to be feminine in all that she does must comprehend these things and organize her life accordingly.

God makes Adam fall asleep. God takes a rib, with some flesh still attached, and from that material makes a woman. Now, much must be said about this. First of all, realize that God wanted to create a being for Adam (v.18 “…for him”). This being would not be unlike him (like the animals were), but like him. That is, she would correspond to him in likeness and image, so to speak. In Hebrew, the term “correspond” means “the front part” and it goes on to mean a picture, replica, or correspondence to something next to it (Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures [Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003], p. 530). That is, Adam and the woman, if both were to stand side-by-side, would have many similarities, or correspondence. That was God’s plan. And the pattern for the woman would be the man himself. The intent of God was to create a woman who would correspond to the man in many ways, and yet compliment the man in appropriate ways as well for God’s purpose. This is why it is very inappropriate to confuse the two, or try to make them the same- a man a woman or a woman a man. In the Law of Moses, it says, “

Deuteronomy 22:5

“A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.

It is still an abomination today. The mixing of the sexes was not God’s design for His own glory. To confuse the two is to disregard the glory of God and reject His beauty (this is why, by the way, it is dishonorable for a man to have long hair-1 Corinthians 11:13-15).

The man now wakes up and sees this creation of God. I have always contended that she must have been the most beautiful woman to have ever walked this planet, and he the most handsome of men. His exclamation is appropriate:

Genesis 2:23

The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones,

And flesh of my flesh;

She shall be called Woman,

Because she was taken out of Man.”

Adam immediately understood that God created this woman from his own flesh and bone. How did he know this? Because there she was. That is, in the creation of everything, it would most make sense for that to be the case than for God to create from nothing, as He did Adam. Further, it would make sense that Adam would know that he was made to sleep for the first time for a reason. The man identifies the woman as one corresponding to himself and names her the feminine gender of the word for “man.” She is a picture of himself and made from his own body. This will become crucial later as we examine marriage itself.

Now, the man can be complete. Now, he is able to express the glory of God to this woman-His love, His unity, His joy, His justice, His commandment. The woman was not created for the man’s physical satisfaction. Although this aspect of marriage is crucial to marriage (1 Corinthians 7:1-5), it is not the primary motivation for the creation of the woman. The primary motivation is the completion of the glory of God in the man. This is why women are “for a man.” Most women desire to marry and to have a husband to loves her and cares for her. This is why.

Her Instructions

Now, having examined her creation, what does she do now? For that, we need to look at Genesis 1:28. In this verse, we see the man and the woman standing before God. They were both unclothed and there was no shame in that, neither was God ashamed. It was a glory, and is a glory, in marriage (Hebrews 13:4). And as they are presented before God as a newly created couple, they are given a charge. I have examined this before. However, as it relates to the woman, it is important to look at these instructions in relation to her responsibilities.

It would be nice if God gave a clear instruction to the woman as He did the man (Genesis 2:16-17). He did not. But, He did give instruction in Genesis 1:28 that sufficiently equips the woman of today in her responsibilities.

Genesis 1:28

28  God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

We have already seen that the woman was created ultimately “for a man.” So, her priority is to be “for a man.” That is to say, a godly woman only is fulfilled when she is living for a man, her husband. She was designed and created for that purpose and that purpose has not changed. To love a husband, to like a husband, to be concerned for him, and to respond to him as he is the image and glory of God, is her greatest privilege and created purpose. She does not lose herself to him, she is herself most before God when she is “for” him.

And, this couple, now, have comprehensive instructions from God.

First, be fruitful. That is just what it sounds like. It is to bear fruit. This means to bear the product of something. It is a beautiful way of saying that the man and his wife are to make replicas of themselves. This is a direct reference to sexual intimacy, the ability that God has given to the man and the woman for enjoyment, intimacy of relationship, and child-bearing. Children are not produced any other way. And, the woman has been specifically created with the marvelous ability to bear a child. The intricacy of a woman’s ability to bear children is fantastic. She is a marvel in this aspect. Thus, the woman is innately given to love the fruit of her relationship with her husband. Just as the husband is called to organize his life provisionally in order to care for the “fruit” of the couple, so also the woman is to allow for this instruction in her heart.

Second, multiply. This is a term that refers to quantity. Fruitfulness indicates the actual act and product of the relationship. Multiply refers to the frequency. Obviously, bearing more than one child demands more than one encounter. It is in the context of a holy relationship, unmixed with shame, that God instructs the man and the woman to regularly engage in that which bears multiple fruit for them. It is important, here, to mention that God is the One who completes conception. David understood this in Psalm 139:13-16

 

13 For You formed my inward parts;

You wove me in my mother’s womb.

14  I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Wonderful are Your works,

And my soul knows it very well.

15  My frame was not hidden from You,

When I was made in secret,

And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

16  Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;

And in Your book were all written

The days that were ordained for me,

When as yet there was not one of them.

Therefore, for a man and woman to multiply, there obviously requires intimacy. However, ultimately, the conception of the child in the womb is God’s decision (see Psalm 139:16 especially). The woman is uniquely given the ability to receive this marvelous work of God in her womb, which thereby completes the man in the sense that little images of him and her are created by them. This too is a glory and replica of the creative work of God. Or, to put it another way, God’s life-giving creation ability is given temporal expression by the ability of the man and his wife to conceive children. That is the joy, fruit, and reward of the Lord toward His own name as well as the man and his wife (Psalm 137:3-5).

Third, the result of fruit-bearing exponentially is that of filing the earth. This is exactly as it sounds. To fill the earth is to complete the earth. It is to inhabit the earth. It is to make it rich with people. Some of us pessimists might chagrin the idea of so many people. However, remember God’s intention in creation is the creation of a kingdom for the Son wherein He would have multiple brothers and sisters and the Father would have multiple children (Romans 8:28-30; Hebrews 2:9-14). These are the sons of God and they were God’s intention. So, to fill the earth with the sons of God is what is meant. However, Satan came along and introduced weeds, as it were, into the field and created tares (see Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43) hoping to destroy God’s intentions. He did not. He only accomplished them. So, there is a great need for godly parents to receive from God the conception of the sons of God, as it were, so that they might exist and have a home in which they can learn the fear of the Lord (Malachi 2:15).

Fourth, to subdue the earth means to bring it into usefulness. That is, to make the earth produce food, and, by extension, other necessities. The man and the woman are both to respectively work the earth. It would seem appropriate that the man would be the one to “cultivate and keep the garden” (Genesis 2:15) and thus actually produce the food. However, while he is producing, the woman is to be producing the meal. Given their condition, they had access to fruits and vegetables abundantly. However, Adam is required to continue to cultivate the ground so that food would continue to grow and thus they could all eat, as well as any children to come (Genesis 2:5). Therefore, the woman would not be required, nor expected, to do this work of provision. She would not cultivate the ground. She would not tend the garden, or keep it. She would take what she was given by the efforts of the man and make a meal from that. Obviously, in our day, this translates into pots, pans, stoves, silverware, water, electricity, gas, etc… This is what it means to “be workers at home” in Titus 2:5. To work at home means, essentially, to prepare meals. However, this includes so much more than simply picking a few things out of the garden and putting them on the plate. The planning, preparation, acquiring of food, and cleanup is immense. It takes skill, commitment to God’s design, and, if done for Christ, joy. Woman, your work in life is not corporate. Let Adam do that. Let him cultivate and tend the garden. You prepare what he brings to you so that he, and the children, as well as yourself, might enjoy what God has provided for and through you.

Fifth, the concept of ruling is here repeated. However, too often people want to confuse “rule” here with obfuscation of responsibilities. The man is created to “rule” in Genesis 1:26. This is the same Hebrew word as v. 28. It means to tread with authority and responsibility. It refers to treading upon your own land for purpose and enjoyment. But it can also refer to the care of all that you tread upon. The man would have a unique construct of “rulership” that would be unshared by the woman. Those things were outlined in the previous post. However, here the “rule” of the woman, as in this verse both are in view, yet in v. 26 It would seem that only the man is in view (since much has happened between the two verses, namely all of chapter 2). Yet, the rulership would be a shared one in the sense that both have authority to tread. Yet, that looks different for the woman from the man. She would have a shared authority over the fish, birds, and some animals. Yet, she would not have a displacing authority of the man, nor would she have authority over the man. She is still submissive to the her husband particularly since she has been created from him, for him, and alongside him (1 Corinthians 11:8-12). Adam has responsibility for leadership in the realms of glory of God, work/provision, the Word of God, worship, and his wife. The woman has responsibility in others realms. They are, her husband, their children, their home, and her own godliness as she should bear the reflected glory of her husband as he follows Christ (this is why it is so difficult for a Christian woman who is married to a non-Christian man to really grow to the degree she could. She is innately dependent upon her husband for his leadership. Thankfully, God is a husband to the widow, which spiritually she is, and a Father to the orphan-Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalm 68:5; 146:10).

In Conclusion, as I said before in the posts for the man, if a woman organizes her life around these truths, she will be blessed of the Lord (1 Peter 3:1-6). Women are precious and are to be honored by men. Men are responsible for their welfare and care. That does not mean that women are a charity case. It means that a man’s wife should be given the means by which she can do what God has designed her to do (Ephesians 5:25-33).

Family 101-The Man

Today’s world hates the fact that there is a difference between a man and a woman. If the discussions of the day point to anything, they point to the desire to make man a woman and a woman a man. They do not want what they would call ‘inequality’ because we as human beings have tolerated that long enough. In the push for homosexual rights in “marriage,” adoption, social status, etc…, the basic disdain for God and His creation has begun to be exposed and accepted by far too many. To attempt to make a man equal in every way to a woman, or vice-versa, is tantamount to saying that the birds should come down and act like the hippo, or the shark should jump out of the sea and start soaring like an eagle. The reality is, God’s creation was a design of God, for His grand purpose, and it is a fixed state. Nothing can change it, except God Himself (and change it He will).

Today, I want to begin where the creation narrative concerning people begins-the creation of the man. It is my desire to explain the creation of the man, which will lead naturally to his responsibilities according to that creation, and thus help as many as possible to re-orient their lives to as to learn to measure up to these responsibilities.

 

THE CREATION OF A MAN

 

God has created the heavens, with all their hosts, and the earth with all of its hosts, minus two: the ones to rule over this creation on behalf of God. It is now time for God to do what He purposed to do in eternity past and that is to create a man to bear His image according to His likeness and a helper to accompany the man in his divine enterprise of bearing other images of God according to God’s image, through the man. I will attempt to explain that more in subsequent posts. This, you will see, is the starting point, and the consummation, of God’s purpose for the creation of the man. You see, a man is not just male. He is a replica of God if God were ever to become man. Let me explain.

God said,

Genesis 1:26–27

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27  God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Notice what is being said here. God, after creating all the adornments of creation, now focuses His unified attention upon the creation of “man.” In Hebrew, “man” is a word that is typically, when it does not have the article “the” in front of it, translated “a man.” It can mean “man” in a collective sense, as in Genesis 5:2 where God, after creating the man and the woman together, and after having them presented before Him (Genesis 1:28), clearly gave them both the name “man.” That use of the word is a collective use including both the man and the woman. However, that is not the sense of the word in this passage, nor the creation narrative of Genesis 2-3. “Man” does not include the man and the woman in this narrative (which is evidenced by the fact that the singular masculine pronoun is used throughout). For example, God said, “Let us create man/a man to be our image according to our likeness.” He then proceeded to create that man and gave him specific examples follow and a specific commandment to obey. Then, after doing that, said “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him.” Notice that the creation of the woman is treated differently, and the man is still called the man. The woman is not called so, but simply a helper.

What does all this indicate? It indicates that when God said “Let Us make man in (or “to be”) our image, according to our likeness…” it was a direct reference to the man, Adam, primarily. That is, the result of this decree was the man, not the woman. That, then, indicates that what follows is primarily directed towards the responsibility of the man. Of course, there are things for the woman too, which will be summarized in Genesis 1:28 & 2:18-25. We will get there. However, for now, the man Adam needs to be addressed. We have already seen that the original responsibilities for Adam is for every man today as well. Nothing has changed. Let’s summarize those responsibilities.

First, as we go in order of the creation, we see that primarily the man is made to bear the image of God according to the likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). Paul tells us

1 Corinthians 11:7

7  For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.

Paul is echoing the very ordinance of God found here in Genesis 1:26. Adam, being made first and for God’s reason, is the image of God and most responsible for bearing that out in life. We will see how in the following. Some might object to this truth and assume that the woman cannot bear the image of God. Paul refers to that as well. He says that the “woman is the glory of man.” First, Paul makes it clear that the woman does not bear the weight of reflection of the image of God directly as does the man. She does it indirectly through the man. That is, the woman, being made directly from the man, is his image and likeness, and should be. Adam was not taken from another person but made directly by God without previous material as is the case of Eve, being made from Adam’s bone and flesh. This is why, barring obvious, adjustments, the woman and the man have such similar physical features created primarily by God for their respective purposes. Yet, the woman is the glory of the man who, in turn, is supposed to be the image and likeness of God. This also indicates a very important reality – leadership from the man will result in the continuity of the image and likeness of God through the family as the man properly reflects that image of God according to God’s likeness. That is leadership. The reflection of God seen in the man will pass to the rest of the family since part of that image is the wisdom to deal with sin and sinners carefully and possibly redemptively.

Second, the man is called to work. That is, God has created the man in His image and now the man is standing next to God beholding God’s handiwork and beginning to receive the Lord’s instructions. YHWH and Adam are standing together on the outskirts of the garden when God makes every tree to sprout that is pleasing to the eyes. He also makes the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil respectively (Genesis 2:9). Upon arriving there, the unspoken expectation, or created purpose for the man is that he is put into the Garden of Eden in order “to cultivate it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Since being in the garden God indicates to the man that first he is to “cultivate” the garden. What does that mean? This particular word means to “work” or “serve” and is used for religious service to YHWH (Exodus 3:12) as well as physical labor (Exodus 5:18). The idea is that of manual labor and exertion of effort toward some work that will produce either food or religious duty. In the case of Adam, it refers to manual labor as v. 5 indicates since no plant was to perpetually grow until the man “cultivates” (same word as v. 15) the ground. Thus, although God first created food for the man, and woman, the man would have to work in order to cultivate the ground continually in order to produce more food during the eons to come. Further, as is true for all things for which the man and woman would be responsible, they would also be required to train their children for faithfulness to these things as well so that they in turn can bear the image of God in the His likeness as well.

Third, the man would be called to worship. This is the second word in our couplet of v. 15. This word, “protect” (i.e. the Garden of Eden), is a word that means to “guard” from outside detriments. However, since there was no such detriment in the original creation, the best way to understand word is to consider it in the sense that Moses was told to remove his sandals once He was in the presence of the Lord on the mountain. Where God is, that place is instantly holy and pure. Thus, out of honor and dignity toward God, the man would be required to protect, as it were, that holy place where the man and YHWH would meet often. The word is used in Genesis 30:31 as Jacob describes his care for the flocks of Laban. It is also used, interestingly, in Genesis 18:19 to describe the care that Abram is to exercise over his household to ensure that they obey the commands of YHWH, e.g. “to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice…” The garden is a holy place as that is the location of the eternal fellowship of the man, his family, and YHWH, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We see something of this in the confrontation of Genesis 3:8ff.

Fourth, the man would be responsible for the Word of God. God tells Adam in Genesis 2:16-17 this statement:

Genesis 2:16–17

16  The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;

17  but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

This is the only time that the word “command” is used in the creation narrative. Thus, as Paul indicates (Romans 5:15-21 wherein Paul talks about a transgression. That transgression was none other than disobeying this very simple command found in vv. 16-17). The man would be allowed access to every form of edible plant, or tree, including the Tree of Life. However, he was to refrain from eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In eating from that tree, he would disobey God, something the Son of God would never do, and thus incur God’s judgment. That judgment would be punishment for sins by means of death. As we know, that occurred by the crafty, subtle, and complex deception of Satan toward the woman, and the woman toward the man. However, the man was ultimately responsible for the entire episode as evidenced by the Lord’s levels of accountability. This commandment, as well as all the rest of the responsibilities of the creation, would be the responsibility of Adam to instruct to his wife, which he did (Genesis 3:2-3), his children, and subsequent grandchildren, to the degree that they would be able to instruct their own children and grandchildren (Psalm 78:1-8; cf. Deuteronomy 4:9). This is the very pattern in the rest of Scripture, especially into the NT (Ephesians 6:1-4). But, Adam, and his sons, would be stewards of this Word bearing the authority, and responsibility, of teaching it and holding others accountable to its instructions. Imagine every time you approach the Tree of Life you also see the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and remember YHWH’s instructions as told through Adam. That would have been the daily occupation of the children of Adam and Eve, barring the Fall.

Finally, Adam would be responsible for his wife, the woman. This particular privilege is of immense substance as she was a new creation, directly from the bone and flesh of Adam. In doing this, God has made a comparable mate, friend, and object of love, for the man. In doing this, the image of the Triune God would become complete as she now is one he can speak with, give command to, care for, and relate to physically as well as every other level. Further, in bearing children, they can replicate themselves, and thus the entire economy of the Garden, in them and maintain what God has commanded for them for His own glory. In being responsible for her, that is not to say that she is inept or unintelligent. That is to say, however, that she is precious, dear, and prized. She was made for the man, who is God’s image according to His likeness. As such, she would have received that care from Adam, the care of life-giving instruction from YHWH, the care of relations with Adam, the care of bearing children and training them in the commands of YHWH, the care of protection from anything that would harm her, etc… She would be in that wonderful position to have received from Adam his love, care, and relationship. His love for her would have been on display in his care for her. Her love for him would also be on display in her submission to that love of his. This is the display of the relationship of the Triune God as well-love.

From this, in conclusion, we have the basics of the man’s life. As he conforms to these creation standards, which reflect the Son of God, Adam would have perpetuated faithfulness. Today, and every age, these things are expected of every man. Men, you and I have responsibilities. To refuse these responsibilities is called laziness, which is pride (“Why do I  have to work so hard…?”) and is your greatest enemy. We must excel in our skills in displaying the image of YHWH according to His likeness. You must know Him, read about Him, submit to Him, love Him. We must work like Him (John 5:17). Our work is to be diligent, skillful (Psalm 104; Proverbs 8). We must worship YHWH in the way He has created appropriate worship. This is the New Covenant in Christ Jesus the Son. We must handle the Word of God with care and comprehensive accuracy. Finally, we must excel in our relationship to our wives. She must know that she is precious to us. She must be instructed in the Law of Christ. She must be given the tools to fulfill her responsibilities as well, and protected from the evil in the world.

Family 101–pt.3 Creation

It is a simple conclusion: God created a man for His glory. That man was given a wife to complete the man, for God’s glory. That man and woman were given the ability to have children and to multiply themselves on the planet. It would seem then that since the children come from a man made for God’s glory, and a woman for God’s glory through the man, then the children too must be expected to bear God’s glory as well.  That is, what is being multiplied on the earth is not simply another person, but a creation made, as it were, in the image of God according to His likeness just like mom and dad. This is the basic structure of the family: individually it is for God’s glory; collectively it is for God’s glory.

That is where the Scriptures begin and that is where we must begin. The design and creation of the heavens and the earth and all that fill them were for the purpose of the infinite glory of God. Further, and we will have to touch on this later, this glory is pointed toward Son of God as He would inherit it all. For now, however, it is important to understand that the man, woman, and subsequent children in God’s original design were individually, and collectively, for the purpose of the display of the glory of God.

But the question is “How?” “How is a man the glory of God?” “How is a woman the glory of God?” “How are children the glory of God?” If this is the case, and it is, then how did God expect that out of Adam and Eve?

Remember, we are talking about unfallen conditions. Satan has not fallen yet, and has not yet tempted Eve. So, if it were possible to pretend Genesis 3 does not exist, then attempt that in this discussion. As is assumed in this series, the original design of God is still the way God wants things. That is to say, God’s original design for creation, man, woman, and families has never been rescinded. Although that will challenge some, many, it cannot be denied from the text of Scripture. One clear example is Jesus’ own teaching concerning marriage in Matthew 19:1-9. There Jesus taught that the original design of God was the marriage of one man and one woman, the union of the two into one, the work of God to make it so, and the instruction to man, by virtue of the creation by God, to never dissolve that married condition in any way. Further, later revelation in the Law of Moses did nothing to abrogate that design, as Jesus taught. Yet, its intent is severely marred by adultery and calls for further action, if necessary. Yet, the creation of God is the basis from which this example exists. In other words, unless you have this design intact, and the original intent of God maintained in creation as your starting point for all the functions of the family, you are, at best, making things up as you go (which far too many do).

Again, the design of God is His on-going intent for the family. Paul also refers to the created design in his letter to the Ephesians (5:31). That section of chapter 5 is an exposition of Genesis 2 and the creation of the man and woman. Paul is not merely quoting a verse that exists separately from the rest of the passage. Verse 31 is a quote from Genesis 2:24 which itself is a summary conclusion for all that leads up to the man leaving his family and being joined (by God-Matthew 19:6) to his wife. Grammatically, that is the case and Paul understood that, quoting it there in that fashion. Again, unless a person understands all that leads up to Genesis 2:24, that very verse will mean nothing.

Lastly, our Lord did say that there will be a time when a man will not be joined to a woman in marriage (and Paul expounded upon that in his discussion in 1 Corinthians 7 as well). That time is yet future, however. In Matthew 22:23-33, Jesus responds to a ridiculous question from the Sadducees. Their question involved the issue of death of a spouse and remarriage in regards to the resurrection, which they did not believe in anyway. Jesus said that in the resurrection, which is yet future to us all, there is no more marriage, or being given in marriage. That is, the entire economy of marriage, as designed and created by God in Genesis 1-2 will be stopped and will no longer take place. But, the resurrection has not come. God’s design is still His design for us. The only indication that God’s created purposes for the family is to stop is from this passage and the only time that will occur will be in the resurrection, which is yet future as it will usher us into the new heavens and earth via the Millennium (Revelation 20).

In conclusion, and as our starting point, realize that things have not changed. God’s design is intact and is His expectation (by which we will be judged either faithful or not). The issue is, however, do we really understand that design? Are we jaded against that design because we don’t want to be a “quiver-full” people? Do we bristle against this idea because that might change the complexion of our ministry? Are we sure we completely understand it to begin with? As we will see, just as the design for work, eating, and the rest is not changed from the creation, neither is the family.

Family 101–pt.2

Predominantly, the Family Integration Movement is a movement based upon a false understanding of the doctrine of the family. Since the majority of the teachers and leaders for that movement hold to an aberrant understanding of Israel and the church, that they are equal, their theology of the family suffers. As I have watched this movement, both in it and out of it, I have concluded that there really is no help from all their efforts until they in the leadership of the movement correct the other aspects of their doctrine. For example, as noted above, the understanding of Israel and the church for most of the men in that movement has lead to a confusion in regards to their understanding of the family. To expect the church to live like Israel is, among other things, a source of destruction for the family since God Himself has made distinct differences between the two in His economy of the gospel for the ages. In my observation, an attempt to return to social expectations in Israel for the church evidences a confusion between the two. Further, as is often evidenced in twisted understandings of “courtship” and patriarchy, since it is impossible to really equate the church and Israel, we have continued to create teachings and doctrines, as above, that have no resemblance to either. Ultimately, to twist Scripture in one part leads to twisting in some other part as well. It is inevitable. And your family suffers.

For some, that does not matter. “After all,” they say, “We are talking about the family, not the Millennium.” And, it is that very error that has created the mess that we are in regarding the family. We treat the doctrine of the family as if it has no origination in Scripture and thus it has no bearing on, or influence from, theology. Can you think of any other doctrine of Scripture that is taught across the board, from cover to cover, that does not have any connection with any other passage of Scripture? That is to say, can you think of any other teaching in the Bible that is an independent teaching and is separate from any connection to any other doctrine in Scripture? Obviously, there are no maverick doctrines that exist in Scripture. Paul wrote, “"

Ephesians 4:4–6

4  There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;

5  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,

6  one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”

Some might say, “That is speaking of salvation and the gospel.” It certainly is. However, Paul is also teaching the singular unity of the truth about God  there as well. This is likened to Deuteronomy 6:4

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!”

Thus, since God is one, which includes His unity, so also is all truth not only about God, but from God. It is connected and forms a union of truth. That is because it has one source, God Himself. So, please, do not think that the doctrine of the family, or, as I will be calling it. The Theology of the Family, is a separate category that can be cut off from other teachings of Scripture. What you believe about the Millennium affects your family.

In order to get to the heart of what the Scripture teaches concerning the family, you must understand God. In order to get to the heart of what the Scripture teaches concerning the family, you must understand and know what God is doing in history. Finally, in order to get to the heart of what the Scripture teaches concerning the family, you must understand and know and believe the gospel.

Family 101–pt.1

Foundations are the most important part of any structure. For example, a five-million dollar home, with all of its detail and opulence is only as glorious as its structural integrity. If the foundation crumbles, the whole structure goes down and then where will the opulence get you? The five-million is only as good as the concrete below…and the skill of the man who put it there.

It is no different in the family. Structurally, you could say, the family is crumbling. Well, let me clarify a bit more. In reality, the family has been crumbling since Genesis 4. If you don’t believe me, consider Cain’s actions toward his righteous brother Abel. I would call that crumbling. So, please don’t believe the panic-mongers who alarm everyone by proclaiming the disintegration of the family and then call you to jump on their conference bandwagons (for a fee) in order to fix the problem. Now, I am all for conferences. They have their place in the church (e.g. Acts 15). However, to make a living at it, and to use the leverage of the hypothesis that the family has fallen from its once lofty position of the Early American Colonies is false. The disintegration of the family is nothing new and to believe that somehow we have overcome the heart of Cain toward the Abels in the world (and in the family)  is an illusion and fantasy. 

It is more appropriate to say, I believe, that the doctrine of the family  is disintegrating in the church. Let me say it again. It is not the family that is falling apart. It has always done so. It is the doctrine of the family that needs serious overhaul. In fact, if the inspector would come to the job site and examine the work of the men laying the foundation of that five-million dollar home, I believe He would halt the project immediately and declare the work not up to code and would demand that the foundation be destroyed and rebuilt. It is the doctrine of the family that is suffering from dilapidation and the fruit of it is the condition of families in the church today.

It is always the concern of pastors that God’s people believe the truth. In fact, I am more concerned about what a Christian believes than what they do. When a child of God is told that he/she has cancer, my greatest concern is that they do not believe error as a result of that discovery and blame God for His evil in their life. That is why a faithful pastor should visit his people at home regularly and in the hospital when necessary. In the same way, the result of what you believe about the family makes itself evident in the condition of the family itself. Even in the worst of family situations, the leadership and care of a faithful, godly, husband and father becomes evident. Not by the presence of swashbuckling boys and “damsel-in-distress” girls. But by the gospel being exhibited in that situation. Neither is it acceptable to simply resign your leadership, men, to the doctrine of depravity. “Sinners will do what sinners do” is a reluctance to obedience to God, who designed, created, and is the foundation of, the family. It is a rejection of the wisdom required and demanded of Christians in the home to rescue sinners.

Saying all of that, I have been recently reminded of the need to rebuild family foundations so that the Inspector will not come to the job site and condemn the footers and foundations of our homes. Before we begin this series, I want to say a few personal words. My family and I have learned that the priority in the home is the kingdom of God. Jesus instructed His church to

“seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things (temporal needs-vv. 25-31) will be added to you.”

Matthew 6:33

The Lord’s instructions here are not meant to fill the shelves of theological libraries, although they do very capably. They are meant to be the pursuit of the children of God their whole life long. That includes submission to them in our homes. In fact, I will argue, it demands the priority of submission to them be in our homes before they are ever exhibited in the church or the world. To seek the kingdom at church, but shelf it at home is hypocrisy. To seek the kingdom on the street-corner with a soapbox and a bullhorn, but quiet down at home is hypocrisy. That is not from God. However, to seek the kingdom in your homes, even for singles, will insure that the kingdom will be prioritized in the church and in the world. It is not difficult to motivate Christians to evangelize once they have righted the ship and prioritized the kingdom in the home.

Second, the foundations having been built over the years are faulty. The material used to build the homes of far too many Christians include:

  • Natural revelation – “I feel that I should raise my children this way…”
  • Sacramentalism – “If we attend a church service, youth group, conference, regularly, my home will be fine.”
  • Peer influence – “My children must be around children their own age in order for the Bible to make sense.”
  • Neglect – “I am too busy in the ministry to bother with the concerns of my wife.”
  • Ignorance – “I don’t really understand why the family even exists.”
  • Shepherd-dependence – “My husband won’t…I need to ask my pastor what I should do.”
  • Societal emphasis – “I will avoid the really bad parts of society in order to ensure they don’t influence my family.”
  • Millennial mayhem – “My family is like the family of Israel and so I will make sure that I am a prophet and priest to them.”
  • Leavening – “I can’t shelter my children, so I will involve them with the world and hope things work out.”
  • Parental laziness – “My children are too high-maintenance. I need a break.”
  • Agnosticism – “The Bible does not give us comprehensive instruction about the family.”

The doctrines listed above are not acceptable in the building of the home. There are more. However, these are predominant and very influential ones of our day. The Word of God does not allow for these and neither should they be in our homes.

I want to explain comprehensively what the structure of the family is from Scripture, Old and New Testaments, such that God’s people, if they obey what is verifiably evident from His Word, will grow in the wisdom and understanding that is priority over all things in the home.

If you are reading this, please take the time to examine it carefully. Further, share this series with other Christians. The body of Christ is only as healthy and strong as the children, and families, in the churches. Because of that, we must have this series.

God’s Mercy In Trials

 

Testing is Normal and Necessary

The Bible indicates that a normal part of life as a Christian is testing. This does not refer to testing in the sense of pass or fail. It is a kind of testing that has as its purpose revelation. The revelation not so much of the Word of God, but of our hearts.

God tested Adam in the garden, calling out to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). God tested Abraham when he was commanded to take his son, Isaac, up to the mountain and offer him there as a sacrifice (Genesis 22:1-2; cf Hebrews 11:17). God tested Israel for 40 years in the desert (Deuteronomy 8:1-4) not so that God would find out, but so that they would find out! Moving forward into the New Testament we see that the Father even tested His Only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, by means of 40 days of fasting and aloneness while being tempted to sin by Satan (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13).

The writer of Hebrews exhorts us:

Hebrews 12:4–8

A Father’s Discipline

4  You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;

5  and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;

6  For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,

And He scourges every son whom He receives.”

7  It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

8  But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

 

One such son was Simon Peter. This man, named “Rock” by the Lord Himself (John 1:42), would go on to become the pillar of the church, alongside James, the Lord’s brother (James 1:1), and John (Galatians 1:9; 2:2, 6). But, Peter needed to be tested first. Why? Because, as he was, he was not fit for ministry. His life was filled with pride, sectarianism, and spiritual short-sightedness. However, God had chosen this man to become a foundation-stone to their group, the apostles (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 2:19-20). He had the highest service toward God, and therefore had the furthest to go as it relates to testing. Since he would be used of the Lord to such a degree, the Lord needed to expose his own heart to him in the deepest way.

The Test

Simon was brought to Jesus by his brother Andrew (John 1:40-42). Once Simon saw Christ, and Christ saw him, the Lord prophesied that he would have his name changed to “rock.” That would be a description of this man. But, right now, he was simply same-old Simon. As the Lord’s ministry wore on, with tremendous power and conflict, this man, Simon, didn’t seem to change much. However, that was not the point of the Lord’s ministry. Although the Lord would have expected these men to change, He knew what was in their hearts (John 2:23-25). No one needed to tell Him what was going on in their minds at any time. However, Simon did not know what was in his heart. And that ignorance would keep him away from effective service to Christ. If the Lord is going to call you to service, He must first reveal you. And since He already knows our hearts, He only needs to reveal our hearts to us! The years of preparation for service, the laying of seeds of teaching and example, as it were, did not sprout during the Lord’s ministry. It would almost seem that nothing took root. However, the watering of testing, pressure, needed to be applied first before the condition of the soil and seed could be made evident. The moment of water applied to the soil and seed came in the courtyard where Simon and the Lord Himself was being tested respectively. 

Our Lord is arrested, betrayed by the Satan-filled betrayer, Judas. Judas, already having it in his heart to do evil, is led by Satan to betray Jesus to the Jews and the Romans. In doing so, it would seem that the hopes of the kingdom are destroyed. The three years of following, watching, learning, practicing, ministry with Jesus now dashed. Peter is told to bear a sword (Luke 22:35-38). He attempts to use the sword to fight for Jesus at His arrest (Luke 22:49-51). Jesus rebukes him, because he was apparently operating outside of the will of the Father (v. 42). Peter did not see that, as he did not see much of a spiritual nature (see Matthew 16:21-23). Peter, along with the rest of the disciples, flee the scene.

Peter is now in the courtyard, warming himself by the fire (Luke 22:54-62). He is asked three different times by three different people if he was with Jesus. He denies that he even knows the Man. The last time, defending his own hypocritical innocence against the accusation that he was with Jesus, he does so with vehement curses (Matthew 26:74). Peter, horrified by the accompanying shame of having been with the Jesus who is, as he speaks, being tried and beaten, denies that he was ever an acquaintance of the Lord’s. At the end of the last denial Jesus, being within viewing distance to Peter, turns and looks Simon in the eyes without a word. He didn’t have to speak-he already had.

At the end of the final meal that the Lord would eat on this unredeemed earth, having eaten it with the disciples, Peter assured Jesus that even if everyone else would fall away from the Lord, there would be no possibility of him falling away and denying Him (Matthew 26:31-35). Simon was willing to die with Him. However, when it came down to it, the Scriptures were true-Jesus would be denied three times by this self-confident man. What happened? How could Peter have done this? Sure, Peter was self-assured. Sure, Peter had no idea what he was in for. Sure, Peter was ashamed of Jesus Christ, when push came to shove. But what was really going on behind the scenes?

Behind the Scenes

Luke tells us the behind the scenes scenario of this event, a devastating, but necessary one, in the life of this leader. He needed to be humbled. He needed to deny himself, not Christ. He needed to see his own weakness, and the Lord’s mercy. And that he did.

Satan, the arch-enemy of Jesus Christ, is a murderer (John 8:44). He cannot help himself, nor does he want to. According to the Lord, Satan has demanded from God, and has obtained, permission to sift Peter like one would separate wheat and the chaff. Peter would be devastated by Satan’s ravages, and God has granted permission to Satan for that very purpose. Thus, we understand that Satan is a target for Peter. This makes sense, since Peter would become the rock, or pillar, of the church in Jerusalem and beyond.

Satan obtains permission. Unlike Job, Peter at least was told it was about to happen. Yet, Jesus also mentions something more. Jesus said,

Luke 22:31–32

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;

32  but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

“Listen up, Simon, Satan has demanded, and obtained from the Father, permission to sift YOU! You are a target of Satan, Simon.” However, Peter would not be left in that horrible condition. At some point, Peter would turn back. And once being turned back, he is then responsible for strengthening his brothers, i.e. the other apostles. So, Jesus Christ, since He prayed for him, believed that God would answer His prayers and that Peter would be granted repentance and would be useful again for the apostleship.

How did Satan do it? How did Satan sift Simon? He did it through unredeemed people around him. Remember, three people instigated a conversation with Simon at the fire which brought out of Simon’s heart the hidden shame toward Jesus that he was feeling. There were no riots, officers, or clubs. It was only the accusation of the servant-girl and a couple others at the fire. Peter did not know that he was ashamed of Christ. He did not know that he was so distant from the plan of God. But he needed to know.

When Jesus Christ turned and looked at Simon at the crowing of the rooster, Peter realized what he had done. He was devastated. He was destroyed. Consider him sifted. Satan did it. Goal accomplished. He ran out of the courtyard absolutely distraught (Matthew 26:75).

The Result

But wasn’t it gracious of God to show Peter what was in his heart? Sooner or later the shame of Christ that resided there would get in the way of ministry. He needed to have it exposed and led to repentance. And he was.

It was a few days later and Peter and the others were in a boat fishing. They had gone back to fishing assuming that their fishing-for-men days were done. After all, Peter had denied the Lord, the Lord knew it, and there appeared no remedy. I can only imagine how often that scene played itself out in his mind.

The Lord appears on the shore and calls out to the men. No one recognizes Him except John (no doubt by the Lord’s sovereign choice). John exclaims to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7). The ensuing conversation is the power of God. “Simon,” the Lord asked, “Do you love me more than these?” Whether it is a question of loving Him more than the fish and his fishing occupation, or more than the rest of the disciples, it is hard to know. However, Peter’s answer was less confident than his denials a few days earlier. If Simon actually loved Jesus, then he would “Feed [His] sheep.” The Lord asks him a second time, “Simon, do you love Me?” Simon again answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love You.” This is very different from what was in his heart a few days ago. If Simon really does, then he would show it by shepherding His lambs. The third time, “Simon, do you love Me?” Simon, apparently irritated, or frustrated, answers, “Yes, Lord, you know all things. You know that I love You!” Again, “Feed my sheep.” Jesus was calling Peter back to love for Him. Maybe, which is probably more accurate, Jesus was continuing to purge Peter’s heart because Peter was still not completely sanctified in his love for Jesus Christ as is evident in his frustration for asking a third time. Besides, the first two times the Lord asked Peter if he “loved” Him, the Lord used the word that refers to a love that is sacrificial and submissive apart from reciprocity. It is a love that reflects God’s love and does not consider the worthiness of the object of love. However, the third time, Jesus seems to even question Simon’s affection for Jesus as He then uses a different word for “love.” One that refers to an affection for something. It is, after all, the fulfillment of the Law to love the Lord your God with all your heart. Again, Peter appears to teeter on the line between complete love and simple self-produced affection for Christ, but no absolute subjection to Him.

Fact of the matter is, our hearts (and minds) are never really capable of being really worthy of serving the Lord. The reality is, we will always need our “feet cleansed” (John 13:1-20). Satan was God’s instrument, with all of his diabolical fury, for the cleansing of this self-confident, and loveless apostle. With Peter learning his lesson, and by the ministry of the Spirit of God in this man, he is now able to be a strengthener to the others. How do I know? Simply read Acts 1-15.

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