Pastoral Ministry

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.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.

Catholicism.

 

I was raised Catholic. Being from an Italian/Irish lineage, I was given ample opportunity to be submerged into the culture and doctrine of The Roman Catholic Church. The traditions, the expectations, the habits, the components of religious duty, all surrounded me…but was never explained to me. I was about 17 or 18 when I begin thinking about god in some fashion. It would not be until I was twenty-one that I was seized by God with His truth being face to face with His Word, the Bible and what it teaches. I then heard about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I remember sitting in that church building, being invited by my neighbor from the dorm, listening, knowing, and affirming that I deserved Hell, I was a sinner, and that Jesus died. I absorbed all of that during my short years in cognitive interaction with The Roman Catholic Church. However, that day I visited that little Bible church in Bozeman, Montana was the day that the pastor mentioned the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The reality of that, and its significant implications, hit me deeply (to put it mildly), and immediately I was given faith to believe and submit to that Lord of Glory. I remember it well.

However, the years prior to that, I was struggling. In so many ways I was lost-angry, frustrated, hopeless. I remember thinking one particular question over and over again, “If Jesus was such a nice guy, then why did the people kill Him?” I could never get an answer to that nagging question from any Mass I attended, any discussion I heard, or any ritual I observed. There was never any sense in which you could really understand what Jesus did in my time attending the Roman Catholic Church, only that He did it. He died, gave His body, laid to rest in a tomb, held by his mother, conferred religion to mankind…all of which was enshrouded in absolute impregnable mystery. That is not for us to know, only accept. The life, death, and resurrection is not for people to understand only accept. The Jesus of the Catholic Church I attended in Kansas City, MO. and the variety of feasts as well was simply acts of response to our religion. Why? I didn’t know. It was never explained. I am convinced that if I were to ask the average Catholic “Why did Jesus die on a cross? Why was He raised from the dead? Who benefits from His death? What does the Bible say about all of these things?” they would not know either.

Pagan religions have one stick to beat people with-mystery. It is mystery that keeps you attending. It is mystery that keeps you giving. It is mystery that keeps you fearful about ever questioning, or simply understanding, the purposes behind the religion. I am convinced that The Roman Catholic Church is a Pagan religion, primarily for that fact. The leadership of Catholicism does not divulge the purposes for its decrees, nor is it compelled to. They cannot tell you why they do what they do. They cannot tell you where they can find Jesus’ words concerning the Mass, Indulgences, or the Rosary. They cannot demonstrate, exegetically, how Peter was the “Papa” and head of the church. They cannot explain how ex Cathedra can be supported in light of Scripture. Thus, like the life of the church itself, it is all a mystery. And that is the way they like it. Furthermore, this is the foundational component to its “unity.” The reality is that the Catholic church is a shell, a crust. The so-called unity found there, that they say Protestants don’t have because we have so many denominations as if proof of our erroneous doctrines, is only external unity because most Catholics cannot explain Jesus Christ or what He has accomplished. So, in order to keep order, they enshroud the Church with mystery and thereby maintain their idea of unity. It is not unity. It is utter chaos. The Apostle Paul taught that the means of unity is the knowledge of the Son of God (Ephesians 4:11-13). Those who do not believe, and thus teach against, what the Scriptures teach about Jesus Christ cannot remain in fellowship with God’s people (Romans 16:17-18). When a church says the same things about Christ, the kingdom, and all that Christ taught, it is unified. That demands extensive knowledge of those things, the very thing Rome despises.

I want to address a few typical considerations that I have heard over the years from Catholics concerning the differences between them and us, those who are termed “Protestants.” Martin Luther and his actions drove a wedge between us that needed to be driven. I praise God for his conscience that led him to stand alone that day in the face of the anger and tyranny of the leadership of the Catholic Church. What a man. But, just what were the teachings that made up that wedge? What was it that compelled this scholarly monk to renounce The Roman Catholic Church in such stark terms? I believe it comes down to a few teachings (although, admittedly, volumes could be, and have been, written):

  1. THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF JESUS CHRIST.
  2. THE AUTHORITY OF THE SCRIPTURES.
  3. THE DEPRAVITY OF MAN.

The Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Rome cannot understand the kingdom of Jesus Christ. If we can know a tree by its fruit, then we can surely see this in Rome. Rome seeks to introduce the kingdom to the world by means of subduing people to the Mother Church. Or, to say it another way, Rome wants everyone to “come home.” That is not the announcement of the kingdom. We, those truly born from above, may have to enter eternity by means of a sword. Jesus said,

Matthew 10:34–36

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

35  “For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

36  and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.

Jesus never gave the illusion that somehow the world would be subdued by His church. He never indicated that the church is the vehicle by which the world is made peaceful. That was not His goal in coming to this earth. By His own words He came to this earth to divide the earth. Jesus purposefully initialized the animosity that would arise between family members because some would believe in Him and some would not. What is the good news in that? It is this: when division does happen, a person can be in the family of the One who will ultimately rule. Compared to the alternative, which is to be judged by Him, it is good news. To be reconciled to Jesus Christ, the Judge (John 5:25-27) is the announcement that true Christians have and Rome does not. The gospel that Jesus Christ preached is the announcement of the kingdom. Indeed, it is often referred to as “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Luke 16:16). It is the announcement that Jesus Christ has received a kingdom and He is inviting the world into it (see Matthew 22:1-14). That is not to say that everyone will, or can, enter into it. Jesus Himself said, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). The gospel demands the call to the world to repent from its sins (Matthew 4:17; Acts 17:30-31). The world, which loves darkness (John 3:19), is the recipient of this announcement and is obligated to obey (2 Thessalonians 1:5-8). The heart of the gospel, and the provision for men to enter into Christ’s kingdom is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). This provision, and this alone, is what “merits” man’s entrance into the kingdom. Catholic theology teaches that our works also merit our entrance (Council of Trent, Session VI, Justification, Canons 4, 7, 32). They condemned those who teach that the requirement for entrance into the kingdom was met by Jesus Christ alone, without cooperation from manas heretical (Ibid, Canon 12). In doing so, they condemned Christ Himself because Jesus taught, in context, that man cannot even know how to justify himself nor accomplish it, even by the cooperation of Christ (John 3:1-8). If a man could birth himself physically, then sure, he could cooperate with Jesus Christ for good works that produce eternal life and more of it. But, no man ever cooperated in his physical birth, and no man can cooperate in his spiritual one either.

The Authority of the Scriptures.

The written Word of God has the same authority as the spoken Word of God from His throne (which is not in Rome, by the way). That is to say, God has spoken through His prophets and they recorded what was to be recorded into books and letters and those have been preserved and collected into a mini-library called the Scriptures. The writer of Hebrews wrote that God spoke in many portions and in many ways to His prophets, and ultimately in His Son Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1). This speaking of the Father is what we are after. His speaking was recorded by “men moved by the Holy Spirit [who] spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21). The office of prophet is no longer in the church (1 Corinthians 13:8). Thus, for the Pope to speak a new form of doctrine or liturgy, and to ascribe the same level of authority upon it as Scripture is simply not possible. Thus, in the same vein of Deuteronomy 13:1ff. that person who says that they now speak on behalf of God as if God Himself is speaking in him, or recognizing his own words as His, then that person is to be rejected. God has closed the canon. Surely, if there was ongoing revelation through a prophet, of which the Pope would have to be labeled, then we have the right to test all that he writes and says against the Word of God (all 66 books-see 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22; cf. Deuteronomy 13:1ff.). However, Catholicism admits that, in a very real sense, the canon is not closed. By that I mean that they believe that they have unbroken succession of traditions from the Apostles down to this very day (Trent, session IV, ‘Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures’). Not only do they accept the Apocrypha, which has been proven non-canonical internally, but they list them as authoritative and binding. So, the authority of Scripture, which is unique to the Scriptures alone, is now shared with spoken tradition and the Apocrypha (as well as the early church fathers, as they call them). Yet, the Apostle Paul wrote,

2 Timothy 3:16–17

16  All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

17  so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

What is validated as Scripture, not by council but by the Scriptures themselves, is Scripture. Human tradition and extra-canonical writings cannot, and should never be, placed upon the same level as the written Word of God.

The Depravity of Man

Finally, Rome does not believe in the teaching of Scripture regarding the depravity of man. If they did, they would not anathematize those who teach the mercy of God (Justification, Canons 4, 9, 12). Rome says,

It is furthermore declared that in adults the beginning of that justification must proceed from the predisposing grace of God through Jesus Christ, that is, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits on their part, they are called; that they who by sin had been cut off from God, may be disposed through His quickening and helping grace to convert themselves to their own justification by freely assenting to and cooperating with that grace; so that, while God touches the heart of man through the illumination of the Holy Ghost, man himself neither does absolutely nothing while receiving that inspiration, since he can also reject it, nor yet is he able by his own free will and without the grace of God to move himself to justice in His sight (Ibid, Chapter 5, emphasis mine).

Although the Council of Trent affirms what seems to be a sound understanding of human depravity, by definition of other doctrines, namely sanctification, they deny it. That is, as Paul said, the righteousness that makes one holy is only by faith in Jesus Christ, worked out in us by God who generates obedience in us by His power alone, not with our cooperation (Philippians 3:7-11; 2:12-13; See Romans 1:5 & 16:26). God certainly works in us for righteousness, not to aid our flesh, but to live out the regeneration which comes by His Holy Spirit through His Word by faith (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The depravity of man is not that his innocence is lost by Adam. It is that he hates God, is His enemy and despises righteousness with his whole heart (John 3:19-20; cf. Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 8:6-8). This is why millions run to the Catholic churches, as well as a multitude of other cults, because of their refusal to submit to the righteousness of God which is by faith (Romans 10:1-4). They build their own set of righteousness, all by the imitation of the righteousness of God, which is in the Scripture, and they do what they think Scripture says (John 5:39-40), but they do it by means of their own depravity. The righteousness to which they attain is not from heaven, but earth, and is therefore condemning, not meritorious.

The most righteous act imaginable is to believe God. The Bible teaches that this act is not possible, either by man, nor in a mixture of his will and God’s (John 1:12-13), nor in any other fashion. The faith that must be in man as proof of eternal life (John 3:15) must be given to man, as a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9), and is not earned. If it were earned, the death of Jesus Christ would not have been necessary. Besides, the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant, which has come to the Gentiles, is only by faith, and not by the fruit of faith which is righteous behavior (Galatians 3; esp. vv. 8-9). Catholic doctrine demands that the sinner must cooperate with God in the regeneration that is required to enter the Kingdom of Christ. However, if that were the case, then the Apostle Paul was wrong when he taught that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor the perishable the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50). That is why the Lord taught that a man must die in order to follow Him (Matthew 10:37-39) and then must be born from above, from God (John 3:3-8; cf. Ezekiel 36:25-27). What could possibly make a Catholic think that he could assist God in this endeavor? God does not remodel a sinner-the sinner must die and be reborn. He must be a “new creation” in order to be acceptable to God and enter God’s kingdom (see Matthew 5:48).

For any person who believes Catholic doctrine, and has believed in the teaching of the Priests, Bishops, Cardinals, and Popes, of centuries past or today, read and re-read what I have written. I am not asking you to become a Protestant. I, as a pastor of Christ’s flock, am instructing you to submit to Jesus Christ by means of repentance from erroneous doctrine and dead works and believing in what He actually did teach-you must be born from God, not man, in order to enter His kingdom.

“Have Tongues Ceased?” And Other Curious Questions Easily Answered

 

Yesterday, I was reading a string of comments on a post in Facebook concerning whether tongues and miracles etc.. have ceased from the days of the apostles. The statements that I saw one gentleman making were summed up in this thought, “There is not a single verse in the New Testament that shows that tongues (and thus by implication and extension other revelatory and sign gifts) have been taken away.” The argument goes that since there is no single passage that demonstrates this, then it is clear that they have not stopped. 

As I read that post and the comments, I wanted to immediately write back (even though I was not part of the discussion) and correct that statement. However, I had my own responsibilities to tend to. But this morning I am making time to explain that there is a singular passage that definitively teaches the “cessation” of tongues. Further, it teaches why and when. Further still, it teaches the cessation of other revelatory gifts and giftedness and it does so in a capable manner.

My goal in this post is to stifle that kind of statement above from being heard any longer and cause these kinds of statements to become subject to the teaching of the Word of God on the matter (2 Corinthians 10:5).

1 Corinthians 13

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

3  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

5  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

6  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

7  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

9  For we know in part and we prophesy in part;

10  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

11  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

12  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

13  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians occurs between chapters twelve and fourteen. This obvious statement is critical to its interpretation, although many commentators disagree as to its function. However, if you simply follow the text, it will tell you. First Corinthians 12:1 indicates that one of the many questions that the folks in Corinth had was concerning the use of “spiritual gifts.” Literally, Paul writes “τῶν πνευματικῶν,” “in reference to the spirituals.” The idea of giftedness primarily comes from the endowment that occurs when a person becomes a believer. Ephesians 4:11-16, a companion passage to 1 Corinthians 12-14, teaches that when Jesus Christ ascended He then sent the Holy Spirit, as promised, and the Holy Spirit then endowed men with “gifts.” These endowments are listed in that passage as Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastors and Teachers. Not only are these the categories of giftedness, but they are sequential, or chronological in scope. We know this because earlier in the same letter, Paul taught that the apostles and prophets are the foundation of the church, they are at the ground-level of the building (Ephesians 2:19-22). The apostles, chosen by Christ Himself, are the first in the order of things in the church. They were closest in proximity to Jesus Christ and His teaching. Next in line are the prophets. These were folks who were given direct revelation from the Spirit on the spot. This endowment was in order to teach something that would guide the church in some fashion locally. Agabus is one such example. In Acts 11:27-30, He and a number of other prophets from Judea came into the church at Antioch to warn them of the coming drought. Luke records that they said this by the Spirit and it happened in the reign of Claudius (cf. Acts 18:2). So, that information was necessary for the churches, in Judea and Antioch, to prepare for the drought for all the saints. That is prophecy in the New Testament (NT) sense. It is commensurate with the Old Testament (OT) use as well.

In line, then, with the groundwork of apostles are the prophets. By the way, this very work included the men who wrote the NT also. All the writers of the NT were prophets in that they were given direct revelation, “prophecy,” by God to be recorded into Scripture. This is important.

After the prophets come the evangelists and teaching pastors. I will leave those here since the offices of apostle and prophet most concern us in 1 Corinthians 13. The positions overlapped in time, but were sequential in order of being given. In other words, you don’t see NT prophets before you see the apostles.

Paul is writing to the confused and crazed church in Corinth. This dear group of saints were the joy and distress of Paul at that same time. The problem came in when false apostles began to infiltrate the church and introduce error and accusation against Paul. These were false apostles, agents of Satan, who preached a counterfeit gospel, one which the Corinthians were bearing with beautifully (see 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 12-15). With their false claim to apostleship came a new gospel. And, as Satan does, they introduced a false spiritual giftedness as well. We can see this in the entire argument. There is clearly the true giftedness and the false. That is the backdrop of this section of Paul’s letter.

The Context:

Paul starts chapter 12 with a reminder that they used to be ignorant pagans following every wind of doctrine (v.1). This appears as a condemnation for the way in which they are putting up with the false apostles in their midst. These men apparently were publicly saying, or teaching, that Jesus is actually accursed instead of teaching that Jesus is Lord (v.3). And with this demonic doctrine came a demonic use of gifts, which undoubtedly included a false giftedness originating from Satan just as their gospel also originated from Satan. Therefore, Paul’s teaching in this section (chapter 12-14) is really a correction against the false teachers who had infiltrated the church and brought in speculations that were contrary to sound doctrine and they were imprisoning the saints with their rhetoric, display of so-called spiritual giftedness, and self-proclaimed apostleship. And true to the use of signs and wonders, Paul himself showed by them that he was a true apostle and not a fake like them (2 Corinthians 12:12-13). Paul’s sarcasm and facetious speaking in these letters are evident and necessary as he is attempting to reason with this confused bunch.

With that as backdrop, we can move forward in the letter. Paul now is forced to write concerning spiritual gifts (χαρισμάτων-“gifts/endowments”) which the church possessed. These evidences of grace of God are meant to further sanctification. They are not meant to be used for personal reasons, nor for self-aggrandizement. They are not, as the imposters were teaching, meant to contradict sound doctrine, the doctrine of the apostles and true prophets. Thus, Paul, after explaining the multifaceted work of the Holy Spirit in the church in this manner, explains that the church is the body of Christ (Colossians 1:18) and as such must function as a body functions-in unity and usefulness. The fact is, God Himself appointed in the church these gifted men and giftedness as He desired (v. 28). God, as in salvation, is responsible for the giving of the gifts (and their removal). Not everyone in the church, whether during the time of the Corinthians or on a larger scale as time went on in the church, has the gifts and giftedness that others had early on. Not everyone will speak in unlearned languages, heal, perform miracles, or have divine revelation. Only those to whom God Himself has given them.

But notice the priority that Paul introduces in 1 Corinthians 12:28. He gives order to the positions of apostle, prophet, and teacher. That is, he introduces them with the ordinals “first, second, third.” That is, these positions of responsibility are prioritized over the following giftedness of miracles, healings, helps, administrations, and tongues. Thus, the first three are in a class all their own in importance. They are the greater gifts. That is what Paul is calling them to. Paul instructs them to give their interests to those who are apostles, prophets, and teachers more than they give to the other manifestations of the Spirit of God. Paul is pointing them back to those through whom come the Word of God. Each of those three positions are predominantly teaching positions, and by that leadership positions (Hebrews 13:7). He is lowering the position of miracles etc.. to a lesser status in the face of the teaching and leadership of the apostles, prophets, and teachers. This is why he urges these people to desire most that some might prophesy. Apostleship cannot be desired because there cannot be apostles added to the original twelve, excluding Judas, and Paul (Acts 1:21-22). But prophets are to be listened to, as God gives them to the churches. Also, teachers are to be listened to as God gives them to the church as well.

The Point

And here is the main point: the function of all of these gifts is to edify. The church is to be built up, sanctified, made holy and useful to God (John 17:17). Thus, the work of these men is to edify the church such that, as Ephesians 4:11-12 states, they might continue to edify one another. In the face of the abuses of the gifts of God, or the proper use of the gifts of Satan, edification will always be lacking. Mutual edification is Paul’s point in these chapters (see 1 Corinthians 14:4-5, 17, 26).

The gifts of the Spirit are given for mutual edification. In order for the church to collectively be made holy and useful, which is what edification is, it must exercise its gifts toward one another. That is the “way” of 1 Corinthians 12. But, Paul says, there is a more excellent “way” to edify one another-love. First Corinthians 12:31 indicates that the Corinthians should prioritize their interests toward the hearing of the Word of God from the Apostles, Prophets, and teachers, instead of fascination with miracles and tongues (so-called). That is because, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, the teaching of the Word of God equips the saints for ministry in the church which is edification. However, all of that must be done in the context of love:

Ephesians 4:16

16  from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

The way to edify the church is for the church to hear the Word of God (John 17:17). However, if you have the Word of God in a context of avarice, greed, and selfishness (as they were doing), you “do not know as you ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:1-3!). Love edifies. Love is the more excellent way to edify the body of Christ, in the context of the teaching of the Word of God. When Paul says, then, that I show you a more excellent way, he is speaking of the more excellent way of edification of the church. It is more excellent than mindless use of potentially Satan-inspired giftedness.

With this in mind, Paul inserts this marvelous chapter on love. Since love is the more excellent way, or context, in which to minister, he will “show” or “demonstrate” to them what that looks like.

By means of overview, I will work through this chapter.

1 Corinthians 13:1–3

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

3  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

If I had all the gifts that God has given to the church, including apostleship, and yet did not minister to the church motivated by love for the church, and Christ, I am not really ministering. I am serving myself. In fact, the sounds out of the mouth of a loveless person is obtrusive and noisy. There is no profit for myself, or others, if I do not love. So, what does this “love” look like?

1 Corinthians 13:4–7

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

5  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

6  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

7  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Patience, kindness, humility, wholesomeness, truth, and joy, these are the effects of love in the body. If the body at Corinth would have ministered in this fashion, they would not have rejoiced at the incest nor abused the Lord’s Table. Love edifies the church and keeps is so. Love takes the Word of God and holds it high and rejoices in it, and its effects in us all. Love bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things in the lives of the other saints for their edification (Ephesians 4:17-32). This is the point of the chapter.

Therefore, in light of this, we approach verses 8-13. This is the passage that unequivocally states that revelatory gifts would cease, future to Paul, and past to us.

1 Corinthians 13:8–13

8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

9  For we know in part and we prophesy in part;

10  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

11  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

12  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

13  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

 

Love never fails to maintain its lofty position of edifying the body. The word “fails” is the word that means to fall, or be brought down. Love will never fall from its priority or usefulness. It is, as you remember, the hook that the entire Law of Moses hangs on (Matthew 22:40). However, gifts of prophecy, especially tongues, and knowledge will fall in time. Their usefulness will diminish.

Gifts of prophecy “will be done away.” This verb used here is a future passive verb meaning “to be removed, done away with, or render ineffective.” I like how one lexicon defines it: “…from the basic sense cause to be idle or useless, the term always denotes a nonphysical destruction by means of a superior force coming in to replace the force previously in effect, as, e.g. light destroys darkness…” (Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg and Neva F. Miller, vol. 4, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker’s Greek New Testament Library; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000, 221.) This verb means that something greater than itself will come and remove the gift of prophecy. So, it will, at some point future to Paul, be rendered inoperative and useless. It will fall from use. Incidentally, it is the same verb as that related to “the gift of knowledge” later in the verse. Both the gifts of prophecy and knowledge will be rendered inoperative some time in the future, from Paul’s perspective.

The gift of tongues, as they are called, will also fall. But Paul’s teaching here is a bit more intentional. He wrote, “if there are tongues, they will cease…” Tongues will cease. This is a different verb. The verb here means to “cease, to cause to stop (oneself).” And the way that it is written is conspicuously significant. It is written in the Middle Voice, which in NT Greek means that the subject is doing the action of the verb upon itself. Thus, tongues will cease itself. It will make itself useless, done, stopped, and they will fall. So, the gifts of tongues/languages will cease to exist and be useful to the church. This leads us to ask, or at least it should, “What were tongues for?” Paul explains this in the very next chapter.

 

The Purpose of Tongues

 

1 Corinthians 14:20–22

20 Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.

21  In the Law it is written, “By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,” says the Lord.

22  So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe.

Mature thinking, a throwback from his argument in chapter 13:8-11, does not prioritize spiritual giftedness, especially the miraculous gifts, but prioritizes the revelation of God. They should be inexperienced in evil, but not in their thinking. Paul then quotes Isaiah 28:11. This passage is at the end of a prophecy that God would send to Israel those who will speak to them. That in itself, is a facetious thought because He had just finished describing the way that the prophets of Israel have been “speaking for God.” They were drunken and staggering when they would give judgments for God (vv. 7-8). They were supposed to teach knowledge, but they stammered with their tongues. He will not give His message to children (vv. 9-10), which is a reference to the infantile behavior of drunken Israel (which is also a comparison of the Corinthian church as well as he compares them to infantile Israel, as they even were drunk at the Lord’s Table in the same manner as Israel was at the altar-1 Corinthians 11:20-22). Therefore, since they speak gibberish while drunk, He will speak in incoherence to them, by means of other languages. These other languages will seem as gibberish to them and they will not have an interpretation (see Isaiah 28:9). Thus, this passage indicates to us the very thing that it goes on to say-tongues are for a sign. And, by extension, so is the gift of interpretation. A sign will be to one edification, and to another damnation. Tongues are languages of the world (Acts 2:5-11). They were known, grammatical, verifiable languages which certain people would speak depending upon their geographic location. God says in Isaiah 28:11 that He was going to give Israel a sign. That sign would be the proclamation of His message in other languages of the world. And He did that at Pentecost.

Paul, then, is explaining the use of languages as a sign against Israel, unbelieving Israel. That is why he says that this gift is for unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:22). That teaching needs to define and describe every consideration of the gift of tongues. That gift is not meant to edify the church. It is a sign against unbelieving Israel. Remember, Paul habitually entered synagogues and taught Christ. Remember also that predominantly the early church was Jewish. Further remember that since Israel refused to repent in the presence of Christ, Christ turned away from them, temporarily blinding them from His kingdom (Matthew 13:10-17; 21:42-44; cf. Romans 11:25) and turned to the Gentiles. As the church grew in its Gentile makeup, the giftedness of tongues died out. It was no longer useful as the Jews were blinded, partially and temporarily, and the Gentiles/Nations are being discipled. That is why the very gift itself will cause itself to die out-the purpose for its existence will no longer be needed.

 

The Coming of the Perfect

 

Paul continues in verse 9 by saying “for we know in part and we prophesy in part.” He is saying that prophecy and knowledge are only “in part.” In other words, what they would prophesy and speak from knowledge was only from a portion of complete prophecy and knowledge. It was only in part. However, there is coming a time when complete knowledge and prophecy will arrive and at that time partial prophesying and speaking knowledge will be “done away” (same verb as in v. 8). What will be done away? Literally, “that which (is) from a part.” That is, since the prophecy and knowledge of Paul’s day, i.e. the time of the apostles and prophets, was only “partial,” its usefulness for edification is limited. There is just so much more to learn!

However, Paul says, when the “perfect” comes, the partial will be done away with. The perfect and the partial must be the same thing, one of greater degree than the other. The word “perfect” is better translated, “mature,” or “the complete.” In light of Paul’s illustration of a child becoming a man and putting childish (“partial”) things away when he became a man (“mature”), so also is this teaching. The perfect is the mature prophecy and knowledge. It is not a reference to heaven because that is obtuse to this context of revelation of that which edifies. Further, heaven certainly will have its perfections, but the subject of the perfect is the content of prophecy, not a state of being. The perfect is the prophetic word (see 2 Peter 1:19-21). Once the prophetic word comes, by virtue of its coming, it will nullify the need for, and the effect of, that which is “partial.” We understand that the Bible we hold now is the Word of God, God’s prophetic Word.

Notice, in closing, vv. 12-13

12  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

13  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Notice the adverb “now.” That is, in Paul’s own time (“now”), they see in a mirror dimly. But, when the mature prophecy comes (“then”), “face to face.” Isn’t this magnificent! The complete revelation of God’s eternal gospel revealed for us all to see as if we were unhindered in our gaze (look at Ephesians 3:9-11; the church is the steward of this gospel, which is the content of the completed prophetic Word). We see face to face with God’s true, full, complete, prophecy in our day! In our day, we can know fully, even as fully as we are known by those who see us face to face. But, for Paul’s time, until the mature, complete, full, revelation of God comes (which we know to be the Word of God-2 Timothy 3:16-17), they will remain in the edifying power of truth exhibited through “faith, hope, and love…but the greatest of these is love.” Love is the more excellent way to minister the words of Christ to one another, not so-called gifts of the miraculous.

Conclusion

So, Paul has taught us that clearly the usefulness of the revelatory gifts will be removed. They will be rendered useless. For those who are seeking for them, they will not find them. They are chasing the wind. Their use in the church is no more. Their function in the church, which served for a time for a sign for unbelievers (especially unbelieving Jews), and edification for believers (1 Corinthians 14:4-5), has been replaced with the completed, canonized, enscripturated breath of God-the Bible.

The Work of Interpretation-pt.3

This final piece in this little series is meant to help someone who has done the above steps of word work and sentence (syntax) work to now work on the historical information necessary in order to really understand a verse/passage when everything is pulled together.

Our church just finished studying our Lord’s entrance into the Temple during His first months of ministry. He walked in and, upon seeing the sellers and their wares, makes a rope from other ropes laying around. He then begins to drive people out, threatening them with harm (John 2:13-22). In studying this event, I had to do a lot of historical research. I wanted to understand what Jesus saw as He entered the Temple and why that catalyzed His zeal. I found out, through the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus and a Jewish scholar turned Christian, Alfred Edersheim, that since the Old Testament never taught a person to exchange their blemished animal for an “unblemished” one, then these sellers and money-changers in the Temple, lead by the High Priest Anna himself, were simply running a very deceptive and lucrative scam meant to secure relationship with Rome and fatten Annas’ pocketbook. If found that Annas was known for his extortion and the priests were known for their use of force to gather “tithes” for the Temple. Once having understood all of this, the entire passage came alive. Then, comparing that with God’s original design for the Temple, a place where God would dwell and men could approach Him in fellowship, it even made me upset!

Therefore, since the Scripture was written in real language in real time with real people, we have to understand the historical setting of the passages we are studying. Most sound commentaries make use of extensive historical works. Some don’t. If the Bible is treated as only devotional material meant to simply make you think ‘happy thoughts’ to get you through the day, then a person who does that simply does not understand the Bible, no matter what they say.

When coming to a passage ask yourself:

  • About whom is the passage speaking?
  • Where did he/she live?
  • Were they at war with anyone?
  • What was it like living there?
  • What year(s) are represented in the text?
  • What age is the person being talked about?
  • Is he/she married?
  • Are they believers?

There are many questions that should be asked of a passage. These are  just a few. When you are able to reconstruct the passage historically, you will be able to assess the meaning of the passage better.

For instance, Paul wrote in Colossians 1:15:

 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

 

When did Paul write that? Who were the Colossians? Where did they live? Why would they need to know that Jesus is the invisible God and the firstborn of all creation? Were they a Roman colony?

Many times, questions like these can be answered from reading the book many times over. From the book we learn that Colossae is a location on the map (1:2). The audience of the letter were saints and faithful at that (1:2). However, it would appear that they needed ongoing teaching from the Apostle Paul concerning the person and nature of Jesus Christ, since that takes up the bulk of the letter. It would also appear that they were being taught some erroneous doctrine from somewhere and that may have been what caused Paul to write this letter in the first place (2:8, 18; 3:1-4). It would also appear that Paul wrote this letter from prison (4:10). That would help us to date the letter. If we could learn when Paul was in prison, we could then know when he wrote this letter.

Much of the historical setting can be ascertained from the letter itself. However, the letter will not tell us the location of Colossae nor the population at the time, for example. One of the best places to turn at this point for information like that would be a Bible encyclopedia.

A Bible encyclopedia will give you information about many people, places, events, practices, cities, as well as a myriad of other information from scholars who have done the hard work of research. They will then collect that into a volume in encyclopedia fashion for your access. A Bible dictionary is similar to an encyclopedia as well. However, as you would guess, it deals with words and terms in the Bible that can be ascertained and read for understanding. Again, this is usually the fruit of the labors of able scholars. Having this information is necessary in order to comprehend the situation from which Paul is writing and to whom Paul is writing.

For example, if we look under the heading “prison” in The Harper’s Bible Dictionary (Achtemeier, Paul J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. Harper’s Bible Dictionary. 1st ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985, p. 824), we find out the condition from which Paul was writing. There is even further reference for more specific information at the end of the article that tells me to look under “Paul.” Also, in the same book, we find out a little more about Colossae (under the heading “Colossae,” p.175).

Conclusion:

Once you have done your “word-work,” “sentence-work,” “historical-work,” you can pull it all together. One note here, though, is that these things can take time and patience. But the discovery is worth it! Simply understanding this text is the goal. Once the text is clear, it is powerful. God works through the understanding of the text. We do not need to add to it, or remove anything from it. It stands on its own.

From all of this information we understand that Paul, the apostle, is writing to the church in Colossae, a Roman town in Asia Minor, near to the towns of Laodicea and Ephesus. The prison in which Paul was at this point, most likely, was during his first imprisonment and it was a more relaxed imprisonment than his second, final, imprisonment. His final imprisonment was final because he was beheaded while there. Thus, he would have been in prison under different, more stringent, circumstances. Paul’s first imprisonment would have ended around 62 AD. Thus, this letter, written while in his 2 year imprisonment, or confinement, would have been written in 61 AD, or so. While in Prison, Paul received word from Epaphras that the church loved the truth and was committed to love (1:3-9). However, it appears that he also heard of the influence of myths, Jewish traditions, and the like promoted by some and distorting the truth about the nature of Jesus Christ. Concerned, Paul writes to them and gives the letter to Epaphras, along with Tychicus and Onesimus (Philemon 1-10). They are to read this letter, and send it on to other churches. In our verse, 1:15, we see that Paul further explains that Jesus Christ is God. In fact, He is the “image,” or “pattern,” of the true God. Thus, Christ represents a God whom no one can see. In fact, Jesus is actually His Son, as the OT speaks of Him (Psalm 2:7). This Son of God is the firstborn of all creation. That is, He, like the OT laws of the firstborn, is preeminent. He is the heir of all things and receives all things from His Father. With this information, we are able to appreciate, even adore, Christ more. This is fantastic, and seemingly incredible, truth. A Man, as He appears, is the heir of all things. And yet, this Heir, died for His inheritance. This assaults the idea that He is an angel, or a created man. He is none other than the eternal Son of God and, as such, He is God. Only God can accurately represent God. 

I realize that this is a simplistic little series that takes time to learn and perfect. However, because of the reality of inerrancy, we are bound by this method of study. We study the Scripture the way it was given-real people, in real time, with real language.

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