Romans 14-The Law of Love In Action

The Law of Love In The Local Congregation


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

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

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

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

Main Point: Accept one another

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

Romans 2:1 

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


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

Romans 2:17–24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Romans 2:3–4

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

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


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

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

Again, the conclusion is: “accept one another”

What Does This Mean?

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

Romans 14:1

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


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

Romans 15:1

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


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

Romans 14:2

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

The Use of the Incarnation

Because of the influence of self-righteousness….

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


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

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

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

Philippians 1:27–30 

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

one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is in jail in this letter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what Paul addresses here.

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

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

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

Philippians 3:17

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

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

1 Corinthians 11:1

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

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

So, Paul’s words here are simple:

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


Consolation of love

Fellowship of spirit




Strengthen my joy by…

Being of the same mind

Maintaining the same love

United in spirit

Intent on one purpose


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


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

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

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

They were anxious about life (4:6).

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

In other words:

Luke 9:57–62

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James 2:14–17

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 John 3:16–17

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

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

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

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

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

Think of this:

Philippians 2:17-30

1 Thessalonians 2:8–12

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

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

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

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

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


2 Corinthians 12:14–15

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

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


2 Timothy 2:8–10

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

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

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

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

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


2 Corinthians 8:8–9

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

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

How about you?

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

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

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

How can this be?

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


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

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

The whole church must follow Jesus’ teaching AND example.

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

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

Have this mind in yourselves.

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

What kind of mind was it?

What kind of thinking did He have?

What was His purpose, intention, and practice?

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

1 Peter 2:21–25

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

There are no true imposters of God.

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

Hebrews 1:3–4

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

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

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

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

He is focusing upon Jesus’ “appearance.”

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

“Seized” = snatch, seize, grasp.

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


“…That to be equal to God…”

Equal in what sense?

Did Jesus release His equality to God in his nature?

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

Jesus Christ did not set aside His eternal nature.

Paul called Him God here.

Peter recognized that He is divine in human flesh:

Matthew 16:13–16

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

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

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

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

Even the demons called Him:

Mark 1:23–24

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

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

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

The Christ must be God

1 John 1:1–3

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

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

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


1 John 4:1–3

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

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

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

What does it mean then?

Well, what was the exchange?

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

But, what did he set aside?

What did He do?

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

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


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

Matthew 20:25–28

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

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

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

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

What Kind of People Leave A Church?

The world is a face-paced place. Because of social media, technology, and transportation improvements, we can go anywhere in a matter of minutes or hours, where once it would take days and months. People can travel by car, plane, or boat into places that we used to only read about in books and magazines. We can get updates from events simultaneous to their occurrence. Job changes can move us, relationship changes can move us, national changes can move us from one place to another. Mobility is the expectation of today’s man or woman, even an entitlement. Because of being able to move on a whim we assume that it is a right in every area of life.


However, there is one area of life, if you are a Christian, where mobility is not a right. There is one point in life, and there are conditions where, a Christian moving from place to place, or rather, church to church, is actually a sin. However, because we are accustomed to moving so much in our daily lives we don’t see it as such. A true Christian, though, is very concerned about how God sees things more than how we see things. Allow me to explain.


The New Testament is an extended exposition on the words of Jesus Christ. Jesus said that the person who hears and acts upon His Words is a wise man (Matthew 7:24ff.). He also said that His Words are spirit and life (John 6:63, 68). His Words are the foundation of the church (Romans 10:17). Moses’ words meet none of these criteria. Therefore, when a pastor preaches, He preaches the words of Christ primarily (2 Timothy 4:1-2). You cannot hear the words of Christ from any other place than the local church. Now, I am very aware of internet preachers, ministries, and other venues of teaching outside of the local church. However, I am not speaking of what we have in existence in the evangelical world today. I am speaking of what the New Testament instructs and commands. Only the local assembly is the “pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). There are ministries outside of the local assembly, but, biblically-speaking, they should be an extension of a local church and not an independent “ministry” built upon a man who does not tether it to the leadership of that church. Maverick ministries are non-existent in the New Testament.


But, with the advent of denominations and an infatuation with church splitting, there are about as many flavors of ministries in existence as there are colors in the spectrum. If you want a church of any kind, you can probably find it somewhere and attend it. What has developed, then, is a type of consumerism in church attendance. The idea that the church is created from the demand of the people (2 Timothy 4:3-4) is a popular concept, judging from the behavior of the reasons people leave churches, but not a biblical one.


What I would like to do in this blog is identify what kind of people leave a church outside of positive circumstances (job change, valid relocations, military, etc…). It is important that it be clear that leaving a local assembly is unbiblical, unloving and selfish, outside of the positive circumstances that occur in life. There is a regular sinful pathology that is identifiable in people who are about to leave a church and the Word of God identifies them already.



The number one reason a person leaves a biblical church is that they are unregenerate.


John 10:14

14 I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,

Jesus taught a parable wherein He identified four soils which all heard the same Word from the same sower. However, only the final soil produced fruit (Matthew 13:18-23). The first heard the Word and were confused by what they heard. The devil, then, comes and snatches away what they heard and the soil produces no fruit. The second soil, which is the heart of the hearer, hears the Word, rejoices in it, and then, when deep things happen in their lives, they reject what they had heard-they fall away. The next soil hears the Word, but his heart is in love with the cares of this world. The eternal is secondary to the temporal, and the word cannot take root and produce fruit. Wealth, money, temporal concerns “choke” the Word. The fourth soil is the soil which hears the same Word, understands it, and then does it, thereby producing fruit. This man or woman who hears, understands, and obeys, is elsewhere identified as “regenerate”:


1 John 2:3–6

3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.


Jesus’ teaching here leaves no room for any other conclusion. This does not mean that they will never be saved, or that they are to be hated by those who are. It just means when you see this kind of behavior in professing believers, evaluate them based upon Jesus’ Words and not the assertions of the people. One family left our church a few years ago and we ran into them recently. When asked why they left, they said, “Well, we can find truth in other places.” I am not at all saying that only one place preaches truth. I would wish that every church that uses the name of Jesus Christ preached the truth. However, when you are already in a place that does, to leave that for another is filled with ulterior motives.

Let’s identify these people a little more closely.

Soil #1 – roadside soil

Matthew 13:19

19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.

Jesus said that there is a type of person who hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it. Relative to the church-attender, the Word is taught, he hears it, but it causes great confusion. The assertions of the Scripture are just so foreign to him. It is like a big puzzle to him. But, instead of being drawn to the Word of God (John 6:68-69), he is repelled by it because it is non-intelligible. I can tell these people pretty easily. They enter the church, sit down, and wait for the show to start. When the teaching starts they look so puzzled. They might even look upset, uncomfortable. I have seen people slink down into their chairs, stair out the window, and even seemingly memorize the church bulletin during the teaching. They are bored and really can’t wait until service is over. Spiritually speaking, God is not working in them for understanding. If that is the case, then it is clear that at that point this person is unregenerate. The evil one is allowed to penetrate their heart and take away the Word they heard, usually on the way out from church.

Soil #2 – rocky soil

Matthew 13:20–21

20 The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.

There are those who leave a church after seemingly dominating the church with joy over finding the Word of God. They are outgoing, exuberant, and excited. There is an outward expression of elation at finding the Word, God, Jesus, and a church. The assertions of Scripture are understood….superficially. But, like plastic, their joy is cheap, superficial, and easily burns away under the fire of persecution. When they have to uphold their rationale for believing the Word they are so excited about, they, over time, fall away from their testimony to that Word. They aren’t so happy anymore. At the first hint of persecution, or affliction in general, they apostatize from Christ and leave His church. One avenue that this follows is that when a local church develops a reputation among other churches, the unbelieving world, or otherwise, a person begins to have to decisions to make. The church that works hard at preaching the truth, upholding the truth, and obeying the truth will receive stigma from lesser-committed churches and mocking unbelievers. In fact, it may be that a biblical church is one in a hundred and so the odds are stacked against it. This person, who is shallow and veneer-like in their commitments to Christ, take all of this in and conclude “The Word is not worth all this pressure.” They leave. This lack of commitment in the face of pressure is an indication that they are unregenerate.

Soil #3 – thorny soil

Matthew 13:22

22 And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

There are church-attenders who leave a Bible-teaching church after they are overcome with worry over their finances. Why Jesus put this in here is very interesting. I mean, this is so common, so hard-hitting. Who doesn’t worry about their finances? Who doesn’t have a care in this world about meeting their needs each month? Isn’t this a little unreasonable for Jesus to even introduce this concept? However, Jesus is right. I have known people who simply cannot let go of being dominated in their hearts over their money, their wealth, and the cares of meeting their needs. They call it “stewardship.” Jesus calls it idolatry (Colossians 3:5). A preoccupation with money and earthly instruments of life will ALWAYS choke the Word. No one is immune to it. It becomes a master and, due to our nature, it rules over us. Here, the Lord said that when a person like this hears the Word, worry immediately comes in and the mindset that wealth produces comes in and takes the Word having been heard and begins to suffocate it. The voice of God in the written Word preached gets smaller and smaller. Disinterest grows and grows. This is especially true if his love for money is challenged by that same Word. This is exactly why it is easier to shove a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom. This kind of person is unregenerate. They sometimes end up content in other churches where the Word is not preached so clearly and they are then able to serve two masters. The Word simply cannot produce fruit in the heart of this person. That is what Jesus said.

Soil #4 – good soil.

Matthew 13:23

23 And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

In this soil, the same phenomena happened-the Word was preached and heard, with one exception. It was understood. Now, think about this-how is it that he could understand it and the others could not? The soil condition was different. It was good. It was pure. It was prepared. How? The other soils were off the path, rocky, and thorny. They were not prepared. Only soil that is on the right path, good and clear of thorns can understand the preached Word. If you see a man or woman who 1) hears the Bible taught accurately, 2) understands its content 3) and proceeds to bear the fruit of conformity to the Scripture (even meagerly), then you have a regenerate person. They will bear fruit. The other three soils could never bear fruit because the seed could never take root. For one reason or another, the condition of the soil was not conducive to growing fruit. In essence, the soil was bad.

Further, think about this: who prepares the soil? Can we prepare our own soil?  Matthew 13:19 indicates that the metaphor of “soil” is referring to the heart. It is a condition of the heart. Can a man or woman improve their heart? No. You and I are completely incapable of changing our hearts. Our hearts are unprepared soil predisposed to filth, lying, and deception (Jeremiah 17:9). Who, then, changes the heart? God alone (Acts 15:9; cf. Titus 3:5-7).

God says,

Jeremiah 13:23

23 “Can the Ethiopian change his skin,

Or the leopard his spots?

Then you also can do good

Who are accustomed to doing evil.

The reality is that when you see a person who hears the Word of God, does not understand it and then abandons it by leaving the church that is preaching it (even for an alternate form of Christianity, that is not proven to be biblical), then you see a man or woman in whom God has not worked for regeneration. That does not mean that you write them off forever. It simply means that you understand the reality that you are dealing with and minister accordingly.

Church Discipline

Biblically-speaking (as opposed to humanly speaking), the only other time people are seen leaving a church in the NT is that they are cast out of the church by the church and its’ leadership.

Matthew 18:17

17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

1 Corinthians 5:13

13 But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.

Romans 16:17–18

17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.

2 Thessalonians 3:6

6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

2 Thessalonians 3:14–15

14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Titus 3:10–11

10 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11 knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.

2 John 10–11

10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

All of these are forms of distancing from a professing believer who refuses to obey righteousness. Remaining in a biblical church is righteous. Unrepentant sin is enough, in the minds of the NT writers, for faithful believers to begin alienating from those who participate in sin. Further, the very evidence of leaving a church that preaches the truth, upholds holy living, strives for obedience, and is filled with regenerate people who are, themselves, also striving, demonstrates the potential for unrepentant sin, if they have not arrived at it already. However, they have left too early to have it exposed.

The sin that occurs when a person leaves a local church is that the church in which Jesus Christ is abiding (John 15:10) is under one command, the very command that the person who abandoned the church in an unqualified way, has disobeyed:

John 13:34

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

It is not possible to love one another when you have left the church. It isn’t. You might feel nice feelings, have emotions, and/or good memories of some events that you participated in. However, this command from Jesus Christ is comprehensive. It is disobeyed when the people you abandoned are the very people you are to love “to the end” (John 13:1). In short, if you, the reader, have left a biblical church (and that itself is a broad category, I understand that. But, you know what I mean) without being sent out in good faith by the people and leaders of that local assembly of the redeemed, you have left in an unqualified way, abandoned the ones whom Christ loves, and have established yourself in a perpetual state of sin since you are now not able to obey the command Jesus gave to His disciples, the one command that separates true disciples from the world – “love one another.”

The only conclusion that can be drawn is a disdain for God’s children, His Word, and even God Himself. And, friend, that has consequences:

Mark 8:38

38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

What Should You Say To Your Teenager?

There are many things that a parent could say to his/her son/daughter from the ages of 13 to 19. These years, called by most the “teen years” because of the obvious appellation of “teen” in the numbers, are for many the most difficult, strange, and scary years for them. That is, the mind of the one who used to play in yard pretending to be an airplane, cowboy, or dinosaur is now interested in earning a living, physical appearance, and his future. The mind and heart has now shifted to greater realities and the days of pretend are changing to the stuff of reality. What do you say to a teenager in these years? What would a conversation look like from a Christian parent to their “teenager”? Here goes:


“God has designed that you, my son/daughter, are maturing past the things that used to hold your attention. You are “growing up” and as such you are learning to shoulder responsibility. You are beginning to learn the priceless, and most difficult aspect of adulthood: self-sacrifice. You are beginning to see that you cannot simply do things you want to do without consequence. In short, it is exactly what Jesus Christ said in relation to following Him. In a world that tells you to fulfill your dreams, Christ says to deny yourself. Let me explain.

Jesus taught that entrance into the kingdom of God only comes at the expense of a complete denial of yourself. This isn’t a self-righteous thing that you do in order to get accepted by God. That is not how God operates. It is that you realize that the sin that is in your heart and mind, and you know it well by now, keeps you from God. You have come to see and understand, as Mom and I have instructed you, that sin really does live in you. You are seeing more and more of your impulses, reactions, and desires are, basically, selfish. You most often think of your future, your interests, and your life. You find it difficult to think past your hopes for the future and the present responsibilities seem to be an intrusion into your plans. You understand little of how the inconveniences of doing the dishes and mowing the grass can further your future plans. However, Mom and I are not nearly as interested in your future plans in life as we are concerned about your life in the future. By that I mean we are most concerned that you follow the Lord Jesus Christ right into His kingdom. And that does not require a résumé, or an itinerary, nor does it require a bank account and a three-piece suit. What is required, quite simply and most impossibly, is the rejection of yourself and a complete submission to the will of Jesus Christ.

It has been said that you cannot serve two masters. You have heard this many times. However, have you ever considered this in light of your life? Ask yourself, “Who am I serving?” If you don’t know, examine whose will you are following. Self-interest, self-promotion, and self-aggrandizement are, well, all about self. The display of your own glory by means of your looks, skills, interests, right down to the car you drive, is not the will of God. However, the display of the glory of God by means of your looks, skills, interests, right down to the car you drive, is the will of God. You know this, I realize that. You have heard it many times before from Mom and I. However, you are prone to forgetting. And, unfortunately, it only gets worse.

Son, daughter, don’t follow your own will. Submit your will, hopes, plans, dreams, all the stuff the world tells you to achieve, to the will of the God of your Father and Mother. We have been following Jesus Christ now longer than you have lived and we can tell you that He is worthy of all our allegiance. He is worthy of our lives.

You might think, “Then what do I do? Do I not plan for the future? Do I not pursue work, family, and things that my heart wants?” No. That is not the point. I am talking about your will, not your works. Don’t miss it. It is as simple as asking yourself, “What do I want?” You can have all that you plan for, as long as it is the result of  the pursuit of obedience to the will of God and His glory. Or, you can have all that you plan for as the result of  the pursuit of your own desires apart from God’s glory. Subject all that you are thinking about your future to the eternal will of the Father as explained in the Bible. In summary, do all that you do for the display of God’s brilliant glory and everything you do will be established in His pleasure. This is a pursuit that is full of light and is glorious, at the expense of your life. However, to pursue your life at the expense of the will of God is extreme poverty of soul and darkness. James said it like this,

James 4:13–17

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”

14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Son, daughter, Jesus Christ is God, the Son of the Father. He has come in order to take away sins. He has come in order to live and die in the place of those who would ever believe in Him by His doing. He is coming again in holy array and will take His church to Himself. When that day comes, it will not matter if you were a ditch-digger or a neurosurgeon. The only question that matters is: “Did you deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Him?”

The Heart of Grumbling

The New Covenant ministry is full of joy. The joy of seeing the image of Christ formed in God’s people; the joy of learning God’s truth; the joy of your own heart and mind being renewed. However, the New Covenant ministry is also full of deep sadness as well. It was said of the Messiah that He would be “…a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Yet, it was for joy that He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:1-2). His grief mingled with joy in the Father is THE pattern for His people in a peculiar way (Hebrews 12:3). It is not God’s plan that His servants lose heart or grow weary in their work (Galatians 6:9; Hebrews 12:3). And yet, that is so often the knee-jerk reaction while in the throws of ministry. The heartache of seeing the ravages of sin in the lives of an unbelieving world. The grief over professing believers who refuse the Lord’s instructions. The depth of frustration over personal sin. The zeal aroused at the dishonor of God’s holy name. All of these things fill the heart and mind of God’s men as they seek to simply be faithful the Word of God.

However, there is a particular sin that often generates grief in ministry and it is as common as the sunlight. It is the sin of complaining. Complaining is that behavior that characterizes a man or woman who 1) loves himself/herself more than others, 2) thinks very little of the Word from God, the Bible, 3) simply wants to complain for the shear thrill of complaining. The fruit of complaining is division, broken hearts, fleshly strife, and devastated relationships. It was complaining that:

  • Caused God to judge Israel numerous times after the Exodus, including being confined in the desert instead of entering the land promised to Abraham:

    Numbers 14:26–29

    26 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,

    27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me.

    28 “Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you;

    29 your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me

Led others into the same sin:

Numbers 11:1–3

1 Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

2 The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord and the fire died out.

3 So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them.


Complainers are those who despise the Lord’s purposes for themselves. For Israel, they rejected YHWH’s commands, and since they could not approach God, they grumbled against Him by grumbling against His servant, Moses. These people were not only limited to Israel, however. People are people. Sinners are sinners. Grumblers are grumblers.  The tendency to grumble is the same for all-self-righteousness.

In John 6, Jesus is speaking to the multitudes, but especially the leaders of the multitudes, the Pharisees. These men were the target of the Lord’s ministry in a peculiar way. Because of their leadership, and since leaders will be in greater accountability by the Lord, Jesus initiated that judgment often with them (see Matthew 23, for example. That chapter reads like a judicial sentence). Jesus has been healing, feeding, and teaching the multitudes. The power of Christ and the grace of God was upon all of them. However, what was the response by those who should have rejoiced at the goodness of God? Grumbling. Their grumbling was not directed at the teaching. Their grumbling was directed at the Person of Jesus Christ because of His teaching (John 6:41). It would be one thing to complain about a teaching. However, that simply is never the case. When a person complains, the doctrine is simply the ruse. A complainer is actually assaulting the person doing the teaching, not the instruction itself.

However, it is greater than this, and more serious. Moses said it well:

Exodus 16:8

8 Moses said, “This will happen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning; for the Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.”

Any complaining, any, is not simply directed at the leader, it is always directed at the Lord behind the leader. This is why complaining is so very serious. It is an assault upon God. And, for that reason, when a complainer is spotted in the church of Jesus Christ, stay away from them. Confront them with the understanding that they are doing the very thing that brings the wrath of God down upon them. These people infect like a disease. They are exploitative, mean, and hypocritical. They are not interested in joy, righteousness, nor the Holy Spirit. Wisdom is too high for them, they cannot attain to it, so they replace it with their own. And, unfortunately, since this behavior is so common, they often gather followers and influence them to do the same.

The complaints of Israel were fueled by the “rabble” who attached themselves to Israel as they left Egypt. They infected the people by bringing out of their hearts what was already there, but they gave it boldness.

Numbers 11:4–6

4 The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat?

5 “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,

6 but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”

The church of Jesus Christ must refuse grumbling, and grumblers.


1 Corinthians 10:9–12

9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.

10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.

Philippians 2:14–16

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing;

15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,

16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

1 Peter 4:9

9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint.


And, saints, remember, your grumbling and complaining is a weight that bears upon the hearts of pastors so very heavily that they are prone to growing weary and losing heart. This would be unprofitable for you (Hebrew 13:17). Therefore, obey the Lord’s instructions and stop complaining and start rejoicing!

What Does a Pastor Do?

Among the many different considerations that occupy the current needs of the church, this one topic must head the list. The simple question, “What does a pastor do?”, is a monumental question to ask. It is crucial for the needs of the church in so many ways. It is also a need for the pastor to “check in” once in a while to make sure he is being faithful to his calling.

Let’s start by stating what a pastor is NOT to do. This little series will predominantly be taken from a perusal through the Pastoral Epistles of the New Testament (1, 2 Timothy, and Titus). All three letters were written by Paul, the old apostle at the time of writing. He bore the task of carrying the gospel of the kingdom of God to the greater areas of the known world of that time. He was the man who, although not single-handedly as he had many co-laborers, took the gospel to the “uttermost parts of the world” (Acts 1: 8). He suffered much and had tremendous disappointment and hardship during his years as an apostle. He writes of himself, reluctantly,

2 Corinthians 11:23–29

23  Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.

24  Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.

25  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.

26  I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;

27  I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

28  Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.

29  Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?

How many pastors can say this? Not me. However, his task is my task. His responsibility is my responsibility. Therefore, if our work is the same, the proclamation of the gospel, the results will likely be the same as well.

Let’s consider what a pastor is not to do from the Pastoral Epistles, taken predominantly from the portions that begin with “Do not…” (NASB):

1) Do not give your time to learning false doctrines:

1 Timothy 1:3–4

3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,

4  nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.

As an elder, Timothy must resist doing what Paul here is telling Timothy to rebuke in the other erring elders. Timothy must not teach heterodoxy. He must not teach “other doctrines” (ἑτεροδιδασκαλέω, same word as in 1 Timothy 6:3). A “strange doctrine” is one not taught by Jesus Christ. The church seems pummeled by “strange doctrines.” May none of the them come from pastors!

2) Do not neglect your giftedness and calling:

1 Timothy 4:14

14  Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.

It is assumed that a pastor has some kind of internal and external validation of his ministry. A pastor cannot appoint himself (cf. Matthew 23:1). He must be recognized and drawn into the work by his own righteous desires and the approval of other godly men/elders (1 Timothy 3:1). Once verified, he cannot look back. To neglect, here, means to “be unconcerned for; care nothing about.” It is basically apathy towards the reality of the work and need. There is nothing more important than the task of oversight of God’s people. There is no work that matches the work of the preaching and teaching of God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:1-4). What can possibly do what the Word can do? What lasts into eternity like this work? To neglect this calling is to be apathetic towards God Himself as He is not apathetic toward this work. Jesus Christ spent His ministry simply preaching and teaching, of course accompanied by proofs of His ministry. Our only proof is the written Word. When we are in accord with that, our ministry is validated. Our ministries can be neglected in a number of ways:

  • treating it like a job, and not a life-work.
  • pursuing hobbies with greater interest.
  • failing to receive appropriate education/equipping in order to dispense your task with precision.
  • the love of sleep.
  • the love of luxury.
  • the disdain of hardship.

3) Do not wrongfully address others in the church:

1 Timothy 5:1–2

Honor Widows

1 Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers,

2  the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.

A pastor has to rebuke at times, well…often. However, to “sharply” rebuke someone else who demands honor is wrong. That is not to say that they should not be rebuked. It is to say that in doing so, a pastor, especially a younger one, must remember to whom he is speaking. An older man demands, by mere age, respect. He is to be honored. He is to be listened to. He is to be given place as one made in God’s image. However, when he is wrong, or headed the wrong direction, he must be rebuked by one with spiritual authority via the Word of God, the pastor. But, to speak to an older man like he might a younger, inexperienced, foolish, man, is deplorable.

4) Do not listen to hearsay:

1 Timothy 5:19

19  Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.

A pastor must protect and guard his fellow pastors. He must not listen to the complaint of others in the church toward another pastor without examination. That is not to say that they cannot be listened to. It is to say that to formally charge a pastor for wrong-doing on the basis of one complaint is wrong. Look for others who might agree with the complaint by means of factual data. If none exists, do not receive that complaint. It is simply an accusation.

5) Do not place men into leadership too quickly:

1 Timothy 5:22

22  Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.

Over the years, I have heard from other men this recurring comment: “I put a man into leadership way too soon, and it has devastated this ministry. Removing him from ministry has split the church, or is about to.” I never want to be in that position. Take the time to examine a man first (see 1 Timothy 3:10). What kind of man are you looking for to assist in leadership? Here is a short list:

  • Regenerate – he must demonstrate evidence of regeneration.
  • Faithful – the one characteristic that evidences eldership raw material. He is faithful in his home, his work, and with doctrine.
  • Godly – don’t use the leadership position to make a man godly. He must have a level of godliness before entering. Of course, being in leadership sanctifies you, but not from ungodly to godly. Rather, from godly to more godly.
  • Submissive – he is willing to himself submit to other leadership and especially the Word of God.
  • Supportive – he willingly, wholeheartedly, supports the teaching pastor’s doctrine and preaching. To chafe against the public teaching of the Word of God is to evidence disunity and possible hostility/jealousy toward the teaching pastor.

If Timothy were to place a man into that position who was not ready, then Timothy himself would be guilty of the sins that that man may commit while in leadership; sins of pride, laziness, false teaching, or abuse of authority.

If a man simply builds his ministry starting with these preventative admonitions, he will be on his way toward faithfulness to the One who called him into that ministry. I am convinced that Paul knew exactly what he was saying in these letters. And, when followed, these instructions will direct, guide, and commend a pastor in his service to Jesus Christ no matter his location.

Does God Love the World?

Does God love the world? What does the Bible say? Is there any Scripture to teach that He does not? Is there any Scripture to teach that He does? Does it matter? It is important that we are willing to hear and understand what God says about this, not what supports or offends a popular notion about the love of God because every doctrine of Scripture, in one way or another, intersects with the love of God. Here goes:

1) GOD’S LOVE IS described as relationship to Himself. Intimacy and relationship to the Father is the gauge of love. Jesus said,

John 14:21–23
21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
22 Judas (not Iscariot) *said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?”
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.

Notice the disciples’ response: "You are going to disclose yourself to us and not the world…why?" What is the answer? "Because I love you and the Father loves you. The world does not share in that love."

2) GOD’S LOVE IS conditional. Intimacy and unhindered relationship is only for those who keep His commandments. And, that is not the result of man, but of God’s own will:

John 15:10, 14
10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
14 “You are My friends if you do what I command you.
(see also Deuteronomy 7:11-23; Daniel 9:4)

3) GOD’S LOVE IS lesser, much less, in degree for the world than for His own due to the fact that the world does not know God. This kind of love expressed toward the world is not the result of knowing the Father. It is the nature of God expressed to enemies in spite of their rebellion (1John 4:8, 16). This is love, but it is not given back to the Father, sadly. They are still enemies of God (James 4:4)

Matthew 5:44–45
44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

In fact, the love of the world is not the kind of love that comes from the Father. God does not love the world in the sense that His affections are for the world or His pleasure is felt toward the world. It is not. John wrote that the kind of love that the Father has is not resultant in the love of the world:

1 John 2:15–16
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

4) GOD’S LOVE IS expressed purely and absolutely by the expression of His own will, and not the worth of man.

Deuteronomy 7:7–8
7 “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples,
8 but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

1 John 4:10, 19
10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
19 We love, because He first loved us.

5) GOD’S SOUL HATES the sinner who does violence. And, by the way, every sinner does violence (Romans 3:10-18):

Psalm 11:5–7
5 The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked,
And the one who loves violence His soul hates.
6 Upon the wicked He will rain snares;
Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.
7 For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness;
The upright will behold His face.

Proverbs 8:13
13 “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverted mouth, I hate.

Luke 14:26–27
26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

For many, the issue is not "Does God love the world?" For many the issue is, "How, now, do we relate to the world if indeed God hates those who commit sin? Should we now hate them too? (and since we simply cannot relate to this level of perfection expressed in hate and love in God, we usually have a fleshly definition of ‘hate’)" Jesus said in Matthew 5:43–48,

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’
44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

We must express mature, perfect, discerning love (Philippians 1:9–11
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,
10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;
11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God) to the world. To not do that is to be of no use to God, whether in the church or out of it (Galatians 6:10
10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith; cf. 1 Corinthians 13). However, to set affection upon the world is not wise either and is not God’s kind of love (1 John 2:15-16).

God’s people, who have the love of God shed abroad in their hearts (Romans 5:5) and who have been reconciled to God into a level of intimacy with the Father equal to that of the Son (John 14:23; 16:26-27!), can rejoice and praise God for His mercy in loving them first so that we might receive this love AND be able to return it back to Him in fulfillment of His commandment, "You will love the Lord your God with all your heart…" To Him belongs all praise, dominion, and affection!

Romans 11:33–36
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Rules For Trusting Your Pastor’s Teaching

Acts 17:11–12

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

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

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

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

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

First, listen to him.

Second, take extensive notes.

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

Fourth, repeat.

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

  • Listen to him.

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

  • Take extensive notes:

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

  • Go to the passages:

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

  • Repeat:

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

  • Submit:

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

1 Thessalonians 2:13

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

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

Hebrews 13:17

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

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

2 Peter 1:19–21

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

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

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

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

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.


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