Bible

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.

The Work of Interpretation-pt.1

 

Over the last couple posts, we have seen that we must interpret the Scripture the way that it was given-in real live history, by actual people who lived, written down in known grammatical languages, given by the true God, and understood by the original audience. Many perceive the Scripture the very opposite of the above. They consider the Bible to be void of historical content, written by men but with a distinctly Platonic spiritual component, given by God and thereby must possess an almost mythological meaning, and only meant for the enlightened to understand. When we compare the two premises, we see that the second more resembles a pagan, mystical understanding of the Scripture rather than a sound, verifiable understanding of the Scripture. Some would continue to see the Scripture as having double-meaning which, to them, means that words don’t really mean what they say. Funny thing is, they seem to possess the actual “second meaning” of any given passage.

What I have attempted to establish is that there is only one meaning in every verse and the effort needed to discover that meaning is rational, sound, and logical. It is guided by rules and produces the mind of God in that text. It is clear, coherent, and at the same time spiritual and heavenly in the sense that it represents heavenly truths or instructions. We do not need to add anything to Scripture in order to embellish its meaning so that it would give off a glow. We must study it by way of sound, objective processes in order for the text itself to instruct US. This process looks like work, and it is. But the text of Scripture demands this.

First of all, since God gave His truth in words, we have to understand these words. These words were written down at a point in time, in a fixed way, using the language employed with meanings of the day. For example, we would not expect Matthew to write, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2) and have it mean anything other than what Matthew meant for it to mean to himself and the original readers. After all, he was writing down what Jesus said.

However, knowing all of this, the question comes, “How do we discover this meaning?” What I would like to outline over the next couple posts is a method of study that I use (to which I owe a tremendous debt to The Master’s Seminary for instructing me in this process and exampling it at every turn) and it has been proven to cause the meaning of the text to become clear and plain. That does not mean that there is no depth. Rather the depth of Scripture becomes available only when the text is clear and the meaning plain (understood). What I am also going to explain is also the method that is borne out of the conviction of the text being the copies of an inerrant autograph. Again, if every word in Scripture is inerrant and accurate, then we must understand every word. Words do not exist in a vacuum. They exist as part of a context. That context itself has a broader context that has a beginning and ending. Every word has meaning and purpose. The definitions, arrangement, and relationship of every word to another is what conveys meaning. Once all of that has been determined, the meaning of every verse becomes plain.

There is a four step method to work all of this out (granted, there are variations of this process, especially as it relates to the original languages). Here it is:

  1. Word study
  2. Syntax study
  3. Historical study
  4. Outline/Notes

WORD STUDY:

This process of word study is just what it sounds like. It is the study of words. What words? The words of Scripture. Since the Scripture was written originally in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, we could learn to study the words of those languages. Although studying these languages would be expected for a pastor or elder, it would not be usually available for most saints. Therefore, most of God’s people rely upon a translation. Yet, given that a person has a good translation, he/she can still do a proper word study. I am not wanting to stud the history of translations, but here are my recommendations. First, I recommend the New American Standard Bible (NASB). It does the best translation work of all the translations, minimizing editorial interpretation. I would then recommend the King James or New King James (KJV or NKJV). Although some of the words are archaic and a stumbling block for modern readers, it does a fairly good job of translation. The manuscript families represented in the KJV is lesser quality than the family of the NASB. However, it still has proven a faithful translation for decades. A good summary work on translations and how to choose one is Dr. Robert L. Thomas’ work, How To Choose A Bible Version. Having accumulated information concerning the deviations from the original language manuscripts, Dr. Thomas gives us a very useful tool in determining which version would suit us best in translation. At the top of the list was the American Standard Version for its literalness (although in awkward Elizabethan English), and the bottom of the list is The Living Bible. For people who want to study the Scripture in the fashion I am suggesting, the NASB (either the 1971 edition or the 1995 updated edition) would be ideal. A new translation, The English Standard Version (ESV), would also be suitable, but it has a higher degree of deviation from sound translation principles than does the NASB.

For our purposes here, we will study Colossians 1:15

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

To begin a word study, it is helpful to design chart, such as below.

 

word meaning notes miscellaneous

 

The first column, “word,” is just what it appears to be: the word that you are studying. If we take Colossians 1:15 and fill the chart with it step by step, it would look like this:

word meaning notes miscellaneous
He is
the image
of
the invisible
God
the firstborn
of
all
creation

 

Notice that I put the verb “is” with the subject of the verb “He.” That is helpful so that I can keep it straight who is doing the action of the verb or about whom the verb is speaking. At this point, every word gets addressed. Here is what we have:

word meaning notes miscellaneous
He is he is this is referring to a description of the subject, “He.” Refers to “beloved Son” of v. 13.
the image representation/pattern not simply kind of looks like, but exact picture See Hebrews 1:1-3
of with reference to tells me of whom he is the image.
the invisible cannot be seen/we do not see the description of
God God/Father Cannot be the same Person God is invisible.
the firstborn the one born first/the preeminent one The Son is not the first one born. Cain is. must refer to preeminence.
of with reference to
all every/completely
creation everything that is made This must refer to everything in Genesis 1-2.

 

At this point, I have every word accounted for in the verse. Although appearing tedious, this step is born out of the conviction that every word in Scripture has importance, meaning, and authority (Luke 16:17). Granted, in order to do this, one must spend some time. However, that is exactly what the Lord would have us do-spend time in His Word.

Also, since the Bible was written in 3 other languages, it is a good idea to have reference works that help in translation of these words. One such works is Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. This collection has a good listing of the English words and their Hebrew or Greek definitions as used in the Bible. For example, the word “image” has a large entry and a portion of it says,

 

“1.  ( *0 , 1504) denotes “an image”; the word involves the two ideas of representation and manifestation. “The idea of perfection does not lie in the word itself, but must be sought from the context” (Lightfoot); the following instances clearly show any distinction between the imperfect and the perfect likeness…” (no copyright)

The entry goes on to explain the variety of contexts that use the word “image,” including our passage above. it is very useful. Granted, there are more technical works out there, but this is a good starter for most.

Next post, I will show the subsequent step from the word study step. We can call it the “Syntax Step.” It is the relationship of each word to the other in a verse or sentence.

Where To Start?

Last post we attempted to open the door to considerations concerning the interpretation of Scripture. It must be understood and believed that the Bible is not vague, unknowable, or empty. That is, God did not write the text of Scripture in such a way that, say, there are 4 potential ways God created the world. There are not 4 potential ways that God created the world. He only created it one way. The only way to know that is through the pages of Scripture. “But,” someone will ask, “…how do we interpret the Scripture so that we will know what it says?” That is, if the answer to this question lies in the interpretation of Scripture, then how do we interpret the Scripture? That is what this blog series is about.

Our basic premise is:

STUDY THE BIBLE THE WAY IT WAS GIVEN

Since that is a bit open-ended, I must review the nature of the origin of the Bible. This is a must because when we understand the origin and transmission of the Bible, we then have grounds for interpretation. Until then, we are left to consider our own method of interpretation and that simply won’t do.

How was the Bible given? That is, how did we get the Bible? For most reading this blog, it is a simple answer. For some, however, it may not be so simple since many churches don’t even deal with the origin of God’s Word (to their shame). A quick review will be helpful.

Peter sums it up for us. He wrote,

2 Peter 1:20–21

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Peter tells us, on the basis of his own experience receiving divinely inspired truth (see Matthew 16:13-17), as well as the testimony of the OT prophets, that no portion of Scripture is understood by a single person’s own interpretation. That is, the written word is not subject to, nor did it originate from, what a man decides. Peter is saying that the Scripture is interpreted (see Mark 4:34) by a method, or practice, of interpretation appropriate to the written Word of God. Biblical interpretation is not the result of one’s own personal study habits. The Scripture is not subject to an individual’s unique understanding of a text, no matter how novel it sounds. Why is this the case? Because men did not originate the Scripture, so men cannot be allowed to interpret the Scripture the way they want. In other words, since the Holy Spirit moved men to write what He wanted (see 1 Corinthians 2:12-13), the Scripture, then, must be handled in a way commensurate to that reality. Peter is calling the churches in Galatia, Cappadocia etc. (see 1 Peter 1:1) to approach the Scripture they had, including his own letter (2 Peter 3:1-2, 14-16), in the same way that it was given to the prophets and apostles. Further, since God the Holy Spirit originated the Scripture and moved men to write it down in history and with actual language, we do not have a text that can change or be altered-it is fixed and propositional. If we feared God, we would never approach the Scripture being willing to assume that there are multiple meanings to a verse.

Thus, the Bible is a unique collection of books. It is the only book in existence that is inspired of God. Therefore, it is unique and holy (Romans 7:12). However, since the Holy Spirit moved men to write it, and men lived in time and history, and God is working out His redemptive plan in the history of the world, then it is read and interpreted in the same manner we would read and interpret any other book. It is literature, after all.

The summary of our discussion is that God is the source of Scripture. Since God cannot lie (Titus 1:1-2), then what He caused to be written is true and accurate. This is inerrancy. The Scripture’s that were written were themselves inerrant in every way. They contained no errors. Further, since we don’t have those originals (“autographs”), the copies of those inerrant originals are to be considered and that has been done to the extent that we can have full confidence that we can locate the inerrant text of Scripture with very high precision in the copies we have.

Now, this lays the groundwork for us. Since God wrote the Bible, the teachings and actual words are God’s (1 Corinthians 2:12-13). Thus, it bears authority and accuracy. That is, what it teaches is true and identical to what is true with God and His kingdom. It also is true in relation to discerning the realities of life in this world as well. However, God Himself did not write the text of Scripture with His own hand. He used the hands of men to do it. These men, from Moses to John the Apostle existed in an historical setting and wrote with a language that was/is verifiable and real. They did not use esoteric, heavenly language. If they did, it would not make sense to us. The languages with which they wrote Scripture were composed in the very same way that all language is composed. Therefore, what was written is subject to the laws of language. In order to interpret the Scripture, a person must understand language. By the way, we all do. We could not communicate in the world if we did not. We use nouns and verbs all the time. However, most people simply don’t consider these things when they talk or read the morning newspaper. Lastly, since the text of Scripture was written in history, and with actual languages of the day, and God has written all that He is going to write (Hebrews 1:1-3), then what we have in the Bible is fixed and unalterable. That is, what a passage meant to Ezekiel when he wrote it means the very same thing to us when we read it.

To sum up, here is what we have:

  1. We understand the Bible is from God. Thus we realize its authority, accuracy, and permanency.
  2. We understand the Bible is written by men. Thus we realize its history, language, and propositional nature.
  3. We understand the Bible is fixed. Thus we realize that it is not properly understood apart from the author’s meaning/intention for writing it (it is not from one’s own interpretation).

Therefore, since the Bible is from God, written by men in history and with actual language, we cannot interpret it any other way.

Here is an example:

Exodus 20:13

You shall not murder.

This is straightforward. From the surrounding verses we understand that God is speaking to Moses and Moses is to relay this to Israel (Exodus 20:1; 21:1). The verse is a command. Don’t do something. The translation of the original Hebrew is good here and it simply says, “Don’t kill.” That is, don’t want to kill something and thereby murder. Moses has given Israel a very straightforward and clear instruction. This would be the way that Israel would understand it as well. It is God’s intention in the meaning of the command.

However, some think that when it comes to prophetic passages there are different rules for interpretation. No there are not. How do I know? I know because no matter how fanciful something appears (Ezekiel 1, for example), it was still written down by Ezekiel in actual language. Therefore, a person cannot assign meaning to something that is arbitrary to the language of that passage.

For example, I was speaking with a man one day who refused to believe that the water flowing under the temple in Ezekiel 47:1 is actual water. It appeared too fanciful to him and since he preconceived that water has nothing to do with heavenly things, then this verse must be speaking of something else (which he assigned, i.e. “one’s own interpretation”). Therefore, he assigned a new meaning to that passage which has nothing to do with any of the context in history or language. Further, many other passages affirm water in the temple (Ps. 46:4; Is. 30:25; 55:1; Jer. 2:13; Joel 3:18; Zech. 13:1; 14:8; esp. Rev. 22:1, 17). Thus, in this example, and there are multitudes of examples, the text took on a meaning that is not evident by the history of the writer or the audience, nor does it accord with the language of the passage. There are things figurative in Scripture (John 10:6; 16:25-29). However, many attribute figurative meanings to those things that they don’t believe, or that do not fit into their theological pre-understanding of a passage, or that seem too far-fetched in their view (like water in the Temple). To reassign a meaning to a passage of Scripture is a sin. It is to call God a liar and us the truth-teller. Remember, God is the author of Scripture.

Remember, Paul commanded Timothy to handle the text accurately.

2 Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

That is, “cut it straight” in relation to the text of Scripture. Timothy, you must handle the text in an accurate way. To reassign meaning to the propositional and completed text of Scripture is to create your own text. Thus, you can only “preach the Word” after you have actually learned that word (2 Timothy 4:1-2). And the only way to learn that word is in the same manner that it was given.  

 

Next time, I will introduce how to do this in some detail. 

What Does The Bible Mean?

 

In an effort to encourage the church, I will be reviewing the basics of sound Bible study. That is, I want to identify the process of concluding that a person knows, for certain, the meaning of a passage in Scripture. To some, this is a difficult task. Many believe it to be impossible. Many conclude that the Bible is basically unknowable. At that point, a person has just crossed over into the realm of the agnostic. They are sure a meaning exists. However, that meaning is unknowable.

I have had a number of recent conversations in which the person with whom I am speaking has asked how do I know what a verse means? How can I be so sure? At that point, I basically answer them from the standpoint that God cannot author confusion. God is not a source of confusion and thus His Word is not confusing. However, I have not really answered the question. I have simply given them something to think about.

To begin, we must rebuild our confidence in Scripture. We must regain our footing if we are going to climb this mountain. So, let’s begin there.

First of all, consider what the Bible actually says about itself:

Psalm 119:160

160 The sum of Your word is truth,

And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.

Here, the Psalmist affirms a basic reality about the Bible-it is truth. The Hebrew term means something reliable, trustworthy, or true. The idea is that of the ultimate trustworthiness or reliability. Thus, all that is identified as “Your word” is utterly reliable, trustworthy, and true. The Lord Jesus takes us along the same lines when He prayed:

John 17:17b

17 Your word is truth.

We can fill this in a bit more. The Bible is repeatedly asserting itself as the Word of God. From Genesis to Revelation, the instruction of the Bible is that it, and no other book, is the record of the words which God spoke and wanted recorded for His own purposes.

Throughout Moses’ career as a prophet and the original leader of God’s covenant people, he spoke the Word of God. That is, he repeated to the people whatever God said to him. Further, he was also a teacher. Moses taught the people from the things which God spoke. Involved with this is the fact that he wrote down all that God had said and taught in a collection of books we call the Pentateuch. The first five books of the Bible are considered the Pentateuch, or Torah, and they are the revelation of God and His Word to Moses (see Deuteronomy 31:9, 24). These books of Moses form the foundation upon which the entire Bible would be built.

From this foundation, there are many other builders. Many other men wrote as they were instructed to by God. Job, David, Samuel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Asaph, and many others, wrote and what they wrote was added to the collection of books we call the Bible. This process was initiated by God, the oversight of what was written was by God, and the preservation of that which has been written is also by God. The Apostle Peter helps us to understand something of this process. He wrote,

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.

Peter is teaching us that there is nothing in Scripture that is from man alone. Men only wrote what they were instructed to write by the Holy Spirit. This is verified against the other writings of Scripture. The unity and consistency in doctrine and purpose is uncanny. There is no portion of latter Scripture which contradicts earlier revelation and vice-versa. It is a unified whole.

Although, I am not taking a tremendous amount of time to qualify every detail of these statements, they are, nonetheless, the fact of the matter. The Bible is the only collection of God’s words in written form in existence. Therefore, they are trustworthy, true, and reliable. That is, what they say is true. What is asserted and taught in the pages of the text of Scripture is accurate and true. Therefore, we can know for a fact that once we arrive at the understanding of a passage, it is true and reflects the truth that God has communicated to us.

One last item needs to understood as well. The Bible was not written in English. It was not written in French, Latin, or Russian. The Bible was written in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and certain portions in a kind of Hebrew identified as Aramaic. The New Testament was written entirely in Greek. Why is this significant? This is significant because this becomes the key to a proper interpretation of the Scripture. What I have found is that many who are screaming that we cannot understand the text of Scripture (they do this by what they say and the example they give in handling the Scripture) are those who do not understand these languages. Many who present alternate views on a verse are those least qualified to do that. To be sure, there are many who do know the languages of God’s Word and they also confuse the issue. However, that does not mean that the discipline of language work is useless. It is the key to proper interpretation. I want to give you an example.

Genesis 1:1

1 בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃

 

What you see above is Genesis 1:1 in the original text of Hebrew. In English, we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That is an accurate translation. We know this because we can answer basic questions about the text: Who is the subject of the verb? What is the main verb? What is the subject doing? To whom is He doing it? When we answer these questions, we have begun the process of rightly interpreting what God had Moses write.

The New Testament was written in Greek, as below. The verse is John 1:1. It reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word (or, the Word was God).”

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος

Again, the work of identifying the verbs, subjects of the verb, etc… becomes the only way to accurately, confidently, identify the meaning of the text. The way to do this, in English, will be the heart of this series. If a person is willing, in taking the steps that I will outline, he or she will be able to confidently ascertain the basic meaning of any passage. The question after that is, “Do I believe it?”

I can imagine someone saying, “All that just to understand the Bible?” Well, yes. The Bible is not simply a devotional book of insights. It is a highly complex collection of revelation from God. That does not mean that we cannot understand it in English. It means that many people have given long hours in study and translation work in order to make the Bible readable. Therefore, even a child can pick up the English Bible and read it. However, behind the English (or any other language) translation work, is a mountain of complexity and challenge for even the most able scholar.

At this point, I want to introduce the basic premise of valid Bible study. Here it is:

 

STUDY THE BIBLE THE WAY IT WAS GIVEN. 

 

That is the rule of proper study and interpretation. This means that since the Bible was written by real men, in real history, in real time, from a real God, in real language, then we must do what we can to understand these things in order to interpret the Word of God we possess. I will outline for you how to do this.

Like many things in Christianity, the church needs to recover confidence in the Word of God and the veracity of all that is written in it. If we don’t, we have no basis for our understanding of what we believe and why.

Challenging Covenantalism

Over the years, there have been certain issues and teachings that have surfaced in working with people that seem like the proverbial Gordian Knot. One particular difficult knot to figure out for many is known as Covenant Theology (CT). CT is a system of theology by which its proponents assert you must understand the Bible. Some of the basic positions of this system will be stated below and over the next few posts compared to Scripture, but at the outset it should be understood that it is a system and, as such, it is seen by many as the key to understanding the Scriptures. Reformed Theology has CT as its foundation, according to many.

Some remarks should be made:

  • First, although CT needs to be challenged from Scripture because of its widespread, and growing acceptance, it is not to say that we should deny the fact that we owe much of what we know today as Evangelicals to the work of the Reformers. The recovery of the gospel on behalf of the masses of humanity under the domination of the Catholic Church in the 16th-18th centuries is due, in large part, to the bravery and work of the Reformers.
  • Second, it is also not something that we need to conclude that all who hold to CT are unsaved. That is not the issue. As Paul writes, “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). Other factors may be precipitated by holding to CT as a system, and not holding fast to Christ. However, the issue at hand is not trying to figure out who is saved and who is not, who is in and who is out. The Lord will make that clear in the future.
  • Third, this is not an issue of Dispensationalism vs. Covenantalism. These, in actuality, are arbitrary and superficial titles that really confuse the issue.
  • Fourth, and final, the issue is bringing every thought captive to the obedience of the truth of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). That is, the speculative teaching, and potentially damaging results, of CT need to brought under obedience to the truth of Christ. Thus, examination of the basic tenants of CT are in order.

It is best to begin by covering what exactly is meant by CT. That is, what exactly is Covenant Theology and why is it to be examined? The relationship of Covenant Theology and Reformed Theology is an intimate one. The Reformed Faith is built upon the constraints and presumptions of the covenantal framework which act as its guide. The presumption is that God had originally created all things under a covenantal framework, the first of which was the “Covenant of Works” made with Adam. The Westminster Confession of Faith of 1646 states, “The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his prosperity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1646, chapter VII, section II). From this assumption, i.e. that this is an actual covenant made between God and Adam, the rest of Scriptures and covenants flow. However, Adam did not keep that covenant and fell into the condemnation spelled out in that covenant, namely death. The next covenant, then, since Adam failed, is called the “Covenant of Grace” which states: “Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe” (Westminster, chapter VII, section III). Upon the backs of these two “covenants” are said to be the entire plan of redemption of sinners. In other words, because Adam disobeyed the Covenant of Works, God punished him by inaugurating death into this world. And, because of that disobedience to the Covenant, God initiated a Covenant with the elect to save them. Both Reformed Theology and Covenantalism assume these two Covenants as fact.

Further, as a result of these assumptions, biblical history, then, takes the form of one large unit under the umbrella of the Covenant of Grace. The result of this is that the plan of redemption is moving forward, with one covenant under various dispensations replacing one after the other (Westminster, chapter VII, section VI). The net effect of this replacement, or displacement, is that the next dispensation replaces the previous one, and yet maintains fragments of the previous to some extent. As an example, in the earlier dispensation God instituted the act of physical circumcision to commemorate an Israelites introduction into the covenant made with Abraham (Genesis 17:10-12; cf. Acts 7:8; Romans 4:11). However, when Christ came, they say, He instituted the act of baptism as a reflection of circumcision under Abrahamic covenant. Thus, seeing that circumcision was done to male infants, baptism, in turn, may also be done upon infants and children.

A number of other conclusions are also drawn as a result of the assumption of the Covenant of Grace made with the elect:

  • Israel is subsumed into the church, the true Israel, and thus has no claim to a uniquely Israelite land promise.
  • The prophecies of a future for national Israel are nothing more than the “shadow” of the “substance” realized in Christ in the church.
  • The Old Testament is mostly contrived of “shadowy” figures and types of Jesus and thus should be comprehended that way.
  • Future prophecies yet to be realized are also shadowy figures, e.g. the idea of a 1,000 year reign of Revelation 20:1-10.
  • The New Testament has priority over the Old Testament and thus the New Testament has the authority to advance an interpretation in the Old Testament that may not be readily available from simply reading the Old Testament passage itself.
  • The Law of Moses remains binding for the church.
  • The promises for Israel are actually realized in the church.

Over the next few posts, I will be examining the distinctions of CT and comparing them to Scripture. But, allow me to first state my conclusion at the outset. I have concluded that the positions and teachings as found in CT, some of which are stated above, are a departure from authentic, biblical, revelation. That is, although many components contained in CT are obviously true, e.g. man’s fall in Adam, election, Jew and Gentile in one body the church, that does not give license to take liberties with God’s Word to introduce teachings that are not found in Scripture, which CT has done. The result of introducing these teachings is a confusion over the nature of the church, eschatological realities, the work of God in the actual covenants listed in Scripture, as well as a number of activities which are affected by what one does with OT passages (e.g. parenting) which all in turn upset households who have been challenged to rethink the clear and straightforward teaching of Scripture on these issues, and many others. The result of this influence of dealing with Scripture is confusion and doubt, since the CT position in many aspects is not true, and therefore lack sanctifying power in the life of a believer (John 17:17). Overall, CT advocates different doctrines, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor with the doctrine conforming to godliness (1 Timothy 6:20-21) and therefore upset the faith of many by their confident assertions based upon philosophical musings and self-styled hermeneutical gymnastics which suit their assumptions.

The Gospel Stage Is Set. The Father’s Announcement Is Made.

Last post, we considered Paul’s statement in Ephesians 3:11,

11      This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,

If we stop and contemplate what this says, we come up with some very interesting conclusions. One conclusion that we must admit is that since the plan and purpose of God is eternal, and since God is absolutely sovereign, and since Jesus Christ actually did come to the earth, die, and was raised again, then there must have been some preparatory work ahead of the arrival of Jesus Christ in order to carry out His work. This is a staggering thought. In order for the complexities of the purpose of God to be accomplished, the “stage” had to be set. There had to be some pieces put into place. And since that is true, then we conclude that all of history and time marches on toward one thing, the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, the setting of the stage is not what the fullness of time is. The historical components into which  Messiah was born is not the catalyst for His coming. 

I want to consider a couple things along these lines. First, we need to realize that time is fixed by the Father. Second, we need to see that Jesus’ arrival was not determined by anything other than the Father’s announcement.

It would be easy to look to history in order to see the pieces of the puzzle being put together for such a time as Christ’s arrival. Afterall, Paul did write in Galatians

4      But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, (Galatians 4:4).

Oftentimes, writers take this verse and dive into history and point out the unique world into which Jesus was born. A world most conducive to the spread of the gospel. Whether it was the Roman empire that allowed for ease of travel because of their extensive road system, or the common language of Koine Greek which allowed for the writing of the NT in a popular language, this is often the route we take. However, this is not Paul’s point in Galatians 4:4. I don’t believe that Paul sat back and considered all the historical trappings of the time and thought to himself, “My, what a perfect time for the Messiah to be born.” What did Paul mean by this phrase in Galatians 4:4? What was his thought? He tells us.

Notice the context. Paul is referring to the practice of the time when a boy becomes a man and takes on the inherited responsibilities, and privileges, of manhood as given to him of his father. If you follow the terms referring to time in this section (i.e. vv. 1-9), you begin to see Paul’s thinking unfold.

The first mention of time is found in v.1, “As long as the heir is a child.” Paul is speaking of the time-frame of childhood. In time, the child will become the owner of his father’s estate. However, for now, he is treated no better than a slave-one who has no rights or privileges but is expected to only do what he is told. Then, v.2 states that that child is kept under guardianship until such a time as the father says, “He is mature enough to handle my affairs.” At that point, the child is no longer a slave, but a son-on the same level as the father himself over the estate.

Paul takes that true, historical, practice of families and uses that as an analogy to the gospel. The overarching point Paul is trying to make to the Galatians is found in v. 9 when he asks why, when they have been made sons through the gospel, the Galatians would go back to slavery under bondage to the master of the “elemental” things of the world. Why would one want to throw away all the privileges, and responsibilities, of sonship and go back to being a slave? It doesn’t make sense!

The timing of the coming of Christ is compared to the announcement by a father of the son’s arrival to competency. Verse 2 states that the date of transition out of slavery into sonship, at least as it relates to handling the affairs of the father, is set by the father. That is, the father has complete authority to make that call. No one tells him when to do it. He, of his judgment and for his own purposes, announces the maturity of his son to adulthood.

And that is the answer. The “fullness of the time” equals the date set by the father. To say it another way, The Father announced the date of the Son coming to earth. It was the fullness of “the” time, not because everyone was speaking Greek. It was the fullness of time because the Father said so. And, at the moment of God’s announcement that it was time, Messiah was born to an unwed mother, into an impoverished family, lead by a godly, but poor carpenter. All of this was during the time of the Law.

The Law, being compared to the “guardians and managers” of v.2, was left behind when a slave became a son, an heir. In a very real sense, we go from slavery into sonship also by the announcement of the Father. We do not appoint ourselves as heir of the kingdom. The Father must do it since it is His ‘estate.’ We cannot approach the Father and demand the inheritance, as the Prodigal did. We only receive the kingdom from the Father when He has decided it is time.

This is not unlike the discussion that the resurrected Jesus had with His apostles in Acts 1:6-7. The apostles wanted to understand when the coming of the kingdom of Israel would be. Jesus asserted that the Father of the estate, i.e. the kingdom, has fixed that time by “His own authority.” That says it perfectly! God determines the times and epochs of everything and we have no right to that information. We are children. The Fatherhood of God demands that He is sovereign because of His ownership and wisdom, at least.

So, the next time someone refers to Galatians 4:4 as a reference to historical components of God’s plan, please remind them that God is not compelled by anything, especially history, to accomplish His plan. All time is fixed by His own authority.

Worry Is Of This World

Few things grip us like anxiety. Whether it is worry over a lost child, a condition at work, or the provision of basic necessities, the act of worrying can sap a person down to the core of his being. The fear of being without food for your family, for example, hits at our basic need level and not having that can automatically put us into a tailspin of worry, doubt, and fear which, in time, lead to the potential for decisions that you may not have otherwise made. Worry is sin. Anxiety is sin. The fear of basic provision to the point of godless worry is sin. Why? Jesus answers this in Matthew 6:24-34.

Matthew writes,

         24      “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

         25      “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
         26      “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
         27      “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?
         28      “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,
         29      yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.
         30      “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!
         31      “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’
         32      “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
         33      “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
         34      “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

This profound teaching of the King of kings is absolutely convicting, profound, illuminating, and comforting all at once.

  1. Convicting: the conviction comes in the fact that this is a command. Do not worry (vv.25, 31, 34). Three times the Lord commands the disciples, and us, to not worry about our physical needs. Why? Because of the principle found in v.24. Our hearts are prone to submit to something. And, whether we understand it or not, we always submit to one thing or another. If we do not submit to the Lord and His Word, we are submitting to something else, whether it is ourselves, our money, our problems, sin (see Romans 6:16), or another person. We are rebellious at heart. Jesus Christ has been given the kingdom of the Father, the kingdom of the cosmos, and He is the Ruler of it all and ever person, alive and dead, are subjects of that King (Philippians 2:9-11). He is Lord and Master. He has authority to command, and all things in the created world are subject to Him (Colossians 1:15-17). They are His (Psalm 24:1-2). Now, ask yourself, “If Jesus Christ is Lord, why am I not submitting to Him as such and relying upon Him for provision?” God created us to submit to Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength in love. When we sinned in Adam, we rebelled against that love and always submit to so many other things. Jesus calls us back under His authority, as a loving shepherd, and commands that we submit our hearts, once again, under Him. That is why Jesus said you cannot serve two masters.
  2. Profound: the profundity of this passage is contained in the fact that if we were in the Millennial Kingdom wherein we would see Jesus Christ everyday in His temple we would not worry. So, since we are in His kingdom now (Colossians 1:13), why do we worry? Is this not His kingdom? Are not all things under His sovereign control? Is your mortgage payment a surprise to Him? So, live in light of the fact that you are in His kingdom now! We have been transferred away from a master who hates, uses, and murderously controls those who are under his rule. However, even though we live in his sphere of influence, we are not of it. Even though we interact with his kingdom (Matthew 4:8-9), we are not subjects of his any longer. We are the prize that has been plundered and stolen away by a greater, stronger Man (Matthew 12:25-29). Thus, we now live in the kingdom of Christ operating under His sovereign, powerful control and under His watchful care. Therefore, we have nothing to fear. As Habakkuk said, in light of the impending Chaldean invasion,

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
18 Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
19 The Lord GOD is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.
For the choir director, on my stringed instruments.

  1. Illuminating: what does this teaching tell us about our Lord? So much. But think about this. God actively clothes flowers (v.25). God actively feeds birds (v.26). Flowers die in the heat of the afternoon sun, and birds live short lives. These things are seemingly insignificant. But see what Jesus said in v.26b. He asks a question that a father would ask his son in an attempt to capture his son’s trust; “Are you not worth much more than they?” What an insight into the motivation of God’s care. We are of more value, much more, than flowers and birds! But, lest we fall into some kind of mindset that exalts our self-worth, it is not what you think. The Bible is clear that we are made in God’s image. Therefore, God has created us to display Himself, and not us. And we also know that God is zealous for His own glory (1 Chronicles 16:28-29). Thus, our worth is not really ours, but God’s. As the Psalmist says, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name” (Ps. 29:2). Jesus is simply telling us that we, as God’s image and likeness, have more value than simple flowers and birds, like a beautiful Ming vase has more value than a clay flower pot in the back porch. Yet, they are made from the same materials.
  2. Comforting: all the above brings comfort. However, there is more. Comfort does not come in simply meandering through life. As a Christian, we have obligations. We have a duty. We are in a war. We are in a firefight daily; against the world, the flesh, and onslaughts of the devil. This is no time to kick back and wait for manna from heaven. We have been entrusted with the precious proclamation of the coming kingdom in which all men will be judged and will either receive eternal life, or eternal hell. We have been commissioned to proclaim the gospel. We have an announcement to make. God commands us, “Make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19f.). In doing that, however, we cannot worry about our provisions for our lives. We just simply can’t. It is antithetical to our God, our calling, and our mandate. Are we saying that God can provide eternal salvation, He just cannot provide our food and clothing? How blasphemous! Give glory to God and wait upon His provision, while working and making disciples. Therefore, Jesus says, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and”, and here is the comfort, “all these things will be added to you.” How wonderful! Our God will provide the uniform we will need in His army. In Him we have our provision for food, clothing, finances, and other necessities. In fact, God the Father knows that we need these things even before we realize it (v. 32). So, be busy about our Father’s business. Did Jesus starve? Was Jesus poorly clothed? Yet, did Jesus live on the hill and have a suit of clothes for every occasion? Maybe what we consider needs and what God considers needs are two different things. The Apostle Paul taught, “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” (1 Timothy 6:8). So, maybe the question is not God’s provision, but our contentment.

Praise to our God who covers us, not with expensive clothing, but with Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:27)!

     

              

Wisdom-The Replacement for Legalism

In the last post I had discussed the need for wisdom in building a home. I had asserted that wisdom is not learned, but given. This is because wisdom has as its source God. He is the originator of wisdom. He is the embodiment of wisdom. Moreover, wisdom is dispensed by Him as He alone desires. Therefore, when Proverbs 24:3 states matter-of-factly, “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches”, it is saying, “A house is only truly a house when it is established and built with wisdom, God’s wisdom.” Further, this wisdom is a treasure. Thus, being a treasure, it is rare. However, like treasure, it yields itself when sought after with effort, diligence, and determination. Outside of this, a home is not established. But in all our efforts, the reminder remains: wisdom is given, never discovered.

Having said all of that, there is a fundamental issue that I believe needs to be addressed at this early juncture. The topic of legalism in the home is heated and ongoing. Legalism is the cry of those who deny the need for God’s righteousness in the home. The reason, I have found, that some have this perspective is because they cannot rise above their own level of righteousness. Thus, the home becomes a hodge-podge of rules and abstract standards that really have no bearing in God. Thus, children are confused (and so is the other spouse). This especially hits home when this haphazard approach to managing a home causes pain or destruction. For the time-being, a level of righteousness kicks in, but it is not God’s.

Let’s examine a scenario. Little Johnny has thrown a rock through the front window. He was told that he should not pick up rocks and throw them. However, Johnny did not listen and now there is a broken window letting all the cold air in, and hot air out. What does legalism do? Legalism cries, “I told you not to do that! Why did you do that! Why can’t you listen when I tell you something?!” But, wisdom says, “What did daddy tell you? Why did you pick up that rock? Why did you want to do something that I said not to do?” And going through the mind of daddy is that his little Johnny is only exhibiting his true nature-a sinner. Johnny, at heart, is rebellious, foolish, disobedient, and loves unrighteousness. Johnny can’t help but do what he shouldn’t. He is unable to obey fully, think wisely, exhibit distinctions between good and evil. Little Johnny has almost zero discernment. But, that does not let him off the hook. A transgression has been committed. A penalty must be enacted. At the premise level, the legalist is self-righteous and expects others around him to be so also. A wise man, however, has jettisoned his own righteousness for the righteousness of God out of the fear of God. In short, a legalist does not submit to the righteousness of God for fear of letting go of his own righteousness (Romans 10:3). And, since our own righteousness is so low, it allows us to “get away” with things that God does not allow. Yet, wisdom seeks to maintain the high view of God and His righteous character no matter the cost. Thus, he will speak to little Johnny attempting to bring him to the realization of what sin is, and what is the consequence of sin. In doing this, Johnny will learn a little bit about God from the broken window incident.

So, in order to establish a home, it needs to be driven by wisdom, not legalism. A home is a place, most of all, where the glory of God should be on display in the people who live there. Therefore, daddy’s response to that broken window, mommy’s response to losing sleep to a sick child, the children’s response to instructions from their parents that are not at all what they want to do, are all opportunities to put God on display, and not ourselves. It is time to elevate the righteousness of God, and not our own. It is a time to learn wisdom, cry out for it, and be trained to discern between good and evil thus maturing in the Lord (Hebrews 5:13-14).

This is really the direction teaching about parenting and the home should go. Instead, however, you often hear ‘Christianized’ elementary principles of the world along with success stories of the common experiences of life. Anyone can identify with those things. However, what needs to be explained and taught is a fear of God, the need for righteousness, and the wisdom of God that builds a home.

The Fear of The Lord

It is written,

“Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart;
there is no fear of God before his eyes.” (Ps 36:1)

 

The Psalm of David was the foundation of Paul’s words in Romans 3:18. David knew all too well that the wicked (or, “guilty”) have transgression “whispering” deep in his soul urging him on to do evil. The eyes of such a one are darkened. They cannot see the fear of the Lord. In his natural state, the hearts of every person are dark, deceived, wicked (desperately so) and perverse. They cannot fear God, nor do they want to. Rather, they resort to the antics of their father, the devil, and attempt to raise themselves above the throne of God. They believe that they are as good as they need to be to enter the kingdom of heaven, and they, of themselves, will not lift a finger to change that. Absolute inability to please God, and an absolute inability to want to. That is the condition of every person who is not clothed with Christ.

Thus, if wisdom has as its necessary starting point the fear of God, as Proverbs asserts, then it is no wonder that the ungodly are foolish. They lack the wisdom that was gifted them at the creation. They lack divine wisdom that was with God, and in God, at the establishment of the foundations of the earth. They lack the sense, as it were, to choose righteousness over evil. Wisdom cries out all day long to them and they ignore it. At this point, we need to understand that this is not a neutral posture. The ungodly does not simply reject wisdom and the fear of the Lord, he hates it. Paul wrote, “…mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8). There is a native hostility between man and God that rages everyday. Their heart, says David, devises evil when it should be sleeping (Psalm 36:4). He is not able to subject himself under the authority of the law of God, nor does he want to. It rebels against the authority of almighty God and revels in that rebellion. It is no wonder that mankind loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19) since, apart from the enlightening work of the Spirit of God under the direction of the Father, he is a slave of darkness. It is his nature!

Thus, with all of this in the heart of every person, religious or not, how is it that we think that any man has any level of wisdom in him? What I mean is, if Paul could not even trust himself (Philippians 3:3) for the wisdom that attains to religious satisfaction but rather died to himself in order to pursue Christ, then why do we believe that we can do better? Wisdom is as rare as gold and jewels. In fact, true wisdom is so rare, that it is only found in 1 part per 7 billion. That is, out of the 7 billion people in this world, only One has true wisdom-Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God” (1 Co 1:30a; cf. 1:24). Further, Paul wrote to the wisdom-loving Colossians, “in [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3). Wisdom is rare because it is truly only embodied in one Person. And in order to know Him, you must fear Him (Matthew 10:28-Jesus, as the appointed Judge for all mankind, is able to destroy both body and soul in Hell by the authority given to Him by the Father). So, says Paul, there is no fear of God in the heart of the wicked, and Jesus Christ is God. He is to be feared. Therefore, for a person to be saved, he must overcome his lack of fear of God, and that cannot happen apart from the working of God in the heart of the person by the extended grace of God.

To fear God, as mentioned in the previous post, is to rightly understand with Whom you are dealing with and, correspondingly, who you are in relation to Him. God is life, we are dead in sins; God is light, we are darkness; God is holy, and we love transgression; God is eternal, and we are temporal; God is a consuming fire, and we are fit to be destroyed; God is love, and we love to hate. Thus, the fear of God is an appropriate heart condition in light of Who He is.

If a person wants wisdom, he must fear God. Unless a person fears God, he will lack God’s wisdom because He only gives wisdom to the upright (Proverbs 2:7).

Some Thoughts…

As I continue to process the decisions of the Lord in my life lately, it is important to me to constantly be looking toward Scripture.

First, I have found a lot of comfort in the principle that Paul teaches concerning himself,

“Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:1–5, NASB95)

Paul is speaking of himself here in that no man is acquitted because he believes himself to be without fault. Just because we don’t see our sin does not mean that it is not there. Think about it, if I were deceived, I would not know it. Otherwise, I would not be deceived. But, in the last day at the throne of Christ, Jesus Christ will examine the motives and thoughts of every believer and reward accordingly. That is a fearful thing, and that fear should motivate us to be honest-with ourselves and others.

Jesus spoke of this very reality in Matthew 10:26,

“Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” (Matthew 10:26, NASB95)

The hidden motives and motivations of the hearts of men (myself included), that we believe no one will ever find out, will be ‘aired’ at Christ’s throne. The hidden things will be made known. The secret things will no longer be a secret. We will enter into Christ’s eternal kingdom having all things revealed. In one sense, that is refreshing since it means a fresh start. In another sense, it is terrifying because we can so easily deceive ourselves. This is why we should deal with sin within ourselves immediately and swiftly, so that we might be a praise and honor to Christ in that day, and not an embarrassment.

Second, do not leave the pursuit of Christ in order to “spin your mental wheels” in worry. Paul as much said that in Philippians,

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:7–14, NASB95)

Paul, a better man than I will ever be, says that all things (including self-merit) is like rubbish as compared to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. This knowledge leads to a righteousness based on faith and not works. That righteousness further causes us to know the death and resurrection of Christ in a personal way so that we might fellowship with His sufferings, for righteousness’ sakes. The perfection of resurrection is elusive and moves ahead of you and you must chase after it. That is why we press toward that goal-the conformity to the likeness of Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 8:28-30). In that pursuit, there are lines drawn and decisions made. Some good some not so good. I have heard it said that a wise leader is good at making “second decisions.” That is true. In the pursuit of the righteousness of Jesus Christ we shred off those things in our lives that are dead weight and run with endurance that race set before us. And, again, in the end, only Jesus Christ, the righteous Judge, will know the true motives of our hearts. Thus, when worry, a very heavy weight for most of us, drags us down, realize that anxiety is not teaching us a thing about Jesus Christ. Therefore, it has to go. I would guess that Jesus never spent a second in worry. He never apologized for what He said, but at strategic times He was silent. He truly is the Perfect Man (James 3:1-12).

Lastly, I must be more concerned for the glory of the Lord than my own glory. No man can serve two masters. Loving one will pit me against the other. If I love my own glory, I will not desire Christ’s. Jesus taught this in John,

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. “I do not receive glory from men; but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (John 5:39–44, NASB95)

Oh how I wish I were surrounded by men zealous for the glory of the Father! I would guess that would eliminate so much sin and mediocrity. It would only introduce other things that need to be dealt with, but there is so much grace in pursuing the glory of God in everything (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:31). Also, seeking for the kingdom of Christ first does generate animosity in those who do not. There needs to be so much grace toward them and yet a resolution to still pursue that very righteousness that brings conflict.

“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;” (1 Peter 3:13–18, NASB95)

Prior to this passage, Peter teaches that those who would love righteousness should not speak evil of others, but rather seek peace. God is always opposed to those who do evil. That is not so hard to do if you consider the above point that everything you say and think will be divulged before Christ. The best pursuit of righteousness includes receiving the kiss of Judas or the friendship of Ahithophel (1 Samuel 15:12-31; cf. Psalm 55:12-14) without malice. Thus, when you pursue righteousness, this may lead to suffering for doing what is right in the eyes of God. Thus, the Lordship of Christ (1 Peter 3:15) drives you since you understand that He is judge and law-giver in His kingdom.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: