|The Biblical Examiner
An Examination of Biblical Precepts Involved in Issues at Hand
1) Causing Grief
2) Profit From Evil
3) Society, The Devil's Captive
4) A Mini-Church Pastor in a Megachurch World - By Johnny Miller
Many Scripture verses stand out from others to be quickly picked up by Christians for application. A good example is Eph 4:30,
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. [Grieve -to make sorrowful, to affect with sadness, be in heaviness.]
Pauls context in Ephesians defines grieving the Spirit of God as stealing, lying, corrupt communication, anger, bitterness, clamour, evil speaking, unforgiveness and many other unChrist-like personal and intra-personal attitudes. Thus Pauls statement in Eph 4 appears to simply say that these evil personal attitudes and actions result in causing the Spirit of God to be saddened, which is certainly true.
But is grieving the Spirit simply limited to making Him sorrowful? Typical of all New Testament authors, including Christ, everything Paul said was understood by his hearers in his statements Old Testament contexts. Consequently, there is far more to what Paul said in v. 30 than is present in Ephesians. Modern Christianity seems to have been robbed of the ability to connect simple New Testament statements, e.g. Eph 4:30, with their Old Testament counterparts. When Eph 4:30 is placed back into its Old Testament context, it assumes a fearful meaning. Gods Spirit brought forward and applied to Christians the fearful words spoken to Gods people by the Prophet Isaiah, 63:10,
But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, [and] he fought against them.[Vexed - hurt, pain, grieve, displease, sorry.]
Maybe because the word used by the translators in Isaiah is vex, "New Testament Christians" miss its important significance though the reference is present in the margin: Vex means grieve. But when we look at the Old Testament context of the word, we see that vexing (grieving) the Spirit by Gods people does far more than just sadden Him: Isaiah tells us that His own people cause Gods Spirit to be their enemy, [and] they cause God Himself to fight against them. Concerning Isaiah 63:10, great men of the past have said:
- "Divine love was wounded. The Holy Spirit enters into the picture unexpectedly. He does not often appear in the Old Testament. He is more than a potency; more than an attribute. His reaction was more than a mood of temporary displeasure. When Israel rebels something of extreme value and importance has been despised and rejected, causing a powerful and stern reaction: "he turned to be their enemy; he even fought against them." This is strong reaction. When he fought against them that was apparently done through the world powers: God gave Israel over into the hands of nations greater and mightier than themselves and let them be subjugated. It is an evil thing to have God go on record as hostile to a nation, Egypt and Assyria being their lords. All this is recorded against a background of sincere repentance. [Exposition of Isaiah, II.343, 344. H.C. Leupold, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.]
And he fought against them. He favoured their enemies and gave them the victory. He gave them up to a series of disasters which finally terminated in their long and painful captivity, and in the destruction of their temple, city, and nation. The sentiment is, that when we grieve the Spirit of God, he abandons us to our chosen course, and leaves us to a series of spiritual and temporal disasters. [Barnes Notes, Isaiah, II. 394. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.]
"Upon the basis of this passage Paul utters his remarkable statement: "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God" (Eph. 4:30). [The Book of Isaiah, III.482, 483. E.J. Young, W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. See also, Keil, VII.456.]
In the Old Testament, one of the ways the Lord God fought against His people when they broke the covenant was by exalting their enemies to rule over them. God became their enemy, so He established wicked men to rule over them: Assyria, Babylon, Meads and Persians, and latter, Greece and Rome; He also used His servant "Mother Nature" against them. There are several marginal references for Isa 63:10, e.g. Acts 7:51,
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers [did], so [do] ye.
Obviously, this passage spoke to the ones who rejected Christ, but the next reference is more inclusive, and should cause Gods people to tremble before their Holy Redeemer, Hebrews 10:28-30:
He that despised Moses law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance [belongeth] unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. [It is] a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Thus the New Testament authors, Paul especially, make it clear that Isa 63:10 was brought forward for Gods people - Christians. Paul brought forward the general warning to NOT GRIEVE, or vex, THE SPIRIT. But can we say that he did not bring forward the Old Testament results of grieving the Spirit, i.e. God becomes an enemy to His people?
The Word of God originated in a historical way, and therefore, can be understood only in the light of history... It is impossible to understand an author and to interpret his words correctly unless he is seen against the proper historical background... The time, the place, the circumstances, and the prevailing view of the world and of life in general, will naturally color the writings that are produced under those conditions of time, place, and circumstances... ...not only the express statements of Scripture, but its implications as well, must be regarded as the Word of God. [Principles of Biblical Interpretation, Louis Berkhof, 113, 114, 159.]
According to Hebrews 10, the consequences of vexing the Lord under the reign of Christ, i.e. the "Church Age," are far more severe than the consequences of vexing the Spirit under Moses, the Ten Commandments. [Is it any wonder that fallen man desires to "dispensationalize" the book of Hebrews out of Gods Word?]
In other words, the New Testament authors not only warn Christians not to vex (grieve)the Spirit of God, but in Hebrews 10, the warning is expanded: "If you think it was bad under Moses and the Law, you havent seen anything compared to what is under Christ."
Heb 10:28, those who despised Moses law died without mercy.
Despised, a. properly, to render; do away with, i.e. something laid down, prescribed, established: Gal. 3:15, (I Macc. xi.36; 2 Macc. xiii.25, etc.); acc. to the context, to act towards anything as though it were annulled; hence to deprive a law of force by opinions or acts opposed to it, to transgress it, Mk. vii. 9; Heb. x. 28, (Ezek. xxii. 26), [Thayer, 13, 14.]
Thus the Old Testament Hebrews despised Moses law by acting as though it was annulled, or no longer in effect.
Gal 3:15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though [it be] but a mans covenant, yet [if it be] confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. 1 Macc 11:36 We give all to them, and nothing hereof shall be revoked from this time forth and forever. 2 Macc 13:25 But when he was come to Ptolemais, the men of that city were much displeased with the conditions of the peace, being angry for fear they should break the covenant. Mark 7:9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. Ezekiel 22:26 Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed [difference] between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
Notice that mercy and pity were forbidden toward those who reaped the consequences of despising Moses law. Cf. Deut 13:8, &c.
He who has set at nought the Mosaic law, has in opposition to his better knowledge and conscience violated or broken it, dies, without any one compassionating him, upon the deposition of two or three witnesses. [Meyers Commentary on the New Testament, IX.652.]
Continuing, the Spirit of God asks the reader a question, Heb 10:29,
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace.
vAs we know, the theme of the Book of Hebrews is better, i.e. Christ is better in every respect than everything presented in the Old Testament. Thus if He is better than everything up to His point in time, then how much more "evil" should be the disastrous consequences of ignoring the commands of Gods Word? The author of Hebrews expands His point: Ignoring the commands of Gods Word ignores the New Testament grace (something the Old Testament saints had not) provided by the Spirit to follow the Word of God wherever He leads.
The despite of Hebrews 10:29, is different than the despised of v. 28. Whereas despised of v. 28, means basically to act toward Moses law as though it were annulled, but despite in v. 29, means to treat with contumely. [Thayer, 219. Contumacy, 2. In law, a willful contempt and disobedience to any lawful summons or order of court; Contumely, rudeness or reproach compounded of haughtiness and contempt; contemptuousness; insolence; contemptuous language. 1828 Webster.]
"and has done despite to the spirit of Grace," sc. by scorn and mockery of the wonderous unfolding of that Spirits power in the life of the Christian. [Meyers, qv.]
Those professing Christ, hardened in self-will and obstinance, not only regard Moses law null and void for themselves, but they disregard the power of Gods grace to live in the manner pleasing to the Father as revealed in His Word.
One would have to (and many do) sin willfully [Heb 10:26] to not make the connection today: Gods people have openly trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith they were sanctified, and unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of Grace, Heb 10:29. Those of us who are Christian leaders are astounded at the hardness and indifference of "Christians" in general to the cause of Christ, even among those who professed Christ under our ministries and who profess the loudest their love for the Lord.
Though the two words (despite of vv. 28 and of 29) are not exactly the same, the question put forth by v. 29 is extremely valid: If the actions and attitudes of those called by His Name in the Old Testament "annulled" His Word, making God their enemy, then how much more is He the enemy of those today who follow in their fathers steps? (1 Cor 10:1, Paul, speaking to a Gentile church, considered the Hebrews who came out of Egypt their fathers. In other words, Old Testament Israel was the forebearers of the New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ.) God raised up the pagan armies against those hardened in sin. Therefore, what can we expect in our day of like hardness that sees many attempts to nullify the Word of God... occupying Godless UN troops in the US, a tidal wave of pagan immigrants, "Mother Nature" obeying "her" Lord and Master and warring against puny man (this past winter, we have been reminded how absolutely helpless man is when it comes to the weather, (Global Warming!!), or...?
We should mention a passing point in closing: We hear much talk about civil government breaking its contract with the people; therefore, the people are justified in doing many of the things they do against the government. Such a thought, however, is against both common sense and Scripture. The people broke their contract with the Lord God, so God exalted the ungodly. In other words, the people broke the contract first, and now they complain because civil government will not keep its part of the contract, I Sam 8.
Let me close with some good points:
1 Chron 4:10, Jabez prayed that the Lord would keep him from evil, for evil grieved him - Jabez. Does evil grieve us enough that it becomes our enemy?
Ps 78 [v. 40], points out that the Lord remembers that we are but dust; therefore, He does not deal with us after our sins when we grieve, or provoke, Him. There is abundant mercy, grace and forgiveness for the repentant in Him through Jesus Christ our Lord, Pro 28:13, 14.
Never does God leave His people in a hopeless state: Isaiah continues in Chapter 63 by saying the thing that spared Gods people from total destruction was that God remembered the days of old.
Look at the rest of Heb 10, v. 31-39ff. The Christian God of the Bible is not someone to trifle with, but with Him is abundant mercy for those who, by His grace, live according to the rule of Christ.
|Profit From Evil|
We hear quite often of money or property being confiscated from those who are suspected of doing evil, e.g. drugs, and those funds used to finance "law enforcement." Accordingly, many "law enforcement" departments have found this confiscated income to be an additional means of income, better equipping them to "enforce the law." We could also include using state authorized and sponsored gambling income to finance "good" projects, e.g. education. But what does God say about the practice of using "bad" income to finance "good" causes?
Let us start our examination with Exo 22:20, which falls under the category of the First Commandment. It gives the penalty against those who openly serve other gods: he shall be utterly destroyed.
In Numbers 25, Israel joined with Baalpeor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel. Twenty four thousand died in the resulting plague. In Deuteronomy 17:2, if it was rumored a man or woman served and worshipped other gods, the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, then diligent inquiry was made. If two or more witnesses to the offence were found, and they testified the charges were true, the witnesses were to place their hands on the guilty persons, who were then stoned to death: Deuteronomy chapter 13 deals with this much more in depth. It is divided into two parts, vs. 1-11, vs. 12-18.
First, the Lord raises up a prophet from among His people, giving him dreams and words that supernaturally come to pass, Matthew 7:22. To make the false message appear to be the Lords, maybe his crowds increase as they heard the false message; maybe events lined up just as he said they would. Regardless, his hearers said, "Everything points to the fact that he is of God."
But his message was not according to the total of Gods Word: He offered another way to serve God, speaking revolt against the command-word of the Lord. (Compare vs. 3 & 4 with Mt. 22:37 & Jn. 14:15.) Gods purpose in raising up this false prophet was to see if His people would follow His Word despite the temptation to follow after the false prophet. V. 5, gives the reason the false prophet was to be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God (marg. spoken revolt against the Lord).
The Lord continues, listing every close personal tie: A person was free to believe whatever he or she desired, but if the prophet tried to influence another to depart from Gods commandments, that prophet was under the death penalty. [One should note here that those who offer another way of "salvation" for America than the gospel and the honest return to Biblical Christianity, those who offer "conservative political answers" and even returning to the Constitution as answers to Americas ills would clearly have been under Gods death sentence in Deut 13.]
The Lord allowed the prophet, or dreamer of dreams to rise up and prosper in order that He might prove His people: Will they take the commandments of the Lord over the false hopes offered them? (Cf. Mt. 24:24; 1 Cor. 11:19; 1 Thes. 2:11.)
Chapter 13s next division is vv. 12-18, expanding on Deu 17:2: The report is of an entire city gone after other gods. The report was to be investigated and, if found to be true, the entire city was to be destroyed, heaped in a pile and burned to the ground. God commanded even the cattle be killed.
The only conclusion obtainable is that vv. 12-18 clearly forbid profiting from evil; it plainly forbids using confiscated drug money for "drug enforcement," or for any "good" cause. It is only a matter of time before those desiring the money invent false charges, allowing them to confiscate the desired estates, e.g. Ahaz, Jezebel and Naboth, 1 Kings 21. Covetous Ahaz was greatly saddened because Naboth would not part with his property. Ahazs wife, Jezebel, had a plan: "I will use a law of God," this wicked woman said to her sulking husband, "to obtain what you want." So false charges were brought against Naboth with the proper witnesses - who were false; the charges stuck, and Naboth was put to death according to the Gods law - as perverted by Jezebel. But the vineyard was confiscated for the "state" contrary to the law. The law would have required Naboths vineyard to go back to his family if honest investigation had proved Naboth was evil as accused. The property belonged to the family, not to Naboth, nor to the state.
On the other hand, property can be confiscated in order to make restitution to the victim. The state is not the victim unless the crime was literally against the state, i.e. Naboth damaged Ahazs property [it could be sold to pay the damages, but it was valued only to the next Jubilee]. But the property still belonged to the family, for it was returned at the Jubilee regardless of who had it.
We should mention that the law in Deut 13 also clearly forbids using gambling money to finance "worthy" projects. Gods hand is obviously against the modern concept of gambling, e.g.,
Gambling continues to rise in the United States, warns financial adviser Howard Dayton. A study by the National Institute of Mental Health concluded that 4.2 million Americans are addicted to gambling - 60% of whom have annual incomes less than $25,000. Casinos are legal in 26 states, compared with just two states six years ago. The average American gambles about $1,174 a year (Ministries Today, 11 - 12/95).
Observe that even Gods Word can be corrupted by evil men to accomplish their evil desires: Passages removed from their contexts can be used to justify anything. If the law had been left in its context - forbidding the confiscation of the property, there would have been no motive to have Naboth killed. How many sincere people today are being slaughtered by the Word of God removed from its context?
Obviously, laws (political action) will not solve social and civil problems, for sinful, fallen, covetous men are the problem. Proper laws that reflect Gods Word keep sin under control, but no law, nor combination of laws, will solve the sin problem.
It is a sad day for Biblical Christianity when professed Christians look to civil law to solve societys problems. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with the desire and work to return America to her Constitution, but when "return to the Constitution" is viewed as a means for solving societys problems, then the Constitution becomes another god. Corrupt men will corrupt the best laws - even Gods law. Any law can and will be misused by covetous men, just as Jezebel used the law of God to kill an innocent man and take his estate.
The answer? Develop and apply of the total of Gods Word into society; then depend on the Lord to convert the hearts of those around us, 1 Corinthians 15:34; 1 Peter 3:1.
There are times when enforcement against the service of other gods was left in the hands of the Lord, either society must utterly destroy the offender or the Lord will, Ex 22:20. This sin of service to other gods in a "Christian society" is a sin of the heart: The heart goes after other gods, yet the outside appears to be serving the Lord alone.
The book of Ezekiel uncovers this sin, with chapter eight the most revealing. Gods people professed a sincere desire to know and obey the law of the Lord (Ez. 20; 33:31, 32), yet in their hearts, they were serving the gods of their imaginations. The Lord was thus being provoked to anger, resulting in His judgment - utter destruction. (Cf. Ez. 14.)
Ezekiel eight makes an important point: The service to the false gods was not in Samaria under the image of Jeroboams calf, nor was it in the land of Babylon under Nebuchadneazzars image, nor was it in any other pagan nation; rather, the idolatry in the heart was taking place in the city of Jerusalem, in the temple of God, between the porch and the altar, v. 16. They were in the temple, standing with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east. They were confident that no one saw what was really going on in their hearts.
Clearly, Gods Spirit revealed through Ezekiel what is in the heart of Gods people as they go through the outward motions of serving Jehovah God - even while sitting in "worship" services. Our Lord pointed this out to the woman at the well, saying, God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth, John 4:24. A sin exposed in Ezekiel eight is the sin of going through the outward religious actions of worship and service of the Lord, while the heart is going after surrounding idols: This sin also involves worshiping and serving the Lord in the manner which seemed best to the individual, with little or no regard for the instructions of His Word in the matter.
The Lord makes it clear to Ezekiel that these religious men were hypocrites, and Gods people were being led in their idolatry by their religious leaders. They were serving and worshiping other gods in their heart, and the Lord shows Ezekiel the coming wrath that He is sending upon them, chapter nine.
As soon as the Ten Commandments were given in
Exodus 20, the Lord warned of the consequences of violating the
first, he shall be utterly destroyed, Exodus 22:20. The
Lord will do the destroying, for only He knows what is going on
in the heart. Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye
shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in
mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them,
The hearts modern departure from Gods Word (led by those in authority) can only be dealt with by the Lord, and it will be. Moreover, those who have departed from Gods Word and attempt to take others with them are to be dealt with as dead persons. The sinner is to be warned twice about his departure, then removed from the church. He is subverted, and will subvert others to follow, Titus 3:10, 11. (Sinneth,see 1 Jn. 3:4.) If it is someone close to us, they must be avoided if they try to persuade us to join them in their revolt against the commandments of God.
And it should go without saying that all professed teachers of Scripture who are in revolt against the commandments of God are to be avoided. They are under the curse of death, which will be fulfilled by the Lord.
Sin is never a private affair: The logical result of Christians overlooking sin, idolatry and covetousness in their personal lives and churches, is the state doing just what Naboth did: confiscating (stealing) property for state use, all under the color of law- for the "good" of the community.
|Society, the Devil's Captive|
Ps 133 Behold, how good and how pleasant [it is] for brethren to dwell together in unity! [It is] like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, [even] Aarons beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, [and as the dew] that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, [even] life for evermore.
About 20 years ago as an associate pastor in Louisiana, I attended an area ministers meeting on Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, just across the river from Shreveport, with my pastor. The above passage was used to urge unity among the many denominations represented at that luncheon. My pastor and I left the meeting [after lunch, by the way] because the intentions were obvious, viz, unity around something other than the Lord Jesus Christ and the inspired Word of God. Since that day, I have had a problem with Ps 133. However, the misuse of the passage by pagans under the name of "Christ" does not justify ignoring the passage by those who trust Christ, submit to His sovereignty, love and believe Gods Word, and who love their fellow man according, Lev 19:18. Obviously, unity with groups denying the final authority of Gods Word are excluded, e.g.,
[Editors Note: Promise Keepers held a 1996 National Clergy conference (2/13/96-2/15/96) in Atlantas Georgia Dome stadium. The purpose of this gathering, according to PKs founder Bill McCarney, was to tear the hearts of pastors wide open so that a single leadership can be produced. He hoped to bring as many as 100,000 ministers and priests of all races together (7/1/96, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, p. C8). Speakers for the event were hyper-charismatic Jack Hayford; the neo-evangelical, psychologizer presidents of Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary, Joseph Stowell and Chuck Swindoll, respectively; and hyper-charismatic liberal E.V. Hill. (Hill praises Jesse Jackson (apostate, radical social activist) and has been linked with liberal groups such as the National Council of Churches and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the latter of which endorsed the early-1993 Gay Rights march on Washington, D.C.!) Also, pop psychologist James Dobsons Focus on the Family sponsored a three-hour evening reception for the attendees on 2/14/96. PK plans an even larger gathering for the autumn of this year to draft a manifesto on racial and denominational reconciliation.] [The Editors Note above is at the end of Rick Miesels artical, Revival & the Revival Mentality. The BDM Letter, Vol. 5, No. 2, PO Box 679, Bedford, In. 47421. We have a man in our church here at Linden who works with a man who went to the recent PK conference in Indianapolis: The co-worker told our man that he should go to the PK rallies because, the man said, you can go to the rallies and still get drunk on the weekends. Sadly, the PK movement appears to be far closer to what is described in Deut 13 than it is to the Christianity described in Rom 13:8ff. May God see fit to bring to naught all efforts to unify apart from the total Word of God. What is wrong with promising to keep the Ten Commandments instead of the "seven promises" the PKs find so appealing?]
[B]rethren to dwell together in unity! The exhortation is not something to be dismissed lightly. We find in Pauls instructions to the servants of the Lord the Spirits warning against striving- of those who engage in a war of words, to quarrel, wrangle, dispute - with one another, 2 Timothy 2:24. Paul follows his condemnation of striving with an insight, viz. strife among the servants of the Lord leaves society in the devils power, taking it captive at his will, v. 26.
Unity among the brethren around the Word of God is no small matter; we know its importance because of the amount of space in Gods Word devoted to the issue, e.g. 1 Cor 1:9ff. Some very pointed and applicable comments have been made that should cause us all to think twice before dismissing Gods command of unity. Writing around 1770, Baptist pastor and theologian John Gill said concerning v. 11, "that there are contentions among you; about their ministers, as appears afterward, as well as about opinions in doctrines, and ceremonies in worship, which occasioned undue heats, and great indecencies, tending to make rents and schisms among them." The authors of the 1599 Geneva Bible very aptly define divisions:
[1 Cor 1:10.] The first part of this epistle, in which his purpose is found, to call back the Corinthians to brotherly harmony, and to take away all occasion of discord. So then this first part concerns the taking away of divisions. Now a division occurs when men who otherwise agree and consent together in doctrine, yet separate themselves from one another. [Emp added.]
Genevahs comments on a few of the following verses are also worth repeating:
[V. 11.] He begins his reprehension and chiding by taking away an objection, because he understood from good witnesses that there were many factions among them. And in addition he declares the cause of dissensions, because some depended on one teacher, some on another, and some were so addicted to themselves that they neglected all teachers and learned men, calling themselves the disciples of Christ alone, completely ignoring their teachers.
[V. 13.] Thefirst reason why divisions ought to be avoided: because Christ seems by that means to be divide (sic) and torn in pieces, who cannot be the head of two different and disagreeing bodies, being himself one. Another reason: because they cannot without great injury to God so depend on men as on Christ: which thing those no doubt do who allow whatever some man speaks, and do it for their own sakes: as these men allowed one and the very same Gospel being uttered by one man, and did loathe it being uttered by another man. So that these factions were called by the names of their teachers. Now Paul sets aside his own name, not simply to grieve no man, but also to show that he does not plead his own cause. The third reason taken from the form and end of baptism, in which we make a promise to Christ, calling also on the name of the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Therefore although a man does not fall from the doctrine of Christ, yet if he depends upon certain teachers, and despises others, he forsakes Christ: for if he holds Christ as his only master, he would hear him, no matter who Christ taught by.
[V. 14.] He protests that he speaks so much the more boldly of these things, because through Gods providence, he is void of all suspicion of gathering disciples to himself, and taking them from others. By which we may understand, that not the scholars only, but the teachers also are here reprehended, who gathered flocks separately and for themselves.
[V. 17.] Now he turns himself to the teachers themselves, who pleased themselves in brave and glory-seeking eloquence, to the end that they might draw more disciples after them. He openly confesses that he was not similar to them, opposing gravely, as it became an apostle, his example against their perverse judgments: so that this is another place in this epistle with regard to the observing of a godly simplicity both in words and sentences in teaching the Gospel. [Online Bible, v. 6.3.]
The church is only strong when united, and its unity is in the individuals love for the suffering, crucified, risen, sovereign Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God and for our fellow man, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, Gal 6:10. 2 Tim 2:22, peace, that is, harmony with other people, especially with those who claim to be of the same body of Christ, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. It is interesting that Paul did not say, with them that call on the Lord out of pure doctrine, but, out of a pure heart. Certainly, we may consider a person wrong in some or many of his theological views, but is he calling on the Lord out of a pure heart? Within these bounds, Christian liberty should freely reign. We pray and say concerning America, "Let freedom ring!"; but why can we not say the same within the bounds of the Lord Jesus Christ?
We quoted the following in The Biblical Examiner, 3/94, but it is worth repeating. Writing in 1860, Congregationalist pastor Joseph Parker said concerning 1 Cor 1:9-17:
".. .The Church is only strong when united. It is possible to have a united Church... [p 170]
"...We find our unity not in our opinion but in our love. Had the differences of Corinth been great, had they in any degree been heroic, the Apostle would have recognized their breadth and grandeur; but they were frivolous divisions, merely petty pedantic classifications. [P 171]
"The crucified should be sovereign... Given Christ at the heart of things, and Paul will allow large liberty as to human aspects, and temporary relations, and immediate conveniences; but he will not have two Christs; there is only one Christ in Pauls Church; his eyes never become so dim that he mistakes the three crosses as of equal value; he separates with a sacred discrimination, and he claims that Jesus Christ should be the one Lord as he was the one Sufferer. We must follow Pauls example, and go back to fundamental lines. Who made the Church possible? Christ. Whose Church is it? Christs. For whose glory does it exist...? For Christs sake it exists... [Pp 173, 174]
"I thank God I had next to nothing to do with your baptism; not that baptism is wrong or useless, but that you would have made a false application of a very small fact. How prone we are to operate in this direction, to assume false honours, to shelter ourselves behind false securities, and to diminish the glorious Christ into a mere mechanical form or passing phase of History?... Every controversy can be settled at the Cross, can be completely settled, finally settled; and no soul will retire from the centre saying that he has got an advantage over his brother... We have been unkind, ungracious, uncharitable: now in sight of the bleeding Lamb of God let us cease to see one anothers littlenesses and begin to see one anothers excellences... [P 176]
"Each man has his own view of God, his own conception of truth and duty, his own little light of hope. These are incommunicable gifts. Man is put in trust of some individuality of faith; it is enough if in his stewardship he be found faithful. We should gain much if we could realize the fact that each man has what he may honestly and modestly denominate his own gospel; that is to say his own view of the Gospel, his own way of explaining the Gospel, his own delight in the Gospel; let each man speak out of his own consciousness and his own experience, and what is lacking in monotony will be made up in individuality; and individuality properly construed and regulated is the guarantee of spiritual energy in the Church. [1 Cor 1:13, p 181.]
"Instead of saying, What are your differences? and let me see if I can adjust them, he brushes them all away, and says, Was Christ divided?... The Cross of Christ was the standard of judgment as well as the centre of observation, and everything depended upon mens relation to the Cross of Christ... Christs work was the atonement; my work is its acceptance, and obedience to its spirit..." [P 184.] [Preaching through the Bible in 28 volumes, Joseph Parker, 1860, Baker book House, vol 26.]
Obviously, "each man has his own view of God, his own conception of truth and duty, his own little light of hope." Each man has been entrusted with his portion of truth, and each will be accountable for his stewardship of faithfulness to the truth given to him by God; God made individuals, and "threw away the mold" after making each one. Therefore, each must be allowed freedom within the realm of his light from God according to Gods Word though we may not agree with him.
This pastor is old enough to remember when the basis of unity was the Five Vs: Verbal Inspiration [vs accepting feelings, emotions, personal ideas, &c., over Gods Word], Virgin Birth, Victorious Resurrection, Vicarious Atonement & Visible Return. Obviously, Paul does not call for unity with those who deny, for example, the Verbal Inspiration, but Paul sure does call for unity around the crucified, risen, redeeming and sovereign Lord Jesus Christ as revealed to man in His Word.
Turning our attention to Pauls instruction to pastors/teachers as given to Timothy, we find some important points. 2 Tim 2:24 tells the servant of the Lord that he must avoid strife, and strife is defined in v. 23. Let us consider Gills words for v. 23.
But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, &c. Such as have no solid wisdom in them, and are foreign from the Gospel, the wisdom of God in a mystery, and are not useful and unedifying; such ought to be avoided, publicly and privately; they should not be started in the public ministry, nor attended to in private conversation; as being unworthy of the notice of a minister of the Gospel wise and learned, and useless to the church, and to his hearers.
Knowing that they do gender strife; about words, and contentions, which break the peace of churches, and hinder the profit of souls, and the progress of the Gospel.
In this pastors opinion, "The wisdom of God in a mystery" that "students of the Word" tend to argue over in public and in private are things such as the doctrine of Election. Things such as the Biblical doctrine of Election are among the many mysteries of the mind of God. Certainly, we have the mind of God revealed in the Word of God, but we DO NOT have the understanding of God: We only have what the fallen minds of men can comprehend. There are many mysteries, e.g. Election, that are far beyond mans comprehension, and they will never be understood until we receive our new body in Christs likeness. Each man must settle in his own mind Gods mysterious doctrines, and act according to all the counsel of God, Acts 20:27. Unity in the body of Christ cannot take place until and unless each person understands and accepts the fact that he does not have all the truth. Hence, 2 Tim 2:23, 24, forbid arguing over the secrets of God. Only strife, contention, division and satanic bondage and destruction can result, v. 26.
Cyprian, [A.D. 200-258] said concerning 2 Tim 2:24:
10. But it happens, by a love of presumption and of obstinacy, that one would rather maintain his own evil and false position, than agree in the right and true which belongs to another. Looking forward to which, the blessed Apostle Paul writes to Timothy, and warns him that a bishop must not be "litigious, nor contentious, but gentle and teachable." (5) Now he is teachable who is meek and gentle to the patience of learning. For it behoves a bishop not only to teach, but also to learn; because he also teaches better who daily increases and advances by learning better; which very thing, moreover, the same Apostle Paul teaches, when he admonishes, "that if anything better be revealed to one sitting by, the first should hold his peace."(6) But there is a brief way for religious and simple minds, both to put away error, and to find and to elicit truth. For if we return to the head and source of divine tradition, human error ceases; and having seen the reason of the heavenly sacraments, whatever lay hid in obscurity under the gloom and cloud of darkness, is opened into the light of the truth. If a channel supplying water, which formerly flowed plentifully and freely, suddenly fail, do we not go to the fountain, that there the reason of the failure may be ascertained, whether from the drying up of the springs the water has failed at the fountainhead, or whether, flowing thence free and full, it has failed in the midst of its course; that so, if it has been caused by the fault of an interrupted or leaky channel, that the constant stream does not flow uninterruptedly and continuously, then the channel being repaired and strengthened, the water collected may be supplied for the use and drink of the city, with the same fertility and plenty with which it issues from the spring? And this it behoves the priests of God to do now, if they would keep the divine precepts, that if in any respect the truth have wavered and vacillated, we should return to our original and Lord, and to the evangelical and apostolical tradition; and thence may arise the ground of our action, whence has taken rise both our order and our origin.(7) [Anti-Nicene Fathers, v. 5, p 398, CDROM, The Electronic Bible Society, PO Box 70135, Dallas, Texas 75370.]
Before making a few observations, we should point out that a teachable spirit DOES NOT mean one must agree with what is being taught, nor does it imply compromise on the basic foundations of the Christian faith. Thus,
First, "presumption and
obstinacy" causes one to be unteachable.
Second, a teachable, learning spirit is equated with a meek and gentle spirit. Accordingly, an "unteachable spirit" among the "teachers" of Gods Word is a mark of pride - and of the last days, we might add, 2 Tim 3:1ff.
Third, every man has the total Divine Truth, the Word of God, but no man is free from the fallen mind, i.e. human error and sin - which some are involved in more than others. No man, consequently, can claim a "corner" on divine truth.
The summation of Cyprians point: "a bishop must not be litigious, nor contentious, but gentle and teachable...." In other words, one who does not have a teachable spirit is unqualified before God to teach others. Cyprian DID NOT say that the teacher must accept all he hears; he DID say that a Godly teacher will have a teachable spirit. The lack of a teachable spirit leads to contentions, arguments and snares of the devil.
2 Tim 2:23ff. But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all [men], apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And [that] they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
Ps 133 Behold, how good and how pleasant [it is] for brethren to dwell together in unity! [It is] like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, [even] Aarons beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, [and as the dew] that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, [even] life for evermore.
Why, may we ask, is the Lord God permitting the devil to hold society captive to his, the devils, will? The answer is clear: "Men of God" cannot dwell together in unity around the Lord Jesus Christ and the basic premises of Gods Word.
|A Mini Church Pastor|
by Dr. Johnny Miller
In small towns across America, small and mid-size Main Street stores are papered with "Going Out of Business!" signs. What has happened?
Wal-Mart, with its marketing skills and efficiency, is the scourge of the small-town business. With a tremendous support structure financing the venture, Wal-Mart moves into a small town. It offers the same products sold by the Main Street stores at much lower prices, forcing Mom and Pop to either compete or close. From the time an impending Wal-Mart incursion is announced until dwindling trade brings the "Going out of Business" sale, Mom and Pop are under a great deal of stress from the fear of the future. Should they:
Fix up their tiny shop?
Add new lines of merchandise?
Slash every price?
Appeal to old customers to be loyal?
What do you do when you know Wal-Mart is coming to town?
By stock in Wal-Mart!
Those pressures are familiar to todays pastor who sees the Wal-Marts of the Christian industry - the megachurches-spring up in cities and, with their one-stop shopping appeal, start drawing customers (parishioners) away from the Mom and Pop stores. These mall-like monsters offer a wider range of products and services at a much lower price - especially if you think of time, commitment and involvement as the medium of exchange. They offer:
Sparkling nurseries with
Entertaining variety programs with professional quality music.
Gleaming, luxurious facilities reminiscent of a Dillards or a Nieman Marcus.
A highly gifted communicator to deliver the goods to a softened-up audience.
The small church pastor watches his younger families lured away by the attractiveness of youth and childrens programs, singles drawn to the large hive, middle-age couples pursuing the high-class entertainment, and he starts to feel like Egypt right after the plagues. The locusts have eaten everything green and left just the barren brown stumps.
The pressures on the pastor of the smaller church fall into several categories.
1. Emotional - Am I a success or failure? Am I significant or insignificant? Does God love me and will He bless me? Have I been passed by in life?
2. Financial - As a church, how do we invest in staff and facilities to keep up? And personally, how do we get families to stick here so that the church can afford to pay me and my family a decent salary?
3. Relational - Many in the church want us to become high-powered, but at the same time they dont want to go through the change in structure and relationships necessary to move in that direction.
4. Vision - Why are we here? How do I capture and articulate a worthwhile sense of purpose?
How do I deal with these pressures without caving in or quitting? How do I find joy in the ministry? Most of us believed we were responding to Gods leading to be pastors, evangelists, preachers, and teachers of Gods Word. We didnt go into the ministry to become marketing specialists. How do we fulfill our sense of calling?
Let me suggest several concepts that may help you live with the pressures of being a pastor today, and, in fact, may give you a greater sense of joy in being exactly who God has made you.
1. Confess our recurring sins of jealousy, fear, and covetousness. These are not the fruit of the Holy Spirit; they are prompted by fleshly desires for attainment. The Lord had to deal with this problem constantly in working with His disciples (e.g., Luke 9:46-49). Their self- seeking hurt Him and the Body. WE must be honest to call sin what it is, because were involved in a spiritual enterprise which will be accomplished in holiness.
Be aware, also, that the megachurch pastor has the same problems that you have and more; he has to maintain all that he has and still grow!
2. Identify the purpose of God, and make sure we are involved. God is bringing many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10). He is reaching the unreached of all nations and bringing the reached into conformity with the person of His dear Son. As long as were doing what God is doing, there has to be a place for our service.
3. Accept our limitations. God formed us in the womb: He knows us intimately, and He has prepared us both naturally and spiritually to be what we need to be to serve Him. There are certain characteristics of many megachurch pastors which help equip them for their level of service, just as you have qualities and strengths that they lack:
The truth is, God didnt make us all to run a Wal-Mart. And He doesnt play favorites among His children.
4. Focus on our own gifts and strengths. Be realistic about your gift(s) - Dont think more highly of yourself than you ought (Romans 12:3).
Gods will for another disciple is
irrelevant to His will for us (John 21:20-22).
The Lord distributed talents according to each
ones ability, and He rewards for faithfulness (Matthew
It is the Lord Christ whom we serve (Colossians 3:24), not ourselves or even primarily the Church.
If a plumber tries to run Wal-Mart, theres going to be a lot of broken pipes in one area of the country, and the poorly-run business in another. In fact, a plumber ought to run a plumbing business.
Or, to change the analogy, if you are not meant to manage a Wal-Mart, then manage The Gap. Thats an interesting name for a chain. They could just as easily have called themselves The Niche. There was a gap in business, so they filled it.
Sometimes, in worrying about the people who arent in our church, we ignore the ones who are. How many times have you heard a pastor scold the people in attendance of the failures of the ones who arent? We duplicate that when we overlook the faithfulness of some and become despondent over the unfaithfulness of others.
To whom do you minister? Why? What attracts and keeps them? Analyze that and build on your strength. Do what you do well, and build around it.
5. Love your people, enjoy the ministry, praise God, and build non- threatening relationships with people. One thing Wal-Mart does not offer is personal service. They give a friendly impression with a greeter standing at the door who is trained to be nice. Smaller churches could learn from that. But that person may never know the customers like Mom and Pop did. However, how would you feel if every time you went back to Mom and Pop all they did was load you down with their complaints about Wal- Mart and the disloyalty of their old customers?
A small church that is unfriendly is far worse than a megachurch that is professionally warm. If you are going to a church where you dont know anyone anyway, it is far better to be lost in a crowd in the comfortable mall-like environs of a big church than to stick out like a sore thumb in a crowd in the awkward environs of a small church. When people come to a small church, their relational expectations are very high. Disappointment is crushing.
When I was a pastor, I tried to go to at least three different churches every Sunday that I was on vacation to see how others did things, and to see how it felt to be new. Then I tried to convince my elders and deacons to do the same so we could see ourselves through fresh eyes.
Most of our people live in a very impersonal world where no one truly cares for their souls. I discovered about ten years into the pastorate that my first job was to love people and to let them know individually and corporately that I did.
Church should be a loving place to be.
Let me summarize: If you are not called to be a Wal-Mart, then be a successful Gap. Trust God; devote your life in holiness to serve Him with your gift(s), and whatever you do, do it well. Do it well and do it with love. Invest your one gift fully and leave the results and the rewards to God.
[From the Christian Observers Sept 18th, 1995, issue, "Directory of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches." Dr. Johnny Miller is the President of Columbia International University (Formerly Columbia Bible College and Seminary). Used by permission.]
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