Holy Spirit: In Conversion (Part 1)

 

Much of Christendom are Calvinistic in doctrine. They hold to the following five points, known as the T.U.L.I.P.: (1) Total Depravity. Man is born in sin. He is incapable of doing good. He is even incapable of understanding God’s will as revealed in the Scriptures. (2) Unconditional Election. Since man is incapable of doing anything to respond to God, God arbitrarily picks certain ones for salvation without their meeting any conditions. (3) Limited Atonement. Jesus did not die for all. He died only for those for whom God unconditionally elected. (4) Irresistible Grace. When God calls His elect to salvation, they cannot resist. The Holy Spirit directly operates on the human heart with irresistible force. This draws them irresistibly to salvation. This illuminates them so that they can understand the scriptures. Man is passive in receiving this irresistible grace. Thus, it is not uncommon for people to speak of their “getting saved.” (5) Perseverance of the Saints. The elect are irresistibly drawn, and thus cannot lose their salvation. Once they are saved, they are always saved.

All five points are wrong. However, at this time we are concerned only with how the Holy Spirit works in conversion.

Illumination

Acts 16:13-14, “And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the woman who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshipped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.”

She does not sound totally depraved. She is described as one who worshipped God. She was doing such even before the Lord opened her heart.

How did God open her heart? Many assume that He did such by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit on the human heart. However, the text does not say such. Moreover, other passages seem to indicate that one can hear and obey without having received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:36-38; 8:4-5, 12, 14-17; 19: 1-6).

Some brethren have held that her heart was opened through signs and wonders done by Paul. Alexander Campbell wrote, “the Lord not only promised to confirm or prove the testimony of the Apostles, but did actually go forth with them, confirming the word with all power, and signs, and wonders and thus opened the hearts of the hearers to receive the gospel. Had the gospel not been confirmed by demonstrations of the power of God inimitable, no one’s heart or ears would have been opened to attend to it” (Franklin Camp, The Work of the Holy Spirit in Redemption, p. 192). It is true that the gospel did not go forth in word only (1 Thessalonians 1:5; Hebrews 2:3-4; Romans 15:18-19; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5). Such is possible, but not necessarily, the meaning.

We should consider the immediate context. J.W. McGarvey well said, “When an effect can be explained and accounted for by causes which are known to be present, it is illogical to assume a cause which is not known to be present” (McGarvey, Original Commentary on Acts, p. 203). The context tells us that the message was spoken (Acts 16:13). Lydia listened (Acts 16:14). Her heart was opened. The proclamation of the truth, and the showing of how Jesus fulfilled scripture can affect the heart (cf. Luke 24:25-27, 32). One should draw only those conclusions which are warranted by the evidence. It is illogical to assume a direct operation of the Holy Spirit.

Why credit God and not Paul for opening her heart? Alan Adams illustrated this crediting of God by the game Mousetrap. What (or who) caught the mouse? One might say it was the basket which caught the mouse. Another might say it was the gizmo which tripped the latch which held the basket. Another might say that it was the ball which rolled to trip the gizmo. Another might say it was the player who set the whole process in motion, who did it. Another might point out that this would not have happened without the moves of the other players. Another might say that ultimate credit goes to the designer of the game itself. All would be correct. Paul was directed by God to Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10). He found certain women by the riverside in Philippi and preached to them (Acts 16:12-14). The message was a message inspired of God. Miraculous evidence may have been set forth. Such would also be from God. Who opened Lydia’s heart? Paul? Yes. God? Yes. Credit ultimately goes to Him (Article: Fishing For Unknown Causes).

Faith

Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Many believe that the word “that” refers to faith. They think that God through a direct operation of the Holy Spirit infuses a depraved man with faith.

Let’s assume for a moment that the word “that” does refer to faith. Does anything in the text demand a direct operation of the Holy Spirit? No. What we read elsewhere in the New Testament is that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Other passages teach the same (Luke 8:11-15; John 5:45-47; 17:20; 20:30-31; Acts 17:11-12; 18:8; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2 Thessalonians 1:10). Faith follows hearing of God’s word. It never is seen as infused before hearing. Nothing suggests a direct operation of the Holy Spirit. Various passages indicate that one can hear and obey before receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:4-5, 12, 14-17; 19:1-6).

However, “that” does not refer to faith. “That” is neuter gender. “Faith” and “grace” are both feminine gender. A.T. Robertson commented that the reference is “not to pistis (faith – B.H.) or charis (grace – B.H.) … but to the act of being saved by grace conditioned on faith on our part” (Word Pictures in the New Testament). Marvin Vincent commented, “that” refers to “not faith, but the salvation” (Word Studies). Roy Deaver commented, “The neuter ‘this’ (Greek tauto) can (and here does) refer to the total subject, rather than to a single word. The subject under consideration here is: Salvation…” (Spiritual Sword Lectures, God’s Amazing Grace, p. 428).

Salvation does not have its source in man (It is not literally “out of” man). It is a gift from God (note: Gifts can be given on conditions – Joshua 1:2; 6:2 cf. 6:3-5; 6:6-20).

Conviction

John 16:8-11, “And when He (the Holy Spirit, the Helper – B.H.) has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

Many assume that the Holy Spirit convicts the world by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit. However, one should draw only such conclusions as are warranted by the evidence.

The immediate context concerns the Holy Spirit coming to inspire the apostles (John 14:26; 5:26-27; 16:12-14). Could the world be convicted of sin by the inspired message proclaimed by the apostles? Absolutely! (See Acts 2:4, 14, 36-37).

The Holy Spirit: (1) Convicted the world of sin. The specific sin in view is the rejection of Jesus (cf. John 16:9). This was accomplished through preaching (Acts 2:4, 14, 36-37). (2) Convicted the world of righteousness. The specific righteousness in view is the righteousness of Jesus (cf. John 16:10). This too was accomplished through preaching (Acts 2:4, 22-37). (3) Convicted the world of judgment. The specific judgment in view is the judgment of Satan (John 16:11). The evidence set forth in Peter’s sermon convinced many that they had been following the wrong prince. All of these things were accomplished through preaching.

Drawn

John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up in the last day.”

Many assume that the Father draws men by an irresistible force, a direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the hearts of men. Please note the text does not implicitly teach such.

How does God draw men? The answer is found in the very next verse. “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (John 6:45). He draws us by the message (2 Thessalonians 2:14; John 5:36-37, 39; 7:16-17; 12:49-50; 14:24).

The Holy Spirit revealed the word. This word opens our heart, produces faith, convicts man of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and draws man to God.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ordinary Folks

I’ve heard people say things like, “I’m just an ordinary person. What can I do?” They reason that since they lack formal or specialized training and eloquence of speech they are useless in the service of God...

The truth is, God has used ordinary folks throughout history, to do extraordinary things. Consider this partial list: Moses was highly educated (Acts 7:22); Yet, he evidently has speech difficulties (Exodus 4:10). Gideon was a wheat farmer (Judges 6:11). Ruth was a widow (Ruth 1:3-4). David was a shepherd (1 Samuel 16:19; 17:15, 34). Elisha was a plowboy (1 Kings 19:19). Amos was a keeper of sheep and a gatherer of sycamore fruit (Amos 7:14 cf. 1:1). Esther was an orphan (Esther 2:7). Joseph was a carpenter (Matthew 13:55). Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11). They were “unlearned” (i.e. unversed in the learning of the Jewish schools; cf. John 7:15, Thayer) and “ignorant” (“without professional knowledge, unskilled, uneducated, unlearned” Vine’s) by description (Acts 4:13). Paul was highly educated (Acts 22:3 cf. 5:34); yet, it appears that he was not the most polished of speakers (2 Corinthians 10:10; 11:6).

The point is this: God can use you in His service. Don’t make the excuse, “I’m just an ordinary person. I have no special skills. I am no eloquent.” You can do great things in His service!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tolerating Evil to Our Own Destruction

Friends and brethren, I ask you, “are we too comfortable in this world?” Have we still the discomfort of Lot who was “tormented” (“vexed” KJV) by the wickedness of the land (2 Peter 2:7-8)? Or, have we become more like those of Jeremiah’s day who no longer blushed at sin (Jeremiah 6:15)?

Our aim is to look at how the children of Israel tolerated sin to their own destruction. We can be guilty of the same.

Background

Before the children of Israel entered the promised land, God told them: (1) The Canaanites were losing the land due to the fullness of their sins (Genesis 15:16). (2) He would be with them in driving out the Canaanites (Exodus 23:28-ff; 33:2). (3) The conquest wouldn’t occur in one year. It would happen little by little (Exodus 23:29-30). (4) They were to drive them out (Exodus 23:31; Numbers 35:51-52; Deuteronomy 7:2, 5, 16). (5) They were to make no covenants with these people (Exodus 23:31-33; 34:12, 14; Deuteronomy 7:2; Judges 2:3). (6) They were not to marry these people (Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3; Joshua 23:12-13). (7) They were not to worship the Canaanite’s gods (Exodus 23:32-33; Deuteronomy 7:4). (8) If you will not comply with my instructions, I will no longer continue to drive them out before you (Numbers 33:55; Joshua 23:12-13; Judges 2:1-3, 19-20). Such will lead to your down fall (Numbers 33:56; Genesis 15:16; cf. Matthew 23:32 cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16).

The Toleration/Compromise

  1. They allowed the Canaanites to remain in the land (Psalm 106:34).

Early on, they seemed to be a people intent on driving out the Canaanites. The walls of Jericho fell by faith (Joshua 6 cf. Hebrews 11:30). We recall the determination of Caleb (Joshua 14:6-12 cf. Judges 1:20). They are described as a generation which “served the LORD” (Joshua 24:31; Judges 2:7). They are described as “obeying the commandments of the LORD” (Judges 2:17).

However, In time, the nation would fail to keep up the good fight (Joshua 16:10; 17:13; Judges 1:27-36; Psalm 106:34).

Why? (a) Some had become too comfortable and at ease (Joshua 17:13; Judges 1:28). They were pre-occupied with their own lives (Deuteronomy 6:10-12a; 8:7-14). Josephus “tired of fighting, the Israelites turned to cultivating the land, and derived wealth and luxury from it unwilling to go to war preferring a life of peace and prosperity” (The Essential Writings, p. 84).

Folks, let us never allow our comfort, and ease, and material possessions to distract us from our task. Read Luke 8:14.

(b) Others came up with what they must have thought was a more practical plan. Once they gained the upper hand on the Canaanites, the tribes of Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulun, and Naphtali placed a “tribute” (KJV) on the Canaanites or made them “forced laborers” (NKJV/NASB), slaves if you will (See Joshua 16:10; 17:13; Judges 1:28, 30, 33,35; Also – 1 Kings 9:20-21; 2 Chron. 8:7-8). They were never authorized to do this. Matthew Henry, “They spared them out of covetousness that they might profit by their labor and deal with them for tribute (Vol. 2, p. 67).

May we never be guilty of placing business interests ahead of what God says.

(c) In the case of Judah, there was a lack of faith or faithfulness ( Judges 1:18-19 cf. Joshua 17:17-18). The issue was not that God couldn’t drive out iron chariots (Joshua 17:17-18; 11:4- 6; Judges 4:3, 13-16). Brother Tim Ayers has written of Judges 1:18-19: “Perhaps the answer is found in dividing verse 19 into two separate time periods – one in which Judah was faithful and thus successful, and the other in which it had turned away from the Lord and no longer had His support and help cf. Joshua 23:12-13” (13th Annual Denton Lectures, p. 161). This truly was an issue (Joshua 24:12-13 cf. Judges 2:2-3, 20-21).

Let us always remember unfaithfulness will hinder us today as well (James 5:16).

2.  They, in time, began to associate with the Canaanites (Psalm 106:35).

They “mingled” with the heathen. The Bible warns, “He that walks with wise men will be wise, but a companion of fools will be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20). It says, “As iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). Also consider this warning, “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare for your soul” (Proverbs 22:24-25). Also read this, “Be not deceived, evil company (evil communication – KJV / bad company – NASB) corrupts good habits (good manner – KJV / good morals NASB)” (1 Cor. 15:33).

They also intermarried with these people. They were warned against doing this (Exodus 34:12-16; Deuteronomy 7:3-4; Joshua 23:12-13). However, they still did this (Judges 3:6).

Brethren let us set our standards high. Those we make our friends, and especially our mate, will influence us greatly for the better or the worse. If we have children, who we “mingle with,” and especially who we select to the their mother (or father) has much to do with how they turn out, and whether they’ll make it to heaven or not. Let us “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” in all things.

3.  Finally, they learned from them (Psalm 106:35b – 39).

They learned their ways. They, in time, took on many of the Canaanite religious practices (Deuteronomy 18:10-ff cf. 2 Kings 17:13-20; 16:3; 21:6; 23:10; 2 Chronicles 33:6-9; Psalm 106:36-39; Jeremiah 32:35; Ezekiel 16:20-21; 23:37).

May we always be concerned enough religiously speaking to “test all things; (and) hold fast (unto) that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21); and to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Let us never borrow beliefs and practices from false systems of religion.

Understand God did not want us to “go out of the world” (1 Corinthians 5:10).   Jesus did not pray that we be taken “out of the world” (John 17:15). Instead we are to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:15, 16; John 15:19). Let us be careful to be influencing the world in a positive direction instead of allowing the world to influence us in an evil way.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This Is Our Watch

1 Corinthians 16:13-14, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.  Let all that you do  be done with love.”

This is our time on earth. This is our watch. Let us consider the words of 1 Corinthians 16:13-14:

1.  “Watch.”  Let us, as God’s people, be alert and on guard. (a) Let us watch out  for the enemy, and his influence. The adversary is real.  1 Peter 5:8 warns us to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” We need to be a spiritually discerning people (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1-ff). (b) Let us watch out for the sake of others. Ezekiel was made a watchman for his people (Ezekiel 3:16-ff; 33:1-ff). Elders are responsible for watching out for the souls of the church (Hebrews 13:17). Christians are their brothers keepers (1 Thessalonians 5:14; Hebrews 3:13). (c) Let us watch for the Lord’s return. We are told, “Watch, therefore, for you do not know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matthew 25:13). We need to live in anticipation of this return ( 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Titus 2:13).

2.  “Stand fast in the faith.” Let us stand our ground and not back down.  It  is the system of faith (cf. Acts 6:7; 14:22; Galatian 1:23; 2 Corinthians 13:5 etc.) in which we are to stand.  May we not be  fickle, hot one minute – cold the next (Mark 4:5-6, 16-17); but, let us resolve to be steadfast.  1 Corinthians 15:58 reads, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”  Galatians 6:9 exhorts, “let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

3.  “Be brave.”  Other versions read “quit you like men” (KJV); “act like men” (NASB, ESV). Thayer defines the origin word to mean “to show one’s self a man, be brave.” Let us be men, and not children in our Christianity. 1 Corinthians 14:20 reads, “Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature (men – KJV).”   Let us go on to maturity.  Let us be men!

4.  “Be strong.” Brother Bill Jackson  has written, “The appeal for them to be powerful and forceful for God, and thus be spiritually strong” (Jackson, A Commentary on First Corinthians, p. 172).  They were to “Trust God, and go forth doing His will” (Lipscomb, First Corinthians, p. 256). Let us be strong, powerful servants of the most High God.  Ephesians 6:10-11 says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”  Look at the words of 2 Timothy 1:7-8, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God.”

5.  “Let all that you do be done with love.”  David Lipscomb writes, “All their affairs were to be conducted in the spirit of love to God and man (ibid, p. 257). Our preaching should be done in love (Ephesians 4:15).  Our deeds and all our actions should be likewise done in, and motivated by love (Galatians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 16:13-14). Good deeds without love profit nothing.  Let us “Pursue love”!

If we would truly do these things we just might save ourselves and many souls. We just might turn this society around.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sixteen Things About Jesus

It is easy to advise one to consider in decision-making W.W.J.D.. However, such is beneficial only if one truly knows how Jesus lived. Too many do not. The book of Mark contains sixteen chapters. Let’s consider one snapshot of Jesus from each chapter.

  1. Jesus was a man of prayer. Mark 1:35: “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” He not only instructed prayer (Mark 11:17; 13:33; 14:38), He practiced it (Mark 1:35; 6:46; 14:32).
  2. Jesus was a man of logic. Mark 2:16-17: “And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with tax collectors and sinners they said to His disciples, ‘How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard it, He said to them, ‘those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’” He always had a reasonable answer for what He believed and practiced (Mark 2:16-17; 12:13-17; 12:18-27; 12:28-34).
  3. Jesus was a man of impartiality. Mark 3:31-34: “Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. And the multitude was sitting around: and they said to Him, ‘Look, Your mother, and Your brothers are outside seeking You.’ But He answered them saying, ‘Who is My mother, or my brothers? And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.’” There was something more important to Him than earthly kinship (Luke 11:27-28 Acts 10:34-35).
  4. He was a man of power. Mark 4:39-41: “Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm But He said to them, ‘Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?’ And they feared exceedingly and said to one another, ‘Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!’” He had power over nature, but did not force anyone to follow Him.
  5. Jesus was a man of compassion. Mark 5:18-20: “And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.’ And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled. Do we, as Jesus have compassion for others? Are we, as this healed man, practicing friendship evangelism? cf. 1 Peter 2:9.
  6. Jesus was a man of comfort. Mark 6:49-51: “And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were troubled; But immediately He talked with them and said to them, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’ Then he went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased.” Does our presence bring comfort and peace to others? cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:14.
  7. Jesus was a man of perfection. Mark 7:37: “And they were all astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well.’” He did not half way do things. Do we? cf. Colossians 3:23; Ecclesiastes 9:10.
  8. Jesus was a man of proper values. Mark 8:36-37: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” This is what He taught. Is this how we see things? Do we value the souls about physical life and material things?
  9. Jesus was a man who taught service. Mark 9:33-35: “Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, ‘What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?’ But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be among the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.’” Greatness, He said, was found in serving others.
  10. Jesus was a man who practiced service. Mark 10:42-45: “But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to serve, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many.’” He not only taught it, He practiced it.
  11. Jesus was a man who rode a donkey. Mark 11:7-8: “Then they brought the cold to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road.” This was Jesus’ triumphant entry. This was the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 which reads, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey.” He came in peace. The donkey “is associated throughout the Bible with peaceful pursuits (Genesis 42:26-f; 22:3; 1 Samuel 16:20; 2 Samuel 19:26; Nehemiah 13:15), whereas the horse is referred to in connection with war and armies” (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 287). It as “preferred by rulers and great men for peaceful journeys. Horses were reserved for war” (The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, p. 40). Jesus came in peace, offering salvation. He did not come to make war against sinful man (cf. John 3:17). Moreover, He did not enter being carried on the backs of men or in an expensive chariot. He entered on a donkey, “Something the humblest peasant (often) owned” (I.S.B.E.).
  12. Jesus was a man who knew the scripture and rebuked error. Mark 12:24-27: “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.’” Jesus frequently said things like – “have you not read” (Mark 2:25; 12:10; 12:26; Matthew 12:3; 12:5; 19:4; 21:16; 21:42; 22:31; 24:15); “it is written” (Mark 7:6; 9:12; 9:13; 11:17; 14:21; 14:27; Matthew 4:4; 4:7; 4:10; 11:10; 21:13; 26:24; 26:31); and, “you are mistaken, not knowing the scriptures” (Matthew 22:29; Mark 12:24; 12:27). Too many of us are silent in the presence of doctrinal error.
  13. Jesus was a man of vigilance. Mark 13:32-37: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; For you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going into a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming – in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning – lest coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, “say to all watch!” Do we so live in expectation of His return?
  14. Jesus was a man determined to do the will of the Father. Mark 14:35-36: “He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.’” Are we so determined? He calls on us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow after Him (Mark 8:34-35; 10:21-22).
  15. Jesus was a man who allowed Himself to be bound. Mark 15:1: “They bound Jesus, led Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate.” The man who calmed the wind and the sea (Mark 4:39-41; 6:45-51), and handled a man no one could restrain (Mark 5:1-15) allowed Himself to be bound. He had more than twelve legions of angels at his disposal (Matthew 26:52-54). Yet, He came “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Love is what bound Him.
  16. Jesus was (is) a man of mercy and forgiveness. Mark 16:15-16: “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” He gave man an opportunity for forgiveness.

*Note: The idea for this article comes from Johnny Ramsey who urged students at the Brown Trail School of Preaching to remember one point about Jesus per chapter in the book of Mark.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Miracles (Part 5)

This is our final part of this series on miracles. In this part, we will, once more, consider the duration of miraculous gifts in the church.

Ephesians 4

“But to each one of us grace was given to the measure of Christ’s gift” (4:7).

The “grace” referred to here is miraculous gifts (Ephesians 3:7; 4:7-8 cf. 4:11; Romans 1:5; 12:3-6; 15:15-16). This gift was from Christ (Acts 8:20), God (Acts 8:20), and the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8-11). All authority is derived from the Father. This authority was given to Christ [Matthew 28:18-20; John 17:1-2; John 5:22 (cf. Acts 17:31; Romans 2:16)]. The Spirit is the dispensing agent, working through the authority of Christ (John 16:13-15).

“When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men” (4:8).

Two things followed Jesus’ ascension: (1) He led captivity captive. He gained victory over the power which had held men captive (cf. Romans 7:23-25; 1 Corinthians 15:17-18, 22, 55-57; Hebrews 2:14-15). (2) He gave gifts to men (cf. John 16:7-14; Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8; 2:4).

Some see the imagery to be from military victory parades. Adam Clark commented, “The conqueror was placed in a very elevated chariot… the conquered generals were usually bound behind the chariot of the conqueror, to grace the triumph… the conqueror was wont to throw money to the crowd” (Vol. 6, p. 452).

“(Now this, ‘He ascended’… He also first descended into the lowest parts of the earth… He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things)” (4:9-10).

Robert Lowry penned, “Up from the grave he arose; with a mighty triumph o’er his foes; he arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever with his saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!” (Song: Low In The Grave He Lay).

“He… gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (4:11-12).

These various ministries were closely associated with miraculous gifts in the early church. Two of these ministries were necessarily connected with miraculous gifts: apostles, prophets. Evangelists of the first century were aided by miraculous gifts (Acts 21:8 cf. 8:5-6, 13; 2 Timothy 4:5 cf. 1:6). Though, it is possible to evangelize without miraculous gifts (Acts 18:24-19:7; 2 Timothy 2:2). Pastors and teachers evidently, commonly were also miraculously endowed (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11). W.T. Hamilton has remarked, “The need and work of each office determines its permanency. If the need for the office was temporary, the office was temporary. If the need permanent, the office was permanent. This passage deals with gifts, not the permanency of the office. Their needs were supplied until the word was all revealed” (Glory In The Church, pp. 79-80).

The gifts were given to equip the church for the ministry and the edifying of the body. W.T. Hamilton commented, “When Paul wrote the Ephesians, most of the New Testament had not been written; hence, they had special needs that had to be supplied in a special way. This was true of the entire church for several years after its establishment in Acts 2” (ibid, pp. 78-79). Remember that edification came through revelation and inspired teaching (1 Corinthians 14:3, 6).

“till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to the perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried by every wind of doctrine…” (4:13-14).

How long were these gifts to last? The answer is “till we come to the unity of the faith.” The term “unity” can mean “unity… in contrast with parts of which the whole is made up” (B-A-G). “The Faith” refers to the system of faith (cf. Acts 6:7; 14:22; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 1:23; 3:23; 3:25; Philippians 1:27; 1 Timothy 3:9; 4:1; 5:8; Jude 3, etc.).   Doesn’t this sound like the perfect or complete in contrast with the parts in 1 Corinthians 13:9-10?

The two passages have other similarities. (1) Both speak of the church moving from childhood to maturity (Ephesians 4:13-14 cf. 1 Corinthians 13:11). (2) Both speak of the church coming to full knowledge – epignosomai (Ephesians 4:12 cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12).

Objections

  1. Some have pointed out that while “till” can refer to a termination point (e.g. Acts 23:12, 21; 1 Timothy 6:14), it does not have to mean such, but can mean – up to that point, without implying what happens after that point (e.g. Genesis 8:5; 46:34; 1 Samuel 15:35; 2 Samuel 6:23; Matthew 11:23; 13:30; 28:15; Mark 13:30; Acts 10:30; 20:7; 23:1; Romans 5:14, etc.). This is true. However, this passage sounds much like 1 Corinthians 13, which does speak of the end of the miraculous age (even Pentecostals admit such though we differ over the time).
  2. Some hold that this is speaking of the unity of brethren, and that what is being said is that the purpose of the various ministries is to bring about such unity. Moreover, some who hold this view do not understand “till” as a termination point, but a goal. However, this does not seem correct because Paul had just instructed them “to keep the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
  3. Some wonder how “the faith” in Jude could refer to the complete system of faith since most do not list Jude as the last New Testament book written. In reply – a) we do not know for sure the exact chronological order in which the books appeared. Jude is thought to have been one of the last books written. b) If it was not the last written, it is possible that “the faith” had been delivered orally at this point but had not yet been written down or fully disseminated. The E.S.V. Study Bible comments, “Although the New Testament documents had not yet been collected into a complete canon of Scripture, by this time the foundational New Testament teachings were circulating in oral form through the apostolic circles.” Marion Fox has summarized his thoughts on the subject in this way: “The ‘Unity of the Faith’ came when the faith (the New Testament) was fully revealed, confirmed, and disseminated. For example, the church at Thessalonica had two epistles, the church at Corinth had two epistles, Timothy had two epistles, etc. Each congregation or person had a piece of ‘the faith’ and when they saw to it that their piece was copied and disseminated to the universal church, the unity of the faith had arrived. Of course, each congregation would be required to have those who possessed gifts to confirm the authenticity of each book” (The Work of The Holy Spirit, Vol. 2, p. 418).
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Golden Text

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

  1. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son”

The word “world” does not refer to this sphere on which we live, nor does it refer to this universe (though the term Kosmos is so used at times). The word “world” refers to the people (cf. Romans 5:8). This is a figure of speech, a metonymy, whereby the place is put for the people. Robert Taylor Jr. has written, “The world He loved embraced the lost in three dimensions – past, present, future.   He died for those prior to Calvary as well as those subsequent Golgotha” {Robert Taylor Jr., Studies in the Gospel of John, p. 44. [See Romans 3:25-26; Galatians 4:4-5; Hebrews 9:15; 11:16; 11:39-40 (cf. 9:7-9, 13-14 cf. 10:1-4, 16-17, 22); Matthew 8:11; John 17:20]}.

The opportunity for salvation is due to God’s amazing love. “God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Man in all his intellect, and might could not climb up to the glories of heaven. Man would stand hopeless, without the love of God. However, God, in His love, had a plan for man’s salvation, even before the foundation of this world (1 Peter 1:18-20).

God’s love is an acting love. “By this we know love, because He laid down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18). He showed us how to love (1 John 4:19).

2.  “That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”

The opportunity for salvation in universal, “whoever.” He does not want any to be lost (1 Timothy 2:3-4; 1 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:23 cf. 33:11). Jesus tasted death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9).

Salvation is conditional, “whoever believes.” Keep in mind the context: (a) Those in Moses’ day needed to look upon the bronze serpent which was lifted up in the wilderness (John 3:14 cf. Numbers 21:4-9). Even so, today, man needs to believe in Jesus (John 3:14, 16 cf. 12:32-33). (b) The word believe sometimes carries the idea of “trust… conjoined with obedience” (Thayer, p. 511). Jesus had just told Nicodemus that “unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:1-5). Man needs to accept and obey what Jesus has instructed. He is “The author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9 cf. Matthew 7:24-27). [Note –  for those who object to baptism, because it is not specifically mentioned in this verse, consider Guy N. Woods comment: “If because John 3:16 does not mention water baptism it is to be rejected as a condition of pardon, by the same token we must reject repentance as well because there is as much said about baptism in it as there is of repentance” (Woods, A Commentary on the Gospel According to John, p. 67). Man needs to accept all that the Savior says is necessary for salvation].

Moreover, the term “believes” is present tense. It expresses continuous action. Wayne Jackson has commented, “The one who cultivates sustained belief (so the force of the verb) need not fear judgment” (Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary, p. 146). This is speaking, not of a one-time thing, but of a manner of life lived in trust of Him and His teachings.

Two destinies are mentioned. (1) Those who do not believe will “perish.” The idea is not extinction, but loss of well-being (Vine’s). (2) Eternal life is for those who believe. The phrase “eternal” or “everlasting life” does not refer to quantity of existence, but quality of life (Robert Morey, Death and the Afterlife, p. 97). The term “life” is not bios but zoe. It refers to high quality of life.

“Shall not” or “should not”? Some translations read, “shall not perish” (NIV, NASB), others read “should not” (KJV, NKJV, ESV). Which is correct? One writer has written, the words, “should not perish” and “have” are “in the subjunctive because they are in a purpose clause. God sent his Son for the purpose of saving them… because purpose is not a statement of reality (indicative), it must be moved into the subjective” (teknia.com). “Should not” is the correct wording. However, I do not believe that this is expressing any doubt that one who keeps on believing will be saved. The Zondervan’s Parallel New Testament provides this literal rendering, “For thus loved God the world, so as the Son the only begotten he gave, that everyone believing in him may not perish but may have life eternal.”

Summary

“Eloquently embedded here is ‘The Stream of Divine Love’ as portrayed beautifully by the late, lamented Frank L. Cox in his valuable book, According to John (pp. 39-41). God’s love is the spring; His Son is the stream; our obedient faith is the pitcher, dipper by which we appropriate this redemptive blessing to our life; eternal life is the drink” (Robert Taylor Jr., Studies in the Gospel of John, p. 44).

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment