Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Order of the Church Epistles

2 Timothy 3:16
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
The Pauline epistles are not arranged chronologically but rather according to a divine order for the spiritual edification of the Body of Christ. According to 2 Tim. 3:16, we must have doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction to be edified in the faith.
The apostle Paul wrote nine epistles by inspiration of God to seven churches. Let's consider the order of the church epistles:

Salvation in Christ
Romans - doctrine of salvation by grace through faith
1 & 2 Corinthians - reproof for not living by the doctrine of Romans
Galatians - correction for listening to doctrine not in line with Romans

Body of Christ
Ephesians - doctrine of the body of Christ
Philippians - reproof for not living by the doctrine of Ephesians
Colossians - correction for listening to doctrine not in line with Ephesians

Coming of Christ

1 & 2 Thessalonians - doctrine, reproof, and correction concerning the coming of the Lord

Taken together these epistles provide instruction in righteousness for the present age.
The apostle Paul also wrote four epistles to individuals by inspiration of God. The epistles to Timothy and Titus concern the proper order for the church. The second epistle to Timothy deals with the apostasy of the last days. The epistle to Philemon is fittingly placed last because it illustrates the doctrines of Paul's epistles through a real-life situation.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Prayer Promises

Mark 11:
23    For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
24    Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

Isn’t that a great prayer promise? The Lord Jesus plainly promised His disciples that they would receive whatsoever they desired in prayer and the only condition was to believe that they would receive it. Matthew’s account of this promise (Matt. 21:22) puts it this way, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” They could ask for a great miracle and they would receive it if they believed (Mk. 11:23). In the context they had seen Him miraculously cause a fig tree to dry up from the roots overnight by just speaking the words. Jesus promised that they would do even greater miracles than what they had seen Him do (Jn. 14:12-14). 

Have you ever asked God to do something that was very important to you and you believed with all your heart that He would do it, but He didn’t? Well, what’s the problem? Isn’t the Bible true? Doesn’t God keep His promises? Yes, the Bible is the word of God and God cannot lie or fail. He says what He means and means what He says! Most preachers will say that the problem is with us and it is usually due to one or more of several things: harbored sin, asking amiss, not according to will of God, or unbelief. It’s true that such things hinder our prayer life. But what about when we ask for a good thing with a believing and right heart and we still don’t receive what we ask? Another explanation that is usually offered is that God always answers our prayers but it is in one of three ways: yes, no, or wait. But Jesus simply promised these disciples that they would receive whatsoever they asked if they believed and He did not add any other qualifications, disclaimers, or stipulations. Do you see any fine print beneath these promises? 

The real problem is that Jesus did not give these prayer promises to us. Yes, ALL of the Bible is for us (2 Tim. 3:16) but it was not all written directly to us (2 Tim. 2:15). Failure to understand this has caused many sincere Christians to become confused and discouraged concerning prayer. Many have been wrongly taught from a child that every promise in the Bible is for them to claim. This can only lead to disappointment if it is taken to heart. It is not right for us to go through the Bible lifting out of context the things that we like and pretending it was all written to us. For example, the Bible says in Ex. 16:4, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you”. If I claimed that promise and believed it with all my heart will I find manna on my lawn in the morning? No, because God did not make that promise to me. Let’s take a closer look at that verse. It says, “Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.” The apostle Paul instructed us to work for our own bread trusting God to provide (2 Thess. 3:10). God has truly given us some great promises (2 Cor. 1:20) but not every promise in the Bible is ours!

Miles Coverdale wrote in the introduction to his English translation of the Bible that was printed in 1535, “It shall greatly help ye to understand the Scriptures if thou mark not only what is spoken or written, but of whom and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goeth before and what followeth after.” 

Let’s apply this to Mk. 11:24. To whom was Jesus speaking (“you”, “ye”)? He was speaking to His 12 apostles to whom, as we will see, He had also promised great authority in the kingdom (Mk. 11:11). All of the “whatsoever ye ask” promises in the gospels were given to the 12 (Jn. 15:16). 

What does He say to the same people immediately after the promise?
Mark 11:
25    And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
26    But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.

So, if v.24 was spoken to us then we also have to take v.25-26! But consider what the apostle Paul wrote by inspiration of God:
Ephesians 4:
32    And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

To whom was the apostle Paul writing? The church which is the body of Christ (Eph. 3:1-13). Are you one of the 12 apostles sent to the twelve tribes of Israel with the gospel of the kingdom or are you a member of the body of Christ? 

What was the time context and circumstances in which Jesus gave the 12 apostles these prayer promises (read Mk. 11:7-10)? The earthly ministry of Christ was not about revealing and inaugurating a new program. He came in accordance with and in order to confirm the Old Testament promises made to the Jewish fathers (Rom. 15:8). God promised that they would be a kingdom of priests reigning in their own land over the Gentile nations (Ex. 19:5-6). Their Messiah would be not only the son of David but the Son of God (Emmanuel). Christ is to sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem reigning over the entire world. The kingdom of heaven is a literal and visible kingdom that is to be established on the earth (“thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”). John the Baptist, the forerunner of the King, announced to Israel that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matt. 3:1-2). When the King began His earthly ministry He too declared that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matt. 4:17, 23-24). He chose 12 apostles and sent them to preach that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matt. 10:1-10). 

Instead of repenting, the leaders in Israel were rejecting Christ. At the end of His ministry Jesus began to prepare and instruct His disciples in light of His impending death, resurrection, and ascension back to heaven (Matt. 16:21). They did not understand the death and resurrection of Christ until after Christ rose from the dead, made appearance to them, and opened their understanding to the scriptures (Lk. 18:31-34). After showing them how that He had to suffer before the glory of the kingdom would come He sent them to preach the gospel of the kingdom among all nations, beginning in Jerusalem which will be the capitol of the kingdom (Lk. 24:44-49). Jesus promised that He would baptize them with the Holy Ghost for power to do the signs of the kingdom. He gave the apostles great authority to act in His stead while He away (Matt. 16:19; 18:18-19; 19:28). There had to be 12 apostles to renew the offer of the kingdom to Israel. They had the authority to replace Judas Iscariot and after they prayed about it God showed them that Matthias was to be the replacement, NOT Paul (Acts 1). On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) Christ baptized the apostles with the Holy Ghost for power in accordance with prophecy. They were all filled with the Holy Ghost. Their ministry and manner of life was a foretaste of the kingdom they were preaching. They called on Israel to repent and made a bona-fide offer of the kingdom (Acts 3:19-21). 

In the early chapters of Acts we see the prayer promises that Christ gave the apostles being literally fulfilled. Whatever they bound on earth was bound in heaven and whatever they loosed on earth was loosed in heaven. The chief priests and elders began to persecute them and to command that they not preach in the name of Jesus. They prayed for boldness and power and God enabled them to do the greater works that Jesus promised (Acts 5:12-16). There is no record of them asking something in Jesus name and it not happening! They were filled with the Holy Ghost and so they had no harbored sin, they always asked in faith, they never asked amiss, and they always asked according to the will of God because Jesus promised the 12, “ye shall ask what YE WILL, and it shall be done unto you” (Jn. 15:7). 

Israel, as a nation, had rejected God the Father in the OT, God the Son in the Gospels, and now God the Holy Spirit in Acts. They stoned Stephen to death (Acts 7), a man they knew was filled with the Holy Ghost, when he preached to them and indicted them for their stubborn unbelief. Jesus said that those who blasphemed the Holy Ghost would not be forgiven (Matt. 12:31-32). As they were about to kill Stephen he said that he saw Jesus STANDING at the right hand of the Father (implying that He was ready to come back in judgment). According to prophecy, it was due time for God to bring Israel through the tribulation period and pour out His wrath on the world. 

Instead, He appeared to the leader of the persecution against His disciples and saved that blasphemer (he took part in the stoning of Stephen) by exceeding abundant grace (1 Tim. 1:13-16) under a new gospel that He directly revealed to him (Gal. 1:11-12). He began to set Israel aside through a transition (Acts 9-28) and reveal mysteries to Paul concerning a new dispensation that He planned before the world began but had kept secret from the prophets. Christ chose and sent Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles. He made him to be the pattern and the spokesman for the body of Christ to follow. He inspired him to write 13 books to the body of Christ (Romans-Philemon). Israel has been set aside, the kingdom has been postponed, and the signs have ceased. We are ambassadors of Christ in the present evil world with the message of reconciliation. God is not at war with the world. This mystery age will close with the mystery of the rapture and then God will resume His dealing with Israel, bring them through the tribulation, pour out His wrath on the world, and come again to save Israel and fulfill all His promises to them. 

Does the apostle Paul teach us that we will receive whatsoever we ask if we pray in faith? Paul himself did not receive everything he asked for (2 Cor. 12:7-10)! We don't know what to pray for as we ought but the Holy Ghost and the Son of God makes intercession for us and on that basis we know that all things work together for good (Rom. 8:26-28). No, God will not always give us what we ask, but if we trust Him and pray with thanksgiving He will give us His peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:6-7). The carnal mind thinks, "What good is it to pray if I don't get what I ask?" Prayer is about relationship not ritual and requests. We call God "Abba" (Rom. 8:15) which is the same intimate term (Aramaic like our word "daddy") that Jesus used in prayer (Mk. 14:36). God accepts us as He does His beloved Son (Eph. 1:6). We have full and free access to God! Prayer is about communion with God. We pray to the Father in the name of the Son and in the Spirit (Eph. 3:14; 5:20; 6:18). 

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Unity of the Bible

2 Timothy 3:16-17
(16) All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
(17) That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

In Bible study it is very important to recognize and consistently maintain the divisions that God has set in the scripture (2 Tim. 2:15). But it is also important to understand that although the Bible contains divisions, it still ONE BOOK.
Diversity does not destroy unity. For example, the church which is the body of Christ is made up of many members and yet it is ONE BODY. There is only ONE true and living GOD and yet He exists in three distinct Persons. There will be Gentile nations, the nation Israel, and the body of Christ in the eternal state and ALL three groups will be:
1. Redeemed by the same blood of Christ
2. Part of the same family of God
3. Serving the same God
There is much evidence that would convince any reasonable, objective, and unbiased person that the Bible is unlike any book in the world and that it could not possibly be the mere product of the minds of men. By faith I accept the Bible as the inspired word of God and my faith is not some superstitious leap into religious darkness. There is much evidence for what I believe. The unity of the Bible is one of many evidences that the Bible is a supernatural Book given by inspiration of God. The manner in which the Bible has been produced actually argues against its unity and yet its unity is undeniable (66 books written over a period of about 1500 years by over 40 different writers).
There are no real errors or contradictions in the Bible, only imagined ones! The only way that a book could be put together in the manner that the Bible was and yet it still maintain a perfect unity is if there is ONE main Mastermind behind its production. There may have been about 44 writers but there was only ONE Author and He used those writers to give us His words. The words of this Book did not come from the minds of men but from the Spirit of God (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21).  
I. The Bible Reveals ONE Main Person
The Bible presents many different personalities but its purpose is to reveal one main Person. The Bible is God's perfect revelation of Himself to man. The Son of God is called the Word of God (Rev. 19:13) because He reveals and declares the Father (Jn. 1:1-3, 14, 18). Yet, what would we know of the Son of God apart from the written word of God? The written word of God reveals and declares both the Father and the Son and it was given by the Spirit's inspiration and only understood by His illumination.
Jesus Christ is CENTRAL in the Scripture (OT - Lk. 24:27, 44; NT - Jn. 14:26; 16:12-14):
   OT - Preparation - promises, prophecies, and pictures of the coming Christ
   Gospels - Manifestation - Fourfold presentation of the person and work of Christ    
   Acts - Propagation - "they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ"
   Epistles - Explanation - doctrine and application concerning what Christ accomplished
   Revelation - Consummation - purposes of God in and through Christ consummated
OT - Behold, He comes!
Gospels - Behold, He dies!
Acts - Behold, He lives!
Epistles - Behold, He saves!
Revelation - Behold, He reigns!
Jesus Christ is the King and God purposes to establish His Kingdom on the earth:
   OT - The King and His Kingdom promised and prophesied
   Gospels - The King and His Kingdom presented and rejected
   Acts - The King and His Kingdom offered and rejected (transition away from kingdom)
   Pauline Epistles - The King in royal exile, Head of one new spiritual man, Kingdom postponed
   Hebrew Epistles - The King and His Kingdom once again anticipated
   Revelation - The King returns and His Kingdom is established 
II. The Bible Reveals ONE set of Moral Principles
According to the scripture, God does change in His dealings with man according to His progressive revelation (dispensational truth) but He never changes in His moral principles which are always the SAME. The world may change its so-called moral values but God never changes! In any and every dispensation God hates sin and loves righteousness. For example, murder was wrong before the giving of the written law (Cain), under the Law, and is till wrong under Grace! 
III. The Bible Reveals ONE Plan of Redemption
Christ shedding His precious blood on the cross for our redemption was no afterthought or "Plan B" of God. God planned redemption by the blood of Christ before the world began (1 Pet. 1:18-21). It was pictured throughout the OT by sacrificial lambs (beginning with the record of the fall in Gen. 3). It was not understood by men until after the resurrection of Christ (Lk. 24:13-27). It is a wonderful study to trace the unfolding of God's plan of redemption throughout the scripture. Every saved soul in eternity is redeemed by the SAME precious blood of Christ!

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Certainty of the Words of Truth

By way of spiritual application, let's read the following passage as if it were God speaking directly to us concerning our responsibility toward His holy word. What a great privilege to have the pure word of God! With great privilege comes great responsibility.
Proverbs 22:17-21
(17) Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge.
(18) For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips.
(19) That thy trust may be in the LORD, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee.
(20) Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge,
(21) That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?

What is said in this passage certainly applies to all scripture and not just the proverbs. The Bible is:
1.       The words of the wise
2.       God’s knowledge (“my knowledge”, what He wants us to know)
3.       Excellent things in counsels and knowledge
4.       Certain words of truth

I love the expression in v.21, "the certainty of the words of truth"! In a world that is filled with uncertainty isn't it wonderful to know the certainty of the words of truth? Webster's 1828 dictionary defines certainty as, "a fixed or real state; fact; full assurance of mind; exemption from doubt; exemption from failure."  
Most people, even professing Christians, set their affection on the things of this earth. For example, they live as though their life consists in the abundance of the things that they possess (Lk. 12:15). But the only thing that is certain about riches is that they are uncertain (Prov. 23:4-5; 1 Tim. 6:17-19) and we certainly cannot carry them out of this world (1 Tim. 6:7). King Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived (outside of Christ) and he was also the richest man that ever lived. He said that God's wisdom is much more precious than all riches (Prov. 3:13-18; 8:10-11). Yet most people are far more interested in material things than the spiritual things of God that revealed in the word of God.
Isaiah 40:6-8
(6) The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
(7) The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.
(8) The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
Matthew 24:34-35
(34) Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
(35) Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
The words of the Bible are certain because they are words of truth. The words of scripture are given by inspiration of God (2 Tim. 3:16). God is pure and true and therefore all of His words are pure and true (Prov. 30:5: Ps. 12:6-7). The Bible is absolute truth (Jn. 17:17).  

The truth of the Bible is certain, but how certain is it to YOU? Can you personally testify that you KNOW the certainty of the words of truth? Do you just know some things about the Bible because of what others have taught you or do you personally know the Bible is God’s word because you have studied it for yourself and believe it with all of your heart?
In v.17-18 there are 5 steps to personally knowing the certainty of the words of truth.
1.       Preparation - "Bow down thine ear" (humility)
2.       Reception - "hear the words of the wise" (spiritually, 1 Cor. 2:6-19)
3.       Application - "apply thine heart unto my knowledge"
4.       Meditation - "keep them within thee" (Ps. 119:11)
5.       Confession - "they shall withal be fitted in thy lips" (2 Cor. 4:13)

This explains why so few professing Christians witness to the lost or even talk about the things of God with other believers. As Jesus said, "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matt. 12:34).
In v.19-21 there are two main purposes for knowing the certainty of the words of truth.
1.       That we might trust in the Lord (v.19) – How can we trust a person we don't know?
2.       That we might be able to answer others (v.21b) - Every believer should be able to communicate what the Bible says to those that ask (Prov. 15:28; Col. 4:5-6; 1 Pet. 3:15). We must not keep the truth to our self!

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