Monday, December 22, 2014

Responses to the Birth of Christ

In Matthew 1:18-25 we have the record of the virgin birth of Christ. In 2:1-18 we see responses to the news of His birth from both Jews and Gentiles. 

Please read Matthew 2:1-18

The events in this passage take place AFTER the birth of Christ. Based on nativity scenes and Christmas carols most think that three wise men presented their gifts to baby Jesus on the night of His birth. However, by the time the wise men found Jesus He was a young child in a house, not a baby in a manger (2:11). As much as two years could have elapsed between the birth of Christ and the visit of the wise men (2:16). The passage does not say there were three wise men. They presented three kinds of gifts but there was likely much more than just three men in their entourage. Why does it matter? If it’s in the Bible it matters! I don’t think we should go on a campaign against traditional nativity scenes. I appreciate any attempts that people make today in this antichrist culture to honor the Lord Jesus Christ. However, we must always put God’s truth above man’s tradition. 

Let's consider this passage on three levels:
 
1. Doctrinally 
 
The wise men were in the east when they saw the star. They did not see the star shining in the east (not an “eastern star”). They journeyed west toward Jerusalem. They were likely from the kingdom of Persia. Evidently they had access to some prophecy about Israel’s Messiah. Due to the Babylonian captivity the prophet Daniel spent many years living in the east during the reigns of several kings. He was made chief over the "wise men" (Dan. 2:2, 12, 48). Copies of his writings likely remained in that region (there were Jews still there after the captivity, not all returned to Jerusalem). The prophet Balaam lived near the Euphrates River. Perhaps they knew his prophecy about the Star that would come out of Jacob (Num. 24:17).  
 
The star was either a supernatural star or an angel (angels called stars, Job 38:5-7). It appeared, disappeared, reappeared, and lead them to Jesus. They did not follow the star the whole journey. If so, why would they end up in Jerusalem? They naturally thought the King of the Jews would be in the capitol city of Israel. Also, why would they rejoice at seeing the star when departing Jerusalem? The star reappeared after they were told that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem because He was no longer Bethlehem. He was in Nazareth (Lk. 2:39).
 
Men are not born as a king (v.2). The son of a king is a prince that becomes a king. Christ is much more than a man! He is a branch out of David (humanity) but He is also the root (deity, Rev. 22:16)! "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" is the first question in NT. It concerns the incarnate Word of God. The first question in the OT concerned the spoken word of God (Gen. 3:1). This question was asked by wise men for the purpose of worship. The OT question was asked by a wise serpent for the purpose of deception. 
 
The chief priests and scribes knew the scripture but had no heart for what it said (much like the professing church today, 2 Tim. 3:5)! Most professing Christians have no heart for the coming of the Lord. They are not looking for that blessed hope (Titus 2:13). They do not love His appearing (2 Tim. 4:8). Intellectual knowledge of the scripture without experimental delight in them is useless (1 Cor. 8:1).

They were satisfied with a wicked Edomite King in Jerusalem. After all, he was building them a temple. Herod and all Jerusalem (except a remnant) were troubled at the news because of the political ramifications. The scribes misquoted the prophecy (Mic. 5:2) and watered it down. It seems intentional because they omitted the statement concerning the deity of the Messiah ("whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting"). They were busy going through their religious motions but had no heart for the One their scriptures and ceremonies pointed to! Consider all the prophecy fulfilled just in this chapter (2:5,15,17,23). Based on the seventy weeks prophecy in Daniel 9 they could have known the time of His coming into the world. 
 
The Gentile wise men traveled hundreds of miles to worship the King of the Jews but the Jews wouldn’t travel eight miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem! Jesus was already being rejected by His own nation. 
 
Why gold, frankincense, and myrrh? Associated with the three offices of the Messiah. 
1) Gold – suitable gift for a king (1 Kings 10:18)
2) Frankincense – suitable gift for a priest (Ex. 30:34-36)
3) Myrrh – suitable gift for a suffering prophet (used embalming fluid, Jam. 5:10; Jn. 19:39)
 
That these men worshipped Jesus as a little child proves that He never ceased to be God at any point in His incarnation. He laid aside His glory, not His deity! He did not become the Son of God at His baptism as some heretics claim.  
 
Herod’s decree demonstrates how Satan used him in his effort to get rid of the promised seed. Herod was a liar and a murderer, just like his father (Jn. 8:44). 
 
2. Prophetically 

The visit of the wise men is only recorded by Matthew. The emphasis in Matthew is that Jesus Christ is the King. This historical account of Gentile wise men seeking the King of the Jews, presenting Him gifts, and worshipping Him prefigures the day when the kings of the earth will seek His face and worship Him in the coming Kingdom Age when He reigns from Jerusalem as King over all the earth (Ps. 72:7-11; Isa. 60:5-6).
 
Isaiah 60:5-6
(5) Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.
(6) The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the LORD.
 
Notice that myrrh is not mentioned among the gifts of gold and incense (same as frankincense). That is because this will be fulfilled when Christ comes again in glory. He will never suffer or die again!

 
3. Practically
There are certainly spiritual and practical applications in this passage for us. 


The wise men picture the conversion of sinners:

1. They were supernaturally drawn to Christ – The Holy Spirit uses the light of His word to draw sinners to Christ.

2. They found Christ because they believed the word of God (2 Tim. 3:15; Rom. 10:17; Eph. 1:13)

3. They rejoiced in finding Christ – There is no greater joy than the joy of salvation (Phil. 4:4; 1 Pet. 1:8)

4. They worshipped Him – This is the immediate, normal response of those who know Him

5. They presented gifts – AFTER salvation we present ourselves to the Lord (Rom. 12:1)

6. They departed another way – Those who meet the Lord are changed (Eph. 2:8-10)

Joseph and Mary were poor (compare Lk. 2:24 with Lev. 12:8). God sent the wise men to provide for their trip to Egypt. Where God guides, He provides (Phil. 4:19)! 

It is said that “Wise men still seek Jesus”. The worldly wise rarely seek Christ (1 Cor. 1:17-29). True wisdom is found in Christ (Col. 2:3) and we must be in Him to have His wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30-31).

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Conflict of the Ages

The first prophecy concerning the incarnation of Christ was given by God directly to Satan right after the fall of man.
 
Genesis 3:
15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
 
Here the doom of the devil and the hope of mankind are proclaimed. One of the key words in this verse is "enmity" (a state of conflict). This prophecy announces the conflict of the ages and provides and explanation for all the bloodshed and war down through history. There are basically 4 parts to this prophecy:

1. Enmity between the serpent (satan) and the woman - Whereas the woman had listened to the serpent and was beguiled by him, there will now be enmity between them. This reaches beyond Eve or women in general and points to the enmity that will exist between Satan and Israel (Rev. 12:13) which will climax in the great tribulation.

2. Enmity between the seed of the serpent and the woman - The "seed of the woman" refers in particular to Christ and a virgin birth is implied (later clearly stated in Isa. 7:14). I think that the seed of the serpent refers in particular the antichrist. The seed of the woman has to do with the "mystery of godliness" (1 Tim. 3:16) and the seed of the serpent has to do with the "mystery of iniquity" (2 Thess. 2:7). However, this enmity also refers in a general sense to the conflict traced through history between the children of the wicked one and those in the seed line that would produce the Messiah (which started with Cain and Abel). 

3. The seed of the woman will bruise the serpents head - One of the main purposes for Christ being born was to destroy the devil (Heb. 2:14). Christ won the victory in His first coming but satan's destruction has not yet been fully carried out. He will be bound in a bottomless pit when Christ comes again and then after the Kingdom Age there will be a final battle and he will be cast forever into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:1-3, 10)! 

4. The serpent will bruise the heel of the seed of the woman - There is a big difference between being bruised in the head (destructive) and being bruised in the heel (temporary suffering). Christ suffered and died on the cross but was raised again the third day in victory. In fact the bruising of Christ's heel was the very thing by which He bruises Satan's head (though Satan did not understand that at the time, 1 Cor. 2:8).  

God did not say when the seed would be born (Adam, Eve, and Satan all probably thought it would be immediately because everything else God said would happen in the passage began immediately). From the beginning Satan has had an intense hatred for the seed of the woman that God said would bruise his head and has sought to destroy it and to prevent the promised seed from coming into the world. When his attempts failed and Christ was born, Satan sought to destroy Him as soon as possible.

When it became clear that the promised seed would come through Israel, that nation became the special object of Satan's hatred (Rev. 12:1-5, 9, 13a, 17a). What is dealt with in Rev. 12 concerns things yet future that will occur in the tribulation period but v.4 also has a historical application to Satan's attempt to devour the promised seed. 

We will only list some highlights of Satan's attack on the seed because there is so much of this found throughout the Bible. It is amazing to see God's wisdom as He countermoves all of Satan's moves and often uses weak and foolish things to defeat Satan's purposes.

•   Satan used Cain (Gen. 4) - When Eve gave birth to Cain (name means "acquired") she said "I have gotten a man from the Lord" because she probably thought he was the promised seed. But there was another son (likely twins) and she named him Abel ("vanity") because she realized the promise had not yet come to pass. Cain (type of antichrist) turned out to be of the wicked one (1 Jn. 3:12) and murdered his brother Abel (type of Christ). God provided Seth ("appointed") to take the place of Abel. 
 
 •   Satan used the Sons of God (Gen. 6) - The sons of God that married the daughters of men were fallen angels (see the post on this subject, Nov. 2014). The result of such unions was an offspring of giants which were mighty men of renown (basis for Greek mythology). This was doubtless Satan's plan to corrupt the seed of mankind and it was so widespread that only one godly man (Noah) was "perfect in his generations" (genes not mixed with the fallen angels) and his family was chosen by God to be saved on an ark from the world-wide flood that God brought to destroy the ungodly world (only 8 souls spared). The earth was filled with violence because it was filled with the seed of the serpent. Satan used this plan again after the flood (not as widespread) to produce a race of giants in the land of promise to try and prevent Israel from taking their land (explains why Israel commanded to utterly destroy certain people). Satan will use this plan again in the tribulation (Dan. 2:43).

•   Satan used Pharaoh (Ex. 1, 2) - When it was made known that the promised seed would come through Abraham we see Satan's attack on him and his seed in Genesis. A very clear attack by Satan is made on the of seed of Abraham when he used Pharaoh to attempt the destruction of the ALL the male Hebrew babies. 
 
"But it is written, "He taketh the wise in their own craftiness" (Job 5:13), and what Pharaoh had said with Egypt's "wisdom" (Ex. 1:10) was frustrated by a baby's tear (Ex. 2:16): for when Pharaoh's daughter opened the ark of bulrushes, "she saw the child, and behold the babe wept. And she had compassion on him." Thus, Pharaoh's wisdom was made to end in having to board, lodge, bring up, and educate the very man who accomplished the very object Pharaoh had striven to prevent; for Moses delivered the nation out of his hand, and God overthrew his armies in the Red Sea." (E.W. Bullinger)

• He Attacked the royal line of Judah - Through prophecy it was made known that the promised seed would come through the tribe of Judah, of the house of David. Absalom's rebellion against his father David and then the divided kingdom was no doubt part of Satan's plan. Notice the plain attack on the royal line of Judah (please read 2 Chron. 21:4; 21:16-17; 22:1-4, 10-12). At one point, for six years all the hopes of God's people rested on the life of one child!

•   Satan used Haman (book of Esther) - Satan used the pride of Haman (another type of antichrist) to devise a wicked plot to destroy all the Jews. What did God use to defeat that plot? Basically, a sleepless night (study it!). 

•   Satan used Herod (Matt. 2:11-16) - Once again, God intervened!  

Satan fought against Christ throughout His earthly ministry and there were many attempts made to kill Him. At the right time, when all was fulfilled concerning His earthly life and ministry, Christ laid down His life on the cross. Satan was the one that set it up and did not know that it was all according to God's eternal plan (1 Cor. 2:6-8; Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14)!
 
Romans 11:33-36
(33) O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
(34) For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
(35) Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
(36) For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
 
 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Old-Time Religion?

Job 22:
15 Hast thou marked THE OLD WAY which wicked men have trodden?
 
Galatians 1:
13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' RELIGION, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
14 And profited in the Jew's RELIGION above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the TRADITIONS OF MY FATHERS.
 
We often hear cries from "IFB" preachers (or is it FBI? After all, many of them are busybodies in other men's matters) about the need to stick with "The Old-Time Religion". The way this cliché gets worn out with use in certain circles you would think it was an actual admonition in the word of God. But... its not.
 
First of all, just because something is old does not mean that it is good and right. The devil is pretty old. The Roman Catholic Church is old. The so-called "oldest and best manuscripts" (Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticans) are corrupt. The religious traditions of men can be very old and yet very wrong. Before he was saved, Paul was very zealous of the old traditions of his fathers. Sadly, there are Christians today that are far more zealous of their religious traditions than they are the pure word of God. Like the Pharisees, they get offended at Bible teaching that is contrary to their traditions (Matt. 15:12). This proves they don't really the love the word of God as much as they claim (Ps. 119:165). Both the Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul were considered heretics by religious people because they did not stick to the old-time religion of the Pharisees.
 
Yes, I am aware of the "old paths" verse in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah. Despite what some think, that verse is not talking about American-style Christianity in the 1950's. The old paths Jeremiah was talking about were the paths laid out in the law of God for Israel to walk in. The people said, "We will not walk therein". They were rejecting the words of God and His law (Jer. 6:19). The old paths in Jer. 6:16 has nothing to do with things like only wearing white dress shirts or not using technology. It always "cracks me up" to hear preachers talk against technology over a PA system in an air-conditioned auditorium.
 
The word "religion" is only found five times in the Bible! Every reference concerns ISRAEL. It has to do with outward observances and rituals. The apostle Paul only referred to religion three times and never in a positive light. He used the word in the context of how he lived BEFORE he was saved. In the light of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, Paul counted his former religion as "dung" (see Phil. 3:1-11). Biblical Christianity is not about religion, it is about KNOWING Christ in a personal relationship. It is not about our little man-made list of "Do's" and "Don'ts". It is about Christ living His life through us (Gal. 2:20). We are complete in Him (Col. 2:10). Beware of men who would spoil you through tradition and judge you for not walking according to their religion (see Col. 2).
 
Yes, I am aware of the "pure religion" verse in James. To whom was James writing?
 
James 1:
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the TWELVE TRIBES which are scattered abroad, greeting.
 
There are no twelve tribes in the church which is the body of Christ (Col. 3:11)! While all scripture is for us (2 Tim. 3:16), it was not all written to us and about us. That is why we must rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Despite false accusations and straw-dummy arguments, I can find spiritual applications throughout the whole Bible and get a blessing from all 66 books. But it is wrong to claim that "every promise in the book is mine".

The key words in the epistle of James are: "faith" (16 times), "works" (13 times), and "law" (10 times). James is exhorting Jews, whose faith is being tried (1:3), to have true faith that works according to the law (2:12) and endures patiently to the end (Matt. 24:13-14). This epistle teaches pure RELIGION (1:25-27). In the Bible, the word “religion” is always used in reference to the works of the law (Acts 26:5; Gal. 1:13-14; the “Jews religion” included their traditions). Notice that “pure religion” is to DO and continue in “the perfect law of liberty” (1:25). What is the “law of liberty”? The epistle of James was one of the first New Testament books to be written. The only law they could "look into" was the written law of God. Many think that the law of liberty cannot be a reference to the Law of Moses because that was called a “yoke of bondage” by Peter and Paul (Acts 15:10; Gal. 5:1). The law was a “yoke of bondage” to those who were required to obey it in order to be saved. Although the law itself cannot save (Rom. 3:20) it was at one time required for salvation (Luke 1:5-6). As a nation, Israel failed under the old covenant but will be saved when God makes a new covenant with them when the kingdom is set up (Heb. 8:6-13). Under the new covenant, Israel will keep the law from the heart because they will be filled with the Holy Spirit. If the law is kept from the heart it is not a “yoke of bondage” but a “law of liberty” (Ps. 119:32, 45; Jn. 8:31-32). The Jews to whom James was writing were filled with the Spirit. The kingdom church of Acts was a preview of Israel in the Kingdom Age (Ezek. 36:24-28). The kingdom church lived by the law (Acts 2:1, 46; 3:1; 5:42; 21:20). God has not killed the law (Christ fulfilled it for us, Rom. 10:1-4). Christ will rule by the law in the future Kingdom Age (Isa. 2:1-5).
 
The body of Christ is not under the law, but grace! Is that my opinion? No, that's what the apostle to the Gentiles said by inspiration of God.
 
Romans 6:
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.  
 
Religion is a performance based system by which man tries to find acceptance with God. We are already accepted in the beloved (Eph. 1:6)! By the grace of God, we just need to work out by faith what He has worked in us (Phil. 2:12-13). I don't need to perform. The Lord performs for me (Phil. 1:6).  
 

Friday, December 12, 2014

One Thing

We often allow our lives to become cluttered and complicated. Our list of priorities is made up of many things and we usually end up neglecting what is most important in order to accomplish the lesser things. It's best to set one thing as the priority in life and then let everything else just fall into place as we pursue that one main thing. In other words, our whole life should revolve around just one thing. For many, their life does revolve around one thing, but it's the wrong thing- SELF (2 Tim. 3:2). The Christian life must be all about Christ. He is not to be just part of our life for He is our life (Col. 3:4)!

Let's consider four passages in the Bible that refer to “one thing”. They are about four distinct things but they are related and concern one main thing: our relationship with the Lord.

One Thing I Know

John 9:
(24) Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.
(25) He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.
 
In the context the Lord Jesus healed a man that was born blind but the unbelieving Pharisees were upset because He healed him on the Sabbath day. Christ, the Lawgiver, is Lord of the Sabbath. He didn't violate His own law but He continually violated the traditions of men that were wrongfully added to the law. This poor blind man gave a simple and honest testimony before the religious leaders that it was Jesus who gave him his sight. But the Pharisees, in their spiritual blindness, willfully refused to see the clear evidence that Jesus was the Son of God (Isa. 35:5). They cast the man out of the synagogue but Christ received him and opened his eyes spiritually (vs.35-39).

All lost sinners are born spiritually blind and are in darkness until they see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ and trust Him as Savior (Acts 26:18; 2 Cor. 4:3-6). Only God can open a blind heart and give spiritual sight.

Can you honestly testify, "one thing I KNOW, that, whereas I was blind, now I see"? That is the most important thing to know! When a blind person receives sight, it is certainly something he knows and wants to tell others about. According to Webster's 1828 dictionary, a testimony is "A solemn declaration or affirmation made for the purpose of establishing or proving some fact." Every child of God has a personal testimony about how they came out of darkness and into the light and they should immediately begin to share it with others. In the book of Acts the apostle Paul unashamedly gives his personal testimony before an angry Jewish mob (Acts 22) and Roman officials (Acts 26). In both cases he testified that he saw a great light from heaven. He was physically blind for three days but at the same time he received spiritual sight. The One that he had hated and fought against, he now loved and served. He also referred to his conversion many times in his epistles. We too should use our personal testimony for the glory of God.

One Thing is Needful
 
Luke 10:
(38) Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
(39) And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.
(40) But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
(41) And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
(42) But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
 
In this passage we see a contrast between two sisters that both followed the Lord. Martha was very busy serving but Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus to hear His word. Which one was doing the more important thing? Many would say it was Martha (that's what Martha thought) but the Lord said it was Mary.   
  • No amount of activity for the Lord can replace time in His word (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Matt. 4:4)
  • Yes, we should be busy serving God, but never to the neglect of spending time with Him. This passage is not condemning being busy in the Lord’s work. We don’t have to choose between work and the word. Both are important but one is more needful than the other. We draw strength to work from the word and we only know how to work through the word! I make no apology for laboring in the word (1 Tim. 5:17). 
  • Mary had also been serving (v.40) but she realized it was more important for her to choose His word over her work. 
  • Why is it that some Christians always think they know what everyone should be doing? 
  • Which sister had the most peace? We are not enjoying the peace of God if we, like Martha, are always careful and troubled about MANY THINGS (Phil. 4:6-7).
  • Hearing the word of God is a personal choice. 
  • The profit we get from God’s word is eternal ("shall not be taken away"). 

We need to follow the example of Mary. We were brought out of darkness into light when we got saved. But we must walk in the light (Ps. 119:105; Eph. 5:8).
  1. Sit at the feet of the Lord - take time each day to be still before God, requires humility 
  2. Hear the word of Christ - read, study, meditate (Col. 3:16)
One Thing Have I Desired
 
Psalm 27: 
(4) One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.
(5) For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.
(6) And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.
(7) Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
(8) When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.
 
This Psalm is about the help of the Lord in the time of trouble. It has both a historical application to King David and prophetic application to Christ as well as the godly remnant of Israel in the great tribulation. Historically, it was probably written when David was on the run from King Saul or later during Absalom’s rebellion. Either way, he was away from the tabernacle and longed to be back in the house of God. We all have a tendency to take things for granted until they are no longer available to us.
 
There was just one main desire that David had of the Lord. What is ours, in all honesty? His desire was not the blessings of God (long life, prosperity, victory) but God Himself (v.8)! His all-consuming desire was to worship God. The house of the Lord is in reference to the tabernacle which was the divinely appointed place of worship and service. The beauty of the Lord refers to the scriptural way of worship (Ex. 28:2; Ps. 96:6, 9). To enquire of the Lord is to know His will that you might do it. If we truly know the Lord we will desire to worship Him. We can only know Him through His word. That is why we must sit at His feet and hear His word. 
 
In this present age every member of the body of Christ has full and free access to God. We are the house of God (1 Tim. 3:15-16) and His temple (Eph. 2:18-22)! We are seated with Christ in the heavenly temple (Eph. 2:6). We seek after what we desire (Col. 3:1-4). Do you have a desire to worship God and learn His word (1 Pet. 2:2)? 
 
One Thing I Do
 
Philippians 3:
(12) Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
(13) Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
(14) I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
 
In the context, Paul has been giving his testimony. As a Pharisee he had trusted in his own righteousness which was of the law but after he met Christ he realized that what he had thought was gain was actually loss. His righteousness was but dung compared to the righteousness of Christ! Upon salvation the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us and upon the rapture we will be glorified into His image. Until then, we must learn to work out our own salvation (Phil. 2:12-13).  
  • v.12 – We are not yet glorified, but we should have a desire to lay hold on the purpose for which Christ laid hold on us (Rom. 8:28-30). 
  • v.13 – We should never stop growing! He says, “one thing” but then mentions several. The “one thing” is v.14 but in order to do v.14 we must first do what he says in v.13. 
  • v.14 – Paul compares the Christian life to a race in several passages. The prize is Christ (v.8, 10) and being conformed to His image. To “press” requires effort! 
There is a progression to these four points. Once we have received spiritual light, then we are ready to sit at the feet of Christ and hear His word. Having learned of Him through His word we will worship Him in spirit and truth. Those who know and worship God will walk with Him. 
 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Repentance

2 Peter 3:9
(9) The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

It is not my purpose to expound this verse or deal with it's context. I just want to point out that it clearly teaches it is God's will that all should come to repentance and that those who don't will perish. Obviously, repentance is a very important matter that we must understand! It is mentioned over 100 times throughout the Bible. We will not look at all the references, but just enough to establish what it is and answer the question of whether or not it is necessary to repent in order to receive salvation. 

Down through church history repentance has been a controversial subject because of the different views that teachers and preachers have taken concerning it. There is even disagreement concerning its basic definition. The catholic view is that repentance is penance (afflicting yourself to earn forgiveness). Among fundamentalists, some make it out to be a work that sinners must do in order to receive salvation (i.e. sinners must clean up before God will accept them) while others water it down to the place it sounds as if they don't think it has any part at all in receiving salvation.

If we believe the Bible and let it interpret itself we will have no problem understanding repentance. The problem is that many who are teachers and preachers of the Bible don't really believe it or know how to study it correctly. They use theological books written by men as their authority instead of the Bible. They do not let the Bible define it's own words, they do not diligently compare scripture with scripture, and they do not rightly divide the word of truth.
One of the most common definitions given for repentance is "to turn from sin". However, it does not take very long in reading the Bible to find a problem with that definition. One of the laws of Bible study is the law of first mention. Generally, the first mention of a word sets the tone for how that word is used throughout the Bible. The first mention of repentance is found in the sixth chapter of the Bible.
 
Genesis 6:5-8
(5) And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
(6) And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
(7) And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
(8) But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

Obviously God was not turning from sin! What does the expression "it repented the LORD" mean in this context? When He made man on the earth He gave him dominion over it. However, man fell into sin and the wickedness of man became very great. The Lord decided that He was going to destroy man from the face of the earth and start over with Noah and his family. This was simply a change of mind.

When we say that the Lord changed His mind many have a problem with that in light of the fact that the scripture says God does not change (Mal. 3:6). The answer to this seeming contradiction is that the Lord does not change in His person, principles, or promises but He may change His mind toward man on the basis of what man does. Of course, God already knew what man would do so in reality God repents in our perspective. Understanding this will clarify the seeming contradiction between verses that say God does NOT repent and verses that say God does repent. There are some matters concerning which God will not repent (Rom. 11:29).

The same chapter in the Bible says that God repented, that He will not repent, and that He repented! 
 
1 Samuel 15:
(10) Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,
(11) It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.
 
(24) And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.
(25) Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.
(26) And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.
(27) And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent.
(28) And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.
(29) And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.
 
(34) Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul.
(35) And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.
 
God never repents in the sense that a man repents (Nu. 23:19). He does not repent because He did something wrong or because he failed to keep His word. God only repents in the sense that He changes His mind toward man as a result of what man has done (1 Sam. 15:11). In other words, He may change in His dealings with man.  

In another passage that speaks of the Lord repenting we learn that a word closely associated with repentance is the word "turn" (Jonah 3). God said through the prophet Jonah that He would overthrow the wicked city of Nineveh in 40 days but because they turned from their evil way God turned from the evil He was going to bring upon them. Genuine repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of direction. 

Another common definition for repentance is "sorrow for sin". One of the passages used to support this definition actually refutes it. 

2 Corinthians 7:9-10
(9) Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.
(10) For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
 
The context is not salvation of lost sinners but repentance in the life of believers. The salvation mentioned in v.10 is salvation from the power of sin in the daily life of a believer. If godly sorrow "worketh repentance" then sorrow for sin precedes repentance and produces repentance but is not repentance. Godly sorrow is sorrow not just for what you did but for what you are (Rom. 7:24) and for the fact that sin is against God (Ps. 51:4). Godly sorrow is from the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and is not of the flesh. The sorrow of the world is sorrow because of the consequences of sin and is self centered. The lost people in the world may have sorrow for sin without repentance.

Some preachers try to gauge the reality of someone's repentance on the visibility of their sorrow. However, godly sorrow that works repentance takes place in the heart and it may or may not show up visibly in tears based upon the personality of the person. Sorrow for sin does not automatically mean that a person sincerely repented because it may be a worldly sorrow (I have seen some profess Christ with tears and never give any evidence of conversion and others not shed a tear but serve the Lord). Many doubt their salvation because they wonder if they "repented enough".

Some teach that repentance equals salvation. However, there is an example in the Bible of a man that repented and went to hell (Matt. 27:3-5). Judas repented in the sense that he changed his mind about betraying innocent blood for 30 pieces of silver but he did not turn to the Lord! He is an example of the sorrow of the world that works death.

Based on what we have seen so far it should be obvious that the basic meaning of repentance is "a change of mind". We must not take all the references to repentance in the Bible and apply it to the issue of individual salvation in this present age. God has repented. Christians should repent. Judas repented and went to hell. We must look at the context of how the word is being used.

Some teach that in order to be saved sinners must do certain works to prove their repentance (Matt. 3:1-12; Lk. 3:8-14). The context of this is God's dealings with the nation of Israel who were in a covenant relationship with Him. The covenant of the law basically said, "Obey and be blessed or disobey and be cursed". The gospel that was preached in those days was the "gospel of the kingdom" and NOT the "gospel of the grace of God" that was later revealed through the apostle Paul (Gal. 1:11-12).

Some teach that sinners can't be saved without the baptism of repentance (Mk. 1:4-5; Acts 2:38). However, this was preached to Israel and had to do with the gospel of the kingdom. Water baptism has nothing to do with salvation through the gospel of grace (I Cor. 1:17). 

So, must sinners repent in order to be saved in this present age? The gospel we preach today was revealed thru Paul and he preached that God has commanded all men everywhere to repent.
 
Acts 17:30-31
(30) And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
(31) Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
 
A sinner must repent in that he changes his mind about sin and decides he wants to be saved from it. A sinner must repent in that he changes his mind about trusting in idols or working for salvation and decides he will trust only in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Faith must accompany repentance (Acts 20:21). They are connected and yet distinct. We are not saved by repentance or even by our faith but by the finished work of Christ. We do not have to prove our repentance or faith by works but surely good works will result from genuine salvation (Eph. 2:10). Repentance is NOT a work for it is just a change of mind and we would not repent without God granting it (Acts 5:31, 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). We would not repent without the work of the Holy Spirit convicting and drawing us to Christ.

Should we emphasize repentance in gospel preaching? The gospel is not repentance! The gospel is about what Christ did for us and not about anything that we do. The apostle Paul only mentions repentance in relation to salvation ONE time in his epistles! The one condition he emphasizes for salvation is FAITH. Those who are saved by faith in Christ have repented. 

Those who make repentance their theme today do so because they have failed to learn the lesson which God has demonstrated historically. They cry to men to change their minds and hearts, forgetting that the goodness of God leads to repentance (Rom. 2:4). God has demonstrated, historically, the fact that when men are given holy laws to keep they only break them, and when they are called upon to repent of their transgressions they only become angry. What man therefore needs is the grace of God, not only to accomplish his salvation for him, but also to touch his heart and make him willing to receive it. 

After calls to Israel for repentance failed, the ascended Lord stooped down to save Saul, the chief of sinners, on the road to Damascus, in anything but a repentant mood. Not by threatening or dealing with him in judgment, but by speaking to him in the tenderest tones He showed him the glory of His grace. This "trophy of grace" was then sent forth to proclaim "the gospel of grace", and the merits of his crucified, glorified Lord.

As we faithfully preach the gospel of the grace of God, sinners will repent; they will change their minds, not because we demanded it of them or even exhorted them to do it, but because, as we preached the glory of Christ's finished work and the wonder of God's love and grace, the Holy Spirit opened their eyes to see it, and their hearts to receive it.
 

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