Tuesday, February 10, 2015

To God be the Glory

The great theme of Ephesians is the one spiritual church which is the body of Christ. The last two verses of chapter three divide the book in half. The first half is about our standing or position in heavenly places and the last half is about our state or practice on the earth. In chapters 1-3 believers are edified as to our spiritual wealth as members of the body of Christ. In chapters 4-6 we are exhorted as to what our spiritual walk should be in light of that standing. As we read 1-3 we wonder how it is that God could give sinners like us such great blessings. Then as we read 4-6 we wonder how it is that we can live up to the standard of life that He has set for us. Here is the answer:

Ephesians 3:
20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

God’s Power – “Now unto him that is ABLE”
God is able to do whatever He desires to do. We serve an all-powerful God with whom all things are possible! In Gen. 18:14 God asks, “Is there anything too hard for the LORD?” In Jer. 32:17, the prophet prays and says, “Ah LORD GOD! Behold thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee”. In Lk. 1:37 the angel of God said to Mary about the virgin birth of the Son of God, “For with God nothing shall be impossible”. It is impossible for our finite minds to measure or comprehend the infinite power of our infinite God! It seems that in v.20 the Holy Spirit wanted to use every word possible to convey to us the vastness of God’s great power. Let’s break this verse down and consider what God is able to do. He is able to do:
1. All that we ask – It doesn’t say that He will always to do whatever we ask without qualification because sometimes we “ask amiss” and “we know not what we should pray for as we ought”. But when we pray in accordance with His will there is nothing we can ask that He can’t do.
2. All that we think – He not only hears what we ask but He knows our heart. We all have thoughts that we never verbalize. God is so big that He can do the things that are too big for us to even express! Those who know and love the Lord have a deep desire to experience the fullness of His peace, love, and joy (Ps. 37:4).
3. Above all that we ask or think – God’s ability surpasses what we can put into words or even imagine with our mind. He can take what we ask and enlarge it. He can take our thoughts and go beyond them. I am thankful that the power of God to answer prayer is not limited to what I can ask or think!
4. Abundantly above all that we ask or think – Abundantly means “fully and plentifully”. His ability is not just a little above us, it is abundantly above our capability to ask or think.
5. Exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think – Exceeding means “Going beyond; surpassing; excelling; outdoing.” The ability of God surpasses by far our highest aspirations, our most concentrated thinking, and our most earnest petitions. 

Do you believe what the Bible says about God’s great power? Do you believe that He created all things, parted the red sea, and raised up Christ from the dead? Do you believe that His power is working TODAY in the church?  

God’s People – “according to the power that worketh in us”
The “us” is referring to the church (v.21). In particular it is the church which is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23). God is doing a mighty work in every believer (Eph. 3:16; Phil. 1:6; Phil. 2:13). When most people talk about the power of God they do so in the context of what He can do FOR us. This passage is talking about what He is doing IN and THROUGH us. The doctrinal truth about the body of Christ in chapters 1-3 is “exceeding abundantly above all” that we could ever ask or think! We can’t know it without the spiritual understanding that comes from the Spirit of God. That is why Paul prays twice in this epistle that we would see and experience all that God has given us in Christ (Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21). 

In this present age God is exercising His great power like never before but most people completely miss it because His work is spiritual and they are carnal. He is not doing the visible signs and wonders of the kingdom as He did in the previous dispensation because Israel has been set aside and the kingdom postponed. Yet that is what so many professing Christians would rather see. He is not raising dead bodies to life again (as in the Gospel records and Acts). But He is doing something greater by taking dead sinners and making them living saints (Eph. 2:1-10)!

Our church has the power of God because we have:
1. The gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:18) by which sinners are saved
2. The revelation of the mystery by which believers are stablished (Rom. 16:25)
3. The Spirit of God (2 Tim. 1:7)
4. The Bible which is the power of God (Heb. 4:12; 2 Tim. 3:16). If it is not profiting you it is because you are not receiving it in your heart by faith (Heb. 4:2; 1 Thess. 2:13).
5. The spiritual power of His resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4; Eph. 1:19-20; Phil. 3:10)

God’s Purpose – “Unto him be glory in the church…”
Throughout the unending ages to come the church will be a trophy of grace that glorifies God (Eph. 2:7). The principalities and powers in heavenly places see in us a great demonstration of the wisdom and power of God (Eph. 3:9-11; Rom. 11:33-36). We once were dead in sins but now we are alive in Christ and when He comes for us we will be glorified together with Him and rule and reign in the heavens (Eph. 1:9-12).

Our salvation is all to the praise of His glory (1:6, 12, 14). The key to all this is found in the words, “by Christ Jesus”. Without Him we are nothing and unable to glorify God.
1. We were reconciled to God by Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:18)
2. We can be filled fruits of righteousness by Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:11)
3. We will be raised from the dead and glorified by Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:14)

Everything we need is found in Him (1 Cor. 1:29-31). God will receive glory in the church throughout the ages to come but He should also be receiving glory through us now (1 Cor. 10:31). What do we glory in (Jer. 9:23-24; Phil. 3:18-19; 2 Cor. 10:17; Gal. 6:14)? Christ must have the preeminence in the church (Col. 1:13-29)!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Hell is Real

Luke 12:
4 And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
The purpose of this post is to remind us that hell is real. According to the scripture, it is located down in the heart of the earth (Amos 9:2; Matt. 12:40; after the millennial reign it will be cast into the lake of fire which is possibly located at the bottom of the universe, Rev. 20:14). It has bars, gates, and keys (Jon. 2:6; Matt. 16:18; Rev. 1:18). It is a place of unquenchable fire, worms (Mk. 9:43-48), torment (Lk. 16:23), darkness (2 Pet. 2:4), hopelessness, weeping, and separation from God (2 Thess. 1:9). There are no parties in hell! The reality of this horrible place should impact and motivate everybody. It should motivate the lost to trust Christ as their Savior. It should motivate Christians to reach the lost. R.A. Torrey said, "If you in any way abate the doctrine of hell, it will abate your zeal." Do we really believe what God said about hell?

Of the 23 times that the word "hell" is used in the New Testament, 15 of those references were spoken by Jesus Christ. There are about 162 texts in the NT that speak of eternal damnation and Christ spoke over 70 of them! Lewis Sperry Chafer said, "Men are pleased to receive the Bible revelation concerning Heaven, but do not heed its warning regarding hell. Human sentiment, opinion, and reason are valueless regarding these eternal issues. It is wisdom to heed the voice of the Son of God, and He more than any other has stressed the woes of the lost". Jesus Christ is the Truth and spoke the truth. To deny the reality of hell is to call Christ a liar! 

In the above passage (Lk. 12:4-5) Christ plainly taught that hell is not the grave. If hell is just the grave, as false teachers claim, what is the point of this warning? Notice that hell comes AFTER physical death. The soul is distinct from the body and remains conscious after physical death (Matt. 10:28). This text also teaches that the reality of hell should cause people to fear God. Most people fear man more than God. Yet, the worst that a man can do to you is kill your body. God has the power to cast you into hell! But, most people do not believe that a loving God would ever do such a thing! According to a Barna Survey, 71% of Americans believe there is a hell but only 32% believe that it is an actual place of torment and less 4% think they are going there. Billy Sunday said, "A man is a fool who thinks, because he does not believe in hell, that his opinion shuts the door and puts out the fire." A.W. Tozer said, "The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions". Those that deny the reality of hell do so based on human reasoning and have not submitted themselves to the authority of holy scripture. There is a hell because of the absolute holiness of God and the awfulness of sin. Chafer said, "If eternal punishment cannot be comprehended, it should be remembered that infinite holiness and the sin by which infinite holiness is outraged is equally unmeasured by the human mind".

A definitive passage on hell is found in Luke 16:19-31. In this passage Christ gave a true and literal account of what happened to two men (one saved, the other lost) after death. Those who do not agree with His teaching attack the passage by saying it is a parable not to be taken literally. This is a literal and historical account, not a parable:
• People are never named in His parables. Lazarus, Abraham, and Moses are real people.
• In a parable, a commonplace story is told to illustrate spiritual truth. This is not a commonplace story (the common man knows nothing of the underworld) and what could hell in this passage illustrate but hell itself? In the parable of the tares of the field Christ spoke of the tares being burned. In the interpretation of the parable He declared that the furnace of fire was real (Matt. 13:36-43).
• Even if this were a parable it would not disprove the consciousness of the soul after death or the reality of hell which is clearly taught in other passages. 

False teachers attack the passage because it attacks their false doctrines:
• Soul sleep – the rich man, Lazarus, and Abraham are conscious, the body sleeps in the grave
• Hell is only the grave – vs.22-23 contrast the grave and hell
• Universal salvation – no second chance after death, those who die lost stay lost

There are false teachers that claim God would not allow anyone to suffer in conscious torment forever. They believe in eternal life but not everlasting punishment (Matt. 25:46). If eternal life is to be taken literally, so is everlasting punishment! It is not the will of God for any soul to perish in hell (Jn. 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9) but all those who die in their sins will suffer in the same everlasting fire that was prepared for the devil (Rev. 20:10-15). Some claim that everlasting fire means annihilation and not conscious torment. The antichrist and the false prophet are cast alive into the lake of fire when Christ comes again to earth (Rev. 19:20). A thousand years later the devil is cast into the lake of fire where the antichrist and false prophet still ARE (Rev. 20:10).  

The apostle Paul wrote 13 of the 27 books in the NT and never used the word hell. Some actually take this to mean that he did not believe in eternal damnation! Although he did not use the word hell, he clearly taught the doctrine of it in his epistles. One of the best descriptions of hell is found in 2 Thess. 1:9. In Rom. 2 he refers to the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) and uses words such as: "judgment", "wrath", "anguish", and "perish". Hell is implied in other passages (like Rom. 6:23). Likewise, Paul does not plainly speak of the virgin birth of Christ but implies it (Gal. 4:4). Perhaps one of the reasons that the Spirit didn't inspire Paul to write much about hell is that the doctrine of hell was already established in the scripture (we need the whole Bible, 2 Tim. 3:16).

Christ defeated sin, death, hell, and the devil through His death, burial, and resurrection. All those who believe the gospel of Christ have eternal life and will never perish!

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