Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Christian and His Conduct: Conduct Guided by Charity (Part II)

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;” (Romans 12:10)

An attitude of love and concern should prevail in any Christian assembly. This commandment does not absolve a man of his responsibility to consistently show love when the other is being unlovely. When others do not reciprocate love, the power of the Holy Spirit may be truly put to the test in the believer's life. The Spirit will not fail, but often times the believer chooses to gratify his own flesh through revenge or bitterness. Such a course of action finds no place in this passage, or in the rest of Scripture. The last phrase has the meaning of honoring others above one's own self. When a man chooses to make the needs of others more important than his own, he is truly emanating the character of Jesus Christ, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).”

Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;” (Romans 12:11)

The word for business is the same word translated diligence in verse eight. Laziness is often glorified or passed over as an “insignificant issue,” but God considers it to be sin. He has entrusted every believer with a certain amount of business, and He expects His people to make full use of it. To squander one's own time, money, and resources is to rob God. The word fervent means to glow or burn brightly. The Spirit of God desires to shine through the believer in a very real way, but He can be quenched by sinful choices and desires (I Thessalonians 5:19). The last phrase reveals the secret to a consistently vibrant Christian life. The secret is serving the Lord. Some Christians serve themselves, some serve their emotions, some serve their pastors, some serve a prominent teacher or speaker, and others serve a host of various masters; but the one who serves the Lord will be consistent to the end.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Christian and His Conduct: Conduct Guided by Charity

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” (Romans 12:9)

The remainder of the chapter deals with Christian conduct guided by charity. The love spoken of here is the love commonly known as agape love. It is so called because of the Greek word from which it is translated. It is a love which transcends personal reward or gain. It loves when no love is given in return. This word represents the unconditional love which God displays toward mankind. It is the word consistently translated charity in I Corinthians 13. Because God has shed this love abroad in the hearts of His people through the Holy Ghost (Romans 5:5), the Christian is enabled to display it toward others if he so chooses. Without dissimulation literally means without hypocrisy. True Christian love does not involve putting on a facade for the sake of personal image or gain. The word abhor means to strongly hate, or detest something. The Christian should not simply dislike evil; he should positively hate it. He should despise its presence in his own life, and in the lives of others. A liberal and politically driven society can weaken a Christian's view of sin. The flesh is already willingly to be deceived concerning the seriousness of sin, and this is not helped by an environment that glorifies the lusts of the flesh. When considering the last part of this verse, one cannot help but think of Job, and the Lord's comments concerning his character when He said, “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil (Job 1:8)?” To be radically against sin in one's own life and in the lives of others is entirely biblical.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Christian and His Conduct: Conduct Motivated by Grace (Part III)

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:6-8)

Once again, the Holy Spirit reminds His people that grace, not ability, is the channel of the Christian's gifts. The gift of prophecy as it pertains to foretelling would have been very necessary in the early church. The canon was not yet complete; therefore, the Holy Spirit enabled certain to prophesy in the sense of prediction and exegesis of truth not yet written down and preserved. This word can also carry with it the idea of forthtelling. This is simply the exposition of God's word. Today, it is simply called preaching. This gift of proclaiming God's word is vital, but is often neglected and substituted for activities and entertainment. The disregard of this gift is always a sign of apostasy (II Timothy 4:3-4).

The word for ministry means a waiting at tables. Though some are better at such service than others, this particular area of ministry is well within the grasp of anyone and is just as sanctioned by God as is the exposition of His word.

Teaching and preaching are closely related but are not necessarily the same. A man may be able to proclaim truth but not have a true gift to teach others. Teaching is usually a bit less formal and involves a burning desire to impart values to others through sound exegesis of Scripture. It is a position clearly given by God for the edification of the church (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Exhortation means a calling alongside. This gift is vital for the comforting of God's people. Some saints can comfort and encourage in a way that others cannot. This calling alongside need not be limited to words of comfort. The one who truly values exhortation may call another alongside for the purpose of compassionate rebuke. Everyone enjoys hearing words of encouragement; therefore, this gift is often viewed as offering nothing but soft words; however, words of rebuke are also necessary (Psalm 141:5), and are not to be neglected by the one who wishes to truly exercise this gift to its fullest extent.

The one who gives to another is encouraged to do it with simplicity. This word means singularity or sincerity. When a man gives, it should be for the purpose of pleasing God. Giving is often done for personal gain or recognition. These motives are wicked. In fact, any motive outside of a desire to please God is wicked. Concerning giving, a man's motives may be tested by observing his reaction when his gift is not recognized, appreciated, or made known to others. A man is truly giving in simplicity when he puts down the desire to let others know what he has done, as Jesus said, “... let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth (Matthew 6:3).”

Structure and order are necessary. Rulers within the body of Christ are important; therefore, they are commanded to rule with diligence. Laziness has no place in the one who has been given the responsibility of leadership. All too often, church leadership is characterized by obesity, apathy, pride, foolishness, and severe immaturity. Such behaviors are not fruits of the Spirit, and they certainly do not compliment diligence. Diligence is first necessary in the life of the one ruling, lest he be found to be unfit for the task (I Corinthians 9:27). It also necessary for the sake of the flock. False doctrine and false teachers are always at the door step, waiting to devour the simple and the needy.

Mercy is to be shown by all of God's people, and it is to be shown with a good attitude. The word for cheerfulness is the same Greek word from which hilarity is derived. As God delights in showing mercy to mankind, so should God's people delight in passing on the same mercy of which they have been partakers.

It should be noted that all of these gifts visibly edify all. None are selfish. None profit just one person. None are naturally inherent to human nature, and all compliment the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. None work confusion, turmoil, strife, lust, rebellion or death, and none are misleading.

All are a work of grace.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Christian and His Conduct: Conduct Motivated by Grace (Part II)

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” (Romans 12:3-5)

The human heart is very prideful. The believer is consistently in danger of thinking that he is more than he is. Every gift and ability is from God. By means of his grace, the believer is enabled to live the Christian life; therefore, by means of the grace that Paul experienced in his own life, he encourages all Christians to walk in an attitude of humility. The word soberly means of sound mind and judgment. Rather than fluttering around with an arrogant and immature view of Christian service, God wants His people to exercise sound, healthy judgment; because God is the one who enables a man to walk in faith. God has dealt out to every believer a measure of faith for the work at hand. This passage does not exalt the scholar nor does it abase him. It does not abase the simple man nor does it exalt him. God has allowed diversity among believers for the sake of meeting the body's needs. Temptation exists for the intellectual and the talented to look down upon those who do not have such gifts. On the other hand, the simple man may also be tempted to revel in his simplicity for the sake of simplicity. Pride works both ways. God forbids such arrogance on either part. Every man has been given what he needs to function within the body of Christ. In this passage, the Church is likened unto a human body. Every part is useful and vitally necessary. This body is bigger than any one local church. The local church is a manifestation and natural representation of a greater reality. When a believer is saved, he is immediately baptized into the body of Christ. This truth is clearly illustrated in I Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” If a person gets saved, but dies before he is able to join a local assembly, he is still part of Christ's body. If an individual finds Christ in a country where no local church exists, he is still part of Christ's body. The local church is vital; yet, it must not be seen as the end of the matter. Some would argue that the Church is not larger than the local assembly because believers outside of one local church do not have a direct impact on the believers of another local church; therefore, such cannot be considered a body which works together. This reasoning is faulty in that it fails to take into account the influence believers exercise upon one another through simple example. If one local church turns aside to apostasy, the news of that will bring discouragement to the hearts of all believers. The weapon of prayer also binds believers together into one body even though many miles may separate them. Every Christian is exhorted to walk in humility as he ministers in his local assembly, because he is part of the world-wide work of God which binds all Christians into one body under the headship of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Christian and His Conduct: Conduct Motivated by Grace

Deeds follow doctrine; conduct is the inseparable companion of belief. Anyone can acknowledge God's existence. Mankind has been created with a certain degree of “God-awareness,” but only the truly redeemed will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to bring forth the fruits of righteousness. True Christianity always has been and always will be distinguished by good works, because, after all, “, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone (James 2:17).”

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

The word therefore is encouraging the reader to draw a conclusion based upon the doctrine which has been previously taught. In true Christianity, good works follow belief; therefore, the believer is fully expected to live for God with all his being. God's mercies are the means by which such a plea for service may be made. Verses one through eight focus on conduct motivated by grace. The grace of God outlined in the first eleven chapters stands as sufficient motivation for the sacrifice of the believer. In this plea for the body may be seen the Old Testament picture of the whole burnt offering (Leviticus 1:2-9). As the parts of the animal would be carefully arranged upon the altar and offered up wholly to God, so the believer is to place himself on the altar in a figurative sense and offer up his body for God's service. Such a picture is often foreign to a culture which is not used to slavery and servitude, but the picture was all too familiar in Paul's world. Heathen gods received the utmost dedication and service. Should not the one true God and Creator of all receive at least as much from His redeemed?

The Lord does not simply call for the mind as a sacrifice, He calls for the body. Mental ascent is often easy; however, allowing truth to take control of the heart and manifest itself through actions is quite another story. Anyone can acknowledge God's authority in the mind, “...the devils also believe, and tremble (James 2:19),” but true faith which has affected the heart is manifested through actions (James 2:20). This sacrifice has specific requirements. It is characterized as living, holy, and acceptable. God wants living and active sacrifices. His Spirit is a spirit of life. The believer has been purged from a dead life of dead works. He now has the ability to be alive unto God. Busyness does not equal spirituality; yet, it also true that God expects His people to be active for Him, not for the world. He wants the believer to reach out to those around him in this life. Seclusion is not the same as separation. Seclusion from humanity has never been God's plan for the believer. The Christian as to be alive and active for the King, not lazy and constantly in hiding. He is to affect those around him as Daniel affected the kingdoms of Babylon and Persia. The next characteristic is that of holiness. The basic meaning of this word is that which is set apart, or consecrated. God's people are to be distinctly different from the world. The heart attitude should be different. The conduct should be different. The focus should be different. The speech should be different. The authority should be different. The dress, music, and entertainment should be different. Everything should change when Christ moves into the soul! The Christian does not cease to be human, nor is he intended to assume an attitude of superiority and arrogance; yet, he if he has been redeemed, then he has changed masters (I Thessalonians 1:9), and if he has changed masters, then he has changed his manner of service. The last characteristic is that of acceptability. This word does not mean simply acceptable as some may use it. It means well-pleasing. It is translated thus in Philippians 4:18. God wants a well-pleasing sacrifice, not a sacrifice which barely meets the standard. Too many Christians are pleased with barely acceptable when God's demands that His people “...approve things that are excellent...(Philippians 1:10).”

The Greek word behind reasonable is the same word from which logical is derived. It is logical to serve God! No other master is so holy, so good, so loving, and so powerful. Beside Him there is no other, and certainly no other god can successfully wage war against Him. The living sacrifice and the reasonable service are one in the same. It is a logical thing to be a living sacrifice.

Verse two calls for a cessation of conformation and for a continuance of transformation. The word conform has the idea of pressing one's self into a mold. It conveys the idea of change from the outside in. This idea is illustrated in I Peter 1:14 where the same word is translated fashioning. God wants His people to stop pressing themselves into the mold of the world. Such a plan is destined to fail, because, through Jesus Christ, “...the world is crucified unto [the believer], and [the believer] unto the world (Galatians 6:14).” In contrast to forced conformation, the Lord calls for transformation. This word conveys the idea of change from the inside out. The word renewing is also found in Titus 3:5 which discusses the regenerating work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings about a change in the heart, as II Corinthians 5:17 declares, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” For spiritual success, the believer is commanded to let God continue His work within the soul. No one will thrive when he is forcing himself, or being forced, into a mold. Change from the inside out is the only way that a man can please God, and this change can only be wrought by the Holy Ghost. The purpose for this command is given in the last part of the verse. It is so that the Christian might prove out what is God's will. His will is described as good, acceptable, and perfect. As in verse one, acceptable means well-pleasing. God's will is always morally and intrinsically good, it is always well-pleasing to the Master, and it is always perfect (complete, mature) for all involved, but the believer will have difficulty discerning it if he is attempting to conform to the world. The world's ways and God's ways are mutually exclusive; therefore, how can a man discern spiritual things when his mind is immersed in carnal things?   

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Mighty Splendor of God: The Splendid Recognition

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! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)

Paul ends his discussion on the doctrines and the dispensations of the gospel with a majestic doxology that truly reflects the splendid recognition of God. No other response would be appropriate after such a glorious discourse on the subject of salvation. Isaiah 40:13 is first quoted, then Job 35:7 closely follows. Paul certainly knew his Bible, and the Holy Spirit used this in his life as he moved him to pen these inspired words. This passage should remind every man of his frailty and finite nature. Too many “intellectuals” wrest the Scriptures and attempt to bring God down to man's level. Such cannot be done with God. His wisdom is truly unfathomable. Man can know only as much as the Holy Spirit allows. The Bible is not simply another book. Its texts are divinely inspired; therefore, it must be viewed through the eyes of faith. Portions of it will be difficult to understand. Other portions will be very clear, but none of it will ever contradict itself or prove to be untrustworthy; and if such should appear to be the case, prayer, time, and study will inevitably reveal that the fault lies not in God's wisdom of explanation, but in man's inability to fully comprehend.

The last verse represents the past, present, and future dealings of the Almighty. Concerning the past- “In the beginning God created...(Genesis 1:1).” Of Him are all things. Without Him, nothing would be in existence. Concerning the present- “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil (Proverbs 16:4).” Through, or by means of, Him are all things. He is currently working in the affairs of men. He sets up kings, and He puts down kings. Even the wicked are not free from His guiding hand. He uses their rejection and oppression to work out His perfect will. Concerning the future- “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all (I Corinthians 15:28).” To Him are all things. Slowly, but surely, the events of history press on toward the time when God will receive all the glory, when sin and wickedness shall be no more, and when all the redeemed may worship at the feet of Him “...which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty (Revelation 1:8).”

Sunday, May 25, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Declaration Concerning Repentance (Part IV)

And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:11-12)

Famine and agricultural difficulties were the result of Israel's disobedience. God will often touch man's food supply in an effort to gain his attention. This is seen in Haggai 1:9-11 when God brought famine upon Israel because of their failure to build His house. In Scripture, famine is consistently associated with man's disobedience. A nation which cannot feed itself would do well to repent and turn to God. This principle also applies to the individual. The believer who consistently struggles with the basic needs of life may need to examine his spiritual walk. It may be that he has failed to exercise faith and put God first through giving.

In verse twelve, the Lord reiterates the cures of repentance. Israel's refusal to trust God had led them into famine and hard times, but if they would repent, God would heal the nation and make it fruitful.

In applying these principles, the believer must follow the balance presented in Scripture. The physical acts of tithing and giving do not exempt a Christian from trials, neither are they substitutes for a God-fearing relationship with one's Savior; yet, God promises to meet the needs of the man who will put Him first. A healthy spiritual life will not be void of giving, because true faith is manifested by righteous works. Although trials are a guarantee to the God-fearing man (II Timothy 3:12), the saint who gives out of a heart of faith and obedience need not struggle with a guilty conscience toward God. He can pillow his head at night, knowing that God will meet all his needs, as the Lord has said, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:31-33).”

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Mighty Splendor of God: The Splendid Restoration (Part III)

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” (Romans 11:25-27)

The word for blindness means hardness. Lest the Gentiles should think that they have replaced Israel's special position in God's heart, they are assured that God is using Israel's hardness for a specific purpose. That purpose is to bring in the Gentiles which will be saved. God has a specific timeline. The end has not come because His harvest has not been fully gathered in. When it is, the Lord Jesus will return for His Church, and the Tribulation period will begin. At the end of Jacobs' Trouble (the Great Tribulation), Israel will turn to their Messiah with one accord. Paul quotes Isaiah 59:20-21, “And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.” This passage is one of the clearest concerning Israel's national redemption. Before the commencement of the Millennium, the natural branches will be fully grafted back into their rightful place within the root of the olive tree. The natural and the unnatural branches will then fully thrive together, bearing precious olives to the glory of the tree's root. What better illustration could have been chosen for such a blessed prospect?!

As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” (Romans 11:28-32)

Their hard and hostile nature toward the gospel of Jesus Christ has been used by God for the benefit of the Gentiles, in order that millions of souls across the globe might have eternal life; however, Israel cannot be permanently put aside, because they are still precious to God. He made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This covenant cannot be broken. It was confirmed on three separate occasions to each of these men. Israel is truly “beloved for the father's sakes.” God's gifts and callings are without repentance. In other words, they are without regret. The gifts that God has given to Israel cannot be revoked. The special calling wherewith He has called them cannot be revoked. This also holds true for His promises to the Gentile nations. God does not break His promises. This verse is emphatic in the Greek text. It literally reads, “For without regret are the gifts and the calling of God.”

The last part of this passage beautifully reinforces all that has been said concerning salvation. Romans 3:9 concluded all in unbelief, and this passage reiterates the same truth. All men are under sin and in desperate need of God's mercy. The word mercy appears four times at the end of this passage. God has allowed all of the events just described so that He might have mercy upon all mankind. Such a conclusion leaves no room for pride in the heart of either the Jew or the Gentile. The fear of the Lord is the only proper and reasonable response to such a conclusion. God does not misappropriate His sovereignty so that He might maliciously consign people to the flames of damnation. In mercy, He guides the events of history, using the failings, rejections, and receptions of men so that He might conclude all in unbelief for the purpose of demonstrating divine grace toward all.   

Friday, May 23, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Declaration Concerning Repentance (Part III)

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10)

The Lord commanded that all the tithes be brought. He wanted the tithes of the poor as well as those of the rich. The poor man was not excluded from placing God first simply because his physical possessions were less than those of his neighbor. The wealthy man was not expected to take over the poor man's responsibility toward God. God wants all men to realize that He should be first whether there be much or little. Man's heart will counsel him to withhold tithes and offerings from God lest there not be enough for the giver, but this type of reasoning has no biblical foundation. Giving of one's substance to God encourages a man to exercise faith toward God, faith that God will meet the need. When a man refuses to walk in this principle, because he has limited substance, he is refusing to place his trust in God. The church-age believer falls under this same principle. The Church is the body of Christ. No part of that body is excluded from doing its job. The entire body is to be subject to the authority of the Head. The entire body is to walk by faith. If a member of the body is not giving tithes and offerings to God, this member has failed to fully give himself over to the Lord. Sacrificial giving is a result of one's surrender to the Lord's will. This principle is seen in the sacrificial giving of the Macedonian churches mentioned in II Corinthians. Concerning their obedience, Paul writes, “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God (II Corinthians 8:1-5).” If a man does not first give himself to the Lord, when hard times come, he will fail to bring in “all the tithes” to the Lord's house.

God's promise of faithfulness was given to Israel if they would obey His word. The Lord told Israel to prove Him. This means to test or try out. If they would humble themselves and exercise faith by bringing their hard-earned tithes, God would more than meet their needs. This principle is clearly taught in Proverbs 3:5-10, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones. Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” Before sacrificial giving comes a willingness to trust God over one's own wisdom. This decision is motivated by a fear of the Lord. The decision is proven genuine by the action of giving to God the first-fruits, and the result is God's provision. Jesus Christ expounded upon this same principle when He said, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again (Luke 6:38).” One must be careful not to apply these promises out of context. The promise here in Malachi was given to Israel as a nation. If they would honor God, He would care for them as a whole. This is not to say that no Israelite would ever experience hunger or need. Many Old Testament saints experienced such things, but they still had close fellowship with God. Paul experienced hunger, thirst, nakedness, cold and many other troubles, but it was not because he failed to honor God with his tithes and offerings. God allows trials into the believer's life for reasons of chastening and sanctification. The presence of trials does not mean a failure of God's promise to provide. This passage here in Malachi is promising that God will take care of the man who puts God first. Many people lack the basic needs of food and shelter simply because they will not submit to God. Many believers struggle daily and feel as though they are earning wages to place them into “...a bag with holes...(Haggai 1:6)” simply because they are not obeying the principles of this passage. If God's child will honor the Lord with all that he has, he need never fear want brought on by a refusal to tithe. God will meet the need whatever it may be.

How faithfully God has held true to this principle down through the ages! And yet, the believer's heart still tends to wander and doubt when hard times come. The flesh is quick to say, “But you won't have enough if you tithe. Better wait, and give later when money improves.” What a lie! The believer should give now! He should honor God now, and see Him meet every need in His perfect way! The Lord often allows His children to come upon hard times so that they might be encouraged to give in faith and personally witness the faithfulness of God. God will hold true to His word! Even in times of trial and want, the believer who gives in faith can still have peace of heart and peace of mind, knowing that God will meet the need in His time and in His way. Even though Paul was well acquainted with hunger (I Corinthians 4:11), he saw God meet his own needs over and over again (Philippians 4:18). He saw God meet the financial needs of the various churches. He saw hungry people fed and ministry needs provided, and at his death, he could truly say, “I've seen God open the windows of heaven.”

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Mighty Splendor of God: The Splendid Restoration (Part II)

Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?” (Romans 11:19-24)

This passage is not teaching a loss of salvation. It is speaking of a loss of privilege. The natural branches represent Israel as a nation. As the natural branches of the root of patriarchal faith, the nation occupied a place of privilege. This held true for both the believing and the unbelieving Jew. In such a place of privilege, the Jewish people had the opportunity to bring forth the fruits of righteousness through repentant faith in the Messiah. Upon the national rejection of the Messiah, God removed Israel from her special place of privilege and took the wild branches of the Gentiles and grafted them in. This place of opportunity is available to the general assembly of the Gentiles. Should the Gentile nations harden themselves against God, He will cease to reach out to them in a special way as He did to unbelieving Israel. Those who are truly saved cannot be cut off because God has clearly shown that salvation cannot be lost. As a wild branch that has no legitimate right to the nourishment of the root, the Gentiles should be humble toward the things of God, not proud. Rather than encouraging an attitude of arrogance toward the Jewish nation, this place of special dealing should instigate humility. Truly, the Gentile believer should be the leader in encouraging such an attitude of humility and godly fear, but all too often, the Gentile believer is guilty of substituting Israel with the Church and robbing the Jew of his rightful place in God's divine plan. Along with such an attitude comes a failure to witness to the Jews.

Paul points out that Israel's cutting off is not permanent. At any time, should the Jew choose repentant faith in God, he too may be grafted back in to his rightful place of service. Verse twenty-four illustrates a doctrinal truth by presenting a process which is contrary to grafting. Wild olive branches are never grafted into a good root; otherwise, the wild branch will overcome the tree with undesirable results. Cultivated branches must be grafted onto a good root so that both may grow together in harmony. Concerning the Gentiles nations, God did just the opposite. Gentiles are liked to “wild branches.” According to nature, this grafting in of a wild branch should have failed; yet, God, in His power and wisdom, saw to it that these wild branches were subdued and made fit to produce fruit. This illustration vividly describes how God has made it possible for Jew and Gentile to serve together as natural and unnatural branches, both nourished by the life-giving trunk of patriarchal faith in the blood of the Messiah. This truth is demonstrated in the salvation of Jew and Gentile upon the birth of the early church.   

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Declaration Concerning Repentance (Part II)

Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.” (Malachi 3:8-9)

The LORD'S reply to Israel's question deals with the curses of robbery and the cures of repentance. The nation had failed to bring the simple offerings commanded in the Law. The Hebrew noun behind the word tithe means a tenth. The Hebrew verb which describes the act of tithing is also from this same root and it means to give a tenth part. When the Bible says that Abraham gave to Melchizedek “...tithes of all...(Genesis 14:20),” it literally means that he gave him the tenth part of what he had. This natural result of Abraham's gratitude and affection toward God was expected to be present in the nation of Israel. Levitical law commanded both priest and people to offer tithes of all. The priesthood was to be sustained by a portion of what the people offered (Nehemiah 13:5), and the priests were to tithe from the tithes of the people (Numbers 18:26). The word for offerings pertains to the offerings used for sacred service. The daily service of God's temple required the availability of numerous types of wares; however, these necessary items of service were not being provided. God considered the disregard of His tithes and service offerings to be nothing short of robbery, and because of it, the nation was cursed. Tithing and offering to God was intended to be a natural outflow of the nation's gratitude. The requirement of a tenth was merely a starting point. When one considers the freewill offerings, peace offerings, vows and so forth, giving to God was to go beyond the tenth part. Giving back to God what already belonged to Him was not to be considered a laborious task to be avoided; it was intended to be a demonstration of one's gratefulness to the Almighty; therefore, its absence indicated a situation of spiritual decay and apostasy.

This heart of tithing and offering which was to be present in Israel is the same heart which is to be present in God's church. To make such a connection is not to confuse Israel with the church. God's people have demonstrated similar traits in every dispensation, and the act of giving is one of those traits. In keeping with the Old Testament example, the church has used the tenth as a starting point for its tithes. It is interesting to note however, that the New Testament church is never told specifically to give a tenth. In fact, the word tithe does not appear in the New Testament in specific relation to the church. It is almost as though the believer is expected to naturally give what is required in order to meet the needs of the body, and should not have to be commanded specifically since such giving should be a natural outflow of one's gratitude to Christ. After all, if the Old Testament saint, who was not armed with the same advantages of his New Testament counterpart, could find it in his heart to give a tenth, and beyond a tenth, how much more should the Christian, who has the ever-present Spirit, be able to do at least as much? Examples of giving to the needs of the saints abound in the New Testament (II Corinthians 8-9). In Galatians 6:6, the believer is commanded, “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.” The word communicate means to have a share in. As the tithes of Israel helped meet the needs of the Levitical priesthood, the tithes of the Christian help meet the needs of church leadership. As one who is commanded to be an example in all things (I Timothy 4:12), the pastor is also expected to give back a part of what has been given to him, just as the Levitical priesthood was commanded to offer. Such a heart of giving is expected. It should not have to be forced, neither should it be argued against. Such giving should not have to be proven beyond example. The Christian who fights against giving is betraying his own spiritual degradation. Many a New Testament Christian would do well to heed the admonition of Deuteronomy 26:12-15 which says, “When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled; Then thou shalt say before the LORD thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them: I have not eaten thereof in my mourning, neither have I taken away ought thereof for any unclean use, nor given ought thereof for the dead: but I have hearkened to the voice of the LORD my God, and have done according to all that thou hast commanded me. Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless thy people Israel, and the land which thou hast given us, as thou swarest unto our fathers, a land that floweth with milk and honey.” This man's tithes benefited others. They not only ministered to the spiritual leadership, but they also relieved the needy and the oppressed. The Christian's tithes and offerings should do the same. In so caring for people through a heart of sacrifice and concern, the believer comes closest in offering to God that which truly delights his heart, because the Lord desires “...mercy, and not sacrifice...(Hosea 6:6).” The Lord considered the tithes and offerings of Israel to be holy. They were not to be used for self-consumption during difficult times. They were not to be used for any unclean purpose, or in making an offering for the dead as the heathen nations would do. They were God's; therefore, they were holy. Such is the case with all that the believer possesses. His spirit, his body, and all that he has is holy because it all belongs to God (I Corinthians 6:19-20)! He is not to use what belongs to God simply because he has fallen upon hard times. In his “mourning,” he is not permitted to take what belongs to God and others and comfort himself with it. The Christian life is not one of self-preservation, but one of faith. The believer is not to view tithes as a means of warding off his responsibility to God through giving a tenth. His love for Christ should be such that he “...[takes] joyfully the spoiling of [his] goods, knowing in [himself] that [he has] in heaven a better and an enduring substance (Hebrews 10:34).” As the text will soon declare, God will not leave destitute the man who is obedient to the principles of faith, charity, and sacrifice; but to ignore these principles is to bring a curse.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Mighty Splendor of God: The Splendid Restoration

For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.” (Romans 11:16-18)

As the climax to all that has been discussed up to this point concerning salvation, Paul gives the illustration of grafting. To prevent misunderstanding and improper exegesis, some detailed explanation is necessary concerning the three groups which are presented in the coming passages. For the remainder of the chapter, Paul is not addressing the Church specifically. He is addressing Gentiles. The root of this olive tree cannot be thought of solely as salvation, because this will lead to doctrinal contradiction. In context, the root represents the patriarchal faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the simplest terms, it consists of Christ and faith in His Person. The olive tree is one of the longest living trees in the world. A lifespan of 1,500 to 2,000 years is not uncommon. In comparison to other trees, it may be thought of as “living forever;” therefore, it is quite befitting that such a tree should be used to illustrate matters which deal with eternal life. The unfruitful branches which have been cut off, represent unbelieving Israel as a nation. The fruitful branches represent the general assembly of the Gentiles. Having identified the three groups represented by the illustration, a discussion on the purpose and particulars of grafting is in order.

Grafting is an ancient art which allows the best of both worlds to be incorporated into one hardy, fruitful olive tree. A root system which is well founded and already thriving in its current environment is first selected. It is then pruned of all its unfruitful branches until just the main body of the tree remains (this process of pruning may be less or more dramatic depending upon the needs of the farmer). Fruit-bearing branches from a good tree are then attached to the ends of the limb bases. Over a period of some weeks, the branches and the body of the tree will fuse themselves together. The result is a tree with a well established root system and fruitful branches. The branches do not take on the identity of the natural branches which were pruned, but they are nourished by the root, thus allowing for fruit to be produced.

With this horticultural illustration in mind, God presents a picture of what He has accomplished through the ministry of Jesus Christ. The covenant of faith which was established with Abraham cannot be broken. It is firmly founded in the “root system” of this illustration. The nation of Israel had the opportunity to be nourished by this covenant; however, they rejected their Messiah; therefore, as a nation, they were removed from the olive tree, thus indicating that God has ceased to reach out to them in a special way, but only for the time being. Knowing that the Gentile nations would respond to faith in Christ, God turned His attention to these “wild branches” and is currently giving them a special opportunity to be nourished by the root of faith. These wild branches have not become, nor have they replaced, the natural branches. They have simply been given opportunity to partake of the root's life-giving qualities. The branches do not sustain the root. The root sustains the branches.

Monday, May 19, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Declaration Concerning Repentance

Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?” (Malachi 3:7)

The LORD'S declaration concerning repentance is the next to the last declaration to which Israel will be given the chance to reply. In an effort to reveal their present need of repentance, the Lord reminds Israel of their rebellious nature. From the very first, the nation had displayed a heart that would not trust God. Although rebellion against God's commands may be traced back even further than the inception of the Exodus, if one begins to look for faithlessness in Israel, beginning with their departure from Egypt, he will first see it just prior to the parting of the Red Sea. As the people beheld the Red Sea on the one side and the advancing Egyptian army on the other, they cried out, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness (Exodus 14:11-12).” In so saying, they had turned aside from God's most precious ordinance which is the command to simply trust Him, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6).” The nation of Israel had habitually proven that they were “...children in whom is no faith...(Deuteronomy 32:20),” and this basic heart of unbelief led to a continual refusal to keep God's commands. Unbelief is a sin. It is not a disease or an inability. It is a choice to believe someone or something other than God. A person may choose to believe his own reasoning or emotions. He may choose to regard the wisdom of another over the wisdom of God. He may choose to place more stock in the physical circumstances at hand than in the promises of God. Regardless of the object, unbelief is a choice to regard God as a liar. While Israel may be condemned for their habitual unbelief and their resultant disregard of God's ordinances, it must be remembered that such behavior is alive and well in every man's heart, and it is one of the most basic sins that plagues the everyday life of the believer.

Upon the heels of this opening declaration is a heartfelt cry for repentance. The verb translated return is a common Hebrew verb and its most basic meaning is to turn back. In I Kings 8:47, it is translated repent. God is demanding a change of mind and a change of heart in Israel. God is not asking for the nation to merely give mental ascent to the rebukes at hand; He is asking them to allow these rebukes to foster a change of heart. Of all the basic moods of language. The imperative, or the command, is perhaps the most uncertain. This is due to the simple fact that such expressions of speech challenge the will of the object. God has not pre-programmed mankind to make certain decisions; although, He certainly could have done so, but instead, He has given to each the opportunity to make choices. The phrase and I will return is very interesting. It is not simply presenting the possibility of some future event; it is expressing a sincere desire on behalf of the subject. It has been translated with the simple future tense for smoothness and clarity; however, due to the form of the Hebrew verb, it may also be rightly translated let me return. The particular form of the Hebrew verb behind this English phrase is expressing a sincere and intense desire on the part of the subject. In Psalm 31:1, this same Hebrew verb form has been translated with this intensity in mind when David cries out to the Lord, “...let me never be ashamed....” Here in Malachi, God is not simply saying He will return; He is expressing an intense desire to return. The idea is, “Return unto Me (so that) I may return unto you!” The truth of God's desire for fellowship with man is a truth that leaves one awed. Why should the all-sufficient King desire fellowship with such feeble creatures? The Lord's love is truly amazing. In context, this intense desire is directed toward the nation of Israel; however, as the whole of Scripture bears out, it is applicable to all. Despite man's wickedness, God desires his restoration through repentance. This desire for restoration of fellowship should be evident in one who is born again. The absence of a desire to see others reconciled to truth indicates an inconsistency between the professing believer and the Spirit of Christ. Jesus Christ stands as the ultimate example of God's desire for man's reconciliation, and the one who is truly in Him will not be permitted to neglect this ministry of reconciliation without some conflict (II Corinthians 5:14-21).

Israel's unconverted questions reveal and unconverted heart. Their first question indicates that they see nothing in the nation which could be deemed worthy of repentance. A man needs improvement the most when he sees no room for improvement.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Mighty Splendor of God: The Splendid Remnant

I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:11-15)

The splendid remnant is but a foretaste of the splendid restoration, which is the subject of verses eleven through thirty-two. The question is asked, “Have they stumbled that they should fall?” The idea is, “Have they stumbled in order that they should fall down and not rise again.” The only biblical answer is, No. Through their fall (literally transgression), God has opened up the opportunity for countless Gentiles to be saved. Before the worlds were ever framed, God saw Israel's rejection of Christ; therefore, He used the postponement of the Kingdom as an evangelistic opportunity. Only God could so strategically handle the affairs of men. This process has spurred many Jews to faith in Christ. With belief in Jesus Christ comes indescribable peace. The Spirit of God takes up residence in the believer's soul and gives a genuine peace that no religious ritual can duplicate. This healthy form of jealousy has been the catalyst for numerous Jewish conversions.

If God can use the transgression of a nation to bring such a benefit on the entire world, one can only imagine what blessing God will bring through the national conversion of Israel. The fulness of Israel will truly be of immeasurable worth to all nations. When Jesus Christ the Lord reigns in Jerusalem, all nations will come to worship Him. Offenders will be quickly dealt with, and all the earth will be encouraged to walk in the fear of the Lord (Zechariah 14:16-21). This fulness, which will be realized in the millennial kingdom, is truly much greater than what is currently available. Such things only reinforce the truths of God's gracious intentions toward Israel. When Paul says, “I magnify mine office,” he is not speaking arrogantly. The word for office means ministry or a waiting of tables. It is the same word from which deacon is derived. Paul is, in humble, yet confident praise, glorifying the ministry which God has given him toward the Gentiles. He uses this phrase to arrest the attention of any Gentile who might devalue God's dealings with Israel.

The passage ends with a summary of God's intentions toward the Jews. If God used their transgression as an opportunity to bring reconciliation to the heathen nations, then He will certainly use their repentance to bring national restoration, as Zechariah 13:1 declares, “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.”  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Declaration Concerning Wearying Words (Part VI)

For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6)

Unlike man who is unfaithful, the Lord is always faithful. When He makes a covenant, He does not break it. Though the people of Israel had once again broken God's covenant, He would not utterly destroy them because of His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He would punish these evil doers. He would purge and purify the priesthood. He would come near to judgment and recompense the wicked; yet, in all that, He would not utterly consume the seed of Jacob. Someday the full extent of this promise will be realized when Israel is converted to faith in the Messiah, and all the earth gathers to Jerusalem to worship at the feet of Christ, the King of the Jews.

God's unchanging nature is a source of tremendous comfort in a world of change and uncertainty. When the Lord makes a promise, it holds true. The commands and principles of His word are applicable in any dispensation and to any people group because they are given by an unchanging Author. This truth of God's unchanging nature is what enables the believer in Christ to have such peace and security. This same trait of immutability is applied to Jesus Christ in Hebrews 13:8 where He is spoken of as the one who is “...the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”

While embellishing in their wickedness, the apostates of Malachi's day mockingly asked, “Where is the God of judgment?” The Lord simply replies, “I'm coming. I will purify My people. I will punish the wicked, and I will preserve the nation.”   

Friday, May 16, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Declaration Concerning Wearying Words (Part V)

And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:5)

The people of Israel had asked, “Where is the God of judgment?” and now the Lord answers their question directly by saying, “I will come near to you to judgment.” The answer to their question? The God of judgment is near! The people had also said, “Everyone that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and He delighteth in them,” therefore the Lord rebukes their slander of His character by assuring them that He will soon be a witness against the man who does evil. In fact, He will be a swift witness. The list of those He will be against is a reflection of what was occurring in the nation at the time of this prophecy. As Deuteronomy 18:10-12 declares, sorcery of any kind was strictly forbidden, “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD....”; yet, such was the constant plague of Israel. The people were consistently attempting to mingle the worship of God with the worship of devils. Paul warned the Christian community against such associations on any level when he said, “...the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils (I Corinthians 10:20-21).” Doubtless, to be called sorcerers must have flown in the face of these “masters” and “scholars,” but God's word knows no greater authority than that of its divine Author, and the Author does not respect the persons of men.

The Lord then says that He will be against the adulterers. The Lord did not view their divorces as legitimate. He hates putting away; therefore, he simply labels their divorces and remarriages as acts of adultery. This adulterer is placed right beside the sorcerer. Unfaithfulness toward God and man is no better than devil worship. The Lord is not only against the physical adulterer, He is also against the spiritual adulterer. As previously stated, these people were committing physical adultery because they had already committed spiritual adultery toward God by running after the gods of this world. As time progresses and the return of Christ draws nearer and nearer, professing Christianity will witness an influx of spiritual and physical adulterers (II Timothy 3:1-5, II Peter 2).

The false swearer is next on the Lord's list of recompense. God takes oaths very seriously. He pronounces a blessing on the man who takes his oaths seriously, including the ones that do not work toward his advantage (Psalm 15:4). The man who breaks his oath is consistently condemned in Scripture. In fact, a man is admonished not to swear rather than swear falsely, “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few (Ecclesiastes 5:2).” False swearer could be an appositive for the adulterer since adultery is always a breech of promise.

The oppressor will also receive his just reward by the Judge of all the earth. This individual is indicted for oppressing four people groups: the man who has been hired, the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner. The people were promising a certain wage to the ones they hired as workmen, but when the time came to give them their hire, they refused. They were also robbing the widow and the orphan, as well as keeping back the foreigner from that which was rightfully his. Every one of these sins was directly forbidden according to God's law. Leviticus 19:13 protected the hired hand, “Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.” Deuteronomy 24:17 protected the other three groups, “Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the fatherless; nor take a widow's raiment to pledge.” These verses are but a small sample of God's compassion for the needy. Concerning the affliction of the poor and needy, the Lord promised the oppressor, “If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; and my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless (Exodus 22:23-24).” The death and destruction that plagued the little nation of Israel during the intertestamental period was surely a fulfillment of the Lord's promise to be a swift witness against these workers of iniquity.

The last statement of this passage summarizes the root problem of the people. They had lost their fear of the LORD. Truly, in any dispensation, this is what characterizes the apostate movement.

The believer had better take heed to the warnings of this passage. The world is full of sorcery, and it is easy to unwittingly support these things through entertainment and philosophy. Divorce is hated by God, yet it is commonplace among many of God's people. Remarriage after a divorce and before the death of the spouse is adultery. This sin is not only sanctioned in Christian circles today, but in some cases it comes with the highest recommendation by those who give the counsel of the flesh. This is not taking into account the spiritual adultery which takes place on a massive scale among the professing church. The believer must also guard himself against failing to be a man of his word. As previously discussed, a man can be an oppressor in many ways, but certainly, God's child should never be guilty of using and abusing those who find themselves in a difficult situation, be they a hired hand, widow, orphan, outsider, or some other soul in need. If a believer finds himself guilty of such things, let him flee to God in repentance and take to heart Paul's example in Galatians 2:10, “...they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.” And lastly, may Christ's servants reverence Him, “...perfecting holiness in the fear of God (II Corinthians 7:1).”

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Mighty Splendor of God: The Splendid Remnant

I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:1-6)

The discourse on the dispensations of the gospel ends with a look into God's future dealings with Israel. Like none other, this chapter deals with the splendor of God's wisdom and grace. In His mercy, God guides the course of history, intricately working out all the details for His ultimate glory and the salvation of millions. Israel's national rejection of their Messiah is truly a sad thing; yet, there is always a remnant, those, who in humble faith, seek the salvation that comes only from God. The splendid remnant of Israel is the subject of the first ten verses. Paul begins with a very emphatic declaration. The question is grammatically arranged so that it is expecting a No answer. God forbid that the nation of Israel should be permanently repudiated and forever set aside! Those who would substitute the Church for Israel must do exegetical gymnastics when dealing with a passage like this! The Scriptures are consistently clear that God still loves the nation of Israel, and that He will someday restore them. Paul first uses his own salvation experience as an example that God has not stopped saving Jewish souls. As a “...Pharisee...” and “...the son of a Pharisee..(Acts 23:6).,” he should have been a most unlikely candidate for redemption through faith in Christ; yet, here he stands, forever a trophy of God's grace.

As is so often the case with Paul, he next turns to a biblical account as evidence of God's gracious intentions toward Israel. Referring to I Kings 19, he illustrates God's gracious desire for the salvation of Israel (and all souls). After the victory on Mount Carmel, Elijah must have expected national repentance from Israel; however, he was greeted with a death threat from Jezebel. Allowing this to send him into a downward spiral of self-pity and depression, he fled to the extreme southern borders of Israel. The next forty days and forty nights found him in a struggle between his own desires and the desires of God. When God said to him, “...What doest thou here, Elijah (I Kings 19:9)?” his reply was “...I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away (I Kings 19:10).” Elijah's focus had shifted from one of restoration to one of condemnation. In his own wisdom, and guided by his own feelings and frustrations, he had come to the conclusion that Israel was beyond hope, and that they simply needed to be destroyed. He had lost his focus of God's grace. This attitude was in stark contrast to Moses'. When Israel sinned with the golden calf at the foot of Horeb, Moses spent another forty days and forty nights pleading for God's forgiveness upon the people. In fact, so intent was he upon their salvation that he spoke these amazing words, “...Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written (Exodus 32:31-32).” This attitude of intercession and restoration is part of what made Moses the man of God that he was. Elijah had lost his heart for Israel's redemption and had turned to the pursuit of their destruction. God replied to Elijah's attitude by showing him that God is not in the destructive wind, earthquake, or fire, but rather, the still small voice. Ultimately, God is not pursuing man's destruction, but his redemption. After the physical signs of His gracious intentions toward Israel, the Lord said to Elijah, “...I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him (I Kings 19:18).” God always has His remnant, and it is no different with the nation of Israel no matter what man thinks or how bad things look! As there was a relatively small pocket of believers in Elijah's day, so there is a small pocket of Jewish believers in the church age. By God's grace this is so. Such things have never been my man's works. If such things could be born out of man's efforts, then grace would not be needed. In every dispensation, God must be praised for graciously reaching out and preserving those whom He knows will believe.

What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (according as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.” (Romans 11:7-10)

The antithesis to the believing remnant is the unbelieving majority. The word for blinded means to harden. In context, this passage is not teaching that God mercilessly hardens helpless individuals who have no control over their own will. Such a view ignores the context and heart of Scripture, and is born out of a fleshly view of God. Rather, this passage clearly teaches that God will eventually give people that which they truly desire. The first passage quoted is Isaiah 6:9. In context, these words were spoken to a nation which had routinely demonstrated their hatred of God's truth. The majority of Israel will not accept Christ, because they have been given the hardness for which they asked. At the crucifixion, the leaders cried, “...His blood be on us, and on our children (Matthew 27:25).” God has given them their desire.

The second passage quoted is Psalm 69:22-23. Prophetically, this Psalm speaks of the Jews' rejection of Christ as He hung on the cross. The one who rejects the Savior in such a way is left no alternative but to be given over to absolute darkness. David is not pouring out a vindictive prayer in order to realize some hateful desire toward people, but rather, he is praying in 3rd person commands that compliment spiritual truth. When a man completely and permanently rejects God, God will give him over entirely to destruction. Israel's unbelieving majority have consistently asked their Redeemer to leave; therefore, God has given them their desire.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Declaration Concerning Wearying Words (Part IV)

And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.” (Malachi 3:3-4)

This verse vividly describes the purification process which the Levitical priesthood will undergo at the hands of the coming Judge. Though the principles could be applied in the present age in a general sense, the literal and full fulfillment looks ahead to the millennial kingdom. Ezekiel chapters 40-48 provide a look into the future concerning the temple of the millennial kingdom and the future ministry of the Levites. The second coming of the Lord Jesus will witness the spiritual purification of the tribe of Levi. Though this tribe has been dispersed and seemingly “lost” for many years, the Lord will gather them once again and separate the believers from the unbelievers. Though the redemptive work of Christ has been complete, and no further offering is required, the reinstated offerings and temple worship of the Millennium will serve as a memorial to the finished work of the Messiah, as He Himself sits as Prophet, Priest, and King, thus bringing into perfect unity the three Old Testament offices typically held by separate individuals (Zechariah 6:12-13). The tribe of Levi will be a vital part of this ministry, finally offering the offerings of the Lord with the heart which should have always been present, but which was, in so many instances, found to be absent.

Verse four makes it clear that the Lord's offerings are not pleasurable unless brought with the proper heart. This principle appears so much in Scripture that one finds himself expounding it over and over again. A principle which appears so often ought to be heeded with a true sense of sobriety. A gospel which focuses on mental ascent and love while passing over the seriousness of humility and the fear of the Lord has left in its wake a sea of self-deceived people who are attempting to have a relationship with God apart from the realities of spiritual regeneration. God's salvation has always been one of humility, the fear of the Lord, and simple faith. This terminology may sound as though works were being mingled with faith, but as one studies Scripture, he soon finds that these three factors are all molded into one. In true salvation they are all present. True faith is not born apart from a biblical understanding of repentance and the fear of God (Isaiah 57:15, 66:2, Acts 16:29-31), and humility and the fear of God do a man no good if he is not willing to simply trust.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Magnificent Salvation of God: Salvation's Messengers (Part II)

But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.” (Romans 10:18)

Creation also acts as a messenger of salvation. This verse is a quotation of Psalm 19:4. This Psalm provides wonderful insight concerning the influence that creation can have on a man's conscience. Verses one through four read, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun.” The Jew, as well as every nation, has seen God in creation; therefore, he is never without some witness of God's authority and majesty. This specific messenger is incomplete without the word; however, it is sufficient to spur any soul to spiritual curiosity, and it is available to all the world. None are hid from the wonders of creation. Not everyone possesses a written copy of the word, but everyone is exposed to the thought provoking influence of creation. To those who will respond to its light, God will send more light.

But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.” (Romans 10:19-21)

Deuteronomy 32:21 is the first passage quoted here, and Isaiah 65:1-2 is the second. Before Israel ever inherited the promised land, God warned them through Moses that they would reject their Messiah. These passages are speaking of the jealousy which has come upon Israel through the salvation of the Gentile. Many Israelites are angered by the relationship that Gentile believers have found through Jesus Christ. This jealousy may be observed from the days of the early church on up to the present time. Judaism, with its system of merits and vain works, is a dead religion which cannot satisfy spiritual yearning. The Spirit of Christ satisfies this yearning by bringing life and light into the believer's soul, thus provoking the Jew to jealousy. Such things should not encourage pride on the part of the Gentile but rather humility, because, as chapter eleven will soon declare, the Gentile is blessed to be “grafted in.”

Thus are God's present dealings with Israel. He desires that His people be saved through faith in their Messiah, and this Messiah has been represented, and will continue to be represented, through proclamation, creation, and provocation.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Magnificent Salvation of God: Salvation's Messengers

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:14-17)

Having presented Salvation's Savior, the text now focuses on Salvation's messengers. These messengers are proclamation, creation and provocation. Through these three channels God presents salvation to Israel.

A preacher is one who proclaims. God has chosen the channel of proclamation to be the main means by which His gospel is spread, as it says in I Corinthians 1:21, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” The world would consider such things to be utter foolishness; yet, this is the very channel which God has chosen. The Lord delights in using the humble and unexpected things, because in these He may more fully manifest His strength and check the pride of mankind, as I Corinthians 1:27-29 teaches, “...God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” Lifestyle is certainly important as a means of witness, but the witness must also include proclamation. At some point, God expects His people to verbally share the good news of Jesus Christ. This is often uncomfortable, because it inevitably involves dealing with man's sin problem, but God's Spirit will enable His people if they will but submit. Verse fifteen is a quote of Isaiah 52:7, which, in context, is dealing specifically with Israel. This verse is often quoted as motivation for reaching Gentiles. Such application is good and certainly much needed; yet, a man must never forget that God is intensely interested in the salvation of the Jew. God does save Jewish people in this present age; therefore, their salvation should be the concern of every Gentile believer.

Verse sixteen is a quote of Isaiah 53:1. Faith comes through the hearing of God's word. The power of God's word should never be underestimated. People often think that Scripture cannot be used with those who deny it or claim to be atheists. Many believe that Scripture will have no affect on such people; therefore, they often turn to intellectual arguments. Logical arguments are not always inappropriate; however, God's word may be given with assurance at any point. God's word is never inappropriate or insufficient. If people will not hear the word, they will not be persuaded. This truth is illustrated in Luke 16:29-31, where the rich man is found in hell, begging Abraham to send someone from the dead to warn his family of their impending doom. Abraham replied to the rich man, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” The rich man argued, “Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.” Abraham admonished him by saying, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Ultimately, if a person will not hear the word, they will not be moved to faith. Proclamation of the word is salvation's primary messenger.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Magnificent Salvation of God: Salvation's Savior (Part IV)

For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:11-13)

The last part of this passage is a quotation of Joel 2:32. The message of these verses may be presented in three parts. First of all, there is the audience. This salvation invitation is to whosoever. God is not partial; He is also not a Calvinist. He would “...have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:4).” The context of Joel 2:32 is the Day of the LORD when Christ comes back to reward His enemies, redeem Israel, and establish His kingdom. Just as Jew and Gentile may call upon Him in that day and be delivered (saved), even so may Jew and Gentile call upon Him today and be saved. The second part to this message is the attitude. Everyone is welcome to call, but not everyone will. A man must see himself as lost and wicked; otherwise, he will see no need to call. A man must come to the end of himself; otherwise, he will not call. Jesus will not accept a position on the shelf of a man's idols. He expects the idols to be cleared off and the shelf reserved for none but Him. Humility is the attitude with which a man must call. He must acknowledge the value of the fear of the Lord and call out in faith. The last part of this message is the affirmation. God assures salvation to the repentant sinner who calls out for help in faith. It is an affirmation of the highest quality, because it is given by Him “...that cannot lie...(Titus 1:2).”

Saturday, May 10, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Declaration Concerning Wearying Words (Part III)

But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap:” (Malachi 3:2)

The scene is rather vivid. While oppressing the poor and the needy, these men of Israel blessed themselves and cheered on the coming of the Lord; however, the Lord replies, “Who may abide My coming?” The self-deceived soul often blesses itself in its own ways while believing that God is working in its favor. The Lord rebukes such thinking in Amos 5:18 when He says, “Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light.” Christ's coming will not be a joyous time for the apostate. Malachi assured his nation that their expectations were in vain as long as they continued in their present direction. They had accused God of perverting and passing over judgment, and now, He assures them that one is coming who will exercise the very judgment which they had accused Him of misappropriating. The refiner's fire and the fuller's soap bespeak of Christ's holy character. His holiness will burn and wash away all of man's deception. God is not fooled by religious ritual and false professions. He is not deceived by a man's hypocrisy. His eyes are as a flame of fire (Revelation 1:14), and He sees the very thoughts of each man's heart (Amos 4:13).

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Magnificent Salvation of God: Salvation's Savior (Part III)

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10)

As Paul continues to labor for the present day salvation of his people, the Holy Spirit uses him to pen some of the clearest salvation verses ever written. Some may come to this passage and see what they consider to be a ritualistic approach to salvation. Nothing could be further from the truth. God is not presenting a physical formula that, if followed, is guaranteed to work redemption. As further explanation will soon convey, He is tying together the words of the mouth and the true conversion of the heart. When the heart is truly affected, the mouth will be involved. In biblical Greek, if the article is present with the noun, the specific identity of that noun is being emphasized. Other features of that noun may be present, but the presence of the article draws specific attention to that noun's identity. When the article is absent, often times, the character, essence, and nature of the noun is being emphasized more than the specific identity. Unlike English, the absence of the Greek article doesn't make the noun indefinite; its absence simply serves to identify that noun in a slightly different way. This concept is being employed in this passage. Lord Jesus does not have a definite article in the Greek text. It was added in English for smoothness and clarity. A literal translation will provide the best illustration, “That if you might confess with your mouth, Lord Jesus....” The emphasis is being placed upon the confessor's willingness to acknowledge Christ's position as Lord of all. This is not lordship salvation; this is simply a willingness to acknowledge God's authority, which, if a man is not willing to do, he cannot be saved. If the sinner is willing to acknowledge the divine authority of Christ as God, and if he is willing to acknowledge the resurrection truth, he will be saved. A man could verbally affirm that Jesus is God and that He rose from the dead and still not be saved. The thrust of this passage is not the recitation of certain words but the heart that produces those words. One must be willing to accept the reality of death to self before there can be life to God (I Thessalonians 1:9-10, Galatians 2:19-20).

Thursday, May 8, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Declaration Concerning Wearying Words (Part II)

Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1)

The next six verses of chapter three present God's reply to the perverted accusations of Israel. He begins by presenting the coming of the messenger. In a near sense, this verse is prophesying of the coming of John the Baptist, and in a distant sense, the coming of Elijah just prior to the day of the Lord. Because of the similarities of the ministries of these two men, it is difficult to discuss one without mentioning the other. The second part of this verse presents the coming of the Judge. This Judge is none other than Jesus Christ the Lord. In a near sense, it predicts His sudden coming in the flesh. After so many years of Messianic silence, Christ's birth was truly a sudden coming to the temple of his body. In a distant sense, this verse would seem to indicate the second coming of Christ. After the defeat of His enemies at Armageddon, the Lord will “suddenly” take up His rightful place in the resurrected temple of Mount Zion. The nation “delighted” in the coming of their deliverer, not because of a love for righteousness, but because of expectation of prominence. They believed that His coming would bring to them the defeat of their enemies and the restoration of their land and kingdom. Sadly, as is witnessed in the attitude of those to whom Christ ministered, this expectation was not one of humility and faith for most of the population (though there were exceptions), but rather, it was an expectation which was focused more in personal gain.

The messenger (John the Baptist) would prepare the way of the Lord by preaching a gospel of repentance (Matthew 3:2); yet, these people wanted nothing to do with such a concept. They were content in their pride while they waited for the “messenger of the covenant” to come and restore to them the power of the kingdom. Yet, such could never be the case until the nation turned to God in full repentance of sin. The Messenger of the covenant would come; but He would not accept such a heart attitude as these men were demonstrating. The Lord ends the verse by giving a second affirmation of assurance. The Lord will come! The intertestamental period was nigh at hand. Darkness was about to fall. When the light of Scripture shone again, the Messenger of the covenant would be at the center of the world's stage.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Magnificent Salvation of God: Salvation's Savior (Part II)

For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;” (Romans 10:5-8)

The first part of this passage quotes Leviticus 18:5. The man who is held up against the standard of God's law will either live or die according to how he has performed. Since every man has broken God's law in one form or another, no man can live by it or in it. Jesus Christ is the only one who has ever met God's standard as found in the law; therefore, all others are condemned. With these truths in mind, no man would want to grasp for the righteousness which is of the law lest he be required to live by it. The second part of this passage loosely follows Deuteronomy 30:11-14. The focus is not word-for-word recitation. The focus here is to explain the heart message of faith which is woven into this Old Testament passage. Paul takes Christ, the living Word, and inserts Him directly into this passage which is speaking of the written word. As Moses delivered his message, on the surface, he spoke of the written word of the law; however, the heart behind his discourse was wrapped up in the person of the Messiah as He is seen in the law. As Moses admonished the people of Israel that day concerning the law, he was truly admonishing them to seek Christ in faith. He was pleading with them to forsake their own righteousness which had already proven to be debilitating, and flee to the righteousness of the LORD. Paul takes this Old Testament example and makes the same plea, only he has clearly inserted the Person of Christ directly into the admonition.