Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Christian and His Companions: Christian Closeness

Every believer needs the spiritual gifts that God has given to other believers. God's grace can enable a Christian to serve alone when necessary, but such is an exception and not the norm. The Lord has structured the Church in such a way that each believer is to play a vital role in the help and edification of the other, as the Holy Ghost declared earlier in the book “ also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” Pride and human independence are discouraged in the church when a man realizes that the Holy Spirit uses others in the process of an individual's sanctification. Paul recognized this truth, and he was always quick to acknowledge the value of Christian companionship.

Christian Closeness

I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.” (Romans 16:1-2)

It is commonly believed that Phebe is the one who carried this letter to the church in Rome. She is called a servant. This is the same Greek word used for deacon. Because of this, many have attempted to justify the employment of female deacons in the church. Such misinterpretation of the Scriptures has lead to many ladies occupying positions of authority and leadership for which they were never intended. The Holy Spirit's employment of the word diakonos is no reason to disregard that fact that only males are given qualifications for the position of deacon (I Timothy 3:8-13). Also, in Romans 15:8 when the Holy Spirit calls Christ a minister, He used the Greek word diakonos (deacon). Does this mean that Jesus officially occupied the position of a deacon? Of course not. It simply means that He had the heart and ministry of a true servant. The context makes that clear. Such is the case here with Phebe. She did not hold a position intended only for males. She simply had a servant's heart; she was willing to do anything in order to serve others; therefore, she is called a servant by using a word which clearly describes the heart of a true servant. Her attitude should be the attitude of every believer. Every Christian, male or female, should have the heart of a diakonos with only qualified males holding the actual office; but whether the office is held or not, every believer should desire to serve with the same self-sacrificing example of Phebe.

Cenchrea was a seaport of Corinth, the city from which Paul wrote this letter. Paul encourages the believers in Rome to receive this lady in a way that becomes God's saints. Believers of like mind and faith should be received with warmth and charity. What difference does it make if they attend another local church? If they are walking in obedience to Christ, there should be a warmth in the fellowship and an appreciation for the sacrifices which they make on behalf of others.

In certain circles of professing Christianity, an ungodly sexist attitude exists toward females. Paul did not treat female saints in such a way. Although ladies are not to be leaders in the church, they serve a vital role, and there service is much needed. Paul appreciated male and female alike. He loved anyone who was willing to be like Jesus. The word succourer means a helper or benefactor. This lady brought spiritual and physical help to the lives of people, including Paul, who was not to high and lofty to need the gifts of a female saint. Her example should be the norm in God's people. Unfortunately, many saints do not bring help; they bring confusion and chaos. There are some saints, who are not pleasant to be around. Their lives breed confusion, tension and disorder. They are not at peace. They are worldly, and unhappy. Such was not the case of Phebe. Rather than attempt to use her as a means of justification for the establishment of unbiblical female leadership in the church, her heart attitude and actions should be emulated.

Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.” (Romans 16:3-5)

Paul has a warm greeting for Aquila and his wife Priscilla. This is the couple with whom Paul lodged and worked (Acts 18:1-3). These are the believers who graciously took Apollos aside and explained to him that the baptism of John was not the complete story (Acts 18:24-26). They are also mentioned in I Corinthians 16:19 and II Timothy 4:19. Truly, their lives impacted many. Apparently, as was often the case with the early church, their home was a meeting place for the believers. This was a common practice in that society, especially due to the fact that hostility existed toward Christians and people were forced to be less public in their meetings.

Achaia is the region near Corinth. Epaenetus was the first, or one of the first, to be converted to Christ in that area. This is what is meant by the phrase firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Christian and His Commission: Persisting in Service (Part II)

Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed. Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.”

Paul knew that service involved the prayers of others, and he was not too proud to avail himself of prayer's power. Based upon the humility displayed in this man's life, it is highly likely that he would have coveted the prayers of the smallest child who truly owned the name of Jesus. He prayed for others, and he asked others to pray for him. The words “Pray for me,” and “I'm praying for you” are often devalued. These can become flippant and meaningless words if they are not held up to the doctrines of Scripture. It is true that the self-righteous prayers of the lost are of little worth, but the “...The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16).” When someone asks a believer to pray for him, such requests should be taken seriously. Bringing others before the throne of grace is not a light thing. Every saint is a believer priest through the blood of the great high Priest (Revelation 1:6), and every saint has a responsibility to bring the lost and the saved before the throne of God in heaven.

Paul asked for three things. He asked for deliverance, acceptance, and refreshment. God answered all three, but in a way different from what many would have imagined. Although Paul was persecuted by the unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem, but he was rescued from their hands by Roman soldiers and carried away from the immediate danger. He was also preserved from a plot to take his life (Acts 23:12-35). Did God answer his prayer? Yes, just in a different way. Paul also asked the Roman saints to pray for the acceptance of the Gentiles' gift. This attitude displays great humility on Paul's part. As was previously stated, tension often existed between Paul and the Jerusalem church over matters of law versus grace, yet he was concerned that peace and love conquer. When Paul finally arrived in Jerusalem and reported the great work of salvation that God had done among the nations, he was greeted by carnal concerns that the self-righteous Jews of Jerusalem not be offended with his life of grace (Acts 21:18-26); yet, Paul remained humble. He was not embittered. Service often involves enduring a lack of appreciation by others, yet it should never involve a lack of humility.

Lastly, Paul asked them to pray that God would allow him to come and be refreshed by them. This prayer was answered when, on his way to Rome, he finally laid eyes on them. This account is described in Acts 28:11-15, “And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux. And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days. And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli: Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome. And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.”

The Holy Spirit ends this discourse with the inspired words, “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” Service should always involve peace. The road is often hard, and trials are a guarantee, but God's peace may always be present as the believer submits to the authority of God in his life.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Christian and His Commission: Persisting in Service

But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you; Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company. But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things. When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain. And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” 
(Romans 15:23-29)

Not only is every believer to be preaching salvation; he is also to be persisting in service. Paul was exemplary in this, and the nature of Christian service occupies the remaining verses.

For many years, Paul had a desire to visit this church in Rome, but God consistently had other plans for his life. God's will is always best, and His people must be ever ready to set aside their own desires for God's perfect will. This is easier discussed than lived; yet, it is vitally necessary for the welfare of others. The phrase to be brought on my way thitherward by you means that he intended to be sent forth into Spain by the church at Rome. Paul never outgrew the need to be helped and edified by other believers. It is a sad thing when a man comes to believe that he cannot be edified except by the “spiritually elite.” A man who holds such beliefs is actually quite carnal and arrogant. Paul was humble to the end. The Holy Spirit of God gives gifts to each of His redeemed (I Corinthians 12:11), and Paul never lost his appreciation for the impact that God's Spirit could have on him through other people, as Moses said, “...would God that all the LORD'S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them (Numbers 11:29)!” Paul knew that part of Christian service involved the help, fellowship, and edification of other people. God has allowed a certain amount of dependency upon one another to exist in the Church so as to discourage an attitude of pride.

Paul is about to finish his third missionary journey and then head back for Jerusalem. He always encouraged an attitude of gratefulness in those to whom he ministered. Even though tension was often present between himself and the Jerusalem church, he never allowed this to keep him from encouraging a right attitude in others, and he was willing to enable the Gentile believers to show charity by being a personal messenger for them.

Paul says, “I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” When Paul finally arrived in Rome, it was under the watch of a Roman guard; yet, it was still in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ, because it was according to God's will. Physical circumstance is never required to dictate Christian joy. Many would look at Paul's arrival at Rome and say, “He certainly did not arrive with fullness of blessing.” Why not? Simply because he arrived in a way contrary to human thinking? Do chains have to mean an absence of God's grace? Was Paul required to bemoan the fact that he had gone to Rome in a manner quite different than what he had perhaps envisioned? If a believer is in the will of God, regardless of circumstance, he may boldly say, “I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” Service often involves bondage, but it never has to involve self-pity, and a lack of joy.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Christian and His Commission: Preaching Salvation (Part IV)

Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation: But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand. For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you.” (Romans 15:20-22)

The passage which Paul had in mind as he wrote is Isaiah 52:13-15, “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.” This passage, like so many in the Old Testament, is millennial in nature; yet, the principles of salvation hold true in the Church Age, and in this current dispensation, its fulfillment is partially realized. Paul was not fearful to operate upon the principles of truths which would be fully realized in the future. If not careful, one can compartmentalize God's word to the point where he is afraid to make any application. Context and meaning should always be carefully observed; yet, one should never be afraid to act upon the timeless principles found in every part of the Bible. That is what Paul is doing in this passage. He is taking a verse which is yet to be fully realized, and he is fulfilling the heart of it in his ministry.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Christian and His Commission: Preaching Salvation (Part III)

I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God. For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” (Romans 15:17-19)

Paul's focus was always on that which pertained to God's glory. He cared not for politics and religious empires. He was not a follower of men, nor was he phased by peer pressure. He consistently gloried through Jesus Christ in the things which pertained to God. Every Christian would do well to follow his example. His character emulated that of Jesus Christ; therefore, he could say with a clear conscience, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ (I Corinthians 11:1).”

It is interesting to note that the salvation message which he proclaimed to the nations is characterized by obedience. Following salvation, the Spirit begins His work of sanctification in a believer's life, and part of this work is to bring the newborn babe into obedience. The absence of such things in a professing Christian is sufficient grounds to doubt the validity his salvation. This obedience is intended to overtake the words and deeds of every Christian. The true believer can struggle against this work if he chooses, but God has given him over to it, and he cannot escape the fact that He belongs to God. It is a most unnatural thing for a Christian to be free of any desire to be in subjection to his Master in word and deed. Such freedom from the work of obedience is characteristic of a person who has never truly come to repentant faith in Jesus Christ.

God had allowed Paul to carry this message of salvation and sanctification in a circle from Jerusalem to a district across from Italy known as Illyricum and back to Jerusalem again.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Selected by a Heathen King (Part II)

And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.” (Daniel 1:5-7)

Very young people were chosen so that they might be completely indoctrinated in the heathen ways of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar did not want to battle convictions of patriotism or religion. He wanted to mold and make these young men into that which suited his purposes. Luxurious treatment would be one way to gain their loyalty. The flesh enjoys eating well, and it does not take long for one to develop tastes for the finer things of life. Since so much of ancient middle eastern culture was centered around idol worship, this meat and wine were undoubtedly linked in some way to the worship of Nebuchadnezzar's gods. Not only did he desire to win over their tastes, he also desired to win over their spirits to his false deities. This statement is confirmed by what is found in the following verses.

Their Hebrew names and their Babylonian names are presented for comparison. Daniel means God is my judge. It was changed to Belteshazzar which means lord of the straitened's treasure. Bel was a Babylonian deity. Hananiah means Jehovah has been gracious. His name was altered to Shadrach which means royal or the great scribe. Mishael means Who is what God is?. It was changed to Meshach. This name means guest of a king, and lastly, Azariah means Jehovah has helped. His name was changed to Abednego which means servant of Nebo, Nebo being another of Babylon's false gods. Hebrew parents often gave their children names which reflected some aspect of the God they served. This was a common practice even in times of apostasy. In changing the names of these young men, their captors were attempting to nullify any and all loyalty to their God while conforming them entirely to the ways of heathen Babylon. The world's tactics have not changed. It still desires to get its arms wrapped around God's people and their offspring in an attempt to crowd out any and all affection for the King of heaven. Sadly, many modern day parents who claim the name of Christ are all too willing to give their children up. Often times, the world does not even have to put up a fight in order to win over the children of professing Christian's; quite often they are simply handed over to it. Through media, entertainment, dress, music, and philosophy, the world is given a place in many, many Christian homes. Babylon has never been the friend of God's people and it never will be. The ancient Babylonian culture desired to destroy any memory of the true God, and the spiritual Babylon of today has the same agenda. Just because the tactics are not as violent as what were used in Daniel's day, it does not mean that they are not as disastrous.   

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Selected by a Heathen King

And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes; Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.” (Daniel 1:3-4)

Although the text does not specifically say that Daniel was a eunuch, it seems safe to assume that he was since he was committed to the keeping of a man whose primary occupation was that of supervising this group of people. The employment of eunuchs in the ancient middle east was a common practice. Often times they were used to guard and wait upon the king's harem. In this case, Nebuchadnezzar wanted such for employment in his government. As eunuchs, these boys would not be distracted in any way by marital relationships, and could be given over entirely to the things of Babylonian business. After having underwent such ordeals, Daniel's consistently gracious spirit is truly a memorial to the grace of God. In studying this book, it is easy to overlook the fact that these young men were forever deprived of the privileges of natural human relationships; yet, God used all of these circumstances for their ultimate good. Nebuchadnezzar intended to create servants for his benefit, but ultimately, God used Daniel's physical circumstance to enable him to focus on matters of prophecy and interpretation which have forever impacted all of humanity.

The phrase well favored literally means good of appearance. The word skilful has the idea of being able to use wisdom in a way that is prosperous. Some people know what wisdom looks like, but they are unable to apply it. Such was not the case with these young men. They were able to take wisdom and use it in a way that was prosperous. The Hebrew word yeled is used here for children. It indicates that these boys were likely quite young. Daniel and his friends were probably not much older than thirteen, if that; yet, they had the ability and social graces necessary to stand in a king's palace. A child's ability is often severely underestimated. Children ought to be raised in a way that prepares them for what lies ahead. If parents put forth as much effort in requiring something of their children as they do in making excuses for them, they too might have offspring with such character. God allowed Daniel and his friends to have these abilities, and He used them in a magnificent way. A person does not have to have amazing talent or great intellect to be right with God, but this does not mean that a lack of these equates to spirituality. I Corinthians 1:27 which says, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise,” is often taken out of context and used as a proof text by the unlearned man for the purposes of putting down those who wish to excel in wisdom and understanding for God's glory. This is just as wrong as believing that a man needs intellect in order to be right with God. Pride works both ways. Paul was learned and Peter was not; yet, God greatly used both men. Daniel served in the king's palace and Elijah spent most of his ministry outdoors, but both men were empowered by God's Spirit. Let each man strive to go as far as he can for God's glory. God is the one who sets the limits. Neither ability nor inability guarantee spiritual success. Such is determined by one's pursuit of humility and the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 57:15).

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Selected During Turbulent Times

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.” (Daniel 1:1-2)

Daniel was selected during turbulent times. Because of rebellion against God, severe judgment was being sent against Judah. A direct transliteration of the Hebrew word behind Babylon would render Babel. It means confusion. Jerusalem means teaching of peace or city of peace. These two names are directly opposed to one another. One represents sin and the other represents holiness. God never intended for the wicked to rule over the righteous, and He certainly never intended for Israel to be ruled by the heathen, but continuous rebellion has severe consequences. This principle is alive and well today. That which should never have befallen God's people is often allowed to come because of their refusal to repent.

Even though the Lord allowed the heathen to enter His city and molest His people, He remained jealous over His inheritance. Through all of this, He was preparing Daniel to minister for the welfare of Israel, and His eyes were ever upon the holy things which Nebuchadnezzar mishandled. It was common practice for the conqueror to translate the conquered people's religious artifacts from their temples into his own, but as will be seen much later in the text, such acts of victory against the King of heaven cannot be carried out with success.

The name Shinar means two rivers. It refers to the land of Babylon because Babylon was situated between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

This passage states that Nebuchadnezzar came in Jehoiakim's third year, while Jeremiah 46:1-2 intimates that it was his fourth year. The difference has to do with methods of dating, whether the penman of the text viewed the new year as beginning in the Hebrew month Nisan (spring) or Tishri (fall). The difference may also be due to the fact that some cultures did not view the first year of a king's reign as a full year if he was not crowned on the first day of the year. As is always the case, the Bible is not contradicting itself. Reasons for apparent inconsistencies may be found if one is willing to study them out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Christian and His Commission: Preaching Salvation (Part II)

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 15:13-16)

Paul reminds the believer that God desires to fill His children with joy and peace. The presence of these things indicates the filling of the Holy Spirit. A believer who is tormented and cannot find peace is a believer who is, in some way, striving against the Holy Spirit's authority in his life. The man who grieves God's Spirit by means of sin will not experience His peace.

The word goodness is used three other times in the New Testament, and all three times it is connected to the fruit of the Spirit. By testimony of Scripture, these believers in Rome were filled with God's Spirit. Their ability and willingness to admonish one another was one evidence of their spiritual health. The word admonish means to instruct or warn. It is often translated warn due to the seriousness of its nature. As the end of the end times draws nearer and nearer and false professors in the church become more prevalent, a spirit which refuses to be warned and instructed becomes more evident. The genuine nature of a man's religion may easily be tested by warning him concerning his spiritual direction in life. A refusal to be warned is not limited to the apostate; it is also a common characteristic among carnal Christians. People are often very polite and friendly until they are corrected concerning their relationships, dress, music, entertainment, child-rearing etc. A man's flesh does not appreciate correction, but if the Spirit is present, He will bear witness to a man's soul concerning the necessity of it. Though initially unpleasant, a biblical warning given in the right spirit carries with it great eternal benefits. Concerning such things, James wrote, “...he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins (James 5:20).” The presence of admonition among believers is indicative of a healthy church.

The verb ministering in verse sixteen means to perform holy service or act as a priest. Paul is using the analogy of an Old Testament priest who offered sacrifices before God. He is picturing himself as one of these priests as he performs the holy act of giving the gospel in order that those who have been redeemed by it might be offered to God as sacrifices for His use. The delivery of the gospel is not a cheap and flippant occupation as is often indicated by modern, shallow Christianity. It is a most holy work, intended to be performed by those who live holy lives before God. Paul did not view those who were saved under his ministry as being used for his own purposes. He viewed them as God's property, sacrifices which were to be given entirely to God. The redeemed of God are not pawns for a man to use as he seeks the building of a religious empire for selfish and carnal reasons. They are most holy sacrifices before God, because they are Christ's, and they have been made such by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Christian and His Commission: Preaching Salvation

Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.” (Romans 15:8-12)

Paul's example of preaching salvation is first presented.  The word minister is the same word often translated deacon. Paul is presenting a contrast to the audience. Rather than argue for His rights and liberties, Christ, the Creator of all, made Himself a servant to all for the purposes of salvation; therefore, every believer is required to emulate His behavior. Christ confirmed the promises of old which were made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In making this statement, the Holy Spirit is placing the Jew and the Gentile in their proper positions. Each is to be a servant to the other, but God did first offer salvation to the Jew, and according to the promises made to Abraham, the Jews will forever hold a place of prominence in God's divine plan. The Gentiles of the Church Age would do well to remember this. After all, if Christ had not been faithful in confirming the promises made unto the patriarchs, what would the Gentile be profited?

The first verse quoted is Psalm 18:49 which says, “Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.” The verb translated give thanks can also bear the meanings of praise and confession. It carries with it the idea of humbling one's self before God in full dependency. Obviously, in doing so, one is confessing his own unworthiness and acknowledging God's holiness. This word places a man on his face before his Creator, the position he is intended to occupy. In light of this, Paul chose to translate this Old Testament passage with a Greek word which means to confess (fully). A salvation experience which lacks genuine confession of one's own sin and God's righteousness is not legitimate. Biblical salvation inevitably involves an understanding of one's own unworthiness as well as an understanding of God's holiness and sufficiency to redeem.

The second quotation is from Deuteronomy 32:43, “Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people....” The Hebrew word rejoice means to shout aloud or to cry out. After, and only after, one has confessed his humble dependency upon God, may he then rejoice and shout aloud for God's amazing gift of salvation. If the confession of sin and dependency is not first made, the shouting aloud will be motivated by the flesh, and at the last, it will prove to be empty.

The third quotation is from Psalm 117:1 which says, “O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.” The word praise means to glory in, to boast in, or to acclaim of. It is the Hebrew word which makes up the first part of the English word hallelujah which means “Praise Jehovah.” After one has humbly confessed his own unworthiness and his dependency upon Christ, he may then shout aloud for God's mercy, and carry on in a spirit of continual praise to God as he serves his new Master. Thus, in these three passages and the language contained in each may be seen a righteous progression of redemption and the sanctification process.

The fourth and last quotation is from Isaiah 11:10. From the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets, Paul has demonstrated God's love for the souls of all people. Salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22), and the Gentile has come behind and reaped the blessings sown by Israel's Messiah.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Christian and His Liberty: Christian Liberty and Charity (Part VIII)

Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.” (Romans 15:5-7)

As God is ever patient with His people, so must believers be patient one toward another and toward all men. Unity in the truth should characterize Christ's church, not division over inconsequential matters. Without unity in right doctrine, believers will not be glorifying God as they should. The powers of darkness will waste no time playing on the weakness of human pride and causing division among people over matters which are not matters of doctrine.

The discourse began with a command to receive the weaker brother in a spirit of charity, and it ends with the same. The Holy Spirit has brought the discussion full circle. As the Lord Jesus Christ has received the believer in spite of weaknesses, struggles, imperfections and idiosyncrasies, so is each man to receive his brother in an attitude of servanthood and Christ-like charity.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Introduction to the Book of Daniel (Part IV)

By 605 B.C., Babylon was ready to make another push westward. At this point, Nabopolassar lay sick in Babylon, and his son Nebuchadnezzar led the army against Egypt and what remained of Assyria. The two armies clashed at Carchemish near the Euphrates. By God's divine pleasure, Nebuchadnezzar led a decisive victory against Egypt, and the Egyptians fell back to Hamath on the Orontes, hoping to regroup, but Nebuchadnezzar followed hard after them and wiped out what remained of the Egyptian army. Thus came to pass the prophecy of Jeremiah, “The word of the LORD which came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Gentiles; Against Egypt, against the army of Pharaohnecho king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates in Carchemish, which Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon smote in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah. Order ye the buckler and shield, and draw near to battle. Harness the horses; and get up, ye horsemen, and stand forth with your helmets; furbish the spears, and put on the brigandines. Wherefore have I seen them dismayed and turned away back? and their mighty ones are beaten down, and are fled apace, and look not back: for fear was round about, saith the LORD. Let not the swift flee away, nor the mighty man escape; they shall stumble, and fall toward the north by the river Euphrates. Who is this that cometh up as a flood, whose waters are moved as the rivers? Egypt riseth up like a flood, and his waters are moved like the rivers; and he saith, I will go up, and will cover the earth; I will destroy the city and the inhabitants thereof. Come up, ye horses; and rage, ye chariots; and let the mighty men come forth; the Ethiopians and the Libyans, that handle the shield; and the Lydians, that handle and bend the bow. For this is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries: and the sword shall devour, and it shall be satiate and made drunk with their blood: for the Lord GOD of hosts hath a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates (Jeremiah 46:1-10).”

All the land from Syria to the border of Egypt now lay open to Nebuchadnezzar. He immediately began moving through the land, conquering major cities and establishing his authority. This work was briefly interrupted by his father's death. He returned to Babylon, secured the throne, and then resumed his work in Palestine. The conquered cities were required to give him their finest young men for deportation back to Babylon where they would be employed in places of government. At this turbulent time in history, Daniel and his three companions came on the scene of Scripture. The book of Daniel is filled with both mind-boggling prophecies and childishly simple truths. Unlike many of the other prophets, it does not contain scathing rebukes. Its pages are conspicuously occupied with prophecies concerning the future of kingdoms and end-time events. It is a book which stands as a memorial to God's concern for the salvation of all people. The Lord used Daniel, not only to give guiding prophecies to the Jew, but also to be a righteous witness to numerous Gentile kings and peoples. As one studies the book of Daniel, he is consistently reminded that the God-fearing man may walk in the peace of God's Spirit regardless of the circumstance. He is reminded that the welfare of the body is not the primary concern, but rather the welfare of the soul. This book reminds the reader that “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe (Proverbs 29:25).” Ultimately, the book of Daniel boasts its greatest blessing in the presence of Christ within its prophecies and principles. His Spirit may be seen with Daniel's three companions as they walk in the midst of the fiery furnace. His protection is evident as Daniel abides a night in the lion's den. His majesty dominates His meeting with Daniel beside the great river of Hiddekel, and lastly, His victory and peace may be seen in the glories of His coming kingdom. As the wisdom of God may be seen in the history leading up to the writing of Daniel, even so may His wisdom be seen in His strategic placement of Daniel, as He prepares a godly man to be a witness both to the Jew and the Gentile. The lessons of this blessed book are many; therefore, let the reader take heed!

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Christian and His Liberty: Christian Liberty and Charity (Part VII)

For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:3-4)

Christ's spirit and example must be the motivation. The believer is to walk in charity toward the weaker brother, because the Master has done so, and He expects the same from His servants. He suffered unjustly. He was mocked and maligned. Ultimately, He suffered and died for sins that were not His own. With such an example, it is not too much to ask the servant to set aside the physical exercise of his liberties for the edification of others.

The Scriptures are to be an encouragement to the believer as he engages in these conflicts. Such matters of offense over things which do not truly matter can be quite trying to the spirit; yet, the truths and righteous examples contained in the Bible can give encouragement and comfort.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Christian and His Liberty: Christian Liberty and Charity (Part VI)

We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.” 
(Romans 15:1-2)

The greater responsibility is clearly placed upon the shoulders of the stronger brother. Rather than obstinately holding to his liberties regardless of the consequences to others, he is simply commanded to aid the weaker brother by putting aside his liberties if needed. As verse two declares, this is not the action of giving the weaker brother whatever he desires, nor is it allowing him to use his weakness as a vantage point for gaining what he wants; it is simply being intensely interested in what is spiritually best for him. It should be noted that this attitude of charity toward others is to be expressed whether or not they notice or appreciate it. The believer must do right simply because it is right to do so.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Introduction to the Book of Daniel (Part III)

In 609 B.C., Pharaoh-Necho of Egypt responded to a plea of the Assyrian remnant, and made his way north in an attempt to halt the progression of the Babylonian army. Josiah attempted to stop him from aiding the remnant of the Assyrians, and intercepted him at Megiddo in northern Israel. Josiah's reasons for resisting the Egyptian army are not given, but his attempts were not successful. The decision to fight against Egypt cost him his life. He was severely wounded in battle, and his servants carried him back to Jerusalem where he died and was buried. As God had predicted, Josiah went to the grave without seeing the judgment that would eventually come upon Judah (II Chronicles 34:28). At this point in time, Pharaoh-Necho did not retake Haran from the Babylonians, but Egypt did manage to halt any further advances of the Babylonian army. Pharaoh-Necho then sent a portion of his army back to Jerusalem to depose Jehoahaz, whom Judah had made king, and they brought him back to Riblah on the Orontes river in Syria. He then made Eliakim king, and changed his name to Jehoiakim. Jehoahaz was then sent to Egypt where he died in captivity as predicted by Jeremiah (22:11-12).   

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Christian and His Liberty: Christian Liberty and Charity (Part V)

Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:22-23)

Faith is the foundation by which a man comes to God (Genesis 15:6), and it is the means by which he lives every aspect of his life. Faith is needed, not only for the trials of life, but also for the everyday routines. Every activity from sitting down to a meal to facing the death of a loved one is to be performed in faith; therefore, if certain diets cannot be enjoyed in the faith of a clear conscience toward God, they should be avoided altogether. The man who feels compromise in his spirit, yet performs the action anyway, has committed an offense toward God, because, in his spirit, he has compromised God's holiness. Christian liberty concerning diets and days is to be exercised in faith, and for those who cannot do this, let them follow the pathway of faith and that which permits a clear conscience toward God.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Introduction to the Book of Daniel (Part II)

In 626 B.C., Babylon came on the scene of world history as a true threat to the surrounding nations. Although the city had seen kings previous to Nabopolassar, these kings had not been successful in casting off the heavy yoke of the Assyrians. However, the tenacity of the Assyrian forces had begun to wain, and Nabopolassar, allied with the forces of Media, began pushing them back. In 614 B.C., Assur fell to Cyaxares the king of Media, and in 612 B.C., Nineveh fell to the Babylonian and Median forces. The fall of Nineveh, which had been prophesied years before by Nahum, marked the end of Assyria. Although the kingdom would continue for a few more years, its days were numbered, and its authority crippled. God had used Assyria as the rod of His anger (Isaiah 10:5) to punish northern Israel, but their time was rapidly coming to a close. Having lost their capital city of Nineveh, the Assyrians retreated west, and Ashur-uballit II took the throne in Haran on the Euphrates. The king of Babylon gave him no reprieve however, but pursued hard after him, and in 610 B.C., the city of Haran fell to Nabopolassar. The king of Babylon then left it in the hands of a Babylonian garrison and returned home.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Christian and His Liberty: Christian Liberty and Charity (Part IV)

Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” (Romans 14:19-21)

The verb translated follow after means to persecute (Matthew 5:11) or pursue. The believer is to chase down the things which make for peace between himself and others. This is not promoting compromise; it is promoting charity. The word edify means to build up. God's child is supposed to build up people in Christ, not tear them down.

This passage is quite interesting in the fact that it presents two aspects of liberty. First of all, it declares the legitimacy of freedom in diet. Then, it declares the limitation placed upon diet for the sake of others who may be hindered. The liberty is there, but this does not mean that it should be exercised. In fact, Christian liberty should be set aside completely if it causes others to stumble in Christ. This attitude is very different from what is commonly found among much of modern Christianity. Instead of being concerned about what inhibits people from drawing near to God, Christians are attempting to warp matters of holiness into matters of liberty regardless of how it causes others to stumble. Professing Christians declare that they can listen to worldly music and music styles because it is their “liberty.” They declare that they have liberty to wear short, tight clothing, while disregarding the Bible's commands and principles concerning modesty. They declare that they can entertain themselves as they choose without regard of how such entertainment affects their minds and the minds and hearts of their children. All of this is done while proudly declaring, “It is my liberty,” and if any should give them godly counsel to the contrary, they are immediately labeled “legalists” and their counsel cast aside as useless. A great evil is committed among professing Christians today in that they falsely label matters of holiness matters of liberty, and, as if this were not enough, they then proceed to cast aside any and all concern for how their actions affect the brethren. Such actions and such a spirit are diametrically opposed to the principles of liberty and charity set forth in this passage.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Christian and His Liberty: Christian Liberty and Charity (Part III)

Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.” (Romans 14:16-18)

Liberty is not intended to give others a bad impression, especially the lost. What good is a man's liberty to eat certain foods if doing so causes hurt to others and thereby repulses the observer? Nothing in a Christian's life should cause moral offense to others. Even though false accusations will always be around, no man should be able to find a legitimate indictment against God's child; therefore, if the exercising of liberty is causing an offense, it ought to be set aside. An example of this may be seen when Paul had Timothy circumcised so as not to be an offense to the Jews to whom they were trying to minister (Acts 16:1-3). Paul did not encourage Timothy to do this because he thought it necessary for salvation, nor was he trying to please false teachers; he was simply encouraging Timothy not to be a needless offense to the people they were trying to win.

The root issue is not physical food and drink; it is the righteousness, peace, and joy that the Holy Spirit brings to the life of the believer. When the kingdom of God comes, the question of liberty will be irrelevant. In that day, the only thing that will matter is how a Christian has conducted himself toward his fellowman.

The Christian who is willing to set aside his liberty in order to pursue peace and the edification of others is truly serving Christ, and men will see his spirit of charity and accept him as genuine; but the man who holds to his so-called liberty at the expense of offending the weak and causing division is a carnal fool.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Introduction to the Book of Daniel

Josiah came to the throne of Judah in approximately 640 B.C. He was the last righteous king to reign in Judah before Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Josiah instigated one of the largest national revivals known in Jewish history. In the twelfth year of his reign he began purging Judah of its idolatry. In the eighteenth year of his reign, a copy of God's law was discovered in the temple and read before Josiah. The king's response to the judgments pronounced in the law was one of humility and godly fear. In accordance with God's commandment, the king ordered that all Judah keep the Lord's passover which, for years, had been neglected. This event was so magnificent that Scripture says, “Surely there was not holden such a passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah...(II Kings 23:22).” Yet, for all this, the Bible declares that the revival was not one of true inward change, but rather one of outward conformity. Josiah's zeal was legitimate, but most of the people simply did that which they were commanded while their hearts remained unchanged, as God said in Jeremiah 3:10, “...Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD.” Inwardly, the people were still serving their idols. Judgment was about to fall, and God was preparing the nation of the Chaldees to bring about the punishment of Judah.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Christian and His Liberty: Christian Liberty and Charity (Part II)

I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.” (Romans 14:14-15)

The verbs I know and am persuaded are in the perfect tense, the strongest of biblical Greek. In Christ, Paul has come to a conclusion concerning this subject of meats, and his conclusion is unalterable. His conclusion is that no food is unholy in and of itself. For the purposes of conveying spiritual lessons, God labeled certain foods as unclean for the Jewish people; however, these foods are not evil in and of themselves, because “...every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer (I Timothy 4:4-5).”

The word esteemeth is the same word translated impute, reckon, and account in chapter four. It means to log down. The man who is convinced in his soul that eating a particular food is evil because of its associations can no longer eat that food without compromising God's holiness in his motives.

Charity is constructive, not destructive. Even though the meat is legitimate, how is it affecting the brother? Is it a spiritual roadblock to him? If the answer is Yes, then this liberty must be set aside for the higher calling of charity. Concerning this matter, Paul said, “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend (I Corinthians 8:13).” Is a dietary privilege more valuable than a brother's soul? Certainly not. This type of thinking goes against the grain of human nature, because it encourages each believer to have a servant's heart toward others. Human pride despises such a concept.