The Sovereignty of God in Choosing Leadership: An Exposition of Acts 1:12-26
This passage of scripture follows the ascension of Christ and the promise of His second coming. There are three numbers to remember concerning the post-resurrection appearances of Christ and His ascension: 50, 40 and 10.
There were 50 days from Passover, and the crucifixion of Christ, to Pentecost, 40 days of which Christ showed Himself alive and 10 days from His ascension to Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the church and empowered it to take the gospel into all the world. Before His ascension, Jesus told the church to wait for that empowering. What did the church do in those 10 days?
Verse 12 says they returned to Jerusalem (from the Mount of Olives) which is about a sabbath day's journey (half a mile). And Luke lists some of the assembly: the apostles, some women, Mary, the mother of Jesus and His earthly brothers. He says: "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication (seeking)." The Holy Spirit is telling us that these early believers were seeking God's leadership, because this statement is immediately followed by a passage about selecting an apostle to replace Judas.
There were eleven apostles listed in verse 13. These eleven apostles filled their days with prayer and appeal to God who began to work through Peter. It says in verse 15 and 16: "And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about one hundred and twenty,) Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus." That is in reference to Psalms 41:9: "Mine own familiar friend in whom I trusted...hath lifted up his heel against me."
Peter continued in verse 17: "For he was numbered with us and had obtained part of this ministry." The question arises about those who fall away: were they ever saved? Was Judas saved? This is a serious call for us to make our calling and election sure. Judas certainly looked the part. That does not necessarily mean a person of position is saved. Judas left the Lord; he denied Him and turned away. We have seen it repeatedly, people in the church who love the world more than the church, turn their back on God and serve the world.
Verse 18: "Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out." The Bible is clear: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Judas sowed doubt and destruction; he also reaped doubt and destruction.
Verses 19 and 20: "And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation (tent) be desolate, and Let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick (office of leadership) let another take."
I am absolutely certain that God led in this action. There was a wonderful symbolism in having twelve apostles to show that the church was an extension of the twelve tribes of Israel, called a church in the wilderness in Acts 7. He used the Apostle Peter, who quickly recognized this, and led the church to replace Judas and fill that office.
Verse 21 and 22: "Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us. Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection." This is an explanation of the qualifications of an apostle. There can be no apostles after those in the New Testament, because one must be an eyewitness of the ministry and resurrection of Christ. God is serious about those who represent Him. Beware of false prophets, some of whom proclaim Jesus as the Christ even while they fail to preach truth.
Verse 23: "And they appointed (literally, stood up) two, Joseph called Barsabas (son of Sabas), who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias." We are talking about the Sovereignty of God in choosing leadership. I am sure Joseph was a good man; he would not have been nominated otherwise. But God chose Matthias.
Verse 24-26: "And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place (where he belongs). And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles."
The first thing they did was to recognize the sovereignty of God: "Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, show us whether of these two Thou hast chosen." This was done to show that the apostles did not choose Judas' successor, God did. The church stood up the candidates, but God chose the man of leadership.
Proverbs 16:33 says: "The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord." Daniel 2:20-21: "Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding." Romans 13:1-2: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation." We cannot overemphasize the sovereignty of God in placing into office our church leaders, and, according to Daniel and Paul, our politicians. We need to glorify God in all of it.
Matthias is not mentioned again in Scripture, but he is mentioned by the church fathers. They said that he preached the gospel to cannibals in Ethiopia. Whatever is claimed, one thing we know: God chose him. God put him into the office of apostleship, showing that prayer is extremely important in the church because it is seeking God's direction.
That God is in charge and decrees all things is the centerpiece of all truth. It is no different today than in those early years of Christianity. Do we believe in the sovereignty of God in creation? Of course. He created all things and pronounced them good. He chose Abraham out of the Ur of the Chaldees and made him the father of a nation. He sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins. He raised up a few disciples to witness His resurrection. God was the source of all those things and everything else. He is absolute authority in all things. What does the model prayer say? "For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever."
I am perplexed by those who think God is trying His best, but people will not "let Him" in. I saw a sign in front of a church (?) that read: "Don't let the fence of unbelief keep you from the garden of God's forgiveness." What? God can't knock down a fence? Their God is not my God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Some preachers preach a God who is frustrated with sin and waits for us to do something about it. Do they not know that God killed every first born being in the land of Egypt when the king refused to allow God's people to worship Him? God is not going to be denied; not by Judas, nor any other. God WILL be glorified. Don't ever forget: God WILL be worshipped. And those who mock or scoff will regret it for eternity. Pharoah's entire army was swept away in the Red Sea while His people rested on the other side. He demonstrated His power time and again. Why would any one doubt this same God is our God? He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; our creator; Sovereign over the earth and the church.
"And of Asher he said, Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil." Deuteronomy 33:24. I can picture an old man about to be gathered to his people as he pronounces a blessing on each tribe of Israel. Moses, the servant of God, for some reason, does not place Asher in his proper order but places him last in blessing the twelve tribes of Israel. He does not bless Asher with the usual safety and abilities which he gives to all the other tribes, but blesses Asher with things of unusual meaning:
1. May Asher be blessed with children;
2. Let him be acceptable to his brethren; and,
3. Let him dip his foot in oil.
First, let us consider: Who was Asher? Asher was the eighth son of Jacob. He was the second son of Zilpah, Leah's handmaid. Zilpah bore Jacob two sons: Gad and Asher. When Israel came out of Egypt Asher had 41,500 fighting men, but he had 53,400 by the time they entered Canaan. Moses did not need to bless him with more men, like he did Reuben, so he blessed him with more children. When they settled in the land of Canaan, Asher was in the northwest corner. The tribe was never noted for anything famous, and only one person of the tribe is ever mentioned in Scripture: Anna, in Luke 2. Asher was known as the "least of Israel" because of this failure to have any people of prominence. During Solomon's reign, he gave away part of Asher's land. There was not much to report in that tirbe, except that it was remote, not mentioned in Scripture very much and just about forgotten.
Secondly, Moses' Blessing upon Asher. The three-part blessing of Moses upon Asher is rather ordinary, except for the last part. Every tribe wanted to be blessed with children. It was a sign of God's approvel. The very fact that Gad and Asher were children of Zilpah is part of that consideration. Their birth was viewed as God's approval. Jacob had turned to Zilpah, Leah's handmaid, because Leah could have no children. Jacob was blessed with children, and so that was the first part of the blessing of Moses upon the tribe of Asher.
The second part of the blessing was that Asher would be acceptable, or favored, to his brethren. Did Asher become a favored tribe? Yes. It occupied the rearward position as the Children of Israel journeyed through the wilderness. That was a place of great responsibility - guarding the back side of the congretation. But it was not until the Children of Israel settled in the land of Canaan that the full impact of the blessing was made conspicuous. Joshua gave Asher a most outstanding inheritance in a most prominent place.
The third part of the blessing stands out as extraordinary when Moses declared: "Let him dip his foot in oil." I have read where old preachers used to refer to good preaching as "dipping his foot in oil." If the preacher was in good form, if he preached with the power and unction of God, he was said to have "dipped his foot in oil."
The blessing of Asher had nothing to do with preaching, but for Asher to dip his foot in oil meant triumph. It meant a lot of olive oil. Asher was assigned a area where the soil was rich and olive trees flourished. They raised the best olives in all Israel. Today, one tree will produce fifteen gallons of olive oil per season (October-November). Its main use was cooking oil. It was also used in cosmetics, in baking of bread, in the sacrifices and in their lamps. It was used for heat, medicines and soap. It was used by the priests for ritual anointing and as a means of hospitality, as when Mary anointed Jesus' feet with a costly oointment.
When Moses blessed Asher with the words: "Let him dip his foot in oil" it had all these applications. It not only brought great victory to the tribe, but it was a source of great comfort to all Israel.
Moses could have said: "Let him be a comfort and a blessing to all Israel. Let Asher be a source of consolation. Let him be to all Israel a means of help." To bless Asher with children is not an unusual blessing; to bless Asher with favor among his brethren is not an unusual blessing, but to bless him as a source of comfort and consolation is a unique blessing above all other blessings.
Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to His every word as he frequented her home in Behtany. She knew He was the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world. On His last visit, with the day of His crucifixion approaching, Mary quietly took an alabaster box filled with a pound of precious ointment and anointed the feet of Jesus (John 12:1-7). When some of the disciples, led by Judas Iscariot, complained that she had wasted such rare and expensive oil, that could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor, Jesus rebuked them. He siad, "Let her alone; against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always." He said that Mary would be remembered for her gesture of comfort. She had dipped His feet in oil.
Oil in the Bible is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. He has regenerated us when we were dead in trespasses and in sins. He worked grace in us and brought us to the Savior for redemption and forgiveness. Every born-again child of God has dipped his foot in the oil of the Holy Spirit. He anoints our head with oil. He is our Comforter. He is our Helper. He helps us in pain and heartaches. In our times of testing, He guides us safely through. He is such a comfort, bringing joy in our lives.
The megachurches are drawing thousands of people who are seeking the blessing of Jabez (health and wealth). That is the baser search. God has already promised to supply our needs according to His riches in glory. A more glorious blessing is the blessing of Asher, because it brings us into the fellowship of The Holy Spirit of God.
The blessing of Moses upon Asher is similar to what the Spirit of God does in the life of every beliver. The Bible teaches us that one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to baptize us. This does not come in the form of a second work of grace, manifested in the gifts, but it is a daily dipping our feet in oil (anointing). it is the anointing of God that allows us to preach His word, witness His love and live out His commandments. Without it our feet will grow weary and sore. Without it we can do nothing but hobble through the wilderness.
The ministry of the Holy Spitit is also to make us fit for heaven (sanctification). We cannot go to heaven as we are. The Bride of Christ will be without blemish. Thank God, He is making us like the Savior: perfect. He is fitting is for mansions in glory. God promised it to us through the Apostle Paul, who said, "for whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also goorified" (Romans 8:29-30). He knew me before the foundation of the world and ordained me to eternal life. He effectually called me when I was in sin and justified me when I had no other hope. One day He will glorify me in His presence. Hallelujah! He had dipped my feet in oil!
May God make you fruitful with spiritual children. May God give you favor with your brethren. And may God dip your foot in oil. Ω
We are Not Antinomian
We live in a confused world. People will not go to a church that preaches the gospel, usually because they refuse to submit to the law of God. 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 says: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness? and What concord has Christ with Belial? or what part has he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God has said I will dwell in them and walk with them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
I understand what Christ has done for us on the cross; He has reconciled us to God and taken away our sin; we are secure in him for eternity. But that does not give us license to continue in sin.
John 8:34: "Whosoever committeth sin is a servant of sin." To continue in sin would make us antinomian, coming from two Greek words anti (against) and nomos (law). You are against the law if you so much as reduce its importance. That takes shape in a Christianity where salvation is greatly misunderstood, and they say, among other things: "We are saved by grace through faith; we have eternal security; therefore, we do not need to keep the law." "The ten commandments were given only to the Jews and we are not obligated to keep them." "The Old Testament has been fulfilled, and we are no longer under law but under grace." "This is the 21st century, times have changed, everybody does it now."
Christ suffered and died for those who have broken God's commandments. That in itself recognizes the importance of God's moral law. Antinomianism is salvation made easy. Say a little prayer, repeat after me and change nothing. It is a so-called believer living in sin as the rest of the world and against the law of God.
I wouldn't argue that our obedience to the law can merit anything at all, but we are talking about antinomianism, about being against the law, a law, the Bible says, has never been withdrawn.
Do we not have an obligation to obey what God commands? The apostle wrote the Book of Galatians to defeat the Judiazers in Jerusalem who wanted Gentiles to become Jews through the ritual of circumcision before they could become Christians. But he did not tell them to abandon God's law. To the contrary. Salvation by grace through faith does not cancel responsibility, nor does it cancel the law of God. Every person on earth has a duty, an obligation to do whatever God commands. So, we as believers have a special duty to live according to God's word, we have a special duty to obey God's commandments.
The writer asks in Romans 6:1: "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" When you married, you died to other women/men. Hold a funeral. When you came to Christ you died to sin. You are separated from it. Hold a funeral. Who died? Sin!
You can't hope to be saved from sin in order that you may go on living in it. You have not only been delivered from its penalty, but from its power. Conversion is to turn to Christ and away from sin. It is a contradiction in terms to say that justification by grace through faith gives license to sin. That would be like saying death is life or that dying is living.
Sin has lost its power over the believer. 1 Peter 2:24 says: "That we being dead to sins should live unto righteousness. Colossians 2:20 says: "Wherefore if ye are dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances of touch not, taste not, handle not." Galatians 6:14 says: "But God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of Christ by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world."
Again, to live in sin as the rest of the world is antinomian - against the law of God. We must, at all cost, come out of the world and be separated from its power and destruction. We live in an age of fast food, eat all you want and still lose weight, easy living, where preachers tell people they can live in the world and still go to heaven. It isn't so.
Several passages of scripture deal with antinomianism:
1 Corinthians 5:1 "It is reported that there is fornication among you and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife."
1 Corinthians 5:12 tells us why this sin was not being dealt with. They were antinomian, saying: "All things are lawful unto me." Paul says they may be lawful but they are not fitting. God may forgive us of sin, but we cannot continue under its power.
Galatians 5:1 "Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." In other words, don't use your freedom to give in to your sinful nature. We don't use the antinomian idea that the moral law of God has nothing to do with us. We don't break God's law just to demonstrate that justification is by faith without works.
James 2:14: "What does it profit, my brethren, though a man says he has faith, and has not works?" He goes on to say that if you see someone who is without food or clothing and you say "be warm and fed" what good is that? he is still cold and hungry. The same is true with justification by faith. You can claim faith all you want and still not have it; show me your faith without your deeds and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
2 Peter 2:19: "While they promise them liberty they themselves are the servants of corruption, because a man is a slave of whatever has mastered him." We call it addiction. The Bible calls it sin.
1 John 1:6: "If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness we lie and do not the truth"
1 John 1:18: "It is the last time and you have heard that antichrist will come, even now there are many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us but were not of us."
1 John 3:8: "He that commits sin is of the devil."
It is true, we are freed from the rituals of circumcision and animal sacrifice; in that sense, we are not under the law. We are saved strictly by grace through faith having Christ's righteousness and obedience imputed to us. But our attitude toward the moral law of God becomes evidence of that righteousness and obedience of Christ. A saved person does not continue as he always did; a change takes place, called conversion.
Antinomianism is the opposite of legalism, but I would caution you by saying that some take this to an extreme also. Legalism, in theology, is putting law above the gospel by going beyond repentance and faith in Christ. It overemphasises personal conduct and only looks at the letter of the law and not at the spirit of the law. It is sometimes superficial and sometimes reduces the teaching of Scripture to moral codes. It essentially puts us back under a covenant of works rather than a covenant of grace. So, how do we balance law and gospel without becoming legal fanatics on one hand or anti-law on the other?
First, we remember that Christ has satisfied the law and its condemnation. Law and gospel join together to give us both grace and direction for our Christian life.
Jeremiah 31:31–34 gives us that perfect balance of law and gospel. It says: "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. They shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from th least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." "They shall all know me" means all believers.
Just like Adam, Israel (the O.T. church) was expected to obey God's commandments in order to stay in the land. The Mosiac law was essentially a renewal of the covenant God made with Adam. The land was theirs by covenant. There were no conditions put on the covenant, but staying in the land was conditional. The Book of Hebrews talks about the law and says this was a shadow of things to come, meaning Christ fulfilling it. So, what does it say in Jeremiah 31? the new covenant or the gospel will not be like the Sinai covenant. All the blessings of the new covenant are not conditional on our obedience, but is grounded in God’s grace.
He put His Law in us. It is the yearning and longing of our heart. We already know the Lord because He has gave us a Savior and showed us Himself through Him. We are forgiven and our sin is remembered no more. The gospel brought us to salvation by grace through faith in the work of Christ and gave us a love for God's law. The law guides us, not to be legal extremeists, but followers of God, desiring to please Him.
Long before Moses, Abraham believed God, loved his commandments, and God counted him righteous. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-19: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets (that would be the entire Old Testament) I am not come to destroy but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle (the smallest letters in the Hebrew alphabet) shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these lesst commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kindgom of heaven, but whosoever shall do and teach them the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
We are not under the law as a covenant of works or a means of condemnation, but we are under it as a standard. The law is our basic commandments for lifestyle; that is if we are going to please God. Where is His will found? In His commandmants. That is why a Christian delights in God's law.
Look at 1 Corinthians 9:21. He had said back in verse 16 "Woe is me if I preach not the gospel" and then in verse 21, "To them that are without the law (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ) that I might gain them that are without law." Without the law would mean lawless.
A. W. Pink said, “(The Ten Commandments) uniqueness appears first in this revelation of God at Sinai and was attended with such awe-inspiring phenomena that the very manner of their publicacion plainly showed that God himself assigned to the Decalogue (what the Jews call the Ten Commandments) peculiar importance, which was to serve for all coming ages as the grand expression of his holiness and the summation of man’s duty."
Have you read how theTen Commandments were given? audible voice, clouds and darkness, thunders and lightenings, trumpet, written by God's finger on tables of stone and put in the ark of the covenant. Nothing else is ever given like that. Why should they be publicly displayed? because they are God's moral standard for all mankind.
But, alas, we live in a lawless age, contributing to progressive opposition to the Ten Commandments. That opposition does not come from athiests alone but from all those who want to remain lawless.
It is really important for us to balance law and grace. The brethren among us who take the Bible more literally tend to see either law or grace but not both at the same time. That complicates the understanding, because we see the difference but not the relationship. Justification by Faith in the works of Christ requires grace, but that which helps believers live according to God's will requires law. So, you see there is a relationship between law and gospel.
In conclusion, a balance between law and gospel is important for four reasons:
1. It is an area where a lot of error exists. We desperately need to understand what Scriptures teach on this subject; for example: Jesus said in Matthew 5: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets (O T) I am not come to destroy but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle (the smallest letters in the Hebrew alphabet) shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kindgom of heaven, but whosoever shall do and teach them the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
2. Because the world is such a lawless place - believers must live apart from it in order to please God. Why should they be publicly displayed? because they are God's moral standard for all mankind. Opposition does not come from athiests alone, but from those who want to remain lawless.
3. To say that we preach the Gospel without ever mentioning sin is a contradiction. It cannot be done. And nothing points out sin better than the Ten Commandments. It says in 1 Corinthians 9: "Woe is me if I preach not the gospel." We can't preach the law instead of the gospel, and we can't preach neither the law nor the gospel.
4. Law and gospel are both in the Bible. They are undivided, yet they each have a distinct purpose. Law is not given as a means of justification but to prove how impossible it is for law to justify. Law is not given as a means to reform a sinner. A reformed sinner is still a sinner. Law is when God gives orders and says what will happen if we fail to obey those orders. Law is given to convict of sin and judgement, to strip a sinner of self-righteousness. Law is given to point us to Christ, the only one who was ever able to keep the law. Law is also the believer's only rule and direction for obedience, a standard for conduct. Where do we find God's will? In His law. That is why a Christian delights in the law.
Gospel is when God makes promises of grace and mercy through what Christ' has done for us, Gospel is the good news about the one who became our substitute and took our penalty for sin. Gospel is the good news that Christ kept the law and that righteousness was imputed to us. The Gospel is our hope. It is the only possible way of salvation. So, the whole Bible is law and gospel, related to each other, both pointing to our only hope in Christ. Law and Goapel stand or fall together. If there is no law, there is no sin. If there is no gospel, there is no salvation. Both are necessary for evangelism. The law is the knowledge of sin, the gospel is solution for sin.
Be A Fool: Preach The Gospel
On July 22, 1689, a letter was sent out from seven London pastors to Baptist pastors over all of England and Wales. Seventy-three-year-old William Kiffin and ninety one-year-old Hanserd Knollys had been leaders since the 1630s, and both of them had suffered under the tyranny of King Charles and King James. The letter spoke of a decline in the churches that once numbered over 200. There was a great need to stand together for the gospel of Christ, so a meeting was arranged in London for September 3-12, 1689. One hundred and seven churches sent representatives.
They adopted a Baptist confession that had been written in 1677, now known as the 1689 London Baptist Confession. They raised money to help poor pastors, itinerate preachers and money for training preachers.
They met again June 9-16, 1690, and a third time on June 2-8, 1691. When they met the fourth time, May 3-17, 1692, most of the country churches did not attend. Those assembled decided to form a second association in the western part of England with two of the London pastors in attendance each year. But it was not to be. They were divided over the issue of singing hymns in church.
The London Association met for the last time in 1694, after only six meetings. The Western Association continued strong, producing colleges, pastors, many of whom came to America. They formed the Philadelphia Association in 1707 which gave us the Philadelphia Confession.
The ultimate purpose of any Baptist meeting has always been the preaching of the Word of God. We are preachers. Our purpose for coming together is to produce churches that produce preachers.
Some of us may be Democrats and some of us Republicans;
Some of us may be close or closed communion and some of us open;
Some of us may be premillennial and some of us uncertain;
Some of us may be Calvinistic in theology and some of us confused;
Some of us may prefer one Bible translation and some of us another;
These are the things that may attempt to divide us,
But, I trust the things that we hold most common among us are these:
1. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, and
2. The Baptist distinctives.
I. THE GOSPEL
The word, GOSPEL, is used in Scripture 104 times. In 61 of those cases, one Greek word is translated “preach the gospel.”
We are preachers.
A pastor is a preacher.
A missionary is a preacher.
A Bible college professor is a preacher.
A Sunday school teacher is a preacher.
What ever you are going to do from here is related to preaching.
We are preachers because we bring the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We declare the good news that Jesus, the Son of God, saves to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him.
The idea the Apostle used in Romans 10 “how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel” is taken from sitting at the feet of one preaching.
John the Baptist preached.
The apostles preached.
Paul said in 2 Cor. 4 “We preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord.”
He said in 1 Cor. 2 “I determined not to know any thing among you but Christ and him crucified.”
In Gal. 1:8 Paul used strong language and repeated it in verse 9: “If I or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel, let him be accursed”, meaning doomed to destruction.
Why is this message called “The Gospel?”
It is interesting that the Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are called “the Gospels.”
They were written AFTER the resurrection of Christ, AFTER He was established as the Messiah, AFTER He proved his teaching by his death and resurrection. Therefore, it is rightly called “The Gospel.” It IS good news.
I cannot imagine a place where it has not been heard, yet there are such places. In our age of technology, a computer on the other side of the world can log on to our web site and (if they can read English or have a program that will translate it) they can read the gospel. Getting it there is not our greatest problem.
There are many enemies of the gospel.
There are those who hate the gospel.
When 7 kids burned our sanctuary (5 entered the building, 2 did not) they turned 3 crosses behind our baptistery upside down. One of them later told the prosecutor that he did not like us because we had not given his mother some money; a 16 year old kid and already an enemy of the gospel. I can understand it. I watched this kid’s father on the porch of his home. While a police detective questioned him, he never looked up from his newspaper and never said a word.
What we went through is nothing.
50,000 Christians have fled Syria.
In Iran, a pastor faces execution for refusing to renounce Christ.
2 Baptist missionaries were murdered in Mexico last February.
38 people were killed on Easter Sunday at a church in Nigeria.
On April 12, a group of Christians in India was attacked and beaten.
Just Sunday 15 Christians were killed in Nigeria.
Paul said in Philippians 3:18; “I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ.”
We were once enemies of Christ by our wicked works. Only by His grace have we been reconciled to God.
There is more good news.
The Bible says that God will make the enemies of Christ His footstool.
Specifically, Psalm 110:1 “The LORD (Jehovah) said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”
That is quoted in Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36, Luke 20:43, Acts 2:35 and Hebrews 1:13.
There is a wonderful connection between this footstool and the idea of sitting at the feet of those who preach the Gospel.
It will never be my eloquence that conquers the enemy.
Nor my wisdom.
Nor my methods.
Nor my politics.
Nor my opinions.
It will be, however, the power of the Gospel.
All of you can quote Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
For the life of me I do not understand how a preacher can use the pulpit to preach self-esteem material.
If people want better marriages, follow God’s plan in the Bible.
If people want better finances, follow God’s plan in the Bible.
If people want better government, follow God’s plan in the Bible.
Preach the Bible.
You won’t have a big church. The enemies of God do not want Christ.
But you will please Him
You will be a fool in the eyes of the world (and even other preachers). I Cor. 1:18 “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
It is the Gospel that will ultimately win the battle.
II. BAPTIST DISTINCTIVES
The 2nd thing commonly held among us is our Baptist distinctives. The first known confession of faith was 67 articles of the Swiss reformers (1523).
There is Luther’s confession
The German confession
The French confession
The Gallic confession
The Scot confession
The Belgic confession
The 39 articles of the Church of England
The Lutheran Church confession
The Irish confession
The Westminster confession
The Savoy confession
The 1689 London confession
And the Calvinistic Methodist confession.
Most of those are protestant confessions
But one of the earliest confessions was the Swiss Anabaptist Brethren confession of 1527 which is neither catholic nor protestant.
This confession was endorsed unanimously by a meeting of Swiss Anabaptists in 1527 in Schleitheim, Switzerland. The meeting was chaired by Michael Sattler who shortly after the conference was arrested by Austrian Roman Catholic authorities, put on trial along with a number of other Anabaptists, found guilty and executed. The Confession consisted of seven articles, written during a time of severe persecution:
Baptism is administered to those who have consciously repented and amended their lives and believe that Christ has died for their sins and who request it for themselves. Infants, therefore, were not to be baptized.
2. The Ban (Excommunication)
A Christian should live with discipline and walk in the way of righteousness. Those who slip and fall into sin should be admonished twice in secret, but the third offense should be openly disciplined and banned as a final recourse. This should always occur prior to the breaking of the bread.
3. Breaking of Bread (Communion)
Only those who have been baptized can take part in communion. Participation inCommunion is a remembrance of Christ's body and blood; the real body and blood of Christ is not present in the sacrament.
4. Separation from Evil
The community of Christians shall have no association with those who remain in disobedience and a spirit of rebellion against God. There can be no fellowship with the wicked in the world; there can be no participation in works, church services, meetings and civil affairs of those who live in contradiction to the commands of God (Catholics and Protestants). All evil must be resisted including their weapons of force such as the sword and armor.
5. Pastors in the Church
Pastors should be men of good repute. Some of the responsibilities they must faithfully carry out are teaching, disciplining, the ban, leading in prayer, and the sacraments. They are to be supported by the church, but must also be disciplined if they sin.
6. The Sword (Pacifism)
Violence must not be used in any circumstance. The way of nonviolence is patterned after the example of Christ who never exhibited violence in the face of persecution or as a punishment for sin. A Christian should not pass judgment in worldly disputes. It is not appropriate for a Christian to serve as a magistrate; a magistrate acts according to the rules of the world, not according to the rules of heaven; their weapons are worldly, but the weapons of a Christian are spiritual.
7. The Oath
No (oaths) should be taken because Jesus prohibited the taking of oaths and swearing. Testifying is not the same thing as swearing. When a person bears testimony, they are testifying about the present, whether it be good or evil.
The 1689 London Baptist Confession has 32 articles, having a much different approach to civil government and pacifism.
The Philadelphia Confession of 1742 is almost identical except for hymn singing and laying on of hands.
Here is the point – How do we know Baptist distinctives without these confessions?
We live in a time when Baptist churches are dropping the word Baptist.
A lady told me that is what her church did to reach more people.
That church wants to hide its identity.
It wants any and every body to join.
It has no doctrine and no distinctives.
What it really does is reduce itself to nothing.
What else can it preach other than self-esteem and a better life?
It is the new modernism.
The arch-enemy loves it. I think he joined it.
Our church does not have many visitors who come the 2nd time.
I am surprised and delighted if they do.
We tell them right up front what we are.
You may not agree with it, but I hope you will not fall into this new modernism of alternative church, café church, cowbell church or old cars.
Do that stuff some other time.
But when you come to God’s house, come to glorify a risen Christ.
Be a FOOL. Preach the gospel. Ω
Working together for The Gospel
We take up the Epistle of Philemon. This is one of Paul's prison epistles, along with Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. It is pure Paul. He is in a Roman prison after being arrested in Jerusalem some time prior. He was literally snatched from the clutches of a mob set on killing him and taken to court. As a Roman citizen, he was entitled to a trial, and after years of wrangling, he appealed to Caesar only to be taken to Rome and eventually executed.
What we have as a result of his incarceration are four wonderful
books. We know the depth of the
Book of Ephesians, the suffering he revealed in the Book of Philippians and the preeminence of Christ taught in the Book of Colossians. But Philemon is a little different. It is not a great discourse in doctrine but is about a prisoner and servant of Jesus Christ. Paul uses his own situation as a prisoner to help Onesimus, a runaway slave who had met Paul at some juncture and came to Christ.
Being a Christian presented a problem for Onesimus. As a new believer, he must clear up his past which included going back to his owner, Philemon. Paul already knew Philemon, a Christian, who had a church in his house at Colosse. So, Paul is writing the letter as an appeal to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus.
The greeting vs. 1-3
"Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer. And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house: Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
Paul uses his own status as a prisoner to relate to his service to Christ by calling himself "a prisoner of Jesus Christ."
He said in the Book of Ephesians that the entire church is called to minister the gospel in some way, to walk in this world as new people, then he said "For this reason I am a prisoner for you Gentiles."
His commitment to Christ is remarkable and should be a great help to our
faith. This man was a Jew of the
Jews, highly educated, thought he pleased God by participating in the
persecution of Christians, sponsored the stoning of Stephen, but God struck him
down on the road to Damascus. Paul was changed and immediately sought baptism, which is an act of no return so to speak. A person can fake his conversion, but he cannot fake his baptism if it is Biblical baptism.
Paul is a prisoner of the Christ he once hated. Do you remember the words of the Lord when he spoke to Paul that day near
Damascus? "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Persecuting the church is persecuting Christ. He takes it
personally. Paul got the message,
repented and was baptized. Now, he writes to Philemon "Our dearly beloved and fellowlabourer. And to our beloved Apphia and Archippus our fellowsoldier and to the church in your house." I think the "church in thy house" is Philemon's house. Of course, the early churches had no buildings for at least two hundred years.
Cooperating for the Gospel vs. 4-7
I know this epistle is about Onesimus and I will get to that. But I see an important lesson here, one of cooperation or teamwork. There are at least two areas where teamwork is needed. 1. in the local church; 2. between churches.
Notice to whom Paul addresses the letter: Philemon, Apphia (a feminine name), Archippus a fellowsoldier and to the church in Philemon's house. A church is much like a family and also like a sports team in the sense of function. It performs as a unit. I have noticed that a military unit call themselves brothers because they look out for each other. The way
to do that in the church is stated in verse four: "I thank my God, making
mention of you always in my prayers."
The thing I miss most about my Dad are his prayers (he passed away February 3). This is an important ministry because we need God's help and blessings in the church. We talk about being an independent body, but we are really a dependent body - we need others and we need their prayer.
Paul said in verse five: "Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;"
He explains that in verse six: "That the communication of thy faith may
become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in
Christ Jesus." Communication can
mean sending money but not here.
This has to do with participation with other Christians. Paul calls it "the communication of thy faith" meaning Philemon's association with other Christians. So, again, we have a team.
Paul said: "I heard about your church and I am praying for that association to be effectual." They were not sitting on the bench but out on the field participating.
I have two favorite baseball pitchers: Andy Petite and Mariano Rivera. Both of them retired from the New York Yankees this year and both of them are born again believers. Andy Petite went to Deer Park
(Texas) High School and married the daughter of one of my pastor friends.
He was drafted by the Yankees in 1990 and pitched his first game in 1995 at age twenty-two. He had twenty-one wins in 1996. I loved watching him on the mound and was amused when he talked to himself. Mariano Rivera was the closer for the Yankees in nine hundred fifty two
games. He speaks about God's
providence in the lives of him, his family and his team mates. Both of these men were part of a team and did not win or lose a game alone.
So it is in the church. We must do it together. Paul called it effectual or powerful. A powerful church needs powerful preaching, but it also needs powerful praying by a powerful membership. That is what makes a powerful team. "By the acknowledging" (a word used in the New Testament to mean spiritual things) "of every good thing that is in you in Christ Jesus." Paul attributes our good to Christ. "Good thing" is what is acceptable to God. Important because it is NOT the world's definition. God approves it. He always approves of good through His son.
Verse seven says: "For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the (place of affections) of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother." This is the reason we, as a church, are a unit; we have an opportunity to refresh the saints. Refresh means to be calm, which may suggest that Philemon was a quiet man who had an affect on the church. God grant that kind of temperament to all of us. It brought joy
and consolation. Praise the Lord
for those with that ability. We are a body with different parts and our gifts are diverse, therefore we cannot stand alone. We stand together through the grace of God.
An appeal for forgiveness vs. 8-17
"Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, Yet for love's sake I rather
beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of
Jesus Christ. I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: Whom I have sent again:
thou therefore receive him, that is mine own [heart]: Whom I would have retained
with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the
gospel: But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be
as it were of necessity, but willingly.
For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord? If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself."
It is usually best to appeal instead of demand. That is exactly what the apostle is doing here as a fellow believer. He says: "I could be as bold with you as I am when I preach and command you to do what is fitting, yet because I love you I will only ask that you consider my age and that I serve the Lord." He did not mention his apostleship at all. He is simply a fellow laborer. I think it is remarkable that Paul intervenes for a runaway slave in the first place. It became very important to him as Paul, the aged and a prisoner of Christ.
This takes us back to the importance of church unity. Here is what we call a missionary, Paul, asking a member of the church at Colosse, Philemon, to forgive a new Christian, Onesimus. There is a quantity of compassion in it, something for every one of us to learn.
Paul speaks of Onesimus as a spiritual son the same way he spoke of
Timothy: "I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now is profitable to thee and to me." The word "unprofitable"
could be translated useless and "profitable" could be useful. It is amazing what the new birth does to a person.
Onesimus was once useless, now he is useful. The Holy Spirit changes the convert into something he was not nor ever could be on his own.
I can see the wisdom in the appeal. Not only did Paul appeal on the basis as a fellow laborer, he now appeals to Philemon that Onesimus has changed. He was once useless, now he is useful;
he was once a slave, now he is a fellow believer.
That does not always apply to the workplace, but would it not be a
great improvement if we could see each other in society the way we see each
other in the church as fellow believers?
It would revolutionize the economy. It could even change the world. Think of some of the ramifications: employees would be honest, dependable, good workers; bosses would be kind,
considerate, good people; business would flourish, customers happier.
Philemon is faced with an enormous consideration - what to do with
Onesimus. Imagine, Philemon is
approached by this runaway slave.
His first thought is: There is that useless thief! Onesimus gives Philemon a letter.
It is from Paul, Philemon's friend. He may have thought: What is this no-good doing with a letter from Paul? Then, Philemon reads down to "...my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds. Which in time past was useless, but now he is useful. Whom I have sent again therefore receive him that is mine own [heart]." "I have sent him back with my blessing."
The prodigal son comes to mind. He had ruined his own life, falling into bad company and broken his father's heart by wasting the hard-earned inheritance his father had given him. In the providence of God, he literally ended up in the hog-pen, where the Holy Spirit began to convict him of his sins. Sometimes God has to knock us down in order for us to see our depravity. He was so hungry that he would have eagerly eaten with the hogs. God reminded him of how well his
father's hired servants were fed back at home, and he began to repent of his
wickedness by returning to his father.
When his father saw him coming, he ran to him and kissed him, but the son
confessed to the father his unworthiness, to which the father immediately
forgave and celebrated his return.
Surely Philemon was no different.
Surely Philemon saw Onesimus differently now. He is no longer a stranger, but a brother, a fellow believer and a friend.
The word "forgiveness" is not used in this epistle, but it is implied. Forgiveness is not just a casual approval, it is a restoration, reconciliation. It is so necessary to the Christian. By asking Philemon to take Onesimus back, Paul is asking for a reconciliation. He is asking for Philemon to forgive Onesimus. That is another thing that would revolutionize the world. Just think about it. If every wrong were forgiven, every misunderstanding forgotten, every alienation corrected.
I have seen families torn apart by anger that was never reconciled, but there is something about a dying person asking for forgiveness and often forgiving. I have seen people beg to make things right. I would appeal to you, get it right today. We do not know how much longer we will have.
Paul wisely appeals in kindness.
"...perhaps he departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him forever." Perhaps, in the
providence of God, Onesimus ran away so that he could come to Christ and then
stay with you for ever." We do not
know the circumstances of his slavery, but often a person became a slave in
order to pay a debt and afterward was set free. Paul is saying, "Perhaps Onesimus will decide to serve you for the rest of his life." He certainly will not run away
again. He is a new man.
Being a Christian changes our point-of-view. It put Philemon and Onesimus on equal footing. In the church, there are no big and little people. There are no rich or poor in status. Paul said: "He is not your slave only, but he is now your brother."
Imagine that! Receive him as such. Special to Paul, a spiritual son. To Philemon, a brother.
Put that on my account vs. 17-18
"If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him (Onesimus) as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account."
I think Paul is referring to any kind of debt Onesimus may have left, hurting Philemon in any way or taking any thing belonging to him. It is not a figure of speech but real damages. Any thing he owes, Paul said, put that on my account.
The doctrine of imputation is to attribute debt to another person's account, to lay to another's charge. That is why the apostle asked Philemon to receive Onesimus as if it were himself. Treat him as if it were me. Lay his debt on me. I stand there on his behalf. Paul also
used the word in his epistle to the Romans where the idea arises concerning what Christ did for us. He went to the cross for us, and our sins were laid to His charge. He stood there on our behalf and took our guilt.
We also stand as Christ in God's eyes, as His righteousness is imputed to us. "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Cometh this blessing then upon the circumcision only, or upon the
uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for
righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision or in uncircumcision?
Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, as seal of the righteousness of faith which he had yet being uncircumcised." Romans 4:8-11a.
Circumcision can never make one righteous. Abraham was reckoned or counted righteous before circumcision. The Old Testament sacrifices could not
make the giver righteous or they would not be offered repeatedly, but they
reckoned, counted, him righteous.
They imputed righteousness to the giver.
That is what we have in Christ. We trust that His blood was shed for us which does not make us righteous, but it reckons, counts us as righteous. We have imputed righteousness, Christ's righteousness being imputed to us
and our sins being imputed to Him.
He did no sin but was counted a sinner in our place. How in the world could such a thing be designed by man? Never could such a concept come from a sinner.
It is God's plan, His design for helpless sinners.
Paul went on to say in Romans 4:20-25: "He (Abraham) staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised
up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was
raised again for our justification."
What a glorious doctrine!
We come in faith to the blood of Christ who was delivered up for our
offences and raised again for our justification. So, we not only stand as counted righteous, we are also justified.
How is justification different from imputation? Both carry a meaning of
being counted righteous.
Justification is not just to be reckoned, but declared righteous. When Jesus rose from the grave, He declared that we are now free from guilt.
In our legal system to find a person not guilty is called acquittal. The Bible calls it
forgiveness or pardon. We are not found not guilty because we are guilty. We are acquitted by pardon and justified forever in God's sight. Our basis to forgive each other is that God has forgiven us. I am really repulsed at the way people wallow in sin. They seem to just turn God's warnings off and go wild, then go to church once a year and turn God on. So,
then I think "that is how He must feel about me." Every sin is to trample the blood of Christ.
Justification carries with it a restoration or a purging of every sin. We are cleared and can never be charged again. That means the devil, who is our accuser, will never successfully blame us. Oh, we are sinners alright, but Christ's blood covers our sins, God's grace forgives us and we are restored to good standing and fellowship with God. That is important to us as human beings because God have us a conscience. Science calls it part of our culture or inner light, but that is far too simplistic. God gave man a means by which to recognize right and wrong.
Adam and Eve immediately hid themselves after they sinned and lost all
fellowship with God. Only justification can bring forgiveness and restoration.
We notice that Adam and Eve did not seek God as long as they were in sin
but hid themselves. It was only when God found them and forgave them that they were restored.
In John's Gospel chapter ten, Jesus is declared to be the Good Shepherd and lays down His life for His sheep. He seeks them that are lost, heals their wounds and brings them into the fold. His sheep know His voice and follow Him. They do not follow
strangers. They do not continue to
stray, because they learn the love and protection of their shepherd.
I am so thankful the Jesus found me and restored me to His fold. I am so ashamed of my failures. He must be ashamed too. The very fact that we are forgiven is the reason we come to God's house and give Him praise. He deserves
our very best. Why do we not
understand that? Why do we not do
better? Because we are in a process of sanctification. Some of us are sanctified through the word when we come to God's house and hear it. But if we are unwilling to take heed, God must sanctify us through tribulation. In His providence, He works what we require. Either way, God will not be mocked. Whatsoever we sow, we are going to reap. That becomes our reason to be as Paul begs of Philemon: forgive Onesimus for my sake, lay his debt on me. Christ is saying that to the Father: "Forgive them; lay their sins on me; let me bear their iniquity."
A greater motive vs. 19-24
"Yes, brother, let me have joy in the Lord: refresh my [heart] in the Lord. Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say. But withal
prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be
given unto you. There salute thee
Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers."
These verses are surely connected to the very first thought in the book, unity in the body of Christ, and kindness toward one another will certainly aid unity. Why do all of that? to refresh my heart? to give me joy? Yes, but Paul said: "...in the Lord." "Let me have joy in the Lord. Refresh my heart in the Lord." It is for His sake. It is for the gospel's sake.
Philemon is not just asked this for Paul but for the Lord. Is that our motive for brotherly love? Absolutely!
Everything we do as a Christian and as a church is for Him. We really have no other relationship except those of us who are members of the same family. In that case we have a dual relationship as brothers and sisters twice, which gives us deeper love and motivation. I certainly
serve the Lord first and then all of you, my family being a tremendous motive. I do it for you, also.
I think Paul is complementing Philemon when he said "I could have
commanded but I didn't because I know your character and I know you will go
beyond what I ask." It also teaches a lesson. Do we serve the Lord out of duty? Do we obey Him out of obligation? While it is true that we have a great duty to obey Him, a higher motive is our love for Him. It is far better to obey our
Savior in His church because we love Him and each other.
Notice the words: "...do more than I say."
Paul said: "I don't need to issue an order because I know you will do more than I say - go beyond duty." What a testimony! God is not our drill-sergeant; He is our Father. He is in a position to demand anything from us, but He simply expects us to obey Him as children. Jesus asks us to follow. He is not
pushing us; He is leading us. John, chapter ten once again, verses twenty-seven through twenty-nine: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand, My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." Also verses two through five: "But he
that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter
openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of
And who is NOT following? Verse twenty-six: "But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you." Those who belong to another shepherd aren't going to follow Christ. Whose sheep are we? Are we His? If so, we will obediently follow without being driven. Paul said to Philemon: "You will do even more. You will go the extra mile; go beyond duty."
Jesus taught us to show our love to Him by showing our love to each other. And that is exactly what the ten commandments are about: loving God and loving each other. We follow God through desire to please Him and we show kindness to each other out of love. Are there penalties? Yes. But they are for our correction or betterment.
They can be painful, but our righteous Father knows what is best for us.
What Paul says in verse twenty-two is evidence of the greater motive. "...prepare me also a lodging..." This shows genuine unity because he anticipated forgiveness of Philemon toward Onesimus. He anticipated mutual love and kindness.
He also anticipated release from prison when he said: "...for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you." He really expected that God would hear
that prayer. The Bible records many an answered prayer. For example, Abraham prayed for the city of Sodom; God destroyed the city and saved Lot.
The church at Jerusalem prayed for Peter and John who were released from jail.
The church prayed for Stephen, but he was stoned. They prayed for Paul, and he was executed. Jesus taught us to pray for God's will to be done knowing that we have two intercessors, Christ and the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:26 says the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings
that we cannot utter, but Her knows the will of God. Successful prayer is always a petition in the will of God.
"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." "Who is he that comdemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." Romans 8:26-27 and 34.
Do we just leave it to God and never pray? No. There are too many
examples of prayer in scripture to mention, but all of them encourage us to
pray. As Paul we need to pray with
confidence even if we are not granted our request. Does it say that God doesn't care when our request is not granted? No! No! No! Be as the importune man
who went to a friend for help. The
friend said "We are all in bed; come back later." The man kept pleading: "I am desperate. I need help. I have no where else to turn." So the friend got up and helped him, not only because he was a friend but because he kept asking. Keep
praying. God will always answer
with yes or no. Accept what He gives.
Paul mentions his friends at Colosse. Perhaps this is part of the church in
Philemon's house (verse 2). Of course, there were no church buildings for at least two hundred years after the
resurrection of Christ, but Christians met where they could.
The benediction vs. 25
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit." Amen. What a magnificent epistle. What a magnificent God we serve.