Abraham's Children: Fellowheirs
By Dr. Jack Warren
The history of Christianity has been extremely diverse in terms of eschatology. Early Christians are said to have had a premillennial hermeneutic. Baptists, on the other hand, have had a mixed view, ranging from dispensational premillennialism to amillennialism.
Many of his readers claim that Spurgeon was a premillennialist, however, not a dispensationalist. The difference, of course, would be how he viewed Israel and the tribulation period.
A non-dispensational premillennialist would embrace what has been termed "historical premillennialism." About all dispensational premillennialism and historical premillennialism have in common is that both place the second coming of Christ BEFORE his reign on earth. A dispensational premillennialist places the second coming of Christ before the tribulation period and the millennial kingdom. The historical premillennialist places the second coming of Christ after the tribulation period but before the millennial kingdom.
Another difference is how Israel is viewed. A dispensational premillennialist believes that there are seven dispensations of one thousand years each, the last of which is where Christ assumes the throne of David and rules for a thousand years over a Jewish kingdom on earth. A historical premillennialist does not believe in the seven dispensations and believes that the millennial kingdom is where Christ reigns over God's elect, both Jew and Gentile.
This little study will discuss the basis for some of these differences. That basis is how one views the promises that God made to Abraham and his heirs, thus the title: Abraham's Children: Fellowheirs.
The Meaning of "Fellowheirs"
The word "fellowheirs" appears in the Bible only one time and that is in Ephesians 3:6, where the apostle says: "That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel."
Fellowheirs is translated from the Greek word, συγκληρονόμος (süg-klā-ro-no'-mos). The same word is translated joint heirs (2 words) in Romans 8:17, and in both places it means the same thing - to receive something in joint participation with others.
In Romans 8:17, the context is joint heirs with Christ. In Ephesians 3:6, it is fellowheirs with other believers. Both passages are referring to essentially the same thing, the salvation of God's elect. They are fellow believers.
However, in the previous chapter, Ephesians 2:11-12, he says:
"Wherefore, remember that you being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time you were without Christ being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise."
And then in verse 19, he says:
"Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners but fellowcitizens with the saints and of the household of God...."
So, we have the word fellowheirs, joint heirs, and fellowcitizens all meaning the same thing - God's elect.
He goes on in chapter 3 to talk about a mystery - that Gentiles could be made fellowheirs of God's Old Testament promises. He says that mystery is now known, referring back to what I just read in chap 2, and that it is made possible by the gospel of Christ.
There are two other books where the apostle discusses this. In the Book of Galatians, he discusses adoption and heirship. And in the Book of Romans, he discusses God's promises to Abraham and heirship.
But before I go there, I want to cite a verse in Luke 5:33. The Pharisees asked Jesus why his disciples didn't fast. The Mosaic law required one day of fasting per year on the Day of Atonement, but the Pharisees added to that and demanded fasting be done twice per week. The Lord answered their question by saying the disciples had no need to fast as long as the bridegroom was with them. One day, when he was gone from them, they would fast.
He then told a parable of a new garment, new wineskins and new wine. He said you would not tear off a piece of a new garment and patch an old garment lest the patch would shrink and tear loose. Nor would you put new wine into old wineskins lest the brittle leather would crack and spill the wine. Nor would a person who has ever had really old wine think new wine was any good. His teachings are represented by the new garment, the new wineskins and the new wine, and Judaism's teachings are represented by the old. He meant by all of those things that he did not come to reform Judaism, but he came to fulfill the law and create a new and living way to God. Keep that in mind, because it is key to understanding this.
As you know, in 70 A.D. the temple and its worship was destroyed forever when the Romans, under a future Caesar, Titus, destroyed Jerusalem. That Judaism is gone. Jesus completely changed the concept of the Old Testament. God's elect now includes all believers, not just the Jews. Paul understood that and made it abundantly clear in Romans 9 and 10. Abraham's spiritual children, not his physical children, are the heirs of God's promises. Abraham's true children are those who believe in Jesus as the Son of God.
Not All Israel Are Israel
I think I can clarify how we are fellowheirs of God's Old Testament promises to Abraham by calling your attention to the Book of Romans. There are 3 chapters, nine, ten, and eleven, where the apostle lays out the connection between Jew and Gentile believers.
In Romans 9:6-7, he says:
"For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel. Neither because they are the children of Abraham are they children, but in Isaac shall thy seed be called."
That clearly says that not all of physical Israel belongs to spiritual Israel. There is a great difference between Abraham's physical children and his spiritual children.
And then, he goes to great length to show that God, like a potter, has every right to create the vessel as he sees fit. They could call themselves children of Abraham, but that did not make them heirs of his promises. He said earlier that circumcision does not make one a real Jew as does the condition of the heart. I can tell you first hand, that secular nation they call Israel in the Middle East is not the people of God. Some of them are but not as a nation. In Romans 9:13, the apostle quoted Malachi 1:2-3, by saying: "It is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."
In The Revelation, Christ said to the church at Smyrna: "...I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews and are not." Similarly, he said to the church at Philadelphia: "...I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews and are not but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." Therefore, it is imperative, before we go any further, that we fully understand that not every Old Testament Jew was a child of God.
God Has One Plan Of Salvation
Romans 3:29-31 says: "Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also. Seeing it is one God which shall justify the circumcision by faith and uncircumcision through faith."
Every race, every nation, every gender, every individual in every age has one message from God: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."
In Romans 10:12-13, Paul says: "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
God does not have one plan of salvation for the Jews and another plan of salvation for the Gentiles. Salvation is now and has always been in Christ alone, including people living in Old Testament times as well as New Testament times, if such a differentiation can be made. There is no difference in our relation to the law or to God. We are all sinners and will be judged by the same Lord.
It would be apropos to point out that verse 13 comes from Joel 2:32. By quoting from the Old Testament, the apostle shows that justification by faith does not originate with him or any other New Testament writer but has been God's plan of salvation from the very beginning.
This doctrine is taught throughout the Bible. Hebrews eleven says: "By faith Abel....By faith Enoch....By faith Noah....By faith Abraham....By faith Isaac....By faith Jacob....By faith Joseph....By faith Moses...."
When I was in the seminary in 1960, there was a student named Jones, who eventually went to Israel as a missionary. He subsequently became more interested in archaeology than missions and even claimed that a movie, Raiders of the Last Ark, was based on his work.
During one of my trips to Israel, I happened to be in a little shop in Bethlehem, when I came upon a book by this so-called missionary, published in 1983, called: Will The Real Jesus Please Stand? That title was an impersonation of a television show where a panel tried to guess which one of their guests was the real person all of them claimed to be.
I bought the book and immediately began to read it. Its message blasphemed the name of Jesus, saying he was not the Messiah and essentially said that God has two plans of salvation, one for Jews and another for Gentiles, neither of which is in Christ.
The book contradicted Jesus from the very beginning, stating that its purpose was "...not to prove the validity of Jesus to the Jew by rabbinic literature, but rather to attempt to show the Christian the validity of Judaism, the Jewish people and the Political State of Israel by the teachings and the person of Jesus."
Well, he didn't prove it to me. I still believe that Jesus of Nazareth was and is exactly who he claimed to be: the Son of God and equal with the Father in essence and authority, the creator and judge of all mankind. He is the promised seed of Abraham, the Son of David, Savior and bridegroom of his church and our coming King.
To believe anything less is to trample under foot his shed blood and deny him in the same fashion as the Jews who turned him over to the Romans, demanding his crucifixion. I, for one, will have none of that.
Jesus is the Christ and will forever remain the way, the truth and the life for all people who come to him.
God Did Not Reject All Jews
So far, in order to define the word "fellowheirs" we have seen how Jesus did not come to reform Judaism, but to do away with it altogether. We also discussed the difference between Abraham's physical children and his spiritual children. The Apostle Paul shows us how this affects the nation of Israel in Romans 11:1-10.
"I say, then, Hath God cast away his people? (meaning utterly or finally) God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew."
When God rejected the Jews it did not cancel his promises, because they were only made to the elect, not the whole nation.
"Know ye not what the scripture said of Elijah? how he made intercession to God against Israel, saying Lord, they have killed thy prophets and digged down thy altars, and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? (Elijah) I have reserved to myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal."
The apostle uses that story to illustrate a chosen remnant, which he goes on to describe in the next verse.
"Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel (as a nation) has not obtained that which he seeketh for: but the election has obtained it and the rest were blinded.
That is election and reprobation. In both Old and New Testaments. Religious systems have failed. Salvation is not there. Israel did not find peace with God in their rituals and sacrifices. But, he says, some of them were brought to God through election and the rest God allowed to remain blinded. How many people do you know who are trying to be saved through their own effort? It is not going to work for Jews or for Gentiles. "Election has obtained it."
"According as it is written, God has given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, ears that they should not hear unto this day..."
This verse is composed of several passages found in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 6:9, it says "Hear ye indeed, but understand not; see ye indeed, but perceive not." Deuteronomy 29:4 says: "Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day." Isaiah 29:10 says: "For the Lord hath poured upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes." It is descriptive of what occurred in the times of the prophets, but it is prophetic of what was going to occur, and I think it will be their everlasting punishment - hardness beyond anything we have ever seen.
"And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block and a recompense unto them. Let their eyes be darkened that they may not see, and bow down their neck always."
This is from Psalm 69. It is a prophesy of the sufferings of Christ; David said, Let it backlash on them. Their table is a figure of those things that are supposed to be a blessing to them. But he said let it be a snare, a trap, a stumbling block. The Apostle Paul said the rejecters of the Son of God were blinded and cast away. However, God's chosen people, a remnant, will come from among Old Testament people as well as New Testament people, both Jew and Gentile to make up the people of God. They are all fellowheirs, joint heirs and fellowcitizens.
God Has Always Had A People
In the second part of Romans 11, the apostle shows more evidence that the promises of God were given to Abraham's spiritual children. Verse 11 "I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come to the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy."
It all has to do with God's purpose. He allowed the fall of Judaism in order to bring Gentiles to Christ.
Verses 12-15 "Now, if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fullness? For I speak to you Gentiles, in as much as I am the apostle to the Gentiles. I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?"
Bringing life to the dead is a figure of speech used throughout Scripture to illustrate the conversion of the unsaved. He is talking about Jews and Gentiles alike as members of the same body and a gospel suited to bringing all races to Christ.
There is a broader rendering of this idea back in Ephesians 2:11-22: "Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."
There are not two races of people in the body of Christ. There is only one. Those who were aliens and strangers from each other are reconciled. Verse 13 says: "by the blood of Christ." Verse 14 says: "...he is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition." Verse 19 says: "...you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints." Continuing in Romans, chapter eleven:
Verse 16 "For if the first-fruits be holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root be holy, so also are the branches."
Paul uses the Old Testament offering of first fruits of harvest as an example of Old Testament saints. They were the saved Israelites out of the assembly-at-large. Then came the branches, made holy through the life and death of Christ. Therefore, Jewish converts as well as Gentile converts are now branches grafted into the original stock - God's chosen people.
Verses 17-21 "And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild tree wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high minded, but fear; For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee."
Those of us who believe the Bible is the Word of God have trouble finding a balance between the literal and the spiritual. We want a literal one thousand year millennial reign and a literal 144,000 saved Jews. We aren't good with metaphors and that is what this is.
Paul is using an olive tree as a metaphor for all of God's chosen people to illustrate his doctrine. He says the Old Testament church was like an olive tree and Gentiles are like a wild olive tree, grafted into the original.
VERSE 22-24 "Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but on thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not in unbelief shall be gratified in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive-tree; how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?"
There is nothing in this that is contrary to the doctrine of eternal security of the believer which he taught in Romans, chapter eight. He is saying here that there is no guarantee that Gentile nations, like America, won't end up exactly as Israel did - rejected. And here is how it works; here is how Jews and Gentiles get to be fellowheirs of God's promises to Abraham:
Verses 25-27 "For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part has happened unto Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them when (or, that) I shall take away their sins."
There are several views of these three verses, but they actually boil down to two basic views:
1. That there will be a conversion of the entire Jewish nation when the fullness of the Gentile church has been accomplished. That is a postmillennial view, which violates what Paul has just said.
2. That the apostle is simply saying that the elect, all true Israel (Jews and Gentiles together), will ultimately be saved. To me, this view suits the context which has already said in chapter nine that true Israel are the spiritual children of Abraham.
What he says in these three verses is sort of a summary of what he has said in chapters 9, 10 and 11; that there is an open door for all people; that there is salvation for Jews and Gentiles alike who come to Christ in faith alone. One thing I know, there are not two plans of salvation: one for Jews and another for Gentiles. All of God's elect will be saved the same way: the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
Yes, God promised the Jews a restoration after 70 yr. in Babylonian captivity. They would not be in exile forever. They would suffer the consequences of their idolatry, but not forever. Some of them would return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. But their children rejected the Messiah, and they were cut off from the spiritual children of Abraham, so God grafted in the Gentiles. That is true Israel. Those are the true children of Abraham. And the true temple is in heaven. We have a new high priest and a new covenant. The old system is gone forever.
Jeremiah 31:31-33 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 a 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 on their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people."
That is the covenant God has made with EVERY believer through the blood of Christ.
The writer of Hebrews makes this clear: Hebrews 10:12: "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God."
Hebrews 10:15-16: "Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws in their hearts and in their minds will I write them."
Verses 28-32 "As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes; but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance; For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief; even so, have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all."
The two cases of the Jews and the Gentiles are compared here. On one hand Israel is an enemy of the gospel for the sake of the Gentiles, but on the other hand God has chosen some of them to salvation. Whomever he saves is through his great mercy.
God Is Sovereign In All Things
VERSES 33-36 "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? or who has been his counsellor? Or who has first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things; to whom be glory forever. Amen."
The apostle concludes with one of the greatest passages in Scripture. He says that God is perfect in wisdom, knowledge and judgment, etc. Surely, that refers to all of his works and wisdom from beginning to end. I cannot imagine it referring to only the events of this doctrine or even this book. It must include creation, providence, redemption, judgment, purpose, decrees and so much more. "And his ways past finding out."
I do not think the word "ways" is used in the sense of a road traveled but of God's ways in dealing with all things. How are we to comprehend them? They are too deep for us.
Who has ever given him advise? Who has he ever been indebted to? He is the source, the means and the end of all things.
The Preexistence of Christ and His Incarnation
The first thing to notice is Luke's method of research, and I think all of the writers of Scripture would say the same thing:
"Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou might know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed.." Luke 1:1-4
Luke claims to have a perfect understanding of those things believed among early Christians
Things delivered by eyewitnesses and ministers of the word. You cannot do any better than an eyewitness.
John does not make that claim in his gospel, but he did make the claim in his epistle. He said in First John, I heard it, I saw, and I am simply declaring to you what I saw and heard.
So, John himself was an eyewitness. He was there. And he wrote about it.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." John 1:1-3
He begins by declaring the deity of Christ. Do not ever think that Jesus was just another prophet or teacher. John says he has always been with God and IS God.
But why does he describe him as the Word? The word has many meanings, i.e. something said, a mandate, a dictum, a discourse or instructions.
But John uses the word to mean the Word of God, or the personal wisdom and power in union with God, as creator and governor of the universe, the cause of all life,who put on human nature in the person of Jesus Christ and came earth to save mankind.
That is not a Christian concept. The Old Testament teaches that the Messiah would do exactly this.
Is John alone in using this idea as a New Testament writer? No the Apostle Paul uses it in his writings. The entire New Testament is about Jesus, who became man. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14
This emphatically teaches the preexistence and the incarnation of Jesus Christ. There is no other way to interpret it. He is God in the flesh.
Again, John emphasized that he saw him with his own eyes. He says: "...and we beheld his glory."
Maybe he meant when Jesus was transfigured as he will appear at his second coming, or, when he raised Lazarus from the grave, or, when he calmed the storm.Maybe he meant all of these and more. The point is, it was the glory of the only begotten Son of God, who is full of grace and truth.
"In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." John 1:4-5
Keep in mind the word "light" and "shineth in darkness" and "the darkness comprehended it not"
because he is going to explain that. Now, look at verses 6-13
"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John (he means John the Baptist). The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He (John) was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of the Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." John 1:6-13
It has never been said more plainly. Remember, this is explaining what he said in verses 4 and 5 about light and darkness.
These 8 verses are not about John the Baptist but about the one he was sent to bear witness about, called Light. And this true Light lights every man that comes into the world, which may sound awfully Arminean - the idea that every person has a little light in them.
John is saying that the true Light, which enlightens everyone, came into the world. We know that every person is not yet enlightened, which is why we send missionaries. If every person already has the Light, every person would be saved, and we know better.
Look at verse 10 "He was in the world and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not."
That tells me that much of the world is still in darkness - without light, without Christ.
Also verse 11 "He came unto his own (the Jewish people) and his own received him not."
And verse 12 "But as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." The Apostle Paul, in the Book of Romans, said this is why Jews rejected him, so that all who believe - not just the Jews - could be the children of God.
I like what John says here about being given the power to become children of God by believing. I am a Baptist by conviction, but the gospel is not restricted to Baptists. It says "as many as received him, to them he gave the power to become sons of God."
Verse 13 "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Hallelujah!
This power did not come because of where or how I was born. This power did not come because of my genealogy. This power did not come because of my own will. Left up to me, I would have been one of the rejecters. This power did not come because of the will of people who wanted me to be saved. This power came through the will of God. He alone can empower a person to come to saving faith in Christ.
Verses 15: "John (the Baptist) bare witness of him, and cried, saying This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me."
He is not talking about a physical birth - John was actually born first - but that Jesus was with God in eternity.This John says in verses 16-17: "And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." In verse 14, Christ is full of grace and truth. Here he came and brought grace and truth to us.
Verse 18 "No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him." I think he is saying that Jesus delivered grace and truth just like Moses delivered the law - straight from God. That means it was the Lord he spoke about in verse 1 when he said "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and Word was God."
Yes, he left those ivory palaces, came into this world, and delivered the truth of God, which is: all who come believing, receive, by grace, the power to become true children of God.
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.