Friday, September 29, 2017
Our world is full of questions and the longer that I live the more questions I have myself. I’m sure that I share this attitude with a lot of you. In fact, people today are questioning things that many took for granted not too long ago–should I stand during the national anthem? How many genders are there? Etc. In my line of work I am inundated with questions every day. Just the other afternoon I received within the span of one hour questions about parenting, what I believed about the age of accountability, how to write a devotional, and what time I was going to be home. As your pastor I must admit to you that I don’t have all the answers to every question posed to me and some questions are easier to answer than others. However, I will also submit to you that the Bible does provide explicit answers to the most fundamental questions of life—questions that are more important than any of the inquiries I’ve raised thus far. Today we are going to answer two of these from Romans 6:8-14. As Paul continues his exposition on salvation, he provides some important doctrinal comments on the nature of salvation and its implications for the lives of believers. Therefore, without further ado, let’s ask and answer away!
“How do people know they are really alive?”-6:8-11
The reader will notice that Paul often repeats himself when he believes something is worth reiterating. Like many compelling teachers today, Paul understood that repetition leads to retention; repetition leads to retention; repetition leads to intention. In 6:1-7, Paul taught that the believer is freed from sin via Christ’s death and resurrection. In verse 8 he restates the same general proposition when he says, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,…” (6:8). While many were tempted to interpret this truth to mean that salvation behaves like insurance in a bad/disastrous situation or provides a license to do just about anything, Paul has made it clear that this promise of renewed life is not merely futuristic, but immediate. “This is not a promise of life after death with Christ in heaven, but of a life to be lived out here and now” (Mounce, 152). This life, ironically enough, is made possible via one’s death in Christ. In one of the most acute paradoxes in all of history, death, far from being simply a negative concept, is in fact the gateway to life. To the question, “How do I know if I am truly alive?” Paul says “by recognizing whether or not you have died and been raised with Christ.”
Galatians 2:20-“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ live in me; and the life which I not live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.”
To place it in the simplest terms, to live one must die. The foundation of the gospel itself is fixed to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
However, not only is salvation founded on Christ’s work on the cross and in the empty tomb, it is rendered complete by the same redemptive activities—“Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him,…” (6:9). Having been raised from the dead, Christ cannot die again. This separates Jesus’ experience from his friend Lazarus. Ultimately, Lazarus was not resurrected in the proper sense of the word. He was merely made alive again only to die sometime later. Jesus, on the other hand was resurrected to glorious perfection for all eternity. Christ’s resurrection broke forever the tyranny of death. That cruel master can no longer exercise any power over him or those who follow Him. “The cross was sin’s final move; the resurrection was God’s checkmate. The game is over. Sin is forever in defeat. Christ, the victor died to sin ‘once for all’ and lives now in unbroken fellowship with God” (Mounce, 152).
The efficiency of Christ’s completed work on the cross and in the tomb is further described in verse 10—“for the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God” (6:10). Two grammatical phenomena help highlight the efficacy and completeness of Christ’s work. First, the verb “died” is aorist (past tense) meaning that this action is final and complete. Second, “once for all” (efapax) describes an “altogether decisive unrepeatable event.”
Hebrews 7:27-“Who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself,”
Hebrews 9:12-“And not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”
Hebrews 10:10-“By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
In all of these contexts, the same verb is used to stress the once-for-all nature of the sacrifice of Christ—once for all sin, once for all time, and, at least potentially, once for all mankind (respectively).
By reminding his audience that salvation involves unity with Christ’s death and life, describing for his listeners that Christ’s works is complete, and commenting on the efficacy of Jesus’ sacrifice, Paul argues that salvation is an enduring phenomenon. This is important, for, if salvation in Christ is an complete, it cannot be lost once it is bestowed. After all, as Paul reminds in verse 8, “we died with Christ.” This means that all of the persevering and amazing qualities of salvation that Christ enjoyed are made real for his followers who never need to look for another sacrifice somewhere else down the road. Interestingly, this bears out even on a grammatical level. Because of Christ’s death (past, final, complete), believers can enjoy the “life that he lives” (present, ongoing, progressive).
Such a life is to be lived, as Christ demonstrates “to God.” This means that God and his glory is the aim of a salvation and this leads to the second truth proclaimed in this passage. This leads to another important inquiry that Paul answers for us in 6:12-14.
“How do we know to Whom or What people are Beholden?”-6:12-14
If all that Paul has shared about salvation is true (namely that we have died with Christ and been raised to new life, that Christ’s work is complete, and that salvation is efficient for all), then, he continues, “…, do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies so that you obey its lusts” (6:12). In this verse we move from Paul’s teaching on salvation to its appropriate application (from the indicative to the imperative). Before, Paul was sharing information about what salvation really is. Now, Paul is issuing a command that naturally follows.
As stated earlier (see verse 8ff), in Christ believers have died to sin and are alive to God. Therefore, these must base their daily lives on that truth and live out this perspective. It follows then that believers are no longer to allow sin to reign in their mortal bodies. Here, “sin is personified as a…ruler (‘do not let sin reign…’) who would make us obey the cravings of our bodies that are destined for death. But in Christ we have died to sin. Sin no longer has the authority to enforce its demands. [Christ’s] death has severed the relationship” (Mounce, 153).
But what does this look like? How does one transfer his/her allegiance from sin to God following the application of Christ’s death and resurrection? Paul provides us with the steps believers should take so that they live out what they are in verse 13—“do not go on presenting the members of our body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness” (6:13a). The verb used is a present progressive and literally means “do not be continuously presenting the members,…”.
The human person is a marvel to behold. When God created people, he endowed them with remarkable gifts (instruments) that are capable of great things. Recently, I have been watching a documentary series on architecture that celebrates some of mankind’s creative capacity. Amazing structures along with advances in science, cures for diseases, beautiful music, humanitarian effort, etc. all demonstrate how mankind’s creativity, reasoning, intelligence, and concern can be used for good. That said, the misuse of these gifts has also been the impetus behind great atrocities. An artist’s creativity is capable of showcasing the obscene. Hitler’s genocidal program during the holocaust was based on a mis-appropriation of reasoning and misapplication of what he believed about evolutionary science. Today’s university, although originally intended to be places that fostered critical thinking and real debate, have become experimental safe-spaces in which feeling good has replaced learning truth. The creativity that once birthed operas and symphonies is now used to demean women and advocate for debauchery in much of the music we hear on the radio today. Human concern and passion is often directed toward the self instead of others. In all of these cases, the instruments God has provided are misused and unrighteousness results.
Some commentators believe that Paul was employing a military analogy here with “instruments.” If this is true, Paul is saying “Do not let sin take command of any part of your body and use it as a weapon for evil purposes.” Believers, in an effort to live in accordance with their salvation are not to hand their talents over to be used in these ways.
Instead, Paul says “present (lit. ‘be presenting’) yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (6:13b). Alive with Christ, believers are to put themselves at God’s disposal. Their bodies are to be devoted to Him as instruments of righteousness. Barclay writes “we are faced with the tremendous alternative of making ourselves weapons in the hand of God or weapons in the hand of sin.”
In a summative statement, Paul concludes “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under the law but under grace” (6:14). As Paul made clear earlier, the law is only capable of identifying when people fail—it cannot make anyone righteous. Now, because of Christ, believers have grace—the unmerited favor of God that allows them new life in Him. Because of this, sin is no longer the believer’s master—Jesus is!
Under the regime of sin, the forces of evil exploit people’s God-given instruments for nefarious purposes that lead to death. Because of the believer’s salvation in Jesus Christ, the forces of grace use our God-given instruments for righteousness, resulting in the Glory of God! How do we know to what or to whom we are beholden? Paul says, look at how you and your “instruments” are being used.
I wonder if you are able to correctly answer these questions today. Do you know whether or not you are truly alive today? Do you know to what or to whom you are ultimately beholden? Paul has argued in this passage that only those who have died in Christ know life both now and forever. He also concludes that one’s allegiances are betrayed in the way one’s life is being used. I’m sure many of you came here today with all kinds of questions—questions about what is going on in the world around you, questions about the church and if it really even matters to my life, questions about the future, etc. While I may or may not be able to provide a compelling answer to all of these inquiries, I can at least tell you that Jesus is the only way to know life and allegiance to Him affords the greatest blessings of all. In a world of questions, here are at least two answers that we can all walk away with today.
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
As we near the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it is interestingly that we find ourselves back in the book of Romans. Romans proved to be the inspiration behind Martin Luther’s conversion and, in many ways was also the impetus behind his 95 thesis. Some of the truths that Romans espouses concerning the nature of salvation were celebrated throughout the Reformation period by means of slogans like–sola gratia, and sola fide (grace alone, faith alone). These slogans illustrate that against many heresies and tendencies that were present within the Catholic Church, the Bible teaches that people are saved by grace through faith. This is a helpful reminder as we reenter the book of Romans where we left off a couple of months ago—Romans 6:1-7. However, in order for us to appreciate where we are in this book, we have to remind ourselves of where we’ve been and what Paul has taught up to this point. Paul spent the better part of four chapters (1-4) explaining how all are lost—the irreligious, the religious, even the devout Jew—and in need of a salvation. Real salvation comes, according to chapters 4-5 by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ (not works, not ethnicity, not religion) and this provides peace with God (5:1) where division and wrath once reigned. However this grace-heavy teaching raised several questions that Paul decides to address in Romans 6. Today we are going to tackle the first of these questions and its answer as found in Romans 6:1-7.
a. The Inquiry: Are we Free to Sin?-6:1
Paul opens chapter 6 with a provocative question, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin...” Though the inquiry posed in verse 1 of chapter six seems strange, it is not without precedent. In fact, the question, although rarely articulated today, is in many ways how people who profess to be believers live. This was true of Paul’s day as well, especially within the church of Rome. With their salvation fixed, at least in their own minds, many believed that they had the spiritual insurance necessary to live as they please. As far as they understood things, no matter what they did, in the end, they would be fine. Salvation became, for these, insurance.
However, not only does Paul address this question because of how many people chose to live (and continue to live today); he provides an answer because of something that he said earlier. In 5:20 Paul states, “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,…”. Paul seemed to claim that where there is an increase in sin there is an even greater increase in grace. This helps explain the rationale behind the question in verse 1 of chapter 6, “what shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?”. The fact that Paul addresses this question suggests that some were prone to twist Paul’s teaching on grace and salvation through faith so that they might justify all kinds of behaviors in the name of allowing grace to shine all the brighter. Heaven forbid anyone stand in the way of grace,…right?
But there may be another reason Paul addresses this here. This question may have stemmed from conscientious Jews who felt that Paul’s doctrine of salvation by faith alone would encourage moral irresponsibility. These believed that if salvation was by grace and faith alone (sola gratia, sola fide), people might believe that they had a license to do whatever they wanted.
We give out licenses to people of all kinds: license to marry people, sell insurance, practice law/medicine, fly, drive, etc. In every case, these licenses provide certain freedoms to those who have them. Some religious Jews believed Paul was giving people a license to do whatever they wanted when he taught that grace through faith saves.
The people to whom Paul was writing were either using grace as insurance or believed that grace provided people with a license to do just about anything. Both are unfortunate understandings of salvation which is why Paul believed it necessary to answer this question and, in so doing, demonstrate what Christian freedom in Jesus is really all about.
b. The Answer: We are Free from Sin!-6:2-7
To the question “shall we continue in sin so that grace may increase?” Paul answers, “May it never be!” (6:2a). This is one of the strongest ways to answer negatively in the Greek language—“By no means!” “Never under any circumstance!” To the person who believes salvation offers a license to do whatever he/she wants and to the person who believes that salvation is merely insurance to use in the end Paul says “you are sorely mistaken.”
To make matters even more poignant, Paul answers this inquiry with an inquiry of his own—“How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (6:2b). For Paul to describe the relationship between believers and sin with death is to say something about the separation involved. Death is the great separator. In fact, death separates in ways that are more profound than age, geography, or status. When the Bible describes the believer as “dead to sin” it means that believers are far removed from its control. This is taught throughout Paul’s writings (and the writings of others) elsewhere.
Colossians 3:5-“Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry”
1 Peter 2:24-“And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”
These verses mean that believers now have an option where they once did not. Before salvation, people could not help but fall into sin. Now they do not have to. Origen writes on the “death to sin” concept in the following: “To obey the cravings of sin is to be alive to sin; but not to obey the cravings of sin or succumb to its will, this is to die to sin.”
To drive this point home, Paul makes use of a concrete analogy that is present to this day—Baptism. He says in verse 3—“Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?...” (6:3).
For us to appreciate the symbol Paul is using here we have to identify what Baptism means in this context. Baptism has a long history in the Bible. The first ever baptism was witnessed when a group of Hebrew slaves entered the Red Sea on dry ground fleeing the oppression of Egypt. Upon coming up out of the water on the other side, these were freed people heading to the Promised Land.
Thereafter, baptism was utilized by the Jews as a purification ritual in which defiled Jews would bathe in what was called a mikvah (a primitive baptismal pool) in order to be ceremonially cleansed. They went in a defiled sinners and out cleansed and ready for worship. Sometime later John the Baptist entered the scene and really stirred things up. He was baptizing people for repentance and preparation for the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. People went in confessing sinners and came out expecting the Messiah! Finally, following Pentecost, Baptism was employed as an identifier of Christianity. Converts in the first century were baptized shortly after repenting of sin and placing faith in Christ as a testimony of their conversion. Those who took this step were following the example of Jesus and others before them. In spite of all of their differences, one thing is consistent about all of these different baptismal programs—identity change. Hebrews marked a change from slavery to freedom, Jews marked a change from defiled to purified, John’s disciples marked a change from sinners to expectant repenters, and believer’s baptism marks a change from death in sin to life in Christ! This final iteration of Baptism is what Paul is referring to here.
The act of believer’s baptism is a symbol of what Christ accomplished on the cross—burying sin and raising new life. When believers follow the Lord’s example in baptism they illustrate death to sin via Christ’s cross. When he died, so too did the old sinful self that ran the show prior to salvation. Sin now “lies on the other side of the grave for those who have in Christ died to it. Here, Paul asks, ‘How can we who have died to sin ‘breathe its air again?’” (Mounce, 149).
Continuing on with the image of Baptism Paul says “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death,…” (6:4). Burial certifies the reality of death (inasmuch as we only try to bury those who have passed away). Baptism symbolizes this when the new convert is submerged into the water. However, death and burial are not the end of the story. Following death and burial to sin is resurrection to new life—“so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so to might we walk in newness of life” (6:4b). Just as Christ was raised from the dead in glory, so to are believers raised to an entirely new way of living that is drastically different from their old way of life. This is symbolized via baptism as the convert is taken up out of the water. Jesus promised this new life for believers in John 10:10 when He said “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
On this new life one commentator has written the following: “Although contemporary use has tended to trivialize the expression ‘born again,’ the vibrant reality of new life in Christ is still portrayed most graphically by the metaphor of spiritual rebirth. The lives of believers are to be as different from their preconversion days as life is from death” (Mounce, 150).
As nice as the symbol of Baptism is, what is represents is all the more profound. Believers were actually “united with Him in the likeness of His death”—that is Jesus’ death on the cross. When He died, so too did our old sinful selves. This is good news, for, as Paul says in verse 5, “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of HIs death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection” (6:5). As He proved the victor over sin and death by overcoming the tomb, so also are believers set free from the bondage of sin.
Why is this so important to understand? The answer is provided for the reader in verse 6, “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin” (6:6). “We were crucified in order that our sinful nature might be stripped of its power.” The phrase “might be done away with” more literally translated means to “reduce to a condition of absolute impotence and inaction, as if it were dead” (Sanday & Headlam, 158). The believer’s death with a crucified Christ has divorced us from the power of sin and death! The believer’s life with a resurrected Christ has made new life possible free from sin.
This is Paul’s point when he says, “For he who has died is freed from sin” (6:7). Because the old self has been rendered powerless by means of Christ’s crucifixion, it is no longer necessary for a person to be enslaved to its power.
Later, Paul will teach that sin always leads to death—“For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). However, Christ’s death on the believer’s behalf satisfies this program. Sin led to his death and believers died to sin via His sacrifice on Calvary. However, new life overwhelmed death in the resurrection of Jesus, allowing believers to enjoy freedom from sin and its implications—“but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). “In Christ we are set free. Since sin exhausted itself in bringing about death, from that point forward it is powerless to overcome new life” (Mounce, 151).
Those who ask the question that Paul poses in this passage—“Are believers free to sin?”—reduce salvation to either insurance to use in case of emergency or a license to do whatever they want. To this question Paul says “May it never be!” Why should believers grieve the loss of sin’s power and visit its tomb by endorsing its many manifestations? Sin has been exhausted in the death of Christ and overwhelmed in His resurrection. This has freed believers from sin’s bondage and given them new life. We are not free to sin, we are free FROM sin! Praise the Lord!
Is your view of salvation incomplete today? Have you, up to this point, incorrectly assumed that salvation is merely insurance to have on hand if things go south? Have you cheapened the grace of God by using it as a license to do whatever you want? God didn’t send His Son to die on a cross and conquer a grave so that we could go on living the same way that we once did. He did all this so that we might have a new life and exchange the chains of sin for the freedom that is inherent in Jesus. Does this exchange still need to be made in your life today?
Sunday, September 10, 2017
The phalanx is an ancient Grecian military formation that was used in the warfare of years past. It was comprised of a company of men armed with shields, spears, and other weapons that organized themselves in a rectangle formed by identically situated rows of tightly packed soldiers. This formation allowed the phalanx to move in the midst of heavy opposition toward its target and remains one of the most important innovations in history. The phalanx’s success allowed the Grecian empire to remain a world power and was even adopted by other city-states as the best way to achieve military success. However, its success depended on the involvement of each and every soldier situated in its configuration. One weak link could compromise the whole formation. Such a formation needs to be revisited in the church today. In our war for the souls of men, too many have become uninvolved in the battle, have broken ranks, and have contributed to weakness in the body of Christ. This is why we must understand how to maximize our involvement, so that we might be used to press God’s kingdom forward and yield the greatest opportunity for the fourth and final component of showing Christ well--increase. Having already discussed the importance of identifying those in need of Jesus, identified how integral it is to make strategic investments in their lives, and commented on the necessity of invite these to make a decision concerning Jesus, today we are going to look at different ways to get involved so as to yield the increase. Paul provides the church in Galatia with six ways to get involved in the mission of God as each member prayerfully partner with the Holy Spirit in Galatians 6:1-10.
I. OCCUPATION #1: DOCTOR-6:1
As Paul brings his letter to the church in Galatia to a close, he gives a series of encouragements intended to correct wrongdoings, bring resolution, and promote good behaviors. Here, Paul begins by immediately calling to mind those within the church that have been “caught in any trespass.” The context suggests that Paul might be speaking of a specific kind of trespass that was common in many to the church plants of his day. After Paul established a church, preaching a gospel of grace and freedom in Christ, Jews would often come in after he left, supplementing the good news with religious activity. These were called Judaizers and they demanded that those who wanted to be truly saved be circumcised and follow specifically Jewish commands. Many in the church would have been caught up in this clandestine form of legalism and at this point in Paul’s letter, would have received their share of this corrective word.
So what was the church in Galatia supposed to do with people who had been caught up in this mess? Those who were spiritual were to restore them. The “spiritual” label assigned to these restorers suggests that they, unlike their troubled counterparts, were filled with the Spirit of God and understood the true nature of the gospel. This teaches that no matter what the trouble may be, legalism, habitual sin, heresy, etc. those who are filled with the Spirit in the church must be used to restore its members into right fellowship. This is not always the easiest assignment and can sometimes prove painful. In fact, the word “restore” in its most literal sense means to re-set a broken bone. However painful it may be, restoring those who have fallen is necessary in the life of the church.
However, those who restore others must do so with all humility, “looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (6:1). The one who is used of God to restore a brother or sister in Christ must watch out, lest they fall into the same sin that they are addressing in the restoree. No temptation is beyond anyone and everyone, given the right scenario in a moment of weakness could fall prey to any number of things. Therefore, spiritual restorers are those who understand this risk and are careful to watch out! Such a mindset places the helper alongside the one helped (not in front of or behind) as they cooperate in their journey back to right fellowship.
II. OCCUPATION #2: MOVER-6:2-3
The next challenge that Paul gives the church involves bearing burdens. Here, the burdens are not to be considered as bad weights that the world or sin thrust upon the individual. Instead, these “burdens” are responsibilities (see 6:5, 17). Such burdens are heavy for a reason. They are not heavy for the sake of being heavy.
God thrusts enormous responsibilities on His children for the expressed purpose of delighting in watching them work together to achieve the impossible. Their commitment to each other and cooperation also satisfies the heart of the entire law (i.e. to love God and love others). The responsibility the church in Galatia and the church today has been given of spreading the gospel to a lost and fallen world is the greatest of all responsibilities, not to mention the most difficult. However, as the church works together to accomplish this mission, the church reveals its love for God and love for their fellow man.
This truth makes what Paul says in verse three so applicable (6:3). Anyone who goes through life on their own is kidding his/herself. Similarly, anyone in the church working to fulfill the mission of God all on their own is sorely mistaken. The burden is too great and you and I on our own are too small. Again, this is by design. God does not task the Christian with something huge so that he or she might figure out a way to accomplish it on their own. Instead, he makes things hard so that believers are forced to work together to get things done. Therefore, it was not appropriate for individual groups to have formed factions in the church of Galatia, standing alone to do what they felt was right. The same is true today. No one who thinks they have everything going on has anything going on.
III. OCCUPATION #3: SOLDIER-6:4-5
The next challenge Paul issues is directly related to the previous encouragement given. Something must be laid aside if a believer can assist others in championing the mission of the gospel and that is conceit (i.e. an attitude that breeds intolerance of error in others and causes on to think he/she is above others). The cure for this is found in self-reflection, “but each one must examine his own work” (6:4). Instead of comparing one-self to others, the believer is instructed of Paul to take an objective look at his/herself and what God has used them to accomplish.
This reflection will allow the believer to be content with what God has done in and through his or her life. This is not to say that the believer can become prideful in a sinful way, but rather boast privately in God’s grace demonstrated in his or her life.
In his address of spiritual introspection, Paul identifies the responsibility of all believers. Spiritual people are responsible for their own needs. The word “burden” found in verse 5 (translated “load” in the NASB) is a different word than the one used in verse 2. Here, it calls to mind a soldier’s backpack. Paul adopted this idea to encourage the Galatians to see themselves as soldiers of Christ, setting out on their march and taking care of their business instead of comparing themselves to others and promoting competition. If every soldier takes care of their own supplies, the entire troop can accomplish the mission set before them most effectively. Ultimately, each believer is responsible for his or her “pack” (life and service) before God.
This image need not be lost the church today. Truly, the church is still at war and we are soldiers in the Lord’s army, each given our own pack of supplies (talents, resources, etc.) to use in the battle for souls. However, these spiritual packs are not intended to prop up ourselves so that we might be the war hero—that position has already been awarded to Jesus Christ. Instead, they are to be used for the good of the church in its mission.
IV. OCCUPATION #4: BENEFACTOR-6:6-“…The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him…”
In the next challenge for involvement, Paul describes something that was discussed at length in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8. One responsibility or way to be involved in the mission of God is to financially support the ones who teach them the Word of God--"the one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him" (6:6). In Galatia, the Judaizers had influenced some of the believers to slack off in their support of the teachers, a special group who were giving their full time to this ministry and who reimbursed for their labors (1Cor. 9:7-14). Therefore, this admonition was a clear correction for them to share all good things with those who share the Word of God.
V. OCCUPATION #5: FARMER-6:7-8
Before the audience had an opportunity to respond to this fourth challenge, Paul challenges them further with “do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” Though the connections to the previous verse and challenge are unmistakable, Paul is expanding this challenge to introduce a more broad principle. Each sower, or church member in first Baptist Galatia, will decide what his harvest will be. Collectively, the church of Galatia would decide what they would reap as a harvest by what they were willing to invest in the field. The same is true in any church today.
If people in the church sowed seed that pleased their selfish and sinful nature, they would reap a harvest that would quickly dwindle and fade into oblivion. This seed comes in many varieties: greed, pride, division, entitlement, comfort, etc. No one wants to plant this kind of seed in the fields of ministry. This leads only to corruption (6:8).
Instead, people in the Galatian church were encouraged to sow seed in keeping with the Spirit. Such seed, whether financial or otherwise, would be used to grow a crop that would last into eternity and no doubt show up in the life of the church as the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,…”
Want to be involved in the church? Be a nurse repairing broken people, a mover who helps with the heavy lifting, a soldier who takes care of his pack to move the mission forward, a benefactor who supports the ministry, a farmer who plants good seed in preparation for a glorious harvest.
VI. OCCUPATION #6: CHEERLEADER-6:9-10
Paul embodies the final character that he encourages in this passage in verse 9-10—the cheerleader, “let us not lose heart in doing good.” Paul knew, as many understand today, that believers can become discouraged as they go about their jobs because no matter how hard they work and how much they sow, the harvest may be a long way off. In the face of this reality, Paul charges the Galatians with this word of encouragement which simply says, “Don’t give up!
But why shouldn’t the church in Galatia give up? Why should any church ever give up? Because the reaping will come at God’s proper time. Though believers may not be involved when the harvest comes in, God awards perseverance with results in His perfect timing. Though He might pull us out of the game before it is over, victory will be ours if the team does not give up!
Therefore, “while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (6:10). In other words, while we are in the game, let us work our tails off until God calls us out. The way believers were to contribute in Paul’s day are encouraged to contribute today is through good works, especially for those in the church! These include anything you could ever imagine that shows God’s love to others and points them to Christ. Deeds like this are like line received passes in the end zone!
There are a host of ways to be involved in God’s kingdom building work. The doctor, the mover, the soldier, the benefactor, the farmer, and the cheerleader illustrate that we all need to do our part in partnering with God in achieving His mission at this church for His glory. Every church is its own phalanx, moving forward in God’s mission in the battlefield of this city for the souls of men. Each church member stands shoulder to shoulder with their own set of gifts, talents, and abilities, working to move the mission ahead in the midst of the heat of war. However, when we fail to involve ourselves in the mission, the whole configuration is compromised as weaknesses in our formation are exposed. Don’t be caught idle! There is battle underway, a war to win, and a goal to reach. It is time to get involved! A church cannot expect increase if all of its parts/members are not contributing in God’s mission of showing Christ well in faith.
Monday, September 4, 2017
Typically, people only dare to peruse the book of Revelation if they have a question about prophecy or if they are taking an upper-level course in biblical studies. Few appreciate that Revelation holds so much more than meets the eye. This comes perhaps because the Book of Revelation has proven to be an enigma ever since it was first written. This complex mixture of prophecy and apocalypse (with letters also present just to spice things up), is difficult to interpret. That said, it must be mined as it is God’s last inspired word for His church. There is so much one can learn about Jesus in Revelation and, interestingly enough, there is much to be learned about the church as well. As it pertains to our study on the mission of Crystal Spring Baptist, the very end of Revelation has a message that will help motivate us toward accomplishing another component of showing Christ well. This third component of showing Christ well can be summarized in the word “invite.” In Revelation 22:12-17, we are given four motivations for inviting people to Jesus Christ.
I. MOTIVATION #1: THE TIME IS NEAR-22:12-13
The first reason why we ought to be inviting people to respond to Jesus (that is after we have identified those who need Him and have invested in them appropriately), is because the time is near—“Behold, I am coming quickly…” (22:12a). The tenor of this verse reads as follows—“pay attention; stay alert; I’m coming soon!” Jesus makes it clear here that Christians ought to live as though Jesus could appear any moment. If He was coming “quickly” 2000 years ago, imagine how much nearer He is today!
“It is later than it has ever been.”
Matthew 24:37-38-“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”
Matthew 25:1-12-"At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. "At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' "Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' "'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.' "But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. "Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!' "But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.'”
Jesus is near and His immanence ought to motivate us as we seek to invite people to engage the gospel. After all, you do not know the day or the hour (Matthew 25:13). You or I might be the last person someone engages before the trumpet sounds!
What makes the immanence of Jesus’ return so significant is what He is returning with—“and my reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done” (22:12b). Jesus is returning to judge the righteous and the unrighteous. Therefore, people ought to be ready. There are only two kinds of people that Jesus will find when he comes again: those who do good and will be rewarded because of the presence of Christ in their lives, and those who cannot help but do evil because they are without a relationship with Jesus. This is why it is so important to be about the business of showing Christ to others—identifying, investing, and inviting them to trade a life of sin for a life of righteousness.
How can we trust this? Because the one who utters these words is “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Interestingly, this phraseology forms an inclusio in the Book of Revelation. It was first uttered in Revelation 1:8.
Revelation 1:8-“I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’”
In Revelation 1, the phrase is applied to the “Lord God.” In Revelation 22, it appears to apply to Jesus Christ (see the connection with verse 16), thereby supporting His divinity and authority over
all. John made a similar case in the first chapter of his gospel.
John 1:1-3-“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”
If Jesus is divine (like God), then there is no reason to believe that He is not also omnipotent and omniscient like the Father. If this is the case, then Jesus knows the ins and outs of all that has or ever will transpire. This helps establish his as the greatest authority on future predictions such as the one here. He is coming quickly and we ought to be about the work of showing Christ well!
II. MOTIVATION #2: THE OPTIONS ARE PRESENTED-22:14-15
The second motivating factor that this passage offers is a clear set of options. As already intimated earlier, there are two kinds of people in the world that Jesus will confront when he returns. These two groups are described in more detail in verses 14-15. First, there are the righteous—“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city…” (22:14). This verse describes the redeemed whose robes are as white as snow and these might be compared to the 24 elders found throughout the rest of John’s Apocalypse.
Revelation 4:4-“Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.”
However, the purity of the robes is also reminiscent of the bride described in Revelation 19 at the much anticipated marriage supper.
Revelation 19:8-“It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
Regardless of the potential connections between Revelation 22 and what precedes it, one thing is clear, those whose robes are in good condition are those who will be blessed upon the Lord’s return. These, the text continues, will have access “to the tree of life.” Such access has been prohibited ever since Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden (after having eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil). This access will provide the redeemed with eternal life. Not only that, but the redeemed will also enjoy access to the city that was described in Revelation 21:10ff.
Revelation 21:10ff-“And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb… I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
These blessings are available to all who possess the blood-washed garments of righteousness. These will have eternal life and gain admittance into the presence of God! Why wouldn’t we want to invite those that we know to enjoy this?
Those who will not be enjoying these blessings are called “outsiders,”—“outsiders are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who lives and practices lying” (22:15). Though no one in their right mind would voluntarily choose to associate with such a crowd, every human being who is without Jesus belongs to this motley crew. The Bible holds no punches in describing those who are without the righteousness of God. This, among everything else mentioned thus far, ought to propel us to more urgently invite people to engage the gospel of Jesus Christ!
III. MOTIVATION #3: REVELATION HAS BEEN GIVEN-22:16
The third motivating factor that ought to propel us toward people and invite them to engage Jesus is the fact that revelation has been given—God Has revealed himself and His message. This was true concerning the revelation made available to John and it is true about the revelation offered to the world. In John’s case Jesus says, “I, Jesus, have sent My angels to testify to you these things for the churches…” (22:16a). In other words, Jesus had something of value to disclose about what was coming in the end for the seven churches to which Revelation was originally penned. This revelation was made available through the heavenly intermediaries that God appointed for this self-disclosure.
However, John’s Revelation also speaks to the church today as does all of the revelation that God has provided. Whether in creation or most supremely in the person and work of Jesus Christ, God has revealed Himself to the world. This means two things. First, we believe in a God who is not totally aloof and so transcendent that he cannot be known (at least in part). God is a revealing God and as such is a knowable God (at least on some level). Second, this means that all are responsible for the revelation they’ve been given and how they’ve responded to what God has disclosed of Himself.
If God is a revealing God, ought we not join Him in the efforts He endorses to make Himself known? Ought we be about the business of inviting people to engage the revelation of God in creation and in His Word? Believing in a great big God is one thing; believing that we can know Him personally because He has made Himself known is even more special.
So what does God reveal when He makes Himself known? The short answer—Jesus. Jesus seemed to preoccupy what was revealed to John in the rest of verse 16—“I am the root and the descendent of David, the bright and morning star” (22:16b). What was revealed about Jesus to John in Revelation is that He is intimately related to the people of Israel as the promised Messiah (the root and descendant of David). Jesus, in other words, will come again and save His chosen people. However, the reference to the “morning star” also describes Jesus is the brightest celestial being that outshines all others (see also Numbers 24:17). “In biblical terminology the star symbolizes the coming Savior. Both of these titles emphasize the fact that Jesus is the Messiah. He is the One who fulfills all the hopes and dreams of the prophets” (Hindson, 226).
Though what is revealed about Jesus in Revelation 22:16 is contextually informed and appropriated, whenever God’s revelation is provided, it draws attention to Jesus in some way, shape, or form. This is due to the fact that Jesus is God at His most knowable. He is the greatest revelation of God and to see Him is to see the Father.
John 14:9-“If you have seen Me you have seen the Father”
Hebrews 1:3-“The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”
Therefore, not only ought we to be inviting people to Jesus because God has made Himself know, we should be all the more excited about drawing people’s attention to God’s revelation because in so doing, we are pointed to the greatest revelation possible—Jesus Christ!
IV. MOTIVATION #4: THE INVITATION IS OPEN-22:17
At the end of this passage, several different agents make an appeal to respond to what has been said. The first invitation is given by the Spirit and the Church, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come’” (22:17a). This invitation is made via those who are fulfilling the great commission (Matt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15) empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:8-“but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
In concert with the Holy Spirit, the church calls out to the world (irrespective of time, space, ethnicity, socio-economic status, etc.) COME! Such an invitation has echoed throughout the halls of history ever since Jesus commissioned the twelve and others present at His ascension. If the invitation to approach Christ is open and uninhibited. It is for everyone who will listen!
This consideration becomes all the more convicting when we hear what is said next—“and let the one who hears say, ‘Come’” (22:17b). In other words, let those who have heard and responded to the invitation of Jesus go then and invite others to do the same. This includes any and all who have repented of their sin and embraced Jesus in faith (you and me). The Spirit is saying “Come” the church at large is saying “come” but so should we as individuals invite others to “Come” to Jesus. Interestingly, the mood of the phrase changes from a simple indicative sentence (the Spirit and the bride say come) to an imperative (hortatory/command) (let the one who hears say “Come”). In other words, it is our invitation to give and we are called by God to give it!
The last appeal and invitation is made by the apostle John who writes these words—“And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost” (22:17c). This last part of the verse, like the phraseology immediately prior, is imperative. John is making an appeal to anyone reading this that says “if anyone within the sound of my voice is chasing satisfaction, let him/her find it in Jesus who gives it abundantly and without cost.” He is, after the water of life!
John 4:13-14-“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’"
What could motivate us more to be about the business of inviting those around us to engage Jesus than the fact that when people engage Him rightly, He promises refreshing and eternal life! The Spirit and the Bride and making an appeal, we are called to make an appeal, John makes his own appeal…are you?
Inviting people to Jesus is the last crucial step in showing Christ well. After identifying those who need Christ and investing in their lives in meaningful ways, we must invite them to make a decision concerning the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Maybe such an invitation comes in the form of asking them to accompany you to church. Perhaps it is asking someone to join you in prayer. Maybe it involves making an appointment with this person and the pastor to discuss unanswered questions and/or other issues. Whatever it is, in whatever form it takes, we must be about the business of inviting people to a point of decision when it comes to the Lord Jesus Christ. The time is near, the choice is clear, the greatest revelation has been made available, and the invitation is open. What invitations do you need to send out this week?