Tag Archives: Can a Christian lose salvation?

Salvation In The Time Of Jacob’s Trouble Contains An Element Of Works

Our apostle, Paul, tells us that the WHOLE BIBLE is written FOR us, but the whole Bible is not written to us. There is doctrine for the Church Age in his writings, but not all Bible doctrine can be applied to the Church Age

“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” Revelation 14:12,13 (KJV)

There are two platform Bible doctrines that the lazy Laodicean Christians in our day seem to despise more than any other. The first being the glorious doctrine of the Pretribulation Rapture of the Church, and the second being the amazing gift of eternal security given to no other dispensation in human history. We’ll start with the second one first, eternal security.

Like it or not, Christians in the Church Age cannot lose their salvation

The apostle Paul, in so many places in his writings, tells us over and over that we did nothing to earn our salvation and we do nothing to keep it. The mechanics of it are amazing, but simple. In the Church Age, when anyone becomes born again, they are SEALED IN by the Holy Spirit so they can never “fall out”. If a kind aunt or uncle gives your 5 year old child a gift card on their birthday with a $20 bill inside, do you let them be in charge of the money – or – do you “hold it for them” until they are ready to spend it? Answer – you hold it for them because you know they of their own accord would lose it. That’s what God does for you and me in the Church Age, He holds our salvation by sealing us in so we cannot “lose it” when we sin after salvation.

“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:10-14 (KJV)

In Romans 8, Paul again reminds us that there is nothing we can think, say or do that can separate us from Jesus Christ after we have gotten saved.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35,37-39 (KJV)

In no other dispensation since Adam and Eve has God given the gift of being eternally secure. In the Old Testament, in any of those former dispensations, people who fell away from the LORD died and dropped straight into the pit of Hell, and sometimes for a whole lot less of an offence than you or I might commit on a fairly regular basis. Those people were NOT “sealed in” by the Holy Spirit, and there is not ONE verse anywhere in the Old Testament showing anyone had eternal security. When King David sinned with Bathsheba, David being a man after God’s own heart, he begged God not to take the Holy Spirit from him. Why? Because David knew he could lose it for what he did, and on some levels should have lost it.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” Psalm 51:10-12 (KJV)

So we clearly see that people in the OT did not have eternal security and were not sealed in. In the time of Jacob’s trouble this will return

The Church Age, which began in the book of Acts and will continue until the Rapture, is the only dispensation that is sealed in. In the time of Jacob’s trouble which starts on the heels of the rapture of the Church, there is a return to the Kingdom Age which was in effect until Acts 7 and the stoning of Stephen. What God had “put on pause” is once again at the top of the prophecy playlist.

For lack of a better term, let’s refer to the people who follow God in the time of Jacob’s trouble as Tribulation Saints. These end times saints are faced with enormous difficulties and challenges that you can read about in detail here. And the Scripture verses that talk about the tribulation saints have something that NONE of Paul’s writings contain, can you guess what that might be? Works connected with salvation. You cannot find me ONE verse in all the Bible where Paul connects works with the born again believer’s salvation, only to their inheritance at the Judgment Seat of Christ. But for the Tribulation saint, without maintaining works pleasing to the Lord they cannot be saved. Here are just a few to illustrate what I mean.

  • “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Matthew 24:11-13 (KJV) Note: In the time of Jacob’s trouble, if you don’t endure to the end, you are NOT saved. Works all the way.
  • “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” Revelation 14:12,13 (KJV) Note: The people in Revelation 14 are Tribulation saints, and not only do they keep the commandments for salvation, their works follow them around. Christians in the Church Age are not required to “keep the commandments” for salvation.
  • “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” James 2:26 (KJV) Note: To whom is the book of James addressed? To the “12 tribes” of Israel in, and it will have it’s doctrinal application in the time of Jacob’s trouble.
  • “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” 1 Peter 2:12 (KJV) Note: Did you catch the time reference in this verse? The “day of visitation” is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, Peter is doctrinally addressing Tribulation saints.

Before we go further, let us address the difference between a doctrinal application versus a spiritual one

Our apostle, Paul, tells us that the WHOLE BIBLE is written FOR us, but the whole Bible is not written to us. There is doctrine for the Church Age in his writings, but not all Bible doctrine can be applied to the Church Age.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:16,17 (KJV)

We can read books like 1&2 Peter, Hebrews and James and derive much spiritual and prophetical application from them, but almost no doctrinal application at all. Peter, Hebrews and James are Kingdom Age books doctrinally, and will be the gospel for the Tribulation saints in the the time of Jacob’s trouble. But for Christians in the Church Age, there is much from a devotional aspect we can glean from them.

The great Mark of the Beast conundrum

I’ve asked if they believed in the Bible doctrine of eternal security that we have been discussing in this article. To my joy and surprise, they say “absolutely believed” that Christians in the Church Age are eternally “sealed” until the “day of redemption”. Just for fun, I ask again if they truly believed what they had just stated, and they reaffirmed they did. 100%.

With their now-stated belief in eternal security for Christians in the Church Age confirmed, I took them to Revelation 14 where is says this:

“And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” Revelation 14:9-11 (KJV)

I thought I could hear them either gulp or gasp when those words sunk in on. Then, without allowing them to catch his breath, I took them to Revelation 20:

“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” Revelation 20:4 (KJV)

Now they are in stunned disbelief. Why? Because I had just showed two places in the Bible where God says there is a sin that is absolutely unforgivable, the sin of taking the Mark of the Beast. If Christians were in the time of Jacob’s trouble, with eternal security, and one took the Mark what would happen? Unless God had some hidden verses to account for it, that Christian would NOT lose their salvation by taking the Mark, but in so doing, it would be in grievous violation of the two verses I just showed you.

So now we are presented with an unsolvable Bible contradiction….unless…unless…unless the Church is removed in the Rapture before the start of the time of Jacob’s trouble. Which we are – yay!

Now you need to do some thinking here, but hopefully it’s starting to sink in. If the TAKING of the Mark is the unforgivable sin in the Tribulation, and it is, then the NOT TAKING of the Mark would be a WORK connected with keeping or maintaining your salvation. Do you get it? Does it make sense now?

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)

Our apostle Paul commands us to “rightly divide” the Bible, thus proving that divisions or dispensations exist. And when we do that, like a magic decoder ring in the cereal boxes of yesteryear, we begin to see what is doctrine for us, and what is doctrine for those who come after us.

One reason why Paul is so despised by many “christian” splinter groups like the Hebrew Roots Movement, Sacred Name, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and so many others is because it is in his writings we learn of the Pretrib Rapture, Eternal Security, Salvation by grace through faith, and so many others. Why would those groups not like those doctrines?

In a word – Pride!

The lazy Laodicean “christians”  and the various cultists all have this fantasy of “working their way” through the Tribulation. Many have told me when discussing it that they want to “pay Jesus back” for His FREE GIFT of salvation. Imagine such a thing, paying Jesus back! First of all, if you somehow could “pay Jesus back” in the Church Age, you would immediately lose your salvation because it would stop being a free gift. But they don’t stop to consider finer points like that.

Secondly, cultists love to trap their followers in a system of works because that’s how they exercise control over them. It makes me laugh when people tell me they are “Torah observant” and they are “keeping the Sabbath”. No such commands were ever given to any Christian ever, and never will be. Paul says we are FREED from the keeping of the Law for salvation.

“Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?” Galatians 4:21 (KJV)

I hope this study of Scripture has helped to shed some light on how works are connected with salvation in the time of Jacob’s trouble, and why that is not the case in the Church Age we are currently in. Please click on the links below and read the studies found there to further amplify what has been taught here.

May the Lord richly bless YOUR study of His glorious word!

 

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Sinners Prayer, Is Ask Jesus into your Heart Enough?

“Do you want to be saved? Then just ask Jesus to come into your heart.” While this statement is not anti-biblical, neither is it expressly biblical. The wording generates a mental image that can easily lead to wrong impressions, especially among children, who tend to take things literally. Plus, the exhortation to “ask Jesus into your heart” if that’s the whole message leaves out some important things such as repentance and faith. The Bible does mention the fact that, in some sense, Jesus resides in our hearts: Paul prayed “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:17). But Paul is writing to believers who had already received Christ. The parallel prayer in verse 16 is that God “may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” There is no evangelistic appeal in the context of Ephesians 3. Paul is not telling the Ephesians to “ask Jesus into their hearts”; he is simply elevating their awareness that Jesus is present within them through the Holy Spirit.

The verse from which the “ask Jesus into your heart” concept is usually taken is Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Notice, however, that the verse does not mention the heart at all. Neither does the individual ask Jesus to do anything; rather, Jesus asks us to do something. In context, Jesus is speaking to the church of Laodicea, who was in desperate need of repentance (verse 19). The Laodiceans had effectively excluded Jesus from their fellowship, and the Lord was seeking to restore that fellowship. The passage does not deal with a person calling on the Lord for salvation.

The idea of Jesus “coming into your heart” is nowhere used in any preaching in the Bible. The gospel is the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sin (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Gospel presentations in the Bible exhort a proper response to that message: believe (John 3:16; Acts 16:31), receive (John 1:12), or repent (Acts 3:19). We are to change our minds about our sin and about who Christ is, believe Jesus died and rose again, and receive the gift of eternal life by faith. None of the apostles ever told someone to “ask Jesus into your heart.”

HeartOften, the exhortation to “ask Jesus to come into your heart” is used as a simple way to say, “Ask Jesus to enter your life” or “Allow the Lord to take control.” If this is done in the context of presenting the whole gospel, then there’s no harm done. But before a person is invited to “ask Jesus into your heart,” he or she should understand sin and its penalty, the payment Christ made on the cross, and the reality of Christ’s resurrection. In fact, referring to salvation as Jesus’ “coming into your heart” might even help a person understand that the Spirit of Christ comes to indwell the soul (see John 14:17). Still, it is always best to use the terminology the Bible uses. “Ask Jesus into your heart” does not fully communicate what is actually occurring at salvation.

When sharing the gospel, we should be careful what we say and how we say it. Even the word believe can be misleading if it is presented as mere intellectual assent (agreeing that certain facts are true) instead of as trust (relying on those true facts). Judas Iscariot believed certain facts about Jesus, but he never trusted Jesus for salvation. Salvation is not about believing a list of facts. Salvation is not about asking Jesus to come into your heart. Salvation is not even about asking God to forgive you. Salvation is about trusting in Jesus as your Savior, receiving the forgiveness He offers by grace through faith. Salvation is about being made new through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).

Faith and salvation is given freely and the Holy Ghost, “Christ within” us is not something we can earn. IT DOES HAPPEN, and should happen, according to scripture.

Another way to present this opportunity for JESUS to come inside and abide would be to follow the example of the ORIGINAL 11 disciples of Christ, Paul/Saul the “one born out of due time”, and the early church as recorded in the book of Acts (Acts, Is the only place in scripture will you will find the verbatim preaching of an anointed man of God, preaching to a “lost soul”/sinner/unregenerate human, and telling them how they should respond to (obey) the gospel AFTER THE RESURRECTION of Jesus.) Acts 2/Acts 8/ Acts 10/ Acts 19; etc)

James said, “As the body without the spirit is DEAD, so is FAITH WITHOUT WORKS”, action. (Faith, which can only be given by God, is the conduit through which the saving “grace” of God MUST flow.) WORKS/ACTION IS WHAT GIVES FAITH LIFE, else it is dead. Faith must be defined by scripture, and CAN NOT BE EARNED.

THERE IS NOT ONE ACTION OF SALVATION which is contrived or earned by MAN, it is all freely given by God through Jesus Christ, AND IT MUST BE RECEIVED AND OBEYED by Jesus, THE WORD, AND THE HOLY GHOST WORKING IN US.

I personally believe it’s much better to just preach the same “Gospel” the apostles preached which is;

THE BIRTH of JESUS
THE LIFE of JESUS
THE DEATH of JESUS
THE BURIAL of JESUS
THE RESURRECTION of JESUS
(an example of the “faith of Jesus Christ, “thy will be done” and it was “DONE”/ACTIVATED/”WORK”ED OUT through the actions of JESUS CHRIST)

THE RESPONSE of the faith of JESUS Christ moving the heart/mind/spirit of a convicted “sinner” which brings about confession of sin and repentance. (Death)
Acts 2:37 “Men & brethren, what shall we do?”

The work of JESUS CHRIST moving in the heart on that human to follow Him in burial through water baptism in “the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” Act 2:38

The continuing WORK OF JESUS CHRIST to fill that human soul with His Spirit/Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit (Resurrection Spirit the “1st fruits” of the coming resurrection) For the promise is to “ALL that are afar off, even as many as THE LORD our GOD shall call.” Acts 2:39

ALL OF THIS IS THE WORK OF CHRIST AND MUST BE FULFILLED IN FAITH, else it would ALL be in vain.

This is the scriptural was the “ask JESUS into your HEART.”

It’s AWESOME AND REAL!! “Taste and see.”

So now that I have covered this completely, Yes, asking Christ to come into your heart is definitely Biblical. Heart and soul are synonymous in Scripture, and they refer to a person’s mind, will and feelings, meaning their intellect, volition, and emotion.

Having Christ established firmly in those three areas is probably the most accurate and Biblical way of describing the process of Salvation from the penalty of sin. It is also important to see the other two aspects of salvation: from sin’s power (which we work out daily with fear and trembling) and its presence which we will experience when Christ comes to take us home.

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Faith or Works

Paul had been making the point that, although the requirements of the law that God gave to Israel were good and just, they were ineffective as a means of providing salvation or eternal life, since no one was capable of perfect obedience to the law through their works.

If it had been possible for people to perfectly satisfy God’s requirement for holiness through their own efforts or actions, they would then be entitled to boast of this accomplishment, and consider themselves superior to others because of it.

However, because no one was capable of perfect obedience to the law of works, God in mercy made salvation and eternal life possible through Christ’s incarnation, sinless life, atoning death, and resurrection. The law of works has thus now been replaced by the law of faith, which grants salvation not on the basis of our actions but as a result of faith in Christ’s finished work of redemption to make us acceptable in God’s sight.

As a result (as Paul said), no one now has a right to boast of their own works as the means by which they have been saved, since salvation is gained entirely by faith in God’s actions (not our own), which puts everyone on an equal footing.

The “law of faith” is thus not a written code (as the law of works was), but the means by which God (through Christ) now grants eternal life, which opens the possibility of salvation to all (Gentiles as well as Jews).

Boasting is excluded because of the law that requires faith, not works, because to place our faith in Christ is humbling, whereas to claim any work earning us our Salvation would be boasting.

To say, “I placed my faith in Christ” or “I accepted Christ as my Saviour” isn’t something we can boast in, for by doing so we admit several things that are contrary to the nature of pride:

1) We acknowledge that we are sinners.

“This is a trustworthy saying, worthy of full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. But for this very reason I was shown mercy, so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His perfect patience, as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” I Tim 1:15-16

By acknowledging our sin, we place the glory on Christ for His mercy in saving those who believe, not in anything we did. The proud will either not admit their sin (I John 1:8) or they will love their sin and hide from anything that might convict them regarding it (Jn 3:19-20)

2) We acknowledge that we are under condemnation for our sin and need rescue.

By placing our faith in Christ, we are humbly admitting that the just penalty of our sin is death (Rom 6:23, Jn 3:18) and hence we need saving. The proud will often deny they need saving at all.

3) We acknowledge that it is Christ alone who can save.

The proud will not admit that Christ is the only one who can save them and deliver them from death to life. If they believe they need saving at all, they look to themselves for saving (karma, good works, enlightenment, etc.)

4) We acknowledge that Christ saves us out of His mercy as a free gift to those who believe.

By acknowledging that salvation is a free gift offered by Christ, we humbly admit that it is not something ‘owed’ to us for our own merit, nor did Christ ‘have’ to die on our behalf to bring salvation. (Rom 6:23, Rom 5:16, Rev 22:17, Tit 3:5)

During Paul’s ministry, the fact the gospel was open and preached to Gentiles as well was a huge stumbling block for the Jews, who thought the Messiah was to come in power to overthrow Rome, not die to let Gentiles be reconciled to God. (I Cor 1:23-24) The fact that salvation was free, to all sinners, was also a stumbling block to the proud pharisees.

As God's Chosen People5) We acknowledge that Christ has all authority and is Shepherd of our lives.

By placing our faith in Christ we submit to Him, dying to sin and self (I Pet 2:24-25, Eph 4:22, Col 3:9). We then, in humility, submit to Christ (Eph 5:24). Our whole lives become humble service to our King (Rom 12:1, Col 3:23-25, Heb 9:14) 6) Faith leads us to continual humility in regards to our fellow man Just as faith leads to a lifelong submission to Christ, so faith also leads us to submit to one another (Eph 5:21) and continually keep a proper perspective in our dealings with others in the church (II Cor 10:7-18, Gal 5:13)

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. For it is l not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” II Cor 10:17-18

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Rom 12:3

So then, faith is in every way contrasted with boasting, for it is based in humility, in a proper regard for one’s position in regard to Christ. If a man proclaims, “I have placed my faith in Christ!” this is not a boast, but humility, for he is testifying that, “I was a sinner under condemnation for my wicked deeds, one in need of Salvation, a salvation that only Jesus the Messiah could provide. I believe the Messiah is who He claims, with all authority given to Him. I have repented and given my life to Him, have died to myself and risen with him, and God for the sake of Christ’s righteousness and His glory shall grant me eternal life.”

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Get to Know God Better

Everyone knows that God exists. “God has made it plain” that He is real, “for since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20). Some try to suppress the knowledge of God, most try to add to it. The Christian has a deep desire to know God better (Psalm 25:4).

In John 3 we read about a man who clearly wanted to know God better and who became more studied than most in the things of God. His name was Nicodemus, and he was a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews. This Nicodemus knew that Jesus had come from God, and he was truly curious to learn more about Jesus. Jesus patiently explained to Nicodemus how he must be born again (verses 3-15). In order to know God better, Nicodemus had come to the right person “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). Jesus is indeed the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14). Jesus revealed God through His words and works. He even said that no one comes to the Father but by Him (John 14:6). If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus.

Sons and DaughtersSo, we must start with faith. The first step in knowing God better is to know Jesus Christ, who was sent from God (John 6:38). Once we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can truly begin to learn about God, His character, and His will. “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10). By contrast, “the person without the Spirit . . . cannot understand [the things of God] because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (verse 14). There is a difference between the “natural” man and the “spiritual” man.

Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.” It cannot be emphasized enough how the study of God’s Word, the Bible, is paramount to knowing God better. We must, “like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it [we] may grow up in [our] salvation, now that [we] have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2-3). God’s Word should be our “delight” (Psalm 119:16, 24).

Those who are learning more about God are also those who obey the command to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Born-again believers always have the Holy Spirit, but Ephesians 5:15-21 teaches us to walk in the Spirit and surrender to His will.

Prayer is also an important part of knowing God better. As we pray, we praise God for His character and for what He has done. We spend time with Him, relying on His power and allowing the Spirit to intercede for us “through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).

Also consider that one can get to know God better by fellowshipping with other believers. The Christian life was not meant to be lived alone. We learn more about God through the preaching of God’s Word and the godly counsel of those who walk with Him. Make the most of your church experience, get involved, do small-group Bible study, go witnessing with fellow believers. Just like a log ablaze on the hearth soon goes out when it is removed and placed aside, so we will lose our fervor for God if we do not fellowship with other believers. But put the log back into the fire with the other logs, and it will burn brightly again.

To summarize how to get to know God better: 1) Accept Christ as your Savior. 2) Read His Word…it is alive (Hebrews 4:12). 3) On an on-going basis, be filled with the Holy Spirit. 4) Seek the Lord through Prayer. 5) Fellowship and live out your life with the saints (Hebrews 10:25).

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Introduction and Background to 1 Corinthians

Introduction

A number of years ago, one of the seminary students in our congregation left for a summer ministry in the South. During that week, we received word that his car had broken down on the way and that he was stranded. It was reported as a matter for prayer, but in jest, someone suggested the church send “Bob” to fix the car. My response was that, while I may be able to “heal the sick” (automotively speaking), I am not able to “raise the dead!”

While a student in seminary, I became friends with a student who was a veterinarian. I always teased him by telling him his ministry could be preaching in a church that was going to the dogs. I wonder just how one would feel about being sent to a church like the one in Corinth, as described in the two epistles of Paul to the Corinthians. Frankly, from a purely human point of view, the situation in Corinth appears to be hopeless.

And yet when we read these introductory verses to this epistle, Paul is positive, upbeat, and optimistic. His prayers concerning this church are filled with expressions of thanksgiving. How can this be? How can Paul be so positive and optimistic as he communicates with this church? One thing is certain—it is not because of the godly conduct of many of its members.

Paul’s first words to the Corinthians are not just a repetition of a standard form, a kind of “boiler plate” greeting, as though he were using a pre-packaged computer program which needed nothing else but to fill in the name of the church. The salutation of this epistle provides us not only with a demonstration of Paul’s optimism and enthusiasm in writing to these saints, it also indicates how he can be so positive about this troubled body of believers. More than this, it begins to lay a theological foundation for Paul’s ministry and teaching as it will be given throughout the epistle. This salutation tells us not only how Paul feels about this church, but why he feels as he does. Gordon Fee has this to say about the importance of these first nine verses of 1 Corinthians:

With the elaborations of this letter Paul begins a habit that will carry through to the end. In each case the elaborations reflect, either directly or subtly, many of the concerns about to be raised in the letter itself. Even as he formally addresses the church in the salutation, Paul’s mind is already at work on the critical behavioral and theological issues at hand.

The Founding of the Church at Corinth

At the end of Paul’s so-called first missionary journey with Barnabas, the Jerusalem Council met to decide just what should be required of Gentile converts (Acts 15:1-29). When Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways, Paul took Silas with him and set out on what was to be called the second missionary journey of Paul (Acts 15:36-41). They began by revisiting some of the churches that had been founded on the first journey, delivering to them the decision of the Jerusalem Council (16:4-5).

After being divinely prohibited from preaching in Asia (Acts 16:6) and Bithynia, Paul, Silas, and Timothy ended up at Troas, where Paul received the “Macedonian vision” (16:9-10), which brought them to Philippi where a number were saved and a church was established. From Philippi, Paul and his party went to Thessalonica, then to Berea, and finally to Athens (Acts 17). From Athens, Paul went to Corinth, an ancient city of Greece, the seat of government of the Roman province of Achaia. It was in Corinth that Paul first crossed paths with a Jew named Aquila and his wife Priscilla. Like Paul, this man was a tent-maker. He and his wife had fled from Italy because of a command from Claudius that all Jews must leave Rome (Acts 18:1-3). Every Sabbath, Paul went to the synagogue, where he sought to evangelize Jews and Greeks (18:4). Eventually he was joined by Silas and Timothy, who had just arrived from Macedonia. Apparently they brought a gift from the Macedonians which enabled Paul to fully devote himself to the Word, so that he gave all of his efforts to preaching Christ (18:5).

As usual, Paul’s preaching prompted a reaction from the unbelieving Jews, so that he left the synagogue and began to concentrate on evangelizing Gentiles (18:6-7). Paul moved his headquarters to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a Gentile God-fearer who lived next door to the synagogue (18:5-7). Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, became a believer along with the rest of his household. Many other Corinthians were also being saved as well and were submitting to baptism (18:8). The Lord appeared to Paul in a vision, assuring him that there were many more souls to be saved in that city and that he was not to fear. He was to speak out boldly, rather than to hold back for fear of trouble (18:9-10). As a result, Paul extended his ministry in Corinth, staying a total of 18 months, a considerably longer period of ministry than usual.

Paul’s lengthy ministry was facilitated, in part, by Jewish litigation and by the precedent-setting ruling of Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia (18:12-17). The Jews seized Paul and brought him up on charges before Gallio. They accused him of being neither a faithful Jew nor a good citizen. They accused him of speaking and acting against the law. Paul did not even get the opportunity to speak in his own defense. Before he could open his mouth, Gallio gave his ruling. This strife between Paul and the Jews was but another instance of the in-fighting which was so typical of the Jews. Gallio was fed up with it and with them and was not about to be used by these Jewish zealots to prevail over their Jewish rivals. This was not a matter for his judgment. He threw them and their case out of court.

From all we are told of him, Gallio was a pagan who cared nothing for the Jews, the gospel, or Paul. And yet his ruling was a landmark decision, officially legitimizing and protecting those who preached the gospel throughout the entire Roman Empire. Judaism was an official religion, recognized and sanctioned by the Roman government. The Jews were seeking to convince Gallio that Paul was really no Jew and that the preaching of the gospel was not the practice of Judaism. Thus, they inferred, Paul was a threat to the stability of Roman rule. They argued that neither Paul nor any other Christian should be allowed to preach the gospel under the permission and protection of the Roman law. When Gallio refused to rule on this matter, calling it a Jewish squabble, he was declaring Paul’s preaching of the gospel to be the practice of Judaism. Christianity, Gallio’s ruling indicated, was Jewish and thus protected by Roman law. Thus, Paul’s ministry was legal, and any Jewish opposition could not claim Rome as their ally.

Gallio drove them away from his judgment seat. The Jews were furious, and in retaliation they seized Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and began to beat him in front of the proconsul. He looked on with disdain, not at all impressed or concerned. This Sosthenes seems to be the same person who is with Paul as he writes to the Corinthians (1:1).

City of CorinthThe City of Corinth

Secular history only verifies and clarifies the impression of the city of Corinth which we gain from the pens of Luke (Acts) and Paul (1 and 2 Corinthians). It was a great city in many ways. Politically, Corinth was the capital city of the Roman province of Achaia, a territory including nearly all of Greece. That is why Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, was in Corinth and heard the charge against Paul. Geographically, Corinth was so strategically located it could hardly do other than prosper. The city was situated on a plateau overlooking the Isthmus of Corinth, two miles distant from the Gulf. Nearby was the Acrocorinth, a 1900-foot mountain that was perfectly suited as a citadel for the city. This fortress was so secure it was never taken by force until the invention of gun-powder. It also contained an inexhaustible water supply in the fountain of Peirene. At the summit of Acrocorinth was the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. At the base of the citadel stood the temple of Melicertes, the patron of seafarers.

Located on an isthmus, Corinth became a crossroads for both land and sea trade. By looking at a map, one can quickly see that Corinth is situated between two large bodies of water and two land areas, and these are virtually surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. Were it not for the isthmus on which Corinth was founded, the southern part of Greece would be an island in the Mediterranean Sea. Goods exchanged between the north and south would normally be shipped by land through Corinth.

Much of the sea trade of the Mediterranean from east to west also passed through Corinth. To the west of Corinth was the port city of Lechaeum on the Gulf of Corinth. On her east was the port of Cenchrae on the Saronic Gulf. These were ports of call for ships that sailed the seas. Travel across the isthmus and through Corinth was generally considered safer than the 200-mile voyage around Cape Malea, the most dangerous cape in the Mediterranean. So dangerous was this journey by sea that the Greeks had two sayings well known to sailors in those days: “Let him who sails round Malea forget his home,” and, “Let him who sails round Malea first make his will.

To avoid the distance and danger of the journey around the Cape of Malea (now called Cape Matapan), goods would be unloaded at one port, transported across the four-mile strip of land (through Corinth), and reloaded on the other side. Smaller ships were actually transported with their cargo over the isthmus by means of rollers. Consequently, the isthmus was named the Diolkos, “the place of dragging across.” Nero had planned a canal to join the Aegean and Ionian seas, and he even began construction in A.D. 66. The three and one-half mile canal was finished in 1893.

Corinth thus became a great commercial center. Luxuries from all over the world were available, and the vices of the world were also to be found there. These evils did not all have to be imported, however, for the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was nearby with 1,000 cult prostitutes who sold themselves in the name of religion. The Greeks had a proverb about the city which tells a great deal about its moral decay: “It is not every man who can afford a journey to Corinth.” Those who were worldly wise used the verb “corinthianize” to describe an act of immorality. “Corinthian girl” was known to be a synonym for prostitute.

Estimates of the population of Corinth range from 100,000 to 600,000. The diversity of peoples who lived in this city is explained by her history. In Paul’s day, Corinth was a very old and yet a very new city. “Signs of habitation date back to the fourth millennium B.C.” Alexander made Corinth the center of a new Hellenic League as he prepared for war with Persia. In 146 B.C., the city was destroyed by Roman soldiers because it led the Greek resistance to Roman rule. All the males of the city were exterminated, and the women and children were sold for slaves. The city was rebuilt by Julius Caesar 100 years later, and it eventually became the capital of the province of Achaia. Many of those who settled in Corinth were not Greeks. A large number of Roman soldiers settled there after retiring, having received their freedom and Roman citizenship in addition to grants of land. A variety of nationalities settled in Corinth, enticed by the prospects of economic prosperity. A good number of the immigrants were Jews.

Being a relatively recent city with newly acquired wealth brought problems, for there was the absence of an established aristocracy which would have provided a much more stable society. Farrar spoke of Corinth in this way:

… this mongrel and heterogeneous population of Greek adventurers and Roman bourgeois, with a tainting infusion of Phoenicians; this mass of Jews, ex-soldiers, philosophers, merchants, sailors, freedmen, slaves, trades-people, hucksters and agents of every form of vice … without aristocracy, without traditions and without well-established citizens.

Every two years Corinth presided over the Isthmian Games, a contest in which all the Greek city-states took part. At these games, the sea-god Poseidon was specially honored.

The Occasion for Writing 1 Corinthians

After Paul had completed his 18-month ministry in Corinth, he set out for Syria with Priscilla and Aquila. On reaching Ephesus, Paul ministered for a short time, promising to return if the Lord willed (18:19-21). He left Priscilla and Aquila there and journeyed on to Caesarea, Jerusalem and Antioch (Acts 18:18-22). After strengthening the churches in Asia Minor, Paul returned to Ephesus for a much more extensive ministry. He stayed in Ephesus, teaching in the school of Tyrannus for two years. While in Ephesus, he seems to have received unfavorable reports about the Corinthian church which prompted him to write his first letter to this church, a letter which was not preserved as a part of the New Testament canon (1 Corinthians 5:9-11).

Later, while Paul was still ministering the Word in Ephesus, he heard from some of “Chloe’s people” that divisions were beginning to emerge among the Corinthian saints. In addition, Paul was informed of a case of gross immorality in the church, one with which the church had not dealt. Instead of feeling shame and sorrow over this sin, at least some of the saints were proud of their tolerance (chapter 5). He heard also of Christians taking their fellow-believers to court, seeking to have pagans pass judgment on spiritual matters (chapter 6). Paul was also told of unbecoming conduct at the Lord’s Supper (chapter 11) and of doctrinal error concerning the resurrection (chapter 15). A three-man delegation consisting of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus also arrived from Corinth (16:17) bringing a letter which inquired of Paul about marriage (7:1), virgins (7:25), food sacrificed to idols (8:1), spiritual gifts (12:1), the collection for the saints (16:1), and Apollos (16:12). It was while he was in Ephesus that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in response to the reports and questions he received there.

Paul’s Preamble
(1:1-3)

1 Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

That Paul should write such a letter as this should come as no surprise to us and certainly not to the Corinthians. After all, Paul had already written one epistle which was not preserved for us. Paul was the one who first came to Corinth with the gospel. Many of the members of the church in Corinth were the fruit of his ministry (1 Corinthians 9:2; 2 Corinthians 3:1-4). Paul wrote with apostolic authority. By the will of God, he was chosen and called as an apostle. He wrote with full authority. His words were not to be ignored.

Paul addresses his epistle to the church at Corinth and then proceeds to define the church. This is a very important definition to which we should give our full attention. First, Paul wants us to be assured that the church belongs to God. How often we hear churches identified in terms of who the pastor is. That is ______’s church, and we fill in the blank with the pastor’s name. When we do so, we indicate our deep and fundamental difference with Paul who believed that the church belongs to God. God is the One who brought the church into existence through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. God is the One who sustains His church. It is God’s church.

Generally speaking, the term “church” is defined in terms of two categories: (a) the local church and (b) the church universal. The local church is understood as that body of believers who gather regularly in one place. The “universal church” consists of all believers in every place and in the whole course of church history.

I do not wish to differ with these two definitions of the church. They are probably useful ways of considering groups of believers. But the “local church” and the “universal church” are not entirely consistent with Paul’s use of the term as he employs it in the New Testament. Here, the church is defined as (a) “those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling,” and (b) “all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 2).

We might be inclined to think of this first category as “the local church.” In a sense, it is. But when Paul speaks of the church, he simply refers to a group of believers. Sometimes this group is a “house church,” a group of believers meeting in a certain person’s home (Romans 16:5, 19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2). These “house churches” may have met in a larger gathering, as did the saints in Jerusalem (see Acts 2:46). Then, Paul referred to the “city church,” that is, the group of all believers in a particular city (see Revelation 2 and 3), or the church at a particular city (Acts 11:22; 13:1; 18:22; Romans 16:1). This is the way Paul referred to the Corinthian church, the “church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1). Finally, Paul speaks of the church as all those living at one time, who have trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation.

I fear our view of the church is either too narrow (the local church—our church) or too broad (all those who have ever lived and trusted in Christ for salvation). We pray for our missionaries, the missionaries we have sent out from our local church, or more broadly, from our denominational group. A few churches share with those in need within their own fellowship or local church. When the new believers (the church) at Antioch heard a famine was coming upon the world, they enthusiastically began to prepare to give to their brethren in Judea. They understood, even at this early stage in their growth and maturity, that the church is bigger than the local church.

When we hear of disasters taking place around the world, do we immediately begin to consider the impact on our brethren, our fellow members of the world-wide church, and act accordingly? I fear we do not, at least to the degree we should. With such rapid communications in our time, we could easily and quickly learn of the trials and tribulations of fellow believers, no matter where they are in the world. And our ability to respond is also significantly easier than it was for the saints of Antioch. Let us begin to think of the church in Paul’s terms, rather than in the narrower terms to which we are accustomed.

In this broader sense of the church, we see that Paul’s epistle, though addressed to the saints at Corinth, was also written to the church at large. Look once again at the first two verses of Paul’s salutation: “Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.”

This broader element in Paul’s salutation is important because it reminds us that “church truth” is “church truth.” That is, Paul’s teaching to the saints at Corinth is just as applicable and just as authoritative for the church at Philippi, or Ephesus, or Dallas. Too many have tried to avoid Paul’s teaching in his Corinthians Epistles by insisting he is speaking to a very special and unique problem found only in Corinth. This simply does not square with Paul’s words. His instructions to the Corinthians apply to every other saint:

16 I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church (1 Corinthians 4:16-17).

33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 34 Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says (1 Corinthians 14:33-34).

It has also been pointed out that in addressing the church at Corinth, Paul does not distinguish any one believer or group of believers from any other. We shall soon see that the Corinthian church was plagued with the dilemma of divisions. Here, Paul does not address the church other than as one group of believers, equally lost as unbelievers, and now equally saved through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, Paul is careful to emphasize that the standing of the saints in Corinth and elsewhere is solely the result of the grace of God manifested through the Lord Jesus Christ. There are no grounds for boasting, except in the person and work of Christ.

Paul’s Thanksgiving
(1:4-9)

4 I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Somehow, an expression of thanksgiving is not what I would have expected from Paul at this point in time. Here is a church that has begun to listen to false teachers and who is challenging Paul’s authority. Here is a church which condones immorality and “unconditionally accepts” a man whose sin shocks the unbelieving pagans of that city. Here is a church whose personal conflicts are being aired out before unbelieving eyes in secular courts. How can Paul possibly give thanks?

Paul does not give thanks for the sins and failures of these saints. Paul gives thanks to God for what He has done and for what He will ultimately do for His children. Paul first gives thanks for the “grace of God,” which He has given the saints in Christ Jesus (verse 4). Grace is unmerited favor, and we must surely agree that these saints—not to mention ourselves—are unworthy. The good things which have already been accomplished, and all those good things yet to be accomplished, are manifestations of God’s infinite grace, bestowed upon those who are unworthy.

Paul gives thanks for the sufficiency of God’s grace to the saints as articulated in verses 5-7.

5 That in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God’s grace to the saints in Corinth and everywhere was boundless. He enriched them in everything. They were enriched in all speech and all knowledge. This was achieved through the preaching of the “testimony of Christ,” as it was confirmed in each and every believer. The Corinthians had no critical need for which God had not made provision through the apostolic preaching of Christ. Were there false teachers who indicated the Corinthians were lacking and that they needed more of something? They were liars! God had already provided all that was necessary for “life and godliness” in Christ (see 2 Peter 1:2-4). No gift was lacking in the church. God had provided just the right gifts for the growth and maturity and ministry of the saints in Corinth. If the church at Corinth was failing, it was not due to any failure on God’s part to provide for their needs, but rather a failure on their part to appropriate these means.

Finally, Paul expressed his thanksgiving for the faithfulness of God and the resulting assurance that He would complete that which He had begun in the Corinthian saints (verses 7-9). Elsewhere, Paul put it this way:

6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

12 For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day (2 Timothy 1:12).

These saints were eagerly awaiting the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ (7a). Their salvation had not only the past and present benefits, referred to earlier, but a future hope. As motley a crew as this Corinthian church proved to be, their salvation and security were God’s doing. Consequently, Paul had great confidence concerning this church and the future of each saint. Paul thanked God because He would confirm these saints to the end. What God had started, He would finish. They were secure, and their hope was certain, just as Peter also writes:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

While these Corinthian saints may not consistently be faithful, God is faithful. It is through His faithfulness that each believer has been called to salvation. It is because of His faithfulness that we will persevere and enter into His kingdom, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

No wonder Paul is thankful. In spite of the stumbling and sin which is evident in the Corinthian church, God has saved the saints there. He has sufficiently provided for their every spiritual need. He has purposed to present them faultless when He establishes His kingdom. Paul therefore is assured that his ministry is not in vain, because the salvation and sanctification of the saints in Corinth and elsewhere are the work of God. The God who called these saints and destined them for glory is the God who called Paul to be an apostle and to minister to these saints. Paul’s work is not in vain, for his work is ultimately God’s work.

1 CorinthiansConclusion

Paul is writing to a very troubled church, a church which exists in the midst of a very corrupt city and culture. In spite of this, Paul has a very confident mood as he addresses the saints at Corinth and around the world of his day and ours. I notice that in spite of the weaknesses and willful sins of these saints, Paul does not begin by questioning the reality of their conversion, but by affirming the present and future benefits. There are texts which do question the reality of the faith of persistently wayward professing believers, but this is not one of them. These saints need to be reminded of the certainty of their salvation. The certainty of their salvation rests not within themselves, but in the One who called them and the One who will complete all that He has begun. This certainty also assures Paul that his continued ministry to this church is not in vain.

This book of 1 Corinthians should cause us to reject the myth of the perfect New Testament church. We often refer to ourselves at The House of The Nazarene as a “New Testament church.” We are that in the sense that our church is patterned after the principles set down in the New Testament. We have no one “pastor,” who is the head of the church, but we recognize that Christ is the only Head of the church. We are governed by a plurality of elders. We have a weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, and we encourage believers to exercise their spiritual gifts in a way that edifies the whole body. We do not wish to imply by the expression “New Testament church” that we are a perfect church or even that we are a good church at all times.

So often Christians look back to the New Testament times as though the church in those days was nearly perfect. If you read the Book of Acts the way I do, there is a wonderful period of bliss in the infancy of the church, but this lasts only from late in chapter 2 to the end of chapter 4. In chapter 5, a couple is struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit. In chapter 6, there is strife between two groups of Jews over the care of their widows. And by the time we get to the Corinthian church, it is far from perfect and hardly what could be called good. The final words of our Lord to the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2 and 3 are not complimentary either. The church was not perfect in New Testament times, and neither is it perfect today. The same sins which Paul exposes in 1 and 2 Corinthians are present and evident in evangelical churches today. And so Paul’s words of admonition and correction are just as applicable to us today as they were to the saints of his day.

We deceive ourselves if we think we can retreat within the church walls to escape the evils of the world. The Corinthians Epistles inform us that the world too easily and quickly finds its way into the church. The church is not the place where we go to escape from sin; it is the place where we go to confront our sin and to stimulate each other to love and good deeds. The church is not a Christian “clean room” where we can get away from sin; it is a hospital, where we can find help and healing through the ministry of the Word and prayer.

The church is not the place which is kept holy by keeping sinners away. It is the place where newly born sinners are brought, so that they can learn the Scriptures and grow in their faith. All too often, new believers feel unwelcomed by the church. The church is afraid of newly saved sinners because they do not really understand holiness or sanctification. Let us not strive to preserve the purity of the church by keeping out the newly saved pagans. Let us strive to preserve the purity of the church by throwing out some of the professing saints who boast only of the time they have put in at the church but whose profession of faith is hypocritical (see 1 Corinthians 5).

If there was hope for the Corinthians, then there is hope for anyone. The first nine verses of this epistle are saturated with reason for hope. Do you know someone who is hopelessly lost, who is not just disinterested in the gospel but adamantly opposed to it? Then take hope from the two men from whom this letter is sent. The apostle Paul was once Saul, the Saul who stood by and held the garments for those who stoned Stephen, the Paul who went from city to city seeking to find Christians whom he could arrest and even put to death. This man is now willing to give his life for the sake of the gospel.

If I understand the text correctly, Sosthenes is another Saul. In Acts 18, we are told that Crispus, the synagogue leader in Corinth, came to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It appears that Sosthenes is his replacement. I understand him to be the leader of the opposition to Paul and the church in Corinth. At his instigation, it would seem, charges were brought against Christianity before Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia (Acts 18:12-17). When Gallio refuses to hear this case, it is clear that Paul and the church have won. In frustration and anger, the unbelieving Jews turn on Sosthenes, their leader, beating him as Gallio watched, unmoved. Now, Sosthenes is a traveling companion of Paul’s, a brother in the Lord. Two of the most hostile unbelievers are now brothers in the Lord. Is there hope for the lost? There most certainly is!

If there is hope for the lost, there is also hope for those who are saved but whose life falls far short of the standard set by the Scriptures. Here is a church that seems almost beyond hope. There are divisions, immorality, and opposition to the apostle Paul and to apostolic teaching. Is Paul discouraged? Does Paul give up hope? No! Paul’s first words to this church are those of hope and confidence. Paul’s confidence and hope are not in the Corinthians, in their good intentions, or in their diligent efforts. His hope is in the One who called him and who called the Corinthian saints as well. His hope is in the fact that God has abundantly provided for every spiritual need in that church. His hope is in the faithfulness of the God who started the good work in these believers and who is committed to bring it to completion.

Have you ever felt that a loved one or a friend were hopeless? They may be a believer, but their life is a mess. This epistle reminds us that there is hope for such a saint. Have you ever felt that you were beyond help, beyond hope? This epistle is for you. Its first words to you remind you of the character and the work of God in the saints, through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Cease trusting in yourself, in your good intentions, in your efforts, and once again place your trust in the One who alone can save and sanctify. Heed Paul’s words of warning and of instruction. If there is hope for Saul and Sosthenes and for saints at Corinth, there is hope for anyone.

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Had it not been for a place called Mount Calvary

“Had it not been for a place called Mount CalvaryHad it not been for a place called Mount Calvary
Just suppose God searched through Heaven, And couldn’t find one willing to be,
The supreme sacrifice that was needed,
That would buy eternal life for you and me
Had it not been for a place called Mount Calvary,
Had it not been for the old rugged cross,
Had it not been for a man called Jesus,
Then forever my soul would be lost Well I’m so glad He was willing to drink His bitter cup,
Although He prayed “Father let it pass from me”,
And I’m so glad He never called Heaven’s angels, From these hands,
Pulled the nails that torment me Had it not been for a place called Mount Calvary,
Had it not been for the old rugged cross,
Had it not been for a man called Jesus,
Then forever my soul would be lost Then forever my soul would be lost.
I believe in a hill called Mount Calvary I believe whatever the cost And when time has surrendered And earth is no more I’ll still cling to the old rugged cross.
Oh, I believe, that this life With its great mysteries Surely one day will come To an end,
oooh.
But faith will conquer The darkness and death And will lead me at last To my friend.
Oo-ooh.
I believe, that the Christ Who was slain, at the cross Has the power to change lives today,
For He changed me completely A new life is mine That is why by the cross I will stay I believe in a hill called Mount Calvary,
oooh.
I believe whatever the cost And when, time has surrendered And earth is no more I’ll still cling to the old rugged cross.

SALVATION PRAYER!

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Does Acts 22:16 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation

This is the argument used by some people, even some theologians, for Baptism is necessary for salvation:

“Without obeying Scripture, there’s no salvation. The bible clearly and directly teaches that without baptism, and the general obedience that follows hearing the Word, there is no salvation. Mark 16:16, “He that believeth AND is baptized shall be saved;” Acts 2:38, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, AND be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” Eph 4:4-6, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Mat 3:15, “And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.” Jesus travelled about 40km to get to John for baptism, so that He could leave us an example. There is the case of the thief on the cross – he was saved because of two principles at work. One, he had no time to be baptized, but you and I have. Two, God is Sovereign, He’s not answerable to man or to any being, animate or inanimate. And He exercised that Sovereignty in the case of the thief. He has also commanded that we baptize all who believe – that’s the bible’s teaching. Matt 28:18-19 There’s no single case in the bible where anyone accepted the teaching of the apostles, then went without being baptized as a saved person. None whatsoever. EVERYONE who believed was baptized – by full immersion in water. A. Acts 8:38, “And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.” B. Acts 10:46-48, “For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” C. Acts 2:41, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized:” D. Acts 8:12, “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” E. Acts 9:18, “And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.” (Paul himself was baptized, after Jesus was resurrected). I could go on and on. Yet there’s no single incident where anyone was accepted into the faith any other way other than through baptism.”

WELL! A little pompous a person can be, and is arrogant and conceited. It’s an inflated ego attitude! Would you agree?

But what does the Bible really say?

As with any single verse or passage, we discern what it teaches by first filtering it through what we know the Bible teaches on the subject at hand. In the case of baptism and salvation, the Bible is clear that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works of any kind, including baptism (Ephesians 2:8-9). So, any interpretation which comes to the conclusion that baptism, or any other act, is necessary for salvation, is a faulty interpretation. For more information, please visit our webpage on “Is baptism essential to the Christian life?

I also need to answer the question: “Origin of Baptism

Acts 22:16, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” The first question that must be answered is “when was Paul saved?”

water-baptism-whatshotn1. Paul tells that he did not receive or hear the Gospel from Ananias, but rather he heard it directly from Christ. Galatians 1:11-12 says, “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” So, Paul heard and believed in Christ on the road to Damascus. Paul had already believed in Christ when Ananias came to pray for him to receive his sight (Acts 9:17).

2. It also should be noted that Paul at that time when Ananias prayed for him to receive his sight that he also received the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17)–this was before he was baptized (Acts 9:18). Acts presents a transition period where God’s focus turns from Israel to the Church. The events recorded in Acts are not always normative. With regard to receiving the Holy Spirit, the norm is that a person receives and is permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation.

3. The Greek aorist participle, epikalesamenos, translated “calling on His name” refers either to action that is simultaneous with or before that of the main verb, “be baptized.” Here Paul’s calling on Christ’s name for salvation preceded his water baptism. The participle may be translated “having called on His name” which makes more sense, as it would clearly indicate the order of the events.

4. Concerning the words, “be baptized, and wash away your sins,” because Paul was already cleansed spiritually at the time Christ appeared to him, these words must refer to the symbolism of baptism. Baptism is a picture of God’s inner work of washing away sin (1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Peter 3:21).

5. It is also interesting that when Paul recounted this event again later in Acts (Acts 26:12-18), he did not mention Ananias or what Ananias said to him at all. Verse 18 again would confirm the idea that Paul received Christ as Savior on the road to Damascus since here Christ is telling Paul he will be a messenger for Him concerning forgiveness of sins for Gentiles as they have faith in Him. It would seem unlikely that Christ would commission Paul if Paul had not yet believed in Him.

6. LastlyHe exercised that Sovereignty in the case of the thief.” Wow some say that God can contradict Himself! That’s a dangerous slippery slope to try to stand on!

Can I get an Amen?

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Prayer of Protection

Psalm 91, King James Version (KJV)

A thousand shall fall at thy side – Though a thousand should fall at thy side, or close to thee. This alludes to the manner in which the pestilence often moves among people. A thousand enemies may fall upon thee on one side, and ten thousand may fall upon thee on thy right hand, but they shall not come nigh thee to take away thy life. It is a promise of perfect protection, and the utmost safety.

And ten thousand at thy right hand – Compare Psalm 3:6. The word “myriad” would better represent the exact idea in the original, as the Hebrew word is different from that which is translated “a thousand.” It is put here for any large number. No matter how many fall around thee, on the right hand and the left, you will have nothing to fear.

But it shall not come nigh thee – You will be safe. You may feel assured of the divine protection. Your mind may be calm through a sense of such guardianship, and your very calmness will conduce to your safety. This refers, as remarked above, to a “general” law in regard to the judgments of God. It is true that others, beside the dissipated, vicious, and debased, may be the victims; but the great law is that temperance, soberness, virtue, cleanliness, and that regard to comfort and health to which religion and virtue prompt, constitute a marked security – so marked as to illustrate the “general” law referred to in the psalm before us.

The words of Psalm 91 are some of the most beautiful words in the Bible. Look at them for just a moment:

91 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;

10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.

16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

These are wonderful words of comfort. They speak of God as the Protector of those who trust in Him. They promise that while many will suffer destruction, the one who has trusted in God, who has fled to Him for safety, will be delivered. Are these words really true? Can we find comfort in them this afternoon? We certain can! Let me show you why they are true, and why they can bring us great comfort as we grieve over the death of one whom we knew and loved or whatever your situation happens to be at this moment.

We have a divinely inspired commentary on these verses in the New Testament, which shed much light on the meaning and application of this psalm to us. In the temptation of our Lord, Psalm 91:11-12 are quoted by Satan to our Lord, at the time of His temptation in wilderness (Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:10-11). Satan challenged Jesus to throw Himself down from the temple, and to be divinely delivered from death, to show that He was the Messiah. He tried to convince Jesus that since Psalm 91 promised deliverance from suffering and death, God would deliver Him.

Jesus responded by referring to the Scripture which forbade putting God to the test. There is much more that Jesus could have said, and did not. What Satan would only later learn is that the promise of Psalm 91 was to be fulfilled through the suffering and death of Jesus, on the cross of Calvary. God could promise deliverance to those who trusted in Him because Jesus would suffer in their behalf, and would rise from the dead, the Victor over sin, and death, and Satan. Psalm 91 was not Jesus’ excuse for avoiding the cross, but His reason for going to the cross.

Just as Psalm 91 was no guarantee that Jesus need not suffer. Indeed, the suffering of Jesus was the reason why the saints are protected and removed from suffering. The important question is this: “From what sufferings are the saints delivered? From what dangers and destruction are we delivered?” Psalm 91 does it promise us that the saints will be delivered from all suffering. Many Scriptures, the experience of many saints (biblical and otherwise) and our own experience, make it clear that Christians do suffer. Let us look more carefully at this psalm to determine what suffering we are promised to be delivered from.

The Psalm begins with the strong statement that God is our refuge, our fortress, our place of safety (verses 1-4). There are two kind of people mentioned in this psalm, and they have two very different destinies. The one group is delivered from destruction, and the other group is destroyed. The all-important need here is to determine what it is that some are delivered from, which is also the means by which others are destroyed. Our text cannot mean that those who trust in God are all delivered from suffering and death, and that those who do not trust in God suffer and die prematurely. The psalm which comes immediately before our text speaks of that suffering and short life which the godly experience, as a result of living in a fallen, sin-tainted world:

1 Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were born, Or Thou didst give birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God. 3 Thou dost turn man back into dust, And dost say, “Return, O children of men.” 4 For a thousand years in Thy sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or {as} a watch in the night. 5 Thou hast swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew. 6 In the morning it flourishes, and sprouts anew; Toward evening it fades, and withers away. 7 For we have been consumed by Thine anger, And by Thy wrath we have been dismayed. 8 Thou hast placed our iniquities before Thee, Our secret {sins} in the light of Thy presence. 9 For all our days have declined in Thy fury; We have finished our years like a sigh. 10 As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is {but} labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away. 11 Who understands the power of Thine anger, And Thy fury, according to the fear that is due Thee? 12 So teach us to number our days, That we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom. 13 Do return, O Lord; how long {will it be}? And be sorry for Thy servants. 14 O satisfy us in the morning with Thy lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad according to the days Thou hast afflicted us, {And} the years we have seen evil. 16 Let Thy work appear to Thy servants, And Thy majesty to their children. 17 And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And do confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands (Psalm 90:1-17).

Psalm 90, written by Moses, speaks of the eternal nature of God and the very temporal nature of man. With God, a thousand years is nothing. For man, 70 years is a long life, and even these years are filled with sorrow and labor. This brevity and painfulness of life is explained by Moses as the result of God’s holiness and man’s sin. The solution to this problem of pain, and the hope of the believer is not in this life, but in the next. It will come with the return of the Lord. It will come “in the morning”. It will come in the future. The solution is not to be found in the deliverance from death, but in a deliverance after death. While it is not clearly stated in this psalm, it would be correct to say that death itself is a kind of deliverance for the Christian, for it removes us from the effects of sin, from pain and suffering and sorrow, and it takes us into the eternal joy of the presence of our Lord.

The destruction from which the believer is delivered is not the suffering and pain and even death of this life, but from the judgment of God, from the “second death” of eternal separation from His presence. This deliverance is so clearly described in yet another psalm, Psalm 73.

1 Surely God is good to Israel, To those who are pure in heart! 2 But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling; My steps had almost slipped. 3 For I was envious of the arrogant, {As} I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For there are no pains in their death; And their body is fat. 5 They are not in trouble {as other} men; Nor are they plagued like mankind. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; The garment of violence covers them. 7 Their eye bulges from fatness; The imaginations of {their} heart run riot. 8 They mock, and wickedly speak of oppression; They speak from on high. 9 They have set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue parades through the earth. 10 Therefore his people return to this place; And waters of abundance are drunk by them. 11 And they say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?” 12 Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased {in} wealth. 13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure, And washed my hands in innocence; 14 For I have been stricken all day long, And chastened every morning.

15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I should have betrayed the generation of Thy children. 16 When I pondered to understand this, It was troublesome in my sight 17 Until I came into the sanctuary of God; {Then} I perceived their end. 18 Surely Thou dost set them in slippery places; Thou dost cast them down to destruction. 19 How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors! 20 Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, Thou wilt despise their form. 21 When my heart was embittered, And I was pierced within, 22 Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was {like} a beast before Thee. 23 Nevertheless I am continually with Thee; Thou hast taken hold of my right hand. 24 With Thy counsel Thou wilt guide me, And afterward receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven {but Thee}? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For, behold, those who are far from Thee will perish; Thou hast destroyed all those who are unfaithful to Thee. 28 But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Thy works (Psalm 73:1-28).

Here Asaph, the psalmist, expresses his faith, a faith in God as the Good God, to those who trust in Him. His problem was that while he trusted in God as the One who was “good” to Israel, his experience was that the righteous suffered, while it was the wicked who prospered. He had contemplated giving it up, he confessed, for his piety seemed to be of little profit.

This was until he came to see his life through a different perspective–a heavenly, eternal one (verses 16ff.). He then realized that the prosperity of the wicked was exceedingly short-lived. Their eternal fate was destruction. The righteous, on the other hand, have all of eternity to enjoy the blessings of God’s presence and power.

Prayer of God's Protection!

Prayer of God’s Protection!

In the light of eternity, the sufferings of this life are but a small price to pay when compared to the blessings of eternity. But even the sufferings of this life are not “evil”. They are truly “good” for the saint, for in these times of suffering, God seems even nearer to us, especially as we are drawn nearer to Him. The ultimate “evil” in life is to be separated from God, and if affluence and a life of ease turns us from God, this absence from pain is really an “evil”. The ultimate “good” in life is fellowship with Him, enjoying His presence. If suffering in this life enables us to experience His presence in a deeper way, then it is truly “good” and He is “good” for bringing this adversity into our lives.

This is why we can find comfort in Psalm 91. Not because it promised us a long, trouble-free life on this present earth, but because it assures us that in Christ we would escape the wrath of God. In this life, we do not need to fear danger or even death, for He will raise us from death to eternal life, in His presence, free from pain and sickness and sorrow. That is our hope, and thus we can rejoice in our sufferings and death.

This hope is not for everyone, but only for those who have turned to God for their security and safety. Jesus Christ suffered the wrath of God, and by faith in Him, we may be sheltered from it. If you would share this hope, you must trust in our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. May you experience the joy and the hope which we can receive, even in our sickness and pain.

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Praying for God’s Provision

How should I pray for God to provide?

Praying for God’s Provision asking in accord with God’s Word

God is aware of our physical needs, and it is His delight to provide for His children. When we face times of need or we want increased funds for a specific project, we are to bring our petitions to God. By seeking Him first, we will be able to discern God’s direction through the provision or lack of funds, and He will be glorified as He provides for us and directs us according to His will.

Honor these truths as you ask God to provide for your needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus:

Ask as a Child of God

The Lord’s Prayer begins with these words: “Our Father which art in heaven”(Matthew 6:9). By faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation, we become members of God’s family. “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26).

As God’s children, we can depend on His fatherly care“Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31–33).

Ask in the Name of Jesus Christ

Our justification before God rests in the work of Jesus Christ. “. . . Ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus . . .” (I Corinthians 6:11). It is only through Jesus that we can approach God and make requests as His children. Therefore, when we pray “in Jesus’ name,” we are acknowledging our need for Jesus, recalling God’s mercy, and stating our justified position before God through the gift of salvation in Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us.

As we pray in the name of Jesus, our prayers should reflect the nature and character qualities of Jesus that are represented in His name. For example, Jesus is the Light of the World. Therefore, asking God to bless a shady business deal would not reflect Jesus’ nature, since as Light, He would expose the wrong instead of approving dishonesty. Our prayers should align with the purity, mercy, justice, and righteousness of Christ.

Ask for the Sake of God’s Glory

The Lord’s Prayer continues with this phrase: “Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9).God’s glory is precious to Him, and He consistently displays it before men. As you pray, frame your requests in light of God’s glory and His reputation.

For example, when the Israelites sinned against God in the wilderness, He was ready to destroy them until Moses prayed that He would consider His covenant and His reputation. “I prayed therefore unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed through thy greatness, which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Remember thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; look not unto the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their sin: lest the land whence thou broughtest us out say, Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land which he promised them, and because he hated them, he hath brought them out to slay them in the wilderness” (Deuteronomy 9:26–28).

Also, in the days of Israel’s evil King Ahab, God moved to overcome the armies of Syria, because the Syrian captains had taunted that God was not able to overcome them. Even though Ahab’s ways displeased God, He gave Ahab the victory to prove His power over the Syrians. “And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the Lord, Because the Syrians have said, The Lord is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the Lord” (I Kings 20:28).

Ask on the Authority of God’s Word

Our prayers should be guided by the Word of God. As we study the Bible to gain understanding and to learn about God’s nature, we will have more confidence and direction in prayer.

When Nehemiah prayed for God to allow the Israelites to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he based his prayer on what he knew of God’s nature and on a clear promise in God’s Word. Before he went to appeal to King Artaxerxes, he prayed with these words:

I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandest thy servant Moses. Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandest thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: but if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there. Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man (Nehemiah 1:5–11).

Ask to Fulfill God’s Will

The Lord’s Prayer continues, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). When we ask God to provide for us, our petitions should be based on what we know of His will according to the Bible. As we understand how God’s Word relates to our lives, we can have a clear basis for effectively praying about our relationships, circumstances, finances, possessions, priorities, and attitudes.

For example, we know that it is God’s will that we walk in holiness. (See I Thessalonians 4:7.) Therefore, if we seek money, possessions, or promotions that would hinder Godly living, we are not praying according to God’s will. Also, God wants us to learn patience, and patience comes through tribulation. (See Romans 5:1–5.) Therefore, if we pray for God to remove a difficult situation that He has designed as a tool to teach us patience, our prayers are not in line with God’s will.

The prophet Daniel discerned that it was God’s will for His people to return to the Promised Land, which led him to fervent prayer: “I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: and I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession . . .” (Daniel 9:2–4).

Ask With a Discerning Heart

God promises to provide for our needs, which include food, clothing, and shelter. When God provides for these needs, we should not put those resources toward other things. For example, a person may enter into a major financial obligation and presumptuously expect God to provide the funds for it. Then, when God provides funds for food or clothing, that provision is mistakenly seen as evidence of His approval of the large financial obligation. It is important to discern between God’s provision for our basic needs and His provision in other areas.

Ask in Accordance With Scriptural Principles

Scripture relates that the laws of the harvest impact our giving and receiving. When the Apostle Paul urged the Corinthian believers to give cheerfully and generously to meet the needs of others, he said, “. . . He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (II Corinthians 9:6). A sower knows that he will reap what he sows, where he sows, more than he sows, and in a different season than he sows. Reaping the harvest requires patience!

In the life of Christ and the experience of the Apostle Paul and others, God often provided for their needs through the gifts of those to whom they had ministered. Also, in the early Church a widow’s support was based on her investment in the lives of others: “Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work” (I Timothy 5:9–10.) We should lead a generous life and trust God to provide for our future needs.

Ask Without Telling God How to Provide

If we assume we know how God will provide for our needs, we can easily develop attitudes of presumption, impatience, and ungratefulness, along with a tendency to show favoritism to those who have much to give. When God does not provide in the ways we expect, our disappointment can breed resentment toward God and the people to whom we looked for assistance.

God wants our focus to remain on Him for all of our provisions. For this reason, He will often provide what we need through totally unexpected sources. His resources and frame of reference reach beyond what we can comprehend!

Hey!

Hey!

Ask Without Demanding to Be “Repaid”

Sometimes when people give money, they expect God to give the same amount of money back to them. It may be that God will provide funds, but we should not count on them. Instead of funds, He may provide the actual items we need, new or used. He may provide intangible gifts, such as increased faith, joy, and peace. He may bless what we already have and cause it to last, as He did when the children of Israel were in the desert for forty years and their clothes and shoes did not wear out. (See Deuteronomy 29:5.)

Ask in Surrender to God’s Will

It is tempting to manipulate a situation so that what we desire comes to pass. However, taking a situation into our own hands usually leads to conflict, frustration, and discouragement. In order to truly seek God’s will and not our own, we should consider the benefits of receiving our request and the benefits of not receiving our request.

In this way, our expectations balance out and we can pray with a heart surrendered to God, trusting that He will do what is best for us and most glorifying to Him. When we have just as many reasons to thank God for not granting something to us as we have for receiving something, then we can take true delight in seeing God perform His perfect will, whatever it may be.

“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4–7).

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