Christ verses Ancient Idol Worship

In light of what we shared on idol sacrifices in ancient societies, I thought we should show the influence Christianity had on the Gentile pagans that were offering these sacrifices.

Our source for this information is Pliny, The Younger. He was the Roman governor from 111-113 AD in Pontus and Bithynia. Both of these areas are north of the seven Revelation churches in what is modern day Turkey. We will quote from his correspondence with Emperor Trajan concerning Christian persecution.

“I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that THE TEMPLES, WHICH HAD BEEN ALMOST DESERTED, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, LONG NEGLECTED, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now VERY FEW PURCHASERS could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded.” (Emphasis mine)

As you can read, so many people had accepted the Lord as their Savior, the pagan temples were almost deserted and revenue from the purchase of animals for pagan sacrifices was way off. Idol worship was no match for the power of the Gospel. It is only when the government starts killing the Christians that some deny Him. Let me share part of what preceeds the above quote. After telling Trajan how he had dealt with the Christians up to that time, he says the following:

Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ–none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do–these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.

They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food–but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.

God has blessed our brothers and sisters who did not deny Him in the face of death. They are with Him. Pliny on the other hand, if never came to Christ, has spent the last 1900 plus years in the place of torment. I wonder what he thinks of Christ now?

In closing, we heard Pliny’s testimony that so many people believed the gospel that hardly anyone was going to the temples. Such is the power of the Gospel!

Through Roman government eyes we can see how Christians were viewed and, in times of persecution, were murdered. The persecution usually stopped for a while when an emperor died and a new one assumed office or for some other reason. It was during these times after persecution that the church had to decide on what to do with all the people who denied Christ and now wanted to come back to the church. It was a big dilemma for the church leaders who, if they survived the persecution, normally bore the scars of persecution.

Paul shared this saying with Timothy and I think it deserves our reflection:

“It is a trustworthy statement:

For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;

If we endure, we shall also reign with Him;

If we deny Him, He also will deny us;

If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.” (II Tim 2:11-13 NASB)

May you and I be faithful unto death, whether due to old age or persecution for Christ’s sake.

Carl

Ancient Society and Idol Sacrifices

“…so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.” (Rev. 2:20)

Jude warned about the grace of god being turned into licentiousness or wantonness (Wuest). The fruit of this is what the opening verse is talking about. To understand what this meant to a first century Gentile Christian, we need to understand sacrifices in ancient societies.

“The eating of idol meats, which was not a temptation to the Jewish Christian, was quite otherwise to the Gentile. The act of sacrifice, among all ancient nations, was a social no less than a religious act. Commonly only a part of the victim was consumed as an offering, and the rest became the portion of the priests, was given to the poor, or was sold again in the markets. Hence sacrifice and feasts were identified. Thucydides enumerates sacrifices among popular entertainments. “We have not forgotten,” he says, “to provide for our weary spirits many relaxations from toil. We have regular games and sacrifices throughout the year” (II., 38). So Aristotle: “And some fellowships seem to be for the sake of pleasure; those of the followers of Love, and those of club-diners; for these are for the sake of sacrifice and social intercourse” (“Ethics”, viii.,9,5).

AFTER CONVERSION, what did this mean for the Gentile believer? We see the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) forbidding the eating of meat offered to idols, not because of the Mosaic law, but due to the possibility of occasioning of sin to weak Christians. In Corinthians, Paul teaches the same thing and for the same reason:

“…he dissuades from it on the ground of its dangerous consequences to weak consciences, and as involving a formal recognition of the false worship which they had RENOUNCED AT THEIR BAPTISM.” (Vincent)

Vincent describes the effect of this on the believer:

“Thus, for the Gentile, “refusal to partake of the idol-meats involved absence from public and private festivity, a withdrawal, in great part, from the social life of his time.””

Now you can imagine the hard feelings that were created when new believers had to tell their still pagan friends that they could not party with them after the sacrifice. Plus, Thyratira and Ephesus both were cities with temples to Roman emperors and Goddess Roma, the personification of Rome. Not worshipping the emperors was perceived as not being loyal to the ruling government.

To sum this up, Vincent compares the believers in Asia Minor with those in Corinth:

“Christians and heathen were no longer dwelling together [in Asia minor], as at Corinth, with comparatively slight interruption in their social intercourse, but were divided by a sharp line of demarcation. The eating of things sacrificed to idols was more and more a crucial test, involving a cowardly shrinking from the open confession of a Christian’s faith. Disciples who sat at meat in the idol’s temple were making merry with those whose hands were red with the blood of their fellow-worshippers, and whose lips had uttered blaspheming scoffs against the Holy Name (Plumptre).” (Emphasis mine)

“In times of persecution, tasting the wine of the libations or eating meat offered to idols, was understood to signify recantation of Christianity.”

One possible explanation for the “line of demarcation” Vincent refers to was the martyrdom of Antipas (Rev 2:13) who, tradition says, the apostle John appointed overseer of the Pergamum church. Before John wrote Revelation, Antipas was killed on a pagan altar in Pergamum. The seven churches are all in the same area in what we know as Turkey; therefore, the other six churches would of been aware of this murder and other martyrs. The letter to the Smyrna church also has reference to on-going persecution at this time.

In closing, this discussion has made me realize what our brother and sisters were up against in the early church. There was an immediate cost to saying “Jesus is Lord”.

With the resurgence of paganism in our day, a lot of these old demonic gods are being worshipped again.

Thank you for your time. I hope you are staying free from the flu. God bless!

Carl

The Lord’s Bond-Servants

“…she teaches and leads my bond-servants astray… (Rev.2:20)

We are continuing our study of the Book of Jude by looking at examples of false teachers in the Book of Revelation. In our last post we discussed the false prophetess Jezebel, whom the Lord identified in the Thyratira church. She was teaching and seducing the Lord’s bond-servants with the result that there was a fundamental departure from the truth.

Notice the Lord Jesus calls His followers “bond-servants” which is the Greek word doulos. It is translated servant, bond-servant or slave. Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament explains the term as follows:

“Paul applies the term to himself…and frequently to express the relation of believers to Christ. The word involves the ideal of belonging to a master and of service as a slave. The former [Master] is emphasized in Paul’s use of the term, since Christian service, in his view, has no element of servility, but is the expression of love and of free choice. From this standpoint, the idea of service coheres with those of freedom and of sonship.”

“On the other hand, believers belong to Christ by purchase (I Peter 1:18) and own Him as absolute Master.”

Wuest’s Word Studies From The Greek New Testament draws out the following points from doulos:

“Thus the word in Romans refers to one who is bound to another, a slave. There are two words in Greek referring to a person in slavery. One speaks of a slave taken in war. The other refers to a person born into slavery. The latter is the one used in Romans. It presents the slave in various aspects.”

  • “He is one bound to his master.”
  • “… is in a permanent relationship to his master which only death can break.”
  • “…is one born into slavery.”
  • “…one whose will is swallowed up in the will of another.”
  • “…is devoted to the interests of his master to the extent that he disregards his own interests.”

“Bond-servant of Jesus Christ” was Paul’s favorite designation for himself . As American’s, we do not think of being slaves or having a Master. Home of the brave and land of the free. But we do have a Master and, as Christians, we are his bond-servants. Let us serve Him.

In closing, I am reminded of Luke 17: 1-10 where the Lord is teaching on forgiveness and, upon hearing the Lord’s instructions about forgiving multiple times, the disciples say to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”. The Lord replies with a story about a master and slave. At the conclusion of the story, the Lord Jesus tells them:

“So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, “We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.”

Forgiveness was not a matter of “more faith” but of just “obeying” what the Master had commanded.

The question for me in 2018 is: is Jesus really Lord of my life? Is He the Master? Am I His bond-servant? If we say yes, then we should have the fruit of obedience to prove it. Let us start where we are today spiritually and grow in obedience. Paul exhorts us to “Work out your own salvation” which means to bring our salvation to it’s ultimate conclusion. The ultimate conclusion is to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Phil.2:12 & Romans 8:29).

What a blessing to be the bond-servant of the Most High God! Thank you for your time.

Carl

Jezebel

” The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this…” (Rev. 2:18 NASB)

In this scripture, the Lord is telling the apostle John what to write to the Thyatira messenger. He emphasizes two personal characteristics regarding his eyes and feet. Vincent says regarding the “eyes like a flame of fire”:

“Fire, in scripture, is the expression of divine anger. The figure may include the thought of the clear and penetrating insight of the Son of Man; but it also expresses His indignation at the sin which His divine insight detects.”

The Moody Bible Commentary says the following about “His feet are like burnished bronze”:

“His bronze feet were ready to trample His enemies should they not be devoured by the sword in His mouth.” (Isaiah 11:4 says about The Lord Jesus, “…He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.”)

Dear Reader, what an awesome and Holy God we serve. Jude exhorts the believers in Jude 21 to “keep yourselves in the love of God..”. Pay close attention to yourself and never be found involved in anything that is an abomination to your God. Instead,

“…let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12: 28-29 NASB).

After He commends the church messenger on several items, He tells him:

” ‘But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eats things sacrificed to idols. (Rev. 2:20 NASB).

I have read that Benjamin Franklin was a Deist. A Deist believes in a Creator who, after creating, does not interfere in His Creation. Mr. Franklin must have never read the seven letters in Revelation. Here we see the Lord being intimately involved in the lives of His people. He is correcting the messenger in Thyatira for tolerating a woman in the church who said she was a prophetess but was not. She had turned the grace of God into licentiousness in some of the unsuspecting. This is exactly what Jude and Paul were warning the churches about.

The Lord uses the name “Jezebel” to identify the woman. It is not known if this is just a symbolic name or her actual name. If it is symbolic, it is referring to the notorious OT Jezebel (I Kings 16:31). She was the daughter of pagan King Ethbaal of Sidon and with her marriage to King Ahab of the northern kingdom of Israel, Israel’s apostasy became more decided and deadly. She attempted to kill all the prophets of God. She was a priestess of Astarte (or Ashtaroth) and also worshipped Baal the Sun-god. She built a large temple to both in Israel. One had 400 priest to Astarte and the other had 450 priest to Baal. Even Israel’s King Ahab offered sacrifices in person at these temples. In the end she was killed by being thrown out an upstairs window and dogs consumed her corpse. (Vincent)

We will have to wait until heaven to find out if her name was symbolic or was her actual name. Either way, by using the name, I believe He was telling the church she was not born again but a worshipper of a pagan deity. Eusebius’ early church history tells us that Simon the Magician (Acts 8:9) faked his conversion recorded in Acts and was a false Christian who seduced God’s bond-servants. Many years ago, I had a former high school friend tell me that the only reason he had attended a certain church was to seduce the young ladies there. He and I had walked the aisle to receive Jesus at the same time when we were pre-teens. Paul had talked about being in peril from false brethren. Dear Reader, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

Through the woman’s false spiritual gift, she “…teaches and leads my bond- servants astray…”. In the Greek, what she was teaching lead to a fundamental departure from the truth (Vincent). This is the changing of the grace of God into licentiousness that Jude warned about. In Roman 1:1 Paul calls himself a bond-servant; therefore, we know these are born-again people. The deception she spread caused these people to believe it was okay to “commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols”.

We will discuss these two acts in our next post. Hopefully we have a renewed vision of our Lord and an appreciation for the need to be vigilant in our Christian walk. Thank you for your time.

“Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” (I John 5:21)

Carl

Lord Jesus Deals With False Teachers

“But I have this against you…” Jesus (Rev. 2:20)

Welcome back in 2018! I hope you had a wonderful celebration of the Lord’s birth and a safe and happy New Years celebration. May you bear much fruit for the Lord in 2018; thereby, glorifying the Father.

We will now return to our study of the book of Jude. Before Christmas we had concluded our study of Jude’s description of false teachers. Now, we will look at our Lord’s reaction to these false teachers.

In the Book of Revelation, the apostle John records how the Lord Jesus appears to him and, among other things, gives him a message for seven churches in Asia Minor.

In the letter to the “angel” or messenger (pastor or elders) of the Thyatira church, the Lord Jesus identifies a false teacher tolerated by the church:

” ‘But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will cast her upon a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence; and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.'” Rev. 2: 20-23 NASB

In the letter to the Pergamum church, He identifies those who hold to false teaching:

” ‘But I have a few things against you, because you have there, some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality. Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth.’ “. Rev. 2: 14-16 NASB

In the letter to the Ephesus church, He commends them because:

” ‘ …you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false. (2: 2) Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.’ ” (2:6 NASB)

In the letter to the Sardis church, sin had made such inroads into the church that He tells them

“…I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up…If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you.” (3: 1-3 NASB)

Paul says we were “dead” in our trespasses and sin before we were born again. I think this describes how far Sardis had backsliden in their Christian walk. If you looked at their deeds, they evidently were like the deeds of those who had no reverential awe of God, the ungodly. He tells them to “Wake up…”.

In the letter to the Laodicea church, they had reached such a state of deception, that He told them:

” ‘ I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. So because year are lukewarm and neither hot or cold, I will spit you out of my mouth…(v 3: 15-16) Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent’ “. (3:19 NASB)

So we see that five of the seven churches had false teachers, had people in their congregation who believed false doctrine or were in a corrupt state brought on by error. We also know that Peter, John, and Paul warned about these false teachers that were deceiving the early church. Today, you only have to read your Bible and look at Christendom to realize that the false teachers are still hear today.

The next post will expand on the Lord’s comments to Thyatira and how this corresponds to what Jude has warned us about. In the mean time,

“keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21).

Sanctifying grace and peace be upon you.

Carl

Hidden Reefs

“These men are those who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves;…  Jude 12

We continue our discussion of Jude’s false teachers:

7. Jude says these false teachers are deadly like hidden reefs in the sea that sink ships drowning the occupants. They are merchants of death while they partake of the Lord’s Supper with the unsuspecting children of God, giving the impression they are servants of God. Instead they are satan’s ambassadors bent on destroying the church of the living God.

They appear to have spiritual gifts but actually are like clouds without water, and autumn trees without fruit. They seemly offer something spiritual and good, but in reality do not have anything from the Lord.

8. “…and perished in the rebellion of Koran.” (Verse 11) – they reject the God given authority like Koran did Moses.

9. “…grumblers, finding fault,…” (verse 16) – they discontentedly complain about God but not in a loud, outspoken manner; instead in a muttering undertone lest they become obvious.

While visiting a church decades ago, as we were preparing to leave at the end of the service, an acquaintance took me by the arm and whispered in my ear, “Do these guys (the preacher and staff) really believe God is going to put all these people (lost sinners) in hell?” That was all he said and walked into the exiting crowd. I was shocked by the question and what it exposed about him. He had been deceived by a co-worker who was a false teacher who taught everyone gets to heaven in the end, even the devil.

This guy was a hidden reef, in rebellion like Koran, and a grumbler.

This concludes our discussion of the false teachers in Jude.  There are no doubt false teachers are in the visible church today. I hope this gives you some insight into what to watch out for in your and your descendants Christian experience.

Our next post will look at what the Risen Lord Jesus said and did about this.

May your love abound for the brethren and all men,

Carl

Woe to them!

“Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain,…” Jude 11

Thank you for joining us again as we continue our discussion on Jude’s false teachers.

5. “For they have gone the way of Cain,…” The false teachers’ beliefs on salvation were like Cain’s, the son of the first man, Adam. Like Cain, they were religious but did not believe in the blood atonement; therefore, these false teachers had to explain it away.  Let us be reminded that He, Jesus,

“…through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. ” Hebrew 9:12

6.”…and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam,..” (verse 11) – Balaam, a prophet, was enticed by a heathen king to curse Israel for a price. You may remember him as the person the donkey talked to. Though God did not allow him to curse Israel, Balaam was later responsible for Israel being seduced by Moabite women, leading to idolatry, which caused the wrath of God to come upon the nation and kill a good number of men. And he did it for his financial gain.

Like Balaam, these false teachers use their prophetical gifts for the purpose of self-aggrandizement, and endeavor to make their services attractive by EXCLUDING FROM RELIGION ALL THAT IS STRENUOUS AND DIFFICULT, AND OPENING THE DOOR TO EVERY KIND OF INDULGENCE.” (Wuest – emphasis mine)

A wise man once told me, if you want to know if Jesus is present in a church meeting, just watch and see who gets the glory, man or Jesus. False teachers like the glory.

Thank you for your precious time. We hope you have been built up spiritually through this study. Our next post will be last on the descriptions of the false teachers.

Blessings on You,

Carl

Flattery

“…they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage…” Jude 16b

Welcome back. We continue with Jude’s description of false teachers:

4. Though evidently these false teachers had not reached Rome yet, Paul issues a similar warning to the Roman disciples:

“Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Jesus Christ but of their own appetites; and by their SMOOTH AND FLATTERING SPEECH they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.” (Romans 16:17-18 emphasis mine)

The false teachers, needing to gain the trust of Jesus’ unsuspecting bond servants, used flattery to entrap them.  A review of Proverb will show you how the enemy uses flattery to deceive people.

Along this same vein, Dear Reader, be very careful of those who try to make the gospel mysterious by talking about this mystery and that mystery, making themselves out to have some deep private revelation, drawing people to themselves instead of Jesus, and complicating the gospel with their great swelling words.

“But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your mind should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” 2Cor. 10:3 emphasis mine

Carl

Dreaming in Jude

“Yet in the same manner these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh,…” Jude 8

Welcome back as we continue our study of the false teachers in Jude:

3. Our opening scripture means they indulged in what we would call pornography.   “Dreaming” means metaphorically “to be beguiled with sensual images and carried away to an impious course of conduct” (Thayer). As a result they were defiling their physical bodies with acts of immorality.

The term “in the same manner” refers to verse 6 – 7 where Jude compares them to the fallen angels who left heaven and committed fornication with the wicked women of the earth (Genesis 6) and to the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah who committed “gross immorality” (NASB) or “fornication” (KJV). God has the fallen angels in prison for their sin TODAY awaiting the final judgment and the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah are still “undergoing the punishment of eternal fire” TODAY. Both are held up as an “example” which means “something held up to view as a warning” (Wuest). Jude holds both of these exhibits up to the brethren as a warning that God will not be mocked, He will not be “outwitted or evaded”. They are still a warning to us today.

These false teachers, while claiming to be God’s spokesman, were participating in fornication and adultery.  Not only them, but, as we will see,  the Lord’s bond servants they deceived.  Thank you for your precious time.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification, that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;…” (I Thess 4:3-5)

Carl

Jude’s False Teachers

“…ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4b)

Today we begin the first of several posts describing the false teachers in Jude:

1. They are “…ungodly persons…”  (asebes) – means they are “destitute of reverential awe toward God, impious”. In other words, there is no fear of God in them; therefore, they have no real knowledge (Proverb 1:7) and they do not keep away from evil (Proverb 16:6) but instead spread pernicious opinions and immorality.

As ungodly persons they are “following after their own ungodly lusts”, in other words their evil passionate cravings dominated them mentally and physically. They follow these impulses instead of being led by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.  They are also “worldly minded”, in other words they consider the world and the things of the world precious instead of forsaking them and having a renewed mind. (v 18-19)

2. They have apostatized – they do not follow the commands of God the Father or Lord Jesus. Jude compares them in verse 5 to those who God saved out of Egypt but had to be destroyed in the wilderness because they refused to obey Him and possess the promise land. The refusal to obey is apostasy.

See you next post when we will continue this subject. Thank you for your precious time.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:21

Carl

Jude’s Coming Judgement

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“And about these also Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgement upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”” Jude 14-15

(Today we begin the posting of shorter posts for the convenience of our readers. Please let us know if this works better for you. Thank you.)

In our opening scripture Jude is quoting a prophecy from the apocryphal Book of Enoch to show that these false teachers will be punished by God. This book  was known to the second century Church Fathers but was lost for centuries except for fragments until a full copy was found in an Ethiopic Bible in 1773. It consists of revelations purporting to have been given to Enoch and Noah.  Yes, the Noah that was on the Ark.

In the next post we will look at Jude’s description of the false teachers. Remember these people were in the midst of some early church fellowships and were able to lead some of God’s bond servants (aka Christians) into immorality and apostasy. If they could do that then, what does that say about today?

Thank you for your time. God bless you and yours!     Carl

 

Jude: A Serious Warning From Jesus’ Half Brother

Jesus family

“For certain persons have crept in unnoticed…ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude v4 NASB)

The Book of Jude in the Bible was written by the Lord Jesus’ half-brother Jude (Judas in the Greek), who is named among the Lord’s brethren in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3. He is also the full brother of James, the head of the early Church in Jerusalem. Jude warns that certain people in the early church were perverting the grace of God. His message is needed today because the grace of God has been and continues to be perverted.

In verse 3, Jude says he set out to write about our common salvation, when the Holy Spirit burdened him to exhort true believers to earnestly contend for The Faith, once delivered to the saints. The term “faith” does not refer to individual faith, but to The Faith, Christianity itself, in its historic doctrines and life-giving salvation. There is only one Faith and another will not be given. Understanding this, highlights the serious danger these people presented.

In Part One, we will look at the two things the false teachers were deceitfully propagating.

In verse 4 he writes:

“For certain persons have crept in unnoticed….ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

  1. They turned the grace of God into licentiousness (NASB).

We first need to look at what the “grace of God” is to understand what the false teachers corrupted.

God called us in the sphere of grace. That is when He effectually summoned us to a participation in the salvation procured by His Son on the Cross. It was on a basis, not of works, but of a salvation unmerited by us and freely bestowed with no strings tied to it, offered as a free gift to be accepted by the outstretched hand of faith. God’s ultimate purpose in offering this grace is to conform a group of people to the derived image of His Dear Son, Jesus. God said this through Paul in Romans:

“And we know with absolute knowledge that those who are loving God, all things are working together resulting in good, for those who are divinely-summoned ones according to HIS PURPOSE. Because, those whom He foreordained He also marked out beforehand as those who were to be CONFORMED TO THE DERIVED IMAGE OF HIS SON, with the result that He is firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8: 28-30 Wuest ET Emphasis mine)

Wuest explains this beautifully:

“…in the process of sanctification, the saint is transformed in his inner heart life to resemble the Lord Jesus, which inner change results in a change of outward expression that reflects the beauty of the Lord Jesus. The word “image” is eikon, a derived likeness. The image of the Lord Jesus in the saint is not accidental but derived, as the likeness of a child is derived from its parents. Through the new birth we become children of Jesus Christ (Hebrew 2:13) and thus inherit his image. This image, indistinct in the new convert, becomes progressively clearer and distinct as that believer grows in the Christian life.”

By exercising our faith to receive this “grace of God” we become partakers of the promises of God (II Peter 1: 3-4); whereby, we can walk in agape love for our Father,  Christ Jesus and our neighbor (kingdom duties) which will mature us in agape love (I John 4) making the image of Jesus more distinct in us. Paul’s instructions to the Philippians talks about our “duties”:

“Only [since my only reason for remaining on earth is for your pioneer advance in the Christian life], see to it that you recognize YOUR RESPONSIBILITY AS CITIZENS [OF HEAVEN] and put yourselves to the ABSOLUTE NECESSITY OF PERFORMING THE DUTIES DEVOLVING UPON YOU IN THAT POSITION, doing this in a manner which weighs as much as the good news concerning the Christ… ” (Phil.1: 27 Wuest Emphasis Mine)

Therefore, I believe, the term “grace of God”, as used by Jude, is another way of saying The Faith or Christian system of belief (which is what Jude wants us to earnestly contend for) and all that it entails, including the change in our character/behavior, that results in this image of Jesus being developed.

In the place of His holy grace, these false teachers, through their deception, convinced some of the Lord’s bond servants that they could be their own lord and do what they wished including being immoral. Wuest says that the best English word to translate aselgeia (licentiousness) is wantonness” which is “being without check or limitation” and “the meaning of the word partakes of the spirit of anarchy….which refuses to acknowledge the authority of God’s Word, and itself sits in judgement upon it.” This brings us to the second point.

2. They denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

In the original language of the NT, “deny” was “used of those who deny God and Christ, who by cherishing and disseminating pernicious opinions and immorality, are judged to have apostatized from The Father God and Christ (Thayer).” When someone is apostatized they have chosen to refuse to continue to follow or obey God’s commands. As redeemed people in God’s kingdom, we have to obey the authority of the Kingdom. The false teachers did just the opposite by leading those that they seduced in the visible church to do things directly opposite to what God The Father and the Lord Jesus commanded by His apostles. To them there was no need to seperate from the things of the world and sin, but instead they encouraged a “if it feels good, do it” attitude. Some scholars believe this may have been the forerunner of the Gnostics that believed that the spiritual was good and matter evil; therefore, what you did with the human body was not important; hence, immorality was rampant.

Therefore, in conclusion, God saved us for a purpose and it is our responsibility to be conformed to the image of Jesus in our inner being. The false teachers taught no restraints, no Father or Lord, no commandments, you could do what you wanted including immorality; thereby, changing the grace of God into wantonness or licentiousness. As we shall see, our Lord did not tolerate this. If this is not clear to you now, it will be abundantly clear as our study progresses.

Did they come into the early church and preach this openly? No, they did not because the leadership would have put them out immediately. As we look at the false teacher’s character in the next post, we will see how they manipulated Jesus’ bond servants.

Please join us as we continue our study. Thank you and let us thank Him for all the blessings He has blessed us with! Comments and questions welcome.

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lust which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY FOR I AM HOLY.”” (I Peter 1: 15-16 NASB)

Carl

Need A Little Motivation In Your Christian Walk?

“But my heart stands in awe of Thy words. I rejoice at Thy word, as one who finds great spoil.” (Psalm 119: 161b-162)

We all need motivation sometimes. One of my son-in-laws and I have recently been discussing scripture memorization. Something I used to do a lot of but over the years had gotten away from.

I recently found the above scripture while studying I John 2:14 and thought it was the perfect motivation to restart scripture memorization.  If the psalmist could say this of the Old Testament, how should we, born again believers, feel about the New Testament’s

“…precious and exceedingly great promises…” that are given us “…in order that through these you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped by flight the corruption which is in the world in the sphere of passionate carvings.” (II Peter 1: 4 Wuest)

If need be, may these scriptures motivate you like it did me  to restart hiding the Word of Life in your heart. It is eternal and unchanging because He is eternal and unchanging. And you and I as born again believers are eternal! Think on that today.

Have a blessed day.

Carl

The Grace of God

“Where sin increased, grace superabounded, and then some on top of that.” (Romans 5:20b Wuest)

Today we want to look at the Greek word charis translated grace in our Bibles. This is one of the most important words in the New Testament.

Since the New Testament was written in the common Greek language of the first century AD, we will first look at the Greek meaning.

In the ethical terminology of the Greek schools, charis or grace implied a favor freely done, without claim or expectation of return.

“Aristotle [ancient Greek philosopher] lays the whole stress of the word on this very point, that it is conferred freely, with no expectation of return, and finding its only motive in the bounty and free-heartedness of the givers” (Trench).

In the New Testament the Holy Spirit took the meaning infinitely further. I quote Kenneth Wuest on the use of the word:

“But how this purely classical meaning of the word describes what took place at Calvary. All the human race could expect in view of its sin, was the righteous wrath of a holy God, that and eternal banishment from His glorious presence. But instead, the holy God stepped down from His judgment seat and took upon Himself at Calvary’s Cross, the guilt and penalty of human sin, thus satisfying His justice and making possible the bestowal of His mercy. And this He did, not for those who were His friends, but His bitter enemies, unlovely creatures saturated with sin. Charis in classical Greek referred to a favor conferred freely, with no expectation of return, and finding its only motive in the bounty and free-heartedness of the giver. This favor was always done to a friend, never to an enemy. RIGHT HERE CHARIS LEAPS FORWARD AN INFINITE DISTANCE, FOR THE LORD JESUS DIED FOR HIS ENEMIES (Romans 5: 8-10), A THING UNHEARD OF IN THE HUMAN RACE. Surely this was beyond the ordinary course of what might be expected and is therefore commendable. This is what John is speaking of in his first epistle (3.1) when he says, “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God.” The words “what manner of” are from a Greek word which means “what foreign kind of.” That is, the love shown by God at the Cross is foreign to the human race. Man simply does not act that way (Rom. 5:7,8,10). That is why God’s action on the Cross in dying for lost humanity is an action beyond the ordinary course of what might be expected and is therefore commendable. HERE IS ONE OF THE STRONGEST PROOFS OF THE DIVINE SOURCE OF THE BIBLE. The substitutionary atonement never came from the philosophies of man but from the heart of God.”

“Thus, the word charis comes to its highest and most exalted content of meaning in the New Testament. It refers to God’s offer of salvation with all that implies, which salvation was procured at Calvary’s Cross with all the personal sacrifice which that included, offered to one who is His bitter enemy, and who is not only underserving of that salvation but deserves condign [appropriate] punishment for his sins, offered without any expectation of return, but given out of the bounty and free heartedness of the giver. This means that there is no room for good works on the part of the sinner as a means whereby he could earn his salvation, or after salvation, whereby he might retain that salvation. Paul sets grace over against works as things directly in opposition to one another as fas as the means of salvation is concerned (Rom 4:4, 5, 11:6). But Paul is very careful to make plain that good works naturally issue from and are required by grace (Titus 2:11-12). (Ephesians – Kenneth Wuest emphasis mine)

I hope you are blessed by this explanation. I’m still marveling at what God has done for us, totally undeserving humans. God bless you and thank you for your time,

Father God, we praise you for your underserved mercy and grace!!!! Amen.

Carl

King David And Blamelessness

“Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.

Also keep back your servant from presumptuous sins;

Let them not rule over me;

THEN I shall be blameless;

And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.”

King David. Psalm 19:12-13 (Emphasis mine)

Here King David speaks about hidden faults, presumptuous sins and their relationship to being blameless.

In our last post we mentioned KNOWN and UNKNOWN sins (hidden faults) in our lives. We are responsible to purify ourselves from our known sins. We are responsible for the light we have. The Holy Spirit will reveal the hidden faults or sins in our lives as we grow in our Christian experience and, then, we can repent.

The apostle John referred to these two types of sins when he wrote:

“If we continue to confess our sins, faithful is He and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from every unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9 Wuest)

John is referring to known sins when he writes “to confess our sins” and to unknown sins when he says “every unrighteousness”. The precious blood of Jesus cleanses our hidden faults or sins also when we confess our known sins. Praise His Name.

In our scripture King David is asking the Lord to “keep back your servant from presumptuous sins”. The Hebrew word zed means presumptuous,insolent and is translated in OT scripture arrogant, proud, arrogant men, presumptuous. The root word means to boil up, seethe, act proudly or presumptuously or rebelliously.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines presumptuous as follows:

1. (Of a person or their behavior) failing to observe the limits of what is permitted or appropriate.

2. Overstepping due bounds; taking liberties

3. Comes from a Latin word that means “to take for granted”.

4. Synonyms: brazen, overconfident, arrogant, bold, forward, familiar, insolent, cocky.

Therefore, a presumptuous sin is one committed with our eyes wide open. We know it is a sin against God but, due to the rebellion in our proud heart, we do it anyway.

Why do we do this? The answer lies within each one of us but we will discuss some reasons.

1. In James 1, James gives us the mechanics of falling into sin: first we are carried away from our steadfastness in Christ and then are enticed by our own passionate cravings for the temptation, thirdly our passionate cravings (lusts) are conceived by our saying YES to the enticement, fourthly we act on our lust and sin is given birth, then death is manifested in our life. Death to walking in fellowship with Christ until we repent and death to spiritual growth in our life until we repent.

2. Or maybe the sin now “rules over us”. We are it’s slave until our cries for deliverance and repentance to the Lord are heard and He frees us.

3.We take His forgiveness of sin for granted. Remember that presumptuous comes from a Latin word that means “to take for granted”.

When John wrote I John 1:9:

“If we continue to confess our sins, faithful is He and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from every unrighteousness.”

he followed it with this:

“My little children, these things I am writing to you in order that you may not commit an act of sin.” (I John 2:1 Wuest)

It is my understanding that John was saying, ” I did not write I John 1:9 to give you a license to sin with assurance of forgiveness, but my purpose was so that you would not commit an act of sin.” The goal is not to sin! In Romans chapters 6 Paul is explaining why true believers can not continue in sin. The whole chapter is built around addressing two questions (verses 1 and 15) he received from people who heard of God’s amazing grace (forgiveness of sin). One was, “shall we habitually sustain an attitude of dependence upon, yieldedness to, and cordiality with the sinful nature in order that grace may abound?” And the other was : “Shall we sin occasionally, because we are not under law but under grace?” To both questions, Paul answers “God forbid” or “May it never be!” Then Paul goes on to explain why it is impossible for a born again believer to maintain the same relationship with his sinful nature that he had prior to salvation. The goal is to be holy and blameless before Him, not to justify our wrong behavior by saying “that is how I have always been” or God doesn’t care.

4. We have received a teaching that perverts the grace of God. The teaching may say something like “It’s all under grace so it does not matter what I do, but only what I believe”. We are preparing a teaching on the book of Jude and will discuss this then. You will not want to miss it.

We could spend days discussing why we as believers commit presumptuous sins but each one of us has to examine ourselves and commit, with the Holy Spirit’s help, to overcome these sins. The Lord will come up along side us to help.

I hope you see the need to take sin seriously in your life and to purpose to be found holy and blameless before Him NOW and at His Coming. As Paul told Timothy, “Pay close attention to yourself”. Thank you for your time and may God richly bless you and yours.

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25)

Carl

“Found Holy and Blameless” Part 5

(Parts one thru four can be found at the bottom of this post.)

“…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” (Ephesians 1:4)

In the past four installments on this subject, we have looked at what “before Him”means, how the Holy Spirit desires all of us, and what the word “holy” means in this context.  This post will look at the word “blameless”.

It is important to remember that we are NOT discussing salvation by works. Justification from sins is not in view here, but rather, the progressive sanctification process which develops Christ’s character in us AFTER being born again.

In Ephesians 1:4 the word “blameless” is the Greek word amoroso which means “without blemish” (Vines) or also “free from faultiness, as a sacrificial animal without spot or blemish (Lev 22:21) or as the Lamb of God (I Peter 1:19) (Wuest). In the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint), it is used in reference to “of blamelessness in character and conduct” (Vines).

This word appears in the following scriptures:

  • Eph. 5:27 – Paul was speaking of the type of people that will be Jesus’ bride when he wrote: “He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.”  Here the term “having no spot or wrinkle” refers to “the bride without moral blemish” (Wuest). These people are not practicing sin, which includes immorality; therefore, they are blameless or without blemish. The Bride is holy” because the people have separated themselves from what God considers evil.  These two descriptive terms explain why the bride is “in all her glory”.
      • Colossians 1: 22 – “…yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshy body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach —” Through salvation Jesus has reconciled us to God so that He can present you and me as holy, separate from evil, and free from the defilement of the world, without moral blemish and beyond reproach, i.e. “not only without blemish but from the charge of it” (Wuest). We are to be conformed to the image of His Beloved Son.
        • Jude 24 – in closing his letter concerning false teachers, he writes: “Now to Him who is able to keep us from stumbling and to make us stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy…”.  If we will cooperate with the indwelling Holy Spirit in the sancifying process, God the Father is able to make us stand in the presence of His glory “without blemish, free from fault “with great joy”. This cooperation should be our spiritual response to the exalted position God has placed us in, in-Christ.
          • I Thessalonians 3: 12-13 – “…and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father….” The word “unblamable” is another Greek adjective also translated “faultless”.  Notice that living your life in love “for one another, and for all men,” is what causes your heart to be established in holiness. All the commandments of God are fulfilled by loving the Lord Thy God with your total being and your neighbor as your self (Mark 12:28 – 34). This is the key to understanding what God wishes to do in the saint through the sanctification process.  More on this later.

          In conclusion, we are to be found holy and blameless before His Holy Spirit NOW on Earth and at His future coming for His bride, the Church. Properly instructed born again believers are serious about getting the KNOWN sin out of their lives so we are pleasing the Lord. There are sins we are NOT AWARE OF in our lives, but the Holy Spirit will convict us of them as we grow in our Christian experience and then we should forsake them, purifying ourselves. See I John 3:3.

          II Peter 2:13 speaks of false teachers in the church who are “stains and blemishes”.  Here the word for “blemish” is monos and signifies a shame, a moral disgrace, used metaphorically of the licentious” (Vines), those lacking moral restraint especially disregarding sexual restraints (Webster). The false teachers’ character was blemished because of practicing sin which included an immoral lifestyle. We see the same false teachers in the book of Jude. They are among us today. How many Christ confessing people do you know today, who are living an immoral lifestyle?

          The Church has been fed a lie that the grace of God allows us to practice sin. Next post we will see what King David had to say about sin and how it relates to being found blameless.

          Let us pray: Father God, we ask that you cause your love to increase in us for all Christians and for all mankind, so that we may conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Lord Jesus, pleasing You in all respects. In His Name. Amen.

          “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him PURIFIES himself, just as He is pure.” (I John 3:3 emphasis mine)

          Carl

          In Honor of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

          It has been 500 years since the German priest Luther nailed his 95 theses or propositions on the Castle Church door (above) at Wittenberg, Germany. Little did he realize then the far reaching impact of what he had done. The Reformation was born and Christianity and all of Western civilization was changed. The other night we watched online as one of our daughters participated in a very large Reformation anniversary celebration in one of the European capital cities. It was a glorious event. They even sang my grandmothers favorite hymn in their mother tongue. It was quite moving.

          To celebrate this august occasion, I offer this quote from Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley:

          “Luther’s greatest contribution to history, however, was not political. It was religious. He took four basic Catholic concerns and offered invigorating new answers. To the question how is a person saved, Luther replied: not by works but by faith alone. To the question where does religious authority lie, he answered: not in the visible institution called the Roman church but in the Word of God found in the Bible. To the question – what is the church? —- he responded: the whole community of Christian believers, since all are priest before God. To the question — what is the essence of Christian living? —- he replied: serving God in any useful calling, whether ordained or lay. To this day any classical description of Protestantism must echo those central truths.”

          And you know what? The Bible today still says the same things. Thank you Lord Jesus for the Bibles we have. It is really a miracle. Let us remember the men, such as John Wyclif and William Tyndall, who translated the Greek NT manuscripts into our mother tongue, so we, the common man, could understand what God had said.

          Thank you for your time. God Bless you.

          Carl

          The New Testament

          “The New Testament is of full authority, and open to the understanding of simple men, as to the points that be most needful to salvation…He that keepeth meekness and charity [love] hath the true understanding and perfection of all Holy Writ,” for “Christ did not write his laws on tables, or on skins of animals, but in the hearts of men.”

          John Wyclif (1320 -1384), the English reformer, headed a group that translated the Latin Bible into the English common language. (Addition mine)

          From Church History in Plain Language — Bruce L. Shelley 

          When Shall We Pray?

          finger_of_god-660x330

          Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.”

          — Corrie Ten Boom (15 April 1892 – 15 April 1983, Dutch watchmaker and Christian who, along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II).

          Berean Call

          Do You Have Rats In Your Cellar?

          “C.S. Lewis takes a lesson from the same observation: “If  there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.”

          “In other words, my behavior, when caught off guard, is the best evidence of the sort of person I am.  That being the case, I should never excuse my bad behavior simply because I’m suddenly prodded or provoked. What I am under unexpected pressure is what I am. There’s no way around it.”

          Teach Us To Number Our Days —-David Roper

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