|“Faith is indeed intellectual; it involves an apprehension of certain things as facts; and vain is the modern effort to divorce faith from knowledge. But although faith is intellectual, it is not only intellectual. You cannot have faith without having knowledge; but you will not have faith if you have only knowledge.” |
― J. Gresham Machen (Professor of New Testament at Princeton Seminary between 1915 and 1929, led a conservative revolt against modernist theology at Princeton).
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation — if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. “ Colossians 1:21-23
“In these few verses (Colossians 1: 21-23) we have the most amazing summary of the gospel and, indeed, the most compact summary of the whole Christian life. It can be summed up in three very simple words: once…but…if.
“Once you were alienated” (v21). Paul sums up the entire unbelieving world in these words. They are essentially aliens, and it is a relational alienation due to sin. And like all people, we willfully chose to cut ourselves off from God before we were Christians.
“But now he has reconciled you” (v22). Enemies are now friends, aliens are now family, all because of Christ’s death on the cross. Jesus’ death does not just bring us back to God; it also has a future focus–that he might present us holy in His sight, without blemish, free from accusation. The image here is of judgement day, when the bride of Christ is presented to her husband. The question is: are you worthy to enter the kingdom? The psalmist says only the one with clean hands and a pure heart can ascend His holy hill (Psalm 24:4). The good news is that you can confidently reply, “Yes, I am worthy.” On that day we will not fear any voice challenging our claim, because Jesus has died for us to make us worthy.
“If you continue in your faith (v23). Of course, our salvation is secure, but we must continue in this gospel. We have been reconciled to God, and we must not go back to being His enemy. His death has made us holy , so we do not deliberately or willfully give ourselves to a life of ungodliness.
This is our spiritual biography: once…but…if. “
Journey Through Colossians and Philemon by Mike Raiter, p18
Last week we had the pleasure of visiting with good friends who took us to a wonderful museum and arboretum. After walking through the gardens we entered the museum and were greeted by an elderly, stately gentleman who gave us a brief orientation.
As we finished viewing the first wing, I encountered the gentleman again. I took the opportunity to ask if they had any toothache trees in the garden. I wanted to show our friends this tree that was used to treat toothache pain prior to modern medicine. He said he did not know.
As we continued to talk it became apparent that we were Christian brothers. Then to my surprise he said he wanted to show me something. He reached into his coat pocket and brought out a folded piece of paper. On it was written I Corinthian 13 from the King James Version. He was memorizing this Scripture while he was guarding the collection. He began to share what the Holy Spirit had shown him about “charity” or love through his memorization work.
It was one those unique moments when you encounter someone you have never met before yet, you seem to have known them forever and the conversation flows without reservation or uneasiness. All because Jesus is Lord and because of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
This surprise meeting was so encouraging and edifying to me. To find a total stranger, who seemed like a long-time close friend, that believed that God IS, that He exists, and therefore, he treasures what God has said so much that it was important to hide it in his heart that he might not offend Him.
Though he has never seen God the Father or Lord Jesus in the physical, his memorization work is an expression of his love for Them. The following scripture describes this faith and it’s result:
“….though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls…” (I Peter 1:8-9)
May you have great rejoicing with joy inexpressible and full of glory as you walk by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, believing in the Father and the Son! May you have many divine encounters that strengthen and encourage you.
Over the holidays I read the book of Titus wherein Paul stresses the importance of Christians performing good deeds.
First he described deceived people who “profess to know God but by their deeds they deny Him“. In other words they talk about God and say they know Him but if you look at what they do, their actions nullify their words. They don’t know Him.
Then he says of the same people, “they are disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” They did not follow the commands of Jesus and the apostles; therefore, they practiced lawlessness.
With this backdrop, he gives instructions about Christian ethics:
- …show yourself to be an example of good deeds. Titus 2:7
- … be zealous for good deeds. Titus 2:14
- ….to be ready for every good deed Titus 3:1
- ….so that those who have believed God may be careful to engage in good deeds Titus 3:8
- …let our people also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs that they may not be unfruitful. Titus 3:14
Why is Paul, the former persecutor of the Jewish Christians, stressing this point so strongly? It is because he knew Jesus had said the following:
“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” Matthew 5:18
The evidence of a Christian life is a changed life. We are not the same sinful person we were before we came to know Christ as Savior. We are not perfect but are being morally changed by His word and His Spirit resulting in new behavior. We go from bearing evil fruit to bearing good fruit that honors, magnifies; hence, glorifies our Father in heaven.
James also makes the point about good deeds but from another point of view:
 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?  Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. … James 2:14-17
The deceived people are individuals who profess to know God (i.e. have faith) but by their deeds they deny Him (i.e. have no good works). James says their “faith” is dead. It is not saving faith.
In closing, I want to make it very plain that good deeds or good works have NOTHING to do with earning salvation. Salvation is a free gift from God based on the finished work Christ did on the Cross for us. Paul writes:
 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. …
The good works that have value follow our salvation, not earn for us salvation. Many people and even whole religious systems have this important point reversed. They are trying to earn their way to God but it will never work.
May we Christians validate the words of faith that have flowed from our lips by bearing much fruit to the glory of God the Father.
May they who do not know Christ, read the New Testament and discover the Wonderful Savior who died and was resurrected for them. May they enter the narrow way that leads to Life.
May your good deeds be multiplied!
“…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.