Saturday, January 28, 2012

On the True Method of Ministry and the Supremacy of God’s Word – Part 1 – James

As we look at the Epistle of James it becomes clear that James had heard the sermon on the mount and likely other teachings of Christ. As the brother of the Lord he had not believed in Christ prior to His resurrection, but yet Christ’s words must have had quite an impact on him, because roughly 30 years later he is drawing from these words. In this post I would just like to compare a few of James words with Christ in the Gospels. On the impermanence of riches Jas 1:9-11 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. Mat 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. On God’s goodness in His gifts Jas 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Mat 7:7-11 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? On the Tongue Jas 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Jas 3:2-12 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. Mat 12:34-37 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. On judging others Jas 2:12-13 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. Jas 4:11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. Jas 4:12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? Jas 5:9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. Mat 5:7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Mat 7:1-5 Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. On our attitude in trials Jas 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Jas 5:10-11 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. Mat 5:10-12 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. On being doers of the Word Jas 1:21-27 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. Jas 2:17-26 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"--and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. Jas 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. Mat 7:21-27 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." Mat 5:13-32 "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. On Oaths Jas 5:12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your "yes" be yes and your "no" be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. Mat 5:33-37 "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.' But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil. Conclusion These are a few passages which show the parallel thought of James with Christ’s teaching and the sermon on the mount in particular. This is the essence of true ministry to take what God has said to think upon it and to draw out from it practical applications. While we are looking at James it would be fitting to briefly look at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15). That council is interesting in that Peter and Paul both gave witness of the miraculous work among the Gentiles, but it was when James showed that this was to be expected by quoting Scripture from the Septuagint that the issue was settled (Amos 9:11-12). Here it was shown that the remnant of the gentiles who called upon the name of the Lord should both belong to Israel and seek after God. Since they were to come as Gentiles James concluded that they were not required to become Jewish in manner and custom, and thus all that was required was an obedience to the Noahic covenant which is in force for all men as long as rainbows appear (Gen. 9:1-17). Therefore the council was not legislative, but rather acted as a witness to what God had already declared both by His works and in His Word. In closing this post I will remind us all of Christ’s words to the Saducees, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29). Every true work of God will bear both of these stamps His Word and His power. Even so Lord come quickly! Amen.

On the True Method of Ministry and the Supremacy of God’s Word - Introduction

The more I read the Bible the more aware I am that much of the New Testament epistles are reiterations of the teaching of Christ, and of the Old Testament. This is worthy of note because sometimes we have a conception of the apostles as people with authority to lay down laws and institute doctrine, yet it was never so. In the great commission the apostles were told to teach their disciples all that I have commanded you which tacitly excludes enjoining anything which Christ has not commanded (Matt. 28:20). The apostles imparted in their teaching and writings what they had learned of Christ as the Holy Spirit brought it to their remembrance (John 14:26), something that He continues to do in our days as He takes what we have read and applies it to our situations and actions. Interestingly enough the Holy Spirit Himself does not teach of His own, but instead imparts what He hears, even as Christ did while on earth (John 7:16-18). It is also worthy of note in John 7:18, the Christ says that the one who speaks of himself seeks his own glory. Yet too often in the church more of human opinion, current fad and tradition is propagated than the Word of God. What is worse is that it is so well tolerated. One instance that I remember well is when a certain pastor I know was talking to me about a certain doctrine began by saying, “Well, there isn’t exactly a Scripture that states this, but…” That man said more against his doctrine right there than I ever could. Yet I was expected to not only assent but perhaps even teach the same. This is preposterous! There are 66 books in the Bible by common reckoning, thousands of topics, and hundreds of thousands of truths to be gleaned from it, yet I should consider very important to God something which He never even muttered and devote more time to that than what He thunders throughout! Thank God, I won’t do it. It is the Word of God that creates the spiritual new man in us when we are born again (1 Peter 1:23), and continues as food for that new man ever afterwards. If the church is an ecclesia – a called out assembly – it is the Word of God which calls us out. It is the Word of God that cleanses and sanctifies us (John 15:3;17:17). If it is by His Word that the bride that Christ redeemed to Himself by His death is made clean and prepared for Him (Eph. 5:25-27), then it is essential that His people receive this Word. If we take up pulpit time with things other than the Word – entertainment, human opinion, useless matters, then at best we are wasting washing time, and possibly we are actually befouling the bride with the smut of human opinion instead of washing her. There is no higher privilege than to deliver the Word of God to His people, it will prepare the Bride for the Bridegroom, so that He can see the travail of His soul and be satisfied. Consequently to fill up this time with trivialities is a great travesty. Even in the case of supernatural experiences and divine revelation, it must always be remembered that these illuminate that which is already stated in the Word and cannot, if they are true, run contrary to it. To show just how much the apostle’s writings were explanatory rather than asserting anything novel I intend to look at a few of the New Testament Epistles starting with James and see how the writers were actually drawing from Christ’s teaching in the Gospels. May God’s word run swiftly. Amen.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Quick Thought on All Things Working for our Good

Recently I was studying another topic, and came across something that changed my thinking concerning how all things work together for our good. I am sure we all know Rom. 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” I had always seen the working together in a passive light, but the word is an active one – sunergeo. That same word is used of God working miracles on behalf of the apostles preaching (Mark 16:20), of faith co-operating with works, and a couple of times in the sense of fellow worker or auxiliary (1 Cor. 16:16; 2 Cor. 6:1). So not only are all things passively going to work out for our good, but they are actively working to achieve God’s goal. In the same way that the tension of a bow gives and arrow more force, or the turbulence of the air the eagle more height so the distresses of this world propel the Christian forward. In a certain sense it is not in spite of these things that we triumph, but because of them. What message would George Fox and John Bunyan have had had they not known the dark nights of searching? Their struggles were both personal doubts they had to wrestle with, and God appointed trials to bring them and others into the light of day. God’s strength is and always had been made perfect in weakness. In whatever you are facing now, remember if you love the Lord and called according to His purpose, He has ordained every struggle you will face as a training ground to make you stronger than you could ever be without. Trials are not a necessary evil they are an indispensible tool to form you into what God intends you to be, and they will take you higher than you could ever go without them. May God lead us ever on! Amen.