How Beautiful Heaven Must Be

What do you look forward to in heaven? Here are some things that we know will be wonderful about the eternal home of the redeemed.

  • We will get new, glorious bodies that do not suffer from corruption.
    (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 49) “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body,it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body… Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.”
  • We will find healing from all of our ailments.
    (Revelation 22:1-2) “Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds offruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
  • Sin will no longer dwell in our bodies.
    (Romans 7:21-25) “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
  • A great marriage feast together.
    (Revelation 19:7-9) “‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.’ It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright andclean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’”
  • Not having to deal with the harmful effects of sin.
    (Revelation 21:8) “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
  • Every wrong will be avenged.
    (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10) “For after all it is onlyjust for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.”
  • Joyfully worshipping God forever.
    (Revelation 5:11-14) “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.’ And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen.’ And the elders fell down and worshiped.”
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“Oh, my God!”

It isn’t uncommon for a child to be taught certain things not to say as they grow older. One of the phrases that might frequently be taught against, in a Christian family, is “Oh, my God.” As a child, the meaning of this commandment may not hold the same significance to the individual as it would when he or she was older. It’s when the individual is older and more mature in their faith that a comprehension and fulfillment of the commandments noticed in Scripture can be done. This particular commandment is one that we read of in the Old Testament, yet remains to be one of the most kept from our youth today.

In Exodus 20:7 we can read that, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain (NASB).” The context surrounding this verse is of course the Lord giving the 10 commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai. In the previous chapter, it can be read that the Lord’s presence on the mountain was so bold that the only visible thing was the smoke from fire which God came down in. As Moses and the people were approaching the mountain, the people were afraid of the absolute power that escaped through flashes of light and roaring sounds from within the smoke. Descriptions such as this capture what the essence of God is intended to sound like from the mouths of man. From scenarios like this it is also deducible to notice the difference between declaring the Lord’s name in vain and simply declaring His excellence.

‘For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. (Hebrews 6:13-16 NASB)’ This Scripture adds to the idea of the Lord’s name carrying such a significance through time, that even the Lord swears by His own name. Having no entity greater than He, He was forced to swear by His name.

The sanctity of the Lord’s name alone is enough to strike fear in the hearts of the strongest men. In the account of the Exodus 3, Moses asked the Lord what he should say when the people of Israel ask Who sent him to them. The Lord’s reply is one that fully encompasses the identity and longevity of His existence. God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you. (Ex. 3:14 NASB)’” Because of God’s nature, there was no other description needed. When taking into consideration the thought at large then, to say with adoration and respect for the power He has over life, “Oh, my God,” would not be an unacceptable phrase. Within certain situations one may find him or herself, the only words that seem fitting to say, when expressing the feelings that are stirring inside, are just statements declaring Who He is. In regards to a being that had no beginning, no boundaries, and no body adequately described by physical or worldly things, mankind can’t create a phrase special enough to match His attributes. Therefore, saying in vain the name of such a being would not a follower, worshipper, or glorifier make. His creation is to admire His handiwork and glorify His greatness.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1 ESV)” This is verse is known by many and is referenced often when anyone is looking for the right words to describe what might be in their mind. When the psalmist wrote these words, the overall attitude surrounding this verse and the verses following it was astonishment. When reading things such as this it reminds us that the name of our Creator is one to be in constant fear of! This is not to say that we should be scared of His power, but that we should be in a constant state of humility and respect. If the spirit behind the phrase is one that centers itself around moods such as these, then there should be no fear or odd feelings about saying “Oh, my God!” This crucial difference is what marks the separation between the words of adoration and the words that we teach our children not to say.

 

The Bread & The Water

From an early point in the history of man, bread has been known as a basic food item. The term “bread” has even taken on the representation of a meal in its entirety. It’s often heard that we “gather together in fellowship to ‘break bread.’” That is to say we are enjoying each other’s company and sharing a meal. It’s true that such a simple item is composed of simple ingredients, but the significance of what bread symbolizes to humanity exceeds a concoction of basic ingredients. The same type of mindset could be applied to water.

Because these two seemingly elementary things have been so well distributed and manufactured, the significance of their existence may be overlooked by modern society. In the past, if a man had bread and water, he had enough to provide for himself a meal and not worry about going hungry. For a man, during a time such as the one described, to offer a food that would never perish and keep one from going hungry would seem impossible. Yet, in John 6:35, we read of Jesus offering such a bread to the crowd, and in John chapter 4:13, we read of Jesus offering a water that would inhibit thirst from happening again.

John 6:35 says, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’” This verse is what follows a conversation between Jesus and the crowd that witnessed Him feeding thousands of people with only 5 loaves of bread and two fish. In previous verses, Jesus declares that the people who had followed Him from one side of the Sea of Galilee to the city of Capernaum had done so only because they had been fed. Their reply to Jesus started in verse 30, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” Although Jesus had just fed thousands with a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread, the people were still wanting proof for what Jesus was claiming! He goes on to reply in verse 33 that the bread of God is what comes down out of heaven to give life to the world.

It is somewhat obvious to a reader that Jesus is referring to Himself when He says this, and the same could be said for when He compares what He offers can be likened to that of eternal water. In John 4, because the Samaritan woman was so focused on the physical aspect of the water, she had missed what Jesus was teaching. Similar to the Samaritan woman, do we often put too much focus on things that pertain to the world? The church in Colossae needed to be reminded of this, and Paul gave a helpful statement in Colossians 3:2, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

It isn’t uncommon to notice that people tend to miss the basic concepts of things sometimes. As Christians, our goal is to strive for the spiritual food that Jesus speaks about, and spread the news that the food is free to all! If you’re feeling a little malnourished, just take a bite out of the Word of God! If your’e feeling thirsty, take a sip from the life-giving water that Jesus came to this earth to share. The message of Jesus and His sacrificial love has proven to be something that never grows old and will always appease your appetite. Hebrews 13:8 reminds us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” This verse applies to His promises and news about how the feast has been prepared for us. All we need to do is believe Him and commit to partaking of it one bite at a time.

Am I Walking In Darkness – Austin Gonzales

So when we’re saved from sin, we are supposed to repent, right? We need to change from our wicked ways; and when we learn that we’ve been doing something wrong, correct it. Okay, that sounds great. But no one is perfect, so obviously it must be a continual cycle of renewing this commitment. Okay, well that’s doable. But what about the days when we fail to make that commitment, and we can feel the guilt of what we’ve done – at what point might Jesus’ blood cease to cleanse away our sins?

1 John 1:6-9 says, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

So according to this; as long as we are walking in the light, Jesus’ blood continues to cleanse our sins away. But that is kind of our question, isn’t it; at what point are we walking in the dark, rather than the light? Well one point is in the next sentence. The Lord will forgive us if we confess our sins, but if we pretend that we simply have no sin – keeping ourselves “in the dark” – then that’s one case where we no longer have forgiveness. This makes sense, because how you one repent of something that you don’t believe needs to be repented of?

Another situation in which Jesus’ blood no longer cleanses us is if we try to live by the Old Law. Galatians 5:2-5 says, “Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.”

Why is this? Well, keeping in mind that no man is perfect – a fact backed by Romans 3:23 – James 2:10-12 explains this for us: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.” Then, even if somebody could follow the Mosaic Law perfectly, Hebrews 10:4 tells us that “…it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” After all, it was Jesus Who died once for all (Romans 6:10).

The last example that I could find of walking in darkness is in Hebrews 10:26-29. “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?”

This third situation is obviously a blatant rejection of God’s commands and of His sacrifice, after receiving grace previously. This is when a brother or sister has ceased to believe in the Lord, or when they have given up the attempt to turn their life around for God. Applicable here are also the verses about church discipline; giving multiple chances for a brother in sin to change his ways before deciding to reject him (Matthew 18:15-18). I suppose that included in this category would be a divisive person or a false teacher, causing havoc and heartache in the Lord’s church.

So, rather than walking in darkness, “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Teaching as Doctrines the Precepts of Men

 

It is common to hear people assert that “everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” and there is certainly some truth to that statement. At the end of the day, we have the ability choose for ourselves what we believe; no one can force us to accept something that we do not want to accept. But just because “everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” that does not mean that all opinions are equally valid or true.

Paul told Timothy to “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” Apparently, there is a correct way and an incorrect way to handle the word of truth. Some interpretations of scripture are correct and others are just plain wrong.

In fact, Timothy was specifically warned that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” We can believe whatever we want about scripture, but in that case we may very well be preaching “myth” instead of “truth.”

Peter warned that “the untaught and unstable” would “distort” the things in Paul’s writings, “as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” Sure, we can twist the scriptures to reach all kinds of different conclusions, but we may be doing so at our own peril if we are handling the word incorrectly.

So how can we make sure that we are handling the word of truth rightly, abiding in sound doctrine, and resisting the urge to distort scripture? Let’s consider some scriptures that can help us to answer that question.

 John warned his hearers that: “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.”   John’s admonition not to “go too far” and thus “not abide” in Christ’s teachings sounds a lot like the word’s of Paul to the Corinthians that they must “learn not to exceed what is written.”

“Going to far,” “not abiding in,” and “exceeding” what is written are all terms that indicate an addition of man-made concepts to what is actually present in scripture.

Thus, in Deuteronomy the Israelites were told “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.” Unfortunately the Pharisees did just that. They invented all kinds of extra requirements to add to the law.

This idea is repeated in Revelation, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”

Jesus summed it up in a very simple and powerful way: “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

It can be hard not to go beyond what is written when we want to have all the answers. It can be hard not to invent new “doctrines” which are really only human precepts when we want to build a systematic theology that can answer all of our questions. But we must have the courage to speak when the Bible speaks and be silent when the Bible is silent.

Scriptures and Thoughts on the Word “Church”

Greek:

Ekklesia – an assembly, a casual gathering of people, or people with a shared belief.
Generally any group, or specifically God’s “called out-ones” universally or in a particular assembly.

Hebrew:

Qahal – “assembly”
Edah – “congregation”

Where can a church meet?

 (Romans 16:3-5) Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also greet the church that is in their house.

 (1 Corinthians 16:19) The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.

 (Colossians 4:15) Greet the brothers in Laodicea, as well as Nympha and the church that meets at her house.

 (Philemon 1:2) to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church that meets at your house:

Do the following verses suggest that early Christians congregated in the synagogue?

 (Acts 13:42-48) And as Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God. And the next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles… And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

 (Acts 18:26) And he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

 (Acts 19:8) And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. And this took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

 (Acts 2:46-47) Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Other places:

(Acts 20:7-12) On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together. And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead.

 (Acts 16:13) And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.

 How should we reconcile congregational autonomy with universal cooperation?

 (Acts 14:23) “So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

 (I Corinthians 16:1-4) “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:  On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem.  But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.”

What bearing does the following passage have, considering that apostles and prophets were involved, which are not with us today?

(Acts 15:1-6) “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.” “So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren.  And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them.”But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.””Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.”

(Acts 15:22-32) “They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings.”Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law” — to whom we gave no such commandment — it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,”  …”We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth.  For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:”  …”So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter.  When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement.” Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.”

What is the “rock” that Jesus built His church on?

(Matthew 16:13-19) Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.

(John 20:21-23) So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

(1 Peter 2:4-8) And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,”and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

(Ephesians 2:19-22) So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

(1 Corinthians 10:4) and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.

Do different guidelines apply to the church when assembled versus when dispersed?

(1 Corinthians 14:34-35) The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.

(1 Timothy 2:11-12) A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.  (1 Timothy 3:14-15) I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.

(1 Corinthians 11:20-22) Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.

(1 Corinthians 14:26-33) What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

What does ‘forsaking the assembly’ mean and is it ever acceptable?

(Hebrews 10:23-25) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Forsake – to “leave in the desert,” to abandon, to leave in straits, neglect

Assembling together – From episunago; a complete collection; especially a Christian meeting (for worship) — assembling (gathering) together.

Habit – ethos – an unwritten custom; behavior based on tradition (a habit) fixed by the religious social life of a nation.

What is the basis for the unity of the church? Complete doctrinal agreement? Following Jesus? Something else?

(Ephesians 4:1-16)
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peaceThere is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptismone God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,
“WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH,
HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES,
AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.”
(Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachersfor the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christuntil we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

(Romans 14) do not judge based on “opinions”

What names or descriptions are given to the church in Scripture?

Brethren: (occurs 188 times in NT)

“Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.” (Acts 6:3)

“And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.” (Acts 11:29)

“Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message.” (Acts 15:32)

“After some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’” (Acts 15:36)

“And he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.” (Acts 16:2)

“After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.” (Acts 21:17)

“There we found some brethren, and were invited to stay with them for seven days; and thus we came to Rome.” (Acts 28:14)

Church: (occurs 112 times)

The church in Jerusalem.” (Acts 8:1)

The church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria” (Acts 9:31)

“They had appointed elders for them in every church.” (Acts 14:23)

The church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28)

The church that is in their house.” (Romans 16:5)

“All the churches of Christ greet you.” (Romans 16:16)

“The churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

“The church of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:2, 10:32, 15:9, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Galatians 1:13, 1 Timothy 3:5)

“The churches of God.” (1 Corinthians 11:16, 2 Thessalonians 1:4)

“The churches of Judea which were in Christ.” (Galatians 1:22)

“The churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea.” (1 Thessalonians 2:14)

“The household of God, which is the church of the living God.” (1 Timothy 3:15)

Saints: (occurs 61 times)
“Your saints at Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:13)

The saints who lived at Lydda.” (Acts 9:32)

“To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints.” (Romans 1:7)

“And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27)

“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 on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” (1 Corinthians 1:2)

“as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” (Ephesians 5:3)

“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.” (Philippians 1:1)

The Way: (occurs 5 times)

“So that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:2)

“About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way.” (Acts 19:23)

“But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets.” (Acts 24:14)

Should people ever be kicked out of the church? If so, when and how?

(1 Corinthians 5:9-13) I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.

(1 Corinthians 5) Entire chapter (2 Corinthians 2) The Outcome

Tradition!

Many in the church today seem to have a negative view of the word, “traditions,” and perhaps in some instances they should.

In Mark 7, Jesus told the religious leaders of his day: “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition,” or as Matthew 15:3 and 6 record, why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?… You invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.”

This statement of Jesus followed His quoting to them from Isaiah 29:13, which states: “this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.” Jesus said they were “teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

But are traditions all bad?

Paul told the Thessalonians, “stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15) He also told the church in Corinth, “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.” (1 Corinthians 11:2)

Just a few verses later in the same chapter, when Paul was instructing the women of Corinth to cover their heads while praying, he referred to this instruction with the Greek word “sunétheia,” which indicates “a custom, habit, or practice,” something that becomes “intimate” or “customary” through repeated usage.

So how are we to judge which traditions are valuable and which should be thrown out?

Notice from the verses that we have listed that the Bible does not exalt or denounce ideas and practices based simply on whether they are “old,” or “new,” but rather on whether or not they are conducive to godliness and in line with Biblical doctrine.

  • If the keeping of a tradition requires us to set aside God’s word, it must go.
  • If observing a particular tradition causes us to break God’s commandments, it must be abandoned.
  • If the process of learning our traditions “by rote” has resulted in heartless, mechanical worship, something must change.
  • If we are teaching our traditions as though they were the very words of God, we must stop.

On the other hand, if our traditions call us to godliness, enrich our spiritual lives, and bring honor to God, all without violating His revealed will, they are to be cherished and prolonged.

But what if a particular tradition is not causing any harm, and violates none of God’s commands, but some find it pointless and wish to abandon it while others think it continues to be useful?

A similar situation occurred in Romans 14.

Old dietary and holiday traditions still existed among new converts form Judaism to Christianity. Disagreements arose about the usefulness and validity of these old traditions now that the Christ had come. But Paul did not exactly pick sides. Instead, he seamed to confirm to them that either position was potentially acceptable: “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.”

To see more of what council the church in Rome was given, read through Romans chapter 14.

The Role of Women in Corporate Worship and Church Leadership

A controversial topic in many churches today is the presence of female pastors, preachers, and deacons, and female leadership in corporate worship.

As is typical of contemporary doctrinal discussions, this topic is raised largely as the result of recent cultural changes, though its implications go back to the very natures of God and of man. The topic is therefore an extremely important one, and even more so when we consider that the way we interpret the Bible on this topic sets a precedent for future hermeneutics.

It is my position that only men are authorized by the scriptures to serve in leadership positions in the lord’s church, including leadership during corporate worship, and that a hermeneutic that reaches any other conclusion is dangerous and flawed.

Galatians 3:28 is referenced repeatedly and proudly among those arguing that women should have the right to lead prayers, singing, and deliver sermons to our congregations. The verse states “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NASB). This verse is understood by some to mean that distinctions and roles based on gender are no longer binding on those who are in Christ.

But if this verse means that wives are not longer under the authority of their husbands as dictated in Gen. 3:16, why do we find Paul in Eph. 6:22 exhorting: “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord” and in verse 24: “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” It is impossible to suggest that Gal. 3:28 abolishes divinely decreed gender roles without implying that the scriptures, and even the writings of Paul himself, are contradictory, thus undermining the inerrancy of scripture.

Those who would welcome female church leadership also make much of Rom. 16:1 in which Paul uses the Greek word “diakonon” in reference to Phoebe. This verse is cited as proof that woman “deaconesses” are endorsed in scripture to hold public offices in the church. To derive this teaching from Rom 16:1 is irresponsible because the noun diakonos is used frequently throughout scripture to refer to anyone who is a servant in a general sense. In Mark 10:43 Jesus tells his apostles that “whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your diakonos.” Was Christ teaching that if a man wants to become great, he must hold the office of deacon in the Lord’s church? It is obvious from the context that in this instance and in many others in scripture, the term diakonos is being used simply to denote one who serves in any capacity.

In the same passage Prisca and her husband Aquila are greeted by Paul as his “fellow workers,” once again indicating that women can and do serve in various capacities in the Lord’s church, but giving no indication whatsoever that they may lead corporate worship or hold public church office.

A careful reading of 1 Timothy 2 gives us a clear answer to this discussion. In verse 8, Paul requests for “men in every place to pray.” The noun used here is not the general term “anthropos,” which may refer to mankind generically rather than males specifically. Rather the term “andros” is used, which refers distinctively to a male human being or a man. This verse is followed by a series of verses on the conduct of women. Verses 11-12 state clearly: “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.”

I want to clearly establish two foundational truths about this declaration: one, that he is speaking in regards to how we conduct ourselves when gathered together as the Lord’s body, and two, that the following verses make it perfectly clear that Paul’s declaration results from timeless theological reasons as opposed to temporary cultural views.

From the context of this passage we can clearly see that Paul is speaking in regards to the worship and activity of the church. He goes on in chapter 3 to give the qualifications for elders and deacons (both of which are obviously male specific in their terminology,) and the explanation in verse 15 that “I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” This context makes it clear that Paul’s orders for women to receive instruction with submissiveness, and not to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet, apply specifically in the church and its activities.

Many will claim that while Paul may have been prohibiting women from leading prayers or preaching in the first century, he was doing so for cultural reasons that are no longer applicable today. The context of the passage is exceptionally helpful in disproving that notion. Paul gives very specific reasons for his prohibitions in verses 13-15: “For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.  But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.”

Paul makes it clear that these roles he is describing are the results of God’s arrangement in Gen. 3:16 that a man should have authority over a woman, an arrangement that he apparently believes is still in effect at the time he is writing. This shows us that Paul did not believe that Christ’s death abolished gender roles, and that these roles are the theological, rather than cultural reasons for his stance. This view is clearly supported by the verses from Eph. 6 mentioned earlier, as they attribute the theological importance of modeling Christ and his church to the roles of men and women in marriage. It is impossible to properly understand Paul’s teaching and to claim that it is culturally motivated.

A hermeneutic that encounters any passage that is culturally unpopular as though it were outdated and can safely be revised is dangerous indeed. Various teachings of God’s word have been unpopular throughout history, but the theological truths that undergird those teachings cannot be revised without revising our very understandings of God and man, and to do so is simply to contradict scripture.

As a final word to those who are deeply offended by the idea of the prohibition of females from corporate church leadership, it should be stated that a view of a church in which only a few activities such as “leading songs, preaching, and being a pastor” are considered meaningful jobs to do is a sad view of the church indeed. There is SO much for women to do in the church, as hundreds of thousands of them demonstrate every week.

Making a Change

We noticed last week in our study of the prophet Hosea that Israel seemed to have an ongoing problem with worshipping statues of calves. We know this problem started all the way back in Exodus 32 when the people made two golden calves to worship even while Moses was still up on Mount Sinai receiving the ten commandments from God.

Hundreds of years later, they were still stumbling in the same old ways:

“With their silver and gold they have made idols for themselves, That they might be cut off. He has rejected your calf, O Samaria, saying, ‘My anger burns against them!’ How long will they be incapable of innocence? For from Israel is even this! A craftsman made it, so it is not God; Surely the calf of Samaria will be broken to pieces.” (Hosea 8:4-6)

“And now they sin more and more, And make for themselves molten images, Idols skillfully made from their silver, All of them the work of craftsmen. They say of them, ‘Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!’” (Hosea 13:2)

For that matter, many have remarked that the entire Old Testament reads like a roller coaster ride with the morality and corresponding prosperity of God’s people going up and down, up and down, over and over again as the people fail to learn their lesson.

But is that not human nature? In 2 Peter 2:22, we are told that it is a “true proverb” that “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” We fail time and again in the same exact ways.

So what are we to do about our recurring sin problems? The scriptural answer is that we must have our minds totally renewed.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19)

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

A common saying goes that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The alternative, of course, is to do something new in your search for new and different results.

What will you commit to doing something this week that is new or different from what you normally do? What change can you make that will invite God to be your king, friend, and mentor like never before? Will you commit to making some change in your routine? To giving something up in order to focus more on Him? What about stepping out of your comfort zone in a new way? Or talking to someone about a part of you that has long been hidden? When we draw near to God, He will draw near to us, and make us new.

 

 

 

Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?

In Mark 15, it is recorded that Jesus cried out from the cross “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This was the same thing that David cried in the 22nd psalm:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.”

The people around Jesus had no idea what He was talking about. They were ignorant of the Psalm and ignorant of Jesus’ true identity and the true depth and meaning of His suffering. “Behold, he is calling Elijah,” they concluded, “let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.”

At the moment of Jesus’ greatest loneliness, he was surrounded by clueless sinners who speculated about Elijah and wagged their heads as He gave Himself up on behalf of their eternal souls.

David continued in his psalm:
“I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’”

And later,
“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.”

Then the Psalm takes an unexpected turn.

“You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.”

What happened in David’s heart that made him trust in God even when no one understood him and God Himself seemed far away? Did God speak to Him with an audible voice? Did God touch his heart in a reassuring way? Did David find somewhere deep in his heart the assurance that he could trust the LORD no matter what? Did David come back and write this part of the psalm after things got better?

I don’t know. But I pray that you and I can have a psalm like David’s.

I believe that Jesus was referencing all of Psalm 22 when He quoted that one line from the cross. At that moment, He may have felt only the first verse, but He testified to the truth of the whole. That is the hope that we cling to in our darkest and loneliest times.