In Verse 18, Paul says, “God… hath reconciled us to Himself… and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” Here we see that the people who have been given the ministry of reconciliation are the same people who have been reconciled to God. This cannot be limited to Paul and other leaders; it must include all believers, for we have all been reconciled.
Paul then defines the ministry of reconciliation as that which takes place when “ambassadors” say to the lost, “be ye reconciled to God” (v. 20). This means that the ambassadors proclaiming reconciliation in Verse 20 must consist of all the reconciled people who were given the ministry of reconciliation in Verse 18.
This also points out that, while “the world” has been reconciled to God (v. 19), the unsaved have not been reconciled in the same sense as believers, or else they would also be Christ’s ambassadors. The reconciling of the world is that which God gave Jews and Gentiles corporately, once the Jews had been cast away (Rom. 11:15), just as the Gentiles had been at the Tower of Babel.
To a young Christian who kept bemoaning his failures and lack of spiritual growth, and wondering how God could love him, a more mature believer responded substantially as follows:
“When I leave here and return to my home I will pick up my little baby girl and put her on my knee. Tired as I am, I will dandle her on my knee and, somehow, looking into that darling face and those pretty blue eyes, I will soon feel rested and refreshed.
“This is strange, in a way, for she does not love me. She doesn’t even know what love is.
“She doesn’t appreciate my problems and has no sympathy for me. My heart can be burdened with grief or filled with anxiety, and my mind vexed with difficult problems, but she doesn’t even know or care. She just keeps gurgling and giggling at the attention I lavish upon her.
“She doesn’t contribute one cent toward the needs of our family; indeed, she costs me a great deal of money and will for years to come. Yet I love that child more than I can say. There is no sacrifice I would not make for her; no good thing I would not gladly give her.”
Such is the grace of God toward us, His children. It does not depend upon our faithfulness to Him or our appreciation of His love to us. He loves us with an unspeakable love and keeps lavishing upon us “the riches of His grace” simply because we are His children in Christ, the Beloved One. And strangely, is it not precisely this fact that proves to be our greatest incentive to give ourselves to Him in loving service and sacrifice as we grow in grace?
Twice in Paul’s epistles he refers to “dead works”. In Hebrews 6:1 he writes about “repentance from dead works”, while in Hebrews 9:14 he declares that the blood of Christ avails to “purge the conscience from dead works to serve the living God”.
Mark well, these references are not to wicked works but to dead works. These “dead works” are the so-called “good works” (whether moral or ceremonial) which men did — and still do — to make themselves acceptable to God. They are “dead” because they are not the product of regeneration or spiritual life, but the mere attempt on the part of unregenerate sinners to justify themselves before God.
Paul himself, once zealously religious, but wholly unsaved, had to repudiate his “dead works” and count them “loss” to find salvation in Christ, through whom alone he could produce good works which God could accept.
(See Philippians 3:4-9).
This is why he later declared by divine inspiration:
“Dead works” are not only unacceptable to God, but an evil substitute for the faith He desires, “for without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb.11:6). But “he that believeth on the Son of God hath life” and this life is bound to bear fruit— the good works with which God is truly pleased.
The difference between the “good works” of the unregenerate man and the “good works” of a true believer, then, is that the former are “dead works” while the latter are the precious fruit of life possessed.
No man can please God while he denies the truth of His Word or rejects His Son, so graciously given to die on the cross as our Saviour. To try to win His favor by “good works” while rejecting Christ is like sending a gift to a man whose beloved son you spurn and despise.
The careful student of the Epistles of Paul soon observes that the Apostle makes many specific statements as to the distinctiveness of his ministry and message. Even apart from this, however, and considering his phraseology alone, we often wonder how anyone could possibly deny that his message was distinct from that which the twelve had proclaimed. Note the following examples:
Add to this the Apostle’s explicit claims as to the distinctive character of his ministry and message and you have irrefutable proof of the fact.
It is not enough to use the Bible as a grand book of wonderful sayings from which we may choose what we wish for our inspiration, nor will one who truly realizes that “God hath spoken” ever hold so shallow an opinion of the sacred Scriptures.
“The Word of truth” must be “rightly divided”; for while it is all given for our spiritual profit, it was not all addressed to us, or written about us. Thus one who truly desires to understand and obey God’s Word will seek first to determine what Scriptures are particularly related to him and will study all the rest in the light of these.
Sad to say, however, there are many who fail to give the Book of God the respect and reverence it deserves. They flip it open at random, let a finger light upon the open page and then read the verse indicated to see if perchance they may find leading from the Lord in that way. And if it doesn’t “work” the first time they try it again and again until it does “work.” They use “promise boxes” in the same way, on the basis that “every promise in the Book is mine.” They take passages out of their contexts, “spiritualize” them, and give them “private interpretations.” Finding “precious passages” anywhere at all, no matter to whom addressed or when or why, they place their own constructions upon them and claim them as promises of God to them! To take isolated statements from the writings of men and use them in such a manner would be considered dishonest, but even Bible teachers do it with the Word of God!
The Word, rightly divided, is of supreme importance to the Church at large as well as to the individual believer, and it is because this fact has not yet been sufficiently recognized that we have not experienced the true, heaven-sent revival that the Church so sorely needs.
Many religious people take the Lord Jesus Christ as their pattern in life. They call Him “The Great Example”. When problems arise, they ask themselves: “What would Jesus do?” They seek salvation by “walking in His steps”.
While our Lord’s moral and spiritual virtues are indeed worthy of emulation, there were many details in His conduct which we should not imitate. For example, none of us would be in a position to pronounce upon the religious hypocrites of our day the bitter woes which our Lord pronounced upon the Pharisees of His day — simply because we all have so much of the Pharisee in us.
Certainly we cannot be saved by “following Christ,” or striving to live as He did. His perfect holiness would only emphasize our unrighteousness and condemn us. He came to save us, not by His life, but by His death. “CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS” (ICor.15:3), and sinners are “reconciled to God by the deathof His Son” (Rom.5:10).
But God has given us a pattern for salvation. It is none other than the Apostle Paul, the chief of sinners saved by grace. Hear what he says by divine inspiration:
Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, remember, had led his nation and the world in rebellion against God and His Christ. He was “exceedingly mad” against the disciples of Christ and “breathed threatening and slaughter” against them. Why then, did God save him? He goes on to tell us in the next verse:
The moral: Take your stand with Paul. Admit you are a sinner and his Saviour will save you too.
There are three misconceptions that most people entertain about the law of God and its Ten Commandments:
It is true that the law, while given to Israel, also shows the Gentile that he is a sinner. This is why Romans 3:19 says:
But most important of all: Few people realize that the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins to deliver us from the just condemnation of the law. This is taught in the following Scriptures:
We believe that the King James Version of the Scriptures best conveys the sense of the original language. The modern versions change the phrase “faith of Christ” to “faith in Christ” throughout, which overwhelms the passage with redundancy. Paul never intended the emphasis to be upon what man has achieved, but instead what the Savior has accomplished on his behalf. The apostle here is clearly contrasting these two phrases.
We are not justified by keeping the law, rather we are declared eternally righteous by the faith of Christ. It was Christ’s faithfulness that is the basis of our justification. He faithfully carried out the will of the Father to provide redemption through His finished work at Calvary (Heb. 10:5-10). While salvation is a free gift given to all who place their “faith in” what Christ has done, He being the object of our faith, it was at great cost. The payment to rescue us from the eternal consequences of sin is the precious blood of Christ. Only those, however, who place their faith in Him have the forgiveness of their sins (Eph. 1:7).
“From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Tim. 3:15).
Timothy was a fortunate young man. His father was not a believer in Christ, but his godly mother made up for this lack as, day after day, from his earliest childhood, she taught him the Word of God. As a result he came to know Christ at an early age and later became St. Paul’s faithful co-worker and close associate in making known the wonderful “good news of the grace of God.”
In his very last letter the great Apostle Paul recalls Timothy’s “unfeigned faith… which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice”(II Tim. 1:5).
If only we had more such mothers and grandmothers today, with husbands to help them! If only our American children were not set adrift on a restless sea of human speculation, but were taught the eternal truths of God’s Word, the Bible!
We all need to “know the Holy Scriptures,” not only because they teach reverence for God and build moral character, but most of all because they “are able to make [us] wise unto salvation through faith… in Christ Jesus.”
The theme of the Bible, the Old Testament as well as New, is the Lord Jesus Christ, the riches of whose saving grace are unfolded to us in the Epistles of Paul, the chief of sinners saved by grace. It was to Paul that God committed the preaching of the cross of Christ. He it is who tells us about the riches that flow from Calvary. He it is who tells us, by divine inspiration that:
“…WE HAVE REDEMPTION THROUGH [CHRIST’S] BLOOD, THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS ACCORDING TO THE RICHES OF HIS GRACE” (Eph. 1:7).
“THAT IN THE AGES TO COME HE MIGHT SHOW THE EXCEEDING RICHES OF HIS GRACE IN HIS KINDNESS TOWARD US THROUGH CHRIST JESUS” (Eph. 2:7).
“I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it” (Rev. 3:8).
This prophecy concerning the church at Philadelphia doubtless looks forward to a future day, but who can deny that it contains a lesson for our day?
When, in our walk through life, God sets before us open doors of opportunity, He clearly intends us to enter them. The only way to avoid entering an open door set before us would be to deliberately sidestep the opportunity. Alas, how prone we are to do this! Indeed, we often pray God for open doors when He has already set them before us and all about us.
Examine the record of Paul’s ministry and see how he thanked God for open doors (Acts 14:27; I Cor. 16:9), grasping such opportunities as God set before him on every hand. He did not pull strings or ask his friends to use their influence to gain more comfortable or better-paying positions. He faithfully entered whatever doors God set before him. His best known requests for prayer for open doors came from Rome, where a prison door had closed behind him. Should not this put us to shame!
May God convict us of the inconsistency of praying for open doors while failing to enter the many open doors He has set before us! May He forgive us for ever being selective about working for Him! May He give us the grace to take advantage of whatever opportunities present themselves to us, “buying up the time because the days are evil.”
When parents are blessed with both a daughter and a son, there are obvious differences. Each has his or her own distinct looks, clothing, goals, and requirements. Both are recognized for their God-given differences, and loved separately, yet equally. Even after they have children of their own, this continues to be true. In a similar way, God established two distinctly different programs and peoples in the Bible. One is the children of Israel, who were given the Mosaic Law as their instructions and to whom nearly two thirds of the Bible was written, and the other is the sons and daughters of God in the Body of Christ, who are under Grace.
The Nation of Israel
There are several specific reasons why God made the nation of Israel His “special people” (Deut. 7:6). It begins with the persistent rebellion of man very early in history. We learn from Romans 1:21-32 that even “when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God.” Mankind plunged so deeply into idolatry and immorality that they sank to the level where “they did not like to retain God in their knowledge.” Since man was created as a free moral agent with choice, God did not force man to have a relationship with Him. However, He was not willing to stand idly by and allow the entire human race to foolishly run down a course leading to the eternal Lake of Fire, so He intervened by establishing the nation of Israel.
When Abram was called to become the father of Israel, God promised him three things: “I will make of thee a great nation… and make thy name great… and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:2-3). The first two promises amount to using the nation of Israel as an undeniable witness of God to an unbelieving world. Repeatedly, the Scripture tell us this was one of the primary purposes for Israel as a nation and all she encountered in history. Solomon’s prayer was “that all people of the earth may know thy name…” (I Kings 8:43). Hezekiah prayed that the Lord would deliver them from enemies “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord God, even thou only” (II Kings 19:19). Ezekiel was told to predict a future when enemies will “come up against my people of Israel…that the heathen may know me” (Ezek. 38:16). Likewise, Isaiah predicts a day when “all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob” (Isa. 49:26). Even those who do not want to retain the knowledge of God have heard of the Lord parting the Red Sea and providing a host of miracles for Israel. Israel has been God’s witness to the world.
The third promise to Abram was to bless all the families of the earth through him and his seed. Ultimately, this was fulfilled in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, coming as the Son of Man and Son of God to pay the ransom for the sins of all mankind. Salvation is now available to all because God used Israel to produce a needed Savior.
The Mosaic Law of Israel
It is imperative that we understand to whom the Law of Moses was given, what it involved, and why it was given. The Lord told Moses, “I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments…that thou mayest teach them [to Israel]” (Ex. 24:12). These laws were given only to the nation of Israel. They were not given to, nor intended for, Gentiles of the past or present. Moreover, many further misunderstand the scope of the Law of Moses. It was far more than the Ten Commandments; it included volumes of strict requirements governing the social, civil, dietary, and worship life of Israel. It was an entire package to be obeyed. No one was allowed to pick and choose certain requirements and ignore others.
God had several important purposes for giving these laws. They were to be a testimony to all who “hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people…who hath God so nigh unto them” (Deut. 4:5-8). It was intended to draw lost souls back to God, but it was never intended as a way to merit eternal life. Paul taught, “Ye could not be justified [from sin] by the law of Moses” because it was given that “all the world may become guilty before God… for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:19,20). The law was a beautiful system for Israel, but even Peter acknowledged that it was a heavy “yoke…which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (Acts 15:10). God’s ultimate purpose for the law was to prove man’s guilt, to prove his inability to be righteous through good works, and to become “our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). It is absolutely not intended for the practice of believers today.
How Long Did the Mosaic Law Last?
The Lord Jesus clearly said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). He told His disciples, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles…but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5-6). In the early chapters of Acts, it is clear that Israel was still the exclusive focus of ministry (Acts 2:5,22,36; 3:12,25; 7:2,51,52; 11:19,20). Moreover, these Jewish believers were still operating under the law. The Lord Jesus taught, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do” (Matt. 23:1,2). They were still to keep the law because Christ said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law… but to fulfil” (Matt. 5:17).
For many present-day Christians, much confusion exists because they incorrectly attempt to apply instructions or promises that were given exclusively to Israel under the law. Only Israel was to “take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat…or drink…but seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:25-33). Only Israel was promised, “And these signs shall follow them that believe… In my name shall they cast out devils… speak with new tongues… they shall lay hands on the sick” (Mark 16:17,18). Only Israel was promised, “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it”(John 14:13,14; 16:23; Matt. 18:19). When we read the Old Testament, the Gospel accounts, and the early chapters of Acts, we are not to claim promises or instruction intended exclusively for Israel. These books were included as part of our present-day Bible because God intended them “for our learning” (Rom. 15:4). Let’s learn the lessons God intended without claiming Israel’s promises.
The Body of Christ
Believers today are not part of the nation of Israel. In the early part of the Book of Acts, God set Israel aside from her favored and exalted position due to repeated waywardness (Rom. 11:11,12). Today, “There is neither Jew nor Greek…for ye are all one in Christ” (Gal. 3:28). Those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ today are placed into a new group of believers called “the church, which is His Body” or the Body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23). This is a brand new group of believers that began with the Apostle Paul. Dr. C. I. Scofield said it well in his reference Bible when he wrote: “In his [Paul’s] writings alone we find the doctrine, position, walk, and destiny of the Church.” 1
The Apostle Paul teaches us, “Ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). God saves us by His grace (Eph. 2:8,9), keeps us Growing in God’s Grace secure because grace “reign[s]” (Rom. 5:21), and grace provides a lasting daily peace “wherein we stand” (Rom. 5:1,2). Finally, “…the grace of God [is]… teaching us that, denying ungodliness… we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-13). As we live in this current Age of Grace, we are to depend on grace in every area of our lives, and look consistently for our promises and instructions in the letters of the Apostle Paul.
Israel (under the law), and the Body of Christ (under grace), are like a brother and sister. God is the Father of both, yet each is distinctly different. These differences are not intended to be diluted until they are indistinguishable. We are to recognize, respect, and maintain these distinctions. This is a key to understanding our Bible.
No, Sunday is not the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a distinctive part of Israel’s program that God gave the chosen nation at Mt. Sinai.
The Lord instituted the Sabbath as a gift for Israel. The word Sabbath means “rest.” God gave His people Israel a day of rest each week to rejuvenate their bodies and minds. It was to be a time of rest, feasting, and enjoying family. More importantly, He gave it in order to break the day-in, day-out cycle of life, so that Israel would not forget their God and would worship and give thanks to Him on that day.
According to Exodus 20:11, the Hebrews were to cease all work because the Creator “rested” after the sixth day of creation on “the seventh day.” So Israel was to follow the Creator’s example for their week, making the Sabbath a day to commemorate the Lord’s creation of the world and to celebrate His provision.
The Sabbath was a sign, a distinguishing mark, of God’s chosen people. It was “a sign between [God] and…Israel.” The Sabbath was for Israel, and it was given to Israel under the Law.
Today, we are not under the Law, we are under Grace (Rom. 6:14). We are not Israel; we are the Body of Christ (Eph. 1:22,23). The Sabbath is not to be observed under Grace. Paul gives no instruction for the Body of Christ to observe the Sabbath. Instead, he speaks of the Church gathering “upon the first day of the week” (I Cor. 16:2). Sunday is not the Sabbath and should never be called the Sabbath. Doing so confuses what “the first day of the week” signifies under Grace, and what “the seventh day” signified under the Law.
The Sabbath speaks of rest after work and relates to the Law and the work required by those under the Law in Law-keeping, with the works, observation of feasts, and sacrifices that Israel was commanded to do continually by faith. The Sabbath foreshadows the rest that Israel will enjoy in her end times, in her millennial rest within the earthly kingdom.
Sunday worship on the first day of the week speaks to a rest that takes place before work and relates to Grace and the rest we, the Body of Christ, have in Christ and His finished work right up front. Having trusted that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again (I Cor. 15:3,4), we are “complete in [Christ]” (Col. 2:10). Salvation is a “gift” that we receive the moment we believe; it is “not of works” (Eph. 2:8,9). For most working people, our work week follows after the first day of the week. And under Grace, because we are saved, “works” follow after out of joy and gratitude for our accomplished salvation in Christ (Eph. 2:10).
The Sabbath commemorated the Lord’s creation of the world, while our Sunday worship commemorates the Lord’s resurrection each week, who rose again on “the first day of the week” (Luke 24:1). Thus as we meet on Sundays each new week, we do so in worship of our living, risen Savior, and the newness of life we have in Him (Rom. 6:4).
In a way the Christian life is a stand; in another it is a walk, and in still another a race.
In I Cor. 15:1 the Apostle Paul writes of “the gospel… wherein ye stand” and in Rom. 5:2 of “this grace wherein we stand,” while in Gal. 5:1 he bids us: “Stand fast… in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.” Perhaps all this is well summed up in his appeal to his beloved Philippians:
But the Christian life is more than a stand — it is a walk (which in Scripture refers to conduct). Once, says Paul, we walked “in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1,2) but having been saved by grace, through faith in Christ, we are now to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Thus the Apostle bids us to “walk worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:10), to “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).
But the Christian life is even more than a walk; it is a race. Sad to say, many Christians whose “walk” is consistent and commendable, have never come to look upon the Christian life as a race. These never put enough into it so that it might be said of them that they are running. Yet the same great Apostle wrote, by divine inspiration:
The word “patience” in this passage points up the fact that the Christian life is not a short “hundred-yard dash”; it requires much endurance. Thus we should put into it all that we have. “They which run in a race,” says the Apostle, “run all,” but they do not all receive the prize. Hence the admonition: “So run that ye may obtain” (I Cor. 9:24).
Those who have not trusted Christ as Savior have not even begun to stand, or walk, much less to run a race for Him. These might as well forget rewards until they first accept “the gift of God… eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
The most important hour of all history was the hour when the Lord Jesus Christ died on Calvary’s cross for the sins of mankind. Often, in Scripture, the hour of our Lord’s death is called simply “the hour ,” “My hour ,” or “His hour.”
To fulfill prophecy He could not have died one hour ear- lier, or one later: Until that hour arrived His enemies were somehow restrained from doing Him bodily harm, so that we read in John 7:30:
This hour was to be for Him a time of unspeakable agony and shame. Referring to this, He said to Andrew and Philip:
He had come to die for the sins of the world and would not now turn away from the sufferings involved. But this hour of suffering and shame was also an hour of glory, for there the Son of God paid a debt which would have sunk a world to hell. This is why, at this same time, in the very shadow of the cross, He said:
Little wonder we read in John 3:35,36:
When the Babylonian multitudes prostrated themselves in worship before the golden god which Nebuchadnezzar had erected, three young Hebrews refused to bow and remained standing, erect and alone.
When called before Nebuchadnezzar to answer for their impudence and threatened with death in a fiery furnace, they answered:
This is the stand every believer should take for God and His truth. He is able to deliver us from persecution if we stand true, but even if He does not see fit to do this we should still stand alone, if necessary, for the light He has given us from His Word.
Many have suffered temporary loss for standing for their convictions. Hebrews 11 lists among the heroes of faith some who were “tortured, not accepting deliverance,” and others who suffered “trial of cruel mockings and scourgings …bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented” (Heb. 11:35-37).
But we read that these all “obtained a good report” before God and looked forward to “a better resurrection” (Vers. 35,39).
As the apostasy rises all about us and those who stand for God’s truth are often ridiculed and despised, may God give us the grace to stand true regardless of the cost, remembering that any sufferings for Christ are only temporary while the rewards will be eternal.
“The father of lies” always hates the truth, but he does not always oppose it by the same methods. If he fails to succeed as a roaring lion he may appear as an angel of light, suggesting that surely a God of love will not condemn Christ-rejectors forever. Sinners, he will contend, are not responsible for their sins anyway, for does not Eph. 1:11 teach that “[God] worketh all things after the counsel of His own will”? And thus God Himself is supposed to have conceived the idea of sin as “a gracious means to a glorious end,” and to have caused man to fall into sin so that He might finally save him from it!
Why an almighty, all-wise, all-loving God permitted sin to enter the universe must, for the time being, remain an impenetrable mystery to us, but one thing is certain: He is not the author of sin, and never accepts the responsibility for it — except that in grace and love He bore its penalty for man.
God calls sinners “children of disobedience” and “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:2,3), explaining in the clearest language that He hates sin and that His anger is kindled against it (Rom. 1:18; Eph. 5:6; John 3:36). But if God meant man to sin and caused him to sin, how was man disobedient and what cause could God have to be angry? Those who would shift the responsibility for sin from themselves to God should remember that He proclaimed His standards of righteousness in the Law “that every mouth may be stopped and that all the world may be brought in guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19).
The contention that all will finally be saved may at first sound like wonderful grace, but actually there is not one particle of grace in it, for it is based on the theory that since God got us into sin it is only just that He save us from its penalty. But grace is God’s mercy and kindness to the undeserving. In Eph. 2, after calling sinners “children of disobedience” and therefore “children of wrath,” the Apostle Paul goes on to say:
Christian liberty is a priceless possession. It can be abused, of course, but legitimately used it is an overflowing source of spiritual joy and power.
God’s purpose with regard to the liberty of the believer in Christ is aptly summed up for us in one short verse in the Galatian letter:
As the cause of spiritual decline in Israel was always their departure from God’s Word to them through Moses, so the cause of spiritual decline among believers today is always their departure from God’s Word to us through Paul, and if anything is made unmistakably clear in the Epistles of Paul, it is the fact that believers in this present dispensation of grace have been delivered from the Law and, as God’s full-grown sons in Christ, have been “called unto liberty.” The failure of God’s people to appropriate and enjoy this liberty today results in spiritual decline as surely as did the failure of the people of Israel to observe the law of Moses in their day.
Could anything be plainer than those passages in this same Galatian epistle, where the Apostle says by the Spirit:
Thus, to reject our blood-bought liberty and go back to the servitude of the Law is to repudiate not only the Word of God, but the Word of God to us, and this must necessarily result in spiritual decline.
Paul’s farewell exhortations to Timothy were written with great urgency. The time of the apostle’s departure by cruel martyrdom was now at hand and ere long his testimony would be sealed with his life’s blood. It was with this in view that, rather than thinking of himself or now simply “leaving everything with the Lord,” he still kept planning for the future, still occupied with the ministry which the glorified Lord had committed to him many years previous. There was still so much to be done, so many souls to be won, and Timothy must now carry on the work with renewed vigor. Thus it is that we read in II Timothy 4:5:
There is much confusion about evangelism these days.
First, there are some who have concluded from Ephesians 4:11 that the evangelist necessarily belongs to a different category from “pastors and teachers,” or “teaching pastors.” It is true that, according to this verse, some of God’s servants are specially gifted and specially productive as evangelists, but have we read too much into this passage?
Some have read into it that the evangelist need not be a teacher of the Word. He need not be well-grounded in the Scriptures if only he can tell people that Christ died for their sins. This reminds us of the converted performer who, contrary to I Timothy 5:22, was immediately pushed forward by Christian leaders as an evangelist. It cost heavily to secure his services, but it was worth it: he could get crowds! He was barely grounded in the Scriptures, but what matter? He has such a way with him: he could tell such interesting stories and had written several popular gospel songs. He was able to induce many hearers to make “decisions” for Christ just because he had come to the pulpit straight from show business. To quote his own words, “I leave doctrine to the theologians. I preach Christ.”
But the question immediately arises: “Christ who?” “What Christ?” It makes a great difference whether one preaches the Christ of Palestine or the glorified Christ proclaimed by Paul. And it makes a greater difference whether he preaches that Christ of Liberalism or the Christ of the Bible.
A similar notion prevails that foreign missionaries (also actually evangelists) need not be thoroughly grounded in the Word to do justice to their ministries. But all this is unscriptural and wrong, and the churches established by such missionaries cannot be spiritually strong.
St. Paul was doubtless the greatest evangelist that ever lived and he won the lost to Christ by teaching the great doctrines of alienation, reconciliation, justification, etc. And today the evangelist, no less than any minister of God, must be well-grounded in the Word, for souls are saved only as the Spirit uses the Word (I Pet. 1:12-25).
Thus the proclamation of the gospel is not to be separated from the Word. Those who are saved — and many are not truly saved — through hearing no more than a verse or two from the Scripture, presented along with an emotional and psychological appeal, are often easily swayed and must at best be spiritually weak. But when the great doctrines of salvation are taught from the Scripture, those who hear and believe begin already to be established in the faith. Nor will they be easily shaken, for nothing so grips the heart of man like the Word, understood and believed. This writer will never cease to thank God that he was saved through the teaching of the Word. One blessed result of this is that, never once since that day forty-four years ago, has he ever doubted His eternal security in Christ.
To look at this subject from the other side, there are some who suppose that the pastor or Bible teacher need not be an evangelist. He can always have gospel literature ready to hand to interested persons and can from time to time call in evangelists for special service. As one pastor said to this writer, “Some of us simply are not evangelists and we should not try to be.” But the pastor was wrong, dead wrong, for as we have seen, Paul wrote to Timothy, the pastor and Bible teacher at Ephesus: “Do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”
Does not this clearly imply that the pastor, the Bible teacher, who does not do the work of an evangelist, is inefficient in his ministry? For one thing, such a pastor shows a shameful lack of concern for the lost, for he fails to press home to the hearts of his unsaved hearers the urgency of many of the very Scripture truths which he discusses in his sermons. For another thing, he disobeys God, who says, “Do the work of an evangelist”; indeed, who has committed to us all “the ministry of reconciliation” to be fulfilled as “the love of Christ constraineth us” (II Cor 5:14-21).
If pastors and Bible teachers were more faithful in doing “the work of an evangelist,” the general public would not be so readily taken in by the unscriptural and God-dishonoring methods of evangelism so popular in our day, methods which create much interest and make statistics but also do much to confuse both the lost and the saved and to make void the Word of God.
Finally, does not Paul’s Spirit-inspired injunction apply indirectly to every believer in Christ? Are not our pastors simply our leaders in the work of the Lord? Shall the congregation sit idly by as the pastor alone does “the work of an evangelist?” God forbid! The pastor is rather to be an example to his flock to go and do likewise. How well this writer recalls the days of the so-called Darby-Scofield movement, when multitudes all over the country thronged to hear Bible teachers like Gaebelein, Gray, Gregg, Ottman, Chafer, and Newell. These able men of God expounded the Word as the “blessed hope” of the Lord’s return was being recovered. But these Bible teachers were evangelists too, in the truest sense of the word, and their evangelism was contagious.
In those days almost all premillenarians, including the young people, carried New Testaments in their pockets wherever they went. Why? They hoped and prayed for opportunities to testify to others about God’s plan of salvation through Christ and they wanted to show them the way from Scripture. In those days if a Christian failed to have a New Testament with him, he was apt to be reproved with the words: “What, a soldier without a sword!” By contrast, few believers carry New Testaments about with them today, and they certainly don’t carry Bibles! Here at Berean Bible Society, we still sell many Bibles for use at home and church, but rarely does a New Testament go out the door.
Some are telling us today that this brand of fundamentalism is out of date and ineffective in these fast-changing times. We reply that all of us ought to get back to this brand of fundamentalism, this earnest effort to personally win souls to Christ by showing them God’s plan of salvation from the Scriptures.
God help His people in general and our spiritual leaders in particular, to “do the work of an evangelist.”
We know that God forgives the sins of His people, but does He forget them? It would seem so. Our text suggests that He “will not remember” the sins committed against Him by His children (Isa. 43:25). Believers have always found a great deal of comfort in this blessed thought.
But then God calls upon us to likewise forgive others “even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). Doesn’t this suggest that we too should forgive and forget?Perhaps you are thinking, “But Pastor, you don’t know what they did to me!” True, but was it more than what was done to God when men crucified His Son?
Remember, God’s vow to forgive and forget the sins of His people includes even the brutal murder of His only begotten Son. We are tempted to think, “Well, it’s easy for God to forget,” but such is not the case. God says of the sins of unbelievers that He “will NEVER forget ANY of their works” (Amos 8:7). How then can this God of “total recall” forget oursins? Does His memory have a convenient “on/off ” switch that makes it easy for Him to forgive and forget? If so, then we who do not have such a switch would have an excuse for forgiving but not forgetting. But if God has such a switch, would He not also have to erase His memory of Calvary, or else forever wonder why His Son had to die? But it cannot be that God could forget the Cross, for Revelation 5:6 joins John 20:27 to reveal that the Lord’s resurrection body will forever bear the scars of the Cross, making it impossible for God—or us—to ever forget His sacrifice for our sins.
What then is the answer to our question? Can God forget our sins? Perhaps the reader has noticed that we never read that God will forget the sins of His people, but rather that He “will not remember” them. By a deliberate act of His “will” He chooses to act toward us AS IF He has forgotten our sins, on the basis of the blood of the Cross. That’s how fully and completely He has forgiven our sins. And if we are to forgive others “as” God forgave us, then we too must choose to act toward others as if we have so fully forgiven their transgressions against us that we have forgotten them--also on the basis of Christ’s shed blood. This and this alone is complete forgiveness of others, and it is high spiritual ground indeed.
May God help us to live with a slate wiped clean of “all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking… with all malice” (Eph. 4:31).
To carry the news of the Battle of Waterloo to England, a ship signaled to a man on shore, who relayed the word to another on a hill, and so on across Britain. The first word, “Wellington,” was signaled. The next word was “defeated.” Then a fog closed in, and the message was interrupted. Across England, people wept over the message: “Wellington defeated.” Then the fog lifted. The communication continued with two additional words: “the enemy.” And Englishmen celebrated the victory.
There was great sorrow when the body of Jesus was carried from the cross to the tomb. The signal seemed to say, “Jesus Christ defeated.” But three days later the fog lifted and it was announced, “Jesus Christ defeated the enemy!” Through Christ we have complete victory over our enemies of sin, death, and Satan, and we have new life, a glorious hope, and the certainty of our own resurrection one day. But the subject of resurrection in God’s Word is one that needs to be rightly divided.
In the fifteenth chapter of I Corinthians, Paul speaks of the resurrections, both prophetic and according to the revelation of the mystery. In verses 23-28, Paul outlines the prophetic “order” of resurrections, and he begins with Christ’s. As Paul spoke of the gospel of salvation in verses 1-4, he made it clear that Christ’s resurrection was prophesied: “He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:4 cf. Psa. 16:10). In verses 20 and 23, Paul refers to Christ’s resurrection as being the “firstfruits,” meaning that His resurrection is a foretaste of what is to come. Christ’s bodily resurrection guarantees the great harvest of bodily resurrections yet to come for both the kingdom saints and the Body of Christ.
Notice though how Paul says “they [not “we”] that are Christ’s at His Coming” (I Cor. 15:23), speaking of the resurrection of the prophetic saints after Christ’s second coming. These saints will be raised and ushered into the earthly, millennial reign of Christ. This is the “first resurrection,” and it includes all the saved from the prophetic program, or in other words, all the saved from the past, prior to this dispensation of grace, and all the future martyred Tribulation saints. As Revelation 20:6 states,
Following the thousand-year Kingdom, when Christ “must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet” (I Cor. 15:25), comes the time when “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (I Cor. 15:26). After the Great White Throne, “death and hell” will be “cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14) and “there shall be no more death” (Rev. 21:4). The second resurrection, or “resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29), of all the unsaved of all ages will take place at this time, when they will be fitted with bodies to endure everlasting punishment.
After Paul gives this prophetic sequence of events regarding resurrection, in verse 51 he brings up a secret coming and a secret resurrection that wasn’t ever before revealed.
The “first resurrection” and this secret resurrection are two different resurrections. The prophesied “first resurrection” will take place after Christ’s prophesied second coming. The secret resurrection will take place at Christ’s secret coming, the Rapture (I Thes. 4:13-18). This coming of Christ and its resurrection is part of the “revelation of the mystery” (Rom. 16:25), the message which had been hid in the mind of God and revealed first to the Apostle Paul (Eph. 3:1-9). All the previous resurrections, such as Christ’s resurrection, the first resurrection, and the resurrection of damnation were all revealed in the Old Testament (Isa. 53:10; Dan. 12:2), but not the resurrection of the Body of Christ.
Notice how the personal pronouns change from “they” to “we” here as Paul applies this coming of Christ and resurrection to the Church, the Body of Christ: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (I Cor. 15:51). The Rapture is the bodily resurrection day for the Body of Christ only, which is not referred to or revealed outside of Paul’s letters. The Rapture and its secret resurrection is part of the mystery program while the second coming and its first resurrection belong to the prophetic program.
As the Lord said, “no man hath ascended up to heaven” (John 3:13). We know that later, when Paul was stoned to death (Acts 14:19), he was “caught up to the third heaven” (II Cor. 12:2), but this was so he could continue to “come to visions and revelations of the Lord” (v. 1). Now that the Bible is complete, there is no need of any further revelations from God, and so there is no need for anyone to be caught up to heaven and return.
The only reliable information about heaven is found in God’s Word. After describing the vision of the kingdom of heaven that the Lord gave him, Peter added that the Word of God was “more sure” than what he had seen with his own eyes (II Pet. 1:16-19).
It’s tempting to think that this boy’s experience will persuade people to believe, but Abraham was right: “if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31).
In strong language the Apostle bids Timothy to “charge some that they teach no other doctrine”; no other doctrine, obviously, than that which he had taught them. In 1 Tim. 6:3-5 he closes his epistle by saying:
In these passages the Apostle emphasizes the importance of fidelity to that heaven-sent message committed to him by revelation; that message which he says in Tit. 1:2,3 was “promised before the ages began” but made known “in due time… through preaching which is committed unto me…”
Ever since Paul’s day religious leaders have substituted other messages for that committed by the glorified Lord to Paul. The law of Moses, the Sermon on the Mount, the “great commission,” and Pentecost have all been confused with God’s message and program for the dispensation of grace. This is what has bewildered and divided the Church and ripened it for the apostasy.
With all the confused thinking about the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount fifty years ago it was little wonder that modernism swept so many off their feet with its teachings about Jesus of Nazareth, the Man of Galilee, following his footsteps, social betterment, political reform, etc. Multitudes were so taken up with the social gospel, so eager to help make the world a better place to live in, that they did not even notice or believe that the modernists denied the very fundamentals of the Christian faith.
But the new evangelicalism of our day is still more dangerous. It is big. It is well financed. It is popular. It is subtle. Perhaps its greatest danger lies in the fact that while claiming to be “conservative,” it minimizes the importance of the fundamentals and the danger of apostatizing from them.
Thus the inspired words of the Apostle Paul: “Charge some that they teach no other doctrine,” are more urgently needed in our day than they were in his.
Hebrews 2 states that unbelievers are, “through fear of death… all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Ver. 15). How often they must ask themselves: “What will become of me: finally become of me?” The best they can hope is that God will be merciful to them and accept them at last, but God cannot do this without a just basis, and since unbelievers have rejected His gracious payment for sin, they must remain under its condemnation. Many hope that physical death will be the end for them, but they fear that the Bible may be true and that death will not be the end.
This writer once talked with a profane barber who had boasted that he was his own “God,” and would be until they put him “six feet under.” To this we replied: “The Bible says that ‘it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this is the judgment.’ You may not believe this, or accept it as the Word of God, but you can’t prove it isn’t so, and I would urge you to look into it carefully, asking God to give you light.”
Here we ask the reader a very personal question: Are you saved? Have you accepted Christ and His payment for your sins, now standing before God “justified from all things,” and “accepted in the Beloved”? If not, we beg you: do not delay. These are serious times and who knows how soon God will take His own away and bring this dispensation of grace to a close. Then it will be too late, so we urge you, face up to your sinful condition now, and place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ who, in infinite love and grace, bore the burden of your guilt and condemnation at Calvary. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…” (Acts 16:31).
This should be self-evident to us all. If blessing is gained by the works of the Law, it is earned. This is why Gal. 3:18 says: “If the inheritance be of the law it is no more of promise, but God gave it to Abraham by promise.”
The Apostle Paul, God’s great apostle of grace, declares in Rom. 4:4,5:
But let’s go back to that phrase: “the law worketh wrath.” Many people somehow do not see this. Even some clergymen tell us that the Law was given to help us to be good. But God Himself says, “the law worketh wrath.” Every criminal knows this, and every sinner should know it. God certainly places strong emphasis upon it:
If we come to God expecting eternal life because of our good works, are we not offering Him our terms, which He can never accept? He will never sell salvation at any price, and certainly not for a few paltry “good” works, when our lives are filled with failure and sin.
Our only hope? God has promised to give eternal life to those who trust in His Son (John 3:35,36; Acts 16:31; etc.).
A “landmark” is a mark that designates where your land ends and your neighbor’s land begins. Modern surveyors drive a metal rod into the ground to separate and distinguish property, but ancient landmarks often consisted of a stone that could be removed by someone wishing to encroach upon his neighbor’s land. God pronounced a “curse” upon any man who would dare to so mistreat his fellow-Hebrew (Deut. 27:17). This was because after God divided up the Promised Land amongst the children of Israel in the Book of Joshua, He commanded them that it not be sold (Lev. 25:23; Num. 36:7). This is why Naboth refused to sell his land to Ahab (I Kings 21:1-3). Naboth wasn’t being stubborn or disrespectful to his king, he was being faithful to the Law of his God (cf. Ezek. 46:18).
Landmarks to this day continue to mark where your land ends and your neighbor’s land begins. However, today we also have certain societal landmarks that God has to help us distinguish between right and wrong. For instance, for thousands of years, mankind clearly understood where to draw the line between right and wrong when it came to the subject of abortion. Then in 1973, our Supreme Court removed the landmark when they legalized abortion, and we have been living with the holocaustic consequences of this “landmark decision” ever since. Now societal surveyors are taking aim at yet another God-given landmark, the definition of marriage that limits it to the bond that can only exist between a man and a woman in the eyes of God.
Such landmarks also exist in the spiritual realm of Bible doctrine. The historic fundamentals of the faith that define Christianity have for centuries helped God’s people determine where truth ends and error begins. These spiritual landmarks are always under attack, and the day in which we live is no exception. To counter this trend that was present even in his own day, the Apostle Paul challenged young Timothy:
While we should always be open to receiving new understanding from God’s Word “with all readiness of mind” (Acts 17:10,11), we must “prove all things” and “hold fast” only “that which is good” (I Thes. 5:21). We have a rich “inheritance” in Christ (Eph. 1:11,14) that these landmark doctrines serve to protect. Let’s work together to preserve them.