Decrees on Discipline and Divorce

April 14, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Posted in Matthew | 2 Comments
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Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Matthew 18:15-20

This passage of Scripture deals with church discipline. It is not a fun procedure. Regardless if you are the one being disciplined or one of the ones involved in doing the disciplining, it is a serious matter and a daunting task. But it must not be neglected. Sometimes surgery is required on one part of the body to keep the whole body healthy.

Christians should exercise self-discipline first. There must be obedience to the Word and agreement in prayer. The goal is restoration in the body and the removal of sin.

Humility is an overriding theme in Matthew Chapter 18, and humility is the key to forgiveness.

Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

Matthew 18:27

This is what God did for us, and He wants us to do it for others.

In Matthew 19 the King returns to confront His enemies head on. There is another occurrence of the transitional phrase which Matthew uses:

And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;

Matthew 19:1

Jesus’s enemies tried to ensnare him with questions about marriage, but Jesus taught what marriage really is. It is a covenant before God rather than merely a contract before the state.

The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Matthew 19:3-6

Marriage is a God-ordained form of government, but the vows made at a wedding are vows made BEFORE GOD Himself. Neither the civil government nor the Church have any real rights to “make up” laws concerning marriage. These are ordained by God. Both the Church and the civil government are to be witnesses of the vows since both have an interest in disciplining or arbitrating binding agreements, but the Bible also has the authority to forbid marriage.

He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

Matthew 19:8

The problem of divorce was never a problem with the King’s plan. It was and is a problem with man’s heart. Why did God allow Moses to make a concession in this matter? Because the union of marriage is physical, not spiritual.

Faith Illustrated

April 12, 2016 at 4:03 pm | Posted in Hebrews | 2 Comments
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Hebrews Chapter 11 is often called “The Faith Chapter” of the Bible, or the “Hall of Faith,” or the “Hall of Fame of Faith” because it lists several “heroes” of the Old Testament, and what they were able to accomplish through their faith in God. However, it also teaches that faith is more than just a feeling and more than mental assent to a Biblical doctrine. Nor is Biblical faith totally totally separate from empirical and rational evidence.

One of the chief reasons we use the Word of God in evangelism is that there is power in the Word. Faith actually comes FROM hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). For Christians, the idea of “having faith” should never be separated from “living by faith.” Just as love – for Christians – is more of an action than a feeling, so faith – “saving” faith – is a faith that has the power to work. As we draw near to Christ by faith, we get sent out by faith, and empowered by faith.

We increase our faith by obedience and action, and it is also helpful to spend time with faithful people – to observe and to emulate faithful people. The pages of the Bible are full of people who pleased God through faith, and people who failed God by unbelief. Hebrews Chapter 11 records the success stories.

By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

Hebrews 11:4

Abel gave gifts to God by faith, and was martyred for his faith, but his actions still speak today. He was the first in a long line of God’s people who died for the faith.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

Matthew 23:29-35

By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Hebrews 11:5-6

Enoch was a man who grew closer and closer to God, until one day God drew him all the way to Himself in Heaven!

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

Hebrews 11:7

Noah guided his family by faith, guided those who were faithful, and condemned the unfaithful world.

The line of faithful men continued with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, who, by faith, kept going toward a city that could only be seen by faith. The visible world they walked through each day was not – they knew – their real home.

By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;

Hebrews 11:24-25

Moses forsook a life of ease and pleasure, believing by faith that, no matter how scary the wilderness looked and how long it lasted (40 years), following God was safer than hiding from God.

By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.

Hebrews 11:31

Rahab, a condemned heathen harlot, was grafted into the ancestral line of Christ as an illustration of faith. After reading the Old Testament, we might be surprised at some of the other “heroes of the faith:” Gideon, the frightened farmer; Samson, the macho strongman, whose greatest service to God may have been in his death; Jephthah, impatient and illegitimate, who was used by God even though he wound up sacrificing his own daughter.

There is today a false doctrine out there called the “Word Faith” movement, led by wealthy preachers who say foolish things like, “If it’s in your mouth it’s in your future” and “Don’t keep praying – it shows a lack of faith; if you must pray, just express thanks that it’s already been done, instead of repeating and making supplication.” These false teachers say that the presence of real faith excludes the possibility of suffering. It is an error easily refuted by the Bible:

And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of 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; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

Hebrews 11:36-38

Not only the Old Testament patriarchs, but New Testament martyrs as well, have suffered faithfully, without earthly deliverance. I hope you don’t believe that some television preacher with a Lear jet, six Rolls Royces, a tanning bed, and a beauty salon for his wife’s pet poodle has more faith than these wanderers in deserts and caves. These faithful martyrs named eternally in the everlasting page’s of God’s holy Word do not teach us that faith is “speaking forth blessings,” “pleading the blood” over our finances, or “naming and claiming it.” They teach us that faith is believing God’s Word in spite of circumstances and consequences.

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your saving grace. Thank You for making intercession for us before the Father. As You do so, let us draw ever closer and closer to You, and make us more like You today than we were yesterday. Amen.

The Relief and Terror of God’s Presence

April 8, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Posted in Exodus | 2 Comments
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What a great relief it must have been to hear that God would re-write His covenant laws on tables of stone. Moses obeyed God and took two blank slabs up Mt. Sinai. Then God descended and proclaimed His name and His attributes.

And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

Exodus 34:5-7

Do you hear the ominous note in Verse 7? “By no means clear the guilty.” Can you sense the tension and paradox between that and “forgiving iniquity [our sinful condition] and transgression [intentional sin] and sin [the most general category encompassing everything worthy of judgment and death]?”

Moses did not argue or debate:

And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.

Exodus 34:8

He worshiped. God is not a problem to be solved. He is a Person to be worshiped.

Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.

Exodus 34:12-16

He told them that, when they got to the promised land, they must destroy the wicked people of the land, or else the wicked people of the land would corrupt them.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.

Exodus 34:27

Again, this must have been a huge relief for Moses – that God was renewing or reconfirming His covenant with the people and reassuring them that He would be with them.

And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.

Exodus 34:28-30

Moses’s face radiated in a way that was visible to those who saw him, but that he himself could not feel. This was a sort of foreshadowing of the great evidence of God’s presence with us in Christ. It makes us humble, yet it should impress and even convict others when God’s glory shines in our life. In Moses’s case, it was literally visible, though, and it terrified the people. They could not honestly question the fact of Moses’s appointment by God as their earthly leader while his face resembled a miniature version of the glory cloud of flashing stormy light they had previously seen on Mt. Sinai. He had to cover his face with a veil so that they could stand to be near him.

And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face.

Exodus 34:33

Who Is the Greatest?

April 1, 2016 at 10:04 am | Posted in Matthew | 1 Comment
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In Matthew Chapter 17 three of the Lord’s disciples saw Jesus transfigured – His outward appearance transformed from within by the glory of His deity for a brief moment. They fell on their faces, trembling in fear at just a tiny glimpse of His glory. Therefore, in Chapter 18, we could expect their reaction to be, “Lord, Your majesty and splendor have overwhelmed us! What might we do to serve you better?” Right?

Wrong! Chapter 18 records their most pressing question:

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

Matthew 18:1

The disciples wanted to know the same thing that a distressing number of Christians want to know today: “What’s in it for me?”

Jesus answered by summoning a small unspoiled child into their midst, and told them:

Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:4

Before the Lord imparts His glorious grace upon His human creations, He wants to see the quality of humility (James 4:10). Humility, it is sometimes said, is not thinking too much of oneself, or too little of oneself. However, a close inspection of Christ’s teaching here is that true humility is actually not thinking of oneself at all. Imagine the freedom and the inspired power that God can impart to His children when they no longer care how “great” they look to men, but instead begin to get zealous over how great God looks to men, and how much God can do to help the people they encounter on a daily basis.


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