4/2/18

The God Who Hopes by Trevor Bowen

http://insearchoftruth.org/articles/God_who_hopes.html

The God Who Hopes

Introduction

Most people expect Christians to have hope in God and His promises. The hope that follows faith and commitment to Jesus Christ is indeed a powerful blessing beyond exchange (Hebrews 6:15-20). But, did you know that God has hope in you? He is an optimistic God, who believes in you! This is a profoundly encouraging thought, but this same thought also implies a responsibility to live up to that hope. In this article, we will first examine the case for God's optimism, and then we will consider the applications that can be drawn from this great truth.

The Optimistic God

Both human experience and Bible examples teach us that one of the most powerful lies, which the Devil feeds, is that we are born failures whom God long abandoned (II Corinthians 2:6-11; John 8:44). You can almost hear the words, "You are loser. You can't do it. It is too hard. You are so hopeless that God forgot about you a long time ago." Have you ever felt that way? Sin breeds this despair; however, no lie could be further from the truth. Notice the motivation ascribed to God in the following passage:
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-21)
Who is the subject hoping in the above verse? To answer this question, please consider, "Who is the only being capable of subjecting the entire creation beside the Creator Himself?". Moreover, please consider that this being is also benevolent, because this hope looks forward to the revealing, deliverance, and adoption of God's children (Romans 8:21-25). Again, who else has such power and love beside God Himself?
Who or what was the object of God's hope? Did He hope in Himself? No, this cannot be. Beside being absurdly circular, hope does not exist where desire is realized and known (Romans 8:24-25), and "known to God from eternity are all His works." (Acts 15:18). Could this hope have been vested in angels or some other heavenly race? It seems unlikely, because they are not part of the context. Furthermore, in the above context, "the creation" is the object of subjection and deliverance, and elsewhere we have learned that angels do not enjoy the mercy of redemption (Hebrews 2:14-16). Therefore, this verse must be referring to our race, which was indeed subjected to the "futility" of "thorns and briers" and the "bondage" of the "fear of death" (Genesis 3:16-24; Hebrews 2:14-15).
While you are meditating on the implications of that thought, please consider this description of love:
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. ... (I Corinthians 13:4-8)
Love by its very definition is optimistic. It looks for the best in people. It wants them to succeed. Love looks for people succeed - even our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). Considering that "God is love" (I John 4:8-17), would it not be fair to assume that God also "believes all things, hopes all things"? Is He not identified with the virtue, which is identified as being optimistic?

The Accused But Confident God

God's optimism and belief in us has not gone unnoticed. In fact, it has drawn Him criticism, even accusations. As one brief glimpse into the dynamics of that spiritual world, please consider the following introduction to the story of Job:
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. ... Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:1-12)
Please notice how the Lord lifted up Job as an example to Satan. Even after the Accuser indited the Lord of unfairness and partiality, God continued to assert His confidence in Job. How did God manifest this belief in Job? He released the Enemy to persecute and tempt Job! Even though the Devil destroyed most of Job's life, He could not destroy Job.
Later, God again exalted Job before Satan, which ultimately resulted in an even broader authority for Satan to afflict Job. But still, Job did not yield. He patiently clung to God, even though He could not reconcile his sufferings with God's character (Job 1:20-2:10).
What lessons can we derive from this story? Among many applications we can learn that God may maintain profound confidence in us! Furthermore, He may volunteer and assert that confidence before the most aggressive and hateful of accusers. Can you imagine God holding you up as a worthy representative of His efforts? If it was true of Job, then it can be true of us, if we are willing to live like Job (Job 1:1).
Another application that we can make from Job's suffering is that God permitted Job's trial because He believed Job could triumph. Although we are not privileged to the heavenly discussions that pertain to the example of our faithfulness, we have been given this promise:
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (I Corinthians 10:13)
Because we will never be pushed beyond our capacity to overcome, we know that every temptation and every trial that we suffer is a vote of divine confidence on our behalf.

God's Investment

Please recall that God is not only a God who forgives, but He is a God who wants to forgive (II Peter 3:9; Romans 2:4; Ezekiel 18:32). Now God is not man (Hosea 11:9), but it seems unreasonable that any being would seek to redeem that which is unredeemable. Would you try to salvage something that was truly hopelessly lost? The very fact that God has invested so much in an effort to save us is a testament to the fact that He believes we can be saved!
Furthermore, if my old truck should break down while driving it to work, do you think I would give up, abandon it, and go buy another truck? Would you? Well, you might, if you saw my truck, but that's not the point. People generally do not "throw more money after bad". People only invest or continue to invest in something that is of value to them. In my case, I would invest more money to fix my truck, because I value the transportation it offers. Greater investment signifies greater esteemed value. Given this truism, let us consider the investment God made in us:
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
What more can God invest in us than He has already invested? Although Jesus' sacrifice on the cross certainly constitutes the most extravagant gift bestowed upon us, His redeeming death is far from being the only blessing God has bequeathed to His children. Many of the derivative blessings that flow from the cross are well known to Christians, such as prayer (Hebrews 4:14-16), the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:11-16), acceptable worship (Ephesians 5:18-20), revelation and the Bible (John 16:7, 13-16; Ephesians 3:3-5), and many more! However, please consider the following blessing, which highlights God's hope and desire for us:
And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives." If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:5-11)
Please notice the patience exhibited by the heavenly Father. Admittedly, His chastening arises out of His own love for us, but the chastening is also performed in expectation of our transformation. Every time that God patiently administers discipline, He is manifesting a hope that we will be purified by His refining efforts. He is continually investing in us! And, that patient, persistent investment necessitates the existence of His hope in us!

God's Hope for Return

God's investment in us was performed not without some hope of return (Romans 8:20). He wants us to do more than respond to the message of repentance. He wants us to persevere through temptations and persecutions, while bearing much fruit (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). Jesus warns us that those who do not bear fruit will be cut down. Immediately following Jesus' instruction to repent (Luke 13:1-5), He illustrates our urgent need to not only repent, but to also bear spiritual fruit, using this figure:
He also spoke this parable: "A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, 'Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?' But he answered and said to him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.' " (Luke 13:6-9)
This passage indicates God's patient desire for us to repent and bear fruit. However, it also warns us that He will not wait forever. At some point, He will "cut us down", if we do not bear "the peaceable fruit of righteousness"! Jesus corroborates our responsibility to bear fruit in a similar parable:
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. ..."
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. ..."
By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. (John 15:1-8)
Given this warning of danger that awaits those who do not bear fruit, we should all be properly motivated to produce much fruit. However, this is not the most noble motivation, nor is it the ultimate driving force that sustains the mature Christian. This is reserved for the desire to glorify God and help others, which flows from our love for God and our fellow man (John 15:8-14; Matthew 5:13-16; I Peter 2:11-12).

To What Profit?

Does this mean that God expects us to perform enough works to justify our salvation? Can we hope to produce fruit enough to return a profit on God's investment? Jesus clearly indicates the futility of such a thought:
"So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.' " (Luke 17:10)
Clearly this verse shows that we cannot claim or even hope to produce a profit for the Lord. We cannot even claim to be a "break-even investment", because we have not even "done what was our duty to do".
Does Jesus' advice contradict all that we have just studied? Is Jesus foretelling that we can never achieve God's goal for us? Well, yes and no. As far as servants go, we have done a fairly poor job. Some have certainly done better than others, but none of us will be profitable servants. However, this begs the questions, "Was profitable servants the ultimate purpose of our creation?". Certainly, Jesus "gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works." (Titus 2:14). But, was God focused on creating a special people, primarily for the purpose of serving Him?
"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. (John 15:13-15)
Although the Scriptures abound with references to Christians being "servants", "bond-servants", and "disciples", the Scriptures also contain a multitude of references to our being "children of God" and "the family of God". As seen in the above passages, some were even called "the friend of God" and "greatly beloved" of God (James 2:23; Daniel 10:11, 19). Furthermore, Jesus extended to each of us the invitation of "brother" and even "friend" by being made like us, so He could give His life for us on the cross (Hebrews 2:10-17; John 15:12-14). Each of these tender designations indicate a desire for a relationship that transcends bond servitude (Romans 8:15-17).

Conclusion

Although God does not hope like men, in that His hope will never be mixed with uncertainty, He does exhibit hope in that He desires for that which is yet to come, which is our ultimate salvation with Him in heaven (Romans 8:19-25). We can derive great comfort and confidence by knowing that God holds such hope for us. We can derive further assurance by observing the confidence He is willing to assert on our behalf, whether by subjecting us to testing, or whether by offering His Son so that we might be redeemed. However, this blessing does not come without responsibility:
My son, be wise, and make my heart glad, That I may answer him who reproaches me. (Proverbs 27:11)
There is one who would accuse us, but his ultimate aim is to accuse our Father (Revelation 12:10). Our God has exhibited great confidence in us. Let us not fail Him. Rather, let us "walk worthily" of His investment and of Him, since He has given us all things, even His own Son, so that we may be reconciled to Him. By sacrificing Jesus on our behalf, He as already demonstrated His belief in us. Will you reciprocate His optimism, confidence, and love by believing in Him?
Trevor Bowen

"THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS" The Pre-Eminent Christ (1:13-20) by Mark Copeland

                     "THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS"

                     The Pre-Eminent Christ (1:13-20)

INTRODUCTION

1. When Paul first met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he did not know at
   that time who Jesus really was ("Who are you, lord?" - Ac 9:3-5)

2. But when we come to Paul's epistle to the Colossians, we learn that
   Paul had come to a much fuller understanding of exactly who Jesus
   was!

3. In this lesson, we shall look at Col 1:13-20, and notice Paul's
   description of "The Pre-Eminent Christ"

4. In so doing, I hope we will be impressed with the fact that Christ is
   certainly our ALL-SUFFICIENT and PRE-EMINENT SAVIOR, who is worthy of
   our love, adoration, and obedience

[Who is this Jesus called "Christ"?  Our first point can be gleaned from
a comment made in verse 13, where Paul was giving reasons why we ought
to be giving thanks to the Father.

That is, Jesus is...]

I. THE KING OVER HIS KINGDOM (13)

   A. JESUS HIMSELF PROCLAIMED TO BE A KING...
      1. He claimed to have a kingdom, and even came into this world to
         proclaim the truth that He is a king - Jn 18:36-37
      2. After his resurrection, He claimed the extent of His rule: 
         authority over all heaven and earth! - Mt 28:18; cf. Ep 1:20-23

   B. HIS KINGSHIP AND KINGDOM PROCLAIMED IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION...
      1. He is "the ruler over the kings of the earth" - Re 1:5
      2. He has made His disciples "kings and priest" (or, "a kingdom of
         priests") to His God and Father - Re 1:6
      3. Those in Christ Jesus are in His kingdom - Re 1:9
      4. Those who persevere to the end will rule with Him even as He
         now reigns! - Re 2:26-27; Re 3:21
      5. He is truly "Lord of lords and King of kings!" - Re 17:14;
         19:16

["King of kings"...certainly an indication of "The Pre-Eminent Christ"!  
But notice that He is also...]

II. THE SAVIOR FROM OUR SINS (14)

   A. BY VIRTUE OF HIS BLOOD WE HAVE "REDEMPTION"...
      1. The word "redemption" (Greek, apolutrosis) means "a releasing
         effected by payment of ransom"
      2. I.e., we have been "released" from the bondage of sin through
         the payment of Jesus' blood shed on the cross - cf. Mt 20:28

   B. BY VIRTUE OF HIS BLOOD WE HAVE "FORGIVENESS"...
      1. "Forgiveness" (Greek, aphesis) means "release from bondage or
         imprisonment"
      2. In Christ, we have "forgiveness or pardon, of sins (letting
         them go as if they had never been committed), remission of the
         penalty"

[As pronounced by the Angel to Joseph, "you shall call His name JESUS, 
for He will save His people from their sins." (Mt 1:21)

A "king" capable of providing "redemption" and "forgiveness" from sins;
truly indications of pre-eminence!  But there is more, for He is
also...]

III. THE IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD (15)

   A. THE WORD "IMAGE"...
      1. Comes from the Greek eikon {i-kone'}
      2. Meaning "an image, figure, likeness"

   B. JESUS IS THE "IMAGE" OF GOD WHO IS INVISIBLE!
      1. No man has ever seen God, but Jesus has "declared" (made
         manifest) Him - Jn 1:18
      2. As Jesus Himself said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father"
         - Jn 14:7-9
      3. As expressed by the writer to the Hebrews, Jesus is:
         a. The brightness of God's Glory
         b. The express image of His Person - He 1:3
      4. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians...
         a. Jesus is the "image of God" - 2Co 4:4
         b. In the "face of Jesus Christ" is "the knowledge of the glory
            of God" - 2Co 4:6
      5. From these passages, we learn that Jesus accurately and fully
         expresses the being and perfection of God!
      6. I.e., by looking at Jesus (as He is revealed in the Word of
         God), we can see and know the Father, who is invisible!

[The next description of "The Pre-Eminent Christ" is one that confused 
many and caused some to draw erroneous conclusions.  We observe that 
Jesus is also...]

IV. THE FIRSTBORN OVER ALL CREATION (15)

   A. CONCERNING THE TERM "FIRSTBORN"...
      1. It can mean "the first one born" (or created)
         a. Some have therefore concluded from this passage that Jesus
            is a created being, the first of all God's creations
         b. For example, those led by the Watchtower Society (who call
            themselves "Jehovah's Witnesses")
      2. But it is also used in the Scriptures as a metaphor to describe
         one who occupies the rank and privilege of being firstborn
         (without literally being "firstborn")
         a. Used by God in this way to refer to the nation of Israel 
            - Exo 4:22
         b. Used by God in this way to refer to David, who was the
            youngest of eight brothers - Ps 89:20,27
      3. Therefore, any interpretation of this term must be in harmony
         with what is taught about Christ elsewhere...
         a. And Jesus is clearly proclaimed to be the creator of ALL
            things - Jn 1:1-3; Col 1:16
         b. It could not be stated that He is the creator of ALL things
            if He Himself was a created being!
         c. Which is why the JW's try to get around these passages by
            inserting the modifier "OTHER" four times in their NWT
            translation of Col 1:16-17!
            1) To let it read as written by Paul, it destroys their
               doctrine that Christ is a created being
            2) So they must "add" to the Word of God...

   B. THE PURPOSE IN USING THE PHRASE "FIRSTBORN OVER ALL CREATION"
      1. To stress that Jesus is pre-eminent over all creation, He has
         all the rights of one as IF He were a "firstborn"
      2. Just as God...
         a. Declared Israel to be His "firstborn" over the nations of
            the earth (though certainly not the first nation to exist)
         b. Declared David to be His "firstborn" over the kings of the
            earth (though certainly not the first king either)
         ...so God has declared Jesus to be the "firstborn" over all
            creation (though He  Himself was not a created being!)

[As already touched upon above, we learn from Paul that Jesus is
also...]

V. THE CREATOR OF ALL THINGS (16-17a)

   A. THIS AMAZING TRUTH CONCERNING JESUS IS ALSO CONFIRMED BY...
      1. John in his gospel - Jn 1:3
      2. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews - He 1:3

   B. FROM THESE VERSES WE LEARN THAT WHEN THE WORLD WAS CREATED...
      1. Jesus was the CREATIVE AGENT by which everything came into
         being!
      2. Everything was created FOR Him also!

   C. AS THE CREATOR OF ALL THINGS...
      1. It only follows that He existed before anything that was
         created
      2. Which seems to be the idea of 17a ("He is before all things")

[In addition to being the CREATOR of all things, as we continue in 
verse 17 we learn that Jesus is also...]

VI. THE SUSTAINER OF ALL THINGS (17b)

   A. "IN HIM ALL THINGS CONSIST"
      1. That is, in Him all things are kept in their present state
      2. Their existence, order, and arrangement are continued in the
         present form by HIS power! - cf. He 1:3

   B. WHAT IF JESUS CHOSE TO REMOVE HIS POWER?
      1. Every created thing would fall into disorder!
      2. Or sink back into nothingness!

[Truly in regards to CREATION, Jesus is "The Pre-Eminent Christ!"  But
His preeminence also extends to the realm of REDEMPTION, as suggested
earlier in verses 13-14, and now developed further in verses 18-20]

VII. THE HEAD OF THE BODY, THE CHURCH (18a)

   A. THE CHURCH IS THE BODY OF CHRIST...
      1. The word "church" comes from ekklesia {ek-klay-see'-ah},
         meaning a congregation or assembly made up of people who have
         been "called out"
      2. Those called out by the gospel of Christ into His kingdom form
         a great assembly or congregation
      3. The term "church" is used in two senses:
         a. Universal - the body of saved believers throughout the world
         b. Local - a congregation of saved believers in one locality
      4. In the context of Col 1:18, Paul is speaking of the church
         "universal" (though what we are about to say in the next point
         would be true in a "local" church as well)

   B. AS THE HEAD, JESUS IS OVER THE CHURCH...
      1. As we have already seen, He has all authority in heaven and
         earth - Mt 28:18
      2. How much more so, should He hold the rank of preeminence in His
         Church!
      3. He is the One, therefore, who controls the destiny of those in
         His church! - cf. Rev 2 & 3

[Jesus is also...]

VIII. THE BEGINNING, THE FIRSTBORN FROM THE DEAD (18b)

   A. THE WORD "BEGINNING"...
      1. Comes from the Greek, arche {ar-khay'}
      2. Various shades of meaning include...
         a. Beginning, origin
         b. The person or thing that commences, the first person or
            thing in a series, the leader
         c. That by which anything begins to be, the origin, the active
            cause
         d. The first place, principality, rule, magistracy

   B. REMEMBER THE USE OF THE WORD "FIRSTBORN"...
      1. It does not necessarily mean the FIRST one, but can refer to
         the PRE-EMINENT one
      2. Jesus was not the first person to rise from the dead (cf.
         Jairus' daughter, the son of the widow of Nain, and Lazarus)
      3. But He is the first to rise, never to die again, and is
         declared elsewhere to be the "FIRSTFRUITS" of the resurrection 
         - cf. 1Co 15:20,23
      4. The term "firstfruits" suggests "the cream of the crop", i.e.,
         that which is pre-eminent

   C. THUS, IN REGARDS TO THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD...
      1. Jesus is BOTH the "origin, active cause" (the beginning) and
         the "firstborn from the dead"
      2. He is the "active cause" of the resurrection:  "in Christ all
         shall be made alive" - 1Co 15:22
      3. By His own resurrection, never to die again, He is the 
         "firstborn from the dead", the "firstfruits", i.e., the pre-
         eminent one!

[Two more points are made by Paul in regards to "The Pre-Eminent Christ"
in this passage.  The first is that in Jesus dwells...]

IX. THE FULLNESS OF ALL THINGS (19)

   A. JESUS IS CLEARLY THE "FULLNESS" OF DEITY...
      1. We have seen that He is "the image of the invisible God" - Co
         1:15
      2. Paul later declares that in Jesus "dwells all the fullness of
         the Godhead bodily" - Col 2:9

   B. JESUS IS ALSO OUR "FULLNESS"...
      1. In Him we have "redemption through His blood, the forgiveness
         of sins" - Col 1:14
      2. In Him we have "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" 
         - Col 2:3
      3. Yes, we are "complete in Him" - Col 2:10

[Finally, we learn that Jesus is...]

X. THE RECONCILER OF ALL THINGS TO GOD (20)

   A. THE FATHER'S DESIRE IS TO RECONCILE TO HIMSELF...
      1. "things on earth"
         a. Which includes sinful man - cf. 2Co 5:18-20
         b. Both Jews and Gentiles - cf. Ep 2:14-18
      2. "things in heaven"
         a. Admittedly, a difficult phrase
         b. It would be easy to fall into vain speculation as to what
            this means (e.g., what things in heaven need reconciliation
            to God?)
         c. Whatever Paul may be alluding to, the point is clear:  Jesus
            is to be the reconciler of ALL things to God!

   B. GOD IS ABLE TO RECONCILE ALL THINGS BY JESUS TO HIMSELF...
      1. "having made peace through the blood of His cross"
      2. Through the death of His Son, it is now possible for sinful man
         to be reconciled to God! - Ro 5:10; Col 1:21-22

CONCLUSION

1. Paul had certainly come a long way in his understanding of Jesus
   since that day he met Him on the road to Damascus!
   a. From saying "Who are you, lord?"
   b. To proclaiming Jesus to be:
      1) The king over His kingdom
      2) The savior from our sins
      3) The image of the invisible God
      4) The firstborn over all creation
      5) The creator of all things
      6) The sustainer of all things
      7) The head of the body, the church
      8) The beginning, the firstborn from the dead
      9) The fullness of all things
     10) The reconciler of all things to God

2. I trust that our own understanding and appreciation of Jesus has
   increased as a result of studying this passage!

3. Perhaps we can also appreciate why Jesus received so much praise and
   adoration in heaven - cf. Re 5:11-12

4. What are WE doing to show our appreciation to Jesus, our "pre-eminent
   and all-sufficient Savior?"

5. Consider the words of Jesus in Luke 6:46...implying that the best
   way we can praise Him is by obeying Him

Have you obeyed Jesus in responding to His Gospel (Mk 16:16; Ac 2:38)?
Are you obeying Jesus by living a faithful life as His disciple (Re 2:10)?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit—The "Unpardonable Sin" by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1218

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit—The "Unpardonable Sin"

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Through the years, numerous writers have taken on the task of explaining the comment spoken by Jesus concerning the “unpardonable sin”—blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. From these writings have come countless false doctrines, insinuations, and suggested explanations. It is the purpose of this article to explain what “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” is not, what it actually is, and to offer comment concerning whether it still can be committed today.
Three of the four gospel accounts contain a reference to the statement made by Jesus concerning blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. These three passages read as follows.
Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come (Matthew 12:31-32).
Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation—because they said, “He has an unclean spirit” (Mark 3:28-30).
And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven (Luke 12:10).
Each of these references to the statement made by Jesus verifies that Jesus did clearly state that there is a specific sin that “will not be forgiven.” The American Standard Version describes the sin as an “eternal sin” (Mark 3:29). Jesus defined that sin as “the blasphemy against the Spirit.” What, then, is blasphemy against the Spirit?
In order to explain this sin fully, a look at the general context of the statement is critical. Matthew’s account offers the most detail concerning the setting in which Jesus’ statement was made. In Matthew 12:22, the text indicates that a certain man who was demon-possessed was brought to Jesus to be healed. As was His common practice, Jesus cast out the unclean spirit, and healed the man of his blindness and inability to speak. After seeing this display of power, the multitudes that followed Jesus asked, “Could this be the Son of David?” (12:23). Upon hearing this remark, the Pharisees, wanting to discredit the source from which Jesus received His power, declared that Jesus was casting out demons by “Beelzebub, the ruler of demons.” Jesus proceeded to explain that a kingdom divided against itself could not stand, and if He were casting out demons by the power of demons, then He would be defeating Himself. It was after this accusation by the Pharisees, and Jesus’ defense of His actions, that Christ commented concerning the blasphemy against the Spirit. In fact, the text of Mark clearly states that Jesus made the comment about the blasphemy against the Spirit “because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’ ”
Another critical piece of information needed to clarify Jesus’ statement is the definition of blasphemy. Wayne Jackson wrote: “Blasphemy is an anglicized form of the Greek term blasphemia, which scholars believe probably derives from two roots, blapto, to injure, and pheme, to speak. The word would thus suggest injurious speech” (2000). Bernard Franklin, in his article concerning blasphemy against the Spirit, suggested:
The word “blasphemy” in its various forms (as verb, noun, adjective, etc.) appears some fifty-nine times in the New Testament. It has a variety of renderings, such as, “blasphemy,” “reviled,” “railed,” “evil spoken of,” “to speak evil of,” etc. Examples of these various renderings are: “They that passed by reviled him” (Matthew 27:39). “He that shall blaspheme” (Mark 3:29). “They that passed by railed on him” (Mark 15:29). “The way of truth shall be evil spoken of ” (2 Peter 2:2). “These speak evil of those things” (Jude 10). It is evident from these that blasphemy is a sin of the mouth, a “tongue-sin.” All New Testament writers except the author of Hebrews use the word (1936, pp. 224-225).
Furthermore, Jesus defined the term when, after referring to blasphemy, He used the phrase “speaks a word against” in Matthew 12:32.

WHAT THE UNPARDONABLE SIN IS NOT

With the working definition of blasphemy meaning, “to speak against,” or “speak evil of,” it is easy to rule out several sins that would not qualify as the unpardonable sin. Occasionally, murder is suggested as the “unpardonable sin.” Such cannot be the case, however. First, since blasphemy is a “tongue sin,” murder would not fall into this category. Second, several biblical passages show the sin of murder can be forgiven. When King David committed adultery and had Uriah the Hittite murdered, the prophet Nathan came to him, informing him that God had seen that David “killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword” (2 Samuel 12:9). When David confessed to Nathan and repented, the prophet told David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die” (12:13). And, although David was punished for his iniquity, it was forgiven. The Bible plainly demonstrates that murder is not the unpardonable sin.
Adultery surfaces as another sin put forward as unpardonable. Yet the same reasoning used to discount murder as the unpardonable sin can be used to disqualify adultery. First, it does not fit the category of blasphemy. Second, David was forgiven of adultery, just as surely as he was forgiven of murder. The apostle Paul gave a list of no less than ten sins (including adultery) of which the Corinthian brethren had been forgiven (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Adultery cannot be the unpardonable sin.
Another sin set forth as the unpardonable sin is blasphemy of any kind, not specifically against the Holy Spirit. We know, however, that blasphemy in general cannot be unforgivable for two reasons. First, in the context of the unpardonable sin, Jesus clearly stated that “whatever blasphemies” men may utter (besides against the Holy Spirit) could be forgiven. Second, Paul confessed that before his conversion, he had formerly been “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief ” (1 Timothy 1:13). These two biblical passages rule out the possibility of general blasphemy as the unpardonable sin.
We begin to see, then, that we cannot arbitrarily decide which sins we think are heinous, and then simply attribute to them the property of being unpardonable, especially considering the fact that even those who were guilty of crucifying the Son of God had the opportunity to be forgiven (Acts 2:36-38). Therefore, since the unpardonable sin falls into a category of its own, and cannot be murder, adultery, general blasphemy, etc., some scholars have set forth the idea that the unpardonable sin is not a single sin at all, but is instead the stubborn condition of a person who persists in unbelief. This understanding, however, fails to take into account the immediate context of the “unpardonable sin.” Gus Nichols, commenting on this idea of “persistent unbelief,” stated: “It is true, great multitudes are going into eternity in rebellion against God to be finally and eternally lost; but it is for rejecting and neglecting pardon graciously extended in the gospel while they live, not because they have committed the unpardonable sin” (1967, p. 236). Wendell Winkler, under a section titled, “What the Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit is Not,” wrote that it is not
postponement of obedience until death. The text implies that those who commit the eternal sin continue to live while having lost all opportunity of salvation; whereas those who postpone obedience to Christ (except those who commit the eternal sin) could have obeyed at any time previous to their death (1980, p. 20).

IN THIS AGE OR IN THE AGE TO COME

Jesus said that blasphemy against the Spirit would not be forgiven “in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:32). Certain religious organizations have seized upon this statement to suggest that Jesus has in mind a situation in which certain sins will be remitted after death—but not this sin. This idea of a purgatory-like state, where the souls of the dead are given a “second chance” to do penance for the sins they committed in their earthly life, finds no justification in this statement made by Christ (nor in any other biblical passage, for that matter). R.C.H. Lenski stated that Jesus’ use of the phrase under discussion meant simply “absolutely never” (1961, p. 484). Hendriksen concurred with Lenski when he wrote:
In passing, it should be pointed out that these words by no stretch of the imagination imply that for certain sins there will be forgiveness in the life hereafter. They do not in any sense whatever support the doctrine of purgatory. The expression simply means that the indicated sin will never be forgiven (1973, p. 528).
As the writer of Hebrews succinctly wrote, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
It also has been suggested by several writers that the “age to come” discussed by Jesus refers to the Christian Age. According to this idea, Jesus made the statement in the Jewish Age, when the Law of Moses was in effect, and the “age to come” denoted the Christian Age immediately following, when the Law of Christ would prevail. Putting this meaning to the phrase often leads the advocates of this theory to conclude that the unpardonable sin could be committed in the Christian Age, after the resurrection of Christ. As Winkler surmised, “Thus, since our Lord was speaking while the Jewish age was in existence, he was affirming that the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost would not be forgiven in (a) the Jewish age, nor in (b) the Christian age, the age that followed” (1980, p. 21). Nichols, after affirming the same proposition, concluded:
It follows that this sin, therefore, could be committed during the personal ministry of Christ, and was then committed, as we have seen, and could also be committed under the gospel age or dispensation. They could have attributed the works of the Spirit to Satan after Pentecost, the same as before (1967, p. 234).
Two primary pieces of evidence, however, militate against the idea that Jesus’ reference to the “age to come” meant the Christian Age. First, in Mark 10:30, the gospel writer has Jesus on record using the same phrase (“in the age to come”) to refer to the time when the followers of Christ would inherit “eternal life” (see Luke 18:30 for the parallel passage). This is a clear reference to life after death, since Paul said “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50). Second, Mark’s account of the unpardonable sin describes the sin as an “eternal sin.” The translators of the New King James Version recorded that the person who commits the sin “never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” (Mark 3:29). Mark’s account, with its emphasis on eternity, shows that the phrase simply is meant to underscore the fact that this sin will “absolutely never” be forgiven (Lenski, p. 484). It is incorrect, then, to use the phrase “in the age to come” to refer to purgatory. It also is tenuous to use the phrase to refer to the Christian Age. The best explanation, to quote Hendrickson again, is that “the expression simply means that the indicated sin will never be forgiven” (p. 528).

WHAT THE UNPARDONABLE SIN IS

As was noted earlier, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the only sin in the Bible that is given the status of unpardonable or eternal. In fact, Jesus prefaced His discussion of this sin by stating that, “every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men,” except for blasphemy against the Spirit. Using the working definition of blasphemy as “speaking evil of,” it becomes clear that the sin described by Jesus was a “tongue sin” that the Pharisees had committed, or at least were dangerously close to committing.
What had the Pharisees done that would have put them in jeopardy of committing the unpardonable sin? According to His own testimony, during Jesus’ time on this Earth He cast out demons by the “Spirit of God” (Matthew 12:28). When the Pharisees saw that Jesus had performed a verifiable miracle, they could not argue with the fact that Christ possessed certain powers that others (including themselves) did not have. Therefore, in order to cast suspicion on the ministry of Jesus, they claimed that He was casting out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of demons. The name Beelzebub is simply another name for Satan (Franklin, 1936, p. 227), as can be seen from Jesus’ reference to Satan in Matthew 12:26. Even when faced by the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit through Jesus, the Pharisees were, in essence, attributing Jesus’ power to Satan, and claiming that Jesus was “Satan incarnate instead of God incarnate. It is this, and nothing else, that our Lord calls the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (or Spirit—KB)” (Franklin, p. 227). Maxie Boren wrote: “The context of Matthew 12:22ff. shows clearly that this was indeed the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit—attributing the miracle done by Jesus to the power of the devil. Jesus said it was done ‘by the Spirit of God’ (verse 28) but they (the Pharisees—KB) said it was done by Beelzebub” (n.d., p. 1). It is clear that blasphemy against the Spirit was a definite, singular sin, which could be committed by the Pharisees during the life of Jesus.

IS THE “UNPARDONABLE SIN” THE
SAME AS THE “SIN UNTO DEATH”?

John, in his first epistle, mentioned the fact that “there is sin leading to death” and “there is sin not leading to death” (1 John 5:16-17). His statement in these verses has been connected by more than a few people to Jesus’ remark about the “eternal sin.” It is evident, however, that this connection is based more on opinion than on textual Bible study.
First, there is no biblical evidence that connects the passage in 1 John with the Pharisees’ accusation. Furthermore, the entire context of 1 John gives the Christian readers hope of forgiveness for all sins that they might have committed. John wrote: “All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death” (1 John 5:17). Several chapters earlier, he wrote: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9, emp. added). In the scope of John’s epistle, any unrighteousness committed by his readers could be forgiven if the transgressor took the proper steps of repentance and confession. Apparently, the “sin unto death” in 1 John is not a specific sin for which it is impossible to receive forgiveness, but rather, is any sin for which a person will not take the proper steps demanded by God to receive the forgiveness available. On the other hand, blasphemy against the Spirit was a specific, eternal sin that never would be forgiven.

CAN THE UNPARDONABLE SIN BE COMMITTED TODAY?

The next question usually asked concerning this sin is whether or not it is still possible to commit it today. Opinions on this question certainly vary, and scholars seem to be divided in their positions. The evidence, however, seems to point toward the idea that this sin cannot be committed today.
First, the circumstances under which the sin is described cannot prevail today, due to the fact that the age of miracles has ceased (see Miller, 2003). No one today will have the opportunity to witness Jesus performing miracles in person (2 Corinthians 5:16).
Second, there is no other mention of the sin in any biblical passage written after the resurrection of Christ. None of the inspired New Testament writers refers to the sin in any epistle or in the book of Acts, and none offers warnings to new converts about avoiding the sin post-Pentecost. Franklin observed:
If it were possible for it to be committed, would there not have been some warning against it? Were there any danger regarding it, would the Apostle Paul, who wrote half the books of the New Testament, have failed to warn against its commission? Paul does not even mention the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The sin in question was actually committed in the days of our Lord’s ministry on earth, but it does not necessarily follow that it could be committed in His absence (p. 233).
In discussing this matter, Gus Nichols wrote: “It seems that all sins committed today are pardonable, and that all can be saved, if they will” (1967, p. 239). V.E. Howard, commented along the same lines when he stated that “there is no unpardonable sin today” (1975, p. 156).
In conclusion, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the only unpardonable sin mentioned in the Bible, and it is mentioned in the context of the Pharisees accusing Jesus of being possessed by the Devil. The context indicates that it was a specific sin, and not a series of forgivable sins, or an attitude of persistent unbelief. After the resurrection, no inspired writer mentions the sin, and no warnings against it were recorded. There is no concrete evidence that it can be committed today. The fact that it is not mentioned after the resurrection, lends itself to the idea that it cannot still be committed. In fact, the indication from passages such as 1 John 1:7,9 is that “all unrighteousness” that a person could commit today can be forgiven by the blood of Jesus. As Howard said when concluding his remarks about the eternal sin: “In the same scripture our Lord gave full assurance that every sin and blasphemy against the ‘Son of man’ shall be forgiven him. Today the gospel of Christ is to be preached to every man on earth and any man on earth may be saved by obeying the gospel (Mark 16:15-16)” [p. 157].

REFERENCES

Boren, Maxie B. (no date), “The Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit,” Class Handout, Brown Trail church of Christ, Bedford, Texas, Lesson 4.
Franklin, Barnard (1936), “The Blasphemy Against the Holy Ghost: An Inquiry into the Scriptural Teaching Regarding the Unpardonable Sin,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 93:220-233, April.
Hendriksen, William (1973), The Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Howard, V.E. (1975), The Holy Spirit (West Monroe, LA: Central Publishers).
Jackson, Wayne (2000), Blasphemy—What Is This Great Sin?, [On-line], URL: http://www.christiancourier.com/archives/blasphemy.htm.
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961 reprint), The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern-day Miracles, Tongue-speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation,” Reason and Revelation, 23(3):17-23, March.
Nichols, Gus (1967), Lectures on the Holy Spirit (Plainview, TX: Nichols Brothers).
Winkler, Wendell, ed. (1980), What Do You Know About the Holy Spirit? (Fort Worth, TX: Winkler Publications).

Christianity is in the Constitution by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=7&article=2556

Christianity is in the Constitution

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Those who insist that America was not intended to be a “Christian nation” point to the obvious absence of specific directives regarding Christianity in the federal Constitution. The popular propaganda since the 1960s has been that “the irreligious Framers did not want the nation to retain any attachment to the Christian religion.” Such an assertion is a monstrous perversion of historical fact. The truth of the matter is that they were fearful of the potential interference by the federal government in its ability to place restrictions on the free exercise of the Christian religion. Consequently, they desired that the specifics of religion be left up to the discretion of the several states.
Nevertheless, we must not think for a moment that the federal Framers did not sanction the nation’s intimate affiliation with Christianity, or that they attempted to keep religion out of the Constitution. On the contrary, the Christian religion is inherently assumed and implicitly present in the Constitution. In fact, the United States Constitution contains a direct reference to Jesus Christ! Consider three proofs for these contentions (See Constitution of the United..., 1789).
First, consider the meaning of the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof....” We have been told that, by “establishment of religion,” the Framers meant for the government to maintain complete religious neutrality and that pluralism ought to prevail, i.e., that all religions (whether Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism), though equally tolerated, must not be given any acknowledgement in the public sector. But such an outlandish claim is absolutely false. All one has to do is to go directly to the delegate discussions pertaining to the wording of the First Amendment in order to ascertain the context and original intent of the final wording (Annals of Congress, 1789, pp. 440ff.). The facts of the matter are that by their use of the term “religion,” the Framers had in mind the several Protestant denominations. Their concern was to prevent any single Christian denomination from being elevated above the others and made the State religion—a circumstance that the Founders had endured under British rule when the Anglican Church was the state religion of the thirteen colonies. They further sought to leave the individual States free to make their own determinations with regard to religious (i.e., Christian) matters (cf. Story, 1833, 3.1873:730-731). The “Father of the Bill of Rights,” George Mason, actually proposed the following wording for the First Amendment, which demonstrates the context of their wording:
[A]ll men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that no particular sect or society of Christians ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others (as quoted in Rowland, 1892, 1:244, emp. added).
By “prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” the Framers intended to convey that the federal government was not to interfere with the free and public practice of the Christian religion—the very thing that the courts have been doing since the 1960s.
Second, consider the wording of a sentence from Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution: “If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it....” “Sundays excepted”? The government shuts down and does not transact business on Sunday? Why? If this provision had been made in respect of Jews, the Constitution would have read “Saturdays excepted.” If provision had been made for Muslims, the Constitution would have read “Fridays excepted.” If the Founders had intended to encourage a day of inactivity for the government without regard to any one religion, they could have chosen Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Instead, the federal Constitution reads “Sundays excepted”—proving conclusively that America was Christian in its orientation and that the Framers themselves shared the Christian worldview and gave political recognition to and accommodation of that fact.
Third, if these two allusions to Christianity are not enough, consider yet another. Immediately after Article VII, the Constitution closes with the following words:
Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth....
Did you catch it? Their work was done “in the Year of our Lord.” The Christian world dates all of human history in terms of the birth of Christ. “B.C.” means “before Christ,” and “A.D.” is the abbreviation for the Latin words “anno Domini,” meaning “year of our Lord.” If the Framers were interested in being pluralistic, multi-cultural, and politically correct, they would have refrained from using the B.C./A.D. designation. Or they would have used the religionless designations “C.E.,” Common Era, and “B.C.E.,” Before the Common Era (see “Common Era,” 2008). In so doing, they would have avoided offending Jews, atheists, agnostics, and humanists. Or they could have used “A.H.” (anno hegirae—which means “in the year of the Hijrah” and refers to Muhammad’s flight from Mecca in A.D. 622), the date used by Muslims as the commencement date for the Islamic calendar. Instead, the Framers chose to utilize the dating method that indicated the worldview they shared. What’s more, their reference to “our Lord” does not refer to a generic deity, nor does it refer even to God the Father. It refers to God the Son—an explicit reference to Jesus Christ. Make no mistake: the Constitution of the United States contains an explicit reference to Jesus Christ—not Allah, Buddha, Muhammad, nor the gods of Hindus or Native Americans!
Let’s get this straight: The Declaration of Independence contains four allusions to the God of the Bible. The U.S. Constitution contains allusions to the freedom to practice the Christian religion unimpeded, the significance and priority of Sunday worship, as well as the place of Jesus Christ in history. So, according to the thinking of the ACLU and a host of liberal educators, politicians, and judges, the Constitution is—unconstitutional! Go figure.

REFERENCES

Annals of Congress (1789), “Amendments to the Constitution,” June 8, [On-line], URL: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llac&fileName=001/llac001.db&rec Num=221.
“Common Era” (2008), Encyclop√¶dia Britannica Online, [On-line], URL: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/128268/Common-Era.
Constitution of the United States (1789), [On-line], URL: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution.html.
Rowland, Kate (1892), The Life of George Mason (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons).
Story, Joseph (1833), Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston, MA: Hilliard, Gray, & Co.), [On-line], URL: http://www.constitution.org/js/js_344.htm.

What a Team – Acts 18 by Ben Fronczek




http://granvillenychurchofchrist.org/?p=226

What a Team – Acts 18

What A Team       Acts 18:18-28
(Based on a sermon by Jeff Strite)
OPENING STORY: A couple was celebrating their golden wedding anniversary. Their domestic tranquility had long been the talk of the town. A local newspaper reporter was inquiring as to the secret of their long and happy marriage.  “Well, it dates back to our honeymoon,” explained the man. “We visited the Grand Canyon and took a trip down to the bottom on the canyon by pack mule. We hadn’t gone too far when my wife’s mule stumbled. My wife quietly said, ’That’s once.’ We proceeded a little further and the mule stumbled again. Once more my wife quietly said, ’That’s twice.’  We hadn’t gone a half-mile when the mule stumbled the third time. My wife quietly removed a revolver from her pocket and shot the mule dead. I started to protest over her treatment of the mule when she looked at me and quietly said ’That’s once.’”
Let me tell you another story maybe a little more in line with our sermon this morning:  A traveler was driving along one day and had an accident. He drove his car into a ditch in a desolate area. Luckily, a local farmer came by to help with his horse named Buddy.
Well, the farmer hitched Buddy up to the car and yelled, “Pull, Nellie, pull!” Buddy didn’t move. Once more the farmer hollered, “Pull, Nellie, pull!” Buddy didn’t respond. The farmer repeated this action again, with the same results.
Then the farmer nonchalantly said, “Pull, Buddy, pull!” And the horse finally dragged the car out of the ditch.
The motorist was really appreciative but he was also curious. He said to the farmer “I really appreciate what you did for me, but why did you call your horse by the wrong name 3 times.”
The farmer said, “Oh, Buddy is blind – and if he thought he was the only one pulling, he wouldn’t even try.”
APPLICATION: Like “Buddy” people usually don’t like to think they are pulling the load all by themselves. That’s why Jesus sent his disciples out in teams of two. It’s easier to serve and do a ministry when you’re part of a team.  ReadActs 18:18-28  “Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken. They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. When he landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.
After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor  and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.”
In Acts 18, we’re introduced to the ultimate ministry team – Priscilla and Aquila. They are the only Christian married couple mentioned by name in the NT. They are mentioned at least 4 times (Annanias and Saphira were mentioned, but I’m thinking more in terms of someone who was admirable and Godly).
The Apostles had wives, and Jesus’ half brothers had wives, and they took them with them when they preached (I Cor. 9:5), BUT the names of their wives is never given in Scripture. Priscilla’s is.
I. Some scholars have made a big deal out of this.  Some have given Priscilla’s role in this passage the wrong kind of emphasis.
It is in regards to her name being mentioned first in Acts 18. Ever since the “feminist movement” caught fire, there have been religious scholars who have pointed to Priscilla’s prominence in this text and concluded that she was either the “head of her household” OR that she was dominant teacher in their relationship.
The picture that is often painted by these scholars is that Priscilla took the lead in ministry, and may have even been the power force in the marriage… with Aquila quietly tagging along for the ride and watching from the sidelines as his more knowledgeable wife taught Apollos about baptism.
I have a couple of problems with that:
1st – This argument is based mostly on innuendo and implications from this text that can’t really be proven. In other words, there isn’t anything IN the text that would necessarily lead one to believe that this was true.
2nd – Paul, a man who many of these scholars regard as a bit chauvinist. He wrote many passages in Scripture that cause feminists to cringe…
Later in his letters, this same Paul, referred to this couple as both    “AQUILA & Priscilla” (in I Corinthians 16:19),  AND   “PRISCILLA & Aquila” (in Romans 16:3).
In other words, Paul put both Priscilla and Aquila 1st in different letters to different churches.  That would seem to indicate that the order of a couple’s names as they were introduced was not all that significant to THAT culture in THAT day.
II. BUT the point is, Priscilla’s name IS mentioned in Acts 18… and that is significant!
IN FACT, you don’t ever find Aquila mentioned without Priscilla NOR Priscilla mentioned without Aquila.
You know what that means?  It means that they were not only husband and wife,  Priscilla and Aquila were a team, they were partners in ministry.  They obviously worked well together as they strove to build up the Kingdom of God and His church, because they recognized how important it was for them to do that, because it was bigger than either one of them.
Priscilla was no door mat. No doubt she was an intelligent and vibrant woman. But I doubt she would have thought of herself as the “head” of her family or a better teacher than her husband.
To imply such a competition in their relationship deprives this passage of its true beauty and depth.
We live in a world where men put their wives down in front of their friends, and where women belittle their husbands when they are out with the girls.  Sometimes individuals don’t even wait to be alone  with their friends before they trash their spouse. Sometimes they do it in public in front of each other. Sometimes we even make our spouse the brunt or punch-line  of our jokes.
That should not to be ! (I started to do that years ago and Nancy quietly look at me and said, “That’s #1)
Feminist theology imposes the type of competition and struggle to this 1st century couple that is entirely foreign to anything taught anywhere else in scripture.
What these feminist scholars miss is the beauty of what Priscilla had. Priscilla seemingly had; the ideal Christian marriage. She wouldn’t have overshadowed Aquila and Aquila wouldn’t obviously didn’t crowd her out of ministry.
This couple had something that every married Christian couple should strive for, to become a effective team as we work and do our best to serve Jesus together. Often times it’s one or the other who serves, the man will get excited and stand up and serves in some way or form, but his wife will stay quietly in the background, not sharing any part of that ministry. Or a woman will do her best to serve Jesus, but will have an unbelieving husband, or a husband who has no desire to be involved in serving Jesus in any way or form.
Aquila and Priscilla didn’t have that problem. They were both blessed by having a spouse who would work side by side with them. As far as we know, Aquila and Priscilla apparently had a good marriage.
They weren’t in competition with each other. They worked together in partnership. And because of that, because they were a married couple that “pulled together” Apollos (a good man though a little misinformed) was transformed by their united effort and teaching, into a powerhouse for God.
Look again at Acts 18:24-28.  “Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor  and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.”
Did you catch what its saying there? It’s telling us, that because Priscilla and Aquila invited Apollos over to their home for coffee and donuts and worked together to teach him more about the Christian faith, Apollos receive the encouragement and resources to go on and become even more a more effective teacher.
III. Another thing I would like to mention here. Aquila and Priscilla worked together and accomplished something they might never have achieved alone. I think many of us are more like that ol’ horse Buddy than we realize. Just believing or knowing someone is at your side whether it be a spouse, a relative or even a friend makes all the difference in the world. We’ll do things we just won’t bother to do if we are all by our self. We’re braver, we’re stronger, we’re more ambitious, and even more passionate about doing things when there is someone else to support us along the way.
Solomon put it this way in Prov. 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
I believe that’s what Aquila and Priscilla were doing.  AND possibly that’s why they are the only couple mentioned like this in all the NT, with both names recorded for us to remember.
Not only did they work together to instruct Apollos about baptism, but Paul tells us a couple of other things about them.
In Romans 16:3-5, Paul tells the Roman Christians “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I, but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house.”
Paul thought of Aquila and Priscilla as his “fellow workers.” What had they done to make themselves such reliable helpers to Paul? Well, for one thing…
He said that they risked their live for him. I don’t exactly know how they risked their lives for him, but in doing so we see that together they were courageous.
2nd  Somehow along the way, Paul also mentions in this text that Aquila and Priscilla also encourage other Gentile churches they visited. How? We don’t know; but they did it together.
3rd  They had started a church in their home. In both Romans and I Corinthians Paul referred to churches that met in their home. That apparently “meant something” to Paul especially in a time where Christians were being persecuted.  I believe that this shows their level of commitment to the Lord and their desire to propagate the church together  where ever they went.
If there was wasn’t a church in town, they were probably the kind of people who said, “Honey, there is no Christian church here in our community. Let’s start inviting people into our home and teach them about Jesus.” Together they were not only hospitable, they were also evangelistic, and definitely committed.  What a team!
Some of you opened your home when we first started out here in Granville. You took turns and that was great. This couple probably did it every week. And I can’t help but believe that even though they had to put themselves out there and dealt with a little inconvenience in their life and home, they probably felt real good that they could serve Jesus in this special way together. Jesus said that it would be more blessed to give, and to serve and help others, than receive.
Do you want to get a spiritual boost, to feel some joy in your live again? Become hospitable, open up your home for the cause of Christ. Invite folks over for fellowship to encourage them and make them feel important. Host a Bible study or devo. in your home. Have a picnic and sing along,  Don’t ever underestimate the value of hospitality and teaming up with someone in order to become a better servant of our Lord.
You may be thinking, “Well I don’t have a significant other; I’m not married, I’m single.  Or, my husband is not even interested in being a Christian. Does that prohibit you from getting together with another Christian to team up with them and do a project together for Jesus?  Paul was single but he always seemed to find someone to team up with. You can do the same thing.
There comes a point where the Christian won’t feel a sense of fulfillment, that is until they give back, until they themselves find a way to serve Jesus and others in some way or form.        And what will help us to become an even more effective servant as we try to serve is to find someone who will help us, who will team up with us, like Aquila and Priscilla.
Challenge: I want you to think about 2 things this week: #1. I want to encourage you to make a decision or at least consider giving back to the Lord and serving Him in some new way.
And then consider who you can ask to help you. It may be your spouse, which would be great, or you may ask your Christian friend or relative. It can even be more than one person. Maybe try opening up your home and hosting a dinner party once a month, or a Bible study, or maybe taking on a service project together like visiting others together, or helping at a food pantry together. Whatever your can think of to serve others and serve our Lord. Its giving back to the Lord not because we have to, but rather because we want to because we love Him.
And then I can’t help but believe that the Lord will bless you, and make you feel all good on the inside.
(Based on a sermon by Jeff Strite)

Are You Looking For God? by Alfred Shannon Jr.

https://biblicalproof.wordpress.com/2011/03/

Are You Looking For God?


Have you ever heard someone say, “I will believe in God the day I see Him”. Yet, God has already revealed himself through his creation, His prophets, His apostles, and even through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Today, God reveals himself through his Holy Word, and through every Christian living a godly life. If you’re truly looking for God, just open His Book.
Rom 1:18-21; Rom 9:20; Ps 100:3; Ps 139:1-10; Jer 23:23,24; 1 Kin 20:28; Jer 20:13; John 5:37; 1 Jn 1:18; 1 Jn 4:12,20; 1 Jn 1:1-3; Heb 1:1,2; 1 Cor 11:1; 1 Tim 4:12; Tit 2:7,8; 1 Pet 5:3;