"THE THIRD EPISTLE OF JOHN" Spiritual And Material Prosperity (2-4) by Mark Copeland


Spiritual And Material Prosperity (2-4)


1. We saw in our previous study that Third John is an epistle addressed
   to Gaius, a man whom John would have prosper:

   "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in
   health, just as your soul prospers" - 3Jn 2

2. In this verse, John alludes to two kinds of prosperity:
   a. There is spiritual prosperity ("just as your soul prospers")
   b. And there is material prosperity ("that you may prosper in all 
      things and be in health")

3. The manner in which John mentions and compares these two kinds of 
   prosperity is interesting, and raises several questions worth  considering:
   a. What are the signs of spiritual prosperity?
   b. What is the propriety of praying for material prosperity?
   c. Would we want John to pray such a prayer for us?

[These questions we shall attempt to answer in this lesson.  Beginning
with the first question, we need go no further than the context of 
Third John...]


      1. John rejoiced greatly when he heard from others of how the 
         "truth" was in Gaius - 3Jn 3a
      2. That the "truth" was in Gaius was one indication that his soul
         was prosperous
      3. What does it mean to have the "truth" in you?  Two possibilities:
         a. It could refer to the abiding of Jesus in one's soul, as He
            is the truth - cf. Jn 14:6
         b. It could refer to the incorporation into our very heart and
            soul the teachings and principles of the gospel of Jesus
         -- It pretty much means the same thing, for the latter brings
            about the former - cf. Jn 14:21-23; 1Jn 3:24
      4. A prosperous soul, then, is one in which...
         a. One's heart and mind has opened itself up to receive all 
            that Jesus taught
         b. One is feeding daily upon the Word of God, whereby 
            spiritual growth is possible - 1Pe 2:2

      1. John could also joyfully write of Gaius "walking in the truth"
         - 3Jn 3b-4
      2. In a sense, there is a mixing of metaphors here
         a. The truth abides in Gaius
         b. Gaius walks in the truth
         -- Perhaps that simply illustrates the limitation of human 
            language to describe spiritual realities
      3. The point to be made, however, is this:  for there to be 
         prosperity, there must be progress
         a. It is not enough to simply sit and say "I have the truth in my soul"
         b. One must be acting upon it, living according to it, as 
            illustrated by Jesus in His sermon on the mount - cf. Mt 7:24-27
         c. True blessedness comes in being a "doer" and not just a
            "hearer" - Jm 1:22-25; Jn 13:17
[Spiritual prosperity occurs as one feeds upon the truth of God found
only in His Son Jesus Christ, and lives his or her life in harmony with
that truth.  So Gaius prospered in his soul, and so can we!

Gaius' need was not spiritual prosperity, it evidently was material
prosperity. This brings up the question of...]


      1. John thought it proper to pray for things other than spiritual
         needs - 3Jn 2
         a. "that you may prosper in all good things"
         b. "and be in good health"
      2. Whether it be family, business, or personal health, it is 
         proper to pray that God might bless us in these areas

      1. The example of the Psalmist - cf. Ps 144:12-15
      2. The example of our Lord - Mt 6:11 ("Give us this day our daily bread")

      1. If our desire for material prosperity is for personal gain,
         then we should not expect God to answer favorably - cf. Jm 4: 2-4
      2. But there can be altruistic reasons for praying for material prosperity:
         a. We can pray for health, that one might live longer to serve
            the Lord in this life
         b. We can pray for success in business, that we might have the
            means to help others
         c. We can pray for peace, that we might further the spread of
            the gospel
      3. Of course, it is much easier to pray with prosper perspective
         when it is others we are praying for, and not ourselves (as is
         the case in our text!)

[That brings us to a few final observations I would like to make 


      1. John prays that Gaius prosper materially just as he does spiritually
      2. In view of Gaius' spiritual prosperity (the truth abides in
         him, he walks in the truth), this prayer if answered would be
         a blessing to Gaius
      3. Would we want God to answer such a prayer in our behalf?  To
         the degree that our souls prosper...
         a. Would we want Him to bless our physical bodies?
         b. Would we want Him to bless our families, our homes, our 
            jobs, our nation?
      4. I dare say that in light of the spiritual condition of some
         Christians, such a prayer answered in their behalf would be a
         curse, not a blessing!

      1. As Paul writes, godliness has "promise of the life that now is
         and of that which is to come" - 1Ti 4:7-8; 6:6-7
      2. We can't take material prosperity with us, and it takes 
         spiritual prosperity on our part (i.e., wisdom from God) to 
         properly use the material blessings we have - 1Ti 6:8-10, 17-19


1. So while we may certainly pray for our material prosperity, may we
   never lose sight of the fact that our greatest need is spiritual
   prosperity which lasts forever

2. Concentrate your efforts on prospering spiritually, and may the Lord
   in His Divine wisdom and grace bless you in all other ways accordingly!

Are you walking in the truth?  Is the truth abiding in you?  Heed the
call of the gospel today if you have not already... - cf. Mk 16:15-16;
Ac 2:36-38

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Did Shakespeare Slip His Name in Psalm 46? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Did Shakespeare Slip His Name in Psalm 46?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Amazing! Incredible! Unbelievable! William Shakespeare left his mark on the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. At least that is the rumor going around. According to a host of Websites and books, William Shakespeare was called upon to add his artistic touch to the English translation of the Bible done at the behest of King James, which was finished in 1611. As proof for this idea, proponents point to Psalm 46, and allege that Shakespeare slipped his name into the text. Here is how the story goes. Since Shakespeare was born in the year 1564, then he would have been 46 years old during 1610 when the finishing touches were being put on the KJV. In the King James Version, if you count down 46 words from the top (not counting the title) you read the word “shake,” then, if you omit the word “selah” and count 46 words from the bottom you find the word “spear.” VoilĂ ! Shakespeare must have tinkered with the text and subtly added his signature. How else could one account for all of these 46s to work out so well? To top it all off, William Shakespeare is an anagram of “Here was I, like a psalm.”
First, it should be noted that, although Shakespeare did live at the same time the King James Version was being translated, there is no evidence that he had anything to do with the translation. The events and dates in the life of Shakespeare are fairly well known, and in all of the established facts about his life, not a single piece of paper or document puts him anywhere near the translation process of the King James Version.
Second, in order to get the “perfect” 46s out of Psalm 46, the word “selah” must be omitted from the text. Since the word “selah” seems to be used in many of the psalms as a type of musical punctuation, then the proponents of the Shakespeare rumor think that it would be acceptable not to count the word in order to obtain the desired result. However, the word is in the original text of the psalm. If Shakespeare were involved in translating Psalm 46, he mostly likely would have had the manuscripts before him that contained the word “selah,” since it is in the text. Why, then, would he have arbitrarily decided not to count the word? And, if the word “spear” had come one word later in the text, would the propagators of this rumor simply say that Shakespeare did count the word “selah.” Needless to say, you can make numbers do anything you want them to do if you conveniently omit anything that you do not want to count.
Third, Shakespeare could not have subjectively inserted the words into the text in order to get his name in, since the Hebrew words for “shake” and “spear” had been there for thousands of years prior to 1611. Also, the word “shake” is a commonly used word in the KJV (as is the word “spear”). Finding the two words together in one psalm is unremarkable.
Finally, numbers like these 46s, and coincidences of this kind, are a dime a dozen. A person can pull numerical shenanigans all day long. My wife’s name is Bethany, and at this writing, she is 26 years old. In the New King James Version in the twenty-sixth chapter of Matthew in verse 6, the name Bethany appears. It happens to be the sixth word from the beginning of the verse, which is the exact age my wife would have been for the majority of the year 1982, which was the year the New King James Version hit the market. That must mean that she helped translate that particular section of scripture. Or maybe it just means that numbers can be made to say just about anything.
Let’s stop trying to discover “secret” codes and names in the Bible, and let’s start reading it to see what God really is saying to us. When we do, we will not find secret codes and mysterious names, but instead, we will see God’s straightforward plan for righteous living.
[For additional reading on this topic, see: http://www.kjvonly.org/aisi/2002/aisi_5_2_02.htm]

Did Moses Make a Scientific Mistake? by Wayne Jackson, M.A.

Did Moses Make a Scientific Mistake?

by Wayne Jackson, M.A.


The Bible speaks of two animals, the coney and the hare, as “chewing the cud.” Isn't the Bible mistaken on this point? These animals do not actually chew the cud, do they?


An infidel once wrote: “Something that has long perplexed me is the way that inerrancy proponents can so easily find ‘scientific foreknowledge’ in obscurely worded Bible passages but seem completely unable to see scientific error in statements that were rather plainly written.” This skeptic then cited Leviticus 11:5-6, where the coney and the hare are said to chew the cud, and boasted that since these animals do not have compartmentalized stomachs like those in ruminants (e.g., the cow), Moses clearly made a mistake. What shall we say to this charge?
First, no scientific mistake can be attributed to the Bible unless all of the facts are fully known. In such an alleged case, the biblical assertion must be unambiguous. The scientific information must be factual. And an indisputable conflict must prevent any harmonization of the two. Do these criteria obtain in this matter? They do not.
Second, we must note that the words “coney” (Hebrew shaphan) and “hare” (arnebeth) are rare and difficult words in the Old Testament. The former is found but four times, and the latter only twice. The etymology of the terms is obscure. In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament), shaphan is rendered by dasupoda, meaning “rough foot,” and arnebeth becomes choirogrullion, literally, “swine-pig.” Hence, identification becomes a factor. It is commonly believed, however, that the arnebeth is some species of hare, and that shaphan denotes the Syrian hyrax.
But, so it is claimed, neither of these chews the cud. A number of scholars have noted that both of these animals, even when at rest, masticate, much like the cow or sheep, and that Moses thus employed phenomenal language (i.e., describing something as it appears), for the purpose of ready identification, inasmuch as these creatures were ceremonially unclean and thus prohibited for use as food (Archer, 1982, p. 126).
That is not an impossible solution. Bats, for example, are listed along with birds in Leviticus 11, not because both are mammals, but simply because both fly. The Scriptures do not necessarily follow the arbitrary classification systems of man. When Christ said that the mustard seed is “less than all seeds,” (Matthew 13:33), He was speaking from the vantage point of the Palestinian citizen—not that of a modern botanist. We today employ phenomenal jargon when we speak of the Sun “rising and setting.” Technically, it is not correct to refer to a woman’s amniotic fluid as “water,” and yet doctors employ this language frequently. Why do we not allow the biblical writers as much literary license as we ourselves employ? The bias of agnosticism is utterly incredible.
There is, however, another factor that must be taken into consideration. Rumination does not necessarily involve a compartmentalized stomach system. One definition of “ruminate” is simply “to chew again that which has been swallowed” (Webster’s Dictionary). And oddly enough, that is precisely what the hare does. Though the hare does not have a multi-chambered stomach—which is characteristic of most ruminants—it does chew its food a second time. It has been learned rather recently that hares pass two types of fecal material.

In addition to normal waste, they pass a second type of pellet known as a caecotroph. The very instant the caecotroph is passed, it is grabbed and chewed again.... As soon as the caecotroph is chewed thoroughly and swallowed, it aggregates in the cardiac region of the stomach where it undergoes a second digestion (Morton, 1978, pp. 179-181).
This complicated process provides the rabbit with 100% more riboflavin, 80% more niacin, 160% more pantothenic acid, and a little in excess of 40% more vitamin B12 (Harrison, 1980, p. 121). In a comparative study of cows and rabbits, Jules Carles concluded that rumination should not be defined from an anatomical point of view (e.g., the presence of a four-part stomach); rather, it should be viewed from the standpoint of a mechanism for breeding bacteria to improve food. Cows and rabbits are similar in that both possess a fermentation chamber with microorganisms that digest otherwise indigestible plant material, converting it into nutrients. Some of the microorganisms in these two animals are the same, or very similar. Carles has stated that on this basis “it is difficult to deny that rabbits are ruminants” (as quoted in Brand, 1977, p. 104). Dr. Bernard Grzimek, Director of the Frankfurt Zoological Gardens in Germany, likewise has classified the hare as a ruminant (1975, pp. 421-422).
On the other hand, the hyrax also is considered by some to be a ruminant, based upon the fact that it has a multiple digestive process.
The hyrax has a very long protrusion, a caecum, and two additional caeca near the colon. At least one of these protrusions participates in decomposition of cellulose. It contributes certain enzymes necessary for breakdown of the cellulose (Morton, 1978, p. 184).
Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia (1975) considers the hyrax as a ruminant. Professor Joseph Fischel of the University of California has suggested that the biblical allusion to the coney as a cud-chewer probably was due “to the structure of its digestive system, the protuberances in its large stomach together with its appendix and maw possibly being regarded as analogous to a ruminant’s four stomachs” (1971, p. 1144). In his significant study of the intestinal microflora in herbivores, scientist Richard McBee observed that the hyrax has a fermentation chamber for the digestion of grass by microorganisms (as quoted in Brand, 1977, p. 103).
Finally, the precise meaning of gerah, rendered “chewing the cud” in most versions, is uncertain. Many orthodox Jews consider it simply to mean a second mastication, or the semblance of chewing. Samuel Clark stated that the meaning of gerah “became expanded, and the rodents and pachyderms, which have a habit of grinding with their jaws, were familiarly spoken of as ruminating animals” (1981, 1:546).
In view of the foregoing facts, it is extremely presumptuous to suggest that the Mosaic account contains an error relative to these creatures. A sensible interpretive procedure and/or an acquaintance with accurate information would have eliminated such a rash and unwarranted conclusion.


Archer, Gleason (1982), Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Brand, Leonard R. (1977), “Do Rabbits Chew the Cud?,” Origins, 4(2):102-104.
Clark, Samuel (1981), “Leviticus,” The Bible Commentary, ed. F.C. Cook (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Fischel, Joseph W. (1971), “Hyrax,” Encyclopedia Judaica (New York: Macmillan).
Grzimek, Bernard, ed. (1975), Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold).
Harrison, R.K. (1980), Leviticus (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press).
Morton, Jean Sloat (1978), Science in the Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody).

Did Jude Treat Noncanonical Writings as if They Were Inspired? by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

Did Jude Treat Noncanonical Writings as if They Were Inspired?

by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

There are sixty-six books commonly accepted as Scripture—the divinely inspired Word of God. Origen (c. 185-254), a prolific early Christian writer, noted a commonly accepted list of 27 New Testament books, indicating that by the second or third century, the New Testament canon was established (McGarvey, 1974, 1:66). There are many other books, beside the New Testament canon, that are considered inspired by some scholars, but not all (A.P. Staff, 2003, p. 1). The Bible is complete as it is, sufficient for the spiritual needs of Christians (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Luke 21:33; John 12:48).
Critics of the Bible would like nothing better than to show that God’s Word is a tangled web of contradictions, inconsistencies, and untruths. To that end, many critics have attempted to chip away at the credibility of Scripture by showing that it simply is impossible to determine what material is Scripture and what material is not. They have alleged that the biblical writers themselves accepted extrabiblical sources as inspired Scripture. One instance of a biblical writer allegedly treating noncanonical material as authoritative is in Jude 9. “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ ”
Aside from Jude 9, there is no biblical record of any “contention” or meeting between the devil and Michael the archangel. Many scholars, based on the writings of Clement, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origin, and Didymus (Guthrie, 1962, p. 918; Earle, Blaney, and Hanson, 1955, p. 411), assume that Jude 9 is a reference to an apocryphal book called The Assumption of Moses, a work that is extant only in fragmental form (in Latin and in a translation from Greek). The fragment now known as The Assumption of Moses presents the account of Moses’ appointing of Joshua as his successor, and a description of the future of Israel during the conquest of the Promised Land. According to Richard Lenksi, scholars believe that the missing portion of The Assumption included “an elaboration” of Deuteronomy 34:5, the biblical account of Moses’ death, showing how God used angels to bury Moses (1966, pp. 601-602). It is thought that The Assumption of Moses, at this point, used Zechariah 3:1-2 as its basis for the use of the phrase “The Lord rebuke you!” It has not been proven, however, that Jude intended to quote from The Assumption of Moses.
If Jude intended to reference it, it cannot be determined that Jude actually quoted the apocryphal book, because the material Jude allegedly quoted does not exist. If The Assumption of Moses did indeed contain material about Moses’ burial, then Jude independently wrote the same thing that the writer of The Assumption wrote. Thus, Jude confirmed that this particular portion of The Assumption is historical. That is very different from stating that any portion of The Assumption was inspired. It may be that Jude simply intended to reference an oral tradition (which was true) that became the basis for The Assumption (Guthrie, 1962, p. 918).
Jude is the only New Testament book that seems to include a direct citation of a Jewish apocryphal work, which is, in this case, The Book of Enoch (Guthrie, p. 917). The apparent reference to Enoch’s prophecy is in Jude 14-15. An example of the kind of criticism that comes against Jude 14-15 is that of Carroll D. Osburn, a distinguished professor of New Testament at Abilene Christian University. Dr. Osborn argued in his book Peaceable Kingdom (1993, p. 94) that Jude should not be included in the New Testament canon because, among other reasons, Jude 14-15 discusses an event that also is recorded in The Book of Enoch. Enoch’s book apparently has more than one author, but scholars differ on which author wrote which portions, and it is uncertain when each portion was written. According to Sir Frederic Kenyon, former director and principal librarian of the British Museum, The Book of Enoch is pre-Christian, and parts of it are probably pre-Maccabean (1949, p. 246). However, there is no positive proof that The Book of Enoch existed as early as the time of Jude (Barnes, 1949, p. 400), or that it can even be traced back as far as the third century (Woods, 1962, p. 399). It is thought to have been written in Palestine. David Childress gave an overview of the history of The Book of Enoch:
The apocryphal Book of Enoch the Prophet was first discovered in Abyssinia in the year 1773 by a Scottish explorer named James Bruce. Bruce, a sort of 18th Century Indiana Jones, may have seen the Ark of the Covenant at Axum (or its copy, as we surmise), and was able to obtain the ancient Coptic Christian text, approximately 2,000 years old. In 1821 The Book of Enoch was translated by Richard Laurence and published in a number of successive editions, culminating in the 1883 edition (2000, p. 328).
James C. VanderKam, in his book, Enoch and the Growth of an Apocalyptic Tradition, claimed that Jude (in verses 14-15) quoted 1 Enoch 1:9 (1984, p. 110), and at first glance, that appears to be a correct assessment. First, consider Jude 14-15:
Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
Now notice the wording of 1 Enoch 1:9:
And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly: and to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.
Several points should be considered about Jude’s citation of Enoch’s prophecy. Because it is so difficult to date the origin of The Book of Enoch, and because numerous portions of the book suggest that the writer was influenced heavily by the New Testament, Guy N. Woods, commentating on Jude, wrote:
There are sharp variations between the statement allegedly cited by Jude and the actual statement as it appears in Jude. There is more reason for supposing that the book of Jude is older than this so-called “Book of Enoch” and that the author quoted from Jude rather than Jude from him! In the same fashion that Peter knew that Noah was a preacher, that Lot was vexed in Sodom, and that Paul knew the names of the Egyptian magicians; Jude learned of Enoch’s prophecy—by inspiration (1962, p. 399).
Let us assume, for the sake of our study, that The Book of Enoch existed at the time that Jude wrote, and that Jude really was referencing it. Simply because Jude knew of Enoch’s prophecy and approved it, does not necessarily imply that Jude certified the entire collection of Enoch’s writings as inspired of God. The Greek word translated “prophesied” in Jude 14 is propheteuo, a word that is used on only one occasion in the New Testament (Matthew 15:7) for a citation of an Old Testament passage (Isaiah 29). The cognate Greek noun prophetes, which relates to the verb propheteuo, was used by Paul to refer to a heathen poet (Titus 1:12). There is no evidence, then, that Jude referred to Enoch’s prophecy as an inspired work. Why, then, did Jude mention The Book of Enoch? He recognized that the prophecy of Enoch had turned out to be a true prophecy. Jude never gave indication of what he thought of the remainder of The Book of Enoch.
Many times in Scripture, inspired writers use other sources of information; sometimes these sources are inspired, and sometimes they are not. For an example, one occasion when an inspired writer used an uninspired source is in 1 Corinthians 10:4, where Paul apparently made a reference to Jewish legend to support his own inspired interpretation of Israel’s wilderness wanderings (Lenski, 1937, pp. 392-393). On other occasions (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12-13), Paul quoted from pagan poets to support his own assertions, and even told his audiences that the specific portions of the pagan writings he referenced were accurate. Did Paul claim that these extrabiblical materials were inspired? Certainly not. Paul used supporting materials that would have been meaningful to his audiences. The noncanonical works that were cited by New Testament authors were highly respected. The fact that Paul used noncanonical sources to add an extra dimension to his message should not motivate us to regard any of Paul’s writings as inferior, or to totally disregard them. The same is true in the case of Jude’s epistle.
Further, Jude did not necessarily imply that Enoch saw into the future to predict attitudes or actions of the sinners under consideration in the epistle. All that is necessarily implied in Jude 14-15 is that Enoch’s prediction happened to be descriptive of the men about whom Jude wrote (Barnes, 1949, p. 399).
We probably will never be sure when (or if) Jude received information from earthly sources about Enoch’s writing or The Assumption of Moses. Perhaps Jude heard about it from traditional sources or from the books themselves, but this does not alter the fact that Jude was inspired of God. It is possible that the Holy Spirit, as He inspired Jude, certified that one particular portion of The Book of Enoch is correct, though not inspired. It is altogether certain, however, that despite critics’ allegations, the Bible continues to stand firm as the sole message from the Creator—always accurate and dependable.


Barnes, Albert (1949), Barnes’ Notes—James, Peter, John, and Jude (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1978 reprint).
Childress, David Hatcher (2000), Technology of the Gods: The Incredible Sciences of the Ancients (Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited).
Earle, Ralph, Harvey J.S. Blaney, and Carl Hanson (1955), Exploring the New Testament, ed. Ralph Earle (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press).
Guthrie, Donald (1962), Introduction to the New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity, 1970 reprint), third revised edition.
Kenyon, Frederic (1949), The Bible and Archaeology (Britain: Harper and Brothers).
Lenski, Richard C. H. (1937), The Interpretation of I and II Corinthians (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Lenski, Richard C. H. (1966), The Interpretation of I and II Peter, the Three Epistles of John, and the Epistle of Jude (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
McGarvey, J.W. (1974), Evidences of Christianity (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
Osburn, Caroll D. (1993), The Peaceable Kingdom (Abilene, TX: Restoration Perspectives).
A.P. Staff (2003), “The Canon and Extra-Canonical Writings,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1972.
VanderKam, James C. (1984), Enoch and the Growth of an Apocalyptic Tradition (Washington, The Catholic Biblical Association of America).
Woods, Guy N. (1962), A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles of Peter, John, and Jude (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).

Teachings of Jesus (part 40) Who’s First by Ben Fronczek

Teachings of Jesus (part 40) Who’s First

Reading John 13:1-17   “It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Someone once said, “Take ten chickens, any ten. Put them in a pen together, and spread a little chicken feed. In short order, you will witness an amazing phenomenon. In a matter of minutes, the chickens, previously strangers, will form a hierarchy based on dominance or, in everyday language, they will establish a Pecking Order. Instinctively, they will determine, through a series of skirmishes, who the Number One chicken will be; then the Number Two; the Number Three; all the way down to the unlucky Number Ten chicken.”
I remember growing up as a boy my grandmother who lived just next door raised chickens for eggs and later their meat. And sure enough there seem to be a pecking order. Some chickens didn’t even have any tail feathers left having been pecked off. And usually the rooster was the alpha male who was number one. Her rooster even attacked me a couple of times until I hit it with a rake one day.
And we seem to see this so called, ’pecking order’ throughout nature, in the animal kingdom and sometimes even with plants, and even among people. We see it today very clearly in the business world. But the truth is, it’s not just in the business world it’s everywhere. It happens at family picnics, parties, class reunions, sporting events, conventions, and even in some Churches.
In a number of New Testament passages we even see where the closest disciples of Jesus seems to have this problem; that is who amongst them was the greatest.
In Luke 9:46-48 it says “An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all–he is the greatest.”
In Mark 9: 33-37 another passage says, “They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” 36 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
And then we have our text which is in Luke 22:24-27
The disciples had been with Christ for about 3 years at this point and the end is at hand. They’re gathered in an upper room to eat the Passover meal with their teacher but they don’t realize yet that this is the “Last” Supper.
For 3 years they’ve lived together, ate together and learned together at the feet of Jesus. But this conversation comes up again and shows us that these guys haven’t understood one of the main things Jesus wanted them to understand.
The conversation always started with the disciples arguing over which of them would be greatest in the coming Kingdom. And Jesus’ answer was always the same: ‘YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND! My Kingdom is going to be different than the kingdoms of this world. In My Kingdom – My church – the greatest will be the one who is the best servant.’
This passage in Luke 22:24-27 says, 24 Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. 25 Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ 26 But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. 27 Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.”
In Matthew 20:25-28 Jesus says it this way: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
And mind you, all of this takes place as He instituted what we call the ‘Lord’s Supper’ of the ‘Communion service’. And here they are arguing about who was going to be preeminent. And so again Jesus lets them know, that if you want great in the Kingdom of God you’ve got be a servant. You’ve got to learn how to share your life with others.
The Apostle John records a little more of what transpired that night dedicating five chapter to what Jesus did, said and taught that night before He was arrested and then put to death. (Over the next few weeks I will be presenting lessons from what Jesus taught that night from John’s Gospel account.)
No one is exactly sure of the timing, but I wonder if it was at this point Jesus leaves the room but then comes back into the room ready to nail home this lesson. He approaches them with a towel wrapped around his waist… carrying a basin of water and in John 13 we read that He proceeds to wash their feet.
Now, why was He doing this?
Well #1 their feet were dirty. In that day, most roads were dirt and as people walked from one place to another, and their feet got real dirty. As if you entered a person’s home it was customary for you to wash your feet before entering… or (if the family was wealthy enough), a servant would wash your feet. BUT the master of the house NEVER washed feet. That was demeaning. That was work that only a servant would do.
That’s why, in John 13 we’re told that Peter got so upset when he saw Jesus washing their feet. He tells Jesus: “No… you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus was their teacher, their master and He shouldn’t have had to disgrace Himself in this manner.
But of course… that was exactly the point. And here lies the 2nd reason why He washed their feet. To give them an object lesson they’ll remember.
After He washed all their feet, John wrote:
“12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
Now remember, this all took place at the Last Supper… the template for our observance of Communion time. It suddenly occurred to me that there must be something about communion that should help me learn to share. It is something we all share in and do together.
If we are to learn anything from the texts mentioned today it’s that Jesus was against a ‘Pecking Order’.
If Jesus, who is the Lord of Lords, the King of kings, the Alpha and the omega and Messiah, Savior and creator of all, could get down on His hands and knees and scrub their dirty feet to teach them a lesson it should catch our attention as well. Jesus wants us to be like Him, who came to serve others.
How do we do this? Well I believe that the Apostle Paul summed it up quite well in his letter to the Philippians when he wrote chapter 2, as we consider why we should serve, but also how to serve one another Read Phil. 2:1-16
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. “Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
So, I’ going to wrap things up here by saying that Christianity is not a self-centered religion, rather it’s quite the opposite. Jesus wants all of us to get this message crystal clear; ‘there is no pecking order in Christianity, rather greatness, or what really pleases our Lord and God is when we help and encourage one another whenever we can. Some of us need to humble our self and start encouraging and helping others. Maybe He presented this lesson at this time because it was a time of communion, a time for sharing. He shared Himself with them and all the world, and so maybe part of that memorial is sharing not only the bread and with one another but also our lives as well.
He said in do so we will be doing God’s will and we will shine like stars in the sky.

The dynamic faith of two Ethiopians by Roy Davison

The dynamic faith of two Ethiopians
Scripture reading: 2 Kings 24:17 - 25:11

In the Scriptures we read about two Ethiopians who had great faith.
The English word ‘Ethiopian’ comes from an ancient Greek designation meaning ‘people with a dark complexion’. It referred to residents of the land of Cush. Cush was a son of Ham (Genesis 10:6-8). The country of Cush, or the Biblical Ethiopia, was south of Egypt in the area of modern Nubia, Sudan and the northern part of Ethiopia. Ethiopians were black (Jeremiah 13:23).
We notice no prejudice in the Bible on the basis of skin color. Moses had an Ethiopian wife (Numbers 12:1). The stunning Shulammite shepherdess whose beauty Solomon praises in the Song of Songs was dark: “I am dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, Like the tents of Kedar, Like the curtains of Solomon” (Song of Solomon 1:5).
The Hebrew word translated here as ‘dark’ means ‘black’. It is used to describe hair ‘black as a raven’ (Song of Solomon 5:11) and ‘black horses’ (Zechariah 6:2). The “tents of Kedar1” were made of black goat’s hair.
The Bible mentions two Ethiopians who had a dynamic faith worthy of emulation.

A faithful servant of the King.

The name Ebed-Melech means ‘servant of the king’. Ebed- Melech was a servant of Zedekiah, king of Judah. But more important: Ebed-Melech was a servant of the King of heaven and earth.
Ebed-Melech saved the life of Jeremiah the prophet, when King Zedekiah would have allowed him to die.
In 587 BC, Jerusalem had been under siege by Nebuchadnezzar II for two years.
Although Zedekiah had sworn an oath of allegiance to the Babylonians when they appointed him as king, he had broken his vow and rebelled against them. “Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did evil in the sight of the LORD his God, and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the LORD. And he also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear an oath by God; but he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD God of Israel. Moreover all the leaders of the priests and the people transgressed more and more, according to all the abominations of the nations, and defiled the house of the LORD which He had consecrated in Jerusalem. And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:11-16). [Also see 2 Kings 24:17, 20.] God condemned Zedekiah for breaking his oath (Ezekiel 17:15, 16). The Babylonians returned to reconquer the city.
The people of Judah had “forsaken the covenant of the LORD their God, and worshiped other gods” (Jeremiah 22:9). During 40 years2 Jeremiah had warned them to repent but they did not listen (Jeremiah 1:1-3; 25:3). God’s patience was at an end. His message through Jeremiah was that Jerusalem would be destroyed but that the people could save their lives by surrendering to the Babylonians.
Because of this, Jeremiah was viewed as a traitor by some.
Four leading men in Jerusalem “heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken to all the people, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: “He who remains in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but he who goes over to the Chaldeans shall live; his life shall be as a prize to him, and he shall live.” Thus says the LORD: “This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army, which shall take it.”’
“Therefore the princes said to the king, ‘Please, let this man be put to death, for thus he weakens the hands of the men of war who remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man does not seek the welfare of this people, but their harm.’
“Then Zedekiah the king said, ‘Look, he is in your hand. For the king can do nothing against you.’ So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the king’s son, which was in the court of the prison, and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire. So Jeremiah sank in the mire.
“Now Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs, who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon. When the king was sitting at the Gate of Benjamin, Ebed-Melech went out of the king’s house and spoke to the king, saying: ‘My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon, and he is likely to die from hunger in the place where he is. For there is no more bread in the city.’
“Then the king commanded Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, ‘Take from here thirty men with you, and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon before he dies.’
“So Ebed-Melech took the men with him and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took from there old clothes and old rags, and let them down by ropes into the dungeon to Jeremiah.
“Then Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, ‘Please put these old clothes and rags under your armpits, under the ropes.’ And Jeremiah did so. So they pulled Jeremiah up with ropes and lifted him out of the dungeon” (Jeremiah 38:1-13).
“Now Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken. And he was there when Jerusalem was taken” (Jeremiah 38:28).
“Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying, ‘Take him and look after him, and do him no harm; but do to him just as he says to you’” (Jeremiah 39:11, 12).
“Meanwhile the word of the LORD had come to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying, ‘Go and speak to Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will bring My words upon this city for adversity and not for good, and they shall be performed in that day before you. But I will deliver you in that day,’ says the LORD, ‘and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me,’ says the LORD” (Jeremiah 39:15-18).
What can we learn from the faith of Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian?
When he heard that Jeremiah was in the dungeon, he immediately attempted to help him. There was danger involved because he could be accused of helping a traitor. Yet he went to the king and told him that the men who had put Jeremiah in the dungeon had done something evil. Ebed-Melech recognized Jeremiah as a prophet and did not want him to die! The king granted his request.
Let us follow the example of Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian. Let us have the courage to do what is right even if others are doing what is wrong. From this we also learn that God rewards those who put their trust in Him.

An Ethiopian obeys the gospel.

Next we go to the first century AD. The church has been established. The gospel is being preached. Philip the evangelist is sent to a lonely road.
“Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, ‘Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ This is desert. So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go near and overtake this chariot.’ So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he read was this: ‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His justice was taken away, And who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.’ So the eunuch answered Philip and said, ‘I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:26-39).
We do not know the name of this Ethiopian. He was the treasurer of the queen of Ethiopia. More important however: he was a man of faith who put his faith into practice.
He was willing to expend great effort to worship God! By chariot he had travelled 1800 km to Jerusalem to worship! Along the way he would have encountered bad weather and hardships. He would have been in danger from thieves. The round trip was 3600 km!
How much effort are we willing to expend to worship God? God’s people no longer must go to Jerusalem, only to a local assembly on the Lord’s day.
Sunday is not our day on which we do what we want, it is the Lord’s day on which we come together to praise and thank God.
The Ethiopian was reading the Scriptures while joggling along in a chariot! There would have been a cushion on his seat, but chariots had no springs. He really wanted to know the word of God! What do we learn from this? We can find occasion to read the Scriptures if we love God and really want to learn His will.
When the Ethiopian heard the gospel, he obeyed immediately! When he saw water, he asked to be baptized! Some hesitate to become a Christian. Not this man. He was baptized and went on his way rejoicing.
From these two examples of dedication, we can learn much. Let us do what is right even if others are doing what is wrong. Let us exert the required effort to worship God and learn His will. Let us have a living faith like Ebed-Melech and the treasurer of Candace! Amen.
Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive

1 Of the Qedarites - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qedarite.
2 Jeremiah prophesied 18 years under Josiah, 11 years under Jehoiakim and 11 years under Zedekiah.