Admonishment Using Ironic Words

1 Cor 4:8-14

You are already full!  You are already rich!  You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you!  For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.  We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong!  You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!  To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless.  And we labor, working with our own hands.  Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure,  being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.  I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you.

Paul had used ironic or sarcastic words to admonish the Corinthian church. They prided themselves on the abundance of everything – spiritual gifts, luxury, comfort and ease.  They had no sense of need. They acted as though they were reigning already. Paul had stated clearly that his purpose was not to shame but to warn (1 Cor 4:14) and he did it in the spirit and zealousness of love for he called them his beloved children.

But sadly today, many have wandered from the truth and such admonishment will come across as judgmental.  Pastors who voice such admonishment,  like Paul, today will be construed as “ranting” against the respectable Christendom for leaving them out of their fellowship.

“It is positive disloyalty to seek our crown before the King gets His. Yet this is what some of the Christians at Corinth were doing. The apostles were bearing the reproach of Christ. But the Corinthian Christians were “rich” and “honorable”. They were seeking a good time where their Lord and Master had such a hard time.” – H P Barker. (Believer’s Bible Commentary)

 

 

 

Commendation For Contending Against False Teachers

Rev 2:1-6 NLT

 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands: I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first ! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.

What were the works of the Ephesus church that our Lord Jesus had commended (though there was also rebuke) ?

  1. They did not tolerate evil people.
  2. They had examined the claims of the false apostles and found them to be liars.
  3. They had suffered patiently without quitting.  (Contending against popular megachurch false pastors today will surely bring much backlash not only from these cults but also from the postmodern tolerant Christendom.)
  4. They hated the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans who were false teachers at that time.

Better to suffer and be commended by our Lord Jesus for doing what pleases Him than to gain the praise and favor from postmodern tolerant Christendom today.

Dangerous Blasphemy

2 Pet 2: 10-12

Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant…

Jude 1:8-10

Yet in like manner these people also…reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.

Acts 23:4-5

Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

The above verses are clear that we do not blaspheme the rulers both in the physical and spiritual realms.

Even though the devil had no jurisdiction over Michael, yet Michael would not revile him for he recognized the devil to be in a position of authority. (2 Cor 4:4).

It is one thing to criticize unjust policies of government but quite another to speak evil of the rulers. (Acts 23:5). It will be foolish for naive pastors to join the false teachers (being described above as irrational animals) in speaking evil of the devil or the government leaders (such as President Trump of USA and President Xi of China) and attributing the blame to them for the current hard times.

We must accept nothing happen outside God’s sovereign will. It is judgment and training for the wicked and the faithful respectively. God has warned repeatedly in Scripture of coming hard times and of course, ONLY the faithful listen, stay watchful, prepare and endure.

Postscript :

This is worth noting from the above Scriptural references that the false teachers, though they are agents of the devil, can even blaspheme the devil.  This reveals that evil can go to that extent of deception.

 

All Calamities Are Decreed By The Lord

Isaiah 45:6-7

That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides Me.  I am the Lord, and there is no other; I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.

Amos 3:6-7

If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?  Surely the Lord God does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.

Job 2:9-10

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

The above verses are self explanatory.  The faithful are expected to listen to the warning of the coming end time birth pains, stay watchful, prepare and endure when they come.  They should not be caught unawares.  In Rev 18 when God judges Babylon and destroys all wealth, He expects the faithful to come out of her before plagues of mourning, famine and death visit.

Scripture makes it clear that calamitous judgments from God are true and just.  It is wrong to believe that calamities are evil works and try to “absolve” God of His sovereign will to decree calamitous judgments.

Rev 16:5-9

And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments.  For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink.  It is what they deserve!”  And I heard the altar saying,

“Yes, Lord God the Almighty,
    true and just are your judgments!”

The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.

Come Out Of Babylon

Rev 18:4-8

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, …she glorified herself and lived in luxury,… for this reason her plagues will come in a single day, death and mourning and famine,…”

It is clear from Rev 18 that Babylon is unmistakably the alliance of governments (kings of the earth),  global multi-national companies and the supply chain links (merchants) and the global shipping lines, seaports and financial centres (those who make their living by the sea) forming a global supply chain and financial system engaged in globalized trade.

All have grown rich from the power of this Babylonian system. (Rev 18:3).  This is the current capitalism we know today.   As a result, the nations have grown haughty to believe in their own wealth and might.  We see this haughtiness peaked in changing God’s universal laws of sanctity of life and marital relationship and His abhorrence of homosexual sins.  That also birthed the apostate Christianity in hyper grace, prosperity and NAR movements basking in her glory.

How do we come out of Babylon ?

We have to get out of Babylon in getting out of :

  1. All kinds of greed.  (Luke 12:15;  1 Tim 6:6-10; 17-19)
  2. Being weighed down by carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life. (Luke 21:34)
  3. Being lured into the false gospels of hyper grace, prosperity and NAR movements.

God had already so warned that if we fail to get out by the time He judges all wealth (Rev 18:17), we only have ourselves to be blamed for being caught in the plagues.

God’s judgment will be true and righteous and we should rejoice when it comes.

Rev 18:20; 19:1-3

Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets,
for God has given judgment for you against her!

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

Postscript :

(In the book of Revelation,  chapters 5 to 16 talk about the seal, trumpet and bowl judgments.   Then chapters 17 and 18 talk about Babylon before the rest of the book talks about the return of our Lord, His final judgment and the coming of new heaven and new earth.   Babylon in chapter 17 and 18 talk about judgment of her religious system by the beast as the spiritual harlot, and judgment of her financial system by God in destroying all wealth respectively.  It is not chronological.  When the seal, trumpet and bowl judgments are released,  all systems will be destroyed or made subservient to the Antichrist anyway.  So the destruction of Babylon will logically come during the birth pains to pave the way for the rise of the one world government and currency.)

Parable Of The Weeds

Matt 13:24-30; 36-43

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.  27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’  28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.  “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’  29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”  36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”  37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.  40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will WEED OUT OF HIS KINGDOM everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

Sometimes we really wish that the weeds (the false teachers and their minions who are agents of the devil) can be weeded out now out of God’s kingdom, but our Lord explained that if the weeding is done by the servants of God now, the wheat might also be uprooted probably because men are still fallen and are not perfect in discernment. The angels will do the weeding at the end of age instead.

So we must bear this in mind that not all who call themselves Christians are wheat.  We must also accept the fact that some whom many hold in high esteem as apostles of Christ and servants of righteousness may be the devil’s agents who are skilled workmen in disguise and deception.  It is sad that most believers are so receptive of the feel good messages of these seeds sown by the devil.  When the true prophets were proclaiming the judgment of Israel at the hands of the Babylonians, Israel chose to believe the feel good messages of the numerous false prophets then.   Likewise today, we should not expect the false teachers to preach on the coming birth pains, the nearness of salvation and the impending return of our Lord.

 

 

Three Attitudes Towards The Law

Dr John Stott, in his exposition on the book of Romans, gave 3 attitudes to the Law.

1. Legalists. They are under the Law and are bound by it. Their relationship to God depends on their obedience to the Law seeking both justification and sanctification by it. Crushed by the inability of the Law to save them, they fear the Law.

2. Antinomians. Blame the law for all their problems so they reject it altogether and claim to be rid of all obligations to the demands of the Law. So they hate the Law and repudiate it.

3. Law-Fulfilling Free Believers. Have this balanced attitude in rejoicing both in their freedom from the law for justification and sanctification, and freedom to fulfill the Law. They delight in the Law as the revelation of God’s will (Rom 7:22), but recognize that the power to fulfill it is not in the Law itself but in the Spirit. So they love the Law and fulfill it.

So what Paul meant when he said believers are no longer under the law, he was saying true believers are free from the law for justification and sanctification. And is now under grace with the power to fulfill it through the Spirit. Rom 6:14; Gal 5:18.

That is,
For Justification, we are not under law but under grace.
For Sanctification, we are not under law but led by the Spirit.

Guidance, Calling And Ministry

We will have forsaken the world to follow our Lord Jesus if we are genuine believers. And surely we will want to find out the purpose of life that God has for us.  Eph 2:10 tells us that when we are created in Christ Jesus, God has prepared beforehand we shall walk in good works which we will surely want to discover.

Whenever we talk about God’s will, we are actually talking about His guidance, or calling or ministry for us.  The three distinct initiatives of God refer to His directing of our faith journey, His calling, and the service He places us in His Kingdom respectively.

(The material is gleaned from the book, The Disciple, by John Stott with Tim Chester and I took the liberty to paraphrase it.)

Guidance

It is essential to differentiate between God’s general and particular will first.  God’s general will for all believers is Christlikeness.  Rom 8:28-29.  Particular will concerns decisions such as finding life-work or spouse.  Though there are general guidelines or principles laid out in Scripture, specific answers are not given. Take the example of marriage.  There are principles concerning marriage, yet Scripture will not tell us whether you should get married or remain single, or which man or woman you should marry.

How can we discover God’s particular will ?

  1. Yield.  Without surrendering our will to God,  how is God going to reveal to us ?   God will only guide the humble.
  2. Pray.  How bad we really want to know ?  Only persistent and sincere prayer reveals our desire to seek His will.  And God grants us wisdom generously when we ask for it. James 1:5.
  3. Seek.  Wisdom can come from God through godly counsel :  parents or brothers and sisters in God’s family.
  4. Weigh.  Although we yield, pray and seek advice,  we must ultimately make the decision ourselves. God does not want us to be like horses or mules without understanding,  that is, without exercising our rational minds as we weigh the pros and cons.
  5. Wait.  From Scripture, we learned that most heroes of faith got their guidance after a lengthy period of time.  From experience, more mistakes are made in haste or rather than in delay.

Calling

God called us according to His purpose. Rom 8:28.  It is a more of a calling to a Person rather than to do something.  It is a wonderful fact that God cares enough to call us personally and individually. We are called to belong to Jesus Christ and to embrace and enjoy all blessings in our Lord Jesus. Like guidance, we have to differentiate between general calling and particular calling.

What is God’s general calling ?

  1. We are called to fellowship with Jesus Christ. Rom 1:6.  Eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ.  God calls us to know and enjoy Him and Jesus Christ.
  2. We are called to freedom. Gal 5:13.  We are free from the condemnation of the law through God’s forgiveness and acceptance into Christ our Lord.  We are free from guilt, or a guilty conscience.  However it is not freedom to sin or freedom from social responsibilities. It is such a paradox that it is only through serving that we become free.
  3. We are called to peace. Col 3:15.  Scripture is not referring to peace of mind but to peace (shalom) of reconciliation with one another in the one Body of Christ. We are not only called to belong to Jesus our Lord but also to God’s people.
  4. We are called to holiness. Since God is holy, He also call us to be holy.  Holiness is not a false image of detached spiritual piety, but a lively Christlikeness lived out in the world.
  5. We are called to witness. We are all called to be missionaries.  Matt 28:19-20.  We have obtained mercy through the gospel of our Lord Jesus and we ought to share this blessing with the unsaved.
  6. We are called to suffering. Because we are called out of the world by our Lord, the world will hate us. John 15:18-19.  The world hates our Lord because He had testified against her evil works.  John 7:7.  We are called to share in the suffering of our Lord.  Rom 8:16-18.
  7. We are called to glory. It was through suffering that our Lord entered into glory and it will be the same for us.  If we share in our Lord’s suffering,  we will also share in His glory.  God is not calling us for this life only, but also for all eternity in the new universe to come.

In short, the Christian calling is to be called to belong to Christ in this life and beyond, to love one another in the peace of his new community, and to serve, witness and suffer in the world.

If God’s general calling is to be free, holy and Christlike, God’s particular calling relates to our individual different vocation.  1 Cor 7:20 and 24 tell us that we should remain in the condition in which we are called.   In the context of 1 Corinthian epistle,  Paul gave 3 examples of remaining in our domestic situation, whether married or single, in our cultural situation, whether Jewish or Gentile, and in our social situation, whether slaves or free.  Paul had to remind the Corinthian converts then because they believed they ought to change their situation since nothing in their old life could be retained after becoming a new creation in Christ.

Martin Luther said,”Those who are now called ‘spiritual’, that is, priests, bishops or popes, are neither different from other Christians nor superior to them, except that they are charged with the administration of the word of God and the sacraments, which is their work and office.”

Every believer must benefit and serve every other by means of his own work or office, so that in this way many kinds of work may be done for the bodily and spiritual welfare of the community.  1 Cor 12:14-26.

William Perkins, a Puritan, said,”The action of a shepherd in keeping sheep…is as good a work before God as is the action of a judge in giving sentence, or of a magistrate in ruling, or a minister in preaching.  Thus then we see there is good reason why we would search how every man is rightly to use his particular calling.”

These 2 callings should be pursued in balance to serve our Lord Jesus and to serve others.  We must bear in mind that God does not work in us only after conversion, but He is at work in us even before our birth in our genetic inheritance, and then later in our temperament, personality, education and skills.  God’s sovereignty over us is not only on our spirituality, but also over all sections of our lives.

Ministry

Discipleship is never an option.  We are all called to be disciples of Jesus our Lord.  As disciples, surely we will want to know how best we can serve in the Kingdom of our Lord.  Like guidance and vocation,  we need to distinguish between a general and a particular ministry.

  1. We are all called to ministry. That is, we are all called to serve.  It is the privilege of every disciple.  Due to the unbiblical clergy-laity divide,  it is sad that many believe ministry only belongs to the pastors and fulltime church workers.
  2. There is a wide variety of ministries. That is, there are many ways we can serve God and people.  In Acts 6:1-4, we learned that both distribution of food and teaching of word were considered as ministry.   Even for the distribution of food, we learned that 7 Spirit-filled persons were chosen for that responsibility.  There should be no distinction in all ministries whether one is spiritual or secular, superior or inferior, pastoral or social.  All believers need to see their daily work as their primary ministry in penetrating secular environment for Christ and glorifying Him in the process.
  3. The particular ministry to which we are called is likely to be determined by our given gifts. God is not a random Creator; He has not given us natural and spiritual gifts only to be wasted.  God has created us as individual unique persons.  So each one of us should ask ourselves how best we can serve Christ and others with the present gifts we have without them going to be wasted.

Cast The First Stone

John 8:1-11
but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

The scribes and the Pharisees should know the Jewish law and the Roman law very well :

  1. There should be at least 2 witnesses to bring a charge.
  2. The adulterous man should be tried as well.
  3. The witnesses should not bear false witness or they would face the same punishment.
  4. The capital offense could only be enforced by the Roman authorities.

So they were not really seeking the execution of the adulterous woman but was doing so to trap Jesus.  When the Lord Jesus said the one without sin could cast the first stone,  He was reminding these law experts, especially the witnesses, that they could do so if they had not flouted the Jewish Law.  Deut 17:7.

They were already bent on trapping and killing Jesus.  So when they went away, they were not feeling remorse because they realized they were sinners too,  but because they knew they had flouted the law.  A trap had turned into an embarrassing expose for them who were supposed to be experts of the law.

Jesus would not condemn the woman as He was not a witness either.  But He reminded her not to sin the same anymore.

The misuse of this passage to deride judgment of sin will contradict the direct command of judging serious sins in 1 Cor 5:9-13.  Most of the times, it is used to justify unrestrained sin and it is a terrible wrong in itself.

The Day Of Divine Retributive Justice

Heb 9:27

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.

Rev 20:11-15

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

One last day before the new earth and new heaven are realized, all who were dead will be resurrected and re-embodied to face the judgment of our Lord on His great white throne on earth.  Rev 20:11-15.  It will be quite a scene as all the great people who have ever lived as well as small lowly people will stand before the throne of God.

Since there will be no second chance after physical death, why is there to have such a day to judge everyone who has ever lived ?  Why is one not judged immediately after death ?

This one day will a day of public vindication for many who are unjustly oppressed or martyred as well as retribution meted to be publicly shown to all who have ever lived.  God’s promise that vengeance is His will eventually be honored on that day.

God, Christ our Lord and all the true believers will be vindicated on this day.

  1. All who had mocked God throughout all history with all sorts of accusation and blasphemy will witness His retributive justice as their wicked deeds are exposed.
  2. Christ, who was crucified most unjustly as the worst criminal, will be worshiped by all who have ever lived. All knees shall bow and every tongue shall confess on that day that He is Lord.
  3. The believers, who have suffered injustice throughout all history, will be vindicated publicly in the presence of their wicked tormentors who will be banished forever to Hell.