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Monday, April 22, 2013, 11:37 AM
This passage from 2nd Corinthians yesterday put me in mind of the next passage from Philippians, though it was in another context. Since the Philippians passage was in my today’s study, I thought it good to discuss more here.
2nd Corinthians 5:1- 8 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.
Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord-- for we walk by faith, not by sight-- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. (NASB)
Consider the cares and concerns of this fleshly body we live in. We to whom God has given His Spirit as a pledge (that pledge is His faithful oath to us in Christ), have this yearning for that home which Christ has prepared for us above. Thinking on this great and glorious hope makes this world seem empty. I’m not saying that Christians are empty, as we have that joy of that hope, but this world is empty. So to think of luxury homes, limousines, sumptuous meals, is an empty vanity compared with the hope of the glory to come. That is a real reason to question the trueness of the hope of the rich in this world, especially those who get rich by God’s precious word. The Bible doesn’t say that money is the root of all evil, but that the ‘LOVE’ of money is the root of all evil. Having riches in this world is not necessarily evil; but still when you consider the LOVE of God and wish to live by that law, then how can you see a world full of hungry people, and people with so many needs and hold on to the things of this world unless you hide your eyes from the truth and realities of this world. Then when you consider the price that Christ paid for our redemption, yet it is offered so freely to us, then who could dare to put a price on the value of such a gift? It seems very appropriate to me that people could make a very comfortable living by ministering to the needs of this world for God’s Word. Though it seems very detestable to me that people could become so filthy rich with the things of this world from preaching the glorious gospel of Christ that points out the vanity of this world’s riches in comparison to the glorious hope that waits above. So who understands our Lord’s teaching that it is better to store up treasures in Heaven, than to seek rewards in this life? Who are the rich that will lift up their eyes to Abraham from eternal torment and he will tell them they had their rewards in this life?
Philippians 1:21- 24 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. (NASB)
I remember while I was giving my mother 24/7 care for Alzheimer’s that I would love to think about how great it will be in Heaven, but I used to think, “Oh, Lord, though I want to be above, please don’t take me yet; because what would happen to Mom if I weren’t here for her tomorrow.” Now I think how great it would be if I didn’t wake up tomorrow, but if I keep waking up, then it must mean that the Lord has a reason for me to be here. But this world is so empty and vain. There are so many cares and concerns. There is so much to be done. Then I pray as John in Revelation 22: 20- “Come, Lord Jesus.”
Ephesians 2:4- 10 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (NASB)
From verse 4, “… because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions …” Have you ever considered how unlovable we all truly are as transgressors? Are we not all caught up in our own selfish vanities and pride? Sometimes I don’t know how I could love my own self. Yet in my own selfish vanity and pride I love my own self. Yes, I am a lover of my own self. I want what I want and what I want can be more important to me than the needs of so many people.
I remember when I was very young I once came home from work and opened a bag of cookies, got a glass of milk, and sat down and turned on the TV. The first thing on was an infomercial for starving children and the first thing I saw was a child nearly dead from starvation. My cookies turned bitter in my mouth. How could I enjoy life and see such suffering.
Once on a week-end I was working at a church that I hadn’t been at for very long. Using my key, I had let myself in and after a short while a family came in. The father was a plumber and they had just come to town looking for work and wanted to know if the church had provisions for providing them with a meal. Since I only had a five dollar bill in my pocket and needed to pick up something, I thought the church may have some sort of fund for that situation, so I suggested they check next door at the pastor’s home. Finding out that the pastor turned them away, I thought the five wouldn’t feed them, so I felt sorry for them. After they had left, I wanted to cry because I realized the five dollars could have at least bought a loaf of bread and a package of bologna. Why did I hold that five? I could have done without it. It just seemed like too small an amount to help them, but it would have been better than nothing.
But we all want to be loved. God loves us so much that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5: 8). “… because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions …”(verse 4 above) So as unlovable as I am, my Creator loves me. So how wonderful would it be to leave this world and go to be with Him? Yet if I’m still in this world, He must have a reason. And still in this fleshly body, then I’m still a lover of my own self, with my own selfish wants.
From verse 8- “… you have been saved …” First, to be saved, there must be something to be saved from. Technically, I think the term ‘saved’ is not fully accurate. I’m still in this world in this fleshly body, so I am not fully ‘saved’ yet. But I can know that I will be, because I can be confident that He will keep me, and protect me. I can’t lose my salvation, because His protection is so great that He can protect me from my own self. Do we not realize that as sinners, we are self-destructive? We have not yet been perfected, as we are still in these earthly bodies with our selfish motives. But salvation is a process, and He is faithful, even though we are not.
From verse 10- “… created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand …” So why are we still in these fleshly bodies? Though it may be nice to think that we could go to sleep and wake up in Heaven, as long as we keep waking up in these fleshly bodies, there must be His reason, which is in those good works that He has prepared for us. Also from verse 10- “… that we would walk in them …” Compare that with this excerpt from the 2nd Corinthians passage above- “… for we walk by faith, not by sight …” Through faith we walk so as to live in the good works that He has prepared. Maybe we don’t always see the work we do. Maybe sometimes it’s a smile to someone who needs a smile. Maybe sometimes a prayer for someone in need. We must go forward with that walk in faith.
Philippians 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (NASB)
I can’t save myself, or perfect myself. Here I am, in spite of all my imperfections. Do I worry about losing my salvation. No- I am confident that He will complete what He has begun in me.
Sunday, April 21, 2013, 2:32 PM
2nd Corinthians 5:14- 15 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. (NASB)
Very serious question to consider- do we live for the One Who died to bring us to that eternal home that He has prepared for us?
2nd Corinthians 8:12- 15 For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality— at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; as it is written, "HE WHO gathered MUCH DID NOT HAVE TOO MUCH, AND HE WHO gathered LITTLE HAD NO LACK." (NASB)
Paul here is speaking of their ‘readiness’ in completing a collection (a love offering) they were collecting for the poor people in Jerusalem. The churches that had ample to spare in that love offering were to contribute to the poor in other churches that were not doing well. Notice that those who have an abundance are not to keep it for themselves but to help those who lacked. The reference cited regarding those who gathered much or little is to the time in the wilderness when the manna appeared on the ground in the mornings. All went out in the morning to collect the manna, but what was gathered amounted to what was needed. They were under order not to keep more than was needed, and when some had been kept back, it became bad overnight. This follows up in the Lord’s prayer where we are to pray, “Give us each day our daily bread.” The manna was given on a daily basis, and we are supposed to live without concern for our needs, but to take each day, one day at a time. This also points to not accumulating ‘overly much’ of this worlds materialism.
2nd Corinthians 9:6- 12 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, "HE SCATTERED ABROAD, HE GAVE TO THE POOR, HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS ENDURES FOREVER." Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. (NASB)
Looking back to that which is sown, it is speaking of the parable of the one who was sowing the seed of the gospel, that good news of our Savior. Reaping bountifully does not mean in terms of this worlds materialism, but in reaping a bountiful harvest of lost souls being converted to the Kingdom of God and also to reaping rewards stored up in Heaven. Being enriched for liberality is specific in saying that what is received is to be used liberally, so that one does not accumulate more than he needs and what more he receives is to be shared with those who lack.
2nd Corinthians 11:7- 15 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you without charge? I robbed other churches by taking wages from them to serve you; and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so. As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be stopped in the regions of Achaia. Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!
But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds. (NASB)
Paul is not saying that in preaching without charge that he never received any remuneration. But when some churches did not have so much, he accepted help from other churches that had extra. He was also know to be bi-vocational, in that he practiced his trade of tent-making to help care for his own needs as he preached the gospel, so as not to be a burden on any church more than seemed necessary. He emphatically states that he will continue to do as he is doing (his boast in preaching the gospel without being a burden to those he preaches to), so that those who are doing as he does for their own gain (the ‘false apostles’ and ‘deceitful workers’ who are seeking earthly gain) would not have so much room to do their works (“so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity …”). His ‘boast’ (this is not a ‘prideful’ boast, but a statement of his mission) was in preaching the gospel without being a burden as opposed to those who ‘boasted’ with the boast of preaching for seeking opportunity to become wealthy (which is their ‘opportunity’ in their ‘boast’).
Sunday, April 21, 2013, 12:32 PM
2nd Corinthians 5:1- 8 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. (NASB)
Let me begin by explaining the meaning of ‘will not be found naked’ above. Naked in the Bible is often used in a figurative sense, as opposed to simple nudity for a bathtub or colony of nudists. A Roman soldier may wear a tunic for everyday life, but put armor over his tunic if going into battle, so if it were said that the soldier was going into battle ‘naked’, it would not mean that he was not wearing a tunic, but that likely he didn’t have time to put his armor on over his tunic. In this sense, naked means being without all that was needed. As his armor would have guarded him, naked could be used in a figurative sense meaning to be ‘unguarded’. It could also be used in a figurative sense applying to the mind. A person whose mind is naked could refer to one who is unpretentious, unawares, or to one who was caught off guard (his mind was not prepared, or guarded, or did not have the armor prepared for whatever might catch him off guard).
Being prepared for the ‘eternal in the heavens’ refers to having prepared for a home in heaven (the building from God, the house not made with hands). Being naked there means not having the proper wedding attire prepared for the bride of Christ. We must put on (gird ourselves) with the faith that is the gift from God for those who believe in (trust in) our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. With this faith we are to store up for ourselves treasures in Heaven (referring to the faith without works that James speaks of) as opposed to storing up our treasures on earth in the form of material gain that will not go with us into eternity. (Remember what Abraham told the rich man in torments- he had received his rewards in this life.) We must carefully consider whether it is better to acquire material wealth in this world or store up our treasures in Heaven. This relates back to Jesus teaching about how hard it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. Above as Paul teaches that we walk by faith, not by sight, the faith is that quality that allows God’s love to show through by which love we reach out to those in need, but walking by sight means we ‘look at what we have’ and say to the hungry man (going back to James reference about the faith that shows works), “Go and may God bless you,” without offering him food. Walking by sight means having our sights on our earthly concerns. We may be less prone to share with the needy by having our own needs in “sight”, hence the figurative use of ‘walking by sight’.
2nd Corinthians 5:9- 13 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. (NASB)
Though Paul was a Roman citizen, he was a Jew, well versed in Jewish thought, so Jewish euphemisms and the figurative speech from Jewish thought is always at work in his writings. To say that ‘we are made manifest to God’ and ‘manifest also in your consciences’ is much the same as the figurative saying ‘we are naked before God’ and 'our consciences are naked before God’. We can hide nothing from God, even though our own minds may be a mystery, even to ourselves. There is no motive that will not be revealed at the judgment. Though Christians have passed from the judgment where the goats are separated from the sheep and the goats are sent to eternal torments and the sheep to God’s eternal kingdom where Christ has a home prepared; there is still the judgment of the believer’s works. Have those works been done by walking in faith and reaching out to those in need, or have our walks been by sight on our earthly concerns and storing up for ourselves for this life.
Sunday, April 21, 2013, 11:21 AM
As my Old Testament study today included Elijah (still in Corinthians in the NT), I remembered Jesus used this example of the widow woman and Elijah in testifying to the Jews that God’s favor was not limited to those of Israel, and even others could know God’s favor though the Israelites may be under His chastisement.
Luke 4:22- 26 And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, "Is this not Joseph's son?" And He said to them, "No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, 'Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.'" And He said, "Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. (NASB)
The passage from Kings is rather long, so I will make my comments and close with that passage.
God had brought a famine on the land due to the wickedness of King Ahab. Elijah had been sent to a stream, but when the stream dried up, the Lord sent him to a poor widow who was preparing what she thought was to be her last meal. The widow woman Elijah was sent to was not an Israelite, but lived near the northern kingdom of Israel. Though the widow was not Jewish, the northern kingdom had already fallen into idolatry against Yahweh. Even though the widow was poor, she demonstrated enough faith in Elijah’s God to feed him. Though she thought she was preparing her last meal for herself and her son, as Elijah had told her, the food did not run out. At some point her son died. Now she would have supposed that her son would have died earlier from starvation, since she had previously thought it was to be their last meal, but God provided food so that she and her son lived longer than she would have expected. Even though she could have been thankful that her son had lived longer than she would have expected, still she felt that her son had died for punishment for her own sins, and that was why Elijah had appeared to bring about this punishment. Notice that even Elijah questioned the Lord concerning the death of this son in his prayer. Even though the widow had fears (remember, she had demonstrated love to Elijah by feeding him, and perfect love casts out fear), in spite of her fears that God was punishing her by the death of her son, God restored her son to life. This occurred during the famine that Elijah had pronounced to Ahab, and before Elijah confronted Ahab and the false prophets, and Elijah himself ran in fear of the wicked Queen Jezebel.
1st Kings 17:8- 24 Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you." So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, "Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink."
As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, "Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand." But she said, "As the LORD your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die."
Then Elijah said to her, "Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. For thus says the LORD God of Israel, 'The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain on the face of the earth.'"
So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke through Elijah.
Now it came about after these things that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became sick; and his sickness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. So she said to Elijah, "What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!"
He said to her, "Give me your son." Then he took him from her bosom and carried him up to the upper room where he was living, and laid him on his own bed. He called to the LORD and said, "O LORD my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?" Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the LORD and said, "O LORD my God, I pray You, let this child's life return to him." The LORD heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived.
Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Elijah said, "See, your son is alive." Then the woman said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth." (NASB)
Sunday, April 21, 2013, 10:30 AM
Today I have copied and pasted so much that it will take more than one journal post to include it all, but as often I have done, I may end up deleting much of what I’ve pasted into the document to comment on.
1st Kings 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word." (NASB)
King Ahab was known as a wicked king, and the Lord caused a famine to come over the land at the words of Elijah because of the wickedness in the land.
1st Kings 18:16- 18 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah. When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, "Is this you, you troubler of Israel?"
He said, "I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals. (NASB)
Near the end of the famine Elijah went out to meet Ahab. Rather than seeing the hand of the Lord in the famine as resulting from Ahab’s own wickedness, he accused Elijah as the one who brought the troubles on the land. If the Lord brings something great, would the Lord be pleased if someone else took the credit for His greatness? Though it is not the Lord’s desire to bring troubles, if man’s wickedness results in God’s punishment, does the Lord take pleasure in people blaming one another, rather than acknowledging their own wickedness?
Elijah went on to call the king’s wickedness to his attention and called for a contest with all the religious leaders of the false religions set up in the land. Elijah courageously confronted the false prophets and mocked their so-called ‘gods’. Then at Elijah’s word, the Lord showed His own power.
1st Kings 19:1 Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time." And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, "It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers." (NASB)
After Elijah’s courageous display before the king and all the false prophets, the king’s wife threatened Elijah’s life. Next we see Elijah fleeing the woman who threatened him after his courageous show before the king and false prophets. Does not the Lord know man’s weaknesses and how easily we fall to fear when caught off-balance? Perfect love casts out fear, but our love is not perfect, and we so easily fall. The Lord is patient and longsuffering. If we continually fall to wickedness, then He will chasten and scourge, and may even allow us to fall to destruction that our bodies may be destroyed so that our souls may be saved. However, when we faithfully strive to follow the Lord’s directions, then at those times we fall to temptation (whether to fear because of an imperfect love, or other failings), the Lord is faithful, even when we are not faithful, and is gentle and will come with that still small voice that He spoke to Elijah with at the mountain Elijah went to.