Posts by Jonathan Santiago

Governing Authorities – Romans 13

Submitting to governing authorities is submitting to God.

Resistance to governing authorities is rebellion against God.

These two biblical truths may sometimes be difficult to swallow on the surface. Let’s acknowledge right now that God does not approve of oppression, racism, sexism, or any type of injustice, so please don’t give up on this study yet. There’s more to come. 

There is great freedom when we realize and have faith in the fact that God is the ultimate authority. And if God is the ultimate authority who ordains lesser authorities, we can joyfully serve and submit to any lesser authority as unto the Lord. This is a part of our Christian ministry, and there is a blessing attached to it.

In order to better understand why God has ordained governing/civil authorities, it’s important to begin by examining other institutions given by God for the restraining of evil and the good of mankind.

Scripture informs us of three important things God has put in place to restrain evil. 

  1. The moral conscience given to each of us by God 
  2. The family unit 
  3. Governing authorities

Mankind is born into sinfulness. Sin causes us to commit atrocious acts towards our fellow humans. These restraints on sin are a common-graces given by God to the entire world—every tribe, every tongue—since the beginning. They are a blessing. Stewarding them well produces a blessing. Disregarding them produces chaos.

The gift of conscience carries the power of guilt.

The gift of family carries the power of the rod.

The gift of governments carry the power of the sword.

There is also the Holy Spirit in God’s church. Believers are and always have been salt and light to a dark world. The Holy Spirit is in and interfaces with each of the three graces above. This study will briefly cover the first two restraints in order to set up the third: governing authorities.

The Moral Law of Conscience. 

When Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and evil they received, well, the “knowledge of good and evil.” They immediately felt guilt for what they had done. Next, they felt guilty about being naked. This knowledge of good and evil that produces a guilty conscience was passed down to every human born after. 

There was no law written on stone saying “Thou shalt not murder” when Cain slew Abel, yet he still instinctively felt guilt and tried to hide the murder from God. This basic moral law written in our hearts is why man feels guilt and shame where animals do not.

This conscience is a good thing. All people possess it, whether believers or not. Scripture states that those who don’t have the written law have the moral law of God written in their hearts so they will be “without excuse” on the day of judgment (Rom 1:18-20). Also:

14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves [their] thoughts accusing or else excusing [them])” (Rom 2:14-15 NKJV)

Unfortunately, this moral conscience can be twisted when society repeatedly calls what is evil good, and what is good evil. Bible teacher John MacArthur states:

“The conscience is only a mechanism that responds to your belief system.  And when your belief system is perverted, your conscience is totally confused.  Then people do things that we say are unconscionable because conscience doesn’t know when to convict and when to affirm.”

John MacArthur

This detrimental and systematic downfall caused by bad belief can be seen here:

[Rom 1:20-23 NKJV] 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible [attributes] are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify [Him] as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man–and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

Their beliefs became corrupted, and their conscience perverted:

[Rom 1:24-32 NKJV] 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in [their] knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; [they are] whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Perhaps it seems strange to see “disobedient to parents” on this list among fornication and murder. But scripture indicates that a consistent rebellion against parents is a serious offense, which sets up the next thing God has put in place to restrain evil:

The Family Unit

In the book of beginnings, we also see God commanding one man and one woman to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28). God commanded parents to teach the law to their children and grandchildren (Deut 4:9): 

[Deu 6:7 NKJV] 7 “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

Out of the ten commandments, the only one with a direct promise attached to it is to honor your father and mother “so that it will go well with you, and you may live long on the earth.”

[Eph 6:2-3 NKJV] 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

It is the job of the family to raise children up to follow the moral law. This requires love and discipline. Part of love is not sparing the rod.

[Pro 13:24 NKJV] 24 He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.

It is natural for a child to be completely dependent on her parents for many years. This is by God’s design. Most animals are more or less good-to-go shortly after being born. Some will stay with their parent for a while until their physical size is built up. Human parents do much more than just feed their children until they are big enough to feed themselves. They must teach them God’s moral law. How they are taught to interact with others will have a tremendous impact on society.

Children are human, so they will grow up with a desire to love, be loved, but also possess an innate sinful nature. The rod, born in love, will manage this sinful nature until the child can manage himself.

When the family unit is hindered, when marriage between one man and one woman is attacked, when sexual promiscuity and absent fathers produce difficult environments for our children, people often find themselves subject to punishment of the third restraint God has given us to hold back evil.

Governing Authorities (KJV – “Higher Powers”)

Our conscience bears guilt, our families bear the rod, and governing authorities bear the sword. 

Governments have been ordained by God to punish wrongdoers and to commend those who do right (Romans 13:3-4; 1 Peter 2:14).

[Rom 13:4 NKJV] 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to [execute] wrath on him who practices evil.

If we listen to our moral conscience—of which being raised properly plays a significant role—the sword of the governing authorities will not be against us for any legitimate purpose.

After all, the law is not for those who do what is right, but for “the lawless and disobedient (1 Tim 1:9a)

For some who have given their minds over to sin, the only thing stopping them from stealing, injuring, raping or kidnapping is that the potential punishment from getting caught outweighs doing the act.

This is why higher powers are so important. Satan may be the prince of this fallen world, but God has still given society these common graces to restrain evil.

The forces of darkness will attack all three of these areas. 

  • By causing us to focus on creation rather than creator-God, the moral conscience will be perverted.
  • By distorting and devaluting sexuality and the family unit, children will not receive the proper love and discipline from a full functioning family.
  • And by creating disrespect and animosity towards governing authorities, there will no longer be a balanced distribution of justice.

Our Attitude Towards Civil Authorities

Submitting to governing authority is a part of our ministry.

Submitting to authorities is a part of submitting to God.

Resistance to governing authorities is rebellion against God.

Both Paul and Peter elevate following our rulers to following God

[Rom 13:1-4 NKJV] 1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to [execute] wrath on him who practices evil.

 The word for “governing authorities” is also used in 1 Peter 2:13 when speaking of the leaders as “supreme”.

[1Pe 2:13 NKJV] 13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme,

Both Paul and Peter use this term to imply that governing authorities (and their ordinances) are high in power. Paul immediately clarifies that God is the only true high power, the only true supreme. “For this is no power….”. Paul does not say “But there is no power…”. He uses “for” because he is connecting the two sentences. There are higher powers that we must be subject to because there is no power but God… Basically, because there is no power but God, we know that God has ordained all current governing authorities. It is because God is in charge that we can be subject to those he has put in charge.

And perhaps if we meditate on this truth, we’ll find a certain freedom in knowing that our authorities are God’s authorities. There is also a Godly fear that should be had, which Paul will discuss shortly.

Does this mean we obey everything a public authority figure tells us to do? No, because “we ought to obey God rather than man”. Daniel “submitted” to the King, but he could not obey the king when he was ordered to cease praying  to God. We submit to the authorities, but can only obey them up to the point where it’s not sinning against God. We are to live peaceably with all men as much as is possible (Rom 12:18). The word “be subject” here implies putting ourselves under someone and submitting to their authority.

Both Daniel and three Hebrew children had to disobey the ordinance of the king at some point, but this was the exception. And because they had spent their lives honoring the king and his government, when they did have to disobey on behalf of their faith, their testimony was all the stronger. The king immediately knew who to give glory to.

13:2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

If governing authorities are God’s powers, then if we resist them, we are resisting the ordinance (or command) of God. Let’s think about that for a moment. We are resisting God’s ordinance, his command, his law, when we resist governing authorities.

The consequence of such a resistance is damnation.

13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 

Rulers are God’s arm to avenge evil and disseminate justice. They are a terror to the works of evil. Historically, God has even used other governments to overthrow ones who practiced evil. And in the Bible, God used other governments to punish Israel with the sword.

4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to [execute] wrath on him who practices evil.

Certain Christian leaders are called ministers in scripture. The only other people called “minister” is here: governing authorities. Police, mayors, congressmen, presidents, prime ministers, supreme leaders, kings, dictators, chancellors, emperors, these are God’s ministers to you and me. They are here for our well being. 

We’ll spend more time on this next week, but there is an important distinction between a person bearing the sword and the government bearing the sword. Vengeance does not belong to us, but to God. And God will use his authorities to exact vengeance on evil-doers. Jesus told Peter that if he lived by the sword, he would die by the sword. When justice is to be served, we do not personally take an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth, we take such things to God’s governing officials when necessary.

Unfortunately, not all leaders practice the righteousness of God. Are we still to honor them.

Peter writes:

[1Pe 2:12-17 NKJV] 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by [your] good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. 13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and [for the] praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men– 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all [people]. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

When Peter commanded the churches to submit to the King and governments for the Lord’s sake, here is what was going on (or what had gone on shortly prior) under the rule of Nero:

“Tacitus emphasises the fact that the Christians were guilty and deserved to suffer the last penalty of the law. Public feeling condemned them as enemies of civilised society; but the outrageous mockery with which Nero had them executed, and the common suspicion that the alleged arson was a mere pretence produced a revulsion in their favour. The bare punishments—crucifixion, burning at the stake, and death by wild beasts—were right and proper. But the people to whom Nero threw open his gardens, in order that they might witness such sights, found Nero himself among them dressed in the garb of a charioteer2—the ancient equivalent of a jockey. If the Christians were really magrcians, as their punishments implied, and their stories of healings may have suggested, the situation was too serious for such buffoonery. Nero’s conduct was enough to discredit his plea of reasons of state.”

“It is clear, then, that Christians, who confessed their Christianity or were denounced as Christians by such confessors, were put to death by Nero after the great fire of Rome in a.d. 64. It was alleged that they were incendiaries or magicians, but these allegations were not proven. The reference to the execution of the founder of the sect suggests that they were, in accordance with that precedent, liable to capital punishment in Rome or in the provinces.”

“Suetonius records that under Nero many practices were severely punished and prohibited and many others set up. No food was henceforth to be sold in the cook-shops (for example) except vegetables; and punishments were inflicted upon the Christians—a kind of men who embraced a new and maleficent superstition.”

“The natural inference that Nero’s action in the matter of the Christians formed a precedent which was followed generally and in the provinces unless further regulations were introduced by himself or his successors, is probable in the nature of the case, and it is expressly asserted by Sulpicius Severus, who follows Tacitus, and may have known parts of his Annals which are no longer extant. This, he says, was the beginning of the savage treatment of the Christians. Afterwards also laws were laid down by which the religion was proscribed and edicts were issued by which it was publicly declared illegal to be a Christian. Then Paul and Peter were condemned to death.”

J.H.A. Hart, “The First Epistle General of Peter,” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament: Commentary, vol. 5 (New York: George H. Doran Company, n.d.), 26–28.

The above implies that when it was discovered that the founder of this sect (Jesus) was crucified legally under the Roman governor Pontious Pilot via capital punishment, there should be little reason why his followers should be fit to receive the same punishment. They were falsely accused of committing awful crimes against the city

If this wasn’t bad enough Nero made a particularly vicious example of Christians by turning their public executions into drawn-out public exhibitions. Additionally, there is evidence that Christians were accused of such things as cannibalism, forms of evil magic, being anti-family, and promoting insurrection against the government. One can look at just these four examples and see the good Christian practice underneath that had been twisted by the enemies of the church.

  • Cannibalism = The practice of the Lord’s Supper
  • Magic/Witchcraft = Belief in the miraculous/prayer
  • Anti-family = A family member getting saved and no longer following idol worship
  • Insurrection = Confessing no other Lord but Jesus.

So they weren’t just being physically abused. They were being shamefully slandered and made out to be something they were not by their king.

It was under this sanctioned governmental persecution that Peter insisted believers submit themselves to the king and governors. Peter told his persecuted brothers and sisters that this test of their faith was “more precious than gold which perishes (1 Pet 1:7)”. 

So if any governing authorities come against us, let it not be for any sinful behaviour, let it only be on account of our faith. Peter writes in closing:

[1Pe 2:19-23 NKJV] 19 For this [is] commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit [is it] if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this [is] commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed [Himself] to Him who judges righteously;

This was the will of God, that by submitting, Christians would put these false accusation to silence.

For when we submit to kings and governors—even those, especially those who oppose our beliefs and Christian lifestyle—we are submitting to God. And whether we live or die, our good works in this matter would lead others to “glorify God on the day of their visitation”.

Next Steps

Week 2: The Sword. How Christians Interact with War and Punishment.

Hand out Prayer Guide “Praying for Governing Authorities”

Week 3: Paying Tribute/Taxes. How to Pray for World Leaders. Prayer Time

Discussion Questions

  1. Find some additional stories in scripture of when God’s people chose to honor authority.
  2. Read 1Pe 2:12-17, what are two important benefits listed from maintaining good behaviour? 
  3. Why did God establish governments (Romans 13:1-7)?
  4. How do we get rid of our fear of the governmental authorities (Romans 13:3)?
  5. What are some prayer from the Bible that we can pray over our leaders?

Hospitality After a Godly Sort – 3 John

If you’re a small group, a remote fellowship, or a believer who is not near a larger church, 3rd John gives wonderful insight into the valuable and anointed ministry of Godly hospitality and support.

[3Jo 1:1-8 KJV] 1 The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. 2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. 3 For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; 6 Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: 7 Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.

The Value of a Good Report

The Christians who Gaius was helping had brought back a good report to John’s church(es). John was probably writing this from Ephesus, but regardless of where he was, reports are reaching him regarding the health of smaller house-churches and fellowships around the world.

In much of the world today, there are large physical structures where groups of believers are free to meet. For the early Christians, this would have been the exception to the rule. The first followers of Christ were simply Jews who believed their promised Messiah had finally came. They continued to meet in the Temple and in synagogues, just as Jesus did. When they began to be ostracized from these places, the gospel spread. When persecution arose from the government, the gospel spread. When persecution arose from the Jews, the gospel spread. When false teachers arose from outside and within the church, the gospel spread. 

How did it spread? How was the message protected? How were traveling Christians strengthened? By small fellowships and house churches.

[Phm 1:2 KJV] 2 And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:

[Act 16:40 KJV] 40 And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.

[Act 20:20 KJV] 20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,

[Rom 16:5 KJV] 5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.

[1Co 16:19 KJV] 19 The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.

[Col 4:15 KJV] 15 Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.

Good reports were important to early believers. In some cases, their physical well-being depended on it. Other times, their spiritual well-being. 

[Act 10:22 KJV] 22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.

[3Jo 1:12 KJV] 12 Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.

[Eph 1:15-16 KJV] 15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

[Col 1:4 KJV] 4 Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,

No Greater Joy

To better understand the importance of John’s simple yet powerful encouragement to Gaius (and to you), let’s briefly look at what John has been through up to this point. 

If we look at each of John’s 3 epistles, he takes time to combat false teachers. The same could be said for most of Paul’s letters. Satan fought viciously against the churches. Sometimes he used Judiazers, as is revealed Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Other times he’d use forms of gnosticism, as we see in 1 John, 2 John and Colossians. Jesus’ messages to the seven churches in Revelation (revealed to John) also combatted the false teachings of the sect of Jezebel, Balaam, the Nicolaitans, and a group he simply dubbed “The Synagogue of Satan”. In our text of 3 John, it’s revealed he’s now dealing with rebellious factions within the church.

John has seen the churches—”his children”—endure so much many hardships. It was John who was leaning on Jesus’ breast when Judas’ left to betray them. John was the only other apostle in the High Priest’s courtyard when Peter denied Christ (Jhn 18:15-16). He was the only apostle at the cross when Jesus cried out to God, “Why have you forsaken me?”. He had experienced his brother being martyred (Acts 12:1-2). John has survived persecution and exile. He’s outlived Peter, Paul, and probably all the other apostles at this point. He’s had a vision of the resurrected Jesus himself. We don’t know for sure, but 3rd John is probably the last book of the Bible that was written. 

So here, at the end of his life, what’s the epitome of joy for such a powerful apostle? John says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth.” He means this from the bottom of his heart. 

John has seen, learned, and experienced probably more than any Christian ever on this side of heaven. And John’s greatest joy lies in simply knowing that believers are healthy and being cared for. I’m sure the last living apostle had more pressing things he could be doing than writing a letter to a little fellowship like Gaius’. But to John, Gaius’ hospitality ministry is that important. 

“Walking in the truth” must mean more than just sound doctrine. We see Jesus rebuke the church in Ephesus because they had sound doctrine but cold hearts (Rev 2:1-6).

So if John says his children are “walking in the truth”, it means they are not only teaching the truth, but (just as importantly) walking in love. There are few things more rewarding for a parent than to see their son or daughter grow through the dangerous trappings of this life into a strong man or woman of God. And John delights that someone came all the way from this little fellowship to bring him a report that Gaius’ small group is remaining faithful.

Never underestimate the positive effect your faithfulness has on the rest of the body.

Godly Hospitality. You do it Faithfully. You do it Well.

5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; 6 Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: 7 Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.

John goes on to encourage their work. Gaius’ fellowship was showing hospitality and helping ministers on their journeys. They were faithful in the work, even though many of the believers passing through were “strangers” to them (they had never met them).

They did it “after a Godly sort”. There is a way to show hospitality after a worldly sort—a clean environment, warm food, a friendly host, etc. And while these are all good things, there is a special ministry in doing the same things, but “after a godly sort”, meaning in a manner worthy of God, or in a manner that honors God. Believers are equipped to show hospitality that not only edifies the body, but the soul. The people passing through were out for Jesus’ name sake. What Gaius did for them, he was doing for Jesus.

Gaius and his fellowship are commended for their faithfulness.They are currently in a state of being bullied by a rebellious church member telling them to not receive Christian missionaries sent from the church (3 John 1:9-11). But John encourages them to stay faithful. 

[Mat 25:21 KJV] 21  His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.. 

What a relief it must have been to the larger, missionary-sending churches to know that there was a small group of faithful believers in this location to support the work. By showing hospitality, they become “fellowhelpers” of the truth. They shared in the fruit of these missionaries, even though they themselves were not necessarily the ones perceived as being “on the front lines.”

[1Sa 30:21-25 KJV] 21 And David came to the two hundred men, which were so faint that they could not follow David, whom they had made also to abide at the brook Besor: and they went forth to meet David, and to meet the people that were with him: and when David came near to the people, he saluted them. 22 Then answered all the wicked men and men of Belial, of those that went with David, and said, Because they went not with us, we will not give them ought of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away, and depart. 23 Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the LORD hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand. 24 For who will hearken unto you in this matter? but as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike. 25 And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day

[Mat 10:40-42 KJV] 40 He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. 41 He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.

Supporting ministers and missionaries through hospitality is partaking in the ministry. It should be done “in a manner worthy of God”. It is part of the great commision. 

So encourage yourselves. Let your comfort rest in knowing that you are aiding the mission of the church by showing hospitality. Take joy in knowing that God’s children are still communicating and walking in the truth—partially because of your ministry.

Reflection Questions:

What brings you great joy?

How was Gaius’ love demonstrated (verse 6)? How is your love demonstrated?

Keeping the Unity of the Spirit – Sermon Notes

The following was part 1 of a 3-week series on fervent prayer. This sermon is intended to help your church recognize the need for unity, how God desires and creates unity, and to become inspired to pray around that topic.

Sermon Outline:

  1. The Holy Spirit creates unity.
  2. Unity is the end goal. It is perfection and completion.
  3. Unity can and should be proactively pursued outside of/before conflict resolution.

The Holy Spirit Creates Unity.

The Holy Spirit operates from and within unity. He is the unique factor that unites all believers. Paul writes that we are saved by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Tit 3:5). The Holy Spirit is the evidence that we are all in the same family:

[Rom 8:14-17 KJV] 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

The Spirit leads us as children of God (14), causes us to cry out to our Father (15), assures our own spirits that we are now children of God (16) and joint-heirs with Christ (17). Furthermore, Paul states that we are actually all part of the same body through the Holy Spirit:

[1Co 12:13 KJV] 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

As further expounded upon in 1 Cor 12, a body cannot function without cohesion between its members. A body part will never be functioning at its optimal level unless it is both giving and receiving from the member connected to it. God designed his body (the church) to only be strong when unified. Discord and disharmony are the kryptonite of a healthy church.

Because God has already orchestrated unity as a defining characteristic of his body, scripture states the unity of the Spirit is to be kept, not attained by any work of our own. We plug into the unity the Holy Spirit creates:

[Eph 4:1-3 KJV] 1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

This is a bit of a silly example, but it might be an effective one if you’re a geek like me. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the premise is that there exists a magical ring of unspeakable power. It’s innate evil desire is to get back to its master (the dark lord and enemy of all free people) so it can accomplish the master’s evil will of casting the world into darkness. The ring is bound to the dark lord. It is incapable of good; it could only produce evil by design. Gandalf says: “Always remember, Frodo, the Ring is trying to get back to its [evil] master. It wants to be found.”

In a similar way, The Holy Spirit is always seeking to glorify Christ and his body through the outpouring of love which produces unity (Rom 5:5). The Holy Spirit is incapable of producing evil or any of what scripture calls “the works of the flesh”. It will not produce pride, strife, vainglory, jealousy, or anything that causes division. Its goal is to glorify our Lord Jesus and his body—the church. Therefore, when we listen to the Holy Spirit, it will always put reconciliation and the bonds of peace above even church work. Whoever has the Holy Spirit will have a new nature that strives towards unity.

Unity among the body is the will of the Holy Spirit; we know this.

Unity is the Mark of Perfectness and Christ-Likeness

Unity is the process, but it is also the end goal! If we continue in Ephesians 4, the fullness of unity is one of our greatest rewards.

[Eph 4:11-16 KJV] 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

Coming to the unity of the faith is put on par with a perfect man who measures up to the stature of the fulness of Christ. Pastors and teachers were gifts given by Jesus to perfect (equip) the saints for the work of the ministry. As a pastor, how do I know what a healthy saint looks like? What should the goal be? Paul states it clearly. On that day:

  • We will be perfectly unified in faith
  • Perfect in the knowledge of the Son of God
  • We measure up to the stature of the fullness of Christ (measure up to the full and complete standard of Christ (NLT)).

A healthy disciple will be growing in the knowledge of Jesus, their lives and actions will reflect the standards of Christ, and, they will be growing in unity with others in the faith. Let us remember that the more unified we become, the more perfect (complete) we become.

Unity Must often be Sought Out and Pursued

If we find ourselves praying for direction for a certain ministry activity—say an outreach event to the community—the Holy Spirit may first direct us to a relational issue in the body that needs addressing. The mission of the church is important to God, but not so important he will allow the love that unites his body to be grieved in the name of growing the church.

Years ago, during my personal study time this scripture jumped out at me:

[2Ti 1:16-17 KJV] 16 The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: 17 But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.

This scripture is simply talking about Onesiphorus making a great effort to find Paul in Rome in order to minister to him. As far as we know, Onesiphorus and Paul were in good terms even before this. What’s notable about this passage is the effort put forth by Onesiphorus to track a fellow believer down.

When I read this scripture during my prayer time it motivated me to seek someone out, not to ask for forgiveness or give them forgiveness, but to simply remind them that I love them. Just because I can’t think of a specific offense does not mean it doesn’t exist. The Holy Spirit will endeavor to keep the unity and peace even if there’s just a potential for misunderstandings or hurt feelings. Perhaps communicating with that person put something in proper perspective from their viewpoint that would have grown into an offense down the road—I don’t know. What I do know is that keeping the unity often involves proactively creating it.

It will not always be a “Phillip the Evangelist” moment where the Holy Spirit transports us to the desert in order to speak to someone. If someone is on our heart, we may have to diligently seek them out like Onesiphorus did to Paul. In another letter, Paul sounds hurt that certain others seemed to abandon him while in prison (2 Tim 4:9-11). Perhaps Onesiphorus’ visit prevented Paul from experience those hurtful feelings. Maybe it even gave him the strength to endure further trials.

Don’t underestimate the importance of investing in good relations when God puts someone on your heart. If you choose to invest in unity, you are choosing to align with God’s will.

We could go on to a wonderful study on what scripture says about reconciliation and conflict resolution, but for this message, we are focused on keeping the unity.

However, one issue must be addressed for our church in the season we find ourselves in. For some of us, unity will never be fully attained unless we confront some hard relational and emotional issues between ourselves and other members. After a message like this, it’s tempting to try and push hurts and conflicts under the rug in the name of moving forward in unity. This is admirable, but it will not last.

[Show Picture of Church Sign on Overhead: “We Repeat what we Don’t Repair”]

We read that the Holy Spirit promotes unity. This does not mean the Holy Spirit will have us avoid confronting issues of hurt and disagreement amongst each other in the name of “unity”. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit desires unity so much that he’ll continue to let people or issues burn on our hearts and minds until we approach them for resolution.

Striving for this type of unity is uncomfortable to our carnal nature. We may even convince ourselves that we’d appear “negative” or accusatory if we brought up issues so they should be pushed down for the sake of keeping peace (blessed are the peacemakers, right?”). And while it’s true that not all issues are worth mentioning, I believe some of us would do well to confront some of our offenses that are causing disunity. I’m convinced that even though it may be tough at first, the freedom and healing that comes from it will outweigh any initial anxiety.

Remember, the Holy Spirit operates in and out of love and unity. If you see an opportunity to pursue unity, there is little need to pray about if it’s the right step to take. God is building us up to a perfect man who measures up to the stature of Christ, and a church that is perfectly unified in the faith. In the process, we can align with the will of God by proactively pursuing unity.

Easter Responsive Readings for Personal & Church Use

Please feel free to use these responsive readings I arranged for my church. The KJV is used here, but you may replace with a different translation as desired. I think you may find that the vocal pacing works well using the KJV or NKJV, even if that’s not the version your church typically uses.

If printing or distributing digitally, a reference back to this site or author is appreciated. 🙂

Bold – Leader

Regular – Congregation

Easter Responsive Reading #1

He is Risen
He is Risen Indeed!

Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD:

we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.

He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,

As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;

and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him;

And with his stripes we are healed.

He is Risen
He is Risen Indeed!

Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

And he was buried, and he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

This Jesus, God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death:

because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.

This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

This is the day which the LORD hath made;

we will rejoice and be glad in it.

He is Risen
He is Risen Indeed!

Easter Responsive Reading #2

He is Risen
He is Risen Indeed!

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,

As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him;

And with his stripes we are healed.

He is Risen
He is Risen Indeed!

I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand,

I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth:

My flesh also shall rest in hope.

For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell;

Neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

He is Risen
He is Risen Indeed!

This Jesus God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death:

It was not possible that he should be holden of it

And if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

What shall we then say to these things?

If God be for us, who can be against us?

He is Risen
He is Risen Indeed!

Arranged by Jonathan Santiago

Doers of the Word – James 1:22-25 Sermon Notes

“Be doers of the word.” If the theme of James had to be condensed to one line, this very well may be it.

[Jas 1:22-25 KJV] 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

Deception

A unique and important revelation: constantly hearing the word and consistently choosing not to do it goes beyond just being lazy or rebellious, it actually leads to deception. Any time we read a warning not to be deceived we should take extra care to understand and take heed to that warning. Deception is difficult because it often occurs a little bit at a time. The person doesn’t realize they are deceived until the deception has yielded sin, which yields death.

This is not to say that every time we fail to do what we hear we are deceived. Paul spoke of his constant desire to do what was right and his consistent failure to do so perfectly. This was accompanied by conviction, repentance, and a desire to draw closer to God—responding correctly to our sin is actually “doing the word” in and of itself.

Yet for those of us who frequently hear the word (they don’t just hear, but are hearers), don’t live the word, then go about our business as if everything were normal, James warns that we are deceiving ourselves. Hearing the preaching and teaching of the word will lead to one of three things: 1) A Spirit-lead desire to do what God says 2) A distaste for the truth and a rejection of God 3) A desire for the rewards of God (including appearing Godly or religious) without doing the things God says.

The second category is easy to spot. Their case is simple—they have rejected the word of God for now. When it comes to being “hot” or “cold”, they are cold. They are the ground that the seed fell on and did not take root.

The third category seems to be those James is referencing and is not as easy to identify. The word of God looks good, the Christian faith looks good, heaven looks good, religion often looks good, but the requirements of doing the key things the word of Gods says—faith, repentance, loving others—are too costly. Therefore, rather than suffer conviction by acknowledging their works don’t reflect what they profess to believe, they enter into a state of believing they are something they are not.

Jesus did not want hearers of the word, but disciples. A disciple would follow the teacher and attempt to do what he said. Once again James highlights points from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

[Mat 7:24-27 NKJV] 24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

I imagine these two houses looked quite similar. A house with a faulty foundation will not fail right away. But during the final shaking, the final judgement, one house will stand gloriously while the other will suffer a total collapse. What was the defining characteristic between the two houses? Both heard the word, both built fully-standing houses of works, but only one did the true word (will) of God while the other did not.

Doing the word of God is evidence of 1)Being in the family of God, and 2) Jesus being Lord of our lives:

[Luk 8:21 KJV] 21 And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.

[Luk 6:46 KJV] 46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

While Jesus certainly does not need us to declare him “Lord” to be Lord, when we confess him as Lord we are professing ourselves as slaves/servants to his will—his disciples. To address God as “Father” or Jesus as “Lord” with no intention of doing what God says makes both confessions invalid.

Looking into a Mirror

James uses the examples of a mirror. The mirror reveals what a person looks like. When we look into a mirror and go away we generally remember who we are, what we look like that day, we’re reminded of our age, if we got enough sleep the night before, etc. I don’t look in the mirror and see myself, then go away and think I’m an elderly South African woman and walk and talk as such. If I did that, most people would suggest that I need a physic evaluation. And this is how James points out the absurdity of the person who regularly hears the word, acknowledges that it is the word, then leads a lifestyle that doesn’t follow the word. Something is just not right about that.

In the same way a phycological doctor may evaluate someone who forgets who they were unless they were looking into a mirror, there needs to be a serious spiritual check-up for those who hear the word but immediately forget it when the sermon is over. The word of God serves as a perfect spiritual mirror by the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

James Moffat writes:

“A teacher or preacher may give an eloquent address on the gospel, or explain ably some O.T. prophecy about Christ, but when the sermon is done, it is not done; something remains to be done by the hearers in life, and if they content themselves with sentimental admiration or with enjoying the emotional or mental treat, they need not imagine that this is religion.”

The word used in this verse for “hear” was used in Greek literature for those who attended lectures but never joined the groups.[1] What’s sobering is that this group includes those who’ve heard the word more than a few times. It’s possible, and unfortunately, probable, that some referred to here are students of the word; they exegete, examine, memorize, and even teach with more diligence than many of us. The inspect the word with as fine an eye as one would if they were gazing at their own face. Yet when removed from the exercise of observing they are found to be frauds, vessels not useful for the Master. Students of the word? Maybe. Disciples of the Master? Hardly.

“A healthy person looks in the mirror to do something, not just to admire the image. Even so, a healthy Christian looks into God’s Word to do something about it, not just to store up facts that he will not put to use by being a doer of the word.” – David Guzik

Looking into the Law of Liberty

One might expect verse 25 to say “but he who looks into the word/scripture/bible and continueth therein…”, but it does not. James instead exhorts us to look into the “perfect law of liberty”, and continue in that.

25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

The word for “look” here literally means to “stoop down” (it was used when John stooped down to examine Jesus’ empty tomb), metaphorically here it means “to look carefully into, inspect curiously, of one who would become acquainted with something.”[2] These people are doing more than just hearing, they are intentionally evaluating.

What is the perfect “law of liberty”?

Liberty, or freedom, is what the believer has been saved in to. Here are some other uses of the same Greek word:

[Rom 8:21 KJV] 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty[G1657] of the children of God.

[2Co 3:17 KJV] 17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.[G1657]

[Gal 5:1 KJV] 1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty[G1657] wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

[1Pe 2:16 KJV] 16 As free, and not using your liberty[G1657] for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

The law that sets us free is the law of Christ. Christ’s law is the only “perfect” law. Sin, while falsely being painted as “freedom” by the world, is the purest form of bondage. The “law” of Christ is the only form of true freedom. Paul also speaks of “the law of faith”(Rom 3:27). Christ’s law can be summed up by the two great commandments 1) Love God with everything, 2) Love your neighbor as yourself.

James again references this when he says “the royal law” in chapter 2:

[Jas 2:8 KJV] 8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

Through Christ we keep the righteous requirements of the law, hence are made free from the law of sin.

[Rom 8:2-4 KJV] 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Because Christ has made us free (who the Son sets free… Jhn 8:36) from the law, in him we are held to the highest standard; Jesus’ new commandment to us was:

[Jhn 13:34 KJV] 34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

“…as I have loved you”. We are now called to base our lives around loving others the same way that Jesus did, a much higher standard indeed!

Why did James decide to use this particular phrase here?

One thing I’ve received from this most recent study of James is the importance of “doing” the word of God with the intent of fulfilling the royal law. In other words, whatever I set my mind to do, especially when it comes to religious works, let me first “look into” (examine, see) loving God and loving others in the same sacrificial way that Jesus did. For one can hear the word and go through the actions of doing what appears like the word, but if the works are not done under the law of Christ, they are dead works.

Take heed of the examples of those who did works in God’s name but found out on judgement day that those works were outside of God’s will! Hearing the word and not doing it doesn’t mean one hears the word than just sits around. Sometimes, one will hear the word and immediately go about doing many religious works. But they have not truly “looked into” the law of Christ. God, what are you saying to me relationally in this word? How do you want me to love you and others according to this word?

[1Ti 1:5 KJV] 5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:

When beginning this study on what James calls “doers of the word”, I expected it to be more action oriented. Perhaps you’ve heard preaching that sounds something like this, “Ya’ll confess Jesus on Sundays, but where you put your time and money throughout the week says otherwise.” Then there may be an exhortation to get more involved with church activities. And this can be the case, and that type of preaching isn’t wrong, but James says something far more important that has little to do with how many hours a day are devoted to external religious activities.

In order for us to not be forgetful hearers, to not be houses built on faulty foundation, to not be deceived, we are called to zealously examine the law of Christ—love God and love others—and continue therein.

Note again how James words this:

But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

To look intently into Christ’s perfect law that sets us free, then continuing in that is what makes us doers of the word. The works will follow. And they will be true works because the foundation is sure.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, just before the story of the two houses, Jesus gives a startling truth:

[Mat 7:21-23 KJV] 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Let us take heed. We can do many works without doing the will of God. And the end is damnation.

Don’t just hear the word—hear, receive with meekness (1:21), all while looking into the perfect law of liberty and continuing therein. If you do this, your life will be blessed; your works in the present will be blessed, and your eternity will be blessed.

[1] Robert James Dr. Utley, Jesus’ Half-Brothers Speak: James and Jude, vol. Volume 11, Study Guide Commentary Series (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2000), 24.

[2] Thayer’s Lexicon

Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst After Righteousness – Sermon Notes

Intro:

There are two important ways believers should view righteousness. The first is the positional righteousness imputed to us resulting in our salvation, the second is a righteous lifestyle by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the former that empowers us to do the latter, and both are beautifully connected.

Perhaps you’ve felt anger or been grieved in your soul when seeing or experiencing the injustices and transgressions of the world—things that you feel are “not right” and come short of what you know the revealed will of God is. How are we as believers supposed to make sense of this internal tension? What of righteous anger? How should a Christian feel when hearing about the recent tragedies surrounding the racial tension in Charlottesville? What is the correct outlet for these feelings?

Sometimes it seems like it would be easier to just tune out and find a comfortable space in life where nothing bothers us internally and we don’t have to deal with anybody else. Have you ever tried “not caring”, i.e. “Forget about justice and right living, I’ll just let things go the way they are and focus on my own comfort?” How long does that last before some internal yearning draws you back to a state of concern?

A true believer should have a desire, a hunger even, for everything to be in right standing according to God’s revealed will. Hunger and thirst means that even if we try to tune it out, run from it, or deny it, the body’s craving for sustenance will prevail. If one does not eat or drink, she dies. If this is the case, what scripture says we hunger and thirst after is essential to our nature.

Kingdom citizens (what I like to call believers in Matthew’s gospel in particular—whose thesis is “Jesus is King of the Jews”) not only desire to be made righteous, they crave it like food and drink. Righteousness in the context of this beatitude is speaking of kingdom ethics, of kingdom qualities. This is evident by the way “righteousness” is used throughout the rest of the sermon as well as by the grouping with the other seven beatitudes.

Will those who hunger after true righteousness be justified/declared righteous in terms of their salvation by Jesus Christ? Absolutely, and that is part of the promise; but this passage is promising us that we who have an inescapable, consuming desire for God’s justice and right-standing in our lives and for everyone around us are blessed, fortunate, or “deeply happy”!

This is a promise from holy scripture, but when a promise is forgotten or misunderstood, frustration and doubt can take its place. What am I to do with this righteous hunger? Is it of God or myself? It is my prayer that this examination of Jesus’ sermon will put what it means for us to “hunger and thirst” for righteousness into perspective, and in doing so we will receive the promise that we are truly blessed/happy.

3 Questions to Answer

  1. What does righteousness mean in the Sermon on the Mount?
  2. How does my righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees?
  3. What am I to do with my righteous hunger in the face of world problems?

1. What does Righteousness mean in the Sermon on the Mount?

Breaking Down the Text

Blessed are Those…

Blessed or “Happy”[4]. That this word means a deep happiness should not be overlooked by religious talk of only a future “blessing”. Jesus is telling those poor and hungry that they will be happy now and should take joy because these qualities are finding their fulfillment in the Kingdom of Heaven. “Believers’ God-given happiness is not based on physical circumstances but inner joy.”[5] Remembering this helps us from seeing the second part of the Beatitudes as only for the end times. I stress that for this verse in particular as we tackle what to do with our internal urges for justice and righteousness. Happy are those who hunger and thirst now… Let’s believe this promise as we learn more about God’s righteousness

…Who Hunger and Thirst…

“Hunger and thirst” in the Greek is a present active participle and describes an ongoing hunger and thirst.[6] E.g. Blessed are those who are hungering and thirsting…”

Jesus is fulfilling prophecy:

[Isa 55:1 NKJV] 1 “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price.

This is the one beatitude where the quality could be replaced with Jesus himself. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after me, for they shall be filled.”

John records Jesus saying something similar on multiple occasions. Jesus himself is referred to as the one who satisfies spiritual hunger as the bread of life (Jhn 6:35), living bread from heaven (Jhn 6:51), and the giver of living water that will quench forever those who thirst (Jhn 4:14).

…After Righteousness…

dikaiosýn, dik-ah-yos-oo’-nay; from G1342; equity (of character or act); specially (Christian) justification”[1]

“Equity = justice according to natural law or right; specifically :  freedom from bias or favoritism”[2]

  • of whatever is right or just in itself, whatever conforms to the revealed will of God, Mat 5:6, 10, 20; Jhn 16:8, 10;
  • whatever has been appointed by God to be acknowledged and obeyed by man. Mat 3:15; 21:32;
  • the sum total of the requirements of God, Mat 6:33;
  • religious duties, Mat 6:1 (distinguished as almsgiving, man’s duty to his neighbor, Mat 6:2-4, prayer, his duty to God, Mat 6:5-15, fasting, the duty of self-control, Mat 6:16-18).[3]

Based on its definitions and usage, I believe an accurate definition of the word righteousness in the sermon on the mount is: What is right and just according to the revealed will of God.

…For they Shall Be Filled…

Shall be filled: “satisfied” Literally “gorged,” this term was used of fattening cattle ?for market.[7]

2. How Shall my Righteousness Exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees?

Matthew, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is quite purposeful regarding how he arranges his gospel. The book could be divided into five major teachings or sayings of Jesus, each ending with “And when Jesus had finished these things… (7:28, 11:1, 13:53, 19:1, 26:1). So let’s attempt to examine “righteousness” within Jesus’ first sermon and see how Matthew answers is own question.

[Mat 5:20 NKJV] 20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

After the Beatitudes the word righteousness pops up rather quickly in this startling statement in Jesus’ opening. Let’s assess:

Is this passage talking about doing more of what the Scribes and Pharisees do in terms of quantity?

If we were to equate righteousness to time spent doing charitable deeds and religious activities this would be a tall order indeed. If this were the case, it seems strange of Jesus to leave out the exact requirements to help our righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees. For instance, if the average Pharisee prays 6 hours a day, we’d need to know that so we can pray 7. If they give offerings of 30% of their income, we’d need to know so that we can do at least 31% and our lives will have enough good deeds to tip the scale in our favor.

This is (thankfully) not what the passage is saying if we follow the above train of thought to logical conclusion. Matthew will give us a fuller answer as we proceed through the sermon. There is a reason he puts this sobering saying (remember that Matthew is writing to Jewish audience) towards the beginning of the sermon. As listeners we are thinking, how can this be, I’d better pay attention to the rest of Pastor Jesus’ sermon…

Jesus enters a series of “you have heard that it was said, but I say unto you…” statements. These are the righteous acts we should be doing:

  • The law (soon to be fulfilled in Christ – 5:17) towards our fellow man—do not murder, commit adultery or lie, and love you enemy—is inward in the hidden places of the heart where only God sees (5:18:48).
  • Our charitable deeds (KJV alms) are done in secret to the glory the Father (6:1-4)
  • Our prayer is done in the secret place to the glory of the Father (6:5-6)
  • Our fasting is done in secret to the glory of the Father (6:16-18)

This is still a tall order for righteous living… thankfully this list leads us to a comforting scripture which rests in the middle of the sermon:

[Mat 6:33 NKJV] 33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

His righteousness. Matthew is implying that there is another type of righteousness that could be sought other than God’s. This confirms our definition of righteousness being what is right/just according to God’s revealed will.

This central passage also helps the reader process and understand the bold saying of 5:20: unless our righteousness exceeds the Pharisees we won’t make it into the Kingdom of heaven. Here Jesus says we are to seek the Kingdom of God and his (God’s) righteousness. How will our righteousness exceed that of the most pious people of the day? It will be God’s righteousness that he has given us working through us for his glory.

Paul sums up this operation beautifully in this concise gospel presentation:

[2Co 5:21 NKJV] 21 For He made Him who knew no sin [to be] sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

We have been made the righteousness of God in Christ and are being made more Christ-like day by day (this is the will of God, your sanctification 1 Thes 4:3a). Those with the capacity to receive this righteousness and continue on in righteous works are those who possess the beatitudes. Those who do not possess the beatitudes will also do religious works, but not according to God’s righteousness. Jesus ends his sermon by comparing the two.

Two houses stand, both seemingly sound on the outside, but one has been built up fraudulently because of a bad foundation (cf. Matt 23:28), the other’s foundation was right (poor in spirit, meek, etc.), so the house was in right-standing as well. The final judgement will reveal the foundation. Both will be shaken, one will remain. My prayer is that those who don’t see the seeds of these 8 beatitudes in their lives will be shaken now instead of later, and examine their faith.

3. What am I to do with my righteous hunger in the face of world problems?

Blessed/Happy/Fortunate are those who hunger after God’s righteousness.

Hopeless/Angry/Deceived are those who seek after righteousness apart from God.

Jesus died for all people, all genders, all social status’, all ethnicities. Everyone was created in God’s image and likeness, and all are now deficient due to sin. Hence there is a natural and often unconscious desire to somehow will the void, to one again become whole or “perfect”. Those without the acknowledgement of their need for our savior and king Jesus will continue in vain to passionately do what is right or just in their own eyes. This often manifests itself in idolatry, boasting, racism, wrath, bigotry, hatred, speaking evil of dignitaries, sexism, and slavery; but what truly drives these things are a strong delusional form of self-righteousness in the name of progressive good apart from the revealed will of God. Or to phrase it another way, everyone is doing what they think is right, but righteousness apart from God’s will is enmity against God (Rom 8:7).

Our frustration that things aren’t “right” or “just” according to God’s revealed will should provoke us to lead those who are unrighteous to the source of all that is right: Jesus the Christ. He is the living water; he is the drink offering “poured out” for the sins of the world. This is why “the second mile” and “love your enemies” are included in Jesus’ sermon. What better time to let our light shine and salt season than in the midst of the present distress?

When we do our righteous deeds in secret we are doing it to glorify God. When God is glorified, his salvation is glorified and visible. When we do our righteous deeds to be seen of men or go about to establish our own practices of what is right and just apart from God’s revealed will, we cover the light of salvation, or as Matthew says, we in a sense “put our lamp under a bushel”. The same way the Son sought to glorify the Father in everything he did, the light in us will seek to glorify Christ in everything we do. This is a test of our righteous living and deeds: Do they glorify Christ?

If it does, we are to be happy! Yes, this is a life of putting Christ and others first, but Jesus’ point is that this type of lifestyle is the only kind that will bring satisfaction.

The coming of the King involves a delay in judgement of the wicked (Matt 13:36-42, 47-50), and this can lead to frustration as we groan with all of creation (Rom 8:22-23) for redemption. It’s understandable to be grieved and frustrated. At the center of the Sermon on the Mount is the topic of secret prayer and the Lord’s prayer.

It will be nearly impossible to keep a soft heart and a clear mind without the habitual practice of secret prayer during this season of trials. Open answers are the results of secret prayer; this is scripture. Furthermore, Paul urges Timothy to instruct the church that we are to pray for our government leaders (1 Tim 2:1-2), to those who God has given to bear the sword (Rom 13:4). As a church, let us continue praying that the righteousness of God would continue to be revealed in us and in our nation. Happy and blessed are we, but should we neglect our secret prayer time, it’s possible to lose perspective and our hunger and thirst will result in frustration instead of fulfillment. Let us now enter into a time of prayer:

[1] Strong’s

[2] Merriam Webster

[3] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

[4] ????????, in Greek originally a term reserved for the gods, in Koine can hardly be distinguished any longer from ???????? and means “happy” in the fullest sense of the word. But the translation “happy” sounds somewhat banal, and it obscures the eschatological character of the promises in the second clauses. The traditional interpretation as “blessed” is not only a “religious” term that is hardly in use any longer; it also evokes in a much too unilinear way associations with the beyond: in German “the blessed” is a common designation of the dead. However, these beatitudes are not designed to give comfort by making promises about the next life; they are an authoritative language act that pronounces people happy in the here and now.54 In short, there is no ideal translation in German [or English]. – Ulrich Luz, Matthew 1–7: A Commentary on Matthew 1–7, ed. Helmut Koester, Rev. ed., Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007), 191.

[5] Robert James Utley, The First Christian Primer: Matthew, vol. Volume 9, Study Guide Commentary Series (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2000), 36.

[6] Ibid, 37.

[7] Ibid.

Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs – Colossians 3:16

 

[This sermon was part of a 10 week series on the book of Colossians]

“The younger Pliny, as the Roman governor to Bithynia, was ordered by the emperor Trajan to stamp out the Christians there. In a letter (written A.D. 112) he reported that they were in the habit of assembling on an appointed day (Sunday) before sunrise and singing responsively “a song to Christ as to God.” Writing in North Africa around A.D. 200, Turtullian described the Christian love feast as a time when “‘each is invited to sing to God in the presence of others from what he knows of the holy scripture or from his own heart.'”[1]

Singing and making melodies—whether internally or externally—is humankind’s nature. When one becomes complete in Christ, the natural inclination to praise finally finds its fulfillment and perfection as we sing to the Head of all things by the words and Spirit of the same.

Yes, in you God is and has perfected praise. If Beyoncé, The Beetles, and Beethoven collaborated on a #1 hit, it would still be no comparison to the exclusive New Testament praise produced by Christ and the Holy Spirit through his church (body) and accumulating in the Throne Room. This praise is a natural byproduct of salvation, and will aid us in our daily walk—whether high school, ministry, marriage, missions, or our professional jobs.

Colossians 3:16 Teaching Points

  1. Being in Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit produces a New Covenant worship.
  2. Christ is the substance of scripture and centerpiece of worship, hence old psalms come alive under the revelation of Jesus Christ.
  3. My relationship with Christ (the head) is lacking if I’m not part of a body singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

Setting Up Context: [Col 3:12-15 NKJV] 12 Therefore, as [the] elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also [must do]. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

12: Therefore—in light of the fact that you are a “new man (new humanity)”, chosen, set apart and loved by God the Father of Christ, replace the afore mentioned deeds (last week) with this list of virtues.

13: And forgive! What could qualify as the centerpiece of Christ’s story more than his forgiveness? Are we in Christ? We will be driven to forgive like he did; to do less would grieve the Holy Spirit.

14: And more importantly than all the virtues just listed, put on the agape love, which will bind Christ’s body (vs 15) (the church) and all the other virtues together in perfectness.

15: Allow (don’t resist) the peace of God (supernatural, not your own), for such is the state of a body: peace. As in a human body, all parts must rely on one another for the whole body to survive. A disruption in one area can have catastrophic effects on the whole body.

[Col 3:16 NKJV] 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

We are exhorted to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly with wisdom. How is this done? We help one another by teaching and admonishing through psalms, hymns and spiritual songs directed towards the Lord. The parallels passage in Ephesians says to “be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”

Colossians: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you…”

Ephesians: “Be filled with the Holy Spirit…”

We sing then, filled with the word of Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is New Covenant worship! We have the word (knowledge) of Christ, taught and brought to our remembrance by the Holy Spirit. Singing in Christ while filled with the Holy Spirit is a special privilege we have as Christ’s body, as the “new man/humanity”. This special worship that glorifies the head while teaching and admonishing the body (the church). Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is our duty as peacemakers towards one another.

It’s important to note that at the time of this writing they would sing the scripture, both the OT scriptures and new hymns that professed the gospel. We have a tendency to separate the scripture from singing because we all have complete bibles, but there were no New Testament bibles when Paul wrote this, and the oral traditions held as much weight to them as Christians today put on our physical bibles. To sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs was to not only worship, but to memorize and share the stories of the God of the bible and of Jesus Christ. This is probably why “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” is connected to singing.

“In the OT, songs were means through which God’s people remembered his mighty deeds, and through such deeds God made himself known. For Paul, believers also need to be educated through such confessions of God’s might act through his Son.”[2]

There is not the clearest of distinctions between psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. A hymn could be a psalm, but in this case there is a good chance hymns are referring more to songs that evolved after Christ’s ascension which glorify him as Lord. Some possible hymns that would have been memorized and sung included Phil 2:5-11, Col 1:15-20, 1Tim 3:16, Heb 1:1-3, and 1Pet 2:21-25. The psalms probably referred to the OT psalms, and spiritual songs could imply more informal singing as the Holy Spirit gave utterance (or be modifying psalms and hymns). There is overlap between all three.

Here is some of the uses of hymn and psalms I found: 

Hymns hymne?

Paul and Silaas sang praises/hymns (hymne?) while imprisoned, during which an angel delivered them. (Acts 16:25)

Jesus sang hymns! After they celebrated what would become the Lord’s supper, they sang a hymn (Mark 14:26), probably one of the Psalms typically sung at Passover (Psalm 113-118). It’s awesome to think of Jesus singing these psalms at the last real Passover meal as he takes the focus off the temporary animal sacrificial lamb and onto his own body: the Lamb of God.

Jesus fulfilled a prophetic psalm referenced in Hebrews by being one who would sing praise (hymne?) in the midst of the church (assembly).

[Heb 2:12 ESV] 12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

Other possible hymns/poems are listed below. Note 1 Timothy 3:16’s somewhat awkward placement in the context of church order and discipline. It was probably a hymn or creed that was conveniently placed there to remind the reader what the “mystery” referred to in 1 Tim 3:9 is referring to.

Phil 2:5-11, Col 1:15-20, 1 Tim 3:16, Heb 1:1-3, 1 Pet 2:21-25

Psalms: Music & Song

The singing of songs/psalms with spiritual gifts and teaching was the normative in the assembly. In context, Paul is affirming that all these things should be done in an orderly fashion for the edification of the body. What has the Holy Spirit blessed you with to edify the assembly?

[1Co 14:26 NKJV] 26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.

Are you merry/cheerful? There is a psalm for that.

[Jas 5:13 NKJV] 13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.

It’s wonderful to read, pray, and teach from the book of Psalms today, but most, if not all of the psalms were meant to be sung. This shows the dedication for singing and its importance in the OT that carried over to the new.

Over 50 psalms have the title “for the director of music”. “There is general consensus that it indicates that the psalms were entrusted to the care of the person in charge of worship at the sanctuary.”[3] In 1 Chronicles 16:17, David delivers a song to Asaph, the head Levitical musician.

Psalms: Timeless

The Psalms are unapologetically human in their approach—expressing a wide range of human emotions and experiences from joy, fear, despair, anger, happiness, confusion, hope and love—while still being inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Psalms were written in such a way where the message is timeless. Take for example, Psalm 51. It is ascribed to David or inspired by David and involves his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. The content of the psalm is one of repentance, but does not go into specifics on the details of David’s sin. This way, the psalmist captures the heart of David’s prayer but writes in such a way where the prayer can be prayed and sung by many generations to come. No one has to be an adulterer to sing this song, but this song may have prevented many from going down that path. It may have also provided an outlet of prayer for those who have fallen so hard they don’t know what to pray or what to do next.

Hannah (1 Sam 2:1-11) and Mary (Luke 1:46-56) used portions of Psalm 113 as a part of their praise to God regarding their supernatural pregnancies.

What’s your life’s lament, psalm, or hymn? What is your song to God born out of trial?

The majority of Psalms fall into three main categories.

  • Hymns – Songs of Praise
  • Laments – Petitions to God, the largest overall category. “Psalms make it possible to say things that are otherwise unsayable.”[4]
  • Thanksgiving – Similar to a hymn, but recounts a trial, then goes on to praise God for deliverance.

Other categories some choose to use:

  • Wisdom/Instructional – Often compare the righteous and the wicked. Psalm 1 is a good example of a psalm of wisdom
  • Confidence (Psalm 23)
  • Liturgies – Psalms spoken by priests, festival psalms, psalms for entering the temple, etc
  • Remembrance
  • Royal – Psalm 2 is a good example. These poems were composed for events in the king’s life, prayers on behalf of the king or prayers for the king to pray himself. “These psalms were retained in the canon following the end of Israel’s and Judah’s monarchies, and they became part of the seedbed of messianic hope — Israel’s hope that one day the Lord would send the ideal Davidic king, the Messiah.”[5]
  • Prophetic (not really a category, as any of the above genres can be prophetic) – While many psalms had prophetic meaning fulfilled in the New Testament (thou are my Son; this day have I begotten thee, thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither will thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption, they pierced my hands and feet. Etc.), it’s important to note that they initially had meaning for the current situation. For example, when Psalms 2 says “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying…”, “his anointed” means the king of Judah at that time, and anointed has the double meaning of Messiah, which applied to Jesus much later. This is an example of the Holy Spirit revealing Jesus in the law, prophets, and psalms, which will be discussed later.

Many of these categories overlap and not every psalm will fit neatly into one. The prophetic category refers to Psalms clearly foreshadowing to the work of the Messiah—particularly the ones referenced by the New Testament writers—but finding Jesus in the psalms must not stop there. The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy (Rev 19:10). Our study of Colossians tells us that the OT feasts, Sabbaths, and dietary laws are a shadow of things to come but the body/substance is found in Christ. Furthermore, all things consist in Christ.

Christ declared that the law, prophets, and psalms all spoke of him. He then opened up the apostles understanding so they might see Christ and the gospel in the OT scriptures.

[Luk 24:44-47 NKJV] 44 Then He said to them, “These [are] the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and [the] Prophets and [the] Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 “and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

We should see Christ in the Psalms then! Those instructed in the Kingdom of Heaven are like a householder who bring forth from his treasure both new and old (Matt 13:52).

We admonish one another with all the Psalms—even the laments—looking for Jesus in all things. We are commanded to read and sing in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him—this includes reading the psalms and thanking God that everything foreshadows Jesus, as he is the substance/body (Col 2:17).

One author suggests these three points when reading the Psalms.

  1. Read the psalm as a prayer to Christ. The author of Hebrews did this. He quoted a Psalm that would have been sung to God in the Old Testament, now being sung specifically about Jesus. Also, many of the psalms uplift the Davidic King, of whom Jesus is the final and everlasting King of Judah.
  1. Sing the psalm as a prayer of Christ (sing/pray the same words Jesus did). “The laments, as we will see, often articulate the suffering of Jesus, while the hymns celebrate his glorification.”[6] “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?…”
  1. The imagery of God in the Psalm many times find their ultimate expression in Jesus. Jesus is King, Shepherd, Warrior, Suffering Servant, etc.

I’m not saying to dismiss the context or form of the psalm. Understanding the author, historical background, genre, and even its place in the five books that make up the Psalter is important to correctly interpreting the psalm. But take Colossians by faith and look for Christ in the psalms. I believe you will not be disappointed.

Conclusion

As a church, particularly in our small groups or more intimate fellowship settings (if you don’t have one outside of Sunday/Wednesday gatherings, you should create that opportunity), singing praises to God and rehearsing the story of Jesus is important to your personal spiritual health and those around you. We sing to God through Christ. We see Jesus in scripture as Lord, King, God, Shepherd, High Priest and Lamb through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. And we sing to him in order to allow the words of Christ to dwell in us richly and to admonish one another as a body.

  1. Being in Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit produces a New Covenant worship.
  2. Christ is the substance of scripture and centerpiece of worship, hence old psalms come alive under the revelation of Jesus Christ.
  3. My relationship with Christ (the head) is lacking if I’m not part of a body singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
[1] John Rea, Charisma's Bible Handbook on the Holy Spirit (Orlando, FL: Creation House, 1998), 262.

[2] David W. Pao, Colossians and Philemon: Zondervan exegetical commentary series on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 249.

[3] Longman III, Tremper (2014-11-07). Psalms: An Introduction and Commentary: 15-16 (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) (p. 30). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

[4] John Goldingay, Psalms 1– 41 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), p. 22.

[5] Nancy L. DeClaisse?-Walford, Rolf A. Jacobson, and Beth LaNeel Tanner, The Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014), Kindle, 21.

[6] Longman, 50.

Hope: An Anchor of the Soul – Hebrews 10:23 – Sermon Notes

 

Introduction

This sermon is focused on the hope mentioned in the second “let us” statement of Hebrews 10. This “let us” statement is an important response to the first ten chapters of the book. Hope is a key theme in Hebrews that cannot be overshadowed by faith. One could even argue that what the Hebrews needed more than faith was proper hope in the work and person of Jesus so that their faith would be steadfast. Hope and faith are inseparable, yet distinct. This sermon will look at how the author of Hebrews builds up hope in Christ alone, and then brings hope and faith together in the famous Hebrews 11 faith chapter. Understanding the significance of hope in the life of a believer is essential, as it is one of the three things that abide: faith, hope and love.

Key points from this sermon:

  • Believer’s hope is unique to Christians. It cannot be learned or received outside of being reborn into the house of Christ.
  • Hope is for us, from God, and towards God. God wants us to have hope. Hope must not be seen as a weak trait.
  • Our hope in the promise maker sustains our faith in the promises.
  • Faith – God’s word is true and I will act on it 
    Hope – God is faithful to his word so I can be bold, encouraged, steadfast and comforted.

[Heb 10:19-25 KJV] 19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And [having] an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith without wavering; (for he [is] faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

The author of Hebrews spends the first 10½ chapters describing the superiority of and totality of sustenance found in Jesus.

God created the world through the Son. The Son is better than angels. To the Son the Father says, “Your throne oh God, is forever and ever, a scepter of righteousness”. Jesus is superior to angels, to Moses, to Aaron, to Joshua, the Levitical Priesthood, to the O.T sacrifices. This Son became the mediator of a new and better covenant through his living sacrifice that allows sinners’ access to God. Basically, who Jesus is, what he said, and what he did is superior in every way and to everyone mentioned in the Old Testament.

In chapter 10 the text then turns to the reader’s desired application put into the form of three “let us” statements. Because we have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, and because we have a faithful high priest of a better covenant that has vanquished the penalty of sin once and for all, let us draw near with a true heart and faithful assurance, let us hold fast the profession of our hope without wavering, and let us consider one another so we can provoke each other to love and good works.

We see faith (vs 22), hope (vs 23), and love (vs 24) as the duty to those who are in Christ. This should remind one of 1 Corinthians 13 (now abides faith, hope and love…)

[Heb 10:23 KJV] 23 Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith (hope) without wavering; (for he [is] faithful that promised;)

The word translated here as “faith” means “hope” in the Greek. It is translated as “hope” 53 times in the KJV, and as “faith” only once, in this passage.

????? (elpis), ???? (idos), ? (h?): n.fem.; 1. LN 25.59 hope, a looking forward to in confident expectation (Ac 23:6); 2. LN 25.61 what is hoped for (Ro 8:24; Col 1:5); 3. LN 25.62 basis for hope, that which is the cause or reason for hoping (1Th 2:19)[1]

????? ?lpis, el-pece´; from a prim. ???? ?lp? (to anticipate, usually with pleasure); expectation (abstr. or concr.) or confidence:[2]

Most of us know the wonderful scriptures that speak of being saved by faith, and how our faith is pleasing to God, and through faith (in the work and person of Christ) we can overcome anything in this life. Hope is inseparable from faith, but distinct. As previously stated, it is part of the triune abiding traits of believers.

[1Co 13:12-13 KJV] 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity (love), these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity.

Faith and love are often magnified for their importance (and they should be). Faith and love—while both internal and generated from a renewed heart and mind—manifest themselves in word and deed. They are in a sense, the “what” of the Christian walk in that they are seen. They are signs of true believers (James 2:18, John 13:35). Hope is unseen. Hope is the “why” of the Christian walk. Embracing Biblical hope will make it easier to love and easier to have faith, particularly when things get difficult. The above scripture mentions that we currently can’t even see properly (note the use of “now” in both verse 12 and 13). We don’t see the full picture as God sees it, but this is not a handicap nor excuse not to follow after Christ, for faith, hope and love now abide. And when one can’t see, what is more important than hope, whose Biblical definition implies earnestly expecting what we can’t see?

Rom 8:24b …hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

Have you ever had head knowledge of the necessity of hope, but felt the hope that actually moves and comforts you seems elusive? Perhaps you can think of a recent season where the hope in Christ was so thick in your life that your confidence and steadfastness were sky-high. Maybe you’d like to be back in that place but it doesn’t seem to be as easy as flipping a switch.

We can try to imagine ourselves in the Hebrews’ place. There is doubt in the church, there is immaturity (taking the form of not moving on from milk to meat), and there is probably even fear or despair in leaving the Law for Christ. While the first 10 chapters of Hebrews may just seem like an intellectual argument to prove the person and work of Christ, the writer is doing so much more. What the letter does is systematically present the glorious hope found only and completely in Jesus Christ. If the Hebrews truly understood the better salvation offering found in Christ, they would not be tempted to turn back to justification by the works of the law. Hebrews is not only a head appeal, it is a heart appeal.

The writer presents hope as on ongoing theme. A special message resides in Hebrews for all believers, Jewish and non. There is a supernatural hope found in Christ that should be aroused when the believer begins to doubt, becomes complacent, or fall back upon her own efforts.

Hebrews 3:5-6 – Hope & Rejoicing

[Heb 3:5-6 KJV] 5 And Moses verily [was] faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; 6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

Hope indeed, but also the “rejoicing”(!) of the hope. Here the Christian hope is shown as one the believer rejoices in. SLIDE Believer’s hope is unique to Christians. It cannot be learned or received outside of being reborn into the house of Christ. Therefore a spirit of rejoicing can be aroused within us at anytime to give us strength. The joy of the Lord is your strength –Neh 8:10. Joy is a special characteristic of the Kingdom of God – Rom 14:17.

Hebrews 6:17-19 – An Anchor of the Soul

[Heb 6:17-19 KJV] 17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed [it] by an oath: 18 That by two immutable things, in which [it was] impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: 19 Which [hope] we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;

God’s word is unquestionable. It is always right, it is always holy, and it is always trustworthy; his word is more than enough. Yet here we see God not only making a promise, but also taking an oath (two immutable things)! This God who cannot lie has no need to vow or promise anything to prove his character, especially to us. Why would the God of the universe God make a promise and take an oath towards humankind? Because he desired to show us the immutability of his counsel that we might have strong consolation and lay hold of the hope set before us! In other words, God wanted us to have assurance that we would never change his mind in order that we may lay hold of the blessed hope and keep it without wavering. This hope is “sure” and “steadfast”. This hope drives us into what lies within the veil, the Holy of Holies, into Christ himself.

This scripture passage is wonderfully encouraging and each word worth studying. Here is a simplified version I believe accurately represents the intent of the author and might make it a little easier to understand the broader concepts.

[Heb 6:17-19 NLT] 17 God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. 18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. 19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

We’re not even covering all the references to “hope” in Hebrews, but its significance can already be seen. Read the above scripture again. God wants us to have hope! Yes God allows us to be tested, chastised and persecuted, but these are all meant to occur within the blessed hope that is unique to Christians.

[SLIDE] This hope is for us, from God, and towards God.

[Heb 7:19 KJV] 19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope [did]; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

This hope is a perfect hope. By this hope “we draw nigh to God”, boldly and confidently entering into the veil (as referenced in Hebrews 6). Note again that hope is bringing us closer to God himself. What happens when what God says is not what we see? What if, like Abraham, the land and multiplication we have been promised are not yet in our possession? This is where hope comes in. Our hope in the promise maker stirs up our faith in the promises.

Hebrews 10:23 2nd “Let Us”

[Heb 10:23 KJV] 23 Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith (hope) without wavering; (for he [is] faithful that promised;)

Hope is important in the new and better covenant. But notice we are to hold fast the profession of our hope because “he is faithful” that promised. The promise is good, but the reason for us to remain hopefully steadfast is due to the person who made the promise. We can hope because we know that God’s nature itself is one that never lies, one of justice, righteousness and love.

Hope is sustaining. Hope causes us to look in the right direction. Hope causes us to be vigilant. It causes us to see and notice things happening we would not have noticed were we not consumed with hop. Hope causes us to prioritize. Hope gives us courage to give up certain things – here, mainly the law, temple. Etc. For us, treasures on earth, comfortable attraction-model church etc.

The phrase ‘confession of hope’ is remarkable. The Apostle substitutes for the more general word ‘faith,’ that word which gives distinctness to special objects of faith to be realized in the future. Hope gives a definite shape to the absolute confidence of Faith. Faith reposes completely in the love of God: Hope vividly anticipates that God will fulfill His promises in a particular way.[3]

Hope is noticeable. Hope is contagious. Peter exhorts the churches to always be ready to give an answer to those who ask about the “hope” that lies in them (1 Pet 3:15).

Christians must always look outwards as well as upwards, and with equal boldness. Here, too, there is need for sincerity. ‘The hope we profess’ (v. 23) not only bolsters the confidence of the believer, it also affects our witness in the world. In a society often characterized by hopelessness and despair, as reflected in popular songs and slogans, this witness is powerful. It all links with the faithfulness of God in keeping his promises, a strength to the believer and an offer to the seeker.[4]

Hebrews 11:1 Faith & Hope

[Heb 11:1 KJV] 1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Now the author of Hebrews wonderfully brings faith and hope together, showing that while they are inseparable, they are also distinct. To have a strong faith we must have a sustaining hope.

The substance of faith is our hope in the unseen, and the evidence (proof) of the unseen is manifest because of this hope. The author goes on to talk about the great deeds done by men and women of faith because they were looking ahead and hoping in something that was yet unseen. Of them the author writes: [Heb 11:13 KJV] 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of [them], and embraced [them], and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

We still look forward to a better Kingdom, but how much great should our hope be!

On the difference between faith and hope, Luther says:

They differ as touching their object, that is, the special matter whereunto they look. Faith has for her object the truth, teaching us to cleave surely thereto, and looking upon the word and promise of the thing that is promised; hope has for her object the goodness of God, and looks upon the thing which is promised in the word, that is, upon such matters as faith teaches us to hope for.

They differ by the diversity of working. Faith is a teacher and a judge, fighting against errors and heresies, judging spirits and doctrines; hope is, as it were, the general or captain of the field, fighting against tribulation, the cross, impatience, heaviness of spirit, weakness, desperation, and blasphemy, and it waits for good things even in the midst of all evils.

I would suggest that faith rests upon God’s promises, truths, and directives; hope rests in God himself. For example, by faith Noah began physical construction on an arc as commanded, having never seen rain. By hope he endured the years of waiting and persecution with a heart to preach righteousness to those about to perish because he had hope in God’s justice and mercy.

SLIDE

Faith – God’s word is true and I will act on it

Hope – God is faithful to his word so I can be bold, encouraged and steadfast.

Let us not neglect or minimize the simplicity and power of our hope in Christ. This hope is unique to God’s children. It is not mean to be separated from faith and love. Our hope in God, specifically, our hope in Jesus Christ—our Lord, Savor, High Priest, Salvation and Mediator— is what gives us the strength to endure, to love, to step out in faith.

To increase our hope we should not only spend time meditating on the promises of God, but on the character and work of Jesus Christ. Look at God your Father, look at Jesus Christ, look at recognize the indwelling of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Ask God to stir up a fresh hope.

It is the anchor of our soul.

 

[1] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[2] James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 27.a

[3] Brooke Foss Westcott, ed., The Epistle to the Hebrews the Greek Text with Notes and Essays, 3d ed., Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament (London: Macmillan, 1903), 325–326.

[4] Philip H Hacking, Opening up Hebrews, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2006), 65.

Mercy & Justice: Balancing Evangelism and Compassion for the Poor

The verbal proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ is meant to work in tandem with compassion for the poor and the marginalized. Compassion for the poor is insufficient unless it includes both mercy and justice. When done in this way, the dividing line between evangelism and compassion for the poor is reduced as the holistic effects of evangelism are realized.

When justice is added to mercy, the evangelist works to not only to meet the recipient’s urgent physical needs, but also to liberate them from the oppressive system of sin that is causing those needs, whether internal or external. And this in turn cannot be properly done without exposing them to the liberating power of the gospel; this is how evangelism and compassion for the poor work hand in hand. The church can benefit by prayerfully and proactively pursing this holistic evangelism. Continue reading “Mercy & Justice: Balancing Evangelism and Compassion for the Poor” »

The Gift of Singleness & The Gift of Marriage

Two texts will be used to show that both marriage and singleness are gifts from God. The latter is a unique spiritual gift, the former is a universal blessing. The first text will be in Matthew 19:3-12, which actually comes from a question about divorce. The second is 1 Corinthians 7. Continue reading “The Gift of Singleness & The Gift of Marriage” »

I Am the Bread of Life – John 26 – 40 – Sermon Notes

Jesus’ discourse can seemingly be split up into two audiences:
the general crowd that followed him (6:26-40), and some select religious Jews who were either a segment of the crowd or joined later (6:41-58), in other words, casual hearers and the more dedicated religious crowd. Neither received the life-giving bread. The first group was too full of self-sufficiency (they didn’t recognize their need for a spiritual savior), the latter group was too full of self-righteousness or religion. Neither had room for Jesus. To truly believe in Christ and come to him, one must recognize his own spiritual poverty and hunger and thirst after Godly righteousness. Continue reading “I Am the Bread of Life – John 26 – 40 – Sermon Notes” »

The Gadarene Demoniac- Mark 5:1-20 | The Greater the Transformation, the Greater the testimony

There is so much to be said about Mark 5:1-20. This short study examines the motif of how the testimony of a changed life can be more impactful than signs and miracles.

Introduction

Mark’s theme of “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (1:15) is highlighted in Mark 5. The invasion of the kingdom against the forces of darkness collides with the kingdom’s redemptive power in the narrative of the exorcism of the Gadarene Demoniac. A primary motif of the story is that while the miraculous power of Jesus over Legion is impressive, it is the restored man’s visible testimony of redemption that is more effective in pointing others to Christ. Continue reading “The Gadarene Demoniac- Mark 5:1-20 | The Greater the Transformation, the Greater the testimony” »