Wednesday, October 30, 2013


When we look at the book of Revelation, we see more than one viewpoint.
For instance, when Jesus spoke to the church at Philadelphia, He says in Rev. 3.10--I will also keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth.

But to the church in Smyrna Jesus does not say the same thing. He tells them--you are about to suffer. Behold the devil is about to cast some of you into prison that you may be tested and you will have tribulation ten days, Rev. 2.10.

One church will be kept from testing, the other church will be tested.

We have different opinions. Some say the church will be raptured out of this world before any tribulation comes--as those in Philadelphia--and some say the church will go through the tribuation--as those in Smyrna.
We would expect to go through tribulation, if we have read of the prophecy in Daniel 7. There, in verse 25, Daniel says of a king--he will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One...and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. So we see that the saints go through the tribulation (time, times, and half a time) at the hands of that king.

Peter seems to agree with that. He says in 1 Peter 4.12--Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.

But when Paul addressed the church at Thessalonica, his tone is one of escape just like the church at Philadelphia--For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout..we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord...1 Thes. 4.16,17.

So we have to see that prophecies of the end will show more than one viewpoint concerning the tribulation and Christians.

We might think of this as John writing of the churches as a whole in Rev. 1-3 and John writing of individual Christians in chapters 5-19.
In Rev. 5.9 John writes of--men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation... In Rev. 6.11 they are called, fellow servants. In Rev. 11.9, John writes of--those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations... Are they the same ones as in Rev. 5.9? They may be.

Then in Rev. 11.18 the saints are mentioned again, and in Rev. 12.11 as--they did not love their life even to death. Then in Rev. 13.10 there is the--perseverence and the faith of the saints.

Of course there are other references to individuals, as saints. Why is the church mentioned in Rev. 1-3 but individual saints mentioned after that? It may be that God knows each saint indivudually who will be raptured, live in the tribulation and endure to the end. If God knows the 144,000 who were sealed in Rev.7, even to the point of John writing that--I heard the number of those who were sealed...then we might conclude God has individual saints in mind.

God knows who He knows

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Should you be able to tell if someone is a Christian?

What would that person undergo to be Christian?

I think the idea of 'becoming a Christian' might be thought of as running a gauntlet, being put through tests until some great thing is accomplished, like an initiation rite.

A classic sequence would be John 3.22-30. The subject is baptism. Jesus and His disciples are in Judea. John the Baptist's disciples are discussing baptism as purification. But how much water does it take for you to be pure?

Is baptism a rite for purification?

At the wedding at Cana, the water Jesus turned into wine was water for purification, John 2.6. Can water make you pure?
When John's disciples come to him to complain that Jesus' disciples are baptizing also. John has the insight--A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven, John 33.27. In other words, it isn't the water for purification or water for baptism, it isn't who is doing the baptism or how much is enough purfication. It is simply the gift of God.

Now when we look at our souls we have to see that whatever one is, he or she has the gift of God. We might not be aware of the gift we have been given, we might not like that to which we are called, but it is the gift of God. If we are a gifted musician or writer or businessman, it is from God. If we have been given an opportunity which few have been given, it is from God. If our life seems mundane, ordinary, simply modest and reserved, it is from God.

In our passage John immediately realizes he is the bridegroom to the Bride. He realizes he is the messanger, that he must decrease so that Christ can increase.

How did he realize that?
We begin and end with our chosenness. Ephesians says we were predestined before the foundation of the world, Eph. 1.4, to be holy and blameless before Him. So before the foundation of the world, we stood before God holy and blameless.

What was that like, before the foundation of the world?
When we look at Romans 8.28 we find a certain language and approach. We find that God causes all things to work for good to those who love Him. Jesus had said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, Matt. 22.37.

All of this means being chosen before the foundation of the world has to do with loving God and believing in God. According to John, this 'already' is a gift. Our Christian life consists in realizing the role of love and belief in our own souls. When we realize this, our life comes to us.
John realized who he was and who Jesus was by knowing--He who comes from heaven is over all, John 3.31. The apostle Paul was told who he was and what he would do in Acts 9.15,16.

What about us? We know that to love God is to know Him. Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2.10 that some--did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. When we receive the love of the truth, we will know God in Jesus Christ, to be saved.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


John 3--about Nicodemus--is about an entrance. As we know Nicodemus comes at night, when the Sanhedrin to which he belongs is meeting. Did they wonder where he was?
Nicodemus says--Rabbi, we know that you have come from God...God is with you, John 3.2.

Jesus then gives Nicodemus two tests of the kingdom of God. Nicodemus is seeking God but he must be born again in order to see God's kingdom and to enter it. Jesus says Nicodemus must be born of water and Spirit. This is the baptism in the Jordan for repentance and the baptism in the Spirit which will come at Pentecost.
So Nicodemus asks how these things can happen--how can these things be, John 3.9.

First Jesus criticizes Nicodemus for not knowing this already. Then He tells Nicodemus that--the Son of Man (must) be lifted up, John 3.14. This might be a reference to Jesus on the cross, but for Nicodemus that night Jesus says 3 times--whoever believes in Him...whoever believes in Him...He who believes in Him, John 3.15,16,18. Evidently being lifted up is belief in the heart.

Up till now it seems that it is Nicodemus who must believe in Jesus to be born again, that belief is a work of man as if everything depended on it. To contradict that, Jesus ends the passage with Nicodemus by saying his--deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God, John 3.21.

Jesus has brought Nicodemus from being born again to believing in Jesus to his deeds being wrought in God. What is being said here is that the Christian life is all of God and yet it is all of us. The NT writers cannot think of their own soul without thinking of the Spirit of God; they cannot think of the Spirit of God without thinking of their own soul. The spirit of man and the Spirit of God embrace continually.
God decided at the fall of man in Genesis 3 that man cannot live without Him; when Adam had a chance to deal with Satan upon the protection of God's Word--Gen. 2.15,16--he failed. When the Lord told Cain, Sin is crouching at the door and you must master it--Gen. 4.7--Cain failed. Man cannot live without God.

God decided at the cross that He will not live without man. He became a man.

There is a passage in the OT which dramatizes this moment when God decided He will not exist without us. It comes from Isaiah 59.16--
Now the Lord saw and it was displeasing in His sight
that there was not justice,
and He saw that there was no man,
and was astonished that there was no one to intercede;
then His own arm brought salvation to Him;
and His righteousness upheld Him.
And He put on righteousness like a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on His head;
and He put on garments of vengeance for clothing
and wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle.

From that moment on, God was with man in His side. From that moment on man was with God in his soul. The idea that God is with us and that we are with God is the basis for the church. Heaven is the church glorified; the church is heaven dramatized with us.

So in Revelation 5, John saw an angel say what he wrote--
a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice,
'Who is worthy to open the book and break its' seals?'
And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or look into it. And I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me,
'Stop weeping, behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its' seven seals..'
God is with us, we are with God. That is the church.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


We know of the apostles, having to leave Jerusalem after Pentecost. We know that Peter went to Antioch where he was a great influence and possibly pastor or bishop. But after Peter and Paul, James and John, who succeeded them?

The NT epistles say it was Philemon, Timothy and Titus.

Who was Titus?
Paul first mentions him in 2 Corinthians 2.13, when Paul arrives at the port of Troas. He expected Titus to be there, but he was not. Paul says he--had no rest for my spirit--so he went on from Troas to Macedonia. When Paul made it to Macedonia, he says--God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 2 Cor. 7.6. When Paul boasts of Titus, he says his boasting is not in vain, 2 Cor. 7.13.

What Titus was to Paul results in him giving Titus great praise--As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow-worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ, 2 Cor. 8.23.

Titus may have written down 2 Corinthians for Paul. Titus was Greek, so he could have written in Greek easily. He had been in Jerusalem with Paul, so he would be familiar with Paul's interpretation of the Law and Prophets.

When Paul left on his missionary journeys, he trusts Titus enough to leave him to the work of the ministry in Crete, then rejoined him in Nicopolis. While Titus was in Crete, Paul instructs him to appoint elders, not just in Crete, but in every city where Paul went. This is quite a responsibility.

Evidently in Crete, the people could be contentious. Paul mentions this in Titus 1.10-12. For Paul to appoint a young man like Titus to the task of appointing elders in a city of empty talkers, liars, gluttons, Titus must have been quite a wise and strong-minded man. You would expect this of anyone Paul believed in so much.
Paul had tested Titus much, 2 Cor. 8.22. Paul says there--taking precaution that no one should discredit us in our administration of this generous gift... This might remind us of Ephesians 1.8--In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will...with a view to an admininstration suitable to the fulness of the times... Evidently Titus was good at the administration of these budding churches.

And then we come across a surprising passage in 2 Cor. 8. In verses 1-3 Paul says the churches in Macedonia wished to participate in supporting the saints (in Jerusalem). So Paul then urges Titus to complete this gracious work of support.

Does this mean that Titus was trustworthy of handling money?
Could Titus be the man Paul chose to succeed Judas in handling money for himself and the churches? This may be the case.

Paul then says if a church has a desire to help the saints and can do so financially, they should. Then Paul thanks God for putting the same earnestness in Titus, 1 Cor. 8.16, who has gone to the churches to administer the help.

While Titus is relatively unknown in the NT, he must have been quite well known in the churches and in Paul's ministry. Quite a man.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


In 1 Corinthians 1.4-6 Paul narrates the profile of the Corinthian church. He thanks God for the grace of God, for the enrichment in Him by the Corinthians in all speech and all knowledge, even the testimony of Christ. The Corinthians are not lacking in any gift, waiting eagerly for Jesus to come again in great power and glory.

These are great compliments and an insightful comment. Paul must've known the church and the members well. If they are not lacking in any gift, what was their worship like? What was their church structure like?

The question behind those questions is, how did God lead that church?

Paul does not give a detailed answer. He doesn't talk about bishops and popes, elders and deacons, committee meetings, associate pastors, or congretational leaders. What does he talk about?
God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, 1 Cor. 1.9.

What we need to do is look into what those few, simple words mean to the Christians at Corinth, to the NT writers and to us.

First, he says Christ is not divided so the church should not be, either. His advice to avoid divisions is through baptism. Then he says he came to preach the word of the cross. Then he says no man should boast before God, because it is by His doing that the Corinthians are in Christ Jesus, who is wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption to the Corinthians.

Now this is a great deal to contemplate. What we can notice immdiately is the emphasis on the individual soul. If every Corinthian comes to church through the word of the cross, they will be in harmony. They won't all have the same level of knowledge but they will all know that it is the blood of Christ through the preaching of the cross which brings them into the presence of the Lord. By this, there is no boasting.
When Paul finishes chapter 1 of Corinthians with--Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord--he is telling us all that we are not to boast of our tradition, our structure, our knowledge but only of our position in the Lord. When that is true, the formal structure almost doesn't matter.

Is there a way to keep that relationship with Christ in our church matters?
Paul says yes, through wisdom. In chapter 2 he says he does not speak with the wisdom of men, which might simply refer to Greek philosophy. He says he came to the Corinthians--on the power of God, 1 Cor. 2.5. Yet, there is the wisdom of God by which the church can operate.

God reveals this wisdom through the Spirit, as the Corinthians have received the Spirit of God. In fact, Paul says the Corinthians have received the mind of Christ, 1 Cor. 1.31. This would not make them infallible, it would make them humble as Paul said to the Philippians--He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross, Phil. 2.8. There we are, back at the preaching of the word of the cross.

What all of this comes to is the structure of the church is the nature of our redeemed souls. If we have been humbled by the preaching of the cross, if we have been filled with the power of God through God the Spirit, if we know Christ as we are known, the structure of the church is all right.