Jesus May Call Us His Friend, but We are Still His Servants

A short while ago I was having a conversation with someone regarding the topic of the Western Church increasing in removing “sin” from its vocabulary and in removing the fullness of the Gospel from its teachings. At some point in this conversation I mentioned that after we find salvation we are to be slaves to God from that point. I was immediately rebuked and told that we are no longer slaves, but we are friends of God (not that this would excuse us from doing God’s will).

This set me thinking. I’ll agree that we are friends of God; the Bible clearly states this (see James 2:23 and John 15:15), but does this mean we are no longer slaves? Does being God’s friend negate our also being his servants? And while Jesus does call us his friend, is there any verse in the new testament where a man (or woman) calls Jesus his friend?

I believe John 15:15 is the verse that was referenced when I was corrected for my slave comment. This verse says:

“No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.

This brings to mind the question: Yes, Jesus calls us his friends, but does that also mean we are no longer his slaves (or servants)? If we continue to read in John 15, we’ll find that in John 15:20 Jesus says:

“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

Here, Jesus is speaking to the same listeners he has just called friends yet He clearly implies that the servant/master relationship still stands. We are the servant and we are not greater than our master. Because of this, since they persecuted him, we can know they will persecute us. Also, we know that if others keep his word, they will keep ours also. In both instances, Jesus is the preeminent one and we are his servants whom He also calls friends.

We must note that there is a prerequisite to Jesus calling us his friends. I’ve heard some preachers imply that Jesus is everyone’s friend. While it is true that God loved the whole word in sending Jesus to be the propitiation for our sins, he does not call everyone his friend. There is a stipulation. John 15:14 says “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”

Now, I rejoice if Jesus calls me his friend as it is my goal to do what he commands. Doing God’s will and being called a friend of Jesus is a great honor and blessing in knowing God. Knowing Jesus calls us friends helps us to know that we are truly loved by God. This doesn’t, though, remove our responsibility as servants of God. The writers of the new testament appear to have felt the same way. Notice how they introduce themselves in their letters.

James 1:1 – James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…

Here, bondservant (or servant in the KJV) is from Strong’s G1401 – doulos. This word means a slave (literal or figurative, involuntary or voluntary). It refers to someone who gives himself up wholly to another’s will. It is the same word used for slave in Matthew 20:27 when Jesus says “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—”

Peter says the same thing about himself. 2 Peter 1:1 says, “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ…” Jude does the same in Jude 1:1 – Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James… Paul said the same thing in Romans 1:1. And John said in introducing the book of Revelation, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place.” (see Revelation 1:1)

This word is used in Acts 4:29 when Peter says “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,” In fact, this word is used to refer to Christians all over the new testament, just as Jesus used it in various parables to refer to human servants (see Matthew 13:27, Matthew 18:23, Matthew 25:30, Luke 17:9-10 and Luke 20:10). It is the same word used to show our slavery to sin before salvation (see John 8:34 Romans 6:16-20). It is what Jesus became for us (Philippians 2:7). It is the word Titus uses in Titus 2:9 to refer to slaves who, as Christians, should obey their masters.

In looking back at John 15:15, Jesus says “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends…” Just a short while later in John 16:12 he says “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” We can surmise that unlike a true slave who may be commanded to do something without being told why, Jesus will tell us what we need to know in the moment regarding his plans. We have the Spirit of God with us who reveals to us the things of God (see John 14:26, 16:13, and 1 Corinthians 2:9-13).

There are actually only a small number of verses in the Bible where God (or Jesus) references men as friends. Only two people in the old testament received such honor. God spoke with Moses face to face as one would speak to a friend (see Exodus 33:11). God called Abraham his friend (see 2 Chronicles 20:7 Isaiah 41:8 and James 2:23). But even in reading these scriptures, there’s no evidence that God called these people “friend” directly. It was only written after they had died. In fact, in announcing Moses’ death, God says in Joshua 1:2, “Moses My servant is dead.” A fitting two word epitaph, “My servant.” This was the honor of Moses – he was God’s servant.

In the New Testament we find only one place where Jesus personally addresses someone as “friend.” This was to Judas right before the betrayal (see Matthew 26:50). Jesus also referred to Lazarus as “our friend” when talking to his disciples in John 11:11.

We can find countless places in the Bible where mankind is referred to as God’s or Jesus’ servant or slave. Often, as noted above, these are the self-revelations of the servants themselves. Yet in many modern churches we seldom hear such self-given titles. We prefer to hang onto the minority of verses which call us friends of God and use those to say that God or Jesus is our friend. Yes, Jesus does consider us friends if we do what he commands, but that is far from the full of scripture. The much greater point of scripture is that we are his loving servants, following the example he gave to us (see Mark 10:45, Philippians 2 and John 13:13-16). We would be wise to remember how scripture portrays our relationship with our Lord, and in doing so, keep the same reverence that is displayed through the authors of the New Testament. Yes, Jesus considers us his friends. Yes, he wants to have free communication with us, and yes, we should love him because he first loved us, but even considering these facts, the overly-friendly, even romantic relationship with God expressed by some churches simply isn’t found in scripture, and shows a pride and presumption that was clearly not present with the New Testament authors. We must be careful.


This article was about our being God’s friends, or more, us claiming God as our friend. This article did not speak to our being children of God. Galatians 3:26 says “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:17 adds “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”  Just as I agree that if we do what he commands Jesus counts us as his friends, I also agree that though faith in Jesus we are also children of God and joint-heirs with Christ. These truths doe not change the facts outlined in the article above.  At the time of the New Testament’s writing, a reader would have understood the respect and reverence a son should give to his parent. It is that very respect and reverence that many have lost in the church today. It is analogous to what sometimes happens in society with parents who would rather be their children’s friends than act as a parent. In these cases the parental role is weakened and the lessons which should be taught by the elder are lost. As children who revel in claiming God as our “friend” we weaken God’s role as father and teacher and as one who disciplines. We lose the awe and respect we should have as his servants. We lose what it means to be his servant – something the apostles clearly recognized and boasted in. It is this servitude that we should boast in as well, so that as a friend of God, when we pass from this life, God may say to our honor, “(Insert your name here), My Servant, has died.”

The Gospel and Evangelism

First, inspiration for this entry goes to a podcast series from Radical with David Platt.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to share the Gospel of Christ and what it means to be a Christian. The more I’ve grown in my metanoia, the more I realize just how far the western church has drifted from the true gospel of realizing our helpless sinful nature, realizing Christ’s sacrifice for us while we were in our sin, accepting that sacrifice in believing in Him, and preaching the message forward to others. In so many churches we hardly hear of sin, but understanding our sin is crucial to our understanding what Jesus actually did for us. We hear church leaders tell everyone that God loves them just the way they are, and while this is true, this message alone will not lead people to repentance. And without true repentance, there is no salvation. In fact, if we don’t honestly tell people that people are at enmity with God and are lost without Jesus, they may be less likely to seek true salvation because we’ve simply told them that God loves them just the way they are. I mean, if God loves us just the way we are and that’s that, then why look for anything more? Be happy for we are loved by God – no need to change. It’s a scary thought, but in our ‘seeker sensitive’ society, we’ve stopped believing in the power of the gospel to save sinners and instead hide the full truth of the gospel in an attempt to not scare away sinners. This is man’s thinking and not God’s. We don’t want to offend, but the Bible says that gospel is an offence, and it is also the power of God for salvation (see 1 Peter 2:7-8, 1 Corinthians 1:18, Acts 4, Matthew 10:22, John 15:18-21 and Romans 1:16).

I’ve come to realize that one of the greater self-deceptions Christians have is that they don’t have to share the gospel (as described in the Bible). We tell ourselves that we can live a good life and that will be a witness. I’m guilty of this myself. And while yes, we should live an upright life, is it scriptural to assume this can also be our only witness? Is not everyone who believes called to more? Is the gospel merely talking about Jesus and how wonderful he is? Is the gospel not a very specific message that is missing from so many of our modern churches, a message that we are required to share?

We need to actively proclaim the full and true gospel to others. Jesus warned in Matthew 7:21-23, ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

We must realize that there are many (Strong’s G4183 – polys, meaning a multitude, many, much, great, numerous, abundant) who will think they had been serving God who were never known by God. Jesus didn’t say there would be a small few who would fall under this deception – he said there would be many. It is clear that these people will die in their sins believing they were Christians, even Christians who worked for God and served in his kingdom with power. But Jesus will say they were not. They did not know the true gospel.

So what is the true gospel? What is the one and only message that leads to salvation? What does it mean to evangelize or proclaim the gospel?

In defining the gospel, Ephesians 2 is a good place to start. Here, Paul writes:

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

In looking at the above text, it is clear that the gospel starts with God. He made us alive. He is the one who is rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us. The gospel is so He might show the exceeding riches of His grace and His kindness towards us. Our salvation is not of ourselves but it is a gift of God. We are His workmanship.

The passage starts with “and you He made alive…” This implies (and states directly) that we were dead. We were dead in trespasses and sins. This is a powerful truth. We didn’t just not know God. We weren’t just “lost.” We weren’t lonely or depressed or not nice people. We hadn’t just messed up a bit. We, all of us, were dead in trespasses and sins. Simply by the course of this world, we were dead in our sins; it was the very way in which we walked. We were of the way of the enemy (Satan – the prince and power of the air). We served the flesh and our lusts and the desires of our minds (knowledge? power? happiness? – What does your mind desire outside of Christ?). We were by our very nature children of wrath. The gospel starts with this truth. Without Christ we are dead – a position which is utterly and completely hopeless. Without Christ we are on a path which will end with God’s wrath being poured out upon us as punishment for our sins. People must realize this truth. God may love us just as we are, but unless we accept Jesus as Savior – the one who took our sins and the punishment for those sins upon himself, we are dead, despite God’s love.

Notice how Paul fully describes both God’s mercy and grace as well as the fullness of our sinful state. He doesn’t just focus on God. In fact, he starts with our sin and deadness. The gospel is a two part story. First we find out we are dead in sin, and then we find out “but God…” The gospel is the conquering of one state by another. Death conquered by life. Wrath by Love. God’s unavoidable demand for justice by His great mercy of satisfying that justice in the crucifixion of Jesus. If we don’t realize the truth of God’s wrath and His demand for justice, then we won’t realize the true salvation being offered. You can meet a Jesus who loves you and gives you great gifts and tells you how wonderful you are, but that could be a random generous guy in a Spanish speaking country. We need to introduce people to the real Jesus – the Jesus who took our not only our sins, but the full punishment for those sins.

We tend to minimize the seriousness of sin. People don’t think they’re “that bad.” Churches that don’t talk about sin perpetuate this problem. Our society and culture, even within the church, treat sin far too lightly. With God, all sin is serious and the penalty is severe. Consider the following examples regarding how God treats sin.

In Genesis 19 when Lot’s wife was fleeing from Sodom, she had been told not to look back, but did. She died instantly (see Genesis 19:15-26). Whether this was simply looking back to see what was happening or her looking back longingly at the life she was leaving, either way, she was killed for this sin.

In Numbers 15:32-36 a man was caught picking up sticks on the Sabbath. God has him stoned to death for violating the Sabbath.

In 2 Samuel 6:6-7 when Uzzah put his hand forth to steady the ark of the covenant that was being transported because an oxen stumbled, God immediately struck him dead.

And even under the New Covenant brought forth by the death and resurrection of Jesus, when  Ananias and Sapphira lie about their offering they are each struck dead for their lie and holding back something for themselves (See Acts 5). God takes sin seriously. He is a perfect Holy God and sin against him (and all sin is against him) requires punishment. The wages of sin is death (see Romans 6:23).

We look at these examples and likely think them extreme. Stoned for picking up sticks? Really? But this is because we’ve become soft on sin and we view sin from our vantage point – the viewpoint of sinners. We are a vapor, and small sins against us are seldom a big deal. God, on the other hand, is completely perfect and eternally big, and sins against him are an eternally big deal. No matter how small we might classify it, one sin against an infinitely holy God is infinitely serious and causes eternal separation from God; just one sin will incur the full wrath of God. Sin is serious. We must remember that the entire fallen state of this world – every horrible thing that happens – is ultimately the result of one person’s sin – one person denying the instruction of God and doing what he wanted to do instead. The sin of one person eating a piece of fruit caused every vile thing you’ve ever seen in this life. Sin is serious.

Considering the above, while we often hear people say “How can a loving God condemn man for one tiny sin?” we should be asking “How could a God of perfect justice allow any sinners into heaven?” The gospel seeks to answer the second of these questions, for this is the question asked in the viewpoint of God. And thankfully, even though we could never find the way, God did. He made a way to retain His justice yet show his Mercy and allow sinners into heaven. God is a God of justice, and justice requires that a sinner be found guilty. It’s what we expect of our courts and it is what we should expect of God. So how does a just God condemn our sin yet save us in his mercy? The answer is in Christ.

Jesus came, God in the flesh, and took our sin upon himself. He took the sin of the whole world, and was crucified for that sin. For the next man who would pick up sticks on the Sabbath, Jesus was crucified. For the next couple who would lie about an offering, keeping back a portion as if they had right to anything in this world, Jesus was crucified. He took our sin. He took our punishment. God’s justice was satisfied, and in that, God’s mercy triumphed for all who would believe. God showed justice for sin at the cross and God showed mercy for sinners at the cross. This is the gospel.

So if the above is the gospel, then what is evangelism? In defining evangelism, David Platt puts it well:

Evangelism is the proclamation of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit with the aim of persuading people to repent and believe in Christ.

Right before he ascended into heaven, Jesus said “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). This tells us two very important things. First, that as Christians, when the Holy Spirit has come upon us we will receive power. Second, it says that we will then be his witnesses. Our witness is not in our own power. Our witness is not successful because of our own enticing speech or wisdom (see 1 Corinthians 2:4). Our witness is effective because of the power of the Holy Spirit in making us witnesses. The word translated witness in Acts 1:8 is Strong’s G3144 – martys. It is the word from which we get the English word martyr. Ten of the 11 disciples were martyred because of the words they spoke. A witness tells. A witness proclaims. There is a legal aspect to this word. A witness testifies to the truth.

Our witness is not a smile, our good nature, a kind gesture, a positive life, a compliment, or even a story about how great Jesus is. Our witness is our testimony of the gospel. Everything else can compliment our witness, but the Bible would make it clear that these other things are not a witness in and of themselves. Jesus did not say “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be kind people who are generous and positive and complimentary until the ends of the earth.” The world has many non-christians who would satisfy that witness. No, Jesus said we would be His Witnesses. A witness speaks. We should have the spirit of God on us so that we can speak and proclaim the truth we have found in Christ. The Bible makes this clear.

Remember, a witness is a martyr. A witness is not martyred for his niceness or her good attitude. A witness is not martyred for being helpful and complimentary. A witness is martyred because he said something that offended. In our case, the gospel is that offence. The gospel is not just about the holiness and love of God. That is a part, but that is not all. People do not get offended when you say God is holy and loving. Many faiths would agree this is true. The gospel is also about the sinfulness of everyone, no matter how good and upright they think they are. People get offended when you tell them they’re sinners. The gospel is also about the atoning sacrifice of Jesus – his death for our sins and his resurrection leading us to a new life. And we must be careful. The gospel is not that Jesus died… it is that he died for each and everyone one of us to pay the penalty for each and every one of our sins. If we don’t recognize our own sinful nature, his sacrifice will be meaningless to us and our salvation won’t be genuine. We can’t truly repent if we don’t realize that we are fully in the wrong when it comes to God’s expectations regarding perfect holinenss. All of these things must be communicated if we are to share the full gospel.

Just talking about God and Jesus and how wonderful they are is not evangelism. People from many religions and walks of life talk about those things. And while it is fine to talk about God, evangelism is the proclamation of the gospel as described in the previous paragraph, as described in the Bible.

As we saw in Jesus’ last words before ascension, that when the power of the holy spirit comes upon/fills us, we will be witnesses. Where else is this phrase used, and what happens immediately after the power of the holy spirit comes? As seen in the list below, every time the phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit” is found in the new testament, a proclamation or speaking follows.

In Luke 1:15 it says that John the Baptist was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb. And what did he do? He witnessed/told/proclaimed the coming of the Lord.

Later, in Luke 1:41-42 Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and immediately she proclaimed that Mary was pregnant with Elizabeth’s Lord (Elizabeth called Mary the mother of her Lord).

And even later in Luke 1:67  Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and he immediately prophesied regarding Jesus.

At Pentecost in Acts 2, when they were all filled with the holy spirit, they witnessed of Christ, even in other tongues (languages they did not speak but that their hearers did speak and understood).

In Acts 4:8 Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, immediately speaks, proclaiming the truth of God.

Acts 4:31 says “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”

In Acts 9 after Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit he proclaimed the gospel. In Acts 13 he again spoke after being filled with the Holy Spirit.

As can be seen from these verses, when we are “filled with the Holy Spirit” we should speak. Every single Biblical example shows this. There is no Biblical example that does not. I have to wonder, are those in Matthew 7:21-23 under the impression that they were filled with the Holy Spirit because of the powerful things they did when in fact they were not even known by Jesus? They prophesied. They cast out demons. They did mighty works. But did they, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaim the true gospel of man’s sin and enmity with God, God’s love for man in sending his Son, the Son’s taking our sin upon him and the punishment for that sin, his death and resurrection, and our need to turn from our sin and believe in him? Jesus gave no evidence that they did.

If we are to be a witness as Jesus told us to be, then we should be a witness to the gospel. Also, we don’t just tell the facts and stop there. We persuade people to repent, to make a decision for Christ, trusting the power of the Holy Spirit to work.  We must also remember, that even though God has chosen us and our testimony to be the vehicle through which the Holy Spirit works to bring salvation, the power is not in our words, no matter how eloquent. The power is not in our theatrics. The power is not even in us telling others how great God is and how much He loves them. The power is in the gospel message. That is the message we are to carry; God gives the repentance. Consider the message in Acts 2 after Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:37-38: Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

These Jews, who had been waiting for the Messiah to save them from their sins were made to realize that Jesus, whom they had crucified, was that very Messiah. The Holy Spirit was at work and they were “cut to the heart” when they heard Peter’s message. Peter continued with them and lead them to repentance, assuring their salvation.

In Acts 5:31, when Peter and the others answered the council, they said “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” If we give the message, filled with the Holy Spirit, God will give repentance. And while yes, our good nature and kindness should support our witness, Romans 2:4 makes it clear that it is the goodness of God which leads to repentance.

Ephesians 2:8 adds, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” Again, the faith by which we come to salvation is a gift of God. It is not something we can impart to others and it is not something others have power for in themselves. God must give them the gift. We explain the gospel. We give the testimony. God gives the faith for repentance. We must trust the power of the gospel. Yes, it offends, but it is also the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16), and without the gospel, there is no true salvation, even if there is an appearance of power, just as Jesus warned.

In a random find while working on this article… the following video gives a great example of explaining the gospel, in this case to those of Jewish heritage:

Notes on Proverbs

In participating in a group study on Proverbs, I thought I’d write down some notes as inspired to do so. Since I will be posting full chapters from Proverbs for the purpose of discussing them, different chapters will of necessity utilize different versions of the Bible for reasons of copyright restrictions on most modern translations. This does not imply a personal version preference for any particular chapter.

Proverbs 1 (NKJV):

The Beginning of Knowledge

1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:

Solomon sat on the throne after David and was chosen from among David’s many sons (see 1 Chronicles 28:5). The proverbs recorded are but a few of the known proverbs of Solomon. 1 Kings 4:32 says “He spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five.” 1 Kings 4:31 says of Solomon, “For he was wiser than all men…”

2 To know wisdom and instruction, To perceive the words of understanding,

“To know” could be translated “for knowing.” The purpose of the book is for our knowing.

Many readers might consider wisdom and instruction to be synonyms, but in the original Hebrew, wisdom means wisdom as we would likely perceive it, but instruction, Strong’s H4148 – muwcar, has a sterner meaning. The word implies: properly, chastisement; and figuratively, reproof, warning or instruction; and also restraint. The word refers to correction, as to children from parents or to nations by kings. Biblical context shows that the Lord’s correction or discipline is not always enjoyable to the fleshly self. Some examples of muwcar in scripture:

Job 5:17 – “Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.

Job 12:8 – He loosens the bonds of kings, And binds (girds) their waist with a belt.

Psalm 50:17 (speaking to the wicked) – Seeing you hate instruction And cast My words behind you?

Isaiah 26:16 – LORD, in trouble they have visited You, They poured out a prayer when Your chastening was upon them.

Isaiah 53:5 – But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

Jeremiah 5:3 – O LORD, are not Your eyes on the truth? You have stricken them, But they have not grieved; You have consumed them, But they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; They have refused to return.

Jeremiah 10:8 – But they are altogether dull-hearted and foolish; A wooden idol is a worthless doctrine.

Ezekiel 5:15 – ‘So it shall be a reproach, a taunt, a lesson, and an astonishment to the nations that are all around you, when I execute judgments among you in anger and in fury and in furious rebukes. I, the LORD, have spoken.

Zephaniah 3:2 – She has not obeyed His voice, She has not received correction; She has not trusted in the LORD, She has not drawn near to her God.

As can be observed in many of the verses above, instruction (muwcar) is often associated with a difficult correction or teaching from the Lord. In the verses above, the Lord corrects not always with a simple lesson on the blackboard, but by consuming them (Jeremiah 5:3), or by making his people a reproach and a taunt, a lesson and an astonishment to the nations (Speaking to His people who have defiled his sanctuary). Most interesting to me is that in Isaiah 53:5, the chastisement of our piece that was upon Jesus at the crucifixion was this same instruction.

The word for perceive (Strong’s H995 – biyn) refers to a very purposeful separating out with understanding. It is not just a hearing, but an understanding of what has been heard (see Daniel 12:8). To perceive is to use discernment and wisdom in deciding a thing. It gives careful consideration.

3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, Justice, judgment, and equity;

The word for wisdom in this verse is a verb (Strong’s H7919 – sakal). It means to attend, to turn the mind to, to become understanding, to be successful in carrying something on, to act prosperously (see Joshua 1:7 –  that you may prosper wherever you go), to give success. It also can be used to mean to make prudent, to teach.

4 To give prudence to the simple, To the young man knowledge and discretion—

Simple, young man… could this imply those with little experience – those who would need training?

5 A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,

The word for hear is Strong’s H8085 – shama`, which implies a hearing and obeying, not just listening. It means to hear intelligently (often with implication of attention, obedience, etc.). It is a hearing with a purpose (the opposite of just listening to any new thing that comes along).

The word for learning, Strong’s H3948 – leqach, is only used nine times in the OT and is translated doctrine as often as learning.  It could be said that the thought in the first half of the verse implies that a wise man will, with purpose, learn doctrine with the goal of obedience. The word for attain is Strong’s H7069 – qanah, which refers to obtaining by buying/earning (to get, acquire, create, buy, possess). It is not passive.

6 To understand a proverb and an enigma, The words of the wise and their riddles.

In the King James, this verse is written “To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.” Dark sayings can be considered a cliche that means “riddles.” Jesus often spoke in riddles so that those who profess to be wise would not understand. Consider Matthew 13:34-35.

2 Peter 3:15-16 says “and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” Could it be that God speaks in riddles so that those with impure heart and motives will be trapped and exposed, because they then “twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the scriptures.

7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Fear is Strong’s H3374 – yir’ah. This can be thought of as a holy fear or reverence. The word does mean more than just “respect” though. If we are not right with God, he should be considered an awesome or terrifying thing (object causing fear) per this word. As used in Exodus 20:20, his fear causes us to not sin.

Psalm 2:11 says “Serve the LORD with fear, And rejoice with trembling.” We need to be aware of God’s awesome power. We are only saved by his grace and nothing in ourselves. Our salvation makes God no less holy and no less worthy of our reverence and honor – due because of His holiness and not simply because he’s our friend. We tend to water down who God is, forgetting the greatness of who He is. This healthy remembrance of who He is is the beginning of knowledge. Forget this and our knowledge becomes futile and earthly.

Instruction is again muwcar from verse 2.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge could be considered the motto of Proverbs. Similar phrasing also occurs in the Bible at: Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 9:10, 15:33, and Job 28:28. Note the fear of the Lord is the beginning… Shunning evil is not the beginning (and I would say shunning evil should be the result). If we try to be wise on our own, we will only become more foolish (see Romans 1:21-22).

Shun Evil Counsel

8 My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother;

9 For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, And chains about your neck.

The first seven verses speak to what wisdom and instruction are and the importance of them. The first application is given in verses 8-9. It is important to honor our parents, learning from them (assuming Godly parents). The law of your mother is Strong’s H8451 – towrah. See also Proverbs 6:20 and Ephesians 6:2-3. Interestingly, this puts importance on elders and family bonds first in the upcoming articles of wisdom. Often our society no longer counts such bonds as important. We do not give respect to those who have gone before us.

10 My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent.

11 If they say, “Come with us, Let us lie in wait to shed blood; Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause;

12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,[a] And whole, like those who go down to the Pit;

13 We shall find all kinds of precious possessions, We shall fill our houses with spoil;

14 Cast in your lot among us, Let us all have one purse”—

Sinners want us to be one with them. They want us to be in agreement with their ways and plans. The do not realize the emptiness that will come from their plans (see below). It seems as if Solomon is writing with both obvious instruction and hyperbole here. While some sinners may ask you to plot to murder and thieve, swallowing others alive like the place of the dead, in reality, lesser invites are just as deadly. The invitation to stay angry at someone  is equal to murder of that person in God’s eyes (see Matthew 5:21-22).

15 My son, do not walk in the way with them, Keep your foot from their path;

16 For their feet run to evil, And they make haste to shed blood.

We are not to walk with the sinners. We are to keep our foot from their path. There are many ways we can not walk with a sinner but still keep our feet on their path. We can stand idly by watching their sin but not standing up against it. We watch entertaining stories of sin (tv/movies), but say it’s only a story and we are not sinning. Could that not be standing on the sinner’s path?

Psalm 1:1 says “Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;” I like the three verbs. We would easily think of walking in ungodly counsel as an action of sinning, but the verse continues with standing (still) in the path of sinners… hanging out with others who are sinning but claiming we are not sinning ourselves. Finally, even sitting is used. We may mock others and offer taunts, if only in private (judgement), but this is joined with going out and throwing stones in God’s eyes.

We have told ourselves we can sit and watch the sinner’s path and be fine… but it’s too easy to stand, and then walk on the path.

17 Surely, in vain the net is spread In the sight of any bird;

18 But they lie in wait for their own blood, They lurk secretly for their own lives.

This is the ultimate end of our sin against others. Our sin can have a boomerang effect on our own lives.

19 So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; It takes away the life of its owners.

Note that all of this is rooted in greed for gain. Greed for gain takes away life. Also notice that “so are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain;” We may tell ourselves that greed won’t lead to a murderous plot, but even if by hyperbole, that’s exactly what greed leads to per these verses.

The word here for gain, Strong’s H1215 – betsa`,  refers to profit, unjust gain, gain (profit) acquired by violence (though violence is not required).

The Call of Wisdom

20 Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares.

“Raises her voice” is uttereth in the KJV. It is from Strong’s H5414 – nathan. It is most often translated as “give,” as in bestow. In the open squares refers to publically. While many men may not accept it, God does put his wisdom out there for us to know – it is His wisdom that calls us. Fools reject it. Those who wish to be wise, those who fear God, accept it. For both, though, it is there. We have to make a choice. We can not claim ignorance to what is publically calling us. See the warning in Romans 1:19-22.

This is also a statement of Christ – a prophecy. See John 18:20. Wisdom should also be us – See Matthew 10:27.

21 She cries out in the chief concourses,[b] At the openings of the gates in the city She speaks her words:

The wisdom of God is not a private knowledge only available to a special few. It is for all who will receive it.

22 “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, And fools hate knowledge.

23 Turn at my rebuke; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.

Even for the simple and the fool, those who delight(ed) in scorning God, he will pour out his spirit on them when they turn to him. He will reveal himself and make his words known to them.

24 Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,

25 Because you disdained all my counsel, And would have none of my rebuke,

26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes,

Kidner states “I… will laugh is not an expression of personal heartlessness, but of the absurdity of choosing folly, the complete vindication of wisdom, and the incontestable fitness of the disaster. Also see Psalm 2 for a comparison.

27 When your terror comes like a storm, And your destruction comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you.

But to those who don’t turn…

28 “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.

There will be a time when it will be too late to seek God. While Rob Bell (Love Wins) may believe that all will ultimately be turned by God’s love, even if they never do in this life, the Bible makes it clear that this is not so. This is why we must always be ready to answer for the hope we have and this is why our only mission on earth after becoming a Christian is to preach the Gospel of the offer of forgiveness for our sins against an awesome God.

Diligently can also be translated as “early.”

29 Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the Lord,

30 They would have none of my counsel And despised my every rebuke.

31 Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, And be filled to the full with their own fancies.

See again Romans 1. God says in verse 28 that God will turn them (who reject God’s wisdom) over to a reprobate mind.  But as noted in verse 23 above, if we turn, he will receive us (while we’re still alive on this earth).

32 For the turning away of the simple will slay them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them;

Complacency implies that inaction towards God’s calling is the same as rejection of his wisdom.

33 But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, And will be secure, without fear of evil.”

The KJV translates this verse “But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” And will be secure/and shall be quiet from is Strong’s H7599 – sha’an. This word refers to being at ease, at peace, rest, to rest securely, be quiet. Jesus was sha’an in the boat while the storm was raging around him. This verse doesn’t say that evil won’t be all around us in this world; it says we will be live in tranquility in the midst of it because our ears are tuned to God and we listen to him. He is the one who keeps us safe.


[a] Proverbs 1:12 Or the grave

[b] Proverbs 1:21 Septuagint, Syriac, and Targum read top of the walls; Vulgate reads the head of multitudes.

Proverbs 2 (KJV):

The Value of Wisdom

1 My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;

2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;

3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;

Our prayer should be for wisdom. There is a seriousness here. This is not an order at the drive through. Our cry for wisdom should be as that of a hungry man begging for food.

4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;

People mine silver and extract silver from the ore. It is a laborious process. The treasure hunter seeks diligently without giving up. This should be our attitude and the effort we put into discovering and learning the wisdom of God.

5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.

Whereas Wisdom was calling out in the streets in the previous chapter (see Proverbs 1:20-), here, we are the ones doing the searching. Note the verbs: We are to receive, hide Wisdom’s commands, incline to hear, apply our heart, cry after knowledge, lift our voices for understanding, seek (as we would silver) and search (as for hidden treasures) and then we shall understand and find. Our labor of searching shall not be in vain.

6 For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.

But the results of our searching are still God provided. Wisdom calls out and we seek. I picture two lost friends/family members looking for each other. God assures us that the seeking is occuring on his end. If it also occurs on ours, the reuniting will take place (or the initial meeting, as well).

It is worth noting that all wisdom is in Christ, as well (Colossians 2:3 – In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge). To discover the true wisdom of God will be to discover Christ. Christ became for us wisdom from God (see 1 Corinthians 1:30).

7 He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler (shield) to them that walk uprightly.

Wisdom is set aside for us, waiting for us to find it.

8 He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.

9 Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.

Note the moral nouns that are to define us: righteous, upright (in integrity – ESV), judgment, saints, equity

Note the protection of God: buckler (shield), keeper, preserver.

10 When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul;

Might knowledge be an acquired taste? When… it is pleasant to thy soul… then…

11 Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:

It is by allowing wisdom to enter into our heart that God is our shield, keeper and preserver. His wisdom is not just knowledge to us – it is protection and preservation to us. Wisdom keeps us, and as noted in verse 12 below, it delivers us from the evil man. This is why the Bible says God’s people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (see Hosea 4:6).

12 To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward (perverted/perverse) things;

If we have let Wisdom into our heart (not just “head knowledge” but “heart knowledge”) then we will better resist the temptations of evil.

13 Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness;

14 Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked;

15 Whose ways are crooked, and they froward (go crooked) in their paths:

Allowing sin to rule will change your very path and ways. You will become resolute to walk in the crooked way. It will strangle you in this, trapping you (see vs. 19, below)

16 To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words;

Lust and sin will attempt to flatter you to get you to take her path.

17 Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God.

18 For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead.

or, “she sinks down to death which is her home”

19 None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life.

Sin hardens the heart and mind; it becomes difficult to return thus “none that go unto her return again…”

20 That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.

Proverbs 12:28 – “In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.” (ESV)

21 For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it.

22 But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.

(See Malachi 4:1; Proverbs 5:22; Psalms 37:20, 37-38, 104:35; Isaiah 3:10-11)

How to Misrepresent Scripture and Tickle Mens’ Ears.

I have been studying some of the popular scriptures and commentary regularly given by some preachers often associated with the prosperity gospel. I often think of these preachers as the dessert of Christianity. They may offer a smidgen of tasty truth, but if they are our entire Christian diet, then we’ll grow fat and unhealthy. They usually don’t offer the fullness of the truth of God or the fullness of what it means to be a Christian. There is often no milk or meat. The more I age, the more I see the damage some popular preachers have caused within the Church. There is a watering down of the faith; concepts meant for one aspect of the Christian life are applied to unrelated aspects of our earthly lives in an effort to make people believe that with God, all our desires will be met and met with abundance if we’ll only think and speak the right faith-filled words. The true meat of the gospel ends up missing – our sin and guilt redeemed by Jesus’ blood and sacrifice – and the slavery He requires while we’re still on this earth. It’s fine to believe that God wants us to be blessed as the Bible describes blessing, but it’s getting to the point where salvation isn’t a lifestyle of repentance and serving God, but it is instead a promised relationship with an almighty provider who wants nothing more than for us to name and claim the things we desire.

I will offer some scriptures and related teachings from popular pastors/preachers. These are passages I’ve heard first-hand or have found in ministry publications. I’ll then discuss the Biblical truth of the scriptures used and the actual context as seen in the Bible. If the preachers are preaching truth, then their use of scripture should line up with the Biblical context from which the quotes are taken. How well do modern preachers do in adhering to the Biblical context of the scriptures they quote so often? Four examples are below.

“With God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). This phrase is used by many to exclaim that anything can happen with God. And while this is true, the context of the verse in Matthew is not applicable to the many uses it is given today. For example, consider the following quotes:

“You know God can do what men can’t do. It may look impossible to you, but it’s not impossible with God. Jesus put it so simple, ‘If you believe, all things are possible.’ I believe I’m looking at believers and not doubters today. You know God can do supernatural things.”

And in another lesson from the same paster, using the same scripture, we find:

Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ (Matthew 19:26, NIV)

Too many times we limit God with our thinking. God puts big dreams in our hearts, but in our eyes they look impossible and too big to accomplish. Although we want to see our dreams come to pass, we end up focusing on the mountain of obstacles before us. Maybe you dream of starting a business but you don’t know where to begin. Perhaps years of physical challenges have left you feeling like you’ll never be healthy. You look at your situation and begin to wonder how, and if, God will ever bring your dreams to pass.

Be encouraged today that God can do the impossible. He can supernaturally make all of the dreams He’s planted inside of you come to pass. What are you focusing on today? Your situation may seem impossible, but God sees it differently. See your dreams through eyes of faith the way God sees them fulfilled.

Make room in your thinking today for the dreams God has for you. If things look hopeless in the natural, put your confidence in the promises God gave you. Trust in Him to make all things possible for you. As you do, you’ll begin to see your dreams come to pass in ways you never imagined.

What does Matthew 19:26 really say and what is the situation Jesus is describing? Matthew 19:23-30 (NKJV):

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”

So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

So here Jesus is talking to his disciples describing how difficult it is for those with wealth to be saved. He gives a description of either a camel trying to fit through a tiny door or a large rope going through a sewing needle (there seems to be debate on the exact reference intended at the original time of writing). Whatever the analogy, it astonished the disciples enough that they feared no one could be saved. It was to this fear – the fear that no man could be saved – that Jesus said with God all things are possible. The quote is about God’s ability to find a way of salvation for man when it was impossible for man to secure his own salvation. What’s extremely interesting is what comes next. Peter comments that they’ve left all to follow Jesus and asks what the disciples will have. Jesus says that they will be rewarded – even receive a hundredfold – and inherit eternal life – in the regeneration. The reward comes after this life. Yet so many teachers use this verse to teach us to believe for things now that simply aren’t promised in the context of the passage. It is a misapplication of scripture that completely misses the true point of this scripture – God can make a way of salvation even for those who we would think can’t be saved. This scripture should be applied to our praying for the salvation of others; instead, it is often used to encourage us that if we think and believe right, we can get what we want.

Another common verse used to describe the character of God and His desire that we prosper by our earthly definition is Psalm 35:27 “Let the LORD be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.” As an example, consider this quote from a popular minister:

I love the scripture that says “God takes pleasure when his people prosper.” Today, God is pleased when you are doing well. He’s pleased when you are succeeding. He’s pleased when you are whole and healthy and happy in Him. So know this, if you’ve got some things going wrong, that’s not God. God wants to do good things for you. He wants to turn the tide of the battle in your life. He wants to put you on the road to success. God is for you, and if he be for you, who dare be against you, Amen. God is for you today.”

In a published passage regarding the same scripture from Psalm 35, we find:

Let the Lord be magnified Who takes pleasure in the prosperity of His servant (Psalm 35:27).

Our God is a running-over God! He doesn’t want you to just have barely enough to meet your own needs, God wants you to be so blessed that when other people get around you, it overflows onto them! He wants you to be so blessed in your finances that not only can you pay your bills and accomplish your own dreams, but you can be a blessing to others. In the same way that a parent loves to see their children doing well and excelling, God wants you to do well and excel in every area. He takes pleasure in prospering you. But the key is that you have to make room for it in your thinking. You have to expect that He wants to bless you. Take a step of faith today toward the dreams that are in your heart. Begin to thank Him for His abundance in every area of your life. Declare that because you walk in obedience, God’s blessings are going to chase you down and overtake you! Don’t just settle for a “good enough” mentality, develop an overflow mentality, and you’ll see God’s hand of blessing in every area of your life!

What is Psalm 35:27 really about? Psalm 35 must be considered as one. It is a singular psalm of David. In context, David’s enemies were fighting against him and David seeks for God to step in on David’s behalf. He asks that those who wish for evil and destruction to him be put to shame. He seeks vindication from the persecution he is enduring. He asks that those who rejoice over his calamity be put to shame. And finally, he asks that those who favor David’s righteous cause shout for joy and say “Let the LORD be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.” The Hebrew word for prosperity here is shalowm (H7965 Strongs), which is a word meaning peace, safety and welfare – especially in the context of this psalm. This psalm is about God having pleasure in the peace and righteous justification of David (his servent – singular) in the face of his enemies and those who wish to see him fail. It is not about his prosperity in material things, or succeeding in business, etc. as is so often taught today. It’s also not about David needing to make room for anything in his thinking or believing. It is not about David needing to have a certain confession or mentality. If applied correctly in our lives, we would use this psalm if we find ourselves in a situation where we are being persecuted for our faith, or lied about by others despite our being correct in the matter at hand. Anything more is inserting a context which is simply not found in the original text.

“If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31. This verse is often used in similar context to the ones mentioned above. It is often used to show us that with God on our side, we can do and have anything we want, because God wants us to have all good things (as we see it).

You know, there’s so many things trying to talk us into having a down year, but everytime you come out here, I want to talk you into having a great year. You gotta know that if God be for us, who dare be against us?”


“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31, NIV)

Joshua chapter six tells the story about how the odds were stacked against Joshua and the people of Israel. They were standing at the massive walls of Jericho that many thought were impenetrable.

I’m sure as he was standing before the well-fortified walls and gates of the city, many around him didn’t think his future was too bright. But you see Joshua had something others overlooked; he had the promise of Almighty God. Joshua had faith because He knew God was on His side, and God had already determined the victory. Sure enough, just as God promised, the people marched around the city for six days, and on the seventh day, they shouted the victory and the walls came tumbling down!

Today, don’t look at the walls in your life; look at the promise of God. He is for you, and if God is for you, nothing can stand against you. Get a vision of victory and don’t let it go. Keep moving forward in faith and obedience knowing that when you do, the Most High God is on your side!

While the Joshua story is good, the application to the Romans 8 verse is again, not adhering to the true context of the passage. This passage in Romans has nothing to do with being successful in any endeavor we attempt. It has nothing to do with our actions, thoughts, or desires at all. It only has to do with God being for us despite our being sinners who, even though saved, continue to mess up. In reading chapters 7 and 8, we see Paul describing that even as a saved person, he still struggles with sin and not doing what he wants and doing what he doesn’t want. It’s the struggle we all face, and despite this struggle, God is for us. In chapter 8 Paul makes it clear that our very life in these mortal bodies is because of God’s spirit giving us life. All of creation is waiting for the final redemption, and during that time of wait things are not perfect. Verse 18 makes it clear that we still suffer, but oh… how meaningless that is compared to the glory that is one day coming. Others may see our imperfections that remain and judge us, but their judgement doesn’t matter. Their being against us doesn’t matter, for if God is for us (even knowing our condition), then who can be against us. God has been for us from before creation. As verse 35 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Then in verse 36 Paul quotes from the 44th Psalm – “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” And then verse 37 says, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Nothing in this world can separate us from God’s love, because he is for us. This is a verse to pray when we find ourselves in the midst of persecution and slaughter, famine and distress, peril and sword. And it is clear from the context that if we find ourselves facing these things it won’t matter, because if God be for us, who can be against us. It doesn’t say that if God be for us all these sufferings will be taken away from us. It doesn’t say that if God be for us we will have nice things. It doesn’t say that if God be for us we’ll never have famine or distress, persecution and slaughter. What is says is that these things won’t matter, because we are of a future world and these sufferings are a part of this current world, and no matter how bad this current world treats us, nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ.

The next example is fairly significant. Here, the preacher starts with 2 Corinthians 4:18: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”

Every obstacle in your life is subject to change. It doesn’t matter what you may be facing, there is an answer in the unseen. The unseen is the spiritual realm where the promises of God exist. Your faith brings those unseen things into this natural realm. When you are fixed on something, you can’t be moved. There’s a determination that fuels your focus. When you fix your eyes on the unseen—the promises of God—your faith will not be moved by your circumstances and you’ll eventually see those promises come to pass.Make the decision today to fix your eyes and mind on the promises of God. Meditate on His promises until they become more real to you than the air you breath. Declare that His promises will come to pass in your life. Declare that you have His favor. Declare that you are more than a conqueror. Don’t allow fear and doubt to change what you are speaking over your life. As you continue to fix your spiritual eyes on the unseen promises of God, you will see those things come to pass in the natural and you will move forward into the abundant life the Lord has for you!

Before moving onto the actual context of 2 Corinthians 4:18, I have to say that the message attached to it via the paragraph above sounds almost like something spoken by a New Age teacher regarding using thought power and confession to make what we desire manifest in our lives. The verse in question has nothing to do with God’s promises regarding our lives here on earth. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Reading at a minimum vs. 16-18, it is abundantly clear that this verse reminds us to keep our eyes on what is to come after this life. Here, our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. Here, even if it seems severe, compared to what is coming we have light affliction, which is but for a moment, and that affliction is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory! In our Christian walk, we are not to look at what’s going on here; we are to pay no mind to the suffering we endure (many preachers claim we don’t have to endure suffering if our faith, confession and beliefs are right); we are to keep our eyes focused on the unseen – what is coming, the very reward our current suffering is building up for us in Heaven. The glorious truth is that our affliction now is actually producing eternal glory beyond anything we can compare it to in this life. To try to use this verse to bring glory now actually negates the true and glorious meaning of the verse as written.

While the messages referenced above are all positive sounding and purport to speak to how much God loves us, they also speak to how God wants to provide a seemingly perfect earthly life for us if we believe, confess and think correctly. This way of thinking is not found in the Bible as it is described by so many preachers today. As noted in the four examples above, pastors commonly use great sounding verses from the Bible to support a great sounding “truth” that is not really related to the foundational scripture used to support the point. Sadly, most listen to the sound bite and never consider the context from which it came. I sometimes fear we are being destroyed for our lack of knowledge regarding what the Bible really says and that we are being lead away by the enticing “too good to be true” promises of so many preachers today. This leaves many to think they have accepted Christ only to turn away disappointed when their personal dreams aren’t met. Christianity is about our sinfulness and God’s deliverance when we could not find our own way out of our mire. Once saved, Christianity is about our sacrificing our remaining time here in service to him.  Just as Jesus said “not my will, but yours,” we are to do the same, and take up our cross and follow him, leading others to him. This only requires our obedience, and despite what many say today, it can actually be done in the midst of suffering, persecution, and at times lack, just as demonstrated by the first century Christians in the Bible. This does not mean that God will not provide for us – He will, but our definition of provision and the Biblical definition of provision are often quite diverse, one from the other.

A Letter Regarding Some Cessationist Ideologies.

This is a letter to my friend referenced in the previous post. The previous post was a letter written about healing, to which my friend responded and referenced a few things I discuss below. We discuss charlatans, laying on of hands, speaking in tongues and cessationist concepts as a whole. I start by discussing the apparent charlatans:

You hit on a point that saddens me greatly. There are indeed those who appear to be charlatans presumably acting in the name of God. I imagine these types have always been with us. I dislike that, to me at least, they take truths of God as found in the scriptures and then purport them in such a way that they do attempt to bring glory to themselves or claim that they are special to have God move through them or whatever else. It hurts the true message of the gospel and it causes people to simply dismiss God’s word because of how they see it being leveraged by those who are not true to the faith (or who have erred in some way along the line).

I’ve often wondered through the years and about various people and what may have happened. Were they always in it for the money and glory? Did they start out as sincere people who wanted to see the power of God touch others and got caught up in the fame and fortune? Have they never been christians and like Satan on the mountain top with Jesus – are they trying to use the Words of God to test people or for their own gain? I imagine for each person the answer is complicated and different. I won’t pretend to know their hearts. I would hope that some of their followers would actually hear the words of God spoken and would still believe anyway, then quickly grow up to realize that the charlton may not be true but the Words of God are. For this last thought I use a verse: Philippians 1:18

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice… (ESV)

What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. (KJV)

God is good, and even for those who aren’t preaching of a sincere heart, I do pray that the hearers would realize the truth within the mess and would be saved – and then realize that the mess doesn’t go with the gospel and move on. Paul seemed to feel this way per the verse above. I try to take the same approach. Also, God taught me a long time ago that while I can point out the incongruencies with his word, I had to be very careful about making judgments on the persons involved. It will always be my hope that those who may be frauds will one day wake up to the truth of the gospel they think they preach. For all we know they are very sincere in their beliefs. Paul was very sincere when he was jailing and supporting the murder of Christians before his conversion. God can change anyone’s heart…

As for laying on of hands… if, as you said, “I believe that these preachers in today’s world who claim that they as individuals can heal people by laying on the hands are charlatans, scammers”, then yes, I would likely agree. But while many may not notice the difference, if a preacher says, “I believe that God teaches us to pray for the sick, which can include the laying on of hand and anointing with oil, and I believe that praying for those who are sick should also include leading them into repentance of any sins” – then I see a difference. In the second thought, the power of healing is from God and the eternal ramification includes forgiveness of sins. James 5:14-16 says:

14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (KJV)

There is a heart difference. We can not always see it, but God knows the hearts. One may be a charlatan and the other may be a sincere man of God who takes God at his word and desires all men see the truth of God.

Sadly, though, as a society we tend to throw out the word of God because of the people who claim to be Christians. I’m sure that’s been the devil’s plan for 2000+ years.

I’m wary of saying that the Jews aren’t God’s chosen people. The prodigal son was always the father’s son and always loved by the father. While the son rejected the father and walked away, the father never ceased in his love for and longing for the son. I believe it’s the same with the Jews. I find it interesting that when gentiles become Christians the bible says “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  The gentiles who come into the fold are not a separate breed of Christian – but, spiritually speaking at least, they become Jews. Abraham was the father of the Jews, and we become his heirs, not just as adopted children, but as his actual seed. It’s a minute difference, but it’s important to me. While I in NO WAY am saying that the Jehovah’s witnesses do this, a lot of people, sadly, do use the idea of the Jews no longer being God’s chosen people to allow the spread of hatred and bigotry towards Jews. Yes, the Jews have had a hard path for rejecting Christ, but so does everyone else who rejects Christ. However, that does not mean that God does not long for and seek to save ALL who are lost, whether Jew or Greek (gentile) because in the new covenant, there is no difference between the two.

Galatians 3:26-29: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 10: 12-13: “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

So, rather than saying the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people I prefer to say that we are ALL God’s chosen people who have accepted him, whether Jew or not, and in that acceptance, we have ALL become Abraham’s seed – we have spiritually been brought into the Jewish lineage

I won’t say much on the speaking in tongues thing. I’ve actually heard of a couple of stories of those who were witnessing to people of a different language and in doing so were lead to give an example of the spiritual language – to which they were told they had just spoken of the mysteries of God in the hearer’s native tongue. These stories are rare, but I have heard a small number in my life from preachers that I know well and trust as faithful. Just because we don’t see it often doesn’t mean it’s done away with. I also believe that Paul speaks of two kinds of tongues  – the first you have mentioned and I have mentioned in the example above – and a second which is more just a personal prayer language. For examples of the second, I look at verses such as:

Romans 8: 26 – Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Ephesians 6:18 – praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Jude 20 – But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit…

These verses clearly are talking about praying – a personal praying and praying for the saints, and about praying when we are in a situation where we just don’t know what to pray in our own intelligence. These verses are not talking about spreading the gospel to those who don’t understand the language you speak.

Also, Paul said something interesting in 1 Corinthians 14: 18-19

I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.

This seems to separate his personal prayer time where Paul “speak(s) with tongues more than ye all” and his time preaching where he greatly prefers speaking with his understanding that he might by his voice teach others. It clearly implies that when he speaks in tongues more than ye all it is NOT with his understanding and that it is not for the purpose of witnessing or preaching.

But this is a whole other discussion…  :)

As I’ve thought about these past couple of letters I have thought of the sadness which which I see people throw out God’s words as “for the past” or “expired” or “no longer true” or “only for the first century Christians” or “pre-New Testament only” or whatever term is used. The Bible does not speak to the cessation of its own word or its own power – man adds the cessation, and does so without any more justification than personal experience. I think of the words of Jesus to the Jewish leaders…

John 5:39: You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me

The cessationist say that all these things (the examples of the power of God) ended because we now have the New Testament scriptures (this seems to be the most common argument without any real biblical support) and because we have these scriptures now, we don’t need the power, but this argument is not valid. Jesus said the OLD Testament bears witness about him. Scripture was already present which bore witness about Jesus. We didn’t need anything to tide us over until the writing of the New. What we needed (and what we still need today) is the exact reason for the power of God – to bear witness to the words which have already been written (see John 5:36, Mark 16:15-20, 1 Corinthians 2:4-5).

If the first century Christians weren’t expected to just point to past power that Jesus did when Jesus himself had said that scripture itself already spoke about him, then why do we think God expects us to point to past power of the first century Christians when scripture itself speaks about Jesus? There is no biblical answer for this. Sadly, the whole cessationist ideology negates most of the Bible. It makes it a history book only applicable to the people of the past. It becomes a religion that died nearly 2000 years ago. It is an instruction book for a faith that no longer exists (just think about the percentage of verses are no longer relevant to the cessationist). The power of God and the forgiveness of sins are completely intertwined in the Bible. I am often amazed at how much effort we put into disentangling the two so we can say the power is no more yet the truth of the gospel still stands.

It makes me laugh at the ridiculousness of it and it makes me cry at the lie of it, but so many have re-written scripture to say things like “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes only us first century Christians were healed.” (adapted from I Peter 2:24). I’m sure this has been the enemy’s plan for millennia. He saw the first century Christians “turn the world upside down” with the gospel supported by power. Satan knew Jesus was fully correct when he said that the scriptures, even before the new testament had been written, already spoke about him – but geesh- this confirming the Word with power stuff was causing all sorts of problems to Satan’s plans. He’s been working ever since to get rid of that power. Satan much prefers a powerless gospel. Whether it be by outright attack against Christians or by the subtle lie that it’s passed away – if he gets rid of the power, even though the scriptures have always spoken about Christ, he knows he will reduce the numbers of converts and reduce the casualties to his own evil domain. But let’s not allow that to happen. God’s word is eternal and always present. Let’s be careful about negating parts of it to the past.

(personal closings followed)