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Bible Studies Online International

www.biblestudiesonline.org.uk JESUS SAW MANY PEOPLE AND WAS MOVED WITH COMPASSION TOWARD THEM MARK 6:34 ©Photos above Marafilm CoverDanilo Ascione photo Back cover Peter Saharov

In this month’s issue: 2.

Grace the Power to Reign

3.

Humility by Aspiration

4.

Does God Have a Plan for My Life (6)?

5.

The Victory

6.

Prophet of the Broken Heart (7)

9.

Faith-builders: Matthew Bible study

11.

Truth for Today – Sardis

16.

Bible Teachings: God’s Authority

William F. P. Burton (Congo)

17.

In Depth Study – 1 Corinthians 5

Mathew Bartlett (UK)

21.

New Gospel Tracts!

Ken Legg (Australia) Edwin & Lillian Harvey (USA) Daniel Kolenda (CfaN) Isaac Mwagi (Kenya) Mathew Bartlett (UK) Derek Williams (UK) Mathew Bartlett (UK)

Peter Scothern & Mathew Bartlett (UK)

©Photos above © Photoquest. Cover: © Redbaron Left © from top: Blaze 86, Pidiyath100,Godfer, Sebastian Grecu, and Littlemacproductions. Back Cover: Rorem

Living Word Magazine is published in the United Kingdom by Sharon Full Gospel Church, 7 Park View, Freeholdland Road, Pontnewynydd, Pontypool, NP4 8LP Editor: Mathew Bartlett 1

IN THIS ISSUE


Grace, the Power to Reign by Ken Legg The main enemy of the gospel is not atheism, but religion. If you need to be convinced of this, just read the gospels and the book of Acts. The people who opposed Jesus and Paul the most were those who knew their Bibles better than anyone else. Yet, they failed to understand the truth about God, and substituted a life of faith and love with the tyranny of religion. This resulted in placing heavy burdens upon themselves and others. It is no wonder, then, that the purpose of the first church council meeting was to deal with the threat of religion. At the Jerusalem Council it was unanimously resolved that our salvation is by faith in Christ alone. Yet, the questions dealt with then are still being raised today. “Is salvation a gift given to us, or a burden placed upon us?” “Do we need Moses to complete what Jesus began?” “Are we saved by a mixture of faith and works?” God’s answer to these questions is just one beautiful word – grace! Grace me ans the focus is no longer on us, but on Jesus. Through faith in Christ we have been baptized into Him and are now one with Him. We are complete in Him. There are no more tests to pass and no more conditions to fulfil. God has perfected us forever in His dear Son. As He is, so are we. Grace Is God's Answer To Sin It is through grace that God triumphed over sin. “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Rom.5:20).

Grace not only deals with the penalty of sin, but also its power. It is crazy to think that God would forgive us our sins, but still leave us under sin’s control. Amazingly, the most common misconception about grace is that it is a license to sin. It is argued that only those who want to indulge in a life of sin talk about grace. Paul taught the opposite. “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom.6:14). Grace is God’s empowerment ag ainst sin. “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom.5:20-21).

Christians reign over sin and their circumstances, while others seem to be constantly overcome by them. But let’s be clear about this; if a believer is living in defeat, grace is not the culprit. Either this person is trying to live the Christian life by religious methods instead of by faith in Jesus Christ, or they are simply choosing death over life. Maybe you are struggling right now. Don’t make the mistake of trying to ‘get the victory’. Christ has already won the victory. It is finished! Now God offers to you abundance of grace and says: “Choose life!” Grace is your power to reign!

Grace, The Power To Reign God’s grace goes even further than enabling us to reign over sin. We are also equipped to reign in life. In the very first sentence God spoke to man, He included these words: “Have dominion!” (Gen.1:28). Mankind was handed a birth right to reign on planet Earth. At the Fall that privilege was stolen from us. But grace restores our inheritance to us! “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom.5:17). Reigning is a choice. It is a moment by moment decision. There are only two options. We will either reign, or be reigned over. Some 2

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Humility by Aspiration An extract from “Royal Insignia” by Edwin & Lillian Harvey

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Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him! (Psa. 144:3). HILLIPS Brooks was a much loved Episcopalian minis- ter in Boston. His meditations on the Scriptures make for beneficial reading: “When Christ showed us God, then man had only to stand at his highest and look up to the Infinite above him to see how small he was. And always, the true way to be humble is not to stoop till you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that shall show you what the real smallness of your greatest greatness is. . . . “Unreal humility always goes about depreciating human nature. Genuine humility always stands in love and adoration, glorifying God. “Humility comes by aspiration. If, in all Christian history, it has been the souls which most looked up that were the humblest souls; if today the rescue of a soul from foolish pride must be not by a depreciation of present attainment but by opening more and more the vastness of the future possibility; if the Christian man keeps his soul full of the sense of littleness, even in all his hardest work for Christ, not by denying his own stature, but

by standing up at his full height, and then looking up in love and awe and seeing God tower into infinitude above him—certainly all this stamps the morality which is wrought out within the idea of Jesus with this singular excellence, that it has solved the problem of faithfulness and pride, and made possible humility by aspiration.”

Not wishful for a foremost place, Authority or power, But just to gaze upon Thy face Daily and hour by hour. Marking the lowliness that led Thy footsteps to the Cross, The pain that Thou didst choose instead And utter earthly loss. Shall I be proud of gifts that make My life more full and free? Can I be vain when I but take Each benefit from Thee? Down to the dust my soul sinks low At all the thankless pride, That threatens as a deadly foe To tear me from Thy side. Raise Thou me up, but not to power Not to a foremost place, But till I learn each day, each hour, To gaze upon Thy face. —G. M. 3

There are two humilities, that which bows and that which soars, the humility of a servant who looks down, the humility of a son who gazes up. This latter makes religion not stiff and heavy with ceremonial, but simple, glad, and pleasing to God. Professor Dowden I shall find it easy to humble myself when I compare my character with that of God, and I shall find it easy to take a low seat when I know my true condition. —Anon. How lovely to think that when folk humble themselves God is not unmindful. You see, the eyes of the Lord are constantly on the humble people—He can’t resist the humble person. The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout all the earth to show himself strong on behalf of those who fear him. The person who fears the Lord is a person who is humble, for to fear the Lord is to have an acute awareness of His presence. When you are aware of the presence of God, I’ll tell you what, you’re very small. We become big in our own estimation when we lose the sense of the divine touch on our lives, when we think that He has become a God afar off, that He’s suddenly become remote. The true fear of God is recognition of the immediate presence of God. And no one can be proud when aware of the presence of God. —Robert Cox.


Does God Really Have a Plan for My Life? Part 6 A Bible Study by Daniel Kolenda (CfaN) Photo: © Sebastian Grecu

Is it Hard to Know God’s Will? Misconception #2: God Always Reveals His Will Suddenly and Dramatically Often when people say God has not revealed His will for their lives, what they really mean is that they have not heard an audible voice from heaven. Of course there are moments when God speaks in very dramatic ways, but more often than not, God reveals His will in a much less extravagant fashion, and it often unfolds slowly, layer by layer over time rather than in a single, earth-shattering epiphany. Consider Abraham, the father of the Israelite nation, whom God called to “get out of your country, from your family, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1, NKJV). God asked Abraham to leave everything familiar for something completely unknown. God’s call to Abraham did not include specific coordinates, just a call to go. As

Abraham obeyed, God revealed His plan one step at a time. If God revealed His ultimate plan for our lives from the beginning, we would often find ourselves chasing a dream rather than following Him. God didn’t want to just send Abraham to his inheritance; God wanted to lead him there. In following God, Abraham made an amazing discovery. The land and the legacy that God would give him was something wonderful indeed, but there was another reward that would make all others pale in comparison. “Abram,” the Lord says, “I am…your exceedingly great reward” (Gen. 15:1, NKJV). If you think you have it all figured out and you know exactly where God is going to take you and how He’s going to get you there, be prepared for disappointment. God’s will is never revealed in such a way that it negates our need for dependence upon Him. Ultimately 4

whether or not we fulfil God’s will for our lives depends on whether or not we follow Him. In the end we will all discover that the real prize was not the perfect career, wonderful spouse, or right education. The real reward for following God is God Himself. The full revelation of God’s will rarely come as a sudden epiphany. He calls to us to see if we will follow even without knowing all the details. When He sees that we take a step of obedience, then He gives us the next step. Recently in an interview I was asked how God had shown me that it was His will for me to be doing what I am doing in ministry. I think the interviewer was hoping to hear that I had a vision, a dream, or heard an audible voice that gave me specific instructions. But my answer was quite different. I told him that as I look back on the sequence of miraculous events that has brought me to the place


where I am now, the hand of God and His divine orchestration are quite evident. Today I preach to crowds of hundreds of thousands of people. I lead an international evangelistic ministry, and I have had the honor to lead more than ten million people to Jesus in our massive open-air evangelistic campaigns around the world. God never told me this was coming, and it never would have entered into my wildest dreams. But as I obeyed God’s call one step at a time, God’s plan and purpose unfolded, layer by layer, with many confirmations along the way. I have found that this is usually the way God reveals His plan: one step at a time. Jesus laid out a principle in Luke 16:10 that is absolutely essential in the quest to discover God’s will for our lives. Jesus said, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” God calls us to small things before He calls us to great things. Many people want God to speak audibly from Heaven and give them direction, yet they aren’t following the small directions they already have. If you aren’t doing what you already know to do, why should God give you more instructions? If you aren’t being faithful in the small things, why should God entrust you with more important things? When you think about God’s call and will for your life, don’t think so much in terms of where you will

eventually end up or what you will ultimately do. Instead think in terms of what God’s will is for you right now! What is in your hand? What does He want from you today? As you follow Him in obedience, step-bystep and day-by-day, the picture will become clearer and He will entrust you with more and more. Eventually the day will come when you will look back on the many steps you took in faith and obedience, and you will see how the Lord carefully and strategically orchestrated each one in a way you never could have engineered in your own strength or wisdom.

The Victory! By Isaac Mwagi (Kenya)

1 Corinthians 15:57 - But thanks [be] to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. I was reading this verse and it was a blessing and below is a quote from

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our Brother a Chinese power preacher in those days Watchman Nee which has inspired me and thought it could inspire you as well.

Outside of Christ, I am only a sinner, but in Christ, I am saved. Outside of Christ, I am empty; in Christ, I am

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full. Outside of Christ, I am weak; in Christ, I am strong. Outside of Christ, I cannot; in Christ, I am more than able. Outside of Christ, I have been

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defeated; in Christ, I am already victorious. How meaningful are the words, “in Christ.”


Prophet of the Broken Heart: The Cry of Hosea

repentance and obedience they continued to rebel. Indeed, such was the evil environment which they had created that burglary and highway robbery flourished in the land. 7:2 But they do not consider that I remember all their evil. Now their deeds surround them; they are before my face.

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Extract from our new book: not yet released! Chapter Healing

7

Spiritual

God’s Way for Spiritual Healing 7:1 When I would heal Israel, the iniquity of Ephraim is revealed, and the evil deeds of Samaria; for they deal falsely; the thief breaks in, and the bandits raid outside. In order to heal Israel, God first of all had to make her realise the true nature of her spiritual condition. He did this by sending the prophets who highlighted the ways in which the people were sinning against God. Unfortunately, although the people were very religious, their religion proved to be a sham – it was fake, not heart-felt. The people of Israel were religious but not righteous; pious but not truly God-honouring. Instead of responding to the word of God given by the prophets with

The reason that Israel paid no heed to the word of God and the warnings of the prophets was that they did not believe them. Either they did not accept the fact that at some future time they would give an account of themselves to God, or they simply did not care about it. Nevertheless, such would be the case (Rom. 14:11; Matt. 12:36). God saw that the people were “surrounded” by their sins - held captive in bondage and unable to free themselves from sin. Such is the situation for all those outside of Jesus Christ – they are slaves of sin (John 8:34; Rom. 6:16). Outside of Christ we are all in this bondage (Eph. 2:1-3), and only Christ can set us free (John 8:36; Rom. 6:17-18). The importance of being delivered from our sins through faith in Christ cannot be stressed to highly, for God has a record of every sin which every person has ever committed and one day he will judge all people for their sins (Rev. 20:12). How many people today, like the people of Israel in Hosea’s time, fail to heed the warnings of the God’s word concerning future 6

judgment? Why do they refuse to believe in the inescapable truth? Because to accept it would spoil their fun; it would mean that they would have to repent, change their ways and seek God for mercy – things which they are not prepared to do. So, because of their impenitent heart, they “store up wrath for themselves against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” (Rom. 2:5) Incidentally, in the great need of our world today, God’s way for spiritual healing has not changed. God must first show men and women their sinful condition before he can present to them the remedy for sin and granting of pardon through faith in his Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Rule of Anarchy 7:3 By their evil they make the king glad, and the princes by their treachery. One of the reasons why crime, especially burglary, flourished was that it was unchecked by Israel’s rulers. Since all the leaders cared about was their own pleasures, they failed to govern the country as they ought. They were glad to see the people’s wickedness since it provided a cloak for their own. When a nation has turned its back on God and has accepted lower moral standards, ungodly leaders are pleased, for they will then be allowed to indulge their own pleasures without opposition from the people.


7:4 They are all adulterers; they are like a heated oven whose baker ceases to stir the fire, from the kneading of the dough until it is leavened. Especially was the sin of sexual immorality rife in the land. Hosea describes the whole nation as being as hot as a pre heated oven, so much did they burn in lust. The same vice is common today. Not only is homosexuality among men and women on the increase in our modern age, but men and women consider faithfulness to one’s marriage partner to be unfashionable. Some say that we ought to have several partners before we decide which one to marry. In saying this they try to cast off responsibility for making the right choice in the first place. What is more they think nothing of having one or more sexual relationships with someone other than their own spouse. In the society in which we live wrong is hailed as right and right is rejected as wrong. Let the Christian heed the word of God about sexual relationships rather than the media, and they will blessed. Paul advises men and women that it is better to marry than to burn with lust (1 Cor. 7:9); for within marriage, the sexual relationship between husband and wife is pure and holy (Heb. 13:4). Woe betides the man or woman, says Jesus, who splits up a marriage by adultery (Matt. 19:6). Unfaithfulness to one’s marriage partner is a sin against God. Paul’s very candid advice (it is advice, rather than the command of God)

to Christian married couples is that they should ensure that they have sex as frequently as either partner wishes, so as to reduce the temptation placed on either partner to seek this pleasure elsewhere (1 Cor. 7:5).

which heralded the end of the nation set in prior to the invasion of Assyria. Yet despite this situation, there was not a single person in government office who called on God for mercy on behalf of the nation.

7:5 On the day of our king, the princes became sick with the heat of wine; he stretched out his hand with mockers.

Unfaithfulness to God was the Cause of Israel’s Weakness

Drink was another outstanding factor of the nation’s apostasy. Even the king and the princes, on national feast days, rather than honouring God with their sacrifices, praise and thanksgiving, got drunk like any common louts, drinking until they were sick (Prov. 23:29-30). Whilst such behaviour is common in our Western culture today, Christians are warned not to get drunk, for it leads to acts of sin (Eph. 5:18). 7:6-7 For with hearts like an oven they approach their intrigue; all night their anger smoulders; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire. All of them are hot as an oven, and they devour their rulers. All their kings have fallen, and none of them calls upon me. However, there was method behind the actions of the princes. They were not trying to get the king or his advisors drunk for fun. Evil plots burned in their hearts to kill him and seize his power. Indeed, history records that in this period, after the death of Jeroboam II, that one after another the kings of Israel were murdered through intrigue until the anarchy 7

7:8 Ephraim mixes himself with the peoples; Ephraim is a cake not turned. It was because Israel had mingled herself with the nations and adopted their sinful and idolatrous practices that she had become so unpalatable to God and useless, rather like a cake burned on one side and raw on the other. A similar illustration is used by the Lord Jesus Christ when speaking to the lukewarm, worldly church of Laodicea. They had allowed material things to take their eyes from the Lord. Rather than being on fire for God, they craved a comfortable life of comparative wealth and ease. Jesus said to them, “Because you are lukewarm I will spit you out of my mouth.” In just the same way Christians today can become unpalatable to the Lord and useless to him because of their worldliness. 7:9-10 Strangers devour his strength, and he knows it not; grey hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not. The pride of Israel testifies to his face; yet they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him, for all this.


It was Israel’s mixing with the nations that led to her weakness. Rather than rely on God in times of national trouble, they had paid tribute and sought to make peace treaties with foreign kings. All of this backfired on them, for God alone was to be their strength and their relationship with him was to be their security. Politically and morally, the signs of decay were evident in the nation - anyone could have realised that the end was near. But Israel did not realise. The grey hairs of a man’s head show him that old age and ultimately death are on the way. But because of his pride, Israel failed to recognise the warning signs which God had given them so they and did not turn to God in repentance. 7:11-12 Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense, calling to Egypt, going to Assyria. As they go, I will spread over them my net; I will bring them down like birds of the heavens; I will discipline them according to the report made to their congregation. God illustrates the folly of the nation, who will seek help from their neighbouring superpowers, but will not ask for help from almighty God. Because of this, God would make sure that the help of the nations was of no use to Israel at all, and he would punish them just as the prophets had warned. God would teach Israel that their help came only from God. 7:13 Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction unto them! because they have

transgressed against me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against me. (AV) The woe pronounced is because Israel has fled from God, abandoning him as a bird flies the nest. Their sin against God had brought about their own destruction as a nation. They had been unfaithful to the one who had redeemed them and brought them out of Egypt; who gave them the land in which they lived. Instead of worshipping him, they had attributed all these blessings to their idols, so now God would take back their land and send them once again into slavery. 7:14 And they have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds: they assemble themselves for corn and wine, and they rebel against me. (AV) In the trouble which the nation faced, they had not called upon God, although they had cried aloud and spent sleepless nights in anxiety about what was happening to them, and about where their food was going to come from. Instead, they sought the favour and blessing of their idols in order to obtain grain and oil. In doing this they wilfully rebelled against the chastening hand of God, who had brought this trouble upon them to bring them back to him. This was not ignorance but stubbornness. The scripture warns us as believers not to rebel against the chastening hand of God (Heb. 12:5-6). The history of the nation of Israel 8

illustrates that there is a difference between true repentance and sorrow for sin, and mere regret at the loss or pain which sin has caused (Rev. 16:10-11). 7:15 Although I trained and strengthened their arms, yet they devise evil against me. Grotius explains, "Whether I chastised them (Margin) or strengthened their arms, they imagined mischief against Me." Whatever God did in an effort to bring the nation back to him, nothing had worked. This is the way in which they had become useless, good for nothing, and nothing more could be done with them. The apostasy of the nation was complete. An apostate could be simply described as someone for whom nothing more can be done. 7:16 They return, but not to the most High: they are like a deceitful bow: their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue: this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt. In their distress, the people did not turn to God for help, but to their idols and their foreign allies. Yet these could not and did not help them, any more than a bow which misfires is of any help to its archer. God would ensure that the rulers of Israel would pay for their blasphemy and arrogant speeches against him and he would bring such disaster on them that would cause their neighbours the Egyptians to ridicule them as a nation.


New Bible Study Resource Out Now! The ‘Faith-builders Bible study series’ has been developed a useful resource for today’s students of God’s Word and their busy lifestyles. Pastors, home or study group leaders and indeed for anyone wishing to study the Bible for themselves will benefit from using Faith-builders studies. Each volume is the result of many years of group Bible study, and has been revised again and again to be relevant, challenging and faith building whilst remaining clear and easy to understand. Each chapter had thought provoking questions to aid study and sample answers are provided. Below is the study notes with discussion questions and sample answers for chapter 2.

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Matthew Chapter 2 By Derek Williams & Mathew Bartlett (UK) Image © Rorem The Time and Place of Jesus' Birth 2:1-2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in the time of King Herod, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem saying, "Where is the one who is born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." Matthew (as Luke in Luke 1:5) dates the time of Jesus' birth as being in the days of Herod the Great, King of Judea, which leads scholars to believe that Christ was born in approx. 4BC. Traditionally, the term “Anno Domini” was used to denote the number of years from the date of Christ's birth; but these early estimates are inaccurate to the tune of 3-4 years. It is of vital importance that Matthew records the place of Jesus' birth as Bethlehem, since this was long since prophesied and understood by the Jews to be the birth place of the coming Messiah (John 7:42; Micah 5:2). Little is told us of the scholars which came from the East to Jerusalem, except that they had seen a sign which indicated to them that the Messiah King of the Jews had been born. The words "wise men" denote scientists, or learned men. They were clearly in possession of the prophetic Scriptures, and had observed a sign in the heavens as being the omen of the fulfilment of a prophecy concerning Christ's coming. Balaam son of Beor prophesied that “a star will march forth out of Jacob, and a sceptre will rise out of Israel” (Num. 24:17). Isaiah wrote, “and the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising” (Isa. 60:3). 9


To indulge in speculation as to the nature of this star is actually pointless. It served merely as a sign to these wise men, and afterward had no purpose. It is possible that the sign was supernaturally produced, or even that it was literally a new star, showing forth the glory of a creator. Having read of his coming, these devout men travelled long distances in order to worship and pay him homage.

The Rejection of Christ 2:3 When King Herod heard this he was alarmed, and all Jerusalem with him. The word "alarmed" is too weak. We are often told in Christmas nativities that Herod did not wish to lose his throne. That is not the meaning of this verse. He was not afraid of a new king taking his place, but he was averse to God's king coming to reign in his heart and life, and would not submit to him. On hearing of the coming of Christ, Herod and all Jerusalem were stirred and agitated in opposition to the coming one, thus revealing the enmity in the heart of sinful people against God. To think that such antipathy was provoked merely by the mention of the coming king! Many today share this irrational enmity against God which is the result of sin. 2:4 After assembling all the chief priests and experts in the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. Herod himself was not entirely in the dark concerning the prophecy of a divine king who would reign over all the earth and demand perfect submission from every man. He knew enough to

know that the place of his birth was predicted in the scriptures, as the scribes reminded the king. 2:5-6 "In Bethlehem of Judea," they said, "for it is written this way by the prophet: “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are in no way least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” " All the kings from David onwards might have been said in one sense to arise out of Bethlehem, for that was their ancestor David's family home. Yet the prophecy was specific that the Christ, the greatest of all kings, would himself be born in Bethlehem to shepherd and rule over God's people Israel. Matthew concentrates here on the fulfilment of this prophecy, and so does not elaborate on the rest of Micah's message which stated that the king’s “goings forth” had been “from everlasting" (Micah 5:2). 2:7 Then Herod privately summoned the wise men and determined from them when the star had appeared. In keeping with every evil work, Herod wanted his plans for the killing of the Christ child to be as secret as possible. No one does wrong openly, but secretly, behind closed doors. Pretending to show greater interest for some other reason, Herod found out by closely examining the wise men when the star had appeared, information which would enable him to roughly age the child. 2:8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and look carefully for the child. When you find him, inform me so that I can go and worship him as well." Originally it had only been Herod's intention to eliminate the 10

Christ, so he asks the wise men to definitely locate the child and report back to him, so that he might find and destroy him.

Seeking, Finding Worshiping

and

2:9-10 After listening to the king they left, and once again the star they saw when it rose led them until it stopped above the place where the child was. When they saw the star they shouted joyfully. Since the hearts of the wise men were open to the guidance of God, they found that as they journeyed toward Bethlehem, the star "went before them" confirming that their direction of travel was correct, and they gave a shout of joy to think that they were now so near to completing their journey and finding their goal. Are we so enthusiastic about coming together to worship Jesus? 2:11 As they came into the house and saw the child with Mary his mother, they bowed down and worshiped him. They opened their treasure boxes and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The worship of the wise men consisted of faith and homage. They sought him and bowed down to him. It consisted also of devotion, for they opened their treasures - it may well have been all they had to live on, it was certainly not cheap to them, this gold, frankincense and myrrh: gold the gift for a king, frankincense for the worship of God, and myrrh for burial and the priestly office. Since by this time Matthew refers to Jesus as a "young child" (different word to "babe") we may assume that the arrival of the wise men came a while after Christ's birth and that Mary and Joseph had spent some time in Bethlehem.


From what follows in this passage we assume that time to be approximately two years, and Jesus was anything up to two years old at this point. 2:12 After being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back by another route to their own country. Whether or not the wise men had been taken in by Herod's duplicity is unclear. Yet if they did harbour any suspicions, these were to be confirmed, for an angel of the Lord appeared to them in a dream, warning them about Herod's true purpose. They went back to their own country by a different route in order to escape and frustrate him.

Herod Tries to Kill Jesus 2:13-15 After they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to look for the child to kill him." Then he got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and went to Egypt. He stayed there until Herod died. In this way what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet was fulfilled: "I called my Son out of Egypt." God sent his angel also to warn Joseph of what was about to happen. "Herod is going to look for the child to kill him". God instructs Joseph to flee Bethlehem and remain in Egypt where he would be safe, until he once more received word from God. Joseph immediately obeyed, and through all of these circumstances another prophecy was fulfilled: "out of Egypt have I called my son" (Hosea 11:1).

2:16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he became enraged. He sent men to kill all the children in Bethlehem and throughout the surrounding region from the age of two and under, according to the time he had learned from the wise men. The opponent of Christ was angered when his plans were frustrated by the wise men, and so he sought to accomplish his evil plan in another way. This delay may be seen as God giving Herod an opportunity to turn from his evil purpose, but he did not do so. Instead, he ordered his soldiers to slaughter all children in Bethlehem and the surrounding districts who were aged two and under. It is worth remembering that the soldiers would not have asked to see evidence of age. They would have killed every child who looked two or under, and they would not have stopped to check the child's gender either, so all the girls died too in Herod's efforts to rid the earth of the Christ child. 2:17-18 Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: "A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud wailing, Rachel weeping for her children, and she did not want to be comforted, because they were gone." This mindless slaughter, carried out in deliberate defiance of God, was predicted through the prophet Jeremiah. Barnes notes that Rama was a small town about 6 miles northwest of Jerusalem, and Rachel was buried near to Bethlehem (Gen. 35:16-19) which is about 10 miles from Rama. The prophecy clearly indicates the extent of the "surrounding region" (v16) where the children were killed. One might easily understand why the parents refused to be comforted. 11

2:19-20 After Herod had died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt saying, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child's life are dead." The one comfort we can take from this passage is that Herod died, as all tyrants will. It was time then for God to call his son back into Israel; which is what the angel instructed Joseph to do. 2:21-23 So he got up and took the child and his mother and returned to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. After being warned in a dream, he went to the regions of Galilee. He came to a town called Nazareth and lived there. Then what had been spoken by the prophets was fulfilled, that Jesus would be called a Nazarene. Joseph immediately obeyed. But as he journeyed, he learned that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod. Knowing the son to be as evil as his father, and perhaps worried that the story of the Christ child might endanger Jesus there, and with divine confirmation of this being given, Joseph decided to return to Nazareth, which was a different jurisdiction, where he and Mary had become engaged, and where no one was looking for Jesus. This once again caused the fulfilment of scripture, where the coming Messiah was foreshadowed by the oath of the Nazarite, the one from Nazareth. Thus the Messiah would be a Nazarene. Nazareth was a despised city, and so it was fitting that he who was despised and rejected by men should live there.


Discussion Questions & Answers Sample Answers for Chapter 2 1. vv. 1-12. In what ways were the actions of the wise men an example for all Christians to follow?

4. How did Herod’s rejection of

Christ

affect

others?

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2. vv. 3, 16-18. Why do you think Herod rejected Christ?

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3. What can we learn from the way that God warned the wise men and Joseph of Herod’s evil intentions? ____________________________ ____________________________ ____________________________

1. The wise men believed the message of the star and acted in faith, seeking the Lord Jesus. They are examples to us in their faith and seeking the Lord. Also, they were prepared to put themselves out to seek him – it was a long way to travel. When they came they were not empty handed, they brought gifts to the Lord. We too should bring our lives, our wealth and our talent and give it all to Jesus.

5. Try to describe the effect on the life of Jesus Christ of this early rejection. ____________________________ ____________________________ ____________________________ ____________________________ ____________________________ ____________________________ ____________________________ ____________________________ ____________________________

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2. Some suppose that Herod did not want another king to rival him in Israel, but I think it more likely that Herod rejected Christ because he was a sinner who did not want God ruling in his life; he saw Christ as a threat to his sinful way of life. 3. God is never taken by surprise about world events, for he knows the hearts of all people. He is able to keep his own safe in the midst of an evil world. 4. Not only was Herod’s rejection of Christ reflected by all the people of Judea, it resulted in the death of all the young children of Bethlehem and the surrounding region, and the grief this brought to all their families.

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5. From a human perspective, Jesus Christ was forced to become a refugee in a foreign land, fleeing the threat of death in his own country.

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Revelation 2: The Messages to the Seven Churches: Sardis

The Reality of Spiritual Deadness in the Church

Truth for Today A brief extract from another of our forthcoming books. By Mathew Bartlett

Photo: © Pidiyath100

You have a name you are alive, but you are dead. The church at Sardis, because of their work for the Lord, had a reputation for being spiritually alive. However, closer examination revealed that their works were not altogether what they appeared to be. Outwardly all seemed to be going well, but God, who looks on the heart, saw it as all show and sham, for the Christians at Sardis no longer had the spiritual reality in their lives which would make their works acceptable to God. Outwardly they appeared to be going on with God, but there was a lack of true spiritual life in them. In shocking terms, Christ describes His own church as dead, for just as a dead body is cold, a dead church is cold hearted. There is no warmth of love for Christ in service- all is done as a duty as if it were required to be done. It is tragically possible that as Christians in a Christian church, we may pray in the prayer meeting, be present in the house of God, sing songs, and read from the scriptures, and yet all the while remain cold and hardened in our hearts. When spiritual decline sets into the life of the church, things may continue to seem OK for a while - but Christ notices our backsliding from the moment it begins. By continuing to go through the motions of Christian worship while their hearts were far from God the Sardis Christians may have thought to put on a front - an appearance that they were right with God. But God is never fooled by the double faced, for he knows our hearts. Christ knew all about their backsliding; the reason for it, and the remedy for it.

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The reason for their backsliding is clear - they had one foot in the world and one foot in the church. Worldliness is the cause of spiritual death. Christ’s accuses the believers’ of defiling their garments. In the OT worshippers of God (and their clothing) were considered defiled (unclean) if they had been in contact with a dead body this is a picture of the world. The Bible says of those outside of Christ that they are dead in their trespasses and sins. If as believers we choose to live in a way that means we mix with the world, love what they love, do as they do, then we are bringing the defilement of spiritual death into our lives. We cannot hope to draw near to the sinful practices of men and women and yet remain untainted by the filth. Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM. I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE." Therefore "COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM AND BE SEPARATE, SAYS THE LORD. DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN, AND I WILL RECEIVE YOU." "I WILL BE A FATHER TO YOU, AND YOU SHALL BE MY SONS AND DAUGHTERS, SAYS THE LORD ALMIGHTY." 2Cor 6:14-18 Christ’s judgment of these believers is all embracing - nothing was right. There is not a single thing you do that I am prepared to accept from your hand. For when the life is wrong the offering cannot be accepted. Unless Christ is first in the heart and life, unless our works are done in faith, out of love for him, nothing we do can be


accepted by God - they are just “dead” works. You see, we cannot offer God a mixture. Mixtures were one thing the children of Israel were never allowed to wear. And a mixture of godliness and worldliness is not approved by God - for it is like when you mix a good apple with rottenness - the whole apple must be rejected. Still, there was some hope, for they had not yet lost it all, there were some good things that remained, but Christ warns - they are ready to die. Christian, let me warn you - you cannot backslide so far, and no further - it’s not possible. You may think you can go a little way back - the Lord won’t mind - you have no intention of completely going away from him. “Just a little way Lord, just so I can do what I like, but then I’ll come back” you say. “Just let me have God but also the pleasures the world can offer me”; but this is impossible. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4 There is no such thing as backsliding a little bit and then staying there. Either you will repent and return to the Lord fully or you will continue going back until your backsliding is out of control. Backsliding is like a slippery slope, dragging you down into darkness. So, before you go any further back, says Christ, strengthen the things which remain. How can spiritual life be restored to the church?

The Restoration of Spiritual Life in the Church The Receiving of the Holy Spirit v1

Christ reminds the church in his introduction that he has the Seven Spirits of God. This is a reference to the Holy Spirit - the words seven Spirits or more correctly, sevenfold Spirit, is a reference to his complete perfection. Christ is the baptiser in the Holy Spirit and if we would enjoy the fullness of spiritual life then we must receive the Holy Spirit. That receiving is initially through the baptism of the Holy Spirit which is available to every believer in every generation. Once we have received the Holy Spirit by receiving this Baptism we must continue be filled with the Holy Spirit again and again (Eph. 5) Do we wait on God, and ask him each day, to fill us afresh with his Holy Spirit? There are always signs of life where the life giving Spirit flows.

The Resolution of Prayer Jesus says be watchful and strengthen... When the Lord Jesus uses the verb “to watch” he always does so in connection with prayer. Spiritual watchfulness involves keeping our eyes on Jesus, seeking to find his will and looking for his coming. The prayerless church is a dead church. Never mind how many members a church has, or what its budget is, if you really want to know how well it’s doing in God’s eyes, count the number in the prayer meeting. Personal private prayer is the key to all spirituality, for unless we are first prepared to spend time seeking God in prayer, what else do we hope to receive from him. The children had a verse to learn last week, which was James 4v2 “You do not have because you do not ask” Without prayer, everything else falls apart. Public prayer is important in the life of the church- but private prayer is essential. We may pray in public twice a week, 14

but are we as diligent to pray in private twice a day? For it is there that the real work is done. Praying in the spirit is the equivalent of our and others receiving the spirit. When we pray for the fullness and power of the spirit, we will receive. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" Luke 11:11-13 It is through the Holy Spirit that we receive our spiritual life and only as we keep in touch with God through prayer can we maintain that life. When there is a dearth in the church, only the Holy Spirit can bring revival to our souls. Since Christ is the source of the Holy Spirit, it is only from him we receive, and we must do so by diligently waiting on him in prayer. Receiving a fresh fullness of the Spirit will bring to us the gifts of the spirit, the love of God shed abroad in our hearts and a fresh desire to serve Christ with our lives. There will be a new joy in serving Jesus - we will not think of serving him as what we “have to” do, but what we delight to do.

The Remembrance of the Word Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Rev 3:3 Christ tells them to remember the word they had heard. Notice the Lord Jesus Christ does not tell them again what they have heard. They heard it full well. They were not deaf. But they were ignoring the word. This is where


the rot began. Ignore it no more, says Christ, stop putting off obedience to the word of God. Remember the word you have heard, act upon it in faith and obey it. I say “In faith” for they were to Remember how you have received. When we first heard the gospel we heard it in faith. We believed and acted upon it. We must start again to mix our hearing with faith. Unbelief is always the beginning of backsliding. “Hold fast” means take to heart. When Christ challenges us we must take his word to heart. But if we will not there are serious consequences for the backslidden. Christ warns that a failure to repent would leave the Christians unready and unprepared for his coming.. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. Christ gave a similar warning to his disciples in Matthew 24. "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matt 24:45-51 I have heard Christians argue about this. Some say, well if you’ve been

saved, even though your not living right, you’ll be ready to meet the Lord. Others say you must be living right, or you will not be ready. Others say you must be watching for Christ’s coming, praying constantly, to be ready for his coming. Let me explain the truth of the matter simply. When you insure a car, you want to cover all eventualities. So you take out Fully comprehensive insurance cover. If you are unsure about what the scripture means about being ready for Christ’s coming then may I suggest that you are saved, living right with Him, and watching and praying for his coming. Then surely, you will never be left behind.

The Incentive for Spiritual Faithfulness in the Church Christ has to stress that not all had gone astray - but MOST had. Some remained faithful, if only a few. Christ’s promise of reward for the faithful is, by his grace and mercy, extended to those who, though they have strayed are prepared to repent and return. What an incentive for faithful living! They would be rewarded by Christ in a measureless way.

These clean clothes are the garments of his salvation & righteousness. For not only will we see him as he is, we shall be like him. The perfections of Christ’s own holiness shall be ours forever, imprinted on our very souls by the divine work of the Holy Spirit who works out in our lives what has already been accomplished for us on Calvary. Name written in book not blotted out To have your name written in heaven is to be counted as one of God’s children and secure forever. The Bible says that all whose names are not found written in the book shall be cast into the lake of fire. How pleased we are that Jesus has saved us from the wrath to come. The implied danger is that men’s names, by reason of their wicked backsliding can be removed from this book. Peter says For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. 2Peter 2:20-21

They will Walk with me Confessed before the Father The companionship of Jesus is worth any amount of hard living. No one compares with him, and to be with him forever will be the highest delight of all his children. Just to see the face of him we love, the altogether lovely, and to know uninterrupted communion with him is a joy to wonderful for words. Not only that , but Jesus’ own joy will be full too, since his delight is to be with his people. Clothed in White

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In the day when God shall sit on his throne of judgment, where would we be if we did not have someone ready to speak on our behalf. Of his own, Christ can honestly say “I have purchased them with my own precious blood shed on Calvary. They have been washed from their sin and will not come under judgment, for they have passed from death to life.” Christ will never be ashamed of those who are his own, so why should I be shamed of him? Jesus said whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But


whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. Matt 10:32-33 Let us be careful to confess the Lord before men, lest we deny him by our silence. Would you be ashamed of Jesus? When there is an opportunity to speak for him, do you hold your mouth shut? Do you tell them, I am a Christian, I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ - I am going to heaven and you need him as your Saviour too? With such a reward set before us, let us not be ashamed to confess the Lord before men.

Jesus, and shall it ever mortal man ashamed of Ashamed of Thee, whom praise, Whose glories through endless days!

be, A Thee? angels shine

Ashamed of Jesus! Sooner far Let evening blush to own a star; He shed the beams of light divine O’er this benighted soul of mine. Ashamed of Jesus! Just as soon Let midnight be ashamed of noon: ‘Twas midnight in my soul till He, Bright morning star, bade darkness flee. Ashamed of Jesus! That dear Friend On whom my hopes of heaven depend! No! When I blush be this my shame That I no more revere His Name. Ashamed of Jesus, yes, I may When I’ve no guilt to wash away; No tear to wipe, no good to crave, No fears to quell, no soul to save. Till then - nor is my boasting vainTill then I boast a Saviour slain; And oh! May this my glory be, That Christ is not ashamed of me.

GOD’S AUTHORITY by William F.P. Burton He does all according to His own will. Eph. 1:11; Matt. 20:15; Rom. 9:18. Man cannot gainsay God’s authority. Heb. 6:3; Jas. 4:15; Job 9:12; Ps. 33:11; Acts 5:39. The angels obey Him. 1 Pet. 3:22. Even those who rebel against Him, cannot refuse Him. Mark 5:12; Luke 10:17. He chooses whom He will. Rom. 9:11-18. He judges righteously. Rom. 2:6; Heb. 12:23; Rom. 3:6; 2 Tim. 4:1. He blinds those who refuse Him. Acts 28:26-27; Rom. 1:21-28. God allows those who refuse the truth to believe a lie. 2 Thess. 2:11, 12; 1 Kings 22:22. Before the world was made. He decided what was to be accomplished by His Son’s death. Acts 2:23:4:28, Rev. 13:8. He has selected the world’s foolish ones to overthrow the wise. 1 Cor. 1:18, 19 and Acts 4:13. He even uses the persecution of man to disseminate the gospel. Acts 8:1-4; Phil. 1:12-14. He has mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardens. Rom. 8:14-18; Matt. 20:15. He knows everything, even of the future. Acts 15:18; Isa. 42:9; 46:10; 1 Pet. 1:2; Dan. 2:28; Heb. 4:13. He always acts in perfect righteousness. Rom. 2:6; Heb. 2:2; Rom. 3:6; 2 Tim 4:8. Christ has all authority. Matt. 28:18; 1 Cor. 15:24; Phil. 2:10. We are to obey Him. 1 Pet. 5:6; Heb. 12:9; Jas. 4:7-10. He wishes all men everywhere to repent. Acts 17:30; 1 Tim. 2:4, 6; John 12:32. All things are right for those who love Him. Rom. 8:27, 28. William F. P. Burton founded the mission that is today Central African Mission. They still stock several of Mr. Burton’s PRICELESS books. We commend them as worthy of your prayers and financial support. Visit www.camafrica.org 16


Our In Depth Study. 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 By Mathew Bartlett Photo Š Godfer Scripture taken from the NET BibleŽ.

Chapter 5 Sexual Sin in the Church 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles-that a man has his father's wife! TM (NKJV )

pagans, although this sin was not entirely unknown, it was condemned as outrageous; yet the Corinthian Christians had condoned the sin by failing to deal with it in the appropriate way.

that the offender be removed from church fellowship. Only by imposing strict discipline could the church demonstrate to the outside world that whereas Christ forgives sin, He does not condone it.

The messengers who came to Paul from Corinth told him of a situation which compromised the moral reputation of the church. It was common knowledge in Corinth that one of the church members was having a sexual relationship with his father's second wife (she was not his mother). From 2 Corinthians 7:12 we may assume that the father himself was still alive.

5:2 And you are proud! Shouldn't you have been deeply sorrowful instead and removed the one who did this from among you?

5:3 For even though I am absent physically, I am present in spirit. And I have already judged the one who did this, just as though I were present.

The specific circumstances of this relationship are not definitely stated. We are not told whether the couple were living together, or having intercourse without living together; furthermore we not told whether the intercourse was regular or had happened only once. The Corinthians already knew the details and so Paul had no need to be specific, indeed any of the above situations would constitute a very serious matter. Not only had the man involved not repented of his immorality, the church as a whole had failed to uphold a scriptural attitude towards the situation. Even among the

The moral standards of the church in Corinth had sunk beneath those of its heathen neighbours, yet still they were not ashamed. Morris accurately identifies the general Christian attitude to sexual sin from the very commencement of the church as being one of uncompromising opposition. Paul alleges that the Corinthians’ supposed superiority to the other churches had deluded them into thinking that they might take an entirely different attitude in dealing with immorality. As a result they had failed to apply appropriate Christian ethics to the situation. The Corinthians new-found liberty in Christ should not be allowed to deteriorate into an excuse for depravity. A truly Christ-like spirit would have displayed itself by a deep mourning and sorrow over the sin that had been committed. As a result, they would have insisted 17

Since the church had failed to deal with the matter, the responsibility now fell to Paul; he would not recoil from it. Realising the gravity of this situation for the young church, Paul had taken great care in writing this letter; it was not written on the spur on the moment (2 Cor. 2:4). He knew that something had to be done and by the time of writing had decided the appropriate course of action.

The Offender Disciplined 5:4 When you gather together in the name of our Lord Jesus, and I am with you in spirit, along with the power of our Lord Jesus. Paul visualizes the kind of disciplinary hearing which was to be held in Corinth. It was to take place when the whole church was


gathered together. Paul would be present in spirit at this meeting as his instructions, given in the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, were carried out exactly. Christ Himself was certain to be powerfully present in His capacity as head of the church. So while it was the church which imposed discipline in the name of Christ, it was in reality Christ acting through His body who punished the wrongdoer. It was His authority alone which sanctioned the punishment. 5:5 Turn this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. When the church was assembled to meet with the offending party, they were to hand him over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. We must be clear about what is meant here. The church of Jesus Christ is not called to involve itself with satanic power; we are not on speaking terms with the devil. The phrase is a reference to excommunication, being put out of church fellowship. The offender would be asked not to attend church meetings and he would definitely not be permitted to take part in communion. Neither would he be prayed for – for such prayer might interfere with his discipline. While the man remained in church fellowship, he came under the shelter of the Lord's protection; it may even have been the case that whilst the church tolerated the man's actions, the Lord would be unable to deal with the individual without dealing with the whole church. The region outside the church was considered to be Satan's dominion. Once outside church fellowship

there would be no defence from the ravages of the devil. Yet, as in Job's case, God would permit the devil go only so far as discipline required. The Lord would not permit the devil to destroy this man's soul (Job 1:12; 2:6). The devil would be allowed to afflict his body; to the point of death if necessary, in order to bring him to repentance; but Christ's salvation remained a fully adequate and gracious security for his soul. Such severe discipline was given in the hope that the sinner would seek repentance as a consequence of their terrible experiences at the hands of the devil. When the man realized just what it cost him to be far from God, he would quickly to return to the Lord. As always in Paul’s writings, he saw the punishment inflicted on the man as being corrective rather than punitive (C/F 1 Tim. 1:20; Gal. 6:1). Paul was confident that the discipline would result in the offender’s returning to Christ for mercy, thus making sure his eternal salvation. It is the day of the Lord Paul has in mind. A repentant backslider would be as secure as any other among God’s people when Christ comes again.

Time to Clean Out the Old Yeast of Sin 5:6 Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast affects the whole batch of dough? In their vanity, the Corinthians believed themselves beyond the contamination of sin, even when sin was wrecking the witness of the local church! A large portion of Paul's epistle to the Romans is taken up with the teaching that 18

being saved from sin signifies being saved from its power, not merely its penalty. Living for Christ requires dying to sin. Men suffering from the dreadful disease of cancer do not often say ‘I only have a little cancer’ but rather ‘I have cancer’, for they know how quickly that disease can spread to affect the whole body. Unrestrained sin will spread like cancer, whether through the life of an individual or the life of a whole church. That is why Jesus recommended drastic action. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off (Matt. 5:30) is a call to uncompromising opposition to the cancer of sin. If the Corinthians failed to act against the immorality in their midst then it would begin to increase among them, just as a small amount of yeast will leaven a large lump of dough. By consenting to sin rather than sorrowing over it, the Corinthian Christians were permitting evil into their lives. ‘One thing leads to another’ is a common saying, and when once moral standards are lowered, immorality begins to gain a lasting foothold. Today, many Christians are lulled into an indifference to sin by the newspapers, magazines and television programmes which every week are filled with fornication and all sorts of abnormal behaviour. When the church begins to accept the standard of the world, it becomes less disturbed about sin. When we fail to see sin in the way that God sees it, it becomes progressively easier to condone our own ever-lowering standard of behaviour. Restraint is cast off and sinful deeds multiply until the leaven has leavened the whole lump. If the spirit of the world is allowed to creep into any church it


will undoubtedly taint the lives of God's people. There was no doubt in Paul's mind that the decay had to be stopped. As Ellicott says, ‘the church is to be the light of the world and not the recipient of the world's darkness’; and as Thomas Thaherne observes, ‘souls are like apples, a rotten one rots another’’ The treatment of the individual at Corinth may seem rather harsh. Yet when cancer sets into part of an organ, that cancer must be removed in order to save the life. Sin in every individual life must be appropriately dealt with for the benefit of life and witness of the local church. It will not always involve excommunication, for rather than be chastened by the Lord mature Christians ought to be able to judge themselves (1 Cor. 11:31-32) by noticing their own hardness of heart and repenting of it before it gets out of control. If only we are willing, almost all spiritual maladies can be resolved through persistent prayer and the regular exposition of God’s Word. 5:7-8 Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch of dough -you are, in fact, without yeast. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. So then, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of vice and evil, but with the bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. Before Passover, the Jews would clean their houses until no yeast (leaven) was left in them prior to the lamb being sacrificed (Exod. 12:15; 13:7). Since Christ the true Passover been sacrificed to take away sins and redeem us for God, time has come to rid our lives old yeast - the sinful habits we

has our the the

5:7-8 Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch of dough -- you are, in fact, without yeast. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. So then, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of vice and evil, but with the bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.

practised before we knew Christ. Only by fully ridding ourselves of these we will be ready to celebrate the festival, rejoicing in the freedom of our new life in Christ. It was not sufficient for the Jews to have no leaven in their bread, there was to be none anywhere in the house! In the same way, the only way to deal with our sinful habits is to clean them out completely. If we once allow them back into our lives they will once more become established and take us away from the Lord. Since we are new creatures in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:7), we must show the evidence of this radical change. In practice this means putting off the old nature and its deeds, and putting on the new nature (Eph. 4:22-24). This new nature (or way of 19

life) is characterized by sincerity and truth, in contrast to the old way of life which was characterized by hatred and wickedness.

No Compromise in a Fallen World 5:9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. Paul feels the need to clarify part of his previous letter to them – a letter of which we have no record – which had been the cause of a misunderstanding. He had frankly told them not to keep company with those who were involved in sexually immoral relationships. The Corinthians may well have sought to avoid the company of the non-Christian who lived in open sin, but they had failed to shun the Christian whose behaviour was worse than that of their heathen neighbours. Evidently they had not understood Paul’s directive. 5:10 In no way did I mean the immoral people of this world, or the greedy and swindlers and idolaters, since you would then have to go out of the world. When Paul had written this earlier missive, he did not have it in mind that believers should avoid the company of immoral unbelievers entirely, but that they should frown upon such behaviour among believers and refuse to keep company with those Christians who acted in this way. Christ told His followers that they were not of the world, for He had chosen them out of it; so in 2 Corinthians 6:14 Paul urges the believers not to be unequally yoked


with unbelievers. That is, we are not to seek their close or intimate friendship, for light has no fellowship with darkness. But neither Christ nor Paul meant that we should try to avoid the company of the ungodly altogether, for without leaving the world that would be impossible; we rub shoulders with immoral people every day. Not only would it be impossible, it would be unchristian, for we must live among the lost in order to win them for Christ. 5:11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian who is sexually immoral, or greedy, or an idolater, or verbally abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. So Paul clarifies the remarks he made in his earlier letter by explaining that believers should deliberately avoid and refuse to keep company with anyone who calls himself a Christian, but who indulges in sexual sin, is greedy for financial gain, makes money out of people dishonestly, who worships other gods (this includes those who practise the occult or who read horoscopes), who is a drunkard or who uses abusive and threatening language or behaviour.

to accept invitations to eat in heathen homes (1 Cor. 10:27)’ then it is clear that professing to be a Christian without living according to Christ’s teaching must be considered by God to be a very serious matter indeed. Paul does not mean that believers should have a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude, nor does he want us to give the impression that we hate the backslider. Rather, our aim is to deliberately, but as politely as possible, withdraw ourselves from their company, to make them ashamed of their sin and bring them to repentance (2 Thess. 3:14-15). Whether in dealing with the whole church or individual Christians, we may readily observe from this chapter that Paul's motives were always restorative, seeking to bring the best out of people.

that she was not a believer. Had she been a Christian, she would also have been disciplined. But since she was an unbeliever, the church had no authority over her and was unable to reprimand her. Nothing they could have done would have helped her anyway, since she was outside of Jesus Christ. Unless she received Christ as her Saviour, God would be her judge, and in the Day of Judgment she would be lost in everlasting hell. The same is not the case for the believer, instead we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11:32).

5:12-13 For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Are you not to judge those inside? But God will judge those outside. Remove the evil person from among you.

We are not to eat with such people, enter their homes, or seek their company; we are to shun them completely. The blessing of Christian communion should be denied them, for how can we refuse to eat with such people in our homes only to gather around the Lord’s Table to take the emblems of communion together?

God makes a distinction between those who are his own people and those who are not, just as in ancient times He made a distinction between His people Israel and the Egyptians (Exod. 11:7). It is not the church’s task to discipline nonmembers, for God will be their judge. It is a different case for believers, for it is the responsibility of every local church, under the direction of its oversight, to regulate the conditions of membership according to Biblical morals and to discipline its own members if these standards are not met.

When we consider that ‘our Lord ate with publicans and sinners, and that Paul regards it as permissible

The reason why only the man was dealt with by the church at Corinth and not the woman must have been 20

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dead then you shall be saved (Romans 10:9), and ‘whoever confesses me before men, I will confess him before the angels of God’ (Luke 12:8).

Check out our new tracts for your gospel outreach! It’s a simple question – but isn’t the answer obvious? Surely all good people go to heaven - right? No. They don’t. Not according to the teachings of Jesus, the Son of God. For Jesus made clear that only God is good. As for the rest of humanity, God says ‘There is no one who does good… there is no one righteous…there is not a just man on earth who does what is right and never sins.’ In fact the Bible tells us that all people have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Clearly then, we cannot go to heaven because we are good – since we are not good enough! God’s standard is perfection and only one person who has ever lived was sinless and perfect – Jesus Christ.

Since we are all sinners, what we need in order to be able to enter heaven is forgiveness. Jesus has made it possible for every person in the world to be forgiven. He died on a cross bearing our sin and its punishment so that we might each receive God’s forgiveness. Today, God promises that all who believe in his Son Jesus Christ will be forgiven and receive a new life - eternal life. This is the life of Jesus within us, which makes it possible for us to live in heaven one day. We receive this new life when we invite the Lord Jesus to become our Saviour and to live in our hearts - Jesus called this experience being ‘born again’. Every person can be born again. It’s as easy as ABC. Here’s how:

A. Admit to God that you have sinned and need his forgiveness. You can never hope to be good enough to enter heaven by your own merit.

B.

Believe that Jesus died and rose again to give you eternal life. Realise that you can enter heaven by his merit.

C.

Confess your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. The Bible says ‘If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the 21

TRUST JESUS AS YOUR SAVIOUR TODAY AND YOU WILL BE ON YOUR WAY TO HEAVEN!

It is finished! These were his dying words. To some onlookers it sounded like this was the end of Jesus from Nazareth. As He was dying on a rugged wooden cross between two criminals, Jesus cried out “It is finished!” But a closer consideration of these words reveals their true meaning. Jesus did not cry “I am finished” but “It is finished!” This was a cry of triumph, not defeat – for Jesus had successfully completed His mission on earth. What was this mission? Jesus came to deal with the problem


caused by our sin. Sin had brought devastating consequences to humanity death and separation from God. Every person has sinned. Pride, jealousy, hatred, lust, greed, anger and despair all tell us that sin is still present in the world. The problem of sin affects all people of all ages. Eternal death is the inevitable consequence of sin – Jesus called it ‘the second death’ or separation from God in torment forever. The Bible says: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”1

Jesus said, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life, but whoever does not believe the Son shall not see life, for the wrath of God remains on him.”3 Do you believe that Jesus died and rose again for you? Have you confessed to God that you are a sinner and asked him to forgive you? If not, do so today, and trust the Lord Jesus to cleanse and forgive you.

Jesus is Coming Again

“The soul that sins shall die.”2 At the cross Jesus took our sin and its consequences in His own body. He willingly bore death and separation from God on our behalf. When he cried the words “It is finished”, Jesus meant that he had successfully provided a way for our all sins to be forgiven. Three days after his death, Jesus demonstrated his success by rising again from the dead. Sin and death continue to affect the whole human race. But the forgiveness of sin must be received individually, one person at a time. For although Jesus Christ died for everyone, the benefits of what he has done can only be experienced by those who personally trust in him.

The signs in our world today all point to the same fact - we are nearing the end of time. The things which Jesus Christ predicted would happen immediately before the end of the world (e.g. wars, famines, terrorism, earthquakes, plagues, tsunamis) are happening right now before our eyes. Everyone needs to be ready for what is about to happen – Jesus Christ is coming again. Jesus told his followers that at the end of time he would return to earth, coming on the clouds of heaven with great power and glory to judge the living and the dead. He then told this very

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simple story to illustrate that we must all be ready for his coming. Ten bridesmaids were waiting for the bridegroom to arrive for a wedding. In those days, the bridesmaids were supposed to meet the bridegroom outside the town and walk with him to the wedding. If it was dark, light was provided by oil lamps. Jesus said that five of the bridesmaids were wise and five were foolish. The wise took extra oil to top up their lamps, but the foolish only had the oil that was in their lamps. It was very late at night when the bridegroom came, and the foolish bridesmaids had run out of oil. They could not go with the bridegroom and so they missed the wedding. Only those who were ready could go. Jesus warns us to be ready for his coming at all times for we do not know when he will come again. He said, "As for that day and hour no one knows it — not even the angels in heaven — except the Father alone.” (Mat 24:36 NET) How can you be ready? Jesus said that to be ready for his coming “you must be born again” (John 3:7 NET). You must be sure that your sins are forgiven and that your heart is clean and pure before God. Turn from what you know is wrong and put your faith in Jesus Christ, asking him to forgive you. Only those people who turn from their sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will be ready to enter heaven. ARE YOU READY?


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Living word July 2013