Elders

Scriptures

Acts 6:1-6; 20:28; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 5:3-25; Titus 1:5-9; Heb. 13:7-17; James 3:13-18; 1 Pet. 5:1-4

Elder Qualifications

  • Integrity in character: above reproach, blameless; not volatile, self-controlled, sober-minded; good reputation with church and world; hospitable; not given to drunkenness; gentle, not violent or quick-tempered; not quarrelsome; not a lover of money; not headstrong, but considering of other opinions; a lover of what is good; righteous; good conduct; meek; pure; peaceable; gentle; open to reason; full of mercy and good fruit; impartial; sincere
  • Integrity in family: husband of only 1 wife; manages family well; children obey you and show you respect; children believe the gospel; children not considered wild or disobedient
  • Doctrine: able to teach, faithfully teaches the word of God to people
  • Integrity in faith: not a recent convert, has a faith/obedience that is worthy of imitation

Elder Functions

  • Elder = Overseer/Supervisor/Shepherd
  • Ensure you and the flock are walking faithfully (includes church discipline and helping resolve major conflicts)
  • Instruct in the word and pure doctrine (direct teaching as well as general doctrinal oversight over others teaching, contributing, etc)
  • Set an example in faith and faithfulness
  • Ensure physical needs of church are met (eventually, delegated to deacons – Acts 6:1-6)
  • (Pray – Acts 6:4; 1 Tim. 2)

Elders…In a Building?

In the NT, elders are appointed in cities (i.e. geographic areas):

  • “appoint elders in every town” (Titus 1:5; see also Acts 14:21-25)

As a concept, elders were overseers in communities (before this term was used as a NT office), not managers in buildings:

  • “elders of the people” (Matt. 21:23; 26:3; etc.) – not “of the building”

This makes sense, since the church is also identified as a group of people, not a building:

  • “tell it to the church” (Matt. 16:17)

If we learn, “not to go beyond what is written,” (1 Cor. 4:6; see also Deut. 29:29), and only look at the elder qualifications and functions of Scripture (see above), we can see that the focus is on finding mature believers to look after the spiritual growth of the whole community. Nothing is tethered to a building or a prescribed way of meeting.

Thus, elders are considered overseers of a group of people, geographically located. This group, like the church in Jerusalem, could meet in a large venue AND/OR a house (Acts 2:46; 5:42). The meetings themselves, is one of those things elders would help give oversight to.

Age of Elders

Good for Relatively Older Elders

  • The term, “elder,” suggests older people–at least relative to those they are shepherding (1 Pet. 5:5)
  • Likewise, the traits of elders also suggest a certain level of life experience: “keeping his children submissive,” “not be a recent convert,” “well thought of by outsiders,” “his children are believers,” “you who are younger, be subject to the elders,” (1 Tim. 3:4, 6, 7; Titus 1:6; 1 Pet. 5:5)

Not Essential (and Sometimes Harmful) for Elders to be Older Than All

  • An age qualification is not spelled out (though, again, the term implies “older”)
  • The main consideration is that elders are the most fully formed in elder qualifications. Thus, the emphasis is on spiritual life formation and experience.
    • Example: “not be a recent convert,” (1 Tim. 3:6) – this implies he has more life experience than others, but would disqualify older men who recently came to faith
  • Elders are also able to labor well: “let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” (1 Tim. 5:17). Thus, men too old to labor well, would not be good elders, even though they may be spiritually mature and well-formed.
  • Jesus began his ministry at 30 (Luke 3:23). Likely, his apostles (which seem a sort of precursor to appointed elders) were even younger.
    • 30 is considered a good starting age for some appointed leadership (Num. 4:3; 1 Sam. 13:1; Eze. 1:1)
    • 20-60 is given as a range for the fullest energy and contribution (Lev. 27:3)
  • Though Samuel thought the elder brothers of Jesse were best for God’s appointed king, God chose the youngest, David (1 Sam. 16)
  • Timothy who functions in oversight capacity, is a youth: “Let no one despise you for your youth,” (1 Tim. 4:12)

Female Elders?

The norm of Scripture is male leadership appointments

  • Jesus’ appointed Apostles were all male, and this tradition carries on even after Jesus ascends (Acts 1:21; 1 Cor. 9:5)
  • Appointed deacons were likewise male (Acts 6:3)
  • Later qualification lists also indicate male appointments (1 Tim. 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6)
  • Elsewhere, general authoritative oversight is delegated to males over females (1 Cor. 11:7-9; 14:33-35; 1 Tim. 2:12)
  • Church management is compared to home management (1 Tim. 3:4-5, 12; Titus 1:6); as the male (husband) is commissioned as head of the home (Eph. 5:23), so would males more naturally fit the role of leaders in the church.
  • Supposed exceptions aren’t conclusive:
    • Priscilla/Prisca is seen as a co-laborer with Paul (Rom. 16:3), and hosts a church at her house (1 Cor. 16:19), but she is always mentioned alongside her husband (Aquila). Further, women ministering is different than leadership office/appointment.
    • In Romans 16:1, Phoebe is commended as a “sister,” and “servant”/”deaconness” (i.e. diakonos) associated with the “church in Cenchrea.” Though some see this as indicating she was an appointed deacon, the same word is used to describe Epaphras and Timothy’s roles (Col. 1:7 and 1 Tim. 4:6), where they are recognized as, “servants,” not official deacons. Thus, it is not unobjectionable proof she was a deacon.
    • In Rom. 16:7, Junia (a female name) is mentioned as either a, “well known apostle,” or, “well known to the apostles,” (ESV). There is not enough information to say conclusively that this is proof of a female-appointed apostle for 3 reasons:
      1. It is unclear whether this is a female name (Junia) or a male name (Junias). Historically there is evidence for both, though Grudem argues that the evidence tips slightly more for this as a male name (Junias)–see Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1994, p. 909, footnote 7.
      2. It is unclear whether Junia is called a, “well known apostle,” or, “well known to the apostles,” (as the ESV translates it).
      3. And even if Junia was a female apostle mentioned by Paul in Romans 16:7, this shouldn’t be viewed as an appointed leadership position. The only appointed apostles are the original 12 and Matthias as a replacement for Judas (see Acts 1)–plus Paul (see 1 Cor. 9). Other apostles in the Bible are ministers raised up by God (think “missionaries”), not people filling the office reserved for the 12 Apostles (see Acts 14:14; Eph. 4:11; Rev. 2:2). Thus, Junia would still not be an example of an appointed female leader.

Room for exceptions

  • Judges 4-5:
    • Deborah was a judge over Israel: “Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time” (Judges 4:4).
    • Jael had a military victory: “Jael the wife of Heber…drove the peg into his temple…so he died” (Judges 4:21)
    • Judges 4:8-9: Though note that the victory was intended for a man (Barak), but because he insisted a woman (Deborah) go with him, his glory was handed over to a woman (Jael). Perhaps this gives a clue that women ought to be considered in these roles in the absence of faithful men.

Women are ministers unto the Lord

  • Acts 2:17-18 makes clear that the Spirit empowers men and women alike to be ministers of Him. Likewise, Gal. 3:28 makes clear women have same access to the same spiritual inheritance that men have.
  • As mentioned above, women still ministered and labored in the Lord:
    • Priscilla/Prisca co-labors and hosts a church at her house with her husband.
    • Phoebe (Rom. 16:1) is commended as a servant/deaconness in the same way Epaphras and Timothy were.
    • If Junia (Rom. 16:7) is a female she is either noted among the apostles or a noted apostle herself.
    • Phil. 4:3: “these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel”
  • Women even functioned as judge and military victor (Judges 4-5)
  • Women prophesy (Acts 21:9; 1 Cor. 11)
  • Women were appointed by Jesus to preach to men (Matt. 28:5-10; see also John 4)
  • Women were significant contributors to Jesus’ ministry (Luke 8:3)
  • Women hosted churches in their homes (Col. 4:15; 2 John – “The elect lady” [?])
  • Women have other very significant roles, such as teaching other women, managing their households, etc. (Titus 2:3-5)

Don’t Be Hasty

With elders, we are told:

  • don’t be hasty in accusing them of sin (1 Tim. 5:19)
  • don’t be hasty in appointing them–literally, “do not be hasty in the laying on of hands,” which is the means by which they are appointed (1 Tim. 5:22; Acts 6:6)

Brian

Even Dogs Get Crumbs

In Mark 7:24-30 (and Matt. 15:21-28), we read that Jesus compared a particular someone to a dog:

But He/Jesus answered and said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

Matt. 15:26; Mark 7:27

Some people find that an offensive statement, but if we compare Scripture with Scripture I think we can get a better picture of this powerful episode.

People are Compared with Animals

Part of the concern undoubtedly comes from the fact that Jesus compares a person (actually, a group of people) to an animal.

But consider first that even in this same passage He also refers to the Jewish people as animals, too:

But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Matt. 15:24

Notice, here, that Jesus refers to Israelites as sheep, and Greeks as dogs. No doubt the dog feels more offensive, but I just wanted to start by pointing out that comparing people to animals was not just reserved for this person, or even just the Greeks.

Greeks and Dogs are Both Unclean

Biblically, the dog is an unclean animal:

You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews the cud.

Leviticus 11:3

Thus, God commands his people to not eat:

  1. outwardly unclean animals (no divided hoof)
  2. inwardly unclean animals (don’t chew the cud)

Therefore, dogs were unclean on both counts.

Similarly, Greeks/Gentiles were also considered unclean on both counts: outwardly they did not follow the rituals of the Jews (e.g. they weren’t circumcised) and inwardly they had sin (spoiler alert: this is true for all of us–but some of the religious people in Jesus’ day hadn’t quite caught onto this yet…more on that later).

Thus, a Gentile would be comparable to a dog in terms of not being holy before God.

Understanding this can help us see the force of Paul’s words in Philippians 3:2-3:

Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh

Phil. 3:2-3

Here he is actually “flipping the script”. The self-righteous Jews were trying to force Christians to obey the outward rituals of the law, particularly circumcision. But Paul denounces this (he does so as well in Galatians and Romans and elsewhere). Instead, Paul sees the Christians as the true circumcision because we “put no confidence in the flesh”. In other words, we “cut off” our fleshly/sinful self and, “serve God by his Spirit,” not by outward ritual.

And so Paul calls these self-righteous Jews the unthinkable: “dogs”. Jews saw this as true of “Gentile sinners,” (Gal. 2:15), but surely not themselves. How dare Paul call them unclean/unholy for insisting on circumcision, yet that is precisely what would be meant by being a “dog”. They are a dog because they haven’t placed trust in Christ alone, and therefore are still sinful/unclean. Only Christ can atone us.

Pigs and Dogs

While we’re at it, let’s also look at another time Jesus compares people to animals:

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Matt. 7:6

There is a bit of irony here that Jesus says this right after saying “Do not judge” (Matt. 7:1). Many modern sensibilities wrongfully interpret “do not judge” to mean we aren’t to address sin or say anything offensive. Yet that is clearly not what Jesus has in mind when he goes on to tell people HOW to address sin (by first dealing with your own sin, THEN dealing with others) as well as compares people to dogs and pigs. Instead, Jesus is addressing hypocritical and ungracious/non-restorative judging. But I digress.

In Matt. 7:6, Jesus names 2 unclean animals:

  1. dogs – the theme of this article, outwardly and inwardly unclean
  2. pigs – who were outwardly clean (because they had the cloven hooves) but inwardly unclean (because they don’t chew the cud)

According to Jesus, both such people (characterized by these animals) should be treated differently than God’s people (His “sheep,” if you will). I’ve heard it said before that the dogs would speak to unrepentant Gentiles while the pigs may reference the self-righteous Jews who Jesus would later call, “whitewashed tombs,” (Matt. 23:27 — a reference to them being outwardly clean and inwardly dead/sinful).

The point being that Jesus uses all sorts of metaphors and word-pictures to get at the heart of the matter, including comparing humans to animals. This is not unique or outrageous in Mark 7:27.

Restoration in Christ

Finally, we are really doing great disservice to the entire episode by just pulling out one snippet (and interpreting with unbiblical, modern ears at that!).

Instead, consider the entire episode in Matt. 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30:

  • It starts by Jesus wanting to be hidden (but indeed could not stay hidden)
  • It is this Greek woman who finds Him
  • She calls to Him, but He didn’t answer her
  • She calls out to the disciples, but they seem perturbed and don’t know what to do. At which point Jesus explains his mission is to the sheep of Israel
  • After this, she still knocked at his door, so to speak. She actually came and worshiped Him and said, “Lord, help me!”
  • Yet, again, Jesus seems to usher her away, and this is where he says he came for the Jews not the Gentiles (though uses the imagery of “dogs” for Gentiles).

Pause.

Already, Jesus:

  1. Tried to hide
  2. Ignores her first pleas
  3. Does nothing when she pleads to the disciples
  4. Tells her He came for the Jews, firstly

He seems to be doing everything to shirk her away. Or is He? Could it be that He is motioning like He wants nothing to do with her, only to see what she will do? Remember how He, “continued on as if He were going farther,” with the 2 to Emmaus (Luke 24:28), but ended up staying and revealing Himself AFTER they “urged him strongly,” to stay (Luke 24:29). Likewise, we read that it’s the glory of the Lord to conceal matters; but the glory of kings to find them out (Prov. 25:2).

In fact, just 1 chapter earlier in Mark, we read that when the disciples were struggling at sea, Jesus actually walked on water and, “meant to pass by them,” (Mark 6:48). It was only after they implored Him that He ended up helping them in a life-threatening situation.

Consider this like the “knock” phase of the “ask, seek, knock” that Jesus taught us to do in prayer. When we ask, it’s as if the Lord is right with us. When we seek, we have to do a little more work to find Him. And when we knock, we actually have to address a barrier between us and the Lord.

All to say, this episode with the Canaanite woman is not unlike Jesus. I’d go so far to say that He is seeking this in all of us today, as well. He says in Luke 18 that he is looking for the kind of persistent prayers of a widow who won’t relent–even when it looked like the Judge wasn’t going to help her (see Luke 18:1-8).

Alright, back to the story.

After all of that seeming resistance, the woman perseveres more. She took his statement about dogs, and turned it back on Him: “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” (Matt. 15:27 = Mark 7:28).

And at this response, Jesus greatly commends her, and grants her request. In fact, we read that, “this saying” of hers made the difference (Mark 7:29).

I personally think this was what Jesus was getting at all the while. He wanted to see if she would give up or persist (even adding the word “little” before dog, to say something akin to, “who are you to ask such a thing?” He knew the answer [that He came for such as this!], but the disciples didn’t…and He wanted to see how she would respond, as well). I believe He’s looking for the same today. He’s looking for those who truly recognize they have no hope outside of Jesus. Whether we are dogs–unclean outwardly (like, perhaps, the younger son in the Prodigal Son story)–or we are as pigs–unclean in our hearts but may look good outwardly (like, perhaps, the older son in the Prodigal son story)–He wants to see who truly lays hold of Him. Even with barriers or Him seeming to pass on until you would cry out to Him.

Jews and Gentiles Welcome

If I may add one more thing…

Though it is true initially in Jesus’ ministry that He seems to focus only on Israelites (Matt. 10:6), this is truly not the full picture. For instance, it was early in His ministry when He revealed Himself to a sinful, Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). And early in His ministry when He sets up camp in “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Matt. 4:16).

Even more, Matthew and Mark (who record this episode of the Canaanite woman) finish their gospels with the triumphant announcement that Jesus is meant for all the nations: “Make disciples of all nations,” “Go into all the world” (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15).

In this sense, I see Joseph as a type for Jesus. He was initially with his brothers, but then they rejected him. This ended up bringing salvation for the whole world, and later on restoration for the brothers who initially rejected him. Jesus goes to the Jews, but they largely reject Him. Then He is made known to the Gentiles and salvation comes to them. Jew and Gentile together can receive the promise. And hopefully there will be a revival of natural-born Israelites coming to Jesus in the last days as well!

All to say: praise the Lord for the opportunity for little dogs (like us Gentiles, dead in our trespasses) to become sheep of God by Jesus’ triumphant sacrifice.

Psalms 101-150 Reflections

These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

Psalm 103

The fear of the LORD stood out to me in this Psalm.

  • v.11- “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;”
  • v.13- “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;”
  • v.17- “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,”

God loves us and wants what is best for us. I think that living our lives with full respect for his will and power helps us remember who is actually in control.

This reminds me of Jesus’ words in John 14:23 – “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him”.

Of course there is a general love has for all of his creation, including us sinners! (Rom. 5:8), while He simultaneously hates who we’ve become in our sin (compared to His glory) (Psalm 5:5; Rom. 3:23).

Thus, He reserves a special love for those who are His people, who have been justified by His gospel, and have His Spirit within us. These seem to match the people who fear the Lord in Psalm 103. They are those who receive His special love, which He doesn’t offer to all people.

Psalm 106

He gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them.
Psalm 106:15

Talk about putting the fear of God in us! Sometimes we shouldn’t be so bold to complain about not getting what we want so badly!

Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
Psalm 106:44-45

They did nothing to deserve Gods ear. But He gave it nonetheless—because of His great love

Psalm 111

“He provides food for those who fear Him; He remembers his covenant forever.” Psalm 111:5

Note that it doesn’t say He provides a house, vacation, or so many things we mistakenly think we are entitled to.

Biblically speaking, I’m pretty sure the emphasis is always on God providing food and clothing, and that’s all we should need to be content. Here it adds the fact that this is part of what His special love for His covenant people looks like: providing us with food. May we not act spoiled, but truly realize that having food is a gift from God, and anything more is extra-special-not-promised gift.

Psalm 118

Been thinking a lot about Psalm 118…

This ultimately is fulfilled in Christ (our chief cornerstone – i.e. new beginning).

You get this picture of enemies surrounding him and being too strong for him. BUT GOD saves the day. What they plan to discard, God plans to use as a new beginning (“chief cornerstone”).

Related: I keep thinking about how a handful of biblical books begin with the phrase: “After the death of…” (Joshua 1:1; Judges 1:1; etc.).

Though in Psalm 118 death doesn’t happen, it’s a picture of hopelessness that ends up being a new beginning. And it is fulfilled in Christ who died, then resurrected, and was a new beginning for the church. And all of those Bible books show a new beginning that starts after the death of someone. Thus, the death of someone/something, as tragic and hopeless as it seems, can also serve as a new beginning of sorts. Resurrection can come from hopeless/death situations.

Psalm 119

I was really touched by the mammoth chapter of Psalm 119. Just how integral God’s word is to EVERYTHING related to life and godliness. Another passage I’ve been thinking about is 2 Tim. 3:17 – SCRIPTURE “thoroughly equips us for EVERY good work”. If there is a good work God has called you/us to, we should find principles for this work laid out thoroughly in Scripture. If we can’t find it there, it’s not a good work we’re called to.

Psalm 127

Psalm 127 stood out to me today.

v.1 “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.”

No matter how great we think our plans may be, we are destined for hardship if we are working against the Lord. This reminds me of my friend Jason. He always said that he viewed taking God’s name in vain as “putting God’s name on our plans.”

Really–anything where you’ve attached God’s name/authority to something that He doesn’t vouch for is taking his name in vain. For instance, false prophecies that you claim are from the Lord. Saying that, I do think flippantly saying God’s name (especially as a curse word, for instance) is also not something God loves to hear…to put it mildly.

Psalm – Final Thoughts

I have just been really moved the last three weeks by going through the Psalms together. Honestly, I’ve decided it’s a practice I need to come back to more often (maybe with an even slower read through), but it has been really powerful to just meditate and praise with the Psalms and even pray them which I think we should do often. I have always resonated myself with David in a lot of ways and he writes 73/150 of them, so basically half.

I love the way he pours out his soul and emotions to the Lord; something that is often so lacking in the church and especially with men. I once heard someone say they thought he was a “whiner,” in the Psalms… I think nothing could be further from the truth and the comment showed an ignorance of the importance of our need and dependence for the Lord. The Psalms model this so well for us.

It’s really hard to pick out individual psalms that impact me because I could pick something from every chapter but…Psalms 119 also impacted me deeply

119:2 “blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek Him with their whole heart.”

It’s not about getting it all right all the time, knowing the right answer 100% of the time, or doing the right thing 100% of the time, but when we seek him with our whole heart and delight in Him and his testimonies and His law, a lot of the rest of life begins to fall into place.

May this be our prayer – to seek Him with our WHOLE heart. May we start to change our hearts even today/tonight to move more toward Him and to walk in all His ways.

Psalms 51-100 Reflections

These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

Psalm 51

“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being.” (Ps. 51:6) ~ I think that really hits some of what I’ve read in the first 15 chapters for this week. Lots of rawness and honesty–about his sin, about where his enemies are in sin, about what He’s seeking God for, etc. It just doesn’t seem very “politically correct” a lot of what he’s saying…not all that polished…and that endears me to it the most (because here’s a guy like me, I can relate with).

Psalm 57

“Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge Until destruction passes by.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭57:1‬ ‭
This where I am at these days…taking refuge in the Lord.  It reminds me of abiding in the Lord and not trusting in ourselves.

Psalm 62

Psalm 62 stood out to me:
v.1-2:  “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation”v. 9 “Surely the lowborn are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie. If weighed on a balance, they are nothing”v.11-12 “One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”David is showing some eternal perspective here. Our peace and comfort in life comes from being assured of God’s love for us and the salvation he offers. I love the idea in v.9 that our worldly status means absolutely nothing to God.

Psalm 66-67

I think that something I’m seeing here is how much God is truly in control.

“God rules forever by his power, he eyes watch the nations–” (Ps 66:7)
“You rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth” (67:4)

This is what drives the Psalmists to prayer. If God is the one who holds the hearts, the keys, the nations, etc. then you’d be foolish to try to change things by changing people. You’d go to God over them.

Quick story: We didn’t get a house we offered on a month or so ago. It was a bummer, and I wished I could “get the ear” of the seller to “convince” him that we’d be good buyers from the home (and even make a better offer than we initially did). And then all at once I was convicted and in tears. God showed me that I spent time thinking about how to “gain the ear” of this man, but all the while God owns the house. He’s offered his ear (on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice). I needed to repent and seek Him, not any man. That moment was what the Psalms are all about, IMHO.

Psalm 79-80

Psalm 79:6:
“Pour out your wrath on the nations
    that do not acknowledge you,
on the kingdoms
    that do not call on your name;”

Psalm 80:6:
“You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors,
    and our enemies mock us.”

Notice that God’s people are the ones put through the ringer! Reminds me of Heb 12 – God disciplines his TRUE children; those He loves. It turns everything upside down. We complain and wonder where is God when bad things happen. But we’ll meet Him and He’ll show how the discipline and struggles He put us through were actually a sign of His love and favor. And it’s at those times He has been the nearest to us.

Psalms 1-50 Reflections

These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

Psalm 1 – God’s Word

I love how Psalm 1 sets the stage with a focus on hearing and meditating on God’s word. The Psalms are all prayers and praises to God we say, so it’s fitting that before we plunge into speaking to God, we first HEAR God and THEN speak.

In fact, all of these Psalms are Gods word teaching us to pray. So in reality it’s all an exercise in hearing God’s word FIRST, and THEN praying along those lines. So much “prayer” today seems so different than biblical praying, and we wonder why God doesn’t respond like He did in the Bible! Maybe if we prayed more biblically we’d see God respond more biblically.

Psalms 1 is so powerful! Blessed is the man who delights in the law of the Lord and mediates on His law day and night.

We can’t take our eyes of it…

David Turns to God

I’m really struck by David’s confidence in God and his turning to Him for help. I’m quite sure none of us have come close to dealing with the dangers and threats David faced. But here he is in the secret place doing all the fighting there!

Psalm 14

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

Psalm 14:3

Humbling that Romans 3 applies this to all of us. Not “those” people over there, but “us” right here AND “those” over there.

We are all guilty. All fall down to consider how worthy and gracious to save any of us—even one of us is a miracle when you see our depravity for what it is as exposed in the Bible. Praise Him for the gospel!!!!

Psalm 15

I’ve been thinking a bit about Psalm 15:2-5…

Our stability is directly connected with our integrity. On an absolute scale, this means we have ultimate peace and stability only by being covered with Jesus’ ultimate righteousness. But while we walk out our calling in Jesus in the life, we can experience some of this stability by walking in our own integrity (by the Holy Spirit).

Here are some specifics:

  • speak truth (v. 2)
  • don’t slander (v.3)
  • don’t hold grudges against others (v. 3)
  • oppose sin and those who practice it (v. 4)
  • honor those who follow righteousness (v. 4)
  • when you pledge you’ll do something, follow through, even if it costs you a lot (v. 4)
  • loan out money without charging interest (v. 5)
  • don’t mistreat innocent people, even if you could get personal gain to do so (v. 5)

Psalm 16

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

Psalm 17

I have never really noticed Psalms 17:14-15 before but love the perspective it offers from David:

Deliver my soul from men of the world whose portion is this life. You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children and they leave their abundance to infants. As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied with your likeness.

”I love the perspective this offers. The Lord has been stretching me lately to focus on the eternal. Not something as temporary as leaving an Inheritance to my kids…

Also… this has been a fantastic reminder that while I can work hard to be financially free and have a great inheritance for my kids , that is not where my hope and satisfaction are.

Psalm 19

Psalms 19:13 is such a good prayer for us.

As mentioned above, I love the idea of praying the Psalms/scripture:

Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!

Psalm 19:13

Psalm 22

Psalm 22 stood out to me today.

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.

Psalm 22:14

All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.

Psalm 22:17-18

It would have been interesting to grow up singing and memorizing the Psalms as a Jew in Jesus’ time, and then to see them actually come to life through Jesus’ life.

Reading Psalm 22 makes me grateful for Jesus and what he endured in order to offer us salvation. Or think also of Isaiah 53, and so man others!

This is slightly different, but still really good: There’s a book called The Bronze Bow. Won Newberry medal in 1962–really good read! But it’s an historical fiction account of a child living in the time of Jesus. He was sort of a zealot, as I recall, was looking at Scripture and how to fulfill it, but was really intrigued by Jesus and his run-ins with him. I think it’s great from what I remember

Psalm 29

Psalm 29 stood out to me this morning, especially the power of the LORD on display.

  • v. 3 “the God of glory thunders”
  • v. 4 “the voice of the LORD is powerful”
  • v. 5 “the voice of the LORD breaks the cedars”
  • v. 9 “the voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.”

We serve THE all powerful God. To him be the glory!

Consider God’s power, but also the power specifically in His word.

I think a lot about proud people (including me, sadly) standing like cedar trees. But God’s word can break them down. I’ve seen it in my own life and in others!

Psalm 34

Love all Psalms 34 (a classic) but 13/14 speaking to me tonight:

keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

Psalm 34:13-14

More for the Lord and Me

OH man…there’s been SUCH GOOD STUFF from the Psalms this week for me. I can’t begin to describe how much they have spoken to me on all sorts of things. Was hoping to write out some of these here, but time will not permit. Regardless, I praise the Lord for this word. And some sweet and deep stuff will have to be between Him and I for now

Job Reflections

These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

God’s Justice & Sovereignty

Job speaks to me in so many ways, and I’m seeing that already in the first couple of chapters. A few things for now:

  • Most of the book is a debate about what “justice” looks like. Turns out they all were wrong in the end, and Job’s perspective radically changed when he saw and heard from God at the end. I’m praying for that so much in the world today and so much “justice” conversations and debates in the world and church (and I honestly think all of us are wrong to a degree on these things).
  • God is in charge–even in the book of Job. He initiates the convo with Satan, and tells him he can go “this far and no further”. What a comfort to us!
  • Job is very wealthy (including having many servants), and yet also called upright, righteous/just. Shows that you can have wealth and fear the Lord (I just think it’s harder, and we should acknowledge that).

On the issue of justice, the arguments essentially point to this (as best I understand):

  • Job: “I’m innocent, what is happening to me is unjust”
  • Friends: “You are guilty, what is happening to you is just”

And the real answer is… (you’ll have to read the end of the book to find out :).

Job 1-2: Job Responds

I am so impressed by Job in chapters 1 & 2:

Isn’t it interesting how it mentions that Job interceded for his family on a regular basis?”So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them (his children), and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, ‘It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’ Thus Job did regularly.” Job 1:5-6

1:20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.”

As Job’s world is falling apart, his first reaction is to worship. I admit that this is not how I usually handle really tough situations in my life.I am also impressed as Job stands his ground in chapter 2:
2:9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

Video: Job: God’s Answer to Suffering by Dr. Peter Williams

PHENOMENAL teaching on Job (in my humble opinion).

Job 12-13 – Boldness

“True wisdom and real power belong to God; from him we learn how to live,
    and also what to live for.”

Job 12:13

I am struck by how bold and secure Job is in his faith. Job does not waver in his dedication to God, even though he is constantly begging for mercy from him.

Please, God, I have two requests; grant them so I’ll know I count with you:
First, lay off the afflictions; the terror is too much for me. Second, address me directly so I can answer you, or let me speak and then you answer me.”

Job 13:20

Job is so bold. He wants to square up face-to-face with God Almighty, which (spoiler alert) is a request that is eventually granted.

Job 13

Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.

Job 13:15

I love the recognition that God is doing the slaying. Like Heb. 12. This goes in the face of prosperity gospel teaching.

He is good no matter what befalls us!

Job 19: My Redeemer & Resurrection

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself…

Job 19:25-27

What an inspiration!

This is also subtle evidence that resurrection of the dead was believed in the OT. Some claim this wasn’t a belief in the OT (I think Rob Bell, “Love Wins,” made that argument). That people just die and cease to be. Wrong!

Another proof of this is found in the end of Job. He gets double of everything, EXCEPT children. WHY? If children were resurrected later (like Job 19:25-27 talks about him being), then they didn’t permanently go away, and thus he will get double children at the resurrection.

Job 28 – Fear God

Love Job 28:28 – “the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom”

Think also of Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Job 29-30 – An Upright Man

In Job 29 and 30 you get an idea of what it looks like to be both “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1) and rich (see Job 1). As a wealthy man, you also:

  • deliver the poor/fatherless who seek help (29:12)
  • bless the widows and sick (29:13)
  • help the blind and lame (29:15)
  • help the needy and strangers (29:16)
  • oppose the unrighteous and abusers (29:17)
  • weep and grieve over those in really bad places (30:25)

I also think him having “very many servants” (1:3) gave opportunities to them, especially if he treated them with dignity and value.

It’s also amazing how those teachings and principles line up so well with the rest of Scripture even though this book may be the oldest in the Bible.

Job 31 – Your Eyes

Brethren, check out this verse:

“I have made a covenant with my eyes;
Why then should I look upon a young woman?”

Job 31:1

I have to imagine the women in Job’s day were dressed much more modestly than the women around us today, and I doubt Job was constantly bombarded with over-sexualized billboards, magazines, social media ads, etc. How much more do we need to make a covenant with our eyes!

Job 32 – Stop the Flattery

For I do not know how to flatter, else my Maker would soon take me away.

Job 32:22

Amen! I’m so frustrated with false flattery. Just seems so common and dishonest. May we be different

Job 39 & The Animals

Question

I know it’s trivial but why does God use a mountain goat, wild donkey, ostrich, horse, and Hawk to question Job with (Job 39)?  They are obviously significant, but I am not seeing the biblical significant as I would with a lion, eagle, bull, man – like in other sections.

Answer

There are other animals as well – the raven, leviathan, behemoth, lion, etc.
But in the list you mentioned I do see a possible pattern:

  • goat – considered rebellious (used a sign for those who reject God: Matt 25)
  • wild donkey – also considered rebellious (Ishmael was called to be a “wild donkey” of a man)
  • ostrich – is an unclean bird (Lev. 11:15)
  • horse – also unclean, compared with Egypt (in Song of Songs 1), “don’t trust in horses” God says
  • hawk – an unclean bird (Lev. 11:15)

The raven, as well, is an unclean bird.I’ve wondered if the point is that God still sustains and works among the unclean/sinful. His ways are beyond your ways.

Job 40 – Behemoth

In my Bible, it says that behemoth is “a large animal, exact identity unknown”. Sure sounds like a dinosaur to me!

15Look now at the behemoth, which I made along with you;
He eats grass like an ox.
16 See now, his strength is in his hips,
And his power is in his stomach muscles.
17 He moves his tail like a cedar;
The sinews of his thighs are tightly knit.
18 His bones are like beams of bronze,
His ribs like bars of iron.
19 He is the first of the ways of God;
Only He who made him can bring near His sword.
20 Surely the mountains yield food for him,
And all the beasts of the field play there.
21 He lies under the lotus trees,
In a covert of reeds and marsh.
22 The lotus trees cover him with their shade;
The willows by the brook surround him.
23 Indeed the river may rage,
Yet he is not disturbed;
He is confident, though the Jordan gushes into his mouth,
24 Though he takes it in his eyes,
Or one pierces his nose with a snare.

I can’t think of anything but a dinosaur that is described as “He moves his tail like a cedar,” honestly.

Job 41 – Leviathan

If you read about Leviathan, it sounds very much like a dinosaur/dragon. There are stories of such animals around the world. See Results for Leviathan at Answers In Genesis for more on this.

Job 39-41

Concern

I have to say Job 39-41 really rocked me. These are chapters people do not talk about much. People often talk about chapter 42 and Job’s fortunes being returned.

I spent most of the book being so incredibly impressed with Job and his response to immense suffering. Also of course frustrated with his “friends” being such miserable comforters. His own wife says “curse God and die,” yet he stays steadfast throughout, clings to the Lord, and renounces sin in his life. It’s honestly incredible and I was putting him on a pedestal. I had forgot God’s initial response in chapters 39-41 and honestly have a hard time making sense of it in light of the humbleness of Job and his response to the suffering. I’m trying to think about this through the lens of justice, but it does not fully match my understanding of the character of God that He was so hard on Job when he was seemingly very blameless. Of course, as Job continued to humble himself before the Lord in the end he was vindicated but it sure seemed to be like a harsh initial response more than that of a loving father.

Response

Check out Job 32:2 to understand why Job was in the wrong. Remember Elihu is commended as wise in the book of Job. He speaks in accordance with God.

Also Job 34:5 and 34:9.

Job 35:3 also shows part of Jobs problem.

Namely, he thought living righteously was only worth it if good things happened to him in return. Reminds me of first part of Psalm 73. He forgot that righteous living is always worth it because God is always worthy—regardless of life circumstances…and there will be a final judgment yet to come that is far more important than what happens in this life.

Last thing for now: Job 37:14 sort of sets the stage for what is to come in Job 38 and so on. Basically, another sin of Job is his pride in all this. Job says: “I’m pure, therefore God is at fault.”

But then God/Elihu rebukes him. How certain can Job be that he is righteous (spoiler: he’s not righteous in comparison with God)? And how certain can Job be that what is happening is punishment for his sin, as opposed to something meant for another purpose altogether? I think He comes off like a “know-it-all” and God has had enough.

I find God’s response interesting as well. Jesus, we have learned, was “filled with grace and truth.” God offers grace to all of us sinners by offering salvation, and this is the picture of God that is often presented, at least from a western evangelical perspective.. I think that this book of Job shows us the “truth” side of God.

As said above, despite the fact that Job was a righteous man, he was not righteous at all compared to God. I think Job finally realizes that God’s way is best, even when it doesn’t make sense, it is agonizingly painful.

Further Response

In Job 33, Job is rebuked by Elihu (and God, it seems) for assuming fault with God because it was “unfair” that bad things happened to him who was “righteous”. If I’m understanding Job 33 rightly, it seems one thing Job hadn’t considered was how suffering/discipline can proactively teach us. That is, it can help train us to live in the future a better life, as opposed to only being a result of bad things we do. An example given is sickness. True, sickness can be punishment for sin (John 5). But sickness can also help train our soul and be used for Gods glory, even when it’s not a direct response to our sin (see John 9). Such seemed part of the story that Job wasn’t considering.

Final Thoughts

Some last reflections on Job, if I may…

  • Elihu is the only one that is not rebuked by God. He starts speaking in Job 32, and when God starts speaking (via whirlwind) in Job 38, it seems like He is continuing where Elihu left off. Elihu’s speech is kind of like a prelude or beginning to the storm that comes in Job 38. All to say, I don’t think we should treat Elihu the same as the other friends of Job. With this in mind, we see the essential problem with Job and the friends in Job 32:2-3 – “He burned with anger at Job because HE JUSTIFIED HIMSELF RATHER THAN GOD. He burned with anger also at Job’s three friends because THEY HAD FOUND NO ANSWER, ALTHOUGH THEY HAD DECLARED JOB TO BE IN THE WRONG.” In other words, Job spent his time saying how good he was, and the fault was with God. The friends spent their time focusing on how bad Job was. Neither focused on God who’s ways are higher than our ways….
  • This is seen in the fact that the main questions God asks Job starts with “WHO”. WHO…made the sea? WHO…sets things this way? WHO…determines things that way? Notice that Job / friends were debating the why and focusing on Job. God wanted a focus to be on Him.
  • This climaxes when Job finally sees God for himself. I don’t think this means he saw him face to face. But that God manifested Himself so clearly that Job knew it was God. When that happens he realizes how little and sinful he is compared to this HOLY and GLORIOUS God. “I can only imagine what it will be like” [cue song] when we truly do see God unfiltered. I’d bet A LOT of money that all those things we thought were so “unfair” in this life would seem ridiculous at that time. And we would all realize that anything good we received in life was an act of God’s grace–we truly are unworthy.

Esther Reflections

These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

Esther 2-3 – Fear God; Honor the King

I see the diligence Mordecai showed in helping as a dutiful citizen of a pagan king. Esther, similarly, seems like she is being really diligent to obey the rules and laws of the land. To these names we could add Daniel and his 3 friends, as well as Joseph, and others. All were God-fearing people living as citizens and employees of non-Israelite leaders.

Of course, this comes 2nd to obeying God as King. For instance, Daniel and friends are willing to die rather than disobey the Lord. And undoubtedly there was some fear of ramifications of disobeying the kings of those days!! But it is something that speaks to me as an employee in a secular workplace.

  1. Follow the Lord alone,
  2. do my work diligently to be well-pleasing to them as employers.

I guess the same thing is said in the NT: “whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” (Col. 3:23)

And, actually…Esther 3 shows Mordecai not bowing to Haman. Fits the theme of dutiful citizens even with pagan kings, while maintaining worship and allegiance to the Lord alone.

Esther 4 – Fasting

Mordecai’s response to Haman’s plot: fasting
Esther’s preparation to meet the king: fasting

I was I inspired by how fasting seems like the go-to response of God’s people when something significant is going on

…definitely is true in Ezra and Nehemiah as well.

Esther 8 – Fight Back

The king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included, and to plunder their goods

Esther 8:11

All the officials of the provinces and the satraps and the governors and the royal agents also helped the Jews, for the fear of Mordecai had fallen on them.

Esther 9:3

In Susa the citadel itself the Jews killed and destroyed 500 men

Esther 9:6

Now the rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also gathered to defend their lives, and got relief from their enemies and killed 75,000 of those who hated them, but they laid no hands on the plunder.

Esther 9:16

I’m just so struck by the fact that their deliverance still involved them fighting (probably in really graphic, hand-to-hand combat for a lot of it). How often is this happening for us–God provides deliverance, but still wants us to fight?

God in Esther

I have really enjoy Esther this time around with a fresh lens. Crazy that God is never actually mentioned in this book!

It jumped out to me that there were so many terrible situations that God used for His good.

They want Queen Vasti to dance and just show off her body and she refuses and then this allows Esther to enter the scene.

Esther is an orphan and even in the heartbreak of this it allows Mordecai to have a central role in her life. The scene at the end of chapter 2 feels like the show “the bachelor” to me (*disclaimer: I don’t watch it, but I know the premise), and yet God redeems all of this, gives Esther favor, and ultimately uses it to free His people and bring redemption through Esther! Amazing!

The note in my Bible states “Ester and Mordecai both illustrate the fact that divine Providence does not negate the responsibility of the people to act with courage and resolve when circumstances require it.”

Twisting Scripture

You can see how people quickly can use/twist scripture to their own devices ie 3:13 about killing the Jews. “Letters were sent by couriers to all the kings provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelve month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.”

I can about guarantee Hitler used these verses for persuasion. If you don’t know the whole book. The whole Bible. You can easily be persuaded by charisma and even by the Bible which is why we must know all context!

Esther’s Faith

Love Ester’s faith! Chapter 4:16 “then I will go to the king though it’s against the law, and if I perish, i perish.”

The Gospel: Our Foundation & Hub

The Bible frequently mentions “the gospel” (which means “good news”).

This gospel is called “of first importance,” (1 Cor. 15:3), and any deviation from this true gospel brings “eternal condemnation” (Gal. 1:8).

“Reconciled”

At the heart of the true gospel outlined in Scripture is the concept of reconciliation. Consider:

  • “God…through Christ reconciled us to himself…in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…be reconciled to God….he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:18-21)
  • “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10)
  • “You, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith…not shifting from the hope of the gospel.” (Colossians 1:21-23)

The Gospel = How to be reconciled

More specifically, this reconciliation between a holy God and sinful people (that’s you and me), happens by:

God:

  1. Taking on human flesh and living a righteous life in Jesus (1 Peter 1:19)
  2. Dying for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3)
  3. Being raised from the dead the third day (1 Cor. 15:4)

We:

  1. Repent (turn in submission to Jesus as Lord) – Luke 13:1-5; Acts 2:38
  2. Believe (trust in the Person and Work of Christ seen above) – John 3:16; Acts 16:31

When such a reconciliation happens, God lives in us via his Holy Spirit, and our life is forever changed (Eph. 1:13; 2 Cor. 5:17).

The Old Testament Focuses on the Gospel

Believe it or not, the 39 books of the Old Testament (written between 1500-400 BC) supernaturally focus on the event of the gospel that would later be fulfilled in Christ.

This is why Jesus, Paul, and the N.T. can point people back to the Old Testament Scriptures in understanding the gospel:

  • “He [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself [especially his death and resurrection, in this context].” (Luke 24:27)
  • “He [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations,'” (Luke 24:46-47)
  • “Paul…set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures” (Rom. 1:1-2)
  • “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures…he was buried…he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

The Old Testament points to the Gospel:

  1. By direct prophecy (e.g. Isaiah 53)
  2. By types and shadows (e.g. Matt. 12:40)
  3. By contrasts (e.g. Heb. 10:11-12)

Thus:

  • At the beginning the gospel is seen:
    • consider Adam “sleeping” while his side was pierced in order to form a bride–Eph. 5:31-32;
    • or the need for Adam and Eve to be clothed with the life of another to live amidst God–Gen. 3:21;
    • or even the fact that the curse of thorns and sweat were literally placed on Jesus’ head during his crucifixion–Gen. 3:18-19; Matt. 27:29; Luke 22:44
  • At the end of the Old Testament the gospel is seen:
    • where the day of God’s coming judgement and restoration is preceded by a messenger who brings repentance (Mal. 3-4; Luke 1)
  • And all in the middle the gospel is seen:
    • Exodus 12 – Passover
    • Leviticus 16 – Day of Atonement
    • Ruth – A king to come that redeems Gentiles
    • Isaiah 53-54 – Suffering and Resurrected Servant
    • Amos 8 – a day of judgment where Noon becomes dark, an only Son is killed; a festival takes place
    • Micah 5:2 – a Messiah would be born in Bethlehem
    • Etc.

The Gospels Point to the Gospel

I guess the name says it all, but it should still be stated that the 4 gospels focus on–you guessed it–the gospel.

I have heard it said that it takes 9 hours of audio to read through all 4 gospels at an average pace. And 4.5 of those hours focus exclusively on the final week of Jesus (where He dies and resurrects–you know, part of God’s work in reconciling us through the gospel).

Thus the gospels pretty evenly focus on:

  1. The Person of Jesus
  2. The Death and Resurrection of Jesus

This is precisely God’s part of the reconciliation process mentioned above.

Further, the gospels have constant refrains for the people to “repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Thus these 4 books also point to the human response to God’s reconciling work, as well as the corresponding change it produces when we are reconciled to him (Luke 7:47; Matt. 25:31-46; etc.)

The Rest of the New Testament Point back to the Gospel

Further still, we have the remainder of the New Testament pointing back to the event of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection at the start of a good chunk of the books:

  • Acts shows the first 30 years of the church proclaiming the gospel and living it out
  • Romans spends 11 chapters fleshing out the gospel…this is written to Christians!
  • Galatians is written specifically to clarify the gospel…again, this is written to Christians!
  • Ephesians and Colossians follow similar structures in beginning their books by declaring the complete work of the gospel, then showing how that should be the basis for their Christian living (see below)
  • Etc.

The 2 Church Institutions Point to the Gospel

If it wasn’t enough to show how the ENTIRE BIBLE revolves around the gospel, I’d only add the fact that the church is called to 2 practices/institutions:

  1. baptism (Matt. 28:18-20)
  2. communion (1 Cor. 11)

Baptism is us actively demonstrating our union in the gospel by being buried in the waters of baptism and coming up with Christ symbolically as a new life (Rom. 6).

And communion is an ongoing activity the church practices where we call to mind the redeeming work of Christ’s death and resurrection (the fulcrum of the gospel).

By now, please tell me you can see that God wants all attention here.

The Gospel as Foundation and Hub of all Christian Activity

Finally, in instructing the church how to live, God continues to base things on the gospel FIRST. And only from that realization can we faithfully walk in Christ.

How should we be faithful in marriage? Look to how Christ died, served, and faithfully leads His church (Eph. 5)

Why should we give to the poor? Look how Jesus who was rich in life and Spirit became a man who died a humble death on the cross to make us who were poor rich (2 Cor. 8-9). In his denial of self in the gospel, we can be encouraged to do likewise.

What should we do when we are treated unjustly? Look to how Jesus entrusted himself to God and silently suffered in the gospel (1 Peter 2)

What should we do when we see others treated unjustly? Consider the mercy we’ve been shown, and do likewise (Luke 10:25-37)

How can we forgive others who have wronged us? Consider how much we were forgiven in Christ in the gospel, and do likewise (Matt 18:21-35)

How can we love others best? Consider how much we were forgiven in Christ in the gospel (Luke 7:47)

You see a theme here?

In fact, consider how Romans 12 (all the life application stuff) begins: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies…” (Rom. 12:1). In other words, in light of all the gospel exposition in Romans 1-11…with all of that as a focus…only now can you live out faithful Christianity.

Not only is the gospel the hub and foundation of the Bible, but it also is meant to be the hub and foundation of all Christian living. Anyone who treats it less, has completely missed the point.

Romans 15 & Our Mission

Romans 15:14-22 recently stood out to me as guidelines for the mission God has called his church to.

Namely:

  • “competent to instruct one another” (Rom. 15:14) – this is God’s goal. I fear we look too often for 1 “professional” minister to do all the instructing. God wants us to all grow into that ability, instructing one another. Reminds me of Heb. 5:12 – “by this time you ought to be teachers” (note that this is written to non-leaders, see Heb. 13:24)
  • “the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel” (Rom. 15:16) – we are all called to be priests on the basis of Christ’s work (see 1 Pet. 2:9). Our priestly duty includes proclaiming the gospel
  • “an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:16) – the only way we can walk out this Christian life in a God-pleasing way is via the Holy Spirit
  • “my service…what Christ has accomplished through me” (Rom. 15:17-18) – note that in v. 17 Paul calls it his service, but in v. 18 he says that this was, in reality, “Christ working through me”. Reminds me of 1 Cor.  15:10–“I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
  • “leading the Gentiles to obey God” (Rom. 15:18) – it’s not just them trusting Jesus for salvation (though that is essential). But the goal is obedience unto God (again, only possible via the Holy Spirit)
  • “…by what I have said and done–by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God.” (Rom. 15:18-19) – 3 ways they came to faith: (1) by what Paul said, (2) by how Paul lived, (3) by the power of the Spirit. This corresponds directly with 1 Thes. 1:5 where the same 3 categories are listed as bringing the Thessalonians unto faith. Are we walking faithfully in all 3 of these to bring people to faith?
  • “preach the gospel where Christ was not known” (Rom. 15:20) – there are still a lot of people around us who don’t know what the gospel is. May this be part of our strategy to seek them out. Oswald J. Smith – “No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.”

Rom. 12:13 – Serve the Saints

Rom. 12:13 recently caught my attention: “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality”

“of the saints”

God frequently tells us to generously support His church. Not to say the world is completely neglected, but there is a clear priority with God: “do good to all, especially to the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).

“to the needs”

I’m also struck that it focuses on providing for needs. I’m concerned that a lot of giving we do is not for “needs” but “wants”. That doesn’t have to be wrong, but when we are calling on the church to sacrificially give, I believe we need to prioritize needs over wants.

“seek to show hospitality”

I appreciated that this doesn’t say “do hospitality” in a slavish way that forces everyone to do X, Y, Z. Instead, it says to be eager to show it in whatever way it’s needed. Always be ready and eager to do it.

Apply

In all this, I was challenged to look for ways to meet needs of saints around me and show hospitality to the church as well.

May the world know us by our love for one another!