All in Volume - 61

Elijah was a deeply discouraged man.  He had lost hope and had lost heart.  Life was no longer worth living.  His was a wasted existence.  There was no use in even trying anymore.  What could be said or done to help this man overcome his discouragement?  God shows us the way.  

When Moses boldly asked God to “show me Your glory,” the Lord responded, “No man can see my face and live” (Exodus 33:18, 20).  Man, tainted by sin, cannot bear to be in the presence of God.  Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  How do we purify our hearts?

Cornelius “feared God” (verse 2). This was a technical term that the Jews used to refer to pagans who had abandoned, or did not follow, the pagan religions, but instead favored the worship of Jehovah.  Gentiles at this time and place in the world could have varying degrees of adherence to Judaism.  They could be benefactors like the centurion in Luke 7:1-10, who supported the Jewish community and presumably were sympathetic to Jewish beliefs.  There were “God-fearers” like the one here in our text, Acts 10:2, and others such as Acts 13:16, 16:14, 17:4.  There is an important mention of this category of “God-fearers” in an inscription from approximately 210 A.D. in Aphrodisias in modern Turkey.  

And what a wonderful blessing it is to realize that our TRUE treasures here in this life are not silver and gold, wealth and status, power and position, but rather loving relationships, with God and with those who have become our family.  At the bottom of the human heart is the place where such loving relationships flourish.  They are the foundation of joy in this life. 

Words like fellowship and communion convey the meaning that they could not be achieved individually but only as part of a group. And, to take this a little further, the implication in each of these is that it could only be satisfied through physical contact and not remote access. One thing that seems to muddy the waters at times is how some define the word church. In the New Testament, it comes from the Greek word ekklesia essentially meaning the assembly or congregation. In this we are not talking about brick and mortar, but the physical assembling of believers.

Should we not seek to have a discerning heart, to understand what is right in God’s eyes?  Will not God be pleased with such efforts? Later in his life, Solomon, using his God given wisdom, wrote, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).  God’s word is the source for our discernment.

Because the church has been built by our Lord and continues to be governed by Him through His Scriptures, His church is not ours to manipulate to our image.  To be sure, it can be left by those who refuse to submit to His will, but it cannot be changed by man.  The letters to five of the seven churches in the Revelation letter teach that individual congregations can depart and separate from the Lord, but these unfaithful congregations cannot change the Lord’s church as a whole.  It remains complete and safe under His care.

The kind of peace Christ promises is unique. John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  When the world offers peace, it requires compromise. The world says if you want your problems to go away, you need to give up some of your convictions. Even if you do get a little peace in the world, it will never last long. Peace in Christ is different. This kind of peace is secure, built on conviction and faith. 

Not trusting his brothers on that occasion, after weeping privately, Joseph manipulated circumstances in order to force them to bring their youngest brother to him in Egypt, probably intending to protect Benjamin from the caprices of the men who had already betrayed one younger brother and their own father. Eventually, the brothers were compelled to do as Joseph directed and return to Egypt a second time to purchase food, bringing their youngest brother along. For the second time, Joseph dealt with them as though he were a stranger, speaking through an interpreter, but when he saw his younger brother once again, now a grown man, Joseph went aside and “he entered his chamber and wept there” (Genesis 43:29-30). Joseph wept.

In the years that the young man David spent fleeing from jealous King Saul, a story in 1 Samuel 23:1-14 tells of a time when David actively led his band of outcasts to rescue a town of Judah, named Keilah, from marauding Philistines. Before David set out on his rescue mission, he inquired of the Lord whether he should go or not and was assured that he should go. Some of David’s men were afraid, so David inquired a second time and was again assured by God he should go, and that God would give him victory over the Philistines. David did win a great victory, as promised, winning spoils of war and saving the inhabitants of Keilah.

In six days, God created all that is. Having created the heavens, the earth and all that is in them, He owns it all. “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD'S thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is” (Deuteronomy 10:14). Other scriptures that express this same concept are Psalm 24:1; Psalm 89:11; Genesis 14:19, 22; Exodus 19:5; and 1 Corinthians 10:26 to name a few. The truth of His ownership is spread so pervasively throughout scripture that we ought to consider its implications for us. God owns all that is.  Therefore, anything that I have is His.

In May, 2017, The Gospel Message published an article entitled “The Church & Our Sisters” in which I offered what I believe to be the Bible’s answers to the following two questions: (1) What does it mean to be “in church” (1 Corinthians 14:28, 35)? and (2) What is the role of our sisters “in church”?   In response to that article, as well as to public teaching on the subject before and since, several questions have consistently come up which deserve attention.  In this article, I’d like to take up just a couple of those (and, perhaps, in a future article, we can address others).

In Luke 15, Christ tells the parable about a man who goes to his father with a presumptuous request: to receive his inheritance now.  His father grants his requests, and in a short time the son leaves home and squanders his inheritance on, as the Bible describes it, prodigal living.  Just prior to the man making a change in his life and going back to his father, we find him penniless and feeding pigs.  He is even jealous of their food because it is better than what he is eating.  What brought him to this place, or started him on this path, can be traced back to that first decision:  he decided that he wanted what he felt like was his right now.  Had he never made that decision he probably would not have found himself in the company of swine, jealous of their food.  

In Luke 12:13-15, we read the following account, 

“Then one from the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Man, who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.’”

Jesus, who would rebuke the disciples for not letting the little children take up his time, would not arbitrate between this man and his brother. Plainly, he told this man, “No.” The Son of God did not have time to deal with this situation of the flesh.

It is not an uncommon experience for me to be asked a thousand questions a day. This is part of being a parent, a teacher, and having a reputation for always having an answer. I know that I’m not alone in having to field all these questions, and most of us don’t like to say, “I don’t know.” Though, sometimes that is the best answer we can give. A small example of this came up recently during a class. We were discussing the Tabernacle and what was used to make it. Exodus 25:3-5 gives a small part of this list: