The Love of God part one

The Love of God

Romans 5:5-8

A Love Beyond Comprehension

The love of God is beyond human comprehension, yet is in many ways accessible to us. We will never fully comprehend God’s love, as it passes knowing (Ephesians 3:10); yet we can know its character and enjoy its benefits.

            The love of God is so great that John exclaimed, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” (1 John 3:1, AV) John is declaring that God’s love is foreign. It is other worldly. It is not a mere human sort of love. The love of God, that makes us sons of God, can be recognized and known; yet it cannot be fully comprehended. 

            Why is God’s love so great? It is because God is love (1 John 4:8), and God is eternal. Therefore love is eternal in both duration and character. 

Love Is of God

            One of the most familiar verses of all Scripture is, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8, AV) Even small children often know, “God is love.” Notice that we are told that love is from God, because God is love. God is the source of love, and He is love.

            What this means is that there is no true love apart from God. There can be ungodly and unholy love; but true love is from God. It also means that God defines love. Today the idea is that God is love, and therefore conforms to our ideal of what love is. Since God is eternal and holy, and being love, God defines what love is. He does not conform to our ideal of love, but He tells us what love is, what it does, and how it appears. Others like to say, “Love is love.” Not only is that a tautology and circular reasoning, it is also unrighteous. It is both incorrect and sinful. Let us always remember that God is love. 

            If you and I are to show love, it is because that we know God. Paul’s desire for the Thessalonians was that “the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12–13, AV) The way of practical holiness is that of love; and it is because the Lord causes us to grow in love. You and I grow in love and show love as God enables us. It is He who teaches us to love one another (1 Thessalonians 4:9). God is love and is the source of all true love.

Free And Unmerited Love

            God’s love is free and unmerited. There is nothing that man has ever done or ever can do to deserve it. Moses told Israel, “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:7–8, AV) God did not love Israel because of what was in Israel. Nor did He love Israel for any reason other than the fact that He chose to love them. God’s love is free and unmerited.

When the LORD wanted to show Israel His free love, He commanded Hosea to take a harlot to be his wife. When Hosea’s wife, Gomer, was unfaithful to him and wound up as a slave on the auction block, the LORD told Hosea, “Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine. So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley: And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee. For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3:1–5, AV) Not only did Hosea freely love Gomer and buy her as a slave, but he also committed to be faithful to her as her husband. The LORD then continues to explain that His love for Israel is similar. God’s love for Israel was not for any good within themselves, but all because of the good that is in God. He said, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.” (Hosea 14:4, AV) God promised to love Israel and to forgive them freely, because His love is free and unmerited. Israel was very unfaithful, but God is love.

God’s love to us today is the same: He loves us freely. Paul described us to Titus as being wicked, unloving, hateful, obnoxious, rebellious, and of bad hearts and minds. Then he said, “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4–7, AV) When did God’s saving love come to us? How did God’s saving love come to us? It came while we were yet in our sinful rebellion, and it was in no manner deserved by us; but God freely loves us, and freely saves all who trust Him. We see this again as Paul said, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6–8, AV) When we were impotent, helpless, unrighteous, irreverent, and unholy, Christ died for us. We were the enemies of God, living in rebellion against Him. We did what we wanted to do, and we followed the world, the flesh, and the devil (Ephesians 2:1-4); yet God loves us so freely that He gave His only begotten Son to be crucified for our sins, so that we can be freely saved. Is it any wonder, then, that John exclaimed that this love is foreign to us? It is a love far beyond human comprehension! 

Sacrificial Love

            God’s love is not only free and unmerited, but it is sacrificial: it is giving. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, AV) “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16, AV) This is how God loves us, in that He has given His Son; He has laid down His life for us. Even when we were enemies, God gave His Son to die for our sins, that we might be reconciled to God (Romans 5:6-11;2 Corinthians 5:17-21). 

            When Paul would counter the self-righteous and legalistic doctrine and lifestyle that was troubling the Galatian churches, he argued that Christ’s sacrificial love is what we should trust. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:20–21, AV) As of late I have encountered a group of seemingly well-intended, but unlearned and misguided people whose teaching is that of being saved by God’s power, yet maintaining salvation by our own righteousness. Their idea is that love is something soft and permissive. God’s love is not that at all. God’s love sent Christ to the cross to confirm God’s righteousness (Romans 3:21-28). Sin has to be punished, and God punished the Lord Jesus Christ in our place because He loves us. God’s love is sacrificial, and it is this love that saves us and keeps us. If I can save or keep myself, Christ died a useless death, Paul says. I, for one, thank God for the unspeakable gift of God’s sacrificial love in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 9:15)!

Forgiving, Saving, And Life Giving Love

            Paul spoke to the Ephesians and reminded them of the depths of their depravity, which is the depravity which is common to us all, and then He said, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” (Ephesians 2:4–5, AV) God has a great love to us, and it is saving love. God, because of His great love, saves us by His grace!

            Hezekiah would speak about how he was near to death and the LORD delivered Him: “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.” (Isaiah 38:17, AV) Why was Hezekiah forgiven, delivered from death, and saved? Because God had love to his soul.

            Paul exulted in the saving love of God by telling Timothy, “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:14–15, AV) The chief of sinners was saved because of God’s love and grace. Let us remember that the Lord does not change (Malachi 3:6), and that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). This being so, all the redeemed will be saved because of God’s great love; and we shall all give Him glory, saying, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5–6, AV)

Biblical Standards of Dress part 1

Biblical Standards of Dress

StandardsDress1

“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” (Revelation 19:6–8)

The text above shows us that the Bride of Christ is to be clothed in fine linen, clean and white. This fine linen is described as the righteousness of the saints. We know that this is symbolic of our justification in Christ (cf Isaiah 61:10). One cannot enjoy the wedding feast without this garment, provided by the King (Matthew 22:11-14).

We are told that Christ is making for Himself a bride that is pure: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.” (Ephesians 5:25–28) Jesus died to present to Himself this holy bride. Jesus purifies His bride with His own blood, thus justifying her, and then sanctifying her. Jesus desires and will have a pure bride. Paul was zealous to do his part in this work. “Would to God you could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:1–2)

When we look at Christ’s bride, who is clothed in this clean and white fine linen, we see that the church has been purchased, cleansed, and prepared for her heavenly bridegroom: she is pure. If the fine linen represents the righteousness of the saints in Christ, should not our fleshly reality conform to this spiritual reality? Certainly there is no great separation between the fleshly and the spiritual in the child of God. Although the flesh has sinful tendencies, we are to submit it to Christ; and we know that what is in our heart is made obvious in our flesh (Proverbs 27:19;Matthew 12:34;Mark 7:14-23). This being the case, we must assert that the Scriptures teach us that our clothing matters, and is often representative of what is within our hearts.

Why Clothing?

Why is clothing even necessary? After all, God made man without any clothing; and Adam and Eve were “naked and not ashamed” when God first created them. Even to this day we read, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4) This demonstrates that there is a place in which nakedness is still acceptable and not shameful. This is why the law states that uncovering nakedness, which is probably a euphemism for fornication or adultery, is a sin (Leviticus 18). We must understand Leviticus chapter eighteen to be an exposition and application of the commandment prohibiting adultery. Sexual relations should only occur within the bonds of heterosexual marriage and to uncover the nakedness of another violates that bond, because nakedness and sexual activity are honorable and pure within marriage.

When sin entered, shame accompanied it. That is what we see when we read of Adam’s fall: “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:7–10) Good desires for food and wisdom had become perverted (See Genesis 3:6 and compare 1 John 2:15-17). We know that, along with those desires, all other passions became misdirected. In fact, Scripture describes man thusly, “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5) The inward man became sinful, and thus nakedness and sexuality became things to protect from the lustful eyes of the ungodly, as this would help protect the sanctity of marriage. This is why the young man is warned against lusting after the harlot: her revealing clothing is demonstrative of her heart, and he is to respect God and marriage enough that he does not long after adulterous deeds (Proverbs 6:25-35).

Nakedness apart from the marriage bed is described as shameful all through the Scriptures. Noah was naked to his shame, and his grandson’s descendants were cursed because of looking upon him in that state (Genesis 9:20-25). When Aaron led Israel into the worship of a golden calf, “they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.” (Exodus 32:6) This play was sexual in nature, as was most idolatrous worship and play in those times, and the Scriptures say that “Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame amongst their enemies:)” (Exodus 32:25). Isaiah speaks of Israel being made naked to their shame (Isaiah 47:1-15), Nahum speaks of nakedness as being synonymous with shame and deserving of mockery (Nahum 3:4-7), and we find that this is the case even when it is spoken of regarding one’s spiritual state (Revelation 3:17-18;16:15). Obviously nakedness needs to be covered.

What Is Nakedness?

Nakedness is, first of all, the state of being uncovered or bare: but what is it that is bared that makes one naked? Most of us recognize that one’s face can be uncovered and the person not be naked. We can say the same about hands and feet. Where do we go with this, then? As seen above, nakedness often carried with it sexual connotations. Nakedness is the uncovering or revealing that is sexual in nature. This means that we shall have to speak plainly here, and it may be a bit embarrassing; although there is no intent of being crude or vulgar. The plain truth must be spoken, however.

When Scripture speaks of nakedness, we immediately realize that it will refer to the uncovering of the genital area. In fact, when the LORD gave Moses commandment regarding the priests’ clothing, He specifically directed him to make breeches (This was a legged undergarment.) that reached below the thigh. “And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach:” (Exodus 28:42) Isaiah also spoke of the shame of the thighs being revealed (Isaiah 47:1-4). Based on this, we can certainly say that nakedness is revealing the leg above the knee. This establishes a sort of buffer zone that prevents prying eyes from seeing more than they should see and prevents inadvertent exposure of private areas. This is Most of us recognize that undergarments have typically been worn in a fashion that prevents them from being seen, so that the outer garment is actually covering and concealing even more than the undergarments. We also see that the buttocks are similarly spoken of in Scripture, as it logically follows that they would (2 Samuel 10:1-6;Isaiah 20:1-6). We can conclude that nakedness is any revealing of the flesh surrounding the private areas, from the waist to below the knee.

We can and must go farther to say that Scripture also associates the revealing of a woman’s breasts as being nakedness. We know that nakedness is the private pleasure of the marriage bed (Genesis 2:25;Hebrews 13:4), and the young man is told to rejoice with his wife and to enjoy her breasts (Proverbs 5:18-20). Solomon’s Song also mentions this explicitly (Song of Solomon 1:13;4:5;7:37-38). And when the LORD spoke to Israel of His rescuing her and making her a great nation, He used the analogy of clothing one who was naked, and giving covering that included her breasts (Ezekiel 16:1-14). Finally, Hosea is very plain about this, saying, “Say ye unto your brethren, Ammi; And to your sisters, Ruhamah. Plead with your mother, plead: For she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: Let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, And her adulteries from between her breasts; Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born, And make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, And slay her with thirst.” (Hosea 2:1–3) Notice how God’s Word associates sexual sin and nakedness by saying that Israel’s adulteries were between her breasts. Just as an adulterous woman exposes what should be held sacredly private for her husband, so Israel had given herself away to idol gods. The results? Israel would be stripped naked to her shame by God. Thus we see that the revealing of a woman’s breasts is nakedness.

Thus it is that we have seen the biblical definition and description of nakedness. This is very plain, but the Word of God is plain, and we should respect and honor the precepts found therein. It is very important that we be the pure bride to Christ that we should be. It is important that the principles of holiness are exhibited in our lives as we honor the Lord and the holy state of marriage by living according to principles of modesty.

The Purpose of Clothing.

“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” (Genesis 3:7)

“Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21)

With sin came shame, so Adam and Eve rushed to cover their nakedness by making aprons out of leaves. Thankfully the good Lord had a better plan. Taking the life of an animal and making clothing from the animal’s skins, He clothed them so that their nakedness did not appear. With this in mind, let us consider the Lord’s purpose for clothing, and what Scripture tells us about our apparel.

First of all, we need to consider the common objection that says, “The Lord looks on the heart!” Yes, that is true; but we need to consider the whole of the verse that is referenced. “And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD’S anointed is before him. But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:6–7) Samuel had been sent to Jesse’s house to anoint the next king of Israel. Having seen Eliab, Samuel thought that he had surely found the next king, because Eliab was kingly looking. God told Samuel that he was looking at the man from the wrong perspective. The LORD had told Saul that He was seeking a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14); so God was not looking at the outward appearance, although Samuel was. The interesting thing is that God told Samuel that man looks on the outward appearance. The reason that this is so, is because we cannot see a person’s heart. We can, however, see signs of what is in their hearts; because what is inside will most often show up on the outside. Thus what is in our hearts comes out of our mouths (Matthew 12:34), and the wickedness that is within a person’s heart shows up in his deeds (Mark 7:21-23), and the faith that is within a person shows itself strong by love (Galatians 5:6). While God does indeed look on the heart, that which is on the outside matters; because the outside normally reflects what is on the inside. Man will look at our outward appearance and decide many things about us by that. What does your outward appearance say about you? This is why modesty is spoken of along with shamefastness (inward modesty) and sobriety (self restraint and moderation of desires and passions): true modesty begins within the heart and manifests itself outwardly.

Why clothing? Clothing was given to mankind to cover and to conceal nakedness. Adam and Eve were ashamed of their nakedness after they had sinned. They instantly experienced shame, knowing that nakedness is not to be shared except within the private confines of the marriage bed. For this cause they made aprons for themselves; but those aprons were insufficient, just as our own attempts to cover up our sin are insufficient. As a symbol of the coming lamb whose blood would wash away our sins, and whose righteousness would clothe the believer, an animal gave its life so that Adam’s and Eve’s shameful nakedness would be covered. Clothing is to keep the shame of nakedness from appearing (Revelation 3:18), so we see that clothing is not simply a cover, but also a concealer. It is important to note this, because some clothing covers everything while revealing many things. Whether the clothing is form fitting, tight, low cut, or with slits very high, or even being somewhat transparent, a person can be covered and yet not concealed. Clothing is given to cover and to conceal: let us be sure to wear it appropriately.

           

The Holiness of God

Isaiah 6:1-8

The Holiness of God

Holiness is so important that we find that Israel was a holy people, with a holy priesthood, who was anointed with holy oil, had holy garments, and who assured their holiness with washing, before they ministered in a holy place, serving and worshipping the holy God, that they might minister to and for the people the LORD commanded to be holy as HE is holy. This same commandment is spoken concerning those of us who have trusted in our holy Savior, been made holy by His grace, and are called to live in holiness by that same grace, to the end that He might present us to himself a holy people.

            What does the word holy mean? The word holy means that which is set apart, or separate? When spoken of God, it means that God is set apart from all others, both gods, men, and all other creatures. The Creator is not the same as His creation. He is supreme over all things. There are none equal to Him. As we study, we will find that God’s holiness encompasses all of His attributes and is the very essence of who He is.

            Scripture shows us holiness is a matter of separation by declaring that the seventh day was set apart from all of the other days of week as holy (Genesis 2:3;Exodus 20:8-11;31:15-17). We also see that the firstborn of every Israelite family was to be set apart as holy unto the LORD (Exodus 13:1-2). Later we see that the Levites were hallowed, or made holy in their place (Numbers 3:11-13). Exodus 28-31 give us the narrative of the priesthood being hallowed with holy anointing oil, given holy clothing, that they might enter into the holy place, ministering for a holy people before the holy God. Should we consider the tabernacle and temple, we would see that the important places therein were the holy place and the most holy place. The holy place was set apart for the priests to do their work in, and the most holy place was set apart for the high priest to enter only on the day of atonement. 

            The Genesis Creation Account is given to us, not only to tell us about the creation of all things, but also to show us that the LORD is the only true God, being our Creator. He made all things. All of the things worshiped by man are but images and likenesses of His creation (Romans 1:21-25). Jeremiah plainly states, “Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. He hath made the earth by his power, He hath established the world by his wisdom, And hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion. When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, And he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; He maketh lightnings with rain, And bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures. Every man is brutish in his knowledge: Every founder is confounded by the graven image: For his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. They are vanity, and the work of errors: In the time of their visitation they shall perish.” (Jeremiah 10:11–15) This is why we read, “For all the gods of the nations are idols: But the Lord made the heavens.” (Psalm 96:5) The LORD calls on man to worship Him exclusively because of His solitary holiness: there is none beside Him (Deuteronomy 32:39-40;Exodus 20:1-11). There is no Creator other than the One Who created all things; and He is holy, being far above and separated from all other gods.

            The Exodus from Egypt demonstrates to us the holiness of God, because God demonstrated that He is above Pharaoh, the greatest of kings in his day. “And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go?” (Exodus 9:16–17) God also demonstrated that He is above all the gods of men, by conquering all of the efforts made by those who worshiped them. “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.” (Exodus 12:12) Having seen that the LORD killed the firstborn of all Egypt, parted the Red Sea, causing Israel to pass through on dry ground, and overthrowing Pharaoh and his army, Israel worshiped the LORD, saying, “Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11) The I AM, the LORD, the holy God of Israel is indeed separated from all rulers, powers, might, and all other gods: He alone is God, ruler of Heaven and Earth.

            Joshua, having exhorted the people of Israel to serve the LORD, “said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.” (Joshua 24:19–20) The gods of men are normally thought to be quite broad in their tolerance and acceptance, and thus the worship of many gods is acceptable to them. The LORD, however, is indeed separated by them in that He allows the worship of Himself only. He is the God of truth, righteousness, and judgement; and He will allow no competitors. He says, “for thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:” (Exodus 34:14) And again, “I am the Lord: that is my name: And my glory will I not give to another, Neither my praise to graven images.” (Isaiah 42:8) While the gods of the people are idols and devils (Jeremiah 10:1-16;1 Corinthians 10:20-22), the LORD is holy: He is the true God, and He alone. In fact, we find it truly stated that “there is none holy as the LORD.” (1 Samuel 2:2).

            God’s holiness is also seen in that He has no equal at all. Not only do His people declare that there is none like Him (Exodus 15:11;Psalm 89:6-8), but God declares the same: “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.” (Isaiah 40:25) “To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, And compare me, that we may be like?” (Isaiah 46:5) And He describes His holiness in that He is sovereign over all things, having determined the course of the universe before ever creating it. “Remember the former things of old: For I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times the things that are not yet done, Saying, My counsel shall stand, And I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, The man that executeth my counsel from a far country: Yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (Isaiah 46:9–11) It is this sovereignty that also highlights God’s separation from all other gods. “For I know that the LORD is great, And that our Lord is above all gods. Whatsoever the LORD pleased, That did he in heaven, and in earth, In the seas, and all deep places.” (Psalm 135:5–6) There is none His equal, because no other god is the Creator of all things, who decreed and knew all things before the creation, and who is sovereign over all things. It is for this cause that we see the glorious exultation in God in the Revelation: “And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:8–11) Our God is holy, because He created all; and He is exalted in majestic might above all others

            We also see the holiness of God in the fact that, although man is made in God’s image and likeness, God is not a man. “God is not a man, that he should lie; Neither the son of man, that he should repent: Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19) God is both immutable and faithful: He does not change, and He is true to Himself and to His Word. Man is not like that, though man should seek to become more and more like God in holiness of living. (See also 1 Samuel 15:29;Hosea 11:9.

            God is also holy in His works. There is none who can work as He works. “O Lord God of hosts, Who is a strong Lord like unto thee? Or to thy faithfulness round about thee? Thou rulest the raging of the sea: When the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them. Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain; Thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm.” (Psalm 89:8–10) And again we read, “The works of the Lord are great, Sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. His work is honourable and glorious: And his righteousness endureth for ever. He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: The Lord is gracious and full of compassion. He sent redemption unto his people: He hath commanded his covenant for ever: Holy and reverend is his name.” (Psalm 111:2-4,9) The LORD’s works declare His glorious name, and evoke the praises of His people (Psalm 75:1). It is because of the LORD’s holiness in bringing about the Exodus that we find Israel rejoicing and triumphing in His holiness (Exodus 15:11). We thus conclude that “The Lord is righteous in all his ways, And holy in all his works.” (Psalm 145:17) 

            The very name of the LORD is holy: there is no other name like His. He declared to Moses that His name is “I AM,” and proceeded to say, “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” (Exodus 3:14–15) The very name of the LORD sets Him apart from all other gods, and is His exclusive glory and fame (Nehemiah 9:6;Psalm 83:18;Isaiah 42:8). 

            When God appeared to Israel at Sinai, He also demonstrated that sinful man cannot approach unto His holiness (Exodus 19&20). He told Moses, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” (Exodus 33:20) The men of Bethshemesh learned that the hard way, when fifty thousand-seventy men died after opening the ark of the covenant (1 Samuel 6:19-20). It is for this reason that Jesus, the Holy One of God, came into the world, that He might bring God to us and man to God (See John 1:14-18;1 Peter 3:18). 

            When God reveals Himself to man, He shows Himself to be beautiful in holiness. This is what we see in our text. Isaiah says He saw the train of the LORD filling the temple. His very presence was strikingly beautiful. David longed to see and experience this, saying, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4) The LORD stands apart in His beauty. This not only refers to what men might have seen in visions (See Exodus 24:10-11), but also to the character of the LORD. Every one of God’s attributes is beautiful and to be desired. There is no absolute and flawless perfection except in Him, and He is to be worshiped and desired to the exclusion of all others (Exodus 20:1-6;34:14;Psalm 73:24-26). God is holy in the beauty of His being.

            We must also recognize that God will be honored as holy. It was a very sad, yet instructive day in Israel when Nadab and Abihu died for offering foreign and unacceptable fire in the tabernacle. Moses told Aaron that day, “Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.” (Leviticus 10:3) We find that the final judgment is about the holy exaltation of God alone:“The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, And the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” (Isaiah 2:11) “Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, And opened her mouth without measure: And their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, And he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it. And the mean man shall be brought down, And the mighty man shall be humbled, And the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled: But the Lord of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, And God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.” (Isaiah 5:14–16) Many today think lightly of hell and judgment, or dismiss them altogether. In every case this is due to the failure to recognize that God is exalted in holiness, that there is none like Him, and that He is to be loved supremely and worshipped exclusively. Sin dishonors the holiness of God, and thus His wrath is kindled with eternal fury to those who commit any sin against His eternal, holy glory. It is this day of holy exaltation for which we are commanded to pray, “Hallowed be thy name.” (Matthew 6:9). It is His holy exaltation that the saints and all creation will worship when His kingdom shall be seen in glory (Psalm 96:9-13). And we see that His holiness is the cause for the saints’ exultation at the end of the age: “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.” (Revelation 15:4) 

            What is amazing about the holiness of God is that He is forgiving and just in doing so. While the idea of God in the minds of many means that God forgives regardless, the reality is as we have seen above, that God’s holiness shall always be honored and vindicated. Yet God does forgive, and this is a part of His holiness. “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, And passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, Because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; And thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, Which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.” (Micah 7:18–20) Note that there is no god like unto the LORD who, although wroth, will yet forgive, relinquish His anger, and show mercy, while upholding truth. That is what the cross of Christ is about: it is about God being just while justifying sinners (Romans 3:21-28). God is consistent with truth and righteousness when He forgives sinners, because He punishes our sin in Christ our representative, who suffered in our place. It is then that God can righteously forgive the sins of those who believe on Jesus. This is why John would say, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) God’s holiness is seen in His wisdom as revealed in the gospel, as He justly punishes sin while forgiving the repenting and believing sinner. There is none other who can do this! Thanks be unto God for His holy pardon!

            Worship is due to God’s holiness. David called men to worship saying, “Glory ye in his holy name: Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.” (1 Chronicles 16:10) “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: Bring an offering, and come before him: Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” (1 Chronicles 16:29) “And say ye, Save us, O God of our salvation, And gather us together, and deliver us from the heathen, That we may give thanks to thy holy name, And glory in thy praise.” (1 Chronicles 16:35) It is the holiness of God that is the cause of the saints’ rejoicing. We are told, “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, And give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30:4–5) The One holy God is gracious and full of life giving favor. Though trials, hardships, and weeping may come, yet our holy God will bring joy in due time by His grace (See also 1 Peter 5:8-10). While many may have slight reason upon Earth to rejoice, the saints have an eternity of reasons to rejoice, because God our Savior is holy!

1. The Eternality of God

The Eternality of God

1. Eternality of God

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:18–21)

If we are to begin a study of Biblical doctrine, we must begin where the Bible begins, with God. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) Scripture tells us, “of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36) Thus we find that all things have their beginning with God. Paul said that He is before all things (Colossians 1:17).

Not only is God before all things, but He holds all things together; and He does all things to His glory (Romans 11:36;Colossians 1:17). This means that the study of theology and doctrine are imminently practical: they are to be done so that we might learn how to honor God.

Furthermore, the study of theology, or the doctrine of God is life changing. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) By reading, studying, and meditating upon the glorious nature and character of God, we are changed to be like God by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

God Is Eternal

Scripture says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) Before there was a beginning, God is. Time is God’s creation as well as space and matter. This means that God is before time and transcends time. Moses said, “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” (Psalm 90:1–2) Not only is God before time, transcending time, but He never will cease to exist. The Psalmist states that His years will not fail (Psalm 102:25-27). We read of Christ, who is God, that His goings forth have been of everlasting (Micah 5:2).

Isaiah quotes God Himself saying, “Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?” (Isaiah 43:13) And Isaiah again tells us that God inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15). Is it any wonder, then, that God would reveal Himself to Moses as “I AM?” (Exodus 3:13-15). I AM speaks simply and plainly of existence. It is an ever-present tense existence: there has never been a time when God was not, but He lives forever. God does not exist within the confines of time, but transcends time, dwelling in eternity. This is why we read of time having no hold upon Him: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8) He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last (Revelation 1:8;21:6). There is none before Him, nor can there be any after Him.

God’s eternality is to His glory and is one of the infinite number of reasons that we should worship Him. “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD.” (Psalm 106:48) He who is of eternal existence, having no beginning nor ending, but inexplicably existing by His own power and will, is worthy of eternal praise. This is the very reason for which God made all things: “And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:9–11) This is an infinitely practical thing, so we should seek to worship the eternal God in every way possible, knowing that we shall someday enter into His presence to worship Him forever.

 

The Omnipotence of God

            God is also eternally powerful, according to Paul (Romans 1:18-21), and that stands to reason; because He who exists from eternity to eternity, and created all things would necessarily be omnipotent. God told Abraham that He is “the almighty God” (Genesis 17:1). His proclamation through Isaiah is, “Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?” (Isaiah 43:13) He who is eternal has eternal power, and there is no one who can hinder Him from doing what He purposes to do. This is why He asked Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14) And when Gabriel spoke to Mary concerning her conceiving as a virgin and then bearing a child, he said, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:37)

The omnipotence of God is reason for us to trust and obey Him also. He spoke through Moses and said, “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.” (Deuteronomy 32:39–40) In the context of this chapter, Moses was commanding Israel to worship God only, rebuking them for straying, prophesying of future ills that will come upon them, and calling upon them to trust and obey Him. Why should we do so? Because the LORD, the great I AM, is all powerful and worthy of our allegiance in every way. This is why Isaiah calls upon us to trust Him as well: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.” (Isaiah 26:3–4) Think of all of the grief that you and I could avoid, if we simply trusted in the LORD. Notice that we are given God’s qualifications for our trust: His strength is everlasting.

As we have already seen, this doctrine is presented to us that we might worship the LORD. David, as he praised God, said, “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God.” (Psalm 62:11) Jeremiah exulted in the LORD, confidently trusting in His great redeeming power, saying, “Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:” (Jeremiah 32:17) Although things looked bleak, hopeless, and Israel’s sin had brought upon them great judgment, Jeremiah worshiped the LORD God who is omnipotent; and he trusted in God’s power to perform His promises. And when the Lord Jesus returns, the Revelation tells us that there is a great multitude of people, saying, “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” (Revelation 19:6) Oh! Can you imagine this day? What a day that will be indeed, to be with countless saints of all ages, rejoicing in our Savior, who is our almighty King!

Eternal Godhead

When Paul speaks of the eternal Godhead of God, he is speaking to us of the fact that God is eternal in nature; but he is also teaching us that God is exclusively God. We find from the context of Romans 1:18-25 that man sins greatly when he worships anything or anyone other than God; because He is blessed forever, and “over all, God blessed forever.” (Romans 9:5)

Creation exists to show forth the splendor of the one true God’s beauty and majestic glory. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1–3) Paul stated that the cycle of the seasons, the rain, the planting-harvest cycle, and the fact that we have food to eat all testify to the one true God (Acts 14:15-17). This is also why we read of the creation showing clearly the eternal power and Godhead of God: God created all things to demonstrate that He is glorious, and the He alone is God. This is why Jeremiah worshiped God and called Israel to worship the LORD exclusively: “Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might. Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee.” (Jeremiah 10:6–7) “But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation. Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion. When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures. Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish. The portion of Jacob is not like them: for he is the former of all things; and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: The LORD of hosts is his name.” (Jeremiah 10:10–16) God did not sit in counsel with other gods, which are but the creation of men’s imaginations, and are actually demonic in nature (1 Corinthians 10:20). Neither did He have assistance in the creation. He is before all things and by Him alone all things consist (Psalm 90:1-2;119:89-91;Colossians 1:15-17;Hebrews 1:1-3) He who exists before time was created, is eternal in nature and will never cease to exist. For this reason, we proclaim with the apostle Paul, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17)

 

 

 

The Eternal Security of The True Believer in Jesus Christ

“In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11–14)

Before us today is the doctrine of the eternal security of the true believer in Jesus Christ. This doctrine is much maligned, because it is either misunderstood or misused. It is the desire of this writer to present this doctrine in such a way as to clear up misunderstandings and glorify the God who saves us from our sins. In studying this doctrine we will consider the following: the new birth is unto eternal life, the Spirit indwells us and is our security, we are saved by grace and kept by grace, Jesus’ death is sufficient to cleanse us from all of our sins forever, Jesus conquered sin by rising from the dead, there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ, Christ promises to raise believers from the dead, Romans 8:29-30 assures us that we are secure in Christ, and we are kept by God’s power until Jesus returns to change us in the resurrection.

The New Birth

When a person trusts Jesus, he is born again (John 3:1-16). The Bible speaks of this new life as being eternal life. Why? Because we are born of God, who is eternal, and because we are begotten again by the Word of God, which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:21-25). The life that we receive is the life of God. It is life from the Word, and that Word is eternal. If God can die, then we can lose eternal life. If God’s Word can perish (Matthew 24:35), then God’s children can perish. We know, however, that God cannot die, and neither can His Word perish. We can conclude from this that God’s children shall never perish either (John 3:16).

 

The Indwelling Spirit

Our text tells us that we are indwelt by the Spirit of God when we trust Jesus. Jesus’ promise to His disciples is that His Spirit will dwell with us and in us forever (John 14:15-18). Not only so, but this text tells us that the Spirit is the Spirit of promise. The Spirit gives us promises because He is the earnest of our inheritance. An earnest is partial payment that is given as assurance that full payment will be forthcoming. The Spirit is a portion of our inheritance, which assures us that we will receive the full inheritance (Note: 1 Peter 1:1-5 teaches that the nature of our inheritance is eternal also.). Should a child of God be able to lose his salvation, this text would not and could not be true. The Spirit indwells us, however, promising us redemption in the resurrection (Romans 8:9-11,23). This indwelling is said to be the seal that shows we are genuinely God’s, and that the Spirit will be the earnest of our inheritance until we receive the fulness of our inheritance. This means that between now and the resurrection, the Spirit will remain with us and will not be leaving us.

We Are Under Grace

Scripture tells us that the believer is no longer under the dominion and power of sin, but under grace (Romans 6:9-14). We have been born again, given a new life, indwelt by the Spirit, promised an inheritance, and sin’s power to destroy us has been broken. Why? Because Jesus died for our sins and arose from the dead, thus conquering and breaking the power of sin (Romans 6:9-10;Colossians 2:13-15). Sin can no longer overcome us, because Christ has justified us. Notice the triumphant exclamation of the apostle in Romans 8:31-32, where he declares that no one can condemn us, because Christ has died, risen, and ascended to the Father.

Sin once reigned in the life of the believer and dominated him; but grace reigns through righteousness, and we have eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:20-21). We are told that Jesus’ righteousness becomes ours when we trust Him, and that we enter into grace and have our standing in grace (Romans 4:1-6;5:1-2). We are no longer dead in sins, but alive unto God. We are no longer slaves to sin but are free and have become the servants of righteousness (Romans 6:17). Where sin was abundant, grace is now super abundant (Romans 5:20-21). Where sin reigned unto death, grace now reigns unto eternal life. Where sin once dominated us and ruled in our passions (Romans 8:5-7;Ephesians 2:1-3), now we are in the Spirit and under grace’s power; and we are graciously led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:12-15;Galatians 4:1-6;5:13-26). We have been removed from the power of Satan and have become citizens of the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (John 3:1-16;Colossians 1:13-14).

Scripture tells us that God is the God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10), and that grace and truth were brought to us by Christ Jesus (John 1:14-17). Grace is favor that is given to those who deserve wrath (Ephesians 2:1-9). Grace is not deserved and cannot be earned (Romans 4:1-6;11:5-6;Ephesians 2:8-9). When we believe Jesus, we enter into a standing in grace (Romans 5:1-2). If we do nothing to earn our salvation, surely we can do nothing to earn the ability to keep it. God’s grace is what rules, not our good works. God’s grace is what reigns, and not sin. The believer is saved by grace and kept by grace, because his standing is in grace.

The Eternal Sufficiency of Christ’s Sacrifice

The death of Jesus Christ is eternally sufficient for the sins of every man, and eternally redeems those who trust Jesus. Jesus promised eternal life to those who believe on Him, because God gave His Son for and to them (John 3:16-18). Jesus stated that He was sent so that believers would not perish, but have everlasting life. The giving of the Son is the giving of life (John 1:1-4;3:16-18;5:21-29), and that comes because Jesus died and rose again (Romans 8:32-34).

Scripture teaches that Jesus by Himself purges our sins (Hebrews 1:1-3), and that through death He destroyed Satan (Hebrews 2:14-15), thus breaking the power of sin over us. While the sacrifices made in the temple could never take away sins, Jesus came and offered one sacrifice for sins forever (Hebrews 10:11-14), and forever sanctifies His people by this sacrifice. Though man is appointed to die and be condemned, Christ died in our place (Hebrews 9:27-28), and He will come back for His people and deliver them from this earth and our sinful bodies (Philippians 3:20-21;Titus 2:11-15).

Hebrews 6:1-9 teaches us that there are those who profess Christ and walk away from their profession. It does not say that they were actually ever truly converted. In fact, we find that this apostasy is a terrible thing; because if one could truly lose his salvation, the text says he could never again be saved, since Jesus would need to die again to redeem him, and this would put Jesus to shame. Jesus will not honor anything that disrespects or devalues the value of His death for our sins. This terrible apostasy is spoken of as despising the Spirit of grace, counting the blood of Jesus as unholy, and walking over Jesus (Hebrews 10:24-31). We must recognize and respect the eternal value of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

The Power of The Resurrection of Christ

When Jesus died, it seemed that hope was gone; but Peter declares that we are born again unto a living hope by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (1 Peter 1:3-5). Jesus died unto sin, and as a sin offering (2 Corinthians 5:17-21); but He arose and lives unto God, and the power of sin and death were broken (Romans 6:9-10).

God promised that the seed of the woman would come and bruise the head of the serpent. John said that Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil (1 John 3:7-10). This is exactly what happened when Jesus rose from the dead. He overcame Satan’s power by breaking the power of death, which is sin (Hebrews 2:14-15;1 Corinthians 15:50-58). Because of this we have access into the very presence of God, are given full assurance through faith, and rest in the faithfulness of God and His promises (Hebrews 10:19-23).

The resurrection and ascension of Christ assure the believer of his security in Christ. Paul states that no one is able to bring charges or condemn those who are in Christ, because He died, arose, and ascended (Romans 8:32-34). Jesus, having risen from the dead, now lives forever and is able to save us to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25).

No Condemnation

Though appointed to die and then be condemned, Christ was offered for us that we might be forgiven and taken into His presence forever (Hebrews 9:27-28). Jesus stated that He did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world; and those who believe in Jesus are not condemned (John 3:16-18).

Jesus, having the power of life and death and the power to execute judgment, declared that those who believe are given eternal life and will never come into condemnation (John 5:24).

Paul also declared that Jesus fulfilled the law and was punished in our place, and that those who are in Christ are not condemned; because we are set free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-4).

These passages give the believer great assurance that his salvation is secure in the Lord Jesus Christ, because there is no condemnation that will ever come to the true believer.

The Promise of The Resurrection

As we saw earlier, the Spirit within us is the assurance of eternal life, because He is with us until the resurrection (Ephesians 1:13-14). Jesus promised that He would not lose any of His children, but would raise us up at the last day (John 6:37-44). We are promised that the Spirit of God which is in us shall give life to these mortal bodies (Romans 8:9-11). We are assured that we are kept by God’s power until we receive our eternal, imperishable inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-5). Jesus declared that He is the resurrection, and that those who believe in Him shall live again (John 11:25). This is the blessed hope of the saints of God (Titus 2:11-14).

We are taught that Jesus will return and receive His people unto Himself (John 14:1-6). And we are given comfort and assurance that the living saints will see their departed loved ones who are in Christ, when the Lord returns to raise us all and take us to ever be with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). This is why Jesus died, that we would be raised up and live with Him, because we are not appointed unto wrath, but unto salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10). The promise of the resurrection is given to us by God, and is a great comfort and assurance that the believer is truly saved forever in Christ.

The Golden Chain of Redemption

Romans 8:28-31 is often called the golden chain of redemption. It speaks to us of election in predestination to be made like Jesus (See Ephesians 1:11-14;Philippians 3:20-21), calling, justification, and glorification. Each step of the process is assured to the believer. If you know yourself to have been called of God, have believed the gospel and are justified, you are also assured that God will glorify you and make you like Jesus. Between justification and glorification there are none lost: “whom He justified, them He also glorified.” This gives us great assurance, because we know that God’s plan cannot be stopped (Deuteronomy 32:39-40;Isaiah 43:13;Daniel 4:34-37). Again, there is security for the believer in Christ.

Kept by The Power of God

Jesus stated that He gives eternal life to His sheep, and that they shall never perish. Not only does He promise that we shall never perish, but He also said that no one will remove us from His hand. No one can take us away from Christ. Jesus then said that we are also in the hand of the Father, and that no one is able to take us out of the Father’s hand. Then, to further strengthen our assurance, He said, “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:27-30) There is nothing and no one able to separate us from Christ. This is Paul’s triumphant declaration concerning the saints in Romans 8:35-39.

We also can read with great confidence God’s promise in 1 Peter 1:3-5, which tells us that we have an eternal inheritance reserved for us, and that we are kept by God’s power until He gives us this salvation in the last times. This salvation is when our bodies are changed to be perfected like Jesus (Romans 8:9-11,19-23;Philippians 3:20-21;1 John 3:1-3).

Can anyone overcome God’s power? No. Can anyone take Christ’s own away from Him? No. Can Satan lead us so far from Jesus that we lose our salvation? No. We are promised that the Spirit which is within us is greater than Satan. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

I Never Knew You

“But!” objects the one who refuses to believe in the eternal security of the believer, “a person cannot be saved and live in sin!” I agree, and so does God. Let us examine a few texts that tell us this same thing.

We read in James 2:14-26 that faith without works is dead. Does this mean that a person can believe and yet be lost? No. It tells us that the faith that does not work is not saving faith (James 2:14-17). This is the same sort of faith that the demons have: they believe God exists, and they tremble (James 2:19), but they are not saved. Scripture tells us that we are saved when we believe Jesus (John 3:16), and that faith works by love (Galatians 5:6). Notice this: faith works. Thus it is that we read of Abraham’s faith and Rahab’s faith being true, saving faith, because it produced works (James 2:21-25). The faith that produces no change and no works is not saving faith, but is dead (James 2:26). This is why, when we read about apostasy in Hebrews 6:1-9, that we find the apostle stating he expected from them the things which accompany salvation. When one believes he becomes a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17), has the law of God and the Spirit of God within him (Romans 8:8-11;Ephesians 1:13-14;Colossians 3:9-10;Hebrews 8:10), and will produce the fruit of the Spirit to the glory of God (Ephesians 5:9;Galatians 5:22-26). The issue is not whether one can lose His salvation: he cannot. The issue is whether one truly believed in the first place.

We read in 1 John 3:7-10 that those who live righteously are righteous, even as Christ is righteous, while those who live in sin are of the devil. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. This is why we can distinguish those who are God’s children from those who are not: those who live in continual sin are the children of the devil, and those who seek to continually live righteously are the children of God. God’s children sin, yet we have an advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1-2), and our sins are forgiven so that they do not cut us off from God. God’s children are characterized by walking in the light and confessing their sins (1 John 1:7,9). Why is this so? It is because we have the seed, or nature of God within us because of the new birth (1 John 3:9). Far from a person being born again and then losing his salvation, the true child of God lives his life in obedience to God.

Finally, notice that there are some who are rejected by God in the judgment (Matthew 7:21-23). There are people who are religious people who will be cast away from God forever. Jesus said that these people would even argue with Him, declaring that they had done many great things for Him; yet they will be rejected. Why are they rejected? Because, despite their religious works, they did not obey God. They did not serve Him. Religious works do not save a person. Professing Christ does not save a person. These people are people who never came to know the Lord Jesus, and it is seen in that He will say to them, “I never knew you.” Jesus did not know them and then reject them. Jesus did not save them and then lose them. Jesus never knew them in the first place. True saving faith results in obedience, as Jesus taught in Matthew 7:24-27. Had people obeyed the Lord by believing Jesus (Romans 10:1-4,16-17), they would have been saved and would have obeyed Him; but they never did, and this is why they will finally be rejected by God and cast from His presence forever. True believers never lose their salvation, but those with a false faith (See John 2:23-24, where many believed in a fashion, but Jesus did not believe them.) will ultimately be rejected of God. To which group do you belong?

 

Does God Repent?

The Repentance of God

“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” (Ge 6:5-6)  KJV

    God repents?  Say what?!?!  I thought that God did not change His mind – ever!  Now we read that God repents?????  

    How will we respond to this?  We can say, I guess the Bible must be full of inconsistencies.  We can also say, I’m sure there’s an answer, but I don’t know what it is.

    Better yet, we can seek an answer.  Yeah, that would honor the Scriptures, and the God who gave them to us.  Let’s see what that answer is.

    First of all let us note that there other places where God is said to have repented.

“Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,  It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments.” (1 Sam 15:10-11)  KJV

“When the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand.”  (2 Sam 24:16)  KJV

“If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you.”   (Jer 42:10)  KJV

    Next let us indeed affirm that God is immutable and that His counsel shall stand.

“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)  KJV

“But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.” (Job 23:13)  KJV

“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,  Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:  Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.”   (Is 46:9-11)  KJV

“I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”  (Mal 3:6)  KJV

    Then we must also see that God’s treatment of men is conditioned upon their response to Him.

“The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,  Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.  Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.    And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.   Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,  O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.   At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;  If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.   And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it;  If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.”  (Jer 18:1-10)  KJV

‘Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:  And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.  Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?”  (Joe 2:12-14)  KJV

    Having seen these things let us then come to this conclusion:

  1. This passage is speaking of God in an anthropopathic way.  That is, God is spoken of as having human attributes.  It is a representation of God in such a way that men might understand a little of the workings of God.
  2. God knows the end from the beginning.  God knows what He will do, and He knows what we will do.  God’s repentance is part of His foreknowledge and foreordained plan.
  3. God’s repentance is not a change of heart such as you and I experience.  God remains holy, pure, righteous, gracious, merciful, loving, et al.  When man turns from God and sins, God’s righteousness demands that He respond to the sin of man.  Why?  Because God’s glory has been despised in man’s sin.  Thus, God did not change, but man did.

When the wicked man repents of his sin and turns to God for grace, neither does God’s heart change then.  God’s righteousness and grace demands that God receive and forgive the one to whom He promised forgiveness if he repented.  Again, God did not change His mind and heart. Man’s heart and mind were changed.

Thus we see that God is immutable, His promise infallible, His Word unchangeable, and His ways unsearchable. At the same time we see that God’s repentance is a vital part of His character in which His outlook toward man is changed based upon man’s response to God and His Word. God’s repentance does not mean that He makes mistakes. His repentance is perfect repentance. It is the reflection of His unchanging, holy character.

The Doctrine Of Redemption Part 1

redemption

 

Redemption In The Old Testament

Any attempt to study the doctrine of redemption would fall woefully short of giving an understanding of this great truth if that study did not take into account the Old Testament data.  As a matter of fact, this doctrine has its beginning in the Old Testament and the New Testament simply fulfills the Old Testament types; without which types we could not understand fully what is meant by redemption in the New Testament.

The first time that redemption is mentioned was when Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph.  Jacob said, “ The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”  (Gen 48:16) KJV  This particular text does not give us an extremely large amount of insight into the meaning of redemption, but it does inform us that one’s redemption is usually from some unpleasant situation.  Jacob declared that he was delivered from all evil.  It is most likely that the patriarch was referring to the fact that he was delivered the various dangers and problems of life that could have destroyed him as well as his own inherent wickedness and the consequences thereof.

Many years later the children of Israel would be enslaved by the Egyptians and would need to be delivered.  It was at this time that the LORD sent Moses to bring them out of Egypt saying, “Say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:  And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.   And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord.”  (Ex 6:6-8) KJV  It is very informative to note that not only does redemption bring one (or a group) out of bondage, but it also takes them into the blessings of the promises of God.  

As Israel was given the law they were also given a civil code to direct them in their day-by-day existence as a nation.  In this civil code was a provision for those who found themselves in a difficult financial position.  That provision was that they could give their land as a payment for their debt.  As a general rule the land would return to them at the end of a specified fifty year period, but not before.  There was one way in which the land could be returned to the original owner before the fifty year period was expired.  It could return by means of redemption.  This simply means that, should the original owner or a family member of his be able to pay the debt, the land would be redeemed and the original owner could take possession of it once again.  “If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.   And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be able to redeem it;  Then let him count the years of the sale thereof, and restore the overplus unto the man to whom he sold it; that he may return unto his possession.”  (Lev 25:25-27) KJV  This same principle applies to one who sold himself into servitude to pay his debts.  “If a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger’s family:  After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him:  Either his uncle, or his uncle’s son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself.”  (Lev 25:47-49) KJV  One thing that is necessary to note is the fact that the redeemer must have a kinship to the one being redeemed.  This fact will be relevant later in our study.

The resurrection is spoken of as redemption, too.  Job spoke of it saying, “Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!   That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!   For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:  And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:   Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”  (Job 19:23-27) KJV  What makes this passage interesting is the fact that there are those who think there is no reference to a bodily resurrection in the Old Testament.  Job (Who is probably a grandson of Jacob Gen 46:13 cp Gen 36:1-11) was confident that, though his body would be consumed by the worms, he would see his Redeemer face to face.  Although he was in a great trial, Job was confident that he would not be caused to remain under that hardship, but would be redeemed; if not in the present, in the future when the Redeemer came to the earth.  The Psalmist also spoke of the resurrection: “God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me.”  (Ps 49:15) KJV  Hosea , too, had confidence that there was a redemption that would overcome death, and spoke in the name of the LORD saying, “ I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.”  (Hos 13:14) KJV  

The Old Testament also acknowledges that when one’s sins are forgiven they are redeemed.  Isaiah spoke in the name of the LORD saying, “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.   Sing, O ye heavens; for the Lord hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.”  (Isa 44:22,23) KJV  We shall find that this aspect of the doctrine will be revealed and developed much more fully in the New Testament.

Finally, the Old Testament speaks to us of God’s redeeming His people at the time of the end.  Although we have already seen the truth of the resurrection, we must also see that redemption does not simply bring us out of the grave, but also into the eternal blessings of God.  “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.   It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.   Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.   Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.   Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.   Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.   And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.   And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.   No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:  And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”  (Isa 35:1-10) KJV  This is spoken of again when Isaiah said, “The Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.  Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.”  (Isa 51:3,11) KJV  “So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.   And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.   As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.”  (Isa 59:19-21) KJV  These passages demonstrate to us that the Lord shall return and deliver His people from oppression and their own sins and give them eternal joy according to His promise.  That will be a glorious redemption indeed.

Redemption In Christ

In New Testament times one of the first times that redemption was mentioned was when Zacharias’ wife Elizabeth bore him a son whom he named John.  This child John (John the Baptist) was to be the one who went before the LORD in the spirit of Elijah (See Luke 1: ).  When John was born, this knowledge caused Zacharias to rejoice saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,  And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;  As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:  That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;  To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;  The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,  That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,  In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.”  (Luke 1:68-75) KJV  Zacharias knew that Jesus would soon be born, and so he rejoiced that God was coming as our redeemer.  While (as was typical of the time) Zacharias viewed redemption in a somewhat nationalistic way (because he was expecting deliverance from their enemies and those who hated them), yet he also believed that redemption did have a spiritual element, too.  Being redeemed we shall be able to serve God without fear of man and can do so in righteousness all the days of our lives.  Thus redemption can be seen as our being delivered from bondage to be ever able to serve the Lord.  Anna, too, recognized that the child, Jesus, was our redeemer.  The Scriptures say that “She coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”  (Luke 2:38) KJV 

What is the redemption that is in Christ?  Redemption is forgiveness of sins.  “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”  (Eph 1:7) KJV  “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:14) KJV  

During His ministry Jesus stated that his life would be the redemption price for us.  “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  (Matt 20:28) KJV  For man to be set free from sin a price did indeed have to be paid.  The Scriptures set the penalty for sin: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”  (Ezek 18:4) KJV  “The wages of sin is death.”  (Rom 6:23) KJV  “Without shedding of blood is no remission.”  (Heb 9:22) KJV  That is the price that Jesus paid for us: His blood, which means that He gave His life.  

The Early Church Fathers On The Church: A Matter Of History

1&2 cen fathers universal church

The Early Church Fathers On The Church

(The First Two Centuries)

            It has been said that those of us who believe that the body of Christ is much larger than the local church, but is composed of all the redeemed, are Protestant in doctrine. It is the intention of this writer to demonstrate from a historical viewpoint that the idea of the church being having not only a local nature, but also a universal nature is a quite ancient teaching. We will study quotations from a few writers from the first and second centuries. It might be that we could study and find ourselves in disagreement with these men on various doctrinal and practical issues. That is not our aim at this time. The aim of this article is to simply consider from a historical perspective whether or not there were any people of the first and second centuries who believed that the church has an universal nature, and that the church is composed of all those who trust Jesus Christ. Again, we are not seeking to establish the doctrinal orthodoxy of those who are quoted, but are studying from an explicitly historical perspective in order to determine the age of the doctrine of the church universal.

 

Defining Terms

            Ante-Nicene- before Nicaea. In AD 325 a council was assembled at Nicaea, in Turkey. Constantine assembled it in order to address some doctrinal issues. The resources from which these quotes come are called the Ante-Nicene Fathers. These are writings that have survived over the centuries, and we are focusing especially on those writers from the first and second centuries AD.

            catholic- universal

Regarding the nature of the church and the writings of these ancient Christians, the editors of the Ante-Nicene Fathers said,  “Too long have they been allowed to speak to the popular mind as if the Fathers were their own; while, to every candid reader, it must be evident that, alike, the testimony, the arguments, and the silence of the Ante-Nicene writers confound all attempts to identify the ecclesiastical establishment of “the Holy Roman Empire,” with “the Holy Catholic Church” of the ancient creeds.[1]

In other words, we must not confuse the word “catholic” with a lower case “c” with the Roman Catholic Church. The word “catholic” simply means universal. Any time this word appears in our article, it NEVER refers to the Romans Catholic Church, but simply to the nature of the church as being universal.

 

Polycarp

Polycarp was born about AD 65, and the exact date of his death is uncertain. His death is believed to be somewhere about AD 116, or even as late as AD 155. What is important to us is his place in history.

Polycarp is said to have been one who knew several of the Apostles, studied under the Apostle John, and wrote a letter to the Philippians, which was the same church to whom Paul wrote.

With these things in mind, though we acknowledge only the authority of Scripture, we yield respect to this elder who has gone before us and was so closely related to the Apostles; and we respect the words of his contemporaries who wrote of him.

“The Church of God which sojourns at Smyrna, to the Church of God sojourning in Philomelium, and to all the congregations2 of the Holy and Catholic Church in every place: Mercy, peace, and love from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, be multiplied.[2]” This is not a direct quotation from Polycarp, but is extracted from a letter sent from Smyrna to other churches. Let it be noted that it speaks of the congregations of Holy and Catholic (universal) church in every place. Again, we must stress that this does NOT refer to the Roman Catholic Church, which at that time was not in existence at that time. This refers to the universal nature of the church. These Christian brothers, writing about the death of Polycarp, acknowledge that the church has both a local and a universal nature.

 

 

“Now, as soon as he had ceased praying, having made mention of all that had at any time come in contact with him, both small and great, illustrious and obscure, as well as the whole Catholic Church throughout the world, the time of his departure having arrived, they set him upon an ass, and conducted him into the city, the day being that of the great Sabbath.[3]” Once again we see the universal (catholic) nature of the church presented by the writers of this letter, as they declare that it is “throughout the world.”

 

“For, having through patience overcome the unjust governor, and thus acquired the crown of immortality, he now, with the apostles and all the righteous [in heaven], rejoicingly glorifies God, even the Father, and blesses our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of our souls, the Governor of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world.[4]” We see even more clearly the universal nature of the church in the statement that Jesus is the “Shepherd of the Catholic (universal) church throughout the world.” That is, the universal church is in all of the world. It is not simply local, though the church has a local nature, but it is throughout the world.

 

 

“Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.[5]” Wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the universal (Catholic) church. This clearly sets forth the understanding that the existence of the church is both heavenly and earthly, as Jesus is omnipresent.

 

 

 

Justin Martyr 110-165

“Moreover, that the word of God speaks to those who believe in Him as being one soul, and one synagogue, and one church, as to a daughter; that it thus addresses the church which has sprung from His name and partakes of His name (for we are all called Christians), is distinctly proclaimed in like manner in the following words, which teach us also to forget [our] old ancestral customs, when they speak thus: ‘Hearken, O daughter, and behold, and incline thine ear; forget thy people and the house of thy father, and the King shall desire[6]” Note that Justin speaks of the church as being composed of those who believe, and as being one in nature. Let us recall that this was written at least one hundred years before the organization of the Roman Catholic church, and more than one thousand three hundred years before the Protestant Reformation. It is absolutely impossible to be historically accurate and claim that the teaching of the universal nature of the church is of Protestant origin.

 

 

Irenaeus 120-202

“The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father “to gather all things in one,”7 and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess” to Him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all; that He may send “spiritual wickednesses,”9 and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire; but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning [of their Christian course], and others from [the date of] their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory.[7]” Let us simply notice that Irenaeus stated that the church was spread throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth.

 

“And again: “God stood in the congregation of the gods, He judges among the gods.” He [here] refers to the Father and the Son, and those who have received the adoption; but these are the Church. For she is the synagogue of God, which God—that is, the Son Himself—has gathered by Himself. Of whom He again speaks: “The God of gods, the Lord hath spoken, and hath called the earth.” Who is meant by God? He of whom He has said, “God shall come openly, our God, and shall not keep silence;”4that is, the Son, who came manifested to men who said, “I have openly appeared to those who seek Me not.” But of what gods [does he speak]? [Of those] to whom He says, “I have said, Ye are gods, and all sons of the Most High.”6 To those, no doubt, who have received the grace of the “adoption, by which we cry, Abba Father.”[8]” Irenaeus stated that the church are those who have received the adoption. Adoption occurs when one trusts Jesus Christ and receives the Holy Spirit: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Romans 8:9) “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15) In other words, Irenaeus believed that the church universal was composed of all believers. Again, far from being Protestant theology or ecclesiology, this teaching historically predates both the Protestant Reformation and the Roman Catholic Church.

 

 

 

“For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth. Those, therefore, who do not partake of Him, are neither nourished into life from the mother’s breasts, nor do they enjoy that most limpid fountain which issues from the body of Christ; but they dig for themselves broken cisterns out of earthly trenches, and drink putrid water out of the mire, fleeing from the faith of the Church lest they be convicted; and rejecting the Spirit, that they may not be instructed.[9]” Once again we find that Irenaeus plainly presents the church as having a universal nature when he says, “Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church.”

 

“Vain, too, is [the effort of] Marcion and his followers when they [seek to] exclude Abraham from the inheritance, to whom the Spirit through many men, and now by Paul, bears witness, that “he believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness.” And the Lord [also bears witness to him,] in the first place, indeed, by raising up children to him from the stones, and making his seed as the stars of heaven, saying, “They shall come from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, and shall recline with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven;” 15 and then again by saying to the Jews, “When ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of heaven, but you yourselves cast out.” This, then, is a clear point, that those who disallow his salvation, and frame the idea of another God besides Him who made the promise to Abraham, are outside the kingdom of God, and are disinherited from [the gift of] incorruption, setting at naught and blaspheming God, who introduces, through Jesus Christ, Abraham to the kingdom of heaven, and his seed, that is, the Church, upon which also is conferred the adoption and the inheritance promised to Abraham.[10]” Here Irenaeus declares that the seed of Abraham (He is speaking of all who believe on Jesus Christ.) is the Church.

 

 

“For thus it had behoved the sons of Abraham [to be], whom God has raised up to him from the stones, and caused to take a place beside him who was made the chief and the forerunner of our faith (who did also receive the covenant of circumcision, after that justification by faith which had pertained to him, when he was yet in uncircumcision, so that in him both covenants might be prefigured, that he might be the father of all who follow the Word of God, and who sustain a life of pilgrimage in this world, that is, of those who from among the circumcision and of those from among the uncircumcision are faithful, even as also “Christ is the chief corner-stone,” sustaining all things); and He gathered into the one faith of Abraham those who, from either covenant, are eligible for God’s building. But this faith which is in uncircumcision, as connecting the end with the beginning, has been made [both] the first and the last. For, as I have shown, it existed in Abraham antecedently to circumcision, as it also did in the rest of the righteous who pleased God: and in these last times, it again sprang up among mankind through the coming of the Lord. But circumcision and the law of works occupied the intervening period[11]” Note that Irenaeus speaks of the building of God, the church, are those who are in the one faith of Abraham. In other words, he recognized that the church has a universal nature, and is composed of all those who believe on Jesus Christ.

 

“For the illustrious Church is [now] everywhere, and everywhere is the winepress digged: because those who do receive the Spirit are everywhere.[12]” Once again, more than one thousand three hundred years before the Protestant Reformation, and more than one hundred years before Roman Catholicism, Irenaeus spoke of the church as being those who receive the Spirit. Far from being a historically Protestant doctrine, the doctrine of the universal church being composed of all of the redeemed is a historically ancient doctrine. The innovation comes from those who reject this truth.

 

“If, then, God promised him the inheritance of the land, yet he did not receive it during all the time of his sojourn there, it must be, that together with his seed, that is, those who fear God and believe in Him, he shall receive it at the resurrection of the just. For his seed is the Church, which receives the adoption to God through the Lord, as John the Baptist said: “For God is able from the stones to raise up children to Abraham.” Thus also the apostle says in the Epistle to the Galatians: “But ye, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise.”10 And again, in the same Epistle, he plainly declares that they who have believed in Christ do receive Christ, the promise to Abraham thus saying, “The promises were spoken to Abraham, and to his seed. Now He does not say, And of seeds, as if [He spake] of many, but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” And again, confirming his former words, he says, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore, that they which are of faith are the children of Abraham. But the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, declared to Abraham beforehand, That in thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham.”12 Thus, then, they who are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham, and these are the children of Abraham. Now God made promise of the earth to Abraham and his seed; yet neither Abraham nor his seed, that is, those who are justified by faith, do now receive any inheritance in it; but they shall receive it at the resurrection of the just. For God is true and faithful; and on this account He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”[13]” Note that Irenaeus speaks of Abraham and says, “His seed is the Church, which receives the adoption to God through the Lord.” We cannot but accept that Irenaeus was teaching that the church has a universal aspect to her nature, and that universal church is composed of all who believe on Jesus Christ.

 

 

“Now I have shown a short time ago that the church is the seed of Abraham; and for this reason, that we may know that He who in the New Testament “raises up from the stones children unto Abraham,” is He who will gather, according to the Old Testament, those that shall be saved from all the nations, Jeremiah says: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The Lord liveth, who led the children of Israel from the north, and from every region whither they had been driven; He will restore them to their own land which He gave to their fathers.”[14]” Again we read, “The Church is the seed of Abraham.” Could it be stated with any greater plainness that Irenaeus believed that the church is composed of the redeemed, whose faith is in Christ Jesus?

 

Clement of Alexandria 153-193-217

“Come, come, O my young people! For if you become not again as little children, and be born again, as saith the Scripture, you shall not receive the truly existent Father, nor shall you ever enter into the kingdom of heaven. For in what way is a stranger permitted to enter? Well, as I take it, then, when he is enrolled and made a citizen, and receives one to stand to him in the relation of father, then will he be occupied with the Father’s concerns, then shall he be deemed worthy to be made His heir, then will he share the kingdom of the Father with His own dear Son. For this is the first-born Church, composed of many good children; these are “the first-born enrolled in heaven, who hold high festival with so many myriads of angels.”[15]” Clement declares that the church is “composed of… ‘the first-born enrolled in heaven.’” Once again, history bears out that the belief in the church being composed of all the redeemed is of ancient origin, and did not come from Protestantism.

 

“And the Lord is called man, because He is perfect in righteousness. Directly in point is the instance of the apostle, who says, writing the Corinthians: “For I have espoused you to one man, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ,” whether as children or saints, but to the Lord alone. And writing to the Ephesians, he has unfolded in the clearest manner the point in question, speaking to the following effect: “Till we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we be no longer children, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, by the craft of men, by their cunning in stratagems of deceit; but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up to Him in all things,”9—saying these things in order to the edification of the body of Christ, who is the head and man, the only one perfect in righteousness; and we who are children guarding against the blasts of heresies, which blow to our inflation; and not putting our trust in fathers who teach us otherwise, are then made perfect when we are the church, having received Christ the head.[16]” Once again we see that Clement describes the church universal as being composed of all the redeemed, when he says, “We are the church, having received Christ the head.”

 

“Further release from evils is the beginning of salvation. We then alone, who first have touched the confines of life, are already perfect; and we already live who are separated from death. Salvation, accordingly, is the following of Christ: “For that which is in Him is life.” “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My words, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into condemnation, but hath passed from death to life.”2 Thus believing alone, and regeneration, is perfection in life; for God is never weak. For as His will is work, and this is named the world; so also His counsel is the salvation of men, and this has been called the church. He knows, therefore, whom He has called, and whom He has saved; and at one and the same time He called and saved them. “For ye are,” says the apostle, “taught of God.” It is not then allowable to think of what is taught by Him as imperfect; and what is learned from Him is the eternal salvation of the eternal Saviour, to whom be thanks for ever and ever. Amen. And he who is only regenerated—as the name necessarily indicates—and is enlightened, is delivered forthwith from darkness, and on the instant receives the light.[17]” Clement again says, “His counsel is the salvation of men, and this has been called the church.” Those who are saved are called the church by Clement. Once again, it must be stated that we may not agree with every doctrine taught by these men of old; but our aim is to historically establish the fact that the teaching of the universal nature of the church is much more ancient than Protestantism.

 

“And if the Word, speaking of the Lord by David, sings, “The daughters of kings made Thee glad by honour; the queen stood at Thy right hand, clad in cloth of gold, girt with golden fringes,” it is not luxurious raiment that he indicates; but he shows the immortal adornment, woven of faith, of those that have found mercy, that is, the Church; in which the guileless Jesus shines conspicuous as gold, and the elect are the golden tassels.[18]” Clement speaks of the church as those that have found mercy. What can this be but the teaching that those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ comprise the church universal?

 

“And the earthly Church is the image of the heavenly, as we pray also “that the will of God may be done upon the earth as in heaven.[19]” We once again find the universal aspect of the church’s nature when we find Clement stating that the church is both earthly and heavenly.

 

“From what has been said, then, it is my opinion that the true Church, that which is really ancient, is one, and that in it those who according to God’s purpose are just, are enrolled.[20]” This final quotation is very plain in stating that the true church is one church, and that those who are enrolled in it are those who are justified.

 

Conclusion

            Our aim having been to simply determine if any of the ancients of the early church believed that there was a universal nature to the church has presented us with proof that they did believe so. Several times these writers have stated that the church has a local nature, and that the church in her universal nature is composed of all of those who are redeemed through faith in Jesus Christ. While we may find ourselves disagreeing with these ancients on some doctrinal and practical issues, it must be remembered that our aim has been simply to determine what was historically believed among these first and second century writers. We can safely conclude that the belief in the church universal, composed of all of the redeemed is by no means a Protestant invention, nor is it of Roman Catholic origin; but it is much more ancient that either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), v.

[2] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., “The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrna,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 39.

[3] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., “The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrna,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 40.

[4] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., “The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrna,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 43.

[5] Ignatius of Antioch, “The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnæans,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 90.

[6] Justin Martyr, “Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 229.

[7] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 330–331.

[8] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 419.

[9] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 458.

[10] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 470–471.

[11] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 495–496.

[12] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 515.

[13] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 561–562.

[14] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 563–564.

[15] Clement of Alexandria, “Exhortation to the Heathen,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 195.

[16] Clement of Alexandria, “The Instructor,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 213.

[17] Clement of Alexandria, “The Instructor,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 216.

[18] Clement of Alexandria, “The Instructor,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 266.

[19] Clement of Alexandria, “The Stromata, or Miscellanies,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 421.

[20] Clement of Alexandria, “The Stromata, or Miscellanies,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 555.

Elders In The Church

Elders

Elders

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” (1 Peter 5:1–4) 

            The New Testament presents to us a system of order in the church in which elders lead. The questions that are before us are as follows: who are elders, what are their duties, what is their authority, what qualifies one to be an elder, and what relationship does the rest of the local church have to the elders?

Lessons From The Old Testament

            The first thing that needs to be recognized is that elders were nothing new in the New Testament days. Elders have been around since Old Testament times. As with many other things in the New Testament, the office of elder is based upon the pattern that was established in the Old Testament. With this in mind, we shall consider the Old Testament’s teaching regarding elders.

            In Genesis 50:1-8, the elders of Egypt were present for the burial of Jacob in the land of Canaan. While there is little specified here, it seems that the elders of Egypt were those who were under Pharaoh in authority. While age probably was a factor, eldership was about the position of leadership and authority under the supreme ruler, who was Pharaoh. The elders represented Pharaoh and the people of Egypt.

            When Moses was directed by the LORD to tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go, the elders of Israel went with Moses. First Moses spoke to the elders of the people, who obviously were the representative heads of the various tribes and families of Israel. Then the elders, representing the tribes and families, appeared before Pharaoh, demanding their release in the name of the LORD. (Exodus 3:15-19)

            When Moses would give the words of God to Israel concerning the Passover, it was physically impossible for him to assemble the large multitude of people, so he called the elders together and gave them the message to take back to the people. Upon reception of God’s Word, the people obeyed the elders and offered the Passover as they were directed. (Exodus 12:21-28)

            In the days of God giving Israel water from the rock, it was again the elders who stood with Moses as God demonstrated His glory. (Exodus 17:1-7) It was literally impossible for a couple million people to see the water immediately flow from the rock when it was struck; but it was possible for the elders to tell them of it as they saw the water flowing to them. Again, the elders stood as representatives of the people.

            Exodus 18:12-27 shows us Moses choosing men to judge the people. It seems that everyone applied to Moses for judgment in various cases, yet Moses could not bear the load. Because of this, he followed the guidance of his father-in-law and set the elders to represent him as Israel’s leader under God; and the elders were to rule over the people as the representatives of God under Moses’ leadership. (See also Numbers 11:11-17).

            In Exodus 19:1-8, Moses spoke the words of the LORD to the elders, who then carried those words to the people. Again we see that the elders were representative leaders of the people, under the authority of Moses and God’s Word. (Cf Deuteronomy 31:9-13;Joshua 8:33-35;2 Kings 23:1-3).

            Moses, in Deuteronomy 5:23-25, spoke to Israel of their assembling at Mount Sinai. There he told them that the heads of their tribes and their elders asked him to speak to them rather than their hearing the voice of God directly. When we read Exodus 19:7-8 and Exodus 20:18-20, we can see that the elders both spoke for the people and to the people. We once again see that the elders were representatives of the people.

            Notice also that the elders of Israel were those who judged, applied and enforced the laws of God in Israel. (Deuteronomy 19:11-13;21:1-9;18-21;22:13-21;25:7-10;Joshua 20:1-6;Ruth 4:1-12)

            We also see that the elders of Israel were the ones who confirmed God’s choice of David as their king. (2 Samuel 3:17-21;5:3;19:11-15)

            One thing that is of great importance is that elders are to be honored. We are told to honor the old men (Leviticus 19:32). Elders who are leaders are not always old men, yet their position is that of an old man whose character, word, and example are to be expected. Sadly Israel failed in that, and that was part of their downfall, when they went into captivity (Lamentations 4:16;5:12,14).

Elders In The Church

“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28)

            As we study the New Testament church and its leadership, we must remember that the church did not arise as something entirely new. Jesus’ work was a work of fulfillment. Jesus came to build upon the things He had established in the Old Testament. We know that the things that happened to Israel are examples to us (1 Corinthians 10:6,11;Romans 15:4), and that Jesus did not come to destroy the Old Testament Scriptures, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17-20). We shall see, then, that the New Testament eldership has much in common with Israel’s eldership.

            As we begin, let us notice that the eldership in the New Testament is referred to in a variety of ways. The elders in the text above are to feed, or to shepherd God’s flock. In 1 Peter 5:1-4, we find that the elders are to feed, or shepherd God’s flock, and to take oversight by giving attention to them and their state of affairs. Another word for shepherd is pastor. Just as we saw that the elders of Israel heard the words of God from Moses and spoke them to the people, so the elders in the church are under the Lord Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, and must take only His Words, which are the Scriptures, and speak them to the people.  We also find the word bishop used in 1 Timothy 3, which is paralleled by the word elder in Titus 1:5-11. 

            What are bishops? A bishop is an overseer. Just as the shepherd is to take oversight of the flock, that is the very name of the office as well- overseer. Notice that Paul tells Timothy four very important things concerning pastors (1 Timothy 3:1-7):

  1. He has to be of godly character (:1-6).
  2. He has to have the reputation of a godly man (:7).
  3. He is to be able to teach (:2).
  4. He is to take care of the church of God, just as he is to rule (That is, to stand over, preside, rule, and direct.) his own house.      

Paul left Titus at Crete to set in order, or correct the things that were lacking there (Titus 1:4-11). Among those things was the fact that they needed leadership. Titus was to ordain bishops to shepherd the flock. As bishops, they needed to be of godly character, but also one who would cling to the Word of God. They needed to cling to the Word of God, because they were going to face opposition from people who would need to have their mouths closed. Titus and these bishops would have to rebuke these vain talkers (:10-14). Not only were they to rebuke, but also they were to rebuke sharply. This speaks of abruptly exposing the falsehoods, ungodly words, and ungodly deeds of those who were disrupting the flock of God. The eldership is more than simply a figurehead who is to preach, visit the sick, and go home. If that is what you desire, perhaps you might have a chaplain, a preacher, or an evangelist of sorts, you may even have a hireling; but you don’t have a biblical elder or pastor, that is for sure! Biblical elders are given the difficult task of pointing out sin, exposing the ungodly, who refuse to repent, and rebuking them.

The elders, as seen in the book of Acts, gave directions based upon God’s Word. As they did so, the churches were expected to honor this. “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” (Acts 15:1–5) “Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.” (Acts 15:22–29)Because of the truth of the Word of God, these elders had the right to speak the Word to others, with the expectation that those who heard it would accept it in humble submission.

Elders are also spoken of as ruling, or leading, as well as laboring in the Word and in doctrine, or teaching (1 Timothy 5:17-18). We are instructed to give them double honor, which not only denotes respect but, as the context shows, speaks to us of providing for his material needs. Not only so, but as an elder, Timothy had a duty to rebuke, and to rebuke publicly (1 Timothy 5:20).

The work of the pastor/elder is also seen in the command that Paul gave to Timothy: “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1–5) The elder is to preach the Word of God. He is to be instant. That is, he is to be standing near and pressing in his earnestness. He is not only to be ready to do his work, but must do so with great sincerity and godly passion. And this being instant must be whether it is convenient to do so, or inconvenient. He must reprove, show sin to be sin, and to bring the convicting influence of God’s Word to bear upon the people. He is to rebuke, to censure those who refuse to repent: his words must always be charitable, but they will not always be sweet and kind, because rebuke involves stern resistance to those who reject the Word and refuse to repent. Then he is to exhort. Exhortation is coming alongside others to help them. The elder is to truly act as one who is older than those around him, lending them the wisdom that He has gained from the Word of God and from the experiences God has used to give him wisdom. All of these things must be done with much endurance, while continually teaching and applying God’s Word. 

We also find these instructions in 1 Thessalonians: “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13) Again, the elders labor, are over the flock as managers or leaders, and they have the job of admonishing, or instructing the church. Those who lead have authority, and are expected to be followed. Those whose office is to teach do so with the expectation that those who are taught are to learn, believe, and submit to the Word of God. These things are most certainly implied in the command that the church know, or be fully acquainted with those who labor among them. This implies close relationships, and is followed by the command to esteem them very highly in love, or to abundantly, exceedingly, and vehemently regard, or esteem them in love because of the work God is using them to do. 

We also find God’s Word instructing us in Hebrews: “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:7–8) “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17) The instruction to the churches is to remember, to keep in mind those who rule over them. That is, there are those whose job is to speak the Word of God, following the Lord Jesus Christ, and they are rulers, leaders, their position in the church of God is chief, being under the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Chief Shepherd. Not only so, but verse seventeen tells us that the elder rules and watches over the souls of the flock, because they must give an account to God. This entails much more than simply preaching, but keeping an eye out for the spiritual health of each sheep, and addressing those needs. Sometimes addressing the needs of the sheep means comforting them in their afflictions, but it can also mean stern correction and rebuke in order to call them back to the right way. 

John certainly was no passive elder when he said, “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.” (3 John 9–10) It was his duty to actively resist those who thought that they had the right to usurp the authority of the eldership and take charge of the church. John stated that he would most certainly deal with the matter. We must also notice that in the matter of church discipline in 1 Corinthians chapter five, it was Paul who took the lead. The apostle wrote to the church, and commanded them what to do, when to do it, and why. The modern day idea of the passive pastor who simply preaches, visits the sick, and goes home is by no means in harmony with the Biblical doctrine of the eldership.

In closing, the elder is one whose position is that of one who is mature, experienced, educated in the Word of God, and is considered chief among the flock where he is placed. He is not elder by merit of age, but by merit of position. There may be those within the flock who are older than he; but if there is a man who is eighty-six years of age, he should respect his pastor as though he were approximately one hundred-six years of age, having the wisdom and character that would come with a godly life of so many years. His duty is to patiently teach the flock the Word of God, to show them their errors and rebuke them when needed. The pastor is to use the Word of God to instruct the people in righteousness, correct their errors, and to help them in all of the things that they face in life. In all of these things, the elder is to step out in front of the people, as a shepherd does his sheep; and he is to lead the people. For too many years, and in too many places, the sheep have taken charge and led the shepherd. Is it any wonder that we have so many weak, anemic, and unholy churches these days? It is time for us to recover a Biblical understanding of the eldership. It is designed by God for the good of the churches, that we might fill our place here on Earth to spread the gospel and give God glory.

Some Thoughts On The Christian And The Law

Christianity And The Law

(Christ And The Law)

    What sort of attitude did Jesus have toward the law of God?  This is the question we must ask of ourselves as we study the law of God and its relevance to mankind today.  If Jesus disregarded God’s law, we can do the same.  If Jesus abolished God’s law, we can consider it to be irrelevant.  On the other hand, if Jesus respected, fulfilled, and established God’s law, we must honor and obey God’s law.   Let us see what the Biblical record will show us.

Christ Established The Law

    As Christ preached His Sermon on The Mount, He stated to the people, “ Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.   For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.   Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.   For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:17-20)  What did Jesus mean by this statement?  Did Jesus mean that, when He fulfilled the law, it would be forever useless and irrelevant, or did Jesus mean to say that His fulfilling of the law caused its authority to stand firmly?  First of all, we must found our understanding of this issue upon Jesus’ first phrase in this passage.  The reason we must found our understanding of this issue upon this first phrase of Jesus is because, in this passage, Jesus is plainly stating what people should not think about His attitude and actions toward the law of God.  We must not think that Jesus came to destroy, demolish, or dissolve the law of God.  He explicitly stated to us that we should not think that.  Jesus did not come for this purpose.  Anything else that is said about the validity of the law of God must be based upon this plain statement by Jesus.  This being so, we can at least see that Jesus intends for the law to stand as it did for many years before His earthly ministry.

    Jesus’ words concerning the law were very simple and very plain.  After He told us that He had no intentions of destroying the law, He stated that He had come for the purpose of fulfilling the law.  To fulfill the law meant more than simple obedience to all of God’s commands.  To fulfill means to consummate, render perfect, ratify, or carry through to completion.  This definition informs us that Jesus had a very high view of God’s law.  In fact, since in the Old Testament the moral law of God was considered to be absolute, we can safely affirm that Jesus held the same view.  If the reader will notice, however, there is one thing that Jesus stated that cannot be said by any other man.  Jesus stated that He would fulfill the law.  No other man could ever make that statement, no matter how good he might be.  Why?  Because no human has the authority to make or establish laws for all mankind for all ages.  The only one who could carry the law to its intended end, perfect and ratify it would be the one who was the lawgiver – God.   Jesus was stating that there was more work for the law to accomplish, and He would be the one to cause that work to be finished.  Christ affirmed that the law would not go away, but would be upheld and perfected by Him.

    Next Jesus affirmed the absolute authority of the law of God.  That is, the law of God will continue to be authoritative with no reduction or change to that authority until it has served its purpose.  “Verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matt 5:18)  When we read of “jots and tittles” we are being given a description of the most minute parts of the alphabetical and grammatical structure of the Hebrew language.  It would be roughly equivalent to saying that an “i” and a “.” would not pass away from the word of God.  In other words, even in the smallest of particulars, the law of God would not be dissolved.  Not one thing that would affect the meaning , understanding, and authority of God’s law would be allowed to pass away until the law was fulfilled.  It seems that Jesus believed that the law of God was fully inspired and would be preserved by God, not only in the meaning, but in the writings/manuscripts as well.  That is not to say that we have the original manuscripts with us today, but it is to say that God has preserved His word as He promised.  In fact, Jesus told us that “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.” (Luke 16:17)

    Jesus believed that the law was of absolute moral authority.  He stated, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:19)  While Jesus taught that not one of God’s moral commandments would cease to be authoritative (see also John 10:35b), He knew that there would always be those who deemed themselves of sufficient wisdom, etc. to determine that certain commands were no longer in force.  He plainly told us that those who would seek to lessen the authority of the law of God in the lives of men would be considered of very little importance in the kingdom of Heaven.  On the contrary, those who would uphold the absolute authority of God’s law for themselves and others would be counted great in the kingdom of Heaven.  Why is this so?  Simply because God honors those who honor Him, and those who despise Him will be lightly esteemed (See 1Sam 2:30).  One may ask how the honor of God is relevant to the law.  It is relevant because God is the absolute authority who authorized the law.  To obey the word of God is to obey God Himself.

Jesus Taught The Law As Being Spiritual in Nature

    While Jesus upheld the authority of the law, He also reminded men that the law is spiritual in nature.  Notice His statement concerning the Pharisees and the law: “ I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:20)  What did Jesus mean by this statement?  To understand this statement, we must know the nature of Pharisaical righteousness.  The Pharisee’s righteousness was external only.  “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.   Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.   Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.   Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.   Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.   Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matt 23:23-28)  The whole focus of Pharisaic living was to appear righteous.  So long as they had the outward form of the law upheld in their lives, they felt themselves to be very righteous.  Jesus stated, in opposition to this fallacious notion, that one’s righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.  Righteousness is much more than external forms.  In fact, while rebuking the Pharisees, Jesus told them that the weighter things of the law were things of the heart; things such as judgment, mercy, and faith.  He also told the Pharisees that they should first have the inside – their hearts – cleaned before they could truly clean up and have external righteousness.  Why is this so?  Because the law is spiritual and ministers primarily to the heart of man.

    One day a man who was very learned in the law of God asked Jesus which was the great commandment in the law.  We know that the questioning person was testing Christ and hoping to cause Him trouble.  Perhaps the scribe thought that Jesus would prefer one specific command above another and the scribe could accuse Him of either being too harsh on one issue, or being to soft on another issue.  Whatever the case may have been, Jesus upset the proverbial apple cart by saying: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.   This is the first and great commandment.   And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.   On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40)  In other words, the issue with the law was not an issue of external commands, and some being of greater importance.  The heart of the law is spiritual in that the law calls for us to love God with all that is within us and with all that we are.  We are then to spread that love for God by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Love is not a material thing.  Love is spiritual, and the law leads us to love.  To obey the law is to love God and to love our neighbor.  That is indeed spiritual.

Jesus Fulfilled The Law

    While Jesus established the law by upholding its authority, He also fulfilled the law by meeting its every righteous demand.  “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.   For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.   For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom 8:1-4)  It takes little observation to notice, however, that the law, though morally perfect, was not complete.  Something was lacking.  The law could not be God’s final word to man because the law could not save.  The law ministered condemnation to men by causing them to realize their sinful condition.  Jesus, the Word of God, however, ministered salvation to men by fulfilling the law even by suffering the judgment of the law in His own body as a substitute for us.  “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)  Jesus brought grace and truth to a world full of sinners who were condemned by the law.  It is any wonder, then, that He told the Jews, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39)  The law that the Jews felt gave them life was actually testifying to them that Jesus was going to come to bring salvation, thus fulfilling the law.

Since the law could not be God’s final word to man, we must view Jesus and His Word as God’s final word to man. Why? Because the law was absolute morally. Jesus fulfills the law by saving us. What more can God say to us? We have the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (See Jude 1:3). What need have we for additional revelation? None, after all, when we consider that Jesus declared the Father to us (see John 1:18), we have the fullness of revelation. This means that Jesus’ fulfilling the law, and giving us the truth He promised (John 15:26;16:12-15) finalizes God’s Word to mankind. For this we have much to be thankful, because we know where God’s Word is found, and are stable and secure due to the knowledge that we do not have to search for God’s Words, nor keep having to learn more and more due to an influx of additional words from God.

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” (2 Cor 9:15)