Thoughts on life and Scripture...

Monday, August 7, 2017

Ruminations On Wealth And Poverty

Every so often I come across this idea that people are wealthy because of some privileged background or by taking advantage of the poor. Those in poverty are said to be there because they are taken advantage of or because they belong to some minority group. In our culture, many look down on the wealthy and want to punish them for their 'crime' of acquiring wealth. The sad thing is that these ideas are often held by Christians. But this simplistic view of wealth and poverty doesn't stand up to the Bible. I would especially turn your attention to the Proverbs, which have much to say on this subject. I don't want to write a long piece on this subject, just a few thoughts.

  People become wealthy through various means. Some are born rich and maintain their wealth through good business skills. Others are born poor, but rise up to wealth through hard work, skill and prudence. There are those who gain their wealth by scams, dishonesty, bribes and other sinful ways. These people often will live off the labor and pain of others. A few people can became rich through lotteries, inheritances, and successful treasure hunts. There is a great variety in how someone becomes wealthy.

   The Bible does not condemn people for being wealthy. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, and Joseph of Arimathea were all rich people. In fact riches are a blessing from God. But the Bible condemns the love of money and its waste. Wealth is to be used for the glory of God. David used his wealth to finance the building of the temple and so we should use ours for Christ's kingdom. Paul tells Timothy to "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed." 1 Timothy 6:17-19.  Well would it be for the church if it had more godly rich people to fund the work of gospel ministry.

  All material poverty eventually traces its roots to sin. That is why Jesus could say that you will always have the poor with you. Mark 14:7. Old Mother Sin will always be here in this present age and so her children, like Mr. Poverty, will be with her til then as well. Poverty may be the sin of the one who is poor or the sin of others who caused one to be poor or it may be the result of the curse that came with sin. Either way sin is the cause of poverty. Some are poor because of addictions, foolish management of wealth, and greed. Some people come to poverty because of their crimes. Harming or abusing someone may cause someone's poverty as they are sued and now have to pay out a large sum of money. Laziness causes others to become or stay poor. In countries like North Korea or Venezuela, people are poor because of the corrupt and foolish governments that run the country. Theft or fraud can cause others to become poor. There are many ways one stays or becomes poor, but it all goes back to sin.

 Sin brought a curse on this world. Part of that curse is trouble like disease, floods, droughts, earthquakes and so on. These natural disasters can also cause poverty. A plague of locusts can turn a prosperous farm or area into a desolate wasteland. If someone gets really sick, they can't work and have extra bills to pay because of their illness. This can also lead to people becoming poor. In these cases there isn't a way for a person to prevent the onslaught of poverty. We must trust that God has a good purpose in all this, even if it seems all dark to us.

  It certainly isn't wrong to be in poverty so long as it is not because of your sins. Poverty is not a curse, even if it is because of the curse. The poor may have some advantage to the rich in this life as they may see the hopelessness of the things of the world better. James 1:9-10. It can be better spiritually to be poor, but not always.  Both rich and poor must learn to be content in whatever situation God has placed them in. Like Paul we should be able to say, " I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." See Phil 4:11-13.

  Since there are so many reasons someone becomes poor, there are also many ways needed to get someone out of poverty. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Governments like to think that giving money will solve all our poverty problems. But this is a naive solution. If the problem is addiction or out of control spending, more money will only make things worse.  Each individual case must be examined to see where exactly the cause of the poverty comes from. When the problem is identified, then the cure can be administered. There may be times when the correct solution to a person's poverty is to do nothing but leave them in it. "If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either." 2 Thess 3:10.  As you can imagine this approach is time consuming and challenging. It requires a lot of wisdom and discernment. But trying to relieve those in poverty this way, will help achieve our goal of helping the poor more often than not.

Brad

Friday, August 4, 2017

Horatio Spafford And The Hammer Of Hell

Horatio Spafford is best remembered for his hymn 'When Peace Like a River' or "It is Well With My Soul.' I have often heard the story behind this hymn. Spafford's wife and four daughter were traveling to Europe on a ship when they collided with another ship. Spafford's wife lived but all four daughters died. Later as Spafford sailed past the spot where his daughters had drowned, he wrote this famous hymn, which is often sung in churches. This is the first verse of that hymn.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
  • Refrain:
    It is well with my soul,
    It is well, it is well with my soul. 

       But the story of Spafford's life after this hymn was written is often forgotten or ignored. Later on Spafford returned to America with his wife. They left their church after some doctrinal disputes and set up their own church. They believed that they were the only true church. The church was very much like many of the charismatic churches of today. The meetings were chaotic, filled with strange practices. Fake healings and resurrections were attempted. All manner of 'new' revelations were received. They looked for guidance from God through one women's sniffles, for example. And then there were the sanctified oranges, which I don't know exactly what purpose they served. All in all there was a lot of strange happenings at this church. 

 Bad practice comes from bad theology and Spafford and his group had plenty of it. Spafford denied the doctrine of hell. He believed that all people would go to heaven, even the devil would make it there. He held to some form of purgatory. Spafford was really interested in eschatology. He believed he knew when Christ was coming back and went out to Jerusalem to meet Him there. Or he may have been running away from all his debts and debtors. 

 Spafford and some of his followers went to Jerusalem to meet Christ, which never happened. But they did set up a cult-like organization. They shared everything in common there. All the strange behavior continued there. This group abolished marriage and family for a time. They were known for gross sexual immorality. Spafford died in 1888 and then his wife took over leadership. She considered herself a prophetess and continued the wild immoralities. 

When I read all this, it was hard to believe that this was the man who wrote that well known hymn. How could he go from that height to this low? The pathetic ending of this man's life makes you seriously question his salvation. A true Christian perseveres. Ironically Spafford called his group 'The Overcomers.' Yet when you look at his life and the lives of his followers, they were not at all overcomers. "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world- our faith." 1 John 4:4   

 A true Christian continues on in the faith to the end. The reason no Christian will lose their salvation is that God will enable them to persevere. Jesus said, "I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no on will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one." John 10:28-30. Charles Spurgeon expressed this truth like this, "If He hath called thee, nothing can divide thee from His love. Distress cannot sever the bond; the fires of persecution cannot burn the link; the hammer of hell cannot break the chain." God Almighty will not let go of us, even if all the powers of the devil and his host should try to pull us from His hands. 

 It is also true that we are commanded to persevere. Here are some examples: 

"But Christ was faithful as a Son over His house- whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end." Heb 3:6. 

"For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end." Heb 3:14.   

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,..." Heb 10:23. 

"Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what has been promised." Heb 10:35-36.   

 God causes the Christian to persevere by working in His people so that they endure and hold fast. We strive to endure because God is at work in us.  

It is easy to start well in the Christian faith. It is hard to finish well. Every Christian will get over the finish line, even if God has to drag us over it. But let us make every effort to run well even to the end. A story like the one about Horatio Spafford should give us cause to pause and tremble. We ought to watch and pray more diligently that we will not fall into temptation and disgrace our Lord and Savior. 


"Now to Him, who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." 
Jude 24-25.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

How To Be A Christian Sports Fan

Christianity is not a one day a week religion. It isn't confined to a few areas of life. Christianity affects everything. Jesus Christ is Lord of every single part of our lives. Eating, drinking, exercising, driving, singing are all to be conformed to God's word. We are like a dilapidated house. Every room and space is in need of a renovation. So every area of our lives needs to be scrutinized to see if it is being done in a God-glorifying way. One area that needs to be examined is how we watch sports. How are Christian sports fans to be different than the sports fans of this world?

 What I find in the sports world is that people are dehumanized. Instead of seeing them as real people who have struggles and troubles like the rest of us, they seem to become mere objects on the screen. This can be seen in how people talk about players on their team, on the other teams or even the referees. People boo those players they don't like. Players are sharply criticized when they don't meet our approval or standard. The referees are cussed in anger when a call doesn't go our teams way. The opposing team is often looked at as an enemy to be destroyed. These are just some examples of a lack of love for those playing the game.

  God's word calls us to show love, respect, kindness and understanding to others. All people are made in the image of God and, therefore, deserve to be treated with dignity. If we do believe this, we will watch sports in a different way. Booing, catcalls, and unfair criticism have no place for the Christian while he watches sports.We should be patient with the officials even when they make a mistake. We should be able to appreciate the talents of all the players on each team, even when our team is losing. We ought not to rejoice, even if it is only inwardly, if the other team's star player is hurt. Maybe next time you watch your favorite team play ask yourselves 'How can I show love to those playing this game? How can I honour God in how I watch this game?'

  In Canada one of our religions is hockey. Maybe in the American South, it is football. Too often people idolize sports.  Some people get depressed after their team loses. Some will get angry. Either way these responses show that they worship their team or sport too much. Even Christians can have a sinful preoccupation with sports. We fail to consider how sports fits into the eternal plan of God. How important do you think it is to God's kingdom for your team to win the championship? This world and your team will all pass away, but God's kingdom will never pass away. We are to seek His kingdom and His righteousness first of all. Watching sports can be a nice way to relax. It is a blessing to enjoy. But in the end it is only a game and doesn't matter that much compared to the eternity ahead of us. Millions of souls are perishing and entering into a horrifying eternity in hell. The gospel needs to be preached to them. What is a sport game to this reality?!! A Christian should have a Biblical perspective when watching sports. Sure, we can cheer for our team to win, but if they don't, it shouldn't upset us. Being a sports fan is a good hobby, but don't make it your idol.

  Lastly, we should be careful to limit our time watching sports. "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:15. A hockey game lasts for a couple hours. Now if you watch sports every night or every other night, that can be a lot of time spent in sports. Is that a wise use of time when you consider what I said in the last paragraph? Is there not more important things that could be done? Could that time be better used to serve Christ's church? Or that time could be used to read your Bible and pray or care for your wife and family? A real danger with being a sports fan is that it can eat up much of your time. As such, we need to be disciplined in how much time we give to the hobby of watching sports. Make it your slave, and don't let it master you.


Brad

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Christian Test: Part 3

This will be the last post about assurance of salvation. I have been trying to show from the Bible that there are certain questions we can ask ourselves to determine if we are indeed saved and so gain an assurance of our salvation. In the last post we saw there must be repentance, faith, obedience, the work of the Spirit and answered prayer in the life of a Christian. Now without further delay, here are the next traits of a Christian.

1) Do you love other Christians?

 A true Christian loves Jesus Christ. The one born of God will love God and will love those who are His children. 1 John 5:1-2. Jesus Christ loves His church. He suffered and died for her. And so a Christian will love the church as well. "The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brothers is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes." 1 John 2:9-11.  Consider also this verse, "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." 1 John 4:20.  It is not enough to say that you love your friends at church. But do you love all of those born again because God loves them and saved them and adopted them into His family; the same family that you are now part of? Do you love Christians who disagree with you on points of doctrine and practice or are not very lovable at times? Do you love the church where ever she may be found and seek to do her good? If you truly love God and have been born of God, you will seek the good of His church.

2) Are you disgusted with worldliness?

"Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves, the world, the love of the Father is not in him." 1 John 2:15. The world is the collective mass of sin and error of the people in this world. It is the kingdom of darkness over which Satan rules. The world's values, habits, beliefs and pleasures are seen on the movie screen, on TV, on the magazine rack, in liberal churches, in Buddhists temples and so on. Can you love sin? Can you love worldly wisdom? Can you be at home among ungodly friends?  If so, then there are some serious problems in your life and you may not be a Christian. Christians reject the world. The philosophies of this world are repulsive to the believer. The humor and entertainment of the world is nauseating. The Christian will walk against the grain of society, because he loves God, and truth, and holiness, and seek after His kingdom and righteousness first of all. "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God ? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." James 4:4.

3) Are you persecuted for the sake of Christ?

   A Christian will hate the world, but the world also hates the Christian. The world loves darkness and hates the light. Since Christians are of the light, the world will hate them and persecute them. "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." 2 Timothy 3:12. Cain killed Abel. Why? "Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous. Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you." 1 John 3:13. And so this has been the case from then until now. The children of Cain hate the righteousness of the children of Abel because it bothers their consciences and condemns them. "This is the judgement, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." John 3:19-20  Have you suffered for Christ? Maybe you have not been tortured or put in prison. But have you been excluded from others because you are a Christian? Have you been mocked or insulted because you bear the name of Christ?  Have you been slandered against because you are of the Light? Have you shared in the sufferings of Christ? If you have, you can be sure that you are part of the Kingdom of Light. The more godly you will live, the more people will hate you and the more joy and assurance you will enjoy.

 This is the end of the Christian test. I know it wasn't exhaustive, but I think I covered most of the questions. If there was something I missed, let me know. A good resource is  the book 'Biblical Doctrines' edited by John Macarthur and Richard Mayhue. See pages 649-653.

  Hopefully, after looking over these questions, you will gain greater assurance. If you did, then praise God and continue to make your calling and election sure. But if you don't see these qualities in your life, then maybe you aren't a Christian. Or you could be an immature Christian who needs growth. I would advise you to talk to a mature Christian for further counsel.

Brad

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Christian Test: Part 2

 In the last post I looked at 3 evidences of a Christian. Repentance, faith and obedience will be seen in every true Christian. In this post I will look at a number of other evidences of a Christian so that we may obtain assurance of faith or be shown to not be Christians and so turn from our sin to Christ.

  1) Do you see the work of the Spirit in your life?

 When a person is saved the Holy Spirit indwells them. "Having believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance," Eph 1:13-14.  The Holy Spirit's primary task is to sanctify us. Thus if we are Christians we will see the results of the ministry of the Spirit in holy lives. "By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit." 1 John 4:13.

 The Holy Spirit will produce holiness in the life of the believer. This is not just outward action, but an inward transformation. The famous passage is Galatians 5: 22-23. There it lists the fruit of the Spirit. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such things there is no law." An apple tree will produce apples. An orange tree will produce oranges and a person that has the Spirit living inside them will produce the fruit of the Spirit. Are these seen in your life?

  The Holy Spirit is the teacher of truth. He reveals the glorious truths of God's word. "As for you, the anointing which you have received  from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in Him." 1 John 2:27. "But when He , the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth;" John 16:13. We need the Holy Spirit to teach us the truth of God's word. For when we are dead in our sins we can't understand or appreciate the glory of the truth. "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them , because they are spiritually appraised." 1 Cor 2:14.  An evidence the Spirit is working in our lives is when we begin to see the truth, wisdom and greatness of the gospel and the glory of Christ. We love God's word. Our eyes are opened and it becomes clear to us. We have a hunger for the Bible which results in the daily reading and study of God's word. All this is evidence that the Spirit is at work within us.

 The Spirit also gives true believers spiritual discernment so that they hold fast to essential doctrine. Consider 2 John 9, "Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son." Or 1 John 4:6, "We are from God; he who know God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." Or "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him." 1 John 4:15. Consider also 1 John 2:20-24 and 1 John 5:1.  This doesn't mean Christians are never in doctrinal error. But the Spirit works in us so that we hold fast to those essential and major doctrines, like the divinity and humanity of Christ, the Trinity, the substitutionary atonement. Cults like the Mormons, JW's and others deny these and other essential doctrines. Thus they show by what they believe that they are not Christians. Christians will be able to discern false teachers and teaching.

  The Holy Spirit will also testify to our adoption as God's children. "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God," Rom 8:16.  In salvation we are adopted as God's children. He is now our Father. The Holman study note on this verse says this "By the Spirit we have a consciousnesses that God is our Father. It is the mark of a Christian to cry out to his Father in prayer." John Macarthur in his study Bible says this, ""God's Holy Spirit confirms the validity of our adoption, not by some inner, mystical voice, but by the fruit He produces in us and the power He provides for spiritual service."  Thus we come to God as children come to their father knowing that He will hear us through Christ.

2) Does God answer your prayers?

  "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." 1 John 5:14 and 1 John 3:22, "And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight." This doesn't mean God will answer our prayers in the exact manner that we think He should. But when we pray according to His will, laid out for us in scripture, then we can be sure that God will answer those prayers. If we are Christians, we should see some of God's answers to our prayers and that will give us greater assurance of faith.

 For the last blog post in this series I will look at a few more signs to see if  we are indeed Christians.

Brad

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Christian Test: Part 1

This post continues on from the last one in which I showed from the scripture that we are to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. Assurance of salvation is important and God has shown us how to obtain it in His word. The letter of First John gives us a test by which we can see if we are indeed saved. Much of the texts used here will be taken from this book.

  This is a test that you must get 100% on. All the traits will be present in a Christian. But there will be varying degrees in the life of a believer. For example, all Christians have saving faith, but some will have strong faith while others weak faith. The greater these characteristics of a believer are seen in a their life, the greater will be their assurance. The less we see these qualities, the weaker will be our assurance.

1) Do I repent of my sins and trust in the finished work of Christ?

 How a person deals with sin, reveals his true colors. We are born loving sin. We don't need to learn to sin since it comes naturally. Left to himself, man would hold on to his sin rather than let it go and gain eternal life. The natural man pursues sins and continues to live in sin. He doesn't hate it and see it for what it is; the most hateful and vile evil in all the universe. 1 John 3:8, "The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning."

 One of the first signs of new life in the soul is repentance. Repentance is a change in our attitude toward sin. It is much more than just saying sorry to God for your sins. It is more than just asking for forgiveness. With repentance there is a sorrow because we know that sins are an offence toward God. Sin doesn't seem lovely any more; it is seen as a disease, a poison, a pollutant, a rotting corpse. Then there will be confession of sin before God. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9. We cry out to God as the tax collector did, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner." Luke 18:13. Real repentance also involves a breaking away or turning from sin. We don't wallow in our sins like a pig in the mud. We make an effort to leave the mire. Christians may fall into the mud, but they won't stay there. "No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" 1 John 3:9
   
   Repentance starts at the beginning of the Christian's life and continues throughout his life. We never stop confessing our sins and repenting. When we come in repentance for the first time, we come before God as judge begging Him to forgive us and give us salvation. When we come in repentance during the rest of our life, we come to God as our Father whom we have wronged so there can be reconciliation and enjoyment of that relationship.

  Faith always goes with repentance. Faith and repentance are as two wings which are both needed for the bird to fly. Both faith and repentance are needed for salvation. A Christian trusts or rests on the finished work of Christ. He knows he is bankrupt of righteousness. He knows he can do nothing to save himself. He believes that only Christ can save him. A Christian is convinced that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and that he can only be saved by coming to Christ in faith. 

"Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God," 1 John 5:1.

"The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony  in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son." 1 John 5:10.

"That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Rom 10:9.

 As with repentance, living by faith continues our whole lives. The just are saved by faith and the just continue by faith. A true Christian continues his whole life trusting Christ. Consider the lives of the saints in Hebrew 11. They did great deeds by faith. They courageously suffered and died by faith. They sailed through trouble and trials trusting in the unseen God who loved them. "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith." 1 John 5:4.

2) Is there a general pattern of obedience to God in my life?

 In many of these characteristics of a Christian there is some overlap. Obedience is the result of repentance and faith.

Jesus said in John 14:15 "If you love Me, you will keep my commandments."

and then later in verses 23-24 "If anyone loves Me, he will keep my word; and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him. He who does not love me , does not keep my words;"

 1 John 3:10 states it very plainly, "By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God,"

or consider 1 John 2:29 , "If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him."

I could go on; there are many similar verses in the Bible. A Christian will be obedient to God's commands. This doesn't mean Christians have to be perfect. No Christian will be perfect in this life. But when you look at your life, ask yourselves, "Is there a general pattern of obedience in my life?" "Do I delight to do God's will?"  "Is there growth of obedience in my life?" The more obedient we are the greater our assurance of our salvation will be.

   These first two characteristics of a Christian are foundational. You simply can't be a Christian if you never have repented of your sins and trusted Christ alone for salvation. There must be obedience to God's law in a Christian's life and that obedience must be increasing. A true Christian will find joy and will delight in God's commands. There will be a desire to repent. There will be joy in resting in Jesus alone. All these traits are products of a new heart that is given at salvation.

The next post will continue this test of a genuine Christian.

Brad

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Are You Really A Christian?

One of the reasons I write is to study and clarify different issues and subjects. In a book I was reading, a pastor was dealing with assurance of salvation in his church. There were two views that were held in this church on how one can be assured that he is a Christian. I was unsatisfied with either of these two positions. So I went to my books and Bible to study the issue for myself. I hope to write a number of posts on how we can gain this assurance of salvation.

 On an issue like this the Bible is not silent. Assurance of salvation is important. Therefore God, through His word, teaches us how we can determine if we are truly born again. In fact the book of first John's main purpose is to show how we can have assurance. Without this assurance we are like a soldier running into battle without his helmet, exposed to many attacks.Without this assurance we are like soldiers in a battle always doubting which side we are fighting for and who our enemy is. Assurance of salvation gives us courage. We know without a doubt which side we are fighting on. We know that victory is ours through Christ. We know that Jesus Christ and all His infinite resources are at our disposal. As you see, it is very important that we gain a great assurance that Jesus is our Savior.

  Assurance of salvation is not gained by man's thoughts and ideas.  Our baptism will not give us real assurance of salvation. If you were baptized as a baby or later in life it doesn't contribute one bit to your salvation and thus, neither to your assurance of salvation. Just because you said a prayer or came at an altar call or made a profession of faith, doesn't mean you will have a real assurance of salvation. Assurance doesn't come by working in the church, missionary enterprises or sacrificial giving. All these may give a false assurance, which is damning and dangerous to the soul. But only the word of God truly give a person the way to a true and lasting assurance of salvation.

  Maybe you are skeptical that God even calls us to consider whether we are true Christians. Some might say this kind of examination is unhealthy. Is there a clear command in scripture to test whether we are indeed saved from the wrath to come? Yes there is. In 2 Corinthians 13:5 we read this, "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you- unless indeed you fail the test?" After listing a number of virtues, Peter says this in 2 Peter 1:10, "Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;"  As I said John's first letter was meant to lead Christians toward assurance of salvation. Consider John's purpose statement for this letter. "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life." 1 John 5:13

 These verses make it clear that God wants us to test ourselves so we are not fooled into thinking we are Christians when we are not and that God wants His people to be confident of their salvation in Christ. In further posts I want to look at the questions on the 'Am I a Christian?' test.


Brad

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sir Joe the Unready: A Failed Knight Of The Round Table

The stories about King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table are well known. We have all heard of  Launcelot, Galahad and maybe Mordred the Usurper. Their exploits have been recorded in great detail for us. But few have heard of Sir Joe the Unready. While other knights won fame and glory in battle and heroic deeds, Sir Joe doomed himself to an embarrassing place in history.

   Sir Joe was a son of a cousin of an uncle of Guinevere the wife of King Arthur. With the help of this influence, Joe was made a member of the famous Knights of the Round Table. Sir Joe was proud of his new position. It gained him a lot of popularity, especially among the fairer sex. While all the other knights were training in feats of arms or riding off on important missions, Sir Joe was lounging with his many admirers. When once Arthur asked him to go on a mission of some importance, Sir Joe refused. His excuse was that he had contracted a disease in the lungs or maybe it was the heart when he was young and ever since had been in frail health. As a result any strenuous activity would bring Sir Joe close to the grave since his lungs or his heart or it could have been his bowels would have given way. Arthur went away muttering something about not doing a favor for anyone anymore, even for his wife.

  As Sir Joe lived his best life now, the other knights trained hard; preparing for the eventual invasion. The other knights despised Sir Joe and mocked him behind his back. Sir Launcelot even publicly rebuked Sir Joe calling him to act worthy of a knight. But Sir Joe had his excuses and would not listen. But soon Sir Joe would find that his lack of preparation and laziness would come to cover him in shame.

  One day while Sir Joe was taking his afternoon ride in the forest to let the lunch meal slowly digest, he heard a scream. Sir Joe rode in the direction of the scream and found to his horror that a great dragon was carrying away a beautiful damsel. Sir Joe knew what to do. He charged. The earth trembled under the pounding hooves of his horse. The dragon roared and spat fire. Sir Joe at the dreadful moment of collision, drew his sword. But his sword was stuck in the scabbard. He pulled and pulled but it was rusted to the scabbard. While Sir Joe was distracted, the dragon flew off with his prize, not wishing to get into any conflict. Later he ate the lady in his cave. Sir Joe was ashamed of his failed attack. But no one knew about what had happened and he wasn't going to spread the word.

  Sir Joe's downfall came some months later when the hosts of Mordred invaded the realm of King Arthur. The battle lines were drawn and the armies prepared for the coming battle the next day. Arthur told Joe that this was his day to prove himself. Sir Joe was scared the next morning as they lined up in battle formation. When the battle trumpet was sounded, he with the other knights charged. But something snapped in Joe's mind. Fear made him have a sort of brain fever. Sir Joe raced around the battle field swinging his sword wildly at anyone in his way. Sometimes he wounded or killed a foe, but at other times he felled some of his own compatriots. At some point his sword flew out of his hands and landed in the field. He jumped off his horse to get his sword only to be knocked out as his frightened horse kicked him in the head.

  In spite of Sir Joe's antics, King Arthur and his knights won the battle. Sir Joe woke up after the battle with a massive headache. Arthur came up to him and said, "Ya know Joe, I think you are finished with the Knights of the Round Table." So a shamed and humiliated Joe went off to live his life in poverty and ridicule. All the people called him, Sir Joe the Unready and laughed at him as he walked by.

  This story was written to illustrate one truth: That we must be prepared and ready every day for the spiritual battles that war against our soul.  My story of Sir Joe is the story of many Christians. They are soldiers of Jesus Christ. But they forget the command to "Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." 2 Tim 2:3.  They are not trained in the use of the sword of the Spirit. The deadly, desperate spiritual war every Christian is in is forgotten.The text in 1 Peter 5:8 is not remembered. "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour." They act as if the battle was over. Too many of Christ's soldiers are not prepared for the onslaught of the foe. They don't know how to use the Bible. They are lazy and more at home in the entertainment of the world than in the scriptures. They are spiritually fat and undisciplined. Such soldiers are in great danger from the kingdom of darkness.

  The exhortation to you is; Wake up, there is a war going on. Learn to fight courageously and skillfully with the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit. The devil can't take away our salvation, but he can make us ineffective soldier for Christ. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 15:58   Our victory is certain. Fight on!

                                                                 
Brad


Sunday, June 25, 2017

The True Church

In my last post, I tried to show how the three marks of a true church in article 29 of the Belgic Confession are not a Biblical method of critiquing churches. This post continues to show that these three marks are not good criteria and what is the better way to evaluate churches.

  What is the church? It is not a building or location. It is not an organization or social club. The church is not any group that calls itself a church. The church is the assembly of those who have been redeemed, regenerated, justified by faith in Christ Jesus. The church is those people who by true faith and repentance have been  united to Christ. Through the Spirit, we are born again and placed in God's family, His church. Christ is the Head and the church is His body.

"There is one body and One Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all." Ephesians 4:4-6.

"For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." 1 Corinthians 12:13.

 Those that are redeemed are the church of God and they are to gather together in local assemblies. All the believers in the world and those in heaven are commonly called the invisible church, while the local assemblies are called the visible church. Every one who is united to Christ is part of the true church. and has unity in Him. Since we have unity in Christ we should work hard at living this unity out in our interactions with other Christians. Even though there may be some big doctrinal differences among Christians, we are still equal and one in Christ.
 
 Knowing this should lead us to forego using the three marks of the Belgic Confession to decide if a church is truly a church or not. A true church is not just about doctrine, but also about its unity to Christ by true faith. What often happens to those who evaluate churches based on the three points, is that churches are declared false churches when those members have in fact been bought by the precious blood of Christ. This is a sad and evil thing in the sight of the Savior who loves all His people, even though there are many weaknesses in them. This also brings dishonor to Christ by causing disunity in the church. God is gloried when believers live in unity with each other.

  Every local church is imperfect. There are false Christians in every church. Their hearts have not been changed by the Spirit, and yet are part of the local church, but are not members of the body of Christ. In addition to unconverted people making each local body imperfect, there is the sin of each believer in the church. No Christian is perfect in this life. We all have to struggle with sin. Some are more godly than others. Some are more mature in the faith than others. None of us have perfect knowledge, wisdom or insight into the truth of God's word. Since no Christian is perfect and all are flawed, therefore each church will be flawed.

 In contrast to the true church, the false church is an assembly of the unconverted. It is a goat pen not a sheep pen. It is where a false gospel is proclaimed. A true Christian will not sit long under the devil's gospel. Sometimes it is very clear which church is a false church since there is no gospel preached there. For example Mormon churches, Jehovah Witnesses, the Roman Catholic church and the churches of the health, wealth and prosperity teaching like Joel Olsteen's church are all examples of false churches. But often it is very hard to say what is a false church. We can evaluate a church's doctrine and determine if it lines up with Scripture, but we can't see the hearts of all the people in a church. If there are no Christians in a church than that church is not a church since none of the members are part of Christ's body. But we can't determine this, and so should reserve placing judgement on that church.

   A better way to evaluate churches than using article 29 is to look at the whole of the church and compare that to the Biblical model for what a healthy church is. We shouldn't look at just doctrine, but also practice. A healthy church will have Biblical preaching, qualified shepherds, reverent worship, passionate evangelism and missions work, compassionate service, generous giving, sound theology and holy living. All these areas need to be looked at to diagnosis what is the spiritual health of a church. Much more could be said on the matter, but a few good books on the subject are "9 Marks of a Healthy Church" by Mark Dever and "The Master's Plan for the Church" by John MacArthur, if you want to read more.

                                                              Brad

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Three Marks Of A True Church??

   What does a true church look like and what does a false church or sect look like were questions that were being asked during the time of the Reformation. Calvin and others set forth a few marks that could be used to tell the difference between a true church and false church. The Belgic Confession also addressed this question. In the 29th article of this confession it gives us three marks of a true church which distinguishs it from "all sects". The three marks are 1)"the pure preaching of the gospel", 2) the "pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them" and 3)"exercises church discipline for correcting and punishing sins."  While there is some truth in these three points, this way of dividing true churches from sects and false churches is harmful. These three marks given in this confession have led to greater disunity, conflict and pride. It has torn apart families, friends and churches when there has been no need to have this divide and conflict. Let me explain why this way of marking churches is unbiblical.

 Part of the problem is that the New Testament never really explains what a  false church looks like. The first letter of John shows the difference between a true Christian and a false Christian. There are lots of passages that warn about and describe a false teacher. But a false church is never described. When Jesus addressed the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, He rebukes them for their ungodliness in heart and life and for their false doctrine, but he doesn't refer to them as false churches, even though some of the churches are almost dead and useless. Neither does Paul start pinning false church labels on churches that failed to meet the criteria of the Belgic Confession. These facts should make us exercise caution before we decree which church is false.

  First, there are false churches in the world. The first mark of article 29 is right. Any church where the gospel is not preached is a false church. If a church doesn't teach people the Biblical way one must be saved from the wrath to come, then it can't be a true church. The main purpose of the church is to proclaim the way of salvation through faith in Christ, if it gets this wrong then what good is that church. It is no better than any cult or false religion. "As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed." Galatians 1:9

  But the next two marks of a true church are where this confession goes wrong. Let's look at the second mark dealing with sacraments. Deciding if a church is administering the sacraments in the way Christ has instituted them is a bit subjective. The Reformed church would say that since Baptists and others don't baptize infants, then they are not a true church. But a Baptist reading this would say that Reformed people don't administer the sacraments rightly since they baptize babies and thus are a false church. Even within theological camps there are disagreements on the meaning and administration of the sacraments, that have lead to churches calling other church false for minor differences. The pure administration of the Lord's supper can be a subjective judgement as well that leads to calling each other a false church. What could be overlooked as a minor point of disagreement becomes a deep division due to the labeling of the other as a false church. Where there could be unity even though there are differences, by applying this mark of a true church, there is disunity.

  Paul did not use this second mark of a true church either. He considered the Corinthian church to be a real true church. You can see that in the first chapter where he regards them as Christians in the church of God. Yet they had some serious misunderstandings in both doctrine and practice in regards to the Lord's Supper. Many were not eating it in a worthy manner. See chapter 11 for this. If Paul used the criteria of the Belgic Confession, then he could not refer to them as a true church, which he does. See 1 Cor 1:2

  Furthermore, and this leads into the third mark of the true church, the same is true for church discipline. The church at Corinth didn't discipline sinning members. See chapter 5 for Paul's rebuke and instruction on this issue. So according to the Belgic Confession the church at Corinth failed on two of the three marks of a true church. Yet Paul still regarded them as a true church of God.

  The third mark of  a true church is supposed to be church discipline. But how can you measure this? Church discipline is the task of the whole church and it should be going on the whole time as members lovingly rebuke and correct each other. It is only at the final steps of church discipline that the elders get involved. What if only 75% of church discipline cases are being done, is that a true church? Truth is, I know Reformed churches that avoid member's sin at times or they take a very long time before any discipline actually happens. Are they then a true church?

 In John 17:22-23 Jesus prayed for the unity of His church. "The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are One; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them, even as you have loved me." Unfortunately Article 29 doesn't lead to unity in Christ's church. Therefore it is not a Biblical measuring stick for what is a true church. I believe there is a better way to evaluate churches without bringing  unnecessary division. That is what I want to write about next time.


Brad

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Isaiah 53:3 The Sorrowful Messiah

In the last two posts I have written about the first two verses of Isaiah 53. I don't know how far I will get in this chapter on this blog. My workload has increased due to other responsibilities. On this post I plan to examine the third verse.

"He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face. He was despised and we did not esteem Him."
Isaiah 53:3 


  The focus of this exposition will be on the phrase 'a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief'. The Lord Jesus did not live long on this earth. It was only about 33 years and yet the text says that he was a man of sorrows, a man who was often full of sorrows. Let us consider why He was a man with many sorrows and griefs. 

   The first reason for His many sorrows is found here in this verse. Jesus was sorrowful because He was rejected and despised. He came to save Israel, His covenant people. He came to rescue them from the wrath to come. But they rejected the light. They wanted nothing to do with a savior from sin. The Jews wanted a savior to defeat the Romans. Jesus was sorrowful due to His rejection not so much for Himself, but because of what would happen to the Jews since they rejected their king and Savior. 

     Consider Luke 19:41-42 which says, "When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes." In the next verses Jesus describes the horrible siege that would come to Jerusalem because she rejected her Lord. In Matthew 23:37 we read of Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem. "Jerusalem Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling." In both these passages Jesus grieves over the unbelief of the Jews. In Mark 3:5 it says that Jesus was 'grieved at their hardness of heart' in reference to the Pharisees who refused to listen and believe. 

 All of these verses show that the unbelief and rejection of the Jews caused Jesus great sorrow. He knew that these stubborn people would suffer many things for their rejection of their Savior. He saw 70 A.D. when Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed. He saw throughout the many long ages when the Jews would be persecuted and hated. He saw a final great persecution of the Jews in which many would die and through which a remnant would emerge and mourn for the one they had pierced. Our God is a compassionate God who does not take delight in the death of the wicked. So I believe that Jesus was often filled with sorrow due to the unbelief of those around Him. 

 Shouldn't this teach us that we should be concerned with the masses of people who live in darkness. If God is compassionate toward them, shouldn't we have the same heart attitude? Evangelism and mission should be a greater priority for us as Christians and as churches. The world may hate us like they hate God, but we ,like God, should show them love and call them to faith and repentance so they may escape the unspeakable horrors of hell.

   Jesus was a man of sorrows because he was holy and lived among a people who were sinners. No one ever was perfect in holiness like our Lord. He was the eternal Holy One who hates sin and cannot even look upon it. Yet this man lived in the midst of a world filled with great evil. Jesus lived to bring the Father glory. Jesus supreme desire was to do the Father's will, so what sorrow it would cause Him to see God's will rejected and God's name dishonored.

Another reason that Jesus was a man of sorrows was because He was grieved at the evil that sin brought into the world. We can see this when Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. He wept with those who wept. He wept for the sorrow of His friends. Sin brings death. Sin brings conflict. Families are broken because of sin. Countries are ruined because of sin. Sin turns man into a monster that does great evil to others and to the world he lives in. Sin has infected all people and brought a curse on this entire world. Jesus saw this curse through out His life. This filled Him with sorrow. But Jesus came to reverse the curse. He came to defeat death. He came to change the wicked hearts of people. The Lord Jesus is indeed the great Conqueror.

 Lastly I believe that the lack of faith and sin of the disciples brought Jesus sorrow. The disciples fought about who was greatest on a number of occasions. They were slow to understand the truths that Jesus taught them. The betrayal of Judas and the three-fold denial by Peter would have brought grief to Jesus, as well as the desertion of the other 10 disciples when He was arrested. The sins and weakness of His disciples would have burdened and saddened Jesus Christ.

   While Jesus was the most sorrowful man that ever lived, I believe He was the most joyful man that ever lived. Jesus promised that if His disciples would obey his command they would have fullness of joy like He had. "These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." John 15:11. See also 16:24 and 17:13  Jesus' joy did not come from outward circumstances. His joy came from His obedience and fellowship with the Father. This is then our model as well. Do we want real joy even when all around us falls apart? Then we must find that joy in fellowship with God as we walk with Him in godliness.

Brad

    

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Isaiah 53:2 The Ordinary Messiah

 The last post I wrote was a short explanation and application of  Isaiah 53:1. In this post the second verse will be our meditation.

 
"For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, 
And like a root out of a parched ground; 
He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, 
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him." 
Isaiah 53:2 



    One of the reasons Jesus was rejected as the Messiah was due to the manner He came in. He didn't show up like people wanted Him to show up. Their expectations were at odds with God's plans.

   The people were expecting a great king from the house of David. This is what God promised and yet it came to fulfillment in a way no one expected. The house of David was like a barren land. None of his sons sat on a throne or held any position of leadership. Joseph was a son of David but he was a poor man living in a small town. Instead of a throne and a crown, he had a carpenter's workshop. The line of David seemed to be all but dead. But God raises the dead. The fallen house of David was about to be rebuilt through the Lord Jesus. He came out of the fallen Davidic line like a small branch growing out of a dead stump or like a blade of grass growing in the wilderness. Jesus never lived in a palace. He was never rich. But He was the Son of David, even if outward appearances seemed to say otherwise.

People in every time and age are just like the Jews of Jesus' time. People have their own ideas of what Jesus should be. Some want Him to be a heavenly Santa Claus that gives them all their heart's desire. Some want Jesus to be just a good teacher who tells people how they should live a good life. Maybe the Jesus that some people want is less holy and winks at their sins. Whatever the reason may be, people will reject Jesus as their Savior and Lord since that is not what they want Him to be. Only those who are desperate for forgiveness and repent of their sins will find in the Lord Jesus the Savior they need and the Lord they must follow.

   Painters and artists have for years depicted the Lord Jesus as a handsome man with long flowing hair and a perpetual glow of light around His head. Even His clothes are somewhat other worldly compared to whatever anyone else is wearing around Him. If you saw such a man on the streets, you would surely take notice. Right away you would think that something is special or unique about a man like that. I think people depict Jesus like this out of a sense of respect and love. But it is not a biblical portrait of the Savior. The verse we are looking at makes this clear.

  Jesus' outward appearance was ordinary. He looked like any other Jew of His time. There was nothing in His face or body that made Him stand out. People like to have a leader that has good outward features. They want him to have the look of royalty. We desire a king who looks strong, handsome, and regal. But Jesus didn't look like that. His appearance didn't attract the admiration of anyone. In fact His appearance may have been unattractive. So when Jesus said he was the Messiah and the Son of God, people rejected this due to His rather normal appearance.  Perhaps they asked how could this normal, plain, and unattractive man be the very Son of God.  God planed it this way so they would have to believe the words of His Son rather than trust His looks.

    Consider this truth for a minute. Consider how low was the humiliation of Jesus. He is eternal and dwells in unapproachable light. He is beautiful in holiness. Angels hide their faces from His glory. Yet Jesus was willing to live a life of poverty, hard work and obscurity in the carpenter's shop in Nazareth. He was willing to dwell in a normal and plain human body. His divine glory was not to be seen from His outward appearance. It is hard for people who are famous or powerful, to become low and common. But Jesus was content to do the Father's will in this matter. Only once was the veil of His human flesh pulled back. This was on the mount of Transfiguration. For the rest of His life, He looked like a normal, ordinary person. Only when He returns, will we see our Lord in His full glory on this earth as He rules as a great king from sea to sea.

    The Christian is in a somewhat similar position. We are adopted by God into His family. We are citizens of a heavenly kingdom. The Lord of all loves us and delights in us. We are united with Christ and will reign with Him forever. But this world doesn't see this reality. Often Christians are despised and rejected. We are mocked and persecuted. We are treated like untouchables or lepers. But let us bear with these persecutions for a time. Our Lord went through the same sufferings that we do, in fact His were worse. Let us cheerfully endure such hardships for the sake of the One who loved us so much to suffer for us.

 "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is." 1 John 3:2

  "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond comparison." 2 Corinthians 4:17


Brad

   

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Question To My Infant Baptist Friends

 I have an honest and sincere question for those who practice infant baptism. I have come across this perplexity a number of times and I was hoping someone could explain it to me. So the scenario is this: A Roman Catholic comes to faith in Christ and attends a Reformed church. Since he was baptized as an infant in the Catholic church, he is not baptized in the Reformed church, but only needs to do profession of faith. I have heard it said by Reformed people that the infant baptism of the Roman Catholic church is considered a real baptism. My wife was told it doesn't matter who does the baptism as long as you were baptized into the name of the Trinity.

  The problem with this seems to be the theology of the covenant that is held by Reformed people. As I understand it, God made a covenant with believers and their children. Those who are saved, justified by faith and born again are in God's covenant along with their children. It is the faith of the parents or parent that is the basis for their children being part of the covenant. So far so good?

 The Roman Catholic church does not preach the gospel.Their gospel is a false gospel that doesn't save and therefore their church is a false church. There may be a handful of Christians in the Catholic church, but generally it is safe to say that most are not saved and have no saving faith. Since there is no saving faith, they and their children wouldn't be in the covenant, regardless of whether they baptize their children.The faith of the parents is what brings a child into the covenant. There is nothing holy in the water or in the act of baptism. Catholics may think otherwise, but that is not the orthodox , Biblical understanding. Therefore an infant baptism in the Catholic church is not a real baptism. Their children are not in the covenant. So when a Catholic comes to faith later in life shouldn't they be baptized? What if someone who was baptized as an infant in some other church, like the Church of England, which is largely a dead church, comes to saving faith later in life, wouldn't you need to determine if their parents are believers before you accept their baptism?

 This also begs another question. What about if your parents leave the church or are excommunicated and show by their life that they are not Christians. Does this not invalidate your baptism and covenant status? If the parents show in later life there is no saving faith, does this mean you need to be baptized again? Doesn't your assurance that you are a covenant child then rest on your parent's faith? How would you deal with someone who lacks that assurance because their parents are living in an ungodly way?

 Could some of my Reformed friends answer these questions for me?


Thanks
Baptist Brad

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Isaiah 53:1 The Rejected Messiah

 It has been a long time since I wrote on this blog. There were lots of other projects that I needed to get to. This blog is a bit of a lower priority. But I hope that over the next couple of weeks I will be able to write some more posts.

  I have been studying the 53rd chapter of Isaiah over the last little while and it has been a blessing to me. So I thought I would share with you what I have learned in the hope that it will be a blessing to you as well.

 Isaiah 53 is one of the passages in Isaiah that speak about the Servant, who is the Messiah. This chapter is remarkable for its details about the life of the Messiah. Some have called it the fifth gospel for it seems like it was written by one who saw the suffering of our Lord. But in fact, it was written hundreds of years before the Messiah ever came. The Spirit who knows all things in the future, inspired the prophet to write down this stunning prophecy.

 "Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?"
Isaiah 53:1

   In the first part of this verse Isaiah asks, 'Is there any one who has believed the message we preached.' This was true in his day and is true throughout all of history. The second part of this verse is a little more tricky to understand. The arm of the Lord refers to God's power since arm is the symbol of strength. The arm of the Lord and our message are parallel ideas in this verse. Romans 1:16 helps us understand this a little better. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes...." God's message is a powerful message that must be revealed by God to sinners. But it is often the case that most people still walk in darkness. This is really Isaiah's lament in this verse.

   Shockingly we are told in the first verse of this Messianic chapter that few people would believe the Messiah's message. This is not what should be expected. For hundreds of years the Jews had been eagerly waiting for the Messiah. It would be normal to expect that when He came, all Israel would flock to Him. They should have eagerly drunk in His teaching and followed Him. His message should have been embraced and cherished after waiting so long for Him to appear. How strange it is that we are told here that few have believed His message and few have recognized that He was the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity.

  Why was the Messiah rejected? This question is clearly answered in John 3:19-20, "This is the judgement, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."  Jesus' holy conduct exposed their evil hearts and lives. Jesus' message was one of holiness and repentance, and the Jews didn't want to let go of their sins. This reason for rejecting the Savior is the same for the Jews as well as for the Gentile.

 John quotes this verse in John 12:38 to show his readers that the rejection of Jesus was something that the Scriptures foretold. Paul quotes part of this verse in Romans 10:16 to support the truth that most of this world remains in unbelief.  The person and work of Christ is largely rejected by Jew and Gentile. Those who believe the gospel message are always few--not many. "For many are called, but few are chosen." Matthew 22:14. Revivals are rare and the majority of the time sinners come into the kingdom of God in small numbers. This is the reality we live with in this present age.

  We should learn from this to temper our expectations in ministry and evangelism. We should pray for revival, but should also realize that often there may be little outward success. We shouldn't be shocked if few embrace the gospel message. When all around us people reject the gospel message, we shouldn't be downhearted. Our Lord was the best teacher and preacher. None spoke like Him. Yet most of the people in His time rejected Him. So if our attempts at evangelism are met with unbelief, we shouldn't be discouraged. The servant is not greater than the master, and if the master and His message was rejected, we should not expect more.  The important thing is to be faithful to teach and preach the gospel whether any believe or not.

 When we feel all alone in this unbelieving world, remember that our Lord went through the same experience. When tempted to despair because of a lack of success in our ministry, consider the Son of God who understands how you are feeling. Your High Priest understands your troubles better than you think.

  As we look around at so much unbelief in the world, we should weep over it like Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Then we should look at ourselves and wonder that God should be gracious to me. What grace is mine that I should be chosen. What a precious gift faith is! Such love and mercy should melt our hearts to love and obey our Savior.


Brad