Monday, November 20, 2023

Hebrews 2:1-4 Our Great Salvation

Our Great Salvation

 Heb 2:1-4 (HCSB)  (click the link above for the sermon)

We must, therefore, pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away. For if the message spoken through angels was legally binding and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment, how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first spoken by the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. At the same time, God also testified by signs and wonders, various miracles, and distributions of gifts from the Holy Spirit according to His will. 

Is "church" a good word for "ecclesia"?

In two weeks of normal Facebook activity I've collected 20 examples of people using "church" to refer to a location. It's clear from Scripture that "ecclesia" refers to a people - those called out. The ecclesia of Christ is His body, His people called out of the world to Himself. When we use "church" we blur the picture. Early English Bibles used "congregation" - seems like that is something we should return to.

I am NOT saying that the message in every example is wrong - the use of "church" is wrong.

I try to use "church" only in referring to "mega-churches" or "state churches" or any other false "church." Saying we're stuck with it is like telling anabaptists to suck it up and conform to Rome.

Friday, November 17, 2023

People of the Book?

Baptist were once known as "people of The Book" because we were always going back to the Bible to make sure of things.

How easy it is to drift away from what we've been taught.

We don't look to the Bible to see if "church" captures the true meaning of ecclesia - as it relates to the redeemed. Early English Bibles used "congregation" - no lazy talk about "going to congregation" or "don't miss congregation" that comes so easy when we use "church."

We don't look to the Bible to see if preaching is what elders are supposed to within the assembly of saints; whereas its TEACHING elders are required to do.

We don't look to the Bible to see if two or more elders are supposed to be in each congregation because we've become used to the lone ranger "pastor."

We don't look to the Bible to see if the 10th century AD Masoretic Manuscript is the best OT MSS.

We are looked at like we're from Mars if we do question such things. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Philippians 3:12-4:1 - Pressing Toward the Goal

Already but Not Yet

Phil 3:12-16

This letter was written 3 years before Paul’s death, about 25 years into his service to Christ. This man, who wrote so much of the New Testament, reveals much to us in this passage – of his own continued need of grace for each day.

Phil 3:12-16 (HCSB) Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.

He opened this chapter by describing the nature and character and behavior of saints (verse 3): For we are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh. Paul had not reached the goal, was not fully mature. His focus was the heavenly calling – he had been taken hold of by Christ. Paul impresses that those who have reason to worship God rightly, to rejoice in our Savior are those who have been circumcised in heart, who put no trust in our own being.

And yet, Paul has not reached the goal, Paul had found rest from his prior work as a pharisee but he cannot relax in his pursuit of the One Who had apprehended him. We can only pursue Christ if we have found rest in Him.

There is ONE THING he does: forgetting what is behind and reaching, straining forward to what is ahead – the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. One commentator said, “every stage in the upward and onward course of faith runs straight in the line of His will whose mighty, gracious grasp is on me as I go.”

This is what I believe Paul wants us to grasp – all we have, even the desire for godliness – is because we are united with Christ. We are maturing in our faith, a process that will end only at the end of this age – when our Lord returns to judge the nations, gather His own, and make all things new. He exhorts the mature to have this mindset; he tells the less mature that God Himself will reveal it to them.

And his final encouragement in this paragraph is that we all – to the degree we have attained – all walk by the same rule and be of the same mind. About that rule, Gal 6:14-16 (HCSB) But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world. For both circumcision and uncircumcision mean nothing; what matters instead is a new creation. May peace come to all those who follow this standard (or rule), and mercy to the Israel of God!

About the same mind, Phil 2:5-8 (HCSB) Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross.

Self-focus in any form is incompatible with Paul’s instruction.

Phil 3:17-21 (HCSB) Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.

Paul bids us follow him (and the other apostles) as they were called to serve as examples – as are elders. There is a pattern of walking in the light we can follow if we have eyes to see. Some do not – Paul weeps about these souls who are doomed for damnation. They are set on earthly things. This is the contrast, emphasizing why it’s important for us to have the right focus. This is we have this warning in Hebrews 2: We must, therefore, pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away. We have this tendency to drift away from our Lord and His ways when our focus is on earthly things.

Our citizenships is in heaven, not in Texas. Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world – it’s of the world to come!

We know it’s not sinful to take care how we live – eat right, live right, be wise in the ways of the world. For everything created by God is good, and nothing should be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, since it is sanctified by the word of God and by prayer. 1Tim 4:4-5 (HCSB) We cross the line when how we live – what we eat, wear, etc. – becomes the focus of our lives.

The point of our citizenship being in heaven is that is where the Lord is; heaven is not a place of peace and joy if Christ be not there. At the end if this age, He will return from heaven to gather His own – we who are eagerly looking for Him. As we read in Hebrews 9:27-28 (HCSB) And just as it is appointed for people to die once — and after this, judgment — so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.  

When He returns, He will transform us to be perfectly conformed to His glorious body – having subdued all things, making His enemies His footstool. There can be no greater source of peace and joy than being united and conformed to the glorious Christ! The Lamb of God has taken away our sin and secured for an eternal glory that no man and no thing can take away.

Commentary (H. C. G. Moule) observes:

The whole passage now before us is strongly characteristic of the New Testament way of dealing with sin. In the first place, there is no lack of urgent and explicit warning. The moral and spiritual evil is labelled unmistakably. It is pointed out as a danger not hypothetical but actual; not floating in the air, but embodied in lives and influences. Yet this passage, this heart-searching appeal, while it deals with warning, does not end with it. Its strongest and chosen argument is not fear but hope; not perdition but "the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto Him."

Phil 4:1 sums up what we have read: So then, my brothers, you are dearly loved and longed for — my joy and crown. In this manner stand firm in the Lord, dear friends.  

"We are waiting, we are yearning for Thy voice

Through the long, long summer day and winter night;

We are mourning till Thou bid'st our souls rejoice,

Till Thy coming turns our darkness into light:

Come, Lord Jesus, come again;

We shall see Thee as Thou art,

Then, and not till then,

In Thy glory bear a part;

Then, and not till then,

Thou wilt satisfy each heart."


                                                                J. DENHAM SMITH. 

Monday, October 23, 2023

Genesis 34 -Depravity and Decption

This chapter is a sad scene, reflecting poorly mankind. It should serve us as a reminder of how desperately we need the Holy Spirit to will and equip us to do what is right. For sin lurks at our door, seeking to master us.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Distrust Among Brothers - Genesis 33

Genesis 33: Distrust Among Brothers.

It's tempting to look at biblical "heroes" as people who had victory over their flesh; set before us as object lessons in morality.

The truth is that no mortal human is presented to us in Scripture as a hero. The greatest of men is weak and sinful. All are given to us to remind us of our need of grace from the only man who conquered sin and death.