Sunday, September 9, 2018

Colossians 2:6 -15 Head over every ruler and authority

Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude. Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ. For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ, and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. You were also circumcised in Him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of the Messiah. Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him.

The major theme coursing through this letter is the supremacy of Christ and His provision for His people. The opening phrase in this passage recognizes Christ as Lord. Contrary to the view of many professing Christians, no man makes Jesus Lord - He IS! When Paul was speaking to the talk show crowd of his day, he didn't tell them of an entity that wanted to be their Lord; he declared God as Lord. He told them, Acts 17:23-25 What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. The God Who is, does not depend on His creatures to bestow or admit that He is Lord, He is. This word, Lord, conveys the idea of supreme authority and power. And we who have believed on Christ Jesus have received Him, the Lord of heaven and earth.

As with so many epistles, we are told here to walk in Christ - that is to keep our mind fixed on His truths and live as people who have been changed, raised from spiritual death by the same power that raised Christ from the grave! We cannot walk in the Lord if we do not have fellowship with one another, as He has given us to each other to equip us for His service. This call to discipleship is contrasted with the siren call of the world to turn our backs on Him, to sit in judgement of Him. The serpent still beckons for us to put ourselves in charge; our flesh constantly desires to be in charge. In contrast to Col 2:4, where we were advised not to succumb to plausible arguments of men that might delude us, here we are told to be rooted, built up in Christ, and established in the faith. Paul knows these saints have been taught these things rightly; he started this letter thanking God for the progress they had been making as gospel warriors. Here's a critical truth for us: We may grow wise in many biblical doctrines and theological truths, we never outgrow our need of the gospel. If we learn all the systematic and biblical theology man has written but we forget Who bought us and how He did, we will tend to drift into trusting our human wisdom, so called. Rightly comprehending the grace that is ours in Christ Jesus will keep us humble and very grateful – abounding in thanksgiving. If we truly understand the saving grace that is ours, we will be abounding in thanks to God!

Verse 8 provides the same type of warning as we found in verse 4 - take measures so no one, not even your favorite preacher - can capture your mind. This is what Absalom did in 2 Sam 18 as her worked to draw the men of Israel away from David. Paul lays out three areas of humanistic thinking - philosophy, empty deceit in line with human tradition, and elemental or foundational elements or spirits of the world. Each of these represents humanistic ways of thinking that are contrasted with Christian thought, which is according to Christ. Paul sets the world's ways of thinking straight up against thinking as and according to the teachings of Christ Jesus. Paul wrote about elsewhere - 1 Corinthians 2:12-16 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. We cannot afford to conflate or confuse the natural wisdom each of us has with the wisdom of God which we access only by prayer and diligence.

Next in our text, a paragraph which one commentator (Brian Hedges) described in this colorful way: "This rich paragraph is “pressed down, shaken together, and running over” in spiritual wealth and insight. While the whole letter of Colossians radiates the sufficiency of Christ, the saving significance of his sufficiency nowhere burns brighter than here. Having exposed the hollow doctrine of the hucksters in verse 8, the apostle now reflects on the inexhaustible fullness of Christ in a cascading torrent of vivid images and motifs."

The fullness of deity dwells in the God-man. This phrase reveals of the dual nature of the Son of man - fully God and fully man. If He was not God, the fullness of deity could not be His; if He was not man (a tabernacle of flesh as Paul put it) that fullness of deity could not dwell in Him. As God dwelt with Israel in the tent of meeting, so Jesus as a man had Jesus as God dwelling within Him. While this flies in the face of what men call science, it is the truth of God that men fought to make clear early in the life of the post-apostolic church.

Verse 10 says we, the redeemed, have been - past tense - filled with Him. How is it that we filled with Christ? I submit that this refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that every saint enjoys from the moment he is regenerated. In the same way Jesus is God, He is present where His Spirit is; but it's not the same as Jesus in His glorified body is present in each of us - for the same reasons He is not in the crackers used by the cult of Rome. Paul wants to impress upon us this Jesus that He preaches to everyone. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, the head over every ruler and authority. I think Paul heard about what we call the Great Commission, wherein the Lord Jesus said, Matthew 28:18 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."  This means He is the ruler over us and even those who do not submit to Him. Many men tell others to "make Jesus Lord of your life," as if the creature has that kind of power! Jesus IS Lord, to the glory of God the Father! The ignorance or rebellion of creatures does not affect the identity of Christ any more than Israel's unbelief does not nullify God's faithfulness (Romans 3:3).

Verse 11 brings us to a point that contrasts the New Covenant with the Old by pointing out that true circumcision is a spiritual act of God applied only to the people who are true Israel. Fleshly circumcision or the lack thereof is meaningless (Gal 6:15 & 1 Cor 7:19). But paedobaptists must have fleshly circumcision be very meaningful in order to tie it to baptism, which they claim is the sign of the New Covenant. By contrasting fleshly circumcision with spiritual circumcision, Paul shows us that circumcision is the sign of each covenant: fleshly circumcision for the fleshly covenant that could never take away sins; spiritual circumcision for the spiritual covenant, wherein each and every member has been regenerated and raised up in Christ. Just the Sabbath is also called out as the sign of the Mosaic Covenant, so we see the Lord Jesus identify His blood, as portrayed in the Lord's Supper, as a sign of the New Covenant.

We also see in this verse the significance of spiritual circumcision - putting off the body of flesh. This shows that we who have been made alive in Christ have died to sin and the flesh. Fleshly circumcision removes a small part of flesh, leaving the person in tact; spiritual circumcision kills the flesh - setting us free from sin's mastery and freeing us to the mastery of grace in Christ.  It was His death on the cross, taking the punishment for our sins - that reconciled us to Himself, circumcising us without the use of human hands.

Paul goes on in verse 12 to teach us the role of water baptism - it is our way of identifying what has been accomplished. This verse also shows why "baptizing" unbelievers cannot be reconciled with Scripture - by water baptism we are buried with Him and raised with Him through faith in God and the work He has done - in Christ and us! Just as Christ was raised from the dead, so were we, when He circumcised our souls and coming up from the water displays the faith in Christ that is necessary for our new life. Unbelievers do not have such faith in Christ. This is why many people who practice what is called infant baptism have resorted to various schemes to deal with it. Historically, 8 variations have been claimed by these people:

1. Fides Aliena: The church supplies the faith necessary for infant baptism.
2. Fides Infusa: Baptism infuses faith into the infant.
3. Fides Infantium: An infants’ own faith is present in baptism.
4. Sacramental Symbolism: The legitimacy of infant baptism is independent of faith.
5. Pre-credobaptism: Baptism precedes faith in the infant, but does not guarantee it.
6. Presumptive Regeneration: The church assumes its baptized infants have faith until proven otherwise.
7. Baptismal Regeneration: Baptism imparts faith to all infants (including the non-elect).
8. Paedofaith: Infants have faith prior to their baptism.

God-parents were invented by the Roman Catholic Church as those who stand in faith for the baby during its "baptism" under the first scheme. Are any of these compatible with what Scripture teaches about water baptism? They all present schemes of men, trying to twist Scripture to support their beloved doctrine. The truth is far, far simpler: baptism represents the sacrifice made by Christ on our behalf; it has no merit, adds nothing to the grace given us which is what saves sinners. Everything and anything added to grace makes grace of no effect and betrays a lack of trust in God.

The last three verses in our passage describe our salvation - all of which is the work of Christ. Similar to Paul's description of natural man in Eph 2, he says here that we were dead in trespasses and our Gentile flesh. This shows us Paul is writing to non-Jews, those not circumcised in the flesh; yet dead in trespasses, being a law unto themselves. Christ made us alive with Himself - which relates back to water baptism as the symbol of that. This is the same message - being made alive in Christ, having been dead in trespasses - as we read in chapter 1 and verse 13: He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son.  Buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him.

His death for our sins made the way for our death to sin; His everlasting life after death made the way for our resurrection life which results in eternal life with Him.

But no only did Christ make us alive in Him and forgive us our sin, He erased the certificate of debt (reminds me of the OC certificate of divorce, which could mean certain poverty for the woman). This certificate carried obligations, which all law does - whether codified in the Mosaic Covenant or given to man directly. That which was working our condemnation was cancelled and nailed to His cross. Jesus made a public display of bearing the wrath due our sin in His body as He hung on the cross. He was not ashamed to suffer for us, not ashamed to call us brothers (Heb 2:11) – the question that ought to be always on our minds: Are we ashamed of Him? We cannot let ourselves off the hook by our good intentions; we must be honest and examine ourselves. Have you and I been faithful to herald the life-saving gospel to others?

The last verse reveals yet another glorious work completed by Christ on our behalf. For not only did Jesus forgive us, raise us up to new life, and reconcile us to the Father; He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly. How did He do this? We know the last enemy is death – the master sin brings death to all mortals for all have sinned. Satan and his minions know they are the rulers of death – they push out of their minds that Christ holds the keys of hell and death. When He arose, in a glorified body not stained by sin, hell was left waiting and death was overthrown. After Jesus rose from the dead, He "presented Himself alive" (Acts 1:3) to the women near the tomb (Matthew 28:9-10), to His disciples (Luke 24:36-43), and to more than 500 others (1 Corinthians 15:6) – a public display that none could dismiss. By this act, He disarmed Satan and his minions – hell and death have no power of Him or His people.  He triumphed over these last enemies by being glorified by the Father when He was taken up into glory – publicly. It was the final stamp on His redemptive work. As Paul would write (quoting Hosea), "“Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law." (1 Cor 15:54-56).

This is victory we have in Christ - He has conquered sin and death, has promised us life eternal - death has no hold on us! By dying, in faith, in Christ we have this victory. As He was seen by many - making His victory public - so we are seen by many. Do they know we are His? Let us go outside the gate being thought fools because we believe the gospel of grace. To the glory of the Son and the Father - let His message be ours.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

What About the Judgment?

You can listen to this sermon here.

Hebrews 9:27-28  And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,  so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Ask 10 Christians about the day of judgment and you'll likely get more than a dozen answers. From Ancient times, God's people have known there will be an accounting before Him, but there seems to be an ongoing lack of understanding about it – the nature, purpose, and participants of and in this great and terrible Day of the Lord.

What is the nature of this judgment? Throughout national Israel's history, she and the pagan nations around her were subjected to God's judgment for their actions. One example from Psalm 9:16 [950] The LORD has made himself known; he has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Sometimes we see Israel being punished and at others it was pagan nations. When God's name is profaned, those responsible will be disciplined.

We see in Psalm 75 [1030] that God's judgment is not always punishment: verse 7 but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another. This was commonly associated with rulers being raised up or put down. As in the days when Israel wanted to be like the pagan nations, with a mortal man as her king, so many Christians in our day put too much hope in political leaders, forgetting the end of the ages has come upon us (1 Corinthians 10:11) and our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).

With man's predilection of being focused on things temporal, Scripture speaks most about the doom of judgment at the end of the age, as there is no recovery from it. Speaking of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Psalm 76:7-9 [1031] But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused? From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth. We see similar accounts in Isaiah 66, Jeremiah 25, and Ezekiel 39. Matt 16:27 [1856] For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. The ancient preacher adds some detail to this: Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 [1209] The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. [this first part we are familiar with; this next part is our topic] For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. This should sound familiar, as Paul said virtually the same thing in 2 Corinthians.

The Lord Jesus spoke of the day of judgment without providing detail of its operation, as if the Jews knew all about. Matthew 10:15 [1840] Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. The doom of Sodom and Gomorrah was legendary; this doom Christ spoke of was worse! This type of reference recurs several more times in Matthew 11 and 12. In Luke 3, John tells the Pharisees that the wrath of God is upon them and those "trees" that do not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. In Revelation 6:19ff [2473], the other man named John reveals the terror of being found naked on judgment day: Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” God’s judgment is real. We must be ready. If the day of judgment was not certain doom, Christ would not have had to bear that dreadful curse and we would not benefit from His wondrous love!

One of the more frequent discussions touching on both the purpose and participants is focused on the "Bema Seat Judgment" of Christians. This phrase generally refers to the idea that believers must stand before God to be rewarded - separately from those who are doomed to hell. The proponents of this doctrine call this the Bema seat judgment to distinguish it from The White Throne Judgment. The latter they believe to be the Judgment that God reserves for judicial verdict against transgressions by the wicked. They may get some support from John 5:24 [1829], which uses the same word (in several translations) as verse 22. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. But the word, judgment, is kree'sis in the Greek; which can also mean damnation or condemnation; context reveals what is correct. The KJV gets this verse right: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. We see the same two statements in verse 27 & 29. John 5:28-29 (KJV) Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. Again, KJV gets it right, ESV and others use the word "judgment." We’ve seen that God will bring every deed into judgment – no man escapes this. But we also see that those who have passed from death unto life shall not come into condemnation! This is Paul’s point in Romans 8:1, as he tells those who were tempted to trust in works that there is NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus, He is the only refuge!

The truth about the judgment seat is a lot less complicated and much less ambiguous. The Greek word bema, which is translated seat, is from a root that means 'base' or the foot (and by extension, step). It is used to designate a stepped seating area for Judgment. Thus bema simply refers to the raised seating of a judge or a king. For example, the throne of a King is usually stepped seating. In other words, seating that is raised above the level of the surrounding area. Much the same as our courts today have established for judgments. In our country one must approach the raised judgment area called the bench. Likewise, the bema seat is simply the raised seating of someone sitting to judge. For example, Pilate sat on the judgment seat [bema] when Jesus was being accused of wrong doing (Matt 27:19 & John 19:13). John 19:13 [2064] So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. This is the same Greek word as found in 2 Corinthians, where the alleged "Bema seat" judgment takes place.

In both Biblical accounts of this episode (Matt 27 & John 19), the Greek word translated seat, bema, means the exalted seat of judgment. We should note very clearly that far from being a seat to hand out rewards, it is a seat of Judgment in tribunal for crimes (perceived or otherwise). Pilate sits upon this Judgment seat and he makes a Judgment to have the Lord Jesus Christ scourged, and handed over to be crucified. Quite clearly, this was a Judgment seat for judicial law. This is not only illustrated by the context, but also by the content. In both passages, Pilate sits on this bema and delivers a judicial verdict against Christ (beating and handing Him over to be crucified) which has absolutely nothing to do with rewards. Likewise, in the book of Acts we find the same scenario present with this Judgment seat (Acts 18:12 & 17). Acts 18:12 [2124] While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack against Paul and brought him to the judge’s bench. The ESV calls this a tribunal, the KJV calls it a judgment seat. The Greek word is bema.

What is the purpose and who are the participants? The parable of the talents shows believers have rewards, based on our deeds – just as we read in Psalm 75:7. The purpose of judgment day is two-fold; with punishment for evil-doers, rewards for good deeds (which the Holy Spirit equips and wills us to do), and our inheritance as joint-heirs with Christ. This inheritance is being regenerated or born of God to live and reign with Him. This is taught in Ephesians 1:11, 13-14 [2263] In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will. … In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. This is confirmed in Galatians 3, Colossians 1 & 3, Hebrews 9 & 11, and 1 Peter 1. The inheritance Abraham looked for was that city whose designer and builder was God, the heavenly Jerusalem which is described in Revelation 21:9-10 [2494] Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.” This is what Peter made mention of in 1 Peter 2, when he referred to the saints in Christ as living stones being built up as a spiritual house. What greater reward could one hope for than being at peace with God, abiding with Him in perfect harmony?

Matthew 25:31-33 [1877] When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Two groups of people present at this judgment, when Christ returns and sits in judgment on the nations, He is on a bema; sheep at His right hand, goats at His left. No separate judgment for the saints in this passage.

Another glimpse at this judgment: Revelation 22:12-15 [2497] “Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying”. Same two groups of people, each getting judged. Those who wash their robes (KJV: keeps His commandments) are blessed; these are the people of God who have been raised up and given His Spirit Who wills and equips us to do what pleases Him. Outside are those who do not know Him.

The Bible is clear that there is one Judgment of Christ, and it takes place at the last day. It is then that man will stand before the Judgment seat of Christ to give account of what he has done on earth, whether good or evil. All those who were washed clean in the blood of Christ stand before God spotless with 'good' works that are faultless. The rest of the dead stand with 'bad' works, and are found guilty in their works of sin. 2 Timothy 4:1 [2342] 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; Romans 14:10 [2181] But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God. One judgment of all flesh, the quick (alive in Christ) and the dead; at the end of the age.

2 Corinthians 5:10-11 [2229] is where many stand to defend a separate “bema seat” judgment for Christians. But does that passage teach this? For we must all appear before the judgment seat (bema) of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.  Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. The same two groups of people, before the judgement seat of God.

This raised seat judgment Paul speaks of in this passage also describes the throne on which Herod sat when he was killed by God (Acts 12), the judgment seat Paul was dragged before Gallio (Acts 18), the place Festus sat in Acts 25, Caesar's judgment seat in Rome, and the raised platform where Paul met his accusers (Acts 25:16-17). The Greek word does not lend itself to the narrow, single purpose definition imposed upon it by the Bema Seat proponents. Bema used to describe various judgment seats and thrones, from which men in authority render judgment.

The Great White Throne Judgment, in Revelation 20:11-15 [2493], has many of the same characteristics of these other passages we’ve read. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. What in this passage gives the impression it’s a different scene? More detail, same two groups of people, same two eternal states. The Greek word for throne (thronos) is not bema; but one definition of bema is "throne" and one definition of thronos is "seat." While different words, they are nearly identical in meaning.

Revelation 20 is the same basic scene as in Matthew 25, wherein Christ sits on His throne of glory, judging between sheep and goats. Here in Revelation 20, the Lord sits on a throne which is great and white - terms that ascribe glory and honor. In Matthew 25 [1877], the deeds done by each group are reviewed, have everything in common. The one thing that distinguishes between the sheep and the goats is the sheep did their works out of love for Christ and His brothers. Verse 40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ verse 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. The inheritance of the saint in view once more.

In Revelation 20, the sea gave up her dead and death and hell gave up their dead. Is there any doubt that "death and hell" give up the damned, to face their Judge? These are terms commonly associated with those who are not reconciled to God. What about the sea; are its dead the same category of people or does it give up those who have died in Christ? Isaiah 60:5 [1350] sheds light on this, describing the fulfillment of what national Israel foreshadowed when all nations come to God, where the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you (God), the wealth of the nations shall come to you! This supports the idea that in Revelation 20, the sea could refer to those being called by God from every nation, tribe, and tongue. This would fit right in with the other judgment passages, which show the same two groups of people - sheep and goats.

And in this scene, it is as clear as it can be: the only thing that determines destiny has nothing to do with deeds we do here. If your name is not written in the Lamb's Book of Life, you have no life in Christ. If your name IS written in the Lamb's Book of Life, you have eternal life in Christ. Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Whatever rewards we may gain by faithful, Spirit led service in this age, inheriting the kingdom is totally based on God’s free gift of grace poured on His sheep.

This is what YHWH meant in this snippet from Job 34:23 [921] - For God has no need to consider a man further, that he should go before God in judgment. The judgment eternal destiny of souls is not based on deeds done in the flesh; it is wholly dependent on and based on the standing one has; is he in Christ? And when one comes to Christ Jesus in faith, which is a gift from God, he will be protected from the wrath of God on that great and terrible day when Jesus judges all nations and peoples.

In speaking about the trials we will face in this age, Peter pointed us to Christ as our example; revealing a truth about the final judgment that ought to comfort the saints. 1 Pet 2:23 [2409] When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. This is why we who are in Christ have no need to fear the day of judgment: He is just. The white throne is a sign of Christ’s rule and His glory: He is mighty.

Summary & Conclusion
The nature of this judgment is comprehensive, no mortal is excluded. The purpose of judgment day is twofold: to reward those who by patience in well-doing seek for honor and glory and to punish those who are self-seeking and unrighteous. Varying rewards and punishments. The participants in the day of judgment are two:  those who have been clothed in the righteousness of Christ and seek to bring Him honor and those who are dressed in their own rags of self-righteousness who serve themselves and mind earthly things. In these things, God is glorified in saving sinners, punishing evil doers, and bringing the age of redemption to a close for all will know Him and declare Christ to be King, whether they rejoice in their salvation or weep in their doom.

Luke 12:42-48 [1983] And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. … And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

The great day of the Lord is a frightful time for those who are not clothed in Christ. It’s a validation of all He has promised for those who wear His white robes. 2 Pet 3:13 [2243] But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. If you are in Christ, you can, with a clear conscience, join the saints of old and cry out, Maranatha! Come quickly, Lord Jesus! If you do not have peace in your soul as you consider the end of things and the accounting that must be made to the Creator and Judge of all things, consider His words (John 6:35 & 37) [2035]: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. … All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” There is salvation in no other name or person. Come to Jesus. He is the faithful one.

On the day of judgment, that great and terrible day when everything done in secret will be exposed (Ephesians 5:13), there is no place to hide, no safe refuge, no shield from the wrath of God – except for the very Lamb that will judge all flesh. This is why the gospel is central to mission of every church. This is why Christ Jesus is heralded as the only savior of poor sinners; He alone makes atonement for sin, He alone reconciles His enemies to His Father. He is the bread and water of eternal life; no one who comes to Him will hunger or thirst; no on who flees to Him will ever be cast out. Repent of your sin and believe on Christ – there is no other way to be at peace with God. Peace with God came at a dreadful price as the Son of God drank the cup of wrath due us. This wonderous love, that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for your soul and mine. Let us exhort one another while we have breath to always look unto Christ, for He is our great salvation and He is our life!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The New Covenant – Security in Christ.

Even a casual read of the Bible reveals the presence of covenants. One of our old Baptist brothers, C. H. Spurgeon, had this to say about the importance of understanding the covenants of Scripture:

The doctrine of the covenant lies at the root of all true theology. ... I am persuaded that most of the mistakes which men make concerning the doctrines of Scripture are based upon fundamental errors with regard to the covenants of law and grace.

We see several covenants in the Bible, with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David. There are two that are heavily contrasted in Scripture, the ones mentioned by Spurgeon, which Scripture calls the Old and New Covenants. And there is another covenant, which I nickname the covenant of death. Adam was told he would die if he ate from the tree in the middle of the garden. He ate. He died spiritually that day and Gen 3:17 tells us the earth, the entire planet, was cursed on his account. And the Spirit spoke through Paul to tell us how this affects us: For as by a man came death … in Adam all die … (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Whether Jew or Gentile, with Moses or without, all men share in death because all sinned in Adam and in themselves. We need a rescuer!

In addition to covenants, another basic aspect of the Bible is often lost on us, hampering our proper understanding of Scripture. This element is the Jewish nature of the Bible. During the time of Christ and the apostles, the biblical world basically revolved around national Israel and their corporate blindness towards and ignorance of the oracles of God that had been entrusted to them. While a few Hebrews in each generation were believers, the nation at large was unbelieving. Not only did they not get the message of their Messiah, they had an even more difficult time comprehending He would bring the kingdom to Gentiles! So much of what we will see in Scripture is the New Covenant contrasted with the Old - that umbrella which incorporated the covenant of circumcision, and the Mosaic and Davidic covenants. This was to make the case of the New Covenant clear for the Jews.

But it has caused confusion for us Gentiles as well. For many Christians have been led to believe that everyone, Jew and Gentile, is in the Old Covenant until and unless God brings them into the New. But the Old Covenant was ever and only given to national Israel. And when the New Covenant came, the Old became like a worn-out garment, and was being rolled up to be disposed of. By the time Jerusalem fell in AD 70, the last remnant of the Old Covenant was finished; no longer in effect. Since then, and until the end of the age, all people are spiritually dead in Adam until and unless they are made alive in Christ (Romans 5). Paul teaches us in Romans 2 that Gentiles are without the Law of Moses but are a law unto themselves (what I term God's universal law), convicted and excused by their consciences as they try to reconcile their sin with their innate, unsaving knowledge of God.

The New Covenant stands as the answer to everything that is wrong, it is God’s final Word on making all things right. The glory of being in Christ Jesus is revealed in this covenant, which binds Christ and His church together, providing redemption and eternal salvation for sinners. The sign of the New Covenant is circumcision not made with human hands followed by water baptism (Colossians 2:11-12). The Lord's Supper is another sign within this covenant, reminding us of its Author and His return (1 Corinthians 11:25). Jesus is a better prophet than Moses and is more faithful than the first Adam.

The book of Hebrews is a sermon preaching the essentials of the faith to Christian Jews, as there were rumors that some were considering a return to what they were comfortable with. In chapters 7-9 the New Covenant is contrasted with the Old Covenant, so they would see it more accurately. Chapter 9:1 even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. What follows is a description of the tabernacle of the Hebrew religion, featuring lampstands, a table and bread, the Most Holy Place with the ark of the Mosaic covenant containing the tablets of testimony, the golden vial of manna, and Aaron's staff. Levitical priests ever making sacrifices that would cover sin for a time but never able to take away sin. All of these forms of worship are summed up in verse 9 as symbolic for that age and “imposed until the time of reformation” (verse 10). There will be no re-institution of those types and symbols as the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus was sufficient, satisfying God the Father and finishing the redemptive work announced in Genesis 3:15; bringing that time of reformation.

when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:11-12 & 15)

The differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant are further clarified:

Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:23-28)

The Old Covenant conferred earthly blessings in the promised land; the New Covenant confers heavenly blessings and eternal life. My friend, Jeff Johnson, tells us, “the law written on stone can never change the heart of stone.”

In writing to a mixed crowd of Jews and Gentiles in the church, Paul also contrasted Old and New. Romans 8:1-2: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. What is this “law of sin and death”? Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 3:3 & 5-11: And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. The Old Covenant, the Law of Moses, specifically, is the law of sin and death mentioned in Romans 8, signified by the tablets of stone which sit in the ark of that Covenant, lost in time according to God’s will (Jeremiah 3:15 & 16). It has been ended, rolled up as a worn out garment (Hebrews 8:13).

There can be no greater contrast than what our Creator has provided through His apostle to the Gentiles. Consistently, the Old Covenant is described as stone, slavery, death, condemnation, and being worn out; for it, in all of its individual covenants, requires perfect obedience that no mortal man can deliver and yields salvation to no man. This covenant is contrasted with the New Covenant, described as flesh, liberty, life, righteousness, and eternal; delivered to the saints of God by the perfect life and sacrificial death of Jesus, yielding His righteousness to all His chosen people. In Gal 4, the Old Covenant is described as slavery, contrasted with the New Covenant which is described as freedom. We may wonder why any believing Jews would consider returning to the shadows of the Old Covenant - but we ought to wonder more why modern evangelicals would want us to be burdened by that yoke which no man can bear. This was the judgment of the apostles in Acts 15, when the Judaizing Christians, who demanded Gentiles be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses, were brought to the first church council to settle this hash. Peter addresses these men, reminding them of how those outside Israel were saved by grace - with no distinction in this regard between Jew and Gentile. Then he asked, Acts 15:10 Now then, why are you testing God by putting a yoke on the disciples’ necks that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? In contrast, we hear from Christ that His yoke is easy and John tells us His commands are not burdensome. Rather than the Law of Moses, we live under - as Paul mentioned Sunday - the royal law, the law of liberty, the perfect law, the law of the Spirit, the law of Christ! No condemnation of the Law of Moses, no condemnation of God's universal law. Peace with God, by the blood of Christ - which He shed to cut the New Covenant.

There can be no greater hope, no greater joy, no greater peace, no greater salvation than what Christ Jesus provides for the redeemed in the New Covenant. We are complete in Christ, fulfilled in Him (Colossians 2:10). We have no other argument, we need no other plea, it is enough that Jesus died, and that he died for me and for thee! How can we not praise His name!

The Old Covenant was summed up on stone tablets and kept in the Ark of the Covenant as a reminder of all that God had communicated to Israel through Moses; the New Covenant law is written on the soul of each member; each will know the Lord, having been regenerated and indwelt by God's Spirit. The Old Covenant was broken by the ongoing disobedience of Israel; the New Covenant cannot be broken because God the Son mediates it (Hebrews 9:15) and keeps us (John 10:27-30). The sins of Israel were brought up to them time and time again, with petitions from many prophets for them to repent; yet they did not because they could not; and God divorced her (Jeremiah 3:8). The sins of New Jerusalem, the redeemed saints within the New Covenant, are forgiven in Christ and God promises to remember them no more (Isaiah 43:25; Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12)! Contrary to popular conventional wisdom, God does not forget our sins. He chose to not remember them. To forget something is symptomatic of flawed recall, something one cannot rightly attribute to God. The proper view of this is to take it as written, in the context of seeing God for Who He is: perfect and without flaws; able to not remember something. You and I can try to forget something, but such memories often return to our minds. God is not like this. When He chooses to not remember something, He does not allow that thing to come to His mind. He is perfect.

With the New Covenant comes the fulfillment of the types and shadows. The universal body of Christ, composed of both Jews and Gentiles, is the true Israel of God (Romans 2:28-29; 9:6; Galatians 6:16; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:9-10). James, writing to Christians, calls them the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad (James. 1:1). Paul taught that all who believe in Christ are the true sons of Abraham (Romans 4:11-17; Galatians 3:7); that the middle wall of partition has been removed by Christ; and that the believing Jews and Gentiles are one body (Ephesians 2:14ff.). The universal church (all the called-out ones) of Christ is one spiritual building (Ephesians 2:20-22), one bride (Ephesians 5:22 & 32; Revelation 21:9ff.), and the New Jerusalem (Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 3:12; 21:1 & 2; 21:9-11).

The veil that covers the eyes of the unregenerate was typified by the temple veil that kept the world out of the Holy place where God met with His Levitical priests. The rending of the temple veil by God symbolizes the lifting of the veil on those who have died to self and been resurrected to new life in Christ; no longer separated from Holy God, no longer part of the world. When the antitype comes, the types must go – just as John recognized that Christ must increase and he would decrease.

The newness of the New Covenant cannot be overstated, as there are so many Christians who think it is not really new or interesting. But God is unchanging and He gave some Old Testament saints illumination on this topic. Jeremiah 31:31-34 This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt “I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. they will all know Me, For I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin.”

John Reisinger shows in two short passages the similarities and the differences between the Old and New Covenants. The Old is conditional and is a type foretelling the New, which is unconditional (as far as mankind’s participation in each).

Exodus 19:5-6
1 Peter 2:9
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be
But you are [because Christ kept the covenant for us]
(1) my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me
(1) a chosen race, … a people for his own possession
(2) a kingdom of priests, and a
(2) a royal [kingly] priesthood,
(3) holy nation.
(3) a holy nation

The nature of the New Covenant reflects the promise made to Abraham: in it are and will be people from every nation. In Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free; these ethical and temporal distinctives have no more role in determining one’s status in the New Covenant than does the blood or the will of the flesh or the will of man (John 1:13).

The New Covenant is new; it’s not the Old Covenant with a “new administration” as some claim. The New Covenant shines with the glory of the finished work of Christ; it does not promise the future work of the Messiah yet to come. The New Covenant brings the fullness of Christ to every child of God; with the surety of our Lord as the guarantee that He will not forsake us. The New Covenant is where new creatures in Christ have been brought into fellowship with the Father. Without the New Covenant, we would still be under the condemnation of law and Adam’s sin as well as our own, waiting without hope. But praise God for His faithfulness! Christ has come and fulfilled ALL that the Law and the prophets demanded. And by His blood He has cut the New Covenant, bringing all the lost sheep into the fold of God.

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father. (John 10:14-18)

The New Covenant provides God Himself as our shepherd, caring for us, tending to us, keeping us unto that great Day of Judgment where He will serve as our advocate. The New Covenant gives us the fullness of Christ Jesus, in Whom we have every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3)! We can trust Him for He is faithful to Himself. We trust our souls to the only wise God, the judge and the justifier, Who is truly God and truly sovereign over time and space.

It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses. Every man is stupid and without knowledge; every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols, for his images are false, and there is no breath in them. They are worthless, a work of delusion; at the time of their punishment they shall perish. Not like these is he who is the portion of Jacob, for he is the one who formed all things, and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance; the LORD of hosts is his name. (Jeremiah 10:12-16)

If you are in Christ, He is sufficient and all glorious! Behold your God:

Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle. Who is He, this King of glory? The LORD of Hosts, He is the King of glory. (Psalm 24:8 & 10)

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. (Revelation 21:5-6a)

This is the Lord we proclaim, the only One Who can do poor helpless sinners any good. If you do not know this King of glory, cry out to Him for mercy while you yet have breath. All things are ready – come and be reconciled to Christ Jesus. He really does save poor sinners.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Colossians 1:24 - 2:5 The Struggle of Spreading the Gospel

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

From John Kitchen’s commentary: "There appears to be a well-built and clearly developed chiastic arrangement around which this section is built."

Brad McCoy provides this definition and purpose of chiasms in Scripture: “the use of inverted parallelism of form and/or content which moves toward and away from a strategic central component.” He explains the importance of these literary devices helping the reader or listener in 3 ways: delineates the author’s meaning, highlights the central focus of the passage, and sets the passage in a form that is easier to remember than unstructured prose. When the Bible was being written, most folk heard rather than read.

Here’s the chiastic structure of our text:

A             Rejoice, flesh                                                          1:24
                                B             Make known, riches, mystery             1:27
                                                C             Struggling                            1:29
                                                C             Struggling                            2:1
                                B             Knowledge, wealth, mystery               2:2
A             Rejoicing, body                                                        2:5

Each layer within this structure has deep meaning; this structure helps tie it together. Paul opens this passage rejoicing in his suffering, in his body of flesh; he closes this passage by declaring that even though his body is not with the saints of Colossi, he rejoices to see the fruit of the gospel in their lives. This ought to cause us to recall his instructions to the saints at Philippi (chapter 4 of that letter), as they stand firm in the Lord (verse 5 of our text) to help the work of the gospel (verse 27 of our text) Paul tells them to rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS, and again, he says, rejoice! We who have been bought by the blood of Christ ALWAYS have the BEST reason to rejoice! Our struggles in this age are not worthy to be compared to the riches of Christ's glory that will be revealed in the age to come.

The center of our passage is Paul's two-fold struggle - to preach the gospel and disciple the saints, to personally insure those at Colossi and Laodicea and everywhere else are built up in the faith of God in Christ.

Rejoice in the Lord as you struggle with all the power God gives you to spread the gospel, rejoicing in the fruit He grants. This is the core of Paul's theology.

But what does he mean in saying he "fills up that which is behind the afflictions of Christ" or "complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions"? The papist cult camps out on this phrase to show they must afflict themselves with barbed underwear, long painful treks, and crucifixions to fill up Christ's suffering.  The first thing we need to know is that Christ Jesus finished His atoning work on the cross. Nothing CAN be done to supplement it; it is not lacking anything; His sacrifice was sufficient. His afflictions were UNLIKE anything we can suffer - He bore the wrath of God on our account - it was far worse that the horrendous physical suffering He endured. The Greek word for Jesus' "afflictions" is not used one time in all of Scripture to describe His propitiating death. So whatever one imagines Paul to mean, he could not have intended us to think he or we would make Jesus' death more effective. In urging the church at Philippi to accept Epaphroditus, Paul said he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me (Phil 2:30). Same idea - serving one another in Christ will cause us to suffer, to work hard, and grow physically and emotionally weary. But our goal is that of Paul's - to build up the body of Christ so we all achieve maturity and stability.

And Paul tells us the entity which is being complete by his sufferings - the body of Christ, which is the church. We see in several places (Acts 9:16; 14:22; Rom 8:17; 1 Thess 3:3; 2 Tim 3:12; 1 Peter 5:10) that the church should expect to suffer as it faithfully proclaims His life-giving gospel. He spoke through James that friendship with the world is hatred, enmity against God; through Peter that we should be surprised when we face fiery trials on His account - the world as a system hates God and natural man hates the gospel. Even so, it is the power of God unto salvation to those who are being saved.

Paul tells us here, as he has elsewhere, that he is a servant of the Lord in the service of His people, to make the message or word of God fully known. This was the charge given Paul and it is the same charge He gave the church in the Great Commission - to make the message of God, His gospel, fully known to the people of the world. This gospel, the person of Christ, was a mystery in ages past but was being revealed to His saints as Jesus had announced the Kingdom and given His apostles the foundational truths His people need to rightly comprehend. God has chosen to make the riches of His glory known to the Gentiles, that all the chosen of God would experience the fullness of Christ.

While Scripture reveals several Old Covenant saints knew of the resurrection, Christ being raised from the dead, seated with God, and - by His Spirit - abiding in the soul of every child brought to glory. When we died to sin and were made alive in Christ, we experienced the first resurrection. Over such the second death holds no power. He is our hope of eternal glory. He is the message we proclaim - Christ suffering the wrath of God to save poor helpless sinners. As Kitchen reminds us, this exalted One resides within each and every saint. This should be a staggering thought, breathtaking - if we rightly see Him for Who He is. Psalm 24:8 & 10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle. Who is He, this King of glory? The LORD of Hosts, He is the King of glory. This is the Lord we proclaim, the only One Who can do poor helpless sinners any good.

As we proclaim Christ, we warn everyone to flee from the wrath to come, discipling all who believe to bring them to maturity. This should call to memory the Great Commission and Eph 4:10-16. Paul said that he struggled mightily to make this happen - but that it was God's power that worked in him to cause the growth he desired. How often do we wear ourselves out, thinking we must be strong enough, disciplined enough, and so on, in order to be useful to God? Yes we should discipline ourselves! But let us never think we are sufficient for the task laid out before us!

Right after telling them how he had struggled and labored to make the gospel know, Paul tells of the burden he has for people he has never met, beginning with Colossi, Laodicea, and the rest of the world - to encourage them. This is not simple emotional support, but a deliberate desire to see the saints grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus - Him we proclaim, to make Him fully known, joined together with the other saints by the love He shed abroad in our hearts. The goal in this is so we will have all the riches that come with full assurance in the knowledge of God's mystery - Christ Himself!

Two things to bear in mind here: the "heart" does not refer to the blood pumping muscle in our chests. Our problem isn't one of "head knowledge" vs "heart knowledge." The Hebrew and Greek words behind "heart" described the seat or core of the mind, emotions, and will (emotions and will are functions or aspects of our mind, not things separate from it). The Second thing is God's mystery. Paul wants us to have knowledge of God's mystery - which is Christ. We don't make Him known by fancy programs or expensive audio/video systems; we make Him known by the proper preaching and teaching of His Word.

It's important to get these things, and the truth of God's mystery, straight. If we don't, if we are not sure of the message of reconciliation given to us in Scripture, we will be vulnerable to being led astray by the plausible arguments of men. Let's consider a lesser issue - water baptism. The only examples and references to water baptism in Scripture show being immersed into water and being brought up out of it. Our Presbyterian brothers have plausible arguments based on Old Covenant circumcision and household baptisms that have convinced many people that infants should be sprinkled with water, calling that baptism. This is not an essential doctrine unless one follows the argument for infant baptism to its logical conclusion and people start believing water baptism covers sin or regenerates the soul. Such thoughts are behind the beginning of "infant baptism" and pose an alluring reason for this doctrine.

On the most important doctrine - how are sinners saved - man have plausible arguments that convince many that Christ died for everyone and has given everyone the grace to choose to be saved. Free will is the clarion call to men who cannot stand the thought of a sovereign God Who has chosen who He will save. No, this is too important not to allow the creature the right to tell the Creator who He must save!

If we are not grounded in Scripture, such tales can cause confusion or error in our thinking. So Paul has said everything up chapter 2:4 to make sure the saints have full assurance of the knowledge of Christ so we will not be deluded by men with plausible arguments.  Again to his letter to Philippi, we see how small things mark those who are enemies of God and should be marked so all will know to be on guard.

Philippians 3:17-21 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Note the contrast - people who have their minds focused on earthly things (what they eat, the lust of the flesh) compared with people who have their minds set on heavenly things (citizenship in heaven, looking for Christ to return). Those who say some folks are too heavenly minded to be any earthly good are actually aligned with the enemies of the cross of Christ. In fact, we have to be heavenly minded to be of any earthly good. For those who are perishing need what they either do not know or hate. They need the gospel - and that is God's wisdom!

Paul concludes this passage by telling the saints at Colossi that he was present in spirit with these dear saints that he had never met, rejoicing at their good order and the firmness of their faith in Christ Jesus. I cannot help but take note of something. Rick Warren is loved by many and has been called "America's Pastor." He has built his organization by seeking to find out what unconverted people want in a local "church" and giving it to them. In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Warren tells us (pg 105) that we are lying when we tell someone, “I’ll be there in spirit.” He claims we can only be where our physical body is. I wonder which of the myriad translations he used in the book did not have this statement by Paul. Any teacher that cannot embrace all the God has given us in His Word should not be highly regarded. The apostle rejoiced to see firmness of faith in Christ and stability in Colossi - our ambition ought to be to possess the same attributes they did. We should not be led astray by those who are careless with the Scripture or focused on earthly things.

We have the gospel. We have Christ. Let us be firm in our faith and immoveable on the truths given to us by our great and holy Creator.