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  • Romans Chapter 12 Verses 3-11

    Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

    Now Paul changes gears, he has told us in verse two not to be conformed to the way of the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we may be able to realize that God’s known and unkown will is good, perfect and acceptable. This issue is very important to put into practice because it places us in the right position to better practice what Paul is telling us in the remaining part of the Epistle. Getting a handle on verses one and two will help us greatly in our behavior and our position in the church, the body of Christ and help us put into practice God’s known and revealed will.

    Paul mentions in this verse that he is writing these next things through the grace that has been given to him.

    What does it mean “ through the grace given to me”? First of all there are actually two answers in this one statement.

    The general meaning of this statement is that God indeed has given us grace when He saved us because He did so only and exclusively by His grace.

    We have extensively seen this truth expounded through our study in many different ways and through many passages.

    Let us look at three specific references regarding this issue:

    The first one and perhaps the best known to us is this one:

    Ephesians 2:5-10 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

    Let’s quickly pull this passage apart so we can again understand it better.

    It was when we were yet dead in our own sinful nature that God quickened us together with Christ. The key words in verse five are dead, quickened and together with Christ.

    We were spiritually dead because of sin in our nature yet God, and here we see the action is done by God without any personal involvement on our part, the action is originating in God and brought to pass by God, when did this happen?

    Many think this happens the moment we believe and actually it is so as far as we humans are concerned, but as far as God is concerned the actual event has taken place at the moment of redemption, in other words when Jesus accomplished God’s plan of salvation, this occurred at the cross and subsequently at His resurrection. You may remember that Jesus before dying cried out: “ It is finished” John 19:30.

    What was finished? What was completed and paid in full?

    The redemption of the elect.

    In God’s time it was done, in man’s time it has to be accomplished through the passing of time and in history. Yet the salvation of the elect was done and finished as God quikened us together with Christ at in His resurrection. This is exactly why Paul then says, by grace you have been saved.

    He says this to make sure we understand that our salvation had nothing to do with us. It originated in God, it was brought forth by God, it was implemented and accomplished by God through Jesus Christ and it is applied to the elect by God in the person of the Holy Spirit through time. So we see that the entire plan of human redemption is all fulfilled by God and the entire Godhead, in other words the Trinity, is involved in accomplishing and applying salvation to the elect.

    There is only one real and direct human involvement in our salvation, that is the person of Jesus Christ. He is the only valid and redemptive human involvement in the salvation process.

    Man however, has two indirect ways in which he is involved in the salvation process.

    The first one is this one: we must believe.

    Faith is practiced by the believer for salvation, this is true, yet our faith although practiced by us is a gift of God without which no one can actually have it or practice it.
    Therefore faith is part of the gift of God which is grace, this is described well in verses eight and nine of Ephesians two.

    The second way man is involved indirectly in salvation is through the practice of evangelism. God has given gifts to the church this happens again only by His grace.

    We can find this written in Ephesians 4:7-11 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

    Once again, even in this passage we see that it is by God’s grace that we receive the Holy Spirit, this is the gift of Christ. Through the grace of the Holy Spirit God has given to the church gifts, what gifts?

    The ministers as mentioned in verse eleven, Apostles, prophets, evangelists pastor/teachers.

    As we see Evangelists, who are the called ministers to preach the Gospel, which by the way is the only way a person is saved through believing it Romans 1:16. It’s only and exclusively the preaching of the Gospel through which the elect obtain salvation. See 1 Corinthians 1:18-21; Romans 10:14-17.

    It is only the preaching of the Gospel by God called and God gifted evangelists that brings to the person the faith necessary to believe, this is what Romans 10:17 states. Faith comes by the hearing the preached Gospel by God appointed evangelists.

    Therefore the other indirect human involvement in salvation are the evangelists who are men who preach the Gospel. However it’s only the Holy Spirit through the preached Gospel that the evangelists preach and how faith comes to a person.

    The Gospel is the power of God to salvation for all who believe, Romans 1:16 and yet people believe only through the power of the Holy Spirit who applies God’s salvation and gifts giving the elect the faith to believe. So as we see although man is involved it’s only God by His grace that saves people and He does it through and by evangelists in the church.

    Let’s remember what grace means, it means unmerited favor, it’s God doing us a favor by giving us what we can never ever deserve, earn or come up with on our own. This takes away any and all possible thing that we can try to do to gain salvation, in fact, as we see even the faith that God requires man to have to believe in the Gospel in order to be saved does not originate in us but it’s part of God’s gift of grace to us.

    As we see God’s gift of salvation is by grace and faith is by grace as well, that is what Ephesians 2:8-9 says. In fact to eliminate any and every possibility that we could boast in our salvation God tells us that even our good works, of which evangelism is a part of, are not ours but God’s who prepared them beforehand that we should walk in them.

    It’s all by God’s grace and mercy that we are saved and keep being saved to the end.

    So it’s grace and nothing else that saves us and keeps us safe.

    Look now at what the other two passages say about our salvation being only by grace.

    Romans 11:5-6 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

    The elect, either the remnant of the nation of Israel or the Gentile elect who are the remnant of mankind are saved, elected and saved by grace and not by any type of human work by which a person could in some way deserve or earn salvation.

    There is no work other than God’s work that can bring salvation because we cannot in any way deserve or earn salvation. Therefore it’s only by grace, unmerited favor.

    Salvation is God doing us a favor. As we know a favor is granted without conditions.

    The third passage we will look at is this one:

    Titus 3:4-7 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

    Jesus appeared to accomplish God’s salvation in man’s behalf because of God’s kindness and love, not because of our religious or pious works that we can possibly ever perform, not by any merit whatever on our part rather by His mercy alone God saved us through and by the regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit who God shed abundantly on the elect through Jesus Christ our savior.

    God has done this and therefore because of all this we are justified by God’s grace. As we see although we know Scripture explicitly teaches us that we are justified by faith we see written here that we are justified also by grace. This can only mean that faith comes by grace and these two are used in synonymous way. This grammatical and theological fact makes faith part of God’s grace and not something that man can activate on his own or something everybody inherently possesses and can turn on and off like a light switch. Faith has to be imparted by God and it’s by His grace only that this occurs.

    So once again this confirms that what Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

    This passage is interpreted by many, even Greek scholars to intend that faith has no part of grace. What I say is this, although grammatical and linguistic interpretation is often necessary and in some cases indispensable, yet the grammar and the linguistic interpretation has to always, always match up with the rest of Scripture, In other words, we cannot take grammar and language alone to give an accurate interpretation of the passages in question. The most important keys to proper biblical interpretation are context and that Scripture interprets Scripture.

    We cannot interpret Scripture properly without taking into consideration what the entire content of the word of God is regarding any given subject we are studying. In this particular case we have several Scriptures that confirm that faith is a gift of God that is part of God’s grace, therefore faith and grace are both active God given gifts one is a part of the other and both are not separated by each other. This conclusion is reached as we have seen, by the understanding of the Scriptures we have seen before. Titus 3 that claims we are justified by God’s grace and Scripture that claims we are justified by faith, such as

    Romans 4:16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

    Even here we see that faith is by grace and then the same chapter tells us that we are indeed justified by faith

    Romans 4:20-25 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. 23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

    This passage is clearly explaining to us that faith is by grace and we are indeed justified by faith but also by grace and through grace that we obtain faith, that is why Paul explains to us that faith comes by hearing the Gospel preached Romans 10:17 yet even this next passage indicates that faith and the Holy Spirit are closely related,

    Galatians 3:2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

    Since we are only saved by the preaching of the Gospel and since we can be saved only by believing the Gospel and since we are saved only by God’s grace we have to arrive to the only possible conclusion and interpretation that we can arrive to and that is, we are saved by grace because faith comes through and by God’s grace when the Gospel is preached by Evangelists, who by the way, are gifts of God’s grace to the church. So our salvation is entirely by grace, every aspect of our salvation is an unmerited gift of God, even the human vehicles through which we hear the Gospel preached, the evangelists are a gift of grace. However, let’s remember that only those who are foreknown and are predestined by God are called to be justified and glorified, Romans 8:29-30.

    It’s God in the person of the Holy Spirit through the human vehicle of the evangelist’s preaching the Gospel who pours out God’s regenerating power and who gives the elect faith in order to believe the Gospel.

    So we see that it is by grace we are saved and that salvation is the first manifestation of God’s grace to men, so Paul can say that it is because of that grace that saved him that now he can tell the Roman church what he is telling them. However, the grace of God doesn’t only give us faith and salvation in the general sense.

    Once we are saved by grace, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit by grace, Ephesians 4:7.

    The gift of Christ mentioned in Ephesians 4:7 is the Holy Spirit, not only the context indicated this reality but there are other Scriptures that show us that this is indeed what we are seeing written here.

    Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    Galatians 3:14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

    The Holy Spirit is a promise and a gift and the fact that it’s a gift indicates that it’s by grace because people cannot do anything to earn a gift. A gift is a gift not an earning or something a person can deserve. The only thing I can think of connected to meriting a gift is the lie of Santa Claus, where parents lie to their children and tell them that they can receive “gifts”IF they behave and get none IF they don’t behave.

    Think about what a deceptive lie this is, first of all we know that Santa has nothing at all to do with the true meaning of Christmas, we see that parents have to actually lie to their children about the actual existence of this fantastic person. Besides being a deception there is yet another deceiving issue and that is the notion that one can deserve a gift. A gift is given without conditions otherwise it’s not a gift. If a person has to to earn or work to deserve something that’s not a gift that’s an earning. So we see that the lie of Santa has many deceiving things in it that actually make people think that gifts must be earned by good behavior. This is closely related to the deception that a person has to earn God’s favor and therefore His gifts.

    God’s gifts are gifts and cannot be earned nor can anyone work to deserve them.

    The Holy Spirit is the gift of God that keeps on giving. God’s Spirit besides the person of Jesus Christ is the gift of gifts to the elect. God’s Spirit brings faith and it regenerates the elect, He also indwells all believers and He is God’s gift not only to the individual believers but He is God’s gift to the church through which God gives spiritual gifts for the edification of the church.

    These gifts of the Spirit as we see are ministers Ephesians 4:7-12. This fact is then confirmed and amplified in the following verses:

    1 Corinthians12:4-13 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. 12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

    This entire passage speaks of the gifting of the Holy Spirit and the gifts He gives to the church through the gifting of every single believer.

    In the church the Holy Spirit gives diversities of gifts verse 4, the Spirit gives different administrations and diversities of operations but it is the same Holy Spirit who works in all of these, verse 5.

    Therefore it is God who works in and through the believers, however the Spirit is given and gives all these gifts to the church and to the individual believers in order to profit and edify the church. This is confirming what is written in Ephesians 4.

    In verse 11 of 1 Corinthians 12 it states that all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

    The Spirit gives all these gifts, administrations, operations of ministry in the church as He wills, in other words as He pleases not as man does. Once again they are gifts of God, by God’s grace, they operate by and through God’s grace. In fact in verse six of Romans 12 he says:

    Romans 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;

    So now we understand the meaning that is connected to God’s saving grace, in other words all that God gives us is a part of His gift of salvation. Paul was an Apostle and as such in the early church that was being born he as the other Apostles had the fullness of the gifts of the Spirit and the fullness of the ministries yet this was all by God’s grace.

    So the grace Paul is speaking about here, the grace given to him by God was not only the grace referring to his salvation but the grace that gave him all that was associated to his calling and his ministry. Paul was saved by grace, an Apostle by God’s grace and spiritually gifted by God’s grace. All Paul was and did was by God’s grace only.

    He often claimed this in his letters:

    Romans 15:15; 1 Corinthians 3:10; Ephesians 3:7-8, look especially at what Paul says in:

    1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

    Paul’s salvation, ministry, his spiritual gifts were all by God’s power through the working of the Holy Spirit and this is all that God gives His children by His grace according to the call He places on our life.

    So Paul is saying that it is by God’s grace that the was called to be an Apostle and in charge of God’s church, through this grace in his apostolic call he had spiritual authority. Paul had the authority to preach and teach what God communicated to him and all that Paul was speaking was and is God’s revealed word to the church. When Paul spoke God’s word by God’s authority he was commanding the church to do what God wants the church to do. Remember what Paul told the Corinthians in:

    1 Corinthians 14:36-37 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? 37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.

    As we see here Paul did not shy away in making clear the authority he had in the church as an Apostle called by Christ Himself. Yet, he also makes clear that this authority he as comes by and through the grace of God.

    By this grace Paul now is giving these next instructions to the Roman church and to the church through out the ages, Paul says:

    to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

    Paul commands by God’s authority conferred to him by God’s grace to every one in the church not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think rather to think soberly in accordance with the measure of faith God has given them.

    This statement in packed with important truths we need to unwrap.

    The first truth is that a person in the church ought not to think of himself more highly than he ought to.

    We know this is a great problem in humanity, this is actually called pride, it is being haughty and it means having an inflated idea of one self, having an inflated ego. It means to think to be better than others are. All this is sinful and God does not approve of it.

    We know pride is the father of all sins. It is pride which deceived Lucifer to think he could actually be greater than God and caused to sin.

    Isaiah 14:11-15 Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. 12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. 15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

    Here in Isaiah 14 we see the description of Lucifer’s or Satan’s fall. God’s word accuses him of being pompous. The word used here for pomp is the Hebrew word ga’own it does mean arrogant pride. A pompous person always thinks very highly of himself to the point that they actually deceive themselves into thinking they are better than others. Lucifer’s arrogance and pride was so intense that it deceived him to think that he could exalt his power and authority above God and that he could become like the most High.

    Even Ezekiel prophesies about Lucifer’s pride and fall in:

    Ezekiel 28:13-17 Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. 14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. 15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. 16 By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. 17 Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.

    Even in this passage God says that iniquity was found in Lucifer that was the highest and most beautiful and powerful angel God created. Lucifer was to be God’s chief worshiper. He was to be the one who guided all the angelic throng into praise to God. Lucifer though realized his beauty and power and instead of worshiping God wanted to be worshiped. He wanted to rise up above the God he was to worship and he wanted to be worshiped by God’s angels. He was able to deceive one third of God’s angels to follow him and he became their god and they since then served and worshiped him. He did not stop there though, seeing that God created man and placed him in charge of the earth, he managed to tempt and cause man to obey him rather than God and this last rebellion caused mankind to become Satan’s worshipers rather than God’s. By enslaving mankind to his bidding, Satan in reality became the ruler of the world and the ruler of mankind by man’s abdication and treason. Man in his free will chose to disobey God and obey Satan and for that reason Satan became the god of this world.

    All this occurred because of the devil’s pride. So the father of all sinfulness is pride. Pride is destructive because it causes man to think he is his own god, it causes the worse type of idolatry, self worship and narcissism. Narcissism is a degree of unhealthy self love which is a form of self idolization.

    A famous example of narcissism was Muhammad Ali, his pomp, his pride deceived him into believing he was the greatest. Many times he stood in front of the cameras and self idolized himself claiming he was the greatest. Although he certainly was a great athlete and a great boxer he was not the greatest because he was defeated several times. Yet even though he was indeed a great athlete God still humbled him and his greatness was reduced into weakness as he ended for most of his retired life suffering with a disabling illness. This is a lesson to be learned, we have to put everything into the right perspective. Yes, Ali was great but not the greatest and certainly not great enough to defeat his weakness. Ali is a good example of one thinking more highly of oneself. We can be gifted, even greatly gifted by God but we should not be prideful about it, we should remember that we are gifted by God’s grace and that is God’s gifting and we cannot be proud of something that is only by God’s doing and by His power.

    In fact, if Ali had given the glory to the true living God, perhaps his life would have been different, unfortunately, he chose to worship a false god, Allah is not God. So not only was he an idolatrous narcissist worshiping himself but he also worshiped a false god.

    Scripture tells us:

    Proverbs 11:2 When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.

    Proverbs 16:18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

    Proverbs 29:23 A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.

    In the church pride, pomp, haughtiness should not exist, it is sinful and believers should not practice it. As we have seen it is Satan’s major sin and we as believers should not be like him.

    Paul tells the Roman church and us today that we should not think more highly of ourselves than we ought and that we should think soberly.

    In the church unfortunately there is a lot of pride, spiritual pride was a great sin that affected the spiritual leaders of Israel in Jesus’ day.

    The Pharisees though more highly of themselves than all the common people, they saw themselves as being more spiritual than the ordinary person.

    No doubt we remember the story of the publican and the Pharisee that Jesus told.

    Luke 18:10-14 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

    This story speaks volumes about the very subject we are studying in this verse three of Romans 12.

    This story shows the situation where one man thought more highly of himself than the other. The Pharisee thought that he was more righteous than the publican because he did more than the other in terms of practicing his religion, he actually placed the publican in the same category as extortioners, unjust and adulterers. He thought that God was favoring him because he fasted and gave tithes of his possessions. No doubt he saw himself as spiritually better than the publican after all he was a bible scholar and a very religious man.

    In the case of the publican we see a man who actually thought soberly about himself, he realized he was a sinner and needed God’s mercy. In addition he was not as the Pharisee who gauged his righteousness by comparing himself with people who in his opinion, and perhaps even in reality were worse than him. The publican took stock of his own lack of righteousness, he did not compare himself with who could be worse than him, he threw himself on God’s mercy for forgiveness.

    The moral of this story is a combination of things, first of all religion does not make us right with God nor does it make us more spiritual than others. It’s not what we do that determines how spiritual we are but how spiritual we are determines what we do.

    Secondly we are not justified by works but by God’s grace because of His mercy, we are justified by faith and by grace, we also realize our state of spiritual bankruptcy and lack of personal righteousness and seek God’s mercy.

    Jesus wraps it all up by saying:

    I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

    Jesus is confirming that the publican was justified before God not the Pharisee. The last part of what Jesus says here is relating very closely to what we are studying. Thinking highly of ourselves is being proud and not realizing our need of God’s grace. Remember God’s grace is what gives us mercy and also that gives us the spiritual life we are to have, this spiritual life by the Holy Spirit gives us, as we have seen, all that God wants to give to us and all that equips us to live a spiritual life, so we cannot or should not be proud of what we do for God as we operate by and through the power of the Holy Spirit and through all the gifts he gives us.

    Remember the Ephesians 2 passage we have seen before in our study that speaks of the fact that we are saved by grace through faith and that is the gift of God not of ourselves, not of works so that we cannot boast. However, the passage then goes on saying this:

    Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

    Look at this passage, it’s huge as it takes away all and every possibility to think that the works we practice as Christians actually are our works and that God should give us some kind of credit for them.

    The passage tells us that we are God’s workmanship, in other words we are God’s work, whereby He created us anew in Christ, see also 2 Corinthians 5:17; God created us anew so that we would practice good works according to His standard of good works and yet the works are also His creation and He ordained them beforehand that we should walk in them.

    All this takes away from us all the possible credit we could get for practicing God’s will. In fact God requires obedience and faithfulness to His will yet, He will not reward us with salvation because we do His works. His works are a result of His salvation our salvation is not a result of our works.

    Paul said it this way to the Philippians:

    Philippians 2:12-13 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

    Paul exhorts us to work outwardly what God has done inwardly, workout our salvation, our interior spiritual life has to be practiced outwardly an then Paul says because it is God, you see? It’s God not us who works in us both to want, to desire, to will to do His will, to practice His works, He also gives us the ability, then power, God equips us to do what He has called us to do by His Spirit.

    So as we see all this brings us full circle regarding what we are studying.

    How can we think highly of ourselves of our spiritual life and works if it is God by His grace that saved us and gave us all He wants us to have to do His will and His works?

    We cannot think much of ourselves because it’s only God’s grace through His Spirit that equips and empowers us to do what He calls us to do.

    1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

    You see what Paul is saying here? He and us are what we are by God’s grace which is bestowed upon us. Paul claims that he labored more abundantly than all the other apostles. If he did not write anything else we could say he is being proud by saying this. Yet he specifies that he did so because it was not him it was God’s grace in him that empowered him and gave him the zeal and the wherewithal to work even more abundantly than all the other apostles. So it is clear that Paul did not boast in himself, he did not boast in his work alone but boasted in God and His grace which caused him to do what he did.

    So this works in us as well, it’s God’s grace and power that works in us. If it weren’t for this we would do very little or nothing for God. It is also clear that in some way there is, or should be cooperation of our beings to do God’s work and to serve Him. God does not force us to do what He wants, at least not always. I repeat, when we become born again we gain back true free will. Whereas before we were slaves to sin and had no true free will in serving God now we do. This is why Scriptures exhort us to practice God’s will and commands us to be obedient to God and not to sin.

    Look at what Paul wrote in Philippians 2.

    Philippians 2:1-8 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

    This passage teaches us what true humility actually looks like, this is what it is.

    We are to be like Jesus that is God and yet did not look at that at all instead He became like us, He became obedient to God and went to the cross to serve us in love. He gave up being superior to us to actually become sin for us, yet without committing sin. He was considered guilty of our sin so that we could be forgiven and justified. 2 Corinthians 5:21. He served us laying down His life even though we did not deserve it. So should we serve each other, without thought of our status or our call but serve each other in God’s love, even when we do not deserve it, and let me say that happens often. Yet Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient to God unto death of the cross. The cross was the highest form of shame a person could ever endure besides the excruciating physical suffering.

    So God wants us to serve one another with the same mind as Christ had. We may not have to actually sacrifice our physical lives for each other although God may require it, yet we should be ready to serve each other with humility and love and not to be proud and or selective in how and who we serve.

    So when we are proud God has to humble us but if we humble ourselves God will exalt us, He will lift us up. This also works with service in the church and this is exactly what Paul is talking about here in this section of chapter twelve of Romans.

    Unfortunately in the church many people think more highly of themselves. Many think they are this and that in the church when in reality God has not even called them at all to do what they think they have to do. Often this becomes a problem even because church leaders have very little spiritual discernment and do not obey what Scripture says and they end up appointing the wrong people in certain ministry positions.

    This is also a way to think too highly of someone. Sometimes it’s the leaders that place people in the wrong frame of mind and in the wrong position.

    Many people think they can do what God has not called them to do and that causes a lot of problems in the church. As we see doing this causes a person to be proud and think more highly of themselves and that hurts the spiritual growth of that person. Secondly it hurts the entire body because it would be as if members of our body would try to perform the function of other members.

    Can you imagine if a person would try to hear with their mouth and speak with their ear, or the heart try to digest food while the stomach tried to pump blood. It cannot work, the body would not survive.

    God created our bodies and gave every single part of our bodies certain functions that only those parts can practice properly. Certainly there are certain organs and certain body parts that interact with each other in order to function properly, in fact all our body parts function to help each other one make the whole body work in an ideal manner. However, every part, every member of the body from the largest to the most microscopic cell must operate as they were designed to operate for a perfect and healthy body function.

    In fact that is exactly what Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians 12. Ironically 1 Corinthians 12 in many ways mirrors what Romans 12 is saying.

    1 Corinthians 12:4-30 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. 12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20 But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? 30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

    Now we cannot study this passage in great detail however we can see that Paul is telling us some very important things in these 26 verses.

    The first thing he tells us is that no matter what our spiritual gifts are, no matter what ministry call we have, no matter what operation or administration we are called to and given us, they all come from the Holy Spirit, they are all manifestations of the same Holy Spirit who is God’s gift to believers as individuals and to the church as a whole body. The Holy Spirit does all this for the common good and the edification of the church and because, as we said before, although He operates through believers and through the church as a whole, He does this because the church is the body of Christ in the world and that is how Christ lives in and through the church and how He performs His work.

    In fact Paul mentions that the church is the body of Christ of which Christ is the head. The head, the brain is the center that makes the whole body function properly. The organs and members of the body obey the commands of the brain which manages all the other functions and makes the whole body work.

    Paul also tells us that it is the Holy Spirit that gives the gifts, operations and administrations to the believers and to the church, He gives them as He wants and sees fit.

    This means that it’s not the believer nor the church that can decide by themselves who does what in the church nor can we actually desire or ask for a gift rather than the one that has been granted to us at salvation by God through the Holy Spirit. In other words, w cannot pick and choose what we want to be in the body, it is God who picks and chooses what He wants us to be.

    This is in fact the remaining argument Paul brings up in 1 Corinthians 12, we all are given gifts through the Spirit and we must be content with the gifts God gave us. We should not seek to be what we are not or to have gifts we do not have. The desire to be something in the church is usually connected to the gift God gives us at the moment we are saved. In other words the Holy Spirit equips us to be and to desire what God desires us to be according to the gifts He has given us. This is and should be the normal reaction of a believer if the believer seeks God’s will and God’s gifts in a person will begin to become evident.

    Nevertheless, many believers grow unsatisfied in just being what God wants them to be and they begin to desire other gifts and desire to function in the body of Christ as they see fit and not as God wants them to be.

    This actually creates mega problems in churches. In many cases leaders are responsible for having poor spiritual discernment and they begin appointing people to positions they ought not have. In other words , the gift of teaching should be evident in a person in the form of a spiritual gift. Let me give you an example, it does not mean that because a person in life is a teacher that they should be a teacher in the church. It is not enough to have learned to be a school teacher to be a Bible teacher in the church. A person needs to be gifted spiritually to be a teacher in the church. Yet, many leaders in churches equate the position a person has in life outside the church to the position they ought to have in the church.

    Another example, it does not mean that because a person is a CEO of a company that they are qualified to be spiritual leaders in church. A person is not qualified to be an elder and a pastor or even a deacon in church because of their job and position is in life outside the church.

    People ought to be appointed to various positions in the church and ought to be utilized according to the gifts God has given them and according to what the word of God says, such as what it says in
    1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. The qualifications of elders and deacons are those and these will be present if God has called these people to be what He wants them to be. Being and elder/pastor in the church means that those who are called to this should have the gift of teaching, see 1 Timothy 3:2 and 2 Timothy 2:2 and 2 Timothy 4:1-5.

    Teaching in the church does not mean at all being able to follow a booklet curriculum written by someone else but it means being able to explain the depths of God’s word through the spiritual understanding that the Holy Spirit gives as a gift to those who are truly called to this task.

    Unfortunately in many churches they just appoint people in certain positions because they want people to become involved in church or even more they appoint people because of favoritism and because they like a person and this is done without any spiritual discernment at all. So you end up having people doing things they ought not do, others who should lead and teach end up serving tables, women get appointed as teachers and elders and to top it all off they make everybody an evangelist placing the responsibility of evangelizing on every single believer which is dead wrong.

    This will be a body that is all discombobulated and not working properly because it’s as Paul tell us, as each body part has its function in our physical body so every member should have it’s place and part in the church, the body of Christ.

    In fact Paul tells us that some member or body part can be what another is because the whole body would not work properly.

    In other words 1 Corinthians 12:15-18 the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

    Again the point is that it’s God’s choice and prerogative to give gifts and place each person where it pleases Him.

    It’s not up to us to decide, and church leadership although ought to recognize where members should serve and what gifts they have, they should also help each member of the body see and accept their God given gift and then help each to be placed where they ought to best serve and work for the common good of the entire body.

    Instead between the leadership’s wrong doing and believers desiring to be something rather than another what we have is exactly the problem Paul was speaking against in 1 Corinthians 12.

    He is addressing people who would not serve in the body because they wanted to have certain positions and they were not satisfied with their gifts and desired to have others.

    Paul is speaking against this and it is obvious the Corinthian church had this problem.

    1 Corinthians 12:19-30 And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20 But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? 30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

    So Paul is saying that we cannot all be what we want to be, we cannot all be teachers, pastors and evangelists, we cannot all be church leaders. However, all members are important regardless of their function, no member is more or less important than another. All together we serve the head Christ and we serve each other.

    Every member is supposed to serve others with the spiritual gifts and the position God has given them. We cannot despise God’s gifts, we cannot want to have what God has not given us. We should not desire to be what we are not in other words, we are not to think more highly of ourselves but to think soberly about ourselves.

    Thinking soberly as Paul is saying in Romans 12:3, is to think with the same thinking with which God thinks, it means to see everything, even ourselves as God sees us and as God wants us to be. Paul asks the Corinthians are all members the same? Do all members have the same position and the same gifts in the church? The answer obviously is no! We do not all have the same gifts and calling and we all should accept who God made us in Christ.

    It is God that gives us gifts us by His grace and it is God that calls us to our specific position in the body.

    So to pull it all together and conclude, not to think more highly of ourselves but to think soberly means this:

    Not to think we are better than any other member of Christ’s body because we are all saved by grace, we all sin and we are all forgiven in Christ, we are not to compare us to each others’ behavior or service in order to evaluate ourselves. We are all to compare ourselves to Christ and when we do we will understand that we are all lacking what it takes to be as God wants us to be.

    We are not to think that our position or gifts are greater than those who others have, they are just different and they are all given by God’s choice as He sees fit and only by His grace. We are to think soberly about ourselves, this means we should be humble before God, we should be accepting of what God has given us even because we don’t deserve any of it, humbly accepting God’s will for our life and joyously accepting His gifts and joyously serving one another with the gifts and position God gave us.

    This is actually all connected to what we learned in verse two of Romans 12, in other words being transformed by the renewing of our mind so that we may prove what is that good, perfect and acceptable will of God in our life.

    If we don’t renew our mind and we don’t begin to think like God does and we do not understand and see things and see His word as He does, will make it very difficult to practice verse three. In other words it will be difficult to see ourselves and think of ourselves as we should, as God does, therefore pride will set in and we will not be able to think soberly about ourselves and how we should serve one another according to God’s will.

    If we don’t renew our minds God’s will won’t always seem good to us, God’s will won’t always seem perfect nor will we want to accept it as we should. This was the actual problem in Corinth and unfortunately it is in many churches and in many believers’ lives today.

    We cannot effectively serve each other in love if we do not properly put into practice verses one and two of Romans 12, this is where Paul is leading us.

    He knows that in order to put into practice properly what he is calling us to do from verse three on of this chapter we must be actively practicing verse one and two.

    So as we see our service done God’s way in the body as well as our service to God in our daily lives is absolutely contingent in our practicing verses one and two of Romans twelve.

    Now Paul says that we are not to think more highly of ourselves but to think soberly of ourselves and to do this according to the measure of faith God has dealt to each man.

    This does not mean at all what many teach and want to make it mean.

    Let’s see what it truly means.

    Many biblical teachers in order to support their erroneous doctrines teach that God actually gives every single man a measure of faith. They teach that every person somehow was given by God an amount of faith necessary to believe and be saved, they also teach that since it is given by God it confirms, in their doctrine, that faith is a God given gift but they also teach that for that very reason man is therefore responsible for either exercising that faith in believing the Gospel or can choose not to exercise God’s gift of faith and choose instead to ignore it and reject the Gospel and therefore not to be saved.

    Now, I must say that this theory while it may sound very good to most people it contains many, many errors and it’s not at all a biblical truth.

    Let’s look at this and let’s see where the errors are and let’s see what Scripture teaches us instead.

    We can agree with this theory where it says that faith is a gift of God, faith is indeed a gift of God.
    See Ephesians 2:8-9. We are indeed justified by faith only by believing the Gospel but since we are justified also by grace, see Titus 3:7.

    According to Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:7 grace and faith are synonymous. Grace is the unmerited favor of God by which He gifts us with His salvation and since we can obtain it only through believing we can conclude that faith is a gift of grace that God gives us in order to believe. Now, although all this seems to be agreeing with what others teach, it’s only partly true according to their doctrine.
    While it is true that it’s God that gives faith, however Scripture does not teach that God gives a measure of faith to all and every man and that all and every person can actually believe and be saved.

    It is also true that God calls people to believe the Gospel and to be saved through faith but God does not give a measure of faith to all and every person.

    There are many other Scriptures which deny the fact that all and every person has the capability of believing the Gospel. Scripture also teaches that only certain people are equipped with saving faith.

    First of all let us think of this even in a logical manner. What does someone have to do to be saved? Believe, right? Yes, we must believe and believe in the Gospel.

    A person who believes is called what? A believer right? What does a person need to believe? Faith, right? Yes, faith, now let’s also think of the word faith, believers are also called what? Faithful whom are the believers. What does faithful mean? Filled with faith.

    On the other hand if a person rejects believing the Gospel they are not saved and what are these people also called? Unbelievers right? Now, what is needed to believe? Faith right? If a person therefore does not believe he actually proves to lack the very element that is necessary to believe, faith! If a believer is also called faithful what is an unbeliever called? Faithless! What does faithless mean? Without faith right!

    So as we see, even by simply examining words and terms we see by the logic of the subject that a person who does not believe does not have faith.

    If a person had faith they would inevitably believe. Without faith it is impossible to please God, Hebrews 11:6. In order to please God we must believe in the only One in whom He is pleased, His only beloved Son Jesus Christ, see Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; 2 Peter 1:17; remember that God is only pleased in Jesus and with what He did, see Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10.

    In these last three passages mentioned the word propitiation is used about Christ in line with His work of redemption. The word propitiation means satisfaction. Christ is God’s satisfaction, God is only satisfied in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and His role as a high priest, as mediator and as intercessor in our behalf.

    In order to please God we must therefore believe in the One He is pleased in and in His work of redemption.

    There is another very important logical reason by which we can know that God does not give saving faith to everybody.

    If God gave faith to all He would also have to give the same opportunity to believe to everybody. It would be highly unfair and even mean to give someone faith and then allow them to die before they can ever accept the Gospel. If to be be saved a person has to believe the Gospel, there is no other way a person can be saved, only by believing the Gospel, having faith in the Gospel, then why does not everybody have the same opportunity to even hear the Gospel? How can God give faith to people who will never hear the Gospel? If Jesus died for everybody, every single individual, why are there people who never, ever have the opportunity to hear a clear presentation of the Gospel?
    If they die without hearing the Gospel will they be saved in some other way?

    It cannot be! Because to be saved we have to believe in the Gospel and that is the only way anyone can be saved.

    So let’s ask another question, if Jesus died for everyone, if God gives faith to all, why does God only call some to hear the Gospel and not all? And why do only some of those called believe while others do not?

    If everybody has faith with which to believe why don’t all individuals have the same opportunity and why don’t they all believe.

    How can a person have faith and not believe?

    We have to understand that Scriptures also teaches us several truths that give us ample evidence that not all people have faith.

    The very first and most evident Scripture to teach this is this one:

    2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: 2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

    As we clearly see in verse two there are unreasonable and wicked men, why are they that way? Because all men do not have faith.

    So this Scripture by itself completely debunks the false notion that God gave to all men saving faith. I repeat it, if all men had saving faith they would believe and be saved.

    This verse alone would be sufficient yet we need to see in the entire counsel of God’s word if indeed this concept is doctrinal and sound.

    Scripture teaches us a very important thing which is connected to this subject. If a person had faith in God it would be evident that a person would strive to know God and seek God and His ways.

    Yet, although many claim that man seeks God, Scripture teaches us the contrary.

    We have already seen this concept but we will go over it again, more quickly but we will nevertheless.

    Romans 3:10-12 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

    Again examining this passage alone we arrive at the conclusion that man does not seek God ever, but that in reality it is God who seeks the lost sheep.

    We are lost as verse 12 says and we do not seek after God. There is another Scripture passage that confirms this fact and it is:

    1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    As we see here the natural man, is the unsaved person, the unsaved person does not receive the things of the Spirit of God. In fact the things of the Spirit of God includes the Gospel, these things are foolishness to them, neither can the natural man know them because they can only be discerned spiritually. So a natural person, an unsaved person by themselves cannot receive Christ, they cannot receive God’s gift of salvation because for all intents and purposes to do so a person needs to have faith.

    This shows us that all men do not have the faith necessary to be saved.

    So who has saving faith and how and why does a person have it?

    Who has saving faith?

    We did see that faith is a gift which is part of His grace to us, those who believe.

    This is also written in:

    Romans 5:1-2 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

    Grace and faith are always found together we cannot have one without the other and both are through Jesus Christ and His Spirit.

    Saving faith is part of God’s grace and is not given to all men but it is given only to those who God calls to receive His grace and salvation. Mind you, it’s who God calls not those who we call. God calls the elect through His Spirit and His word, namely the Gospel. We may call a number of persons through the preaching of the Gospel but not all will end up believing, which means not all have faith. In fact God calls the church to preach the Gospel to everyone regardless of whether they may believe or not.

    Look at what this next very important verse says:

    Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

    You see here the Gospel was preached to many, yet this verse says that only as many as were ordained to eternal life were the ones that believed.

    This verse is very important because it tells us a lot of things.

    The first thing it tells us is that although many people may be in the hearing range of the Gospel not all were called to respond to it. Who effectually responds to the message of the cross? Those who have been ordained to eternal life and those and only those are the ones who believe.

    These have been ordained, the verb here indicates that the action of believing is caused by the action of being ordained.

    The persons therefore believed because the person was ordained by God to eternal life, that is the only reason why the person believed. This indicates that it is God who ordains some people to eternal life and it is therefore evident that since no one starts off with having saving faith it is God who gifts the predestined elect with faith to believe.

    Jesus told us the same exact story in John 6. Remember?

    John 6:36-45 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. 37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. 41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. 42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? 43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. 44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.

    John 6:63-65 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.

    In these passages our Lord gives us the most simple, clear yet concise teaching on sovereign election and on the concept of why and how a person actually believes.

    Jesus starts off with His words denying the fact that God gives a measure of faith to all men when he begins in verse 36 saying But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.

    If the Lord claims that they believed not it’s therefore impossible to insist that God gives a measure of faith to every person because if that was the case all would have believed. In fact Jesus continues and teaches us why a person believes. He says that ALL those the Father gives to Him will go to Him, this is synonym of believing, remember that Romans 3:10 says no one seeks God.

    He also says that it’s God’s will that all those He gives to Him to save He will preserve and raise up on the last day, in addition He explains that these are those who will exercise faith in Him verse 40.

    Jesus also continues to say in verse 44: No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

    As we see again we cannot go to God unless the Father draws us to Christ, from verse 36 on Jesus is saying some very important things.
    First He says that they saw Him do the works of God but still did not believe, verse 36. Then He says that ALL who the Father gives to Him will go to Him verse 37, these are the ones who will see Him and believe in Him.

    The word ALL is an absolute, it means that there are no exclusions, ALL is ALL.
    Yet, ONLY the ALL whom the Father gives to Him will go to Him.

    In fact in verse 44 He adds No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

    We see here that as Jesus said all whom the Father gives to Him to save He will save, preserve and raise up. Here He uses the opposite absolute, NO MAN can go to Him, with one exception, the same reason He mentioned before, except the Father draw the person to Christ.

    So all who God has chosen to go to Christ will go an they will believe, no one can go to Christ unless God draws them. This entire passage denies the possibility that God has given to all men a measure of faith.

    To seal it all Jesus proves even further the issue that not everyone has faith when He claims in verses 63 to 66 that it is the Spirit who makes a person spiritually alive and that His words are Spirit and life nevertheless His words give life and faith only to the people who God chooses and not to everybody because Jesus continues to say:

    But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.

    Again Jesus confirms the very fact that not all people have faith. He does this when He says that some of them did not believe and He explains to them and to us again why they did not believe. They did not believe because they obviously were not of those who were given to Him by the Father.

    Very clear and very, very easy to understand. If a person is not given by the Father to Christ they won’t go to Him, they won’t believe while all who are given to Christ and drawn to Him by the Father will go to Him and will believe.

    If it were true that all men had faith to believe all this reasoning by Jesus would be absolutely useless. Here Jesus gave us a great teaching about how and why a person believes in Him.

    To believe a person must be predestined and elected by God to eternal life, Jesus said this again in:

    John 17:2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

    All this confirms exactly what we have seen written in Acts 13:48.

    As we see Scripture teaches us clearly that all men do not have faith and this is clearly evident in the very fact that not everybody believes.

    When we witness Christ to people, when we preach the Gospel not everyone will believe because not everybody has faith. Only the people who are given to Christ by the Father, only those whose names are written in the book of life before the foundation of the world Ephesians 1:4; Revelation 17:8; only those who are foreknown, predestined, called by the Gospel call will believe and be saved, Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:4-14. You see in God’s plan all who believe, believe only because God has predestined them to have salvation Acts 13:48; Romans 9:10-25.

    This is rendered evident in many other Scriptures.

    One very important one is found in:

    Romans 10:13-17 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

    As we see even here the issue is that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

    The key elements of this first section are the word whosoever and call upon the name of the Lord.

    It is true that whosoever believes shall be saved, this is also what John 3:16 says. This word however is used by the pushers of the armenianist salvation doctrine which states that it is the practice of human free will in a person that enables faith and then by personal choice a person decides to believe in Jesus.

    That’s not what the Scriptures teach us though as we have clearly seen before. Yes it is indeed whosoever believes but the whosoever believes, believes not by sheer will of choice but because of God’s grace and mercy and His choice not ours.

    Calling upon the name of the Lord is the same thing as believing, according to the previous verses in chapter 10 Paul says that it is necessary to confess Christ as Lord in order to be saved ans as Paul says this is done with our lips, but rightly so as he says in the coming next verses how can one confess Jesus as Lord if they cannot believe in Him and how can they believe in Him if they don’t hear the Gospel and how can they hear if people don’t preach and how will they preach if they are not sent?

    Then Paul states another nail in the coffin of the false doctrine that states that all men have been given a measure of faith.

    Paul says that faith comes by hearing the Gospel. Faith comes by hearing and it cannot come from any other source. How does this work?

    The Holy Spirit creates spiritual life in an elect only through the hearing of the Gospel. This is in perfect line with several other passages.

    One is found in Romans 1:16 where Paul says: For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

    God exercises His saving power through the Gospel and through the message of the Gospel God saves the elect by also granting them that very element that otherwise no man would and could have, faith.

    Paul reinforces this fact in:

    1 Corinthians 1:18-21 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

    So as we see it is by belief that God saves but belief is given by God through the hearing of the Gospel and that fits perfectly in what Jesus had said in:

    John 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

    Now it all should make perfect sense, Jesus told us how and why and who believes and then He says this, this is a reference to what Paul is saying, both in Romans 10:17 and in 1 Corinthians 1.
    So as we see it is more than clear that God has not given to all men a measure of faith.

    Therefore, what does Paul mean here in Romans 12:3 according to the measure of faith that God has given?

    First of all we have seen God does not give a measure of faith to all men, so who is Paul talking about here then?

    To whom did God give a measure of faith?

    The answer is Paul is talking obviously about believers here not all men in general. Paul is saying that God has given a measure of faith to those who belong to Christ, born again Christians.

    Now, let’s specify even further regarding this measure of faith which Paul is talking about.

    In this context we are still talking about saving faith although the faith God gives us to believe the Gospel is a measure enough to believe and to be saved, that same faith is just the beginning of a journey of faith.

    Our spiritual growth and maturity is conformity to three things:

    The first one we have seen in verse two, not being conformed to the ways of the world.

    The second one is being transformed by the renewing of our mind.

    The third is contingent upon and connected to the vehicle with which these first two happen and this vehicle is the word of God.

    We are not to be conformed to the world and we are to be transformed but this happens only if we renew our mind by the word of God. Yet this cannot an will not occur if we do not grow in faith.

    Now, there are different ways God grows our faith. Did you know that faith has to grow in us in order for us to grow up spiritually?

    We may not like how God grows our faith but it is necessary for us. God has a very strange method to make us grow and mature spiritually.

    One of God’s favorite methods is through trials and suffering, or we may know this as God’s discipline.

    We are not disciplined by God only when and if we do something wrong, although this is the inevitable outcome if we do. God’s discipline in our lives is the equivalent of military training or sports training or work training.

    To become good at all these three things a person must be trained and training has to do with discipline.

    Our faith is tried and strengthened through trials of various kinds.

    James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

    Peter says this in another way:

    1 Peter 1:2-9 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

    Romans 5:2-5 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

    As we see in these passages faith when pushed and exercised and tried is designed to make us stronger spiritually and will make us grow and mature spiritually. All this training through difficulties will definitely challenge our faith but it will force us to learn to stretch it out by applying it by practicing God’s word.

    Let’s remember that faith means believing what God says, therefore it means believing His word and His promises. Think about this for a moment, how will we know if we have faith in what God says and promises if we never get placed in the spot where we need to practice faith in what He says?

    We wouldn’t and we couldn’t. So it is necessary for us to go through the trials so that we can make our faith stretch and grow. Having a healthy spiritual life means growing in faith, growing in faith means inevitably to go through situations that tests and stretches our faith.

    Basically it’s like exercising, we cannot become physically fit if we do not push ourselves through training, if we do not challenge ourselves we cannot and will not improve physically. If we work out with the same weight day in and day out without ever increasing the weight and without challenging ourselves through the work out we will never become stronger and so is the same in our spiritual life and our growth. If our faith is not tried and stretched we cannot grow in faith.

    Look at what Paul tells Timothy:

    2 Timothy 2:3-5 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
    4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. 5 And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.

    As we see here Paul is telling Timothy basically what I said before the soldier endures hardness, training and discipline, in other words trials, difficult situations, hard training and this is done by being disciplined in the same way as a soldier.

    The same is to be as disciplined as an athlete.

    Here in Romans 12:3 Paul says that a measure of faith has been given to believers, members of the church and that we should think soberly according to the measure of faith we have been given.

    This actually means this: the measure of faith in question is the degree of knowledge and experience which each of us received in our salvation and the power this gave us for being useful in the church of God. Faith is here viewed as the inlet to, or the seed-bed of, all the other graces that God gives us and so it is as the receptive faculty of our renewed souls that God has given to each of us.

    This is the particular capacity to take in the gifts and the graces which God designs for the general good in the body of Christ.

    By grace and through faith we are saved and by the same we receive thus the gifts of God. This occurs through the gift of His Spirit, the Holy Spirit gives us these gifts of grace which are for the good of the body of Christ as we have seen delineated in 1 Corinthians 12.

    Therefore we think soberly when we, as we even said before, think of ourselves according to the unmerited favor of God, God’s grace. This is the only reason why we have what we have and are who we are in the church, we have what we have by God’s grace alone and because God gave us everything we have and made us what we are in Christ we cannot boast about these things and we cannot think highly of ourselves, or at least we shouldn’t.

    So as we see the measure of faith mentioned is given only to those who believe and let me repeat it, we believe because we are the called, elect, predestined by God to receive eternal life, the elect of the whole world whom God has given to His Son to save. The unsaved, the unbelievers, the faithless do not have any faith whatsoever nor will they ever have it. We may not be willing to accept this in our human understanding or because we have been erroneously taught that sovereign election or the doctrine of predestination is not biblical. Yet I hope that by now we have understood what we said in the end of verse two where if we renew our mind according to God’s word and we change our human way of thinking with godly thinking in other words arriving to have the mind of Christ then we see that God’s word and His are actually good, perfect and acceptable, actually God’s will is always good, perfect and acceptable, it’s us who have to change our way of thinking to adapt to God’s will, we cannot make God’s will adapt to ours, which is what a lot of believers do. Unfortunately we also too often do this.

    Romans 12:4-5 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

    This passage is a mirror image of what Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 12.

    As we even mentioned before 1 Corinthians 12 teaches us that it is the Holy Spirit alone who gifts the church with various spiritual gifts, offices and ministries. He does it according to how He desires and not according to how we desire. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 makes distinctions between the various gifts, offices and ministries. Even in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul claims that in the body of Christ, the church, there are many differing members who have different tasks and gifts. Verses four and five here is a brief summary of what Paul has described in detail in 1 Corinthians 12, yet he is saying the same thing.

    Let’s take another look at what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 12.

    As we have seen Paul begins by declaring this:

    1 Corinthians 12:4-7 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

    The Holy Spirit is manifested in every member of the church but it’s done in different ways and with different gifts, administrations and operations. God does this so that the entire body will profit by being edified by each individual’s gift, operation and administration.

    1 Corinthians 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

    Here Paul is saying the same exact thing he is saying in Romans 12:4-5.

    Paul goes further though in 1 Corinthians as he says:

    1 Corinthians 12:13-21 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20 But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

    Verse 13 is very important in the explanation of this concept. Verse thirteen totally dismantles that erroneous Pentecostal doctrine regarding the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This passages confirms the fct that ALL believers are ALL without exception baptized in and by the the Holy Spirit in Christ’s body the church. This verse eliminates the possibility that there could be true born again believers that are not baptized in and with the Holy Spirit. Every single believer who is born again of the Spirit is also baptized in Christ, is baptized into one body, His body! The grammatical composition of the verse makes it impossible that a believer is not baptized in and by the Holy Spirit. The grammar says we are ALL baptized by the Holy Spirit in one body, this leaves no one out. Then it says we have been ALL made to drink into one Spirit. The usage of the verb have been indicates that it is an action that has occurred and that continues to occur into the present and future, it indicates thought that we have been made to drink by one Spirit when? When we were regenerated and converted by God and when we have believed. This is confirmed by:

    John 7:37-39 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

    OK, so as we see here those who believe on Christ will be given to drink as Jesus says, to drink of the Holy Spirit, those who believe in Him will receive the Holy Spirit. Even this passage indicates that all who believe will receive the Holy Spirit. Remembering what we have studied in Romans 8, where Paul says:

    Romans 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

    As we see anyone who believes has the Spirit and is in the Spirit and has been given to drink by the same Spirit and is baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ.

    So knowing this we see that every single believer is equal in the body because any and every gift, administration and operation is by the same Spirit, because we are all saved by grace, we are all sinners and we are all justified by the redemptive work of Christ and for no other reason. So every member of the body of Christ is equally important and useful.

    This is exactly what Paul is trying to teach us, both in Romans 12:4-5 and in 1 Corinthians 12.

    This is why Paul goes to great lengths to show us the equality of value and importance of every member of the body of Christ.

    For the body is not one member, but many. Even here Paul is showing us that the body is formed by different members and the body is not all just one member. This means that everybody cannot have the same gifts, administrations and operations.

    The sad thing is that in many churches many believers want to force their desired position and do not want to function as God has called them.

    As I said even before many leaders for different reasons appoint people in certain positions even though it is evident that they are not called to that position nor do they have the specific gifts they have been appointed to practice. Many believers on the other hand want at all costs function in ways they haven’t been gifted or called to and end up refusing to function with the actual gift and call they have been called by God. This was going on in the Corinthian church and it’s going on a lot in many churches today.

    This is why Paul is making all the distinctions he makes and he says that a believer cannot say that because he does not have a certain gift or call or position he does not want to serve and work in the body. Paul says that all cannot be what they want to be nor should they insist in wanting to be what they are not or to practice a gift they do not have.

    This is another reason why I whole heatedly believe that there were many even in those days that were faking the gift of tongues to be showoffs in the church because they thought that by doing so they would be considered more important and spiritual of them who did not have the gift.

    In Paul’s day there also was a great problem with some people going around claiming to have the apostolic call and mantle while they did not 2 Corinthians 11:12-15.

    Paul clarifies this entire concept by showing that all members of the body of Christ regardless of position or gifts are equally important, not only important but essential in the church.

    For a church to function properly every member has to function with and in the gift and call God has given them and must serve each other in love through the gifts God gave us and not what we desire to have or to be. This is the entire concept Paul is teaching in chapters 12-13-14 of 1 Corinthians.

    Love for God and for each other is the motivating factor of the use and practice of our gifts and call. Spiritual pride is to be avoided at all costs, this again is why we should never think more highly of ourselves than we ought to. Paul is also saying that although certain gifts and calls seem glamorous they are not more important than all the other ones which do not seem to be so.

    We are all to serve each other in humility and love. This is really the whole point Paul is teaching.

    Although a pastor for example seems to have a more glamorous call than others the pastor itself is not more or less important than someone who has another call or other gifts. Certainly a pastor/teacher has a very important function in the church yet it is necessary as someone who for example is called to be an evangelist. Without an evangelist for example who will the pastor teach and guide? Without believers who are elders and deacons who will govern and serve in the church? Without those who have the gift of mercy and hospitality who would practice these traits in the church? And so on and so forth! All are equally important while all do not have the same tasks and gifts, but this is how the body of Christ has to function. In today’s churches for example way too much is placed on the pastor, the church expects the pastor to basically do everything while all others sit around enjoying the show.

    However in Christ’s body as it is described in the word of God it is not so. It is true that leadership offices carry with them a lot of responsibilities and they do also function as a position of authority.

    It is also true that the Bible calls the body of Christ’s members to obey and to honor those in positions of leadership in the church, however these must not be demanded by people. It is definitely God’s will and it is part of submitting to each other in God’s love.

    Scriptures do teach this:

    Ephesians 5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

    1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

    1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

    Hebrews 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

    What we see here is that the believers in the church are exhorted to submit, count worthy of double honor those who labor in the word and doctrine, to esteem them very highly in love because of their work’s sake and the conclusion is that they are the ones that are watching over the spiritual life and growth of the members and by submitting to them and esteeming them they will do their work with joy and not with grief which would be unprofitable for the church. So to submit, esteem, honor and love our pastors is actually for our own good and for theirs as well.

    This is not something that pastors should demand or enforce but it is something that should be taught and acknowledged and done for the good of the entire church. It is difficult to serve as leaders when the people are obstinate, disobedient, disrespectful and stubborn. Ultimately they hurt themselves even more than how much they may hurt their leadership.

    Obviously we are taught this in 1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

    While we still must honor and respect and love all believers we must count worthy of double honor the elders who rule well. The caveat here is who rule well, they are worthy of double honor. This does not mean that if an elder does not rule well we are to be rude to them and hate them, as we know we must show love even to our enemies, yet they should not receive the same honor as those who rule well. We are to submit to and obey leadership when they are under the authority of God’s word and not under their own personal authority just because they are leaders nor should we listen to anyone who tells us to do things that are not doctrinally sound or are not in line with God’s word.

    This is another important reason why we are all responsible to read and study God’s word for ourselves and double check what people are teaching us.

    As we see though, the positions of leadership in the church are not better or more important than others in God’s church yet God’s word calls the body to honor and submit to those in those positions. It’s God’s will we do this but God views all believers with the same value and importance and so should we.

    In the end even in the Godhead there is equality while the persons of the Trinity still all being equally God they all voluntarily submit to each other. God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are One God and are all equally God in every way. Yet the Holy Spirit submits to Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ submits to the Father. This submission is all willing and voluntary not forced or coerced nor is it because a person of the Trinity is inferior to the other.

    Philippians 2:5-8 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

    As we see here Paul exhorts us to have the same mind in us which was in Christ Jesus, which mind is that? Humility, submission ans obedience. Jesus is equal to God, Jesus is God, but it was no robbery for Him to be equal with God. Yet, He humbled Himself and took upon Himself willingly the form of a servant, he became obedient to the will of the Father and endured the cross in order to save the elect.

    John 16:13-15 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
    15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

    In this passage the Holy Spirit who also is God, He is the Spirit of God, He is the Spirit of Christ, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit who is fully God would take only what He heard from Jesus and He would speak only that. Jesus said that He would receive of Jesus and make it known to the apostles and subsequently through the Scriptures even to us and that what He would say and do it would be only and exclusively to glorify Jesus Christ and not Himself. All that the Spirit gave us is from Christ and all that is Christ’s is the Father’s. So we see that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God and yet in their functions still being equal they submit one to another, the Spirit submits to Christ and Christ submits to the Father.

    So it is in the body of Christ the church. We are all equal before God, we are all valued the same, we are all as important and necessary in the body of Christ. Paul made this very clear in 1 Corinthians 12.

    Yet even so God decided to give to some gifts and calls which include leadership and authority and gave to others different gifts and tasks which demand submission to leadership. This was chosen by God not by man, hopefully. Although some gifts and calls may seem greater and more important than others in reality in the church all are equally important and valuable.

    Thus we ought to see and understand each others’ roles in the church and submitting to God we all should submit to one another in love as the word of God requires.

    There is no disagreement, there is no battle between the persons of the Trinity and they willingly submit themselves one to the other. Although all three are equally God, all three persons of the Trinity are equally important and in the execution of the plan of redemption, they have different functions but all three are essential. In the same way as it is in the person of God, there should be no disagreement even among the members of the body of Christ and all members are equally important in the building and the health of the body of Christ, these also have different functions but are all equally essential.

    Romans 12:6-8 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

    Paul again as he did in 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us that even though the body is one the members
    are many and that being many the gifts are many and they are different.

    Our gifts are given to us by the Holy Spirit and His presence in us, we receive the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation and when we do we receive salvation and the Holy Spirit we also receive the gifts and the call of our service in the church. All of this occurs by God’s grace and it’s the only reason and the only way it occurs.

    Here Paul is saying exactly that, in other words, the Holy Spirit is God’s gift of gifts because He is the One who applies all of God’s graces to our life. Through God’s Spirit we have God’s graces and as we have seen in 1 Corinthians 12 it is God who directs His gifts and operations to whom He desires they go, we have no say in how God decides what gifts He gives to who and what calls He bless us with.

    Many believers have the wrong impression that a believer can desire and seek and ask for a particular spiritual gift. This is erroneous, this thinking is caused by the particular erroneous interpretation of
    1 Corinthians 12:31 and 1 Corinthians 14:1.

    1 Corinthians 12:31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

    1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

    We particularly have to constantly repeat that one of the greatest keys to interpret Scripture is that we cannot take verses out of the entire context in which they are placed. It is very rare, in fact it’s not possible to create a particular teaching based only on one verse without it coinciding with others and being confirmed by the context of the entire word of God regarding what it teaches about that particular subject.

    The word of God has to interpret itself and has to teach uniformly the same thing regarding what we are studying in order to be a biblical valid interpretation and teaching.

    Let’s remember that the meaning has to be examined and confirmed by God’s word itself, nothing else has to be used to interpret. In addition let’s remember there are no contradictions in God’s word.

    Examining these two verses by themselves it may appear that Paul is teaching that we can desire to have some particular spiritual gift.

    By further and more accurate examination we understand that this is not what Paul is teaching at all.

    The context of 1 Corinthians 12 is that chapters 12-13-and 14 were written by Paul to address errors that were being practiced in this church.

    In verse one Paul tells them he does not want them to be ignorant about spiritual gifts. This indicates that there was ignorance about the practice of the Corinthian believers’ spiritual gifts.

    Obviously if Paul is writing them to clarify how spiritual gifts operate in the body it means that they acted in an ignorant way, it means that they did not understand how the spiritual gifts actually worked.
    Thus Paul’s in depth explanation was given them.

    It becomes quickly evident that in the Corinthian church there were envious people who desired to have the more showy gifts and the more powerful calls. They erroneously thought that they could actually have the gifts they desired to have. They wanted to have the powerful manifestations of the apostles, they were obviously faking the spiritual gift of tongues, which is even today the most easy to fake. There were many errors and ignorance in how they understood their spiritual gifts and operations.

    By the way two thousand plus years later this is still going on today.

    Paul teaches them and us that whatever gifts they have were given them by the Holy Spirit, whatever manifestation, whatever operation or administration they all come from the Holy Spirit, they are given by God to us inidividually for the good and the edification of all the church, not for our own personal edification, in other words the gifts God gives each of us are for the spiritual growth of others and the gifts of others are for our growth, 1 Corinthians 12:7.

    Paul goes on by saying this:

    1 Corinthians 12:8-11 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

    This passage is the key to understand that what Paul is saying in verse 31 does not mean at all that we can desire to have and receive particular gifts.

    As Paul says in verse 11 it is the Holy Spirit at the time of salvation that gives to each of us the spiritual gifts and the call He desires to give us and it is not up to us to ask for or desire certain gifts. It is God’s choice and prerogative.

    Think about this in the context of the entire subject of salvation, if God gives us everything by His grace this has to include His spiritual gifts. If they are also given us by God’s grace they are also by His sovereign choice. Our gifts are an inseparable part of our salvation so as our salvation is by God’s choice not ours so are His gifts.

    Therefore we understand that if it is the Holy Spirit that divides God’s gifts as He wishes we cannot therefore desire to have certain gifts.

    So what does Paul mean in verse 31 of 1 Corinthians 12 when he claims that they earnestly desire the best gifts?

    He is not saying that they can or should, he is saying that they were doing. This is not a statement of allowance to desire the best gifts because this would contradict what he has been saying all along in the chapter. He spends the whole chapter to show them that it is God who chooses and decides what gifts and calling to give to who, he spends the whole chapter to convince them that not everybody can have the gift they want to have but that they should be satisfied with what God gives them because each member and each gift are equally important in the body of Christ.

    Paul here in verse 31 is accusing them of desiring the best gifts for themselves so they could be spiritually proud of themselves.

    In fact look at what Paul says, he is really saying this:

    “ you are earnestly desiring to have the best gifts for yourselves yet I will show you something better”.

    This is why Paul preaches to them about love rather than spiritual gifts. Basically without entering into the entire expository teaching of chapter 13, Paul is writing this to explain to them that it should be love that motivates everything we do and that actually as he said in 1 Corinthians 12:7 and what he teaches in 1 Corinthians 14:1-6 he says it because our greatest motivating factor in the use of our gifts in the church should be love. It is not loving when we try to show off our spiritual gifts, it is not loving when the greatest motivating factor is self edification. This is why he spends chapter 14 making the very detailed distinction between the gift of tongues and the abuse and faking of it for prideful motives and the gift of preaching and teaching which is used to edify the body. The gift of tongues had a different function outside of the church and it was useful inside the church only if it was interpreted, in other words translated so that the entire church could be edified.

    This is because if it is our love for God and for the church that motivates what we do then we will first of all obey God’s word and secondly we will practice our spiritual gifts not for our own edification but for the edification of the entire church.

    This is why even today in some churches believers still do not show love for the body when they speak in tongues in the assembly, why? Because this occurs without any translation and when this happens it is actually contrary to how God desired this gift be practiced in His word.

    By doing this they show contempt toward God and toward the church, it is not love that motivates them but selfish ambition and spiritual pride.
    This is even providing that the gift of tongues spoken today is the real and original gift spoken of in the Scriptures, which unfortunately it is not, which makes this thing even worse.

    I have proven through the word of God that the gift of languages also known as tongues is not in operation today because it was a sign gift for a time and a purpose. This whole concept is explained very well in 1 Corinthians 14. In fact. Paul writes the chapter for the very purpose of explaining the proper use of the gift of languages when practiced in the church and to give the meaning of the real use of the gift. The actual purpose of the gift is the following:

    1 Corinthians 14:21-22 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. 22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

    In addition Paul is actually going to great lengths to explain why the usage of the sign gift of languages has to be practiced with the motivating factor of being a sign gift to be used only to be useful in the presence of unbelieving Jews. In the church, in the assembly it is never to be used for personal edification because that is not the function and purpose of the gift. In fact personal edification should not ever be the purpose with which we use our spiritual gifts, this fact is confirmed with what Paul says in:
    1 Corinthians 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

    Love of others and the edification of the body in love is the goal of the church and personal edification comes by and through the gifts of others not only and exclusively through the practice of our own gifts.

    It is true that in some cases such as being called to be a pastor/teacher in the church does bring personal edification because it causes the teacher to study in order to teach, yet it is still a secondary thing and not a primary thing.

    So when Paul says in:

    1 Corinthians 14:4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

    Is not at all saying that it is alright to edify oneself, he is not at all saying what many teach today
    either, in other words that the gift of tongues is given by God to people to edify oneself. This is not true at all because it contradicts what Paul teaches about the spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12.

    In fact this would openly contradict even the entire context of chapters 12-13-14.

    Look in fact what Paul says in:

    1 Corinthians 14:16-17 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? 17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.

    What Paul is explaining here is perfectly in line with the entire discourse and context of the three chapters in question.

    It is NEVER OK to do things in the church for selfish ambition and with spiritual pride, not practicing our gifts with the proper motivations is a sin.

    Our gifts may in some way make us feel good when we practice them yet the joy should be because others are edified not specifically us.

    Look at what Paul says in:

    Philippians 2:2-4 Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

    You see? The motivation here is having joy in becoming like minded and being motivted by the same love we must have for one another, we must arrive at having the same way of thinking. We must do nothing through strife or for our own glory or satisfaction but with a sober way of thinking and with humility we must esteem others better than ourselves and we must look to the good of others rather than focusing on our own good only. Unfortunately we often do the opposite and this is why esoecially the sign gift of tongues was abused and why even today it is being counterfeited and used for one’s own satisfaction. This is wrong!

    In addition there is yet another passage that teaches us clearly the motivating factors of our spiritual gifts and operations and their proper usage.

    Ephesians 4:2-16 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

    This passage is actually a mirror image to what Paul is telling us in Romans 12 by the way.

    We cannot enter into it deeply but we shall see how much it explains to us regarding Romans 12.

    First of all once again we see Paul teaching us the number one factor that should rule and motivate us in our service in the church.

    Ephesians 4:2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.

    This mirrors what Paul is saying in:

    Romans 12:9-10 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

    As we see here the motivating factor of our service to others is love and preference of others instead of ourselves. This takes meekness and lowliness and longsuffering.

    Secondly Paul states:

    Ephesians 4:7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

    This mirrors exactly what we have been studying thus far, in other words, all we are and have is given by God’s grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ, this gift is the Holy Spirit.

    We operate in and with the measure the Spirit gives us. This is what we have been studying thus far:

    Romans 12:4-6a For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us,

    Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers

    So why did God give these gifts, ministries and operations to the church through the Holy Spirit?

    Mind you these are gifts of God’s love to the church.

    Ephesians 4:12-14 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

    This is what God wants to do in the church, He desires that the body of Christ be edified, in other words that it grows up in the unity of the faith and into the full knowledge of Jesus Christ and to become a complete man, in other words to grow having more and more the mind of Christ and therefore behave like Him, once again we see in this Ephesian passage that even here Paul is actually saying God desires that we be transformed by the renewing of our mind until we think and act like Christ. God in His love desires that we are not deceived by the false doctrines and ideologies of deceivers, instead God desires that:

    Ephesians 4:15-16 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

    This passage is showing us that teaching true and sound doctrine is what speaking the truth in love actually means. It is not a loving thing to spread errors and false doctrines, it is loving instead to speak and teach the truth of God, because only God’s truth makes the body increase and grow in love.

    As we see the motivation of everything that we do in our Christian service has to be love, God’s brand of love, this also means doing all that we mentioned until now, this is God’s love and love for the church is what our motivation should be. The growth of the church into the image of Christ is what matters to God and the main, actually the only motivation of our service should be love for other believers and the growth of other believers into conformity with Christ likeness.

    Now that we hopefully understand all this important issue we can move on to what Paul is mentioning. Now Paul mentions the different types of gifts that God gives in the church. As we see Paul is again agreeing with what he taught us in 1 Corinthians 12 and in the previous verse, in other words,

    Romans 12:5-6 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us,

    This is what we have studied so far, now Paul shows us the various gifts and operations of the Holy Spirit in us for the church.

    Romans 12:6-8 whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

    Prophecy or prophet, what is this gift? What function did a prophet have then and is it the same in the church today?

    This title or office or word properly is given of and to a person who can predict future events through divine revelation. This was mostly the purpose and function of God’s prophets in the Old Testament. Prophets revealed what God was planning in the future of His people Israel.

    Prophets also called back God’s people from sinfulness and idolatry and warned about God’s eventual judgment if the people did not repent. In addition the main prophetic emphasis in the Old Testament was to prophesy and testify to the coming of Messiah. Old Testament prophets gave us a greater amount of prophecies that speak of Israel and their Messiah. Every prophecy in the Old Testament has to do only with Israel and Messiah’s relationship to the Jewish nation. The church did not exist in Old Testament prophecies, in fact Paul perfectly explains this concept in Ephesians 3.

    Prophecy though also means to declare the divine will; to interpret the purposes of God; or to make known in any way the truth of God, which is designed to influence people. Its first meaning is to predict or foretell future events; but those who did this were messengers of God, and they commonly connected such predictions, instructions, and exhortations in regard to the sins, and dangers, and duties of people. The prophetic word came to denote any who warned, or threatened, or in any way communicated the will of God; and even those who uttered devotional sentiments or praise.

    However the prophet in the New Testament is commonly connected with teaching God’s truth or interpreting God’s word, in fact in Greek the word prophet actually indicates an interpreter.
    Prophecy in the New Testament era already was undergoing a gradual change in purpose as it was in the Old Testament.

    The gift of prophecy in its essence never changed, it is still the same but what did change is the way in which God’s Spirit delivers the message. In the New Testament prophetic utterances were still being practiced because the fullness of the completed canon of New Testament Scripture was in the process of being written. For this reason all the information that God wanted to give to the church was being transmitted in many ways as it was done in the Old Testament, in other words by divine direct utterances through the prophets. However when in approximately A.D. 93 or so the book of Revelation was written and the entire New Testamentary canon was completed.

    How can we determine this? Simple by many factors. Revelation the book itself declares to be prophetic in nature:

    Revelation 1:3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

    Revelation 19:10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

    The entire book is a prophecy, not only about future events but it’s the last prophecy and it’s the completed prophecy given to the church, regarding the church and it extends through the entire existence of the church all the way to and beyond Christ’s return and reign on the earth for one thousand years. It goes on telling us about the final judgment and the eternal state of the church and Israel.

    In the last chapter of the book we find this written:

    Revelation 22:18-19 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

    What is being said here is erroneously interpreted to limit the adding and subtracting only to this book. In reality we cannot add or subtract anything to all of God’s word;

    Proverbs 30:5-6 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. 6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

    However, the book of Revelation is the last and complete revelation, the last and complete prophecy God has given in regards to Jesus, the church, Israel and the entire world.

    Because of this and that the church itself in its councils has determined that God’s word is the canon of Scripture we have today. The canon of Scripture has been declared and determined as a closed canon. This means that even the church has determined that the Bible we possess today is the entire and complete inerrant and authoritative word of God. In other words the church agrees with the words of the book of Revelation which warns not to add or subtract anything to it because by doing so we would actually be adding or subtracting to and from the word of God, seeing that it is complete.

    This is a very important issue because it implies the fact that the foretelling of future events or the utterance of any “new” revelation or any foretelling prophetic word besides what is written in Scripture is not valid and it is not divinely uttered as many today insist they are.

    Jesus speaking to His apostles declared this very fact:

    John 16:12-15 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

    Who is Jesus speaking to here? His apostles minus Judas Iscariot. It is evident we cannot directly apply this particular passage to all and every believer today. This is a passage that is exclusively declared to them and it regards them only. I will show you however how this applies to us eventually.

    Jesus says that when the Holy Spirit would come, on the day of Pentecost, He would guide them into all truth, He would take all that Jesus wanted them to know, that at that moment they could not bear and the Holy Spirit would show them things to come. Let’s stop here for a moment.

    Why were they not able to bear what Jesus desired them to know? Because the Holy Spirit had not yet come to indwell them. Jesus tells them that His Spirit would take all the information He desired them to have and give it to who? To them! The Spirit would make known to THEM things to come.

    This is prophesying by the way. Knowing future events according to the divine will is prophesying.

    It is then safe to say that the apostles were also endowed with the gift of prophecy. In fact the apostles were endowed with the fullness of God’s gifts, in other words they had them all.

    This was because it was necessary that they have them all as they were to be the foundation of the church, see Ephesians 2:19-22.

    This was done because the Apostles only and exclusively had the task of writing down, in other words recording the New Testament Scriptures which included the recollection of things passed in accordance to divine will, in other words the Gospels, present things the book of Acts and the Epistles, both also included future events which are prophecy, and concluding with the prophecy of prophecies the book of Revelation.

    We see that during this period in which the complete revelation of God was being communicated there were prophets in the church which uttered divine revelation because the entire New Testament written canon was not complete yet.

    The same class of persons is again mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14:29-32,39. In this place they are spoken of as being under the influence of revelation,

    “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets;”

    In this place endowments are mentioned under the name of prophecy evidently in advance even of the power of speaking with tongues. Yet all these were to be subject to the authority of the apostle
    1 Corinthians 14:37.

    In Ephesians 4:11, they are mentioned again in the same order; “And he gave some apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors, and teachers, etc.”

    From these passages the following things are clear in relation to this class of prophets:

    (1) They were an order of teachers distinct from the apostles, and next to them in authority and rank.

    (2) They were under the influence of revelation, or inspiration in a certain sense.

    (3) They had power of controlling themselves, and of speaking or keeping silence as they chose. They had the power of using their prophetic gifts as we have the ordinary faculties of our minds, and of course of abusing them also. This abuse was apparent also in the case of those who had the power of speaking with tongues, 1 Corinthians 14:2,4,6,11.

    (4) They were subject to the apostles and to the doctrine taught by the apostles.

    (5) They were superior to the other teachers and pastors in the church at the time.

    (6) The office or the endowment was temporary, designed for the settlement and establishment of the church; and then, like the apostolic office, having accomplished its purpose, to be disused, and to cease. From these remarks, also, will be seen the propriety of regulating this function by apostolic authority; or stating, as the apostle does here, the manner or rule by which this gift was to be exercised.
    The gift of prophecy in other words did not cease in reality although the official office of prophet has because the word of God is complete and there is no longer necessity to be directly inspired to utter divine revelation because now we have God’s complete word which includes all the prophecies and doctrines God want the church to have.

    I promise to you that I would tell you how what Jesus declared in John 16:12-15 applied to us.

    It applies to us in this way, they wrote it down for us in the pages of Scripture. God gave His inspired word to them, they wrote it down for us, now we have everything we need to have.

    Apostles and prophets as an office in the church have ceased as the foundation of the church and His revelation have been completed.

    The gift of prophecy has thus been incorporated into the gift of teaching. Remembering that in Greek the word prophet means interpreter and we know that the job of the teacher in the church is exactly to interpret God’s word, explaining divine will and purpose to the church. In this the gift did not cease to function in the same way but it is done by the expository teaching of God’s word.

    There are specific teachers in the church who specialize in the interpretation and teaching of the written prophecies in Scripture. However, every teacher in the church teaches and interprets prophecy in Scripture.

    Peter actually confirmed what we are saying when he declared this:

    2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

    This is a very important passage because it confirms exactly what we have been saying all along, the office of prophet was an office which was valid in the Old Testament and an office that existed only until the New Testament Scriptures were completed. Peter in fact is saying that as in the past there were false prophets in the midst of God’s people in the future there will be false teachers.

    The distinction Peter makes between prophets and teachers when referring to past and future is very important and cannot be ignored. We must ask ourselves why is Peter making this distinction if the office of prophet would continue in the future then the distinction between the two would not at all be necessary and to dismiss the distinction would be violating the text. It is obvious that Peter understands exactly what we are actually saying, he understands that in the future of the church the emphasis will be on teaching and teachers and not on prophets and by making this distinction he is admitting this very fact. He blatantly does not come out saying that the office of prophet would cease and that it would be incorporated into the gift of teaching but he is however saying exactly that. There will be false teachers not prophets. I would venture to say pretty confidently that every person who claim to hold the office of prophet or apostle in the church is false. I am not saying that their Christianity is not real, I am saying though that they are living and operating in an illusion and they hold no particular office at all.

    As we have seen the Apostles and prophets were necessary until the foundation of the church was completed, the foundation of the church are the doctrines they revealed to the church. Now we build upon those doctrines no other doctrines, revelations or prophecies are necessary after the ones they have laid down for us in the written word.

    Today when a person declares to have uttered a prophetic word we must realize the error in that statement. If a person would still utter a prophetic or revelatory word the word would hold divine inspiration and authority placing itself on the same level of the written word. You see during the Apostolic era it would not matter if a word was written or uttered because Scripture was not complete and in fact this is exactly why the revelations and utterances of the prophets had to be subjected to the Apostles’ authority. The Apostles had to test the prophetic word to see if it agreed with the Apostolic doctrine. Today since there are no Apostles around who can test the so called prophetic words that are uttered in the church? In addition many say that we must test them against Scripture, in other words that have to agree with the word of God and then they can be considered valid. I believe that they cannot be valid even if they agree for a variety of reason.

    The first reason is as we said before that no one can any longer add anything to the closed written word of God. Doing so creates another problem besides. The prophets spoke the word of God and therefore that word they spoke had the exact same authority of the written word and eventually it would become Scripture. Not all prophecy in the New Testament became Scripture but it agreed with the Apostles’ doctrines which became Scripture.

    Today though we cannot expect that to be the same. If there be real prophetic utterances today then it would mean that the word of God is not yet complete.

    God’s word is completed and therefore nothing cannot be added to it.
    Therefore, if prophecies uttered today are in agreement with God’s word they are actually useless if they don’t then they are false.

    The problem that exist with spoken revelations and prophecies today is this, if they come from God they have the exact same authority and validity as God’s written word.

    This opens the door to many, many problems regarding prophecy. The first one is this one: verbal spoken prophecies after that the word of God has been deemed exclusively a closed canon are therefore adding to what is written. We did see that the prophets together with the Apostles who were also prophets worked together to build the foundation of the church which is Apostolic doctrine, also Apostles would also have to still be present bu they were not after the original Apostles died off.

    Therefore, adding to God’s word is prohibited and therefore we can clearly ascertain that any prophecy claimed to be a direct revelation from God is false. This is because the foundation of the church, the doctrines of the Apostles and prophets are completed by them and no longer necessary. We are now to build upon those doctrines, in other words honor, teach, interpret, protect and keep those doctrines, those prophecies only.

    The Evangelical church is always so quick to condemn the Roman Catholic church of elevating their prophecies, revelations and traditions at the same level of Scripture but then a large current of the same Evangelical church accepts, teaches and practices the same heresy. How and why I ask? It’s the same error. Today nothing said is equal to the authority of the written word, nothing! To assume that today’s spoken prophecies and revelations come directly from God is claiming that God’s word is actually not completed, which means that we should actually take many of these so called prophecies and write them down as Scripture. This is not possible and it’s a heresy!

    The third point is as we’ve seen is that today the prophetic gift is included in the interpretation of existing prophecies in the written word and the interpretation and teaching of God’s written word.

    I want to add a thing which is actually ironic and even a little amusing although in reality it is not because it is sinful therefore not funny at all, however, in certain Christian realities there are schools for prophets and in the same they teach how to speak in tongues.

    This is ludicrous and it is it is useless activity. Even though we have validated biblical schools and seminaries yet a school that should teach how to be a prophet or how to speak in tongues is ridiculously sinful and fake. The sign gift of tongues did not ever have to be taught, it was a supernatural manifestation of the Spirit. Nowhere in the New Testament we see that tongues had to be taught how to speak, if anything they had to be taught how no to be spoken. Prophets back then spoke supernaturally and authoritatively under the scrutiny and authority of the Apostles’ doctrines. Yet a school was never planned or formed to teach them how to practice their gift. Even teaching at one time it was the elders of the church who taught the Apostles’ doctrines, basically seminary was the church not a separate biblical school, this is perfectly in line with Paul’s teaching passed down to the church:

    2 Timothy 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

    The church has lost this directive through the years and has abdicated its responsibility to others who even though they are Christians, yet according to Scripture, are not the persons who should pass on the the teaching of Apostolic doctrine.

    The ones called to do so are the actual elders of the church, they were, rather are the ones responsible to raise up other elders, pastors and teachers and to teach them the doctrines of the Apostles. The elders of the church are supposed to be the teachers and the guardians of sound doctrine.

    I admire very much the actual churches who appoint some of their elders to be teachers of doctrine and who also form their own bible schools or seminaries on their premises, that is done by true biblical obedience.

    I am not demonizing biblical schools and seminaries that are not connected to the actual church however, the church at large has gone so far astray from its biblical mandate to teach and preserve the Apostolic doctrines and the teaching of the Gospels and Scripture.

    Let’s just take a quick look at what the church was and did in the beginning and let’s see if it is still the same way God designed it to be in the beginning.

    When the church was born and for many, many years later the church met in homes and not in public worship centers. What we see is that people went from home to home, that was where the church met, in people’s homes.

    Acts 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,

    Acts 5:42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.

    What we see in this passages is that in the beginning the Apostles still would go worship in the temple but let’s also remember that until the Samaritans and the Gentiles were added to the church the church was entirely Jewish. However even then they would worship in the temple but they would still go from house to house. Let’s remember that the church here was in its infancy state and that the Apostles were at the time the only elders of the church.

    Later the elders were being appointed in every town wherever there was a church body, which again met in people’s houses. The elders where what we also know as bishops and pastors may have been also elders, teachers and were appointed by other elders. There were the itinerant bishops and the assembly elders. The itinerant bishops went from home to home to be sure that the churches in the homes were guided according to the Apostolic doctrines and the proper doctrine would be taught. The elder councils were when all the elders would get together to discuss church issues and problems. That is how it worked until the Roman Empire became supposedly Christian and the church and the state blended together. Then the church began to meet in public places and then church buildings began to exist.

    However, God never ever intended the church to become so involved with buildings and incurring into big expenses to run a public worship center as it is customary today. God wanted the church to remain simple and not to be pressed into being a place in need of so much money to exist. Look at how many other mentions there are regarding the fact that the church met in homes:

    Acts 12:12 And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.

    Romans 16:5a Likewise greet the church that is in their house.

    1 Corinthians 16:19 The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.

    Colossians 4:15 Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.

    Philemon 2 And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:

    As we clearly see there is absolutely no doubt that people met in homes to worship and hear the teaching of Scriptures. It is clear that it is through out the entire New Testamentary church time church was home church not public building church. No doubt people would meet in other Christian’s homes which were local to them or where they preferred to go or where there was the only possibility to go.

    The church today, in my opinion has become a place where too much money is involved in its running.
    The church instead of a family has in reality become a business, the pastorate has become a profession and the people are often overly burdened into being guilted into giving money for needs that God never intended the church to even have.

    Look at what the money was spent for in the church:

    Acts 4:32-35 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

    Acts 2:44-45 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

    1 Corinthians 16:2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

    Through out the entire book of Acts we see that the money was used to help other Christians when they were in need. Possessions and goods were sold so that all would have what they needed and so there was nothing lacking in the life of believers and money was given to the Apostles and who was traveling with them so that they had what they needed to bring the Gospel in the known world and to visit the other churches often bringing money to other needy Christians in other cities.

    This was what the money was used for. To help the needy, the widows and the orphans and for the needs of the traveling Apostles it was not used for building programs, to build cathedrals or to pay bills incurred to run a big worship center, nor to pay for salaries of pastors or office staff.
    In addition what are all these book stores and resource centers in churches where people are required to pay a lot of money to buy books or resources? That is why all this is connected with the teaching and prophecy topic in the church.

    The church is supposed to be the school for Christians and its teaching is to be free of charge, remembering what Jesus said:

    Matthew 10:8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

    1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

    2 Corinthians 11:7 Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?

    God has given to us everything without charging us anything how can we charge others for anything that God has given to us freely?

    The church has gone so far astray from what it was supposed to be, simple, humble, provider for those in need, teaching doctrine freely at no charge.

    All Christians should serve in the church and serve the church free of charge. The money should be used for the needs of those who genuinely have them.

    I believe that if Jesus came now He would cleanse the church as He cleansed the temple and He would probably accuse the church of the same as He did the money changers and the merchants in the temple.

    The church even in this has embraced worldly ways and has become a business and a social club instead of a body and a family.

    God calls us to give from the heart and not out of compulsion or being obligated to give for any reason except for love. This is why often in churches love offerings are given to preachers and teachers but in fact that is exactly what they should be, love offerings and not salaries or reimbursements for expenses.

    It’s ridiculous what the church has become today. The church today is a hybrid of a theater and a shopping center. Not what God designed it to be!

    Many can use all the excuses and justifications they want to keep things this way but that is not how God has designed the church to be.

    Many churches say that they want to return to how the church of Acts was, yet when they say what they really mean is they want to perform signs, wonders, miracles and healing yet they do not want to go back to meet in home,. give up the big church buildings and all the expenses, start to provide for the needy brethren, the widows and the orphans and to teach and preach and serve one another in love and doing it freely. Let people give to their elders and pastors gifts form the heart as love gifts.

    Professional elders and pastors should not exist. Freely it has been give to us freely we give and freely we serve, motivated only by love. Pastors do not need to drive expensive cars and live in luxury supported by posh salaries at the expense of the congregation. The congregation does not need a five star hotel as church. They once met in homes that is where they still should meet today, that’s the church of Acts.

    In the days of Acts the Apostles, elders and pastors almost all worked and had jobs, even Paul worked not to be a burden to the church.

    I believe this parenthesis was long due at this point and yet the point we are trying to make is this one, that elders and pastors of each local church were and should be the teachers of the doctrines of the Apostles and the prophets upon whose doctrines the church was founded, Ephesians 2:20-22 and they should do it freely without expecting a salary.

    So here we are again back to the subject of prophecy. As we clearly see prophecy has been incorporated in teaching now that the word of God is complete.

    It is a real sin to say that the written word of God is not completely sufficient in order to hear God speak or communicate His will to us.

    We have had ample opportunity to examine this subject even in previous sections of this study of Romans, In closing regarding the subject of prophecy it’s obvious that Paul in those days is referring to the gift and ministry of prophecy as something that existed at that time and where men were prophesying giving direct revelations from God. We have also sen that Peter aptly tells us that as there were prophets in the midst of God’s people, there would be false teachers in the church. As we have seen this is a very important statement that does give us a better understanding regarding the change that would occur within the church once the word of God would come to completion.

    Prophecy did not cease to exist because as we said before all prophecies are written and they all must come to pass and be fulfilled with the second coming of Jesus Christ. We have seen that all the prophecies God wanted the church to have are now written for all of the church to have, This is very important because it signifies that the entire church every where has all that God wants her to have and wants her to know.

    The other important factor we find written in Scripture regarding prophecy is this, all prophecy in Scripture is connected with Jesus Christ and also Israel and subsequently the church. We see something very important regarding the prophetic word. When God ended the Old Testament canon of Scripture He ended prophetic utterances to His people. There were 400 years of prophetic silence after the last prophetic book of Malachi. It wasn’t until John the Baptist came on the scene as a prophet of the Most High that God began again to speak prophetically. Then Jesus came on the scene and God spoke through Him, in fact we find written in

    Hebrews 1:1-2 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds

    Once again as we see there is yet another very important distinction made here that almost mirrors what Peter said in 2 Peter 2:1.

    The author of Hebrews states that in times past God spoke to Israel by the prophets, this is parallel to what Peter says about the false prophets when he says:

    “ as there were false prophets among the people”

    This statement is in line with Hebrews 1:1 as there were real prophets through whom God spoke there were also false prophets as Peter says.

    Then the author of Hebrews says that now God has spoken through His Son.

    Now this passage also confirms that the Holy Spirit who is also known as the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Christ has spoken to His people, both Israel and the church. So it is Jesus who has spoken to Israel and the church in person and through the inspiration of His Spirit as well.

    Remembering what Jesus said exclusively to His Apostles in John 16:13-15, in other words that His Spirit would take the revelations from Him and would make them known to them.

    This also reflects exactly what Paul says in Ephesians 2:20-22, in other words, that the foundation of the church are the teachings of the Apostles and the prophecies of the prophets of those days.

    Once again here the key is this, that the foundation once it is built it cannot keep on being built, it’s done, finished!

    When was it done and finished? Once the direct and inspired revelations of God were completed and therefore all of the word of God was completed.

    Again this brings us to understand that between the last prophetic book of Malachi in the O.T and the first coming of Jesus Christ there was complete prophetic silence and at the same time the canon of the O.T was completed.

    There is no surprise then that this has occurred once again. Once the foundation of the church was completed and the canon of the N.T was completed once again prophetic silence could be and in fact is in order until the second coming of Jesus Christ as it was beforehand, would there be any surprise that God could and would do the same thing? No!

    In fact it is not only possible, that is exactly what happened. As they had the complete revelation of God through Scripture until the first coming of Christ so today we have the complete revelation of Christ and God’s word until He returns again.

    As we see then it is not only probable, it’s a fact that prophets and prophecy after the foundation of the church and the completion of the N.T written word would no longer be necessary in the same function they had and worked back then.

    Once again we return to the second part again of what Peter said when he said that in the same way there were false prophets in the past, there will be false teachers in the future.
    Given all the evidence we looked at, we see that this passage does in reality speak of the prophets and prophecies becoming obsolete as they had been before but the passage confirms that in the future the emphasis would be on teachers and teaching and interpreting God’s word rather than uttering prophetic words.

    Hence making the difference between prophets and teachers. Even though he mentions false prophets in the past and false teachers in the future this also confirms that as there were real prophets there would be real teachers.

    Therefore we repeat, that after the completion of the N.T and therefore the entire word of God and having all of His revelations for us in written form, the teacher today has the role of teacher and of prophet, remembering also that in Greek the word prophet means interpreter.

    So in Paul’s day we can understand that the gift of prophecy and the office and ministry of prophecy existed in the church so when Paul speaks of this in his days it’s exactly what he is saying, however to assume that because this was written then it has to be the same today is an erroneous assumption because we do not take into consideration all the facts we just discussed.

    Therefore Paul is saying to the church that when the gift of prophecy was a distinct ministry and a distinct office and position in the church this gift had to be exercised with the proportion of faith.

    In fact Paul actually is including himself in this prophesying as the language makes us understand he is also talking about himself in the category of prophet.

    What does Paul mean by the proportion of faith?

    This basically means to use prophesying in agreement with or in a right relationship to the faith. Faith here means the body of faith, belief, or doctrine.

    Prophecy, which is meant to exhort, encourage, and comfort (see 1 Corinthians 14:3), must do so in a right and perfect relationship to the revealed truth of God.

    Remembering that the prophets in those days as well as the teachers of God’s word and prophecy today have to practice their gifts in analogy or in a synchronous way with all of the revealed body of the truth of God.

    The prophets in Paul’s day were subjected to the Apostolic doctrines and had to be in perfect line with their teachings and the teachings and prophecies of the O.T. and of the Lord.

    The prophets if you remember were to be subject to Apostolic scrutiny. That is what this means.

    Now Paul says: Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;

    In this passage the word ministry is the Greek word diakonian. This is the word from which the word deacon comes from.

    Deacons were ministers in the church that had and still have hands on ministry in the church in other words those who do work which is more hands on inn the church. Deacons however have to be tired in their character and spiritual gifts as elders are.

    1 Timothy 3:8-13 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. 11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

    As we clearly see in this passage deacons are to be likewise very similar in character as the elders are. The only difference we see is that the gift of teaching is not required to be a deacon, however as we see in verse 13 of this passage they are people who hold an office in the church and they have a good witness and very importantly they are to have great boldness in their faith in Christ.

    There is an episode in Acts 6 and 7 that explains in great detail this office and ministry.

    Acts 6:1-6 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. 2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
    5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: 6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.

    This passage teaches us several things. The first thing we learn is this: Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.

    The Apostles themselves found it important to assign duties to a number of selected disciples and as we see in this verse there is a great difference in ministry between Apostles and later pastor/elders.

    Today in the church the responsibilities and duties of the pastor/elders is still to dedicate themselves to the ministry of the word of God and not to take care of other things in the church.

    In this case we see that the church was taking care of widows, (see the definition of this very important ministry in the church in the following passages: 1 Timothy 5:3-16; James 1:27).

    We see that the ministry of deacons is more practical than didactic. Yet, this work was and yet should be very important today in the church and it was assigned to selected disciples with specific qualities.

    The choice of these men and the position itself was and should be very important and serious and particular.

    Acts 6:3-4 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

    The Apostles gave the guidelines as to what requirements ought to be to be chosen as deacons.

    These are basically the requirements that Paul describes even more in detail in 1 Timothy 3. They have to have a good reputation, must be spiritually minded and not carnal and be endowed with Godly wisdom.

    We also see that the difference between elders and deacons is that in the church it’s the elders that are solely responsible for the ministry of the word.

    In fact even in 1 Timothy 3 we see this difference in the requirements of the elders and the deacons, 1 Timothy 3:2.

    So the office of elders and pastors today and back then also of Apostles and prophets were those who held the ministry of the word of God, teaching and preaching in the church today belongs to the elders/pastors not the deacons.

    However, the office of deacon is not less important in the church, it’s very important to God and it should be to us as well.

    It was very important to the Apostles to the point that they required the deacons to have all the same character as the elders.

    This office was so important to the Apostles that they gave the church a pattern to choose deacons. Besides all that we have seen they considered the office so important that deacons must be chosen in the church by the members of the church but they must be ordained as ministers by the elders of the church.

    In addition as Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

    The deacons have to show a great boldness in expressing their faith in Christ.

    Now this means that although they are not called to hold an official position of teachers in the church they are still required to be well versed in the word of God just the same.

    One cannot have great confidence and boldness in their faith if they don’t know anything about it.

    Look at what the word of God says about Stephen:

    Acts 6:8-10 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. 9 Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.

    As we see here Stephen was full of faith and power and wisdom and full of the Spirit.

    It says in verse 10 that he spoke with wisdom and by the Spirit and people could not debate him properly, they could not resist what he was saying. What we see here is not someone that taught in the church but that witnessed his faith verbally outside of the church by wisdom and power and knowledge.

    In fact in the following chapter Acts 7 Stephen actually shows his wisdom and knowledge of God’s word by what he speaks.

    He spoke giving witness to Christ and the Gospel. This by the way is not even fully considered evangelism, it’s giving a witness to the person of Jesus Christ. This is what deacons are called to do outside the church and even among believers.

    When we read Acts 7 we see that Stephen was very versed and knowledgeable of God’s word.

    The deacons, however are, also with the daconesses those in the church who take care of the works in the church, works just like those described in Acts 6, taking care of practical works, taking care of widows, orphans, and of people’s physical and even some spiritual needs. Such as go to visit and encourage sick and disabled people of the chirch and take care of the needs of the elderly. If there are jobs to do or housekeeping in the houses of the people of the church that these can not do on their own, the deacons are the ones who should be commissioned to do so.

    Usually and properly church deaconesses hould concentrate on works for needy women in the church when they have to minister in the homes of such sisters and consequently men serve the same way unless there is a need for work that is too heavy for the diaconesses to do. It is always better in the Christian environment than when men minister to women that there be always one or more women present to avoid any appearance of evil and avoid any gossip in the church and even on the outside.

    As for the sick, it is good that all deacon and believers minister and visit the sick brothers and sisters to encourage them and even pray with them. This is the demonstration of Christian love that we must have for one another, but let us not forget that the ministry of prayer for the sick resides above all in the pastors/elders, this is outlined for us in:

    James 5: 14-15 Are Some of you sick? Call for the elders of the church, and let them pray for him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will heal him; And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

    As we see, it is not forbidden for anyone to go to visit the sick and to pray for them and to encourage them but clearly it is the responsibility of calling the church’s elders to go and pray for the healing and the care of these souls.

    In short, these are the ministry and the responsibilities of the deacons.

    Romans 12:7b or he that teacheth, on teaching;

    This ministry of teaching in the church is a very interesting ministry. I have a specific take on this ministry that is perhaps slightly different than the mainstream teaching we normally hear today.
    I believe that the Bible shows us that there are several types of teaching and teachers.

    What we need to understand is that in the church in Apostolic days the doctrine of the church was being written and those doctrines are, as we said many times before, the foundation of the church.

    The foundation of the church is the Apostles and prophets of that period.

    Apostles and prophets were also the teachers of these doctrines as well. Let us remember that the Apostles held the highest and most authoritative office in the church and that they had all spiritual gifts. They had to because they were the first and the called by Christ Himself to receive direct and inspired doctrine, see John 16.

    The prophets were second in importance in the church as they also spoke by inspiration of the Holy Spirit but their prophecies were to be under the authority of the Apostles and according to the doctrines taught by the Apostles. Apostles therefore could be also prophets and teachers, while prophets were often also teachers.

    Acts 13:1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

    Here the distinction between prophet and teacher is not made which sort of confirms what we have been saying so far.

    We know though that Barnabas and Saul were prophets and teachers and Saul was also an Apostle. The others had to be both prophets and teachers.

    In those days the Apostles and prophets spoke by inspiration and others taught what they spoke.

    Teachers also taught and explained the Scripture which already existed meaning the Old Testamentary Scriptures.

    Ephesians 4:11-12 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

    I have said it before the articulation of this passage shows us that possibly the office of pastor and teacher are one and the same because of the way the passage is written.

    Between every office we find the words and some. Some were given to the church as Apostles, then it says, and some prophets, then is repeats again and some evangelists then it says and some pastors, after pastors though Paul omits and some but he says instead and teachers.

    We cannot be dogmatic here but it seems that pastors which are also synonymous of elders are the ones to which today have been given the ministry of prophecy and teaching.

    The official leadership office in the church after the Apostles were all gone, became elders, they are the teachers and the guardians of church doctrine and the ones that are given to the ministry of the word of God and prayer.

    Ephesians 4 describes the condition of the church office positions of that day, it is not realistic to think that after all the Apostles were gone this five fold ministry pattern remained the same and is the same today.

    Even in the Apostles’ days we see that this pattern was beginning to change. The appointments of elders in churches as the local church leaders was already a priority in the church of that day.

    Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:

    As we see here in the churches of that time they were already appointing elders in churches and we know that the elders or pastors are the leading authority in the local churches and not the Apostles because there are no more Apostles. The elders/pastors are today the teachers and prophets in the church.

    We have also seen that even Peter mentioned indirectly that teachers would be the replacement of prophets in the future of the church, see 2 Peter 2:1.

    It is very clear by Scripture then that the teaching and prophetic offices today are given to elders/ pastors in the church.

    There are teaching responsibilities in the church that are subordinate to doctrinal teaching in the church but these teachers are not to be confounded with the teaching office of the elders.

    In this subject of teaching a very important question is raised by many and that question is can women teach in the church?

    Without getting to deep into this let me answer briefly, no women cannot teach and yes women can teach!

    Now isn’t this nice and confusing? In reality it’s not!

    We need to qualify how and what a woman can teach and to who a woman can teach.

    Let’s look at the no first! A woman cannot teach doctrine in the church because a woman cannot hold an office of government in the church. In other words a woman cannot be an elder or a pastor, neither were there ever women named Apostles.

    In church history, in biblical times and even after we clearly see that women did not ever hold positions of authority in the church especially in the theological and doctrinal field.

    Paul said it clearly in : 1 Timothy 2:12-14 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

    Let’s just quickly look at what Paul is saying here. Paul is breaking down this passage in two sections. First he says that he prohibits a woman to teach period.

    The second prohibition is a woman cannot have a position of authority over the man, in other words the males in the church.

    Already we mentioned that there were no official positions of government and authority held by women in the church, both in apostolic times as well as for almost two thousand years after.

    We see that the positions of leadership and teachers held by women in the church are only very recent occurrences.

    In fact only since the advent of feminism in society did this occurrence appear in the church.

    Now, one must ask why in almost two thousand years of church history were women not ordained as pastors or elders or teachers and why did this only happen when feminism appeared on the scene?

    It is evident therefore that since it was not a regular custom in the church through out its history this happened only because the feminist ideology has crept into the church, basically a worldly way took root in the church and has allowed women to hold high offices in the church and to teach in the church, therefore openly violating this apostolic commandment, which is God’s commanding this trough Paul’s Apostolic authority.

    Therefore the woman biblically speaking, according to God’s will in the church, cannot hold official positions which hold spiritual authority. This is clearly evident by the text of 1 Timothy 2.
    If a woman therefore holds a position of authority and government in the church she is in open violation of God’s perfect will and His word. Many can try to rationalize this as much as they like but it’s not really up for discussion!

    It’s more than clear and explicit just by this passage alone and, as we said, by church history.

    When a person teaches God’s word, since God’s word holds His authority, they are using His authority not their own as men, but the authority of the word of God.

    Therefore if a woman teaches in the church when men are present she is basically usurping that authority, she is using authority over men, which is what Paul is prohibiting.

    Now we can raise the question, can a woman teach in the church at all? I would venture to say no! I believe that biblically a woman cannot teach doctrine in the church.

    Some will ask if a woman can teach other women? After all she would not be using authority over men. My answer would be maybe, I am not 100% sure about this, however I would like to err on the side of caution and say it’s better if all teaching was done by male teachers in the church. In the assembly that is!

    The question is then can a woman teach at all? I say yes a woman can teach and actually even in the church and it’s not a contradiction.

    However, first let’s see why a woman in the church, in the assembly cannot have a position of authority and why she cannot use authority over men.

    A woman cannot teach in the church not because she is less able than a man but Paul actually explains why in this same passage of 1 Timothy 2. Look at what he says:

    1 Timothy 2:13-14 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

    This is the reason! The reason is this one, when God created man He chose man to be the leader, the head of the family, in fact God created Adam first. Obviously God had a reason why He did this. He could have created them at the same time, then they would have been exactly equal in everything.

    Now let me say this, as far as value to God both men and women are perfectly equal and that by the way is what the passage means that we find in:

    Galatians 3:26-29 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

    This passage speaks of the equality of the value of each person and not the equality of roles in the Christian family and the church.

    The context here is this, that when it comes to God’s saving grace and promise of salvation all people are included without exception or favoritism, that is what this passage means in a nutshell.
    The context in this passage is not talking about roles but about salvation. We must remember that is is unfortunately true that in ancient and not so ancient cultures the woman was looked at as some kind of second class person. In Hebrew culture especially this was true but it was true to a certain extent in Greek and Roman cultures as well.

    In fact in the context of this passage in Colossians 3 we see that Paul equates all people in how God views everybody. If you remember the Jews hated the Gentiles so God says that God made both Jews and Gentiles equal when it came to giving them His grace and salvation. The same we can say about the Gentiles, like the Romans who also viewed everybody else as inferior to them, including the Jews.

    Paul also says that God does not see a master with favoritism over the slave but again the context is not role but human value, God gives His grace and salvation to all without favoritism.

    Just think about this for a moment, if we were to use the erroneous doctrine and many do, using this passage to equalize roles, then a slave would not be a slave and a master would cease to be a master but that is not what God means here, because in other passages God says this:

    Colossians 3:22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye service, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:

    Titus 2:9 Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;

    1 Peter 2:18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

    As we see God was not saying that the roles are gone when He said that in Christ there are no bond nor free. It’s the same between races or sexes, no difference in Christ in value not role!

    In Christ the value of the person and God’s grace and salvation is equally given to all regardless of their positions and roles, this does not mean though that in life the roles are undone just because a person is in Christ. It is evident that God clearly wants people to have specific roles and He wants us to respect them.

    So to use this passage to force the view that women are equal to men as far as roles go in the church is a violation of the text and it’s a false doctrine.

    It’s a doctrine dictated by culture but not by God’s word. The problem in society is that we equate role or position with value, this is not how God sees it!

    Roles were and are established by God not by man and in reality those should be observed especially in the body of Christ.

    Let’s get back to creation now. God created Adam first and gave him the leadership ROLE!

    Again it is in role only that Adam had authority over Eve not in human value, but with his authority came also great responsibilities. Eve also had a specific role and specific responsibilities given to her by God and these were different than Adam’s.

    Eve was to have the role of helper to Adam and Adam was to love her, protect her and provide for her and she was to respect Adam as her head. This is exactly what God expects in the church, look at what we see in this next passage:

    Ephesians 5:21-25 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

    We need to understand all this has to do with returning to God’s order given in creation and before the human fall into sinfulness. Therefore when we are regenerated, when we become born again we are brought back to the Godly order there was before the fall.

    In the church therefore Christians are to behave as God had ordained from the beginning and act in the same specific order and role He gave to Adam and Eve at creation.

    As we see in fact Paul not only says that it was because Adam was created first and God gave him the role of leadership but also because it was Eve that was deceived and fell into transgression. She was deceived directly and obeyed Satan while disobeying God’s commandment given her through Adam.

    Adam surely sinned and disobeyed but he did so by listening to his wife instead of God.

    Simply put, the roles were reversed by sin, Eve obeyed Satan and disobeyed God by undermining His commandment which was transmitted to her by Adam.

    Adam disobeyed God by listening to his wife rather than God and therefore he also indirectly obeyed Satan. Even though Eve was the one deceived by Satan God gave the weight of the blame to Adam and not Eve. Why?

    Because Adam was the leader and he ceased to lead and he gave the lead to Eve in that particular event by not doing what he should have done according to his established role.

    Since that time, part of the curse of sin has been a reversal in human desires, the woman desiring to usurp man’s God given authority and the man desiring to take it back by forceful domination.

    Forceful because the woman fights the man to retain the role of leadership in their relationship.

    All this causes the man to be cruel and rude and harsh in order to take back and retain his role of authority which is never easily relinquished especially voluntarily by the woman.
    This is what the entire passage in Genesis 3:14-17 means:

    And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. 16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. 17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

    This entire passage we have also mentioned in another part of the study of Romans and we did mention that these things that God says to the serpent aka Satan and Eve and Adam are part of God’s judgment and curse of sin.

    The entire creation is cursed by one act of sin, the one who caused it is cursed above remedy, all the animal kingdom and the earth are cursed, Adam and Eve are cursed and part of the curse is, as we said the struggle of domination between man and woman.

    Yes the usurpation of roles and of authority by the woman, that is what God meant when He told Eve that her desire would be to her husband. This is not a positive thing it’s a negative statement in the context of God’s curse.

    Man would in turn constantly try to take back his role from the woman who does not relinquish it easily and he does so by domination.

    Look at the Merriam Webster definition of the meaning of domination or to dominate:

    to bring under one’s control by force of arms to conquer, overpower, pacify, subdue, subject, subjugate, subordinate, vanquish, annihilate, beat, clobber, crush, defeat, drub, lick, mow (down), overcome, prevail (over), reduce, rout, skunk, smash, thrash, triumph (over), trounce, wallop, whip; enslave; break, clamp down (on), crack down (on), put down, quash, quell, repress, silence, smother, snuff (out), squash, squelch, suppress.

    Do you get the idea?

    This is what sinful man and woman do, however, in the church we are brought back to the original roles before the human fall into sinfulness. This is what God desires that we do and that we do it willingly because that it is His will for us.

    Remember, we are new creations in Christ (Ephesians 2:10) and being made new is as if we were transported back to a time before the fall, as it once was supposed to be.

    In fact we have seen in the previous passage that we read in Ephesians 5, that that entire passage begins with Paul saying: Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

    We submit first to God and by doing so we will do God’s will also in the rest of what the passage says.

    We submit to God and His will and then when we do so we will fulfill our roles as He desires.

    Basically we keep our God given roles not because of any other reason but for the fact that that is God’s will.

    Women will therefore submit and respect their husbands not because the husbands deserve it or because they behave properly but because God requires it. Husbands will love their wives sacrificially not because they deserve it or because they respect them or do not but because it’s God’s will that they do.

    So the same exact thing has to happen in the church as well as in the family.

    In the church the roles are brought back to the way God designed them to be, men teach and hold positions of authority and leadership in the church and women minister as helpers in the church in subordination to those who are in position of authority.

    In some churches today they will come up with some concocted idea that a woman can preach and teach when she is under the authority of the pastor or the elders.

    While this actually sounds biblical it’s not! Pastors and elders have absolutely no authority whatsoever to allow women to teach and preach under their own authority because their authority comes only from the word of God, that is what gives them authority.

    Allowing anyone to do things contrary to God’s word is acting under no authority at all.

    Allowing women to preach and teach is actually saying that their own authority is independent from God’s word and that is plain wrong!

    When we are not under the authority of the word of God we have no authority at all. Doing this is actually a roundabout way of usurping authority, in fact this is the same sin Adam committed, allowing the woman to act under her own desire and authority while disobeying God’s word.

    So a woman cannot hold a position of authority and government in the church, in other words as we have already seen they cannot be pastors or elders and like in some churches is done today they certainly cannot be apostles, even because that office does not even exist today.

    Now there are in the New Testament passages that seem to imply that a woman could retain some of these responsibilities.

    Some use this passage for example to sustain this erroneous doctrine:

    Acts 18:26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.

    They use this passage to make it say that both Aquila the male and Priscilla the female taught Apollos the ways of God more perfectly. While the passage may speak in the plural form as to them taking Apollos in their home and expounding to him the ways of God in a clearer way, the passage does not at all give Priscilla the place of teacher and even more of pastor or elder.
    If what they say were true this would actually contradict all the passages that Paul has written regarding the demeanor of women in the church delineated for us for example in:

    1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

    However, it does state that even in the law, Paul says, the women are called to retain a subordinate role when it comes to roles and position of authority.

    So it is God’s will that women do not speak in the church. This simply means they should not speak publicly and hold a role of authority.

    This passage does not say that in the proper way and at the proper time women cannot ever speak in church. They must do it however as they should do it, not as public speakers with authority roles but as God allows them in His word.

    In fact at the proper time and in the proper way women in the church can speak, for example in this manner:

    1 Corinthians 11:5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

    As we see here women could speak in this fashion in the church and still can do so today. This is done in a non teaching way and not in an official position of leadership nor can they ever teach men.

    Also we have already seen the passage where Paul prohibits explicitly women from teaching and having authority in the church.

    The Bible cannot ever contradict itself, so if Paul, with his apostolic authority commands the women not to teach and have authority they cannot, period.

    Women have been said that they could have a title of deaconess. In many churches women hold a specific office and position of deaconess.

    Deacons hold an office in the church and therefore have a degree of authority in the church so to say that women can hold the position of deaconess in the same exact way a man would is erroneous.

    However, we must say that the Bible speaks of women as servants, the Greek word for servant is diákonon and it is found referred to a woman in:

    Romans 16:1-2 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: 2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.

    In the Greek the word is used in a synonymous way to signify the office of the deacon as well as the same word from where we get the word servant or minister in English.

    So we see there is a reference to an office of deacon that is held only and exclusively by men and a status of servant or minister that can be given to both men and women in the church.

    When it is the latter these can be people that serve in the church but are actually under the authority of the office of the deacon and these answer directly to them.

    Women are deaconesses or servants in this capacity. They are people in the church who still have to have an outstanding reputation and spiritual life but who hold no authoritative office and to whom responsibilities are delegated them by the office of the deacons.

    We also see though that these female ministers are worthy of recognition and respect as ministers. Paul makes that very clear in the passage we just read That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.

    Being in the ministry of serving in the church is a very honorable and respectful thing. Women should minister to other women especially.

    Their ministry is not that of teaching but it is a hands on ministry, helping those who are in need in their home, helping the sick, the orphans and the widows. It’s a ministry of prayer and encouragement. It’s what is also called the ministry of mercy!

    So now that we hopefully understand this subject better, what can a woman teach and to whom may she teach?

    First of all a woman in her own family has a responsibility howbeit secondary, nevertheless has the authority and responsibility as a mother to teach her children.

    Let’s say though that the teaching of the mother in the family is also secondary or supplemental to the main responsibilities of the husband and father to teach his family, after all that is what Paul said also in the previous passage we read as well as other passages of Scripture which confer the responsibility of teaching in the family to the husband and father.

    As a husband: 1 Corinthians 14:35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

    As a father: Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

    See also: Deuteronomy 6:6-7

    A mother however also has a great responsibility in being a teacher of godly things and godly ways to her children. The Bible clearly shows this to be true.

    Proverbs 1:8 My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:

    Proverbs 6:20 My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother:

    Proverbs 31:1 The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.

    Proverbs 31:26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

    As we clearly see in the context of the family and in her household the woman has both, authority over her children and responsibility to teach practical, wise and godly principles to her children.

    Something similar also holds true in the church, look at what Paul exhorts Titus to teach:

    Titus 2:3-5 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

    So to who do women teach? In the home they teach their children and in the church the older and more spiritually experienced women must teach the younger women.

    However, what must they teach? Does it say to do Bible studies or to teach doctrine and theology? No!

    First of all we look at the character traits that God requires of a spiritual woman, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things.

    It says that they must teach the younger women good things such as to be sober, to love their husbands and their children, to be discreet, chaste and good home keepers and to be obedient to their husbands.

    If people today, especially women in the church think that all this is not important work to do and that it has nothing to do with teaching, look at how Paul ends this passage and why women are required to do all this: so that the word of God be not blasphemed.

    This is how important all this is, if and when women do not do this in the church and instead do what they want, if they are allowed to do other things that the word of God prohibits them to do, such as holding positions of authority and teaching, they actually are allowing God’s word to be blasphemed.

    So we have seen who can teach and what can be taught in the church, so now hopefully we understand better what Paul means when he says: Romans 12:7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;

    Romans 12:8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

    This passage now mentions those who exhort and those who give generously and with simplicity, those who rule also must rule with diligence and those who show mercy must do it with cheerfulness.

    Let’s take a quick look at these spiritual virtues in the church. There are people who have the spiritual gifting of these specific traits in their life as well as those that we have already mentioned.

    In the church there are specific people that do not have the gift of teaching or of ruling as a leaders yet they have been given this particular gift, exhortation.

    It is true that when a pastor or an elder teach and preach within their purview they are called to exhort as well as called to rule in the church and let’s face it, according to the word of God everybody is called to show mercy and is also called to give.

    So here we see these things mentioned which can be spread out to many, actually to all in the church body.

    However, there are also some that have these spiritual gifts as their main gift, with the exception of ruling which has to be a part of the church leadership gifting.

    So let’s look at those who exhort. As we said teachers and preachers exhort through their teaching and their preaching, yet in their call and ministry they have all the following mandates:

    2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

    Titus 2:15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

    These passages demonstrate the call of the elders and pastors but Scripture teaches us also that we are to exhort one another even if we are not called to be elders or pastors.

    Hebrews 3:13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

    Now, what is the meaning of the word exhort? What is an exhortation?

    The Greek word translated in English for exhortation is paraklesis.

    This word comes also from where the word parakletos comes from.

    This last particular word is used by Jesus to describe the person of the Holy Spirit.

    John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter (Parakletos) will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

    As we clearly see here in this passage Jesus calls the Holy Spirit with a specific name, He calls Him comforter which is the Greek word parakletos from which we get the word exhort or exhortation.

    So an exhortation is an encouraging word, a comforting word and even a word of warning.

    Exhorting means to give encouragement, comfort and warning and this is really what much of the work of the Holy Spirit is in our life. He comes in us to comfort, encourage and warn us. He does this though through the ministry of the word or through the use of God’s word.

    So to exhort one another is actually to do the same thing the Holy Spirit does, in fact let’s go as far as saying that it is what the Holy Spirit does through His presence in and through other believers and of course He does this through the word of God.

    So what we have here is a dual explanation of the gift and ministry of exhortation. They both are done trough the word of God, one is done by the preaching, teaching and counsel of the leaders in the church, in other words the ministry of the word of the pastors/elders.

    The second gift and ministry is by itself the gift and ministry some believers have been given by the Holy Spirit which is apart from preaching and teaching and exhorting in an official position of leadership.

    These are those people that, no doubt those of us who have been Christians for a while have had the opportunity of knowing, these people are the ones who always find the time and the right Scripture to give you when you needed it the most.

    These are guided by the Spirit of God to give a Scripture to those whom God knows need them. These are those people who always go around encouraging others, who often give a Scripture of comfort to those who are hurting and even a word of warning to those God knows need it.

    These people are a great asset in the body and are very necessary to the body of Christ. This is a great gift to have, these people send cards to people and cheer them on and encourage, comfort and even warn others motivated by God’s Spirit and His love.

    In addition to those who have the specific gift of exhortation as we have seen we are all called to stretch ourselves into doing this one to another.

    If instead of sitting around criticizing other believers we spent time encouraging, comforting and even warning each other with Scripture the church would be a much better place. This is what God desires!

    Paul then mentions giving and to do so with cheerfulness.

    Giving like exhorting is one thing that the word of God tells every believer to do. We are all called to be generous givers.

    However, just like exhortation although we are all called to practice this, there are some people who have been specifically gifted to be generous and cheerful givers.

    In other words that is their main spiritual gift. This does not mean it’s their only one but it’s one of their main gifts.

    These people are the ones that are always giving cheerfully and without reservation. It’s important to know that part of the gift these people have varies, they give of themselves unreservedly, they give money and resources, they give in every season, when it’s convenient and when it’s sacrificial. In fact these people are the ones that are always giving something even when they don’t have much but of the little they have they give and they give happily.

    Scripture shows us and teaches us this in several passages.

    No doubt most of us know and remember the real episodes that occur in the Gospels.

    The first one is the poor widow mentioned in the Gospels. Jesus praises a widow’s generosity:

    Luke 21:2-4 And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. 3 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: 4 For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her poverty hath cast in all the living that she had.

    It’s also true that God does not expect us to give all we have to and for others but the point here is the comparison between those who give from their comfort zone and therefore it costs them little and those who really have the excuse that they have little and yet from their poverty they give in comparison much more than the others who give of their abundance.

    Jesus does not praise this widow because she is trying to gain favor with God because of her sacrificial giving or for other wrong motivations, but because she had the right Spirit.

    She no doubt understood what we all should understand, especially after the cross, that is how much God has given and gives us, mostly the greatest gift God has given us Jesus Christ His Son and His salvation.

    Through Jesus’ sacrifice, suffering and death God has given us His most precious possession in order that we may receive His mercy and grace. God gave all He had for our benefit.

    Although we cannot ever repay God for His indescribable gift to us, especially with money, yet when we understand God’s love and generosity toward us who were and are undeserving, we should give to Him all we have and are out of love, give to God who loved us first, 1 John 4:19.

    These next passages actually describe exactly what ought to motivate us to give and how to give.

    Beginning in 2 Corinthians 8 through 9 Paul writes about giving. He begins by saying this:

    2 Corinthians 8:1-10 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: 2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. 3 For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, 4 imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5 And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. 6 So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. 7 But as you abound in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us–see that you abound in this grace also. 8 I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

    We see in this section that Paul speaks of the generosity of the Macedonian churches who out of their poverty freely and generously gave. As we see the believers in those churches understood the real motivation of giving.

    In verse 5 Paul says: And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.

    The believers offered themselves to God first and therefore they could give to others generously.

    This is the same concept Paul mentions in:

    Ephesians 5:21-25 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

    Even this passage which we mentioned before teaches us for example that in order for wives to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the church one essential thing must occur.

    We must submit ourselves one to another obeying the commandments God gives to each of us, by submitting to Him first.

    Giving works the same way, as Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians 8:5, in other words, giving ourselves first to God will make us give ourselves to others in the love of God and in the way God desires we do and this will cause us to give generously.

    Foremost understanding this next concept will make all the difference in how we view giving of ourselves and our possessions to others.

    2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

    As we see here, Jesus the rich one, the possessor of the universe, gave everything He had and everything He was for our sake, so that through Him becoming poor we might become rich with the grace and mercy and blessings of God.

    We ought to have for God and for others the same mind and sentiment Jesus had for us, see Philippians 2:1-8.

    So the bottom line is, when we understand all of this, how can we still hold back in giving of ourselves and giving what we have to God and do it for Him who gave us everything as He gave it to us and we don’t deserve any of it!

    Yet God is worthy and deserves that we give Him everything we are and have!

    Giving ourselves to God first means to do everything out of the love we have for God and doing it for Him, by doing so we can freely and generously give to provide for others’ needs and do it cheerfully because we are actually doing it unto the Lord.

    Let’s not forget also that the church is the body of Christ, so in reality all that we do for each other we do it unto the Lord.

    Giving ought to be something we do cheerfully and not out of compulsion or obligation, or by law!

    Let me say at this point that tithing is an Old Testament commandment given to the nation of Israel and it was to be levied for the Levite priests and for the supporting of the temple duties.

    Tithing by the way was not all about money, it included food provisions (1) that one-tenth of the whole produce of the soil was to be assigned for the maintenance of the Levites; (2) that out of this the Levites were to dedicate a tenth to God for the use of the high priest; (3) a tithe, in all probability a second tithe, was to be applied to festival purposes; and (4) that in every third year either this festival tithe or a third tenth was to be eaten in company with the poor and the Levites. Leviticus 27:30-33. This tenth, called Terumoth, was ordered to be assigned to the Levites as the reward for their service as the Levites did not receive a land inheritance, and it was ordered further that they were themselves to dedicate to the Lord a tenth of these receipts, which were to be devoted to the maintenance of the high priest, see Numbers 18:21-28.

    This legislation was modified or extended in the book of Deuteronomy, from thirty-eight to forty years later. Commands are given to the people: They were to bring their tithes, together with their votive and other offerings and first fruits, to the chosen center of worship, there to be eaten in celebration in company with their children, their servants, and the Levites, Deuteronomy 12:5-18.

    These are the laws of the tithing God gave to Israel.

    However we must understand that since the church is not Israel and the priesthood has changed entirely so that this law is not to be applied and commanded to the church.

    We live by faith and through God’s grace not by Israelite law.

    This is what Paul meant in Romans 7:1-6.

    Taking a look at the book of Hebrews we get a very good picture the author is trying to paint for Hebrew believers and this who were considering becoming believers in Messiah.

    In fact the entire book of Hebrews was written to explain the obsolete nature of the Mosaic law now that Jesus had fulfilled the law. For this very reason it is faith in Jesus’ work of redemption and fulfillment of God’s law, in a special way the ceremonial law, that makes God’s law fulfilled in believers of Christ, see Romans 8: 1-4.

    The author of Hebrews writes to explain that the old religion of Judaism, the Old Covenant is fulfilled by Christ and has therefore been replaced with belief in Christ only.

    So when the author claims this he also claims that the rules and regulations of the Mosaic law including tithing were abolished.

    At the end of Hebrews chapter 6 the author makes this claim:

    Hebrews 6:20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

    It begins to become obvious that the priesthood has been changed. The Levite priesthood does not hold a place in Christ or in the church, it’s a priesthood of a different nature now.

    The Levite priesthood only had a place in the temple and because of the temple activities.

    Now that these are no longer necessary the Levite priesthood as well as the high priest are obsolete in the church body.

    In fact the entire letter to the Hebrews is written ti explain the obsolete nature of the Old Covenant and the validity of the New Covenant in and trough Christ only.

    In chapter 7 in fact the author explains the new priesthood of the order of Melchisedec, in fact he already had begun talking about the new High Priest Jesus Christ the Messiah who has replaced the Levitical high priest.

    Hebrews 7:9-16 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.
    10 For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him. 11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? 12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. 13 For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. 15 And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, 16 Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. 17 For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 18 For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. 19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. 20 And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: 21(For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) 22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.

    This passage is very important in the explanation of what we are talking about. This is the proof that there is a higher typology of priesthood which is not the priesthood of the Mosaic law. Melchisedec’s priesthood is a typology of the priesthood of Christ. The author of Hebrews is actually saying that spiritual perfection does not come through the law, in other words the Levitical priesthood and its ministry, rather that, the Levitical priesthood and it’s ministry was a typology a symbol of Jesus Christ’s work and ministry. In verse 12 he says that the priesthood was changed and an entire change occurred as the law did not speak of another tribe as ministers to the Mosaic system except the tribe of Levi. Instead Jesus came from the tribe of Judah to which Moses spoke nothing concerning the priesthood. So another priest arises, one not after the law and the flesh rather a spiritual priesthood according to eternal life, which is Christ. Mechisedec is a symbol and a type of Christ.

    Chapters 8-9 and part of 10 of Hebrews explain to us that the Mosaic Old Covenant is obsolete and is replaced by something better, Christ and His ministry, the New and Everlasting Covenant!

    Having therefore abolished the former covenant to establish the new one the ordinances including the tithing have been also abolished. The church which is not Israel and does not abide by Old Covenant ordinances is therefore not required to tithe. The church operates under another covenant and a different priesthood. The Priesthood is the High priesthood of Christ and actually the believers have become priests according to a spiritual order.

    All the elect saints (not only ministers as such) from Jews and Gentiles are in the meantime called to be priests unto God 1 Peter 2:5,9, and being transfigured shall reign with Christ as king priests Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6). Israel, both the spiritual and the literal, shall resume the priesthood which God from the first designed for His people. Thus there will be a blessed and holy series; Christ the royal High Priest, the glorified saint king-priests, Israel in the flesh mediating as king-priest to the nations in the flesh during the Millennium.
    So being that even all believers are spiritual priests the tithes as in the Old Covenant no longer apply.

    The Mosaic law required tithing, the New Covenant never does. We can search high and low in the New Testament and we will find nothing instructed to the church regarding paying tithes.

    In fact look at what Paul says: Colossians 2:10-23 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: 11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. 16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. 18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. 20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, 21(Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

    We cannot get into the expository teaching of this passage in great detail but let’s look at a few points inherent to our teaching.

    In verse 10 Paul claims we are complete in Him! It’s not the observation of the law or its ordinances that perfects us or completes us rather it is being in Christ and His work that do that.

    In fact the following verses explain that to us.

    Subsequently in verse 14 he says: Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

    This is the elimination of the condemnation of the transgression of God’s law. Jesus took out of the way the practice of the law to establish His righteousness in our behalf.

    We no longer are bound to obey the law to become or to be considered righteous and to be justified before God.

    All that was against us was nailed to the cross in Him.

    So Paul says that because of all this then: 16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

    The law, as Paul mentions, was a shadow of things to come, namely Christ. So all the ordinances of the Old Covenant are not binding in Christ.

    In fact, look at what Paul says to the Galatian church:

    Galatians 3:1-5 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. 5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

    The Galatian church was being attacked by a false doctrine sown around by some Jews who contended that it was OK to believe in Jesus as Messiah but a person could only be saved if they observed the Mosaic law.

    This was not and is not the case, in fact Paul writes to the Galatian church this letter to warn them and teach them that now a person whether Jew or Gentile is not ever saved by the practice of the Old Testament law. He goes to great lengths in many of his letters and especially in this one to explain that the law not only cannot give salvation and only faith in Jesus redemptive work does, but the law cannot sanctify the believer either.

    The observance of the law does not sanctify nor does it complete the believer. In fact as we saw written in Colossian passage the law is a shadow of things to come and what was to come was Jesus, He fulfilled the law of God for us so that by faith in Him we receive the right standing before God, it is as if we had fulfilled the law because He did it in our behalf.

    We live by faith in Jesus not by the ordinances of the law. The Mosaic law was given to Israel not to Gentiles, tithing was ordered by God only and exclusively to support the priesthood and the temple, now that the Levitical priesthood and the temple are no longer valid as a method of worship tithing as the Mosaic law is obsolete and replaced by the New Covenant, faith in Christ’s life, death and resurrection and ascension and His High priestly ministry in our behalf.

    So now that we understand why tithing is obsolete we also see that in many churches still today they make the same mistakes and teach the same false doctrines as some of the Jews did in Paul’s days.

    We either live by faith or by law. If we live by faith in Christ we must put aside the practice of the law as some kind of sanctifying or completing aspect of Christian life.

    We must live by what God commands the church in the New Testament epistles and we must be very careful in how we adopt Old Testament principles and apply them to Christians.

    There are principles in the Old Testament we should live by and obey but tithing is not one of them because it was specifically attached to the Jewish religious practices of the temple and priesthood.

    Many things are applicable to our Christian life but we must exercise discernment and careful examination as to apply the right things.

    I do want to say that if Christians want to adopt the 10 percent rule of tithing as a guideline for giving it is not a bad thing, however, if we do it then we must be careful not to fall in the trap of legalism regarding this rule.

    God is not obligating us to give any set amount yet God does love a cheerful and a generous giver.

    There are several factors that will determine our cheerfulness and generosity in giving but the main one is understanding two very important facts and they are about God.

    When we understand, fully understand how much God has loved us in order to save us and how much He has given us we will become generous and cheerful givers. At least we should!

    If we leave our giving at a legal level we may give and even give a lot and even sacrificially but our motivating factor will not be God’s love and us loving Him out of a grateful heart.

    The second and very important factor why we give with generosity and in a cheerful manner is because we understand that ALL we have comes from God.

    We don’t actually own anything, all things belong to God. The deed to or house may have our name on it but it actually belongs to God, our jobs and our bank accounts, our vehicles, all our possessions even our children, they all belong to God.

    God calls us to be faithful stewards to all He has entrusted us with, we should then not hold on to anything so tightly we are not willing to let go for God.

    Therefore the level of giving we practice has to flow from the understanding of all these things, when it does we will be grateful, faithful, generous and cheerful givers. If we are not then it means that we don’t really understand these issues and perhaps we give out of compulsion or legalism or maybe we don’t give at all and that may be a warning bell that something is off in us.

    Look at what Paul writes here:

    2 Corinthians 9:5-9 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation. 6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

    See Paul desires that their giving be a matter of generosity and not a grudging obligation. Paul also gives a very good teaching that giving generously and abundantly will come back as a generous blessing back to us. If we sow abundantly we shall reap abundantly, if we give sparingly we shall also reap sparingly. Paul uses a farming analogy and it is so true, can you imagine? If a farmer just took a handful of seeds and planted them in a field what would his harvest look like? If a farmer instead sows abundant seed he will have a great harvest. This principle is very easy to understand.

    Many believers do not have much, not always, but often, because they do not give much, they do not give of their money, they do not give of their time, they don’t give much at all, in addition many are not faithful stewards of God’s possessions, the very possessions God has entrusted them with, so that for these reasons they often lack and then wonder why they struggle to make ends meet.

    Jesus taught us two very important principles regarding these things:

    Luke 6:38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

    Luke 16:10-12 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. 11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?

    These two principles are extremely important for us to understand for if we understand them they will allow us to be a blessing and to be blessed.

    Jesus also said that “ it is more blessed to give than to receive” Acts 20:35.

    However Jesus also said that if we are generous in giving we will also be blessed beyond measure, we will be blessed in the measure with which we bless others.

    Jesus also taught us that we must be faithful in a little to be entrusted with more, this principle is true with every thing we are entrusted with, whether it is giving, or with what we possess, whether it’s our possessions, money, time, our jobs, whatever God seeks us to be faithful and generous.

    In fact if we go back to the 2 Corinthians 9 passage in verse 7, Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

    As we see here the entire issue starts and ends in our heart, we must purpose our generosity in our heart and this as we already said before depends on the level of gratitude we have toward God and how well we understand the great love He has for us, the great sacrifice and love He demonstrated toward His children giving us all the best He has, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    This ought to be the motivating factor of our generosity toward God.

    Jesus also taught us these things regarding gratitude and giving back to God:

    Luke 12:16-21 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

    As we see here Jesus says we ought to be generous or rich toward God and not be stingy and think only of our own life on earth.

    Jesus also spoke this teaching that although speaks of forgiveness we can also apply to what we are talking about here, because the principle is basically the same, we are still talking about having a generous heart whether in forgiveness or in other things.

    Luke 7:44-47 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

    As I said here Jesus is referring to forgiveness in this context, yet this is important in what we are talking about, having a generous heart comes from understanding the same concept the woman understood.

    She was generous with her love because she understood how much she was forgiven and she felt a great debt in her heart, a great debt toward God.

    We can never, ever, repay the debt we owe because of our sinfulness, yet God forgives us regardless because of His love and mercy. This woman understood all this and she was so grateful to God that she showed it by loving Jesus back in the way she knew how.

    The concept is this, if we understand how sinful we are, if we understand how undeserving we are of God’s love demonstrated through the sacrifice of His Son, when we understand how much it cost Jesus to save us and forgive us, then we will have a generous spirit and heart toward God. This not only will affect the way we understand how much we have been forgiven but it will affect how grateful we are toward God which will be demonstrated by our generosity.

    As in this last episode in every believer’s life the concept of generosity comes from how much we understand how much we have been blessed by God and how much He has given us.

    Scripture commands us to be generous but we ought to be generous, as Paul says not begrudgingly or out of compulsion, rather from our heart, from a heart that is grateful to God for His indescribable gift, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Look at what Paul says in his letter to Timothy:

    1 Timothy 6:6-19 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. 13 I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; 14 That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: 15 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen. 17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; 18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; 19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

    This is a very rich passage which gives us many good principles that are in line with our study.

    The first principle we see is that we ought to be satisfied with achieving godliness rather than worldly possessions and physical needs. God does not say that it is wrong to have things in this world but that spiritual things, godliness is a much more important possession, it’s the one that counts in the end, it is a greater gain. The second principle beside pursuing godliness is contentment, we must be content with what we have, in fact Paul says to be content just having our basic needs met. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

    Then Paul says something very sobering and important, he says this: 9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

    I know this is not a very popular message especially in a prosperous and capitalistic society like ours but it is true that once we go beyond our basic necessities and we lose our focus on living for eternity, in other words serving God, we risk to fall prey to covetousness and greed. Actively seeking riches or being rich is a dangerous proposition because it leads to temptation and it becomes a trap which leads people into many foolish and hurtful lusts which end up actually drowning men in destruction and perdition. If we love money more than God and are busy seeking riches instead of God’s Kingdom this becomes the root of all evil. It’s not money that is evil it’s loving it, wanting riches and desiring riches more than God, it’s becoming lovers of pleasure rather than God, see also 2 Timothy 3:1-5, that leads us into all evil deeds. As Paul says some even in his days coveted after riches and that led them to err form the faith and they had fallen into many sorrows because of the pursuit of riches.

    Remember what God told the man in the parable we saw before? The man was attempting to accumulate riches for himself but God required his life that night and Jesus said: So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

    Once again we see that pursuing riches and possessions without being rich or generous to God leads into many serious troubles. This is another reason what many believers are not generous toward God, because they are greedy and want to accumulate stuff and money for themselves, they erroneously think that if they hold on to what they have and try to get more they will have more while instead they will end up always having less and less and trying ever so harder to gain and they will never do because God Himself will oppose their attempts, often this is what causes them to resort to things that are not adequate for believers, such as cheating, stealing, gambling and as we said increasing greed and stinginess.

    In concluding Paul also addresses the wealthy believers and exhorts them to be generous with their possessions, again a believer will need to understand all he or she possesses comes from God who liberally gives, blesses people with all things to enjoy and yet knowing that it is all His and that we are recipients of His blessings and we are to be faithful stewards of all He has entrusted us with.

    God desires the rich believer to be generous and often rich believer are very generous, yet they will be generous and we all will be according to the measure of our gratitude toward God.

    So in conclusion we understand that giving liberally and generously although it’s a commandment of God yet God does not desire that we should obey out of legalism or obligation or compulsion rather that we give out of love and gratitude toward Him, it’s a heart issue not a legal one.

    If we are not generous with God then we have a spiritual problem we need to address.

    Now Paul says in Romans 12:8b he that ruleth, with diligence

    The one who rules again is a believer that holds a position of authority in the church. These could be Apostles in the apostolic age, and the pastors/elders and even the deacons. Those who hold a position of governing in the church. Obviously and Apostle ruled above all others in those days, they and the prophets in their day were the foundation of the church, they were the overseers of the entire church and doctrine.

    The pastors/elders have become the rulers or the governors of the church and the apostolic doctrines after the Apostles were done laying down the church’s foundation and after the word of God was completed. Today the pastor/elders are those who rule in the church.

    Deacons although they do not rule the church they do have a governing ministry as they have many others, especially the women’s ministries in the church, in their charge, so they do rule, supervise others.

    In all this Paul exhorts those who have these ruling ministries to do so with diligence.

    So instead of examining all the various duties of those who rule we will look at what it means to do it with diligence.

    There are many adjectives to describe the different duties of those who rule but in this case Paul mentions to do it all diligently, with diligence.

    So, what does this mean?

    Diligence means this: Being attentive and persistent in one’s efforts, working with assiduousness, with industriousness, being attentive, giving great care and concentration in all one does; doing things with doggedness and perseverance, being persistent and ministering with tenacity, doing all with tireless effort and with painstaking attention.

    This description of ministering with diligence or diligently is very self explanatory and clear.

    A church elder or pastor a true shepherd of God’s flock must lead, must govern in this way.

    Ministering with attention and persistence in one’s efforts. This means a shepherd does not do things with distraction but with attention especially attentively to do things according to God’s instructions. Ministering with persistence and perseverance means doing it without giving up and overcoming difficulties and discouragement.

    Working for the Lord requires working with assiduousness which means careful unremitting attention or persistent application. A leader serves with unremitting attention and persistent application of the word of God.

    Let me repeat that, with attentive and persistent application of God’s word, not his own ideas or strategies or opinions nor with his own counseling, but with the incessant and attentive application of God’s word only.

    This means also that the study of God’s word is done in the same way. A church leader serves with industriousness, this means to serve with zeal and energy not in a lazy or slipshod manner.

    A Scripture that confirms this is actually found ahead in this same chapter:

    Romans 12:11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; see also Titus 2:14.

    To serve the Lord we must do it with zeal, what is zeal?

    Eagerness and ardent interest in the pursuit of something.

    The unfortunate thing especially in this day and age that the church does not have zeal, is not ardent, ardent actually means on fire, the church is not on fire, not eager to serve God.

    This is in fact the accusation Jesus lays down in the description of what affects the church in the last period of church history.

    Revelation 3:14-19 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

    This is the main condition of the church in the Western world today. Not cold nor hot. Hot is the property we are talking about here, the fire of God is missing from the church, this is zeal. This church is apathetic, she has no true eagerness in serving God. It’s lukewarm, has no purpose except to serve itself with a semblance of qualities that in reality are lacking. This is the depiction of a church who for all intents and purposes is actually wealthy by worldly standards but poor by the standards God seeks. She is poor in spiritual things, she claims she sees the truth but she is blind of the truth of God, she claims she is clothed in God’s righteousness but she is naked instead because we cannot be clothed in God’s righteousness by believing a false Gospel.

    When Jesus tells her what she needs to do He also says to be zealous and repent. Jesus is telling the church to be zealous, to be hot for God, to be eager to do the right things and serve Him with ardent eagerness and not to be lukewarm in other words unusable.

    Leaders at least should be ardent in serving God, should serve God with eagerness, Let’s remember that pators are supposed to lead and the way in which they lead and obey God’s word will be also the way the church will live and serve God.

    The fire of God, zeal for God’s word and service is contagious, if the pastors have it the entire church will also.

    In fact the letter Jesus sends to the church of Laodicea as well as all the letters to the churches in Revelation are sent to the leading elder of these various churches.

    Zeal however is not a thing for leaders only but all Christians are called to have it:

    Romans 12:11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

    The word found here and written as fervent has actually the same meaning of zeal.

    Once again a leader serves this way:

    giving great care and concentration in all one does; doing things with doggedness and perseverance, being persistent and ministering with tenacity, doing all with tireless effort and with painstaking attention.

    This is what it mean to rule or govern with diligence.

    Not many today rule or govern in the church in such a way.

    A description of this in Scripture is found in Timothy’s second pastoral epistle to Timothy,

    2 Timothy 2:1-4 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. 3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

    Here Paul exhorts Timothy to find strength to minister and serve in God’s grace and to endure the difficulties and hardships of his call to ministry as a soldier. A soldier is a disciplined individual and obeys orders, a soldier is very well trained and versed in the use of his weaponry. A soldier strives to please his commanding officer in the same way we should serve God. The doggedness and perseverance is an essential quality for a soldier. However, it is an essential quality for a church leader as it is for a soldier.

    In addition Paul also exhorts Timothy like this:

    2 Timothy 4:1-5 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; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

    As we see here Paul is using specific words that are exactly in line with the description of ruling with diligence.

    This exhortation is actually much more than an exhortation, it’s a charge. Charge means this:

    The word rendered “charge” means, properly, to call to witness; then to affirm with solemn attestations; and then to admonish solemnly, to urge upon earnestly. It is a word which implies that the subject is of great importance. Paul gives this charge as in the presence of God, wishes to secure that sense of its solemnity which must arise from the presence of such holy witnesses.

    (from Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

    He then exhorts Timothy and every church leader to be instant, instant actually means to be present, to stand and even to assault, to do this when it is popular or when it is not. To do it when people accept it or when they do not. I find it very interesting choice of word as it also means to assault and therefore it goes back to a military term. In fact Paul then tells Timothy to reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

    Most of these terms in today’s church are not only rare to find as a regular practice they are actually viewed as unloving and mean and are not only not practiced they are discouraged and even called not of God. Paul however, tell church elders to do all this when it is accepted and when it is not and to do it in a dogged way, to do it as a military style assault, to stand and practice these things in every time, to reprove, rebuke and exhort with all longsuffering, this is another word for doing these things with dogged perseverance, to suffer long, to be patient in the face of opposition and resistance.

    To continue to do so even if and when those around no longer accept these things. This implies not ever giving up in doing these things. Paul also says to do all this not only with perseverance but with doctrine, doctrine is another bad word in a lot of churches today. Today in most churches doctrine is no longer important at all while in the Apostles’ day and for many centuries after it was not only important it was essential and it was the life of the church. Paul in fact prophesies and tells Timothy that in later days, and today these are those days, people would no longer endure sound doctrine.

    In fact it is exactly true today, people and the saddest thing is that we are talking about church people do not endure sound doctrine any longer. Another word we are used to use today in the place of endure is to stand. In other words today in the church people no longer stand hearing sound doctrine.

    People as Paul says, will rather surround themselves with false teachers who will teach them false doctrines, false gospels and actual fables. Any teaching, anything that appeals to the flesh is what these people seek and not what appeals to the spirit.

    In order to do what God desires of a church leader especially in these days what Paul tells Timothy becomes truly real and alive. Today people as Paul said will fall away from the truth, it’s interesting to see that the word used for falling away from the truth is the word apostrépsousin

    The prefix apo usually denotes separation, departure, cessation, completion, reversal,

    strepho this word is strengthened from its base trope which means to turn and also means revolution. Either way apostrepho is a word of the same type as the word apostasy.

    Turning away, revolting from, falling away from, it is a very strong word that delineates the departure from the truth of God, it is a word that delineates revolting, rebelling against the truth.

    This is why today a lot of people are flirting with apostasy and why a lot of the church is in a state of apostasy, in other words fallen away from God’s truth, rebelling and revolting against the truth of God.

    This is why many cannot stand it, they are allergic to it, they have itching ears, they itch because it’s like their ears are actually allergic to God’s truth.

    They want after their own lusts heap to themselves teachers who will teach them what their rebellious ears want to hear.

    However Paul tells Timothy that he must instead watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

    This brings us back to where we started, one who rules well in the church must do it with diligence and as we see the things that give meaning to the word diligence are the very thing that Paul tells Timothy to do as an elder.

    Paul now exhorts the Roman believers he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

    The word in Greek is the word eleoòn which actually means compassion or mercy.

    Showing mercy is actually a gift of the Holy Spirit as well as something that we are all called to practice regardless.

    Jesus Himself told us to be merciful:

    Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

    This is part of the Sermon on the Mount, without delving deep into the contextual meaning of this verse, let’s just say that this is a character trait of believers.

    Jesus also said this:

    Luke 6:35-36 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. 36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

    See as believers we are to practice mercy and Jesus tell us to be merciful as God is merciful.

    As believers we are all called to be merciful because we have received mercy even when we did not deserve to have mercy.

    Especially among believers we must be merciful to each other, we must love one another fervently but that is what we will studying in the next verse.

    However, here in this verse besides being merciful in a general sense Paul is speaking also about the spiritual gift of mercy, which is also a ministry in the church and of the church.

    The ministry of mercy in the church is actually called the ministry of helps and it is found in

    1 Corinthians 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

    The Greek word for helps is antileémpseis which actually means to take hold of, succor; also to participate: help, partake, support.

    As we have here is actually something that the Holy Spirit has been sent to do in the church and in all our individual lives. He is called the helper in some translations. It is God who comes to abide in us to help us through life, to support, to comfort us, to show mercy to us.

    In the church helps therefore is a ministry given to some by the Holy Spirit, people specifically called to come along others to manifest the love of God and His merciful side.

    These are those able to help others who are also officers of the church who perform helpful deeds for the poor and the sick.

    Often this ministry is given and held by women as it was in the early church it also should be today, although unfortunatley many women today in the church find this ministry something to want to avoid and to be replaced with what they ought not to do such as rule and teach.

    The ministry of help or of mercy is a very important one and often it is greatly lacking in the church today.

    The Evangelical church for the most part has abandoned the practice of the ministry of mercy or helps I suppose that it has become beneath the church to practice mercy or helps. Today instead the entire focus is placed on miracles and signs and prophecies in the Pentecostal/charismatic movement while teaching and doctrine and evangelism is the focus of the non Pentecostal Evangelical church.

    It is truly shameful that the Evangelical church has abdicated the ministry of mercy and left it almost completely in the hands of the Roman Catholic religion, then we wonder why needy people gravitate toward the Roman religion. Although it is not the ministry of mercy that should take the place of evangelism however it has to be a life component of the church. The church is the body of Christ on earth and it should in every way reflect God on earth especially among its members.

    In reality although we should show and practice works of mercy toward the poor and the downtrodden of the world we should use this ministry especially to be ministered together with the ministry of evangelism as a good opportunity to evangelize them because above all they need spiritual help and redemption, most of all they need to experience God’s mercy in forgiveness and salvation.

    However, mostly the ministry of mercy should be practiced in the church and mostly for believers.

    In fact spiritual gifts and ministries are ALL for the church. In reality the Holy Spirit has come to birth the church, to indwell the church and to minister to the church, to edify the church and to instruct the church.

    Too often the church, especially recently, is placing its efforts almost entirely on ministering to the unbelievers often sacrificing the spiritual life of the believers.

    What do I mean by that? The church has become so seeker friendly that is actually sacrifices the spiritual growth of the church members in order to entertain the unbeliever. Mostly not evangelize the unbeliever but entertain the unbelievers.

    This happens because traditional evangelism, in other words the simple and clear preaching of the Gospel is no longer practiced. By the way, evangelism has to be done mostly outside the church not as much inside the church, although an element of evangelism should always be present in the church as well.

    In the early church evangelism was practiced outside the church and only when the persons became converted were they baptized and allowed to come into fellowship, not the other way around.

    Today however it is nearly impossible to determine that everyone in the local community are truly born again believers, this happens mostly because churches have become social clubs where everyone is welcome to participate. Even though this seems a noble thing, it is actually a detrimental and dangerous thing for the church.

    In fact, it is perfectly evident that in the early church, in the apostolic days, to be considered believers there had to be a confirmation that the person really believed before he or she were allowed to participate in the church community.

    Although even in those days it was not always and at any rate possible to determine the genuineness of people’s faith, however, it was necessary that there was certain evidence that people had believed in Christ.

    We see that, even though this was a rule in the church often people who were not really believers would still infiltrate in the church even then.

    This is made very clear by many passages of Scripture where the New Testament writers warn the church and also us today, to be attentive regarding those who do not have true faith in Christ and were infiltrating in their midst causing many problems and many damages. See some of the evidence and warnings found in the New Testament letters: Acts 20:28-31; Titus 1:10-11; 1 John 2:18-19;
    1 John 2:26;1 John 4:1; the letter of Jude.

    It was hard then but much easier than today to detect false teachers and false believers because then as we clearly can see in Scripture, it was not as easy to participate and be part of a local church because the people were tested and confirmed before they were admitted in the fellowship, today instead itàs a free for all and everyone is aceepted in a local community and since most churches today push for quantity and size rather than quality and intimacy, it becomes much easier for all kinds of people to infiltrate and even remain in a church for years without knowing the real spiritual condition of those people. When the size of a church and entertainment becomes the goal instead of the discipleship of people and the importance of doctrine and real God intended church life then all poeple are acceptable in those environments and as we said this causes many, many problems and difficulties in the body of Christ in those churches.

    Everything in the mainstream church of today does is geared to attract and entertain unbelievers which more often than not remain such. Why? Because of the reason mentioned above, in other words the Gospel is usually not preached in its entire clear and undiluted form and the word of God is taught in a such unclear and superficial manner that it produces no spiritual life and or very little spiritual growth if any.

    The modern mainstream church whether or not Charismatic is so intent in finding worldly and pragmatic strategies to attract people which is not good and in the mean time it totally forgets or maybe purposefully forgets to edify its own members.

    The church has the Holy Spirit so that God ministers through her and through the various gifts He gives to believers, this is done solely to edify the church. Edify means build up, grow, mature, construct.

    This to say that the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the ministries to the church are for the church exclusively.

    There were only three specific gifts and and one ministry in the church that was to be used for the unbelievers but done for the edification of the church. Evangelism, healing and tongues.

    By the way, notice that the gift of healing was never practiced in the church and done on believers, this is more than evident by Apostolic church doctrine, see Philippians 2:26-27;1 Timothy 5:23;
    2 Timothy 4:20; James 5:14-16.

    We see in these passages that the gift f healing was not given for the benefit of the believer’s healing.

    This were, by the way, sign gifts practiced mostly by the Apostles, see in regard the following passages:

    Acts 2:43;Acts 4:22-31; Acts 5:12;

    these were practiced exclusively while the Kingdom of God was still being offered to Israel and not after God ceased to do so.

    These gifts which were in fact called the signs of an Apostle:

    2 Corinthians 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.

    So the gift of healing and tongues were together with the gift and ministry of Evangelism for the unbelievers but in those days specifically geared to unbelieving Israel.

    The sign gift were for Israel, the signs were given by God as a means to convince Israel that it was indeed Him that was doing all this, it was God who sent Jesus to offer the Kingdom, it was through Christ and Him, the Messiah, that Israel had to receive the new birth as a whole nation, Israel had to be born again and turn to God through faith in Christ and in Him only.

    However, although God proved all this by giving Israel all His signs, ironically it had always been that way, unfortunately no matter how many signs Israel received from God, Israel remained unbelieving.

    In doing so the nation, not the few individuals who believed in Messiah, the entire nation temporarily forfeited its God given promise to receive the Kingdom promised to them by God.

    They forfeited this promise by rejecting Jesus Christ as their Messiah and King. Israel cannot have the Kingdom promised them until they nationally believe in Jesus as their Messiah and King.

    There cannot be a Kingdom without a King. However, since the Kingdom promised to Israel is God’s promise, God will fulfill His promise because God cannot promise and not deliver. If God promised something He will do it and certainly man’s stubbornness and obstinate rebellion cannot thwart His promises from being fulfilled.

    Now if some still have doubts after studying Romans chapters ten and eleven then we can once again look at some Scriptures that explain exactly that all we just said is true.

    First of all let’s look at the signs in question. Paul speaks about the gifts of healing and even tongues being specifically given to the Apostles. He calls them the signs of an Apostle.

    Here we have a very distinct declaration that the sign gifts were specifically and almost entirely given to the Apostles and the leaders of the early church.

    Once again, why? Because they were still dealing with unbelieving Israel and the signs were specifically given for them.

    Paul specifies this in two passages:

    1 Corinthians 1:21-25 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    Here we see several things that stand out, the first and most important thing is that faith for salvation comes only through the preaching of the Gospel, verse 21. See also Romans 10:17.

    The second thing of importance is that even Paul admits and declares that Israel seeks a sign, or signs in order to be able to believe.

    There is a very important thing to be said about this and it’s this, the Jews saw God doing great signs and wonders in their midst for the entire time of their existence and still did not have faith, still acted in unbelief.

    Look at what it says in the book of Hebrews about this very fact:

    Hebrews 3:9-19 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.11 So I swore in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end; 15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom swore he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

    This passage depicts for us the historic condition of Israel’s unbelief and the author is now warning the Hebrew community not to be unbelieving when it comes to Christ as they always had been in the past even though God had showed them so many signs and wonders and still they did not believe God. That is what this passage is saying.

    They now had seen all the powerful signs and wonders that Jesus had done for three and half years in Israel and still they rejected Him and by doing so they rejected God, again!

    Jesus said this to Israel:

    Matthew 12:39-40 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

    Matthew 16:1-4 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. 3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? 4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

    They wanted signs, yet, how many signs were given to Israel by Jesus Christ? An incredible amount!

    Look at what John writes:

    John 20:30-31 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

    John 21:25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

    Signs in Israel were never lacking and still Israel remained unbelieving.

    Paul also writes this about another sign gift even explaining us exactly what the exact purpose of the sign was.

    1 Corinthians 14:20-22 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. 21 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. 22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

    Here we have a very, very important passage regarding the sign gift of tongues. Paul is exhorting the Corinthian church to think maturely, think with understanding regarding the sign of tongues, be grown up about it and stop acting like children. He desires that they, and we, understand why God had given the sign.

    Paul explains to them and the church today, God knows a great part of the church today like then needs to come to grips with this reality. Tongues were given as a sign for an unbelieving Israel. That this is the fact is clearly understood by the fact that Paul explains that this was prophesied in the law, namely in the prophets, in the book of Isaiah.

    God prophesied this time in Israel’s history, this very time, where Israel would have heard God’s voice through this sign of tongues and still would have rejected the fact that it was God who was doing all this in Israel.

    This prophecy that Paul mentions is found in:

    Isaiah 28:11-12 For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people, 12 To whom He said, “This is the rest with which You may cause the weary to rest,” And, “This is the refreshing”; Yet they would not hear.

    Speaking about the refreshing look at what Peter says to Israel in:

    Acts 3:18-20 But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. 19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; 20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:

    As we see the prophecy in Isaiah 28:11-12 is speaking about the same exact time in which Peter is addressing Israel and the same time when Paul is writing about the sign of tongues given to an unbelieving Israel.

    As Israel rejected Jesus, it also rejected His Apostles, those whom He sent to preach in Israel after Him. Their preaching was accompanied by signs and wonders even as Jesus promised in:

    Mark 16:15-18 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

    Once again, even Jesus calls them signs and Paul did mention that these were the signs of an Apostle.

    These signs were for Israel because the Gentiles accepted the word of the Gospel and were not enticed or so much interested in the signs and wonders, those signs which were following the Gospel, in other words the preached word. These were for Israel’s benefit not the Gentiles’, the Gentiles believed the preaching of the Gospel.

    In fact, even when Cornelius believed, he believed and his house believed Peter’s message not the evidence of signs and wonders, yet they spoke in tongues as the Jews did on the day of Pentecost but their speaking in tongues was for the benefit of the circumcised believers and Peter.

    See Acts 10:45-47 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

    Acts 13:47-48 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

    As we can clearly see the Gentiles heard the word and believed, they were not shown signs but were glad to believe the words of Paul, those who were ordained to eternal life believed.

    As we have sen then, these Apostolic sign gifts were attached to the ministry of the Apostles and were for the benefit of the conversion of Israel to Messiah but we have seen that Israel rejected the Gospel and despised God’s signs and remained in unbelief.

    This is the reason why later on, after the Apostles were all gone, these signs gradually disappeared. Without the Apostolic ministry and without the Kingdom being offered to Israel the signs became obsolete and God ceased to manifest them.

    Still these were for the benefit of the church because they were given, as we said, together with the ministry and gift of evangelism for the growth and the edification of the church.

    Remember that the Kingdom of God is not complete until Israel is converted as a nation and until they enter into their promises through the New and Everlasting Covenant.

    Once the church’s doctrines and prophecies concerning the church were delivered and written and completed the Apostolic and prophetic ministry together with the signs for Israel ceased.

    Now after the word has been completed in its revelation God wants ALL, Gentiles and Israel to believe the message of the Gospel by faith and not by the evidence of supernatural signs.

    In fact the sign gift of tongues was only valid and to be practiced in the church in an orderly fashion and never without translation because it had to be practiced in the church for the edification of the church and when this could not be done it could not be practiced. It was and it is never acceptable that believers in the church use their gifts for a direct purpose of personal edification.

    The main purpose of a gift is to edify other believers not to seek self edification. It is not biblical to say that the gift of tongues is given to believers today to edify themselves as many claim it is, in order to justify the practice of their gibberish speech.

    Scripture cannot contradict itself, and Scripture clearly teaches us that everything in the church has to be practiced for the edification of others and if others cannot glean edification things should not be done.

    1 Corinthians 12:5-7 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:

    1 Corinthians 14:1-5 For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.

    These passages are more than clear, Paul in verse 4 of 1 Corinthians 14 is not by any means saying that it is proper for a person to edify himself as many claim he is saying, in reality this is a soft rebuke telling the Corinthian believers that it is not proper to edify oneself rather if one speaks in tongues it must be interpreted so that all may receive edification. This passage trashes the false and erroneous Pentecostal doctrine that teaches that the gift of tongues is given to edify oneself. This Pentecostal doctrine is not at all in line with Apostolic doctrine so it cannot be a valid Apostolic sign!

    So in conclusion, regarding the subject of spiritual gifts, we see that to all are given gifts and ministries only for the benefit of others, all this to say that the gift and ministry of mercy of which we are talking about is for the church and not for the unbelievers. Mercy is an attribute of God and God manifests His merciful attribute also by giving it as a gift and ministry to the church.

    I must say another important thing however, the church is also in the world to represent God and His mercy, to be a witness of God in the world.

    The main way the world will see and understand we are Jesus’ disciples and followers is by one specific thing, the love we show one another in the church, this was what Jesus said:

    John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

    The church is also called to affect our society and to permeate into society as salt does, in other words it is to give off the savor of God and as salt does, it has to act as a preservative in society, a preservative of godly values in society and to be the spreader of the fear of God in society. This is also a great way to keep the doors open for the Gospel to progress. This is to be the intention not so much so the practice of mercy works done for unbelievers as useful as those can be.

    Jesus put it this way:

    Matthew 5:13-16 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
    14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

    Having said this however, we must realize that the church is not in the world to change the world from a moral and ethical standpoint, or at least this is only a secondary reason why the church is in the world, this is all a consequential work of the church that obeys God.

    Christians must, live out their faith values in every aspect of life, whether it be in the work place, whether it be in politics, in the family, everywhere we are full time Christians working for the glory of God.

    This is really what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 5:13-16. This is what Paul is saying in:

    Colossians 3:23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

    The church is not here to moralize the world per say, we are here to effect change in the world by bringing people into the Kingdom of God.

    Let’s take the world of politics for example. Let’s draw some examples and conclusions that derive from the point we are trying to make.

    First of all, if more Christians became involved in the world of politics chances are that the political framework of that nation will be more godly and that society, although not all saved spiritually, will live having better moral and godly values instilled into it, and even among the unsaved people of that society there will be a greater sense of the fear of God.

    In other words people will fear God more even though they are not saved. People will honor and respect God and His law more, there will actually even be less crime. We have seen this happen in the past.

    This does not mean that the society is godly or saved, it just means that in that society Christianity will thrive and Christian values will be respected an honored more and better.

    This is actually what Paul means when he says this in:

    1 Timothy 2:1-4 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

    As we can understand from this passage, the actual context leads us to understand what Paul is actually talking about and it’s not what many think or how many interpret this passage. Paul is not saying that God actually desires that every single person gets saved, we must remember that what God really wants to do He will.

    He cannot desire the unobtainable for there is nothing impossible for God. If we interpreted to say that God desires that everyone that ever existed and was born into this world be saved we would have to actually scrap a lot of the New Testament Scriptures’ doctrines.

    Although I believe that God in His heart does desire that He could save everyone He also knows and has demonstrated to us in His word that this will not be possible and it does not in the end have to do entirely with man’s will by itself.

    We have studied in depth already in this study that man’s free will when it comes to salvation is a myth or not enough to obtain salvation.

    We will not get into this subject again here and now, suffices to say that what Paul is really saying here is the same thing that Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3, in other words that God sent His only begotten Son to save the world, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. So wanting or desiring that all men be saved is the same concept, we know the entire world will not be saved but we also know that people from all the world will be saved.

    We also know that even though everything depends on God, He also works in concert with the church to bring about salvation. We cannot know or understand all the intricacies how God works all things together to bring about His will, however we know He does and that should be enough for us.

    So since we have seen that only the preaching of the Gospel can and will bring salvation to the elect we must understand that the doors for the Gospel to be freely preached must be opened and kept open in whatever societies we want the Gospel to spread and flourish.

    We also know that the Gospel and the church grow and flourish even when the church must go underground but this is not God’s ideal for the church. As we have seen God desires that the believers be a shining light upon a hill that gives light to the world, He does not desire that this light be hidden, certainly not on purpose but when it happens out of necessity it is still not what God had intended for the church.

    So what Paul is saying here is that the church has a great part in allowing the Gospel to be preached freely and for Christians to live peaceable and tranquil lives. This obviously goes hand in hand, if Christians pray for all people, for all who are in government as the passage says, then this will keep that society in friendly status with the church, not in a compromising way but in a God given way.

    Even Proverbs say that when a person’s life is pleasing to the Lord He will have their enemies be at peace with them.

    Proverbs 16:7 When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.

    We can therefore ascertain that in a lot of cases not all, but a lot the reason why persecution against the church exists is twofold. One level of persecution is just that, it’s automatic and it is a consequence of following Christ. There is however another reason where and when church persecution exists and that is when the church becomes disobedient, compromising and rebellious and idolatrous.

    This type of persecution happens by divine discipline. The other type as we said is the devil lashing out on the church.

    However, Jesus in the famous salt and light passage we read in Matthew 5 did say that if the church lost its saltiness it would become good for nothing but to be trampled under foot by men.

    What we see then is that when the church does not keep the Gospel doors open in the society where it lives that society will eventually trample the church underfoot. That society will become enemy of the real church, not the apostate church, that type will actually flourish and prosper even in the midst of the true church’s persecution.

    So what happens in a society in which Christians permeate especially the government and politics and more the Gospel flourishes and the true real church grows. This is what happened for hundreds of years in Western society.

    However we can instead see how society becomes more and more corrupt and godless when Christians withdraw in their cocoons, in other words the four walls of their churches and become less and less involved in their country’s government and political sphere.

    Christians have bought into the devil’s lies and have been taught even from their pulpits in some ways the same lie, in other words that the only place for them is in the church and everywhere they go they must keep their faith personal and private, that is the same lie the government has been spreading with the great lie of separation of church and state which with it has outlawed all types of involvement of Christian values in the government world.

    However, this was not so in the beginning of the history of the USA nor was it ever in the minds of the founding fathers, in fact quite the opposite. The Constitution does not anywhere state that Christianity (which by the way was the religion of choice the Constitution speaks of without alienating others) cannot be active and formative within Government, in fact quite the opposite. So it has been through out American history until this all began to change around the late 50s and early sixties. Since then there has been an all out war against Christianity, not other religions, but particularly Christianity.

    The number one culprit of this all out war? The very entity that was designed to protect it, the government.

    Once again this is the church’s fault and doing because the church has abandoned the mandate Jesus gave it in the Matthew 5 passage we read above.

    By doing so, the church as Jesus said, has become good for nothing in the society in which it is is placed. It has become good only to be trampled underfoot by men, by the heathen. This is what has been happening.

    The formula for a godly friendly society in which Christianity has free reign and is relevant is found in the passages we just read. God warned us about this and we cannot complain now that our society is godless, hates God and hates Christians because we, have hidden the light and the salt has become good for nothing and today they trample us underfoot. Because of a disobedient church even the obedient church now has to suffer. In fact the disobedient church as it becomes irrelevant and as it compromises with the government demands as it obeys the government instead of God it avoids persecution in the society and the government that accepts a compliant church. So as the disobedient and irrelevant church complies and compromises with all the demands that government and society places on her it becomes the friend of the world.

    The obedient church which remains light and salt and obeys God is then persecuted by the government and society and yes even by the compromising disobedient church.

    Certainly God allowed and allows for seasons in which if we do what He says we will reap the benefits of our obedience. If and when the church withdraws within its four walls and ceases to live their faith in every aspect of society then society will unavoidably and gradually become more and more godless and will regress into paganism.

    This has been the problem in the passing time since Christianity was born, as the church played an active part in shaping its government and societal framework the Gospel advanced and society as a whole was more moral, ethical and godly and mostly it was accepting of the Gospel as a means of salvation, although obviously not doing it perfectly.

    After all the keys to the Kingdom of God although in Christ’s hands are by delegating power in the church’s hands. It is the church though, which causes God to shut the doors to the Gospel in a gradual way in the various societies in which it is.

    There are two kinds of persecution for the Gospel sake, one is just the consequence of Satan’s fight against the Gospel advancement, the other is the consequence to the church’s disobedience for hiding its light and losing its savor.

    We see the huge difference of what happened since the church has withdrawn from its God given call to be salt and light in the world. Western society especially after the Reformation first in Europe and then in the USA was under the influence of a strong and militant church and the society remained for the most part influenced positively by the Gospel, but as the church became more and more worldly and cowardly, to the point of actually starting to become apostate and has opted not to fight to remain relevant in the society where it was, Western society has been falling faster and faster in godlessness and paganism and it has become almost an entirely anti Christ society.

    In fact the great spread and acceptance of Islam has to do with the church withdrawing and not being strong and militant in the spread of their faith in it society. All that was written in the book of Revelation is relevant to the church’s sinfulness and disobedience that Christ actually had John write about in Revelation chapters 2 and 3.

    Although all is written and declared by God it is actually consequential to the church failing to remain relevant in society and obedient to God’s mandates.

    This does not at all men that God will fail in His intentions and in His plan of salvation, God saves besides the church’s failures. This is another reason why the doctrine of sovereign election is real and essential. God saves in spite of our failures and He always raises the faithful to do His work.
    We need to understand that God always decided to work through our obedience and even our disobedience, God works within man’s doing and in spite of it to accomplish His purpose.

    In other words we can cause ideal situations by being obedient or cause our own difficulties by our disobedience, however in either case we can be persecuted for the same reason, the Gospel’s sake. One however is caused by our obedience and the other is caused by our disobedience.

    In some ways the church has been the cause of the godless society in which we live in today and the church is persecuted not only because of an end result of preaching and living the Gospel but also because it has been disobedient to God and ceased to be light and salt.

    Now all this had to be said but we are understanding that the Holy Spirit has given gifts and ministries to the church for the church.

    All I was trying to say with all I said about the church in society is that as we live out a faith based Christian life everywhere especially in our government our society remains Christian friendly and it is easier for Christians to preach and spread the Gospel. This is God’s intention as well.

    The gift and ministry to be used for the unsaved is the gift and ministry of evangelism which could be paired up with works of mercy also. However all this is still all for the growth of the church not for any other reasons.

    The church’s goal by the way is not to be liked by the world, it’s to obey God, period. However Jesus told us this:

    Matthew 10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

    We are to use wisdom and obey God and in so doing we can affect our society so that it will be more friendly and so that it will better accept the Gospel, but fear not, there will always be degrees of persecution when we preach and live Christ.

    2 Timothy 3:12-13 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

    It is good to affect government and society in order to help us spread the Gospel more easily but, the society we live in should persecute us for our obedience to Christ and not as a consequence of the church’s disobedience and compromise.

    This does means we must never compromise the Gospel and the truth in order to be liked by the society we live in and by the world, but unfortunately this is what most of the church has been doing instead for a long time.

    Being friends of the world is being God’s enemies:

    James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

    Being friends of the world is considered by God as spiritual adultery and it places the church under God’s severe discipline.

    All this anti Christ behavior we are experiencing in this nation in an unprecedented way during the past fifty years or so is really due to the church’s disobedience and compromise which the church has been practicing since and God’s discipline can be and in this case is that we are now living under this anti Christ pagan surge because it is the consequence of the church becoming friendly with the world.

    So every spiritual gift and ministry was and is for the church’s edification.

    We have seen that evangelism has a dual function one is to grow the church as God uses it to save the elect of the world but also it has an eschatological purpose as it has all to do with the salvation of Israel as we have learned in chapters 10 and 11.

    Now let’s get back to the ministry of mercy in the church as we have seen should be mostly practiced in the and for the church. We did say that the only true and useful way we can use the ministry of mercy for the unbelievers is when it is paired up with evangelism. We should use this as Jesus used it as a way to draw people to the Gospel but not as a way to replace the Gospel as many denominations do.

    Now Paul says here to do it cheerfully, in a joyous way! This exhortation is in a way the same as the one Paul gave about giving with a cheerful heart, in other words not to do it out of obligation or compulsion.

    The greatest way we can all be joyous in our service to God is by adopting a very good practice in the way we view our service, we should do everything as if we were doing it onto the Lord.

    Colossians 3:23-24 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

    This would and actually should be easy to do, if and when we understand how much God loves us, how much God has loved us.

    The problem is that we tend to forget how much God gave us and how much He loved us when we were yet sinners and so undeserving of His mercy and grace.

    When we forget how much God loved us and still does we tend to look at what we do as a job or a chore instead of doing it back to God out of gratitude and love.

    In fact, this is what John states in:

    1 John 5:1-3 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

    When we do things out of love for God everything will be easier and more joyous.

    God does not appreciate when we grumble and complain, He has always been contrary to this behavior and He views it very negatively.

    Scripture exhorts us, commands us to do things without complaining:

    Philippians 2:14-15 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

    1 Corinthians 10:10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

    God does not like complaining and disputing and murmuring, God condemned this behavior in Israel and God does not like when we do it.

    Look at how serious this behavior is in God’s eyes:

    Numbers 14:26-27 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 27 How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.

    The children of Israel murmured and complained constantly and this kind of behavior shows ingratitude to God.

    Think at what great works God had done for Israel in their midst, how He provided time and time again, how He promised to take them into a land flowing with milk and honey, it was a prosperous land, and God promised to give that land to them and to defeat all their enemies and all they did was complain and murmur and God was very angry about all that.

    When we grumble and complain too much we display what Israel did, lack of faith, doubt and ingratitude toward what God has done for us.

    Let’s be careful and repent of this behavior and begin to thank God and praise Him and rejoice in Him, as Paul said, rejoice in the Lord always, be thankful in all circumstances and by doing so we will show mercy with and anything else we do with a cheerful heart and attitude.

    Romans 12:9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.

    Now Paul is bringing forth a very important exhortation in this verse, actually there are three very important exhortations in this verse.

    Actually these three exhortations are interconnected with each other and I believe that is why Paul groups them into one verse.

    Paul exhorts the Roman church and the entire church, to let our love be without dissimulation.

    Paul says that our love must be without dissimulation.
    Dissimulation is an interesting big word and we must examine it carefully.

    The Greek word used here is anupókritos this Greek word is a compound word an without and the word upòkritos hypocrisy

    So what Paul is saying really is that our love should be without hypocrisy.

    In English dissimulation means pretense · dissembling · deceit · dishonesty · duplicity · lying · guile ·

    So Paul is saying our love must be without pretense, dissembling, deceit, dishonesty or duplicity.

    In other words as we said without hypocrisy, hypocrisy as we know means to pretend to be someone is not. The Greek word hypocrite atually means actor.

    Our love for one another should not be faked, we must not pretend to love each other but our love must be real and genuine.

    In a true sense dissimulation is actually to pretend, in this case to love someone while in reality hate or dislike them, this can be also seen as a from of flattery.

    Flattery means this: excessive and insincere praise, especially that is given to further one’s own interests

    Flattery as we see is a form of hypocrisy, it’s insincere praise, complimenting someone when we do not mean it, this is what many people do even in the church, they lavish one another with praise and compliments while all along they really do not care for each other at all, in fact there is often dislike and resentment on the part of these people.

    So Paul is exhorting us not to fake our love, not to be hypocrites about it, not feign love with flattery our love must instead be sincere.

    Jesus told us that we must love one another as He loved us so let’s think for a moment how Jesus, how God loved us.

    God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life John 3:16.

    This wonderful, merciful and gracious love was given by God to His elect knowing before we even existed our state of sinfulness and helplessness, our incapacity to gain His favor and our Salvation.

    Giving His Son actually means that God decided to surrender His own Son into the hands of the wicked to be scourged and crucified and to endure the judgment of the elect, this God did to save His elect who could not have ever been able to save themselves not would have never wanted to be saved.

    Acts 2:22-23 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

    God actually made an agreement with His Son in eternity past, even before the world was created knowing that mankind would fall into sin and would rebel against Him, knowing that mankind would not even want to actually be saved, so He had to provide salvation for mankind in spite of mankind.

    This is how much God loved and loves us in spite of us:

    Romans 5:6-11 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

    The truth is that if God did not forcefully intervene overriding man’s will man would never, ever want to be saved. This is why some believe and some don’t, because some are elected and others aren’t. Many are called but few are chosen.

    God the Father gave His Son and Jesus laid down His life willingly to provide salvation for who wouldn’t even want it if left on their own. By the way, this is the answer to the question many Christians ask which is, why do some people believe the Gospel and other reject it.

    The Father willingly gave, offered His Son to be sacrificed for our sins and grant us forgiveness through faith in Him and His work of redemption, Jesus agreed to die, He agreed to go to the cross, He agreed as we said before the foundation of the world, even before mankind sinned see Revelation 13:8;
    in fact the names of the elect for whom Christ died, the chosen persons whose names were written in the Lamb’s book of life were not written as they believed as many think, they were written in the book of life before the foundation of the world, see Ephesians 1:4-5; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:15.

    That Jesus decided to offer Himself before He even came is found in:

    Psalm 40:6-8 Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. 7 Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, 8 I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.

    Hebrews 10:5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.

    Jesus gave His life willingly:

    John 10:15-18 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. 17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
    By the way this is the New and Everlasting Covenant, it is important to mention that the New and Everlasting Covenant is between the Father and the Son and all those whom God has given to His Son, the elect, but the beauty of the Covenant and why it is new and everlasting is because it the only true direct human element involved in it is the man Jesus Christ. The elect are just that, elected by God to receive faith and salvation, the elect are the human indirect and passive part of the Covenant. This is a huge thing because it makes the Covenant unbreakable by man. This is why it is eternal and this is why a believer cannot fall from grace or better yet cannot lose their salvation. All of the Covenant requirements have been fulfilled by Jesus for us therefore the believers cannot ever be violating the Covenant by default.

    When we understand all this and how much God loved and loves us as He created an airtight unbreakable covenant of salvation how can we not love God and love one another with sincerity?

    Another cause of our love to be sincere is the fact that we ought not to lie ever, so our love should be truthful in every circumstance and in every way.

    This brings us to another aspect of our love it must be practiced in truth, in God’s truth!

    Look at what John says:

    1 John 3:16-18 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

    We love also with truth not only in truth, with God’s truth! When we practice God’s type of love, Agape, besides being a sacrificial kind of love it should also be love practiced with God’s truth.

    Love and truth or better love and God’s word, which is truth, see John 17:17.

    Paul tells us this:

    Ephesians 4:11-16 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

    In the Gospel of John the word truth is mentioned 37 times, in the epistles of John 22 times the word truth is mentioned, in the Gospel of John the word love is mentioned 22 times and in the epistles of John the word love is mentioned 38 times. It is amazing, John is known as the Apostle of love but he should be known as the Apostle of love and truth as he mentions both words in just about identical percentages.
    Often in the epistles of John the word love and truth are found together a number of times. So as we see it is not important but essential to see love and truth as something that cannot be separated ever.

    As a manner of fact many,many Christians are touting that God is love, yes, they are absolutely right that is what 1 John 4:8 and 4:16 say! However Jesus who is God when describing Himself in
    John 4:6 said He is the way, the truth and the life! He did not describe Himself as love although He is.

    Jesus spoke much more about God’s truth than God’s love, not that either is more or less important because God is love and He is also truth. Let’s remember that God has many attributes and He is all of them and we cannot eliminate some that we don’t like or care for to always be talking about the ones we like and care about.

    Many Christians forgo God’s truth and elevate God’s love above everything. We cannot do that about God, love without truth is not love at all, at least not in God’s eyes. Many Christians are willing to compromise truth and elevate love above and beyond everything else and we cannot do that. That is wrong, there is no love God’s way without truth. We cannot for example forego the truth of God’s word for the sake of loving others, we cannot unite ourselves to people that do not dwell in the truth of God and love them without also practicing and holding to the truth.

    So we are to love one another in truth, with truth, sacrificially and without hypocrisy.

    Many believers and in fact many entire churches fall into a grave error, and the mistake is to try to practice God’s love by ignoring and compromising God’s truth or even transgressing it.

    We can make Biblical examples, both of them found in the first Epistle to the Corinthians.

    Indeed, the whole epistle is in many ways a constant rebuke Paul brings forth, an accusation that the Corinthian church is not actually practicing God’s love because they were behaving in ways that were not conformed to God’s truth.

    The first example we find is in fact found in 1 Corinthians 5. The whole chapter is written to denounce a very terrible sinful behavior that was practiced in that church.

    A believer was committing incest and the church was not rebuking nor disciplining him according to God’s word. This type of behavior is so widespread in many churches today.

    I’m not specifically talking about the sin of incest but I’m talking about the lack of rebuke and even the lack of ecclesiastical discipline.

    In fact, even today, not to rebuke and discipline believing sinners in the church is actually considered a loving thing.

    Instead, we see that it is in fact not loving at all to leave believers in their sinful behavior.

    Paul spends a whole although brief chapter explaining how in fact contrary to today’s popular belief, true divine love does rebuke and discipline believers who live in sin.

    In fact, they were obviously wrong in their behavior thay we understand it by the language used by Paul, they, as the church often does today, believed to be gracious and loving as God is because they actually tolerated the sinful behaviordisplayed by this person. They believed that they practiced the same love that God practices with us, but that was not so.

    God surely pardons our sins but does not tolerate them in our lives, we must still leave them and we must in fact want to abide by God’s truth and we must adapt to it. That’s what repentance is!

    They believed, however, as many unfortunately today believe, that we can, in fact must let people remain in their sins until it is God Himself to have to do with their sin, so many people just pray for a person but leave them in the hands of God without ever confronting their sinful behavior.

    This is a lie of the devil and is not at all a thing that is in conformity with God’s truth.

    We read in Ephesians 4 that the duty and responsibility of the elders/pastors in the church is to tell the truth in God’s love and to teach this truth.

    Paul tells the Corinthians that they are protagonists of their tolerance for this person’s sin and that this is a sinful behavior and not conforming to God’s truth.

    Paul says that the rebuke and discipline of the believing sinner is essential and is in fact loving because it mirrors the discipline of God and, in fact, God is even stricter in his church discipline when He practices discipline.

    In fact, this is why Paul says that we should practice reproof and discipline, he knows that if church leaders do not exert rebuke and discipline this will become a much more serious thing not only for the sinners, but for the whole church.

    To leave sin have free range in the church is not loving at all toward anyone, it is not a loving behavior it places the entire church at risk as that sin and error propagate throughout the church this is why Paul warns saying this:

    1 Corinthians 5: 6-8 Your pride is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast ferments the entire lump? 7 Remove therefore the old yeast, that it may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened; in fact even Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the feast not with old yeast, nor with yeast of wickedness, but with sincerity and truth.

    It is very clear that Paul is saying he does not want to obey what Paul says in this chapter is being rebellious to God and not to man, to God and it is detrimental to everything in the church and not practicing the love of God in accordance with His truth as I said is not practicing love at all.

    Later, in fact, Paul must explain to the same Corinthians and also to us how one should practice God’s love.

    Again, this had to be written because even in the practice of their spiritual gifts there was lack of love, but also lack of discernment of the truth in which the love of God must be practiced.

    Paul had to write Chapters 12-13-14 of 1Corinthians precisely because there was an abuse of some spiritual gifts and also a practice gifts especially that of languages which was being actually counterfeit, and Paul explains that all spiritual gifts have been given to the church and for the church and must always be practiced and motivated by the love of God for the church, and in fact, Paul explains in various ways that spiritual gifts must be practiced in accordance with God’s love and truth.

    The fact alone that there are very specific rules for how spiritual gifts must be practiced in the church makes us realize that they must not only be practiced in love, but also in accordance with the word of God which is precisely the truth.

    Let’s look at some of the passages in these three chapters, which clearly confirm what we are saying.

    Let’s start with:

    1 Corinthians 12: 4-7 there are diversities of gifts, but there is only one Spirit. There are also different ministries, but there is only one Lord. 6 There are also diversity of operations, but there is only one God, who works all things in all. 7 Everyone is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

    The gifts, ministries, and the operations of the Holy Spirit are given to each believer for the common good.

    From this statement we begin to understand that gifts, ministries and church operations are not directly for personal use, that is, for personal edification. It is obvious that we will be somewhat blessed and indirectly edified in ourselves from these things in a personal way, but what Paul wants to make us understand is that our personal edification must not derive from our gift, ministry or operation alone, but from others’ in the church.

    It is also obvious that, for example, who is employed in the teaching of the word of God will also be edified and blessed by the study practiced for the building up of others but it is not and must not be the fundamental motivation for whoever has these tasks to practice , but it must be love for others and the commitment is to build up the whole church, that is to say to others.

    In fact, in the following chapter, Paul exhorts us to practice the Agape of God toward others, Paul also says that if our gifts, which are there magnified by hyperboles that Paul uses in describing them, are not practiced and motivated by love for others they do not serve anyone.

    1 Corinthians 13: 1-3 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

    This is so true that Paul afterwards describes for us how to practice God’s love and describes it in a way that is well understood was nothing at all how the Corinthians practiced it.

    Particularly in verse 6 Paul states this:

    1 Corinthians 13: 6 does not rejoice with iniquity but rejoices in the truth,

    This verse alone tells us that God’s love does not tolerate iniquity, for it does not tolerate sin in ourselves nor in any other, especially a brother in Christ.

    It is therefore not a loving thing to leave brothers in sin.

    We are deceiving ourselves and others if we think that we can afford to live and let others live in sin. In fact, love, and here we are again rejoices with the truth.

    There is actually only one body of absolute truth, and that is the word of God and nothing else. So the practice of God’s word, in other words obedience to the word of God is not legalism it is love. Love first shown to God and then to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    We have seen several times in this study of Romans that the demonstration of true love for God and one another is in effect obeying the word of God.

    Here are the passages that confirm this fact:

    John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

    John 14:23-24 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.

    As we clearly see God has a pretty different standard when it comes to demonstrate love for Him than we do. Clearly as we made this point previously, those who understand God’s love and forgiveness and have tasted them and experienced them will love God but the demonstration of how we love Him if we see it the way He does is by being so grateful to Him that obeying Him is not a drudging obligation nor is it by obeying the law so that we can gain righteousness or somehow earn God’s love.

    We cannot earn God’s love He freely has given it to us in and trough Jesus Christ when we were His enemies and when we were yet sinners, Romans 5:6-11.

    God sees our faithfulness and obedience as a demonstration of faith and love and indeed they are.

    The word faithful by itself tells us the meaning filled with faith.

    Obeying God is loving God and by obeying God we demonstrate love toward our brothers and sisters as well.

    1 John 5:1-3 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

    I am not making up things when I tell you that God’s love and love for God and the church cannot be ever practiced unless it is in conformity and obedience to God’s truth, it’s a Scriptural truth.

    So the measure of our love is truly to obey God’s word. So let me ask the question now:

    “ Can we truly love God or love one another by not acting in conformity to God’s truth?”
    The Biblical answer is no! Unfortunately even in the most of the church today the worldly definition of love is what is defined as biblical love. In other words the church has adopted the view of the world when it defines and then tries to practice love. The love the world defines as love is not biblical and it’s not God’s love at all.

    I will give you a quick example, today since homosexuality in most of western society has not only been accepted but has been embraced as healthy normal human behavior and not at all viewed as sinfulness. In times passed it was considered a mental health issue a type of depraved behavior, even in the psychiatric field. Today psychiatry has somehow changed its mind about their definition however rest assured that God did not.

    To God it was and still is sinful behavior and it will be judged by God unless a person repents from this sin as well as all others.

    I will give you another example to show you the difference between this sinful behavior and others.

    Although in a hypocritical was often society still frowns on sins like adultery, although defied by Hollywood and TV still adultery has a societal stigma, so do other things like stealing for example.

    Yet homosexuality has had a stunning metamorphosis in society, it went from being seen as a despicable unnatural and depraved behavior to being perhaps the most accepted and even celebrated sinful behavior of man. Celebrated not only and exclusively in and by the gay community but much of the heterosexual part of society, by the government and here it is, yes even by a good part of the so called church.

    There are today many denominations and also non denominational churches that are accepting and embracing homosexual individuals and welcoming them as they are in their communities and not only but accepting their sin as normal and as they say in those environments, love them just as they are because God loves them, so must they.

    They feel no need nor any compulsion to rebuke these individuals for their sinful behavior, they just accept them as they are ans just leave them in their sin, they do nor denounce that sin, they do not call them to repentance, they just accept them as they are having a misguided and very dangerous and grievous misconception that God also accepts these people as they are and is consenting to their behavior.

    Now, let me ask you this are they really loving these people with God’s love or with the world’s brand of love which in reality is no love at all?

    They are not loving these people with God’s love, as we said God’s love cannot be practiced if not in concert and conformity with His truth.

    In fact, this is exactly for what Paul was rebuking the Corinthian church, they accepted the person’s sin and tolerated it, accepting not only the person but that person’s sin. In fact God never says we cannot accept the person but we cannot ever accept the sinfulness of the person and if a person does not accept God’s truth then unfortunately we cannot accept the person to remain in the church.

    Paul says in fact that they were proud and not loving at all in their behavior and consequently they had to change their way to God’s way and practice God’s love in the form of discipline and rebuke the sin not accepting it and tolerating it in their midst.

    God does save us where we are but we must change and be conformed to His image through the renewal of our mind and change of behavior, we did study this extensively in this chapter.

    Suffices to read this very passage written exactly to the Corinthians, in fact is is somewhat a consequence of the speech he gave in chapter five:

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

    As we see Paul is definitely giving us very specific instructions through this passage and as we see remaining in the context of homosexuality, they are mentioned here as some who are considered unrighteous and who will not inherit the Kingdom of God, if and when they continue in their sins without repenting from them and he mentions this fact twice, verse 9 and 10.

    Paul in verse 11 says in fact that some were some of them, he uses the past tense, he says such were some of you, but now he says there has been a change, once a person becomes born again they begin to change and to repent from their previous way of living.

    These facts often must be taught and exhorted and sometimes, in the more stubborn cases rebuke and discipline must be exercised. This is the demonstration of God’s love practiced in the church.

    So bottom line we accept homosexuals but do not allow them to continue to live in their sins, just alike any other sinful behavior in any person. The church cannot accept, tolerate and embrace sin ever.

    Now going on in the next passage still in line with what Paul wrote to the Corinthians and why he had to write chapters 12-13-14 as we already saw what he wrote in chapters 12 and 13 not in chapter 14 in verse 4 Paul writes this: He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

    OK now, superficially if we take this verse by itself written as it is we could arrive to the conclusion that it is acceptable to speak in tongues to edify oneself. In fact this is the mantra we hear repeated in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement.

    They keep saying that the Bible states that it’s acceptable to speak in tongues to edify oneself and they cite this verse in concert with verse 39 of the same chapter which states: Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.

    I will concede that if we take these two passages by themselves and out of their entire context certainly we can make their argument stick.

    The problem is that in order to make their doctrine stick we must use only these two verses and actually ignore chapter 12-13 and most of 14.

    If we leave these two verses in the entire context in which they are in other words considering Paul’s entire argument brought forth in these three chapters then we come to an entirely different conclusion.

    In fact these three chapters are speaking about how to use spiritual gifts in the church and the underlining element in the function of the gifts in the church is the edification of the church motivated by love only.

    Paul as a manner of fact ends chapter 12 by saying to them that he would show them a better way, in other words Paul tells them that all they do in the church must be motivated by love and only love and done for the good and the edification of others.

    This is why he begins chapter 14 like this:

    1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

    As we clearly see Paul exhorts them to follow after love above all, he tells them to desire the best gifts for the church, in fact of the best ones are teaching God’s word and in those days prophesying also.

    More than speaking foreign tongues which do not edify the church unless there was translation of the latter. Without translation speaking in tongues was forbidden in the church. Secondarily to take tongues and to use verse four to say that they can be used in private for private edification is totally erroneous and it goes contrary to all Paul is speaking of in chapters 12-13 and 14. Let’s remember that in chapter 12 Paul said that all spiritual gifts, ministries and operations are given to the believers for the common good and the edification of the church so that all our spiritual gifts must be used for the common good of the church and not for our own private edification. Only other believers gifts, ministries and operations are to be for each believer’s edification, in other words our gifts are exclusively to be practiced for others and motivated by our love for others.

    Paul forbids to speak in tongues without interpretation because as he says it would possibly edify the individual that practices them and that is not right and not why the gift was given nor how it should be practiced. Self edification is prohibited unless it is through private Bible study but still others’ gifts must be used to be edified in the church.

    To say that Paul is teaching that one can speak in tongues in private to edify oneself goes contrary to all that Paul is teaching in these three chapters.

    So the point of all this is that all we do has to be motivated by our love for others and for God and when it is we will therefore do everything in conformity to God’s truth, in other words Hid word.

    So I must say to all our Pentecostal/Charismatic brothers and sisters it is not loving to speak in tongues in the church if and when others cannot be edified by their speech. In addition they almost always practice it against another commandment, the one that states they must speak one at a time and not all at once, while instead not only they speak in so called tongues without interpretation bu they speak them in a chaotic and disorderly way by many speaking them at the same time.

    All this is in disobedience to God’s word, so since demonstrating love to God and to one another is supposed to be motivated by love and since obeying God’s word is how we truly demonstrate God’s love to Him and to one another then when we do not obey God’s word even while we think we are practicing spiritual gifts we are not doing it in love and as Paul said in chapter 13 if we do anything without love, God’s brand of love all we do is useless and profits nothing .

    So loving each other without hypocrisy is much more complex than we thought is was but this is how God desires we love each other.

    After Paul exhorts us to love each other without hypocrisy he exhorts us to:

    Romans 12:9b Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.

    We cannot learn to love God and others in the proper way God desires if we do not avoid evil and hold on to what is good.

    The choice of words used here is very interesting and important as well.

    The Greek word used here is Apostugoúntes is a compound word formed by apo (as a prefix) which usually denotes separation, departure, cessation, completion, reversal.

    This is interesting in itself because it denotes separation, departure, cease, reverse away from evil which is the word that follows this one.

    The second word of this compound word is stugnetos meaning hateful or odious so the word is a very strong one, meaning to hate and turn away from, depart, cease, reverse away from the next word which is evil.

    So we are to turn away, depart, be separate, cease and mostly hate all that is evil.

    Paul exhorted also the Thessalonian church and the entire church of this very same thing.

    1 Thessalonians 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

    This exhortation is even more extreme than the one we find in Romans as it states that we should abstain not only from evil but from what appears to be evil.

    This is very important, not only we must hate and depart from all evil but also abstain from appearance of evil.

    This we must do so that we can take away every and any possible criticism, gossip and accusation regarding us possibly doing something that could be considered evil or sinful.

    This is the same principle that is brought out in several other passages of Scripture

    1 Timothy 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

    Here we find some requirements for elders and pastors and one of them is to be blameless. This does not mean to be perfect and sinless although leaders and held to a higher standard however, all that is required for an elder or pastor is really a requirement for all believers in reality.

    However blameless is in a sense to abstain from appearance of evil, anything someone could use to accuse us of wrong doing just because it appears evil.

    Those who are being considered to be deacons likewise must do the same 1 Timothy 3:10.

    We must all be of example of holy and righteous living in the church especially but also outside the church, this is evident in several passages.

    1 Timothy 3:7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

    This is important, as we said it’s not only the elders and pastors that are held to these standards but all Christians are. Elders and deacons are to be the examples of this godly behavior in the church but all Christians are called to live the same way as well.

    As we see we all must have a good report with those outside the church because if we do not we will fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

    You see, the devil sets traps for us to fall into and we must be very aware and careful not to fall into them. The devil want us to lose our witness and wants to discredit us even when, especially when we are not doing anything wrong. Often the appearance of something evil in our life can be very devastating to our witness and our credibility overall.

    Paul in fact also gives this similar exhortation in:

    1 Thessalonians 4:12 That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.

    I will give you a couple of examples, it is not sinful for a Christian married man to give a ride in a car to a woman when both are alone, however it is not advisable, the same goes for a Christian married woman riding alone with a man. Even if there is no impropriety it is not advisable as it could be seen by someone as something improper may be going on between the two even if there is not.

    Another situation could be for two Christian single or even engaged couples to live in the same house o apartment. Even if there is nothing going on there is an appearance of impropriety and an appearance that something sinful may be occurring.

    If and when we indulge in this type of behavior although not sinful it has an appearance of evil and it most definitely will bring reproach upon us and it will tarnish our witness for God and therefore by doing this we fall in the devil’s trap.

    So we are to hate everything that is evil and avoid it like the plague and we must avoid anything that may appear evil or sinful.

    It is obvious that in the Scriptures God commands us to avoid practicing anything evil, the commands to avoid sin are so many we cannot list them all. However, this passage in Romans exhorts us not only not to practice sin but to hate everything that is evil. This in reality goes beyond not practicing evil and sin.

    Hating evil is something that in some cases is automatic in the life of the believer but in other cases we must train ourselves to discern different forms of evil and then learn to hate them.

    We need to develop spiritual discernment in order to learn what is evil. There is a passage in Hebrews that explains how important and how we obtain spiritual discernment in order to discern what is good and evil :

    Hebrews 5:12-14 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

    There are many believers in the church today that have been believers for a long time and should by now be teachers, in other words know God’s truth yet they are still immature and lack spiritual discernment. These are the ones who are constantly requiring milk, in other words basic truths and not deep spiritual truths, as the author sates here these are not skillful in the understanding of God’s truth because they are still spiritual babies. However the author states that the spiritually mature believers can handle God’s truths because they learned how to have their senses exercised by the study of God;s word and by this they have received discernment to establish what is good and what is evil .

    This is exactly why many believers cannot understand many evil things because they are immature in the knowledge of God’s word and lack discernment in order to distinguish what is good and what is evil according to God. This prevents them to abhor what is evil and to abstain from the appearance of evil, not in every case but in many cases.

    In order to hate evil and depart from it and in order to abstain from all appearance of evil a person must know how to discern what is good and what is evil according to God.

    Paul prays something of great importance in the epistle to the Philippians and this should be something we should be praying fervently for in the church today:

    Philippians 1:9-11 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

    We see here that Paul prays that their love may abound more and more in knowledge and all discernment.

    Now, many would have no clue as to what Paul or why Paul is praying this or how or why in a person’s love we could or should find two elements such as knowledge and all discernment.

    What in the world does this mean? Most people would say that love is a felling, an emotion, so, how do we find knowledge and all discernment in a feeling or in an emotion?

    The problem is just that, Agape love, God’s brand of love, God’s love, is not only and exclusively an emotion, it in fact transcends emotions, it has to. Agape love is similar to faith in its function, in fact it is associated to faith and truth. In other words it cannot be practiced without truth and faith.

    Let me explain. Agape love, the type of love God practice and wants us to practice is not a simple feeling or emotion. Feelings and emotions come and go as circumstances change around us. For example how many times have you heard someone say to another person that they don’t love them anymore? No doubt we have heard this many times, in real life and in movies. Agape love is undying love, it does not end because it transcends feelings and emotions. When a person is “ in love” they feel euphoric and overwhelmed by positive feelings about a person, yet even in this condition when a negative circumstance arises between these two persons there is a change in feeling and emotion that occurs. Let me say this is all a natural process of dealing with emotions and circumstances that change.

    We might get angry at the person we are in love with and suddenly, especially depending on the gravity of the reason why we have become angry at that person, we may develop doubts about our love for that person, we begin to interpret our love for others as being something that is based and affected by feeling and emotions and then we behave accordingly. If our threshold of tolerance for the other person is low we might begin to doubt our love for them and even their love for us. All this happens because we are driven by the state of our emotions and circumstances that affect our emotions and we are not, here is the word we were looking for, understand what love really is!

    Understanding love is a key to knowing how to love and therefore we begin to understand that God’s love and the love He desires we practice and have for each other is much more than a feeling or an emotion.

    In fact Paul writes to the Philippians that he prays, he prays that their love will abound with knowledge, knowledge is another word for understanding, we could use the word understanding in the place of knowledge in this case.

    So what understanding or knowledge does Paul pray for to be abounding in our love? The knowledge, the understanding of how we are to love, how God loves us, so that we can practice the same type of love God demonstrates toward us.

    What type of love is that? One which transcends feelings, emotions and circumstances and goes beyond all them. A love that in undying and never ending because it presses through and goes beyond the love others may or may not have for us. It is just like faith as faith also, to be real faith, has to press on and beyond our emotions, feelings and circumstances.

    However, God’s Agape love like faith is not based on blind and uncertain facts instead they are both based on knowledge and facts. Our faith should not be as many call it blind faith. There is no such thing as blind faith! I know, I know, many will now disagree!

    However, the term blind faith as blind love is an erroneous term. We have been used to hear it and use it but it is wrong in reality. Although faith is the substance of things hoped for and evidence of things unseen it is yet a certainty. Look at what it says in Hebrews:

    Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

    As we see here faith is the substance of things hoped for, once again it is important to repeat that the word hope in the Greek New Testament language in reality is not the word hope as we perceive it in our language. Biblical hope means certainty, it is awaiting a certainty even when it takes a very long time to manifest itself, as we see it goes beyond circumstance, feelings and emotions, it is a type of hope that is not wishful thinking with a percentage of uncertainty, it’s a certainty even if we can’t see it develop for a long time, we keep believing that it will. Secondly it is the evidence of things unseen.

    Evidence is a very strong and particular word here in this context, why? Because once again it pushes the person to believe that unseen things at the time will evidence themselves. Evidence also is a forensic word which determines proof. Without evidence there is no case and there could be no trial and there could be no conviction. The state must have enough evidence to bring a case to trial.

    Therefore this also means that faith as well as Agape love must be based on evidence, proof of something present and tangible even though it may not develop visibly for a long time, nevertheless one continues to believe that it will because they are certain that it will.

    Therefore faith and Agape love cannot be blind or baseless, they have to have a basis, proof, evidence and understanding or knowledge. So, what are our faith and love based upon? What are the proof and the evidence we must wait upon and be certain that they will occur? If we had nothing to base our faith and love upon we could not be ever required to believe and love.

    Our faith and our love are based on the understanding and knowledge of God’s person, word and attributes.

    This is the understanding and knowledge, the proof and certainty we base our faith and love on and these are evidence of things unseen, we do not see God and yet we believe Him, we believe His word and we believe in the power of His attributes. These are the things we are to base our faith and our love upon, the understanding of these things.

    This is exactly the knowledge and understanding Paul is praying for that our love may abound in more and more.

    As we see then, our faith is not blind, it sees that which cannot be seen but we believe that what is unseen is real and it is and will be because it is based upon a person, God, we believe His word and His promises therefore we live by that faith, it’s not a blind faith we know what we believe in, remember what Paul said to Timothy and to us?

    2 Timothy 1:12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

    I know, we know whom we have believed and we must be persuaded that everything God says is true and will be s He says it will. This folks is not blind faith it’s knowing, being sure and persuaded.

    So Agape love is based on the same exact thing faith is based upon, God and His word, His promises!

    The knowledge of all this is found nowhere else than in God’s word, we believe God, what of God do we believe besides that He is, that He exists? We believe in His word that is what we must believe.

    To love God’s way therefore is connected to faith because we must believe God’s word and His promises and through His word we must understand how He loved and loves us and then understand that He commands us to do likewise.

    Here we begin to understand that Agape love, God’s type of love transcends feelings, emotions and circumstances just like faith should. When we begin to understand the great love God has for us and how He demonstrated it and continually demonstrates it to us then we will begin to learn how to practice God’s love on others.

    So Paul prays that their love go beyond the human boundaries, go beyond the emotions and the circumstances and that it will abound more and more of the substance, the understanding of God’s love for us, which will elevate ours to be demonstrated and practiced the same way God does.

    Paul in another passage prayed this:

    Ephesians 3:14-19 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
    15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.

    See even here Paul prays that we may again comprehend,understand, have knowledge of the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.

    This is the goal, to arrive of the knowledge of the breadth, length, depth and height of the love of Christ, as we see His love passes human knowledge, passes human love as we said it transcends emotions, feelings and circumstance any human being can have, for when we learn the love of Christ and we learn to practice it we are then truly filled with the fullness of God.

    However, we must learn it, we must have knowledge and understanding of the immensity and intensity of God’s love. When we study the next verse we will look at how God requires us to love and how He loved us so we will hopefully arrive to the understanding and knowledge Paul prays for. However, Paul also prays that their love also abound more and more in all discernment as we have seen that is what we are actually looking at in our study, our love must abound with discernment because as we read in the passage in Hebrews 5, we must learn to discern good from evil, that is hat we are studying. Discerning what is truly good and what is truly evil because without this discernment it is difficult, in fact impossible to discern good and evil according to God.

    Once again, as we read in Hebrews 5 it is the expert and constant, regular use and study of God’s word that will give us the discernment to distinguish between good and evil.

    As Paul says in Philippians, to have that discernment means to be able to approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ; and Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

    This is exactly what we must do in order to have that discernment we need to approve those things that are not only good but excellent according to God.

    Knowing what is evil and distinguishing between evil and what is good and what is excellent. In this way we can truly be sincere, we see hare another connection with truth and sincerity, which is how we must love and also know the truth so that we can practice it and be sincere in every aspect of life and become less sinful as we wait for Jesus Christ’s return and as we do be filled with the fruits of righteous and holy living which actually come from Christ Himself and will bring glory to God.

    So to know all that is truly evil and to be able to cleave to what is good we must start here, in achieving the knowledge and understanding and getting the discernment of these through the word of God, knowing and understanding God.

    Now Paul after he exhorts us to hate and depart form all that is evil and as we said to avoid the mere appearance of evil, exhorts us to:

    Romans 12:9 cleave to that which is good.

    Paul now exhorts the church to cleave to what is good. After he exhorted the church to love each other with sincerity and without hypocrisy he then exhorts the church to hate and depart from evil, noe he exhorts the church to cleave to what is good.

    What we see here, in this verse there are three exhortation which in reality are all inter connected with each other, in other words, they all work together. They have to all work together because we cannot truly love one another with sincerity if we do not hate and depart from evil and we cannot cleave to what is good is we do not depart from and hate evil. We cannot hang on to evil and good at the same time and if we hang on to evil and do not hate it and depart from it we cannot love as God desires we do. So these three work together, as we saw before love must walk together with truth and truth is opposed to evil and it cleaves to good.

    Now, let’s examine the word used here by Paul, cleave! It’s a very interesting word.

    In Greek the word is kolloómenoi it’s derived from the word kolla which means glue, therefore the word kolloómenoi means to be glued, Paul is saying to be glued to good.

    This word is the same word used in another particular and important passage:

    Matthew 19:5-6 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

    So we must understand the importance of the word cleave, as God wants a husband and a wife to be joined together in such a way that they are glued, attached to each other in an indissoluble bond so are we to be with good. Such as God desires that a husband and a wife never be divided or taken apart by anything or anyone except death, in the same way we are to be bonded, glued in an indissoluble way to that which is good. Indissoluble means bonded in such a way that the bond is unable to be destroyed.

    By the way this is how God wants a marriage to be, this is how He desires a husband and wife be bonded, in such a way that their bond is unable to be destroyed by anything or anyone, except death. Death is the only solvent able to dissolve the bond of marriage, so that God uses the same word here in the context of cleaving to that which is good.

    Paul spoke of this subject also in the letter to the Philippians when he says:

    Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

    As we see here Paul tells us to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of virtue and praise. This is very important because even here Paul is saying the same thing he is saying in the passage we are studying. This is what it means to cleave to what is good. If you remember not long ago we spoke in verse two of Romans 12 that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind and we saw that this is necessary to affect the way we behave.

    Therefore what Paul is talking about in Philippians 4 is so important in the way we will eventually behave. If we think on the things Paul mentions we will be thinking about good things and this in the long run will be affecting our behavior. If we think on good things as listed here we will behave accordingly. Thinking on these good things is actually how we cleave to what is good and this will renew our minds and this will affect our behavior and we will therefore be transformed in the image of Christ. This is what God wants from us.

    In Scripture we are called to practice goodness but in order to do so we must as we said before discern between good and evil and then we must abhor what is evil and depart from it as well and then learning and knowing what s good and bonding to it we will practice it.

    Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit every believer has this fruit in them, so how is it that we need to be exhorted and encouraged even commanded to do good?

    We have seen many times beforehand in the study of Romans that although we have the Spirit in us we have to however renew our minds in order to affect our behavior in a godly way.

    The Holy Spirit is the One who gives us the power, the strength and the understanding of the word of God, of the truth so that by discerning between good and evil we renew our minds and that will affect our behavior.
    This is the process God uses, we must submit to the Spirit, to God’s truth but to do so we must be knowledgeable about it.

    This is why we must constantly be reminded and exhorted to do what God wants us to do, in addition let us remember what Romans 7 taught us, in other words, that we still battle and struggle with a body who does not desire to submit to God and His word, we desire to do so but often instead of submitting to the Spirit and the word we submit to the requests of our bodies which as we learned are still unredeemed. Let us remember also that our mind is part of our body and our soul and these both must be submitted to God and His word. The Holy Spirit helps us but He does not do these things for us, we must do them and then He helps us to do them.

    Our flesh battles against the Spirit, see Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

    This is exactly what Paul is saying in Romans 7.

    We must therefore learn to walk in step with the Holy Spirit, the fruit pf the Holy Spirit therefore will be there when we learn to walk in step with the Spirit.

    When there is a battle that means that the Spirit is there, if the Spirit is not there there will be no war, no battle within us but just a complete surrender to sin because the Spirit is not there at all.

    We are therefore exhorted and encouraged and commanded to seek and practice goodness because that is being in step with the Holy Spirit which will give us the power to live godly lives when we put an effort into seeking after these things.

    Here is another exhortation to practice goodness:

    Ephesians 5:6-11 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them. 8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: 9(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) 10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

    We need to be constantly reminded to do good and avoid evil, it is a pat of the mind’s renewing process. I do not believe that we will achieve mind renewal once and for all but that it will be a life long practice and exercise. It’s something we must do everyday and moment by moment during our Christian life because our mind is constantly susceptible to being re programmed by the world’s ways.

    So this is a lifelong endeavor and not something that we will finally master completely during our life, we will get better at it, hopefully, but we must fight the fight and run the race till the very end. That is our call in this life, although perfection is not achievable in this life, because of our body and sin therein, however we must not ever use this as an excuse not to keep trying to hit the mark of Christ likeness.

    This is a reason why we must cling to whatever is good, so that we will practice good, in addition we are to do so because it is Christ like to practice goodness and God wants us to reflect our new spiritual man in the way we live with our body and mind.

    We are righteous and justified by the work of Christ and by imputation of His life, death and resurrection, Romans 8:2-4; Corinthians 5:21; however those who are such will seek to reflect their positional status in Christ by Christ by aligning the way we live and being in step with our position in Christ.

    Those who have been saved by God have been saved by grace, and God’s grace in our life is a teacher, it teaches us this:

    Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

    As we see those who have been saved by grace are taught by God’s grace to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly which is the same as practicing goodness.

    This is why we must cleave, bonded to everything that is good.

    The following verses of this Titus passage expounds even further:

    Titus 2:13-14 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

    As we see here we were redeemed from all iniquity and we were cleansed to become a peculiar people who are zealous to do good works.

    Not only we must cleave, be bonded to that which is good we must be zealous, what does zealous mean? We must be fervent, ardent, fervid, fanatical, passionate, impassioned, devout, devoted, committed to do good.

    Following in chapter three of the epistle to Titus Paul continues stating this:

    Titus 3:1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,

    Titus 3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

    Paul concludes this letter by continuing to exhort to do good:

    Titus 3:14 And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.

    There are many, many other exhortations that call us to do good, too many to mention.

    We need to just understand that these three exhortations are very important, let’s repeat them, love in truth and sincerity without hypocrisy, abhor, hate and depart from evil and be indissolubly bonded to all that is good and practice it.

    Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

    Now Paul exhorts the church with another exhortation about how we should love each other.

    In the previous verse Paul taught us that our love for one another should be sincere, practiced in God’s truth, without hypocrisy. Now Paul teaches us other elements of God’s love that we should practice toward each other.

    Let’s remember that the love we are to display is not the love the world advertises and propagates, that in fact is not love at all!

    Although human love has a form of affection because we are after all created in the image and likeness of God, however, human love by itself is devoid of the elements God’s love has. Paul here is teaching us that our love has to be like God’s love.

    In fact, in Philippians 2 we have perhaps the best description of how we are to practice God’s love second only perhaps to 1 Corinthians 13 and it is very well explained in the following passage.

    Philippians 2:1-8 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

    This passage explains very well what Paul is saying in Romans 12:10.

    Paul is basically saying that our love begins with being like minded, this is very important. Our love is therefore not only emotional or sentimental but it is to be thoughtful, we must be in one accord and of one mind.

    We know conflict is an enemy of love. Conflict brings arguments, resentments, disagreements are not conducive to practicing love.

    As true as it is that we must love each other through all things even disagreements and arguments and that in that case forgiveness is of utmost importance, however, we also know that not being in agreement and not being like minded is not a help but a hindrance to practicing love the way God wants us to practice love.

    Conflicts and arguments are mostly caused because in the church people view issues and things in a much different way. You no doubt have heard the old saying “ every one has an opinion and every one is entitled to one”.

    In reality in the church we are not at all entitled to have our own opinion. What do I mean by that?

    In the believer’s life there is only one opinion that counts, it’s not our own, it’s God’s opinion.

    Therefore in the church we must arrive, eventually, to the point in which everyone is in one accord and are like minded, being of one mind. Christ’s mind that is!

    We also know that differences in how we interpret Scripture, in other words doctrinal differences cause great disagreement and often prevents believers to practice love in the way God desires.

    God gave to the church the Scriptures and gave to the church men who are gifted to teach God’s word. However, we know that false doctrines have taken root in a lot of churches. Many believers have been deceived into believing errors, many therefore teach error. It is very difficult and often becomes almost impossible to be able to walk together with people who not only teach and learn and believe error but adamantly keep hanging on to their errors even when the word of God can easily show their errors.

    This causes us not to be in one accord, or being like minded or be of one mind. Many say that we can love someone past our doctrinal differences but in reality although not impossible it more than often becomes such a great problem that more than often causes people to eventually fall into disagreement and conflict.

    Scripture itself claims this:

    Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

    The answer to this question is no! It becomes eventually impossible to walk together when we are in a state of disagreement.

    This is why there are many divisions and schisms in the church! Although it is a sad situation it is often necessary in certain situations to remain in a state of separation between believers who cannot agree doctrinally. Many would say this ought not to be, and in a way it should not but it’s often unavoidable.

    A person cannot be spiritually healthy if they insist in forcing themselves to remain in a church where they teach erroneous doctrines. We cannot walk in disagreement and expect that God’s love will be manifested in the same way that it is between people that believe the same way. Unfortunately I have experienced first hand what happens when you try to walk together with Christians who doctrinally walk in error. The sad thing is that the love often works only one way, in other words, it is only one sided as it works like this, if you are willing to live and walk in a church where they teach and believe error you will eventually become a second class believer and you will never be considered the same as those who agree with them. Often the doctrines they espouse cause them to view you as someone who is different and less spiritual and down deep inside they will begin to treat you differently and worse than those that agree with them.

    In addition, when we decide to compromise what we believe to be the truth, when we are convinced and persuaded to have arrived to the knowledge of the truth, we are not loving them nor ourselves if e decide to persist in a state of error in the name of love. That is not love, love rejoices in the truth not ever in error,

    1 Corinthians 13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

    By the way, persevering in error is iniquity, as we have seen beforehand we are to love in truth, we cannot love hypocritically and those who attempt to love outside the truth will eventually have hypocrisy mixed into the way they love ad this ought not to be. In addition our greater love is to be toward God and His truth, by trying to love outside of God’s truth, not only we are violating our conscience but we are compromising God’s truth in order to attempt to love someone who does not want to give up error. This is in the end is not love at all! It’s not love toward God, it’s not love toward ourselves and it’s not love toward others. It’s never loving accepting error, for no reason!

    In the end we have to do good and should do so toward all our brothers and sisters regardless of doctrinal differences, this is for sure, when they are in need we respond to that need, this we cannot forego to do as God commands us to do so:

    1 John 3:16-18 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

    As we see we can and must demonstrate love to our brothers and sisters by helping them and providing for them in any case.

    I f we think God commands us to love our enemies of course we must love our brothers and sisters by providing for their needs when they are in need, the love of Christ constrains us to do so!

    When we speak of generally loving our brothers and sisters we must in any case!

    What I was talking about before though is what Paul is talking about when he says to be like minded, and in agreement and of one mind.

    However, what Paul is talking about as I have tried to explain is Christian life in a certain local church family, church community, in a church that meets as a church, within that group, we must be like minded, we must be in one accord and of one mind.

    If and when we are not it is the pastors/elders to bring the flock in agreement through making disciples, teaching and training in righteousness.

    This is in fact what Paul is talking about in:

    Ephesians 4:11-16 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

    This passage is a key to being in agreement, in one accord and like minded and to be all this in love. In other words here what Paul is saying is this, the church leaders, teachers have among many others one specific and essential call in the church and it’s this: perfecting the saints for the work of the ministry, edifying of the body of Christ till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, that we be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ, the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

    As we see in this passage two times Paul speaks of love and it’s in the context of teaching doctrinal truth, it is in the context of bringing the believers to the unity of the faith. This is exactly the same thing as bringing the church to be in one accord, in agreement and being like minded, through the uniformity and the truth of sound apostolic doctrine. This will cause the church to grow into the stature of Christ, which means in other words to achieve the mind of Christ regarding everything.

    This will bring us to grow in the truth and in love as the passage says, it will bring everyone into the truth, it will dispel error and false doctrine from the church and again will bring everyone in one accord and in unity, the unity of our faith.

    You see, we cannot have true and real unity in our faith unless we are in agreement with the truth and with sound doctrine. Without agreement and like mindedness regarding sound doctrine we cannot edify the church in love and our love will be incomplete and it will be difficult and in some cases impossible to practice.

    This is why Paul exhorts the church to be in one accord and in agreement in the way we think and see things, in the way we understand God’s word. This is an essential step in the practice of God’s love.

    In concluding regarding this subject of agreement let’s recall that when there are disagreements in the way we think and view God’s word the love expressed is incomplete and it becomes much more difficult to practice in the way God desires.

    It is therefore better, when it comes to the church meeting together, not so much in individual situations, but as an assembly, when some members cannot come into the unity of the faith, when they cannot come in agreement and be in one accord that eventually they seek a church where they can associate with better, a place where they can be in agreement even if it is in error. We cannot compromise an entire assembly of believers for just one person who does not want to have the same mind. While we cannot force and should not try to force people to believe what they do not want to believe even if it’s the truth, on the other hand we cannot have disagreement and disruption to the point that controversies arise and we cannot ad do not have situations where dissension and division within the church occurs. All this is not at all practicing God’s love in fact in the church this behavior is not only condemned but it is commanded not to exist and those who allow or cause it to exist must be first warned and rebuked and if they do not cease they must be put out. This is also the practice of God’s love, God’s love protects from error and dissension.

    Romans 16:17-18 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

    As we see these people are to be marked and avoided.

    2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

    1 Corinthians 1:10-11 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

    In Corinth there were divisions and contentions, they were not in one accord and like minded, they disagreed, and even to them Paul exhorts, to be of the same speech and perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

    Just think, things were there as they are in the church today, they were picking preachers according to their preference:

    1 Corinthians 1:12-13 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

    In this case the situation was that in the early church the teachers, the preachers all had to preach and teach Apostolic doctrine and they were under the scrutiny of the Apostles as far as the veracity of the doctrine. As time went on the elders of each local church were the guardians of sound doctrine and they had to make sure that is what was being taught. In any case, these believers were preferring one teacher’s style over the other and they were no doubt doing what many do today, instead of appreciating the word of God they were seeking to prefer the teacher they wanted to follow and associate with.

    Even today in some churches if a certain elder or teacher or preacher teaches some people do not even go to church but if there is another one they prefer they will go and often adulate them. The Corinthians were basically trying to divide the church into different groups according to who taught and according to whom wanted to follow each individual teachers. This is wrong and unfortunately it happens to some degrees even in the church today.

    However there were many disagreements and contentions and divisions in Corinth and this if we examined closely and in more detail this letter we will discover that the element that was mostly suffering in this church was the practice of God’s love, God’s way!

    This is why there are many rebukes to this church in this letter, they were not of one mind, they disagreed and everybody was doing what they wanted. This is why Paul had to set them straight and had to write 1 Corinthians chapter 13 the so called love chapter.

    So it is imperative that each local church honors each and every one in the same way because favoritism is not permitted in the church, James 2:1-5. We certainly personally prefer the preaching or teaching style of some over others however we should never take a teacher or preacher in any church and elevate them to the point we lower others and even grow to despise some while honoring others, this ought never be and trust me it becomes evident if and when we do such things and Paul says that ought not to be, we are to be of the same mind, one mind, one accord and this happens only when the church leaders teach and train the church in sound doctrine and eliminate falsehood and false doctrines as well as applying these teachings we just talked about to the church as Paul did.
    So back to the passage in Philippians 2 we are to be in one mind and one accord this is the first step to be able to practice God’s love in the church, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

    Then Paul says: Philippians 2:3-4 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

    Paul in the Romans 12:10 passage we are studying says:

    Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

    as we see here there are parallels in these two passages, our love is to be in agreement and of the same mind and we are to prefer and honor one another which is the same thing Paul is teaching in Philippians where he says that we in humility of mind esteem others better than ourselves and to be concerned with the things of others not only ours.

    Placing others above us is a trait of God’s love, He demonstrated this exactly as Paul says in the Philippians passage, when he says: Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:5-8

    Paul says we ought to have the same mind Jesus has when He placed the good of the elect to salvation , namely us who believe in Him, above Himself. He is God and Paul says that it was not robbery, He was not robbing God’s glory because He had the right to consider Himself equal to God as He is God. Yet, He made Himself of no reputation and took the form of a servant and took upon Himself a body became man and humbled Himself by serving undeserving, sinful, corrupt, enemies of God by going to the cross and dying for us. Now that is love, God’s unselfish love which placed our good above His own, which actually gave up all rights to be treated as God and allowed Himself to be treated even worse than any normal man and He did this because He loved and loves us and He demonstrated that by dying on the cross, the righteous for the unrighteous.

    Romans 5:6-11 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
    7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

    With this kind of sacrificial unselfish love we must love each other, we must have the same mind Christ had, love even when someone does not deserve it because we could never deserve God’s love and yet He loved us by placing us above Him and serving us by suffering and dying for us.
    Jesus Himself when John and James came to Him asking who would be greatest in the Kingdom of God said:

    Mark 10:42-45 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

    As we see even Jesus did not come to be served but to serve, serve who? Us, God’s elect, sinners and ungodly people. How much more humbling was that for Him to go through?

    The same kind of love ought to be in us, to the point that we should sacrificially love each other. This means we must show love by placing others above us, others’ needs above ours, we must love unselfishly and sacrificially, like Jesus did.

    The question is, do we? In most cases I have to admit we all do not love in this way, in most cases we only move when it is convenient for us to do so, we do it and expect things in return, we do it only if and when someone treats us properly but we avoid them when they do not.

    That is not how Jesus loved us! I believe that Jesus was greatly inconvenienced in order to come into this world to live and die for us who were ungodly sinners and enemies of God. We cannot ever say we deserved anything Jesus did for us, we must realize it was a great sacrifice and inconvenience for God to give His only, sinless and righteous Son so that we corrupt sinners could be saved. It was very inconvenient for Jesus and very unselfish on His part to leave the glory of heaven and His throne of the majesty, to become a man and be mocked, scourged near death, beaten, nailed to a cross and suffer separation from the Father, it was very inconvenient for Jesus to receive God’s judgment in our behalf.

    So since Jesus commands us this:

    John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

    How are we supposed to love one another? As He loved us! How did He love us? Sacrificially and unselfishly and becoming our servant, He served us when we were sinning enemies of God.

    Even this chapter of John begins by saying this:

    John 13:1-5 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. 2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; 3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; 4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. 5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.

    Jesus loved us to the end and He displayed the type if servant love He had by doing what a servant did in those days. He washed the disciples feet. Although this was a symbolic act, it was a living parable to teach His disciples and us that God’s love is a love that places others above oneself even when we would and should have the right to be honored and respected we are to love as Jesus showed us.

    He was, is the Lord, He is God and yet He washed the feet of sinning men, the Lord had become the servant and He was humiliating Himself, He humbles Himself to death of the cross, the most painful and shameful death there was.

    Then He tells His disciples and us in that way, His way we should love each other, sadly we often do not. This kind of love is what it lacking the most in the church!

    In the church today we find Bible studies, all kinds of activities, today even entertainment yet this type of love is most lacking. In addition in many churches today we have a distorted image and practice of love which in the end is not God’s love at all.

    As we said before God desires that all that we do in the church is motivated by His brand of love. In Revelation 2 we find two churches from which we get a very poignant image of what is occurring in many churches today and it demonstrates to us what happens when there is a distorted and unbalanced form of love practiced.

    The first church mentioned is the church of Ephesus and of this church Jesus says:

    Revelation 2:1-3 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.

    Jesus has a lot of good things to say about this church, it’s a real good church in a lot of ways.
    It has works and it labors and has patience and it cannot bear evildoers, it’s a church that tries and proves, it’s a church that does not tolerate false doctrines and false ministers and it’s a church that has great spiritual discernment and labors greatly for the name of Christ and it is a persevering church.

    All great things we must have in a church, these are vital traits to have in a church, a church without these traits is doomed to fail. Yet, besides all these good and essential things in this church Jesus has a very severe warning and criticism when He says:

    Revelation 2:4-6 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
    5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. 6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

    Jesus criticizes this church and this type of church saying that they have left their first love. What does this actually mean? They were doing all the right things but love, God’s love and love for God had and has ceased to be the motivating factor and they did not practice it. These churches even today are strong in the word of God, they do not tolerate sin and evil, they do not allow evil and false doctrines to exist in their midst, they are very discerning churches and yet they lack love, they often lack mercy and they are legalistic and the atmosphere is cold, often they are indifferent of people’s struggles.
    Their hearts are not softened by forgiveness but often they forgive with difficulty and are very severe in their discipline, which discipline is however very lacking in most churches today.

    Jesus tells the church of Ephesus to return to her first love! What does this mean? The first love of the church was demonstrating to love God by the demonstration of God’s love toward the brethren.

    Look at what the church did at first, the way they loved at first:

    Acts 2:42-47 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

    This is the first love of the church, this is the kind of unselfish love Jesus talks about, look, they cared so much of the well being of the brothers and sisters that they sold additional properties to give the proceeds to those who were in need. When and how do we see this type of love in the church today? It is very rare. This kind of love in the church today is very rare if not almost nonexistent, the church has become very selfish compared to those days.

    There is also another church mentioned in Revelation 2 and it was different than the one in Ephesus in some things and it’s this one:

    Revelation 2:18-20 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; 19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. 20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

    Even to the church of Thyatira Jesus says good things, Jesus says that He knows her works and He knows that they are a church that has a semblance of love, He praises her for this, He praises her for service and faith and patience, actually the last works, service and faith were greater than the first in other words her works of love. Why? He explains why!

    In this church they tolerated false doctrine and sin and they did it all in the name of the love they practiced. In other words they were misguided into thinking that the type of love they were practicing was genuine and real. However even if they did true and lasting works of genuine love, it is not loving, and we did see this previously in our study, it’s not loving to tolerate false doctrine because that false doctrine was causing a lot of the church to commit spiritual fornication and idolatry. This all happened because they tolerated, here it is, toleration of sin and false doctrine is not loving at all, they tolerated a woman to be their teacher and she led them astray.

    Therefore we are back to the issue that love God accepts as such has to be practiced in the truth of God otherwise God’s love cannot in reality be practiced.

    So what we have here are two churches with opposite problems, Ephesus had sound doctrine and spiritual discernment. Ephesus did not tolerate false doctrine and false ministers and was a persevering church and yet she lacked love.

    Thyatira, practiced tolerance and love and had faith and yet lacked spiritual discernment, lacked sound doctrine, accepted and tolerated a woman to teach and have authority in their church and this is against sound Apostolic doctrine. 1 Timothy 2:11-12, and by doing so it caused many to fall into spiritual adultery and idolatry.

    What we understand here is this, a church ought to have the positive traits of Ephesus and of Thyatira, a balanced church, a church has to have love and sound doctrine, it must have discipline, perseverance, it must hate evil and sin, we saw this as Paul was teaching us in Romans 12:9, however, a church must love as well but must love within the truth of God’s word and Thyatira was not doing so, she lacked doctrine and discernment and tolerated sin and disobedience.

    We find the Thyatira syndrome in many churches today, they want to practice love yet they lack in the knowledge of God’s word and truth. They think that tolerating sin in their midst, they think that tolerating disobedience to God’s word will still be acceptable because they are as they say “loving”.

    As we saw before in our study, God’s love cannot be practiced in God’s way and to His satisfaction without practicing it in God’s truth and through sound doctrine.

    A church is incomplete if it has the right doctrine but does not practice love and a church is not complete and cannot expect to practice God’s love without obedience to God’s word and without sound and true doctrine.

    Look at what John says:

    1 John 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

    For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments! We cannot say we are practicing God’s love if and when we are not doing it in obedience to His word and we cannot if we attempt to practice God’s love and attempt to obey God’s word if we are believing false doctrines and therefore practicing error. Practicing error is not a loving thing at all, it’s not loving God as we see, loving Him is keeping His word, if we are in error we cannot be keeping His word because false doctrines and error is not His word, it’s sin and it cause us to erroneously think we are obeying God while in reality we are not.

    Jesus also said this:

    John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

    John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

    John 14:23-24 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.

    I believe there is no doubt whatever what God is trying to teach us here, there cannot be the love of God apart from God’s word and God’s truth being a inseparable part of that love.
    False doctrine and error is not loving at all, practicing error is not loving toward God, toward our brothers and sisters and not loving toward ourselves either.

    Thyatira was trying to love but had serious problems in doing so as God condemned this church for being in error and practicing false doctrine which led them to disobey God’s word and then led many into grievous sinful behavior.

    Instead Paul is exhorting that our love be truthful, real and that we must abhor evil and cleave to what is good and he exhorts us to love one another with brotherly love and do it with kindness and affection.

    Once again this teaches us that God desires us to love each other in such a way that we do not resent it or do it with some kind of compulsion.

    As we saw we are called to love each other as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, unselfishly and without reservation, He loved us and placed our good above His own, He gave up His right to be honored and to be worshiped as God and He chose the cross instead! He did it all for us, He inconvenienced Himself greatly and did it knowing that He would have the joy of the results of His redemption set before Him as is written in:

    Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

    Jesus saw past the shame and suffering of the cross and beyond that He saw the church, He saw the salvation of the elect, He saw His finished work and the product of His word, He saw the glorified church and the salvation of the nation of Israel and He knew it was worth going to the cross because His work would not be in vain. We see this written in Isaiah 53:10-11 as well.

    There is joy for us also in doing God’s will, there is joy for us enduring our cross daily and obeying His will. That is the love of God, Jesus even told that to His disciples and to us as well:

    John 15:9-13 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
    13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

    There is joy for us as well in loving each other as Christ loved us, as there was for Jesus seeing the reward for His work, the complete Kingdom of God, He knew there could not be such a thing without the cross and His love on that cross made it possible.

    God exhorts us in this as well:

    1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

    You see? Paul exhorts us to be steadfast and immovable and abounding in the work of the Lord because our labor as it is actually Jesus’ labor, see Ephesians 2:10, we do so looking past the difficulties and the problems and the opposition because as Jesus saw the result of His labor going through the cross we can see passed our daily cross and see that our labor will reap eternal results and eternal rewards and that should be our joy.

    Peter uses language almost identical as Paul does in Romans 12:9-10:

    1 Peter 3:8-12 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

    1 Peter 4:8-10 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging. 10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

    These two passages in Romans 12 and here in 1 Peter are almost, in fact they are identical actually, although written in differing order, they say the exact same things.

    Let’s look at the similarities in the two passages:

    In verse 9-10 of Romans 12 Paul says:

    Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

    In 1 Peter 3: verse 8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

    and in verse 11 Peter says: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

    So as we see the wording is almost identical, as well as it is in the rest of the two passages:

    Paul exhorts us to love in sincerity and to hate what is evil and cleave to what is good and Peter says to love being of one mind, remember, we studied at length already how God wants us to love in truth and being of the same mind in that truth, in our faith, and Peter exhorts us as Paul did to be kind and compassionate in our love for each other.

    Peter says not to repay evil with evil but with good and Paul say the same in verses 17-21 of Romans 12, which we will study ahead.

    Paul in verse 13 says to be hospitable one to another and Peter in 1 Peter 4:9 says the same, in fact in verse 10 he exhorts what Paul had in verses 3-6 of Romans 12.

    Now here is a verse again in which Peter is exhorting the same as Paul about our love for each other,

    1 Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent love among yourselves: for love shall cover the multitude of sins

    Our love for each other then must be kind, affectionate, merciful and compassionate and now Peter says fervent.

    The word in Greek used for fervent in this phrase is referred to agápeen, to Agape love, love that is sacrificial, unselfish and unconditional and the word used for fervent is ekteneé this word goes beyond the intention of fervency that we understand in English, it actually means to love without ceasing.

    Our sacrificial, unselfish and unconditional love for each other should have no end, it cannot end because it is as the love God has for us, it is everlasting and it does not cease.

    The word ekteneé derives from the word ekteino which means to stretch out, to extend. God’s love extends out, it stretches out to us continually and without ceasing. So our love ought to be.
    This is so diametrically opposed to the world’s kind of love! The world’s love, Hollywood style love says a person can, in fact eventually will cease loving. This is why God hates divorce, divorce is opposed to the way God loves. God as we said loves without ceasing, His love continually extends from Him to us, He continually stretches out His love to us, always, even when we sin and are rebellious God never ceases to love us, nor does He ever cease to forgive us, remember what Paul taught us in Romans 8:28-39?

    God would never divorce His elect, He would never leave us or abandon us, that is how He loves us. He may discipline us even severely but He will never cease to be faithful to us and to love us and bless us. In the same way we should love one another, we cannot ever say as Christians “ I don’t love you anymore!”

    If and when we do we have ceased to love God’s way and we do not know nor are we really practicing real love.

    How many times we have heard people say: “ I am leaving you because I do not love you anymore” ?

    God will never ever say this, therefore if we love with God’s love we will never ever say it either.

    Paul described for us how the practice of God’s love ought to look like when he wrote it in:

    1 Corinthians13:4-8 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails.

    As we see, without entering into an in depth study of every part of love, let’s just look quickly at a few of them. First, love, God’s love does not rejoice in sin but in God’s truth. So to think even remotely that love overlooks sin is wrong as we will see ahead. Love is only practiced in God’s truth. Love bears all things, this does not mean again that love tolerates sin and rebellion but it bears under them, in other words it does not dismiss anyone because of their offenses even if they become personally inflicted, it bears under difficulties and opposition yet without having to tolerate sin. Love believes all things does not mean that it believes lies, we have seen that in reality we cannot practice love is no in the truth, so love believes all things does not mean it believes falsehood or things opposed to God’s truth. In fact it’s actually the opposite. Believes all things means this:

    Is ever ready to believe the best of every person, and will credit no evil of any but on the most positive evidence; gladly receives whatever may tend to the advantage of any person whose character may have suffered from obloquy and detraction; or even justly, because of his misconduct.
    (from Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Biblesoft)

    Love also hopes all things, this is also in relation to others, it is optimistic in the hope that a person no matter how lost, no matter what sin they are fallen into is not beyond hope of reconciliation and forgiveness. Even after having disciplined a person to exclude them from fellowship because of their rebellion, love for them hopes in God’s grace to bring them back on the path of righteousness. Love does not lose hope in spite of all that negative circumstances may want it to believe. In this case also this hope keeps the love for that person alive and willing to be extended and stretched out to them. This was the case of the story of the prodigal son, the father never stopped hoping the son would return, to the point that it is obvious from the story that daily the father was looking for the return home of his son. The father’s love never lost hope that the son would return to his senses. This type of hope can be equated even with faith, because our love’s hope is not wishful thinking but in reality we hope in God’s mercy, grace and love to bring that person back to Him and to the church.

    Love also endures all things, and this is the clincher, because by saying this Paul is explaining to us that no matter how much wrong has been done to us by a brother or sister God’s brand of love endures everything and it does not cease to love, it does not cease to extend and stretch out to the offender. Now let me clarify something, there is such thing and it is godly as tough love, there is such a thing as not allowing people to use us as a floor mat upon which they constantly wipe their feet. Placing boundaries around ourselves and the abusers is necessary at times.

    Example, a woman is physically abused by her husband. How does this woman love her husband? Does she love him by staying there and allowing him to keep beating her because this passage says we should endure all things in our love?

    Some would and some have actually done such with devastating results. No! It does not mean that love enables sin nor does love keep a person, even ourselves into a situation of physical harm and abuse.

    Endures all things in this case would simply mean that the abuser must be placed into a condition of being disabled from continuing in his behavior but the offended person must love them trough it and not abandon them or leave them just yet.
    This also definitely means that the church leadership must immediately step in, place the abused person in a position of safety, place the abuser under the civil law’s consequences and if the person is a believer to be counseled spiritually while the two remain in a state of separation. Being separated is not the same as being divorced, there are necessary times and situations, such as this one where separation is not only acceptable it is essential.

    Paul says that separation is acceptable but even in such reconciliation is the goal, which means that love endures through all this and hopes beyond all difficulties that the situation can be restored.

    1 Corinthians 7:10-11 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

    Remain unmarried or reconcile does not mean divorce, it’s separation Paul is talking about, the remaining unmarried is actually love in the hopes all things and endures all things mode. You do not get remarried because you are hoping and enduring waiting for the time when the two can be reconciled.

    Let me give you another example, a child or spouse who does drugs. We are never to enable the person to sin in such a way. If the person is not willing to repent and seek professional help (medical and spiritual counseling). Immediately church leadership should be called to intervene and if the person is not willing to repent and seek help they must be put out of fellowship and separation may be necessary even in this case.

    The condition with adultery of either spouses requires the same treatment. However, the congregation’s love and the spouse or parent’s love is not to cease, it should be extended, stretched out, it should not give up, it endures through this situation and sees it through. Sometimes the best result is not achieved but love cannot retreat and stop hoping or enduring.

    This is also why Paul ends the description of love in 1Corinthians 13 saying:

    Love never fails!

    Just think, the love we see depicted in movies, on TV and in the life of many always seems to fail. Today even in the church divorce is running rampant, why? Because people practice the wrong kind of love. Most people love with strictly human love and do not practice God’s love, Agape love and this kind of love as we have seen never fails, it endures, it hopes, it believes it stretches out, it forgives even the worse betrayals.

    This is why in a Christian marriage although Jesus gives a couple of loopholes regarding divorce, yet, God’s will is that His children’s love be like His, enduring and never failing, always ready to forgive and push through even the hardest and most difficult situations. God loves us with an everlasting love, a love that never quits nor fails, He loves us with a faithful love and that is how He really expects us to love. The loopholes are not God’s perfect will for a Christian marriage, God’s perfect will is to love until death due apart and all things in between, seeing through every difficulty and every hurt, forgiving one another even as we are forgiven in Christ.

    I realize this is not popular thinking even in the church but as the Scripture told us in the beginning of this chapter 12 of Romans we are not to be conformed to the ways of the world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, which means in reality repentance, which we have seen means a change of opinion, a change of mind from ours to God’s.

    In addition we may at this point study as well what Peter means when he says that love covers a multitude of sins.

    Let’s explain what it does not mean. It does not mean that love covers up sinfulness by hiding it, or the proverbial sweeping it under the rug. Real love cannot and does not conceal sin as if it were trying to hide it, justify it and tolerate it so that sin remain. This would be contradictory to all that Scripture teaches.

    Looking again at the meaning of love in 1Corinthians 13:6 Paul says that love Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

    In addition, John in his first epistle says this :

    1 John 1:6-10 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

    So as we see real love does not at all tolerate or hide sin so that that sin can continue to fester and exist, whether it is in ourselves or in others, real love confronts sin and does whatever possible to eliminate it not hide it and leave it there.

    Paul in 1 Corinthians 5 has a scathing rebuke for the Corinthian church regarding the fact that they were tolerating serious sinfulness in the church, look at what he has to say about that:

    1 Corinthians 5:1-2 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. 2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

    See that? He rebukes them because they were in essence hiding, tolerating this sin in their midst. He calls them proud, puffed up and this is because they thought that by tolerating this sin in the church they were actually showing how merciful and gracious and tolerant they were. Yet Paul has a very different idea about this and so does God.

    It is one thing not to spread the word of someone’s sinfulness to the rest of the church for a time being so that gossip, spiritual pride and encouragement to sin in the same way be not practiced, we do not want to air out everybody’s dirty clothes for all to see, however the sin must not be left there and not dealt with, it must be confronted and the person disciplined in accordance with God’s word. Paul wants this person actually put out of the church, he says taken away from among you.

    Why does Paul say this? Isn’t this unloving on his part? Who are we to judge? Don’t judge lest ye be judged some would say or he who has no sin cast the first stone! Take out the log out of your own eye before you try to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

    How many times did we hear those things said when anyone tries to confront sin in another person? Many times!

    Well, although sin is sin yet there are even sins that are literally specks compared to logs and some time we may not need to be overly severe for every thing we see, although all sin must be dealt with.

    What Jesus is saying there was that we often look at the small sins of people and judge them while having some real enormous sins to deal with in our own life.

    However the church must deal quickly and effectively removing both specks and logs. This sin here was a big log that needed to be removed.

    By the way, all those justifications we hear to cover up sin and to leave sin alone in Scripture they are referred to our own individual self examination and to do it with a just and righteous judgment when it comes to others.

    We are definitely to judge, God wants us to judge, everybody judges all the time in some way, shape or form, we must judge rightly but judge we must!

    However let’s look quickly as to what Jesus says about this.

    Matthew 7:1-2 Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

    The context in which Jesus is saying this is the Sermon on the Mount, and the main theme in this Sermon is the character traits of those who belong in the Kingdom of God. Jesus in this Sermon is condemning the self righteous Pharisees and religious leaders of His day. They thought they were better than everybody else, they thought that they were more righteous and pure than any one else.

    Yet Jesus does not buy their hypocrisy at all, Jesus is judging self righteousness and hypocrisy in this context. This is the context of the statements He makes.

    He is telling people not to be like their religious leaders, in fact He says in:

    Matthew 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

    By the way, the righteousness that exceeds the one of the scribes and Pharisees was not self righteousness or something achievable by obedience to God’s law, but it’s the righteousness that comes from God in Christ and His life, death, resurrection and High Priestly ministry. This is what Jesus was referring to here. This is what Paul has explained in: Romans 3:21-31.

    So Jesus in the Matthew 7 passage, is saying that we ought not to judge ourselves to be better than others by using our righteousness as the measure of our judgment of others.

    We are not the standard with which we measure others’ righteousness. In fact Jesus says that with the measure with which we measure it will be measured to us.

    What measure of judgment must we therefore use to judge anything and anyone? God’s word and God’s righteousness are the measures with which we are to judge, not our own righteousness, we actually have none, that’s Jesus’ point.

    If we judge other Christians using God’s righteousness in Christ, which is our only righteousness, then we cannot feel better or superior than others, in fact as we use God and His word as the standard we actually see how lacking of righteousness and full of sin we still are. This should humble us not make us feel superior.

    When we use God’s word and His holiness as the standards of judging ourselves first and foremost and then others, then we will be judging the way God desires we do, however as we see God want us to judge in the proper way.

    1 Corinthians 2:14-16 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

    See the born again person can judge all things, must judge all things and must do it with spiritual discernment and with the word of God through which we can and will have the mind of Christ.

    Jesus also said this:

    John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

    We can judge, we should always judge and Jesus confirms we can and we should, if we judge in the right way. To do so we must first have all the facts and not merely judge by what appears to be.

    Too many times we pass judgments without knowing all the facts about a situation, that is wrong and unjust judging. Once we have all the facts we can establish a righteous judgment, so says our Lord.

    However, the issue of not judging others by our own standards is no excuse or reason for the church as the body of Christ to allow sin to exist in its midst without doing anything about it.

    The church leadership are in a sense like judges in the church, they are to judge every situation the members of the church are going through, in order to do this they must be involved in the lives of the believers and in order to do so there needs to be real relationships between the leaders and the other believers, remembering that the judgments passed by the church leadership are not judgments passed to make themselves, the leaders, feel superior to all the other members or to think that they are holier than the rest of the church. No! The judgments are actually to be motivated by love for the people in sin and especially love toward God and love for those who are not involved directly in the sin of the people confronted by the leadership.

    Judgments are also to be brought forth in a counseling manner and motivated by love and the reconciliation of the persons who are in sin.
    To judge sin in the church is an act of love, to exercise God’s discipline in the church is acting in love.

    It’s acting in love and in loving protection both toward those in sin and love and protection toward the rest of the congregation.

    This is exactly the point made by Paul in the remaining section of:

    1 Corinthians 5:3-13 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. 12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

    As we see written here, it is imperative to bring the sinners to repentance or if they do not, then they need to be put out of fellowship in order to lead them to repentance and secondly but not less importantly to protect the rest of the church from that person’s sins.

    This is exactly what Paul is saying, a little sinfulness, leaven, will corrupt the entire church.

    In addition about judging, look at how many times the word is used in this chapter, five times Paul uses the word and three of those times it is in reference to himself and the believers judging those within the church.

    It is a requirement of the shepherd to remove infected sheep from the rest of the sheep herd before they all get sick through contagion. It is the shepherd’s job to execute the cure to the sick sheep to bring it back to health and as we said to protect the others from becoming sick with the same sickness.

    The shepherd must discipline the stubborn and rebellious sheep, this is an act of love and protection, look at what it says in:

    Hebrews 12:5-13 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. 12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

    It’s executing God’s type of love when we love others like God loves His children. If our love must mirror God’s love then we must practice it the way He does. Here it states that God disciplines His children and that discipline is not pleasant but it’s absolutely necessary and it is an act of love.

    What we have seen so far is that the church leadership must use righteous judgment and doing so leads to practice God’s loving discipline and protection, so when we do these things we are definitely acting in God’s love. God’s love is also manifested in fair and righteous discipline through righteous judgment.

    Jesus also commanded us to do this:

    Matthew 18:15-19 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

    As we see here, there is a specific procedure to deal with sin in the church.

    First it begins on a personal and individual basis. Whoever notices sin practiced or if a person sins against us personally and by the way this takes judgment, righteous judgment, we are to go to that person and confront them with their sin.

    This as we see needs to be done individually and privately between the two persons. If the person repents, Jesus says we have reconciled the brother. If they do not repent then the person confronting the sinner must bring it to the attention to another or two other mature believers and repeat the process. Again, if the person repents then at this point there is reconciliation and forgiveness, it they still do not want to repent, then the matter must be brought, by the two or three witnesses, to the attention of the elders of the church. After the elders confront the person if they still do not repent after the matter is brought before them the elders’ responsibility is to then rebuke them publicly and put them out of fellowship.

    This is the procedure given to the church by our Lord for how we deal with sin in the body of Christ. The process is abbreviated by one step when it is an elder or pastor that sees a sin or becomes aware of the sin practiced by a believer, in that case the elder / pastor brings the person before the other elders and the person is immediately confronted by two or three of the elder council.

    This process is commanded by our Lord and as we see it is putting into practice God’s loving discipline, in order to deliver people from the more serious consequences of God’s disciplining them Himself.

    It is necessary to mention that if the church does not do these things,God’s discipline will be greater and it will affect not only the person sinning but also the leadership and by consequence the entire church will suffer through it.

    In another passage Paul exhorts to practice this discipline even in a more forceful and harsh way when he says this:

    1 Timothy 5:20 Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

    This here is the last resort of how the elders deal with unrepentant sinners, this is the point Paul is making here, when all other attempts have been exhausted and the person does not repent, before they are placed out of the fellowship they are to be publicly rebuked before all so that others may fear and do not sin in the same manner.

    Many in the church today do not see the rebuke of the Lord or of the church leadership as an act of love, but as we have seen in Hebrews 12, the Lord rebukes those He loves. No rebuke no love. Even in the directions of God’s word to parents, especially to fathers, look at what God says about disciplining our children:

    Proverbs 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

    Do we understand what is said here? When there is no discipline and here it is spoken as corporal punishment, spanking with a rod, demonstrates the father’s love while withholding such discipline shows, wow, hatred. If we do not discipline we hate and when we do we love.

    There is another passage that states:

    Proverbs 23:13-14 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. 14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

    Reading these passages we cannot understate the importance of Godly discipline, both in the family as well as in the church. We are not to withhold discipline, both of our children nor of the sinner in the church context, if we discipline them they will not die, in fact quite the opposite, we will be delivering them from great spiritual harm, in our children’s case even hell itself, in the believer’s case from having their flesh destroyed by Satan as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:5.

    Whoever tells you that confronting sin and rebuking and disciplining in the family and in the church is not an act of God’s love, does not know Scripture nor do they understand God’s love in all of its fullness, but they only know a part of it which is not knowing it at all.

    So having said all this, what does this have to do with love covers a multitude of sins?

    It has everything to do with it! Loving God’s way covers a multitude of sins as God’s love covers all our sins, nevertheless God always confront our sinfulness and He rebukes us for our sin and He disciplines for our sins, that is God’s love. Our sins are however covered over, canceled by the blood of Jesus Christ, that is also God’s love for us.

    We are to love as God loves, we must practice the same kind of love in all of its aspects. When we love God’s way we do not just dismiss or justify sin in our lives nor in the lives of others.

    When we confront sin and bring ourselves and others back on the path of righteousness we are covering over a multitude of sins.

    As Jesus said, if and when we confront someone and they repent it must be done in private and between us only. Practicing God’s love is promoting repentance and reconciliation and forgiveness this puts that sin away forever and it covers it over, this always and only by Christ’s blood, but our love is helping that sin to be dealt with and removed and therefore covered over.

    The entire process of confronting sin Jesus gives us in Matthew 18 is designed to cover over sin by dealing with it and keeping it private, even in this way it is covered by love but it is not covered up or dismissed as many would like it to be.

    It is covered by our love during the process of confrontation until the person makes clear they do not want to repent and deal with their sin, in that case as a very last resort the person/s are rebuked before all and eventually put out of the fellowship.

    So that we see God’s love covers a multitude of sins by dealing with them, producing repentance and reconciliation and forgiveness or it covers sin by putting out the unrepentant sinner and protecting the rest of the church from sin’s damage.

    This is how God’s love and our love for each other covers a multitude of sin, not by hiding sin and not dealing with it, instead by dealing with it while keeping it private it is finally and hopefully covered by placing it under Christ’s blood and covering it up forever and in this positive circumstance the sin is dealt with as it is covered in every sense.

    No one needs to know about other believer’s sins, only until the process of dealing with sin does not produce the intended result of repentance and reconciliation and forgiveness, then and only then it becomes a public church matter as the leadership is commanded by God, only in this case, the sinner is rebuked in front of all. Why? So that they may fear and not sin themselves in the same way. This is loving because it prevents sin in others, it’s loving toward God and toward the church.

    This is also what it means to love one another fervently, because this type of God’s love covers over a multitude of sins.

    One way or another sin should not fester and corrupt the church body, that is not a loving thing at all, that is not how God loves us, He covers our sins but He also deals with them!

    I hope we understand that the fervency of our love has many aspects and it’s not just a mushy and sentimental thing, God’s love is more of a commitment and a decision making love, it decides on it’s own to hope all things, endure all things, it never fails, it continues to stretch and extend itself to the other person, it forgives all things and therefore the fervency is requited as an unquenchable fire, a fire that never goes out but keeps burning strong.

    Unfortunately because of the many things God’s love is formed by it is often nor practiced to the fullest in the church. We must learn, and here it the crux of the matter, God’s love is obtainable by God’s grace but it has to be learned behavior.
    The more we know God as He truly is the more we should learn what God’s love is and how He wants us to practice it.

    However, since it is a learning practice then it is evident that there is a specific place where we learn God’s love and how He wants us to practice it.

    This place is God’s word! It is only in His word that we can get to know God and how He truly is and how His love is and how He expects us to love each other.

    As we see then that the truth of God is an essential component in the love of God and without it God’s love cannot be known nor can it be practiced properly.

    Anything can work properly if all the parts that make it up are not there. In addition we understand that God’s love cannot be properly practiced apart from sound doctrine, in other words, God’s truth as we have also mentioned before.

    Once again, we see that Paul speaks about honoring our brothers and sisters above ourselves. We have already touched upon this before. This is the sacrificial and unselfish part of God’s love and we did see the passage in Philippians 2 in which Paul exhorts us to have the same mind Christ had regarding how we ought to love one another, as we saw that was giving up His status and His rights as God and making Himself of no reputation, humbling Himself to become a servant and He came to serve us with the sacrifice of His life and endured the shame and suffering of the cross.

    This shows Jesus’ unselfish and sacrificial love which placed our needs above His own life and well being. This is the same mind we ought to have in our love and in honoring each other above our own comfort and our own wants and even our own needs. It takes a lot of sacrifice and unselfishness to do so and we can only do so when we look at and understand the depth of God’s love for us.

    In addition, again Paul in the Philippians 2 passage exhorts us to be of one mind then he exhorts us to have the same mind of Christ. So what we understand here is that God’s love and the love we ought to have for each other is something in which our mind is extensively involved, it’s again an issue of being transformed by the renewing of our mind by acquiring the same mind Christ has.

    Love has to be, as we also mentioned even before, abounding in understanding, knowledge and discernment, so it’s a mental attitude. We have seen that it is the mind, the understanding that ought to control our emotions, it’s the understanding of God’s love for us and the understanding of how we ought to love. Bringing our minds in to be in sync with Christ’s mind will affect our emotions in a godly way and our emotions will be under the control of God’s Spirit and His word instead of our own human understanding.

    We should then honor others above ourselves! To honor others above ourselves is also a humbling experience and that is what God wants from us, that is what Jesus did. He honored us above Himself!

    Honoring others above ourselves drives out pride from our life.

    To honor means in fact to: appreciate, value, celebrate, esteem, this is what it means.

    We all want to have others do this to us and in fact the funny thing is that if we all did this no one would be lacking this in their life.
    Unfortunately we are all faulty in this and therefore we become discontented and hurt and then we demand to receive this done to us.

    God knows we all need to feel appreciated, valued, celebrated and esteemed and that is why He did so for us in Christ, yet He demands that we do the same for each other because if we all place our efforts in doing this we will all be honored in the way we desire to be.

    Can you imagine a church or a relationship where the people are in a competition in appreciating, valuing, celebrating and esteeming others above all? I do not think there would be much potential to hurt each other or sin against each other.

    Well that is God’s intention, that is how God desires we love and honor each other.

    Romans 12:11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

    This exhortation now is multifaceted. Paul is instructing the church about Christian behavior, he started instructing the church regarding Christian behavior in verse three and he takes the remainder of the chapter to do so.

    It is important remembering that the entire chapter actually has to do with the behavior of the Christian.

    Verses one and two are the foundation of Christian behavior, if we do not get this aspect really good and right the rest of the chapter will be almost impossible to live the way Paul exhorts us to do.

    If we do not submit our beings as living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God, if we conform ourselves to the ways of the world, if we aren’t transformed by the renewing of our mind we will not be able to live as Paul, or better as God desires we live and love.

    So verses one and two are the base, the foundation upon which the believers must build their godly behavior.

    Now Paul writes this exhortation, not to be slothful in business rather to be fervent in spirit, then he says serving the Lord.

    I would venture to say that this verse has two principles wrapped into it, but in reality they can be summed up with one single principle, one which Paul wrote about in:

    Colossians 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

    Colossians 3:23-24 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

    This is the end result of this verse, as Paul writes serving the Lord.

    The rest of the exhortation, not being slothful in business and being fervent in spirit is in the context of serving the Lord with all of ourselves in any and all venues of life.

    As we studied when we studied verse one, serving the Lord is not only and exclusively when we serve in a church context. Biblical Christianity, Christian living demands we serve God always and in every part of our life, family, work, government, etc.

    As I had said, there are no part time Christians, there are only full time Christians. Every Christian is called by God to serve Him with all of His life and in any and all venues and in every situation.

    It is a misconception created by western society that a pastor/elder is a career or job that like all others and that it has to be rewarded by pay and benefits just like if it was like any other work or career.

    Although in several passages of Scripture we notice that it is mentioned that a pastor/elder is entitled to make a living from the Gospel, 1 Corinthians 9:14; Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:17, it is not however an obligation for the elder/pastor to make a living in care of the church’s finances.
    In fact look at what Paul says:

    2 Corinthians 11:7-9 Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? 8 I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. 9 And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.

    As Paul is saying here and we know, Paul worked as a tent maker not to be of burden to the church.

    During this study I already made it a point to say this, the pastor/elder in Scripture more often than not worked a job and also served in the church. If and when the church decides it wants to contribute to the livelihood of the elders/pastors it’s supposed to be a voluntary thing and not an obligation such as paying someone a salary and benefits actually is.

    If a church has the financial resources to do so they probably will on their own, if the church and the pastor warrants it. In many cases it is something that is not necessary when the church is conformed to the way God designed it to be.

    A quick example is the fact that God designed the church to be a home abiding church and not a building sustaining church. The efforts of the church, both spiritual and financial should be focused on the persons not the locations in which the church meets. In other words, God designed the church to meet in homes not in buildings which need to be maintained and which cost a lot of money to afford.

    Our focus should be on taking care of church members and their needs not the needs of a building or salaries for church workers.

    The church, the people are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the people are the living stones of which the temple of God is made up of. See, 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:20-22; Hebrews 3:6; 1 Peter 2:4-5.

    This is important, because where as before the emphasis was on the place of worship, in other words a physical temple, such as the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, now in Christ, we, the church has become the temple of God and wherever we are, wherever two or three are gathered in Jesus’s name, there is the church. Now the actual physical place, the actual building does not matter to God any longer.

    The religious ritualistic way and location to worship God and have a relationship has changed since Jesus Christ came to abolish the old system and establish the new. This is exactly what He was saying to the Samaritan woman when He said this:

    John 4:19-24 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
    21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

    Jesus when He said this was referring to the fact that the day had come when through His work of redemption God could be worshiped openly in Spirit, in other words being born again of the Spirit and in truth, again this is through the word of God and Spirit of God, see John 6:63; Romans 10:17; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23, by anyone who was begotten of God through faith in Christ’s work of redemption.

    This is the statement that actually abolished any ritualistic and location style worship of God.

    The church therefore is people and it can meet anywhere, even outside if they have to or want to, so, why the great emphasis on the actual buildings where we meet for worship?

    This actually happened when the church decided to abandon God’s design of a home meeting church, where expenses would be very limited if almost non existent. This happened after that Christianity was accepted in the Roman Empire by Emperor Constantine. At this point in history the church began to lean more and more into adopting pagan customs to be added to Christianity.

    Part of those pagan customs were worshiping in temples, in other words specific buildings of worship and also adopting the priesthood of the elders as it was practiced in the pagan worship. This re constructed a ritualistic sacerdotal system of worshiping God and once again church buildings, cathedrals were built. These became the Christian temples sort of speak.

    This was totally unnecessary and it actually became a way to take money from people in God’s name and for His sake to build these expensive and elaborate churches in which everyone was forced to go in order t worship God. This also created another system as it was in Jesus’ days where the keepers of the temple would extort money from the people in order to worship God but that in reality was pocketed for a profit. This is still going on in a big way through many ways especially in the Charismatic church and also the Prosperity Gospel movement church and also let’s realize that this is the way the Vatican became rich.

    Unfortunately the entire Protestant and Evangelical church has fallen in many ways in the same trap by keeping tradition with the location temple style church where the maintenance of a worship center or building and the salaries of those who are needed to run the building including the pastors becomes a burden for the people who are then in many cases made to feel guilty to give and meet the needs of the demands and often go beyond the needs. This is actually why the Old Testament law of tithing was resurrected and reinstated, in order to guilt people into giving at least 10% of their earning. Since when did God levy a tax on the church?

    I believe all we have belongs to God and He could demand all of it from us and I believe that 10% may be a good guideline but God desires we give from a grateful and joyous heart not a compulsive and forced and legalistic guilt trip. We already saw this exposed in our study before.

    All this is warranted to say that we are not to be slothful, lazy in the way we serve God but that serving God is our way of life in every aspect and not in the church confines alone. All this was to say that we are all full time ministers and we are all teachers of God’s word. In the church there are definite people called and equipped to teach doctrine but they who are chosen to do so are chosen by God to teach others so that in the home for example parents can be equipped to teach their children what they learn. This makes us all teachers of God’s word except that there are definite limitations as to who must teach in the church while the priesthood of the believer is a real thing and every believer is a priest in their own way an especially of their own household.

    Fathers and mothers are the priests of their own household and they must be the teachers of God’s word to their family. We serve God always, everywhere full time, we do not need to be elders/pastors.

    In our families God requires that we all be priests, what was the job of the Old Testament priesthood?

    They offered sacrifices, right? We are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God, Romans 12:1.

    Priests offered praise and thanksgiving to God, we are all called to do the same;

    1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

    You see right here, we are living stones built up in a spiritual house, not a building, called to offer up spiritual sacrifices not literal ones, we have the One sacrifice of sacrifices once and for all Jesus Christ this is why ours are acceptable to God. Nevertheless, we are a holy priesthood, all of us, not just the pastors or the elders or the deacons or the evangelists.

    1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

    You see? We are all a royal priesthood offering the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God and lead our children to do the same.

    Priests in the Old Testament offered prayers with incense, so we as a holy spiritual priesthood must offer prayers to God through the aroma of the incense of the person of Jesus Christ, through him our prayers are heard and through Him they are accepted by God. We must as the priests did lead our family in prayer as the priests led the people in prayer times at the temple, see Leviticus 16:12-13; Luke 1:9-11.

    In fact it is written that incense and prayers go together and in Revelation 8 John explains that the prayers and the incense which in the Old Testament was offered by the priests now it is offered by the saints:

    Revelation 8:3-4 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.

    The saints are offering prayers and they are paired with incense just as they were in the Old Testament priesthood. We see here that the priesthood now is changed, Jesus is the High Priest in the order of Melchizedek and all the saints are the priesthood in Christ and trough Him.

    This is called the priesthood of the believers, no, longer are there specific priests in the church as our mediators between God and us but we are all a holy and spiritual priesthood which has only One mediator Jesus Christ our mediator; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 12:24; and High Priest, Romans 8:34; Hebrews 2:17-18; Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 9:11 and through Him we are all accepted by God, our prayers, praises, thanksgiving and service are all accepted only through and by Jesus Christ.

    So as we see the church is a much different thing in God’s design than it is in man’s design.

    Man transformed the church in some type of hybrid system of rituals, location and priesthood hierarchy which actually mirrors the old system God abolished and man in his religiosity reconstructed it.

    So having said this is God only going to bless home churches and not big one location meeting places? No! God loves and blesses all His children, however man has created a system just the same, a system God had not intended it to be. I personally believe this type of church system in many ways hinders the spiritual growth and maturity of believers and it makes the church vulnerable to many dangerous things, including greed and wasting God’s resources. God is good however and He will bless His children and make the Gospel go forward in spite of our mistakes and disobedience and our misunderstandings.

    So we must serve the Lord without being slothful or lazy in any and all venues of life, so if we, as Paul says are in some kind of business even outside the church as well as inside the church we must serve the Lord without being slothful and lazy.

    There are various exhortations in God’s word as to how we are to conduct ourselves in our business and or our work. Let’s remember everything we do we do it, or should do it as unto the Lord.

    Colossians 3:17And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

    In the context in which this passage is placed we find that the reality of this exhortation fits us in all we do whether in the church setting or outside of it.

    Colossians 3:10-16 is the context of our life and service in the church, then verse 17 is the exhortation to do everything in word and deed in the name of the Lord, then from Colossians 3:18-22 we find the exhortation to serve God in the same way in the family and in our outside business, such as work and business environment. Paul caps all of this context by saying:

    Colossians 3:23-24 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

    Even here Paul exhorts us, whatever we do, wherever we are, to whom ever we do it, to do it heartily as to the Lord and not as unto men.

    The word used by Paul heartily has the same meaning as what he says in Romans 12:11, to do it with a fervent spirit serving the Lord, and not to do it out of compulsion or some kind of obligation as we were serving men, instead to do it as unto the Lord.

    The issue here is this if we do things wherever we do them and we think we are only serving people we may, in fact we will become more impatient and often we will feel like the people we are serving may not even deserve it and this causes us to do things with the wrong attitude and wrong spirit.

    If we do everything serving God, then we will do everything, or should do everything with a fervent and hearty spirit and attitude because God deserves it and is worthy of our love and service.
    You see perhaps people do not deserve we serve them however, God does and in addition our brothers and sisters like us are the body of Christ, that is what the church is, not a building or a place to go to bu the people that are the church the body of Christ. When we love and serve our brothers and sisters or spouses or family (if born again) we are in reality serving Christ, we are loving Him when we love each other. This is the reality of it, we cannot see it as just and simply serving and loving only people.

    This is exactly why Paul tells us that whatever we do in word or deed to do it in the name of the Lord and to do it for Him as unto Him. If we do this, this will eliminate in us a lot of bad feelings and behaviors. We serve the Lord with gladness because of who He is and what He did for us.

    Let’s remember that when Jesus went to the cross, He went to serve us, to save us, who were yet sinners and enemies of God. So let’s realize that He did not die for righteous and good people but for wicked sinners who hated God.

    Romans 5:6-11 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
    7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

    As we see, we were without strength, we were ungodly, we were unrighteous, we were yet sinners that’s when God’s love in Christ was truly demonstrated, that is when Jesus died for us. We were enemies of God and yet He reconciled us by His death.

    As we see we did not and could not or ever can deserve God’s love and His service to us and yet He served and loved us at our worse.

    So who are we then not to serve and love our brothers and sisters in Christ and do it with the same attitude Jesus had toward us.

    This is exactly what Paul meant when he penned his exhortation in Philippians 2,

    Philippians 2:1-8 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

    Paul want us to achieve the same mind and therefore the same love and demeanor toward one another that Jesus had for us.

    The fervency of our service, whether in the church or in all other spheres of our lives must be based upon the fervency of our love for God, this will eventually the base of our fervency in service and business.

    The word slothful here in Romans 12:11 in Greek actually means not to be delayed or slow and also not to be done in grievous and indolent fashion. This word goes beyond laziness although it does include it.

    This word is indicating that our service in or out of the church must be prompt, this is the indication of not dragging our feet in doing something. Being slothful as e said indicates indolence, indolence means: sluggish, inert, inactive, slow to get there, lazy. Also the Greek word used here has the connotation of doing things in an irksome way.

    So in reality this word means not to be lazy, not to move with slowness or sluggishness, in a procrastinating way, not to do things by forcing one self and doing them in an irksome way.

    Instead Paul says, to be fervent in our service and as he said in Colossians 3 to do it heartily, do it with the heart, with love and be prompt and do it with desire as serving God and not with compulsion.

    Paul uses the word fervent here, another word used for it is zealous. To have zeal or fervency has the connotation of being on fire, being hot.

    This gives the right indication as to how we should serve God and therefore how we should serve God in all we do. The word in Greek is used also to describe when a metal is molten therefore is red hot and brilliant and extremely hot, so hot that it glows.

    Most believers do not serve like this, in fact if we are honest with ourselves we must admit that too often we do not serve in this manner either.

    In Colossians 3 Paul uses the word to do things heartily, the Greek used is actually two words, Ek which means out of and the word psucheés which is used to describe the spirit, the soul, this is in line with what Paul says in:

    Romans 5:5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

    The love of God is shed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit so in our soul, of which our heart and mind are a part of, is from where our loving and fervent service must come from.

    So, what Paul is saying is that we must serve God and therefore one another from the heart, a heart and a mind that understands the love of God, that understands who much God loved and loves us, a heart and a mind that fully understands God’s love is a mind and a heart that will be very grateful to God and this gratitude will be manifested by serving God in everything heartily and fervently.

    The failure of understanding God’s love in its fullness gives way to faulty service, gives way to legalistic service and service done out of compulsion rather than motivated by love for God and His church.

    I believe we are all faulty in some way in this department, I feel we are all faulty in understanding the depth of God’s love for us and therefore we are not always able to serve God heartily and fervently, obviously this is the reason why often we do nit understand and know how to love each other.

    I believe that this is the reason why the Apostles in their writings to us the church place such a great emphasis to explain the great love of God and also why they insist we pray to know this love more and more deeply and better.

    What we see in our lives is, I call it the Ephesian syndrome. We already talked about this but it is worth mentioning quickly. The Ephesian syndrome basically has a sequence in our lives before it manifests and usually it works this way.

    God saves us and we are overwhelmed by His forgiveness and by His love so much sot hat we cannot stop talking about Him, our love for God becomes an obsession, it is the same kind of love that manifests itself even when we are deeply in love with someone. You know, that love that just won’t leave you alone, it causes one to want to spend every living moment with that person, it causes one to forsake everything and everyone in order to be with that person. It’s a love that overwhelms us so much that we cannot stop thinking about the other person, we constantly think about them and imagine every moment we could and will have to spend with them. This is a love that causes us to give up everything and be willing to do everything for the person we love, even food and sleep.

    This is the type of love that is described in the episode we find in:

    Luke 7:36-38 And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. 37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, 38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

    We see here a woman whom by all intents and purposes is later identified as a sinner, probably a prostitute, she showers Jesus with her love, it’s a innocent love, a heart felt love, she is crying at the Lord’s feet. The Pharisees in their self righteousness cannot help themselves to think how horrific this woman is and they actually think that Jesus thinks like them. Instead Jesus does not think like them, Jesus never ever thinks like them. Their thoughts are antithetic from how God thinks. Jesus in this case has to rebuke and teach them what and why this woman was acting this way.

    Luke 7:41-50 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? 43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. 44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

    I want to focus on verse 47 where Jesus says that this woman understood what we understand when Jesus meets us in our sinfulness and He forgives all our sins. Like this woman we understand the offense and the weight of our sins, we also and foremost understand God’s love in His Son who gave Himself for us to forgive us our sins, we understand the cost that our sins have caused, we understand that we don’t deserve and never could deserve God’s love and forgiveness but that by His grace and mercy He bestows upon us, unworthy sinners. We understand that we are unworthy and how much God loves us. At that moment, in our lives, just like in this woman’s life, we begin to shower our Lord with our love and devotion and we cannot stop feeling grateful to Him. We are literally in love with Him, we owe Him so much and cannot live a trillion lives and be able to repay Him for what He did for us. When God saves us we understand all this.

    However, as it happens with our being in love with a person, do it happens with God. What actually really happens is not that we stop loving God in reality, what happens is that we, as human beings have the tendency to forget. Our minds become cluttered with all kinds of worldly thoughts, clogged with the worries of life, we are taken up by our earthly life and in what this does is makes us forgetful about the love of God, about how we felt when we where first saved. Basically the honeymoon is over, we don’t stop loving God but as it happens with people as well, it’s not that we don’t love our spouses, however what happens is we become comfortable with our spouses, we begin to take them for granted. This happens with the Lord as well!

    In addition, when it comes to God, first we just want to get to know Him so well we spend hours in His word, then the more time goes by, for many, what happens is we begin to think that what we know about God is sufficient, we take His grace and forgiveness even His love for granted.

    Doing all this makes us forget, even though we may read His word and go to church and pray, everything becomes habitual and we begin to think all this is enough. Often when we take God’s love and forgiveness for granted this makes us forget the love we had for God in the beginning and in addition what this does is makes us Pharisaical and self righteous in our thinking. We begin to think we have arrived to know and understand God that in reality instead we forget our first love, how we loved heartily and fervently both God as well as our brothers and sisters. We begin to think to highly of ourselves and this causes us to become more and more legalistic and our fervent and heartfelt love disappears. We haven’t stopped loving God but we have forgotten how!

    This is another reason why Paul begins this chapter with the words with which he does. Offering ourselves to God in living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to Him is truly our reasonable service to God.

    We must do this with understanding and discernment, this is exactly why Paul prays these things in Philippians one and following passages:

    Philippians 1:9-11 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; 10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; 11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

    Colossians 1:9-10 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

    Ephesians 1:16-18 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
    17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

    Ephesians 3:17-19 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

    We clearly see in all of these passages that Paul is praying that God would give His children a specific thing, watch now,

    In Philippians 1:9 he prays that knowledge and discernment abound in our love, in Colossians 1:9 he prays that we be filled with the knowledge of God’s will and spiritual understanding.

    In Ephesians 1:16-17 he prays that we receive the spirit of wisdom and revelation of the knowledge of God and that the eyes of our understanding be opened

    and finally in Ephesians 3:18-19 Paul prays that we be able to comprehend and know the depth of love of Christ.

    There is a clear recurring theme in Paul’s prayers, this recurring theme is namely that God would give us knowledge, discernment, knowledge of God and understanding and comprehension and again to know, what? The depth of God’s love, Christ’s love and that our love may abound in the knowledge and discernment of these things.

    Why? Otherwise we forget God’s love and we begin as I said beforehand, to take it for granted and then the practice and demonstration of our love becomes weak and cold and mechanical rather than heartily and fervent.

    Hence, at this stage we have been affected with the Ephesian syndrome. The Ephesian syndrome is a term I invented, however it is a real spiritual condition that occurs when we have forgotten God’s love for us, when we have forgotten the depth and extension of God’s love, when we take His love and forgiveness for granted. This spiritual condition causes our love for God and for the church to cool down and to become mechanical and legalistic in the way we practice it.

    This is in fact what Jesus meant when He sent His letter to the Ephesian church in the book of Revelation.

    Revelation 2:1-6 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. 6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

    Here it is, a church, Ephesus, the Lord commends her leader because He recognizes many good things in her. She is a church that works, she is an industrious church, a patient church, a church that hates and does not tolerate evil and false teachers, a church with a strong sense of spiritual discernment. For Christ’s namesake she labors and is long suffering.

    These are all essential character traits we must have in a solid grounded church. Yet, the Lord has somewhat against her. All this that she has is very good but not good enough. Why? Jesus says because in spite of her strong and sound doctrinal stance she left something undone. She left her first love!

    This church had forgotten her first love, the fervent and hearty love it once had when she first was born and reveled in God’s love and forgiveness, she was like that woman at Jesus feet in the Pharisee’s house, who could not stop being fervent and gave the Lord heartfelt worship and service. Remember why? She loved much because God had forgiven her much.

    God in Christ has forgiven us so much and while we remember it our worship, love and service for God and for the church will be fervent and hearty. If and when we forget God’s love and how much He has forgiven such unworthy sinners as us, then we will, as Ephesus did leave our first love, the love with which we loved at first.

    There is hope though, Jesus tells the Ephesian church and us what we must do. He says:

    verse 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works

    See that? Jesus says: Remember, they had to remember from where they came and therefore from where they had fallen, they had forgotten, that is why they left their first love, we are all forgetful people. This is actually another reason why even in the Old Testament Scriptures the Jews would always call the people to remember what the Lord had done for them. They were always called to remember and not forget what the Lord had done.

    In Scripture the word remember is mentioned 148 times, 148 times in 66 books. That is a lot of times where we are either called and exhorted to remember or where it is mentioned by someone that they were remembering what God had done.

    Scripture exhorts us to remember because we become very easily forgetful and when we do the very first thing that suffers loss is our love. The love we should have for God and for the church is therefore dependent on our memory, the fact of whether or not we love fervently and heartily depends on whether or not we first know the depth of God’s love through knowing Him and what He has done for us and then we must not forget, we must continue to remember God’s love and forgiveness. So Jesus says to Ephesus and us, repent and do the first works.
    Repent we saw several times means first of all to change one’s mind and then change course and behavior.

    This is why Paul first mentioned in the beginning of this chapter that we must be transformed, in other words changed, by the renewing of our mind. Renewing the mind is in reality what Jesus was calling the Ephesian church to do, in order to repent we must also renew the mind and more often than not a part of the mind’s renewal process and behavior modification occurs when we remember what we already know and by remembering what we have already experienced, in this case the love and forgiveness if God.

    So now we know how God desires we love Him and serve Him and by consequence our brothers and sisters, actually He calls us to serve others as unto the Lord and to do it, again, from the love e have in for heart for God.

    This is the context we already saw before written in: Colossians 3:17-23 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. 18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. 20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. 21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. 22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: 23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

    As we have seen the section before this one calls us to love and serve in the church, this section calls us to love and serve God fervently and heartily outside the church as well, in other words in every aspect of our lives. In our marriage, in our parenthood as well as calling the children to do the same toward their parents, then it calls us outside the family into our place of business and or employment, both Christian employees as well as employers are called to treat others with God’s love and in His way.

    Ephesians 6:5-9 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; 6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: 8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. 9 And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.

    This brings us to part of the exhortation we are looking in Romans 12:11, being not slothful in our business.

    As we have seen serving God is something we do everywhere and in every time. So whether it is I church or in our family or in our business and work we are to always serve God with fervent love.

    I do not think we need to go deep into the work ethics of a Christian suffices to say that we are full time Christians therefore we obey God in everything in every situation or in every place. We serve with faithfulness not as unto man but unto God as the Scriptures we just read tell us. In our business and work practices we are to be honest, truthful, respectful and we must not steal work time from our employers nor steal pay from our employees. As employees we must not be lazy and complacent in our work, we must, as Paul said work as we were working for the Lord because in reality we are. When in business practices or when called upon from an employer we are either tempted or requested to act in a dishonest way, we must not, we must at all costs obey God and His word. It is not, I repeat it, it is never, ever right to lie or to practice dishonestly either as a business owner nor as an employee.

    I realize that, especially as an employee we may feel threatened or we may feel like we may even lose our jobs if we don’t obey our employers when they tell us to enact unethical and dishonest practices, but our utmost and only obedience and allegiance is due to God and not to man.

    Proverbs 29:25-26 The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe. 26 Many seek the ruler’s favour; but every man’s judgment cometh from the LORD.

    The fear of man is a trap but in trusting God and obeying Him brings safety. In the same context when a person seeks the favor of a ruler, or in our case the favor from our employer, we must consider that it is God who judges our deeds and it is He as Paul said earlier that rewards our work or disciplines and corrects us when we do wrong. There are always consequences when we disobey God. We may be forgiven and not incur His eternal judgment, however, we will have temporal and earthly consequences and we will definitely not escape God’s discipline.

    If we think for one moment that it would be better to act dishonestly when our employers require us to do so rather than obeying God even though we may suffer consequences at work, perhaps even lose our jobs, we are wrong and we are allowing the fear of man rather than the fear of God rule our decisions.

    As we read, the fear of man is a trap, a snare, so we must be very careful if we do not want to fall in a trap we must then as the passage says trust in the Lord instead and we will be safe.

    Jesus as well as John equated loving God to obeying Him, see John 14:15-24 and 1 John 5:3.

    So now we have seen what verse eleven in our study of Romans 12 means in its entirety.