Archive for October 2013

Epistle to the Hebrews (13:22-25)   Leave a comment

Epistle to the Hebrews

Epistle to the Hebrews

I urge you, dear brothers and sisters, to pay attention to what I have written in this brief exhortation.I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released from jail. If he comes here soon, I will bring him with me to see you.Greet all your leaders and all the believers there. The believers from Italy send you their greetings.May God’s grace be with you all.” Hebrews 13:22-25

In his concluding words, our author recommends that the readers take heed to his exhortations. It was a breath taking letter concerning Jesus’ sovereignty, His ministry and major doctrines. Our author urged the readers to consider what he was able to put in writing. As mentioned earlier, our epistle is hugely compacted with teachings and requires the readers to examine a few verses at a time, in the light of the whole scripture. Our author adopted an argumentative style to reinforce all his exhortations. Our author did not leave the readers guessing but supported his arguments through scripture. This is probably what makes our epistle so powerfully established as an authority regarding the deity of Christ and His sacrificial work. As a previous skeptic concerning the deity of Christ, I bowed to my knees and closed my mouth when I realised that I was kicking against the goads. I felt like Job who said:

The Lord said to Job:“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him! ”Then Job answered the Lord:“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?I put my hand over my mouth.I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more.” Job 40:1-5

I’m grateful to God for His patience to teach me about His Son in this epistle.

In the introduction of our epistle, we saw that our author worked with Timothy and was in Rome (Titus 3:12, Acts 28:31). This is a probably a hint that the author could be Paul. Adam Clarke had the hypothesis that the introduction to the epistle was lost which could explained why we have an anonymous author. It is always an honor to send salutations to co-workers of the gospel. We are all united in Christ and soldiers of the same army. Christ has only one bride and there’s only one global church. We share the same faith and it’s always an honor to meet a Christian. Is not it a blessing when a Christian wishes wholeheartedly “May God’s unmerited favor rest upon you”  ?

I picture the salutations of Christians as 2 soldiers of the same army who for some spiritual reasons crossed each other for a while on the battlefield. They know they will never meet again because they have other duties just after. They tell each other to take courage, take care and persevere. They look at each other with eyes of love and quickly connect. Even if they do not know each other, they will not hesitate to risk their lives to protect their companion. We can be in different ministries or battles but we are in the same war.  We wait for Christ’s Kingdom to come.

Our war is not “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” Eph. 6:12

These words : “Greet all your leaders and all the believers there” seem to me like a high profile general greeting other generals and their soldiers.

Paul said in Romans 16:16-20:

Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetingsThe God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”

Let us not imagine that God’s frequent silence to the sin around the world infers that the God of peace is also at peace with Satan. Satan’s defeat will soon be consumed.

Posted October 19, 2013 by Cedric in Theology

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Epistle to the Hebrews (13:20-21)   Leave a comment

Epistle to the Hebrews

Epistle to the Hebrews

Now may the God of peace—who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep,and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21

  • The God of peace

The Greek word used here is εἰρήνη which can refer to prosperity, quietness and rest. This is what our good Lord brought to our soul. He removed the burden of sin from our mind and soul. He said :

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

Peace of mind and soul is a special gift bestowed by our Lord on us. It is not a wish or benediction but verily a gift our soul can experience. The world does not have it because it is the indwelling peace of our Lord. This peace is not only a spiritual one but also soothe our physical needs.

He reassured us by saying : “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” John 16:33

Our Lord has repeatedly told His disciples to have faith in Him. Living by faith and trusting God is a choice that only you can take. You will not experience His peace if you do not trust Him. Jesus also said that we will not be exempted from trials and sorrows. Absolute trust in Him is what will allow us to experience this joy and peace. He is the Good Shepherd and He takes care of His sheep. Our Lord said that He will leave 99 sheep to look for a lost one because He values them all. A lost sheep among millions is not negligible to Him (Mat 18:12).  A pastor might not notice that a sheep is wandering in a big church but Jesus is very concerned about it.

  • Ratified an eternal covenant

Paul said :

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.” Col 2:13-15

The old covenant condemned all of us. The charges brought against us by the law were huge and there was no escape. As we have seen in earlier chapters, our Savior fulfilled the law and established a new covenant. This new covenant is far superior since it was inaugurated by His own blood. Once for all He offered Himself as a living sacrifice. This is an eternal covenant, there will never be sacrifices again. Jesus victoriously put an end to Satan’s dictatorship. On the cross, Jesus demonstrated publicly the gravity of our sins and the grace of God. Who will condemn us if Jesus declares we are justified?

Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” Romans 8:33

  • He equip you with all you need for doing his will

Paul said to the Philippians: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Phil 1:6

If God has equipped you with spiritual gifts, it is to serve Him.  He will not ask you to do beyond what He called you to.

Philippians 2:13 says:

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.Do everything without complaining and arguing

I believe that God has designed a particular task for each Christian to do on this earth. He will work in our soul for our perfection. Each Christian who has a relationship with God feels this urge to serve Him. He’s unfulfilled and perhaps anguished if he does not do what he is supposed to do. Pastors and teachers are there to help the Christians discover their callings and encourage them.

Paul explained that the Spirit has given us different abilities to serve others (1 Cor 12)

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.” Romans 12:6

Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor 1:7

Peter said: “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence” 2 Peter 1:3

Under the old covenant only the Levites had part in the priesthood. Our Good Lord made all of us priests (Rev 1:6, 1 Pet 2:9) and ministers of His gospel. Is not it amazing that God gave us the privilege to serve Him right here on earth? It is the desire of our author that the readers serve Jesus in His power. Let us have a grateful heart that God gave us this privilege to form part of His army.

 

Posted October 15, 2013 by Cedric in Theology

Tagged with , , , , , , ,

Epistle to the Hebrews (13:18-19)   Leave a comment

Epistle to the Hebrews

Epistle to the Hebrews

Pray for us, for our conscience is clear and we want to live honorably in everything we do. And especially pray that I will be able to come back to you soon.” Hebrews 13:18-9

  • Pray for us

Our author has not been asking the readers anything for himself except prayers. Why would a leader with such spiritual maturity request the prayers of weak believers? Sometimes spiritual leaders think they are too strong and refuse to ask others to pray for them. Is it the pride to express that they are in need? Leaders need prayers no matter how close to God they are.

Our Lord is not too busy to listen to the prayers of His saints. Our prayers for others also demonstrate our interests for their well being, ministries, health and families. Not everyone has the possibility to help financially or has the ability to support a particular godly cause. However, we are all qualified to express our concerns to God about it.

I have a godly friend who prays for me and it’s such an honor for me to have him pray for me. He is a simple man whose prayer support are of much value to me. I also had a close friend from abroad whom I never met and who regularly prayed for me. When I was going through tough times, she interceded for me. She had such faith and God miraculously answered her prayers for me. Even when she passed away, her prayers for me were still being answered. Saying “Pray for me” has in store blessings and we should not hesitate to make such requests to our brothers and sisters. Similarly ,we should also have at heart to pray for those asking “Pray for me”. Let us not be selfish but sincerely and seriously pray for those seeking our prayer supports.

  • Clear conscience

First of all having a clear conscience does not mean that if we do not feel guilty in our mind that it means we are doing the right thing. We imperatively need to constantly examine ourselves through the scripture because the heart is deceitful. We have seen the author’s heart, genuine faith and maturity and we can easily deduce that he is such a godly man. Our author is a feeble sinful man like us and has the desire to  live honorably in everything he does. Some church goers do not even have a clear conscience in what they do. It might be regarding their own family, at work, at church or even towards God. Let us be honest, not everyone in church live honorably. Some are involved in fraudulent transactions or participate in immoral activities.

Having a clear conscience is not based only on how we live and what we do but also on our testimony. We need to testify when required.

For example, when Paul was testifying in the high council, he said in Acts 23:1 :

Gazing intently at the high council,Paul began: “Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience!

If someone asks for the reason of our beliefs, we should voice it out. Peter said:

And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.” 1 Peter 3:15

Paul said to Timothy:

Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.” 1 Tim 1:19

It is an inner satisfaction to know that we are doing God’s will. Is it not tragic that some people deliberately go against what they know is right?

Finally, our author expressed his desire to see again the Hebrews. It would have probably been better if he could deliver his exhortations without being limited through a letter. However, God in His infinite wisdom found it good to separate by distance the author and his recipients so that after 2000 years we could benefit such valuable written teachings.

Posted October 12, 2013 by Cedric in Theology

Tagged with , , , , ,

Epistle to the Hebrews (13:17)   Leave a comment

Epistle to the Hebrews

Epistle to the Hebrews

Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.” Hebrews 13:17

We have seen in v7 a similar exhortation to value our spiritual leaders. Spiritual leadership has often been misunderstood and abused. A spiritual leader is first of all a servant of everyone.

He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” Mark 9:35

Paul said: “God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you.” Col 1:25

The Greek word ‘serving’ used in Mark and Colossians is diakonos which can refer to someone who goes on errands, a waiter at table or  someone who does menial duties.

Elsewhere in the book of Philippians, Paul introduced himself as slave of Christ.

He said “This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus.”

As an apostle of Christ, Paul had a God-given authority. He could have requested that the Corinthian church support him financially. He did not even make use of this right. He took honor in preaching freely the gospel.

What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News.Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ.” 1 Cor 9

To be a qualified diakonos, Paul said that such a person should:

  • Be well respected and have integrity.
  • They must not be heavy drinkers or dishonest with money.
  • They must be committed to the mystery of the faith now revealed and must live with a clear conscience.
  • Be tested and proved to be fit for that position
  • Their wives must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do.
  • A deacon must be faithful to his wife, and he must manage his children and household well.

If such a godly person is in leadership position, it should not be difficult to follow him. I have met few of such leaders. Conversing with them just a few minutes always blessed me.

The author also mentioned about spiritual leaders who watch over our souls. They are often referred as bishops or overseers.

These are the qualifications of an overseer/elder/bishop:

  • Must be a man whose life is above reproach.
  • Must be faithful to his wife.
  • He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation.
  • He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach.
  • He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent.
  • He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money.
  • He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him.
  • An elder must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall.
  • People outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap.

All these qualifications are not earned at seminars or in books. These are the results of a dedicated life. Paul says that “If someone aspires to be an elder,he desires an honorable position.” It is an honorable position because it is a servant position.  If such a man cannot lead his own family, he will not be able to lead the church’s family. Look also at his way of managing his finances and you’ll know his motives and where his heart is. If all these qualifications are duly considered, I guess we would have fewer persons in leadership position today.  Such a leader does not present himself as the boss but as a servant and slave. He points souls to Christ’s authority and does not keep them under his control. Like John the Baptist, his desire is that Jesus becomes greater and him less.

Paul insisted on the word “must” when he wrote to Timothy. It was not an option. Taking care of the church’s family is no easy task. So our author wants the readers to give the leaders reasons to do it with joy and not with pain. These leaders are here to help Christians become more like their Savior.  They are not in this leadership position for money or glory. They assumed leadership position because of their love for their Savior. These leaders want Christ’s fragrance to be seen in these souls. They have probably left their countries, careers and comforts to become servants of Christ. They are accountable to God for our souls and we are accountable to God for our attitude towards them.

Posted October 7, 2013 by Cedric in Theology

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Epistle to the Hebrews (13:15-16)   Leave a comment

Epistle to the Hebrews

Epistle to the Hebrews

Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.” Hebrews 13:15-16

Since we have been promised a permanent resting place for our soul, let us praise God. You and I do not have much time left on this earth. If we have 60 more years ahead, what is it compared to eternity? Our author understood how valuable God’s promise was and he had a heart of worship. Let us be loyal and faithful to Him who promised us something beyond our understanding. Jesus said:

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” John 14:1-3

What Jesus went to do for us should bring in our heart an immense joy and peace. However, we are still troubled in our soul about earthly things.

Jesus said in v27:

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again.”

We often fail to consider what great heavenly home Jesus went to prepare for us. We have never seen how heaven is and in our mind we picture out that it’s going to be a golden place with precious stones everywhere as described by the book of revelation.

The wall was made of jasper, and the city was pure gold, as clear as glass. The wall of the city was built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones:the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.” Revelation 21:18-21

If you think that it’s the pearls which are going to make heaven awesome, you’ve missed the point. It’s the Architect of these things who should be the center of attention.  We read in verse 22:

I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light.”

It’s the fact that we would be admitted in God’s Holy presence which is the great promise. If you think that you’ll be admitted in heaven just to sing for eternity, then I guess it’s going to be distressful after the first 1000 years!  Heaven will be boring if you do not get it right why you are there. If we understand how unworthy we are to be in God’s presence, we would value much this great promise. I would prefer spending eternity with Jesus without pearls around me than having everything else without Him. To be in the presence of such an awesome mind, wise, loving and powerful Being should bring us to our knees. Angels in heaven don’t worship God under compulsion or because of a dictatorial divine being. Dear readers, it’s God’s everlasting glory and holiness which bring His creatures down to their knees. Moses asked to see God’s glory and his life has never been the same since. Let us aspire to seek God’s glory and His kingdom then our eyes will open to our unworthiness.

Our author also wants to mention that blessing others with gifts are also a form of worship to Him.

There’s not anything you’ll give to God that God will remain indebted to you. We read in the book of Job  “Who has given me anything that I need to pay back?Everything under heaven is mine.” Job 41:11

When you’re helping someone in need, it’s like you doing for God. As we’ve seen above, God is not the debtor of anyone.

If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and he will repay you!” Prov 19:17

Jesus expressed it as such: “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ Mat 25:44-45

Selfishness is self-worship but giving is honoring someone else. When we talk about sacrifice, we talk about something which cost us. It requires involvement. It’s not a drop of water from an ocean. It’s not drawing out from our excess and giving it to God. Worship is not only with our lips but also through our life. Will God accept our praises if we have a selfish heart? We cannot fool the One who created us. Zacchaeus experienced salvation when he gave up the possessions which entangled him.

James portrayed it as such: “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? Soyou see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” James 2:14

Posted October 5, 2013 by Cedric in Theology

Tagged with , , , , ,

Epistle to the Hebrews (13:14)   Leave a comment

Epistle to the Hebrews

Epistle to the Hebrews

For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. .” Hebrews 13:14

Our author would like to remind us about our hope in Christ and to keep our eyes on our heavenly rest.  When our basic needs are shouting for attention, we quickly turn our eyes away from heaven. We have legitimate commitments to our work and family and these responsibilities quickly make us lose sight of our destiny.  A father responsibly toils hard to take care of his family and provide them a comfortable home to live. Paul encourages Christians to be hardworkers and not be lazy (1 Thes 4:11, 2 Thes. 3:10).

Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living.”

The apostle also recommended that we take care of our family: “But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.” 1 Tim 5:8

It is clear in the scripture that Christians should be models in their work and family. We should be careful though of not setting our priorities on these temporary things. What we do for a living and our commitment to our family should rather be in perspective of eternity.

What good is it to work hard to give our family a castle when an ordinary home would have brought the same peace and security? The investment made on huge projects could have been used for God’s kingdom instead.

Jesus knew the influence that possessions had on man’s heart. So He said:

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” Mat 6:19-21

Let us today consider what we have been doing with the money and time God blessed us with. Are we wisely using what God entrusted us in light of eternity or did we ignore God in our plans. Man’s heart naturally wants to store up treasures because he thinks that will give him peace and security. Our Lord wants to free us of this burden of securing our future. He does not want us to worry about these things but trust that He will provide. We all know what Jesus said about seeking God’s kingdom first but it’s much easier to take our destiny in hand than living by faith.

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of Godabove all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Mat 6:31

Dear readers, today’s trouble is enough for today. Why trying to add up future problems? We are not in control of our future. There’s no guarantee that we will be able to accomplish what we meticulously planned today. We should first start to acknowledge with a humbled heart that we are not in absolute control of our destiny. But our good Lord knows  everything, so why not trusting Him? Doing Jesus’s will is not going to make you neglect your work, ministry and family. Jesus is not going to drag you in a pit but rather bring you in green pastures.

There’s nothing we will do on this earth which will remain permanent. In fact, the book of revelation already said that this earth will completely be destroyed. The only things that will stand through eternity are the deeds we did in light of eternity. What you invested in God’s kingdom is secured and will be rewarded.

Paul said: “Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.” 1 Cor 3:12

We will use solid materials to give our family a secure place. How are we serving God? Do we use gold or straw to build God’s kingdom? If our eyes are fixed on earthly things, our contribution to God’s kingdom will be poor.

Jesus said in Mat 16:24, words of wisdom that really touched my life many years ago:  “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” Mat 16:24

Jesus also told us about the rich fool who said to himself:

I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Luke 12:19-21

Investing in our relationship with God is something rewarding and permanent.  Today is the day to surrender all these sins of greed and have faith. Let us today ask God for wisdom so that the decisions we make today for our family, work and ministry have eternity as perspective.

Posted October 1, 2013 by Cedric in Theology

Tagged with , , , , , , , , ,