How to Honor the Government

This lesson is all about How to Render to Caesar and Render to God what is his (Paying Taxes and being a Good Steward).

Passages: Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26

Purpose: To develop the character quality of gratitude and respect (honor) for government. Jesus taught His disciples that one way to express these qualities is to “…render (aorist Imperative) to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s”  (Matthew 22:21). This command also addresses our responsibility to give ourselves fully to God because we were made in His image which was marred through the “fall of mankind” (Genesis 3:1-24; Romans 5:12-14) but can be recovered through the cross (Romans 5:15-21).

Historical Background: Chronologically this narrative (Matthew 22:15-22) occurs the Wednesday before the crucifixion. Jesus had just been proclaimed to be “The King of the Jews” two days before as He entered Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11). The multitudes had hoped that He would enter Jerusalem and free Israel from Roman bondage. It was ironic that the next day Christ cursed a fig tree because it reminded Him of Israel’s fruitlessness (Matthew 21:18-19a; Mark 11:12-14) and attacked Israel’s own religious system (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-48).

His actions of entering the temple and overturning the tables of the money changers were questioned as to the source of their authority. Those asking this question were the Pharisees. Jesus impedes the answer to their question with one of His own. Jesus asked, “The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” (Matthew 21:25). The Pharisees found themselves in a dilemma. They desired Christ’s answer but knew it was contingent on their own. They sought to trap Jesus and found themselves trapped. When they realized the implications of answering they answered “We do not know” (Matthew 21:27). Then Jesus didn’t reveal the source of His authority to them.

Jesus proceeded to teach three parables which taught the Pharisees would be excluded from the Kingdom.

  1. The two sons (Matthew 21:28-32)
  2. The vineyard (Matthew 21:33-44)
  3. The wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14).

The religious leaders understood the parables were spoken against them and their intensity of resentment toward Jesus grew (Matthew 21:45-46; Mark 12:12; Luke 20:19). He opposed them and brought to light their hypocrisy and pride. Also, His growing popularity among the people concerned them. He claimed to be Messiah, the Son of God, and He cleansed the temple without getting their permission first! He was genuine; they were false.

The sort of authority they would have sought would have been in the form of rabbinical papers (the authorities of old). After they were publicly unmasked as hypocrites by the three parables they realized they had to do something. They designed a simple strategy which would discredit His ministry. They were hoping to ask Him a question in such a way that either way He answered, He would be in trouble. The question was about paying taxes. The Pharisees thought they could trap Christ this time.

Commanded in the Gospels: Matthew 22:21 (render), Mark 12:17 (render), Luke 20:25 (render). Men who would take more than what Rome had ordered to be collected were swindlers (extortioners KJV), were despised, and often associated with harlots and other public sinners (Matthew 5:46; 9:10-11; 11:19; 18:17; Mark 2:15,16; Luke 5:29,30; 7:34; 15:1 ,2). These tax-gatherers had offices (Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27) and a number of them repented (Matthew 10:3; 21:31-32; Luke 3:12-13; 5:27; 7:29; 18:10-11, 13; 19:2).

Illustrated in the Book of Acts: The Jews often tried to stir up Roman authority by suggesting that Christ or His followers were acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar (Acts 17:17). The Sanhedrin brought Christ before Pilate and falsely accused Him of opposing payment of taxes to Caesar (Luke 23:2). This was a deliberate distortion of Christ’s teaching.

Amplified in the Epistles: Romans 13:6-7

Discussion Questions:

1. What where the Pharisees plotting to do to Jesus? (Matthew 22:15) While Jesus continued to teach the crowds in the Court of the Gentiles, “the Pharisees” gathered privately in another part of the Temple to plan their next move. Because they were still afraid to take action against Him directly they cleverly planned to trap Him.

Mark 12:13 and Luke 20:20 provide a purpose clause (hino – “in order that”) to help us identify their intentions. Mark 12:13 says,”…in order to trap Him in a statement.” The word for “trap” (agrevo is rendered by the KJV as “catch” and literally means “to take by hunting.” It is used metaphorically of the Pharisees and Herodians seeking to catch Christ as He spoke.

Luke 20:20 uses a different word but translates it “catch.” It literally means, “they might take hold of” or “seize his words.” The Pharisees and Herodians were hoping to trap or catch him in some subversive statement against Rome that would ensure His arrest and execution as an insurrectionist. They wanted to “catch Him in some statement, “so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor” (Luke 20:20), who at that time was Pilate.

2. Who were the Herodians? (Mark 12:13) Matthew 22:16a says, “…along with the Herodians.” The Herodians were not normal allies of the Pharisees. In fact, the two groups were usually at odds with each other. Not much is known about the Herodians besides what can be inferred from their name. The Herod family was not Jewish but ldumean, descendants of Israel’s ancient enemies the Edomites. Beginning with Herod the Great, they had received favors from Rome in the form of various high political appointments, including rulerships over parts of Palestine.

The Herodians had no love for Jesus and may even have been instructed by Herod Antipas to try to instigate His death or at least imprisonment. It was that tetrarch who had imprisoned and eventually beheaded Jesus’ forerunner and friend, John the Baptist, and when Herod heard of Jesus’ miraculous works, he was afraid that He was John risen from the dead. But he was also curious to see Jesus in order to witness His miracle-working power (Luke 9:7; 23:8). Sometime later, certain Pharisees who were friendly to Jesus warned Him to flee Perea because “Herod wants to kill you” (Luke 13:31). Consequently, during the latter part of His ministry, Jesus had avoided the territory of Herod because of the hostility toward Him there, “for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33).

Any Herodians, even if they were Jews as these men were, would have had strong allegiance to Rome, and it was doubtlessly for that reason that the Pharisees asked some of them to accompany their disciples as they confronted Jesus. Should Jesus fall into their trap and make the expected objection to paying Roman taxes, the Herodian Roman sympathizers would serve as credible witnesses. Although the Pharisees despised the Herodians as irreligious traitors, it well suited their purpose to enlist these men’s help in entrapping Jesus.

3. How did the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians address Jesus? (Matthew 22:16; Mark 12:14; Luke 20:21) They addressed Him as “Teacher” (didaskos]. To address a Jewish man as “Teacher” was a high form of honor, reserved for rabbis who had distinguished themselves as astute students and interpreters of Jewish law and tradition. The Talmud said, “The one who teaches the law shall gain a seat in the academy on high.”

4. How did these disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians play the hypocrite and flatter? (Matthew 22:16b; Mark 12:14; Luke 20:21) They pretended to admire Him and flattered them with three statements. Matthew 22:16b says, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any.” Mark E. Moore writes that they were saying to Jesus:

  1. You are a man of integrity, therefore, we can follow your example in this.
  2. You accurately teach the will of God, therefore we can trust your opinion on this.
  3. You are not swayed by men, therefore we can believe your answer will be unbiased. No one was fooled by their false flattery.

Not only the Old Testament but rabbinic tradition strongly condemned flattery and hypocrisy. Despite the fact that rabbinic tradition condemned flattery and hypocrisy, Luke 20:20 says, “So they watched him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor.” They acted as if they sincerely wanted an answer to the question they were about to pose.

5. What question do they ask Jesus and how does it appear to be a no win situation for Jesus? (Matthew 22:17) They solicited Jesus’ opinion with this question: “Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” It is clear that their simple question is designed to trap Jesus. If he says, “No,” the crowds will be delighted, of course. They hate taxation. More than one third of their income goes to pay Roman taxes. While the crowds would have loved Jesus to ban taxation, the Herodians would have immediately arranged for His arrest and execution. On the other hand, if Jesus says “Yes, we should pay taxes to Caesar,” the people, urged on by the Pharisees, will stop following him. After all, any Messiah who can’t throw off the shackles of Roman domination (and especially taxation) is not worthy of support. Jesus appears to be trapped!

So, if Christ had legitimatized the payment of taxes, He would have seemed to abandon Israel’s hope; but if He had denied Rome the right to collect taxes, He would have been guilty of treason.

6. What motivated them to pose this question? (Matthew 22:18, Mark 12:15; Luke.20:23) Jesus knows what they are up to and calls them on the carpet. Matthew 22:18 says, “Jesus perceived their malice” and Luke 20:23 says “He detected their trickery.” He knew the men who posed the question were not the ones who devised it; and that the words of praise they had just showered on Him were not motivated by admiration but “malice.” The word “malice” (poneria) is better translated “wickedness” (KJV) or “iniquity.” This word speaks of the evilness of their plan. It must have hurt when Jesus identified them as “hypocrites” publicly. Jesus exposes them as hollow people, actors, pretenders, fakes. Mark 12:15 says, But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at.”

Jesus calls for a coin. The very fact that they have a Roman denarius in their possession indicates they accept Roman rule at some level. After all, you can’t accept a government’s right of coinage without also admitting its right of taxation.

7. What was a poll tax? (Matthew 22:19; Mark.12:14) The name “poll-tax” (kensos) is taken from the Latin censere, from which is derived the English census. Of the many taxes the Romans exacted from occupied territories, none was more onerous to Jews than the poll-tax, a tax payable yearly by every individual and therefore sometimes called the head tax. Among other things, it was for the purpose of collecting the poll-tax that Rome took a periodic census, such as the one that had required Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem just before Jesus was born (Luke 2:1-4).

Paying for the support of the occupying forces and providing the many beneficial services for which Rome was famous required an enormous amount of money, necessarily supplied by taxation. Consequently a land tax of one tenth of the grain and one fifth of the wine and oil produced was assessed annually, as was a one percent income tax on wage earners. Customs taxes on merchandise were collected at all ports and major crossroads.

The Romans offered many services to conquered peoples, not the least beneficial of which was the Pax Romana, or Roman peace. Because of their strategic military and commercial locations, many countries of the Near East had had little respite from war for centuries. They fought one invader after another and were ruled by one conqueror after another. At least under Roman protection they were free from war and could travel in relative safety anywhere in the empire. The Romans also provided Via Romana, valuable roads and aqueducts, many ruins of which still exist today.

Although the poll-tax may not have been the most costly tax for most people, it was the most resented by Jews. Perhaps it was because they considered themselves as personally belonging to God rather than to Caesar. It was the census tax that incited the insurrection of Judas of Galilee in A.D. 6 that was instrumental in the deposing of Herod Archelaus and his replacement by a Roman governor. Judas’ rallying cry was that, because God was their only God and Lord, the census tax would not be paid to Rome. As Gamaliel reminded the Sanhedrin when Peter and the other apostles were being questioned in Jerusalem, the rebel Judas “perished, and all those who followed him were scattered” (Acts 5:37). It was the nationalistic, anti-Roman sentiment of Judas on which the Zealot movement was built and that was behind the rebellion of A.D. 66 that led to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple four years later.

It was therefore not by accident that the Pharisees had instructed their disciples to induce Jesus to make a statement about the poll-tax. If He gave an answer favorable to the tax, He would become despised by the Jewish multitudes who until then highly admired Him. In that case, the Jewish leaders would then be free to arrest and have Him executed without interference from the populace. But they presumed He would answer otherwise and openly declare that the tax was both unjust and ungodly and should not be paid to the oppressive, pagan Caesar, thus incurring the wrath of Rome as an insurrectionist.

8. What kind of coin did they bring Jesus? (Matthew 22:19b) Disregarding Jesus’ harsh accusations against them, the men readily “brought Him a denarius,” being more than glad to help Him fall into their snare. The specific coin used for the poll-tax was the denarius, which amounted to the daily wage for a soldier or common laborer in Palestine. Although several coinages, including Greek and Hebrew were used in Israel at the time, and exchange from one to the other was easy, only the Roman denarius could be used to pay the poll-tax. It was a silver coin, minted expressly by the emperor, who alone had the authority to issue coins in silver or gold. All such coins, including the denarius, bore an engraving of the emperor on one side and an identifying inscription on the other.

That fact made the coins especially offensive to Jews for three reasons:

  1. For one thing, the emperor’s picture was a reminder of Roman oppression.
  2. The coin itself had an offensive inscription: “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus” and on the flip side, “pontifex maximus” (“the most high priest”).
    1. The coinage of Christ’s day was more than secular; it was religious. The emperors, who believed they were high priests, also believed they were gods.
    2. They often usurped the authority of God by having large numbers of people killed. Many Christians lost their lives because they failed to worship the emperor. Emperor worship was a part of the Roman Empire.
  3. The Mosaic Law specifically forbade the making of images (Exodus 20:4). In modern Israel, certain extremely orthodox Jews strictly forbid the taking of their photographs, because the resulting picture is considered a graven image.

9. Why did Jesus ask them to describe the coin? (Matthew 22:20) Jesus simply holds up the coin and asks whose picture is on it. Matthew 22:20 says, and He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They must have seen where he was headed even as their answer slips from their tongues. The logic is so simple and yet so profound: Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.

10. What command does Jesus give in Matthew 22:21? (Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25) Matthew 22:21 says, they said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render (aorist Imperative) to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”

Christ here recognizes two divinely constituted spheres of authority. In the one sphere God is supreme. In the other, Caesar has delegated authority. Christ’s statement anticipated Paul’s teaching that all civil authorities are constituted by God (Romans 13:1-7, John 19:10-11). As such they are God’s ministers to maintain law and order and to provide an atmosphere in which righteous men may live in peace (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

The word “render” is the command of Christ in this narrative. This command is an aorist imperative which denotes urgency and literally means to “pay” or “give back” (apodidomi) implying a debt. It carries the idea of obligation and responsibility for something that is not optional. This is one of the commands of Christ that must be taken seriously. Jesus teaches here that we owe them to the government as surely as we have financial obligations to God as part of our stewardship (Malachi 4:8-12).

This has some ponderous (heavy, weighty) implications:

First, a government does have the right of taxation. If we cheat on our taxes, we are disobeying the ordained authority of God (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17).

Romans 13:1-7 tells us… Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

The word “tax” in Romans 13:6-7 is phoros in the Greek text. Rome had one tax called kensos in Greek, and that was a head tax, or census. Every person paid it.

Then they had the poll tax, or land tax. That is what Paul is referring to in Romans 13:7. This tax was like our income tax. An assessment was made on land, property, slaves, and capital. The taxable amount of one’s possessions was determined, the appropriate tax rate applied, and then the person was charged the tax. So Paul says to pay your income tax.

Second, Paul also instructs believers to show respect or honor to government officials. The Greek word for honor denotes “assigning a price or value to someone.” It can sometimes refer to money. 1 Timothy 5:7 says, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” This would refer to respect and compensation. So our phrase in Romans 13:7, “honor to whom honor is due” could be translated, “Give money to whom money is due.”

It can also mean “respect.” It is best to see Paul as using two words that refer to money, (tax and duty), and two words that demonstrate attitude, (respect and honor). We are to pay our taxes and duty with an attitude of respect and honor. We should respect government officials for their position despite their perspective or personality.

We should be grateful for the provision and protection that is ours in this country; and thank God for placing us here where we have such freedom and prosperity. Our government leaders may not always please us as Christians, but we should be grateful to live in such a benevolent society. As we prosper we should thankfully pay our taxes, and not think of it as a chore we hate or despise.

1 Peter 2:13-17 says to Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17 Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

But, what about… What if Government spends our tax dollars inappropriately? We don’t obey a government because we like what it does, who’s in charge, or how it spends its money.

11. Is there ever an appropriate time for civil disobedience? (Acts 4:19; 5:29) There are appropriate occasions for civil disobedience (Acts 4:19; 5:29). However, civil disobedience should only be reserved for times when the government asks us directly or individually to disobey what God has commanded us to do or not to do. The same Peter that taught “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors…” told those in authority that he would not stop preaching the gospel because he was under a higher authority that had commanded him to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

12. Whose image was on the coin that Jesus was displaying in His hand? (Matthew 22:21b) The image on the coin is Caesar (Tiberias). Obviously, if his picture is on it, then it belongs to him. So what should we do? “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

13. Whose image were the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians made in? (Matthew 22:21b) God’s image! Jesus says, “Then render… to God the things that are God’s.” As Jesus looks around the audience, he sees men and women who are as clearly imprinted with the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27; 5:1; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). They have an obligation to give their lives to Him. But even now, Jesus the Messiah stands before them. Instead of following Him, as God intended, they are trying to trap him. They are, in this very moment, robbing God that which is due him.

14. How did they respond to Jesus’ answers to their questions? (Matthew 22:22; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:26) Matthew 22:22 says “And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away.” Luke’s Gospel says, “And they were unable to catch Him in a saying in the presence of the people; and being amazed at His answer, they became silent” (Luke 20:26).

The Pharisees and Herodians are stumped. They have laboriously contrived this “impenetrable” question. Their scheme was foolproof, yet in less than fifteen seconds this uneducated Galilean dismantles their question, exposes their motives, and convicts their hypocrisy. All they can do is walk away with their tails between their legs.

Application Questions:

  1. What was your attitude toward authority in your younger days? (Compliant? Obedient? Rebellious?)
  2. What bothers you the most about government? (Taxes? Scandals? Regulations? Waste? Nothing?)
  3. How has this command impacted your soul?
    1. Mind/Attitude – thoughts
    2. Will – decisions
    3. Emotions – feelings
  4. In your life, what belongs to Caesar? What belongs to God?
  5. How well are you giving to each?

Sources:
The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources:
1. Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
2. The Expositors Bible Commentary, Volume 8 by: Frank E. Gaebelein (General Editor), Zondervan Publishing House, 1984
3. New Testament Commentary- Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark by: William Hendriksen, Baker Book house, 1975.
4. Mark- A Portrait of the Servant by: Edmond D. Hiebert, Moody Press, 1974
5. The New International Commentary on the New Testament.
6. The Gospel According to Mark by: William L. Lane, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1974.
7. He Came to Suffer by: Thomas R. Lovejoy, Grace Community Church, 1984
8. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 7 6-23 by: John MacArthur Jr., Moody Press, 1988.
9. Word Studies in the Greek New Testament: Volume 1 by: Kenneth S. Wuest, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1950.
10. The Chronological Life of Christ Vol.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Publishing Company, 1997
11. The Words and Works of Jesus Christ by: J. Dwight Pentecost, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981

[Richard D. Leineweber Jr. © Copyright 1994]

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How to Discern God’s Will

This is an additional part for the lesson on bearing one’s own cross, basically discerning God’s will over following my own self-interests. For more on this topic, consider looking over my seminar on God’s Will.

There is a Sovereign Will of God: his secret plan that determines what happens in the universe.

  • Daniel 4:34-35 – He does according to his will.
  • Psalm 115:3 – He does whatever he pleases.
  • Job 42:2 – No purpose of yours can be thwarted.
  • Proverbs 21:1 – He directs the king’s heart.
  • Revelation 4:11 – Creation exists because of his will.
  • Ephesians 1:11 – Having been predestined according to his purpose.
  • Proverbs 16:33 – Every decision is from the Lord.
  • Romans 9:19 – For who resists his will?
  • Acts 2:23 – By the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.
  • Acts 4:27-28 – To do whatever your hand and your purpose predestined to occur.
  • Romans 11:33-36 – How unsearchable are his judgments and unfathomable his ways.

There is a Moral Will of God: revealed through his commands in the Bible what men ought to believe and how men ought to live. Probably 95% of God’s will can be found in the Bible.

  • Romans 2:18 – know his will … being instructed in the Law.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18 – This is God’s will for you…
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:3 – For this is the will of God.
  • Colossians 1:9 – May be filled with the knowledge of his will.
  • Colossians 4:12 – That you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.
  • Romans 12:2 – That you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
  • Ephesians 5:17 – Understand what the will of the Lord is.
  • Ephesians 6:6 – Doing the will of God from the heart.
  • Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust and acknowledge God, he will make your paths straight.
  • Psalm 32:8 – He will instruct and teach you in the way you should go.

There is an Individual Will of God: of his ideal, detailed life-plan designed for each person (traditional view).

Those who hold to this view seek to answer the question, “How may I be in the center of God’s will?” It is normally asked in the big decisions in life and the rest of life is navigated by circumstances and personal feelings. To find the center of God’s will require special revelation of God.

  1. A wife for Isaac (Genesis 24:3-5, 8, 10-26)
  2. A target audience for Paul (Acts 16:9-10)

A Completed Canon of Scripture: There are no more visions, dreams, and appearances (1 Corinthians 15:8, 1 Peter 1:20, no more “thus says the Lord…”) We have a more sure word of prophecy found in the canon of Scripture (2 Peter 1:19a, 21)

  • Revelation 22:18-19 – prohibits adding to God’s word (this revelation).
  • Jude 1:3 – The faith was once for all handed down to the saints.
  • 2 Peter 1:2-3 – God has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.
  • 2 Peter 2:1 – False prophets arose, and false teachers will be among you.
  • What about dreams and visions today? (Hearing God’s Voice, by Richard and Henry Blackaby)
    1. In many parts of the world, God seems to be using visions and dreams extensively. In areas where there is little or no gospel message available, and where people do not have Bibles, God is taking his message to people directly through dreams and visions. This is entirely consistent with the biblical example of visions being frequently used by God to reveal his truth to people in the early days of Christianity. If God desires to communicate his message to a person, he can use whatever means he finds necessary—a missionary, an angel, a vision, or a dream. Of course, God also has the ability to give visions in areas where the gospel message is already readily available. There is no limit to what God can do.
    2. At the same time, we must be careful when it comes to visions and the interpretation of visions. We must keep in mind that the Bible is finished, and it tells us everything we need to know. The key truth is that if God were to give a vision, it would agree completely with what He has already revealed in His Word. Visions should never be given equal or greater authority than the Word of God. God’s Word is our ultimate authority for Christian faith and practice.

How NOT to Determine God’s Will:

  1. Do NOT Put God to the Test (Matthew 4:7, Deuteronomy 8:3)
  2. Do NOT Seek After Signs (Matthew 12:38-40)
  3. Do NOT Communicate With the Dead (Isaiah 8:19-20, Deuteronomy 10-12)
  4. Do NOT Look at Horoscopes (Jeremiah 10:2, Revelation 21:8, Galatians 5:20)
  5. Do NOT be Led by the Spirit Contrary to God’s Word (James 4:17)
  6. Do NOT be Led by Your Sinful Nature:
    • Jeremiah 17:9 (“follow your heart,” which is wicked and can’t be trusted)
    • Ephesians 4:22-24 (“Be true to yourself,” which self? The old self or the new self?)

How to Determine God’s Will:

1. Examine yourself to make sure you are a Christian:

  • 2 Corinthians 13:5 – test yourself
  • James 1:18 – God gave us new birth
  • 1 Timothy 2:4 – who desires all men to be saved
  • 2 Peter 3:9 – God does not want anyone destroyed but to repent

2. Understand a biblical worldview on the decisions that you make and the direction that you take (Ephesians 5:15).

  • What does God expect of me?
  • What principles from the Bible could give me further wisdom on this decision?
  • After determining biblical boundaries, pray for God’s wisdom to make the best choice with the options that remain (1 Thessalonians 3:1 – we thought it best…).

3. Seek counsel from those in authority over you:

  • Parents (Proverbs 6:21-23, Ephesians 6:1-3)
  • Husband (Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18)
  • Small group leader or pastor (Hebrews 13:17)
  • Employer (Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 4:1)
  • Government officials (Romans 13:1-7)

4. Discern whether your decision will be consistent with God’s five purposes for your life:

  • Knowing (worship, exalt, magnify): connecting with God by getting to know, trust, and love him.
  • Relating (fellowship, encouragement, membership): connecting with others through learning real love and belonging in God’s family.
  • Serving (service, equipping, ministry): connecting with opportunities to give back and make a difference with your talents.
  • Growing (discipleship, edification, maturity): connecting with truths, tools, experiences, people, and habits that help you grow spiritually.
  • Sharing (outreach, evangelism, mission): connecting with opportunities to share your story and God’s story as you live out your life mission.

5. Discern whether your decision will be consistent with your God-given SHAPE (how you are wired). We are created for good works (Ephesians 2:10).

  • Spiritual gifts: how has God gifted me? (1 Peter 4:10, 1 Corinthians 12:11)
  • Heart: what do I love to do? (Philippians 2:13)
  • Abilities: what are my natural talents and skills? (Exodus 31:3)
  • Personality: where does my personality best suit me to serve? (Psalm 139:14)
  • Experience: what life experiences do I bring to this opportunity? (Philippians 2:12)

6. Consult your board of directors: a group of past teachers, mentors, and disciplers whom you can contact for advice.

  • Proverbs 1:5 – a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.
  • Proverbs 11:14 – where there is no guidance the people fall.
  • Proverbs 12:5 – thoughts of the righteous are just.
  • Proverbs 12:15 – a wise man listens to counsel.
  • Proverbs 13:10 – those who take advice are wise.
  • Proverbs 15:22 – without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.
  • Proverbs 19:20 – the wise listen to counsel and accept discipline.
  • Proverbs 24:6 – an abundance of counselors brings victory.
  • Proverbs 27:9 – a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.

7. Make your decision and allow God to “blue pencil” your plans (the key is “Lord willing” and Proverbs 16:9 – the mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps, like a drafting change). Avoid the sin of presumption (James 4:13-17).

  • Acts 18:21 – I will return, if God wills.
  • Romans 1:10 – perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.
  • Romans 15:32 – I may come to you in joy by the will of God.
  • 1 Corinthians 4:19 – if the Lord wills.
  • 1 Corinthians 16:7 – if the Lord permits.
  • Hebrews 6:3 – if God permits.
  • 1 Peter 3:17 – if God should will it so.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

Recommended resources:
Decision Making and the Will of God, by Garry Friesen
Decision Making by the Book, by Haddon Robinson

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Receptivity to God’s Word

Luke 8:4-21 addresses the quality of our attentiveness to God’s Word, in spiritual matters, Bible study, worship, devotional time…

This lesson is all about the heart of the listener. The nation of Israel and the disciples could not have a better teacher. The message or seed was perfect yet there were four different kinds of responses by the hearers. This was because there are four different kinds of hearts. This parable would prepare the disciples to except the sad reality that not everyone will be receptive to their teaching. We are to work hard at preparing good Bible studies and teaching, but receptivity to God’s Word or biblical teaching is an issue of the heart. Jesus is personally challenging his own disciples to build the character quality of attentiveness to God’s word. Our Lord’s half-brother James describes the goal of attentiveness, “but prove yourself to be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).

Historical Background: Matthew 13:1, 3 says, “that same day Jesus went out of the house and… told them many things in parables.” What was significant about “that day?” Earlier that day Jesus had healed the blind, mute demoniac and Jesus had been accused by the national leaders of Israel of performing that miracle by Beelzebub, the ruler of demons, (Matthew 12:22–24). This is no small accusation. Jesus describes it as the unpardonable sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 12:31–32).

This is unrepeatable today unless a person saw the incarnate Christ performing miracles by the Holy Spirit and attributing them to Satan. The Pharisees’ words that day condemned them, (Matthew 12:37), and judicially as a nation Jesus would hide truth from them in parables and offer them one more miraculous sign, the sign of Jonah the prophet, (his resurrection, Matthew 12:38–40).

Satan had not hindered Israel’s receptivity to God’s word because Jesus had swept the house of Israel clean of such influences so we could receive the Holy Spirit. But with their formal rejection of Jesus, he predicts that since the house is unoccupied, it wouldn’t remain empty, but would be filled with all the previous demons and that they would each find a seven other spirits more wicked than themselves to take up residence there, (Matthew 13:43–45).

The primary command we are talking about today are “let him hear” in Luke 8:8, and “take care how you listen” in Luke 8:18.

Other Times You Find this Command in the Gospels:

  • Matthew 11:15 let him hear, Matthew 15:10 hear and understand, Matthew 13:9 let him hear, Matthew 13:18 hear, Matthew 13:43 let him hear, Matthew 21:33 listen.
  • Mark 4:3 listen to this, Mark 4:9 let him hear, Mark 4:23 let him hear, Mark 4:24 take care what you listen to, Mark 7:16 let him hear.
  • Luke 8:8 let him hear, Luke 8:18 take care how you listen, Luke 18:6 hear.

The Gospels describe how large crowds came to hear Jesus, (Luke 5:15, 6:8.) People were astonished at what they heard, (Matthew 19:25, 22:33, Mark 11:18). They would come to hear him teach in the synagogue, (Mark 6:2, 12:37, Luke 21:38), and by the seashore, (Luke 5:1). Lazarus’ sister Mary made it a priority to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from him when he stayed with them, (Luke 10:39). Table fellowship with irreligious people was one of Jesus favorite places to dialogue with lost people, (Luke 15:1). Men from the city of Sychar trusted in Jesus as Savior after listening to him, (John 4:42), but everyone wasn’t as receptive. On other occasions people walked away, (John 6:60), others were offended, (Matthew 15:12), others were grieved, (Matthew 19:22), they were angered (Luke 4:28) and saddened (Luke 18:23).

1. To whom was Jesus speaking? (Luke 8:4, 9, Matthew 13:2, 10, Mark 4:1). All these verses indicate that it was a great multitude, a very great multitude, the disciples, and his followers along with the twelve.

2. Where did Jesus teach this parable? (Mark 4:1, Matthew 13:1–2). These verses indicate that he began to teach again by the sea, a very large crowd had gathered so he got into the boat in the sea and sat down, and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land.

3. What is a parable? (Luke 8:4, Mark 4:2, Matthew 13:13). John MacArthur writes, “the parable was a common form of Jewish teaching, and the term is found some 45 times in the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament. The term is a compound word made up from the Greek verb that means, “to throw, lay, or place,” and the prefix meaning “alongside of.” So the idea is that of placing or laying something alongside of something else for the purpose of comparison. A spiritual truth would be expressed by laying it alongside a physical example that could easily be understood. A common, observable object or practice was used to illustrate a subjective truth or principal. The known elucidated the unknown.

4. What reasons does Jesus give for teaching in parables? (Luke 8:9–10, Matthew 13:1, 10-17, Mark 4:10–12). Jesus at this point in time began to teach in parables to hide truth rather than to make it more easily understood. Only those with tender hearts and eyes of faith would receive an explanation and understand its meaning. Here Jesus clearly affirms that the ability to comprehend spiritual truth is a gracious gift of God, sovereignly bestowed on the elect, (Matthew 13:11).

Those with hard hearts are passed over. They reap the natural consequences of their own unbelief and rebellion, spiritual blindness (Matthew 13:13). Matthew seems to suggest that the words, “because while seeing they do not see,” that their own unbelief is the cause of their spiritual blindness. Luke 8:10 emphasizes God’s initiative in obscuring the truth from these unbelievers, “but to the rest is given in parables, in order that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand, (see Isaiah 6:9). Both are true, yet we are not to think that God blinds them because he somehow delights in their destruction, (Ezekiel 33:11, 23:37). This judicial blinding may be viewed as an act of mercy, lest their condemnation be increased. Matthew 13:14–15 is quoted from Isaiah 6:9–10.

When the Jewish nation was guilty of unbelief, it was to our benefit because it brought in the Gentiles, (Matthew 13:11). (See also Acts 28:26, Isaiah 6, Romans 11).

5. What is the mystery of the kingdom of God? (Luke 8:10, Matthew 13:11, 24–50). The word “mystery” does not refer to stories like those found in modern mystery novels, whose complex plot and unexpected situations pique the curiosity of the reader.

In Scripture, the “mystery” refers to the revelation of something previously hidden and unknown. The New Testament mysteries were revelations and explanations of divine truth that were not revealed to saints under the Old Covenant.

The particular mysteries about which Jesus teaches here have to do with the Kingdom of Heaven, (Matthew 13:24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47, 52). Parallel passages are in Mark 4:11, 30 and Luke 8:10, 13:18, or seem to be the same as the Kingdom of God, Matthew 19:23–24. One title emphasizes the king, God, and the other emphasizes the sphere of his reign, heaven. Of this Kingdom of the Old Testament gives only limited, incomplete glimpse. Some interpret these messianic prophecies in the Old Testament as pointing to Christ’s second coming and the establishment of his earthly kingdom and his subsequent eternal kingdom. Only hints were given about his present earthly kingdom that began with his rejection and crucifixion and will continue until he returns. This is the kingdom that exist spiritually in the hearts of his people while the king is physically absent from the earth. He is present with believers, but is not visible or evident in the world, except as revealed through their lives and testimony.

When the Son of God became incarnate, he was God’s unique Mediator, the divine-human instrument of rule, who in his own right deserved to establish and reign over God’s earthly kingdom. When the Son of God was rejected, God continues to rule through those who belong to Christ, those who are now empowered within by his own indwelling Holy Spirit. From Pentecost through the present day and until Christ returns, Christians are God’s rulers on earth.

To be in his mediatorial kingdom, requires intentional identity with him. For these false citizens the identity is hypocritical and superficial. For the true citizens, the identity is genuine, being based on repentance, faith in Christ, and the new life that faith in him brings, (Mark 1:15).

6. Do you think the disciples understood the mystery? (Matthew 13:51–52). The disciples respond to Jesus by saying “yes,” but from what they said and did, we know their understanding was far from perfect.

7. What does the seed represent in this parable? (Luke 8:12). The seed is called “the word of the kingdom,” (Matthew 13:19,) the “word of God,” (Luke 8:11), and just “the word” every other time, (Matthew 13:21, 22, 23, Mark 4:14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, Luke 8:12, 13, 15). The “word of the kingdom” is the good news of entrance into the kingdom by grace through faith. The “word” is able to save those who believe, (Luke 8:12, Romans 1:16). The “word” is the gospel but the text certainly has a broader application to receptivity to teaching of any of God’s Word.

8. Who is the sower? Jesus does not here identify the sower, but in the parable of the wheat and the tares, he says, “the one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man,” (Matthew 13:37).

9. What does the soil represent in this parable? (Luke 8:11, 15, Mark 4:14). The soil represents the “hearers” and the hearts of men, (Matthew 13:19, Luke 8:12).

10. What happens to the seed as it falls on each type of soil? (Luke 8:5–8, Matthew 13:4–8, Mark 4:4–8). The first three are not Christian, no fruit means no Christian.

  • Beside the road, (Luke 8:5). The seed was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air ate it up.
  • On rocky ground, (Luke 8:6). The seed grows, breaks the ground, but withers up because it had no moisture. Matthew 13:5 says they did not have much soil, and immediately they spraying up. Both Matthew 13:5 and Mark 4:5 describe this immediate growth was because they had no depth of soil. Luke 8:6 adds because it had no moisture.
  • Among thorns, (Luke 8:7). The seeds fell among the thorns and was choked out before it could bear fruit. Mark 4:7 adds that it yielded no crop.
  • Into the good soil, (Luke 8:8). This seed was able to produce a crop. When the seed falls on the good soil, Mark 4:7 says it grew up and increased, the yield of the crop and produced 30, 60, and one hundredfold. Matthew 13:8 says that there can be good soil but it is not all equally productive. Luke 8:8 contrasts the good soil with the three previous types of soil that were unproductive and says, “and produce a crop 100 times is great.”

11. What kind of hearts does each of the soil represent?

  • A hard and stubborn heart, (Luke 8:12): A person with a stubborn heart is totally unreceptive and does not understand it and “the bird” who is called “Satan” (Mark 4:15) or “the evil one” (Matthew 13:19) or “the devil” (Luke 8:12) comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown. Luke 8:12 gives us a reason for the urgency, “so that they may not believe and be saved.”
  • A selective heart, (Luke 8:13): A person with a selective part is quick to receive the Word but due to affliction or persecution because of the Word, he isn’t merely reluctant, he immediately falls away (Matthew 13:21). The words “fall away” (scandalizo) in Matthew 13:21 and Mark 4:17 refers to being “offended, caused to stumble, or trip.” The word translated “fall away” in Luke’s account is a different word that is equivalent to apostasy (Luke 8:13). In a way, these people are simply trying to avoid hell, which brings them some element of joy, but they have no desire to really follow Jesus, especially during hardship. They soon believe that Christianity doesn’t work and then they think any religion will do. So they don’t walk with Christ.
  • A preoccupied heart, (Luke 8:14): A person with a preoccupied heart is distracted by worry of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, (Matthew 13:22), the desires of other things, (Matthew 4:19), and the pleasures of this life, (Luke 8:14). In Matthew and Mark the word is “choked out” of a persons life, Luke identifies the person as being choked as well. A preoccupied heart leads to becoming unfruitful, (Mark 4:19). Luke says this kind of hearer will bring no fruit to maturity, (Luke 8:14). These people are just too busy.
  • A productive heart, (Luke 8:15): A person that possesses a productive heart will hear the Word, (Matthew 13:23), accept it, and he bears fruit, (Mark 4:20), some bearing a hundredfold, some 60, and some 30, (Matthew 13:23). Luke provides the explanation for the different levels of productiveness. Luke says the “seed in the good soil is the one who hears the word in an honest and and good heart, and hold it fast, and bears fruit with perseverance.” Luke suggests four steps to being good listeners that bring forth a crop that is a hundredfold.
    • An honest heart, which is the opposite of a false-hearted, dishonest person.
    • A good heart, “good” here has the meaning in the sense of good fertile soil, it denotes a soul inclined to goodness and accordingly eager to learn.
    • Hold it fast, meaning to cling to the truths that are learned. We are all prone to hear something and then forget it. Jesus is saying we need to hold onto it. This may require note taking during a message for Bible study, going over those notes during the week, maybe memorizing a key verse from the passage.
    • Bear fruit with perseverance, which means that bearing fruit takes time and perseverance. This requires life application, action steps, accountability, prayer, and a lot of patience. The degree to which we apply these four steps will determine our fruitfulness.

12. Why are some Christians more productive than others? (Luke 8:8, 15, Matthew 13:8, Mark 4:20). According to these passages there is a difference in the level of productivity. Luke’s gospel provides the insight into why all believers are described as good soil and yet they can produce a different size crop. Luke 8:15 says, “but the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”

13. How does Luke 8:16–17 fit into the context or the flow of the passage? Jesus is teaching that when we are not obeying what we are hearing, then in reality we really haven’t listened and are actually covering our light. Therefore, the light of the gospel should not be hidden by a life of disobedience. The light of the gospel is to be put on the stand where all men can see how we obey the teachings of Christ.

14. What does Christ command us to do in Luke 8:18 (and Luke 8:8)? The command is to “take care how you listen,” and “let him hear.” Christ commands his disciples to continually give themselves to careful attention to what they hear from God’s Word in order to truly understand it and obey it. Superficial hearing must be avoided, especially in spiritual matters.

15. What is the promise of Luke 8:18? This is a terrifying verse. Jesus cautions us not to convince ourselves that we know something if we are not doing it. There is a familiar sayings, “If we are not using it we will lose it.” No, actually the text says “It will be taken away from us.” On the other hand, if we are attentive when God speaks to us through his Word and are obeying it, we will be given more.

16. What is the characteristic of every person that is truly a member of the family of God? (Luke 8:19–21). Jesus is teaching that all true believers bear fruit, even if it’s only one small shriveled up grape. If there is no fruit, there is no root. The first three types of soils bore no fruit so they represent unregenerate people. The fruit of obedience is evidence that the life of God dwells in the professing believer, (Ephesians 2:2, 5:6, Colossians 3:6).

17. What is the central truth this parable is teaching? The seed being uniform really good, the difference of crop depends upon the character of the soil that receives the seed.

The bottom line is that we are a witness in the world whether we like it or not. There are actually five Gospels, and most people read-only you. What sort of testimony do you have? Are you able to live in such a way that brings honor and glory to God, and advance his Kingdom? Are you being a fruitful Christian? Our goal is not to be a knowledgeable sinner, but to actually do and obey the Word of God that we read or hear.

Additional Commentary:

A comparison of the parallel passages in Matthew 13:3–50 and Mark 4:2–34 highlights the different emphases that the three Synoptic evangelists are able to bring out of what is essentially the same material.

The Marcan collection begins with the Parable of the Sower and its interpretation (Mark 4:2–20), to which is added the Parable of the Lamp (Mark 4:21–25) and two kingdom parables (Mark 4:26–32). The main point of this collection seems to be the concern to show how the kingdom will grow. Despite obstacles, failures, and a small beginning, through the preaching of the Word, the kingdom will grow and succeed.

The Matthean collection also begins with the same Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3–23), omits Mark’s Parable of the Lamp (but see Matthew 5:15) and the Parable of the Seed that grows secretly (Mark 4:26–29), and adds five new kingdom parables to Mark’s Parable of the Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30–32; Matthew 13:24–50). The focus of the Matthean collection is on the kingdom’s membership (note especially the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, Matthew 13:24–30, and its explanation in Matthew 13:36–43).

Luke, however, has gathered together no collection, electing to retain the Sower and Lamp parables only (Luke 8:4–17), to which he appends Jesus’ warning to heed his words (Luke 8:18) and his pronouncement concerning his true family (Luke 8:19–21, taken from Mark 3:31–35). The Lucan theme has nothing to do with the kingdom. Instead, its focus is upon Jesus’ word and the urgent need to obey it. 1

The Three Soils: Birger Gerhardsson (“The Parable of the Sower and Its Interpretation,” NTS 14 [1967–68], pp. 165–93) has suggested that the three soils that failed to bring forth fruit are meant to correspond to the three requirements of loyalty found in Deuteronomy 6:4–5, the “Great Commandment” (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:29–30; Luke 10:27).

  1. The first fruitless soil represents the person who does not “love the Lord” with all his “heart” (see Matthew 13:19 where “heart” appears).
  2. The second fruitless soil represents the person who does not “love the Lord” will all his “soul” (endurance).
  3. The third fruitless soil represents the person who does not “love the Lord” with all his “might” (i.e., wealth).
  4. The fourth soil represents the person who does “love the Lord” with all his heart, soul, and might.

Gerhardsson further suggests that the Matthean order of the three temptations in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11 = Luke 4:1-12) corresponds as well. He believes that it is in the Gospel of Matthew that these parallels with Deuteronomy are the clearest. 2

Mysteries of the Kingdom:

When His disciples inquired concerning the meaning of this parable, the Lord Jesus explained that the mysteries of the kingdom of God would not be understood by everyone. Because the disciples were willing to trust and obey, they would be given the ability to understand the teachings of Christ. But Jesus purposely presented many truths in the form of parables so that those who had no real love for Him would not understand; so that seeing, they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. In one sense, they saw and heard. For instance, they knew that Jesus had talked about a sower and his seed. But they did not understand the deeper meaning of the illustration. They did not realize that their hearts were hard, impenitent, and thorny soil, and that they did not benefit from the word which they had heard. 3

His followers are given the secrets of the kingdom of God, by which is meant the plain, non-parabolic word of God, or gospel; others are given parables. The reason for this is so that “though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand” (Luke 8:10, paraphrasing Isaiah 6:9). There have been numerous attempts to mitigate the severity of this statement, but it should be taken at face value. The secrets of the kingdom have been given to Jesus’ disciples (and here Luke means everyone who will, or has ever, become a follower of Jesus), but for the rest (i.e., those who will not heed the word of God) Jesus’ words remain enigmatic parables so that they will understand even less (Luke 8:18). This is in essence a statement of judgment and all the more reason to listen (Luke 8:8, 15, 21). 4

“It has been given to you:” Here Jesus clearly affirms that the ability to comprehend spiritual truth is a gracious gift of God, sovereignly bestowed on the elect (Matthew 13:11). The reprobate ones, on the other hand, are passed over. They reap the natural consequence of their own unbelief and rebellion—spiritual blindness (Matthew 13:13). 5

“The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” “Mysteries” are those truths which have been hidden from all ages in the past and revealed in the NT. This term does not refer to something puzzling, but to truth known to God before time, that He has kept secret until the appropriate time for Him to reveal it. (1 Corinthians 2:7; 4:1; Ephesians 3:4-5).

Regarding the mystery in Ephesians 3:4-5: Jew and Gentile brought together in one body in the Messiah. Paul not only wrote of the mystery that, in Christ, Jew and Gentile become one in God’s sight and in His kingdom and family, but also explained and clarified that truth. He realized that spiritual knowledge must precede practical application. What is not properly understood cannot properly be applied. 6

Many specific doctrines of the NT are identified as “mysteries” (e.g., Romans 11:25; 1 Corinthians 15:51; Ephesians 5:32; 6:19; Colossians 1:26, 27; 2 Thessalonians 2:7; 1 Timothy 3:9, 16). 5

The Responsibility of Those Who Hear:

Luke 8:16 – At first glance there does not seem to be much connection between this section and what has gone before. Actually, however, there is a continuous flow of thought. The Savior is still emphasizing the importance of what His disciples do with His teachings. He likens Himself to a man who has lit a lamp, not to be put under a vessel or under a bed, but on a lampstand for all to see the light. In teaching the disciples the principles of the kingdom of God, He was lighting a lamp. What should they do with it?

  1. First of all, they should not cover it with a vessel. In Matthew 5:15, Mark 4:21, and Luke 11:33 (KJV), the vessel is spoken of as a bushel. This of course is a unit of measure used in the world of commerce. So hiding the lamp under a bushel could speak of allowing one’s testimony to be obscured or crowded out in the rush of business life. It would be better to put the lamp on top of the bushel, that is, practice Christianity in the marketplace and use one’s business as a pulpit for propagating the gospel.
  2. Secondly, the disciple should not hide the lamp under a bed. The bed speaks of rest, comfort, sloth, and indulgence. How these can hinder the light from shining! The disciple should put the lamp on a stand. In other words, he should live and preach the truth so that all can see.

Luke 8:17 seems to suggest that if we allow the message to be confined because of business or laziness, our neglect and failure will be exposed. Hiding of the truth will be revealed, and keeping it a secret will come to light.

Luke 8:18 – Therefore we should be careful how we hear. If we are faithful in sharing the truth with others, then God will reveal new and deeper truths to us. If, on the other hand, we do not have this spirit of evangelistic zeal, God will deprive us of the truth we think we possess. What we don’t use, we lose. G. H. Lang comments: “The disciples listened with a mind eager to understand and ready to believe and obey: the rest heard with either listlessness, or curiosity, or resolute opposition. To the former more knowledge would be granted; the latter would be deprived of what knowledge they seemed to have.” 7

1 Evans, C. A. (1990). Luke (p. 125). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
2 Evans, C. A. (1990). Luke (p. 128). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
3 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1397). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
4 Evans, C. A. (1990). Luke (pp. 126–127). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
5 MacArthur, J., Jr. (Ed.). (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed., p. 1416). Nashville, TN: Word Pub.
6 MacArthur, J., Jr. (Ed.). (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed., p. 1806). Nashville, TN: Word Pub.
7 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1397–1398). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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How to Walk Circumspectly

Today we are looking at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, “How to Walk Circumspectly” from Matthew 7:13–27. That is not a word we often use but it does describe very well the topic for today. Circumspectly is defined this way: 1. watchful and discreet; cautious; prudent: circumspect behavior; 2. well-considered: circumspect ambition.

Here are the commands that we find in the gospels: Matthew 4:17 – repent, Matthew 7:13 – enter, Matthew 7:15 – beware, Matthew 11:28 – come, Mark 1:15 – repent, believe, John 6:27 – do not work, John 12:35 – walk, John 12:36 – believe.

It is also illustrated in the book of acts: Acts 9:2, 16:17, John 14:6, Acts 19:9, 23, 22:4, 24:14, 22.

It is also amplified in the epistles: Romans 1:1–5:21, 2 Corinthians 13:5, Ephesians 2:1–10.

Group Questions:

1. How do we know that the multitude joined the disciples when he gave this command? (Matthew 5:1, 16, 45).

2. What is significant about the command to “enter by the narrow gate” in Matthew 7:13?

3. Why do so “few” enter by the narrow gate? (Matthew 7:13, Luke 13:23–24)

4. What is similar about the narrow and wide gates? What is the difference between them? (Matthew 7:13, 14)

5. How can we determine that someone has entered through the narrow gate? (Matthew 7:13, 14)

6. The destiny of those who choose to broad way is destruction. Does destruction mean existence or annihilation? (Matthew 7:13, 18:8, 25:41, 46, 2 Thessalonians 1:9)

7. Why does Jesus warn his audience concerning false teachers? (Matthew 7:15)

8. What did Jesus say what the criteria for judging between true and false prophets? (Matthew 7:16–20)

9. How does Jesus’ message compare to John the Baptist’ message? (Matthew 7:19, 3:10)

10. What kind of fruit was John the Baptist looking for? (Matthew 3:8, Luke 3:8–14)

11. Is the profession of faith “Lord, Lord,” adequate enough to secure a place in the kingdom of heaven? (Matthew 7:21, Romans 10:13)

12. Is your assurance of salvation based on a past act or present obedience? (Matthew 7:21)

13. What is a possible explanation for the claims of false believers in Matthew 7:22?

14. Who are the “many” that will face “that day” of divine judgment? (Matthew 7:13, 22)

15. What does it mean when Jesus said, “I never knew you?” (Matthew 7:23, Galatians 4:8, 9)

16. What is the only difference between the construction of the two houses? (Matthew 7:24–27)

17. What does the sand in Matthew 7:26 represent?

18. What does the storm in Matthew 7:25, 27 represent?

19. Who does Jesus rebuke through the story of the two builders? Why? (Luke 6:46–49)

20. Why did the multitudes respond with astonishment to Jesus’ message? (Matthew 7:28, 29)

Section Outline:

  • Two gates, two roads, two destinations (Matthew 7:13, 14)
  • Two kinds of fruit (Matthew 7:15–20)
  • Two types of professions (Matthew 7:21–23)
  • Two foundations (Matthew 7:24–27)

Summation: This whole sermon on the mount is summed up in Matthew 5:20, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Entrance into the kingdom is dependent upon righteousness. How righteous do you need to be? Jesus said in Matthew 5:20 that you need to be more righteous than that of the scribes and Pharisees.

From a human perspective, the Pharisees were very righteous, but Christ commands a righteousness that exceeds theirs. In fact, our Lord requires a righteousness that is beyond man’s capacity to attain. It is a righteous does that can only come from the holy God. (Philippians 3:9, Luke 18:9–14).

This will leave man with two options: either they invent their own religion, or they live God’s way. They must decide whether to try to get to heaven on their own terms, or come to heaven on God’s terms. Think about taking out a bank loan, it’s always on their terms.

In the Land Before Time movie, several little dinosaurs are making their way to the Big Valley, a place of peace, old friends and family, food, and free from meat eating dinosaurs (somewhat representing heaven). The road is long and hard but the one called Cera wants to take a different, less strenuous route, with the objection, “but you’re going the wrong way.” One tiny friend named Ducky makes a great observation, “Cera’s way is easier.”

Jesus said the broad gate leads to the broad way and destruction. It is the way of easy religion and human righteousness. The scribes, Pharisees, and other people who think they are good enough to get into heaven travel that road. On the other hand, the narrow gate that precedes the narrow way leads to life. That is where people with broken hearts and contrite spirits go. They know they can’t keep God’s standards and be perfect like him. They cast themselves on the mercy of Christ, who gives them his own righteousness.

Two Gates:

These two gates represent two ways of salvation. All the religions of the world walk through one of these two gates. Man’s way of salvation focuses on “human achievement” (self righteousness). It is a DO system. This approach is man’s attempt for his good things to outweigh the bad things he does in this life. God’s way of salvation focuses on “divine accomplishment” (Christ righteousness), it’s a DONE system. The Bible teaches there is nothing that we can do to get saved it, it’s already been done through the finished work of Christ on the cross at Calvary.

The Narrow or Small Gate: Matthew 7:13a, 14 “enter through the narrow gate, … for the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are a few who find it.”

The word “find” is important: it tells us that we have to search for the narrow gate. It requires effort. Jeremiah 29:13 says, you will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart. No one stumbles into the kingdom of God inadvertently. You have to search for it. (Matthew 7:13a, 7:14, John 14:6, 1 Timothy 2:5-6, Acts 4:12, 16:17, Luke 13:24).

The word strive is the Greek word “agonizomai” which means “to agonize.” It is difficult to come to God on his terms. You must recognize your inability to be righteous enough to please God, which means getting rid of your pride. This requires acknowledging that we have lost our way, confession, and repentance from sin. There must be a childlike humility, trust, and dependence on God alone to to rescue or save us from the penalty of our sin. This means placing no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3).

The Wide Gate: Matthew 7:13b, “but the gate is wide and the way his broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.”

Two Roads:

The Narrow Way: Matthew 7:14, “for the gate is small and the way his narrow that leads to life, and there are a few who find it.”

In 2 Timothy 3:16, we read that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” This illustration helps us to understand what these four points really mean.

The early church was called The Way because it taught that Jesus Christ was the only way to heaven and obedience to his commands was the only way to live here on earth. Acts 19:9 is a good example.

  • But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. (Acts 19:9)
  • But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and what is written in the Prophets. (Acts 24:14)

The Broad Way: “for the gate is wide and the way his broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” (Matthew 7:13b)

Two Destinations: “for the gate is small and the way his narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:14). “For the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it (Matthew 7:13b). The word here for destruction really means “the absence of well-being,” never annihilation.

Two Kinds of Fruit: Jesus said that false prophets add to the difficulty of entering the narrow gate. They stand at the crossroads, trying to push people toward the broad road. They try to divert people for Satan’s purposes. False prophets tell people that they can go to heaven with all their sin and all their selfishness. Read Matthew 7:15-20.

In this passage, Jesus says, as you strive to enter that narrow gate, beware of those who try to mislead you. The Bible warns us repeatedly about false prophets… (Deuteronomy 13:1–5, Isaiah 30:9–10, Jeremiah 5:1, 14:14, 23:14–16, 23:21, 28, Zechariah 11:16-17, Matthew 24:11, 24, Romans 16:17–18, 2 Corinthians 11:26, 1 Timothy 4:1–2, 2 Peter 2:1, 1 John 4:1).

The command “beware” in Matthew 7:15, should be enough to let us know that false prophets are dangerous. Whenever I see the word “beware” on a sign, I stop. I don’t want to run into a huge dog. I want to be careful not to get electrocuted. Beware is a strong word, the Greek word for it means “hold your mind away from.” Don’t ever expose your mind to the influence of false prophets. Don’t pay attention to them, they pervert the mind and poison the soul.

The worst enemy of sheep is a wolf. Hired laborers just run away, but wolves eat the sheep. The good shepherd protects his flock, a hired laborer abandons the flock that is entrusted to him, but the false prophet destroys sheep. They are ravenous wolves. The verb form of the Greek word for ravening in Matthew 7:15, literally means “to snatch or to seize.”

In the Old Testament, and in the case of John the Baptist in the New Testament, a prophet was known by what he wore. Elijah wore a rough, hairy, burlap garment (2 Kings 1:8). That was a statement to society that he was giving up personal comforts for the Lord’s cause. John the Baptist lived in the wilderness, ate locusts and wild honey, and and wore a rough camel hair coat. Camel hair products today or not the same that they used to be; they were very uncomfortable. He wore the clothing of a prophet. God’s prophets had no worldly goods and did not wear worldly clothes. They looked as if they had come in from the wilderness, where they communed with God.

False prophets know about the proper clothing. Zechariah 13:4 even says that a false prophet will “wear a rough garment to deceive.”

When Jesus said that a false prophet wore sheep’s clothing, he wasn’t talking about a person crawling on his hands and knees wearing a sheepskin and a sheepshead. Most shepherds wore cloaks made from sheep’s wool, which is the mark of a shepherd. He needed a warm cloak because it Israel the evenings are cold. So when Jesus spoke of false prophets in sheep clothing, he was talking about people dressed like a shepherd. Sheep clothing is another term for wool. Just as a false prophet would wear the clothing of a prophet, a false shepherd wears the clothing of a shepherd. Jesus wasn’t talking about a sheep’s disguise. He was talking about a shepherd’s disguise. A false shepherd looks like a shepherd, but he is really a wolf.

There was an old proverb that says, “like root, like fruit.” The Jews, Greeks, and Romans all said that a tree is judged by its fruit. If you want to know whether a prophet is true or false, look at what he produces. What is the fruit of his character, conduct, creed, and converts? Be careful: just because a person is associated with Christians doesn’t mean that he can’t to be a false prophet (Acts 20:29-31).

Two Professions:

Keep in mind that the Lord was not speaking to irreligious people, but to people who were obsessed with religious activity. They were apostates, heretics, or atheists; they weren’t anti-God. The people Christ spoke to were religious, but they were damned because they were self-deluded and on the wrong road. A false prophet could’ve caused their delusion, or they have delude themselves. Using Paul’s words, they were people that had held “to a form of godliness, although they have denied it’s power” (2 Timothy 3:5). Remember that there are many who enter through the wide gate (Matthew 7:21-23).

Self Deception: JC Ryle, a 19th century English Pastor, wrote,” the Lord Jesus winds up the sermon on the mount by a passage of heart piercing application. He turns from false prophets to false professors, the unsound teachers to unsound hearers.” it is not only false teachers who make the narrow way difficult to find and still harder to walk. A man may also be grievously self deceived.

Some people think they are saved because they go to church, hear sermons, sing songs, read the Bible, and go to a Bible study or class. They are completely involved in religious activity, but that’s a great illusion. There are many people in the church who are not saved. They are tares among the wheat (Matthew 13:24–30).

Dr. Elton Trueblood, a protestant philosopher of religion, said, “our main mission field today, as far as America is concerned, is within the church membership itself.” Theologian Karl Barth, who wasn’t evangelical but is recognized as a major theologian in modern times, said, “the true function of the church consists first of all in its own regeneration.” The church is full of people who say empty words. They say they are Christians, but don’t do God’s will. Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Confession is necessary, but confession without obedience is a sham.

In the 1990s, researcher George Barna startled the church with what he termed, “one of the rudest awakenings I have ever received in my uppers to help the churches grow.” He said, “half of all the adults who attended Protestant churches on a typical Sunday morning or not Christian. Churches are filled with individuals who by reason of tradition, misinformation, demonic deception, or something else have never come to a Grace-based relationship with Jesus Christ. They are lost in church.” For more check out www.lostinchurch.com.

  • Titus 1:16 says, “they profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”
  • Luke 6:46 says, “why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?”

The word “Lord” is Kurios, it is used for the name Jehovah in the Septuagint. In it, the people are staying, “We know you are God. We except all of your divinty involving the virgin birth, miraculous life, substitutionary death, powerful resurrection, intercession, and second coming.” These people use the right terms and appear to have the right attitudes.

Since they use the term, Lord, Lord twice, this indicates there fervency. If the judgment spoken of here in Matthew 7 refers to the great white throne judgment, then those people will have already spent centuries in a place of punishment. That will add to their fervency. They will say, “Lord, why are we being punished?”

These people will get a terrible shock. You say, “you mean God won’t know who those people are?” No, God knows everything. We are not talking about an awareness of who someone is. In the Bible the word “know” is often used to speak of an intimate relationship (Galatians 4:8-9).

Why does God ask them to depart from him? According to the end of Matthew 7:23, they were those who practice lawlessness. In other words, instead of doing the will of the Father, those people continually acted lawlessly. It isn’t what you SAY that get you into the kingdom, it is what you DO with your faith. A profession of Christ is worthless if it isn’t backed up by your life. In a sense, Peter said that if you can’t add virtue to your faith, then you aren’t really redeemed (2 Peter 1:5–10). James said, “faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:17).

But They Did Great Works: But wait a minute, these people who made those claims “preached, cast out demons, and they did mighty works.” Here are three alternates.

1. It is possible that they did this by God’s power, God sometimes works through unbelievers, for example Numbers 23:5 and 2 Peter 2:15 (Balaam) or 1 Samuel 10:10 (Saul) or John 11:51-52 (Caiaphas).

2. They may have done these things by Satan’s power. It is possible that self-deluded people did their preaching, exorcism, and wonderful works under the power of the enemy, who can express his power. Do you remember what he did to Job? He brought death, destruction, and disease.

  • God allowed the witch of Endor to conjure an evil spirit impersonating Samuel (1 Samuel 28:7–12).
  • According to Acts 19:13-14, the sons of Sceva cast out demons.
  • Jesus even acknowledge that some Jewish people had probably cast out demons when he said, “if I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cash them out?” (Matthew 12:27).
  • There are false prophets that would prophesy signs and wonders that really did happen, (Deuteronomy 13).
  • Jesus said that false prophets would do signs and wonders (Matthew 24:24). The antichrist will even do them (2 Thessalonians 2:8–10).

3. They may have faked what they did. Some of what appears to be wonderful works can be just fakery. In Exodus 7 and 8, the magicians of Egypt who tried to copy Moses miracles were just doing tricks.

Two Foundations:

According to Matthew 7:24–27, “Anyone who hears these words of mine and ask on them.” This is the one who obeys his commands and does his will. (Also Luke 6:46-49).

Those who say they are Christians or hear what God says won’t necessarily go to heaven but rather those who live a life of obedience. Jesus is not talking about the perfection of a persons life but rather it’s overall direction. The fruit of obedience is the evidence that a person is truly saved.

By this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments (1 John 2:3). But he answered and said to them, my mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it (Luke 8:21).

Salvation is established by a past act, but verified by present to obedience. People are often told because they said the right prayer and sign the card, they don’t have to worry about whether not they are saved. They are fooled into thinking they are saved when in reality the Spirit of God never was involved and their lives never changed. Don’t tell a person, “I know you are saved because you did the right thing. Don’t ever doubt your salvation.” There is no way you can know if a person really came to know Christ. Don’t risk giving that person false assurance. Some people are deceived because they never examined their lives Second Corinthians 13:5 says, “test yourself to see if you are in the faith, examine yourselves.”

Lost in Church:

How would your approach to evangelism be different if you knew that up to one half of the people attending your church were not Christians? (Barna, Bill Bright, North American Mission Board) Many of these type Christians do not know whether they will experience eternal life, eternal damnation, or some other outcome.

Research says that many who attend Protestant churches have been anesthetized to the Gospel. Many have mentally excepted correct beliefs but have “lived without a shred of insight into what a relationship with Jesus Christ is all about.” Many refer to this as reaching the 7:21 window.

Paths to Salvation:

1. Works = Justification (building your own bridge)

Question: “Why is salvation by works the predominantly held viewpoint? Why do so many people believe that we can be saved by works?” (gotquestions.org)

Answer: The simple answer is that salvation by works seems right in the eyes of man. One of man’s basic desires is to be in control of his own destiny, and that includes his eternal destiny. Salvation by works appeals to man’s pride and his desire to be in control. Being saved by works appeals to that desire far more than the idea of being saved by faith alone. Also, man has an inherent sense of justice. Even the most ardent atheist believes in some type of justice and has a sense of right and wrong, even if he has no moral basis for making such judgments. Our inherent sense of right and wrong demands that if we are to be saved, our “good works” must outweigh our “bad works.” Therefore, it is natural that when man creates a religion it would involve some type of salvation by works.

Because salvation by works appeals to man’s sinful nature, it forms the basis of almost every religion except for biblical Christianity. Proverbs 14:12tells us that “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Salvation by works seems right to men, which is why it is the predominantly held viewpoint. That is exactly why biblical Christianity is so different from all other religions—it is the only religion that teaches salvation is a gift of God and not of works. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).

Another reason why salvation by works is the predominantly held viewpoint is that natural or unregenerate man does not fully understand the extent of his own sinfulness or of God’s holiness. Man’s heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9), and God is infinitely holy (Isaiah 6:3). The deceit of our hearts is the very thing that colors our perception of the extent of that deceit and is what prevents us from seeing our true state before a God whose holiness we are also not able to fully comprehend. But the truth remains that our sinfulness and God’s holiness combine together to make our best efforts as “filthy rags” before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6; cf. 6:1–5).

The thought that man’s good works could ever balance out his bad works is a totally unbiblical concept. Not only that, but the Bible also teaches that God’s standard is nothing less than 100 percent perfection. If we stumble in keeping just one part of God’s righteous law, we are as guilty as if we had broken all of it (James 2:10). Therefore, there is no way we could ever be saved if salvation truly were dependent on works.

Another reason that salvation by works can creep into denominations that claim to be Christian or say they believe in the Bible is that they misunderstand passages like James 2:24: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” Taken in the context of the entire passage (James 2:14–26), it becomes evident that James is not saying our works make us righteous before God; instead, he is making it clear that real saving faith is demonstrated by good works. The person who claims to be a Christian but lives in willful disobedience to Christ with a life that shows no works has a false or “dead” faith and is not saved. James is making a contrast between two different types of faith—truth faith that saves and false faith that is dead.

There are simply too many verses that teach that one is not saved by works for any Christian to believe otherwise. Titus 3:4–5 is one of many such passages: “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” Good works do not contribute to salvation, but they will always be characteristic of one who has been born again. Good works are not the cause of salvation; they are the evidence of it.

While salvation by works might be the predominantly held viewpoint, it is not an accurate one biblically. The Bible contains abundant evidence of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

2. Faith + Works (merit) = Justification (we do works with a little help from our friend, Jesus)

Question: “Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works?” (gotquestions.org)

Answer: This is perhaps the most important question in all of Christian theology. This question is the cause of the Reformation, the split between the Protestant churches and Catholic Church. This question is a key difference between biblical Christianity and most of the “Christian” cults. Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works? Am I saved just by believing in Jesus, or do I have to believe in Jesus and do certain things?

The question of faith alone or faith plus works is made difficult by some hard-to-reconcile Bible passages. Compare Romans 3:28, 5:1and Galatians 3:24with James 2:24. Some see a difference between Paul (salvation is by faith alone) and James (salvation is by faith plus works). Paul dogmatically says that justification is by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), while James appears to be saying that justification is by faith plus works. This apparent problem is answered by examining what exactly James is talking about. James is refuting the belief that a person can have faith without producing any good works (James 2:17-18). James is emphasizing the point that genuine faith in Christ will produce a changed life and good works (James 2:20-26). James is not saying that justification is by faith plus works, but rather that a person who is truly justified by faith will have good works in his/her life. If a person claims to be a believer, but has no good works in his/her life, then he/she likely does not have genuine faith in Christ (James 2:14, 17, 20, 26).

Paul says the same thing in his writings. The good fruit believers should have in their lives is listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Immediately after telling us that we are saved by faith, not works (Ephesians 2:8-9), Paul informs us that we were created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). Paul expects just as much of a changed life as James does: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). James and Paul do not disagree in their teaching regarding salvation. They approach the same subject from different perspectives. Paul simply emphasized that justification is by faith alone while James put emphasis on the fact that genuine faith in Christ produces good works

3. Faith in Christ Alone = Justification – Works (Fruit) which is antinomianism, in their life there is no evidence of transformation, they signed a card and prayed a prayer. Antinomianism says that we don’t need the Law to prove we are saved.

Question: “What is antinomianism?” (gotquestions.org)

Answer: The word antinomianism comes from two Greek words, anti, meaning “against”; and nomos, meaning “law.” Antinomianism means “against the law.” Theologically, antinomianism is the belief that there are no moral laws God expects Christians to obey. Antinomianism takes a biblical teaching to an unbiblical conclusion. The biblical teaching is that Christians are not required to observe the Old Testament Law as a means of salvation. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He fulfilled the Old Testament Law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15). The unbiblical conclusion is that there is no moral law God expects Christians to obey.

The apostle Paul dealt with the issue of antinomianism in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” The most frequent attack on the doctrine of salvation by grace alone is that it encourages sin. People may wonder, “If I am saved by grace and all my sins are forgiven, why not sin all I want?” That thinking is not the result of true conversion because true conversion yields a greater desire to obey, not a lesser one. God’s desire—and our desire when we are regenerated by His Spirit—is that we strive not to sin. Out of gratitude for His grace and forgiveness, we want to please Him. God has given us His infinitely gracious gift in salvation through Jesus (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Our response is to consecrate our lives to Him out of love, worship, and gratitude for what He has done for us (Romans 12:1-2). Antinomianism is unbiblical in that it misapplies the meaning of God’s gracious favor.

A second reason that antinomianism is unbiblical is that there is a moral law God expects us to obey. First John 5:3 tells us, “This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome.” What is this law God expects us to obey? It is the law of Christ – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40). No, we are not under the Old Testament Law. Yes, we are under the law of Christ. The law of Christ is not an extensive list of legal codes. It is a law of love. If we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we will do nothing to displease Him. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we will do nothing to harm them. Obeying the law of Christ is not a requirement to earn or maintain salvation. The law of Christ is what God expects of a Christian.

Antinomianism is contrary to everything the Bible teaches. God expects us to live a life of morality, integrity, and love. Jesus Christ freed us from the burdensome commands of the Old Testament Law, but that is not a license to sin, but rather a covenant of grace. We are to strive to overcome sin and cultivate righteousness, depending on the Holy Spirit to help us. The fact that we are graciously freed from the demands of the Old Testament Law should result in our living our lives in obedience to the law of Christ. First John 2:3-6 declares, “We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys His word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.” (gotquestions.org)

4. Faith in Christ Alone = Justification + Works (Fruit) which is the theology of the reformers. If there’s a root there is fruit. Obedience does not mean that we are sinless but that we sin less. Martin Luther said, “justification does not require the works of the law, but it does require a living faith, which performs its works.”

Refer to the pathway number 3 question and answer. The bottom line is that when we are truly saved, we desire to bear fruit and do good works.

* Additional Commentary:

Matthew 7:13–14 / In one sense the Golden Rule represents the high point of the sermon. The four paragraphs that follow contrast the two ways (Matthew 7:13–14), the two kinds of fruit (Matthew 7:15–20), the two kinds of followers (Matthew 7:21–23), and the two kinds of builders (Matthew 7:24–27). In each case there is a sharp distinction drawn between true discipleship and mere religious activity. Jesus brings his sermon to a close with a clear call for action.

Matthew’s use of the gate/road is a bit ambiguous in that it combines both gates and roads. Does one enter through a gate onto a road (Matthew 7:13), or does a road lead ultimately to a gate (Matthew 7:)? But the point is clear: One way is broad and easy. It is the way of self-centeredness, and the majority travel that road. The other way is narrow and hard to find. Only a few travel the road of personal commitment and discipline. One road leads to destruction and the other to eternal life. The saying is primarily eschatological, although it speaks as well of life here and now. It describes two ways to live: two ways that separate and lead to two distinct destinies. The choice is clear: follow the crowd with its characteristic bent toward taking the path of least resistance, or join the few who accept the limiting demands of loyalty. The easy way will turn out hard (it ends in destruction), whereas the hard way will lead to eternal joy (life).

Matthew 7:15–20 / For several hundred years before the time of Christ it was generally believed that prophecy had ceased. The period between the two Testaments is sometimes called the silent years. With John the Baptist the prophetic voice returned, and in early Christianity prophecy flourished. To the crowd that gathered on the Day of Pentecost, Peter explained that the phenomenon of tongues was the fulfillment of Joel’s promise that in the last days God would pour out his Spirit on everyone, so that young men would see visions, old men would have dreams, and both men and women would proclaim his message (Acts 2:17–18; cf. 1 Corinthians 14:29–31).

As the church grew, the problem of false prophets became acute. Jesus had warned against the rise of false prophets who would deceive the people (Matthew 24:11, 24). John also warned his followers (1 John 4:1–3; Revelation 2:20). How were the Christians to recognize a false prophet? In earlier days a prophet was discredited if what he proclaimed in the name of the Lord did not come true (Deuteronomy 18:20–22). The Didache had some simple tests to identify a false prophet (if he stays more than two days or asks for money, 11.5–6). It is “from his behavior, then, [that] the false prophet and the true prophet shall be known” (Didache 11.8).

Matthew 7:21–23 / Since what people do reveals who they really are, it follows that simply calling Jesus Lord is not enough. On the day of judgment false prophets will protest that in the name of Jesus they prophesied, drove out many demons, and worked many miracles, only to be declared evildoers unknown to the Lord. Only those who do what God desires will enter the kingdom of heaven. Judgment is based upon living out the will of God, not on claims of apostolic activity.

Lord was a common form of polite address (much like our “sir”), although the present context (final judgment) reflects its later use as a reverential title. The earliest Christian creed was “Jesus is Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:3). It implied that he was accepted as master and that his teaching was therefore binding. To claim allegiance (Lord, Lord) does not secure entrance to the kingdom of heaven (the final state, when God’s sovereign reign is perfectly realized). Only those who do the will of my Father may enter.

On that day (Matthew 7:22) refers to the day of judgment (Malachi 3:17–18; the “day of the Lord,” Joel 2:1; Amos 5:18; etc.). At that time false prophets will make all sorts of claims regarding what they did on earth. Some will have invoked the name of Jesus to perform exorcisms. The seven sons of Sceva are an example of this (Acts 19:13–16). The use of a name in this connection implies full authority of the one named. Peter commanded the lame man at the Beautiful Gate to get up and walk “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” (Acts 3:6).

Matthew 7:24–27 / Jesus has just taught that false prophets can be detected by what they do (Matthew 7:16) and that it is action, not rhetoric, that provides entrance into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21). This principle of judgment based on deeds is now applied to everyone. Jesus pictures two builders.

The purpose of the parable is to warn those who have listened to the sermon that wisdom calls for action. The wise man … hears and puts [Jesus’ words] into practice: the foolish man … hears and does not put them into practice (Matthew 7:24, 26). The storm is final judgment. Although both houses may look very much alike, only one will withstand the final testing. The wise not only hear the teachings of Jesus (these words of mine, Matthew 7:24) but make a concerted effort to live out in their daily lives all that the teaching implies. The foolish may have built a well-structured theology, but it is the foundation, not the house, that determines what happens in the last days. “Obedience to his [Jesus’] teaching is the one solid basis for withstanding the future crisis” (Filson, p. 108).

Matthew 7:28–29 / This is a transition from the teaching of Jesus to a section recording a number of his miraculous deeds (Matthew 8:1–9:34). It opens with a formula (kai egeneto) that is found at the juncture of each of Matthew’s blocks of teaching and the narrative that follows (Matthew 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1) but nowhere else in his Gospel.

When Jesus finished his teaching, the crowds were amazed at the authority with which he taught. Unlike the scribes, who based their opinions on the explanations offered by all the rabbis who preceded them, Jesus had a self-authenticating ring of authority to his words. It was the same authority that led him to forgive the sins of the paralyzed man (Matthew 9:6) and that he gave to his disciples so that they could drive out demons and heal the sick (Matthew 10:1). It was an expression of who he was (cf. Matthew 28:18) and was recognized immediately. There was no need for his teaching to be buttressed by philosophical argument or persuasive rhetoric. It validated itself to the human conscience.

* Mounce, R. H. (2011). Matthew. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (67–70). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[print_link] [email_link] [Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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Jesus Values Availability

We have finally come to the last command in the Youth stage, or the Build level of disciple-making. Availability is crucial to the mission of Jesus; no matter how gifted someone is, or knowledgeable of the Scripture, or talented, or popular… they cannot be used of God if they are not available.

The purpose for today is to encourage believers to respond to the call to follow Christ in being trained in evangelism without looking for the perfect alibi, excuse, or reason why they cannot serve. God wants wholehearted volunteers, rather than those who are reluctant, delaying, defensive, or putting it off. Availability is more rare than ability. The worker shortage in the church is not because the church is not full of capable people. It is because the church is full of people who are unwilling to rearrange their schedule around eternal values.

Something else we see in this lesson: Jesus continues to develop another generation of disciples (at the Youth stage or Build level) at the same time he was pouring into the lives of the Twelve (at the Adult stage or Equip level). Volunteers may drop off with excuses, but we must continue to recruit others along the way. After the Feast of Booths in Jerusalem (John 7:11-8:9) Jesus appointed 72 volunteers (Luke 10:1 – there are 72 according to the NIV and NLT, the NASB indicates 70). Perhaps the 72 workers were recruited by the Twelve when they went out two by two (6 [3 groups of 2] X 12 = 72). The first thing Jesus teaches these new recruits is to pray for more workers for the harvest field (Luke 10:2).

Background: Jesus’ ministry turns toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51) and on the way he is rejected by the Samaritans as he was passing through (Luke 9:52-56). James and John wanted to call down fire on them (Luke 9:54) but Jesus uses this as an opportunity to reinforce his ministry and mission (Luke 9:56). Three would-be followers approach Jesus but he is steady on the fact that his followers cannot waiver concerning service in the kingdom.

Here are the commands at this point: FOLLOW Me & ALLOW (Matthew 8:22), FOLLOW & ALLOW, GO & PROCLAIM (Luke 9:59-60). We see this outside of the gospels (Acts 13:5, 15:36-41, 2 Timothy 4:10-11).

Opening:

  1. What was your favorite excuse for not doing something?
  2. How does Jesus respond to the excuses of these three men (Luke 9:57, 59, 61)?
  3. Of these excuses, which might you be tempted to use (comfort, social obligation, family concerns)?

Read Luke 9:57-62, 14:16-24

1. How would you define availability? Perhaps, “Making my own schedule and priorities secondary to the wishes of those I am called to serve” versus self-contentedness (Philippians 2:3-4, 20-21). Availability does not mean that you have lots of time on your hands; it requires managing your schedule and saying “no” to some good things so you can do what is best. Our two passages today mention many people who gave Jesus a bunch of excuses.

2. How do we know this passage is a call to serve and not a call to discipleship (Matthew 8:21, Luke 9:62, 10:1-2)? The three men in Matthew’s story were already disciples (Matthew 8:21). The word for “another” implies that the scribe (Matthew 8:19) and the man who wanted to bury his father are both already followers of Jesus. Each of these people were invited to be trained in evangelism and to work in the harvest field. The plow was a symbol of work. When they gave excuses for their unavailability, Jesus recruited 70 others for the work (Luke 10:1).

3. How did Peter and John display availability (Matthew 4:19-20)? They immediately left their nets (Matthew 4:20, Mark 1:18, Luke 5:11).

4. What name might you give these three unnamed disciples?

Mr. Too Quick (Luke 9:57-58)

  • How does Matthew describe Mr. Too Quick (Matthew 8:19-20, Luke 9:57-58)? Matthew identifies him as a scribe (Matthew 8:19) and a disciple (Matthew 8:21). Scribes were highly educated authorities of the Jewish Law and closely associated with the Pharisees.
  • What do you think was Mr. Too Quick’s motive for volunteering to serve (Luke 9:58)? His motive may have been popularity or fame. As an OT scholar he probably thought that by accompanying Jesus on his mission, he would share in the glory or fame of his kingdom. Jesus used the term, “Son of Man” to identify himself with the predictions of Daniel 7:13-14. Jesus connects his physical relationship to David and Abraham as their heir to the throne, so the term refers to the union of God and man in the One who would be the king of Israel. Mr. Too Quick had the right person, but the wrong timing (1 Peter 1:11), and motive.
  • Why does Jesus make references to holes and nests (Luke 9:58)? Wild animals have a place to lay their head at night, safe from natural enemies, but not so with Jesus. They would be homeless; no home and no throne.

Mr. Too Slow (Luke 59-60)

  • What did Mr. Too Slow want to do before following Jesus (Luke 9:59)? He wanted to take care of his father’s funeral. Burial was a religious duty that took precedence over studying the Law, temple services, killing the Passover sacrifice, and circumcision. Priest were not allowed to touch a dead body but could if it was a near relative (Leviticus 21:1-3). It was scandalous if left undone.
  • Jesus’ response seems insensitive but it establishes the priority of proclaiming the gospel (Luke 9:60). If proclamation of the gospel is not done, it should be scandalous to the believer.
  • What was even more scandalous, the father was likely not even dead. The phrase used was common in the middle east that emphasizes a son’s responsibility to help his father in the family business until he passed on, and handled his final affairs. It could have been a long time of delay if the father was still young and healthy. Mr. Too Slow was motivated by materialism.
  • What did Jesus mean by “allow the dead to bury their dead” (Luke 9:60, Matthew 8:22)? It was a proverbial figure of speech meaning, “let the world take care of the things of the world.” Basically, spiritually dead people (Luke 15:24, 32, John 5:25, Romans 6:13, Ephesians 2:1, 5:14) make great morticians. They are capable of performing these tasks, but YOU go and do that which only a believer can do, share the gospel.
  • What did Jesus command this man to do (Luke 59-60)? FOLLOW, ALLOW, GO, and PROCLAIM are aorist tense which indicates urgency, leave now. The present tense indicates that we keep on proclaiming.

Mr. Too Easy (Luke 9:61-62)

  • What did Mr. Too Easy want to do before putting his hand to the plow (Luke 9:61)? He wanted to say good-bye to those at home. This seems harmless enough but it appears this guy did not have the strength to break away from loved ones; being too emotionally tied to family relationships. Consider what Elisha did when Elijah met him (1 Kings 19:19-21). I hope you noticed a significant difference between Elisha and Mr. Too Easy. There was no turning back for Elisha whereas Mr. Too Easy may have been persuaded to not follow and serve Jesus.
  • This idea is supported by the phrase “to say good-bye,” which signifies “to set apart or assign, as a solder to his post.” It carries the idea of deployment, sent out with orders. He was looking for his orders and last instructions from his family rather than Jesus.
  • Notice the words in “Lord, first, me” (Luke 9:61). “I will follow you, but first permit me” – It could be he is really saying, “I will follow you, but first me.” There can never be “me first” when it comes to following and serving Jesus; there are no “buts.”

5. What kind of people are not fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62)? This is certainly a word picture in the NT, a farmer who wants straight rows continues to look ahead. The text literally says, “looking at the things behind.” “Not fit” would indicate “well-placed, suited for, adapted to,” which could indicate an inconsiderate impulse, conflicted duties, or a divided mind. Jesus wants total commitment, not just adding him to an already complicated and full life. The NIV adds the word “service” in the kingdom of God, but the word is not in the Greek NT.

6. Did Luke record the outcome of these conversations (Luke 10:1)? It may be that these three did not respond positively to Jesus’ invitation, so he recruited 70 “others.”

7. How can we increase the number of laborers in God’s harvest field (Luke 10:2)? Prayer in the key.

8. What do you think about this quote from Chuck Swindoll?

Anyone who sets out to serve Christ can be sure that many escape routes will appear so that you can relinquish your responsibilities. Voices will call out to you to cut inches off the cross. Twelve legions of angels stand ready to deliver you from the path of sacrificial service.

9. How do you determine God’s call for service in your life?

10. How has this command impacted your soul; your mind [thoughts], will [decisions], and emotions [feelings]?

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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The Best-Laid Plans

“The best-laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry”

Perhaps you’ve heard this phrase. It speaks of how (as human beings) we make our well-intended plans, utilizing the best of our knowledge and ability, but then things don’t always turn out as we had hoped. The phrase was made most famous by John Steinbeck in his 1937 novel “Of Mice and Men,” which came from a line within the Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1785, called, “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough.” According to legend, Burns wrote the poem after finding a nest full of mice, in his field, during the winter. ”

On a personal note, as a parent, how many times have you inadvertently made a promise to your children, and then when plans changed, you were accused of being a liar, or that you don’t keep your word?

“Let’s try to get to the beach this weekend… “ They’re all excited about going and then something comes up, like an illness, a storm, or even a death in the family, and you simply cannot go… “Daddy said we were going to the beach but he lied.”

I eventually had to qualify all of my plans with a statement like, “I’m making no promises,” or I just don’t let them know the plans at all so it can’t be used against me, or I just tell them “NO we are not even going to talk about it” and if we’re able to go, it will just be a happy surprise.

This past week in our reading the One-Year Bible, we finished 1 Corinthians and began reading 2 Corinthians. In the Bible passage I’m using today, we’re going to take a look at the best-laid plans of the apostle Paul and how the Corinthian church reacted to his change of plans.

In 1 Corinthians 16:5-9 he discusses his travel plans. You probably heard that passage read this morning and thought to yourself, “What in the world is he going to talk about, and what will be inspirational out of THAT passage?”

Well, this is a passage that brings to light the COMMITMENT that Paul had to his Lord, his friends and his ministry.

I. Paul promised to visit Corinth in the future (1 Corinthians 16:5-7)

The first thing I want to see is that Paul promises to visit the city of Corinth in the future. You see that right up front in 1 Corinthians 16:5, “I will come to you after I go through Macedonia…”

Here is a little of the back story… Paul had likely announced his plans to visit and stay for a while, in the lost letter that he sent to the Corinthians before THIS letter. Let’s try to piece this together.

1 Corinthians 5:9 mentions such a previous letter, where he says, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral people.” We can only imagine what this church was doing or what activity was going on there, for Paul to write such a letter. He must have been addressing some gross public sin. It must have been pretty scandalous and juicy based on what Paul addresses in chapter 5 and 6!

But the point is, there is a letter to the Corinthians that comes before 1 Corinthians. The Holy Spirit did not preserve that letter for us nor did he consider it necessary that we have it included as Holy Scripture.

So, you may be asking yourself an important question, “Are we missing something in the Bible?” Let me assure you, not a chance. While it might be interesting to know what Paul wrote to them, Peter tells us that God has “granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness,” which includes our completed Bible (2 Peter 1:3).

Alright, let’s get back to our passage for today. So Paul made a promise to visit the Corinthians and his plans obviously changed (I’ll show in a few moments, some passages that indicate his plan B and C). When Paul’s plans changed, the church thought the WORST, they thought Paul was being deceptive, or he was punishing them for the sinful activity in their midst, or he was outright lying to them. So, he addresses his change of plans in THIS letter.

Since we know Paul pretty well, he certainly wanted to make the most of the time God had given him, and make the most of every opportunity, so in this situation, there was no exception. In Ephesians 5:15-16, Paul writes, “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Paul had to change his plans because God was doing something great where he was, and he didn’t want to leave, perhaps quenching the work of the Holy Spirit.

In this letter Paul informed the Corinthians of his revised plans but notice how tentative his plans were.

  • PERHAPS I shall stay with you or EVEN spend the winter with you. 1 Corinthians 16:6
  • I HOPE to remain with you for some time, IF the Lord permits. (1 Corinthians 16:7)

He certainly understood the message of James 4:13-15, where it tells us about the providential nature of God, “13 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year…” 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”

So, what has happened here so far? Paul mentions his future plans to visit Corinth, but his plans changed. BUT, I submit to you that there were very good reasons why he could not keep his initial commitment. Let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 16:8-9.

II. Paul planned to stay in Ephesus in the present (1 Corinthians 16:8-9)

According to this section, it is obvious that Paul was in Ephesus when he wrote this letter of First Corinthians. Let’s take a look at WHEN he will leave Ephesus…

1. When Paul will leave Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8)

Paul informs them that he will leave Ephesus at Pentecost (1 Corinthians 16:8) which was the celebration some 50 days after the Passover (or for us, 50 days after Easter). Then He will travel by way of Macedonia (1 Corinthians 16:5). This was an obvious deviation from his original plans.

Notice the phrase “passing through” or “going through” Macedonia. This phrase indicates a planned, or systematic, or intentional time set aside for his ministry. There were people to see and souls to be won.

History tells us that winter was NOT the time to travel by ship in this area, so staying in Corinth would certainly be more convenient for Paul.

Regarding Paul’s plans, it is interesting to know that Paul was forced to revise his plans twice.

(1) Plan B was to visit Corinth and then travel to Macedonia, then back to Corinth on his way to Judea.

You might well be asking yourself, “Scott, where in the world do you get that information?” Take a look at 2 Corinthians 1:15-16, where Paul writes, “15 Since I was so sure of your understanding and trust, I wanted to give you a double blessing by visiting you twice— 16 first on my way to Macedonia and again when I returned from Macedonia. Then you could send me on my way to Judea.”

Instead of one long visit, he would make two shorter visits.

(2) Plan C turned out to be a quick and painful visit to Corinth before traveling to Ephesus.

Apparently the issues that he addresses in this letter of 1 Corinthians were not resolved, so Paul wrote a stern letter or sorrowful letter to the church (one that comes between First and Second Corinthians).

Titus delivered that stern letter and while Paul was in Troas, had no rest in his spirit wondering how they had received the letter and how they received Titus.

Let’s read 2 Corinthians 2:12-13, Now then I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord. I had no rest in my spirit not finding Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia. So, Paul went on to Troas to wait for Titus, and then he went on to visit Macedonia and eventually moved on to Judea.

Before we leave these verses, “Why did Paul go to Troas?” He went there because of the gospel of Christ, because God opened a door of opportunity for service and evangelism.

So, what are the lessons we can get from all of this?

How about this when we are discerning direction in our lives?

When was the last time that you sensed God’s direction so strongly that you changed your plans? You have this agenda, only so much time in a day, you’re a busy person, you have your schedule all planned out, you have your major all selected, your course charted, your business is already established… then you encounter the living God in such dramatic fashion that your plans change. You retire early to make plans for the mission field, or you change your major to something that has a greater impact on the kingdom of God, or you rearrange your crazy schedule to intentionally spend more time with lost people rather than just showing up at church every time the doors are open.

In decision-making or making our plans, what can we do?

Let’s use common sense, prayer, evaluation of the situation, and proper guidance when making our plans for the future. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight.”

God gave us a mind to think, but don’t depend solely on your own reasoning. As we seek God’s direction, we must pray, study Scripture, and consult with believing friends; and then step out in faith.

It may come as a shock, but not ALL of the decisions we make are in the will of God. Sometimes we make promises that we simply cannot keep.

Does this mean that we become liars when we cannot fulfill our intended plans? The Corinthians thought Paul was not trustworthy, or was deceptive since he was not able to fulfill his promise about coming to visit them. (read 2 Corinthians 1:12-2:13 for his whole explanation).

The bottom line: If an apostle like Paul had to change his plans, it is guaranteed that our plans may often change as well.

Here are two extremes to avoid in seeking God’s Will:

  1. One is to be so afraid of making a mistake that we make no decisions at all. This is an indecisive person, we all know someone like this.
  2. The other extreme is to be so impulsive and just rush on ahead without taking the time to consult the Lord at all. We all know people like this as well.

How about if we do this: After we have done all that we can in seeking the Lord’s leadership, let’s make the decision, and then act upon that decision. Leave the rest up to God.

The point is, we must sincerely WANT to do the Lord’s will, to be an example of Jesus Christ, to allow Jesus to live through us, and not just follow or obey God grudgingly or justify doing our OWN will.

Wow, that was all about WHEN he would leave Ephesus. Let’s now take a look at…

2. Why Paul will stay in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:9) Paul intended to take advantage of opportunities to preach the gospel.

Just as we saw in Troas, Paul had an open door of opportunity for ministry in Ephesus, and THAT was most important to him. He wanted to win lost people to Jesus, more than pamper or spoil the saved people in Corinth.

Paul saw both the opportunities and the obstacles. So, God opened a wide door in Ephesus and Paul wanted to seize the day, and win people to Christ.

It is in today’s Scripture passage that we see the motivation in Paul’s actions.

So, consider your own situation… Would you ever consider changing your established and well-thought out plans because God was leading to toward an open door of opportunity to do something for God or for someone else?

  • What if God called you to go on a mission trip?
  • To lead a Sunday School class?
  • To change your major to something that would better impact the kingdom?
  • To change your vocation, even if later in life?
  • To witness to a neighbor?
  • To do something kind for a co-worker, hoping to seize the opening for one day putting in a good word for Jesus?

Rather than complain about the obstacles in your life, look for the God-given opportunities for making a difference in someone’s life.

So, what is your take away for this morning? Look at your outline…

  1. How can you make better, more godly, decisions?
  2. In what ways are you connected to other believers?
  3. If Paul were writing a letter to our church, what would he affirm and what would he challenge?
  4. In what area of ministry is your passion, where is your heart?
  5. How can you help grow the ministry at King’s Grant Baptist Church?
  6. We all make plans, have influence over people, and hope to be prosperous or successful in life; how has this passage challenged your motivation for servanthood, and being on mission with God, on being an influence for the kingdom?
  7. Will you download the Bible App Initiative questions for this week and chew on this chapter a bit more during this next week?

My challenge is that we discover our spiritual passion. If you don’t have that, or have no clue what I’m talking about, or have no idea how to share your faith with someone else… I would welcome the opportunity help you become a disciple that makes a difference in the world around you.

If you are ready to join this church, what are you waiting for? Every team has its roster, every company has its payroll, and every school has students enrolled… it’s time to officially join the family.

For all of us: let’s discover how to make godly decisions, be open to following through on those commitments, and make a few commitments that will impact eternity.

And for heaven’s sake, if God should open a door of opportunity to do something totally outrageous, something that would use you to impact the kingdom, are you willing to follow Christ in the midst of uncertainty or ambiguity?

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Six Problem Passages

Six Problem Passages for Water Baptism:

1. Mark 7:4 – “and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse [literally sprinkle] themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing [literally baptizing] of cups and pitchers and copper pots.)”

Western and Syrian manuscripts add “couches” at the end of the sentence (A.T. Robertson). For those who don’t immerse, they ask, “How would the Pharisees go about submerging “couches or beds” in their ceremonial washing? (Leviticus 15:20)” You would need a large body of water like a pool or river. So, this passage seems to permit a mode of baptism to be sprinkling or pouring. The Mishnah (the first part of the Talmud) devotes 30 chapters to the purification of vessels.

There is allowance to dismantle the beds in order to immerse and purify them. So, in Jesus’ day, these beds were constructed in a way to dismantle them when needed. Strong’s Systematic Theology is accurate when he says that every use of the word baptism in the Bible requires or allows the meaning “to immerse.”

2. Mark 16:16 – “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

At first glance it appears that baptism is necessary for salvation, but notice it does not say, “he would does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned.” The issue is FAITH, not baptism. The thing that condemns a person is not the lack of baptism but the lack of faith.

Why does Mark tie baptism to salvation? He is stressing the importance of baptism, which is a part of the Great Commission. A church history professor once told me, “Baptism doesn’t save anyone, but how can you be saved without it?” When we are truly saved, we will WANT to follow Jesus is believer’s baptism. If we refuse, we should question that person’s conversion.

In the rest of the NT, baptism is clearly not a part of the gospel. Paul makes this very clear in 1 Corinthians 1:17. If baptism was necessary for salvation, Paul would have been more earnest in communicating that teaching. If it were necessary, 1 Corinthians 1:14 makes no sense.

Charles Ryrie states: “The original ending of Mark’s Gospel is the subject of much debate. It is doubtful that what we designate as Mark 16:16 was part of the genuine close of the Gospel. At best, it would be unwise to base any doctrine on the content of Mark 16:9–20. However, it is also possible that if Mark 16:16 is a part of the inspired text that the reference is to baptism of the Spirit. After all, the Lord would have spoken Mark 16:16 at almost the same time as He spoke Acts 1:5 concerning the imminent baptizing ministry of the Spirit.”

Norman Geisler states: “A basic principle of Bible interpretation is that difficult passages should be interpreted in light of the easy, clear verses. One should never build a theology on difficult passages. The clear verses indicate that one is saved by faith in Christ (e.g., John 3:16–17; Acts 16:31). In Mark 16:16 it is clear that it is unbelief that brings damnation, not a lack of being baptized: “he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” When a person rejects the gospel, refusing to believe it, that person is damned.”

3. John 3:5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

John 3:5 does not teach baptismal regeneration. In fact, it is not even referring to Baptism. The point is that you must be born again (John 3:3). Nicodemus asks how can a man enter his mother’s womb and be born again (John 3:4). Then comes the born of water and of the Spirit (John 3:5). Jesus is simply stating that a man must be born of water (born physically), and goes on to say that this second birth is spiritual in nature. The teaching here is not that water baptism is necessary, but that physical birth is necessary! People must be born before they can be born again. John 3:6 confirms this interpretation.

4. Acts 2:38Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Many claim that one must be baptized to receive remission of or forgiveness of sins, but this is easily refuted when we look at the original words of the New Testament. There is a little preposition “eis” that is translated “for” has the casual force and should be translated, “on the basis of” or “because of.” That makes a big difference.

Casual force in English is like, “He was arrested for stealing,” is better understood as, “He was arrested on the basis of stealing.” He was arrested “in order that” he might steal, makes no sense. If someone is commended for bravery, it is on the basis of his bravery, not in order to make him brave.

Eis” does not promote purpose or result, that forgiveness of sin is the purpose or goal of baptism, but based upon the previously received remission of sins, we would engage in this outward testimony of this inward experience. Other NT examples of “eis” are: Matthew 12:41 and Luke 11:32.

Charles Ryrie states: “Baptismal regenerationists understand this verse to teach that repentance and baptism lead to the forgiveness of sins. Unquestionably baptism was a clear proof in New Testament times of conversion, whether it be conversion to Judaism, to John the Baptist’s message, or to Christianity. To refuse to be baptized raised a legitimate doubt as to the sincerity of the profession. Therefore, when the Jewish crowd asked Peter what they must do, he quite naturally said to repent (change their minds about Jesus of Nazareth) and be baptized (give clear proof of that change).

Though it is true that exegetically the text may be understood to say that baptism is unto (eis) the forgiveness of sins, it is equally true that it may say that baptism is not for the purpose of the forgiveness of sins but because of forgiveness (that had already taken place at repentance). Eis is clearly used with this meaning in Matthew 12:41—they repented at (on the basis of, or because of) the preaching of Jonah. It certainly cannot mean in that verse that they repented with a view to [or for the purpose of] the preaching of Jonah. So Acts 2:38 may be understood that the people should repent and then be baptized because their sins were forgiven.

5. Acts 22:16Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’

Paul is recounting his conversion experience, and some declare that a person is saved through the waters of baptism (sins being washed away).

Charles Ryrie states: “The verse contains four segments: (a) arise (which is a participle, arising); (b) be baptized (an imperative); (c) wash away your sins (another imperative); and (d) calling on the name of the Lord (another participle). To make the verse teach baptism as necessary for salvation necessitates connecting parts b and c, be baptized and wash away. But rather than being connected to each other, each of those two commands is actually connected with a participle. Arising is necessary before baptism, and calling before sins can be washed away. Thus the verse should be read this way: arising, be baptized; wash away your sins, calling on the Lord. The verse correctly understood does not teach baptismal regeneration.”

“Be baptized” is in the aorist middle imperative, which denotes urgency, while the middle voice places the responsibility to obey this command squarely on Paul. He immediately obeyed three days after his conversion, but when were his sins washed away, at his baptism or his conversion?

6. 1 Peter 3:21Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

John MacArthur states: “First Peter 3:18–22 stands as one of the most difficult NT texts to translate and then interpret. For example, does “Spirit” in 3:18 refer to the Holy Spirit, or to Christ’s Spirit? Did Christ preach through Noah before the Flood, or did He preach Himself after the crucifixion (3:19)? Was the audience to this preaching composed of the humans in Noah’s day, or demons in the abyss (3:19)? Does 3:20, 21 teach baptismal regeneration (salvation), or salvation by faith alone in Christ?

First, every time we see the word “save” in the NT, don’t jump to the conclusion that it is referring to our deliverance from the wrath of God and the punishment of a Christless eternity in hell (Romans 5:9-10). This passage actually says that baptism is an opportunity to be rescued from a dirty conscience. Peter is clear that he is not speaking of a dirty body (its purpose is not a bath that removes filth from the body) but it is an appeal to God for a good [clean] conscience.

A person with a clear conscience knows that no one can point a finger at him and say, “You’ve offended me, and you have never asked for forgiveness.” Baptism is an opportunity to publically set things straight. We need a conscience without offense toward God and men (Acts 24:16). Without a clear conscience, our witness is diminished (1 Peter 3:15-16) and some suffer shipwreck with regards to their faith (1 Timothy 1:19).

The point is, use your baptism as an opportunity to invite lost friends and family. Invite those you have offended in the past. Explain that God has forgiven you of your past sins and you desire their forgiveness as well.

In his commentary on 1 Perter 3:21, MacArthur writes:

an antitype which now saves us. In the NT, an antitype is an earthly expression of a spiritual reality. It indicates a symbol, picture, or pattern of some spiritual truth. Peter is teaching that the fact that 8 people were in an ark and went through the whole judgment, and yet were unharmed, is analogous to the Christian’s experience in salvation by being in Christ, the ark of one’s salvation.

baptism … through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter is not at all referring to water baptism here, but rather a figurative immersion into union with Christ as an ark of safety from the judgment of God. The resurrection of Christ demonstrates God’s acceptance of Christ’s substitutionary death for the sins of those who believe (Acts 2:30-31; Romans 1:4). Judgment fell on Christ just as the judgment of the flood waters fell on the ark. The believer who is in Christ is thus in the ark of safety that will sail over the waters of judgment into eternal glory (cf. Romans 6:1–4).

not the removal of the filth of the flesh. To be sure he is not misunderstood, Peter clearly says he is not speaking of water baptism. In Noah’s flood, they were kept out of the water while those who went into the water were destroyed. Being in the ark and thus saved from God’s judgment on the world prefigures being in Christ and thus saved from eternal damnation.

the answer of a good conscience toward God. The word for “answer” has the idea of a pledge, agreeing to certain conditions of a covenant (the New Covenant) with God. What saves a person plagued by sin and a guilty conscience is not some external rite, but the agreement with God to get in the ark of safety, the Lord Jesus, by faith in His death and resurrection (cf. Romans 10:9-10; Hebrews 9:14; 10:22).

The Believer’s Bible Comentary explains: First let us see what it may mean, and then what it cannot mean.

Actually, there is a baptism which saves us—not our baptism in water, but a baptism which took place at Calvary almost 2000 years ago. Christ’s death was a baptism. He was baptized in the waters of judgment. This is what He meant when He said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50). The psalmist described this baptism in the words, “Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and billows have gone over me” (Psalm 42:7). In His death, Christ was baptized in the waves and billows of God’s wrath, and it is this baptism that is the basis for our salvation.

But we must accept His death for ourselves. Just as Noah and his family had to enter the ark to be saved, so we must commit ourselves to the Lord as our only Savior. When we do this, we become identified with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection. In a very real sense, we then have been crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20), we have been buried with Him (Romans 6:4), and we have been brought from death to life with Him (Romans 6:4).

All this is pictured in the believer’s baptism. The ceremony is an outward sign of what has taken place spiritually; we have been baptized into Christ’s death. As we go under the water, we acknowledge that we have been buried with Him. As we come up out of the water, we show that we have risen with Him and want to walk in newness of life.

An antitype which now saves us—baptism refers to Christ’s baptism unto death on the cross and our identification with Him in it, which water baptism represents.

The verse cannot mean that we are saved by ritual baptism in water for the following reasons:

  1. That would make water the savior, instead of the Lord Jesus. But He said, “I am the way” (John 14:6).
  2. It would imply that Christ died in vain. If people can be saved by water, then why did the Lord Jesus have to die?
  3. It simply doesn’t work. Many who have been baptized have proved by their subsequent lives that they were never truly born again.

Neither can this verse mean that we are saved by faith plus baptism.

  1. This would mean that the Savior’s work on the cross was not sufficient. When He cried, “It is finished,” it wasn’t really so, according to this view, because baptism must be added to that work for salvation.
  2. If baptism is necessary for salvation, it is strange that the Lord did not personally baptize anyone. John 4:1-2 states that Jesus did not do the actual baptizing of His followers; this was done by His disciples.
  3. The Apostle Paul thanked God that he baptized very few of the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:14–16). This would be strange thanksgiving for an evangelist if baptism were essential for salvation! Paul did baptize some shows that he taught believer’s baptism, but the fact that he baptized only a few shows that he did not consider it a requirement for salvation.
  4. The penitent thief on the cross was not baptized, yet he was assured of being in Paradise with Christ (Luke 23:43).
  5. The Gentiles who were saved in Caesarea received the Holy Spirit when they believed (Acts 10:44), showing that they then belonged to Christ (Romans 8:9b). After receiving the Holy Spirit, that is, after being saved, they were baptized (Acts 10:47-48). Therefore, baptism was not necessary for their salvation. They were saved first, then they were baptized in water.
  6. In the NT, baptism is always connected with death and not with spiritual birth.
  7. There are about 150 passages in the NT which teach that salvation is by faith alone. These cannot be contradicted by two or three verses that seem to teach that baptism is necessary for salvation.

Therefore, when we read in 1 Peter 3:21, Baptism … which now saves us, it does not mean our baptism in literal water, but Christ’s baptism unto death and our identification with Him in it.

Not the removal of the filth of the flesh. The ceremonial worship of the OT, with which Peter’s Jewish-Christian readers were familiar, provided a sort of external cleansing. But it was not able to give the priests or the people a clear conscience with regard to sin. The baptism of which Peter is speaking is not a question of physical or even of ritual cleansing from defilement. Water does have the effect of removing dirt from the body, but it cannot provide a good conscience toward God. Only personal association with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection can do that.

But the answer of a good conscience toward God. The question inevitably arises, “How can I have a righteous standing before God? How can I have a clear conscience before Him?” The answer is found in the baptism of which Peter has been speaking—Christ’s baptism unto death at Calvary and one’s personal acceptance of that work. By Christ’s death the sin question was settled once for all.

Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. How do I know that God is satisfied? I know because He raised Christ from the dead. A clear conscience is inseparably linked with the resurrection of Jesus Christ; they stand or fall together. The resurrection tells me that God is fully satisfied with the redemptive work of His Son. If Christ had not risen, we could never be sure that our sins had been put away. He would have died like any other man. But the risen Christ is our absolute assurance that the claims of God against our sins have been fully met.

My only claim for a good conscience is based on the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The order is as follows:

  1. Christ was baptized unto death for me at Calvary.
  2. When I trust Him as Lord and Savior, I am spiritually united with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection.
  3. Through the knowledge that He has risen, my request for a clear conscience is answered.
  4. In water baptism, I give visible expression to the spiritual deliverance I have experienced.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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The Command of Baptism

We are now up to the fifth command in this initial infant stage, or Win Level. So far we have…

  1. Come and see – John 1:39
  2. Repent and Believe – Mark 1:14-15
  3. Fear as a barrier to faith / Do not Fear – Luke 12:5-7
  4. Greed as a barrier to faith / Covetousness – Luke 12:15

This lesson focuses on the topic of water baptism, which is the first step of obedience for a new believer. Jesus baptized new converts and instructs us to do the same.

Historical Background: The gospel of John is the only one to bear witness to Jesus’ early Judean ministry, which lasted about nine months. The synoptics don’t reveal this time period which took place between Matthew 4:11 and Matthew 4:12 (Mark 1:13-14, Luke 4:13-14). Jesus came to Jerusalem for the Passover (John 2:13, about April) and stayed until about four months before the harvest (John 4:35). During this time he cleansed the temple (John 2:13-22), performed miracles (John 2:23, 3:2), and baptized disciples (John 3:23). We have very few details about what he actually said and did.

For a short time his ministry overlapped with John the Baptist; imagine the countryside with people and two great preachers, both preaching about repentance and the kingdom of God. They both had disciples, large crowds followed them, and both baptized. In John 3:22, the reference to Jesus baptizing may indicate that he oversaw baptisms done by his disciples (John 4:2).

During this time the influence of Jesus was rising and that of John was declining, just has John desired (John 3:30). John’s disciples may have seen this competition as a setback and the reason for the discussion in John 3:22-36.

Baptizing is commanded in the gospels: Matthew 28:19, and other references are throughout the gospels: Matthew 3:6, 11, 13-14, 16, 18:18, Mark 1:4-5, 8-9, 7:4, 16:16, Luke 3:7, 12, 16, 21, 7:29-30, 11:38, John 1:25-26, 28, 31, 33, 3:22-23, 26, 4:1-2, 10:40.

We find baptism in Acts 1:5, 2:38, 41, 8:12-13, 16, 36, 38, 9:18, 10:47-48, 11:16, 16:15, 33, 18:8, 19:3-5, 22:16.

Baptism is even found in the letters: 1 Corinthians 1:13-17, 1 Peter 3:21.

Let’s look at John 3:22-24

1. Identify the two things Jesus was doing while he was in the Judean countryside (John 3:22). Spending time with the disciples and baptizing converts.

2. Why did Jesus chose to baptize in Aenon near Salim (John 3:23)? He baptized there because there was much water there. The Bible indicates that the amount of water needed was “much water.” John did a lot of baptizing in the Jordan, too (Mark 1:5), although the exact location is not known, but is likely in the region of Samaria. Aenon is transliterated Hebrew meaning “springs” which also indicates a lot of water was needed.

3. Which mode of baptism does John seem to support (John 3:23)? Immersion, very similar to what we find in Acts 8:38-39, where they “went down into” and “came up out of” the water. This clearly teaches immersion.

The Didache supports immersion, too. “And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.” From the Didache, chapter 7, written about AD 100, one of the earliest known writings on baptism.

Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 and Romans 6:3-4

1. What does the word “baptism” mean? Charles Ryrie puts it this way:

Theologically, baptism may be defined as an act of association or identification with someone, some group, some message, or some event. Baptism into the Greek mystery religions associated the initiates with that religion. Jewish proselyte baptism associated the proselyte with Judaism. John the Baptist’s baptism associated His followers with His message of righteousness (he had no group for them to join). (Incidentally, John was apparently the first person ever to baptize other people—usually baptisms were self-administered.)

  • For James and John to be baptized with Christ’s baptism meant to be associated with His suffering (Mark 10:38–39).
  • To be baptized with the Spirit associates one with the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) and with the new life in Christ (Rom. 6:1–10).
  • To be baptized into Moses involved identification with his leadership in bringing the Israelites out of Egypt (1 Corinthians 10:2).
  • Baptized for the dead means to be identified with the Christian group and take the place of a believer who had died (1 Corinthians 15:29).
  • Christian baptism means identification with the message of the Gospel, the person of the Savior, and the group of believers.

Some of the baptisms listed do not involve water. Also observe how impoverished we would be without a proper understanding of the meaning and ramifications of baptism.

The word baptizo really means, “to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge,” or, “to dip in or under water.” The definition of baptism will determine the mode of baptism (immersion, pouring, sprinkling). The Church of England practiced sprinkling before the Bible was translated into English in 1611. Rather than translate the word, they transliterated the word, so they would not contradict the doctrine of baptism, which held to sprinkling.

Patterns-06-Baptism2. According to John 4:2, Jesus did not personally baptize, but his disciples did the baptizing on his behalf. What would be a reason Jesus would not baptize people personally?

  • To put a difference between John’s baptism and his baptism: John baptized all himself, as a servant, which Christ was a master.
  • To apply more time to preaching, which was a more excellent way (1 Corinthians 1:17).
  • To put honor upon his disciples, empowering and employing to them to do this work, training them for future service.

If Jesus baptized people, people would tend to value themselves more than others, which Paul had to deal with in 1 Corinthians 1:13-14.

Jesus would reserve himself the honor of baptizing with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5).

Let’s look at Acts 8:36-38 and Acts 10:47-48

1. What does Jesus command the discipler to make sure that a new converts are baptized (Matthew 28:19)? Baptism is the first step of obedience for a new believer. To go public with your faith is a sign of being genuine. Remember that the imperative verb here is “make disciples.” The three participles (go, baptize, teach) help the main verb.

We are to GO and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15) and then baptize the convert. If they refuse to be baptized, we can doubt their conversion. If they are unwilling to take this first step of obedience, we can be sure that the rest of the commands of Jesus will be debated. We don’t just TEACH, we teach them to OBSERVE all that Jesus commanded.

2. How did the early church obey this Great Commission (Acts 1:5, 2:28, 41, 8:12-13, 16, 36, 38, 9:18, 10:47-48, 11:16, 16:15, 33, 18:8, 19:3-5, 22:16)?

  • Peter commanded that new converts be baptized (Acts 10:43-44, 47-48).
  • Paul baptized as a part of the disciplemaking process (Acts 14:21, 16:15, 33, 18:8, 19:5, 1 Corinthians 1:14, 16).

3. Who is qualified to be baptized (Acts 2:41, 8:12, 35, 38, 10:44, 47, 16:14-15, 18:8)? Only believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are candidates for baptism (Acts 8:36-37, 10:44, 47, Romans 8:9, 16).

Let’s look at Acts 2:37-41

1. What should precede baptism (Acts 2:41, 8:12, 35, 38, 10:44, 47, 16:14-15, 18:8)? Candidates must place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for their salvation.

  • They gladly received the word (Acts 2:41)
  • They believed Philip as he preached (Acts 8:12)
  • Philip preached Jesus to him (Acts 8:35, 38)
  • Peter preached and these men received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44, 47).
  • Lydia opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14-15)
  • Crispus believed on the Lord (Acts 18:8)

2. When should new believers be baptized (Acts 2:41, 8:36, 16:30-33, 22:12-16)?

  • That same day (Acts 2:41)
  • At once (Acts 8:36)
  • That same hour (Acts 16:30-33) and immediately
  • Three days after being saved (Acts 9:9, 18, 22:12-16)

3. Is baptism a sacrament or an ordinance? It is an ordinance coming from the word, ordain.
Jesus ordained only two ordinances for believers: Communion and Baptism. An ordinance needed two things: sign and significance.

Those who refer to baptism as a “rite or sacrament” believe that baptism is a means of salvation. The word would literal mean, a “way of obtaining grace” or obtaining salvation. The Bible is clear that righteous deeds do not save.

  • We are saved by grace through faith, not works (like baptism would be a work, Ephesians 2:8-9).
  • It is not by works of righteousness that we have done (Titus 3:5).
  • The thief on the cross was not baptized yet had a place in paradise (Luke 23:39).

4. What about Mark 16:16? A closer examination of this verse reveals that FAITH is the issue, not baptism. Notice it does NOT say that if you do not believe “and are not baptized” you will be condemned. The only thing that condemns a person is refusal to place their faith in the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ.

If you’re riding a bus to NYC, you simply sit down and reach your destination. What happens when you get on the same bus but don’t sit down? Will you still get to your destination? If you place your faith in Jesus and are not baptized, you will still get to your destination. If you choose not to get on the bus, you won’t reach your destination. If you choose not to trust Jesus for your salvation, you won’t get to heaven.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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Commands Class Introduction

These are the notes from my new class called, Walking In His Steps. Perhaps these will be a reminder of what we talked about in class. The notes are located just to the right, labeled the Commands of Christ.

If you are seeking a class to attend, maybe join us in the sanctuary at King’s Grant Baptist Church on Sundays at 9:45 am.

The main point about our purpose is that Jesus gave us the Great Commission, and as it says in Evangelism Explosion, “His last command is my first concern.”

  • The Purpose: The Great Commission, Matthew 28:16-20
  • The Task: Make Disciples, 28:19, Imperative
  • The Process: a Three-fold Process, with Participles

In dissecting the main parts of Matthew 28:19-20, the main verb is our command to “make disciples.” The other verbs in this sentence are participles, so the command is not to GO, BAPTIZE, and TEACH, but to make disciples. A participle supports the main verb, for instance “as you are going” make disciples; baptize those whom you are making into disciples; as you are making disciples, teach them. So, how and what are we to teach them?

  1. ALL – let’s not pick and choose our favorite passages, or pet doctrines, ignoring the harder sayings, warnings, and difficult teachings.
  2. I – remember who is doing the teaching, it’s not about me or some famous Bible teacher, it is all about Jesus.
  3. COMMANDED – we are going to take a look at the imperative statements of Jesus throughout the gospels.
  4. YOU – we are not supposed to teach that which we have not learned ourselves, so it is of vital importance to embrace the commands of Christ, wrestle with them, submit to them, apply them… I cannot impact others if God’s Word has not already impacted me.

Next week we are going to take a look at WHY we should obey the commands of Christ. What are the benefits? What does my obedience to the commands of Christ accomplish?

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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Our Great Commission

I’ve been thinking about what Christ has commanded us to do…

Matthew 28:18-20, And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The Process: in order to reach the world, we must make disciples, “as you are going, make disciples of all nations.” It is a part of everyday life, not some activity that we can check off a list, like, “I went out today and made disciples.”

The Progression: as we are making disciples, we will get involved in the activities of baptizing and teaching. We win people to Christ and then encourage them to take that first step of obedience (baptism). But even here, our job is not complete.

Jesus did NOT say that we are to teach them: he said to teach them to OBEY. Teaching has the idea of transferring information and knowledge. When we teach them to obey, we are investing our lives into people and the process of their transformation. Teaching them to obey is relational, and as a part of the Christian community, it is our obligation to not only teach the doctrines of the faith, but to help people live them out in obedience.

Jesus did NOT say that we are to teach them all I have commanded: but to teach them all I have commanded YOU. It is true that we cannot pass on to others that which we do not possess ourselves. We can study what God has done in the lives of other believers, but the Great Commission is to teach others that which God is commanding US, and teaching US. This again points to the relational nature of discipleship. As God speaks to us, and teaches us, we are then able to take those experiences and help others along this spiritual journey. We read the Bible and pray, and then we are able to talk about God’s dealings with US. It takes the teaching away from the theoretical and doctrinal to the personal and practical. When we share what God is doing in our OWN lives, we are able to better teach others the purposes and ways of God. Let’s not just teach what God has commanded, but teach what he has commanded US.

The Priority: what happens when we don’t see people following through with their commitment to God? I read this passage today and thought it might fit in this scenario. Let’s look at this unclean spirit going out of a man to represent when a lost person gets saved.

Matthew 12:43-45, “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. 44 “Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. 45 “Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”

This is not an illustration or discussion on whether a saved person can be possessed by a demon, so simply follow the illustration…

The old life has passed away, new life has come, but this person who said YES to Jesus does not fill his HOUSE with the knowledge of God, or the love of God, or the Word of God, or get involved with basic spiritual disciplines or the body of Christ, which is the church. We see them drift away and wonder what happened. Where is the excitement of those first days (Luke 15:24), why have they left their first love (Revelation 2:4) or allowed the thorns to choke the life out of them (Matthew 13:7, 22)?

I wonder if they only put their house in order, but never filled it with the things of God, which bring life and will sustain us through this earthly life.

How will we help teach all that God has commanded us, to others, so that we are making disciples who follow Jesus in obedience? When God speaks and shows us how, may we be listening and ready to respond in faith and action.

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