“But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (Gal. 5:11-12 ESV)
The religion of the Judaizers which was really an offshoot of Pharisaism is simply a religion based on externalism. As long as the people were circumcised into Abraham they were accepted. They could hold to other views, but still be considered accepted as long as they were circumcised. Of course Paul has been continually arguing against this inconsistent position as remember it is either all or nothing. Christ is everything or Christ is nothing. The Law is everything or the law is nothing. This is a false gospel and one that Paul had some choice words for anyone who perpetrated such a false gospel of externalism, “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (Gal. 5:12). The King James version really misses the point on this one, as it smooths over the interpretation too much. Did Paul really just say that he wishes this false teachers would castrate themselves? Yes! Paul has a way of saying really awkward things. Once we get past the initial shock of what Paul said we can then see the really genius with it. Paul is saying that if a teacher removes the offense of the gospel he wishes that they would just go ahead and castrate themselves. First, priests of a false goddess in that area would commonly castrate themselves pledging their allegiance to the goddess. Paul was saying that this religion they are teaching is no different so when cutting for circumcision just go all the way and cut a little more. Furthermore, the Old Testament says that a person that castrates themselves were not to be allowed in the assembly. In essence Paul is saying that he desires that they will be cut off from the church. Hyperbole is a powerful communication tool as it allows you to get the point. The religion of externalism is not offensive as it removes the offense of the gospel.
"Christ is everything or Christ is nothing."
Consider Islam. Why is it not offensive to our nation as a whole. I remember doing a mock election back when I was getting my associates degree at Mott Community College. The issue of Islam came up and I got tore apart by pointing out what Muslims believe. They were intolerant of my lack of tolerance for Islam. Why are efforts made to cater to it? It is focused purely on externalism: 1) The regular repetition of the creed; 2) Repetition of prescribed prayers five times daily and three described places: 3) The duty of almsgiving; 4) The absence of the Feast of Ramadan, with total fasting during daylight hours and eating and drinking after sundown; 5) Pilgrimage to Mecca.
Consider humanism. Why has it replaced Christianity as our national religion? It is focused on externalism. They do not believe that humanity is to be saved by means of Christ’s atonement, and regenerating power, but by the re-arrangement of man’s outer life and world. The right combination of laws and social observances, a foreign policy that offers better externals to the world with foreign aid and other life efforts are believed to be the way to a brave new world. The whole modern network of politics, education, arts and media, the sciences, foreign aid, free trade and protectionism alike and much more constitute a worldwide effort to accomplish the miracle of a new creation by means of externalism, the rituals of humanism.
Removes the Offense of the Cross
Here is what externalism does. It removes the offense of the Christ. That is what Paul says. The cross has a certain offense to it to the natural man. Here is what Charles Spurgeon said about the offense of the cross:
"The cross is offensive to human wisdom. The philosopher puts his glasses to his eyes, looks at the cross and then says, “I cannot see anything so very wonderful in it—even with these splendid glasses of mine—more than can be seen by that poor, humble peasant; I do not care about such a system of religion as that; any simpleton can understand the cross.” So he passes by, and merely sneers at it. The man who loves controversy comes to the gospel, and finds that there is in it pure dogmatism. Such things are said to be true, and sinners must believe them, or else be damned. “I shall not do so,” he says; “I shall not yield implicit faith to the gospel; I like disputing upon points of doctrine; I like controverting them; I shall not listen to your preacher who says, ‘This is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing else but the truth.’ I will not hear the man who speaks thus authoritatively; I like men who will give me margin enough to doubt, who let me believe what I like, and no more; I prefer to use my reason and common sense.” When you come to talk with him about the religion which says, “Believe that, or else be lost; believe that, or else be shut out of the pale of salvation;” he turns on his heel, and says, “I will not believe any such thing.” And when he asks what it is he is to believe, he professes himself to be wiser even than the Word of God! “What!” he says, “believe in the atonement? I can’t; it is contrary to my common sense. Believe the doctrine of election? Why, it shocks my humanity! Believe in the total depravity of human nature, and the impossibility of being saved without being born again? Tell someone today how much you love Jesus Christ. Why, I cannot receive such teaching for a single moment. It is contrary to all that the scholars ever taught and different from what any philosopher ever would have invented; so I shall not receive it.” And he turns away with an anathema against the cross. He cannot bear it because of its great simplicity. If he could describe it as being so wonderful that he could by no means make the common people comprehend it, and that it was only because of his gigantic intellect that he was able to understand it himself, he would not mind accepting it; but as it is so plain and simple, he turns away from it in disgust. He cannot bear the gospel of the cross; it has not worldly wisdom enough in it for him; and he either does not know or he forgets that the knowledge of Christ crucified is the most excellent of all the sciences, and that never is reason so glorified as when it humbly sits down under the shadow of the cross.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
Galatians 3:15-24 (ESV)
"To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith."
Apologetics is an essential discipline of the Christian faith. It does not mean to give an apology for our faith, in the sense to ask forgiveness for what we believe. It actually means to give a defense. Apologetics is essential in two areas. First, to the people that are skeptics we must give a defense against their objections. This is important. Second, to professing believers who are easily led astray. Honestly this bears more fruit as the Holy Spirit works inside of these people confirming the truth. Paul is giving a defense to those inside of the church who have been led astray by falsehood.
Paul is defending the faith against a false gospel that the Judaizers have embraced. These people were teaching that the ground of justification, right standing with God, is submission to the ceremonial law, in particular circumcision. This meant that Paul had to address objections the people in the church had. Two of these objections were:
The other thing is that we live in the postmodern era of story driven teaching. We say things like we must teach only through narrative and not through didactic method. The only problem with that view is that the Bible is a book of a variety of different genres. Some narrative, some theological letters, some prophetic, etc… When we preach through the different books of the Bible we will preach the different genres. Some here, depending on your background, will love this style of message. Others will have a hard time following. My encouragement is to make the effort to grow and follow along. This is the Bible and the Bible calls us to think in this logical linear fashion as well through stories. Both are needed for us to mature in Christ. Let’s dive in.
Objection #1: Does the Mosaic Covenant Annul the Abrahamic Covenant?
Two different covenants that God has established in history with two different men in two different times. A covenant is a binding agreement simply put. God established a covenant with Abraham promising him the land and a son. Four hundred and thirty years later God established a covenant with Moses revealing God’s character and standards in the law as well as practices to seek atonement for those violations of those standards. The Judaizers were placing the Mosaic Covenant as more important than the Abrahamic while at the same time claiming to be in continuity with Abraham. In essence they taught that the Mosaic Covenant annulled the Abrahamic Covenant. Paul deals with this in verses 15-18.
"The God who cannot lie will not go back on a promise what he made."
"To be a son of Abraham is not to submit to the Mosaic law, but to believe in the same promise Abraham believed in."
Objection #2: Why Did God Ratify the Mosaic Covenant?
After Abraham was dead and gone the Israelites found themselves enslaved to Egypt. God sent a leader named Moses. God used Moses to lead the Israelites from bondage to freedom. They were being led out to form a new nation. As a new nation God gave them a new law. Foundational to that was to not have another God before Him. What He means is to not have a God like Egypt over them. Then God spelled out in detail the roles the individual, family, church, and state had in God’s government. This spells out for us how a just society would live with decentralized power under His Law. Paul then answers why was the Law given.
"The law itself does not give life, but it takes the student to the one that can."
The Covenant of Redemption
This points to the greater covenant that was made. It was the covenant of redemption that the Father had made with the Son before the foundation of the world. The beneficiaries of this covenant were those that God elected before the foundation of the world. God chose to love His elect which necessitated Him to establish this covenant. God established that the only way that his elect could be redeemed was by a redemption price to be paid. That redemption price was the blood of an innocent man. He told Abraham that this innocent man would be one of his offspring. He told Moses that he would fulfill the requirements of the law as well as the primary offices of prophet, priest, and King. Justification is then not based on a works righteousness, but it is based upon God keeping His word. If you have been redeemed by the blood of Christ that revealed the reality that God has kept His word. He will not go back on it.
"Justification is not based on works of righteousness, but upon God keeping his word."
Do you understand what that means? That should be the most liberating news that you have ever received in your life. You salvation is not based on you and you keeping promises. It is based on God and His keeping of them.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
"Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,
“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than those of the one who has a husband.”
28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman." (Gal. 4:21-31 ESV)
To know the history of Sarah and Hagar we must know the history of Abraham himself. God called Abraham out of a pagan nation and made a covenant promise with him. Here is that promise:
"Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8 From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. 9 And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb." (Gen. 12:1-9 ESV)
God made this promise and here Abraham took his wife and family with him. On the journey God made the promise about his offspring. Abraham set off on this journey with his wife. God promised them that they would have a child. Abraham thought that perhaps God wanted to fulfill this promise through adoption so Abraham asked God if he was going to receive this child this way. God ensured him that he and his wife Sarah were going to have a child together who would be their heir.
Time went on and there was still no child. This is when Abraham’s wife now devised a plan on how they would have this child of promise. There was a middle eastern custom during that time in which if you were barren you would find a surrogate mother to give to your husband. Instead of heeding God’s promise they used this middle eastern custom and Sarah gave her handmaid Hagar to her husband. She then did become pregnant:
"Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. 2 And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go into my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. 3 So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. 4 And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. 5 And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” 6 But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her." (Gen. 16:1-6 ESV)
Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. Hagar was in essence a slave women who had a child with Abraham. She was then cast out. The history of the division of the Middle East is traced back to this point in which the descendents of Ishmael and the descendents of Isaac are still at war with each other.
God kept his promise though by a miracle. Sarah was old and well past the barren years. Still she was given a child just as God promised:
"The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. 2 And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3 Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. 4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” 7 And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
8 And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. 9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. 10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” 11 And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. 12 But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. 13 And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.” 14 So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba." (Gen. 21:1-14 ESV)
Here we have the historical context of what would have been known by the audience Paul was writing to and hopefully now known by us. With this background we can get a better understanding of the message that Paul was communicating.
Allegory is a powerful communication tool. One of the greatest Christians books ever written is a book called Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan which is an allegory. The Song of Solomon is another allegory that we have in the Bible. What exactly is an allegory? Allegory is a story where there are some obvious parallels and lessons from the comparative situation. It is different than a metaphor. Let me give you an example. William Shakespeare says in "As You Like It" that the world is a stage and humans are actors in a show who enter and exit the stage. This is a metaphor because the world isn't a literal stage and humans aren't actors who live in accordance to a script. The stories in “Aesop’s Fables” are allegorical, as they are narratives with an underlying message. The story of the “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” for example, is about a boy who claims to see a wolf when he does not. When he actually sees a wolf, no one believes him. The underlying story is that it doesn’t take much for a liar to lose the trust of others, which can hurt him in a time of need. Paul is saying that he is using the story of Sarah and Hagar allegorical to reveal the two covenants and in essence the two churches that exist in the world. The two churches are the unfaithful churches and the faithful ones.
This story is used allegorically to compare the two covenants. Upon first reading it is assumed that the two covenants are the Old and New Covenant. That cannot be the case. It is clearly a reference to what has been labeled as the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. Hagar represents the covenant of works. She was strong and able bodied to have a child. By her merit and natural processes she was able to give birth to a son. Still she was a slave though. Her son was a slave as well. Eventually they were cast out and did not have a part in the inheritance. The covenant of works is how the Judaizers were attempting to earn favor with God. They said they were in obedience to the Law thus earning their righteousness. Paul says the only thing that they are earning is condemnation. If we desire to earn favor with God by our works then the entire law of God stands as our judge. We must be obedient to every last part of it. The only thing it will do is enslave us. Many churches today base salvation on walking an aisle, saying a sinners prayer, baptismal regeneration and the likes. These are works. If we desire to be saved by works then we must fulfill it all the way. In essence the only thing a works based righteousness will do is to lead us into slavery.
"If we desire to earn favor with God by our works then the entire law of God stands as our judge."
The other covenant is the covenant of grace. This covenant is based on God’s promise and God’s Spirit. In essence this is a covenant of miracles. Sarah had the promised child according to God’s promise and the miraculous activity of the Holy Spirit. We as sinners become beneficiaries of this covenant on the basis of miraculous activity. God keeps His promise and regenerates us!
"The only thing a works based righteousness will do is to lead us into slavery."
Then he adds that Jerusalem at that present time are the children of the slave woman, not the free one like they claim. They have attempted to be justified by their works which only leads to slavery. This is their condition, says Paul. My friends, this is their condition at present day. Our hope for Israel is a hope that is found in Romans 11, that there is a day coming that they will repent of their sin and come to faith in Jesus Christ. In contrast to Jerusalem, Paul quotes Isaiah 54:1, which there proclaims that Gentiles would come to bear many children. Jerusalem is enslaved. Those that believe in God’s promises are free.
Paul is clearly indicating that there are two different churches that exist in the world. One is like Hagar trusting in her good works to earn favor. One is like Sarah trusting in the promises of God. My fear is that our church planting movement in America is concerned with finding Hagars rather than Sarahs. Consider it. It made logical sense that Hagar would have a son. She was young, strong, and in child rearing years. It was only natural that she would be able to get pregnant and have a child. This is so different from Sarah, as it was only by supernatural means that she would have a child. It seems when we look to start churches that we want someone who is young, strong, vibrant, charismatic, a great visionary, a great assembler, and someone who can pull the numbers in and get the baptisms up. Very little concern is given to their belief in the promises of God and their reliance on the Spirit of God. It makes logical sense and you can follow their marketing plan to see why they have the “success” they do. In reality though, as Hagar, the only thing they have done is give birth to Ishmael, a slave. The people have no victory over sin. Repentance is not found in the midst. Cultural transformation is not taking place. What is the problem? They are children of the slave women.
"My fear is that our church planting movement in America is concerned with finding Hagars rather than Sarahs."
In contrast I desire a church planting movement likened to Sarah. It doesn’t make sense by natural means. The only way she could have a child is because of the promises of God and the Holy Spirit. In essence, a miracle is required. That is what I want. It is my desire that when we look at ONElife what we see is a miracle that only came about by the promises of God to build His church and by the activity of the Holy Spirit to regenerate His people. Without it, the only thing we are doing is leading our people into slavery, which is no different than what the world has to offer. Rather, we want to lead people into freedom.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
It has been a consistent habit of mine over the last ten years to regularly have my nose in a book. My mentors have instilled this habit in me and for that I am truly thankful. Learning, I have found, is the most exciting thing that you can do. At the same time learning new things is often very inconvenient and very perplexing. In all honesty learning can be downright maddening. As one of my mentors has often told me, “Before the truth will set you free it will often tick you off first.” Just recently I found myself quite ticked off at something I discovered. I found myself asking questions like, “Why has no one ever taught me this before?” The reality is that they didn’t teach me because they didn’t know.
This historical fact I discovered recently was that the national anthem was not written during the revolutionary war and that it was not named the national anthem until about one hundred and fifty years after the founding of America. Now, I know the blind loyalist will say, “I don’t care when it is written that is still my song.” Unfortunately, my mind does not work that way. I am not sure if this is a curse or a blessing at times. It certainly causes me to lose sleep often. Upon discovering this truth I began diving deeper, doing some research, and was even more concerned about what I found. You see I was the person that looked at what Colin and many of the other NFL players were doing and said, “Why don’t you just stand? That is what an American does.” These new facts I was discovering began exposing my hypocritical legalism in which I wanted to bind others consciences to something that the Bible does not command and that the constitution itself does not command. Perhaps my response was more a result of my funky fundy (fundamentalist) background and was not founded in the truth of God’s Word and the truth of history.
Francis Scott Key
The author of The Star Spangled Banner was not a patriotic war hero like I had always envisioned. Francis Scott Key was an attorney who found himself aboard a British naval ship attempting to negotiate for POW’s that the British were holding. This was during the war of 1812 and not the revolutionary war. He wrote the song as he was aboard this ship while he was watching the battle rage on from the shore. The ironic thing is that he actually opposed America entering into the war of 1812.
Furthermore, there is a stanza of the song that we don’t sing. This stanza has been a point of contention and controversy. It describes how the black slaves died and gave their lives fighting the war of 1812. The stanza says:
"And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave."
Here we have an attorney attempting to negotiate freeing some POW’s while watching black American slaves fight valiantly to narrowly secure victory in this war. That is not the picture I always had of how the song was created.
In addition Francis Scott Key went on record stating that the Africans in America belong to an inferior race, "a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.” Could we possibly see based on these facts how many Americans, particularly African Americans, would not necessarily have an infatuation with the song?
Another thing I discovered that deeply troubled me in my stance towards the national anthem was that it was first named the national anthem via executive order by Woodrow Wilson in 1919. This captured my attention on three different fronts. First, why was a president involved in “naming” a national anthem? That is clearly outside of the bounds of the God given role that he has to protect from foreign invaders and to make sure that evildoers are punished. Romans 13 outlines his role very clearly. Second, why did a president need to sign in a national anthem by executive order? It seems like there might be more important things to use that power for. Third, it was interesting to me that out of all presidents it was Woodrow Wilson that signed the order. Wilson was a man who led our nation through some of the greatest changes in history in which power was being shifted away from self government to centralized governmental power. He was a central figure in creating the federal beast that we know today which is completely antithetical to the founders vision of America.
During Wilson’s presidency he ratified the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. This created our national banking system and what is now referred to as the Federal Reserve Bank. Don’t let the terms fool you. This federal bank is not federal nor does it have a reserve. It is a private bank that is in bed with the federal government to manipulate and control the money supply. Now, this bank has complete control over the banks and the money supply. They have literally enslaved people financially. We can thank none other than Woodrow Wilson for leading the charge in this.
In addition, during Wilson’s presidency the sixteenth amendment was ratified. Not familiar with this? Here is what the amendment states:
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
What this means is that the federal government was given the power to tax the people with absolutely no limits placed on them. This has lead to excessive taxes of the American worker, stripping freedoms from them. The next time you look at your pay check and see the federal income tax that is taken out, you can thank Woodrow Wilson for leading the charge in this.
At this point many of you reading this may be responding to yourself by saying, “So what?” What does any of this have to do with the national anthem? The point is that the same person who changed the landscape of America was the same person who issued the executive order naming the “Star Spangled Banner” as our national anthem. Wilson was not concerned with following the constitution and carrying out the founder's vision. He was concerned with creating a statist god in which the people would fall down and worship. In redefining America he had to redefine what it meant to be an American. Since, he was not concerned with following the constitution he needed something else for the people to commit to. His solution? An American is patriotic. An American reveres the flag. To solidify this act of worship he needed an anthem. A song that the people could sing to declare their commitment to the new statist god. His solution: sign in a beloved song of the American people. He wrote in the “Star Spangled Banner” to be a worship song for the new statist god that he created which was not the America the founders envisioned. If you support his version of America then please yes keep telling other Americans that they must stand for the national anthem.
Thank You Colin
In light of this I must extend a thank you to Colin Kaepernick. (Let me be clear on that point, lest I get accused of being a Marxist again). This does not mean I am in favor of Colin’s version of what America should be. I am thankful that by you creating this controversy it caused me to do some more research and to learn this somewhat troubling history. I am thankful that you have caused me to see clearly what it means to be an American. An American is not defined by the way in which he or she behaves towards a song. An American is defined by whether or not he or she supports, defends, and abides by the constitution. The question is not whether or not Colin, or any American for that matter, should stand or kneel. The question is do we follow the constitution. The next time you hear the national anthem feel the liberty to respond to it anyway you deem fit whether that is standing or kneeling. Colin, and the rest of the players following suit, if you feel like it is the right thing to do to keep kneeling in order to take a stance against police brutality then please continue kneeling. This is your first amendment right. Also, know that it is the right of the NFL and any team to either allow you to keep doing it or to give you the boot. If you don’t support this position then you are not truly an American, my friend. You are a follower of the Wilsonian god that was created. You are the one that needs to repent.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
Peter wrote the letter titled First Peter when the church was in dispersion all over the known world. Persecution had come upon the church and the church was then spread out all over the place. This letter was most likely written in the mid sixties when the persecution had really intensified. In A.D. 64, on July 19th, Nero set the city on fire and then blamed it on the Christians. He did this to rally his empire back to him and to expand. My friends, government has done these types of things throughout history. They create many of these strategies in order to use them to further their cause and their purposes. That is exactly what Nero did. This led to many of the Christians being killed and slaughtered including, eventually, Peter himself. History tells us that he was crucified upside down. He refused to be crucified in the same way Jesus was, as he considered himself unworthy to do so. Peter was writing these instructions and exhortations to a church that was suffering greatly and yet he gives charges to the elders to lead well and to the people to serve God with great humility. Our circumstances, whatever they may be, do not give us a free pass to not lead and serve in obedience unto Christ and His word.
"Our circumstances, whatever they may be, do not give us a free pass to not lead and serve in obedience unto Christ and His word."
Be Clothed with Humility
God hates pride in all forms, “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers” (Pr. 6:16-19). God hates passive aggressive pride. He hates hypocritical pride. He hates authoritarian pride. He hates know-it-all pride. He hates pride at all levels. He hates pride in young men who are unwilling to follow the leadership of others, even those who are faithful elders. He hates pride. He hates pride so much that He even opposes the person that is full of it. Peter quotes this proverb in writing to the church, “God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble” (Pr. 3:34). God hates pride and places Himself in opposition to the person that is full of it.
Therefore, Peter says be sure to clothe yourself with humility. The term “clothe yourself” gives a picture of putting on an apron and tying it up in a bow. More specifically it is a picture of a servant putting on their apron and tying it up to go and serve their master. Everyday the servant chooses to put the apron on and then every night they choose to take it off. That is the picture that we can put on and take off humility that easy. We choose whether or not to put it on. Peter tells the church that is facing such extreme persecution that their response is to put on humility. Humility is not acting like Eeyore. Humility is emptying yourself of pride in order to honor and serve King Jesus. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself at all. It is not being a retreatist but standing unconcerned with what others may say or do. That is true humility. Jesus is the picture of humility.
"Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's not thinking of yourself at all."
Specifics About Humbling Yourself
Peter then gives some specifics about the how and why the church should always be sure to clothe themselves with all humility. First, he says that the church is to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God. It is not man, the Roman empire that demands this humble obedience to them, but it is to God. We humble ourselves to God and strive to obey Him, which may mean that we humbly serve Him by resisting the wickedness of the government unconcerned about the consequences. It is the mighty hand of God that we must fear. The mighty hand of God flooded the entire earth and wiped out all people except for one family. The mighty hand of God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Humble yourselves under his mighty hand, not anyone else's. If anyone else tries to place a mighty hand over you, whether in the government, church, or home, you resist it as it is only God’s mighty hand that you humble yourself under.
Second, Peter says that you humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and allow Him to exalt you at the proper time. In this context He is obviously talking about the destruction of Jerusalem that was imminent and then the exalting of the New Covenant church that was about to take place. He is also talking about the final consummation when Christ’s Kingdom will be exalting over Satan’s Kingdom. His people, His church, will be exalted at that time.
Third, humbling yourself before God means you stop attempting to play God as it relates to future events and you cast all of your anxieties on Him. Anxiety is a form of great pride. We become anxious when we are worried about the future. We are worried about how things are going to play out. At the core we are anxious as we want to control the future. God says to humble yourself by casting your anxieties on Him. Why? Because He cares for you. He cares for you like no one else. He knows what you are going through like no one else. Often when I preach a funeral sermon I preach the story about Lazarus. Part of the sermon I talk about how Jesus wept with Mary. He wept because He is compassionate. God is compassionate and God cares for us.
"Humbling yourself before God means you stop attempting to play God as it relates to future events and you cast all of your anxieties on Him."
Be Humble and Serve
Let me give a very practical illustration and point for all of us to apply today. I will illustrate it through my failure. Failure is a great teacher as long as we are looking for the lesson. Early on in my conversion I felt a calling to serve Jesus as an elder. There was a burden to preach, teach, and lead. Like many young men, though, there was certainly a pride that lived within me. It was a quiet pride, but it was a pride nonetheless. I lusted after getting a “position” and after getting a “title.” I wanted people to recognize me as a leader. So, when I served and attempted to lead I wanted everyone to notice and to give me a pat on the back. I wanted them to say, “Job well done!” God eventually broke me of this and I read in a book that when we serve and obey Jesus we are not doing anything extraordinary -- we are just doing what is expected of us. The book said to begin to serve and don’t expect anything in return. That truth drove right through me. It was a moment in which I was praying to God and I recall making a commitment to Him that whatever His plan was for my life that I would do it with joy. That did not mean I was not going to strive and work hard, but certainly I would do whatever was placed before me with great joy and excellence. I specifically committed that if He wanted me to work at the restaurant and teach a Sunday school class for the rest of my life that I would do it with joy. I committed by saying, “I am going to be as faithful as I can with what you place before me and to allow you to exult to the next opportunity.” Clothe ourselves with humility.
"When we serve and obey Jesus we are not doing anything extraordinary -- we are just doing what is expected of us."
Are you troubled by the stage of life that you are in. Perhaps you are younger and worried that you might be “stuck” doing what you are doing right now for the rest of your life. You want more. You feel you deserve me. Be faithful with the little that you have. Perhaps you are in the middle of your life and you are saying, “How did I get here?” Keep serving Him faithfully with joy. Perhaps you are later in life and feel like you deserve more of a platform. Be humble. Serve Jesus and serve others. God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16)
A great Puritan evangelist, John Rodgers, warned his congregation against neglecting Scripture by telling them what God might say, “I have trusted you so long with my Bible...it lies in [some] houses all covered with dust and cobwebs, you care not to listen to it. Do you use my Bible so? Well, you shall have my Bible no longer.”
Rogers then picked up his Bible and started walking away from the pulpit. Then he stopped, fell on his knees, and took on the voice of the people, who pleaded, “Lord, whatever Thou dost to us, take not Thy Bible from us; kill our children, burn our houses, destroy our goods; only spare us Thy Bible, take not away Thy Bible.”
“Say you so?” the minister replied, impersonating God. “Well, I will try you a while longer; and here is my Bible for you. I will see how you use it, whether you will search it more, love it more, observe it more, and live more according to it.”
Thomas Goodwin was so moved by Roger’s dramatic presentation that when he left church he wept upon horse’s neck for fifteen minutes before he felt strong enough to mount it.
Do we feel that strongly about the Bible?
The Bible is Divinely Inspired
Paul wanted Timothy and the church at Ephesus to know that they could trust the words of Scripture. He wanted them to know that the words of Scripture were actually divinely inspired by God. They could trust that these words were in fact God’s words. He told them that “all scripture is God breathed.” This word is synonymous with the Hebrew word in the Old Testament when God breathed life into Adam’s nostrils, “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Gen. 2:7). This word is also synonymous with the Greek word John used when describing when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit onto the apostles, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). Take your hand and breath on it. Did you feel that? God did that when writing the Scriptures. He breathed on the men insuring that the words were divinely inspired.
To what extent were they inspired? Some would say that the Bible only contains God’s inspired word, but not all of it can be trusted as so. All of it is inspired. How God penned it was He would move men to write the words of truth. Men would write through their own personality and style and God word ensure that every word was accurate and true. Men did not write as dictators just writing what God told them, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21).
Paul writes that “all scripture” is divinely inspired. That is given to us by the breath of God. What is “all scripture”? In this specific context Paul is specifically writing affirming the divine inspiration of the Old Testament scripture. The New Testament had not yet been formalized. It was being written. The Old Testament had been though. It is interesting to note that most contemporary evangelicals practically discard the Old Testament as simply a book of history, yet Paul wanted his readers to know that it was inspired and profitable for them.
"It is interesting to note that most contemporary evangelicals practically discard the Old Testament as simply a book of history, yet Paul wanted his readers to know that it was inspired and profitable for them."
What about the New Testament then? Peter affirmed in the New Testament from the verse quoted a moment ago that the writings of the Apostles were scripture as well. There were strict standards to determine what the New Testament canon books should consist of. Here are five important things that were used to test the canonicity of the New Testament writings:
Now the next question becomes what about our English Bibles: can we trust them as being divinely inspired? Let me assure you that God has preserved His word. We can take our Bibles and compare them to the various manuscripts, the various translations and the various quotes from the church fathers (pretty much the entire bible has been quoted) and in comparing them you will find just a slight variance of 3-5% and none of these variances lose the meaning that the original author willed to convey. Yes, you can trust the Bible! You can trust the Bible that you are reading today.
The Bible is Profitable
Being profitable is important. It is particularly important economically. If the work that we do does not make a profit then at some point we have to change what we are doing. In all things there is a pragmatic element to what we do. It must be profitable. Paul here uses a pragmatic argument saying that the Bible is “profitable” for us as believers.
The Bible is profitable for doctrine, which could also be said as teaching the truth. The Bible is a theological book that contains all of the essential and fundamental teachings that we need to know for salvation and for Christian living. It is profitable for us to know the truth.
The Bible is profitable for reproof. This means it is a tool that is used to persuade or convince us of our sin. The Bible is like a mirror for us and when we look deeply into it we see our true selves. A person who is living in pride and arrogance is someone who is not using their mirror. It is like leaving the house every morning without checking yourself in the mirror. Here is the reality, “The Bible will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Bible.”
The Bible is profitable for correction. This means to get straightened out. The Bible is used to continually correct and get our thinking and actions back on track. A person who stays out of their Bible will be a person who continually has wrong thinking and wrong actions. We need to constantly be straightened out.
"A person who stays out of their Bible will be a person who continually has wrong thinking and wrong actions. We need to constantly be straightened out."
The Bible is profitable for instruction in righteousness. A better way to say this, that I think we will understand even more clearly, is it is profitable for the instructions in the principles of justice. As followers of Jesus Christ we are to learn the principles of justice and then we are to apply them in all areas of our lives. Only God’s word gives us the true principles of justice. All other principles will be driven by self-interest.
The Bible is to work in our lives in order to change us from the inside out. It begins by giving us a knowledge and understanding of the truths about God. Then it works to convict us of our sin and to change and confront our behavior in light of it. It must not stop at this inward change though. Our culture has been infected with this obsession that Christianity is summed up only by this inward change. It is properly referred to as pietism, which says that Christianity is all about the inward workings of the Spirit. It must continue on though and we must be people of justice. We must learn and apply the principles of justice. We must learn to think through equal scales. We must be able to sift through all of the noise of the world. You see the world has doctrine that it is attempting to teach us. It then reproofs and corrects us on the basis of their standards. It then teaches principles of justice that we must maintain.
I was reminded of this last week with what happened in Charlottesville. This protest broke out and so did the messages to me as a pastor of what I must do. Honestly I did not find out about this until Sunday morning. So, I did a little research, as I wanted to be able to draw proper conclusions. Here is what I found. The alt-right, the white supremacists are wicked and sinful people. They are full of hate and their worldview is straight from the pits of hell. The person that organized the rally though was a puppet of George Soros. Their doctrine and their worldview is straight from the pit of hell. The counter protestors were organized by a group called Antifa. You go to their facebook page and the about section says, “f*ck fascism.” Their counter response is straight from the pit of hell and their doctrine is from the pit of hell. Many supporters of black lives matter came out. Many of my black brothers and sisters are in support of this group and I understand their reaction to white supremacy and police brutality. Black lives matter is not the answer though. Consider what the group stands for. Within the movement is also a call to affirm homosexuality and transgenderism. My friends this is not the answer. The answer is for the church to rise up, know the Bible (and thus know the principles of justice), and apply those principles to all area of life. Until we do this there will be no true justice. There will only be collectivist groups who come together for self-interest of themselves and of their groups.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
“Teach and urge these things. If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Tim. 6:2b-21).
In the beginning God, the transcendent and the sovereign one, created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). As a master architect He designed this world and everything that should inhabit it. At the end of the sixth day God created the pinnacle of His creation, which was Adam. Adam was God’s appointed agent to carry out His work -- to care for the earth that He created. Adam was created to not only care for the earth, but to continually expand out beyond the garden, subduing it. God made man in such a way that Adam could not carry out these responsibilities alone. His gifts were limited. So, God made a helper for him. God created Eve from his rib and she was designated to be Adam’s helper. She was Adam’s VP and COO. They were designed for dominion, but this task was hindered due to their sinful rebellion, which made the original task of dominion impossible for them to complete.
Adam and Eve were thus designed for more than dominion. They were designed to point ahead to the second Adam, Jesus Christ, who would faithfully complete the dominion work. Christ then created His helper to carry out the dominion task, which was the church. Jesus Christ becomes the groom to the church and the church becomes His bride. Since, the church has been wed to Christ; not only are they the bride of Christ, but they are also the mother of the believers.
Understanding this, then, should give us an understanding and framework to know what our role is as members of the Church. The church is to function as a wife and a mother, thus the helper to Christ. So, those of us filling roles inside of her must know that our aim is to not be the head but it is to assist the Head in the building of the Church. This means we are to bear children and to nurture them in obedience to the words the head has left for us. That is our role.
"The church is to function as a wife and a mother, thus the helper to Christ."
Paul has been spelling out in Timothy how the Church is to function as Christ’s bride and the mother of the believers. He has been giving them instructions on how to be a faithful bride and how to be a faithful mother. He ends this letter by driving some points home that, at times, seem disjointed. It kind of reminds me of the instructions I will give to my children before we go to someone’s home -- a series of do's and don’ts. Paul ends with that. He tells Timothy to be on guard for those in the church who would commit spiritual adultery on Christ, teaching things contrary to His words. Second, He further exhorts Timothy on how to lead to church to be a faithful bride and mother. Finally, it is an exhortation to guard the duty that had been entrusted to him as a guardian of the word.
Beware of the Spiritual Adulterer
Paul takes issue once again with the dangers of false teachers getting a foothold in the church. A false teacher is like an adulteress wife. It is a serious offense against the groom, as well as a serious offense against the children. Paul gives instructions on how to spot this person who is being unfaithful to Christ. This is in the sense of a false teacher, but also can certainly be applied to anyone who has rejected the covenant they have with Christ.
"Commonly those who are the most proud know the least. Pride and ignorance always go hand and hand."
First, is that they are always puffed up with conceit, thinking that they know everything when in fact and in reality they know nothing. This is a dangerous person in a dangerous place. As Matthew Henry stated, “Commonly those who are the most proud know the least.” Pride and ignorance always go hand and hand. This person will not allow anyone else to combat their thinking. They are the final arbiter on what the Scripture teaches. You cannot convince them otherwise. People committing spiritual harlotry always espouse to know the right knowledge and what is best when in reality they know nothing about Christ and His Word. They are their own final authority.
Second, the spiritual adulterer has an unhealthy craving for controversy and quarreling about words rather than substance and ideas. The danger of systematic theology is we can study doctrines in isolation rather than a whole and can lead people astray. Many people have gone into heresy over their obsession with words. They build their whole doctrine and whole worldview around a word. You can easily spot these types of people because you with always find envious relationships surrounding them (comparing one person's giftedness over anothers), dissension, slander (everyone else is judged by their standard), evil suspicions (everyone else is out to get them) and constant friction (none of their relationships are marked by peace). No relationships in their lives are healthy.
Third, this person has an unhealthy love of money, attempting to use the ministry as a means to get more money. Paul already settled that elders should receive compensation but that their motivation for teaching, leading, and shepherding must never be about money. The man of God must be a person marked by contentment, not the love of money. The love of money is the root of all different kinds of evils. It is interesting that all crimes committed can be reduced down to three different things: power, lust, or money. All sorts of evils come from these motivations. When a person is lured by the love of money they often make ethical and judicial decisions that are not just.
"The man of God must be a person marked by contentment, not the love of money."
Note, this text does not teach that having money and wealth in and of itself is evil. By that standard all of us here in America, even if we are on welfare, are evil because based on the world’s standards we are all in the top 5% of wealthiest people in the world. We are the rich people the bible talks about. Not just the millionaire but this is true of all of us. It is not a matter of whether or not a person has riches but what they do with them. Are we a person who is rich in good works and a person who is generous? I remember early on with my walk with the Lord when my love of money was tested as my generosity was tested. I did not want to give a tenth of my income away. I struggled with that. Why did I struggle with that? Well, the answer is easy: I loved money more than I loved obedience to Jesus Christ. Our lives come down to whose blessing we seek: God’s or someone else's?
The Danger of False Teaching
The reason why Paul labors on the point of guarding against false teaching is because of how damaging false teaching is. When false teaching is embraced it means that a person is rejecting the plain words of Christ is in exchange for someone else's word. It then comes down to who’s word do we believe in? Who’s word is trustworthy? When a person rejects the plain teachings of Christ in exchange for other teachings it always leads to a train wreck of problems.
The first false teacher, Satan, gave us insight into how false teaching works. Satan denied reality, denied negativity, and denied God’s promises of punishment for disobeying Him, “You will not surely die.” Not only does He do that but Satan is the ultimate optimist. He puts everything in a positive light. He promises, “You will become like God.” Satan only ever offers positive blessings as a result of choosing His ways. Drink that drink so you forget your problems. Let your anger rage so you feel relieved of letting them have it. Divorce your wife to find someone that meets your needs. This is Satan’s destructive approach.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
“Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.” (1 Tim. 6:1-2)
The Roman economic system was built on the backs of slaves. These words were written to Timothy who was the lead elder at the church in Ephesus. Timothy was a shepherd in a community where slavery was a part of the culture and just part of the way things were done. It was estimated that up to a third of the population in Ephesus consisted of slaves. Paul is writing to a people that this is the norm of life. As the gospel goes into a culture its works slowly changes it. The gospel does not change a culture overnight, it works like leaven and slowly changes. At the church in Ephesus you certainly would have had slaves come to faith in Christ and you would have had masters come to faith in Christ. Presumably, slaves and masters would have been in the same church serving the Lord together. It is even quite probable that a slave could have become an elder and held a position of authority over masters in the church. This is what the gospel does. It turns the world right side up.
With this happening, slaves were finding new found freedom in Christ. This leads to talks of believing slaves rebelling against unbelieving masters and believing slaves disrespecting believing masters. Paul took time to carefully exhort slaves who found themselves serving in either one of these situations.
Believing Slaves and Unbelieving Masters
Paul addresses not those who are in a position of voluntary servitude but those that are in a position of involuntary servitude. They are serving as a slave against their own will. This was not their choice. This is an important point. The Old Covenant allowed and gave laws for slavery, but that system of slavery was to serve as a welfare system. It was voluntary and had term limits of six years. After six years a person could then voluntarily choose to continue to serve as a slave to that master. Rome did not practice this type of slavery. This was built on kidnapping people and forcing them into manual labor. Paul is writing to a group of people who are serving in an unjust system.
The word Greek word “doulos” (slave) could be used to say voluntary servitude. Paul wanted to make it clear that is not what he is referring to though. He adds the word “yoke,” which is an instrument owner’s use on animals to make them work for them. In saying this, Paul is making it clear that he is writing to slaves that are serving against their will. To those slaves Paul says to serve them and work for them as they are worthy of all honor. Serve them in this way so that God and His word will not be evil spoken of, so that it will not be reviled. God’s name and God’s Word seems to be more important to Paul than for these slaves to gain their freedom through leading an anarchist revolt against their masters.
Let’s be clear, Paul is not condoning the Roman system of slavery. In fact, he said to the slaves in the church in Corinth that if they can secure their freedom, they should; “Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity)” (1 Cor. 7:21). The ideal is for people to not only be spiritually free in Christ but to also be physically free.
A Choice of Weapons
What you see Paul doing here is giving an application of social theory as it relates to revolting against the unjust system of slavery. There are essentially two ways that the slaves could fight against this. The first is to pick up the sword and revolt. Nat Turner, a slave and preacher of the gospel, attempted this and his siege lasted only 48 hours and all of his men died, as well as many other women and children. This was often the result of using this weapon. Also, it gave justification to the masters for the way they have treated the slaves and for taking their lives. It made the gospel ill thought of.
The other option is to yield the sword of the spirit which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17). This is a great weapon, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Paul is instructing the slaves to use this weapon. Use it by submitting their lives to it and living out the word. The word of God works like leaven.
John Newton was a slave owner. Under his care most likely thousands upon thousands of people died. Imagine if you could go back in history and you were placed in a dark room with him and given two weapons. One was a sword and the other was the Bible. If you use the sword you know that he would stop capturing the slaves. It would end immediately. Well, for him that is. The problem is that there would always be another captain. If you use the Bible He could come to trust Christ and be part of the solution to end this unjust system. I hope you would choose the Bible because without it we would not be able to sing the song, “Amazing Grace,” nor would England have seen an end to the slave trade in their country without the war being fought. William Wilberforce and John Newton were key to seeing that end.
With our church’s involvement in ending abortion now in Genesee County I can’t help but think of a parallel in strategies. There have been those that took up arms and killed abortion doctors. What happens though? There is always another abortion doctor and the gospel is then evil spoken of. The weapon of choice needs to be the word. It needs to be the gospel. That is why I am so thankful for the ONElife for Life team that has marched to the front lines of the pit of hell yielding the weapon of the Kingdom of Christ. They are yielding the sword of the Spirit. By God’s grace may he end these evils through His word.
"The weapon of choice needs to be the Word. It needs to be the gospel."
Note to Employees
I cannot help but to see and make a parallel for the people here that may find themselves working as an employee. If Paul tells slaves to honor unbelieving masters for the sake of the gospel, should we not then honor our employers in the same way? Your boss may have graduated from the University of Idiots and Jerks as the Valedictorian, and may do everything in his or her power to make life miserable on everyone else because he or she is so miserable. And while you are tempted to think of your boss as your enemy, God sees them as one held captive by the real enemy. Your boss needs Jesus. The person who uses threats, intimidation, and anger is in bondage, even if he is in charge, while the person who chooses to honor and esteem is free, even if he is under authority. True freedom has nothing to do with your circumstances and everything to do with your position in Christ.
"True freedom has nothing to do with your circumstances and everything to do with your position in Christ."
Christ Became a Slave
Paul’s appeal to the slaves is totally founded on the gospel of Christ. In particular to serve as a slave and to honor someone who has not honored you is the heart of the gospel. That is precisely what the Lord Jesus Christ did for us. If you are a follower of Christ, then you are actively engaged in following Christ. What did Christ do? Christ chose to place himself into slavery. When Christ came to this earth, he chose, in essence, to sell himself to be your slave. That is what Philippians 2 tells us. “…though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant (bondservant), being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
"To serve as a slave and to honor someone who has not honored you is the heart of the gospel."
Christ, our Creator and King, voluntarily chose to humble himself and become a slave to us in this way. He obligated himself to serve us. He sold himself to give up his life in the ultimate service for us. He considered our salvation so important that he gave up his life in order to secure it. This was pictured by Christ when he wore the attire of a slave and washed the feet of his disciples the night before he died. That event was a picture of his entire life and ministry on earth. He left his place of honor at the table and took on the role of a servant in order to wash their feet because that is what his entire life was about. He left his place of honor in glory in order to come as our servant and serve us by dying for us even by dying in about the most inhumane manner possible. He died on a cross. If Christ considered you worthy of that honor, then you can certainly consider others worthy of honor. You cannot die for them and secure their salvation, but you can serve them in a manner that points them to the One who did. Following Christ begins with trusting in what he did for us by dying for us. Following Christ is marked by a life in which I give up my rights to him. I give up my ownership to him. I give up my authority to him. I chose to love others more than myself. I chose to honor others rather than seek the honor of others. I chose to consider the gospel of such inestimable value that I will choose to do hard work, faithfully and without complaining in order that the gospel will not have anything in my life distract from it.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
“Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control” (1 Tim. 2:9-15)
Paul addresses the women, instructing them on some things that are to be new normals for them. On a side note, I find it interesting that both Paul and Peter took one verse to instruct the men and six verses to instruct them women. I have a theory as to why this is; we as men cannot usually handle more than one instruction at a time. Let me prove my point. Every time my wife asks me to go pick up something at the store for her (which is not very often, as it is a dangerous thing), it starts out by her saying can you go pick up this one thing. So I jump up, grab my wallet and keys, and head towards the door. Then just as I am going, she says, “oh and can you also pick up this other thing.” Sure I think I got that. Then she goes to three and four items and I am like, “hold up now, I need to get some paper and write this down.” My brain is made to focus on one thing for an extended period of time. Your brains seem to be able to do multiple things at once. So we get one verse, you get six. Within these six verses Paul urges the women to dress appropriately, be adorned with good works, and not to usurp authority.
Did He Just Say That
On the initial reading of this section there are several different responses that women have. The first response is one of, “Did he really just say that? No wonder why Paul was never married!” That is, they take great offense at what Paul said and believe that Paul is being utterly demeaning to women.
The second group comes up with some clever textual gymnastics and they say that, “Paul said that but he did not mean that for us today in the generation we live in. That was a specific culturally issue during that time Paul was addressing. If the women would have been allowed to speak and dress in that way in the culture during that time it would not have been appropriate. It does not mean the same thing to us.” Our charismatic friends then say that God’s callings are different today and he calls women to be pastors, so this does not apply today. Our liberal enemies just don’t believe the Bible and need to repent. They are not very creative.
The third group, and Lord willing the one I am writing to today, strives to maintain biblical fidelity in everything and celebrate the God given distinctions between men and women. The distinctions are to be celebrated. One reason they are to be celebrated is that God maintains distinctions within the three persons of the Godhead. The Son is submissive to the Father and the Holy Spirit to the Son and the Father. They carry out these roles in perfect harmony. When we do the same thing we are being like God. Having this worldview allows us to understand some important things about these verses.
First, as it relates to our culture today, we live in an era that places much, more value on women than in previous cultures. That is because of the biblical worldview. We must understand that the radical part of this statement to the original audience reading this was, “Let the women learn.” You see it was common that women were not to be in the public instruction. This was only for the men. Paul is saying please bring the women in! Let them learn.
"God wants us to do the unnatural so that we depend on him."
Having a good biblical worldview on God given distinctions will also allow us to see the thrust of what Paul is doing in the way He addresses men and women specifically. He is calling us both to new normals. He is calling us both to do things that are not natural for us. At the core, He is essentially saying that men you are to lead and women you are to follow. He is clearly not saying that women are not to pray or teach in public, as we see them praying publicly and prophesying in public throughout the Word of God. He is calling us to do the unnatural. Part of the curse, due to the ethical rebellion of Adam, is that women’s desire will be for the man and yet man rules over them. Women want to lead and men don’t. God wants us to do the unnatural so that we depend on him. We must understand this is the thrust of what he is saying and if we do, then we can take the appropriate application away from this.
The way we dress matters. It is important and it should have some level of thought behind it. Our clothes communicate a lot about who we are. Our dress communicates the values we espouse. We should never say dress does not matter. It does, which is why Paul is writing about it. We should think through our dress. Paul instructs the women on dress. Here is the issue. During this time women would braid their hair with gold and pearls to be noticed as a status symbol. They wanted to draw attention to themselves, that they were wealthy and worthy of being noticed according to their dress. Paul says you don’t want to be known for this but for your character and the way you adorn yourself with good works. He gets to the heart of the issue. He does not say that you need to dress plainly, he is attacking the heart saying don’t dress to be noticed by others. That is the wrong heart.
"The question to ask yourself is whether or not you are more defined by your dress or by the way that you minister to others."
For some they may dress up a bit more than others and the reason may be out of respect and reverence for God. Others may dress down, as they want to be more relatable to others. Both are good and godly reasons. The question to ask yourself is whether or not you are more defined by your dress or by the way that you minister to others. This is what Paul is getting at.
The dress was the awkward thing Paul said and now we will look at the really audacious thing that he said. Women are to remain silent in the public gathering. As was said earlier, comparing scripture with scripture makes it very plain that Paul was not saying that women could not talk; he is addressing a much bigger issue. He is addressing the way men and women faithfully perform their roles. He is saying women stay in their God given and God ordained lanes, which part of that means don’t teach over men in an authoritative way. More specifically, don’t teach over men as one operating with the authority of an elder. Women, this is not your lane. What you must do is force the men to step up by staying out of this lane. Create a leadership vacuum. Force men to lead in the public prayer and in the public teaching of the Word.
Paul is good about following up statements like this with supporting arguments. There are a few reasons that he made this statement. He appeals to the creation saying that men were formed first, essentially meaning that God placed them in charge. Then he says it was Eve who was deceived, not Adam. She was deceived when she stepped out of her position. That is when she got in trouble. The point is don’t keep doing that. Finally, he says this is not forever, as they are saved through child rearing. They are saved through the Messiah who was born of a women.
Note To Men
Men, being a pastor for over 10 years means I have met with literally hundreds of couples in counseling situations. In doing this there are some consistent patterns that are really easy to see. One pattern is that when men are providing loving leadership to their wives and men in the church are doing the same for the women in the church then they have absolutely no issues with these verses. They see what Paul is addressing because they witness a man that is leading which provides a tremendous amount of security for them. When men carry out their roles, women don’t have a problem following. When men are reluctant to lead or try to do it with unclean hands it is very difficult for them to follow. Men we must lead.
"When men carry out their roles, women don’t have a problem following."
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” (1 Tim. 2:1-7)
Paul urges the believers to live a lifestyle of prayer and for them to pray for all people without ceasing. No one is now outside of the bounds of your prayers. Paul gives general instructions about these prayers for all people. These new normal prayers should regularly consist of four different parts. First, supplications are to be made, which are specific requests for specific needs. Second, prayers are to be made, which are the general use of all requests being made before God. Third, intercessions are to be made, which means to appeal boldly to God on behalf of others. Finally, there should be prayers of Thanksgiving, which express appreciation to God for the person or persons you are praying for. Paul urges them to have prayer mark their lives.
"No one is outside of the bounds of your prayers."
After the general instructions about prayer Paul then gets more specific about who they should be praying for. Pray for kings, those exercising royal authority, and for all of those that are in high positions. Pray for all of those that are leading in the nation in which you are a citizen of. This is a very unnatural thing to do. It is even more unnatural when those leaders over you are wicked rulers. Paul wrote this to a church that was part of the Roman Empire, most likely with Nero as the ruler. He was a wicked man and his governors followed suit. When in Rome do as the Romans. Even though the rulers were wicked Paul said a new normal is to pray for them.
Why Pray for the Leaders?
Paul instructs the church on some reasons as to why they should pray for those in authority over them. The first reason he states as to why this prayer life should be the new normal is so they can live quiet and peaceable lives. In order for this to happen those in authority need to fulfill their God given role, which is to bear the sword (Rom. 13:1-7). Their role is to ensure equal justice. Essentially this is praying for them and praying that they will leave us alone and stay out of our lives. They should leave people alone until they break the law and until their is a victim of a crime. Their job is to punish criminals. Note: Paul did not instruct them to live quiet and peaceable lives. He said pray for the leaders so that you can. This is the ideal but can only really take place if the government obeys God.
Paul is urging them to pray for these wicked rulers. In essence he is urging them to pray for people that they naturally detest. Our prayers should be hopeful prayers for them. Hopeful prayers that they may actually come to the saving knowledge of the truth. Yes, even they can be saved. That is the message Paul is communicating. Pray hopefully as our God and savior desires that all types of people, even wicked rulers, would come to the knowledge of the truth. The text is saying that Christ desires all types of people from all types of places to come to faith. Don’t prejudge in your prayers. Don’t ever say that anyone is “too far gone.”
"Don’t prejudge in your prayers. Don’t ever say that anyone is “too far gone.”"
We can pray hopefully in this way because the work of reconciliation is not dependent upon any of us; if it was we would all be hopeless. This mediating work is utterly dependent on the Lord Jesus Christ and what He accomplished. Jesus is the one and only mediator between God and man. He is the only go between. He is the only one that has lived in both realms. He tells us to repent and to the Father He presents us as an adopted child. Salvation is possible for all people everywhere, as it is dependent on this mediating work of Christ. So, pray hopefully for leaders. In fact, pray hopefully for all people.
"Salvation is possible for all people everywhere, as it is dependent on this mediating work of Christ."
We pray hopefully as this mediator gave Himself up as a ransom for us all. A ransom is a price that is paid for redemption. Jesus is the go between, paying the price of redemption. The price was His truly innocent blood. This blood price is sufficient to cover the sins of any person. Even the most vile and wicked person. If Adolf Hitler repented at the end of His life, Christ would have cleansed Him. We can be hopeful, knowing that His blood is sufficient enough to secure the redemption of anyone who believes. This is the message that drove Paul to take the gospel to the Gentiles. These were wicked people without the law of God. Paul went preaching Christ and Him crucified.
"The blood of Jesus is sufficient to cover the sins of any person, even the most vile and wicked person."
Hopeful Persistent Prayer
Jesus told a parable in regards to teaching people to pray and to pray persistently. This is a great lesson for us as we pray for leaders over us. Jesus told the people about a widow who was attempting to seek out justice against her adversary. She kept going to an unjust judge in efforts to seek justice. The widow did not give up though. The squeaky wheel always gets the oil. She kept bothering this unjust judge until he eventually gave in, as he was annoyed by her, and appropriate justice was had. Jesus says that is how we are to pray. The difference is that we are praying to a just judge. Go to God in prayer persistently and pray hopefully.
I need to apologize to all of you today. All of you who are partners of ONElife Church and in particular those of you that have been here for a little while. What I love about being a Word-centered ministry is that the Word of God continues to change me and convict me as a leader. I have not done a good job in leading you all in the area of praying for those in authority over us. In addition, I want to apologize for not driving home the point that those really in authority over us will be found at the township, city, county, and state level. There was a massive debate when the constitution was being written as to whether it should say, “We the people” or “We the States.” We went with “We the people” and got it wrong. If you remember one thing about today, remember this. Forget about what is going on at the federal level and start focusing on your township, city, and county. Identify who your supervisor, mayor, sheriff, and council members are. Write their names down and pray persistently for them, that they would be saved and govern Biblically, allowing us to live quiet and peaceable lives.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.