14For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matt 22:)
"No, why, what's up?"
"The coach is getting together a new football team."
"Oh yeah? Well, I gotta' look into this."
29And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. 30But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him. (Luke 7:)
Until recently it was common to send out "trumpeters" to announce the arrival of a person or an event. A king would send "before his face" men blowing trumpets and crying out "Make way for your king!" Absalom in his attempt to steal his father David's kingdom from Solomon sent out 50 men to run ahead of him. (Fifty is the number of the anointing.) When a circus comes to town announcements are posted on walls, and a sampling of what is to come is sent ahead to prepare the town for the coming event.
In the illustration above we have a High School preparing to establish a football team. In so doing, the coach does not walk amongst the students in order to pick and choose his players, he posts a notice on a wall in order to let all who are interested in playing on the team come and show him what abilities they possess.
This is the call.
15And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:)
23And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. (Luke 14:)
Those who are called (which is the entire school) are not picked for the team. Everyone who hears the call realizes this.
In order to be considered for the team there are certain requirements that are made on the potential players that must be met. There may be a sign-up fee. There may be some equipment costs. And besides these, there's the understanding that those who make the team are going to have to possess skill in their craft, and to acquire this skill they will have to work hard and long in order to develop the special knowledge which comes from that hard work. They also understand that they will have to be battered around in order to toughen them up in preparation for the attacks of their "enemy" who will do all he can to knock them out of contention.
25And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? (Luke 14:)
24Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway ["Rejected"]. (1Cor 9:)
11Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Eph 6:)
8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: (1Peter 5:)
In days gone by it was customary for preachers of the Word to preach what was called "Fire and Brimstone" messages intended to bring repentant sinners to their knees and to prepare them for the trials and hardships they might well endure for choosing to follow the Straight and Narrow path.
This is essentially a thing of the past. Churches today, in spite of the multitude of Scripture to the contrary, and the magnitude of examples given as evidence to the same, costs of discipleship are denied or played down. The churches post a call on the wall, and accept whoever happens to sign up to play in the game, from the feeblest couch potato and the curious downward.
The churches fill the pews and the coffers; but do they prepare those who answer the call to meet the requirements of the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave the call?
20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. 21To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. 22He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Rev 3:)
1Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: (Jude 1:)
1Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: (1Cor 1:
5And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 10Wherefore the rather, brethren, GIVE DILIGENCE TO MAKE YOUR CALLING AND ELECTION SURE: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2Pet 1:)
"Did you see the bulletin board today, Joe?"
"The coach has posted the names of those chosen for the team."
"Really? Was my name on it?"
"Your name? Why would your name be on the list? You hardly never practiced at all."
"No, maybe not. But I did sign up. And I did sit on the bench and watched."
16So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. (Mat 20:)
Out of the many who answer the call, a hand full of participants are chosen to be on the team. Although the many who signed up to play had fulfilled all their requirements, paid their dues, and bought what equipment they were instructed to buy, they were still denied the right to wear the uniform of the team. Permit slips, doctor's checkups, and the best of grades was not sufficient to enable the wearing of the team colors.
Those who made the team are not as yet team players. Each of the players have brought with them an independent spirit that presses them to be the player, the big shot, the one who everyone wishes they could be like, and who everyone idolizes. It is the coach's job to knock this spirit of rebellion and self-serving out of even the best of players in order that each player will consider the good of the team, not their own status.
In the Army one who answers the call and has passed the tests is given a uniform that indicates he is one of the chosen. Along with this uniform comes certain requirements, certain "costs." And if those costs aren't met, the uniform is taken from him and he is cast out in disgrace, if not further punished.
A soldier is given two sets of uniforms. One set is his dress uniform that he shows the world. This is the uniform he wears proudly in parades and when he leaves the confines of the military camp to which he is assigned.
This soldier is also given another set of uniforms called "fatigues" that he is required to take just as much care of as his dress uniform, but which serves an entirely different purpose. This uniform is not attractive, nor is it worn for show, but for work and for service. [Ex 28:2-4,15-17,38, 43; 34:30-35 (Ex 26:33; Mat 17:2; 2Cor 3:13-16); Lev 8:1-13 (see Zech 3:1-10); Lev 16:4,17,23-26,32-33; Heb 9:8-9,11-12]
A soldier as he is seen by the uninitiated appears to be special and elegant alongside the common citizenry. However, what is not seen is the extraordinary work and training that soldier has had to endure through his basic training to make him the strong, confident man he is seen to be. Without the soldier having had to wear the work clothes of the peon soldier, peel the multitude of potatoes to serve his fellow players, and crawl on his hands and knees through "enemy fire," he would be nothing but an imitation of the soldier he pretends to be by the wearing of his elegant uniform.
The call goes out to everyone belonging to that school or organization giving the call. Being called is of little significance, unless one is also one of the "chosen."
13Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14For many are called, but few are chosen. (Mat 22:).
And if one is chosen, that person is not at the end of his or her journey, but has merely been placed at the open door of a valley of extreme hardship and molding; A chunk of clay to be placed in the hands of the Potter.
12And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. 13And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; (Luke 6:)
What a great honor to be chosen out of the thousands who answered the call to be disciples of the Lord, the Son of God.
In the churches we are taught that answering the call is all that is required to be counted as a disciple of the Lord: That taking a bath will get us into Heaven where we will spend forever flying amongst the clouds.
64But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. 66From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. (John 6:)
When the glory of wearing the team colors subside and the long, arduous work begins, there will be some of those chosen for the team who will drop out. Being "chosen" does not mean you are part of the team. Being chosen is merely a beginning to see if you have what it takes to make the team. You might be the fastest runner, the best kicker, the finest of blockers; but if you miss practice, fail to listen, or to follow instructions, and do not have consideration for the team as a whole and the good of each of the other team members, then all of your abilities will be for naught (1Corinthians chapter 12).
11Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? 12Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth. 13When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it. (Ezek 33:)
Jesus expounded on this Old Testament command when He said we're to take up our cross daily and endure to the end. Good beginnings are not sufficient to see us to our destination. It's one accurate step after another that takes us to where we desire to go.
18And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 19And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. 20Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. 21And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. 22Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. 23And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. 24And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 25For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Luke 18:)
It's not only what we do right that will cause us to be welcomed into the Kingdom, but it's the thing we lack that will cause us to be turned away.
Jesus chose twelve out of the multitude. These twelve walked with Jesus for perhaps three and a half years, sleeping where He slept, eating what He ate, and listening to His every Word. In fact, every one of the twelve did as Jesus did, even to healing of the sick and casting out devils.
70Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? (John 6:)
By all appearances Judas was perhaps one of the best players on the team. When Jesus announced that one of the twelve would betray Him, each of the others suspected it might be themselves before suspecting Judas. Even when Jesus gave the sop to Judas and told him to do what he had already set himself up to do, they did not suspect him.
Judas was not a team player. He was, as it appears, out for his own glory and to serve his own desires above those of his Master, and of his fellow teammates (John 12:6; 13:29).
11And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 12And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14For many are called, but few are chosen. (Mat 22:)
Many are called, and the size of the mega-churches is evidence that those called are flooding to the doors; but few are chosen. And as we have seen in Judas, even of those chosen, some will not be among those approved at the wedding. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth we are told. Who will be doing the wailing? According to the Scripture above it will be those who have answered the call, taken on the uniform of the team, but had not prepared themselves in order to be suitable to stand before their Leader, their King.
14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled. (Heb 12:)
You may have heard that those doing the wailing are the unsaved, those of the World. I would suggest you read the Scriptures carefully before resting your hopes of Eternity on a piece of paper you may have signed.
14For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, WHO CALLED HIS OWN SERVANTS, and delivered unto them his goods. (Mat 25:)
Jesus is not talking to the unsaved world who shows no interest in Him or the Kingdom whatever; He is talking to and instructing His own servants, those who have taken on His name, what is expected of them, and what will happen to them if they fail to live up to expectations.
23Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. (Mat 18:)
Again we see that it's servants who are to give account for their service to the Lord. The Bible instructs us that we're to not let anyone deceive us. How much truer is this statement than when applied to our quest for eternal life with the Lord?
31When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: .....46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Mat 25:)
21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Mat 7:)
Many Christians are counting on their church affiliation, or their denominational doctrines, or what they hear from the pulpit to get them into the Kingdom of Heaven. From the above we can see that having answered the call is not sufficient to provide assurance of acceptance, nor is being chosen assurance that one is fully in God's will:
"No, why, what's up? You're all excited about something."
"You bet I am. I've been elected to be on the 'A' team. How about that?"
"A team? What's that?"
"It's the first line, the ones who make and break the team. That's what it is."
"Hmm, too bad. That means you're going to have to train harder and take more beatings. I just wanted to be a bench warmer myself. You know, part of the team that gets the glory but doesn't got to do the work."
This is the Leader of the "A" team, the elect in God. Those who strive to be one of the elite must strive to live up to His standards. Nothing less than our best efforts will do.
51And when he came into the house, he suffered no man to go in, save Peter, and James, and John, and the father and the mother of the maiden. (Luke 8:)
2And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. (Mark 9:)
During His life Jesus had many followers:
14For they were about five thousand men. (Luke 9:)
Rock stars and such people as Billy Graham attract people by the thousands. You can imagine what a following Jesus must have had:
1After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. (Luke 19:)
At one time Jesus had His inner circle of 12, and within that inner circle He had those who were elected to be His elite guard, those who would take the leadership after He departed this earth. Along with the Apostles was a group of 70 upon whom Jesus placed His Spirit and His ability to heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead. It was their job to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and to prepare the way for the Lord, as was that of John the Baptist some time before.
What ever became of those 70 we can not be sure. One would think with such power bestowed upon them they would have remained solidly with the Lord. Did they lose the power? Was that power transient rather than resident?
16And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. 17And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone. (Num 11:)
What we find in the New Testament we have foreshadowed in the Old. These 70 men, although endowed with the Spirit of God were not one of those who were allowed into the Promised Land. Having the Spirit of God upon oneself is not assurance of salvation. Judas was one of the inner circle, and we know he was not with the rest of the twelve when the time came for furthering God's mission. He was not there to "carry the Lord's burden," but rather became a burden himself.
15And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) (Acts 1:)
When Jesus was in the Garden just before the crucifixion there were only 11 with Him that we know of. Here, with the risk of being persecuted and killed themselves, we have a hundred and twenty boldly standing up for the Lord. Were the seventy among these? This we don't know. But we learn from the Scriptures that two of the Sanhedrin, the body of men out to persecute the Church, were secretly disciples of Jesus:
20For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishopric let another take. 21Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. 23And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these two thou hast chosen, 25That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. 26And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:)
When we don't know what to do, we do whatever we think is right, and we expect God to justify our decision. In this passage we learn several things. One thing we learn is that there were others who were with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry stretching all the way back to His baptism.
Notice that Peter says "which of these two you have chosen." We do this at election time as well. Someone out of nowhere presents people we have no idea who they are, glues that person to a running mate, and tells us which one we want to run our country. Then we're told we are a democracy because we decide how this country is to be run. This is what Peter is attempting to do with the Lord. Then, to further add to the fallacy, they throw dice to see what God wants them to do. If I was to tell you that God told me I was to do such-and-such because I gave God two choices and I threw dice to see which He wants me to do, what would you think of my judgement call?
It was after this event that Peter and the rest of the Apostles received the Holy Spirit, so they were using human reasoning at the time, thinking there was nothing more beyond what they knew on a carnal level.
Notice also, the one they picked was "numbered with the eleven," not with the twelve.
22They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them. (Isaiah 65:)
8Thus saith the LORD, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants' sakes, that I may not destroy them all. 9And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains: and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there. (Isaiah 65:)
It's for God's Elect, His faithful servants that He is preparing a Kingdom. And it's His elect He will protect from the wrath to come.
God has many servants, and as we see in the parables Jesus told, some are faithful and self-sacrificing, and others are selfish and self-serving. It's not the last category of servants God is preparing His Kingdom for, nor are they the ones He will protect through the storm.
21For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. 23Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Mat 24:)
We believe ourself above anyone's ability to deceive us. What we don't realize is that those who teach us we're above reproach are the very ones who are deceiving us.
The Tribulation will destroy almost everyone, as did Noah's flood. Only a very few were preserved in that first demonstration of wrath, which Jesus made clear is a true picture of the wrath to come, and those few were the cream of God's crop. From this we can be quite certain the "Elect" Jesus is speaking of, that God will cut short the Tribulation for, are few and very special and loyal servants indeed. To believe anything short of this is to stand on quicksand, and not recognize the fact even when the sand reaches our chin.
30And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Mat 24:)
7And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? 8I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:)
It's the Elect Jesus is coming for. It's those who sacrifice themselves for others as He sacrificed Himself for us. How sincere are we in the service of our Lord?
Will Jesus find faith on the earth? With His Elect He will, but how about the rest of those who say the words, but show no fruit to back up those words?
12Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. (Col 3:)
5And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 10Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2Peter 1:)
There are signs to indicate that we are who we're supposed to be. Like the football player in the dialogues who doesn't want to work, just wear the team jacket, there are those in the churches given much support in their lack of effort to be a working member of the team, the body of Christ. When the time of judgement comes there will be a separation of the goats from the true sheep, those who served Him, and those who served Him not. Those who are not allowed to enter the Kingdom will find they will be weeping and gnashing teeth, and this for not just a little while.
Notice the use of the phrases "make your calling and election sure," "So you don't fall," "Be diligent," and other such terms. Can we see these words and still believe that a couch potato Christian existence is all Jesus requires of us?
10Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: 12If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: 13If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. (2Tim 2:)
Read this carefully. Can you find anywhere in this brief passage that supports the notion that God has to accept anyone who makes what is conceived as an initial commitment? The experts can, and those in the pews count on what those experts have come up with.
We have two things we need to pay special attention to in the above passage. First, those Paul (and the other Apostles) are writing to are not couch potatoes. It's those who are working diligently to further the cause of Christ, and who are sacrificing themself for the cause who they write to and for. Even these, even the Elect Paul gives warning that they don't fall behind, that they make their calling and election sure. How many times do we read that we must endure to the end, to persevere? It's not those on the rock or amidst thorns who will make it. It's those who produce good fruit for the Kingdom who will see the Kingdom and be a part of it.
5Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. 7What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. (Rom 11:)
Work is all the Old Testament Jews knew. The concept of living by the Spirit was unknown to them. And how could they know since Jesus had not been crucified and the Holy Spirit not yet given? Today we don't have their excuse, so we make up others and cling to them for support:
10And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; 11(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) (Rom 9:)
We might think our calling, and certainly our election, is something we must strive to attain. This is not so. God will choose whoever He wants to be a part of the elect. This causes some people and churches to believe that God picks some people to be eternally saved and others to be eternally doomed to hell. This of course makes no more sense than does any other of the doctrines that are so popular today.
This ambiguity begs the question: what then does bring about salvation if we can't work for it, yet it's our works that will make the difference where we spend eternity? If election isn't something that we must strive to acquire, and that we must work to retain (as seen in the passage above), then how can we know we're a part of the elect, and how do we make our election sure?
4Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 5Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. 6Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. (Jer 1:)
Jeremiah was called and he was elected. He had no choice in the matter. God didn't ask Jeremiah if he wanted to be a prophet and suffer the consequences for taking on that job. God told him this is what he is to do.
God chose him before he was born. From this simple verse, spoken to a certain person, the churches have created a doctrine that states everyone born is known by God before they were born, sanctified, and given a job in the Kingdom. Not so. If we follow this logic then we have to take the last step, and that is each of us is to be a prophet unto the nation. No one wants to take that step, but they accept the rest of the statement without any evidence in their own life, nor do they bother to question it.
10And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. 11And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? 12Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say. 13And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. 14And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, (Ex 4:)
Moses is another person who was elected from birth, and trained to do a particular job for the Kingdom. It was not his choice, and when his time came, he did everything he could, used every excuse he could think of to get out of fulfilling his election, his calling.
16For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! 17For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. 18What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. (1Cor 9:)
Paul is another one who certainly wasn't looking to be chosen for his job. In fact he like Jonah was running as fast as he could in the wrong direction. But when he discovered his calling, he like Moses, Jeremiah, Abraham and all the others God elected for a certain job, fulfilled his responsibility to the ultimate. In each of their efforts we see failures and faults. Even Abraham had his weakness and his lapses in faith. But through it all they did what they were called to do.
Whether we've been elected or whether we have not, once we've been given a job, it's up to us if we receive a reward for having done what we're told. If we do what we're told to do begrudgingly, we lose our reward even though we accomplished all we were to do. We've had this clearly explained to us in the Epistles that if we give our body to be burned, or sacrifice ourself to the max, but we don't do what we're supposed to do with the right attitude, it's all for nothing.
Those who are elected are likely to fail in the end. Consider Moses, he was faithful in every way but one, and he (nor Aaron the High priest to God) were allowed to enter the Promised Land. When Jesus gave warnings and directions to His disciples He added many "if's" and consequences for failure. Even they were not above slacking off in their duties. That should serve as some kind of warning to us of the Couch Potato squad, but it doesn't.
3Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. (2Tim 2:)
In the Military there's a group of men who have chosen to go farther than they are required to go, to become more than they signed up to be. These have answered the call to become soldiers, and they have passed the tests presented to them. But merely "getting by" is not sufficient for them. Their quest is to do their utmost, to be of full service to their nation, their president, their King.
The basic training a soldier must endure is sufficient to make that man or woman into a soldier, however, it does not prepare them for the arduous duty they must endure to be of the high caliber their ambitious calling will require. These men are members of the elite called the Green Berets or the Special Forces or Navy Seals depending on the branch of service they belong to. These men are to become what others in the armed forces aspire to be, but at the same time wish to avoid. They are the inner circle, the ones who enter the danger zone, who dive over the edge of reason:
18If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. (John 15:)
We can expect to be treated like, and to receive what the person we choose to follow receives. We become a part of the person and their purpose. If we're not enduring our leader's abuses, we are not a part of his association.
1Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. 2And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. (Acts 12:)
James was part of the inner circle, a vital part of the team Jesus has established. We might think God would have kept a close and protective eye on this man. But here we see Herod the king, killing James for sport, just to please a group of people he would just as soon see dead. At this same time Herod placed Peter in prison, expecting to use him for the next day's entertainment.
Consider Job, David and so many others God holds a special place in His heart for. Rather than be protected from the ills of the world, God puts them in the forefront of the battle where they had to endure the hardest of hits from the enemy:
15But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. (Acts 9:)
19And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. (Acts 14:)
22Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. 23Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. (2Cor 11:)
Yesterday by chance I met an elderly man (a few years younger than myself) who belonged to the Navy Seals at the time they had a name change. During his tour of duty he was shot four times, and because of the location of one of the bullets he still carries that reminder in his flesh.
Paul was a converted enemy of Christ, who fully believed he was doing God's service by persecuting and killing Christians. Jesus said Paul would suffer for His name, and that he did. Paul was a front-line player. He didn't sit back and wish the players luck while not taking part in the battle. He was the battle.
When I was in High School I went out for track. My specialty was the 440 and the 660 (yard) runs. A quarter mile is too long for a sprint, and not really long enough for pacing oneself. But my nature is to throw everything I've got into whatever I do, so all I could do is run my hardest from the get-go. I won almost every race for this reason, I was sprinting all the way. In a half mile race I would collapse before the finish line, so I never ran the longer distances.
Occasionally I would encounter what I call the antelope. An antelope is a runner who knows his capabilities and paces himself until the right moment, then he gives it everything he's got at the end of the race. I could be well ahead of everyone, then just when I reach the finish line, the antelope flies past me.
I picture running such a race with Paul. I laugh when I see him running as fast and as hard as he can.... the wrong way. And then when I reach the finish line, fully confident of my win, here comes Paul whizzing past me like I'm standing still.
We never know what stage of Spiritual growth a person is at by watching where he or she is at the moment. And that's one reason I come down so hard on those who take such pride in judging others, no matter who that person is, or how bad their behavior might be.
"No, why? What's up?"
"Go see. It's got a big picture of me on the shoulders of the team."
"Picture of you? Why?"
"I made the big touchdown that put us over the top. That's why."
"So you're a big man on campus now are you?"
"You got it Joe. I made it to the top."
"Yeah? Well I heard you was a braggart, I didn't know you was a glory hog too."
24Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1Cor 9:)
"Know ye not?" Jesus would often say "Having eyes do you not perceive, and having ears do you not understand?"
There are some things we see in the Bible that's a "given," that is, it's assumed we the reader should already know what is being said without the need to explain it. Paul appears to be surprised that he even has to tell us what he's saying here. Why would Paul see the need to say what he's saying in this passage? Could it be that although the church of Corinth was talking about this subject, they weren't exhibiting any signs of doing what they talk about? Do you see this same syndrome in any of the churches today?
"They which run in a race run all?" In the scenario of our football hero we see a person who put everything into what he had set before him. Had he been a little slower or stumbled even a fraction of a moment, instead of having a ride on the shoulders of his team mates, it's more than likely he would have been trampled under the feet of these same fellows.
Whatever we set our hands to do, we're expected to complete the task. It's this way in the carnal world, how much more so is it true in the Spiritual?
"But one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain." Our football hero may have been the worst player on the team, but for the moment he is in the spotlight because of a single play. Had the ball not been thrown to him, or if the linemen hadn't done such a good job of keeping the other team at bay, or any other possible errors or likelihoods, our champion could well have been the chump of the day.
There are some tasks that require direct personal involvement in order to wear the crown. Running track is an example of such an endeavor, boxing and wrestling being two others. Whereas in the arts such as painting and music what might win the prize at one event and at one period of history, might be considered amateurish and unappreciated at another event or place in time. Where it requires conditioning, determination and perseverance to cross the finish line first, nothing short of our optimum will suffice.
"Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things." There's very little or nothing in this life that does not require our best efforts, much practice and self-sacrifice in order to succeed. I can think of only one area such effort is not expected or required even though it may be talked about as something important. That one thing of course is the church. I've found that from the time I was in diapers heavy expectations and demands were placed on me to press for the mark of the high callings this world offers its inhabitants. And although I've long been retired, that pressure to succeed still exists, in some ways more so than ever before. I suspect even that last breath we take at the end of our earthly tour will be as strenuous as our first breath upon our birth.
"I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection:" If there is anyone who has gained a reputation for taking the hits and getting up to be struck down again, who strove to be at the top of his game, to be the best of the best, it was Paul. At the end of his life Paul had this to say of himself:
6For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2Tim 4:)
There's nothing that annoys me more than a person who tells me what to do who is unable or unwilling to do it himself. Paul, as is Jesus, was not a person to preach what he doesn't practice. When the one who holds the record for winning the most consecutive games gives us advice, it behooves us to pay close attention.
In our efforts to be the Christian the Lord expects us to be we have many advisers. And in this day and age these advisers range from those who tell us how to get by with the minimum, to Jesus and Paul who tell us only the best we can muster is sufficient. It's all in who we choose to listen to, who we select to be our coach and manager.
"Lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." It should be obvious that Paul is not concerned with being kicked off the team, in other words he's not afraid of losing his salvation. Even if we look to the highest standards required by any church during any period of time Paul would have been seen to be secure in his quest for eternal life. No, Paul is looking for something much higher than mere salvation. What might that mark of the high calling consist of?
2I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (2Cor 12:)
Of course we all assume the man Paul knew was himself, and it's his own experience he's referring to. Paul saw Heaven, Paradise. And even here in Paradise he witnessed something that was beyond description. But Paul went beyond this unspeakable place to an area he calls the "third Heaven." It would seem to me the Paradise Paul saw was that of Heaven itself where all those saved will reside. I say this because even the thief on the cross, who certainly did nothing but recognize Jesus as the Messiah was promised Paradise. So I suspect the "third Heaven" Paul saw was the "mark" he was pressing to attain to.
"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne," Jesus of course is another who was pressing for the mark of the high calling, a person who saw His mission and strove to complete it to its 'nth' degree. And seeing that Jesus was one who reached for the top, He instructs those who wish to attain the goals He has attained to, those who also strive to be the very best they can be. Neither Jesus nor Paul were couch-potato Christians, therefore they did not give advanced training to those who wished to set at the foot of the stairs of Heaven rather than press for the third Heaven Paul was witness to.
We have these confusing statements made by the top contenders that has thrown a great many people off their training schedule:
16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:)
Here's the minimum. All it takes is a dip in the water and a person is forever and securely saved. It's this statement the Fundamentalists cling to and will not surrender or look past. Trying to point out something other than what Jesus said at this point is useless. This is the Fundamental Truth they cling to and that causes them to be called Fundamentalists. And of course if we can't take the word of Jesus as truth, than who's can we take? But then, seeing as how we must take Jesus' words as truth, what do we do with such statements as these?
33So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:)
Jesus has laid down some hard and fast rules that He stresses over and over. What do we do with these rules that don't tickle our ears as well as the fundamentals that sounds so up our carnal alley? Do we ignore them and pretend Jesus didn't mean what He said? I suppose that's what we're supposed to do because that's what I see happening almost everywhere I go.
30And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (Acts 16:)
Here we have an interesting situation. Someone asked Paul a direct question, what must I do to be saved? Did Paul tell the man he had to be baptized? Did he say the man had to repent or receive the Holy Spirit? No, just believe. Like the thief on the cross, no ritual was required, just believing. Not even faith was mentioned here. And did you see the addendum Paul included? "And your house" will be saved. If the man had a house that consisted of at least one wife and a dozen kids and how many servants, they all ride in on the "belief" of this jailer. How is that for a turn of events? Why don't the Fundamental churches use this passage as their fundamental beliefs? Or how about this verse?
1My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
What we see so far is part of the fundamentals. We shouldn't sin, but if we do sin Jesus doesn't mind and will stand up to plead our case and get us off Scot free. Of course there again we have the other verses that counter this concept to contend with. But I guess that's why God created us with two ears, one of them deaf:
2And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1John 2:)
Now we've got the whole world included in salvation. No reason to believe, to have faith, nor to be baptized. And if you've checked the web lately you may have come across the growing number of churches that preach this concept, that everyone will be saved, even the devil. Whatever we want to prove we can use the Bible to back up our belief. But we have to ignore and explain away a whole lot of other passages that counter and refute what we want to believe:
8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Eph 2:)
Again, nothing but faith is mentioned in the salvation process. And did you notice that even baptism is excluded in the process? You didn't see it? Isn't baptism a matter of works? And consider the rest of the statement, that of bragging. If baptism isn't a status symbol among the churches I don't know what is. People by the millions hang their hat of pride on the way they've been baptized, the words used at their baptism, the church they were baptized in, and even the person who baptized them. If that isn't boasting (what Paul says God is against) then I don't know what is.
16And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
Here's the question. The man wants eternal life, salvation in church terms. Now, here's the answer Jesus gave the man:
17if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
Jesus used that horrible word all Fundamentalist hate: "Works." Jesus told the man, not to be baptized, not to receive the Holy Spirit, not to have faith, not to believe He's God or even the Messiah: He told the man to obey the commandments and he would have eternal life.
But Jesus didn't quit here. He continued with:
21Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect,
"Perfect?" Jesus said the man can be perfect if he sells everything and follows Him? But the man said he already qualified for eternal life, which is synonymous with Heaven in my book. So what is Jesus talking about, being perfect? Could perfect have something to do with the mark of the high calling, the third Heaven Paul was seeking? Let's take a look at what the Bible has to tell us about being perfect:
48Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Mat 5:)
Are you reading this in the same light I'm reading it? Jesus said if the man wants to be perfect he had to give everything he owns away and follow Him. And because the man was unwilling to give everything away, his being rich, he would not be allowed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Yet isn't it in the Kingdom of Heaven we're to experience eternal life? Is there a conflict here? Or is Jesus saying something other than what we assume He's saying?
How perfect is perfect? How perfect did Jesus expect this man to be? In the above passage Jesus Himself said God is perfect, and we're to be as perfect as God is perfect. Can anyone attain to the perfection God the Father is by nature? Jesus did it, and He talks as if it's possible for us to do it as well. How can that be?
24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:)
We, that is you and I are different than God in that we have a body whereas God is Spirit.
We humans are inclined to lack understanding into the purposes of God due to our faulty thinking. Two of these faulted concepts are: Man is in possession of a spirit, and man is born with an eternal soul. Without trying to justify my position, which I've done so many times in other studies, I will just say that if we hold to such a belief than we have to figure out what to do with a soul that can't die, and how the spirit of man fits in with the eternal soul.
11And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. (1John 5:)
26For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:)
Part of becoming perfect is the acquisition of a Spirit, and being in possession of eternal life, the two being one in the same. Man is corruptible, just as is any other natural creature. We lack a spirit, and without a spirit we lack eternal life.
9For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (Col 2:)
We're looking into becoming perfect. Just what is perfection, that is, what does the word mean? The word perfection in the Greek means "to be complete, mature." Maturity is a process, it is not achieved at our birth. This fact is made obvious in that many people live to a ripe old age, and in spite of their years they fail to mature to any degree. On the other hand completeness can often be had from the inception of a thing. For instance we read in the beginning of the book of John where Jesus was complete from His beginning. But in the second chapter of Luke we read where Jesus lived with His parents during His maturing years.
God is perfect, but is He complete? Did God have to mature as we humans mature? There is no way I know of to learn if God had to go through a maturing process, nor do I consider such knowledge to be of any particular value. However as to the completeness of God, I consider such information to be both informative and important for our Spiritual growth:
20At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. 21He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. (John 14:)
A moment ago we read: "In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him." Here we have Jesus, the One who if anyone is complete, telling us that we can also be complete in the same way He is complete, that is, we can be made "perfect."
God in us, we in Him. In order to be perfect we must take on the quality and the person of God Himself. God is Spirit. We become Spirit and man, a vessel with a body within which is planted the Holy Spirit, which is God since God is Spirit. God and man become one, not as one, but one indeed. In order for me to be complete I need two things that I lack as a mortal man born of dust. I need a Spirit, and I need eternal life. We think we have these automatically when we're born. But as we see in the above passages, this just isn't so. We acquire these elements through Jesus. Jesus said He is the door. It's only through Him we attain all those elements that we think we already possess.
3And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. (Rev 21:)
We assume God is dwelling with us here and now. And as a partial reality this is so. If we look at the example we've been given in the Old Testament as to how God deals with His creation, His people, we see where God, in the form of the Shekinah Glory, was with the Jews throughout their journey in the wilderness. But God does not desire to simply be with His people, but in His people. He seeks a Tabernacle in this day and age, a tabernacle being a portable dwelling place. Ultimately however God desires not to be in many various vessels, dwelling places as He is today, but to be in one, complete and perfect dwelling place He refers to as a "Temple."
16Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. (1Cor 3:)
We, as a Church, as a body of Christ are the Temple of God. But in this partial realm of the Kingdom we are not joined together as a living Temple suited for the habitation of God. God will not live in something that is less than perfect as He Himself is perfect. This is exemplified by His only entering the Tabernacle and Solomon's Temple when they were completed to the very last stitch on the fabric of the Vails.
Paul tells us God will destroy a Temple that is not perfect. He has demonstrated His willingness to do just what He says in that He destroyed Solomon's Temple when it was polluted by the behavior of the people it represented His presence among; and again when He destroyed Herod's (not God's because God never sanctioned that Temple with His presence) as a show of His abandoning His chosen people.
Earlier we read where Jesus said: "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."
Two things are stressed by Jesus in this passage. First is that we must obey His commandments. Today's churches deny there are any commandments to be obeyed. Because of this and the next statement we become, not a Temple of people working for a common goal, but tents, vessels, bumping into one another in effort to tear one another down in order to make ourselves appear more precious in the sight of God and in the eyes of one another.
Love is the second item Jesus presents as evidence that we are in the will of God, which is also part and parcel of the first, which is to obey His commandments. We are a selfish people, a people who looks to their own pleasures and ego rather than surrender our selves to those around us, our neighbors. Instead of being an expression of God's love and compassion here on earth, we demonstrate the very qualities God hates and will destroy.
13For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 15But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. 16This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (Gal 5:)
The Temple in which God will dwell throughout eternity is contrary to the church as it is today. That Church (of members) will be one of self-less-ness, an empty vessel wherein nothing but the love of God is present. If we hope to be a part of this union we must empty ourselves of all our ego, our lusts for self-fulfilment, and reach out to those who are unlovable around us. In other words we must strive to become a carbon copy of the person Jesus was when He walked this earth. If we are not doing all we can to allow the Holy Spirit to translate us into such a person, we can not expect to be a part of the Temple in which God will make His home in eternity. And as we've seen from Paul's letter above, and by example, those temples that God disapproves of, He destroys.
5And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly [from "Virtuous or valuable"] stones and gifts, he said, 6As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (Luke 21:)
4To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1Peter 2:)
19And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. (Rev 21:)
9For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. 10According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. (1Cor 3:)
In the wilderness God chose some people to take part in the building of His Tabernacle. He gave them the skills they needed to complete the job to perfection. God has given some in the Church special gifts the Bible refers to as Spiritual gifts for the perfecting of the saints, the Church:
11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (Eph 4:)
1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant......4Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. ....11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. 18But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.....24For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: 25That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.....27Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28And God hath set some in the church, (1Cor 12:)
We think of gifts in the same way a small child thinks of gifts... "Mine!!" The gifts that God gives us are not for our own use, but for the good of others and for the purposes of God. When we hoard our gift, or when we inflate our ego or our bank account through our gift, then we are robbing both our neighbor (and our church) and God. We see this exemplified in the man who hid his Master's talent rather than invest it in order to profit his master.
We are not islands placed on this earth to do our own thing. We are to be a working part of God's creation that is still in process. If we do not work with one another, and with God (allowing God to work through us), then we are not a part of the future God has planned for His people. We may be saved, but we're not a part of the Temple God is building for Himself.
11For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 14If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (1Cor 3:)
This is a popular passage with the Fundamental churches. It always amazes me how preachers and commentators can be so ho-hum about what I see as very important passages of Scripture. Here we have people's work being tested by fire. Yesterday I heard a teaching on this passage by a very knowledgeable and capable teacher of the Word. His view and explanation of what is being said here is not unlike every other I've ever heard.
What do you think of when fire is mentioned? Do you think of Heaven? I think of hell, the place we want to avoid. Yet here, supposedly in Heaven, we find people judged in fire (their works). The teacher on the tape says he sees this fire as the intense and judgmental stare of Jesus. Somehow I just can't see that being the case.
Departing this aspect of the judgement of our works, notice it's "rewards" that will be given to those who survive the fires of judgement. What are the rewards? This teacher claims the rewards are the crowns that will ultimately be returned to God when all is said and done. Again this makes no sense to me.
When we consider the fires are intended to purify those precious stones and the silver and the gold that is to be a part of the Temple God is building for Himself, it seems to me it would be well worth our while to give serious consideration as to how much effort we put into our "works" in order to be given the reward offered. I for one do not want to be at the tail end of the salvation process which is so commonly taught, but instead to be with Paul in the winner's circle.
10Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. 11He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. (Rev 2:)
I don't know about anyone else, but such passages as this scare me. Yet they seem to be passed off as insignificant by those who stand behind the podiums of the churches. I see that the crowns so lightly spoken of to be lost in the fires that are to try our works are that of eternal life. I see the need to endure to the end when those fires of tribulation (that the Christian is supposedly going to be rescued from) are the ones to be taken into eternity, the Kingdom of God. And I see where it's the overcomer who will miss out on the second death. All this causes me to want to put on my track shoes and get in the race, not settle back in my easy chair with a cold one.
Why isn't this taught any more? It was when I was young, what happened to the fear of missing out on the rewards and the avoidance of fire?
Those who overcome are the ones who will miss out on all the bad stuff and gain all the rewards Jesus is to receive. Since this is true, as so easily seen at the end of all the letters to the churches in Revelation, we might suppose every "believer" would be doing all they can to be one of the overcomers. Wouldn't you think this to be the case? Why then are people so nonchalant about this vital part of the salvation process?
4For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? (1John 5:)
This is the passage all the Fundamentalists rest their assurance on. They see this one passage and assume that a dip in the water is all it takes to become an overcomer and therefore entitled to every reward offered in the Bible to anyone, even the ultimate overcomer, Jesus. Looking no farther than what we have right here in front of us, let's give some thought as to what is being said. First we see that an overcomer "believes," and "has faith," which is actually saying the same thing. In the Bible we see many places that stress the importance of giving evidence of our faith for it to be valid. What evidence are we giving toward this end? We're to produce fruit if we are a part of the Vine. What fruit are we producing?
The second part of this condition is that we are born of God. In the Christian's eyes this means we have been baptized, and by being baptized in water we automatically are baptized by the Holy Spirit. If this is true, what evidence is there that the Holy Spirit is working within you? We see the strong impact the Holy Spirit had on the Apostles and the early Christian. They were unable to live their own lives because God was living through them, serving God's purpose. What evidence do we have that such is happening in our vessels? If we aren't living the life God wants us to live, then are we not saying that either we are not in possession of the Holy Spirit, or that God is so weak that He can't cause us to even feel His presence within us, leastwise cause us to fulfill His will?
1Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments (1John 5:).
When a magician is plying his tricks he often hides something behind his back in order to prevent you from seeing it and figuring out what he's doing. Con men and lawyers do the same thing. I expect this of con men, magicians and lawyers. That's their business, to use whatever devise is needed in order to deceive those he wishes to gain something from. But those behind the pulpit I expect to do everything they can to insure that those who listen to him and follow him will prove themselves worthy to be in the presence of the Lord, and this forever. Why then do they use the same techniques utilized by those who's business it is to deceive?
The verses above are those that immediately precede the passage on overcoming used by the churches. Take a close look at what is expected of those who consider themselves to be overcomers. Notice the stipulation that overcomers love. Love is the essence of the New Testament. It is explained, commanded and demonstrated from every conceivable direction. Jesus makes it clear that if we do not love one another we are not keeping the commandments, and we're not proving ourselves to be His disciples. Why then isn't this requirement thrust in the faces of both those who wish to be initiated into the body of Christ, and those who have been in the church for many decades? This requirement isn't hidden behind some parable as some others are found to be, but integrally attached to the passage that everyone clings to. This slicing and dicing of the Word in order to cause those in the pews to feel good about themselves and their security at the expense of their souls I find to be highly prevalent. I suspect those who read such writings as this (my articles and studies) feel the same way, otherwise you would have written me off as a loony as many do long before this.
21Even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. 22He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Rev 3:)
This is the overcoming Jesus is looking for. He wants those who overcome as He overcame to be with Him in paradise and to inherit all things along with Him.
33These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:)
How did Jesus overcome the world? Jesus suffered persecution. He endured to the end. He resisted temptations to satisfy His flesh. He went to the cross for all mankind. As Jesus overcame, we are to overcome.
THE COUCH POTATO ATHLETE
"Naw, I'm going to stay in tonight and watch the tube. They're showing my favorite movie and I've only seen it ten times. You know how it is."
"I thought you were a team player Joe. Isn't that what you told me?"
"Sure I'm a team player. See? I'm wearing a school 'T' shirt and I check the results in the paper once in a while. What else do you want from me? Blood?"
At the end of each letter we find commendations, and rewards are promised to those who overcome as Jesus overcame. True to form those who are in desperate need of seeing the warnings given to the churches, ignore the warnings and stand on the promises provided those who are struggling to be a part of the class of overcomers.
Wearing the Christian 'T' shirt and glancing at the booklets handed out in the church is not enough to cause a person to be on the Lord's team, to be a disciple of Jesus. Only those who will sacrifice everything and look to please the Lord with all they have and all their being qualify for this prestigious position.
Whatever we look for in the Word of God is there to be found. If we want clear support for couch potato Christianity, the Bible supplies a sufficient amount of evidence to satisfy our lack of enthusiasm. Those who wish to be a front-runner, on the elite team in God's Army can find support for that as well. How can this be? How can black and white, night and day, yes and no exist at the same time and in the same place? It can't in the natural, nor can it exist according to the doctrines of the churches. But in God's plan, it can and does exist.
There are those in the churches seeking salvation, what they call "a little shack in the corner of Glory." All they want is to be saved and not go to "that other place." Christianity is fire insurance for them and nothing more. Does Jesus want "blood" from His disciples? Yes He does. Does He expect blood, blood meaning our "reasonable service," our sacrifice for our Lord and for our neighbor, of those seeking a shack in Glory? Obviously not if all that's required to acquire that "shack" is a dip in a tub of water.
In the last two chapters of Revelation we find some confusing descriptions that confound the experts and cause us to ignore what's said because it doesn't fit anything we're taught to believe. But in those few chapters are the explanation as to what the Kingdom is all about, how yes and no, day and night can exist at one time.
7Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Gal 6:)
The Bible speaks to many classes of people with varying degrees of dedication to the Lord and to His purposes. What each of us must do is decide which place we are in God's scheme, and what we desire to achieve in our life (and eternity) and in His purpose.
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