The Christian And Fruitfulness.

grapes-188185_1920

John 15

The central motif of this chapter is as we read on is fruitfulness. Now when a child is born, we expect growth. When a seed or tree is planted, we expect growth and fruitfulness. Likewise, growth and fruitfulness is expected and actually required of the Christian. In John 15, Christ used an agricultural metaphor to describe his relationship with his disciples and by extension us and what’s required in that relationship–fruitfulness. John MacArthur, in his Bible Commentary notes that “The NT describes fruit[fulness] as godly attitudes (Gal. 5:22, 23), righteous behaviour (Phil. 1:11), praise (Heb. 13:15), and, especially, leading others to faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God (Rom. 1:13-16)”.¹ (Emphasis mine)

As a believer, you may want to pause and ask if  any of these describes you. Fruitfulness is not an option for the believer. It is an obligation we must work towards in cooperation with the sanctifing work of the Holy Spirit. And in this post, I hope to explore in the text how a believer can bear fruit.

The True Vine

Christ described himself as the true vine in John 15:1: “I am the true vine….” The vine was an important plant in the lives of the Jews and the disciples would be well acquainted with that metaphor hence Christ’s usage of it to depict fruit bearing:

Vine, the well-known valuable plant (virus vinifera) very frequently referred to in the Old and New Testaments and cultivated from the earliest time. The first mention of this plant occurs in Gen. 9:20,21….The vines of Palestine were celebrated both for luxuriant growth and for the immense clusters of grapes which they produced, which were sometimes carried on a staff between two men as in the case of the spies, Num. 13:23…From the abundance and excellence of the vines, it may readily be understood how frequently this plant is the subject of metaphor in the Holy Scriptures. To dwell under the vine and fig tree is an emblem of domestic happiness and peace.²

The above tells how important the vine was in the life of the Israelites. Israel was described as a vine planted by God (Ex.15:17; Jer. 2:21, 12:10; Ps. 80:8). Israel as a vine was a foreshadow of the real and true vine–Jesus Christ. So when Christ described himself as the true vine, he was juxtaposing himself with apostate Israel which didn’t bear fruit.

Now, if there is a vine, then there must a Vinedresser. And Jesus identifies the Vinedresser as the Father: “my Father is the vinedresser“. The Father as the Vinedresser also indicates to us the union of the Father and Son in working towards the fruitfulness of believers—the branches.

Fruit Bearing

In John 15, Jesus speaks of how a believer bears fruit. I will categorise these into two: (i) God’s Initiative and (ii) The Believers’ Response. This means fruit bearing is a two way approach. God works in the believer and the believer responds to God’s work. Paul in his letter to the Philippians perfectly illustrated this. He wrote:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-13).

God’s Initiative.

First and foremost, fruit bearing is possible only when one is in union with Christ through faith. Fruit bearing can’t happen outside of a union with Christ: “for apart from me you can do nothing” (v.5). Ultimately, it is God who works in us to bear fruit. Sinful as we are, separated from God by sin, we can do nothing pleasing to God without him first taking the initiative to love us and reconcile us to himself (Rom. 5:6-8, Eph 2:1-10; 1Jn. 4:19). God saves the sinner by grace and joins them to Christ through faith: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…” (v.16).

God doesn’t leave us on our own after we are saved. He provides the strength and energy to please him through his Holy Spirit who indwells every believer. As a loving Father, one of the many ways he ensures we are bearing more fruit is pruning:

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you (vv.2-3).

The believer, as we see in the text, starts from a position of justification where they are already declared clean by the word: “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” (v.3).We can only proceed to bear fruit because of this position of justification. We can bear fruit because we are clean before God.

Pruning

Pruning is an agricultural term where branches impeding fruitfulness on a vine are trimmed off to allow for more room to bear fruit. Sometimes it involves lifting creeping branches on the floor, supporting them with stakes and washing them with the purpose of getting maximum fruit. This agricultural imagery is what God does to a believer who is bearing fruit. God prunes them so they bear more fruit. Pruning takes place in many ways.

When the word of God is preached for example, it searches our hearts and convicts us of our sins (Heb.4:12-13). It also involves discipline and chastisement (Heb. 12: 5-11) of the believer. God has the sole aim of conforming us to the image of Christ in character and holiness; therefore any sinful habit or even a ‘good thing’ which may stand between us and God in this journey of conformity would be cleared—pruned away.

We notice also in the text that there are those who don’t bear fruit and are cut off and cast into fire. This picture depicts eternal damnation and since a believer would not be brought into eternal damnation; these unfruitful branches are actually those who may appear to be believers but are actually not. If a person claims to be a Christian and is bearing no fruit in their walk with God, it may be a cause for concern. Are you truly saved? You must bear fruit.

The Believers’ Response

So far, we have looked at God’s initiative towards the believers’ fruitfulness. As already discussed, God works and the believer responds. And in John 15, Jesus tells the disciples how they will bear fruit or how they are to respond to the vinedresser—God’s initiative. They are to abide in him“Abide in me…” (v.4).

The Bible student, to understand this, will naturally ask what it means to abide in Christ and then proceed from there  to find answers. The Christian takes her source of nourishment and growth from the vine. This means the Christian, as a branch, will have to be glued to Christ to bear fruit. To ‘Abide in Christ’ is to continue daily to nurture our relationship with Christ in faith, obedience, fellowship in prayer, study of God’s word and other spiritual disciplines.

So firstly, abide involves taking root in our faith walk. We come to Christ in faith and our journey and pilgrimage on this earth is that of faith for without faith no one can please God (Heb.11:6). It is also communion with Christ through prayer anf the study of God’s word—the Bible. Indeed Christ calls the believer into fellowship through prayer and the study of his word: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (v.7). Prayer and the study of God’s word is the means through which we encounter Christ. We cannot trust when we don’t have the word in us. Faith comes by hearing the word (Rom. 10:17).

Finally, to abide is to live in obedience—“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (v.10). In our days, any talk of obeying or keeping God’s commandments raises eyebrows and is very likely to receive the charge of legalism. However, Christ has called us to obedience. We can’t live anyhow and continue to call ourselves Christians. We must live in obedience to God’s commandments and indeed he has given us the grace to live in obedience to his word—“For this is the love of God , that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 Jn.5:3).

Love for God is manifested in keeping his commandments. Loving God is not sentimental. It is obedience to his commandments and obedience in loving one another: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”. (v.12). Remember the greatest of all commandments is love—loving God and your neighbour (Matt. 22:37-39). When we have done all these, then the joy of the Lord, which is our strength and which is a fruit of the Spirit will become ours: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (v.11).

Our response to God’s initiative is to bear fruit by abiding in Christ.

What’s The Essence Of Fruit Bearing?

Firstly, fruit bearing is a mandate given to the believer. It is a ‘charge to keep‘³ the believer has. Christ tells his disciples he chose and appointed them that they will bear fruit (v.16). God’s sovereign electing grace of the believer has fruit bearing as a goal. There are good works the believer is elected to walk in (Eph. 2:10).

Secondly, bearing fruit is evidence of discipleship. A truly converted soul will have fruits to show. Saving faith must be accompanied by fruits– good works. True discipleship is evidenced by fruit. Martin Luther aptly said “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” Faith without works, James says is dead (James 2:22; 26).

God has provided all the believer needs to bear fruit. He has given us his Word, his Holy Spirit and the body of Christ—the church— to aid us in our journey of faith. If indeed we are saved, we must be desirous to bear fruit to glorify God.

Notes:

1.John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary ( Nashville, Tennesse: Thomas Nelson, 2005)

2. William Smith, Smith’s Bible Dictionary ( Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendricksons Publishers, Inc, 2008), 731

3. From Charles Wesleys’ hymn “A Charge To Keep I Have”

 

Advertisements

Accurate Reading And Interpretation of The Bible

bible-431483__340

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2Timothy 2:15).

Paul writes to young Timothy his protegé instructing him on several doctrinal issues in his role as a pastor and particularly in this verse, Timothy is instructed on “rightly handling the word of truth”. Though a pastoral letter, the charge nonetheless holds true for every believer. We are all called upon to engage in a right handling of the word of truth. If the Bible is the word of God and it is, then you and I have a responsibility not to misinterpret God’s word. You don’t want your words to be misinterpreted to mean what you didn’t mean, do you? Why would you go as far as misinterpreting God’s word?

In different instances, I have engaged in disagreements over how a biblical text was handled and I have met with words as “That’s your opinion” “I  have my own opinion”. “That’s how you choose to interpret the text, I choose to interpret it differently”. You probably might have heard similar words spoken to you or you might have spoken those words yourself to someone who disagreed with you on a biblical text. In a world of subjectivity, this might sound appealing.

The problem however is that the bible is not left to our subjective interpretation and “opinionising”. The Bible has an objective meaning in its context. Though it is God’s word, it is written in human language and all the rules of reading, comprehension and interpretation of literature or any written document applies. The Bible is God’s word but it is a book and must be read as a book.

Do Your Best

Though it is a book, yet the Bible is the sacred word of God and we must handle it accurately and not misinterpret it. If you wouldn’t want your own words misinterpreted and given meaning you didn’t intend, it must follow then that if no human being will tolerate a misinterpretation of their words, I doubt God will tolerate same. The phrase “Do your best” gives a picture of effort, preparation and diligence.

Prior to vs 15 of 2Timothy, Paul had drawn certain analogies from the life of a soldier, athlete and farmer. These analogies help us understand well the phrase “Do your best”. The soldier seeks to please his superiors, the athlete competes according to the rules and a farmer works hard. The Christian must do same in their lives and especially the handling of God’s word. She must seek to please God in all she does and especially in the handling of God’s word. And must, as it were, live according to the “rules” that govern Christian living. And finally work hard–not be lax in Christian conduct. The phrase “Do Your Best”, in the Greek–Spoudaźo[1], speaks of zeal or being zealous. To “Do your best” therefore speaks of zeal in presenting ourselves as one approved–that is people who please God. And one of the many ways in pleasing God is handling His word accurately.

Rightly Handling The Word

Suppose you are to engage the services of any professional, what will be your standard for selection? For example, if you are to engage the services of a tailor/seamstress ( fashion designer), would you engage one who cuts clothes indiscriminately without precision and accuracy? Would you engage an architect whose drawings are inaccurate. And who would live in a house that tilts to its side? I doubt if anyone would. But if these are important, why do people leave their lives and eternal destiny into the hands of people who “wrongly handle the word of truth” and teach their followers same? “Rightly  handling the word of truth” speaks of accuracy, precision, exactness and straightness. “Precision and accuracy are required in biblical interpretation, beyond all other enterprises, because the interpreter is handling God’s Word. Anything less is shameful”[2].

The question I will try and answer now is, “how can we handle the word of truth with accuracy and precision?” I will offer some points here.

Read Your Bible

First and foremost you must read the Bible if you will come any close to rightly handling the word of truth. Many believers don’t know what the Bible teaches simply because they don’t read it. They believe the Bible is God’s word, but they can’t even tell of the last time they read the Bible. Writing about why people don’t study their Bible, R.C. Sproul in his book Knowing Scripture nailed it to one reason–laziness: “We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy” [3]

Read It Orderly:

“…it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught”(Luke 1:3-4)

Luke tells us something about his gospel account which is true of every book of the Bible. The Bible is an “orderly account” of events. It is not a disorderly, haphazard, magical words appearing on a paper.

Study Your Bible

Reading and studying are two different things. “There is a great deal of difference between reading and studying. Reading is something we can do in a leisurely way, something that can be done strictly for entertainment in a casual manner. But study suggests labor, serious and diligent work“[4].

There is a level of seriousness that comes with studying that is not required of reading. Again we turn to Luke’s gospel. He said to Theophilus:

…having followed all things closely.

This statement indicates an attention to detail and facts concerning gospel truth. This same disposition of mind is required in studying the Bible. Luke poured over– examined, investigated, scrutinised, paid attention, analysed and engaged–the facts of what was handed over by the eye witnesses of Christ’s life, i.e. the apostles (Luke 1:2). As believers, our regenerated  minds have been empowered with the capacity to “spiritually discern” God’s word in contrast to the unregenerated  man who can’t discern  or receive spiritual things. So dear believer, do just that! Engage the text! Take note of phrases, meaning of words, figurative expressions, grammatical  constructions and pray the Holy Spirit to illuminate your mind.

Present Yourself To God As one Approved

As believers we need to grow in sanctification and mature in holiness. Our effort in cooperation with the Spirit of God towards sanctification as believers is not what secures our salvation, yet it is necessary for our spiritual growth and usefulness. See the result or the objective Luke hoped to achieve with his orderly presentation of his gospel to Theophilus: “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught”.

This is important for us Bible readers. An orderly presentation of truth brings clarity. It gives roots to faith. It solidifies ones beliefs. Paul tells Timothy something similar to the impact Luke hopes his gospel would have on Theophilus (2Timothy 3:14-15).

When we rightly handle the word, it makes us wise in our faith walk and saves us from error of false teachers: But avoid irreverent babble , for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.”(2Timothy 2:16- 18).

Basic Tools Of Hermeneutics

To rightly handle the word of truth we need tools to help us. At this point I will share three basic tools of hermeneutics.  Hermeneutics “…is the study of the principles and methods of interpreting the text of the Bible…The purpose of biblical hermeneutics is to help us to know how to properly interpret, understand, and apply the Bible”[5].

Analogy Of Faith

This rule holds that Scripture is its own interpreter: “Sacra Scriptura sui interpres“. What this teaches basically is that no interpretation of a Scripture or Scriptures must contradict any other Scripture. Since God doesn’t contradict Himself, we must expect His word to also be in harmony as a whole. Biblical interpretation therefore must be approached with the whole body of biblical revelation in mind. When we interpret a Scripture, we must be sure that our interpretation agrees with other Scriptures rather than contradict. Where a Scripture is contradicting another, we must solve the contradiction or throw away our interpretation.

Literal Translation

It has been said already that the Bible is a book and as such must be read as a book. When we are told to read the Bible literally, what is being spoken of here is that we must  “…interpret the Bible literally… as literature. That is, the natural meaning of a passage is to be interpreted according to the normal rules of grammar, speech, syntax and context”[6]. So the next time you approach the Bible, take notice of the words you are reading

Genre Analysis

Bible is a Greek word biblio which means book. So the Bible is a book. It is not only a book but a book made up of different collection of books of different genres. The genres of the Bible includes historical narratives, wisdom literature, Psalms, Letters (epistles), Gospel, Prophetic writings,  Apocalyptic writings and each of these  genre must be identified and read with the rules governing a particular genre. Now genre analysis involves the study of figures of speech and style, literary devices and any other literature forms. This tool goes hand in hand with literal translation. So in genre analysis, we consider the literary style of every particular genre and how to interpret it.

There are many other tools of hermeneutics. But these three are basic and a good foundation for further reading.

Notes

1: Study notes on 2Timothy 2:15, ESV Study Bible, ©2008, Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois

2: Study notes on 2Timothy 2:15, THE MACARTHUR STUDY BIBLE Copyright © 2006 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE (kindle edition)

3: Sproul, R.C Knowing Scripture, © 2009, InterVarsity Press[kindle edition]

4: ibid

5: http://www.gotquestions.org/Biblical-hermeneutics.html

6: Sproul, R.C Knowing Scripture, © 2009, InterVarsity Press[kindle edition]

PepperDem Ministries, Feminists and The Bible

FB_IMG_1505721863448

PepperdemMinistries , a feminist group has been making the rounds on social media recently. They have addressed a plethora of issues within an admirable short period. In this article, I will want to respond to one of their numerous issues— what I call a misinterpretation of biblical texts in pushing their ideologies. I will do this by focusing on two of their posts.

Firstly this;

I do not subscribe to the bible because quite honestly, in it’s entirety, it doesn’t preach a lot of the values that i do in its entirety. It also doesn’t center around facts, and i am not superstitious. However, I would like to know why the following verse is never read in full. I mean since y’all are always on about context and that. You tend to hear pastors hammer on verse 22, but what about the rest of it? So hear (sic) it goes. Ephisians (sic) 5:21-32 21 Submit to ONE ANOTHER out of reverence for Christ.

Denial of Biblical Authority.

I may be wrong to say this for the whole group. But at least that a member says “I do not subscribe to the bible” gives cause for concern. The concern is that, any post with a biblical text may be tainted by this ‘non-subscription’ to the Bible. What this means is that the Bible holds no authority for any view it expresses against the feminist agenda. Again, this member holds herself high above the Scriptures; which means that, her values are higher than what the Bible preaches. She goes further to question the factuality of the Bible and calls it superstitious. Right from the word go, the authority of the Bible is shut out in this discourse. Meanwhile, other members of the group look into the Bible for their case. What are we to make of this? Does the group believe in the Bible or this is an isolated case of a member who doesn’t believe in the bible?

Now, despite the fact that this member doesn’t subscribe to biblical authority, she throws a challenge to what could perhaps be described as a pet scripture against male headship of a family. She asks for the context of Ephesians 5:21-32. And I take that challenge.

So here is Ephesians 5:21 “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” and Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22).

There appears to be a call for mutual submission here, which, if true, fuels the Feminists agenda. But will mutual submission between husband and wife be a proper interpretation in both texts? No, it won’t be. Without hesitation; as a married Christian man, I will state emphatically that husbands are not called to submit to wives (in the same sense the word is used in vv. 21-22). Husbands are only called to love their wives. And wives called to submit to their husbands.

In Ephesians 5:21, Paul is not speaking of submission in the same sense he is speaking of it in v.22. Verse 21 is not speaking to a ‘husband and wife’s’ union but rather to the whole body of believers; whereas v.22 is speaking specifically to the union between husband and wife. Ephesians 5, if we pay attention, is dealing with various human relationships in the church. Verses 1-21 address the first of such relationship the Ephesians had—they were Christians. Paul therefore outlines general relational conduct amongst them as believers. Paul opens chapter 5 saying:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (v.1).

“Therefore” in v.1 is a conjunctive adverb connecting an idea Paul was addressing from the previous chapter. Let’s back up to Ephesians 4 to understand Paul. I will dwell on Ephesians 4:31-32 since it is sufficient to explain what Paul is saying in Eph 5:21. Paul wrote; Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

An analysis of the verses above will be helpful.

Note the phrases: “put away from you“, “Be kind to one another” “forgiving one another“, Christ forgave you“. Who is Paul addressing? He is addressing the general Christian body in Ephesus and instructing them to live in mutual respect and love towards one another (of course that includes husband and wife). Remember in Ephesians 5:1 Paul addresses all of the Ephesian Christians to “walk in love”

Let’s now enter Ephesians 5:19-21 and we see this same idea of mutual respect and love (not limited to husband and wife) among believers: “19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” You see the same phrase “one another” repeating here? and it has nothing to do with “husband and wife”. It is a call for mutual respect, love and care among all Christians in general.

Now from v.22: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” through to Ephesians 6:1-9, Paul begins to address specific requirements in specific relationships: Husband and wife (vv.22–33), Children with Parents (Eph. 6:1-3), Father with children (6:4), Servants with Masters (6:5-8) and Masters with their servants (Eph. 6:9). The submission in v.22 is different from v.21 in the sense that it calls specifically to the wife to submit to the husband. What is she submitting to? She is to submit to the headship and leadership of the man as the head of the home. The verses that follow clarifies that: For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body , and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (23-24).

The marital union for the Christian is analogous to the relationship between Christ and his bride—the church. And wives are called to submit to their husbands as they submit to Christ. Christian husbands also have their enormous task to fulfil in loving their wives as Christ loved the church. That’s an enormous responsibility. Indeed, as sinners, men will abuse this responsibility purposed to make them cherish their wives. And of course, wives may find submission difficult because of the effects of sin. That however doesn’t “rewrite the script”. The husband is the head of the family just as Christ is the head of the church– his bride. This is a biblical mandate and rejecting it is rejecting biblical authority which our dear sister (I hope she doesn’t scream don’t call me your sister) has done. She doesn’t subscribe to the Bible. To her, the Bible doesn’t deal with facts; the Bible is superstitious.

Dear Christian wife, will you take your theology from someone who rejects biblical authority and places herself over and above the Bible? You must not be in competition with your husband over equality. He is the head of your home just as Christ is the head of the church. Does that mean oppression? No. Biblical Manhood is not oppressive but protective.

Secondly, this, and I will base the rest of the article here.

SOLOMON. Dude continues to carry the title for “wise”; man to have graced this earth. But he is also the greatest “man-whore”; to have lived among humans … Solomon gets to be still favoured by God in his whorish behaviour. He didn’t have to repent his ways. He didn’t even have to feel remorseful … Let me throw you a challenge. Reflect on all the Bible characters we have discussed so far: 1. David: Murderer and Adulterer 2. Jacob: Pure evil thief, impersonator, dubious and diabolical creep. 3. Samson: Gullible idiot 5. Adam: Complacent, Pitiful irresponsible caretaker. Dear daughter of Eve, let me throw you a challenge today. Sit down and match up your flaws against that of these men listed here. Sit down from across the list, pour yourself a glass of wine and drink up to your flaws. I can assure you, you are a saint by all standards! I am on a mission to normalise flawed women, because women are also human and they deserve Second chances in life.

Human Depravity

There is something common we share with the biblical characters. What we read of these male characters is just what all of us are –sinners. Apart from Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life to die to save sinners who come to him in faith, the Bible, without exception, judges all human beings as sinners separated from the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). The heart (of men and women), the bible tells us “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer 17:9). If at any point in our lives we compare ourselves to the biblical characters and reckon we are better than them, we slip into the sin of self-righteousness (Luke 18:9-14).

Sit down and match up your flaws against that of these men … pour yourself a glass of wine and drink up to your flaws.

Drink up to your flaws?

Pepperdem is advising women to celebrate their flaws— after all, they are unlike the men mentioned in the Bible: “you are a saint by all standards” No! Woman with flaws, you are not a saint by all standards. You are wretched by the only standard that matters: God’s standard of holiness: “None is righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:11). The Bible doesn’t teach us to celebrate our flaws. Neither does it call us to compare ourselves with ourselves and be complacent in our rot. Rather, the Bible calls men and women unto repentance (Acts 17:30; Titus 2:11-12).

Missing God’s Grace In The Biblical Narrative

This statement, “Solomon gets to be still favoured by God in his whorish behaviour” is simply an affront to God and his grace. It misses the whole point of God’s grace in Scripture. Pepperdem is playing God and choosing to determine who gets favoured and who doesn’t. Solomon doesn’t deserve God’s favour is what I get from this statement. Now, despite what we read of these sinful personalities, their biography is without editing and embellishment to present them as perfect. You see, the Bible is the story of a Holy God reaching out to sinful –fallen– humanity. Right from the garden of Eden, when Adam disobeyed God; a plan of salvation was set in place. (Genesis 3:15). What God had to work with was sinful humanity.

The Messiah came into our human history through Mary and the genealogy of Christ traces him through the line of all these wretched souls — David, Solomon, Jacob, Tamah, Rahab and the list continues. This is the story of the Bible; God working with imperfect human beings to accomplish his purpose. We must note that God didn’t normalise their sins. God was displeased with David’s sin for instance (2Sam 11:27; 12; Ps. 51). Not only that, David’s sin attracted God’s discipline and punishment. It is wrong to say this of Solomon; “He didn’t have to repent his ways. He didn’t even have to feel remorseful” when indeed, God punished him (1Kings 11:9-11; 11:14).

Finally,

Look To Christ For Your Second Chance, Not Men.

What exactly do the daughters of Eve want a second chance for? I suppose a second chance for their flaws. Whatever it may be, they should look to Christ for that second chance. A woman caught in adultery was brought to Christ. He dismissed her accusers and got a second chance. Christ encountered a woman battered by broken relationships. She has lived with five men when she encountered Christ. She got a second chance (John 4). Ultimately, even Eve got a second chance together with her Adam. God clothed their nakedness (Gen. 3:21).

I will end by saying I am not against empowering women. However, when the Bible is to be used for any such agenda, we must be faithful to sound biblical interpretation.

The Believers’ Hope

light-through-clouds-1264548_1920

John 14

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me (v.1).

What could have caused Jesus to say this to his disciples? From the previous chapters, Jesus had hinted about his death and as you enter Chapter 14, the questions which followed from the disciples reveals a kind of anxiety and fear building up in their hearts.

Simon Peter said…, “Lord, where are you going?”(Jn.13:36)

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way? (Jn 14:5).

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” (Jn. 14:8).

These disciples have walked with Jesus for about three years and suddenly he has started talking about his death and departure. They had hopes of a Messiah who will deliver them from Roman oppression (Luke 24:21). They were not expectant of a dying Messiah. They were fraught with fear. Their hopes dashed. Jesus, knowing all things, certainly picked up the fear and anxiety in their hearts and addressed it:

Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid (v.27c)

In this discourse with the disciples, there are some lessons we can draw. John 14 contains gospel promises we can draw on to calm our anxious hearts.

Faith In God (v.1)

What Jesus proposed to deal with their anxieties is faith. As believers, the answer to our troubled and anxious heart is faith in God and in Christ. These disciples were troubled and had no clue what was going on. But Christ calls them to put their trust in God and in him. Everything is under control he assures them. Faith is trust and Christ calls them to trust God and trust him.

When we trust God, we can be certain that he has everything under control and knows what’s best for us. What we must note also is that, faith in God must necessarily be faith in Christ or it is no faith. Christ, is, exclusively, the only way to the Father and he explicitly stated that: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (v. 6). We can’t bypass Christ to God. We can’t have faith in God when it is not rooted in Christ.

A Hope of eternal life (vv.2-3).

Christ assures the disciples he goes to prepare a place for them and will return for them. Here we see a certainty of Christ’s second coming. He will come for his own. Our world is overwhelmed with disease, sickness, natural disasters and many injustices. But for our hope in Christ and a life beyond this transient life; our hearts will faint. But Christ’s promises can soothe our hearts. Christ’s word is a guarantee. He will come for his own.

The world may mock our belief in the here after. In fact they did in the first century church. They mocked that where is his coming? He has gone for long. Will he come after all? The apostle Peter answers that question in 2Peter 3:1-10. Though Christ tarries in the eyes of humankind, he will come with the reward of eternal life (1Thes. 4:13–5:1, Rev. 21:4). Paul tells us if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all people, most to be pitied (1Cor.15:19). We are pilgrims on this earth and look forward to a city whose builder is God (Heb. 11:13-16).

The Promised Holy Spirit (vv.16;26).

Knowing the void and vaccum his departure will create in the disciples life, he promised not to leave them as orphans (v.18) and that a Helper; Comforter in the authorised version will be sent. This promise of the Holy Spirit will come to teach the disciples all things. This is instructive. Though this promise is specific to the disciples in the sense of writing of Scripture; it extends to us in the sense that the Holy Spirit will illuminate for us the truth of God’s word. Such blessedness to have the Spirit of God to teach us.

The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our salvation. He seals our salvation never to lose it. Related to the promise of the Holy Spirit is  also the promise of Christ’s peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”(v.27). The peace Christ gives is not what the world gives. It is peace that calms our hearts in the midst of storms. It is a peace that assures us that whatever we encounter in this life, Christ will never leave us or forsake us. It is peace of reconciliation to God (Rom. 5:1)

Assurance of Answered Prayer (vv. 13-14).

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. 

When we pray, God hears us. Nothing can be so assuring than this. In prayer, we have an audience with the Creator of the whole universe. In fact, he is “our Father”. Christ assures his disciples, and by extension, us, of answered prayer. However, this assurance is not simply what we desire. But it is what we desire which glorifies God: “that the Father may be glorified”. James tells us “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3).

Here is the difference: Prayer God answers is prayer that glorifies him. He doesn’t grant our every wish in prayer but only that which glorifies him. And the only way to know what glorifies God is the knowing and keeping of his word: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

Be encouraged. When we call on God, he hears us.

Obedience To God’s Word (v.15)

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 

God’s word, as David says, is a lamp to his feet and a light to his path (Ps.119:105). This is equally true of us. Obedience to God’s word is a prove of our love for God. And no one who obeys God’s word will lack joy. God’s word will keep us from sin. God’s word will direct our conscience. God’s word will give us hope when in trouble. Our obedience to God is paramount.  There is no hope for the one who doesn’t keep God’s word.

Finally,

We Are Labourers In God’s Kingdom (v.12)

Christ promises the disciples they will do greater works in his name. This greater works is more of their spreading of the gospel. Indeed, their work is what has spread Christianity to the nations. We also have a privilege and joy to be part of this great work of seeing people come to the Kingdom.

Amen.

 

 

Jesus Christ Was Not Crucified, Says Islam

Indeed, if Christ was not crucified; as Paul said, we will be of all people the most miserable.

The Gospel Network

religion-882281_1920

Last week, in response to our online article “Is Jesus The Only Way?” a reader, a Muslim, remonstrated with us with regards to the person and work of our Lord Jesus. According to him, Jesus was not God; but only a prophet of God.

What interested me most in that conversation was his denial of the crucifixion  and resurrection of Christ. This is because, if you take away the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, the whole foundation of Christianity comes crumbling down. Obviously if Christ didn’t die by crucifixion, then he didn’t rise. And if he didn’t rise, then there will be no resurrection. And if there is no resurrection; there is no hope for the Christian (1Corinthians 15:12-18). Ultimately, if Christ was not crucified, then the Apostles and Jesus himself were all liars; and the Bible a fraud.The death and resurrection of Christ is the hope upon…

View original post 1,313 more words

A False Pursuit Of Christ

steps-in-sand

During the week, I refuted a statement by a friend that Christianity promises riches to believers. And his basis was;

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2Cor. 8:9).

I tried explaining the true context of the text to him but his mind was made up. There are many today, who like my friend, hold this same kind of belief. To them Christianity promises everything in the world. And to these people, coming to Christ is premised on such false notions of Christianity. This false form of Christianity is pervasive in our country Ghana and indeed across the world.

Sadly, many, if not the majority, have bought into this perverse and watered down gospel which promises anything from a life of health, prosperity and comfort in the name of Christianity. People put up a pursuit of “things” as a pursuit of Christ. But they are wrong. Coming to Christ because of a false gospel produces false converts.  In the gospel of John, we are introduced to the first miracle Jesus did at a wedding in Chapter 2. Then as the narration concludes, we are told that

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man (vv. 23-25).

There are a number of lessons we can draw from the text.

1 Superficial Faith Cannot Save

…many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing (v.23).

Why we come to Jesus is very important. Some come to Jesus for the wrong reasons. They want a breakthrough, a miracle, a healing…We see in the text that the people came because of the signs and miracles they saw Jesus perform. However, Jesus being God and omniscient, saw beyond their facade. He saw their hearts; the shallowness and insincerity of their faith. The only reason we must come to Christ is for our sins to be forgiven and reconciled to God. Any other thing apart from this will be a wrong reason.

What did Jesus say? “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33a). We would all have to examine ourselves to ascertain the state of our heart. Are you a genuine seeker of Christ? Is your pursuit after Jesus and the Kingdom of God?

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.(John 6:27).

2: Jesus Knows Our Heart

But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man (John 2:24-25).

You might have heard Jesus can give you a healing, a breakthrough, a miracle. Yes, you may truly have a need and you have been made to believe Jesus has the answers to your problem. Yes he does have the answers. However, your heart seeks after only what you can receive. But not a heart willing and ready to submit to Christ’s Lordship. We can be hypocritical with people. We can have double standards. We can deceive people with our piety and religious fervency. But before God, we are bare and naked. We can’t hide our true self. We can’t hide our motives. We can’t hide our intentions. He sees beyond all that: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”(Hebrews 4:13).

Just like in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve hid themselves from God covering themselves with fig leaves (Genesis 3:7). Ironically, the loincloths didn’t cover up their shame. Is your heart sincere? What are you hiding from God while you seek His blessing? It is time to unmask and come face to face with the reality of your sinful life. Come because you need forgiveness of sins and you will not be cast out.

3. Salvation Is What You Need.

Whatever prompted you to seek Jesus is not greater than your need for salvation. Every problem is just symptomatic of humanity’s sin problem. We live in a fallen world in a fallen body. Our need for fulfilment, breakthroughs, miracles e.t.c are all a yearning for a void in our hearts to be filled. Augustine said it rightly; “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee”.

What we need is Christ Himself: the bread of life, Nothing else will satisfy your famished soul. Money won’t. Healing from a disease won’t. Temporal solutions cannot be applied to an eternal problem. Your need is rooted in a far more higher need; the redemption of your soul, reconciliation to God and standing justified before God. If you are coming to Christ for anything apart from these, you are trifling with your soul. It is not surprising that in the next Chapter immediately following John 2:23-25, we read of Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus. What Jesus told him is of great significance here:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3).

Are you born again? That’s what you must be pursuing Christ for if you have no relationship with him.

By His Stripes We Are Healed

zoom-in-on-cross_b1qufnxwb__S0000

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed (1 Peter 2:24KJV).

Perhaps one of the popular teachings of our time is the health and wealth gospel which teaches that God wants believers to be physically healthy, materially wealthy, and personally happy. The text above is one of the biblical texts used by proponents of this gospel. The last section of the text–by whose stripes ye were healed — is taken to mean Christ’s death and his punishment on the cross secured for believers, what they call divine healing. Now there is no disputing that God does heal people in his own Sovereignty and in answer to prayer. However, there is no promise in the Bible guaranteeing healing for the believer who is sick. It is faulty biblical hermeneutics which leads to such doctrine. One may therefore ask, “what does by whose stripes ye were healed mean then“? To answer that question, we will  have to ask another question:

What Were We Healed Of?

The answer— sin. Clearly, the subject under discussion is sin: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body.” You see, our greatest predicament as human beings is not poverty or sickness. Therefore the offering of health and wealth as the solution to our problems is false and no gospel at all. It is simply another gospel. Our greatest predicament as humans is sin. Hence our greatest need is the forgiveness of sin. The Bible condemns all human beings under sin and declares us separated from God. Separation from God is man’s greatest problem and no amount of money or good health can make up for that void.

Sin is a disease which plagues all humankind. And this sin is what we have been healed of by Christ’s stripes. And this disease, if not dealt with, leads to death—spiritual death and eternal damnation. The wages of sin, we are told is death (Rom 6:23). Look around you and see the havoc in this sin infested world. Sin also has eternal consequences.

The prophet Isaiah paints a good picture of the impact of sin on humanity.

Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil (Isaiah 1:4-6 ESV)

This is the state of our sickness and our sin which the prophet graphically likens to sores and bruises that have covered the whole body from head to toe. This is the sickness of sin Christ died to heal us of that we might live to righteousness! How tragic that 1Peter 2:24 which deals with the grave situation of the life estranged from God by sin; and the glorious promise of redemption through the substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus will be cheapened to one of material significance!

Healed Of Our Sins And Restored Unto Rigtheousness

Peter quotes Isaiah 53:5 to tell us how we were healed. How? by Christ’s stripes—the punishment he received in his body on the Cross was for our sins. He bore our sins in his body. That is good news. God has made a way to reconcile us unto Himself by putting our sins on Christ. This is what theologians call double imputation. Our Sin is imputed to Christ and His righteousness imputed to us. Oh, what good news. Our sins are all forgiven when we trust in Christ.

The result of this imputation is that we “should live unto righteousness“.

Righteousness  simply is right standing with God as if we have never sinned. In Christ we who previously were sick and dead in sin are healed and made alive and  reconciled to God: “And you hath he quickened [made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1KJV). “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”(2Corinthians 5:21KJV).

Have you experienced this exchange; your sin for Christ’s forgiveness? If not seek His forgiveness. That’s what 1Peter 2:24 is about. It is not about healing of our physical diseases. This pales in comparison to the true healing Christ died for—the forgiveness of sin.