Lecture 5: World As It Is

THE NONSTOP GOD

 When the Son of God stood with His incarnate feet on Palestine soil, He said, “My Father is working until now …” (Jn 5:17). And we conclude that He is still working today.

If we conclude from Scripture that God knows the future, then we must conclude that He knows what He is doing by working all things “together for good to those who love” Him in the present. If we come to this conclusion, then we may be somewhat frustrated with our own lack of ability to understand what He is doing in the present in order to bring about that which is good for His children. But most important, we might struggle with our faith that He is able to bring about the finality of His eternal purpose for this world.

We assume that God is presently working. But our difficulty is perception. We have a difficult time perceiving His present work in the affairs of this world, and specifically, in our lives. This is particularly difficult for “inactive Christians,” if there is such a thing. Those who have their lives programmed with a rigid schedule are at a loss to determine that God is working in their lives. Those who are so consumed with the affairs of this world, have a difficult time perceiving the work of God. This is the sadness about those who are doing nothing in the realm of walking by faith. If our faith takes us only to a non-relational assembly with others who are also “dead in the water,” then no one is perceiving, or experiencing the work of God in their lives. Unless one is launching by faith out into the deep waters of work for Jesus, then he has no realm in which to perceive God’s work in his life. It is easy to have faith while standing in the boat. But it takes faith to jump in deep waters and walk. If we do not walk by faith, we will have little faith in the One who is able to reach down and answer our cries for help. Just ask Peter.

We need to take this quest for the abundant life beyond our personal lives. We must enter into the realm of God’s work in the world of affairs around us. In order to do this, we go to our source book by first examining the faith of the saints in the Old Testament who walked in the comfort of God’s directing hand. The faith of these giants of faith is revealed through their steadfastness while living through the apostasy of Israel, and often not perceiving that God was even working through their sin. Their faith was revealed throughout Israel’s history in the wilderness wanderings, during the time of the constant torment of the Canaanites whom Israel did not flush out of the promised land, as well as their eventual going into Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. They simply, or magnificently, trusted that God was working.

It is always challenging to understand that God is working throughout the worst of circumstances. But if we conclude that He is working all things together for good for His people, then we must hold to this conclusion, regardless of the doom and despair that we might be enduring in our present lives.

We have found that some have difficulty believing in a God who is working things out for the good of those who are enduring the sufferings of this world. But the God in whom the Christian believes is not impotent in reference to the affairs of man. We are not deist, that is, believing that God created the world and then walked away. We believe in a God who “is not far from every one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being (At 17:27,28).

God’s work in the affairs of man did not begin two thousand years ago. It has been His business since the beginning. Jesus reminded the Jews, My Father is working until now …” (Jn 5:17). And so, this is the conclusion we take away from Galatians 4:4. “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son ….” God was working from the beginning to bring Jesus into the world. The beginning of what eventually concluded in the “fullness of time,” reached back to the very beginning of time, before the Garden of Eden, before the first “Let-there-be” statement was made and the earth sprang into existence (See 1 Pt 1:19,20). We believe in the working plan wherein our Savior was crucified before the creation of this world (See Mt 13:35; Ep 1:4; 1 Pt 1:20). We believe in an involved God who worked from the very beginning of that which exists to the “fullness of time” at the climax of the cross. But we also do not believe that God went on vacation at the cross.

God’s involvement in the affairs of the world since the beginning of time assumes that there is purpose to this world, and that purpose is Divine. The “fullness of time” marked only one milestone of His work in time. One milestone was accomplished at the cross. This was a salvational milestone that was measured by the “fullness of time.” But since the cross, we have entered into another time zone, of which it too will come to a fullness. This fullness of time will end in the crown. And because we have not yet reached this milestone, we conclude that God is still working in the affairs of mankind in order to bring about His eternal plan for us.

Our foreknowing God has worked throughout history in order to bring into His eternal glory and presence those who will make a free-moral choice to serve Him. He is the God in whom “we live and move and have our being.” He is a God who cannot keep His hands off His creation. And because He cannot keep His hands off, He is “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hb 1:3) in order to get us to our crown at the end of all things.

In order to increase our faith in this God in whom we believe, we must go back in history to an era where we might conclude that things got out of control. At least those who were experiencing the calamity of those times might think that God had vacated His creation and forsaken His people. We go back to the history of Israel in order to be reminded that our God is in the midst of His work right now, as He was with Israel, in order to bring about the intervention of His Son again into the affairs of man. Our case that our God is transcendent—He intervenes in the affairs of this world—is proved by the Bible record of His work among His people, which work will not conclude until we hear the sound of a last trumpet. This is a thrilling story of God working all things together for the good of all those who walk by faith. We know that it is often difficult to perceive His work during times of struggle. But we must keep in mind the crowd of Old Testament witnesses who remained faithful in their struggles, while they too found it difficult to look around to find tangible evidence of His presence (Read Hb 11). But reading of their faith is such an exciting story. It is one from which we cannot walk away without believing that the one true and living God is the one “in whom we live and have our being.” He is a God whose presence is not defined by our words concerning distance, but a God who is simply here and there at the same time. He is not confined to the definition of our words, nor to the hands on our clocks. His being and work are not limited to the definition of the words in our dictionary.

 

Lecture 6: Godly Giver

TAKING OWNERSHIP OF THE GOSPEL

 Speaking of taking ownership, consider some of the leading (rich) sisters of Thessalonica. We remember standing in a prayer circle with a group of men. All of us were praying. When it came time for one brother to pray, he prayed, “God, forgive us men of arguing over who is in control. Thank you for our women, for all they say is, ‘What’s next.’”

Sometimes we need to follow the example of the women.   Lydia was in Philippi (At 16:11-15) and there were leading women in Thessalonica (At 17:4). Both the church in Philippi and Thessalonica were financially functional when it came to supporting evangelism. We wonder if the Christian sisters in both areas did not have some influence over what the disciples as a whole should be doing?

 A.  Ability to do and send:

When Paul, Timothy and Silas went to Thessalonica for the first time, they went straight to the religious center in town, which was the synagogue of the Jews (At 17:1). What was unique about this synagogue was that there was a great number of Gentile converts (proselytes) who met in the synagogue. From these “a great multitude of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women were obedient to the gospel (At 17:4).   We would assume that these “leading women” were possibly quite wealthy. At least for some reason, many years later Demas was possibly attracted to their wealth when Paul wrote of him while he himself was in a Roman prison, “… for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed to Thessalonica …” (2 Tm 4:10).

If the leading women in Acts 17 were indeed wealthy women, then they did not give themselves into poverty. By the time 2 Thessalonians was written, the Holy Spirit had to write a letter through Paul that these women not be begged into poverty by some among the Thessalonian disciples who had quit their work. 2 Thessalonians was written less than a year after these leading (wealthy) women became disciples. Then also consider the fact that when Paul wrote of the behavior of Demas, we might assume that the leading women were still wealthy.   At the time, Demas forsook Paul and went to Thessalonica. 2 Timothy 4:10, where Paul spoke of Demas’ behavior, was written several years after the conversion of the leading women in Thessalonica in Acts 17. The point is that the New Testament teaches nowhere that the wealthy should contribute themselves into poverty.   Doing such is simply not good stewardship on the part of the wealthy. Neither is it beneficial for the evangelism of the church. Paul wrote the “disfellowship” context of 2 Thessalonians 3 to protect the wealthy. Those who are gifted in making money are encouraged to give, but they are not encouraged to give themselves into poverty. We have always asked churches that are in developing world environments if a wealthy person could be a part of their fellowship. If the wealthy could not be a part of a fellowship of disciples, then the disciples have a problem, not the wealthy who are giving. If the local disciples beg the wealthy members into poverty, then from where will the funds come to preach the gospel to the world? The poor must acknowledge the fact that there are some in the body who are gifted with the ability to make money. We must not envy this gift, but give glory to God. This is a grace in which some can truly praise God. “But as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all diligence, and in your love for us, see that you abound in this grace also (2 Co 8:7). This is the grace of giving. And we encourage one another to abound in the grace of giving.

 B.  Desire to be a doer and sender:

Now consider the Thessalonians. Since the majority of those who were converted in Thessalonica were Gentiles, and very devout, we would assume that their desire would be to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. The result of what the Thessalonians did in the months that followed is a testimony to their devout convictions, as well as their desire to take ownership of the mission of the body of Christ. As the Philippians, they were financially functional as active parts of the one body.

After Paul left Thessalonica, he traveled on to Achaia. What is interesting to note is what he found in the region of Achaia when he arrived. It was about six months after he had left Thessalonica that he wrote back to the new converts the following testimony of the fact that the Thessalonian Christians had taken ownership of the gospel they had obeyed:

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you were examples to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has spread abroad, so that we do not need to speak anything. For they themselves report about us, what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God …” (1 Th 1:6-9).

Notice carefully the Holy Spirit’s witness to the evangelistic function of the Thessalonian disciples. They became imitators of the evangelistic zeal of Paul, Timothy and Silas who came to them working with their own hands to support themselves, and receiving once and gain from the functioning disciples in Philippi (Ph 4:16). The example of the Philippians even influenced the Thessalonians. In fact, when contributions came from the Philippians, the Thessalonians may have felt somewhat embarrassed. If they were to take ownership of the preaching of the gospel in their own region, then they had to financially come to the party.   And such they did in an overwhelming manner.

As the Philippians, the Thessalonian disciples became “examples to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (1 Th 1:7). It was a phenomenal contagion of evangelistic enthusiasm. Philippi inspired Thessalonica and Thessalonica inspired the whole provinces of Macedonia and Achaia. The enthusiasm for evangelism spread like holy wild fire from one obedient heart to another.

 C.  The result of doers and senders:

The testimony of the Thessalonians’ zeal was in the fact that the word of the Lord has sounded forth from them (1 Th 1:8). Such is the identity of a functioning organic body. The Philippians sounded forth the word from Philippi by sending support once and again to the evangelists Paul, Timothy and Silas in Thessalonica. The Thessalonian disciples sounded forth the word in Achaia, specifically Corinth. But the Corinthians? They were financially and evangelistically dysfunctional. They became a dead-end in the function of the body to sound forth the word of the Lord. And now we know why most of the Holy Spirit’s teaching concerning the support of evangelists is found in the letters of 1 & 2 Corinthians. As members of the universal organic body, they were dysfunctional in supporting evangelism.

 We do not need to speak anything (1 Th 1:8). This is the testimony of a functional body of disciples. This is the Spirit’s testimony of the organic body at work, both in the local area where body members reside, as well as in areas beyond where they live. When local Christians take ownership of the gospel where they live, there need be no more evangelists coming by to do the job of preaching the gospel. If an evangelist cannot make this statement to those where he has preached, it is possible that he planted the wrong seed, or he failed in his work to disciple those he first taught. He may have failed Jesus when Jesus instructed, “… teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:20).   Or he may have failed the Spirit when the Spirit said through Paul, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tm 2:2).

However, the problem is usually with the soil in which the evangelist plants the seed of the word of God. Remember the dysfunction of the Corinthians on this matter?   Paul chastised the Corinthians.   It was the Corinthian soil, not the Seed, that was the problem.

For no other foundation can man lay than what is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will be manifested, for the day will declare it because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test each man’s work to determine what quality it is. If anyone’s work endures that he has built, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss. But he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Co 3:11-15).

Paul’s efforts with the “Corinthian soil” was about to be burned if they did not repent of their immature ways. If they did not turn from their dysfunctional ways, he would suffer loss because he was their father in the faith (1 Co 4:15).   But he would carry on and receive his reward for his labors as an evangelist. The Corinthians, if they did not repent, would become smouldering ashes.

The Corinthian situation was certainly a different story from the Thessalonians and Philippians, as well as those in Antioch, Ephesus and Jerusalem.

When Paul wrote the 1 Thessalonian letter, he stated, They themselves report about us” (1 Th 1:9). Who is the “they”? It was not the Christians in Achaia. There were no Christians there when Paul arrived.   By the time Paul reached Achaia, word-of-mouth, the “bush telegraph,” had already communicated the phenomenal conversion and dedication of the Thessalonians. The whole region was talking about the conversion of the Gentiles and leading women in Thessalonica. The point is that we should ask ourselves the question, “Was our conversion so radical that the whole province is talking about it”?   Admittedly, the Thessalonians had the fire and conviction of new converts. We must not let that fire of conviction be extinguished from our lives.   The only way to keep it burning in our hearts is to continually be in the presence of the newly converted.   But if we stop preaching the gospel to the lost in our local areas, we will have no newly converted in our presence to keep our fire going. When we stop preaching and converting the lost, we have set a course for our fire to be extinguished. Is this what Jesus meant when He spoke to the church in Ephesus many years after they were new converts, a time when they had lost their first love (Rv 2:4).

Lecture 4: World As It Is

WE WOULD PROGNOSTICATE

 Many of us have spent our lives in daily Bible study, taking moments to breathe in order to survey the world around us. We are as the prophets of old who “inquired and searched diligently … searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ who was in them did signify …” (1 Pt 1:10,11).

What a Bible-saturated mind invariably does is start one on a journey of viewing the world around us through the eyes of God and recorded Bible history. So many principles of history have been revealed throughout the Bible that the Bible student cannot but view all history through a biased understanding of how God works in the affairs of this world, which past works and affairs are recorded in the Bible. When we come to a certain saturation point of Bible history, one begins to perceive some incredible works of God in the past, which perception molds our world view of how God now works. We begin to understand that God is still working to bring about His purpose for all things, especially for the good of His people. We then begin to fully appreciate what God promised in Romans 8:28: “And we [Christians] know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

And this is our quest in our obsession with recorded Bible history. We seek to know His purpose in a world that often seems like it is out of control. And in a world that seems like it is out of control, we begin to understand through a knowledge of His word and work that actually everything is under control. He is upholding everything with the power of His word, and thus, we trust His work (Hb 1:3). We conclude:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth is removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling” (Ps 46:1-3).

If there are those who would think that our world view of history is prejudiced by too much Bible, then they are right. We offer no apologies. We would believe that the Bible was laid in our hands as a gift of God, and thus, a gift that would be our road map to make our way through of this twisted world in which we live. We are thus tainted with the impressions of inspiration of the Holy Writ.   Our philosophy of history is anchored in what has been recorded through the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit as He took writer after writer throughout history through His inspirational influence to map out how God has worked in the past in order that we have faith in His work in the present and in the future.

If we would affirm that “whatever things were written before were written for our learning” (Rm 15:4), then we have learned well. If there is nothing new under heaven, as Solomon eventually learned (Ec 1:9-14), then our understanding of the present, and our prognostications of the future, are seated in the words the inspired history Book. This is the encouragement that the inspired word of history offers. In one’s mental saturation with inspired history, he of necessity comes to only one conclusion: “ … all things work together for good to those who love God.” We must never forget this. This biblical world view of history is especially important to remember if we are in the depths of despair in a situation wherein there seems to be no hope. We are sure that Job eventually remembered this throughout his trials. We too must remember the promises of God: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you. He will never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Ps 55:22). “He will not suffer your foot to be moved.   He who preserves you will not slumber” (Ps 121:3).

As driven students of Bible history, we must be incurably optimistic when faced with the despair that the world dictates . If one’s world view is based on the reports of the nightly news, or the daily newspaper, then he will conclude that everything has gone and is going horribly wrong. We often lead ourselves to believe that there is no hope. And truly, we are often lost in a world of misfortune and failure. We often cry out in complaint as Gideon: “Oh my Lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this befallen us?” (Jg 6:13). Even Job had his time of complaint.

My soul is weary of my life. I will give free course to my complaint.   I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, “Do not condemn me. Show me where You contend with me. Is it good to You that You should oppress, that You should despise the work of Your hands and shine on the counsel of the wicked?” (Jb 10:1-3)

We must not forget that the nightly news and the daily newspapers are in business to make money off the misery of our lives. They economically thrive on those who thirst after seeing and reading about doom and gloom. Christians who are led by a fickle desire to allow their environment to form their mental state of mind, must turn off the news and stop reading the newspapers. We must repent of our culture of complaint that has developed out of a Facebook circulation of immoral junk and jokes. We must turn our attention to reading from the Word that says “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rm 8:37). If we watch the news and read our newspapers more than we study our Bibles, then we are in trouble. If we spend countless hours every day reading circulated junk about which to complain and gripe, then we need to repent. We need to start studying our Bibles again. Satan is not dumb. After all, he has more Christians spending more time on Facebook and YouTube than in the study of their Bibles.

We would thus look past the circulated news of doom and reports of despair. We are “other-world minded,” and thus, our philosophy of history is not based on a glamorization of broadcasted sin. It is based on a Divine theme, a salvational plan that is being played out in the best of all possible environments that was created for the purpose of bringing free-moral individuals into an eternal dwelling with their Creator. We would believe that there is infinite Divine control in a world that we too often and finitely assume to be out of control.   We often allow ourselves to believe that it is all wrong when it seems that all things have gone wrong. We sometimes erroneously conclude as Habakkuk questioned, “Why do You look on those who deal treacherously and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours the one who is more righteous than he? (Hk 1:13). We choose not to be thus minded.   We so choose because we believe that God is in control. We choose to believe that the wrong will eventually be righted by the One who upholds all things by the power of His command (Hb 1:3).

So we cannot help ourselves from being incurably optimistic. If the “Bible tells me so,” then we have no other option but to conclude that the One who upholds all things by the word of His power will eventually bring about that for which He created all things. His “plan of salvation” is not yet complete. The cross has taken place. But the crown is yet to come.

When the Malaysian MH 350 flight was lost from the radar of humanity, there was great mourning on the part of the families of everyone who was on board the fateful flight. A placard stand was erected in the airport at Beijing. On it one could write a brief statement in reference to the rescuers’ efforts to find the lost plane. As we noticed the brief statements of the placards that were hung upon the display stand, there seemed to be two categories. There were those notes from the family members who had no world view that included God. These notes simply read, “Have hope.” And then there were the other notes that were placed there by those who had God in their world view. These notes read, “Hope and pray.”

Hope by itself may give one a sense of peace of mind, but hope without the possibilities of Divine intervention leaves one with only the abilities of the rescuers. The Christian has hope, but his hope has a foundation of faith in a God who is working all things together for good. It is this hope that we would have, not simply a fatalistic optimism that everything will somehow work itself out by chance.

And herein is the wonderful gift of having in our hands an inspired record of how God worked all things together in the past for the good of those who loved Him. We would thus walk by faith as those faithful ancients about whom the Hebrew writer inscribed the words, These all died in faith, not having received the promises. But having seen them afar off were assured of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were foreigners and pilgrims on the earth” (Hb 11:13). We want to be so assured of what God is now doing in order to work us toward the crown, that we will confess that we too are only foreigners in this world.

In our study of Divine history, therefore, we have hope for the future because of the evidence of how our God worked in the past. Someone rightly stated it: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hb 11:1). Our God has given us evidence of how He has worked in the past in order to give us hope of how He is working now and will continue to work in the future. This is how the ancients of old functioned in their daily walk of life, and this is how we will do the same in our lives today (Hb 11:2).

Lecture 5: Godly Giver

THE JOY OF FINANCIAL FUNCTIONALITY

 Most all of the members of the early body of Christ functioned organically from the time when they were still dripping wet from the waters of baptism. Even on the birthday of the ekklesia (church), “all who believed were together and had all things in common” (At 2:44). The members of the body were not only connected to the Lord in a covenant relationship through obedience to the gospel, they were also connected to one another in service to the physical needs that prevailed at the time, especially to the support of those who went forth to preach the gospel they had obeyed.

The beginning of the ekklesia in Acts 2 sets the model for everyone who would later obey the gospel. As a result, the organic function of the early obedient went forth out of Jerusalem to all the world, even to us today. Growth of the church happened because others followed the example of those first disciples. Growth happened in Antioch (At 13:1-3). Growth happened in Ephesus (At 19:8-10). It happened in Thessalonica (1 Th 1:6-10). And it happened in Philippi (Ph 4:15,16). It was simply understood that when one freely received the gospel, he was to make sure that it was freely preached somewhere else. One of the greatest examples of this was the sacrificial giving of a few Christians in the city of Philippi.

A few years after their conversion, Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only” (Ph 4:15). The Philippians’ partnership with Paul in preaching the gospel to other places through Paul began when they were new Christians. In fact, they were only a “few days” old as Christians when they began their support of the evangelists who went on to Thessalonica, for Paul, Silas and Timothy stayed only a few days in Philippi (See At 16:12). These were not “taker Christians,” “for even in Thessalonica,” Paul wrote, “you sent once and again for my needs” (Ph 4:16). When Paul went on from Thessalonica in Macedonia, the Philippians, who were in Macedonia, even continued their financial partnership with him in preaching the gospel in Achaia. He later wrote to shame the Corinthians, “And when I was present with you and in need, I was not a burden to anyone, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied (2 Co 11:9).

The fascinating function of the Philippians, as well as the Thessalonians, who both resided in the province of Macedonia, is that they contributed to reach out with the gospel to other areas from the very beginning of their walk in Christ.

As the Philippians, the Thessalonians went to work, both locally and regionally, by sending support to Paul while he was in Achaia (More later). But what is strikingly awesome about the behavior of the Philippians was that from their very beginning as new Christians, they “sent once and again” unto Paul’s needs while he was in Thessalonica, and then in Achaia. We wonder why they did this? Was it something that Paul taught them? Or, was Paul one who preached for money? From what Paul did in both Thessalonica and Achaia, the answer to these questions was that he worked with his own hands in order not to beg off the brethren (See 2 Co 11:9; 2 Th 3:8). Both the Philippians and Thessalonians witnessed his sacrificial behavior, and thus, they were moved to help support him in order that the gospel go beyond the borders of their province.

Now as we study through these examples of supporting evangelists, we must not forget one very important point. The evangelists were going forth. They were not “stay-at-home” preachers who misappropriated the work of an evangelist. They were on the move preaching to the lost in other areas, not preaching to the saved at home. This does not mean that the local brethren should not support their teachers. This is not the discussion of this chapter. The point here is that those who obey the gospel must make sure that the gospel is preached to the lost in every nation of the world.

So the next question would be, Was what the Philippians believed and accepted inherent in the gospel that Paul preached? This would be our conclusion. God is a giver. He gave His only begotten Son (Jn 3:16). Therefore, anyone who would truly accept the message of God’s love, seeks how he or she can get this message out to others. Godly people want to give as God gave good news to them (1 Jn 4:19). This is the beauty of the gospel. When one obeys this message of love, he must give, even when one is in poverty circumstances as the Philippians. Listen to the Holy Spirit’s testimony of the disciples in Macedonia where Philippi was located:

Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God that has been given to the churches of Macedonia, that in a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty, abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints(2 Co 8:1-4).

The only begging that should ever come from a disciple of Christ is his begging that someone take his contribution. Why have we reversed this to an outstretched hand that is always looking for a gift? If one becomes a disciple of Jesus, then his begging from others must stop. If it does not, then the person never really believed the message of the free gift of grace that moves believers to be givers. Godly people do not beg for themselves. They only beg that the needy receive their contributions of love. Now we can understand why Paul wrote that the Thessalonians must withdraw their fellowship from any person who would seek to beg off the church. He wrote to the disciples who had some beggars among them, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother who walks disorderly and not after the tradition that he received from us” (2 Th 3:6).

Paul did not behave disorderly among the Thessalonians (2 Th 3:7). He, Timothy and Silas did not eat “any man’s bread without paying for it” (2 Th 3:8). Their “orderly walk” and example was that they worked with labor and hardship night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you (2 Th 3:8). So if there are any among the brethren who are “not willing to work neither let him eat [beg] (2 Th 3:10). Christians are not beggars off one another. They are partners together in Christ. If there are beggars among us, then Paul states that these beggars are walking disorderly. And because they are walking disorderly, two things must happen: First they must not be allowed to continue to beg off those who work, and second, if they persist in their begging, then they must be disfellowshipped from the family of God. The church is not a fellowship of beggars, neither is it a welfare society for those who can work when there is work to be done.

Christians who beg off other Christians are walking disorderly in reference to their function as members of the organic body of Christ. If one would be a member of the same church to which the Thessalonians were added, then he cannot be a beggar off his fellow brothers in Christ. If they continue such begging behavior, then they cannot be in fellowship with the organically functioning body of Christ.

The Philippians, as well as the Thessalonians, saw a different culture in the message of Jesus, and thus, they established a culture of giving. They could not compare themselves with other disciples in their region, for there were no other disciples in their region to which they could look for an example. The only example they had was reflected in the behavior of the sacrificial living of Paul, Timothy, Luke and Silas, which example was an emulation of the sacrificial behavior of Christ. “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ, who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God. But He made Himself of no reputation …” (See Ph 2:5-8). As an example to the Thessalonians and Philippians, Paul, Timothy, Luke and Silas made themselves worked with their own hands (2 Th 3:9). And so, Paul could write to the financially dysfunctional Corinthians,Be imitators of me even as I also am of Christ (1 Co 11:1). The Philippians and Thessalonians had imitated the behavior of Paul. Now it was time for the Corinthians to enjoy the sacrificial life of Paul.

In the area of physical things, one does not come to Christ to see what he can get. If one does, he will not experience the pure joy of being a godly giver for Jesus. Simon came to Christ to see that he could get, but when Peter said he could not buy it for himself, he became bitter. (Read carefully At 8:18-23, specifically verse 23. Simon became bitter because he could not make a profit out of laying hands on people to receive the Holy Spirit.)

The Philippians saw what they could give, not what they could get. As a result, their standard of living came down because of their giving out of their deep poverty. And they did this with the abundance of their joy and their keep poverty” (2 Co 8:2). We used to say, “Give until it hurts!” We were wrong. The truth is that we must experience the abundance of the joy of Jesus until we give. There should never be any “hurting” in giving. It should simply be as natural for the Christian as eating to preserve our natural body. This is why the Philippians could joyfully give out of their deep poverty. Therefore, the conclusion from our study of the example of the Philippians is that one does not really understand the message of the gospel of joy unless he comes away from the waters of baptism looking for something on which he can pour out his joy. Doing such is inherent in the message of the “good news” (gospel) that we have obeyed. Giving, therefore, should be an occasion of just pure joy, not “hurting.”

Lecture 3: World As It Is

WE ARE HERE FOR THERE

 We were created for eternity. We are blessed with a spirit from God that is conditionally eternal only in the presence of our eternal God (2 Th 1:6-9). We are the result of an Eternal Love, and thus, we are headed for an eternal presence with this Love. In order that our transition from here to there happen, God had to guard His justice by offering instructions on how to find the Way (At 9:2). This offer was made for those of His creation who would chose to follow His directions into His eternal presence. In order that God’s justice be true and unaccused, an opportunity from the confines of this material world for the eternal presence of God was made possible through the sacrificial offering of God Himself. The totality of His intervention among men, therefore, is based on the promise that God is working to get us from here to there. For this reason, we must view all that transpires in the present world as God’s efforts to get as many people as possible into His eternal presence. We are thus not confused by the chaos that prevails in many places of the world. We are not confused or discouraged because we know that our God is at work to deliver us from this testing environment.

In answer to the question, “Why was the world created?” and “Why Israel?” the answer can be found only in the statement that will be made by Jesus at the end of the world, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation [creation] of the world” (Mt 25:34).

The world was created by a loving Father who seeks to bring His loving children, whom He now claims as His own, into His eternal presence, in which presence, their eternal existence is guaranteed. Now we must consider this for a moment. Since the creation was never meant to be an end within itself, then there must be a reason for its existence, and ours. Its existence was to produce an environment for those who will exist beyond its termination. There is no Bible teaching that says that the world will continue as it is without end. If one were to adhere to the philosophy of evolution, then he might come to the conclusion that matter (the earth) is eternal. But if one believes the Bible, then there is an end to the heavens and earth that we now experience (Compare 2 Pt 3). The world as we know it will come to an end, but not those children of faith whom God has prepared for His presence in a new heavens and earth (See 2 Pt 3:13). They are His children in this present world, but they are not of this world. The fact that this world is temporary, therefore, establishes the conclusion that the world was created for an eternal purpose that will exist beyond the termination of the world itself.

We are here in order to prepare for being somewhere else. Christians are only “sojourners and pilgrims” on their journey through the existence of this world (Hb 11:13). This world is simply not their home. It is a place of transition to the eternal presence of the Father of their spirits (Hb 12:9). Since this world is a place of transitioning sojourners and pilgrims, then when there are few sojourners and pilgrims to transition, then the world will no longer be useful for the purpose for which it was created.

If there is a finality to this world, then this world exists for the purpose of those who will exist beyond this world. Those who will exist beyond this world are those who are of the faith of Abraham. By Jesus “all things were created …. All things were created through Him and for Him (Cl 1:16). All things were created for Jesus, including all humanity. All was created for a purpose, that purpose being “for Him.” Jesus would have no need of an eternal earth as it now is, since the eternal existence of the faithful who now inhabit the world are not dependent on the existence of the world. But as one with the loving God, the Son of God has an eternal dwelling for us that is not dependent on the world as we know it. He will thus discard the created world in order to preserve that which does not depend on the material for its existence.

So what would be His purpose in creating a temporary environment for us? If this environment is coming to a close, then those who walk by faith will exist beyond the end of this world. As we move closer to the end of all things, we must conclude that His allowance of the continuation of this present world is simply for the purpose of giving birth to more sons of faith who will dwell with Him in eternity. Since this world is coming to an end, then we would conclude that there is some reason why God would bring this world to an end. And since we would conclude that there is no limit to the population of heaven, then we must also conclude that this world will exist until it has fulfilled its purpose.

Now Paul revealed that there would be living Christians around at the time when Jesus would appear for a second time (See 1 Th 4:13-18). We would correctly assume, therefore, that God has planned a specific time for the termination of this present world. We will never know that time until we hear the final trumpet. It will be the remaining faithful “Noahs” who will hear the trumpet. At the sound of that trumpet the resurrected and changed saints, will with the with the living saints, enter into an eternal existence in the presence of God. Whatever God does with the present world is not our concern. We only know that we will be restored to eternality, which thing Adam and Eve gave up in the beginning (See Gn 3:22-24).

If the purpose of this world is to populate that which is to come, then this world is useful for this purpose as long as citizens are produced for eternal dwelling. But when this world is no longer conducive to the population of that which is beyond this world, then this world is no longer useful for the purpose for which it was created. This brings us back to the teleology (the end purpose) that was expressed in Genesis 6:5-7. In the flood, God terminated the population of the world because the world produced no more sons of faith. When this world no longer produces that for which it was created, then it is gone, in a moment, at the voice of an archangel, at the sound of the last trumpet (1 Th 4:15,16).

If the world is here, therefore, for the purpose of populating of heaven, then our business is God’s business to get people into eternal glory with Jesus. Since the Christian is no longer his own, but has been bought with a price (1 Co 6:20), then it is simply senseless for him to consume upon himself that which is temporary. It is his primary mission to bring glory to God by focusing on the mission of God and the purpose for which this world was created. Terms and phrases as “materialistic,” “worldly minded” and “carnal” define those who are caught up and confined to this temporary existence. But terms as “evangelism,” “mission minded” and “hope” define other-world minded people. These terms find the centrality of their biblical definition in the purpose for which God created all things, and then gave a mission to those who are of faith.

The closer one gets to the heart of God, the closer he gets to the mission of God that is inherent in the creation of this world. Evangelistic minded Christians are in touch with God. They are in touch with the mission of God and His purpose for the creation of this world. Their world view is centered around the purpose of taking as many people as possible into eternal glory. It is the love response of their hearts to follow after their loving Creator, whose mission it is to have loving beings in His presence for all eternity.

In order for the loving to be with the eternal Lover, God came in the likeness of the created (Ph 2:5-11). He was incarnate in the flesh of man (Jn 1:14). However, after His resurrection, His body of flesh was changed into that which we will also be changed after our resurrection (See 1 Co 15:35-58). We do not now know the nature of His resurrected and changed body. But we know that when He comes again, we will be changed to be like Him. John wrote, “Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we will be. But we know that when He appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is (1 Jn 3:2).

When we consider this one statement of the Holy Writ, we are held in awe at the sacrifice that the Son of God made for us. The Son will “appear” a second time. In order for Him to appear, there would have to be substance to His presence. We will “see Him.” In order to be seen, there must be a body that would reflect His glory. His will be a bodily appearance. John says that we will be like this body of His. Ours will be a changed body (1 Co 15:50-54). But we will see Him as He is, in His permanently incarnate, but changed body. John is saying that the Son of God permanently incarnated in the flesh of man on our behalf (Jn 1:14). Though He was changed in His resurrected body, there was something permanent about Him giving up the form of God (See Ph 2:5-11). He did this for us. The permanency of His eternal sacrifice wonderfully manifests His abiding love for us throughout eternity. What words are there in any human language that would explain this love, this sacrifice? He did this for us!

If Jesus, the loving Creator of all things, created us for an eternal existence with Himself (Cl 1:16), then this is love beyond what any man can experience on this earth. We are driven to be in the presence of this eternally incarnated loving Creator. We cannot help ourselves. And we cannot but seek to take everyone we know with us into this awesome love and freedom from the sufferings of this present world that has gone wrong in so many ways. We cannot help but cry out as John when he was so emotionally overcome with the awesome visions of Revelation, Come, Lord Jesus (Rv 22:20). We realize that we were created not for here, but for there with our Lord Jesus.

Lecture 4: Godly Giving

TAKING OWNERSHIP OF ONE’S LOAD

 The letter to the Galatians may have been the first letter of inspiration written to the early Christians. It was written to the disciples in the region of Galatia where Paul and Barnabas went on their first mission journey (At 13,14). If the letter was written early, then we assume that the teaching of the letter was directed to new Christians. They may have been less than five years old in the faith. This fact is important because it gives us an idea of what God expects of His children even from their early years in the faith. In the letter, Paul not only addresses the threat of legal religiosity, but also exhorts the disciples concerning responsibilities they must assume as God’s children.

In the first chapters of the letter, Paul addressed the doctrinal challenges that faced these new Christians. In chapter 5 he gave a final exhortation to stand free in Christ as opposed to being brought into the bondage of legal religiosity (Gl 5:1,2).

It is in chapter 6 that the Holy Spirit, through the hand of Paul, reveals some very practical responsibilities of our function as members of the universal body of Christ. In 6:4 he admonished that each disciple must take ownership of his or her own work by not boasting in the work of others. The disciples should not behave as some in Corinth who took glory in the work of others (See 2 Co 10:13,16). On the contrary, “… each one will bear his own load” (6:5). Paul laid the foundation for what was coming. When it comes to taking ownership, “each one” must assume the responsibility of being a disciple. Every disciple must take ownership of that which one should assume as a productive member of the organic body of Christ. Christians cannot pass off on others their responsibilities. If one would be a Christian, and thus a disciple of Jesus, then he cannot assume that someone else will bear his load. Christians seek to give physical things freely as they were freely supplied with spiritual things (See 2 Co 8:14). A disciple of Jesus simply cannot ask someone else to bear the load that God expects him to bear.

In the context of Galatians 6, Paul led his readers to the responsibility of verse 6. “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with the one who teaches.”

The word “share” is from the Greek word koinonia. The meaning is “joint partnership.” We hear of many unfortunate definitions throughout the world of the word “partnership.” To many, partnership means, “Give me the money and we will do the work of spending it.” This is one’s “cuffed-hand” culture speaking. But this is certainly not what Paul was saying in the context of Galatians 6:6. The ownership that is expressed in 6:5 must be continued into verse 6. “Each one” must join in partnership to support the teacher. The student must take ownership of his teaching by supporting his teacher. Whether his teaching comes through the person of the teacher, or through the book a teacher might write, the student has the responsibility of personally paying the teacher or buying the teacher’s book. Disciples who do neither are simply walking contrary to the instructions of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 6. They walk as dysfuncational members of the body, and thus in violation of fellowshipping those who are teachers of the word. One cannot expect to grow spiritually in study of the word of God if he seeks to acquire his knowledge of the word without taking ownership of his source of teaching.

In the use of the word koinonia in 6:6, money is involved. Obligation and responsibility are incurred. Each student has the responsibility to pay the teacher.   The student cannot sluff off on another his or her responsibility to pay his or her Bible teacher. Any disciple, therefore, who does not pay his teacher is behaving in a manner that is contrary to Paul’s instructions in Galatians 6:6. He is trying to come to his teacher empty handed. He sins while trying to grow spiritually by being taught the word of God without paying the teacher. It is a spiritual contradiction. And thus, we now understand why those of some societies who have freely received to many contributions find it difficult to grow to the spiritual levels of true discipleship in stewardship. The culture of their outstretched hand always hinders them from taking ownership of their responsibilities to be Christians who give.

Any student who would walk out of a Bible class, without feeling his responsibility to make sure that the teacher was supported for his labors in teaching, has certainly left the class to walk disorderly. Anyone who would seek a free spiritual book written by a teacher is working against the spiritual nourishment that he would receive from the book. We are dysfunctional disciples when we expect a free ride in reference to the sources of our being taught.

It would be good to offer some suggestions on this point since this fundamental teaching of the word of God leads us into many of the texts that we will discuss later. We remember in the early 1980s when we went as evangelists to the West Indies (Caribbean). We lived on the island of Antigua. In the first few months of going from shack to shack in teaching, we were pleasantly surprised by the giving of the people. These were truly “Third World” (developing world) residents. According to Western standards they were very poor, living in shacks across the island and eating from their own gardens. But in every house we entered and taught the word of God, after the class the people of the house, the students, would collect up some fruit in the house to give to us, for they had no money. We graciously accepted their “pay” for the class, and went on our way thinking, “These folks got the point. Someone in the past taught them well.” There were no cuff-handed people on the entire island.

Their history had taught them a great lesson of ownership. In the early 1950s, the general population, which was held in economic bondage by the land owners, went on strike. In doing so, the people had to struggle for themselves to survive. During those years of trying to feed their families, the people ate anything to stay alive. In all their struggles to survive, they learned a great lesson of life. They learned to take ownership of their own lives and their own destiny. And when some foreign teachers later came by, they would not take something (teaching) for nothing. The West Indies people could teach the post-colonial, post foreign-aid cultures a few things about financially taking ownership of oneself by paying their teachers. People look at the West Indian culture with respect because of who they are. But people will always look down on a cuffed-hand culture. The word “partnership” has a difficult time being understood correctly in such cultures.

 

 

Lecture 2: World As It Is

THE RIGHT PLACE FOR NOW

 God is love, and our existence is evidence of this fact. So in creating us, He has said, “I love you.” If our response, “I love You, too,” that we would make to our Creator is to be sincere, then we must have the freedom not to make the statement. We must be able to rebel, to sin, to morally corrupt ourselves to the lowest level of sinful degradation. If we are truly free-moral beings, then we must have the option to turn our backs on our Creator; to live and to die in eternal extinction. Unfortunately, such is the choice of most people to turn their backs on the God of love. Though sad, the option for eternal doom is inherent in our being truly free-moral individuals. It is not that we inherently sin. It is that within inherently free-will people there is the possibility of making sinful decisions. And we all make such decisions. And when the norm of society chooses to make bad decisions, then we end up with the condition of society that is explained in Genesis 6:5.

But you might ask, “If God is love, and thus had to created a truly free moral individual who could go wrong, then why would He even create us in the first place?” The answer is that He had to. It is simply the nature of love. Love must love something, else it is not love. A loving God cannot exist alone in eternity with a simple proclamation that He is love. Love is meaningless without action. And since love had to create, then love also had to provide a means by which the loved could perpetually exist in the presence of a loving God. This too was a loving act on the part of our God of love.

This brings us to questions concerning the environment in which God placed us, an environment wherein we can go wrong. We can become unloving. So here we are, in the best of all possible environments for the existence of a truly free-moral individual with all the possibilities to love as our Creator, but with the possibility to go incredibility wrong.

Ours is an environment where choices can be made between good and evil. It is an environment in which we can be held accountable for our moral fallibility. It is even an environment where we pay the consequences for violating both moral and physical laws. And yet in all the evil and suffering of this environment, we can think of no better environment for the existence of a truly free moral person to make choices of either good or evil.

We must keep in mind that we are not alone in this environment. We must never forget that in this environment there are other individuals who also have the right to choose. And some of those in our environment, as we, also make bad choices. For example, it is often the desire of a free moral being to exalt himself above or against his fellow man. He seeks to rule over his fellow man. All these desires define the nature of a free-moral person. These desires also answer the question as to why evil and suffering exist in the best of all possible environments in which a truly free-moral being must exist.

In all our consideration of these matters, we must not make the mistake of blaming the physical environment for the bad moral choices we make. When we say the “best of all possible environments,” we mean that this must be an environment wherein a physical being can function with the opportunity to go morally wrong. And for this created physical being to exist, there must be physical laws that govern its existence. And if these laws are violated, then there are consequences that are usually immediate. If one jumped from a ten-story building, he would immediately discover the consequences of his violation of the law of gravity upon his arrival at the foundation of the first story. The problem comes when others suffer when one violates a physical law of this best of all possible environments. A speeding vehicle can kill others than the irresponsible driver of the speeding car.

A.  Freedom and destruction:

Now we come to a true understanding of the historical statement of Genesis 6:5. God created man and placed him in the best of all possible environments to make moral decisions. Because it is not in man to create his own moral codes that are constant and universal, God delivered to man eternal standards of moral conduct by which he must walk in order to prevent moral chaos (See Hb 1:1). But as the centuries went by after creation, evil prevailed over good as man as a whole sought to walk after his own moral standards. It came to the following moral low that is stated in Genesis 6:5: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gn 6:5). And if you know the rest of the story, only Noah and his family made it out alive from this moral self-destruction. Movies are made with this theme.

It is imperative for the biblical historian to understand the purpose of the flood of Noah’s day in order to understand God’s work with man throughout history. So many questions are answered. Particularly, we ask concerning the existence of the nation of Israel, and then, the existence of the church. The existence of both are related to one another in reference to what Genesis 6:5 explains concerning the nature of free-moral individuals who choose to live outside the will of their Creator.

In all the mess of sin, the cross of the Son of God reveals that it was not fiendish of God to create man. It does so by His offer of a plan of escape to free-moral individuals He knew would go wrong in sin. The cross also explains the purpose for which God created man in the first place. Only in the cross do we have answers concerning why we are here and where we are going. And only in the cross do we discover that this world was created for a specific purpose. If we miss this purpose, then we will live with a host of unanswered questions, if not a life of despair. We will also be faced with the accusations of atheists as to why we would believe in a God who would create that which He would eventually have to condemn to an unfortunate end. (Noble Student Research: www.africainternational.org, Biblical Research Library, Book 25, chapter 5.)

 B.  Preservation through a nation:

If it is not possible for those of society to save themselves and escape moral degradation that comes by living outside the moral bounds of God’s law—and it is not—then God will work through those who walk by faith in Him to accomplish His eternal purpose for all that now exists. Though societies go wrong, individuals can go right. And right living individuals can exist in the midst of societies that have gone wrong. Noah did it. God chose to work through the fathers of faith that began with Noah, extended through Jacob, and then through the descendants of Jacob in the children of Israel. God continues to work through individual heroes of faith in order to accomplish His plan for His creation.

Israel was chosen out of the people of the world in order to preserve a segment of society, and a moral environment for individual heroes of faith until the cross of the incarnate Son of God. Israel was chosen to fullfil promises to Abraham, our father of faith, until the Blessing that would come through him could redeem those who walk by faith (See Gn 12:1-4). The nation of Israel was chosen through Abraham even before its existence. God made this choice through Abraham in order to create a “spiritual Israel” after fleshly Israel as a nation was dissolved into the One who would be the Messiah for all people who walked by faith. Therefore, Israel, as a social environment for the remnant of the faithful, was only a means to an end. When the end came—Christ—then the means was termination, which termination included the special covenant relationship that God had with the nation of Israel. The faithful have since the cross moved again into a worldwide moral environment as it was from creation to national Israel. God is still focusing on individuals of faith who now make up the remnant of His people in this worldwide environment. (Do not forget this point for later discussions.)

It might be said that God chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to continue His purpose for the creation of the world, but ended up with Israel, a stiffnecked nation of people. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were men of great faith in a world environment that had morally gone wrong.

The cultural environment of Israel was as God identified them to Moses: “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiffnecked people” (Ex 32:9; 33:3-5). Even Moses confessed to God, “… go among us, for this is a stiffnecked people …” (Ex 34:9). And in reference to God giving Israel the land of Palestine, Moses stated to the Israelites, “Do not say in your heart …, ‘Because of my righteouness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land ….’ Not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart, do you go to posses their land … for you are a stiffnecked people” (Dt 9:4-6). But God used their “stiffnecked culture” to preserve a segment of humanity in order to bring His Redeemer into the world. If He could get a stiffnecked people headed in the right direction, then at least a remnant of faithfuls would survive until the fullness of time and the revelation of the Redeemer.

God used Israel to drive out the morally wicked who possessed the land “in order that He might accomplish,” as Moses said, “the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Dt 9:5). As we said, God chose the fathers of faith, but ended up with a stiffnecked people in order to bring the Savior of the world to those who have chosen to walk by faith. Nevertheless, Israel was used as a vehicle through whom God would seek to accomplish His purpose for the creation of the world. We learn something in God’s use of Israel that identifies how He works today. He can use the worst case scenario of this world in order to accomplish His mission. We must not think for a moment that the wickedness of man can in any way detour the plans of God for the purpose of this world and the destiny of His children.

Lecture 1: World As It Is

A WORLD VIEW WITHOUT A WORLD 

Unlike animals, man is an inquisitive being. And being inquisitive we wonder. Since we are moral beings in a world that is corrupted with moral chaos, we wonder why “in the world” are we here?

If we could answer the question as to why the world exists, and why we are here, then we can understand our purpose (mission) as children of God. And when we understand our purpose, then the world begins to make a great deal of sense, even to our finite minds. Since we are all wondering about who we are and why we are here, then it is incumbent upon all of us to ponder a few concepts that will help us to be more content with the state of things as they exist in this world.

 A.  The necessity of creation:

We would begin our quest to understand our existence by answering questions concerning the existence of a world that seems to have gone morally wrong. It is a world full of the most heinous violence that man can conceive against man. Genocide is a word that is found only in the dictionary of man, for no animal behaves in such a hideous manner. But we wonder why such behavior is uniquely characteristic with man.

These ponderings are all answered in one statement of Scripture: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). This, ironically, explains everything. We say “ironically” because we wonder how a world filled with hate could have originated from an eternal source of love. But the answer is simple. Love must have an object upon which to pour out love. And since God is love, then there must be those upon whom He can pour out His love. So here we are with all our moral warts, unconditionally loved by a loving Creator who seeks that we be with Him for eternity. In order to create creatures of love, we need an environment in which they can love. We need an individual who can make decisions of good and evil within this environment. Does this make any sense?

In order to be lovable, there must always be a response to love. In other words, when one says, “I love you,” the answer that is desired by the one who makes this statement is, “I love you, too.” In order that the statement “I love you, too” be sincere, there are conditions. The one upon whom God would shower His love must be truly free to say, “I love you, too.” If there is no freedom, then the responding statement to love would only be robotic. So we must be created truly free in order to make a sincere statement of love. Add to this the necessity that we must be in an environment wherein freedom to make such a statement is neither hindered nor programmed. This means that we must be truly free-moral individuals with the ability and freedom to make our own statements that are based on our own volition. This must be true since it would be difficult for God to love a pre-programmed robot.

B.  The curse of fallibility:

God knew that His free-moral creation would go wrong. Our free-moral freedom comes with this risk. This risk is based on the fact that truly free-moral people must be fallible. We are indeed human because we are fallible. And because it is not possible that a free-moral being could ever live without going wrong, then there had to be a plan in place before creation to reconcile the fallible to his infallible Creator. And so after the first sin of His first two free-moral and fallible beings, God said in Genesis 3:15 to the tempter of our fallibility, “And I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He will bruise your head, and you will bruise His heel” (Gn 3:15).

This is the first announcement for the purpose of the existence of the world and its inhabitants. It is ironic that the first statement in the Bible concerning man’s redemption from his fallibility was made to Satan, who, through temptation, led man from his innocence.

Love demanded creation. Creation demanded freedom. Freedom comes with the risk of sin. And sin demands redemption. If there was the need for redemption—and there was—then we would ask, “Redeemed for what?” All this is in the statement of Genesis 3:15. It was a plan conceived before the creation, but enacted only when the fullness of time came on a wooden cross outside the city limits of Jerusalem of Palestine. Sin first came, then the Son, and then, the salvation. But again, salvation from what and for what?

 C.  Signpost to our destination:

The concept of redemption for salvation means little to most people of the world. But it means something incredible to those who stand at the grave of a departed believer. What salvation means was revealed only a short time after the Creator confronted the first two fallible sinners in a garden of paradise. Their deportation from that garden, which was meant to be an eternal dwelling, reveals the original purpose for which creation was enacted. The eternal triune God said among themselves, “Behold, the man has become as one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, he must not be allowed to put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever (Gn 3:22). And therein is revealed the meaning of “salvation.”

Saved from sin without the promise of living forever is meaningless. In order to restore eternality to the created, there must be an answer for that which separates the created from the presence of the One who only has the gift of eternality. Therefore, in order for God to be a just God in the creation of man, then He had to provide the means by which the sin, which He knew would occur, could be rectified. The answer to the problem of fallibility had to be a sufficient means by which the fallible sinner could once again be restored to that which brings eternal life, that is, his walk with God. This is the salvation for which all of us yearn. We are told little when this drama was played out in the garden of Eden. But enough was revealed that all believers from that time were looking for a “crushing blow” that would rectify what was given up by two fallible people who resigned themselves to their own flaw of fallibility.

 

Lecture 3: Godly Giving

A JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

 Jesus’ mission during His ministry to the Jews was to lead them into a new paradigm (covenant) in their relationship with God. This meant two things: (1) He had to lead Israel to Himself as the Messiah (the Christ), and thus, the cross. (2) He had to prepare the Jews for the end of national Israel and their new covenant relationship with God (See Jr 31:31-33; Rm 7:1-4). The cross would end the old covenant. The destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 would end the Jewish state. Jesus’ ministry, therefore, was transitional in reference to God’s work among men on earth. God was transitioning His relationship that He had with all men from creation to the cross to a new era from the cross to the final coming of His Son. During this new era He would work with all mankind through Jesus Christ.

It is crucial to understand that Jesus’ ministry was a time of transition. During His ministry, Jesus made many statements concerning offerings that were meant to transition the thinking of the people to the time when they would accept Him as the Savior of the world. The Jews would be transitioned out of the legal structure of the Old Testament law in reference to offerings into a new covenant wherein there would be grace-motivated giving in response to the cross offering of Calvary. We thus understand Jesus’ teachings on giving during His ministry as teachings to bring the Jews to a time when they would not be governed by law under the Old Testament, but by the law of faith and grace that would, in the context of giving, move them to give far beyond the restrictions of a ten percent tithe. In fact, giving out of the motivation of grace would move them to give beyond their ability (See 2 Co 8:1-4; compare 1 Co 15:10).

 A.  Golden-rule giving:

On one occasion during His ministry, Jesus said to the Jews the following statement:

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, it will be poured into your lap. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured to you again (Lk 6:38).

Some misunderstand this passage. It is not that giving is an investment plan with God. In other words, some believe that the more they give, the more God will give to them as “interest” on deposited money. They give as if investing in the stock market. This is selfish giving. Our brethren who live in poverty stricken areas of the world would argue that this motive for giving has certainly not helped them financially.

Look at the passage again. Embedded in the statement is the “golden rule” in action. “All things whatever you want men to do to you, even so do also to them …” (Mt 7:12). Now look again at Luke 6:38 above. Jesus first speaks about our giving to others. When we measure out grain to another person, we must “press it down” and “shake it together” in order that a full measure is given. And then, Jesus said, go the extra mile by letting it run over the top of the container. If one does this in his business dealings with others, then others will do the same in return. However, if one tries to cheat a person on the amount of grain that is given for a specified price, then others will cheat you.

Christians must take the initiative to do that which is right and fair to others. Jesus said that they must initiate the lavish giving. They must do so in a manner that will be reflected in how people will return the gift. If this is done, then others will treat the Christian with respect. This is giving according to the golden rule; it is giving according to how one would like to receive. One should give as he would like others to give to him.

 B.  Grace-driven giving:

Jesus was once in Jerusalem, standing where people came to give the temple tax, which was required of everyone. “Now He looked up and saw the rich men putting their gifts into the treasury” (Lk 21:1). These who could afford to do so, were also contributing their tax. But there was no sacrifice in their giving.

 Then He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two small copper coins (Lk 21:2). The poor also came to pay what they were obligated to give. We might think that the poor should be exempt from the temple tax. After all, they were poor and had little of this world’s goods. But they were not exempt. So Jesus just stood there and allowed the poor widow to take ownership of the maintenance of the temple by doing that for which everyone was responsible and no one was exempt.

Jesus spoke concerning the widow’s contribution, “Of a truth I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all (Lk 21:3). It was “more than all,” because it was all that she had. Jesus said, “She out of her poverty has put in all the livelihood that she had (Lk 21:4). Mark’s account explains more of what the poor widow did. “… for they [the rich] all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, even all her living (Mk 12:44). The poor widow was as the Philippians, who would later after the cross, and out of their deep poverty, contributed beyond what was expected of them (2 Co 8:1-4). What makes poor people do this?

Jesus just stood there as the poor widow cast in all her livelihood. He did not tell the collectors to return her contribution. He did not because she was obligated to give, even out of her poverty. When one becomes a Christian, and considers what Jesus sanctioned in reference to the contribution of the poor widow, poverty can never be an excuse not to contribute to the financial function of the body of which one has become a member.

One does not become a member of the body of Christ in order to be financially supplied, but to supply the needs of others (see Ep 4:16). Those who cry out poverty in an attempt to exempt themselves from that which is their duty to do, need to talk to this poor widow. We would never consider robbing God by failing to return to Him what is rightfully His. The poor widow new that in order to take ownership of her relationship (partnership) with God, she had to sacrifice all that she had. No one else can pay for our partnership with God and fellowship with the universal body of Christ. If we do not give our gift for our partnership with God and the body of Christ, then we are not manifesting our thanksgiving for what He has done for us. This is why the poor Macedonian disciples begged Paul to take their contribution for the famine victims of Judea (See 2 Co 8:1-4; more later).

Christianity is about being godly. And godliness is about giving. If we are not giving as the poor widow, then certainly we are not seeking to live godly after the God who gave His only begotten Son in order to give us something that was free, but so costly on the part of Jesus. Our sacrifice for the work of God, therefore, is our signal to God that we want to partner with Him in His universal ministry to take the message of the cross to all the world.

It is interesting that the poor widow gave all her livelihood without any knowledge of the grace of God that would later be poured out on the cross by the One who stood by her as she cast in her thanksgiving gift. If she so gave simply to assume her responsibility as a faithful Jew, then how much more should we be willing to give as faithful Christians who have a full knowledge of the cross? Does her faithfulness in giving according to law bring judgment on our unwillingness to give in response to grace?

As Jesus took Israel to the gift of the grace that was revealed on the cross, He not only taught on the subject of giving, but He also, through the example of poor widows, sought to reveal that which was coming. Those who could be His disciples in the future would not live under the limitations of the legal tithing of the Old Testament law. The motive for the giving of His disciples would be increased greatly because of the grace that would be revealed. They would experience in the cross of Christ something that was far beyond their imagination. God would work something wonderful through His Son that would draw out of people giving beyond their imagination. Those who would seek to take ownership of the new covenant they have with God would no longer make their offerings according to law, but according to grace. And once one realizes his salvation by grace, there is no limit to what he will give, and thus, no limit to the joy of offering to God in response to what God has done for us through the cross. This is the secret to cheerful giving.

When we study through all the instructions in the New Testament concerning giving, the secret to understanding the Holy Spirit’s instructions is discovered in the reason why the poor widow was willing to give all her livelihood in order to take ownership of God’s business. The Christian does not now give according to law. He gives in order to take ownership of the new blood-bought covenant of grace that he now has with God. It is not that we are trying to buy legally into this covenant relationship with God. The opposite is the truth. Because we have come into this covenant through our obedience to the gospel, we now “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Ph 2:12). Since we have been saved by grace (Ep 2:8), we are now God’s “workmanship”(Ep 2:10). It is as someone said, “Man, you are now on the ship, so get to work with your contributions.”

In order to take ownership of the ship we are now on (the church), as the poor widow took ownership of her covenant relationship with God through the old covenant, we must understand that we are only stewards of all that we possess. Her sacrificial giving was a manifestation of her appreciation, not for the purpose of paying for an entry fee into the covenant, but in thanksgiving for the covenant. She gave in thanksgiving of the covenant that she and all Israel had with God. As the poor widow, the Christian manifests his appreciation through sacrifices in order to take ownership of the house of God, of which he is a part (See 1 Tm 3:15).

No matter how poor one might think he is, if he desires to be a part of Jesus’ ministry, and to show thanksgiving for the covenant of grace, he must respond to grace with a free-will offering according to how the grace was freely and lavishly poured out on him. However, if we seek to respond to the free and indescribable grace of God through law giving, then we have not yet discovered the spirit of cheerful giving. When preachers cry to the people to give their tithe (tenth) according to law, they are actually cheating the people of cheerful giving according to grace.

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NOBLE STUDENT RESEARCH: To all the students who want further information on the passing of the Old Testament Covenant that God had with the nation of Israel, please read Law and Covenants, Book 6, Biblical Research Library, www.africainternational.org

 

Introduction: World As It is

Our world view determines how we view the world in which we live. Our world view is that mentally deep-seated, sometimes subliminal view of all things that determines our values and our behavior. Our world view is developed through our social experiences and education. If our experiences and education are dysfunctional in our relationship with our Creator, then we will view our lives, and the world in which we live, from a distorted point of view. Our values and behavior will follow. This is a particular problem with those who do not have God and His word in the formation of their world view. But for those who do, it is still often difficult to look beyond the twisted morals, philosophies and theologies within society in order to see the world as it is in God’s eternal purpose to bring inhabitants of this world into His eternal presence. In order to correctly form our world view, it is essential to saturate ourselves with God’s word. The more knowledge we have of His communication to us through His word, and the more we implement that word in our lives, the better we will understand the world that He created for us. And the better we understand our world, the more patient and steadfast we will be as His children until this world has fulfilled its purpose, and is gone.

 Have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t worry. It will get worse before it get’s better”? We live in a world that seems to have all gone wrong with no hope of anything getting better. When we factor in the consequences of sin, it is not hard to believe this. In fact, if we were to ask those Christians to whom the letter of Revelation was written, they would agree with the forecast that it is going to be a gloomy future. It would get worse for them before it got better. What was coming was not good. John’s literary picture of the future for the Christians of that age was that things were definitely going to get worse before it got better. That is why the Holy Spirit lifted John’s hand to write the prophecy of the letter.

Though there was gloom and doom in the future, the message of Revelation was one of hope. In the midst of a future that seemed to be only gloom, the angel’s message to those early Christians and us through John will always be, “These will make war with the Lamb and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings. And those who are with Him are called and chosen and faithful (Rv 17:14). We must never forget this. Though news reporters would continually flood our minds with pictures and reports of sin ravaging the world in which we live, there is an undeniable hope for those who believe. There is always hope for those who side themselves with the King and Lord of all things. The “better” may not be of this world, but it will certainly be in the new heavens and earth to come. So hang in there.

We would now sit back for a moment and take another look at some of those forces that seem to “make war with the Lamb.” As Christians, we see the futility of the efforts of those who would steal away peace from our world. Those social anarchists who would presumptuously walk contrary to the word of God are viewed through the eyes of the Lamb as futile enemies of truth. The angel of Revelation would proclaim their efforts to be futile if they would set themselves against those who are more than conquerors through the One who loved us. Their efforts are futile in reference to that which we yearn, eternal life. They are futile because of the statement, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rm 8:31).

Though we might come to the conclusion that all that is happening can only come to a gloomy end, we must remember that the final outcome of all things will be victory for those who are in Christ. We are not one of those prognosticators who would instill fear in hearts concerning the “signs of the times” in order to generate repentance and fill church houses and coffers. We are of the assembly of the victorious who remain faithful because of the cross of grace that was revealed outside Jerusalem over two thousand years ago. Our faith is built on what He did for us, not on what we can do for Him in response to fear of present and impending dangers, either imagined or real. We will continue to believe that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rm 8:37).

As we work through the concepts of this series of study, we must focus on the God-defined purpose of this world. God is working. He has headed us toward heaven. Though our world may seem somewhat chaotic at times, we must always remember that out of chaos will come better things. We must never be tempted, as the Hebrew Christians, to turn back from Jesus as a result of present tribulation. We must make a bold statement as the Hebrew writer made after reviewing a series of better things we have in Christ: “But we are not of those who draw back to destruction, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul (Hb 10:39).