I Am the “Chief of Sinners”

good_vs_evil_by_kweku.jpg

 

“I am the chief of sinners”

These words of Paul are often quoted from the pulpit to convince Christians that they are the most evil sinners ever. I have personally heard it used by a pastor describing himself and it was truly tragic. They then directed that verse toward the congregation and suggested that we should all believe this about ourselves!

Yet, we are told that we are already New Creatures and the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus! (2 Cor.5:16-21)

Unfortunately religious Christianity still tries to guilt and shame people into the arms of Father God instead of declaring the glory of the Gospel, which is incredibly Good News! The only possible explanation is that their intentions are great, but their theology…not so much.

One of the aspects of this wonderful Gospel that Paul preached was that Jesus made us saints by faith. We don’t make ourself saints (literally holy ones) because no one can make themselves as holy as Father God. Only Jesus was able to consecrate us to God and that’s exactly what he did! Hebrews 10:1-14 describes this in OT language that conveys how our High Priest, Jesus took us into the Father’s Presence in his own body and sanctified us forever! (Sanctified literally means “to make holy”.)

 

 

WHO WAS THE CHIEF OF SINNERS?

 

Let’s first consider the verse as translated by some versions. 1 Timothy 1:15 ~

NIV ~ “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.”

Does it say that Paul considered himself the “worst of sinners”? True, this is how many versions interpret the Greek word “protos”. But out of the 32 times that exact word and tense were used in the NT, not one other time was it translated “worst”. Why this time? Probably because of a sin-conscious bias, but that’s none of my business…

 

The Truth is that this word “protos” is always translated “chief” or “first” elsewhere. First is not about quantity or quality but chronology. Paul was merely stating, that he was the first of sinners to get completely wrecked by the mercy of God.

Perhaps the most accurate word for word Bible in print; the Young’s Literal Translation ~ “stedfast is the word, and of all acceptation worthy, that Christ Jesus came to the world to save sinners — first of whom I am;

That’s pretty hard to understand so let’s go with a happy middle-ground in the ESV. We need to also start a few verses earlier to understand the context of what exactly Paul was describing. So many times, people simply throw out one bizarre sounding verse without respect to the intent of the writer. I have heard it said “whenever you take the text out of context, all you are left with is a con.”

1 Timothy 1:12-16 ~ “12I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”

Paul was admitting his wicked past in v.13a, because he had previously dedicated his life to persecuting God’s children! But, he did so in unbelief and ignorance. That was the reason he received mercy (v.13b) and then in v.16 he restated why he received mercy.

The reason he received mercy was because of 1 Timothy 1:15. He received mercy because he was the first of sinners that Jesus was displaying his perfect patience (via Paul) as an example. You were not the first of sinners that Jesus was using as an example to those who believe. Paul was. Neither you nor I persecuted the saints from house to house. Paul did.

Yes, we were all sinners. Yes, Jesus came in to the world to save sinners (plural) but there was only one first of sinners that God was revealing his patient mercy through and that was the man whom he changed to a saint. This “first of sinners” was Saul who became the saint Paul; who eventually wrote almost half the NT. Scriptures.

 

 

PAUL’S TRUE OPINION OF BELIEVERS ~ 

 

So we see that Paul did not call everyone “the first of sinners”, but he did call them sinners that Jesus came to save. This begs the question ~ “are believers still sinners?”

Consider that Paul never once called any believer a sinner. Not one time did Paul call even the carnal church of Corinth sinners. He actually started both letters to Corinth by addressing them as “saints’. In 6 of Paul’s epistles, he called them saints within the introduction of the the first chapter (*see below*). In total, Paul called them “Saints” (which literally means “holy ones”) almost 40 times. Never once did he call them sinners. Yes there were many verses in the NT where Paul can be quoted saying they “were” sinners. But every single instance was where Paul was clearly speaking of their existence before the Cross. The Cross made all the difference in the world!

 

*Paul’s 6 introductions addressing believers as “saints”*

Some of these need to be read from a literal translation and not a watered-down version or paraphrase like the NLT.

Romans 1:7

1 Corinthians 1:2 

2 Corinthians 1:1

Ephesians 1:1

Philippians 1:1

Colossians 1:2

 

 

WHAT’S THE POINT?

The point is that God has made us and declares us holy saints. Remember that Peter said ~ “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…” The Gospel does not merely call us to live holy. First the Gospel reveals that God has made us holy so that we may live holy! An unholy creature cannot live holy. A sinner can’t live like a saint. Jesus first made us good by his accomplishment initiated upon the Cross and that’s why we can live holy and righteous!

These holy and righteous actions must be founded upon a holy and righteous foundation. Jesus laid the foundation of our identity in him. Now we renew our minds in the truth of who we are in Christ (Eph.4:23,24) and identify with the holy, righteous person that we are in him so that we can bear good fruit!

Anything less is not the Gospel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Law of the Kingdom

Michaelangelos-Sistine-Chapel

 

Remember the time that the religious Jewish leaders tried to trap Jesus? First the Sadducees sent one of theirs with a trick question. (Matt. 22:21-33) As usual, Jesus stunned the crowds with his profound wisdom. So, the Pharisees sent a “Lawyer”, which was literally an expert on the Law…

35One of them, an expert in the Law, tested him by asking, 36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

It’s important to notice that they did not ask about the Gospel. They specifically asked Jesus about the greatest commandment in *The Law*. Jesus did not come to bring the Law. Moses and the Prophets brought the Law, but Jesus came to fulfill the Law. He came to complete it in every aspect! Which is exactly what he did. But remember that Jesus was answering their question concerning the Law and not the Gospel.

37Jesus told him, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the greatest and most important commandment. 39The second is exactly like it: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Is the greatest commandment still “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…?”

 

NEW COVENANT GIVEN ~

 

Immediately before Jesus went to the Cross, he ate “The Last Passover Supper” with his 12 disciples. After Jesus washed their feet and initiated the “Lord’s Supper”, he dismissed Judas, the betrayer. Then and only then did Jesus finally reveal the inauguration of the New Covenant!

“Drink from it, all of you, 28because this is my blood of the new covenant that is being poured out for many people for the forgiveness of sins.” ~ Matt.26:27b,28

“and the cup likewise, after having supped, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is being poured out for you.” Luke 22:20

My favorite was the Apostle John’s perspective on the evening. John recorded profound truths that the other 3 did not. This was all inspired by the Holy Spirit, but for some reason, God kept the best for last. John didn’t write his until over a decade after the others. Where the other 3 recorded a few verses concerning this intimate occasion between the Lord and his faithful 11, John recorded 4 amazing chapters!

John 13-17 are among the most important chapters in the entire Bible.

Why?

Firstly because only John recorded the single New Covenant Commandment. Remember that Moses gave 10 commandments at Mt. Sinai when they received the Mosaic Covenant and Law. Abraham was given One Commandment of circumcision when he received His Covenant. None of those are in effect for the New Covenant believer because they were all fulfilled by the One. Jesus fulfilled those in himself and therefore was the only One able to give us the New! Neither Matthew, Mark or Luke record the words of the Lord Jesus’ “New Commandment”.

 

WHAT IS THE ONE COMMAND?

 

34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

There is so much meat in this one command. I want to break this down by a few points.

  1. It expects more than the Law.
  2. It demonstrated Love fulfilled.
  3. It provides whereas the Law demanded.

 

  1. Is more required?

Yes and no. Let’s deal with the “yes” first. The Law was summarized by ~ “Love the Lord your God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt.22:40)

This was a good thing, but it does demand a lot! All of the emphasis is on how much the person must do. They were required to love God with all of *their ability*. They were required to love their neighbor to the extent that they loved themselves. However, we are *now* told to go above and beyond that love in the Law and love each other “to the extent” that Jesus loved! 

Jesus loved the world with a greater love than any person could ever work up on their own. No human could ever manufacture that powerful love!

Jesus just took the “love Law” to a whole ‘notha level!

It’s not enough to merely love people as you love yourself. Under the Law, the love that they had for themselves was actually inadequate. Even, if they were able to not break the law and therefore not sin; they would’ve all still fallen short of his glory! God expects us to love with his perfect love. God can finally ask that from us because he first demonstrated it. Perfect love, which is the highest law, has been revealed.

 

2. How was perfect love revealed?

God’s love for us had not been fully made known before the Cross. “This is how God’s love was revealed among us: God sent His one and only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.”  ~ 1 John 4:9 The Cross is how God revealed his love!


“This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” ~ 1 John 4:10 
Now we see that love is not first from us to God, but initiated from God to us! Once more~ 19We love, because He first loved us.” God made the first move. We simply respond. Our entire Faith depends on this Truth. The Law could not reveal this, it could only reveal people’s inability! (Romans 3:20)

God redefined love by revealing it in himself, in the flesh of Jesus, the Word of God. Love is not what you do for God; it’s what God has done for us!

Back to Jesus’ words before the Cross ~ John 15:12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 

No greater love had ever before been known to mankind! God, as a man, laid down his life for his friends. Even though the world hated him, Jesus was a friend to them and laid down his life for everyone. This was a greater love than the Law was able to reveal…and we are expected to love one another with the same selfless love that Jesus showed in his life.

But there is so much Good News in this. Because this Gospel functions differently than the Law. The Law was so focused on demanding from people! But, the Gospel doesn’t expect without providing….

 

3. How does the New Covenant provide?

 

This is where the Gospel says “no” to demanding more than the Law. Because where the Law commanded, the Gospel empowers! Why can God ask us to love one another with the full capacity of his love? Because not only has God now demonstrated love. He has given us his love in the Holy Spirit!

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God…” 1 John 3:1b

Do we see it? This Gospel is so much more than salvation from hell and the promise of Heaven. He has granted us the right to be his heirs in life (now) because we are his children. That’s something that we can continually hope for in spite of any negative circumstances in our lives because we know He’s working it out for our good.

Romans 5:5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

The Holy Spirit shines the love of God in our hearts and continually empowers us as we trust him. The Holy Spirit has many aspects. He was the “7-fold anointing” that remained on Jesus and empowered him. The Spirit of wisdom, revelation, fear of the Lord, knowledge of God, counsel, Spirit of the Lord and the Spirit of power! (Isaiah 11:1-3)

Paul spoke of the Holy Spirit this way ~ “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Power and the Spirit of love that God has released in us! God’s love is not something that we have to work up, it’s something that we merely abide in. Remember that we perceive God’s love in Jesus life and death. He has given us this great love by his Holy Spirit in us and we respond by consenting to this Truth!

John 15:9 “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.”

This sums it all up perfectly! This one small verse summarizes all 3 aspects of the New Commandment. It reveals God’s love demonstrated. It articulates the One Command’s expectations and it provides the key to fulfilling God’s requirement.

“Abide in my love.”

This one simple truth is truly much more than being nice to people. 1 Corinthians 13 described the reality that love is much more than mere actions. True Agape love is definitely not a feeling. It’s the very motivation of all the God is and has ever done. It’s the perfection of God manifested in human flesh. And it’s only possible by first believing in God’s infinite love.

 

FOCUS ON HIS LOVE FOR YOU ~

 

In Ephesians 3 Paul prayed ~16I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.17Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.19May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Do you want to be completely perfect and filled with God?

Abide in love.

That’s the long and the short of what Paul was describing in these profound passages. It’s not complicated. This is a Simple Gospel!

1 John 4: 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.12No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. “

Abide in love. Whoever abides in love abides in God because God is love.

Whoever does not love does not know God.

Beloved, Be loved and be love. Perceive the Love that God has for us which he demonstrated in Christ. Believe it with all your heart and don’t let anything shake you from the Truth that God always loves you and receive his love for yourself. Then and only then can we fulfill the Perfect Law to love one another to the extent that Jesus loved!

John 15:9“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.” ~ Jesus

 

 

When Paul Preached the Gospel to Peter

sts-peter-and-paul

 

Peter was born-again and Holy Spirit-filled, but he still had some Law tendencies in him. Paul was passionate about his church not being influenced by that legalistic leaven and very clearly corrected him.

The message ~ A Law mentality only exposes the sinfulness of sin in our lives because the Law cannot reveal righteousness. The Gospel reveals how grace empowers us over sin because the Gospel revealed approval with God by faith alone.

THE WEAKNESS OF THE LAW~

Romans 7:13 stated that the purpose of sin was to show the exceeding sinfulness of sin! Notice that it does not say to show the sinfulness of *the sinner*! No. The nonreligious sinner needs more than sin exposed. They know their own wicked deeds. Their own heart and conscience testifies against them. What they lack is a revelation of God! They need to perceive his goodness (which draws them to repentance). God needed to expose his love!

Back to Romans 7:13 where it said that the purpose of the Law was to expose the sinfulness of sin! The Law revealed what sin truly was. Sin brought death, pain, misery, etc… Sin made people feel disconnected from God. The Law perfectly exposed all of this.

Romans 3:20 and 7:7 clearly declared that “The Law brought knowledge of sin.” This word is more than information about sin. It’s relationship with sin that the Law brought! The same kind of knowledge of God that we have through intimacy with God. The same kind of “knowing” that Adam had with his wife Eve when she conceived. It’s not a head knowledge. The Law gave people an intimate relationship with sin because it empowered sin in their lives! (Romans 7:8-13) Consider 1 Corinthians 15:”56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“The power of sin is the Law!” If we preach a mixed Gospel with even an ounce of Law in it, we empower sin! Unfortunately the Law gives sin more power in a persons life.

 

 THE POWER OF GOD IS THE GOSPEL!

“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for *IT* is the power of God unto salvation…” (Romans 1:16)

Why is the Gospel the power of God?

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith!” Romans 1:17

Remember that the Messianic Jews Paul was writing too were more well versed in the Law than they were the Gospel. They had lived for generations with the Law and were deeply entrenched in the Law mindset. They believed that righteousness was according to the Law! It took some of them a long time to renew their minds in the truth of the Gospel.  We just saw that the Law could only expose sin. Let’s check out how the Law failed to reveal righteousness before we continue on into the unveiling of righteousness by faith.

UNABLE TO REVEAL RIGHTEOUSNESS ~

Paul rebuked Peter to his face for coming to Antioch and refraining from eating with the Gentiles because of fear towards the religious Jewish rules. Paul recorded this in Galatians 2:11-14 and immediately unleashed one of his most simple truths in the following verses.

Paul (a Messianic Jew) probably still speaking to Peter (another Messianic Jew) ~ “15“We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”

Although they were both Jews who knew the Law and were even born under the Law, their justification (righteousness) was not through the Law but through faith! Paul continued ~

“18“For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19“For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

V.18 made it clear that they could not rebuild the Law because they died *to the Law* in Christ! (Don’t try to understand it, it takes faith to believe this miracle.) They were dead to the Law because v. 21 revealed that Christ death would have been in vain if righteousness were possible through works of the Law!

So now we know that the Law was truly unable to reveal/give righteousness (which is, among other things, approval with God). Thank you Peter for missing it so much that Paul had the opportunity to clearly reveal such profound revelation! How great is the mercy of God our Father!?

RIGHTEOUSNESS REVEALED ~

Ok. I’ve hinted at this from Romans 1 and Galatians 2. Since these were all accounts recorded towards Messianic Jews (who had been born under the Law), I will continue in that thought via Romans 10.

Romans 9-11 is Paul’s clarification concerning the Jewish people and on Chapter 10 he greatly elaborates on 2 things.
1. Faith
2. Righteousness

This is one of the main points of the entire letter to the Romans and it completely captures what Paul had started talking about way back in Romans 1:16-17. (And you may think I’m longwinded…haha)

Paul wrote concerning the Jews in Romans 10: ~ “1Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them (The Jews) is for their salvation. 2For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.” *This knowledge is *not* information because they had the Law! This knowledge is “epignosis” which is that intimate knowing that I very briefly mentioned above.*

They had zeal and knowledge, but not relationship.

Next verses ~ ” 3For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone believing!”

That moment is like the Death Star being destroyed in A New Hope.

Trying to perform righteousness by the Law and works was equivalent to ignoring the righteousness of God and establish manmade righteousness! But Christ is “The End” of the Law for righteousness to everyone believing! The Greek word for the end is more literally “The Consummation” or the “end goal” or “purpose”.

The Law didn’t just end like a movie is over. The Law’s complete purpose was fully realized in Christ and righteousness has been revealed!

HOW?

By faith.

Not by works. Law or otherwise. Not even by works according to the Sermon on the Mount!

Are you hearing this? Recall that Jesus had said in the S.O.M. ~ 20“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” 

The righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees was the righteousness of the Law. Our righteousness that surpasses that is the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus!

Approval with God is not by anything we could ever do! Even if we perfectly fulfill every instruction that Jesus ever spoke to the Jews in that generation, we could not gain one ounce of approval with God.

We have approval with God by faith.

Jesus is our faith. We do not have faith in anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ himself!

We are perfectly righteous because of Jesus forever and we cannot add to that or take away from it!

I wanted to jump into how the Gospel revealed that grace (through righteousness) now empowers us to overcome sin, but I need to wrap up one more point on righteousness.

Everyone who has believed is already in Christ with every spiritual blessing. ( Especially in Eph.1:3, 2:6 but also in Col.3:1-3 & Rom. 6:5-11)

God has already reconciled us to himself because we are in Christ and he made us the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:14-21) but it will probably help you to intentionally receive his free gift of righteousness. Let me be clear ~ All who have been born-again by receiving the Holy Spirit have the gift of righteousness. According to those verses in 2 Cor.5, not only are we righteous but God has made us the righteousness of God! We are already a completely new Creation.

But, it may help *you* (not God) to acknowledge it before the Lord. It may increase your faith in what God has already given you.

 

FOREVER RIGHTEOUS BY THE GIFT ~

 

I first heard this revelation of righteousness from an Andrew Wommack teaching (which is free at AWMI.net) and 3 years ago, it changed my life forever! Romans 5:17 opened my the eyes of my heart forever ~
” 17For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”

 

HOW DID I RECEIVE RIGHTEOUSNESS?

 

First consider a few verses in Romans 10 ~

“6But the righteousness based on faith speaks…”
” 8But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation”

“17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”

All of these passages emphasize not just believing, but speaking (and therefore hearing) the Faith. It helps *us* (not God) when we speak the Truth about what God has said about us because it increases our faith in what God has already done!

Remember that God has already given us everything to pertaining to life and Godliness (2 Peter 1:1-4) but that passage revealed that we partake of all these aspects of his divine nature through the knowledge (relationship) with him.

So I began to praise and worship God for giving me his righteousness in Christ! For a few months I was in euphoria because for a few years I had been seeking “primarily the Kingdom of God and his righteousness” and truly I had been unable to find it. His ways are beyond searching out! Who can know them?

Hahaha…and that is true.

But they are not beyond him revealing them. It is the Father’s good pleasure (his perfect will!) to give you the Kingdom. ~ Jesus.

Jesus also said that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth would guide us into all truth and convince us of righteousness because Jesus has gone to the Father! (and he has taken us with him/in him. Yup, It takes faith to believe that miracle too.) John 16:5-15

Romans 14:17 ~ “The Kingdom of God is not food or drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Simply believe and receive what you have already been given.

This Wicked and Perverse Generation

O-Jerusalem-1

 

This page is merely a list of the 25 times that Jesus used the word “generation” in the Scriptures. Every single reference was to the Jews living at that time. Out of these 25 times all but one was prophesying “gloom and doom”. For these 24 times, the context was always before the Cross (which took place around 30AD) and it was always used negatively towards those unbelieving Jews.

All verses were taken from the NASB. If you click on the Book and Chapter number, it will connect you to the Book and Chapter. If you click on the Verse number, it will take you to the parallel of 30-some versions of the Bible for that exact verse.

 

MATTHEW ~

 

Matthew 11:16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children…”

Matthew 12: 39″But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet…”

Twice in Matthew 12:41 & 42 ~41“The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.”

Matthew 12:45“Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”

Matthew 16:4“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away.”

Matthew 17:17And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.”

Matthew 23:36Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”

Matthew 24:34“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”

 

MARK ~

 

Twice in Mark 8:12″Sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, “Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”

Mark 8:38“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

Mark 9:19″And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!”

Mark 13:30“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”

 

LUKE ~ 

 

Luke 7:31“To what then shall I compare the men of this generation, and what are they like? 

Luke 9:41″And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” 

Five times in Luke 1129-32″As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. 30“For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31“The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32“The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”

Twice in Luke 11:50-51 “so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.”

Luke 17:25“But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”

Luke 21:32“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place.”

 

If you made it this far, you probably noticed that many of these are repeats within the different authors. You may also be wondering about the one other occasion that Jesus mentioned “generation”. Here it is ~ Luke 16:8 “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. “

 

That is every occasion that we have recorded of Jesus using the word “generation”. Based on this overwhelming evidence, who do you think he meant when he said ~

Matthew 23:36Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”

Matthew 24:34“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Signs of the Times

Why didn’t the Apostles flee the persecution from the religious leaders? Acts 7 details how Stephen was the first martyr after the Lord’s death, resurrection and ascension. According to Acts, the young church appears to still have been staying within Jerusalem at that point. It was only a few years after the Lord’s Ascension in the mid 30’s AD and that was all about to change.

Acts 8:1,3 ~  1Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him (Stephen) to death.
And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles… 3But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.”

That was the day that started a great persecution. Interestingly, all of the believers fled Jerusalem except the Apostles! Why?

Fleeing persecution would’ve seemed like the logical thing to do. The rest of the church did. Yet, the rest of the church was almost entirely new believers. Most of them were people that gave their lives to the Lord after his Ascension. Maybe they did not remember (or even know) the words of Jesus like the Apostles did. After all, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John would not be written for a few decades. It’s important to remember how much Jesus emphasized to the faithful 11 that they abide in his words and keep his words. Immediately before he went to the Cross in John 13-17, he gave them very profound promises that not everyone else heard. Let’s recall some of the words of Jesus to shed some light on this mystery…

 

 

WHAT SHOULD THEY DO ABOUT PERSECUTION FROM THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS?

 

Remember immediately before “The Olivet Discourse” when Jesus rebuked the religious Jewish leaders and warned them about the destruction of the Temple? Consider one of the things he prophesied to them at the end of his “8 woes” warning ~ “You serpents, you offspring of vipers, how will you escape the judgment of Gehenna?”34Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify; and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city…” (Matthew 24:33,34)

Around 30 AD about a week before the Cross, Jesus prophesied that they (those religious leaders listening) would kill some of his Apostles. At this point, he was not speaking to his disciples. Surely they were listening, but they were not being addressed. The Religious leaders alive at that time were the ones being directly spoken too.

Then in next chapter, in the middle of the actual “Olivet Discourse”, Jesus warned the soon-to-be Apostles that the religious leaders would kill some of them. It’s important to notice that all of “The Olivet Discourse” was spoken directly to the Disciples in response to their questions regarding his warning in the previous chapter. (See Matt.24:1-4 for context)

Matthew 24: 9“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.” (Also see John 15:18-25John 16:1-4 for his warnings to the faithful 11 during the “Last Passover Supper”)

Doesn’t sound very promising does it? Yet in all of this, they were not instructed to flee. Not yet, at least…

 

 

 

WHAT ABOUT TRIBULATION FROM THE WORLD?

 

Also tucked away within the middle of the “Olivet Discourse” was Jesus’ warning that they (the soon-to-be Apostles, that were currently listening to his words) would be persecuted by the worldly leaders. Interestingly, there was an order to Jesus’ prophesy. For whatever reason, neither Matthew nor John recorded this, but Luke and Mark provided unique insight.

Mark 13:9 A ~ So be on your guard. You will be handed over to the councils and beaten in the synagogues…” 

First ~ The councils (Jewish) and synagogues. We saw this against Stephen in Acts 7 , but also specifically the word council was used in Acts 5:17 -27 . when Peter was imprisoned, miraculously released, brought before the council and publicly beaten.

Recall the words of Jesus, to the religious leaders in Matt.23:34 “Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify; and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues…”

These prophecies were so accurate it’s amazing. But it gets even more profound when we finish the last half of Mark 13:9, which I began to quote from above. ~ “So be on your guard. You will be handed over to the councils and beaten in the synagogues. On My account, you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.” 

After they would be handed over to the councils and beaten in the Synagogues, they would stand before the worldly rulers. Watch as we see that, once again, Acts confirmed this prophecy happened (even in the exact order) as Jesus had declared.

Church historians agree that this took place in the early 40’s AD. Acts 12 ~1It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.”

So everything was beginning to go down exactly as Jesus prophesied. Yet, nowhere in Acts do the Apostles flee Jerusalem! Because, there was one crucial element that all 3 synoptics agreed on. Immediately after the warning about persecution from the Jewish leaders and the worldly leaders, all 3 declared the same thing would happen! But first, Let me again emphasize, that all 3 recorded these words after Jesus’ prophesied they would be persecuted by the Jewish leaders and stand before the worldly leaders. ~

 

 

WHAT WAS THE SIGN TO FINALLY FLEE?

 

Matthew 24:15 ~ “Therefore when you shall see ‘the abomination of desolation,’ having been spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place—the one reading, let him understand— 16*then* those in Judea, let them flee to the mountains”

Mark 13:14 ~ “So when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”

 

The final warning sign was “the abomination that brings desolation” (as Daniel 12:11 had prophesied). Yet, once again, Luke had a slightly different vantage point concerning the same event. Please understand that I am not undermining their varied perspectives, but attempting to bring unity by adding clarity. ~

Luke 21:20“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near.21“Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city…

Matthew and Mark said the sign to flee was “the abomination of desolation”. Luke said the sign of Jerusalem’s “desolation” was when the city was surrounded by armies. I am sure that you have heard just as many weird teachings that I have concerning “The Abomination of Desolation” in our future. Yet Jesus made it very clear to them that all of this would go down in their lifetime.

Matthew 24:34 ~“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”

In Matthew thru John, Jesus was recorded using the word “generation” exactly 28 times. 27 of those times were rebukes or warnings directly towards those people living at that time. Here is a list that I have taken the time to personally compile of those 27 times. You will have to read the surrounding verses for yourself to better consider the proper context.

The Truth is that the Apostles clearly believed Jesus’s words, even when the rest of the church did not!

The Apostles endured the predicted persecution from the Jewish leaders and did not flee Jerusalem. They defied the worldly leaders and did not flee. Yet, they had all fled before Rome sacked Jerusalem in 70 AD. Why?

Because according to Luke and the Apostles actions, the abomination of desolation was understood to be connected with the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem. John Wesley, was among many other Christians who have studied these events within Scriptures and ancient writings to reach the same conclusion. These included Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD), Eusebius (263-339) Athanasius (296-372), Augustine (379), Chrysostom (379), Jerome (347-420), and Remigius (437-533).

According to Secular and Christian history*** it is believed that the Christians fled Jerusalem when many abominations occurred Rome attacked first attacked Jerusalem in 66AD. Rome inexplicably retreated after only 2 months of battle according to Josephus. But Rome returned and 3.5 years later (yes, 42 months or 1,260 days for those of you who recall specific times frames referenced in Daniel and Revelation). Jerusalem was finally overcome and destroyed by Roman armies and Jewish zealots. The harlot was burned from within and from without.

Not all of the Christians believed Jesus’ words at first. Some fled at the first sign of persecution. But the Apostles obeyed completely to the end. Even to “The end of the Age”. They faithfully declared the end of the age and destruction of the Temple “in their generation” and God proved himself faithful because it happened within 40 years (one generation) of Jesus’ words.

 

 

 

 

 

LINKS AND CREDITS ~

***FLIGHT FROM JERUSALEM In this link we see that many Christians throughout church history are aware of this truth. Names like ~ John Gill, Thomas Newton, Charles Spurgeon, Charles Finney and John Lightfoot. Adam Maarschalk goes into even more detail here.

 

Thanks to Dr. Jonathan Welton at Welton Academy for clearly teaching this. Also for his free E-book “Raptureless” for introducing me to Preterism. Click here for the Link to “Raptureless”

Thanks too Adam Maarschalk and “Pursuing Truth” for his extensive research and articulate teachings at AdamMaarschalk.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lies of Satan

Garden of Eden - Fall of Man

 

We know that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He called the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth that will guide us into all truth. John also wrote that The Holy Spirit teaches us only what is true and there is no lie in him. Conversely, Jesus called Satan the father of lies because everything he says is a lie. Jesus said that Satan has been a liar from the beginning. (God did not create him a liar, because God cannot lie; but at some point in the beginning, Satan must have chosen to be a liar.)

It’s this foundation of Satan’s lies that I want to explore. I believe that we all “hear” with our “spiritual ears” lies from the devil everyday and are not even aware of it most of the time. Is it possible that anytime we entertain criticism of another believer; we are actually engaged in a conversation with the “accuser of the brethren”?

My point is not to overemphasize the voice of the devil because Jesus, the Word of God, is the Good Shepherd and we are his sheep. Jesus said that his sheep will 1. Hear his voice 2. Know his voice 3. Follow him (his voice and not merely a book). I simply want to highlight a few of Satan’s favorite lies that are attempts to prevent us from doing so.

 

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

 

Have you ever done something controversial and heard an authority figure challenge you with the question “Who do you think you are?!?” Challenging the believer’s identity is one of Satan’s most frequent tactics. It’s an attempt to undermine the core of the person’s being and replace it with an inferior identity complex.

Consider the very first temptation recorded towards Jesus, immediately after his baptism of the Holy Spirit. It’s important to always build on what God says; so we will start from the words of the Father as he blessed the Son and the Holy Spirit rested on him.

Mark 1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.10Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; 11and a voice came out of the heavens: “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

God the Father declared openly that Jesus is his beloved Son. The same is true of you because God has qualified you and transferred you out of the kingdom of darkness into the reign of his beloved Son! 

This is a foundational truth about you; just as it is about Jesus and the deceiver immediately attacks it! (Next verse) 12Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. 13And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan…

Mark did not describe the actual temptations, but Matthew recorded the first two starting with three very devious words ~3And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

Even Jesus’ faith was attacked by the devil. In this case, it was Jesus’ faith in the words of God spoken by the Father about his identity. But, satan didn’t openly question the Father’s words; he did it subversively. His attack against our identity is a covert operation. Satan could’ve said ~ “You are not the Son of God.” But that would’ve be to obvious, so Satan challenged Jesus to prove who he was by his works instead of faith.

The truth about who you are is not based on what you do. That may be the way the world considers truth, but in the Kingdom, our identity is based on who God says we are, even in spite of what we do. We are sons of God because of faith and not because of works.

 

“Don’t try and find your destiny before you find your identity. If you do, you’ll try to find your identity in your destiny.” —Norm McLeod

 

 

ARE YOU CERTAIN OF GOD’S WORDS?

 

This lie is closely associated with the previous lie because we cannot be established in our true identity if we are uncertain of God’s message about us. This is what Satan assaulted in the Garden.

First, what God had said ~ Genesis1:16The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die…”

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

Not only did the deceiver question whether they had really heard God’s voice, but he threw a twist on God’s words. Surely Satan knew exactly what God had said, but he wanted to do more than tempt them. He wanted to deceive them concerning “what” God had truly said, so he added to God’s instruction. God told them not to eat from one certain tree and Satan added the idea that God may (or may not have) told them to eat from any of the trees.

So the father of lies tried to create doubt about 1. Whether God had actually spoken to them. 2. Whether they had truly heard God clearly 3. Regarding what exactly God had instructed.

Satan’s tactics haven’t change much, have they? All of these lies are like branches of one deceptive tree. They all bear bad fruit in our lives when we function according to any of these ideas. However, I believe none of them are the root problem. The source behind all of these lies that Satan desires to build on is actually the true character of God.

 

GOD IS NOT GOOD ~

 

If you think about the lies that Satan whispered, they all have this one subversive theme woven into their core. They question the goodness of God.

At Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness~ “Does God truly love you like a Son? You haven’t even done anything yet! Prove you are God’s Son by doing something.”

In the garden ~“Did God really make this entire garden and restrict you from eating it’s delicious fruit? Surely, God lied about you dying! God is holding back from you guys because he wants to keep the best for himself. He doesn’t want you to be as awesome as he is, but if you disobey him; you will be…”

Every single temptation that the liar has ever concocted really attacks the truth concerning the good nature of God. The truth is that God is good and all he does is good!

Because God is love. Whenever something in life challenges the goodness of God, ask him to show you his goodness in it. When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God did so by letting his goodness pass before him. Moses never saw God, but in that moment it’s like Jesus (God in the flesh) walked past Moses. Jesus said that if we have seen (perceived) him, we have seen/perceived the Father.

According to Jesus, that was his very purpose. Jesus revealed what the Father is truly like. The truth about God’s nature is that He is just as good as Jesus was.

Always was and always will be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Communion or Condemnation?

cup1-1024x682 (1)

 

I grew up in a fundamental Evangelical Christian church that took Communion once a month. The only passages that I actually remember concerning the Sacrament were from 1 Corinthians 10,11. The focus every time that we came to the Lord’s Table was on “examining” ourselves and confessing our sins. It was always a very somber time without any joy, but plenty of condemnation.

I believe it’s important to clarify something about these passages. Paul was not articulating what we would think of as “Communion Doctrine Basics”. Paul had already delivered his Communion teaching to them in person (1 Cor.11:23) and in his letter, he was addressing some very specific problems that they had, within their church.

**We see these problems listed in 1 Cor.11:17-31 

  1. They were divided at the Table and not united. (V.18,19)
  2. They were acting gluttonous and not sharing (V.21,22)
  3. They were shaming the poor (V.22)
  4. They were not discerning the body (V.29-31)

 

It’s this last point that I want to focus on because misunderstanding it used to corrupt The Lord’s Supper for me. We could analyze what Paul was saying about discerning the body within the context of Corinth and that would be fruitful, but I want to go back to the foundation of Communion. The words of the Word, Jesus himself and what he said about the Sacrament and the Body.

 

 

THE LAST PASSOVER SUPPER ~ 

We know that Jesus initiated “The Lord’s Table” immediately before the Cross, at the Passover meal. Jesus introduced the Eucharist as “my body” and “my blood”. I agree with the Protestant reformers that the Roman Catholic church was (and is) mistaken to take these words literally, but there is still profound truth unveiled when we refer to it in this manner.

Jesus declared that “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” in Luke 22:20. Matthew 26:28 recorded it this way ~ “For this is My blood of the covenant, being poured out for many, for forgiveness of sins.”  They both mean the same thing because one of the main aspects of the New Covenant is that God “remembers our sins no more…”

But, there is more detail given in John that I have never heard associated with “The Lord’s Table”. I believe when given in light of what Paul and Hebrews later say about the Body of Christ, it will add a lot of clarity to what Jesus was conveying to the faithful 11 Disciples.

Judas was included in the foot-washing and even the bread of the Table before Jesus excused him and gave the “cup of the blood”. So Jesus said in John 13:10b,11 “you are clean, but not all of you.” 11For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

*Clean is the same word as pure. Like when Jesus said “Blessed are the pure in heart…”

Why was Judas unclean? Simply because He no longer believed in Jesus (John 6:64). When Jesus later described the truths behind the unity that He was establishing, he made it very clear why those remaining 11 were clean.

John 15 “3“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”

Judas was unclean because he did not receive Jesus’ 1st Word. From John 1-John 12, Jesus articulated very clearly, over and over again what his 1st Commandment was.

“Believe.”

If you examine John 1-12, you will see that is the only thing Jesus ever asked of anyone and he said it almost 100 times! Judas demonstrated his lack of faith when he left to betray the Lord.

It was only at that point that Jesus gave the Cup and the single New Covenant Commandment and explained the most profound mysteries ever written on pages to his remaining faithful few.

For sake of brevity, I must skip most of it and focus only on the Communion/Body aspects.

John 15:3-5 ~ 3“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

This is equivalent to Christ being the Head of the body language that Paul used so many times. Jesus was conveying to those who partook of the First New Covenant Communion that they were connected to him. He had made them clean. He had connected them to him. “Stay connected in love”.  (Abide in my love paraphrased)

 

DISCERN THE CLEAN BODY~ 

 

Jesus did not instruct the disciples to examine themselves for sin and confess it all “under the blood” so God could forgive them. Jesus gave them the blood for forgiveness and told them to partake of it. Believing in Jesus’ words allowed them to receive forgiveness and revealed to them that He had cleaned them!

Remember that all of this forgiveness, cleanliness and unity in Christ’s body was immediately before the Cross! At the same time that Jesus was calling them his purified branches, he was prophesying that they would all leave him! (John 13:36-38)

Jesus didn’t give them Communion because they had forsaken all sin…he gave them communion as they were about to embrace sin and forsake him! Because “The Lord’s Supper” is all about remembering what Jesus has done and not remembering what we have done. To focus on our sin during the Lord’s Supper is to ignore the Cross. We are not even supposed to remember the Cross in light of our sin, but remember the Cross in light of God’s love. Don’t think about your sin “causing Jesus to be crucified on the Cross”, think about Jesus causing your sin to be crucified in Himself on the Cross!

Some Christians seem to think the Cross was because their sin was separating them from Jesus, but Jesus was revealing that the Cross separated us from our sin and connected us to him!

Consider Paul’s take on the clean and pure body of Christ within the context of Marriage in Ephesians 5 ~ 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,26so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word”

The language is clearly connected to Jesus’ words in John 15. This is not some future event that the church is sitting around, twiddling their thumbs waiting to happen. Jesus has sanctified us once and for all through his body on the Cross! (Hebrews 10:10,14)

Perhaps an aspect of “discerning the body correctly” for us today, would be to remember that Jesus has purified us and joined us to him! What if we focused on those truths and their implications while we partook “in remembrance of him”?

The author of Hebrews described in many ways how inferior the Old Covenant way of bloody animal sacrifices was versus Jesus’ “The New and Living Way”. In Hebrews 10, it is written about how Jesus had replaced the old ~ 9then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.” He takes away the first (Old Covenant) in order to establish the second (New Covenant)10By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

 

….19Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,20by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful!”

 

Religion tries to convince us that we need to sanctify ourselves to “get connected to God” and yet Jesus revealed that he has cleansed us and He has connected us to God. This is God’s will. Only believe.

I can’t help but mention John 6, where Jesus clearly pointed forward to the Communion and the Cross. He had just surpassed Moses’ “bread from Heaven” experience and the the Jews were totally worked up. John 6: 28Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

Please read John 6:26 through the rest of the chapter and consider Jesus’ words in John 6:63,64 ~ 63“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64“But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.

 

 

 

**Thanks to Stan Newton’s book “Kingdom Communion”.