Thursday, September 3, 2020

Diotrephes- the desire to be first

This week I studied 3 John and would like to share with you my thoughts on this fascinating scenario in which selflessness is contrasted against self-promotion. 

I suspect this scenario is still played out today, where men and women seek to be "first" to the detriment of the body of Christ.    

3 John is written by “the elder" unto Gaius. 

In vs 4 the “elder” says there is “no greater joy” than to hear that his children “walk in truth”.

This is almost identical to 2 John 4, which was written to the “elect lady”.

4 I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth.

The fact that “children” are mentioned in both 2 John and 3 John suggests to me that this is speaking of disciples rather than literal children.

The word “children” is defined in the Strongs concordance as follows…

In the NT pupils or disciples are called children of their teachers, because the latter by their instruction nourish the minds of their pupils and mould their characters

In 3 John 3 we see that Gaius himself “walks in truth”. 

How do we know we are IN truth? because we “walk” in it, meaning our lifestyle reflects truth. 

Hence being IN truth is not an intellectual exercise, it’s about yielding one’s heart to truth and doing it. 

1 John 4:6 calls the Holy Spirit…the Spirit of truth

The Spirit is both truth and love thus truth and love go hand-in-hand.

In 3 John 5-8 we see that Gaius had a reputation for faithfully loving both brethren and strangers.

Brethren may refer to the “children” Gaius discipled, whilst strangers may refer to itinerant evangelists who in the course of their travels, called at his house.

Vs 7 …for his names sake they go forth

Vs 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow helpers to the truth.

The “such” we “ought to receive” are those who go forth “for his names sake”. Meaning, they are not in it for themselves. Their motivation is pure.

“Receive” means to show hospitality towards. 

In showing hospitality towards “such” we are fellow helpers to the truth.

In contrast to the actions of Gaius and the pure, selfless motives of those whom “for his names sake" went forth, are the actions and motives of Diotrephes. 

In vs 9 the elder says 

I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.

Preeminence philoproteuo means to desire to be first

We see in vs 10 that the desire to be “first” manifested itself in evil deeds such as: 

  • prating against us with malicious words 
  • not receiving the brethren 
  • forbidding them that would 
  • casting them out of the church.

“Prating against us with malicious words” means 

to bring forward idle accusations, make empty charges, to accuse one falsely with malicious words.

In vs 11 Gaius is warned by the elder 

"follow not that which is evil…he that doeth evil hath not seen God" rather follow "that which is good. He that doeth good is of God."

Both Gaius and Demetrius had a "good report of all men and of the truth itself" because their behaviours and attitudes reflected truth. 

They were selflessly serving God and loving the brethren.

Diotrephes however, had a bad report of men. The elder said in vs 10 

...I will remember his deeds... 

He was not selflessly serving God or the brethren, on the contrary he was serving himself.

Due to his desire to be “first”, he would not receive Demetrius lest he outshine him.

Working together with fellow members of the body, for the edification of the body, requires love and humility. 

1 Peter 5:5

all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility:…

In conclusion:

The desire to be “first” manifests in evil deeds such as false accusations and divisiveness.

Such deeds reveal the fact that one is not of God.

In contrast, those who go forth “for his names sake” and not their own, will have a “good report of men and of the truth itself” for they manifest good deeds.

They that do good are of God.

It’s important that we’re able to identify who is of God who is not of God and that we follow not that which is evil but that which is good. 

We ought to receive those who go forth “for his names sake”, those who “walk in truth”, that we might be fellow helpers to the truth.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Mystery of the Kingdom Part 2 (one in Christ)

“The mystery” is a phrase mentioned in Ephesians, Colossians and alluded to in Galatians but it was first mentioned by Jesus directly after the parable of the sower.

In Mark 4:11 Jesus said

…unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God… 

When we consider the context in which he spoke those words, that being the parable of the sower, it’s clear that the mystery of the kingdom relates to the seed, which is the Word of God, abiding in a person’s heart.

In Luke 17:21 Jesus said 

….the kingdom of God is within you

Here he was speaking to the pharisees who were looking for a physical kingdom to be established. The kingdom of God is mysterious to such people because it’s not something they can see touch or feel in a physical sense. It’s a spiritual kingdom that can only be spiritually discerned.

In Colossians 1:27 Paul described “the mystery” as being

Christ in you

In Galatians Paul preached “the mystery” to the Gentiles and called it the “truth of the gospel”, yet “christ in you” is only half the story. There is a second aspect to what Paul preached.

Let me take you on a journey through the book of Ephesians to uncover this important second aspect to the mystery of the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 1

9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will…

10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ

So, we see that the mystery is two-fold

  1. “Christ in you” 
  2. All things gathered together as one “in Christ”.

Ephesians 2 builds upon the latter concept.

11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

In these verses Jews are called “the circumcision” whilst non-Jews are called “uncircumcision” thus physical circumcision was a “wall of partition” dividing Jews from non-Jews. When Jesus died, the ordinances were “abolished” in the sense that physical circumcision was replaced with the “circumcision of Christ”, an inward circumcision of the heart in the spirit. 

Colossians 2

14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

In abolishing the ordinances, Jesus “broke down” the wall of partition dividing Jews from non-jews, enabling both to be joined together in “one body” as “one new man” through the Spirit.

Can you see why Paul confronted the “false brethren” who were pushing physical circumcision upon new Christians in Galatia?

By insisting that the Gentiles be circumcised in the flesh, these “false brethren” denied the fact that the New Covenant is centred on “heart” circumcision. 

They were also willing for a physical ordinance, which no longer had any spiritual significance, to divide people. They could not comprehend the mystery of the kingdom, which both Jesus and Paul taught.

Now Let’s continue to Ephesians 3

3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery

6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

These verses support the notion that “the mystery of the kingdom” is not only “Christ in you” but Jews and non-Jews joined together in the same body, as partakers of the promised holy Spirit by the gospel.

Remember in Ephesians 1 the “mystery of his will” was to “gather together in one all things in Christ”. Then in Ephesians 2, Christ made “of twain one new man”, reconciling both Jews and Gentiles “unto God in one body”.

So we’ve looked at Ephesians chapter 1, 2 & 3, let’s go to chapter 5 and see what it says about “the mystery”.

25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Again, the mystery of the kingdom is that through the indwelling of the Spirit we become members of Christ’s body.

Ephesians 5, at least in the kjv, calls this body “the church”. 

I know the word “church” is often misused to mean a physical building, denomination or even the Roman Catholic church. However, "the church" described in Ephesians 5 is holy and sanctified. It is without spot or blemish or wrinkle, meaning it is sin-free.

People can gather in a building and take part in a “church” service yet not be part of the church. 

Despite all the denominations we see, God only has one church. It is is a spiritual entity made up of all those who are born-again.

It is a glorious church that has existed throughout the ages.

Ephesians 5 likens the relationship between Christ and his Church to a husband and wife relationship.

Remember in Mark 4:11 Jesus said

…unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God… 

Let’s consider the meaning of that word “know”.

Gen. 4:1 And Adam knew his wife and she conceived...

Gen. 2:23 And Adam said this is now bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh…

Can you see how those verses in Genesis are very similar to those in Ephesians 5?

We “know” the “mystery of the kingdom” when we become “one flesh” with Christ. 

We become one flesh with Christ through participating in his death and resurrection.

Being crucified with him through repentance and being raised with him to newness of life through the Spirit is the “circumcision of Christ”, which is what the New Covenant is centred upon.

Now if we go back to Ephesians 2 we see God’s people described not as a body, but as a building.

19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

Let’s compare that to the description of the new Jerusalem in Revelations 21

14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Now compare both those portions of scripture to Hebrews 11

8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off

Remember Col 1:26

26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:

The city Abraham looked for and saw afar off, which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God was “made manifest” at Pentecost. 

Let’s go to the next chapter in Hebrews to confirm this.

Hebrews 12

22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,

23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn

Jesus is the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18) and he said “i will build my church” (Matt. 16:18).

The church Christ built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets is the “city of the living God”, the “heavenly Jerusalem”.

Remember John’s vision in Rev. 21

2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem…

3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

God dwelling in his people and God’s people dwelling in him, is the mystery which was “hid” under the Old Covenant but “made manifest” to his saints at Pentecost. 

We have “come unto” the heavenly Jerusalem.

In conclusion

“The mystery” of “Christ in you” and all things gathered together as one “in Christ” was the message Paul Preached. He called it “the truth of the gospel”.

Under the old covenant physical circumcision was a “wall of partition” dividing Jews from non-Jews. 

However, when Jesus died that wall was broken down in the sense that physical circumcision was replaced with the circumcision of Christ.

The circumcision of Christ is dying to self through a once and for all repentance from sin. 

This is what allows Christ to dwell in us. 

This is also what allows us to dwell in Christ, as members of his body. 

The book of Ephesians describes God’s people not only as a body but as a building.

Chapter 2 says we are built upon the foundation of the foundation of the apostles and prophets.

Hebrews 11 says Abraham looked for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God.

Revelations 21 says John saw a city with twelve foundations, coming down from heaven.

The city that John and Abraham saw afar of was “made manifest” at Pentecost. 

It’s the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, the church of the first born as confirmed in Hebrews 12.

The church of the first born became “one flesh” with Christ at Pentecost.

Ephesians 5 tells us this is a “great mystery”

The oneness that exists between Christ and his church is the “mystery of the kingdom of God” and a present, spiritual reality to his saints. 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

1 John 4: the spirit of antichrist

In 1 John 4:1 we’re told… 

believe not every spirit but try the spirits whether they be of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world

It is our responsibility to test and try every spirit. So what test, according to 1 John 4, determines wether someone is “of God” or a false prophet?

Vs 2&3 tell us that every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is the spirit of antichrist.

Adam Clark defines the spirit of antichrist as follows... 

"All the opponents of Christ’s incarnation, and consequently of his passion, death and resurrection, and the benefits to be derived from them.”

The word “anti” can mean “against” but it can also mean “in place of”.

It would appear that the antichrists in 1 John were against Christ. 

The word “Christ” means “anointed one”.

Where does the bible say that Jesus Christ (the anointed one) came in the flesh?

John 1:1&14 

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us

1 Timothy 3:16

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

These verses indicate that Jesus Christ was God “manifest in the flesh”. 

An opposing view to this would be that Jesus was a good man or great prophet but not actually God.

Still others, draw a distinction between Jesus being God and being the SON of God as though these were two different things.

1 John 4:9&10 say that God sent his son

9 In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

The fact that the son was sent by God suggests that the Son was with God before being sent, which is explained clearly in John 1.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us

John 1 tells us that “the Word” is God and “the Word” pre-existed the birth of Jesus. 

Then the last book of the bible, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, reveals Jesus as the Word of God.

Revelations 19

11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.

12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.

13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

Why is it important that we believe Jesus was God manifest in the flesh?

Only God manifest in the flesh, could be the propitiation for our sins that we might live through him (vs 9&10)

How could we live THROUGH him if he were not God manifest in the flesh? 

Hence those who deny that Jesus Christ (the anointed one) came in the flesh have an antichrist spirit, meaning they are against Christ.

Diotrephes- the desire to be first

This week I studied 3 John and would like to share with you my thoughts on this fascinating scenario in which selflessness is contrasted aga...