Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 27:57 thru 28

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 27:11-56.

Last week’s look within Matthew 27 took us from Pilate to the Cross. Today we’ll be closing out the Gospel According to Matthew. It’s been a long journey through this Gospel, and I’ve really enjoyed our time in the Word these several weeks.

Matthew 27:57-28:20 (ESV)

Matthew 27:57-61 (ESV) | Jesus Is Buried

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

Matthew 27:62-66 (ESV) | The Guard at the Tomb

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

Notice how the chief priests and the Pharisees still insist in their unbelief that Jesus was an impostor. Their motivation is one of fear and envy, though. Notice that they were not the least bit comforted for having put a blasphemer to death (such was the false-accusation against Christ). Had their actions been borne of faith in a Living God, what would they have to fear of an “impostor”? But they lacked faith, and the god they served was not the One True GOD. As Jesus told them directly, they served their father the devil, who was a liar from the beginning.

John 8:39-47 (ESV) | You Are of Your Father the Devil
They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

And now these schemers find themselves in opposition to the Son of God. They now scheme to prevent the prophecy of Christ’s Resurrection from coming to pass… as if the will of men could in any way hinder the Will of God. These men have deluded themselves into projecting onto the disciples some scheme of stealing the body and claiming the resurrection. The protection they set in place is overkill for preventing a band of Galileans from stealing a corpse… yet it is a pathetic attempt to stop the Hand of God.

Matthew 28:1-10 (ESV) | The Resurrection

28 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.

The guards fainted. It is so frustrating to hear modern-day false prophets/teachers speak so flippantly about encounters with heavenly beings. Now, as for the women, the angel told them not to be afraid and gave them the good news of His resurrection. Yet, as they departed they were still with fear and great joy. Interesting how such seemingly opposing emotions can coexist for a time. Clearly the fear experienced was as great as the joy brought by the good news. Notice here that Jesus appears to them again to tell them “Do not be afraid”. That’s awesome. Jesus showed up, while they were on their way filled with fear and joy, to comfort them and confirm the word of the Lord spoken to them by an angel.

Matthew 28:11-15 (ESV) | The Report of the Guard

11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

And still not a hint of repentance to be found. Truly these chief priests and the elders were condemned in their unbelief. A miraculous sign, and angelic being, and an empty tomb in keeping with the prophecy of Jesus concerning His own death and resurrection was performed in front of a most hardened and credible witness… the very guard they put in place to secure the tomb… and their hearts remained of stone. Indeed this lie persists unto this day, in many forms, some even within groups claiming to be the church, denying the real death and bodily resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our atoning sacrifice.

Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV) | The Great Commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

At this point, Matthew has presented the story of Christ’s fulfillment of the prophecies of the Messiah to his Jewish audience. Where other writers share more of what takes place after the resurrection, Matthew sums it up rather quickly and then closes with what we refer to as the Great Commission. The Apostle Paul summed up the sequence of events succinctly in his letter to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (ESV) | The Resurrection of Christ

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Indeed we can rest assured that the account of His death and resurrection is credible, reliable, and true.

Until Next Week

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at foreshadowing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ found in the Old Testament as we move into advent season and Christmas. I’m not yet sure how our Gospel Wednesday will proceed after this holiday season, but we will continue spending time in God’s Word and sharing it with the readers of this blog.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 27:11-56

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 26:30-27:10.

Last week’s look at the remainder of Matthew 26 flowed into the beginning of 27 so that we could close the loop on Judas. His life ended in a repentance that only led him back to the murderous, unbelieving chief priests and elders who paid Judas to betray the Christ. Judas then took his own life in condemnation. The witness of the Gospel accounts confirms Judas, the betrayer, did not truly repent and indeed died in his unbelief.

Matthew 27:11-56 (ESV)

As we continue working through Matthew 27, we see Jesus standing before Pilate. There were legal limits imposed upon the Jews as a result of the Roman occupation. Crucifixion was a Roman form of execution, not a Jewish one, so these chief priests and elders sought the most destructive, painful, and disgraceful form of execution in the known world, and they needed Rome to do it.

Matthew 27:11-14 (ESV) | Jesus Before Pilate

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Jesus was innocent of every charge. His silence was a necessary part of His obedience to God the Father unto death. The fact of the matter is this: Jesus couldn’t be guilty of blasphemy because He is, in truth, God the Son. Jesus is the pure and spotless Lamb of God.

Matthew 27:15-23 (ESV) | The Crowd Chooses Barabbas

15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

Your flesh chooses sin, it doesn’t choose Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God. It is corrupted by sin and drawn to itself rather than to God. Here, the chief priests and the elders have led Israel to destroy the Son of Man. Unjustly. Praise be to God for His Grace and Mercy in allowing this to happen, so that by His stripes, we are healed from our death and sealed with the promise of new life in the Resurrection. I know, I’m getting ahead of myself, but I can’t help it.

Matthew 27:24-26 (ESV) | Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified

24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

I wonder if Pilate modeled the ceremonial hand washing of which the chief priests chastised Jesus and His disciples for skipping before eating (Mark 7:1-8). The Tradition of the Elders had invented ways of washing off the uncleanliness that may have been transferred onto them from those in the market place, so that they would not be made unclean in eating with unclean hands. None of it is Scripture, it’s from the so-called Oral Tradition (Pharisaical). Interesting how even in being dead in sins and trespasses, we have an inkling of an understanding that we need to have our sins and transgressions (Baptism) but this is a work that God must do for us, not one that we can do for ourselves. Pilate is no more innocent of blood for having washed his hands than the elders who seek His crucifixion. It is eerie to see the people declare boldly, “His blood be on us and on our children!” No doubt this pierced the hearts of all who listened on the day of Pentecost when Peter declared the following:

Acts 2:22-23 (ESV) “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Peter points out that the Jews crucified Jesus by the hands of lawless men (the Romans who are not under the Mosaic Law). Yet, God in His Mercy and Grace to His creation… made this the very means by which our sins and transgressions are washed away… by the Blood of Jesus… shed on the Cross.

Matthew 27:27-31 (ESV) | Jesus Is Mocked

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

Matthew 27:32-44 (ESV) | The Crucifixion

32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Matthew 27:45-56 (ESV) | The Death of Jesus

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.”48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Truly this is the Son of God! The detail of the curtain of the temple is vitally important. The significance of this is something the Jewish readers of Matthew’s account would have recognized immediately. Being a Gentile, I’m very grateful for the writer of Hebrews expounding on this for us so beautifully. If you wish to understand the covenants, read through Hebrews as a single document. In the interest of time, we’ll read through portions pertaining to the curtain of the temple and the significance of its rending at Christ’s death on the cross.

God’s Promise to Abraham

As Christians we are made sons of Abraham by faith, into the Promise that God made to Abraham after he did not withhold his son, his only son Isaac.

Genesis 22:14-18 (ESV) So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

We’ll be revisiting this passage as a foreshadowing of Christ in the Old Testament in the weeks following our closing of the Gospel According to Matthew. But this is the backdrop for what we will  now read in Hebrews.

Hebrews 6:13-20 (ESV) | The Certainty of God’s Promise

13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

The writer of Hebrews is delineating the Mosaic Covenant from the New Covenant of Christ’s Blood, so in this next portion where he writes “the first covenant” he’s referring to that of Moses.

Hebrews 9:1-10 (ESV) | The Earthly Holy Place

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

Hebrews 10:1-4 (ESV) | Christ’s Sacrifice Oncefor All

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Hebrews 10:12-14 (ESV) But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Hebrews 10:19-25 (ESV) | The Full Assurance of Faith

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Amen. The rending of that curtain isn’t just about showing God’s power, but about the end of the first covenant… because it was now superseded by the Blood of Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross.

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through the remainder of the Gospel According to Matthew. I do hope you join us for that. In the meantime, spend some time in the Word and in fellowship with the Body of Christ. Love God, Love Neighbor, repent and be forgiven in Jesus’ Name.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Adopted as Sons and Daughters…

CTTWith the latest under cover video by the Center for Medical Progress, it remains clear that the world is desperately wicked beyond comprehension. That the world defies God and His creation and callously destroys the innocent to satisfy their own lusts. The world stands condemned under the Law… doomed… judged. When Christ returns, He will come in Power, in Might, and in Judgement. While the methods and means of depravity are new, the wickedness of man and the bondage of creation under sin and darkness is not new. While we urge our politicians and doctors to stop the murderous holocaust of unborn babies in this country, and pray for the Grace of God to put leaders in place to remove the government protection of this practice, we know that the only answer to sin, death, wickedness, judgement and eternal punishment is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Preaching the Gospel to the Lost

We are called to preach the Gospel to the lost. There are groups who preach to the homeless, to the migrants, and outside Abortion clinics. I’d like to see more groups doing it. Sadly, we see a growing sense of militancy in some of these programs that lost sight of the Gospel of Grace and Forgiveness. I’d like to see fewer of these. In our American culture, we’ve lost sight of the individual charge to preach the Gospel. We’ve allowed it to become the sole purpose of the weekly service in Church, where (again, as a culture) we’ve jettisoned the real purpose of the gathering of the Saints for “churching the unchurched” or “making unbelievers feel welcome” or “entertaining goats”. The visible church is in need of a reformation once more… away from post-modern nonsense of this current age, away from the CEO model of church leadership, away from treating the Gospel as a product to be sold in bookstores or memberships in the social club labeled the church. The weekly gathering of the saints is for the building up of the believers, equipping them for every good work, including the work of evangelism.

While street-preaching in general has been stigmatized by the anti-christs of Westboro Baptist, and counter-abortion demonstrations have been conducted under the banner of “social activism”, there is another area of ministry that bears an ugly stigma that doesn’t get as much attention these days, so I wanted to spend some time addressing it… the ministry of Adoption Services. There are a few adoption services out there, and the one that my wife and I support and volunteer for locally reaches out to birth mothers with the primary goal of preaching the Gospel to them. Yes, we want to save the baby they are unwilling or believe they are unable to keep, but we also know that lasting change for that woman can only come through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Adoption is a Gospel Theme

Evangelism isn’t about getting people to agree with you about God or to join your club or even to avoid going into certain buildings on a certain day. Evangelism is about preaching Law and Gospel so that the Holy Spirit can do the work of regeneration on dead hearts, bringing them out of darkness so that they might become adopted sons and daughters of the Living God, through faith in Jesus Christ. We are adopted into Heaven, by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Let’s begin reading in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians.

Ephesians 1 (ESV)

Greeting

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Blessings in Christ

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

I struggled to understand the negative stigma associated with adoption, until I realized the biggest appeal of abortion was that it was being presented as a false gospel, a way of erasing sin so that ‘life could go on free from consequences’. Such a demonic false gospel. The truth is that the mankind, including the unborn, bear the image of God. We also bear the sin of Adam in our flesh. Because of Adam’s sin, we are all born spiritually dead… out-of-wedlock, so to speak, without hope, destined for destruction. A point Paul makes very clearly at the start of the next chapter.

Ephesians 2 (ESV)

By Grace Through Faith

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

One in Christ

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Amen. The message of the Gospel is that by the Blood of Jesus Christ, we have been adopted into the household of God, as sons and daughters of the Most High God in Christ Jesus. When it comes to countering the murderous sin of abortion, let us not quickly forget, that Christ died so that these birth mothers might be born-again and adopted into the Kingdom of Heaven, along with their unborn baby.

Our hearts break when a birthmother gives up on her baby and is led astray by the false-gospel of abortion. But we rejoice when a child is saved from destruction, and delivered into the world. Sometimes birth-mothers just need the loving support through the tough road of a pregnancy that was unplanned and even unwanted to see God’s redemption at work in it. Some of these birth mothers keep their babies, determined to love them and care for them. Some give their babies up for adoption into Christian families… and still some find themselves being adopted into the household of Faith, along with their babies. Such is the Church, the Body of Christ. We who are of the household of faith are brothers and sisters, heirs and joint heirs with Christ into the Promise of Heaven and into the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The body of Christ doesn’t grow by the will of man; rather, it grows by the Grace of God. Evangelism is an adoption ministry. The enemy knows this, and this is why he works so hard to stigmatize adoption in the natural. In closing, I’d like to share a few testimonial videos from the local adoption agency we support.

Covenant Care Adoption Services

A Conversation with Birthmothers

 

Adoption Testimonies: Lauren, Matt & Jamie

For more information on this ministry, visit: http://www.covenantcareadoptions.com/

Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV) | Prayer for Spiritual Strength

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

 

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 26:30 – 27:10

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 26:1-29.

Last week’s look at the first part of Matthew 26 ended with Jesus Instituting the Lord’s Supper. Acknowledging differing doctrines regarding the Lord’s Supper, we decided to take the opportunity to focus more on the New Covenant being instituted by the Blood of Jesus on the Cross by closing out the post with Hebrews 8 & 9.

Matthew 26 (ESV)

As we continue working through Matthew 26, we see Jesus and His disciples leave the house after supper and a hymn. Jesus now looks to prepare His disciples for what is about to take place.

Matthew 26 (ESV) | Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial

30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

In last week’s post, we saw the example of the false teacher, the false prophet, the anti-christ in Judas Iscariot. We saw the strong judgement against him. Here we see something different… the weakness of the flesh of man. Though these men have faith in Jesus as the Christ, Son of the Living God, their hearts will fail them and they will scatter, as it is Written. Here, again, we see Jesus declare His death and also His resurrection, though they cannot fully understand what is being said. Peter, bold Peter, declares that he will never fall away. Was it pride working in Peter? Perhaps, but I don’t think that was the major factor. Take every memory you’ve ever had of when you’ve declared “I’ll never hurt you, leave you, forget you, etc.” to a friend, loved-one, or romantic interest and then consider applying that sentiment to the Son of the Living God. Peter doesn’t understand why Jesus would be leaving them, let alone arrested and put to death as a criminal. As I grow older, I see myself more and more in Peter’s failings and I’m grateful that the Holy Spirit recorded them for us. Peter loved Jesus, and was certain he’d rather die than deny Him, but he didn’t know himself like Jesus knew him. Jesus tells him, you will deny me three times before the rooster crows. Now, there are some who try to make an issue of the differing references in the Gospels to the crowing of the rooster. The important thing here is that after the third denial, a rooster does crow and Peter does notice it and remembers the LORD’s Words… and it absolutely breaks him. We will see how that plays out shortly.

Matthew 26 (ESV) | Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.38 Then he said to them, My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Is sorrow a sin? No. Does Jesus understand our sorrows? More than you could ever imagine. He knows.  To my knowledge, I don’t own any “red-letter” editions of the Bible. I’ve repented of treating the red letters as though they were “more Scripture” than the rest. However, I wanted to really highlight this prayer. It is both prayer request and humble submission to the Will of the Father. Don’t ever… EVER… allow someone to accuse you of having little faith because you pray, “not my will but Your Will Father” or “If it is Your Will…” (or something to that effect). Sorry, that’s a personal hot spot for me. Let us continue. The disciples here (Peter, James & John of Zebedee) are weak. Our flesh is weak. We don’t pray as we ought, we don’t worship as we ought, we don’t keep watch as we ought. His Grace is sufficient for us, for while we slumber in our weakness, He is faithful and He is our advocate, our propitiation, and our Redeemer.

Matthew 26 (ESV) | Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

47 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples left him and fled.

It is interesting that neither Mark or Luke gives us the identity of the sword wielder nor the servant. The Gospel According to John (Ch 18) tells us it was Simon Peter who drew his sword and struck Malchus, the servant of the high priest. Notice the particular correction Jesus issued to Peter. It isn’t about the evil of the sword… it’s about faith in the Will of God the Father. The arrest of Jesus is according to the Will of the Father, as was His betrayal, death, and resurrection. Fighting now would only lead to Peter’s premature death… and God has plans for His Apostles. Those who twist this passage into a judgement against those whose vocation is in the armed services do both them and this text injustice. The point of this passage is Faith… faith in the Will of God… faith in Christ Jesus and His finished work on the cross.

Matthew 26 (ESV) | Jesus Before Caiaphas and the Council

57 Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58 And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” 62 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him,“You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”

We’ll close out this post by reviewing the prophesy of Isaiah in chapter 53, but for now I want to point out the lesson Peter taught in his Epistle.

1 Peter 2:21-25 (ESV) For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Peter was an eye-witness to what he is writing. My heart goes out to him, because this would turn out to be one of the roughest nights for him… and the next several days would be the most painful days of his life, I’m sure. Notice, however, that the Holy Spirit has clearly instructed Peter on what it was he witnessed there in that courtyard. Amen.

Regarding the trial, I’d like to point out here that Matthew records Jesus not only confessing His identity as the Christ, the Son of God, but He also proclaims to the unbelievers that they will not see His face until He returns in Judgment. They should have been rending their garments in repentance, instead they played the part of piety to justify their murderous intentions.

Matthew 26 (ESV) | Peter Denies Jesus

69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.”74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Broken. Knowing that Jesus knew him better than he knew himself, and all of his blustering about how he would never deny Jesus… and his utter and complete failure to keep his promise… broken. That must have been a truly bitter cry. Though the chapter ends here, let’s keep reading to catch up to the fate of the Betrayer.

Matthew 27:1-10 (ESV) | Judas Hangs Himself

27 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, 10 and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”

Peter had faith in Christ Jesus, and loved Him, but in his flesh he tried to manage the situation somehow and wound up denying Jesus 3 times, just as Jesus had told him he wold. Peter failed and was broken by his failure. Judas lacked faith. Judas betrayed Jesus. Judas stood condemned. Judas repented, so to speak, in that he changed his mind, but rather than turn to Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God, he instead turned to the chief priests and the elders… those who paid Judas to betray Christ… those who Jesus openly rebuked for their false teaching and self-righteousness. And having turned to these false teachers seeking forgiveness, they cast him out like a stray dog, to take care of it himself. So Judas was destitute, rotting in his own sin and transgressions… yet rather than seek forgiveness from the Way the Truth and the Life, he chose to hang himself.

That closes out this week’s post on quite the somber note.  We know Peter is forgiven, comforted, and restored in due time. For our closing thought, let us look to what we see written in Isaiah 53.

Isaiah 53 (ESV)

53 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
    and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
    and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through the remainder of Chapter 27, the crucifixion and burial of our Lord Jesus Christ. I do hope you join us for that. In the meantime, spend some time in the Word and in fellowship with the Body of Christ. Love God, Love Neighbor, repent and be forgiven in Jesus’ Name.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Discernment and Discretion in Giving

studyToday’s Completing The Thought (CTT) post will centered around the question of Giving for the Sake of the Gospel. Because the most popular feature of our blog week is our Discernment in Music (DiM) post, our focus today will be on the nature of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) radio stations that are listener supported.

Since we will be speaking about money and giving, I feel it is important to inform the reader of our position on the oft-quoted Malachi 3:10 by those who seek to impose the Mosaic Tithe upon Christians. CTT | Will Man Rob God?

In our area of Georgia, we have two strong (signal-strength) listener-supported CCM broadcast stations, one of which is about to go into their fund-raising week. There are many proof-texts used in church fundraising slogans that we will need to start addressing specifically in our CTT posts. For now, I want to take a more general approach. The intent here is to call my brothers and sisters in Christ to discernment and discretion in their Giving to para-church ministries.

Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians

While modern-day evangelicalism still struggles with the misuse of Malachi in church fundraising, we don’t often get many para-church organizations taking that route. No, instead we generally get more humble appeals to 2 Corinthians 9, beginning in verse 6. Let’s take a look.

2 Corinthians 9:6-11 (ESV) | The Cheerful Giver

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,

“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
    his righteousness endures forever.”

10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

God does, indeed, love a cheerful giver. That is clearly written in scripture. Paul isn’t teaching that here so much as reminding them of this fact of Scripture. In fact, the standard of scripture is such that we are called to give lovingly to our enemies… a far more challenging call to gracious giving:

Matthew 5:38-48 (ESV) | Love Your Enemies

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Please remember that here, Jesus is preaching the Law, the commandments of God. This isn’t the Gospel. On account of our sinfulness, we all fall short of this perfection of the Father, and so incur more sin. The Gospel of Grace is that by faith we are granted the Righteousness of Jesus Christ, and made free to extend the Love and Grace we’ve received. My point here being that these good works cannot be performed in hopes of acquiring righteousness before God; rather, they can only be performed as the result of a righteousness granted to us by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. An excellent little phrase I find most helpful is:

“God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does.” – Gustaf Wingren

So, if Paul isn’t teaching on how to give to please God, what is he doing in this part of his letter to the Corinthians? Let’s read the local and then the greater context of this portion of his letter.

2 Corinthians 9:1-5 (ESV) | The Collection for Christians in Jerusalem

Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints,for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.

There is great need for the people in Macedonia. They had received word of the generosity and eagerness (zeal) of the Corinthians to send a gift to the churches in Macedonia. This promise has sparked hope and has stirred up most of the Macedonians. Indeed, there is an indication that the promise has been in place for over a year. This is no knee-jerk appeal for “sacrificial giving”. On the contrary, Paul is sending his letter and the brothers ahead of himself and his accompanying Macedonians to the Corinthians in hopes that they might be able to faithfully deliver on the promised gift so that it might be fully ready to be presented as a willing gift; rather than for them to show up and none of it be ready, thus taking the form of an exaction. To put it in modern parlance, imagine telling a close relative that you could help them pay their taxes this year, only to have to scramble on April 14th as you break open jars and start counting coins hoping to make the deadline while that relative is standing on your front doorstep? To the observer, it would seem more like a shake-down than your generosity. Paul seeks to avoid such humiliation for himself, the Macedonians who are in need and have been excited for this gift, and for the Corinthians who made the pledge. What Paul has written is Scripture… but how it gets presented and preached isn’t always faithful to its context.

In the greater context, remember that the first letter to the Corinthians wasn’t a pleasant one. There were problems with divisions and sensuality in worship, mysticism, and sexual immorality. There was also problem with chaotic church worship and unrighteousness in taking the Lord’s Supper, such that many were falling sick and some even died. That first letter was very tough. Titus was sent to them and had since returned to Paul to give a good report (2 Cor 7).  We see in chapter 8, Paul gives a report of the cheerful giving of the Macedonians despite their poverty, and of the outpouring of the Grace of God to them throughout their hardship there. We see in the middle of the chapter how a year ago the Corinthians got involved in the work of providing for the Saints in Macedonia and how they were eager to do it, how Paul was encouraged by the response of Titus, and now Paul here is urging the Corinthians to follow through with what they had started. So we see here in the middle of Ch 8, and again at the start of Ch 9, that Paul seeks to aid the Corinthians in every way possible to follow through with their promise of relief. This must not be presented as an exaction or a knee-jerk “sowing a seed of faith” and “making a sacrificial gift” to please God.

That Wasn’t Really Para-Church Giving

Yes, you got me there. The other major teaching points in the New Testament concern compensation for Elders within the Church, for the daily distribution, and enrolling of true widows. In fact, a strong case can be made for avoiding para-church organizations, due to their lack of church oversight. These entities are not under Overseers and deacons of the Church. I think this can be a matter of Christian liberty (whether or not to give to such entities) but I urge each of you to practice discernment. For not everyone who claims to be a Christian is one in truth. Not ministry that claims to preach the Gospel does so faithfully.

With that being said, I’d like to offer the following basic checklist of questions that need to be asked of any ministry that claims to do the work of evangelism, the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Is the Gospel being preached? Using the word “gospel” doesn’t actually convey the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, we see throughout the New Testament the warning of false gospels, false teachers, and false christs even coming up from within our congregations. Since we must do the work of noble bereans for our own churches, we must also discern what is being presented as the gospel in these para-church organizations. Do they rightly handle God’s Word? Do they preach both Law and Gospel? Do they call sinners to repentance? In the case of CCM radio ministry, does the radio station broadcast faithful preaching of the word of God? Some radio programs are solid (Grace to You, Truth for Life, etc) while others do more harm than good (Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, etc). Are the songs played on the radio station held to a Biblical standard of sound doctrine? Do the on-air personalities (DJs) rightly handle Scripture in the segments between songs? All important questions.

Is the money going to the ministry? Modern-Day evangelicalism has completely lost sight of this bit of discernment/stewardship. Creflo Dollar engaged in church fundraising to buy him the most expensive personal jet on the market, claiming that it was necessary for the preaching of the Gospel (read more). Seriously. Well, we know he’s a false preacher and a wolf in the pulpit. Something to bear in mind with a lot of these para-church organizations is that in our culture we practice debt-based financing. We get our toys first, hoping that they will “pay for themselves” in the long run. That isn’t a model of stewardship we see demonstrated in Scripture. In the case of CCM radio ministry, is the money for paying current staff and broadcasting fees or is the station trying to expand its advertising or repeater stations?

What is the appeal being made for the fundraising? Are they offering promises they can’t keep? Are they pressuring you to give under compulsion? Are they making promises on God’s behalf that He never made concerning your giving to their business? What are the stated goals of the fundraising endeavor?

Does the Church need these para-church organizations for the preaching of the Gospel? This can be tough to answer. Personally, I’m a supporter of a para-church organization (Covenant Care Services) that fights abortion in the State of Georgia by reaching out to pregnant women with the Gospel, emotional/physical support, and an appeal to offer adoption services at no cost to the birth mother for local Christian families looking to adopt. This organization does not fall under a local church or denomination of church, which in some ways can allow for broader support, but also leaves room for disagreement in some matters of doctrine. Such situations require a great deal of discernment and discretion. Does the Church need this particular ministry? No… but this work isn’t something each local church is doing on their own. As society continues to wage war against Jesus Christ and believers, the day may come when such organizations will no longer be allowed to operate as they currently do, in which case the church will have to step up. As far as CCM Radio ministry, no, I don’t think the Church needs it. In fact, much of the influx of heresy in mainstream evangelicalism is facilitated by CCM and so-called “Christian Bookstores”. A tough article that draws this point out directly can be found at the Berean Research Blog.

Conclusion

God does love a cheerful giver. We who are in Christ and of the Household of Faith, are set free by the Grace of God through Faith in Christ Jesus to do good works. God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does. As God extends Grace to us to be partakers in the Ministry of the Gospel as ministers of Reconciliation, we would do well to give bountifully. For our treasure is not to be stored up here on earth, where moth and rust destroy; rather, we are called to lay up for ourselves treasures in Heaven. 

Colossians 3:12-17 (ESV)

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge