Gospel Wednesday | Colossians 2

bibleAs we continue working through the fundamentals of the Gospel as explained in the New Testament, it is our hope that you will also explore our Old Testament (OT) studies and see how the Bible truly is one complete document, the very Word of God.

Last week we started in Colossians 1 and we stopped after Colossians 2:5. By way of review, we looked at some of the history of the Church an Colossae, a church that wasn’t planted by the Apostle Paul, nor had he visited them at the time of this letter to the church. This is an important detail to bear in mind when reading Paul’s letter, because of what Paul focuses on in his letter. We looked at his letter to the Ephesians in which he is summarizing the Gospel to the Elders with whom he had spent 3 years working. Paul is reminding the Elders in Ephesians all that he had taught them, but to the church in Colossae, Paul first establishes the fundamentals of the faith, the centrality and supremacy of Christ. He doesn’t rattle of a checklist of accomplishments that prove they are Christian, he simply reaffirms the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today we will pick up where we left off and in so doing we will look at some of the primary encouragements for Christian living that lead directly into some important warnings about false doctrines. So, without further adieu, let’s continue in our study of Colossians 2.

Doctrine is Important

Colossians 2:6-23 (ESV)

Alive in Christ

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

This is the focus of the Christian life. Not miracles, not visions, not even spiritual warfare… the focus of Christian living is being firmly rooted in Christ, being built up in Christ (in knowledge and obedience) and established in the faith as taught (the Gospel of Jesus Christ), abounding in thanksgiving to God. Everything is covered here in a concise manner. I make this comment to point out that there is no “advanced Christianity” dimension or state, we never “move on from” the faith nor do we ever have roots planted anywhere other than Christ Jesus. There will always be crafty, scheming men who will try to convince you, dear Christian, that there is something beyond the Gospel that you need to learn, study, practice, and perfect in order to achieve “the higher calling” or some kind of “special anointing”. This is falsehood. Paul hasn’t even met these folks and already he is encouraging to remain in Christ “just as you were taught”, because he knows that they were taught Jesus Christ. They don’t need anything “new” to advance in their walk, they just need to grow roots and be built up in Christ, whom they have already received, the Glory of God.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Praise the Lord. I want to interject here, if I may, to mention that we discussed these verses two weeks ago OT look at the Crossing of the Red Sea. We saw how Paul’s declaration that the cross put the rulers and authorities to open shame in much the same way that Egypt was put to shame when God destroyed Pharaoh’s army by crushing them with the waters through which Israel safely walked. I’ve also underlined four phrases in verse 8 that we will address more fully after we close out the chapter. For now, these represent four principle means by which Christians are led astray into false doctrine, making shipwreck of their faith.

Let No One Disqualify You

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Paul packs a lot of great instruction, warning, and encouragement in this short chapter. Now that we’ve read through the chapter, lets try to unpack this wonderful passage in a way that brings clarity to our Christian walk (being rooted and built up in Christ).

I mentioned earlier that in verse 8 Paul introduces four primary ways in which Christians are led astray into false teaching. Let’s take a look at each one.

Elemental Spirits of the World

Within this passage we see a few things listed by Paul that help us understand how Paul is using this phrase. We see he lists worship of angels and going on in detail about visions, but we also see a reference to festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths. Paul is not only talking about completely false elemental spirits, but he is including false teaching surrounding real spirits as well as applying shadows of truth over the substance of the Truth, which belongs to Christ. By the time Christ arrived in human form (by virgin birth), the world already had Aristotle and “ancient” Greek philosphy/mythology. They had false elemental spirits and false deities, all of which were unclean spirits or demons. Paul is clearly insisting that the Christian not be disqualified by caving into any idolatry.

The Jews also had festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths in the Law of Moses (or the Mosaic Covenant). These were shadows of what was coming, Jesus Christ. Paul is warning the Christian not to fall into the snare of those who would insist that in order to truly follow Christ, a Christian must keep the Law of Moses (circumcision, feasts, festivals, Sabbaths, etc). The entire Book of Galatians was written by the Apostle Paul to the Churches of Galatia for precisely this reason, they had allowed this false doctrine to take root and divert their eyes from Christ. Paul didn’t mince any words in that letter.

Galatians 1:6-9 (ESV) | No Other Gospel
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Seriously a wonderful book to read and to study. While the prevailing theme of the letter is a rebuke against false teaching, Paul also provides some truly wonderful teaching in that letter to the Galatians. Here, in his letter to the Colossians, Paul is encouraging the Church not to allow anyone to disqualify them regarding these festivals, new moons, or Sabbaths. But notice that he said “let no one pass judgement on you in…” As foreshadows of Christ, they are simply not a factor for those who are in Christ. What do I mean? I mean that whether you choose to observe the feasts, the new moons, or even dietary restrictions, so long as you do everything to the glory and honor of Christ, there is no judgement for the observance or the abstinence from these traditions. Paul also brought up food and drink. The Law had detailed dietary rules. The world also has it’s own theories on food (Paleo, Gluten-Free, Oragnic, Vegan, etc) which stem from a godless worldview (evolution or pagan theology). Paul addresses this teaching in more detail in his letter to the Romans. Let’s take just a quick look at the start of chapter 14.

Romans 14:1-6 (ESV) |Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another
1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Notice how it ties back to Colossians 2:7, where Paul ended his summary of walking in Christ with “abounding in thanksgiving”, and that thanksgiving is to God. The passage in Romans 14 often gets overstretched (twisted out of context) to include opinions that run contrary to God’s Word, guard against that. The festivals and food rules point to Christ, therefore if we have Christ we have the fulfillment of the Law that can only be found in Him and in His work of obedience, even to death on the Cross. So, keep it in Scriptural context… Jesus declared all foods clean, and He also declared Himself Lord of the Sabbath. So, you see, we have freedom in Christ, and only in Christ, and in that freedom we are not to make judgements against our brothers and sisters in Christ regarding matters of freedom.

Human Tradition

After discussing all of the Mosaic covenant and the poor teaching of the Law of Moses, one might be tempted to think we already addressed this point. Not yet, we haven’t. You see, the Law of Moses didn’t come from men, but was given to men as a Testimony of who God Is and what He will do in His Son, Jesus. A common error in the church today, is to accuse Christians who hold tightly to the Scriptures, the Written Word of God, of being like the Pharisees. The truth is that had the Pharisees kept to the Written Word of God, and believed Moses, they would not have rejected Jesus.

John 5:45-47 (ESV) 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

The Pharisees had a separate tradition, what they called the “oral law” or “oral Torah”. They believed that there were 2 laws given to Moses, one written and one only spoken. They believed that the oral law could only be passed down orally within the Priests and Scribes of the tribe of Levi. They believed that their role as Levites was to interpret the Written Law. For example, the written Law says “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”, but the Oral Torah had all kinds of rules and regulations specifying what it meant to keep it holy, down to the distance one could walk on that day without breaking the Sabbath. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for enforcing their man-made traditions over the Written Law.

Matthew 15:1-6 (ESV) | Traditions and Commandments
15 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and,‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.

We, the visible Church, still struggle with this today. God forgive us for elevating our own traditions and customs to the status of Scripture. Many denominational splits are defined by differences in man’s “oral laws” taught to explain what is happening behind the Scriptures. May the Lord grant us Grace and Mercy in this regard. We also see this in churches who push a “social gospel” where the primary role of the church is somehow to “make the world a better place” even if that means preaching Law and Gospel needs to take a back seat until we’ve “earned the right” to share the Word of God. Again, may the Lord forgive us of this, and cleanse us from this unrighteousness. Are good works bad? Not at all, but they flow out from the Gospel of Jesus Christ; therefore, they cannot replace the Gospel in any way.

Philosophy

Philosophy was born out of a desire to explain the inner workings of the mind, our social interactions, even religion without invoking what God has revealed about Himself and His Creation in His Word. It begins and ends in death. Philosophy began as Metaphysics. Paul engaged the Greek philosophers that the world today think they’ve rediscovered in some new way. What did Paul have to say about their philosophy?

Romans 1:18-23 (ESV) 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

The modern church struggles with this today, and some might argue in greater measure. The church has begun to doubt the historical accuracy of Genesis, the Creation, and whether or not the Bible is infallible. These doubts are born out of philosophy, man’s attempt to explain away God, by refusing to honor Him as God. They have become fools.  Brothers and sisters, evolution is a lie, God did NOT use evolution to create the world by “trial and error”. The flood through which God carried Noah and his family was a global flood, not a localized one. God made man and woman, and He made them that way for His purpose. We do not get to decide when He made a mistake in gender, or sexuality. It is not for us to interpret the Bible through the Philosophy of men; rather, it is by the Bible that we are to measure the philosophy of men.

A word of caution, if I may. Pay attention to how your pastor/teacher breaks down sermons into Principles or Philosophies (even this blog post). As long as the principles/philosophies are being taught from the scriptures, then there is Truth to be revealed by God the Holy Spirit. However, there is a danger when the philosophies and principles being taught draw their origins from men, their ideas or their experiences, even their dreams/visions.

Empty Deceit

Finally, what remains are the open deception of self-seeking false teachers, prophets, and christs (anointed ones). These religious con-men have always existed, and will always be a plague on the Body of Christ. The Apostle Paul had to deal with what he called “so-called super apostles” who had deceived many in Corinth.

2 Corinthians 11:7-15 (ESV) 7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do.13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.Their end will correspond to their deeds.

The Apostle Peter also had something to say about such false teachers.

2 Peter 2:1-3 (ESV) 1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

This problem is most notably (thought not exclusively) present in the Televangelist, Faith Healer, and Megachurch scene. If ever you hear a preacher link the giving of money with the favor of God, His promises, or His blessing, run. RUN away. Should we give to the work of the ministry? Absolutely, but in the same light as performing good works, they flow from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and are not a pre-requisite in any light. As servants of the Most High God, we belong to Him and are but humble stewards of His Gospel. As such, nothing we own is ours, yet He has blessed us with every good thing that is Above, with the Hope of eternal life in the resurrection of Christ. And this gift of Grace came by faith, and that faith by hearing the Word of God. Who then, dare proclaim to you a different gospel that compels you to give them money so that they can serve as your advocate to Our Heavenly Father? Only a false teacher. If you remember from our first discussion of Ephesians, Paul’s final farewell to the Elders of the Ephesians.

Acts 20:28-30 (ESV) 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Pay careful attention. If the message, the proof, and commandment all point to the individual preaching, then it is not of God. Remain in the Word of God, study, and take every thought or opinion captive, subjecting it to the Authority of the Word of God. I pray that this has been an encouragement to you. It was longer than I had anticipated, but I enjoyed this study very much.

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.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Colossians 1

bibleWe are currently working on some “fundamentals of Christianity” (haven’t come up with a title yet) posts geared toward encouraging new or newly-learning Christians by focusing on the basics of our Faith, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We feel it will be a necessary feature here at Faithful Stewardship as we move more toward exercising Biblical discernment in some of the more contentious or deeply ingrained issues of the modern-day church. From time to time we will also review some church history as it pertains to present-day denominations and their effect on the Body of Christ. The plan is to move more of the Old Testament studies to Thursdays.  We will continue pointing to the Gospel in every post, we just want to really highlight it in our Wednesday posts. We are open to any questions or suggestions you may have, especially if you are a new (or renewed) Christian. We want to hear from you.

Paul Writes to a Church He Did not Plant

I have always loved Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae. In many ways, it feels more familiar in that the church at Colossae was not directly planted by Paul in his missionary journeys, so his letter to them in that sense seems all the more tangible, or connectable, to me as a Christian many centuries and miles removed from the Pauline missionary routes. Colossae was approximately 10-12 miles away from two other prosperous cities, Heiropolis and Laodecia (ref WebBible Encycolopedia).  Colossae was also about 120 miles from Ephesus. We know that Paul spent 3 years working with the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20:31). If we go back a bit to Chapter 19, we see the impact of Paul’s first 2 years of preaching in Ephasus.

Acts 19:1-10 (ESV) | Paul in Ephesus

And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.

And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

Without getting overly involved in the history of the region. Apollos had preached well in Ephesus before Paul arrived, but needed some additional training for he had been a disciple of John the Baptist and only knew of Jesus what was prophesied. He was not aware of the Baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ, only the Baptism of repentance. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to dwell within those who believed and were baptized in His Name. We see the Apostle Paul completing the Gospel teaching of these disciples and they received the Holy Spirit, here with evidence and manifestation, but understand that the gift of the Holy Spirit is received by faith in the Promise given by Jesus Christ regardless of manifestation. Those who are baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are in dwelt by the Holy Spirit. Paul worked for two years preaching the Gospel to all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks. It is possible that Epaphras and Philemon were discipled around this time. If you’ve been looking through the books of the New Testament, you know that there is a short, 1-chapter letter to Philemon. We’ll look at that letter once we wrap up Colossians.

Paul’s Letter to the Colossians

Colossians 1 (ESV)

Greeting

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Paul, after properly introducing himself as he tends to do, immediately offers praise, thanksgiving, and prayer for the church at Colossae. We see here that Epaphras likely planted this church, and Paul is commending them by way of reminder to keep in the Grace of Jesus Christ as taught to them in Truth. Notice how quickly Paul anchors everything into the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He does not give a checklist of their deeds, their size, nor their finances, neither does he take the approach of “well we are all Christians, Praise God” and move on to the subject of the letter. No. Paul is encouraging them in the Gospel, letting them know that they are in the prayers of the Brethren, and urging them to continue walking in Christ. Everything is anchored in Christ. This is such a primary focus that Paul will continue on this thought further narrowing down the person of Christ as the Son of God.

The Preeminence of Christ

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Here, we see Paul clearly proclaiming the deity of Christ. Might I ask that you take some time to really read what Paul is saying of Jesus here? Hollywood has done a great job of hyper-fixation on the singular “anti-christ”, but the New Testament warns of many false christs and many anti-christs in the last days (in which we live). How we view Jesus Christ is of supreme importance, for Only Jesus Christ as described in the Bible is the Way of Salvation. You cannot deviate in the person of Jesus Christ and somehow manage a True Gospel. It simply cannot be done. This is where the Mormons (Latter Day Saints) and the Jehovah’s Witness fail, though they both falsely claim to be “Christian”. This is also why any attempt to synchronize Islam and Christianity is abject heresy. While Islam has a name for Jesus (Issa), they deny the Biblical Jesus. What Paul is providing for us here is a clear starting point for discernment: Who do you say that I Am?

Paul’s Ministry to the Church

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Colossians 2:1-5 (ESV)

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

The Apostle Paul describes his ministry as a stewardship from God, given to him for the Church. The Gospel is the Lord’s. It is His testimony we preach. We who share the Word of God, are stewards of God’s Grace and mercy, preaching the Word of God so that the lost might be saved. I sometimes wonder why the chapter mark is placed so early, it seems the closing thought of Paul’s intro doesn’t truly settle until verse 5 of Chapter 2. We will stop here for today, and pick up next week on the meat of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, that is Christian living and ministry.

But Who Do You Say That I Am?

In closing out today’s Gospel Wednesday, I want to focus on the question of who Jesus is. We mentioned it earlier, but I think it should be more fully explored. Let’s take a moment to turn to Matthew chapter 16.

Matthew 16:13-28 (ESV)

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter,“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

There is no room for creativity in teaching who Jesus is. Failure to faithfully confess Christ is not the only false teaching out there, but it is (in my view) the most dangerous. They will invoke His Name falsely (blasphemy) and many will be (have been) deceived. You who have placed your faith in Christ, remain in Him, in His Word. As long as you abide in Him, the One is the Word made flesh, you will not be the one of whom Jesus prophesied:

Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV) | I Never Knew You

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Remember when we pointed out earlier, that the Apostle Paul did not praise the Colossians by running down a list of accomplishments or works; rather, he praised them for their love and faith in Jesus Christ. Don’t be so eager to build a portfolio of righteous acts, that you skip over the only thing that matters, Jesus Christ. I encourage you to spend time reading the Gospels with a singular focus of who Jesus is. We’ll pick up next week in Colossians 2:6. Until then, be blessed, be faithful, and be ready.

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.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Taking a Short Planning Break

Prayer Meeting, First Stone by George Bellows (1882-1925)

Prayer Meeting, First Stone
by George Bellows (1882-1925)

With the end of our first year of blogging here at Faithful Stewardship approaching quickly, we are in the process of prayerfully discussing ways of expanding a bit. My wife is considering leading a Women’s Bible study at our home and possibly sharing women-centered Bible studies here on Faithful Stewardship. We ask for your prayers while we adjust our schedules.

In light of this planning, Faithful Stewardship Bible studies will be on hold for about a week while we focus on other things. Our Facebook page will likely become more active in the meantime, so feel free to reach out to us there (or in comments here).

1 Peter 1:3-13 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope
1 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. 13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

May the Gospel of Grace fill your hearts and minds always,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Earn the Right to Speak Truth?

This statement has been bugging me since Tuesday’s DiM post. This seems to be a prevalent notion among the “missional” or “relational” churches who push the notion that “living out the Gospel” is somehow preferable to “preaching the Gospel”.

We live in a society that extols the man-made virtue of “Freedom of Speech” especially in voicing one’s opinion; however, that freedom of speech is routinely abridged whenever the speech invokes God, the Bible, or preaching the Gospel. That is to be expected based on what Jesus taught His disciples:

John 15:18-20 (ESV) | The Hatred of the World
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

What we should not have expected, was for the church to have accepted this upside-down concept of the Gospel, where we can freely share our opinions, but don’t you DARE share TRUTH without having earned the right to do so. What garbage, and again, it is completely upside down from what God’s Word teaches. Let’s look at what Scripture says regarding preaching, beginning with John the Baptist.

Matthew 3:1-12 (ESV) | John the Baptist Prepares the Way
1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’”

4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan,confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor andgather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Words… they are necessary for preaching. Let’s look at the start of Jesus’ Ministry after spending 40 days fasting in the wilderness, resisting the Devil.

Matthew 4:12-17 (ESV) | Jesus Begins His Ministry
12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying,“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

So, one might object, “oh but John the Baptist was specially anointed and Jesus is the very Son of God”. Fair objection. Let’s move to Acts chapter 8.

Acts 8:4-17 (ESV) | Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria
4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was much joy in that city.

9 But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.

14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

We know that the signs and wonders were of God the Holy Spirit operating through Philip. Notice here, though, that words are needed (necessary) even in the presence of miraculous signs and wonders such as unclean spirits being cast out, and the lame and paralyzed being healed in their midst. Words are necessary, at all times, for the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One might argue, “but these are descriptive texts, you cannot make a prescription from them”… to that I would say, “you are mostly correct, and I’ll remember you pointed that out in future conversations”. Let’s look to some prescriptive texts regarding the preaching of the Gospel.

Romans 10:13-15 (ESV) 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written,“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!

1 Corinthians 1:20-25 (ESV)20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Ephesians 3:8-12 (ESV)8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV) | Preach the Word
1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Now, to be sure, if we do not submit to the Word of God we preach, then we work contrary to the Gospel, unless we also confess our sin one to another, repenting and forgiving as we have been forgiven by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this point, we will return to 1 Corinthians and better understand what it is Paul is teaching in chapter 9.

1 Corinthians 9:8-27 (ESV) 8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. 15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. 16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. 19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Sorun that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

And this is why I boldly state that this idea that one must earn the right to speak Truth (often reinforced using the Francis of Assisi quote) is completely backward. The preaching of the Gospel requires words at all times. However, when such preaching opens a door for relationship or fellowship we must live in step with the Spirit, lest we disqualify ourselves for our lack of self-control.

Opinions… everyone has them

Let’s look at the difference between opinions and Truth. There is a difference and we need to be very careful how we divide the Word of God to “prove our point”. Scripture is very clear about a great many things, and it is also clear about opinions.

Romans 14:1-4 (ESV) | Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another
1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Romans 14:13-19 (ESV) | Do Not Cause Another to Stumble
13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building.

That is NOT to say that all opinions are equally valid. As long as there is TRUTH (Scripture) then there is a standard by which we can declare certain opinions to be false, and we are not to simply allow every opinion that is false to go un-checked.

2 Corinthians 10:1-6 (ESV) | Paul Defends His Ministry
1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience,when your obedience is complete.

Therefore, let us not compromise the Word of God for the sake of a short-lived, human-defined, sense of fellowship. We must preach the Gospel and by the Grace of God we must live out that Gospel in a manner that demonstrates the love of God, so that we are not disqualified. That doesn’t mean we have to live perfectly under the Law, though that should be our aim, it means that when we fall short of the Law we demonstrate repentance and embrace the Gospel that we preach. You are a sinner. I am a sinner. While we walk in our mortal, sinful flesh, we will sin. The Gospel isn’t that somehow we suddenly stopped sinning, but that in Christ Jesus we have the forgiveness of sin and the promise of a new body, one free of sin and death, that we will inherit either when we die or when Christ returns. That is the Gospel we must preach and live, and it words are always necessary, for faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Words of Christ (Romans 10:17).

May the Grace of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ fill your words, actions, and thoughts,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

 

The Parable of the Good Samaritan | Law & Gospel

??????????This week I had the good pleasure of hearing 2 sermons on this parable from pastors with whom I was unfamiliar. While one sermon was vastly superior to the other, I gained insight from each and thought this would be a good topic for us to discuss today. From time to time you will see me talk about the need to preach both Law and Gospel. In the today’s church we seem to find some emergent/seeker-driven churches attempting to skip Law and only focus on Gospel. The problem with that (aside from not teaching the full counsel of Scripture) is that without the Law we are not convicted of sin. Without a conviction of sin, we cannot fully appreciate or grasp the Gospel. Other churches tend to err in the other direction. They consider Gospel just what you need to “be born again” and then they teach all Law… this is also dangerous, for the Law convicts us of our sin… and we live in a sinful world and our flesh is sinful. We still sin, and we need the Gospel every day of our lives. For we walk by grace, and we need to be reminded of the power of God’s grace every day of our lives, lest we slip into condemnation for our lack of perfection. Our primary text for today comes from Luke 10, and we will see how a single parable effectively teaches both Law and Gospel. 

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Luke 10:25-37 (ESV)
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

For a little bit of context, Jesus had just pronounced Woes to the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida for their unbelief and unrepentant hearts. The seventy-two disciples who had been sent out returned praising God and giving a joyful report. Jesus was careful to refocus their excitement away from the fact that the demons were submitted to them and onto the fact that their names had been written Heaven. Jesus then praises God aloud and I think we should look at this portion before diving into the parable.

Luke 10:21-24 (ESV)
21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” 23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

And let it be known that we are recipients of that blessing, for by the Grace of God we now have the record of these events in God’s Holy Word, Amen. Look at the excitement in Jesus’ praise. Notice that he turns privately to His disciples to call them blessed. I mention this because I do believe that the events that take place in verse 25 take place soon afterward. Luke doesn’t specify a time-frame, but he does write “and behold” so I think this Lawyer’s test of Jesus came suddenly.

The Lawyer’s test

Now we are not talking about a Lawyer in the sense of a trial lawyer; rather, he was most likely an expert in the Law of Moses. Now, the lawyer was asking Jesus how he might inherit eternal life. Notice, however, that Luke clearly identifies this as a test (ESV) or that he tempted (KJV) Jesus with this question. He was looking for Jesus to give an unlawful answer. What kind of answer was he looking for? We don’t know, because Jesus turned the answer back onto the lawyer, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it”? Let’s look at the answer the Lawyer gives. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus commends him for his lawful answer to the question and then tells him that if he does that he will live. Jesus confirmed the Law of Moses, and the Lawyer stood convicted by it. Let’s examine 2 portions of the Law related to the mans answer.

Deuteronomy 6:1-5 (ESV) 1 “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly,as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Leviticus 19:9-18 (ESV) 9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God. 11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. 13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. 14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. 15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord. 17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Now immediately we are presented with the greatest and second commandments. In Matthew, Jesus was asked what the Greatest Commandment was and His answer to them was the same. Now the first commandment is one that is easier to claim (and harder to disprove) than the second. This lawyer might have been willing to claim ownership of the first law; however, in order to justify himself, clearly he needed a favorable definition of “neighbor”.

The Parable at Face Value | Law

This parable of the good Samaritan simultaneously teaches Law as well as the Gospel. Let us first see how the parable teaches the Law of God. This is how it would most likely initially have been interpreted by the Lawyer and those present at the time.

Luke 10:30-32 (ESV) 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

The hearers of this parable would likely place themselves in the position of either the victim, the Priest, or the Levite. This lawyer probably pictured himself as either the Priest of the Levite due to his level of study and expertise in the Law. At this point in the story, however, it is not clear that what either of these character did was wrong. That might be hard for us to understand but remember, the Law had specific rules regarding cleanliness and the dead. This takes place on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem (city of the Temple). When the scripture describes the man as being “half dead”, it is saying that he appeared to be dead. One would have to inspect him, check on him to determine if he were dead. This presents a Legal dilemma for the Priest and the Levite. Let’s turn for a moment to Levitical Law.

Leviticus 21:1-3 (ESV)
21 And the Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them, No one shall make himself unclean for the dead among his people, 2 except for his closest relatives, his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother, 3 or his virgin sister (who is near to him because she has had no husband; for her he may make himself unclean).

So, a Priest would not touch a dead person unless it was clearly one of the aforementioned exceptions. The High Priest is afforded no exceptions at all. The Law acknowledges that we are incapable of keeping it, and even specifies purification rituals. Let’s look at those in Numbers.

Numbers 19:11-13 (ESV)
11 “Whoever touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean seven days. 12 He shall cleanse himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day, and so be clean. But if he does not cleanse himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not become clean. 13 Whoever touches a dead person, the body of anyone who has died, and does not cleanse himself, defiles the tabernacle of the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from Israel; because the water for impurity was not thrown on him, he shall be unclean. His uncleanness is still on him.

Yikes. This portion of the Law applies to Priests and Levites, so it includes both passers-by in the parable. Touching a dead body, even to see if he might still be alive, would make them unclean for seven days. They’d have to wash on the 3rd and 7th day to be made clean again and not to defile the Temple of the Lord. In order for the Priest or the Levite to assist the half-dead man, they’d have to be willing to give up their Legal cleanliness, for if the man is dead they would have been made unclean while still not being able to do anything for the dead man. Therefore, they passed by on the other side of the street (probably as a part of tradition) to fully demonstrate their acknowledgement that they must remain clean as they continue walking. “Someone else will take care of it”… someone not baring the responsibility of being a Levite or a Priest. After all, they have important business to attend to, they have a “calling” that does not include touching dead bodies. There are plenty of others who can render aid or bury the dead without jeopardizing their calling. This is Law. Let’s continue.

Luke 10:33-35 (ESV) 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’

Now, the Samaritans weren’t simply a “lower class citizen”, they were outsiders, foreigners, gentiles. They were mixed in blood (due to the Assyrian defeat and occupation of the northern kingdom of Israel) and in religion (they worshiped in the “high places” those that were built to other gods). Remember what the law says about this sort of thing, they are to be cut off. The Samaritans were not granted access to the Temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans were well aware of where they stood in the eyes of the Jews. This animosity, this separation was lawful. For us to better understand this, let us look to John Chapter 4.

John 4:7-9 (ESV) 7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

John 4:19-20 (ESV) 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

John 4:22 (ESV) 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

Remember, that the man who half-dead in the road is assumed to be a Jew. Jesus merely says “a man” but given the context He wouldn’t need to identify the man as a Jew, for that is the norm. Jesus identified the Levite and the Priest for a specific purpose. He also identifies the Samaritan for a purpose. He is an outsider and regarded as hostile. Jews have no dealing with Samaritans. Yet, this Samaritan had compassion on the half-dead Jew. Forsaking everything he had planned for that day, this man took the time to bandage (to bind up) his wounds, washing and cleansing him with oil and wine, and lifting the man and setting him on his own donkey and taking him to an inn and continued to care for him. Notice, that it isn’t until the next day that the Samaritan leaves his side, but he does so having paid for the inn and securing care and provision for the man while the Samaritan is away. He urges the inn keeper, the designated caregiver, to do what is necessary to care for the man with a promise that he will return and will repay any expense that wasn’t already covered. This Samaritan not only bandaged, washed, anointed, and carried the man out of the street, he brought him to a place of rest having paid the price for him to live and to continue healing.

Luke 10:36-37 (ESV) 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.

Here, we have the Legal answer to the question, “how do I inherit eternal life”? There are no loopholes, no caveats in the law. To love your neighbor as yourself and to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind is a high mark, who can pass this test? According to the Law? No one born of Adam. It isn’t enough to be justified in not taking action as in the case of the Levite and the Priest, for in doing so, you fail the commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself.

The Parable of the Samaritan | Gospel

Now, let’s take a slightly different look at this parable… one that likely didn’t resonate with the Apostles until long after these things took place, possibly not until God the Holy Spirit was reminding them of all that Jesus had taught. What if the first man in our story represents all of mankind, who had fallen to robbers and been left for dead? And we being dead in sin and trespasses, were too unclean to be rescued by the Law (Priests and Levites) for its requirements for cleanliness kept it on the far side of the road? What if the Samaritan in this story, is Jesus Christ? Who, having looked upon us in our mortal condition of sin… and loved us enough to bind up our wounds, wash away our iniquities, and pay the price that we could not pay, to enter in His rest. Not only did He pay for our healing, He promised to return again and will pay whatever expenses remained, and he didn’t leave us alone, but left us in the care of the Inn keeper? Let’s look at what the Scriptures say of Jesus Christ.

John 10:9-11 (ESV) 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Isaiah 53:1-6 (ESV)
53 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 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.
3 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.
5 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.
6 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.

John 14:18-19 (ESV) 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.

Hebrews 9:27-28 (ESV) 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Matthew 5:17 (ESV) 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Praise the Lord. The Law of the Lord is perfect, but we who are dead in sin cannot find salvation by works of the Law, because the Law convicts us of our sin and separation from God. I’m sure you felt it as we worked through the legal implications of the Parable. But how beautiful is the Gospel once we’ve been confronted by our sin?

Romans 3:20-26 (ESV)
20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Amen. The beauty and wonder of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is brought into clear focus when we examine the Law and the Prophets. How gracious is our God. How Wonderful is His Gospel.

Revelation 22:10-17 (ESV)
10 And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”

12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus, come. May the Lord bless you and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge