The Lessons Of Peter And Paul At Antioch

The Lessons Of Peter And Paul At Antioch

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

As a free moral agent, Simon Peter had the same capacity for sin as the rest of us. And Peter sinned despite being an apostle. We recall Peter’s most famous blunder on the night of Jesus’ mock trial (Luke 22.60-62). Or perhaps we remember Peter sticking his foot in his mouth on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17.4-6). But there was another occasion on which Peter’s fallibility demonstrated itself. According to Galatians 2.11-14, Peter allowed his fear of the Judaisers rule his heart and stopped associating with Gentile Christians: 

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of some men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and separate himself, fearing those from the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?’ (NASB)” 

Paul labels Peter a hypocrite. Remember how Paul reminded Peter that he lived as a Gentile rather than a Jew, referring to his life in Christ, in whom we make no such distinctions (Galatians 3.28). Indeed, a hypocrite is someone whose true character contrasts with the image he presents to the world. And unfortunately, Peter was guilty of doing such at the moment. Peter didn’t want the Judaisers, a zealous sect of Christians who believed Gentiles should first convert to Judaism before becoming candidates for Christian conversion, to know he had no problem freely associating with Gentile Christians. He preferred instead to maintain the charade of one whose first allegiance was to Moses’ Law.  

When we allow fear to rule our hearts, we make poor decisions. Peter should have considered the role of fear in his past failures. Fear caused Peter to sink instead of walk on water as he had done for a few steps (Matthew 14.28-30). Peter took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the boisterous waves, exacerbating his fear rather than alleviating it. Fear drove Peter to deny the Lord three times before the rooster crow because he feared the consequences of admitting he was the Lord’s disciple rather than accepting the repercussions of that admission (Mark 14.31). But God does not want us to be concerned about what might happen. Instead, he desires that we put our trust in Him, cast our cares on Him, and make decisions that glorify Him. And once we develop perfect love, it casts out such fear (1 John 4.18).  

But did Paul have to rebuke Peter publicly? Yes. Peter had sinned publicly. There was no point in following the guidelines provided by our Lord to take such an erring brother aside privately (Matthew 18.15-16). Plus, Paul knew his judgment sound by having also received the revelation of Jesus Christ. Peter’s sin was spreading itself as cancer among the brethren of Antioch (cf. 1 Corinthians 5.6-7). Had Peter’s choice affected him alone, that would have been one thing. But Peter had a position of influence. He was an apostle. Therefore, he influenced other Jewish Christians to act hypocritically, including Paul’s future missionary journey companion, Barnabas.  

Did Peter resent Paul for so doing? I don’t imagine anyone enjoys having another rebuke him. Though referring to persecution, the Hebrews’ writer nonetheless says discipline can be painful. Despite this, a Christian understands that discipline trains him to become more fruitful (Hebrews 12.11). However, Peter must have known the words of Solomon that the one later favors a rebuker rather than the flatterer (Proverbs 28.23). Peter could, on reflection, appreciate what Paul had done for him. And that Peter bore no ill will for Paul is seen in the fact that Peter refers to Paul as a “beloved brother” in 2 Peter 3.15. 

Thus, Peter teaches us by example both positive lessons worthy of emulation and types of behavior we need to avoid, such as in Galatians 2. We should not allow our fear of what others think or our esteem for others to cause us to deviate from the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. And Paul teaches us that when someone sins publicly, and we know this because of God’s Word, we should nip that error in the bud since sin will act as leaven, permeating the body of Christ.     

Motivations For Teaching Difficult Things

Motivations For Teaching Difficult Things

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

It becomes clear from reading the second letter to the Corinthians that Paul feels the need to defend himself and his actions among his readers. He feared that he had been misunderstood in his previous work among them (cf. 1:12-14). In fact, it seems as though this is the purpose of the letter (look also at 5:11-12). If you remember from the first letter, he had some pretty challenging and unpopular things to say about how they were behaving. It’s not far-fetched to think that some of them not only would not appreciate what he said, but would attack him as the messenger for saying it. Sometimes, however lovingly and kindly we share the truth, it will offend the hearer who, instead of repenting, tries to undermine the one who said it.  As we read this section, think of Paul as a man, just like his audience, who has feelings, struggles, difficulties, and temptations, too. He also needed them to know that it was because he cared so much about them that he would not “shrink from declaring to [them] anything that was profitable” (cf. Acts 20:20). What drove Paul to minister to the Corinthians? Notice several things he says in 2 Corinthians one.

THE GRACE OF GOD (12)

He would not boast in himself, whether his abilities or knowledge or influence. Those are empty and unsatisfying. His motives were pure and he was helped by a grace he wanted them to appreciate, too. When we understand our need of God’s grace, it will move us to give Him our all in response. 

THE JUDGMENT DAY OF GOD (13-14)

Paul wanted them to be able to legitimately boast together and of one another at “the day of the Lord” (cf. 5:10). The word “boast” in modern English has negative connotations–bragging, arrogance, and sinful pride. Paul wanted to have confidence in them as they faced this Day, as confident as he hoped they were of him in view of it. We should share the whole counsel of God to make sure people are ready for the most important day of all. 

THE PROMISES OF GOD (20)

He shared the positive and negative, the promises and the warnings, because he knew God meant what He said. He would not equivocate or talk out of both sides of his mouth. He was going to give them “the whole purpose of God” (cf. Acts 20:27). He knew God was the supreme promise-keeper (2 Tim. 4:8; 2 Cor. 5:11-14). 

THE GLORY OF GOD (20)

Paul taught them for the glory of God. The Word is God’s. The promises are God’s. The salvation is from God. How silly for the fragile pottery to brag (4:7); the glory belongs to the Potter. Anything worthwhile we accomplish is always because of God. 

THE WORKING OF GOD (21-22)

Paul was moved by the knowledge that God is the one who establishes men (21), sets us apart (21), and gives us His Spirit (22). Knowing this, we should share Him with people so that God can accomplish His work in their lives. 

THE WITNESS OF GOD (23-24)

Wise teachers and preachers will remember that God is watching their work. He can see where no one else can–our hearts and motives. Knowing He knows me inside and out, I will check myself and do His work to bring the joy and strength of the hearers (23-24). 

THE PEOPLE OF GOD (2:1-4)

We should be moved by genuine love and concern for people. Those who share the word should share life with those who receive the word from them. Building relationships, being together in all the ups and downs of life, is what it is all about. It’s hard to imagine staying motivated to share the gospel with people we isolate ourselves from. 

Perhaps there are some preachers and teachers who just love beating up on their listeners (or readers). Motivation is individual to each one (Phil. 1:15-17). I have to believe that every faithful proclaimer wants not only to please God but also help as many people as possible go to heaven. There are so many great reasons why Christians should want to share God’s Word with others. Paul gives us a handful of them here. 

When the Wolf and the Lamb Eat Together

When the Wolf and the Lamb Eat Together

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Isaiah 65.17-25 is interesting. Some have mistakenly concluded that it is a prophecy of Christ’s “millennial kingdom” because it resembles passages in John’s revelation. However, we might agree that it refers to the millennium only if others use that term to describe the entire period between Jesus Christ’s two advents. 

Contextually, this prophecy appears alongside others concerning the church or the kingdom. Paul summarizes the blessings God promised Isaiah in this passage: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1.3 NASB1995). 

And we’ve been in these final days since Pentecost (Acts 2.16-21). As a result, we should not be surprised by its longevity (i.e., more than two millennia and counting) because God metaphorically predicted that its cohorts would live a long time (Isaiah 65.20). Furthermore, this extension is advantageous because it provides opportunities for those who need to repent (cf. 2 Peter 3.9). 

But what does Isaiah 65:25 mean by the wolf eating with the lamb? Because wolves and lambs are predators and prey, people assume it must refer to the millennial kingdom. Otherwise, the wolves would be the ones devouring the lambs. So, we can’t discuss anything current. Nonetheless, they fail to remember that there once existed a time when wolves and lambs ate together. They did so on the ark that God instructed Noah to build. The ark served as God’s refuge during His wrath. 

Today, the church serves as that refuge. Even when wolves are nearby, lambs will still be able to eat within that place of safety. Some people believe God’s providence protects His children, so they have no fear despite living in a wolf-infested world. Others argue that because God changes the obedient’s nature through the Gospel, the wolves and lambs can eat together within the church because their personalities have changed. They are brand-new creatures (2 Corinthians 5.17). All of these interpretations are correct, but there is an intriguing corollary. 

Who was the primary apostle to the Gentiles? Peter’s sermon converted the first Gentiles (Acts 10.34ff), but the Lord chose to send Paul to the Gentiles (Acts 26.17). Jesus tore down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2.13-15), allowing those like Paul to welcome the Gentiles into Zion (cf. Isaiah 62.1-3). However, what do we know about Paul’s history? Paul belonged to the Benjamite tribe. 

God allowed Israel to prophesy his sons’ futures as he lay dying (Genesis 49.1-27). According to Jacob, “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; In the morning he devours the prey, And in the evening he divides the spoil” (Genesis 49.27 NASB1995). Paul was thus a ravenous wolf whose conversion caused him to eat with the lambs (Acts 20.7). No longer a church persecutor content to put Christians to death for their crime of faith in Jesus, Paul became Christ’s ambassador to increase the flock of Christ. 

A true example of the wolf eating with the lamb is found only in God’s kingdom, the church. 

A Quiet Assembly

A Quiet Assembly

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

It began with just a few men. They didn’t know exactly what kind of damage they were about to inflict on their own reputation, for all of eternity. The account is found in Acts 15 with “some men”  going down from Judea and teaching, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Paul and Barnabas debated them fearlessly, but the damage had been done. The argument had so successfully confused and stirred up the assembled group that it was decided to take matters up the command chain. They were off to meet with the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. 

Paul and Barnabas hadn’t lost faith and in fact, they proclaimed what God had done for the Gentiles to all who would listen on their trip. The news of God’s grace to all races and nations brought the listeners a great joy. In Jerusalem, the apostles and elders had already gathered to deal with the fierce conflict. It didn’t take long for the group to separate into two teams each holding two different beliefs about God’s will for all. It was at this moment where Peter stands up and begins to speak. He explains that God knows the heart of all of us and He’s always known. 

The spirit had descended on the apostles to prove that there is no discrimination between Jews and Gentiles. The demand for proof is always in our hearts, and so the Spirit demonstrated miraculous powers to give credence. Peter would explain that under the Jewish law, even Moses and the greats couldn’t bear the load. It wasn’t sustainable, and it wasn’t meant to last. 

It’s verse twelve that gives one some additional insight. It says, “And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done though them among the Gentiles.” How do we solve our conflicting views that spring up in our midst? There’s only one effective way to do so and that’s to take our matters of division to the top. Not preachers, teachers, deacons, or elders, but to the very top.

If God is going to speak, we’ve got to be quiet. The assembly went silent. Everyone there, no matter what their belief was—decided to listen. Speaking over each other never solved a problem and this is true on a congregational level, as well as a personal one. How many times do we fall victim to the assembly of the thoughts and bias in our own minds when reading God’s word? It can be difficult to hush those voices, but it’s when we do that real change has a chance to take root. 

What Motivates Us To Share Christ

What Motivates Us To Share Christ

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

If we will ever share Christ with anyone, it will be the product of some motivator. It may be romantic love, if we are trying to win a potential mate. It could be a sense of Christian duty. It might be a profound sense of love and gratitude for our own salvation. Bible writers are often trying to guide us to appreciate the value of being motivated to share the good news. That is what Paul does in 2 Corinthians 5. Paul, who has been defending the work he and his fellow-laborers have been doing as servants of Christ, moves to the broader consideration of what should move us to share Him with others. Motivation is key to involvement. Often, when I see the importance of my personal involvement in spreading Christ to others, it will touch my heart and open my lips.  What motives should move us?

THE TERROR OF THE LORD (11)

This actually connects back to verse 10. There’s a great day coming, and all of us will be judged. If one is unprepared for that day, he or she should rightfully feel terrified. Knowing the terror facing those not ready to face Jesus, we persuade men. 

PERSONAL INTEGRITY (12-13)

Paul saw his involvement in reaching souls as a matter of personal integrity and honor. These spiritual servants shared Christ for God and for them (13). Soul-winning is our responsibility, and we should realize our character is at stake. 

THE LOVE OF CHRIST (14-16)

One of the most important and transforming truths is that Christ loves everyone. In fact, Paul says “the love of Christ controls us” (14). He proved that love by dying for all so that all could be reconciled (see 17-19). All are dead outside of Christ, but He can make men spiritually alive. That love for us and them should move us. 

THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF RECONCILIATION (17-19)

Anyone in Christ is a new creation (17). He reconciled us to Himself, and then gave us the ministry of reconciliation (18). He entrusted us with the message of reconciliation (19). We are offering people the ability to restore their relationship with God. Think of the peace, relief, and joy we can bring into people’s lives by offering them the hope of Christ!

OUR RESPONSIBILITY AS AMBASSADORS OF CHRIST (20)

God has given us the job of representing Him to men. He makes His appeal through us. We implore others on behalf of Christ to be reconciled. That doesn’t make us important, but it does mean our job could not be more important!

THE FACT THAT WE ARE MADE RIGHTEOUS IN HIM (21)

Christ is our substitute sacrifice, as He is for the people we need to reach. He makes us righteous through Himself. Knowing that God looks at a saved soul and sees purity and righteousness is powerful! That’s what He sees when He looks at us, covered in Christ. It’s what He sees when He looks at everyone covered in Christ. I want for others what I myself have been given!

This isn’t the totality of our motivation, but if this was an exhaustive list it would be enough! Suffice it to say that I don’t lack reasons for sharing my faith. The reasons are diverse, but each is significant by itself. Let’s pray for wisdom, courage, and tenderness of heart to be God’s voice and hands in reconciling the world to Him. 

Three Men Named Ananias

Three Men Named Ananias

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Recently, I heard Dr. Ted Burleson point out that the book of Acts reveals three men named Ananias. The first one is in Acts five, the second one is in Acts nine, and the last one is in Acts 23. Those three men are very much unalike from one another in some basic, important ways.

The Ananias in Acts 5 was a Christian known for lying to Peter and to God about his offering. On the heels of Barnabas’ publicized and praised generosity, this man conspired with his wife to deceive the church about how much they were giving. While we do not read his words or even read that he spoke, it is implied that he did talk this over with Sapphira. His entire legacy is of a liar! Isn’t it tragic that the rest of his life, including his conversion, are completely omitted. This is all we know about him. What a sobering object lesson that I can undo a great deal of other good in my life if I let sin reign in my heart!

The Ananias in Acts 23 was the Jewish High Priest Paul stood before after he was arrested in Jerusalem. “Ananias was High Priest from A.D. 47 to 66, when he was assassinated by the Jews because of his support of the Romans during the Jewish uprising” (Newman and Nida, 432). We also learn that he was “famous for bribery and plunder of temple offerings” (Gangal, 386). Then we see, “His action (having Paul struck on the mouth, NP) was completely in character. Josephus depicted him as one of the very worst of the high priests, known for his pro-Roman sentiments, his extreme cruelty, and his greed” (Polhill, 468). He is known both in Scripture and out of Scripture for being unscrupulous. He will lead the attack against Paul before Felix (Acts 24:1-9). Not only does he refuse to accept Christ, he persecutes and attacks Christ’s messengers. He went out into eternity a sworn enemy of Jesus. At the Judgment, he will stand before Him! He reminds me that life is about preparing for eternity, and it is tragic to live for self in this life and reject the One who died for me.

The Ananias in the middle, in Acts 9, is completely unlike the other two who shared his name. He is introduced to us as a “disciple” (10). The Lord chose him for a choice mission, to go preach to Saul of Tarsus (10). As fearful as that task understandably was, he obeyed the Lord and went (11-17). Acts 22 adds that he was devout (God-fearing)(12), well-spoken of by other Jews in Damascus (12), and a faithful preacher (14) who was bold in message (16). Jesus did not convert Saul on the road; He chose a human messenger on earth to preach to him. Of all the disciples he could have chosen, this Ananias was given the opportunity. This man seized the opportunity and helped give the world the greatest preacher, save Jesus, the world has ever known! Nothing is said about this man after he preached to Saul. Whatever else happened in his life, Ananias is praised for his courage and faithfulness. He is forever linked to this eventual apostle, the man who baptized the ultimate world evangelist whose name we all know 2,000 years later. 

There are other “Neals” in the world today. None of us have our names in the Bible, but which of us will have our names in the “book of life” (Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5)? Of course, the same is true of you whatever your name is. How we respond to the Lord’s grace as well as His will matters. Ask Sapphira’s husband. Ask Paul’s antagonizer. Ask Paul’s preacher. We have one life to prepare for the next life. May we so live that our name will be associated with the Name above all names (Phil. 2:9-10)!  

Know The Enemy And Know Yourself 

Know The Enemy And Know Yourself 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

For wisdom, one cannot beat God’s inspired Word. That Word, Jesus said, is truth (John 17.17). Even so, the secular works of man can be insightful. For example, soldiers and captains of industry alike still quote China’s Sun Tzu. From his work, The Art of War, we take our title. However, the full quotation is longer. Therefore, I will share it to provide context. 

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” 1  

I realize some might say this is obvious enough to be a truism. Yet, for some, it is advice that seems so novel despite having parallels in Holy Writ. Doesn’t the Bible teach us to know our enemy as well as ourselves? Of course, it does.  

  • “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5.8, all ref. NASB1995 unless otherwise indicated) We see our enemy is on the prowl. That noun denotes stealth. Yet, it likewise signifies he is continuously on the move, a restless foe. This restlessness seems evident in the introduction of Job when we find Satan flippantly admitting to God’s question of where he has been that he has been “roaming about on the earth and walking around on it” (Job 1.7). Hence, in knowing our enemy, we expect that he will attack us at any time from any location. Thus, we must maintain our sobriety (i.e., sensibility) and state of preparedness (i.e., alert). As we introspectively examine ourselves, do we note that state of readiness to combat a cunning enemy? Do we have the tools for offense and defense ready? 
  • Paul reminds us that our battle is against spiritual enemies (Ephesians 6.12). And those enemies have a leader that likes to use “schemes” (“wiles” KJV) (Ephesians 6.11). In other words, we do not expect our enemy to fight fairly. In pure militaristic terms, the devil is engaged in guerrilla warfare. He cannot win the war against a superior enemy (i.e., God), so he snipes those he can. Within the same context, though, we observe what we have at our disposal: the panoply of God. God’s armor consists of a loin covering (truth), breastplate (righteousness), shoes (readiness), shield (faith), sword (God’s Word), and helmet (salvation) (Ephesians 6.13-17). These items we must wield with prayer and alertness if we desire to win (Ephesians 6.18). Do we actively use God’s armor, or has our apathetic spirit cast it aside? 

In all fairness, Sun Tzu admits that knowledge alone cannot ensure every victory. And we acknowledge that, as Christians, there are times when we lose a battle against the enemy. Everyone sins (Romans 3.23). There are even occasions when the enemy is in more significant numbers. In such situations, Tzu says it is best to avoid the enemy. Of course, we cannot do that as Christians (John 17.14-16). But we can flee from sin (1 Corinthians 6.18; 10.14; 1 Timothy 6.10-12; 2 Timothy 2.22). And we must keep good company to ensure we are not corrupted (1 Corinthians 15.33). We must periodically check our footing (1 Corinthians 10.12). And when we are seeking to restore someone, we must look to ourselves so that we are not tempted (Galatians 6.1). In the end, though, Tzu’s truism serves us well. We must know our enemy and ourselves. In the interim, as we fight this good fight, we look forward to the day when God will destroy the enemy. Until then, we take comfort from these inspired words: 

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” (1 John 5.4) 

Sources Cited 

1 Tzu, Sun. “A Quote from the Art of War.” Goodreads, Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/17976-if-you-know-the-enemy-and-know-yourself-you-need

These Two Just Don’t Mix

These Two Just Don’t Mix

THURSDAY’S COLUMN: “CAPTAIN’S BLOG”

 

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Carl Pollard

Some things just don’t mix. Milk and orange juice, Auburn and Alabama fans, Coca Cola and Mentos. There is one particular mix that can sometimes be fatal. Blood pressure medicine can be a great thing, but when mixed with Advil/Ibuprofen it can harm your body and even give you a brain hemorrhage.  If you mix two common household items, rubbing alcohol and bleach, you can create chloroform. 

It’s safe to say that some things in life just don’t mix. Twenty to thirty years after the ascension of Jesus, Paul wrote to a group of Christians in Galatia warning them of the dangers of mixing two teachings. In Galatians 1:6, Paul says, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.” He goes on to say in verse 7, “not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

Paul is writing to the Galatians to answer a simple question: “What is required for a person to be saved?” Forget circumcision (Acts 15:1), forget additional teachings, what does GOD say? His answer can be summed up as this: “We need nothing other than what is found in scripture to walk in the Light.” 

Paul addresses the problem in verse six, and he uses the word “amazed” (“thaumazo”) (cf. Acts 4:13; Mark 5:20). He was amazed because these Christians should’ve known better than to listen to these false teachers. Paul’s point is that if there is anything added to that which is necessary for the maintaining of your walk in the light, it is not necessary for salvation.

These Christians should’ve known better, but sadly we are sometimes the same way. We know what’s right and wrong, yet still choose poorly. We know how our speech should be as Christians, we know how we should act and how we should think, but more often than not we make the wrong decision. 

The message that these Christians were to accept was that of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and the correct way to be saved. Any requirement outside of the plan of salvation was to be condemned. If that other requirement is the sinner’s prayer, it must be condemned. If that other requirement is a “new wave of salvation,” as some denominations teach, it is to be condemned. If that other requirement is a tradition not necessary for salvation yet enforced as such, it is to be condemned. We are only compelled to follow what is contained in God’s Word. 

We do this because there is only one source of truth, as Paul goes on to say in Galatians 1:7-9. No one else (not even an angel) has the authority to add to what God has already completed. Scripture is our objective standard, the one source of truth that we can count on no matter what. 

Every year there are new medical breakthroughs that may change how a doctor treats his/her patient. For example, doctors used to bleed their patients because they thought there was such thing as “bleeding out bad blood.” We know this isn’t the case today and that’s because as humans our knowledge is fallible and subject to change. This is not the case for Christians. 

Our methods may change as time goes on, but our message and teachings will never change. Their author is our perfect, unchangeable, all-knowing, infallible God. 

We need nothing other than what is contained in scripture to walk in the light. Paul tells them what is required for salvation. There is only one Gospel that helps to walk in the light. There is only one source that the gospel has come from. We have to decide which gospel we will listen to. Will we let man ruin what God has deemed perfect? Will we let someone else tell us how to be saved? Man, on his own, doesn’t know how to be saved. 

God gave us one gospel through One source, now it is up to us to make the right decision.

 

via Popular Mechanics
The Veiled Heart

The Veiled Heart

Friday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Emily wedding

Carl Pollard

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17).

Without the proper understanding of the context, this verse can be taken to mean many different things. With a little bit of digging we can know what Paul is saying. In reference to the Jews who read the Old Law, Paul says that they had a veil over their hearts (15). What veil is he referring to? The Jews failed to see the Messiah in the Old Law. They had preconceived ideas about what He would look like, talk like, and His mission. They dreamed up a Messiah that was completely different from the One prophesied about.

These Jews read the Old Law with a veil over their eyes. They failed to see the Messiah. Their heart and mind was made up about Christ. It was so much so that they failed to see the true Messiah. Paul says all of this to make a point, “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭3:16‬).

Those who turn to the Lord are able to see the Messiah for who He is. In Christ and being in the spirit of the Lord, we now have freedom from this veil. Rather than failing to see Christ, we can read and understand His Word for what it is, the Words of LIFE.

What happens when you wear glasses inside on a hot humid day? You can see just fine, but the second you step out of the AC and into the heat and humidity, the glasses fog up almost instantly. This is how the Jews read the Old Testament. With a pair of fogged over glasses. But those who are in Christ can see the story of the Bible. We can see the prophecies and their fulfillment. We can clearly see God’s plan for mankind, All of this is a direct result of the freedom God has given each one of us in His Son.

While we don’t have the same circumstances surrounding us today, we can still fall into a similar problem. Sometimes when we go to the Word we only search for the things we should or shouldn’t do. Instead of studying to learn more about our Savior, we get caught up in the rules and regulations of Christianity. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if we only see the Bible as a rule book we will never have a deeper relationship with God. Studying like this effectively places a veil over our hearts and keeps us from finding that true, meaningful and love-filled relationship that God longs for us to have.

The Jews had a veil over their hearts that kept them from seeing Christ and the New Covenant. And we can sometimes do the same thing by treating God’s Word as a rule book rather than a Book that gives us a connection with God the Father.

These rules and guidelines are important, but there’s a lot more to Christianity than this.

ACHIEVING UNITY THROUGH HUMILITY

ACHIEVING UNITY THROUGH HUMILITY

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard

The late gospel preacher, George Bailey, was known for saying, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a pretty small package.” Truly, there is a little “i” in Christ! Paul exemplifies the way a servant of Christ and steward of the gospel (1 Cor. 4:1) behaves. How can we humbly serve Christ and, through such, contribute to unity in His body? Let’s examine 1 Corinthians 3:18-4:13 for some important keys.

Do Not Deceive Yourself (3:18-23)

Paul draws on his contrast between wisdom and foolishness back at the beginning of the letter. The wisdom of this world is foolishness before God (3:19). Why does Paul say that here? In part, it’s to drive home the point that they should not boast in men (like himself, Apollos, and Peter). But it is also to remind them that their glory and worth are tied to their being in Christ and belonging to Him. We wrestle so much with pride in our earthly accomplishments and attributes, but none of those things, of themselves, get us into heaven or bring about unity. Paul drives the point home by quoting from Job and Psalms. Worldly wisdom is a dead-end street. 

Be A Faithful Steward Of The Mysteries Of God (4:1-2)

Instead of being spiritual heroes to be idolized, Paul says that he and other church leaders were servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God (1). The mysteries of God is the testimony of God (2:1), God’s once-hidden mystery (2:7) now revealed in the preaching of the gospel (see Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:1ff). Paul wanted to be seen as a trustworthy steward (manager) of that unparalleled message (cf. 3:11-15). Here’s the point. Paul knew he had only so much time, energy, and other resources to spend on accomplishing his purpose, and he wanted to be the most effective worker for Jesus that he could be. If that’s how we see ourselves, our purpose and work, it will keep us from focusing on who we are and what we have done. 

Remember Who Is Examining Your Work (4:3-5)

The previous point is made more powerful by the fact that not only should we not think more highly of ourselves than we ought, but we need to remember God is examining us. Ignore the idle critic or the armchair quarterback. Don’t spend a lot of time polishing your trophies and reading your “press clippings.” “Wait until the Lord comes” (4:5) and let Him acknowledge you and reward you. He will reveal all the secrets and He will disclose men’s motives. In other words, do the right things for the right reason and you will be richly rewarded by Christ in the end. God will praise you at The Judgment. 

Follow Good Examples Of Humility (4:6-13)

Paul and Apollos did not view each other as rivals, measuring who was more successful, more loved, or more influential among the Corinthians. He urges them to look at their example, and let God’s Word be the measuring stick of success and failure. The end result would be preventing arrogance and rivalry. These servants of Christ had been doing their service to Him at great personal cost–they were a spectacle to the world (4:9), fools  for Christ’s sake (4:10), weak (4:10), without honor (4:10), physically deprived (4:11), reviled, persecuted, and slandered (4:12-13), and, in summary, “we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now” (4:13b). Doesn’t sound like a condition to brag about, does it? Paul is not trying to portray himself as some spiritual superhero. Neither is he whining or complaining. He is trying to get the Corinthians to understand what matters. It’s not about jockeying for the top spot in the kingdom. It’s about being a faithful steward of the gospel and servant of the Christ. Focus so hard on that goal that you can ignore the praise and the persecution, and let Jesus exalt you at the end. A mindset like that kills division and disunity. 

 
Lehman members, led by our young people, putting songbooks and Bibles back in the pews last week.