Ephesians Pt 20 Belt of Truth

Ephesians 6:10-10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest,15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.

This is a description of the spiritual armor God gives us. We are to stand firm with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, and by praying in the Spirit. What do these pieces of spiritual armor represent in spiritual warfare? We are to know the truth, believe the truth, and speak the truth. We are to rest in the fact that we are declared righteous because of Christ’s sacrifice for us. We are to proclaim the gospel no matter how much resistance we face. We are not to waver in our faith, trusting God’s promises no matter how strongly we are attacked. Our ultimate defense is the assurance we have of our salvation, an assurance that no spiritual force can take away. Our offensive weapon is the Word of God, not our own opinions and feelings.

This text teaches some crucial truths: we can only stand strong in the Lord’s power, it is God’s armor that protects us, and our battle is ultimately against spiritual forces of evil in the world. Some suggest all we need to do is bind Satan-and just say, “Satan, I bind you,” and he is caught. There is no magic phrase or mantra we can say that will bind Satan, but God has not left us without a divine strategy for dealing with him. God’s strategy centers on objective truth, not subjective experience. It begins with sound doctrine, not mystical technique. Yet ironically, those who talk most about warfare against Satan often minimize the importance of doctrine.

Matthew 16:19(ESV) “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” In this verse, Jesus is speaking directly to the apostle Peter and indirectly to the other apostles. Jesus’ words meant that Peter would have the right to enter the kingdom himself, that he would have general authority symbolized by the possession of the keys, and that preaching the gospel would be the means of opening the kingdom of heaven to all believers and shutting it against unbelievers. The book of Acts shows us this process at work. By his sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-40), Peter opened the door of the kingdom for the first time. The expressions “bind” and “loose” were common to Jewish legal phraseology meaning to declare something forbidden or to declare it allowed.

Jesus taught that the apostles had a special task on earth. Their words of authority, as recorded in the New Testament epistles, reflect God’s will for the church. When Paul declared an anathema on those who pervert the gospel, then we know that anathema was already declared in heaven. Galatians 1:8–9(ESV)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.

Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, the Jews rejected him. Jesus opened up salvation for the whole world.

John 3:16-20(ESV)16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

So when he is telling peter that he is giving him the keys to heaven and what he allows on earth is the gospel message to be spread amongst all men.

Acts 13:44-52(ESV)44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews[d] saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,  that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

You live differently in times of war than in times of peace. You are more alert, more intentional, you don’t play as many games. You have to know that there is a real enemy out there and his intention is to kill you, destroy you and your family, your loved ones, your sons and daughters. As a Christian we are enlisted into the Army of the Lord the minute we become saved. Our duties as a recruit is to please the recruiter.
2 Timothy 2:3-4(ESV)3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.
To often Christians get entangled with the temporal(temporary) things of this world and they are not getting involved in the eternal things of the Father’s Kingdom. We have bought into a christianity where you can have your life and sprinkle some Jesus on top and totally ignore the warfare. We are not on a cruise ship, we are on a battleship, we cannot trade in our weapons of warfare for sipping drinks with little umbrellas in it by the pool. Truth is far more than facts. It’s not just something we act upon. It acts upon us. We can’t change the truth, but the truth can change us. It sanctifies (sets us apart) from the falsehoods woven into our sin natures. As Christ the living Word is truth, so his written word is truth. Though heaven and earth will pass away, God’s truth never will.

The first part of the armor is the belt of truth. God never intended His people to worship Him apart from the use of their minds. Real spirituality begins with a precise understanding of truth. Yet much of contemporary Christianity is heading down the paths of mystical experience and fantasy. We don’t battle Satan with magic words and imaginary forces; we rely on the power of His truth as it brings even our thoughts captive to our Lord. That is genuine and ultimate victory over satanic forces. No matter how Satan attacks, the solution is the same. We stand in the truth. We don’t need to learn hidden strategies to fight Satan. God’s truth is the supreme weapon against the father of lies. John 8:44(HCSB)You are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars. Only when we know the truth and commit ourselves to obey it will we stand strong.

The belt—known as the cingulum or balteus—held the Roman soldier’s breastplate to his body, and also held his scabbard which encased his sword. The belt provided a place to house the sword and carry it into battle effectively. The spiritual sword is the Bible, the Word of God.

The belt holds together all other pieces of our armor, and therefore is first mentioned. Similarly, without truth holding us, a Christian is unprepared. It was the belt that held the scabbard, without which there would be no place to put a sword. Imagine an overzealous soldier, fired up and charging out into battle—but without his belt, and consequently without a weapon!

In battle they would take the four corners of the tunic, and fold it up underneath the belt to keep their legs free and to keep from getting tangled.

Paul, by phrasing the first piece of spiritual armor in this way, is referring to that practice of getting the robe up out of your way. Which was important in battle.

In biblical times men wore tunics which was like a robe, they still do this in countries in the Middle East where men wear robes instead of pants. When these men needed to run, or to do some sort of manual labor, they would bend over, take the back edge of their robe, and fold it up into the front of their belt. It was a quick and convenient way to turn a robe into a pair of shorts. The point was that it got the robe up out of the way, so that the person could run faster or work better without having the robe get in the way. So with this in mind, we can see why Paul, although talking about a belt which is worn around the waste, tells us to gird up the loins. He has in mind both the belt, and getting the robe out of the way for movement.

The belt also had other purposes beyond just girding up the loins. It also kept the breastplate tight and secure around the soldier, and kept it from banging against his chest when in battle, and the belt also held a sheath for his sword or dagger.

So if a soldier got rid of his belt, his breastplate wouldn’t be secure, his tunic would trip him up, his sword would drop to the ground. In short, he wouldn’t be much good in battle.

Because of all of these things, the belt was one of the most important pieces of the soldier’s armor. To stand strong in this battle, we must know the truth, and live by the truth. Only in this way will the rest of our armor stay on, and only in this way will we be protected in this battle. This is because the belt of the truth keeps the breastplate tight, it keeps the tunic up and out of your way so you don’t get tripped up or slowed down. It provides you with a place to keep your sword. Without truth, we are easily tripped up by Satan’s lies. Lies, no matter how big or how small, are the things that destroy lives and relationships and futures. One little lie was what Satan used in the garden of Eden to destroy the future of all mankind. You cannot afford to have areas of deception in your life, just as, with a belt, you cannot afford to have a broken belt, or a belt with weaknesses. Truth, like a belt, to be effective, must be able to completely surround you—front, back, right and left, and must be strong enough to hold everything together.

If the belt was not in place you would always be in danger of tripping over your own clothing.  So if the truth is not in place then your in danger danger of tripping over your own opinions, And, for a soldier, if the belt was not in place, you also would not be able to get ready for battle. The belt needs to be trustworthy otherwise the rest of the armor is useless. That is the significance of the belt in a literal sense. But let’s remember what Paul is doing here. This is not a commentary on military fashion items. Ephesians 6:14a is talking about a belt which has spiritual significance. When it comes to understanding the spiritual significance of this piece of equipment we see that trustworthiness and dependability is the key.

Spiritual warfare starts with knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Without this you have nothing to hold the rest of the armor together as the belt held all the armor together.

The belt of truth sets us apart from people who don’t follow God. Jesus prayed that God would sanctify us by the truth John 17:17(ESV)17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.  To sanctify means to set apart for a special purpose and to purify.  The truth helps us stay on mission for God and avoid falling back into sin’s corruption.

Truth provides guidance. The Holy Spirit uses the truth to guide us in whatever circumstances we’re in. John wrote John 16:13 (ESV)13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. Just as communications are crucial on the physical battlefield, so is the Holy Spirit’s guidance via truth on the spiritual battlefield.

Truth helps us with Intelligence & Discernment, Intelligence data and its interpretation (i.e. discernment) can play a critical role in the outcome of military conflicts.  God’s word reveals truth that helps us decisively recognize the devil’s lies in spiritual conflicts. Armed with the truth of the word, we’ll recognize the devil’s lies for what they are.
Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Truth secures everything together. Belts were used in Bible times to secure loose garments so that a person could run and/or fight effectively.
1 Kings 18:46(ESV)46 And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
2 Kings 4:29(ESV)29 He said to Gehazi, “Tie up your garment and take my staff in your hand and go. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not reply. And lay my staff on the face of the child.”
The belts also provided a place to attach weapons. When the enemy attacks us we may have to move quickly and use our spiritual weapons (Praise, Prayer, Sword of the Spirit, etc.).  The belt of truth enables us to move quickly and confidently without tripping into lies or losing our weapons

John 8:31-32(ESV)31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

True disciples of Jesus believe that He speaks the truth about God and the Scriptures. They also know that He is who He claims to be.

Verse 32 begins with, “Then you will know the truth.” “You” refers to those who are true disciples of Jesus. True disciples will know the truth. More than that, their eyes are opened to a greater understanding of the truth.

Jesus is the Truth John 14:6(ESV)6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Knowing the Truth will set one at liberty—free from sin, free from condemnation, and free from death.
Romans 6:22(ESV)22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 

Romans 8:1–2(ESV)1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 

John 17:17(ESV)Sanctify them in the truth;Your word is truth.

Jesus, praying to the Father, gives a clear and straightforward definition of truth: God’s Word. The Holy Bible (Scripture—the word of truth) was given by inspiration of God.

2 Timothy 3:16(ESV)16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
The Greek expression translated “inspiration of God” literally means “God-breathed”! He actively and fully inspired the Bible to reveal His truth to us. His promises, His commands, His word—they are all truth, plain and simple.

A belt encompasses the waist. Does our conviction to the truth encompass us? As the above scripture notes, truth must be bound around us and written on our hearts—our conviction must reach beyond an outward show.

The belt used in Roman armor, as we have learned, provided a place for the soldier’s sword. Our sword—the sword of the Spirit—likewise needs a sheath. Truth is vital because, like a Roman soldier’s belt, it allows us to carry the sword of the Spirit and use it effectively.

The world we live in teaches that truth is what we make it—that good and bad are relative and that there are no absolutes, only equally valid opinions. But the Bible teaches that truth is God’s Word—that good and bad are defined by Him and that there are eternal and unchangeable absolutes, uninfluenced by opinions.

Paul wrote to the Romans in Chapter 12 telling them to “not be conformed to this world.” Part of that means not buying into a system of belief that says absolute truth is a myth. As Christians, we know both that there is truth and that it is absolute.

2 Timothy 2:15(ESV)15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Imagine a belt with a piece missing. No matter how tiny the part that isn’t there, the belt is still useless. To do its job, it must be one continuous, unbroken piece.Now imagine living a way of life you don’t completely agree with. Maybe it doesn’t seem like a big deal—after all, what are a couple minor points that you’re not sure about?

They are everything. To try to live God’s way without total belief in its validity is like trying to hold your sword up with a belt that isn’t continuous. Neither will work. Our trust in God and His Word must be solid, without break, or else we will quickly find ourselves without a weapon. No matter how effective the rest of our armor is, we are useless without our sword. We need to be rightly dividing the word of truth—knowing what we believe, why and be able to give a defense.
1 Peter 3:15(ESV)15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

Putting on the belt of truth is putting on the truth of the Bible. Getting it close by. Understanding what it says. Knowing what it teaches. The reason many Christians today are ineffective in their Christian life and in spiritual warfare is because they have not committed themselves fully to the Word of God, which alone is sufficient to prepare them for every situation in life. The content of God’s truth is absolutely essential for the believer in his battle against the schemes of Satan.

The Christian’s belt is truth. The primary thing about Christianity is not that we feel better from routine religion but that the message is true. If it isn’t true it is meaningless. Christianity isn’t true because it works for me. Because Christianity is true it works mightily to change lives. It tells us what life is all about, who God is, what the good life is, and what lies after death. It gives rational answers to ultimate question. We must never stop telling people that the Christian faith is true. Its truthfulness is the belt which holds together everything else. It tempers the zeal and fuels the fire. It is the foundation for our joy and peace; it tells us what our response should be and motivates us in all our activities. If you know little about what the Scripture teaches you are extremely vulnerable. A soldier cannot fight properly with his armor and underclothes swinging in the wind or his pants falling to his ankles. He’d be dead before he could swing a single blow.

In the spiritual battle God needs soldiers who are properly equipped to fight the battle. Which raises a very significant question. How trustworthy and dependable are you as you seek to be a soldier for God? It is a significant question, but it isn’t always a comfortable question,And we should be people who read and study the Word of God. But if all we are doing is gathering knowledge without also being willing to be engaged in the spiritual battle, then we are not really acting as trustworthy and dependable soldiers.

We are being asked to examine our commitment to kingdom work. And that raises the question:- How trustworthy and dependable are you as a soldier for God?

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Ephesians Pt19 Spiritual Warfare

Ephesians 6:10–20(ESV) 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

This text teaches some crucial truths: we can only stand strong in the Lord’s power, it is God’s armor that protects us, and our battle is ultimately against spiritual forces of evil in the world.

Some suggest all we need to do is bind Satan-and just say, “Satan, I bind you,” and he is caught. They cite Matthew 12:29(ESV)29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.

But Jesus was dispelling the Pharisees’ foolish accusation that He worked under Satan’s power (Matthew12:27-28), not relating a scenario whereby believers could “bind” Satan. He used the illustration of a thief, who, planning to rob a strong man’s house while the man was there, would first have to bind him or risk being arrested and beaten. Jesus’ point was that He had demonstrated to the Pharisees and all Israel His power over Satan and the kingdom of evil. Only God has the power and authority to enter the very house of Satan, successfully bind him, and carry off his property. Even Paul was hindered by Satan

1 Thessalonians 2:18(ESV)18 18 because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. Are we to assume he didn’t know the correct formula?

There is no magic phrase or mantra we can say that will bind Satan, but God has not left us without a divine strategy for dealing with him. God’s strategy centers on objective truth, not subjective experience. It begins with sound doctrine, not mystical technique. Yet ironically, those who talk most about warfare against Satan often minimize the importance of doctrine.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5(ESV)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,

If we can bind Satan then who keeps unbinding him?

A word of caution concerning spiritual warfare is in order. Nowhere in Scripture are we instructed to speak to demons or to Satan. The name of Jesus is not a magic incantation that causes demons to flee from before us. The seven sons of Sceva are an example of what can happen when people presume an authority they have not been given Acts 19:13–16(ESV)13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all[a] of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

Even Michael the archangel did not rebuke Satan in his own power but said Jude 1:9(ESV)9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”

When we start talking to the devil, we run the risk of being led astray as Eve was. Genesis 3:1–7(ESV)Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Our focus should be on God, not demons; we speak to Him, not them.

There are two primary errors when it comes to spiritual warfare—over-emphasis and under-emphasis. Some blame every sin, every conflict, and every problem on demons that need to be cast out. Others completely ignore the spiritual realm and the fact that the Bible tells us our battle is against spiritual powers. There is an invisible spiritual world, and there is an invisible spiritual war. Somehow most Christians especially in America and now we are stating to export this false teaching that Christianity is anything but war. Most churches do not even preach on spiritual warfare even though the bible explicitly states it numerous times. We have bought into a christianity where you can have your life and sprinkle some Jesus on top and totally ignore the warfare. We are not on a cruise ship, we are on a battleship, we cannot trade in our weapons of warfare for sipping drinks with little umbrellas in it by the pool.
2 Timothy 2:3-4(ESV)3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

As soon as we confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior we are drawn into a spiritual battle. It is a battle where eternal death or eternal life is at stake. It is a battle with one who is 100% committed to drawing us away from God. It is a battle that calls us to make the spiritually lost a priority as we stand in unity with Jesus. Is this the battle that we are winning? Are we truly concerned that there are real people that will die and go to Hell? Are we concerned with it? Do we know that we are in a battle, even though it is invisible and spiritual it is real and it is eternal.

There are three enemies that we deal with and have to discern which they are so we can engage them in battle correctly. The World, The devil and the Flesh.

Ephesians 2:1-3(ESV)And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world(THE WORLD), following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience(THE DEVIL)— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.(The Flesh)

The basic strategy for our warfare:

Crucify our flesh. Romans 8:12-14(ESV)12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Hate the world system. 1 John 2:15-17(ESV)15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Stand against the devil. Ephesians 6:10–18(ESV)10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

But the key to successful spiritual warfare is finding the biblical balance. Jesus sometimes cast demons out of people; other times He healed people with no mention of the demonic,sometimes we have to separate ourselves from the world,and other times we have to as the apostle Paul instructs Christians to wage war against the sin in themselves. Romans 6:1-13(ESV)What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 

There’s four facts that, before we talk about, you absolutely need to know these.

Fact No. 1:  God has defeated Satan. The bell just din’t ring yet. He has delivered us from sin’s penalty, and power, and ultimately will deliver us from sin’s very presence. In the meantime, we’re involved in guerrilla warfare with demonic forces.

Fact No. 2:  As believers, we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light with all the rights and privileges and position that being a child of God involves.

Fact No. 3:  The spiritual battle that we fight involves a responsibility on our part to put on the spiritual protection that God has provided for us.  We can and we will resist the enemy’s attempts to deceive, accuse, and cast out when we stand firm by what?  First, being honest with God about ourselves and others: This is the prerequisite to all spiritual battle.  Second, responding to the truth that God shows us about His will for our lives which includes righteous living.  And third, a clear understanding of the Gospel and taking opportunity to readily share it by evangelism.

Fact No. 4:  The vast or great majority of all spiritual warfare never need go beyond the regular practice of living out your position in Christ by faith.  What we’re talking about now is not necessarily the norm.  Our practice of Paul’s metaphor, the spiritual armor, protects us from Satan’s ongoing attempts to break our fellowship with Jesus and, as a result, greatly minimizes any impact of the enemy.

There are three weapons of warfare than can greatly impact the forces of evil and give us some comfort in knowing that He is defeated. We must already know that he is defeated the bell just dint ring yet.

  1. Prayer – you can not do anything without prayer, Ephesians 6:18(ESV) 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
    2 Chronicles 20:5-12(ESV) Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem in the Lord’s temple before the new courtyard. 6 He said:Yahweh, the God of our ancestors, are You not the God who is in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand, and no one can stand against You. 7 Are You not our God who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and who gave it forever to the descendants of Abraham Your friend? 8 They have lived in the land and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your name and have said, 9 “If disaster comes on us—sword or judgment, pestilence or famine—we will stand before this temple and before You, for Your name is in this temple. We will cry out to You because of our distress, and You will hear and deliver.” 10 Now here are the Ammonites, Moabites, and the inhabitants of Mount Seir. You did not let Israel invade them when Israel came out of the land of Egypt, but Israel turned away from them and did not destroy them. 11 Look how they repay us by coming to drive us out of Your possession that You gave us as an inheritance. 12 Our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this vast number that comes to fight against us. We do not know what to do, but we look to You
  2. Praise – your praise is a weapon 2 Chronicles 20:13-24(ESV) All Judah was standing before the Lord with their infants, their wives, and their children. 14 In the middle of the congregation, the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel (son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite from Asaph’s descendants), 15 and he said, “Listen carefully, all Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat. This is what the Lord says: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast number, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow, go down against them. You will see them coming up the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the valley facing the Wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You do not have to fight this battle. Position yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. He is with you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Tomorrow, go out to face them, for Yahweh is with you.’” 18 Then Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord to worship Him. 19 Then the Levites from the sons of the Kohathites and the Korahites stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel shouting with a loud voice.20 In the morning they got up early and went out to the wilderness of Tekoa. As they were about to go out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem. Believe in Yahweh your God, and you will be established; believe in His prophets, and you will succeed.” 21 Then he consulted with the people and appointed some to sing for the Lord and some to praise the splendor of His holiness. When they went out in front of the armed forces, they kept singing: Give thanks to the Lord,for His faithful love endures forever. 22 The moment they began their shouts and praises, the Lord set an ambush against the Ammonites, Moabites, and the inhabitants of Mount Seir who came to fight against Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The Ammonites and Moabites turned against the inhabitants of Mount Seir and completely annihilated them. When they had finished with the inhabitants of Seir, they helped destroy each other. 24 When Judah came to a place overlooking the wilderness, they looked for the large army, but there were only corpses lying on the ground; nobody had escaped.
  3. Perseverance – stand in the face of opposition do not cut and run. No army ever won by retreating. Ephesians speaks a couple of times about putting on the armor so you can stand. James 1:12(ESV)12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

The bible says we are created to bring pleasure to God. But only those who belong to God can touch Him by praise and prayer. All the people that brought down the presence of God through praise in the bible were people of God. If you want God to accept your praise,you must first do away with sin. Give your life to Christ, and He will give you a new heart from which heavenly ordained praises can come Acts 3:19-20(ESV)19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,

Ephesians Pt10 Jesus gives the gifts

Ephesians 4:7-16(HCSB)7 Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the Messiah’s gift. 8 For it says: When He ascended on high, He took prisoners into captivity; He gave gifts to people. 9 But what does “He ascended” mean except that He descended to the lower parts of the earth? 10 The One who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. 11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.

Have you ever been “church shopping,” trying to find the perfect church for your family? People look for programs that will help them and their children grow in the faith. This is backwards thinking. The Church is not about us, it is about Jesus Christ. If the Church is a Temple, a “dwelling place for God in the Spirit”, then the Church is God-centered, not John and Mary Doe-centered. We should be approaching the Church as Christ’s Arms, Hands, and Fingers in the world, not to point out where we need some scratching and massaging, but to ask: How can I help? Where can I serve? How can I make this local manifestation of the Temple of God a more pleasing place for God to dwell?

In his book The Empty Church, historian Thomas C. Reeves says: “Christianity in modern America . . . tends to be easy, upbeat, convenient, and compatible. It does not require self-sacrifice, discipline, humility, an otherworldly outlook, a zeal for souls, a fear as well as love of God. There is little guilt and no punishment, and the payoff in heaven is virtually certain. What we now have might best be labeled ‘Consumer Christianity.’ The cost is low and customer satisfaction seems guaranteed.”

There are two seas in Israel. Both are fed by the same source of life, the Jordan River. The Sea of Galilee is full of life. The area around the Galilee supports an abundance of wildlife.  In contrast, the Dead Sea is lifeless. Nothing lives in the sea and few living organisms are found around the Dead Sea.

So, what is the difference? Why is one full of life and the other dead? If you look at the map, the answer is quite obvious. One sea gives; the other only consumes. The Sea of Galilee takes what it needs from the Jordan River, multiplies the gifts and then passes the water on downstream. The Dead Sea takes water and hoards the water, never passing any water on. The Dead Sea only consumes. The water in the Dead Sea evaporates, leaving behind salt, thus making the Sea lifeless.

How about you? Our source of life is Jesus Christ. His love flows in us and replenishes us. He restores us. He redeems us. He is our Savior. He is our everything. Are you hoarding His love or passing that love on because of your gratitude to Christ? Are you replenishing others around you or just draining them? How about in church? Are you sitting on the same pew weekend in and weekend out just being a consumer? Is it time to start producing more for the Cause of Christ instead of only consuming?

Consumer Christianity is KILLING US.

You understand consumerism. America is made up of consumers. Companies make stuff and we consume it. That’s the cycle of economics which is based upon the law of supply and demand. Demand drives the process. And who does the demanding? Consumers…also us…people. Consumerism is predicated upon our choice to purchase things based on our preferences and needs. If we have a family of six and we need a vehicle which can carry all of us together – Mini van here we come. Healthy consumerism drives a healthy economy and the freedom to choose is at the core of this. That’s why capitalism thrives in countries where the people are free to make their own choices. Consumerism, however, does not make for a healthy church.

What happened? You became a consumer and didn’t realize it. Trained by a culture that worships at the altar of “my needs and wants” you actually fell into the same trap and applied it to your relationship with Jesus and His church. You chose a church based on how it would meet your needs rather than how the Lord wanted you to fit in the body. The reason this is so deadly is that it’s exactly opposite of Jesus’ dream for His Church. God is the one who sets members in the body as He wills…that’s not our prerogative.
1 Corinthians 12:18(HCSB)18 But now God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted. The church was never to be an inward focused people looking to meet their own needs. We were to always be an upward focused people looking to love God and others extravagantly.

When we approach choosing a church the same way we approach where to buy our groceries we step into a consumer mindset which we carry with us during our entire lifetime in the church. We will then complain when the “goods and services” offered are not up to our liking. We will look to “management” to make changes to satisfy our needs. And if our needs are not met, we will vote with our feet, because everybody knows, “the customer is always right.” Is this Jesus’ dream for His church?

“Each one of us” refers to those to whom Paul wrote Ephesians 2:8-9(HCSB)8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast. If you have not been rescued from God’s judgment (that’s what saved means) by God’s undeserved favor (grace) through faith in Christ’s death as your substitute, then nothing else that I am going to say in this message applies to you. You must receive God’s gracious gift of eternal life before you receive His gracious spiritual gift that enables you to serve Him. If you think that you can earn salvation by serving God, you do not understand the gospel.

In the ancient world, when conquering generals returned home they would bring a procession of prisoners of war as a sign of their victory, and in celebration, give gifts to the populace. Paul quotes Psalms 68 and offers us this image — of the conquering Christ bestowing gifts upon his citizens, the Church. Psalm 68:18(HCSB)You ascended to the heights, taking away captives; You received gifts from people,even from the rebellious, so that the Lord God might live there. He has vanquished his enemies in the “lower, earthly regions” and has now ascended to the heavenly realms where his citizens are enthroned alongside him at the right hand of God.

The poetic picture is that the Lord’s people were in trouble and the Lord came down and delivered them. Then He ascended again into heaven as the victorious warrior. Paul applies this directly to Christ. Second, the verse pictures Christ ascending into heaven after securing victory over His enemies. This includes Satan and his evil hosts, as Christ defeated them at the cross. But it may also allude to all of us who were formerly his enemies, but who were brought into willing submission at the cross. We are now His willing captives, ready to obey the One that we formerly hated. Third, after His ascension, Jesus gave gifts to His church. The picture is of a victorious warrior, receiving spoil after his victory and then distributing that spoil as gifts to his people.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 Paul gives two lists of spiritual gifts.
1 Corinthians 12:8-10(HCSB) 8 to one is given a message of wisdom through the Spirit, to another, a message of knowledge by the same Spirit, 9 to another, faith by the same Spirit, to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another, the performing of miracles, to another, prophecy, to another, distinguishing between spirits, to another, different kinds of languages, to another, interpretation of languages.

1 Corinthians 12:28-30(HCSB)28 And God has placed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, managing, various kinds of languages. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all do miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in other languages? Do all interpret? As in Ephesians 4:4-6, he follows a trinitarian outline.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7(HCSB)4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person. 7 A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial:

1 Corinthians 12:11(HCSB), 11 But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as He wills. Twice he states that each one has a gift. Each Christian has a gift.

Besides Ephesians 4, the other text is 1 Peter 4:10-11(HCSB), which groups all of the gifts under the general headings of serving gifts and speaking gifts: 10 Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. Note, again, each one.

So if you have received God’s gracious gift of salvation, you have also received His gracious spiritual gift to use for His glory. It is for His glory and His glory alone that we receive any gift.

UNDERSTAND THIS: CHRIST DISTRIBUTES THESE GIFTS ACCORDING TO HIS SOVEREIGN PURPOSE.

Paul emphasizes this each time he speaks about spiritual gifts.
Romans 12:4-8(HCSB)4 Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, 5 in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. 6 According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the standard of one’s faith; 7 if service, in service; if teaching, in teaching; 8 if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness. Here he mentioned that God has given each these gifts and they differ according to the grace that God has given to us. In 1 Corinthians 12:11, he attributes the distribution of the various gifts to the sovereignty of the Spirit. Here (Ephesians 4:7), it is, “according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

We cannot be jealous when someone has a gift we do not have. We have to bow before His sovereignty and accept how He has gifted us.

SINCE CHRIST GAVE THESE GIFTS, WE MUST USE THEM AS HE DIRECTS.

He is the sovereign Lord who distributes gifts according to His purpose. Thus we are accountable to Him to use the gifts that He has given as He directs.

Some are given leadership gifts to equip the rest of the saints for ministry. But every Christian is “in the ministry” in the sense that every Christian has a spiritual gift and will give an account to God for how he used it. Also, there is no place for grumbling when you serve the Lord. The very fact that you, a former rebel, are serving the Lord Jesus Christ, is pure grace! Think of where you could be, without hope and without God in this world, living for vain pleasures and headed toward eternal punishment. When you’re tempted to quit serving the Lord because someone hurt your feelings or didn’t appreciate you as much as he should have, stop and think about the undeserved privilege of serving Him! But, serving Christ, especially if we should be persecuted as Paul was, only makes sense if Christ is who He claimed to be.

Apostle

“Apostle,” the Greek noun apostolos, comes from the verb apostello, “to send away to achieve an objective.” The noun means “delegate, envoy, messenger.”

Are there apostles today? Some deny that there are. Others see a present-day apostolic role. As far as we are concerned the original apostles are no more but the office of apostle is usually found in people who plant churches.

Prophet

If apostles seem a bit obscure to twenty-first century minds, so do prophets. “Prophet” is the Greek noun prophetes is used of “a person inspired to proclaim or reveal divine will or purpose. Every time a person preaches he is doing the work of a prophet, proclaiming the Word of God.

Evangelist

“Evangelist,” the Greek noun euangelistes, comes from the noun euangelizo, “bring good news, announce good news.” The noun means “proclaimer of the gospel, evangelist.” Local congregations today need men and women as gifted evangelists who bring the gospel to people so their hearts can be changed and have faith in Christ. Local church evangelists are also important because they can instruct other church members how to effectively share their faith.

Pastor

“Pastor” is the Greek noun poimen, “shepherd, one who serves as guardian or leader.” The idea of shepherd as leader was present in the ancient orient. The king is referred to as shepherd in documents and inscriptions in Sumeria and Egypt. Dr. William Yount says this: What is the role of the pastor? Some say the pastor is primarily a prophet, proclaiming the Word of God. Others say a shepherd, nurturing and protecting  the church. Still others  say a leader, managing and administrating the work of the church. Each has its importance, but church leaders must balance all three if congregations are to grow in a healthy way. Yet underlying all these roles is the fundamental calling of the pastor: to “equip the saints for works of service.” that is, to teach.

Teacher

“Teacher” is the Greek noun didaskalos, “teacher.” The Hebrew title “rabbi,” sometimes used to address Jesus, uses this word. The Great Commission includes this vital teaching function — “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:20). Teaching was “the ministry of the Word” (Luke 1:2; Acts 6:4).

A good case can be made for considering pastors and teachers as two sides of the same ministry. Too many of our people are biblically illiterate. Too many of our children don’t really know the stories and message of the Bible that will bring them to salvation.Leaders who teach are so important to the work of the local church.

The church is sick. This results from what Dallas Willard calls the “Great Omission from the Great Commission.” The third command of the Great Commission “teaching them all things what­ soever I have commanded you” has been omitted from serious application by the modern church. There are grand plans for evangelization and stewardship but rarely is anything but lip service paid  to discipleship. Why because disciple ship is messy. Discipleship is what brings people from spiritual immaturity to spiritual maturity.

Ephesians 4:14(HCSB) Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.
One positive result from maturity in a believer is not being tricked by false teaching. Those who are “no longer children” can stand against lies and deceit. The goal is to avoid being “carried about by every wind of doctrine.” False teaching changes regularly. Those who are immature can easily be fooled into thinking false teaching is accurate.

This can take place in two ways. First, believers can be deceived by “human cunning.” This is the power of human persuasion; a smooth talker can wield influence over others. Second, a person can be deceived by “craftiness in deceitful schemes.” These are evil plans that may appear good but actually promote something false.

Pastors are to be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2). Jesus is the Model. Pastor Washburn wrote, It is enormously significant that the only time the term pastor is used to describe the spiritual gifts given to undershepherds of the churches, it is directly connected to the gift of teaching: pastors and teachers.

David Hixon reflected his understanding of Paul when he remarked  that the

…pastor’s primary role according to Eph­esians 4 is not to be preacher, or an evange­list, or a counselor. His primary responsibility is to equip or to prepare God’s people to do the work. The church needs to grow and mature through the ministry of the laity and not primarily through,the works of the paid staff.

Hixon wrote, “Many of our people are seduced by false teachers because we, as pastors, have not done our job in growing them up in Christ Jesus. Discipleship is the key to avoiding an infantile ministry.”

Suhling remarked that

…the goal of the teacher is spiritual  maturity in the believer. If this is not achieved, then the result will be that the believer will be like one who is foolish and inexperienced when it comes to doctrine and practice. Indeed, the immature believer will be like a cork tossed about on rough water or a weathervane at the mercy of a hard uncer­tain wind when it comes to believing the right teaching.

Washburn summarized Paul’s thrust this way:

[There is a] popular new approach to church­manship that strives to appeal to the baby­ boomer church-shoppers by offering the most exciting and joyous worship product in the community market. Laboring to tickle the fancy of the worship experience consumer may fill a pastor’s church with warm bodies, but it does little to foster commitment, involvement, and true discipleship.

So what alternative did Paul offer? What is the option? Ephesians 4:15(HCSB) But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. Here is the kicker. Here is the definitive word from Paul on church growth: to “grow up into Him.” Leonard Griffith explained the difference between growing and growing up like this:

Academic learning leads to knowledge, but not necessarily to maturity. Some adults with high IQs remain psychologically children. This is the difference between “growing” and “growing up.” Is the church seeking only to grow or is it growing up?

Churches grow up in Christ by “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15a). The truth Paul referred to is the gospel, but “speaking the truth” involves much more than saying religious words. Believers cannot speak the truth until they know the truth experientially ( epignosis ). Believers cannot speak the truth effectively until they exercise it in daily living, solving problems biblically.

Dr. Al Mohler  – As a theologian, the pastor must be known for what he teaches, as well as for what he knows, affirms and believes. The health of the church depends upon pastors who infuse their congregations with deep biblical and theological conviction. The means of this transfer of conviction is the preaching of the Word of God.

We will be hard pressed to define any activity as being more inherently theological than the preaching of God’s Word. The ministry of preaching is an exercise in the theological exposition of Scripture. Congregations that are fed nothing more than ambiguous “principles” supposedly drawn from God’s Word are doomed to spiritual immaturity — which will become visible in compromise, complacency and a host of other spiritual ills.

Why else would the Apostle Paul command Timothy to preach the Word in such solemn and serious terms: 2 Timothy 4:1-2(HCSB) I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and because of His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching.

Pastors deal with people in different ways and most people will not understand this. They will expect us to love everyone the same. Calling out false teaching is love for the flock. Showing the congregation what heretics and false teachers sound like is one of the most loving things you can do. It keeps them from falling into damnable heresies. Preaching sound doctrine is sort of a vaccine to bad doctrine. John MacArthur says “One of the greatest problems with the modern day church is  lack of biblical discernment. The church basically suffers from spiritual AIDS. It could die of a thousand heresies because its immune system is so totally deficient”John MacArthur(2015 Ligonier Fall Conference)
Preaching and Teaching sound doctrine builds up the immune system of the church. It shows the congregation the truth so when the false comes they know the difference. Waiting for the false to come then showing the truth is not correct nor effective. It is like trying to get a flu shot after you have the flu.

Ephesians 4:16(HCSB) From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.

Only when the whole church, the whole body is exercising their gifts can the church function as it is supposed to. This can only be done by leadership and teaching the truth of the Word. This comes by the way of sound doctrine and pastors, rebuking, correcting and encouraging the flock. He must protect the flock from false teaching and expose it for what it is.

Ephesians Pt9 Unity

Ephesians 4:1-6(HCSB)Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, 3 diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

While many in today’s world are engaged in celebrating “diversity,” the Bible places an extraordinary emphasis on the value of “unity.” While there is diversity in unity, the glue than binds us in unity is our beliefs on the Lord, faith, baptism, the church and the Spirit. The Persons of the Godhead are a ultimate tri-unity of absolute perfection.

It is difficult to find a church within the framework of New Testament history that did not experience some level of discord. The church in Jerusalem was troubled with Judaizers (Acts 11:1-3(ESV)Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3 “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
Acts 15:1(ESV)But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 

Galatians 5:7-12 (ESV)7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

The Corinthian church goers had their own conflicting features that gave excessive flattery to leaders (1 Corinthians 1:10-17(ESV)10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Even the beloved Timothy in Ephesus had to deal with people who refused to repent and have their name for all eternity in scripture. 1 Timothy 1:18-20(HCSB) 18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies previously made about you, so that by them you may strongly engage in battle, 19 having faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and have suffered the shipwreck of their faith. 20 Hymenaeus and Alexander are among them, and I have delivered them to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme.

Acts 15:36-39(HCSB)36 After some time had passed, Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit the brothers in every town where we have preached the message of the Lord and see how they’re doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take along John Mark.38 But Paul did not think it appropriate to take along this man who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone on with them to the work. 39 There was such a sharp disagreement that they parted company, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed off to Cyprus. These examples by no means exhaust the list, but you get the idea there have been disagreements throughout the church and some ended in “being handed over to Satan” and some just ended and Paul actually says Mark is very useful to him in ministry in 2 Timothy. This is the same Mark that wrote the Gospel of Mark.

Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus is a document that addresses unity. The first three chapters provide a theological basis for unity; the final three are principally concerned with the practical implementation of “unity of the body” in Christ. In 4:1-6, God’s inspired apostle lays down a micro-platform for unity that concerns the two main sources of discord among those who profess to follow Christ. One has to do with temperament, the other with teaching. The recognition of these two problematic areas could go a long way towards healing division.

Paul frequently refers to himself as a “prisoner” (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1; Philippians 1:13; Philemon 9,13; 2 Timothy 1:8). He is both a prisoner “of Christ” (3:1) and a prisoner “in the Lord” (4:1). The apostle was a prisoner literally on many occasions during his ministry (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23), and specifically when he penned this letter to the church in Ephesus. But in a richer sense he had become the prisoner “of” Jesus in that he had surrendered his self-interests to the bondage of his Lord for whom he gladly suffered. Too, his relationship “in” the Lord placed his sufferings in an altogether different dimension. There is no nobility in hardship when one is distanced from the Savior.

In the pursuit of Christian unity, it is absolutely crucial that a person understands and appreciates the importance of the belief system he has embraced. Christianity is the sole avenue to God. It is not merely “a religion,” or a great way to live. In view of this foundational truth, the plea that Paul wrote is appropriate.

Christians must (Ephesians 4:1(HCSB)“walk worthy of the calling you have received”. The “calling” is God’s invitation (Acts 2:39(HCSB)39 For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”)Romans 8:30(HCSB)30 And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified. How did He call us? by means of gospel preaching (2 Thessalonians 2:14(HCSB)14 He called you to this through our gospel, so that you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ., to people who are accountable, to partake of the blessings of the kingdom of heaven by means of the “in Christ” relationship (Philippians 3:14). Those who respond to the message, and submit in obedience, are designated as the “called”.

The term “walk” (peripateo—“to walk around”) refers to the entire “sphere” of one’s existence. Christianity is not a mere sideline, nor is it a spiritual “hobby.” It is a consuming passion. Christian conduct must measure up to the pattern imposed by God.

Sin is a disruptive force, it always divides, separates, and splinters. It divides a man within and against himself. It has produced the constant fight and struggle which we are all aware of in our own lives and in the life of the church. Consequently, the central object of salvation, in a sense, is to re-unite, to bring together again, to reconcile, to restore the unity that God created before sin and the fall produced this terrible havoc between God and man, between men, and within man himself.

So the unity that we have in Christ is part of the grand design. Thus, one of the peculiar marks of the Christian calling is to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Unity is not a general spirit of friendliness or fellowship. Nor is unity some common aim or series of aims. UNITY IS A PRODUCT. It is the result of all that Paul has been saying in chapters 1-3. It is the product of the cross and God’s work in Christ. There can be no Christian unity unless it is based on the teaching of correct biblical doctrine. Since Christian unity is a result of God’s work in Christ, it is not something that we are to aim at for the sake of unity.  In order for a church like ours to be in unity we must rally around a few fundamental beliefs. While we desire to be inclusive and accepting of others and their scriptural beliefs – at some point there has to be a line in the sand that we will not cross.

The Inerrancy of Scripture

Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection

Jesus sinlessness

There is ONLY one true God

The Virgin Birth

The Trinity: The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit

The existence of an eternal Hell

The necessity of belief in Jesus Christ ONLY as savior for salvation,Jesus + Nothing= Salvation

For us to be in unity with others we have to agree upon these close handed issues.

UNITY IS “OF THE SPIRIT” It refers to the unity provided by the Holy Spirit. It is a unity which we can never produce.

UNITY IS ORGANIC Unity is living and vital. It is not mechanical. Christian unity, the unity of the Spirit, is a unity which starts within and works outward through organic life like we see in a flower or in the human body. The unity of the church is organic in character. She is not a collection of parts. She is a new creation, a spiritual body created by God in Christ. The old has been done away in the this body. There are no longer the distinctions of man. There is no longer Jew and Gentile . . .

The analogy of the human body explains the nature of this unity.

(1) The human body is first, an organic unity. It consists of many parts: toes, fingers, hands, feet, legs, eyes, ears, etc. But it is not a collection of parts put together as in an automobile or as in a house. It begins from one cell which begins to develop and to grow and shoots off little buds that eventually make up the varied parts. This is an organic and a living unity by creation. So is the church, spiritually speaking.

True, when a person believes in Christ, he is joined into union with Christ by Spirit baptism and becomes a member of the body, but by the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit, he is not merely and add on. He miraculously and spiritually becomes an organic part of the body of Christ.

Some of the parts are covered, others are within the body and are unseen, but nevertheless, very important. Some gifts are more in the fore front, they are more obvious and others less so, but all are essential to the effective work of the body.

There is far more to unity than a mere atmosphere of friendliness. There also is the unity of truth. Truth is consistent, hence there is the sacred reminder that Christians “all speak the same thing,” and that there be “no divisions” among us. Rather, we are to be “united with the same understanding and the same conviction” (1 Corinthians 1:10(HCSB)10 Now I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction. While this goal never will be achieved absolutely in a society of flawed people, it must be sought vigorously.

There is one baptism,when Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers about “one baptism,” he was reminding them that, regardless of their background or nationality, they all served the same Lord, shared the same faith, and had experienced the same baptism. By reminding the church that they all had a similar testimony and that they were all partakers in the same Holy Spirit, Paul encouraged them to work together for the cause of Christ so that the message of redemption would continue to spread throughout the world (Matthew 28:19).

The “one body” is identified as the “church” in its universal capacity. That “body” consists of many “members,” yet is “one” in its essential composition (1 Corinthians 12:12). The expression “one body” is thus the equivalent of “one church” (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18,24). While there are many local congregations of “like kind” that make up that one body (Revelation 1:4), the modern practice of many denominations proclaiming varying doctrines, is a manifested apostasy from the gospel truth. Paul affirmed that Christ is the “Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23); none outside the “one body” is promised salvation.

The imagery of the “body” further suggests that all direction to the “members” is received from the “head,” Christ (Ephesians 5:23(HCSB)23 for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body.; Colossians 1:18), and such excludes popes and councils.What sort of sideshow monstrosity is a creature with one “head” and yet “many bodies”? Moreover, if the body is to function as God intended, unity among its members must prevail. 1 Corinthians 12:12(HCSB)2 For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ.. If there were no cooperation between the nervous, circulatory, respiratory systems, etc., could any body function?

In his comments upon this “one body” phrase, Baptist scholar Justin Smith laments the sad reality that the modern system of “Christendom,” with its divisions into many “sects,” is not consistent with the New Testament pattern. He purposefully declined to identify “causes” or to assign “responsibility”; he simply noted the error of the current status of the numerous conflicting “bodies” (1890, 60-61).

But the cause is quite transparent; it lies in a denial of the New Testament as the sole pattern for church organization, and the responsibility rests with all who applaud the diversity of coexisting with different religions, denominations and cults. They choose to remain entangled in that maze of a self-willed religion instead of standing for biblical sound doctrine.
What is doctrine? In its basic sense, doctrine is any sort of teaching. The Bible, for example, talks about the teachings of men (Mark 7:7–8(HCSB)They worship Me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commands of men.8 Disregarding the command of God, you keep the tradition of men.”, the teachings of demons (1 Timothy 4:1(HCSB)Now the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons,), and the teachings of God (John 6:45(HCSB)45 It is written in the Prophets: And they will all be taught by God. Everyone who has listened to and learned from the Father comes to Me—). Here, at Revival Life Church we are concerned with divine teaching, the teaching of God. According to one definition, doctrine is teaching from God about God that directs us to the glory of God. The primary object of doctrine is God; the secondary object is all things in relation to God. Doctrine teaches us to see God as the one from whom and through whom and to whom all things exist, and doctrine directs our lives to this God’s glory. Sound doctrine delivers us from the snare of false teaching (
Titus 1:9-11(HCSB)9 holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it. 10 For there are also many rebellious people, full of empty talk and deception, especially those from Judaism.11 It is necessary to silence them; they overthrow whole households by teaching what they shouldn’t in order to get money dishonestly., which otherwise threatens to arrest spiritual development (Ephesians 4:14(HCSB)14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. and to foster  discord in the church (Romans 16:17(HCSB)17 Now I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause dissensions and obstacles contrary to the doctrine you have learned. Avoid them.

Unity does not imply uniformity. It does not mean that all Christians will think alike or perform identical ministries. We unify when our doctrines are alike, we are not to be in unity when our doctrines are not the same. Sound doctrine is important because our faith is based on a specific message. Our eternal destiny depends upon hearing “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation”. Sound doctrine is important because the gospel is a sacred trust, and we dare not tamper with God’s communication to the world. Our duty is to deliver the message, not to change it. Rather than alter the apostles’ doctrine, we receive what has been passed down to us and keep it “as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). Sound doctrine is important because what we believe affects what we do. Behavior is an extension of theology, and there is a direct correlation between what we think and how we act. For example, two people stand on top of a bridge; one believes he can fly, and the other believes he cannot fly. Their next actions will be quite dissimilar. In the same way, a man who believes that there is no such thing as right and wrong will naturally behave differently from a man who believes in well-defined moral standards. In one of the Bible’s lists of sins, things like rebellion, murder, lying, slander and gossip are mentioned. The list concludes with “whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:9-10). In other words, true teaching promotes righteousness; sin flourishes where “the sound doctrine” is opposed.

Sound doctrine is important because we must ascertain truth in a world of falsehood. “Many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). There are tares among the wheat and wolves among the flock (Matthew 13:25; Acts 20:29). The best way to distinguish truth from falsehood is to know what the truth is. Pastors will deal with people in different ways and most people will not understand this. They will expect us to love everyone the same. Calling out false teaching is love for the flock. Showing the congregation what heretics and false teachers sound like is one of the most loving things you can do. It keeps them from falling into damnable heresies. Preaching sound doctrine is sort of a vaccine to bad doctrine. John MacArthur says “One of the greatest problems with the modern day church is  lack of biblical discernment. The church basically suffers from spiritual AIDS. It could die of a thousand heresies because its immune system is so totally deficient”John MacArthur(2015 Ligonier Fall Conference)
Preaching and Teaching sound doctrine builds up the immune system of the church. It shows the congregation the truth so when the false comes they know the difference. Waiting for the false to come then showing the truth is not correct nor effective. It is like trying to get a flu shot after you have the flu.

Titus 1:9 (ESV)He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

Titus 2:1 (ESV) But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.

2 Timothy 4:2-4 (ESV) Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 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, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

2 Timothy 4:3 (ESV)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,

1 Timothy 6:3-5 (ESV) If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

2 Peter 1:20-21 (ESV)Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

This unity of which Paul wrote is not one which the Christian needs to create, but one which already exists and must be diligently preserved. It is based upon our sharing life in one body, the universal church, the body of Christ. All Christians are sealed, possessed, and indwelt by the same Spirit and look forward to the same hope. We possess one Lord, that is, one Supreme Commander, one common faith (one system of fundamental truth) held by all Christians, and one baptism.

Most importantly, as Christians, we are to see one another in the light of the cross. Fellow Christians are those for whom Christ died a horrible and painful death so that He might exchange His righteous perfection for their sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). How can we not extend to them the love, compassion, and grace of our heavenly Father? How can we demean, criticize, and defame those covered with the precious blood of Christ? Were we not slaves to sin when He called us, hopelessly lost, dead in our own transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1)? But we are now slaves of Christ, slaves to righteousness, and as slaves of the Master, the task before us is not to quarrel and demand our needs be met but to reflect His grace and love to those who are also His by His mercy. A church full of such people enjoying their “common salvation” will be a true, biblical church unified in, and earnestly contending for, the “faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

Ephesians Pt6 Jesus, Apostles and Prophets

Ephesians 2:17-22(HCSB)17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

It is only in response to the cross of Christ (called faith in Ephesians 2:8(HCSB)8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, that peace exists vertically between humans and God and horizontally between humans. This new society, called the church, is depicted at the end of chapter 2.

The church is pictured as a nation (“fellow citizens,”), a family (“a household”), and a “building.” This new building is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” The purpose of the church is for believers to be “built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit”.

David S. Dockery, “The Pauline Letters,” in Holman Concise Bible Commentary, ed. David S. Dockery (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 578.

Jesus is the cornerstone, The cornerstone (or foundation stone) concept is derived from the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.

Isaiah 28:14-18(HCSB)14 Therefore hear the word of the Lord,  you mockers who rule this people in Jerusalem.15 For you said, “We have cut a deal with Death, and we have made an agreement with Sheol; when the overwhelming scourge passes through, it will not touch us, because we have made falsehood our refuge and have hidden behind treachery.” 16 Therefore the Lord God said: “Look, I have laid a stone  in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable. 17 And I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the mason’s level.” Hail will sweep away the false refuge, and water will flood your hiding place. 18 Your deal with Death will be dissolved, and your agreement with Sheol will not last. When the overwhelming scourge passes through, you will be trampled. 

Romans 9:33(HCSB) As it is written: Look! I am putting a stone in Zion to stumble over and a rock to trip over, yet the one who believes on Him will not be put to shame.

1 Corinthians 3:11(HCSB) For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:4-10(ESV)As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious,  and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 

Jesus is the cornerstone and the church is built off of it and the foundation of Apostles and Prophets.

In a general sense, a prophet is a person who speaks God’s truth to others. The English word prophet comes from the Greek word prophetes, which can mean “one who speaks forth” or “advocate.”Prophets had the task of faithfully speaking God’s Word to the people. They were instrumental in guiding the nation of Israel and establishing the church.A true prophet of God will be committed to speaking God’s truth. He or she will never contradict God’s revealed Word. A true prophet will say, with the prophet Micaiah just before his fateful confrontation with Ahab, 2 Chronicles 18:13 “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what my God says”.

PROPHETS – GOD SENT MESSENGERS TO DECLARE HIS WILL

DEUTERONOMY 18:18 (HCSB)I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.

The canonical prophets, whose books make up over a quarter of the Old Testament, were called by God to be organs and channels of revelation. They were men of God who stood in his council. Jeremiah 23:22(HCSB)22 If they had really stood in My council, they would have enabled My people to hear My words and would have turned them back from their evil ways and their evil deeds. , knew his mind, and were enabled to declare it. God the Holy Spirit spoke in and through them (2 Peter 1:19-21(HCSB)19 So we have the prophetic word strongly confirmed. You will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dismal place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 First of all, you should know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
They knew he was doing so; hence they dared to start messages with “this is what the Lord says” or “an oracle of the Lord,” and to present Yahweh himself as the speaker of what they were saying.

Prophecy involved prediction (foretelling), but usually this was done in a context of declaring God’s warnings and exhortations to his covenant people here and now (forth-telling). The predictions had to do with the coming of God’s king and kingdom after purging judgments; the prophets’ chief concern was to exhort to repentance, in hope that for the present the judgments might be averted. They were primarily reformers, enforcing God’s law and recalling God’s people to the covenant faithfulness from which they should never have lapsed.

With their preaching to the nation went prayer for the nation: they talked to God about people just as earnestly as they talked to people about God, and they fulfilled a unique ministry as intercessors (Exod. 32:30–32 [Moses]; 1 Sam. 7:5–9; 12:19–23 [Samuel]; 2 Kings 19:4 [Isaiah]; cf. Jer. 7:16; 11:14; 14:11).

False prophets were a bane to Israel. Professionally linked with Israel’s organized worship, they said what people wanted to hear and spoke their own dreams and opinions rather than words of God (1 Kings 22:1–28; Jer. 23:9–40; Ezek. 13).

In the New Testament, one book, Revelation, announces itself as a true and trustworthy prophecy, received directly from God (actually, from God the Father through Jesus Christ: Rev. 1:1–3; 22:12–20). The ministry of the apostles brought instruction directly from God to his people, just as the Old Testament prophetic ministry had done, though the form of presentation was different. Prophets of the New Testament period were linked with the apostles in the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20; 3:5) as expositors of the fulfillment in Christ of Old Testament hopes (Rom. 16:25–27).

J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993).

Of course, not everyone who “speaks forth” a message is actually a prophet of God. The Bible warns against false prophets who claim to speak for God but who actually deceive the people they purport to inform. King Ahab kept 400 such false prophets in his employ to tell him what he wanted to hear (2 Chronicles 18:1-7(HCSB)Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honor in abundance, and he made an alliance with Ahab through marriage. 2 Then after some years, he went down to visit Ahab in Samaria. Ahab sacrificed many sheep and cattle for him and for the people who were with him. Then he persuaded him to march up to Ramoth-gilead, 3 for Israel’s King Ahab asked Judah’s King Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?” He replied to him, “I am as you are, my people as your people; we will be with you in the battle.” 4 But Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “First, please ask what the Lord’s will is.”5 So the king of Israel gathered the prophets, 400 men, and asked them, “Should we go to Ramoth-gilead for war or should I refrain?” They replied, “March up, and God will hand it over to the king.” 6 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Isn’t there a prophet of Yahweh here anymore? Let’s ask him.” 7 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is still one man who can ask Yahweh, but I hate him because he never prophesies good about me, but only disaster. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.” “The king shouldn’t say that,” Jehoshaphat replied.

2 Timothy 4:3(HCSB)3 For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new.
In the New Testament we have many warnings against false prophets. Jesus taught, Matthew 7:15 (ESV)“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves”. He later noted that, in the end times, Matthew 24:24(ESV)“false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect”. To avoid being led astray, we must always “test the spirits to see whether they are from God”
1 John 4:1(HCSB)Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

The word apostle means “one who is sent out.” In the New Testament, there are two primary usages of the word apostle. The first is in specifically referring to the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. The second is in generically referring to other individuals who are sent out to be messengers/ambassadors of Jesus Christ. From the definition of the word, the closest thing today to an apostle, in the general sense, is a missionary. A missionary is a follower of Christ who is sent out with the specific mission of proclaiming the gospel. A missionary is an ambassador of Christ to people who have not heard the good news. However, to prevent confusion, it is likely best to not use the term apostle to refer to any position in the church today. The vast majority of occurrences of the word apostle or apostles in the New Testament refer to the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ.

Not everyone is a prophet or apostle. Apostles equip, build, and plant churches and help them to be healthy. Apostles know how to build the church with Jesus as the foundation. They are given by the ascended Christ. They draw all the other gifts back to building the local church. Apostles lay the hidden foundations. No one ever says you have lovely foundations in your house! If apostolic ministry is working, then people see a glorious church, although they might not always realize what the foundations are.

The Church is built on apostles and prophets who work together. A prophet is not someone who sometimes prophesies. They are big picture men. People who catch the Church up to the bigger framework of God’s unfolding plans in history.

Jesus is the cornerstone; everything else fits to him. Jesus is the center. Apostolic ministry sniffs out legalism and teaches grace. Apostolic ministry is missional. The great days of mission are before us as a movement. Apostolic ministry is concerned about the poor.

Ephesians 2:20-22(HCSB) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Instructing the Christians in Corinth to flee from sexual immorality, the apostle Paul exhorted, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20(HCSB)18 Run from sexual immorality! “Every sin a person can commit is outside the body.” On the contrary, the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. 19 Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body. Indeed, God the Father created our bodies, God the Son redeemed them, and God the Holy Spirit indwells them. This makes our body the very temple of the Holy Spirit of God.

Those who do not belong to Christ do not have the Spirit of Christ residing in them. Romans 8:9(HCSB)9 You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. Thus, their bodies are not a temple of the Holy Spirit. Clearly, then, the greatest thing we can do for our bodies is to make them into a temple for God’s Spirit.

As the Holy Spirit resides in us, therefore, we are to honor God with our bodies as they “are not [our] own,” as Paul said. We have indeed been bought with a price. And it was not gold or silver or other perishable things by which we were redeemed; it was with the precious, unblemished blood of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:18-19(HCSB)18 For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.. Ordained by God before the foundation of the world Acts 2:23(HCSB)23 Though He was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him. Christ’s blood purchased us out of the slavery of sin and set us free forever. And as Christian’s bodies are God’s temple, we are to use them to glorify God.

If God meant simply to convey the idea that the Spirit lives within the believer, He could well have used words such as “home,” “house,” or “residence.” But by choosing the word “temple” to describe the Spirit’s dwelling, He conveys the idea that our bodies are the shrine, or the sacred place, in which the Spirit not only lives, but is worshiped, revered, and honored. Therefore, how we behave, think and speak, and what we let into the temple through our eyes and ears becomes critically important as well, for every thought, word and deed is in His view. When we live by the Spirit, we will no longer gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Galatians 5:16(HCSB)16 I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

Worship in Spirit and Truth

Remember the perfections of that God whom you worship, that he is a Spirit, and therefore to be worshipped in spirit and truth; and that he is most great and terrible, and therefore to be worshipped with seriousness and reverence, and not to be dallied with, or served with toys or lifeless lip-service; and that he is most holy, pure, and jealous, and therefore to be purely worshipped; and that he is still present with you, and all things are naked and open to him with whom we have to do. The knowledge of God, and the remembrance of his all-seeing presence, are the most powerful means against hypocrisy.

Richard Baxter

The meaning of the New Testament Greek word most often translated “worship” (proskuneo) is “to fall down before” or “bow down before.” Worship is a state (an attitude) of spirit. Since it’s an internal, individual action, it could/should be done most of the time (or all the time) in our lives, regardless of place or situation.
John 4:21-24(HCSB)21 Jesus told her, “Believe Me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans[h] worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Therefore, Christians worship all the time, seven days a week. When Christians formally gather together in worship, still the emphasis should be on individually worshiping the Lord. Even in a congregation, participants need to be aware that they are worshiping God fully on an individual basis. There is another word for worship called doxology and it comes from the Greek doxa, (“glory, splendor, grandeur”) and logos, (“word” or “speaking”). Although the word doxology is not found in the Bible, the themes expressed in doxologies are certainly scriptural. Praising God for His blessings (Ephesians 1:3(HCSB)3 Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.
ascribing to Him all glory(Romans 11:36(HCSB)For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:21(HCSB)21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
and affirming the Trinity Matthew 28:19-20(HCSB)19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
These have always been integral parts of true Christian worship. We study God’s word — that is, we have theology(the study of God and of God’s relation to the world Theology comes from two Greek words Τheos meaning “God,” and -logia utterances, saying, a subject of study; a branch of knowledge when combined mean “the study of God.” Christian theology is simply an attempt to understand God as He is revealed in the Bible. No theology will ever fully explain God and His ways because God is infinitely and eternally higher than we are.  — but we can learn more about him; that knowledge should then lead to praise of God — that is, doxology. The more we know about God, the more we are compelled to worship and praise him, awestruck at his greatness. We can not worship a God we do not know. To know God means a few things, first we have to understand who He is, then we have to understand the nature of God. Yet, many Christians, including some leaders today, are proclaiming that theology is not important or needed; all we need to do is to love Jesus. If you have ever read through even one book in the Bible and paid heed to God’s Word, you will know that this is not true! You could not get through John or any Epistle with that assumption. Yes, a lot of negative attacks and abuses have come to Christians and to the Church and its infighting over the centuries. The amount of unfair fights would make one wonder if theology and doctrine really are important. Some Christians view the word “doctrine” or theology as almost a curse word. The thought process of most American Christian’s  is essentially “doctrine is to be avoided because doctrine causes division among Christians, and God desires Christians to be united as it says in;
1 Corinthians 1:10(HCSB)10 Now I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction.” While it is true that doctrine does cause division, if the division is due to a disagreement over an important biblical teaching, division is not necessarily a bad thing. Paul declares,
2 Timothy 4:3(ESV) “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear”.
Titus 1:9(ESV)“He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it…
Titus 2:1 (ESV)But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.”

The Christian faith, more than any other, is based on doctrine. The doctrines of the deity of Christ (John 1:1-14), the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21), the resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:17), and salvation by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) are absolutely essential and non-negotiable. If any of these doctrines is removed, the faith is empty and void. There are other doctrines in the Christian faith that are very important, such as the Trinity, the inspiration of Scripture, and the reality of the eternal state of man. If Christian doctrine is causing division on any of these points, so be it, as those who deny these doctrines need to be separated from. Romans 16:17 says, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.”  That’s right, Paul says to avoid those causing divisions by teaching false doctrine!  He does not say to protect the false teachers from discerning Christians. Nor does he say to go to prayer meetings, agree with them, nor to defend them. The problem comes in when the one teaching and speaking the truth is thee one that is looked at as the one causing the division, but it is the one who is not teaching true doctrine that is being divisive.

JC Ryle said this [Dislike of dogma] is an epidemic which is just now doing great harm, and specially among young people. It produces what I must venture to call a “jelly-fish” Christianity in the land: that is, a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or power. A jelly-fish is a pretty and graceful object when it floats in the sea, contracting and expanding like a little, delicate, transparent umbrella. Yet the same jelly-fish, when cast on the shore, is a mere helpless lump, without capacity for movement, self-defense, or self-preservation. Alas! It is a vivid type of much of the religion of this day, of which the leading principle is, “No dogma, no distinct tenets, no positive doctrine.”

We have hundreds of “jelly-fish” clergymen, who seem not to have a single bone in their body of divinity. They have not definite opinions; they belong to no school or party; they are so afraid of “extreme views” that they have no views at all.Worst of all, we have myriads of “jelly-fish” worshippers–respectable church-going people, who have no distinct and definite views about any point in theology. They cannot discern things that differ, any more than color-blind people can distinguish colors. They think everybody is right and nobody wrong, everything is true and nothing is false, all sermons are good and none are bad, every clergyman is sound and no clergyman is unsound. They are “tossed to and fro, like children, by every wind of doctrine”; often carried away by any new excitement and sensational movement; ever ready for new things, because they have no firm grasp on the old; and utterly unable to “render a reason of the hope that is in them.”

The Christian life depends upon sound doctrine. But is it harmful to Christian unity to rebuke false doctrine and separate from those who willfully assist in its advancement? Some seem to think so. Yet Christians are nowhere in Scripture called to unite around false doctrine or practice, but to reject error and instead speak the truth in love to one another. We are to ‘contend earnestly for the faith which as once for all delivered to the saints’ Jude 1:3-4 HCSB “Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all. For some men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.”

2 Peter 2:1-3 HCSB “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their unrestrained ways, and the way of truth will be blasphemed because of them. They will exploit you in their greed with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep.”

The nature of Christian worship is from the inside out and has two equally important parts. We must worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). Worshiping in the spirit has nothing to do with our physical posture. It has to do with our innermost being. First, we must be born again. Without the Holy Spirit residing within us, we cannot respond to God in worship because we do not know Him.
1 Corinthians 2:11(HCSB)11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.. The Holy Spirit within us is the one who energizes worship because He is in essence glorifying Himself, and all true worship glorifies God.

Worshiping in spirit requires a mind centered on God and renewed by Truth. Paul exhorts us in Romans 12:1-2HCSB)Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Only when our minds are changed from being centered on worldly things to being centered on God can we worship in spirit. Distractions of many kinds can flood our minds as we try to praise and glorify God, hindering our true worship.

The second part of true worship is worship “in truth.” All worship is a response to truth, and that which is truth is contained in the Word of God. Jesus said to His Father,
John 17:17(HCSB)Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. Psalm 119 says, Psalm 119:142(HCSB)Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your instruction is true. and Psalm 119:160(HCSB)The entirety of Your word is truth,and all Your righteous judgments endure forever. To truly worship God, we must understand who He is and what He has done, and the only place He has fully revealed Himself is in the Bible. Worship is an expression of praise from the depths of our hearts toward a God who is understood through His Word. If we do not have the truth of the Bible, we do not know God and we cannot be truly worshiping. The goal for every Christian should be obvious: to become a sound, biblical theologian who develops an understanding of doctrine that submits finally to the authority of God’s Word even as it looks to the church’s historical understanding of Scripture for guidance. Spiritual maturity requires theological study, there can be no growth without it. More than just a mental grasp of the content of biblical theology is needed, for spiritual maturity only comes as we receive the Word in our hearts and allow it to transform us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Only the Spirit can give us the willingness and the ability to respond to divine revelation in this manner

In Romans 12:1(HCSB)Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Now we don’t offer animals as sacrifices but our very selves. The Christian’s whole life is an act of sacrificial service to God. God desires worship, the offering of one’s own self in its entirety. In this regard, surely the mention of “your bodies” is meant to suggest that even the most base or mundane element of the self—this wretched body that suffers and will die due to the effects of sin and curse—may and can be offered unto God in praise.

Or consider Hebrews 13:15(HCSB)15 Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name Praise is our sacrifice, and we offer it continually—not just for an hour on Sunday morning. The fruit of lips that acknowledge God’s name includes songs of praise, but much more too: boldly confessing the gospel in public, speaking words of truth and love to others, bringing every word we say under Christ’s dominion.

This means that “worship” isn’t something we mainly do at church on Sunday. Instead, worship should infuse our whole lives. For the Christian, worship isn’t confined to sacred times and places, because we are united by faith to Christ, the one who is God’s temple, and we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, making us both individually and collectively the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16–17(HCSB)16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s sanctuary, God will destroy him; for God’s sanctuary is holy, and that is what you are.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20(HCSB)19 Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.;
Ephesians 2:22(HCSB)22 You also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit..

What then characterizes corporate worship in the new covenant? Reading and preaching Scripture; singing Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs together; praying; celebrating the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper; and stirring one another up to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24–25(HCSB)24 And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, 25 not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Purpose of the Church Pt7 Tithe and Offerings

Acts 2:45(ESV) And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

1 John 3:16-18(ESV)16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Ezekiel 16:49-50(ESV) Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.

James 2:14-17 (ESV)What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Seven Biblical Reasons to Tithe

1. Honoring an Old Testament Principle

Tithing honors an Old Testament principle of how God provided for the ministers he called and the expenses of their ministry.

You recall that in the Old Testament God designated one of the twelve tribes of Israel, the tribe of Levi, to be the tribe that would have the ministry of the tabernacle and the temple. So instead of giving them a portion of the land, God said that these vocational ministers of the tabernacle should live off the tithes of the other eleven tribes. In Numbers 18:20–21(ESV) God said to Aaron,

You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor own any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the sons of Israel. And to the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting.

When we tithe today, we honor a principle found here. Some of God’s people are called not to do moneymaking business in the ordinary ways. They are called to be pastors and ministers and missionaries and ministry assistants, and so on. The rest of God’s people (call them “lay ministers”) are to be gainfully employed and support the “vocational ministers”—and the costs of that ministry. In the Old Testament God laid down that this be done by tithe.

If the question is raised whether Jesus, in the New Testament, continued this principle for the sake of his church, one of the strongest arguments that he did is Matthew 23:23(ESV) where he says,

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

So Jesus endorses tithing: don’t neglect it. It is not as essential as justice love and mercy; but it is to be done.

Yet one might say that he is only talking to Jews in an essentially Old Testament setting. Maybe so. But there is another pointer that the principle was preserved in the early church. In 1 Corinthians 9:13–14(ESV) Paul says,

Do you not know that those who perform sacred services [in the temple] eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar [of sacrifice in the temple] have their share with the altar?

In other words he reminds the church that in the Old Testament economy there was this system in which the Levites who worked in the temple lived off the tithes brought to the temple. Then he says in verse 14:

So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.

A church should definitely provide for the financial needs of its pastor(s) and any other full-time ministers. First Corinthians 9:14 gives the church clear instruction: “The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” We pay people to prepare and serve our physical food; shouldn’t we also be willing to pay those who see to our spiritual food? And, honestly, which is more important—physical food or spiritual food—based on Matthew 4:4?

1 Timothy 5:17–18(ESV)“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages.’” There are several points made in this passage. Church elders should be honored, and this honor includes wages. Those elders who serve the church well—especially teachers and preachers—should receive double honor. They have earned it. It would be cruel to work an ox while denying it grain, and we should take care not to treat our pastors cruelly. Let them share in the material blessings of the congregation they serve. Are not pastors worth more than many oxen?

There is nothing spiritual about making a pastor “suffer for the Lord.” Yes, a pastor has been divinely called to his ministry, but it does not follow that a congregation should say, “Let God take care of him.” God says the local church is responsible to take care of him and his family. Caring for the spiritual needs of a congregation is an important work—probably more important than other things we normally spend money on, such as meeting our physical needs, maintaining our vehicles, and entertaining ourselves.
1 Corinthians 9:7.

It is true that the apostle Paul supported himself as he ministered in Corinth (1 Corinthians 9:12). He drew no salary from the Corinthians. But he made it clear that he did this as a voluntary sacrifice on their behalf, “that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel” (verse 18). Paul did take wages from other churches (2 Corinthians 11:8). His arrangement in Corinth was the exception, not the rule.

The least Paul is saying is that those who spend their lives in the service of the Word of God should be supported by the rest of the Christians. But since he draws attention to the way it was done in the Old Testament as the model, it seems likely that tithing would have been the early Christian guideline, if not mandate.

In other words when we tithe today, we honor a principle and plan of God that sustained the ministry in the Old Testament and probably sustained the New Testament ministry as well.

2. Honoring the Creator as Owner of All

When we release a tenth of our income and give it over to the ministry and mission of Christ in the world, we honor the Creator rights of God who owns everything, including all our income.

One objection to thinking of a tenth of our income as especially belonging to God is that ALL our money belongs to God. Psalm 24:1(ESV)The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.

That is absolutely true. What you do with every cent says something about your view of God and what he means to you. And what your values are in this age. And what you think your few years on earth should be spent for. That’s true.

But God is wise and knows us deeply. He knows that there is something wrong with the husband who answers his wife’s complaint that he doesn’t give her any time by saying, “What do you mean, I don’t give you my time? ALL my time is yours. I work all day long for you and the children.” That has a very hollow ring to it if he doesn’t give her any “especially time.” Giving her some evenings together and some dates does not deny that all his time is for her, it proves it. This is why God declares one day in seven especially God’s. They are all his, and making one special proves it.

And this is the way it is with our money and God. Giving God a tenth of our income does not deny that all our money is God’s, it proves that we believe it. Tithing is like a constant offering of the first fruits of the whole thing. The tenth is yours, O, Lord, in a special way, because all of it is yours in an ordinary way.

I believe the tithe should be the first check we write after the income deposit is made in the bank. And when you write it, you put a seal over what’s left: GOD’S. The tithe reminds us of that, and proves that we really believe it.

3. The Antidote to Covetousness

Giving away a tenth of our income to the mission and ministry of Christ is an antidote to covetousness.

The last of the Ten Commandments says: “Thou shalt not covet.” Jesus said in Luke 12:15(ESV) “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of covetousness [or greed].” And in Colossians 3:5(ESV)5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Paul calls covetousness “idolatry.” Wanting things too much is incredibly dangerous for your soul. Hebrews 13:5(ESV) says,

Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have.

Every time you give a tithe, you must deal with the desire for what you might have bought for yourself. To give is not to buy. And that weekly crisis is utterly important to maintain. We must fight covetousness almost every day. And God has appointed an antidote: giving. He tests us again and again: what do we desire most—the advancement of his name or 10% more security and comfort and fun? As Jesus says, Matthew 6:21(ESV)21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Tithing is one of God’s great antidotes to covetousness.

4. Governing Ever-Expanding Spending

The fourth reason is almost the same as the last one, but not quite. When we go to the tithe and beyond, as I am suggesting we should, it puts a governor on ever-expanding spending.

There is an almost infallible human rule: spending expands to fill the income. This is why you could have a book a few years ago entitled Getting By on $100,000 a Year. If you make more, you buy more, and the things you buy have to be stored and repaired and insured. Spending begets spending. If you have less at your disposal, you spend less. And most of the time you don’t even think about it. I spend absolutely no time thinking about world cruises and $30,000 cars. But if I made two or three hundred thousand dollars a year, pretty soon things like that wouldn’t seem any more strange to me than all the stuff I buy now—because I could afford it.

If this is true—if expenses almost inevitably expand to fill the income—how shall we restrain ourselves from accumulating more and more stuff and more and more expensive stuff, and looking to the world like we have all the same values they do in our little earthly prelude to eternity? The answer is that as our income grows, we move beyond the tithe. We resolve to give a greater and greater percentage of our income to advance the kingdom. This puts the brakes on our natural impulse toward luxury.

2 Corinthians 9:6–14(ESV) 6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written,“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

Two Kinds of Giving

Notice first that in verses 5, 6, and 7 two kinds of giving are contrasted.

▪Verse 5: “So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren to go on to you before me, and arrange in advance for this gift you have promised, so that it may be ready not as an exaction but as a willing gift.” (Literally: “not as covetousness but as blessing.”)

▪Verse 6: “The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (Don’t give sparingly; give bountifully, generously.)

▪Verse 7: “Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (Don’t give begrudgingly; give freely and cheerfully.)

Three descriptions of how not to give, and three descriptions of how to give:

▪Verse 5, NOT as an exaction or covetously; verse 6, NOT sparingly; verse 7, NOT reluctantly or begrudgingly.

▪BUT, verse 5, as a willing gift; verse 6, bountifully; verse 7, cheerfully.

How Not to Give

Let’s think for a moment about bad giving. In each of these three descriptions the essence of what’s wrong is the desire to hold back. There is giving! But it’s coming from a heart that wants to hold back.

Take the word “sparingly,” for example, in verse 6. If I say, “Spare my life!” I mean, let me keep it; don’t take it from me. If I say, “Spare no effort!” I mean, hold back no effort. Give all the effort you can! When Paul said, “God did not spare his only Son,” he meant, God did not hold him back. He didn’t keep just for himself. He shared him.

So to give sparingly is to give from a heart that deep inside wants to hold back. There are enough external constraints and pressures to make us give something. But the real feeling of our heart is not to think of how much we can give, but how much we can keep.

That’s how not to give.

How to Give

Take the positive side now. In verse 6 the word is “bountifully.” In the Greek it’s the same word as the one used in verse 5. Literally, it means give on the basis of blessing. Our giving should rest upon the great truth that God is a bountifully blessing God, and then our gift in turn should be a bountiful blessing to others. Verse 7 says, it should be “cheerful.”

So giving bountifully means giving from a heart that wants to share things. Something has happened in the heart so that the basic desire is now to give and share as much as possible instead of keep as much as possible. It’s as though there was a magnet in the soul that used to be turned so that it pulled possessions into itself; and now something has happened to turn it around to the other pole so that it pushes things out toward others.

God as Giver Before Our Giving
Verse 8 talks about God’s giving on the backside of our giving, that is, the giving he gives first that enables us to give: “And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance [or: make every grace abound to you], so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.” So here he says very clearly that God wants to be known as a bountiful God. He is able—he omnipotently able to give us whatever we need in order to be generous. He IS a giver in this affair, not a Taker.

Free and Generous Giving
Verse 9 picks up an image that Paul used in verse 6, namely, the image of sowing seed. In verse 6 he said that if you sow bountifully, you will reap bountifully. Now in verse 9 he gives an illustration taken from Psalm 112:9(ESV) of a person who sows seed bountifully. “As it is written, ‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever.'”

So the sowing of seed in verse 6 and the scattering of seed in verse 9 is the free and generous giving of help to meet the needs of people. And this generosity is called righteousness in verse 9.

Now in verse 10 he takes that Old Testament quote from verse 9 and brings out its relation to God. He is the one who gives the seed for scattering and he is the one who will bring a harvest from this righteousness. “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources [lit.: ‘your seed’ or ‘your sowing’]”—so there God is the Giver on the back side of our giving again: he gives the seed so we can scatter it abroad as verse 9 says.

God as Giver After Our Giving
Then verse 10 goes on and says, ” . . . and he will increase [or: cause to grow] the harvest of your righteousness.” Now what does that mean? Well, “righteousness” in verse 9 is the generous scattering of seed to those in need. The harvest of righteousness is probably what grows up as a result of this scattering. In other words, “God will increase the harvest of your righteousness” means the same as “He who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Bountiful sowing is righteousness. Bountiful reaping is the increased harvest of this righteousness.

So the point of verse 10 is that God is the Giver, not Taker, on both sides of our giving: he gives seed before we give so that we can sow it generously; and he gives harvest after we give so that we are rewarded for our generosity.

The great truth of this text is that God wants to be known and trusted and loved as the Giver not the Taker in this whole affair of giving. Otherwise all our giving is draining, burdensome, oppressive, legalistic, and sparing. And who needs it!

5. God’s Way of Bringing About Good Deeds

The fifth reason for going to the tithe and beyond in our giving is that this is God’s way of bringing about many good deeds for his glory.

At the end of verse 8 Paul says that when you sow bountifully and cheerfully, you will “have an abundance for every good deed.” The goal is good deeds. Excess money is for good deeds. These are the things that make your light shine and cause people to give glory to your Father in heaven. If you lay up treasures on earth, people have no reason to think your Father in heaven is glorious. You look like you love what everyone else loves. According to Titus 2:13(ESV) Christ died “to purify for himself a people who are zealous for good deeds.”
2 Corinthians 9:8 says that the aim of material bounty is “for every good deed.” Verse 11 says, “You will be enriched in everything for all liberality.” Excess money is given to us so we can show where our treasure is by giving it away.

So the fifth reason for going to the tithe and bountifully beyond is that this is God’s way of providing for many good deeds.

6. God’s Way of Providing for You

The sixth reason for pressing to the tithe and beyond is that it is God’s way of providing you, the tither, sufficient money for your needs.

Giving is a way of having what you need. Giving in a regular, disciplined, generous way—up to and beyond the tithe—is simply good sense in view of the promises of God. Verse 6 says, “He who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.” Then verse 8 says, “God is able to make all grace abound to you that always having all sufficiency . . . ” In other words the “bountiful reaping” promised in verse 6 is explained in verse 8 by God’s pledge to give a sufficiency for us and an abundance for good deeds.

This seems to be Paul’s way of expressing Malachi 3:10(ESV)10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

This is an amazing challenge from God. Test me, he says. You think you can’t afford to tithe? Well test me. And what we will find when we test him is that we cannot afford not to tithe—and beyond! This is the only safe way to handle our money. Jesus once said, in Luke 6:38(ESV)Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap.

This is not a guarantee of getting rich. It’s a guarantee of “an abundance for every good work” and sufficiency for yourself.

7. Proving and Strengthening Our Faith

Finally, in our giving we should press toward the tithe and beyond because it will prove and strengthen our faith in God promises.

There is an absolute correlation between faith in the promises of God and peace of mind in giving away what we may think we need but don’t. Hebrews 13:5(ESV) Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; [why? because of a promise] for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”

Every time you doubt that you can live on 90% of your income, let the glorious promise of God strengthen your faith: “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:19(ESV).

What tithing boils down to is a faith issue. Do we trust God’s promises? Trust God. He will never fail or forsake you. He will supply all your needs.

Excerpt from John Piper