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The Sheep and the Goats September 16, 2018

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 25:31-46.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus states that at His Second Coming, He will:

  • be joined by all of the holy angels
  • reign in Jerusalem
  • judge all of the people who are still alive
  • separate believers from unbelievers.

He will then invite believers – who are blessed by His Father – to live under His earthly rule. Indeed, He has chosen them from the foundation of the world, and they have demonstrated this fact by performing good deeds for fellow believers – thereby performing them for Him.

He will then banish unbelievers to hell, as they have not performed good deeds for believers – thereby failing to perform them for Him.

Thoughts: Here, Jesus blesses believers for the deeds that they have performed for Him. Ryle offers some thoughts on this point:

People’s deeds are the witnesses which will be brought forward, and above all their works of charity. The question will not merely be what we said, but what we did: not merely what we professed, but what we practiced. Our works unquestionably will not justify us: no one will be declared righteous by observing the law; but the truth of our faith will be tested by our lives.

Now in John MacArthur’s sermon on this passage, he asserts that Jesus specifically references good deeds that were performed for fellow believers; this assertion is supported by the phrase “brothers of mine” in verse 40. Thus, I am curious as to whether Ryle would concur with MacArthur’s viewpoint. Also, it is good to consider the following question: do good deeds performed for unbelievers constitute spiritual fruit? I would answer that question in the affirmative; that being said, this passage implies that if one is a genuine believer, then they will perform good deeds for other believers. Thus, we must aim to bless other believers in this life.

Jesus also condemns unbelievers for the deeds that they have not performed for Him. Ryle offers some thoughts on this point:

Who can describe the misery of eternal punishment? It is something utterly indescribable and inconceivable. The eternal pain of body; the eternal sting of an accusing conscience; the eternal society of none but the wicked, the devil and his angels; the eternal remembrance of opportunities neglected and Christ despised; this is misery indeed.

These are stomach-churning points that we, as believers, do not ponder. Of course, the notion of unbelievers enduring “eternal punishment” is inherently sickening. I believe that this relates to our inability, as finite entities, to grasp the concept of infinity. How can suffering never end? How can God never show mercy to those who have rejected Him in this life? Does He ever think of those whom He has eternally condemned? Does He ever grieve their failure to accept His offer of salvation? While these are painful questions, we must not allow them to hinder our witness to the unbelievers in our orbit.

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The Parable of the Lost Sheep June 17, 2018

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 18:10-14.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus tells His disciples to be careful to not think down on any of their (childlike) brethren, since angels belong to them.

Indeed, His kingdom can be represented by a wealthy man who owns a hundred sheep. Since this shepherd is well acquainted with his flock, he would notice any missing individual and search for it. Similarly, God cares for all believers; His will is that their spiritual progress would not be ruined.

Thoughts: Reading through this passage caused me to ponder my view of my salvation – and the salvation of others. Since I have essentially grown up in the church, I readily identify with the remaining ninety-nine sheep in this parable (I also readily identify with the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son, though that thought should be elaborated in a separate post). Yet I – and other believers in my position – need to be reminded of this fact: we are all sinners in need of a Savior. We all fall short of His perfect standard on a daily basis; thus, He reminds us on a daily basis that His zeal extends to all of us. Moreover, He cares for all of us – regardless of our spiritual state – and will continue to assist us as we stumble along the path of sanctification.

The Fellowship of the Believers April 16, 2016

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Here are my thoughts on Acts 2:42-47.

Summary: In this passage, the first converts to Christianity:

  • immersed themselves in the teaching of the Twelve
  • gathered regularly – in public and in private – for fellowship
  • celebrated the Lord’s Supper
  • prayed consistently
  • lived simply
  • used their possessions to meet the needs of their brethren.

The Twelve also performed various miracles. Indeed, the first Christians lived such exemplary lives that nonbelievers admired them – and their ranks grew on a daily basis.

Thoughts: Here, we see that the first Christians used their possessions to meet the needs of their brethren. Calvin offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 44:

We need to beware of two extremes here. Some hide what they possess, do not give to the poor, and in a self-righteous way refuse any gifts they are offered. Others want everyone to give everything away. What does Luke say? He suggests a third way. He says that the people who gave things away did so from their own free choice…they gave so that the poor might be helped, as the need dictated.

The growing concerns regarding income inequality should motivate modern-day believers to determine what we can learn from early believers who adopted spartan lifestyles. When we assess our resources, can we distinguish luxuries from genuine necessities? How can we use the resources that God has blessed us with to meet the needs of the less fortunate? How can we maximize the impact of our generosity (e.g. minimize the risk that our resources are co-opted by kleptocrats)? This reminds me of a helpful website that my old small group leaders highlighted; it contains several challenging blog posts that consider the meaning of sacrificial giving.

The Lamb and the 144000 February 6, 2016

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Here are my thoughts on Revelation 14:1-5.

Summary: In this passage, John observes God the Son standing on Mount Zion with 144000 believers. These believers have maintained their purity before God; indeed, they are an acceptable offering to God. They have been redeemed from their bondage to sin, and they now sing a heavenly song.

Thoughts: I find this passage to be simultaneously encouraging and challenging. It is encouraging in the sense that as a believer, I am confident that I will stand – victoriously – on Mount Zion with Christ. Now it is challenging in the sense that I am called to maintain my purity before God. This life presents myriad opportunities for believers to lose their purity; even if a believer resides in a First World country, they can drift away from God by being attracted to wealth and prestige. Believers in First World countries are also not immune to the disease of spiritual apathy – especially since they are not subject to state-sponsored persecution. My prayer is that I would draw closer to God as time passes, maintain my purity, and join Christ in victory on Mount Zion.

Strolling Through the Book of Colossians September 25, 2012

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I’ve recently started reading through the Epistle to the Colossians with the aid of a commentary by J.B. Lightfoot. I should note that I’ve previously read through Colossians. As in my recent stroll through the book of Philippians, I hope to comprehend Colossians as a whole. I also hope to be able to compare – and contrast – this epistle with Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, as both of these letters were 1) composed in the latter stage of Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome and 2) delivered to churches in Asia.

I plan to blog about this experience as I read through both the epistle and Lightfoot’s commentary. Each post will correspond to a specific section in the NIV translation.

For starters, here are my thoughts on Colossians 1:1-2.

Summary: In this passage, Paul – who has been commissioned as an apostle by God’s unmerited grace – and Timothy greet the saints in Colosse who have been steadfast in their faith in the Lord. Paul and Timothy wish them God’s unmerited favor and His peace.

Thoughts: In verse 2, Paul addresses those believers in Colosse who he characterizes as “faithful.” Lightfoot offers some insights on this point:

The apostle makes it plain that when he speaks about the holy brothers, saints, he means the true and steadfast members of the brotherhood. In this way he obliquely hints at the defection…He does not directly exclude any, but he indirectly warns all…The apostle assumes that the Colossian brethren are steadfast in Christ. Their state thus contrasts with the description of the heretical teacher who (2:19) “has lost connection with the Head.”

It is apparent that this opening passage actually hints at the main thrust of the letter – Paul’s desire to refute the Gnostic heresy that is threatening the Colossian church. It will be interesting to see how he develops his argument against this heresy in the rest of the letter. We are also reminded that Paul should be included in the ranks of New Testament writers who urge their readers to be firm in their faith; clearly Paul desires that his readers be preserved for the day of judgment and approved by God at that time.

Do Not Be Yoked With Unbelievers January 15, 2012

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Here are my thoughts on 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.

Summary: Paul begins by exhorting the Corinthians to avoid any intimate associations with unbelievers, as those who conform to God’s law cannot bond with those who oppose it; also, believers and unbelievers are as incongruous as knowledge and error. In addition, just as Christ and Satan cannot be united, believers and unbelievers cannot be united. Indeed, one cannot worship both God and idols, as He dwells in every believer; God has stated that He will dwell with His people, and He will be their God. Given this awesome fact, God commands His people to avoid bonding with unbelievers. Moreover, He will be their Father and they will be His children. Paul concludes by exhorting the Corinthians to strive for purity by avoiding all sin, as sin pollutes their bodies and minds; in this way they will be perfectly holy – by striving to emulate God.

Thoughts: In verse 14, we see that Paul exhorts the Corinthians to avoid any intimate associations with unbelievers. Hodge offers some relevant thoughts on this point:

The exhortation is general and is not to be confined to partaking of heathen sacrifices, nor to intermarriage with the heathen, much less to association with the opponents of the apostle. It no doubt meant something particular in the special circumstances of the Corinthians and was intended to guard them against those entangling and dangerous associations with the unconverted around them, to which they were especially exposed.

I thought about this passage’s modern-day application: what types of intimate associations with unbelievers should today’s believers avoid? There are two obvious answers, as noted above by Hodge:

  • if an unbeliever is of a different faith, a believer should not participate in any of their religious ceremonies
  • a believer should not marry an unbeliever.

Besides these examples, I struggled to formulate a scenario where a believer could form a damaging, intimate association with a non-believer. Should believing parents adopt a non-believing teenager? What if a believer considers a non-believer as their closest friend? Can a believing soldier serve in the same squad as a non-believer – and possibly go into battle with them? It’s not clear to me that Paul’s exhortation has a broad present-day application; thoughts on this are welcome.