Received by Tradition

I Peter 1:17-18.

And if ye call on the Father, Who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;

In verse 17, to call on the Father is to invoke His Name in one’s own behalf. It can be understood, perhaps, from the habit of calling on the Name of Jehovah at the beginning of a prayer. It can also be used in the sense of calling for help, or seeking the Father’s judgment on one’s own behalf.

If you have access to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, or the BlueLetterBible.com, you would perhaps be interested in doing a study on all the uses of the word Father in the Bible. It ranges all the way from Adam to Abraham to Jesus in its different contexts, including that the Father is the Creator and Author of all things and beings.

The Father judges all mankind without respect of persons; that is, impartially according to gender, race or ethnicity wealth, status or anything else. We are all the same in His sight.

The Father judges all of us. That is, He presides over us with the power of giving judicial decisions, which are not subject to appeal or any legal maneuvering. He presides over our eternal destiny, from which there is no changing of His mind. His judgment is absolute. Inarguable.

He judges according to every man’s work. In this context, it means an act, deed, thing done. For some, this text is used as a proof text that we can work our way to heaven through our behavior, our deeds, our service for God. The problem, of course, is that such a belief is blown away by what follows.

Those who call upon the Father to be judged according to their works are told to pass their time as strangers living in a strange land (heaven is our true home!) in fear and dread, or terror.

Why? Because we are not redeemed, bought back, rescued, saved by that which is corruptible and fades away. We may gain silver and gold from our vain conversation, (empty behavior/efforts), but those things quickly pass away under God’s evaluation.

Where did we get the idea that we can be saved by our work? Peter, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, says it came from tradition passed down from our ancestors.

You see, mankind has always wanted to think of himself in terms just barely less than divine, having the ability to earn heaven and God’s approbation through good works. The problem we overlook in such a belief is summarized in Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”

When we deceive ourselves into believing that we can somehow earn heaven, we make the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ of very little importance. And that, my friends, is not okay with God!

In Heavenly Places

Ephesians 1:3. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”

The beauty of the earth is so astonishing that it seems impossible to me that heaven will be even better, beyond our wildest imaginings! I have seen the Northern Lights on a cold winter night in northern Minnesota.  It’s a breathtaking sight, indeed.

God is the Father of the Lord, Jesus Christ. He sustains that relationship  to Jesus, and the wonderful thing is that when we come to Him in repentance and accept Jesus as our Savior, God becomes our Father as well, and makes us joint heir with Jesus to all that heaven holds.

“He hath blessed us.  He’s already blessed us.  Hath is past tense, It’s a done deal. Right here and now, I am blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. I obtained every blessing that God has for a redeemed sinner when I put my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. I have it all!

It is one thing, however, to have the blessings; another things to truly make them yours. So what are some of these blessings?

Forgiveness of our sins, with justification from all things, with sanctification in Christ; a robe of perfect righteousness, with heavenly citizenship; a place in the Body of Christ; making us heirs of His riches in Christ Jesus, to name a few.

God has made Jesus to be unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

“In heavenly places.” This is why we can sing “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through; my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue!”  Once we are saved, we are heavenly beings having an earthly experience. Our true home, and our true riches, are in Christ with God.

There is such depth in this one verse. I generally try to keep my posts  short enough not to be a chore, so I’m going to stop here.  I encourage you, however, to dig further into the meaning and the promises of this wonderful verse.

Heir of God through Christ

Galatians 4: 6-7. And becuse ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”

Salvation has always come by faith. The diligent keeping of the Law did not make a person sure of heaven; it was by faith that the Old Testament saints believed God. They kept the Law as an indicator of their faith in God, and out of reverent obedience to His Word.  When they taught their children the Law, they taught about the great and holy Yaweh Who had given them the law to bring them to an understanding of their sin.

Since Christ’s finished work at Calvary, every true believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, sealed and anointed. Anyone who does not have that indwelling of the Holy Spirit is not a true believer.  Because He dwells in our hearts, as we grow in understanding and knowledge of Him and Who He is, we look with adoration and reverence into His face and cry, “Abba, Father.”  Both Jew and Gentile now have this free access to God, by grace, through faith.

Because we now have the Holy Spirit, we are indeed  no longer in the place of servants, but of sons. As sons, we are heirs of all His possessions through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do you sometimes find yourself thinking, “Yes, I know this.  I believe it is true. But I have a really hard time getting my head around the idea that I have the same standing with God as His Son does, and that my heavenly inheritance is equal with His. How can this be?”

I know only that it is through the unlimited grace and love of God that it is possible. To know it now is amazing. To experience it there?  I can’t even begin to imagine.

The Great Commission

Matthew 28:18-20. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:  and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

Image result for go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature

I really don’t know what I can say that gives this command of Jesus’ any more clarity than it already has. Our commission as believers is clear:  We are to understand that Jesus Christ is the ruler of the heavens and the earth; that He has all the power of the Godhead conferred upon Him.

Because He is God, we are to spread that good news to every corner of the earth, teaching, baptizing, preaching, sharing the gospel until He returns to take us to heaven to live with Him forever.

And wherever we go, He will be with us until the world ends.

Amen.

And this, then, is the final post in our study of the Gospel of Matthew.  I pray it has encouraged you, blessed you, and that you have learned something new that will continue to fill your hearts and minds with the great love of our wonderful Savior.

Twelve Legions of Angels

Matthew 26: 53-54. “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?”

How much power would twelve legions of angels have?  You can’t even begin to imagine!

A Roman legion was about 6000 soldiers.  Twelve legions, then,  about 72,000.

But Jesus said the Father could give Him more than that!  Hundreds of thousands of angels at His disposal. Now consider something else:

In Isaiah 37:36, we read that one angel killed 185,000 soldiers in one night.  On that basis, twelve legions of angels could slay 13,320,000,000. That’s 13 billion, 320 million.  That number is hard for me to comprehend. Statistics say that there are now about 7 billion people on earth. It would take only half of twelve legions of angels to deal with that!

So what was Jesus’ point?  The next verse is the answer:

If Peter, or all the disciples, or the angels of heaven themselves should intervene and save Jesus from the cross, how then could the scriptures be fulfilled that He must die so that we might live?  He was born to die. He never asked to be spared from that, knowing that His death and resurrection was the only way of salvation for all mankind.

Let This Cup Pass from Me!

Matthew 26: 39. “And He went a little farther, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”

The anguish expressed in these words is beyond my understanding.

Had Jesus changed His mind?  Was He no longer  willing to go to Calvary?  Was He so fearful of the physical torture that was coming that He was begging to be released from His mission?

Absolutely, positively not.

His anguish was not for the physical torment; of course, He must have dreaded it just as any other man would have dreaded it.  But that dread was not what He was addressing in His plea to the Father to have this cup pass from Him.

I believe that His soul was sorrowful unto death, His anguish so wrenching that He sweat great drops of blood in His agony, because what He dreaded the most was the moment that God, Who could not look on sin, would turn His face away from His only begotten, dearly beloved Son. I believe that He was asking God that somehow, if it were at all possible, He would not turn His face away as Jesus hung there between heaven and earth, bearing the weight of the sin of all mankind, becoming sin for us, Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (II Cor. 5:21).

Can I prove it?  No. But the fact is, Jesus never hesitated to fulfill His role as the perfect Lamb of God. He only dreaded with all His being the time when fellowship between Himself and the Father would be broken.

He didn’t just die for our sin.  He became  sin, in all its ugliness and horror.

How desolate that must have been for the sinless Savior.

Day Nor Hour

Matthew 24:36. “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”

I will never understand why anyone thinks he can go against the clear teaching of the Word. Jesus said that not even the angels in heaven know the day nor the hour of Christ’s return.  The man who made all this fuss and feathers was a highly regarded Bible teacher by many, many people. His arrogant insistence that he DID know what God says he COULD NOT know brought nothing but scorn and embarrassment to believers everywhere.

It’s not the first time.  Here is a list of many other false predictions. Satan will use every single thing he can to discredit Christians, to make them look foolish in the eyes of the world.

This I promise you:  If anyone says he knows the exact day and hour of Christ’s return, he is lying.  He may be lying while believing his own delusions, but he is lying. Do not follow him. Do not trust his preaching or his teaching. He is operating in total rebellion to God’s Word, and he is a false teacher.

Can we preach and teach about end times?  Sure!  We need to understand what the signs are, and what they mean. The Bible says that all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness(II Tim. 3:16).  Some believe it is a waste of time to preach doctrine because it is so “dry and boring.”  Others believe it is unnecessary to teach about God’s holiness, but rather to emphasize His love, while still others preach the holiness of God to the exclusion of His love, mercy, and grace. Others refuse to study prophecy and the end times, preferring to focus on the right here and now.  All of those positions are wrong.  We are to study the whole counsel of God, not just the parts we’re comfortable with, or that we feel appeal to the popular culture.  Jesus didn’t have much appeal to the pop culture of His day, after all.

The whole counsel of God.  Without it, we lose our balance, lose our way, and become prey to all the “newest” teachings that flood our world via the internet, radio, TV, print media, and so on. Hold up God’s Word above all else. Even the hard parts.

Whosoever Exalts Himself. . . .

Matthew 23:8-12. “But be not ye called Rabbi: for One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for One is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for One is your Master, even Christ. But  he that is greatest among you shall be  your servant, And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”

If the Pharisees had not been foaming at the mouth before, they surely were after these pointed words. In just a few seconds, Jesus reduced the pompous, self-important leaders of the day to the same level as all other Jews, including the lowly ones that they so scorned. “All of you are brethren, and there is only One Teacher!”

No man is better than another.  No man who exalts himself deserves the praise and worship of others. In fact, Jesus made it clear that the ones who choose to humble themselves will be the leaders, and the self-important will be reduced to servanthood.

Does this teaching apply to Christians today?  Well, of course!  Don’t we all know of those who have  exalted themselves as spiritual leaders when in actuality they are seeking only the praise of men?  Don’t we know of humble men who have never put themselves forward, yet they are praised and respected for their humility and their walk with God? Don’t we all know of mighty church leaders who have come crashing down because of sexual sin?  Why do we think it was only the Jews, only the Pharisees, that Jesus was warning? Surely we fool ourselves if we think we are exempt.

In I Peter 5:6-7, we are commanded to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He might exalt us at the proper time. Notice that we are not told to ask God to humble us; we are to choose to humble ourselves under His mighty hand. Only when we voluntarily humble ourselves, knowing what we are and Who He is, can we hope to be rewarded by God in due time.

If Two Shall Agree

Matthew 18:19. “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.”

This is not the picture I had in mind when I went looking for an illustration for this post, but it certainly is evocative. Thank God our soldiers still have the courage to pray in public. Could be it takes more courage to do so these days than to actually go on patrol.

To get the context of this passage, you need to go back to  this post  and review the sense of binding and loosing, and that these verses have to do with the church and with the power of prayer.

The promise in these two verses today stands first of all in relationship to a brother who has been restored. United prayer is needed in order to bring about such restoration.  It is not given exclusively to the pastor, elders, bishops or deacons; it is given to the church body to be united in prayer for the restoration of a brother who has erred.

The promise is not limited to this alone. We are told to ask touching anything, and we are assured that it shall be done when merely two or three are gathered to pray in unity.

How sad it is to me that churches all around the world are failing to see answered prayer because there is a lack of unified humility and dependence on God to perform that which He has promised. Rather than coming together to bow humbly before God and each other, we are instead angrily consumed with  whatever disagreement is dividing us. Yes, we need to stand for biblical truth. We need to stay in line with God’s Word, with His holiness in every aspect of faith and conduct. And yet, part of His holiness contains mercy, grace and love. I think we forget.

The center to which the church is gathered is not a building, not a pastor, not a ministry, not a program. It is God. Without Him in the midst, nothing will be done that will stand the test of time. Prayer will not be answered. Souls will not be saved. There may be numeric growth in the church because of all those other things–building, pastor, ministry, program. But if Jesus Christ is not pre-eminent, then all the rest is dross.

Take Heed!

Matthew 18:10. “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven.”

There are a couple of questions about the interpretation of this verse. I do not pretend to have the final word.  I am only going to present one possibility that makes a lot of sense to me.

First, is Jesus still talking about believers, born again ones who have become as little children?  Or is He now talking of actual children?

The little child He had set in their midst was most likely still there.  I can’t imagine that a child would leave Jesus’ side if he didn’t have to! It makes the most sense that Jesus now spoke concerning little ones, little children. He warns against despising them,, treating them as if they have no importance. There will be children in the kingdom of heaven, after all, and they are to be treasured. In the next chapter, we’ll see how little the disciples understood what Jesus was saying here when they try to shoo the children away from Jesus.

Second, there is some question about the angels.  Was Jesus referring to the angels whose residence is in heaven?  One of my sources offers Acts 12 as a key to the interpretation of “angels.”  It is the story of Peter’s imprisonment,  and his rescue by an angel who led him miraculously from the prison. When the angel knocked at the door of the house where believers were praying for Peter, and Rhoda declared that Peter stood outside, they said “It is his angel.” They believed that Peter had been killed, and that it was his departed spirit that Rhoda had seen. This source maintains that if a child dies, his “angel,” or departed spirit, beholds the face of the Father in heaven.  Next week, when we get into the next several verses, we could come away thinking this interpretation is exactly on track.

On the other hand, there are references to angels as “ministering spirits” in other passages of scripture: Hebrews 1:14; Psalm 34:7. Some scholars use Matthew 18:10 to support the idea that we all have our own guardian angels who minister to us under the authority of God.

I’m not ready to take an adamant position either way. I lean toward the idea that the “angels” are indeed a reference to the spirits of children who have died, but I can’t be dogmatic.  I’ve searched to see if there is any help in the Greek word for “angel,” and the same word is used both in Matthew 18 and Acts 12, referring simply to a “messenger,”

In the meantime, I think we need to focus on the message that is quite clear:  We are not to despise little children.  They are God’s.