Home Bible Study

"Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen.
Revelation 22:20

This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is both helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible often doesn't tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.


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Friday, September 14, 2018

Ephesians 6:4 (Lesson 34)

Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                 Published Weekly on Friday

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Ephesians (6:4)                                                                (Lesson 34)                                

Welcome to HBS, and thank you for your faithful attendance.

This section of scripture (beginning at Ephesians 4:1 and ending with Ephesians 6:11) has several commands from the Lord to each true Believer so they can walk worthy of the calling with which they have been called.  Most recently we examined those commands concerning the God-given roles within the family that are all within the context of “walking in wisdom” (Ephesians 5:15).

Let’s also remember in the opening of this letter (epistle) Paul lists many marvelous blessings from God the Father to each true Believer in Christ Jesus.  You and I were once dead in our trespasses and sin, but now we have been made alive through Jesus Christ.  We were given a new nature when we received the Holy Spirit God’s earnest payment guaranteeing our inheritance, and furthermore, the Spirit of God dwells within us.  In case you’re not aware of what this means for each true Believer, it means the same power that raised Jesus Christ from His tomb dwells within us (Romans 8:11; Ephesians 1:19-20).  One of the many benefits of the indwelt Holy Spirit is a quickened mind and the ability to discern the spiritual things of God.  Thus the true Believer has the ability to walk in Godly wisdom, and Paul is calling on all of us to do just that: “be careful how you walk (insert your name here), not as unwise, but as wise” (5:15).

The fragmented American family is a great tragedy, and I’m sure it saddens the Creator God.  Instead of following His Blueprint for a Successful Marriage, people continue to turn to the vain opinions, philosophies, and worldly wisdom of men for answers rather than to the One who designed mankind and the family.  When people reject the Creator and His design, they prove the scriptures true:

in professing to be wise they have become fools (Romans 1:22).

Where is the wise man?  Where is the scribe?  Where is the debater of this (present evil) age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world (1 Corinthians 1:20)?

…in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

It’s not enough to be aware of God’s design for saved families, you must also follow (obey) those instructions (and not just the one’s you find favor with).  This is not possible unless you are first filled with the Spirit (5:18).  Figures like Enoch, Noah, and Abraham are remembered to this very day because they walked with God.  Israel’s evil kings of the O.T. (Israel’s first king Saul being one) are remembered because they did not.  Thus, the true Believer’s walk is characterized by humbly walking in the Truth, and they maintain their worthy walk by filling their minds and hearts with the Word of God routinely (Psalm 119:10-11).  You know you’re walking with the Lord when you obey His commands:

If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word…” (John 14:23).

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete (1 Corinthians 10:5).

…through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; (Romans 1:5).

What Does “Led by the Spirit” Mean?

The phrase “led by the Spirit” only occurs twice in the N. T., and both instances are frequently misused today.  The first is in Romans 8:14, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”  The immediate context is the Believer’s battle with the flesh through the empowerment of the Spirit.  The second occurrence is in Galatians 5:18, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”  Again, the immediate context is the Believer’s battle with sin.  In both instances, the larger concern is to show us how to live joyful, obedient lives that produce holiness and glorify God.

 Let’s explore this more deeply by focusing on Galatians 5:16–25.  In this passage Paul addresses two problems that plagued the Galatian church and continues to plague the church today:  legalism and immorality.  Some people in the Galatian church urged observance of parts of the Mosaic Law, and others were disregarding moral constraints.  So, our Apostle Paul gives this church (and us) a command with a promise:  Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (5:16).  The word Spirit refers to the Holy Spirit, who dwells in every true Believer.  The word flesh is Paul’s term to describe fallen human nature and its self-centered attitudes, desires, and behaviors.  The word walk is commonly used in Scripture to refer to one’s daily conduct.  Thus, to walk by the Spirit means to live one’s daily life by the Holy Spirit’s guidance and empowerment.  To walk in the flesh is to live a life characterized by various sins and selfish behaviors.

  Paul goes on to talk about how the flesh and the Spirit oppose and contend against each other, something every Believer can identify with.  This struggle is a part of our lifelong battle against the world, the flesh, and Satan, as the Holy Spirit works to make us progressively more like Jesus.  Sometimes people grow weary and discouraged with this constant struggle within and it may cause some to doubt their salvation, but actually it is a sign of our new life.  Walking by the Spirit is the pathway to overcoming the desires of the flesh and living a life pleasing to God.

  Practically speaking, how do we walk by the Spirit and overcome the desires of the flesh?  We must allow ourselves to be “led by the Spirit.”  The word led indicates we should continuously surrender and yield ourselves to the desires of the Spirit, whose leading is always diametrically opposed to the desires of our sinful flesh (our old self).  Our surrender to the Spirit’s leading is an act of the will, a choice you and I must make; it is saying yes to the Spirit’s leading and no to the desires of the flesh.  We always have a choice.  So, let’s be clear, as we allow the Spirit to influence, direct, and empower us, we can overcome the flesh.

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I thought it would be a good idea to pick up our Bible lesson at Ephesians 6:4 before moving on to the section:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

As we continue to look at this practical section of Ephesians, I think it is clear Paul was not instructing society in general.  He is specifically addressing the Believers in Ephesus on how husbands, wives, children, and parents are to live out their lives, bearing in mind their worthy walk is about bringing honor and glory to God, and setting an example for those people who are outside of Christ.  Paul is making the Ephesian saints (and us) aware of how Believers are to live under Jesus Christ's Lordship in the most intimate relationships of life.  

The simplicity of Paul's instructions offers clear guidance for family relationships.  Paul addresses each member of the family individually with a one word command that if followed will make a profound impact in our families, our church, and our nation.  Think this through.  How great would it be to live in an Eden-like environment?  Everyone seeking the other person’s highest good (Galatians 6:4, 10).  This won’t be realized until the Lord returns to establish His earthly kingdom, but the Bible says it will be a time of unprecedented peace for wherever Jesus Christ is, there is peace. 

The one word command from Paul to the wives is “submit;” to the husbands he said, “love,” to the children he said, “obey.”  Today we’ll review Paul’s divine directive for the fathers, “Bring them (the children) up.”

Ephesians 6:4 can be broken down into three parts.  First there is the address, "Fathers."  Second, there is the negative command, "Do not provoke your children."  Third, Paul follows with the positive command, "But bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."

In this verse our Apostle Paul addresses his command to “fathers.”  But the term “fathers” does not mean only dad is responsible for raising the children.  It should not escape anyone’s attention both parents are responsible and will be held accountable to the Lord for in the context of 6:1 Paul said “children obey your parents.”  In addition, this same term for “fathers” is translated in Hebrews 11:23 as “parents” (Pater) because it refers to both of Moses’ parents. 

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents (Pater), because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's edict  (Hebrews 11:23).

In 6:4, it's better to accept the translation as "fathers," (Pater), because Paul has already made us aware the father is the head of the home, as Christ Jesus is the head of His church.  Fathers bear the ultimate responsibility.  He will answer to the Lord Jesus Christ at the Bema Seat Judgment.  Therefore, the father sets the tone and the direction of the home, including how the children are to be raised.  We see this same design being employed in the O.T.

“For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should teach them (the LORD’s commands) to their children, That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, That they should put their confidence in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments, And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that (perished in the wilderness because the nation of Israel) did not prepare its heart, And whose spirit was not faithful to God(Psalm 78:5).

So, let’s be clear, although Paul addresses this command to the “fathers,” the responsibility of parenting the children includes mom and dad.  The book of Proverbs supports this teaching:    

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, And do not forsake your mother’s teaching; Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head, And ornaments about your neck (Proverbs 1:8-9).

“My son, observe the commandment of your father, And do not forsake the teaching of your mother; Bind them continually on your heart; Tie them around your neck.  When you walk about, they will guide you; When you sleep, they will watch over you; And when you awake, they will talk to you.  For the commandment is a lamp, and the teaching is light; And reproofs for discipline are the way of life,” (Proverbs 6:20-23).

The following verses shows us how the child is raised reflects on both parents:    

“A wise son makes a father glad, But a foolish son is a grief to his mother” (Proverbs 10:1).

“A foolish son is a grief to his father, And bitterness to her who bore him” (Proverbs 17:25).

“Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old.  Buy truth, and do not sell it, Get wisdom and instruction and understanding. The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who begets a wise son will be glad in him.  Let your father and your mother be glad, And let her rejoice who gave birth to you (Proverbs 23:22-25).

This book says children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are children of one’s youth.  Blessed is the man who has a quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed… (Psalm 127:3-5a).  Children are a gift from God and they are to be a blessing, but if parents do not fulfill their God-given responsibilities properly, their children will not be a blessing to God, to their parents, or to anyone else.

Fathers, do not provoke your children (Teknon) to anger” – the Koine Greek word for children here is Teknon.  We looked at this word before while studying verse 6:1.  It still means “offspring;” a child is the Teknon of their parents no matter their age.  I’m in my 60’s and still the Teknon of my parents.  But remember, Paul’s speaking of those children who are under their parent’s authority here.  Once the children grow up and leave home, the authority structure changes. 

I don’t believe you need me to tell you this nation’s current mode of parenting their children isn’t working.  Either the vast majority of people are not aware of God’s Blueprint for a Successful Family or they simply choose not to put it into practice, as epitomized in this article by Denise-Marie Ordway:

Among juvenile delinquents, boys with hostile fathers commit more crime and use a larger variety of drugs and alcohol than boys with absentee fathers, a new study suggests.

The issue:  extensive research has focused on the consequences of single-mother households.  For example, an often-cited study from the University of California, San Francisco and Princeton University found that teenage boys raised by single moms are at a greater risk for incarceration.  Relatively few studies, however, have looked at how certain qualities in fathers affect children who live with their moms.

A group of scholars representing five universities decided to investigate the influence of hostile fathers and uninvolved fathers on their teenage sons’ behavior.

A study worth reading:  “The Difference Influence of Absent and Harsh Fathers on Juvenile Delinquency,” published in the Journal of Adolescence, 2018.

About the study:  the authors examined data collected through a longitudinal study of 1,216 male juvenile delinquents from the Philadelphia area as well as Jefferson Parish, Louisiana and Orange County, California.  All had been arrested on misdemeanor charges such as vandalism and theft.  Almost half the boys in the sample were Latino while 37 percent were black and 15 percent were white.

The boys were asked a series of questions about their household and relationship with the individual they considered to be their father.  They also answered questions about their criminal behavior and use of alcohol and illegal drugs.

Fathers are described as “harsh” if they rated high in hostility and low in warmth.  They are characterized as absent if they are completely missing from the boy’s life or if the child did not identify a father figure.  Sons’ relationships with their dads are considered “high quality” if they rated high in warmth and low in hostility.

The key findings:
Most of the boys with harsh fathers were Latino while most with absentee fathers were black.

Boys with harsh fathers had a higher rate of delinquency than those with uninvolved dads. The sons of hostile men reported committing more crime and using a larger variety of drugs and alcohol.

Kids with harsh fathers or absentee fathers reported engaging in more offending behaviors and using more substances than kids with “high quality” relationships with their dads.

About 29 percent of youth in the sample did not have a parent with a high school diploma. About 36 percent had a parent who went to college or received some level of training after high school.

“Father absence is widely acknowledged as a key contributor to delinquency, leading to efforts to promote father involvement with youth to deter juvenile delinquency. However, not all involved fathers develop positive, high-quality relationships with their sons, and father presence in some cases can be more detrimental than father absence” (End of Article).

This article doesn’t address all the issues children are facing in America but it is an eye-opening study revealing the current child crisis due to absentee parents and overbearing fathers.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger – The Koine Greek word for anger is Parorgizo (Par-org-id’-zo), Verb, Strong’s Greek #3949, meaning:  to rouse to wrath, to provoke, exasperate, anger.  Father’s are not to “irritate” their children causing them to become angry. 

How do fathers make their children angry?  I’m glad you asked.  Children may become angry due to excessive discipline, unreasonably harsh commands, the father’s abuse of his God-given authority, or as we read earlier in the article above by neglecting their children.  Simply said, whatever causes your child to become angry should be avoided. 

There’s a parallel passage in Colossians that says:  Fathers, do not exasperate (infuriate) your children, so that they will not lose heart (Colossians 3:21).

The word Paul uses for "exasperate" means:  to provoke or to irritate.  This same idea is expressed in Ephesians 6:4 "Don't make your children angry."  

Then Paul gives us the reason for not making them angry, "So that they will not lose heart"—"lose heart" is from the Koine Greek word Athumeo.  This is the only place in the N.T. where you’ll find this word.  It’s a compound word from "a" which means:  without and thumos, which is:  passions, desire, spirit.  It means:  to become disheartened to the point of losing motivation, to be dispirited or to be broken in spirit.  

I’m reminded of the time I bought my wife a horse for her birthday.  Beautiful animal, however it was only green-broke, i.e. not ready to be ridden.  The horse wouldn’t permit a blanket to be laid across her back, let alone a saddle with someone sitting on it.  So, I began training her based on advice from people I knew who owned horses and I read a couple of books on the subject.   I remember one person’s comment from one of these books that said, “Breaking a horse is to climb on and when you’re thrown off, get back on; repeat until the horse gets bored.”  I discarded that information because my Father-in-law had a horse too and she was mean-spirited.  I learned the hard way not to turn my back on this horse because she would bite or kick you, if given the opportunity.  What worked for my horse did not work for this animal because they were as different as night and day. 

Children are not all the same, so they should not be treated as though they are.  What works for one child, may not have the same effect on the other.  Each child has their own personality and this needs to be considered as you exercise these three tools of parenting:  patience, understanding, and above all, love. 

Cruelty is never permitted in the Believer’s household “So that they will not lose heart.”  You don’t want to break the child’s spirit.”  We might think of this as throwing cold water upon their flame for life.  It implies a parent is so cold, stern, harsh, and rigid that a child's strength is sapped, his or her drive for positive achievements gone and their hope for the future shattered.   

The Lord wants us to encourage our children.  One of the ways we accomplish this is by praising them for those things they do right.  This is positive reinforcement.  If the only thing a child receives from his parents is constant criticism, they will become discouraged.  They may become so disheartened they will quit trying to please their parents altogether and in some cases they vent their anger upon their siblings or they opt to take it to the streets bullying some unfortunate individual.   

but bring them up – Paul’s saying bring your children up actually means “to feed.”  It’s a word used in the Bible primarily of nurturing children or providing a climate of spiritual growth and development.  Thus, Paul is informing fathers they have a very important role in the raising of their children. 

How important is this command?  Let’s consider the statistics re: fragmented homes in America.  Today, almost one out of two children goes to bed each night without a biological father in the home.  Fifty percent of our children today will spend at least some time before age eighteen with only one parent.  The poverty rate for children born to mothers who finished high school, got married, and waited until they were 20 to have their first child is 8%.  The poverty rate for those who don't do those things is 79%. The average poverty rate for children of single mothers is currently 47%; it is 65% for black children.  Sixty percent of America's rapists, 72% of adolescent murderers, and 70% of long term prison inmates grew up without fathers.  In another social study, I discovered greater than 70% of prison inmate are repeat offenders.  Do the math; what conclusions do you draw?

It is impossible to deny.  Despite the world’s message, having a biological father in the home to help protect, provide for, and raise the children in the fear of the Lord is an essential element of public health and happy, well-adjusted children.

in the discipline and instruction of the Lord - discipline is from the Koine Greek word Paideia, which means:  tutorage; education or training; by implication disciplinary correction.  Paideia is a broad term, signifying whatever parents and teachers need to do (within the parameters of scripture) to correct, cultivate, educate, and train their children in order to help them mature spiritually.  

God wants parents and their children to be like His Son and discipline is necessary to bring this about: 

…and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, "MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES." (Hebrews 12:5-6).

Since children have a tendency to gravitate toward the things of this world, they must be trained to obey the things of God.  To that end, the Lord uses temptation, tribulations, and trials, i.e. our pain and suffering in this life to train us up in the way we should go.  These things are to help the inner man mature.  It's the idea of learning through discipline, and it's talking about correction that may be verbal or corporal.  But here’s the thing, if you dare to apply corporal punishment today you’re likely to find yourself in “hot water” with most children's counselors, educators, psychologists, and social workers.  These folks adamantly oppose any type of corporal punishment.  They say it is an archaic practice.    

What’s more, many people today say corporal punishment is a form of physical abuse. However, by declaring this they are accusing the Lord Jesus Christ of sin.  We just looked at Hebrews 12:6 that said, "Whom the Lord loves, He disciplines, and He scourges"—the word "scourges" is from the Koine Greek word Mastigoo, which means: "to skin alive with a whip."   If you saw Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” you saw a depiction of Him being scourged by a Roman soldier.  Most people didn’t survive a scourging in Jesus’ day.  But from this passage we learn the Lord’s discipline can include corporal punishment, but we remember the Lord disciplines those He loves, in a loving manner:      

He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently (Proverbs 13:24).

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11). 

Too many Christian parents view family counselors and psychologists as the experts when it comes to raising their children.  But the problem with that plan is, these "so-called experts" dispense a lot of anti-biblical nonsense, such as, "You need to build your child's self-esteem."  The other problem with this plan is these psychologists prescribe medications such as antidepressants, when what the child really needs is a healthy diet and good, old-fashioned biblical discipline.   Our Apostle Paul said scripture is adequate to equip us for every “good work.” 

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16). 

Certainly "every good work" includes the very important work of bringing up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. 

And so, Paul's command implies a father will lovingly encourage, exhort, and correct his children with God's Word as the standard.  This is what Paul means to say at the end of verse 6:4:  "bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."
It is the father’s responsibility to ensure his children learn and follow all of the Lord’s instructions.  This has been the duty of parents, but especially the fathers, throughout history.

(To be continued)

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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
All Rights Reserved

Friday, September 7, 2018

Ephesians 6:5-9 (Lesson 33)


Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                 Published Weekly on Friday

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Ephesians 6:5-9 – Part                                                      (Lesson 33)

Welcome to our informal Home Bible Study.

I rarely open the Bible lesson with announcements; however, this week is an exception.
About a month ago I began to notice a steady decline in attendance.  This coincides with the date I started explaining God’s design for marriage (Ephesians 5:18-33).  HBS is no different than other Bible study groups and churches in that attendance varies from week to week; a 10% or even a 20% fluctuation is normal.  However, we’ve experienced a 70% sustained, decline and this is abnormal.  To put this in perspective, imagine a church that counts 100 faithful worshippers each week, but suddenly only 30 people participated in worship services; and that number did not change much.  This describes what’s happening here at Home Bible Study.

What caused all these people to leave so suddenly?”

I think it’s safe to say something in the Bible lesson offended them, so they decided to quit; they walked away.  It’s difficult to pinpoint the subject matter that brought about this negative reaction; however, I’ve taught Ephesians before and experienced this same negativity.  I believe all these folks left because the Lord’s command to the husband (love) and the wife (submit) offended them.  Said differently, biblical truth upset them, so they stopped participating.

Beginning in the book of Genesis, you’ll find people rejecting God and His Truths.  So, this is an age-old problem.  When Jesus began His ministry to the nation of Israel; it’s rather apparent some people believed Him, while others (the majority) we’re irritated and angered by what He said, even though it was spoken in love.

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:5).

"This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).

The O.T. prophets were put to death by the very people God wanted to help:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets, and stoning those having been sent to her, how often I have wanted to gather your children, the way that a hen gathers her brood under the wings, and you were not willing (Luke 13:34 – BSB).

Except for the Apostle John, every apostle of the Lord was martyred for their faith.

Our Apostle Paul encountered hostility and opposition from Judaism and Paganism every time he entered a town or city preaching the Word (Acts 17:1-15, 21:20-26).

Why do people reject biblical truth?”

As you can see, there is a long history of people rejecting God’s Truths and reasons vary as to why this is so.  Today for instance, many people are offended by biblical truth because it is absolute, exclusive, and not relative.  The absolute nature of truth means it does not depend on, nor is it changed, by people’s opinions.  For example, if someone says, “There is no God,” that does not affect the existence of God.  Truth is also exclusive, meaning that it is “narrow” because it excludes anything contrary to it.  Unfortunately, in this darkened world, many people view the narrow nature of truth as “narrow mindedness.”  We all recognize the narrowness of truth when it comes to the physical world.  People do not put water in their gas tanks, and if the gas stove is turned on, they don’t put their hands in the flame.  We train our children to do the right thing (like looking both ways before crossing the street), and not to do what is “wrong” (like running with scissors) so they will live safely in our “narrow minded” world.

Another reason truth is often offensive to those who do not adhere to it is because people are selfish.  Humans are fleshly creatures because of their sin nature and they are living in a fallen world.  Their flesh and sin nature combine to make them innately selfish and self-centered.  That is why people so often give in to temptation and do things they know are not good for them, and it is also why people struggle to do what is “right” all the time.  Because people are by nature self-centered, biblical truth can offend them.  People want to do things their way, but the exclusive nature of truth means we have to do them “God’s way.”  God calls our selfishness and the things we do from a selfish motivation “evil,” and shows it is a reason why people do not RSVP to His salvation invitation; they are offended by the truth they need to be saved.

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This negativity prompted me to deviate from our present course of study this week to examine Jesus’ teaching on the four soils.  My question to the reader is, “Which soil best describes your reaction to biblical truth?” 

Please open your Bible at Matthew 13. 

Jesus Teaches in Parables

That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea.  And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach.  And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.  Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil.  But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.  Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.  And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.  He who has ears, let him hear.”

An Explanation

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them (the Jews) in parables?”  Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.   For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.  Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand (Matthew 7:1-13).

Understanding God’s Word is a personal choice.  Jesus taught using parables because the Jews wanted to get rid of Him.  If He spoke plainly to them, they would have taken His life sooner than they did.  Therefore, He taught vitally important spiritual truths by using parables.  If their hearts had been right with God (Matthew 15:8), and if they had not been blind (John 9), "they might have understood them."  Given the circumstances, Jesus stated these truths in the best possible way, and it was not His fault if they did not understand Him.  Life is filled with choices and God created you with the ability to choose freely.  Thus, the responsibility for obtaining biblical knowledge is the individual’s; it’s not God’s fault if you can’t or won’t understand. 

As I said earlier, our Apostle Paul met opposition on a routine basis, so let’s all turn to Acts 17.  Here we have a group of Jews in Berea that listened to what Paul had to say without being offended by his explanation of scripture.  These people were “more nobel-minded” then the Jews in Thessalonica.  They examined the O.T. Scriptures daily to see if what Paul said was plausible. 

The Berean Approach to Paul’s Grace Message

Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.  And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.”  And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks (Gentiles) and a number of the leading women.  But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people (Acts 17:1-5).

Here we find Paul explainingwhat had been written” in times past (Ephesians 2:1-13 – KJV), i.e. the O.T. Scriptures to the Jews in Thessalonica.  He showed them Jesus Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead.  This was in accordance with God’s eternal purpose to sum up all things in Christ Jesus (Psalm 110:1; Ephesians 1:8-10). 

We know Paul didn’t teach opinion or personal beliefs because all of his teaching were based on the authority of Scripture (Luke 24:44).  This resulted in some people being persuaded and so they believed.  However most of the Jews were offended to the point of anger and jealousy.   They formed a mob setting the city in an uproar.  They vented their anger by attacking Jason’s home, hoping to find Paul and Silas inside. 

Skipping down to verse 10, we find the brethren (like-minded Believers) sending Paul and Silas away to Berea because of the violent mob.  Upon their arrival they repeated their usual routine of seeking out the Jews in their synagogue.  There Paul preached Jesus Christ Crucified for the sins of all without meeting objection and ridicule (2 Corinthians 5:15; John 2:23; Acts 8:25-40; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). 

The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away (out of harm’s way) by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.  Now (note the difference) these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word (how) with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so (in line with the Scriptures).  Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men (Acts 17:1-15).

The mental attitude of those Jews in Thessalonica and those folks living in Berea is easily discernible.  The Jews in Thessalonica were not noble-minded, (lacking excellent moral character) evidenced by their rejection of Paul and his teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ.  They didn’t bother to examine the Scriptures to obtain knowledge.  Instead, they stubbornly held fast to their religion. 

The Berean Jews were more noble-minded.  They received the word with great eagerness and examined (studied) the Scriptures daily to see whether these things (Paul brought to their attention) were so. 

In the Thessalonica group we see the results of the narrow-minded Jews.   The noble-minded group in Berea received the word with eagerness and examined the Scriptures – the final authority in all matters of faith and practice. 

Here’s the thing; many narrow-minded people mistakenly assume everything they read in their Bibles ought to line up with how they view the world.  If it doesn’t, they stubbornly reject it.  The “It’s My Way or the Highway” mentality occurred in Jesus’ day and it is still the prominent attitude of today.    
   
Frank Sinatra’s well-known song, “I Did It My Way,” was shocking for its blatant ungodliness.  Of course what Sinatra stated plainly in that song, “I did it my way,” is true of every person who does not submit his or her life to Jesus Christ.  Most people just aren’t as open as Sinatra in stating the controlling force of their lives.

In Genesis 27, four people basically sing Sinatra’s theme song.  Isaac does things his way by trying to bestow the family blessing on Esau, in opposition to God’s revealed will.   Esau tries to take back what he had already sold to his brother Jacob.  When he is foiled, he plans to kill his brother.  Rebekah deceives her aging husband into giving the blessing to her favorite son, Jacob.  And Jacob lies to his father and outsmarts his brother.  Rebekah and Jacob could argue that they were only trying to bring about the will of God, since God had told Rebekah that her older son would serve the younger.

But I don’t believe “taking the bull by the horns,” so to speak, is the right thing to do when it runs contrary to what God has said.  He doesn’t need our help, but He does require our submission to His revealed truths.   I think what you have here are four self-centered people seeking their own advantage.  They all did it their way, not God’s way. In the end they all came up empty and paid a high price for their selfishness.

Every person will have as a theme song in life either “I Did It My Way” or “I Did It God’s Way.”  You would think the lines would be clearly drawn.  Every person outside of Christ would sing, “I Did It My Way;” and every Believer would sing, “I Did It God’s Way.”  But I find that many who profess to believe in Christ are really just living for themselves, using religion as a means to self-fulfillment.  How many attend church for one hour on Sunday, but by 2 P.M. that very day return to living as they please instead of “turning the power of the Holy Spirit on” in order to please God? 

The true Believer’s walk is a matter of responding to God’s revealed truths daily.  Although this will take a lifetime to achieve, I question whether the person who is not involved in the process of dying to self daily is truly a child of God.

With all this in mind, it is not uncommon today to hear people talk about their beliefs. But I wonder where these beliefs come from.  Certainly there is no shortage of "beliefs" in this world.  We all have them and we are all entitled to them.  What concerns me, however, is the origin of many people's beliefs.  Often, when I hear someone begin a sentence with the words, "I believe", it soon becomes evident the person with the beliefs has no authority higher than himself to base it on.  By that I mean to say, if you believe something to be true, by what authority can you say that?  Is it true simply because you believe it? 

You see, there are many people in our society that hold to some very strange doctrines and, yet, they cannot point to anything beyond themselves to validate their beliefs.  People, marriages, and the Body of Christ do not need to suffer from this problem.  We have an authority beyond ourselves--an authority that supersedes our experiences, personal preferences, and our beliefs.  For when a Christian says “I believe…,” they had better be able to authenticate their claim based on what the Bible says.

I’ll insert a for-instance here.  In one of Bible classes, years ago, while discussing God’s relationship to people and their circumstances in life, I had a gentleman respond to one of my questions with this statement, “God helps those who help themselves.”  I asked him to show the class this verse in the Bible.  After flipping through Proverbs and the Psalms, he said he couldn’t find it.  I said, “That’s right.  You are having trouble locating this phrase because it’s not in the Bible.” 

But here’s the thing, one in eight Americans believe not only does the Bible teach God helps those who help themselves but the Bible actually says it.  I did some fact-checking for my class and made them aware this is a very old colloquial phrase taken out of context from “Poor Richard’s Almanac” in 1733.   Benjamin Franklin is said to have popularized this motto saying, “…let us harken to good advice, and something may be done for us.  “God helps them that help themselves.” 

So, Jesus did not say this; however, many people have heard it somewhere and they continue to believe He did.  And this is my point; the gentleman in my class believed something to be true, but he could not validate his belief.  We all have an authority that supersedes our personal beliefs and/or experiences; however, people aren’t using their Bible they choose to use Google instead... 

In the Book of Acts, chapter 17, the apostle Paul and his co-worker, Silas, visited the city of Berea.  As was their habit, Paul and Silas made a bee-line to the synagogue and preached about Jesus Christ.  And what is apparent by the Bereans’ response is Paul did not preach Christ from an authority he derived from himself.  It is quite clear when Paul preached Christ, he appealed to an authority beyond himself to substantiate his claims.  When Paul preached the things of Christ, he always used the Scriptures to support his teaching.  And we now know how the Bereans responded.  Luke described them as "more noble-minded" because "they received the (unadulterated) word with great eagerness"(Acts 17:11).

I’m reminded of what our Apostle Paul said in his opening dialogue to the Believers in Rome:  I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.  So for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel” (a.k.a. the Word) (Romans 1:14-15). 

From this passage we learn Believers should be "eager" to preach the Word. And, in Acts 17:11, we learn from the example of the Bereans we must also "receive the Word with great eagerness."

Some of you, and I’m thankful, come here eagerly to read the Word of God, and I pray you are studying these lessons on your own at home.  My Bible lessons should not be the last word on any subject; instead y’all should examine the Scriptures to see if what I’ve written is indeed true.

I think it goes without saying, for the Body of Christ to be healthy; its members must be disciplined Scripture examiners until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13-16). 

(To be continued)

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