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"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, November 25, 2016

1 Corinthians (Lesson 51)



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)

1 Corinthians                                                                    (Lesson 51)

Before we get started I want to acknowledge all the people who recently started following our informal Bible study on the www; we’re glad to have you “on board.”

I have no further announcements for the group, so that leaves us at the beginning of the final lesson of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian saints.   Our Apostle Paul gave instructions to the Corinthian church concerning the collection for the saints in Judea in 16:1-4, so last week I decided to contrast the way this was done in the early church with the way the modern, individual churches are presently doing it.

Now, some folks in the modern church may say “That was then and this is now; you can’t compare the two - our church has many needs.”  On the other hand, another group of Believers think the church today should be more like the early church and this notion has nothing to do with wanting to hang on to the things of “yesteryear,” for nostalgia sake, but everything to do with adhering to the practical teachings of the apostles.  The modern church has drifted away from some of these core teachings.  For instance, Paul preached There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4-6).

In other words, the early church was unified; Christians viewed the church as one family, in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:10, 12:25; Ephesians 4:16).  But does this describe the church today – hardly.  Instead of being united, the modern church has splintered into “thousands” of individual churches, the majority of these calling themselves Christian churches, yet each one bears a different label, and they hold individualized church doctrines that vary somewhat or greatly from their neighbor church up the street or across town.  Catholics don’t attend Baptist churches and Lutherans don’t participate in Presbyterian Bible studies.   Each church group functions like a private (members only) club.  I saw a sign just the other day that read:  Support Your Local Church.  Shouldn’t this sign have read:  Support God’s one Church!

But there’s commonality to be found in all these organized, religious, corporate entities.  Pew Research reveals if you look closely at any of these church budgets you’ll find they spend the greater portion of their revenue on salaries, building mortgages, and other material supplements to ministry.  At best 7% of the church funds is allocated to helping the poor or given to needs outside the church that (on some level) aid the needy in your community.   Compare that to how the early church spent its money.  Although the N.T. talks about taking up collections, it never says this money was used for a building fund, for salaries, or to support individual ministries within the church.  And it never mentions giving 10% of your income, which is a common value most modern churches attach to regular giving.  I have attended a couple of churches that didn’t pass a collection basket at all and the preacher never mentioned giving during the service.  These churches placed a basket at the back of the assembly hall and it was generally understood this was where you placed your “gift” of whatever amount you determined, or as you prospered, before you left the building; or not.  The act of giving is between the giver and God and not the giver and the church leader.

When the N.T. speaks of giving, it refers to contributing money to the poor (Romans 15:22-29; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8-9).  When Paul declared, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7) for instance, it was in the context of Gentile churches giving a one-time monetary gift to the poor Jewish Believers living in Jerusalem.

Another thing that set the early church apart from the modern church is they took these words of Jesus to heart:  “People SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD (Matthew 4:4) In Paul’s day they valued the written Word of God and they studied it diligently (Acts 17:10-12).  Since the Bible has been a “best seller” for many years, you may think the modern church has finally gotten one right.  But even though most Christians own more than one Bible, and most churches offer a wide range of Bible study programs, the majority of Christians today exhibit an unprecedented lack of Bible knowledge.  Pew Research reveals 60% of Christians can only name two or three of the 10 Commandments, 81% don’t believe (or aren’t aware of) the basic tenets of the faith they profess, and 12% believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife…

However, early Believers soaked up the Word of God like a sponge.  The New Testament letters, for example, not only contain direct quotations from the Old Testament they also contain “allusions” or brief phrases that the reader was expected to understand.  For instance, the book of Revelation alone does not contain a single direct quotation from the Old Testament, and yet has more than 500 allusions to words or phrases from the Old Testament.  These allusions could only be picked up on by readers or Bible students who were intimately familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures.

If the church today resembled the early church, we would truly be the Lord’s ambassadors here on earth, united in thought, word, and deed to the glory of God.  Believers would be reaching non-believers effectively on a regular basis.  Contrastingly, in too many churches today, the congregations are reaching no one for Christ Jesus in the course of an entire year.  There are many reasons for this, one of these resting at the top of the list is in many churches today the congregations can’t agree that Jesus Christ is the one and only way to the Father (John 14:6).

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If you’ll open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 16:5-9, we’ll pick up our lesson where Paul begins to write about his tentative plans to visit the church at Corinth, Greece.

1 Corinthians 16

5: But I will come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia;

6: and perhaps I will stay with you, or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way wherever I may go.

7: For I do not wish to see you now just in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits.

8: But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost;

9: for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

Since Paul had just given instructions concerning the gift the Corinthian saints were challenged to make to the poor Jews living in Jerusalem, he naturally begins to discuss his upcoming travel plans.  In verses 2-3 he indicates when he arrives in Corinth he does not want to have a collection taken.  This gift should be set aside in advance of his arrival.  Once he arrives, he would write letters to accompany the gift and the Corinthians chosen to convey it to Jerusalem. 

Even though it’s not mentioned here it should be rather obvious Paul wants to put this Judean collection matter behind them so that they can address all the church-related issues we’ve been covering to date for these are of the utmost importance.   

But I will come to you (v1) - Paul’s prolonged absence was obviously a point of contention in this church.  How do we know this?  Turn back to 1 Corinthians 4:18-19 where we find this comment from Paul:  Now some have become (what) arrogant, as though I were not coming to you…  Some of these Believers took advantage of Paul’s uncertain travel plans to attack him and his theology, i.e. his gospel. 

Reading through verses 5-7, I find there is more here than meets the eye:  But I will come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia; and perhaps I will stay with you, or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way wherever I may go.  For I do not wish to see you now just in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, (note how Paul ends this section) if the Lord permits.

Permit me to illustrate:  in 1963 the Moscow-Washington hotline was established.  It links the Pentagon with the Kremlin.  Although in popular culture this is known as the “red telephone” and sits on the president’s desk in the oval office, the hotline was never a telephone line, and no red telephones were used.  But the hotline does exist and since 2008 both nations have opted to use e-mail to communicate with one another.
    
If anyone had a direct line to God (as far as guidance is concerned), according to Scripture that man was Paul.  On a number of occasions, God gave him special revelation, starting with the appearance of the Lord on the road to Damascus – that was dramatic (Acts 9:1-9; 23:1-16, 26:2-18).  In the book of Acts, Paul receives a revelation from the Lord on several occasions such as the Macedonian vision in Acts 16:9, where he and his party are directed to cross over to Macedonia, i.e. Philippi.  Then there’s the time the Lord appears in a vision to Paul in Corinth after opposition from unbelieving Jews forces him to cease his ministry in the synagogue.  Paul moved his operation next door to the home of Titius Justus (Acts 18:9-11).  (See also 11:27-30, 13:1-3, 20-23, 21:10-11, 27:21-25).
 
By “digging deeper” we find that verses 5-7 actually indicate the way in which Paul normally made his daily decisions and future plans, in humility Paul sought divine guidance before “stepping out” or taking action.  In contrast, the Corinthians thought of themselves as being “super-spiritual” (1 Corinthians 4:6-13; 2 Corinthians 10:1-2).  But we now know, as did Paul, their decision-making skills left much to be desired from a Christian perspective because he wrote:  Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God.  I speak this to your shame (15:34).  I’ve actually had people say to me, “God spoke to me the other day…,” or “God told me to…,” as if they were in communication with the Creator God on a regular basis, demonstrating their “super-spirituality.”  This closely resembles what Paul was dealing with in Corinth. 

1 Corinthians 16

8: But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost – this remark proves that Paul wrote this letter while he was in Ephesus.  Paul delayed his visit to Corinth because he was convinced that it was God’s will for him to remain on at Ephesus.  Two things convinced Paul to prolong his stay:  there was a great need and there was an opportunity - right now; the door was open - for a wide door for effective service has opened to me (v9).  Thus, this was not the time to pack up and leave.   

If you were at a social event and a family member sought you out just as you were bagging your leftovers and loading the SUV, stopping you with the question, “Who is Jesus Christ,” what would you do?  Would you keep loading and say, “I’ll catch you some other time” and drive away?  Or knowing the wide door for effective service has opened; it’s here and it’ NOW, would you take the time to faithfully address the need, knowing this moment may not come around again?  Paul encountered a similar cross road in Ephesus and we know the choice he made.

Let’s be careful to note what this book doesn’t say here.  Paul didn’t say, “God has opened a wide door for effective service.”  I do think this is what Paul believed so this is what he wants Believers to understand, but that’s not what he said.  It wasn’t necessary for Paul to say God “led him” to do this or that. 

Furthermore, it appears that Paul is careful not to credit God with one of his decisions unless he is certain it was God who directed him, i.e. he knew for certain his actions aligned with God’s will.   Why point this out to you?  I’m glad you asked – far too many Christians credit God for a decision they made whether the outcome was good or bad.  When we have made a decision for which we do not have clear, divine guidance, let’s “own” that decision personally and leave God out of it altogether.  Let’s not try to sanctify it by saying I prayed for God’s will and felt the Spirit leading me, “to marry him/her, and you know how that turned out…” or “God said I should invest in that stock; worst decision in my life!” or “I prayed about that job in Seattle, they called me back, so I decided to accept it and move there next week.  I hope it works out…” 

The way in which Paul dealt with his future travel plans to Corinth provides Believers with a pattern for discerning God’s guidance and not just as this pertains to travel.

When we want to travel somewhere we choose a flight schedule, make airline reservations, we pack a bag and board our flight and leave the rest to the friendly skies.  Things were a lot different in Paul’s day.  Paul has already confirmed the fact that he wrote this letter from Ephesus, so looking at a map from that time period we find Ephesus is in Asia Minor, across the Aegean Sea from Macedonia where the cities of Philippi and Thessalonica are located.  Somewhat south of Macedonia is the Roman providence of Achaia, where the cities of Athens and Corinth are located.  Paul could not get from Ephesus to Corinth without considerable travel and without crossing the Aegean Sea.  Now, you just didn’t board ship and sail in Paul’s day folks, there were a number of factors to be considered.  For example, sea travel was only safe and available during certain seasons.

Note Paul did not claim to have received any direct revelation or divine guidance concerning his travel plans to Corinth, he merely speaks as though he is confident that he will know when and how he will come to them at Corinth when it’s necessary (Matthew 6:34).  The other noteworthy item we should take from the text is Paul did not make commitments regarding the future which he was not sure he could keep.  He kept his plans subject to the will of God.  Paul understood his future (as is our future) is in the hands of the Sovereign God (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:33-34; James 4:13-17).  Paul just put one foot in front of the other, as any other Believer should, trying their best to remain in God’s will.

The wide door for effective service for Paul that opened in Ephesus was not a “cake walk” or a ministry among friendlies.  Paul has already revealed something about his work there to us:  Why are we also in danger every hour?  I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.  If from human motives I fought wild beasts at (where) Ephesus, what does it profit me?  If the dead are not raised, LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE (1 Corinthians 15:30-32). 

Paul is explaining to us that his ministry in Ephesus brought many people to Christ but it also brought about much opposition and danger every hour.  (See Acts 19)  From this we learn wherever you find devoted men and women laboring in the name of the Lord, you can also expect to find opposition.  The spiritual battle between good and evil which began when Satan was cast out of heaven continues today:  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12; 2 Timothy 3). 

Let’s go to verses 10-11.

1 Corinthians 16

10: Now if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to be afraid, for he is doing the Lord’s work, as I also am.

11: So let no one despise him.  But send him on his way in peace, so that he may come to me; for I expect him with the brethren.

Since Paul is unable to travel to Corinth at this time, here he offers an alternative plan saying others may come to their city so that these Believers can be taught the truth of God’s Word and encouraged in the faith.  But Paul writes this as a command because he knew personally just how unloving these folks could be and he didn’t want his young assistant insulted or harmed because of his youth, his personality, or because he came instead of Paul himself (v 11).     

But send him on his way in peace, so that he may come to me; for I expect him with the brethren.  The Bible doesn’t say who this involves, but Erastus and Titus are two likely possibilities.  According to Acts 19:22, Paul sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia seemingly to find out from other saints and churches whether it would be wise for him to pay the Corinthians that extended visit or not:  And having sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while. 

As indicated above Paul awaited their return and their report.  According to the text, Timothy was on his way to Corinth to administer whatever spiritual help he might be able to give to the carnal-minded Believers there.

Erastus was the treasurer of the city of Corinth (Romans 16:23).  When Paul finally paid the Corinthians that extended visit, Erastus would be an ideal choice in helping him urge the Believers there to participate generously in the offering to be sent by the Gentile churches to Jerusalem.  But as we learn from Acts 19:22 Paul sent these two men to Macedonia, not specifically to Corinth.  It may well be the information he received from these two men was not favorable because in Acts 20:1-3 we find Paul himself going into Macedonia and as far south as Greece (for 3 months), but there’s no mention of Corinth, which one would expect had this proposed visit with them materialized at that time. 

Titus - During Paul’s first missionary journey, a young man named Titus heard Paul preach about Jesus.  Titus was Greek.  He had not grown up worshiping the God of the Bible.  As he listened to Paul, Titus’ heart responded to the message, and he believed in Jesus.  Paul brought him to Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1-4) to show the apostles and other Jewish believers how a Greek non-Jew could love God just as much as they did.  Titus represented all the other non-Jewish people who became Christians and were completely accepted by God through their faith in Jesus Christ—like most of us.

Titus continued to travel with Paul on missionary journeys, helping in the work of sharing the gospel.  During the 3 years Paul was in Ephesus teaching them about the amazing power of God (third journey), Titus was there.  Then, Paul sent him to Corinth to alleviate tension there (2 Corinthians 7:6, 13-14) and to collect money for the poor (2 Corinthians 8:6, 16, 23).  

I go by what this book says and it says that Paul left the decision to go or not to go to Corinth to Timothy for Paul wrote:  Now if Timothy comes…  This is one more way in which the early church differs greatly from the modern church today.  Many modern churches operate like corporations in that they have a “religious hierarchy” wherein ranking men have the authority to determine where a church leader goes to work and for how long.  Picture, if you will, a denominational church leader responding like Timothy to a superior who notified him that he had been reassigned to a new church in the inner city, “You know that’s a generous offer, but it’s really not in my plans at this time to change churches, but I will consider it at some later date.”  This church leader would be deemed “rebellious” and called onto the corporate carpet where he would be not only unsympathetically corrected for his arrogance but he would be handed the keys to his new assignment in short order or face some rather stern consequences.    

Contrastingly, even Apollos had the opportunity to yes or no to the assignment (v 12). 

1 Corinthians 16

12: But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren (whoever this may be); and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity (and if it is the Lord’s will).

Earlier in this letter we learned that some of the Corinthians preferred Apollos over Paul (1:11-12), perhaps in hopes of inciting a rivalry between them, i.e. “my pastor’s better than your pastor” – kind of thing.  Now we find Paul encouraging him greatly to come to Corinth with the brethren.  However, Paul has already addressed this conflict-ridden attitude with these words:  Who then is Apollos?  Who then is Paul?  They are servants through whom you believed, as the Lord has assigned to each his role.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept it growing.  So neither the one planting nor the one watering is anything, but only God who causes the growth (3:5-7 – Berean Literal Bible).

Paul and Apollos demonstrated by their lives and their individual ministries they were not rivals but co-workers for Christ. 

Paul’s Closing Remarks

1 Corinthians 16

13 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

14: Let all that you do be done in love.

15: Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints),

16: that you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors.

17: I rejoice over the coming of Stephanas and Fortunaus and Achaicus, because they have supplied what was lacking on your part.

18: For they have refreshed my spirit and yours.  Therefore acknowledge such men.

The closing of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is actually sad when you get right down to it because it begins with mild rebukes that are derived from the military “be on the alert,” “stand firm,” “act like men,” and “be strong.”  Paul is admonishing this church to “watch out” to be on the alert against a factious spirit, heresy, debauchery, and above all pride. 

Stand firm in the faith – this is another military term for “holding one’s position – at all cost.  “In the faith” refers to the Grace Age Doctrine (Jude 1:3, 20).  Paul wants them to be alert to Satan’s schemes and to their own tendency to surrender to them as they live the Christian life and thus stand firm in the faith (v13).  These Believers had been so concerned about their own petty interests that they were not standing firm in the faith; they were yielding ground to the enemy, vast acreage to tell the truth; as the modern church is doing today.

14: Let all that you do be done in love.  It’s also sad that Paul had to devote an entire chapter on (agape) love simply because this church was lacking this essential element – as are many churches today.

15: Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints),

The church at Corinth was the largest church Paul had planted.  Because of this, they met in several homes within the city.  Out of all these household churches there was only “one” who had devoted themselves for ministry to the saints and this was the household of Stephanas.  Please note, concerning this, Paul does not merely say, “be thankful for such a wonderful household of Believers,” but:  that you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors (v16).

And then, Paul brings up a matter that should have brought great shame upon the church at Corinth, “I rejoice over the coming of Stephanas and Fortunaus and Achaicus, because they have supplied what was lacking on your part (v17).  These two men came from Corinth to Ephesus to aid Paul in some way.

The Corinthian Church possessed the means to aid Paul in his ministry while in Ephesus – they could have helped him greatly in his struggle there.  But they chose not to and this is evident from this passage and from 2 Corinthians 11:7-9. 

Therefore acknowledge such men – Here Paul instructs these saints not only to be grateful to the men who had so generously supplied him; he instructs them to give them special recognition.  In other words, those men who serve and sacrifice for the cause of Christ should be recognized, respected, honored, heeded, and their advice given greater weight than that of others.

Next up – Paul’s 2 letter to the Corinthians.

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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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Friday, November 18, 2016

1 Corinthians 16 (Lesson 50)



Established November 2008                                                        Published weekly on Friday

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

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)


1 Corinthians                                                                        Lesson 50    

We’re glad you decided to stop by, whether that was merely to “check us out” to see what we’re about or perhaps you intended to “hang with us” for the long run, because you’ve been meaning to study your Bible for some time and today’s a good day to kick off that program.  Welcome to HBS – whatever the reason…

Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words.”

The New Testament reveals there were only two gospels being preached.  Undoubtedably, these two invitations from the Sovereign God to lost humanity to be saved are to be found in the early chapters of the book of Acts.  Here we find the gospel of the kingdom and the gospel of the grace of God overlapping for a time.  What we have then is the Dispensation of the Law coming to a close and the revelation of the mystery of God’s Grace, as revealed to our Apostle Paul, commencing, i.e. the Dispensation of Grace.   Paul’s first missionary journey actually commenced about 45 AD; and that would be 12 years after Jesus’ crucifixion.

The twelve all preached the gospel of the kingdom which had begun with John the Baptist.  That gospel focused upon the identity of Christ, i.e. believing who He was, i.e. the Messiah, or the Son of God.  The Old Testament is all about the kingdom and the coming Messiah, consequently the Jews looked for the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth with their Messiah ruling as King (Matthew 6:10, 6:33).

Our Apostle Paul received his gospel directly from the risen, glorified Lord (Galatians 1:11-12).  It focused upon His work, i.e. that He died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead.  As I said just a minute ago, the faith part of the gospel of the kingdom was believing that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God (Matthew 16:16; John 11:27; Acts 8:37).  But in addition, that gospel also required repentance, keeping the Law, and water baptism for salvation (Mark 1:4, 16:16; Luke 10:25-28; Acts 2:38, 15:1-5).

With Paul’s gospel God requires but one thing from the sinner:  trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins (Romans 2:16, 16:25; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  When Peter preached the Lord’s death, he did not preach it as good news but as a Jewish crime.  He demanded the entire Jewish nation repent of it (Acts 2:36-38, 3:13-15).  For Peter, the significance of the Lord’s resurrection was, if the Jewish nation would believe, repent of killing their Messiah, and be baptized, the Lord could return at any time and establish His kingdom on earth (Acts 3:19-20, 25-26).

But here’s the thing, the last 7 years of Daniel’s 490 year prophecy had to be fulfilled before the kingdom on earth could be established.  Peter understood this truth, which is why he quotes the prophet Joel to the men of Israel (v2:14) in Acts 2:17:21:  And it shall come to pass afterward, That I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions:  And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids In those day will I pour out my spirit (this portion of the prophecy was fulfilled at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out or received by the Believers in Jerusalem.  The latter half of this prophecy is unfulfilled.  The Day of the Lord speaks of God’s wrath or Daniel’s 70th week, i.e. the Tribulation) And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, Blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.  The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, Before the great and terrible day of the LORD come (Joel 28-31- KJV).  The nation of Israel has to endure the terrible day of the LORD before the King and His kingdom can be established here on earth.

When you rightly divide Scripture, it becomes obvious that the gospel the Lord gave Paul to preach proclaims His death, burial, and resurrection as “good news” for the sinner (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  Paul’s invitation is a gospel of grace and faith alone (Romans 1:16-17, 3:22, 26, 28, 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9).  The twelve had no idea Jesus was going up to Jerusalem where He would be betrayed by one of His own, falsely tried and convicted by the Jews, and then handed over to the Romans to be killed in order to pay God’s penalty for mankind’s sin thereby reconciling the world to Himself (Psalm 2:1-4; Luke 18: 31-34; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21).  This truth remained hidden (a secret) until the risen Lord revealed it to Paul, as a mystery.  The twelve eventually learned it from Paul (Acts 15; 2 Peter 3:15-16).

After the Feast of Pentecost, and in anticipation of the Lord’s return to earth, the Jewish saints sold all their possessions:  And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need… And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:44-45, 47b).

Now, in the good old US of A one of our traditions is to collect and hold onto things.  Attics and garages are filled with stuff; so much so, many people park their cars on the parking pads outside of their garage or on the street near their home because there is no room for them inside the garage, which is where the car(s) were meant to be parked.  If we’re being honest, they’ll probably never part with any of these items– no matter what.  There’s probably a prom dress packed away in a box somewhere in there as well as an old worn out catcher’s mitt…  So, the idea that these Jews not only sold all their possessions but their property (meaning homes, land, etc.) and gave the proceeds to the apostles to add to the petty cash fund to help anyone who might have a need is mind boggling to most Americans - wouldn’t you say?  People today ask, “Why would they do such a thing?”  The reason can be found in Jesus’ teachings:  “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:32-34).

So, you see, the actions of these Jewish saints were consistent with the words of the Lord.  Their zeal was aligned with God’s will; these folks were dutifully following the kingdom program.  But as you know, if you were here a few weeks ago, the all things common program soon gave way to the dispensation of the mystery of God’s Grace.  The stoning of Stephen (Acts 7) was the turning point in Scripture for the nation of Israel.  With this act they had rejected all three members of the Holy Trinity.

Rejection of God – 1 Samuel 1 Samuel 8:1-9
Rejection of God’s Son – Matthew 27:11-26
Rejection of the Holy Spirit – Acts 7

God put the “kingdom” program on hold, if you’ll permit (Romans 11) after Stephen’s death.  Believers who had disposed of their goods to enter the kingdom began to lack.  The “Petty Cash Fund” was soon exhausted.  The world-wide famine which occurred during Claudius’ reign probably, hastened the failure of the all things common arrangement.  Scripture reveals Paul and Barnabas carried the monetary “gift” to the saints in Jerusalem.  This was the purpose for the one time collection (Acts 11:27-30; Romans 15:25-26).

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It can be said that some people utilized zeal without knowledge in Scripture just as some people are today.  Saul of Tarsus (later known as the Apostle Paul) and the Apostle Peter were two of these men:  For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:  And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers (Galatians 1:13-14).

He (Jesus Christ) was transfigured before them... Then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.  Peter said to Jesus, "Lord it is good for us to be here.  If you wish, I will put up three tabernacles--one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."   While he was still speaking a bright cloud enveloped them and a voice from the cloud said, "This is My Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him" (Matthew 17:2-5).

When Jesus' followers saw what was about to happen, they said, "Lord, should we strike with our swords?"  And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.   But Jesus answered, "No more of this!"  And He touched the man's ear and healed him (Luke 22:49-51).

Zeal without Knowledge

Romans 10:2 - For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.

When religious zeal is on target, it can be extremely effective for the kingdom of God.  For example, the early Christians were zealous Christians.  They were more than committed to the cause of Christ they were zealously committed to the Lord and His kingdom.  All of the apostles preached the word, as it was revealed to them, and they sacrificed their lives for doing this, except for John; he basically spent his remaining years in prison.  Nothing came between them and the gospel; not even death.  As a consequence, the church witnessed unparalleled growth in the first few centuries after Christ because their zeal, once again, was on target. 

When religious zeal is off target, however, it can have the opposite effect.  Zeal without knowledge can be extremely destructive in its effects on the cause of Christ and the single mission of God’s Church.  Let’s use the Judaizers as our example from Scripture.  They came in behind our Apostle Paul trying their best to undermine the gospel of God’s Grace by preaching a gospel of “works.”  They had religious zeal, but it was "zeal without knowledge" (Romans 10:2).  Following the example of the Pharisees who had zealously sent their Messiah to the cross in the name of religion, or tradition, these Jews attempted to distort and even destroy the simple faith in Christ of many early Believers in this church.

But non-Christian religious people are not the only ones who are guilty of zeal without knowledge.  Even well-meaning Believers can wreak havoc in the Church because of misguided zeal.  Many times the gospel that saves in this dispensation has been hindered and the cause of Christ has been impaired by Christians whose zeal is "without knowledge."  Religious zeal can be misguided in the area of doctrine (how we think), and in the area of means (what we do).  Let's consider two incidents in the life of Peter which God has included in His Word to illustrate these two forms of misguided zeal.

Building Shrines

Peter's response to his experience at the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-13) is an illustration of misguided zeal in the area of doctrine.  "…if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  I’m certain Peter thought this was an appropriate gesture of unwavering faith, but he was off target.  His motive was commendable, but his theology was way off-target.  In his attempt to demonstrate his religious zeal, he actually demoted Christ, the Son of God, to the level of mere men.  God the Father had to remove Moses and Elijah from Peter's vision and speak audibly from the cloud in order to get Peter’s thinking on the right track.  "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.  Listen to Him!" Although the idea of building three shrines to commemorate this event certainly involved commitment and zeal, it was misguided zeal.

Misguided religious zeal in the area of doctrine is certainly seen in Christendom today. It can be evidenced in literal shrine-building, when distorted thinking elevates material buildings and lands to an unhealthy importance, and the cause of Christ receives a secondary place.  But it can also be evidenced in ways other than literal shrine-building. Anytime a "social gospel" is preached and practiced, misguided doctrinal zeal is involved.  The value of the saving work of Christ, which is of the utmost importance, is demoted to a status below the material needs of mankind.  While Christians have a definite responsibility to help people in need, our focus must always be on their primary need - their need for salvation from sin.  One must never be ashamed of the gospel that saves today (1 Corinthians 15:4).

Obtaining Health and Wealth

Another example of misguided zeal in the area of doctrine is the teaching that God is actually a heavenly ATM wanting to make every Christian "healthy and wealthy."  Many church leaders today are zealously promoting this false doctrine and leading thousands of Christians astray.  This tactic works because Satan is aware of our weakness for money, therefore it’s an area of our lives easily exploited.  The "prosperity gospel" actually teaches that the faith of Christians who are not experiencing good health and growing wealth is somewhat suspect, if not missing altogether.  

The distortion and sin of this misguided "doctrine" is clearly seen when the "Christian prosperity lifestyle" is contrasted with the lives of those believers who, in this life, have sacrificed all opportunity for personal gain for the work of the Lord (see the Apostle Paul).  The commitment to Christ of these dedicated people of faith is definitely more in line with Scripture than the commitment to self of the misguided zealots of the prosperity gospel (Luke 9:23-25; Philippians 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:12).

Nowhere in the Bible does it state that God has planned for all Believers to be poor or sick in this life, which means health and wealth are not guaranteed for any Believer regardless of the zealous teachings of the prosperity preachers.  God did say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith... My grace is sufficient for you. 

The fact that false doctrine may become popular and promoted by many people in the church (perhaps even the majority) doesn't make false doctrine any less false.  Today the church is experiencing the religious zeal of gay activists for the acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle within God’s Church.  We’re witnessing the religious zeal of feminists for the ordination of women, and the religious zeal of the Emerging Church who favors a one-world religion.  These are further examples of doctrinal "zeal without knowledge."  Let's be careful that the Church Age Doctrine, as revealed to our Apostle Paul, and to which we “stand” is not distorted by zeal without knowledge (Ephesians 4:11-15).

Cutting off Ears

Peter's defense of the Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane is another occasion on which the Apostle Peter illustrated zeal without knowledge.  In this case it was misguided zeal in the area of means or method.  When Peter cut off the right ear of the high priest's servant, he was zealously committed to defending the Lord.  He probably was aiming to cut the servant's head off, but because his emotions were running high in the excitement of the moment he missed and only got an ear.  Even so, his intention was to defend his Lord -- even to death.  Perhaps Peter wanted to prove that he really meant what he had said a few hours earlier in the Upper Room (John 13:37).  In any case, Peter showed a lot of courage here, but it was misguided zeal.

Zealously standing up for the Lord was not the problem.  Even the use of physical force was not the issue at hand.  The Bible indicates that there is a time and place to use physical force as a means of expressing religious zeal.  The Lord asked Gideon, for example, to physically pull down and destroy the idol that his father had set up in their back yard (Judges 6:25).  Our Lord Himself used physical force to drive the money-changers from the Temple (John 2:15).  On that occasion He quoted Psalm 69:9, "The zeal for Thy House has consumed Me."  So the use of physical force per se was not Peter's problem.   The problem was the method Peter used.  

He struck an agent of the Roman government with his sword without receiving permission from the Lord.  As usual, Peter’s emotion got the best of him, but more importantly he was not sensitive to the Lord's mission at this point.  The resulting defiant action God would never approve of.  This teaches us without direction from the Lord, religious zeal is an accident waiting to happen.  Religious zeal out of control (God's control) can disrupt and destroy the work of the Lord for years to come.  And it can happen suddenly, as in Peter's case.  We note Jesus stepped in, rebuking Peter, and then healed the wounded man before being taken away. 

One of the first things my drill instructor taught me upon my arrival at the Naval Training Center (boot camp), was there are three ways of doing things in this life:  the right way, the wrong way, and the Navy Way!  It didn’t take long for me to learn what he meant.  Having grown up in the world, I was accustomed to certain realities, i.e.  I had my own way of doing things.  My Drill Instructor let me know, in no uncertain terms, from minute one he was “in control.”  He would tell me when to get up in the morning, when to eat, what I would wear, what activities would fill my day, and when I would retire at night.  It goes without saying, this was quite a change from what I had been accustomed to.  I learned quickly to become sensitive to the sound of his voice, even in a crowded, noisy room, because he was the “man in charge” and dutifully following his commands was a “standing order.”  To do otherwise brought quick punishment upon oneself and the entire platoon, usually.

Now that I’ve been baptized into this living organism called the Body of Christ, by the Holy Spirit, and a “soldier” in Christ’s army, I recognize there is ultimately One Person who is large and in charge, and the Holy Spirit has taught me to be sensitive to His voice.  I’m referring to the Lord Jesus Christ, Of course. 

The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that the Lord Jesus Christ is the head of the one church:  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn of the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything (Colossian 1:17-18).  (See also Ephesians 5:22-25).

What do we learn from this?  I’m glad you asked.  Church leaders and the Body of Christ (its members) are to surrender ultimate leadership to the Lord Jesus Christ – not only is He in charge He is the Man with the plan!  He is the One who leads and determines the teachings and practices of His Church.  All those who are in the Body of Christ are to follow Christ first and earthy leaders second (1 Corinthians 11:1). 

Fund-raising without Scruples

Zealous means used in fund-raising can certainly hinder the growth of the kingdom of God.  Think of the damage that has been done to the cause of Christ by unscrupulous fund-raising schemes -- made in the name of Christ.  Christians are certainly not invulnerable to the biblical truth that "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10).

The desire for unnecessarily large church buildings, elaborate church programs, or lavish salaries have justified the fusion of religious zeal with the never-satisfied sinful nature of man.  Fund-raising strategists actually develop never-ending lists of new programs or projects so the funds will never cease to flow from Christian givers.  But as they say, for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction.  Meaning, seekers of truth and unbelievers have been turned off by this greedy attitude and new Believers are growing increasingly wary of constant pleas for more money.  

Every time a religious leader, in their zealous attempt to raise funds “for the Lord’s work” by offering “unbiblical promises “ in exchange for giving, maligns and mocks the name of Jesus Christ.  The means by which the church uses to raise funds for the Lord’s work is an area where Satan knows he can get an easy foothold.  Satan employs this scheme on humanity because we all are extremely susceptible to greed or the lust for money (Matthew 6:19-20; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:23-24).  

biblical example of fund-raising is found in 2 Corinthians 8.  Here the Believers were encouraged to share in a project to help the poor Jews in Judea.  Paul didn’t ask them to contribute to a building-fund or a church program and this collection had nothing to do with a salary for the apostle Paul.   

Paul left Ephesus with this “one-time” gift with the intention of returning to Jerusalem for the purpose of delivering the collection to the Jerusalem church at Pentecost (Romans 15:25-26).  Paul had made such a collection once before and that was before his first missionary journey as recorded in the book of Acts, chapter 13.  Paul and Barnabas delivered funds to Jerusalem collected by the Antioch church.  This visit is the subject of Galatians 2:1-10, where the Apostle James encouraged him to remember the poor in Jerusalem.” 

Checking Scripture for like examples, we find when funds were raised for the biblical building project of the Tabernacle, God’s chosen people were actually told to stop giving when the funds for the project were sufficient (Exodus 36:5-7).  Has such a letter ever been sent out by a Christian ministry in modern times?  I don’t recall ever receiving one myself and my wife told me she hasn’t either.   Check your mailbox maybe you received one recently.  Let me know.  Let's be very careful not to employ "zeal without knowledge" in fund-raising.

(To be continued)

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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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