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  • LaNuovaRiforma

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  • Romans Chapter 12 Verses 12 to 20

    Romans 12:12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

    Now Paul exhorts us to rejoice in hope and to be patient in tribulation and to continue instant in prayer.

    This verse like the preceding verse is a triptych exhortation, in other words although they are three distinct exhortations, in reality they are all connected one with another in their function.

    A triptych for example is a painting that has three distinct scenes which form an entire story.

    These exhortations work in the same way, although they are valid and also necessary as individual exhortations when they are also seen as one working with another then this verse becomes all the more powerful.

    In other words when taken by themselves they are necessary and effective but when they are practiced together they work a great amount of power in our life.

    In the Epistles in fact we often find these three together. These are like love and truth, they work when they are together.

    Let’s take a look where in Scripture we find these exhortation and how they play out in our life.

    Let’s begin in:

    Romans 5:3-5 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

    In this passage we find these elements present, with the exception of prayer in this case, however let’s look at this passage. Paul says we glory in tribulations.

    The word glory is the Greek word kauchaomai This word means literally to: boast or rejoice, have joy.

    So what we see here is that there is a connection in Romans 12:12 between tribulations and rejoicing as well as the connection between rejoicing in hope and hope and tribulations.

    Here in Romans 5 it says that we should rejoice, not in hope but in tribulation, however, it also explains why we rejoice in tribulations. We do so because they produce something in our life. They produce patience or better long suffering, this leads to the production of experience and this in the end it produces hope.

    What we are seeing therefore is that Paul is giving us here in Romans 5 a formula, a spiritual equation.

    The formula is this, tribulations = patience, patience + experience = experience +hope = joy.

    Paul is saying that joy is the final product, but Paul is also exhorting us to begin to be joyous about and in our tribulations even before we see the results of them, we must rejoice in advance because we believe it is a product of tribulations, a product which we see in advance but that we will also have at the end of the experience that we are enduring.

    This is really all a work of faith. By believing God’s promise that if we rejoice in our tribulations, if we practice boasting in and glory in our tribulation, we will inevitably obtain patience in those tribulations, at the end of the experience we will obtain hope, which will give us even more true and lasting joy, which is the finished product of the entire experience.

    Even James says the same thing but in this way:

    James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

    Even James says, as Paul does, to count it as all joy when we experience different types of tribulations and difficulties, because we should know that the trying of our faith produces patience. It makes us stretch out, it trains us to learn to suffer long. This patience does have a perfecting work in us, or we can say a completing work in us. It leads us into sanctification which is spiritual growth. This happens though if, as James says, we allow ourselves to become patient in the tribulation. If we do not, we short circuit the work God wants to do in us and therefore He will continue to bring us through the same experience until we allow ourselves to let patience have her perfecting work in us.

    In the James passage we find another element that was not mentioned in Romans 5 in that particular equation. This element is faith.

    We must rejoice in our tribulations, but how do we do that? By faith, in other words not by sight or by feelings. Think about this! Who would find joy in difficulties and trials even in severe ones? No one normally would, right? Exactly! It’s not a natural human thing to be joyful in trials and tribulations.

    It’s actually humanly impossible to be joyful when we go through difficulties. However, we can and will obtain joy when we obey God. Obeying God is actually faith in action.

    In fact James explains this in: James 2:14-26.

    We cannot say that we have faith if we do not put into practice the faith we declare to have.

    Even Jesus told His disciples this:

    John 15:9-11 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

    As we clearly see, Jesus is telling them and us that we must continue in what? In His love. Jesus says if we obey His commandments we abide in His love, see also 1 John 5:3; then Jesus tells us that when we put faith into practice, in other words when we obey God we are in His love and His joy remains in us and that joy will be full.
    So as we clearly see we must rejoice by faith in our trials because when we do so we are obeying what God tells us to do, namely we are obeying the exhortations Paul is presenting here in Romans 12:12, by doing so God produces in us patience which makes us endure through the experiences, through which we learn and also through which ,as James said, we grow spiritually and as Paul said at the end of our experience we achieve hope in God which gives us lasting and real fullness of joy.

    Now why is hope at the end of the equation and not in the beginning? Simple! The hope Paul refers to is not wishful thinking hope as we would imagine it to be. The hope Paul speaks of is at the end of the equation because it is the product of faith but also because hope in New Testament Greek means assurance, certainty.

    The word hope in the New Testament Greek is not the same as the word hope in the English language, as I said it does not mean hope with a certain amount of uncertainty still attached to it, rather it means to be assured and to be certain of an outcome. Faith produces this type of hope, it’s not wishful thinking but it is certainty and assurance that what God says will definitely occur.

    Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

    When we believe God we will definitely obtain the substance of what we hope for and we will obtain the evidence of things which are yet not visible to the physical eye.

    Once again as we studied already previously in our study, we cannot say that our faith is blind. At least it’s not blind in the Christian’s life. We actually believe what God says He will do, we take God at His word and then we act on it when we still cannot see the outcome of what God promises with our physical eyes. Yet we see the outcome with the eyes of faith and we have hope, or better assurance, that we can act upon what God says, that is real belief. By doing so we are sure that what God says and promised He will do. We therefore see in advance through the eyes of faith God’s response and fulfillment. That is the hope we are talking about, we have assurance about what God says He will do and bring to pass. This is because we believe God’s word and not the circumstances nor our emotions.

    God is faithful and true, that’s His name, Revelation 19:11, those are two of His attributes! We focus so much on the fact that God is love and yet although it’s true that is only one of His many attributes. Jesus in John 14:6 speaking of Himself, declared that He is the way, the truth and the life, three attributes of God and He did not mention there He is love, but He is truth. In fact His name we saw is not love, but faithful and true. This is why we can have confidence, assurance in other words the biblical hope in every and all circumstances. Hope is the product of faith which we have seen s also the product of tribulations exactly because they stir up our faith in God’s word, which gives us joy.

    For example, Peter says it in this way:

    1 Peter 1:3-9 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

    There are key words in here that help us understand this concept even better.

    We are born again to receive an inheritance which cannot waste away which is reserved for us in heaven. How do we get there? We do only because we are protected, kept by God’s power, this is how and why we will get to heaven without a doubt.

    We are kept in God’s power through faith which faith is also supernatural and a gift of God’s grace. We are kept in this faith and in our destiny by God’s power and grace to receive the end of our salvation. In other words, either our resurrection or the transformation of our beings at the revealed time, in other words at Jesus’s second coming.

    This by the way is the completion of our entire process of salvation also known as glorification. What do we do about all this? We rejoice greatly.

    Listen! We could not rejoice greatly in something of which the outcome would not be certain.

    Yet all this is called in New Testamentary Scriptures our hope, Galatians 5:5; Colossians 1:5; Colossians 1:27; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:16; Titus 1:2; Titus 2:13; Titus 3:7.

    As we see in all these above Scriptures that the word hope is referred to Jesus, to glory and to our salvation, now if these things were only things we hoped for in the way we understand hope there would be no certainty in what God promises, there would be a percentage of certainty but also a percentage of uncertainty.

    However, when we read God’s word there is no uncertain outcome for those whom God saves.

    Think about this from the logical standpoint. Why would God promise us something that has an uncertain result? That would not be God, what God promises He always fulfills, He is not like man that promises something but then is constrained by other many circumstances and events that could prevent the fulfillment of the promise. Would God promise to complete His work in us but then leave the outcome to chance, or even worse leave it in our incapable hands?

    Look at what Peter continues to say, we have great joy, why? Because we are not sure of the outcome? No! To the contrary! We couldn’t have joy if the outcome of our salvation was uncertain or was left in uncertain hands.

    Instead it’s protected for us because it’s in God’s capable and almighty hands, so we can greatly rejoice in this very fact, even though Peter does say that we may go through manifold trials and temptations before we get there.

    In verse seven Peter says: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

    Verse seven is not an admission of possible Christian failure when a believer’s faith is tried, rather it’s an admission or proof of the genuineness of our faith because it is protected by God’s power through the trial, in fact Peter draws a comparison and the choice of the words in this comparison are very important.

    Peter says our faith is tried in the fire like gold is, yet, in the life of a true believer the trial will try our faith but it will always result to be real faith and it will be found unto praise and honor and glory when Jesus returns.

    Peter here compares perishable gold to our faith which is however nonperishable. This is why he draws this comparison, the gold is tried to prove it to be gold an to be purified but gold is perishable, our faith is tried to be proven to be genuine and to purify us as well, but if indeed it is real faith, it is not perishable under any circumstance.

    As we even taught before in this study there is true and real supernatural God given faith and a false human superficial type of faith which is in the end no faith at all. There is one thing that proves the faith type as false faith and this thing is trials and tribulations.

    Jesus said so in:

    Matthew 13:20-21 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

    Now, this is the fact, a so called faith that has no real root in Christ, basically if it’s not a tree that the Father has planted it will be uprooted, see Matthew 15:13 on this.

    If it’s a plant the Father planted it will be rooted in Christ and that plant will not and cannot be uprooted ever, this is what Jesus meant when He declared that the believer’s salvation is secure in Him and it cannot be lost, see John 6:37-44 and John 10:26-30.

    Getting back now to the 1 Peter 1 passage, so our faith is tried by trials and tribulations and it yields praise, honor and glory at the coming of our Lord.

    Then Peter says: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

    Here is the final result, here is how we, rejoicing in our afflictions, patiently endure the experience of the same and by doing so, yet not being able to see Jesus with our eyes at this time, we still love Him, even without sight we love Him because we have the certainty that He exists and that He will do all He promised and that we will be in eternity with Him.

    Therefore, it is by faith that we rejoice with unspeakable joy and full of glory, why? Because we understand that we will, rather we are actually even now, receiving the end of our faith, which as we saw is our hope, the salvation of our souls.

    Hope in the Christian’s case as we said is certainty, certainty that our faith is reality, it’s a delayed reality, yet it’s a reality nevertheless.
    In fact it’s not even delayed because in reality it is a God declared fact and it is actually done for us although we must await it’s completion in our space and time.

    In Romans 8 Paul states this fact like this:

    Romans 8:24-25 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

    See this? We are saved by hope! What? How can we be saved by hope? Because what Paul is saying is what I have been saying all along.

    Our hope’s name is Jesus Christ, Colossians 1:27;Titus 2:13; Jesus Christ is our salvation, our entire salvation! God promises that our salvation is sure and therefore the hope we have is assurance and not wishful thinking.

    It’s also important that we keep in mind that when the word of God uses the word glory in the life of the Christian in most cases it signifies our salvation because we have been saved, at our conversion, we are being saved all our lives and we will be finally and completely saved when Christ returns.

    The reason why it’s called glory is because right now, while we still live in our earthly physical bodies we are not completely and fully redeemed in them.

    How you ask? Our inner man, our spirit is redeemed and that is right now what counts, remember that it’s spiritual death that condemns a person to eternal damnation. We are delivered by spiritual and eternal death, also known as second death.

    However, we all, redeemed or not have to endure the first death, that is the death of our earthly bodies.

    The physical earthly body is described in 1 Corinthians 15 to be the one which has to die because it is still corruptible and mortal. When we die and shed this body we are yet still alive and saved spiritually, that is the part of us that never dies, even as Paul said in: 2 Corinthians 5:8.

    To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. See also, Luke 16:22-31.

    The glorification of the believer is the time when, at Jesus return, He will make the believers rise from the grave and will give our souls a new glorified body as well as transforming the bodies of the living believers at that same time, see 1 Corinthians 15:48-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17.

    Our hope of glory therefore is the final fulfillment of our salvation, the completion of the last stage of our salvation, therfore our hope is certainty and assurance this will occur and it’s not wishful thinking.

    So these exhortations in Romans 12:12 are calling us to rejoice in hope, in other words we rejoice in the assurance, in the certainty of God’s promises, we rejoice in the end result of our faith in Christ and God, our salvation, even though we have to learn to be patient in our afflictions.

    Our patience or long suffering in our afflictions however will be easier to obtain when, as we said, we rejoicing by faith look to the end of our faith, God’s promises fulfilled in Christ.

    For example wouldn’t we be more apt to rejoice in our afflictions if we actually believe before hand the promises God gives us, for example in: Romans 8:28-39, would we rejoice in the assurance of the fulfillment of what God promises ?

    We certainly would! That is exactly how we can fulfill these exhortations.

    Now what brings it all together is the third exhortation Paul gives in Romans 12:12 which is this: continuing instant in prayer.

    Continuing instant in prayer, what does this really mean?

    The Greek word used here for continuing instant is proskarteroúntes.

    This is the meaning of this word: to be earnest towards, to persevere, to be constantly diligent and to attend to something assiduously.

    Therefore Paul is telling us to be earnest in prayer, to persevere in our prayers and to be diligent in our prayer and to attend in our prayer assiduously.

    Sad as it is most Christians, unfortunately often including myself, if we are honest with ourselves, end up coming very short in taking this exhortation to heart.

    There are some believers who feel that intercessory prayer is a true calling in their lives. These people are certainly gifted by God as intercessors and they know it, and they diligently and assiduously persevere in prayer and intercession.

    So we know that there are certain believers that have this specific call of God to be a very real part of the ministry for the church.

    However, Paul’s exhortation is not given only to those gifted believers, but it is given to all believers.

    We all should heed this responsibility and should take it very seriously.

    We also know that most believers, even us, normally cannot spend hours on end in prayer as intercessors, but we have to be honest and admit that most of us do not attend to prayer in the same way Paul is exhorting us to do either.

    Most people, including us certainly have busy lives, family, work, and yes even hobbies and entertainment and even ministry. All these things keep us very busy.

    However, some of these things even though important, especially family and work and ministry, should not prevent us from obeying this exhortation nor to do anything else we should do according to God’s word for that matter.

    Let’s face it, if the Lord is not the One who builds our house we end up laboring in vain, working a lot longer and much harder than if we obeyed God and trusted God to bring the right things to be in our life, this happens, unfortunately even in ministry. We need to be very careful not to be attempting to build our own house, using our own strength and leaning on our own understanding.

    Psalms 127:1-2 Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. 2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.

    So there is a very simple yet I believe humanly difficult task we read here, this passage is in essence talking about faith and trust in the Lord and not in just our efforts or our understanding. Honestly prayer has a lot to do with faith and trust in God’s ability and in His wisdom and understanding. If we do so then it will be God that will mostly build our house, guide our life and we will have to struggle much less trying to do everything and even worse doing it our way. You probably remember the old saying live and let God. Often this saying is very misunderstood but it is actually correct, it is a very short version of the passage we just read. Obviously as we will see later this does not mean that living and letting God is to do so in an irresponsible way or to use this as an excuse for laziness or inactivity as some do. Having faith in God and relying on Him does not mean at all that we just remain inactive and let God live out our lives for us. That is what some people really do and it’s wrong!

    In fact Jesus in Matthew 6:7-18 in the context of prayer teaches us in what manner we should pray and in what manner we should trust God and He did so as He gave us an actual a blueprint as to how we should pray, this blueprint is the Lord’s prayer.

    The Lord’s prayer was not given to us simply to recite it verbatim as many do in some religions and instances, but it was given to us as a guide, as map, a blue print of how we should pray.

    However, before we tackle the Lord’s prayer and look at the blueprint of our prayer I would like to jump ahead for a moment and work backwards in this case because Jesus right after giving us this guideline of how we should pray, to tell us things that are closely relating to this subject, the subject of prayer and He does this by saying this:

    Matthew 6:19-34 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

    So what does all this have to do with prayer? Everything really.

    The context in most of chapter 6 of Matthew is prayer and when we pray we need to learn that God actually wants to, desires to, provide for all our needs while we live in this world.

    Let me preface something very important at this point. In absolutely no way in this study am I saying that God is not concerned with all and every detail of our life. He is absolutely concerned and interested, however He absolutely does not want us to get bogged down with wasting our time in being overly concerned and become worried and anxious with all of the intricacies of our life.

    God calls us to trust Him and we must learn to do just that that is after all what it means to live by faith and not by sight.

    Prayer and faith are always linked very closely together. Obviously we cannot pray, we cannot make requests known to God and expect Him to answer them if we do not believe what He says in His word and if we do not obey His word which is actually faith in action and faith means believing God’s promises because that is essential in the process of trusting Him.

    In order to know what to pray for and how to pray we need to know God, we need to know that He is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all that we ask or imagine, Ephesians 3:20.

    This is really what Jesus is teaching us in the passage we just read. Jesus is listing for us there the enemies of prayer and faith.

    Prayer and faith’s greatest enemies and obstacles according to this passage are the following: the desire to accumulate riches and chasing after them, lack of time and worries and anxieties. All these things diminish and even kill our trust in God.

    When we chase after riches in this world a whole lot of problems occur. We begin having to spend most of our time trying to chase after the obtaining of these riches.

    This therefore leads people to make wealth and riches their sole purpose of living and this according to Jesus becomes idolatry, this is the stern warning Jesus gives us here.

    When someone does this they shipwreck their faith, listen to Paul’s stern warning about this:

    1 Timothy 6:6-10 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

    We know I hope the story of the rich young ruler and how idolatry was actually his spiritual problem because of his wealth he was not willing to follow Jesus, see Matthew19:16-24.

    But how is this an enemy of prayer and faith?

    Because chasing after riches will consume all our time and will re direct our trust (faith) from God to provide for us onto the uncertainty of worldly riches.

    This is what Jesus is warning us about.

    In fact when we run after these things we indeed become like the pagans who run after these things.

    This then causes us to be even more anxious and worried regarding the obtaining of earthly goods, even those goods which we need.

    The anxiety and the worry as to how we will obtain our needs and wants will once again redirect our attention away from God and His promises and shift it onto us and our own efforts and onto the time we will need to obtain our needs and wants.

    In the case of when and if we chase after riches our efforts and time will also shift from our needs to obtaining our wants, this will lead us into much more anxiety and many difficulties and even lead us into worse and dangerous things.

    Jesus in fact says in: Matthew 6:30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

    I would focus on how He ends this verse, He calls us, if and when we live like this, o ye of little faith.

    This type of lifestyle damages our faith in God, it damages our trust in Him. It instead places our trust, time and effort on what we are trying to obtain rather than on God and what is important to Him.

    We therefore demonstrate little or better yet, very weak faith or even no faith when we live trusting in riches and worldly stuff rather than the Lord.

    This is where we are going now, consequently all this damages our prayer life.

    Why? Because first we are not relying on God to provide for us and we will be also lacking in effective prayer.

    This in fact often turns our prayer time in a litany, or a list of needs and wants for us and our life, this turns our prayer life into a selfish prayer lifestyle and even worse it greatly reduces our prayer time.

    Trusting in stuff, rather than God ends up making us spend massive amounts of time chasing after trying to obtain the stuff we want, chasing riches does this it greatly diminishes prayer and faith, in our life.

    However Jesus gives us the remedy to correct this issue:

    Matthew 6:31-34 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

    Jesus is telling us to take no thought for our needs, He is saying not to be anxious, not to worry, not to make our needs and especially our wants an obsession in our life, because, Jesus says, this is what the pagans do, this is what those who don’t believe and trust God do.

    Those who cannot trust God have to trust stuff and uncertain riches. Jesus though says that God knows what we need, in fact earlier He stated that God knows what we need even before we do, Matthew 6:8 and even there He tells us not to be like the pagans.

    Jesus now gives us the answer to this issue, if we want to have time in our life for the things that matter to God we must re prioritize our entire life and even the way we pray.

    Jesus already warned us about all the pitfalls that damage faith and prayer, now He gives us the solution to avoid the pitfalls, He tells us to place the priority of our life and our prayers on what matters to God and not what matters to us, or better, what matters to God should indeed be what matters to us in this life.

    Jesus promises us that IF we seek God’s kingdom first in our life, in other words, if we make God’s will and His kingdom our main priority and if we seek to live in His righteousness, God will give us not only what we need but He will bless us even beyond our imagination. Psalms 37:4.

    This by the way does not mean at all that we should be lazy and not work, or not look for work if we don’t have a job. This is not what Jesus is saying at all.

    Unfortunately there are many people who use the famous excuse that they live by faith to instead become leeches and depend on others to support them.

    This is not what Jesus is saying here. In fact in most cases, unless God calls someone to specifically have a call the church or to live for and by the Gospel, all believers must work.

    Paul said it like this as well:

    1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; 12 That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.

    2 Thessalonians 3:8-12 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. 10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

    Just think, even though Paul had the right to live by the Gospel, even he never ever wanted to burden anyone and even worked so that he would be an example to others to do the same.

    Then Paul drops a bombshell, he says: we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

    This by the way does not mean that if a person falls into dire straight times, loses their job or endures hardships the church should not ever help them, this means that as far is it depends on us we must be willing to work, otherwise Paul says those who live like that are lazy people who do not want to work but want to be a burden on others and warns about them saying: which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

    These were not people who fell on hard times but people who were lazy and did not want to work and wanted others to take care of them.

    Therefore Jesus can’t be advocating not working in order to just depend on God or to depend on others. Instead Jesus is telling us that we must indeed work for a living but at the same time we should learn to make God’s priorities our own and then when we do this, God will provide well beyond what we can provide for ourselves, trusting God by placing Him and His kingdom before all other things is what Jesus is saying.

    When we do this, if we do this, many blessings come down from God.

    First of all Jesus says that when we trust God and make His kingdom our priority then God will bless us providing what we need, this trust in God in turn will automatically rid us of anxiety and worry and it will even make our faith stronger. When we avoid chasing after riches we will therefore have a lot more time to spare to serve God and to spend in prayer and not only, but our prayer time will not be focused on our own physical needs but will be more focused on God’s kingdom and the needs of others, especially the spiritual needs, ours and of others.

    This subject was important to mention because this has a lot to do with believers favorite excuses when it comes to prayer or serving God or studying Scripture, you know the ones:

    “ I don’t have enough time” “I am so busy I can’t serve, I can’t pray, I can’t study God’s word.”

    These are our favorite excuses and often that’s all they really are because even though it may be true that time is apparently lacking however, most likely if it is lacking, it’s lacking because we aren’t doing what the word of God is telling us to do. Namely in this case what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 6.

    Therefore, we can’t pray properly because we allow time to be stolen away from us by a wrongly prioritized life and we therefore end up lacking faith and trust in God and we become consumed with many things that don’t really matter to God.

    In this case as Psalm 127 says, if the Lord does not build our house we will labor in vain, we will however labor without ever getting where we want to get or get where we think we should be because we will be proverbially spinning our wheels.

    As God says in Psalm 127 when we trust in Him to build our life, when we do things His way, He will work for us even while we sleep and we will not have to work as hard as we do and in the end we will get much farther than if we do it all ourselves.

    Because if we do it our way God will allow us to to do it ourselves and we will end up wearing ourselves out trying to gain a just a little when God instead wants us to have a lot more and He wants to actually do it for us.

    In Old Testament times the Jews did the same thing and God rebuked them. There is a very telling passage we find in:

    Haggai 1:4-11 Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? 5 Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 6 Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. 7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. 9 Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. 10 Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. 11 And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.

    The point in this Scripture is that God’s people were at the time all involved in their own life, they were all involved in building their own houses while God’s temple still laid in ruins.

    It had already been 14 years that God’s people returned to the promised land from their 70 year Babylonian captivity, and while at first they had begun laying down the foundations for the new temple they were also threatened and obstructed in their work by their enemies. This caused them to fear the enemy and they stopped the temple’s construction.

    We glean some important and applicable spiritual facts from this episode and we can surely apply them to the church and to us today.

    The first fact we see is that often the church becomes complacent because of the fear of man which causes Christians to back down from advancing in their spiritual growth and even the edification of the church itself.

    Because of this believers become involved and consumed in taking care of their own earthly needs and they do so by compromising their own spiritual life trying to procure worldly needs for themselves instead of letting God take care of them while they seek first His kingdom an His righteousness.

    The Lord here rebukes the Jews of that time and tells them that they were acting selfishly and not regarding first what was important to Him, rather they were spending time, money and effort in building their own houses and taking care of their own affairs rather than His.

    In other words, God’s will was not a priority for them at that time. In the mean time though God rebukes them and tells them to consider their ways. Considering one’s ways means to look at what one is doing and see the wrong they are doing and change course, in other words, repent.

    They actually were working very hard at looking out for themselves but God says this to them:

    Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.

    You see, God is now telling them, you work so hard trying to get ahead but you never seem to have enough or never seem to be able to ever get ahead. He tells them that the more they did, the harder they tried and less they had. They were earning money but it was like if they were putting their money in a purse with holes in it, the money just went in the purse and back out of it. They couldn’t save a dime and they couldn’t seem to make ends meet.

    Then God says to them something that may seem very shocking to many, even to Christians today, God tells them this:

    Haggai 1:7-11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. 9 Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. 10 Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. 11 And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.

    God says to them to consider their ways, this is a rebuke, a call to repent. Then He says to them to go and get the material and finish the temple, in other words finish the work of the Lord, in other words He is really telling them to seek His kingdom and His righteousness first and then God would add to them what they needed without them trying so hard to make ends meet for themselves and failing to do so.

    The Lord then shockingly says although they looked for a return for their own labor it was always coming to little and He tells them that it was Him that caused them not to have what they were seeking to obtain, why? Because the Lord’s work was not their priority while it was their own life’s nneds and wants that they sought to achieve.

    For these very reasons God called for a drought and God shut heaven, and God caused them to lack their sustenance.

    Even in chapter two of Haggai’s prophecy God again rebukes His people for the same reason and He tells them this:

    Haggai 2:15-17 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD: 16 Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. 17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD.

    Again God lets them know that it was He that struck their prosperity and made them lack, He was the One who smote them causing mildew and hail to fall on the labor of their hand because they had not trusted Him and did His work. They were not concerning themselves with the kingdom of God rather they were too preoccupied with trying to build their own life while God’s temple laid on ruins still.

    Unfortunately this is the same condition of many, many believers, and churches, they suffer lack even though they work very hard. They have to work twice as much and twice as hard because they are trying to run after their own life and fulfill their needs and wants, while they neglect to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness first as Jesus said in Matthew 6:33.

    This is why many believers today struggle to make ends meet, not all, but many are way more concerned with their own life and their own stuff rather than being concerned first of all about what’s important to the Lord.

    This is why Jesus makes that promise, but it’s a conditional one. The promise is that if we quit worrying and we trust God for our needs and if we concentrate on seeking first what matters to God, He will, He will definitely take care of us and we will be able to not only make ends meet and we will have joy and we will be content with what God provides for us.

    We will have no need to chase after financial independence and chasing after the riches of this world. Consequently, as Jesus said if we live chasing after what the pagans chase after, the riches, the wealth, then inevitably we will neglect God and His will at the expense and the compromise of our spiritual life even as Jesus said:

    Matthew 6:24-25 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.

    We cannot try to serve money and God, because we will inevitably find ourselves in grave trouble, many, many, too many believers end up disobeying God, even living in sin because they choose to seek after riches so that they cannot properly serve God.

    Jesus in fact in verse 25 says, that because of this inherent danger we must learn not to take thought for our needs to the point that it becomes worrisome, obsessive behavior that eventually leads us not to have time to serve God and to grow spiritually.

    Now let me conclude this section by saying one very important thing, as I already mentioned taking no thought as to what we need for our life does not mean what many in the church have come to believe. It does not mean that we should not work or plan for the future, it does not mean that we must go around with dirty, ripped and de-shuffled clothing, in other words looking ridiculous and dirty or sloppy, it does not mean that we should not seek to look good and have good things.

    Taking no thought for our life in the context Jesus is speaking of is to not become obsessively worried about the way we look, what we have, if or not in the future we will have this or that.

    If I can just boil it down Jesus is saying this: don’t chase after riches, trying to get rich because it will damage your walk with God and it will add worries to your life. Therefore be content, trust and serve God, grow in grace and righteousness and God will take care of you and while you work He will work for you and make all of your efforts easier and yes, you will have to work, but not work like a dog and getting nowhere fast. Jesus does not want us to be worried, anxious and obsessed, instead He wants us to trust God and serve Him and be content with what we have.

    This, as I said before and say it now, does not mean not to work at all so that God will provide, we saw that that is not how it works nor what God desires from us. God wants His children to work and not be lazy but He also does not want us to kill ourselves and worry beyond measure trying to get what we need to live.

    Noticed He says as I say, God will provide for what we need, not what we want. These are two different things! Look at what Paul says about this:

    1 Timothy 6:6-10 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

    Planning for the future is OK, but we must remember what God says about our planning, in other words, that we must do it with humility and trusting in Him all the way, not trying to do it in our own way and with our own strength and as we are actually studying here doing it by being instant in the type of prayer God desires.

    Trusting God and His guidance, His direction and wisdom and by praying with thanksgiving we will have the removal of anxiety from our life and will have peace in our hearts and minds and in trusting the Lord we will have to struggle less and less and we will have more while we will have the time to do what is important to Him.

    Many believers work too hard but have little to show for it and have little or no time to serve God and also time to take care of themselves properly means they are doing something wrong in line with what Scripture exhorts us to do.

    Philippians 4:4-7 exhorts us to find our joy in the Lord and it exhorts us not to be anxious for any reason but when we are confronted with worry and anxiety about something in our life we should pray, make our requests and supplications known to God with thanksgiving.

    Now I want to place emphasis on the word in that passage with thanksgiving.

    This is an essential element that has to exist in our prayer life which instead is often lacking.

    However, thanksgiving to God is a demonstration of our gratitude and contentment for the blessings we already have received from God.

    If we cannot be grateful to God for what we already have it is doubtful He will bless us with more. Contentment and gratitude are essential in the life of the believer.

    In fact when these are absent from our prayer life it is this that actually leads us right into anxiety, worry, greed and envy, and as you can see, these are sinful behaviors God does not want us to have.

    These things lead us to doubt and even mistrust God and lead us to disobedience and to do things that will again place us in the position we were talking about before and the one that Jesus talked about in Matthew 6.

    So being instant in prayer is absolutely necessary, but to do so we must, as the word instant we saw signifies, be earnest in our prayer, persevere in prayer and be diligent in prayer and even attend in prayer assiduously but if we place ourselves in a spiritual position where our prayers are hindered, then our entire spiritual life will suffer and not only our spiritual life but even our whole life in general. Because for the believer there is no separation or difference between our physical life from our spiritual and even our psychological and emotional life.

    To be instant in prayer requires that we have the means an the opportunity to obey this exhortation. We may often have the motive, however if we don’t have means and opportunity we cannot obey this exhortation.

    This is a catch 22 because as we mentioned it works exactly that way, if we chase riches, if we try to live like the pagans live, if we remain conformed to the ways of this world, if we try so hard to do things ourselves and we don’t trust God with all our heart and lean not upon our own understanding, Proverbs 3:5-6, then we begin to be overtaken by worries and anxieties, we will inevitably fall into sinful behavior because we will end up lacking the time and the will to serve God and to seek His kingdom and His righteousness first in our life.

    What will happen is this, we will work harder and longer without ever reaching our desired objectives.

    This in the end will be, as it was for God’s people back in Haggai’s days. It will be the Lord’s doing and His discipline to cause our difficulties.

    God will indeed withhold the best blessings and He will, instead of working for us, work against us.

    It’s really tough to try to wrestle with God and think that we can win. The Lord will strong arm us all the way, until we, either give up and do it His way and be blessed, or we will be consumed physically and weakened spiritually and live in constant mediocrity; in fear, in anxiety and worry and even worse, this will cause us to be disobedient to our Heavenly Father who only wants the best for us.

    I repeat it, if the Lord does not build our house we labor in vain. If the Lord does not watch over us in vain will we keep guard, the thief will have access into our life and will come and pillage our life. If the Lord is not the One we trust with all our hearts and if we trust only in ourselves and our efforts then in vain we will raise up early and go to bed late and eat the bread of sorrows all will become extremely more difficult for us because we aren’t doing things God’s ways.

    If we trust the Lord to build our house His way, this means, if we seek His kingdom and righteousness first by doing so we let Him also build our house, with our help of course. He will then protect us and our goods, worldly and spiritual from the enemy, and while all this is happening the Lord will work for us even while we sleep Psalm 127 says and we will have a restful and peaceful sleep rather than staying up at night and suffering insomnia, sleep loss, because of our worries and anxieties and often even because of a dirty conscience if and when all this leads us into sinful behavior.

    This is what Psalm 127:1-2 also teaches us.

    So as we are saying, to have a prayer life consistent with this exhortation, to be instant in prayer we must make sure we work at it and place ourselves in the right spiritual condition to do so. This is the very first step in obeying this exhortation.

    Paul tells us also in: Ephesians 5:15-17 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
    16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

    Clearly we see that Paul is telling us in this passage, as he is telling us in essence in the first section of Ephesians 5 how we are to walk and live in this present age. Here Paul is telling us to walk with circumspection, not as fools but as wise. The word circumspection really means in a careful manner. So Paul is exhorting us and God is commanding us to be very careful on the way we live and walk. God does not want us to live and walk in a foolish way but He want us to live and walk in His wisdom and with His discernment and knowledge. Paul then proceeds telling us that we must redeem the time because the days are evil. Redeeming the time means to take back our time, to stop wasting time. Redeeming the time means that if we don’t have the time to pray, serve God, study and read His work we must re-prioritize our life so that we can do all the things God wants us to do. We must do so also because the days in which we live are very evil, even more evil than when Paul wrote all this. We cannot withstand the evil of the days in which we live if we don’t have the time to do what God calls us to do. We will also become excessively anxious and worried about the evil days we live in beside all the other things we talked about so far. The remedy we find written in this passage by Paul is if we gain time we can then seek God’s word for the wisdom necessary to live in a careful and wise way and also we will know God and by knowing Him we will know His will in these evil and difficult days. This means that we will not have to be confused, worried and anxious or insecure. This is also the importance Paul placed in the Romans 12:2 passage.

    However, once again if we do not have the proper amount of time to do what we have to do we will be greatly lacking in all the things God wants us to have, it also will place a great hardship on the renewing of our mind so that we could be transformed and so that we will know God’s will.

    So to pray effectively we must have the time to do so and also our praying should be as we said, instant, and we saw this means to be earnest in prayer, to persevere in prayer and to be diligent in prayer and even to attend assiduously in prayer.

    However, there is another very important issue connected to all of this we studied. Not only we need the time to pray and we must eliminate all obstacles of prayer and eliminate all detriments to our faith, but the another great problem we find arising from all these issues is also the content and the way we pray when we do.

    Scripture teaches us a lot as to in what manner we ought to pray and how we ought not to pray.

    Although God desires to hear our requests and we should bring them to God as we saw written in Philippians 4, however we must realize one very important thing, our prayers should not be only all about us.

    Jesus taught us in what manner we should pray, this was also found in Matthew 6 as well as other Gospels.

    Jesus taught us how to pray! In Matthew six we find described how our prayer life should be!

    First Jesus tells us not to be hypocritical in our manner of prayer. He is not saying that public praying is wrong nor is praying out loud wrong but He is focusing on the motivation of our prayers rather than the form.

    He tells us in Matthew 6:5-6 not to pray like the hypocrites. He is referring specifically to the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day.

    Even today many religious leaders do the same thing, they pray to be seen, to get acclamation from others.

    Jesus also said it this way:

    Matthew 23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

    There we find the real motive for the Pharisees hypocrisy, they were exploiting widows and the poor people by offering long prayers. They actually were receiving lucre in exchange for prayer.

    Does that remind you of anyone else today? Yes, how about the Vatican Roman religion? How about the Charismatic and prosperity gospel promoting the false church?

    They all do the same thing, for just a donation, for just this much or that much you will receive a blessing, or even more sad, in the Roman religion for a fee they will pray for the souls of the departed to be released from “purgatory” faster so they could go to heaven quicker.

    How about the sale of indulgences, which by the way is still occurring today. How about the sale of religious items which according to them will produce a blessing for the buyers.

    The prayers of the hypocrites, who talk the talk but do not walk the walk will not be heard and we should not be like them.

    Our motivation in prayer should be sincere and pure and honest and not selfish, in fact this in a sense is what James says when he says:

    James 4:2-3 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

    Do we see here what James is saying? People ask but they don’t receive because they ask amiss, in other words inappropriately or wrongly, in verse 2 James is also making references to selfishness and selfish ambition.

    Secondly Jesus teaches us not to pray like the pagan idol worshipers do by invoking their gods.

    Matthew 6:7-8 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

    This is a very interesting passage because it explains several truths if we study what Jesus is saying here in the historic and cultural context and we can definitely apply it very much to how some pray today in the church.

    In Scripture the greater example of what Jesus means is found in 1 Kings 18:26 where the prophets and priests of Baal called upon Baal from morning to evening saying: “ Oh Baal hear us”.

    The following is a “specimen of the vain repetitions” of the ancient Roman culture:

    “Pious Antonine, the gods preserve thee. Gentle Antonine, the gods preserve thee. Gentle Antonine, the gods preserve thee.”

    However if we examine the word Jesus uses in this passage we also arrive to another understanding in addition to the one we already explained.

    The word Jesus is using here in Greek is battologeo which means stuttering sounds. In other words when we pray not only we should not repeat coherent phrases continually and in a repetitive way but He also means we shouldn’t babble. He means not to use idle babbling as the pagans did. This is the superstitious rehearsing of a tale of words, without regard to the sense of them.

    Can we actually find some examples of what Jesus is talking about that we can experience today?
    I can think of some. For example how about all the repetitive words in some of the so called prayers in the Roman religion?

    Even though they can be understood as coherent and understandable words and sentences, however the prayers are endless and repetitive and they who pray them believe that the intentions a person has when they offer such repetitions will be heard because of the continuity and the length of their actual prayers.

    For example for them the rosary, and also how many rosaries a person prays continually is the basis of God hearing and answering the intentions of that person which offers the prayers in repetition and continuity.

    This is also what Jesus is talking about. The Roman church uses short repetitive prayers, vain repetitions, the prayers we almost all know what they are, the Hail Mary prayer, which is offered to Mary. This is exactly an entirely pagan practice. First of all NOWHERE in Scripture we find that a person should offer any prayer to Mary. In fact there is ONLY One mediator and intercessor and advocate in heaven between God and man, that is Jesus Christ our Lord.

    1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

    This verse is spoken by Paul in the context of prayer and intercession by the way.

    We also find this written: Romans 8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

    As we see it is Jesus who died for us and rather has risen from the dead and who is seated at the right hand of God that makes intercession for us. Not Mary with all due respect for her being Jesus’ earthly mother did not die for us and did not rise for us nor is she seated at the right hand of God and therefore she is not interceding for us.

    Also John says this:

    1 John 2:1-2 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

    We have One and only one advocate with God, it’s Jesus Christ the righteous, not Mary nor any other so called Roman saint. He, Jesus, is the propitiation for our sins.

    In the book of Hebrews in several instances Jesus Christ is mentioned as a High Priest in heaven by God for us and it is because of Him and Him only that our prayers are valid and heard on high Hebrews 4:14-16.

    Again with all due respect for Mary as she is indeed Jesus’ earthly mother yet we need to understand that the Roman religion has elevated her to a status that only belongs to Jesus.

    This, in spite of all the excuses and reasons they give to explain away that it is not, is in fact idolatry, but not only, we see that this is expressly a Satanic work designed to blaspheme the lordship of Christ and also cause people to commit idolatry by worshiping another person other than Jesus and offering prayers to God through a different mediator than Jesus, who is the only one mediator.

    The Roman religious apparatus also has dishonored not only Christ and God by doing this but also Mary herself. They made her the face of an idol known in Scripture and the Scripture tells us that behind every idol there is a demon, in other words every idol although nothing in itself is nevertheless a representation of an actual demon which hides behind the image of the idol.

    1 Corinthians 10:19-20 What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? 20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.

    Let’s remember that the image that the Roman religion claims to be Mary is not in reality the real Mary.

    No one really knows what Mary looked like nor does anybody know what Jesus looked like.
    Images are just that and the making of images and the bowing down to them are contrary to God’s commandments Exodus 20:4-5.

    So, what the Roman church has done is this, it has actually resurrected an ancient idolatry which we actually find mentioned in Scripture. In fact, they even gave Mary the same name as the actual idol had in the time in which Israel was committing idolatry worshiping this idol.

    The Roman church has given Mary the title of “The Queen of Heaven” I firmly believe this title was given her not by chance.

    Let’s look at the Scriptures and see what God the Only monarch, the King of Heaven says about the so called Queen of Heaven.

    Jeremiah 7:18-24 The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger. 19 Do they provoke me to anger? saith the LORD: do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces? 20 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched. 21 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Put your burnt offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat flesh. 22 For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: 23 But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. 24 But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward.

    Jeremiah 44:15-25 Then all the men which knew that their wives had burned incense unto other gods, and all the women that stood by, a great multitude, even all the people that dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying, 16 As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee. 17 But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil. 18 But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine. 19 And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men? 20 Then Jeremiah said unto all the people, to the men, and to the women, and to all the people which had given him that answer, saying, 21 The incense that ye burned in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, ye, and your fathers, your kings, and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the LORD remember them, and came it not into his mind? 22 So that the LORD could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings, and because of the abominations which ye have committed; therefore is your land a desolation, and an astonishment, and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day. 23 Because ye have burned incense, and because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, nor walked in his law, nor in his statutes, nor in his testimonies; therefore this evil is happened unto you, as at this day. 24 Moreover Jeremiah said unto all the people, and to all the women, Hear the word of the LORD, all Judah that are in the land of Egypt: 25 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying; Ye and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and fulfilled with your hand, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her: ye will surely accomplish your vows, and surely perform your vows.

    Very interesting passages aren’t they?

    So as we see the Roman religion has adopted the idol that God’s people used to worship way back in Jeremiah’s days and not only the image of the Queen of Heaven is an idol but even all the prayers offered through and to her through the rosaries the members of the Roman religion pray are idle and vain babbling and endless repetitions just as the pagans do, in fact it is pagan worship.

    The Roman religion also adopted, as well as many other man made repetitive prayers, the prayer that the Lord Jesus taught us to pray and that we know as the Our Father.

    Even this very prayer has been adopted and used as a repetitive prayer using the prayer verbatim, word for word and being offered in continuance.

    However this was not the reason why Jesus worded the prayer that way. He was really not meaning that we adopt the prayer and recite it verbatim and repetitively. That would be contrary to what He just told them and told us about prayer.

    We will get back to the Lord’s prayer shortly, but first I would want to mention another thing I believe Jesus was referring to when He used the word battalogeo, vain repetition or babbling.

    The pagans used another type of way of invoking their false gods. They would do so through various babbling chants.

    We can see this method used even today in various religions, Hinduism or other eastern/asian, religions even in Buddhism.

    This however is not limited to these oriental mystic religions it is also found in certain currents of Christianity.

    For example the very famous practice of praying in tongues that we find in some Christian movements is also exactly what Jesus was talking about here. Without entering in depth in studying this false and erroneous practice we can say this about it. Although the Charismatic and Pentecostal movement claims these meaningless sounds without meaning that we hear uttered in their meetings are the actual language of the Spirit or as they say an angelic language, we can instead clearly understand through even a superficial study of Scriptures that they are not at all the Spirit’s language or an angelic language.

    First of all let’s think about it for a moment, it’s either the language of the Holy Spirit or it’s an angelic language because it cannot be both.

    To say it’s both is being actually in ignorance as to who God is. God created angels and God is not an angel. Angels and God are completely different also God and angels probably don’t even communicate with words rather through something similar to telepathic communication, yet we cannot be sure as we see that every record of angels speaking is clearly understood in the people’s language. Words as far as language is concerned are for mankind and both God and angels all through Scripture always communicated with men by using human understandable languages. This fact would actually make a spiritual language to communicate with God completely useless.

    When it comes to the subject and the context of prayer I challenge any Pentecostal and Charismatic to show us, anywhere in Scripture, when a spiritual prayer language was used and adopted in order to pray.

    They won’t be able to find it because it does not exist.

    Nowhere in Scripture this spiritual language is found. Nowhere in Scripture do we find anyone praying in a Holy Spirit language.

    Now, some may say that all it is found in:

    1 Corinthians 14:14-17 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. 16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? 17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.

    Here they claim, the Scriptures teach that a person can pray in tongues and they would insist this is declared in verse 14.

    What Paul is teaching however, in this passage, actually in the entire chapter 14 is not the fact that tongues is a prayer, or spiritual or angelic language, but he is teaching that if a person, even though supernaturally and spiritually charged, who prays in a different language from the one the congregation speaks and which the listeners could not understand, not knowing that specific language.

    This is evident even today isn’t it? If a person preaches, prays or speaks a foreign language, supernaturally or not, and they do so without interpretation or translating others who do not know that language cannot be edified. They will not be edified and that is exactly what Paul is saying here.

    There never was a mysterious unknown switch in the context and subject of speaking in other tongues. Nowhere in the entire New Testament this supposed switch has occurred. Nowhere was there a switch from the languages spoken in Acts 2 and Acts 10 to angelic, spiritual, prayer languages. I challenge anyone to find it and show us.

    The sign gift of speaking in tongues was and always has been referred to real and existing languages, unknown languages only to them who could not understand them. This is exactly why these could only be spoken when there was interpretation. Let’s face it if anyone only understood one language, only one and went to the UN and sat through a session and were able to hear all the different language translations simultaneously one would be thoroughly confused and could not understand any of them.

    This is in fact the chaos of langauges that many heard on the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit came with power. Many in fact understood what was being said when they heard it in their own langauge, even in their own dialects.

    This is the point of the chaos and confusion Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 14:6-12.

    So this is was Paul is explaining in 1 Corinthians 14:7-14 not talking about a spiritual or angelic language or a prayer language to be used when praying.

    Now, the proponents of the angelic, spiritual and prayer language, although they cannot tell us when or where this language became a reality, they will insist by citing also these other two passages to support their error.

    1 Corinthians 13:1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

    Let’s talk about this passage. Paul is saying this to make a point and is using this example in an hyperbolic function. An hyperbole is: A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect, as in I could sleep for a year or This book weighs a ton.

    That Paul is using hyperbolic language is made evident also by the following verse as Paul says:

    1 Corinthians 13:2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

    We see here Paul mentioning having the gift of prophecy and as he mentioned speaking with the tongue of man and this he did and had, then the contrast this that even if he could speak with the tongue of angels, providing they have one, in the same way even if he understood all mysteries and have all knowledge and have all faith. It must be understood that there is no one, no one but God who understands all mysteries and has all knowledge and no one has all faith.

    So, what we see here is that the first mention is about what he could do and what he did have and secondarily what the exaggerated comparison was as he did so by mentioning that even if a person had all these impossible things and did not have love they would have nothing.

    This is not a Scripture that supports a believer having an angelic language nor can it support this view in the church.

    The next Scripture used to justify babbling and calling it a spiritual or prayer language is this one:

    Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

    We find out that claiming that this passage is a reference to speaking in a prayer or spiritual language is really a great error.

    They cannot claim that it’s the Holy Spirit Himself doing this and that it is the person doing it. Also, it’s either the Spirit’s language, or it’s an angelic language, or is it a prayer language or is it both? Why are these passages so ambiguous and unclear as to confirm their theories and why doesn’t Paul or any other New Testament writer clarify better the existence of this so called prayer language?

    Rather, except for this passage which does not teach at all of a spiritual prayer language, this concept is never ever found in any other place in Scripture.

    So as we should know correct Bible interpretation does not support a doctrine created by a single verse or passage without there being a clear context that is outlined by Scripture itself through many verses and contexts. We could never, in this case, let Scripture interpret itself in regard to this so-called spiritual language or prayer language because such a context and subject does not exist in Scripture.

    Here in this Romans 8 passage it’s the Spirit which makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered. The key words are, groaning and cannot be uttered. Those who supposedly speak in tongues in the church today are definitely not groaning and they certainly are uttering non discernible sounds.

    Here we are talking about groaning in Greek the word is stenagmoís which means:
    to sigh, to murmur, to pray inaudibly.

    As we see this word gives no indication at all to the speaking an actual language, neither human nor spiritual. Paul is actually talking about the Holy Spirit aiding us in praying by praying inaudibly or by emitting groans and sighs, this is a far cry from using words of any kind, even babbling.

    All these passages are used by our Pentecostal friends to justify speaking in tongues but a more in depth study of these passages and interpreting them in context and in concert with the entire subject through out Scripture clearly show us that their interpretation of these passages is erroneous and it is really disingenuous to insist that Scripture says what it does not say and doing this to justify a certain practice and a so called spiritual experience when Scripture really does not.

    There is only one type of languages referred to in Scripture and although these languages were produced by a manifestation of the Holy Spirit they were never, ever an ecstatic, mystic, not ever understandable language, in other words incoherent babbling, rather they were, yes produced and manifested supernaturally by the Holy Spirit but they were human existing languages.

    They were given supernaturally by the Holy Spirit to some believers, believers that did not naturally speak other foreign languages.

    The pagans instead used babbling, incoherent babbling in their mystic utterances while worshiping idols.

    I believe that is really exactly what Jesus was mentioning when He said not to use vain babbling as the pagans do.

    All this babbling in today’s church especially during prayer I believe is what Jesus said not want us to do and yet many think they must express their prayer life through babbling incoherently and actually erroneously thinking that their prayers in such fashion are more powerful and better than if prayed in a normal human language.

    Jesus commands us not to pray in any way as the pagans do. Our prayers must be sincere, understandable and not repetitive nor should they be babbled.

    After this Jesus says that our prayers need not to be complicated because the Father knows even before we do and before we ask what we are in need of. This is another fact that should switch our focus of prayer from selfish prayer based upon only ourselves and our needs to praying for what is most important to God.

    Not that our needs are not important to God, they are, but God does not want them to be the source and priority in our prayer life because when we are doing this we are acting selfishly and God wants us to trust Him so absolutely and know, be assured that He will care for us and think of our needs and not us.

    This is all evidenced by what Jesus says in the following verses when He teaches us the manner in which we should pray. Not so much the use of the prayer to be recited as a mantra or praying it word for word, rather as the fashion, the manner and the priority we should use in our prayer life.

    Matthew 6:7-13 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. 9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

    Jesus here is telling us to pray after this manner, in other words with this prioritized structure in our prayers. We will try to be brief and simple in what Jesus is saying here.

    First Jesus is telling us that on the top of our prayer, by the way, praying is not simply and exclusively a laundry list of requests we bring before God but they are communication with our Father.

    The very first thing Jesus mentions is to praise God, that is our first priority.

    By the way, praise is, as we see, extremely important as Jesus places it as the very first order of business in our prayer life Praise and thanksgiving unfortunately is pretty much a lost subject in people’s prayer life.

    God is worthy of praise and thanksgiving, if we cannot praise God first and foremost we actually shouldn’t ask Him for anything.

    If He is not worthy of praise and thanksgiving, we are not worthy to receive things in prayer. It’s that simple. Actually, we aren’t worthy to receive anything from God, yet He is so gracious and in Christ He wants to bless us. We need to bless God though, He is worthy after all He did and does for us and in the end He is worthy simply because He is God.

    In the whole Bible there are 246 references to praise, in Psalms alone praise to God is mentioned 158 times.

    In Psalms alone we find over 50% of the mention to praising God out of the entire Bible. Psalms are songs but at the same time they are prayers to God. So we see how important praise is in prayer.

    Psalm 22:3 says: But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

    This statement is incredible, God lives, abides where praise is. So if we, being the temple of the Holy Spirit don’t praise God enough or if we cannot see or understand how important this is, it means that we are not spiritually well.

    Scripture tells us that we are to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise:

    Psalms 107:22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.

    Jeremiah 17:26 And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the LORD.

    We are not only the Temple of the Holy Spirit, we are also a royal priesthood and we are called to offer to God spiritual sacrifices and offerings through Christ our Lord.

    1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

    1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

    This is it, that we show forth, or better, offer praises to God!

    OK, so now we see that in our life, in the life of the believer being a spiritual house and priesthood we are to offer spiritual sacrifices and as we saw, those are praise and thanksgiving.

    Our prayer life cannot, should not be lacking praise and thanksgiving. According to Jesus it is the top priority in prayer.

    Secondly Jesus says that we should pray for what is important to God first, we should pray in God’s will and in His sovereignty. This is the most difficult part of our prayer life.

    Let me redirect you to the beginning of Romans chapter 12. Do you remember what we studied in verse one and two?

    Verse one is really what we are talking about here, the offering of ourselves as living sacrifices, this is what God delights in. However, we have seen there is also a commandment there to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we may prove, or know God’s will and understand that His will is good, acceptable and perfect.

    So when we pray we need to be aware of God’s will and of His ways, when and if we do this, then we will pray in line with God’s will. We need to know how to pray in line with His will and we need to be sure to know that His will is always good, it’s always acceptable and always perfect.

    This part is our greatest challenge and our greatest downfall in our prayer life.

    For example, many think and they do so sincerely because they say they take God at His word, that we can ask anything of God and if we have faith, really have faith God will do it.

    Now, there is a lot to be said about this thinking.

    They get this doctrine and belief from a series of Scriptures that superficially seem to support their theory because the Scriptures actually seem to confirm what they believe.

    In fact they claim that the reason why Christians don’t get prayers answered is because they really don’t have enough faith to believe that God will give them all they ask for.

    Let’s look at some of those verses.

    The first one that is being used to support this theory is this one:

    Matthew 18:18-20 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

    Here we see that Jesus says that, whatever we bind or loose on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven and then He says that if two or more of us agree in earth as touching anything we ask it shall be done by God and where two or three believers are gathered Jesus’ presence and authority is present.

    We can say much here, first of all let’s look at the context. The context in which this is said is sandwiched between confronting a believer of their sinfulness and forgiving one another.

    This is the context, it’s really not prayer. So to apply this to prayer is erroneous to begin with. We see that this comes at the heel of having confronted and finally in the worse case scenario having disciplined a believer with ecclesiastical discipline and authority.

    This is the context in which Jesus says all this. So if we as a church, not as an individual believer bind on earth someone in their sins, God will honor that in heaven as well, that means simply that as a church we have imposed upon the person church discipline and that God will exercise His discipline on that person as well.

    Loosing something on earth means to declare a person loosed from his sinfulness. This by the way is not the equivalent of the Roman Catholic religion’s absolution of sin.

    However we must say it is similar in some way. When a person repents from sin they are loosed and released from God’s discipline as well as church discipline, such as when a person repents and believes in the Gospel they are loosed from their sins and eternal damnation.

    This is the context by they way, similar to this one that we find in:

    John 20:23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

    This is the Apostle’s authority and the church’s authority to be able to say to some one who believes in the Lord Jesus and repents that their sins are forgiven, their sins are remitted and if one does not believe the authority to say that that person will be bound to and by their sin and therefore retained until they believe and repent.

    This has absolutely nothing to do with the sacrament of confession and the priest’s power to absolve.

    So then, in Matthew 18 when Jesus says the church has the authority from Him to bind a believer to their sin or to loose them from their sins in the sense of church discipline.

    This has nothing to do with a single individual believer binding and loosing in prayer what and who they want. That is not what Jesus is telling us to do.

    We hear so many believers that based upon this Scripture bind Satan or bind sickness or bind evil spirits and demons and loose blessings and healing and all kinds of things they desire.

    However, this is not the authority Jesus is speaking about here nor is it binding an loosening as many believe they are.

    The context is regarding sin and discipline, it’s about exercising ecclesiastical authority and discipline on an unrepentant believer.

    See also 1 Corinthians 5:1-13.

    What we agree therefore as a church and in church authority will be retained in heaven by God but this is merely displaying the mirroring of God’s will in heaven done on earth.

    Hence as we see this is in perfect line with the Lord’s prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!”

    God will do what we ask and what we agree upon because it is His will to begin with.

    Jesus is also conferring His authority and His presence and the factual existence of the church where two, three or more are gathered in His name. In addition this also means that in the church He grants this authority only when two or three or more are gathered and agree upon God’s will for that situation, namely church authority and discipline.

    Even in the Old Testament an authoritative witness was that one only when two or more agreed. Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16.

    A single believer by himself does not have ecclesiastical authority, that is why in Matthew 18 it states that if a brother sins against us, we must first go to that person as a brother, brother to brother to confront the wrong.

    However, the single believer cannot use church authority nor can a believer by himself use church discipline. If the brother that sinned does not want to repent then the wronged believer must not take matters in his or her own hand but must go and find two other mature believers and then return to confront the person in sin. If still this person does not want to repent then the elders of the church must become involved, this is the last step, this is when the unrepentant believer gets confronted by church authority.

    They only are the ones that can apply church discipline to the sinning believer. There is a very good reason why all this occurs, it occurs because the person needs to be confronted with their behavior and given the opportunity to repent and to have valid witnesses, two or more, witnesses. This is God’s way!

    This entire passage in Matthew, as we said, has nothing to do with asking in prayer and agreeing in prayer to receive what we ask for, meaning that God somehow has to be obligated to give us what we agree upon. This is wrong! God’s will has to be respected and we have to know it in order to be able to believe that God will answer our prayers.

    Let’s remember, we petition God, we cannot order Him around , we cannot and should not expect that He do what we want Him to do just because we believe He could. That is never going to happen! God is God and we must pray that His will be done on earth, in our life as His will is in heaven. In heaven God’s will is always obeyed and respected.

    The next passage used to say that we can ask whatever we want and God will give it to us is found in:

    Matthew 21:19-22 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. 20 And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away! 21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. 22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

    This passage is often used to prove that Jesus is confirming that we can ask for anything as long as we believe we will get it God will give it to us.

    These believers focus on the last verse of this passage but what they forget is again, the entire context of this passage.

    There was a specific reason why Jesus cursed the fig tree and why it therefore withered. The Apostles marveled at the result of Jesus’ curse of the fig tree.

    They also marveled at many other miracles Jesus preformed, such as when He rebuked the wind and the storm and it dissipated, Matthew 8:24-27.

    At that time He accused them of having little faith. Even here the lesson is about having faith, in other words believe that God can do what seems or what actually is impossible for us. He did say so even in:

    Mark 11:21-24 And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. 22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. 23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

    If and when something is what God wants to do because He deems it necessary or He wants done because it fits His plan in heaven, God will do it and therefore we must have faith in believing He can do it even though the thing seems or is actually impossible for us to do.

    The entire lesson Jesus is giving His disciples regarding the fig tree is not that if we just believe something God is then obligated to do it, it really means that we have to believe God can and will do the impossible when He so desires and when we pray seeking His will, as Jesus is also telling us to do in the Lord’s prayer, that is not lack of faith by the way as some actually say it is, it’s actually a declaration of faith, believing that God can do it without doubting that He could but also resting on God’s sovereignty and respecting God’s knowledge and wisdom by accepting His decision whatever that may be.

    One of God’s attributes is omnipotence, God can do everything He wants to do, nothing is impossible for God, God can literally move a literal mountain supernaturally, He could remove it by other means as well, that may require that we persist in prayer and believing God can still do what we ask, or God can opt to leave the mountain there and have us either go around it or climb it to get to the other side.

    Jesus for example here is speaking of obstacles when He mentions the mountain. God will remove the obstacle from before us but we just do not know how He will do it. He may require us, as we said, that for our good we may have to go through the obstacle rather than remove it completely, this is not that we did not have enough faith in God to remove the obstacle, it’s that God knows that it takes more faith to suffer through something than it would be to just remove the problem.

    However, no matter how He decides to do it, we must remember what we studied in verse 2 of Romans 12, God’s will is always good, always acceptable and always perfect even though we may struggle to see it His way. This is another reason why we must renew our minds. If we do not renew our minds we cannot think as God thinks, cannot see as God sees and cannot understand God’s will. The most important issue is that we must arrive to understand and believe that His will is best for us no matter what it may be.

    God will complete the work He has begun in us Philippians1:6, but He does not tell us how, yet He will do it. One great aspect of having faith is trusting God in everything even when at the moment we cannot fully understand what it is He is doing. Our faith first of all must arrive to believe that God’s will for us is always good, acceptable and perfect even we don’t understand it.

    We cannot expect God to answer us and do what we ask if something is blatantly against His will. Provided we truly understand His will in His word.

    Many think we can ask just anything, they believe we can ask to be rich and if we believe it God will, do it, they believe we can believe that we will be healed from diseases at all costs as long as we believe it. Some even think that we can ask blatantly sinful things and God will give us what we ask for just because they believe He will.

    As we are studying, God is not, ever, ever obligated to give us exactly what we ask for, that is not what Jesus was teaching anywhere.

    Will God give us sinful things because we want them? No! Never! That is against His will, remember? Thy will be done?

    So the very first thing we have to really understand well is that everything we ask for must be perfectly in line with God’s revealed will, in other words His word.

    Secondly Jesus in Matthew 6, in the Lord’s prayer, tells us we must seek that God’s will be done, that is His revealed will and His unknown will to us.

    If we trust the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding He will direct our paths, Proverbs 3:5-7. Yet in this Scripture we see several things that we need to really understand.

    Proverbs 3:5-7 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
    6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

    God tells us to trust in Him with all our heart, not half of it, nor part of it, with all of it.

    This by the way means we should not doubt that our God will really work all things together for our good, Romans 8:28.

    This also is what Jesus says we should do, rely on God’s wisdom and knowledge, which we often cannot know or have and often even do not understand.

    How could we not trust Him who knows all things, who can see and knows what is ahead in our life? How can we doubt our heavenly Father when He knows all things and can do all things and promised us that, all that we endure, whether good or bad will work for our good?

    We can trust Him and we should and when we do He will direct us in the way we should go. So this is having faith in Him and not doubting Him even when we ask of Him.

    He may not answer in the way we expect or want, but He will answer us in the best way for our good. He will give us what is better for us, often we think we know what is best for us but we really don’t.

    What is best for us is this: that God’s perfect, good and acceptable will be done in our life.

    Look also at what the Proverbs Scripture says, it says not to be wise in our own eyes, not to always think we know what is the best course of action for us, rather we should respect God’s word and His sovereignty over us, we must stop thinking we own ourselves, that we are the captains of our own destiny, we are not, God is, He owns us, we have been bought at a very high price
    1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

    Then last but absolutely not least, we must depart from evil! We cannot even remotely think that if we are living in rebellious disobedience to God that He will even listen to our prayers, never mind answer them. We cannot ask for sinful things nor can we live with iniquity hidden in our hearts, for if we do, God will not hear us.

    Psalms 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:

    Psalms 34:15-22 The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.
    16 The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. 17 The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. 18 The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
    19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. 20 He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. 21 Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate. 22 The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.

    We know that we are not inherently righteous on our own, we know that our righteousness comes only by imputation through Christ’s righteousness. We are not righteous by our own attempts, yet we know that if we are in Christ and we have been touched by God’s grace in Christ we will seek to walk in righteousness and in holiness and we will deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world, Titus 2:11-12.

    This is clear, if we do not avoid ungodliness and unrighteousness we will not have answers to our prayers, because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, not exclusively on the righteous in position only but those who live pursuing righteousness in their life.

    If people do evil and persist in evil there are two things that will happen, either a person is not a believer and will be judged and condemned or if they are a believer that falls into evil practices the Lord will discipline them, even severely.

    Part of the Lord’s discipline for His children is that He will not answer our prayers, except the one where we repent, then He will be attentive to our prayer. Remember what God told His people Israel?

    2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

    As we clearly see God is commanding His people Israel and even the church today, the people called by His name, to humble themselves under His mighty hands. In Scripture to humble ourselves before God is a twofold issue, it means to realize He is God and He has control over us and therefore we place ourselves in a position of becoming obedient to what He commands us to do, secondly we see that God calls His people to pray and seek His face but on order to be heard on high we must also repent, turn from our wicked ways, see that? We must pursue righteous living forsaking sin in our life and seeking to become holy as He is holy. God says: Then He will hear, forgive and heal.

    As we see there is a process, we must humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and seek His grace and mercy and repent and then when we pray He will hear us and forgive us and heal, even our country.

    You see this is a side issue to this study but still important to address, today we the church are also God’s people who are called by His name and it’s the church today that must also apply this in its life.

    Often I hear believers ask why this country is in the conditions it is in, well I would point them in this direction.

    Anyway, in the same way an earthly father would punish wrong doing, or should anyway, if their children misbehave, so does the Lord discipline His children, He will withhold His blessings from us, He may not damn us eternally but He will withhold His blessings and even scourge us severely if He has to, see Hebrews 12:5-11.

    We must align our positional righteousness in Christ with a righteous walk and behavior in our life.

    1 John 2:3-6 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.

    1 John 2:28-29 And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. 29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.

    1 John 3:1-3 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

    OK, so now we see that in order to ask God and receive from Him we must, first be God’s children born again of the Spirit and secondly we must have faith and trust God for the best answer and outcome regardless what we may think and ask for, in other words seek and want only God’s good, prefect and acceptable will for us. This is definitely what Jesus is teaching us in the Lord’s prayer.

    Thirdly, we must not trust in our understanding and our wisdom.

    Fourthly we must not walk in rebellion or open rebellious sinful behavior.

    All of these elements must be taken into consideration when we pray.

    Fifthly, we must at all costs pray first and foremost for what matters more to God than to us. Jesus in this entire passage in Matthew 6 is bringing us to understand that we should not worry beyond measure about our physical needs, rather we should first and foremost seek God’s Kingdom’s interests and God’s righteousness, in other words seek after spiritual values and holy behavior in our life rather than earthly goods and needs, especially riches.

    Jesus actually forbids us to run after riches because they will ruin our life if we do.

    Jesus is actually saying the same thing in the Lord’s prayer when He tells us to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, in fact this request is paired with “thy kingdom come.”

    This prayer is referred both to a God’s eschatological kingdom, in other words Jesus’ rule on earth at His second coming but also as Jesus’ rule in the church and His Lordship on the believer and church and all that it entitles His Kingdom must be our prayer priority.

    God’s kingdom not ours should be our priority in prayer, even before our very own needs and especially before our wants.

    That all this is true is evident also in what Jesus tells the Apostles in:

    John 15:7-8 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

    As we see even here, Jesus’ promise that what we will ask will be done by God is contingent upon certain conditions, this is a conditional promise not a card Blanche to get anything we want and desire.

    The first condition Jesus places here is obedience to God’s word, that is the first condition as well as having the same mind Christ has.

    The second condition is the following, that God will give us what we ask for when we desire to bear much fruit for His glory not our earthly selfish life. This is because that is what God desires and that is why He is willing to answer our requests. When our requests align with God’s will and they bring glory to Him it will be done unto us. Only when we desire this first and foremost in our life, when we have the same goals and desires of Christ and therefore of God, then He will give us what we ask, it’s not for our selfish and earthly enjoyment that God wants to give us what we ask for, it has to be solely for His glory, for His kingdom’s advancement not for our advancement. It’s not to give us a greater, richer, healthier, more comfortable life here on earth, it’s not even to make us rich and successful in so called ministry. Not at all!

    Look at what James says:

    James 4:1-4 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. 4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

    You see, if and when our motivating factors are wrong, we ask but we receive not! Why? Because we lack faith? Yes and no! In the yes sense, because we believe God will give us something but we believe erroneously because in reality we do not at all believe what God says in His word.

    God is not our genie in the bottle that pops out to do our bidding! He is not there to bow down to our every whim and desire. He is not obligated to do anything at all that we want or desire.

    When our motives are, as James says,telling his audience that they were not receiving because they were not asking for the right things nor with the right motives, they desired the wrong things and God was not giving them what they wanted. Why? Because when we ask, we ask amiss that we may consume it on our lusts and not on what matters to God.

    Again even James is telling us our priorities in prayer are to be God’s kingdom and all that pertains to such. This is what Jesus has been telling us all along in Matthew 6 in the context of prayer.

    Does this now mean that we should never, ever ask God for things pertaining us? No, not at all but look at where that is placed in the Lord’s prayer, it’s not in first place where we often place it, it’s in fourth place. It’s after praising God, after praying for His kingdom and that His will be done in everything we pray for.
    Now, Jesus says:

    “Give us this day our daily bread!”

    Now, in reality if we study this statement by searching the Scriptures, we may be shocked by what we find out.

    Although God definitely wants to supply all our needs, I repeat needs, not wants; yet our daily bread has to be more, much, much more than asking God for our daily supply of food or our earthly needs.

    It is clear, that God promised to take care of His children and to supply all their needs.

    In fact, in Psalm 37 look at what David writes:

    Psalms 37:25 I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

    There is a New Testament equivalent Scripture we find in Hebrews:

    Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

    God will not forsake His children and He will provide for them and also let’s remember what Jesus said in Matthew 6:33.

    If we are grateful and content with what God provides, if we are thankful to God in the little we have and we place God’s will and His priorities and His Kingdom first, God will take care of our needs.

    If God promises to take care of our needs when we concentrate on what He desires, then how can we worry about what we have or don’t have?

    The problem is we often concentrate on what we don’t have and yes, often if we concentrate on what others have and what we don’t, when we do that, we take our eyes off what we already have and place them on what we don’t, we begin to perceive what we want and don’t have as what we need.

    If we concentrate on what we do have and are thankful, when we thank God and are grateful for Him providing for our needs as we seek His Kingdom and His righteousness, then as Jesus says, God will bless us beyond measure.

    It all begins with being content and grateful for what we have.

    Paul tells Timothy and us this very important thing:

    1 Timothy 6:6-8 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

    Here Paul is saying that if we have food, clothing and shelter we should be content and that in fact, our effort and attention should be on becoming godly and being content, all that is great gain.

    Paul also said this:

    Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

    He is also grateful to the Philippian church for what they gave for him and he says this to them:

    Philippians 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

    This episode is the real life evidence of what Jesus said in Matthew 6:33. They the Philippian church sought God’s Kingdom and His righteousness first and Paul tells them that because they did so God would supply all their needs.

    So if our needs will be taken care of by God, what does Jesus really mean by “ give us this day our daily bread” besides our physical needs?

    Let’s look at what God’s word indicates regarding this subject. Jesus, is not saying we should not ever pray for our needs, although we saw that perhaps if we have to pray for them there may be other reasons why we aren’t getting what we need.

    Perhaps we should examine our life and lifestyle and examine whether or not we are first trusting God and seeking His Kingdom first of all.

    Then we must be able to separate our needs from our wants and make sure we are not interpreting our wants and desires as needs. God did not promise to supply all we desire and want, although if we do trust Him and seek His will and Kingdom first often God is so good He blesses us even with the desires of our heart Psalm 37:4, when they are not bad for us according to God’s wisdom and knowledge.

    So what is our daily bread besides our daily physical needs?

    In Luke 4 Jesus gives us an insight as to what our daily bread actually should be.

    Luke 4:2-4 Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. 3 And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. 4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

    Wow! So what we see here Jesus, has been in the desert 40 days and nights, has had nothing to eat and now at the end of the 40 days Jesus is hungry.

    Satan surmises Jesus must be hungry so he says to him, that if He is indeed the Son of God then He should not suffer hunger and He could easily perform a miracle to provide food for Himself.

    Satan tempts Him by suggesting that by His divine power He should transform some stones into bread.

    Let me ask you: “ would it have been impossible for Jesus to do what Satan suggested?”

    Absolutely not at all! Yet, Jesus answers Satan by saying: It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

    First of all Jesus tells him that it is written in God’s word that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word of God.

    So Jesus is not saying that He couldn’t do what Satan suggested to do but Jesus with His answer is telling him several interesting things we must heed and that we must practice in our life as well.

    The first important thing Jesus does is He refers Satan to the written word of God, this is a reference to:

    Deuteronomy 8:3-4 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. 4 Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.

    Very important passage and very important truths we must glean from this.

    Jesus is placing the priority, first of all on God’s written word, let us take heed and never forget this principle especially in this day and age where in many, many churches they seek miracles all the time.

    Jesus does not deny God’s power in being able to perform a miracle in order to provide for Him, rather He places the emphasis on God’s written word, on God’s promises and also faith, trust in God and still obtain the demonstration of God’s power through our trust and faith in Him.

    This is always more important to God than Him demonstrating and displaying His miraculous power.

    Let’s look for a moment now at the Deuteronomy 8:3-4 passage to which Jesus made reference to when tempted in the wilderness.

    The similarities between what God did with Israel and with Jesus are stunning. God says to Israel that He humbled and caused them to hunger in the wilderness, He did the same thing with Jesus!

    God fed Israel with manna but manna is a reference to God’s daily grace and supply, trusting God for provision in every impossible and difficult circumstance, that is what Jesus also did. Even when tempted to do things on His own, He instead trusted His Father making reference to the same condition in which God placed Israel.

    Israel tough lacked the faith and trust Jesus had and more than often failed trusting in God’s faithfulness and His promises. In other words, Israel was proven unfaithful and faithless while Jesus obeyed His Father perfectly and trusted Him and not Himself. He did what Israel could not do.

    God did all that to Israel to show them that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from God. God seeks for us to trust and obey Him and His word even more than seeking food for our body.

    Once again, when we trust and obey God’s word He will without fail provide for us.

    If we do things exclusively ourselves then He will not provide in the same way He would, we will exert efforts but that is actually lack of faith.

    In fact that is what the author of Hebrews says in: Hebrews 3:8-12.

    Israel received proof of God’s faithfulness for 40 years and still remained in unbelief.

    So what we learn from the Deuteronomy passage to which Jesus makes reference to in Luke 4 is that we should seek to trust and obey God and His written word and not always seek for the miraculous provisions rather than just trusting Him, His promises in His word, in and trough our life and our trials.

    It takes much more trust and faith to go through the wilderness just trusting and obeying God than it does to believe and expect God to turn our trial into a blessing by miracles. Sometimes God may do so, but that is not His preferred way to provide for us. He wants us to trust and obey His word, so His word should be in reality our daily bread even more than our bodily food.

    In fact Jesus always condemned seeking miracles, signs and wonders in order to prove God’s power, even in order to prove that He is God, see for example:

    John 2:23-25 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. 24 But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, 25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.

    You see the passage says that many believed in His name, but why did they? They did when they saw the miracles which He did.

    That my friends is not faith that God accepts as faith that saves, nor does any of this actually strengthen or increase one’s faith. In fact Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because Jesus knew their hearts and the motivation of their heart was not what God sought.

    In fact, look at what Jesus says after He fed the multitudes in a miraculous way.

    John 6:25-29 And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? 26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. 27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. 28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

    He tells them in other words what He told Satan, it wasn’t even really the miracle in itself, they still did not believe, they did want to be fed but their motivation was their earthly, physical needs and not the spiritual, the motivation was not that they believed that He was who He claimed to be in other words, God in the flesh, they just wanted food, they actually wanted what today we understand as socialism.

    Jesus instead tells them that they should seek for the spiritual food, the food that does not spoil, the food that would give them eternal life. This food is what He wanted to give them, this is the true bread God wants to provide for man.

    This is the food that counts. Jesus tells them, it’s faith in His work of redemption, it’s faith in His life, death and resurrection which would feed their souls.

    In fact He tells them He is the bread from heaven, He is that bread that a person must eat in order to have salvation and eternal life. John 6:32-58.

    Obviously His words were to be understood spiritually as He says looking forward in John 6:63.

    However, now we begin to see that most likely Jesus was meaning something much deeper when He told to us pray “ give us this day our daily bread”.

    When we understand that God’s priority and emphasis is spiritual and eternal rather than physical and temporal, then we begin to understand the Lord’s prayer in a very different way than most people desire to understand it.

    In addition, Jesus Himself in another instance confirmed that this was the case when He said this:

    John 4:31-34 In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. 32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. 33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? 34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

    As we clearly understand even here Jesus is defining other meat or food rather than the physical food His disciples were talking about, as doing God’s will.

    This my friends is what He also said in Matthew 6:33, seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness first of all and above all. Jesus is transferring His same thought pattern and His desires to serve God above all else in such a way that it becomes even more important than eating food for the body.

    Jesus elevates obeying God above any and all physical need, therefore we understand from what Jesus said when He was tempted in Luke 4 and even here in John 4 that a child of God, as He was, actually the only begotten Son of God, must seek and desire to do God’s will and obey it even above our daily physical food.

    We realize how carnal we really are when we love the taste of food so much and how much most of us love to enjoy eating, not only to satiate our hunger but for the pure pleasure of the food’s goodness, but then we do not seek so easily to enjoy the spiritual food of God, God’s word and doing God’s will more than all that.

    Many believers are unfortunately physically obese, they over eat food and in addition do not even discipline their body with physical exercise, yet they do not overfeed themselves spiritually nor do they seek God’s word and His will with the same gusto they have for the pleasure and enjoyment of physical food.

    Jesus and the Apostles taught us that doing God’s will and obeying Him and His word are more important than living for this life alone.

    Even in the Old Testament this was spoken often as being the case:

    Psalm 119 is mostly written to evidence the delight and the pleasure and the importance David had in and placed on God’s word.

    In several instances David declares how much more important God’s word, His will, law and precepts were to him than any other thing in his life.

    Let’s look at just some of those instances:

    David delights himself in God’s word and obeying it, God’s word is his delight: Psalms 119:16, Psalms 119:24, Psalms 119:35, Psalms 119:70; Psalms 119:77; Psalms 119:143; Psalms 119:174.

    Not only David delights in God’s word and His commandments but he loves them.

    Psalms 119:47 And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.

    Psalms 119:97 O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.

    Psalms 119:113 I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.

    Psalms 119:140 Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.

    Psalms 119:163 I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love.

    Psalms 119:167 My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly.

    God’s word for David was worth more than and earthly riches such as gold and silver.

    Psalms 119:72 The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.

    Psalms 119:127 Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.

    David says that God’s word is sweeter, better tasting than honey to him.

    Psalms 119:103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

    David declares that God’s word is his inheritance and it is the rejoicing of his heart.

    Psalms 119:111 Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.

    As we understand David is placing a greater emphasis on God’s word than any physical thing even riches and food. David loves God’s word, he delights in it, he desires it above everything.

    David loves God’s word and desires to know and obey God’s will, David has the same mind and the same desires Jesus had, obviously Jesus obeyed God’s will perfectly and never sinned and David did sin and did not obey God perfectly, however the point is that we will not either, yet we should be like David and Jesus and place God’s word and obeying God and seeking His will and obeying it above our very physical livelihood.

    I believe Jesus in the Lord’s prayer is actually meaning asking for our daily bread more than asking God for physical bread to eat.

    So although God does not forbid us and even desires us to ask Him for what we need, again, we need to understand that the Lord’s prayer is a prayer that places the emphasis on spiritual and eternal matters rather than physical and temporal.

    In fact we understand that this is actually the entire context of Matthew 6, as a manner of fact the entire Sermon of the Mount is related to the Kingdom of God and not the world, the spiritual not the physical, the eternal and not the temporal.

    The rest of the Lord’s prayer is also referred to the health and well being of our spiritual life, in fact Jesus says we ought to pray for and understand God’s forgiveness. We need to forgive others as we are forgiven by God, completely and thoroughly.

    Praying for our forgiveness when we sin is not because we aren’t already forgiven in Christ, we are, yet we need to understand the depth of our sinfulness and how offensive we are to God.

    When we understand the depth of our sinfulness and the even greater depth of God’s love and forgiveness we will be more ready to forgive others as well.

    In addition there will be times we need to pray to forgive others because we will be so hurt by them that God needs to help us forgive them, God needs to supply us with His grace in order for us to be willing to lay aside the wrong people commit against us.

    Yet, we will be ready to do so much better when we understand God’s great forgiveness for us. This is what Jesus says to forgive as we have been forgiven and we need to pray for this, to understand all this happens mostly if we understand how corrupt and sinful we are and how great then God forgiveness is.

    If we withhold forgiveness we could be at risk spiritually speaking. Although God forgives us if we withhold our forgiveness we are in double jeopardy.

    One reason is that a person may actually not be forgiven by God at all. Those who have not experienced God’s great forgiveness cannot forgive others either.

    If we have experienced God’s forgiveness but still have problems forgiving we must turn to God to help us see and understand better His great forgiveness and His great love for us.

    Often times because of the environment in which we live and even where we go to church and because of the erroneous doctrines that are taught there especially if they are regarding God’s love and forgiveness and His salvation, we may arrive to the point where we misunderstand God’s love and His forgiveness and His salvation and that will greatly affect how we view and understand forgiveness and how resistant we can be regarding extending forgiveness to others.

    The word of God teaches us that God’s great love extends forgiveness to us always and actually He never withholds His forgiveness toward us, His children. Our sins are forgiven always and forever, God does not ever hold us in a state of unforgiveness.

    If He did, even if He withheld one single sin against us we would be condemned to an eternity in hell, but we clearly have seen from Scripture that this is never the case once a person is in Christ. There are so many Scriptures that define this truth for us that to mention them all here would be a real undertaking, however for the skeptical ones here are just a few:

    Psalms 32:1-2; John 3:16-18; John 5:24; John 10:27-30; Romans 5:8-11; Romans 8:1;
    Romans 8:28-39; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10; Hebrews 7:24-25;1 Peter 1:3-9;
    1 John 1:3-10;1John 2:1-2.

    Now, if after all these assurances we still have difficulties believing that God forgives us and saves us completely, it means that we are most likely being taught false and erroneous doctrines and we don’t understand God’s love, we have not been made complete in His love, meaning we have not achieved the full understanding of God’s love for us nor did we fully understand the power of God’s attributes.

    1 John 4:15-19 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. 19 We love him, because he first loved us.

    As we clearly see exposed for us in this passage by John, he says that we have known and believed the love that God has for us. When we dwell in His love it demonstrates that we are in God and God in us, so that when we have this assurance we should also have the understanding of God’s perfect love, not our love for Him, our love cannot be perfect, although God wants it to be, however we are talking about God’s love for us.

    His love for us is perfect and knowing the perfect love with which God loves us gives us confidence in the day of judgment. Why is this? Because we are confident, not in the perfection of our love but in the perfection of His love for us. Having this knowledge and confidence in God’s love will cast out fear from us. Casts out the fear of what?

    Fear of God’s judgment and condemnation, knowing God’s perfect love casts out fear of judgment, because as John says if we still believe that God will condemn us in the day of judgment then we fear torment and we will indeed be tormented in our life by that fear, in fact John says that when and if we have this kind of fear we have not yet understood the perfection of God’s love for us.

    There is also an inherent danger for some and that is this one, people must check, prove their election to be sure in the way God requires, meaning by the love we have for God and for our brothers and sisters.

    That is the litmus test to see if God’s love indeed is in us and we in Him, see 2 Corinthians 13:5;
    2 Peter 1:1-11.

    However, the point is that God’s love toward His elect is perfect and it has no condemnation or judgment. God’s forgiveness is as His love is, complete, perfect and unlimited.

    In fact God’s love in our life not only cast out far of judgment and wrath but it casts our fear in general. The cure for fear in our life is understanding God’s perfect love for us, His Spirit instills in us not the spirit of fear as Paul tells Timothy:

    2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

    Why did Paul say this to Timothy? Because Timothy was beginning to waver, he was beginning to be fearful and he was becoming timid in expressing his ministry and his faith. Paul needs to remind him and exhort him that the spirit of fear is something that does not come from God, in fact God’s Spirit gives power, love and a sound mind, which can be also translated as sober mind or disciplined mind.

    Paul does not want Timothy to have a double mind, which is unfortunately what a lot of believers suffer from. When we understand the perfection of God’s love, we do in fact understand this involving our minds renewed by the Word of God otherwise as I said before not understanding God’s love will lead to fear.

    Anyway, back to forgiveness, as we forgive others God actually forgives us because this is the sign and the confirmation that we have actually received God’s grace and His forgiveness, by being gracious and forgiving we are toward others.

    As human beings our forgiveness though may be at times hard to give and this is not unusual in some cases. We must then rely, as I said before, upon prayer as we go to God and seek to receive the grace to forgive someone who has deeply hurt us.

    Let me give a specific example of a sin that can be very difficult to forgive. Adultery!

    In a marriage adultery has the potential to destroy completely the marriage relationship. However, God calls us all, His children, to forgive each other no matter what the sin or the grievance may be.

    Let me preface that we must distinguish between forgiveness and reconciliation or trust in the relationship that has been tarnished and damaged by this sin.

    We are called to forgive yet not to be treated as door mats. Whether or not there is a conscious act of repentance forgiveness must be extended, however, most likely in most cases there will be much work to be done in order to repair and have reconciliation in the relationship and to regain the trust of the wronged spouse. I must say that adultery does not have to be the death of the relationship, in fact, not to minimize the sin, but God wants that even in that case there be forgiveness and reconciliation and trust regained.

    God hates divorce for any and all reasons and we should not resort to it as a scapegoat excuse to get out of a relationship even when we have been wronged. I understand that the sin is serious and grievous but any sin we commit is not only against men but it’s always against God and the thing is that , if God forgives us of all our sins, all of them, then we cannot withhold forgiveness from others.

    In most cases if a Christian and I repeat Christian, wants to divorce even for adultery I venture to say that in most cases, if not all, there is some lack of complete forgiveness.

    Now, if the offending person does not repent, continues in their sinful behavior and even decides to divorce then obviously there is no chance to work with that person for reconciliation, but nevertheless there must be forgiveness on part of the offended party.

    Forgiving the offender by the way is not releasing the sinner, not at all, they will be bound to their sin until they repent, truly repent of it. In this case as in all cases of being sinned against, forgiveness must be extended, this is because by doing so we are released form the hurt and the resentment and also the fact that if we do not forgive as we are forgiven, in other words for everything, God will hold us under temporal (not eternal) discipline because we are disobedient and in this case our prayers will be greatly hindered.

    This is another reason why we find this said in the Lord’s prayer. See what the Lord says about this subject: Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:21-35; Mark 11:25-26; Luke 6:37; Luke 17:3-4.

    The next priority in prayer is to pray for God’s spiritual protection. For God to help us escape temptations. This does not mean that God will not allow us to be tempted although remembering that it is never God who tempts us or even leads us into a temptation.

    James 1:12-17 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. 13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. 16 Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

    As we clearly understand here, James tells us why and how we are tempted. It’s not God, ever!
    In fact James continues exhorting us not to be in error in this thought process nor to give in to temptations and sin, but to know that only good and perfect things come from God.

    The Lord’s prayer teaches us instead to pray to God to spare us from being tempted and when we are tempted to help us escape from the temptations.

    1 Corinthians 10:12-14 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.

    As we see here in this passage there are a few things we must focus upon. First of all Paul in the context of this chapter is writing about Israel’s falling into idolatry and in this passage Paul mentions that the Scriptures were and are written for the believers in Paul’s day but for us today as well,

    1 Corinthians 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

    As we see, they were written to be examples for our admonition, for our warning.

    Paul in the previous verses 1 Corinthians 10:6-10, commands us not to do what Israel did back in Moses’ days.

    Then in verse 12 Paul warns us not to be spiritually proud, not to think that we can be better than the Jews back then and to think we cannot be tempted by the same things they were tempted and not to think that we are above all that, Paul says, to be careful not to think that we are exempt or that we are actually stronger or better than the Jews in Moses’ days so that we may think we can stand, but when we think we are such we must be careful because we are really in danger of actually falling in that same temptation.

    Even Proverbs tells us:

    Proverbs 16:18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

    Paul gives us the same warning.

    Then he says that no temptation has taken us but such as is common to man.

    In the same context and even beyond, all people regardless, are and will be tempted by the same types of temptations.

    In this case Paul is telling the Corinthians not to think they were better, stronger or more spiritual than the Jews in Moses’ days because human temptations are the same and are common to every man.

    So as we see, we can and will be tempted. Yet, the good news is what Paul says here, in other words, but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

    In Scripture often the saying “but God” is one of the best things we can hear as it usually follows very bad news such as in this case.

    Paul is saying we will be tempted for sure, but God is faithful and He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to resist and in the temptation He will make the way for us to escape it so we can bare it and not fall into sinfulness.

    However, Paul concludes this passage with a very sobering thought as he says:

    Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.

    When it comes to certain things, certain temptations, when they appear in our life we are commanded to flee, to run away from them.

    That is often the best way to deal with certain types of temptations, we should not linger there long, we should flee, run away from them and often that becomes the best way God helps us in making the way of escape.

    He will give us the strength to do the right thing, we must obey His word and often if not always that is the best remedy and deliverance from our temptations. God will always deliver us by giving us the strength to obey Him and not to sin.

    Fornication, sexual temptations are another thing God command us to flee, to run away from.

    1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that commiteth fornication sinneth against his own body.

    We remember a very specific episode where this concept is very well illustrated for us and it is in Joseph’s life. Joseph becomes Potiphar’s head servant in Egypt after he got sold as a slave by his own jealous and wicked brothers, God blessed him and have him a great position in his master’s house Genesis 39:2-6.

    However, there was a problem, the problem was a dangerous mix, a lustful mistress and a handsome servant. Joseph’s mistress wanted to entice Joseph in an adulterous sexual relationship Genesis 39:7.

    Joseph was a true example as to how a believer should react to the temptation. I have no doubt that in Joseph’s humanity the temptation was enticing, most likely his mistress was a beautiful woman, yet Joseph’s reaction is exactly how a believer should react.

    Let’s look at Joseph’s reaction under temptation.

    Genesis 39:8-9 But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; 9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

    Joseph refused her advances and he gave a stunning and great testimony of his respect for his master and his great devotion to God and his willingness not to sin against God.

    This by the way should be the motivating factor in our own resisting temptations, our love and devotion for God and our respect for others, this is the first commandment and the second is like the first, to love the Lord our God with all of our being and our neighbor as ourselves Luke 10:27.

    Nevertheless, Potiphar’s wife is relentless in her pursuit of Joseph:

    Genesis 39:10 And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.

    As we see the temptation was not just brought to him once or twice, it went on relentlessly for a long time.

    This means that temptations may go on for a long time, the enemy knows that relentless pursuit with certain temptations will weaken the person who is being tempted to the point of breaking down and falling into sin.

    Genesis 39:11-13 And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within. 12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. 13 And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth,

    The bottom line here is that in the end Joseph fled away! That is the point Scripture is making, when it comes to sexual sin, the best remedy is to flee away from it as Joseph did in the end.

    We cannot stay there and hang around the temptation thinking that in some way we will just be stronger than it, we won’t and even in Joseph’s case I believe he had to flee because maybe, just maybe, that last time was just too much for him and if he did not flee he could have succumbed.

    He was not invulnerable, he was tempted and he was vulnerable and he knew he could not any longer resist on his own so he had to flee away.

    That’s the point! Paul says let us not think that we can stand lest we fall and if we have to, it’s better to run away than to fall into sin by our temptation.

    There is nothing to be embarrassed about running away from trouble, in fact often that is the best strategy as we see Scripture does tell us to do so.

    Next, Jesus tells us to pray to God to deliver us from evil and the evil one. Deliver us from evil and the evil one means praying against all evil, against Satan’s minions and not only but…also evil people.

    Yes, although Jesus desires us to love our enemies, yet He specifically tells us to pray against evil and evil people.

    Let us remember that if we view mankind as basically good we will fall into all kinds of doctrinal errors and also by doing so we will reject many of God’s attributes.

    For example, if we see mankind as basically good we will misunderstand greatly the Biblical doctrine of sovereign election.

    In fact we won’t misunderstand it, we will definitely reject every aspect of this doctrine because the doctrine actually revolves around two key basic foundations, the first one is that mankind is completely evil and corrupt to the core, in his nature.

    It is obviously evident that traces of goodness are present in people, no one denies this, yet the propensity of man is to do evil continually, Genesis 6:5.

    Scripture tells us that man’s heart is desperately wicked and incurably sick Jeremiah 17:19.

    If there were still some doubts the conclusion of the matter is finally found in Romans 3:10-18.

    This last passage takes away every and any possibility of finding anything good present in man. That is the depiction of how God sees mankind.

    The Bible in its entirety depicts mankind as inherently evil and not mainly good.

    By the way, if man was inherently good then salvation would become useless. If there was any type of redeemable qualities in mankind then Jesus would have died in vain.

    For this reason man cannot in any way do anything that would be acceptable to God for salvation, man because of his entirely corrupt nature cannot and does not want to worship and obey God and because of the sinful nature of man, man is declared evil by God and by that declaration man deserves God’s judgment and wrath. Because of this reason God has the right and is completely just to condemn everyone to damnation in eternal hell.

    If people cannot understand and see all this they cannot ever understand the doctrine of sovereign election nor the need for the salvation of God.

    Because of all this, God had to, because of His love and mercy come up with a plan that would save mankind in spite of himself. If God left mankind decide by itself all of mankind would be condemned.

    So He had to make sure that He saved mankind on His own, for this reason He chose to use His attributes to save a part of mankind. He chose the way (Jesus) and then He chose the people He would save in Christ. This He did by His own volition and will, this is why it is by God’s sovereign election that man is saved through Christ’s work of redemption Ephesians 3:1-14.

    God then chose the vehicle with which He would give faith to those He chose for salvation, in order to believe in Jesus and be saved and this vehicle is the Gospel.

    He then applies the life and the regeneration to the person and gives them faith and this occurs all through the action and power of the Holy Spirit.

    So we are saved by faith in Christ, but the faith we receive is a gift of God’s grace and it is not inherently in us and it cannot be there unless God gives it and He only gives it to those He elected or chose to have it, Acts 13:48.

    There is no injustice in God, we cannot even think this remotely. This is exactly the point Paul makes as He anticipated the objection of the Roman believers when he wrote to them in the ninth chapter:
    Romans 9:11-24.

    There is no doubt, what is unfair in God’s salvation is not that He chose some instead of others but that He gave His only begotten Son, the just for the unjust, the righteous for the unrighteous. That’s what is unfair if anything is unfair.

    God is completely just and God is merciful and He provided the only way mankind can achieve salvation, so if that is considered unjust by some, then it really means that these people want to think they are saved by themselves rather than to give all the glory to God.

    If we cannot see mankind as wholly evil then our whole doctrine regarding salvation will be understood erroneously and we will inevitably in some way view many things God does as unjust or at the very least incomprehensible.

    In addition I cannot fathom how a person sees and understands the fact of how man needs salvation if they cannot see mankind as inherently evil. If we would be inherently good we would not need to be saved.

    Many view a sinner as a sick person who needs to be cured, yet the Bible depicts a person as a dead person who needs to be made alive and transformed; and that is a big difference, that is how many see mankind simply as sick while the Bible instead depicts mankind as being spiritually dead and in need of being made alive John 3:1-19; John 5:24-25; Ephesians 2:1-10.

    The second thing we must base our knowledge of man’s condition is this, people outside of Christ all belong to Satan, they serve Satan whether knowingly or unknowingly, yet either way this is the case Ephesians 2:1-3.

    Either a person belongs to God through Christ or a person belongs to Satan and his will they do.

    The concept that in this world we are all brothers and sisters is not entirely true. We are, perhaps in a physical sense related to each other, after all we do all come from the same parents, namely Adam and Eve, Genesis 1:26-28.

    Adam and Eve are our original parents, the human parents of all mankind. In fact, it s because of their rebellion that we all have a sinful nature and therefore are sinners bent on always doing evil,
    Romans 5:12-21.

    After all this is what the name Eve means: Genesis 3:20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

    The relationship that counts for God though is not our human and physical relationship but our spiritual relationship. This relationship with God is only possible through belonging to God through Jesus Christ. We have been adopted as God’s children, in God’s family through Jesus Christ only.
    Romans 8:15-16; Galatians 4:5-6;

    Ephesians 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

    That is the only relationship that counts, in fact our human relationship to Adam and Eve and subsequently between people on a human and physical standpoint is what gets us in trouble, that is in fact our problem. Remember? Because of Adam and Eve we are all sinners and dead in our sins and trespasses. In fact that is why we must be born again!

    That one is the the birth that counts for God! That is actually our salvation in other words being made alive spiritually.

    Anyone, and I mean anyone who is not born again from above, from God, anyone who is not adopted in God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ and anyone who is not in Christ does not, I repeat, does not belong to God.
    God is and remains everybody’s creator that is for sure, and as such He has every and all rights upon all of mankind, all rights reserved.

    In that sense everybody belongs to God and God has sovereignty over everyone to use everyone as He sees fit.

    Many people including many believers have a real big problem with this fact. That is really a dangerous place to be and Scripture warns us about this:

    Isaiah 45:9-10 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? 10 Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?

    God is sovereign over everything and everybody and this we must thoroughly understand and accept.

    If and when we don’t accept it, it’s because we don’t want to accept it or believe it, however as you see, it is a grave danger to be there in that place!

    God says woe to those who think that way! Woe means to be undone, destroyed, not a good place to be especially when it’s God who declares this.

    All this was said to make the very important point that in spite of what many think, say and believe people are not all children of God nor everybody is a brother and sister how God desires and expects.

    Only in Christ we are children of God and brothers and sisters and members of the body of Christ, only who is born of the Spirit is all this.

    1 Corinthians 12:12-13 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

    Romans 8:5-9 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

    This last passage is very explanatory and clear as to what it means to be born again of the Spirit and what it means to be only born physically and naturally.

    Those who are carnal, in other words not born again of the Spirit are in enmity against God and they who are only naturally and physically born are not in Christ and are still in the flesh and not in the Spirit. In fact Paul says that if the Spirit’s life and presence is not in a person they are not His.

    So the question then is this one, if a person does not belong to God who do they belong to?

    I did not find in Scripture anywhere written that there are three categories of people, in other words, one belonging to God, one to Satan and the third category would belong to who exactly?

    Are they fence sitters, undecided people, neutral people, who are they? Who decides this anyway? Is it the person who decides who they belong to?

    For example if we polled people and asked them if they thought they served and belonged to Satan most would answer no. If we asked many would say they belong to God, they would not necessarily say they serve God but they would say they belong to God.

    Now are these statements biblically accurate? No they are not!

    Most people think they belong to God because they have been used to hear and think that if they have a superficial belief in God and they believe that God is good and merciful and that He loves everybody unconditionally and that God is the creator of everyone, then because they think all these things their belief makes them OK with God.

    They think that as long as they do their best to be good people then God accepts them and saves them because they are not so bad as the really bad people, they therefore believe that to be condemned to hell one must be very, very wicked and since they are basically decent and good people, then they belong to God and God would not let them go to hell, they believe they are God’s children.

    We have heard that famous statement many times before, “ We are all God’s children! ”

    No, we are not!

    We become God’s children only when we become children of God by the new birth and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ, believing and becoming obedient to the Gospel.

    These are the main and most common reasons why people believe that they belong to God and that they are alright with God.

    However, we have often and clearly seen in this study of Romans and through out Scripture in many cases that no one is good, no one is righteous, no one seeks God, all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, all are guilty before God and no one can be saved and justified by attempting to keep God’s commandments.

    So basically because of all this reality, no one, no one can belong to God outside of Christ and without being born of the Spirit, in other words become spiritually regenerated and alive.

    So therefore if a person is not in Christ a person does not belong to God and by consequence they belong to Satan, there are no people who don’t belong to no one, or that are neutral, we are all sinners and we all belong to Satan and we do his will from our birth on and only if and when God saves us and makes us alive spiritually we belong to Him.

    The Bible tell us that when we are not in Christ, when we are not born again, in other words, when we are still in the flesh, when we walk by the flesh, we are children of the devil and we are called sons of disobedience and by our very nature are children of God’s wrath not His children.

    Ephesians 2:1-3 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

    The children of the devil or the sons of disobedience are not saved and do not belong to God and Scripture confirms this even in:

    Ephesians 5:5-8 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them. 8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

    Colossians 3:5-7 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.

    As we clearly see when we become children of God there is a shift, a change of ownership,a shift from darkness to light, from death to life, from Satan’s kingdom and from being children of Satan to the Kingdom of God and therefore becoming adopted children of God.

    This is the fact, we must become children of God.

    John 1:12-13 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

    Very clear I hope! We are all God’s creation, we all belong to God only in that sense, but we clearly see that the Bible teaches us that not all creatures of God are God’s children. There is a difference between being God’s creature, His creation and being His children.

    The difference is Christ! Period! Even Satan is a creature of God, yet he hates God and is God’s number one enemy, so all who belong to Satan are the same, enemies of God not children.

    So, we either belong to God or to Satan, we either serve God or Satan, we either are God’s children or children of the devil. There is no third category of people! We cannot be neutral about Christ, even He said so:

    Matthew 12:30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.

    This is also why this prayer that we are examining, the Lord’s prayer, begins this way: Our Father! Not every one can say our Father! This is a prayer that must be prayed by God’s children and as we see all men are not His children.

    So we are to pray to our Father to deliver us from evil and from the evil one, namely Satan and his servants whether demons or people.

    The Scriptures teach us in fact that we do not simply battle against people, although often we do, yet we battle against the spirits of the power of the air that control people. These spirits, these powers and principalities are spiritual in nature and they are the ones who control and animate people to do their evil and wicked works.

    Ephesians 6:10-12 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

    Let me be clear though, although people can be, and often are controlled and animated by evil spirits, they are fully and completely responsible for all the things they do.

    With God there is no excuse as: “ the devil made me do it! ”

    God holds every single person and every single demon individually and separately responsible for all they do. God will judge every person according to their works, people are and will be responsible and held accountable for all they do, all they do, all they say and all they think!

    Revelation 20:12-15 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

    The books mentioned here are the books of the records of every single person’s deeds which they did during their lives, the deeds by the way are all wicked, there will be no good deed that will be able to override the evil that people commit.

    God sees all deeds of man as wicked, Isaiah 64:6, obviously who did more evil than others will indeed receive a greater punishment, however all punishment for all will be, besides the degrees of it, eternal damnation nevertheless.

    In fact as we see here, there is only one book in which someone’s name can appear to avoid God’s judgment of damnation, that is the book of life, which is also known as the book of the Lamb of God in which the names of the redeemed were written before the foundation of the world, see

    Ephesians 1:4-5, Philippians 4:3; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 21:27.

    People will all be held accountable and responsible for their own sinfulness. Let us remember that although a person can be controlled or animated by evil spirits they still bear all responsibility for their own sinfulness, they are all sinners, controlled by their sinful nature which they have and they take pleasure in their evil deeds.

    Jesus several times confirmed this fact:

    John 3:18-20 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

    See also: Matthew 12:36; John 7:6-7; John 8:41-47; Romans 2:16.

    God commands us to pray against evil and against evil doers. It is, as we saw, a doctrinal error to think that we cannot pray against evildoers. The word of God is filled with references to prayer lifted up against God’s enemies.

    Let me preface saying this, God cannot contradict Himself or His word hence He cannot answer prayers that are lifted up to Him against His will.

    Would God answer a prayer He does not agree with? Obviously we know or should know that the answer is a resounding no!

    This is why it’s imperative that we renew our mind in order to know God’s good, perfect and acceptable will, Romans 12:2.

    You see why Paul began this very chapter with that statement, otherwise we cannot understand what God’s will is and we cannot therefore now at this point pray in line with His will, which is what Jesus began the Lord’s prayer with, by saying “Thy will be done”.

    How can we pray this if we cannot understand and know what God’s will really is, even worse if we can’t accept it and see it as good and perfect?

    So, even though Jesus certainly told us this:

    Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

    We see in Scripture, both in the Old Testament and even in the New Testament that men of God actually often prayed against their enemies and against evil doers.

    How can we reconcile these two things? Did God change His mind about evil doers? No He did not! God does not change His ways, His mind and His word ever:

    Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

    Malachi 3:6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

    James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

    Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.

    Psalms 119:89 For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.

    Isaiah 40:8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

    Luke 21:33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

    1 Peter 1:25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

    As we clearly see God and His word are unchangeable, God does not change His mind or His views or changes His decisions and His word just because mankind wants Him to change it.

    This is exactly why we cannot culturally bend or change the meaning of God’s word, we cannot expect that God change His mind regarding His commandments and regarding what He views as sinful or what He views as righteous.

    This is what man does and has been doing, not only in society but even worse in the church. We cannot annul God’s commandments given to the church 2000 plus years ago thinking that things were just and simply cultural or to be only observed in the church because it was the acceptable custom in that day’s society and culture.

    In the church of God we do things according to the word of God which as we see does not change ever and it cannot be made to be bent and to make it submit to cultural and societal demands.

    For example, if God commanded that a woman cannot teach doctrine in the assembly and He commanded that 2000 years ago are we to submit that because today society changed and feminism changed many ways and things in culture and society that now the church has to change its customs and disobey God’s unchanging word by allowing women to teach or even worse to have positions of authority in the church, which is in clear violation of God’s commandments?

    Are we to disregard what God calls sinful and an abomination, such as homosexuality and tolerate and accept it as normal human behavior just because society and culture want that to be so?

    Why then did Jesus teach us to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven if we submit and obey to the will of men and society?

    Sadly this is what has been going on for many, many years, not only in society but even more sadly in the church.

    God and His word do not ever change! So how can we reconcile loving our enemies and doing good and praying for those who hate us and persecute us and spitefully use us and also praying against evil doers?
    Actually it is quite simple, we are to personally, when placed in that situation, do good and be merciful to our enemies, we can and should understand that, as we already said, everyone, everyone, without exception that does not belong to God through Christ is the Lord’s and our enemy as we once were God’s enemies as well.

    We should pray that God have mercy on unsaved people especially those in our own family and our unsaved friends, we must however remember that even though they may be our friends or relatives they are still our and God’s enemies.

    Yes, that is exactly what Jesus was warning us about when He said:

    Matthew 10:34-39 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. 37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

    As we see Jesus is clearly drawing a line in the sand, we are certainly to love and not hate our friends and relatives, however, our love must never be more for them than for God even if that will cost us our relationship with these people.

    We cannot love unsaved people more than loving God and loving God does not mean to love people at all costs by compromising our obedience to God.

    Many believers even though they would not admit it, often compromise their faithfulness and obedience to God and therefore their love for God yet they think that they are actually loving God even though the compromise obeying God by loving those people.

    However, loving God means obeying Him, Scripture is more than clear on this, in fact look even here Jesus says we cannot love people more than loving Him.

    Our love is first and foremost demonstrated by obedience and faithfulness to God and His word.

    Mark 12:30; John 14:15-23; 1 John 5:2-3.

    Obeying God does not mean that we hate or not love other people, it just means that we love them in line with God’s love and in step with His word and not the expectation people place on us as to how we should love them or how they think they should be loved.

    Unfortunately many believers erroneously think that God’s love can be practiced by compromising His word and by often even disobeying Him. This cannot ever be. We can love other people as long as we will always choose God first and foremost and obey Him above all.

    The reason why people think there is a dichotomy or some kind of double standard in what God tells us to do when it comes to loving our enemies and praying against those who are evil doers is because they do not believe or understand God’s sovereign election and therefore because of this very fact they cannot understand God’s purposes they way they should be understood.

    We pray for God to have mercy according to His will and purpose but we cannot expect to force God to do what we want. We cannot convince God to save anyone He has not purposed to save but on the other hand we cannot discount the fact that He may want to have mercy on them. We cannot know God’s intentions all the time so we have to pray His will be done, see it always come back to that.

    So if we pray for God to have mercy on unsaved people but also pray against evil doers then we are not ever praying against God’s will because we really don’t know what His will for certain people really is, whether it is to save them or not.

    Therefore if we pray against evil men as David often did in the Psalms, we are not praying against them against God’s will but if we ask for both judgment and mercy we pray God’s perfect will and we leave the result to choose how He will answer our prayers up to Him.

    Mercy triumphs over judgment James 2:13, but judgment for the unrepentant wicked will definitely come upon them and it may come even in this world and this life. It is not evil to pray for this because those upon whom God will not have mercy will receive judgment, God will by no means acquit the wicked.

    Exodus 33:19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

    Romans 9:18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

    Exodus 34:6-7 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

    God is merciful and gracious, patient and abundant in goodness and truth, God keeps mercy for thousands, God forgives iniquity and transgression and sin but God will by no mean clear the guilty and will indeed judge the wicked unrepentant sinners, in other words evil men.

    The way we reconcile all this is by understanding what God had previously spoken to Moses, we cannot forget that He told Moses first that it is His prerogative to be gracious and to show mercy to whom He desires to do so.

    Paul perfectly encapsulated all this in his teaching about sovereign election in Romans 9:11-24, therefore God has mercy upon whom He will have mercy but on whom He does not He will bring judgment and wrath.

    Since we do not know who God’s elect by His sovereign election are, we can both pray for God’s mercy and God’s judgment at the same time because it is His will to do both, it’s His will to save the elect and also to judge the wicked unrepentant sinner that remains His enemy and ours.

    We need to leave it up to God to decide to whom He will show mercy and to whom He will give judgment, that’s His job and not ours.

    God saves not us, God damns not us! Therefore, when we deal with people or our enemies on a personal and individual basis we must show them mercy and love because we do not know if those people are elected to God’s salvation.

    God often uses our persecution and mistreatment to be the catalyst by which He brings people to His salvation, this combined with our love toward them works through God’s power and for His glory and it does even when the persons remain wicked and do not repent.

    God will either work it into their salvation or He will judge them even more severely for the evil they did against us if they don’t repent. We do not know for what purposes God chooses people, as He did with His disciples, He chose eleven to be saved and do His will but He chose, God chose one, Judas Iscariot John 6:70-71, but even in his case he still did God’s will, even though Judas did the will of the devil He still did the will of God, John 17:12.

    It was God’s will that Jesus His Son be betrayed into the hands of wicked men to be scourged, beaten and crucified Acts 2:23-24; Acts 13:27-30, why?

    Because that was the only way He could save us. Jesus laid down His life voluntarily John 10:17-18 and God the Father gave His Son voluntarily John 3:16, so that the elect could be saved.

    Judas was wicked, he was not a believer who lost his salvation for rejecting Christ, he was always a thief and he was always greedy for money Matthew 26:15; John 12:6; and he was as Jesus called him a devil John 17:12.

    Yet Jesus Himself said He chose him just the same John 13:18. Judas did Satan’s will but involuntarily and without his own knowledge he did God’s will as well, just like Pharaoh did in Moses’ days, Romans 9:17-18.

    This is how God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose Romans 8:28.

    Judas did not love Jesus or God so things did not work out at all for good for him but because of what he did things worked out for the good of Jesus and us because we are the called according to God’s benevolent design.

    God never promised that He would make things work together for the good of those whom He did not call to salvation. You can rest assured that for them not much will work for good. Judas seems like he had a moment where he repented for what he did, but he did not repent, he had remorse and it was for himself that he was worried and the consequences of his actions led him not to repentance but to despair and death.

    There is a very clear Scripture that confirms this fact:

    2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

    As we see here there are two types of sorrow, godly sorrow that leads to repentance, and worldly sorrow that leads to death. It is obvious then, that when we examine the lives of two of Jesus’ disciples that we know very well we see this Scripture in action.

    Peter denied Jesus which has the potential to be the same sin if not the exact sin as Judas committed. Peter denied Jesus publicly and Jesus had said this about that:

    Luke 12:8-9 Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: 9 But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.

    So we see here that denying Jesus is a very serious sin, it’s a potentially damning sin. Yet many say that the reason why Peter denied Christ was because he had not yet received the Holy Spirit and that after Pentecost, after receiving the Holy Spirit he became bold and never denied Christ again.

    Sure this is true in part, but there is one other very important reason this happened in Peter’s life as well as in the life of every believer and it’s this one:

    Luke 22:31-32 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

    Jesus told Peter that the devil would sift him, tempt his faith. Now, apparently many think Peter’s faith did fail, in reality it did not.

    Jesus tells him one essential thing we need to understand and believe and it is this one, Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail.

    Indeed Peter’s faith did not fail at all, to say that Peter’s faith failed is to say that Jesus’ prayers were ineffective. If the Son of God, God Himself prays then we can rest assured that His prayers will not ever fail.

    This is another huge blow to those who teach that God only respects man’s free will and never acts in spite of it. No, make no mistake God intervenes continually overriding our bad decision and our weak free will. To say God’s prayers can be overridden by a man’s will or by Satan and his angels is blasphemy.

    Yet Jesus now is our High Priest who sits at the right hand of the Father, and what does He do there?

    Romans 8:29-34 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. 34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

    Paul is clear in explaining to us this very concept, we are foreknown and predestined to be glorified, in other words to bear the image of Christ in eternity, so Paul is saying that it’s a sure thing that those whom God elected He also foreknew, to be foreknown means to be known intimately ahead of time and therefore elected, chosen and predestined, and those who are predestined are also called and those who are called are also those whom God justifies and they are those who in the end God glorifies, in fact Paul uses the aorist tense to signify that predestination, call, justification and glorification have already been settled in the past so that they were, are and will be a certain fact, in fact will be a finished product in God’s plan which was already planned and decreed in eternity past.

    Because of these certainties in the life of the elect believers Paul asks, what can be said about these things? If God is for us who can be against us in a true sense?

    Didn’t Paul open this entire passage saying:

    “ and we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are the called according to His purpose” ?

    If God gave His most precious possession, His Son, for us when He knew we were going to be sinners how much more now that we are His children will He not bless us with much more? Who can then bring damning charges against God’s elect? No one! Why? Because it is God that justifies us! Who can accuse us of damning sin? No one! Why? Because Jesus is our High Priest and He intercedes for us by God.

    You see, this is exactly why Peter’s faith could not fail, Jesus interceded for His chosen disciple and therefore God protected Peter’s faith from failing completely. Peter understood very well this concept as he wrote 1 Peter 1:3-9. Peter is sure that our faith is protected by the power of God in God.

    We find another passage in Hebrews that confirms this as well:

    Hebrews 7:24-25 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

    God saves us to the uttermost, completely, because Jesus lives forever to intercede for us and therefore we are safe in our salvation forever.

    Our faith cannot fail, this is not pride because we give all the credit and glory to God only and it is not our doing. Peter’s doing ended up in denial, God’s doing was protecting Peter’s faith from completely failing, Peter could only do wrong in that case but God overrode Peter’s bad choice and imposed His sovereign power and grace on a man who would otherwise have failed God.

    This is why the elect will persevere to the end, it is God’s doing and it is to His credit and for His glory and love that He does it, because He is faithful to all He promises.

    Now Judas on the other hand, Jesus did not ever pray for him nor did He pray that Judas’ faith would not fail, you know why? Judas did not have faith in Christ at all that is why! God cannot protect what a person does not have nor would He pray for something that Judas did not have. Nor would He pray for who in reality was not elected to be saved.

    That Judas was not a believer should be clear but Jesus clarify this for us in several instances:

    John 6:64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.

    As we see Jesus is declaring that Judas falls in the category of unbelievers not believers.

    Later Jesus claims that Judas although chosen to be part of the twelve was not like the rest but he was a devil:

    John 6:70-71 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? 71 He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

    In John 13 Jesus claims that all His disciples were clean, meaning saved. except, yes you guessed it Judas:

    John 13:10-11 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. 11 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.

    To declare Judas a devil and calling him unclean means that Judas was not a believer, he did not have saving faith, God did not give it to him, therefore we see that a true elect of God cannot lose his faith, not because his or her faith cannot waver as Peter’s did, it cannot fail because it is protected by the power of God because God promised that of them that belong to Christ He would not lose any but raise them up on the last day, John 6:37-44.

    To conclude this example of Judas, Jesus in John 17:12 again in His prayer speaking to the Father says:

    John 17:12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.

    While Jesus walked among them He kept His disciples in the Father’s name, those whom the Father gave Him, them He kept and none are lost.

    Then He mentions Judas and He calls him the son of perdition, he only was the one who was lost.

    Judas was lost, yet Judas was also chosen, yes he was chosen but not to be saved. Judas was not one whom the Father gave to Jesus to save, Jesus chose Judas but He chose him for a specific purpose, and He lets us know why, it was so that Scripture might be fulfilled, what Scripture?

    That the Son of man should be betrayed to death, see Psalms 41:9; Psalms 55:12-15; Psalms 109:6-8;
    John 13:18; Acts 1:20.

    In addition it is worth mentioning that the title “ son of perdition” is actually also the title for the Antichrist.

    Jesus called Judas with the same title reserved for the Antichrist, the son of Satan.
    2 Thessalonians 2:3-4

    I wonder if Jesus could call one of God’s children the son of Satan. I do not really think so.

    Judas was already marked from eternity past to be chosen but only for the evil work he did.

    Can we think that Judas was neutral or was a good person and then he became evil? Should we erroneously think that God chose Judas in eternity past only because He foreknew what Judas would otherwise do what he did or was Judas just plain evil on his own and he did what he would have done otherwise?

    Of course God knew what Judas was going to do but that’s not why He chose Judas. He just chose him for this evil work and God chose him simply in the sense that He did not choose Judas to be elected to salvation, therefore Judas simply did what his evil heart wanted to do anyway.

    You see, God does not choose people to do evil, people are evil and do evil because that is what their evil hearts desire to do. God chose Judas just as He could have chosen Peter or any other sinner to do what Judas did. It’s God who chooses evil people to be saved in spite of their own evil nature and heart, otherwise there could be and would be no salvation at all.

    All people are evil and evil people whom God does not elect for salvation remain evil and they do the desires of their evil hearts, period!

    Only God can change the evil hearts of people by granting salvation and repentance through Jesus’ work of redemption and the power of His Holy Spirit.

    Look, we have seen that all human beings are sinners and evil in their hearts before God touches them with His grace and saves them, we all have the same potential to do as Judas did, we just deceive ourselves to think we are better than him, we are not!

    Peter was a sinner and he knew it, Luke 5:8.

    God even showed him he had the same potential to do even as Judas did when he denied Christ, but as we have seen, because he was chosen for salvation he then repented and we have seen why, because Jesus prayed it would be so.

    Obviously Judas’ heart was not changed, he was evil, he was greedy for money, he was a thief and he in his own evil opened his heart, not to God but to Satan, because God did not work in Him for good.

    John 13:27 And after the sop Satan entered into him (Judas). Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.

    This next Scriptures proves Judas was not a believer chosen by grace but a sinner who remained such and who was chosen by Jesus simply to do what his evil heart wanted do.

    John 12:4-6 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,
    5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

    The irony of this is that Jesus entrusted him with their money bag knowing he was a greedy thief, Jesus did this to prove Judas’ real nature and intentions, it became evident that he was not a real believer elected to salvation.

    Now what is the meaning of all this in regards to prayer? We see that the intercessory prayer of Christ as a high priest is effective only for God’s children, God’s elect not for those who belong to Satan forever.

    So it is possible to pray against the evil one and against evildoers as we pray that God will either have mercy on them or else judge them for their evil.

    Once again we see that God wants us to be confident in His promises to keep us, to make all things work together for the good of His elect and understanding this should make our prayer life much more confident on God’s faithfulness and power, this should give us great confidence when we pray, it should empower us to pray without losing heart and without being discouraged, it should free us from those things in our life that can seriously damage our prayer life and our faith.

    We have seen those enemies are several, yet worry and anxiety are two of the worse ones.

    The other one we saw was not being thankful to God for what we already have.

    When we understand though that Jesus is interceding for us, that the Holy Spirit aids us in our prayers Romans 8:26-27 and all this is in fact connected to what follows, in other words Romans 8:28-34, then our prayer life should take a different outlook in our life.

    It should not center as much on our temporal needs but on God’s kingdom and His righteousness and it should gain confidence and boldness, so much so that even when we are not sure as to how we should pray we have the Holy Spirit and Jesus Himself that turn our feeble and weak attempts of our prayer into effective and powerful prayer not so much because of our attempts or eloquence, but because of God’s power and because we understand all prayer according to God’s word.

    So our prayer should be diligent but it should be only according to God’s will and not our own understanding and desires.

    As I said before, yes, I know and agree God deeply cares about our needs but we really need to arrive at the place where we trust Him implicitly to provide for them while we pray for what matters most to God which believe it or not is above an goes beyond our needs.

    God will never neglect to provide for us if and when we stop trying to place the emphasis of our life and prayer on them.

    We have been saved to bring glory to God and that is and should be our main interest in life, we have to arrive to clearly understand this essential point. The number one priority in God’s plan is to declare His glory, it’s to be glorified, I know we have been used to be focused so much on ourselves, on the love God has for us that we have been conditioned to subliminally believe that our salvation has all to do with us, the truth is, it does not have to do with us as much as we think it does. Once saved our lives belong to God and no longer to ourselves,

    1 Corinthians 6:19-20 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

    As we see, we have been bought with a price, it was a very high price as it is the life of Jesus Christ. Because of this we do not belong to Satan any longer but we actually don’t belong to ourselves either, we belong to God and for this very reason God’s word says we are to glorify God in body and spirit.

    With our entire being we live now to glorify God and not to live selfishly for ourselves.

    Unfortunately if we are honest, all of us without exception, live often in a selfish earthly way and often our prayer life reflects this instead of the things that glorify God.

    The end of our salvation has to be unto God’s glory and not to spend God’s grace simply to live out a selfish and earthly life.

    God’s word exhorts us to do this:

    Colossians 3:1-2 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

    We should set our affections on spiritual and eternal things not earthly things, this by the way is what Jesus was talking about in the famous passage of the Sermon on the Mount of which the Lord’s prayer is a part:

    Matthew 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

    When we finally arrive at this place in our lives our prayer life will take a very different turn, if we don’t then our prayer life will remain rooted in selfish and earthly things.

    In conclusion let’s take a look at what New Testament Scripture teaches us regarding what the principal focus of our prayer should be and hopefully we can learn by looking at these passages what our prayer should be focused upon and what God’s principal will is in regard to prayer in our lives.

    We have already seen what Jesus told us regarding our way of praying now let’s look at what the other writers of the New Testament Scriptures tell us.

    2 Corinthians 13:7 Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates.

    Paul prays to God that the believers would not practice evil and that they do what is honest. This sounds a lot like when Jesus said in the Lord’s prayer to pray that God lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil and the evil one.

    So we begin to see that God’s will for us is to seek in prayer to live in a righteous way and do not practice evil.

    We see this also reflected in other prayers as well, howbeit structured with different words but the substance is the same.

    Philippians 1:9-11 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; 10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ; 11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

    This passage as well teaches us that we should, as Paul did, concentrate our prayer on seeking to live in such a way that we can approve excellent things and to be sincere and without offense till the return of Christ and that God fill us with fruits of righteousness.

    This my friends is the same prayer in other words, living right according to God and escaping the practice of evil in our lives.

    In addition to all this look again at what Paul prays for, that our love, the love of the church, the love of believers may abound more and more in knowledge and in all judgment. These things will greatly aid us in renewing our mind regarding how God desires that we love Him and each other.

    It is not possible to practice God’s brand of love without God’s true knowledge and discernment according to God’s word and according to His will. This is the essential point we extensively made in the study of Romans 12:1-2.

    It’s God’s will that we have all this and therefore it is His will that we pray to get this in or life. This is also evident in spite of many’s erroneous way of believing, that these things are automatically present in the life of believers.

    We need to pray to obtain these divine character traits just as Paul did.

    Let’s look at other prayers mentioned in the New Testament.

    Paul also prays these things for the churches:

    Colossians 1:9-13 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; 12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
    Without doing an in depth expository teaching about his passage we can still clearly understand very well what is the focus of this prayer.

    Even in this case as the previous ones we see that there is no earthly physical prayers mentioned for believers rather prayers are being lifted to God in behalf of the church regarding the spiritual needs of the spiritual man. Of course all these things would eventually evidence themselves in our life here on earth but the point is that God desires we pray for different things for which we normally pray.

    God desires that we might be filled with the knowledge of His will, once again this is in perfect line with the previous passage we have read and Romans 12:2.

    God desires that we have spiritual understanding. That my friends is having the increased knowledge of God, His will, His ways and His word. God desires again that we walk in this world in a manner worthy of Him, a walk and a behavior that pleases Him, God wants fruit in or life to be good works, good works according to His word and His character and His love.

    God desires us to pray to increase in the knowledge of Him, who and how He is, again all this is in reference to renewing our minds in order to think and see all things as God sees them, understanding God and how He operates so we can truly worship the true image of God and not a counterfeit or man made image of God, which is not God at all.

    God desires that we be strengthened with His might according to God’s glorious power this means not to seek to do things according to our understanding and our own strength but to allow God to change us, model us and make us into His image through the modification or transformation of our behavior and through the renewing of our mind through His word by the power of His Spirit through His word in our inner man.

    God’s will is also to strengthen our faith and our perseverance by giving us His power to endure long suffering situations and by giving us supernatural patience coupled with His joy.

    Do not forget what Nehemiah also said to God’s people at one time which remains true to this day:

    Nehemiah 8:10 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

    Rejoicing in the Lord and having His joy is truly what gives us a great amount of strength in our life.

    Joyless Christians are weak Christians.

    Also Paul says that in his prayer for them as well as in our prayers we should be thanking God and in this case thanksgiving for having made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: and for having delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of Christ.

    As we see it is worth mentioning again nothing in this prayer mentions physical needs rather it addresses spiritual ones to aid us live our life in a spiritual and not a carnal way.

    Moving ahead, Paul also prays this giving us an example as to what and how we should put our focus when we pray.

    Ephesians 3:16-19 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

    Once again we see Paul praying for the Ephesian church but not only, no doubt he prayed this for the entire church and so should we. He is praying that God would grant us according to the riches of His glory to receive strength by the might of His Spirit in our inner man, this is in line with what we have seen in the previous passage.

    In our inner man, that is our spirit, our spiritual born again man, so as we understand even in this case the prayer focuses on spiritual needs not physical ones. The inner man is not the outer man in other words our bodies.

    Paul prays that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, what does this mean? One would think that once we receive the Holy Spirit Christ is dwelling in us. Well, He is, however we are forgetful people and also often we are carnal people, so this means that God has to bring us to cherish Christ and His ways in our life in such a way that doing so will lead us to allow Him to shine through us and taking our flesh out of the way Christ may increase and we may decrease.

    We do have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us that is an undeniable fact but having God’s Spirit and being constantly being under His control are two different things, in fact I have no doubt Paul here is actually praying that the Ephesians believers be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit or better yet so we understand what it really means to be filled with His Spirit, it means to be under the Spirit’s control, being constantly filled is something God wants but it is something we have a real hard time to do in our life because we are all way to carnal way too many times.

    Peter said this same thing in his epistle in this way:

    1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

    Set the Lord Jesus as the main priority in our hearts is to want obey Him, to love Him is to obey Him, see: John 14:15; John 14:21;John 14:23-24; 1 John 5:2-3.

    To have the Holy Spirit and to be filled or be controlled by Him are actually different things.

    The Holy Spirit is always in us but we must pray and desire to be filled or to be controlled by Him in order to live an obedient and spiritual life.

    The Holy Spirit is our helper but we have to pray to God to be under His constant influence and this occurs when we love Christ in our heart or as Peter said set him apart in our hearts as the most important person in our life.

    This I believe has to do with Jesus’ rebuke at the same Ephesian church in Revelation 2:6 where He rebukes this church to have lost its first love.

    Paul continues to ask God that we, the church, be rooted and grounded in love and to do so we must be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; of love this occurs when we get to know the love of Christ, a love which passeth knowledge and that we might be filled with all the fulness of God.

    Once again understanding all this is to love God and Christ above all other people and above all things in our life and by doing so we shed our carnality and worldly affections and we become more apt to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

    Continuing with New Testament prayer priority we read Paul praying:

    1 Thessalonians 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    This prayer is in essence the same as the one Paul prayed for the Philippian church, to pray that God would consecrate, set us apart wholly praying that our entire being spirit soul and body be preserved blameless until Jesus returns.

    This a prayer God surely answers, our walk however must match up with our unmovable position in Christ. Paul prays also that we might also be set apart to walk in a blameless way. We will be preserved in Christ in a permanent state of justification and righteousness and forgiveness of sins, however as we have already seen in many previous passages our prayer focus is to pray that we all walk in holiness, righteousness and according to the image of Christ and not as mere carnal men.

    This same thread in prayer continues as Paul mentions this to the church in Thessalonica:

    2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: 12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    This again is a passage that teaches us how to pray and once again it teaches us to pray seeking God to make us walk in a worthy manner, Paul says worthy of His calling. Think about this for a moment!

    This confirms again that our prayer has to be focused on our spiritual walk and to walk in a way that reflects our position in Christ. We have been called to faith in the Gospel by God’s election, this is our initial calling but the call is not only merely to be saved to avoid eternal damnation our call is much more. Our call is to be conformed to the image of Christ both in eternity as well as in this life.

    So as we said before although God aids us in this task and it is by His power through His Spirit and word that we must obtain this, yet God desires that we cooperate with Him and one way we can is praying that this will occur in our life. In fact Paul says that what we ought to be praying is that our earthly walk match our heavenly position in Christ. If we bear the name of Christ we must walk in obedience to God’s word, walk in holiness and in righteousness.

    Paul also prays and we should also that God fulfill in us all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:

    So we must desire that God fulfill in us all the good pleasure of His goodness, again this means we should allow God to make us and mold us into Christ’s image and that we bear fruit in and by the working out of our faith and that this may be evidenced to come from the power of God in and through us.

    What does this mean and what does this not mean?

    It does not mean that we must simply be performing signs, wonders and miracles in order to see God working out our faith with power.

    What it does mean is that our faith in God should be so strong that although we show ourselves to be weak God displays His power in and trough the circumstances of our lives. This is much, much more than just being able to perform signs, miracles and wonders and healing.

    This means allowing God to be put on display through and in our weak lives and through His providence in our lives we can then turn and give all the glory and honor to Him.

    Once again the biblical example that most comes to mind is the life of Joseph. Joseph is a primary example of what it means to show the working out of faith through God’s power.

    Joseph did not perform any miracles yet his entire life was the evidence of God’s power and how through Joseph’s faith and trust in God he obtained God’s promises through the power of God and not his own doing.

    There are many examples of what this means and a whole list of this is found in Hebrews 11 the known chapter of faith.

    The end of praying all this is actually not what many people think, we have been deceived in many ways to think that the Christian’s salvation and life is all about us.

    I have some very bad news for who thinks that the Gospel is centered on the believer, or that God simply saved us just to deliver us from eternal damnation.

    Although some of these reasons may seem valid they are only secondary reasons. God’s interest is that His children’s lives glorify Him.

    Our goal is always to give glory to God now and for all eternity. It’s not our glory in which God is interested although many believers think so.

    Look, this is the final objective of our lives as believers and of our prayer life:

    That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Ephesians 2:7; Philippians 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:12 all say that the end of our salvation is to give glory to God now and in eternity.
    This is why God saved us! Obviously God loved us and did not wish that all would perish, obviously God did it by His grace and mercy, these are all reasons why He saved us but the end of it all is that salvation is for God’s glory. It is not for us to take for granted and be taken advantage of simply for our own purposes and selfish reasons.

    We need to be concerned about God’s glory and not our own earthly lives, this again falls under the same guideline Jesus gave us in Matthew 6:33 when He declares that we should be concerned about God’s Kingdom and His righteousness and allow Him to be concerned with our earthly needs.

    Now that we established that our spiritual life and godly behavior for God’s glory should be our main priority in our prayer life and our entire life, let’s look at more passages on prayer and let’s see what New Testament church prayer emphasis was and what it should be in the church.

    Continuing to look at what our prayer life should be like according to the word of God, let’s take a look at what Paul says:

    Ephesians 6:18-20 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

    Let’s talk about what this passage is teaching us without an in depth expository teaching of it.

    First we see Paul exhorting us to pray and make supplication in the Spirit, now let’s be clear once more, praying in the Spirit does not at all mean to speak in some king of unknown, spiritual or angelic language. We have already talked about this subject other times and we have clearly seen that there is no such thing as a spiritual prayer language, one that many today claim to have.

    We clearly have seen that tongues, in other words languages the Bible mentions are real and actual languages spoken around the world by people, but they were spoken in a supernatural manner by believers that otherwise did not speak any of those languages. So what does it mean then?

    We did speak about this subject in other sections of the study but since we tend to be forgetful we need to keep reminding ourselves, what sense would it have or what real use would there be to speak in a spiritual language? None! God understands all the languages spoken on earth, God does not even need to hear a prayer prayed in a verbal manner, God knows what we think, in fact I would venture to say that unless we are in certain situation most of us pray silently before God not loudly so it wouldn’t matter what language we would be using to pray.

    If we pray audibly then our prayer is understood by God in any and every language but then the language in which we pray whether knowing the language or speaking it supernaturally has to be only understood by the people around, this is why Paul writes an entire chapter on the subject of how to use the sign gift of tongues.

    In a section of it he says this:

    1 Corinthians 14:14-19 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. 16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? 17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. 18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: 19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.

    As we see Paul is saying that if a believer prays in an unknown tongue, the spirit prays but the understanding is unfruitful. This does not mean that this is a spiritual prayer it only means this, that the Holy Spirit may inspire a believer to pray in a human language that is not known by the one who speaks it nor by the others around him, this entire passage speaks of praying, speaking and singing in a unknown language in church.

    Yes, he is speaking of doing this through and by the manifestation of the spiritual gift but he is explaining that although who does this does it and it is understood only by God through the spiritual effects of the Holy Spirit, both the person speaking as well as those hearing are not edified because they cannot understand what is being said.

    The only way these languages would be understood would be if there was interpretation of the language spoken or some person in the midst of the assembly who understood that specific language. However, Paul, actually God, forbade the use of this sign gift when it could not be interpreted because every and all spiritual gifts must be practiced in the church for the edification of the entire body of Christ.

    So Paul is saying that whatever we say in church must be understood by everybody for the edification of everybody, otherwise we should remain quiet and speak silently to God.

    Many Charismatic and Pentecostal brothers and sisters would even agree with all this but then you hear them speaking their gibberish language, which language is neither a language nor does it come from the Spirit of God, and they say they were not speaking it or praying it audibly but to themselves and God, yet we can hear them.

    However, if a person can hear them then that means that they are audible and if they can be heard and there is no way to translate what they say, the person doing this is in violation of the word of God, period!

    So we clearly see that praying in the Spirit does not mean praying with the gift of tongues so then it must mean something else.

    What does it mean?

    This could be a long subject and I don’t want it to be so, therefore let’s see if I can explain this in the shortest way possible.

    God’s Spirit is in contact with our inner spiritual man, in other words with our born again inner man, the part of us which is regenerated by God’s Spirit. We can only understand God’s word and know God and His will through the Holy Spirit who helps us understand all these things.

    In fact without being spiritually alive and regenerated we could never understand spiritual things, see
    1 Corinthians 2:10-14.

    The Holy Spirit also has inspired the word of God to be written by communicating to the men who wrote Scripture the things God wanted to communicate to His people.

    See the following Scriptures regarding: John 16:13-15; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; 1 John 4:6.

    Praying in the Spirit therefore means: praying in line with God’s inspired and revealed will of God found only in His word. This is really what it means to pray in the Spirit. According to the Holy Spirit’s will, which is God’s will.

    Since it is the Holy Spirit that inspired God’s word and it is the Holy Spirit through whom we understand God’s word and therefore God’s revealed will, praying in the Spirit means to pray in line with God’s revealed will found in His word.

    In other words praying in the Spirit is exactly what we are learning in this study regarding prayer and how to pray.

    This is evidenced also in:

    Romans 8:26-27 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

    The Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses because we often still don’t know what we should pray or how we should pray, therefore the Spirit aids us by interceding, in other words praying for us, not through the gift of tongues rather through the Spirit itself and not us. The Spirit by the way, as we see here, searches the heart, our heart and lifts up our prayers to God even when we do not know how to express ourselves with words. He knows the mind of the Spirit and He, the Spirit, therefore intercedes for us, here is the key of all we are talking about, He does this according to the will of God.

    Praying in the Spirit therefore means to pray God’s will according to His revealed will found in His word and when we don’t know how or what then we can rely on the Spirit’s help who aids us in doing so. Period!

    Now let’s look at what Paul says after this in the Ephesian 6 passage, he says he wanted them to pray for him and what is the prayer request? That he find a good job? That he stayed healthy? That God would heal his infirmities? That God would provide for his finances? Did he ask them to pray that he would find a good home to buy?

    None of those things were a priority nor a need for Paul, Paul asks them to pray this, he says:

    pray for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

    He asks prayer for him that God would give him utterance to have boldness to make known the mystery of the Gospel and that he may speak it boldly as he ought to speak it.

    Paul’s concern was the Gospel, the preaching of the Gospel, the advancement of the Gospel and to have the courage and boldness to preach God’s word as he ought.

    Can you imagine Paul, perhaps the greatest Gospel preacher that ever existed asking for courage, for boldness and for the ability to preach the Gospel effectively and with power?

    In other words Paul realized that unless God gave him the boldness and the courage and made him able to preach the Gospel effectively and with power Paul could not do it in his own.

    All the Apostles understood this concept and they all prayed this same prayer in:

    Acts 4:24-31And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: 25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? 26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. 29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, 30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. 31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

    In this passage the Apostles were just persecuted and threatened by the Sanhedrin, they were ordered not to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ any longer. Yet, as we clearly see they ended up openly disobeying the Sanhedrin’s order but before they did they convened together and prayed to God.

    It’s very important as well as it is very interesting to notice that they address God first as Jesus taught us in the Lord’s prayer, in other words by praising God for His attributes and His majesty. They also prayed Scripture back to God by mentioning Psalms 2 and also by bringing back to memory the Lord Jesus’ death as they also mentioned God’s sovereignty in the entire affair.

    Only after all this they go on asking God to take into consideration the Sanhedrin’s threats, this is really a prayer against God’s enemies, then they proceed to ask God to empower them and give them boldness to continue to preach the Gospel.

    As we clearly understand God was favorable to that prayer and we see this displayed by the fact that the place where they were assembled together actually shook and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and we find written that the result of the filling of God’s Spirit they spoke the Gospel with boldness.

    There are also two other very important issues we must take into consideration when we read and understand this passage.

    The first one is this one, as believers we receive the Holy Spirit once, when we are converted.
    We understand that Jesus’ disciples although they were influenced by the Holy Spirit’s presence when Christ was around and even though they were kept for salvation by the power of God through faith, they still had not been born again from above until the day of Pentecost.

    The coming of the Holy Spirit at that time caused the disciples to be born again of the Spirit on that day, also the coming of the Holy Spirit on that day marked the birth of the church, the body of Christ comprised of Jew and later of Gentile believers.

    The disciples, the Apostles received the power to be born again of God and were filled by the Holy Spirit for the very first time.

    In fact look at what Jesus told His disciples the night He was betrayed:

    John 14:16-17 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

    As we clearly see the Spirit of God dwelt with them through Jesus’s presence, however Jesus tells them that God would give them and later on to us, the church, another comforter, so that He may abide with them and with us forever and not only forever but no longer was He going to be with them and us but He was going to dwell and abide in them and in us as well. Forever in them and in us, that is where and how the Holy Spirit dwells today in the church.

    However, this did not occur until the day of Pentecost in fact Jesus later that same night said:

    John 16:4-15 But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? 6 But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. 12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

    So as we see Jesus had to leave and be glorified again in heaven and then He would send the Holy Spirit which He did send on the day of Pentecost, He sent Him to be in us always.

    Ever since every and all believers are born again and converted and filled at the time of salvation, however as we clearly notice in the book of Acts especially, the filling of the Holy Spirit was not aand is not a permanent condition in the life of a believer, not even in the life of the Apostles.

    We notice in the passage that we are looking that they prayed and they prayed for a very specific thing and that was to be empowered to preach the Gospel with boldness and the Scripture says that they were filled with the Holy Spirit and after that they spoke the Gospel with boldness.

    So the thing we see is that they kept getting filled with the Holy Spirit even after they were filled the first time on the day of Pentecost.

    The second thing I would like you to notice in this passage is this, that when they were filled with the Holy Spirit this time they did not begin to glorify God speaking in other tongues as they did the day of Pentecost rather they spoke the Gospel with boldness.

    We see in the book of Acts that the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit numerous times and in every event, except when new ethnic groups were converted and added to the church, it never says that they spoke in tongues, rather it says that they received the power and the ability to speak and do what God desired they would speak and do.

    The filling of the Holy Spirit is mainly given to equip the saints to manifest whatever gift they have with God’s power and ability. Usually it was mentioned to preach the Gospel, look at what is written in the book of Acts and what happened when the Apostles were filled with the Spirit.

    Acts 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,

    Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

    Acts 13:9-10 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, 10 And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?

    These are instances where the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and as we see in none of these cases they spoke in tongues rather they spoke their own language with boldness.

    These were situations in which God wanted to make evident what was the real and more important use for the filling of the Holy Spirit.

    So what we understand is this, we should pray for the Gospel to be preached with power and boldness, we should pray this for those men who are called to do so and for those who are called to teach and preach God’s word.

    This is what type of prayer Paul asked for, this is the same kind of prayer the Apostles prayed for and therefore it should be a priority in our prayer life as well.

    Paul knew that without God’s power he could do nothing. Even Jesus told us so:

    John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

    Paul understood who had to give him the power to preach and teach God’s word, Paul understood that all of the power to open the doors for the preaching of the Gospel come from God and not from his own ingenuity, ability or intelligence or pragmatism.

    These are instead what most of today’s church count on. Much of today’s church does not call upon God to empower it to preach and teach the Gospel and God’s word, today a lot of the church counts on their own ability, understanding, intelligence and worse of all pragmatism and methodology to promote the truth of God.

    Much of today’s church does not call upon God’s power and His sovereignty for the opening of the doors for the spreading of the Gospel, rather they call upon new worldly methods to bring about God’s will to come to pass. Can you really believe this? This is foolish thinking and lack of faith and mostly they demonstrate having no fear of the Lord in all this.

    If and when we trust man, we trust man’s ability and man’s methods we will always remain weak and never have the power from above to do God’s work. The foundations of the works done in this fashion will always be hay, wood and stubble and not precious metals and precious stones and this type of foundation and work will be burned up by God’s judgment of believers works.
    See 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.

    Look at the other times Paul asks for prayer for this same thing:

    Colossians 4:3-4 Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:4 That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

    2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: 2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

    As we see in these two passages Paul asks that the church pray for him and for the other ministers so that God would open to them a door to preach and speak the Gospel and as he asked prayer in Ephesians 6 to manifest it as he ought to.

    In the second passage we read, we see Paul again asking for prayer for the minsters of the Gospel, so that the word of God might have free course and be glorified in other places as it had been there.

    We clearly see that Paul asks for prayer so that the Gospel ministers preach and teach as they should, this means to preach and teach according to how God desires, to preach and teach with boldness and power and pray for doors to be opened and ways to be made for the Gospel to advance and spread.

    Once again in verse 1 of the 1 Thessalonians 3 passage we understand that the end result of preaching the Gospel, teaching God’s word with power and boldness and making God’s word advance as we already explained before is to glorify God.
    I repeat that the glory of God is the end of all ministry and all Christian life both on earth as well as in eternity, the glory of God is the goal! This ought to be our only motivation in life and ministry.

    However in verse two of 1 Thessalonians 3 we see that there is another prayer request Paul makes and that is that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

    The same kind of prayer request is found also in chapter 15 of Romans

    Romans 15:30-31 Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; 31 That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints;

    and in:

    Philippians 1:19-20 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.

    From these three passages we arrive to various conclusions.

    The first thing I would like you to notice is that there is yet another connection to Paul’s request with the way Jesus told us to pray in the Lord’s prayer in the part when He taught us to pray to God to deliver us from evil.

    The second thing I want you to notice is that we can clearly understand that there are unreasonable and wicked men and that Paul declares these men do not have faith, and Paul actually claims that not all men have faith.

    This fact flies in the face of the promoters of the doctrine that God gives faith to all men in order to believe the Gospel. From this passage alone we understand this is not the case at all.

    Paul asks to pray for him so that he may be delivered from the hands of wicked people. He asks the same thing in both passages we just read. The passages both confirm that there are men who are wicked and unbelieving, in other words without faith.

    So it is not wrong to pray against evil people. There are many biblical misunderstood subjects in the church and this is one of them. Another one is the one we will be tackling in the next chapter of Romans in other words what it really means to submit to governing authorities.

    There are abuses of this concept from both sides of the spectrum. It is not God’s will to always be defiant and rebellious to governing authorities but it’s not at all always God’s will to submit to them in all and every case.

    This concept of praying against evil people and to be protected from them is definitely God’s will. In the church we have been often witnessing how it is taught that the believer always and in all things must submit to the earthly governing authorities. This is not the case at all!

    We also have been taught that we must love our enemies and rightfully I have to say that we must as it is a commandment of the Lord Jesus Himself,

    Matthew 5:44-48 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

    This is a very clear and concise commandment, there is no confusion at all as to hat Jesus is saying to us here.

    When it comes to our personal dealing with a wicked person even someone who spitefully uses us and persecutes us we have to show them good and not evil, in fact this is also what the closing verses of Romans 12 exhort us to do:

    Romans 12:17-21 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

    Once again let’s be very careful as to how we interpret this passage, this speaks of avenging ourselves of wrongs done to us but this in no way shape or form means a believer does not have the right to defend his family, his neighbor or himself, we are not speaking of self defense here but on avenging ourselves and that was exactly what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 5.

    This passage does not at all mean that if you have a home invasion you must invite the invader to sit and have dinner. This is talking about having relationships with people who may be rude and even nasty with us or and especially hostile because of our faith, to treat them with love and kindness, not to do evil against them or use the same type of behavior they use toward us.

    This also means not to avenge ourselves when a more serious wrong is done to us but to let justice be done by the governing authorities or even by God. Vengeance belongs to God, He will repay and He will do it the right way and do it fairly. When we avenge ourselves we usually do so by inflicting a much greater punishment that is otherwise deserved. In other words we have a very hard time exercising fair and equal justice for the wrong committed. However, God is not like that He is just and fair in exercising His justice and judgment.

    Again this does not mean that we as believers cannot defend ourselves, our family or our neighbors, in fact if we don’t we are cowards and cowards are not looked upon with favor by God. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves and this means laying down and risking our lives for them, especially our family and brothers and sisters in Christ.

    If someone strikes us personally we must not retaliate but if someone threatens to take our life or the life of others and we have the means we should protect life, always!

    So loving our enemies is a much greater subject than just allowing wicked people to just do anything and all things to us and get away with it.

    In a personal sense, if our life is not in danger of being taken we should let the evil person do what they will and we should treat them with kindness.

    However, since we are talking about praying for them let’s see what this means in reality.

    To pray for evil people is, as I had already said one time before, a double edged sword in a sense.

    We can pray against the evil person and for the evil person! This is another confirmation that the doctrine of sovereign election is true and real and that God is sovereign in everything, especially the salvation of people and the execution of God’s mercy or judgment is up to Him.

    We do not know who the elect of God are, we have no way to know, but God knows His own
    2 Timothy 2:19 and those who have been elected from before the foundation of the world.

    We can pray for mercy and we can pray for God’s judgment and in both cases we are praying God’s will. We must be ready and willing to forgive and pray for mercy but we can ask God to judge those who wrong us because if they are not elected to salvation they are indeed destined for God’s judgment and that is exactly what they will get.

    All the imprecatory Psalms in which we read prayers to God asking for judgment on one’s enemy are not against God’s will, they may very well be exactly what God wants to do and will do.

    However, we must always leave our hearts open to God’s mercy, we can ask God for justice and judgment but we cannot hate our enemies and we must be ready to show them mercy and love if and when God requires it.

    Look at what Jesus also said when he told this parable and it also makes the point we are trying to make here:

    Luke 18:1-8 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; 2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: 3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. 4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. 6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. 7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? 8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

    What we see here is the same kind of prayers we find in a lot of the Psalms we mentioned before. The widow seeks justice from a judge to avenge her of her enemies and she persisted until the judge gave her justice.

    Jesus did not at all deny this prayer nor did He just and only use it to make a point on perseverance of prayer although that is a point here. He also clearly tells us that when and if we pray in the same way God will definitely avenge us if we persist in asking Him.

    So what we have here is, yes the encouragement in not giving up in praying and persevering in prayer until we get the answer but it also shows us clearly that we are talking about is God avenging and bringing justice for His elect against their enemies.

    That this type of prayer is valid in the New Testament as well as in the Old is clearly confirmed for us in:

    Revelation 6:9-10 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

    So we can see clearly that we can and should pray against wicked men and as Paul clearly states that many, perhaps the majority of people are and will be without faith and will not believe in Christ.

    It is legitimately within God’s will to pray against evil people!

    Moving on to prayer, we see that there is more priority about praying for spiritual needs and eternal issues than earthly needs and worldly issues.

    All the prayers we find mentioned in the New Testament are regarding spiritual things, these are the things that are the most important to God, in fact in the famous passage we looked at before, in other words the Sermon on the Mount, right after the Lord’s prayer Jesus said:

    Matthew 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

    As we saw even later on in that same chapter, Jesus clearly states not to worry or be anxious about our earthly needs but to be concerned with God’s Kingdom and His righteousness instead.

    Let’s look at the rest of the prayers mentioned in the New Testament and let’s see what the focus is in those prayers.

    Ephesians 3:14-19 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

    Philippians 1:9-10 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; 10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;

    Colossians 1:9-13 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; 12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

    Romans 10:1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.

    This last passage needs a little clarification. This passage does not mean that we can and should pray for the salvation of entire nations as nations. What Paul is praying actually was for the national salvation of Israel that is the actual readmission of Israel in the New Covenant, this in fact is what Paul speaks in detail in Romans 11.

    This is also speaking in an eschatological way the prayer for the desire of the Kingdom of God to come to full fruition and completion on earth, the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and the establishment of God’s earthly kingdom.

    Again, we see another connection here with the Lord’s prayer when He tells us to pray “ Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

    1 Timothy 2:1-4 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

    This last passage needs some clarification as well. Paul is exhorting the church to pray for all men and for the governing authorities, but what is the real motive of this exhortation and prayer?

    So that we, the church, believers, may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

    This is acceptable in the sight of God, meaning it’s God’s will and the bottom line is that verse 4 is not a blanket statement that God actually desires every single person to be saved, although I am sure He would like that all people would and could believe in Jesus and repent, but God cannot desire into willing something He knows will not happen.

    What this verse is saying in its context instead is this, God desires that we pray to live in a society that can be and is friendly to the Gospel’s cause so that the Gospel can advance and spread and the church’s life can be more productive, so that the idea of God desiring all men to be saved is the same concept as Jesus claimed in John 3:16, God wanted to save the elect of all nations not just Israel! God loves the world in the sense that He wants to have the elect belonging to all nations in His Kingdom.

    Hence God desires that all men be saved, that is the exact meaning and context.

    As we have seen without getting into it in detail, the passages we just read above are all focusing on spiritual and eternal issues and not earthly and temporal needs and especially wants.

    The only type of prayer mentioned that has apparent physical connotations and requests is found in James 5, however even this prayer has a spiritual element.

    James 5:14-16 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. 16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

    This is not a prohibition for all believers to pray for the sick, not at all! It is God’s will that we pray for the healing of the sick, however not to demand healing but to ask God for it.

    This particular passage is an ecclesiastical mandate for the call of the elders of the church to come and pray for the sick believer. In fact it is the sick person who is encouraged to call upon the elders to come and pray and anoint them with oil. There is, as we see though, a spiritual connection in this prayer also and it is this one, often, not always but often, a person’s sickness can be connected with their sin. Healing is sometimes both spiritual and physical and as I said often the two are connected.

    In fact we are exhorted to pray for each other in order to receive healing.

    This Scripture also confirms that it is prayer and not the gift of healing the procedure for the church in order to obtain healing, both physical and spiritual.

    We find nowhere mentioned in any Epistle where the church is to use the gift of healing on believers rather, as we clearly see it is prayer we must use, the elders’ prayer in particular but also the prayer of the believers as well.

    In the New Testamentary record we find rare instances where the gift of healing is mentioned to bring healing in the lives of believers.

    Yet in some of today’s church, especially in the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements where the gift of healing is sought after as if it was gold as well as the speaking in so called tongues.

    I would invite those who believe this to be the way healing is to be obtained in the church to check carefully the New Testament Scriptures besides the Gospels and find where the gift of healing was the normal procedure to heal the believers in the church.

    One specific passage as far as I am concerned really must lead us to rethink this gift of healing concept and the passage is this one:

    2 Timothy 4:20 Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.

    Let’s think about this passage for a moment! Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ was supplied by God’s grace as all Apostles were, with all the spiritual gifts available. Paul surely had the capability of exercising the gift of healing as he had so many times before.

    However, upon whom did he and all other Apostles exercise this gift? On the multitudes and I am venturing to say that they were all still unbelievers at the time the miracles occurred. Even in Jesus’ case, how many of the multitude of people He healed actually were believers in Him?

    Not so many, as a manner of fact the ones that were and later stayed believers received the healing before they were believers not after.

    So now Paul the number one miracle worker Apostle says, he left a brother in the Lord, Trophimus, in Miletum and not only he left him there he left him there sick.

    Now, one has to ask themselves, if Paul had the gift of healing and he did, if the gift of healing in every case that it was practiced worked, and it did, if the gift of healing was a church procedure to heal believers according to the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement then why did Paul leave this brother sick?

    Did he try but the gift didn’t work? No! That is not only improbable rather impossible to be so. Did Paul love his brother in the Lord? Of course he did, so then why did he leave him there sick then?

    By this process we come to a very simple and clear conclusion that is confirmed by all of New Testamentary Scripture, especially the epistles, the Apostolic gift of healing was not a sign or gift to be practiced on believers in the church.

    If it was, wouldn’t Paul use it to heal his brother Trophimus? Of course he would have, he would not have thought twice to do so and if he did the brother would have been healed.

    In the church it is the prayer of faith that brings healing to the believers, both physical as well as spiritual. In addition God does not guarantee our physical healing in all and every case!

    It is a myth created by the faith movement that if we believe it God has to do it! No He does not!

    By the way one the famous Scripture they use to make their point, in other words

    “ by His stripes we are healed”

    is not at all a blanket Scripture to claim healing and that which causes God to have to comply to heal us.

    If it were so then again Paul would have used his gift of healing to heal Trophimus.

    The verse in question must be seen in the context in which we find it.

    The original context of this verse is found in:

    Isaiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

    The context of the entire passage of Isaiah 53 talks about the forgiveness of our sins and our salvation, look at the verse in which this famous misused quote is found:

    He, Jesus, was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities and God’s punishment to make peace between us and God was placed on Him.

    This all has to do with the forgiveness of our sins by what Jesus endured in our stead and that Jesus made peace between us sinners and God by punishing Him in our place and for these reasons and by His wounds and stripes we receive spiritual healing. This passage has all to do with spiritual healing not so much physical.

    I will concede this point about this passage and healing and it is perfectly in line with the James 5 passage on prayer and healing, and it is this one, some, not all, sickness can be connected with sin in us and by confessing those sins can bring about physical healing as well.

    1 Corinthians 11:28-31 8 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

    James 5:14-16 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. 16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

    However, this is not at all the only reason why people get sick, not all sickness is connected and linked to sin.

    There are some examples in Scripture, such as:

    John 9:1-3 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? 3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

    Here we have a very clear instance that confirms that not all sicknesses or all infirmities are due to sinfulness and the confirmation comes from our Lord’s mouth.

    Luke 8:43-44 And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, 44 Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.

    There is no connection to sin in this woman’s life and her illness.

    Luke 13:11-13 And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. 12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. 13 And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

    Luke 13:16 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?

    These women had no connection to specific sinfulness in their lives which caused these physical problems.

    All we need to do is remember Job, when he was tempted the second time it was not because of his own sin that he became ill but as in the case of this last woman, Satan caused these illnesses in these people for other reasons.

    Job 2:3-7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. 4 And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. 5 But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. 6 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. 7 So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.

    As we see therefore there are several reasons why sickness is a part of a believer’s life.

    It’s a common ill of mankind, it can be connected to sinfulness or it might be for God’s purposes and His reasons, in order to manifest His glory through the sickness or it could be Satanic oppression.

    In the end all reasons fall in the spectrum of God’s will because in every case God is and will be glorified through them.

    Now that we have examined a fairly thorough study on how we should pray according to God’s word and we clearly have seen how often our prayer life does not at all reflect how God really intends that we should pray.

    Understanding this subject is very important because it will shift our prayer focus away from our earthly needs and onto our spiritual needs as well as focusing on the things upon which God places more importance and higher priority.

    All this is as important if not more important than how we ought to pray. How we ought to pray in other words, with perseverance and diligence is very important but as we clearly see what we pray for in these ways is more important still.

    Now let’s move on to the next verse:

    Romans 12:13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

    This first part of the verse can be connected in context and content to verse 8 where Paul mentions giving.

    Biblical New Testamentary giving and distributing for necessities is an interesting subject.

    We have already talked about some of it when we studied verse 8 however that part mentioned how we should be in our giving, this passage instead gives us the reasons for our giving in the church.

    In the church today, as we did also mention before, giving has become something very different from what it was in the early church’s life.

    Today a lot of churches almost force people to give through the resurrection of an Old Testament commandment given by God to Israel, in other words tithing.

    We saw in our study already that tithing is not for the New Testament church but only and exclusively for Israel.

    We also have talked about the error there is in today’s church, in other words to have constructed a whole church system that revolves around building programs and their maintenance as well as paying bills and salaries of full time church workers.

    I have been in many churches already through out my Christian life and I have seen first hand how these churches are being managed to understand that almost all the money generated in the church is hardly ever enough to support the Biblical term of distributing for the needs of the saints.

    Why is this, one may ask?

    Because the church has been constructed to be a system that God never intended it to be.

    Let me say this about this statement, I do not at all mean to say that God does not bless His church in spite of the mistakes we make, God will adjust His blessings to equal our faithfulness and also to our desires to do His will on earth. In other words God will continue to do His work through His church in spite of His church’s disobedience, sinfulness and unfaithfulness.

    However, God will reward every believer based on the level of our own personal faithfulness and obedience to His word. What I am saying is that there is no communal reward for entire denominations or church assemblies or at least that is what I understand from Scripture.

    The passages from where we understand this are the following:

    1 Corinthians 3:9-17 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. 16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

    This is the clearest and most detailed Scripture from where we understand this reward concept and we clearly see that Paul speaks about individuals not groups. Even in his description of God’s temple as being the church we understand the description to be individual and not collective.

    Other passages form where we get the same concept are the following:

    Romans 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

    2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

    Even in Revelation when Jesus dictates His letters to the churches the message is given to the chief elder or pastor of each particular church, Revelation 2:1; Revelation 2:8; Revelation 2:12;
    Revelation 2:18; Revelation 3:1; Revelation 3:7; Revelation 3:14; so even here we see that Christ’s letters and instructions are given to the individuals responsible of leading each particular church.

    Granted what we clearly understand from these letters are two very important things, the first one is that how the leaders lead is how the entire church will eventually walk. So it is a much greater responsibility to be a pastor/elder because God holds them responsible for the direction of the entire flock of God.

    The second thing that we understand is that God does all this without excluding the responsibility of all and each member of each church individually.

    When the church was born God made it so that the body of Christ would meet in homes. I know we already talked about this before but I believe we need to address this subject again because it is a very important subject and has to do with this very subject of giving.

    God never gave instruction anywhere in His word that the church should meet in buildings outside of homes.

    Inherently, meeting in public worship buildings is not sinful, however it impairs greatly the church from functioning as it should or better how God intended it to function.

    The reasons why the church met in homes is because by doing so the church would not incur in expenses in order to be able to meet.

    Meeting in homes was and is still important because in doing so there are no expenses that need to be transferred onto the congregation or at least if there are they are minimal and not major.

    For the congregation there is no rent to pay, there are no utility bills to pay, no salaries for office workers and pastors. A home is open to offer the possibility to meet in it without imposing any burden on the entire church.

    This also frees the money people can give when and if there is a real and particular reason to give and here we are about the verse we are studying, it tells us to distribute for the needs of the needy believers.

    This also gives the church the possibility to ascertain if there is a real need to provide for but it also gives a real possibility to take care of the legitimate needs there could be in believers’ lives without having to overburden anyone.

    Why did the church change the location of where it meets from homes to outside public buildings?

    The main reason originates in the change that occurred in the church when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire and the pagan way of worship was adopted by the church as the church became a hybrid system of worship.

    The church lost its Apostolic roots and it began to lean heavily on pagan rituals and ways. One of the pagan worship ways of worship was to worship in a general temple and that is what the church began to do as well.

    From that time on the church left the practice of meeting in homes and began building Christian temples, we have been calling those temples churches or places of worship, or cathedrals etc.

    Clearly Scripture says that the actual temple of God in the New Testament, in other words the temple of the Holy Spirit, is the actual physical body of each believer.

    1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5.

    Where the church meets in reality has in reality no bearing on what or where the actual and real temple of God is, God’s temple is every believer and together we form the church. The building is not the temple of God or where God dwells, we believers are!

    The location therefore is not a factor from that stand point, however there are very good and specific reasons why God preferred and still prefers the church to meet in homes rather than in big outside public buildings.

    Even Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman made it clear that it would no longer be a temple or even a mountain nor would it be Jerusalem where believers would worship God rather He said:

    John 4:21-24 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

    Clearly we understand that location in itself would no longer be of importance in the way we worship God, neither location nor form or ritual in worship would be important, rather being born again of the Spirit would be essential and worshiping God would be done through a person’s spirit and in accordance to God’s truth.

    So, why did God choose homes as the best place to meet?

    One might say that according to everything I said that it is perfectly alright to meet in worship centers because location is no longer important.

    In a way that is true, however, there are, as I said very good reasons why God chose homes and I believe desired and still desires that His church meet in homes.

    God’s reasons of why we should meet together is not only to practice church as we have been accustomed to practice church today, in other words, in most churches the service is comprised of praise and worship music and then preaching, lately with the latter waning down more and more.

    Other activities as well are added outside the main service such as Sunday school for adults and children.

    However let’s look at what they actually did in the early church when they met in homes.

    Acts 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

    Meeting in early New Testament home churches was a very simple set up, the met and Apostolic doctrine was taught, they had fellowship and celebrated the Lord’s supper and spent time praying.

    First of all let me say that today in church we are used too see many things done but in many cases these simple and important things are even neglected, church has become much too complicated and fancy, church has become more like an entertainment center than what is described in the passage we just read.

    Further in Acts we see this written:

    Acts 2:46-47 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

    Now it is expected that at this point someone will say “ see, it says that they daily went to the temple”!

    However, what does this actually mean? What was the temple in question? It was the Jewish temple!

    Let’s remember that up until this point all believers in Christ were Jewish and they still thought, even the Apostles thought, that they had to keep the law and be Jewish to be Christian, therefore they still went to worship in the Jewish temple, however it clearly says that they began to meet in the believer’s homes as well.

    We also understand that it was not, would have not been a good practice on part of the Jewish believers to allow Gentile believers in the temple, we saw how this actually stirred up dissension and trouble for Paul. Acts 21:28-31

    So it is evident by the passages we read as well as other passages that the home was where the church met in those days and even for many centuries later.

    As I mentioned this was until between the years 313 AD and 380 AD when Christianity first was legalized (313 AD) and then when Christianity became the replacement for paganism in 380 AD, although paganism ended however incorporating paganism with Christianity made it become synchretism, in other words an amalgam of Christianity and pagan practices. This is actually when the world began to enter into the church and never stopped since.

    Since this time and onward as we already said, churches and cathedrals were built and also once pagan temples became places of Christian worship instead of the home.

    Early church though, both when it was entirely Jewish and even when it also incorporated Gentiles met in homes. Acts 2:46; Acts 5:42; Acts 8:3; Acts 12:12; Acts 20:20; Romans 16:5;1 Corinthians 16:19.

    As we clearly see the church met in homes, in fact Paul often refers to church congregations as the house of so and so, several times he does this: 1 Corinthians 1:11; 1 Corinthians 16:15; 2 Timothy 1:16.

    It is therefore very evident that this was the early church place of meeting, prayer and worship.

    So when did God tell His church to change this way of meeting? Actually He never did, the church decided to do so on its own, but why?

    Besides what we already saw, in other words the adoption of pagan customs, the other main reason was mostly for convenience.

    Besides adopting the pagan style of worship we find that for the Christians in this stage of Roman Empire life the building of elaborate and magnificent temples, churches or cathedrals was a way to build something great and honorable for God.

    After all, if pagan Gods who were not God at all had beautiful and elaborate worship buildings why should not the real God have such and even better places?

    So what we have now is a loss of the intimate family environment which God desires His children to have and a switch to a more formal and eventually liturgical approach to worship.

    All this however allowed Christianity from that time on to become cold and ritualistic and yes even religious.

    God always desires that His church, His children be a family and have an intimate familiar structure. Unfortunately by leaving the intimacy of homes to meet in public worship setting does cut down a lot on the intimate and familiar structure God desires that we have.

    In addition the construction of public worship buildings implies that much more money is needed for the construction and maintenance of such buildings.

    While the Empire subsidized the expenses and provided the money and resources to build and maintain such buildings this may have not been a problem, yet as time went on, especially after the Reformation church building structures became much more burdensome expenses for the believers.

    In addition to all this add the fact that the clergy became a profession instead of a vocation and this added further burdens on the church.

    What we see developed in often cases even today are elaborate and expensive buildings that resemble more five star hotels than churches.

    In addition the maintenance of such buildings becomes very complex and expensive. Then you add to all this an entire staff, pastoral and administrative and you have yourselves a recipe for financial disaster.

    I order to support such a church one must have a big congregation but even smaller church buildings become financially burdensome for those who attend church.

    Nowhere in Scripture do we understand that being pastors or elders gave entitlement to receive a salary nor were the believers in the early Apostolic church period required to give money for the maintenance and or the construction of worship centers.

    In fact we understand from the book of Acts and the Epistles that money in the church should never have been an issue at all and that the money that was raised in any event was for the provision of the poor, widows and orphans in the church.

    Even Jesus condemned the Jewish people in His days of having turned God’s temple into a den of thieves. What was going on in fact then was what is unfortunately going on in most churches today. God’s temple should have been a house of worship for all people and yet they were doing commerce in the house of God. As we understand from Scripture, God hated this in His temple and still does today in the church.

    This commercialization of the church I believe has happened because the church has left its home based meetings and has gone out of the home and family and this opened the doors to build the church up into a system more resembling a corporation than a family.

    Even for this reason the pastors, pastoral staff and office staff in the church as well as all those who are connected to the church for works, such as maintenance companies of various types become a great financial burden for the congregation.

    This is the same as big government, where salaries, benefits and expenses make up most of what the money is needed for.

    When and if the church met or still today meets in homes all this need for money did not and does not exist and when and if there was and there is a real legitimate and biblical need the money was and still can be more easily available.

    Squeezing money out of the congregation by resurrecting the Old Testamentary law of tithing is one way with which a lot of churches raise money today, yet a lot of the money raised as I said, goes to pay salaries and benefits of those who work in the church and to maintain the usually expensive maintenance of these usually fancy buildings.

    It’s obvious, the bigger the church the greater the expenses and therefore greater the need to raise money, but every church which does not meet in homes has expenses that I firmly believe God wanted to avoid the church to have.

    Do we for a moment think that God wanted to burden His children with a load of expenses that were not necessary? I don’t believe so! It does not sound like God and it does not reflect what is written in God’s word to the church.

    Even in our own personal individual and family life God holds us responsible for our stewardship regarding our money and our time as well.

    If we are all honest with ourselves and with God we can easily admit that we are not at all as faithful as we should be with these things. We overspend on ourselves and we unfortunately waste a lot of time as well, both our money and our time should instead be better spent for God and to seek the eternal things and the things concerning His kingdom on earth, that is what we have seen at length when we studied the subject of prayer in the previous verse we studied.

    We spend way too much money and time on ourselves than on the things that matter to God. Most of the time we rationalize about how we spend money and time but that is all it is I fear, rationalizing and justifying trying to find Biblical reasons to back us up.

    While it would appear that the church building and associated expenses and staff salaries are things related to the Kingdom of God and they might even be considered such, however how we spend the money in the Kingdom of God is as important as why we spend it.

    Let’s just imagine this for a moment: if Christians for all these centuries were taught to do what the Apostles taught and to do church in the same way and with the same motivations the church had in its early days probably Jesus would have returned already and no believer in the church would have been needy. We would have been evangelizing with greater power and efficacy because the Gospel would have truly been backed up with true Agape love and with true obedience to God’s word and a much better way we could have invested our money in the eternal Kingdom of God.

    We must remember what Jesus said:

    John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

    Although the elect to salvation will be saved through the Gospel anyway, however what is important to remember is that all believers and church leaders as well will be judged on the works they have done for God and receive rewards when and if they are found faithful to God’s word and directions.

    Therefore how we do things is more important even than if we do them because we can do things but do them in the wrong way.

    God is glorified through and in a church that loves one another as Christ loved us. Jesus says that all men will know that we are His disciples IF we have love for one another.

    This by the way in all honesty does not mean that all men will be saved just because we love one another, that simply means that our witness will give so much more glory to God and it will also mean that we will indeed be practicing God’s love toward one another which is what God desires we do nad it would best displayed in the process of taking care of each others needs when indeed there are genuine needs.

    We love each other by supplying for the needs we have whether they are spiritual in nature or they are physical ones.

    When they indeed are genuinely needs and not wants!

    As I said many times before, I firmly believe that there is such a thing as God’s perfect will and then there is His permissive will. God most of the time does not force His children to do things His way although when He permits us to do them our way and not His way there is also His discipline and chastisement to go through Hebrews 12:5-11.

    If and when we react positively to God’s discipline and chastisement and turn from our ways to do things His way, then He relents in the length and intensity of His chastisement.

    If we continue in our stubborn ways then we will continue to endure His discipline until we either change or else we will endure it always!

    The church at large has therefore dived into doing things much in her own way, leaning on her own understanding and exercising and practicing Christianity in its own way rather than continuing in the pattern set by Him in the beginning at the time of her purest and unadulterated existence.

    I stated it before in the study that many currents in today’s church claim they want to return to the ways of the church of Acts. This would certainly be a very noble and great mission if they wanted to actually return to doing all things as the early church did.

    However, sadly all they really mean when they say this is that they simply believe that the church should practice miracles, signs and wonders as in the beginning, they really mean that they want to ordain and nominate apostles and prophets but they never want to go back and practice all the other works the early church practiced.

    Some of the works the early church did was comprised in taking care of the needs of its poorer members, they were in fact taking care of widows and orphans and they were meeting in homes rather than in public places of worship.

    The church today almost entirely neglects to practice these particular things.

    Instead the church is enamored as I said in trying to conjure up signs and miracles and healing, speaking in tongues, which are not at all the same practiced in that day, nominating apostles and prophets although as we clearly understand these offices in the church are no longer active and for this very reason even the signs and wonders are gone also because they indeed they were mainly if not all connected to the office and person of the Apostles.

    2 Corinthians 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.

    The church today is also very, very involved in seeking to entertain its members with various activities that are basically very similar to worldly activities and in a lot of cases just outright worldly and not at all things with which the church should concern itself.

    Certainly almost all the activities church practices today are not at all what the early church practiced.

    Why does the church today not want to follow the whole early apostolic pattern of church life?

    They have a million excuses and justifications to go around yet none of them really hold up nor can any of them be justified.

    We are saying all this because there is hypocrisy in the way a lot of the church sees and interprets Scripture and actually obeys it or not.

    I said many times before that one of the great problems the church has it the practice of pragmatism.

    Pragmatism as you should know, is a philosophy that did not ever exist in the church until it reared up its ugly head in our modern culture and society and the church as in most cases has been guilty of, has adopted this worldly philosophy together with many others.

    Yet the Scriptures clearly warns the church not to indulge in the practice of worldly philosophies and ideologies.

    Pragmatism is a philosophy in which the methodology is always justified as long as it produces the intended results or at least it appears to produce the intended results.

    It’s a very subtle and dangerous philosophy especially when it is adopted by the church. This ideology is a great cause of many things that are wrong with and in the church. One of the worse things it produces is false conversions. Many people who are sitting in churches today are not born again believers because pragmatism becomes the Gospel and also the power that was exercised to attract them to that particular church. In these churches though often the true Gospel and the true word of God are not even preached nor taught.

    These are the churches that have a semblance of spirituality but are totally devoid of the power of the Holy Spirit.

    They may have been at one time a genuine and true church but because they began to lean on their own understanding and adopting worldly philosophies they ultimately put the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s word on the back burner and in many cases almost abandoned them completely.

    This caused a lot of the modern church to be considered in fact modern, because it has indeed adopted worldly practices and has abandoned the Apostolic traditions and instructions found in New Testamentary Scriptures.

    So pragmatism can be good in drawing people into a church, but it’s never good to save those people. Attracting people with worldly philosophies and ways cannot ever produce real conversions especially when the real Gospel and true word of God are not even preached or taught in those places.

    The needs of the church members in the modern church who are the most needy often have to take a back seat or at best they are not one of the main works practiced in the church, not any longer.

    Yet, in the church’s early existence taking care of its most needy members was a main work.

    Acts 2:42-47 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

    Here we clearly see in this passage what the early traditions and practices of the church were. The priorities were not on entertainment nor on constructing elaborate public worship centers where they could meet.

    Instead they met in believers’ homes to gather for the teaching of God’s word, to fellowship and dine together as well as celebrating the Lord’s supper and to pray.

    These were the priorities in the church and nothing else. The early believers loved God and loved each other so much and they were so thankful that they actually practiced their giving in a way that is unseen in today’s church.

    They gave in such an unselfish way that they actually shared in the sale of their possessions to benefit the less fortunate believers. They did this to the point that people would sell their additional possessions and goods to give the proceeds to them to those who had greater need.

    Let me ask you, when and where, in what church do we ever see this type of unselfish love and generosity practiced today?

    We see this nowhere, and practically never!

    We have become so pathetically selfish to the point where real unselfish and sacrificial love is just about non existent in today’s church. I really hate to say this but it’s mostly true!

    Of all the works the church of Acts practiced I wonder why no one wants to practice any longer.

    There is absolutely no reason why and yet there are in reality many, many reasons why the church doesn’t do this any longer.

    Love in the church has grown colder, believers have become increasingly selfish and have withdrawn from the community mindset while they have plunged themselves in an individual Christianity mindset.

    This selfish attitude is very common today because of many reasons. However I believe that this has happened mainly because the main emphasis in the church has abandoned the family and community mindset and has concentrated almost all its financial resources in affording big, comfortable five star facilities for public worship as well as having to raise a lot of money to pay full time staff workers.

    All these things did not actually exist in the early church therefore it was much easier to find money to help people in need. This is what the church should have concentrated all its efforts, in other words doing the same things the church did in the beginning, placing the priorities on the spiritual growth and the well being of church members just as we would do for one of our own family members, in fact if we are honest with ourselves and God, our church family actually should have the highest priority being that our relation with one another is through God’s Spirit, we are the family of God, the body of Christ and yet and still almost always the family of God is neglected so much more than our physical biological family, especially the part of our earthly family who actually is not even born again and not members of the body of Christ.

    Unfortunately more times than ever church family becomes secondary to most believers. In fact in many cases the church has also swallowed the deceptive pill that causes them to end up showing more love and interest to unbelievers than toward believers.

    They often shower unbelievers with excessive love thinking that this is is what God has commanded them to do, but it is not.

    They also think that if they shower unbelievers with a lot of love they would be more accepting of the Gospel, many actually think that showing great love to unbelievers is evangelizing, well, I have some very bad news for them, it is not the equivalent of evangelizing at all.

    We have clearly seen in Scripture that evangelizing is, first of all done by special people called to do so persons called evangelists, secondly the only valid and acceptable way an evangelist evangelizes is by preaching the Gospel, there is no other way.

    The Apostles and evangelists in the early church did not go and shower unbelievers with deeds of charity and love, they preached the Gospel to them and then when they became believers and members of the family of God, members of the body of Christ, then they showered them with love, not the other way around.

    Nowadays a lot of the church does things backwards, they shower the unbelievers with great love and concern and then when they become believers they actually neglect them and do not show them biblical love. In fact they shower love and are charitable to the unsaved while they seem aloof and neglectful to show the same type of love to their brothers and sisters.

    It is insane the way a lot of the church behaves today, it does things contrary to God’s word while they actually think that are doing God’s will.

    It is clear that Jesus commanded the church, His disciples, to love one another with a great love,

    John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

    As we clearly see here Jesus says that the world will understand we are His disciples if we have great love for one another not great love for the world.

    John 15:12-17 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. 16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. 17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.

    Once again this is what Jesus command His disciples, love is to be practiced in the church, the family of God.

    Am I now saying that we should not behave in a loving way toward the unsaved at all?

    No I am not saying this, obviously Jesus told us to even show love to our enemies as well, however the brand of God’s deep and unselfish love is to be first and foremost practiced in the church among believers.

    Taking care of those whom God wants us to take care of is to be a priority in the church, it’s how we show God’s love.

    Look at what James says:

    James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

    We understand I hope that this passage is exactly what we have now been saying for a while here.

    Real and pure Christianity is to take care of the orphans and widows and to keep ourselves from adopting and practicing worldly behaviors and practices especially but not only the sinful ones, this also includes the world’s philosophies.

    The church in her early years took the care of orphans and widows and the poor believers and they did it seriously.

    By the way, it was not and is not the church’s mission to end world hunger although it is good to help in the endeavor however the call to the church was and is to mostly take care of its own needy members and this is a priority.

    This is exactly what this verse in Romans 12:13 is calling us to do!

    So why does a lot of the church today want to concentrate its efforts in doing many things that ere not even ever mentioned in Scripture and are in fact contrary in many ways to what the early church practiced?

    Why doesn’t today’s church want to be like the church of Acts in these things and also in many other ways that they clearly ignore?

    Why is the church preoccupied, almost obsessively with the miraculous things of the church of Acts and yet choose to ignore the practical ways the church practiced Christian love and mercy?

    The early church was not at all preoccupied in the spiritual miraculous things, those just came without effort in that early church, they did not have to force these things, they did not have to invent them or seek them, they just happened, the focus was not on building programs, turning places of worship into five star facilities with all comforts, the focus was not on paying salaries of pastors and church staff, it was not on selling the Apostles writings for money, the Apostles did not write books and sold them for profit, the Scriptures were sacred and were free.

    The church’s emphasis was solely on sound doctrine, spiritual growth, keeping the world out and practicing love and mercy within the body of Christ. Even music although sparsely mentioned was not at all the main focus in the church as it is today.

    Music today has instead become so much of a main focus and a preoccupation in the church that it has caused actual schisms in churches. It has become such a bone of contention that we can safely say that in many churches today music has become more important than the teaching and preaching of God’s word.

    In some people’s lives it has actually replaced God’s word. Christian music ministries have originated and have actually taken the place of God’s word by using the music ministries to minister to people instead of God’s word.

    I have no qualms with Christian music, good theologically based music, but I see nowhere at all in New Testament Scripture, nowhere in the doctrine for the church where it mentions a music ministry or even a music minister.

    I see the five fold or better the four fold ministries and ministers mentioned in those days in the church we see these things mentioned in:

    Ephesians 4:11-12 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
    In New Testament Scripture we find nothing mentioned as music being a ministry in itself. We know that music was a part of church life but it does not seem to have the emphasis and priority it has in the church today.

    There are two mentions of songs in the church assembly and we find them in:

    Ephesians 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

    Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

    There are also three more different references to singing in the church in the New Testament:
    1 Corinthians 14:15; James 5:13; actually here in James 5:13 James mentions singing Psalms, the actual Psalms which were and are songs for the most part.

    The third reference about singing is actually mentioned when Scripture gives us a glimpse of heaven, we know there is singing in heaven. No one denies that singing is a part of our worship to God and yet in the New Testamentary early church it never transpired as a priority as it is in the church today.

    Today there is an entire industry that was created around Christian music. My question is why is it that everybody always has to make money in order to minister in and to the church?

    How many times instead is the word teaching and doctrine mentioned in the Epistles?

    Teaching is mentioned nine times and doctrine is mentioned 29 times. I believe that to the early church teaching and doctrine were much more important than music.

    Jesus also told His disciples to give freely as they had received all they had received by God freely, Matthew 10:8.

    This thread is in all of Scripture look at what Peter says to the paralytic in Acts 3:

    Acts 3:1-8 Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. 2 And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; 3 Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. 4 And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. 5 And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. 6 Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. 7 And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ancle bones received strength. 8 And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.

    As we clearly see this man was looking for charity in the form of money, however Peter did not even have money to offer him, what He had instead was Christ and His power and His Gospel. That is the emphasis of the church, not so much the miracles but Christ Himself, what Christ can offer is much greater than physical healing, spiritual healing is much more important, in fact spiritual life is what is in view here.

    Let’s remember that all the physical miracles Jesus did and His Apostles performed later, which were still done by the Holy Spirit of Christ, were signs, signs of what God does in the spiritual life of people when they become born again.

    However, Peter tells this man he has no silver or gold but what he had he would give him, he had Christ.

    Today if a person appealed to many ministers and even to believers today they would get a much different answer than what Peter gave this man.

    Today they would probably tell the poor paralytic “ silver and gold I do have but I am not giving it to you” and they would not even be able to give him Christ, the so called Apostles and healers today are not at all like Peter.

    Today they perform fake miracles for a price, imagine Peter telling the paralytic:

    “I’ll heal you if you give me an offering, or if you support my ministry?”

    However that is what they say and do today and in these ministries Christ is not present at all! Christ is not present where deception and greed are!

    This point is to show you the difference between today and then. What is going on in much of Christendom today is shameful and it is not of God.

    Today the church has become much of a business machine and it is more a corporation than a body and a family.

    This is how far we have fallen away from how the church of Acts was, how far we have fallen away from what was a priority and what was important to the early church and still should be today.

    These things never ceased to be important and to be a priority to God yet to the church today they ceased to be important.

    What was important then has been replaced by many things which are not at all important to God, in fact many things which the church deems important today are actually sinful and wrong on God’s eyes.

    Why say all this in this particular subject? I hope you have understood why by now.

    Distributing to the necessity of the saints is today relegated to the back burner and is not a priority as it should be and as we see it is not because of the fact that many, many useless things have taken priority in the church and unfortunately they are all wrong and we have seen the reasons why in this study so far.

    We read in this chapter so far what the instructions and priorities of the church ought to be, but we do not find any of these priorities that the modern church practices.

    The priority in the church is ministering to the saints in many different ways, through teaching, preaching, through loving each other and practicing the love we ought to have for each other, ministering to others by praying, by supplying for the needs of the more needy believers, to show hospitality to each other, to be there for each other in good times and in bad ones. This in fact what the rest of the passage says we ought to be doing.

    Instead today the priorities are the following: building programs, pay for building maintenance and ministers and staff’s salaries and benefits, charging the believers for teachings, books and even Bibles, CDS, DVDS, everything is for sale in the church. All that should be free and must be not charged to have any of that.

    The Apostles understood that they could expect God to bless them through the church, they knew that they could make a living through their ministering of the Gospel but they basically did not do it like they do it today at all.

    They did not expect nor demand that their congregation pay for everything, they did ministry in a different way back then, they did not expect to live in luxury and comfort, they took what was offered them, it could be a meal, it could be being hosted in a home as they traveled, they relied on the willingness and love and capabilities of the people to give them what they could but only when it was needed and when it was done willingly and not by obligation.

    Most Apostles and many, many ministers always worked as well, they did not expect the church to pay their way for everything, they did not have to go and raise support in order to minister to the church.

    Most of them worked jobs, had their own home which they paid for and which they opened up in order to have church in it.

    When they had to travel or visit other local churches they received lodging and meals, in some cases special collections were taken up for them, however the church would mostly take up special collections for those who needed it the most, in other words for the poorer and needier believers.

    Apostles and later elders in the church did not get rich on the back of the church like it often is today, secondly they didn’t ever allow the church to pay them a regular salary.

    In fact one of the prerequisites for being an elder or in church ministry is not to be greedy for money.

    1 Timothy 3:3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous

    Titus 1:7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre

    There are many warnings in Scripture given to elders/ministers to not get into ministry for an earning or in order to make money.

    Titus 1:11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.

    This last passage also has an allusion to the fact that the church met in homes as we see Paul warns Titus that these prosperity Gospel ministers of the day were subverting whole houses, in other words this means that this was where the church met and some were trying to do this for filthy greed.

    Even Peter calls upon the elders not to minister having earnings in sight.

    1 Peter 5:1-2 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

    In the church ministry is to be freely given, as Peter says, willingly, for the good of everyone.

    Ministry and ministers are gifts of God’s grace to the church as they are called and gifted by the Holy Spirit Who is the supreme gift of God to the church. Therefore, as salvation is freely given so are the gifts that come from it.

    When we make merchandise of God’s grace that becomes a sin and as we clearly see in Scriptures, Jesus actually threw out the vendors from the temple because they were perverting God’s temple with their greed.

    I believe that this happens a lot in the church today, even in good churches there is unfortunately an undertone about money that pervades the church. Ministry is a call and a vocation not a profession and is to be treated as a call and vocation and not as a job.

    When a minister does ministry for money he ceases to be a shepherd an becomes a hireling, in other words a mercenary.

    Even Jesus in John 10 warns of these hirelings when He says:

    John 10:12-13 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

    There is no two ways about it, if and when we get into ministry to earn money it is inevitable that money becomes the driving factor in the person’s ministry and the caring for the sheep becomes secondary if not non existent. This fits exactly with what Jesus said about not being able to serve two masters:

    Matthew 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

    You see, you cannot serve God and money and this is a very important factor in ministry.

    I once accepted full time paid ministers in the church as a regular normal thing, but I have learned through time and Scripture that in the beginning of the church this was not so.

    Even though Paul teaches us that ministers could be supported by the fact that they preach the Gospel, yet this concept was and is to be seen in view of all other things Paul is saying about how he and other ministers actually lived.

    1 Corinthians 9:14-18 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. 15 But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void. 16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! 17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. 18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

    Paul understands that it is much better to minister free of charge because this does much good to the minister and to the entire church.

    Look at what Paul says in:

    Acts 20:33-35 I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. 34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. 35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

    As we see here Paul is clear, he did not desire anything, he did not seek to receive remuneration in any way. Paul is saying that his own hands provided for the living he and those with him needed and he, Paul, showed them by example that he labored and he encourages them to so the same in order to support the weak and the poor, because even Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

    This is a pretty astounding declaration on Paul’s part, it clearly destroys the modern church’s theory that a minster is obligated to receive a salary from the church. It actually says the opposite!

    The minister must avoid the temptation to be greedy and we know that many, many ministers in modern church history have stolen and embezzled money from their own congregations.

    In fact the push for mega churches most of the time is not really to build the kingdom of God but most often, not always but often, it is to make the pastors richer and richer and while they live in a lap of luxury or even in a lesser case they have their selves and their families taken care of for life, some in their congregations suffer poverty and in the end get a pittance of help from the church.

    Giving freely and not ministering for money also helps a minister stay focused on the sheep rather than the pay and it helps the ministers care for the sheep for the right reasons and not because they are remunerated for their care and allowing the minister not to serve under compulsion.

    Ministering for money takes away from loving and caring for God’s people because when money stands between the ministering and the people the fullness and purity of the love and care for the people is often not present.

    It’s inevitable, anything at all that revolves around money takes away from true care and genuine ministry.

    Let me give you a real life example of this that has happened to me personally.

    A believer, no names, who supposedly has a music ministry goes around with another believer in churches to minister their Christian music to the body of Christ.

    This person offers their services to come and sing in churches At first I used to think this was a good idea. Unfortunately they minister for a price with a minimum of a 200 dollar fee for them to minster because there is a business contract between the two persons and has to be guaranteed a minimum salary, or fee in addition after that there is to be collected a love offering would be accepted by them as well.

    This angers me I feel this so called ministry cannot ever minister in our church because it’s not a real ministry but a business.

    This business is designed not to minister freely but to make an earning instead.

    One thing would be if they were willing to minister in song and accept a voluntary love offering that a church takes up for them. In Scripture all offerings must be voluntary and willing not forced nor done for fees or stipends.

    One cannot obligate people to pay anything to receive a gift. A gift is a gift, salvation is a gift, the Holy Spirit is a gift, spiritual gifts are just that, gifts. One cannot place a price on a gift of God, what the Holy Spirit gives as we said is part of the gift of God to the church and this cannot be charged for or at least it should not. Ephesians 4:7-12.

    Ministers in the church are gifts of the Holy Spirit to the church, see the previous mentioned passage.

    One gives gifts and does not charge for them, once a price is put on something it ceases to be a gift and it becomes a service or a business transaction. What would be the difference between this ministry and a musical group that sings worldly songs if both charge to sing and play? None, no difference whatsoever!

    This was exactly what the problem was with the money changers and the vendors in the temple that is the reason Jesus threw them out.

    This whole way of doing so called full time ministry today is ludicrous and I believe it is actually outright sinful to expect someone to pay to receive God’s gifts of grace.

    Can you imagine Paul or Peter or anyone in the Bible saying they would go and minister, preach and heal only if the church paid them?

    Yet there are many so called apostles, prophets and healers and preachers and ministers who charge fees and big money to minister. In so many ways all pastors that demand to receive a pay to minister are in that category as well.

    We cannot demand nor negotiate salaries or fees to take care of the flock of God. Freely we have received and freely we should be willing to give of what God blessed us with.

    If and when the church decides on their own that they want to bless their pastors with something they can and probably should and then the gift is acceptable, however to demand that the church pay a minister I do not find it Biblical at all.

    Once again I tell you, this is exactly the reason why in many churches they resurrected the Old Testament tithing rule. This is done to lay on believers an Old Testament commandment given to Israel by which they are constrained to give at least ten percent of what they earn to the church, this is very wrong.

    Tithing is not for the New Testament church, we ought not to lay a guilt trip on people or lay a commandment on the church that does not apply to the church in order to get more money from them.

    This is actually spiritual extortion and it’s spiritual abuse.

    This is exactly why in the New Testament it exhorted to the church to give without compulsion or forcibly but instead to give willingly and from a joyful grateful heart.

    In Scripture there is an episode we should look at that puts all this into perspective for us.

    Let me give you a little background about this passage. Philip the evangelist goes into Samaria guided by the Holy Spirit and he preaches the Gospel and God does many miracles and signs through him. The Samaritans accept the Gospel and thus are included in the church. Philip does this free of charge by the way, he is not getting paid by anyone.

    There was in this place a man called Simon that was a sorcerer and upon seeing the power of God begins to wonder about the power of the Gospel, he is attracted to the power of God that he sees performed through Philip. Now we arrive to the passage that we will read.

    Acts 8:12-23 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. 14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. 18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. 20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. 23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

    As we see Simon believes it says, he is even baptized, he went along with Philip and continued to see the mighty works of God as the Gospel was preached. Simon desires to have that same power of God but even after his declaration of conversion he does not have this power and then he becomes willing to offer money to receive the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Look at what Peter says: 20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. 23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

    Peter outright condemns the fact that Simon believed that the gift of God could be purchased. As you see Peter calls the Holy Spirit the gift of God and indeed He is! We cannot ever charge for anything that the Holy Spirit does because He and His gifts are just that, gifts and they cannot be sold for a price.

    You see even though here it is the person who wants to pay to receive the gift of God, the Holy Spirit, however as we see the sale and the buying of God’s gifts are prohibited and actually severely condemned by Peter.

    This principle must be seen from both sides of the coin, ministry and ministers that are a gift of God’s grace and His gift of gifts the Holy Spirit cannot be bought nor sold.

    One thing is if a church feels blessed enough that wants to give a willing gift to a minister for whatever reasons they have, out of appreciation or perhaps to cover some expenses that that the minister has incurred, it is entirely up to the church to raise a gift as they are known as love offering, because in the end that is what it is, it is given out of love and the generosity of the people who feel blessed not by compulsion or being forced, not by imposition or set fees or salaries.

    In conclusion we see many other passages where the money in the church is used to support provisions for the needy and not for any other thing. As we said before, in the early church, the church of Acts that everyone today seems to want to be like, except for these things, in that church the money was used for needs and the needs were not for building programs, salaries or inter church commerce.

    This exhortation we are studying: distributing to the necessities of the saints is given with all the other passages in mind, such as:

    Acts 4:34-35 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

    This passage is amazing, isn’t it? There was no one who lacked anything because everyone was interested in supplying, not their own individual wants but the needs of those who were poorer than they were. I mean when do we hear of anyone today, and I mean anyone, that has properties and sells them to supply for the needs of the poor in the church?

    In the modern church this is virtually unheard of and if it is it is a rarity and not the norm. However it was the norm in the church back then. I say to those who want to be like the church of Acts, go ahead and be like the church of Acts now!

    Oh but wait, no one wants to be like the church of Acts in this case and in this way do they?!

    Distributing to the needs of the saints is not sponsoring a child in Africa or Asia or South America, as noble as all that is, that is not what it means to take care of widows and orphans and the needy in the church.

    It meant and it means to care for them in the local church first of all, in the immediate local church and then eventually expanding to the others if need be.

    However, you can imagine that if people in the church today actually sold properties and gave the proceeds to distribute to the needy in the church every church would become self sufficient and there would be no needs at all.

    The needs would be constantly covered, this also reminds us again of what Jesus commanded us to do when He said:

    Matthew 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.


    Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

    This also fits perfectly into what Paul said in:

    Philippians 2:1-4 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

    It is so easy for all of us, for all, I include myself in this all of us, so easy to justify why we cannot be like the church of Acts in this way, yet there is no excuse, no justification at all that we can come up with.

    Anything we can say is an excuse because we have way more than we need and we really end up spending almost all that we have on ourselves and then we go around always crying we are poor.

    Our needs are different than our wants and desires and living to be able to afford all we want and even what we cannot afford and get in debt in order to have all we want, even when we cannot afford it. This in the end is selfish living and it is obvious we can later easily say we cannot afford to distribute more for the need of the other saints.

    We waste precious time and much, in fact most of the money we have on ourselves and think very little if anything about others. Yet the Bible does not tell us to live like this, in reality it tells us the opposite.

    Look at what the word of God says about giving to those in need:

    James 2:15-17 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

    1 John 3:16-17 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

    Look at these Scriptures and let’s think about what they say and examine ourselves through them, do we actually love like God wants us to love?

    Do we literally lay down our lives for each other or do we just go about our lives thinking very little if anything about each others’ needs?

    How many times have we been guilty of seeing our brothers and sisters struggle in their needs and how many times did we feel so noble an spiritual by telling them we would pray for them?

    They need food, they need what we already have and all we can say is we will pray for them? It’s good that we do, but what they need is for us to actually be the answer to their prayers.

    We need to put hands, feet and especially our wallets to our prayers, that is exactly the point James and John make.

    It’s not enough to say we will pray for them only and let’s be honest, often if we don’t have the resources to help them it’s only our fault and we probably need to adjust the way we live, we need to change our ways, we need to repent of our selfishness!

    We need to really start loving in truth and in deed and not in word only!

    1 John 3:17-18 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

    Now I hope we have understood what are the obstacles to this exhortation and what it really means distributing for the needs of the saints according to the Scriptures. Now the question remains when called upon and even without are we ready to obey this exhortation?

    Now let’s look at the second exhortation in the second part of this verse:

    Romans 12:13b given to hospitality.

    This exhortation was not placed together with distributing to the needs of the saints by chance. It actually is there because they are actually related to each other.

    Especially in the time Paul wrote this letter hospitality was a very important part of the culture of that day and in the church as well.

    In those days traveling was actually a much more difficult task compared to today. They did not have all the comforts we have when we travel as we do today.

    Itinerant preachers such as Paul and many others traveled from one area of the Roman Empire to another, travel was difficult and it took a long time to go from one place to another compared to today.

    In those days for an Apostle or even a bishop later in church history visiting the local churches was not only a matter of fellowship with other believers but it was the way they made sure that in the local churches the doctrine taught was sound and that the church was living in the way God’s word and His will required. They were, as elders and pastors are today the overseers of the flock of God, in other words the church.

    So again, since the churches met in homes not in public buildings the Apostles and elders usually stayed in the believer’s homes where the church met. They went from home to home and they stayed in those homes as guests of the home owners.

    Although there were inns and hostels in those days it was common as a Christian loving practice to have other believers stay in the homes and not go to inns and hostels.

    Think about this entire situation, and let’s examine it properly.

    In retrospect what did we learn in the study of distributing for the needs of the believers? We saw that in those days as opposed to today the church as it met in homes was much more financially conservative and faithful than today’s church.
    As we saw meeting in homes made the church more able to supply for the needs of other believers because it was much more financially able to do so.

    You see, today even though churches appear to be five star hotels they actually have virtually no capabilities to host traveling saints.

    Today believers who travel from town to town have to rely on staying in hotels for the most part because they are not being hosted in other believer’s homes as they used to do back then.

    This happens to preachers, evangelists and ministers as well as just plain believers. Why?

    Because for the most part the church has ceased to be hospitable, and when I mean church I mean that more often than not believers do not host other believers in their homes.

    Now a days when a preacher or minister visits churches these churches actually prefer to pay for them to stay in a hotel rather than to host them in their homes.

    Think about this for a moment! Why does this happen? Why did the church in Paul’s days and for many centuries even thousands of years hosted believers and ministers in their homes and now it is virtually unseen?

    Simple, and here it is again, since the church now meets in public worship buildings and no longer in homes the church has become more selfish, introverted and individualistic.

    The church lost much of its family mindset and ceased to act as a real family of God. This is in great part due to the fact that it ceased to meet in homes, that was the beginning of the church’s gradual fall into carnality and selfishness and individualism.

    Today many believers live in big and spacious homes and could easily host some traveling believer, in some cases they could even host entire families but they do not. The church would rather spend money to put them up in a hotel than to host them in their homes.

    Let me say, I do realize that perhaps some Christians still offer to be hospitable and host other traveling believers, ministers and missionaries in their homes, but this is becoming increasingly more and more unusual.

    This is why this exhortation is here. It is a reminder to the church not to cease to be hospitable. As we see the church today lacks in obeying many exhortations given in Scripture. Quite frankly I am tired of all the justifications and excuses I hear about not wanting to obey God’s word.

    There are no excuses nor are there any justifications for disobeying God’s word except that we want to disobey it. We either do things God’s ways or our do them our way. Our ways are not His ways and our thoughts are not His thoughts, Isaiah 55:8-9.

    Our ways tend to be carnal and selfish and God’s ways are loving and altruistic. God want us to think of the good of others even above our own but we often seem to be unwilling to do things with God’s type of love.

    It should be our pleasure to obey God yet we become so reluctant to do what God tells us to do. We are unwilling to demonstrate God’s love to one another as God desires. As I said before we have become selfish and unwilling to love each other as Christ commanded us to do.

    This is a very, very disturbing thing however it explains why many things are wrong today in the church. This lack of loving behavior is disturbing, very disturbing.

    Once again, why does not the church want to return to the ways the church of Acts really practiced their faith? Unfortunately as I said this desire to be like the church of Acts is only and exclusively when it comes to performing usually fake signs and miracles, fake healing and speaking in fake tongues, but when it comes to practicing the real love they practiced in those days, forget it, very few in the church today are willing to practice the love that they practiced back then.

    Can you imagine, even an unbelieving family often hosts one of its own in their home, wouldn’t they? Of course they would, would anyone send their children or sibling or even good friends to stay in a hotel? Of course not! It’s almost unheard of!

    Yet in the church, in the family of God we do! Is this normal? No it is not!

    How can we, who are called the family of God, who are God’s children, who are all adopted children of God, who are all brothers and sisters in Christ, who are all members of the same body, the body of Christ act and behave worse than the world does with its own? How is this possible?

    It means that we must not be willing to obey the One we claim to be our Lord, Jesus Christ.

    I want to remind you of what He commanded us:

    John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

    Having said this and it was important to mention it, let’s look at how this practice of being hospitable was practiced in the church.

    Acts 10:5-6 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: 6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.

    Peter was lodging, staying in the home of Simon the tanner. Simon the tanner was being hospitable toward Peter, he did not tell him he loved him and sent him to stay in an inn.

    Watch now what happens right after Peter goes and preaches the Gospel to Cornelius the centurion and his family. They all believe and are baptized and one of the very first things Cornelius asks Peter and the men with him is to stay there as their guests for some days.

    Acts 10:48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

    This is what it means to be hospitable, showing love and affection to other fellow believers. Nowadays they couldn’t have waited until they actually left the house at the very most they would have invited them to stay for dinner and then would have told them goodbye and let them leave.

    Acts 16:12-15 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days. 13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. 14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. 15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

    Even here practically the same exact thing happens to Paul as it happened to Peter, this time Lydia becomes a Christian, believes in Jesus Christ through the hearing of the Gospel preached by Paul, and importantly we clearly see how the word of God tells us that she believed because God opened her heart to believe, in other words she received faith to believe from God through the preaching of the Gospel, see Romans 10:17.

    This is another nail in the Armenian’s doctrine coffin. Anyway, as we see Lydia’s reaction with Paul and who is with him is the same as Cornelius was with Peter, she begged them to be guests in her home.

    Later on Paul and Silas are arrested and in jail they have the opportunity to preach the Gospel of salvation to their jailer and look at what happens:

    Acts 16:27-34 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. 29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. 32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. 34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

    Once again, at the end of their ministry Paul and Silas are taken care of by the jailer who after his conversion cleaned their wounds, wounds which most likely he had himself inflicted on them. Even he hosts Paul and Silas in his home.

    Look at this next passage, after they leave the jailer’s home, which was apparently adjacent to the jail, look at where Paul and Silas go, look at where they were staying all this time in Philippi:

    Acts 16:40 And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.

    They stayed at Lydia’s house, where even the church used to meet. So what we have here is the confirmation to what we have been saying now for a long time, the church met in homes and believers were hosted in the same homes.

    Acts 18:1-3 After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; 2 And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. 3 And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tent makers.

    Here Paul is hosted in Aquila and Priscilla’s home and not only does he stay with them, he works with them as well.

    Once again we see that hospitality was practiced in the church by allowing a brother to stay in a home.

    Acts 18:7 And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.

    Again Paul finds hospitality in Justus’s house.

    This trait of hospitality goes on and on through out the entire New Testament early church account.

    Acts 21:8 says Paul tarried many days in Philip the Evangelist’s home .

    Acts 28:13-14 And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli: 14 Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome.

    Once again, here we see Christians who host Paul and his travel companions in their home for seven days. Wow, an entire week in a brother’s home, unseen today, very, very rare occurrence in modern Christianity.

    Now look at what John writes about this subject:

    3 John 5-10 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; 6 Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: 7 Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth. 9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. 10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

    Very, very interesting and eye opening passage!

    This passage is all about hospitality, here it actually even implies to be hospitable even to strangers not only to brothers, to show them charity, as we see the following whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well

    This means to host someone, in hosting the brethren in their journey one does well.

    John is saying that we ought to receive one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, those who fellowship in the truth.

    Even then there were people unwilling to host and receive the brethren and Diotrephes was one of them. He did not receive the brethren and he actually cast them out.

    This is a very predominant attitude today among believers, we have unfortunately become a bunch of Dioterphes. We don’t mind going to hear the preachers preach and the minster minster but we will mind them staying in our home, we love in word but not in deed and truth.

    I know there are many Christians who show true hospitality in the Biblical way and I am thankful for them, however they are by far few and in between while the majority of the church does not practice this kind of hospitality any longer.

    So what we see is that in the church we are called to provide for the needs of the needy members of the church and we are to be hospitable to each other.

    Heck the author of Hebrews even says:

    Hebrews 13:1-2 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

    Imagine? This passage exhorts us to entertain strangers? What? Strangers? Are you kidding? We don’t even like to be hospitable to people we know, imagine someone we don’t really know? This type of behavior in the church is virtually unseen.

    Obviously we cannot let just anyone in our house but here the implications are related to brothers in the Lord who we do not know personally but that we could host in our homes if it is needed.

    Let’s move on now.

    Romans 12:14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.

    Now here we have an exhortation that transcends all the others, in other words all the others were relative to our duties of love in the church to practice toward other believers, this one though encompasses both believers and unbelievers, however we need to preface that if a person truly is born again they at least should never curse or persecute other believers.

    However, we know, unfortunately even through experience and by experience that this actually happened then and does still happen today.

    Christians can often behave carnally, in other words like unsaved people, we know that can because we know we still act this way, way too many times.

    As we have seen we are all capable of acting in a carnal in other words a natural way, we still sin and this one way is also how we sin.

    In addition we know that in the church Satan has also sowed tares, in other words there are many unbelievers sitting in churches. Matthew 13:24-30.
    So according to this very parable, although Jesus is really contextually talking about people in the world and not so much in the church, unfortunately today the church itself as we have had opportunity of studying has gone so far astray from what it was originally meant to be and has allowed the world and the worldly not only to come in to it but to stay in it.

    This is what Jesus was talking about in the other parables He told in the same context.

    Matthew 13:31-33 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: 32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. 33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

    As we see here Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of heaven, of which the church is a part of, is like a mustard seed, sown in the world it grew very big but in doing such the birds of the air came into it and lodge in it.

    Biblically speaking, and the Jews knew this, birds are never seen as good things in Scripture, usually they refer to something depicting evil. Jeremiah 5:26-27; Revelation 18:2.

    Matthew 13:31-32 History confirms the fact that from the smallest beginning, the church made astounding growth through the proclamation of Christ’s message. Yet such unusual growth has provided roosting places for those who are enemies of God, who seek the shade and fruit of the tree for their own interests (even nations like to be called “Christian”). Disciples are warned that the mere bigness of what appears outwardly to be Christ’s kingdom is not essentially a contradiction of the Lord’s teaching that true believers are a little flock surrounded by wolves (Luke 12:32; Matthew 10:16)

    (from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1962 by Moody Press)

    This is the true meaning of what Jesus meant here and the next parable is basically meaning the same thing as leaven is also associated with sinfulness and worldliness.

    Matthew 13:33-35 The Leaven though some interpret this parable and the preceding as depicting the spreading influence of the Gospel, such explanations violate Jesus’ use of these symbols elsewhere, as well as the import of other parables (e.g., The parable of the Tares) which show evil existing till the end of the age. Verse 33 depicts leaven within a lump of old dough in a high state of fermentation. Leaven in the OT is generally symbolic of evil.

    In Christ’s later uses of this symbol, it refers to the evil doctrine of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herod (Matthew 16:6-12; Mark 8:15). In Paul’s references as well (1 Corinthians 5:6-7; Galatians 5:9), certainly regard leaven as evil, this seem greatly influenced by Christ’s parable.

    Three measures of meal. Apparently a common quantity employed in baking (Genesis 18:6). The woman (in contrast to the man in the other parables) is the opponent of Christ and infuses the kingdom in this age with false doctrine.

    Elsewhere she is called “Wickedness” (Zechariah 5:7-8), as “Jezebel” (Revelation 2:20.), and the “great harlot” (Revelation 17:1.). By this characterization of leaven in the meal, believers are warned to beware of false doctrines which would infiltrate all parts of the kingdom in its kingdom aspect

    Verses 34-35. On this occasion Christ spoke publicly (to the multitude) in symbolic language alone, without interpretation. Only to the disciples He explained the symbolism (Matthew 13:10.; 13:36.). Matthew regarded this as reminiscent of Psalms 78:2, and saw in Jesus the most perfect fulfillment of the prophet’s function.

    (drawn from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1962 by Moody Press)

    As we see clearly, Scripture interprets Scripture, this is the way it is done, Jesus and the Apostles warned us in many ways of the inherent coming dangers of Satan placing his ministers disguised as ministers of light within the church, which as I said has allowed this to happen, the church allows evil to proliferate within it, it allows sin to remain unchecked and not disciplined.

    False teachers and false doctrines are accepted and left to grow and fester just as Jesus said, leaven which leavens the entire lump of dough, which corrupts and infects the church.

    The main component of the church allowing such things is the extreme growth of the church, not so much the growth in the number of saved people but the overgrowth of the church as an institution at levels of a public entity.

    In other words as we said before, the churches abandoning the home and family setting and for the most part being a close knit group which allowed only saved members in its midst, has become a public forum open to everyone and growing in disproportionate size

    (hence the mustard seed growing into a big tree which ended up lodging birds, in other words evil people in it).

    The church was however forewarned of the dangers to come, Acts 20:28-31, but almost totally ignored those warning allowing itself instead to become something that was not what God truly wanted it to become.

    We said all this to arrive at the conclusion that in the church we will find people who, either because they are really not born again or because perhaps they are but act carnally will in some way persecute us and curse us.

    Unfortunately this is the sad truth!

    So whether it’s unsaved people outside and inside the church or carnal Christians in the church at some point or the other if and when we decide to walk in the true and uncompromising ways of God, if and when we try to live out the Gospel and the true and real sound apostolic doctrines we will in any event be persecuted.

    2 Timothy 3:12-13 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

    You see, it’s inevitable!

    Even Jesus warned us about this very fact:

    John 15:18-21 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.

    John 16:1-3 These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. 2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. 3 And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.

    Jesus clearly gives us a very clear picture as to how and why religious people will even get to the point that because we desire to follow Christ and live in His ways, they will actually cast us out of their own religious organizations, even churches. However, religion always casts out Christ and His Spirit and His true sound doctrine.

    Just think, who was more religiously zealous than the Jews? No one really! They even believed in the real and only God and yet they became enemies of Christ and of the Gospel and later of the church, Romans 10:2-3 and Romans 11:28.

    Religious people are enemies of the Gospel because basically religion relies on man’s works to be accepted by God and religion when it is mingled with the Gospel is even more deceptive as it adds human works to God’s grace.

    These people have a form of godliness but they deny the power of God by adding works to God’s grace. Paul warned us about such people in:

    2 Timothy 3:1-9 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. 9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.

    These people therefore have a semblance of godliness, they are religious however they deny the power of God, the Gospel of grace and push the Gospel of works and grace.

    This last passage leads us to clearly see that this is an image of the religious brand of Christianity, this clearly describes the Roman Catholic religion as well as many branches of the Protestant Evangelical church.

    Unfortunately this dangerous hybrid of religion and false doctrine has entered into the Evangelical church and has disguised itself very well, at least it has become harder to detect for many because many are not renewing their minds and therefore are accepting every wind of doctrine that comes by.

    These people will persecute the real believers every time!

    It is very sad and much more hurtful when this persecution comes from within the church, when it comes from those people who we thought were on our side and thought and believed like us.

    However, this is a very important factor as to why this entire chapter 12 began with the exhortation to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.

    Anyway, we can and will be persecuted from within and without the church. It is obvious that in both cases the persecution comes for Christ’s sake because in either case the true, real Gospel of grace bothers the sinfulness, carnality and religiosity of these people.

    So the Scripture is very clear as to what we should do when people persecute us for righteousness sake, when they persecute us for Christ’s sake.

    Let me say something that I believe is either not taught at all nor mentioned often in the church today.

    Blessing and praying for those who persecute us does not at all mean that we must sit there and take it just because we are trying to be some kinds of martyrs when there is really no need for it.

    In Scripture it is clear that in most cases, when believers were persecuted they did not just sit there and take it.

    Although they did not repay evil with evil and they may have blessed and prayed for their persecutors they actually ran away and went into hiding, they did not sit around waiting to get persecuted more. In other words we should not be gluttons for punishment! If and when we can avoid being persecuted we should but never through cowardice or by compromising the Gospel and the word of God and by disobeying God.

    You see this is another error many in the church make, they somehow think that if they purposefully allow themselves to be persecuted more God will love them more or God will be more pleased with them.

    It is true that we will be greatly rewarded when we are persecuted for Christ’s sake this is sure, see Matthew 5:10-12 and:

    Luke 6:22-23 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. 23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.

    As we see, we are blessed when people hate us, and look at what it says there, when they shall separate us from their company, that is exactly what we also talked about before in other words, people will either plainly tell us to leave their company and not be with them or they will more subtly alienate us to the point that we will understand that they do not want to keep company with us.
    This happens a lot in cults and in some denominations and churches where false doctrines are taught.

    This by the way is not what church discipline is, let us not get mixed up between being actually ostracized and alienated because of obedience to the Gospel, which is what we are talking about here, and being disciplined and put out of fellowship because of sin and disobedience to the word of God and rebellion to God. These are two completely different things.

    We see both in Old Testamentary as well as New Testamentary Scripture, that persecuted believers often sought refuge and went into hiding when persecuted. Acts 8:1-4;

    Even in church history we know that when the Christians were persecuted by the Romans they sought refuge in catacombs and they avoided being imprisoned and avoided to be eventually tortured and killed.

    The same thing happens in many nations today, there is what we know as the underground church, there always has been an underground church because there has always been persecution.

    Even during most of the Roman Catholic religion’s dominance there was a true remnant and it was underground because even during that time the real born again Christendom was persecuted by this false and Antichrist church. Christ’s enemies will persecute and hate the true disciples of Christ.

    The wicked spirit of man made, or better Satan made, religion hates Christ and His disciples. It was so from the beginning as Cain killed Able for the same exact reason, even then we see the hatred of a man who hated his brother because his kind of worship of God was man made religious worship that God did not accept while Abel’s way was the way God desired it to be, by faith and by blood by and through God’s grace and not man’s works.

    Religion of works always hates and persecutes the true spiritual worship of God by grace and faith.

    So being a true born again Christian and being persecuted go hand in hand, Scripture tells us this and we have seen it already, but here are still some passages to mull over more.

    Romans 8:36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

    John 15:20-21 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.

    Philippians 1:28-29 And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. 29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

    1 Peter 4:12-14 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

    2 Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

    As we clearly see for a true disciple of Christ persecution of some kind will be a part of their life. There are various ways in which we can be persecuted for Christ’s sake, first:

    men shall hate us, That’s one way we will suffer persecution, this could include evil deeds practiced against us, this can be in words, in deeds, it happens when a government becomes Antichrist, all this can include imprisonment, torture and even death. This also happened and happens through religious institutions such as even the Jewish religion in Christ’s days and later on in the Apostles’ days as well as the Roman false church years later.

    Second way they persecute us:

    they shall separate us from their company, and shall reproach us, and will cast out our name as evil.

    These things come in various ways and through various categories of people, even through some churches, by other Christians, and our families and friends.

    So God says we are to pray and bless the so called Christians and our families and friends who persecute us. We ought to pray for our enemies and as the word of God says, we are not to curse them, in fact later on God’s word says that we are not to repay evil with evil but with good.

    Once again now I ask, is it or is it not biblical to pray against our enemies? How can we reconcile these these exhortations for example with the imprecatory Psalms? Psalms 5; Psalms 11; Psalms 17; 35; 55; 69; 109; 137 and 140.

    Quite frankly one could ask, what are imprecatory Psalms? They are those Psalms in which we find prayers to God, imprecations made to God against the enemies of those who are praying.

    Another place where we find this type of prayers is in several places in the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah 4:4-5; Nehemiah 6:9;Nehemiah 6:14.

    There are many examples of prayers prayed and things said about one’s enemy that sound a lot like curses and not blessings. So how in the world do we reconcile these things with blessing and not cursing?

    There are several attempts and issues to explain how these prayers can be justified and most of them are wrong.

    Let’s look at what we can understand about this type of prayers and how we can reconcile these prayers to what Jesus told us to do, in other words love our enemies and not to curse but bless and not to repay evil with evil but with good.

    Several explanations have been offered, here are some:
    1. Some believe these passages reflect a lower standard of ethics than that are instead espoused by Christ. They allege that this a sub-Christian ethic that was characteristic of Old Testament times, and that such texts were only included in the ancient Scriptures simply because of “progressive revelation.”
    2. Others claim that the composers of these psalms speak in the indicative mood (the “explanatory” mood), and not in the “imperative mood” (the mood of command or request). That would mean that they merely were stating what would happen to the wicked; they were not actually asking God to destroy the wicked.
    3. Still, another group of scholars advocate that the psalms are an accurate record of what the psalmists were feeling, but there is no divine approval for their sentiments. Rather, God would have us to love our enemies instead.
    Before responding to these explanations, we need to consider some principles that must guide any attempt to properly understand the meaning of Scripture.
    (1) We must bear in mind that “every scripture is inspired of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). The book of Psalms belongs in the Bible and it is inspired of God. Our Lord asserted that when David wrote in “the book of Psalms” (Psalm 110) he spoke “in the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 22:43). Christ quoted from the Psalms, and considered them to be on the same plane as the Law and the Prophets ( Luke 24:44).
    Likewise, the writer of Hebrews, when quoting from the Psalms, often identified a passage as having been spoken by the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 3:7). Any view that would diminish the integrity of the Psalms is an attack on inspiration, hence upon God Himself.
    (2) We must also remember that any difficulty that exists in coming to an understanding of any Biblical issue is only in our minds; the fault is not with the text itself. The Holy Spirit, in other words the author of the Psalms, and Jesus the Son of God, are not ever in conflict with one another. There are no contradictions ever in Scripture, God cannot and will not contradict Himself.
    In light of these principles, let us examine the previously noted explanations of these difficult passages.
    (1) Is the “sub-Christian theory” a valid explanation for these passages? No, it is not. Why? Because it reflects a misunderstanding of progressive revelation, thus promoting the idea that the Christian ideal was a development of religious thought over several centuries. This view fails to recognize that the ultimate author of these inspired prayers was the same one who later revealed the New Testament.
    Gleason Archer noted: “Progressive revelation is not to be thought of as a progress from error to truth, but rather as a progress from the partial and obscured to the complete and clear” (1974, 460).
    By way of contrast, we actually find a wonderful high ethic reflected in many of the psalms—an ethic that is consistent with New Testament revelation.
    We therefore submit that the sub-Christian theory is woefully misguided and is based on an erroneous presupposition.
    (2) Was the Psalmist simply explaining what would happen to the wicked in the “indicative theory”? Some imprecatory statements may fit well with this theory, but this explanation certainly does not satisfy the entire spectrum of these prayers of condemnation—some of which make an actual request to God to destroy the enemy.
    (3) Are the psalms merely a record of what someone said, just as, for example, the New Testament contains the words of Pilate, Judas, and others—accurately recorded yes, but not examples to be followed?
    It is true that some passages in the Bible are inspired only to the degree that they merely are a correct record of what was said, for example, the Holy Spirit ensured that the account recorded was without error.

    This view, however fails to take into account what the Bible actually says. Nowhere are the words of Pilate, Judas, etc., attributed to the Holy Spirit.
    On the other hand, David (and the other psalmists) wrote “in the Spirit” while composing the psalms.
    We therefore find this view lacking a proper concept of the Psalms’ inspiration.
    So how can we resolve the seeming difficulty of the inspired text speaking in one place of hatred for enemies, and yet, in another telling us to love our enemies?
    (1) We must take into account that the Old Testament did indeed encourage a high ethic in dealing with one’s fellow-man (Leviticus 19:18), just as the New Testament requires us to “abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” even today (Romans 12:9).
    In fact it is in the book of Proverbs that we find this written:
    Proverbs 25:21-22 If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: 22 For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.
    (2) Probably the most important key to understanding this issue is this one: David is not praying to God out of malice and vindictiveness against someone he dislikes personally. It is not a matter of personal revenge; rather, these “harsh” statements reflect David’s awareness of God’s justice and his intolerance for sin as well as placing the wicked in question in God’s hands rather than taking vengeance himself. This also means having the correct understanding of God’s sovereignty regarding the question. The simple fact that we ought to love our enemies and be merciful to them does not in any way exonerate God from bringing judgment upon them, in fact what does it actually mean to heap coals of fire on their heads?
    Biblically speaking that is a picture of judgment, we are actually heaping up judgment upon them and in that case we show kindness and mercy but God is the one who will judge them and punish them not us. In addition if God decides to be merciful to them He can and will, it’s His prerogative.
    Walter Kaiser has observes this:
    They [these hard sayings] are not statements of personal vendetta, but they are utterances of zeal for the kingdom of God and his glory. To be sure, the attacks which provoked these prayers were not from personal enemies; rather, they were rightfully seen as attacks against God and especially his representatives in the promised line of the Messiah (1988, 172).

    And I Marco will add to this that even today they are attacks against the church and the Lordship of Christ so we are talking about what even the New Testament calls the spirit of Antichrist.

    (3) Sin has not disappeared, and there are still enemies of the redemptive plan of God. God feels the same today toward rebellion as he did in David’s time. The Bible is not in conflict with itself over truths written in plain prose in both Testaments—namely, the righteous will be rewarded, and the wicked shall be punished (Psalm 1; Matthew 25:46).
    If these prayers of malediction were intrinsically sinful, one would have a difficult time explaining the Lord’s “curse” upon Capernaum (Matthew 11:23-24), Paul’s prayer of anathema upon false teachers (Galatians 1:8-9), the apostle Paul’s denunciation of Alexander the coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14), Peter’s curse upon Simon the magus in Acts 8, and the prayer of the martyrs who, under the altar of God, ask for vengeance from the Lord (Revelation 6:10).
    C. S. Lewis was correct when he wrote: “The ferocious parts of the Psalms serve as a reminder that in the world there is such a thing as wickedness and that such is hateful to God” (1958, 33).
    Alexander McClaren challenges the modern reader by saying, “Perhaps, it would do modern tenderheartedness no harm to have a little more iron infused into its gentleness, and to lay to heart that the King of Peace must first be King of Righteousness” (1892, 375).
    (4) We must bear in mind what it means to love our enemies. As William Holladay put it: “The call to love one’s enemies must be exercised within the context of the claims of justice: if an injustice has been done, then it needs to be made right” (1993, 311-12).
    The Greek word used in connection with the love of enemies is agape. This is a love of the will whereby one chooses to treat others, even enemies, within the context of their eternal welfare. God has proved His agape toward us, in that while we were yet sinners and enemies, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
    Loving one’s enemies would be expressed in the following thoughtful actions: one would pray for them, to be reconciled to them (if possible), we must do good to them for example feeding them – cf. Matthew 5:44; 5:25; Luke 6:27; Romans 12:20). The goal is that by one’s good works, he may help convert the enemy (cf. Matthew 5:13-16; 1 Peter 2:12).
    However, if a person chooses to remain an “enemy of the cross” (Philippians 3:18) and continues to afflict us, Paul warns that justice will be served by God “at the revelation of our Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
    This is not a desire for personal revenge; rather it is a comfort that the will of God shall always prevail.
    May God help us to deepen our concern for the souls of people, however may we also desire to see every wicked way abolished, so that God’s people will be rescued from the destiny of the wicked.
    If we have love for truth it will inevitably lead us to a hatred of error (Amos 5:15). A love for righteousness will direct us to have a hatred for wickedness and sin. All the while, we must love the person who is our enemy, while we hate the enmity, their sinfulness. We must be concerned for their souls but treat them accordingly.
    A. F. Kirkpatrick admonishes: “Men have need to beware lest in pity for the sinner they condone the sin, or relax in the struggle against evil” (1906, xciii).
    The difficulty for many, presented in these passages, may not be in understanding them, nor in reconciling the teaching of Scripture. Rather, the challenge is bringing our own lives to conform to God’s will.
    Which once again is in perfect line with Romans 12:2 regarding our transformation by the renewing of our mind and therefore the acquisition of understanding God’s will and knowing that it is always good, perfect and acceptable even when it regards His judgment and how and when He deems it proper.
    This also brings us to the imperative task of understanding God’s perfect and complete sovereignty regarding judgment and salvation.

    A big reason some have difficulty in understanding the imprecatory nature of some of the Psalms and other prayers and Scriptures is because some have a terrible time understanding and accepting God’s sovereignty in judgment and salvation.

    If and when a person does not understand or refuses to understand this attribute of God they will not be able to reconcile the nature of these Psalms, prayers and passages. God is sovereign over all and everyone and even though He allows or permits things to go in a certain way this does not mean that He is not in full and complete control over them.
    God’s sovereignty encompasses both good and evil but God only and always works all things for the good of His children and His glory while He does not work things for the good of the wicked and unrepentant children of Satan whom He know will remain such forever.

    Christians are not omniscient, in other words all knowing, we therefore do not know who the elect to salvation are. God knows who’s name is written in the Lamb’s book of life. God knows the elect to faith and salvation as it is He who foreknew and predestined the very elect.

    Therefore praying that God will bring judgment and vengeance upon His enemies and incidentally ours, judgment and wrath upon the enemies of the cross whoever they may be, is not sinful at all and it is biblical and not against God’s will. It is God’s will to judge wicked unrepentant sinners. Therefore these prayers are not against or contrary to God’s will.

    However, the bottom line is to let God do what He wants to do and not for us to avenge ourselves or repay our enemies evil with evil but with good.

    The end of the wicked is and will be judgment and wrath and eternal damnation and some times even temporal judgment and temporal negative consequences.

    However we must choose to let God decide how and when He will manifest His wrath and judgment.

    Praying He will do this however is not contrary to His will at all, it is in fact praying His will to be, look at what Jesus told us in the Lord’s prayer.

    Teaching us how to pray, not the repeating prayer as a mantra, but using it as a blueprint as to how to pray, Jesus tells us to thus pray in this way “ Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

    What is God’s will? If we understand God’s will revealed to us in Scripture, it is indeed His will to bring salvation and have mercy upon whim He wants and judgment and wrath upon wicked sinners who do not repent and do not believe in His only begotten Son Jesus as Lord and savior.
    Exodus 33:19; Exodus 34:6-7; Romans 9:14-15; John 3:16-21.

    We are all and have all been wicked sinners, Ephesians 2:1-3 but because God has had mercy on us and showered us with His grace we, for those only reasons, through the work of redemption done by Jesus for us, have believed and repented.

    If and when a person does not receive God’s grace and mercy they will remain in their own wickedness and sinfulness heaping upon themselves God’s wrath for eternity John 8:24.

    God’s perfect will is to save those upon whom He through His sovereign election, has chosen for salvation and to eventually judge all those who will not believe in Jesus and who because of this will remain in their sins.

    Jesus mentioning prayer and making a point for persevering in prayer also said some very important things which are connected to this subject and it is this one:

    Luke 18:1-8 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; 2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: 3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. 4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. 6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. 7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? 8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

    What we draw from this parable are some parallels Jesus is drawing here for us.

    The widow pleaded with an unjust judge while God instead is perfectly just. The widow asked the judge to avenge her of her enemies and because of her insistence he avenged her.

    Jesus mentions the fact that like the unjust judge but God being just instead, will avenge His elect, as He said, they who cry out to Him day and night. This implies that the elect are indeed asking God to avenge them and Jesus states that God will in fact avenge them speedily.

    This is also evident from this other passage of Scripture:

    Revelation 6:9-10 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

    Therefore from the Lord’s words Himself in the parable we clearly understand that there is also a true and factual element of God avenging His elect and His elect actually crying out for vengeance. Therefore it is entirely biblical and not at all against God’s will that we pray for God’s avenging us of our enemies and it is indeed God’s will to do so for us!

    Therefore we understand clearly that the imprecatory Psalms are not at all a violation of God’s will as they do not at all contradict Jesus’ words when He commands us to love our enemies, the two things are not at all contradictory.

    We will see in the verses to come in this same chapter that God requires us not to seek vengeance for ourselves but to leave it up to Him, Romans 12:17-21.

    Therefore we have seen now, that while we are commanded to love our enemies, to bless them, not to curse them and not to repay them evil with evil, we also can ask God to avenge us from evil and unreasonable and wicked men which have not faith, 2 Thessalonians 3:1-3.

    In concluding the exposition of this verse we also must say that these are instructions given by Paul to how we are to behave in the church and therefore mostly how our demeanor and behavior must be toward other believers.

    We did establish also that often, when other believers act carnally and religiously they actually can in fact become our enemies because of their carnal and religious behavior.

    Knowing that our brothers and sisters can become our enemies when not controlled by the Holy Spirit and the word of God we can therefore interpret this passage to indicate this exhortation to be directed to us especially when dealing with people in the church.

    We also have seen that especially today unsaved people can easily be proliferating in churches.

    We know however that no matter in what unseemly behavior Christians act with us we are called by God to forgive them and to love them. Obviously there is a process for this as delineated by Jesus Himself in Matthew 18:15-22.

    Therefore we are commanded to love and forgive and not to repay evil with evil and we would never ask God to avenge us for a sin committed by our brothers and sisters but although we are not to repay evil with evil and not avenge ourselves of the wrongs committed against us by wicked and unsaved people, still we can pray that God avenge us in those cases.

    I repeat, we are commanded to show love to our enemies yet God is not obligated to show mercy to those unsaved people who wrong us. He will decide how to repay them not us. We bless not curse but we leave the judgment to God.

    Romans 12:15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

    This verse seems to be a little obvious in it’s instruction, however it is not as simple as it seems to practice.

    As human beings, even when we are saved we have a hard time eliminating carnal traits still existing in us. Such works of the flesh are selfishness and envy.

    If this was a natural and easy thing for us to do even as Christians there would not be an exhortation to do it but it would just be an automatic behavior. However, it is not an automatic behavior.

    This exhortation goes beyond and is much deeper than just simply feeling bad for someone or feeling happy for someone.

    We as believers are commanded to love one another as Christ loved, rather loves us. It is with that depth of love that we must love each other.

    John 13:34-35; look at this next passage and think for a moment at the depth of the content of this statement:

    John 15:12-13 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

    We must be totally honest with ourselves and with God, we really do not love each other in the church with this kind of love. It is very rare that in churches people love each other in this way.

    What way? As Christ has loved us! How did Christ love us? Unselfishly and without reservations. He loved us while we were yet sinners, while we still hated God, disobeying God, while we were enemies of God, He loved us with the ultimate love giving His life!

    This is an example as to how we must love one another in the church. We are after all the body of Christ and as such we should behave as Christ did.

    This kind of love is the kind, as Jesus says, that lays down one’s life for their friends. How are we to do this? Does this mean we must be willing to die for our brothers and sisters? It may mean that as well, we may be required by God to give up our physical life to protect and save the life of our brothers and sisters.

    However, it does not mean this only! I believe it’s much more difficult to live this way throughout our life than it is to just sacrifice for a moment although it means the end of our earthly life.

    Jesus gave us a word picture which is in line with this kind of parallel when He said this:

    Luke 9:23-25 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. 25 For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?

    This type of language holds the same type of word picture as the Scripture where Jesus tells us we must lay down our life for our brothers and sisters.

    We know that denying oneself is a true and direct commandment. We must be willing to deny ourselves in order to obey God and do His will, which more often than not varies greatly from ours.

    Taking up our cross and following Jesus in this context is not meant as a literal cross, such as the one Jesus carried, however what it means is what stood behind and motivated Jesus to carry that cross in our behalf.

    It was doing the will of the Father no matter how much it would cost Him personally. Doing God’s will cost Jesus greatly. As a man Jesus gave up all of His rights and desires as God to obey the Father as His sole duty and as the Father desired Him to do.

    Obedience to the will of the Father in His case was ultimately the cross, His sufferings both physical as well as emotional and spiritual.

    Obviously the cross was an instrument of death and also of shame and suffering, so what Jesus is telling us is that we must be willing to give up all our rights even as sons and daughters of God and must submit to God’s will and His desires even and when they lead us into situations that for us may be similarly painful and uncomfortable.

    In a sense as if we had to carry an actual cross and almost have the same outcome of a real cross.

    We must be willing to allow the flesh to be crucified in order to do God’s will instead.

    Let’s remember that the desires of the flesh are contrary to the desires of the Spirit:

    Galatians 5:13-17 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. 16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

    Even in this passage we see that the context is serving each other in love. However this service of love love is greatly hampered and obstructed by our carnal desires and behaviors.

    This is why Paul says that we must walk in the Spirit, submitting to the demands of God’s word is actually submitting to His word and therefore His Spirit, however if we don’t put to death the works of the flesh, in other words if we are not willing to submit our fleshly desires to be crucified with Christ then the flesh will win over the Spirit, not because God is weak or impotent, but because we allow the flesh to be in charge of our life.

    Walking in the Spirit means to submit to the will of God, however we must remember that our flesh, in which sin still dwells, works against the Spirit because the Spirit and the flesh are contrary to each other and if we let the flesh rule we cannot do the things we would, in other words the will of God.

    Our inner man, the born again man we want to do God’s will but if we allow the flesh to rule us we will not even be able to do what we want to do, in other words God’s will.
    This is exactly what Paul says in:

    Romans 7:15-23 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

    So sin is still present in us even after salvation and it wages war against the will of God and to whom we submit that will rule us. If we submit to the flesh the flesh will rule us and if we and when we submit to the Spirit, in other words the will of God, He will rule us.

    Denying ourselves and taking our cross and following Jesus is to be willing to deny the flesh and doing the will of God even if it brings our flesh to die and to hurt. It will hurt our flesh to obey God’s will in a sense as it hurt Christ to take His cross and suffer and die for us.

    God’s will commands us to love each other as He loved us. This means with that same mindset, willing to do God’s will to our hurt, as I said before it will hurt our flesh and it will be contrary to our selfish ways to do what God wants especially to love others the way He loved and loves us.

    We must be willing to place others and their needs above ours, that is what it means to love as Christ loved us.

    Because to love the way God loves involves the will much more than the emotions. Agape love is not exclusively sentimental love in fact it does not originate in sentiments, Agape love bypasses the feelings, it’s basically a decision, we must choose to love God’s way.

    This is the reason why it’s a commandment and not a mere feeling! God cannot really command us how to feel but He can and does command us to love which makes it transcend feelings.

    God’s love is like faith, we don’t and aren’t supposed to live by feelings but by faith, we are not supposed to live by sight, which is actually by circumstance and feelings but by faith in God’s word and His written promises.

    The same is God’s kind of love, it is not measured by how we feel about someone rather how we feel about and how we obey God by actively loving a person in the way God tells us to in His word.

    Remember that love for God and love of God is measured in only one way by God, not by how we feel about people but by obeying His commandments and loving is a commandment.

    Jesus told us this very fact John 14:15; John 14:21-24, and John who heard these very things Jesus said and recorded them in his Gospel also wrote the same exact thing in hi first epistle:

    1 John 2:3-11 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. 7 Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. 8 Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. 9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. 10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.

    1 John 3:16-18 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

    1 John 5:1-3 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

    Paul spoke of this type of love and mindset in:

    Philippians 2:1-5 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

    Here is the practical aspect of how we practice God’s love. Already John told us, we must love in deed and truth not in words only.

    It’s easy to tell someone you love them, the challenging part is to show it and show it God’s way. Already Jesus and John told us that our love for the church must be such that we should actually give up our life, our comforts, our rights to love our brothers and sisters.

    Paul also tells us that in the church we must love in a certain way. Loving God’s way as He states here has certain components, indeed in Christ’s love we find consolation, if we find comfort in His love and if indeed we are in fellowship with the Holy Spirit which actually means having a union with God and with one another, if we have God’s mercy in our bowels, in our insides and have experienced it for our selves, Paul says if we have all this, we should then be like minded having the same love and being in one accord and of one mind.

    These are such important factors in how we are to express God’s love. First of all we see that it also involves the mind, twice Paul mentions to be like minded and to be of one mind. God’s love we said it before so many times is associated with, or better it’s only practiced properly when it is in line with God’s truth. God is indeed love but He is indeed truth!

    We cannot separate the two, our love is practiced in and trough God’s truth only, otherwise it cannot be defined as God’s love. It is defined God’s love only if it is practiced in the confines of His truth. We cannot divide God and look at Him only the way we want to see Him in the same way we cannot divide God’s love from His truth.

    Let’s look at an example, how do we love a sinner? And how do we love a brother in sin? Do we love them by ignoring their sinfulness or do we show them love by doing what God’s word tells us to do regarding their sin?

    Do we tell them about it, warn them of the danger and the consequences of their sinfulness or do we remain silent and perhaps pray for them only as many today say we should do? Is it loving to ignore sin and is it loving to avoid leading them back to righteousness?

    God’s truth is very clear we must confront sin, first in ourselves as well as in others. So it is not loving at all to allow people to remain in their sins but it is indeed loving to help them get the sin out of the way.

    By the way this does not mean judging harshly a person unless it is necessary but first doing it lovingly trying to bring them to submit to God’s word.

    Let me preface something very important we cannot and should not ever tolerate outright defiance and rebellion in the church.

    Rebellion and outright defiance to God’s word and church authority is subjected to harsh rebuke and church disciplinary action.

    Jesus gave us an ecclesiastical process in order to do all this (Matthew 18:15-17) it is not loving at all to allow sin to proliferate and to remain in the Christian’s life and certainly not to remain in the church (1 Corinthians 5).

    We therefore must love in line with God’s truth. For example, we don’t love homosexuals accepting them how they are and not confronting their sin of homosexuality, as much as it is not loving to accept people living in adultery or fornication and so on and so forth, love does not tolerate any sin period, in spite of what many say today, God’s love is patient toward us but it does not tolerate that sin remain.

    Describing love Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:6 (love) Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth

    Loving in and with God’s truth therefore requires that in a church Christians be in one accord and of one mind, people cannot practice God’s love if they all don’t agree about God and His truth.

    Uniformity of mind in a church is not a bad thing, nor is it as many would accuse it to be, negative brain washing, it’s a positive thing and in fact it’s required by God as it clearly stated in Romans 12:2.

    You see how essentially important it is to not be conformed to the ways of the world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds in order not only to be transformed in the likeness of Christ but by achieving His mindset, we thus arrive to the clear understanding of God’s will as it is revealed in His word.

    Look at what Ephesians 4 says regarding arriving to the unity of the faith, because you see all believers as much as we actually think, are not always all united in the understanding of their faith as revealed by God.

    Elder/pastors must work to bring everyone to this unity and this next passage teaches us exactly how it is to be done:

    Ephesians 4:11-16 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

    You see, not all believers are in the unity of the faith, we all have to grow in it and ministers in the church have this task, to make Christians grow in the unity of the faith, we must have unity in our faith, we cannot all believe this and that and stubbornly stay in our own mindset.

    We need to conform our minds and our thinking to God’s word ans to help us get there is the task of the elders and pastors!

    Obviously we know that this is many times met with great resistance, unfortunately today the resistance comes from both sides, the elders and other believers, this occurs especially because of the flesh and the wrong programming of the mind done by the world in the believer’s mind, but what God desires is that we renew our mind and be re-programmed with His thoughts which are found in His word and look at how and why it is done, so that we are not tossed around believing all kinds of false doctrines.

    So we must clearly understand that false doctrines are not only dangerous because they are erroneous but they are essentially planted in the church by the enemy in order to divide and conquer the mind of believers.

    By spreading falsehood regarding doctrine Satan achieves division and therefore disunity in the minds of the believers. By doing so we must also understand that God’s love is hampered in its practice because God’s love has to be practiced in conformity with God’s truth.

    First of all, it is not loving at all to allow false doctrines to go unchecked and to leave people steeped in them. This has all to do with what Paul says regarding being of the same mind and being in one accord as we understand God desires us to be.

    And here is the point, we are to do all this by speaking the truth in love, which is also expressing love in truth.

    The point is that we must be of the same mind and of one accord about everything God tells us and commands us especially how to love His way, this is the point!

    So how do we love God’s way? In what must we be of on accord and be of one mind?

    As Paul said in the Philippian passage Philippians 2:3-4 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

    This is how we should show love to each other in the church! We must do nothing through strife or for our own glory and our favor. This means we should do nothing in a forceful and compulsive way and we should not look to do things with only our good and advantage in mind.

    We should not seek our own favor and advantage rather we should be humble and be lowly in our way of thinking. We should not think of ourselves more than we think of others and we should actually esteem others better than ourselves. We must not look to our own things only but we must concern ourselves with the needs of others. Actually we must do this above our own needs and wants.

    Remember the sentiment the believers in the church of Acts had?

    Let’s refresh our memories about this since we tend to be quite forgetful:

    Acts 2:42-47 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

    You see that? They had all things in common, they actually sold their possessions and goods in order to divide all proceeds to benefit all those who were in need. This is for the most part unheard of in today’s churches.

    So what does all this have to do with the verse we are studying in other words to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep?

    Everything really! To rejoice with others who rejoice means that we actually must be happy for them.

    We cannot be happy for someone if we are too wrapped up in our own life, in our own things, and if we actually are envious of others and jealous of others we certainly will not be happy for them.

    This is a huge problem in the church. Envy and jealousy of others are truly grievous sins and they impair us from practicing God’s love. These things are tied greatly to selfishness. If and when we are so wrapped up in our own life and our own problems we become more and more selfish and believe me we don’t really need more help in being selfish, we do good all on our own.

    So to be able to rejoice with those who rejoice we actually have to care about them and for them and actually love them in the way God desires us to love them; otherwise we become fake and hypocritical and we become flatterers. Flattery is complimenting people when in reality we are not at all truthful about it.

    Too many Christians pretend to really love others but in their hearts they don’t, instead they have envy, jealousy which is fueled by their selfishness. Real love, God’s love is action not words and eventually when we continue to love God’s way true feelings will also follow.

    Sin blocks God’s love and it blocks true sentiments for others, we cannot love nor feel joy or sadness for others when we have selfishness in us and therefore envy and jealousy in our life.

    However, if and when we don’t really get involved in the joy and pain of others we will not be able to really love them, we won’t be able to truly rejoice and weep with them in sincerity.

    To do so we must have time for others and if we don’t then we won’t love them as we should. On the other hand if we don’t let people into our lives and if we build walls around us and not let people be involved with our life we also cannot complain later that people aren’t interested in our lives.

    So it’s a combination, we cannot be selfish and exclusively focused in our lives nor can we shut everyone out either. Too many believers are afraid of intimacy when it comes to allowing others to become interested and involved in their life.

    By the way, one of the main reasons why Christians are afraid of intimacy in relationships with other Christians is because the church lost its family setting of the home. By losing that we lose the familial relationship we should have with each other.

    Obviously when I mention intimacy that is not to be misunderstood, I am not referring to physical and sexual intimacy but relational intimacy. Meaning, being interested, really and truly concerned with the well being of each other, being concerned with the needs of each other, being in each others lives and not afraid to be loved and to love.

    We should treat each other and be concerned with each other even better than we do our biological family, unfortunately in most churches we aren’t good at this at all.

    God’s family seems to often come last for many reasons and it should not be like that at all!

    How can we truly rejoice and weep with those with whom we only spend a few hours a week with and we never get to know? How can we be truly concerned and love others when our lives is all we can think about and we are the only people we care about?

    Therefore, yes we should actively have joy and happiness for other believers’ blessings and we should share in the pain and desperation of other believers. We have seen the obstacles to this exhortation as being jealousy, envy and not being interested in other believers’ lives. It just does not simply and only meant to actively participate in people’s celebrations either, such as weddings or births etc. and it’s not simply and only meant to be participating in funerals or any other misfortune a believer has. This actually means a true participation in other believers’ lives when they share their blessings as well as their sorrows. It means we take the time to be there for them beyond the one occasion of joy and sorrow. It goes beyond, it’s actively participating, helping, aiding them through these times.

    This is why this exhortation is here, it’s not as simple and clear as it sounds on paper.

    Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

    It’s of no surprise that Paul follows the previous exhortation with these. We saw very clearly that there is an inseparable connection between what we saw before and this one.

    It is as we already said improbable and even impossible to rejoice and weep with others if our love for each other is not genuine and if we are riddled with selfishness, envy and jealousy!

    Thus now Paul tells the Roman believers and us what we already looked at in the study of the previous verse and this passage therefore echoes and parallels the passage we have also seen in:

    Philippians 2:1-5 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus

    This passage and the verse we are looking at here are virtually the same in their content.

    Once again we see even as we have looked at this before in verse 10 of Romans 12 that this subject must be very important to God if it is exhorted twice in this chapter alone.

    It is very important to God that we express our love for one another in this way! In fact this is the way we show love to each other. I ask, if we cannot do what is mentioned in the Philippian passage how in the world can we show any love at all to each other?

    Can it be that we are therefore unwilling to practice God’s love as God requires us to practice?

    I think that for the most part in the church, we are all guilty of not practicing this kind of love.

    As I have mentioned other times I have seen Christians in ministry who spend all their efforts into showing this type of love to unbelievers while they neglect showing it to other Christians.

    I have said it before and will say it again, this is not, let me repeat it, this is not what God commands us to do! Period!

    God commands us to love each other as He loved and loves us, He never exhorts us to expend that kind of love on unbelievers, ever!

    Many misguided Christians erroneously think that loving unbelievers is actually the equivalent of evangelizing them! It’s not at all! God loved us while we were sinners by doing one very specific thing, giving us salvation and spiritual life through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross and through His resurrection. God gave us Christ while we were yet sinners, this is how God demonstrated His love toward us, Romans 5:6-11.

    What does this tell us? What does God tell us about loving unbelievers? Nothing really, except to mainly love them through the preaching of the Gospel. That my friends is the only thing we are called to do in order to show God’s love to the unsaved. That is the only true loving act we can show the unsaved. Obviously we should show them fileo love. What is then fileo love compared to Agape love?

    Agape love is the kind of love God has for His children, for the church, this is the same kind of love we are called to exhibit toward each other as believers. Agape love is a deep, unselfish, unconditional, non preferential love. By the way, what does non preferential love mean? Again, it really means that God does not, let me repeat that, does not ever have any favorite children in the church.

    In other words, God loves every one of His children equally and without favoritism at all. There are no favorite children in the church. God blesses us all the same and disciplines us all the same.

    Obviously if we want more blessings we better be more faithful and obedient and if we want less discipline we better be more obedient.

    However, God places all the same, exactly the same promises of blessing and discipline on every single son and daughter of His in the same measure and for the same reasons. These are all available to every believer and no one will receive more or less than another except that one is more or less faithful or obedient than another. This is not favoritism however because the rewards and the discipline God gives are all the same and available to all, it’s all up to us in this case. So what I am saying is that God will bless every child of His in the same measure as long as every child is faithful and obedient and discipline works the same way. So when we see another believer being blessed more than us it’s not because God loves them more and if another believer is disciplined more than us it does not mean He loves them less. Simply put, God in fact disciplines us when He deems it necessary because He loves us; Hebrews 12:5-11.

    God however, blesses us all, His children, His elect, with the same salvation and the same Holy Spirit and He gives to all of the same. No one has more or less salvation or more or less Holy Spirit than another. God is perfectly equal in all He promises to His children, the blessings are all available to all in the same quantity, His love however is equal to all.

    God does not show any favoritism to any of His children at all, He could not otherwise command us to do this:

    James 2:1-4 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

    There should not ever be any favoritism shown in the church toward anyone. Instead there is a lot of it going on, way too much of it.

    Showing favoritism is unloving and it does not reflect Agape love, it does not reflect God’s love, even Paul rebuked the Corinthians for showing favoritism:

    1 Corinthians 1:10-13 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

    As we clearly see even in this letter to the Corinthians, the context is exactly the same as in Philippians 2 and the same as the exhortations in Romans 12:10 and 16.

    We have to speak the same thing and there should be no divisions among us in the church but we should be joined together in perfect union of mind and judgment. There should be nothing that divides and separates us or causes divisions among us.

    Paul also mentions that there were actual contentions among the believers in the Corinthian church, specifically in the church that met in Chloe’s house. These contentions actually were regarding the association of the Corinthian believers to certain church elders. This was the very first failed attempt of forming denominational differences in the church by aligning oneself to a specific elder/teacher.

    Paul, actually God, forbids this kind of behavior in the church! Why? Because as we see it causes division and schisms in the church. This happens way too much in today’s church but it should never be nor should the church ever allow this to happen. However because of the denominational schisms we have had in the church this has become common and habitual behavior even within the denominations themselves.

    I will give a real life experience I can relate to personally. Without mentioning names or churches, we once were a part of a church which met in a home. A home church in other words, for the longest time this church was actually without a chief elder or pastor. The group that met in this home for the most part belonged to a pro life ministry and so did we. When confronted with choosing a pastor the main characters in charge of the ministry insisted that they wanted to have no other pastor to guide them unless the pastor was a known minister of the pro life organization we worked within.

    Everything they wanted to do in the church only and specifically had to revolve around the ministerial activities of that organization. Almost all the weight of the content of the messaging, teaching and work had to some how involve the actual ministry of this organization. The main ministry leaders of the group within fellowship, in other words, the original founders of the ministry in Connecticut did not want to look within our group to find the right elder pastor to lead our church, they wanted to exert their own authority and make decisions in such a fashion that sadly was not at all in line with Apostolic church doctrine delineated in the New Testament.

    The church in this case had to be the ministry and the ministry the church. There was no elder board that made decisions, that taught the church, therefore the church government hardly resembled an actual biblical New Testament church. There were elements of it but the church was not governed in the same way the New Testamentary Apostolic doctrine commands to do and the group was not guided by the same principles because they gauged the church only through the lens of the ministry organization we belonged to and they also insisted quite emphatically that they would actually not be guided by any other person than one who belonged to this same organization. Ironically we were pat of the organization.

    Today that church is no longer meeting in that specific home and all members are in separate public churches, they still insist to show favoritism toward the ministers who operate in their ministerial organization rather than consider them to be equal even with those who guide the other churches, even the ones that they belong to at this time.

    I have no doubt that God in the end dissolved that specific fellowship for that very reason. They were being in a sense divisive and sectarian by favoring only one aspect of ministry and by favoring the teachings of only some types of ministers who in their favorable estimation had to belong to their organization.

    This type of favoritism should not ever be practiced in Christ’s church. I understand that we may like some people more than others for a variety of reasons however we should not practice favoritism toward anyone. The only favoritism we should have is for the word of God and the proper teaching of it!

    In all the rest we should all love each other in the same way and with the same love. In fact Paul goes further, not only favoritism toward elders is not acceptable, but no favoritism is to be shown for any other person in the church as well. For example, we are not to love poor people more than rich nor rich more than poor, we are not supposed to love anyone more than others for any reason. Showing favoritism of any kind is a sin in every case.

    However there is a specific favoritism we are commanded to have in the church and that is this, we are to favor others even above ourselves and we are to favor and love all believers above the unsaved people of the world.

    This brings us back briefly to what I was talking before, in other words, we are commanded to love each other as Christ loved us, not to love the world in that way. God wants us to love the unsaved with the preaching of the Gospel only. That is evangelism, the only thing we are called to do for the unsaved is this, preach them the Gospel and call them to salvation. Is there any better way we can show love to the unsaved if not by offering them the actual only thing they need in their life?

    We are also commanded to love those same people with Agape love only when and if they become part of the body of Christ. I am afraid often the church does this in reverse. It loves the unsaved with Agape and often neglects to love its own members with Agape while at best it practices fileo love in the church and often not even that.

    So now let’s look at the difference between agape love and fileo love.

    In a relatively famous passage we comprehend that there is a net difference between human affection or love, which is the Greek word fileo and God’s love which is agape.

    One passage is found in:

    John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

    John 13:34 Entoleén kaineén dídoomi humín hína agapáte umás hína kaí humeís agapáte alleélous 35 En toútoo gnoósontai pántes hóti emoí matheetaí este eán agápeen

    We clearly see in the Greek language that the word Jesus intended here for love is Agape love.

    It s clear that Jesus is showing us that the same type of love He had and has for us is also the same type He commands us to have for one another.

    Now let’s take a look at the next passage:

    John 21:15-17 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

    Here we have the account of Peter’s restoration as an Apostle, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. The word Jesus uses here is

    John 21:15 Ote oún eerísteesan légei toó Símooni Pétroo ho Ieesoús Símoon
    Iooánnou agapás me pléon toútoon Légei autoó Naí Kúrie sú oídas hóti filoó se Légei autoó Bóske ta arnía mou

    Here in verse 15 Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him with agape love and Peter answers that he loved Jesus with fileo love.

    The term fileo love is from where we get the word filial, human love between siblings, brothers.

    Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him with God’s deep and sacrificial love but Peter tells him that he loves Him with a human filial love.

    Jesus asks Him again in verse 16 and Peter answers the same, the third time Jesus asks Him again but and again Peter answers that he loves Jesus as a brother, he has human affection for him as one would for a brother or a friend in a human sense.

    Jesus accepts Peter’s love at this time as the love Peter comprehends at this time, Peter did not yet comprehend Agape love at this stage of His spiritual life. Yet, Peter later understands very well this supernatural and God like love, in other words Agape, after Jesus sent His Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

    He writes about it several times in his epistle:

    1 Peter 1:22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

    In the Greek we can ascertain what Peter is saying here: 1 Peter 1:22 psuchás humoón heegnikótes en teé hupakoeé teés aleetheías eis filadelfían anupókriton ek katharás kardías
    alleélous agapeésate

    As we see here Peter is saying that we should love the brothers with unfeigned love, in this case here the word love is filial love, loving with affectionate fraternal love but then he says see that beyond that same love we must love, and there it is, with agape love, the same way Christ loved us.

    It is evident now that Peter clearly understands what Jesus was asking him in John 21, in other words if he loved Him with agape love.

    Then Peter answered that he did love Him with the love he understood at the time, but now Peter understands what Jesus was saying and how God desires we love each other.

    To clear any doubt Peter continues to exhort the same thing:

    1 Peter 2:17 Honour all men. Love (Agape) the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

    We are to honor all men but we are to agape love the church!

    As we clearly see God, Christ, commands us to love each other above and beyond filial love, He commands us to love each other with God’s deep and selfless love.

    Agape love however in spite of what much of the church thinks and believes is not an automatically acquired just by being Christians. In fact, Agape, loving with God’s love, God’s way is a commandment. God, or anyone for that matter cannot command us to have a feeling or an emotion.

    How can anyone command us to feel a certain way? They cannot!

    Therefore God’s brand of love, Agape love can be practiced and obeyed and it transcends feelings and emotions.

    Think about it, how can God expect us to love our enemies, if He waited until we felt right about loving an enemy or anyone who has wronged us it is pretty obvious that He would have to wait forever because humanly speaking we would never feel like it. As I said many times Agape love, God’s love works exactly as faith does.

    Both these elements are supernatural and must be practiced beyond our physical senses and human emotions.

    If we waited to believe when we actually felt like it, or believe by facts and emotions then we never would practice faith. Faith is believing without seeing any tangible and touchable reality.

    Agape love works the same way, we Agape love by obedience to God and for the love we have for Him.

    We therefore need to learn what Agape is, we need to learn how to practice it, that is why it’s a commandment and not simply an emotion, this is why it transcends feelings and sentiments.

    This is exactly why people at some point in their relationships can say

    “ I don’t love that person anymore!”

    They say this because they are going strictly on feelings and emotions but not obeying a commandment of God, which is to love one another. Emotions may come and go, they actually do come and go.

    This is how the world practices love, it’s emotional, sentimental and often it has the eros component, which is what we know as erotic love. We can often view this kind as lust and or infatuation, but this has nothing at all to do with Agape.

    For example, let’s take the relationship between husband and wife, attention I said husband and wife, all other relationships between a man and a woman are otherwise sinful, anyway, the love between husband and wife has all three elements or types of love in it.

    It has agape love, fileo love and eros love and exactly in that order. In fact all other relationships usually begin with eros and fileo love but unfortunately the majority only stay in there.

    However I ask, when erotic love will fail and it will and then when relational issues and problems interfere greatly with filial love then nothing is left unless Agape is there. Agape love is the glue that holds any relationship together not the other types of love.

    The other types of love are a physical and human attraction and affection and they are based on lust and emotion, but these can actually easily be destroyed. However, Agape love since it is God’s love it is supernatural and when it is obeyed and practiced will overcome all things, this is why Paul said this:

    1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

    This is God’s brand of love and it bears all things, in other words it continues to be practiced and continues to exist throughout all and every thing, it believes and hopes that every situation will be overcome through the practice of it and such will never fail.

    This is all true because the power of this love is not ours but it’s God’s power. God is the power of Agape and we cannot have this love without God and if we do not we cannot practice it and obey it as a commandment.

    Commandments are made to obey and therefore they just don’t come automatically and they are not obeyed without either knowing what to obey and how to obey them. As we said several times before they are to be obeyed beyond our emotions or feelings.

    However the more we practice God’s love and especially if we practice it loving God first we will eventually and more easily get good feelings about it and in it. In other words the more we obey this commandment, the more we practice agape love the more the good feelings and emotions will follow.

    We must remember that God does not want us to be controlled by emotions but we must be controlled first and foremost by His word and His Spirit and then after we do this the right emotions will also ensue.

    If we want to have results in our Christian life and spiritual growth we have to remember that we will when we become obedient to God’s commandments.

    That is exactly what God was saying when He made this declaration:

    John 15:9-12 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

    As we can clearly see Jesus is saying that if we continue in His love, if we keep His commandments, if we abide in His love then when we do His joy will be in us and it will be full. This is His main commandment, that we agape each other as He has done for us.

    See, joy, good feelings, positive emotions follow when we obey His commandments the feelings or the joy don’t precede the obedience of the same.

    By the way, if we want joy in our life we better start obeying the word of God and if we want it to be full we better start loving each other in the same way Jesus loved us.

    I believe this issue, besides ungratefulness, is the greatest reason why there are joyless Christians, I would say that these two reasons are the main reasons why we also have depressed Christians.

    We have seen several times how the word of God not only commands us to love but it also tells us how we should practice this love. This clearly indicates that we need to be instructed how we are to practice God’s love and again this is indicative of how to love God’s way is something we must learn to do rather than something that is innate even in born again Christians.

    The reference we already saw before and it is in reality the same as what Romans 12:16 says, is what we find in:

    James 2:1-2 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment

    If and when we show favoritism among believers we actually sin and are not practicing God’s love, as James continues to warn about:

    James 2:8-9 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

    So it’s unloving and sinful to show favoritism in the church. I realize that it’s hard not to show favoritism because some people are easier to like than others or because there are some people with which we have more affinity than we do with others and it’s so much easier to hang around those people and end up ignoring others. This should never be, as I said, it’s unloving and sinful.

    Ministers should not prefer their own kind above others in the church and yet this happens way too much actually almost always. Often the ministers become some kind of unreachable and unavailable category of people in the church. Today a lot of pastors or elders especially those in big mega churches dislike to hob nob with regular believers, they in effect create some type of exclusive category similar to the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the Roman religion.

    Even though all believers although they may work in a ministry with some others and therefore spend more time with them, they should not ever become sectarian and form clicks among themselves, unfortunately this happens almost always in churches. Many believers for this very reasons end up feeling left out or ignored and they actually are, because everyone likes to revolve around people who are in many way similar to them in every way.

    Remember the old saying that says: “ Birds of a feather flock together”

    This is actually wrong in the church as we see clearly delineated in the Philippians passage and it is the cause of many negative issues and problems in the church.

    God’s word teaches us that we should love all believers in the same way just as God does. God does not give His Spirit or hang around only with believers that are better and more mature and who understand His word more than those who aren’t and don’t. In fact it is the main job of the elder/pastors to get all believers to the unity of the faith and to spiritually mature.

    As we previously said, God has no favorite sons or daughters and therefore we should reflect our heavenly Father’s attitude and His love as well, which is equal for all His children.

    So as Paul says, we are to arrive at loving each other in several ways, let’s review them:

    Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

    Love, God’s love is better expressed when all believers have the same mind toward one another, we have seen what this meant previously in our study however it is good to repeat it, this same thinking is also exhorted in Philippians 2. We understand that this occurs by renewing the mind (Romans 12:2) because we cannot have the same mind one toward another if our mind is not the mind of Christ, if we don’t think like God does, if we don’t agree with God’s word we will not agree with each other either.

    We all need to arrive to have this state of mind, especially regarding the subject of God’s love and how we should express it to each other.

    As we mentioned before the responsibility to bring the church to the unity of the faith and the full stature of Christ falls first and foremost upon the ministers, Ephesians 4:11-16 tells us this, but once they adhere to their duty in a proper Biblical way and do not neglect it, the individual responsibility to practice these things obviously falls on each individual believer.

    All believers are to be taught, exhorted and even admonished and rebuked by the elders regarding what God’s word teaches us and commands us. Therefore the main responsibility to practice what is taught them by such elders falls on each believer. In addition the believers must be exhorted and even forcefully at times, to read, study and meditate God’s word on their own as well and prove all things that they are being taught.
    In any event, the bottom line is that we must arrive to the comprehension of how we must practice God’s love and then obey that commandment. I repeat loving each other as God commands is to be first learned and then obeyed.

    So as we have seen to practice God’s love we must arrive to think in the same way, in other words renewing our minds and arriving at the unity of the faith and the full stature of Christ in essence is renewing our mind, which Biblically is repenting, in other words changing our mind about things and therefore adjusting our behavior according to our renewed way of thinking.

    If we don’t align our mind and our thinking to God’s we can never be transformed in the image of Christ either. We therefore must think the same way and be in accord with each other, this is imperative in the church. As I once said we are never entitled to our own opinion when it comes to God’s word. The only opinion that counts is God’s and we must arrive to have the same opinion He has, this is the only way we can arrive to loving each other God’s way.

    Secondly we see that we must be concerned with others and their needs above our own. Now I need to ask the question, including asking it to myself, do we actually do this? Are we concerned about other believers needs above ours? The answer is mostly absolutely not! We are so lax in this, actually we are disobedient to God period. God tell us to do it but we hardly ever do. We take care of others only after we have exhausted all of the time and all efforts to take care of our needs and also our wants. Often this leaves very little time and effort to be spent on others. We are basically too selfish!

    Thirdly God’s word teaches us that we must not think highly of ourselves, in other words this means we must remain humble before God and must think more of others than we do of ourselves, in addition we must also associate with believers that are men of low estate. This means that we must be loving and concerned not only about people in our same social class status or above, but concerned about the poor believers and those believers, you know which ones, the ones that are usually avoided by everybody else, the ones that usually are ostracized and literally placed in a corner of the fellowship and left alone and ignored, you know, that kind. There are some of these in almost all churches today and yet they are really looked upon as second class people. There are no second class children of God in Christ’s body.

    This is also true about how and who we are to evangelize. It seems that in most churches it is preferable to evangelize the wealthier and the people who are better off rather than the poor and downtrodden and the most needy. We are not to give preference to the rich and the wealthy, however we also should not prefer the poor as well, in fact we must preach the Gospel to all people and then when these persons become part of the body of Christ they all must be treated and loved equally.

    I recognize that in today’s church since money is the driving factor, the greatest emphasis is therefore to attract the cream of the crop of society into the church so that the church may benefit financially.

    We have understood, hopefully, that money is not to ever be the driving factor in churches, in fact money should be perhaps the very last factor in any thing done in the church.

    We have enough information in New Testament Scripture when it comes to church doctrine showing us that money was not ever a motivating factor for anything in the church. The church in fact did not at all consider money anything of any value in the church if not to be used to take care of the needs of the less fortunate believers.

    Nowhere do we find in New Testamentary Scripture any information for the use of money in the ways that money is used in churches today. I said it and I will repeat it, the emphasis in the church is to be the spiritual growth of the body of Christ and the church is to reflect a family not a business or religious institution as unfortunately it does today.

    I believe that one other of the greatest obstacles to the practice of God’s love that we face in the church is not only our own selfishness, but it’s also money, the love of money we know, is the root of all evil
    1 Timothy 6:10 and I believe that money has become such a ruling factor in churches that the love for people suffers a great loss because money in churches especially today has become almost an obsession.

    Why are many, many, maybe the majority of ministers today afraid to preach and teach the truth of God as it should be? Because they are afraid, they say, to offend people and thereby by offending them risk that the people leave the church.

    However, why are they really concerned with losing the people? Although on the surface it always seem that they feel this way because they genuinely care about the people yet in reality there is another greater motivation. This motivation is because the loss of members in today’s church is loss of money.

    Remember what we talked about previously in our teaching about the church? Until the church remained family oriented and met in homes, money was never a principal issue in the church and when it became so it was primarily used to take care of the poorer and most needy members of the church.

    We have seen why the church gatherings became public and the meeting place for the church changed from homes to public buildings, yet although many, even today tout this to be the norm and the best way for the gathering of the church.

    I can try to understand the reasons they give as being the best way for the church to meet, I can try to understand the convenience of this way for the church to meet, yet the more I study God’s word and the more I come to understand what God wants to do in His church the more I see the flaws and risks of public church meetings far outweigh the benefits, compared to meeting in homes.

    This is why most, not all, but most pastors are concerned to lose members, loss of members is loss of money and loss of money becomes detrimental to the existence and the growth of the local church and even beyond. This is the greatest snare that entraps pastors today, it’s the fear of man that is a snare.

    Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.

    Pastors who fear losing people and therefore do not preach and teach God’s word properly do so because of this fact, they do it because they violate the very principle delineated in this verse of Proverbs. They show that they fear man rather than God and if they are worried about losing money in the process they are not putting their trust in the Lord, therefore for that very reason they and their church are not safe at all but are at risk to fall into a trap, a snare. This trap is actually a big one and it causes many ills in a church. One of the greatest risks of a bigger and public church is that it has an open door policy and this was actually not so in the early church. Open door policy seems loving and Christ like but it is not at all so. In this fashion worldly customs and sin comes to take root throughout the congregation and these become very difficult to control and to extirpate.

    The other trap is that it causes pastors and elders to disobey God by not preaching and teaching and obeying God because there is the fear of man rather than the fear of God.

    Recall what Samuel told Saul when Saul became disobedient to what God commanded him to do, when He commanded Saul to destroy all the Amalekites and all of their property.

    1 Samuel 15:18-24 And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. 19 Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD? 20 And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal. 22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. 24 And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.

    As we clearly see God seeks obedience and He seeks that we fear Him and not man, not the people. In a sense the situation with Saul is in many ways the same as many pastors find themselves in today.

    Saul was the leader of God’s people as pastors and elders are the leaders of the local churches. So the principle here is very much so applicable to the pastors and elders of the church today. When pastors and elders fear the people, care about what the people think about them for doing the right thing, when they worry more of the spoil, in other words the money, than being obedient to God, then we must understand that God sees it the same way as He did back then with Saul. Saul recognizes he disobeyed God’s word because he feared the people and obeyed the people’s voice instead of God’s.

    When pastors and elders fear to preach and teach the truth as it should be because they are afraid the people may not like it and protest and even leave the church they are in essence sinning as Saul sinned.

    We must know that the word of God is a double edged sword and we are to preach and teach it as it must be, without reservations and leaving the result of what it must do in the life of a person up to God. It is God who sends forth His word and that word when it is properly preached and taught it either changes a person or it hardens a person.

    The word of God does this and God accomplishes as He desires by His word.

    Isaiah 55:8-11 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: 11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

    The consequences of God’s word when indeed it is taught and preached properly must be left up to Him. If a person is offended by God’s word so be it, if people are blessed by it so be it as well. It is not a bad thing that God’s word offend us, in fact it should! It should offend our flesh and our pride to lead us to repentance.

    The Gospel must offend our pride and our flesh, it must do so, if it does not offend us it is not the Gospel or it’s not preached or taught properly, which is actually one and the same thing.

    If we remember correctly in the parable of the sower that Jesus told in Matthew 13:1-23, the word of God is the seed while in that particular case the sower was Jesus, however today the preacher and teacher and evangelist are the sowers of God’s word, however the word of God remains the seed and the different kinds of soil are still the hearts of people.

    We see that Jesus was never concerned with where the seed would fall nor what the results were, He knew that the result was and is all up to God, all He was concerned with was sowing the seed.

    This is really what He meant when He made the statement “ he who has an ear let him hear!”

    Jesus knew that not all people have ears to hear, only those to whom God opens their ears hear. This is what he told His disciples when He said this to them:

    Matthew 13:11-16 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

    So this should also be our only concern, preaching and teaching and letting the result up to God.

    Bottom line, the pastor should definitely be concerned about the well being of the sheep and should be concerned about helping believers grow and mature and certainly must address issues and problems a believer may have.

    It is obvious that the pastor/elder must address the issues that arise in the life of a person who becomes affected by a teaching or a preaching, but the motivation behind the addressing of the issues should definitely never be the loss of money the church will undergo if a person or persons decide to leave the church. The motivating factor should always and only be love and concern with the spiritual life of that or those persons.

    So here we are back to loving each other and doing only what God tells us to do in His word, I hope we arrived at the understanding that God’s love can only be practiced when we obey His commandments.

    So we are to love people and not money, we must love God first and foremost though, because otherwise we cannot love people the way we should, in other words loving the way God wants in the way God loves us. God is not very concerned with the fact that His word offends our pride and flesh and so why should we?

    In conclusion Paul says in this exhortation that we are studying

    Romans 12:16c be not wise in your own conceits.

    This means to not let our own conceits cause us to think we are actually wise in them. Being conceited means not displaying wisdom, in fact quite the opposite.

    James 3:13-18 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

    Wisdom that God seeks for us to practice is as James describes here:

    Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

    This is wisdom from above, spiritual wisdom looks like this.

    As we clearly see here this passage is definitely connected to the exhortation we are studying in Romans 12:16.

    Like in that exhortation, this description of godly wisdom is identical.

    In Romans Paul tells us to think of others better than ourselves, it says to be humble in seeking others’ needs above ours and not to show favoritism and also not to be conceited in the way we try to display our wisdom.

    James really echoes Paul in saying these things we just read above, godly wisdom is displayed in a good conversation coupled with meekness which is also humility of wisdom.

    Godly wisdom is pure and peaceable, it’s gentle and it is easily accessible, it is merciful, and here it is, without partiality, which also means without favoritism and it is loving without hypocrisy and showing the fruit of righteousness sown in God’s peace.

    Being wise in our own conceits instead is the opposite and it is what James describes here as:

    But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

    And about this we need no explaining, it is clear that the wisdom of the world is not at all as the wisdom that comes from God. In fact, very few believers would actually guess that God’s wisdom is actually displaying and practicing all these things.

    We clearly know that being conceited is actually what James describes above, hypocrisy and favoritism are two things Paul has taught are not to be ever practiced in the church.

    In fact this last passage we are studying in Romans 12:16 is really another way of saying not to be as James admonishes not to be.

    Romans 12:17-18 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
    18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

    Now we enter into an entire section that needs to be approached with attention and must be properly understood by taking into consideration the entire counsel of God. We must do this because way too many believers take too many passages and interpret them outside of the context of the entire counsel of God’s word.

    Often when we just look at things only at face value they seem to represent we end up missing the real meaning God has given to the passages we are studying and reading.

    The first part of this passage actually means exactly what it says, we are not to recompense evil deeds by doing evil back to that person or persons.

    This in fact is actually what God means when He says we should not avenge ourselves but to leave vengeance up to Him for He will repay.

    This is actually what Paul exhorts in the final passage. Jesus also told us the very same thing:

    Matthew 5:43-44 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

    As we see it is important that we do not avenge ourselves of an evil committed against us.

    Let’s put this now into the right perspective, what does it mean not to repay evil with evil?

    It actually means not to stoop down to the same level of an evil person.

    We will also understand this better when we study the last passage in Romans chapter 12.

    A believer is called to forgive other believers when they sin against them. In the church and in all our relationships as believers we must always be ready and willing to forgive one another and not to resent and not to sin in response to any sin practiced against us.

    This kind of not repaying evil with evil though is not merely limited to believers in the church but this exhortation is given to believers to be also practiced with all men, even outside of the church not only among believers.

    In fact here Paul is teaching believers not to repay evil with evil saying: repay no man evil with evil.

    No man means no man, in the church and outside of the church.

    We need to be good witnesses of Christ’s life in us, the Scriptures command us not to be brawlers, nor strikers and not to have a short fuse:

    1 Timothy 3:3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous.

    1 Timothy 3:7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

    As we see these commandments although given to pastors/elders are not just for them they are given to all believers, obviously elders/pastors need to be tested in these character traits before they can be ordained to the office.

    What does this have anything to do with repaying evil with evil? Everything really! If a person is quick tempered and lets their temper control them they will likely be strikers and brawlers and it will end up that it they will easily get into fights with people and even physical altercations.

    In addition we must give good testimony to those outside the church as the second exhortation says in
    1 Timothy 3. We must be careful not to give any occasion to the devil to bring accusations against us and this is actually a very common thing with unbelievers and Christians.

    The world always places Christians under the microscope and checks everything we do to try to find any possible blame to place on us.

    This is in fact the snare of the devil! The devil is indeed the accuser of the Christians, Revelation 12:10.

    What the world does not understand though is that although it may find fault with us and accuse us of hypocrisy, and often rightfully so, however we do overcome our accuser by the blood of Jesus Christ that covers our sinfulness, actually takes away our sins, we overcome the devil’s accusations also by the word of our testimony and not loving our life even to the death.

    Revelation 12:11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

    As we see our testimony is also what we need to have to overcome the accusations of our enemy. This is the victory of the Christian. Our testimony therefore must not be tarnished by sinfulness or it ends up losing power as the world will indeed look at our sins not our forgiveness.
    Therefore, we cannot take God’s forgiveness and salvation for granted just because it is our victory and our forgiveness.

    Why? Because the world does not understand or care about our forgiveness, they will find all and every possible way to discredit and bring accusations against us and although we are victorious and forgiven before God our testimony will be tarnished and our integrity will be questioned just the same.

    The hypocrisy of the world has no qualms accusing us of hypocrisy because the world does not view our state of justification before God and our forgiveness as important or sufficient. The only interest the world has is the one to discredit us and accuse us in order to destroy our testimony.

    Take for example what happened to Judge Moore lately, while he was running for the Senate. Forty years old sexual misconduct allegations were brought up against him. Were they real? Maybe, maybe not. However, in any event, they ended up destroying his credibility and they indeed tarnished his Christian testimony, regardless of whether he did what accused or not. Obviously if the allegations were false and were just a ploy to derail his chances for victory they worked, however if they were real, even if he was later forgiven before God, let’s remember that God in Christ forgives repentant sinners but the world and Satan do not forgive, their only objective is destroy the Christians’ credibility and testimony.

    However God does not want us to never ever repay evil deeds done against us by using evil deeds against them.

    Let me quickly say this, and we will tackle this subject in more detail when we study the last passages of this chapter that addresses vengeance, however self defense and the defense of others from evil doers and from harm is not considered repaying evil with evil. Self defense and defense of our neighbor, of family, of the unprotected is actually a good deed and it is allowed by God, in fact, God wants that we do such a thing! It’s part of loving others as ourselves.

    As I have already mentioned, repaying evil with evil means avenging ourselves after the fact, in other words, seeking to practice premeditated evil even on an evil doer.

    Let me give you an example of the difference between self defense or defending others and repaying with evil.

    An evil person breaks in your house while no one is home and steals from you. You find out who it is and confront him and beat him up. That is repaying and evil deed with another evil deed and quite frankly we would be committing even a greater evil, or even if we went and stole back the stuff from him, this would still be repaying evil with evil. Stealing and causing bodily injury are sins and they are evil. This is also what God considers as avenging ourselves, which He prohibits us to do.

    Self defense or defense of family and neighbors is a different issue all together, that occurs in the moment it happens and not after it happens and it occurs to protect even a greater harm to be done to a person or to prevent a life from being taken. If a person is in danger of losing their life at the hands of an evildoer it is our right and our duty before God to protect ourselves or others. A murderer is an evil doer and God requires their life, that is certainly Scriptural. When a police officer or any other person especially if the Scriptures and the law allow taking the life of a person who is in the process of taking a life or that has already taken a life by thus trying to prevent more lives to be lost, this is not repaying evil with evil, it’s called justice and God not only allows it He requires it and we will study this concept when we study the concept of vengeance.

    A perfect example of not repaying evil with evil would be all these so called “Christian” movements, which are not Christian at all, who espouse evil tactics to fight evil. We are talking about that fringe that uses violence and even death for example to fight those in the abortion industry.

    These are a perfect example of what it means to repay evil with evil. No doubt murdering unborn children is an abominable evil deed in God’s eyes.

    Indeed God’s will is that murderers be executed by and through the death penalty and even those who murder innocent unborn children should be arrested for murder, they should be tried for one of the most heinous types of murder and should receive the death penalty themselves.

    This is God’s will! It’s not however God’s will to seek to practice vengeance or take justice in our own hands and repay that one evil with another evil deed. In addition, more often than not, the people who commit these acts think they are actually doing God’s will, but they are not, and let me repeat it they are not doing God’s will and usually they end up killing an awful lot of innocent people through their acts of vigilante justice.

    In other words their so called justice is not justice at all, because first of all, by doing these things they end up involving people who would not deserve to die or be injured, even according to God’s will. The same thing goes for those who execute homosexuals because they say they deserve to die according to God’s law. Yet as Christians, as church, we are never called to execute sinners even if in God’s word they deserve death. Let’s think about this for a moment, the wages of all sin is death Romans 6:23, all sin by God’s law leads to death.

    There is however a government that is actually called by God to execute justice. Unfortunately we also know that in many cases even the governing authorities disobey God’s will. However, we need to live and to operate within the just regulations of the governing authorities.

    If the government has passed a law that is not in reality a just law or as far as God is concerned no law at all which allows people to murder unborn children, we still cannot take justice in our own hands and try do execute justice ourselves. God will not ever agree to this. We need to leave the judgment and the consequences of doing justice to Him especially in the cases where the governing authorities are disobeying God’s required justice.

    What we can do as Christians is this, we can use the governing system and we can attempt to either become a part of it by becoming involved in it by running for offices and fight legally to change the laws that are unjust so that these acts of sin will also be considered illegal and punishable by law in accordance to God’s law and will or else we can try, through the voting process, to choose politicians that will work to change the ungodly laws in our land.

    As we said before, self defense and the defense of others or of our country from enemy combatants is different, first of all it is God’s will we do this and secondly it is also allowed by the law of the land. Although taking a life is not a lighthearted thing even in these cases, they are however allowed by God and in this case even by the human law in concert with God’s law and thus would be considered justice not murder.

    We should always fight evil but not by evil deeds.

    Many break the federal non law that protects murderers who abort children and they do so by peacefully attempting to rescue the children by denying access to the abortion facilities.

    In most cases this only leads to the arrest of the believers who do this and often does very little to deter the murder of children in the long range. However this happens for a reason, it is true that if the entire church in the US or in the world for that matter, showed up to block abortion facilities then most likely the government would look at it differently and most likely by now the murders would have stopped.

    However, as usual there are always only a few that are willing to risk everything to do God’s will. Unfortunately, most of us Christians, yes, including me are not always willing to do God’s will when the price to pay is very high.

    In addition if the actual local governing authorities also defied the federal mandate decriminalizing the murder of children, called abortion, then this heinous crime would definitely eventually end. It is ironic that many local governing authorities want to defy Federal government laws concerning those that are good such as those governing illegal immigration. These laws are legal and good and do not violate God’s law at all and yet the same will not ever defy the federal mandate allowing the murder of unborn children and in fact they will even enforce it in such a way that they will punish all those who try to stop it while allowing instead the guilty to go unpunished.

    When the laws governing illegal immigration are defied by the local authorities by doing so they still let the guilty go unpunished and in this case even defy a legal and just law, so here we have the perfect example of calling evil good and good evil and the hypocrisy of choosing what laws to defy and which ones to uphold. If all laws are to be upheld then why do they still think they can defy some and choose to uphold others? We are seeing this very scenario being played out in this nation right now.

    As Christians however, when a weapon is not involved and our life and the life of others is not in immediate danger we should be willing to let someone even slap us without retaliation of any kind, in fact we should offer our aggressor the other cheek as Jesus tells us to do in:

    Matthew 5:39-44 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

    As we see here, it is clear what Jesus is saying, He is saying that once the wrong has been done to us we are to respond with kindness and forgiveness and not by stooping down to the same level of the person who committed the evil against us.

    Now does this actually mean that I have to be so dumb to take the slap? No! Avoiding it is smart and if, for example I blocked the attempt I am not violating this commandment, yet if I blocked it and then hit the person back then I have committed evil. If the slap however, lands on my cheek, then I should not retaliate, once the evil is done against me I should not ever respond back with an evil deed. Again this does not mean that if I can avoid it I shouldn’t, is simply means that if it happens and I cannot avoid it then I should not avenge myself.

    We are commanded to be loving toward those who may hate us, again this does not mean we are to be victims or suckers, but we should be harmless as doves and wise, shrewd as serpents. Loving our enemy is not card blanche to be other people’s victims.

    However we still should be kind and good to those who don’t want to behave the same way toward us and we should never repay evil with evil.

    The final part of verse 17 of Romans 12 says Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

    Here the word is translated provide which in this case means properly to “think about” or
    to “meditate beforehand.”

    In other words to make it a matter of previous thought, settling it in our minds as a plan or design.

    This direction would make it a matter of principle in the Christian life to have a fixed purpose to do what is right; and not to leave ourselves exposed to the fluctuations of our feelings, or to the influence of some kind of emotional excitement. The same direction is given us also in:

    2 Corinthians 8:21 Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.

    Honest things here is meant literally as things which are beautiful or comely. The expression here does not refer to property or provisions made for family, etc. The connection requires us to understand this concept as conduct and in this context especially our conduct toward those who injure us. It requires us to have a gentle spirit and to manifest it in such cases through all that is lovely and comely in the view of others; such things that all people will approve and admire.

    The apostle wisely cautions us to “provide” for this, that is, to think of it beforehand, to make it a matter of fixed principle and purpose in our life so that we shall not be overtaken and excited by our passions and emotions. If left to the time when the offense shall be committed against us we may get excited in our emotions and be caught off our guard, and we may therefore be carried away with an improper temper.

    However if we make it a resolution in our minds to behave in such a gentle and loving way and hence the renewing of our minds comes to bear, I told you that renewing our mind is essential for the understanding and practice of the rest of what was commanded and exhorted in this chapter. Renewing our minds will ensure that we do not react to emotion rather that we, having made up our minds ahead of time as this passage says, we should or better we will resort to good and proper godly behavior in the moments when people mistreat us. In other words we have designed and planned ahead of time to behave in a nice way with those who mistreat us.

    All persons who have ever been provoked by injury (and who hasn’t?), will see the profound wisdom of this caution to “discipline” and “guard” the temper by previous purpose in order not to display an improper spirit.

    This we do in the sight of all men. All must approve of this behavior, in other words, do not give any reasons for any man to blame us and, therefore not discredit our Christian testimony.

    This expression is also taken from Proverbs 3:3-4 which says:

    Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: 4 So shalt thou find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man.

    In addition this passage shows also that people may be inclined to approve a mild, kind, and patient temper in the reception of injuries; and facts show that this is indeed the case. The Christian spirit is one that the world should approve, however little disposed to act upon it, in other words they would not publicly admit it in most cases. The world hardly wants to give Christians and the church credit for good behavior while always ready to condemn and judge any little discrepancy and any sinful behavior, even when it is not the case.

    Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

    This passage is closely connected to the previous. We as believers are called to be at peace with people and to also be peacemakers, if we remember this is a blessing Jesus gave in the Beatitudes in:

    Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

    A character trait of the children of God is to be peacemakers, only peacemakers are God’s children and God’s children ought to all be peacemakers.

    God’s children should have their Father’s nature instilled within them, that in fact is what Peter says in:

    2 Peter 1:3-8 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    God’s divine power has given us all things that pertain to spiritual life and godliness obtained through knowing Him, Jesus, the One who called us to glory and virtue and has given us exceeding great promises and we have thus been made partakers of His divine nature.

    We are partakers of God’s divine nature and part of that nature is to be peacemakers as God has been and is a peacemaker.

    God made peace between sinners and Himself, He made this peace possible by sending His only begotten Son to die for those for whom God wanted to make peace.

    New Testament Scripture is riddled with this fact about God, right in the beginning of the Gospels we find this concept of God’s willingness to make peace with sinners.

    Luke 2:8-14 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

    In this account of the angel of the Lord appearing to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus we find mentioned the fact that God’s desire is to make peace between Him and mankind. The angelic host in fact proclaimed this very fact saying that God desires to have peace with man and He is the one who has good will toward mankind in order to provide that peace. It is indeed God who has, not only initiated the peacemaking process, but it is He who planned it before hand and put it into action and who completed it. God has planned and provided peace toward man by sending Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son and Jesus accepted to be the One through whom this peace would occur.

    In fact Isaiah says:

    Isaiah 53:4-6 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

    God chastised His own Son to bring us peace, in order to make peace between mankind and God.

    All this obviously implies one very important fact, the fact that we were and still are as mankind, enemies, at enmity with God, but God provided the way sinners can no longer be His enemies but be at peace with God.

    The fact is, as studied in depth in the first three chapters of Romans, that all men, all without exception are sinners and for this very reason are estranged from the life of God and therefore are enemies of God.

    Scripture makes all these facts more than clear, we all have sinned and we are all sinners, everyone without exception.

    Romans 3:9-12 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; 10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

    Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

    The condition of mankind was and is such that it is under sin, guilty before God, no one is righteous, not even one, no one understands God nor the things of God 1 Corinthians 2:14; no one seeks after God in spite of what many teach today,we all have gone out of the way, we are all lost, we all have become totally unprofitable, our sinfulness, and our sinful nature makes us by nature children of God’s wrath, Ephesians 2:3.

    No one can do any good, any good that counts by God’s standards, this does not mean that by human standard people cannot exhibit some goodness or good traits, after all we are created in the image and likeness of God, however it means that by God’s definition and standard of good, in other words being good like God, we all cannot practice the goodness that is acceptable to God as goodness. God and His glory are the required standard and all and everything lesser than that are not acceptable to Him.

    For all these reasons, because of our sinfulness and our sin corrupted nature we are spiritually dead and because of this we are devoid of God’s life and glory in our spirit and because of this we belong to Satan and because of these facts we are enemies of God.

    Therefore God is the only One who could and who can get us out of this situation from which we cannot get out ourselves. We cannot make ourselves spiritually alive, we cannot make ourselves believe, we cannot become righteous on our own, we cannot provide forgiveness for or sins, we cannot and do not want to have peace with God.

    God had to plan it, God had to provide it and has to apply it according to His mercy and grace.

    As I said He has done all this by sending His only begotten Son to do what we could never do and to undo what Adam’s rebellion and disobedience caused in the human race’s nature, in other words our spiritual death and therefore our enmity with God.

    Let us now look at some passages that demonstrate to us how we were and many still are, enemies of God and how He is indeed our peacemaker.

    Romans 5:6-11 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

    As we see here God commanded His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us , in verse ten Paul says if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by Jesus Christ’s death being reconciled we shall be saved by His life.

    Here again we see we, who have been reconciled to God by Christ’s sacrifice, were once enemies of God but now are reconciled, which in other words means that we now are at peace with God.

    Not being enemies means to be at peace, that is clear.

    This is again demonstrated by the following passages:

    Colossians 1:20-21 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. 21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled

    God made peace, through the blood shed on the cross by His Son in our behalf and as it say, we have been reconciled when we were once alienated and enemies of God. Wow, and where were we enemies of God by the way?

    In our minds by wicked works, yet now we are reconciled, peace has been made between God and us.

    Jesus is our peacemaker and He is our peace:

    Ephesians 2:13-18 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

    As we see, we were far off but been made near in Christ by His blood. He is therefore our peace, we have done nothing to be at peace with God, He did it all! As we see He abolished in Himself the enmity, all that made us enemies of God, our sin and spiritual deadness, God reconciled us.

    The term reconcile or reconciliation must be used when a person once was against another and now all that made one enemy of the other has been taken out of the way. It really means that peace has been made between two parties who were once at enmity.

    So as we see God is the ultimate peacemaker therefore if we are His children we must be like Him, children must be like their Father, Jesus was like Him and did what His Father wanted Him to do. He made peace between unworthy wicked sinners and a Holy and righteous God and He did it by dying on a cross in order to forgive our sins and thereby make peace between us and God. What caused the enmity was taken out of the way, namely our sins.

    Now we as God’s adopted children having been reconciled to God by His Son Jesus Christ, our peace, we too must be like our Father and like His Son.

    2 Corinthians 5:18-20 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

    We are instruments of God’s peace and if we are not then we must become them. I usually do not use many extra Biblical things in teaching God’s word, however in this case I would like to make an exception.

    I’d like to use a prayer used especially in the Roman church, I know, I know, I am not very partial to much, or I should say to almost anything the Roman church teaches or stands for, but this particular prayer is extremely useful to explain what it means to be a peacemaker.

    This prayer is called Francis of Assisi’s prayer, seemingly it is attributed to this man, Francis of Assisi and it goes like this:

    Lord make me an instrument of your peace; Where there is hatred let me sow love
    Where there is injury, pardon, Where there is doubt, faith, Where there is despair, hope
    Where there is darkness, light And where there is sadness, joy

    O divine master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, To be loved as to love, For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life

    I do consider this prayer as Scriptural and this is why I accept it as a type of valid prayer. The point is that we should be instruments of God’s peace, we are called to be those who also reconcile others, who seek to sow God’s peace in the church and outside of the church.

    God’s peace is also having peace with God, that is why the church is called to preach the Gospel, which is also called the Gospel of peace Romans10:15; Ephesians 6:15; and God is called the God of peace
    Romans 15:33; Romans 16:20; Philippians 4:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Hebrews 13:20; because the Gospel it is the vehicle with which the God of peace brings peace and reconciliation to mankind.

    In this prayer Francis really nails what it means to be peacemakers, it really means to sow love where there is hatred, that is what Jesus teaches us when He tells us to love our enemies, where there is injury, in this case specifically, when some one insults us or when someone sins against us to sow forgiveness in its place, when there is doubt in others we ought to sow our faith, when someone is despairing we ought to give them hope, but not as the world hopes, we sow hope in God, where there is darkness we sow light as we are called to be the light of the world, we are to sow the light of Christ in the darkness of Satan’s rule.

    In the second part of the prayer it says we need to seek to console rather than be consoled, this is as Paul had taught us, to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. To comfort those who mourn and Jesus tells us it is more blessed to give than to receive.

    When we have reached the point that we are at least willing to do all this we truly can be called the children of God because we have become peacemakers.

    Paul is telling us that as far as it is possible with us, we must be at peace with everyone. So we are the ones who are called to be at peace with others, we are to be the peacemakers and that’s what the children of God do.

    Often though, when it comes to the world and those who don’t know God and that are not children of God but are by human nature children of wrath, we will have a very difficult time in order to be successful in being at peace with them. This is because to be at peace with someone both sides must be at peace with each other. We can try to be at peace with someone so long as it depends on us even if they are not at peace with us but it is an extremely difficult task and it must be tackled spiritually through God’s grace and with His help because humanly speaking it would be just about impossible to do.

    We need God’s grace in us in order to sow God’s peace where hatred exists. However we may never be entirely successful especially if the next person is unwilling to be at peace with us. As we said most likely unsaved people will not be as willing and receptive as perhaps other believers would be.

    However, there needs to be said that often, even among believers, being at peace with one another becomes a daunting task. Rest assured that if in the church it is difficult to practice this, imagine that it is virtually impossible for unbelievers to do so.

    There are times when peace becomes a very difficult thing to obtain or keep between people because even God tell us that although we may attempt to be at peace with people it may be impossible.

    Matthew 10:12-14 And when ye come into an house, salute it. 13 And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.

    Beginning here in Matthew ten we see Jesus telling His disciples that, the people who are worthy of the peace we bring to such will stay upon them only if they are willing to be at peace with us, if they do not want to be at peace with us we should learn to move on, we must be wise to this, if they are not willing to hear the Gospel which is the Gospel of peace, if they are not willing to be at peace with God, then we must move on. We cannot always try to beat a dead horse, or better beat a spiritually dead person.

    Many Christians unfortunately do not get this concept, that it is really God that must do so, many think that it is their job to make sure that people believe in the Gospel and then they insist and insist and insist and preach and preach and preach to those same persons to the point that they actually become a nuisance to those same unbelievers even to the point that the relationship cannot continue to be a peaceful one.

    In this case especially it is the believer’s fault because they did not actually obey what Jesus said, if there can be no reconciliation through the Gospel we must move on and not insist, we must not create undo strife. We need to keep the peace with people, that is what God wants.

    It also means that these people have at least for now refused peace with God and as Jesus says, God’s peace returns to us and we are to literally shake the dust off our sandals, meaning that we move on without guilt of our own, we leave those people in God’s hands.

    Some times the refusal of Christ can be on friendly terms and it may be easy to keep the peace with some people, but more times than not the refusal of peace with God through the Gospel is not at all on friendly terms and these situations become real battles instead, and again, this will most likely originate and come from the ones who refuse Christ and not from us.

    In fact Jesus warned us to expect this to happen even among and especially with the members of our own families:

    Look at what Jesus says here:

    Matthew 10:34-37 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. 37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

    As we see here the Lord tells us that He did not come to send peace on earth rather a sword. Wow! This will rub a lot of people the wrong way. Many Christians think that nothing that concerns Jesus or Christianity can be controversial or that it has to bring peace at all costs, well obviously it does not and the Lord actually uses a figure of speech that is indeed very harsh. He says not peace but a sword, a sword is a weapon, an instrument that causes wounds and even death. It’s a cutting and stabbing object that inflicts damage, pain and as we said even death.

    Did Jesus really mean that He came not to send peace but to cause pain, wounds and perhaps even a certain semblance of death? Yes, that is exactly what He meant.

    Actually for some believers the Gospel may even mean literal physical death and the members of their own families can and often will be the ones who will betray them even to that death.

    Jesus actually warned us even of this very fact when He said this:

    Luke 21:16-17 And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. 17 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.

    Did you see that? Believers will be betrayed by parents and brethren and family and friends, betrayed even to death.

    In many countries even today this is actually occurring, ask some of the converts from the Muslim religion if this is actually happening, it certainly is!

    This may seem foreign to many because so far in this country we have been living in a certain amount of freedom regarding the practice of our faith, however this may change one day, most likely it will and we will eventually understand what it means to be betrayed by our own family and friends and people that we now trust.

    Becoming a true and real follower and disciple of Jesus Christ, often and especially in the Jewish culture, but not exclusively in that one only, causes people of the same family, as the Lord says, to turn against those who follow Christ and this causes, pain, wounds and even death because a lot of times people become ostracized and separated from their own families for the sake of following Christ.

    However, this is exactly what being a true disciple of Christ often causes. Jesus actually demands that we love Him and therefore obey Him and not compromise our Christian walk for anyone, not even the members of our family.
    Our number one absolute allegiance is first and foremost to our Lord not to our biological family or friends. In fact Jesus warns us that if we do that we are actually not worthy of Him.

    Jesus gave a pretty good exposition of this fact when even when it came to Himself, twice He made sure people knew that His priority and also ours should be obeying God and being about His business.

    The very first time He expressed this concept He was only twelve:

    Luke 2:42-43 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. 43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.

    You know the story I hope, Joseph and Mary go back to search for Jesus and find Him in the Temple teaching and they are besides themselves from the fear of almost having lost Him and now find relief because they found Him and this is the dialogue that ensues:

    Luke 2:48-49 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. 49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?

    It wasn’t that Jesus wanted to disrespect and disobey His parents, He did not do so and would not have done so, because that is not at all God’s will, however He showed that He had a higher calling and greater priority and He established the line of demarcation between His earthly parents and His heavenly Father’s will and purpose.

    Often our earthly family’s will and purposes are not the same as God’s will and purposes. Especially if and when our earthly families are not saved. Rest assured they will have a much different purpose from God’s purposes and they will definitely try to make us compromise and adopt theirs rather than us focusing on God’s purposes and His will. This is exactly why Jesus told us that the members of our own families could potentially become our enemies if we made God’s will and purpose our first and foremost priority.

    Unsaved people never have the same goals and agendas as God has. Too many Christians in fact, too many, often choose to maintain the peace with their family at the cost of their own obedience to God. This is compromise and God does not want us to maintain peace at the cost of compromising His will. This should not be even within believers never mind with unbelievers. Our faithfulness and obedience is to God before anyone even our own family and friends, even other believers.

    If they try to make us compromise our faith and our walk with God that meas that they actually are not loving us properly and they are not our friends.

    We are indeed called to be peacemakers and to be at peace with all men but never ever by compromising our obedience to God.

    As we will also see in the study of the next chapter, God does indeed call us to obey authority but only when our obedience to Him is not compromised and never when we are placed in the position to disobey God on order to obey men. God’s will has to always be paramount in the believers’ life. Our allegiance to God should never be compromised, never!

    Look at what the Apostles said and did:

    Acts 5:27-29 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. 29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

    Pretty clear right? We must obey God rather than men, any men, even our earthly family if they require us to compromise our walk with God. By the way that compromise is a lot more subtle than what many think it is. It usually starts with little things like missing church occasionally, then more and more often, since unfortunately for most believers a once a week church meeting is about the extent of their spiritual walk and life this very thing cause them to derail most of their Christian walk since it is already very limited to begin with.

    In a similar fashion many years later, Jesus as an adult, was addressed by some people who told Him that His earthly family was looking for Him, said this:

    Matthew 12:46-50 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. 47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. 48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? 49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

    Once again Jesus placed the emphasis on doing God’s will rather than being overly concerned about what His earthly family were doing or thinking. In reality we must understand that His mother and His half brothers were really not His followers at the time, in fact another passage actually tells us this very fact:

    John 7:3-5 His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. 4 For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. 5 For neither did his brethren believe in him.

    This is exactly what He was also saying before, that we must be His followers even if our family and friends do not want to be and even if they put up a fuss and even if they actually become our enemies because of Christ.

    This is what it means that He came not to send peace but a sword. Rest assured that the majority of the time anyone decides to seriously follow Christ they will make many enemies and many enemies will be the members of their own families.

    So being peacemakers is not an easy task and it becomes at time very difficult to sustain. Sustaining peace with people who don’t want to be at peace with us, being at peace with people who will begin to hate us because we love God more than them and because we are not willing to compromise our walk with Jesus for them, is not at all an easy task!

    God however, says as far as it depends on us, you see that is the key, it must depend on us, in other words we must never demonstrate to them that we are at war with them, in other words our behavior and demeanor must exude a peacemaking attitude. We are the peacemakers and must strive to be that regardless what others do and regardless of their bellicose attitude against us.

    We should not ever start arguments nor should we sustain them when others start them! Now I am really preaching to myself here. We need to lengthen our fuses if they are short, we must not be quick to be angry, oh boy, I am really not doing good here! However I know many Christians have this problem, we must avoid arguments and always try to exude a peace loving behavior and attitude, especially with those who are harder to love and those who always try to start wars with us.

    God’s word always exhorts us not to be partakers of arguments and especially not to start them.

    Proverbs 15:18 A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.

    Proverbs 17:14 The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.

    Proverbs 17:19 He loveth transgression that loveth strife: and he that exalteth his gate seeketh destruction.

    Proverbs 20:3 It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.

    Proverbs 26:20-21 Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. 21 As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.

    It is very clear, God dislikes when we are quarrelsome and belligerent. God loves that His children desire peace and kindness and gentleness.

    In fact these are some of the fruit of the Spirit:

    Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

    Peace, gentleness, temperance which some translations translate as self control. This is how a believer acts, that is controlled by the Holy Spirit. Obviously if we let our flesh control us then what we get is strife and wrath and being out of control and we end up being quarrelsome. I have to say this is a very sticky point with me as it is often with many other believers as well.

    We can be angry, anger is not a sin, but how we react in our anger often can become sinful. If we get angry and disobey God by behaving in an unseemly way we sin and then anger leads us into sinfulness.

    God’s word does not even specify the type of anger one must have, but just that we can become angry but we must not sin in our anger.

    Ephesians 4:26-27 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil.

    It is very clear that God’s word gives us the liberty to get angry, however even when we get angry we must submit to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to bring out peace, gentleness and self control and goodness.

    Is it possible to behave in this way even when we become angry?

    Not only possible we must learn to submit to God and allow His Spirit to bring about His fruit in our life, our emotions need to be controlled by the Holy Spirit an the word of God not by our flesh.

    It is possible to have joy when we are in sadness. The fruit of the Spirit must work in us in spite of the circumstances and emotions we have, when He takes control we will behave in a manner consistent with His fruit.

    Many Biblical scholars have come up with two types of anger, righteous anger and unrighteous anger. They say that we should not become angry for reasons that are not valid or as they say not righteous. What they mean is only injustices done to others or toward God and God’s will and purposes should make us angry and they say that we do not have any right to become angry when we are offended and slighted if someone does us wrong.

    I will say that although that sounds right and noble, it’s not and it’s not really biblical.

    Just by simply examining this Ephesians 4 passage we quickly understand that Paul is not at all making distinctions between types of anger. It is obvious that if there was a type of anger we do not have the right to have then the problems would be twofold.

    The first problem would be that our emotion would in itself not be neutral but in part sinful on its own. Of course we get angry if someone does us wrong, it’s a natural reaction, it’s an emotion. Emotions by themselves are neutral, it’s all in how we react to them that becomes sinful or not.

    The second problem is that even righteous anger would be wrong at times because even righteous anger could become a channel for sin.

    Therefore, it’s not the emotion and it’s not the reasons that make anger sinful but it’s only how we react to anger which will make it sinful or not.

    Paul says: Be angry! Be angry does not sound like a prohibition, it sounds more like an imperative, Paul is saying, you can be angry, it’s allowed by God even and if the wrong was done to you personally.

    How do we deduce that this is true? Simple, Paul does not distinguish types of anger nor does he explain the reasons why we should be angry or we should not, in fact he does not say we should not get angry. He actually says to us to go ahead an be angry but in our anger we must not sin.

    What he is saying is we must respond to anger in a certain way, with God controlling it.

    In fact Paul is really implying that someone did do us wrong in this passage, he says not to let the sun go down, watch now, on what? On our wrath! Wrath is a pretty forceful word to describe anger, yet he uses it and he says we can be wrathful but we must not sin and we must not let it fester long.

    We cannot let the day go by without letting anger be extinguished and the best way to do this is to let God deal with it and to make sure that we diffuse our anger by always forgiving the person who caused our hurt and dealing with them to be at peace with them.

    The quicker we let anger go the less probability we will have to behave in a sinful way. We must not let the anger get out of control and we must get rid of it as quickly as possible. Holding on to anger leads only to resentment and that leads to hatred, which could even lead to murder or the very least to try and be hurtful in some way to the person that wronged us.

    Paul says that if we sin in our anger or we let it fester and stay angry longer than a day we are allowing the devil to get a foothold on us, he will take advantage of us when we are in that state. We do not want to give any space at all, any room to the devil to gain advantage on us.

    Let me show you how even righteous anger if not controlled by God and left unchecked causes us to potentially sin.

    There are some people, who say they are believers in Christ, maybe they are but I believe they deceive themselves because they let their righteous anger get the best of them and then they end up even committing some very serious sins.

    There are some for example that get so angry at child murder, abortion, that they take out that anger on the abortionists, clinics and workers by bombing clinics, shooting abortionists and doing evil things to people who are involved in sinning against God, such even as homosexuals.

    This is a very good example of two things, the one we already talked about, repaying evil with evil. We are never to repay evil with evil but the second problem is they are not acting like peacemakers rather even though rightfully angry about child murder they do not get angry but do not sin, they get angry and they sin and sin even in a very grievous way.

    We should hate sin but we cannot hate to the point that we act in hate toward the persons who commit them. This is being angry for the right reasons but sinning in that anger.

    So peacemakers can get angry at the wrong done to them it’s a natural reaction but we must not sin in our anger and we must forgive and try at all costs to keep peace with all men. That’s God’s will!

    There are many mentions of believers getting angry for a variety of reasons and the behavior was sinful at times and not sinful in other occasions.

    In order to avoid misunderstanding about this concept we will purposefully avoid passages of the Old Testament and will look only at New Testamentary Scriptures.

    The very first passages I want us to look at together are episodes that concern the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

    We know very well the episode in which the Lord casts out the money changers and the vendors out of the courts of God’s temple.

    Mark 11:15-17 And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; 16 And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. 17 And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.

    In the Gospel of John it says that Jesus actually made a whip with cords and proceeded to overthrow tables and cast out the vendors and money changers.

    John 2:14-16 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: 15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; 16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.

    If we look at these passages we see that Jesus exhibited anger and actually acted upon that anger. Yes, realize that it was righteous anger and that these people were sinning against God and His temple. In a sense it was also a sin against Him as He is God.

    We also realize that when wrongdoing was committed against Him personally He did not retaliate in anger. Now, was He angry but remained silent or did He not get angry at all? We cannot state with certainty whether He did or He did not get angry for the Scriptures do not tell us. We can carefully presume that He did get angry because the word of God tell us this:

    Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

    This passage is very, very important to understand because it states that Jesus was tempted like us in ALL points. As we clearly see it says that Jesus was tempted in all points like us, yet it says that even though He underwent all the same temptations as all men do yet He did not ever sin.

    This brings us back to the passage where Paul says to “ be angry” but do not sin!

    We can definitely understand that Jesus did get angry and may have been angry even when He was wronged but He did not sin in His anger and often He did not even show it.

    Peter says: 1 Peter 2:21-23 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

    Even here Peter says Jesus did not sin, nor did He even revile in words but when He was reviled He did not revile back and He did not act upon the suffering they, we, caused Him but here is the key, He committed Himself to Him that judges righteously, namely the Father, God.

    So should we, we should do as He did. Notice that Peter actually makes several distinctions about Jesus. First he says Jesus did not sin nor guile found in His mouth. The Greek word guile signifies
    craft, deceit, guile, subtlety. Jesus was always and completely truthful.

    The second distinction Peter makes is that Jesus sis not revile back when He was wronged and even cruelly treated, beaten, scourged, mocked and killed. Revile means to act in an abusive manner or to lash back at someone. Now, this begs the question is reviling in this particular case sinning or not? Peter already told us that Jesus did not sin ever, but we also know that He was tempted in all points like us. Is reviling in our anger always sinful? It can be either, the meaning of reviling can be sinful and not sinful. This is the meaning of the word in a sinful manner: criticize in an abusive and insulting manner.
    This is the meaning in a more subdued way: criticize, condemn, censure or attack.

    These last four could be done in a way that is not sinning such as the time Jesus addressed the Pharisees and the Scribes and Lawyers in Matthew 23.

    Certainly Jesus did not sin, but in the proper way and context He rebuked, in other words He criticized, condemned and attacked them, yet in His anger toward them He did not sin.

    Lastly Peter says Jesus did not threaten when He was reviled. Did He have a right to threaten them for what they were doing to Him? Not only He was being mistreated as a man but He was mistreated as God ads well. Condemning an innocent man should make one angry, mistreating a human being as He was and for no reason at all could be, should be a cause of anger. In addition doing what they did to Him as the Son of God, as God certainly could have caused threats on His part and rightly so.

    Jesus however had a different approach to anger than we do, in most cases, in all cases He was personally wronged although He might have had the right to be angry and even lash out and condemn and threaten He did not do it. Peter says He committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

    This is the proper response God wants us to have as well when people wrong us or offend us in some way.

    We must commit ourselves to God who judges righteously in our behalf.

    Let’s look at other times Jesus got angry:

    Mark 3:1-5 And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. 2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. 3 And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. 4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. 5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

    Scripture clearly states that Jesus got angry with them because they did not want Him to heal on the Sabbath, they also were looking to find ways to accuse Him, Jesus looked upon them with anger and was grieved for the hardness of their heart.

    Even here we see that Jesus gets angry but His reaction is atypical of an angry man, He is actually angry but He does not sin, He instead does God’s will which was to heal the man and then because He committed Himself to God instead of rebuking the Pharisees He actually feels bad because their hearts are hardened. He turns His anger into grief but He does not lash out in any way. This is what happens when a person is able to redirect their anger in the proper way, giving it to God and still pursuing God’s will, we as well as Jesus did, should do the same so we can definitely be angry and not sin.
    Now in closing this subject let’s look at a few other incidents in Scripture where someone got angry and did not apparently sin. Therefore substantiating the claim that we can indeed be angry and that anger in itself is not sinful.

    Acts 15:37-41 And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. 38 But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. 39 And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; 40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.

    Paul and Barnabas were partners in ministry, Barnabas originally was one of the first Christians who actually trusted Paul and became a very close brother to him, Acts 9:26-27.

    They worked together for a long time and now suddenly they have an argument so contentious and sharp that they departed from each other, in other words they split up, this was a disagreement to sharp there was an actual division, they could not work together and they went their own way.

    Most likely it as not the best situation in which Christians should find themselves and yet here you have two spiritually mature Christians one is an Apostle and another almost, nevertheless a very prominent leader in the church, who disagree, argue, fight so sharply they must separate. Now, who sinned here? We cannot have a clear idea as to what was said or how, yet sin in this incident is not mentioned. It is therefore very possible to have a sharp disagreement with someone and not still not sin. One thing we really must be very careful about though is not to harbor resentment and unforgiveness.

    Another episode where an Apostle was angry is found in:

    Acts 8:18-23 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. 20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. 23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

    Here again Peter is angered by the offense of this man to God and His Spirit but we can ascertain readily by the words Peter uses that there is a certain tone Peter uses and it’s not gentle it’s sharp and it’s angry. Here is another case of righteous anger and certainly as Jesus did with the Pharisees in Matthew 23 so does Peter here.

    One last episode we can look at and this involves Paul again and it’s in:

    Acts 23:2-5 And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. 3 Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? 4 And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest? 5 Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.

    There would be a lot to be said regarding this passage, let’s see if we can do it in a short form.

    Romans 12:19-21 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

    Paul continues now in the same context of what he has been talking for the past two verses. In the same vain of not repaying evil with evil and being at peace wit all men, now Paul tells us that we should not avenge ourselves but we must give place to God’s wrath not give people ours. Vengeance belongs to God as it is written here, we must let God repay others for the evil they have done and not us, even and especially because God is the only One who is just and can judge with true justice and repay justly.

    God Himself specified this in other passages, in fact what Paul is saying here is actually found in:

    Deuteronomy 32:35-36 To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. 36 For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.

    There are other New Testament passages that mention this same declaration and they are found as soon as the next chapter, beginning with the concept of vengeance of God that is given through the governing authorities in the way of justice.

    Romans 13:3-4 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

    God’s vengeance is also found in the true justice ministered by human governing authorities when they judge and execute justly God’s brand of justice. Let’s remember one thing, God’s brand of vengeance is always just and never unjust. God judges and executes His wrath and vengeance with perfect justice. Obviously men are not able to do so if they do not execute justice in the same just way God does.

    This is exactly why God gave the eye for an eye rule to Israel. When the governing authorities, in other words the judges judged in Israel they had to do it God’s way and not in the way they thought justice was to be but exactly as God said it should be.

    Exodus 21:23-26 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, 24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. 26 And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake.

    When it comes to justice God wants it to be fair and wants it to be in the same measure of the crime or the offense committed. Justice has to be equal to the crime. It is not justice at all to give less than what God deems should be given, but even to give more than a crime requires. Plea bargaining for example, is not justice according to God. The punishment must always fit the crime. When we avenge ourselves instead in most cases we do not act justly anyway.
    In most cases when we avenge ourselves we act emotionally and in anger and resentment and we will end up giving more punishment than it really is justly required. Let me give you an example, when someone says something like

    “ if it were up to me I would cut someones’ hands then they won’t steal it anymore!”

    Well, thank God it’s not up to that person then, this is type of avenging is actually a crime, it’s a wrong punishment by giving excessive punishment for the actual crime committed.

    In no way at all a thief should receive such harsh physical damage for the crime of theft. See, God knows that if we avenge ourselves we would always do much more wrong than we would true justice.

    In most of cases, if not all cases, a person who wants to avenge themselves would do a lot more damage to the culprit than the wrong that person actually inflicted.

    Many times we also can see this in relationships between people, whether they are children or grown ups, husbands and wives, children and parents.

    I remember when I was a child once a classmate of mine had put his toy soldiers on my desk, I told him to take them off and he would not so when he did not I swatted his toys off my desk to which he slapped me, to which I beat him up.

    Here is a perfect example of an escalation of avenging ourselves for a wrong done which, as I said escalated in intensity, but all of this behavior was unwarranted. It’s a perfect example of what happens when we take matters in our own hands and avenge ourselves of a wrong done to us.

    In this case he was wrong to put his toys on my desk, knowing this kid I can tell you he did it to instigate me, however how should I have acted in this case as a Christian (although I was a child and not a believer) I would have had two right choices.

    The first one I could or should have gone to the teacher and told her to take care of it or as a second choice I could have sat at another desk.

    In either of those cases I would have done no wrong and I would have diffused the entire situation. If I went to the person in authority, in other words our teacher, I would have placed her authority and power at my disposal, to my advantage and to my classmate’s disadvantage and easily for him he would have received disciplinary action.

    This is the perfect example of what it means not to avenge ourselves and to let God take care of the avenging for us. If we go to God as I should have gone to the teacher then we would have all of God’s authority and power to back us up and to work for us. We must leave the punishment to God and or to the governing authorities.

    In our case we both avenged ourselves and things escalated for the worse because either of us did worse to the other than was necessary. There was no need for me to avenge myself by swatting his toys off my desk, I avenged a wrong done to me and I did not let who was in authority and power take care of it for me as we should do with God.

    He took the wrong done to him and actually avenged himself doing even worse than me because now he assaulted me. Then I did even worse by avenging myself in an even worse manner than him. Jesus told us if someone slaps us we should not slap them back but turn the other cheek.

    Now I recognize that this was children being children, but the entire thing was all wrong and it is a perfect example of what happens when we avenge any wrongs done to us.

    If you actually translate that childish quarrel and vengeance between two children in something done between adults you can understand that the evil and damage could be that much greater. We hear all the times about feuds between neighbors, how one perceives a wrong committed against them and avenges himself by doing something even worse in return, then the other does yet another thing even worse and there is an escalation of wicked things being done to each other, this is an example of avenging ourselves, avenging ourselves never ends in anything good.

    This is why God commands us believers not to avenge ourselves, we can be just as bad as anyone else if we operate in our flesh and that is exactly what would happen if and when we avenged ourselves.

    We cannot let our emotions take us over, we talked about anger in our study, we cannot let our anger get out of control and attempt to avenge ourselves because we will not be acting in fairness anyway.

    Only God can properly avenge us we cannot.

    Paul in 1 Corinthians 6 actually tells us believers, especially among ourselves, but not exclusively, not to drag other believers into law suits in a court of law. Listen to what he says:

    1 Corinthians 6:1-8 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? 2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? 4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. 5 I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. 7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? 8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.

    For us in the church especially this is the practice, Paul is actually rebuking the Corinthians because they would sue each other. Paul is saying instead not to bring each other before the human courts but to resolve our quarrels within the church itself. Not to air our dirty laundry in the human court system rather to resolve our issues within the body of Christ. Paul in fact says that it would be even better that we endured the wrong and forgave the brother, bring it before the church but be the better one and forgive, be wronged and suffer the wrong but don’t be the ones who do wrong.

    If we all cared and loved each other and did this, after a while no one would do each other wrong anymore.

    The concept here in principle is the same exact one as Jesus brought up in:

    Matthew 5:39-42 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

    Clearly Jesus actually extends even more what Paul said, because Paul is peaking to believers about believers but Jesus is talking about how a believer should react toward anyone, not just to other brothers.

    He says in fact “ whosoever smites you” “ if any man sues you at law”, “ whosoever compels us”

    So as Paul says in Romans when he says to be at peace with all men, this is also what Jesus says. Also this is actually an exhortation to not avenge ourselves regarding wrongs done to us.

    However to be fair, although we must not avenge ourselves of a deed done to us, God does not prohibit us to defend ourselves or our loved ones or defend a weaker and defenseless person from harm especially potentially lethal harm.

    Jesus isn’t saying we cannot defend ourselves or others from a potentially very harmful situation or God’s word would not have said these following things:

    Genesis 9:5-6 And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. 6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

    In addition it says this also:

    Romans 13:3-4 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

    As we see it is God’s intention to use human justice to punish wrongdoing and especially murderers. This is exactly why Paul mentions that they bear the sword. The sword was and is still a lethal weapon, it was then as a side firearm is today. There is no difference between the two for the sake of the principle.

    If God has given human justice to those He placed in authority, if they can execute justice often even on the spot using lethal force, if that authority is also extended by human law to others, such as giving lawful approval to use lethal force to defend oneself and others from lethal harm, then by extension it is God conferring that right and authority.

    It’s not a commandment for a civilian to seek their own justice but it’s allowed by law and it’s allowed by God also and not only by human law. How and why? Because it is God who actually gave this right to the human governing authority as we clearly read in Genesis 9 and Romans 13.

    So we are not commanded to use lethal force in cases of self defense but we can without committing the sin of murder. It is however manslaughter just the same or what is called it’s justifiable manslaughter. Even police officers commit justifiable manslaughter when they kill a person in a justifiable way.

    If self defense was not allowed by God, Jesus would have never ever made this statement:

    Luke 22:35-36 And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. 36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.

    It is obvious that Jesus is clearly telling them that carrying a sword even for His disciples was allowed. In fact He exhorts them to get one if they don’t have one. Now, let’s think about this for a moment, why would Jesus tell them to get a sword, even to sell a garment in order to have a sword? A sword back then was for only one purpose, He did not tell them to get a sword to cut bread with it. He told them so that they could defend themselves when they needed too do so. Let’s remember, back then a sword was the equivalent of a fire arm today.

    Let’s also remember that, there are moments we can, we don’t have to, but we can use lethal force to defend ourselves and others and there are moments when it is prohibited as well.

    Later on Peter who had a sword with him struck a guard while they came to arrest Jesus. However there are very good reasons why Jesus did not want him to use it then.

    First reason is valid even today, if the police come to arrest us or anyone with us even if it was not a warranted arrest and we deem it unjust, and it may be, we obviously cannot draw a gun and start shooting the police, we know what would happen if we did so, we’d be dead.

    This is exactly why Jesus told Peter to put the sword back in its place and why He told him this:

    Matthew 26:51-52 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. 52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

    Jesus here is not saying we cannot use a weapon to defend ourselves, but what He is saying is that in that case and in any other case for that matter if we think we can resolve every issue by using violence and lethal force eventually we will be victims of the same. Living by the sword is not the same as using it to defend when needed.

    Jesus did not need to be defended with a sword even though He was unjustly arrested. Jesus answers Peter well when He tells him, He Jesus the Son of God did not need to be defended by men nor by a puny sword, Jesus if He needed had the whole host of heaven to His beck and call.

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

    However as we see Jesus had come so that they would actually unjustly arrest Him, try Him and condemn Him to death, that is why He had come. Scripture had to be fulfilled, it had to be that way.

    That was the second point and the third one is that He had not come to lead an armed rebellion or to overthrow the Roman occupation as He was unjustly accused of, He told Pilate this instead:

    John 18:36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

    See if at that time Jesus came to overcome Roman rule and establish Israel’s Kingdom and do it through human force then His servants would fight, but that is not why He came the first time.

    There will be a Second time He will come, and I’m sorry to disappoint our strict reformed theology brothers, He will come bodily to earth and He will annihilate and vanquish all of His enemies on earth and establish a real and literal Kingdom on earth in which He will rule:
    Revelation 19:11-21; Revelation 20:1-10.

    This time He will come as a warrior and a conquering King and He will use His sword, the one which comes out of His mouth, His word to destroy His enemies.

    Anyway, Jesus never prohibited then nor now self defense or the defensing of others.

    That is not avenging oneself, avenging would be, going after someone that murdered or caused us harm or to our loved ones and then killing them or beating them for what they did. That is avenging ourselves and it’s not justice. Justice in that case demands that they be apprehended by authorities and tried and convicted.

    Even police when going after a murderer aren’t allowed to kill the murderer unless he or she tries or threatens to kill them first in which case it becomes self defense. If not they must be apprehended and tried and should, according to God, receive the death penalty for murder that is. We know however that even in our justice system although in many cases the death penalty is enforced it is not always enforced for murder.

    Our justice system is the one which is often in violation of God’s justice, but even then we must entrust ourselves to God’s perfect justice, because in the end God will judge righteously. This is why we must not avenge ourselves and let God do it for us.

    Verse 20 says: Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

    This passage is very important and I believe many people really have a hard time interpreting this verse.

    This verse is closely connected to the previous one which commands us not to avenge ourselves but to allow God to do so in our behalf.

    This verse is also found mentioned in another portion of Scripture.

    Proverbs 25:21-22 If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: 22 For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.

    This is from where Paul is citing it in the letter to the Romans.

    Now let’s look at what this all means. As we previously said, Paul mentioned not to avenge ourselves and to allow God to take are of the wrong or wrongs done to us. Now Paul cites the passage of Proverbs 25.

    Here God’s word tells us to be kind to our enemies, to show kindness to those who may even want to harm us.

    Let’s notice, in the Middle Eastern culture but not only in that one, just about in all cultures friendship and fellowship is almost always celebrated by partaking in a meal.

    Sharing a meal at the family table is always a sign of friendship and fellowship. Let’s think about this for a moment, we usually only invite people to dinner that are our kin and our friends.

    Most people do not invite just anyone to partake of a meal in their house, unless of course someone likes the persons they invite or at least have some type of kinship with them.

    So the meaning here is that, we must treat those who hate us and who want to mistreat us as if they were our friends and we should help them if and when they are in need.

    This passage actually does not show us to just go ahead and invite people that hate us for dinner into our house, although it does not actually prohibits us from doing it either.

    However it does say that when our enemies’ hunger or thirst we must show them kindness and even feed them and give them something to drink if need be, so if we are aware of them becoming in need we should show them kindness and help them.

    Obviously most people and even believers often have a hard time, not only doing this but even understanding why.

    Understanding why is actually not so difficult. Besides, any time God command us to do something it is not really imperative to understand why we must just do it. It should be sufficient that God commanded us to do it for us to do it.

    However, God most of the times also explains to us why He tells us to do what He tells us to do.

    We often understand and get explanation through the study of Scripture of why God tells us to do what He does, so we must also understand this concept through the eyes of Scriptures.

    First of all we must understand that even we, all believers at one time were God’s enemies.

    There are many Scriptures which clearly give evidence that we at one point were all God’s enemies.

    Let’s look at a few, the first one and very descriptive of our enmity with God and God’s kindness and mercy is found in:

    Romans 5:6-8 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

    As we clearly see, Christ died for the ungodly, that is us, we were without any spiritual strength to be in any condition to find favor with God. No one is good, we saw this written in Romans 3:10-12, so Christ did not die for any good or righteous man, instead God commanded His love toward us that while we were yet sinners and therefore enemies of God, Christ died for us.

    God did not love us when we were good and righteous, He loved us when we were sinners and His enemies. In fact God chose us before the foundation of the world and because of His mercy He saved us, when He chose us, even though we weren’t even born yet, God knew we were going to be sinners and that we were going to be His enemies and yet He still chose us and saved us just the same.

    God loved us, His enemies so much, He saw us hungry and thirsty, lacking of our spiritual food and drink and He made sure He provided for us those very things we were lacking and because of their lack we would have otherwise perished.

    See God loved us, His enemies and gave us to eat and drink of His spiritual food, remembering what Jesus told us about this concept in:

    John 6:32-35 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. 34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

    So God gave us,His enemies spiritual food and drink because we were dying without them, so as we see there is a real affinity with the passage of Romans 12:20 and Proverbs 25 and why God wants us to do so with our enemies, it’s because in a sense we would be imitating Him in principle.

    Other passages that confirm that we were God’s enemies are found in:

    Colossians 1:20-21 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. 21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled

    Ephesians 2:13-16 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

    So as even Jesus commanded us in the Sermon on the Mount we are to treat with kindness those who clearly are out to do us wrong and we are not to repay their evil with evil and we must not avenge ourselves.

    In addition we are not at all capable to know if any of those people who are now our enemies will indeed later become children of God.

    As I often say, just because God elects people the elect do not walk around with a big E that stands for elect painted on their back. Only God knows who they are, we don’t know who they are and therefore although right now they are our enemies and God’s enemies they could potentially be our brothers or sisters in Christ in the future.

    We must be kind to all people and we must let God administer vengeance on our behalf. God may judge in two ways, the first one is that God will indeed bring wrath and judgment upon unrepentant sinners who will not have faith in Christ’s work of redemption. God judges sinners and avenges His children of those who do them wrong and He may do this in this life time besides in eternity.

    However, there is another way God judges sinners. The other way He judges sin is through the cross!
    God only has the prerogative to have mercy on sinners and He does this through the Gospel, through the cross. This occurs because in any and all cases God has to judge sin and sinners. Therefore, either He judges sinners’ sins because they never repent and therefore He will judge them and they will endure God’s eternal wrath or God will judge sin in someone through the wrath and judgment He out poured upon His own Son Jesus Christ in behalf of those for whom Christ died, namely the elect to salvation. So in this case Jesus endured God’s judgment and wrath and the sins of the elect have been placed upon Him, therefore since this happens the elect receive God’s mercy and grace through Christ Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross while Jesus paid the price of the elect’s sins, namely He endured God’s wrath and judgment in our behalf!

    Therefore what we understand is that God judges sin either by judging the unrepentant sinner for all eternity or by judging the elects’ sins in His Son Jesus Christ. The elect receive God’s mercy and grace while Jesus received the wrath and judgment we deserved.

    Therefore, in any event God always judges sin and always dispenses His wrath, either in the sinner or on His Son in behalf of the elect.

    Now let’s look at the most challenging part of Romans 12:20 and interpreting what it means: in so doing we will heap hot coals on their heads.

    Heaping hot coals on a person’s head is not the sign that something good is occurring. Just imagine the scene, we are being kind to our enemies but as we do this it is as if we were taking hot coals and heaping them on their heads. How can this bad thing happen if we are actually being kind and loving to our enemies?

    This my friends means that when we are kind and loving to our enemies we are actually calling judgment upon them while we instead are being kind to them.

    We are not personally calling judgment upon them in this particular case but we are being kind to them, therefore we are blameless of any wrong doing before God and this way we are actually making room for God’s judgment to be unleashed upon them.

    The previous verse in fact stated: vengeance is mine saith the Lord, I will repay!

    It will be God that will repay our enemies, in fact heaping hot coals on their head is another way of saying that they will not be exempt of God’s judgment and Him avenging us.

    Imagine the scene of actually and literally dumping hot coals on someone’s head, it does not sound like a good thing at all, at least it’s not a good thing for the person receiving the coals on their head.

    On the other hand what God is saying to us is “ you do good to your enemies, in the mean time don’t fret, don’t worry just do them good because they won’t get away with the evil they have done to you”

    Just because we do good to them does not mean at all that God will not avenge the wrongs they have done to us. In reality when we do good to them we are calling God into play to avenge us and He depicts our good deeds toward our enemies as if they were hot coals on their heads.

    Evildoers will not get away with the evil they do but we must not repay evil with evil. We do good because God commands us to do so, this way we will be above reproach and instead of enduring God’s disciplinary action for repaying wrong with wrong, we will instead be recipients of God’s blessings while they will indeed receive God’s vengeance.

    In fact the Scripture mentioned in Proverbs says exactly this to us, where it is instead omitted in Romans:

    Proverbs 25:21-22 If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: 22 For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.

    If we were to interpret this in a few words it would say:

    “ do good to your enemies and in doing so you will call down God’s judgment upon them while you yourselves will be blessed by God”.

    Hot coals in Scripture are almost always associated with God’s judgment.

    The altar in God’s tabernacle and His temple always had have burning hot coals, these embers were always present on the altar and on the altar they would be used to burn the sacrifices that were killed and then burned as a sacrifice and his was almost always an act of judgment. It was a substitution judgment of the animal sacrificed and judged for the sin of the offering person.

    We see this concept also written in:

    2 Samuel 22:7-13 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears. 8 Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of heaven moved and shook, because he was wroth. 9 There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. 10 He bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under his feet. 11 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind. 12 And he made darkness pavilions round about him, dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies. 13 Through the brightness before him were coals of fire kindled.

    This passage clearly speaks of David calling upon God in his distress, by the way this is a repetition of Psalm 18 and it speaks of deliverance from enemies.

    David is calling upon God to deliver him form his enemies. David cries out to God and God hears him and look at what it says here.

    God was wroth and the coals of God’s wrath were kindled. God came down to avenge David and again the Psalm says before him were coals of fire kindled.

    As we see kindling hot coals in Scripture means to stir up God’s judgment and His avenging His people.

    This concept of describing God’s judgment by using the figure of hot coals is prevalent in Scripture.

    Psalms 140:10 Let burning coals fall upon them: let them be cast into the fire; into deep pits, that they rise not up again.

    Once again we clearly see even here that burning coals is a concept found in asking God to avenge His people from their enemies.

    In Ezekiel 10 we understand that the mention of hot coals has to do with God’s judgment as this episode is described there:

    Ezekiel 10:2 And he spake unto the man clothed with linen, and said, Go in between the wheels, even under the cherub, and fill thine hand with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and scatter them over the city. And he went in in my sight.

    That this is a description of God’s judgment on Jerusalem is evident by the words given also later on in:

    Ezekiel 24:9-12 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe to the bloody city! I will even make the pile for fire great. 10 Heap on wood, kindle the fire, consume the flesh, and spice it well, and let the bones be burned. 11 Then set it empty upon the coals thereof, that the brass of it may be hot, and may burn, and that the filthiness of it may be molten in it, that the scum of it may be consumed. 12 She hath wearied herself with lies, and her great scum went not forth out of her: her scum shall be in the fire.

    Once again in Habakkuk God coming to bring judgment and wrath is thus described:

    Habakkuk 3:3-5 God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. 4 And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power. 5 Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet.

    Burning coals are again described in the context of God’s judgment.

    The book of Revelation as we know is filled with language that describes God’s judgment and wrath which He will pour out on the earth, poured out on a great part of mankind and even on the demons, the Antichrist and in the end even Satan himself.

    One description of God judging the earth in Revelation is found in the next passage:

    Revelation 8:3-5 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. 5 And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.

    Even here, in this passage it is more than evident that God’s judgment is overwhelmingly described by hot coals and fire often said to be kindled into the fire of judgment.

    In fact the word kindling means just that, taking embers, hot coals and making them grow into a full blown fire.

    Therefore, we can understand much better what it means to heap hot coals on our enemies’ heads.

    As we see then that when we are kind to our enemies it does not mean at all that they will get away with their hatred or their enmity, quite the opposite. God is telling us to be kind to them and to let the avenging to Him.

    This fits perfectly with the exhortation of not repaying evil with evil but with kindness and not to avenge ourselves but to give space to God’s judgment and Him avenging us in our behalf.

    In addition God does not want us to avenge ourselves because as I already mentioned before we are always unfair in our estimation of how much vengeance we must exercise on someone who has done us wrong.

    We will always be unfair and we will always be much harsher in the amount of vengeance we will practice on others. God is perfectly just and He judges with equity, we are not perfectly just and we hardly ever judge with equity.

    Therefore, leaving space to God to avenge us ensures us of the fact that people will get exactly what God wants them to get not less and not more.

    God want us to be kind to our enemies and those who do us wrong also because, as I said if He has decided that one of those people should be saved by Him and that He wants to exercise mercy and give them grace instead of judgment, He may even use our kindness and forgiveness to show these people His own grace and mercy and kindness. In other words, He uses us to draw these people to Christ through our mercy and kindness.

    The important thing for us to understand is that no matter what God wants to do is all up to Him but that in either way we will be, or better we should be satisfied in doing His will.

    In any event either God will vindicate us His way or God will use us to draw these people to the Gospel and to Christ.

    One Scripture teaches us that it is indeed God that in spite of us and our sinfulness teaches us how and why we need to go to Christ to obtain His salvation.

    John 6:44-45 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.

    In John 6 Jesus teaches us about sovereign election and salvation and here in these verses He specifically explains that no one, no one at all, ever, can go to Him to receive salvation except, unless, as we see this is the exception clause, the Father actually draws the person to go to Christ.

    This passage is very important because the first part eliminates any and all possibilities that any one will go to Christ on their own, by their own strength and ability and by their own understanding. Rather anyone at all who go to Christ go simply and only because God the Father draws them to go to Christ and it is God the Father who teaches people to go to Christ.

    When we allow God to use us to draw people to Christ He is teaching them through our kindness and His grace and often God will also use His judgment and vengeance to teach men to go to Christ.

    We cannot fully understand how God is able to teach, to make people understand their need for Christ but He does, God has His ways and we must remember what Jesus told His disciples in this next episode:

    Matthew 19:23-26 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? 26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

    This last passage fits perfectly with what Jesus said in John 6, in fact John 6 is the explanation of this last passage. You see, from man’s stand point and through man’s ability or desires it’s impossible to be saved, in other words, no man can go to Christ, except, unless God draws them, in other words with God all things are possible. God can and God will do it. God eliminates and overrides man’s impossibility by His almighty power and His willingness to be merciful and gracious to unwilling, unworthy and unable sinners.

    God can teach sinners things they otherwise cannot understand, how does He do it? He does it and He does it well because He can. He is God and He can do as He pleases. When He places His love on someone, when He chooses a person for salvation He makes everything in that person’s life work toward that person’s salvation. God will teach us, through our life experiences and when the time is right and He gives us spiritual life from above, all we have lived and endured will work to give us full understanding of our need of Christ.

    So God will do what God will do but we must allow Him to do it His way and when we do it His way the results will always be the best results. We must obey God and leave the results and the consequences of our obedience to Him.

    So with this we come to the end of this chapter. It ends with do not be overcome with evil but rather overcome evil with good.

    In reality there is not much more to add to this as this is a repetition of what was said and what we already studied in regard to this. This is the bottom line, God is good all the time, God is also just all the time, we must be like our heavenly Father we must do good. There is no evil in God so there must not be evil in us, we must do good and not evil. We have studied this before and there is no need to study it again here, nevertheless we need to understand that when the word of God repeats things often it means that the issues are very important.

    It is therefore important to make sure we do not over think this thing, or ask too many questions about it as it is really plain and simple.

    God is always good and we must also be good, God is good and merciful even toward the unjust and so must we, as even Jesus told us in:

    Matthew 5:44-48 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

    As I said before, we are to be good and kind to the unjust as well as God is and let’s remember, if it weren’t for God being merciful and good and gracious and forgiving to the unjust we would not be His children, we would not be considered just and righteous before Him because we were unjust.

    Let’s remember, no one is righteous, not even one Romans 3:10 and no one is good not even one Romans 3:12, and only God is good Luke 18:19. However we must be like our Father in heaven.

    Once again God is absolutely just and we cannot be as just as Him nor can we therefore judge and avenge ourselves in the perfect and just manner He would do it

    Therefore let us always leave the judging and avenging to Him while He command us to be kind and good to our enemies, let us not avenge ourselves and let us not repay evil with evil.