Spirituality or Futility? #1

Friday, November 3, 2017

If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant (1 Corinthians 14:37,38 KJV).

Here, we see two alternatives—spirituality and futility. Our choice?

A lady once hired a handyman to install a belt on her lawnmower. He spent four (!) hours with the owner’s manual to no avail; it was late at night so he finally gave up. The next morning, he returned and spent another six (!) hours attempting to fix it. Amazingly, he still was unable to install it. Through careful investigation, it was discovered that the repair shop had given her the wrong belt. That poor handyman wasted 10 hours trying to connect something that did not even belong!

Dear friends, I am afraid the above scenario is where most church members—and even true Christians—find themselves. They are so busy straining and striving with a wide array of ceremonies, prearranged prayers, confessions, sacraments, rules and regulations… but are they really getting anywhere spiritually? Nay, it is a treadmill—and they are running in the same place on the same belt! The flesh has them moving, doing religious works, but they are too deceived to recognize the scenery has never changed!

The Corinthian saints were enthusiastically and actively pursuing spiritual gifts. However, they were using God’s gifts to do Satan’s work. First Corinthians 14:12 says: “Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.” Being carnal Christians—so dominated by their sin nature instead of the Holy Spirit—they were busy utilizing those gifts to satisfy and glorify themselves. What futility!

Chapter 13—the Bible’s wonderful “charity” passage—is the core of three chapters that gently address the Corinthians for their abuse of spiritual gifts. Such gifts were to profit everyone, not just the select few “exercising” them (chapter 12). The gift of prophesying (preaching) was being ignored and the gift of tongues was being emphasized (chapter 14). These “zealous” Christians boasted in their “spirituality”… when, in fact, it was futility….

Deflate Yourself and Edify Others #5

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth (1 Corinthians 8:1 KJV).

Ignorance can be very dangerous—knowledge can be equally detrimental!

First Corinthians chapter 8 closes with: “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” The Apostle Paul knew more rightly divided Scripture than any of us Christians alive today. He could have been “puffed up.” Nevertheless, he was meek, exercising “charity” to “edify” other believers.

Paul the Apostle, God’s “pattern” for us in the Dispensation of Grace, practiced what he preached. He was very careful not (NOT!, NOT!) to selfishly use his liberty under grace as an excuse to do anything and everything he wanted. If the action could potentially discourage another Christian and destroy his edification process, Paul said he would never (NEVER!, NEVER!) engage in the behavior. In the case of today’s Scripture, it was food offered to idols. Still, the principle of charity should guide every aspect of our Christian life.

Galatians 5:13 again: “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” Rather than being “puffed up” in knowledge, we should remember “charity edifieth” (today’s Scripture). Romans 14:19 says: “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” To “edify” means “to build up” or “strengthen” (as opposed to tearing down, “destroying”—Romans 14:15). The weaker brother needs strengthening rather than further weakening (1 Corinthians 8:9-12), and strengthening will result if the stronger brother sets the example of charity.

Pride is “the condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6): it caused Lucifer to fall and become Satan. Satanic behavior does not belong in the Christian’s life. Galatians 5:22,23 tell us: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” The Spirit of God works in the believer to produce “meekness,” deflating the prideful soul. He also produces “love,” which leads to “charity,” which causes the “edification” of others! 🙂

Deflate Yourself and Edify Others #4

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth (1 Corinthians 8:1 KJV).

Ignorance can be very dangerous—knowledge can be equally detrimental!

Romans chapter 14 continues: “[15] But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. [16] Let not then your good be evil spoken of: [17] For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. [18] For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. [19] Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. [20] For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. [21] It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.”

The verse following today’s Scripture says: “And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” A Christian who boasts in his knowledge of Scripture rightly divided actually does not “know it all.” While he may know some doctrine, he is ignorant of Christian charity (other Bible doctrine, that which epitomizes grace living—today’s Scripture). Verses 8,9: “But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.”

Love in action is the mature Christian (wisely) curtailing his liberties if those behaviors can be stumblingblocks to believers without knowledge. Through a Christian’s spiritual knowledge exercised without wisdom, however, a weaker believer’s Christian life will be negatively impacted. This is the “walkest thou not charitably” of Romans 14:15. First Corinthians 8:11,12: “And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.”

We conclude with Paul’s personal example….

Deflate Yourself and Edify Others #3

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth (1 Corinthians 8:1 KJV).

Ignorance can be very dangerous—knowledge can be equally detrimental!

Friends, there is yet one more reference in 1 Corinthians to “puffed up.” It was purposely withheld until now. Chapter 13, verse 4: “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,….” Through the Apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit wrote an entire chapter dedicated to charity (love in action). All of chapter 13 dealt with this most critical part of Christian living, something so desperately lacking in the Corinthian assembly. Charity and pride are totally incompatible. Comparing this to today’s Scripture, we see two contrasts—fixated on ourselves, or looking out for others.

In the context of today’s Scripture, the question is if Christians should eat foods offered to idols. A knowledgeable saint—skilled in God’s Word rightly divided—would see the idol as nothing, powerless to contaminate the food. The food could be eaten. Unlike the Dispensation of Law (Exodus 34:12-17), the Dispensation of Grace lacks dietary restrictions (1 Timothy 4:1-5). But, there was something else to consider…. the weaker Christian! A believer ignorant of dispensational distinctions would be uncomfortable with the food. Without that internal edification of doctrine, the immature Christian would stare aghast at the stronger Christian consuming the food! The stronger Christian, though knowledgeable, would be unwise. Verbally and/or visually, he would castigate the weaker Christian—“I know more Scripture than you! I can eat this without harm!” (Oh really? He too was ignorant… and harm was inflicted….)

Romans chapter 14 had already said: “[13] Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. [14] I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. [15] But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.”

Behold, dear brethren, we have finally arrived at the “charity” of today’s Scripture….

Our two latest Bible Q&A articles: Can you explain Matthew 11:11?” and Can you explain Matthew 11:12?

Deflate Yourself and Edify Others #2

Monday, August 28, 2017

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth (1 Corinthians 8:1 KJV).

Ignorance can be very dangerous—knowledge can be equally detrimental!

The Greek word translated “puffeth up” in today’s Scripture is physioo, from physa, “a pair of bellows.” Bellows are a device that consists of a bag between two handles, the handles squeezed together to blow air (as to stoke a fire). Think of an air pump inflating balloons or tires—or pride swelling a “big head!”

It describes people “boasting” concerning their favorite spiritual leaders (1 Corinthians 4:6), believers who “brag” that they have gotten away with misbehavior (1 Corinthians 4:18,19), fleshly members of the Body of Christ “proud of” and encouraging their brother guilty of sexual perversion (1 Corinthians 5:2), and “haughty” individuals extremely fixated on their unique so-called “supernatural” experiences (Colossians 2:18). Notice how every reference save one applies to the Corinthians—the audience of today’s Scripture. Pride overwhelmed Corinth because carnality abounded in it.

First Corinthians chapter 3 is such a sad commentary touching a group of Christians whom the Apostle Paul himself taught for 18 months (Acts 18:11): “[1] And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. [2] I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. [3] For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”

They “walk[ed] as men” in that they were depending on their own viewpoint as the basis for Christian living. Rather than divine thinking, sound Bible doctrine, there abounded in Corinth philosophy, man’s opinions. Man by nature, of course, is sinful. Instead of behaving like saints, they were acting like sinners! Rather than thinking like saints, they were thinking like sinners! Sinners by nature, of course, are selfish. Sinners by nature, of course, are prideful, boasting of their self-sufficiency (“I can do without God!”). If not being educated and grounded in God’s grace, saints will be “puffed up.” God’s grace teaches us to deflate….

Deflate Yourself and Edify Others #1

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth (1 Corinthians 8:1 KJV).

Ignorance can be very dangerous—knowledge can be equally detrimental!

As we know very well, no one likes a “know-it-all.” In fact, no one is truly a “know-it-all” anyway. Years ago, I spoke with another “Christian” about Scripture. Shortly into our conversation, he informed me that he “did not know everything.” As I pulled out my Bible, I smiled and said, “Neither do I and that is why I have this.”

Today’s Scripture admonishes us not to grow prideful because of our Bible knowledge. We study the Bible, but not to prove everyone else wrong. We study God’s Word, but not to beat people up with religious rhetoric. We study the Bible, but not to demonstrate ourselves to be smart. If we are studying the Bible for those reasons, we need to set it down until we learn how to properly think of Bible study.

The wisest Bible student is not one who memorizes verses, outlines, and Greek and Hebrew terms and grammar. No, that would be a knowledgeable Bible student. Knowledge has its risks, but knowledge with wisdom guards against the perils. Wisdom allows us to recognize how to use what we know to benefit others. In order to profit others, though, we must first love them, having an attitude of seeking their highest good. Charity is the outward action that internal love generates. Wisdom seeks to accomplish that charity.

By “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), we understand that we are “not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Galatians chapter 5 tells us: “[1] Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage…. [13] For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” There is liberty under grace, true. Still, we should be wise in making a conscious choice to limit our activity when engaging in a permissible behavior would cause an unknowledgeable brother or sister in Christ to stumble….

Our latest Bible Q&A: “What is ‘the burning ague?’

God is Love

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

“…God is love… God is love… We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:8b,16b,19 KJV).

The word “love” is used very flippantly in today’s world. Of the many who speak about “love,” few know what it is. On this Valentine’s Day, we offer sound doctrine from God’s Word to correct the misunderstandings of what love really is. What is love, according to God’s Word?

Today’s Scripture says that “God is love”—God does not simply love, but His very nature is love. What does that mean? In 1 John 3:16, we read: “Hereby we perceive the love of God, because he laid down his life for us:” Our Apostle Paul put it this way: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God’s nature is love—selfless, self-sacrificing!

God’s Word defines love and charity in 2 Corinthians 12:15: “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” Love is seeking the best interest of others, even if it costs you something (time, energy, resources, et cetera). Charity is love in deed (demonstrated, manifested in action). God loved us, so He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins. It cost God the Father His Son, and it cost God the Son His life. What a selfless act!

Our nature in Adam is selfish, but our nature in Christ is not. Paul declares, “the love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). We who have trusted Jesus Christ alone as our personal Saviour, our Christian lives are driven and motivated by Christ’s love for us, not our love for Him. It is this unselfish love of Christ working in us that causes us to look on the things of others, to seek their edification and their benefit, not ours (Romans 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 10:24; Philippians 2:1-11). This will result in charity, our selfless actions reflecting that love of Christ (2 Corinthians 12:15).

As the lost world observes our Christian service, they will see, “God is love.”

*Adapted from a larger Bible study with the same name. The Bible study can be read here or watched here.