We find this a very interesting chapter, especially in light of our troubled times. There are some principles here which are badly needed today.
In Acts 12:1, we read that Herod, the king, sought to vex certain of the church. Vex -- "To oppress, afflict, harm, maltreat." This is the same word as in I Peter 3:12-14. (Need to read the whole chapter.) "--For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil--. --And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good. --But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;--"
"Certain," not all of the church. Just part of it. The context indicates only a few of the individuals within the church. Herod seems to be picking out the leaders here to 'vex'. V. 2 -- This vexing of the church wasn't just a "hassel", but resulted in James' death in fulfillment of our Lord's words, Matt. 20:23. V.3 -- Herod was a good politician. He had built the Temple in order to win the Jews to himself. He was a very wicked man and Caesar knew it, yet he was left in his position because he could keep peace among the Jews.
"It pleased the people--" This was the principle he ruled on. Not truth, justice or even law, but his own popularity. Whatever would make him popular with the people. Not even the peoples well being, but his own.
My, if this isn't our day, what is? Rule by justice, truth and godly principles went out many years ago. It is now "rule" by who or what can get the most votes. "They" are working for the day when 'vexing' the Christians will have the same results as Herod had.
Herod moves a step further. He sees public opinion on his side so he takes Peter, the most conspicuous man in the church. "If James pleased them, then how much more will Peter?"
V. 3 -- After Easter, which coincided with the days of the unleavened bread. Evidently he was to be publicly executed at that time. Unlike James, who was immediately put to death, Peter was held over until after the holiday. V. 4 -- This was sixteen soldiers. Two with Peter and two at the gate, standing a three hour watch for twelve hours. V. 5 -- Prayer without ceasing. Here is where we are headed, but we'll be back to this in a moment. V. 6 -- Peter was sleeping the sleep of a righteous man even the night before his death. So sound was he sleeping that the angel had to "smote" him to wake him up. He was chained between the two soldiers and two more were standing at the door. The four were under the death sentence if they were found sleeping at their post. Yet God delivers. All of the precautions which men can take are useless if God decides otherwise. Unless the Lord keeps the house the watchman waketh but in vain.
VV. 7-12 -- Notice the ease with which God can deliver those He desires to deliver. Peter, here on the outside reflects back. Seemed to good too be true. As he thought about it, he went over to John's house. Now, look at a few things here in this account. As "Herod" is ruling by popular opinion, "he" is doing some terrible things to Christians, even to the point of imprisonment. Then, as a rule, the church, rather than getting on its face before God, is applying political pressure to try to get Herod off of her back. What has happened to the crying out to God for Him to show Himself strong as Asa did, II Chron. 14:11?
Herod ruled by popular opinion. He was there because the people wanted him there. We are only fooling ourselves, if we think the ungodly are in office for any other reason. They are there because the people want them.
We are not against political pressure, but when this pressure is used apart from the kind of prayer that was used here in Acts twelve, then it is wrong. We will have to admit, pressure is a lot easier to apply than holy, fervent prayer. The arm of the flesh always appeals much more than the power of God. Through prayer, God will convict that person of their sin and they will repent and turn back, Ja. 5:16; I Chron. 29:18.
Because we do see a certain amount of victory from the "pressure" we can apply, we can easily get caught in thinking pressure is the answer. Let's consider a question here. Does the enemy of our souls allow this certain amount of victory so we won't pray? This would go into every area. Maybe he will allow us to obtain a small amount of victory as an individual, church or even as a family so we will think there is an answer other than Acts 12:5 or Ja. 5:16.
Look at what happened here. Herod was a very popular man. He bought this popularity with public funds, and the people loved it. He laid hold of Peter because it made him more popular, yet Peter was released by the Lord. In order to save face and his popularity he had the four soldiers put to death publicly and it worked. He remained very popular, vv. 19-20.
Now, Herod was as ungodly as he could be (See "Rulers of NT Times" by Ludwig). Yet God had allowed him to prosper up to this point. In v. 23 we see that the Lord smote him because he gave not God the glory. There is no way we could even imagine this wicked man giving any glory whatsoever to God, but God killed him because he didn't. Did he meet these worms because of the prayers back in v. 5?
Does our enemy allow the "certain" amount of victory of even letting men out of jail to make us think there is another answer other than prayer and obedience to God, thereby leaving his ungodly Herods in power? Does he know that if the church decides to go back to the prayer of the righteous man (Acts 12:5, 12; Ja. 5:16) then he would lose his ungodly Herods which he has worked so hard to get into power? Is he working and planning to keep this principle hidden from the church today?
Have you noticed, when it seems every thing goes wrong and we come almost to the point where we are willing to lay aside known sin and really dedicate ourselves to God, fasting and maybe even sleepless nights of prayer for God's perfect will to be done, then things seem to smooth out so we don't go on through with it. No doubt our enemy permits us to have just enough victory in our lives and in our church to keep us from doing Ps. 35:13, I humbled my soul with fasting, or Ps. 69:10, When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, or Joel 1:14; 2:12-16. This church in Acts was in an ALL NIGHT PRAYER MEETING, no doubt for God to show himself strong, His will to be done and Him to be glorified, Jn. 14:13, 14; Lk. 22:42.
"But we must put feet to our prayers." Yes, but the problem is we have more feet than prayers. Acts 12 had more prayer than feet. These people didn't picket the jail or Herod's house, although there had been several thousand saved at this church by this time. They had the numbers to cause a tremendous turmoil and pressure. They had the physical capabilities to accompolish this without prayer.
Scripture is not against applying the "pressure" to the ruling officials, but, again, if we depend upon that pressure to do what prayer should be doing, what can we expect? We should notice that it was the pressure of the crowd which put Christ to death and got Peter jailed in the first place.
The thing that turns us off concerning the prayer is the crowd who doesn't want to get involved and says, "We'll pray about it." That doesn't excuse the other side for getting involved with very little prayer, if any prayer at all.
Have we lost our confidence in the power of prayer? It looks like this goes back to II Chron. 7:14, where the promise from God is to hear our prayers from heaven and then He takes action. We get to thinking that victory depends upon the action we take, but that sure isn't what it says either in II Chron. 7:14 or here in Acts 12.
Political action? Certainly, especially in the system we have here in America. If only as good citizens, we are responsible to lift our voice against wickedness in high places. There is a place for picketing. There is a time for political pressure. There is the time to fight in the media. But the church of Acts 12 did none of these, and the man who was facing sure death the next day was delivered the night before through prayer. Not only delivered, but the ungodly ruler who sought to kill him died in his place.
These two are tied together. Prayer delivered the godly from destruction. Prayer delivered the ungodly to destruction and the word of God grew and multiplied. Is this why we don't see Acts 12:24 taking place today? Are we substituting human, fleshly means of obtaining what we think God wants for us to have rather than the dedication of Ja. 5:16 and Acts 12:5? We are so entangled with the things of this world; it is easier to use the flesh than to unentangle ourselves. We don't even know where all we are entangled. In being so entangled have we lost our power and authority in prayer, allowing the Herods to remain in power? We have just enough "success" to prevent our selling out completely to the Lord.
The two are tied together. The freeing of Peter by prayer and the worms of Herod. God supernaturally intervened in both cases as a direct result of prayer. Does the devil know this, so he throws the Christians a bone now and then to keep God's people from recommitting themselves to II Chron. 7:14? Does the devil realize this kind of prayer would pull down his people which he has worked so hard to get where they are? This kind of prayer would absolutely turn society back where it belongs and brings glory to God, I Tim. 2:1-2.
PRAYER: God help us to see the balance. Help us to see the entanglement and sin which prevents our prevailing prayer. Help us to see the cause (within us) which allows Herod to stay in power. God, command your light to shine that we might see the truth in these areas, II Cor. 4:6. Does our enemy let us see just enough change in a person that we are concerned about to prevent our really getting it together and being serious with God?
I Pet. 3:12 gives the doctrine behind Acts 12. The prayers of the righteous will bring the God of heaven to their aid and also turn the face of the Lord against them that do evil. Of course, the problem is there are very few righteous left upon the earth. (Not speaking of salvation, but right according to God's standard of right living.) Prayer, here in Acts 12 and in I Pet. 3:12, is a two edged sword. 1) Protects and enlightens the righteous. 2) Cuts down those who are against God.
Lk. 18:8 tells us of the time when very few will be found who are placing their faith in God to avenge His own elect, according to His justice. Rather, they will be trusting in themselves and what they can do.
A major goal of our enemy is to keep this power of the prayer of a righteous man hidden from God's people, because as long as he can do this he can keep his Herods in power over God's people. But God has revealed the truth to us. Let's move back to it.
Feet to our prayers? Heavens yes, but when the "feet" take the place of the prayers, then we are headed for the same disaster as the world's crowd is.
Just a question here: Is this a reason the wicked are bearing rule over the righteous today? Have we bought a lie from the enemy that there is another means of victory other than casting ourselves before the Lord of the universe? Are we depending on means other than II Chron. 7:14? Does I Pet. 5:5-8; Ja. 4:6-10 apply, or has God replaced it with another principle? Other means can be included, but they can not be substituted without laying aside the mighty arm of the Lord.
Anything less will leave Herod on the throne and Christians victim of their own deception with no one to blame but ourselves, Obadiah 3; Hosea 13:9.
Our power lies before the throne of grace which gives us the will and power to please Him, thereby inheriting the blessings of God, Phil. 2:13. Let us NEVER forget that our hope and power lies in doing it His way. Right living according to HIS law-word and earnest, effectual fervent prayer, as well as taking our stand publicly for righteousness.
Has the enemy convinced us there is another way of obtaining God's help and power and blessing other than: 1) Removal of sin. 2) Self-denial of the lusts of the flesh. 3) Obedience to His every law-word, and 4) Effectual fervent prayer. Then does he permit just enough success to keep us held fast in his deception and leave his ungodly Herods in power? God has given us the methods of success. Let me ask, is any success apart from Joel 1:14; 2:12-18; Acts 12:5; I Pet. 3:12 and Ja. 5:15 from God? Or is it a "red hearing" to keep us away from the true source of power?
I'm afraid that any "success" apart from the clear instruction of God's Word will be very short lived.
Israel, through Joseph, had been exalted in Egypt. Joseph died as did those who had honored him. Egypt then put God's people in hard bondage and forced labor. This caused them to cry out to the Lord for deliverance. Now, this says something for us today.
(1.) Israel enjoyed Egypt. He grew up and prospered here. Egypt had been very good to him. He became very attached to Egypt with no desire to leave. This was home and he loved it. Why should he seek his inheritance in Canaan? Canaan would require work, discipline, and sacrifice. He had everything here he could want. (2.) This was not according to the covenant. The covenant was that Canaan was to be their inheritance. But Israel loved Egypt and had no desire to leave. He had adapted well to Egypt, even though he was to be here but a short time. (3.) The hard bitter bondage caused Israel to reject Egypt and cry out to God for deliverance. Not because they didn't like Egypt, but because of the bondage, Ex. 2:23. (4.) God raised up a deliverer to take them to their inheritance, Canaan.
Once again we see here an application for today.
(1.) God's people (the New Israel of God, if you please) love Egypt. We have prospered here. We have grown up here (in the USA if we want to apply it in this way) in Egypt, the world. This is home and we love it. We have adapted very well to Egypt. We have it all here, so why should we leave? Why seek an inheritance elsewhere? (2.) But, this is not according to the covenant given to Abraham which we have fallen heir to, Gal. 3:29. The new Canaan, our inheritance, is Christ, not this world or even the USA. But, we love this land and really have no desire to leave it. If we would be honest, we have more allegiance to this land than to the Lord. A threat to this kingdom of men will cause more "emotion" in us than the threats to the kingdom of God do. We have adapted well, even though we are to be here only for a short time, Heb. 11:13.
(3.) Will only hard bitter bondage from the world (USA included) cause God's people to cry out to God for deliverance? The cry will not be because we don't like Egypt, but because of the bondage. (4.) No doubt God wants His people to seek "their Canaan" in Christ, not in a physical kingdom of men. Will He not only permit but raise up heathens to bring about the "hard bondage" to cause His people to seek their inheritance in HIM?
God will not tolerate other gods before Him, and that includes the gods of Egypt. Will only the hard bondage cause His people to choose service to HIM in the wilderness over the land which is their home? Let's consider those of Israel who were raised in Egypt. They loved the land, it was their home. What do you suppose ran through their mind when they were told to leave? "Well," you say, "The bondage made them want to leave." And, I'm sure, this was right.
We love this nation. Have we looked at this nation as our "Canaan" rather than to Christ? What kind of "hard bondage" will it take in this nation for our "emotions" to be transferred from this physical kingdom of men to the kingdom of God, Christ or our Canaan? What about others who name Christ? This nation started in godly roots, Joseph if you please. The result was godly prosperity. The result of the prosperity was an attachment to this worldly kingdom by the hearts of God's people. Are we about to see God raise up some "bitter bondage" to redirect the hearts of His people back to where they should be, to Him?
Of course only the Lord knows, but we do know this, a vast majority of those who claim Christ have a much stronger allegiance to these kingdoms of men than they do to the kingdom of God. They show by their actions that they regard a physical land and material possessions far more highly than they do Christ. From the effort they put into these material things of this world, you would think their inheritance was found here rather than in Christ. They are so busy laying up treasures here that they have no time to seek God's Kingdom and righteousness, Matt. 6:19, 20, 33.
Look around at where the effort and interest goes. Is it directed into advancing the cause of Christ and His Kingdom into every area of life or does it go into advancing their own personal goals? Do we really think that our Sovereign Lord will allow this to continue? Do we really believe He will allow more of an allegiance to Egypt than to Him by those who are called by His name?
How hard of "bitter bondage" will it take to get His people to reclaim their heritage that they have in Christ? Which do we love more, this physical kingdom, land, heritage or Christ? Which do we find our most hope in? Which are we more loyal to? These are hard questions, but ones which must be answered. Will God raise up even the heathen, if that is what it will take to get His people to return to their true heritage, Jesus Christ, Hab. 1:6; Isa. 46:10, 11?
God, give us the grace to seek our heritage in thee without the bitter bondage it took with our people of old.
MOTIVE FOR DOING RIGHT?
Lamentations is a hard book to read. It is depressing as we see the judgment of God against His people and the cause of that judgment. Yet amidst this judgment, God always has a light shining. One of these lights here in Lamentations is found in 5:21, where we read, turn us. This passage gives us as much hope as any in the Scripture. This truth is all through the Holy Scriptures.
Man is utterly depraved; he has gone astray from his youth. He has no desire to turn to God or do any good. In fact, God says quite the opposite; his every desire is opposed to God. It really doesn't matter whether saved or unsaved, that corrupt nature is still there and its ONLY desire is to operate apart from God. This shows us that "Good" works apart from God is SIN.
The major temptation of Christ was not the temptation of lust, anger, unbelief, and all of these other things. The major temptation of Christ was Satan trying to get Him to think, speak or act independently of His heavenly Father. He was tempted in all points like as we are so we know He had those other things; lust, etc.. But if Satan could have influenced Him to act on His own, or within His own power or strength, even to heal the blind, cast out devils, raise the dead, then the plan of redemption would have been destroyed. Therefore we see that any action apart from dependence on our Heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus Christ working through us, is an act of sin. Satan will influence us to do good if he can get us to act apart from God's strength, grace.
All right then, what does this do? This makes every action an act of sin for the unsaved, with no exception, because even when they act to fulfill God's will, (which all actions do, Ps. 56:10; Rev. 17:17) then these actions are taken independently of God. Sad to say though, so are most of the actions of the saved. Thus we see that any action on the part of any man apart from dependence on God, the Lord Jesus Christ (obedience to His word by faith) is an act of sin, but even that act of sin will bring glory to Him, Rom. 14:23; Ps. 76:10.
Example: Even the Red Cross as it raises money for disaster relief is acting in sin because this is done apart from dependence on the living Christ. But God can (and will) receive glory from it.
Before you think we have gone off the deep end, let us give one point from the Humanist Manifest I. "Fourteenth--The goal of humanism is a free and universal society in which people voluntarily and intelligently cooperate for the common good.--" You may say, "What's wrong with that?" Answer: all cooperation and social effort is to be done for one reason and one reason alone, the glory of God. Let's define dependence on God. By this we mean obedience to His Word and leaving the results up to Him.
What about good actions, works, etc., as a result of emotional appeals? A church uses many means to motivate people to good works but if the basic motivation toward good works is contrary to an act of faith in the power of God, Word of God or dependence on the Lord, this will be an act of sin. Everything we do is to be done for one purpose, the glory of God, I Cor. 10:31. How much of what is done in the name of God today is being done as an act of sin?
ANY ACTION APART FROM OBEDIENCE TO THE LORD IS SIN --. "Prove it." Okay, if Christ had done one thought, word or deed, apart from a complete obedience to his Heavenly Father it would have been sin. Even the healing of the lame, blind, deaf, etc.. Whatever is not of faith is sin, Rom. 14:23. Is it any wonder that what has looked so good for so long (last fifty years) is turning out to be eaten up with worms (Carnality)?
Men can act to do "good" apart from God. What is our definition of good? Good in man's eyes is not always good in God's eyes. Our definition of good must come from God's Word and only works within this area of total dependence on our Heavenly Father. Christ in us is defined as good. My soul, how corrupted we are! The lies we buy!
Follow this through: Go talk to someone about the Lord; good or bad? We are quick to say, "Man, that's good", and it probably is in our eyes and in the eyes of those we run with, but is it? Again, is it an act of faith or a result of being "pumped up" with music, preaching or whatever. Now, God will still get glory from it but where does this leave Christian motivation? Does it build faith that God can work through us or does it build emotions that will override our fears? Then, when the emotions wear off the fears control once again.
Christ never did one thing apart from complete obedience to the Father. We might turn this around. Do we do anything in obedience to and dependence on the Father (we are so corrupted, Jn. 3:32; 8:38)? Christ could have raised the dead (or even spoken as far as that goes) on His own but it would have been sin. This was a major temptation all through His life here on this earth. The temptation to do "good things" apart from His Heavenly Father.
So, then, what must our preaching do? Is it to build emotions which will cause us to charge hell with an empty squirt gun as the Communists have been known to do, especially as you read of the battles in Korea? (Read the biography of Chesty Puller and how the Commanders "siked" up the men to charge the blazing machine guns even with sticks and firecrackers. This is the world's means). Or should our preaching build faith and confidence in the Word of God to where we will "charge hell", but we will do it with much fear and trembling; yet, we do this in obedience to and dependence on what God can do through His word? Waybe Paul wasn't so wrong after all in I Cor. 2:1-5. If we obey God out of emotion rather than faith, do we compromise the power of God which causes men to stand?
I am a Baptist. We, as Baptists, condemn the Pentecostal movement to the devil for using music to emotionally charge the people, but I have sat in some meetings which do the same thing only use a different approach. It wouldn't matter if it was the Pharisees or Christ acting independently of the Father, both would be sin. Now, Christ didn't, of course. We say, "but it 's so much easier to use the emotions to get God's work done," but is it God's work? What is wrong with getting ahold of God (that takes hard work)?
God gave emotions. At times God works through emotions, but the devil and the flesh and the world make their appeals through the emotions. How often have we taught that the emotions must be a response to the choice of the mind and will in obedience to God's Word. This is no exception. Praise the Lord for emotions, but they also are completely corrupt and must be subjected to God's Word. The mind (reasoning ability) is upside down from God's Word as the result of sin. What would make us think the emotions are not also?
Again, we do what is right because it's right to do according to God's Word, not because we feel good about doing it. How many of our churches are "built" by people who did it because they felt good about doing it by being emotionally charged up by their commanders rather than realizing their responsibility and obeying God's Word? We must reach that co-worker because it is our responsibility. We tithe because it's our responsibility; we pray and read our Bible because it's our responsibility. We are faithful in the public assembly because it's our responsibility.
How many churches have been built by pastors and people who worked because it was right to do in obedience to the Word of God and they stepped out by faith (and much trembling) and did it? Of course, ONLY the Lord and the leaders know. The result of both methods may look the same, yet God knows which is which. Our job is to see that our ministry is right. Built on doing right because it's right to do and God demands it of His people, then let the HOLY SPIRIT provide the good feelings when He assures us we have pleased our MASTER.
How much will be burned in that day, I Cor. 3:12? How much praise will we receive at His throne? How much weeping will we do? It will all be revealed in that day when not only we, but all will know the truth. We must keep in mind that our heart is deceitful above all things and this is why we must have His Word. Praise the Lord for the grace of God. This is what Lam. 5:21 is referring to, the grace of God. This will be a corresponding verse to Phil. 2:13. Grace is both the will and the power to do God's will, do His good pleasure.
Grace, God working in us or for us. Also here, I was taught in school that grace is "God's unmerited favor" which is true, but grace goes MUCH further. Grace is God working in our corruption to put within us that desire to please Him, whether in salvation on in service, and then as we decide to obey that desire, He gives us the power to follow through that desire, thereby inheriting His blessing. Without this grace there is NO DESIRE to turn toward Him in any way. Grace, 1) Shows the need. 2) Gives the desire. 3) Provides the power to yield to his plan.
Here in v. 21, we see that Jeremiah reminds the Lord that He alone can work in man's total corruption and rebellion to turn the hearts of men back to Him. We are reminded of Elijah in I Ki. 18:37, Thou hast turned their heart back again. God alone can work in circumstances; God alone can turn the heart of the sinner, we can't. But he uses His Word, and the preaching of His Word and our prayers (in the power of the Holy Spirit, dependence again, even in our prayers, as we obey and pray; then we depend upon the Holy Spirit to work in us even here, because whatever is not of this faith is sin) to move Him to give power to His Word. Remember the "soul power" of even the unregenerated man? Through "meditation" this "latent soul power" can control people and situations.
Praise the Lord, no matter how hopeless the situation, it does not depend upon us but it depends upon Him. When we lose that dependence on Him, we move into the realm of independence and SIN (Satan).
Is someone out to destroy us? He can and will take care of those who depend on Him. Until Christ's time was fulfilled, all of the enemies the devil could muster were powerless against Him. But when His job was completed, only then did the enemies of the Father and the cross have any power over Him AND THEN ONLY BECAUSE GOD permitted it, Acts 2:23.
If he would have become fearful of men, then they could have moved successfully against Him before His job was finished, but because He moved in complete obedience to His Heavenly Father, He not only had the power of the Father but the provision and protection of God the Father, Jn. 8:26-31. We must keep our eyes on Him and obey His Word because it is the right thing to do, not because we have been emotionally charged up to do it.
We can hide behind our shield, in our strong Tower-- and let the raging seas roll, because until God is finished with us the devil and his crowd can't touch us except our heavenly Father permits it for our good, Rom. 8:28-29, etc. Get and keep every area right and stay out of Satan's realm and in our green pastures. (God's laws, principles and precepts.)
My, what a promise. The wonderful, matchless, marvelous GRACE OF GOD watching over His covenant people, working in them. Not because of any good they can do, but because of their relationship with Jesus and what He has done in their place. God is in total, complete control, even of His rebellious prince loose in His Kingdom, who is gathering his army together for another rebellion against his MASTER. His MASTER is only permitting this prince's rebellion against Him for His glory, Dan. 4:34, etc. Why should we be afraid of what that rascal can do to us AS LONG AS WE STAY WITHIN OUR GREEN PASTURES? When we get out, then we're fair game. We get outside of our dependence on Him, and into the realm of independence from Him, then we are headed for the slaughter house and lamb stew for the devil, I Cor. 5:5.
One lie of the devil is, "Lord, I'm not worthy", thereby making God a God of merit. This says that if I do enough "spiritual" work, then I become worthy. That part of me which is not worthy has been crucified with Christ, Gal. 2:20. Although I still live, but now it isn't me but it's Christ in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.
We need to confess our sin of a lack of faith in claiming this principle. Trying to come to God on merit (I'm worthy now), when actually any part of me which is not worthy to come to Him is dead with Christ. To allow that part to control my relationship with Him, and my confidence in Him, is raising that OLD STINKING MAN back to life.
Again, the traditional teaching is, "God's unmerited favor." At face value this definition IS NOT BIBLICAL. To use this definition of grace changes (including the plan of salvation) the methods of God's dealing with man, from God working in the heart of man to perform His pleasure to God being a servant of man to perform man's pleasure. This definition indicates that I can live like the devil and still have the favor of God.
"God's unmerited favor" -- "God, I want you to do this for me, even though I don't deserve it" and God comes running to the rescue. This is Humanism to the core. This is a man-centered religion. Besides this, you won't find this definition at all in Scripture. Another tradition and doctrine of men.
The OT confirms the proper definition of grace. The OT is full of grace. Grace, then, is Phil. 2:13, God working in us both to will (giving us the desire) and to do (the power to follow through with this desire) of his (not man's) good pleasure. Compare this with "God's unmerited favor." Now, this is true in the sense in which I'm sure it was originally used. Man doesn't merit God working in him, giving man God pleasing desires, but the current usage doesn't seem to be this.
"God's unmerited favor" seems to say that God comes to the aid of man (as Man's servant boy) even though man is violating God's Word. This could lead to a VERY CARNAL Christian, if he is even a Christian. It sure could open up some very unscriptural doors. "I have lust in my heart, but the grace of God will come to my aid anyway." This would say that I can have the grace of God even with bitterness and this is contrary to Heb. 12:15. We would have to be blind to not see this influence in our churches, whether it is intentional or not (lust, pride, gossip, criticism). There are many examples of men who claim to be "men of God" with God's hand upon them, yet won't admit sin.
But when we use Phil. 2:13 definition here, we have God using (working in) man to accomplish His pleasure. This sure fits Biblical principle more than the traditional teaching. The part of me that doesn't deserve this is dead, crucified with Christ, and the part of me which is now alive in Christ deserves the very blessings of Abraham. Anything I can claim in Christ.
The grace of God (Lam. 5:21; Phil. 2:13) shows the need and gives the power. How can we ignore this? The book of John is full of this. We will only return to one passage right now, II Cor. 4:1-6. People are blinded to the truth (saved or unsaved) by the god of this world, vv. 3-4. For God, who commanded the light to shine (the context is to the unsaved, but Lam. 5:21 is to God's people). GOD MUST SHOW THE NEED or the depraved man will not see it. The book of John, along with II Cor. 4, cannot be cut out of the Scriptures; therefore, grace shows the need, shines the light, gives the desires. Then grace gives the power to do His will.
Grace gives the power to follow through the desire placed by God to accomplish His good pleasure, NOT MAN'S good pleasure. To say anything else must ignore Phil. 2:13, along with many Old and New Testament passages.
We have Satan's lie, we are not worthy, yet we are in Christ. That old man which isn't worthy is dead in Christ and I am now worthy of anything Christ is. Only sin in my life prevents my claiming it.
How much do we do apart from dependence upon the Holy Spirit? It is sin!
Grace, what is it to us? God's unmerited favor? Where men can ignore their responsibility to God and His Word and still have Him on their side or is it God working in us to desire and to do what He wants us to do? This will lead to a godly life in obedience to His Word.
ARE WE TRADITIONAL CHRISTIANS
Habakkuk is another book written for our day and time. Although it is dealing with God raising up the Chaldeans against His people who refuse to return to Him, the lessons presented are far too good for us to try to ignore.
As we look at this, we are looking for an answer to a terribly perplexing problem. We will only consider enough of this book to give an answer as we see those we love dearly depart from us.
The longer we are in the ministry, the more we find out that those who claim to be Bible-believing Christians really aren't. A better name for them in many cases would be "Traditional Christians." Far too many will only accept Scriptural teaching if it lines up with the tradition which they have received from the elders. You would think the elders were inspired of God or that God consulted with them before the foundations of the earth.
Now, there is nothing wrong with this as long as the traditions received from the elders are Scriptural, but far too often that tradition is very marginal if not outright contrary, to Scripture. Really, all of us read and study Scripture from the view point in which we were raised up. Very few people can lay aside the traditional view of Scripture, and these few can only do this by a work of the Holy Spirit.
There are several reasons for this. First, we have the fear of having to admit a mistake. I pointed out some facts to a close pastor friend of mine that cast a completely different light on the traditional teaching of one of our "pet doctrines." He told me, "I have heard that before, but this is the way I have taught that and I am not going to change."
This would include that pastor we have exalted so highly, as well as that Bible college instructor who took special interest in us. The list here would be endless of those we have a very strong tie with. Because of this tie, it is nearly impossible to even entertain the thought that any of their doctrine might not have been right.
Secondly, there are those who refuse because to accept the Scriptures would mean cutting themselves off from others whom they respect and desire to be associated with. There is just as much "peer pressure" among "Bible- believing Christians" as there is among the heathen. Each of us have faced it when we have expressed that we think a passage of Scripture teaches something contrary to what we have been taught by the elders. I have found, as I have taken my stand contrary to traditional interpretations of the Scriptures, that pastors who at one time would invite us to speak now won't hardly speak to us on the street. The peer pressure to conform to a united view of everything is there. There is no toleration for any views except the view which is accepted by the brethren. This goes much further than just the church-state issue.
I heard one pastor say at a pastors fellowship, "I received this in the mail. I know that it goes contrary to what I was taught so I threw it away without even looking at it." "What's wrong with that," you say? Nothing, except look at what he said. "CONTRARY TO WHAT I WAS TAUGHT." Not contrary to the Scriptures, but contrary to the traditional teaching which he received. The peer pressure is there to conform. No one wants to be out in the cold all alone, and that includes pastors and believers in good "Bible-believing churches."
Thirdly, many who are caught in tradition are unwilling to consider anything contrary because they feel they would be disloyal some how to those they have respected highly who taught them the traditions. They seem to feel that to consider something contrary to what that person or those people believed would be a discredit to their memory. We hear things like this, "So and so taught it this way and he was a great man." No doubt he was, but this can't be our standard. Many of us have heard from those we have tried to influence contrary to tradition. "---I have taught it this way all of these years and I am not going to admit I was wrong now---." The feeling you get is that the truth really doesn't matter. What really matters is that my reputation of being "the truth incarnate in the flesh" isn't harmed. How does the saying go? "My mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts."
One of the strongest holds upon a person caught in traditions and unsound doctrine would be the emotional attachment to the persons who are involved in the tradition or the unsound doctrine. There would be a tremendous resistance to break that tie with that person who promotes the doctrine because of the very close emotional ties. In fact, the emotional ties could prevent even seeing the truth in a matter. We saw this acted out in the extreme with Jim Jones as those who were attached so strongly to him attempted to kill those who sought to expose him and then killed themselves rather than break from him.
Fourth would be the danger of the cost involved. "If I believed that I would have to teach it, and if I teach it it might cost me my friends or material possessions." A pastor here can be caught between the "devil and the deep blue sea." He had a great influx of people as he taught a message which made everyone feel better. "How can I feel better about myself, my fellow man, my country, my God, etc.." He has built buildings and has become a servant to a bank or bond payment. Now he sees there is no man centered religion in Scriptures, but if he teaches contrary to tradition he is in danger of losing people, thereby losing his offerings. Neither the bank nor the bond company, who he is serving, will like this. So to keep them happy, he must not make any non-traditional waves.
Another reason would be the upsetting of the "power structure." The ones who have "worked" their way into places of authority or influence in the church did so under the traditional teaching. To go against that now would be to go against those in places of influence, thereby jeopardizing the pastors position. This would include a layman who has been extracted from his "tradition" by the power or enlightening of the Holy Spirit. To take his stand now would cause friction, as well as maybe his loss of influence as others around him ridicule him for his beliefs.
All of these things (and more), either of themselves or combined, present a very powerful hold on an individual or group of people to prevent the word of God from redirecting them. We would be fools to think that our enemy would not use these things as a device to keep people in his snare of tradition and unsound doctrine. We can rest assured that he will use these things to keep people in opposition to the truth. We cannot strive against these people. Rather we must patiently teach them the truth in meekness and depend upon the Lord to bring them out of the snare of the enemy, II Tim. 2:25, 26.
We are in the last days and have been warned of men's love of their ownselves, their covetousness and their desire for the things of this world more than for the things of God. In fact, you will find this warning includes their increased learning, yet missing the truth. It goes further than just resisting the truth for the traditions, it even goes as far as resisting, or standing against, those who have the truth, I Tim. 3:1-9.
If for any of the reasons above they must withstand the truth, they will have to do it with "vigor" to confirm they are right and the truth of the Scriptures is wrong. Until they are willing to lay it out before the Lord with not my will but thine be done, they will remain in this snare. When the one who claims to believe the Bible can come to the place just between themselves and God where they can say, "Lord, I'm willing to lay it aside I'm willing to let you take it away from me," there is hope for him. The ONLY answer here is found in willingly laying aside our thinking on any given matter and allowing His thinking to replace it. This must be between the individual and God in his private time when he is alone with his Creator.
Our Lord addressed every one of these objections in Lk. 14:25-35. A man who is not willing to forsake everything for the Lord and His truth is not His disciple, v. 33. The man who says, "My mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts," is not a disciple of His. The true disciple of His will diligently search the Scriptures with a mind which says, "Lord, show me the truth in these areas. I am willing to lay aside everything which is not according to our mind," Phil. 3:15.
Our every belief must be based upon what His word says, not upon any of the above things. Also, this must be based in salvation. The person who is not saved cannot expect to be able to do this. And that salvation must be based on the proper plan, not the imitation plan of, "Ask Jesus into your heart, turn your life over to Him, etc," but trusting in His finished work as the payment for our sins. Anything less is death and a false understanding of the Scriptures, I Cor. 2:10-16. (See our book, "The Gospel Perverted".)
Now, where does this leave us with Habakkuk? I have had to flee to him quite often as we encounter this tremendous resistance to the Word of God. I'm sure any who have tried to stand contrary to "tradition," unsound doctrine, or to what people want to believe have faced this same question. "Is there any use continuing on in the face of this opposition? No one wants to hear or do the truth. Everyone is caught up in their own world. Why should I keep trying to influence others when they don't really want to know?"
We all know the questions which arise as we try to take a stand for the truth of God's Word as it goes contrary to what has been taught for the last few generations. From what we have experienced, if C.H. Spurgeon would come back from the dead and preach through the book of Psalms (as he did in his "Treasury of David"), he would be avoided like someone with AIDS and stoned by the brethren. Probably the people of his church would do the same because his teaching would be so contrary to that of Dr. Such and Such or Rev. So and So. They would probably say, "Either Mr. Spurgeon or Dr. Such and Such is wrong, and Dr. Such and Such is a nice guy. I respect him so highly and he is so sincere. I have known him for so long and I must choose. So I choose Dr. Such and Such over what you say the Scripture teach."
What a thorough, in depth, study of the TOTAL Word of God (OT and NT) would have to say about it is beside the point. What really counts today is how I feel about it, or how does it make me feel, or how do others feel about it, especially those I regard so highly.
Habakkuk here gives us some answers which should cause us to press ahead upon the firm footing of God's Word even in the face of total opposition from Dr. Such and Such or Rev. So and So, if necessary.
In chapter one, we see that the message Habakkuk delivered was a burden. He saw these things around him and saw God's people in their iniquity. He saw their unjust treatment for one another. He saw unrighteousness in the church and in society. Notice in Chp. 3 he doesn't see these things on his own. God showed them to him. God showed Habakkuk the indifference and even total disregard of His law and it distressed him greatly. He says, "Lord, won't judgment ever come to those who disregard your word?"
God shows him the heathens (Chaldeans) being exalted and raised up by Him against those who are disregarding Him and His word. Habakkuk was shown all of these things and the burden of them caused him to cry out to God. But even his crying out to God didn't change things. "Lord, why don't You answer prayer? Things seem to be getting worse and worse. Don't You care Lord? When are You going to do something? Why don't You come down from Heaven and show Your mighty strength?"
WE must confess these same things go through our mind as we see the almost total indifference and disregard for the truth of God's Word. The question comes to our mind, "Lord, doesn't anyone care anymore? Doesn't anyone love the truth anymore? They say they do but when we try to present it, the truth is disregarded and I become their enemy," Gal. 4:16.
There is nothing new under the sun and we can find a very fine illustration of this same thing over in Jer. 42-43. Look over there and follow it through. We see the group of people coming to Jeremiah asking him for instructions. "Inquire of the Lord for us. Find out what He wants to do and we promise we will do it." Jeremiah says, "Okay, I'll inquire for you and when the Lord shows me I will tell you everything." The group said, "Fine, we'll do it. We will obey whether it be good or bad, whether we agree with it or not. We will obey the Word of the Lord."
It took ten days, but the Lord spoke to Jeremiah and told the group of men what they were to do. He promised them life, mercy, and peace if they would obey. On the other hand, He promised them destruction; He promised them His anger and fury if they refused to obey his word which he spoke by Jeremiah. Notice in this that the Lord also told them, "I know what is in your heart. You haven't obeyed Me in the past and I know you won't in this. You are not fooling anyone with your words except yourself, Jer. 42:19-22.
Now for the totally astounding part. In chapter 43, we see that Jeremiah delivered the truth of God's Word to those who said they wanted to learn God's Word. They had promised to obey whether they agreed with it or not. BUT we see here it was not what they wanted to hear. It went contrary to what they wanted to do. So look at what they did. "Jeremiah, you aren't telling us the truth. You aren't really speaking for our Lord God. He hasn't said this to you. In fact, Jeremiah, it isn't even you speaking, it is Baruch (Baruch had been Jeremiah's right hand man, chp. 36) Baruch is the one speaking through you, not God. If it had been God, He would have told us what we wanted to hear. Jeremiah, you are the problem here."
Thus, these men who claimed so loudly that they wanted to know the truth of God's Word protested just as loudly when the truth didn't line up with what they wanted to hear (see Isa. 48:1-4). "Jeremiah, that is not God's Word, that's just some man's convictions which you are trying to force upon us." In their mind, this released them from obedience so they could go do what they felt was best.
Here we are today. "Bible-believing Christians" say they want the truth of God's Word. They promised the Lord undying love and obedience to His Word if He will only speak to them. The truth of God's Word is presented and it doesn't go according to how they believe it should, so they dismiss it with, "That is just some man's interpretation. I don't agree with that so I'm going on with what I want to believe." Or, "That isn't according to the traditional teaching which I was taught so it must not be of God." Or, "Dr. Such and Such and Rev. So and So don't see it that way and I respect them so highly. I'll take their reputation over this which I don't agree with any day." Or even, "I love that person so much and feel so highly of them, they must be right." Then they gather their group together and go find someone who will teach according to what they want to hear.
EVERY preacher under the sun who has tried to counter a person's personal preference with the truth of God's Word has faced this very thing--the glowing promises of wanting God's truth, then when the truth was presented which the person didn't like it was dismissed with, "That's just some man's opinion of that."
Habakkuk faced this. "Lord, no one wants to do right. No one wants to line up with Your truth. No one is willing to lay aside their personal beliefs for Your Word. What is the use of going on, Lord?" Those of us in this conflict today, when we try to go against the very firmly entrenched traditions, false doctrines, false teachers, and false interpretations of the last century, also encounter the same resistance that both Jeremiah and Habakkuk encountered.
People may hear us out but the message is quickly dismissed with, "That is his interpretation. I don't see it that way." We even meet with more of a closed mind than that as they say, "We just don't want to hear it. Our mind is made up." We cannot point at others only. We must point to ourselves. We become just as strong willed on this as others, to where we won't listen to any other sides either. The Word of God must be placed back in its proper place.
Look at Habakkuk. How did he respond to this seemingly hopeless situation? Chp. 2, "I will keep watch. I will keep my ears open to the Lord. I will be receptive to His voice." Amid all of the unbelief, disobedience and hopelessness of the situation, he says, "I'm going to listen for the Lord to speak. Then I will know how to answer these things." Sure enough, The Lord spoke as He will to anyone who will spend their time in His Word. The Lord said, "Here is my Word. Write this down that the person who reads it will be able to continue to run and not faint. He will be able to keep on with seemingly no progress and not give up," Isa. 40:31. It sure is tempting to give up when no one wants to hear, believe or do the Word of God.
What did the Lord give Habakkuk here which is to give hope in the hopeless situations which we face? The message which will give the runner the strength not to faint and give up; the strength to continue with the truth in the face of opposition, regardless of the cause or source of the opposition?
First, it will come to pass just like God promises. Even though His hand of chastisement (or judgment) against the sins of His people may be slow in coming, it will come at its appointed time. It may look like those who disregard the truth of God's Word are avoiding the results but they aren't, Heb. 10:26-39.
Second, the one who thinks there is no penalty for that disregard is sadly mistaken. Compare Hab. 2:4 with Jer. 43:2.
Thirdly, here is the key to the whole of Scripture. ---but the just shall live by his faith---. It is really none of our business whether that person receives the truth or not, or if God "catches up" with them or not. Our job is between us and our Lord. We must obey the truth. We must do all we can to influence others with the truth and keep the right spirit even in the face of the opposition, II Tim. 2:24-26. This is impossible for the natural man to do, but the new man from God will watch to see what He will say unto me from His word and as God speaks to us we will be able to continue to run and not faint.
Faith in God's Word of truth will keep pounding the gates of hell with the truth of God's Word and depending completely upon HIM to break the rock and cause the gates to fall. If the rock doesn't break the first, second, or third time, hit it again, Jer. 23:29. If the fire doesn't catch the first, second or third time, try to start it again, Jer. 23:29. If the gates don't fall the first time, strike at them again and again and again, Matt. 16:18. The job of the bearer of the truth is to speak the truth faithfully, not to break the rock, start the fire or tear down hell's gates, Jer. 23:28. There is a God in heaven, and no matter how hard the rock is or how big the image is, it is His job to strike the image of man and cause it to fall before His Word, Dan. 2:28, 35.
This is what our Lord tells Habakkuk. As long as there is sin (and tradition, I might add), hardened hearts, ours included, the only hope is to strike that hardness with the truth and by FAITH depend upon the Holy Spirit to give the spirit of repentance. Our message here in Habakkuk 2:4 is the message for those of us who see the truth of God's word resisted.
No matter how dark the night, no matter how strong the enemy, no matter how hard the heart, there is a God in heaven. He is in total and complete control and it will come to pass just as He has said it will. He will win out. He will be glorified as God over everything. We are on the winning side and we will be rewarded according to our faithfulness to His truth, not according to the number of people we have influenced. In Lk. 6:22, 23 we are told that those who are rejected for the truth's sake have a great reward in heaven.
Just a few verses here. Prov. 16:33. Isa. chps. 40-52 are tremendous if you will take the time to read them through. Dan. 5:21; Rom. 14:11; I Cor. 4:2; II Cor. 5:10, etc..
In fact, if our Lord offended people (religious leaders especially) with the truth, can we expect any less, Matt. 13:12, 57; 15:12; Mk. 4:17; Jn. 15:20; 16:1? Also, notice Matt. 24:10 where the ones who were offended by the truth betrayed the truth bearers. Those offended also left themselves wide open for the false prophets.
God help us to be faithful to the truth of His Word and not to men and their traditions. Our responsibility is not only to speak the truth, have the right message according to the total Word of God, but to also have the right spirit behind that message, Eph. 4:15, 29-32.
His responsibility is to recover them out of the snare of the devil, II Tim. 2:25, 26. He alone can give the desired results to the truth of His Word, II Cor. 4:1-6. Our responsibility is to walk by faith. Obey His every word by faith. Let us not get our responsibility confused with His responsibility.
WILL HIS WORD RETURN VOID?
We are fighting fundamentalists. We are even considered "way out" by the other fundamentalists because we seem to fight over everything. We seem to see something wrong with everyone and are accused of wanting to fight too much.
We don't like to fight and would just as soon not fight; yet, the word of God and His authority is worth any fight we might get involved in. As we do fight there is something we must watch very closely or we will be "fanning the air". Our effort will be wasted, and we may be found making matters worse though our cause is just.
The Word of God tells us that a wrong attitude can creep into our message of truth and then, rather than the truth freeing others, it will only deepen them in their deception. We see an issue which others are blinded to and we will get angry over their blindness. We speak out of that anger, and often the result does more harm than good.
The devil is a liar and the father of lies. We have no reason to doubt that he has taken his deceptions into every area, but, praise the Lord, we have God's Word which will smoke the liar out.
One of his most effective lies has been his false plan of salvation, his other Jesus which he is so effectively promoting today (See our book, "The Gospel Perverted"). He has other very effective lies, also. One would be truth out of context. We would be crazy to think the master deceiver would not do this to us. He did it to our Lord, yet our Lord answered his truth with the context of God's Word, Matt. 4:6-7.
Another truth which he has subverted from the context of the scriptures would be the one found in Isa. 55:11 My word will not return to me void. This passage is God's Word, therefore, it is true, but we need to leave it in the context of the total of all scripture.
One of the things which our Lord dealt with while He was here was the removal of the spirit from the law. The religious leaders of His day, no doubt, preached and taught the law of God, yet the spirit was gone from it. This would have rendered it ineffective. We realize the context of II Cor. 3:6, but let's consider an application.
The truth given with a wrong spirit will not work. In fact, God's Word shows us it will do just the contrary of what it is designed to do. There are an abundance of scriptures which bring this out. If this is true, then our enemy would allow us to "proclaim" truth as long as we will not do it in accordance to the principles established in God's Word. He would realize that it would have very little effect, if any at all, and maybe even the opposite of what it is intended to have.
His lie here would be, "The spirit of the truth doesn't matter, as long as you get the truth out." Eph. 4 clearly tells us that this is not true. This passage makes the spirit or attitude behind the truth a very important matter. Here is a whole chapter along this line, as well as many other passages.
We are going to skip over a tremendous amount in Eph. 4 and go right to v. 29. Let's start at the end of what Paul gave here. V. 29 is a key verse of this chapter and maybe of the whole book. We won't try to give all of this passage, just one point of one verse. To start with, this chapter is an instruction chapter for the four leaders, v. 11; the apostles, prophets, evangelists and the pastor-teachers.
Paul here is presenting a warning to these four of v. 11, and the ones referred to in this text. This warning being summed up with v. 15, speaking the truth in love, Paul here warns these four that they can give place to the devil; they can cause divisions and strife if they present the truth wrongly. They can cause more harm than good if they are not very careful.
V. 4 shows us that the warning presented here is for all believers, vv. 4-7, but the ones who are under special attention by the enemy (v. 27) are the leaders, teachers of v. 11. These four are given to the church to ground and establish the believers. They are to counter the false doctrines (v. 14), and the only weapon they are given to confront these deceptions with is the truth as revealed in God's Word.
Adam and Eve we set naked in this world and commanded to subdue all, and all they had was; a) their relationship to God; b) relationship to each other and; c) the TRUTH of God. Satan subverted the truth, thereby destroying the rest.
Eph. 4:29 is written to Christians, those who have trusted Christ's atoning work for them, 1:11-15. It is not written to the Gentiles of v. 17, the unsaved. Therefore, our only weapon against his many deceptions and false doctrines in any given situation is the TRUTH. Four times Paul reminds us of this in this one chapter alone, vv. 15, 21, 24, 25. This shows us that the weapon and strength, as well as the effectiveness of those mentioned in v. 11, lies in the PROPER USE OF THE TRUTH. This would apply to everyone who is of the "one body". This would be in the church relationships of chp. 5, or the home relationships of chp. 6, as well as the relationship to others as we try to reach them for Christ, chp. 2. This covers every word we say to anyone.
Primarily, this chapter does not seem to be dealing with thieves or slothfulness (v. 28), but is dealing with the presentation of the TRUTH. Let's pick it up in v. 29. (Skipping over a vast amount of ground work which leads up to this.)
Communication. This is a reference to words. Eph. 1:13--after you heard the word of truth. 5:6 --vain words. 6:19 --That utterance may be given unto me--. The communication here in v. 29 would be any words said concerning anything, although Paul is mainly instructing these four (v. 11) as they stand against the deceits (v. 14) with the words of TRUTH. He is instructing them in the proper and effective use of these words of TRUTH. This shows us there can be corrupt words of truth which are used by these four, as well as by every Christian.
Corrupt. This word means rotten, as in rotten fruit or fruit trees, Matt. 12:33, etc.. This is the only place this word corrupt is used to identify the type of words spoken. Every place else this word refers to rotten fruit or trees. The root word is used only one place, and that is when speaking of riches in Ja. 5:2 --Your riches are corrupt--. The riches themselves are not corrupt. It is the attitude behind the riches which makes them corrupt. Remember Abraham? He was a very rich man, but they did not destroy him as he sought to do God's will with them. On the other hand, Solomon was destroyed by them as he sought to fulfill his every desire with riches. David is another example of a godly use of riches. What was the difference? The attitude behind them.
Why do riches make people unhappy and destroy the very thing they should be building? It is the attitude of the person using what God has provided. He gave them for His glory, and to further His cause here on earth, and as long as they can be viewed in this light they are godly. There is nothing wrong with riches in themselves. They can be used to further the kingdom of God or to undermine His kingdom as Norman Lear is attempting to do through his TV shows. The difference is the attitude behind them.
Eph. 4:29, communications. Words are the only thing we have to counter the liar and to spread the gospel with. Words are our only weapon against false doctrine; the only tool which we have to mold people into what is pleasing to God; our only means to bring unity and increase the church, v. 16; and the only means God has ordained to administer grace to the hearer. Grace, the desire and power to please God which is given by Him, Phil. 2:13. This especially applies to the four of v. 11 as they try to instruct within the church. This includes all of the words each would speak to anyone about anything. Can God use them to give to the hearer the desire to please Him?
The words He has given us to accomplish His purpose with are the words of truth as found in Jesus Christ, v. 21. This passage is dealing with the proper presentation of the TRUTH (words) which can be used by God and be effective in accomplishing the purpose of the truth, that purpose being to minister grace to the hearer, v. 29.
The grace (power) of God then uses these words to: build; encourage; strengthen; establish against false doctrine; increase in numbers; unify into one compact body in peace; give understanding; promote godly love among the brethren; reveal the cunning craftiness of the enemy; expose lies and extract people from them; and give grace to the hearers that will extract them from the snare of the evil one, II Tim. 2:25-26. God must give the sorrow, and He uses the words of the preacher, teacher to accomplish this, and these words must be in accordance with the principle established in Eph. 4; II Cor. 7:8-10.
Now we come to the other side of the coin. If it is the proper words, communication, TRUTH, that bring all of these things about, what about corrupt communication? What will it do?
From what we have seen from the Word of God, and especially in the passage before us, this corrupt communication would be the same words of TRUTH which should bring results for God's glory, only now they are corrupt, rotten and bring strife, division, weakness, bitterness, as well as leaving the hearer in the snare of the devil.
The message was a true message, having all of the right words, yet the warning is against the words being corrupt and bringing about opposite results than were intended with them. What made these words of truth now corrupt communication?
This passage shows us it is the spirit behind the words of truth. When it is anything other than love, v. 15, meekness, v.2, it causes them to become tools of the devil, v. 27. Only when the spirit behind the true message is lowliness, meekness (opposite of assertiveness, self-assertive), long-suffering, forbearing, love, tenderhearted, can one expect the truth to edify and minister grace to the hearer, as well as release them from the snare of the devil. God alone can open the eyes, II Cor. 4:6. He alone can give the spirit of repentance and godly sorrow, II Tim. 2:25. All of the words in the world will have no effect if He doesn't move. The response of the hearer doesn't depend upon our words, but upon His Spirit using the truth to move in the hearer. His Spirit only operates in accordance to His established principles, Zec.4:6.
When the spirit behind the TRUTH reflects the spirit of bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour (sparrows clamour), evil speaking with all malice ("badness", opposite of that which is good), then that truth is now a tool of the devil to keep the hearer (II Tim. 2:25-26) and the speaker (Eph. 4:27) under the enemy's control, v. 31. Paul warns us here that any spirit behind the truth which we present to people which is not the spirit of meekness and tenderheartedness has only death in it. It is corrupt.
If there is not tenderness and love behind the words of truth which we give to that unsaved person we come in contact with, we can leave them in a worse state than before we talked to them. The truth we give within the body of Christ to other Christians, wherever it may be, if it isn't backed by v. 15 and v. 2, then it will have the opposite effect of what it was meant to have. Notice, especially, vv. 26-27. We must be angry over sin, we must cry out against sin, but if the crying out is done in anger then it becomes sin on our part and will cause strife.
Within our churches and families, if the truth we present doesn't have II Tim.2:25 behind it then it will cause the hearer to move closer to open rebellion. Those we talk to, friends, relatives, family, these can tell what kind of a spirit is in our words and the Word of God tells us their reaction will be based upon this spirit. If it is wrong, it will cause strife. Eph. 6:4 is a good example. And ye fathers provoke not your children to wrath--. Correction done without love or tenderness will provoke our children to wrath.
Therefore, any truth which has any attitude behind it other than Eph. 4:1 will be corrupt communication, rotten words! This gives place to the devil and results in destruction. "How can this be", you say, "I thought truth was truth no matter how you dished it out." Searched it out.
Let me give an illustration here which fits very well. We have apples in Indiana. We also have a strange apple here in this area called a "hedge apple--" a big green thing, rough all over, and good for absolutely nothing expect for kids to throw at each other. They are larger than a soft ball. This give three types of apples: 1) good red apple, 2) a rotten apple, even smelly, 3) a hedge apple. This would be an out right lie to say this thing is eatable. Watch closely now. 1) Offer the good apple, the truth with the right attitude, and it will be accepted. 2) Offer the hedge apple, the outright lie, and it will be rejected. 3) Offer the rotten apple; it is truth, it is an apple as much as the good one. This cannot be denied, but it will surely be resisted as much as the hedge apple, the lie.
This is an honest application here. Offer the hearer the truth with the attitude of vv. 2, 15 behind it and they will receive it and God can use it to free them. Offer the hearer the truth with an attitude contrary to vv. 2, 15 and this becomes corrupt communication, rotten words. The hearer will reject it just as sure as if it was that rotten apple and maybe not even know why. We communicate on a spiritual level, I Cor. 1:10-16, II Cor. 10:4. The very thing the truth with love and tenderness was designed to do, the same truth with harshness will undo. It now becomes a tool of the enemy giving him place in both the speaker and in the hearer to do his dirty work, 4:27.
We have heard many times, "Truth without love is harshness, love without truth is liberalism." This verse goes much further as it says, "Truth without tenderness, meekness and love is corrupt, rotten, and gives place to the devil in the speaker and in the hearer. It does not have the ministering of the grace of God in it to free the hearer from the snare, deceits of the devil. Rather, it drives the hearer farther away from the truth."
God's grace and repentance is ministered to the hearer when the speaker is presenting truth in meekness, tenderness and love, II Tim. 2:25-26. Any other attitude has death in it, I Cor. 3:6. It's a deceit of satan which says, "just give the truth and God will honour His Word." God will honour His Word only as that Word is given in His way, according to His Word, II Tim. 2:25-26; Eph. 4:2, 15, 32; II Cor. 3:6, etc..
Any other method is man's method and the world's method. Anything else only ministers worldly repentance, rebellion and death, II Cor. 7:8-12. Is this is a reason we see such great tears of repentance, yet no change in lives? There is no grace of God in the truth unless it is presented in God's way.
Are we trying to instruct with corrupt communication? We are not talking about "quietly instructing" at all. The words should be sharp, to the point, salt in the wounds, even loud enough the hearer cannot miss the message, Isa. 58. Isaiah had an attitude of love, tenderness, affection and a broken heart for those he went to.
The four messengers of Eph. 4:11 are to "preach their heart out," cry aloud and spare not, yet in order for it to not be corrupt communication it must come across with an attitude of love and meekness according to God's Word. Our enemy is smart. Will he allow us to preach the truth if he can influence our attitude to be contrary to God's Word? We are in a war to the death.
It's a deceit that says God will honour His Word regardless of the attitude in it. He can't. We condemn others for trying to do God's Work the devil's way, or the world's way, or even the flesh's way, yet are we? It applies just as much to us. We cannot do God's work with the world's assertive spirit behind it.
This will probably be one of the hardest things there is to see for the ones Eph. 4 is addressed to. It will require prayer and the work of grace (Holy Spirit) to be able to see and understand this. Our enemy is effective in blinding us to this important principle, yet the power of God is far more effective if we will deal with these things, Col. 3:15.
Our enemy will do everything under the sun to get us to preach or teach with anger, self-assertiveness or bitterness. We cannot allow him to influence us away from, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves. We cannot allow him to influence us to use bitterness, wrath, anger, malice, behind our words of the truth which are so desperately needed in this dark day of heresies. Let's not try to force feed people some rotten apples.