Monthly Archives: April 2020

Why did God command Abraham to physically circumcise Ishmael?

WHY DID GOD COMMAND ABRAHAM TO PHYSICALLY CIRCUMCISE ISHMAEL?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Physical circumcision is, without a doubt, the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. It indicates death to the flesh, a testament to man’s inability to accomplish God’s will in his own strength. Hence, God ordered Abraham to physically circumcise his son Isaac—the father of the Jewish people. Abraham’s male children through Isaac and Isaac’s son Jacob were to undergo this ritual forever. It was a signification that they were the heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant. Yet—and this is most unexpected—God also ordered Abraham to physically circumcise his descendants through his elder son Ishmael too. Why should the Ishmaelites be physically circumcised? Are they also heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant—possessing just as much right to it as the children of Isaac? Recognizing the sequence of events is tantamount to making sense of this matter.

GENESIS CHAPTER 12. Although occurring historically in chapter 11 (cf. verses 27-32; Genesis 15:7; Acts 7:2-5), God promised childless Abram that He would make a nation of him. Here is the Abrahamic Covenant: “[1] Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: [2] And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: [3] And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

GENESIS CHAPTER 16. Abram and wife Sarai are still without children, still waiting 10 years since the original promise (cf. 12:4 and 16:16). Finally, Sarai suggests Abram marry and have a child through her Egyptian slave girl, Hagar. Ishmael is thus born to Abram when is 86 years old. Please note this was Sarai and Abram’s plan, not God’s instructions.

GENESIS CHAPTER 17. Verse 1 says Abram is 99 years old now. The LORD God appears to him and changes his name from “Abram” (“exalted father”) to “Abraham” (“father of many;” verse 5). Here, the issue of a covenant reappears. JEHOVAH GOD is working to build on His promise He gave over two decades earlier in chapter 12. He also renames Abraham’s wife “Sarah” (verse 15), promising to give Abraham a son through her (verse 16). This worries Abraham that He might slay 13-year-old Ishmael (verse 18).

Read from Genesis chapter 17: “[7] And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. [8] And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. [9] And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. [10] This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. [11] And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. [12] And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. [13] He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. [14] And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

“[15] And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. [16] And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. [17] Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? [18] And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! [19] And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.”

Having looked at Isaac, we turn to Ishmael now: “[20] And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. [21] But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. [22] And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.

“[23] And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him. [24] And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. [25] And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. [26] In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son. [27] And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.”

Abraham’s descendants through Isaac continue the ritual today in Judaism because it was later incorporated into the Mosaic Law: “And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised” (Leviticus 12:3). Although different from the Jewish custom, modern Muslims practice male circumcision too. While the Abrahamic Covenant (“the covenant of circumcision;” Acts 7:8) passes from Abraham to son Isaac to grandson Jacob and 12 grandsons, the LORD God promised not to forget about Ishmael. He would bless Ishmael too, but Ishmael would not inherit the covenant (Muslims disagree, generating the Jewish/Muslim conflict we know all too well). Still, why did the LORD command Abraham to physically circumcise Ishmael? In Scripture, physical circumcision—the cutting off the male’s physical foreskin—signifies death to the flesh (see next paragraph). Abraham struggled to produce a son in his own strength (Ishmael), but that was not God’s promised son for him. Therefore, the LORD instructed Abraham to be circumcised, in effect saying: “Abraham, your labor, your legalism, your works-religion, can never substitute for My grace, My efforts, My gifts.” (This is borne out in the Book of Galatians, chapters 3 and 4, as well as the Book of Romans chapter 4.)

Romans 2:28-29 identifies the reason for physical circumcision: “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” The outward/physical circumcision is to be a reflection of an inward/spiritual truth. In the future, under the New Covenant, God will remove Israel’s sin nature and replace it with a new nature, a new heart, a new spirit (see Ezekiel 36:25-28 and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Israel). Deuteronomy 30:6 says to this point: “And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” Here—in their restoration, in their kingdom—He will accomplish His will in and through them. They will no longer be guilty of idolatry, but will rather be His vessels to reach the nations with His Word.

It is important to note the LORD God did not instruct Abraham to be physically circumcised in Genesis chapter 12 or chapter 16. Ishmael was born in chapter 16, and physical circumcision was implemented in chapter 17, and Isaac’s birth came to pass in chapter 21. Physical circumcision with respect to Ishmael meant he—the product of Abraham’s flesh (works-religion)—was not heir of the covenant. He had been “cut off” in chapter 17. Abraham, now circumcised, then impregnated Sarah to result in Isaac’s conception. Physical circumcision as touching Isaac meant he—the result of God’s work (grace)—was heir of the covenant (reaffirmed concerning Isaac’s birth, not Ishmael’s).

Also see:
» Are the Jews supposed to still get circumcised in the Dispensation of Grace?
» Why did Paul circumcise Timothy but not Titus?
» Why did Abraham say what he did in Genesis 17:18?

Are the Christian life and ministry about bossing people around?

ARE THE CHRISTIAN LIFE AND MINISTRY ABOUT BOSSING PEOPLE AROUND?

by Shawn Brasseaux

No, absolutely not, absolutely not, absolutely not, absolutely not!

Firstly, let us read Matthew chapter 20: “[20] Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. [21] And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. [22] But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. [23] And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.

“[24] And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. [25] But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. [26] But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; [27] And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: [28] Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Next, Mark chapter 10 records the account like this: “[42] But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. [43] But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: [44] And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. [45] For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Finally, turn to Luke chapter 22: “[24] And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. [25] And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. [26] But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. [27] For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.”

According to Jesus Christ Himself, the Gentiles—the non-Jews, those under Satan’s control, members of the evil world system—operate their governmental systems with a bully mentality. While there are precious few exceptions, the vast majority of politicians covet one thing even today: power. They want nothing more than to rule over others and boss them around. Turn back to Luke 22:25-26, Jesus’ words to His disagreeing disciples: “[25] And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. [26] But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.” Notice “exercise lordship over.” The Greek is “kurieoo,” derived from the Greek word translated “Lord” (“kurios”).

“Kurieoo” appears again in Scripture, in Romans 6:9 and 14 as “hath dominion over:” “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him…. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Then, Romans 7:1: “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?” Next, Romans 14:9: “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.” Also, 2 Corinthians 1:24: “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy; for by faith ye stand.”  Finally, 1 Timothy 6:15: “Which in his own times he shall shew who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of king, and Lord of lords;….”

A related Greek word is “katakurieoo.” It was rendered “exercise dominion over” in Matthew 20:25: “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.” Mark 10:42 translates it “exercise lordship over:” “But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.” In Acts 19:16, it was rendered “overcame:” “And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.” The final occurrence is 1 Peter 5:3, “lords over:” “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.”

We want to focus especially on the last verse just presented. Read it in context, the Apostle Peter writing concerning the circumcision believers: “[1] 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; [3] Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. [4] And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” Leadership within the Little Flock, Israel’s believing remnant, is direction not oppression. The many verses we have just read bring us to this conclusion: the Holy Spirit never leads anyone to bully others, have control over them.

Now, come to the Apostle Paul’s ministry, and re-read 2 Corinthians 1:24 in context: “[23] Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth. [24] Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.” Again, here is what makes religion different from Bible-believing Christianity. In light of the aforementioned surveys, we better understand Paul’s usage of the term. The Apostle never forced himself on anyone (in that case, the unruly Corinthians). He “helped” or “served” them instead. God’s grace motivates us to do right, friends, but it does not command us or force us as governmental leaders use laws. Christianity is not about religious leaders dictating to or bullying us. (That is religion!) We make conscious choices by faith in Bible verses we read, and we therefore “stand.” Never, ever let any preacher, theologian, denomination, or church sit on a throne in your Christian life! And, never, ever sit on a throne in any Christian’s life!

Dear brethren, we must be careful not to use our ministry as an occasion to the flesh. Sin deceives. It makes us adopt a false sense of reality. That deception arises in many forms. Here, we can think we are doing “God’s work” but in actuality our sin nature is parading, flaunting, “doing its own thing.” We do not care what direction our ministry or local church (truth or error, right or wrong, good or bad) goes, so long as we are doing the driving! How concerning it is that this attitude dominates most local congregations, as well as many of the so-called “Christian institutions of higher learning.” Identify this foothold of Satan in your life and ministry, Christian friend, and force him out before you are spiritually ruined!

Also see:
» What if I was never thanked?

» Is it truly a good deed if done for selfish reasons?
» What are some verses to help me stop focusing on myself?
» How does one know if he or she is maturing in the Word of God?

Can you explain Matthew 10:41-42?

CAN YOU EXPLAIN MATTHEW 10:41-42?

by Shawn Brasseaux

We read in Matthew chapter 10: “[41] He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. [42] And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”

These are the closing verses of the first installment of the “Great Commission” (the other installments are in chapter 28, Mark chapter 16, Luke chapter 24, John chapter 20, and Acts chapter 1). In order to get the context, let us start at the beginning of the chapter: “[1] And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. [2] Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; [3] Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; [4] Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

“[5] These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: [6] But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [7] And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. [8] Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. [9] Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, [10] Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.

“[11] And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. [12] 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. [15] Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. [16] Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Skip to verses 41-42 now: “[41] He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. [42] And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”

The idea here is Jews receiving Jewish preachers of the Gospel of the Kingdom—especially inviting the 12 Apostles into their homes. Firstly, when the Bible says, “in the name of a prophet/righteous man,” it is in the sense of “in the authority of a prophet [spokesman for God]/righteous man [saint], because he is a prophet/righteous man.” They are acknowledging the office the man is holding. Secondly, when Scripture says “he shall receive a prophet’s/righteous man’s reward,” it refers to sharing in the eternal reward of that prophet or righteous man. There is a reward system of which all Jewish believers in Israel’s prophetic program partake. Let us consider the following sample of verses.

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven…. That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly…. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly…. That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly (Matthew 6:1,4,6,18).

“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works (Matthew 16:27). “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” (Luke 6:23). “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be(Revelation 22:12).

The reward is a particular role or job to play—a governmental office to hold—within God’s earthly kingdom. Go to Matthew chapter 19: “[28] And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. [29] And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”

See now Luke chapter 19, which also applies to the restructuring of Israel’s government when Jesus Christ returns to set up His kingdom on Earth: “[11] And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. [12] He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. [13] And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. [14] But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. 

“[15] And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. [16] Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. [17] And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. [18] And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. [19] And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. [20] And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: [21] For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. [22] And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: [23] Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury? [24] And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. [25] (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.) [26] For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. [27] But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.”

In a similar manner, when we as members of the Church the Body of Christ support (with prayer, money, time, et cetera) a pastor, missionary, or Bible teacher, we are sharing in his reward. Our resources were useful in him publishing God’s Word—especially the Gospel of Grace. His converts are not only his fruit but our fruit too. We share in his ministry, so we will share in his reward. As touching the Body of Christ, the reward is a role or job within Heaven’s governments (see Ephesians 1:20-23; Ephesians 2:6-7; Ephesians 3:10-11; Colossians 1:16-20). There is a reward system in both the prophetic program and the mystery program.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians chapter 4: “[14] Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. [15] Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. [16] For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. [17] Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. [18] But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.” Paul was not a greedy man, yet he gladly received the gifts or offerings from fellow saints. These Christians were taking the opportunity to serve him, and were really accumulating reward in Heaven. Like us, they will see their reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Colossians 3:23-25)!

Also see:
» Would God want me to share the Gospel?
» “I believed the Gospel, so why do they not believe?”
» Are there modern-day apostles and prophets?

What did Paul mean, he “robbed other churches?”

WHAT DID PAUL MEAN, HE “ROBBED OTHER CHURCHES?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Second Corinthians 11:8 says, “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.” Did the Apostle Paul really go around stealing money from Christians?! What does the Spirit of God mean here?

Remember, we always want to read the context before honing in on a single verse and stumbling over it. The tenor is established in a previous verse. In context, we read: “[7] Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? [8] I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. [9] And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself. [10] As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia.”

To understand 2 Corinthians, you need to go back to 1 Corinthians. It is a lengthy passage, but it is necessary to read it. First Corinthians chapter 9: “[7] Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? [8] Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? [9] For it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? [10] Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. [11] If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? [12] If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. [13] Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? [14] 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.”

As a spiritual leader, Paul could have taken a salary from the Corinthians. After all, the nation Israel supported their Levitical priests’ physical needs because those priests met the nation’s spiritual needs. The ox that treaded the corn had a right to eat that grain. The soldier had the right of his government taking care of his physical needs.  “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (verse 14).

  • Matthew 10:10: “Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.”
  • Luke 10:7: “And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.”
  • Galatians 6:6: “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.”
  • 1 Timothy chapter 5: “[17] Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. [18] For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.”

However, concerning the Corinthians, Paul limited his right to material compensation. Second Corinthians 11:7: “Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?” The key word is the last one, “freely”—meaning “without charge.” Why did not Paul make the Corinthians support his needs? One reason was that they were too immature to handle giving to him, so he went without. However, that was unfair. Paul would take material offerings from other assemblies, and that funding allowed him to travel to and minister in Corinth. Yet, there was no funding from the Corinthians for him to visit the other Christian assemblies. The Corinthians were benefiting from the arrangement but they were not supporting it financially. That is what 2 Corinthians 11:8 means. “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.”

Watch verse 9 now: “And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.” Rather than being a financial burden to the Corinthians while he was in their midst, Paul relied on what the saints from Macedonia had brought him. Macedonia was the region in which Thessalonica and Philippi were located.

By the way, Paul also supported himself by working as a tentmaker. Acts 18:1-3: “[1] 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 tentmakers.”

See also 2 Thessalonians chapter 3: “[7] For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; [8] 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. [13] But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. [14] And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. [15] Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”

Also see:
» Who are “the poor” in Galatians 2:10?
» We are saved by faith, but are we blessed by works?
» Must I tithe 10 percent of my income?

Who is “Jeshurun?”

WHO IS “JESHURUN?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

The name (or a variation) appears four times in the King James Bible:

  • Deuteronomy 32:15: “But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.”
  • Deuteronomy 33:5: “And he [Moses] was king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered together.”
  • Deuteronomy 33:26: “There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky.”
  • Isaiah 44:2: “Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.”

A transliteration of the Hebrew word “Jeshuruwn”—simply meaning “upright”—it is a symbolic name for Israel, the position of honor JEHOVAH God desired for her. Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon defines it as such: “a poetical and (at the same time apparently) a tender and loving appellation of the people of Israel.” Of course, as verified in Deuteronomy chapter 32, national Israel did not live up to that high calling. Nevertheless, Deuteronomy chapter 33 and Isaiah chapter 44 encourage Israel: her salvation unto becoming God’s kingdom of priests will depend solely upon His efforts as opposed to hers. One day, when the Lord Jesus Christ returns, Israel will truly be “Jeshurun!”

Also see:
» “All Israel shall be saved?”
» Is God finished with the nation Israel?
» Have we been “grafted into Israel?”

Who is a “Christian?”

WHO IS A “CHRISTIAN?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Just who exactly is a “Christian?”

A brother in Christ remarked long ago: “Today, it seems like a ‘Christian’ is anyone and everyone but a Jew or a Muslim!” All these decades later, we can still see what he meant by that. The label “Christian” is used quite flippantly or carelessly, to where it is nearly hollow. Oftentimes, no real thought goes into its handling. In fact, the word “Christian” can be—and frequently is—used to refer to ideas and people completely foreign to the Holy Bible. When someone says “This is a Christian belief” or “That is a Christian person,” usually, what they really mean is “This is a denominational belief” or “That is a denominational person.” In other words, “Christian” is a substitute for the title of a particular sect, group, or cult.

Once, a man told this author about a woman he was interested in dating. He reassured this author, “She goes to church. She is a Christian.” (Does going to church automatically make someone a Christian? If so, going to the landfill makes someone a piece of garbage!) Then, there are those who say, “I am no longer a Christian.” What they mean is that they no longer attend church, and/or they stopped reading the Bible, and/or they quit doing “good” works, and/or they no longer pray, et cetera. When such statements are made, they advertise the fact that they really have no idea what a Christian even is. They know what a member of Christendom is, what a church member is, but they cannot define what a Christian is.

How dangerous for people to use Bible terms but ignore the Bible’s definitions when explaining those terms. It is doubtless one of the most effectual aspects of Satan’s evil world system. People can hear the correct vocabulary, speak the right words, and still fail to have accurate beliefs or a clear understanding of the truth. We need to be careful, lest we take this path of deception and unbelief. Let us search the Scriptures to see what the Bible says about Christians and Christianity.

The term “Christian” appears only thrice in a King James Bible. Its first instance is Acts 11:26: “And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” The second time is Acts 26:27-28: “[27] King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. [28] Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” It shows up one final time in 1 Peter 4:16: “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.”

It is important to note that the word is never one time found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. While these believers are commonly called “Christians,” the Bible never labels them as such. The name was not attached to followers of Christ until Acts chapter 11—and this is in relation to the ministry of Saul (the Apostle Paul). It appears again with Paul’s ministry (see Acts 26:27-28). The word was finally passed on to those believers in Peter’s ministry (cf. 1 Peter 4:16). Here, we hone in on Acts 26:27-28.

Acts chapter 26 is Luke’s account of the Apostle Paul sharing his testimony with King Herod Agrippa II. This Herod is the great-grandson of King Herod the Great (slaughterer of the Bethlehem babies in Matthew chapter 2, some 60 years earlier). Back in chapter 22 of Acts, the unbelieving Jews had Paul arrested in Jerusalem after he delivered his testimony there. He stood before Israel’s religious leaders in chapter 23, causing them to conspire to put him to death. A Roman commander rescues Paul, assembling an army and sending him away to Caesarea (some 50 miles [80 kilometers] northwest of Jerusalem).

Paul stands before Judaean Governor Felix, giving his testimony there (chapter 24). Two years after Felix, Paul speaks to Governor Porcius Festus (chapter 25). Festus recruits King Herod Agrippa II for advice, and Agrippa agrees to listen to Paul. We have finally reached the context of Acts 26:27-28.

As chapter 26 of Acts opens, Paul eagerly stands before King Agrippa II and recounts his conversion: “[1] Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: [2] I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: [3] Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently. 

“[4] My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; [5] Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. [6] And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, unto our fathers: [7] Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. [8] Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?

“[9] I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. [10] Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. [11] And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. [12] Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, [13] At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.” Paul met the universe’s most important Person!

“[14] And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. [15] And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. [16] But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; [17] Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, [18] To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

“[19] Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: [20] But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. [21] For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. [22] Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: [23] That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.”

How will Judaean Governor Festus and Galilean King Herod Agrippa II respond to the Holy Spirit speaking to them through Paul? Will they be interested in becoming Christians, or will they be content in staying lost? Let us see what the Scriptures say.

Upon hearing the Apostle Paul speak about his conversion for the last 23 verses, King Herod Agrippa II and Governor Porcius Festus respond: “[24] And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. [25] But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. [26] For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. [27] King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. [28] Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”

Festus, not convinced, raises his voice to interrupt: “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad” (verse 24). He accuses the Apostle of being crazy! Paul sounds like an educated man, but he seems “too educated.” To Festus, Paul’s testimony is the simply ramblings of an insane, renegade Jew! “But the natural man receiveth not the things of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Paul replies to Festus’ charge of madness: “[25] I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. [26] For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:25-26). Festus and Agrippa could check the record to see if Paul was fabricating lies or telling the truth. His radical transformation was a historical fact to the land of Palestine, and his apostolic ministry has been conducted for last 30 years. However, sinful Festus is not interested in truth. He finds an excuse: “I do not believe the Gospel of Grace because its preacher is nuts!” Let us expound Agrippa’s response.

The Old Testament prophets were aware of the doctrine of bodily resurrection (Job 19:24-27; Psalm 16:10; Daniel 12:2,13; et al.). In fact, Paul knows that King Herod Agrippa II is familiar with such Jewish religious beliefs (verse 3; cf. Acts 26:27-28). He therefore skillfully uses Agrippa’s knowledge of the Old Testament in an attempt to lead him to Jesus Christ: Paul twice mentions the idea of resurrection.

Re-read excerpts of Acts chapter 26: “[6] And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, unto our fathers: [7] Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. [8] Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?…. [22] Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: [23] That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.”

It is here that Festus interrupts and ridicules Paul, dismissing Bible truth as mere lunacy (verses 24-26). Paul then turns to the king, and we read Acts 26:27 once more: “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.” The soul of Herod Agrippa II hangs in the balance. He can either trust God’s words, or disbelieve them. Surely under tremendous peer pressure from Festus, Agrippa takes the latter route and derides the truth as well. “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Agrippa has made his decision: he is not swayed! His tone is one of surprise and condescension. “Paul, you will have to try much harder than that to influence me to become a Christian!”

Now, by carefully considering this, we see what a Christian really is. Verses 22 and 23 again: “[22] Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: [23] That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.”

It is greatly helpful to notice Herod Agrippa II had Bible awareness before he ever met the Apostle Paul. Even as a Gentile, Agrippa was familiar with the Hebrew Old Testament. Read Acts 26:27-28 again: “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Herod did not deny he believed the Hebrew Scriptures. What he refused to do was agree with—believe—Paul’s Gospel presentation.

Moreover, it is surely insightful to appreciate how Paul was not trying to influence Agrippa II to join a local church, get water baptized, say a “sinner’s prayer,” walk an aisle, “feel sorry” for his sins, keep commandments, partake of a holy meal, confess his sins, ask God for forgiveness, kneel and weep at an “altar,” promise to “do better,” or obey any other such common appeals prominent at “invitation time” in most local churches today. Paul wanted Agrippa to believehave faith in—the Word of God’s Grace!

Agrippa had head knowledge and head belief, but not heart knowledge and heart belief. It was just intellectual assent with the Old Testament, which therefore rendered him unable to receive Paul’s further revelation in heart faith. “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (Romans 10:10a). The same is true of most people today—even church members. Aware of the Bible, seeing some historical facts in it, they nevertheless cannot trust it in the heart. They speak of “God,” “Jesus,” “the Holy Ghost,” “grace,” “righteousness,” and so on, but there is no faith in the soul concerning Jesus Christ.

CONCLUSION

Our English word “Christian” is a transliteration of the Greek “Christianos.” In its most basic form, it means “follower of Christ.” When we look at the Bible’s usage of the title, we can fine-tune the definition. The term was first applied to Gentiles who followed Jesus Christ in Antioch of Syria (Acts 11:26)—modern Turkey. It specifically described the disciples or students of the Lord’s doctrine committed to Saul’s (the Apostle Paul’s) trust. Their core belief was faith or trust in Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for sins (cf. Acts 26:27-28 and its context).

Finally, the name became attached to the Apostle Peter’s converts, especially in the sense of following Christ in suffering persecution according to God’s will. First Peter chapter 4: “[12] 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. [15] But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. [16] Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.”

Paul’s final recorded words to King Herod Agrippa II were: “I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds” (Acts 26:29). That is, “King Agrippa, I would you and all my listeners to be like me in trusting the Gospel of Grace!” Whatever subsequently happened to Agrippa is unknown. Regardless, he had heard directly from God’s Apostle of the Gentiles how to become a Christian… and now have we!

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthian 15:3-4).

Also see:
» Must one be a “King James Bible Pauline dispensationalist” to have eternal life?
» “But, what if I do not accept the Bible’s authority?”
» “But what if they read the Bible at my church…?!”

Can you explain Titus 1:12?

CAN YOU EXPLAIN TITUS 1:12?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Could you explain Titus 1:12? “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.” Friend, it would be a pleasure!

An island in the Mediterranean Sea, Crete lies south of the Aegean Sea and southwest of Turkey. The Apostle Paul visited it briefly in Acts 27:7-12, en route to Rome. He also evidently stayed there temporarily after the Book of Acts ended, as Titus 1:5 indicates: “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee….” He left Titus, a young preacher (likely older than Timothy), to continue the grace ministry on the island. Now, some time has passed, and Paul writes to Titus to instruct him further. As with every local assembly even today, there are problems among the Christians of Crete. To some extent, they are believing and teaching false doctrine. Moreover, there is widespread misbehavior. With background established, we proceed to expounding the verse.

EPIMENIDES, THE “PROPHET” OF CRETE

When Paul refers to “one of themselves, even a prophet of their own,” he is not talking about an Old Testament prophet or even a New Testament prophet. Epimenides was a pagan Greek poet and philosopher who lived in the sixth century B.C. He himself was from Crete—the city of Knossos, to be exact. The Greeks held him in high regard.

Epimenides, in his work “Cretica” (second line), wrote of the Cretians’ lifestyle back during the time before the Gospel of Grace had even gone to these Gentiles. Several hundred years later, the Cretians still have a reputation for gross misconduct. Epimenides’ words are now proverbial, a common saying. The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul, in the A.D. first century, declares it to be substantiated! It is not a baseless charge, mere gossip, a false accusation. No, the news of the Cretians is true… 500 years after Epimenides first commented on it! Moreover, it describes some Christians living on Crete, those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ! Hence, Paul orders Titus to sternly fuss or scold them: “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;….” Read all the Book of Titus.

“THE CRETIANS ARE ALWAY LIARS”

This is not “always” (eternally, without end) but “alway” (all the way, completely, entirely). Epimenides, in his writing, accused the Cretians of repeating what he thought was a lie—the Greek king of the gods, Zeus, was dead and buried on Crete. The philosopher was outraged, since he considered Zeus immortal! Paul’s argument does not so much concern this “lie” per se, but simply highlights one of the Cretians identified them as being dishonest. The Holy Spirit through Paul agrees they are deceitful about various issues… including false teaching and false teachers (see verses 9-16)!

“THE CRETIANS ARE… EVIL BEASTS”

“Evil” is self-explanatory. Obviously, “beasts” is to be understood as “bestial, savage, wild, ferocious, cruel, brute.” These are not literal animals but rather people who behave like animals. Scripture repeatedly uses this term for the Antichrist (Revelation 11:7; Revelation 13:1-4,12,14-15,17-18; Revelation 14:9,11; Revelation 15:2; Revelation 16:2,10,13; Revelation 17:3,7-8,11-13,16,17; Revelation 19:19-20; Revelation 20:4,10).

“THE CRETIANS ARE… SLOW BELLIES”

“Slow”—elsewhere translated in the King James Bible as “idle” (Matthew 12:36; Matthew 20:3,6; 1 Timothy 5:13) and “barren” (2 Peter 1:8) in the King James Bible—is defined as “sluggish to move or work.” They habitually sit or lie around. To wit, they are lazy.

If someone is intelligent, we say he or she is a “brain.” It is as if the person’s body consists of nothing but a brain. Similarly, when the Cretians are called “bellies,” it is like their whole body is a stomach! Gluttony, overindulgence with food, has consumed them. Greediness is their reputation. Overall, they lounge about and eat everything they can!

SUPPLEMENTAL: ACTS 17 AND EPIMENIDES

When preaching God’s Word to the ignorant, pagan, idolatrous philosophers of Athens in Acts chapter 17 (verses 16-34), the Apostle Paul said, in part: “[27] That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: [28] For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”

“For in him we live, and move, and have our being” is actually another quote from Epimenides (“Cretica,” same work alluded to Titus 1:12, but this is from the fourth line whereas Titus quotes the second line). Evidently, Paul was conversant in Epimenides’ writings. It is okay for us to read non-biblical books—provided the King James Bible is our final authority. Paul wisely appealed to something with which the pagans of Athens were familiar and accepted. As for the phrase, “For we are also his offspring,” he took that from the Cilician Stoic philosopher Aratus (315–245 B.C.), his poem on astronomy titled “Phaenomena.” Likewise, we should read and familiarize ourselves with pertinent literature when dealing with people from world religions, denominations, cults, sects, and so on. “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Proverbs 18:13).

Also see:
» What are “evil communications” in 1 Corinthians 15:33?
» Should we read denominational literature?
» Why do some Christians persistently behave like lost people?