A Biblical View of the Accuser

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A Biblical View of the Accuser

Ryan Laden // 15.09.18

A Warning

 In our study of 1 Peter 5:8-11 we read these words…

1 Peter 5:8-11

8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

In verse 8, Peter describes our spiritual opponent as a roving and roaring lion looking to swallow whole those who are not alert to his mission.

Heeding this warning, it is appropriate that we make ourselves more aware of this enemy. 

To help us in this effort, the following study is presented.

Ground Rules

 Before we dive into the biblical message surrounding our spiritual opponent, there are a few ground rules that need to be observed:

1.    Look but don’t stare. 

 When compared to the message of God’s word that speaks to the threats of our own personal sinful desires and the work of the unbelieving world, there is very little detail given about the inner workings of our spiritual opponent. 

If we were supposed to spend a great deal of time and attention on the person and work of the Accuser, we would have been given more detail and background. As it is, we should learn from the paucity of biblical information and make the choice to not spend too much time dwelling on our defeated spiritual enemy. 

2.    Don’t go beyond the Bible

Given our desire to know everything about everything and the lack of detail surrounding the biblical message on our spiritual opponent, many seek to satisfy their need for more by going well beyond the Bible. 

There are lots of people at work today and even more who have been at work in the past, who have taken the pieces of the biblical message and used them to weave many exciting and compelling narratives about the origins and everyday affairs of our spiritual opponents. 

These non-biblical extras need to be avoided. We need to learn to live with a little uncertainty. If God wanted his people to take such a deep dive into the Father of Lies (John 8:44), more would be given. Instead, we would do well to spend our time on seeking to glorify God in our study and application of the biblical message rather than spending our precious attention on made up stories. 

Question

Now that we have touched on these ground rules, we can move on to try and answer the question at hand…

Who is our spiritual opponent?  

First off, we need to know who we are talking about. 

To help with this, we should get our head around some of the ways this spiritual opponent is referenced in the biblical message. 

Old Testament Names

In the Hebrew Bible, there are a few names given to our spiritual opponent:

Serpent

In Genesis 3:14 the one who tempted Eve to challenge the command of the Creator which led to the first sin of mankind was called a serpent (Hebrew: Nachash). 

Accuser

The Hebrew Bible refers to the work of a spiritual opponent most often by using the common term used to describe someone who stands in opposition or someone who accuses others of wrong doing. This term is transliterated into English as Satan.

This is not a proper name, as the same word is used to describe the action of opposing all throughout the Hebrew Bible. However, there are a few clear examples of how this term was used as a proper name to describe a spiritual actor that was engaged in the accusation of God’s people. 

Examples of the Accuser in the Old Testament

Job

At the beginning of the book of Job a scene is described in a highly stylized and literary fashion that refers to the antagonist as Satan, or the accuser. This entity is not a character in the story beyond the initial action of testing or trying the validity of Job’s faith. The accuser acts under the authority of God and has limited freedoms. 

David

In 1 Chronicles 21:1, King David is tempted by the Accuser (Ha-satan) to go beyond his mandate and to take a census or count of the fighting men of his armies. This was seen by all as a blatant act of pride and David was punished for his open rebellion against God. 

Zechariah

In Zechariah 3:1-7, a prophetic vision is described that resembles a court room setting. Joshua the High Priest is shown to be standing for trial and the prosecutor is referred to as the Accuser (Ha-satan). The Accuser is rebuked by the Lord and a defense is given for Joshua. 

Intertestamental Development 

In the 400 year period between the closing of the Hebrew Bible and the birth of the Christ, literary examples that expanded on the character and activities of the spiritual opponent increased exponentially. These intertestamental writings vary tremendously in their presentation of the Accuser and show a much more nuanced treatment of the spiritual forces at work in the world. 

None of these writings are held to be as authoritative or inspired as those included in the Christian Bible, but they do show that spiritual opposition was on the minds of those surrounding the Christ. 

The Accuser in the Gospels 

Without attempting an exhaustive list of references to the character and work of the spiritual opponent, the following references highlight the more nuanced and developed understanding of the Accuser. 

Matthew 4:1-11

Jesus faces an extreme trial in the wilderness. In addition to the trials of hunger and isolation, Jesus Christ is placed under trial by the Accuser, also referenced as the Devil. The term, “Devil” is again, an untranslated Latinization of the Greek word for one who is a slanderer or liar (diavolos / diabolos). 

In this setting, the Accuser places Jesus under a series of trials that are meant to test him in all the ways that are common to mankind. Jesus resists and passes the test. All of these events are sanctioned by God the Father and serve a needed function to demonstrate that the Christ can identify with our times of trial. 

Jesus’ Descriptions

Jesus described the Accuser in many ways. Some of them are listed below:

John 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Matthew 13:19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

John 12:31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.

John 14:30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me. 

In these, and in many more, Jesus Christ teaches that the Accuser has fallen from the role of prosecutor or tester of mankind and has moved into attempting to actively lead humanity into sin rather than to perform what is seen in the Old Testament function.

The Accuser in the New Testament 

The New Testament refers to the spiritual opponent in a variety of ways:

The tempter… 1 Thessalonians 3:5

The god of this age… 2 Corinthians 4:4

The ruler of the kingdom of the air… Ephesians 2:2

The head of the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”… Ephesians 6:11-17

One who “masquerades as an angel of light”… 2 Corinthians 11:14

The whole world is under the control of the evil one… 1 John 5:19

The enemy that “prowls around like a lion”… 1 Peter 5:8

In the minds of the early church, the Accuser is more than simply the antagonist in the story of Christianity. This spiritual opponent is actively affecting the unbelieving world and seeking to bring the church into a place of trial and testing. 

Origin

Next we should look to the biblical message concerning the origin of the Accuser. 

There is no one clear reference to the origins of the spiritual opponent. What can be said about the origins of the Accuser come from a small scriptural collection.

There are only two clear and definitive references to the background of the Accuser.

Revelation 12:7-9

7 And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.  8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.  9 The great dragon was hurled down — that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. 

Luke 10:18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

 Neither of these references should be taken as straightforward descriptions of events as they happened. The passage from Revelation 12:7-12 is tucked into the middle of a collection of broad and historically anachronistic allegory. The events in this passage are to be interpreted as one might with poetry. 

In the reference from Luke 10:18, Jesus is instructing his disciples to not get too excited about the fact that they have had success against their spiritual opponents. The language used here was widely understood to be a reference to the fall of the Accuser as described in popular Jewish apocalyptic literature written in the intertestamental period. But without any expansion on the meaning of this reference, all additional commentary is guesswork. 

Two additional Old Testament passages are often referenced as possibly being connected to the origin of the Accuser. But in both references, the prophecy had a direct connection to the people and events that surrounded the prophets. 

Isaiah

In the first passage, the prophet Isaiah wrote about the rise and fall of the king of Assyria. While the language used fits with the later view expressed in Revelation 12, there is no obvious connection to events outside those being witnessed by the prophet and his audience.  

Isaiah 14:12-14

12 How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! 13 You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. 14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

Many Christian writers in the second and third century AD made the connection between this prophetic message and the comment Jesus made in Luke 10:18. This connection is hard to discount but it is equally difficult to support due to the lack of follow up or explanation surrounding Jesus’ statement. 

Ezekiel

Another message given by the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel uses language that has often been taken as an allegorical reference to the fall of the Accuser. The language is striking as is the opening reference that ties this message to the specific leadership of the city-state of Tyre on the coast of the Mediterranean. 

Ezekiel 28:12-15 

12 “Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “ ‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. 14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.

 There are more possible connections to the fall of the Accuser in the Old Testament but none are as well used by the later church as these two. They are powerful in their language and imagery and fit neatly within the later Christian narrative surrounding the fictional image of Satan given by later wristers like Milton and Danté. 

Strong arguments can be made to support the inclusion or exclusion of these potential origin prophecies. As such, the Christian ought not to entertain teaching concerning the origin of the Accuser taken from these prophecies unless it can be supported by other clearly understood references.  

Role of the Accuser

If all we knew of the Accuser was limited to the message of the Old Testament, we might conclude that the Accuser played a well-regulated function in God’s economy. The Accuser challenged the faith of God’s people, not for evil purposes, but so as to bring about some change in those being tested. 

This same God appointed function is hinted at in the later New Testament materials. It would seem that this Accuser, even in its perverted state, still functions to bring about change in the hearts and in the faith of those who call on the name of the Lord. 

Revelation 12:10   Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.  11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.  12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”

Perverted Role 

The Accuser who had the role of testing the faithful was welcomed into the counsel or presence of the Lord. This implies that this testing function once served God’s purposes for his children. This Accuser is the same one who rebelled against the Lord and was overcome by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus Christ). 

So this Accuser is still performing its intended function, even in this fallen or perverted state. The Accuser seems to be still performing this testing and challenging function for God’s people, under the limitations and authority of the Lord God. 

Function of Testing

This testing function still has its place in the development of God’s faithful. The cleansing and strengthening nature of testing and trial can be seen in many places in the New Testament. The following are two such examples: 

1 Peter 1:6-7 

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Romans 5:1-5 

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

The Final State 

According to the Apostle Paul, at this present time, the Accuser will continue to be active in the world and in the lives of the believer until the final judgement. 

Ephesians 6:10-12   

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 

The unbelieving world ignorantly submits to the influence of the Accuser but the believer in Christ is to trust in the victory of Christ and resist the trials and temptation of the Accuser. 

At the final judgement, the Accuser is scheduled for destruction, which is held as an act of justice by all. 

Jesus alluded to this final state in:

Matthew 12:41 "Then he will say to those on his left, `Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

This final judgement is made more explicit in the message of Revelation chapter 20. Particularly poignant is the message of the following:

Revelation 20:7-10   

7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth — Gog and Magog — to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

In the act of setting aside the old order, the old heaven and old earth, the Accuser and all who have rejected the grace of Christ, preferring the lies provided by the Accuser, will experience a final destruction known as the second death. This can be heard in the following:

Revelation 20:14-21:1

14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. 

1   Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

 Fury

As has already been mentioned, the Accuser has been condemned as one who has rebelled against God is now awaiting the final act justice. As the salvation of Christ is only afforded to repentant creation, the Accuser has no hope of altering the judgment that has been proclaimed. 

As a result of this well-defined future, the Accuser now operates in a state of fury. This was heard in the following:

Revelation 12:12

12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”

This is why Peter refers to the Accuser as a “roaring lion looking for someone to devour”.

While this enemy is to be heeded, the Accuser has no power over those who are in Christ. This is why Peter can instruct the church to resist the Accuser by standing firm in their faith. 

Christ has won the victory and we are included in this gift of mercy. 

 

Temptation or Trial?

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The Problem

As I have been working through the passage we are going to study in the services this week I have run across an old problem that I think I might just have resolved in some limited capacity. 

Let me tell you about the problem. 

Model Prayer

In the model prayer given by Jesus during the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:9-13), there is a line toward the end that has been something of a challenge for me for a long time. 


Here is the whole prayer as found in the New International Version 2011:

Matthew 6:9-13

9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread. 

12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ’  

Temptation

The problem that I have just learned over time to live with is found in verse 13. 

It is the idea that I need to ask God to not lead me into temptation. 

I have never liked the idea that God would be actively presenting me with opportunities to disobey him and to rebel against him in sin. 

I have always struggled to reconcile this request with the teaching of the New Testament letter of James which says the following about God and temptation:

James 1:13-15 (NIV 2011)

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Personal Sin

Sin is by definition the product of my own desire and decision. 

God is not the author of sin and evil, I am. 

I accept this to be true as I have LOTS of evidence to support my status as a fantastic creator of sinful desires. 

And as James makes clear, God cannot be tempted by evil nor does God tempt anyone. 

So then why does Jesus appear to be asking me to pray that this self-same God would stop leading me into temptation?

Thus my conundrum. 

Clarity

Then, as I was working through the passage I will be preaching through for this week, I had my eureka moment of biblical insight and clarity. You can read the passage below:

1 Peter 1:6-7 (NIV 2011)

6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Greek

Now you can be excused if you did not also have your eureka moment as well. I am afraid I was actually working through the Greek text for this passage when I spotted something special. 

Painful

The term used in 1 Peter 1:6 to reference the source of the church’s suffering and grief. They were experiencing hardship because they were undergoing a… TRIAL. And as we hear in verse 7, these trials are both painful and useful for the follower of Jesus. 

The trial is said to refine our faith, to test the strength and purity of our faith in Jesus Christ. And the end result of this refining process is a faith that results in praise, glory, and honor for God and for his child. 

Using

Here God is seen using these painful circumstances to mold and shape the faith of his beloved and adopted children. 

He works through our suffering to create true Christlike strength and character in us. While the evil action being done to us is not God’s action, the Lord can and will use this external force to help his church wake up and see that God is with them and using them even in this hard trial. 

periasmois

Now the Greek word being translated in 1 Peter 1:6 as trial is that of periasmois (πειρασμοῖς). 

This word is used a bunch in the Greek New Testament. And in all but three uses, the word is most often translated into English as some form of trial or testing. In the rare times that this word is translated to refer to temptation, they seem to be related to this issue of praying to God. 

Trial

Here are some examples of occasions where the term is read as a trial:

Luke 22:28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials.

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trialsof many kinds, 

1Peter 1:6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

Temptation

And here are some occasions where the term is presented as temptation:

Luke 11:4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation. ’ ” 

Luke 22:40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 

Luke 22:46  “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Translations

I think that it is odd that so many English translations translate periasmois as temptationrather than the more common use of trialin the Lord’s prayer.

The following translations use temptation in Matthew 6:13:

KJV, NIV, ESV, HCSB, ASV, and NLT. 

Alternatively, the following translations use the idea of trialover temptationin the same verse:

NRSV and the Bible in Basic English. 

Answer

So what is the answer? Is it temptation or trial?

Is Jesus Christ asking his followers to pray to the Heavenly Father asking:

1-   Don’t lead me into temptation…

2-   Don’t bring us into times of trial or testing…

Eureka

So here comes my eureka moment. 

If as James says, God does not tempt anyone then why ask God to not tempt you?

But if as 1 Peter says, God uses our times of trial and testing for his glory as our faith is refined during these periods of stress, then it seems much more likely that we might need to pray about these times of God sponsored testing. 

Examples

There are loads of examples in the Bible of people who underwent trials and experienced hardships along their God sponsored paths. 

Here is a short list:

Abraham– Sacrifice of Isaac. 

Isaac– the struggle to get the right wife.

Jacob– the issue with Esau and the blessing.

Joseph– Wow. Too many to count. 

TheHebrews– 400 years in captivity.

Moses– Birth, life, death. 

Joshua– Leading the people into the promised land.

TheJudges– All of them.

Ruth– New land, new family.

SamuelSaulDavidSolomon… Where to start?

TheProphets? – Seriously? Testing and trial everywhere. 

Joseph and Mary– Miracle baby and a hostile king. 

Jesus of Nazareth– Tested in every way possible. 

The Early Church– Persecution and contempt. 

Paul– Prison and suffering.

Peter– Prison and suffering.

The future church– Much of the same. 

Purposes

In all of these examples, the Lord used the pain, suffering, hardships, trials, and failures of all of these people to bring about his own purposes. 

The Lord used all of them to point the way to the final solution to our sin problem… the gift of grace as seen in the work and person of Jesus Christ. 

In all of these occasions, the Lord used the trials and hardships of his people to wake them up to their need for his help, his comfort, his leadership, his gift of mercy and grace. 

My Life

Trials and testing have a purpose in my life as well. 

·      I have discovered that when life is smooth… 

·     When life is easy and all is going my way… 

·      I can and do become less awake, less aware of my need for God.  

And when I take my eyes off the Lord, or I close my eyes and nod off spiritually, it is never too long before I am made wide awake and fully aware of God’s presence and reality in my life through some form of… periasmois… some sort of trial or point of testing. 

Reading

And so this is the reading of Matthew 6:13 that makes sense to me. This is my ah-ha moment. 

·      I want to… need to… pray and ask the Lord to help me wake up. 

·      I need the Lord to help me keep my eyes on the cross and not on the world. 

·      I need the Lord to help me be alert and awake spiritually…

I do not want to nod off and need the Lord to bring me to the place of trial. 

Instead, as I pray Matthew 6:13, I am reminding myself to wake up so that God does not have to wake me up. 

I need to pay attention to the Lord before the Lord demands my attention through a time of periasmoisor trial. 

Prayer

So in response to all of this personal insight, I am seeking to pray the following in my life:

Lord Jesus, 

I do not want to lose sight of your will for me. 

I do not want to be lulled to sleep by the apathy of the world. 

I do not want to turn away from you in any way. 

I confess my need for your Spirit to keep me awake spiritually. 

I recognize my need for your Word to teach me and shape me. 

I accept the gift of your church to help me keep focused on you. 

In all this I pray that I will not need to face the crucible of the periasmois… 

But instead, I submit to your plans and your will as far as I am able. 

Thank you Lord!

For The Body

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Workshop

For the last several days I have had the privilege of being involved in a time of training and equipping that does not come around all that often. Thanks to the confidence and trust of the associational leadership of the Churches of Christ in WA, I was allowed to create a space where 12 Senior Ministers were able to sit down face to face and talk openly and honestly about the joys and pains of leading in the Body of Christ.

It was my goal to have this group of ministers and church leaders work through a series of real life issues that are common to every church. We did not have an outside “expert” come in and lecture us on what we should be doing better, as if that outsider had his or her act all together. Instead we provided our own content. Peers struggling with the weight of leadership, speaking openly about our successes and our failures.

Framework

As we moved from topic to topic, we kept returning to one key truth that we all felt applied to the core purpose and reason for all of our striving and straining to be better leaders and better servants in the church. This truth was the framework upon which all of our stories and all of our efforts were to be hung. If we could not find a hook in this truth then we encouraged one another to let the task or expectation drop to the floor so that we might be focused on what matters most.

This framework was provided to us by God, through the ministry of the Apostle Paul. Paul wanted to make sure that his friends in Ephesus understood why their work in the church mattered, why is was necessary for the people to sacrifice and strive toward an amazing goal.

The framework is as follows:

Ephesians 4:11-16    
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Key Points

There is more to say about this truth than any of us has time for at the moment. But there are a few key points that stand out as relevant to the work of those seeking to provide leadership in the local church.

One The Church Belongs to

We often forget that the work of the minister, the work of the church, the work of all Christian mission, belongs to Christ. I do not own my church. I do not own my small group. I do not own the mission groups that I support. I am not a shareholder. This is not a limited liability corporation.

The church and all of its outworkings belong to Christ. Jesus is the head, the owner, the builder and sustainer of his own body.

When this central point is forgotten, we see a disconnection of the body from its head. This results in a lot of flapping around, a lot of drama, and wasted effort. When we forget this central truth we seek to own other people, we seek to own the leadership of the Spirit, and we seek to own the truth of God’s word.

When we try and take possession of the body of Christ, we wear ourselves out. We assume a responsibility that we cannot bear up under. Can you imagine what chaos might ensue if the hand should claim that it owns the body and that it knows what the head really wants? The body is best when it knows its place. Under the headship of Christ!

Gift

The second point to bring up from this truth is seen in the gift given to the church by Christ.

Jesus Christ gives his people, whom he loves, people that are called to provide the church with leadership, direction, wisdom, and discernment. The titles seen in this gift; Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher, are not meant to be all inclusive.

There are more people and more gifts given to the church by Christ. But these gifts are given so that the church might see and understand the will of God more clearly as the church moves and changes to adjust to the world we are called to reach.

These titles have taken on legendary meaning over time. We hear these titles and think they are much more specific in their definitions and applications than ever seen in the early church.

  • To be an Apostle was to be one sent out by God for a specific task in the church.
  • To be a Prophet was to be someone who listened carefully to the Lord’s word, whether spoken or read, and to make sure the church at large was also listening to the Lord.
  • To be an Evangelist was not a specific job. It was to be one who carried the good news. Everyone in the church of Jesus Christ was called to carry the good news of Christ to any and all who needed to hear.
  • The role of the Pastor and Teacher, was one job, not two. This was a person who was called to be a shepherd for the church and to be a teacher to those being shepherded.

The meaning of the words used here are not meant to signal that only special people, doing special jobs, were to be working for the good of the body of Christ. In fact the opposite is true. Every part of Christ’s body was a gift to the whole body. Every person in the church was equally called by God to be at work, doing their part, for the good of the whole body of Christ.

Purpose

The last point to be shard is seen in the purpose of Christ’s gift.

The people of the church are all called by God to…

  • Reach oneness in the faith…
  • To become mature in Christ…
  • To reach a place of fullness in our relationship with Christ…
  • To be anchored in the truth…
  • To see lies and falsehood before we welcome them into our lives…
  • To speak the truth to one another from a place of love…
  • And to find our fit in the Body of Christ.

All who are a part of the church are called by Jesus Christ to be fully committed to one another and to the head of the church. The people with titles and responsibilities in the church are not the head. They are the ones who have the job of making sure all the part of the body are working together.

When the various parts of the body of Christ works in concert with one another, the body grows and flourishes. When the parts see that they have the same mission, the same goal, the same purpose in all of their ministry work, the Body of Christ is an amazing gift to the world.

Hope

It is my hope and prayer that you will make the decision today to get on board with your local church, your part of the Body of Christ. It is my hope that you will see that those God has called to lead and guide your church are not the owners of the church, and neither are you! We are all unworthy servants honored by the King in our calling to serve the Lord Jesus!

Marriage Stays The Same

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Questions

Over the last few weeks I have been flooded with questions concerning the upcoming opinion poll being sent out by the elected officials of our national government. And unless you just crawled out from under a rock, you too have heard more opinions on the issue of same sex marriage, or marriage equality, than you ever thought possible.

If you have made the choice to dive into this conversation, then you no doubt have the scars to prove how difficult it is to try and have a reasoned discussion on such an emotionally charged issue. As I have been wading through the questions and challenges of my friends and family, I too have seen just how unproductive and painful it can be to have these debates.

Fact

So instead of playing the game of lobbing opinions at one another, hoping to score points rather than have a logical discourse, I would like to address one of the unassailable facts that seems to have gone unnoticed in this whole debate.

No matter what the outcome of the upcoming plebiscite…

No matter the decision of the weak willed Parliament…

No matter the outcome of the appeals brought before the courts…

No matter what you or I think about the rightness of marriage equality…

Marriage will remain the same.

Marriage can be defined by the society at large as being something wholly other to what we now call marriage, and most likely it will, but no amount of revisionism will alter the fundamental truth of what marriage means.

History

Whether you believe in a god or not, whether you accept the validity of the Christian Bible or not, if you are an intelligent and reasonable person, you will at the very least agree that marriage has been given its definition prior to this moment in history.

In the creation account given in Genesis chapter 2, there is a clear description of marriage as that of a God given commitment between a man and a woman.

Alterations

This simple definition of marriage has been altered and perverted throughout human history.

Many iterations of this covenant bond between a man and a woman have been proposed and accepted by various societies over the millennia, each with their emotional and cultural justifications. But none of these alterations of the foundational definition of marriage has changed its true nature.

Jesus

Jesus Christ, speaking to those who would cheapen marriage to the point of being nearly meaningless, reminded his followers that marriage was a gift given to men and women from the Creator and not open to alteration, no matter how much we might wish.

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”  Matthew 19:4-6

Jesus went on to tell those that were challenging the nature and definition of the marriage commitment that if they did not like the definition of marriage that they could simply choose to remain unmarried and therefore avoid the issue altogether.

Jesus did not change the definition of marriage to fit his cultural context. He could not have changed the definition of marriage because it had been established by the Creator and woven into the very fabric of human society.

Conclusion

Rather than waffle on for ages on the background of marriage, I will simply come to my conclusion.

The point I am making here is that the true definition of marriage cannot be changed or altered by the feelings and desires of our modern emotion driven culture.

The people will speak, the government will vote, the courts will decide, the rules will change. But marriage will remain the same.

World

The world will continue to unmoor itself from truth of all kinds, as it has always done.

Our wider culture will celebrate every step away from what it sees as restrictive traditions.

The world will continue to denigrate and defame anyone who does not gleefully go along with its wholesale dumping of morality.

None of these trends will change, no matter what gets reported concerning the plebiscite results.

Continue

However, for those still seeking to follow the wisdom of the biblical message and for those still seeking to follow in the steps of Jesus Christ, marriage will continue to be honored and practiced as it was given to us by the Creator.

Should the state revoke my authority as a minister of religion and a marriage celebrant because I cannot and will not alter the definition of marriage in my church, then I will continue to celebrate the gift of marriage as defined by the Creator with those who share and uphold this truth.

Final

So, I give you my final word on this issue…

The meaning and definition marriage will stay the same no matter what feelings you and I might express on the issue.

It is simply not ours to change.

Be Ready

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Luke 12:35-37 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.

Lessons

One of the most important lessons I have learned from serving as a minister for over 20 years is that God’s people, his church, must do what we can to be ready for God to move. We need to be expectant, anticipating the Lord to use us and use our plans and activities for his glory.

Car Show

In our recent efforts to present ourselves to our wider community during the Father’s Day Car Show, we showed exactly what it means to be prepared and ready for service. We did not run a car show because we love cars. We did not have tons of family activities on site because we thought the community was bored and to have some fun. No, we made our plans and worked hard to see them come to fruition because we anticipated that the Lord would use our efforts to bring himself glory through his people yet again.

Multiplied

And this is exactly what happened. God took our meagre offering of time, energy, and planning, and he multiplied our efforts and brought himself fame and renown in our city. We saw at least 5,000 people pass through our church campus last week because the Lord took our preparations and added to them for his own sake.

Next

As great as it was to be a part of that miracle last week, we, God’s church, need to get ready for what is next. We must anticipate, even expect that God will continue to use us for his own purposes and glory.

Preparing

We need to anticipate that the Lord will send us those people from the Car Show that he has been preparing for this very moment. The Spirit of Christ leads people like you and me to Christ. We are called out and drawn to the Lord by the Lord’s own will and voice. We are given the opportunity to respond with faith as the Lord uses others around us to help us see Jesus and understand the truth.

And because this is what the Lord is doing at all times in the people all around us, we must expect that the Lord is going to continue to call others to himself this week, and next week.

We must prepare ourselves as a church to receive those that will respond to God’s call. We must anticipate that some of the people from last week will return this week to church. They may not know why they are coming along, they might not have any idea what it means to join us as a church, but we must be ready for them.

We must expect that God will send us some of those he is calling to himself over the next few weeks. So this means that we must be ready to receive those who are not familiar with our faith. Who are not up to speed on what it means to be a part of a church. We have to help those that don’t feel a part of the group feel welcome and accepted.

How Can We Be Ready?

Pray

Well for starters we can start praying for those that God will send to us. Pray against those obstacles and barriers that will pop up and cause them to question why they should bother coming along to church on Sunday.

Love

Then we can prepare ourselves by choosing to show everyone around us in church love and mercy. Be welcoming and kind to everyone, not just the newcomers. Jesus made it clear that the world will see his love in the way that we love one another. So show this love to the church family as well as to our guests.

Accessible

Another thing we can do is to make our celebration of our faith more accessible to those whom God will send. We can make sure we explain what we are doing in our services. We can use language that normal people can understand. And we can remove those elements of the service that might confuse those who are just beginning to seek Jesus.

Communion

One of the ways we are going to get ready is by pressing pause on our weekly celebration of Communion. This meal is an excellent reminder of what Jesus Christ has done for us in his sacrifice and mercy. But for those who are not up to speed on Jesus yet, this meal can be very odd and even a bit scary.

So, for the next three weeks we will not celebrate communion in our services. But on 01 October we will focus the entire service on the meaning of Communion and bring it back through a special teaching focus. Maybe after the break we will all appreciate the act of Communion a bit more.

Sermon

The messages that we will bring over the next three weeks are going to be focused on helping those that God sends our way see how to change the outcomes they experience in life by changing their orientation toward God. These will be biblical messages that are reframed so that those with zero background can see the value and benefit to trusting in Jesus.

Worship

Over the next three weeks we will still offer to the Lord our worship through song and prayer. But our worship leaders will make the effort to explain what it is in the songs that we should focus on and how this act of praise can help us experience more of God as we turn more of our attention to the Lord.

Giving

Another way we can get ready is by making the choice to honour the Lord with our wealth. As a church we are struggling to keep up financially with the demands of being ready. It costs real money to have a church that is open and ready for the Lord to act. Please make it priority to decide for yourself how you should provide this gift of readiness today. If you need the banking details of the church just click here…. http://www.warnbro.org.au/tithing-online

Expecting

I am looking forward to what the Lord is preparing our church for at the moment. God is moving in us and through us and we are right where we need to be as a church family. We are actively expectant. We are ready. And we cannot wait to see how God uses us to bring himself glory.

Thanks for being a part of this amazing family of faith.

Ryan Laden

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Covenant and Law

Reading

The staff team at Warnbro Community Church has been working through a great book entitled… How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. (https://www.koorong.com/search/product/how-to-read-the-bible-for-all-its/9780310517825.jhtml)

This week we are working through the section that speaks to how we read and apply the message of the Old Testament law as people included in the covenant of Christ.

Relation to the Law

Our relationship to the law as followers of Christ has been difficult for many over the centuries and I thought it would be a worthwhile effort to share with you my notes on the subject.

What follows are two parts on one idea. Please read both so that you get the whole idea.

Happy reading…. Ryan Laden

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What is the proper relationship between the Christian and the law of Moses?

>>The source of this conflict is a misunderstanding of the true nature of both the law of Moses and of the New Covenant.

The law of Moses was given for one purpose, to shape and mold the people of Israel into a Holy nation and a kingdom of priests who were to be the face of God to all of creation.[1] Through the obedience of God’s people to these laws, God’s love and grace were to be seen and recognized by all nations.[2] God’s covenant was made with the people before the law was given and before the law was upheld or broken by the people.[3] God’s relationship with the people was purely of his own choosing and was rooted in grace and mercy.[4]

>>The law was never intended to be a ladder by which people could climb up to God.

The law was to be the sign of God’s covenant relationship between Yahweh and the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.[5] However, this covenant was not exclusive to the ethnic descendants of the Israelites. God’s covenant was open to any and all who sought to know God. Anyone willing to enter into this covenant relationship was welcomed by God and was to join with the Israelites in living according to the plan of God.[6]

>>God’s goal was never to limit his salvation and provide obstacles between himself and his creation.

In fact from the initial giving of the law forward the intention was to one day move the focus of the law from being an outward system of rules to an internal desire that was located within the mind and heart of the child of God. This was clearly expressed by the prophet Jeremiah:

“‘The time is coming,’” declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. ‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the LORD. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’
This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar — the LORD Almighty is his name:” Jeremiah 31:31-35

>>God expanded his history of covenant relationship with his people by creating a final covenant.

This was not a novel or new covenant in that it was essentially an internalization of the previous. The previous covenants and their corresponding signs[7] were to be written on the hearts of those who were called by his name. The focus of the new covenant was that each believer should have a personal knowledge of God. This was not unlike the foci of the previous relationships God initiated with man but this offer of relationship was coupled with final forgiveness of sin and a complete internalization of the law of God.

However, having the law become a part of one’s internal belief system and having one’s violations of this law forgiven by God does not negate or erase the law. The law functioned to show that people needed forgiveness and that they were completely dependent upon God to provide a solution to their failure to uphold the law.[8]

>>This new covenant was ushered into existence in and through the person and actions of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.[9]

In the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ the final covenant between God and man was established and sealed.[10] So the believer in Jesus Christ has been freed from the external law by the forgiveness of God and by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. It is this righteousness to which Paul refers in his letter to the Romans:

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:21-24

>>The new covenant promised in Jeremiah 33 was accomplished through Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ has fulfilled every point of the law.[11] He has attained his own righteousness before God by upholding the law of God in every way. As a result, Jesus Christ has earned his own salvation, something that no man has ever done before nor will any man be able to do in the future.[12] The righteousness of Jesus Christ came through his own perfection and his perfect sacrifice for all sin, therefore this right relationship with the Father became the means by which God fulfilled his promise of forgiveness in the new covenant.[13] For this reason Paul stated:

“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.” Romans 3:28-31

All who faithfully call upon the name of Jesus Christ, regardless of ethnic connection to the people of Israel, were included in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and therefore have received the perfection of Jesus Christ.[14] As such, the law was neither abrogated nor nullified but rather was made eternal through Jesus’ fulfillment of the law.[15]

>>In Christ the law will never end or fall away.

The Christian has a higher view of the law than those under the Mosaic law because the end result of the law was proclaimed in Christ. In the law, the principles and truths that the Father wanted his people to know and possess were made complete in the completed work of atonement accomplished by the Christ.[16]

>>The believer in Jesus Christ was freed from the external demands and the penalties of the law of Moses.

This freedom was given to those who have received the gift of God’s grace and the new nature that belonged to Jesus Christ.[17] The Christian’s freedom was given only as the law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. So the Christian was set free to live for Christ, seeking to become the imitation or image of Jesus Christ.[18]

Three Views of the Covenant

>>It would help the Christian tremendously if the covenants of God were seen as they were intended.

Most tend to look at the law of God and the covenants between God and man in ways that distort the power and meaning of these covenants.

Freestanding

Typically these covenants are understood as being episodes or as free standing events that simply occur. Each event is seen as an independent and free standing act of God, not necessarily connected to any other act of God. This view fails to see the context and background that connects the new covenant in Jesus Christ to all previous covenants.

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Replacement

>>The second view of the covenants assumes that each covenant replaces the previous.

This view assumes that the previous covenant was in some way flawed or corrupt and in need of being fixed. While the covenants are limited in scope and effect they are not mistakes of God. This view mistakenly assumes that the Mosaic law was insufficient and in need of replacement. This view fails to note that without the law there would be no need of repentance. Consequently, if there were no need of repentance then there would be no need for a savior.

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Expansion

>>The third view is the correct view.

Each covenant with God was perfect and right. Each covenant retained its appropriate significance as the following covenants only expanded God’s message and relationship with man. 

In this view the Noahic covenant was expanded and made applicable to the family of Abraham when the Abrahamic covenant was introduced.

The Mosaic covenant likewise nationalized and solidified the Abrahamic.

The New Covenant took all these covenants and provided fulfillment and inclusion of all people who confess the name of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

The Christian needs to know that his or her faith is built on the solid foundation of God’s covenant relationship with mankind. That this backbone has not changed but has been fulfilled in Christ.

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Footnotes / References

[1] Exodus 19:1-9Deut. 7:61 Peter 2:9
[2] Deut. 4:5-14
[3] God made a covenant with Noah (Genesis 6:189:9) and later with Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 17). God made his covenant relationship known to the Israelites before the law was ever handed down (Exodus 19).
[4] Deut. 9:6
[5] Deut. 4:9-14
[6] Lev. 19:34 “The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” See also, Isaiah 49:6
[7] All covenants came with an outward sign by which both parties could memorialize the agreement. For Noah it was the rainbow, for Abraham it was circumcision, for Moses it was the law. Each expansion of the covenant absorbed the signs of the previous covenants.
[8] Romans 3:20 “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”
[9] Luke 22:20, Jesus refers to the cup of the Lord’s Supper as the sign of the new covenant which is sealed with his blood. The blood of Jesus is the sign of the new covenant. See also, 1 Corinthians 11:25.
[10] Hebrews 9:12-15
[11] Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
[12] Hebrews 7:27, “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” Jesus was not only perfect according to the law but his sacrifice atoned for all sin, therefore Jesus alone has attained righteousness.
[13] Romans 3:25-26, “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. . .”
[14] Romans 10:9-13, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”
[15] Matthew 5:17-18
[16] Hebrews 1:3, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” See also Hebrews 12:1-2
[17] Romans 6:1-14. Paul demonstrated that the follower of Jesus was buried with Christ in his death and given a new life in and through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore the Christian no longer lives according to the law but lives according to Christ.
[18] Philippians 2:3-5. Paul compels the follower of Jesus to imitate the attitude and actions of Jesus.

Original material by Ryan Laden, 2017 All rights reserved.