30 December 2011
24 December 2011
(Luke 2:8-10 ESV)
09 December 2011
29 November 2011
27 November 2011
Paul mentions almost in passing the regrettable condition of Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom he had handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme (1Tim 1:20). It is a mysterious and spine tingling phrase that is relatively obscure as far as disciplinary measures go. What does it mean to hand over someone to the devil? Is Paul talking about church discipline? Or is he referring to an apostolic prerogative? Or perhaps could he be alluding to some uniquely Pauline measure that consisted in part of chanting imprecatory psalms or offering maledictory prayers? We are left wondering what exactly was involved in this severe measure.
Paul employs the same phrase in the case of the incestuous Corinthian who took his father’s wife, something even the pagans refuse to tolerate. Having already pronounced judgment himself, Paul directs the congregation to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord (1Cor 5:5). This suggests that the measure was not a uniquely apostolic or Pauline privilege. The church herself utilized it with success. The man eventually repented and was readmitted to full fellowship (2Cor 2:6-8). Interestingly, God Himself employed this measure or something like it when He said to Satan, Behold, Job is in your hand; only spare his life (Job 2:6). Of course the rest of the story describes in painful detail the severe physical, mental and emotional assaults endured by Job at the hands of the evil adversary. It was not Job’s sin that demanded suffering but God’s sovereignty that ordained it even though the measure itself seems to have been commensurate with if not identical to the handing over to Satan mentioned by Paul to Timothy.
The precise nature of this spiritual extradition to the powers of evil is obscure. But one thing we may safely conclude is it involved pain and suffering, perhaps physical, certainly spiritual. Hymenaeus and Alexander received a severe censure of church discipline designed to prevent further sin from infecting the church and to reclaim if possible these professing but erring Christians. They must learn not to blaspheme. God would honor this disciplinary measure by lowering His hedge of protection and exposing them to danger. What a terrifying chastisement! Satan is pure evil and a malicious murderer. His nature knows not one ounce of pity. Therefore to be placed under his authority, if even temporarily, would be a frightening and dreadful sentence.
But as Scripture reveals true change in a sinner only comes by way of the cross. It is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1Cor 1:18). The cross was the instrument employed at one and the same time by God’s love and Satan’s malice. Though Satan meant it for evil, God overruled it for good. In like manner, every cross appointed for us is ordained by our heavenly Father who knows what is best and will use whatever means necessary to preserve us from perdition.
Although we may not know exactly what constituted being surrendered to Satan, we do know that like all other disciplinary measures God utilizes it for good – for the good of Christians individually and the church corporately. Let us thank our Lord for His infinite wisdom and steadfast love from which nothing in heaven or on earth can ever separate us.
26 November 2011
|Elder James Pavlic|
27 July 2011
In his correspondence with the Roman Christians the apostle Paul makes a statement that helps explain an important issue regarding the death of Christians. He says, For one who has died has been set free from sin (Rom 6:7). It is through death that liberation from sin’s power and dominion is achieved. Now of course that has to do primarily with the death of Christ, who died for us that we might be freed from sin’s clutches and might live in Him for God. But it also helps clarify the reason why believers, now forgiven and accepted by God, must still experience physical death as sin’s wages.
The Westminster Divines dealt with this question and codified it in the Larger Catechism. They asked, Death being the wages of sin, why are not the righteous delivered from death, seeing all their sins are forgiven in Christ? (Q 85) Their answer echoes the apostle and is very illuminating: The righteous shall be delivered from death itself at the last day, and even in death are delivered from the sting and curse of it; so that, although they die, yet it is out of God’s love, to free them perfectly from sin and misery, and to make them capable of further communion with Christ in glory, which they then enter upon (A 85). While the death of Christians seems to be an inconsistency, it is really a severe mercy by which our loving Father frees us from sin and introduces us into glory. So in Christ’s death we are freed from sin legally, morally, spiritually, and in our own death we are freed from sin perfectly. What a glorious gospel! God in Christ has overruled the curse so that the very punishment for sin itself is now a means of tremendous blessing. What a glorious God! Is death an enemy? On one level, yes it is. On another level, it is not at all. It comes out of God’s love to free us perfectly from sin and misery. This is why Christians may look forward even to death itself. It is why we need not fear the valley of the shadow. For the one who dies has been set free from sin!
23 July 2011
19 July 2011
02 July 2011
It may have been a renewed interest in detective stories that triggered the most recent movie about Sherlock Holmes. The film shows the super sleuth demonstrating his amazing skills of observation in solving cases that otherwise would have been left unsettled. Often he manages to untangle a knotty problem based on the slightest circumstantial evidence, which other noble but less observant detectives are unable to perceive. Such circumstantial evidence is valuable not only in the world of super sleuths. It also serves an important function in the spiritual realm. In fact, we are invited to trust in Christ, in part, because of the amazing circumstantial evidence.
As Jesus was preparing the disciples for His departure - literally His exodus (Lk 9:31) – He acknowledged their doubts and did not rebuke them. That is not all, for He invited them to believe on account of the works themselves (Jn 14:11). In other words, if they were unable to believe Him, they at least should have concluded from the evidence that He was who He said He was. In this case one need not be in possession of Sherlockian skills to deduce the right verdict logically from the facts themselves. The works of Jesus testify to His deity. They witness to His union with the Father. They are works that no one else did or can do (Jn 15:24). Even Watson could have solved this one. The prophets predicted Messiah’s stunning powers over nature, disease and devils. All those predictions were fulfilled by Jesus Christ who thereby confirmed His messianic mission not only by word but by deed too. His miracles are incontrovertible proof of His identity as God’s Son. Did the New Testament authors fabricate the evidence? They lacked motive and opportunity. Why die for a hoax? What incentive is there in sacrificing one's life for a trick? What's more, the fraud would have been easily detected by malevolent Pharisee-types. They would not have tolerated a fictitious account of recent events. Even if someone refutes the infallibility of the apostolic record, its reliability is beyond question. These were credible witnesses that even the influential Sanhedrin could not intimidate. Their testimony and the evidence they record points to one grand conclusion: Jesus of Nazareth is the very Son of God. He is the Savior of sinners. He offers salvation to all and any who believe. Of course, the natural man will not receive it and, indeed, cannot receive it (1Cor 2:14). But dear Christian, rejoice! For your Savior is indisputably divine. That makes all the difference.
10 May 2011
Miracles are meant to grab our attention. They are above and beyond the ordinary. They are so extraordinary – so contrary to nature, so unusually singular, so atypical and bizarre – that they give occasion for pause from mundane living. Folks take notice of miracles because when they occur, they do so either without or above or against the ordinary means usually employed, like being sustained without bread (Mt 4:4), or bearing children with bodies as good as dead (Rom 4:19), or defying gravity (2Kgs 6:6) or flames (Dan 3:27). Jesus came in the fullness of time, and His miracles provided credible and convincing testimony about His identity as the Son of God. These amazing works given by the Father to accomplish were witnesses to Christ’s deity, messianic identity and redemptive purpose having testimony weightier than even that of John (Jn 5:36).
The beginning of these signs occurred in Cana of Galilee where Jesus miraculously transformed water into the finest of wine (Jn 2:1-11). As a sign it was meant to convey something personally and theologically significant about Him, as well as signify the joy and abundance of His kingdom. That is, it manifested His glory (Jn 2:11). Natural men viewed Him as nothing but an ordinary Galilean man. Spiritual men esteemed Him as far more and welcomed His demonstrations of divine power which let the glorious light of His deity shine through the modest veil of His humanity. His disciples believed in him. Indeed, Peter said Jesus of Nazareth was a man attested by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him (Acts 2:22). Do you believe Him to be who He said He was? Consider the testimony! The apostles could not have fabricated all that was written of Him. The malicious Jews could have easily debunked historical fiction. The New Testament reliably testifies to His miraculous deeds, which themselves reliably testify to His glorious, divine, messianic identity. Thus, Do not fear, only believe!