Cheap Grace

Cheap Grace

God’s plan for humankind has always been simple and laid out for us in His Word. Yet, the execution of this plan seems to be a problem for humans in every generation. God’s plan for people to be saved through baptism and holy living has consistently been met with resistance from a world that continues to reject the Savior and to establish their own rules. In their rebellion, people have come up with a carnal view of Christianity: by rejecting God’s expectations of His creation, people havecheapened God’s grace.

This concept of cheap grace should be worrisome to all. Dietrich Bonhoeffer helps us understand this term by defining cheap grace as “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without Church discipline. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship….” Bonhoeffer understands the worlds emphasis: it stresses the benefits of Christianity without the cost involved. This cost is best seen in Gods call for us to be “Disciples of Christ” (Matthew 28:18-20). Now, the term disciple has often been oversimplified and overlooked, leading manyto think they are disciples while they fail to conform to the biblical standard of discipleship. If failing to be a disciple violates the command of God, it becomes paramount to our Spiritual life to understand what it truly means to be a disciple.

By definition the Greek term μαθητής (mathetes) simply calls to mind “a learner.” W.E. Vine appropriately adds to this definition, stating a disciple is “…not only a pupil, but an adherent.” Discipleship requires more than knowing the facts: it speaks to total, lifechanging adherence to a teacher. Jesus draws this idea out further when He gives the example that a disciple will grow to be like his teacher (Luke 6:40). Discipleship calls us not just to be as knowledgeable as our teacher but “like” our teacher; that is, we are to conform even to the teachers lifestyle and habits. John calls this concept “walking just as He walked” (1John 2:6) and Paul commands even our thoughts to be like Christ’s (Philippians 2:5). Complete and utter imitation is the goal of a disciple. Jesus further shows us the expectations of a disciple, stating that if the master were to be called Beelzebub, it is expected that his disciples are to be called the exact same thing (Matthew 10:24-25). The reason for this conclusion is thata disciple should be the representation of his teacher. Thus, the essence of discipleship is the art of imitation “because as He is, so are we in this world” (1John 4:17)(see also 1 Peter 1:15; 1 Corinthians 1:12-13; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Corinthians 4:15-16; and Philippians 2:5).

As we begin to scratch the surface in understanding discipleship, we begin to see the definite need to self-reflect. In self-reflecting, we reach a deeper understanding of what our relationship with Jesus should be. Since a disciple is one who becomes like his teacher in both the way he thinks and the way he acts, we must follow the example Jesus set for us and we must adhere to the teaching of His word. Failing to live the life, then, clearly is a chief way of cheapening God’s grace.

-Aaron Boone

Migrating Members

Migrating Members

Everyone answers to someone.  The words authority and submission are very offsetting today.  Submission is culturally conceptualized as abusive, patriarchal, and outdated.  In kind, authority is what furnishes bad marriages and abusive relationships.  Together, they make a recipe for disaster.

​God’s revelation on the subject of submission and authority is quite different to the cultural evaluation.  God, in fact, is the one who ordained submission and headship from the very beginning (see 1 Cor. 11:3).  A brief preview of Ephesians 5:21-6:9 illustrates how that submission and authority harmoniously work together within all relationship contexts.  Paul uses a pattern of 3’s to show what he means in 5:21 where he says, “submit to one another…”  In 5:15-18 Paul gives three contrasts, the last one being: “be filled with the Spirit.”  In 5:19-21 he gives three commands all relating back to this final contrast.  The last command is, “submit to one another,” (v. 21).  In 5:22-6:9 Paul goes on to give three contexts, showing what he meant by the command- submit to one another.  Paul was not teaching the backward, illogical idea that is often termed “mutual submission” in v. 21.  No, Paul was essentially saying, “Submit to the authority that God has ordained in your life, and here are three contexts to bear out this point.”  The three contexts he chose are as follows- wives to husbands, children to parents, and employees (servants) to employers (masters).  This is not an exhaustive list of relationships in which Christians must submit, but it does provide a nice, round starting point.

Remember, everyone answers to someone.  It is because this faithful saying goes unheralded or altogether unmentioned, that two things abound in the visible body of Christ: baptized believers who fail to take up membership with a local body of believers, and church members within a local body who refuse to submit to the church’s leadership.  These are both problems, problems that must be addressed.

​God approved and God ordained leadership takes on more shape and size than simply kings in the Old Testament and church elders in the New Testament.  God seems to have been pleased with Jethro’s advice to Moses in Exodus 18:21, as he advised appointing judges over the people, men that feared God and were full of integrity.  Likewise, Paul commanded, that’s right, he commanded the church members at Corinth to submit to those men in the congregation who were recognized as leaders (1 Cor. 16:15-16).  These men were not labeled as elders, neither were the “leaders” in the book of Hebrews (see 13:7,17,24) to whom those Christians were told to submit.  Summarizing up to this point, every Christian is called, like Paul in Acts 9:26, to take up membership with a local congregation (i.e. Corinth, Philippi, Colosse, Ephesus, Jerusalem, Antioch, etc.).  Likewise, every Christian is called, like those at Corinth, to submit to the leadership that congregation, for leadership within the local church is God approved and God ordained.  This holds true even in the absence of elders (1 Thess. 5:12-13).  In the absence of elders, it would seem God appointed those called “teachers” (i.e. Eph. 4:11; James 3:1) to lead the church; these are men like Stephanus (1 Cor. 16:15).

​When these directives are not followed by baptized believers, the Lord’s church suffers.  Failing to take up church membership on a local congregational level presents its own problems, but for the rest of this study, we will focus on those who refuse to submit to church leaders.  This is called rebellion, and often times the result is what this author has termed migrating members.  Migrating members are baptized believers who go from congregation A to congregation B without asking permission from congregation A’s leadership, leadership to whom they are supposed to be submitting.  Many times people go from one congregation to the next without asking their leaders, not intentionally disrespecting those men.  At other times people church hop for the very reason of refusal to be submissive to those men.  Both accounts are improper, the latter being high handed rebellion against God ordained and God approved church government.

​People leave churches for a slew of reasons.  Here are a few examples that need second thought- they told my family member he was sinning; the preacher taught something that didn’t sit well with me; I just didn’t feel the love there; I wanted my kids to be around more people their age; that congregation was so small and wasn’t doing anything for me.  Most of these reasons are telling of a Christian’s inner character.  That is, many have not pondered on the adaptation of John F. Kennedy’s famous saying, “Don’t ask what your church can do for you, but what can you do for your church.”  It is sad that people would leave congregations for any of these self-centered reasons, but such is often the case.

​In response to such migrating members, there is often silence.  The leaders from congregation A are often glad to see said person leave, and the leaders from congregation B are glad to see more people in the pews.  The result: a continuous cycle of unaccountability, undisciplined contentions, and congregations left to struggle.  Instead of being silent when members migrate like this, leaders should kindly approach new members and ask the appropriate questions.  Did you leave congregation A in peace?  If not, was congregation A teaching or harboring false doctrine that led you to leave?  Did you inform and get consent from the leadership at congregation A before you left?  Such questions can quickly get to the bottom of the person’s migrating and resultingly facilitate the process of fixing unresolved conflict if necessary.  This can also help reinforce the concept of submission to leadership to which many members are innocently naïve.

In those cases where members migrate whimsically from church to church, God’s ordained leadership has been subverted, and many times the story of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram gets reenacted in live action role play, without the earth opening up and all that bit (read Numbers 16).  Instead of this terrible unsightliness, may God’s people and leaders work harmoniously together in maintaining the God given pattern meant to promote unity in the church.  Ask the right questions.  Be honest with yourself.  Maintain the peace.  Respect your leaders.

Aaron Battey

 

Lest You Be Disqualified

​Throughout Paul’s ministry and writings, he continually displays his genuine care for those who are separated from God, Christians, and the Church. The Apostle Paul would often put aside any desire for self-preservation in order to aid those who were in need of hearing the Gospel; this is seen in Paul’s willingness to be set apart from Christ if only his fellow countrymen would believe and follow Christ (Romans 9:3-5). Knowing that this was not a substation that could be made Paul would turn his attention in his writings to teach us how to live so that we would not be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
​Paul begins by recalling Israel’s history. Israel, like those in Corinth, was a blessed nation. According to Paul they were under the protection and guidance of God (1 Corinthians 10:1), were redeemed from a state of slavery by baptism (1 Corinthians 10:2), and all ate and drank of spiritual food and drink provided by God (1 Corinthians 10:3-4). “But. . .” (1 Corinthians 10:5), because of Israel’s idolatry, fornication, tempting of Christ and discontent (1 Corinthians 10:7-10) this once faithful nation would be “scattered across the wilderness”. Paul begins with this point to illustrate the truth that no amount of blessings from God, no amount of protection or guidance from God will save you if you do not live faithfully in return. This is often missed by those in the secular religious world who cling to the doctrine of “once saved always saved” and it seems as if the Christians in the first century needed to be reminded of this as well.
​This writer believes that this message is still one that needs to be heard even today. Paul’s message to his brothers and sisters in Christ was “it is never ok to stop growing”. We cannot fall into the mindset that once we are baptized that’s it, that just because we have read our Bibles once or twice that we are feeding our Spiritual lives. Instead Paul’s recommendation for living a life that would not be disqualified involves five actions that must be worked within each members life. According to 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 we all must “watch” that is give strict attention to God’s word while being cautious of the devil and his devices (1 Thessalonians 5:6,10; 1 Peter 5:8). “Stand fast in the faith” is Paul’s second encouragement to us, knowing that trials and temptations arise we must persevere (Ephesians 6:11-13). And through these times of hardship we must “Be brave”, Paul better than most understood the hardships and the trials that would come about form being faithful to God (2 Corinthians 4:8-11) and his key to success was being brave. Paul’s fourth admonition is to “Be strong” or more accurately to “increase in strength”, this is not accomplished through any humans means but as Paul would say it is accomplished through “Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Finally, Paul would tell us to live our lives with “Love”, a way of living that encompasses every other commandment of God (Galatians 5:14).
​Paul understood clearly the need for each individual to continue to grow within their own Christians lives so that they would not be disqualified on that final day of Judgment. This growth has a beginning point when we become a Christian, but this is not the end of our story. Instead we can look at history and those who have come before us and see how they so vividly display for us the need to live a life filled with Spiritual growth.

Aaron Boone

Naked

Walks Through the Bible
‘Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee. And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs.” (Luke 8:26,27) In other words, the man was naked. Jesus, of course, cast the demons out and when the people from the city arrived on the scene the Bible says that Legion “was clothed and in his right mind.” The first thing the man did after he was restored to his right mind is put his clothes on!
Recently I was visiting with my dad who turned 95 on April 16. Not long ago he had to have surgery done on his arm. They gave him local anesthesia and as the doctor was finishing up the procedure, he asked my dad a question. “Mr. Dickinson, you are 95 and have seen some remarkable changes in your long life no doubt. What have you seen that has surprised you the most in your 95 years?” This may be a question this doctor has asked many of his older patients and I am sure he expected to receive the same kind of answer he had received every time previously, but he obviously did not know my dad. Before answering, my dad says he looked around the room and there were several female nurses so dad gave a startling answer. “Well, setting aside advances in medicine and technology – Women!” my dad answered. The doctor was indeed startled, and the nurses turned to look at my dad as well. “What do you mean by that?” asked the doctor. “Well, I have never seen so many naked women in my life!” I can only imagine what the doctor and the nurses thought. It was certainly not the answer they expected.
I told dad (after I stopped laughing) he gave the perfect answer. There have been great changes in in the past 95 years in technology, medicine, etc., but there has also been a drastic change in our culture, especially when it comes to nakedness. The Greek word for naked in the New Testament is “gurnnos” and W. E Vine says the word signifies: (a) unclothed; (b) scantily or poorly clad; (c) clad in the undergarment only (the outer being laid aside). Nakedness, then, is to be completely unclothed, to be scantily clothed, or to have on only under-clothes or underwear. The latter two forms of nakedness are no doubt what dad was referring to.
In Exodus 32:25 the KJV declares that the people were naked as they danced around the golden calf. The word does not necessarily mean they were nude, but they were unrestrained and had removed their outer garments. They were wearing little clothing and were immodestly and shamefully exposing themselves. They were naked! The old Jewish expositors say that Xerxes wanted Queen Vashti to appear before his drunken lords and expose her beauty or nakedness. To her credit she refused. We know virtually nothing about Vashti but we admire her sense of decency and modesty, and her courage to risk her position rather than appear naked before the king and his lords.
Interestingly, the first thing Legion did when Jesus cast the demons out and he was back in his right mind was put his clothes on. This indicates that not only women but men today have lost their minds! I agree with my dad’s answer to his doctor. Everywhere you look you see naked women and men. No, not nude, but scantily clad and in their underwear. You cannot go to the store or the mall, or even step outside your own house without seeing nakedness. People have lost their minds! I do not mean they are certifiably insane (necessarily) but people have lost their sense of decency and propriety. Men and women in our culture need to get their minds right, and when they do the first thing they will do is put their clothes on.
Several years ago I was in a meeting and I preached on the story of Legion and made the point that when people get their minds right they put their clothes on and a young lady approached me after the service. She told me she had not been raised in a Christian home and had only recently been baptized. Before becoming a Christian she wore shorts, went to the public pool in her swimming suit, and wore all kinds of immodest clothes. After obeying the gospel, however, she stopped wearing her immodest apparel. The point she really wanted to make, however, is that no one had told her the apparel was immodest. In fact, she said, at that point she did not even know the Bible taught in I Timothy 2:9,10 that women are to adorn themselves in modest apparel. She had never read that scripture before! She just knew, she told me, that now that she was a Christian she could not wear her shorts, swimsuit to the public pool, etc. She just knew because she had made up her mind to be a Christian. That is absolutely right! When someone really makes up their mind to follow the Lord, one of the first things they do is put their clothes on.
Paul declares in I Timothy 2:9,10 that women are to adorn themselves with shamefacedness and sobriety. Shamefacedness refers to the ability to show shame and blush. Sobriety simply mean having a sound mind – getting your mind right! When women, and men, appear in public with scanty clothing and even wearing what is essentially underwear it displays a shameful lack of propriety, modesty, and common sense. We live, lamentably, in an age of nakedness. As Christian men and women may we stand out in our words, our actions, and our dress. I am thankful my dad was wise enough to share with that doctor and those nurses the stark truth our culture needs to hear.
May we have the wisdom and courage to be in our daily lives a conscience to a world that has lost its mind!

Jerry Dickinson

Prayers God Will Not Hear : Part 4

Prayers God Will Not Hear:
Irreverent Hair

​In an ongoing series entitled, “Prayers God Will Not Hear,” there have been examinations of prayer offered by unloving husbands, hypocrites, and those that consist of vain repetitions. Who knew that God doesn’t listen to every single prayer uttered from bended knees? Now, what has turned into a troubled search party finds itself at the feet of the apostle Paul. It is in 1 Corinthians 11 that this search party finds some controversial and very unsettling facts about prayers offered by both men and women. Keep reading to discover yet another prayer that falls on deaf ears in heaven.
​The stage of 1 Cor. 11 needs introduction before any discussion of prayer takes place. Paul is writing to Corinth about problems in the church relayed to him in a letter of correspondence (1:11; 5:1; 7:1; 8:1). Paul’s letter of 1 Corinthians abruptly progresses from one problematic issue to the next until 1 Cor. 11:2, at which point he starts with, “Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.” The things Paul is about to say are not culturally relative. Paul is not speaking on his own authority but the authority of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (11:23 & 14:37). To be sure on the nature of things spoken in v. 2-15, Paul book ends the discussion with, “But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God,” (11:16- NASB, NIV, HCSB). This is important to note, because much commentary on 1 Cor. 11:2-16 dismisses the instruction of Paul based on platforms of cultural limitation and even misogyny. Paul instead speaks pressing words of God, words that are transcultural in nature, and words that are just as much “apostle’s doctrine” (Acts 2:42) as the Lord’s supper instruction that follows.
​Now, let’s get into what Paul says about prayer. Prayer is mentioned in verses 4, 5 and 13. In these verses men and women both are informed that their prayers are hindered or heard based on what they do with their physical head.

4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. (1 Cor. 11:4-5)

Whatever the “covering” is, it has to be on the head of women and not on the head of men in order for their prayers to be heard. The covering is not an artificial veil as some call it (i.e. a cloth that lies on the head). No, verse 15 makes this point too clear, “But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.” The covering is the natural hair that grows on men and women’s heads. So far, and for whatever reason, it sounds like God refuses to hear prayers from men with hair and women without hair. Keep following along.
​Must men shave their heads bald? And what about women? How long is “long hair” as stated in 1 Cor. 11:15? Let’s start with women. Many would have Paul teaching that women can cut their hair; the hair just has to remain “long.” If this is true then the margin for interpretation has no limitations. The answer to this debacle goes deeper than the surface. Paul, writing in Greek and not English, is not telling women they have to possess something (long hair; adjective + noun). Paul is telling women they have to do something (grow the hair long; verb). In fact, the grammatical construct of the Greek verb translated “have long hair” (v. 14) literally means, “keep on growing the hair long.” There is no single English word that effectively captures the meaning of the one Greek word used in v. 15 (komao), making the punch of Paul’s command volatile to abuse by many who consider only the English translation. Thankfully, one doesn’t have to be a Greek expert to understand this concept as Numbers 6:5 and Ezekiel 44:20 simplify what it means to have long hair or keep growing the hair long. The idea is uninterrupted growing of the hair, or as one Greek dictionary states, “uncut hair” (Louw & Nida). Men on the other hand, if they want their prayers heard, must get regular haircuts so as to not have their hair, “Hanging down from the head.” After all, that is what it literally means for a man to pray, “Having his head covered,” (v. 4). Men do not have to shave their head bald it would seem, but they cannot let their hair grow uncut, uninterrupted, and to the point that it is hanging down from the head. In other words, whatever woman is supposed to do, man does the opposite. Paul’s choice of words describing how men’s hair should be maintained is slightly subjective, though more objective than if he had just said, “short hair.” He doesn’t give a ruler measurement, but neither does he leave it an absolute mystery. Summarizing then, the command to women is to pray while letting her hair grow uninterrupted; while the command to men is to pray with short, cut hair, not hanging down from the head. If either refuse this instruction, Paul makes clear the ultimate fallout in the surrounding passages.
​Rarely are God’s commands arbitrary. The commands in 1 Cor. 11:2-16 have weighty symbolization much like the Lord’s supper found in v. 17-34. This symbolization finds its significance in two sets of verses: v. 3 and v. 7-12.

But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. (v. 3)
For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. (v. 7)

What better item would reflect one’s spiritual head than one’s physical head? God’s wisdom is on display here. No, God has not designed some arbitrary command to make life harder for women and/or men. He has designed a purposeful command that reflects the nature of submission and headship existential within the trinity and toward the trinity. The hair commands are much like the marriage commands of submission and headship. Both reflect the submission that should be ongoing between the church and Jesus Christ. This seems to be Paul’s thrust in Ephesians 5:32 about submission in marriage, “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” When it comes down to the nitty gritty, a man who dishonors his spiritual head by letting his hair grow continuously is actually denying the trinity (1 Cor. 11:4). A woman who dishonors her spiritual head by not letting her hair grow continuously is actually denying the trinity as well (v. 5). Both are an abomination so much so that Paul implies their prayers will go unheard (v. 4, 5, 13).
May husbands love their wives as Christ loves the church. May women submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ. And may both properly care for the hair of their head so that all may see and have an accurate understanding of the trinity and our submission to Him.

Aaron Battey

The Dilemma of Baptism in Blood

 

The Dilemma of Baptism in Blood

​John the Immerser came preaching the kingdom of God in the wilderness of Judea around 30 A.D. Since that time men were prompted by John, Jesus, Peter, Philip, Ananias, Paul, Barnabas, and many other faithful men to be immersed in water for the washing away of sins. So many biblical proofs stand to affirm the fact- men and women in the New Testament were always ushered to be saved upon resurrecting from the waters of baptism (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38-41; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-27; Eph. 5:25-27; Col. 2:11-13; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21). These verses and this truth deserve further comment, but proving baptism’s indispensability in becoming a Christian is an assumed fact for the few thoughts that follow.
Many honest hearts have listened to the biblical doctrine of baptism for remission of sins and affirmed the biblical pattern to be true, only to make one last ditch attempt in putting off the act. There is the desert argument- “What about someone who is in the desert without enough water to be immersed?” There is the Gramma argument- “What about Gramma who loved Jesus but was never immersed in water for remission of sins?” Then there is the baptism of blood argument- “Baptism of blood refers to martyrdom; it refers to situations in which a person has put his faith in Christ but is martyred for his faith before he has a chance to be baptized,” (Cottrell, Jack. Baptism: A Biblical Study. College Press Publishing Co., 1998.) All three of these arguments are used as excuses why a perfectly competent and understanding adult, alive and well in first world America, with plenty of water, and with no threat of martyrdom should be excused from baptism in water for remission of sins.
Consider a conversation Jesus had with Peter before deciding whether or not the first world American above should be ashamed. In John 21:15-19 Jesus asks Peter if the apostle loves Him. Peter, certainly still embarrassed by his denial in the garden, responds with a fervent “Yes Lord, you know that I love you (and will follow you),” (v. 17). Jesus then responds as if to say, “Very well, because you are going to die a martyr’s death for me,” (v. 18-19). Consider how your world would be spinning should the all-knowing God speak this in your ear. Peter is sweating. He shortly thereafter sees John the apostle talking to Jesus and interrupts, “But Lord, what about this man?” (v. 21). Peter’s response was not motivated by misunderstanding the words Jesus had spoken about his martyr’s death just prior. No, Peter’s motivation was self-centered and unaccepting of declared fact. And so, the wise master teacher responded, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” How John would die had no bearing on Peter’s obedience to Jesus’ command to feed the flock even unto death.
Is the context for people making the “baptism in blood” argument not the same as the Peter and John situation in John 21:20-23? It would seem so. If the first world American making the argumentative parallel can say with certainty they would die at the hand of radical extremists instead of deny Christ, then and only then should the argument be entertained. The question then becomes, is a radical extremist currently holding a knife to their throat? Are they currently living in the desert with not enough water to baptize? Are they currently dead and waiting for the judgment like Gramma? In other words, is this person just using an exceptional example to justify unexceptional circumstances? Instead of asking Jesus about John, every honest human being should submit to the humble expression of faith that is baptism in water for the remission of sins. The motivation for rejecting baptism is rarely a case of misunderstanding. Rejection of the gospel is too often motivated by a self-centered mind, a full belly, and the lack of desperation for God’s saving grace, regardless the cost. Which one are you?

Aaron Battey

Prayers God Will Not Hear: Part 3

Unanswered Prayer: Hypocritical Prayer

​Everyone is a hypocrite. That is what hypocrites say to make themselves feel better. After all, God doesn’t hear the prayers of hypocrites. On the other hand, James says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” (5:16). The goal is effective prayer. The means is a righteous man. Neither one is outside the law of possibility. Elijah is the example James gives of a righteous man whose fervent prayers for rain were answered by God. Maybe everyone is not a hypocrite, and we need to find the Elijah prayer manual.
​Everything that made Elijah’s prayer effective is not directly given in scripture. However, it is safe to conclude that Elijah was no hypocrite. Reading his life story in the book of 1 Kings reveals he was no respecter of persons (i.e. 1 Kings 18). Elijah was unabashed to tell the truth cut and dry, life or death. He didn’t live a double life, one of secret sin and the other of outward show. Elijah was the same man when he went to offer sacrifice as he was when he went to hike through the wilderness. And though Elijah certainly sinned, the Holy Spirit labeled him as a righteous man in James 5:17, necessarily implying that his sin was always followed by humble repentance, prayer, sacrifice, and utterly dependent faith in God. This can be believed confidently based on the Holy Spirit’s presentation of all men in biblical history who, though they sinned intermittently, were labeled righteous (see the examples of Hebrews 11). Yes, Elijah was a righteous man, and God heard his prayer.
​When anyone thinks of the prayer of a hypocrite, the tax collector and publican of Luke 18:9-14. The Pharisee in the Lukan parable utters what Jesus calls a hypocritical prayer in Matthew 6:5-7. He participated in an act of worship (prayer) all the while exalting himself. How pretentious! God did not hear that poor fool’s prayer, and it’s very safe to say God will turn a deaf ear to the play act of prayer we offer while correspondingly living a life immorality and self-exaltation. How many people pray, “Hallowed be thy name,” and then unflinchingly desecrate His name with their lives?
Luke and Matthew need not be in the Bible to know this truth about hypocritical prayer. David offered a groveling prayer in Psalm 51, very possibly following his fornication with Bathsheba. In this prayer, David did not jut out his chest. He didn’t exalt himself in any way. And David certainly did not continue in the sin that brought him to his knees in the first place. Why? Because David realized God does not hear the prayer of hypocrites. “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering,” (Psalm 51:16). David is not affirming God’s distaste in sacrifice altogether. Rather, God does not take pleasure in worship offered by those continuing in sin. “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, you, God, will not despise,” (v. 17, NIV). David realized that only when he humbled himself from sin would God, “Be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering,” (v. 19).
Pray with fervency like Elijah. Live the righteous life of Daniel. Throw your crown at Jesus’ feet like David. Get back up like Samson. Sacrifice your body like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. And by the grace of God you will have glory like Solomon. Don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t let your prayers go unanswered.

Aaron Battey

Prayers God Will Not Hear: Part 2

 

Prayers God Will Not Hear: Repetitions part 2

 

​The goal of this series is to examine the many different categories of prayer which cause God to turn a deaf ear.  This installation in our prayer series focuses on identifying and avoiding what Jesus called vain repetitions. Read Matthew 6:5-15 to see if God is listening to your prayer.

​In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount teaching about prayer, the Savior gives several core ingredients for God approved prayer, and who better to lecture about prayer than God in the flesh?  In Matthew 6:5-15, the Lord emphasizes that prayer should magnify God rather than man.  Prayer should be intentional.  Prayer should be sincere.  Prayer should leave man feeling dependent on God, his provider and sustainer.  These four points crudely summarize the fundamentals of Jesus’ teaching here.

​One key feature of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6 begs our attention. “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathens do.  For they think that they will be heard for their many words,” (Matt. 6:7).  The idea of repeating the same words over and over in rhythmic fashion may incur thoughts of ancient monks.  But do not be mistaken, monks are not the only culprits.  Clearly there was widespread practice of recited prayer in Jesus’ day, but this practice lives still.  Think about what has been dubbed the Model Prayer from v. 9-13 of this same chapter.  What prayer has been recited with more frequency than the very prayer that followed Jesus’ statement, “Do not use vain repetitions?”  In my own experience, every pre-game huddle in middle school and high school baseball concluded with the team repeating the Model Prayer in unison.  Perhaps such vain repetition is the reason we always lost.  On an individual level, many people vainly repeat the same prayers over and over and over.  Stop and think about prayers spoken at church.  Some are predictable.  Some include archaic phrases that no 21st century human uses except in Wednesday night prayer.  Words, phrases, and entire prayers can quickly and innocently evolve into vain repetitions.

​Prayer should be intentional and sincere: this is central to avoiding vain repetitions.  Growing up, I was always getting in trouble for talking without first thinking.  In Matthew 6:7, Jesus is essentially saying, “Think before you speak!”  If we would practice this childhood rule when praying, we could quickly transform our prayers from recited repetitions into intentional, sincere praise and petition to God.  Think before you pray.

Aaron Battey

 

 

Prayers God Will Not Hear:

Prayers God Will Not Hear:
Husbands

One of the more interesting discussions in the Bible that affect the Christian’s day to day life is prayer. Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks are Paul’s four inclusive descriptions for man’s one-way communication with God (1 Timothy 2:1). This act of reverence was the daily routine of Daniel (Daniel 6:10) and finds itself frequently talked about in the exhortations and directives to the New Testament church. For something so integral to the Christian life, it is alarming to read of so many reasons that cause God to shut His ears and cease listening to prayer. This brief article is the first in a six-part series examining different prayers that God has clarified He will not hear.
The first case of detestable prayer to be examined is found in 1 Peter 3:7. For people who have never read the Bible all the way through, this one may come as a surprise because of its obscurity. In the previous six verses the apostle Peter admonished women in what is proper conduct towards a husband. As is always the case, the Holy Spirit does not instruct the woman without tempering the man’s self-esteem. In 1 Peter 3:7 the apostle goes on to tell the man, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them (the wife) with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” There are several truths that could be drawn from all that is said in this single verse, but for brevity sake, notice three items- the definition of honor, the implications for wives, and the consequences of not listening to Peter.
First, notice the definition of the word honor. Honor is the characteristic that takes center stage in this verse. Honor is the thing that, if neglected, will cause God to shut His ears to the husband’s prayer. Strong’s Greek Lexicon puts for the following definition- “a value, that is, money paid, or (concretely and collectively) valuables; by analogy esteem (especially of the highest degree), or the dignity itself.” Depending on the context, giving honor could mean to give money. However, in another context (the context of 1 Peter 3:7), the same phrase can mean to highly esteem someone. Here, Peter is demanding that men highly esteem their wives, making them feel valued and equally worthy of eternal life. Husbands who neglect, verbally abuse, or physically abuse, or dishonor their wives in any way are included in this address.
Second, do not overlook the implications of the things said by Peter. The wife is no less responsible for honoring her husband. The previous six verses are almost entirely about the wife’s disposition toward the husband. By connection and implication, the wife must understand that failing to honor her husband will likewise affect her prayer. This is similar logic as found in Matthew 5:28 where men are specifically told not to lust after a woman. Does Matt. 5:28 allow for a woman to lust after a man? Certainly not. For obvious reasons Jesus directly addressed the men in the Sermon on the Mount. It is equally understandable that Peter does not tell men to honor their wives to the exclusion of women. A woman who neglects, verbally abuses, physically abuses, or fails to submit to her husband (1 Peter 3:1) is included in this address by implication.
Third, stop to really consider the consequences that Peter sets forth. Imagine a son calling his father one day. The phone rings and rings, but the father never answers. After several days and several attempts, it becomes clear that the father is upset with the son. The son goes days, months, and even years wanting to simply hear his father’s voice, still not understanding why his father has refused to talk to him. One day the son comes across an old letter the father had written him but was never opened. The letter read 1 Peter 3:7 with the comment, “If I ever hear about you mistreating that girl of yours, you can forget about talking to me.” This is essentially what God has said to husbands and wives in His word.
Who knew that God cared so much about husbands and wives treatment of one another. If a person never read 1 Peter they might never know how this can affect prayer life. After all, when is the last time you heard a sermon on 1 Peter 3:7? God’s people must be a people that listen to God as much or more than they speak to Him. Read, repent, pray, and repeat. Don’t let another prayer go unanswered.

Aaron Battey

http://www.oldpathsadvocate.org

The Last Name of Jesus

 

The Last Name of Jesus
​If you were to take a poll of the average person, first question: What is Jesus’ last name? The number of those who say “Christ” would be higher than maybe some would think. Unfortunately we would be wrong in this assumption, yet often throughout scripture we find the term “Christ” following the name of Jesus. It’s importance is undeniable, but, what does it mean? What does it teach us? It is a term used nearly 500 times in the New Testament yet never defined.

​The term “Christ” highlights our glaring need for the Old Testament and understanding this helps us realise that Christ had a name long before Matthew called Him the Christ. The title “Christ” is Greek, its Hebrew counterpart would be “The Messiah”, it can the be said that “both words mean the same thing, ‘Anointed’: the ‘One Anointed’” Understanding Jesus as The Anointed one is helpful, but again is incomplete without the Old Testament. The right question to ask is “Who were anointed”? For this answer we have to look outside of the New Testament. The Old Testament writers speak often of the roles of God’s people, three roles that are of interest in regards to anointing are the positions of: Priests (Exodus 28:41; 30:30), Kings (1 Samuel 9:16; 10:1; 15:1), and Prophets (1 Kings 19:16). These three roles are the roles God set aside in the Old Testament as anointed position. They were filled by God’s chosen men to carry out God’s will.

​We then come to the New Testament where Jesus is given the title “Anointed One” (Christ), not to confuse the reader as to which role He would fill, but to show that Christ came to fill all three roles in one person. The writer of Hebrews thoroughly demonstrates that Christ is our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14; 7:26). Jesus would take up the role of High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, a priesthood that would last forever (Hebrews 5:6; 6:20). During Christ’s final week as He entered Jerusalem it would also be announced “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt” (John 12:16; Zech. 9:9; Revelation 19:16). Christ as King is firmly established within the New Testament, a role we know He is to fill from His very birth when we understand the term Christ. For His third position, Christians are called back to the Old Testament to show Christ as a Prophet. To Moses God would say “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him” (Deuteronomy 18:18) this is shown to be fulfilled in Christ in Acts 3:8-26.

​The title of Christ then magnificently fits Jesus and His life. To the fullest extent He accepted and fulfilled each office, yet within each position Christ was greater than any Old Testament shadow for which He would be the substance. Christ has exceeded the priests like Aaron, prophets like Elisha, and kings like David, and is the only one to hold all three positions in one person. This is why David would write of Christ as being anointed “more than [His] companions” (Psalms 45:7). Yet without our Old Testament acting as our dictionary we fall short of this marvellous definition.

Aaron Boone