II Peter, Chapter 2, Part 2

II Peter 2:10 – and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.  Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones,

Here in chapter 2, Peter is warning true believers against false teachers. 

As we noted in our last post, it is likely that Peter is referring to a heretical sect known as the Nicolaitans:

  • These people claimed to be Christians, but they abused the laws of grace, even to the point of denying that Jesus was the Messiah who died on the cross. 
  • They also claimed to have ‘secret’ spiritual wisdom which they received through mystic revelation.  This was supposedly given to them, and no one else.  Their actions caused divisions within the church body.
  • They introduced false doctrines into the church.  This was not done blatantly; instead they introduced their own opinions here and there until they succeeded in twisting the truth.
  • Peter describes them as greedy.  They gave smooth convincing sermons designed to take money from honest believers who wanted to support the gospel.
  • Peter describes them as licentious.  Their behavior was unrestrained by law or morality and characterized by abuse of freedom.  Their sin had no boundaries and basically taught that ‘anything goes’.  (I can see where that would be a popular doctrine!)

In short, they intentionally perverted religious truth in order to open doors of licentiousness and sin for themselves and anyone they could convince to join them.  Sadly, there are still false teachers in the world today!

Our last post ended with Peter assuring us that God has punishment in store for these wicked people.

Peter now builds upon that topic.  Not only does God punish the wicked in general, he especially punishes heretics and seducers, who add the ‘lust of defiling passion’ to their corrupt doctrines and false teachings.  Not only are they teaching evil, they are living it for all the world to see, while still identifying themselves Christians.

They live for the indulgence of their carnal appetites, following the desires and inclinations of their own minds.  Since their minds are filled with thoughts of sin and worldly pleasure, they will relentlessly pursue those things without restraint. 

This is the opposite of the true believer, who renews his mind in righteousness (Romans 12:2) and keeps a diligent guard on the thoughts that enter his mind. 

2 Corinthians 10:5 – Casting down arguments, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;  

You are the gate keeper of your own mind – God allows each one of us to choose what we will allow our minds to dwell on.  As you are deciding what to think about, keep this in mind – the seeds you plant in your mind will come to fruition in your actions (James 1:13-15).  So be careful what you think about!

As if that were not enough, false teachers also hate authority.  In our study of I Peter chapter 2, Peter admonished believers to submit to those that God has placed in authority over us, such as kings, magistrates, governors, etc.  God has placed them there for our good – to punish evil and maintain order.  As we respect and obey them, it brings glory to God and removes any reason that the heathen have for slandering Christianity.    

However, these vain false teachers do not respect authority of any kind.  Because they desire unbridled freedom of all kinds, they rebel against authority in the government, the church, the family and ultimately against God himself.  Their ultimate goal is anarchy.

I can’t help but compare this passage of scripture to some of the events taking place in our nation today.  We seem to have areas where people have thrown off the restraints of government, society and police, resulting in pockets of anarchy.  One thing we can do is to pray, asking God to send revival into these areas.  If these rebellious people will accept Christ as Lord, he will change their hearts and minds.  

II Peter 2:11 – whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.

This verse is actually the second half of the thought expressed in verse 10, which describes the false teachers as people who rebel against all authority, especially that of the civil government.  In their bold and scornful rebellion, they curse, imprecate and judge the government officials in authority over them.

Peter now contrasts their actions with those of the angels:

There is evidence in scripture to show that angels do not mock, blaspheme, reproach, judge or otherwise rail against others, even when they are zealously engaged in the work of God. 

An example of this is referenced in Jude 9-10 as well as in Jewish tradition, where the archangel Michael contended with Satan for the body of Moses.  During their encounter, the only words spoken by the angel were simple, truthful and straightforward – ‘The Lord rebuke you’.   There was no use of harsh or violent language.  The angels did not presume to judge or condemn their adversaries.

Here is the point Peter is making: Angels are higher in knowledge, dignity and power than human beings.  Therefore, it would be more appropriate for angels to speak judgmentally against the magistrates/rulers of this world than it would be for men to do so.  Yet, angels don’t do that.  They always show respect and dignity toward those God has placed in positions of civil authority.  Angels recognize that God has sanctioned that authority and they, as servants of God, respect it.

But these false teachers are senseless brutes – they speak blasphemy and judgment against those who have their authority from God.  We might say they rush in where angels fear to tread, and they rail against things they don’t understand (the purposes of God in granting authority to certain people). 

Scripture does not give us a full account of what was said by these foolish men.  We only know that they spoke presumptuously and wickedly against authority.  Our assumption is that the people of Peter’s day knew the specifics of the situation.  We can also assume that Holy Spirit wanted to call our attention to the bigger picture here – that false teachers exhibit a lack of respect for authority, always leaning towards anarchy. 

II Peter 2:12-13a – But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. 

Let’s stop and talk about wild boars for a minute.  Except for older males, wild boars travel in groups.  They are swift, nocturnal, unpredictable and aggressive.  They are omnivorous (they’ll eat anything – plants, meat, garbage, etc).  The males average around 200 pounds, although many larger animals have been documented. 

These animals are extremely destructive.  They love to root, trample and wallow.  In the process of doing so, they destroy crops, forests and property.  They prey on or compete with native species such as rodents, deer, birds, snakes, frogs and lizards. 

They also spread disease to both animals and humans.  There are more than 24 diseases that people can get form wild boars including hepatitis E and tuberculosis. 

Now, suppose that a large wild boar was loose in your neighborhood.  What would that be like?  Remember, that animal is wild and aggressive.  You can’t tame it.  You can’t train it.  You can’t reason with it.  It’s unpredictable and aggressive.  It’s only goal in life is to fulfill its desires – eat, destroy and reproduce. 

It will attack and destroy wildlife and pets.  It will ruin your lawn/garden, your landscaping, your fruit trees and any crops the farmers are growing.  Not only would it be dangerous because it is aggressive, it carries disease.  If an animal like that was wreaking havoc in your town, it wouldn’t be long before animal control was called in to capture and kill it. 

Peter is saying that licentious false teachers/prophets are like wild boar.  They ignore their God given ability to restrain their behavior and desires.  They want to be wild, throwing off all restraint or authority in pursuit of their base fleshly desires (money, sex, power, drunkenness, entertainment, etc).  They don’t care who they hurt or destroy in the process.  They infect unsuspecting believers with their diseased doctrine and practices.  In the end, they will be destroyed – their behavior will eventually lead to both moral and spiritual death.   

The ironic thing is this – these people are all about casting off authority because they don’t want to be restrained or bound by law and society.  But by rebelling against the authority sanctioned by God, they place themselves under the bondage of their own evil passions.  So either way, they wind up being ‘captured’ – they will serve a master of some kind. 

Those who serve a master earn wages. 

We are all familiar with ‘wages’ – money earned by performing work.  In a sense, all people are earning eternal wages.  Those who serve God are laying up treasures in heaven, while those who serve Satan (or themselves) are laying up torment/punishment in hell. Recompense may or may not come in this life, but it is guaranteed in the next.  The justice of God guarantees it. 

II Peter 2:13b –They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime.  They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you.

Most sinners wait for the cover of secrecy or night to indulge in sinful pleasures.  But these false teachers are so bad, they have cast off even that light fetter.  They defy all decency by openly and shamefully practicing wickedness in a place and manner that all can see.   

These vile sinners are like blots or blemishes.  Picture it this way:  You are wearing a brand new, pure white, silk shirt to a party.  Turns out, the host of the party is serving BBQ wings.  You pick up a really saucy wing and – oops – your shirt isn’t white anymore!  What a shame; the spot ruins the shirt.

In the same way, the actions and beliefs of false teachers are a scandal and a disgrace to the true spiritual church of Christ, which should be (and one day will be) without spot or wrinkle.

Furthermore, our translation says they revel in their deceptions, while the King James Version says they ‘sport themselves with their own deceivings’.  Not surprisingly, the Greek word means to live delicately or luxuriously.  In other words, they take advantage of their views/doctrines to live in rebellion and luxury.  They indulge in their most corrupt passions under the guise of Christianity.  In fact, they even look forward to the Christian feasts as an occasion to indulge (1 Corinthians 11:17-22).

What could be worse?  They clearly blaspheme God and slander salvation by their words and deeds.

II Peter 2:14 – They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin.  They entice unsteady souls.  They have hearts trained in greed.  Accursed children!

‘Eyes’ is a figurative expression often used in scripture.  In this case, it refers to the mind/disposition of man.  For example: 

  • Bountiful eye refers to a person of kindly disposition (Proverbs 22:9). 
  • Haughty or lofty eyes refer to a spirit of pride (Psalms 131:1). 
  • Lowly eyes refers to a person who is humble (Luke 18:13). 
  • Sharpening of the eyes refers to anger (Job 16:9). 

In this case, eyes full of adultery refers to idolatrous inclinations.  Peter tells us their desires are insatiable.  Your translation may say ‘cannot cease from sin’.  This does not mean that they do not have the natural mental ability to stop sinning.  Neither does it mean that they are physically incapable of ceasing to sin.  Rather, it means that they are so corrupt that they will certainly always sin. 

And they don’t like to sin alone.  They try to involve as many people as possible in their false doctrines which promise carnal pleasures and liberties.  Christians who are not deeply rooted in their commitment to Christ are in danger of being beguiled (baited or entrapped) by these deceivers.

Peter refers to these wicked people as accursed children.  This either means they brought a curse with them wherever they went, or that they deserved to be cursed.

I Peter 2:15-16 – Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray.  They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

The right way refers to the narrow path of righteousness that Christians tread in this life (Matthew 7:13-14).  This path leads to peace, blessing and eternal life.  False teachers and prophets have left the narrow path and proceeded to follow Balaam down the wide road.  This road leads to sin, torment and eternal death.

Remember Balaam son of Beor (or Bozor)?  He is most famous for having a conversation with his own donkey, but there is a whole lot more to his story.  You can read the whole account of Balaam in Numbers 22-25. 

Without explaining the entire story of Balaam (we don’t have time), let’s look at how he compares to the false teachers/prophets that Peter is warning his flock about.

One – Balaam professed to be a religious leader or servant of God, but that is very questionable.  He was planning to do great harm to the nation of Israel by accepting a lot of money to curse them.  So too, false teachers were professing to be Christians, but causing great harm in the church.

Two – Balaam was greedy and covetous.  He knew full well that God did not want him to go with the Moabites to curse Israel, but he went anyway because he wanted the honor and fortune that King Balak was going to give him.  (Balaam’s tendency to avarice is clearly evident throughout the entire narrative.  You will see it if you go back and read the account in Numbers).  He preferred rewards of this life over the blessing of God.  The false teachers of Peter’s day were also willing to disobey God in order to receive earthly rewards.

Three – Inciting others to licentiousness.  The culmination of Balaam’s story is this:  Although he desperately wanted to curse Israel so he could get paid, God would literally not allow him to do it.  (In fact, he verbally blesses them instead.)  So he does the next best thing –he reveals to the King of Moab how to get Israel to curse itself.  And – you guessed it- he did it through licentiousness. 

Balaam instructed the Moabites to throw a great feast and invite Israel.  There was plenty of alcohol, food and false idols.  The beautiful young women of Moab came to the feast ready to party and soon the whole affair turned into a great orgy in which the false gods of Moab were worshipped by the Israelites.  As a result of their actions, God severely punished them. 

This brings up an interesting question:  Have we avoided the snares of false teachers only to curse ourselves?  Are we doing things contrary to the word of God?  Are these things blocking the Lord’s blessing from our lives? 

For instance, are you harboring unforgiveness towards someone?  Are you with holding tithe and offerings from the Lord?  Has Holy Spirit clearly spoken to you to do something for him, but you refuse like an obstinate child?  All of these things can block God’s blessings from you.  

II Peter 2:17 – These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm.  For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.

Imagine for a moment that you are in the midst of a desert.  You are out of water.  It is extremely hot.  There is no relief from the relentless sun.  You are sweaty and exhausted.  Your mouth is like sandpaper and your lips taste like salt.  As time passes by, you are getting closer and closer to death.

But suddenly, you crest a sand dune and way off in the distance you see a well!  Relief and joy flood your spirit because that well promises relief and life to you.  You struggle to get through that last mile and reach the well.

Now suppose you uncap the well, only to find that it is dry.  Imagine what that would feel like.  You would despair and give up hope.  You are closer to death than you have ever been because the well did not deliver what it promised – water.

In the same way, sinners are seeking relief from sin.  They are in a desert of death and despair.  They are looking for life, and they turn to the church to find it.  But what if they are not met with a true Christian teacher or pastor?  A false teacher is like that dry desert well – they promise relief from spiritual death, but they can’t deliver (Jude 12-13).  Those seeking the refreshing truth of the gospel are disappointed.  Their spiritual journey has just gotten more difficult, instead of easier.

Here is Peter’s point: False teachers offer doctrines that seem wonderful.  According to them, you can have your cake and eat it too.  You can be a Christian but live as sinful a life as you like.  But that is not true.  Their vain, empty promises are like wells without water or rain clouds without rain.

Peter also assures his readers once again that God is going to punish these wicked people.  Utter darkness denotes a place of future punishment (Matthew 8:12) which God has prepared for those who choose this path. 

So here’s the really important question:  If a sinner came to you as a well of spiritual life, would you be able to give them the water of salvation?

John 7:38 – He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.

In the gospel of John chapter 4, Jesus speaks to the woman at the well about the living waters of salvation.  In John chapter 7, Jesus says that if we are believers, the precious Holy Spirit lives within us and is like a mighty river of water that brings healing and salvation to those who need it. 

If you are a Christian, you have this water.  What you need to do is learn how to use your bucket to draw out that water and present it to others by sharing the gospel message.

II Peter 2:18-19 – For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.  They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.  For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

‘Those who are barely escaping from error’ refers to new Christians.  Having turned to Christ, they have just recently escaped from sin and death.  This puts them in a very dangerous place – they have probably only recently broken off many of their old habits and there may be a strong desire to relapse into old ways. 

At this point, if they receive sound doctrine to help them grow in grace, they will become rooted and grounded in Christ and go on to bring forth a spiritual harvest for the kingdom of heaven.

But if they come across a false teacher speaking words of folly and boasting, they could be in real trouble.  These teachers deliberately present their erroneous doctrines with fancy words in a pompous manner, hoping to allure or ensnare unsuspecting believers into their false beliefs.  Specifically, they promise Christianity with unlimited indulgence in carnal appetites and unrestrained freedom/liberty.  

Let’s talk about freedom for a moment.  Sin makes you a slave to darkness and evil.  You have no way of breaking out of the cycle of servitude to it.  Every person under the bondage of sin will reap the same reward – death. 

However, true Christianity promises and delivers freedom from sin.  Hallelujah!  By breaking the yoke of darkness from your life, it gives you the freedom to choose Christ; you can choose to live a holy life as a son or daughter of God.  You can choose to become a steward in the kingdom of heaven, reaping rewards of life.  This is true freedom:

John 8:35-36 – The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The freedom of the false teachers is different.   They define freedom as the absence of needless restraint and/or the strict/narrow limits of religion.  But this is not freedom – it is licentiousness which in reality, is slavery. 

Here’s why:  Whatever a person submits to (greed, lust, desire for power, etc) is truly his master – he is enslaved to it.  So in casting off restraints, they place themselves back under the chains of their passions and desires.  Thus, the promise of freedom from false teachers results in bondage again to sin; all sin results in servitude and slavery.

Here is some good news:  Christians can prevent falling prey to their tactics by seriously attending to their own personal holiness and working to add Christian graces to their lives.

II Peter 2:20 – For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

The unstable souls (verse 14) who come under the destructive influence of false doctrines will find themselves in a worse position than before they were saved. 

By coming to Christ, they gained additional wisdom and knowledge of God that sinners do not have; they have first hand experience of the true saving grace of Christ. 

Knowledge always carries the burden of responsibility.  Each person is responsible for the level of knowledge of God that they have.   By again becoming entangled in the things of the world, they will now be judged on an increased level of knowledge, which will result in a more severe judgment that what the ignorant will receive (Luke 12:47).

II Peter 2:21 – For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.

When the apostle uses the word ‘better’ here, he is making a comparison.

On the one hand, we have sinners who have always been heathens, being in ignorance of the gospel message, and being ignorant of the law of sin. 

But on the other hand we have sinners who were once heathens, but then came to a knowledge of the grace of Christ Jesus.  They knew what it was like to have the freedom to choose Christ.  They heard the gospel message, understood sin, and knew they were saved by grace. 

To have a knowledge of the truth and then turn away from it is considered the greater evil.  Those who were always ignorant of the truth have less culpability than those who knew the truth and yet sinned against it.

II Peter 2:22 – What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

Here Peter calls upon the wisdom found in Proverbs (26:11) and Jewish tradition.

This is a proverb we recognize and easily understand.  Pigs don’t change their natures.  They have a desire to wallow in the mud.  Even if they clean themselves, it is only a temporary measure.  They will soon return to wallowing in the mud because their nature has not changed. 

So far, so good.  This makes perfect sense in the case of the pig.  But when we seek to apply this proverb to the spiritual realm, we get major difference of opinion amongst scholars. 

The debate centers around this: 

Did the person in question ever really have a true change of heart/conversion experience? 

Those who believe the person really DID have a change of heart/conversion (became a Christian) must, by default, believe that people can fall away from the faith.  They can ‘back slide’ or lose their salvation if they willfully choose the ways of sin.

Those who believe the person DID NOT really have a true change of heart/conversion must, by default, believe that the person was never saved (became a Christian) to begin with.  Therefore, like the pig, they will return to sin.  The logical conclusion to this belief is that those who do truly accept Christ will never ‘back slide’.  Therefore, you can never lose your salvation, once you truly accept it. 

This issue is a divisive one, which scholars in our generation continue to hotly debate.  You can decide for yourself which opinion you think is correct. 

But the real bottom line is this:  No church is completely pure.  No church is without people and thus no church is without sin or faulty doctrine of some kind.  It is the duty of each individual Christian to guard against false beliefs that lead to unrestrained behavior (licentiousness).  As we work towards personal holiness (I Peter 1:15-16), and purposefully add Christian graces to our lives, we can rest assured that Holy Spirit will keep us safe from falling away from grace.  There is no need to fear. 

But woe to those who lead others astray for their own gratification! 

Let me offer you some encouragement:

As we mentioned earlier, God gives each one of us the ability to control our minds.  You can’t stop random thoughts of sin from popping into your mind.  But you can control what you allow to stay there! 

What should the minds of holy people be dwelling on?  The apostle Paul gives us the answer here:

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

I encourage you to dwell on these things, because if you do, you will avoid a lot of sin and temptation!

Let me offer you some relief and strength:

As we mentioned earlier, all Christians have the ‘living water’ of God in our lives.  In other words, you have the same gospel message that Billy Graham, Charles Finney and others had. You have access to the same Holy Spirit power they had.  

All you need to do is get comfortable sharing that water with thirsty souls.  It’s not a matter of having a PhD in divinity.  It’s not a matter of getting a bullhorn and standing on the corner condemning random people to hell.  It doesn’t have to include every book of the bible and take an entire day.  It does not have to be confrontational.

It’s simply a matter of being ready to share what God has done for you with people who are hurting.  Is one of your coworkers going through an illness or a marriage problem?  Offer them support and prayer.  Just a little kindness can open the door for you to share what a difference Christ has made in your life. 

Sharing the gospel can be a gentle, peaceful, well received experience.  You don’t have to fear it!  Just look for ways to mention Jesus in your daily conversations.  You might be surprised how easy it is to share your faith!

I Peter, Chapter 4, Part 2

I Peter 4:9 – Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

In the first portion of chapter 4, Peter calls upon believers to crucify their sinful natures.  We noted that crucifying the flesh has two parts – the removal of what is sinful and the addition of what is holy. 

Peter also reminds us that our earthly lives pass very quickly, and we have already used some of our time in rebellion against God.  Now that we are Christians, we need to live lives that glorify God.

One of the ways we do that is by being sober-minded and practicing self control.  Another way is to exemplify brotherly love towards other Christians.  We looked at both of these mandates in our last post.  

Peter now urges his readers to show hospitality without complaint.  What is hospitality?  Why did Peter need to mention it to his readers?    

On the surface, the concept seems pretty simple:  Hospitality is the reception of travelers as honored guests.  But in practice, things get complicated in a hurry!

The first thing we need to understand is that during ancient times, people generally did not travel for pleasure or education, as we do today.  Because they traveled only when truly necessary, there were no hotels or inns in existence as there are now.  Along the busiest roads (trading routes) there were a few inns, but they had scandalous reputations.  Moral, upright, honest citizens did not want to stay there. 

Instead, those who traveled stayed with friends or family.  If this was not an option, the traveler may hang around the city gates where the rulers and influential men of the city met, and wait for an invitation to stay the night.  Alternatively, they would simply come to town, knock on the door of a house and request a place to stay. 

Granted, this seems very weird to us.  If a stranger knocked on our door and requested hospitality, we would be inclined to slam the door shut and call the police, rather than let them inside!  But many earlier cultures including the Greeks, the Romans, and the Orientals all practiced hospitality.  

In fact, hospitality was considered the duty every citizen.  It was scandalous to be a poor host; one’s personal reputation and honor demanded that the duties of hospitality be fulfilled completely.  You and your family were disgraced, openly shamed and even shunned for failing to provide adequate hospitality.       

What were the basic duties of the host?  As soon as the traveler arrived, he was furnished with water to wash his feet and otherwise refresh himself.  He was provided with food for himself and his beast.  But the host would not just give him a bologna sandwich and a glass of water – he would put on the equivalent of a Thanksgiving feast for his guest.   The meal was considered a reflection of the host’s wealth and reputation in the community, so nothing was held back.  He would make the meal as lavish as possible.

In addition, the host would act as the servant, waiting on his guests.  Often, he would inconvenience himself by giving the traveler his own bed.  He would do anything and everything to ensure his guest(s) were treated like kings.

The Jews were among the Oriental/Eastern people who practiced hospitality.  For instance, in Genesis 18:3-5, we find Abraham showing hospitality to three strangers who turned out to be of heavenly origin.  In Genesis 24:1-33, we find that Laban showed hospitality to a stranger, who eventually took Rebekah to Canaan as a wife for Isaac.  Even Job practiced hospitality (Job 31:32).  There are many more examples that you will find during your reading of the Old Testament.    

We also find the practice of hospitality in the New Testament. 

When Jesus sent the 12 disciples out to preach the word, they relied on the hospitality of other Jews:

Matthew 10:11 – And into whatsoever city or town you shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till you go from there.

In fact, New Testament Christians were expected to continue the practice of hospitality:  Romans 12:13, I Timothy 3:2 and 5:10, Titus 1:8, Hebrews 13:2, and Peter 4:9.

Now that we understand some of the facts of hospitality, let’s picture a few scenarios.

Suppose there is a major event taking place in the city.  The very limited number of rooms available at the inns would be full, and travelers would be relying on the hospitality of local families.  But even these accommodations would fill up if enough people flooded into town.  This helps to explain why Mary and Joseph had no place to go during the census; they were sheltered in a barn/stable, because that was literally all that was left in Bethlehem.    

Enormous, overflowing crowds also filled Jerusalem during the Passover each year.  The Jews who resided there were always called upon to provide hospitality for the Passover visitors, many of whom had come from far away.   

Consider another situation – Jews who have come to accept Jesus Christ as savior.  These Jews were disowned by their families and friends and they often lost their employment.  It was not uncommon for them to leave Jerusalem for some other area, and depend upon the hospitality of other Christian Jews as they built a new life from scratch.  

Can you imagine what it would be like for you to be minding your own business, when all of a sudden there is a knock on your door and it is a family of strangers – Christian Jews from Jerusalem, carrying all their possessions with them, seeking your hospitality? 

You would be expected to open the door to them, give them your best, provide for them, and protect them, because that was your duty.  We can see that hospitality comes with a cost – the host must expend time, energy, money and resources in order to fulfill his obligation. 

Plus, as my father always says, ‘Fish and house guests both begin to stink after 3 days’!   A more polite way of phrasing that idea might be this:  putting two families together in the same house for even a short period of time, could cause conflict or intense irritation.   

When Peter penned his letter to the Christians in Asia Minor, he probably had this scenario in mind – Christian Jews who fled Jerusalem due to persecution, and sought refuge or hospitality with other Jews.

He instructs Christians to offer hospitality without complaining or literally ‘without murmurs’.  They were not to complain of the hardship of doing it; of the time, expense or trouble required to provide good hospitality.  They should perform this duty willingly and with a cheerful mind. 

Hospitality is an aspect of showing love to your Christian brothers and sisters.  Again, this was especially needful during the age of persecution when Christians were often driven from their homes.

While hospitality is not practiced this way in our culture, we should still be willing to expend time, energy and resources to help those in need.  

I Peter 4:10-11 – As each has received a gift, use it to serve on another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:  whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.  To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.

What gift does Peter refer to here?  The actual word means ‘endowment of any kind, spiritual or temporal’.    

If you read the verse closely, you can’t help but notice that everyone (this means you) has received a gift from God.  Notice also that we are not proprietors, but stewards of our gifts.

A proprietor is one who has a legal right or exclusive title to something.  As owner, he can withhold his gift from others or he can charge any price for it. 

A steward is one who manages something for the true owner.  God is the ultimate owner of any gifts we possess and he wants us to use them for the benefit/good of others.  God always intends to do good to people, and he accomplishes that good through us; that is why he has entrusted you with your gift(s).  

Consider what God, in his great providence, has done.  He has not given each person everything they need.  Instead, he has given each one of us gifts which places us in a position of needing what others have.  Thus, we are to work as a united family.  We assist others with our gift of encouragement, while another uses material wealth to meet needs, while another teaches/preaches the word, while someone else provides much needed wisdom, etc (Romans 12:5-8).  Individually, we would be lacking in many things, but collectively, we should have all we need.     

As we use these gifts to the best of our abilities, people will acknowledge God as their benefactor, and he will be glorified through us. 

Withholding this assistance from our bothers is essentially the same as burying our talent (Matthew 25:24-25).  This is a form of robbing God; he is denied the glory due to him, and the gift he has given us is wasted.  

We can no more refuse to share our gifts than the Christians of Peter’s day could refuse hospitality.  How are you stewarding the gifts God has entrusted to you?

I Peter 4:12 – Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

Peter now goes on to speak about fiery trials of affliction and persecution.  Christian suffering should not come as a surprise to us, nor should it catch us off guard; Jesus has forewarned his followers that it would come. 

John 15:20 – Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord.  If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

God allows these trials into our lives.  He is not trying to destroy us, but rather to test our faith, patience and maturity in him.  These trials can, in fact, be very beneficial to the Christian.  They can actually strengthen and expand our faith as we lean on and obey Jesus during the suffering.  In addition, trials prepare us for heaven, by keeping our focus on eternal matters.

We must also bear in mind that the Christian who has been diligent to crucify the flesh (as mentioned earlier), has no doubt set his mind resolutely on Christ and righteousness, and thus he will be much better prepared to handle fiery trials.   

I Peter 4:13 – But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

To be identified with Christ is the ultimate consolation of every believer; for the world to view you as they viewed Jesus our Lord is the highest compliment that can be paid.

To the extent that we share in his suffering on earth, we will partake of his glory in the next life.  Or, we might consider it this way – in the same proportion that we suffer like him, we shall also be glorified with him. 

This refers back to Peter’s earlier statement, that Christians should not be surprised at suffering.  If we are caught off guard by suffering, we will be distraught and anguished.  However, if we understand that suffering may very well occur and that it is for our benefit and God’s glory, we can rejoice when the time of suffering comes, knowing that we will also be glorified with him.   

I Peter 4:14 – If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Jesus himself was insulted many times by the religious leaders and the masses of people.  They accused him of being possessed by a demon (John 7:20), of being mad (John 10:20) and of being a Samaritan (John 8:48).  They even mocked him multiple times before and during the crucifixion (Mark 15:20, Luke 22:63, Luke 23:36, etc). 

If we are insulted for the testimony of Jesus we should consider our situation blessed.  This does not mean that we find personal joy or fulfillment in being reproached.  It means the world recognizes that we are like Christ and we will receive spiritual influence in this world, as well as rewards in heaven.  

It is of further comfort that those who suffer do not suffer alone, or merely in their own strength.  Holy Spirit rests upon them and abides with them.  They will receive an extra measure of grace and strength in proportion to their trial, bringing them peace and strength for their situation. 

Many scholars believe this extra grace from Holy Spirit also rests upon people under other types of suffering as well, such as sickness, bereavement, loss and even death itself.  Thus, God leads and guides them into victory.   

I Peter 4:15-16 – But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as meddler.  Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

Again, as discussed earlier in this epistle, Christians should be careful not to suffer for doing evil.  The only blessed suffering comes when one suffers for righteousness.  As Matthew Henry has said, “it is not the suffering, but the cause, that makes the martyr”.

II Timothy 2:12 – If we suffer, we shall also reign with him…

Those persecuted for living a godly Christian example should not be ashamed of being rejected and mocked.  Rather, they have a reason to glorify God – their testimony for Christ has been recognized by the world and it carries heavenly rewards.    

I Peter 4:17-18 – For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?  And if the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?

What does Peter mean by the term ‘judgment’?  In this case it seems to refer to severe trial(s).  These trials would test the depth and value of a believer’s faith. 

They also reveal any areas in which the believer has wandered away from the narrow path of righteousness.  God will then use the trial as a form of discipline to bring his child back into holiness, to prepare them for heaven, to humble them, and to mortify their fleshly desires.

I Corinthians 11:31-32 – For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.  But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

So there is reason for hope and comfort for the Christian: God’s judgment/testing is corrective in nature, not destructive.  Like any good Father, God corrects his children in love so they will properly mature.  He often uses the furnace of affliction to burn away impurities and make us pure and holy.  Therefore, these trials are ultimately for our good.

But what of the judgment of the wicked, who live in open transgression and rebellion against God?  

The truth is that suffering comes to both Christians and Sinners. 

  • The Christian has comfort knowing his suffering is for good, the wicked have no such comfort or peace.
  • The Christian has hope for a better life in eternity; the wicked has only eternal death and damnation in his/her future.    
  • The Christian suffers a judgment of grace resulting in mercy; the wicked suffers under a judgment of wrath which results in punishment. 
  • The Christian suffers temporarily, in earthly life.  The wicked suffer eternally in the next life.

The details of the end for the wicked are, for the most part, shrouded from our understanding.  We do not know the true horror their existence will entail.  What we do know is that the scriptures give warning to those who rebel against God – their creator, Father and King.  Rebellion is not tolerated by mortal men, why would God tolerate it?

Furthermore, Christians can expect to inherit what their Father has to offer:  life, peace and eternal reward. Sinners can also expect to inherit what their father has to offer:  death, turmoil and eternal suffering.

I Peter 4:19 – Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Here is Peter’s conclusion:

Righteous suffering should be patiently endured because it is for our eternal good.  If God has allowed it, there is a purpose behind it.

God is our Father and we can trust him with the safe keeping of our eternal soul; we must commit ourselves to him in well doing and obedience to his commands.

God is faithful to preserve and defend whatever is under his protection and power.

2 Timothy 1:12 – For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

However, those who refuse to commit their lives to God in obedience to the gospel have no such assurance or hope.  Rather than hoping in God, they fear him.

When considering the outcome of the wicked, we should not envy their present prosperity, but we should consider their final outcome, and be even more diligent to introduce them to the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.   

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Every generation of Christians seems to struggle with the prosperity of the wicked.  And every generation must search the scriptures to find that the end of the wicked is only death/destruction. 

Even though the righteous suffer, it is not punitive.  Our loving Heavenly Father is more concerned with our eternal good than our earthly comfort and he is not adverse to placing us in the furnace of affliction to burn off impurities.  This is a normal part of being a child of God.

Let me offer you some relief:

You can trust God.  In your private, personal relationship with him, you can commit your ways, hopes, dreams, desires, faults and strengths to him.  He will use these for his glory and your good.  No matter what life holds on earth, God preserves the lives of his children for all of eternity.

Let me offer you some strength:

The promises given in this portion of scripture are for those who have committed their lives to Christ.  If you are reading this now, there is still time for you to commit or recommit your life to Him. 

If you desire to have your sins forgiven and entrust your eternal soul to a loving Heavenly Father, then pray this prayer to him, from your heart:

Dear Jesus,  I confess to you that I am a sinner.  I am sorry for all the wrong things I have done and I ask you to forgive me.  I believe that you are the Son of God, that you died on the cross and rose again, and that your blood paid the price for my sin.  I invite you to come into my heart and life and to be my Lord and Savior.  I commit myself to you right now.  Thank you for saving me from death and giving me the gift of eternal life.  Amen.

If you prayed this prayer and sincerely meant it, then you have received the gift of salvation from Jesus Christ! 

  

I Peter, Chapter 4, Part 1

I Peter 4:1 – Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,

In the prior chapter, Peter addresses the issue of Christians who are suffering.  He made a distinction between suffering because of doing wrong, and suffering for the sake of righteousness.  

When believers suffer righteously, they are to follow the example set by Jesus.  This was discussed at length in our prior posts from chapters 2 and 3. 

Up until now, the suffering that Peter was referring to was physical and/or mental suffering.  In chapter 4, Peter changes direction.  Still using Jesus as the ultimate example, he now begins to discuss a different type of suffering.

Before and during his crucifixion, Jesus allowed his physical body to suffer.  If you followed our study on the gospel of Matthew, you recall that Jesus was slapped, spit upon, whipped, humiliated, punched, had a crown of thorns smashed into his head, and was nailed to a tree.  This extraordinary suffering had a purpose – our redemption.

Peter now teaches that in light of the suffering Jesus submitted to in his physical body (due to our sin), we also should submit ourselves to suffering – that is, we should crucify our fleshly desires and abstain from sin.  This is a different kind of suffering than what was discussed in chapters 2 and 3, but it is suffering nevertheless. 

Just as Jesus did not shrink back from the literal crucifixion of his flesh, so we should not shrink back from crucifying the lusts and sinful desires of our flesh.  

In chapter 4, Peter will go on to teach that this involves a two-fold process.  Not only must we abstain from sin, but we must also embrace righteousness.  We will discuss this more at the appropriate point in our study.  For now, I just want us to note that ‘crucifying our flesh’ has both a negative side (abstention) and a positive side (embracing righteousness).             

So here in verse 1, believers are to arm themselves with the same mind, or ‘way of thinking’ that Jesus displayed. 

What mindset did Jesus display? He was committed to submitting to the Father’s will, no matter what kind of suffering this caused.  He was willing to pay the price for our sin, no matter how painful.  His mind was resolutely set against sin and toward holiness. 

Likewise, we should be committed to allowing Holy Spirit to make us over into the image of Christ.  As we already mentioned, part of this entails abstaining from evil desires, which will be painful for us at first.  Nevertheless, we should be fully committed to this because it is our heavenly Father’s will.  We too, must gain control of our minds and set them fully against sin and fully toward holiness. 

Here is why that is important:

As humans, we all have a mind, a will and a set of emotions.  If we allow our mind to be in charge, it will determine the best course of action based on the word of God.  Once we make a decision to follow biblical principles, our will ‘gets on board’ or gets in agreement with our mind.  In this scenario, our emotions will then be forced to come into agreement with the mind and will.

Alternatively, if we allow our emotions to rule us, they will make a decision based on how our flesh feels, regardless of what the word of God tells us is true.  Once our emotions are in control, our will ‘gets on board’ with the emotions, and the mind is then forced to come into agreement. 

Let’s consider an example – fasting.

The Christian discipline of fasting is biblical.  It entails denying your flesh something it wants to have for the purposes of seeking or hearing from God.  Although fasting from food is the most common observance, you can fast anything that your flesh craves such as television, shopping or even Facebook! 

Let’s suppose that you are reading the Bible and you feel a nudge from Holy Spirit to fast about an issue.  For the first few hours, everything is fine.  But soon you start to get hunger pains.  Your stomach is calling for nourishment – now! 

If your mind is committed to the fast, it will receive support from your will.  They become like partners.  When your emotions begin to whine and complain and scream for food, they will be silenced by the mind/will.  They will be forced to comply with the decision that the mind has made.  You should be able to resist the temptation to give up on the fast by eating a piece of pie.  

However, if your mind is not in control, then your emotions will be in charge.  As the stomach begins to demand food, the emotions grab a hold of the will, and together they decide what will happen – and the mind will be forced to comply by rationalizing the behavior the emotions demand.  To make a long story short, you will find yourself in the drive thru at Taco Bell, telling yourself that you didn’t really hear from Holy Spirit!   

The beginning of all true self denial and mortification of the flesh begins in the mind, not the body.

We are going to want to ‘arm’ ourselves with the same mind or way of thinking as Christ – allowing our minds to be in control, rather than our emotions. 

In this passage ‘arm’ refers to armor which men used to wear in battle.  Armor is normally considered a defensive weapon that protects a soldier from the strikes of his enemy.  In the same way, if believers are mentally prepared to suffer (crucify the flesh), then that mental preparedness is like armor, which will help protect us from the pressures of temptation.   

We should probably take a minute to note that this defense is only part of the equation.  The process of crucifying the flesh will require more than just a mindset – it requires help and strength from Holy Spirit too.

Peter then concludes that those who have suffered in the flesh, have ceased from sin.  In other words, the believer who has been inwardly and truly conformed to the image/sufferings of Christ has ceased, or been delivered, from sin.

I Peter 4:2 – so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

Because of the forgiveness that Jesus purchased for us on the cross, we should live the rest of our earthly lives turning away from (crucifying) our corrupt and sinful desires.  Pride, envy, lust, hate, greed, etc are all part of our sinful nature and we must put an end to them in our lives. 

But what happens then?  Should we be walking around like robots without any feelings, emotions, goals or desires?  Of course not!

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’?  This saying expresses the idea that unfilled or empty spaces go against the laws of nature, and that every space needs to be filled with something.

Peter seems to have understood this concept, because immediately after instructing Christians to get rid of corrupt and sinful desires, he tells us to fully embrace the will of God in our lives.   

As old sinful desires are pruned away, good and holy desires must be grafted in.  Hate is replaced by godly love, pride is banished by a humble spirit, greed gives way to generosity and so on.  

For example, if you want to remove gossip from your life, you can’t just stop talking.  That may work for a short time, but not for long.  Instead, you need to embrace the will of God by changing what you say – speak encouragement and life into people instead of death/gossip.  In fact, prayer is a great way to fill the vacuum that will occur when you stop gossiping!     

So crucifying the flesh has two parts – the removal of what is sinful and the addition of what is holy.

It’s a good thing we have the rest of our lives to make these changes, because there is a lot to work on!

I Peter 4:3 – For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.

In this case, the term Gentile is a generic term that stands for heathen or sinner.  All of us were sinners before we served Christ.  During that time we lived in the indulgence of corrupt passions, including (but not limited to) drunkenness, sexual sins and idolatry.

As sinners we did this because we were ignorant of God’s ways.  But once we accepted Christ and were forgiven, we became a new creation; it would be unreasonable for us to continue in the ways of sin. 

Now we must live in faith as soldiers for Christ, redeeming or making good use of the time we have left on planet earth.

Ephesians 5:15-16 – Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Although our past is behind us and cannot be changed, it can still be a useful reminder to spur us on to greater holiness.  

I Peter 4:4 – With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;

When we become new creatures in Christ it makes perfect sense to us to put off wickedness and sin.  However, our friends and family, who are still living as sinners, may not understand this. 

In their eyes, it seems strange that you would give up the pleasures of this world for a life that seems to promise anything but happiness and ease.  Because they are not in touch with the eternal world, they cannot understand or appreciate the conduct of those who live with regard to the next life.

They find nothing wrong with the sinful pleasures of this world, and they may find it strange that we reject practices that seem innocent, harmless and pleasurable to them.  It may seem especially strange because we used to enjoy these things too.

The world often reacts to this situation by condemning Christians.  We are often labeled as hypocrites, fanatics or fools.  These terms are meant to injure/condemn the character and reputation of Christians who no longer align themselves with the world. 

I Peter 4:5 – but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

The ‘living and the dead’ is a metaphor which speaks to the inclusion of all people, regardless of whether or not they still walk the earth.  Peter’s aim in this verse is to comfort and encourage believers.  We should patiently and righteously bear the opposition we face from unbelievers because our heavenly Father sees and hears it.  There is no need for us to attempt to avenge ourselves; at the proper time God will vindicate his children and judge the wicked. 

Although we don’t know the exact time when this will take place, we are reminded that Jesus already sits at the right hand of God, and he is ‘ready’ to judge even now.

Romans 14:12 – So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

Peter was encouraging his spiritual children to live as though the return of Christ was imminent.  We should still be living with that same attitude.  Even if Jesus tarries another thousand years, we are always living ‘in the last days’ in a sense, because we never know when our last day on earth will be!  

I Peter 4:6 – For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

The interpretation of this verse varies widely, depending on how you define ‘dead’.

Some feel that ‘dead’ refers to people who are spiritually dead in trespasses – ordinary sinners, who are physically alive right now (Ephesians 2:1).  In this case, the interpretation would be that the gospel was preached to sinners when they were spiritually dead, so that each person might strive against, mortify and subdue their own carnal appetites and lusts.   As they do, God makes them spiritually alive. 

Another interpretation is that ‘dead’ refers to people whose physical bodies are literally dead.  In this case, the interpretation would be that the gospel was made known to them when they walked the earth, so that they might have a chance to crucify their sinful desires and live for God.  These people were made spiritually alive by the gospel, while their flesh was put to death by men (martyrs).

There are also some who interpret ‘dead’ to mean those who had died long ago (the antediluvians), and had their spirits imprisoned down in Hades/Sheol/the grave.  Those who accept this interpretation also believe that Jesus went down to Hades after his physical death and preached to the lost (see one of the explanations of I Peter 3:19-20).

In any case, the apostle is again offering hope and comfort to the believer.  By the world’s standards, physical death means total destruction.  But for the Christian, physical death simply means life in the Spirit with God. 

I Peter 4:7 – The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

What does the phrase ‘the end of all things’ refer to?  It may be a reference to the end of the world/the conclusion of human affairs.  In this case, Peter’s meaning would be that the end of the world (the return of Jesus) was near.

Alternatively, we know from history that the city of Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed in 71 AD, effectively bringing an end to the Jewish way of life and worship.  This occurred less than a decade after Peter penned his epistle, and thus may have been the event he was referring to.      

However, the phrase may also refer to the physical death of each individual.  In this case, his meaning was that so far as his readers were concerned, the end was near.  As we mentioned earlier, even if Jesus tarries another thousand years, the end of all things is still at hand for each individual because they do not know the time of their death.  

In any case (personal demise, destruction of Jerusalem or the return of Christ), the point is that our time on earth will quickly draw to a close.  In light of this, Peter goes on to give a series of exhortations to believers. 

The first exhortation is that we ought to be sober minded and have self control.  In other words, we should be actively involved in crucifying our fleshly desires, as mentioned back in verse 3 and giving up the wicked practices we engaged in before we came to Christ. 

Instead of indulging in the vain cares and pleasures of earth, we should be good stewards of all we posses, including resources, time and talents.  We should be constantly in a state of prayer, making sure that we are ready for eternity.   

I Peter 4:8 – Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

And, more than anything, we need to have a warm affection and brotherly love towards other Christians.  We must practice this love earnestly, and with fervor.  What does this mean?

It means that our love for each other should be active and tangible.  It should not only manifest in our words, but in our deeds.  For example, if our Christian brother or sister has experienced the death of a spouse, we should not only tell them how sorry we are; we should show them.  We can do this by giving them a hug, coming to the funeral, bringing a gift of food or flowers, etc.  Our tangible actions can really ease the burden they are experiencing. 

Why, exactly, are we to practice such fervent love?  Because it covers a multitude of sins.

This is true with respect to ourselves.  If we are busy ministering to our brothers/sisters, we are much more likely to have compassion towards them, as opposed to judging them.  We are much more likely to overlook or pass by their faults and failings which tend to irritate and anger us. 

It also covers or hides their sins from the eyes of the world.  If we expose every single fault within the church, nonbelievers will be happy to discredit the church as well as the cross of Christ.  It is better to suffer wrongs than stir up strife. 

Proverbs 10:12 – Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.   

However, we must exercise caution – if we cover up sins using flattery or falsehood, that is not only a disgrace but a sin in and of itself.  And there are some sins which, if covered up, will fester into bigger problems or cause destruction in the church.  These sins cannot be covered over, but they can be dealt with in love.  These are the duties of the Christian life.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Remember, the war against your sinful nature/flesh begins with your mind.  You will need to renew or reprogram your thinking with the word of God.  Meditating on scriptures and making daily declarations are a good way to begin the process.  However, you don’t need to try and figure this out all by yourself.  Many excellent Christian books have been written on this topic, and are readily available.  I encourage you to check some out.     

Let me offer you some relief:

Crucifying your flesh is not an instantaneous transformation.  It is a process over time.  You may fail a time or two before you gain the victory, but victory will come if you don’t give up.  You might want to consider finding a prayer/victory partner for yourself as you work through the process.  They can be there to offer encouragement and prayer when needed.  

Let me offer you some strength:

The Bible says that nothing is impossible with God and that includes gaining control over your sinful nature.  Confess your sin and repent before the Lord.  Ask Holy Spirit to be involved in the change you are committed to making.  He probably prompted you to make the change in the first place, because he is interested in making you over into the image of Christ.  He will give you the strength to overcome!   

 

Matthew, Chapter 25, Part 1

Matthew 25:1 – Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.

Here we find a couple of key words.  The first is ‘then’.  Remember, chapter 25 is a continuation of the discussion of chapter 24.  The disciples have asked Jesus three questions: 

When shall these things be? (Referring to the actual timing of events).  What will be the sign of your coming? (Referring to the signs that will indicate to the Jews that the end of the temple/Old Covenant are near).  And finally, what are the signs of the end of the world? (Literally, the end of time).

Jesus has addressed the first two questions in chapter 24.  So the phrase ‘then’ at the start of chapter 25 is significant.  It means that what Jesus is about to say specifically pertains to the final question regarding the end of time. 

This brings us to the next significant word in this verse, which is ‘will’.  In other instances, Jesus said ‘the kingdom of heaven is like’.  This indicated present tense; Jesus was referring to the current time. 

Now he transitions to using the future tense:  ‘the kingdom of heaven will be like’.  Again, this points to a future phase of the kingdom of heaven, the one that will be in place at the end of time.

Jesus uses this parable to impart wisdom to us about the end of time.  This parable made perfect sense to the Jews, because they were well acquainted with the marriage customs of that day.  For our understanding, a quick review of these customs is helpful.

In that day, couples were betrothed long before the marriage.  The betrothal was actually the true marriage contract, even though the marriage was not consummated at that time, and the woman continued to live in her father’s house until the time she was claimed by the groom. 

This explains why Joseph was going to divorce Mary when he found out she was pregnant.  Notice in the following verses she is ‘betrothed’ to him, but they are not living together and he must go through a legal process (divorce) to break off his ties with her.   

Matthew 1:18-19 –  Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way: When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  

Now, according to Jewish custom, when the time for the marriage celebration finally arrived, the bridegroom and his friends came, late at night, to the house of the bride.  She was expecting/watching for his arrival with her bridesmaids.  When the groom was spotted, the maidens would go out with their lamps in their hands to light up the way to the house with great ceremony and formality.  They would accompany the bride to the wedding feast prepared by the groom.  This feast was always held at the groom’s house.

The two main characters in this parable are both introduced in verse one.  Who are they? 

First, we have the bridegroom.  This represents our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Many times in the New Testament he is referred to as the bridegroom (Mark 2:19-20, John 3:28-9).  This simile reflects the great and passionate love that Jesus has for his spouse, the church (Ephesians 5:32). 

We are currently betrothed to him (Hosea 2:19-20), but he has not yet come to earth to claim us for eternity.  But when the perfect time has come, He will gather us to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9).

The second character in this parable is the group of 10 virgins.  These symbolize people who profess to have a relationship to God. 

Just as the virgins or bridesmaids were supposed to be watching expectantly for the groom, so we are to be expectantly looking for the second coming of Christ. We are not just to believe in it, but rejoice at the thought of it.  We should long for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).  The fact of his future coming should affect our entire life – it should be a guide in all that we do, think, say and feel.        

The chief duty of the bridesmaids was to have their lights shining brightly as they honor and do service to the bridegroom.  Likewise, we are to let our gospel lights shine before the world in honor and service to Jesus our King (Philippians 2:15-16).  

Matthew 25:2 – Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.

 Jesus tells us that some of the bridesmaids in this group are wise.  Some are not.  When they all stand in a group together, it is impossible for us to tell which are which. 

If they represent people who profess to know God, then it is clear that the wise virgins are those that have a true and sincere relationship with God.  The foolish virgins are hypocrites.  They profess to know God, but they are not truly his children. 

They may know the Christian lingo, they may attend church services and sing worship songs, but they have not surrendered their hearts to Jesus Christ.  They are foolish.   

Matthew 25:3-4 – For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.

Their folly is in their lack of oil.  They had just enough oil to make their lamps burn for a short time, but they were not prepared if the bridegroom should delay his coming. 

Does this sound vaguely familiar?  It should.  Jesus expressed the same situation in the parable of the seeds:

Matthew 13:5-6 – Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and immediately they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:   And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 

The foolish bridesmaids have no ‘reserves’.  They have a lamp of profession in their hands, but they lack a true change in their hearts.  They do not know the word.  They are not rooted in their faith.  Love does not rule their lives.  They cannot endure even a small trial or tribulation.  Despite what comes out of their mouths, they are void of true spiritual life.  Isaiah describes them this way:

Isaiah 48:1 – Hear this, O house of Jacob… who swear by the name of the LORD, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness.

Essentially, they are hypocrites.  They have taken pains to convince their fellow bridesmaids that they have burning lights, but they cannot fool the one who discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

This is opposed to the wise, who did have reserves of oil.  Think of it this way – your heart is a vessel.  Holy Spirit, the fuel/oil for your Christian walk, resides there; He fills your heart with power to serve Christ.  He is the one who gives us strength to withstand trials and tribulations.  He is the one who guides us into all truth.  He points out good works for us to accomplish.  He is the ‘down payment’ that guarantees our salvation.  Without him, our Christian lights would quickly be extinguished.   

Zechariah gives us a beautiful picture of the Holy Spirit being the oil in our lamps in his vision in Zechariah chapter 4. 

Zechariah 4:6 – Then he answered and spoke unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.    

How well are you acquainted with Holy Spirit? Do you work with him each day to accomplish the will of God?  If not, I suggest you get to know him better.  He is your power for righteous living; with his assistance, your light will shine before men, causing them to give glory to God (Matthew 5:16).

Matthew 25:5 – As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.

Notice that all of the virgins sleep – the wise as well as the foolish.  How are we to interpret this ‘sleep’?

One interpretation says that ‘sleeping’ is used in a shameful sense.  This theory says that Christians have become spiritually apathetic.  They have chosen to be happy and content sitting in church and hearing the word of God, but not really going out to work in the kingdom.  They have stopped fighting against the devil; they have grown spiritually lazy.  Instead of harvesting souls, they are slumbering.

Another interpretation says that ‘sleep’ actually denotes earthly occupations and cares.  This theory says that as long as we dwell on earth, we must devote a certain part of our lives to working, eating, learning, family duties, etc.  These things can distract us from our relationship with Christ.  In this interpretation, that distraction is the same as falling asleep.

The third and most common interpretation is that ‘sleep’ refers to physical death.  This analogy is frequently used in scripture.  We are all going to die at some point, saints and sinners alike.  We are also all going to be resurrected at some point.  The saints of God (wise virgins) rise to eternal life while the sinners who reject Christ (foolish virgins) will rise to eternal death.

Regardless of which interpretation you think is correct, one thing is certain – the bridegroom tarried or was delayed.  The ‘delay’ refers to the period of time that began when Jesus went up into heaven, and it ends with the rapture – the time when he comes to claim the church (his bride) as his own. 

No man knows when this will take place.  The believers back in Jesus’ day thought it would happen in their lifetime, but it didn’t.  Many of our own Christian ancestors felt it would happen in their lifetimes, but it didn’t.  

However, this doesn’t negate the promise of his coming.  God has many plans and purposes that he wants to accomplish before he returns.  The harvest of the earth must have time to ripen and we must have time to harvest it.  The church must be purified, becoming without spot or wrinkle.  God is always faithful to carry out what he has promised.  Therefore we know that when the perfect time has arrived, Jesus will come again!   

How much do you dwell on the return of Christ?  Is it only a vague thought in the back of your mind?  Does it somehow make you uneasy?  Or is it a truth that drives you forward in your zeal for the Lord?

The writer of Hebrews says this:

Hebrews 10:23 – Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

In other words, while Jesus tarries, we need to have a firm grip on the hope we have in Christ.  We need to constantly remind ourselves that although the world is a mess, Jesus will bring all things under his authority.  He has an appointed time to come and claim his bride, the church.  He has an appointed time in which he will rise up, break the seals of the scroll (Revelation 5), and usher in the eternal age. 

The promises he has given us regarding his return and our home with him in heaven are rock solid.  We need to find scriptures that speak of these things, and keep them in our minds and hearts, even committing them to memory.  

Way back in the book of Genesis, God promised Eve that he would send a deliverer to free mankind from sin.  She thought it would happen in her lifetime, but it didn’t.  Yet, the promise was still valid.  At the appointed time, Jesus came to earth and sacrificed his life for us all, proving that God was faithful to his promise.

Habakkuk 2:3 – For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

So it will be with the rapture.  We may or may not see it in our lifetime, but the promise is sure.  The appointed time will come.  God is faithful to all that he has promised.

Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…

Our time on earth should always be lived with the realization that Christ is returning.  We should speak of this often to one another, reminding each other that lost opportunities can never be regained.  We need to work for the kingdom today; there is no promise of tomorrow. 

In light of his future coming, we should support each other in our endeavors for Christ.  We should pray without ceasing. We should rejoice at all times.  We should love the lost, even if they don’t agree with our point of view and be ready to share the gospel on all occasions. 

Above all, we need to be filled with the mighty Holy Spirit, who will lead and guide us during our time on earth.

Hebrews 10:25 – …not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

If at all possible, I encourage you to be in fellowship with each other.  If you can go to church, by all means, do so!  The church needs you!  There are people there who need your wisdom and experiences.  They need to hear your testimony.  They need you to lay hands on them, and pray for them or share a prophetic word. 

If It isn’t possible for you to come to church for some reason, I encourage you to find a very small group of family or friends that you are comfortable with, and fellowship with them.  Listen to sermons together.  Worship together.  Pray for each other.  Serve communion to each other.  Be a strength to others when they are weak, and they will do the same for you.

And all of us need to encourage each other.  Don’t assume that just because someone is smiling or saying they are fine, that they don’t need an encouraging word.  Jesus tells us that in the final era of time, the world will be wicked, violent and haters of God.  In that environment, we had better be in the practice of encouraging each other.

Matthew 25:6 – But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’

In the parable, the bridegroom arrives suddenly and unexpectedly.  A loud cry goes forth, waking the virgins from their slumber.  The time of the celebration has finally arrived and they must arise immediately to meet the long awaited groom. 

What does this mean to us? 

THE KING IS COMING! 

There used to be an old saying that the only two sure things in life were death and taxes.  That saying is only half right; the two sure things in life are death and the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

John 14:3 – And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

How will you use your time on earth until Christ returns or calls you home through death?  Will you invest all your time and resources on the things of this life, or will you store up treasures in heaven?

Matthew 25:7 – Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.

When the virgins arose and trimmed their lamps, they were preparing for the imminent coming of the bridegroom.  They were making themselves ready to receive him. 

Spiritually speaking, men and women will often scramble to prepare themselves to meet God when they feel death is imminent.  But alas!  It is often too late.  The best time to prepare for eternity is right now. 

The question has been asked, ‘How can we live a life that is pleasing to God?’

The answer, of course, is ‘one day at a time.’

Each and every day we need to live for Christ.  Each day, read the word.  Each day, spend time with God in prayer and worship.  Each day, look for opportunities to plant the seed of the word of God, or water that seed in someone’s life or harvest a soul for Christ.  Each day, encourage and disciple others.  Each day, find a way to strike a blow at our enemy.  Then, when the call comes for us to meet Christ, whether through death or his return, we will be ready to meet him.  Our vessels will be full of oil.    

Matthew 25:8-9 – And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’   But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’

Now the foolish virgins become aware of their need for fuel.  It suddenly occurs to them that they have been foolish in preparing for the wedding celebration.  They are not ready for the events that have come upon them.  How terrifying that feeling would be!   

At the same time, it occurs to them that others are well prepared.  Those they despised or mocked for their deep commitment to preparing for the bridegroom, are now revealed as wise.  How the foolish wish they were like them now!

In their desperation, they appeal to the wise for help, but the wise cannot share what they have laid up for themselves; the foolish must procure their own oil.

Spiritually speaking, there will be people who come face to face with death (or the return of Christ) and suddenly realize that they are unprepared.  Their excuses are no good, nor can they rely on the merits of someone else.  We shall all be judged individually.  Those who want to be welcomed by the bridegroom must have personal preparation, personal faith and personal holiness.  We have no authority to accept grace and salvation for someone else.  Each person has the right to decide for themselves what their relationship to God will be.

So the wise give the foolish a wise answer – go to the dealers (the ministers of the gospel) and get what you need.

In fact, the advice to “go and buy for yourselves” is exactly what the wise have done.    Right up until the time the cry/signal came announcing the appearance of the bridegroom, grace and mercy had been available without limit:

Isaiah 55:1, 3 – Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live… 

The wise took full advantage of this offer, listening to the words of God and accepting salvation through the shed blood of Christ. 

All of a sudden, the foolish virgins want to buy grace and mercy, but it is too late.  The situation has changed.  The salvation they are now desperately seeking was only available until they drew their last breath.  Once they died, they no longer had access to it.    

Matthew 25:10 – And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.

The implication here is clear.  Those who are prepared to meet the bridegroom (Jesus) are admitted into the kingdom of God.  Once they were all inside, the way was shut.

Here is something interesting to consider.  The scriptures say that when the flood came, Noah and his family entered the ark and God shut the door:

Genesis 7:16 – And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.

This was not a mistake or an afterthought.  It is a reflection of the wisdom of God.  I am sure that once the flood came, many of the wicked who failed to take the message of repentance seriously came to Noah’s back yard and pounded on the door of the ark, begging to be let in.  But Noah was relieved of any burden in that respect – God had shut the door; only he could open it.

The same is true in this parable.  When the bridegroom shut the door, no one else was admitted. 

Likewise, when the door to heaven is shut, no one will be able to cross that threshold either.

Revelation 3:8 – I know your works: behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it…

No one can shut a door that God opens; no one can open a door he has shut.

What does this mean for the foolish?

The door of opportunity was closed – those who had many opportunities to repent but always put it off until ‘tomorrow’ have now lost their chance.

The door of mercy was closed – God is longsuffering to all men, but there is a time limit.  When we die or Christ returns, the age of grace will end for us.

The door of hope was closed – Jesus is the only hope of eternal life; there is no other name under heaven whereby you can be saved.  If you have rejected him, all hope is lost for you.  

The door of heaven was closed – Those who reject heaven will still find an open door – the door to the bottomless pit of hell. 

What does this mean for the righteous?

The door is closed to all effects of sin – No death, disease, mental illness, broken relationships or heartache will be allowed through heaven’s door.

The door is closed to the worries of earthly life – No longer will we concern ourselves over food, clothes, money, education or work. 

The door is closed to death – We will never again experience death ourselves, nor will we be affected by the death of anyone we love.    

The door is closed to all wickedness – No murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters or liars will be allowed to enter heaven’s door (Revelation 21:8).

Which side of the door are you on?

Matthew 25:11-12 – Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us,’ but he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

Though the foolish cry out to the bridegroom, they are too late. It will be too late to ask for mercy when the day of judgment arrives.

Matthew 7:21 – Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Jesus, who knows the thoughts and intents of every heart, says emphatically that he does not know these foolish people.  They have made a vain profession of religion with their mouths, but they hearts and lives were unchanged. 

Matthew 25:13 – Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

 And now we come to the ultimate message of the parable.  Jesus warns all of us to be watchful every day, for we do not know the time or date of his return (or our own deaths).  We must live every day in close communion with our Lord, believing and rejoicing in the knowledge that he will one day come and usher us into heaven to be with him forever!   

Let me give you some encouragement:

As long as I can remember, I have heard people say that Christ could come any day.  The fact that he hasn’t yet, does not mean that he won’t.  It just means that he has an appointed time set aside to come and claim his bride.  So take heart!  One day all our struggles will be over.  One day we will be ushered into the wonderful marriage supper of the lamb and we will dwell with Christ forever.

In the meantime, I suggest that you find several scriptures that speak of the return of Christ and his great love for the church, and memorize them.  They will be a wonderful encouragement to you.  

Let me give you some relief:

People talk a lot about the end of time, referring to it as the apocalypse or Armageddon.    They frequently describe it as a time of upheaval and distress; a time of economic chaos and violence; a time of lawlessness when every man must look out for himself.

 But to the true child of God, the end of time is not a time to be afraid or worried.  It is a time of rejoicing, because Christ will return for us, his bride.  On that day we will find relief from sin and death.  

Let me give you some strength:

As Christians, we all want to be more like Christ.  Usually, that does not happen all at once.  It happens little by little, day by day.  So forget the mistakes of your past.  Move ahead and achieve the things that are before you, pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 

Matthew, Chapter 7, Part 2

Matthew 7:15-16–Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits.  Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?

Sometimes we assume the word ‘prophet’ to mean a person who foretells future events, but that is not the only definition.  People who were accepted as public religious instructors were also considered prophets. 

At the time of Jesus, the word basically meant all religious leaders (especially teachers), and that is the sense it is used in this passage.

What made a person a false prophet?   A prophet/teacher was considered false for any one of these reasons:

  • Assuming the role of religious leader/teacher without a call from God
  • Putting forward his/her own thoughts and ideas as being from God
  • Teaching any false doctrine

What effect did false prophets/teachers have on the church?  Through false teaching, Christians were fooled into turning aside from the true faith and believing something false.  These false doctrines caused believers to become spiritually confused or bound by lies, and consequently rendered them ineffective in the Kingdom of God.  Worse yet, some of these doctrines could cause Christians to fall away from their faith in Christ.

Second, the teachings and leadership of the false prophets often brought them undue honor and prestige. They acted like they were the only ones who could hear from God and know what to do.  At best, they were limiting the true relationship between the believer and God.  At worst, they were a wedge that cut believers off from God and caused them to lose their faith.

Let’s look at an example.  In the old covenant, all men who were part of God’s chosen people had to be circumcised.  However, when Jesus came to fulfill the law, he declared that circumcision was no longer something to be done in the flesh.  Instead, circumcision was a spiritual act; all the people in His kingdom would be circumcised in their hearts by cutting sin out of their lives.

Romans 2:28-29 – For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.  But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.

But we find that many false prophets and false teachers were still insisting that any man who became a Christian had to be circumcised in the flesh.

This false doctrine caused a rift between the Jews and the Gentiles, which threatened to split the church in half.  It created an atmosphere of distrust among the believers. It was a rejection of the new covenant that Jesus paid for with his blood. 

If Satan could coax Christians into holding onto physical circumcision, he had a substantial chance of sinking the whole church before it was fully established!  This is only a glimpse of the destruction that false teaching can set in motion.

False teachers were also big into self denial and mortification of the flesh.  They tended to be very rule oriented; they felt that every single law must be stringently observed through their own willpower. How tiresome!  Have you ever determined not to do something “ever again” only to find yourself doing it a day later?  That’s what happens when you try to rule your flesh by willpower alone.

Sadly, they missed the blessing that Jesus gave us through the new covenant – the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who changes our hearts.  Once our hearts and minds have been renewed, our outward actions naturally change too.  We don’t have to focus all of our energy on obeying every law through sheer willpower because our new nature will prompt us to do the right thing on its own.

Jesus says that false teachers are like wolves disguised as sheep.  That is, they appear to be innocent, helpful, loving and knowledgeable about spiritual things, but in reality, they are full of deadly evil.  They are hypocrites who mislead and destroy sincere believers.

So, how can a Christian keep from being fooled by these false prophets and teachers?

Matthew 7:17-18 – So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.

Comparing spiritual leaders/teachers to fruit trees may seem a bit strange, but it makes more sense if you have some background information:  In scripture and in Jewish phraseology, fruits are symbolic of works.  Jesus is telling us that the way to determine which teachers are false and which are true is by examining their fruits, or works.

So if a person comes along claiming to have spiritual authority, take a look at their life.  Do they have joy, peace, holiness, patience, gentleness and love for mankind?  Do they give God the glory for what they are accomplishing? Do they care for the poor and the lost?  

If so, they are a healthy tree which is bringing forth good fruit.  They can be trusted to lead you in the right paths.

However, if you look at the person’s life and find anger, pride, envy, slander, greed, unforgiveness, bitterness or other evils you can safely conclude they are a bad/diseased tree.  Therefore, both the teacher and the teaching should be rejected as false.  Have no part with them!

Matthew 7:19-20 – Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Hmmm… some of these words seem familiar…where did we heard them before?  That’s right – they were already spoken to the Pharisees and other religious leaders by John the Baptist:

Matthew 3:10 – And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

People who bring forth diseased fruit (anger, envy, pride, etc) will someday be cast into the fires of hell, because they are not true children of God.  That is why John the Baptist warned the Scribes and Pharisees to repent and seek the kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 7:21-23 – Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

You see, it is not enough to just claim God as your father or Jesus as your savior.  It is not enough to just have knowledge of God in your head.  You could study the scriptures for years on end (like the Pharisees did), but if it is just a series of facts floating around in your brain, it is of no value.  [Even Satan acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God, but he is still going to be cast into the fires of hell].  Why?  Because it takes more than just factual knowledge to save your soul.

True knowledge of God must be like a seed planted in your heart by the Holy Spirit.  It must germinate and take root. 

As the Holy Spirit waters it, it will grow and transform your life.  It will change both your thoughts and your actions.  It will result in good works such as joy, peace, forgiveness and love, which are good fruits.  Your life will conform to God’s will.  These are the marks of true children of God who will be welcomed into heaven.

In the same way, anyone who has the ability to speak can verbally profess Jesus as Lord, and even teach (prophesy) his word, but that does not mean they are true children of God.  The true child of God doesn’t just teach or profess his name, they sincerely strive to do the will of God.  True Christians have actions that align with their words.

At the end of time, Jesus will assume his rightful role as judge of mankind.  At that time, there will be people who will claim to be servants of Christ because they taught his word (prophesying), cast out demons and performed miracles.  However, Jesus will refute their claims, saying that these people were never his true children.  Jesus then reinforces his point by giving the parable of the wise and foolish builders (see below).

Jesus has given the analogy of the tree and fruit to identify false teachers and show what their judgment will be.  He now gives us the parable of the wise and foolish builders to show that the ‘doers’ of the word are different from just ‘hearers’ of the word, and all of us will be held accountable for our own spiritual condition.

Matthew 7:24-25 –Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

Matthew 7:26-27 – And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

Jesus has packed a lot of teaching into this short parable.  Here are some lessons we can take away from his teaching:

Each one of us is responsible for building our own house.  We cannot rely on others to do it for us.  You cannot rely on the faith and salvation of your parents, grandparents or anyone else.  You must be a disciple of Christ yourself.

Jesus is the rock.  He is the only one who can pardon sin through his shed blood and thus he is the only true foundation that you can build your spiritual house upon.

1 Corinthians 3:11 – For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Hearing the word is NOT building upon it.  Building is acting in faith based upon the words you heard.

When you hear that Jesus forgives sin, you must act in faith to receive that forgiveness for yourself.  Subsequent to your salvation, the Holy Spirit will enlighten you to the way God wants you to live.  He will then assist you as you bring your mind, will, emotions and actions into conformity with God’s principles for your life.  This is how you build upon the foundation of Christ.  Building a house in the natural world does not happen overnight, especially if there is only a single builder.  So it is with your spiritual house – you build it day by day; it is established slowly over time as you constantly work at it.

The storms of life will eventually come to all men regardless of which foundation they build upon.  Those who build on the foundation of Christ will stand.  They will be victorious through disease, political instability, financial ruin, persecution, etc.  They are even victorious in death, knowing that to be absent from the body is to be present with Christ.

However, those who did not build upon Jesus will have no hope in the storms of life.  They will have no comfort, no peace, no joy and no satisfaction when trouble comes.  They have no eternal assurance to lean upon when death comes to claim them.

As you consider these teachings of Jesus, examine yourself and make sure that you are indeed building by faith upon that sure foundation!

Matthew 7:28-29 – And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

The Scribes and Pharisees were the teachers of the Jewish nation.  However, they spent their time teaching mostly the traditions of their forefathers, not the word of God.  They also allowed useless and trivial disputes to occupy much of their time and attention.  As such, they were of little use to the spiritual growth of their fellow Jews.

Jesus, however, came speaking the true words of God.  He came in authority, confirming his doctrine with miracles.  Jesus showed that he had the authority to explain, enforce and change the ceremonial laws of the Jews.  He cut right through the foolishness of the Pharisees, revealing the truth like a breath of fresh air.  This authority was astounding to the Jews.

So let me offer you some encouragement:

It is true that there are many false teachers in the world, but you don’t have to be fooled by them!  Jesus has given you the tools to pick out the bad ‘apples’.

First, take a look at their fruits.  If they are good, that is a positive sign.  Next, listen to what they are teaching.  Does it line up with the rest of scripture?  That is another good indicator.  Finally, remember that Jesus says his sheep know his voice and they will not listen to the voice of another (see John 10).  So pray about it and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you about a particular teacher.  If God approves him, that is the best recommendation of all!

Let me offer you some relief: 

Even a very fruitful grape vine will produce some sour grapes once in a while.  In the same way, you and I are not perfect.  Once in a while we are going to ‘blow it’, or act according to our flesh instead of our spirit.  When that happens, ask God to forgive you and move on.  Don’t let Satan stop you in your tracks because you made a mistake.  If your life is showing a definite progression towards fruitfulness and good works, you are on the right track.

Let me offer you some strength: 

We are going to experience storms in this life.  They come in many different forms, including sickness, tough financial breaks, relationship problems, and many other things.  When those storms come, the person who has built their life on the solid rock of Christ Jesus WILL prevail!  We will go through those trials comforted, supported and protected by our Heavenly Father.  Hallelujah – His strength is made perfect in our weakness!

Our Bible Study is Changing!

Exciting News!!! Our Wednesday Night Adult Bible Study is transitioning through time and space and is landing in “The Future” by becoming an interactive online BLOG! This is being rolled out on January 1st and we look forward to interacting with all of you (our family) “ONLINE”! It is going to be fun to watch what the Lord does as we grow into our new online presence and beyond the walls of our Church Building! Think of it like this: One small step for Kipton, one Giant Leap for His Kingdom!

Stay tuned for updates as we prepare to launch our BLOG in full!