Tag Archives: Wisdom

Let Him Who Boasts Boast in the Lord!

Hatred as the Echo of Love

I hope you will agree with me that in order to love deeply, there are things you must deeply hate. You could think of examples yourself. To love children deeply you must hate any mistreatment or neglect that destroys them. If you love clear-headed kindness and respect, you have to hate alcoholism and drug addiction. If you love freedom, you have to hate slavery and totalitarianism.

The reason I start with this observation is because I am about to tell you something God hates, and I know that the word hate by itself has a negative and unattractive ring to it. But I want you to realize from the very outset that God’s hatred is the reflex of his love.

The only reason anybody should hate anything is because it replaces or ruins something beautiful and wonderful. Hatred should always stand in the service of love. If you hate anything, it should be because you love something more. So, when I tell you that God hates something, I want you to hear that hatred as the echo of His love. He hates what He hates because it replaces or ruins something beautiful.

God Hates Human Pride

More than anything else in the world, God hates human pride.

  • Proverbs 6:16–17(NKJV) says, 16 These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood,
    18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.
  • In Psalm 101:5(NKJV) David speaks for God and says, Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, Him I will destroy; The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, Him I will not endure.
  • Proverbs 16:5 (NKJV), “Everyone proud in heartis an abomination to the Lord;
    Though they join forces, none will go unpunished.”
  • Isaiah 2:11 (NKJV), The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, The haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.
  • Jeremiah 50:31 (NKJV), 31 “Behold, I amagainst you, O most haughty one!” says the Lord God of hosts; “For your day has come, The time that I will punish you.
  • Jesus said in Luke 16:15 (NKJV), 15 And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”
  • And in Acts 12:23 (NKJV) it says that 23 Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.

Pride as the Root Problem in the Corinthian Church

God hates human pride. And this is the root problem in the church at Corinth. Let’s take a quick survey of the letters to Corinth to see if this is so, and also to see just what pride is. Ask these two questions as we go: is pride the root problem at Corinth, and what actually is pride?

Is Pride the Root Problem at Corinth?

  • 1 Corinthians 1:29 — “29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.”
  • 1 Corinthians 1:31 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
  • 1 Corinthians 3:7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.
  • 1 Corinthians 3:21 21 Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours:
  • 1 Corinthians 4:6— ” . . . that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
  • 1 Corinthians 4:18 — “18 Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you.”
  • 1 Corinthians 5:2 — “And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.”
  • 1 Corinthians 8:1 — “Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.”
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 — “Love suffers long andis kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed updoes not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there          are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.”
  • 2 Corinthians 1:9 9 “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, . . . .”
  • 2 Corinthians 3:5 5 “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, . . . .”
  • 2 Corinthians 4:7 7 “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9 9 “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

It is not hard to see that the root problem in the church at Corinth is pride. And it is not hard to see either what that pride is.

What Is Pride?

  • It is boasting in self and not the Lord.
  • It is taking credit ourselves for what God alone can do.
  • It is relying on self and not God.
  • It is feeling sufficiency in our own strength and not in God’s.
  • It is the disinclination to admit that we are mere earthen vessels so that another gets the glory.
  • It is the unwillingness to admit weaknesses that may accent the power of Christ.

What God Loves That Makes Him Hate Pride

What’s the beautiful thing that is replaced or ruined by pride? What does God love so much that he must hate pride with all his might? The answer is plain from all these texts.

  • He loves the heart that boasts in the Lord.
  • He loves the heart that gives Him credit for what He alone can do.
  • He loves the heart that relies on His power.
  • He loves the heart that wants Him to get the glory in all things and that wants the power of His Son to shine in our weakness.

And if you have caught on to the essence of Christian Hedonism, you will know that when God delights in this, He delights in the deepest, most satisfying human experience possible.

Because:

  • We were made to boast in God.
  • We were made to give Him credit for all good.
  • We were made to rely on His power.
  • We were made to magnify His glory and His all sufficiency in our weakness.

This is the source of all ultimate joy and satisfaction. If God were to delight in anything less than our boasting in Him, He would be an idolater and He would be a killjoy. Pride diverts our capacity for exultation from the galaxies of God’s glory to the gutters of our puny achievements. It is a decorated dead end street.

Therefore, God hates pride. And we should hate in ourselves what God hates in us, and wield the sword of the Spirit as best we can to slay this dragon in our souls – PRIDE.

Five Steps in Paul’s Combat Against Pride

So, what I want to do is take you with me through Paul’s thought process in 1 Corinthians 1:18–31. It comes to a climax in verse 31 with the words, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” So really what we are asking is, how does Paul guide a person from being proud and self-reliant into being a person who exults in God and not self?

May that happen for all of us as we follow the Word of God.

I see at least five steps in Paul’s thought in these verses.

  1. Recognize What We All Want to Boast In

The first step is the basic fact of experience that humans want something to boast in, but not God.

Verse 22:  22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;

“Signs” are the display of power and “wisdom” is the display of intelligence. So, the underlying point is: some people get their strokes through power and others get their strokes through intelligence. It might be your own power or intelligence, or it might belong to someone you can associate with (as was the case here in Corinth).

It might be a World Series ball team in your city that you boast about, or it might be your alma mater, or the company you work for, or a friend, or even a religion, or a church. Pride can boast in itself directly or it can boast in itself indirectly by association. So, two absolutely incompetent ballplayers may brag about the ball team in their city as though they had anything to do with making the team good.

I think God created man with a deep desire to boast in something great, but sin came into the world and made every one of us hate to boast in God. So, we seek for displays of power and displays of intelligence and we make these our gods. It might be the power of a tractor pull, or a rocket booster, or a motorcycle, or biceps that look like grapefruits, or (if you are a woman) the power of a shapely figure. Or it might be an A-average in school, or an advanced degree, or a published article, or a merit scholarship, or investment savvy, or the ability to win at Trivial Pursuit.

The Greeks craved eloquent displays of intelligence and the Jews wanted amazing displays of power. One man says, Show me something great with your mind, and another says, Show me something great with your body. But no one ever says (apart from the Spirit; 1 Corinthians 12:3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.), Show me God. Sin has blinded us.

  1. Affirm God’s Superiority Over All Else

So, the second step in Paul’s thought is to affirm what everyone denies, namely, the superiority of God over all the power and wisdom of the world.

Verse 25:  25 “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

In other words, it is a great tragedy when your quest for power and wisdom stops short of God. Because God is a treasure of power and a treasure of wisdom infinitely greater than any of the things that excite you in this world.

Paul wants to stamp this truth on us so deeply that he risks some dangerous language about God, doesn’t he? He says that when God is as foolish as He can be, He is still smarter than all the wisdom of men. And when God is as weak as He can be, He is still stronger than all the power that man can unleash.

When God stoops to hold a child on His lap, He also holds the subatomic particles of that child’s flesh in existence by the power of His thought. And when He stooped to let Himself be mocked and beaten and crucified and stabbed, He destroyed the power of Satan over His people, He covered the sins of millions of sinners, and He vindicated the glory of His name.

How foolish for us to seek wisdom and power in the world and not in God when the weakness of God is stronger than any power in the world and the foolishness of God is wiser than any wisdom in the world!

  1. Describe How God Deals with Human Pride

So, the third step in Paul’s thought is to describe how God deals with man’s love for human intelligence and power. It is stated in verse 19 and in verse 21.

  • Verse 19: 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
  • Verse 21: 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

He Blockades the Way of Self-Reliance and Pride

Here’s the way I would put this in my own words: In His wisdom God decided to blockade all the roads that men are building to heaven by their own power and intelligence, and to put in their place one narrow gate and one hard road, namely, the Calvary road and the gate of the cross.

There are two ways that God destroys the wisdom of the wise and frustrates the cleverness of the clever.

  1. He blockades their self-reliant quest for God—that’s what the first half of verse 21 means: “In the wisdom of God the world did not know God through wisdom.”
  2. He preaches Christ crucified as the only way to God. This destroys the wisdom of the wise and frustrates the cleverness of the clever because it is so humiliating to cast yourself on the accomplishments of a bloody redeemer.

Look at verse 30: 30 But of Him [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—

He Opens Only One Way to Glory: The Cross

You can easily see why the cross is the end of the line for human pride. Picture a well-respected American businessman, a banker, lawyer, doctor, well dressed, well groomed, being taken out the gate of the city to the garbage dump and being stood in front of a post with a naked man hanging by the nails driven through his wrists, covered with blood, gasping for his last breaths, and being told, “This, sir, is wisdom and righteousness and holiness and redemption. Will you kneel down here and cast yourself on him for mercy?”

In other words, God has chosen a way of salvation that devastates human pride. “That! You want me to bow down before that! You think I need that! Don’t you see how I am dressed! Have you seen the car I drive! Don’t you know where I work! Don’t you know how much money I make! And you think I need that heap of bloody flesh! What do you think I am, a dog? A worm?”

23 “. . .  but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks [Gentiles] foolishness, . . . .” (verse 23). 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (verse 18).

So, in His wisdom God cuts off the way of pride and frustrates man’s reliance on human power and human wisdom. And then He opens a way to glory and to God that proud man cannot stand, namely, the way of the cross.

Why? Is it because He hates man? No. It is because He hates pride. When God blockades the road of pride, he blockades the road to destruction. And when He routes you onto the Calvary Road of brokenness and humility and faith, He routes you to glory and to God—and in the presence of God is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures for evermore (Psalm 16:11 11 “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”)

  1. Explains God’s General Choice of People

Therefore, the fourth step in Paul’s thought here is a kind of warning: there are not many powerful or shrewd people who respond to the saving word of the cross.

Verse 20: 20 “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?”

Verse 26–28: 26 “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, . . .”

In other words, not only has God blockaded the pathways of pride and opened the way of the cross, but He is also opening the hearts of many foolish and weak and low and despised people along with a few upper-class people, in order to put to shame those who boast in power and wisdom and class and achievement.

Why? This brings us to our last step.

  1. Declares the Purpose of God in Acting Accordingly

It is stated negatively in verse 29 and positively in verse 31.

  • Verse 29: 29 “. . . . that no flesh should glory in His presence.”
  • Verse 31: 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

The purpose of God in the creation of man and the salvation of sinners is that we might boast in HIM. This is God’s will for you today. God is speaking in these words very clearly. And what He is saying is this: turn this very moment from all boasting in yourself. Don’t seek your pleasure any more in your own wisdom, or your own strength, or your own looks, or your own achievements. Look to Christ crucified and see what becomes of it all.

Paul said in Galatians 6:14, 14 “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

So, I call you to come to Christ and die — and to live. And the promise of God is this: there is no greater life, no greater joy than to boast in Him!

God, I call upon your name. This country has fallen into turmoil due to the election of one man. This is wrong. All eyes are on President Elect Trump instead of focusing on you and seeking your wisdom and strength as to how to deal with this situation. There is rioting in the streets instead of prayer, there is discord and discontent among peoples of this country instead of a cohesive and unified focus on You and what You want, the country is divided and your word explicitly tells us that – 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. (Mark 3:25 (NKJV)). So, what to do? We as a people, a nation seek your guidance during these troubled times. Help restore peace to our streets and communities, help bring our leadership together under one God, one nation. You put into office who You felt would do the best job. Please help this nation understand that and to abide by Your decision and wisdom and not their own. I thank you for the privilege of praying for peace and prosperity under our new leadership. I thank you dear Jesus for dyeing on the cross in order to restore us back to God, giving us an avenue, a gateway to God and all that He was, is and will be. Thank You. In Your precious Son’s name I pray, Amen.

Can We Win People for Christ?

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more . . .” —I Corinthians 9:19

In John 10:35Jesus Christ makes a parenthetical statement that is easy to overlook, and yet it is a foundational principle when it comes to understanding the Bible. He says, “. . . and the Scripture cannot be broken. . .” (emphasis mine throughout).

John 10:35-36 (NKJV)

35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

The written Word of God is another part of His creative work, and in His inspired words, we see the same forethought, consistency, and magnificence that we see in everything that God does. Because His character is true and constant, the Scriptures can never be contradictory. When we encounter something in them that seems incongruous, the defect is only in our understanding, not in what God has provided for us.

The religious tradition that took root and gained prominence after the deaths of the first-century apostles did not hold this principle unscathed, and as a result, formal Christianity today holds doctrines that are an unholy mixture of portions of the Scripture, along with pagan beliefs and philosophies that have been picked up through the millennia. In contrast, true doctrines fit together in a unified whole, each one supporting and reinforcing the overall body of beliefs. Because of this, if one doctrine is changed or misapplied, the consistency of the whole begins to unravel.

A clear example of this is what the Bible steadfastly shows regarding God’s calling and election. Scripture teaches that a man cannot even approach the Messiah unless the Father draws, or calls, him (John 6:44: 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”). In other words, salvation is not available to all people right now. But because not all professing Christians truly hold to the infallibility of God’s Word, many believe that anyone can accept Jesus Christ as his Savior, and all that is needed is for other Christians to win over the unsaved. Sometimes this belief is pure and altruistic, and at other times the belief is shaded by a desire to win a person over to a particular denomination or administrative entity. Either way, the conventional religious wisdom is that we can—and should — “win people for Christ.”

However, this belief does not exist in a vacuum. A person’s understanding of God’s calling is linked with his belief in the different resurrections. It is crucial to the understanding of Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles because these festivals symbolize different physical and spiritual harvests—one early, smaller harvest and one later, much larger harvest. It shapes the understanding of the gospel of the Kingdom and tempers expectations on the effect when the world hears the gospel. If the scriptures about God’s calling are broken, then many other core beliefs begin to break down as well.

 Winning the More

However, one passage seems to suggest that Paul tried to win people for Christ. It is found in  Corinthians 9:19-22:

“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as wIithout law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

Paul mentions five times here that he is trying to “win” different people, and in verse 22, he writes that he is trying to “save some.” This passage is commonly interpreted that Paul would present himself differently in various circumstances to win people for Christ; he became all things to all men in order to “save” at least some of them. This interpretation fits the general evangelical belief that Christians should do whatever is necessary to “win souls for Christ” and to get all manner of people “saved” before they die.

However, if that is what this passage means, then holy Scripture is broken! Such a reading contradicts numerous other clear biblical statements. For example, as alluded to above, in John 6:44,  Jesus says, No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” A little later in John 6:65, He reiterates this: “. . . no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” Without the Father providing an individual an approach to Christ, he cannot come to Him for salvation. The Father must intervene first—human intervention makes no difference.

Acts 13 contains the story of Paul and Barnabas preaching to Gentiles in Antioch. Luke writes in verse 48: “Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” Even though the apostles preached to many, only certain people believed what they heard because only they had been appointed to eternal life.

John 17:3 provides a basic definition of the eternal life to which some were appointed: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Eternal life, then, is not merely endless living, but is the quality of life that comes from having relationships with the Father and the Son—and only the Father determines who will have such relationships during this age. Those who are not appointed to eternal life now will have their opportunity in the second resurrection.

This parallels Paul’s statement in Ephesians 2:8 that grace and saving faith are both gifts from God (For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,”). He is not beholden to give the faith that saves—that is why it comes as a gift only to some. In fact, in II Thessalonians 3:2, the apostle says that “not all [men] have faith.” An interlinear Bible will show that the Greek contains a definite article— “the”—before “faith”: “not all have the faith.” There is a specific faith, but only those to whom God gives it have it.

Jesus declares, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Claiming Jesus as our Lord has no effect if He does not know us ((23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ verse 23), and as John6:44   shows, the Father determines whether a person can even approach Jesus Christ (44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”).

In Acts 2:38, Peter speaks about receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then he says, “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call (verse 39). But without that calling, the promise does not apply. Likewise, Jesus declares that many are called, but few are chosen (Matthew 20:1622:14).

Many verses mention God’s specific foreknowledge, calling, and election of some and not others (Acts 13:222:14Romans 1:6-78:28-309:1111:216:13I Corinthians 1:91:24-28Galatians 1:65:8Ephesians 1:4;4:1Colossians 3:15I Thessalonians 1:42:124:75:24II Thessalonians 1:112:13-14I Timothy 6:12II Timothy 1:9Hebrews 3:19:15I Peter 1:22:95:10II Peter 1:10Jude 1Revelation 17:14).

Clearly, God has specifically determined who will come into a relationship with Him during this age—and it is not everyone!

If the scriptures are to remain unbroken, either all of these examples of God limiting salvation right now are wrong, or the common interpretation of I Corinthians 9:19-22 misses the mark!

 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 (NKJV)

 Serving All Men

 19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law,[a] that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God,[b] but under law toward Christ[c]), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as[d] weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

 Footnotes:

a. 1 Corinthians 9:20 NU-Text adds though not being myself under the law.

b. 1 Corinthians 9:21 NU-Text reads God’s law.

c. 1 Corinthians 9:21 NU-Text reads Christ’s law.

d. 1 Corinthians 9:22 NU-Text omits

To Win Is to Gain

What Paul means in this passage becomes clear when we understand the sense and usage of two Greek words, those translated as “win” and “save.” In the evangelical world, both of them have taken on lives of their own, but with just a little digging, we will see that no contradiction lies between this passage and the numerous other clear statements.

The word translated as “win” is kerdaino (Strong’s #2770), and its basic meaning is “gain,” which is how it is typically translated. It means “to acquire by effort or investment.” It can mean “to earn” or “to make a profit.” The flipside is that it can also mean “to cause a loss not to occur.”

This word is used infrequently, but the verses that contain it are well known. For example, Jesus uses it when He cautions against gaining the whole world yet losing one’s own soul (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36Luke 9:27). The gain is a physical or material one—it is not speaking of evangelizing the whole world. It also appears in the Parable of the Talents, where two of the servants gain more talents through their efforts and investments

(Matthew 25:16-22).

 Kerdaino is also found in the well-known Matthew 18:15, where Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” The gaining here is not about “winning” someone “for Christ.” When we gain our brother, we are gaining a better relationship. We are keeping a breach in the relationship from continuing. We receive a profit, as it were, by enhancing the connection or bond between us. There is no implication that we are opening his mind to the mysteries of God’s Kingdom. It simply means that after bringing a sin to his attention, if he hears and receives us, then we have gained our brother because the relationship has been restored. There is a similar usage in I Peter 3:1-2:

“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.”

Quite a number of translators and commentators read into this verse that the example of the godly wife wins the husband to Christ. But Peter makes no mention of Jesus in these verses, nor is he saying that a godly wife has the ability to call, let alone convert, an unbelieving husband. As shown already, God alone retains the power to open a person’s mind and give him the faith that produces spiritual salvation.

This is not to deprecate the power of a good example in the least. Our example is a large part of whether we are upholding the holiness of God’s name or bearing it in vain. Our example gives evidence of our spiritual paternity, for either we will resemble Satan or we will resemble God. When we display the same characteristics as our heavenly Father, He is glorified, and those who observe our good example can see that God’s way of life produces good results.

However, even the very best example will not convert another unless God is also calling him or her. Even after 3½ years of walking and preaching on earth, the perfect witness of the Son of God did not convert everyone He encountered! If a good example were all that was needed, we could expect that everyone who observed Jesus would come to Him—but that is not what happened at all! After His death, there were only about 120 disciples (or perhaps 120 families; Acts 1:15). Obviously, God did not call every person who encountered Jesus—He will call them when they are resurrected.

Clearly, the conduct of a child of God is of utmost importance, particularly in the case of one spouse being called and converted while the other is not. Yet, even if the believing spouse sets a perfect example, “chaste conduct accompanied by fear” will not win the unbelieving spouse for Christ. Instead, the “winning” or the “gaining” in I Peter 3:1 is similar to the gaining of our brother in Matthew 18:15. Just as it may be possible (through our efforts) to have a more profitable relationship with a brother who sinned against us, so it may also be possible for a godly wife to gain the heart of an unbelieving husband, so that he respects her more and begins to let go of his animosity.

1 Peter 3:1-2 (NKJV)

Submission to Husbands

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.

Matthew 18:15 (NKJV)

Dealing with a Sinning Brother

 15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.

This is similar to Proverbs 16:7: “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” God can cause an enemy to begin looking favorably upon one of His children, and thus the former foe is gained. By our efforts, though, we can only gain a person in terms of the human relationship. We cannot cause a relationship to occur between man and God—only God can initiate that.

In the same way, the winning or gaining that Paul is striving for in I Corinthians 9:19-22 is simply protecting or improving the connection he had with the people he encountered. His gaining of these people was not the same thing as converting them or of opening their minds to the reality of God. He was trying not to be unnecessarily offensive, but the scope of his behavior was entirely on the level of human interaction, not on getting people saved in a spiritual or eternal sense.

Save Some” From What?

This leads us to verse 22, where Paul speaks of “save [ing] some.” Sometimes we have an automatic tendency to think of eternal salvation, or at the very least justification, whenever we hear the words “save” or “saved.” However, that is only one facet of the Greek word translated as “save,” sozo (Strong’s #4982), whose basic meaning is “to make safe.” It can be expanded to mean “to deliver or protect, either literally or figuratively.”

1 Corinthians 9:22 (NKJV)

22 to the weak I became as[a] weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

 Footnotes:

a. 1 Corinthians 9:22NU-Text omits

This word is frequently used in reference to physical deliverance from a dangerous or undesirable situation, and is often translated as “heal,” “preserve,” and “make whole.” When healing people, Jesus would tell them, “Your faith has made you whole. He was essentially saying, “Your faith has saved you”but the salvation was a physical one. The person was saved from a condition of misery.

In the highest sense, a person is not ultimately saved — “safe”—until he or she is no longer subject to death or to sin, which earns death. That is, we are not truly safe until “this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality” (I Corinthians 15:54). Until resurrected or changed at Christ’s return—until we are “like Him” (I John 3:2), and “death is swallowed up in victory” (Isaiah 25:8)—we are subject to the corruption of our human nature, the breakdown of our physical bodies, and the cessation of life, all things that keep us from being eternally safe. Until we are spirit beings, we will always be in need of deliverance, protection, healing, and restoration. Even the salvation that takes place upon our repentance and the forgiveness of our past sins does not guarantee our future safety, for until we take our final breath, it is possible for us to turn away from God and reject His way of life.

When analyzing I Corinthians 9:22, then, we have to consider what kind of salvation Paul is talking about. Since no man is saved eternally at the point of conversion, he is not referring to eternal salvation. We also know that he could not have meant justification here either, because even an apostle does not have the power to justify. Nor was he given the authority to impart true belief. As we saw, only those whom God appoints to eternal life at this time are going to believe. So that sort of saving is not what Paul is talking about.

Before we get to the full explanation, we need to take a step back and understand how this passage fits with the rest of the epistle. I Corinthians 8-10 relate to the controversy over eating meat offered to idols. Paul’s basic teaching throughout these chapters is that it was far better for the Corinthians to deny themselves a perfectly lawful thing than to risk causing a brother to stumble. Through much of this instruction, he uses his own pattern of self-denial as an example, showing in various ways that he would go without lawful things to keep from causing unnecessary offense.

Thus, if he were interacting with the Jews, he would deny himself things that could be offensive to them but that technically would have been fine. It is not that he would compromise with God’s standards, but he would limit himself for the sake of not turning people away. This is what he was doing to gain them. By these means, he was working for a more profitable relationship. His basic point in the overall context is that, if he were willing to do this to gain people who were not even converted, then the Corinthians should be willing to limit and restrain themselves for the sake of gaining their own brethren. A person who is “gained” is more likely to hear what we have to say, so we may be used to help them in some way.

Seeking Positive Rapport

So what does Paul mean by writing, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some”? He may have been referring to their eventual salvation, which he might play a part in, but which he could not actually claim as having brought about. As he had previously written: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase”(I Corinthians 3:6-7).

1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (NKJV)

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

However, there is a type of “saving” that Paul could have a hand in through his preaching: “My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, he should know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)

James 5:19-20 (NKJV)

Bring Back the Erring One

19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul[a] from death and cover a multitude of sins.

Footnotes:

a. James 5:20 NU-Text reads his soul.

James is not referring to eternal salvation or justification. He means making a man safe by helping him to stop a sin. If a person is sliding into apostasy, and someone turns him back, a type of salvation has occurred, for the one who had been going astray is now on a safer trajectory. If an individual helps another avoid or overcome any sin, a type of salvation has occurred because there is always greater safety where sin has been diminished. This salvation is only a shadow of the kind that God gives, but a saving nonetheless occurs anytime protection or deliverance is provided.

Thus, I Corinthians 9:19-22 shows that, wherever possible, Paul practiced self-denial so that he could gain a positive rapport with others. In this way, he might help them because his preaching of the truth could stir repentance in some area. He is not suggesting that through his preaching or example a person would be justified and brought into a relationship with God, but that his life would be better because there would be at least a little less enmity toward God and His way.

Without compromising, Paul kept the door open so that he could preach, and perhaps his preaching would protect or deliver someone in a small way, even if God was not calling the individual. Nevertheless, Paul was not bringing people into a relationship with Christ, nor is he suggesting that we try to do that either.

 

Free Will and Wisdom

Police Shootings, ISIS Terrorism, Addictions, And Domestic Violence: Psychologists Explain Why It All Happens

Police shootings, ISIS terrorism, addictions, and domestic violence are increasing in our society. Many have described these incidents as senseless, but is it really?

Theories

 Police shootings, ISIS terrorism, addictions, and domestic violence are increasing in our society. Many have described these incidents as senseless, but is it really? Psychologists Sean Seepersad, Ph.D., Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., and Amanda Taub, who holds the unusual title of Senior Sadness Correspondent, and human rights expert, approach various aspects of society in a quest to make sense of the senseless.

 Police shootings, ISIS terrorism, addictions, and domestic violence are all symptoms and not the disease, according to these experts. Their separate conclusions weave a cohesive picture of a society breaking down because the building blocks of that society, namely people and relationships, are eroding.

 Fear, isolation, and a need for control seem to be the unholy trinity of all modern ills, based on the work of these experts.

 Reality

 Free will. According to Oxford Dictionaries, free will is defined as “The power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion.”

According to Theopedia: Probably the most common definition of free will is the “ability to make choices without any prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition, and specifically that these “free will” choices are not ultimately predestined by God.

 So the question we as Christians need to ask ourselves is: “Do human beings truly have a free will?”

 Were the incidents described above due to “a society breaking down because the building blocks of that society, namely people and relationships, are eroding.” Or were they because we as a human race exercised our free will to decide without wise counsel. We reacted instead of being proactive and making wise decisions as to how to handle the outcomes.

 So, the answer to the above question as to whether or not human beings truly have a free will is YES! If “free will” means that God gives humans the opportunity to make choices that genuinely affect their destiny, then yes, human beings do have a free will.

 The world’s current sinful state is directly linked to choices made by Adam and Eve. Both Adam and Eve had a choice to make: to take a bite out of the apple or not take a bite. We already know the answer to their dilemma, but even though we say that man is born to sin (Romans 5:18-19), free will does not mean that mankind can do anything he pleases.

Our choices are limited to what is in keeping with our nature. For example, a man may choose to walk across a bridge or not to walk across it; what he may not choose is to fly over the bridge—his nature prevents him from flying. In a similar way, a man cannot choose to make himself righteous—his (sin) nature prevents him from canceling his guilt (Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”). So, free will is limited by nature.

This limitation does not alleviate our accountability. The Bible is clear that we not only have the ability to choose, we also have the responsibility to choose wisely (Proverbs 12:26, Psalms 1:1-6). In the Old Testament, God chose a nation (Israel), but individuals within that nation still bore an obligation to choose obedience to God. And individuals outside of Israel were able to choose to believe and follow God as well (e.g., Ruth and Rahab).

 In the New Testament, sinners are commanded over and over to “repent” and “believe” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Acts 3:19; 1 John 3:23). Every call to repent is a call to choose. The command to believe assumes that the hearer can choose to obey the command.

 Jesus identified the problem of some unbelievers when He told them, “You refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:40). Clearly, they could have come if they wanted to; their problem was they chose not to. “A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7), and those who are outside of salvation are “without excuse” (Romans 1:20-21).

But how can man, limited by a sin nature, ever choose what is good? It is only through the grace and power of God that free will truly become “free” in the sense of being able to choose salvation (John 15:16). It is the Holy Spirit who works in and through a person’s will to regenerate that person (John 1:12-13) and give him/her a new nature “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). Salvation is God’s work. At the same time, our motives, desires, and actions are voluntary, and we are rightly held responsible for them. But is all the pain and suffering in the world from the gift of free will worth it? Is free will the cause of evil? Some people think so and want to take away our freedoms. But, free will is not the issue. It never has been the issue. Jesus had free will and went about doing good (Acts 10:38). Jesus chose wisely, always thinking, saying, and doing the will of the Father (John 6:38).

 As stated above, the Bible is clear that we not only have the ability to choose, we also have the responsibility to choose wisely. Why would God allow men to have free will when their hearts and minds do evil unceasingly (Genesis 6:5)? Is free will really that important to God? Yes, it is. The entire Gospel is all about free will and wisdom, letting men discover the truth and then choose wisely or unwisely. As an unknown author wrote, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours. If it does not come back, it was never meant to be.” “The Prodigal Son” is a parable that nicely personifies this quote (Luke 15:11-24).

From the beginning, God knew all the risks and vowed to never let go of His eternal purpose for men, which is to let them choose, whether wisely or unwisely. God knew the risks and declared “free will” would be every person’s right no matter what. (Deuteronomy 30:19).

God set all men free with the hope they would choose to return (1 Timothy 2:3-4). God knew the risks but drank the bitter cup of rejection knowing many would never return. He allowed men to have free will. He allowed them to go. But in doing so, He also gave them the Gospel, a path back to the Father should they chose to return, like the Prodigal Son (John 14:6).

 Did God make the right decision by giving men the gift of free will? Yes, absolutely! Again, “Salvation is God’s work. At the same time, our motives, desires, and actions are voluntary, and we are rightly held responsible for them.”

If you were to ask your children if we (as parents) made the right decision to bring them into a fallen world they would answer, “Yes, absolutely!” They would answer in the affirmative not because life has been easy or fun or grand. It hasn’t always been, not for any of them. They would answer “yes” because they know free will is a gift and wisdom a means to manage the troubles and struggles on the narrow pathway of life (Ephesians 5:15-16).