Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Birth of the Last Adam

The Birth of the Last Adam
I Corinthians chapter fifteen gives considerable details about the resurrection from the dead.  However, when reading the text, few consider the necessary birth of the “last Adam” to bring about the possibility of the resurrection from the dead into a New Genesis.  In other words, the resurrection of the believer from death is not merely to live again in a new human physical body within the curse of the cursed first creation.  Through His incarnation, Jesus opened a doorway into the New Genesis.  This doorway is opened and offered to all fallen sinners “by grace . . . through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).  This is not talking about a fire escape from Hell, although this is one of the outcomes of being “born again.”  I Corinthians chapter fifteen is detailing the transfiguration of the “born again” believer from a predominantly physical being to a predominantly spiritual being through what God calls glorification

          As we read I Corinthians chapter fifteen, we must carefully note that the resurrection and glorification of all truly “born again” believers in Jesus Christ is connected to the incarnation of the Son of God into humanity to generate a new species of humanity that is literally out of this world.  In other words, the phrase “last Adam” is a new type of generation of humanity that is both spiritual and eternal in existence.  Any resemblance to the old body is merely superficial.  This will be explained with another metaphor in I Corinthians 15:39-44. 

          It is clear in the statement of I Corinthians 15:36, that most people thought the resurrection from the dead was merely and eternal continuance of life as they now knew it.  This notion as addressed as foolish. 

35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? 36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: 37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: 38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body” (I Corinthians 15:35-38).

The questions of I Corinthians 15:35 were the subject of endless theologian debate and the positing of conjectures.  The clear majority of arguments took a naturalistic view saying the new body would be similar to the present human body, except the resurrected person would never die again.  Other arguments of the naturalistic view said the new body would be the same except it would not possess a sin nature and therefore not be tempted with sin.  All naturalistic views of the resurrection appear to be ignorant of the New Genesis and the transfiguration of the human body to live within that New Genesis in perfect, eternal fellowship with God.

The point of argument of I Corinthians 15:36-38 is that the naturalistic views of the resurrection/glorification of “born again” believers are superficial in that the naturalistic views fail to see that the Creator is supernaturally involved in a New Creation in the resurrection/glorification.  Naturally, we understand that a grain seed is planted in the earth after it dies to bring forth an increase of quantity of the same grain planted.  You plant a corn seed; a stalk of corn grows with numerous ears of corn upon that stalk.  No one expects to plant corn seed and have wheat grow from that corn.  That would be miraculous and the farmer would bring the world to see that kind of miracle.  However, I Corinthians 15:36-38 addresses a supernatural occurrence exceeding this completely.  The metaphor says that the farmer can plant a dead corn seed and it produces a completely unknown grain that is not even of this world.  Taking the metaphor one step further, the supernatural operations of God in the resurrection/glorification of “born again” believers will be varied according to God’s pleasure.
In expanding upon this variety in the resurrection/glorification of believers’ new bodies, God uses several different metaphors to explain that the resurrected/glorified believer will not receive a physical body like humanity has in this life.  The emphasis of I Corinthians 15:39-44 uses the metaphors of variety of different kinds of “flesh” in different kinds of animals and different amounts of radiance from different kinds of planetary bodies.  The implication of the I Corinthians 15:39-44 appears to be there will be a wide diversity in the appearance of the believers’ new bodies.  They will not all look alike and they will not all produce the same amount of light (glory). 

39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. 40 There are also celestial {above the sky} bodies, and bodies terrestrial {earthly}: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead” (I Corinthians 15:39-42).

Perhaps, these variations in resurrected bodies are rewards to eternally distinguish certain believers for the faithful quality of lives they lived within the curse.  We certainly know that rewards for faithfulness will be given to faithful believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ for the Kingdom Age (Matthew 25:14-30; the parable of the Talents).  The rewards for the Kingdom Age will involve the gift of positions of rule with Christ proportionate to the faithful witness of the believer during this life and the production of fruit through their lives.  The “light” with which a believer glorified God (i.e., revealed Him) in this life will be proportionate to the glory that will emanate from his new glorified body in the New Genesis. 

I Corinthians 15:42-44 lists four dramatic supernatural changes in the “born again” believer’s resurrected/glorified new body.  Again, these dramatic supernatural changes are to emphasize the radical difference between the natural views of the resurrection of the body. 

42 It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (I Corinthians 15:42-44).

          The point of the differences of which this text speaks refers to the differences between the two worlds (Matthew 12:32) that were created “in the beginning.”  The world in which we now live is primarily a physical or natural world.  This world was cursed of God and will eventually be “dissolved with fervent heat” (II Peter 3:12) at the end of the Kingdom Age.  The “world to come” will primarily be a spiritual world that the Bible calls a “new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1-8).  The word “new” used throughout Revelation 21:1-8 is translated from the Greek word kainos (kahee-nos'), not neosNeos means new of the same kindKainos means new of a different kind, or a new kind of genesis.  This is significant in that God is not going to make another world like the world created and given to Adam and Eve in the “garden of Eden.”  The “new heaven and a new earth” will be radically different.  Therefore, we should expect that the believers’ new glorified bodies will also be radically different from the bodies we presently have. 

1 And I saw a new {kainos} heaven and a new {kainos} earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new {kainos} Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new {kainos}. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. 6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. 7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:1-9).

The main difference between the natural views of the resurrection/glorification and the supernatural view is defined by the ways the supernatural will be a New Creation that is different from the original creation of “this world” and “the world to come” (Matthew 12:32).  The “this world” creation is merely a simplistic embryo of “the world to come.”  The four main differences given in I Corinthians 15:42-44 in the way the human body will be recreated during the resurrection/glorification are:

1. “It is sown in corruption {decay or ruin}; it is raised in incorruption {unending existence; never being able to be destroyed or ruined}” -
2. It is sown in dishonor {infamy, disgrace, shame, vile being totally incapable of reflecting the character and nature of God in Whose image humanity was created}; it is raised in glory {glorious or capable of reflecting the character and nature of God in Whose image humanity was created}”
3. “It is sown in weakness {morally and spiritual weak or frail thereby susceptible to deception and temptation}; it is raised in power {with miraculous power that has no susceptibility to deception and temptation}”
4. “It is sown a natural body {with all the limitations of a physical body}; it is raised a spiritual body {supernatural without all the limitations of a physical body}.” 

          There are still many unanswered questions regarding the resurrected/glorified body that will be individually created for believers by God.  God does not answer these questions in the Bible now.  We probably could not comprehend the differences now anyway. 

6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (I Corinthians 2:6-11).

          The new kind of body the believer will receive upon the resurrection/glorification is like an unopened gift.  We know God has something wondrous and incomprehensible to us as of now, but it remains unopened to our understanding until we can fully comprehend it by experiencing that new existence of that new body.  God could tell us more, but words could not explain what God will then give us.  In other words, just as God’s Word says, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (I Corinthians 2:9).
However, we can certainly see that all the naturalistic positions regarding the resurrected/glorified body are eliminated.  The future resurrected/glorified bodies of all “born again” believers will be totally disconnected and removed from the world that now is and become part of the world that is to come – the New Heaven/Earth.  There will be no place for “flesh and blood” in the world to come.  This is the substance of the statement in I Corinthians 15:45-50.  Again, another clear argument against the naturalistic view of the resurrected body. 

“45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. 46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. 47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (I Corinthians 15:45-50).

The phrase “last Adam” is unique to I Corinthians 15:45. The phrase “last Adam” refers to the Person of Jesus as the “firstborn” of the New Genesis; particularly to the humanity of Jesus.  The point of the text is that God planned for Jesus as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8) before Adam ever fell into sin bringing God’s curse upon His creation.  The birth of Jesus is the crown of humanity.  In Jesus, humanity was eternally united with the Creator through the Theanthropic union of the eternal Son of God and the humanity of Jesus through the virgin birth.  In uniting the Creator with the humanity of Jesus, then Jesus became the “last Adam” with the Divine power of both redemption and regeneration. 

This is expanded upon in Romans 5:12-19 providing a juxtaposition of generation between the first Adam and the “last Adam,” i.e. Jesus as the firstborn of the regeneration.  This is the significance of the phrase “the last Adam was made a quickening {life giving} spirit” (I Corinthians 15:45).  Again, the gift of life here is not just a new life like the old life a sinner had before he was saved from Hell and regenerated.  This is a new kind of life like the kind of life that Jesus had on earth.  Eventually this new life will be put into a new body just as Jesus was resurrected and glorified into a new body.  A new place of existence will be created for this new manner of existence “in Christ” and the Christ-life through the filling of the Holy Spirit Who indwells the believer when the believer is “born again.”

It is critically important to understand that a new resurrected/glorified body will only be given to those who have been saved from Hell and received the gift of redemption from eternal prison of death that is offered by faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:6-21). 

6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement {reconciliation}. 12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. 15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. 17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. 20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: 21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:6-21).

The great transcending truth here is the substance of the Kingdom of Christ.  The Kingdom of Christ is the New Genesis that exists only “in Christ.”  In the New Genesis (“the world to come;” Matthew 12:32 or “the regeneration,” Matthew 19:28), Christ Jesus is the “firstborn” as Adam was the “firstborn” of the world that now is.  The first Adam’s sin nature was seminally transfer to all his generations through procreation and genetics.  With this sin nature comes death, which is eternal separation from God.  The “last Adam” (Jesus) gifts holiness and righteousness to all His generations through the indwelling Holy Spirit in the gift of salvation and being “born again” of the Spirit of God.  Glorification is the completion of the believers’ salvation (Romans 8:29).  In the resurrection and glorification of Jesus, He became “firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).

12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:12-18).

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, November 28, 2016

“O give thanks unto the LORD”

“O give thanks unto the LORD”

To be thankful is perhaps the most noble of human virtues in that to be truly thankful one must acknowledge that all that he has is undeserved.  To be truly thankful is to be content with what one has.  Therefore, true thankfulness must be absent of covetousness.  Covetousness and thankfulness are antithetical to one another.  This issue is addressed in Proverbs chapter thirty and Psalm one-hundred and seven in considerable detail. 

15 The horseleach {a type of blood sucking leech} hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: 16 The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough” (Proverbs 30:15-16).

          Here the “horseleach” is presented as a female who represents the personification of covetousness or lust.  The metaphor is not intended to represent that covetousness is limited to women; merely that covetousness has produced two blood-sucking daughters that unceasingly cry “Give, give.”  A leech has two suckers, one on each of its ends.  These two daughters personify avarice and ambition.  Avarice is the insatiable desire for wealth and/or power.  Ambition is the driving force of the human ego that is satisfied with nothing less than being treated as a god ultimately desiring worship and praise. 

Once a blood-sucker attaches itself to its victim, it will gorge itself with blood to the point of bursting.  The point of the comparison to the leech is that lust is never satisfied and is ungrateful because it is driven by its nature to do what it does.  As far as the blood-sucker is concerned, all other living things exist merely to satisfy the blood-sucker’s lusts.  Such a creature is totally incognizant of any danger it poses to its victims.  This is equally true of the lusts of the human sin nature. 
The point of Proverbs 30:15-16 is that there are intrinsic characteristics of our sin natures that are an absolute contradiction against being thankful.  Although we might have momentary expressions of thankfulness to God, those moments exist only for a short time within the scope of receiving things we expect from God.  Once that moment is passed, the thankfulness quickly wanes and dissipates into the nothingness of forgetfulness.  Such a person is obsessed with the what of which he is thankful rather than the Who of its provision.  What a sad testimony!  This certainly reflects the depth of corruption into which the human nature has fallen. 
The summation of these few verses is focused upon the fact that the relationship a believer has with God is really the only thing in this creation that will truly satisfy the longings in the human soul.  It is the overflowing presence of the “breath of life” for which the sinner’s soul longs.  Salvation may restore the “breath of life” to a sinner’s soul, but only true “fellowship” with God will release the “fruit” of the indwelling Spirit of God.  The saved sinner longs for that “fellowship” because nothing else satisfies his soul and nothing else will fill his empty existence without it. 

Yet, the sinner’s fallen nature haunts his soul with the insatiable desires of the flesh.  Even when those desires are satisfied for the moment, they soon inflame and again demand the sinner’s subservience.  The believer’s spiritual warfare is the battle of his fallen and corrupted will against the righteous and holy will of God.  Paul says it like this: “16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:16-17).  Every Christian seeking to be holy understands this moment by moment warfare. 

True thankfulness to God burst forth out of the understanding of Who God is.  When a sinner understands Who God is and how far short the sinner comes from deserving anything from God, then true thankfulness will be produced in that sinner’s heart.  This is the introductory substance of Psalm 107:1-9. 

1 O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. 2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; 3 And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south. 4 They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. 5 Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. 6 Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses. 7 And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation. 8 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 9 For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalm 107:1-9).

          The essence of Psalm 107 is that temporal blessings are merely a small taste of God’s eternal blessings.  God “is good” because He makes provisions that no one deserves.  Everything that comes to the sinner flows from the “mercy” of God.  The “redeemed” should especially understand this and proclaim the “mercy” of God.  “God is love” (I John 4:16).  However, this fact merely reveals the fountain of God’s blessings and goodness.  God does not love sinners because we are loveable.  God loves sinners because He is love.  God’s love generates His mercy and grace to undeserving sinners thereby redeeming sinners “from the hand of the enemy” (Psalm 107:2).  Understanding this is the fountain of thanksgiving.  
The point of the Psalm is not merely that sinners are lost in their sins.  The point of the Psalm is that sinners are captivated by their sins.  Because the sinner’s nature is corrupted, the sinner wants what Satan offers.  However, Satan does not reveal that what he offers to satisfy the sinners corrupted wanter is also a snare trap. 

22 Flee also youthful lusts {they are snare traps}: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. 24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (II Timothy 2:22-26).

          Psalm 107:3-5 describes the lostness of the unredeemed.  These verses also tell us that it is God who seeks out sinners as they wander hopelessly and helplessly without plan or purpose in life.  The point of the text is that God wants all sinners to know Him and His wondrous gift of redemption.  Therefore, “God is good” beyond human imagination.  The goodness of God is magnified by understanding that God is perfectly holy and that sin is an absolute offense against His holy character.  Yet, He extends Himself to reach out to those taken captive by sin and thereby are floundering in life.  However, His goal is not merely to comfort sinners in their hopelessness and helplessness.  God’s goal is to lead sinners out of their hopelessness and helplessness and to give them a “city of habitation.”  The “city of habitation” is being reconciled to God and habitually live in fellowship with God Himself.

1 In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion. 2 Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline thine ear unto me, and save me. 3 Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress” (Psalm 71:1-3).

It is out of all this that the understanding of the statement of Psalm 107:8-9 bursts forth.  “8 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 9 For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalm 107:8-9).
We could stop here thinking God has made His point.  Certainly, there is no further need to explain why God should be praised.  Yet, God thinks otherwise.  There is a subtle redundancy to Psalm 107.  In Psalm 107:10-16, God addresses the fact that sin has consequences.  There is a suffocating darkness that permeates the world.  Every sinner works and lives in “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4).  The reality of this life is that we are on destined to arrive one day in a chauffeured limousine, dressed in our best, at a graveyard of our choice. 

We are imprisoned in the dark reality of that destiny.  For those ignorant of God’s grace and the gift of eternal life, there is no knowledge of existence beyond this life.  However, Psalm 107:10-16 is addressed to those who have rebelled against God’s Word and “contemned {to treat with contempt or distain} the counsel of the most High.”  Here God exposes His longsuffering patience with such people and the fact that He continues working in their rebellious lives to bring them to saving faith.  In these few verses, God reveals how He sees such people and what He must do to bring those people to believe in Him and bow their knees before Him. 

10 Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; 11 Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High: 12 Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help. 13 Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. 14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. 15 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 16 For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder” (Psalm 107:10-16).

          It is amazing the depth to which sinners must be “brought down” before they cry “unto the LORD” in the trouble they have created for themselves.  Most of the “distresses” in a person’s life are created by his own selfishness and carnality.  The great truth of Psalm 107:9 reflects an understanding of the goodness of God as our Deliverer from the miseries that humans create for themselves because of sin – “For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.”  This statement is equivalent to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:6 – “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”  Both texts address consuming desires of the heart.  God often lets sinners be consumed by unrighteousness with which they fill their lives until they want no more of its sickening and disgusting outcomes.  Then, their souls long for righteousness and “goodness” to the same degree the carnal heart is consumed with the love of money. 
The rebellious fool thinks of God as some tyrannical dictator with no concern for His subjects.  Because God has judged humanity for their sins, those ignorant of God’s mercy and grace can see Him as nothing but a harsh and cruel taskmaster.  This is the way the Liberals would want God portrayed.  In fact, they will accept no other view of God. 

Certainly, we must all recognize that there must be consequences for rebellion against what is right.  In fact, we all know there are both natural consequences and supernatural consequences for living in the forbidden zone of human existence.  The drunkard knows this.  The drug addict knows this.  The sex addict knows this.  The thief knows this.  They also know that many lives are destroyed by the damage they cause by their lifestyle choices other than their own. 

Knowing there are consequences for sin is the difference between ignorance and rebellion.  The rebel knows of these consequences but is so egocentric that the pleasure centers of his brain demand immediate gratification no matter what might be the cost to others around him.  It is not enough that God warns such a person living in “the shadow of death,” such a person’s rebellion has him “bound in affliction {depression/misery} and iron” as well.  “Affliction” binds the heart while “iron” binds the body. 

Only those who have struggled with insatiable lusts and addictions can truly understand the reality of the spiritual fetters of their own bondage to the corruptions of their natures.  Only those delivered from those fetters will truly praise God the way He deserves to be praised when He delivers a person from the true tyrant in that person’s own sin nature.  It is the grace of God that brings the rebel to the hopelessness of self-destruction in addictive life patterns.  The sinner digs his own pit and reinforces it with his continued rebellion against God creating his own prison of iron for his flesh.  God must allow this process of destruction to take the rebel to the very end of himself and the brink of death before such a person will look at the prison he has created in which he, and those around him, must now live.  Perhaps seeing what such lifestyle choices have created is the greatest torment for such a person. 

The word “distresses” in Psalm 107:13 is from a Hebrew word meaning narrowness.  Modern language expresses this idea as being caught between a rock and a hard place.  The point is about getting one’s self into predicaments from which there is no opportunity to escape; no solutions.  Psalm 107:12 says, “there was none to help.”  “Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses” (Psalm 107:13).  Do not miss the emphasis on the word “then.”  This statement is repeated in Psalm 107:19 giving further details to God’s provision of the means of His deliverance – where the SOLUTION to their predicament is found.

17 Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. 18 Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death. 19 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. 20 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. 21 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing” (Psalm 107:17-22).

          The affliction of hopeless despair leads to chronic depression to where selfish godless lives have brought those described in Psalm 107.  “Their destructions” spoken of in Psalm 107:20 are their own solutions to their self-created situations of hopelessness due to the carnal, selfish, and godless choices that they have made.  When they chose the beginning of this way, they also chose the end of that way.  These “destructions” are various forms of self-destruction, which are vehicles to escape the miseries of their own lives.  This is the ultimate outcome when people choose to follow the leadership of the Destroyer (Satan) rather than God.  The Destroyer destroys lives, steals hope, and leaves his followers all alone at the end of a dead-end road in the darkness of the middle of the night broken, bruised, and bloodied.  “19 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. 20 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Psalm 107:19-20).
Every problem in life, especially those created by our own carnal and selfish choices, we will find their solutions in knowing and obeying the Word of God.  This is not talking of waving the Bible over your life like some magical fairytale wand that will cause you to live happily ever after.  This is referring to slowly crawling out of the deep grave that the selfish person has been digging for himself for most of his carnal and godless life.  The length of the process of climbing out of that pit will depend on how long and how deep you have dug it.  Bad habits are not easily broken.  Addictions will constantly haunt and oppress the soul of those once possessed by such demons.  Those demons will want back in.  Getting out of this pit will require a considerable investment of time in studying and learning the Word of God to understand the will of God.  Getting out of this pit will require the “renewing of the mind” (thinking) and the “transforming” of our nature through the operations of God.  Such operations are a miracle in progress. 

This cannot happen without the miracle of the New Birth having taken place first.  Therefore, the Psalmist repeated says, “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”  This is what is meant by the statement in Psalm 107:2; “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy.”  The central testimony of the New Creation is that you are now a child of God and a work in progress.  This is the way every Christian must see himself and other Christians – a work in progress.  Such a work is a cooperative effort between the believer and God.  We need not concern ourselves with how much God is invested in working to bring about change.  We only need look to the Cross of Calvary to see the degree of God’s investment.  The progress of transformation will depend mostly upon the amount of time and effort the saved sinner is willing to invest. 
The fourth quadrant of God’s deliverance is found in Psalm 107:23-32.  This is the most difficult to understand mainly because the modern reader is almost totally ignorant of the lack of maritime navigation knowledge at the time of the writing of the Psalm.   To go out on the open sea was a perilous adventure full of unknown risks and threats.  Only the most courageous of men would dare venture out upon the “wonders of the deep.”  The word “wonders” implies the mysteries of the unknown

These courageous adventurers quickly realize they are traveling in an arena that is totally beyond human powers to control.  They therefore must depend on a power greater themselves.  To do so, they must acknowledge the existence of such a powerful Being and “cry unto” Him.  God, Who controls the storms of life, brings them upon us so that we might acknowledge how puny we are in our greatest acts of courage.  The power of the hurricane, the tornado, a lightning storm, brings the most courageous of men to bow before God, Who is the only Being capable of controlling such exhibitions of power.  

23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; 24 These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. 25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. 26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. 27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. 28 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. 29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. 31 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 32 Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders” (Psalm 107:23-32).

          It is the knowledge of God’s abilities and goodness that generates trust and thankfulness.  Although the difficulties that torture us and cause us pain in the midst of the curse are very threatening, they cannot touch the security of our souls if those souls have been entrusted to the loving hands of our omnipotent Creator.  This is the focus of the last few verses in Psalm 107:33-43.  These are verses that are written for the person who has come to know and trust in Jeremiah’s God.  “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me” (Jeremiah 32:27)?

33 He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground; 34 A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein. 35 He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings. 36 And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation; 37 And sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase. 38 He blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly; and suffereth not their cattle to decrease. 39 Again, they are minished and brought low through oppression, affliction, and sorrow. 40 He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way. 41 Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock. 42 The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth. 43 Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD” (Psalm 107: 33-43).

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
 Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Ministering in the Midst of the Mess with Thanksgiving

Ministering in the Midst of the Mess with Thanksgiving

The soldier in the midst of war expects to have bullets whizzing by his head.  Causalities are expected.  Difficulties and opposition confront the soldier at every turn and when least expected.  There is nothing pleasant about war.  This reality was certainly understood by William Tecumseh Sherman as he implemented his “scorched earth” philosophy of war literally burning every Confederate city he conquered to the ground.  That is the context of Sherman’s statement in a speech defending his “scorched earth” philosophy – “War is hell.”  The point is that we should avoid it whenever possible. 

          There is a war no one can avoid.  There is a spiritual war that began in the Garden of Eden thousands of years ago and it has never paused for even one moment.  There is no intermission or momentary cease fire.  A large group of angels, led by the Archangel Lucifer, rebelled against God’s sovereign order of creation.  Those fallen angels sought to use every means allowed them to destroy humanity and turn the hearts of men, women, and children away from worshiping and serving God.  This scenario is actually the backdrop of the book of Job.  In the introduction to the first two chapters of Job, we read of Satan’s accusation against humanity.  Satan’s accusation is essentially – “If God does not bless man, man will not worship Him.” 

This is the substance of what the spiritual war between humanity and fallen angels is all about.  What will people do to escape the pain and suffering of living under the curse of the fall of humanity into sin and accepting Satan’s lordship over our lives?  In Adam’s willful act of disobedience to the sovereign will of God, he surrendered himself and all of humanity to the sovereignty of Satan.  Satan became the “god of this world” (II Corinthians 4:4) and the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2).  We all will live in the midst of the curse until the day we die.  In most part, we will minister in the midst of the mess of the curse all of our lives trying to contribute as little as possible to the mess ourselves.  Ministry is about cleaning up as much of the mess as possible one life at a time – beginning with our own mess.

Perhaps there is no better instruction about how to minister in the midst of the mess than Paul’s epistle to the Philippians.  The old battle scarred warrior of the faith sees his purpose in this life very simply.  Paul’s purpose and vision of existence is stated in Philippians 1:21 – “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  The historical backdrop for this statement was that Paul was in prison at Rome and was soon to have his head removed by Nero.  Paul had many enemies from both the unbelieving world and from within the midst of the corruptions of heretics exposed by his epistles to the local churches.  This is what real ministry in the midst of the curse always looks like.  In most part, there will be many more people that want to see you dead than those wanting to see you living.  Uniquely, even within these circumstances, the substance of each chapter of Paul’s epistle to the local church at Philippi was rejoicing (Philippians 1:18, 26; 2:16, 17, 18, 28; 3:1, 3; 4:4, and 10).
1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. 2 I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 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. 9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:1-9).

Circumstances of life will often put us in perplexing and unpleasant predicaments.  When ministering to try to help people escape the clutches of sin in their lives, we will often experience some of the greatest disappointments.  Often the very people into which we pour our hearts and souls to help will be the very people who will turn and rend us.  It is always the people we love the most who can hurt us the most.  Such people can be very disheartening and discouraging. 

However, perhaps one of the great truths that we learn from Paul’s epistle to the believers at Philippi is to focus upon the successes of ministry, not upon the failures.  Philippi was the first church started after Paul’s miraculous call to Macedonia recorded in Acts chapter sixteen. 

6 Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, 7 After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. 8 And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. 10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. 11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; 12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days. 13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. 14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. 15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us (Acts 16:6-15).

The believers at Philippi were very precious to the Apostle Paul and he was precious to them.  The beginnings of Paul’s experience at Philippi were certainly mixed with great difficulties as well as blessings.  Paul and Silas were beaten by the city magistrates because Paul had cast out a demon from a woman who had been creating great profits for some the leaders in the city.  Then, Paul and Silas were cast into a the “inner prison,” which was most probably what we know as a dark, damp, rat and bug infested dungeon.  As if that horrible place was not bad enough, they were place in wooden stocks with their legs parted to extreme discomfort bent over with their hands and necks similarly fastened making it almost impossible to rest, let alone sleep. 

There are those deep and dark times that can easily bring great sorrow and discouragement in the ministry if we do not control our thought life and what we do in the midst of those times.  Paul and Silas refused to set around feeling sorry for themselves and complaining about their difficulties regardless of how real and painful were those difficulties.  Instead, they decided to be an encouragement to the other prisoners sharing in their discomforts.

“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:25).

It is often out of the garden of great difficulties that we reap a harvest of the greatest blessings.  Roses always bloom in the midst of thorns.  This was certainly what happened to Paul and Silas as they sang their midnight praises to God in the midst of the mess of their circumstances for simply doing what was right.  They were beaten and put in prison for delivering a woman from her prison of demonic possession.  Difficulties and trials provide faithful believers with great opportunities to be a faithful testimony to God’s enabling grace.  As is often the case, when you are being a great testimony to the grace of God while in the midst of great difficulties, God provides great opportunities.  It is the wise Christian who expects those opportunities and is prepared to minister when such opportunities arise. 

26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here” (Acts 16:26-28).

It would be a natural reflect response to flee in fear from a dungeon with its walls and ceiling falling in on you; even more so if the building was your prison.  It is remarkable that Paul and Silas give no consideration to escaping from their unfortunate circumstances.  They were having great influence upon the other prisoners.  This is obvious because out of this very fearful, life-threatening earthquake situation, Paul can tell the prison keeper, “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here” (Acts 16:28).
The jailer was accountable with his life for those under his guard.  He would rather die at his own hand than suffer the consequences and public disgrace to his family for allowing his prisoners to escape.  Since all the prisoners were freed from their bars and restraints, there was nothing keeping them from overpowering the jailer, killing him, and escaping into the night.  However, the influence of the spiritual integrity of Paul and Silas was substantial.  We can be confident the other prisoners knew of the circumstances of why Paul and Silas were in prison.  It is not an everyday occurrence to have someone with power over demons in your presence.  It certainly would have seemed bizarre to these other prisoners to hear Paul and Silas singing praise hymns and psalms of thanksgiving to God after just having been beaten within an inch of death and now put in the torment of tortuous stocks. 

The point is that Paul and Silas had a choice in how they were going to respond to the circumstances in which they now found themselves.  Their circumstances had not changed their purpose as Christians or their mission.  All that was changed was the people to whom they ministered.  They could see their ministry ended or they could see the needy people with which they shared a prison.  They could have become preoccupied with the pain and suffering of their circumstances or they could praise God in the midst of the mess of those circumstances.  Sometimes the curse is overwhelming to our senses and sensibilities.  To overcome and continue to minister in the midst of the mess of the curse, we have to bring the reality of our new existence “in Christ” to the forefront of our thought life.  Doing this can be difficult when life in the midst of the curse of this fallen creation seems to dominate, and it often dominates. 

Paul and Silas had been treated unfairly.  They had been unjustly publicly disgraced and imprisoned.  However, we must not forget that Paul and Silas understood that they were ministering exactly where God had sent them.  “9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. 10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them” (Acts 16:9-10).  When a person understands that he is called to be minister in the midst of the curse, he understands that he does so in the midst of the minions of Deceiver.  Yet, he must also understand that he is being sent to minister to the deceived and the very people who often are the greatest opponents of the ministry God has sent him to accomplish.  

There is no doubt in my mind that God foreknew every single circumstance that was going to happen to Paul and Silas.  God had orchestrated and incorporated every single aspect of these chain of events with the goal of producing a local church of faithful believers who knew that each of them were personally the fruits of the operations of the Spirit of God. 

It is out of this seeming dunghill of contradiction against everything good and right that God’s harvest bursts forth.  When we are consumed with the difficulties of living in the midst of the curse, all we can see and smell is the dunghill.  God sees fertilizer.  If we are going to be part of God’s plan and program in the midst of the curse, we have to see the dunghill of our circumstances as fertilizer too. 

29 Then he {the jailer} called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. 32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. 34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house” (Acts 16:29-34).

When sitting in the cold darkness surrounded by the fears of the night, it is always wise to keep a fire of hope burning to remind us that the new day will dawn very soon.  This was the hope of Paul and Silas as they sang hymns of praise and thanksgiving to God in the midst of the occasional whimpers of pain from their torments.  God had sent them to Philippi to start a local church.  God had provided two considerable households of believers which would be the seed families for the local church at Philippi.  These people did not become believers in a sterile vacuum environment.  They were “born again” out of the dunghill of this fallen creation of deceived people living in their selfish deceptions while creating more hardships for everyone they touch with their cursed lives. 

The answer to this dilemma of life is not to sit in the light and curse the darkness of deception and the deceived.  Ministry is being light in the midst of the darkness.  Ministry lights the pathway with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and leads the cursed out of the darkness of their own deceptions.  Although Paul and Silas were in the same prison as were the prisoners and jailer, Paul and Silas were already freed.  Paul and Silas knew this.  Therefore, they could rejoice.  It was not enough that they could rejoice, they wanted the others to be freed from their bondages of the curse as well.  We may not be able to deliver everyone from the difficulties they have created for themselves by being seduced by their own temptations and lusts, but we can offer them a new life in Christ “by grace … through faith.” 

It is little wonder that the local church at Philippi became such a blessing to the Apostle Paul.  They refused to forget him.  When God uses men to create something precious in the midst of the curse, God must create sanctified building materials out of cursed building materials.  This process of transfiguring lives is often painful and difficult; sometimes torturous.  When the members of a local church go through this torturous process together, they do not forget those that traveled that pathway with them and helped them along the way.

Church planting ministry (missions) can be difficult, lonely, and often done with very limited resources.  When local churches are started, and become self-supporting, the people that come into those local churches are not knowledgeable of the personal sacrifices of the seed families who were part of the original miracle of New Creation.  The seed families’ vision saw the hope of a future for the generations to follow.  New families who later become part of this New Creation simply see a place that welcomes them and provides a counterculture to living in the midst of the darkness of the curse.  These people often do not ever fully escape the corruptions of worldliness because they really do not see the world as the enemy of God and a contradiction against all that is right and righteous.  Therefore, these same people never really become ministers seeking to help others escape the darkness of the corruptions of this cursed world.  Such people certainly would not be willing to face the difficulties of real ministry as we read of in Acts chapter sixteen. 

Perhaps the greatest failure of modern Christianity is the disassociation of the reality of what is actually involved with ministry in the midst of the curse.  Church services are viewed as merely a place to escape to a social safe-shelter rather than to be refreshed and re-munitioned to get back onto the battlefield.  This kind of scenario can be very discouraging to those with a biblical view of real ministry in the midst of the curse.  Real ministry will always take place in the middle of deep and troubled waters.  When you understand that reality, you will not forget the person who taught you how to swim.  This was certainly true of the people of the church at Philippi.  They were one of the very few of the many local churches started by the Apostle Paul who continued to remember him and fiscally support him in his continuing battles to start other churches and preserve “the faith.”  When Paul was imprisoned at Rome, the church members at Philippi had graciously remembered him and sent their pastor Epaphroditus to Rome with a generous gift for Paul’s use.  What a great joy and encouragement this must have been to the Apostle Paul.

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. 15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. 16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. 17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. 18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. 19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:10-19).

It is always a blessing to be remembered, but it is no blessing to be remembered if you do know you are being remembered.  Pray for your missionaries and for one another.  Then tell those people that you prayed for them.  The believers at Philippi remembered Paul and his NEEDS in a very tangible way.  People who remember in tangible ways understand the potential for discouragement involved in ministering in the midst of the curse.  Paul had been in prison at Rome for a considerable length of time.  His detractors, those professing Christians that Paul had exposed as heretics through his epistles, were glad that Paul was taken out of the picture.  They hated him.  However, Paul’s house arrest did not end his ministry or silence his voice.  The epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians were all written by Paul while he was imprisoned in his rented home under guard at Rome. 

Paul’s closing comments in Philippians 4:20-22 tells us a lot about ministering in the midst of the mess of the curse.  It is necessary to read the salutation carefully or we will miss the great blessing revealed in these few verses. 

20 Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 21 Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. 22 All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household. 23 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (Philippians 4:20-23).

The word “salute” is translated from the Greek word aspazomai (as-pad'-zom-ahee).  The central idea of this word is to draw into a loving embrace.  However, the great blessing in this salutation are the words, “chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.”  The Caesar, or Emperor of Rome was Nero.  Paul brought the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into every life with which he came in contact.  To be exposed to the Apostle Paul meant to be exposed to Jesus Christ and the offer in the Gospel of escape from the curse upon this world and its citizens. 

Nero was one of history’s most diabolical figures.  He was an evil, murderous, egotistical maniac with no limitations or boundaries to his self-aggrandizing agenda of promoting himself as god to this world.  He was an antichrist equal with Hitler, Stalin, and Chiang Kai-shek.  However, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was given an entrance into Nero’s household with the imprisonment of Paul.  Paul shared the good news of Jesus Christ with every person of the household of Nero of which God provided opportunity.  Many of those guards and servants of Nero’s household were won to Christ through the testimony of the Apostle Paul.  Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us that even the Empress Poppaea, Nero’s wife, became a believer.  It is believed that Seneca, the Preceptor (tutor and advisor) to Nero, became a believer.  So, when Paul says, “All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household,” this includes some of the world’s most elite.  Never under estimate the Light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the extent of its power to touch and change lives.  The Light is the most apparent in the darkest darkness!

Four different times in Psalm 107 out of four differently described scenarios of life within the difficulties of the fallen creation, the Psalmist writes, “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalm 107: 8, 15, 21, and 31).  The scenarios described in the second statements are of pertinent to the understanding of ministering to people living within the spiritual darkness of the fall encompassing their ignorance of God.

10 Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; 11 Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High: 12 Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help. 13 Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. 14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. 15 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 16 For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder. 17 Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. 18 Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death. 19 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. 20 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. 21 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing” (Psalm 107:10-22).

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
 Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.