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: October 2007

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Holiness: A Purified and Peculiar People

1 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: 2 That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. 3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. 6 Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. 7 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, 8 Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. 9 Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; 10 Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. 11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. 15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Titus 2:1-15).

Holiness is not some ambiguous concept of impossible goals. In Titus 2:1-15, holiness is defined in some very tangible terms and with some very practical expectations. Holiness is defined and revealed in our behavior (Titus 2:3). God expects mature believers to be the models of holiness to young believers. The word “shewing” in Titus 2:7 is from the Greek word parecho (par-ekh'-o), which means to offer one’s self as an example. Paul repeatedly held himself up as a model of the Christian life and in Titus 2:1-15 he is commanding all believers to do the same.

“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1).

13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. 17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. 18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things)” (Philippians 3:13-19).

True holiness exists inwardly in a change of desires and motivations before it becomes evident in the outward practices (behavior) of our lives. Seldom do Christians recognize the reality of the Christian life that is theirs in Christ Jesus and seldom do they accept the solemn responsibilities regarding their leadership influence upon other believers. The potential abundant life that Christ promises to all believers is available only to those who are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to abide in Him.

10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:10-14).

However, Phariseeism results when the commandments and truths of Christ’s expectations are applied to the externality of a life without a change in the “heart” (inward desires and motivations). A change of “heart” exists when the motivation for doing what God wants and expects comes from a genuine desire to please Him rather than impress men. Laws and Biblical expectations (rules and regulations) without a personal, loving relationship with Christ will always result in either Phariseeism (externalism and hypocrisy) or rebellion. Both of these phenomena are consistently evident in much of professing Christianity. Both are deadly to true spiritual growth, true holiness and the abundant life available in Christ Jesus.

25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:25-28).

True holiness is the by-product of hungering and thirsting after the practical righteousness of God and will manifest itself in the outward expression of God’s truth in the everyday practices of life (behavior). That is what Paul is communicating in Titus 2:1-15. Holiness is not a vain show of pompous piety. Holiness is the revelation of a changed life brought to spiritual maturity and becoming a visible reality through some very tangible and practical realities of life. “Aged men” (v 2) and “aged women” (v 3) both refer to those who have enough spiritual history (experience) behind them to have acquired spiritual maturity and consistency in their lives.

The first instruction for practical holiness is in Titus 2:1. The believer who is really concerned about the righteousness of God will be concerned about “sound doctrine.” The word “sound” is from the Greek word hugiaino (hoog-ee-ah'-ee-no). It means to be free from any mixture of error. The word “doctrine” is from the Greek word didaskalia (did-as-kal-ee'-ah). It refers to teaching or instruction. The person who desires true holiness in his life will be consumed with knowing God’s Word for the purposes of both teaching that truth and living that truth before others.

In verse 2, Paul gives some very definitive expectations in behavior that should be the fruit of a “heart” intent on doing what is right before God and living right before men. The word “likewise” of verse three establishes that holiness is directly related to “behaviour” for both men and women. The word “behaviour” is from the Greek word katastema (kat-as'-tay-mah). It refers to a person’s demeanor or the way a person shows or exhibits who and what he is to the world. “Behaviour” refers to everything a person does, the people he associates with, the manners and practices of his daily life, the clothes he wears, the food he eats, the kinds of things he involves himself in for recreation and his general demeanor. “Behaviour” refers to both verbal and non-verbal communication that exhibit the reality of what this person is all about. What we do, how we live and what occupies our time are the true barometer of our relationship with Jesus Christ and the measurement of the reality of our Christianity.

We reveal more about ourselves non-verbally than we do verbally. I can tell a lot about a person by the way he dresses, the way he cuts his hair, what he spends his time on and just by observing his attitudes towards people. You can tell a lot about a person’s level of spiritual growth by how he handles difficulties and by what he does when he fails to do what is right.

God gives a number of behavioral definitions for both men and women that “becometh holiness.” “Becometh holiness” is from the Greek word hieroprepes (hee-er-op-rep-ace'). It means to stand out, to be conspicuous. The way we live, dress, talk, eat, drink or just our attitudes towards life and work in general reveal to others our relationship with God and the reality or hypocrisy of that relationship.

For men, God lists six specific areas that reveal the genuineness of our Christianity and our personal relationship with Him. The first is the word “sober.” It is from the Greek word nephaleos (nay-fal'-eh-os) and refers to the abstention from the use of wine or alcohol. Although this refers to something specific, in the broader sense it refers to anything that might cause us to lower our inhibitions regarding sin or to lose control of our emotions or feelings.

The second behavioral command is the word “grave.” It is from the Greek word semnos (sem-nos') and refers to possessing the character and integrity that is worthy of honor or respect. The Christian that considers this understands that his life is lived under the world’s microscope. The people we will be modeling Christ before (which includes everyone) will be watching for the faintest hint of inconsistency in our lives. Satan will take that inconsistency and blow it up to billboard size to discredit and destroy a believer’s testimony for God. We need to remember that the way we live our lives is the “light” that directs men to God. If our life is not what it ought to be, no one will listen to what we have to say. As someone has said, “Your life speaks so loud I cannot hear what you are saying.”

The third behavior command for holiness is the word “temperate.” It is from the Greek word sophron (so'-frone). The “temperate” person is a person with the kind of self-control that is able to curb his desires and impulses. Here is where the reality of our Christianity is really tested. We are by nature (fallen nature) reactive (as opposed to being proactive). When someone attacks us, we respond (react) defensively. When someone hurts someone we love, we naturally want vengeance.

We must remember that for a person with a fallen nature, what comes naturally is usually sin. The “temperate” person learns to be proactive. He plans ahead. He determines before hand how he will act if certain situations arise. That does not mean he will not be caught off guard occasionally. However, when the proactive “temperate” person realizes he has reacted wrongly, he immediately seeks to remedy the failure by confessing his bad behavior and seeking the forgiveness of those involved. He immediately returns to being proactive.

The fourth behavioral command for men is found in the words “sound in faith.” This command is from the Greek words hugiaino (hoog-ee-ah'-ee-no) pistis (pis'-tis). It means to be free from any error in the practice of the teachings of the Word of God.

We cry out to God for justice and righteousness while still wanting to live in the middle ground of commitment to truth and service. If that is the defining reality of our Christianity, we can say, “truth is fallen in the street.” Until the truth we know becomes the everyday practice of our lives, we are “lukewarm” Christians. Soundness is not about knowing truth as many suppose. Soundness in the faith is about living the truth and doing what is right. Like many Christians, Israel continually fell into this pit of self-deception.

We need to be reminded that it was the failure of the children of Israel in the area of practical holiness that was the central hindrance to God blessing their lives. God wanted to save them. God wanted to hear their prayers and answer them. God wanted to bless them, but He could not because they were not living the way they should have been living.

1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. 3 For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness. 4 None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. 5 They hatch cockatrice’ eggs, and weave the spider’s web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper. 6 Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands. 7 Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. 8 The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace. 9 Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. 10 We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men. 11 We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. 12 For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; 13 In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. 14 And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.” (Isaiah 59:9-14).

There is no middle ground when it comes to the issue of righteousness. It is either all or nothing as far as God is concerned. If we want God’s blessings upon our lives, there must be brokenness about sin. There must be a turning from the carnal pursuits after pleasure and worldliness in our lives. There must be a whole-hearted turning to God and His righteousness. There must be a hungering and thirsting after practical righteousness in our lives. God will find no pleasure in our half-hearted, lukewarm pretension. We cannot fool God with a facade of Christian pretense.

2 The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers. 3 Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 1:2-3).

Monday, October 8, 2007

Holiness: Today - Harden Not Your Hearts!

7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; 15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:7-19).

The book of Hebrews was written specifically to Jewish Christians who were about to go back to the Temple to continue in the sacrificial system intermixing the Old (Mosaic) Covenant practices with New Covenant faith. Its application for today’s Christianity is directed to anyone who makes a religious ritual or ceremony necessary to salvation or maintaining a holy relationship with God. Legalism focuses on the letter of the law and applies it externally rather than focusing on the spirit of the Law and yielding inwardly to the will of God. Today’s Christian seems to struggle with either legalism or libertarianism. They either think themselves spiritual because they keep a set of rules or they ignore God’s commandments and take all kinds of carnal liberties.

Up to this point in the book of Hebrews God has shown the complete superiority of the New Covenant in Christ and the total inferiority and abrogation of the Old (Mosaic) Covenant. Now He begins to give some very hard and serious warnings to these individuals and to anyone refusing to completely abandon Old Covenant types, rituals and practices. God equates what they are considering doing, what they are doing or what they might have done with some historical instances every individual familiar with the wilderness wanderings should be familiar with as well as the consequences of their failures.

These Jewish Christians were being careless about their beliefs. That in itself is a dangerous thing to do. What “the Holy Ghost” is trying to convince them of (Hebrews 3:7) is that if they in any way abandon the New Covenant for the Old Covenant they also abandon salvation itself showing their profession to be false.

The first thing we want to notice is the repetitive use of the term “today”. It is used in v.7, v.13, v.15 and twice in 4:7. The word “today” brings us out of the past and into the present. To God, obedience is always a “today” thing. Today is the only day of which we can be sure. Anything else presumes on a future that is unsure. The seriousness of the “today” admonition lies in the warning against abandoning a practical New Covenant faith for some externalistic form of Christianity. To do so constitutes apostasy and manifests a false profession of salvation.

These Hebrew believers were under enormous peer pressure and persecution by Apostate Israel to return to the Apostate beliefs and practices. They could believe in this Jesus if they wanted, just keep tithing to the Temple and keep offering sacrifices. This persecution and the threat of it, the loss of life, family and confiscation of all possessions was taking its toll. However, Scripture emphasizes that the kind of faith that saves is like gold when tried by fire. Trials only purify a real Christian.

6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:6-7).

There is always a temptation to compromise. Compromising truth may be backsliding, but it also may be a simple revelation that your faith is not able to stand the test of trial by fire and that it isn’t real.

1 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. 2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) 3 Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: 4 But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, 5 In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; 6 By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, 7 By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; 9 As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; 10 As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (II Corinthians 6:1-10).

The “harden not your hearts” admonition of Hebrews 3:8-9 is a serious warning to the professing Christian who refuses to acknowledge the reality of the God of the Bible and His involvement in their lives. This admonition tells those professing Christians to “today. . . hear his voice” (3:7). There is an urgency in it all. God’s patience is not without end. When a professing child of God compromises his Father’s commandments, he is walking on dangerous ground. When a professing child of God is willing to compromise with this world to avoid temporal persecution in exchange for present comfort, he may just find out that he will end up with eternal misery.

Have you ever known anyone who refused to stand apart from the world because he did not want to be ridiculed or socially ostracized for identifying with this radical Bible believing Christianity? They are everywhere. The question and warning of Scripture challenges the reality of their faith.

How does this type of professing Christian manifest his unbelief? He hardens his hearts like a flint against what he deems to be radicalism or fanaticism. Having to read his Bible all the time, praying before meals (even in public) and talking about Jesus all the time, my goodness that’s just too much to ask. God does not ask a person to do those things to be saved, but He expects it of those who say they are! God says we had better not harden our hearts to that. We had better listen to what the Spirit of God has to say to us today.

“When (in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness, v.8) your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years” Hebrews 3:8-9). This account is found in Exodus 17:1-7

1 And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the LORD? 3 And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? 4 And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me. 5 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not (Exodus 17:1-7)?

Because there was no water where Moses had led them, they were dying of thirst. They came and chided (complained) with Moses. They were angry, complaining and, according to v.4, they were ready to kill Moses. Moses (v.2) rightfully equated their complaining with tempting the Lord. Why? Because in their unbelief they (v.3) were accusing God (by accusing Moses). They said the only reason God brought them out of Egypt in the first place was to annihilate them with thirst.

Therefore, Moses renamed the place Maccah (Mas-saw'), which means temping or proving and M@riybah (Mer-ee-baw'), which means strife and contention. The heart that is harden against God often does foolish things. The heart that is hardened against God is not sensitive to the purposes of the trials He brings into our lives to test our willingness to trust Him and come to Him with our needs. The hardened heart sees God’s trials and commandments as interferences with our own personal goals in life or our own pursuit after the ambiguity of something called happiness.

God viewed this hardness to His working in their lives as trying Him. Real faith does not test God. Real faith trusts God. God wanted to see if they had real faith. Their actions revealed they did not. Their question, “Is the LORD among us or not ?” (v 7) revealed their lack of faith. Instead of appealing to God‘s grace in prayer and living in dependence on His will, they seek to manipulate God.

Their lives were more important to them than their relationship with God. That fact reveals just how temporal and earth bound their thinking was. Real faith takes our thinking outside the boundaries of this life. Real faith sees every trial and difficulty in life as another stepping-stone to eternity each bringing us one-step closer to God. When we cling to this life with whited knuckles, it only reveals how little faith we have in the eternity that is ours in Christ Jesus.

The warning of Hebrews 3:8-9 is that if you decide to try God by proving Him, you better be prepared to see His works. That generation did. God proved Himself and they saw His works for the next forty years as they continued to wander in that wilderness. For forty years God proved Who He was to them. Everything they could have had by continuing in faith was just across the river Jordan, but instead they wanted God to prove Himself. That was not faith that was unbelief.

Hebrews 3:10 tell us that God “was grieved with that generation.” The Hebrew word for grieving (this verse is quoted from Psalm 95:10, quwt [koot]) means to have a sense of loathing because of what they did. They disgusted God. It was at this point that God determined that this generation would not enter into His promised land.

Hebrews 3:12 continues the warning to every professing believer in all generations. The key word again is “departing.” It is from the Greek word aphistemi (af-is'-tay-mee). It means to withdraw yourself, to move away from or to be standoffish. Doing such a thing to God does not show faith, but rather “an evil heart of unbelief.” God is not talking about moral delinquency but spiritual rebellion. Why is it that some people just never get on board and live for Christ? Why is it that some people always walk on the edge? Why is it that some people think they can pick and choose which Scriptures they are willing to obey and which Scriptures they think are just too old fashioned? The answer is simple. They have “an evil heart of unbelief”!

18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (I John 2:18-19).