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: Faith and the Sanctity of Purpose

Monday, September 4, 2017

Faith and the Sanctity of Purpose

Faith and the Sanctity of Purpose

          The prophet Haggai prophesies in about B.C. 520 according to Ussher’s Chronology of the Bible.  This places this minor prophet after the seventy-year Babylonian captivity of Israel when king Cyrus financed the return of a remnant of faithful Jews to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.  The substance of the prophecy is God’s displeasure with the faithful remnant who were not being faithful in doing what they had been returned to Jerusalem to do.  These people had lost their spiritual purpose and were preoccupied with building their own homes and their own lives anew in the Promised Land. 

The whole of the book of Haggai is to correct a false belief of the returning remnant recorded in Haggai 1:2; “Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built.”  In the next few verses, God speaks through Haggai to address this corruption of His will and the corruption of their spiritual priorities. 

Keeping first things first is often one of the most difficult things in a believer’s life.  First things are always God things!  Why did God redeem us?  Why is God so concerned with our practical sanctity?  God wants to use us!  However, God will not use us if we are not sanctified in the priority of His purposes.  Look at what God says to the corruption of the sanctity of the priority of purpose in Haggai 1:3-11.  In addressing the corruption of the sanctity of the priority of purpose, God is addressing a severe corruption of “the faith.”

3 Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this {the Temple of God} house lie waste? 5 Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 6 Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. 7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. 9 Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. 10 Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. 11 And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands” (Haggai 1:3-11).

          This message from God came to Haggai and was delivered to the returned remnant in Jerusalem on the first day of the sixth month (Haggai 1:1).  Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the high priest and the people of Israel immediately began to “fear before the LORD.”  They feared because they knew they deserved God’s chastisement.  Out of their repentance, they began to obey what God commanded (Haggai 1:12) and restore the priority of their purpose in serving the Lord in the sanctity of that purpose.  They understood that God had separated them from the captive nation of Israel for the specific purpose of rebuilding God’s Temple in Jerusalem.
Then God speaks again through His prophet Haggai in verse thirteen “saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.”  These are words that all sanctified people long to hear from God.  These words “stirred up the spirit” of the people of God (Haggai 1:14).  The Hebrew word translated “stirred up” means to open the eyes or to awaken.  It is a sad testimony of the carelessness of believers to see any of God’s children sleeping while God’s Word is being proclaimed.  However, the emphasis of the text is that the remnant of Israel was wide awake physically pursuing their own wants and desires while spiritually sound asleep to God’s purposes.  The demands and needs of life can very quickly consume our time to the place it soon consumes our whole life.  God’s purposes increasingly become secondary until this group of believers might just become known as the Putoffski Clan.  All such people need a stirring from God.  The reality of their faith needed to be confronted and they need a reminder of why they were at Jerusalem by the grace of God in the first place.

Apathy towards the purposes of God will slowly put the believer to sleep spiritually.  Faith in the knowledge of God’s presence awakens the apathetic from the lethargy of spiritual slumber.  They believed the Word of God and God “stirred up the spirit” within them.  What “spirit” was that?  God “stirred up the spirit” of their purpose for being at Jerusalem.  People who really believe the Word of God, get stirred up in anticipation of what the presence of God in their midst means.  This is genuine spirituality.  Genuine spirituality is excited about the things of God and excited about participating with God in what He wants done.  If a person does not understand his spiritual purpose, God will not be able to stir up that purpose.  The purpose must be inside before it can be stirred up.  Perhaps this is why there is such a depth of lethargy in the local churches of modern Christianity.  They have lost sight of their missional purpose for existence.

The Discouragement of Comparisons (Habakkuk 2:1-9)

          There were but a few of the faithful remnant who had seen the splendor glory of the temple Solomon built for God.  However, most had heard the descriptions of that glorious structure.  As they returned to rebuild, they were sorting through and using the rubble of that destroyed temple.  Even the best of their restoration must have been discouraging compared to their memory of Solomon’s Temple.  This discouragement of comparison was weakening their faith.  They had neither the unlimited resources nor the large skilled laborers that Solomon had available to him. 

      There is also the context of the account of Ezra chapters five and six that needs to be entered to all of this.  Without going into detail, the rebuilding of the Temple was stopped because some “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” (Ezra 4:1) and “4 Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, 5 And hired counsellers against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia” (Ezra 4:4-5).  Through some political maneuvering by the adversaries, that began around B.C. 534, the work of rebuilding the Temple was suspended by king Artaxerxes in B.C. 520 (Ezra 4:23-24).  In B.C. 519 (Ezra 6:14), Darius would confirm the decree of Cyrus to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Temple rebuild would be completed in the “sixth year of the reign of Darius the king” (Ezra 6:15).

          In Haggai 2:10, the timetable is four years before the completion of the Temple rebuild.  In the middle of all this turmoil, we read about what happened in Ezra chapters four through six.  The substance of God’s conversation with Haggai is to question the priests concerning their own sanctity before God as a continuing source of hindrance to God’s blessing upon the rebuild of the Temple.  It would be worthless to have a rebuilt Temple if the priesthood was still corrupted.  The principle is simple: spiritual work cannot be accomplished except by a spiritual people! 

10 In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, 12 If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. 13 Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. 14 Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean. 15 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD: 16 Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. 17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD. 18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD’S temple was laid, consider it. 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you (Haggai 2:10-19).

          When some professing Christians (let alone unsaved people) hear preachers preach about listening to rock or country music as sin, they must think them to be narrow minded fruitcakes.  When preachers give the Biblical definitions of modesty, they must think them carryovers from the Victorian Age.  When they preach that social drinking, dancing, and going to movies are sin, they must think of us as radical fanatics.  Yet even these practices divide between the holy and the unholy.  Haggai 2:12-13 shows the extreme degree to which God takes holiness.  If we are to be holy, we must view holiness from God’s perspective, not man’s.  God has not changed!

       For many people, all these “No-No” things are viewed as the imposition of archaic rules to take the joy out of their lives.  Satan has succeeded in taking their focus from the blessings of God for those living in holiness, and putting their focus on the restrictions of God that keep us out of sin and living in holiness.  When people focus on the restrictions, they become bitter towards God and begin to resent His demands on their lives.  The reality is that God wants us to live in holiness so that He might bless us and use us for spiritual accomplishments in this life beyond our every expectation or imagination. 

          God is holy!  This fact is a reality to those with a real, living Biblical faith.  That kind of faith understands that because God is holy, He cannot use a person who lives in sin to any degree.  Although preachers seldom communicate this very well, their concern is that Christians live in holiness so that God can use their lives to His glory.  In preparing ourselves to be used of God, sanctity must be the central priority of our lives.  Sanctity begins in the heart.  The desire to be used of God begins with a consuming desire to be holy before God.  The first qualifier to any spiritual work is to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” (I Peter 3:15a).

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (I Peter 3:15)

      So often we read this verse of Scripture and think that knowing Scripture is what God means when He tells us to “be ready.”  Read the verse again.  What is the conclusive statement that qualifies the believer to always be ready to be a witness for Christ?  It says, “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.”  Obedience to what God says, not knowing it, is what makes us “ready.”  Something sanctified is dedicated/devoted to what it separated unto.  Every form of worldliness must be eradicated from the believer’s life if he is to be sanctified before God.  You ask, what is worldliness?  Worldliness is any thought, desire, or action that cannot be done with a clear conscience that God has authorized it by clear teaching from His Word. “And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith {clear instruction from God’s Word}: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

Biblical faith understands that sanctity before God is an essential to God’s blessings.  Without sanctity, you will never be ready to serve God and do “the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12) no matter if you have the whole Bible memorized chapter and verse.  Being ready means being rightLet me ask you, can you be right if you allow any sin any place in your life? 

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:” (Psalm 66:18)

          The word “regard” (Hebrew, ra'ah, pronounced raw-aw') means to give any place to sin, to the degree we ought not to even consider doing anything God forbids.  We should not even think about sin, let alone do it, if we want to be used of God or be blessed by Him.  Scripture is redundant with this truth.

8 For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul? 9 Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him” (Job 27:8-9)?

“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8).

“The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29).

“Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth” (John 9:31).

Why is living in holiness so important?  God has taught me, by my own miserable failures, that service without sanctity is an operation in futility.  Unless God is with us, blessing our efforts and spiritually empowering our lives, even the hardest work and the most noble cause will fail to achieve its goal.

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

          The formula for the blessing of God upon sanctified service is repeated over and over throughout the Old Testament.  That formula is summed up in Romans 12:1-2.  These verses summarize the practical necessities for the service gifts of Romans 12:3-8 before those service gifts can be blessed of God.

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

          The word “prove” in Romans 12:2 is from the Greek word dokimazo (dok-im-ad’-zo), which means to test something to prove it genuine after careful examination.  There are three conditions in Romans 12:1 and 2 that are necessary before God will prove to us that what we do and how we do it are His will.  Nothing done out of the will of God or contrary to these three criteria can be blessed of God.  Without God’s blessing, nothing will be produced from our efforts regardless of how hard we work.  That is also exactly what Haggai 2:15-16 says as well.

The three conditions of service in sanctity of Romans 12:1-2

1. We must yield ourselves to God to be used of Him.  However, before we can be used, our lives must be separated from any practice which God condemns (“thou shalt not”) and consecrated to do whatever God commands (thou shalt).  This is what God means by presenting our bodies “holy” and “acceptable.”
2. We must not allow the influences of this world (sociological or peer pressure) to mold us in any way, shape our thinking, or influence our practices.  This is expressed by the words, “be not conformed to this world.”

    “Conformed” is from the Greek word suschematizo (soos-khay-mat-id’-zo), which means not to conform one’s mind and character to any pattern of life other than God’s.  Paul expressed this another way in Colossians 2:6-8.

6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:6-8).

3. The third condition for God’s acceptance and blessing on our service is that we must work with Him at changing the way we think and see things in this world.  This is expressed by the words “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Paul expressed this again in II Corinthians 10:5.

4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled” (II Corinthians 10:4-6).

          In B.C. 536, a Gentile king named Cyrus decreed that a remnant of Israel could return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of God.

          Ezra 2:64 tells us 49,997 dedicated, cream of the spiritual crop Jews returned from Babylon to begin rebuilding the Temple of God.  By the second month of B.C. 535.  According to Ezra 3:10, the foundation of the Temple was complete.  The work was progressing well in spiritual unity.  The people were consecrated to the work and doing it, serving the Lord in sanctity.  Then it happened.  Satan introduced the contaminating spirit of defilement.  The work stopped.

1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel; 2 Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither. 3 But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us. 4 Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, 5 And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia” (Ezra 4:1-5).

          For the next fourteen years the work of God stopped while the people of God pursued their own careers and built their own houses and land.  They lost their vision of the purpose for their return to Israel.  How did this happen?  An unholy alliance sought in infiltrate their purity and their sanctity.  Their enemies were able to hinder and eventually stop the work.  During this time of work stoppage, the builders lost the sanctity of their purpose for being in Jerusalem, which meant the loss of spiritual empowerment.  The loss of spiritual empowerment meant the loss of desire for the work God sent them to do.  Our ministry in sharing the heart of God for the lost, ignorant, and confused, by soul winning and discipleship of people, is our living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1).  To think that personal sacrifices can be offered with unclean hands that are not dedicated and committed is foolishness (Haggai 2:12-13).  This is the context of Romans 12:1-2 just before the emphasis changes to the empowering of the service gifts in Romans 12:3-8.

          Now, in the book of Haggai those fourteen years have passed.  Haggai and Zechariah are called of God to exhort the people back to the work of building the Temple.  However, before the work could resume and be blessed of God, change in thinking and practice was required (“turning,” Haggai 2:17).  The people of God needed to be brought to the conviction of their uncleanness, which existed because of their apathy and the contamination of their lives due to the incorporation of lifestyle practices offensive to God.  They needed to be brought to the place of recognition of sin, repentance, confession, and cleansing (four decisions).
          According to Haggai 2:17, God had brought tremendous chastisement upon these people to turn their hearts to holiness.  The work was a secondary priorityHoliness was the firstNever lose this perspective of ministry!

          We often mistake doing spiritual work as spirituality.  For many years I dedicated myself to doing the work of ministry while being complacent and unbroken about the lack of holiness in my life.  God wants dedication in holiness to Him, before He wants dedication to the work.  God wants dedication of our bodies and lives in holiness to Him so that He can do the work of the ministry through us.

          “From this day” (Haggai 2:19), the day when people return to service in sanctity; from that day “will I bless you” (restore and revive you).

1. Biblical faith understands that God expects more from us than just getting to the work.  God expects holiness in our lives. 
2. Biblical faith understands that God wants a return to the work based upon the understanding that we serve Him.  God expects holiness in that service.
3. Biblical faith understands that our service must be permeated with personal holiness before God can bless it.  Holiness begins with separation from worldliness and continues with and unswerving pursuit of godliness. 

The word “holy” refers to something sacred that is also morally and ethically pure.  Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary[1] defines sacred as “devoted exclusively to one service or use (as of a person or purpose).”  The person who understands this, maintains this sanctity of purpose as he goes through the daily routine in meeting the necessities of life.  

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us {the priesthood of all believers} in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6).

[1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sacred

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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.

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