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: Judgment must begin at the House of God

Monday, March 4, 2019

Judgment must begin at the House of God

Why We are Failing the Great Commission
Judgment must begin at the House of God

In I Peter 4:17, the Word of God proclaims; “For the time is come {the present persecution of believers was but a foretaste of what was to come throughout the Church Age} that judgment {refining fire; Christ’s constant and continual chastening and purification of His Bride; I Corinthians 11:32} must begin at the house of God.”  The point of the text is that the persecution of Christians throughout the Church Age, and true believers remaining faithful to their Message and Mission within that persecution, would be the continuing refining fire to maintain the purity of genuine Christianity.  To compromise either the Message or the Mission of Christ will thereby create an aberration of true Christianity proportionate to the compromise.  Peter expands upon this in the extension of his first epistle in his second epistle; “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (II Peter 2:1).
Accountability has many synonyms; responsibility, liability, and answerability to list a few.  People do not want to be part of something to which they must be accountable.  Such a possibility of non-accountability is just a fairytale that exists almost nowhere except in most local churches.  It certainly does not exist in truly Biblical Christianity.  Unfortunately, the modern practices of many local churches have become so permissive and condescending to the wishes of Seekers that an environment of carnality has been created where these people begin to dictate the conditions for their attendance.  

The primary reason this has developed within various local churches is the failure to differentiate between the mixed multitude of seekers and the committed, surrendered disciples trying to serve the Lord in sanctification.  Failing to make this distinction between these two radically different groups, pastors, deacons, and local church members begin to condescend to the carnality and doctrinal ignorance of the mixed multitude of seekers.  As a result, certain topics must be avoided to insure the mixed multitude of seekers is not offended and leave the church.  Then, sermons and teaching must be dumb-downed to insure the mixed multitude of seekers are not overwhelmed with anything but the milk of the Word.  Thereby, local churches fail to teach the meat of God’s Word to mature believers.  As generations have passed, the downward spiral of this dynamic has digressed to where teaching sound doctrine has been almost obliterated from local churches and a person’s accountability for his own discipleship is nonexistent.  This IS NOT BIBLICAL CHRISTIANITY!  We must always keep at the front of our minds that primary purpose of most of the New Testament books is not church growth, but to keep local churches (church members) doctrinally and sanctificationally pure so the Spirit of Christ can work in them and through them. 

12 Beloved, think it not strange {do not be amazed} concerning the fiery trial {I Peter 1:7; referring to the trying of the reality of the believer’s practical faith through interactions, oppositions, tensions, and persecutions from the world} which is to try you {present participle; i.e. ‘is trying you’}, as though some strange thing happened {present participle; i.e. ‘is happening’}: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy (I Peter 4:12-13).

          Peter leads off First Peter chapter four with a remarkable statement; “1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind {the willingness to suffer . . . ‘in the flesh’}: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God” (I Peter 4:1-2).  The point of this statement is that having our sin nature crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6; a new position) SHOULD manifest that reality in how a believer “should live the rest of his time in the flesh.”  The emphasis of the text is not upon the “no longer . . . in the flesh” as much as it is upon “but to the will of God.”  The “will of God” SHOULD be the true believer’s primary desire regardless of personal sacrifices or personal costs.  This is the beginning change of mind (repentance) to which Peter refers (the mind of Christ and His full surrender to the willingness to die for our sins, I Peter 4:1).  Repentance is a change of mind from selfishness to self-sacrificing servanthood. 

The remarkable expectation of God for people who understand the word Christian is communicated in the last part I Peter 4:1; “for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.”  We cannot grasp this expectation if we do not understand the Expectation of Life Exchange.  Paul communicated this expectation in Galatians 2:20.  The Expectation of Life Exchange is what defines being fully surrendered to Christ and totally yielded to the indwelling Spirit of Christ.  The Expectation of Life Exchange is what defines being a Christian.  Without the Expectation of Life Exchange, the term Christian loses its meaning and becomes ambiguous and irrelevant. 

The point of the Expectation of Life Exchange is NOT that you are trying to live like Christ.  That is impossible!  The Expectation of Life Exchange is that you are yielding to Christ, Who literally lives within you in the Person of His Holy Spirit thereby supernaturally creating an ongoing extension of the incarnation of Christ through your life.  Christ Jesus lives His life through your body!  This is what “arm yourselves likewise with the same mind {the mind of Christ} means.  If you have armed yourself (a military term to prepare for battle) with the same willingness to die for the souls of men and to establish God-kind righteousness in the world, certainly a major descriptor of the Expectation of Life Exchange is to “cease from sin.”  Does this describe YOUR Christianity? 

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). 

THIS IS WHAT DEFINES GRACE LIVING.  This is what the Word of God means when God repeatedly says, “The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; and Hebrews 10:38). “Crucified with Christ” is a statement of understanding that the believer’s Sin Nature has been positionally crucified when Christ was crucified (Romans 6:6).  God’s wrath upon the believer’s sin was satisfied by the substitutionary death of Christ on the believer’s behalf.  Therefore, the “born again” believer should “reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:11). So, living “by faith” means believing in the indwelling Spirit of Christ and yielding yourself (body, soul, and spirit) to Him in obedience to His Word. 

“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled {present, passive, imperative} with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

To be Spirit-filled simply means that you move your mouth, but the Words of Christ come forth.  Christ speaks through you.  He uses your brain and your tongue.  To be Spirit-filled simply means that you are so fully surrendered to Christ that everything that Jesus is comes forth from everything that you are.  Your life is exchanged with Christ’s life and Christ’s life comes forth through your life.  The significance of the necessity of the imperative to be “filled with the Spirit” is that humanity’s fall into sin made us all absolutely useless to God.  Without the Spirit of God, no one could do anything useful spiritually.  Romans 3:10-18 describes what everyone of us are without the Spirit of Christ.  

If you are one of those people who do not think full surrender is important, you do not understand Romans 3:10-18 and you do not understand what you are in the eyes of God apart from full surrender.  Even salvation does not automatically make you a practically spiritual person.  Salvation positionally removes you from the cursed creation and immerses you into the New Creation “in Christ,” but it does not automatically make you a spiritual person.  Only the Spirit of Christ in you can make you a spiritual person.  The New Birth merely opens the door for the potential for spirituality. 

10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13 Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17 And the way of peace have they not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10-18).

It bothers me greatly to teach of the Expectation of Life Exchange and see believers look at me with a blank stare like deer looking into headlights of a car.  They have never heard of such a thing and have no comprehension of what you speak.  Yet, the Scriptures are redundant upon the subject.  The ignorance of the doctrine of grace-enabling is the central reason why the Church is failing the Great Commission.  Apart from the Expectation of Life Exchange, local churches (members) are powerless to accomplish the mission of Christ.  This is what Christ means in the parable of the Vine and the branches in John chapter fifteen: “for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5b).  Abiding in the Vine is the Spirit-filled life and the Expectation of Life Exchange.  

The Expectation of Life Exchange IS FOUNDATIONAL CHRISTIANITY and, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do” (Psalm 11:3)?  The answer is simple, RE-ESTABLISH THE FOUNDATIONS!  Preach “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).  

Hebrews 5:10-14 is another great text revealing the Expectation of Life Exchange.  We can be quite sure the Epistle to the Hebrews was written prior to 70 A.D., because the context is warning professing Christians about the contradiction against faith in the finished work of Christ by their returning to the abrogated “works of the Law” in returning to Temple sacrifices and the other obligations of the Mosaic Covenant.  This would not have been possible if the Temple was not still standing.  

The point of Hebrews 5:10-14 is that if a professing Christian has the basics of the understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the New Covenant “in Christ” (“milk”), such a person would never consider returning to Temple practices (Sacerdotalism).  Since understanding the finished nature of redemption in the Gospel is essential to genuine faith to be “born again,” a person returning to the Temple, the sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant, and observing the holy days of the Mosaic Covenant would manifest the opposite of saving faith – UNBELIEF (Hebrews 3:12, 19, 4:6, and 11).  According to Hebrews 5:10-14, enough time had passed since these Jews professed faith in Christ that there was an expectation not only that they would fully grasp the basic concept of complete redemption in Christ (Colossians 2:10), but they should have grown in their knowledge to the place of being able to teach this to the next generation of professing believers coming into the Church.  They should have transitioned from knowing “milk” to teaching “meat.”  A major aspect of the Expectation of Life Exchange is the transition from being a learner to becoming a teacher (disciple-maker).

10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. 11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. 12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:10-14).

The Expectation of Life Exchange is NOT passive.  In other words, allowing Christ to live His life through your life is cooperative.  The yielded believer AND Christ form a partnership to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This partnership is called “fellowship” in the King James translation of the Word of God.  

There are several conditions that must be met before this spiritual partnership can be generated between a “born again” believer and the indwelling Christ.  These conditions for “fellowship” are what define full surrender to Christ.  Although there are many Scriptures teaching us what is necessary for a “born again” believer to form a ministry partnership with Christ that supernaturally releases the Spirit of Christ through a life, I John chapter one is very specific in details.  A few other texts are Romans 6:6-13, Galatians 5:13-25, and II Corinthians 5:12-21.  Of course, we have innumerable individual verses throughout the Bible with varied specifics necessary to the formation of this spiritual synergism with Christ.  The emphasis of I John chapter one is that the believer cannot live in sin and have “fellowship” (Life Exchange) with Christ.  Every sin that is committed must be “cleansed” (I John 1:9) by genuine repentance and confession.  You are a priest and failing to maintain your sanctity before God is the primary reason churches fail the Great Commission. 

5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light {Life Exchange is only created and exists ‘in the light’}, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:5-7).

I John chapter one is one of the most important texts in the Bible to teach us what is necessary to the supernatural enabling of the indwelling Spirit of Christ.  Sin begins the moment a person crosses the fence-line between obedience and rebellion.  According to Jesus in Matthew chapter five, a person can cross that fence-line into sin by simply allowing his mind to dwell upon a point of lust.  The point is that the true Christian may occasionally wander into the domain of sin - worldliness; he may occasionally stumble into that domain; he may even occasionally be enticed into that domain, but he WILL NEVER REMAIN THERE!  The true Christian will never become comfortable there.  A true Christian will certainly NEVER live in worldliness (I John 3:4-10)!  The true Christian’s heart will be broken over any such transgression, for any such transgression is a contradiction against being a Christian.  The true Christian must regularly ask himself a simple question; Am I living and teaching the exact same things that Jesus lived and taught before His death, burial, and resurrection?  Would Jesus go where you go, do what you do, watch what you watch, talk like you talk, or would He find pleasure in what you find pleasure? 

          Answering these questions honestly is the point of the hypothetical “if” in I Peter 4:14; “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.” Compared to the numbers of true disciples of Jesus, how large were the crowds of superficial followers, detractors, and those that wanted the voice of Jesus silenced?  Should we expect anything different in our generation?  How many in the crowd of followers wanted to represent Him to others as a radical or a heretic?  These are all the tactics of antichrist.  Should true Christians expect any less as they seek to live the Christ-life?  Loving people and accepting people where they are in their lives is not the same as loving people and ministering the Truth to people where they are in their lives.  Jesus may not have stoned the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), but He did tell her “go, and sin no more.”
All of this does not mean that there are not small crowds of heretics and false teachers.  Being a small group does not guarantee orthodoxy or genuineness.  We should not conclude doctrinal correctness simply because some groups manifest a martyr’s complex.  There are some groups that try to generate persecution upon themselves so they can justify their own false doctrines and unloving practices.  Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, and their founding pastor Fred Phelps, is one such hate-filled disgrace of true Christianity.  As soon as any local church transitions from hating sin to hating sinners, that church has ceased to be Christian.  Christ died for sinners.  Jesus did not die to justify sinner’s sins, but to lovingly call them to repentance and to receive His free-gift of salvation. 

14 If ye be reproached {defamed, ridiculed, or railed at} for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for {because} the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you {referring to the Holy Spirit in the same manner as the Shekinah}: on their part he {Jesus} is evil spoken of {blasphemed}, but on your part he {Jesus} is glorified {revealed in His excellence and thereby honored and worshiped}. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. 16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (I Peter 4:14-16).

          It is blasphemous the way the term Christian is bantered around these days.  Most people, calling themselves Christians, have no real understanding of what Christ meant when He said; “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).  By most people, it is meant most people that consider themselves faithful Christians.  The phrase “come after me” is directed to those who want to follow Christ replicating His ministry through their lives by actively and aggressively engaging the cultures in which they live with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Word of God.  The text means being a disciple of Jesus and being willing to die to see the lost saved are synonymous! 

          By catering to the worldliness of seekers, local church leadership has transitioned the dynamic of the church’s ministry away from persuading the lost to repent and accept Jesus as Lord to trying to remake Jesus into someone acceptable to the carnal people of this world.  

In this dynamic of corruption, the teachings of Jesus must be softened.  Full surrender must be redefined.  Sacrifice must become an ideology without any real personal sacrifices.  Discipleship must become an intellectual exercise without any real expectation of sowing the Gospel or reaping any souls.  Water baptism must look only backward as a testimony of salvation, but NEVER forward to an expectation where the new believer “should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).  Preaching repentance from sin, carnality, selfishness, and false beliefs is no longer part of the missional message of the Evangelical Church.  This foolishness is like maliciously putting spiritual trip-sticks in the pathway of the blind, but it is no joke and it is not funny.  This foolishness is disastrous. 

“Oh how easy it is to be a Christian so long as the flesh is not put to the trial or nothing has to be relinquished.  Then it is an easy thing to be a Christian.”[1] (Maekyn Wens; an Anabaptist martyr, burned at the stake at Antwerp, Belgium, on 6 October 1573 in a letter to her husband and son as she awaited execution)

          It is to confront this very issue regarding superficial Christianity that Peter writes in I Peter chapter four verse seventeen.  Christians were suffering under enormous persecutions in 60 A.D. when First Peter was written.  Christians were being persecuted by Christ-rejecting Jews, by Romans, and by the pagans in almost every city where they existed.  The word “suffer,” or a derivative, is used about fifteen times throughout this epistle.  Every Christian had many reasons just to hide out and be silent about Christ.  Yet, they were commanded by Christ to “go . . . and preach.”  To choose obedience meant certain persecution and probably death.  Most chose obedience and the accompanying persecution and death.  They understood what the title Christian means -to “glorify God” through suffering (I Peter 4:16)!

17 For the time is come {the present persecution of believers was but a foretaste of what was to come throughout the Church Age} that judgment {refining fire; Christ’s constant and continual chastening and purification of His Bride; I Corinthians 11:32} must begin at the house of God {the ‘lively house’ of living stones represent in local churches today; I Peter 2:5}: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear” (I Peter 4:17-18)?

          Peter’s second epistle was written around 66 A.D., or about six years after writing the first epistle.  It was shortly after the second epistle that Peter was crucified upside down by Nero for preaching the Gospel.  Persecution has been common to true Biblical Christians since the beginning of the Church Age.  The apostate Jews were the first persecutors of Christians.  It is estimated that over two-thousand Christians were killed by the Jews as these early believers “were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen” (Acts 11:19).  The biggest persecutors of true Christians throughout the centuries have been Apostate Christians such as Roman Catholicism and Reformed churches.  Many of these true Christians were Anabaptists who were murdered for their practice of re-baptizing people who got saved and came out these apostate denominations.  

Peter states in I Peter 4:17 that believers should view the world’s attempt to eliminate their testimony as being God’s refining fire keeping the Church pure from false professions and mediocre faith.  Only genuine believers will be faithful to their Message and Mission when faced with death.  

The modern professing, soft Christian is failing the Great Commission because his Christianity cost him nothing and expects nothing of him.  Therefore, this pseudo-Christianity grows weaker and more ignorant by the year.  This pseudo-Christianity cowers around the enemy’s fire like Peter did on the night of the Crucifixion determined not be counted as disciples of Jesus less they be labeled as radicals and shunned for exclusive statements like “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7) and “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).  There is treason in silence.  It is wickedness to deny Christ the use of a body He has purchased with His own Blood.  “And that he {Jesus} died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (II Corinthians 5:15).

Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (I Peter 4:19).

          Modern Christians are failing to keep the Great Commission because they fear the world.  They fail to maintain the spiritual perspective that God is the Keeper “of their souls” (I Peter 4:19).  We are all going to die someday.  Foxes Book of Martyrs gives this remarkable testimony of James the “son of Zebedee” and brother of the Apostle John on the day of his martyrdom for Christ, probably about ten years (44 A.D.) after Stephen’s martyrdom.

“ . . . as James was led to the place of martyrdom, his accuser was brought to repent of his conduct by the apostle’s extraordinary courage and undauntedness, and fell down at his feet to request his pardon, professing himself a Christian, and resolving that James should not receive the crown of martyrdom alone.  Hence they were both beheaded at the same time.”[2]

[2] FOX’s BOOK of MARTYRS, Edited by William Byron Forbush, Chapter I, Program Files\SwordSearcher\Modules\Martyrs.ss5book, Module file time: 7/31/2011 7:15:24 PM UTC.

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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.


Anonymous said...

This is a powerful description of modern day "Christianity" (which is not Biblical or Scriptural). Thank you, Lance, for your courageous evaluation of where we are today as believers. Most evangelical preachers, pastors and laymen will deny the depth to which you go in your identification of the present 21st century church and christian, but it is unquestionably true. We (the average believer) are woefully lacking evidence of being Spirit-filled in attitude, behaviour and service. The God we claim to know and serve deserves from us a zealous love for Him and others (First and Second Commandment), but we, for the most part, are like the Laodicean church of Reveleation chapter three. What we need the most, we neglect the most: the fruit of the Spirit, Gal. 5:22,23.The Bema will reveal it all with scores of believers weeping! Clarke Poorman, Ret.

Lance said...

Thank you Dr. Poorman!