Offensive Gospel

OffenseOfTheCrossCharlesHSpurgeonWaking up the other morning, I realized I’d gone to sleep the night before right in the middle of praying.

It wasn’t the first time and probably won’t be the last, but this particular time annoyed me more than usual.

“I am so sorry, Lord,” I said, “I hope I didn’t offend you by going to sleep in the middle of praying.” I was sincerely sorry in my apology.

“Of course not,” he answered. “Nothing you do could offend me.” I could almost feel him smiling. “Have you given any thought to that word, offend?”

Well, no, I hadn’t thought about it at all, actually. I just use the word like everyone else does from time to time. Maneuvering my way through meowing kitties I headed to the kitchen for their breakfast and my cup of coffee. Offend, I thought. What does that mean?

A TV show with too much violence or filthy language offends me. International news reporting grossly evil behaviors offends my sensibilities. Disagreeable attitudes and behaviors, those kinds of things are offensive. Even odors wafting from the paper mill or garbage pail can be offensive to my nose.

But hurt feelings was what it usually meant to me. Sometimes deeply hurt feelings. Ridicule, sneering comments about various things, perhaps related to what I believe. Keeping silent wasn’t always easy, or even possible.

As I recalled some of those occasions, a verse popped into my mind – “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” (Ps. 119:165) I had made myself memorize that verse years ago when faced with offensive moments at home or at work, legitimate reasons to get angry, frustrated or impatient.

“No offense,” someone would say, all the time intending offense behind a phony smile. “None taken,” was the acceptable response, but of course offense was taken. I would ask the Lord to forgive them for offending me, and forgive me for holding a grudge. Over time I got better at it.

But I didn’t think that was what the Lord was trying to teach me. “Is that it, I asked him?”

“No, think again,” he said. “Think stumble or fall down, made to stop in your tracks.” He began to explain what “offend them” in that verse truly meant. “Think football. Think military.”

So I did some research. I learned that the English word comes from old French, meaning to strike, causing someone to fall down. It would stop them from going any further. I began to understand.

Offending someone’s feelings does stop something, it stops good thoughts or good opinions, puts a halt to a good relationship, even if it’s only for a few minutes. It also starts something, bad thoughts, bad opinions, a contentious relationship.

“The best defense is a good offense.” A good offense gains ground for its own team, nullifying – stopping – the opposition’s defensive actions. True in football, true in military tactics.

Spiritually, the enemy’s offense is aimed at stopping our faith, stopping our walk with the Lord, hindering our ability to share the gospel with someone else. But if I love God’s law (word), nothing the enemy can do will stop me. It won’t stop my faith from working.

Our spiritual offense is aimed at stopping something, too. Aimed at stopping the enemy from deceiving others, from leading them down the wrong path.

Jesus himself is a stumbling block, according to the Bible. He’s an offense to those who refuse to believe the gospel, that Jesus is who he says he is, to those who want to keep others from believing, too. He’s certainly an offense to the devil. I like that.

Meditating on all that, I had another thought:

If you put enough stumbling blocks in the devil’s way, you give people more chances to get themselves untangled from his lies. If you share the gospel enough times, that’s what you’re doing. You’re giving people one more chance to believe, to be rescued from the enemy’s hands. See I Cor. 3:6 and II Tim. 2:24-26.

There’s an old cliche, “No-one has a right to hear the gospel twice until the whole world has heard it once.” Sounds good, doesn’t it?

But I myself heard the gospel dozens of times, before I finally asked Jesus to be my savior and Lord. I’m glad people didn’t quit sharing the good news with me, before that day. I’m glad the gospel offended the enemy on my behalf!

Here are some definitions:

Old Testament

(1) H4383 – mikshowl; a stumbling, fall; means or occasion of stumbling; i.e. put a stumbling block in someone’s way.

“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Ps. 119:165.

(2) H816 – asham; be offend, do wrong; be guilty.

(3) H898 – bagad; act treacherously, transgress, deceitful, covertly, unfaithful.

New Testament

(1) G4624 – skandalizo; put a stumblingblock in someone’s way; entice to sin; cause a person to distrust one he ought to trust; cause to fall away; cause one to judge unfavorably or unjustly of another.

“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matt. 18:6; this passage is found in all three gospels.

“Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” Matt. 18:7

“As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” Romans 9:33 – refers to Isaiah 8:14. I Peter 2:6-8 refers to the same Isaiah scripture, speaking of Jesus, the chief corner stone, a stone of stumbling and rock of offence to those who are disobedient.

(2) G4417 – ptaio; to cause one to stumble or fall; to err, make a mistake, sin.

“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10.

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What was I thinking?

Copyright 1949; science fiction short stories from 1930, 1939, etc.

Copyright 1949; science fiction short stories from 1930, 1939, etc.

When I was little, I was thinking about lots of things. Outer space. Mars. Heaven. Paper dolls. Piano scales. Tall trees. Rocket ships.

Some of what I thought was based on what grownups told me. Some was based on what I experienced. Once I learned to read, a lot was based on what I read. Dick and Jane, Mickey Mouse, Nancy Drew.

In those pre-internet days my house was a rich resource of printed information about many things. Mother eventually bought a telescope and peered at the stars every night, pointing out the Big Dipper and tracking sputnik.

Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Galaxy Magazine and Amazing Stories, science fiction novels and space adventures joined Reader’s Digest, Red Book, the Bible and Norman Vincent Peale on our bookshelves..

Gradually I decided that I didn’t belong on planet earth. Was Mars my real home? Or somewhere further away, out there in really outer space? I just knew I had been stranded here for some reason and would be rescued one day, so my vivid imagination peopled the space ship that would come for me. Maybe Flash Gordon!

What I thought about heaven was based mostly on fuzzy imagination. Negatives. What wouldn’t be there. Bad diseases, like measles or polio. Bad people, like bullies and crooks. Bad weather, like hurricanes or droughts.

So what would be in heaven, I wondered? God of course. Jesus. Angels. Dead people dressed in flowing robes, floating around on fluffy clouds and playing hymns on harps. Church every day, all day. BORING, is what I thought.

I don’t think any of that nowadays. Over time I changed my thinking. I repented. (That’s what the Greek word for repent means, to change your mind, your way of thinking.)

I also thought to get into heaven I had to be more good than bad, good thoughts and good deeds tipping the scales in my favor. God, long-faced Judge of the quick and the dead, would sum me up against the Ten Commandments and decide. Did I make it in?

For a little kid being good all the time got to be “old,” real fast. But of course if you messed up, if your weights got out of balance, you could walk the aisle, tell the preacher how sorry you were for all those missteps and just start over on Monday. Right? No-one could know his final tally for sure until he died, of course. Didn’t make for much confidence in a little girl growing up.

All that was before I found out about Grace. The cross. Jesus’s blood. John 3:16. I changed my thinking. I repented. What a relief! Even if I messed up, God still loved me. He was in favor of me!

Every Sunday morning right along with the whole congregation I recited the Doxology, not thinking much about “Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” If I did think about Holy Ghost I supposed it meant the atmosphere in church. Sanctified. Sacred. Quiet. Except when singing, only the preacher talked. Shhhh. No whispering!

Of course, outside the sanctuary building kids could run around and make all the racket we liked, as long as we didn’t get our Sunday clothes dirty.

Holy Ghost outside the sanctuary? If I thought about that at all, I thought maybe it showed up in a funeral parlor, or the pastor’s parlor. Invisible wisps of holy fog, that was Holy Ghost to me. Eerie. Creepy. Later on, our Sunday School teacher mentioned the three persons of the Trinity, each one of them God. What an idea!

I began to think of Holy Ghost as God’s hidden camera, listening and recording good deeds and bad during the week. Still a bit creepy.

Then I met the Holy Spirit, aka Holy Ghost, in person. God who is with me, inside me, able to chat and laugh and teach and explain. Wow! The Bible became fascinating to me, the way science fiction used to be. Amazing stories. God’s fantastic love, real, not fantasy. Boy, has my way of thinking changed. His way is much better.

When Jesus told the crowds to repent, he wasn’t threatening them with some horrible form of hellfire and brimstone, as I thought as a child. He was offering them joy, fullness of joy in God’s presence. All they had to do was change their minds.

 

Adoption as Sons of God

AdoptedAbbaA free Bible study I discovered online in 2008, author Charles H. Welch; Dispensational Bible Scholar and Teacher; 1880-1967.

The word adoption is the translation of the Greek “huiothesia,” a word composed of “huios” – a son – and “thesis” – to place, or constitute.

The word is used only by Paul in the New Testament and occurs five times in the KJV:

  1. Rom. 8:15. Ye have received the spirit of adoption (KJV). (NIV says Spirit of sonship); the contrast in this passage is between child, i.e. teknon, one born, meaning any child; and son, a male child of a specific parent, huis.
  2. Rom. 8:23. Waiting for our adoption as sons. (huis)
  3. Rom. 9:4. To whom pertaineth the adoption. (NIV: adoption as sons)
  4. Gal. 4:5. That we might receive the adoption of sons. (NIV: full rights of sons). Child = “nepios” in verse 1, meaning an infant, a child too young to speak; not speaking.
  5. Eph. 1:5. Unto the adoption of children. (NIV: adopted as his sons)

The Jewish believers would understand one custom by this phrase, and the Gentiles would understand another, based on their culture – Paul used it in his writings so that the believers would more fully understand what happened when you became a Christian.

Jewish believers would think of the rite of passage for a Jewish boy, the bar mitzvah, or ceremony whereby the boy became spiritually and legally recognized as a man, in the same family with the same parents, but with new and adult-sized rights and responsibilities.

Gentile believers would probably think of the Greek or Roman law of adoption, where the actual family itself was changed, more in line with our American adoption customs except that most often the adopted person was already an adult, not a small child or baby.

To appreciate the full significance of the figures in Galatians 3 and 4 they must be viewed in the light of the law of adoption and more particularly, the Greek law of adoption. At the same time it must be remembered that Paul also uses the term in Romans, so that we must also bear in mind the Roman law on the subject. There is no equivalent law of adoption in England.

In Roman law, adoption was a very serious undertaking. The adopted son became a member of the family, just as if he had been born of the blood of the adopter; and he was invested with all the privileges of a “filius familias.”

As a matter of fact it was by this means that the succession amongst the Caesars was continued. It never descended from father to son. What with poison, divorce, luxury and profligacy, the surviving members of a family were few, the descent suffered constant interruption, and whole families disappeared.

In no case amongst the Caesars did the throne pass from father to son … Augustus was the great nephew of Julius Caesar, and was adopted from the Octavian into the Julian gens. Tiberius was no relation at all to his predecessor: he was merely the son of Augustus’s wife, Livia, by Tiberius Claudius Nero. Here we have the introduction of another family the Claudii … Nero was the great nephew of his predecessor Claudius, who had adopted him in the year A.D. 50. (Septimus Buss).

Adoption was of two kinds: adoption proper, and adrogation.

1.  Adoption proper. It must be remembered that the father in Roman law had absolute control over his family, possessing the same rights over his children as over his slaves. By this “patria potestas,” the son was deprived of the right to own property, and the father could inflict any punishment he thought fit, even to the extent of the death penalty. He could also sell his son into bondage.

According to the law of the XII Tables, however, a father forfeited his potestas if he sold his son three times. For this reason, in the case of adoption, a legal ceremony took place in which the father went through the process of selling his son three times, and the son passed over completely to the potestas of the adopter. In later times the cumbersome ceremony was substituted by a simple declaration before the Praetor or Governor.

2.  Adrogation. When the person to be adopted was his own master, he was adopted by the form called adrogation (from the word for “ask”, since in this case the adopter, the adopted, and the people were “asked”, rogatur). The law demanded that the adopter should be at least eighteen years older than the adopted.

Adoption imitates nature, and it seems unnatural that a son should be older than his father. (Justinian).

Adoption was called in law a “capitas diminutio,” which so far annihilated the pre-existing personality who underwent it, that during many centuries it operated as an extinction of debts. (W. E. Ball).

The effect of adoption was fourfold:

1. A CHANGE OF FAMILY. The adopted person was transferred from one gens to another.
2. A CHANGE OF NAME. The adopted person acquired a new name: for he assumed the name of his adopter, and modified his own by the “termination ianus.” Thus when Caius Octavius of the Octavian gens was adopted by Julius Caesar, he became Caius Julius Caesar Octavianus.
3. A CHANGE OF HOME, and
4. NEW RESPONSIBILITIES AND PRIVILEGES. While the adopted person suffered many “losses”, these were more than counterbalanced by his “gains,” for he received a new capacity to inherit. In the case of the adopter dying intestate, the adopted son acquired the right of succession.

Paul alludes to the patria potestas, i.e. the absolute power of the father in the family, in the fourth Chapter of Galatians where he speaks of “the child differing nothing from a slave” and goes on to say “Thou art no longer a slave, but a son” (Gal. 4:7).

Paul also alludes to tutelage in Galatians 3 and 4, where we have such phrases as “kept in ward,” “tutor to bring us to Christ,” “under guardians and stewards,” and “children held in bondage” (Gal. 3:23 to 4:3).

So far as the ceremony was concerned, the difference between the transferring of a son into slavery and his becoming a member of the family was very slight. In the one case the adopter said: “I claim this man as my slave”; in the other, “I claim this man as my son”.

The form was almost the same; it was the spirit that differed. If the adopter died and the adopted son claimed the inheritance, the latter had to testify to the fact that he was the adopted heir.

Furthermore the law requires corroborative evidence. One of the seven witnesses is called. “I was present”, he says, “at the ceremony. It was I who held the scales and struck them with the ingot of brass. It was an adoption. I heard the words of the vindication, and I say this person was claimed by the deceased, not as a slave, but as a son” (W. E. Ball).

Bearing all these facts in mind, can we not feel something of the thrill with which the Roman Christian would read the words of Romans:

“Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs” (Rom. 8:15,17).

It is not so much the Holy Spirit addressing Himself here to the human spirit in confirmation, but rather the joint witness of the Holy Spirit and the spirit of the believer to the same blessed fact.

Closely associated with the law of adoption was that of the Roman will. The Praetorian will was put into writing, and fastened with the seals of seven witnesses (cf. Rev. 5 and 6). There is probably a reference to this type of will in Ephesians:

“In Whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:13,14).

W. E. Ball translates the latter part of the passage: “Until the ransoming accomplished by the act of taking possession (of the inheritance)”.

When a slave was appointed heir, although expressly emancipated by the will which gave him the inheritance, his freedom commenced not upon the making of the will, nor even immediately upon the death of the testator, but from the moment when he took certain legal steps, which were described as “entering upon the inheritance.” This is “the ransoming accomplished by act of taking possession.”

In the last words of the passage “to the praise of His glory,” there is an allusion to a well known Roman custom. The emancipated slaves who attended the funeral of their emancipator were “the praise of his glory.”

Testamentary emancipation was so fashionable a form of posthumous ostentation, the desire to be followed to the grave by a crowd of freedmen wearing the “cap of liberty” was so strong, that very shortly before the time when St. Paul wrote, the legislature had expressly limited the number of slaves that an owner might manumit by will.

No modern writer has greater first hand knowledge of this term than Sir William Ramsay, and in order to acquaint ourselves with its usage in Galatia, we will first of all quote from Sir William’s A Historical Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians:

The idea that they who follow the principle of faith are sons of Abraham, whatever family they belong to by nature, would certainly be understood by the Galatians as referring to the legal process called adoption, huiothesia.

This adoption was a kind of embryo will; the adopted son became the owner of the property, and the property could pass to a person that was naturally outside the family only through his being adopted. The adoption was a sort of will making; and this ancient form of will was irrevocable and public. The terms “son” and “heir” are interchangeable.

An illustration from the ordinary fact of society, as it existed in the Galatian cities, is here stated: “I speak after the manner of men.” The will (diatheke) of a human being is irrevocable when once duly executed. But, if Paul is speaking about a will, how can he say, after it is once made, it is irrevocable? Up until the death of the writer, couldn’t he change it?

No. Such irrevocability was a characteristic feature of Greek law, according to which an heir outside the family must be adopted into the family; and the adoption was the will making.

The testator, after adopting his heir, could not subsequently take away from him his share of the inheritance or impose new conditions on his succession. The Roman Syrian Law Book will illustrate this passage of the Epistle. It actually lays down the principle that a man can never put away an adopted son, and that he cannot put away a real son without good ground.

It is remarkable that the adopted son should have a stronger position than the son by birth; yet it is so. The expression in Galatians 3, verse 15, “When it hath been confirmed” must also be observed. Every will had to be passed through the Record Office of the city. It was not regarded in the Greek law as a purely private document. It must be deposited in the Record Office.

Here it will be seen that one may be “adopted,” or made the heir, without being at the same time a true child, but in the case of the Scriptural usage of adoption, there is no idea that the believer is “only an adopted child,” for the testimony of the Word is explicit on the point, making it clear that adoption is something added:

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:16).

The argument of Galatians 4:1 7 proceeds upon the supposition that there is a difference between a “child” (Gal. 4:1,2), and one who has received the “adoption” (Gal. 4:5). “If a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:7). That “adoption” is related to “inheritance” we can see by examining the first chapter of Ephesians. There we find the word “predestinate” used twice, once in verse 5, where it is “unto adoption,” and again in verse 11, where it refers to “inheritance.”

For more of this study, see http://www.bibleunderstanding.com/adoption.htm
http://www.charleswelch.net/

Inside information

LoveOfGodRoseI think some commandments are also statements of fact.

John 14:15 says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Is that a commandment? Or a statement of fact? Or both?

Read the rest of the chapter.

Jesus is talking to the disciples about God the Holy Spirit (the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth) and what will happen once he moves from the outside to the inside of them. At that moment he is with them, inside of Jesus but not yet inside of them. “You know him, for he dwells with you, and shall be in you.” (verse 17)

Although they had seen Jesus do many wonderful things and they themselves had done many of the same things, there were still “greater works than these” (verse 12) that they couldn’t do yet. But they would be able to do them once God inhabited their bodies.

I’m not sure they completely understood all that, before it actually happened. Isn’t that the same problem today? Some of us want to understand how things work, beforehand. Some things you have to “take on faith,” however. Believe first. Then see.

Well, if the 100% pure God has taken up residence inside of you, some things begin to happen. He begins to “infect” you with himself, rearrange your life, your thought patterns, your likes and dislikes, your feelings, habits and activities. Transform you, spirit, soul and body.

The pace and degree to which he succeeds depends on you, your cooperation. Don’t like yourself? Cooperate with him better. Let him infiltrate, like water infiltrating a sponge.

Jesus said, ” Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40) The problem was, nobody could do it. Yet.

But now “We love him, because he first loved us.” (I John 4:19) We can authentically love him now, because he enables us – from the inside of us – to love him back, and to love other people too.

Unless he does the enabling, we won’t do it very well. God doesn’t force us to accept his love, his salvation, his presence, his enablement. We’re his coworkers, not his puppets. And the more we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, the better at it we’ll get.

Whose example are you following?

ExamplePowerOfGodJesus told the disciples to follow him, do what he had been doing, and teach others to do the same things. They did.

“Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16:20 NIV)

The apostle Paul said, “Be ye followers (imitators) of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (I Cor. 11:1 KJV)

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” (I Cor. 2:4-5 NIV)

“… by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of His Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” (Rom. 15:19 NIV)

Demonstration of God’s power = signs and miracles. Without that, the gospel has not been fully proclaimed. You may be following the wrong example.

Grace = gift; free of charge.

Do you need help?

Hebrews 4:16 tells us, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

That last phrase can be translated “… and find a free gift to help in time of need.”

Grace here is the Greek word “charis.” It’s the same root word as in “charisma,” translated gifts, such as gifts of the Holy Spirit in I Corinthians. It means God’s favor, his gift to us, free of charge in Christ.

It’s not some spooky, super-spiritual state of being satisfied with sickness, disease, calamity or chaos. It’s practical help, whenever help is needed.

When Hurricane Hugo hit Florence in 1989, Tim was in McLeod Hospital being treated for an infection in his hand. He had been transferred from Roper Hospital in Charleston which was in the direct path of the storm.

I sat by Tim’s bed all that ear-splitting stormy night, rain blowing right through the porous hospital walls onto my chair. I was wrapped like a cocoon in several blankets, trying to keep as dry as possible.

Tim was in very serious condition. A double pancreas/kidney transplant patient, he was in danger of losing the transplants from side effects of antibiotics being used to treat the infection. His condition worsened during the night, and by morning the doctors had decided Tim should be flown to the University of Minnesota Transplant Center for treatment.

But there were no flights out of Florence! Airports were closed at the major connecting cities, Atlanta and Charlotte. Nothing was flying out of Charleston or Columbia. Plus, Tim was on IV’s. He needed an air ambulance, a very fast jet plane. We needed help!

It took nothing short of a miracle to get that plane to Florence, from its headquarters in Florida, but that’s what God provided. Grace. Practical help. With phone calls from several friends, we found an air ambulance with medical pilot and co-pilot that could fly to Florence. Tim was able to be transported on a stretcher with his IV running and we made it to Minnesota in just a couple of hours.

While the plane was en route to Florence, I had a very short time to go home, pack a suitcase and get to the airport for our flight. Due to widespread damage there was a total power outage in Florence and a police blockade of all traffic except for emergencies, meaning I had to get special permission to go home.

Someone drove me, I don’t remember who. It took a lot longer than usual, dodging downed trees and power lines and having to detour several times along the way.

Then, when we finally got to the house, I couldn’t get in. Two huge pine trees had fallen across the yard, one in front and one in back, completely blocking both doors. I needed more help, to say the least.

I wasn’t strong enough by myself to shove tree limbs aside and make a big enough gap to edge through, but with my driver’s help I squeezed in the door. Returning to the car a few minutes later with my hastily packed bag, I wondered what we were going to do about those trees when we came home from Minnesota.

Grace came to our rescue so many times during those days. Tim’s hand was successfully treated, the transplants were saved, and from his hospital room we watched television coverage of the hurricane’s path that the power-less folks back home couldn’t watch.

I worried a bit about those downed pine trees. How would we get Tim’s wheelchair into the house? What would we do about cleaning up the mess?

When finally we returned home many days later, to our amazement we found the yard completely clear. You’d never know those trees had fallen in front or back! There were no limbs, no pine needles, no pine cones, no sawdust even! Every trace of debris had been removed.

Grace had come in the form of friends unknown to me, people recruited by my Uncle Charlie Powers to come with power saws, rakes, trucks, everything needed to handle this problem. Free of charge.

That’s what grace is. Favor. Gifts. Free of charge, in Christ Jesus, by way of friends with power saws if necessary.