Thursday, May 4, 2017

BIG SAUL AND LITTLE SAUL


Big Saul started out as Little Saul. Little Saul started out as Big Saul. Both were of the tribe of Benjamin. The first Saul considered that pedigree a little thing; the second Saul considered it a big thing. The first Saul exalted himself to his own destruction; the second Saul abased himself to his own salvation and exaltation. The first Saul feared the people; the second Saul feared only God.
            King Saul is memorialized and honored in Jewish history as Israel’s first king. Yet the Hebrew Scriptures reveal a man of poor character, devoid of a personal relationship with Yahweh, God of Israel. He was superstitious, paranoid, and vindictive. He constantly relied on his own devices and feared the disapproval of men. In the end, King Saul consulted a medium for guidance since the LORD had abandoned him.
            Saul of Tarsus, on the other hand, began his career as an honored leader of Pharisaic Judaism in the 1st century A.D, a disciple of the renowned theologian Gamaliel. This Saul took pride in being of the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5). His zeal for what he considered to be the truth of God moved him to persecute the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, whom Saul considered to be a threat to the covenant faith of Israel. After his encounter with the risen Jesus, however, Saul of Tarsus cast off all honor and prestige, preferring to be known as Paul, his Greek name meaning “little.” (See Philippians 3:4-14; Acts 13:9ff) Though persecuted relentlessly, Paul committed himself to the Lord (Acts 20:22-24; Philippians 1:19-21). Paul, “Little Saul,” sought no approval from men (Galatians 1:10, 15-24).
            Jesus said, "Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:12), and “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).  No two men in Scripture illustrate this contrast better than Saul Ben-Kish[1] and Saul of Tarsus.





[1] Our English Bible identify Saul as “son of Kish,” which was one hyphenated surname in the Hebrew: ben (son) + Kish, hence, Ben-Kish. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Essential Key to Spiritual Understanding

"If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself." (John 7:17)

 A willing heart of obedience is an absolute prerequisite for understanding God's Word.  Only to an obedient heart does God make known his most precious truths.  That person "comes to understand, to comprehend" (Greek ginosko) the teaching of our Lord.  The Pharisees were not willing to do what God might reveal to them, so God would not illuminate their minds to understand what Jesus was teaching.  They felt they could judge God’s Word, rather than letting God’s Word judge them. 

In 1 Corinthians 2:14-15, Paul says, "But the natural (soulish) man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one."  But the Corinthian Christians were neither "natural," that is, unsaved people, nor spiritual people: they were "carnal" (fleshly) Christians, infantile in their understanding of spiritual truths.  So they could not fully comprehend the deep things of God.  Paul says he had to feed them with "milk" and not "solid food," because they were not able to digest it.

Christians whose focus is still on themselves--on their own desires, their own ambitions, their own pleasures--are still "fleshly" and are not able to receive the rich doctrines of God's Word.  And this fleshly attitude results in "envy, strife, and divisions" (1 Corinthians 3:3). 

Only when we have a true heart of complete obedience will God open our spiritual eyes to the most precious riches of His Word.  We need the heart of Samuel who said, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.” 

Let’s pray with the “sweet psalmist” David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.”  (Psalm 139:23-24)



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A CHORUS OF VIRTUES

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. (2 Peter 1:5-9)

The Greek word translated “supplement” in the English Standard Version comes from two words that mean “leading a chorus” (Robertson’s Word Pictures). The idea is that the Christian virtues in this passage are not to be added to one another, as the KJV and the NIV have it, but to supplement or complete one another as the voices in a chorus do. The balanced, mature Christian life has these virtues in harmony. Faith, for instance, must be in harmony with knowledge, self-control with steadfastness, etc.

That godliness must be in harmony with brotherly affection (philadelphia) is particularly striking. The noble desire for godliness, in isolation from the other virtues, has led many to ungodly extremes. Monastacism in its various expressions is one example. Monks have sought to free themselves from sinful temptations by isolating themselves from the world and others, only to find, as Jerome did, that they cannot escape their own thoughts! Some, in seeking personal godliness, have become judgmental of others, lacking in brotherly affection. Nothing is more cacophonous than supposed godliness without brotherly affection or kindness (NASB). It’s like a novice putting a bow to a violin!

One final voice, standing next to Brotherly Affection, completes the chorus: LOVE. Brotherly affection is that deep bond between believers in Christ, yet our love must extend beyond the bounds of our spiritual family. Our Lord commanded that we love even our enemies (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35). That love of the will (agape), is also needed in cultivating brotherly affection. That's why the two are often mentioned together (Rom. 12:10; 1 Thes. 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7)

Meditating on how all the voices in this chorus of Christian virtues should sound together is a good exercise. We must remember, however, that it is not by the exertion of our will that we can put these virtues in balance. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul calls them “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22), and he exhorts us to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16 compare Rom. 8:4). Whenever we find that our spiritual life is out of balance – and it happens to every Christian for time to time – we need to refresh our relationship with Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit by means of prayer and the Word. We need to quiet ourselves before the Lord for as long as it takes for renewal.

The Christian’s life is to be a chorus of praise to the grace of God. Let’s make sure all the voices are singing together.