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Election and its fruits, Part 1

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10

Paul is continuing to give thanks to God for these believers. He begins that praise in v2. In the statement of Divine sovereign election to salvation Paul makes in v4, there is an important aspect of the praise of God in the Christian life. Christian joy and praise in large measure is the expression of thanks to God for His saving mercy and the works of His grace.

In v3 he references general evidences of grace in their lives that prompt him to praise God.

  1. Work of faith, v3. Faith to be thankful for is active/‘energetic’. Cp James 2:14-20. Paul gives prominence to the faith that originates in God here. See 2Pet 1:5-11.
  2. Labour of love, v3. The activity becomes more intensive. Labour > ‘to toil’. The ideas of beating and grief are here. Sorrowful, excruciating labour is in view. To have this associated with the expression of Christian love is striking indeed. To express Christian love often involves such difficulty and self-denial. Cp Eph 5:25, 1Cor 13:4, 7. Even against such a backdrop, true Christian love show itself. See Heb 6:9-10.
  3. Patience of hope, v3. The spirit of endurance marked their endeavours. Here is a key evidence of true conversion to Christ, Matt 13:20-21, Heb 10:38-39. It was fuelled by confidence in Christ. Cp Heb 6:18-20.
  4. In the sight of God…, v3. An awareness of Divine oversight. The wicked are marked by an absence of any fear of God, Ps 10:4. Divine grace produces and instills such an awareness. Paul gives thanks in the sight of God; they had labored in the sight of God. Cp Heb 6:10.

Matthew 18 and the public rebuke of sin

“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear [thee, then] take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell [it] unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” (Matthew 18:15-17 AV)

Very often the first response to any public witness against sin, or the public censure of a Christian who has sinned publicly, is an accusation that to make such a public denunciation is contrary to the Saviour’s teaching in this passage. Usually it is asserted that there cannot be a public censure of sin until private overtures have been made to the offender. This has the effect of diverting attention from the original error and focuses attention on the one trying to protest against it. But what does this passage teach? Is it addressing the matter of public sin at all?

There is a number of important observations to be made about this text:

  1. This is an instance of a private offense. A brother has sinned against a fellow-believer. There is sin involved but it is seen to be of the nature of a private offense or hurt. In the area of personal interaction wrong has been done. Though an individual may feel offended by a fellow Christian’s defiance of God in the public arena, and be stirred to speak out against it, this is far from being merely a matter of private offence. Offence is taken for the Lord’s sake, for the sake of His cause, for His truth’s sake.
  2. The two individuals in view are under the same oversight in a local congregation. The church here is a reference – according the synagogue model – to the local eldership/oversight of the congregation. Both the offender and the offended party are under the same disciplinary structure. It is part of proper order and procedure in the Church to work within the established governmental structures in such cases.
  3. In such a case private overtures by the offended party to the offender must precede any public action. The various levels of private response detailed in v15-16 must be followed before their is an elevation of this matter to official church involvement. To by-pass this initial private response to private sin is to disobey God.
  4. Clearly, this passage does not address the procedure to be followed in a case of departure from God’s word in the public realm. The rebuke of a Christian who has acted unScripturally in a public way is not in view here at all! When a man has sinned before all, that sin warrants a rebuke before all. This is especially necessary where a public example of disobedience is being set and is in danger of being followed by others in the Church.
  5. It may be that in certain instances of public sin private overtures may be helpful initially. Yet it is patently not true to say that they are required by God in advance of any public rebuke of sin.

It is also clear from God’s word that public defiance of God’s word by a professing Christian merits a public rebuke without the necessity of first following this ‘private approach’ protocol. “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” (1Timothy 5:20 AV) Here Paul is addressing the sin of elders in the Church.

Several examples of this public rebuke of sin may be cited:

  • Matthew 16:23 – The Saviour denounced Peter immediately and publicly for his foolish words. It was important for the other disciples to see immediately that what Peter was suggesting was of the devil! The Saviour acted quickly and publicly because of the serious danger that lay in the attitude that had spoken these words.
  • 1 Corinthians 5:3 – Paul denounced the notorious offending believer in Corinth, even instructing the elders of that congregation to hand the man over to the devil for the destruction of the flesh. This was a very high level and public censure by the Church. Yet Paul was not even present when he wrote these words. There was no private approach followed by Paul nor did he instruct the elders to take such an approach. Public sin required immediate public action.
  • Galatians 2:14ff – Paul denounced Peter publicly and immediately for his hypocrisy and folly. Barnabas and others were caught up in this foolishness that was instigated by those who came as the emissaries of the Apostle James. These were ‘high powered’ offenders! Two Apostles were directly or indirectly involved in this sin. Yet although all were within the same Presbytery structure and although Paul recognized the purview of the court of the Apostles and elders (Acts 15:2) in deciding such questions, he immediately and publicly rebukes Peter. Clearly, he does so to prevent the spread of this erroneous practice which was a threat to the very basis of the gospel – though Peter obviously did not see it that way initially. 
  • 2 Chronicles 19:2 – Jehu the prophet sternly and bluntly addresses King Jehoshaphat in a public rebuke of his sinful alliance and fellowship with the wicked King Ahab. There is no private approach, no sparing the feelings and sensibilities of the godly Jehoshaphat. He had done wrong publicly and because he was an influential leader of the people of God, in danger now of leading them deeper into fellowship with apostasy, he must be rebuked openly by God’s man.

It is not wrong to rebuke the public sin of a Christian without recourse to the private approach first protocol. When there is public defiance of God’s order by an elder, a minister, etc then public rebuke is in order and necessary for the sake of defending the cause of God from harmful influence.

Beware of false prophets

Christ’s warning against false prophets

Text: Matthew 7:15-20

In these verses there is a practical example of the discernment that the disciple of Christ is to have and exercise. Here is a kind of judgement (7:1) that is not only not forbidden but is positively commanded. The last days are such that false prophets proliferate. Cp 1Tim 4:1-5. This is an important aspect of the perilous or ‘fierce’ times at the end.

It is no coincidence that the Saviour speaks of the false prophet and his ministry at this juncture. He has just spoken of the character of the road to heaven and the easy alternative in the broad road that is often proposed. Men like to widen what God has made narrow to make it more accommodating for their sinful desires. It is precisely at this point that the false prophet is most likely to make his voice heard. He proposes a different way to God. It is ever the character of the false prophet’s ministry that he preaches ease, liberty and broadness.

I THE DANGER POSED BY THE FALSE PROPHET.

1. This is a danger that arises even in the most blessed circumstances. The false prophet is one who makes his evil presence known in the most sublime environments. The Son of God is preaching and yet must warn of these liars. The question might arise, When Christ Himself is to be heard, who would listen to the devil’s men? Cp 2 Pet 1:21-2:1. The situation envisaged is also one of the most blessed — a man right at the gate of life! The narrow gate and the narrow way to Heaven are targeted by these false prophets.

2. This danger is of the most serious kind. This danger is of such a nature that the Saviour Himself issues a warning against it. The context makes it clear that this is a deadly danger. Cp v13 – the eternal consequences of being influenced to make the wrong choice, destruction; v15 – the analogy of the ravening wolf among sheep; v19 – the fire that destroys all that do not bear the fruits of grace. It is clear that the false prophets make no such demands either of themselves or of their hearers!

3. The danger could well be overlooked. The false prophet does not immediately appear to be so. In v15 even though he is a ‘wolf’ at heart he has donned sheep’s clothing. On the exterior he looks like a sheep. In this he demonstrates the subtilty of Satan, 2 Cor 11:13-15. Some short-sighted Christians are ready to decry the warnings against the wolf.

4. The false prophet is aggressively dangerous. The false prophet is one who makes the approach to the sheep, v15 – come unto you. Cp Jude 4. The disciple can expect to be the target of the false teacher, just as the wolf targets sheep. Cp Ezekiel 13:18.

II THE FALSE PROPHET IS TO BE DETECTED AND REJECTED AS AN EVIL THREAT TO THE SOULS OF MEN.

1. It is of the utmost importance for the well-being of men’s souls that the wolf in sheep’s clothing is detected and action taken to preserve the sheep from the wolf. He must be exposed! A cry of alarm must be raised. This church takes a stand against the lying false prophets of today because we have a desire to see the sheep spared from wolves in sheep’s clothing who will only bring them to ruin.

a. The disciple can only detect the false prophet by the diligent and careful application of the principles of Christ’s teaching. There is no other means of identifying these men. We must measure every preacher against the standard of God’s word and determine him to be true of false according to how he compares with that standard.

b. There is to be a testing that goes beyond the superficial. Cp v15, 1 John 4:1 — his words to be tested, v2, 5-6. It is essential that what a man is inwardly is known. It is true that man cannot look on the heart yet the nature of a man’s heart is seen in his life. Christ’s teaching is to be known and applied to the life.

c. The Saviour gives an infallible rule, v16-20. The fruits of a man’s life indicate his real nature and whether or not he is on the narrow way. The false prophet is known by evil fruit which demonstrates the corruption of his nature. Cp Deut 13:1-4, Is 8:20, Ezek 13:6, 22, II Pet 2:13-15, 18-19. This rule is one which may be applied specifically to determine a false prophet but it also applies in every case, v17-18, I John 3:7. It is a rule the Lord Himself applied, 12:33-34. Cp Matt 3:8-10.

d. Such testing may take more or less time according to the case. In the example of the fruit bearing tree this point is clear. Some time may elapse before the fruit can be really examined. Cp Matthew 13:26. Sooner or later the difference will be seen and it will be seen in the critical matter of bearing fruit.

2. When that which is false and fruitless is detected it is to be rejected.

a. This applies to the false prophet. He is dangerous! Having determined that the man produces thorns we are not to go searching for grapes there etc, v16. Even common sense tells us as much. Such action will only lead to wounding and hurt! The Lord uses the thorn/thistle as if to highlight these are fallen and depraved men by nature and the absolute lack of benefit to the hungry souls of men. The analogy of the wolf indicates just how urgent it is that we discern and flee from false teaching.

b. This also applies to the false professor. Where there is no fruit of grace in your own life then you must recognize that there is something radically wrong. A fruitless profession of faith is dead, James 2:20 — faith without works is dead.

 In these days, God’s people seem to lack this discernment. False prophets creep in unawares and have brought ruin to many souls. A militant, vigorous exposure of these men is necessary to the continued existence and health of God’s people.

Departure, defeat, deliverance

Studies in the Book of Judges for young people

by Ann Foster

God gave Joshua and the armies of Israel many glorious victories over the nations who inhabited Canaan. The land was subdued before them, the tabernacle was set up, the priesthood was established and the land was divided by lot among the tribes of Israel. The nation enjoyed a period of prolonged rest and peace while Joshua was yet alive (Joshua 23:1). God had fully and faithfully kept the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to give the land of Canaan to the children of Israel. Joshua could boldly and without fear of contradiction declare to the people, ‘Not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof’ (Joshua 23:1). Before he died, Joshua fervently and repeatedly urged the people to love the LORD their God, to walk in all His ways and keep His commandments diligently. He exhorted them to cleave to the LORD and to serve Him only. If they did so, then the LORD would expel the rest of the nations of Canaan from the land. However, if they mingled with the heathen nations and made marriages with them, there would be no more victories. There could be no victory without God. It is only as we walk with God and keep His commandments that we can enjoy a victorious Christian life. (From the Introduction)

Things that announce, accompany and follow Christ’s return

Studies in the prophetic Scriptures by Rev. Ivan Foster

I believe with all my heart that there is a need for the people of God to return to that spiritual state in which the early church was – a waiting expectantly for the return of Christ. So it was in Thessalonica. “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come,” 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10. The early church was a waiting church. It was not that they expected Him to come any day. Paul makes it clear in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 that they were not to anticipate such an early return. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition,” 2 Thessalonians 2:3. No, before the return of Christ there was to be a great apostasy, a falling away and out of it was to develop the Antichrist, the man of sin and son of perdition, verse 4. (From the Introduction)

The story of Babylon

In many ways the Bible is ‘a tale of two cities’. Two great cities dominate the theatre of Biblical revelation—Jerusalem and Babylon. Both these cities feature prominently in the events at the end of the age. Their history is wonderfully intertwined in Scripture. The rise of one inevitably meant the decline and fall of the other.

Today Babylon is a small settlement in Iraq. It has been most notable in recent times as the seat of one of Saddam Hussein’s extravagant palaces.

The Scriptures have a great deal to say about this city and understanding God’s purpose for Babylon is critical in understanding His purpose for these last days. It is not an overstatement of the case to insist that for God’s people to live as they ought in this age, and to have a right view of Christ’s return, they must have a right view of what God reveals about Babylon and Babylonianism.

Homosexuality and the Bible

It seems that everywhere one looks these days there is some aspect of the homosexual agenda being touted. ‘Pride’ marches, lobbying for same-sex marriage, same-sex family benefits in law, same-sex adoption rights, mayoral proclamations, etc. The modern entertainment industry seems increasingly to be dominated by this issue. Increasingly, the homosexual constituency is influencing decisions at every level of society. Parallel to this is an increasing disregard for what God says on the subject – even among Christians!

Things which must shortly come to pass

What follows is a compilation of notes I prepared for our adult Sunday School class based on an old work by Rev. Septimus Sears called, Things which must shortly come to pass. It is a simple outline of God’s prophetic timeline for the last days as revealed in Scripture. There are few things more useful than to have a simple overview of the key points of that timeline! I believe that this will help remove a great deal of the confusion that surrounds this vital subject.

Studies in the Tabernacle, Pt13

The Ark of the covenant

Scripture: Exodus 25:10-22

In the tabernacle the ark of the covenant resided in the holy of holies. This piece of Tabernacle furniture is associated with the immediate presence of God. The ark is a wonderful picture of Christ as the mediator between God and men. It is in Him that God dwells among sinful men. It is in Him that God communicates to men, Exodus 25:22. Though the ark was concealed behind the veil — not to be looked on by any save the High Priest once a year and even on the move the ark was wrapped in the vail — the ark was known by the people through the Scriptures to be of special importance in the Tabernacle. What we may never see with the natural eye may be known to us by the Scriptures and seen with the eye of faith! The OT people of God looked forward to a day when the veil would be removed and when God’s Lamb would die for sin full access to the immediate presence of God would be enjoyed. The ark as the symbol of God’s presence among them was the focal point of all the ritual of the Levitical age.

As NT saints we have the vantage point of looking on the ark through the rent veil and with the light of full gospel revelation. Looking on the ark in that light we may see Christ clearly where the OT believer only saw Him dimly and concealed in shadowy type.

Studies in the Tabernacle, Pt12

The Vail

Scripture: Exodus 26:31-33

The vail brings before us a subject that is one of the great underlying themes of the Tabernacle — access to the presence of God. There were three doors or entrances in various parts of the Tabernacle structure. The first was the gate in the linen fence that suurounded the Tabernacle court; the second was the door of the Tabernacle proper; the third was the vail that hung before the holiest of all. Each of these doors emphasizes the gospel truth that there is one way to God — through Jesus Christ alone, John 14:6. The first door opened to the brazen altar; the second, to fellowship with God here on earth; and the third opened into the immediate presence of God. At each point Christ is the only way to the Father.

Studies in the Tabernacle, Pt11

The golden altar

Scripture: Exodus 30:1-10

There were two altars in the Tabernacle — the brazen altar at the gate and the golden altar in the holy place. One was visible to all and the other only to the priests. Both are necessary to a full revelation of the ministry ofChrist as the priestly mediator for His people. In His humiliation He offered Himself a sacrifice to satisfy Divine justice and in His exaltation He offers intercession and praise on the behalf of His people. Both views of Christ are necessary to communion with God. Cp Psalm 84:3.

Studies in the Tabernacle, Pt10

The Shewbread Table

Scripture: Exodus 25:23-30

The great theme of the Tabernacle was the terms on which God and man could meet together and commune together. It was a place of fellowship with God. Cp Exodus 25:22. Various aspects of that great subject are expressed in the component parts of the Tabernacle structure. We have seen the necessity of Christ in the matter, the need for atonement, cleansing, redemption etc. The thought presented to us in the Table is obviously of a meal — eating and drinking with God, guests at His table, enjoying communion with Him. The idea of communion with God under the imagery of a meal is still before us in the church of Christ — the Lord’s supper, 1 Corinthians 10:16

Studies in the Tabernacle, Pt9

The golden candlestick

Exodus 25:31-40

The Tabernacle building consisting of the Holy place and the Holiest of all was the place of fellowship and communion with God. It was the preserve of those who were priests. Since in the NT age all believers are priests, 1 Peter 2:9, the sanctuary represents the fellowship all saints are to have with God. Each has the duty and the privilege of entering the sanctuary and enjoying communion with Him. In some sense this sanctuary represented Heaven. The golden glory, the cherubim overhead — but it was heaven upon earth. It was an experience of glory that was enjoyed while standing on the sands of the desert! This is what the place of worship is to be for the believer. Whether or not you are ready for Heaven is indicated by your experience in the place of worship here on earth.

In the holy place there were 3 items of furniture — each representing Christ in some aspect of His ministry for His people. First we will consider the golden lampstand.

Studies in the Tabernacle, Pt8

The boards and bars

Exodus 26:15-30

In considering these component parts of the Tabernacle we come to consider that which gave structure and form to the dwelling place of God among men. The Tabernacle – ‘dwelling place’ of God – was nothing without these boards and bars. They are a powerful illustration of the person of Christ as God incarnate. The curtains speak of His work as the suffering, substitute sin offering sent from Heaven but His work is necessarily linked with His Person. The two cannot be separated without a collapse of any meeting place with God. To trust Christ’s work is to trust Him, to trust Him is to trust His work. As in the other constituent parts of the Tabernacle, Christ is to the fore here.

Equipped to stand

Recently I did a series of Bible studies in the gospel armour spoken of by Paul in Ephesians 6:10-20. They formed the basis of messages I preached at the youth camp sponsored by our Western Canadian congregations this year.

You can read the notes and download a PDF copy by clicking on the image to the left.