The Spiritual Nature of Sin and Restoration (Galatians 6:1)

May 22, 2019
The Spiritual Nature of Sin and Restoration (Galatians 6:1)

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”

To contemporary, American tastes a verse such as this one is foul. We are stubbornly independent and private and do not want to be accountable to anyone. However, for those of a humble mind, willing to receive what the Lord is teaching, we see the wisdom and love of a Christian community which looks out for one another.

In the first place, the writer calls the church’s attention to the matter by addressing them as “brethren,” that is, brothers and sisters in Christ. They are all a part of the family of God. And, we are reminded, “One way in which brothers and sisters can support one another is by seeking to bring those who have committed a sin back into the fellowship of the community” (Moo, 374). Family should always promote the best for their loved ones. To leave someone caught in a sin or in a pit of despair, or, worse, to enable them to stay in that vulnerable and destructive state is not only unloving but cruel. Christian accountability starts with the loving, familial bond that we have with one another in the church.

The apostle speaks of potential circumstances where any one of the church members could be caught in a trespass (and the statement is so general that he surely has in mind any and all kinds of sins). If this scenario happens, and it is likely to happen to someone at some point, then those who are “spiritual” should seek for the person’s restoration. What does the term “spiritual” mean? One translator renders the phrase, “You who are Spirit people” which is said to be “a cumbersome attempt to carry over into English translation what Paul means by” the Greek phrase” (Moo, 374). What the writer means by this is to call on those in the church who have taken the exhortations seriously to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5:16, 25) to now carry out their Christian duty to help wayward brothers and sisters. To put it another way, Paul is not calling on a certain group of spiritually superior believers to aid the less spiritual; not at all. He is calling on all believers to do this God-glorifying, soul-saving work of restoration.

The goal is restoration, not humiliation or judgmentalism or cruelty or any of the sort. The goal is restoration. Another scholar explains, “Instead of looking down on those who have failed, people of the Spirit bear their burdens by helping them back up. . . . [W]e must restore the fallen by the Spirit whose fruit is gentleness (cf. 5:22)” (Keener, 266).

Lastly, we must always keep in mind our own life and attitude. Three possibilities have been offered for what the restorers may be tempted to do: (1) Become angry at the offender; (2) Become prideful or self-righteous; (3) Fall into the same sin as the offender (Moo, 375). Thus, the apostle stresses throughout the verse, and the bulk of this section in the epistle, that this work of restoration must be spiritual in nature. We must be dominated by the Holy Spirit in order to get these situations right. If someone falls into sin, they have fallen out of their walk with the Spirit. Those who are in step with the Spirit should seek to spiritually restore these folks “both for the sake of the transgressor (cf. 1 Cor 5:5b) and for the sake of the church’s public testimony (cf. 1 Cor 5:1b; 6:1, 6)” (Keener, 266).

The Christian and Money

May 15, 2019
The Christian and Money
Money is vitally important to life, and the Bible has no shortage of teaching on the subject. Christians should have a robust and complex view of finances. From OT to NT, God has said lots about money, and the Lord Jesus talked about it on numerous occasions. From saving money to spending money, investing and giving generously, from earning a living wage to being content, the evils and dangers of the love of money and wealth, and how to treat the poor; Christians have no excuse for not being responsible with their money.
To show you how important this issue is, let me remind you of a passage from our Lord. Matt 19:23-24 says, "Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Why is it hard for the rich to enter into the kingdom? Because it is easy to trust in riches rather than God.

And, let's just go ahead and admit what I have said in the past: We are not only talking about the upper 1% of American society—the governing officials or CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. We need to admit that we are filthy rich in comparison to most around the globe today and throughout world history. We are talking about the classic clash between storing up treasures on earth versus storing up treasures in heaven. Of course, we can see our treasures on earth. They are right in front of us, and we like them. They comfort us. They empower us. They entertain us and distract us. We trust in them. And, when we do, we fail to genuinely worship and obey God. 

If entering heaven is difficult for the wealthy, then I would think that we would take these issues seriously. How we view money and possessions, how we talk about money, how we use it; all these things matter to God and have a major impact on our souls!

Contending for the Faith (Jude 3-4)

May 8, 2019
Contending for the Faith (Jude 3-4)

Jude opens his inspired letter with fairly traditional greetings but then quickly starts the body of the letter with the famous line: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”

Jude insists that he was ready to write to these brothers and sisters who are loved by God. With these words he shows that not only did God love these believers but so did he. Jude was especially eager to write about their “common salvation.” While we have not yet entered into heaven and the final state, we have in one sense already attained salvation. All born-again Christians share this common salvation and all the benefits of it. Jude had at first intended to write about all of those wonderful blessings of salvation but was interrupted with news of false teachers among these brothers and sisters. So, he felt it necessary to change course and write to the people in light of the present, precarious situation.

The express purpose of Jude’s letter was to exhort those people of God to “contend earnestly for the faith.” Of course, verse four is where we find the details of why this is so much more urgent than other things that may have been discussed in the letter. We learn from that next verse that certain ungodly men had somehow snuck in among the Christians unnoticed. These men were perverting God’s grace and denying the Lord Jesus Christ. A decline into unbelief does not happen immediately, it does not happen overnight. Apostasy is months or years in the making when Christians do not remain alert and steadfast. Allowing a little error here and more false teaching there eventually leads to a perversion of the true Gospel of God’s grace and an outright denial of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

And so, Jude tells the brethren to contend earnestly for the faith. The word “contend” that Jude employs was used in military and athletic contexts. The term “refers to a struggle or intense effort” (Schreiner, 435). Those ancient believers and Christians of every generation, including us today, are to fight for the faith. “The Faith” here is used in almost a technical sense meaning to convey all of what we believe and teach. “The Faith” is the Gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, all of the holy Scriptures, all the doctrines of God, historic theology, and the entirety of what we call “Christianity.” We are to fight to stay in our faith-relationship with God, to defend the truths of Scripture, and to promote the Gospel in our communities and around the world. This exhortation is all the more needed in our current day because so many are redefining the Faith or outright abandoning it.

This Faith we are speaking of has been delivered to the saints, that is, the church has been entrusted with these precious truths about God. Jude says that the Faith has been “once for all” passed down from the apostles through every generation signifying that, “No supplements or corrections will be tolerated. The gospel of Jesus Christ has received its fullest explication through the apostles” (Schreiner, 436). It is my responsibility and yours as well, all of us together as the Church, to promote and defend the Gospel of God’s grace and to live by faith in His one and only Son.

Therefore, we have two reasons to contend for the Faith given in these two verses of Jude’s letter. I’ll summarize them in reverse order. First, Christians must contend earnestly for the Faith because it has been given into our trust. We are to safeguard the purity of the Gospel by not only believing and defending it but also by promoting it. Second, Christians must content earnestly for the Faith because there are always ungodly people, from outside and from within the Church, who seek to pervert the Gospel and lead believers astray. Thus, we see both vertical and the horizontal motivators. God has made us responsible for the Gospel and men are seeking to use and abuse the Gospel. Be a believer in the Good News of Christ. Be a defender. Be a proclaimer. Contend earnestly.