Monthly Archives: June, 2017

Careful Ephesus

“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write;. . . I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.” (Revelation 2:1-2)

This church, founded by the apostle Paul, had grown in its doctrinal precision and careful attention to the words of Scripture. They were intensely focused on purity of leadership and were vigilant against any form of false teaching. Most of us would find that kind of church a refreshing example to follow in these days of indifferent (and often heretical) theology.

They hated the “deeds of the Nicolaitanes,” which was a horrible practice that the Lord Himself hated (Revelation 2:6). Peter had warned against this domineering attitude in his first general letter to the churches when he insisted that the elders of the churches should not be “lords over God’s heritage, but [be] ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3).

Ephesus was a “good” church, but the risen Lord Jesus had “somewhat against” them. Apparently, amid all of their careful attention to doctrine and to purity of leadership lifestyle, they had “left [their] first love” (Revelation 2:4). They had fallen from the deep bond of love they had demonstrated years earlier when Paul called the elders to Miletus to encourage and exhort them to remain faithful to “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). They were so much in tune with Paul’s heart for the gospel that they “all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him” (Acts 20:37).

The drift away from that “first love” was so serious that the Lord warned Ephesus to repent or He would take away their “candlestick” (Revelation 2:5)—their authority to represent Christ as one of His churches. Cold, precise doctrine must never take away our love for people or for the truth. HMM III

True Love

“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.” (Song of Solomon 8:7)

The Song of Solomon, as part of God’s inspired Word, is much more than an ancient erotic poem, as some have interpreted it. Solomon was given great wisdom by God, so that he “spake three thousand proverbs; and his songs were a thousand and five” (1 Kings 4:32). Of these latter, he apparently considered this to be his masterpiece, his “song of songs” (Song 1:1). It can best be understood as a pure love song describing the courtship and marriage of Solomon and his first bride, long before he later married “many strange [that is, ‘foreign’] women” (1 Kings 11:1) who “turned away his heart after other gods” (1 Kings 11:4).

Another interpretation, favored by many Bible scholars over the centuries, is that the story is an allegory whose theme is the love of Christ and His heavenly bride, the true church.

That is, it really does seem to describe the love of young Solomon and his first bride. Such love had and still has God’s blessing, for the union of man and woman in permanent, loving marriage has always been God’s plan, ever since Adam and Eve (note Christ’s confirmation of this in Matthew 19:3-9). It is “the works of the flesh,” including adultery and fornication, that God condemns.

But the song can also bring great blessing to the reader as he sees therein the eternal love of the Lord Jesus and His heavenly bride. Our text verse, read in this light, is a glorious truth. Not even the waters of a great flood could quench such love, nor all the possessions of a wealthy king ever purchase it. It is true eternal love, bought by the blood of the Bridegroom and received with undying faith by His beloved bride. HMM

The Discipline of Patience

“But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:4)

Patience, or endurance, is part of the development that produces the experience that brings hope and assurance to those who are the twice-born (Romans 5:3-5). Patience is a discipline—a “work” that is necessary for our growth. Although such discipline never seems pleasant at the time, it is administered by our loving heavenly Father, who focuses His work on our spiritual maturity (Hebrews 12:5-8).

Our text contains several key aspects that promise victory through the process of learning patience. Wisdom is granted liberally as we ask for it during the testings that produce the “perfect work” (James 1:4) of patience. As those who love the Lord endure the testings that will surely come, the endurance practiced will produce a “crown of life” (James 1:12) as an eternal testimony to our patience.

Psalm 37 outlines the principles for gaining patience during this life. First, “trust in the LORD” (Psalm 37:3) and follow His leading in everything you do (Proverbs 3:5-10).

Second, delight in the Lord—get excited about Him (Psalm 37:4). That trait is amplified often in Psalm 119 (Psalm 119:16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 174). Then, commit your way to the Lord (Psalm 37:5), becoming like a branch attached to the vine (John 15:4-7).

Finally, rest in the Lord (Psalm 37:7) and wait on Him (Psalm 37:34). That doesn’t mean just “hang around.” It means to be a fully prepared servant, waiting for his master’s orders to implement. The “profitable” servant (Luke 17:10) learns what his master wants and stands ready to respond to the needs of the Kingdom.

Patience is never obtained through bored indifference. HMM III

The Battle for Purity

“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19)

One of Paul’s major messages to his young disciple Timothy was to strive for purity in every area of his life. Compromise and impurity were not to be glossed over; they were to be vigorously opposed.

Concerning purity in doctrine, Paul charged, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). He was to “charge” his followers not to wrangle over trivial issues and not to listen to false teaching (v. 14). They were to “shun” vulgar and empty talk, knowing that such will only lead to more impurity and doubt (vv. 16-18). Furthermore, he was to actively “oppose” those who taught or lived by any other code, doing everything possible to “recover” those ensnared by satanic lies (vv. 25-26).

A prerequisite for an effective battle for purity in doctrine is purity in character. A Christian leader must be prepared for the work. “If a man therefore purge himself from these [i.e., false teaching, practices, and attitudes], he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (v. 21).

Finally, a Christian leader must have proper and pure relationships with both those who are under his influence and those who must be opposed. “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves” (vv. 24‑25). This is a difficult task, but as in our text, our foundation is sure, and we are known fully by the One who leads and empowers us in the work ahead. JDM

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