Saturday, December 15, 2018

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This blog is meant to encourage you to do the good works, which were prepared beforehand for those who are saved by grace through faith.  It was for these good works that the Lord created us.

As the Scripture says:

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Eph 2:8-10)

Resting from Work Keeping Sundays Holy Christian Sabbath is Sunday, not Saturday
The Lord's Day Keeping Sundays Holy - Part II Famous Christian Sabbath Observers
Sabbath Period The Origin of the Sabbath Righteous Deeds and White Robes
 Doing What is Right Your Rewards Are Based on Your Practice The Law Established Through Faith
Law of Love in the New Testament Deleted Scriptures in the Bible? Why Paul Lived Like a Jew Among the Jews
Is Obedience Optional? The Cost of Discipleship Obedience by the Spirit
The Law Fulfilled in Us The New Covenant Costly Grace
Partaking of the Divine Nature House of Idleness God Has Not Rejected His Jewish People, Has He?
Faith Works! The Spirit's Law of Life The Spirit of the Law
Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth? Righteousness by Faith not Law The Ebb and Flow of Ministry for the Lord
Compelled by Love   God's Idea of Work What Then Must We Observe
The Law is Good if Used Lawfully The Sale of Christian Music and Art -- A Robbers' Den? Remember the Eternal Law of God
All Our Deeds Are Known to the Lord Practicing Your Righteousness The Righteous Will Shine Forth as the Sun
The Ways of Life Followers of the Way Judging with Righteous Judgment
Holding Fast the Faithful WordWhatever You Do, Do All Like ThisThe Conditional Security of the Believer
No Flesh Will Be Justified by Works Wesley's Sunday Sabbath Keeping Running from God
Spiritual Do-It-Yourself Life by the Spirit, Not Under the Law Walking by Faith
Obedient to the Heavenly Vision The One Another Commandments

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. The Good Samaritan by Dan Burr of Dan Burr Illustration copyright 2013 used by permission.

You may also access my complete blog directory at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

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___________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org. Partner with us online by giving to DMI.

Friday, December 14, 2018

The One Another Commandments

Did you ever stop to consider all the "one another" commandments in Scripture? When you do, it's amazing how many of them there are. These are the verses that teach us how to treat one another. There is a specific way the Lord expects us to behave toward one another, and He has spelled it out clearly in His Word. We've got a lot of verses to cover, so let's dive right in, beginning with the most important one of all.

Love One Another
These really speak for themselves, but remember the Lord said this is one of the two greatest commandments. The first one is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (Joh 13:34)

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (Joh 13:35)

"This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you." (Joh 15:12; cf., 15:17)

"And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you;" (1Th 3:12)

"Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;" (1Th 4:9)

"Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law." (Rom 13:8)

"We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;" (2Th 1:3)

"Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart," (1Pe 1:22)

"Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins." (1Pe 4:8)

"For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another;" (1Jn 3:11)

"This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us." (1Jn 3:23)

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." (1Jn 4:7)

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1Jn 4:11)

"No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us." (1Jn 4:12)

"Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another." (2Jn 1:5)

Greet One Another
We should let our love for one another show and greet one another with love. The Scriptures teach us about a holy kiss of love.

"Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ." (1Pe 5:14)

"Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you." (Rom 16:16)

"All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss." (1Co 16:20)

"Greet one another with a holy kiss." (2Co 13:12)

I remember when I first came to know Christ, I was in the Army Infantry, and all the soldiers I was stationed with at Fort Benning, Georgia were men. Almost none of them were born again Christians, so there wasn't much brotherly love there. But when I began attending a church where they demonstrated love for me, I was very blessed. It was such a wonderful experience to walk into that church and be hugged by the greeter, because I could feel the love of God in their embrace. Don't underestimate the power of a loving, holy greeting.

Another example is from when I was a missionary in Hungary, where the brethren there greeted one another with a kiss on both cheeks. It's actually an old tradition in that country, which is not limited to Christians. Although many people among the younger generation of non-Christians in that country may not practice this tradition so much any more in public, and have replaced it with shaking hands, nevertheless, in the church they still keep up this practice and greet one another affectionately with a holy kiss. We still do a modified version of this in our church to this day, combining a holy kiss on the cheek with a hug, even though we are back in the United States, and we believe it's pleasing in the Lord's sight.

Be Devoted to One Another 
Paul said, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love;" (Rom 12:10a). The Greek word he used for "be devoted" is "philostorgos," which means "kindly affectionate" in the same manner that parents have for their children or that we typically have for our own natural relatives. The word Paul used for "brotherly love" is "philadelphia," which means "fraternal affection." Therefore, we as disciples of Christ are to be kindly affectionate to one another in fraternal affection, because we are all brothers and sisters in Him.

Prefer One Another
The second half of that same verse from Paul to the Romans is that we must "...give preference to one another in honor." (Rom 12:10b). Another way to say this is "in honor preferring one another" or "give preference to one another in honor." The Greek word for preference here is "proegeomai," meaning "to lead the way for others, that is, show deference: - prefer." When we defer to someone, we let that other person decide, or accept the other person's opinion, usually because we respect the knowledge or experience of that person. But whether or not you respect someone's knowledge or experience, the Scripture teaches us to prefer one another or defer to one another.

And we are to do so in honor. The Greek word for honor is "time" (pronounced tee-may'), meaning "a value," as when money is paid. It also refers to valuables, so when you honor one another, you esteem that person (especially of the highest degree) as valuable or precious; you treat them with dignity, which means you elevate them as special.

Therefore, when you put together the two Greek words "proegeomai" and "time", they are a powerful combination, meaning to respect the other person's preference and defer to them, because you esteem them as precious. This is one of the house rules we have in our family is to prefer one another in love. One way my children do this is that when one of them is about to say something and the other one begins to speak at the same time, they both stop and extend a hand toward one other with their palm upward, and nod toward the other in a gesture of deference, as if to say, "You, go first." Eventually one of them accepts that honor and speaks while the other one waits his or her turn to speak after the other one is finished saying what they had to say. They do the same when we are praying together as a family, if two of them begin to pray at the same time, they stop and one defers to the other to go first. You can do the same thing when two people are about to go through a door, whereby you stop and let them go first. You can also do this by respecting one another's physical and emotional privacy, as well as letting the other person decide on things that affect you both.

Regard One Another as More Important Than Yourselves
Paul taught that we should "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;" (Php 2:3). This is a beautiful one to put into practice, when you begin to regard others as more important than yourself. It begins with your frame of mind and your attitude toward others, when you esteem them as better than yourself, and then it flows out in various expressions of words and actions.

Be Clothed in Humility Toward One Another
"You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (1Pe 5:5)

Be at Peace with One Another
Another command is to be at peace or live in peace with one another.

Jesus said, "Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another." (Mar 9:50)

Paul the apostle said, "And that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another." (1Th 5:13)

When you are at peace with one another, there is nothing standing between you, nothing to separate you emotionally from one another. There are no ill feelings toward each other or grudges, no quarrels or arguments.

Build One Another Up
Scripture says, "So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another." (Rom 14:19). God's will is that we build one another up, so let's go ahead and edify each other.

Wash One Another's Feet
Here's one that most Christians have never done to one another, which is to wash one another's feet.

Jesus said to His disciples, "If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet." (Joh 13:14). He said that you should wash one another's feet, but you can only do so if you live at peace with one another, so it's a great opportunity to apologize to one another, if necessary, and make things right between you.

In our church we have done this many times, and I believe it is an important practice that the body of Christ has largely lost. For more about this, please see my article Holy Washings -- Part II.

Be of the Same Mind Toward One Another
We are commanded to "Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation." (Rom 12:16). Here is how Matthew Henry explains this verse:

"...labour, as much as you can, to agree in [understanding]; and, wherein you come short of this, yet agree in affection; endeavour to be all one, not affecting to clash, and contradict, and thwart one another; but keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace...wishing the same good to others that you do to yourselves."

Having the same mind with one another is something we need God to grant us, since it comes from above. For Paul said, "Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus..." (Rom 15:5)

Accept One Another
Have you ever struggled with accepting someone else in the body of Christ? The Bible teaches us, "Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God." (Rom 15:7). To accept one another means to receive and welcome one another, admitting each other into our midst.

Admonish One Another
Paul wrote: "And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another." (Rom 15:14). Don't be afraid to give someone an admonition, which is a gentle warning or reproof. Sometimes you need to warn or notify your brother of a fault or to reprove him with mildness. Other times you need to counsel a sister against wrong practices, cautioning or advising her. Admonition still has its rightful place in the Church.

Wait for One Another
Paul taught the Corinthians, "So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another." (1Co 11:33). He was specifically referring here to when they partook of the Lord's Supper together at their meetings. Some of them were going ahead without waiting for others, and simply eating and drinking on their own, leaving others to go hungry once they arrived. But Paul taught us to wait for one another, so that we can all partake together. It's also a loving gesture to practice this at any meal, by waiting for everyone to get their food before you give thanks and begin eating.

Care for One Another
Paul wrote: "So that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another." (1Co 12:25). He wanted to ensure there was no division, but that the saints care for one another. Remember, Jesus said that any house divided against itself cannot stand. Likewise, the body of Christ must not be divided, but we should take thought for one another, being considerate toward one another.

Serve One Another
Paul taught us to serve one another through love: "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." (Gal 5:13)

Likewise, Peter taught us to use whatever gifts we have to serve one another. He said, "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." (1Pe 4:10)

Bear One Another's Burdens
Scripture states: "Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal 6:2). John Wesley commented that you should "Sympathize with, and assist, each other, in all your weaknesses, grievances, trials." He said the Lord made this a distinguishing mark of His disciples such that by bearing one another's burdens, we fulfill His law.

Bear with One Another
Paul taught us to bear with one another: " Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love...." (Eph 4:2, NIV)

"Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you." (Col 3:13)

Be Kind and Tender-Hearted to One Another
Paul wrote: "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." (Eph 4:32). This verse has three one-anothers. We must be kind to one another, tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another.

Speaking to One Another with Psalms and Singing Songs
Paul wrote that we should be "Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;" (Eph 5:19). This is something we practice when we meet for worship in our church. We read psalms and sing them, too, along with hymns and spiritual songs, making melody with our hearts to the Lord. We also do this spontaneously as we go about our day in the home, whatever we may happen to be doing at the time, such as cooking, cleaning, or some other task. We also allow the freedom for any member of the church to share a psalm before we begin our worship, in order to prepare our hearts for that special time. And during our worship, if anyone feels led to sing a particular hymn or spiritual song, they may lead out with it. This seems to be the heart of what Paul was saying here, in my opinion.

He also said, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (Col 3:16). This verse is similar to the first one from Paul's letter to the Ephesians in that he still wants us to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to one another, but he also mentions the aspect of teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom, as that richly indwelling Word of Christ overflows from our hearts.

Submit to One Another
Paul taught us as saints, "And be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." (Eph 5:21). The Greek word here for "be subject" is "hupotasso," meaning "to subordinate or submit yourself to" someone. It can also mean to obey. Therefore, we are to submit to one another in the fear of Christ.

Comfort One Another
In speaking of the Lord's return in the clouds for His saints, so that we would forever be with the Lord, Paul wrote: "Therefore comfort one another with these words." (1Th 4:18). There comes a time when we all need comfort from one another, so don't forget to give comfort to other believers, since you may someday need it yourself. But we should especially comfort one another with the hope of Christ's soon return (1 Thessalonians 4).

Encourage and Build One Another Up
"Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing." (1Th 5:11)

"But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today,' so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." (Heb 3:13)

"Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." (Heb 10:25)

We all need encouragement, and some people are where they are today because somebody encouraged them.

Seek After That Which is Good for One Another
"See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people." (1Th 5:15)

Stimulate One Another to Love and Good Deeds
"And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds," (Heb 10:24)

Confess Your Sins to One Another
Another one that you don't see too much these days is brethren confessing their sins to one another, but confession is good for the soul. "Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." (Jas 5:16). A good place to confess your sins to one another is in a Life Transformation Group (LTG), which is a small group of two or three people, men meeting with me and women with women. I highly recommend joining or starting an LTG. The reason you should confess your sins to one another is first of all, so that you expose that sin to the light and make yourself accountable to someone.

Pray for Each Other
The other reason we should confess our sins to each another is to pray for one another so that you may be healed (Jas 5:16b). When your brother or sister confesses his or her sins to you, pray for that person to be healed and delivered.

However, we should not only pray for each other when we confess our sins, but at all times. Paul said, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people." (Eph 6:18, NIV).

Be Hospitable to One Another
Peter the apostle wrote, "Be hospitable to one another without complaint." (1Pe 4:9). He had experienced such hospitality when he stayed at the home of Simon the Tanner in Joppa (Ac 10), and had a season of private prayer alone on the roof while he waited for his hosts to prepare lunch. He also extended hospitality to the three men who arrived from Cornelius, by inviting them to come inside and stay the night.

Abraham showed hospitality to angels by inviting them to stay for a meal (Gen 18). The apostle referred to such occasions as this when he wrote, "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." (Heb 13:2, NIV).

Share with One Another
The apostle wrote, "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." (Heb 13:16, NIV). When you share, you distribute a portion of something you have with others, such as the boy who shared his lunch of five loaves and two fish with Jesus, which the Lord multiplied and used to feed five thousand people (Joh 6:9-10). Another example was the early disciples in the first century, who shared all things with one another. "And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them." (Act 4:32).

Have Fellowship with One Another
John the apostle said, "But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1Jn 1:7). Here he was referring to fellowship or communion with God and He with us. But this also speaks of our communion with others who know God and walk in the light, who have received of the Spirit of God. We have fellowship with one another, as Matthew Henry says, "they with us and we with them, and both with God." Nothing on earth can compare to this sweet fellowship that the saints enjoy with one another, and those who have never experienced it cannot imagine how wonderful it is. The world knows nothing of this sublime communion between the members of Christ's body, and between each of us and the Lord Himself. Let's not shut ourselves off from the rest of the body, or refuse to let other saints get close to us, but stay connected and share our lives with one another.

Reasons for the One-Anothers
I'm sure we could cite multiple reasons why God has given us these one-another commandments, including the fact that we are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and be like God, as well as live on earth as our fellow citizens of heaven do up in glory. But one specific reason cited in Scripture is that "...we are members of one another." (Eph 4:25). That's one of the very important reasons why we should treat each other the way the Bible teaches us to. Since we are members of one another and are all one body of Christ, we are all closely related and interconnected. When one part suffers, the whole body suffers (1 Cor 12:26), so we need to learn how to treat each other properly. The Lord summed it up by commanding us to love one another and treat others the way you want them to treat you. He said, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Mt 7:12).

When you hurt others, you are hurting the Lord and hurting yourself. But when you bless others in some way, you are benefiting yourself and pleasing the Lord. Whatever you have done unto the least of the Lord's brethren, you have done it unto Him (Mt 25:40).

What Not to Do to One Another
In addition to all the one-another verses, there are also numerous other verses that teach us what not to do to one another.

Paul said we should not judge one another: "Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way." (Rom 14:13)

James warned us not to complain against one another, lest we be judged: "Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door." (Jas 5:9)

He also admonished us not to speak against one another: "Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it." (Jas 4:11)

Of course, despite the fact that so many believers have lawsuits (including divorce suits) against one another, the Scripture plainly teaches us not to do so, and says that those who do so are already defeated: "Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?" (1Co 6:7)

Husbands and wives should not deprive one another of their marital rights, except when they mutually agree to do so for a limited time for the purpose of prayer: "Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." (1Co 7:5)

When saints bicker, quarrel, and fight one another, they are essentially biting and devouring one another to their own detriment. Paul warned, "But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another." (Gal 5:15)

We must not challenge or envy one another either. "Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another." (Gal 5:26)

The Bible clearly states: "Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices," (Col 3:9). Honesty is always the best policy.

We must not hate one another. "For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another." (Tit 3:3). Anyone who hates his brother is still in darkness and is actually committing murder in his heart toward his brother, so don't do it.

Jesus predicted what would happen in these last days saying, "At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another." (Mat 24:10). This has already happened, such as during the days of Russian communism when children betrayed their Christian parents and spouses betrayed one another by reporting them to the police for their faith in God. Yet we can expect it to continue and even increase as we get closer to the Lord's soon return.

Scripture teaches that men must not burn with desire toward one another, nor women toward women, or else they will receive the due penalty for this error. "For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error." (Rom 1:26-27). For more on this topic, please see my article, Pope Francis Supports Homosexuality.

Putting it All Together
As we have seen from Scripture, there are at least thirty-one explicit one-another commandments for us to obey, as well as many other implicit ones, so there's one for every day of the month. We are to love one another, greet one another, be devoted to one another, prefer one another, regard one another as more important than yourselves, be clothed in humility toward one another, be at peace with one another, build one another up, wash one another's feet, be of the same mind toward one another, accept one another, admonish one another, wait for one another, care for one another, serve one another, bear one another's burdens, bear with one another, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, forgiving each other, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and singing spiritual songs; submit to one another, comfort one another, encourage one another, build one another up, seek after that which is good for one another, stimulate one another to love and good deeds, confess your sins to one another, pray for each other, be hospitable to one another, share with one another, and have fellowship with one another. Let's not judge one another, complain against one another, speak against one another, have lawsuits with one another, bite and devour one another, challenge one another, envy one another, lie to one another, burn with lust for one another, return evil for evil, hate one another, or betray one another. May the Lord give us the grace to put these into practice daily, since we as saints are all members of one another.

For my daily devotional designed to help you go through one of these commandments each day of the month, please download and print The One Another Commandments Devotional Workbook.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, copyright Lockman FOundation, used by permission. Other Scriptures where noted as NIV were taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, copyright Zondervan, used by permission. One Another image may be subject to copyright, taken from The Cripplegate, used according to the Fair Use Act for educational and commentary purposes only.

Author's note I invite you to visit these other articles of mine: Whatever You Do, Do All Like This, Living on Earth as They Do in HeavenDoing What is Right, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, Aim for Perfection, Law of Love in the New Testament, Pleasing the Lord, Living a Life Worthy of the Lord, The Way, Will, and Word of God, The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer, Righteous Deeds and White Robes,  Faith Works!, Practicing Your Righteousness, and  Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?. You can access more articles like this from the Home page of this blog, and you can also find my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Obedient to the Heavenly Vision

We've all heard of the vision that the apostle Paul had on the road to Damascus, before he knew the Lord. At that time he was still a staunch Jewish Pharisee, known as Saul of Tarsus, who was persecuting the followers of Jesus Christ, imprisoning them and putting them to death. It was then that the Lord Himself appeared to Saul in a vision, which is recorded in Acts 9, 22, and 26.

When Paul testified before King Agrippa, he recounted the incident like this:

"While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' And I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 'But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'" (Act 26:12-18)

The Vision
First of all the vision included the light from heaven that Saul saw, which was brighter than the midday sun, shining all around him and his traveling companions. Secondly, the vision also included the message that the Lord spoke to Saul. The light he saw was Christ Himself appearing to him in glory right there on the road, so it was a heavenly vision. The Lord's glory that emanates from His presence is extremely bright and heavenly!

The Lord answered Saul's question, "Who are You, Lord?" by saying, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." In saying so, the Lord was telling Saul that when he was persecuting those Christians, he was persecuting Jesus. Whatever Saul had done to one of the least of these brethren of Christ, he had done it unto Jesus Himself. That's how closely the Lord identifies Himself with His people.

The Lord explained the purpose for which He was appearing to Saul: "For this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you." The Lord appeared to Saul to appoint him as both a minister and a witness to both the things he had seen that day and even more things the Lord would yet reveal to Saul in future appearances.

The Lord promised to rescue Saul from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom He was sending him. And here is the reason the Lord was sending him to the Gentiles: to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Jesus. Saul's testimony and ministry would open the spiritual eyes of the Gentiles for a specific reason. Their eyes would be opened so that they would turn from darkness to light, from satan to God, and so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those sanctified by faith in Christ.

That's just what the Lord did through Paul's life and He is still using Paul's life and teachings to do that. In fact, it is still the Lord's desire to do the same thing through His people today. When people's eyes are opened, and they turn from darkness to light and from satan to God, then they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance.

Obedience to the Vision
Now that we have established what the vision was, which was Christ and the things He spoke to Saul, let's consider what he did with that vision. Paul told the king, "So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance." (Act 26:19-20)

These famous words are a testament to the life of Paul the apostle. He could honestly say before the king and all those present, "I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision." (Ac 26:19). Paul had done just what the Lord commanded him to do way back when He first appeared to him. He had been obedient since that time, and continuing on throughout the course of his life. Can we say the same thing Paul did that we have not been disobedient to the heavenly vision?

Listen to the way Paul obeyed the vision: he "kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance." (Ac 26:20) His message was the same everywhere he went, that the people he was speaking to should "repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance." That's a very simple practice, isn't it? He did not fail to tell his hearers that they must repent (i.e., to change your mind and turn from sin), and that they must turn to God through faith in Christ. That part is not disputed by most evangelical Christians, but what about the last part? He told his hearers that once they repent and turn to God, they must perform deeds appropriate to repentance. This is the part that is missing from so much evangelical preaching today.

Paul's message of repentance was quite similar to that of John the Baptist, who said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," telling them to "bear fruit in keeping with repentance." (Matt 3:2,8). As I have said before, this is what Jesus also preached: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt 4:17). Or as it says in Mark's gospel: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mar 1:15). It's also what He commanded the apostles to preach as well. "They went out and preached that men should repent." (Mk 6:12). And after the Lord's resurrection He explained that the Law and Prophets proclaim that repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in Jesus' name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luk 24:47). And after He ascended into heaven, the apostles continued with the same message. Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Ac 2:38).

Just as John the Baptist told his hearers that they must repent and bear fruit in keeping with repentance, likewise Paul told his hearers that they must "repent and turn to God, they must perform deeds appropriate to repentance." This message was a fulfillment of the heavenly vision he was given. By preaching that message, the Holy Spirit enabled people who heard him to turn from darkness to light and from satan to God and to receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those sanctified by faith.

Persecution for Obeying the Vision
Paul's obedience to the vision did not come without persecution. The Lord told him when He appeared to him that He would rescue him from the Jews and Gentiles to whom He was sending him, which implied that the people to whom the Lord was sending him would seek to harm him. So as he went through life obeying the vision, people did persecute him for it, and the Lord did rescue him from them. Paul said to Agrippa, "For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death." (Act 26:21). The reason to which he was referring was the fact that he had been obedient to the vision and preached the gospel; that is why the Jews seized him (Ac 26:6-7,19-20; 28:20b).

It's interesting to note that if Paul had been primarily interested in defending himself before the king, he could have explained that the Jews saw him walking around Jerusalem with Trophimus the Ephesian, and that when they had seen Paul enter the temple courts, they had supposed that he had brought that Gentile man into the temple with him, which would have been a violation of the Law and defiled the temple (Act 21:29). If he had mentioned that fact, it may have helped his defense. But Paul was more interested in witnessing Christ to the king than he was in giving a strong defense on that occasion. He knew that the real reason why the Jews had seized him was ultimately because he preached Christ as Lord.

Moreover, we have a record in Scripture of the many other times both Jews and Gentiles plotted and tried to kill him, as well as the other instances when he was flogged and put in prison for his obedience to the vision, and how the Lord rescued him out of all those situations as He had promised.

The gospel is not a popular message. People don't like being told they need to repent, turn to God through faith in Christ, and produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Governor Festus was no exception, as he sat there listening to Paul speak to King Agrippa. He tried to shut Paul right down, saying in a loud voice, "Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad." (Act 26:24).

Sometimes people will think you are insane when you are obedient to the vision and proclaim the true gospel message. But Paul assured Festsus that he was not insane, saying, "I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth." (Act 26:25). What an excellent response! Paul was simply uttering words of sober truth, which Festus and Agrippa didn't want to hear, but that didn't make him insane. It meant that he was obedient to the vision. Although others would see the purpose of such a hearing before the secular authorities to defend themselves, Paul saw it as an opportunity to be a witness for Christ.

He continued witnessing to the truth before the King and pressed on with his challenge to him saying, "For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do." (Ac 26:26-27). He wasn't going to be hindered from witnessing to the king by the governor's attempt to insult and embarrass him.

Agrippa replied to Paul, "In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian." (Ac 26:28, NASB). Other versions have Agrippa asking Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (Ac 26:28, NIV). If the NASB translation is correct, the king was essentially saying (either facetiously or sincerely) that it wouldn't be long before Paul persuaded him to become a Christian, if he kept up preaching to him like that. And if the NIV is correct, then the king was asking Paul if he really thought he could persuade him to become a believer in such a short time as that brief hearing. Whichever way you translate the king's reply, one thing is certain in my opinion -- Paul was getting through to him and he was coming under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I am not saying the king was responding to that conviction properly by repenting at that moment, but Paul's preaching was having a powerful influence on him.

And Paul said, "I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains." (Act 26:26-29). In other words, that was Paul's desire and prayer to God, which he in all likelihood had prayed the Lord would do even before he stood before that court and testified that day. Paul's heart was that the king, the governor, and everyone in that courtroom would come to know Christ. For the Lord had declared at the time of Paul's conversion that he would proclaim the name of Jesus to the Gentiles and their kings (Ac 9:15).

Likewise, Paul's behavior had been consistent during that whole period of imprisonment, including the time when Governor Felix was in office. He preached to the governor, rather than offer him a bribe that may have gotten him released. Scripture states: "But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, 'Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you.' At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him." (Act 24:24-26).

Do you notice how the governor became frightened by Paul's speaking about faith in Christ? He was particularly disturbed by his discourse about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, and he shut him right down! That's because he was coming under the conviction of the Holy Spirit for sin, and he didn't want to repent, so he pushed the Holy Spirit away. And since Paul never offered him the bribe he was hoping to receive, Paul remained in prison for the next two years. Felix also did the Jews a favor and left Paul in prison at the end of those two years, when Porcius Festus succeeded him as governor, rather than release him (Act 24:27). Apparently Paul was used as a political pawn in that instance, because he didn't compromise but remained obedient to the heavenly vision, just as he was later persecuted when his preaching brought King Agrippa and Governor Festus under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Paul never chose the easy way out, but rather the straight and narrow path of obedience to the Lord.

Matching Up the Vision with Its Fulfillment
I would like to share one final observation, by demonstrating how the vision the Lord gave to Saul was fulfilled.

Vision of Christ Fulfillment of the Vision
"...rescuing you..." (Ac 26:17) The Lord rescued Paul many times from Jews and Gentiles who seized him and tried to kill him, including when the Roman soldiers rescued him in Jerusalem (Ac 21:31-33), which led to the imprisonment he was under at the time he spoke to King Agrippa. In fact, the Lord also rescued Paul by allowing him to appeal to Caesar and be taken to Rome away from the Jews who wanted to kill him (Ac 25:12).
"the Jewish people and...the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you" (Ac 26:17) Paul "kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles..." (Ac 26:20)
"to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light..." (Ac 26:18) Paul preached "that they should repent.." (Ac 26:20), which corresponds with people's eyes being opened and their turning from darkness to light. 
"...so that they may turn from ...the dominion of satan to God..." (Ac 26:18) Paul preached "that they should...turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance." (Ac 26:20). This corresponds with them turning "from the dominion of satan to God."

Other Supporting Scriptures
There are many other Scriptures that show Paul's commitment and dedication to fulfilling the heavenly vision, but here are just three:

"For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1Co 9:16, NIV)

"I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it." (1Co 9:23)

"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace." (Ac 20:24, NIV)

There was clearly no greater priority in Paul's life than preaching the gospel. In fact, that was his only aim.

Putting it All Together
We've seen from Scripture that Paul the apostle was not disobedient to the heavenly vision of Christ nor to the assignment he was given. What about you? Are you being a witness for Christ and proclaiming the unpopular message of the gospel that men, women, and children should repent and turn to God through faith in Christ, and perform deeds appropriate to repentance? I, too, must ask myself this same question, which is sobering and challenging. This message may not be popular with most people, but it's the only way for them to receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those sanctified through faith in Christ. It's the true gospel, and Paul was not ashamed of it, because it is the power of God unto salvation. Therefore neither should we be ashamed of it, but rather be obedient to that heavenly vision.

Epilogue
After I wrote this article, I asked my children which book of the Bible they are reading for their Life Transformation Groups that they meet in. My three girls meet together each week in one group, and my two boys meet together in another. Both the boys and the girls coincidentally just happened to be reading through the book of Acts right now for their Scripture reading in both groups. Coincidentally I have also been reading through the book of Acts myself in my own private Bible reading. So I asked the girls which chapters they had read today and they said 26 through 27. Coincidentally I had actually read chapters 22 through 26, and it was my reading of chapter 26 that inspired this article. Yet another coincidence was the fact that the boys had just read Acts 9 today about Paul's heavenly vision on the Damascus road.

Since they did not know I had just written this article before dinner, I did not tell them so, but asked them each what they got out of their reading. My sixteen-year old daughter Faith talked about Paul's defense before King Agrippa and how he had appealed to Caesar. I sat and listened to her without saying a word to anyone about this article, just to see what they would say. Then I asked my eighteen-year old daughter Hope what she got out of her reading, and she began to emphasize repeatedly how "Paul was not disobedient to the vision." She also made the observation about how Paul had been more interested in winning souls when he stood before Agrippa and Festus than he was with defending himself, and how he had not mentioned the fact that the Jews had supposed he took a Gentile into the temple. It was her comments about that which led me to come back to this article and add the second paragraph containing that observation in the section entitled "Persecution for Obeying the Vision." It was also her comments to me about Paul's discourses with Governor Felix on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, which led me to come back to this article and add the final two paragraphs at the end of the final section entitled "Persecution for Obeying the Vision."

I want to thank my daughter Hope for her insightful observations, which further enhanced this article, and to give God all the glory for obviously leading me to write this article this evening before dinner, in light of the way He confirmed it so powerfully after our meal at the dinner table.

Attribution Notice: Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, where noted, copyright Lockman Foundation, used by permission. Other Scriptures from The Holy Bible NIV, copyright Zondervan, used by permission. Image of chalk drawing entitled "Yeshua Encounters Saul on the Road to Damascus." Artwork by L. Henry (Hank) Jones, taken from John David Pitcher Jr.'s Jerusalem Channel. Used according to Fair Use Act for educational and commentary purposes. Other image of Saul on the Road to Damascus taken from The Book of Acts -- Visual Bible.

Author's note:  If you enjoyed this post, you may also like The False Gospel without RepentanceRepentance That Leads to LifePopularity of the Gospel, Persecuted or Popular?Your Rewards are Based on Your PracticeThe Obedience of Faith, Is Obedience Optional?, Obedience by the Spirit, Chosen for Obedience, Doing What is RightBeing a Witness for Christ, The Sin of SilenceLife Transformation GroupsThe Conditional Security of the BelieverIs Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?Practicing Your RighteousnessSpiritual Do-It-YourselfThe Ways of Life, Faith Works!Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Abominations in the Sight of GodPleasing the Lord, Holding Fast the Faithful Word, A Personality Profile of the Apostle Paul, and the other posts available through the links on the Home page.  You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." You can find more devotional content from my daughter Hope on her blog, Words of Hope.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Him.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.


Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Walking by Faith

While I was reading the gospel of Matthew, I observed the recurring theme of faith, and would like to share these passages with you in the hopes that it would encourage your faith.

The Faith of the Centurion 
The first passage is found in Matthew's eighth chapter, where he wrote of the Roman centurion's faith:

"And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, 'Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.' Jesus said to him, 'I will come and heal him.' But the centurion said, 'Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, "Go!" and he goes, and to another, "Come!" and he comes, and to my slave, "Do this!" and he does it.' Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, 'Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' And Jesus said to the centurion, 'Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.' And the servant was healed that very moment." (Mat 8:5-13)

The centurion brought his need to Jesus saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented." (Mat 8:6). He trusted in the power of Jesus’ Word saying, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed." (Mat 8:8). He believed in Jesus’ authority over sickness saying, "For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it." (Mat 8:9). 

Consequently Jesus was astonished by his great faith. "Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, 'Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.'" (Mat 8:10). Although this man was a Roman, he had greater faith than anyone Jesus had ever met in Israel.

One lesson we learn from this man's faith is that it will be done just as you believe it will. That's what Jesus taught when He said to the centurion, "'Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.' And the servant was healed that very moment." (Mat 8:13).

The centurion demonstrated his faith when he said to the Lord, "Just say the word and my servant will be healed." To that the Lord replied, “Go, it will be done for you as you have believed. And his servant was healed at that very moment.” This is our take away to practice on our own.

The Little Faith of the Disciples 
In contrast to the great faith of the centurion, observe the little faith of the disciples in the same eighth chapter of Matthew:

"When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, 'Save us, Lord; we are perishing!' He said to them, 'Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?' Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, 'What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?'" (Mat 8:23-27)

Just as the centurion did, the disciples brought their need to Jesus by waking Him and saying, "Save us, Lord" (Mat 8:25). Yet they still believed they were going to drown, saying, "We are perishing!"

Jesus reproved them for lack of faith, saying, "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" (Mat 8:26a). At Jesus’ rebuke the wind and waves were calmed. "Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm."  (v. 26b).

Although the disciples expressed a little faith, it was quite weak compared to that of the centurion. The disciples should have either told Jesus to say the word and the storm would cease or spoken to the storm themselves and commanded it to cease in Jesus’ name.

The Faith of the Paralytic’s Friends 
In the very next chapter there is another testimony of faith, which is the faith of the paralytic's friends:

"Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, 'Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.' And some of the scribes said to themselves, 'This fellow blasphemes.' And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, 'Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, "Your sins are forgiven," or to say, "Get up, and walk"? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins'—then He said to the paralytic, 'Get up, pick up your bed and go home.' And he got up and went home. But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men." (Mat 9:1-8)

Jesus saw their faith when they brought to him the paralytic. The Scripture says, "Seeing their faith..." (v. 2). Jesus commanded him to get up and walk, saying to the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go home." (Mat 9:6). At that the man got up and walked home (v. 7).

The Faith of the Bleeding Woman and the Ruler
In the same ninth chapter of Matthew we read of the faith of the ruler and of the woman with the issue of blood:

"While He was saying these things to them, a synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, 'My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.' Jesus got up and began to follow him, and so did His disciples. And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; for she was saying to herself, 'If I only touch His garment, I will get well.' But Jesus turning and seeing her said, 'Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.' At once the woman was made well." (Mat 9:18-22)

We need to look at Mark's account also to get the full story:

"When Jesus had crossed over again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him; and so He stayed by the seashore. One of the synagogue officials named Jairus *came up, and on seeing Him, *fell at His feet and *implored Him earnestly, saying, 'My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live.'" (Mar 5:21-23)

Here we observe that just as the centurion, the disciples in the boat, and the friends of the paralytic all brought their need to Jesus, so did the ruler. The ruler came to Jesus and bowed down before Him, and said, "My daughter has just died." (Mat 9:18). He demonstrated his faith by his confession, when he said, "come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live." (v. 18). That took a lot of faith to say that about his dead daughter, but he truly believed she would live if Jesus would lay his hand on her.

As the ruler had requested, Jesus took the girl by the hand and she got up. "When the crowd had been sent out, He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up." (Mat 9:25)

Likewise the woman with the issue of blood who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years had faith and confessed to herself that she’d be healed if she touched His cloak. "For she was saying to herself, 'If I only touch His garment, I will get well.'" (Mat 9:21). She brought her need to Jesus, acting upon her faith. "And a woman...came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak." (Mat 9:20). Her faith was the evidence of things not seen, but once she exercised it openly by her action, she was healed from that moment. "But Jesus turning and seeing her said, 'Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well." At once the woman was made well.'" (Mat 9:22)

Peter’s Lack of Faith 
The next example of faith in Matthew's gospel is in the fourteenth chapter, and this time it is Peter's lack of faith.

"Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, 'It is a ghost!' And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.' Peter said to Him, 'Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.' And He said, 'Come!' And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, 'Lord, save me!' Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, 'You of little faith, why did you doubt?' When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, 'You are certainly God's Son!'" (Mat 14:22-33)

In this passage, I observed that initially Peter did believe, and at the Lord’s command he walked on water. "Peter said to Him, 'Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.' And He said, 'Come!' And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus." (Mat 14:28-29). If he didn't have faith, he wouldn't have gotten out of the boat and walked on the water. This proves that all things are possible to those who believe.

But he became afraid when he saw the wind, and as a result he began to sink.  He did not become afraid because he was starting to sink. Rather he started to sink, because he became afraid. "But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, 'Lord, save me!'" (Mat 14:30).

Jesus caught him when he cried out, “Lord, save me,” (v. 31). He stretched forth His hand and took hold of Peter and pulled him up. Amazingly the Lord was also standing on nothing more than water, but was also able to uphold Peter, too.

Jesus reproved him for his little faith and for doubting, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Mat 14:31). Doubt and fear are the enemies of faith. Had he not doubted, he wouldn't have started to sink. Likewise, we should not give way to doubts and fears, but have faith in the Lord and nothing will be impossible for us.

Keys of the Kingdom 
We see another example of this theme of faith in Matthew's sixteenth chapter, although it does not contain the word "faith" in it. Jesus said, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." (Mat 16:19)

In the original, it reads more like this: "Whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." That's amazing isn't it! It demonstrates the power of the word spoken in faith.

I recall one time in Ploiesti, Romania, after the service was over, I was praying for the pastor named Marian. I was led to pray fervently that the Lord would send a mighty band of warring angels to help him in his ministry. Afterward he said he felt refreshed. And Stefan, the young man that was standing next to me as I prayed for his pastor, described what happened in the spirit. He said the Lord allows him to see things in the spirit, such as angels and demons. And he said that even before I started to make that request to God, he actually saw a band of angels coming quickly, fully armed for war standing behind the pastor, and beside him. The two beside him were bigger and had spears and swords -- fully equipped. They were ready to do whatever he said; he was their commander. There were also smaller angels; they were fiercely determined to do their job and protect him. He was in good hands. In the background, there were many warrior angels inside the church, standing around the perimeter of the room. They were fiercely determined to do their job to defend. Praise the Lord! Before I could even get the words out of my mouth, they were entering onto the scene! What I loosed on earth had already been loosed in heaven.

The Disciples’ Lack of Faith
Once again in the seventeenth chapter, we find this theme of faith recurring, and once again it is the disciples' lack of it.

When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. "I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him." And Jesus answered and said, "You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me." And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not drive it out?" And He *said to them, "Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. (Mat 17:14-20)

The problem here is that the disciples could not heal the epileptic boy. For the man told Jesus "I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him." (Mat 17:16). The disciples wondered why He could do it but they couldn’t, asking Him, "Why could we not drive it out?" (Mat 17:19)

The answer was because they had so little faith. Jesus said, "Because of the littleness of your faith." They didn’t even have faith the size of a tiny mustard seed. Faith as small as a seed moves mountains. He taught them: "For truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you." (Mat 17:20). Had their faith been at least as the size of a mustard seed, they could have cured the epileptic boy, but their faith was even smaller than that. In fact, it was probably mixed with doubt and unbelief.

Jesus taught us here about the power of the word spoken in faith. He didn't tell them that they would pray, "Oh Lord, if it is your will, please move this mountain." He said, "You will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move." The power of a word spoken in faith is such that we can speak directly to mountains, problems, sickness, disease, or demons and command them by faith to move out of the way, come out, be healed, be loosed in Jesus' name, and it will happen. I am not saying this from a theoretical point of view, but from the perspective of one having had the privilege of experiencing it myself first hand. This is also recorded in Mark's gospel:

And Jesus answered saying to them, "Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you." (Mar 11:22-24)

The Royal Official’s Faith 
Having covered the theme of faith in Matthew's gospel, I would like to touch on two more examples found in John's gospel, beginning with the royal official's faith.

"Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe." The royal official *said to Him, "Sir, come down before my child dies." Jesus *said to him, "Go; your son lives." The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, "Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him." So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, "Your son lives"; and he himself believed and his whole household." (Joh 4:46-53)

I observed that the royal official brought his need to Jesus. "When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death...The royal official *said to Him, "Sir, come down before my child dies." (Joh 4:47,49)

Jesus responded and spoke the word. He said to him, "Go; your son lives." (v. 50). The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. (Joh 4:50) Consequently his son was healed. "So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, 'Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.' So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, 'Your son lives'; and he himself believed and his whole household." (Joh 4:52-53). Only believe!

The Work of Faith 
I would like to conclude with one final example from John's gospel.

"Therefore they said to Him, 'What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'" (Joh 6:28-29)

The people asked what they must do to do the work God requires, and Jesus told them that the work of God is to believe in Jesus! If you want to do the work that God requires, then believe in Jesus.

Putting it All Together
As we have observed in Matthew's gospel, there is a definite, recurring theme of faith. We learn many wonderful lessons from the faith of the centurion, the paralytic's friends, the bleeding woman, the ruler, and the royal official. We even learn some lessons from Peter's lack of faith and that of the rest of the disciples. We learned how to use the keys of the kingdom to loose and bind things on earth, and how they have already been loosed or bound in heaven when we do so.

Finally we learned that the work of God is to believe on Jesus Christ. Just as all the heroes of faith described in Hebrews 11, we must live by faith, and one day we will enter into the kingdom of heaven as they did with many wonderful testimonies of God's power to His eternal glory. God is no respecter of persons. He does not show favoritism. What He did for them He will do for you, if you only believe.

Attribution notice: Scriptures taken from The New American Standard Version, copyright Lockman Foundation, used by permission.

Author's note:  If you enjoyed this post, you may also like By Faith Alone - Part I, By Faith Alone - Part II, By Faith Alone - Part III, Personal Proclamations of Faith, Following in His Steps, and the other posts available through the links on the Home page.  You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." 

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Him.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.


Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.