Thursday, December 27, 2018

When the Lord was Angry with Moses

There is an interesting passage in Scripture, in which Moses recounts to the Israelites their wanderings in the wilderness and reminds them three times that the Lord was angry with him because of them. Let's take a look at that and see what the Holy Spirit might want to teach us through it.

Moses said, "Because of you the Lord became angry with me also and said, 'You shall not enter it, either.'" (Deu 1:37). In this first instance, Moses told them that it was on account of them that the Lord was angry with him and refused to allow him to enter the promised land.

The second time Moses mentioned this to them, he told how he had pleaded with the Lord to change His mind and permit him to enter the promised land to see it first hand.

He said, "I also pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying, 'O Lord GOD, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as Yours? 'Let me, I pray, cross over and see the fair land that is beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.'" (Deu 3:23-25). On so many other occasions, Moses had fasted and prayed for the rebellious Israelites, interceding for them before the Lord, and the Lord had answered his prayers on their behalf. However, that was not to be the case on this occasion when Moses prayed to God for himself.

Moses said, "But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. 'That is enough,' the Lord said. 'Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.'" (Deu 3:26). In this second instance, in which Moses mentioned that God was angry with him, he again placed the blame on them and told how the Lord would not listen to his prayer. It's interesting to note how even for such a great man of God as Moses, there was a time when He wouldn't listen to him or answer his prayer. In fact, the Lord told him that He had enough of that, and He didn't want Moses to ever mention it to Him again. Knowing how much God loved Moses, this response from God shows that it was not God's will for Him that Moses should enter the promised land, and He wasn't going to change His mind about it. There was a reason for that, which we will see later.

In the third instance in which Moses reminded the Israelites about how the Lord was angry with him, he said, "The Lord was angry with me because of you, and he solemnly swore that I would not cross the Jordan and enter the good land the Lord your God is giving you as your inheritance." (Deu 4:21). So now he discloses yet more details, saying that the Lord at that time actually swore to him solemnly that he would not cross the Jordan and enter the land. God was firmly decided on the matter and would not be persuaded to reverse His decision.

The incident which Moses spoke of when the Lord was angry with him was the time when he struck the rock in the wilderness at Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin. It was not the only time the Lord had ever been angry with him. Actually there was another time at the beginning of his ministry when he experienced God's anger toward him. Here is what happened when he was around forty years old and the Lord called him into ministry to deliver the people of Israel from Egypt. Moses argued with God that he was not a good speaker. He reminded the Lord how he had never been eloquent and how he was slow of speech and slow of tongue. Nevertheless he prayed that the Lord would send whomever it was His will to send. "Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, 'What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you.'" (Ex 4:14). So we see that the Lord had been angry with him once before, but that incident was not enough for the Lord to permanently bar Moses from the promised land. So what was the difference between that and the other incident at the waters of Meribah?

In the desert at Meribah, the Israelites grumbled because they were thirsty, so God told Moses to speak to the rock and it would bring forth water for the people to drink. However, Moses was angry with the people for their constant grumbling, So instead of speaking to the rock, he disobeyed God and struck the rock in his anger with his staff.

The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

"So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, 'Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?' Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank." (Num 20:9-11)

In a separate account of a similar incident in Exodus, it states that God told Moses to strike the rock with his staff and water would come out, but in the account of Numbers, it says God told him to speak to the rock. The Numbers account occurred first during the first month when they were in the Desert of Zin (Num 20:1). The second account in Exodus is not the same incident, but rather it is one that occurred later. In that second incident, God did tell Moses to strike the rock, but the first time God told him to speak to it. The sin that Moses committed in the first incident at Meribah was that he struck the rock twice in his anger, rather than speak to it. In doing so, he did not uphold God as holy in their sight.

"But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Num 20:12). God repeated this once again at the end of Moses' life in both Numbers and Deuteronomy:

In Deuteronomy we read the account of the Lord telling Moses to go up on Mount Nebo and view Canaan, where He tells Moses that he will die there and be gathered to his people just as Aaron was on Mount Hor. He said, "This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold My holiness among the Israelites." (Deut 32:51, NIV).

Likewise Scripture it is recorded thus in Numbers, "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Go up this mountain in the Abarim Range and see the land I have given the Israelites. After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, for when the community rebelled at the waters in the Desert of Zin, both of you disobeyed my command to honor me as holy before their eyes.' (These were the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.)." (Numbers 27:12-14).

Therefore, the sin of Moses was that he disobeyed God and broke faith with Him, because he did not trust Him enough to honor Him as holy before the people.

Some Closing Thoughts
Of course, some people will say that this whole matter of God getting angry was just something that used to happen under the Old Covenant, and that it is relegated to the Scriptures that come before the book of Malachi. However, that is simply not true. This was not just something that happened in the Old Testament, and it is not limited to any particular covenant. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

There are some things that still make God angry. For example, there was the time when Jesus got angry and drove out the money changers from the temple, because His Father's house is called a house of prayer, and they had made it a den of robbers (for more on this, see my thought-provoking article called The Sale of Christian Music and Art -- A Robbers' Den?). In it I cite the modern examples of people merchandising in the house of God, buying and selling things of God that were never meant to be bought or sold, but were freely received and were meant to be freely given. Other current examples include His people dressing immodestly or not keeping Sundays holy

Even in all of these, though God may be angry, He loves the sinner and longs for the backslider to repent and come home. He gets excited when we return to Him.

As a side note, I just want to say that one of the enemy's most common tactics against true believers is to deceive them into believing that God is angry with them. While it is true that God is angry with some people, the fact remains that according to God's Word, if we have repented and asked forgiveness from God for a particular sin, then the Lord has washed and cleansed us from that sin (1 Joh 1:9). So if you feel like God is angry with you and are feeling guilty, first check to see if you have any sin in your life that you have not repented for, and if you do, then repent, ask forgiveness, and amend your ways. But if you know you have confessed your sin to God and repented, then resist the enemy's temptation to put false guilt on you. Walk in the mercy and grace of God and receive His forgiveness.

He is gracious and compassionate, full of mercy, slow to anger and abounding with love (Ps 103:8; 145:8; Jam 5:11). In fact, this is what Moses heard when the Lord passed in front of him the time that Moses asked to see His glory. "And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.'” (Ex 34:6-7).

Indeed there is a price to pay for disobedience. Yet even though he punishes His children and disciplines those He loves (Pro 3:12; Heb 12:6), the fact is that He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities (Ps 103:10). In fact, that was the case with Moses, too. While He did not allow Moses to enter the promised land, Moses still entered the promised land up in glory. We know this because the disciples saw him appear in glory on the Mount of Transfiguration with Elijah, talking with Jesus (Mt 17:3; Lk 9:30-31). So he is alive and well. He may not have entered the promised land of Canaan here on earth, but he entered the beautiful, Holy Land in heaven. This shows us that even in judgment, God showed mercy to Moses.

Hopefully this has helped us all to fear God, appreciate His holiness and the need for us to uphold it before others, but hopefully it has also helped us to see God's compassion, grace, and mercy, and His great love for sinners.

Attribution notice: Most Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible NIV, copyright Zondervan, used by permission. Moses Striking Water from the Rock, oil on canvas 1649 by Nicolas Poussin, public domain.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like Sin and ConsequenceThe Dangers of DisobedienceSins That Will Keep You From Heaven, The Straight and Narrow Path, and Holy Living in a Perverted World. I also recommend Ask for the Ancient PathsRestored TruthGod Forgives and Forgets, and God's Amazing Plan for Your Life. Some other related articles available on the Home page include:

Law of Love in the New Testament The Law Established Through Faith Costly Grace

Is Obedience Optional? The Cost of Discipleship Obedience by the Spirit
The Law Fulfilled in Us The New Covenant Deleted Scriptures in the Bible?

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?"

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.

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)

As Matthew Henry says, "There is a mutual opposition between God and the proud...they war against Him, and He scorns them; He resisteth the proud." On the other hand He gives grace to the humble. Henry states: "His hand is Almighty, and can easily pull you down if you be proud, or exalt you if you be humble; and it will certainly do it, either in this life, if he sees it best for you, or at the day of general retribution.”

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.

Encourage and 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.

There are many ways to build someone up, but one way to do so is with your positiveness, enabling them to receive better things to come. Another way is by speaking uplifting words to them, especially from Scripture. You could ask the Lord during your private prayer time to give you a message for your congregation or for a specific individual that He has laid upon your heart. Often times when He gives you a message for them, it will be a passage of Scripture. Then you can share that message with them verbally or in writing. That could be done in an email or a handwritten note left where they will find it, like at the breakfast table or in their lunch bag. You can also build them up by teaching them the Lord's ways, so they can grow in Him.

Don't forget to encourage them, too. We all need encouragement, and some people are where they are today because somebody encouraged them. Encouraging someone can be done in many ways. Sometimes just being there for a person or paying a visit will encourage them. I once visited a pastor I know in Ukraine, and he said that just my being there was an encouragement to him. But you can also use words to do so, such as telling them that they can make it with the Lord's help and speaking over them the good things He has in store for them. For example, "You are going to become a mighty man (or woman) of God." Remind them of all the good things the Lord has already done for them, and how He has answered their prayers in the past, thereby helping them to trust God to continue doing so for them. Tell them the strengths you see in them that God has placed in them. Tell them about the good fruit you see coming forth from their heart. Point out the gifts and talents the Lord has given them and how valuable those are to you and others, and motivate them to put those to use for His glory. Or find something good that they have done and commend them for it, which will definitely encourage them, especially if you do so in front of others. You can also encourage them to follow the Lord, read their Bible, and do God's will.

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

Encouragement is a preventive safeguard against hardness of heart that comes from the deceitfulness of sin, which is why we need it every day. The apostle said, "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)

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).

Likewise, the apostle Peter taught the same thing when he said, "Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble." (1 Pe 3:8, NIV). The Greek word translated "like-minded," which does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, means "harmonious, of one mind." Therefore, the NIV 1978 translates this word as "live in harmony with one another." I really like that expression, because it reminds me of the beautiful sound of voices worshiping together in harmony or of a symphony. For us as brethren to live in harmony together means that there is concord or agreement in our views, sentiments or manners, interests, and so on, and that there is good correspondence between us, as well as peace and friendship. While Christians cannot be exactly of the same mind in everything, we should be all of one mind on the great points of faith.

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. Remember that they have needs, too, and the Lord wants to use you to meet those needs.

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)

Serving comes in many forms, like driving for others who need a ride, visit those in need of company like the sick, those in prison, and those who are shut in. You can help outdoors, give food, serve food, offer your gifts, talents, and skills to others, build a home, mend clothing, shovel snow, or clean things that are in need of it like bathrooms.

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. In order to do this, you need to first recognize what someone else's burden is, which is the matter that is weighing upon them. This is the load that is pressing down heavily and making their life more difficult, which you can help lighten by carrying it with them or for them.

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)

Sometimes people in their weakness, feeble-mindedness, and frailty can annoy us or irritate us, but instead of expressing our annoyance or irritation with hurtful words, complaints against them, or unloving attitudes, we can bear with them, knowing that we all have weaknesses and faults, and others sometimes have to bear with us, too. In fact they may have to do so more often than we realize, but they just don't say anything about it. Rather than wishing in our pride that we could change them, we should instead put up with them in love.

"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.

Being Kind
There are endless ways to show kindness. For example, be courteous and affable to others; in other words, be good-natured and easy to talk to. Sometimes a simple smile is enough to brighten someone's day, or you can even say “hello” or “good morning” to a stranger walking down the street, or to a coworker. You could pay for the person's coffee behind you in line or for another person's food in the restaurant. Someone did this once for us at a restaurant, and we were so blessed when we went to pay and were told that the other party had paid the bill for our entire family's meal that evening. We did not even know them, since they were complete strangers to us. You could also leave a sweet note for someone you love, let another driver merge into your lane while smiling at them, bring a meal to a couple that has just had a baby or a family that has just lost a loved one to death. It doesn't take much effort to be kind, and it will let the light of Christ shine through you in this dark and hurting world.

The original word in the Greek means "well compassioned, that is, sympathetic: - pitiful, tender-hearted." This is the opposite of having a hard, calloused heart. Replace those rough, harsh words and attitudes with sweet, soft, and tender ones that will express your love, compassion, and sympathy for others.

Paul said, "...forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." (Eph 4:32b). One reason this is so important is that if you don't forgive others for their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you, so your soul depends on it (Mat 6:15). When you are finding it difficult to forgive, just remember how much the Lord has forgiven you of all the things you have said and done.

Forgiveness should ideally be done in real time, as the offense happens, but sometimes people hold grudges and withhold forgiveness from someone who has offended them. In fact, sometimes people may hold these grudges for many years and they allow bitterness to grow inside them. So today, consider how you will apply this commandment, not only in real time, in the event that someone offends you, but also take inventory of your heart and ask the Lord to show you if there is any unforgiveness in your heart toward anyone who has offended you in the past. Then determine in your heart to forgive them and do it from your heart. Do it before the Lord in prayer and tell the Lord you forgive them. If the person knows you were holding a grudge against them, then you should tell them that you forgive them.

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).

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)

We must endeavor in every situation to do for one another that which is our duty, and is pleasing to God, regardless of whether others do us good or evil; whatever others do to us, we must do good to them. We must always try to promote the well-being of others, especially among the household of faith, but also to all people, as we have opportunity.

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).

As Matthew Henry once wrote, we should call upon one another to love God and Christ more, to love duty and holiness more, and to love our brethren in Christ more. We should motivate one another to engage in acts of Christian affection for each other that would benefit each other spiritually and physically. The best and most effective way to influence others to love and good works is to personally be a good example for them.

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 men 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, encourage 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, 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. If you are married, I recommend going through it with your spouse. Be sure to also download and print The One Another Commandments Calendar.

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, Having the Love of God in Your Heart, 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.

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. 
" 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.

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.