Spoiling The Vine (An Essay)

Robert Wurtz II


I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:1–2 NKJV)

Our passage is a fascinating and sobering revelation of the relationship between the True Vine (Jesus) and true branches (the Saints). Understand that any work that the Holy Spirit is truly involved in will bear His fruit. Moreover, everyone without exception who is in Christ is enabled, by the flow of the Spirit, to produce the fruit of the Spirit. This means that the person’s life lines up with the basic teachings of Jesus as found in the Gospels. This is not to say that a true Christian is always perfect, but the general and consistent walk of life, in public and in private, matches the teachings of Jesus Christ. This alone is where the evidence of a true branch rests.

When we think about Christianity and discipleship, we are dealing with submission to Christ. Many want a savior, but have little interest in a Lord. This is quite strange, really. You will recall the Lord Jesus asking, “why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” Even the disobedient understood how important it was to have Christ as Lord; this is why in pretense they say “Lord, Lord.” Nobody referred to Jesus as “Savior, Savior” (though this too is what He is). How can Christ save someone who refuses to come under His command? How can we be saved from Sin unless we are prepared to do what He tells us to do? Everyone who heard Christ understood that following the Lord’s word, will, and ways, are not optional. A metaphor used throughout the New Testament is that of fruit.

Every living thing according to Genesis brings forth after its own kind. Apple trees produce apples. Fig trees produce figs. If there are no fruit on a mature plant during the time of harvest, something is very wrong. This is true also of Christians. Jesus said, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” (John 15:16 a KJV) In other words, God has determined that a Christian must yield fruit, and He will accept no substitutes. Talents can’t substitute; giftings can’t substitute; education can’t substitute; prophetic utterances can’t substitute; and divine miracles can’t substitute.” A tree is known by the fruit it bears. In fact, fruit is not an evidence; it is the evidence.


It has been said that “faithfulness without fruit is fraud.” In fact, there will come a day when the deceived will appeal to their miraculous works as evidence of their salvation, only to hear, “depart from me you worker of iniquity, for I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:13-27) Judas was a miracle worker, and yet he killed himself after betraying the Lord. This man loved money more than he loved people or the Lord Jesus; Yea, more than his own soul. He was numbered with the Twelve. He heard all the teachings of Jesus for three solid years, and was still under the delusion that he was right with the Lord. He was close in proximity, but his heart was far from Jesus. He had everyone but Jesus fooled, including himself. What was wrong? Jesus and Judas did not share the same values or concerns. God so loved the world that He gave, but Judas was a thief. This ought to settle forever the question as to whether miracles are evidence of salvation. Unfortunately, it does not. Many will agree with this principle, but in practical living, and under distress, they deny it.


rotten apple


The Bold Deception of Miracles

“Wonderful works” are acts of power, and are at best merely leaves on the olive branch. Miracles, signs, and wonders are not fruit and must never be confused with fruit. Many today are deceived by what appears to be “God moving among the people” — as if Jesus ever told anyone that was evidence of any ones spiritual state. God may move among people irrespective of their spiritual condition because of His grace. Again, this is not how “the trees” are known; this is how people are fooled. God is not trying to deceive people with His workings; He is trying to bring them to repentance. Sadly, people can experience God’s workings and go right out of the meeting and behave very badly; but because they still see Him trying to work in their life they interpret this as His affirmation of them. A tree is not known by its foliage, but by its fruit. Signs and wonders are about God’s grace; fruit is evidence that His grace is accomplishing its work. Keep that thought close to your vest as you read this entry.

A person who looks to the supernatural as evidence of spirituality is deceived of Satan. In fact, every course of action that a person takes that is contrary to the fruit of the Spirit is actually evidence that the “wonderful works” a person is working are false. If a person continues to drink in God’s Spirit, and yet are not moving in love, joy, peace, gentleness, etc.; they are on a dangerous path. One can only grieve the Holy Spirit so long before His Spirit lifts off of them. Since they are used to being carried along by a Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:2), they risk coming under the influence of a demon. This is how “miracles, signs and wonders” can continue in a person’s life for long periods after the Lord is departed. Again, you have to look for the fruit of the Spirit in the life.

In the Absence of Brotherly Love

It is sobering to know that every true New Testament Saint was capable of moving in the gifts of the Spirit. In fact, the supernatural was commonplace in the book of Acts, even among sinners. This is why it was essential for the Saints to be looking for the fruit of the Spirit. Miracle workers were a dime a dozen. This is why God placed the emphasis on fruits, so we would know the true from the false. God does not long enable a person to work His miracles while they treat others like trash (rubbish). That is straight talk, but understandable. In this crisis hour, we do not need eloquence, we need to understand clearly what God has said to us. He does not anoint people with supernatural gifts to glorify themselves or to use those signs and wonders as a means to personal gain. In fact, the Holy Spirit doesn’t even glorify Himself; why would He allow Himself to be used to glorify a man or woman? (John 16:17) These are additional warning signs.

One cannot continue grieving the Holy Spirit and moving in His power at the same time. This is common sense. Nevertheless, the deceived operate their lives focused on foliage (as it were) — as if foliage were somehow the primary evidence of spirituality. It is total deception; and when a person is in that state of mind for long periods of time, they have to be radically awakened from it or their soul may be lost.

The Blinding Power of Pride

People who look at sign gifts as evidence of spirituality are almost inevitably blinded by pride. Satan convinces them that they, and people like themselves, are somehow closer to God than others because they seem to operate in signs and wonders. Derek Prince once said that “Pride is the only sin for which Satan will not make us feel guilty.” He used examples of people like William Branham who started out well, but ended up moving in clairvoyance. Add to that teachings about “touch not the anointed” and we have a dangerous recipe for the person’s soul to be lost and a host of others to be deceived. What happens? They become a law unto themselves, and are virtually untouchable, unteachable and unreachable. Why? Because they convinced themselves and others that only they or someone of “their caliber” could hear from God. As a result, they were destroyed.

Humbling Ourselves

We have to guard ourselves against pride by refusing to allow ourselves to be exalted. The enemy will work tirelessly to puff us up. And saying we are humble or humbling ourselves does not mean we are doing it. Our words and our actions have to match.

Always remember that the fruit of the Spirit does not tempt a person to pride. Have you ever heard of a person seeking the fruit of the Spirit? It is not a sin to desire the best gifts; nevertheless, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that there is a more excellent way. He expressed to them how gifts without fruits are nothing more than a banging gong or a clanging cymbal. In other words, people who want to move in the gifts of the Spirit without first moving in Christian love are asking for ministry in vain. The prospect of fruits does not appeal to the carnal man who wants to be noticed. Moreover, Jesus reached out to the unlovable and societies outcasts. There was nothing to glory in. The flesh cannot exalt itself when you minister in love and long-suffering to people who the world has forsaken. In fact, there is nothing about the fruit of the Spirit that enables the flesh to boast whatsoever, because the fruit of the Spirit is the opposite of the works of the flesh. When you see what appears to be the “gifts of the Spirit” performed by a person “living in the flesh” you need to flee for your life.

Where is Boasting?
For example, have you ever heard a person boast that they had more fruit of the Spirit than anyone else? It is highly improbable. Why? Because nobody becomes a “rock star” by yielding the fruit of the Spirit. When was the last time someone was asked to speak at a conference or appear on TBN because the fruit of the Spirit in their life was so abundant? Would you travel to see a preacher or teacher who was known for the fruit of the Spirit? Most people would not. Conferences don’t sell out on the fruit of the Spirit — but on people coming to see folk operate in the gifts. In fact, some gate keepers will not invite a person to speak in their meetings unless they can come with words of prophecy. Is this not strange that when ministerial worthiness is measured that the fruit of the Spirit is often the most minor element? An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign. It is a sign of the times when talents and spiritual gifts (so-called as it is often clairvoyance) are the qualifiers for invitations to preach, etc. People who are deceived in this way have a stronghold of the enemy that must be broken or they become the gate-keepers for deception in the churches.

The Spirit and the Word Agree

Where the Spirit of God is flowing genuinely, truth will be flowing as well. Always remember that the word of God and the Holy Spirit always, 100% of the time, agree. God does not lead people to do things by His Spirit that are contrary to His word. There will always be a scriptural basis for the action. This is why a full knowledge of God’s word is essential. In the Old Testament there were “schools of the prophets.” In fact; prophets, priests and kings were expected to have a working knowledge of God’s word. This would have prevented their misleading the people.

When it comes to God’s revealed word, there is no need to pray about whether or not to obey it. Many Christians pray about things that God has already commanded them to do or not do. Any spirit, no matter how subtle and peaceable, who leads us to compromise God’s word is not of God. For example, consider this passage:

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17–18 KJV)

Paul begged the people to mark out a particular group of people who were causing division and offenses and avoid them. This is two things: mark them and avoid them. The challenge would be found in the next verse, by good words and fair speeches (they) deceive the hearts of the simple. These offenders literally beguile the simple and lead them astray. “The simple” are people who don’t know any better. They don’t really have an opinion about what is happening because they don’t comprehend what is going on. They are not unintelligent, they are uninformed and innocent. The offenders are suave smooth-talkers who use their charm to talk the simple into allowing them to hang around.

Charm is not charis (grace); it is a power that makes you admire the person. If you admire someone; ask yourself if you have been charmed by their smooth flattery. It was said of Franklin D. Roosevelt that he could charm a person into believing they were greatest person on earth; but they whist not that five minutes after the conversation he had no use for them. He used people for his political agenda and he used his charm to win people over. Paul begged the Romans to not only reject their flattery and charm, but mark them and avoid them. The Holy Spirit is going to agree with this word. No need to pray for direction. You have direction.

Walk in the Word

The Holy Spirit is here to convict of righteousness and truth; why would He then lead us contrary to God’s word? It doesn’t make sense. This is why many Christians are locked in deception; they are following a spirit who has fooled them into believing that they can walk contrary to God’s word and still be spiritual. They are looking at the “leaves” in their life and not the fruit of the Spirit.

Christ is the Living Word. His life was a fruitful life because of the life that is in Him. If His life is in us, we will bear the fruit He bore. His teachings are signposts to help us examine ourselves to see if His life is in us (emphasis on if). The sermon on the mount beginning in Matthew 5:1 is a great place to start. If a person is not in line with that sermon, they are not a Christian. They may have some kind of man-made religion, but they are not a child of God. God’s children do by nature those things contained in the teachings of Christ. This is the character of God (love, joy, peace, gentleness, meekness, etc.) in written and oral communication. Any branch who is in Christ and does not produce this fruit is eventually taken away and burned.

The Danger of Barrenness

And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. (Matthew 21:19 KJV)

When Jesus visited this fig tree and found no fruit, He pronounced upon it that it should never bear fruit again. Here was a fig tree growing conspicuously along the lane for everyone to see. It gave every impression at a distance that it was a healthy fig tree; however, it was void of the fruit that God designed and expected it to be producing. It had the limbs and the leaves, but it had no fruit. So the Lord Jesus spoke a word of death to that plant. I know we are used to Him speaking words of life, but death? Why?

Imagine going through your life thinking you were spiritual because you did all kinds of religious exercises. You fast three times a week; attend meetings every time the doors are open; give tithes of all you possess; function in the gifts of the Spirit and many other like things. Then one day, at a season of your life, the Lord passes by and finds no fruit. It happened at Corinth. The people were gathering together not discerning the Lord’s Body. Many were sick and some had died. Why? Because of the trivial things we often focus on as major sins? No. Because He found no fruit on them.

If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:6 KJV)

The fig tree was courting observation from those who passed by, loaded with leaves and promise. It stood out along the road as if it were a means by which men and women might satisfy their hunger. Nevertheless, it was all a show. John the Baptist warned the people that every tree that does not bring forth good fruit will be cut down and cast into the fire. Trees are used figuratively of people in scripture. In fact, it was “people” John was speaking to and “people” who were expected, through the life of Christ available through the New Covenant, to bring forth fruit.

For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God;  but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:7-8)

This is one of the most fearful passages in the Bible. Though it is written in picture language, it is a very real revelation of God’s estimate of spiritual barrenness. What is being said? In some terms, no matter how much God pours out His Spirit, the person still behaves like an unbeliever. For example, while in public they put on a show of love, but in private they treat their family rudely and abusively. Not all family members, just the ones they can get away with bullying or the like. In fact, bullying in families is one of the greatest sins that a person can commit. Not only does it show an absence of the fruit of the Spirit, but even of natural affection (astorgos). If a person can’t treat their own family
with kindness and love consistently, then they are not saved, no matter what their proclamation or supposed position. In fact, if we can’t love everyone in this way we are not saved.

False Love

Even sinners act lovingly towards people when it’s advantageous to them. This is what Jesus taught all through His earthly ministry. The greatest test is can we love the unloveable? Can we love people sincerely and without pretense? If a person is not loving towards others and are not compassionate, then they need to be born again. The life of Christ is not in a person who does not love his or her brother or sister. This is the clear teaching of John’s epistles. A Christian has a heart of compassion towards all people (emphasis on all). Indeed, you and I may make excuses for why a professed Christian or even a leader acts unlovingly, but that cannot change their barrenness. Ministry titles don’t come with a full cluster of fruit. When a person has a pattern of acting rudely, unloving, and over bearing towards people — God doesn’t overlook it. The normal, everyday disposition of a believer, who has the life of Christ, is Christ-likeness. Just like He didn’t overlook the fig tree. At some point The person will be cut off all together.

The Diagnosis

“Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways, As a nation that did righteousness, And did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; They take delight in approaching God.   ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’ “In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers. Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, To make your voice heard on high. (Isaiah 58)

The people who were called by God’s name had gotten so hardened that there was almost no hope. The remedy was matched to the condition they were in. They were caught up in their religious exercises to the point that they were almost unreachable with truth. They may have even said, “How dare you challenge me!” Nevertheless, the challenge had to go forward. This was almost a last-ditch effort to see the people changed. God has been known to give last ditch efforts. He gave Pharaoh ten of them before finally destroying him.

It was a light thing for God to tell the prophet literally, “Cry with full throat, hold not back; lift up thy voice like a bugle, and proclaim to my people their apostasy, and to the house of Jacob their sins. And they seek me day by day, and desire to learn my ways, like a nation which has done righteousness, and has not forsaken the right of their God: they ask of me judgments of righteousness; they desire the drawing near of Elohim.” That is to say, with all the strength of the voice, lifting up the voice like the shōphâr (not a trumpet, which is called חַצֹצְרָה, nor in fact any metallic instrument, but a bugle or signal horn, like that blown on new year’s day: see at Psa 81:4), i.e., in a shrill shouting tone. With a loud voice that must be heard, with the most unsparing publicity, the prophet is to point out to the people their deep moral wounds, which they may indeed hide from themselves with hypocritical opus operatum, but cannot conceal from the all-seeing God. (Keil and Delitzsch)

Why would God have the prophet “cry loud, spare not, and lift his voice like a trumpet.”? Sounds very extreme. Because people who are self-deceived can deal treacherously and without compassion without pain of conscience. A person asleep needs no awakening. These people are asleep in their sins and are in danger of being eternally lost. However, they were real spiritual while being ungodly. They even fasted and prayed in order to further their ungodly attitudes. As if God is going to help them as they plot to act in a unchristlike way. Fasting for strife and debate? They fast to be heard, rather than to hear. This is how self-deluded a person can become. What do they need? A trumpet in their ears that will not spare for their excuses. After all, better to have a trumpet in your ear than hear the words of death, like the fig tree did. Or as the church of Ephesus faced, to have the lamp stand removed. Cry loud and spare not was the next stage of treatment this people to whom Isaiah was sent. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

In summary, it is far more evident that the Lord will not tolerate a Christian who pretends to represent Christ, and does not yield the fruit of the Spirit. Religious exercises, talents, gifts, miracles, are nothing more than leaves and foliage in the absence of fruit. The question is, where is the Christlikness? Where is the evidence of the life of Christ indwelling a person? Where is the compassion for real people. Not imaginary “souls” that have no name. How are you treating real people? All people? It is well that we examine our own selves lest we be deceived and on that fateful day be cast as empty branches into the flames. God has poured out His word and His Spirit. Has it yielded fruit? If not, why not?

The Error of Absalom

The Error of Absalom

Robert Wurtz II
After this it happened that Absalom provided himself with chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him. Now Absalom would rise early and stand beside the way to the gate. So it was, whenever anyone who had a lawsuit came to the king for a decision, that Absalom would call to him and say, “What city are you from?” And he would say, “Your servant is from such and such a tribe of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your case is good and right; but there is no deputy of the king to hear you.” Moreover Absalom would say, “Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice.” And so it was, whenever anyone came near to bow down to him, that he would put out his hand and take him and kiss him. In this manner Absalom acted toward all Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. (2 Samuel 15:1–6 NKJV)
There are few things quite so evil as to seek political office under the guise of correcting a manufactured injustice. It’s the oldest political trick in the book: point out all the problems with leaders while kissing the hands of the people to gain their support. This was the error of Absalom, and many have fallen into its deadly trap. Couple that with what one writer called, “His charming manners, personal beauty, and insinuating ways, together with his love of pomp and royal pretensions” and Absalom captivated the hearts of the people. No matter how evil he was he could do no wrong in their eyes.

In modern times, we could think of him as living in style and driving a hot-rod chariot with fifty men running before him. He fancied the royalty of kings and recklessly took every measure he could to achieve it. His charm produced many of what are sometimes called “ride or die” followers. This means they would follow him no matter what… even to their own destruction.
Absalom loved to charm the people. He told them whatever they wanted to hear. He puffed them up with flattery and pretended to be their friend. All the while, his mind was fixed on his father’s position. Notice what he said to the people, “Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice.” What was he saying? The current administration is not doing their job! He was pointing out his father’s failures. This is absolute proof that he hated his father. For had he loved him — he would have tried to protect his father and not expose him. He would have tried to help him rather than jockey for his job.

Some Absalom’s of the world will offer help, but only on their own terms and only if you do what they want done. This is all part of the scam. Everything Absalom was doing was designed to get him one step closer to the throne. I can almost hear him saying, “I tried to help him… but he wouldn’t accept my help!” Of course not. Although the common folks may be deceived, men in positions of authority are not so stupid as to be duped by the Absalom’s of the world. They know these ambitionists are gunning for their job. Moreover, Absalom feigned love for the people, so he could gain their support. He had nearly everyone fooled.

Back view portrait of a businessman making a wish isolated on white background
“Then someone told David, saying, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” And David said, “O LORD, I pray, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness!” (2 Samuel 15:31 NKJV)
We need to ask, why did Absalom not try to help his father?” Why did he stand outside the office and fill the ears of the people who were going to see his father with all kinds of poison? He told them, in effect, “Change is coming! Change is coming! When I become king… change will take place!” These were not prophetic words, they were political words. The kind that flow from the mouth during a stump speech.

Absalom did everything in his power to make things difficult for his father, and all under the pretense that his father “was not doing his job.” He was often the cause of the very thing he blamed his father for. He even got many elders in Israel to go along with him. Men like the great Ahithophel, David’s counselor fell for Absalom. Sadly, the Ahithophel’s of the world don’t realize that they are being used too. As soon as someone else comes along that can help them achieve their political ambitions… the Ahithophel’s, charmed into believing they were best friends with Absalom, are put to the curb.

In fact, when Absalom refused to hear Ahithophel’s counsel and took a new friend Hushai (actually a friend of David’s who came as a spy), he set his house in order and went and hanged himself. For this reason, his betrayal of David and subsequent suicide are sometimes seen as a type of Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus. Just as Judas was overcome with grief realizing he was a pawn of the Religious Leaders — Ahithophel knew the game was over and rather than face the disgrace of following a userper he committed suicide. The moral of the story? Don’t be a Ahithophel. Don’t allow an Absalom to use your wisdom and influence to achieve his ambitions. You will be discarded like a disposable lighter.


“And the conspiracy grew strong, for the people with Absalom continually increased in number.” (2 Samuel 15:12 NKJV)


Absalom used what he perceived to be an injustice with his sister Tamar as a pretext for mounting a vicious campaign against his own father King David. David did not handle the situation the way Absalom thought he should, so he went into rebellion. This is often how political ambitions are pushed forward. “You didn’t handle ___ right” so I have justification for my obstructive and destructive ways. Only a reprobate would believe killing your father was justified because he did not kill his own son (Amnon). Absalom took it in his own hands and killed Amnon. Was that not enough? Of course not. Because it was never about revenge or “You didn’t handle ___ right.” If was about Absalom’s ruthess ambition. Amnon was not the problem… he killed him! Can’t blame him anymore. Was that not an eye for an eye? Sure it was. But politicians are not about revenge… that is merely the carnage they leave along the roadside on their primrose path to greatness.

In fact, Absalom resorted to savage and unconscionable acts in his quest for the throne. He even set Joab’s field on fire to get his attention. The Absalom’s of the world “start fires” to opportunistically draw attention to themselves. In his shameless-wretchedness, Absalom set up a tent in the sight of all of Israel and went into his father’s concubines — an act that could be labeled as incest. He was more evil than his half-brother Amnon that he killed. He was more shameless and even committed the acts with a high hand. What was he saying? Amnon had better watch himself, but I’ll commit even greater evil and make everyone like it. This is not just fleshly… it is diabolical.

Absalom wanted his own father killed and sent several thousand men to do the job. The man would kill his own dad if that’s what it took to get the position he coveted. That is ultra sobering. Many other things can be said. Nevertheless, this is the ruthless character of a person who is bent on exalting themselves in leadership when God has not ordered it. I can almost hear those dreadful words from the heart of Satan “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” (Isaiah 14:13–14 KJV) As with Satan, so with Absalom, Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:15 KJV)


On a practical level, we must understand that it is impossible to build a spiritual kingdom by the arm of the flesh. You can’t politic your way into God’s will. However, this has not stopped many men from attempting it. Rather than allowing God to “exalt them in due time” they take matters into their own hands and end up completely destroying any hope of becoming what might have been. Pride has led many to frustrate the purposes of God. Before it was over, Absalom had divided the people against David to the point that the whole nation was nearly in a civil war. Why? Because of the political ambitions of a man who pretended to be offended by the ways things had been going in the kingdom. He was the self-appointed savior. In his own words, “Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice.”

Heaven protect us from ambitious men. 

Christ-less Christianity

Christ-less Christianity
Robert Wurtz II

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:1–2 NKJV) 

Our passage was written to the Corinthians who were suffering from gross carnality. They were lining up behind their favorite preachers and behaving in some cases worse than unbelievers (1 Cor. 5:1). Yet Paul reminds them of how he “came to them.” Notice that he did not come “with excellence of speech or wisdom…” Here excellence is from a Greek word that means elevated, authoritative, or superior. In other words, “Not in excellence of rhetorical display or of philosophical subtlety” (Lightfoot). He was not trying to impress the Corinthians with either his orations or his wisdom.

It was said of Paul that his bodily presence was weak, and his speech was contemptible. In other words, he wasn’t anything special to look at or to listen to. The power was not in his presence or personality, but in his proclamation. He did not want peoples’ faith to stand in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God. Moreover, he preached a topic that had no power to exalt him among the people: Jesus Christ and Him crucified. To be crucified was the most hideous of all executions. What is there to glory in among men? At Athens, he was practically laughed out of court when He spoke of Christ. When he added the Cross to the sermon, it was to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness. Nevertheless, Paul kept the main message coming at Corinth — Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

One of the great evidences of carnality is a de-emphasis of Jesus Christ. Most Christians consider their faith to be Christocentric (Christ-centered), but a close examination reveals an emphasis on all kinds of subjects. In fact, there are a dizzying number of topics and sub-topics that Christians can study or over-emphasize rather than Christ Himself. It could be very easy to preach apologetics, prophecy, prosperity, healing, deliverance, theology (a million sub-topics), the prophetic, the family, and a host of other subjects and completely lose Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

As a child I recall reading the old family Bible on the living room table. I didn’t know much about Christianity except what I learned a few years in Sunday School and in church services. However, when I picked that Bible up and began to read the New Testament I was brought face to face with Jesus Christ. If a person only read their Bible and never listened to radio, television, or other sermons they would have a thorough education in the Christocentric nature of the New Testament. It’s all about turning to Jesus, following Jesus, and emulating Jesus. Through the Gospel, we are brought back into a right relationship with Him; not to spin-off on some tangent topic like politics, conservatism, patriotism, or any other Christ supplanting subject.

This is how Christians become Corinthians. They leave off of the central theme of the New Testament; Jesus Christ. He is the main subject. We are being discipled under Him. To use an old cliché, “it’s all about Jesus.” No matter what our pursuit, if we have left off our focus on Christ, we are in gross error. He needs to be the topic of conversation more than anything else. We have enough books on Christian finances, Godly families, Your Best Life, Prosperity, Prophecy, the Anointing, Healing, Politics, Theology, Worship, Ministry Presentation, and a host of other things. What we need is to get focused completely on Jesus Christ. We need sermons about Jesus; teachings about Jesus; songs about Jesus; and ministries that preach Jesus. We need messages that deal with our covenant with Jesus and what He expects of us. In this carnal crisis hour, we desperately need to get our priorities right once again so we can say with Paul:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:1–2 NKJV) 

People Who Must Be Avoided

People Who Must Be Avoided
Robert Wurtz II

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses (stumbling blocks) contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” (Romans 16:17-18 KJV/ESV)

Paul’s abrupt warning about trouble makers within the church is both swift and stern. Having in the previous verse told the saints to greet one another with a holy kiss of charity, he then states plainly, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses (stumbling blocks) contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” Clearly, the people Paul has in view are enemies of the love and unity that Christ seeks to establish among the saints. The late renowned Greek scholar A.T. Robertson tells us that these people are to be marked, which is the Greek word skopeo and means “to keep an eye on so as to avoid.” These people are agents of division and sources of stumbling, which is the Greek word skandalon. This means a person could actually fall in the faith because of these people’s actions. Those who cause division rather than unity and stumbling rather than helping are to be marked out and avoided. This is the plain reading of the text. 

Another late renowned Greek scholar Marvin Vincent tells us that these people are known for causing disturbances within the churches. He adds an explanation of the word “avoid” when he writes, “Avoid is the Greek word ekklinate and is better translated as turn aside. Not only keep out of their way, but remove from them if you fall in with them.” (Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament) Sometimes we end up getting mixed up with professing Christians that we don’t realize are truly evil people until God’s removes the blinders from our eyes. Sometimes we feel an inward conviction that we need to remove from these people and can’t figure out why. It can be a very confusing thing when it happens. However, the Holy Spirit knows what they are doing behind the scenes and He is driving us to mark out and turn aside from them. 

Only after being away from their influence do we start to see some of the things they have a pattern of doing. For example, they will drop pieces of information about people (usually their rival) that is intended to undermine the person or cause you to lose confidence in them. They will flatter you and then undermine the person they are attacking. These divisionists’ strive to be “in the know” because this is how they get the precious information they use to cause strife and division. They surround themselves with people who “know where all the bodies are buried” (to use a 20th century political expression). These people think they are their friends, but in reality they are accomplices who are just being used for the information they possess or can acquire. Information is an asset to troublemakers in the churches; especially secret information (confidential). They will use it against their rivals or to gain and destroy influence.

I once knew a so-called Christian to boast that he could, “pick up the phone and call ____ and the person he called would never speak to their Christian brother again.” Sound unbelievable? Believe it. Not even Hollywood could make this kind of stuff up. This is the level of evil that some so-called Christians and ministers are moving in. They are actually boasting that they are proficient at sowing discord among brethren — a sin that God considers an abomination on the level with homosexuality (Proverbs 6:19). I have known of a so-called pastor to boast that he could use his influence to destroy other peoples’ influence in ministry and that from the pulpit. What happened? I was naive and could not see the evil that was going on. This was why the Spirit will move us to mark and avoid people in this way. Sometimes we are deluded and can’t see something that should be totally obvious.

If you know a person, no matter what their title (pastor, prophet, preacher, teacher, bishop, clergy, brother, sister, deacon, etc.), who is known to cause disturbances within the churches; who cause division among saints and churches; and who cause the saints to stumble (skandalon) because of their actions, you as a Christian have a God given mandate to mark that person and avoid them. If you are in company with that person(s) you are to remove yourself from them no matter who they are. 

Damnable Carnality

The Greek word for divisions (dichostasias) is found in two other verses in the New Testament:

For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? (1 Cor. 3:3)

Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, (Galatians 5:20 KJV) 

The church at Corinth (who also abused the gifts of the Holy Spirit), was rife with the effects of people who were causing the very thing Paul warned the Romans about (divisions). They too needed to mark off and avoid these type of people. Keep in mind that the word “divisions” is translated “seditions” in Galatians 5. In other words, they are moving in the realm of the flesh in the name of ministry and are in danger of damnation themselves (Galatians 5:20-21). Do not fall in with them or bid them God-speed lest you partake of their evil deeds. There is no need to pray and ask God if you should hang around. He will not tell you in prayer to disobey His clearly enunciated word. 

Their Motivation?

Paul tells us plainly that such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. This is clear from the fact that they are unconcerned with what Christ is concerned about. They are serving their own “belly.” A.T. Robertson tells us that this can be more literal than figurative (Phil. 3:19). Like the sons of Eli they fleece the people for everything they can get until the very worship of God is despised (1 Samuel 2-14-17). In other words, they are so self-indulgent that people who watch them don’t want to serve God anymore. This is how devastating to the cause of God their self-indulgent ways are. They think the church owes them a lavish living. Whereas, had they been concerned about the kingdom of God they would orient their lives so as to make great sacrifices for God and His kingdom. Rather than always wanting to turn a profit on the ministry, they seek to be profitable for the ministry. Big difference.     

 Their Method of Operation

 They pull off their destruction by smooth talk and flattery (and) they deceive the hearts of the naive. Christians who put the best construction on peoples’ actions are the most susceptible to these characters. People who don’t believe that Christians are capable of such things simply watch them smile and shake hands with people… listen to their smooth talk and flattery… and are like sheep to a slaughter. it’s not until they are an object of their behavior that they say, “I would have never believed they were like that.” They are now the prime victims and were once their biggest fans.

“Smooth-talk” or “good-words” is from the single Greek word Chrestologias. A simple definition is that they use a smooth and plausible address which simulates goodness. Key word is “simulates.” It is false. We all know what a smooth-talker is. In fact, some who have never read these verses can identify these type people as smooth talkers and not trust them. They know a smooth talker when they see one. Others don’t see it. 

Notice what the effect is, they deceive the hearts of the naive. Our word translated naive is the Greek akakos and it means unsuspecting and innocent (Vines). These people are not naive in the sense of lacking experience and judgment, they simply have a Christ-like tendency to be guileless. This is how the deceivers gain such a foothold and is why they must be marked and avoided. They are extremely dangerous to the kingdom of God because the kingdom is filled with people trying to do the right thing. These deceivers come in and take full advantage of this Christian characteristic. To mark and avoid these people cuts against the grain of their desire for love and unity. But you cannot befriend such a snake. You have to mark and avoid them no matter how uncomfortable it is. 

Paul’s Final Appeal

“For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” (Romans 16:19–20 KJV)

Paul trusts that the Roman’s propensity to obey God will outstrip their propensity to be trusting and welcoming. He adds an encouragement, I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. Our word simple here refers back to the people being “naive” or “harmless.” He wants them to have that character trait, but it must be tempered with the wisdom necessary to identify and avoid destructive and divisive people when we encounter them.        

Lawful or Awful?

All Things Are Lawful? 
Robert Wurtz II

“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (1 Corinthians 6:12 NKJV)

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.”
(1 Corinthians 10:23 NKJV)

In our first passage, Paul is not suggesting that literally all things are lawful for him. He has already described behaviors that we might call mortal sins. What he is referring to are things that God has allowed for us to do legally, but we are at risk of abusing. In 1 Cor. 6:12 we have sexual relations and eating in view. Both of these stem from good and natural desires. However, Paul was determined not to be a slave to anything that is good in itself. Eating is good and food is for the body. However, there is more to life than eating. A person’s belly (stomach) can become their god if they are not careful (Phil. 3:19). The same holds true for seeking fulfillment in sexual relations. Things that are lawful are apt to become awful if we don’t keep them in check. 

Paul was warning about the negative effects of abusing that which in itself is good. He says plainly, I will not be brought under the power of any. In other words, he was not going to allow a good and natural desire to control him. Satan tried to use the need for food to get Jesus off track when he tested Him in the wilderness. Our Lord’s answer? Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that is proceeding from the mouth of God. Man should find fulfillment not in the exercise of his/her natural physical desires, but in doing God’s will. Jesus added to this when He stated, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” (John 4:34b NKJV)

The common concern between both 1 Cor. 6:12 and 10:23 is that not all things are helpful. This is a Greek word that means “what is best for you.” We could translate the sentence, All things are lawful for me, but not all things are what’s best for me. In other words, it may be lawful to do but it is not in your best interest. You would be better off not doing _____. This is often difficult to persuade people of because they think in terms of immediate gratification. They simply can’t see how their behavior now is simply not what is best for them or the people they hope to influence. Being sensitive to God and having a willingness to listen to those who care most will help us discover whether something in our life is helpful or not.  

Paul then expands on this proverb, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful…” by shifting the focus from the negative to the positive. He states, “…all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.” This is Paul’s main concern for Christians; does what you are doing edify you? Does what you are doing edify the Body of Christ? The word edify is the Greek oikodomio and it means to build. Usually the context involves a structures like the Temple, tombs, barns, cities, houses, or towers. Sometimes it involves building an entity like the Church. “…all things are lawful for me, but not all things build.” 

Taken together these passages offered the carnal Corinthians an opportunity to evaluate their priorities as Christians. If an athlete wants to be successful, he/she will not do things that impede their progress. For example, it may be legal to indulge in sweets and unhealthy foods, but an athlete will discipline themselves to do only what “builds them up.” They are unwilling to sacrifice their overall health by indulging in something that may compromise their performance. Moreover, if they intend to be a role model in their field they will not do things that give the impression that others can do it too. Likewise, as Christians, we have to be careful what we allow or do not allow into our lives. 

Some will say, “I have liberty and I can do ____ if I wish to.” This may be true. However, is it what is best for you? Does it build you or the Body of Christ? Paul answered this question best perhaps in Romans 14:22 when he simply asked, “Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.”
(Romans 14:22 NKJV)   

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