Self-Inflicted Bitterness

Robert Wurtz II

For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. (1 Peter 2:20 NKJV)

In the ancient world, unlike Romans Citizens, Roman slaves were subject to corporal punishment, torture, or the death penalty without the benefit of due process. This is the context of our passage. In the first portion of the verse, Peter makes a clear distinction between justly suffering from one’s own faults and suffering wrongfully. When a slave did wrong, their owner often responded by beating the slave for their error. However, there were times when slaves (and even people like Paul) were beaten for no good reason. When that happened, Peter informs us that it is as an offering to the Lord when we take the beating patiently.


In modern times legalized slavery such as the Romans experienced does not exist in the Western world, but the principle contained in this verse can still be applied. People still respond to bad behavior. God still responds to good behavior. Understand that there are times when we suffer (at the hands of others) as a consequence of our own bad choices or behavior. In those situations, we have no one to blame but ourselves. People are simply reacting to your bad behavior or choices. However, there are times when we are wrongfully accused or are simply mistreated for no good reason. If we accept that treatment with patience, God accepts it as an offering of sorts. 


The most challenging part of our passage is making a distinction between the suffering that we deserve and that suffering that we don’t deserve. Sometimes people behave in ways that are completely unacceptable to others. Rather than change their ways, they keep on doing it. These people are known to psychologists as sociopaths. Some are warped enough to pretend that their behavior isn’t bad at all, but (in their mind) the problem is with everyone else. They will blame everyone including Satan himself for what they call “attacks of the enemy.” 


It doesn’t matter who the person is (or who they think they are) who is acting out, bad behavior is going to solicit a negative response from the people who are subject to the bad behavior. It is common sense that there is only so much abuse someone can dish out before people start responding against it. The sociopath type, devoid of conscience, never sees the error of his/her ways. They paint themselves as the victim. Again, when they abuse people and the abused respond back, the sociopath types reckon it as persecution (or something similar). Nevertheless, it’s not persecution. It’s not abuse. It’s not mistreatment. What it is — is that people will not go on putting up with bad behavior forever. What happens? The sociopath type either changes or there are consequences. 


As Christians, we don’t move in an “eye for an eye” mindset. However, neither are we commanded to subject ourselves to perpetual mistreatment. If we treat people in a way we would not want to be treated –sooner or later there is going to be a backlash. And when the backlash comes, what will the response be? Will the perpetrator(s) get angry and bitter because people no longer tolerate their abusiveness? Will they accuse their victims of rebellion or some other cynical trait? Our passage challenges people who are “suffering at the hands of others” to ask themselves whether or not they deserve the treatment they are receiving. People are patient, but they will not allow bad behavior to go unchecked forever. 


The Solution


In my fifth grade class, way back in the 70s, we had a misbehaving student who was forever acting out. On one particular day, our teacher had had enough and she put her head down on her desk and started to weep loudly. Upon seeing and hearing her, the bad-mannered student ran frantically up to her desk shouting, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry.” The teacher raised her head and with blood-shot eyes growled out words that are forever etched into my consciousness. “Cody, I don’t want to hear ‘I’m sorry!’… I just want you to stop it!” He had no idea until that moment that his bad behavior had him hanging by a thread.



Some people go through life oblivious to how their bad behavior is affecting people until something tragic happens to open their eyes. For Cody, it was when the teacher broke down and wept. He didn’t blame the Devil. He didn’t blame any of us who looked on. He didn’t get bitter at the teacher. In that moment, he realized that he was the problem. If the problem was going to be resolved, Cody was going to have to change. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? Seeing her tears had the effect of a thousand beatings and detentions. At a young age, he learned that there is a limit to how far people can tolerate bad behavior. So when people “put their head down on the desk” (so to speak) it’s not the time to blame everyone else. While there is still hope… it’s time to stop it… whatever the “it” might be.  


Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. (Revelation 3:2 ESV)   

Haman in the Midst

Robert Wurtz II

Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, “A gallows 75 feet high stands by Haman’s house. He had it made for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.” The king said, “Hang him on it!” So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided. (Esther 7:9-10) 

He who digs a hole for his neighbor will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone rolls it on himself. (Proverbs 26:27 NETS)


It is unfortunate for Haman that he either never read, or never took to heart, Proverbs 26:27. Being the son of an Amalekite, he seemed to hate God’s people with perfect hatred. He plotted to destroy all the Jews in Persia and hang Mordecai on a 75 ft gallows. Haman rolled the proverbial stone up the hill until it finally rolled back over the top of him. His story comes down through history as an ever present warning against men and women who seek to destroy others in order to advance their own ambitions and desires. 

Esther Exposes and Denounces Haman

Haman, a man after Satan’s own heart, was prepared to wipe out all of the Jews simply because Mordecai would not bow to him. He was so bent on his destruction that even an invitation to the king’s palace could not calm him down. He stated, “Yet all of this does not satisfy me every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” (Esther 5:13) He craved honor. He wanted to be revered and respected. Yet Mordecai comes along and refuses to bow the knee. My question is this, “Who did this man think he was?”


Although the king had commanded the people to bow to and reverence Haman (Esther 3:1f), as a Jew he could not show that honor to man which was due to God alone. (C. F. Keil and Delitzsch) And this is often the problem. Men desire the honor and reverence that God alone deserves. In fact, some men have actually confused themselves with God. Like Haman, their position has gone to their head and they won’t tolerate people not honoring them. Sadly, many Christians have been deceived into honoring men in this way because of their alleged “anointing.” I marvel at how well people can twist scripture to maintain and control their following. What did Paul say?


Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5–7 NKJV)


Unlike modern times, the ancient world highly esteemed learning and because of that they practically worshiped teachers. Even the Jews had schools of men such a Hillel and Shammai. However, notice how the Lord Jesus commanded the disciples to view themselves, “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.” (Matthew 23:8 KJV) The KJV commonly translates the Greek word didaskalos (teacher) as “master.” This comes from an Old English word that traces its origins to the Latin magister or magis meaning “more” (i.e., more important). Can you imagine what would happen if we called our Bible teachers “Master _____”? Jesus said plainly that we have one “Master,” “Teacher,” “Rabbi” (or whatever honorable term we can come up with to translate the Greek) and the rest of us are all brethren (adelphos). So common is the adelphos (brethren) that it’s found nearly 350 times in the New Testament. That kind of repetition is hard to dismiss. 


If everyone would gladly receive the words of Christ in Matthew 23:8 and the words of Paul in Philippians 2:5-7, we could eliminate the “Haman” type figures from our midst. If we could only grasp the fact that God does not want us viewing our leaders as kings and queens — but as brothers and sisters in Christ — we would eliminate the very platform on which the Haman’s of the world build their “empires.” But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. (Matthew 23:8 KJV) 


Nevertheless, it is likely that the same old habits and tendencies will prevail. Why? They will not repent. Why? Because people who seek honor from one another tend not to believe God’s word. Why? Because they have their list of self-serving verses, but they don’t accept God’s revelation as a whole. How do we know? Because the Haman’s of the world keep gunning for the Mordecai’s (as it were) and the people of God continue to be at risk. Had they believed God’s word they would want others to succeed in ministry — even if it meant that they would lose influence or position. We live in a day when leaders try to bring each other down because they want the big title. They refuse to help one another succeed. What is worse is that this very attitude is the obstacle to much of what God wants to do. Jesus asked a piercing question, “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44 NKJV) Selah. 


We are not going any place (in terms of ministry success) until the Haman’s of the world either repent or die off. So long as we have men who are consumed with craving honor from other men and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it… we are at a stand still. The solution? Renounce the mind of Haman and receive the mind of Christ. 


Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5–7 NKJV)   

The Seat of the Scornful

Robert Wurtz II

Now the house was full of men and women, and all the satraps of the allophyles were there, and on top of the house there were about three thousand men and women, watching Sampson being made fun of. (Judges 16:27 NETS/LXX)

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. (Psalms 1:1–3 NKJV)

There are few things that have the negative emotional impact of when people make fun of us. We have all experienced it at some point in our lives. Generally, scorning reaches its apex in junior high school. Kids use their tongues to cut one another to pieces. This type of cruelty is best described by Paul in Romans 3:13 when he quotes the Psalmist… They sharpen their tongues like a serpent; The poison of asps is under their lips. (Psalms 140:3 NKJV)

For Judges 16:27 I have chosen to quote from the NETS translation of the LXX (Greek Old Testament). Here is a familiar story that reveals exactly what Samson experienced once he had been stripped of the Spirit’s power. We read that “… on top of the house there were about three thousand men and women, watching Sampson being made fun of.” These pagans enjoyed themselves watching this mighty man who had carried off the gates of Gaza being treated like a circus act. Something in them craved the taste of “blood.” I don’t mean this literally, but figuratively. Here was a wounded man and the people gathered around to laugh and ridicule. I’m reminded of Solomon, who, at the end of his life, made this comment, “For like the crackling of thorns under a pot, So is the laughter of the fool. This also is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 7:6 NKJV)  What laughter could be more foolish than to make fun of people when they are down?

Earlier in his life, Solomon spoke of God’s attitude towards “scorners.” Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor. (Proverbs 3:34) Here we have a scorner being contrasted with a humble person. A scorner is one who expresses contempt and ridicule towards others. The implication is that scorners are proud people. We see this verified in the LXX (NETS translation of the verse). It reads, “The Lord resists the arrogant but gives grace to the humble.” It has the familiar ring of James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5. A scornful person is an arrogant person. They think themselves better than others and treat them accordingly. Pride numbs the scorner to the shame they should experience when making fun of people.

The Hebrew word that is translated as scorn is lis or lason. There are characteristics of a scorner that are worth mentioning. Fools scorn and mock at sin (Proverbs 14:9) and judgment (Proverbs 19:28). The scorner (Qal participial form) himself may be described as proud and haughty (Proverbs 21:24), incorrigible or past reproof (Proverbs 9:7), resistant to all reproof (Proverbs 9:8; 15:12), and hating any rebuke (Proverbs 13:1). Wisdom and knowledge easily elude him (Proverbs 14:6). So despicable is the scorner that he may be labeled as repulsive to all men (Proverbs 24:9) and therefore must be avoided (Psalm 1:1). A good way to get rid of strife and contention in a group is to eject the scorner and strife and contention will cease (Proverbs 22:10). Judgment awaits them as they have delighted in their scorning (Proverbs 1:22. Isaiah 29:20). (TWOT 1113)
In Psalm 1:1f the Psalmist gives several things that characterize a blessed person who is fruitful. One of these characteristics is that they do not sit in the seat of the scornful. They are not the type of person who likes to sit around and criticize or make fun of people. They don’t mock God, at sin, or anything else in that regard. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. In other words, he/she meditates and speaks aloud the word of God continually. They are careful that they don’t wrongly criticize, belittle, or make fun of the less fortunate. the benefit? He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.” (Psalms 1:1–3 NKJV)
A dear lady posted a picture on social media of a large green hornworm that was making havoc of her tomato plants. Scorners are to churches what hornworms are to tomato plants. Do you have trouble in your group or church with fruitlessness? In other words, do you struggle to see real growth and fruit? If you do, there may be a scorner or two in your midst. As a pastor, you may be praying and preaching your heart out and unbeknownst to you, there is a scorner in the midst making fun of someone’s clothes, shoes, how they sing, or an infinite number of other things. There could be people around who are running the congregation off by making fun of them or ridiculing them. The reason why it happens so frequently is that we don’t expect professing Christians to behave in this childish and cruel way. How could someone act so unchristlike?
We should never judge people in the way presented in this blog entry. Sometimes people are going through bad times and they don’t need criticism. They need encouragement. I have to ask, perhaps it’s time to bring the subject up on a large scale? Ask the congregation, “How do you treat one another?” “Do you make fun of your fellow brothers and sisters?” “Are you critical of things that don’t amount to anything?” “Do you judge people by their speech or their appearance?” “Do you judge them by how wealthy or poor they are?” “Are you critical of others when you should be having compassion on them?” Or more pointedly, “Are you sitting in the seat of the scornful?”

The Wisdom of God

Robert Wurtz II

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor? (Romans 11:33–34 KJV)

Paris Reidhead once remarked that old time ministers would occasionally preach what he termed, “The wisdom of God’s requirements.” This is a way of saying that God, in His infinite wisdom, established “requirements” that have to be understood in order to be appreciated. Generally speaking, this wisdom cannot be comprehended unless we experience the consequences of someone (or ourselves) rejecting His requirements. Obviously, the Old Covenant saints could visualize (imagine) the seriousness of “thou shalt not murder.” However, when it was their loved one who was murdered then they appreciated and understood thoroughly the wisdom of the commandment. The same could be said for thou shalt not steal, commit adultery, or bear false witness.” 
When we have been wronged (because someone decided to disregard God’s word) we have a greater appreciation for God’s word than if it were merely academic. Sometimes we have to experience the fallout from someone’s disobedience in order to see the wisdom of God. The same holds true for all of God’s directives and instruction. Time will prove that we disregard God’s word at our own peril. As a wise man once said, “We don’t just break God’s word… God’s word breaks us.” God is not mocked. When we disregard his clear instruction, we generally pay a heavy price.
One example that comes to mind that had far reaching implications for the Children of Israel was in the matter of God’s desire to be their King. Part of their identity and uniqueness was that God alone was going to be their King. He would rule from the Holy of Holies. However, God knew that they would reject His will so He accommodated Himself to their rebellion and gave commandments concerning an eventual king. Yet they wanted a king “like unto the nations.” A cursory reading of the Old Testament narrative demonstrates the wisdom of God’s perfect will and the folly of man’s desire for a human king. In fact, the very first king did evil and had to be replaced. We then had David who did good, but Solomon was mixed. When his son, Rehoboam, came to power his actions were so devilish that the nation split into two kingdoms (north and south or Judah and Israel).
After Rehoboam, we discover that for Israel (the Ten Tribes or the Northern Kingdom) they had a perfect record of around 19 straight evil kings. That is insanity. Judah (the Southern Kingdom) did better — but still only managed to have (more or less) six who did good. There were two who were “mixed” (did well in the beginning but fell away late in life). Compare that to the staggering 12 who did evil before the Lord. These evil kings led the people into unspeakable sin and rebellion. Is there any wonder that God, in His wisdom, did not want men being kings? Sadly, many of the best kings fell into some kind of compromise The more they behaved like the Gentile kings the eviler they became.
God knows the corruption that is in the hearts of men. History has proven that above all things bad men desire power. The time would fail to list their names and their dastardly deeds. Show me a person who desires power and control, and I’ll show you an agent of Satan. What did Israel experience? Having a man as a king opened the door to men leading the people according to their own will. It was rare to find someone who would do God’s will (a man after God’s own heart). For our part, we should be able (by this example alone) to see why God utterly rejects the notion of a “king” type role in the churches of God. A careful examination of the New Covenant reveals that God entrusts the care of churches to elders and the term is always in the plural. No kings. The Gentile “hierarchy” type structure was rejected by Jesus in Matthew 20:25-26 and Mark 10-41-44.
Consider how this has played out in modern times. Denominations were established (in part) in order to protect the people from bad ministers. That is, to make sure they were properly trained, licensed, and monitored. Had we hearkened to the wisdom of God we would have known this would not work. The failed kings of Israel prove the fact. What has happened? In many cases, denominations have become a means by which bad people can express their bad behavior. Not only can the denominations not perform their original designs, they are doing the exact opposite thing by empowering destructive people. The whole racket becomes a political and corrupt as the nonsense we see happening in democratic nations. Moreover, instead of having a single church with a limited platform of influence, the denomination creates positions that can wield exponential influence. Bad men work feverously to design rules to make their power absolute. And as the saying goes, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” God never intended for this to be. In the light of all he has revealed in scripture, I think I can say safely that it’s all an abomination to Him.
Do we trust God’s wisdom or do we believe we can somehow improve on his precepts and designs? God’s perfect will was and is for the people to make God Himself their King. Nothing has changed in some 4000 years. Yet people still want a king. They still want to be like the nations. There is almost no sense of our unique destiny and calling. In Romans 11: 34 Paul is expounding on the great wisdom of God in saving the Jews and the Gentiles. But that wisdom extends to all walks of life. If God instituted a method of doing something we are foolish to change it. There will be consequences. Why? Because there is a wisdom to everything God does. It is a gross understatement to say that any deviation from His ways will result in serious side effects (pain, suffering, heartache, destruction, etc.). We flout God’s word and wisdom at our own peril.

Tolerating Fools Gladly

Robert Wurtz II

For you tolerate fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise! For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face. To our shame I say that we were too weak for that! (2 Corinthians 11:19–21b)

Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? (2 Corinthians 11:29 NKJV)

The late great Greek scholar A.T. Robertson explains that Paul was speaking to the Corinthians “with a sarcasm that cut to the bone.” He said (in effect) that they gladly tolerated tyranny, extortion, craftiness, arrogance, violence, and insult. Why did they allow this? We are not told except this simple statement, “(…) you tolerate fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise!” Apparently, they thought it was wisdom to keep on putting up with these type of people. Amazing!

At the time of this epistle, the Pharisees were moving towards the “strangle hold” we know today as Rabbinic Judaism. It is likely that Paul is dealing with Judaizers in this epistle. Matthew Henry passes this comment, “Notwithstanding all your wisdom, you willingly suffer yourselves to be brought into bondage under the Jewish yoke, or suffer others to tyrannize over you; nay, to devour you, or make a prey of you, and take of you hire for their own advantage, and to exalt themselves above you, and lord it over you; nay, even to smite you on the face, or impose upon you to your very faces.” These words leave the impression that the church at Corinth was being treated like children at best or animals at worst. Why was it happening?

Understand that within 30-40 years, the Pharisee’s dream of having total control of the people would be realized. In fact, when Rabbinic Judaism was started at Yavneh (Jamnia CE 70), the Rabbis assumed near total control of the spiritual lives of the Jews. They reserved the right to interpret dreams and could overrule a prophet. Before it was over with, the Rabbis’ reserved the right to overrule God Himself! The basis for their power grab? “It is not in heaven,” they said. That’s right. They said that God passed the authority to them. Really? No kidding. It may seem ridiculous to us as Christians, but it happened and it is still happening. These devilish men found a way to insert themselves between God and people. This is a major reason why so few Jews have come to Christ over the last 2000 years. They are locked up — not in the Judaism of the time of Jesus — but in Rabbinic Judaism. Paul was fighting that controlling spirit in 2 Corinthians.

People can really be gullible. Sometimes men and women who are in reputation for wisdom can behave like the blind fools who deceive them. What did Paul say, For you tolerate fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise! Clearly, he is rebuking them for their capitulation. I would argue that he is even mocking them. I get the impression that he is being as nice as he can be, but their flagrantly inept handling of these trouble-makers made them look foolish and mock-worthy. Perhaps by using such piercing words he could arouse their attention and get them to take the blinders off.

Finally, Paul has to break down and give a list of his experiences to combat the nonsense the deceivers were feeding the people. His life story reads more like a decade’s long nightmare (in one sense). He had been beaten 39 stripes (the same as our Lord before the crucifixion) on five different occasions. Doctors at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota once published an article in JAMA stating that one such beating would have landed a person (clinically) in serious condition. Three times he was beaten with Rods and once stoned almost to death (for starters). He continues, Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2 Cor 11:25B-27 ESV)

On top of these and many more things he states, And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:28 ESV) Paul was forever concerned about people (like the man the Corinthians gladly tolerated) coming in and destroying the churches that he had planted. And I suggest this one characteristic surpasses all the rest… that Paul was desperately concerned about the condition of the churches. Some ministers are like the harlot in 1 Kings 3:16 who would rather see the child cut to pieces. They don’t have a motherly concern for the churches like Paul did (1 Thess. 2:7). They will rip and tear until there is nothing left. Yet Paul follows up these thoughts with a great question, “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?” (2 Corinthians 11:29 ESV)

Indignant is translated from a Greek word that means to burn. We might say today, he “got heated.” And rightly so. When people are causing others to stumble in the faith because of their foolishness, we should be angry about that. If we’re not, there is something seriously wrong with us. Yet, the Corinthians could seem to care less. What did Paul say, For you tolerate fools gladly. Deceivers and destroyers came in — putting the entire church at risk — and nobody said a word. The Greek word translated as gladly could have been translated as “with pleasure.” They liked it! Is that not astounding? How could that be? Nevertheless, what could Paul do? It was up to the people to stop “gladly tolerating,” “enjoying,” or “finding pleasure” in the trouble makers enough to finally do something. Paul used everything in his power to wake them up — including giving them that long list of trials — and now it would be up to them. At some point, the people would either do something or the church would have been completely destroyed. Tolerate Fools Gladly? Do so and they will destroy the “child.” It’s only a matter of time.

The Spirit of Adonijah

Robert Wurtz II

Now Adonijah, son of David and Haggith, was promoting himself, boasting, “I will be king!” He managed to acquire chariots and horsemen, as well as fifty men to serve as his royal guard. (Now his father had never corrected him by saying, “Why do you do such things?” He was also very handsome and had been born right after Absalom. (1 Kings 1:5–6 NET)

Adonijah was the fourth of David’s sons. Like his brother Absalom, he had aspirations of being the king of Israel, in his father’s place. Yet God had other plans. The objective was to build a house of God and Solomon was selected for the task. The Ark of the Covenant had not been properly situated for a long time and God longed to revisit His people. David desired to build the house but he was a man of blood. The job fell to Solomon — a name derived from the Hebrew word Shalom meaning “peace.”

While God was moving in the hearts of men to build Him a house, Adonijah was plotting to build himself a kingdom. It is unfathomable how anyone could be that out-of-touch with what God was doing. Would a man dare to build his own kingdom at the expense of God building his Temple? Indeed he would. This is ambition run amok. The problem was that his aspirations ran cross with God’s plans.     

Adonijah was Solomon’s older brother and he was upset for having been passed over. Apparently, problems had been brewing for many years. For reasons unknown to us, David refused to discipline him. In fact, the wording of 1 Kings 1:5-6 implies that he refused to disappoint his son. This is extremely troubling. A son who runs wildly unchecked and unreproved is bound for destruction.

I have to wonder if Solomon had his older brother in mind when he wrote concerning disciplining children in Proverbs. Who can tell? Nevertheless, Matthew Henry once wrote, “Those who honor their sons more than God, as those do who keep them not under good discipline, thereby forfeit the honor they might expect from their sons.” This is not the first time we find God placing the responsibility on the parent to correct a child who is acting contrary to His will. Eli refused to correct his sons and paid a terrible price. Though he would not live to see it, David will pay a heavy price as well. We should be sobered by the words, Now his father had never corrected him by saying, “Why do you do such things?”

While the plans were in place to get the Temple built, Adonijah was working to win people over to his cause. His strategy was similar to his failed brother Absalom’s having fifty men run before him as if he were already king. Despite the unlikeliness of success, Adonijah managed to win over David’s “general” Joab. Even Abiathar the High Priest fell for his charm. Nevertheless, he was of the sons of Eli who were already serving on borrowed time. 

Solomon realized what Adonijah was doing and offered him mercy. But the man just couldn’t stop. His ambition eventually blinded him to the danger it had put him in. His brazenness was finally manifest when he asked for permission to marry one of his father David’s concubines. Solomon, wise as he was, knew what Adonijah was doing and was furious. what did he do? He had him put to death for treason. When Joab heard what happened he knew he was next. Solomon had him put to death too. Abiathar was more fortunate he was simply removed from his post and Zadok was installed in his place. I think it more than coincidence that the common element in the judgment of Eli’s “sons” and Adonijah was that their parents did not correct them when they erred in the things of God. 

In 1 Cor. 10:11 Paul writes, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” We could argue that in this dispensation a man cannot be put to death for attempting to build his own kingdom instead of God’s Temple (so to speak). We can’t call fire down from heaven or any of that. However, the example of Adonijah is an expression of God’s estimate of this type of behavior and should be programmatic to our view of things. God may not put to death every man or woman who seeks to build their own “kingdom” rather than falling in step with Christ (who is building His Church), but He shouldn’t have to. 

When a man or woman inserts his/her personal ambitions into God’s plans bad things happen. Adonijah was not fit to do the task that God wanted to be done. He needed Solomon — a man who understood the altar and the meaning of sacrifice. He needed a man who could draw together people who had a mind to work. He didn’t need a man who managed to acquire chariots and horsemen, as well as fifty men to serve as his royal guard. He needed a man of peace who would build His resting place (the Temple). Likewise, today, we don’t need men and women with aspirations for building their own kingdoms. We need people with a mind to work who could care less who received the credit — so long as the “Temple” was being built. This must be the prevailing attitude in our times. Why? Because there is work to be done!     

The Enemy of Unity

First Published 5/13/15

Robert Wurtz II

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10 NKJV)

It is hard to fathom how a group of saints could argue over who was the most spiritual and yet act as carnal as did the Corinthians. “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, etc.” were just a few of their symptoms of profound carnality. Add to that misuse of the gifts of the Spirit; taking each other to court, and fornication not even seen among sinners, and there was a recipe for a feud that threatened to make a total mockery of Christ. 

Sin is the enemy of unity in the churches of God and carnality is its partner. Paul used the strongest of terms to plead with the Corinthians for unity of mind and of judgment. A cursory reading of the epistle demonstrates that though they believed they were spiritual, they were actually carnal. Carnal simply means “fleshly.” They act in discord of God’s will and word. They are moving in a different revelation than what we are taught of Christ. In fact, the Corinthians had backslidden to the point that Paul could not speak to them as spiritual people. (1 Cor. 3:1) He had to use carnal (non-spiritual) illustrations. 

Sheep and Goats

Since a plea for unity was one of the first orders of business, it is essential that we understand why many churches will never be in unity. First, there can be no unity between sheep and goats or sheep and wolves. This is common sense. Can two walk together if they are not agreed? This is one of the greatest issues we face in modern times. Too many people who name the name of Christ are not truly born of God. They are still “in Adam” and are not “in Christ.” They are old creatures in which the old has not passed away. They are unregenerate and of their father the devil. 

God’s children and Satan’s children simply do not see eye to eye. This means that they were never brought into a Spiritual state, to begin with. Many simply said a little prayer and were never changed. They are goats who believe they are sheep. They challenge the sheep’s perspective on issues bringing disunity of mind and judgment.

They who are still in Adam are operating under a different head than they who are in Christ. They walk according to the course of the world, according to the prince of the power of the air — with a spirit that wills and works disobedience to God. (Ephesians 2:2) They who have been born from above have had an experience in which they have been baptized into Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 12:13) The Holy Spirit works in them both to will and do what pleases God. This is why the scripture uses the qualifier “if” when it says, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature.” The individual must have been born of the Spirit (John 3:3) or they are still in Adam and are subject to the carnal mind that is at enmity with God. Their heart must have been replaced and a new Spirit given to them or they are not a new creature. (Ezekiel 36:26) If they have not this experience they are not a “son” or “daughter” from which the Spirit cries within them ABBA Father. (Romans 8:15)

Sheep and Goats 

The scripture uses many metaphors to demonstrate this transition from being “in” Adam to being “in” Christ. An important example is that of being “sheep”. Jesus stated, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27) This is not a Christian psychic. This is a person who does God’s will. They listen to the words of Christ and obey them. That is, they “hearken” (hear and obey) unto the voice of the Lord. It is ‘normal’ to them. This means that they are in subjection to His will and that subjection takes precedence over their own desires. Goats are not so. They do their own will. 

By contrast, we can say that the sheep are ‘in’ Christ and the goats are “in” Adam. Those who are His sheep are they who respond rightly to God’s voice in genuine faith. Those that died in faith prior to Pentecost (Acts 2:1-3) responded to God as He drew them near to Himself according to the measure of the covenant possibilities that applied to them. The goats spent their lives resisting the Holy Ghost and living according to their own will. Taking these things into consideration we start to understand that sheep and goats can never truly be in unity. They may come into one accord in certain areas, but the core of their nature is different. They are dancing to different drummers.

Having Begun in the Spirit

It is important to understand that when we talk about unity among professors of Christ that the unity we desire is the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3). It is impossible to gather together two or more individuals and have them come into unity unless there is a common basis for that unity. For Christians, all parties involved must be submitted to God and His will or there will be division. 

A basic point to make is that the Holy Spirit and the word of God agree. When that same Spirit dwells in us causing us to will and to do God’s good pleasure we are enabled to come into unity. But this can never happen if the individuals involved do not have the Holy Spirit. (Jude 1:19) If a person does not have the Holy Spirit they by default have the spirit of the world. (1 Cor. 2:12) If they have the Holy Spirit God works in them both to will and to do His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13) This is essential. Paul uses the language of having begun in the Spirit… (Galatians 3:3) That is the beginning point. If an individual has not begun in the Spirit then they are operating under the spirit of disobedience and can never be spiritual while in that state. This makes any kind of unity between them and the children of God almost impossible. They are going in totally different directions.

That they May Be One

“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are[…]” (John 17:20-21)

God is a plural unity. The Jews learned this in the Shema. Deut. 6:4 reads literally, Shmai Yisrael Adonai Eloheynu Adonai Echad. That translated means, Hear O’ Israel the Lord your God is ONE. The Hebrew language has two words that can be translated “ONE”: echad and yachid. Whereas yachid (yah-keed) refers to the number one (i.e., absolute one), echad (ek-kawd) refers to a composite or a plural unity (like the Trinity). God is three persons and one substance. Jesus teaches us that His desire is that believers be as the Hebrew term ‘echad’ (plural unity) even as He and the Father are ‘one’ (plural unity).

In the prayer of John 17, Jesus prayed. . . “that they may be one, as thou Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent Me.”(vs. 21) This is an awesome consideration. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are in absolute unity of mind and purpose. Each one must contain an identical nature. Each one must be holy, righteous, just, love, etc. If not, unity would be impossible. So as we consider this we can understand that to be one with each other we must walk in the Spirit in absolute submission to God and His will. To do this we must walk in the power and influence of the Holy Spirit.

Carnality is the Enemy of Unity

It is ‘possible’ for those who are truly in Christ to live in a ‘state’ of carnality and bring disunity to a congregation. If we allow ourselves to be pressed into this world’s way of thinking we can function as if we were carnal (as mere men Romans 12:2, I Cor. 3:3). This is when division begins. Yet the cure is always the same — repentance. God has big plans for His churches. These plans must be born in heaven and revealed in the earth. Each individual must be sold out to God’s plan and purposes. 

There is no place for self-seeking in the Kingdom of God. Self-seeking will cause division. Anything that does not promote the unity of the Spirit is a source of division. One may find a means of bringing a group of fully carnal men and women into unity and yet we may know that a group of Spirit filled men and women may be in unity- but it is impossible to bring a mixture of carnal and spiritual men and women into genuine unity. They are operating under different spirits. The two cannot walk together because they are not agreed. (Amos 3:3) This is why any two must gather together ‘in His name.’ If they gather together in their own name there cannot be a unity of the Spirit and Christ will not be present. But any place where there exists a conscious dependence on Christ and a willingness to surrender to His absolute headship- unity is possible.

Unity Begins with the Word of Repentance

Until the carnal mind is dealt with there can be no unity. So unity must be regained through a call to return to the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ in all walks of our lives. This is the only hope. The alternative is complete discord. As men gather together in the name of Christ may they consciously lay aside all for His will. Until men and women get in step with the Spirit they are nothing more than a loose band of individuals. They are an orchestra or choir with no director — each playing and singing their own tune in their own key. But as we fully surrender to Him — those who have begun in the Spirit are enabled to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of perfectness.

God and the Free Sparrows

Robert Wurtz II

“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6–7 KJV)

The context of our passage deals with the persecution of people who believe in the Lord Jesus. In the time directly following our Lord’s ministry (ca. 33 AD) until the advent of Constantine in the early fourth century, Christians suffered tremendous persecution. It came from unbelieving Jews as well as Roman authorities. The unbelieving Jews sought to snuff out Christianity altogether. The Roman authorities required its citizens to regard Ceasar as Lord. Christians could not do this and remain true to Christ. Therefore, they were tortured, tormented, and killed by the thousands. 

In a society where it seems that Christian lives are worthless, people can begin to despair. With people being killed left and right, the persecuted may begin to wonder if God truly cares about them. Jesus here encourages us by way of illustration. He asks, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?” Simple math demonstrates that if the cost is two sparrows for one farthing, the fifth one must have been thrown in free. What an awful thing to ponder if you or I were that free sparrow. It’s bad enough to be sold in the first place, but to be the free one? Talk about feeling expendable!

People may make merchandise of God’s creatures in a cold-hearted way, but God remembers the free Sparrow. Jesus adds this detail, Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. The sparrow has great value, but people are created in God’s image. In fact, Jesus adds another detail, But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. We would be hard pressed to find a verse in scripture where both God’s power and love are put on display like this. God knows the present number of the hairs on my head? Yes. And God loves us enough to keep track of them. 

Sometimes in life, people will treat us like we are expendable. If we live long enough, we are sure to suffer rejection and a host of other things. If we live in areas of the world that are hostile to Christianity, we could be imprisoned, beaten, or killed. In some cases all three. The time would fail to discuss the multitudes of dear saints who have been tortured and killed over the centuries. The world hates Christians. That will always be the case. 

What about being mistreated by professing believers? It ought not to happen, but it sometimes does. Paul dealt with it. John the Revelator dealt with it. The risk is that we allow the mistreatment to dictate our perspective of things. What did Paul say? “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? People may reject us or even persecute us, “But if God is for us…” What does it matter if people hate us and mistreat us when we have Christ, who also makes intercession for us? 

People can deal us a lot of harm, but they have not power on over us ultimately. Paul continues on and asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” On the one hand, we seem to be treated, at times, like that sparrow who was sort of thrown in as part of a package deal. Like sheep to a slaughter. What did Paul (who had been beaten within an inch of his life many times) say concerning this? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 

Does it really matter what people think? should our joy and victory be predicated on people’s response to us (and the message of the Gospel)? I’m reminded of Leonard Ravenhill who once told of how God gave him a “word for the year.” On this occasion, he didn’t even have to look into the scriptures to find it. It was a single word: rejection. Ravenhill’s dejected response? Great! As if to say, “Oh boy, that’s just great!” History is now showing that people may have rejected Ravenhill quite often during his lifetime, but God never did. Moreover, his life and message continue to be a great blessing to many today. This is the key thing. He may have felt rejected, but in reality, he was more than a conqueror through Him who loved us. What does that mean? The late great Greek scholar A.T. Robertson summarized this verse as, “We gain a surpassing victory through the one who loved us.”

Pride and Primacy


Robert Wurtz II

And he (Jesus Christ) is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence (Colossians 1:18)

I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. (3 John 1:9-11)

“And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”” (Mark 9:35 NKJV)

When men challenge Jesus Christ for the preeminence in His churches, disaster always follows. Our Greek word for preeminence in Colossians 1:18 is proteuon and is rarely used in the New Testament. In fact, the only other use is in 3 John 1:9 and it is a compound of philo and proteuon. Philo simply means “to be fond of” and proteuon means “to be first” or have first place. It is translated as, “loveth to have the preeminence.” Consider this list of synonyms for our English word preeminence: superiority, supremacy, greatness, excellence, distinction, prominence, predominance, eminence, importance, prestige, stature, fame, renown, celebrity.

The Greek root for proteuon is protos and is commonly used. It simply means “first.” This brings us to Mark 9:35, And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” 

This conversation was one of many that the Lord Jesus had with the disciples along this line. In fact, just moments after He revealed at the Last Supper that one of the disciples would betray Him, an argument broke out as to who was the greatest. It would take the absolute failure of all of them (when Jesus was arrested) to prove handily that none of them was quite as great as they imagined. When they finally laid aside their pride and got into unity, the Holy Spirit came and the Lord’s teachings on servant leadership were realized in their lives.

However, all of these teachings and experiences did not stop men from seeking to have the preeminence in the churches. Diotrephes was one such man. John wrote a few letters to the local church where this man was an obstructionist. Somehow Diotrephes had set himself up as the authority in the church and had rejected the first letter that John sent the church. In his quest for greatness and power, Diotrephes continually refused to receive John and other brethren who were of a like mind and spirit. In fact, he took the added step of ordering other people not to “receive him.” The late great Greek scholar A.T. Robertson commented on this man, “If this ancient “church-boss” did not succeed in expelling John’s adherents from the church, he certainly tried to do it.”

Diotrephes was the type of man who would issue an order to his congregation and church leaders not to attend meetings held by brothers he had a “beef” with or who posed a threat to his political aspirations. If he operated in the cyber world he would have forbidden people (especially those associated with the website) from posting certain brothers and sisters articles for similar reasons. If Diotrephes was anything like people today, he would have taken the “spiritual road” and justified the behavior by saying that God “told him” to take this action or that he was “protecting the saints.” John experienced the same thing when Diotrephes refused to allow the people to know the contents of the first letter he had sent the church. Why did he really behave this way? Because he loved to have the preeminence

Indeed, the Diotrephes’ of the world have a habit of “prating against certain brethren with malicious words” in an attempt to destroy their reputation and influence. They have devised a multitude of ways to retaliate against the people they don’t like. That is the simplicity of it. The rest is commentary. People like Diotrephes can give you their reasoning why they do it, but it is still malice no matter how smooth they articulate it. They treat people this way, generally, because they can’t personally control the person. How do they respond? They give it to their enemy in spades (so to speak). That is to say, they retaliate by attempting to destroy or marginalize them. 

John was not the type of person who would sweep this type of evil under the rug. He stated, Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth.” Clearly, he intended to confront Diotrephes for his behavior. Unfortunately, the Diotrephes types in modern times have set themselves up as a law unto themselves. While rejecting the people they can’t control — they hedge themselves in so that they cannot be controlled either. They are experts at making everyone but themselves look like rebels when they are the most rebellious of all — especially of their own leaders. Therefore, their behavior is likely to continue until the Great Judgment. What can we do? Are we helpless against such treachery? In this case, John offers us his counsel, Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. 

These are strong words coming from John. Diotrephes should have been supportive of the apostle. We are not told specifically why he was such an obstructionist. Did he want John’s job? Did he want people to esteem him to be greater than the aging apostle? We only know that he refused to receive John or his messages and he forbade his church members from contact with him. By implication, he used fear and intimidation to get the job done. John called the behavior, evil. Again, our response? Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. Do not be followers of these type of people. Why? He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. No person can behave in this way and claim to know God. It is not how God operates. It is not the example that Jesus set for us. Besides, the Diotrephes’ of the world are enemies of Christ — setting themselves up in His place. And he (Jesus Christ) is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence (Colossians 1:18)   

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