Minding Our Own Business

Minding Our Own Business
Robert Wurtz II

Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man? Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” (John 21:20–22 NKJV)

But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing. (1 Thess. 4:9-12)

John 21:22 is a rebuke that is a little tough to receive in this sensitive age. In fact, I can’t recall ever hearing this verse addressed (though I’m sure many have done it). As a child it always struck me as stern or possibly rude. I figured it probably hurt Peter’s feelings. It is the type of statement that I would try to avoid telling a person. Just being honest. It makes me uncomfortable just thinking about it. However, what if a person really needed to be told “…what is that to you? You follow Me”? It would take a good deal of courage or a very insensitive person to carry it out. Obviously the Lord Jesus courageously spoke the truth to Peter and He did it out of love.


Imagine what may have happened had the Lord not handled Peter’s curiosity the way He did. He may have made a practice of always being in peoples’ business. Even among the “chiefest apostles” that would have been inappropriate and dangerous. Peter may have made a practice of intruding into other Christian’s relationship with God — rather than encouraging them to obey the Spirit’s leading. This is a great problem in the twenty-first century. Too many Christian leaders believe they have a God-given right to intrude into areas of peoples’ lives that are between them and the Lord alone. 

Paul spoke of young widows who, unless they remarried, might “(…) learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.” (1 Timothy 5:13 NKJV) This was a general concern. The verse is a vivid picture of idle tattlers and gossipers. (A.T. Robertson) People who have too much time on their hands are prone to cause all kinds of trouble. As Proverbs warns us, “where there is no tale-bearer strife ceases.” (Proverbs 26:20) Moreover, It is an honor for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.” (Proverbs 20:3 KJV) 



The Greek word for idle in I Timothy 5:13 means to be “without work.” In this case they wandered around stirring up trouble. Tattlers (gossips) is from a Greek word that means “to boil up, to throw up bubbles, like blowing soap bubbles.” Busybodies means they are busy about trifles (non-issues) to the neglect of important matters. They say things to people that are not necessary to say. In effect, they are always intruding into things that they have no business being involved in. This is a very destructive habit and must be dealt with. 

 Minding Things

In the English speaking part of the world where I live the concept of “minding” something is a little strange. For example, In England the subway (tube) cars have warnings to “mind the gap” so that you don’t fall between the train and the walkway and injure your foot or worse. In the central USA we may say, “Mind your parents” or “Never mind what I said.” To say, “mind your own business!” is a stern rebuke. However, Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business…” In other words, we are to stay busy enough that we don’t have time to meddle in other peoples’ affairs that are not our business.

Paul urges an ambition to be quiet or calm, to lead a quiet life, including silence (Acts 11:18). To do your own business (Greek prassein ta idia). To have the habit of attending to our own affairs (Greek ta idia). Restless meddlesomeness is condemned here in 1 Thess. 4:9-12 and Paul alludes to again in 2 Thess. 3:11 in plainer terms. It is amazing how much wisdom people have about other people’s affairs and so little interest in their own.  (A. T. Robertson)

There is a contrast in the verse if we look closely. First, there are the people who get busy increasing more and more… laboring in what God has called them to do. These people are fruitful. They are at work doing the Lord’s will and building the kingdom of God. Second, there are people who are tearing the kingdom down as fast as the laborers can build it. They roam around from house to house stirring up trouble… destroying people with their gossip. Some even boast of how much influence they have — to destroy ministries and relationships if they take a notion. They use their gossiping as a means of blackmail and control. In other words, if you don’t dance to their drum, they will destroy you behind your back. You’re at work making a living, while the gadabouts go around destroying the works of your hands. Judging by the way the Lord Jesus responded to Peter (what is that to you? You follow Me), it makes me wonder what He would say to some of these idle tattlers and busybodies?             

It is common in secular society to have people meddling in other peoples’ affairs — but it ought not so to be in the churches of God. I recall the story of a logging company in the northwestern United States that once had a problem with productivity. It happens that work had slowed to the point that the owner came to the site to see what was going on. After a short time observing the situation he came to a sad conclusion. Speaking of the site supervisor he remarked, “He is more concerned about running off Dave than he is getting logs pulled.” The supervisor despised Dave. He was always worried about what Dave was doing — even when he was doing a decent job. In fact, it got to the point that no matter what Dave did–he could do no right. The supervisor treated him bad so long and so often that he began to hate Dave. It was no longer about work. It was “personal.” The supervisor was obsessed with “running off Dave” and in the process nearly killed the logging company.

It is a hard saying but I am glad the Lord rebuked Peter the way He did. Not because I want to see Peter put in his place, but because we needed to know that what Peter was doing was wrong. His actions were bad enough to warrant a sharp response from the Lord. If it was wrong for Peter it is wrong for every Christian or minister. He was telling Peter, “You let me worry about John; you worry about yourself.” As Paul put it… aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business. That is good advice — but more than advice. It is a directive from God.  

Prophets, Preachers, and Politicians

Prophets, Preachers, and Politicians
Robert Wurtz II

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! (Galatians 5:14-15)


Our passage contains the dreadful consequence of a “party spirit” (politics) operating in the churches of God. Ignoring this passage has brought many Christians, relationships, ministries, and moves of God, to an abrupt and pitiful end over the last 2000 years. It is impossible to overstate how dangerous a “party spirit” or politics are to God’s people. This is why Jesus commanded the disciples not to organize their ministry into a Gentile power structure in Matthew 20:25-26, Mark 10:42-43, and Luke 22:25-26. Multitudes cry to Heaven “Lord, Lord” and then go right out and disobey these clear verses. Simply put, Jesus warned us not to set up a corporate type hierarchy (pecking order, ranking, chain of command) in the churches. 



Despite this clear command being repeated in all the synoptic Gospels, churches and organizations are typically set up like a corporation. In a corporate hierarchy, we might say that “Pete is about six levels below the CEO;” however, this is not the way churches and Christian organizations are to be established. It is nothing more than Israel crying for a king rather than allowing God to rule over them. As with Israel, so too with the churches, this Gentile, worldly, Egyptian, or whatever adjective we want to employ, “power structure” has grave consequences.  


Moving Up The Ranks?



Any place that you find a ranking system, you have sin being committed. Disobeying God in Matthew 20:25-26, Mark 10:42-43, and Luke 22:25-26 is no different than any place else. Moreover, ranking systems breed sin and offenses. They can do no other. Why? Because when there is a political element involved, people don’t feel obligated to treat their brother or sister in Christ as they would want to be treated. They generally lose their minds and forget they are supposed to be Christians. 


What happens? Older ministers fear that some young person is “gunning for their job” so they do everything in their power to suppress all potential “threats” to their position. They are not allowed to do anything that may get the people taking a liking to them. Some ministers are afraid to go out-of-town lest when they come back, someone is trying to take their job. Moreover, some younger ministers undermine the people in high position, so they can eventually be “voted in to their job.” They obstruct, refuse to support, point out their shortcomings, etc. ad nauseam. It becomes a very tense “us against them” abomination to God and man. This is worldliness at its finest. Naturally, if you ask them, they all do these things for “spiritual” reasons. The carnal Corinthians thought they were “spiritual” too, because they were moving in the gifts of the Spirit; however, some were fornicating, suing one another, and splitting the church into political parties backing “Paul, Appollos, Cephas and Jesus.”

In the Old Testament, when the people were really off track, God would use the prophets to bring a strong message of correction. Nobody “votes in” a prophet, so God has to raise one up to confront the people. They often employed radical language or tactics to accomplish the job. Similarly, Paul used a morbid statement to the Galatians, But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! What happens? When someone bites, the natural response is to bite back. This process continues until all parties involved are consumed (destroyed). What begins as behavior becoming toddlers — erupts into a savage warfare between people acting like wild animals. The renowned Greek scholar A.T. Robertson, in commenting on these verses, tells the sobering story of two snakes who each swallowed the other by the tail. 


If there is one thing that most parents of toddlers detest — it is biting. The fastest way to receive a spanking when I was a  child was to bite somebody. Emotions would run so high that some parents would say to the victim, “Just bite him back! Show him how it feels.” It would not be unusual for parents to come to blows nearly when they looked at their child’s arm and there was a bite mark. “Why did he bite you?!” The parent asks. “Because I was playing with his toy.” Then the parents get into an argument. One backs their child’s right to territory, and the other wants an apology for biting. In modern times, I suspect parents are more civilized than this, but I’m not holding my breath. 

Toddlers are not the only people who “bite” when they don’t get their way. Adults do it too. This is what Paul said, But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! (Galatians 5:15) This is much more serious and destructive than the behavior of toddlers. It is more serious because toddlers are supposed to be selfish; that is to say, they have to be taught to be friendly and loving. Christian adults should know better. It is more destructive because there is so much more at stake. When a toddler bites and is then bitten back, both have bite marks. Each tells how the other bit them. The same holds true with adults. Of course, we are not speaking of literal teeth marks; we are dealing with malicious actions against one another. 

Scorched Earth Tactics

When adults grow up in carnality they don’t fight over toys, they fight over territory. They fight over positions at work or at church. Most of the time the parties fight each other until neither of them have a reputation left. In fact, people will even sabotage one another in hopes they can “get their job.” This is part of what is often called, “office politics.” Whole books have been written about the subject. What happens? Life becomes a perpetual replay of age 2-20. Everything we had to endure from pre-school to High School becomes our daily lot. Boys fist-fighting in the halls; girls quarreling and fussing. I realize the fists are not usually literal in adulthood, but the attitude back of those behaviors is just as real. The stress on daily life for some becomes almost unbearable. 

These things ought not so to be in the churches of God; but unfortunately they are. There is nothing new under the sun. Nepotism is just as rife in many churches as it is in the world. Ministries become dynasties all the way from the corner church to the largest Christian TV Networks. Father and son feuds develop imitating the madness and hate of family based reality shows like Orange County Choppers. Moreover, politics are often exaggerated in churches. Factions develop that split churches and organizations into two or more opposing camps. Again, usually there is a real spiritual reason for doing it, just like there was a real good reason for the toddler to bite the other one. Really? 

The First Politician


Satan was the very first politician. He led a rebellion in Heaven and drew a third of the Stars with him. Then he shows up in the Garden of Eden spouting propaganda to win over the whole human race into his camp. First politician. First liar. Hmmm. See the connection? Satan misrepresented God because he wanted his place on the throne. Nearly all politicians misrepresent their opponent or withhold information about them that would sway the people into liking them. “Make the opponent look bad” is the modus operandi (m.o.). Imagine what happens when a Christian environment becomes “politicized.” Who do you think is behind it all? God wants the churches to be a place of heaven on earth. Satan does too. He comes in to use people to do on earth what he had done in Heaven. He divided it by campaigning for God’s throne. All the while blinding everyone to what he is doing. What happens? He causes so much strife that every action gets interpreted. Motivations get questioned. A spirit of suspicion prevails. 

Most of the time people are just trying to serve God, but sometimes they are not. People know when they are intentionally being divisive. Whereas love puts the best construction on events, politics puts the worst construction on them. Ministers have been known to hire private detectives to bring one another down. It happened in the 80’s and early 90’s in mainstream evangelicalism. The name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles. There is no new thing under the sun. Pride has often destroyed the works of God’s hands. How is God going to handle those who do such things? It’s a sad thing to work in the kingdom for decades only to have those labors destroyed by a bunch of crooked politics. 

Pride and Politics


Pride has been known to completely destroy ministries. Men have turned and fought against the very thing they prayed into existence. In America we have what some have called a “peaceful transfer of power” when new presidents and governors are elected. Harry Truman had the right attitude when it came to leaders leaving their political office. For example, he was asked during the Cuban Missile crisis if he had called the sitting president to offer advice. His answer was compelling, “If the president wants my opinion he will ask for it. And when he does I won’t be telling you about it. If the president wants it known he can tell you.” This is humility talking. This is a man who was able to “let go” and go home. He wanted the nation to prosper, even though he handed the presidency over to a Republican rival. Understand that Truman is considered to be one of the greatest presidents in American history, and yet was not offended by the fact that he may not have been consulted by the sitting president, even in a crisis. Is this the attitude of politics in ministry? Not generally. If you don’t keep everyone feeling important, they are liable to start biting and devouring. Is there any wonder Jesus commanded the churches not to set up in a worldly construct? Politics has no place in the Kingdom of God; it is the outworking of democracy, not kingdom. 

Matthew Henry commented on these verses, “But, says he, if instead of serving one another in love, and therein fulfilling the law of God, you bite and devour one another, take heed that you be not consumed one of another. If, instead of acting like men and Christians, they would behave themselves more like brute beasts, in tearing and rending one another, they could expect nothing as the consequence of it, but that they would be consumed one of another; and therefore they had the greatest reason not to indulge themselves in such quarrels and animosities. Note, Mutual strifes among brethren, if persisted in, are likely to prove a common ruin; those that devour one another are in a fair way to be consumed one of another. Christian churches cannot be ruined but by their own hands; but if Christians, who should be helps to one another and a joy one to another, be as brute beasts, biting and devouring each other, what can be expected but that the God of love should deny his grace to them, and the Spirit of love should depart from them, and that the evil spirit, who seeks the destruction of them all, should prevail?”

What’s the use of so much prayer, when politics are destroying our prayers? Why fast? Everything in the kingdom of God is put at risk where politics are involved. How can we have a revival if people are jockeying for the credit and glory for what transpires? I have seen revivals destroyed because of rivalry. What happens? Christians are disillusioned and near to giving up because of the politics that go in behind the scenes. This is where repentance has to begin. Not in the pew; not with the drug addict; not with the sinners around the world. We cannot go forward until men and women lay down their ambitions and all that is involved in them. There must be a humble repentance of the secular approach to ministry that prevails in our times. There must be a wholesale repentance of lovelessness and hate wherever it exists among leaders in the churches of God. 

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! (Galatians 5:14-15)

The spirit of Diotrephes

The spirit of Diotrephes
An excerpt from “DIOTREPHES: THE CHURCH REGULATOR”

“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.” (3 John 1:9–11 NKJV) 
[…] Many years ago I wrote an article for a denominational paper concerning Diotrephes. The editor told me afterwards that twenty-five deacons had ordered the paper stopped as a protest against the personal attack in the paper. What I did in the article was to show that Diotrephes was a typical church “boss” who ruled the church to suit his own whims. In Kentucky we have a phrase termed “the short-horn deacon” for this type of church regulator.
[…] The sin that John charges against Diotrephes is that he “loves to have the pre-eminence.” The word here employed by John is a very rare one and means “fond of being first.” A late scholion explains it as “seizing the first things in an underhand way.” The word occurs among the ecclesiastical writers to picture the rivalries among the bishops of the time. It is a sad commentary on human nature that even preachers of humility often practise the pushing of self to the front in an unbecoming spirit and manner.

 

One recalls that once Jesus found the disciples disputing among them selves who was the greatest among them, a spirit that Jesus sternly rebuked by placing a little child, possibly Peter’s own child, in the midst of them, and by saying that the greatest was the one who served the most. And once James and John with their mother actually came to Jesus with the formal request that they be given the two chief places in the kingdom of Christ (the political Messianic kingdom of their expectation). And at the last passover meal Jesus had to rebuke the apostles for their unseemly conduct in scrambling for the post of honour at the meal. It was with this peril in mind that Jesus urged the apostles to love one another and prayed for unity among them and among all his future followers.
Ambition is not sinful in itself though our very word (of Latin origin) had a bad history, for it suggests politicians who would take both sides of an issue in order to get votes. This double-dealing is due to the desire for place and power. Jesus noted that the Pharisees loved the chief seats in the synagogue in order to be seen of men. Their piety was particularly punctilious if enough prominence could be obtained to justify the display and outlay of energy. A certain amount of ambition to excel is good for one. Ambition is a good servant, but a bad master. It is dangerous for ambition to have the whip handle in one’s life.
Diotrephes loved the first place among the brethren. He was determined to be first at any cost. If any honours were to be bestowed, he assumed that they belonged to him as a matter of course. He must be consulted on a matter of church policy else he was against it. The least detail of church life must receive his sanction else he would condemn it. If he was not chairman of all the committees, he must be regarded as an ex officio member. If Diotrephes had been the sole pastor of the church, something could be said for such pre-eminence. But evidently Gaius was also one of the elders. And Diotrephes may have been only a deacon. But the spirit of a man like Diotrephes does not depend on office. Such a man rates him self as the natural leader of the church by reason of his native gifts, family, money, reputation. The only way for the church to have peace is for all freely to acknowledge this brother’s primacy.
Plutarch notes that Alcibiades wanted the first place. He got it and he ruined Athens by the expedition to Syracuse. It is impossible to calculate the harm that has been wrought in the churches by church dictators like Diotrephes. Diotrephes drew the line on John. He “receiveth me not.” He refused to recognise the standing and authority of John the Elder and Apostle. The word here rendered “receive” occurs in the papyri in the sense of “accepting” a lease and in Maccabees 10:1 for “accepting” a king. Evidently Diotrephes treated John as a heretic or as John is said to have treated Cerinthus when he rushed out of the bath when Cer- inthus came in lest the house fall in because of God’s wrath.
One recalls the temperament of this “son of thunder” who came to be known as “the apostle of love.” It was John who in great zeal reported to Jesus one day: “Master, we saw one casting out demons in thy name; and we forbade him, because he followed not with us” (Luke 9:49). But Jesus rebuked John’s narrowness of spirit about method of work. “Forbid him not: for he that is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:50). John and James were those who asked Jesus to call down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans who “did not receive” Jesus (Luke 9:52-55). But Jesus “turned and rebuked them.”
John was now the aged apostle who went from church to church with the message : “Little children, love one another.” But he still had the old fire and vigour with more justification against Diotrephes than against the examples in the Gospel of Luke. Diotrephes was turning the tables on John (cf. 3 John 10) and was refusing to recognise or to entertain John as a genuine minister of Christ. Be sides, he said slighting things about John, “prating against us with wicked words.” The word translated “prating” occurs as an adjective in 1 Timothy 5:13 “tattlers” (verbosce, Vulgate). These idle, tattling busy-bodies excited Paul’s disgust. That is John’s word for Diotrephes. He seemed to have John on the brain and gadded around with idle tales and “wicked words” derogatory to John’s character and work, seeking to undermine his influence for good.
This sort of propaganda against preachers is only too common. It degenerates into idle gossip. One of the saddest spectacles in modern Christianity is to see the very forces that are designed to co-operate with the pastor in pushing on the work of the kingdom of God, engaged in pulling down all that the pastor and other church members try to do. The result is the paralysis of the work and the mockery of the outsiders who sneer at Christian love and unity. As a rule the pastor can only suffer in silence and go on with those who have a mind to work in spite of the slackers and the hinderers.
Silence is the best answer to idle slander. But sometimes the man of God has to speak. And then it should be to the point and very brief and in a way to help the cause of Christ, not to do harm. As a rule, well-doing is the best way to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men (I Peter 2:15). John does not mind ostracism by Diotrephes save as that leads others astray. But Diotrephes draws the line on all of John’s followers. Diotrephes was “not content therewith.” He was not satisfied with his vindictive opposition to John the Elder. “Neither doth he himself receive the brethren.” Probably these missionary brethren had letters of commendation from John. That item would only anger Diotrephes all the more. It was now his habit to close his door against anybody aligned with the Apostle John.
He will not recognise the Elder. He will not recognise the followers or co-labourers of the Elder. Hence John pleads with Gaius to take special interest in those who “for the sake of the Name went forth” (3 John 7). One recalls the language of Luke in Acts 5 :41, “Rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the Name.” This way of referring to Jesus became common, it is clear. The problem of welcoming those who travelled from place to place and who claimed to be at work in the name of the Lord was a vital one for a long time as is seen in “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” XII, 1 : “And let everyone that comes in the name of the Lord be received and then after testing him ye will know.” The brother who claimed to be for the Lord had the presumption in his favour, but some wolves travelled in sheep’s clothing and a certain amount of discretion was called for then and now. Even to-day, with all our publicity and modern facilities for information, people are only too often taken in by slick-tongued adventurers who make money out of gullible brethren and sisters and then move on to fresh pastures.
There is some advantage in having some sort of a line drawn. John is not here demand ing that Diotrephes reform, but that Gaius see to it that John’s missionaries are taken care of when they come. One of my clearest childhood memories is that of Elias Dodson, a quaint and godly missionary of the old Home Mission Board of Southern Baptists. This gifted and consecrated man went from house to house on his mule and usually had only one suit of clothes. He used to ask for a dollar for the Indians and he generally got it. He would write postcards ahead about his entertainment or send little notes to the denominational paper concerning his appointments and entertainment.
He was a modern example of John’s travelling missionaries from church to church. Elias Dodson did much to create a real missionary spirit in Virginia and North Carolina. Even those who were opposed to missions found it hard to put a ban on Elias Dodson and his mule. But Diotrephes sought to dictate to the whole church a line of conduct toward John and his missionaries. “And them that would (receive the brethren) he for- biddeth and casteth them out of the church.”
Here we see the rule or ruin policy of the church “boss.” This self-willed leader is not content that he shall be al lowed to treat John and his missionaries as outsiders. He demands that everyone in the church do the same thing. He had the whip handle in the church and was determined to force his will upon the entire member ship. It is not clear whether he actually succeeded or not. The tense in the Greek allows merely the threat and the attempt for “casts out.” In John 9:34 the Pharisees actually “cast out” (aorist tense) the blind man who stood out against them that Jesus was not a sinner, but a prophet of God. They turned him out of the synagogue and then Jesus met him and saved him, a grotesque picture of a synagogue that fought against God in Christ.
If Diotrephes actually compelled this church to expel those who dared to welcome the missionaries of John, it was an honour to be out side of that church. But the fact that Gaius was still a member of the church, an elder apparently, argues for the conclusion that Diotrephes was simply terrorising the brotherhood by his threats. But it was bad enough for a church to have a “bulldozer” like Diotrephes who blocked the path of progress for the church. He had become the chief liability to the church instead of its chief asset. So John exposes Diotrephes plainly to Gaius. John is not afraid to face Diotrephes. He is anxious to do so, but he cannot come yet.

 

Meanwhile, he puts Gaius on his guard and urges him to break the power of Diotrephes over the church by daring to show him up as he really is. Gaius owes this duty to the church. But John hopes to come some day. “Therefore, if I come, I will bring to remembrance his deeds which he does.” One needs only to read 1 John 2 to see how plainly John can speak when the occasion calls for it. It becomes a sad duty sometimes to expose the wicked ambition of a man with the rule or ruin policy. It is better that such a man drop out of the church than that the church wither and die. Our churches need leadership, but not domination. The difference is vital. Leaders lead, bosses drive their slaves under orders.

How To Exercise Kingdom Authority (Why Satan Fell)

How To Exercise Kingdom Authority
Robert Wurtz II

And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ “But it shall not be so among you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.” (Luke 22:24-26 NASB/KJV)

Here we read that the disciples quarreled over who would be the greatest among them. The context has a direct relationship to authority. So the argument among them was simply a matter of who should be in command. Our Lord challenges this mindset from the beginning. He said that the kings of the Gentiles lord it over them. In other words, the Gentiles liked to ‘lord over’ the people. This is certainly one of the reasons why God never wanted a king in Israel save Himself. He knew that fallen man cannot handle authority correctly. A cursory look at history is replete with abuse of power and authority. Jesus said plainly, it shall not be so among you.

The Mind in Satan

Sin and rebellion are older than the human race. Satan is the arch enemy of all creation. It is helpful to understand the ‘mind that was in Satan’:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exaltmy 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. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. (Isaiah 14:12-15)

Notice how Lucifer (Satan) has become self-concious. As the anointed Cherub that covers his role was to exalt God, but now he is dead-bent on exalting himself. He went from holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty to… I will ascend…, I will exalt…, I will sit also upon the mount…, I will be like the most High. This is the trapping of leadership. It snared the Pharisees until finally they decided to kill God- having plotted to crucify him after many previous failed attempts. They loved the chief seats (I will sit…), they loved to be called, “Rabbi, Rabbi” and any other name that would exalt them (I will exalt). Jesus asked them, How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? (John 5:44 KJV) Suffice these examples to make the point as it is superfluous to name them all. 

The Mind in Christ

Jesus Christ is the Son of God from all eternity. He is the second person of the Godhead and recipient of the perpetual worship of the Cherubim. He knows what it is to be God. He knew what it was like to create the Universe. And yet He chose a staggering means of defeating Satan and his angels. He would do it through the humiliation of the cross.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and cbeing made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8 KJV/NET/ESV)

It may sound cliche’, but it is truly impossible for us to grasp how humiliating crucifixion on the cross was in ancient times. It was the lowest form of degradation reserved for slaves, criminals, and enemies of the state. German professor Martin Hengel’s work Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross is to be regarded as one of the greatest works on the subject. The notion that God would save the world through such a means as this was utterly foolish to the ancient world. The cross was a barbaric and cruel treatment; it was obscene in the original repulsive sense of the word. And yet Jesus Christ humbled Himself from being the Son of God to endure such dastardly treatment.

Let This Mind Be in You

While Satan is saying in himself, I will ascend…, I will exalt…, I will sit also upon the mount…, I will be like the most High– Jesus Christ was living out in flesh and blood; I will descend; I will condescend to man; I will humble myself unto death- even the death of the cross. That is the greatest contrast our finite minds can conceive; and yet we are told, let this mind be in you. Let the mind of Satan be replaced with the mind of Christ. Jesus said to the people, the kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ “But it shall not be so among you.” They were worldly — but Christ was other-worldly. His kingdom was not of this world. They were moving in the mind of the Prince of the Power of the Air — but Christ came to teach the way of God.

Kingdom Authority

He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself… (John 13:4-10)

The Kingdom of God is not a multilevel corporation. It’s not a Gentile business model. Here are these disciples arguing over who will be in charge and here is their Master… He poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe [them] with the towel wherewith he was girded. No doubt their Zionist hopes were being dashed to pieces before their very eyes. Jesus Christ was not here to set up a Kingdom in which they could be His generals, He was here to show forth the true example of life for all the human race to rise and take heed. This is it — there is no other. Let this mind be in you, for this is the mind of Christ.

Alexander The Metalworker

Alexander The Metalworker
Robert Wurtz II

Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. (2 Timothy 4:14–15 ESV)


Paul is penning his last words to young Timothy knowing that the time of his departure from this world was at hand. He inserts into this epistle these two verses that have always struck me as curious. Who was this person, Alexander the Metalworker (Coppersmith)? What was he doing? Why did Paul warn Timothy about him? Why did Paul pronounce judgment towards him?

First, it is uncertain exactly who this Alexander was. It is likely that he is the same man, along with Hymenaeus, whom Paul delivered unto Satan in 1 Timothy so he would “learn not to blaspheme.” Hymenaeus taught that the resurrection was past overthrowing some peoples’ faith. It would seem that Alexander shared in this “blasphemous doctrine.” It is possible he is the Jew from Acts 19, but not probable. Yet we need not know who this man was for certain as we can observe some important details from the text in 2 Timothy 4:14-15.

Second, it is certain that he “did great harm” to Paul. Some commentators such as renowned Greek scholar A.T. Robertson suggest that this “harm” or “evil” was done mainly for personal reasons. Having been “delivered unto Satan” (similar to the concept of being excommunicated see 1 Tim. 1:19-20), he did not learn his lesson, but became all the more antagonistic to Paul and his message. Notice that Alexander did “me” much evil, said Paul. He had apparently overthrown other Christians’ faith before, but now he is vexing Paul. He likely continued to blaspheme. If A.T. Robertson is right it was a personal vendetta that drove his behavior.  

Third, Paul warns Timothy to be aware of him as well. Whatever antagonism Alexander had towards Paul was sure to spill over onto Timothy. Perhaps this was because he was hostile to the message of the Gospel and therefore blasphemed it. Or he could have been bitter towards Paul and attacked his works and his friends. Regardless of the motivation it is certain that Paul viewed the man as a serious threat to the ministry after his decease. 

Forth, Paul reminds Timothy that the Lord will repay Alexander according to his deeds. At first the impression may be that Paul was angry at Alexander and wanted him to get what was coming to him. This is not likely the case. Paul was not expressing desire here, but rather, making a statement of fact. The Lord is going to repay him. Paul was telling young Timothy that there was no need trying to avenge any evil this man was committing; vengeance belongs to the Lord and He will repay. The emphasis in these verses is on the Lord. Paul was saying in effect, “Watch out for this man, but don’t fight Him. The Lord will deal with Him in His proper time.”



There will always be people like Alexander the Coppersmith whom the enemy uses to vex those who labor in the Gospel; so there will always be a need for the grace necessary to respond rightly to such people. Some do it even believing they are doing God a service. They are oblivious to the destruction they are causing even though they can see it right in front of their eyes. As a metal worker Alexander knew that when you make a blow with the hammer it makes a dent in the metal. In a figure, He had hammered the churches until his marks are still remembered in the reading of 2 Timothy 4:14-15. Had he known then what he knows now he may have acted differently. His evil is now legendary. But it’s too late… what is done is done and all that’s left is the record of it.

A.T. Robertson seems to suggest that Alexander must have been a Christian or Paul would not have delivered him unto Satan. Why would Paul deliver a sinner to Satan — he was already alienated from the people of God? I suggest Robertson is right. Alexander was a man who professed Christ and yet caused “much evil” among the churches that Paul and Timothy labored in. He did his own thing and defied anyone to stop him. It’s pretty bad when a person has been delivered to Satan and they still keep acting out. Nevertheless, this is the extent of Alexander’s evil. He would no be reproved not matter what happened to him. Therefore Paul stated, “the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.”

Without Paul’s warning Timothy might be tempted to take matters into his own hands. The natural reaction to such people, especially those who care about the churches, is “Alexander has to be stopped! We can’t have people running around overthrowing the faith of the saints.” Undoubtedly Timothy did encounter Alexander after Paul was martyred. God provided a route of escape through these words… the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself. These things have the potential of greatly angering us, especially when their behavior is threatening the faith of other believers. Regardless, once we have done all that the scriptures provide for dealing with such things we have no further recourse. We must leave them to their own devices. Beware of them; avoid them; work to minimize the effects of their evil; and leave them to God.   

         

Destroying God’s Temple (Church Wrecking or Church Wrecker)

Destroying God’s Temple
Robert Wurtz II

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16–17 ESV)

In the 1100s AD, a church was erected in the city of London that came to be known as St Mary of Aldenbury. After a few expansions, the church was gutted in the great fire of 1666. It was after this event that the great architect Christopher Wren (the same man who designed St. Paul’s Cathedral) redesigned the church, and it was rebuilt once again. The building stood and functioned as a church — even serving as residence for certain Puritans for over 200 years. 



However, in 1940 Adolph Hitler, drunk on ambition, hate, and demonic influence, had his war machine in high gear. Having turned his sights towards England Hitler bombed London for 57 consecutive nights. it was during these raids that St Mary of Aldenbury church was burned to the ground with an incendiary bomb (fire bomb). This church, having stood for centuries, was destroyed by a demonized man bent on expanding his power. He played on the feelings of the people until he gathered around himself a host of faithful characters who were willing to live and die with him. Before it was over tens of millions of people were killed and countless lives were devastated. In the midst of such ruin, this little church at Aldenbury remained standing as a charred shell of its former beauty. 

In the early 1960s it was decided by a small group at Westminster College in Missouri to bring the church to America stone by stone and restore it to what Christopher Wren had intended before Hitler, in his madness, destroyed it. This was done to commemorate the “Iron Curtain Speech” that took place at the college in 1946. Several thousand stoned were numbered and shipped to Westminster and laid out over acres of ground. This jigsaw puzzle for the ages took about five years to put back together. Today the church stands as pictured below.




Destroying the Assembly of God


The events related to the church at Aldenbury provide a metaphor for what I wish to briefly discuss in this present time. Paul asked the Corinthians, who seemed to be indifferent and ignorant to the fact that their carnality was threatening to destroy that church, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” Had he not intervened these people would have destroyed the work that God had started many years before. This is not a light thing; because God is not concerned about the building — He is concerned about His people. This is not man’s building (assembly) it belongs to God. To destroy a church by either negligence, malice, or ambition is all the same. The fact is, if it gets destroyed then the destroyer is responsible. 

Paul adds these sobering words, If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. The late great Greek scholar A.T. Robinson comments, “The outward temple is merely the symbol of God’s presence, the Shechinah (the Glory). God makes his home in the hearts of his people or the church in any given place like Corinth. It is a terrible thing to tear down ruthlessly a church or temple of God like an earthquake that shatters a building in ruins. This old verb phtheiroœ means to corrupt, to deprave, to destroy. It is a gross sin to be a church-wrecker. There are actually a few preachers who leave behind them ruin like a tornado in their path. Him shall God destroy (phtherei touton ho theos).”  

Paul had built and left the church at Corinth in the hands of its leaders and now they threatened to destroy the thing until nothing was left. They viewed themselves as “spiritual” because they moved in the gifts of the Spirit, but Paul called them carnal. In fact, these spiritual folks were in danger of committing acts that would have endangered their souls. They were destroying the works of Paul’s hands, yes; but it was truly the work of God. Paul warns them in the strongest of terms… If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. A.T. Robertson continues, There is a solemn repetition of the same verb in the future active indicative. The condition is the first class and is assumed to be true. Then the punishment is certain and equally effective. The church-wrecker God will wreck. What does Paul mean by “will destroy”? Does he mean punishment here or hereafter? May it not be both? Certainly he does not mean annihilation of the man’s soul, though it may well include eternal punishment. There is warning enough here to make every pastor pause before he tears a church to pieces in order to vindicate himself.” (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament).

  


The Enemy of Unity

The Enemy of Unity
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 Spritual 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). This is important. It is impossible to gather together two or more individuals and have them come into unity unless there is a common basis of that unity. All individuals 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 lose bands 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.

Understanding Hypocrites

Understanding Hypocrites
Robert Wurtz II

And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

Our passage above and others similar to it deserve our undivided attention. Reason being is that Jesus uses a word that is considered His strongest of all to denounce certain people and their actions. The word I’m referring to is “hypocrite.” In fact, Jesus tells us plainly that the final sentence (executed judgment) for being a hypocrite is to be cut in two and sent where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 24:51). We know this place as hell. The English word hypocrite is translated from an old Greek noun that means actor, interpreter, and one who personates another. Jesus uses it of people who are forever doing something to look “pious” (godly), while they are inwardly full of dead men’s bones. They can’t give without “sounding the trumpet” or pray without making a show of it (just for starters). 


The late renowned Greek scholar A.T. Robertson stated that “‘hypocrite’ (hoi hupokritai) is the hardest word that Jesus has for any class of people and he employs it for these ‘pious pretenders who pose as perfect.’ They have received their reward (apechousin ton misthon autoœn). This verb is common in the papyri for receiving a receipt, ‘they have their receipt in full,’ all the reward that they will get, this public notoriety. ‘They can sign the receipt of their reward'” (Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 229). So Light from the Ancient East, pp. 110f. Apocheœ means “receipt.” (Quoted in Word Pictures on Matthew 6:2) 


Our passage in Matthew 7:3-5 adds to our understanding of a hypocrite as a person who gazes upon the faults of others, while overlooking greater faults of their own. They emphasize other peoples’ faults and sins in order to minimize the seriousness of the sins they have committed. A hypocrite is the type of person who would cast the first stone—knowing they have done similar or worse things. How can they do this; you  ask? They devise clever ways of making exceptions for their own sins. Generally, this is along the lines of “my sin was many years ago” or “God forgave me of my sins.” In other words, God forgives their sins, but not other peoples. They may not say this directly, but this is what their attitude boils down to. Hypocrites keep good records of other peoples’ sins, so they can use them later to their advantage. Spiritual people have not forgotten that they were once purged from their own sins and as a result add to their faith virtue, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity (2 Peter 1:7-9). Not hypocrites. They have “publican love” — a love that loves who they want to love and shuns all the rest (Matthew 5:46). 

   

Blinded By Sin

Why would Jesus speak about hypocrites no less than twenty times in the Gospels? Why would He seem to hit them so hard? Why would He use the strongest of terms to denounce them? Clearly, it is because they are the most evil people around. People who are supposed to represent God are looked upon by others as examples. Some people will never read a Bible—all they read is the lives of Christians. Take it a step more and consider Christian leaders. God is holding them to a higher standard. What should we expect if they turn around and play the hypocrite? No doubt all the verses on the topic in the Gospels will apply to them as well.   


Everyone has had something in their eye and knows how painful it is. On three separate occasions throughout my life, I have had metal removed from my eye by a doctor. Few things are more painful than having a foreign object scraping against your eyeball. I suppose God designed us that way. We need to be able to see clearly, so we need our eyes in tip-top shape. This is why it hurts so bad when something is in there. Our natural response is to get that thing out of there! Now! Not later; right this second! We can’t have our eyes destroyed by foreign objects. Nevertheless, imagine the doctor entering the room with a small beam (pencil), medium beam (broom stick), or a large beam (floor joist) protruding from their eyes. If such were the case, it would undoubtedly blind their eyes. How are they going to help me fix my eye when they are completely blind? This is common sense. 


Obviously, this passage is intended to be metaphorical, but we can easily see the difficulty here. A person with a speck in their eye may be rubbing it or flushing it with water, but a person with a beam ought to be screaming in pain. But they are not. How can this be? They apparently don’t see or feel it. In other words, everyone can see the hypocrites issues but the hypocrite. This is very sobering. Notice Jesus’ words, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly…” A hypocrite is in no shape to help anyone. They are in 100X worse condition than the people they are criticizing or “trying to help.”




Right Response to Hypocrisy

If we fit this picture, our first step is to take our focus off of others and get it on ourselves. Allow God’s Word to do its work and acknowledge that we have a plank in our own eye (if so be that we have one). Acknowledge that it is there in the strongest of terms. We can’t use strong terms for other peoples’ sins — use euphemisms for ours and avoid the charge of hypocrisy. We have to call it what it is and repent. What good is it to go on focusing on somebody else? Perhaps even while reading this you may be thinking, “I know someone that does that!” If so, you are already falling into the trap. We need to ask ourselves if the passage applies to us. As if we locked ourselves in a room alone with God and Matthew 7:3-5, we need to let God do a work in us. We need to allow Him to turn our attention back upon our own spiritual condition. Not our enemy; not our rivals, but me. 

Salt Losing its Saltines (Salt has Lost its Savor)

Salt Losing its Saltiness
Robert Wurtz II

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. (Matthew 5:13 KJV)

Everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another. (Mark 9:49–50 NKJV)

In Lev. 2:13 God commanded that all grain (meat in KJV) offerings be sprinkled with salt before offering them. This example and many others along different lines illustrate the importance of salt for daily life, worship, and its use as a symbol in covenant relationships. “The salt referred to in verse Mark 9:50 is probably the humility and dedication that is reinforced by trial and testing. If the believer loses this salt he or she is not easily renewed (v. 50a), but by maintaining this salt, Jesus’ followers can more easily be at peace with one another (v. 50b). The simple purity of dedication to Jesus that does not seek its own advantage enables one to be a servant to fellow disciples, and thus promotes peace.” (Larry W. Hurtado, Mark, New International bible Commentary 18 vols.; Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1989, 156.)

Jesus told the disciples, Ye are the salt of the earth […]” In other words, God designed His people to be living expressions of right relationships before this present evil world. In John 13:35 Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” If we have love for one another, we will be pure examples of how relationships are supposed to work–examples of how God intended human beings to treat one another. If we don’t we have become good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men (Matthew 5:13b). 

It is interesting to note that in Revelation 2 the Ephesisians “left” their first love; but in Matthew 5 we are warned of “losing” our saltiness. The rabbis used salt as a symbol of wisdom; hence, the Greek word for “lost its saltiness” actually means to become foolish, insipid, or dull. The renowned late Greek scholar Marvin Vincent said the word means to play the fool. Our Lord refers here to the familiar fact of salt losing its pungency and becoming useless. Dr. Thompson (“The Land and the Book”) cites the following case: “A merchant of Sidon, having farmed of the government the revenue from the importation of salt, brought over a great quantity from the marshes of Cyprus — enough, in fact, to supply the whole province for many years. This he had transferred to the mountains, to cheat the government out of some small percentage of duty. Sixty-five houses were rented and filled with salt. Such houses have merely earthen floors, and the salt next the ground was in a few years entirely spoiled. I saw large quantities of it literally thrown into the road to be trodden under foot of men and beasts. It was ‘good for nothing.’ (Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament)

Foolishness, ambition, and greed, are merely three things that can cause salt to lose its savour. In a figure, these are the very things that destroy Christians ability to fulfill God’s design for His people to be living expressions of right relationships before this present evil world. When we behave like the world, treat people as would an unbeliever, conduct our business like greedy–insensitive sinners, we become worse than the world. Why? Because the world needs to see the thing God designed, but their expectations are dashed. 

I sometimes think of passages like Matthew 5:13 and losing our savour and becoming good for nothing. Others stinging verses like 1 Cor. 5:1 where the Corinthian fornicators were doing things that sinners don’t even do. Then there is 1 Tim. 5:8 where Christians who refuse to properly love their needy family members by meeting their needs have denied the faith and are worse than infidels. Or the Ephesian church whose fiery love had almost gone out–to the point that Jesus was near to removing their dark and dying lamp stand. Why not? Who needs a darkened lamp stand to stumble over in an already darkened world? Perhaps Laodicea is the worst. Jesus said to them, Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to vomit thee out of my mouth.(Revelation 3:16 YNG) How much worse can it get that backslidden believers would be likened to spittle or vomit? 

These are the things that happen when believers play the fool. They stop behaving like Christians ought and become a law unto themselves–operating by their own rules. What diabolical influence would give a group of Christians the notion that they can behave and do things that are worse than the world? It is shameful. Jesus warned over and over about the importance of loving every one and treating people the way we would want to be treated. This is how relationships are supposed to work. There is hardly a week goes by that I don’t have to answer a report for how rude a so-called Christian is acting in public to people who work in the public. Pick up the salt shaker at their favorite eating spot, act out, and wist not that they have lost their savour. It’s a disgrace. What happens to them? Jesus asked, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” 



Imagine being trodden under foot and then saying to yourself, “this is God’s will for me!” But it’s exactly what happens. People lose their savour–begin treating people worse than they could expect from sinners, and then when they lose friendships, relationships, congregational members, et. al. they blame the Devil or even God. This is why it is essential to understand that the word “lost its savor” literally means “to play the fool.” 

Nabal (a man whose name means “fool”) is a case study on “playing the fool.” He was an irrational alcoholic who was nearly killed by David and his mighty men for his folly. Nabal’s servant’s perspective is insightful, “For evil is determined against our master, and against all his household: for he (Nabal) is such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him.” (1 Samuel 25:17 KJV) This is a prime key to playing the fool; you won’t listen to people who have sense. Nabal’s wife took it a step more when she rode out to meet David to beg for mercy; Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him! (1 Samuel 25:25 NKJV)

In other words David was being asked to do what everyone around Nabal does, “overlook him.” This is how he has lived to the age he has because so many people in his life took his meanness, tolerated his rudeness and irrationality–overlooking it for one reason or another. Now, his wife Abigail is begging David, the man of God, to overlook him once more. David did overlook him, but God did not. We read, “But it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. And it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, that he died. And when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, Blessed be the LORD, that hath pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and hath kept his servant from evil: for the LORD hath returned the wickedness of Nabal upon his own head.” (1 Samuel 25:37–39 KJV)

Men may overlook it; Christians may overlook it; family members may overlook it and make excuses for it; but God does not. Eventually the salt that loses its savour will be trod under foot (as salt), removed like a cold dark lamp stand, or spit out of the mouth of the Lord Jesus. As surely as God dealt with Nabal, he will deal with the ones that people continually have to overlook because of their folly — especially those who name the name of Christ.   

  

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