Living For Others

1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. 2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3 Let not him that eateth despisehim that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Rom. 14:1-3

Those are powerful words:

“… for God hath received him.”

We all have a lens through which we view things in life, and each one sees differently. But no one sees perfectly; only God does.

One of the easiest things for us to do as believers is to think that we alone are called. And if we are able to extend a little more grace, we add to that small list of I, me and myself others who have the same beliefs as we. That is why there are all these small groupings calling themselves “family”, or “church” all over the world who think that somehow they are different from other believers. In their minds they think they are the ones with the particular brand of faith that is acceptable with God.

But this kind of thinking is simply a testimony of our narrow-mindedness. And we are going nowhere with God when we carry such narrow-hearted attitudes. God is big-hearted, and He accepts everyone who comes to Him. The Bible says in Romans 10:12-13:

“12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Notice,

“Whosoever”; and,

“all”.

Once we come to the Lord, all our differences are cast aside. Once we come to the Lord, we have only one common denominator: we are all products of the mercy of God. God has children – of different levels of faith – all over the world. Notice that God does not differentiate between His children. All are His children, and there are no levels of faith with Him. That talks of the power of the grace that God has. As long as we are serving God, at whatever level of faith we are, God accepts us!!

One of the gravest mistakes, therefore, that we can make with God is to think that somehow we are special on account of anything we might be or that we might be doing on God’s behalf.

Surprisingly, even we do not differentiate between our children whom we have borne in the flesh; but when we become children of God, all of a sudden we think we are special, and we want to act special and to be treated special. All this is on account of the flesh. The flesh thinks in terms of I, me and myself; and this means we are still spiritual babes.

But, even though God would want to see each one of His children exercising great and perfect faith, yet what truly matters with God is the way we carry along with the little or big faith that we have. In Romans 14:10-12 we read,

“10 … for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ… So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

One day we will give an account to Christ of how we carried on our lives here on earth with our faith, and that is all that really matters.

But the Bible goes beyond merely encouraging us to accept one another. It presses us to go the extra mile and do something for those whom we deem are not as strong in faith as we are. In Romans 15:1-3, the Bible exhorts us,

“1 We then that are strong ought to bear with the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification. 3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.”

Notice,

“Christ pleased not himself”.

In other words, Christ could have pleased himself. He could have been thinking of Himself. According to the full and perfect faith that He had, Christ could have considered Himself the genuine, bona fide Son of God (which He was), with all rights attached. But He chose to please others instead, for their spiritual good. For this cause, He upended things and chose to sit at the very bottom where every one of our sins fell on Him.

That is not an easy thing to do. But Jesus had the grace of God without measure (Jn. 3:34).

May God’s grace be abundantly upon us to mature us to the extent where we can carry hearts of mercy and compassion towards other believers who are different from us, and where, rather than judging, we will desire to contribute towards them knowing Christ and living the Christian life better.

The Foundation of our Faith – the Pauline Doctrine (Pt. 4)

We are now in chapter 4 and any intrepid reader who is still following my ramblings must be wondering whether I am lost…. Well, I am not, and in fact I will be finishing in the next post. I just want to fill in the gaps, a job I am not sure I am doing too well. Nonetheless, I am trusting the Lord every step of the way. And let me thank each one of you individually for your love and patience, and for your encouragement.

In this chapter we will look at how Paul’s gospel was ‘different’ from the other Apostles’ gospel and what the implications of this are for us today.

Trouble for the gospel began early enough, in fact right after the birth of the Early Church in Jerusalem. The Bible says: “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.” Act 6:1 Lines were drawn within the Church of Christ ! But the Apostles handled it swiftly and wisely, choosing spiritually mature men to oversee the “serving of tables”.

But another disturbing scenario crops up not long afterwards. In Acts 11:19 we are told that after Saul’s persecution of the Church began at Jerusalem, the believers who fled to the diaspora preached the gospel all right but “unto the Jews only.” Demarcation lines were drawn once again, by believers. Clearly, the Jerusalem Church had a problem understanding the universal nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Soon it was time for the Apostles themselves to be tested. Although Peter knew and understood what the Scriptures said about salvation for the Gentiles (Acts 10:43), yet when God wanted to send him to take the gospel to Cornelius – and, by extension, to the Gentiles – we see in Acts chapter 10 that the Lord Himself had to appear to him in a vision in order to persuade him to accept the truth that salvation was for the Gentiles also!

(After he had preached to them the gospel, God promptly confirmed His acceptance of them by pouring upon them His Holy Spirit.)

When news of the fact that Peter had entered a Gentile home reached the Apostles at Jerusalem, they summoned him before them to explain why he had “crossed the boundary”. After Peter explained to them that it was God and not him, the Bible says “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” (Act 11:18)

After reading the above Scripture, and hearing Peter’s proclamati0ns you would think that the Apostles were in full agreement with God about accepting the Gentiles as equal heirs with them of the Kingdom of God. But you will be surprised at what happened later, as we read in Galatians 2:12-13:  “For before that certain came from James, (Peter) did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.”

The Bible here is saying that Peter feared a delegation that was coming from James, the leader of the Jerusalem church. Why? Because they would do him in for consorting with uncircumcised Gentiles.  In other words, in spite of what they knew from Scripture and from Peter’s experience with Cornelius these Jews were not ready to accept any stranger in their midst merely on the supposition of grace. For them keeping the Law of Moses was paramount!

In short, it was like this: the Apostles had received the gospel all right, but at heart they were still Torah hardliners!

I want us to look at one last scene before we get done with this chapter. When Paul went to Jerusalem on his final journey, his host, the Apostle James  together with the other elders met him and told him, “Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:” (Act 21:20) In other words, even though the gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ had been preached in Jerusalem for a long time and many Jews had accepted Jesus into their hearts the fact of salvation by grace without works was proving to be a thorn in the flesh for many of them.

But if the Apostles themselves had a problem with this truth, as we have seen, they most likely would have been preaching a gospel tainted with law and it is no wonder, therefore, that Jerusalem was crawling with samurai-wielding believers!

And it was not only in Jerusalem. The Jews were creating havoc wherever the Word of salvation reached out to people, even amongst the Gentiles.

And here you have the basic difference between Paul and the Apostles at Jerusalem. You see, right from the beginning Paul never had any problem accepting what the Lord had revealed to him about salvation being for every man who believed on the Lord Jesus, Jew or Greek, and that it was by grace and grace alone.

Paul understood grace perfectly well. The Apostles at Jerusalem were limited in their understanding of it.

Many years later, after more light had entered Peter’s heart, he would affirm to the Church that the Apostle Paul received far greater “wisdom” than what he and his compatriots received from the Lord (2 Peter 3:15). Peter here was not talking about intellectual or human wisdom. The Bible never refers to human intellect because God is spirit. I am sure Peter was talking about the grace that Paul received from the Lord, and the power that came with that grace to not only bring salvation to both Jews and Gentiles, men and women, high and low, but to also set them free from the power of the flesh and to perfect them in the image of Christ.

We conclude in the next post!