And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume XI, Number 46 October 12, 2008
In this issue:
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1-2). This passage assures us that:
God has spoken. How fortunate we are that God has spoken to us. Without God speaking His will to us we would not know what to believe about Him or how to please Him (1 Cor. 2:11). Man cannot direct himself to God without God’s help (Jer. 10:23).
God has spoken in these last days. “The last days” is a phrase used in the Scriptures to identify the period of the Messiah’s reign (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-17; 1 Pet. 1:20). It is the gospel age, when the complete blessings of God are dispensed to man through Jesus Christ (Eph.1:9-10). The “last days” began on Pentecost and will continue until Jesus returns and this world is brought to an end (Acts 2:16-17; Matt. 28:20; 1 Cor. 15:23-28; 2 Pet. 3:4-13).
God has spoken to us in these last days by His Son. The words of Jesus are the words of God (Jno. 7:16; 12:49-50). His words were proclaimed and recorded by His apostles through inspiration of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 16:8; Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Pet. 1:21). That means they spoke the words God wanted them to speak (Matt. 10:19-20). Therefore, we have confidence that the words of the apostles are the very words and commands of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 14:37).
By receiving the apostolic words we receive Christ and the Father who sent Him (Matt. 10:40). Receiving the words of Christ means to believe and obey them (Lk. 6:46; 1 Ths. 2:13). Christ and the Father are rejected when the words of the apostles are rejected. The same word of God that is now rejected will judge the rejecters in the last day (Lk. 10:16; Jno. 12:48).
The word of God was completely revealed to the apostles (Jno. 16:8; Jude 3; Eph. 3:3-5). The Scriptures they wrote are completely adequate to meet your spiritual needs (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3). It is incorruptible, authoritative and understandable (1 Pet. 1:22-25; 1 Cor. 14:37; Jno. 8:31-32). You can completely trust “the word of the truth of the gospel” (Col. 1:5). Do so now by believing it and obeying it in order to be saved from your sins (Rom. 6:17-18).
In the list of sins of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21, we find “factions, divisions, and parties.” Though these three are not synonymous, they do present different aspects of the same sin. Allowed free course, the logical end of “enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths” will certainly be “factions, divisions, and parties.” These sins hold eternal consequences. “They who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven.”
What is the division condemned in this passage? The word “dichostasia” is translated “sedition,” in the King James Version or “dissension,” “divisions,” “party spirit” and “factions” in other translations. “Dichostasia” is not used often in the Scriptures. It is used here in Galatians 5 and again in Romans 16:17 in which Paul warns the Roman Christians to avoid those who create dissensions and difficulties. The verb form is defined to “excite, unsettle, ‘to stir up to sedition,’ and is so translated in Acts 21:38” (Vine, volume 3, page 336). Thayer defines a closely related word “to cut into two parts, cleave asunder, dissever.” In still another related form Thayer gives a term that was used in ancient tortures wherein human bodies were literally cut in two (cf Hebrews 11:37). This was no doubt a terrible thing; but think how much more terrible it is for men to divide the body of Christ, the church for which He died.
Division is sometimes an unavoidable reality. Paul said, “For there must be also factions among you, that they that are approved may be made manifest among you” (I Corinthians 11:18-19). Jesus said, “Think not that I came to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law: and a man's foes (shall be) they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that doth not take his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:34-38). Truth sometimes even divides families. In Caesarea Paul was accused of sedition (Acts 21:38) and in Athens he was accused of turning “the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). Certainly, Paul had “upset or unsettled” the minds of these people, but Paul was not guilty of sedition or division. He had “unsettled” Judaism and the sects of that day, but he did not do so by “disseminating religious error.”
Woe be to those who divide the Lord’s church by disseminating error. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent” (Romans 16:17-18). R.L. Whiteside comments, “‘Contrary to the doctrine which ye learned’ covers a wide field … The man who causes divisions in the Lord’s church by the introduction of things not taught is an enemy of Christ even though he may not think so. His interest is in self, and not in Christ. ‘They that are such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly’.”
The apostle Paul wrote of those in Corinth, “For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also factions among you, that they that are approved may be made manifest among you” (I Corinthians 11:18-19). Even so, these divisions in the church were condemned. “Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and (that) there be no divisions among you; but (that) ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10). These divisions manifested that some in Corinth were “babes” and “carnal minded” (I Corinthians 3:3).
Doctrinal differences is not the only cause of division. Unfortunately situations arise in which two people refuse to speak to each other because of some personal difference. The work of the church is hindered by such difficulties between its members. If we apply the teaching of the Lord, these situations will not exist. Read and obey the teaching of the Lord in Matthew 5:23-24 and Matthew 18:15-17. Too often, personal differences are allowed to seethe until division results. This is sinful. These differences must be resolved!
Our very attitudes and motives must be right. Too often our attitudes, motives, opinions and desires are controlled by the lusts of the flesh. This will lead us to become self-willed, contentious, unsettled and factious, and to deny even the truth. It will cause us to work for selfish personal advantage and, in the case of Judas, caused him to betray the Lord. The peace and progress of God’s people, and even our eternal salvation, depends upon our desire and ability to avoid and overcome these evil works.
“There is here a challenge and a summons, not so much to criticize others as to examine ourselves. There is nothing easier than to confuse prejudices with principles, and to confuse unreasonable stubbornness with unwavering resolution. It is perfectly true that often a Christian has to stand alone, but a man will do well to examine himself when he finds that the opinions he holds are separating him from the community of which he forms a part. He may be right, but it is a grave responsibility to be a cause of division in any church or community. Before he separates himself from others a man ought to remember the solemn words of Cromwell to the intransigent Scots: ‘I beseech you by the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken’” (William Barclay, Flesh and Spirit , page 58).
Let us strive to fill our lives with the “fruit of the Spirit,” for “against such there is no law.”
I did not know what that meant, either. It is the acronym used by police for Minor in Possession. The Bellingham Police Department reported about 20 MIP’s the first weekend WWU was back in session. There were nearly 30 complaints of loud parties and several arrests for suspicion of driving under the influence (“Partying is not the only way to have fun”, The Western Front Online, Editorial, 2Oct08).
“Getting an MIP can really ruin a student’s college experience.
“If a student is issued an MIP off campus, several things happen. First the student's name will be recorded online in the police’s daily log of activity for the world to see. A student will have to pay a $300 fine, serve 16 hours of community service and attend a mandatory alcohol risk-reduction program.
“Students can attend the Alcohol and Drug Consultation and Assessment Services (ADCAS) program versus the city of Bellingham program for non-Western students. The ADCAS program requires an online assessment and two group sessions.
“After these steps are completed, students return to court and either have their record wiped clean or not.” (Ibid.)
Whether or not you are 21 years old (the legal drinking age in WA) is irrelevant to God; you are morally responsible and accountable to Him. Drinking and drunkenness are both sinful in His sight (Eph. 5:6-18; Gal. 5:21; 1 Pet. 4:3-4).
Young people (and everyone else) must be in possession of their self-control and live under the influence of the Spirit of God by following the New Testament He has revealed (Eph. 5:18; Jno. 16:13). You decide what will influence you; either the world and its lusts, or God and His gospel (1 Jno. 2:15-17; Rom. 6:16-18). You cannot serve God and sin at the same time (Matt. 6:24; 12:30). Rejoice in your youth by having wholesome fun that is righteous and you will never regret it (Eccl. 11:9-12:1; 2 Tim. 2:22).
Created by Chuck Sibbing. 10/09/2008
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA