And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 14, Number
In this issue:
April 24–28, 2011
Bible lessons nightly, Mon-Thu at 7:00 PM
(From I-5 take Exit # 255 and go East 4.2 miles)
What persuades a crowd (that only recently had been expectant, supportive and glad to hear and receive Jesus) to now cry out for his death and the release of a murderer in his place (Matt 27:15-25)? What moves people to reject the truth of the gospel for the darkness of lies, sin and death? How can it be that even Christians can be persuaded to reject the “word of the truth of the gospel” and instead clamor and cry out for counterfeit gospels that give no hope and no eternal benefit (Col 1:5)?
No doubt, there are several scriptural answers to these questions, all important because they are from God’s word. Consider some of them with me, lest we find ourselves persuaded to cry out for Barabbas instead of Jesus.
1) Sometimes envy persuades people to reject Christ and His truth. It was due to envy that the Jewish rulers handed Jesus over to Pilate (Matt 27:18). They saw their power over the people eroding as they hailed Jesus upon his entrance into Jerusalem: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matt 21:9) While “all the city was moved” to learn about Jesus, envious priests and scribes were plotting his death (Matt 21:10-11; 26:3-5).
Envy is prompted by pride as it drives people to reject the clear truth of the gospel for the selfish dictates of human wisdom (Jas 3:14-16). As in the days of Jesus, envy continues to be a tool used by the devil to blind unbelieving minds (2 Cor 4:3-4).
We should not underestimate the power of envy. A multitude was swayed to turn against Jesus and consent to his murder by its persuasive power. Innocent saints still suffer at the hands of envious men; men like Diotrephes, who loved to have preeminence and therefore despised the apostle John and those who received the truth (3 Jno 9-10). The warning to us is “do not imitate what is evil” – even when that evil comes from those in positions of power who can hurt us if we do not “fall in line” (3 Jno 11). Stand fast in the faith (1 Cor 16:13)! The Jerusalem crowd was persuaded to do an evil thing by people with envious motives. It still happens today. Many prefer Barabbas over Jesus.
2) Political power plays persuade many. The enemies of Jesus saw him as a threat to their power (Jno 11:47-53). It was not a leap for them to falsely accuse Jesus of undermining the nation (Lk 23:2). They manipulated the political pressures Pilate faced to gain his compliance, while channeling the crowd’s nationalism against Jesus (Jno 19:12, 14-15). Sadly, there remain “politicians” in the Lord’s church, who manipulate and scheme for their own ungodly ends, causing division and wrecking havoc against the truth and upon Christians (Jude 4, 16-19).
Politicians are smooth talkers. They know people can be influenced by rhetorical eloquence and style over substance. Whether uninformed or willfully ignorant, many people are persuaded by the smooth tongue instead of rational and reasonable reliance upon truth. This holds true in spiritual matters, too. The apostle Paul made it a point when he preached the gospel not to emphasize oratorical flare. He emphatically stated, “I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom, declaring to you the testimony of God” (1 Cor 2:1). He did not wish to minimize, distract from and dilute the “wisdom of God” (the gospel, 1 Cor 1:23-24). He relied on the persuasion of the “message of the cross” to save souls, not the “persuasive words of human wisdom” (1 Cor 1:18, 21; 2:4). So must we.
Human eloquence combined with man’s wisdom persuades people against the truth of the gospel. We see it in the leaders who changed the mind of the multitude to oppose Jesus (the one they had praised a few short days before). Consider the world-renowned preachers today, who bask in the popularity of men but whose message perverts the gospel of Christ. The multitude is persuaded. Even some brethren clamor for the smooth tongue and the charming delivery, too easily forgetting about the substance of the sermon (or the lack thereof, 2 Tim 4:2-4). The multitude is persuaded – and cries out for Barabbas rather than Jesus.
3) Selfish people are persuaded to reject Jesus. Many of the Jews envisioned a king who would eradicate their land of the Roman occupation and reinstate the Davidic-Solomonic kingdom. Some thought Jesus was the one to do it; he was not (Jno 6:15; 18:36). Now, he stood before the Roman governor – seemingly weak and defeated. They had no use for this Jesus. By despising him, they selfishly cried out for Barabbas (Isa 53:3).
Jesus will not fit into our mold; we must fit into his (Acts 3:19). The gospel is the mold – the “form of doctrine” that saves us (Rom 6:17-18; 2 Tim 1:13). The multitude was persuaded to reject Jesus and His gospel. Will you be persuaded by the truth to love and obey Jesus?
Will you cry out for Jesus, or Barabbas?
You can find the complete outline of this sermon plus PowerPoint and MP3 Audio files at BIBLE ANSWERS
Scripture Reading: Romans 6:11-14
1. Sin is real, pervasive,
deadly, Rom 3:23; 6:23.
I. CONTRAST SIN AND RIGHTEOUSNESS: WHAT WILL WE CHOOSE?
Sin is Attractive, Gen 3:6 (1 Pet 4:1-2); 1 Jno 2:16; cf. 2 Sam 11:2.
Practice righteousness, 1 Jno 2:29.
Pastor Who Rejects Hell is Rejected
Chad Holtz, a Methodist preacher in North Carolina, was fired earlier this month after posting his view on Facebook that hell is not a place of torment (“Who’s in Hell? Pastors’ Criticism of Eternal Torment for Some Sparks Fierce Debate”, FoxNews.com). Holtz wrote in support of Rob Bell’s new book, “Love Wins”, in which Bell rejects hell as eternal punishment.
Bell’s book has caused a firestorm among evangelicals (pun intended). Bell is “the pastor of the 10,000-member Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.” His new book “criticizes the belief that a select number of Christians will spend eternity in the bliss of heaven while everyone else is tormented forever in hell” (Ibid.).
One reviewer noted, “Bell believes in hell. But he does not believe that God pours out his wrath on anyone forever (I’m not sure he thinks God actively pours out wrath on anyone at all)” (“God is Still Holy and What You Learned in Sunday School is Still True: A Review of Love Wins by Rob Bell”, Kevin DeYoung, 13). He observes that to Bell, “Hell is the sad suffering of this life (71). Hell is God giving us what we want (72). Postmortem hell is what we create for ourselves when we refuse to believe God’s story, when we resist his love (170-71, 172, 177). There is hell now and hell later. ‘There are all kinds of hell because there are all kinds of ways to reject the good and the true and the beautiful and the human now, in this life, and so we can only assume we can do the same in the next’ (79)” (Ibid.). That is not the Bible hell.
Jesus plainly taught that hell is real and its agony eternal. Jesus said hell is “the fire that shall never be quenched—where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’” (Mk 9:43-44). Hell is for all who do not know God and do not obey the gospel (2 Ths 1:8-9). It is the result of God’s wrath against sin (Rom 2:4-11). Jesus saves us from the wrath to come (1 Ths 1:10; Rom 5:9).
Created by Chuck Sibbing. 03/27/2011
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA