Friday, March 19, 2010

RX TO PREPARE FOR CHRIST'S RETURN-PART 2

BY CHARLES WOODRUFF

16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. 23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Thessalonians 5:16-23).


HOLD FAST THAT WHICH IS GOOD


Last time we explored “Prove all things”. We prove, or test all things with scripture as the force of the Greek word δοκιμάζω (dokimazo) ̄here brings out. This is primarily speaking of spiritual things. If we took this literally, regarding material things in this world, in general, we would of necessity be scientists, and they can’t even prove all things in a material world. In the spiritual realm, this is speaking of the teaching we read and hear. We are to reject the wrong or the bad, and hold onto that which is good. The way to determine the difference is through the scriptures, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things. To hold the good is to seize on it (Greek= κατέχω, katecho).This is part of the perseverance of the saints. We seize the good teachings, hold onto them, and grow in grace, adding to our knowledge of the Lord.


Those who consistently fail to hold onto the good, and instead follow heresy and false doctrine, are in danger of becoming apostates. The entire book of Jude, while only 25 verses, deals with the apostates; those who fell away from their profession, never to return to the Lord. They are different from the backslider which is one whose heart has grown cold, and he wanders away from God for a season, receives chastisement, and returns to the Lord.


I guess it is stating the obvious to say that if you don’t read the Bible for yourself, hear preaching that is biblical and Christ centered, and pray without ceasing, you are going to be susceptible to anything. If you don’t absorb true doctrine, false doctrine will likely snare you. That is why we must learn, after conversion, to feed ourselves from the word of God. Then we need to pray for discernment, and if possible, be involved in a strong Bible believing and teaching church; and remember: be like the noble Bereans -- search the scriptures (see Acts 17:11).


In balance I again quote Matthew Henry We must not believe every spirit, but must try the spirits. But we must not be always trying, always unsettled; no, at length we must be settled, and hold fast that which is good. When we are satisfied that any thing is right, and true, and good, we must hold it fast, and not let it go, whatever opposition or whatever persecution we meet with for the sake thereof.”


ABSTAIN FROM ALL APPEARANCE OF EVIL


First and foremost, as the context indicates, this is speaking of doctrinal error. This must be to us a warning to shun evil doctrine, as found in the cults. There are many cults, so I won’t try to enumerate them here. But scripture says “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11). This does not speak of average human mistakes and errors as I have already stated. But once we have proved all things, and are holding fast to the good, we must stay away from the evil in doctrine and practice. There are “non essential” interpretations which would not prohibit fellowship. When I say “non essential”, I do not mean anything in God’s word is unimportant, but there are teachings that would not affect salvation, or other cardinal doctrines, and on these we can have charity instead of dogmatism. However, extreme deviations, and doctrinal variances and other things that would not be of the faith “once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3),must be avoided and abstained from altogether.


This would also cover overt sins, and unchristian behavior on our part. For a Christian is to appear as a Christian in all things. He says here “all appearance”, as if to say “it may not be intrinsic evil, but if it looks like it, acts like it, smells like it -- avoid it!” A Christian must conduct his or herself with dignity. Do nothing that will dishonor the savior. Be careful where you go. That does not mean we cannot go among sinners to evangelize. He did! He was a friend to publicans and sinners. But even when you go among sinners, go praying without ceasing; and abstaining from all appearance of evil!

“Abstain- Whatever is heterodox (unorthodox), unsound, and unsavory; shun it as you would do a serpent in your way, or poison in your mouths.” ( John Trapp- 1647)


Once again from Matthew Henry Abstain from all appearance of evil, v.22. This is a good means to prevent our being deceived with false doctrines, or unsettled in our faith; for our Saviour has told us in John 7:17, If a man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God. Corrupt affections indulged in the heart, and evil practices allowed of in the life, will greatly tend to promote fatal errors in the mind; whereas purity of heart, and integrity of life, will dispose men to receive the truth in the love of it. We should therefore abstain from evil, and all appearances of evil, from sin, and that which looks like sin, leads to it, and borders upon it. He who is not shy of the appearances of sin, who shuns not the occasions of sin, and who avoids not the temptations and approaches to sin, will not long abstain from the actual commission of sin”


PAUL’S PRAYER FOR THE THESSALONIANS


And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ

(I Thessalonians 5:23).


The very God of peace, as the KJV has it, is an old English way of saying “God Himself” as most modern versions translate it. He is the God of peace, because mankind can have no real peace without Him. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6. Though men often talk of peace, there will be wars and rumors of wars until He returns (See Matthew 24:6).


Sanctify (the Greek is hagiazo, set apart; to consecrate; related to the English words “holy” and “hallowed”) The believer is already set apart at his conversion (and even before that, in the eternal purpose of almighty God).“We have been made "holy" (by a judicial pronouncement of God based upon the work of Christ), we shall be made "holy" (by receiving a sinless body at the resurrection), and it is therefore God's further will that we now become holy here in this life” (Rom.6:19-22; Eph.5:26; 1Thes.4:3; Heb.12:14; 1Pet.1:15-16; 1Jn.3:3; Rev.22:11). (From ichthys.com; A Study on Peter’s Epistles #13, by Dr. Robert Luginbill, emphasis mine cw).


John Wesley and some others taught an erroneous doctrine of attaining “entire sanctification” in this mortal life, and while sanctification is a process that will not be totally completed in this life, it is the apostle’s prayer that this be done as wholly, or completely, as may be done in our earthly lives. As someone once said, Paul prays for God to make us “wholly holy”. He knew it was a process as he told us in Romans seven regarding the struggle with flesh and Spirit. Every good, and every perfect gift, including the ability to be obedient and more holy and Christ-like, is from God’s sovereign grace (see James 1:17) .


Paul is also praying that the entire human being; the whole person, not just the soul or spirit, but the body as well, will be made more holy. You see we are a complete unity, and the only part of us visible in this present world is the body. Some hold that scripture teaches man to be dichotomous, that is, two parts (soul and spirit meaning the same thing, and contained in the outside shell, which is the mortal body).Many prominent theologians teach this such as Charles Hodge, Louis Berkoff, William Hendrickson , etc..


Others such as Matthew Henry, Arthur W. Pink, Emery Bancroft, Edward Hiebert, James Denney, etc.. teach that man is a trichotomy, that is three parts, as our text appears to teach. There are many texts where the soul and spirit appear to be used interchangeably, yet even most of the dichotomists hold that there is a distinction in function of that part of the soul called the spirit. What is the answer? Primarily, Paul is praying, as I said, that the entire being will be sanctified. This flies in the face of teaching that the inner man is not totally responsible for what the outer man (the body), does, because the body is flesh. Such teaching does not hold professing Christians accountable for sin committed, and is an error. “My little children, these things write I unto you that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” ( I John 2:1). He is writing to sinning saints encouraging them not to sin, but reminding them that Jesus Christ took on a body of flesh and lived sinless, and as the only Righteous one represents us as our advocate, or attorney, when we do sin.


Yet, Paul here uses the phrase “your whole spirit, soul and body”. There must be a reason. Paul did not waste words. Also, in Hebrews 4:12, which most believe that Paul wrote, at least jointly with Timothy; we are told For the word of God is quick {alive}, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”.


Note the distinction in Mary’s praise to God that we often call The Magnificat:

“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name” (Luke 1:46-49).

“My soul - (Greek =ψυχή , psuche). My spirit- (Greek= πνεῦμα , pneuma) The soul is the principle of individuality, the seat of personal impressions, having a side in contact with the material element of humanity, as well as with the spiritual element. It is thus the mediating organ between the spirit and the body, receiving impressions from without and from within, and transmitting them by word or sign. Spirit is the highest, deepest, noblest part of our humanity, the point of contact between God and man.” (Vincent’s Word Studies)


When writing on such a subject when good, sound, scholars have different views, it is easy to just find someone who agrees with you. It is one of those subjects we could address from now on, and still not be entirely satisfied. The reason is; all we ever see of man with our eyes is the outward body (Greek= σῶμα, soma), yet we know man is made up of more. Only God can divide the soul, and spirit, and body. Once again I like old rare John Trapp (as Spurgeon called him), on I Thessalonians 5:23: “The temple consisted of three parts, so doth man; the body is as the outer court, the soul as the holy place, the spirit as the most holy. So the world is three stories high; the earth, the visible heaven, and the third heaven.”


There are medical processes that can in some way divide up a living man. About 25 years ago I went to Emory Hospital in Atlanta to donate blood cells for Pastor Bill Barber, a friend who had Leukemia. These cells were the only hope he had to cause his body to produce new marrow and hopefully save his life. They hooked me to a machine, which circulated all the blood in my body into a chamber that would divide and extract the platelets the physicians wanted. I could see my own blood in there circulating and then returning to my body. I think it took about one hour. These doctors were actually dividing me up; not soul and spirit, or joints and marrow, but separating white blood cells from red blood cells, then separating the platelets needed for the treatment from the red cells. Sadly, a few weeks later my friend passed away in spite of treatment. But the point is, if man can divide up parts of a living body, and it can still live on, certainly God can do what He wants with His creation. He certainly made us more than a mere body.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Psalm 139:14).


Remember Paul is praying for the entire person to be sanctified; spirit, soul and body. Arthur W. Pink had this to say: “Since the tripart nature of man has been so widely denied we will make some brief observations. That man is a threefold (and not merely twofold) entity is definitely established by the fact that he was created in the image of the triune God (Gen. 1:26). It is intimated in the account of the Fall. "The woman saw that the tree was good for food"—it appealed to her bodily appetites. Second, she saw that it was "pleasant [margin, a desire] to the eyes"—it appealed to her sensitive soul. She thought it was "a tree to be desired to make one wise“—it appealed to her intelligent spirit (Gen. 3:6). It is a serious error to say that when man fell, his spirit ceased to be, and that only at regeneration is his spirit "communicated" to him.


Fallen man is possessed equally of "spirit and soul" (Heb. 4:12). God "formeth the spirit of man within him" (Zech. 12:1), and at death the "spirit shall return unto God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7). We agree with the Reformer Zanchius that "the spirit includes the superior faculties of the mind, such as reason and understanding; the soul, the inferior faculties such as will, affections, and desires." By means of the "soul" we feel; by the "spirit" we know (Dan. 2:3 ff.). "Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with [1] all thine heart [spirit], and [2] with all thy soul, and [3] with all thy might" [physical energy] (Deut. 6:5). This corresponds with Paul’s threefold distinction in our text. The constitution of man as man was once for all demonstrated when the Son of God became incarnate and assumed both human "spirit" (Luke 23:46) and "soul" (Matthew 26:38). Yet in saying that unregenerate man possesses a spirit, we do not affirm that he has a spiritual nature, for his spirit has been defiled by the Fall, though it was not annihilated and therefore is capable of being washed and renewed (Titus 3:5).


The whole nature of man is the subject of the Spirit’s work in regeneration and sanctification. This fact is to be manifested by the Christian in a practical way, by every disposition and resource of his spirit, each faculty and affection of his soul, all the members of his body. His body has been made a member of Christ (1 Cor. 6:15) and is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). Since the Christian’s body is an integral part of his person, and since its inclinations and appetites seek to usurp the functions of his spirit and soul and dominate his actions, he is required to bring his body under the control of the higher parts of his being, so that it is regulated by a scripturally enlightened reason and not by its carnal passions. "Every one . . . should know how to possess his vessel [his body] in sanctification and honor" (1 Thess. 4:4). As in unregeneracy we yielded our members to sin, now we are to yield them as servants to righteousness unto holiness (Rom. 6:19). Someone has said, "Perfect holiness is to be the aim of saints on earth, as it will be the reward of the saints in heaven.” (Gleanings from Paul; Moody Press, 1967 edition; chapter 26, page 280)


PRESERVED BLAMELESS UNTIL CHRIST RETURNS


The Apostle Paul didn’t waste words in his prayer. Not only did he have a reason for saying “spirit, soul and body”, he also had a reason for saying “blameless” instead of perfect, or sinless. Blameless (Greek = αμεμπτως , amemptos), is used only here in the NT. It means without fault; unblemished; in spotless integrity. Paul is praying for all of us to be presented to God in that condition. Man cannot attain this sanctification. That is why Paul adds these words Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it”

(I Thessalonians 5:24) He is not speaking of absolute sinless perfection, for as I said, no one will attain that in this present world.. The best proof is the Apostle’s own words in Romans chapter seven. Here Paul shows another division, even in a saved person. The war between the flesh and spirit was very real to Paul. Read the entire chapter and see for yourself, but he summed it up this way For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:19-25).


As the old song says “Some golden daybreak Jesus will come”. When He does come back, morning, noon, or night, there is going to be a resurrection of the body, both of the just and unjust. He is going to put back together bodies that were sawn in pieces; that were exploded into smithereens; that were burned at the stake; that were bombed; that were eaten by sharks or other animals. Man could not do this but “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”( Genesis 18:14). Remember, with all that man can do, he cannot even cure the common cold, yet God renews body cells in each of us every single day we live!


When Christ comes there will be a last judgment “I saw the dead, small and great stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life-- (Revelation 20:12a). Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).


Published by Charles Woodruff- email: oursong2000@yahoo.com

(to be concluded in the next issue)


2 comments:

mlordi said...

Once again, Charles, you just gave a wonderful teaching on preparing for the return of Christ. You completely covered every aspect and I enjoy your explanations of word origins. You certainly are annointed by God to teach. God bless you for your faithfulness to bring out the truth.

charles said...

I am unworthy.Your kindness and encouragement is greatly appreciated. Your prayers for me and this ministry are also appreciated.