This week’s ongoing Biblical Study series on the Social Gospel Blog with Minister Paul J. Bern will be part 1 of Luke chapter 7; “Jesus and His Miraculous Healing Was So Great That Even John the Baptist Asked Him For Clarification” https://greatestservant62.medium.com/we-must-never-back-away-or-shrink-back-from-our-faith-since-it-can-heal-us-688a4500227a #socialgospel # Miracles #healing #realfaith #JesusChrist #truth
The Apostle Paul’s Teaching About the Resurrection (part 2)
(1st Corinthians chapter 15, verses 35-49)
When we finished last week’s study, we were focused on the apostle Paul’s teaching to the early church about the true nature of the resurrection of Jesus Christ after being buried in a borrowed tomb for three days. After admonishing them for allowing some man-made teaching about the Resurrection to infiltrate their congregation, Paul then continues with his explanation of the resurrection from a Scriptural viewpoint by answering what is apparently yet another question the congregation had raised regarding the nature of the Resurrection. Paul continues his train of thought beginning at verse 35.
“But someone may ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’ How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as He has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.” (1st Corinthians 15: verses 35-41)
I think the main thing Paul the apostle was trying to communicate here is that what kind of bodies we will have after we die is neither here nor there as far as the Word and our Faith are concerned. It is a side-issue in the form of an unhealthy diversion from Truth. Our “bodies” will be spiritual, and there is simply no comparison between spiritual beings and physical ones since they are of a completely different nature. It would be like trying to compare insects to fish (imagine that!). There are many different types of bodies of various kinds, and each has its own beauty in its own way, with each having a special uniqueness that sets it apart from the others, emulating the uniqueness of each person within the whole of humanity.
All of us are unique individuals, and by extension sovereign forms of life here on earth and of the heavenly and magnificent kaleidoscope of the universe. And since each was created by God, it becomes a reflection of His glory for all to see and marvel. Paul then goes on to compare all this to the last resurrection in the book of Revelation, where all those who ever lived and died will rise for one final judgment, and each will have to give an account of themselves – how did they live, who did they help, who did they protect, and above all, who did they serve.
“So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; if it is sown in dishonor, it will be raised in glory; if it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit’. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have born the likeness of an earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” (1st Corinthians 15: verses 42-49)
Paul’s commentary here is pretty clear, and so requires no explanation per-SE. But I think that it would be helpful to those readers less familiar with the Bible if I substituted some 21st century vernacular for the Biblical terms of old. We are born mere mortals, but unwavering belief in Christ makes us immortal, effectively giving us a chance for eternal life. Paul’s second comment applies directly to me and others like me, who started out in life as orphans or as unwanted “throwaway kids”: Although I was “born in dishonor” (with no real family or social standing and no inheritance of any kind), accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior back in 1992 has caused me to be “raised in glory” at His second coming because I did everything in my power to try and mold myself into someone useful for Him, leaving my old life and all the negative stuff that went with it (bad childhoods, crappy marriages, etc.) behind in the past, where it belongs. That is my personal testimony regarding this portion of Scripture, and I exhort and encourage all who read this who started out in life as being disadvantaged in any way to follow my example in this matter as I have tried to follow the example of Christ. Oh yes, you can all do this, and the Bible tells you how.
For example, if you are “sown in weakness”, lacking confidence and/or self esteem, belief in Christ will cause you to be “raised in power”, giving you a quiet confidence and internal peace that can only occur when we give our hearts completely over to Jesus Christ, because doing so blocks out all fear. And fear is something we should all be doing without, substituting unconditional faith in Jesus in its place. Paul then goes on by comparing Adam with Christ, with Adam being the first man and Jesus being the last in the form of a “life giving Spirit”, foreshadowing the future spiritual coexistence with God for all eternity in heaven after our physical lives are over. “And just as we have born in the likeness of an earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the Man from heaven.”
So, in closing, if there is anyone reading this who has not given their heart over to Christ and wishes to do so, now is as good a time as any. You don’t have to do anything dramatic or fancy, just quietly ask Jesus to come into your heart, for the purpose of Him abiding there forever, in whatever way feels comfortable to you. You can rest assured that once He enters, and He will, He will be there to stay for the duration of your life. In the process, you get a new friend in Jesus, a new dad in the form of God the Father, and millions of new brothers and sisters – as few or as many as you want. So let the peace of Christ, which is beyond human comprehension or intellectual understanding, be within you, replacing all the old negative emotions and traumas that you can now let go of. Because now you have something infinitely better to take their place, the man in the glory, Jesus Christ!
When Authority Becomes Corrupted, That’s When Almighty God Himself Will Intervene to Take Charge
(Part 2 of 2; Ezekiel chapter 34, verses 20-27)
This week’s commentary will be part 2 of my comparison of Ezekiel 34 to modern Christian churches and all their various denominations. As you recall from last week’s message, the Lord Almighty sees all the corruption in our governments, from the chief executive all the way down to the lowliest undersecretary or custodian. We can all do better than what we’re currently doing, although many are doing better than some others. While some may be adamant about exercising their right to refuse to wear a mask, others are just as adamant about being protective by wearing masks. To top it all off, the one remaining place that should be a shelter from the disasters all around us – all the various church denominations – have been turned into little more than entertainment venues.
In last week’s commentary I lamented to a great extent about the state of modern churches and that of its pastors as they (supposedly) minister to their ‘flocks’. Unfortunately, due to what is often viewed as lax leadership, these pastors, bishops, evangelists, deacons and what-not, these various church denominations are ruling over congregations that have strange teachings and customs, odd ways of dressing, and whose leadership is rife with corruption. In vases like this, and especially during the last days, the risen Spirit of the Blessed Savior will intervene, as we will now see. So let’s all take up where we left of last week, in the 34th chapter of Chronicles, beginning with verse 20.
“20) Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21) Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, 22) I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. 23) I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. 24) I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.” (Chronicles 34: 20-24)
As you saw in verse 20, not all the sheep of the flock were getting their needs met. That’s because too many other “sheep” were getting more than their fair share, and that always includes the pastor and those in positions of leadership. In a truly Christ-centered ministry, the pastor gets the leftovers. They come last because the rest of the ‘flock’ is supposed to come first. As we move on to verse 21, we see that God also sees that all of the above is being done at the expense of those less fortunate, remarkably similar to the massive inequality we see all around us today. This includes all the internal politicking that goes on inside church walls, and not just the government. All of the above are in places of leadership, and it is those who abuse that power who are the ones causing all the problems. In verse 23, the name ‘David’ is used interchangeably for Jesus. He will be – or actually has been, since these words were written down about 2,700 years ago – the ultimate Shepherd for a chosen flock. “I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them.” The ‘servant Prince’ is none other than Jesus Christ himself.
And now let’s conclude this week’s commentary in Chronicles 34: “25) I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of savage beasts so that they may live in the wilderness and sleep in the forests in safety. 26) I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. 27) The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them.“
In verse 25, we have a prophecy with a double meaning. The Book of Ezekiel was written roughly 550 years before the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. At the time this was written, the Hebrew nation was in captivity in Babylon, in what would be modern Iraq and Iran. A “covenant of peace with them” referred to the Hebrew nation’s Babylonian captors and their relations with its neighbor, the Israeli nation. It prophecies a time in Israel’s future when she would be free again. Fast forward to the last 7 decades, and we find the founding of the new nation of Israel in May of 1948. So it can be said that these verses prophesy the return from Babylon and the rebuilding of Israel, and particularly the Temple there, roughly 60-70 years into the future at the time this was originally written.
But still other scholars point to these verses as being a prophecy of the founding of the state of Israel in modern times. The thing is, nobody really knows for sure, and that includes myself. In the following verse, “I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing”, the city of Israel was built on a hilltop, so that’s what it’s referring to, but only if you’re on the side of those scholars who say this is a prophecy of the founding of the modern Israel. In verse 27, “….the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them”.
Enslavement, once again, could equal captivity in Babylon, but more likely it is modern economic slavery that is the reference point here. That economic slavery is known as capitalism – debt. Besides, with human trafficking being outlawed nearly everywhere, it is much easier to simply traffic in money than in human beings. I have written extensively on the topic of debt being the moral equivalent to modern slavery in the past. Please visit my archives at https://medium.com/@greatestservant62 for lots of good postings on this topic, plus many more as well. For myself at least, mortgages, student loans and credit cards are the 3 main offenders. If you want to be totally free, walk away from your debts and wise up!
So this concludes the commentaries from the last 2 weeks on corruption in modern churches. Be sure and watch for next week’s commentary, or you can get a (temporarily free) subscription by going to https://www.authorrevpauljbern.com, then scroll down to the bottom right, and clicking on the ‘subscription box to send. See you next week, and watch for my Biblical study series around the latter part of this week, usually by Friday.
Of Changes In Values Across the Spans of Time, and How Jesus Remains Constant Through It All
(1st Corinthians chapter 11, verses 1-16)
For this week’s Biblical teaching series on the writings of the apostles Luke and Paul, I will be continuing to focus on the promotion of Jesus Christ and his agenda, which is to reach out across the Web and help save souls through this little on-line church. I am personally bound and determined to get the message of eternal salvation of the souls of those persons on the Internet who would normally not be found in traditional churches or their respective denominations. We all have so little time left before His return, which is why the message I am passing along today has such urgency.
The world as we have known it is dying from rampant pollution, pointless wars that have no end, overpopulation, potentially catastrophic climate change, and the overuse and misallocation of natural resources. And so it is time for all of us to get our minds off all the negative forces that make up our dying world, and to begin to focus on and engage with the forces of good. In so doing, the best way to begin to do this is to focus our hearts and minds on Jesus Christ, whose Spirit causes us to rise up and stand against the forces of evil. That brings me to the topic of 1st Corinthians chapter 11, which delves into what is fitting and proper in the course of worshiping Christ, who is the world’s only remaining Hope. This is the first of a 2 part series.
I’m going to skim through the first 13 verses of chapter 11 without much comment due to some rather antiquated concepts about dress and personal grooming taught from a 1st century perspective. The most important is verse 1, which simply says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ”, and this is timeless advice any way you look at it. We learn to follow the example of Christ by reading his Word and putting it into practice, and this should be an ongoing practice for everyone because faith in Jesus is serious business, especially in a world where we are surrounded by evil and deceit.
Paul then writes in verse 3, “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God”. Although these values were very relevant when the apostle Paul first wrote them 2,000 years ago, the part that says, “the head of every woman is man” is no longer true in today’s world. Modern values dictate that men and women are equals and that there is parity between the two genders. Such thinking as this would have been considered heretical in Paul’s time, and anyone convicted of heresy always got the death penalty.
I grew up in a household where the father totally dominated everything and everybody else, both inside and outside the marriage and the family. The end result was a dysfunctional family that was ruled by fear and intimidation instead of by love and unity as it should have been. In short, the relationship between the father and the other family members was abusive. Abusiveness and domestic violence such as what I experienced when I was growing up simply have no place in any household, and that is doubly true for a Christian household, regardless of church membership or denomination. And so I have seen this precept misused by “religious” people over and over again (“spare the rod, spoil the child”).
Jesus does not rule over us by domination and control, He does so out of love, grace and mercy (“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”). The remainder of these first 13 verses is where Paul the apostle writes, mainly from his own viewpoint, about the type of dress right down to the length and style of the believer’s hair. Very seldom will you see me disagree with anything in the Bible, but this is one of those rare exceptions. Paul even got into whether or not people should cover their heads during prayers (as if that still matters).
It is common to see me in church wearing casual clothes such as cargo shorts in the summer (it gets plenty hot in the summer here in Atlanta where I live) or jeans in the winter. I find it most unfortunate that some churches use these verses in 1st Corinthians 11 as an excuse to dress up like they are going to a fashion show instead of to a house of worship. I have been in churches where men and women alike were wearing literally thousands of dollars in high-end clothing and jewelry, and these types of people invariably sneer at those who can’t afford to dress as they do. Remember what Jesus said when he was teaching in the temple at Jerusalem, and I paraphrase: ‘it matters a lot more what is on the inside of a believer than what is on the outside.’ External appearances don’t count for very much in the Church of the last days before His return. God is far more interested in the state of our souls than in the state of our wardrobe.
The apostle Paul seems to at least attempt to clarify this when he wrote in verses 11 and 12, “In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.” In the following verse Paul further clarifies, “13) Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14) Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15) but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16) If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.“
It is difficult to tell whether Paul is offering this as a continuation of his train of thought in the previous verses, or that it is a caveat for the same. Customs for dress and personal care are radically different today than they were back in the First Century. In today’s world, there is far more freedom of expression than there was back then. Verse 16 is particularly telling with respect to the mores and customs of centuries ago. Personally, I do not believe that long-haired men or short haired women will get sent to hell for their hairstyles any more than I believe people who don’t listen to religious music will be condemned to hell for their musical tastes.
It is at this point where we are near the middle of this week’s lesson, that I think would be a good place to pause for the sake of brevity. First Corinthians chapter 11 has 34 verses in it, so there is no way I can do justice to this chapter by cramming it all into one lesson. So everyone please be sure and return at this time next week for Part 2 of this installment of the Social Gospel Learning Series. Until then, everyone take good care.
This is an excerpt from my newest book release, “The Social Gospel Learning Series Vol. 3: the Apostle Paul” by Minister Paul J. Bern. To get a copy, visit https://www.authorrevpauljbern.com
The Believer’s Freedom and Real Christianity
(1st Corinthians chapter 10, verses 18-33)
In this week’s installment of my Biblical study series on the writings of the apostles, I will finish up the second half of chapter 10 in the first book of Corinthians. Our study will begin at verse 18, but to put it into better context let me quote verse 17, where the apostle Paul was comparing the breaking of bread to the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ when he wrote, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” The ‘one loaf’ symbolizes the body of Christ who was sacrificed for all our sins. He then goes on to use the temple at Jerusalem as an example, since many of those to whom Paul was writing at this point were converted Jews. He begins at verse 18:
“Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than He?” (1st Corinthians 10, verses 18-22)
In the first sentence above, Paul is referring to the live sacrifices offered by the Israelite’s when they were wandering in the Sinai desert, and especially after the first temple was constructed in Jerusalem. Since there was no banking system such as what we have today, those priests who “participate in the altar” ate from the animal sacrifices that were offered there as a form of partial payment for performing their duties (that, and having a tent to sleep in). Pagan sacrifices, which were still common in those days, were made to an illusory god who did not really exist, and so their efforts were futile. I’m pretty sure that’s what Paul meant when he wrote to warn the early church at Corinth not “to be participants with demons”. Allow me to interject some extra thought right here at this point in today’s lesson.
There are those who would say that since there are no more pagan sacrifices in the modern world, then what the apostle Paul wrote about in the above passage of Scripture no longer applies to the world of today. I would strongly disagree with that, and let me explain why. First of all, demons are real, they are not something out of folklore. They actually exist, and they have installed themselves into positions of power and influence. There are a disturbing number of them working in Washington right now. They are also doing everything they can to try and stir up as much trouble, strife and conflict as possible, especially within the church where resistance to Satan is strongest. Paul wrote that we must all stand against these demonic forces in unity when he wrote, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.” You can’t play both sides of the fence with God. You can’t have your life running both ways at once, because God and demons are polar opposites of each other. But just because we refrain from doing this, that doesn’t get us off the hook, because there is still the related issue of idol worship that must be addressed.
Nobody builds altars to their idol gods anymore as far as I know, or at least not in the western hemisphere. And when was the last time you heard of the sacrifice of live animals and human beings for religious purposes? So one would think that this should be a moot issue, but in fact it is not. The idol gods of today come in vastly different forms than they did 3,000 years ago when the first temple was built at Jerusalem. Back in antiquity, idol gods were hand carved into graven images of wood and stone, inlaid with precious jewels and metals such as gold, silver, diamonds, emeralds and sapphires. But in the modern world, idols tend to take the form of money (for its own sake), status (which is always temporary), power over others for the purpose of controlling or manipulating them (which in the end is an illusion), and the craving for material wealth and luxurious possessions, which are vanity and selfishness personified.
One thing is for sure; everybody is ultimately destined for death. Nobody gets out of the game of life alive. That being the case, it stands to reason that when we all eventually die, we’re not going to be able to take any of our stuff with us. So all of the above examples are forms of idolatry, and any person who is engaging in any of the above activities should be warned that they are about to bring judgment upon themselves – not from other people, but from Almighty God himself. But there is still time to change! Ask Jesus to come into your heart today and dwell there forever, so that you in turn can dwell with Him forever when this life is over. Jesus is the Son of God, the only God who is real and genuine. Paul the apostle then uses the remaining verses in this chapter to further explain himself.
“’Everything is permissible’; but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible; but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’. If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if anyone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice’, then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for your conscience’ sake – the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the church of God – even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” (1st Corinthians 10; verses 23-33)
Paul ends this 10th chapter of First Corinthians with a warning about how we are to be living. “Nobody should seek his (or her) own good, but the good of others”. Just because something is beneficial and agreeable to us (such as the pursuit of financial gain), or just because something makes us feel good (such as substance abuse or sexual promiscuity), does not mean it is good for us even if we believe that what we do does no harm to anyone else. The fact of the matter is that in cases such as this, when we sin against ourselves by engaging in any forms of idolatry, we sin against God who made us, and so we ultimately devalue ourselves. The most positive thing about this is that He loves us just the same without any prequalifications. You see, when Jesus died on the cross for us, He took care of all that for us no matter how many times we have sinned, and regardless of what we have done.
Paul warned the early Church against knowingly consuming food and drink offered to idols, and I am thankful to say that this form of pagan worship is almost unheard of in the early 21st century. But it is even easier than that to get caught up in the modern idols of our day that I mentioned earlier, such as the waging of endless wars by our US government that are based on greed, or the domination of others by manipulation or control such as in “corporate America”, or the trashing of our planet Earth’s environment. Also, when all else fails, the US military-industrial complex steps in to enforce American profit at the expense of untold numbers of future generations.
And so Paul the apostle concludes this portion of his letter by telling the early Corinthian church to stay away from all vestiges of idolatry, closing with the admonition, “…whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” We are to focus on God when such issues crop up in our own lives, and it is the responsibility of each and every believer to keep God first and foremost in our lives, above all else. The way to maintain a state of obedience to God is to “do it all for the glory of God”. That’s how we should all be living, especially in light of the fact that His second coming could happen at any time in the near future. Therefore let us keep ourselves in a state of readiness for Christ, and to eagerly await His return. Let’s spend each one of our days living for Him, and see what a big difference it makes in our quality of life. Today is the best day to start, so why not right now?
How We Can Make God, and Each Other, Happy? By Ending Poverty
by Minister Paul J. Bern
With about 98% of the wealth in America in the hands of a little under 2% of the population, the US has a bigger and wider gap between the richest 5% of American money earners and big business owners than there is in many supposedly “third world” countries. The widespread and systemic unemployment or underemployment that currently exists in the US job market is no longer just an economic problem, it has – here in the early 21st century – become a civil rights issue. Inequality, we have found out, is the tool of choice for the 2% elites to use against the rest of us.
The US job market has been turned into a raffle, where one lucky person gets the job while entire groups of others get left out in the cold – sometimes literally. So, I am vigorously maintaining that every human being has the basic, God-given right to a livelihood and to a living wage. (to get an entire book on this topic, order a copy of my 2019 release, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto 4th Edition” from this link) Anything less becomes a civil rights violation and therefore those jobless persons are victims of systemic economic discrimination. And so I state unreservedly that restarting the civil rights era protests, demonstrations, sit-ins and the occupation of whole buildings or city blocks will be the most effective nonviolent way of addressing the rampant inequality and persistent economic hardship that currently exists in the US. We have already seen some of that with the protests in the streets because of unarmed Blacks being killed by the police. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
So I went to the internet, that bastion of knowledge from outside the classroom, and discovered the following facts:
The number of Blacks killed by police in 2014 – 2019 was 1,654. This is an average of 275 per year. In fact, 2015 saw 305 deaths for a high and 258 was the lowest number in 2018. Of these fatalities, 286 were considered unarmed. That is an average of 47 people per year. The deadliest year was 2015 with 78. Both 2018 and 2019 had the lowest totals of 28 each year.
I then looked at the number of non-blacks, particularly whites, killed by police (same years). Here is what I discovered: Whites accounted for 2,953 police involved deaths. An average of 492 per year. The deadliest year being 2015 with 544, the lowest being 2019 with 406. There were 388 unarmed whites killed in that time frame for an average of 65 per year. Most death occurring in 2015 with 91 deaths, and the low being 48 in 2018. All other races (non-white or black) accounted for 1,953 deaths (325 per year) of which 241 were unarmed (40 per year).
Conclusion: All other races combined had 4,906 people killed by police, or 817 people per year. Of that total, 629 were considered unarmed or 105 people per year. Blacks killed per year: 275, everyone else: 817.
But these protesters are behind the curve. Because, before them, there were the Yellow Vests in Europe, Occupy Wall St., “We are the 99%” and Anonymous. And before them there was the Arab Spring throughout northern Africa, the summer of 2011 in Great Britain and Greece in Europe, and Libya, Syria and Gaza in the Middle East. So from a political standpoint, the current crop of protesters here in the US have had some catching up to do. But that was before the rest of the world got on board protesting globally for all the murdered Americans from Florida to Missouri to New York. So now, like an echo from the fairly recent past, the protests over police violence has echoed across the globe and is still reaching a crescendo. The least common denominator to all this rage in the streets is that of being economically disadvantaged. People everywhere find themselves surrounded by wealth and opulence, luxury and self-indulgence, while they are themselves isolated from it. It is one thing to be rewarded for success and a job well done. But it’s an altogether different matter to have obscene riches flaunted in your face on a daily basis just because someone can. I think what we really need to do is find a way to end poverty. I can sum up the answer in one word: Education. Otherwise, those who are poor will always remain so.
Who’s responsible for the poor? “The poor you will always have”, Jesus once said, “but you will not always have me”. Back in the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st, English lawmakers said it was the government and taxpayers who are responsible. They introduced the compulsory “poor tax” of 1572 to provide peasants with cash and a “parish loaf.” The world’s first-ever public relief system did more than feed the poor: It helped fuel economic growth because peasants could risk leaving the land to look for work in town. By the early 19th century, though, a backlash had set in. English spending on the poor was slashed from 2 percent to 1 percent of national income, and indigent families were locked up in parish workhouses. In 1839, the fictional hero of Oliver Twist, a child laborer who became a symbol of the neglect and exploitation of the times, famously raised his bowl of gruel and said, “Please, sir, I want some more.” Today, child benefits, winter fuel payments, housing support and guaranteed minimum pensions for the elderly are common practice in Britain and other industrialized countries. But it’s only recently that the right to an adequate standard of living has begun to be extended to the poor of the developing world. Here in the US, a guaranteed minimum income was at first viewed as a novelty. But lately it has begun to be seen as an alternative to welfare, SNAP benefits, AFDC and collecting unemployment.
At least 45 developing nations in Africa and south Asia now provide social pensions or grants to 110 million impoverished families — not in the form of charitable donations or emergency handouts or temporary safety nets, but as a kind of social security. A quiet revolution is taking place based on the realization that you cannot pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you have no boots. And giving ‘boots’ to people with little money does not make them lazy or reluctant to work; rather, just the opposite happens. A small guaranteed income provides a foundation that enables people to transform their own lives. Give people – any group of people regardless of skin color – an opportunity to improve themselves, and then stand back and watch what happens next.
Without any advice from aid agencies, government, or nongovernmental organizations, poor people already know how to make profitable investments. They simply did not have the cash and could not borrow the small amounts of money they needed. A good way for donor countries to help is to give aid as “general budget support,” funneling cash for the poor directly into government coffers. To truly lift the poor out of poverty, governments also must tackle discrimination and invest in health, education and infrastructure.
The notion that the poor are to blame for their poverty persists in affluent nations today and has been especially strong in the United States. Studies by the World Values Survey between 1995 and 2000 showed that 61 percent of Americans believed the poor were lazy and lacked willpower. Only 13 percent said an unfair society was to blame. But what would Americans say now, in the wake of the housing market collapse and the bailout of the banks? The jobs-creating stimulus bill, the expansion of food stamp programs and unemployment benefits — these are all forms of cash transfers to the needy. I would say that cash helps people see a way out, no matter where they live.
In closing, the icing on the cake with regards to having a livelihood by acquiring a trade or skill, is documented in Scripture in multiple places, such as Ecclesiastes 5:19, “Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil — this is a gift of God.” Luke chapter 10, verse 7 reads, “….for the worker is worth his wages”. But the Word of the Lord takes this topic of work even farther. In Colossians 3:23, it reads, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”. Although everyone is entitled to a livelihood, a certain kind of work ethic is required in return, as it says in 1st Thessalonians 5, verse12, “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.” Among other things, this means we take the responsibility to pull our own weight. We do this to honor Almighty God, our heavenly Creator, as it is written in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
What is our purpose? Why are we here? As you just read, the answers can be found in the Good Book. There’s no big mystery here. Everything has been right in front us the whole time. All we have to do is to start living this out as a lifestyle. So let’s all start right now to improve ourselves and the entire planet for the benefit of all.
What Does the Biblical Word ‘Pestilence’ Mean? Could Corona Virus Be Considered to Be a ‘Pestilence’?
By Minister Paul J. Bern
The more that the talking heads on cable news chatter about the Corona virus pandemic, the more it reminds me of the great plagues as described in the Old Testament. You all have heard this story at some point in the past; the one about Moses having a meeting – so to speak – with Pharaoh, to tell him to “let my people go”. The ‘people’ Moses referred to were the ancient Israeli (a.k.a. Israelite) nation (a separate ethnic group living in the midst of Egyptian society), who had been there as slaves for the previous 400 years (see Exodus chapters 1 & 12 for details).
So I went back and re-read those passages this morning prior to writing this week’s commentary, and those two words are being used interchangeably for the most part. What does pestilence mean in the Bible? Pestilence means a deadly and overwhelming disease that affects an entire community. The Black Plague, a disease that killed over thirty percent of Europe’s population, was certainly a pestilence. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘pestilence’ as, “a contagious or infectious epidemic disease that is virulent and devastating especially: bubonic plague.”
So is the Corona virus and/or Covid-19 virus a “pestilence” by Biblical standards? By all the measurements used above, the answer is ‘absolutely yes’! By sheer numbers alone, Covid-19 rivals the Black Plague of centuries ago as being a killer of Biblical proportions. And so, speaking as a minister and a man who seeks after God with every breath I take, if an overall feeling of foreboding has been hanging there with you every day as of late, that’s because we are slowly, to varying degrees, becoming ever more traumatized by the complete insanity that surrounds us all. Unarmed Black men continue to be hunted down as if the police have all decided to go out on safari, while there were 41 mass shootings in 2019 that resulted in 210 fatalities. Domestic violence is at an all-time high, according to the CDC. The list goes on and on, and I’m sure you can think of a few of your own.
But there is historic precedence to what is currently happening with the Covid-19 pandemic in the form of the Black Plague of centuries ago, as well as the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919. Due to the earth being far more populated now than in days of old, the Corona virus could kill multitudes more, and yet so many people are still not paying attention to what is going on around them. For some of them, when this pestilence catches up with them, it will be too late. That is when this pestilence of Biblical proportions will begin taking lives with an ever-greater vengeance than ever before.
That is when Biblical precedence will activate itself. King David wrote about this very thing in the Book of Psalms, and I quote: “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways….” (Psalm 91, verses 5-11)
‘Not fearing the night’ in verse 5 was a reference to the rough times in which people lived back in those days. Due to the presence of an illiterate populace, not everyone could always find work, and sometimes food was scarce. So crime was a problem back then, and it often occurred in the dead of night. This must have instilled a certain level of fear throughout the population, and so that’s how that verse of scripture originated. Moving along, the “arrow that flies by day” was a reflection of the times in which they lived like I wrote just above. Roving bands of heavily armed marauders were out in the countryside just off the main roads, and people routinely got robbed as they traveled from place to place. The “plague that destroys at midday” in the next verse sounds strikingly similar to modern-day Covid-19.
But if you will put God first before all others and yourselves, the Bible tells us right in the very next verse, you will overcome all obstacles and defeat all foes who would dare to come against you. “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.” When we submit to God’s will in place of our own, we will see amazing things happen, stuff we hadn’t even dreamed about. I will use tornadoes as an example. You know how tornadoes can skip all over the place, touching down just here and there? Yet others stay on the ground for miles, wreaking untold destruction and snuffing out lives in its wake. Yet when the survivors get interviewed, they are all people of faith. Dozens or hundreds of casualties may be left to be treated for their injuries, or to be buried. A thousand here, ten thousand there during wartime, death can be so arbitrary at times.
No matter how much really bad stuff is going on around you, “but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.” Those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will emerge unscathed from the coming economic calamity, but much of the rest of the world (but not all) will perish in the flames. What flames? Things like wildfires, volcanic eruptions, wars and terrorism, and meteor or comet strikes in any place on the planet – all come to mind.
“If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near (you)…. See that, everybody? The Lord Almighty is my refuge, and he can be yours too. All you have to do is to ask him in, to let the Holy Spirit of the Most High God dwell within you. So why not do that right now? Ask the risen Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ to come and dwell within your heart. Unless you’re in the middle of a public place like a movie theater, it’s perfectly suitable to do this out loud. Jesus, be my Lord and Savior. Come into my heart and dwell there forever, so that I can be with you forever too. In Jesus’ mighty name, amen.
Human Equality Is Ordained By God As Well As the Constitution. So Why Aren’t We Living Like That?
By Minister Paul J. Bern
Since the dawn of time humankind has been plagued by violence. The first instance can be found in the Bible in the book of Genesis. Cain and Abel both offered sacrifices to God, and God accepted Abel’s offering because he had picked out his most choice livestock for his offering. But God rejected Cain’s offering because Cain offered only vegetables and meat that was unsuitable. So Cain became jealous of Abel and killed him in the first murder in recorded history (see Genesis chapter 4 for the full story, about a 3 minute read). As time marched on and the earth’s population grew, tribes and nations rose up against each other and took prisoners who then became slaves, and the ‘industry’ of human trafficking was born as master lorded it over slave, which marked the advent of mass inequality. This social and societal scourge of inequality grew steadily throughout the ages, with the beginning of the end of slavery marked by the end of the American civil war of the 1860’s, the war with more American casualties than any other. Today the institution of slavery, human sex trafficking and smuggling of illegal aliens continues to thrive, and all are a form of gross social injustice as far as I am concerned. As such, persons who are involved in human trafficking today are absolutely immoral by Biblical standards – and mine.
In the late 1700’s, the French revolution was happening in Europe at about the same time that the American Revolution was unfolding in colonial America. These two separate but related events in human history marked the beginning of the modern concept of human equality. The signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln heralded the next significant step towards social equality as it criminalized slavery. But nothing more occurred for another 80 years, until the US military ended racial segregation within its ranks in 1948. At about the same time, Mahatma Gandhi initiated a new equality movement in India that resulted in India’s independence from Great Britain. By the 1950’s the US civil rights movement began gaining momentum, led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rev. Dr. King was, first and foremost, a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was from the Bible that he obtained much of his inspiration for the American civil rights movement, although he also used the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as frames of reference to add justification to the American social upheaval that he forcefully instigated. And so this week’s commentary will highlight three passages from the Bible that Rev. Dr. King no doubt used for his own inspiration, and here is the first one.
“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written, ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.’” (2nd Corinthians 8: verses 13-15)
“…Your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality…”. The apostle Paul, who wrote these words nearly 2,000 years ago, was saying that we are to be mutually beneficial to one another when it comes to our physical and/or material needs and wants. Under no circumstances is any one person or group to have significantly more necessities than any other person or group, nor may any one person or group acquire an excess of anything at the expense of any other(s). There is no reason other than pure selfishness for one person or group to have a surplus of food while another goes hungry. There is no reason for one to have plenty of clean clothes to wear while another is dressed in rags, or to have a warm coat while another has none, except that certain people find themselves excluded from any opportunity they could have to improve themselves, to aspire to be something or someone more than they currently are, just so others can have more. There is no reason other than pure selfishness for one person or group to have a roof over their head while another sleeps in their car, a tent or under a bridge. Even the cave men lived in caves!
And in these examples I am only talking about basic necessities. When it comes to luxury items this line of reasoning applies even more so. With so much wealth in the world, especially with such a large percentage of wealth concentrated in the hands of relatively few people, I find it unconscionable to hoard too much wealth and material goods exclusively to ourselves while others less fortunate than ourselves go without. Remember what Jesus said, and it’s in all four gospels. Don’t take my word for it, go and read it for yourself. Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man (or woman) to enter the kingdom of heaven”. (Matthew 19, verse 24)
Material wealth is a distraction that takes our eyes and our focus off God. The more earthly goods we accumulate, the less we think about our spiritual needs. The less we think about our spiritual needs, the less we think about God. Prosperity, while it can be a good thing when it is in the right hands and used for the right purposes, is most often that which alienates us from God and from our spiritual selves. When our lives are over and we die, it is our souls that live on while our physical bodies get left behind to decay. The more spiritual we were during our lives on earth, the greater our faith becomes in Jesus. Our eternity in heaven is directly proportional to our spiritual existence on earth, but too much emphasis on material gain and possessions neutralizes our spirituality. Remember what Jesus said when He taught the crowds that followed after Him, “What does it matter if a man gains the whole world and loses his soul?” In the very next book in the New Testament, Paul makes additional comments concerning equality.
“You are all sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3: verses 26-29)
“ But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit that calls out, ‘Abba, Father’. So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has also made you an heir.” (Galatians 4: verses 4-7)
All of humankind, then, are equals under Jesus Christ because God has made it so according to Scripture. It is therefore immoral, unethical and sinful to discriminate, prejudge, or to hold in contempt any other human being regardless of their race, nationality or ethnic origin, or because of their religious background and their faith (or the lack thereof), or because of their gender, age, or their marital, social or economic status, or sexual orientation or political affiliation. Any person who does any of the above things that I have just written is guilty of holding in contempt that which God has made, and by extension holds God himself in contempt. And that is blasphemy in its highest form. The Bible teaches that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the only sin that God can’t forgive. Any person who deliberately commits this sin will be eternally condemned when they die. I don’t know about you, but condemnation is not in any of my future plans. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Based on this Scriptural teaching, which is the irrefutable Word of God, I know with certainty that any person who hates another person for any reason is without excuse. The apostle John said, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in Him.” (1st John chapter 3, verse 15) There can therefore be no racial hatred, nor can there be any hatred of one religion or religious denomination by another (ISIS, the Taliban, and all you “conservative Christian” right-wingers need to go back and read that again). While we’re at it, there can be absolutely no hatred of those who are economically disadvantaged, such as the homeless, nor can there be any hatred of gay people just because one considers them ‘immoral’, nor can there be any political hatred of the left or the right, or any other form of intolerance (such as age and gender discrimination). This is the very essence of true Spiritual belief. Equality is Spiritual.
God put diverse groups of people and cultures on this earth all together in order to teach us – among other things – tolerance of one another. Once tolerance takes root, it leads to communication. Communication in turn leads to understanding, understanding then leads to empathy and empathy to compassion. And, when we have compassion for one another, that invariably leads to peace. Peace will inevitably lead to an end to all wars, poverty, crime and sickness, and with it inequality. What a wonderful world that would be, and it is all within our grasp if we will only embrace tolerance and renounce violence. Let us therefore join together in tolerance, communication, understanding, empathy, compassion and peace. Since the majority of us claim to be Christians, we proclaim ourselves to worship the Prince of Peace. That means we had better be emulating Jesus Christ by becoming peaceful people. And that is how we will all make the world a better place, starting with ourselves. Shalom!
On Being Very Careful Who You Associate With
(1st Corinthians chapter 5)
In today’s Biblical study we will move on to First Corinthians chapter 5. In this particular chapter the apostle Paul gives the church at Corinth a pretty severe scolding for putting up with evil and immorality within their congregation. This passage of Scripture is just as applicable to the greater church today, and probably even more so than when these words were first written nearly 2,000 years ago. With all the molestation scandals ongoing (mainly, but not limited to, the Catholic church), all the financial improprieties both visible and hidden, as well as all the cliques and internal politics that are present in every church I’ve ever seen, the modern Church in general has developed a credibility problem with fairly large segments of the population. If you think that is bad, what was going on in the early church at Corinth was equally so or worse. Paul takes up this uncomfortable topic without hesitation beginning in verse 1.
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not even occur among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature will be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.” (1st Corinthians 5; verses 1-5)
As you can see, a member of that church had apparently divorced and remarried, and his son from a previous marriage was having an affair with his new wife. I think we can all agree here that this situation was a little bizarre even by modern standards. It is easy to see that Paul was truly outraged about this. It is also apparent from what has been written that the members of the church at Corinth were active in their faith and spent much time talking about the Lord and recruiting new members. Paul is demanding to know how everybody at the Corinthian church was going around acting really religious and spiritual while they knew that this little love triangle existed within their congregation. He is admonishing them that they can’t have it both ways, and that if they are serious about living for Christ then it is their responsibility to keep their lives and their church free from sin. Paul then uses baking bread to illustrate his point starting in verse 6.
“Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through a whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast – as you really are. For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.” (1st Corinthians 5; verses 6-8)
When Paul was referring to his earlier rebuke about them being proud without cause in verse 2, he then compared evil within the church to a small amount of yeast in a batch of flour. It only takes a little yeast to make the bread rise when it bakes. In the same way it only takes a little evil within the human heart to make it swell up with pride and boasting, and to lose sight of all humility while losing touch with Christ. Paul then finishes the chapter beginning in verse 9.
“I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people at all, meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? ‘Expel the wicked man from among you’.” (I Corinthians 5; verses 9-13)
Paul the apostle wasn’t finished chewing this congregation out just yet. As you just read, he takes it up a notch instead. It is not enough, Paul wrote, to keep sexual immorality and all that goes with it out of the church. All the brothers and sisters in Christ have a Christian duty and a moral obligation to stay away from and avoid sexually immoral people and other persons of ill repute. It would be hypocritical for those professing to believe to behave in any other way. Paul warns them not to even sit down and eat with such people. Instead he quotes Deuteronomy 17, verse 7, from the Old Testament, “Expel the wicked man from among you.”
We all need to follow Paul’s example as he followed Christ and steer clear of all things immoral, malevolent, crooked, unseemly, perverse and off-color. If we fail to keep these kinds of things out of our lives during our walk with Christ, we compromise that walk with Him and compromise our faith as believers. And if we are using our faith to be a witness to non-believers while evil exists within our own lives, then our preaching and witnessing to them loses much of its credibility and we become poor witnesses for Jesus.
Let us therefore examine ourselves, our hearts, minds and motives, and see if the way in which we lead our lives is compatible with Christ. This means we are to be mindful of everything we say and watchful of everything we do, knowing full well as we go about doing these things that we are emulating Christ. If the sum of our lives comes up to anything less when we examine ourselves, then it is up to us to make the necessary corrections. The day to start doing this is today, and the time to start is right now.
You know, Jesus is coming back soon, and I’m not writing that just to seem more spiritual or because I’m a conspiracy theorist. I’m writing this to say that since He is returning soon for His Bride, his Church, how then should we be conducting ourselves? If we find that we are talking Christ but walking in our own way instead of His way, then we have our work cut out for us. Let’s be sure and not be like some of the early Corinthians by claiming to be good while tolerating evil. Instead let’s all constantly practice becoming examples of Christ and so let our lights shine in this dark world in which we live. By doing so we can be beacons in this dark world for those who are seeking the right path. We can all be good examples and witnesses for Jesus, starting today.
When It Comes to Studying the Scriptures, Never Go Beyond What Is Written
(1st Corinthians chapter 4)
In today’s Bible study we will explore 1st Corinthians chapter 4. This chapter is actually a continuation of the apostle Paul’s train of thought from last week’s study. Paul was taking the early church at Corinth to task over multiple divisions from within. He made the point that it doesn’t matter which individual church the early Christians belonged to because they were worshiping the same God, having been saved by the blood of that same Lamb of God. Paul then goes on to state that these things are not up to him anyway. After all, it is God who is in charge of all things, with Paul regarding himself as a mere servant rather than an overseer. So let’s begin today’s study now, commencing at verse 1.
“So then, men ought to regard us as servants in Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore, judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” (1st Corinthians 4, verses 1-5)
The first thing we notice here is that Paul is setting a very high standard, not only for himself but for all who are called to preach and teach the Gospel. Being trustworthy is absolutely essential to being a servant of Christ because those persons are being “entrusted with the secret things of God”. Notice that this act of being entrusted can only take place after one has placed his or her complete faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. So if we want to serve Jesus, and if we want to be “entrusted” by God, we must learn to place our faith in Him first, and only in Him. And then, we are charged with the responsibility of being trustworthy individuals
The truth of the matter is that God loved us first, and he did so by sending his only Son to suffer and die for our sins, only to have him rise up from death three days after he was buried. Paul wrote elsewhere to the early church at Rome that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. If God is willing to extend His forgiveness to all of humankind, then it is our responsibility as Christians to accept it unconditionally, and so to trust Him unconditionally. Otherwise it is tantamount to disrespect of God.
The apostle Paul then put this into further perspective when he wrote that he couldn’t care less about being judged by other people. He does not judge himself either, but instead leaves it all up to God through the blood of Christ. But Paul then brings up a very important point here when he writes, “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent”. It’s easy to be going through life at whatever speed we feel like while feeling pretty good about ourselves. We do not steal, murder, lie, worship false gods, we don’t date married people, and we do our level best to not break any other of the Ten Commandments. We try to love God all we can and to love our neighbor as ourselves, just like Jesus said.
But just because we can’t find any fault with ourselves, and just because we commit our lives to Christ, striving to live as free from sin as we can, doesn’t means we will never sin again. For example, it is possible to sin and not know it, or to not realize our mistake until after the fact. All we can do at that point is to confess our sin privately to God and to prayerfully ask Him for forgiveness with humility and a contrite heart. When one is finished with God, the very next step is to go to the person they have sinned against and, as far as it is possible, be reconciled to them. If they forgive you, you both have something to rejoice about. If they will not forgive you, forgive them anyway, expecting nothing in return. Then and only then will God give you the full credit you deserve for asking forgiveness. Paul then continues this train of thought in verse 6.
“Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘do not go beyond what is written’. Then you will not take pride in one man over against another. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you did not?” (1st Corinthians 4, verses 6-7)
In verse 6, Apollos was a reputable leader in the early church at Corinth. Although I don’t know the exact position Apollos held, he worked with Paul off and on throughout his ministry. But Paul is warning the church, “Do not go beyond what is written”. There is a similar warning at the very end of the Bible in the book of Revelation that says, “I warn who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book” (Rev. 22: verse 18). This is a crystal-clear warning to stay within the Bible during our walk and our service with the Lord and to not add any additional meaning or superfluous teaching to it. This especially applies to those who preach and teach the Gospel since they all, including myself, will be held to a higher standard when being judged by God after our lives end. Speaking of ending I will now, with God’s help, continue today’s lesson beginning at verse 8.
“Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings – and that without us! How I wish you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle for the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world. I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you as my dear children. Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the Gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me.” (1st Corinthians 4: verses 8-16)
Paul finishes this chapter by reminding the early Church of what it means to be a follower of Christ. To have Christ is to have everything one could ever need. Paul then repeated the theme that is present in all his teachings, which is to warn the church about being too preoccupied with material things and financial gain. When we have Christ as our Savior, we are rich. We have everything we need to get us through this life and into the next, and the next life is the one that really counts, because it will last for eternity.
To be a follower of Jesus, then, can mean blessing those who curse us, to endure persecution and to risk being ostracized for His name, and to answer kindly to those who slander us. This is not to shame us but to warn us because we each have a stake in God’s kingdom, and Paul is exhorting us all to do all we can to abide in His kingdom and grow in our faith. As Paul wrote, we have ten thousand guardians in Christ in the Spiritual realm, and he was that church’s spiritual father. In this ministry I assume the role of spiritual father to all my friends, followers and groups that receive these messages. And we can do this together by imitating Paul as he imitated Christ, who is the head of the Church. We will all be better off when we start doing this individually and collectively as a church as we jointly build up the body of Christ. Let’s all start doing this today while we give all the glory and praise to Jesus.