Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jude - The Twisted Fate of Twisted Faith - Part 1

Like Wolves in Sheep's Clothing

In November of 1978, in a jungle clearing of Guyana, more than nine hundred people committed suicide by drinking cyanide-treated punch. Those too young to act on their own, were given the punch by their parents. The Jonestown massacre sends a shudder through all Christians—and well it should—because Jim Jones, who prescribed this "White Night" of death, at one time claimed to be among us.

Jim Jones grew up in the forties in a rural town in southern Indiana. He practiced and preached among Methodists (his family's church) and Pentecostals. In 1964 he was ordained in the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, a denomination of over 1.3 million members. On the civil front, in 1961 Jim Jones was named director of the Indianapolis Civil Right's Commission. As late as 1977, he received the Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award.

Yet in spite of these credentials, Jim Jones left numerous clues throughout his life that his teachings and way of life were not quite Christian. Eventually, he led nine hundred of his followers to an apostate faith and eventual suicide. It's enough to cause Christians to take a hard critical look at the life and faith of their leaders—and themselves. The book of Jude shows us how.

Authorship and Date. The Epistle of Jude, the last of the "general" epistles or letters, is declared to have been written by "Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James." The soundest historical and internal evidence supports the truthfulness of the text.

Matthew 13:55 (NKJV) 5 Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?

Mark 6:3 (NKJV) 3 Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?" And they were offended at Him.

Both these references name Judas (Jude) and James s brothers of Jesus.

That James is identified so simply in this epistle is evidence that he was Jesus' brother. Apart from being the author of this letter, Jude had no special reputation or authority in the early church. Though the date of composition cannot be fixed with certainty, it would not be inaccurate to assign it to the latter half of the first century.

Purpose. Apparently a general letter to Christians of the first century, the Epistle of Jude warns against the incipient heresy of Gnosticism, a philosophy that distinguished sharply between matter, as being inherently evil, and spirit, as being good. Such a system of thought had serious implications for Christian life and doctrine. It challenged the Biblical doctrine of creation. And it gave rise to the idea that Christ's body was not real, for if Christ had had a real body, it would have been evil. Gnosticism prompted two quite different results: on the one hand the belief that one is not under obligation to obey the moral law, and on the other a form of abuse of the body to promote spirituality. Both are opposed by Scripture. It may be inferred from the epistle that the readers were guilty, in varying degrees, of rebellion against authority, irreverence, presumptuous speech, and possibly a bunch of partiers. Jude rebukes false teachers who deceive unstable believers and corrupt the Lord's table. -
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.

The letter falls easily into four sections:

  1. Identification, salutation, and purpose. 1-4.
  2. Admonitions against false teachers. 5-16.
  3. Exhortations to Christians. 17-23. 
  4. Benediction. 24, 25.
How do you think that people get tricked into perverted versions of the Christian faith?

Jude 1:1-2 (NKJV) 1 Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ: 2 Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

What do Jude 1-2 tell you about the writer of this letter and the people he wrote to?

Jude identifies himself as the brother of James who was the brother of Jesus which would have made Jude a brother of Jesus. He also identifies himself as a bondservant of Christ. He uses the same term that Paul uses, bond-servant.

In Philippians 1:1 Paul refers to himself as a bond-servant of Jesus Christ. The transliteration of the Greek word for “bond-servant” is doulos. A doulos was a man who chose to serve his master for a lifetime.

Philippians 1:1 (NKJV) Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

The picture of a bond-servant is in the book of Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 15:12-18 (NKJV) 12 "If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. 13 And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; 14 you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what the LORD has blessed you with, you shall give to him. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this thing today.16 And if it happens that he says to you, 'I will not go away from you,' because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you, 17 then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear to the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also to your female servant you shall do likewise.18 It shall not seem hard to you when you send him away free from you; for he has been worth a double hired servant in serving you six years. Then the LORD your God will bless you in all that you do.

There were three reasons why one might choose to remain a servant to his master forever.
  1. He loves you and 
  2. He loves your household, 
  3. You take good care of him

The people that he was writing to were believers. We don't know where they were but we do know that he was writing to believers.

Jude 1:3-4 (NKJV) 3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

What can you know of the circumstances of the people receiving this letter and of Jude's purpose in writing to them (Jude 3-4)?

The occasion for the letter was the infiltration of ungodly people into the fellowship of the church.

Jude loves his ‘dear friends’, because he and they all share in God’s salvation and their common faith. Christians have the responsibility to keep this faith without change don’t take things away don’t add things. So we have to defend or contend for the gospel. The Greek word for ‘defend’ means that it will be a great struggle. Christians must be ready at any time to meet a sudden test of their trust in Jesus.

He wanted them to remember that their common salvation was final and compete;

Hebrews 6:4 (NKJV)  For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,

Hebrews 10:2 (NKJV)  For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.

1 Peter 3:18 (NKJV)  For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,

These people that Jude was writing about, and which we must look out for, are open to four charges:

  1. They entered secretly (under false pretenses, wolves in sheep's clothing, con-men and women); 
  2. They were previously appointed to condemnation; 
  3. They are ungodly, i.e., irreverent; 
  4. They deny Christ as Master and Lord. 
To deny is positively to disbelieve what Christ testified about himself.The Gnostic heresies that Jude was confronting and that we confront sometimes today  denied that Jesus had a real human body. They said that he could not be hungry or need to drink. He did not feel pain. They said that Jesus was not one with God. They claimed to have special knowledge of the way to God. They were superior to ordinary Christians, who could not have this same knowledge. (Gnostics believed that matter, whether it be the physical universe or the human body, is evil. God is is far removed from his creation. He did not create the material universe because it was instead created by an evil or lesser god.   He is too perfect and pure to have much to do with the evilness of the material universe.

The Gnostics saw all things in terms of two contrasting principles. On the one side was good, which was associated with the spiritual and the immaterial. On the other side was evil, which was associated with the material universe. 

God Himself was perfectly good, spiritual, and totally disassociated from the material. He would not pollute Himself by any such contact! The material universe was an accident or, at worst, the error of the last of a long series of supernatural beings—intermediaries—ranked between God and matter. To God, the pure Spirit, the world was alien and despicable. God become man? God take on human flesh? Never! Christ must be a lower intermediary or an "appearance"—a shadow of God cast on a screen. But God in human flesh? to the Gnostics that was Unthinkable!)

What harm can these people do to the church and to believers?

Remember from our study of Timothy; The danger of false teaching is that it ruins the people who listen; it shames the people who teach; it increases ungodliness; and it spreads like gangrene. It leads many Christians astray and causes them to become disillusioned with the church. False teaching causes confusion, disagreements, and disorder rather than love. 

Paul described this false teaching as another gospel not from God but from Satan.

2 Corinthians 11:4 (HCSB) For if a person comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you had not received, or a different gospel, which you had not accepted, you put up with it splendidly!

Galatians 1:11-12 (HCSB)11 Now I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel preached by me is not based on human thought.12 For I did not receive it from a human source and I was not taught it, but it came by a revelation from Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:12-15 (HCSB)12 But I will continue to do what I am doing, in order to deny the opportunity of those who want an opportunity to be regarded just as our equals in what they boast about.13 For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.14 And no wonder! For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.15 So it is no great thing if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their destiny will be according to their works.

Galatians 1:6-9 (HCSB)6 I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from Him who called you by the grace of Christ ⌊and are turning⌋ to a different gospel—7 not that there is another ⌊gospel⌋, but there are some who are troubling you and want to change the good news about the Messiah.8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than what we have preached to you, a curse be on him!9 As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone preaches to you a gospel contrary to what you received, a curse be on him!

Why would it be hard to resist their influence?
Snake Oil Salesman

  1. It has a kernel of truth - We walk by faith and not by sight - Give and it will be given unto un pressed down shaken together and running over - whatever we ask in prayer we can have - I can do all things through Christ.  All those things are true in the context that they were written. Taken of context however is when we get in trouble. 
  2. It has a strong appeal - Those things that I mentioned don't require any change in the person. Just do it and you'll have what I have. That's a big draw to many churches with huge congregations and lots of flash but not much substance.
  3. It has the appearance of sanctity:
Jude 1:5-11 (NKJV) 5 But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; 7 as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. 8 Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. 9 Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" 10 But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. 11 Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.

Note references to characters of Jewish history and literature. What appears to be Jude's purpose in pointing out these characters and events?
Jude's argument is that a man's profession of faith does not establish him as righteous before God. He lists several examples

Verse 5 The possibility of lapsing is illustrated by the example of disbelieving Israelites who were saved out of Egypt but subsequently destroyed.

Verse 6 The fall of the rebellious angels, who erred from their calling by exalting themselves. Jude's language here may reflect the influence of the book of Enoch, which contains an elaborated description of the disobedient angels.

Verse 7 Lastly, Jude cites the history of Sodom and Gomorrah to enforce his moral. Throughout Scripture these cities are symbolic of divine judgment executed by fire. So their fate is a foretaste of the fate of professing believers who do not persevere in righteousness.

Verse 8 The false teachers then and those now are irreverent and reject authority. Jude is talking about the fact that they reject the authority of the leadership of the church. His example of this rejection is in verse 9.

 Jude amplifies his plea for reverence by citing the apocryphal story of Michael and the devil, taken from the Assumption of Moses. The Assumption of Moses and the book of Enoch are not included in the canon of the bible consequently they are not considered to be inspired however that doesn't' mean that there is not truth in them and certainly they can be a source of history.  The point is that Jude said that Michael showed restraint even in his relations with the devil, whereas the false teachers exhibit no reverence for any authority.

Verse 10 says that these false teachers, in addition to resisting authority don't even have the insight to recognize spiritual things in fact they deny that they exist. That they only consider the natural only what they can see and touch and dependence on knowledge gained from only natural senses leads to sure destruction.

1 Corinthians 2:14 (NLT) 14  But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.

Verse 11 gives some historical examples of what can and will happen to these folk:

Cain is typical of unrighteousness,

Genesis 4:6-8 (NKJV) 6 So the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it." 8 Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

Balaam of the spirit of deceit and covetousness.  Read the story on Numbers 22-24.

You know the story of how he accepted money to curse the nation of Israel but ended up blessing them.

Korah (or Core) of the rebellion of malcontents against duly constituted authority.  Read the story in Numbers 16

Korah attempted a coup d'etat against Moses and Aaron and ended up causing the death of all the co-conspirators and after that another 14,700 because of them following somebody rebelling against men who were operating under the authority of Jehovah.

These kinds of sin undermine the spiritual health of the whole church and destroy those who practice them.

Jude 1:12-13 (NKJV) 12 These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; 13 raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.

Jude used five metaphors in Jude 12-13. ( spots/rocks, clouds, trees, waves, stars) How does each illustrate the danger of teachers who have perverted the gospel?

1. Spots the Greek word is spilas which is a ledge or reef of rock in the sea

Rocks are dangerous. They can sink ships. These men’s selfish behaviour was a great danger to the love-meals that the Christians shared to support each other. These men thought only of themselves. They felt no responsibility in love for other people.

2. Clouds without water - that promise rain, but produce none, are useless (of no value). These men do nothing to help other Christians to grow in their trust of Jesus.

3. Trees without fruit - Trees that produce no fruit, even in autumn, are as good as dead. The farmer burns them (Matthew 7:19). These men are without roots, without true life in Jesus Christ. So, these men are ‘twice dead’.

Matthew 7:19 (NKJV) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

4. Raging waves - the sea. It could be wild and dangerous. The wicked are like the sea that never rests. Its waves never stop rolling, carrying dirt and mud (Isaiah 57:20). In a similar manner, these men never stop their wicked actions. They are like the dirty rubbish that the waves leave on the shore after a storm.

Isaiah 57:20 (NKJV)  But the wicked are like the troubled sea, When it cannot rest, Whose waters cast up mire and dirt.

5. Wandering stars - Jude may again be referring to the book of Enoch.. Enoch identifies these wandering stars as fallen (bad) angels. The bad angels did not obey God and they lost their home in heaven. God has prepared a prison for them in deepest darkness. The false teachers who do not obey God will suffer the same fate.

Jude 1:14-15 (NKJV) 14 Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, 15 to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him."

We need to talk about these verses because they are apparently quotes from a writing that is not in the canon. The book of Enoch.

A problem arises in these verses because of the quotations from Enoch. Jude says: Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied (rsv). The difficulty is that Jude apparently ascribes this prophecy to the Enoch of Gen 5.

Genesis 5:6 (NKJV) 6 Seth lived one hundred and five years, and begot Enosh.

Enoch is the seventh name in the first family line;

1 Chronicles 1:1-4 (NKJV) 1 Adam, Seth, Enosh, 2 Cainan, Mahalalel, Jared, 3 Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, 4 Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Since there is no Biblical account of any prophecy of Enoch, some claim that Jude either regarded apocryphal Enoch as canonical, or else was guilty of obvious error. However, a solution to the problem rests in the fact that this alleged prophecy is a citation not from a single passage in Enoch, but from several, and it is probable that Jude also quoted the line "the seventh generation from Adam" from Enoch 60:8. Thus Jude did not intend to refer to the Enoch of Gen 5, but referred entirely, even in the introductory line, to words found in the apocryphal Enoch. While the prophecy has no canonical status, its predictions are paralleled and supported by numerous Biblical passages including Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus' description of the final judgement.

Part 2 next week.

Bible Study Audio

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Philemon - Forgiveness and Slavery - Mending Fractured Relationships

The Church of Divine Guidance (CDG) Sunday morning adult bible study of the book of Philemon.   These posts are my notes for each session. Please study with us. You can participate by asking your questions or making comments below. We welcome your thoughts, questions, comments, and prayers.


This letter to a man, who as we will see, Paul considered a friend is the shortest of all Paul's writings and deals with the practice of slavery and forgiveness.

It was written, along with Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians, during his first Roman imprisonment between A.D. 60 and A.D. 62. Philemon had probably been saved under Paul’s ministry several years earlier, probably in Ephesus. Philemon was wealthy and was a slave owner in Colosse. One of his slaves, a man named Onesimus, had run off and ended up in Rome and through circumstances not recorded in scripture, he met Paul and became a Christian. Although Paul cared deeply for Onesimus, he knew that his running away from Philemon was a violation of Roman law and had to be rectified, so he sent Onesimus back to Colossae with Tychicus. Tychicus was returning to Colosse with Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

Colossians 4:7-9 (NLT)7 Tychicus will give you a full report about how I am getting along. He is a beloved brother and faithful helper who serves with me in the Lord’s work.8 I have sent him to you for this very purpose—to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you.9 I am also sending Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, one of your own people. He and Tychicus will tell you everything that’s happening here.

Along with the Colossian letter, Paul sent a personal letter to Philemon asking him to forgive Onesimus and welcome him back to his household as a brother in Christ. As we talked about before when we studied Timothy and Titus that Paul encouraged slaves to obey their masters, and work hard for them.

1 Timothy 6:1 (NKJV) Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.

Titus 2:9-10 (NKJV) Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back,10 not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.

Paul does not discuss the ultimate question of the right and wrong of slavery, but stresses the obligations resting on the slave, and the opportunity even in that situation to bring glory to God and show the freedom found in Christ.

Paul gives instructions to masters on how to treat their slaves in

Ephesians 6:5-9 (NKJV)5 Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ;6 not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,7 with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men,8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.9 And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.

This is important!!

The purpose of the Bible is to point the way to salvation, not to reform society. The Bible often approaches issues from the inside out. If a person experiences the love, mercy, and grace of God by receiving His salvation, God will reform his soul, changing the way he thinks and acts. A person who has experienced God’s gift of salvation and freedom from the slavery of sin, as God reforms his soul, will realize that enslaving another human being is wrong. He will see, with Paul, that a slave can be “a brother in the Lord”

Philemon 1:16 (NKJV)16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave--a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

A person who has truly experienced God’s grace will in turn be gracious towards others. That would be the Bible’s prescription for ending slavery.

It is interesting to note that the New Testament does not condemn slavery, nor does it record the church going through political channels to outlaw the practice of slavery. Had these avenues been pursued, the message of the gospel would have been confused with social reform. Instead, first century Christianity undermined the evils of slavery by teaching slaves and masters the gospel, and encouraging them to live a life worthy of the gospel. Where this is done, slavery’s abuses were neutralized.

The Purpose of This Letter

What is significant about this letter is the fact that this is written more like a friend than an apostle. The definition of an apostle is an envoy, ambassador, or messenger commissioned to carry out the instructions of the person, nation or organization that commissioned them. In Paul’s case commissioned by God to carry out the instructions of Christ. In other words he had the authority of Christ behind him.

Philemon 1:1 (NKJV) Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer,

Of the 13 letters Paul wrote to churches or individuals, in 9 of them he called himself an apostle in the opening verse.

Romans 1:1 (NLT) This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News.

1 Corinthians 1:1 (NLT) This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Sosthenes.

Galatians 1:1 (NLT) This letter is from Paul, an apostle. I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead.

Even Timothy and Titus who he called, if you remember from our studies of those letters, he called his sons.

1 Timothy 1:1 (NLT) This letter is from Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, appointed by the command of God our Savior and Christ Jesus, who gives us hope.

Titus 1:1 (NLT) This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives.

Paul was wise enough to know when and how to use this authority.

In this letter (along with Philippians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians), Paul appealed to his readers in ways other than as an apostle.

Philippians 1:1 (NLT) This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus. I am writing to all of God’s holy people in Philippi who belong to Christ Jesus, including the elders and deacons.

1 Thessalonians 1:1 (NLT) This letter is from Paul, Silas, and Timothy. We are writing to the church in Thessalonica, to you who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May God give you grace and peace.

2 Thessalonians 1:1 (NLT) This letter is from Paul, Silas, and Timothy. We are writing to the church in Thessalonica, to you who belong to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Timothy and Titus are similar to Philemon in that they are addressed to an individual but their content suggests that they were intended to be shared with the entire congregation. Philemon really is a personal note written by Paul to one man.

Philemon 1-7 (NLT) This letter is from Paul, a prisoner for preaching the Good News about Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy. I am writing to Philemon, our beloved coworker,2 and to our sister Apphia, and to our fellow soldier Archippus, and to the church that meets in your house.3 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.4 I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon,5 because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people.6 And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.7 Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

Paul expands on his greeting by states that he knows that Philemon is in the faith, and that this is evidenced by his love for the brethren.

Who wrote this letter? (1:1)


To whom was this letter written? (1:1)

Philemon a wealthy believer who was a member of the church that Paul founded in Colosse

What do we know about the church from this brief introduction? (1:2)

The church probably met in Philemon’s home. Some people believe that Apphia was his wife and Archippas his son. Nevertheless the church met in a home and most of the early churches did.

What two godly qualities did Paul desire for his readers? (1:3)

Paul want grace and peace for his readers.

What was always a part of Paul’s prayers? (1:4)

Thanksgiving was always a part of Paul’s prayers especially when he mentioned Philemon.

What had Paul heard about the reader of this letter? (1:5)

He had heard about his faith and his love for his brothers and sisters.

How did he hear about this?

From Epaphras (Ep_af_ras’) who had visited Paul in prison and told Paul about the young church that was at Colossae. We learned that in our study of Colossians last year.

Colossians 4:12 (NLT) Epaphras, a member of your own fellowship and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God.

Colossians 1:7 (NLT) You learned about the Good News from Epaphras, our beloved coworker. He is Christ’s faithful servant, and he is helping us on your behalf.

How did Paul pray for his audience? (1:6)

He prayed that Philemon's ministry become energized by his apprehension and knowledge of Christian love and truth.

What had Philemon done for Paul and the other Christians in the region? (1:7)

Paul thanked God for Philemon because of his love and faith - first towards Jesus and then towards all the saints. The word "saints" in the New Testament describes every true Christian, not just a few exceptional Christians.

This is the foundation for all effective evangelism: the overflow of a life touched and changed by God. God had done every good thing in the life of Philemon. Now, it was a matter of it being acknowledged by both Philemon and those he shared the faith with. When these good things were understood, others would come to Jesus. The reason why some sharing of the faith in not effective is because we don't know or can't communicate every good thing God has done for us.

It is possible that Paul means the sharing of material things, prompted by faith. 

The apostle speaks here of the works of charity in which Philemon abounded toward poor Christians." (Clarke)

Paul remembered how wonderfully Philemon had met the needs of other Christians. He effectively refreshed the hearts of others.

Philemon 1:8-11 (NLT)8 That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do.9 But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.10 I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the
faith while here in prison.11 Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us.

Since Philemon is in the faith and he understands that he is to have love for the brethren, which now includes Onesimus, Paul was in a good position to command and appeal to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus.

What type of attitude did Paul project toward Philemon? (1:8-9)

Paul didn’t exercise authority like a superior to his subjects. He didn’t manipulate either. Yes he is bold to command what is fitting but if he would do this it wouldn’t be for “love’s sake” and it is LOVE that matters. What he is doing, for love’s sake, because it is love that matters, is to appeal – not to command, dictate or manipulate.

He was bold in asking a favor that he could demand that Philemon grant. He was making a loving appeal. A loving appeal is often better than an authoritative command. Paul wasn't hesitant to command when the situation demanded it but in wisdom he knew when to use the loving appeal.

One instance where he used his authority as an apostle was in;

1 Corinthians 5:1-5 (NLT)1 I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother.2 You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship.3 Even though I am not with you in person, I am with you in the Spirit. And as though I were there, I have already passed judgment on this man4 in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus.5 Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns.

This was the instance in Corinth where one of the members of the church was having an immoral affair with his stepmother. This was not only forbidden by the law of Moses, because it was fornication and insest,

Leviticus 18:8 (NLT) “Do not have sexual relations with any of your father’s wives, for this would violate your father.

it was also forbidden by Roman law.

In his position as an apostle Paul ordered or commanded the Corinthians to put this man out of the fellowship.

In the case of Philemon, however, although he had authority in the church to require members of the body of Christ to do things he is writing to Philemon as a friend. In fact he even says in the letter that he can order Philemon but he won’t he appealing to him as a friend.

How did Paul describe himself? (1:9)

He described himself as an old man and a prisoner. He wasn’t looking for pity but just describing his current situation.

Who is the subject of Paul’s appeal to Philemon? (1:10)

Philemon’s slave Onesimus whom Paul describes as now his son in the gospel.

It was logical that Onesimus escaped to Rome, the biggest city of the Roman Empire. Lightfoot says, "Rome was the natural cesspool for these offscourings of humanity." But at his providential meeting of Paul in Rome, Onesimus met the man who had led his master Philemon to Jesus (Philemon 19).

When Paul spoke of Onesimus being unprofitable and profitable, he made a play on a word. By the way the name Onesimus means profitable, useful. Now that he was a Christian, Onesimus could live up to his name

Philemon 1:12-14 (NLT)12 I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.13 I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf.14 But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced.

Paul expresses in his letter to Philemon his love and appreciation for Onesimus. Paul states that he wishes to keep Onesimus for himself but he is compelled to do the right thing. Such statements by Paul elevated Onesimus to the position of being useful to the apostle Paul himself.

What was Paul’s motivation for sending Onesimus back to Philemon when Paul could have used him as a helper? (1:12-14)

Paul wanted to correct a wrong. Onesimus was a slave and had escaped and although slavery is a cruel institution Onesimus had broken the Roman law.

As an apostle, Paul knew that he carried great authority and importance in the church so he had to do what was right at that time and the right thing was to send Onesimus back.

Onesimus had done something wrong in that he escaped from his master. It was time to set that right, so Paul was willing to send him back. Yet Paul obviously wanted Philemon to deal gently with Onesimus. Under Roman law the slave owner had complete and total control over his slave. It wasn't unusual for slaves to be crucified for lesser offenses than escaping.

Remember what I said at the beginning; the New Testament does not condemn slavery, nor does it record the church going through political channels to outlaw the practice of slavery. Had these avenues been pursued, the message of the gospel would have been confused with social reform. Instead, first century Christianity undermined the evils of slavery by teaching slaves and masters the gospel, and encouraging them to live a life worthy of the gospel. Where this is done, slavery’s abuses were neutralized.

Philemon 1:15-16 (NLT)15 It seems Onesimus ran away for a little while so that you could have him back forever.16 He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.

Paul continues to elevate Onesimus by stating that his return did not constitute a mere slave returning to his master, but a Christian brother reuniting with a fellow Christian (Philemon).

Clearly, Paul wanted Onesimus to stay

  1. First, if Onesimus stayed he could serve Paul on your behalf. "Philemon, if you leave Onesimus with me, it's like you serving me, because Onesimus is your rightful servant."
  2. Secondly, if Onesimus stayed he helped a man in chains. "Philemon, I know Onesimus might be of some use to you. Yet I am in chains, and need all the help I can get."
  3. Thirdly, if Onesimus stayed he helped man in chains for the gospel. "Philemon, please don't forget why I am here in chain
In some ways the escape of Onesimus was nothing but trouble. It deprived Philemon of a worker and an asset. It made Onesimus a criminal, possibly subject to the death penalty. Yet in it all, Paul could see a purpose of God and he wanted Philemon to see the purpose also.

The statement in verse 15 could mean, that Paul is saying, it seems to me that God is working in unusual ways here. This way you can receive him back forever, not as a slave but as a brother.

This breaking of the distinction between master and slave was an absolutely revolutionary development. It did far more to change society than the passing of a law prohibiting slavery.

"What the letter to Philemon does is to bring the institution into an atmosphere where it could only wilt and die. Where master and slave were united in affection as brothers in Christ, formal emancipation would be but a matter of expediency, the legal confirmation of their new relationship." (Bruce)

Philemon 1:17 (NLT) So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.

Paul elevates Onesimus even more by telling Philemon to accept Onesimus as a partner in the gospel ministry even as he (Philemon) accepts the apostle (Paul) himself as a partner.

How did Paul want Philemon to greet Onesimus when he returned? (1:17)

Like he would greet Paul. Like a brother in Christ.

Philemon 1:18-20 (NLT)18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me.19 I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T
MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!20 Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.

These verses contain the main theme of the epistle. Paul asks Philemon to forgive Onesimus, and if he owes anything the apostle (Paul) would pay the debt. In the next sentence, Paul reminds Philemon about the spiritual debt of sin that was forgiven him, because Paul himself brought the gospel to him. Philemon’s debt of sin is infinitely greater than any amount of money Onesimus took.

To what level was Paul willing to be involved in the reconciliation between Philemon and Onesimus? (1:18-19)
He would pay any debt that Onesimus owed.

Of what debt did Paul remind Philemon? (1:19)

He reminded Philemon that it was him that brought the message of the gospel to him which resulted in salvation and the forgiveness of Philemon’s sin which is for more valuable than anything that Onesimus could possibly owe.

What response from Philemon did Paul anticipate? (1:20-21) Why?

He anticipated that he would do him this favor because it would encourage him. Earlier in the letter, Paul said that Philemon was a man who refreshed the heart of the saints

Philemon 1:7 (NLT) Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

Philemon 1:21-22 (NLT)21 I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more!22 One more thing—please prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that God will answer your prayers and let me return to you soon.

Paul assures Philemon that he has confidence in him that he will carry out the apostle’s wishes. Paul also states that his instructions concerning Philemon are the minimum requirements. In verse 21 Paul says, I know that you will do even more than I say.

This showed the close relationship between Paul and Philemon. Paul knew that hospitality always waited for him at Philemon's home.

For what future event did Paul hope? (1:22)

Philemon 1:23-25 (NLT)23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings.24 So do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my co-workers.25 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Each of these names is also mentioned in the conclusion of the letter to the Colossians. This confirms that the two letters went to the same place. Philemon lived in Colosse.

Colossians 4:10-18 (NLT)10 Aristarchus, who is in prison with me, sends you his greetings, and so does Mark, Barnabas’s cousin. As you were instructed before, make Mark welcome if he comes your way.11 Jesus (the one we call Justus) also sends his greetings. These are the only Jewish believers among my co-workers; they are working with me here for the Kingdom of God. And what a comfort they have been!12 Epaphras, a member of your own fellowship and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God.13 I can assure you that he prays hard for you and also for the believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis.14 Luke, the beloved doctor, sends his greetings, and so does Demas.15 Please give my greetings to our brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church that meets in her house.16 After you have read this letter, pass it on to the church at Laodicea so they can read it, too. And you should read the letter I wrote to them.17 And say to Archippus, “Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.”18 HERE IS MY GREETING IN MY OWN HANDWRITING—PAUL. Remember my chains. May God’s grace be with you.

Listing Mark’s name here would serve to remind Philemon that Paul himself had worked through the issues of forgiveness, and that the instructions he was passing on to his friend were ones the apostle himself had already implemented in his relationship with John Mark.”

We see some enduring principles from Paul's letter to Philemon.

  • Paul never called for an overthrow of the system of slavery, yet the principles in the letter to Philemon destroy slavery. The greatest social changes come when people are changed, one heart at a time. In our society, racism and our low regard for the unborn cannot be eliminated by laws; a change of heart must occur.
  • Onesimus was obligated to return to his master. When we do something wrong, we must do our best to set it right. Being made a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) does not end our responsibility to make restitution; it increases our obligation, even when restitution is difficult.
  • Onesimus was morally responsible for his wrongs. The letter to Philemon demonstrates that we are not primarily directed by economics. Whether rich or poor, we are to be directed by the Spirit of God, not our economic status.
No part of the New Testament more clearly demonstrates integrated Christian thinking and living. It offers a blend, utterly characteristic of Paul, of love, wisdom, humour, gentleness, tact, and above all Christian and human maturity." (Wright)

Why is the letter to Philemon in our Bibles?

An early church leader called Ignatius wrote many letters. In one letter, he refers to someone called Onesimus. He describes this Onesimus as the Bishop of Ephesus. (A bishop is the leader of the church or churches in a certain area.) Ignatius’s letter is not in the New Testament. But many scholars believe that this Onesimus and the Onesimus in Paul’s letter are the same person. If this is true, then Onesimus’s life changed completely because of Paul’s letter. Onesimus was a slave. He had run away. A judge should have punished him. Instead, Onesimus received mercy. (Mercy means that someone is kind when he or she does not have to be kind.) Onesimus developed to become a church leader.This is not certain fact. But many *scholars have this opinion about this letter. Maybe that is why such a private letter is in the Bible.There is another opinion. Some scholars think that Onesimus collected Paul’s letters together. He decided to include the letter about himself. This is also possible. But there is no evidence that Onesimus did this. We cannot prove it.

In A.D. 110, the bishop of Ephesus was named Onesimus, and it could have been this same man. If Onesimus was in his late teens or early twenties when Paul wrote this letter, he would then be about 70 years old in A.D. 110 and that was not an unreasonable age for a bishop in those days.

What this letter means for us

Onesimus has done wrong things. In his culture, this deserved serious punishment. Paul reminds Philemon that we all have done wrong things. But God has saved us from punishment. He has accepted us into his family. God has accepted Philemon. Therefore Paul says that Philemon must accept Onesimus. Philemon must free Onesimus. Then Onesimus can serve God. And Onesimus can be ‘useful’ to God.

We have all sinned. We have not done all that God wants us to do. God wants us to turn away from our sins. He wants us to serve him, so that his plans will happen for us.

We should forgive other people when they repent. We must encourage them to serve God in their lives. This may not be easy for us. There may be a cost to us because of it. This is not a cost in money, but it is a cost in other things. However, God paid the price for us. He did not pay the price in money. But he paid it when he sent Jesus. He sent Jesus to die for us. So, when we forgive other people, we should accept the cost to us. God loves us. By his grace, he has forgiven us. So, because of this, we should forgive other people.

Bible Study Audio


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Spiritual Warfare - Fight Like a Child of God - Session 4

The Church of Divine Guidance (CDG) Sunday morning adult bible study group is doing a study of Spiritual Warfare using Samson and his flaws and what not to do in this war.     These posts are my notes for each session. Please study with us. You can participate by asking your questions or making comments below. We welcome your thoughts, questions, comments, and prayers.

You are in a fight, this is spiritual warfare. You have an adversary who is smart, cunning, and very sneaky. He is extremely dangerous and out to destroy you. This adversary is your fiercest opponent; his name is Satan. You probably know him as the devil. 

The mistakes that Samson made become the weapons this enemy uses on you in this spiritual war. We’ve talked about six of them, in the first three sessions of the study.

  1. Chasing the wrong things
  2. Rules are made to be broken
  3. I have everything under control
  4. Emotions (including anger)
  5. Arrogance
  6. Stress
All of these things start in the mind.

Let’s say that you have been beat up by some or all of these weapons and you are still losing because you are trying to fight in your power. Things keep getting worse and worse and you feel that since you are losing battle after battle you are going to lose the war. You have hit rock bottom.

Rock Bottom

That may be the best thing that can happen to you in this spiritual war. It doesn’t happen all at once. It happens one step at a time. You get a victory in a skirmish or two and you become arrogant. We talked about that last week when Samson killed 1000 men with the jawbone of a donkey. You take credit for the victory, like Samson, instead of giving it to the One who enabled you to get it.

Judges 15:16-17 (NLT)16 Then Samson said, “With the jawbone of a donkey, I’ve piled them in heaps! With the jawbone of a donkey, I’ve killed a thousand men!

You start to wander away from God, you stop trusting Him to guide your every step; you stop acknowledging Him as the One who sustains you and gives you strength.

You start to tumble--this time to the very bottom. This is the exact place where the enemy wants to see the very bottom…it’s called rock bottom.

It happened to Samson. I don’t want it to happen to you.

He tumbled one step at a time. It seems as though every human experiences the same three steps that Samson made in his tumble.

Step 1: Rationalizing our sins. Some people justify their sin based on how "clean" the rest of their life is: This is my ONE vice. Other men justify it as something private: It's MY business, not yours. Some write their own rulebook: I can look at the menu, as long as I don't order anything. And some guys blame others: If she would do THAT, then I wouldn't have to do THIS.

Step 2: Assuming our disobedience won't cost us. Just like Samson, we keep thinking, I'll just do the same thing I did last time. I'll shake myself free. But our sins always overtake us eventually and overpower us. Your sin will find you out. Today you'll see what that looked like for Samson.

Step 3: Taunting our enemy. Samson enters into enemy territory again to visit a prostitute. When he leaves the city, he takes the city gate with him. Why? Just to taunt them.

Samson was a warrior strong enough to kill a thousand men.

Judges 15:14-15 (NLT)14 As Samson arrived at Lehi, the Philistines came shouting in triumph. But the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon Samson, and he snapped the ropes on his arms as if they were burnt strands of flax, and they fell from his wrists.15 Then he found the jawbone of a recently killed donkey. He picked it up and killed 1,000 Philistines with it.

He was strong enough to rip a lion apart with his bare hands.

Judges 14:5-6 (NLT)5 As Samson and his parents were going down to Timnah, a young lion suddenly attacked Samson near the vineyards of Timnah.6 At that moment the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon him, and he ripped the lion’s jaws apart with his bare hands. He did it as easily as if it were a young goat. But he didn’t tell his father or mother about it.

He was even strong enough to pull the gates of a city and carry them off.

Judges 16:1-3 (NLT)1 One day Samson went to the Philistine town of Gaza and spent the night with a prostitute.2 Word soon spread that Samson was there, so the men of Gaza gathered together and waited all night at the town gates. They kept quiet during the night, saying to themselves, “When the light of morning comes, we will kill him.”3 But Samson stayed in bed only until midnight. Then he got up, took hold of the doors of the town gate, including the two posts, and lifted them up, bar and all. He put them on his shoulders and carried them all the way to the top of the hill across from Hebron.

He was able to lift the gates of the city, with their posts and the bar which fastened them, and carry them forty miles, to the vicinity of Hebron. - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.

But in the end, he wasn't strong enough to lead the people he should have been leading.

Remember what the angel told Samson’s mother?

Judges 13:5 (NLT) You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.”

Here is how Samson ended up;

Judges 16:4-5, 17-21 (NLT)4 Some time later Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived in the valley of Sorek.5 The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “Entice Samson to tell you what makes him so strong and how he can be overpowered and tied up securely. Then each of us will give you 1,100 pieces of silver.” 17 Finally, Samson shared his secret with her. “My hair has never been cut,” he confessed, “for I was dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as anyone else.”18 Delilah realized he had finally told her the truth, so she sent for the Philistine rulers. “Come back one more time,” she said, “for he has finally told me his secret.” So the Philistine rulers returned with the money in their hands.19 Delilah lulled Samson to sleep with his head in her lap, and then she called in a man to shave off the seven locks of his hair. In this way she began to bring him down, and his strength left him.20 Then she cried out, “Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!” When he woke up, he thought, “I will do as before and shake myself free.” But he didn’t realize the LORD had left him.21 So the Philistines captured him and gouged out his eyes. They took him to Gaza, where he was bound with bronze chains and forced to grind grain in the prison.

Bottom of the Barrel
Don’t let the enemy fool you into thinking that you can keep getting away with doing the same things over and over. I know that you have all heard that doing the same things over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity but in the Kingdom of God, it really amounts to;

Proverbs 26:11 (NLT) As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.

Samson’s infatuation with the wrong women and his dependence on his physical strength to get him out of tough spots is an example. He let his emotions and his fleshly impulses dictate his actions. Sooner or later if you keep yielding to those impulses and emotions, they will get the best of you. With Samson it cost him the thing he most relied on...his strength.

It might cost you your marriage and your family, your job, your home, your money. Don’t let that happen to you. Don’t ever decide to settle for things of life, no matter how important they may seem; for being the best at your job, although that’s important; for being the best dressed, although that’s nice; for having the greatest voice in the choir; for being the biggest giver. Seek the better things of life that can only be found in Christ.

Matthew 6:19-21 (NLT)19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

You are in a spiritual war, and being the best employee, or the richest, the biggest thither, having the biggest car or house, although very nice, are winning meaningless battles in this war. Fight for what matters most, your relationship with God who gives you the power to win and have all these things.

Deuteronomy 8:18 (NLT) Remember the LORD your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.

Paul warned us in his letter to the Corinthians about being overconfident.

1 Corinthians 10:1-12 (NLT)1 I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground.2 In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses.3 All of them ate the same spiritual food,4 and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ.5 Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.6 These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did,7 or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.”8 And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day.9 Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites.10 And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death.11 These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.

You May be at Rock Bottom but it does not have to be the End

When you’re at the bottom you start to think; I should have done that differently. Why didn’t I do it this way? I wish, I wish, I wish.

Samson may have had all of these thoughts after he lost his strength, and was captured and blinded by his enemies, the Philistines. He was born and raised to be the deliverer that Israel needed; he let down an entire nation. He let pride and his the desires of his flesh get the best of him time and time again. Those are weapons of Satan, your enemy in this spiritual war. But even with all his failure, God wasn’t finished with Samson and He’s not finished with you.

Judges 16:22-31 (NLT)
22 But before long, his hair began to grow back.23 The Philistine rulers held a great festival, offering sacrifices and praising their god, Dagon. They said, “Our god has given us victory over our enemy Samson!”24 When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying, “Our god has delivered our enemy to us! The one who killed so many of us is now in our power!”25 Half drunk by now, the people demanded, “Bring out Samson so he can amuse us!” So he was brought from the prison to amuse them, and they had him stand between the pillars supporting the roof.26 Samson said to the young servant who was leading him by the hand, “Place my hands against the pillars that hold up the temple. I want to rest against them.”27 Now the temple was completely filled with people. All the Philistine rulers were there, and there were about 3,000 men and women on the roof who were watching as Samson amused them.28 Then Samson prayed to the LORD, “Sovereign LORD, remember me again. O God, please strengthen me just one more time. With one blow let me pay back the Philistines for the loss of my two eyes.”29 Then Samson put his hands on the two center pillars that held up the temple. Pushing against them with both hands,30 he prayed, “Let me die with the Philistines.” And the temple crashed down on the Philistine rulers and all the people. So he killed more people when he died than he had during his entire lifetime.31 Later his brothers and other relatives went down to get his body. They took him back home and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol, where his father, Manoah, was buried. Samson had judged Israel for twenty years.

Just because you're down it doesn't guarantee that it is all over for you. Even in your failures, God can still accomplish His purpose. It's through our weaknesses that He shows himself strong.

Proverbs 24:16 (NLT) The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again. But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.

If you have God’s power in you, there is no way you can be a failure or a loser, no matter how things may seem.

Ephesians 1:19-20 (NLT)19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.

God loves making the weak strong. Tap into His power, it’s in you. Your enemy, Satan, loves making you weak. Stop trying to do it on your own. Start trusting Him. I often pray “Lord let me decrease so that You will increase. In fact let me disappear so that all that is seen is You.”

It’s Time to Go on the Offensive

It’s time to take the battle to your enemy. The armor of God includes an offensive weapon, the Word of God.

Ephesians 6:17 (NLT) Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Whatever battle you are facing right now go on the offensive.

Romans 8:35-37 (NLT)35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

Philippians 4:13 (NLT) For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Remember you’re in a fight. This is spiritual warfare. But you can win.

Revelation 12:11 (NLT) And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.

Yes, You Can Win this War

If you have God’s power in you, there is no way you can be a failure or a loser, no matter how things may seem.

Bible Study Audio

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Spiritual Warfare - Fight Like A Child of God - Session 3

The Church of Divine Guidance (CDG) Sunday morning adult bible study group is doing a study of Spiritual Warfare using Samson and his flaws and what not to do in this war.     These posts are my notes for each session. Please study with us. You can participate by asking your questions or making comments below. We welcome your thoughts, questions, comments, and prayers.

You are in a fight, a spiritual war. And you have an adversary who is smart, cunning, and very sneaky. He is extremely dangerous and out to destroy you. This adversary is your fiercest opponent; his name is Satan. You probably know him as the devil. Although he is already defeated, he can still inflict great injury on you. He can cause you to miss out on some of the many blessings that are God’s promises to you because of your spiritual birthright.

In our first two sessions we identified some of Samson’s flaws and the kind of trouble they got him into. Our enemy can use similar flaws in is to wound us in spiritual warfare. Do you remember the flaws?
  • Chasing the wrong things
  • Breaking the rules
  • Thinking that I have everything under control
  • Emotions (anger)
  • Pride

Where do all of these things originate?

Satan can only engage us in battle in our minds unless God gives him permission. Here’s proof;

Job 1:8-12 (HCSB)8 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil.”9 Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing?10 Haven’t You placed a hedge around him, his household, and everything he owns? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.11 But stretch out Your hand and strike everything he owns, and he will surely curse You to Your face.”12 “Very well,” the LORD told Satan, “everything he owns is in your power. However, you must not lay a hand on Job ⌊himself⌋.” So Satan left the LORD’s presence.

Job 2:3-6 (HCSB)3 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil. He still retains his integrity, even though you incited Me against him, to destroy him without just cause.”4 “Skin for skin!” Satan answered the LORD. “A man will give up everything he owns in exchange for his life.5 But stretch out Your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse You to Your face.”6 “Very well,” the LORD told Satan, “he is in your power; only spare his life.”

We are giving Satan too much credit. We blame Satan for everything....from us having a flat tire, to us contracting an illness. We get a flat tire because we ran over a nail in the road; we get hypertension because we have a family history and we don’t eat right, we fall and break a bone so we can't go to church because we weren't watching what we were doing, we have a traffic accident because either we or the other person made a mistake. Satan had nothing to do with that. What he can do is cause us to think that he has the power to do these things, causing us to doubt God's promise that He will care for us no matter the situation or circumstance we find ourselves in.

So unless God gives him permission Satan can’t affect your external circumstances. Where he can attack and injure you is in your mind. If he can get you to believe that he or his demons cause the bad things to happen to you the next thing that can happen is you start to doubt God and His promises. If he can get you to do that you lose your effectiveness in the kingdom of God. He can cause you to damn or curse you own situation. You’re doing it not him because unless God gives him permission he can’t.

OK let’s assume that you have overcome the flaws we mentioned before;

  • Chasing the wrong things
  • Breaking the rules
  • Thinking that I have everything under control
  • Making emotional decisions
  • Becoming arrogant when things are going great
  • Wilting under stress​
Now you think you're a superhero. “You can leap tall buildings in a single bound.” You start to “believe your own press”. You maybe even start to embellish your accomplishments a little. As my mother use to say “You are getting the big head.”

Today we are going to focus on two more of the enemy’s weapons: arrogance, which is very similar to pride, and stress.


Here’s the definition and some of the synonyms of arrogance;

having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one's own importance or abilities”

synonyms; proud, big-headed, puffed up

You’ll remember from last week that Samson’s emotions got the best of him and he started a big fire that burned up the Philistines grain fields and resulted in his wife, who he left before consummating the marriage, and her father being killed in retaliation to his wife and father-in-law being killed..

Judges 15:1-6 (HCSB)1 Later on, during the wheat harvest, Samson ⌊took⌋ a young goat ⌊as a gift⌋ and visited his wife. “I want to go to my wife in her room,” he said. But her father would not let him enter.2 “I was sure you hated her,” her father said, “so I gave her to one of the men who accompanied you. Isn’t her younger sister more beautiful than she is? Why not take her instead?”3 Samson said to them, “This time I won’t be responsible when I harm the Philistines.”4 So he went out and caught 300 foxes. He took torches, turned the foxes tail-to-tail, and put a torch between each pair of tails.5 Then he ignited the torches and released the foxes into the standing grain of the Philistines. He burned up the piles of grain and the standing grain as well as the vineyards and olive groves.6 Then the Philistines asked, “Who did this?” They were told, “⌊It was⌋ Samson, the Timnite’s son-in-law, because he has taken Samson’s wife and given her to another man.” So the Philistines went to her and her father and burned ⌊them⌋ to death.

The wedding festivities lasted for seven days, but the marriage itself was not consummated until the seventh day. On the day on which it was to have been consummated, Samson's companions presented the solution to his riddle, which proved their complicity with his wife. Samson, thereupon, returned home to Timnath without consummating the marriage. But Samson's wife was given to his companion. Samson's flight left the bride without a husband to consummate the marriage, which would have disgraced the girl. The marriage was consummated, however, with Samson's companion or "best man" taking the bride. - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
Here was Samson’s response;

Judges 15:7-10, 14-15 (NLT)7 “Because you did this,” Samson vowed, “I won’t rest until I take my revenge on you!”8 So he attacked the Philistines with great fury and killed many of them. Then he went to live in a cave in the rock of Etam.9 The Philistines retaliated by setting up camp in Judah and spreading out near the town of Lehi.10 The men of Judah asked the Philistines, “Why are you attacking us?” The Philistines replied, “We’ve come to capture Samson. We’ve come to pay him back for what he did to us.” 14 As Samson arrived at Lehi, the Philistines came shouting in triumph. But the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon Samson, and he snapped the ropes on his arms as if they were burnt strands of flax, and they fell from his wrists.15 Then he found the jawbone of a recently killed donkey. He picked it up and killed 1,000 Philistines with it.

What an amazing feat. Superhero stuff. 

 How does Samson do it? It’s clear that it was through God’s strength, but Samson takes the credit. He became arrogant and proud.

Judges 15:16-17 (NLT)16 Then Samson said, “With the jawbone of a donkey, I’ve piled them in heaps! With the jawbone of a donkey, I’ve killed a thousand men!”17 When he finished his boasting, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was named Jawbone Hill.

Arrogance comes from being insecure. When you don't know who you are in Christ, most of us look to pride to try to fill that void-just like Samson did.

You try to define yourself by your accomplishments . You rely on your achievements, your victories, your wins, instead of acknowledging God as the source of those accomplishments. Pride can be intoxicating, but you forget that you’re human with human limitations. If you try to convince yourself that you’re that superhero you will miss the true SUPERHERO...God.

If your enemy can get you to believe that your accomplishments are the result of your efforts he'll soon have you on the defensive. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, had something to say about that;

Proverbs 16:18 (NLT) Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.

The resources and strength to accomplish the things that last and have real meaning come from the Lord.

Psalm 121:2 (NLT) My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth!

Remember you’re in a fight. This is spiritual warfare. Acknowledge God as the source of your strength.

The problem with becoming a superhero is that you have to keep it up.

 No superhero worth his or her weight loses their power and becomes merely human again.

Judges 15:18 (NLT) Samson was now very thirsty, and he cried out to the LORD, “You have accomplished this great victory by the strength of your servant. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of these pagans?”

Samson failed to acknowledge God as the source of his strength. He had just achieved a great victory and now he thinks he’s going to die. This is right after he killed 1000 men with the jawbone of a donkey. He was spent, exhausted, and now he had to admit that he needed help. When you take on everything alone, the enemy can then use other weapons...stress, anxiety and worry.


Have you ever worked so hard at anything that you were exhausted physically? It might have been while at work, in ministry or volunteering, or even while playing competitive sports? Have you ever felt “I don’t want to let anybody down?” Do you feel like you are the one holding everything and everybody together? Do you like all that responsibility? No wonder you’re exhausted and stressed.

Because you don't want to disappoint others, you keep saying, “yes,” and before you know it, you have added so much to your plate that you now feel overwhelmed. Because of how you have over-extended yourself, you start to wonder why you do so much for everybody else. Your pride will not allow you to ask for help, because, after all, you’re a superhero. Resentment sets in and you begin to become negative, feeling alone, depressed and defeated. And you try to hide your true feelings, because your overwhelmed, stressed-out mind tells you, “no one cares or understands, anyway.” So, now the focus becomes you. You have lost sight of your good intentions, which began as serving God and others. Recognize this for what it is…it is a weapon of the enemy to keep you from serving Christ through your service to humanity.

When you are overwhelmed and get anxious, stressed, and worried remember God is bigger than anything you will ever encounter. Look to Him.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT) Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

The Holy Spirit tells us, through Paul, not to be anxious about anything, but rather to turn everything over to Him in prayer. Giving our burdens and concerns to a holy and righteous God daily, will mitigate or eliminate the stress in our lives.

You don’t have to handle everything. Do what Samson did when he realized that he wasn’t a superhero and that was acknowledge God and cry out to Him;

Judges 15:18 (NLT) Samson was now very thirsty, and he cried out to the LORD, “You have accomplished this great victory by the strength of your servant. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of these pagans?”

Here’s what happened when he did this;

Judges 15:19-20 (NLT)19 So God caused water to gush out of a hollow in the ground at Lehi, and Samson was revived as he drank. Then he named that place “The Spring of the One Who Cried Out,” and it is still in Lehi to this day.20 Samson judged Israel for twenty years during the period when the Philistines dominated the land.

1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

Remember you’re in a fight. This is spiritual warfare. Admit that you need God’s help and see how He responds. You Can Win this War