Category Archives: Christian Precepts

These posts deal specifically with understanding the nature of God and the teachings of Christ (Theology & Doctrine). Consider these the bricks with which the Church is to become the “pillar of Truth”.

Doctrinal Treatment of Divorce and Remarriage

This undertaking is the humbling response of my heart to being pierced by the truth of God’s word on the subject matter at hand.

There is no escaping the unpleasantness of this topic; to ignore it is to leave the door open among God’s people by which adultery will be perpetuated and multiplied, and to preach it is to offend a great many in the Church today.

Being aware of this terrible reality, I have elected to preach this message with as much grace as the Holy Spirit gives in Scripture.

The most illuminating truth for me in this study was the reality that the sin of divorce is not divorce itself, but adultery.  Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:31-32 on divorce is the second part of the greater context of His teaching on adultery from Matthew 5:27-32.

Divorce is a mechanism by which adultery is perpetuated and multiplied among God’s people and the whole world.  Divorce perpetuates adultery by the false notion that divorce legitimizes adulterous relationships.  Up to four people can be brought into adultery by one divorce.

If this is true that divorce perpetuates and multiples adultery in this manner, then divorce is far from being innocent; it is a destructive mechanism by which men and women are snared in the sin of adultery and the coming judgment of God.

Therefore, we will devote this doctrinal treatment to the topic of Divorce and Remarriage

Divorce

I am preparing a doctrinal treatment on the topic of divorce for our Church and I felt compelled to share a small portion from this treatment here (I will post the full treatment online when I am finished):

Biblical doctrine is full of the glory of God; far from being cold and heartless, it vividly expresses God’s heart and illuminates His divine character in ways that call God’s true worshippers upwards to Him in spirit and truth! That is our highest aim here today, to bring the whole of who we are before God in the true worship of spirit and truth!

With this in mind, the reality that beloved brothers and sisters have deep wounds caused by divorce is of great concern. The purpose of doctrine is not to hurt wounded souls! Rather, sound Biblical doctrine calls the flesh and pride of mortal beings to the cross while restoring the soul and rejoicing the heart!

Psalm 19:7, 8 “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul… the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart!”

When we humble ourselves before the Lord and place our trust in Him, we have confidence that hope shall arise upon the hopeless! The following will be difficult words to accept, but those who do will enter the liberty of truth and find hope to carry them home.

SERMON ON THE MOUNT

Jesus places divorce in the greater context of adultery and confronts us with the reality that adultery is being perpetuated among the people of God through the mechanism of divorce.

Matthew 5:27-32 “27 You have heard that it was said by the ancients, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away. For it is profitable that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body be thrown into hell.

31 It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.

The Jews were defending themselves by saying that they were not adulterers because they had the written certificates of divorce. But Jesus preaches against their adultery by saying that adultery begins in the heart through lust and is multiplied in the land through divorce.

Jesus exposes the catastrophic sin of adultery among them and it is imperative that we grasp the goodness of Christ in doing this; adultery disqualifies from the kingdom of God (1st Co. 6:9-10), but the Pharisees were deceiving the people by mishandling the Law of God to justify illegitimate divorces that were bringing the people of God into exponential adultery!

The wickedness of adultery is evident to all who have been victims of it. Those who have lived in marital unions that have been compromised by lust readily understand the searing pain of adultery that comes as the heart of their spouse increasingly grows cold towards them; they are all too acquainted with the fights, arguments, and quarrels that arise from the increasing distance between their hearts. Likewise, those who have gone through a divorce know the terrors involved in dividing a family; it is a terrible, wretched, and violent process that leaves deep scars. And Jesus is preaching against this sin and fully exposing it for the wickedness that it is.

The holy union between a husband and wife must not be broken, and when it is broken, the consequences are very painful no matter how you slice it. Jesus merely exposes that divorce does not lessen the consequences and havoc wrecked by adultery, it actually perpetuates it!

But a closer look is warranted:

Matthew 5:31-32 “31 It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

Mark 10:11-12 “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Illegitimate divorce perpetuates adultery coming, going, and staying! When someone divorces their spouse and remarries, they commit adultery against their true spouse, they lay a stumbling block before their true spouse to cause them to come into adultery if they remarry, and they cause whoever they remarry to come into adultery! Rightfully God has said that, “He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence. Therefore, take heed to your spirit that you do not deal treacherously!” (Malachi 2:16)

Perhaps the most shocking statement made by Jesus is in the first half of verse 32, where He says “whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, causes her to commit adultery”. These are not easy words to accept at first, however, upon further examination the purity of Christ’s words become clear.

Firstly, the sacred union between a man and a woman is God’s ordination and it cannot be undone by man, therefore, “whomever God has joined together, let no man separate” (Mark 10:9). Jesus is demonstrating the glory of God’s work in holy matrimony that cannot be simply undone by the certificates of human courts. If someone divorces their spouse for any reason other than sexual immorality, their divorce is invalid; this places a stumbling block before the divorced spouse by giving them the false option of remarriage that would bring them into adultery if they were to go ahead and remarry.

While we cannot focus on the syntactical side of the Greek Grammar involved in Matthew 5:32, I will note that the verb for “adultery” is used twice in Matthew 5:32, once in the passive voice and once in the middle voice, which in English the nearest equivalent is the active voice (Gerhold L. Lemke , Dakota-Montana District Fall Pastoral Conference, Nov. 6th, 1973):

μοιχευθῆναι (moicheuthenai – moicheuo) – Aor. P. Inf. – commit adultery, seduce to
μοιχᾶται (moichatai – moichao) – Pres. P. Ind. 3s. (Durative) – commit adultery.

For this reason some translations have wrestled with how to demonstrate the Greek sense of differentiation between these two verb forms in a way that would not acquit the guilt of the “passive adultery” but that could convey its passivity.

Thus the Berean Study Bible’s offers this translation of Matthew 5:32:

“But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, brings adultery upon her. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Secondly, it must be noted that this teaching is not gender dependent.

The last half of Matthew 5:32 is repeated in Mark 10:11 and then directly reversed in Mark 10:12 to acknowledge that what is true of a man is likewise true of a woman. Therefore, “if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:12). This indicates that the first half of Matthew 5:32 can also be read to say “if a woman divorces her husband, except for sexual immorality, she brings adultery upon him”.

Without fail the prophets give us their timely warning:

Malachi 3:5 “And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against sorcerers, against adulterers, against perjurers, against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, and against those who turn away an alien – because they do not fear Me.”

God takes adultery very seriously, and divorce perpetuates and multiplies adultery!

The conclusion is that whoever divorces their spouse, except for fornication, and remarries another, enters into adultery and causes both the one they remarry and the one they leave (if he or she also remarries) to commit adultery! Jesus is not permitting them to deceive themselves any longer; He is ripping their lies to shreds in order to set them free by the truth!

Here is my chief aim in bringing this here: adultery is being perpetuated and multiplied among God’s people through divorce, and no one is standing up to lovingly, mercifully, and truthfully call the Church to account on this sin. We act like we are righteous if we just don’t have homosexuality in our midst. We must be fervent and bear fruits in accordance with our repentance!

To the one who is wounded by these words, my heart reaches out to you as one who has been pierced by the word of God myself; and I say “run to Christ”. You have questions that need the answers of the King!  Turn to His word and pay attention to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.

Jesus’ Incarnation: Created or Divine?

In approximately 318 AD there arose a doctrine that became known as Arianism, named after Arius, a priest in Alexandria, Egypt, who taught that Jesus was the Son of God, but not eternal, nor equal to the Father.  Arius wrote, “There was once when he was not”.  This position was denounced in 325 AD at the First Nicene Council.

Juxtaposed to this belief is the doctrine that the incarnation of Jesus is God’s supreme Theophanic self-revelation to mankind.

So which is it?  Was Jesus a created being, or is He the everlasting God?

View my short PDF lesson on this subject here.

Foundations for Overcoming Pornography

I often preach against the cross-less Christianity that is being preached today precisely because it leaves people in bondage to the sins that control their lives. The cross-less gospel leaves out, or teaches against, “self-denial” and “faithfulness in persevering through trials”.

James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who endures temptation (NASB “trial”); for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

We all must endure many temptations and trials in this life, and through these become approved. The Greek word rendered “temptation” (NKJV) / “Trial” (NASB) is πειρασμός (peirasmos, #3986) and means both (a) “a trying, testing,” (b) “a temptation,” (Vines Expository Dictionary, Vol. 2, P. 495).

ADDICTION NECESSITATES THE CROSS

In our haste to overcome our additions so that we can feel justified, we forget that the cross must accomplish its designs! Addictions signal areas in our life that are not submitted to God; things outside of God to which you look for comfort, pleasure, or help.  These addictions usually offer cheap and easy alternatives to the fruit of God so that things like “pleasure” and “entertainment” are substituted for “joy in the Lord”, which is far more difficult to obtain and cannot be obtained at the whim of our own carnal will.

Jesus requires all His disciples to bring their whole life to the cross.  This is where the initial battle takes place.  We resist the call to deny ourselves and take up the cross by which the will of our flesh is crucified!

Before I continue I must note that many addictions go beyond spiritual and moral parameters and gain physical hold over our bodies; all addictions begin and continue at their core as a spiritual and moral illness, but they usually gain physical hold over our life.  So, while any attempt to address these addictions from purely a physical standpoint will be futile, ignoring their physical hold over us is equally unbiblical.

We must begin where our addictions began: the heart. To overcome our addictions requires that the resolve and testimony of our heart be “for me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain!” (Philippians 1:21). Until Christ is securely seated upon the throne of our heart and is proved by the testimony of our life to be both our “life” and our “gain”, we have not yet been approved through perseverance!

When the set of your heart becomes “to live is Christ, and to die is gain”, then you are prepared to take on the enemy that has hold on your life through your addiction.

This will feel like “death” to you in the beginning because it is death; it is the death of your flesh on the cross as you deny yourself and follow Christ.  This test is whether or not you love Christ or sin.

Until we rid ourselves of the lie that addiction to sin is compatible with fellowship in Christ, we will continue to be enslaved to our sins because we will be deceived into thinking that we do not have choose between sin and Christ.  Only “the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).  You must believe wholeheartedly the judgments of Christ and know that anyone who has fellowship with the darkness does not have fellowship with God (1 John 1:5-6).  Though the presence of an addictive sin in your life does not indicate that you have already fallen away, it must raise your awareness that something is wrong and you do not currently stand approved.  You must depend on the Holy Spirit for the strength to persevere and enter often into His communion!

A cross-less faith is still under the dominion of sin.

OVERCOMING PORNOGRAPHY

This is a far too in-depth question to fully address on such a platform as this, however, there are certain points that form a crucial starting point for the foundation of victory over this addiction.

REBIRTH and RENEWING

Titus 3:3-8We also were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various desires and pleasures, living in evil and envy, filled with hatred and hating each other.  But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward mankind appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of rebirth and the renewal of the Holy Spiritwhom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, being justified by His grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

First: regeneration. It’s necessary to say upfront that if you are not born again then you cannot gain eternal victory over sin.

The first element of our salvation is the washing of rebirth by the Holy Spirit.  Even if you managed to dispense with pornography you would still be dead in your sins. You must receive a supernatural,  fundamental alteration of your heart so that your old heart of stone can be replaced with the new, living, beating heart that God gives to those who follow Him by faith; you must receive the forgiveness of Jesus’ blood by which your sins and guilt can be washed away; and you must receive the Holy Spirit by whom you are sealed for redemption!  This cannot be faked, nor produced by man; it must come from God.  Seek God!

Second: renewing. The second element of salvation is the renewing of the Holy Spirit in which dead things are made alive!

Those who are born again but have wrestled with ongoing pornography addiction have suffered what A. W. Tozer called “a moral and spiritual cauterization” (A. W. Tozer, Experiencing the Presence of God).  Pornography cauterizes our spiritual and moral sensitivity, which is at first painful, but eventually leads to a place of hardness where we are no longer sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and pain of our consciences!

Such a process is described in passages like Romans 1:21, Ephesians 4:17-19, and 1st Timothy 4:2.  These passages should drop us to our knees, and we should not arise from there until we have cried out to God from the very depths of our heart to give us life where there is now death!

THE WORD OF GOD

The renewing of the Holy Spirit is worked in us as the word of God enters the depths of our soul (Colossians 3:15), penetrates every fiber of our being (Hebrews 4:12), washes us clean (Ephesians 5:26), sanctifies for God’s use (John 17:17), and corrects our paths (Psalm 119:9)!

Consistent Bible study and prayer is an integral part to the process of renewal.

BREAKING THE PHYSICAL BONDS

Matthew 5:28-30But I say to you that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.  And if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away. For it is profitable that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body be thrown into hell.

What most people do not know is that pornography addiction has been demonstrated in labs to be up to 4 times stronger than morphine; research has shown its degenerative effects upon the brain to be as serious as cocaine.

Pornography is a true addiction with physical bonds in the brain!

Jesus uses allegory in His teaching to illustrate the seriousness of this situation.  Sexual sin is not something to mess around with!  As the creator of our bodies He knew that repeated exposure to improper sexual sin creates physical bondage in the structures of the brain itself.
Healing from pornography addiction necessitates a prolonged period of time where you are not engaging in immoral pornography-driven sexual activity while you are being continually washed, sanctified, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit.Research has proven what the Bible already said:

Romans 12:2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Your brain can be renewed.  But you have to listen to the good and perfect will of God.  We need to follow Jesus’ allegorical teaching and cut off that which causes us to stumble.

Here is one way to cut off this offense from your life to allow yourself time for healing and renewal with the Holy Spirit:

1. Physical removal of privately accessible internet connected devices.

2. Internet accountability software that is interconnected to personal accountability with a pastor or spiritually mature mentor.

I really encourage between 6-months to 1-year without any privately accessible internet access.  For a born again believer who has been unsuccessfully wrestling with pornography addiction, I encourage beginning with the first option and staying committed to it for at least 6-months, but recommend between 1 to 2 years.

Studies have proven that the brain can heal, but that it can take up to 3 to 5 years for full healing!

I recommend removing private access to the internet for up to 2 years so that you can gain a strong foothold of victory without any relapses.

When you reintroduce privately accessible internet connectivity into your life it must be under the accountability of internet accountability software on every internet-enabled device.  You should be accountable to either a spouse, mature brother, or pastor in the Lord every time you access the internet.

I really believe internet accountability is critical.  My laptop, tablet, and phone all have x3 Watch installed and reporting to my wife.  There are many free and subscription resources available.

There’s a lot more to say and clarify about this subject, but, for now I hope this begins to highlight a good beginning point.

False Prophet Blasphemy

ISAIAH 66:2 “But to this man I will look, even to him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word.”

False prophets abound everywhere; but who is it that trembles at God’s word?

Those who tremble at and revere God’s word with the highest of esteem are usually scoffed at and reviled.  Taking a firm stand against false prophets is seen as divisive, demonic, and carnally minded; the contemporary generation views prophecy as something that is subject to their will and vain imaginations.   We hear things like “you should be so critical of prophetic words” or “this author may have made a few mistakes that could have been worded better, but….”

People don’t seem to understand that when it comes to prophetic words, error is far more than simply a matter of a “few mistakes that could have been worded differently”.   When someone presumes to speak the living and infallible word of God, they must be held to that standard!  A prophetic word is not something crafted by the mind of mortal men.  Despite modern trends, a prophetic word is delivered to the prophet by God in the exact form God wants it to be delivered to people.  If a prophet is “wording” his prophecy, he did not receive it from God, he has derived it from his own empty imagination!

It’s necessary to be clear here: if someone is honest and humble, and says upfront that what they are presenting is their own opinion or interpretation, then mistakes can be understood and addressed constructively and any errors can be easily mitigated by God’s word and by a committed Church body that is intent upon unity in truth and love.

But if someone prophesies and delivers errors in God’s name, then they are a false prophet and will be held under the eternal judgment awaiting false prophets (Jude 3).

Tremble at His word! 

To speak lightly, saying, “the Lord said” (or to indicate in another way direct divine revelation) is no small matter.  Guesswork is not acceptable when speaking the word of the Lord, neither is mystic-divination.  The only thing that can be presented in God’s name is direct and divine revelation received from God. 

I am not a cessationist, but neither will I be swept into this abominable flood of perversion being passed off as Charismatic (i.e. “of the Holy Spirit”)!

If someone speaks a word in God’s name, it must carry the full weight and glory of God’s word.  What is being passed off today in God’s name is nothing more than a flood of “arrogant words of vanity” (2 Peter 2:18 Modern English Version).

A generation of Christians are being instructed in the ways of blasphemy! 

2 Timothy 3:1-2, 5 “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come; for men will be… blasphemers… And from such people turn away!”

The word Paul used here for blasphemers, translated in the NASB as “revilers”, is the Greek word βλάσφημος (blasphemos, #989), which means “abusive, speaking evil,” (see Acts 6:11, 13; 1st Tim. 1:13;  2nd Tim. 3:2; and 2nd Pet. 2:11 (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words).  HELP’S Word-Studies states that it “reverses spiritual and moral realities”.

The Lexham Bible Dictionary offers this remarkably poignant insight on what constitutes blasphemy:

“Blasphemy can include flagrant actions and disdain for God’s Word, His promises, and His people. Scripture bears consistent witness to the severity of the offense.

When God first appears to Moses in the burning bush, He emphasizes the sacredness of His name (שֵׁם, shem), Yahweh (made up of four Hebrew consonants, יהוה, yhwh), which reveals His person and character as the covenant-keeping, redeeming God (Exod 3:13–16; 6:3). In the exodus story, God performs mighty deeds for the sake of His name (Exod 9:16), a concept reiterated in numerous Old Testament passages (e.g., Psa 25:11; Isa 43:25; 48:11). The “name of Yahweh” (שֵׁם־יְהוָה֙, shem-yehwah) carries profound significance, referring “to His full being and power” (HALOT, 1550). To assail God’s name is to attack Him personally and directly.

Speaking both to Moses and the people of Israel, God strictly prohibits the misuse of His name: “You shall not take the name of the Lord (יהוה, yhwh) your God in vain, for the Lord (יהוה, yhwh) will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exod 20:7 ESV). The Hebrew term “vain” (שָׁוְא, shaw’) refers to what is empty or purposeless; it can also mean something false or deceptive, in such contexts as prophecy (Ezek 13:3–7), worship (Isa 1:13), and speech (Deut 5:20). A breach of the first two commandments naturally leads to a violation of the third (Exod 20:7).”

Citation: Mills, D. W. (2016). Blasphemy. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Blasphemy refers to using God’s name for empty, purposeless, false, or deceptive reasons!

Anyone who presents the constructs of their own imaginations as the divine revelation of God – in other words they present these things in God’s name – has presented that which is empty and false in God’s name!  To do this is to blaspheme the name of God.  According to God’s 3rd commandment in Exodus 20:7, God will not hold the person who does this guiltless!

Thank God for His unfailing mercy, because Jesus said “all kinds of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven men.  Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven.  But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, neither in this world, nor in the world to come” (Matthew 12:31-32).  If you have been guilty of blasphemy by speaking empty or false things as if they came from God, then turn away from this sin and repent.  God will abundantly forgive you and provide the grace that you may stop this practice and be counted among those upon whom God looks, who “tremble at His word”!

We must note for the purpose of clarity so that Satan cannot take advantage of this teaching that there are different kinds of blasphemy; the unforgivable blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is specified in Matthew 12:22-30, Mark 3:20-30, and Luke 11:13-23, 12:10.  It is specifically attributing to Satan the divine work of the Holy Spirit.

The end times will be filled with blasphemers; let us not join in the emptiness of those who would presume to speak vain and false things in God’s name so that they can promote their own way, their own agenda, their own fame, and their own prosperity.  Let us humble ourselves before God and revere His word!

Let us seek the full weight and glory of God’s inerrant word!

Many False Prophets Will Arise

Matthew 24:11 “And any false prophets will rise and will deceive many.”

In Jesus’ discourse on the end time’s He warned us that there would be “many false prophets” to “deceive many”.

Jesus used a powerful word twice, “πολύς” (polus, Strong’s #4183), which means “much, many, great,” and is used in passages like Luke 5:6; Acts 11:21; it denotes great abundance (e.g. Matt. 9:37; 1 Pet. 1:3; Matt. 24:30) (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words). Jesus is saying that there will be a great abundance of many false prophets to arise, and they will deceive a great abundance of many people!

Nothing is more clearly evident to me than the reality that the Church has been overrun by a horde of ravenous wolves. Truly, “they speak great swelling words”!

2 Peter 2:17-19 “These men are wells without water and clouds that are carried by a storm, for whom the gloom of darkness has been reserved forever. For when they speak arrogant words of vanity, they entice by the lusts of the flesh and by depravity those who barely escaped from those who live in error. Although they promise them freedom, they themselves are slaves of corruption, for by that which a man is overcome, to this he is enslaved!”

Nothing could be a more apt description of the so-called prophets of our day, peddling their books and descending upon the Church like a raging storm; they puff up the pride, ego, lust, and desires of unstable Christians and promise them deliverance of that which they are powerless to deliver!!

How many dreams, visions, and words from God have been delivered as if from the tempest of a dark storm in our modern day, only for them to be forgotten in the continual stream of false prophecies that sweep people away who do not test the words?

Brethren, do not be deceived by these wolves; though they speak great promises of power, glory, health, hidden mysteries, freedom, and wealth, they will by no means escape the severe punishment God has in store for those who presume to speak on His behalf when He has not spoken!

Test all things. “Seeing then that all these things are to be destroyed, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, while you are waiting for and desiring the coming of the day of God, in which the heavens will be destroyed by fire and the elements will be consumed by intense heat?” (2 Peter 3:11-12)

Suffering and Sickness

There are some modern theologies that say suffering and sickness should not exist in the Church; they view sickness and suffering as indicators of a lack of God’s grace in one’s personal life.  But does God’s word agree?

In this study, we are going to examine this topic to see what God’s word says.

A THORN IN THE FLESH

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me, lest I be exalted above measure. I asked the Lord three times that this thing might depart from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will boast in my weaknesses (KJV- infirmities), that the power of Christ may rest upon me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, in reproaches, in hardships, in persecutions, and in distresses for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

There was a purpose behind Paul’s suffering; God used this “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble so that he would not fall to the temptation of pride because of the greatness of God’s work accomplished through him.

Although some teach that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was not physical illness, Paul interprets this thorn in the flesh in verse 9 to be “infirmities” and in verse 10 expands the possibility to “reproaches, hardships, persecutions, and distresses”. The Greek used here is ἀσθένεια (astheneia), which means “want of strength, weakness, illness, suffering, calamity, or frailty.”; it’s translated as “ailments(1), diseases(1), ill(1), illness(1), infirmities(1), sickness(3), sicknesses(2), weak(1), weakness(9), weaknesses(4)” – and the Greek HELPS Word-Study comments that ἀσθένεια “refers to an ailment that deprives someone of enjoying or accomplishing what they would like to do. ἀσθένεια focuses on the handicaps that go with the weakness. It expresses the weakening influences of the illness or a particular problem.” The word ἀσθένεια is a word that describes physical
weakness that comes from illness.

Paul then demonstrates how God was glorified through this “thorn in the flesh” in verse 10, by the conclusion “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

A MESSENGER OF SATAN

Some will argue that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was not illness, but was a “messenger of Satan”, some kind of demonic experience, but saying that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was a “messenger of Satan” in no way eliminates illness.

Job 2:7 “Therefore, the Adversary went out from the presence of the Lord, and he afflicted Job with severe sores from the sole of his foot to the top of his head.”

Illness is one of the vehicles through which the Adversary can strike us. In Job’s life, his terrible suffering was divinely permitted by God for the demonstration of God’s glory and future joy of Job and the kingdom of God to whom Job’s testimony has served as an example of perseverance down through the ages.

Numbers 12:10 “When the cloud went away from over the tabernacle, Miriam became leprous as snow, and Aaron turned toward Miriam and saw that she was leprous.”

God struck Miriam with leprosy for her rebelliousness, demonstrating that God uses illness to discipline His people!

Amos 3:6 “If there is disaster against a city, is it not the Lord who has done it?”

God brings calamity, both upon His own people for their correction and refining, and upon the unbelieving world to get their attention and punish them for sin. God uses suffering – which is a result of sin – to punish, correct, refine, purify, and
glorify!

ILLNESS IN THE CHURCH

Illness is not a foreign concept to the Church.

In addition to Paul, consider the following passages: Acts 9:36-41; Philippians 2:25-27; 1st Timothy 5:20; 2nd Timothy 4:20. So long as we abide in these earthly tents we will experience the decay of this sin-ridden world. The modern theologies that say Christians should not suffer illness are not supported in Scripture, and they have been used to bring terrible dismay upon the children of God who are enduring the very illnesses that we are commanded to serve them with tender care and encouragement through (Matthew 25:36-40). Much the same way that Job’s friends heaped accusation upon accusation against him in his suffering, these modern theologies have been Satan’s instrument of accusation against faithful brethren, and the Church must learn its lesson from Job’s testimony.

The plain testimony of Scripture is that God works within suffering and sickness in the world for His glory (John 9:1-7); sometimes He heals, and is glorified accordingly, and other times He walks alongside the suffering saint and is highly glorified in the eyes of the world by the suffering saint’s faithfulness. To categorically say that God never afflicts, allows, or permits suffering and sickness is a dangerous heresy that has done significant damage in the Church to those who are, indeed, suffering and sick.

Discipline is purposed by God to make us “partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10); God uses an array of trials in our life to refine us as gold refined in the fire.

For an in-depth study on the Cross and Suffering , please follow the link to my lesson on the subject, which deals with the topics of suffering, the cross, and God’s wrath.

The Cross & Suffering

God does not diminish the reality of human suffering; He gives no easy answers. God deals with our suffering from the depths of His heart. Human suffering is central to the gospel because suffering is the result of sin, and the gospel is Christ’s good news of atonement and redemption and deliverance from sin! Human suffering both calls the unbelieving world to God and disciplines God’s beloved  children so that they can partake of His holiness. Therefore the Church must understand human suffering and exercise Christ’s supernatural love to this suffering world!

Click this link for our study on the-cross-suffering.

Slain for the Word

Revelation 6:9 “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony they had held.”

This prophecy in Revelation 6 is about the end times generation and predicts terrible tribulations to come.  And in the midst of these trials we see a vision of the souls who were slain because of the word of God and for their testimony that they had maintained.

Though every word of God is pure (Proverbs 30:5), the world hates the word because it exposes  their evil deeds; and those who maintain the testimony of Christ by the word of God live as candles by which the light of God’s word shines brightly in the world.  As tribulation begins to unfold upon the world, they will come to a point where they can no longer tolerate the convicting testimony of God’s saints upon this earth and they will kill those who hold the word of God and keep His commandments with the testimony of their life.

We need to hear this verse clearly: “slain for the word of God and for the testimony (μαρτυρία) they had held (εἶχον)

ἔχω / εἶχον (echō / eichon) – maintained or held; “to hold fast” or “uphold”

μαρτυρία (marturia)- Testimony; “the evidence given”

There will be a remnant of believers who will uphold the evidence of godliness and life that they have received by the Holy Spirit and they will be a testimony that the world cannot ignore, so the world will seek to extinguish the light of their testimony from upon the face of the earth.

This is going to be a trial unlike any seen upon the face of the earth before.  It will test the love every believer has for God to see whether or not we love our lives more than Him from whom we have received life!

John 16:2 “They will put you out of the [churches]. Yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he is offering a service to God.”

I believe a time may be coming swiftly upon us when persecution will arise from within the brotherhood!  Yes, the Muslim’s are putting Christians to death thinking that they offer their god a service, but I believe this is speaking about those from within who will put us out!

Matthew 24:9-14Then they will hand you over to be persecuted and will kill you.  And you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.  Then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another.  And many false prophets will rise and will deceive many.  Because iniquity will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

We are seeing a shift within Christianity away from the word of God towards personal revelation, signs and wonders, and hostility towards God’s word.

“They will hand you over” – Muslim’s do not hand Christians over because they are not from within; their persecution is invasive.  They come from without and intrude into the holy services of God to put to death His children.  Neither do oppressive regimes “hand Christians over to be persecuted” – they also bring invasive persecution to the doorstep of the Church.  I believe it will be of our own brotherhoods who have not received a love of the truth implanted in their heart that will hand us over to be persecuted.

“Many will fall away and betray one another” – in this terrible and treacherous falling away there will be much heartache, much more than just the pains of death.

But who could possibly bring such tragedy into the Church?

I cannot answer this question.  It is beyond my powers of comprehension to imagine what darkness one must enter to believe that handing one’s own brothers and sisters over to be persecuted could be a service to God; but I know that this terrible deception will come in “accordance with the working of Satan with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all deception of unrighteousness among those who perish because they have not received the love of the truth” (2nd Thessalonians 2:9-10).

2 Timothy 3:1-5 “Know this; in the last days perilous times will come. Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, slanderers, unrestrained, fierce, despisers of those who are good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying its power.  Turn away from such people!”

Sermon Series: Love and Holiness

1 Corinthians 13:1-4

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. If I give all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing.

If I do not have love, I am nothing.

This lesson series on Love and Holiness is the most critical series I have ever preached. It is because love has fallen from the center of the Church’s preaching that Satan has claimed the word and we have fallen into disunity, chaos, and sin.

View and Download my PDF copy here:

love-holiness