Summary of Chapter #4: SECULAR LIBERALISM AND THE NEUTRAL STATE (Pgs.119-143)

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In this chapter Beckwith begins pointing out that Christians who support a liberal democracy (see chapter 2) nevertheless are dismayed at the fruits of incivility, relativism, and the use of tax dollars to support abortion, SSM (same sex marriage), and public education that’s less educative and more indoctrinative in nature.

In all spheres of life people have embraced “secular liberalism” as the position to maintain and safeguard democracy while simultaneously marginalizing “religious positions” for making public policy.  There’s much confusion concerning the term “religious” but it’s assumed by far too many people such that the  cultural haze is continues to be perpetuated.

After considering the aforesaid, Beckwith delves into the meaning of secular liberalism which at its core makes the individual king when moral disputes arise in order to resolve them.  That is, the individual is ultimate never the state nor any “religious” tradition, all of which is a relativized view of the “good life”.

When it comes to the meaning of “secular” Beckwith notes that restraints on citizens can only be enforced through “non-religious” arguments or worldviews.  The problem of definition of course obtains but no one bothers with this.  They just assume everyone “knows” the meaning being employed.  In other words, “religion” brings bondage to citizens, but the “secular” non-religious bring liberty.   The state here may even pay for the poor to have an abortion, but it must never stop said procedures from obtaining lest personal liberty be hindered.

The reality here is that a relativistic presupposition is being employed in absolute terms.  It’s Secular Liberalism that’s largely responsible for advocating SSM, Abortion, etc., which is fine because the reasons used to support such acts are secular, not religious.  That’s bogus because it’s also coming from a worldview that is absolutely not neutral but “closed minded”.

Beckwith continues and points out three arguments used to advocate (SL) that doesn’t measure up to rationality and are thus self-refuting in nature.  First, is the Golden Rule argument advanced by philosopher Robert Audi which holds that we ought not to impose our religious viewpoint on those who disagree with us because we would not want that done to us.  Two problems obtain here; one is that the term “religious” is vague and second there’s always a worldview governing human affairs telling us what is and is not good.  Why is SL better than a “religious” point of view?  Beckwith then uses examples which either expose SL’s relativism or radical subjectivism [pgs123-132].

Second, there’s the Secular Argument which essentially hi-jacks reason to mean “non-religious in nature” but Beckwith rightly points out that reason has the properties of either true or false  right or wrong, not black or white, religious or non-religious.  This muddies the waters of reason and clarity  and is used to justify the issue of abortion [pgs.133-138].

Third, there’s the Err on the Side of Liberty argument which ends up being not just obtusely incoherent but also shoots itself in the foot when applied to itself [pgs.139-142].  Beckwith concludes the chapter by pointing out that secular liberalism is no more dogmatic in its stance than any “religious” view ever has been.  The irrationality here is legion and yet largely goes undetected by throngs of people.  It’s bizarre.

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A Tribute To Daniel Elijah Day

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After an exhausting day of work, the tragic news an old friend relayed speared my soul and sapped what strength remained.  Daniel Elijah Day passed away at the age of 23.  I knew him while in his mother’s womb, from a distance I saw him grow, struggle and mourn, but the poem of Daniels life his friends related was very Christ-like and comforting.

They described Daniel as a man who sought them out when all others ignored them, a soul that gave hope to hopeless youth, love and acceptance to those lacking it, a “Pied Piper” of sorts whose insight, compassion and words deeply touched the many friends he made.  To the “Trifecta” my heart and prayers go out to you.

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James Day (Daniel’s father and long-time dear friend) asked me to share some words at the majestic “Ranch” in Fort Collins Colorado. As the scores of people drove onto this family farm property (approximately 300-400 perhaps), and each young person spoke, I refrained from speaking sensing I’d hinder their many insights of Daniel.  What follows is some of what I wanted to share.

Before Daniel was born, I met James and Kristen (his parents) at a Mexico outreach Missions trip sponsored by Hope chapel.  A few years later they, like Trish and I were married.  We shared a lot of life together such that sleep overs at the Day’s Hermosa Beach apartment were frequent.

In the Summer or Fall of 1992 Kristen found out (through a pregnancy test) that she was pregnant with Daniel and as she spoke to Trish, a peculiar topic arose, my wife was late with her monthly cycle.  What transpired was epic.  James and Kristen came to our “love-shack” rental in El Segundo with a pregnancy test for Trish. The test was positive, the four of us elated with joy and James and I hugged each other as we screamed and jumped up and down like two little kids.

During the Spring months of 1993 both Day and Tangari families enrolled in “Bradley Birthing Classes” where drug-free natural child-birth is taught. While many of our friends and parents thought we were crazy in our approach that did not sway either family.  Daniel was born several weeks before my daughter Alexandra and that year the Day’s and Tangari’s learned the ups, downs and joys of parenting.

As so many people experience, the Day family moved out of state and eventually ended up in the “Rocky Mountain” state of Colorado.  Our family took a trip to Colorado in the summer of 2000 but then both of our families had grown.  The score was tied; Days three kids (Daniel, Jessie, David), Tangari’s three kids (Alexandra, Karina, Sergio D.).  We enjoyed the Ranch, the Cash la Poudre River, Estes Park, food and crashing at the Wellington home.  It reminded me of those early years in Hermosa Beach, California.  Those memories are forever precious to the Tangari clan.

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Several years later, Kristen and the children moved to Carlsbad, California.  I painted the house before they moved into it (Daniel’s room was painted black) and our families continued to connect whenever possible.  My son (who idolized Daniel) followed him and David with their skateboards bombing down the Carlsbad hills one summer as all the kids had a sleep over in that beautiful sunny town. Those were fun times, and Daniel loved to host fun.

Daniels wit can perhaps be captured by a game he taught us while driving down the road.  When we passed a sign, the object was to make a threatening “diddy”.  For example, “I’ll El your Segundo”—passing the town, or “I’ll Rancho your Park”—passing a street sign, or “I’ll Dough your Nuts”—passing Winchell’s.  I gotta say, I laughed long and hard along with my kids.

When the news of his death came, it pierced our family’s heart.  To Kristen, James, Jessie and David know that you are deeply loved by the Tangari’s and we will forever miss you Daniel Elijah Day.  A piece of us died with your death. (SDG)

Reflections From Ruth:CHAPTER 1-4: “RUTH A MOABITESS INCLUDED IN THE MESSIANIC LINEAGE”

82767cb43a73988f119a85a4c20ed08cMy goal in writing reflections from the book of Ruth are the following: First, to encourage you the reader that if you will pay attention to the words on the page and listen carefully you will mine a lot of truth for life without the need of a commentary or any secondary source.  That is, “take up and read” to enrich your soul Christian.

Second, I write to give you a model of how observations can be done in scripture that do not read into the text something foreign to the author’s intent.  This will help you experience the joy of discovery and increase your confidence in your ability to comprehend God’s word.

Third, by doing the above my hope is that you will be able to hear God’s voice all the more clearly because it is the word of God that is forever settled in heaven, and not our subjective impressions however valid they may be.  That is, we have a more sure word of prophecy according to Peter—meaning the inscripturated word of God—then a glorious experience we may claim to have (2 Peter 1:16-21).  Too often we Christians have bizarre ideas of what “God” is supposedly speaking to us and when it contradicts the Bible, be assured we are not hearing his voice.

REDEMPTIVE HISTORY UNFOLDING

This is a beautiful story of redemptive history.  The relationship that ensues between Naomi and Ruth comes from loss upon loss.  First, there’s a famine in the land and death is knocking at the door (1:1).

Second, Naomi loses her husband and sons to death (1:2-13) and is now in a precarious position without the help of men to protect and to provide for her.

Third, Naomi is ready to go back with to Bethlehem in Israel alone, but of her two daughter in-laws, Ruth alone is the one who leaves her country, customs and gods (1:14-22) and confesses:

“Your people shall be my people and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried…” (1:16-17)   

 Ruth eventually becomes the mother of Obed whose son is Jesse, whose son is David and whose son eventually is the Messiah—Christ Jesus the LORD!

God in his hidden plans converts Ruth, but not Oprah, both of which were Moabite—non-covenant pagans.  As God did with Abraham and Moses, He does with Ruth.  When He chooses a person for His redemptive purposes, previous upbringing is no match for Divine providence and mercy.

This reminds me to look to Him who is always at work even when the present “reality” seems so bleak.  God of wonders, blessed be your name forever!

(SDG)

 

Reflections From JOB 25-29: “JOB CONTINUES HIS ARGUMENTATION”

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Bildad’s words (25) are hardly helpful again, and Job’s response is sarcasm:

“What a help you are to the weak! How you have saved the arm without strength! “What counsel you have given to one without wisdom! What helpful insight you have abundantly provided! “To whom have you uttered words? And whose spirit was expressed through you? (26:2-4)

Job continues in the following chapters talking about the wicked and their inheritance, God’s wisdom revealed in the creation and nevertheless it is hidden from us (26:6-14; 27:13-23).  Moreover, Job reiterates his blamelessness,

My lips certainly will not speak unjustly,
Nor will my tongue mutter deceit.
“Far be it from me that I should declare you right; Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me. (27:4-5)

Job is contending for his righteousness and his friend’s lack of wisdom and judgment in the way they have dealt with him is exposed.  Moreover, this earth and its’ treasures can’t compare to the value of the wisdom required to understand and to create the heavens (28:1-22).  It’s this very wisdom the LORD gives to those who fear him, “…to depart from evil is understanding”. (28:28)

The point seems to be that Bildad’s words reveals that he neither fears the LORD nor has turned away from evil or else he would have the wisdom and the understanding to judge Job’s plight rightly.  But Bildad lacks these qualities (28:12-13).  Job recounts a description of his righteousness as one who delivered the poor and orphaned, as one who helped widows become joyful, as one who combatted the wicked, as one deemed considerably wise among the people and one who was part of the warrior class (29).  This is an exceptional man through and through!

It seems as if his friends had forgotten who he was prior to these horrific ordeals.  Regardless, Job will continue to contend for his righteousness even though all the voices around him clamor to the contrary.  This is a weighty account indeed.  The fact that Job is still able to intellectually joust with his friends after such physical and mental anguish is astounding.  The psychological weightiness of his plight alone would have driven most mortals mad.  But not Job, it’s as if the more difficult the task became the more he flourished.  His patience is exemplary and worthy of note, for it’s a window into the power of holiness to withstand horrific circumstances (E.g., The Cross?).

(SDG)

Reflections From JOB 20-24: “JOB CONTINUES HIS ARGUMENTATION”

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According to Zophar the Naamathite, the reason all these terrible things have fallen on Job is because he is wicked (20:4-29).  He, like Job, feels insulted by his friend’s speech (20:3) and as the flow of this account unfolds we see that both parties are insulted by each other’s words, both understand why the wicked seem to flourish, but the application to Job’s life just does not obtain.

Nevertheless, the back and forth discloses a rich theology on suffering, God’s incomparableness, and man’s limited understanding concerning the hidden counsels of God:

“Why do the wicked still live, Continue on, also become very powerful?
“Their descendants are established with them in their sight, And their offspring before their eyes, Their houses are safe from fear, And the rod of God is not on them. 10 “His ox mates without fail; His cow calves and does not abort. 11 “They send forth their little ones like the flock, And their children skip about.  12 “They sing to the timbrel and harp And rejoice at the sound of the flute. 13 “They spend their days in prosperity, And suddenly they go down to Sheol. 14 “They say to God, ‘Depart from us! We do not even desire the knowledge of Your ways. 15 ‘Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him, And what would we gain if we entreat Him?’ (21:7-15)

 These texts are a small sample describing the disposition of the wicked; that do not see gain, but rather loss by acknowledging God’s ways, God’s truth, and God’s character.  In short, the wicked are twisted thinkers and sojourners when it comes to Almighty God.  Sadly, their memory will perish with them, the day of calamity is reserved for them (21:30), men will oversee their tombs (21:32) and to associate Job to the wicked is utter falsehood:

“How then will you vainly comfort me,
For your answers remain full of falsehood?”
(21:34)

 Eliphaz again weighs in and doubts Job’s righteousness, “Yield now and be at peace with Him; Thereby good will come to you.” (22:21). What a weighty encounter of thought and pain, what a miserable way to exist being grossly misunderstood and thereby falsely accused as a result.

LORD, this exchange is difficult to bear.  Both Job’s anguish and his friends “help” are troublesome to consider.  May I never be so insensitive, may I never be so obtuse, but may I with your compassion and love come alongside the suffering with words that are true and appropriate for them.

(SDG)

Reflections From JOB 17-19: “JOB IS THE BYWORD HIS FRIENDS DON’T UNDERSTAND”

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Never have I heard of or known the devastation Job lived.  Grant it, throughout human history atrocities against people have been recorded; the Assyrians, Persians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Barbarians all the way into the 20th century Blood Baths under Nazi Germany, Russia’s Stalin, China’s Mao, Vietnam’s Pol Pot, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, and America’s abortion mills.  Human beings can be heinous without grace.

But Job’s misery is not because of the creature, but rather because of the Creator.  Truly, Satan is the agent of destruction but God gave the permission.  This is difficult for me to comprehend.  Job, the righteous servant of God has become the “byword” known for tremendous suffering but the reasons are hidden from everyone except God (17:1-7).  Job is nonetheless an amazing fighter, for while being in such pain, he is relentlessly presenting his case before his foolish friends (17:10-18:3) who add insult to injury with their words (18:4-19:3) to a man who has everyone and everything going against him (19:4-29).

What anguish of soul and body to have a society consider you truly wicked, but actually you are innocent.  This reminds me of Jesus how in one moment the people shouted, “Hosanna to the son of David” and the following days clamoring, “Crucify him!” Those events in Christ’s life were also hidden from not only man but also from satanic forces.

God’s hidden providences while often painful are nevertheless ultimately good.  Although on the one hand I deeply hate the pain, on the other hand, God’s plans seem to blossom in and through the fires of affliction, not the holidays at the sea.  In fact all of life seems to come as a result of hardship, constant toil and even death.  My ways are not God’s ways.  May I trust Him even though He slay me.

(SDG)

Reflections From JOB 7-10: “THE CONVERSATION OF A VEXED JOB CONTINUES WITH HIS FRIENDS”

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Job’s misery continues to be revealed as a hired slave waiting for wages (7:1-2) whose flesh is grossly wasting away without rest, “My flesh is clothed with worms and a crust of dirt, my skin hardens and runs.”  Job is like a man whose existence will be forgotten (7:7-10), even though he can’t see any sin which merits his suffering:

 20 “Have I sinned? What have I done to You, O watcher of men? Why have You set me as Your target, So that I am a burden to myself? (7:11-21).

Then Bildad the Shuhite like Eliphaz speaks up—eventually comes to “God’s defense”—and asks, “Does God pervert justice…” (8:3-4), no! so if his sons were not blameless, then their calamity was on them and the same is true of Job! (8:5-22). Job agrees with the content of Bildad’s theology, but disagrees with his premise because it’s faulty according to Job—he’s not guilty!  Of particular impact is the description of those who trust in everything but God:

“Can the papyrus grow up without a marsh? Can the rushes grow without water?  12 “While it is still green and not cut down, Yet it withers before any other plant.  13 “So are the paths of all who forget God; And the hope of the godless will perish, 14 Whose confidence is fragile, And whose trust a spider’s web. (Job 8:11-14)

That’s an amazing metaphor describing the futility of recalcitrant human beings who will not acknowledge their Creator.  Job here is pegged as one such creature.  He understands that before God Almighty he can’t stand and is utterly at His mercy (9:1-12), even though he can’t see his own guilt.  Worse still is that Job doesn’t have a lawyer who can represent him before God (9:33) and his experience sees that “the scourge kills suddenly.”  Again Job declares:

“It is all one; therefore I say, ‘He destroys the guiltless and the wicked.’  23 “If the scourge kills suddenly, He mocks the despair of the innocent.  24 “The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; He covers the faces of its judges.  If it is not He, then who is it?”  (9:22-24)

Job seems to be complaining that in God’s might and in the affairs of man, God is ultimately behind said events, but why does He allow injustice to flourish?  Why Job’s misery?  It’s a puzzle to him.  Why do the wicked seem to flourish and the righteous become downtrodden?  This wrestling of the soul is especially vexing to the one undergoing trial.  Job continues his protest of God’s dealings with him:

‘According to Your knowledge I am indeed not guilty,
Yet there is no deliverance from Your hand.”  
(10:7)

 He’s utterly flummoxed with this life and desires he had never existed:

“Why then have You brought me out of the womb?
Would that I had died and no eye had seen me!
19 ‘I should have been as though I had not been, Carried from womb to tomb.”  (10:18-19)

I’m overwhelmed with Job’s situation, there’s no hand to save from God’s power, there’s no words to confound His wisdom, there’s only the casting of the self on His mercy and grace for any hope in this life or the one to come.  In a very detailed way, God’s ways are not ours.  He is God and we…are not!

(SDG)

Reflections From JOB 4-6: “AN EXCHANGE BETWEEN FRIENDS-The Innocent Don’t Suffer?”

job_1I’ve never heard of friends who would sit silently for days with a sick loved one, but Job’s friends did (2:13).  So when Eliphaz the Temanite hears Job’s complaint, he’s had seven days to consider how to response.  We tend to lack such patience.  Instead, we tend to rush to fix the “problem” without giving serious contemplation to the matter.  When it comes to human suffering, we have here a sober example of patience.  This is one of the good things Job’s friends did for him.

We must understand that Job is a man who strengthened and consoled many with his wisdom (4:1-4), but Job’s fear of God and integrity are suspect because of his remark:

“Remember now, whoever perished being innocent? or where were the upright destroyed?” (4:7)

 “…according to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it…” (4:8)

The fact is Eliphaz is telling Job, “You must have sin in your life because the innocent don’t ever suffer”.  Many in Christendom think this way, I used to be among those, but it’s a shame because it is false.  Remember that twice we are reminded that Job did not sin with his lips (1:22; 2:10)?  This means he spoke in accordance with the truth.  It’s true that suffering results from wrongdoing (either our own or someone else’s), but sometimes there’s no wrongdoing, it’s a conundrum to us.  It was to Job.

Now much of what Eliphaz says is true (5:1-27), but in Job’s case, it doesn’t apply because that’s not why he was afflicted.  Jobs response to Eliphaz is heart wrenching:

Oh that my grief were actually weighed and laid in the balances together with my calamity!  For then it would be heavier than the sand of the seas; therefore my words have been rash” (6:2-3)

The poetry helps us glimpse into his unbearable suffering where he attributes his bitter reality to God (6:2-3).  But is this wrong?  After all, God gave Satan permission to do this to Job.  This is much to consider for those of us who have all of our categories about God neatly in their place.  Too often past wounds and a narrow view of God’s love make this reality difficult to accept that God is ultimately responsible for our suffering, but it seems there’s no way around it here.  Job continues:

…consolation and I rejoice in unsparing pain, that I have not denied

the words of the Holy One” (6:10)

 Job understands that his request for God to kill him was not sinful (6:8-9).  He also knows that his troubles are beyond self-remedy or any human assistance (6:11-13).  Yet, Job’s anger (understandably so) is with friends whose words only aggravate his condition and discourage him to be Godward (6:14-23).  So job challenges his friends:

“Teach me and I will be silent and show me how I have erred.  How painful are honest words!  But what does your argument prove?”

This is a fascinating account of the sufferer and those witnessing the crucible of suffering trying to understand this type of human existence.  This is serious thought, not for children, but for grown-ups (6:26-30).  In spite of Job’s friend’s words, he maintains his innocence.  The saying, “with friends like these who needs enemies” is appropriate.

In the book of James the apostle shares a bit of wisdom that Job and his friends could have benefitted from: “be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath”.  But his friends actually sat seven days before him not uttering one word.  So maybe that text doesn’t apply to them.

What would become of me or of you if we were in Job’s place?  Many people have endured horrific injustices done to them for Christ’s sake.  But sadly many have shipwrecked the faith as well.  May we learn from both and prepare our souls for such occasions so if it comes, we might endure with integrity and truth just as Job endured.

BTW, God wants us to share in His holiness and suffering is sometimes the only path to reach this destiny (Heb.12:1-13)

(SDG)

Reflections From JOB 1-3: MAKING SENSE OF SUFFERING WHEN IT MAKES NO SENSE

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My goal in writing reflections from the life of Job are the following: First, to encourage you the reader that if you will pay attention to the words on the page and listen carefully you will mine a lot of truth for life without the need of a commentary or any secondary source.  That is, “take up and read” to enrich your soul Christian.

Second, I write to give you a model of how observations can be done in scripture that do not read into the text something foreign to the author’s intent.  This will help you experience the joy of discovery and increase your confidence in your ability to comprehend God’s word.

Third, by doing the above my hope is that you will be able to hear God’s voice all the more clearly because it is the word of God that is forever settled in heaven, and not our subjective impressions however valid they may be.  That is, we have a more sure word of prophecy according to Peter—meaning the inscripturated word of God—then a glorious experience we may claim to have (2 Peter 1:16-21).  Too often we Christians have bizarre ideas of what “God” is supposedly speaking to us and when it contradicts the Bible, be assured we are not hearing his voice.

JOB 1-3: “THE LIFE OF A RIGHTEOUS MAN INTRODUCED”

The first three chapters of Job set the stage for most of the book.  In it we see a historical account of Job who was from the land of Uz.  His character is described as one who feared God and turned away from evil (1:1).  He is also very prosperous with sons, daughters, land, livestock etc.  He was a rich man who loved God (1:2-3), he spent time with his family celebrating their bounty (1:4), but Job also interceded on behalf of his children knowing the occasion for rebellion was ever real and present before them (1:5).

This resume is impressively daunting.  Wealthy people tend not to be God fearers, not because they aren’t precious to God, but because God is not precious to them—they don’t see their need for Him (E.g., parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man).  In Job’s case however, God was his true wealth to which the rest of this book attests.  His prosperity included a family—a fact many today don’t enjoy, but it also included land with livestock—kind of like the “Ponderosa” but ever more.

Job’s loyalty to God however is questioned by Satan accusing this God-fearer of only serving God because of the prosperity God bestowed on him (1:9-12, 13-19).  Prosperity can ultimately destroy God’s people and send them into the abyss of idolatry—remember Israel?

But in Job’s case, that was a boldface lie (1:20-22).  Again, the accusation came from Satan; Job only fears You God because he has his health, take this away and he’ll curse You God (2:1-10).  Both times the accusations are leveled against Job and on both occasions it’s recorded that “in all this Job did not sin with his lips” (1:22; 2:10).  Jobs wealth, children and health were taken from him by Satan…but only because God allowed it.  Now while God does work through many causes, this text doesn’t reveal His weakness but strength in dictating what Satan is allowed to do.  How could a loving God do such a thing?  Christian, have you ever asked yourself the question, “How could God send his unique Son to Calvary’s cross?”  That is even more troublesome, but we know that love for us was worth the gruesome pain for Him.

The pain Job expresses in terms of wishing he were never born and the longing for death is deeply sobering in light of human suffering and its’ reality (3).  Job’s suffering is an endurance most of us will never experience.  Job is nonetheless a God fearing man and an example of what it means to be righteous regardless of the circumstances.  When the flood gates of pain and suffering come our way, not if believer, understand that God is there, He has not abandoned you.

The fact is that to be human is to suffer—because of the Fall—but to suffer as a believer has eternal ramifications that for many of us are not immediately, if ever, discerned or understood.  For those in pain—physical or emotional—may God’s grace in Christ bring you comfort this day.

(SDG)

Reflections From ACTS 20: “PAUL’S PASSION AND TENDERNESS IS REVEALED IN HIS EXHORTATION TO THE EPHESIAN ELDERS”

 25980b6d3ee8407a75ce76f8a9085b80This chapter follows a tumultuous account of persecution arising from the idol of greed and the idol that is “nothing” which is exposed.  Now, he is seen ministering but with haste.  It’s as if Paul knew time was expiring in his life and those to whom he ministered.  To illustrate the point, he teaches/preaches/talked for so long on one occasion that a young man (Eutychus) fell asleep and plundered to his death three stories down while Paul was ministering in Troas (Vv.7-12).  Nevertheless, Paul raised him from the dead and greatly comforted the boys loved ones.

I must mention that Paul also greatly exhorted the Macedonian disciples and those present in the uproar (Vv.1-2).  He probably reminded them that persecution accompanies the preaching of the gospel word, yet a better reward awaits the faithful in the next life.  I say this because Jesus always reminded his disciples of the reward that awaits those who are persecuted for his name’s sake (Mt.5:10-12).  Again, the plot by the Jews against Paul must have been unnerving to the apostle but this was to fulfill Jesus’ words “He is a chosen vessel of mine to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel, for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake” (9:15-16).

Paul’s suffering resulted from his obedience to the word of the Lord, not in spite of it.  This grace of God in Paul humbles me because in order to walk in God’s grace it will often be accompanied by opposition—vehement—rivals will arise!

Before the Ephesian elders, Paul now enumerates his many accomplishments that are impressive.  First, Paul faithfully and humbly served Christ with tears and trials from the Jews (Vv.18-19).  His ministry was forged in the crucible of obedience.  His enemies and that of the Gospels (I.e., the religious establishment) were the primary means for said opposition.  This is instructive because often, not always, those who hinder the Gospel ministry from flourishing are not pagan non-believers but religious non-believers.

Second, Paul’s opposition and the “octagons” in which they manifested demonstrate his courage and resolve to speak the truth for his hearers profit even if it cost him dearly.  This speech was done publicly and privately to both Jews and Gentiles whose content was: “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ”.  The man Christ Jesus and the message of the Gospel were the cause of Paul’s deep pain and sufferings.  Mine tend to be because of my sin and disobedience, but sometimes they are a result of what Paul experienced (I.e., suffered because of the Gospel).

 Third, Paul knew that wherever he went, hardships would meet him because of the Gospel; that is “bonds and afflictions await me” (Vv.22-23).  To know that afflictions await you wherever you go with the message of redemption must have been a badge of honor on the one hand (E.g., martyrs receive a more honorable resurrection), but on the other hand it must have been very difficult psychologically and physically.  What would I do if placed in similar situations?  Short question, multifaceted ways of answering it, but assuredly, without God’s grace I could not do it.

Fourth, Paul’s resolve was so singularly kingdom oriented that hardships did not deter him from that goal:

“But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.”(V.24)  

 Years ago this was the text I used as a guide when I planted a Hispanic Church.  It’s now a distant memory but to this day I ask myself, “Did you stay the course and complete what Christ put before you Sergio?”  Did I stay my course; perhaps not, perhaps not.  Nevertheless, Paul’s single-mindedness kept him on track in spite of the hardships.

Fifth, Paul not only reminds them they will never see his face again, but he affirms his innocence of any blood shed:

 “Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.”   (Vv.26-27)

This is a bold statement considering Acts 7-9 where he’s clearly the cause for putting to death many believers.  Yet, part of God’s purpose is to rescue hell bent sinners and declare them just before the throne of God because of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross!  This is where God’s mercy and justice kiss and because of this amazing Gospel, Paul can declare his innocence (C.f., 1 Tim:1).  This message was not only intellectually rigorous (See all of Romans) but practically transforming.  That’s robust “religion”!

Sixth, Paul assures them that this Gospel must be protected by faithful men against false teachers that will arise from their ranks.  How?  They must guard their own lives and that of the flocks by shepherding the flock of God which God purchased with his own blood. (V.28, 29-30).  Too many believers (leaders, pastors) naively think this does not include part of what it means to shepherd God’s flock, but it’s an intricate part of love’s demonstration.

Spiritual warfare is fought through argumentation 2 Corinthians 2 and through intercession Ephesians 6.  Jesus, the apostles, and especially Paul knew this, lived it and thus saw much fruit with persecutions.  If Pastoral leadership in the 21st century is to be faithful to the Chief Shepherd, then engaging both fronts of warfare will be the focus of ministry.

Seventh, Paul reminds them of his manner of life and ministry (Vv.31-35).  I think he does this because he is one worthy to be emulated by God’s grace.  This is not boasting in his accomplishments (Read his letters) because Paul knew intellectually and experientially that anything good in him was sourced in God alone ultimately, not in human effort.  He’s boasting in the Lord.  If we were to do that today, we’d probably be called egotistical, arrogant, prideful, but not humble.  Paul is humbly telling the elders to imitate him—because it’s Christ in him doing the work they witnessed.

Eighth, Paul concludes his address with prayer.  As always, his life of word and prayer (modeled by Jesus) can’t be separated from a faithful account of Paul because these two aspects demonstrated his ultimate dependence on God.  This is followed by loud weeping and repeated kissing of Paul to the elders.  They grieved because they knew they’d never see their beloved Paul again (Vv.36-38).  This is very intimate moment and for many westerners too “touchy-feely” but let’s face it, this is genuine love being expressed—very moving.

Conclusion: Paul loved God and others, his is a testament to this fact and said love for God was birthed and continuously stoked by the gospel and prayer which worked itself out in love for others.  What of my life and yours friend?  God helps us be more like Paul in word and deed.  In our brokenness teach us to trust You, in our joy teach us to thank You, and in our calling(s) empower us to follow You wherever Lord you lead us.

(SDG)