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Difficult Verses I: 1 Cor. 9.23

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For the next few weeks on this blog, I am going to go through some verses that people might find difficult to understand.  I will especially look at New Covenant verses that don’t seem to match or line up with the message of the complete work of Christ.  If there are any verses you would like me to look at or comment on, please comment on this blog, or email me on ben@treeoflifechurch.org.uk and let me know. 

Today, I am going to look at 1. Cor. 9.23 which in the KJV says: And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.

This verse initially seems difficult because it looks like Paul is saying that he is going around the world preaching the gospel, planting churches and ministering the gifts and power of the Spirit to  become a partaker of the gospel.  But surely knowing what we know of the complete work, Paul is already a partaker of the gospel, the good news.  Our ability to receive salvation, healing, prosperity, joy is nothing to do with our works and our ministry.

So is this verse wrong?  Is our understanding of the complete work wrong?  Or have we missed a point.  It’s that we have missed a point, and it’s a very simple point: Paul wasn’t preaching around the world, planting churches, healing the sick and ministering life and grace to partake of the gospel, but to partake of the gospel with you.

We don’t preach the gospel to get blessed – we are blessed.  We don’t preach the gospel to get healed – we are healed.  We don’t preach the gospel to get happy – we are happy.  But we do preach the gospel to share the blessings.  We do preach the gospel to share the healings.  We do preach the gospel to share the joy.  You see the greatest happiness is life is NOT being blessed – it’s sharing the blessings.  The greatest joy is not partaking of the gospel – it’s partaking of the gospel with others.

 

Getting blessed is great.  Watching others get blessed is greater.  The greatest of all is watching others get others blessed.

Getting healed is great.  Watching others get healed is greater.  The greatest of all is watching others get others healed.

Today, decide that you want to partake of this gospel with as many people as possible.  Your partaking of it is set in stone, but how many others you get to share that partaking with – that’s up to you.

Run Through Romans (4.9-13)

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This is some beautiful teaching here from the apostle of grace, Paul:

9Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

Paul is taking here about the blessedness of not having your sin held against you.  As I said in the last post, the is the most remarkable blessing.  Because of what Jesus did on the cross in becoming your sin, if you put your faith in him then you will never have your sin held against you.  God will treat you as if you never sinned.  I have heard people say it like this: justified means just-if-i’d never sinned, and that is 100% correct.  If you have your faith in Jesus, you can relate to God as if you never sinned.

Now Paul is asking the question: does a person have to be circumcised to have this blessing?  Some people, often called the Judaizers by scholars, were visiting the new churches that Paul was planting and telling people that they could never be right with God, never enter heaven and never enjoy heaven on earth until they were circumcised.

Now I have never in the 21st century heard someone make such a claim: that unless someone is circumcised that they cannot enter heaven when they die or enjoy heaven on earth.  However, I have heard many equivalent claims and so have you.

How about: “if you quit going to this church you will never succeed on earth”.  Anyone heard that?  It is a lie.  You are righteous by faith and you will succeed on earth because of what Jesus has done.  I was in a church once where people were told they were going to hell because they were wearing sleeveless tops.

What about you have to speak in tongues to go to heaven?  What about you have to not have a certain amount of money?  You have to wear certain clothes to fit into the church?  You have to do certain things on a Sunday, or not do other things?  I remember back when I was a brand new Christian, I went into a B&Q with a friend to buy a screwdriver for a model I was building.  I was only about 17, and it was a Sunday after church.

We were walking in the store chatting away when my friend suddenly grabbed my shoulder and pulled me behind the shelving and into the next aisle.  I was a little shocked to say the least.  When I demanded an explanation, he told me that he had just seen a deacon from our church walking down the aisle we were in.  We were absolutely not allowed to let him see us in the shop!

Even my teenage mind was lightning fast to realize that for him to tell the pastor we were in the shop that he would have had a very obvious question to answer himself, so  I really wasn’t concerned!  But that is the attitude of very many churches.  The fact is that being right with God, being accepted has nothing to do with our actions.

There is actually in several churches a movement to go back to the “Hebrew” roots of the church.  People are dressing in Jewish clothes, celebrating the passover, and adopting Jewish customs and practices.  This is absolutely unnecessary and can be spiritually very dangerous.

If all you are doing is keeping a passover to examine the typology of Jesus and marvel at how the Lord accurately portrayed the death of Jesus to the Jewish people hundreds of years before it happened, then that is fine and may actually be beneficial.  But the second you start to judge people on the days they keep, the festivals they are involved in, the second you think that these things contribute to your righteousness, you are stepping away from the truth of salvation by grace alone through faith alone.

10How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.

Paul is pointing out that circumcision cannot possibly be necessary to be righteous because Abraham was declared righteous BEFORE he was circumcised.  This principle is an excellent principle if you want to know if I have to do something to be accepted by God.  All you have to do any time someone says you have to do A, B or C before you are right with God is ask yourself if Abraham did it before he was declared righteous.  If the answer is no, then you do not need to do it before God declares you righteous.

I was in one church that said if you did not read your Bible EVERY DAY, God would not accept you.  In other words, your righteousness was not dependant on the complete work of Jesus but on your ability to read.

Ask yourself the question: did Abraham read his Bible every day before he was declared righteous.  The answer is an obvious no because there was no Bible in Abraham’s day.

The fact is this: Abraham was declared righteous before he was circumcised, hundreds of years before there was a Bible, hundreds of years before the first church service (yes! you don’t have to go to church to be right with God!), before he tithed, before he saw a manifestation of God’s goodness, before he did anything.  All he did was believe.  It is that simple.  We overcomplicate it, and there are always people who will tell you that you have to pray this long, fast this long, read the Bible this much and go to church this many times to be right with God.

It is the same error Paul is dealing with in Romans.  You do not have to do anything to be right with God.  It is only by faith alone in grace alone.

11And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

Abraham’s circumcision only happened after he was declared righteous.  We like to put the cart before the horse.  We like to tell people: quit smoking and you will be right with God.  It’s nonsense – quitting smoking cannot make you right with God.  You will just smell a bit nicer and have a bit more money, but you won’t be righteous.

What we should tell people is: you are right with God.  They will then quit smoking.  They were only smoking because of fear and anxiety.  Now they know that they have peace with God and they are enjoying heaven on earth, they forget about the cigarettes.

(Obviously cigarettes is just an example, this works with every situation!)

12And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

And to be like Abraham it is not the outward thing you need to do to be like Abraham, but the inward thing.  You don’t need to look like Abraham, be circumcised like Abraham, but you need to believe like Abraham.

We still copy the externals of people not their heart.  We miss it by so much.  Years ago I loved Derek Prince more than any other Bible teacher.  I listened to him every day.  I started to try and be like him in the pulpit, I would lecture and adopt his mannerisms and his phrases.  I even bought myself a three piece suit because that is what he always wore.

Now I realize I should have followed his faith: the fact that he always simply accepted the Word of God over any tradition and any circumstance, the fact that he was a man of humility and integrity.  I should still preach like me (if you have ever heard me preach, I am not like him in the pulpit at all… well, not in style, I hope in substance I am like him), should still dress like me, and still be me.

If you have spiritual heroes, and there is not a problem with that, we were designed to have heroes, don’t emulate their external behaviours but emulate their faith and their spirit.

13For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

Abraham was told by God that he would inherit the world!  If you believe in Jesus, you are going to inherit the world.  Blessed are the meek, because they will inherit the earth.

If you realize that because of Jesus that you are going to inherit the earth, you are going to be promoted, you are going to prosper, you are going to be wealthy, and that your actions will not change your righteousness, that your sin is not and will never be held against you, then you will be a happy person!

Blessed are you forever,

Ben

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