Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Who is the Devil? What does he do? How powerful is he? Is the Devil the same as Satan?

Many of us developed a view of the Devil as children from watching Saturday morning cartoons. Images of a hoofed creature with horns and a pitchfork are what usually come to mind. This post seeks to give an description of the Devil by using just the Bible.

Biblical Names of Satan
  • The Devil
    • “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1)
    • The word “devil” is from a Greek term meaning “adversary, opponent or enemy”.
  • Satan
    • “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD” (Job 2:1)
    • Like the word “devil”, the word Satan (from the Hebrew) is also a term that means “opponent, adversary or enemy”.
  • Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24)
  • Serpent (Revelation 12:9)
  • Prince of the Powers of the Air (Ephesians 2:2)
  • Belial (2 Corinthians 6:15)
  • Murderer and Liar (John 8:44)
  • Prince of this World (John 12:31)
  • God of this World (2 Corinthians 4:4)
  • The Dragon (Revelation 12:9)
    • And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him (Revelation 12:9)
What the Bible teaches about Satan?
  • He was a fallen angel:
    • (Jude 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” (cf. 2 Peter 2:4)
  • He was the first sinner:
    • “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8)
  • He was the original liar:
    • “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it”. (John 8:44)
  • He is a perpetual tempter of man (Revelation 20:2,8).
  • He is dangerous (1 Peter 5:8)
  • He will be defeated!
    • Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil... (Hebrews 2:14)
  • We can cause him to flee!
    • Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
  • Jesus will ultimately destroy him and his works!
    • He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)
  • Satan will be punished for eternity!
    • The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.  (Revelation 20:10)
  • We should fear him, but through Jesus we can defeat him!
    • "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death” (Revelation 12:11)
The Devil is dangerous, but Jesus is more powerful! Satan will be punished and those in relationship with Christ will be victorious!

By Cliff Sabroe

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Can you explain grace?

What is Grace?
Most people have a basic understanding of what grace means, but don’t completely understand what it entails. The word grace is used over 150 times in the New Testament and in its most basic sense it can be defined as “favor or kindness”. More importantly, as it relates to salvation, it should be viewed as “favor and kindness from God”. This post seeks to present a few areas where we may not have considered the implications of God’s grace. 

Our Salvation is a Result of God’s Grace
It is impossible for us to be saved without the grace of God. No matter how hard we work, obey or do good deeds, we cannot save ourselves. Our salvation is a result of God’s grace. In his letter to the Ephesians the Apostle Paul wrote,
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
The point is clear, salvation is an impossibility without grace.

God Offers Grace to All
What is wonderful about God’s saving grace is that He has made it available to all. There are certain religious groups that teach that God has a “limited” amount of grace. This idea is foreign to Scripture. In the book of Titus it reads “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11). It is true that not all will accept and receive this grace, but that is not the fault of God, for He offers His saving grace to all.

Grace Instructs
Some try to paint a picture that because of grace obedience is not a necessity, this idea cannot be further from the truth. When describing the grace that is offered to all, in (Titus 2:12) the Apostle Paul writes that this grace is “instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age”. The grace of God is a divine motivator and instructor for one to live a holy life.

Grace is Not Earned
Although our obedience is necessitated by God’s grace, God’s grace is not earned through obedience. None of us deserve grace. Because of sin, all that we have earned is death. God is so merciful and loving that He offers a gift that none of us could obtain on our own. 
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
Grace Must be Accessed
We do not save ourselves. However, we must choose to access the saving grace of God. Sadly, many do not recognize that they are lost, and thus never come to Christ through faith in order to receive His grace. (Romans 5:2) reads, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God”. When we place our trust/faith in Christ’s saving work we access His grace. We place our faith/trust in Christ by “calling on the name of the Lord”  through our baptism (Acts 22:16).

We Must Continually Grow in Grace
The Christian life is a life of perpetual growth. This is especially true when it comes to our understanding and realization of God’s grace. As Peter wrote at the end of his letter, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).  God’s grace does not increase through our growth, but our realization of His grace causes us to grow. 

It is Possible to Fall from Grace
Sadly, some people place their faith in something besides God for salvation. This lack of faith can cause one to “fall from grace”. In Galatia there were some Christians who were requiring Old Testament law keeping for one to be justified. Concerning this, the Apostle Paul writes,  “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). Instead of trusting in Christ, they were trusting in circumcision, thus had fallen from grace.

We live For Christ so the Gift of God’s Grace is Not in Vain
God has done so much for us. He sent His Son to die for us and He offers us His grace. If we do not allow these great blessings to motivate us to live for Him, we cause all of God’s work to be in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:10) reads, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me”. God’s grace makes us who we are and we live for Christ so the grace received is not in vain.

Conclusion
God’s grace is the undeserved gift of God’s kindness and favor. God is a merciful and loving God who wants us to be saved. Thanks be to God for the gift of grace. May we always seek access to this gift through faith and allow the grace of God to motivate us to live in holiness. 

By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from NASB and ESV Bibles

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What is the difference between an Elder, Bishop, Shepherd, Presbyter and Pastor?

Depending on what church you attend, you have probably heard at least one of these terms before. What you may have never heard, is that each one of these terms are in reference to the same role within a local congregation. This post seeks to define each one of these terms and demonstrate how you can prove they all refer to the same office.

Elder
The term “elder” in the New Testament is a translation of the Greek word (presbuteros) which means “older man”. In some English Bibles this word is transliterated into “presbyter”. As would be assumed with the term “elder”, the word expresses maturity and is often used in a religious sense. The following are a few verses in which this term is found.
(Acts 14:23) -And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 
(Titus 1:5) - For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you... 
(1 Timothy 4:14) - Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.
Bishop / Overseer
This word is not usually found in modern translations, however, it is used in the King James Version and the ASV 1901. “Bishop” is from the Greek word (episkopon) and is usually translated as “overseer”. This term reflects the idea of watching over intently. Note the following passages.
(1 Timothy 3:2) -Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 
(Titus 1:7) - For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain.
One may observe that Bishop/Overseer and Elder are in reference to the same office by reading the whole of the passage in (Titus 1). In (Titus 1:5) these men are collectively referred to as “Elders” and then in (Titus 1:7) the singular “overseer” is used. This example proves they are in reference to the same role within a congregation.

Pastor
Of all the words being examined in this post, the word “pastor” is likely the most widely used term in American church leadership today. The word “pastor” is from the Greek term “poimen”, which can simply be defined as “shepherd”. In fact, this word often is not used in reference to a church leader, but instead, to an actual “shepherd” watching over a flock of sheep. The word “pastor” is listed as an important role in the 1st Century church.
(Ephesians 4:11) -And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers…
It can proven, that the word “pastor” in reference to the same office of an elder and overseer. Notice the text of (1 Peter 1:1-5).
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. (1 Peter 1:1-5)
The previously quoted passage makes it clear that an “elder” is also a “shepherd/pastor”, as well as an “overseer/bishop”. 

Conclusion
In religious tradition, Bible terms are often misused or misunderstood.  Many churches today use the term “pastor” without thinking twice about how it is used in the Bible. Certain religious groups have men ordained as “bishops”, to oversee the “elders” of a particular congregation. In the Bible, however, “bishop” , “elder”, and even “pastor” are all in reference to the same role in the church. Instead of looking at these terms as separate congregational duties, one should view them as the same office with different responsibilities being explained by each one of these inspired words. 

By Cliff Sabroe, quotes from NASB95, Image from churchleaders.com. Definitions gathered from Strong's and Thayer's Greek Lexicons.