Jesus Baptism

            I have in the past written about Jesus’ baptism by John and the significance of Jesus doing what He did on earth not as a man under the anointing of the Spirit. In some way He set aside His divine attributes http://wisdomfromtheword.ca/walking-in-authority-part-2/. Here I want to look at what I believe took place at Jesus baptism. This requires bringing together Isaiah 11:1-2, 61:1-2, which Luke 4:18-19 quotes, and Ephesians 4:11. Years ago I made some notes in my bible regarding the connection between Ephesians 4:11and Isaiah 11:1-2 and they sat there until recently when a friend asked for my thoughts and on Isaiah 11:1-2 and it reminded me of my notes.

            At John’s baptism of Jesus, the Spirit came and rested on Him and the Father spoke from heaven and endorsed Him (Matthew 3:16-17). When He publicly proclaimed Himself as the Messiah in Nazareth Jesus read Isaiah 61 in the synagogue and told them the scripture was fulfilled.  

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” 20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:18–21 (NKJV)

This is where Isaiah 11 and Ephesians 4 come in. Ephesians 4 describes Jesus ascension gifts to the church as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. In His earthly ministry Jesus expressed the fullness of each of these five gifts. We see that in Isaiah 11. I here present it twice; the second time just verse 2 with some added words in brackets to illustrate what I am saying.

1 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. Isaiah 11:1-2 (NKJV)

2 The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom (apostle) and understanding (prophet), The Spirit of counsel (shepherd/pastor) and might (evangelist), The Spirit of knowledge (teacher) and of the fear of the LORD. Isaiah 11:2 (NKJV)

            This passage in Isaiah is well known as referring to the coming Messiah, Jesus. The other aspect is that it is generally referred to as the seven-fold Spirit resting on Jesus. I have never been able to see the seven-fold aspect here. The passage speaks of the Holy Spirit coming to rest on Jesus at His baptism and imparting the fullness of the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching gifts. The passage then continues with the first line of Isaiah 11:3, “3 His delight is in the fear of the Lord.” The fear of Yahweh is not a gift resulting from Jesus’ baptism or obedience. It is the heart attitude He carried to His baptism!

  In Hebrew the word delight is very interesting. Spirit in each reference in Isaiah 11:2 is Ruach (7307 in Strong’s) spirit, breath, wind. Delight is Ruach with a slightly different accent (7306 in Strong’s) and is the root of 7307. It carries the sense of anticipation, as if we begin to smell something and anticipate more, hence the translation as delight.  

The fear of Yahweh in relation to Jesus’ humanity brings me to what my friend Evelyn said years ago when I asked her how she defined the fear of the Lord. She said, “Loving Him so much I would never do anything to offend Him.” Jesus certainly lived that way before His Father.

In conclusion, Jesus was baptized in water and the Spirit at the same time and the fruit of that experiences was a full release into His ministry. We all have gifts and callings. To fully walk in them I think we need to learn how to ‘love Him so much that we will never do anything to offend Him.’ Making that our delight will allow Him to move through us in His fullness.

Our Generational God

I wrote some time ago about David accomplishing his purposes in serving his generation. I am back at that idea, the importance of a generational perspective. The significance of generations and purposes became deeply rooted in me a number of years ago. I was helping to lead a prayer and worship group and someone asked a question. I don’t remember the question; I do remember my answer. I said, “God is generational” and something clicked in my spirit when I said it. This type of experience has happened to me a few times over the years. Something flows out of my spirit in response to a question and I find myself thinking, ‘That’s interesting, I never knew that/thought about that.’ That is what happened then.

Prior to this experience I was aware of the Father having purposes for different generations but it really took root when I answered the persons question. My mind immediately went to Yahweh’s response to Moses in Exodus 3.

16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt,” Exodus 3:16 (ESV)

The significance of the Lord speaking of being the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is that He began to focus in on His ultimate redemptive purposes through Abraham. Abraham was called out of his culture and the gods of his culture into a faith relationship with the one true God. This purpose continued in his family line culminating in the Messiah, Jesus coming to earth as descendant of Abraham. What began in Ur culminated in a tomb in Jerusalem ablaze with the light of the glory of God!  

            Given this we need to consider how we follow our generational God. Understanding comes in embracing our purpose as David did.  

36 “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; Acts 13:36 (NKJV)

36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, Acts 13:36 (ESV)

I included the ESV translation above because it gets at the heart of the issue. David served God’s purpose in his generation. If we want to know how David did that, we need only look a bit further back in Acts 13.

22 And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will. 23 From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus— Acts 13:22–23 (NKJV)

Jesus as the Messiah was a descendant of the man after God’s own heart, David. David was not aware that the Messiah would come through his lineage when he began to serve God’s purpose. Likewise, we don’t know what greater purpose we are serving through pursuing the heart of our Father and seeking to be obedient. What we do know is that those who came before us had an impact on our lives and we will have an impact on the lives of those after us. I for example, do not know what the fruit of my writing, teaching and praying for others will be. At times I feel very inadequate and question the fruit of it all. Yet, 27 years ago He spoke 1 Corinthians 4:2 to me and I have tried to live out of it ever since.

2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2 (NKJV)    

Only eternity will reveal the fruit of what we have accomplished in time, what we have done with what was invested in us and what we have invested in others. Therefore, let us seek to be found faithful and serve His purpose, leaving the final results in His hands.

Free to Serve

            If we know Jesus, we know that He set us free. We have been set free from the penalty and power of sin and the Father’s plan for our lives it to conform us to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). We see the emphatic reality of our freedom in Galatians 5:1, which includes a call to use our freedom wisely and not return to bondage.

1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1 (NKJV)

            A further understanding of our freedom comes when we heed what Paul said. In 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 Paul shared with the Corinthians what had happened to Israel in their wilderness journey and pointed out these events were an example to learn from. Going back to the events that led to the Exodus we see another example to learn from. Through Moses, Yahweh demanded the freedom of His people.

1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.’” Exodus 5:1 (NKJV)

1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.’” Exodus 8:1 (NKJV)

20 And the LORD said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh as he comes out to the water. Then say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.’” Exodus 8:20 (NKJV)

            Moses began demanding the Israelites be set free to hold a feast to Yahweh and then began a pattern of demanding they be set free to serve Yahweh. Their freedom, as does ours, had a purpose. The annual feasts that were eventually instituted (Leviticus 23) were about worship, building community and maintaining a national identity. Likewise, as His children we have been set free to worship, build community and maintain an identity. It is sad to see the body of Christ as fractured and broken as it is at present. In spite of that, each of us as believers can seek to worship with others who know Him, build relationships with others who know Him and be established in our identity as His people in the midst of whatever culture we find ourselves.

            There is an additional purpose for our freedom. Adding to the community. We find this in The Great Commission.

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)

            As much as we are able let’s stand fast in the liberty we have in Jesus, use our freedom to worship, build community and extend His kingdom within our spheres of influence.

The Place of Inconvenience

            We live in a culture that values convenience, instant results and instant gratification. We are loathe to make sacrifices. I don’t know how many of you have ever fasted, I haven’t done it for some time, I do confess that when I did it regularly, I never enjoyed it! I also don’t think I did it very well. That aside, we need to address how being trained to convenience in our culture can get in the way of spiritual development. I am not going to focus on works or earning spiritual gifts. Yet, here is something to consider. Spiritual growth requires our involvement and commitment.

            To better understand this let’s inject ourselves into first century culture in Israel. Most communication was verbal, access to a library was a luxury. For the majority of the population the bulk of their time was spent surviving. You had to raise your food, get supplies for your fire to heat your oven to cook, walk if you wanted to get somewhere and make your own clothing and shoes. No phones, no newspapers, no hot showers and a host of other conveniences. The newspaper was whatever was shared at the local market or by strangers passing through your village.

I share this to provide a bit of perspective. Now, think of John the Baptist then Jesus. Crowds followed both of them and frequently did so at great inconvenience. They went into the wilderness to find them. They needed to pack with them whatever food was required. Based on Jesus feeding the multitudes more than once, many of them either stayed too long or were unable to take enough with them when they followed Him. They ended up physically hungry because what they valued more than physical hunger was seeking to satisfy their spiritual hunger.

            I recognize that while the crowds went out into the wilderness to hear from Jesus and followed Him around to desolate and dusty places this wasn’t all that happened. Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding, healed in the synagogue and attended banquets. Yet wherever He went Jesus called for commitment because He wanted us to value what He offered.      

            Thus, in our present culture of convenience are we demonstrating that we value spiritual growth and are willing to be inconvenienced to achieve it? Study the history of revival and the commitment people made to prayer to see it happen. Hungry people traveled great distances to touch and catch the fire and vision. Jesus is still looking for the hungry, not the complacent. A few scriptures from Matthew demonstrate that.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6 (NKJV)

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)

18 And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. 19 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 21 Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” 23 Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. Matthew 8:18–23 (NKJV)

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28–29 (NKJV)

Jesus calls us to hunger and thirst, to pursue His kingdom, to follow Him and to take on His yoke, a euphemism for becoming His disciple.

            Scripture has a way of sometimes casually highlighting truth. In the passage above where some found the call to follow Jesus inconvenient verse 23 captures the attitude of others, ‘His disciples followed Him.’ Plain simple unvarnished truth. Jesus disciples follow Him. It is that simple. When He calls us He expects us to follow. My good friend Evelyn stepped from time into eternity in December of 2017. On a couple of occasions she shared with me a simple encounter she had with Jesus in a vision. She said He appeared, looked at her and then turned and began walking. She knew He was saying, ‘follow me’ and that is what she did with her life.

            He still calls and He still expects us to follow. Let’s do that. After all, much is waiting for us in walking with Him, but we may have to pray the price of inconvenience to receive it.

The Mind of Christ Part 3

            In my previous two posts on this subject, we addressed that the mind of Christ is accessible but not automatic and then looked at how we access Jesus’ mind via the Spirit, though not in detail. He we get further into the details.

Years ago, there was a movie with the title Lost in Translation. While I never saw the movie, the title captures what sometimes happens with scripture. In the process of translation, we sometimes lose important and practical information. The passage below is an example. We can gain what was lost by looking closely at the meaning of the words natural and spiritual in verses 14 and 15.

13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:13-16 (NKJV)

The word translated as spiritual in verse 15 is the adjective form of spirit. The word translated as natural is the adjective form of soul, Thus, it would be better rendered as soulish so that we can see the contrast between soulish and spiritual that is actually what Paul is highlighting. (As an aside, I first came across this idea in Watchman Nee’s most significant work, The Spiritual Man about 35 years ago.) Many assume that ‘natural’ means unregenerate but that doesn’t fit the context. Let’s look at verses 14-15 again plugging in both adjective forms.

14 But the soulish man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.

Paul’s contrast between soulish and spiritual is not on whether or not we are born again. It is on what we are drawing from or living from. The soulish person may be unregenerate or they may not be paying attention to the Spirit and so be soulish when they should be spiritual. After all, that is the focus of Paul’s rebuke in in the next chapter. He rebukes the Corinthian believers for not being spiritual and is shocked that they are acting like ‘mere men’ (verses 1 and 3).

            To be spiritual is to look to and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s point from chapter 2 verse 9 on into chapter 3 is that we don’t receive the things of the Spirit through our natural/soulish reasoning. He says that the Lord wants to speak to us but also says that the only one who knows the things of God is the Spirit because He searches the depths (2:10) and He reveals things to us, which must be discerned by comparing spiritual things with spiritual things rather than soulish things.   

12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

            What we see in 1 Corinthians as a whole is people who were focused on who they followed (name dropping – Paul, Apollos, Peter), people who were misusing spiritual gifts out of ambition and a desire for recognition rather than love, and people creating division around communion, the very antithesis of the unity the act proclaims. Paul’s point is that if they were actually spiritual rather than soulish their behaviour would be much different, it would look a lot more like 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter).

We are called to be led by the Spirit and discern His voice. This is generally an inner prompting regarding our thoughts and actions. I am confident we have all had them. The caution to say or not say something the inner cautions regarding our thinking. I can remember decades ago I was walking up the parkade steps to my office. I was frustrated with the behaviour of one of the staff and not having the best thoughts about them. I don’t remember the situation or what I was thinking. I do remember I stumbled on the stairs and internally I clearly heard the Holy Spirit say, “That kind of thinking will make you stumble.” I also remember being tempted to do something once and clearly hearing Galatians 5:8, “This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you.”

Many times, I have had inner promptings regarding a call to say or do something. Recently a friend had asked me to pray about something. A couple of days later I had an inner leading to pray for him. As I began praying, I had an image of him being encrusted with a thin translucent substance that hindered his movements. I then saw it being shattered and him moving more freely. He responded by sending me a picture of a large electrical panel he was working on, the brand was ‘Freer.’ Confirmations of having His mind are not always that quick or clear. We can however know whether or not we have His mind.   

To know if we are receiving from and being led by the Spirit, we only need to look at whether we are acting in love toward our fellow believers and those around us. After all the message of 1 Corinthians is the message of Galatians. Being led by the Spirt produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control. If we are living this way, no matter our gifts or lack thereof, we have the mind of Christ!  

The Mind of Christ Part 2

            As noted in my previous post, the phrase ‘we have the mind of Christ’ is from 1 Corinthians 2:16. I stated that I would get into the practical aspects of accessing Jesus’ mind. To do that we start by backing up a bit in the chapter with the following verses.

9 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 1 Corinthians 2:9–12 (NKJV)

            First, a little more context. We know that Paul concluded this section by stating that he and Sosthenes had the mind of Christ. However, he wasn’t simply contrasting his views with the views of the believers in Corinth. Clearly, they did not have the mind of Christ or he wouldn’t have written this corrective letter, yet in his writing he was also contrasting his views with those of the world and those who crucified Jesus!

Importantly, Paul shares how he received the mind of Christ – through the Spirit. Having the Lord’s mind, as I noted in my last post, is about having His perspective. Paul’s point in the passage above is that the things of God are revealed to us by the Spirit, that is they are available to us as believers. He is quite explicit in his conclusion, ‘we have received…the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.’

            In applying this idea of receiving from the Spirit we immediately run into a problem. In the modern church many people claim to hear things from the Spirit that the discerning recognize are not in line with scripture. Just as some in the Corinthian church had very wrong ideas. To sort through this, it is important to recognize that Paul did not arbitrarily claim to receive things from the Spirit then try to present them as settled doctrine. Even though he received the gospel directly from Jesus (Galatians 1:11-12), he went and submitted it to those who were apostles before he was to confirm he was hearing correctly (Galatians 2:1-10). We see in larger doctrinal debates in the church a reference back to existing scripture, the Old Testament. In Acts 15:15-17 James quoted Amos to support his conclusion. On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 Peter appealed to what was happening by drawing on the Old Testament, Joel chapter 2.

My point, whatever perspective we hold must be rooted in scripture. In writing to Timothy, Paul highlighted the importance of scripture.  

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16–17 (NKJV)

We can and should hear and receive from the Spirit so that we have the mind of Christ. However, given Paul felt the need to assess what he heard directly from Jesus we certainly need to weigh whatever we hear alongside what the scriptures have to say.

            In my next and final post on this subject I will address what Paul is getting at regarding the spiritual and natural as we go a little deeper into 1 Corinthians 2:13-16.

The Mind of Christ Part 1

            We have the mind of Christ is a phrase we can use or a reality we choose to try and live out each day. I prefer the latter. To understand how we live it we need to start with scripture.

16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16 (NKJV)

20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:20–24 (NKJV)

1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. Colossians 3:1–2 (NKJV)

            In general, when I have heard the phrase ‘we have the mind of Christ’ used it is in reference to the idea that we as Christians have Christ’s mind. When thinking that through the idea is clearly not that simple. If we as believers all have the mind of Christ there would be no doctrinal issues in the church, we would all agree. Quite frankly, in my nearly four decades of Christian experience I can state emphatically that many of us frequently do not have the mind of Christ on a matter.

To understand how Paul expressed the concept we will look at the context and the meaning of the idea of having someone’s mind on something. A better expression might be perspective. We can see it when we plug it in and look at the Randy version, 16 For “who has known the perspective of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the perspective of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16.

My bible has a centre column reference for the verses from the Old Testament verses that Paul draws upon to say, ‘who has known the mind of the Lord?’ The verses are below.  

8 Have you heard the counsel of God? Do you limit wisdom to yourself? Job 15:8 (NKJV)

13 Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, Or as His counselor has taught Him? Isaiah 40:13 (NKJV)

The idea of counsel is just that the sharing of ideas, hearing the counsel of others to gain perspective. In context Paul was saying that in writing to the Corinthians he and Sosthenes (1 Corinthians 1:1) had determined Jesus’ perspective on the matters they had written to Paul asking about. It would be wonderful if Paul had added, ‘this is how we determined Jesus’ perspective.’ Obviously, Paul didn’t do that, at least not here.

For Part 1 I have raised the issue of the need for the perspective of Jesus, having His mind. I have also asserted that it is something we need to determine, not something we have by default as a believer. I do believe we have access, however, just as I may have food in the fridge or cupboard, it does me no good sitting there, I need to access it. In Part 2 I will get at the practical aspect of getting Jesus’ perspective on a matter – being renewed in the spirit of our minds and setting our minds on things above.

What Every Joint Supplies

In my last post I addressed the importance of community in general and the role that we as believers are called to play in strengthening our communities. Here we will look more specifically at the importance of community within the church. We are called to be salt and light in our culture and one way we do that is by demonstrating a community which is far greater than that which the world around us possesses. I know that isn’t the experience of many of us in the church but it is clearly the call of scripture. Every time we partake of communion (koinonia in Greek, which means participation or fellowship) we are declaring our common union and fellowship with Jesus and our brothers and sisters in Christ. I believe we need to not only announce it, we need to live it.    

Ephesian 4 is one place where we see the purpose ad benefit of our common union. Here we see the fruit of community within the church illustrated.

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:11-16 (NKJV)

While I believe in the present day need for the five-fold ministry giftings of verse 11 I am aware not everyone does, which is fine. We can simply think if it as leadership in the church. The passage is about the purpose of leaders in equipping the saints and preparing them to minister. We also have the exhortation to speak the truth in love. These are important points. However, while providing the passage for context, I want to focus on one verse, 16.

            This verse is about community and growth in the body. When we break it down a bit we first, we see “the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies.” We then see, “according to the effective working by which every part does its share.” Finally, the result, “causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” 

            Bodies cannot function without joints. While that is obvious, I don’t know how often we reflect on what a joint is and does. A joint is a relationship between parts. Some joints are simple hinge joints like our knee or elbow. Others like the ankle are a little more complex and one that is often injured is the shoulder. Most of us are familiar with the term ‘rotator cuff injury’ because it is quite common. The reason it is easily injured is that the shoulder joint is a complex number of parts coming together.  

Going back to Paul, his point is that the body of Christ is held together and grows by the relationships within it, community. The more the parts the greater the opportunity for injury and the greater capacity to move through a varied range of motion. Taking this analogy into church life, the greater the number of people the greater the opportunity for both offences and effective growth.

As per my note on different joints, some relationships are more complex than others, but all are needed. Joints supply something, they accomplish work. When that is done effectively in the human body it enables effective functioning, in the body of Christ it causes growth.

            We can relate this to a home group, bible study or church service. I will use a Sunday morning service to illustrate how joints should function. The sermon and worship are important on any given Sunday morning, yet the focus for Paul is not on the music or sermon. His focus is on whether they lead to the members connecting, being joints, and building one another up. The interaction at the entrance, outside the bathroom, at the back of the sanctuary, are all opportunities for the body to experience community. Leadership should facilitate this and many other opportunities. If they don’t we come in on a Sunday, stand and sit on cue and leave without these interactions. In that case we are not part of a community, we are part of an organization or system.

            Given that most of us are not leaders in the body of Christ our role is to make connections, find the other parts of our joint when we have the opportunity so that the body will grow. To paraphrase a famous line from Martin Luther King Junior, “Be the best part of a joint in the world and the world will beat a path to your door.” I have often thought that King came up with his idea from Proverbs.

29 Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men. Proverbs 22:29 (NKJV)

Whenever we encounter another member of the body of Christ, we have the opportunity to be part of a joint, to join with them in strengthening the body by encouraging them, praying for one another, helping one another focus on Jesus and many other similar things. We can be a healthy joint.

As a concluding thought, the idea of a solitary Christian is an oxymoron. We were created for community and to strengthen one another. As Paul put it,

13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13 (NKJV)  

If we aren’t presently taking the opportunities to embrace our function as part of a joint let’s find some other parts we can connect and join with to see His body grow in a healthy way. We are called to do what we can with what we have where are, demonstrating koinonia, Christian community!

Community

            A principle I was taught while growing up was to try and leave things better than I found them. Here I will apply that concept to community. I have in the past referenced the importance of the following verse from Proverbs.

11 By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted, But it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked. Proverbs 11:11 (NKJV)

In looking at this it is important to remember that a city is a community made up of many people with differing views and desires. Here is a brief example that highlights what I am referencing. I was recently speaking with someone at a Pickleball court and I noted all he has done over the years to build community where he lives. He volunteers and helps out in a variety of areas. He does this because he not only sees what is, he sees what could be and so invests his life in his community. While this man is not a believer, he blesses and strengthens his community by his actions.

I seek to think from a scriptural perspective and part of a scriptural perspective is recognizing the importance of building a community. For example, I remember years ago helping to rebuild the playground in our neighbourhood. This wasn’t a ‘Christian’ event but it was an event that helped to strengthen community in our neighbourhood, which is Christian.

In line with the broader idea of community there is another verse in Proverbs that is important.

2 Because of the transgression of a land, many are its princes; But by a man of understanding and knowledge Right will be prolonged. Proverbs 28:2 (NKJV)

Currently in our land, Canada, we are in a precarious place. Right is not only not being prolonged; it is being fought against in our nation. The most vehement opposition is coming from many of our elected officials and our education system. We need men and women with understanding and knowledge to rise up to establish righteousness in our nation. We won’t get anywhere by cursing the darkness, it is easy to see the transgressions. What we need is wisdom to shine the light of truth in every corner of our land so that what is right is strengthened.

            One way to shine the light of truth is through looking at how we engage in prayer. The pattern of prayer for specific places is a pattern in scripture. In Psalm 122 there is an exhortation to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. That would include praying for the spiritual and religious leaders to walk in the way of peace and wisdom. In context Israel was at the time living in the land Yahweh had given them and Jerusalem was their capital city, religiously and politically.  

6  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you.” Psalm 122:6 (NKJV)

Another example of the call to pray for a specific city is in Jeremiah. The nation was going into captivity. Rather than telling them to curse their captors (the Lord was causing this as judgement for their apostasy) Jeremiah said to pray for the city because by blessing it they would have peace in living in this new place.

 
7  And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace. Jeremiah 29:7 (NKJV)

            In summary, wherever we live and act we have the opportunity to be a blessing and strengthen our community and nation. After all, a nation is made up of many communities. We have the opportunity to focus our prayers and actions on ways to build supportive godly communities. Without knowing when Jesus will return, we can focus our efforts on doing what we can with what we have where we are. We all have the opportunity to leave things better than we found them so let’s bless the places we live!  

A Wise Heart

                        There are two verses in Proverbs that appear contradictory. In fact, some use them to try and prove that scripture is flawed or not inspired.

4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him.

5 Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes. Proverbs 26:4–5 (NKJV)

            On the surface these two verses are contradictory as they give opposing exhortations. We cannot simultaneously answer and not answer at the same time. To understand we dig a little bit. The point of verse 4 is that we are not be like a fool and the point of verse 5 is that we are not to let a fool be deceived into thinking he is wise. Here an explanatory note is needed. In the book of Proverbs, the term ‘fool’ refers not to a lack of intelligence but to one who rejects the knowledge of God. 

            We now come back to understanding these verses. The warning in verse 4 is ‘Lest you also be like him’ while in verse 5 the warning is ‘Lest he be wise in his own eyes.’ It is the endings in each statement that enable us to make sense of the seeming contradictions.

In verse 4 heeding the warning is similar to the idea of ‘getting in the mud with someone.’ Think of politics. People speak of maintaining the ‘moral high ground.’ That is what this Proverb is referring to. We can argue and debate with someone and become quite vociferous in our exchanges. However, that approach generally alienates people and builds walls rather than bridges. When someone is engaged in folly it is folly to try and point out their folly if they don’t have a teachable spirit. I am in some online theological debate groups and try to avoid this approach. I am not 100% successful but I am working at it. In an exchange with one fellow, we disagreed on a theological point. One of the many doctrines he dismissed while claiming to be a Christian was that Jesus was God or part of the Trinity. When we disagreed he challenged me by asking what my credentials were. In response I went over my decades of bible study and teaching scripture along with my academic credentials, none of which he possessed. He quickly conceded my point and acknowledge that I was correct – just kidding! His response was, “I don’t care.” While his response was in direct opposition to what he had asked it was clear that I had fallen into the verse 4 trap of answering a fool according to folly! I should have simply said that I did not agree and left the matter there as this fellow was not open to examining his position.

In other instances, I have simply asked questions to get others to reflect on their position then highlighted what the scriptures actually say. This works better at creating accountability and fits with answering them according to their folly. Truth is highlighted for them to consider. This fits with what I used to say when doing a lot of adult education. I would tell participants that my teaching philosophy was to open doors and offer them opportunities and they needed to decide whether to walk through the door.

Another example, I recently had a debate with an articulate Mormon who identifies himself as a Mormon apologist. We obviously didn’t agree on what scripture said so I suggested we each share what we believed and why from a dialogue rather than a debate perspective. Trying to learn from one another first. While I am convinced his belief system falls under the broader category of ‘fool’ as stated in Proverbs, I sought to answer him according to his folly. There was no response from him once I made the offer and essentially asked him to ‘put his cards on the table.’

The conclusion, we need to discern how to respond in different situations. We don’t want to leave people in the wrong place with the wrong conclusions if we can help them extricate themselves. At the same time, we can’t help those who refuse help. It is like a dream a friend of mine had years ago. In the dream someone he knew was in the water drowning and needed help to get out. He offered his hand and the person refused. They wanted help, just not his help! Let’s try to help where we can and recognize when we can’t.