Archive for November, 2021

The Materialistic Gravy Train and the Great Deception that can cost a person their soul.

November 10, 2021

Money and wealth is something that a lot of people crave for.  They somehow think that it will make them happy and content.  Sadly, this is not only an idea in the world but it has also infiltrated the Church.   I remember writing about the abuse of wealth in Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Ethics:

https://hasan-godtalk.blogspot.com/2021/01/do-you-love-money-or-god.html

As Christians let us be rich towards God and our neighbours walking by faith in Love.  Our text today is Hebrews 13. 5-6

“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” 6 so that we confidently say,

“THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID.

WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?” Hebrews 13:5-6

This is Apostolic teaching and that should suffice for us to accept God’s word.  However, we are going to go deeper and look at the source of this wisdom which flows from the teaching of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.  Our great teacher has quite a few things to say about riches that come in various guises:

Matt. 6:19. Do not lay up for your

selves treasures upon earth, where

moth and rust destroy, and where

thieves break in and steal.

Riches do not last but rather they can turn our hearts away from our Saviour. 

Matt. 13:22. And the one on whom

seed was sown among the thorns, this

is the man who hears the word, and the

worry of the world, and the deceitful

ness of riches choke the word, and it

becomes unfruitful. Mark 4:7, 18, 19;

Luke 8:7, 14.

We need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.  Riches here are spoken of as deceitful. Deceitfulness is a deception. 

Vine says:

Deceitfulness apate (539), “deceit or deceitfulness” (akin to apatao, “to cheat, deceive, beguile”), that which gives a false impression, whether by appearance, statement or influence, is said of riches, Matt. 13:22; Mark 4:19; of sin, Heb. 3:13. The phrase in Eph. 4:22, “deceitful lusts,” KJV, “lusts of deceit,” RV, signifies lusts excited by “deceit,” of which “deceit” is the source of strength, not lusts “deceitful” in themselves. In 2 Thess. 2:10, “all deceit of unrighteousness,” RV, signifies all manner of unscrupulous words and deeds designed to “deceive” (see Rev. 13:13–15). In Col. 2:8, “vain deceit” suggests that “deceit” is void of anything profitable. Matthew 13:22

I think that wealth is a great deception.  A person could have the latest cars, houses, boats, mistresses.  It is a bubble and is not real.  It goes against the fruit of the Spirit, and it is in direct opposition to God who is True and Pure Love.  The wages of sin is death.

Matt. 16:26. For what will a man be

profited, if he gains the whole world,

and forfeits his soul? Or what will a

man give in exchange for his soul

You were created in the image of God and you have a soul.  In Christ we have real value.  You have heard of the ‘rat race’.  Some choose to be rats and they will deceive in order to get rich.  This road leads to a spiritual death.  It means lying and cheating which is in contraventions to what God teaches.

Matt. 19:23. Truly I say to you, it is

hard for a rich man to enter the king

dom of heaven. 24. And again I say to

you, it is easier for a camel to go

through the eye of a needle, than for a

rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Having looked at the verses above Jesus’ metaphor of a rich man going through the eyes of a needle is very true.  The reason for this is that the person is focusing on this world, on themselves, on their ego, on their earthly god (idol). 

Our Lord’s teachings in the Gospels continue:

Mark 10:23. How hard it will be for

those who are wealthy to enter the

kingdom of God! 24. Children, how

hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!

Mark 12:43. Truly I say to you, this

poor widow put in more than all the

contributors to the treasury; 44. for

they all put in out of their surplus, but

she, out of her poverty, put in all she

owned, all she had to live on.

Luke 12:19. “And I will say to my

soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid

up for many years to come; take your

ease, eat, drink and be merry.”. 20.

But God said to him, “You fool! This

very night your soul is required of you;

and now who will own what you have

prepared?”, 21. So is the man who lays

up treasure for himself, and is not rich

toward God.

So how can we be rich towards God?  If we have followed the teachings of Hebrews, we already know the answer as it is living by faith and keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.  Let us not make ourselves an idol of greed but rather let us become free through obedience to God.  Let us not fixate on wealth as our Lord says:

33 “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:33-34

Our Lord had a lot to say about riches and having the right attitude towards them.  They are an easy snare for the human being to fall into.  The Apostle spent three years with our Lord and even St Paul disappeared for a few years learning about Christ’s Way before he set off on his ministry.  It is on this foundation, Christ’s teachings that we can start to interpret wealth and how it ought to be used. 

The Apostles teachings

In this section we are going to look at what the Apostles thinking is about riches and wealth.  When we have finished you will see that they follow directly from the teachings of Christ.  When the Apostles use Christ’s teachings it is directly into the contemporary life of the Church.  Here I am defining ‘contemporary’ in terms of the relationship of the Apostles to the early Church.  We are also contemporary with the early Church because we have the same Holy Spirit and He is the glue that binds all Christians (The invisible Church) to Christ by faith.

Apostles Teachings

I used http://qbible.com/ to get the following references below.

1 Timothy 6:9

“But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction”

Greed destroys a person from within.  What type of destruction can there be?

If a person can have anything they want, then ultimately the destruction of the soul.  However, there are many levels along the way.

Desire to be rich at any cost can make a rat in character

Wealth can make someone’s ego become an idol where they think they are better than their neighbour.

Temptations that can ruin a person are manifold; alcohol dulls the mind, secret relationships can break families apart,

Affording the latest luxuries can make a person fat.

Wealth can make a person even more selfish

The self becomes ‘a god’. To be more precise a person has more power to do what they want and are prone to fall into the trap that Paul warned about:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21

1 Timothy 6:17

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches but on God who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy

Wealth and riches of whatever type is a great deception, so we need to be aware of its dangers. 

49.1TM | 1 Timothy 6:18

Instruct them to do good to be rich in good works to be generous and ready to share

True happiness is found through faith in Christ.  When one releases the burdens of greed and self-centredness then one starts to live a new life.  We can become soul rich because we put God first.   God created all that is good in the first place and all we are doing is like the prodigal son ‘returning home’.

51.HBR | Hebrews 11:26

considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt for he was looking to the reward

Moses put God first and he was known as the most humble man on the earth.  He wasn’t rich but his life is celebrated all around the world. 

James 1:10

and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation because like flowering grass he will pass away

Wealth can be a humiliation because one only thinks about their own bank balance, so he thinks.  The selfish man is only around for a time and then there is the judgement

James 1:11

… its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away

Pursuing God and his ways brings real wealth which will not fade. 

James 2:5

Listen my beloved brethren did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him

As Bavinck said somewhere the ‘fruit of faith is works’.  It was a big mistake for Martin Luther to call this book ‘straw’.  James the Lord’s brother was the leader of the Jerusalem Church and according to Josephus he was murdered by jealousy and hate. 

We have a few more verses below if you care to read.

James 2:6; But you have dishonored the poor man Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court

James 5:1; Come now you rich weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you

James 5:2; Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth eaten

Revelation 2:9; I know your tribulation and your poverty but you are rich and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan

Revelation 3:17; Because you say I am rich and have become wealthy and have need of nothing and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked

Revelation 18:3; …mmitted acts of immorality with her and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality

Revelation 18:15; The merchants of these things who became rich from her will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment weeping and mourning

Revelation 18:19; …ourning saying Woe woe the great city in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth for in one hour she has been laid waste

This was just background reading.  Money and wealth in itself does nothing.  At the end of the day, we ought to be good stewards of what God has given us.  A person may have inherited his wealth or became wealthy through good business transactions.  This is not a problem.  The problem is the Fall.  When the Fall happened in the garden of Eden it was to do with Adam and Eve wanting to become their own sovereignties without being dependent on God.  They thought that they could be like God!  This is a natural state of people that we want to be in charge, and we think that wealth can make us happy.  It is the great deception.  If we want to be truly happy, we need to watch our attitudes and perceptions.  It is a great temptation for many a politician to be wealthy and famous and some will lie and cheat to end up at ‘the top of the pack’.  This is sad because all a politician is, is a servant of the people.  Unfortunately, if you watch some politicians around the world, you can see and feel the pride that ‘they have made it’.  They have made it for the gravy train of riches, but little do they know that God’s judgment like a massive Juggernaut train is coming towards them full throttle and it may cost them their soul.  

So from the background reading we understand a little bit better what Apollos was on about:

“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” 6 so that we confidently say,

“THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID.

WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?” Hebrews 13.5-6

Don’t strain for wealth but be happy with what you have.  Love for God is better than love for money.  I liked Donald Guthrie’s comments here:

Contentment means more than passive acceptance of the inevitable. It involves a positive recognition that money is relative. In support of this view, the writer quotes from the Old Testament

And again, on the Old Testament quotation he says:

The writer’s intention is to show that contentment should be based on the character of God, especially on his unfailing presence. As this promise had been a great support to the Israelites faced with the hardships which preceded their entry into the promised land, so the readers of this letter could take their stand on the same promise.” (Tyndale New Testament Commentary on Hebrews; Donald Guthrie; pages 269-270)

Reflection

Materiality, wealth and riches in itself is not a problem.  The problem is with us humans having faulty attitudes on wealth and riches.  We so easily get fixated on wealth that we end up deceiving ourselves.  From that point of view Satan doesn’t need to do anything.  This seed of greed and self-sovereignty already resides in us from the Fall.  Jesus’ teachings are vital for us so that our attitudes and faith are realigned vertically up towards God and horizontally towards our neighbour.  A proper understanding of the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5 is a good place to start. 

What advice can I give you.  I’m not your judge.  God loves you and in Christ we can see the great deception for what it is.   This is a very serious topic in the Bible.  As Christians and for that matter Muslims and Jews are expected to love their neighbour and show great hospitality and love. 

So then let us follow the teachings of the Book of Hebrews, the teachings of Jesus and of the Apostles on this great subject Amen.

Let us love, show hospitality, empathize with the needy and honour Marriage!

November 6, 2021

Today we are going to look at some reasons why Apollos wrote Hebrews but not Paul.  We also need to remember that in theology it is within a Pauline school of theology but written in a High Alexandrian Greek style (Philonic style).

We then move on to look at some of the ethical material in chapter 13 namely the first four verses.

Background to Hebrews 13

We have shown and proven using probability that Apollos is the most likely contender as the writer of the book of Hebrews.   Some have argued that the style in chapter 13 has changed.  Yes, the style has changed to being more Pauline like.  Perhaps the reason for this is that Apollos was part of this Pauline school.  Throughout the whole of this letter, we have come across Pauline ideas, and this should not be a surprise.  Apollos in this last section switches to giving advice on how believers ought to live.   In Orthodox traditions Apollos was one of the seventy elders and he was bishop sometime in Corinth.  He may also have been Bishop at Izmir (Smyrna), Caesarea (An archaeological site between Tel Aviv and Haifa) and other places.  Some have also contended that Paul must have written this letter because Timothy is mentioned:

When Paul is writing formally to other churches, he has in a couple of places written ‘our brother’.  However, in other places (more informal perhaps at the end of letters or to Timothy Himself) he calls him his child or son.  There are about 23 references to Timothy in the New Testament

Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you. Hebrews 13:23

This to me would not make sense because Paul usually refers intimately about Timothy more like a ‘son’ than a brother! Having said that the Church had a special place for Timothy in their affections.  He indeed was a special brother, and it was not unusual for Timothy to team up with Paul or Silas.  There are possibly many instances of Timothy teaming up with other members of the Church.  The writings we have are a snapshot of what was going on. Below are some references to Timothy:

For this reason, I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. 1 Corinthians 4:17

Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.

Romans 16:21

10 Now if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to be afraid, for he is doing the Lord’s work, as I also am. 1 Corinthians 16:10

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia:

2 Corinthians 1:1

Bibliography

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges; THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS; VEN. F. W. FARRAR, D.D., F.R.S.; Farrar, F. W. (1893). The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews, With Notes and Introduction (p. iii). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Logos.com

(The introduction in the above commentary explains a lot how Apollos could have been the writer and the evidence is very compelling that Apollos wrote it.  Farrar also shows how the Pauline ideas are found in the book of Hebrews but it has an Alexandrian and Philonic style, this includes his vocabulary and choice of words.)

Summary

The writer of Hebrews was a man who was from the school of Paul. At the same times he was a writer that wrote in an Alexandrian style.  His style in the Scriptures is pure originality and we can be grateful to have such a masterpiece of writing in the New Testament. According to tradition he was one of the seventy elders, and this gave him God’s authority to command the Church to live godly lives.

COMMENTARY

Let’s read the first six verses:

Let love of the brethren continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3 Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. 4 Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. 5 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” 6 so that we confidently say,

“THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID.

WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?”

Verse 1

Let love of the brethren continue.

The word used here is φιλαδελφία (Philadelphia).  It is brotherly love.  Brotherly love happens within the family (God’s people the Church).  This word is not the same one as used in love of neighbour by Jesus:

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Matthew 5:43-47

In this section Jesus uses the word ἀγαπάω (agapaō).  Basically, Jesus commands us to love everyone.  When Jesus preached, he preached in public to everyone.  The situation of Hebrews is different in the sense that this letter was only addressed to a close-knit congregation (s).  Then again Jesus uses agapaō in the High Priestly prayer:

I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. John 17:23

I am not making any deeply theological statements here, but I am saying that in the Greek language they use a variety of words for love whereas in English we use one word to cover a plethora of meanings.   

Verse 2

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Obviously, Apollos is referring to this situation:

Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. 2 When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, 3 and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by. 4 Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; 5 and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant.” And they said, “So do, as you have said.” 6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes.” 7 Abraham also ran to the herd, and took a tender and choice calf and gave it to the servant, and he hurried to prepare it. 8 He took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and placed it before them; and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate. Genesis 18:1-8

So, the key words are love and hospitality.  Hospitality is something that believers should just do and it is even commanded as it is here.  Apollos goes a stage further that we ought to think about ‘strangers’.  We do not know who they are but it may be that they need help.  Perhaps they don’t even have any food and are hungry.  How far would we go out of our way to help some one who is in need? (Or not in need but a friend).

Verse 3

Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.

So, our three key words are love, hospitality, and now empathy.  

At the end of this chapter, we see that Timothy was in prison and he had only recently been released.  We have also seen it near the end of chapter 10:

But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, 33 partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. 35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. Hebrews 10:32-35

Over the centuries things haven’t changed that much.  Innocent people still get thrown in prison from various situations.  Let us remember too those who are suffering through no fault of their own and are languishing in prison.  We ought to remember even those who have been thrown in prison because of what they have done so that they can come to faith in Christ.  God works in mysterious ways and we don’t always know what the outcome is going to be.

Verse 4

So up to now we have had Love, hospitality, empathy and now honour.

4 Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Hebrews 13:4

Marriage in the UK usually lasted a lifetime, but the laws were relaxed in the 1970’s and it got easier to get divorced.  The following link shows different religious groups and some dovorce rates:

https://divorce.lovetoknow.com/Divorce_Statistics_by_Religion

This is a sad state of affairs because God is love and those who divorce have decided to break their vows.  I’m not standing in judgement, but it does show that we live in a dysfunctional world and the Fall is very much evident.

As in the early church (such as Corinth) there were believers married to unbelievers; believer married to believers but in all of Paul’s advice marriage was important.  For example, believing couples were commanded to pray for each other 1 Corinthians 7. 5.  When reading chapter 7 Satan is also mentioned in verse 6 (lack of self-control).  We can see that in marriage the old fallen nature and the new nature are at odds.  Prayer is very important because when we pray even for our partners and children it build God’s empathy in our hearts.  Love is the glue that holds a marriage together so it does not surprise me that Marriage is used as a metaphor for Christ and the Church:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:22-33

Reflection

As Paul did in his letters; Apollos gave advice for faithful living in Christ.  In the first 4 verses we touched on some very important themes, so we ought to take these commands very seriously because they are indicators of how our walk with God is.

Apollos in these first few verses touched on

  • Love
  • Hospitality
  • Empathy
  • Honour

Where do we fit into this picture?

Do we love our neighbour whoever they may be?

Do we love those who have abused or wronged us in some way?

Do we have empathy for those who have had their freedoms taken away from them?

Do we respect marriage and the idea of marriage especially when it is a metaphor of the marriage of Christ and the Church?

Through out the book we had a feast of high Alexandrian Christian Theology, but Apollos is also concerned about our individual walk with God in the nitty gritty of daily life.  Hebrews is definitely part of the Pauline school of Theology written by a Master theologian namely Apollos.