Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome, and more specifically, is found in verses eleven through twenty-three of the fourteenth chapter. The second part of the fourteenth chapter of the epistle which Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Rome contains verbiage and language that is very similar to that which he wrote in unto the saints which were at Philippi. In the eleventh verse of this particular chapter we find and read these words—“For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Romans 14:11). This same text and concept is found in the second chapter of the epistle which the apostle wrote unto the saints which were at Philippi and must be understood in direct connection with each other. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Philippi, for there seems to be a strong and apparent connection between the instruction and admonition the apostle gave unto the saints at Rome, as well as the saints which were at Philippi. Beginning with the first verse of the second chapter we find and read these words—“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in loneliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of the things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:1-12).
In order to properly understand the context of what we read in the eleventh verse of this chapter, it’s absolutely necessary that we turn and direct our attention to the previous verse. In the tenth verse of the fourteenth chapter we find the apostle Paul asking two very specific, and two very important questions. The first question is “But why dost thou judge thy brother?” The second question is “Why dost thou set at nought thy brother?” Immediately after the apostle Paul asks these two questions, he then proceeds to make an incredibly bold and powerful declaration concerning a reality each and every one of us shall face. In the latter part of the tenth verse the apostle Paul writes these words—“For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” Pause for a moment and allow those sobering and somber words to pierce and penetrate the depths of your heart, the depths of your soul, and the depths of your mind and spirit. When was the last time you truly thought upon the reality that you will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of your life? How often do you live your life with the anticipation and expectation and knowledge that you can and you will stand before the judgment seat of Christ on the other side of time as you step into eternity? In the second chapter of this epistle we find the apostle Paul writing these words at the very outset of this epistle—“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Romans 2:14-16). I am also reminded of the words which the author of the epistle unto the Hebrews wrote in the ninth chapter of the epistle—“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, not to appear in the presence of God for us: nor yet that he should offer Himself often, as the high priest entered into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but not once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:24-28).
There is a familiar passage that is found in the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew that helps to describe this reality even further—the reality of our one day standing before the throne, whether it be to the right or to the left. What we must recognize and understand about the words which are spoken in this passage of Scripture is that they weren’t spoken by a prophet, or a priest, or an apostle, but by Jesus who is both Christ and Lord. These are the words which Jesus spoke unto all His disciples when they asked Him about the grandeur and splendor of the Temple which stood in Jerusalem. Beginning with the thirty-first verse of the twenty-fifth chapter of the gospel of Matthew we find and read these words—“When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirst, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? OR when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of th Elena St of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I as an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:31-46).
There is a passage found in the eighteenth chapter of the same gospel which Matthew wrote concerning the life and ministry of Jesus which also warrants a strong consideration when seeking to understand the words which the apostle Paul wrote. Beginning with the first verse of the eighteenth chapter we find and read these words—“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offenses! For it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands of two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two of three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatosever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:1-20).
There is an additional reference that is found in the second epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth, and is found in the fifth chapter. Beginning with the first verse of the chapter the apostle Paul writes and pens these words unto his audience—“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hand, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnest desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality. Might be stalled up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight) we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in His body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart. For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constrained us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made him to be sin fo us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:1-21).
Directing our attention Back to the fourteenth chapter of the epistle which Paul wrote unto the Romans we encounter what is perhaps one of the most difficult realities we as the saints of God face within our lives. It was Jesus who emphatically and boldly declared that it is impossible to avoid offenses, and that offenses can and will come. One of the most difficult realities for us to face within our lives is that of dealing with and handling offenses. Jesus made it perfect clear that offenses can and will come, yet the truth of the matter is not whether or not offenses can and will come, but how we handle those offenses. What’s more, is that we must not only consider very carefully how we handle offenses if and when they come, but also whether or not we ourselves are guilty of engaging in such offenses. I feel it is once more necessary to turn and direct our attention to the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples in His Olivet discourse concerning the Last Days. In response to the disciples’ question concerning when the end of times would occur, and what the sign of His coming would be, as well as the end of the world, Jesus responded by declaring these words unto them:
“Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilence, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of escalation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight not be in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or thee; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the angels be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days, shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appeared the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall also the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until. The flood came, and took them all way; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therfore: for ye know not what hour your Lord tooth come
IF you read the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples in this passage of Scripture, you will discover that the Last Days can and will be characterized by three very distinct phenomena. It’s not even that such phenomena are in and of themselves new unto men, but that they will be increased and heightened during those days at that time. As much as we would like to talk about the end of time and the Last Days in direct connection with catastrophic events and natural disasters that will strike and come upon the earth, I am convinced that such aren’t even that which can and will cause the most damage. I am convinced that the most damage that can be done within an individual’s life is not what can be done to their house, or what can be done to their car, or what can be done to their possessions, or even that which can be done to their job and the like. I am convinced that the most devastating and damaging thing that faces any and every individual is that damage which can be inflicted within and upon themselves as a person and as an invidious. It is true that wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, and the like can and will take place within and upon the earth, but as you read the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples during His Olivet discourse, you will find that He spoke of three distinct realities that can and will strike the earth with such great force and ferocity during the Last Days. As you read the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel according to the Matthew, you will find Jesus speaking of deception, offense and persecution. I have long and often believed that three of the greatest dangers that can and will face each and every man, woman and child upon the earth during the Last days will be these three realities—deception, offense, and persecution. I am firmly and powerfully convinced that in the Last Days we will not only see a widespread and increased measure of deception such as has never been seen in the history of man, but we will also see an abundance and increase in offenses. It was Jesus Himself who declared that it is impossible but that offenses can and should come, and when speaking of the Last Days, Jesus declared that in the Last Days there will be many who will be offended. It’s actually quite interesting that when speaking of many being offended, Jesus would also go on to declare that those who are offended shall betray one another, and would even hate one another. Please pay close attention to these words, for one of Satan’s greatest tools in these Last Days can, and will be, and is offenses that come from those around us.
When you read the fourteenth chapter of the epistle which Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Rome you will find an entire chapter devoted to the reality and concept of offenses which can and will come. What is actually quite interesting about the fourteenth chapter of the epistle which Paul wrote unto the Roman congregation is that when speaking of offenses, he did not speak of offenses as coming by means of words spoken, or even by means of actions committed, but actually in matters of the conscience. Did you know that your conscience can be offended? Did you know that your faith can be offended? Did you know that you can be offended in matters pertaining to righteousness and holiness before the Lord? The entire fourteenth chapter of the epistle which Paul wrote unto the Roman saints speaks of those among us who might very well be strong in their faith, while there might be others among us who are weak in their faith. In the twelfth verse of this chapter the apostle Paul declares that every one of us shall give account of themselves to God, and then goes on to instruct his readers and audience to no longer judge one another any more, but to just this instead—that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that which the apostle Paul is writing in this passage of Scripture, for he directly challenges how we conduct ourselves in the sight and presence of others. The apostle Paul instructs us to first and foremost judge ourselves, and to judge ourselves in order that we might not put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in the way of our brother or sister. If you read the Old Testament book of the Psalms you will find David constantly speaking of his enemies lying wait for him, and seeking to lay traps and snares for him. There were countless times when David asked to be delivered from his enemies and when David felt that he was surrounded by his enemies who sought to destroy him. There are a number of times when David not only brought such devices, such traps, such snares, such weapons before the Lord, but would also go on to ask the Lord to deliver him from and out of them all. In fact, the entire eighteenth chapter of the book of the Psalms is a song which David wrote and sang before the Lord on the day when the Lord had delivered him from all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul who sought to kill and destroy him.
Why do I mention the words which David wrote concerning the snares and traps which were laid for him by his enemies? The answer is actually quite simple, for it is absolutely possible that traps and snares may not be set for us by our enemies, but can even be set for us by those who are closest to us. It is possible that snares, traps and pits can be found and can be laid for us within the house of the Lord—within the place of intimacy itself. We must remember that it was in the garden where a trap was laid for Jesus the Christ by one who was not only one of His followers, but also one whom He called friend. What’s worth noting and pointing out is that even when Judas came unto Jesus within the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus didn’t address Judas as enemy, or as foe, or as adversary, or even as friend. When Judas came unto Jesus in the garden to betray Him into the hands of His enemies and adversaries, Jesus addressed him as friend. It’s important that we recognize and understand this, for not only was a trap and snare set for Jesus within the garden, not only was Jesus betrayed by one closest to Him who was both disciple and friend, but the trap was set and sprung in the place of intimacy. When we read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Rome, one can’t help but get the feel that there are those among us within the body of Christ and in the house of God who might deliberately and intentionally set traps and snares for their brothers and sisters—much like Judas did for Jesus in the garden. The apostle Paul actually went on to make the following declaration unto the saints at Rome, which should stand and serve as a powerful reminder and warming unto us in this generation. In the fifteenth verse of this chapter the apostle Paul wrote these words: “But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died” (Romans 14:15). In the twenty-first verse of this same chapter the apostle Paul would go on to write these words—“It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak” (Romans 14:21).
STUMBLE! OFFENDED! MADE WEAK! Within this particular chapter the apostle Paul not only speaks of the possibility of destroying our brother and our sister, but he also goes on to speak of causing our brother to stumble, causing our brother to be offended, and even causing our brother to be made weak. CAUSING THE FAITH OF OUR BROTHER TO BECOME WEAK! OFFENDING THE CONSCIENCE OF OUR BROTHER! Perhaps the question we must ask ourselves is not necessarily whether or not our brother or our sister is offended, or if their faith is or has been made weak, but whether or not how we are living is impacting and affecting them. This entire chapter details and describes the possibility of putting a stumbling block before and in front of our brother and sister because of those things we choose to engage ourselves in. The apostle Paul spoke of meat and drink in this passage of Scripture, yet I am convinced that the ability to offend our brother and our sister goes beyond meat and drink alone. I am convinced that how we speak and how we act can very well offend the conscience and faith of our brethren. I am convinced that how we conduct ourselves in the house of God, and even how we conduct ourselves outside the house of God can cause the faith of our brethren to become offended. I am completely and utterly convinced that the hypocrisy and the legalism of the Pharisees, of the Sadducees, of the chief priests, of the elders, and of the religious system of Jesus’ day offended a lot of men and women who were present during that generation. In fact, I would dare say there were two different groups of individuals those during Jesus’ day were offended with and offended by—RELIGION AND ROME! Those present during that generation were offended because of the hypocrisy of the religious system present during those days, and they were offended because of the oppression and persecution of the Roman government and system. One of the most sobering thoughts we can allow to enter into our minds is that every one of shall give an account of ourselves to God. I am reminded of the words which Jesus spoke when he perceived within Himself the thoughts of the Pharisees:
“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast our devils, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? And then he will spoil his house. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven u not men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generations of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment. For by the words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:25-37). Here is a sobering question which I can’t help but ask myself: What would happen if I had to give an account for every offense I caused—both within the house of God and within the body of Christ, or perhaps outside the body of Christ? What would happen if I had to answer for every offense I might have caused which caused another to stumble and fall in the way? How many times might I have been guilty of offending one of these little ones, and causing another to stumble? Perhaps a better question is what would happen and how would I respond if I was shown each and every man or woman I might have possibly offended through my words, through my actions and through my deeds? Such a thought and reality is incredibly sobering, yet must be carefully considered if we are to truly recognize and understand how we are conducting ourselves—both within the body of Christ, as well as in the world.