Today’s selected reading continues in the second epistle of the apostle Paul in the New Testament which was written unto the saints which were in Corinth. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses sixteen through twenty-three of the eleventh chapter. When you look at today’s passage of Scripture you will find that it is a continuation of that which the apostle Paul wrote and expressed in the first fifteen verses. When this particular passage opens up and begins it does so with the apostle expressing unto the Corinthian congregation his jealousy over them with a godly jealousy. As this chapter begins and opens up, it does so with the apostle Paul continuing to affirm his love and affection for this congregation—this congregation he spent a full eighteen months labouring alongside Timothy and Silas for the advancement of the kingdom of God. When I previously wrote about this passage of Scripture I wrote and emphatically declared that even though the apostle Paul would eventually be moved from the city of Corinth he could never forget about these previous and dear saints. I find it absolutely incredible and amazing that even though the apostle Paul would leave a specific city or region the work of the ministry never ceased and never ended. It’s absolutely incredible let that although the Spirit of Christ released the apostle from a specific geographical location the Spirit never released the apostle from his affection, his love, and his concern for the churches. The more I read the epistles which the apostle Paul wrote—although I am only three deep right now—the more I am captivated by the tremendous reality that the work of the ministry was never completed. Our Lord never released the apostle Paul from his care and concern for the churches, for through the individual letters Paul wrote to the various churches we discover his continued and ongoing concern for the churches.
RELEASED BUT NOT RELEASED! RELEASED BUT NEVER MOVING ON! I absolutely love the writing of the apostle Paul for the apostle Paul could never turn his back on, neglect or abandon any of the churches and congregations which were found in the provinces and regions of Asia. Though the apostle Paul be in an entirely different geographical location separate from a specific church or congregation he was still intrinsically bound and connected to those churches he helped establish and plant. Even though the apostle Paul was in chains and in prison he never abandoned, neglected or forgot about those churches he helped Kanpur before the Lord to establish. Even chains and shackles and prison cells could not stifle the live, the affection, the compassion the apostle Paul had for the churches. GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN! GONE BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN! I am absolutely amazed and impressed when I read the letters and epistles which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches, for within those letters the apostle Paul displayed and manifested just how deeply connected he was to the saints which were found to be in those churches. What’s more, is that as you read certain of the epistles which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches you will also find that in addition to expressing his care and concern for the churches he also expressed his desire to come to them and partake in the experience they had with one another. Though the apostle Paul was removed from the churches and congregations within the province of Asia the apostle Paul still earnestly and passionately longed to make his way to the various churches and congregations once more.
The more I read and consider the various letters and epistles the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches the more I can’t help but be gripped and captivated by the underlying reality that while the letters were in fact intended to express care and concern for the churches, they were also designed to provoke them to growth and maturity in Christ. The if you continue reading the various epistles which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches you will find that such letters were designed to spur the individual saints and various churches to a deeper place of growth and maturity in Christ. How absolutely incredible and amazing it is that even though the apostle Paul was no longer present within various churches and congregations he was still very much invested in their growth and maturity. The apostle Paul never ceased being concerned for the progress these churches had made, should continue to make Abe will make in the future. The combination of at least one epistle, as well as at least one additional visit to the individual churches and congregations speak to the tremendous reality that the apostle Paul never quit being connected and invested in the progress, the growth and maturity of the saints. It would have been one thing for the apostle Paul to help establish the various churches within the province of Asia and once his time among the saints was completed, he would move on from that place—never to be heard from or seen again. It would have been one thing for the apostle Paul to eventually work among them to bring them into the kingdom of heaven through the preaching of the kingdom of God and concerning His Christ, and then to leave the churches to fend for themselves. Oh how many ministers may very well labor with and labor among you to help get you into the kingdom of Go, and yet once you are within the kingdom their work, their time, their investment, their energy is exhausted, and they are no longer concerned about your growth or maturity? I am convinced there are ministers among us who can and will only labor enough to get you to repeat “the sinner’s prayer,” and even to get baptized, and once you have reached that point and place within your life, their work ends and their investment in your life ceases. Through the epistles which the apostle Paul wrote unto the various churches which he helped establish in the provinces of Asia I am confronted with the tremendous reality that for the apostle Paul, the work among the churches, the work within the churches, and the work on behalf of the churches was never completed. Even while in prison and in chains and shackles the apostle Paul continued labouring on behalf of the churches through the various epistles he wrote unto them.
It is at this point where I feel it absolutely necessary to present the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Ephesus, for with and through these words we encounter the ultimate desire and passion within the heart of the apostle for the various churches. What’s both interesting and ironic about the epistle which was written unto the saints of Ephesus is that this letter appears to have been written while the apostle Paul was in prison and in chains. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the fourth chapter you will find a strong suggestion the apostle Paul was bound in chains and shackles in some prison cell. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul which were recorded in this chapter beginning with the first verse: “I therefor, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocations wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with. Longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto me. (How that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:1-16).
Please mark the words and language which is found in this particular passage of Scripture, for within this passage of Scripture we find the apostle Paul emphatically declaring the ultimate goal of each and every church which he himself helped establish and plant. What’s more, is that with and through these words we find the apostle Paul emphatically declaring unto the Ephesian saints that the ultimate goal within the heart and life of an individual is not necessarily salvation, but a true and lasting growth and maturity which can be sustained. If the ultimate goal was salvation and that was it, then the minute any individual gave their lives unto Christ and made the decision to be crucified with Him, buried with Him in baptism, and raised to new life through the power of the Holy Spirit, they would immediately be translated into heaven. I find it absolutely amazing and incredible that even after salvation our Lord chose to keep us present within and present upon the earth. The Lord never removed us from the earth the minute we made the decision to confess with our mouth and believe with our heart that Jesus Christ is Lord, and made the conscious decision to fully and completely surrender to Him. The words which the apostle Paul wrote and spoke in this passage of Scripture wonderfully and powerfully bring us to the place where we recognize and understand that there is a great and tremendous need for us to grow up and to attain to a perfect and mature man. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus spoke within His famous Sermon on the Mount, for immediately after He instructed us to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, and to pray for those who despitefully use us, He concludes that portion of the sermon by instructing us to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect. We must recognize and understand that there is a growth and there is a maturity which we must pursue beyond the cross and beyond the waters of baptism. BEYOND THE CROSS! BEYOND THE GRAVE! BEYOND THE WATERS OF BAPTISM! BEYOND THE ALTAR!
I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the author of the epistle unto the Hebrews wrote in the sixth chapter of that epistle. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of that chapter you will quickly encounter a powerful truth that this reality and concept of Christian growth and maturity isn’t something we are to treat and/or take lightly. Consider if you will the words which the author of this particular epistle wrote beginning with the first verse of the sixth chapter: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:1-8). These words perfectly coincide—not only with the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the fourth chapter of the epistle unto the Ephesians, but also which he wrote in the third chapter of the first epistle he wrote unto the Corinthian congregation. Beginning with the first verse of the third chapter of the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation we find the following words: “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).
It is quite obvious from the letters which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches that he was continually and constantly concerned over the condition of the various churches. The apostle Paul could be in a completely different region within the province of Asia and yet he was continually bombarded with the overwhelming care and concern for the churches. The apostle Paul could never leave the various churches unto themselves, nor could he leave them to figure things out for themselves. This isn’t to say that they could not operate independently of him, and that they needed him to be with them constantly. The apostle Paul spent eighteen months labouring among the inhabitants of the city of Corinth in order that a church might be established in that city and region. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for the apostle Paul laboured physically in order that a church might be established among the Corinthians, yet the apostle Paul could not remain there indefinitely. The apostle Paul was called by the Lord Jesus Christ to be an apostle unto the Gentiles and to suffer many things for the sake of Christ—not only from the hands of his fellow countrymen, not only from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles and heathen as well. I absolutely love that the apostle Paul was willing to labour physically among a particular city within the province of Asia, yet when he was moved by the Spirit from that particular place he did not, he could not, he would not abandon, neglect, forsake or forget the church he helped establish. The words we find written unto the saints of Ephesus in the fourth chapter of that particular epistle are absolutely remarkable, for within this passage of Scripture we find the ultimate goal of any individual saint and any congregation—the perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry, the edifying of the body of Christ, the unity of the faith, the knowledge of the Son of God, and coming unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. The apostle Paul made it very plain and clear that we are no longer to be children, which are tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness. We have been called to speak the truth in love, in order that we might grow up into Him in all things. GROWTH! UNITY! KNOWLEDGE, PERFECTION! MINISTRY! EDIFICATION! These are the realities of what needs to be found present among the each and every congregation of saints that is present within and upon the earth.
Perhaps one of the single greatest questions we must ask ourselves is whether or not we ourselves are growing up in Christ in order that we might become a mature man or woman in Him. The ultimate and underlying question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are pressing on to maturity in order that we might no longer be children which are tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine that comes our way. There is a tremendous need within our hearts and lives to press on in order that we might become a perfect and complete man or woman who is thoroughly furnished for every good work and for the ministry of the kingdom. I would emphatically and boldly state if the church and congregation you are presently a part of does not promote growth and maturity, I would strongly suggest finding a different church and body to be a part of. I would emphatically and without hesitation and without reservation declare that if the ministry you find yourself sitting under does not provoke you with grace, does not provoke you to giving, and does not provoke you to growth in our Lord Jesus Christ, there is something seriously and drastically wrong. I do not believe for one moment that any saint or any Christian should remain stagnant and states within their walk and relationship with Jesus who is both Christ and Lord. I do not believe for one moment that we should ever remain in a state and place of immaturity in Christ, nor that we should find ourselves as being like the Corinthians were—babes in Christ, and carnal. If during your private time of prayer and your personal time of devotion you are not being provoked to grow in grace and grow in the knowledge of who Jesus Christ is, I would declare unto you that something might be wrong, and there is a great need to get before the very Spirit of Christ and inquire as to what adjustments need to be made. If the preaching and teaching you are presently sitting under does not provoke you to growth and spurn you to become a perfect and complete man or woman in Christ, I would strongly suggest that there is a great need to get before the Lord and inquire about putting yourself under a ministry where you can and will be provoked to growth. Please note and please understand that I am in no way promoting church hopping, or musical pews, or musical churches. I am in no way suggesting that we must always seek out a new church body and family in the earth, for I am convinced that there are those who might very well find something wrong with any congregation and ministry they are a part of, and will seek a reason to leave.
What’s more, is that I don’t believe that it is the pastor’s responsibility alone to promote and provoke growth within your life, for it is your responsibility and yours alone. IF you can’t grow in your private time of prayer, and if you can’t grow in your personal time of devotion, I would dare say that you might not grow in the pew. YOU MUST GROW IN THE CLOSET BEFORE YOU CAN GROW IN THE PEW! YOU MUST GROW IN THE CLOSET BEFORE YOU CAN GROW AT THE ALTAR! There are those among us who feel it is the pastor’s responsibility to oversee their growth and their maturity as a saint of God and follower of Christ within the earth. I wholeheartedly believe this is absolutely and completely false, and is the cause of a number of deceptions and delusions among most Christian circles and churches in this generation. Though the pastor has been tasked with helping the process of growing up into a mature and perfect man or woman, the pastor is not responsible for that taking place within the life of any man or woman. If you are looking to your pastor, or a pastor, or a teacher to oversee your growth and your maturity as a saint of God in Christ within and upon the earth, you will continually be let down and disappointed. Though the letters which the apostle Paul wrote unto the various churches were intended to provoke them to growth, to grace, and to giving, these letters were meant to be utilized by the saints to whom they were directed in order that they might take action within their own lives. It is true that pastors, and teachers, and apostles, and prophets, and the like can and will give an account for their stewardship over those who have been entrusted into their care, but we can and will be held accountable for our own growth and our own maturity. It is not the pastor’s responsibility to bring us into the place of growth, although they have been called to provoke us to always strive to pursue growth and maturity with everything we have. I firmly hold to the powerful belief and truth that we must grow in the secret closet of prayer before we can grow in the pew of the church. I make absolutely no apology when I declare that we must grow in the secret closet of prayer before we grow at the altar which is found in our churches today. If you cannot grow in the secret closet of prayer and in your personal time of devotion, I would dare say that you will have a very difficult time growing in the pew or at the altar of any church.
The apostle Paul began the eleventh chapter of this second epistle to the Corinthian congregation by declaring unto them that he was jealous over them with a godly jealousy, for he espoused them to one husband, in order that he might present them as a chaste virgin to Christ. With that being said, however, the apostle Paul feared that just as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so also would their minds be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. THE GOSPEL IS NOT COMPLICATED! Mark those words and mark them well, for I am convinced that more often than not we over complicate the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ, and we make Jesus Christ to be more complicated and confusing than He actually is. The apostle Paul references here the simplicity that is in Christ in order that we might understand the powerful reality that we can open ourselves up to being deceived and beguiled by the serpent away from this simplicity which is found in Christ. The apostle Paul goes on to write in this passage of Scripture concerning he which would come and preach another Jesus, who they did not preach, and their receiving another spirit which they did not receive, and hear another gospel, which they had not accepted. The church and congregation within Galatia was one such church who had allowed themselves to be deceived and beguiled by and with another gospel, and they had great need to be corrected by the apostle. Beginning with the sixth verse of the first chapter of the apostle’s epistle to the Galatians we find the following words: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto unto gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? OR do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:6-12). This reality is affirmed and once more mentioned in the third chapter of the same epistle beginning with the first verse: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? If it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:15).
In these Last Days we must recognize and understand that there will be those who will seek to infiltrate our ranks in order that they might present unto us another Jesus, to promote another spirit, and to preach another gospel. I believe that one of the greatest tools and one of the greatest tactics of the enemy and adversary within and among the church of Jesus Christ is to infiltrate the ranks with his own ministers and his own servants in order that we might be deceived and beguiled from the simplicity that is found in Christ. Within the eleventh chapter of this second epistle unto the Corinthian saints the apostle Paul goes on to describe those who would seek to infiltrate the rank and file of the saints, and even directly connects it to the activity of saint. Beginning with the tenth verse of the eleventh chapter we find the following words—“As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia. Wherefore? Because I love you not? God knoweth. But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we are. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is not great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:10-15). What’s more, is that as you continue on in this particular epistle you will find the apostle going on to speak about that which this church and congregation would allow themselves to suffer—“For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face” (2 Corinthians 11:19-20). Within this set of verses the apostle Paul clearly sets forth one of the greatest tactics of the serpent, which is first to beguile the saints of God in the same way he beguiled Eve in the garden—“Did God really say?” One of, if not the greatest tools in the arsenal of Satan is to cause us to not only question what was said in the Scripture, but also question whether or not it was said altogether. The serpent beguiled Eve by first causing into question that which the Lord spoke, and then when she responded to his words, he then proceeded to refute that which God had spoken unto Adam her husband.
When you read this eleventh chapter of the second epistle the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth you will notice that the serpent first attempts to beguile us himself the very same way he did with Eve in the garden many centuries ago. It’s worth noting that the apostle Paul doesn’t stop there, for as you continue reading this passage of Scripture you will find that the serpent’s attempt to beguile us as he did Eve in the garden in only the beginning, for the apostle Paul goes on to write concerning false apostles and deceitful workers which transform themselves into the apostles of Christ. Furthermore, the apostle Paul goes on to describe how Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light and how it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness. It’s absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that the enemy and adversary can and will attempt to deceive and beguile us the very same way he did with Eve in the Garden. The serpent can and will attempt to deceive us by calling into question whether or not God has really spoken what is written and revealed in and through the word of God. It’s worth noting that Eve had an answer for the serpent and in fact recite that which the Lord had spoken unto her husband Adam, yet she added to the word of God by adding the stipulation of touching the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve spoke of the consequence of death as a result of violating the commandment of the Lord, and immediately the serpent responded to her by declaring that she would not surely die, but the Lord knows that she and her husband would become just as God was knowing good and evil. First comes the deception to call into question that which God has in fact spoken, and next comes the outright denial of that which God has spoken as being true and accurate. The first phase in the attack and assault of the serpent is to cause us to doubt and disbelieve in the true word of God, and this is immediately followed up by his ministers whom he sends in as wolves among sheep to infiltrate our rank and file in order that we might actually believe another gospel, receive another spirit, and even worship and serve another Jesus. I am convinced that we must read these words with an open heart and a mind that is willing to engage in the tremendous truth that the serpent has sought and will continue to seek to present a false and pseudo-Jesus—one that is completely different from the Jesus whom is manifested within Scriptures, and the Jesus which the Holy Spirit came to testify of. The serpent can and will attempt to deceive us into entering into that place where we will receive a different spirit, and where we will hear and believe another gospel in order that the work of deception might be complete. Oh that we would not be ignorant of the schemes and devices of the serpent in this generation, and that we would recognize and understand that what he has to operate with and operate within right now is something much larger than a garden planted by the Lord. If Satan could infiltrate the rank of Jesus’ disciples and enter into the heart of one of them to incite him to betray Jesus, the serpent can infiltrate the church in this generation. OH that we would go on our guard, and that we would be mindful of the devices and schemes of the enemy and adversary—not only to deceive and beguile us, but to also entice us away from the gospel of Christ, the person of Christ, and the Spirit of Christ that is present within and upon the earth.