Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy a spiritually son in the faith. More specifically today’s passage is found in the fourth chapter of this epistle. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to securing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the turneth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. These things command and teach” (1 Timothy 4:1-11).
“Let no man despise thy truth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, kin charity, in sprit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophesy, with the lying on of the hands of the presbytery. Medicate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the do trine; continue in them; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:12-16).
When you come to the fourth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy you will find the apostle bringing a word of warning and a word of caution unto Timothy. What’s more is that in direct relation to the warning and word of caution given at the outset and beginning of this chapter the apostle Paul sets Timothy and what he was called to in direct juxtaposition to the days which were ahead. If there is one thing that makes the words the apostle Paul wrote in this passage of Scripture so incredibly unique and powerful it’s the words the apostle Paul spoke unto the elders of the Ephesian church. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the twentieth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the apostle Paul bidding the elders of the Ephesian church farewell. It would be at this particular time the apostle Paul recognized and understood that he would need to depart from Asia and that region that he might make his journey unto Jerusalem. As he spoke unto the elders of the Ephesian elders the apostle Paul not only sought to admonish them concerning those things he had taught them but sought to build them up and encourage them in their faith. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for the words the apostle Paul spoke unto the elders of the Ephesian church serve and provide an incredible foundation for what we find in this passage of Scripture in the fourth chapter of the epistle written unto Timothy. What’s more is that when you read the words found in the twentieth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the apostle Paul not only warning them concerning the days ahead of them but also admonishing them in their roles and positions of leadership among the brethren within the church. That which the apostle Paul did was encourage them in their faith that they might walk in a manner that was worthy of the calling that was upon their lives.
I am absolutely convinced that if we want to truly understand the words the apostle Paul wrote in the fourth chapter of the first New Testament epistle written unto Timothy there is a great need for us to consider the words which are found in the twentieth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts. What’s more is I would dare say that we must needs look at the words which are found in the fourth chapter of the New Testament epistle written by the same apostle unto the saints which were at Ephesus. As if this weren’t enough I am convinced we must needs carefully consider the words which the apostle John wrote in the first epistle unto the saints which were at Ephesus as well as the words which our Lord instructed the apostle John to write in a letter in the second chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. If we want to truly understand the words and warning the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy we must needs turn and direct our attention to the words contained within these passages for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the warnings that were given unto this particular church. What we find in Scripture is the apostle Paul carefully warning the elders of the church themselves concerning the dangers that would be manifested among them in their midst in the coming days knowing full well what would happen after his departure. What’s more is that if you read and study the words which are found in the New Testament you will find the Ephesian church was one which repeatedly received words of warning and words of caution as it pertained to themselves as well as to the dangers which would face and come upon them. Taking this a step further you can clearly see in the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ what allowing these warnings to go unheeded produces within the heart and life of one who isn’t careful—namely leaving one’s first love. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found—first in the nineteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts and secondly in the twentieth chapter of the same New Testament book.
“When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome. So he sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, but he himself stayed in Asia for a time. And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way. For a certain man named Demetrisus, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: “Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. So not only is this trade of ours in danger of ailing into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world of worship” (Acts 19:21-27).
“Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians! So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul’s travel companions. And when Paul wanted to go in to the people, the disciples would not allow him. Then some of the officials of Asia who were his friends, sent to him pleading that he would not venture into the theater. Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not. Know why they had come together. And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander motioned with his hand, and wanted to make his defense to the people. But when they found out that he was a Jew, all with one voice cried out for about two hours, Great is Diana of the Ephesians” (Acts 19:28-34).
“And when the city clears had quieted the crowd, he said: Men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple guardian of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Zeus? Therefore, since these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rashly. For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of your goddess. Therefore, if Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a case against anyone, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. But if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly. For we are in danger of being called in question for today’s uproar, there being no reason which we may give to account for this disorderly gathering. And when he had said these things he dismissed the assembly” (Acts 19:35-41).
“From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them: You know from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you serving the Lord with all humility with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:17-24).
“And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit had made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, yo yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:25-35).
Please pay close attention to the words which are found within these two passages for when the apostle Paul called the elders of the Ephesian church unto himself at Miletus he had called unto himself those who were personal eyewitnesses to the riot which had taken place there in the midst of the city. There is not a doubt in my mind that when I read the words found in the twentieth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts I find the apostle Paul writing and speaking unto individuals who had indeed witnessed the riot which had taken place in the midst of Ephesus. There is absolutely no denying the fact that the elders of the Ephesian church who met the apostle Paul in Miletus were such who had personally witnessed the riot which had taken place in the midst of the city. What we find here in the twentieth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is the apostle Paul calling for these same elders to come unto himself at Miletus that he might encourage and exhort them. When speaking to them the apostle Paul sought to remind them of the ministry which he engaged in among them. The apostle Paul reminded them of the manner in which he lived among them serving the Lord with all humility and with many tears and trials which happened to him by the plotting of the Jews. He would go on to declare how he kept nothing back that was helpful but proclaimed it to them and taught them publicly and from house to house testifying to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover the apostle Paul would go on to declare unto them how he went bound in the spirit to Jerusalem not knowing the things that will happen to him there except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations awaited him. None of these things, however, moved the apostle Paul nor did he count his life dear to himself that he might finish his race with joy and the ministry which he received from the Lord.
If you continue reading the words which are found within these verses you will find the apostle Paul speaking of his own future and the chains and afflictions which surely awaited and abode him wherever he would journey. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for after this encounter between the apostle Paul and the elders of the Ephesian church he speaks of his own conflict and struggle which would be faced in the coming of the days. The apostle Paul knew that he went bound to Jerusalem not knowing what would befall and come upon him there save only that bonds, chains and afflictions awaited him there in that place. With this being said we must needs realize that while it was indeed true the apostle Paul spoke of his own afflictions which he would face upon his journey to Jerusalem and even in Jerusalem itself he would also speak to them of their own conflicts and struggles. The apostle Paul recognized and understood that after he departed from among them there would be times of great testing that would come upon them. The apostle Paul knew and recognized that after his departure from the elders of the church in Miletus there would be great and rampant deception that would be present among them. The apostle Paul knew that dark and dangerous days would come upon the brethren which were in Ephesus—completely and utterly independent of the riot which they had experienced while the apostle Paul was still present among them. Having already experienced the riot which was incited by Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen those in Ephesus would now face something completely and utterly different—namely deception, false teaching, false doctrine and the like being pushed upon them by false teachers, false apostles, false prophets and even false brethren.
Upon reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul describing how after his departure savage wolves would come in among them not sparing the flock. In all reality this reminds me of the words which the LORD spoke unto Ezekiel in the thirty-fourth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel. It is in this particular chapter the LORD speaks unto the shepherds of his people and how they neither cared for nor looked after the flock of the living God. Instead what happened were the sheep were malnourished and were even a prey to the wild beasts and animals which were present in the earth during those days. Instead of the shepherds carefully watching over the flock of the living God they focused solely on themselves and allowed the lion, the bear, the wolf and other enemies and adversaries to catch the sheep and scatter them among the nations of the earth. What the apostle Paul writes in this passage of Scripture is how after his departure savage wolves would come in among them who would not spare the flock. Not only this but the apostle Paul would also go on to declare how from among themselves men would rise up speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after themselves. The apostle Paul would go on to declare unto them how for three years he did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears concerning these things. The apostle Paul—while he was still with them—warned them night and day with tears of the dangers which would face and come upon them in the days ahead and how there would be enemies and adversaries which would rise up from among them in their own midst. If there is one thing we must needs recognize concerning the early church during the days of the apostles it’s that there were indeed two great threats which faced them—actually three great threats which they needed to be guarded against. The first of these threats was persecution, the second of these threats was deception through false teaching, and the third threat was the bondage of legalism, religion and hypocrisy.
The more I think about and consider this the more I am reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the eleventh chapter of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. With this being said I am also reminded of the words the apostle Paul wrote in the first chapter of the epistle written unto the churches which were in Galatia. Not only this but I am reminded of the words which our Lord Himself spoke unto His disciples and the multitude in the Sermon on the Mount as well as the words which He spoke to his disciples upon sending them out as ambassadors of the kingdom. What’s more is I am also reminded of the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and the words which the Lord spoke unto His disciples as they were departing from the city of Jerusalem. Consider if you will the following words which are found in these passages of Scripture as well as the words which are found in the fourteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke:
“Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly—and indeed you do bear with me. For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it! For I consider that I am not at all inferior to the most eminent apostles. Even though I am untrained in speech, yet I am not in knowledge. But we have been thoroughly manifested among you in all things. Did I commit sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself. As the truth of Christ is in mine, no one shall stop me from this boasting in the regions of Achaia. Why? Because I do not love you? God knows! But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:1-15).
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? OR do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservants of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-10).
It is clear within these passages of Scripture the apostle Paul was concerned for the Corinthian congregation and feared lest somehow as the serpent deceived and beguiled Eve so their minds would be corrupted form the simplicity that is in Christ. The apostle Paul also goes on to write of one who might come preaching another Jesus whom they had not preached, or if they receive a different spirit from which they had not received or a different gospel which they had not accepted. The apostle Paul was indeed concerned and worried about the Corinthian church knowing that one of the greatest dangers and threats to the church during those days was indeed false doctrine and false teaching which was being manifested among the churches through false teachers, false prophets, false apostles and even false brethren. The apostle Paul would write unto the churches which were in Galatia concerning the ultimate outcome of these false doctrines, false teaching and false gospels for he wrote of their turning away from the one who called them in the grace of Christ to a different gospel. At the end of the day turning away so soon from Him who called men and women in the grace of God to another gospel is the ultimate end of those who allow themselves to be seduced by false doctrines, by false teaching and by false gospels. It is for this reason the apostle Paul admonished the Thessalonian saints to test the spirits and even to test the prophetic words which are spoken unto them. Oh if there is one thing we must needs recognize it’s that we must needs possess a wise and discerning ear that we might recognize false doctrine, false teaching and even a false gospel when we hear it being preached unto and among us. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John as well as the words which are found in the second chapter of the second epistle written unto the Thessalonian saints and the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:
“Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can understand it? When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life: the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to me unless it has been granted to him by my Father. From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, Do you also want to go away? But Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that you are Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve” (John 6:60-71).
“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is retraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).
“And Jesus answered and said to them: Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand) then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, more ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. Then if anyone says to you, Look, here is the Christ! Or There! Do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, Look, He is in the desert! Do not go out; or Look, He is in the inner rooms! Do not believe it” (Matthew 24:4-26).
The words which we find within these passages of Scripture paint a powerful picture of a turning away and/or what some might call a falling away from the faith. What we find in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John we find many of Jesus’ disciples turning back and walking no more with Him. The reason for their turning back and walking no more with the Lord Jesus was because of the words which He had spoken unto them and their being unable to bear it within their hearts and minds. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of and it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful reality of what it looks like when the saints of God and disciples of Christ turn back and walk no more with Jesus. It’s worth noting that the word the apostle John used in this passage of Scripture was “disciples” indicating those who had spent time walking with and following the Lord Jesus. This is something we dare not and must not miss for I am convinced there are indeed and there are in fact two distinct realities which would cause disciples of Christ to turn back and walk no more with Him. The first is tribulation, persecution, suffering and affliction for they have no root within themselves and are offended when it arises for the sake of the word and the name of the Lord Jesus. The second is that of deception as is evidenced and manifested through false teaching, false doctrine, false gospels and the like which are manifested through false prophets, false teachers, false apostles and even false brethren. With this being said I would also add another reason why many of Jesus’ disciples would turn back and walk no more with Him and that is offense with the words which He Himself speaks unto them. The underlying reason for the turning back and walking away in the gospel written by John was because of the words which Jesus Himself spoke while the turning back and falling away spoken of in the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Thessalonian saints was because of the false signs, false wonders and deception that was going to be wrought in the midst of the earth during the days of the great tribulation. The turning back, the walking away and even the falling away mentioned and spoken of by Jesus in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew was in direct relation to persecution which would arise against the saints of God and the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I sit here today thinking about the words which are found within these passages and I can’t help but think about and be captivated with the tremendous truth surrounding the disciples of the Lord Jesus who would turn back and walk no more with Him—those who previously walked with and followed Him. I am absolutely convinced that we are indeed living in days much like those which the apostle Paul wrote and spoke of in the second epistle written unto the Thessalonian congregation as well as the words which our Lord spoke unto His disciples upon leaving the temple. There is not a doubt in my mind that we are living in days that have been filled—to some degree and measure—with the affliction, the suffering, the persecution which Jesus spoke of unto His disciples. I am convinced that we are indeed living in days of the deception which the apostle Paul wrote about when writing unto the saints which were at Thessalonica. I was previously speaking with a former college professor and good friend this past weekend about this very matter and in the conversation I spoke of how I firmly believe there are many within our churches today who would be unable to stand in the midst of the affliction, suffering and persecution should and/or when it arises within our nation and generation. I spoke of how there are many among us who would not recognize persecution, affliction and suffering if it were to present itself before them right now. With this being said I would dare say there are countless men and women among us who have been so accustomed and used to living a life of ease, comfort, peace and even enjoying the rights and privileges that come with being a citizen of the United States of America.
I am sitting here today thinking about and writing these words and I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding this turning away, this falling away and even a deliberate and intentional walking away which can and will take place in the coming days in which we are living. There is a great need for us to recognize that we are indeed preparing to enter into days when there will indeed be a great turning away and a great walking away of many disciples who previously walked with and followed the Lord Jesus. I firmly believe and an convinced there are many among us within our churches today who have been walking with and following the Lord Jesus—perhaps even for years at this point—who are going to turn back, turn away and walk no more with Jesus in the coming days. I am absolutely convinced that we as the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs recognize and understand whether or not our faith is secure and whether or not we are firmly rooted and grounded in the Word of God and are firmly grafted into the vine. Jesus delivered a parable about the wise and the foolish men and their endeavor to build houses for themselves. The wise man built his house upon the rock while the foolish man built his house upon the sand. Within the parable Jesus describes how when the storm came and threatened the house of the wise man the winds blew, the rain came down and the waves crashed all around and perhaps even upon the house and yet the house withstood the storm and did not fall. In the case of the foolish man, however, the storm came, the winds blew, the rain came down, the waves crashed around and upon the house and the house came crashing to the ground and was destroyed. I have long wondered and asked myself if it was the same storm that came upon both houses and yet the difference was not in the storm itself but in the foundation upon which the houses were built. Both the wise and the foolish man built their houses upon that which they thought and felt was conducive for their houses and yet only one of the two houses was still standing after the storm had come and passed.
This is something we must needs recognize and acknowledge when thinking about the days in which we are about to for I am convinced there is a mixture of those wise men and women who built their houses upon the rock and those foolish men and women who built their houses upon the sand. I am convinced there are many within our churches today who have indeed built their house upon the rock and have enjoyed living in those houses in recent days, weeks, months and years. I would also dare say there are many men and women within our churches who have thought and believed their house(s) will stand in the midst of the storm(s) which come upon it. The truth of the matter, however, is that there is most certainly a mixture of wise and foolish individuals among us within our churches. If there is one thing I can’t help but wonder about the parable which Jesus spoke at the end of the Sermon on the Mount it’s whether or not the wise man was in his house during the storm and whether or not the foolish man was in his house during the storm. Is it possible that the wise and the foolish man were both in their respective houses during the storm that raged around and came against them and they watched as the rain came down, the wind blew and the waves crashed around and against the houses. Is it possible that if the wise man was in his house during the storm he felt completely safe and secure knowing that he had built his house upon the rock? Is it possible that the foolish man was in his house during the storm and perhaps felt anxious and nervous seeing the same rain, the same wind and the same waves crashing around and against his house?
Jesus described in the parable that the house of the foolish man which was built upon the sand came crashing down as a direct result of not only being built upon the sand but also because of the storm. If there is one thing we must needs recognize it’s that not only do storms reveal the foundation upon which our houses are built but storms also reveal whether or not we are wise or foolish. Perhaps one of the greatest things we must needs understand when considering the parable Jesus delivered at the end of the Sermon on the Mount is that the storm(s) we face can and will reveal the foundation upon which our houses and our lives are and have indeed been built. The storm(s) we face within this life and within this generation reveal whether or not we are wise within our hearts or whether or not we our foolish. Just like the call of the bridegroom at the midnight hour revealed which virgins were wise and which virgins were foolish so also did the storm which came upon these two houses reveal the foundation and soil upon which the houses were built. STORMS REVEAL SOIL! STORMS REVEAL FOUNDATIONS! STORMS REVEAL WISDOM VERSUS FOOLISHNESS. What’s more is with this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which Jesus spoke when delivering the parable of the seed, the sower and the soil(s). It is when you read the words which Jesus spoke in the parable itself as well as the explanation of the parable you come to understand that the parable was not about the seed itself nor was the parable about the sower. If you read and carefully consider this parable you will find that the underlying principle was the soil itself rather than the seed which was sown and the sower who sowed the seed. It was not the seed nor the sower that determined the growth and fruit but rather it was the soil that determined the growth and the fruit. Oh there was certain growth, fruit and harvest that would be manifested in the stony and thorny places, however, the fruit and harvest that was present in those places would be short-lived as was evidenced by Jesus’ parable and explanation to the parable. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, the words found in the thirteenth chapter of the same New Testament gospel as well as the words which are found in the twenty-fifth chapter of this gospel:
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of mine and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27).
“On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside: and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 13:1-9).
“Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:18-23).
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him! Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out. But the wise answered, saying, no, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us! But he answered and said, Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of man is coming” (Matthew 25:1-13).
THE FOUNDATION! THE SOIL! THE CRY OF THE BRIDEGROOM! We must needs recognize and understand the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to the truth surrounding the storms we face within our lives. If there is one thing we must needs understand it’s that the storms we face within our lives reveal and demonstrate the foundation upon which we have built our houses and our lives. Whether or not our houses and lives will stand in the midst of the storm(s) we face can and will be directly impacted and determined by the foundation upon which we have built both. What’s more is the storm(s) we face within our lives demonstrate and reveal the wisdom which we may or may not have within our hearts, within our souls and within our spirits. Both men in Jesus’ parable given at the end of the Sermon on the Mount were described as building houses and both men were able to successfully complete those houses, however, only one was described as wise while the other was described as foolish. The same language of wise versus foolish was used in Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins for He declared how five were wise and five were foolish. What we must needs recognize and understand is that the parable has absolutely nothing to do about any of them sleeping and slumbering. When you read this parable you will find that the only difference between the five foolish virgins and the five wise virgins was the wise virgins had extra oil with them. All ten virgins were preparing to meet the bridegroom. All ten virgins had lamps which were initially burning as the night began. Each of the ten virgins would ultimately sleep and slumber as the bridegroom delayed his coming. What happened at the call and cry of the bridegroom is that the five wise virgins had extra oil with which to use to light their lamps that they might go forth and meet the bridegroom. The five foolish virgins did not have the necessary oil to ignite their lamps that they might be ready when the bridegroom came forth to gather all unto himself that they might go forth and meet him and enter into the chamber.
The parable of the seed, the sower and the soil reveals and demonstrates—not the quality or nature of the seed nor even work of the sower but rather the soil upon which the seed was sown. It would be very easy to think about this parable and think that the crux of the matter would be the seed which was sown and/or even the sower himself. The truth of the matter, however, is that the ultimate point of this parable is not the seed nor the sower but the soil in which the seed was sown. Seed was sown in one place and before it was even able to move beneath the surface that the work of growth might take place it was devoured by the fowls of the air who came down and snatched it away. The seed which was sown upon the stony ground would indeed bring forth fruit and a harvest initially, however, when the sun came out it scorched that which had sprang forth because there was no root nor depth. The seed which was sown among the thorns and the tares would also produce fruit and a harvest, however, it would have the life choked out of it because of the tares and the thorns which grew up together with it. What’s more is that as it pertains to the seed which was sown upon the stony ground Jesus described this as being representative of those who heard and received the word with joy, however, when persecution, affliction, suffering and the like arose because of the word they were offended and turned back and walked no more with Jesus. What we must understand is that Jesus NEVER promised us that we would be loved, welcomed, embraced and received within this life. Jesus NEVER promised that we would not experience suffering, affliction and persecution in this life. In fact I would dare say there are far too many men and women among us within our churches today who seek to somehow avoid suffering, affliction and persecution within this life and yet can and will be in for a rude awakening when it does in fact come.
It is having said this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, the words found in the tenth chapter, the words found in the sixteenth chapter and once more the words found in the twenty-fourth chapter. I would also like to call and draw your attention to the following words which are found in the fourteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad. For great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you m ay be sons of your Father in heaven; for he makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rains on the Just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:38-48).
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child: and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of man comes. A disciples is not above his r teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them false to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore: you are of more value than. Many sparrows. Therefore whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter in law against her mother in law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than mis not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Matthew 10:16-42).
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26).
“Now great multitudes went with him. And he turned and said to them, If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, This may began to build and was not able to finish. For what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple. Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:25-35).
Returning back to the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy we find the apostle writing concerning the latter times. The apostle Paul wrote of the last days and uses the very same language which we see in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by John as well as the language that is found in the second chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Thessalonica. Moreover the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews also wrote of this falling away and turning back in the sixth and tenth chapters of that epistle which adds even more weight and significance to that which the apostle Paul writes to Timothy. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy how it was the Spirit Himself who expressly spoke that in the latter times some will depart from the faith. What’s more the apostle Paul goes on to describe that those who depart from the faith will give heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons speaking lies in hypocrisy having their own conscience seared with a hot iron. This is something we dare not miss and ignore for when we come to the fourth chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Ephesian congregation as well as the epistle sent unto this congregation from Jesus we find the warning of turning aside to dangerous doctrines and even the ultimate fruit and manifestation of it—namely, leaving their first love. Consider if you will the following words which are found in both the fourth chapter of the epistle written unto the Ephesian congregation as well as the words which are found in the second chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ:
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of you 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 to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. (Now this, He ascended—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 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; 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, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—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 4:1-16).
“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, These things say He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lamp stands: I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and hate patience, and have labored for my name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp stand from its place—unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:1-7).
As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call in to contrast what Jesus spoke concerning many in the Ephesian church and how they had left their first love. There is not a doubt in my mind that what caused them to leave their first love was indeed the false apostles which entered in among them and perhaps even false teaching, false doctrine and false gospels which were present among them. I firmly believe there were many who allowed their love to grow cold and as a direct result left their first love because of the deception and persecution. There is a great need for us to recognize the contrast between men and women who depart from the faith and that which the apostle Paul admonished and instructed Timothy. In light of many departing from the faith the apostle Paul admonished Timothy to instruct men and women in these matters that he might be a good minister of Jesus Christ nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which he carefully followed. The apostle Paul admonished Timothy to reject profane and old wives’ fables and exercise himself toward godliness.
Within the fourth chapter of this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy we find him admonishing him to let no one despise his youth but to be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith and in purity. The apostle Paul encouraged him to not neglect the gift that was in him which was given to him by prophecy and with the laying on of hands. Timothy was encouraged to meditate on these things and giving himself entirely to them that his progress may be evident to all. Timothy was instructed to take heed to himself and to the doctrine that he might continue in them for in doing this he would save both himself and those who heard him. Timothy was charged with the responsibility of not only guarding himself but also those who were entrusted into his care through sound doctrine and Christian witness and testimony. This is something we must needs recognize and understand within our own hearts and lives for we must needs be men and women who not only guard and take heed to ourselves but we must also guard those who were entrusted into our care. This is precisely what the apostle Paul admonished the elders of the Ephesian church in Miletus when he prepared to depart for Jerusalem knowing he would never see their face again. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that we as the saints of God and we as the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs be those who give heed and guard ourselves that we might not only discern and recognize false doctrine, deception, false teaching, seducing spirits and the like but might reject them altogether. We must be men and women of sound minds and who are firmly established upon the Word of God. We must needs be men and women who hide the Word of God within our hearts that we might not sin against Him. Oh that we would be men and women who know, hear and recognize the voice of the true Shepherd and reject all others imposters and fraudsters who seek to deceive and seduce us from the true gospel, from the true Jesus and from the Holy Spirit Himself.