Thursday, April 8, 2010

Can These 3 Types of Suffering Make You Rejoice? (Part 2)

"Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward
in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were
before you" (Matthew 5:10-12).

The words of Christ in John 15:19-20, have never been
repealed:"If ye were of the world, the world would love his
own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen
you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not
greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they
will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they
will keep yours also."

The world's hatred manifests itself in derision, reproach,
slander, and ostracism. May Divine grace enable us to heed
this word: "But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, yet
take it patiently, this is acceptable with God" (1 Peter

The Lord Jesus here pronounced blessed or happy those who,
through devotion to Him, would be called upon to suffer.
They are blessed because such are given the unspeakable
privilege of having fellowship in the sufferings of the
Savior (Philippians 3:10). They are blessed because such
"tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience;
and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed" (Romans

They are blessed because they shall be fully recompensed in
the great Day to come. Here is rich comfort indeed. Let not
the soldier of the cross be dismayed because the fiery
darts of the wicked one are hurled against him.

Rather let him gird on more firmly the Divinely provided
armor. Let not the child of God become discouraged because
his efforts to please Christ make some of those who call
themselves Christians speak evil of him. Let not the
Christian imagine that fiery trials are an evidence of
God's disapproval. "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad." Not
only are the afflictions that faithfulness to Christ
involves to be patiently endured, but they are to be
received with joy and gladness. This we should do for three
reasons. (1) These afflictions come upon us for Christ's
sake; and since He suffered so much for our redemption, we
ought to rejoice greatly when we are called upon to suffer
a little for Him. (2) These trials bring us into fellowship
with a noble company of martyrs, for to meet with
afflictions associates us with the holy prophets and
apostles. In such company, reproach becomes praise and
dishonor turns to glory. (3) We who suffer persecution for
Christ's sake are promised a great reward in heaven.

Verily, we may rejoice, however fierce the present conflict
may be. Having deliberately chosen to suffer with Christ
rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season
(Hebrews 11:25), we shall also reign with Him, according to
His own sure promise (Romans 8:17). Remember Peter and
John, who "departed from the presence of the council,
rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for
His name" (Acts 5:41).

So, too, Paul and Silas, in the Philippian dungeon and with
backs bleeding, "sang praises unto God" (Acts 16:25). We
are told that others "took joyfully the spoiling of [their]
goods," knowing in themselves that they had "in heaven a
better and an enduring substance" (Hebrews 10:34). May
Divine grace enable all maligned, misunderstood, and
oppressed saints of God to draw from these precious words
of Christ that comfort and strength that they need.

This article is presented by Pablo Perez and Spiritual
Fuel. The words of the article were written by A.W. Pink
(One of the most influential evangelical authors in the
second half of the twentieth century). Access more
inspiring Christian articles on Spiritual Fuel - a Free
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Apostleship and Followership

1 Corinthians 12:25 sums up the central concern of the
chapter: "that there may be no division in the body." The
general theme of the chapter is the unity of the body of
Christ, the church. Paul had been writing to the Corinthian
church because some of the church leaders had created a
division as a result of their apostasy. Paul's mission was
to bring healing through the teaching of right doctrine to
the church. He was now explaining that the building blocks
of that unity are the spiritual gifts that have been given
to God's people. The building blocks are a set. If the set
is broken, the unity of the church is broken. When all of
the pieces are working, we have one set. But if a piece is
missing or broken, we have less than one set.

As with a human body, the various parts work together to
make the body whole. Each part has a unique function, and
without that function the entire body suffers and is thrown
off balance. No function is more or less important than
another. They are only different. If your little toe hurts,
your whole body limps.

Paul found that the Corinthian church was limping and that
limp was the impetus for Paul's next major
concern—the care and maintenance of the body. Paul
introduces the idea of care and maintenance in the latter
half of verse 25, "that the members may have the same care
for one another." The lack of unity or wholeness in the
church results in both additional sin and pain. And just as
in the human body, the pain is not the real problem, it is
a symptom of the problem, a symptom of sin. Pain provides a
warning signal. If the cause of the pain is not resolved,
increasingly serious consequences will unfold. The lack of
unity produces corporate pain in the churches. Paul will
deal with this pain in two ways. First, he will address the
prevention of corporate pain. And second, he will address
its care and treatment.

Why was this an issue? Because the Corinthian church was
limping. Was the whole body broken? Were all of the members
in pain? "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if
one member is honored, all rejoice together" (1 Corinthians
12:26). The Corinthian church had a migraine headache. Some
of its leaders were out of whack, and were not seeing

Paul's point was that it wasn't just a problem with the
leadership, it was the whole body that was in trouble. Yes,
leaders are important. They provide key functions in the
body. But without followers, leaders are nothing. Leaders
can only lead if followers follow. When followers don't
follow, leaders aren't leaders. So, when Christian leaders
don't lead in the right direction, Christian followers
should not follow. That means that Christian followers must
know which leaders to follow and which direction is the
right direction to go. Trusting church leadership is good,
of course. But Christians must do more than simply trust
their leaders. They must be Bereans. They must know God and
know Scripture.

The Bereans "were more noble than those in Thessalonica;
they received the word with all eagerness, examining the
Scriptures daily to see if these things were so" (Acts
17:11). The Bereans not only received the leadership of
their leaders (preachers), but they honored them by making
sure that what they said and did were in line with
Scripture. The Berean followers honored their leaders by
testing their leadership against the biblical model.

Some people might think that such testing was not a
function of trust and honor, but of doubt. Some people
might argue that it was a lack of trust that caused the
Bereans to check what they heard from their leaders against
Scripture. And that may be partly true because, knowing
Scripture, the Bereans knew the reality and extent of sin.
But when their leaders were proven to have provided genuine
biblical leadership, leadership that was in conformity with
Scripture, that leadership was doubly honored because the
Bereans had erased all doubt as a result of their own
examination. Leaders that passed the muster were worthy of
honor, and those who didn't were corrected or abandoned.
Thus, the body of Berean followers were not led astray by
errant leaders. The followers gave legs to the right
leadership and cut the wrong leadership off at the knees.

Blind followership is as bad as blind leadership. Jesus
warned, "if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a
pit" (Matthew 15:14). The corollary of Jesus' warning is
that if the blind try to lead the sighted, it is the
obligation of the sighted to keep them both out of the pit.
So, if you can see, if you are not blind, then your
obligation is to avoid the pit, and to help others do the
same. The Berean followers insured the strength and
veracity of the Berean leaders. Contrary to popular
opinion, the real strength of the Christian church is not
in her leaders, but in her followers. Followers always get
the leaders they deserve. So, an increase in the quality of
leaders requires a corresponding increase in the quality of
followers. There is a application of this to both civil and
religious politics that is rather distressing, but you will
need to make that application yourself. Lord, have mercy.

If one member suffers, all suffer together. If one leader
suffers, all suffer together—members and leaders. So,
to avoid suffering, each part must do its job, and the job
of Christian followers is to examine the Scriptures daily
to see if these things are so, to be like the Bereans. Paul
reminded the Corinthians that they were "the body of Christ
and individually members of it" (1 Corinthians 12:27). Each
individual member had a role to play, a function to
perform. Each follower must examine the Scriptures, to be
"diligent to make your calling and election sure" (2 Peter
1:10). Worthy leaders will not be threatened by that role.
Rather, they will be strengthened and honored by it.

There are no Christian spectators. This is why spectator
worship is such a crime against the Spirit! Worship that
treats the congregation as spectators trains Christians to
be blind followers. The congregation must participate in
worship, not just watch. Remember that true Christian
worship is more than what happens on Sunday mornings.
Worship is a way of life. Worship is a matter of bringing
all your life to God as a sacrifice of daily living.
Worship is the exchange of our personal worthlessness for
the worthiness of Christ. The gift of Christ's worthiness
is freely bestowed upon the unworthy, and produces a life
of worship, not just a life that goes to church.

Paul goes on to list various gifts that are essential to
the church. "God has appointed in the church first
apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles,
then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various
kinds of tongues" (1 Corinthians 12:28).

An apostle is a delegate; specifically an ambassador of the
Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ. The
traditional understanding is that apostles were responsible
for writing the New Testament. Miracles were associated
with their ministry. Miracles provided a method of
evaluation or proof of their calling, their ability to
speak accurately for God.

The purpose of miracles in the Bible was to establish the
authority and authenticity of God's prophets, known here as
apostles. The purpose of biblical miracles was not the
blessing of the recipients of those miracles, though the
recipients were indeed blessed. Miracles were the
traditional way of identifying and authenticating God's
prophets, and to give glory to God. The purpose of the
prophets—the apostles—was to produce the Bible,
to set God's Word straight by producing the New Testament.

So, with the closing of the Canon, it has been
traditionally understood that the age of miracles was
passed—not because God could not perform any more
miracles, but simply because their purpose was complete. In
the light of Scripture, miracles are no longer necessary.
God's Word has eclipsed them. Miracles are like flashlights
in the dark. But in the light of day, flashlights are no
longer necessary. Flashlights still work, but in the light
of day they don't provide any significant help.

Thus, the role of the apostles ceased with the closing of
the Canon. The New Testament had been written. But in the
First Century Corinthian church (and in other churches) the
production of the Canon was in full swing. The apostles
were busy writing the New Testament. And the writing of the
New Testament was the number one job of the Christian
church at that time. So, Paul rightly listed it first in
his list of gifts.

Author of many Christian books over the past 25 years,
Phillip A. Ross founded in
1998, which has lots of information about historic
Christianity. He published Arsy Varsy -- Reclaiming the
Gospel in First Corinthians in 2008, which demonstrates the
Apostle Paul's opposition to worldly Christianity. Ross
shows how Paul turned the world upside down.

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