Sealed and Guaranteed

Sealed and Guaranteed

My heart was so full and rejoiced deeply on 12 Aug 2018 (Sun) for the baptism of two very dear brother and sister in Christ, Tim and Ruth. The Lord gave me the privilege to journey with them for the past months and it was such an encouragement. My pastor tasked me to deliver a short messge for their baptism. The message is titled Sealed and Guaranteed.

Key Scripture Passage

Ephesians 1:13-14 New King James Version (NKJV)
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the HOLY SPIRIT OF PROMISE, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
Emphasis mine.

Baptism and Salvation

Water is used for washing and to make clean. Water baptism is more than just a public declaration. It is also a symbolic act of our old self being washed away by the water and emerge as a new person. All the past regrets, shame, pain, loses, victories and achievements, are taken away, far away from us. This is the time to start anew, afresh. A second chance whereby a clear line is drawn. I am so thankful that God uses the physical elements to help us understand and internalise spiritual truths that might be too abstract at times for us.

Baptism is the beginning of our jouney and the end is when our physical body is laid to rest or when Christ comes back, whichever is earlier. Therein lies the challenge of finishing this journey. This is a long marathon and not just a 100m sprint, which we do not know the distance nor the duration of our individual journey.

The beautiful part of it is that we are not alone in this journey, sealed with the Holy Spirit. We are SEALED and GUARANTEED in Christ until He comes back!

Seal

Let’s go a little deeper to understand what it means to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of God. We will look at the instances whereby the concept of seal is used in the Bible to gain insights to the function of a seal.

  1. Locking something within. E.g. how the tomb of Jesus was sealed (Matthew 27:66). This is to keep something precious seperated from the outside within so that there is no access from outside. Each believer’s whole being, spirit, soul and body is “wrapped” by the Holy Spirit to be seperated from the world. Holiness is defined as being separated from the world. The role of the Holy Spirit is to keep us pure and holy, untainted by the world, till Christ comes back for us.
  2. Sign of Authenticity. E.g. circumcision is a seal of righteousness of Abraham (Romans 4:11). Hologram seals for many products, like medication, supplements and even some IT products indicate its authenticity from the original manufacturer or brand. This is to help people identify the genuine products and differentiate from the imitations. The Holy Spirit within a believer marks the authenticity that the believer is of God.
  3. Identification and protection. E.g. Seal of God in the forehead of God’s servants as protection (Revelation 7:3-4). As long as the seal remains intact on a product, we know that they are new and not tampered with. A buyer will safely take the products whose seals are intact and those with broken seals are left to be trashed or heavily discounted for quick clearance. The same for Jesus. He has already paid for us in full and sealed us so that he can come back for us. The seal will be the identification used to protect us and take us home with Him.

Guarantee

Let’s illustrate guarantee through the rental of bicycle at East Coast Park (location where the baptism was held, by the beach). The rental shop requires customers to put in a refundable $200 cash deposit or personal ID as guarantee. The guarantee must be valuable enough for the customer to return their rented bicycles. What does it mean when the Bible says the Holy Spirit is a “guarantee of our inheritance”? God deposited Himself, the Holy Spirit, in us. The Holy Spirit is more than a valuable  guarantee for Jesus to return for us as promised?

Thus, the Holy Spirit as a seal and guarantee locks in our faith, validates us as true children of God and protects us from judgment/destructive forces that are not meant for us.

This implies the completion of our walk and journey with God is only possible by the grace of God.
God sets us on the journey with the assurance of completion. He gives us the resources and security for SUCCESS. God makes provisions for our slips, weariness, ignorance, “blur-ness”, idiosyncrasies and weaknesses.

The ability to continue to the end is NOT based on our own strength. We take the responsibility of our lives, but we are still not perfected yet. This means we stumble and fall. This means we can still fall short.

Our Responsibility – The Cross

Luke 9:23 “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

Jesus states three requirements that is expected of those who wants to follow him, these make up the part that we have to play in this journey.

  1. Deny himself
  2. Take up his cross daily
  3. Follow Jesus

I will start from the middle requirement, which is to take up our cross daily. Carrying the cross is not equivalent to wearing a cross around our neck. Jesus carried the cross for a few hours to Calvary and here he commanded us to carry it for our whole journey. Does it even make sense that since Jesus already carried our sin on the cross that we need to carry our cross for the rest of our lives after accepting Him? Is the cross that Jesus ask us to carry similar to the cross He carried to Calvary?

The cross was a symbol of shame, a punishment that was given to the worst criminals. Jesus’ death changed the cross from a symbol of shame into a symbol of victory after His resurrection. Jesus carried the cross of shame, with our sin on it, to Calvary. The cross Jesus told us to carry is the cross of victory.

The cross that Jesus carried was heavy, especially with his beaten body, so heavy that Simon had to help him with it (Matthew 27:32). My next question is, “How heavy is the cross that Jesus calls us to carry?” If the cross represents the victory of Christ, it should carry the weight of Christ’s power. If Christ power overcame sin, it should be weightier and thus heavier. If we are unable to even carry the cross of our own sin without crumbling, how then are we able to carry the cross of Christ’s power?

Only God can carry Himself. No one else can.

Sealed and Guaranteed
I used the float found at the baptism site to illustrate the cross. We had a “Jesus” who carried the “cross” bent double. The other who represented us had some fun with it and even put it over her waist. What a contrast in how the cross was carried.

This leads me back to the first step Jesus instructed. To deny ourselves, which in other words, to die to ourselves. The reason why we need to die to ourselves is so that the Holy Spirit in us can fully come alive to enable us to carry the cross! This journey is not to Calvary but to Jesus. It is not to death but to life. So, our responsiblity is not to carry the cross but to deny ourselves to allow the Holy Spirit to carry the cross. This is a very reasonable demand Jesus made of us, possibly the smallest part to play in this narrative.

Is Our Cross Really Neccessary?

I find myself asking God if carrying our cross is really necessary since we already have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can serve to remind us of Jesus’ death and resurrection, lead and guide us. The cross seems a little clumsy in this whole works. I realized the “clumsiness” of the cross is exactly what God is looking for. The cross is a large visible object that everyone can see, more of cannot miss. The Holy Spirit within is not visible to the physical eyes and its existance is proven by its workings within a person and through a person. Therefore, this clumsy cross is the testimony of Christ’s victory at work in our daily lives.

Conclusion

The only way to complete this journey is by dying, not just humbling, ourselves. This is the exact same journey Jesus took to obtain victory and glory. To be able to carry the cross daily, we need to die to ourselves. Our victorious completion lies in the cross we carry daily. We can only carry the cross daily when we have the Holy Spirit within us as a seal and guarantee.

The ultimate goal is for the GLORY OF GOD as stated in Ephesians 1:14 and we share in it. Not just at the end of the journey, but throughout the journey as we carry our cross of victorious power.

Phil 1:6b – “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”

Daniel’s Friends in the Furnace

Daniel’s Friends in the Furnace

Daniel’s Friends in the Furnace

Many of you would have read or heard of the story of Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego survived the fiery furnace of King Nebuchadnezzar. You can read Daniel 3 for the full story.

Where is Daniel?

I always wondered where is Daniel in this story. Chapter 2 ended with Daniel’s promotion to the Chef ruler over Babylon and his three friends were made Administrators. In Daniel 3:8-12, the accusation was directed at the Jews but more specifically at his three friends. Daniel was not mentioned at all. Maybe because Daniel was at the king’s court so they didn’t, or couldn’t include him in the target list. The absence of Daniel baffles me. Even though Daniel was spared of the accusation, news about the incident would have reached him considering they were his friends. Would this not be a matter urgent enough for Daniel to drop everything to help or at least be there for his friends? Yet he was nowhere to be found or mentioned in this whole episode.

Faith in Who?

The three friends had never once uttered Daniel’s name at the impending judgement of death through fire. They could have requested to appeal to Daniel or at least request to see him for the last time before their deaths. Perhaps by mentioning Daniel, Daniel might be implicated into the accusation and they did not want Daniel to be part of what they were going through. Whatever possible reasons there can be, these three friends chose to be on their own with God. Clearly for the three friends, their trust and faith is in God alone, not even in their best friend, the brilliant and powerful Daniel. The call for help is solely and directly to God. They did not placed an ounce of faith on a person. More than this, they do not even consider their lives more valuable than the honour of God. Their absolute alligence to God makes them insolence to King Nebuchadnezzar with an upfront statement of not answering the king’s question about his soverignty. Their reply to King Nebuchadnezzar was the epitome of their faith:

O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” – Daniel 3:16-18

Their faith is NOT determined by what God will do for them. It is amazing how steadfast they were even though they did not know if God will definitely deliver them from the fiery furnace.

Such faith is a strong magnet for God’s miracle deliverance.

Personal Reflection

I imagine myself in a situation like this, having to deny God and worship an idol or lose my life through fire, my instinctive reactive will be nothing like the three friends. I will probably:

  • Become a covet believer of Jesus Christ. I will bow to the idol but rationalise that my heart is not bowing to the idol so I am still faithful to God.
  • If I was brave enough to stand up against bowing to the idol, I will send a SOS message to “Daniel” for emergency aid, hoping he can intercept the fiery furnace punishment.

My coward, self-protecting instinct points me to reactions totally different from the three friends. Somehow, there is still hope as I have Christ in me, the Holy Spirit within. In moments like these, if I am able to release control to God, He can give me the ability to have faith like Daniel’s friends. I pray that I am able to let go and let God when the time comes.

The House of David and the House of God

As modern Christians, we generally do not think much about the House of David and the House of God as related entities. Perhaps because the House of David perceived as an Old Testament concept, more in relation to the nation of Israel. The Scriptural passages of ‭‭2 Samuel‬ ‭7:8-29‬ and ‭‭Mark‬ ‭3:20-35 can help us understand how this Old Testament Israel King’s house is of importance to our current faith in Christ Jesus.

Jesus is at Home (Mark 3:20-35)

I will start with the Mark passage in the New Testament. I love the opening of this passage, “And He came home.” There is no mention of which house was home for Jesus, but Jesus was HOME. It was in this context that Jesus addressed the accusation of Him operating under the power of Beelzebul. Jesus started by establishing the importance of unity in a kingdom, whether of Satan or of God. He quickly shifted from unity to the focus of a strong man in the house. The assumption here is that the unity of a house is held by the strong man. This is rather true as I can see often how the death of a patriach/matriach in a family can affect the family’s unity even in our current days. Jesus gave the best tip in how to bring down a house, that is to first take down the strong man. Simple strategy!

The Strong Man

Jesus seemed to be jumping from a topic to another very quickly. Suddenly from strong man, He talked about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. In closer examination, Jesus was still on the same train of thought. The Holy Spirit keeps the unity of the Kingdom of God (Ephesians 4:3). The Holy Spirit is the strong man in God’s house. The Scribes were trying to bind the strong man in the Kingdom of God by discrediting the strong man in the house of God, i.e. the Holy Spirit. I love how Jesus indirectly implied the Scribes’ intent to rob God’s House in their attempt to stop the Holy Spirit. It is obvious that the Scribes were unsuccessful in this attempt. Instead they hurled on themselves an unforgivable sin for eternal condemnation.

Mark did not stop at this victory of Jesus. The timely arrival of Jesus’ mother and brothers provided opportunity to further illustrate this object lesson. Jesus’ question of “Who are My Mother and My brothers?” sounded unfiliel taken outside of this context. In fact, He did not deny the blood ties He had with His mother and brothers. He extended the definition and boundaries of His family. In fact Jesus was home without his natural family at the beginning of this passage. His rhetorical rebutal to the Scribes regarding kingdom and house highlighted the importance of unity. Jesus concluded His lesson that the unity in the house of God is in doing the will of God. Unity through obedience is the mark of God’s family.

The Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:8-29)

Let’s now dive into this Old Testament passage now that narrates God’s response to King David’s desire to build God a house on earth. This passage seems unrelated to the Mark passage before. The focus verses are verses 12-16, which is known as the Davidic Covenant.

When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” – 2 Sam 7:12-16 (NASB, emphasis mine)

The Genealogy of King David to Jesus

While talking about the House of God and the House of David, there is an important geneology we cannot miss in Matthew 1:1-17. The symmetry of the three fourteen generations accounted (verse 17) for this genealogy shows that it is an intentional planned design and not a random occurance. This is the evidence of the outworking of the Davidic covenant God made in 2 Sam 7:12-16, and also to Abraham which is not in discussion here. It is commonly known that Jesus is the son of David, but let’s go deeper to understand the significance of this blood tie that God holds it .

A significant event or person is marked by the fourteenth generation – from Abraham to David, from David to Babylonion exile, from Babyonion exile to the coming of the Messiah Jesus. There is such a poetic pattern found in this genealogy, from patriach (Abraham) to king (David), slavery (Babylon) to saviour (Messiah). As you can see, a pattern is emerging. God chose the house of David and made it a kingdom. God allowed slavery as judgement so that salvation can come.

Kingdom Forever

The significance of the Davidic Covenant can be seen in two folds, the house and the kingdom. Using the before and after examination, we can see the impact of the Davidic covenant.

The House of David and the House of God

The House of David referred to here is not a physical building to live in. The House of David in the Bible refers to the lineage and descendents of David, i.e. the family of David. David is a mere man just like his predecesors like Abraham. The phrases “He shall build a house for my name” and “I will be a father to him” are indication that God has adopted David’s family to be His. Adoption is not a new concept in modern day Christianity as we are all adopted as sons and daughters of the most High God. Yet, in the Old Testament, this is unthinkable. Even in the New Testament, Jesus calling God His Father was considered a blasphemy worthy of death to the religious (John 5:18). Here we see a coming together of David’s family into God – a natural earthly with the spiritual heavenly as one. This covenant prepares the way for the son of God to become the son of Man.

The Kingdom of David and the Kingdom of God

The second impact was on the kingdom. David’s kingdom was in Israel, not the world, even in its greatest under King Solomon. It was a small kingdom here on earth amidst many kingdoms. Such kingdoms rise and fall and the kingdom of David no longer exists. It is interesting that the genealogy included the Babylonion exile as a key event, showing that the fall of the kingdom of David is not a surprise to God. In fact, this is a process of translating the physical kingdom of David into a spiritual kingdom of God – from slave to savior. The beauty of this transformation is one of eternity.

Conclusion

With the emphasis on individualism, it is hard for many of us to think beyond our nuclear family of perhaps three generations. It is Biblical to view the extended family, those of the past, present and future with one calling, and yet each person also has a more specific appointment and assignment from God. We often consider our Christian faith is based on the New Covenant found in the New Testament. From these few Bible passages, we can see that the New Covenant was set in motion by the Davidic Covenant. The House of God we know now started with the house of David, an archetype.

The Fourth Commandment - Sabbath

The Fourth Commandment – Sabbath

It has only been almost three months into 2018 and I felt as though I have ran a year’s worth. I am exhausted. I see the same exhaustion in many of the members in my church group. Yet, there is still so much more to be done. When I related this weariness to my spiritual mother, first thing she said is “keep the sabbath”. Not a reply I expected. Took me a while to let it sink in. When it did, it was the best and most practical advise anyone can give with regards to exhaustion.

Not sure about you, I have always thought the fourth commandment of the ten commandments (Exo 20:1-17) about keeping the sabbath a little odd and out of place among the other nine. All the nine makes total sense to me and I wondered what is the big deal about the Sabbath to make it to DE ten. I caught a glimpse of why when I read Numbers 15.

I am going to quote Numbers 15:32-41 here as it was the key passage that brought understanding to me.

Sabbath-breaking Punished

32 Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day. 33 Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation; 34 and they put him in custody because it had not been declared what should be done to him. 35 Then the Lordsaid to Moses, “The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36 So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

37 The Lord also spoke to Moses, saying, 38 “Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. 39 It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, 40 so that you may remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your God. 41 I am the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the Lord your God.”

Death Sentence?

I find it really harsh for death sentence when the man was just gathering wood on the sabbath day. No harm done to anyone. In fact it was productive and necessary work. What is it about sabbath that God takes it so seriously. Note, the judgement of death was from the Lord directly as the people did not know what to do with him.

The Fourth Commandment - Sabbath

Harlotry?

To understand God’s heart in this, verses 37-40 are key. It is interesting that the blue tassels (the Jewish calls them tzitzit on their prayer shawl called tallit) on the prayer shawls that the Jewish people use was instituted after this incident of the sabbath breaker. The purpose of the tassels is to visually remind them to obey the commandments to prevent harlotry. Harlotry, I believe refers to spiritual harlotry i.e., idols. For the nine commandments, they are quite instinctively against idolatry. What does keeping the sabbath have to do with harlotry?

Sabbath is the day in a week whereby God specifically says it is holy unto the Lord (Exo 16:23). It is consecrated to Him. Meaning we cease our daily activities to focus and spend time on Him. It is His day, literally. The Lord takes this commandment and commitment to Him seriously. When we are not able to withdraw ourselves from our world to Him, our world takes His place of importance in our lives. Anything or anyone who takes the place of God in our lives is an idol and it leads to halotry, a dishonoring of God.

Of course there are other reasons why keeping the sabbath is good for us as it is the rhythm of life God has set and God rested on the seventh day during creation and so we should. I will not go into these in details as my focus here is the fourth commandment. Like any of the other commandments, there are blessigns and benefits in obedience. Yet it is important to understand the heart of God behind His Commandments.

 

P.S. I do not want to engage in debates about which day of the week is sabbath which can be very long drawn. This is not the crux of the matter here. My advise here will be to observe sabbath the best way you can honour God in the precepts or cuture set by your church or spiritual community. 🙂

Mount of Temptation – Jericho

I was leading a group in Israel and Jordan and one of the sites we visited was Mount of Temptation – Jericho. We entered into Jericho in the evening of 7 Dec, a day after Trumph’s announcement of acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Jericho is Palestine and not Israel. The streets in Jericho were quiet as there was an economic protest where all shops and restaurants were closed. I have been to Jericho many times and this silence was unusual.

Somehow the silence reminded me of the silent march of the Israelites around the ancient city of Jericho. We did not go to take over the city neither were we on the march. Yet the silence in the streets indicated that something was to come. In the Biblical story it was conquering the Promised Land. We were there to see the land. 😊 On 8 Dec after we left Jericho early morning, protest and demonstrations broke out in Palestine, including Jericho. Thank God for His divine protection and timing for everything.

“When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them. The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” So he had the ark of the Lord carried around the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there. Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets kept sounding. So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days. On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.” When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.” Joshua‬ ‭6:8-21‬ ‭NIV‬‬ (emphasis mine)

On 7 Dec, our Jericho guide waited for almost 2hrs as we were late. Our itinerary was to head straight to Elisha Spring, Seed of Hope and to the hotel. Instead, without asking for our consent, he brought us to the foot of Mount of Temptation. Yes, there is a big shop right at the foot of Mount of Temptation. I was not too concern since shops were supposed to be close. A quick stop to see the mount from the base should not be a problem even though we were tight for time. When approaching, I saw the shutters of the shop down so there shouldn’t be any distraction. Guess what? The shop assistants came out in the dimly lit road with samples of dates and half the group were more interested in the dates than the significance of the Mount of Temptation. A side note, Jericho does produce good dates!

Mount of Temptation - Jericho<

was reminded of Achan who were tempted by the spoils of Jericho and secretly kept some despite God’s command against it. I find it rather interesting that the temptation of Jericho is still at work now, even in small things like dates and shopping. 😅

“But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.” Joshua‬ ‭7:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I believe it is a personal warning God has for me this season even as I have come out of the wilderness and the first battle of “Jericho” comes with temptation in the most unexpected manner. Temptation is waiting in the dark corner to spring a surprise offer that I might not be prepared to resist. The spoils of the first battle, just like the first fruit, belongs to the Lord. Don’t even think about touching them as the consequences will be dire, just like the battle of Ai.

I pray that myself or anyone of us will not fall prey to such temptations. Let us fix our eyes on our Lord Jesus lest we be distracted.

Authority, Forgiveness and Discipline

Authority, Forgiveness and Discipline

As the title “Authority, Forgiveness and Discipline” suggests, this post touches on the role of leaders. I am referring to those with authority as people who are responsible for the growth and well-being of others. This includes parents, teachers, superiors in workplaces, pastors, youth leaders, and as you can see, almost anyone depending on how you define your roles.

Forgiveness

As humans, we are far from perfect but are being made perfect. Yes, we do silly things that can irritate, anger and hurt the people who are around us. This is the time when those in authority need to exercise forgiveness. Forgiveness is not released only after an apology is given. Forgiveness is not holding anger and bitterness towards the person despite what was done or said, or sometime not done or said. It is to still be able to look at the person with the love of God and giving the person the worth and value God have for him or her. Forgiveness is often taught and talked, where many are struggling to practice, including myself.

Discipline

Perhaps it is this struggle that is why we often end the process at forgiveness. As by the time we manage to forgive, we are done with the matter already. Yet Biblically, there is one more step.

Let us refer to Matthew 18:15-20 (NASB):

15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

The heading for this section in the NASB version says “Discipline and Prayer”. We often quote verses 18 and 19 for prayer, but it is not often that we look at it in context of discipline. Verses 18 and 19 deal with spiritual authority and how this is connected to verses 15-17, which is the context of these truths. This is corporate spiritual authority that we see Jesus taught here. The source of the power is of course from God through the work of Jesus Christ. I believe verse 15-17 lies the key to unlock this authority and power given to the church.

Sin and Spiritual Authority

God hates sin. When sin is present, God does not bless and the flow of authority is stopped. In the Old Testament, God judges sin. Individuals like Achan and even King David had their sins judged. In New Testament, the most dramatic incident was Annanias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). These were sins that were hidden from the knowledge of the church. Yet for sins that are known to the church, God gives His body His authority to judge, release forgiveness and discipline. Discipline can only come when there is forgiveness, then the actions taken will be to correct and for growth. Without forgiveness, any action taken is revenge which is not to seek the good of the offender. If the offender is to remain in the community, as per normal, the gravity of sin from God’s perspective is never fully reflected, and thus it is not possible to learn that sin is an abonimation to God. It most probably is not to the offender. If it is, he or she would have not done it or would have repented quickly. Remember that excommunicating the offender is not a life-time sentence. Upon repentence, i.e. the person realized the gravity of the sin and is willing to change and forsake the old ways, the person is fully integrated back into the church community.

By dealing with sin through the heart of God, considering both God’s hate towards sin and love towards men, this is when the church can exercise the very spiritual authority given in verses 18-20. If these verses are set in full motion, what a great testimony of the glory of God we will be here on earth.

 

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