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Ephesians 4:14

Stand Firm on Sound Doctrine

14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

As we have seen from our study of the previous verse, we begin our Christian lives as mere babes in Christ, but our goal is to mature so that the entire body of Christ can also mature "unto the measure of the fullness of Christ." Paul, however, recognizes that many of the members of the church had not grown in their faith and knowledge of Christ and he takes the opportunity in this verse to urge them to grow up.

My ministry is in the center of a small southern city where poverty, violence and drugs are a daily occurrence. Few of the people living there have ever received Christ as their Savior, but many of them have been to church with their parents or grandparents. Some of them have very strong religious beliefs and superstitions that are not consistent with sound doctrines but have been held by them and their families for several generations. The people are open to learning new things but are reluctant to give up their old beliefs. If I simply attack there superstitions, I will quickly be thought of as an enemy. Therefore, it is my calling to help them find Biblical truths that will make them question and eventually give up their old belief systems.

The danger that I face is that they are so easily persuaded by the spectacular and emotional fervor of some crafty preachers who will lead them astray for their own profit by confirming those old superstitions and adding even more to them. Until they have a sound understanding of the doctrines of the Christian faith, they are vulnerable and can be carried about with every wind of doctrine.

Only prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit can take people like those in Ephesus who worshipped many false deities and build them into a doctrinally sound, mature church. It takes time, patience and a love for the people with whom you are involved. One must make sure that the people are well grounded in the basics before trying to teach the more difficult doctrines.

Paul experienced a situation in his letter to the Hebrews in which the people were not growing in their knowledge of the truth. He wrote, "Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillfull in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." (Hebrews 5:11-14)

It is important to be able to discern between truth and a lie, between good and evil, and between a man of God and one of the devil. The devil's agents are crafty and sly. They know how to take a lot of truth and wrap it around their ultimately destructive lies in order to get people to follow them. They lie in wait, looking for the ones who are weak in their faith and knowledge of Christ.

Every day I meet people who have actually received Christ as their Savior, but are still tossed to and fro. Some believe that the dead communicate with them, others listen to fortune tellers who claim to be prophets while others have completely misinterpreted portions of the scriptures. The devil never rests.

I have frequently recommended that my readers should not believe a word that I have written but should check me out in the holy scriptures. "If it ain't in the Bible, it ain't the truth." You should know how to study the Bible methodically and how to properly interpret what you find. It is the only source of truth that we have in this evil world and will remain so until Jesus returns. Learn its doctrines and stand firmly upon them, sharing them with others and building the body of Christ.

Before The Throne:

Ask God to give you ever increasing skills in the interpretation of scriptures. No scripture is of any private interpretation, so you must have the ability to see how it interprets itself. Pray that your understanding would be sound. Ask God to protect your pastor from doctrinal errors. Pray that He will use you to help others grow in their knowledge and understanding. Pray for the maturity of the church.

For Further Study:

** no more: Isa 28:9; Mat 18:3-4; 1Co 3:1-2; 14:20; Heb 5:12-14; ** tossed: Act 20:30-31; Rom 16:17-18; 2Co 11:3-4; Gal 1:6-7; 3:1; Col 2:4-8; 2Th 2:2-5; 1Ti 3:6; 4:6-7; 2Ti 1:15; 2:17-18; 3:6-9, 13; 4:3; Heb 13:9; 2Pe 2:1-3; 1Jo 2:19, 26; 4:1; ** carried: Mat 11:7; 1Co 12:2; Jam 1:6; 3:4; ** by the: Mat 24:11, 24; 2Co 2:17; 4:2; 11:13-15; 2Th 2:9-10; 2Pe 2:18; Rev 13:11-14; 19:20; ** lie: Psa 10:9; 59:3; Mic 7:2; Act 23:21;

Ephesians 4:13

Growing Up

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:

The work of the ministry, i.e., of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, is to build up the body of Christ in such a way that every one of its members reaches the level of maturity necessary to mold the entire body into a perfect man. Each of the members of the church must be able to perform their duties so as to make the organization function the way God intends.

To accomplish this, the ministry must bring each of us into a unity of the faith. In the fifth verse of this chapter, we were told that there is only one faith. It is the faith of Jesus Christ, which is given to us as a free gift. However, we are only baby Christians when we receive our faith, and that faith, although it is from God, must be exercised and stretched so that it will grow.

Jesus told a parable, which is terribly misrepresented when it is used to convince church members to give more money. It is a parable that deals with investing our faith so that it may grow. "For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.

"After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

"He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

"Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

"His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 25:14-30)

The goods, which our Lord has delivered to His servants, are our faith. The ministry of the church must teach people to invest their faith in the work of the church so that it may grow. Some members may have very strong faith in the Lord Jesus and might become missionaries in foreign lands, enduring many hardships that will greatly increase their faith. Other members may not have so much faith but might be willing to invest some of their time working at a local homeless shelter. Their experiences will also increase their faith. Others will stay home and not do anything that will test their faith, and it will not grow.

The ministry's task is to lead all members to the unity of the faith, and to the knowledge of the Son of God, obtained from teaching and personal relationship with Him, so that the church body becomes a mature man. If the church is to be the body of Christ it must attain the stature or maturity of a body that has the fullness of Christ living within, guiding it, directing it, encouraging it and protecting it.

Your task is to discover how you will fit into the body. Will you invest your faith and allow it to grow or will you hide it? Seek the counsel of your church's leaders and listen carefully to what they tell you. It is time to grow up and mature in your faith, because Christ is coming again very soon.

Before The Throne:

Adversity and opportunity are the same thing. Adversity is the opportunity to grow in your faith. Ask God to help you take steps of faith toward serving Him so that your faith can grow. Ask Him to show you how the difficult moments in your life can free you to spend more time working for Him or can give you more opportunity to demonstrate your faith to those around you. Pray that, as you invest your faith, you will be encouraged by the way it pays off. Thank Him for every moment of adversity and rejoice in the fact that He has chosen to give you another opportunity to grow.

For Further Study:

** we all: Jer 32:38-39; Eze 37:21-22; Zep 3:9; Zec 14:9; Joh 17:21; Act 4:32; 1Co 1:10; Phi 2:1-3; ** the knowledge: Isa 53:11; Mat 11:27; Joh 16:3; 17:3, 25-26; 2Co 4:6; Phi 3:8; Col 2:2; 2Pe 1:1-3; 3:18; 1Jo 5:20; ** unto a: Eph 2:15; 1Co 14:20; Col 1:28; ** fulness: Eph 1:23;

Numbers 16:41-50

The Servants of Sin

41 But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the LORD. 42 And it came to pass, when the congregation was gathered against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the tabernacle of the congregation: and, behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD appeared. 43 And Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of the congregation. 44 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 45 Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment. And they fell upon their faces. 46 And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the LORD; the plague is begun. 47 And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. 48 And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed. 49 Now they that died in the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, beside them that died about the matter of Korah. 50 And Aaron returned unto Moses unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the plague was stayed.

Is this not the most incredible story that we have studied so far? God had crushed the rebellion of Korah. The horrible sight of the families of Korah, Dathan and Abiram being swallowed up by the earth was still fresh in the minds of the people. The ashes of the two hundred and fifty men who followed them were still smoldering in the camp, and the smell of burning flesh was still fresh in their nostrils. The congregation had been spared a similar fate only because of the intercession of Moses and Aaron. Yet, the word of God records that "On the morrow" there was a new rebellion.

The children of Israel murmured and accused Moses and Aaron of killing "the people of the LORD." Moses and Aaron had done nothing more than to pray for all of them. They had nothing to do with the deaths of the rebels. It should have been evident to everyone that God had cast His judgment against them. They were not the people of the LORD, but sinners who looked to serve only their own interests. But it is typical of sinners to call that, which is evil, good and that, which is good, evil.

As the crowd gathered around Moses and Aaron to do who knows what to them, the cloud of the LORD once again appeared to them over the tabernacle and the glory of the LORD shined forth. Moses and Aaron immediately went to the tabernacle to seek the will of God and perhaps also for protection from the angry mob. "For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock." (Psalms 27:5)

At the tabernacle, the LORD warned them to separate themselves from the congregation, because He was going to destroy the whole bunch. Then, Moses and Aaron fell on their faces again to make intercession for the people. This scene had become much too common during Israel's journey through the wilderness. God always responded to their prayers by sparing the majority of the people, but the worst of the sinners were made an example to the rest.

After praying, Moses told Aaron to take fire from the altar and to place it in his censer with some incense. Then he was to go among the people and make an atonement for them. As Aaron did that, he became a type of Christ, demonstrating remarkable courage and faith to save the very sinners who wished to kill him. A dangerous plague had begun in the camp, but Aaron ran to the people and stood between the dead and the living making an atonement for them with his censer. Notice the difference between the censers of Korah's followers and the censer of Aaron. The first brought death, while the other brought fogiveness.

In all, fourteen thousand seven hundred people died from the plague. Their story reminds us of how desperately we need a Savior. The people of Israel were no different than the people of today. Sinners never learn from their mistakes. "Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." (John 8:34) Sin is worse than the Egyptian Pharaoh. It will never let you go. That is why the people could have witnessed the destruction of Korah and company one day and on the very next day committed the exact same offense.

Like the congregation of Israel needed Aaron to make an intercession, so we need Jesus Christ to intercede for us. The difference is that "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) When we come to Jesus, He cleanses us from all unrighteousness and there is no more condemnation... ever.

Before The Throne:

If you do not have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, but you feel that you are being drawn to Him, surrender your life to Him today. Learn to love Him more than anything, anyone and even more than your own life. Pray and give yourself to Him. Ask Him to show you His plan for your life. Be persistent and obey what He tells you to do.

For Further Study:

** all the. Num 16:1-7; Num 14:2; Ps 106:13, 23, 25-48; Isa 26:11; ** Ye have. Num 16:3; 2Sam 16:7-8; 1Kgs 18:17; Jer 37:13-14; Jer 38:4; Jer 43:3; Amos 7:10; Matt 5:11; Acts 5:28; Acts 21:28; 2Cor 6:8;

(v.42) ** the glory. Num 16:19; Num 14:10; Num 20:6; Exod 16:7, 10; Exod 24:16; Exod 40:34-35; Lev 9:23;

(v.45) ** Get you up. Num 16:21, 24, 26; ** And they. Num 16:22; Num 20:6; 1Chr 21:16; Matt 26:39;

(v.46) ** from off. Lev 9:24; Lev 10:1; Lev 16:12-13; Isa 6:6-7; Rom 5:9-10; Heb 7:25-27; Heb 9:25-26; Re 8:3-5; ** and put. Ps 141:2; Mal 1:11; ** an atonement. Exod 30:7-10; Lev 16:11-16; 1John 2:1-2; ** there is wrath. Num 1:53; Num 8:19; Num 11:33; Num 18:5; Lev 10:6; 1Chr 27:24; Ps 106:29;

(v.47) ** and ran. Matt 5:44; Rom 12:21; ** and behold. Ps 106:29; ** and he put. Num 16:46; Deut 33:10-11; Isa 53:10-12;

(v.48) ** Num 16:18, 35; Num 25:8-11; 2Sam 24:16-17, 25; 1Chr 21:26-27; 1Thess 1:10; 1Tim 2:5-6; Heb 7:24-25; Jas 5:16; John 5:14;

(v.49) ** fourteen thousand. Num 16:32-35; Num 25:9; 1Chr 21:14; Heb 2:1-3; Heb 10:28-29; Heb 12:25;

(v.50) ** Num 16:43; 1Chr 21:26-30;

Numbers 16:36-40

The Memorial

36 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 37 Speak unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take up the censers out of the burning, and scatter thou the fire yonder; for they are hallowed. 38 The censers of these sinners against their own souls, let them make them broad plates for a covering of the altar: for they offered them before the LORD, therefore they are hallowed: and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel. 39 And Eleazar the priest took the brasen censers, wherewith they that were burnt had offered; and they were made broad plates for a covering of the altar: 40 To be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the LORD; that he be not as Korah, and as his company: as the LORD said to him by the hand of Moses.

The two hundred and fifty men who brought their censers with burning incense to the tabernacle, as Moses had commanded, were instantly consumed by a flash of fire from the Lord. The censers, which they carried, were made of brass, whereas the censers used by the priests were made of silver. The brass censers of the two hundred and fifty offenders were left laying among the ashes and needed to be carefully collected and properly disposed of, because they had been sanctified by the consuming fire of the Lord.

Eleazar, the son of Aaron and the overseer of the sacred things of the tabernacle, was instructed to take the censers out of "the burning," out of the ashes of the fire, and to take the fire that was in them and scatter it away from the tabernacle. The burning incense that had been brought by the two hundred and fifty men was strange fire just like that offered by Nadab and Abihu.

The rebels had burned for their sins. Having sinned against the Lord, they became their own burnt offerings. Therefore, the censers of brass were hallowed. God instructed Eleazor to gather the censers and to have the brass hammered out into a plate for the altar where the burnt offering was made. That altar already had a plate of brass over it, so this would be an additional protective covering over the first.

Eleazor obeyed the Lord and made the plate of brass to cover the altar. It was to be a sign, a memorial, to warn the people that God will not tolerate sin. If anyone other than the priests would come near the altar to offer incense, they would be reminded of what had happened to the men who followed Korah in this rebellion.

The phrase in verse 40, "...that he be not as Korah, and as his company," is very often interpreted to mean that Korah was burned along with the two hundred and fifty. There could be some basis for this, since in verse 27 we read, "So they gat up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children." It only mentions that Dathan and Abiram stood in the door of their tents and were swallowed up by the earth. However, the people were also told to stay away from Korah's tent. Therefore, I have maintained that Korah was also swallowed with his family. Verse 35 did not say that two hundred and fifty-one were burned, which would have been the number of them if Korah was among them, but there is a legitimate argument for both sides of the debate.

The main lesson for us to learn here, however, is not about who was burned but that they were severely punished for their sins. The brass covering over the altar was to remind the people of what had happened. The image of Jesus Christ hanging on the cross as the living sacrifice for our sins should be an even more dramatic reminder to us of the consequences of sin. The wages of sin is death, eternal death. The only way to avoid the fires of hell is through faith in Jesus Christ and in His saving sacrifice.

Before The Throne:

Above all things today, give God the thanks for what He has done for you through the death and resurrection of your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You can thank Him in your prayer closet, but a better way is to thank Him publicly. Pray that He will give you the opportunity today to glorify His name to those who do not believe.

For Further Study:

** the censers. Num 16:7-18; ** hallowed. Le 27:28;

(v.38) ** sinners. 1Kgs 2:23; Prov 1:18; Prov 8:36; Prov 20:2; Hab 2:10; ** a sign. Num 16:40; Num 17:10; Num 26:10; Ezek 14:8; 1Cor 10:11; 2Pet 2:6;

(v.40) ** that no. Num 3:10, 38; Num 18:4-7; Lev 22:10; 2Chr 26:18-20; Jude 1:11; ** come near. 1Kgs 13:1-3; 2Chr 26:16-21;

Numbers 16:23-35


23 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 24 Speak unto the congregation, saying, Get you up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. 25 And Moses rose up and went unto Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins. 27 So they gat up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children. 28 And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the LORD hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind. 29 If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then the LORD hath not sent me. 30 But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD. 31 And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: 32 And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. 33 They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. 34 And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also. 35 And there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense.

God had threatened to consume the entire congregation of Israel, but Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the Lord and interceded for the people. Therefore, God decided to destroy only Korah, Dathan and Abiram along with their families and the two hundred and fifty followers who participated in the rebellion. God sent Moses to warn all of the others to stay away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram and to touch nothing that belonged to them.

"...lest ye be consumed in all their sins." It is a dangerous thing for anyone to be too involved with the wicked men of this world. Our ministry must be only to share the gospel with them but, when they refuse to accept it, we should not become entangled in their affairs. The warning to separate ourselves is repeated over and over in scripture (See Deut 13:17; Isa 52:11; Matt 10:14; 2Cor 6:17; 1Tim 5:22). The final warning is to come out of Mystery Babylon and is given in Revelation 18:4, "And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."

So, the people separated themselves from the tents and belongings of the three leaders and, as the three stood with their families in the door of their tents, Moses explained what the sign of their destruction would mean. If they lived and died a normal death like any other man, the people would know that God had not sent Moses to lead the people. He had acted of his own free will to do everything that he had done so far. However, if the ground opened and swallowed them and all their belongings, the people would know that these three men, Korah, Dathan and Abiram had provoked the Lord to anger by their rebellion.

As soon as Moses finished speaking, the ground opened and swallowed the three along with their families, their tents and all of their belongings. They were instantly buried alive. The people of Israel ran for fear that they might be next. This would have been an unforgettable lesson for everyone in the congregation. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and God will not tolerate it. Separate yourselves from wicked men lest you be partakers of their sins and their punishments.

Then, a fire came out from the Lord. This was probably like a flash of lightning shooting from the cloud in which the Lord had appeared to them. It instantly burned only the two hundred and fifty men who had helped Korah in the rebellion. Some have debated whether their bodies were left in tact or whether they were completely reduced to ashes, but that is a frivolous argument. Dead is dead, and the impact that it must have had on the people would not have been any different.

This is a powerful story designed to teach us that we must be carefull to follow only godly men. There are many false prophets today who are using the gospel message to lead people away from the knowledge of the Lord. They are clever and attract many followers, but theirs is every bit as much of a rebellion against the Lord as that of Korah and company. The most successful of these is the Pope and the catholic church, leading people in the name of Christ to worship idols and to pray to the dead.

Before the Throne:

Pray that God will give you the ability to quickly discern the lies of evil men so that you can warn others. Ask Him to save those whom you know have fallen for the schemes of a false prophet. Pray for the boldness to speak out and for the power of His word to effectively work through you.

For Further Study:

** Num 11:16, 17, 25, 30;

(v.26) ** Num 16:21-24; Gen 19:12-14; Deut 13:17; Isa 52:11; Matt 10:14; Acts 8:20; Acts 13:51; 2Cor 6:17; 1Tim 5:22; Rev 18:4;

(v.27) ** and stood. 2Kgs 9:30, 31; Job 9:4; Job 40:10-11; Prov 16:18; Prov 18:12; Isa 28:14;

(v.28) ** Hereby. Exod 3:12; Exod 4:1-9; Exod 7:9; Deut 18:22; Zech 2:9; Zech 4:9; John 5:36; John 11:42; John 14:11; ** of mine. Num 24:13; 1Kgs 18:36; Jer 23:16; Ezek 13:17; John 5:30; John 6:38;

(v.29) ** visited. Exod 20:5; Exod 32:34; Job 35:15; Isa 10:3; Jer 5:9; Lam 4:22; ** the Lord. 1Kgs 22:28; 2Chr 18:27;

(v.30) ** make a new thing. Job 31:3; Isa 28:21; Isa 43:19; Isa 45:7, 12; Jer 31:22; ** and they. Num 16:33; Ps 55:15;

(v.31) ** Num 26:10, 11; Num 27:3; Deut 11:6; Ps 106:17-18;

(v.32) ** the earth. Num 16:30; Gen 4:11; Isa 5:14; Rev 12:16; ** all the. Num 16:17; Num 26:11; Num 27:3; 1Chr 6:22, 37; Ps 84:1; Ps 85:1; Ps 88:1;

(v.33) ** into the. Ps 9:15; Ps 55:23; Ps 69:15; Ps 143:7; Isa 14:9, 15; Ezek 32:18, 30; ** they perished. Jude 1:11;

(v.34) ** fled. Isa 33:3; Zech 14:5; Rev 6:15-17; ** Lest. Num 17:12-13;

(v.35) ** And there. Num 11:1; Num 26:10; Lev 10:2; Ps 106:18; ** two hundred. Num 16:2, 17;

Numbers 16:16-22

Pray for your Enemies

16 And Moses said unto Korah, Be thou and all thy company before the LORD, thou, and they, and Aaron, to morrow: 17 And take every man his censer, and put incense in them, and bring ye before the LORD every man his censer, two hundred and fifty censers; thou also, and Aaron, each of you his censer. 18 And they took every man his censer, and put fire in them, and laid incense thereon, and stood in the door of the tabernacle of the congregation with Moses and Aaron. 19 And Korah gathered all the congregation against them unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the congregation. 20 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 21 Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment. 22 And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?

Moses summoned Korah and the two hundred and fifty rebellious men who had followed him to appear before the Lord and Aaron at the door of the tabernacle. Each of them was to bring their censor filled with incense and bring them before the Lord. This was an opportunity for them to repent, because they knew what had happened to Nadab and Abihu when they brought strange fire in their censors into the tabernacle.

Korah and his followers obeyed and stood in the tabernacle, but they also gathered the rest of the congregation of Israel to support their rebellion at the tabernacle's door. Evil men with a thirst for power and notoriety will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. The memory of Nadab and Abihu meant nothing to Korah and company. He was like an alcoholic who knows the consequences of his addiction but ignores and even denies them. Sin is the worst addiction afflicting mankind and no one is immune to it. One small taste of sin leads to an obsession for more. The small taste of power over two hundred and fifty led Korah to entice the whole congregation to follow him.

Then the glory of the Lord appeared to the whole congregation. This was most likely the cloud that had rested over the tabernacle. John Gill suggested, " which was seen a glory, a brightness and splendour, or such coruscations and flashes of lightning as were very unusual and amazing, and plainly showed the Lord was there." There was no doubt that things were now getting serious.

Then God told Moses and Aaron to get safely away from the crowd and to give Him space to work. He would destroy the whole lot of them in a moment. This was not the first time that God had threatened to wipe out the entire nation and start over again with just Moses. We can be certain that they all remembered what happened when they had made and worshiped the golden calf. At that time the Levites were the only ones on God's side. Now they are the ones leading the rebellion against Him.

"And they fell upon their faces (ie. Moses and Aaron), and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?" This was the way of Moses, who was said to have been meeker than any other man. He made no accusations, demanded no revenge, and did not boast that his enemies were going to get what they deserved.

Jesus taught us to be like Moses. "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;" (Matthew 5:44) That seems to have been Moses' philosophy and it is one that we should all adopt. It is amazing what happens when we love and pray for our enemies.

Lastly, it is important to note that the prayers of Moses and Aaron did not change God's mind. He knows what we desire and need before we ask and He knows whether or not we will ask Him. His answers to our prayers are therefore already built into His plans for us. Nevertheless, if there is no prayer, there can be no answer. The intercessory prayer of faithful men like Moses and Aaron will accomplish much.

Before the Throne:

Who are those who have no love for you, who despitefully use you or who desire to do you harm? To pray for them in earnest, you must first forgive them, really, fully and often. Then fall down on your face and earnestly pray for them to be forgiven by God and to be saved by the blood of Christ.

For Further Study:

** Be thou. Num 16:6-7; ** before. 1Sam 12:3, 7; 2Tim 2:14;

(v.17) ** 1Sa 12:7

(v.19) ** Korah. Num 16:1-2; ** and the glory. Num 16:42; Num 12:5; Num 14:10; Exod 16:7, 10; Lev 9:6, 23;

(v.21) ** Separate. Gen 19:15-22; Jer 5:16; Acts 2:40; 2Cor 6:17; Eph 5:6-7; Rev 18:4; ** that I may. Num 16:45; Num 14:12, 15; Exod 32:10; Exod 33:5; Ps 73:19; Isa 37:36; Heb 12:28-29;

(v.22) ** they fell. Num 16:4, 45; Num 14:5; ** the God. Num 27:16; Job 12:10; Eccl 12:7; Isa 57:16; Zech 12:1; Heb 12:9; ** one man sin. Gen 18:23-25, 32; Josh 7:1-26; 2Sam 24:1, 17; Rom 5:18; 1Cor 13:7;

Numbers 16:12-15

A Rejected Leader

12 And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab: which said, We will not come up: 13 Is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us? 14 Moreover thou hast not brought us into a land that floweth with milk and honey, or given us inheritance of fields and vineyards: wilt thou put out the eyes of these men? we will not come up. 15 And Moses was very wroth, and said unto the LORD, Respect not thou their offering: I have not taken one ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them.

After speaking to Korah and the Levites about their rebellion, Moses sent for Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, to come to the tabernacle where judgment was to be made. Either they had left during his talk with them or they had not come to begin with. Nevertheless, we are told that they refused to come up to the tabernacle and defiantly rejected Moses' authority.

The message that Dathan and Abiram sent back to Moses was insulting to both Moses and the Lord. "Is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey,.." They referred to Egypt as the land flowing with milk and honey. It was a land of plenty, but never could have been said to be "flowing with milk and honey." The inference was that they were far better fed in Egypt than they were in the wilderness.

" kill us in the wilderness," They would certainly die in the wilderness, but not by starvation. They would die of old age after being forced by God to wander in the wilderness for forty years as punishment for refusing to enter the land of Canaan. Dathan, Abiram and all of the other adults, with the exception of Moses, Aaron, Caleb and Joshua, had brought the present unfortunate circumstances upon themselves by their previous refusal to trust in the Lord.

"...except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us?" It seems men always need someone on whom to blame their own miseries. I remember a time when I tried to lead a prisoner, who had been sentenced to serve ten years for his crimes, to the Lord. He was a very proud and arrogant man. When I suggested that he learn to humble himself before the Lord, he accused me of trying to make him bow down to my authority. Of course, that was not true, but he continued to tell people that for many years right up until the time of his death. Dathan and Abiram were making the accusation that Moses had brought them out of Egypt just so he could make himself their ruler. This implied, of course, that they were better off under the authority of their Egyptian slave masters than they were under all of the burdensome laws that Moses had given them.

Furthermore, the pair claimed that Moses had failed to keep his promise to them. He had not brought them to a land flowing with milk and honey. This was not true. He had led them to the promised land, but they had refused to enter. How many times I have seen men come right to the foot of the cross and then reject the offer of the only salvation that is available to them! Those same men will curse God for the miserable and hopeless lives that they have made for themselves.

"Wilt thou put out the eyes of these men?" What punishment would Moses want to inflict on Korah, Dathan, Abiram and the two hundred and fifty men who followed them in this rebellion? Would he sink so low as to put out the eyes of all of them? "We will not come up. We reject your authority and will no longer obey you."

This angered Moses and he, as he was accustomed to do, took the problem to the Lord. This time he requested that God would not accept the offering of incense, which they were to bring in their censors to the tabernacle. He swore to God that he had taken nothing from them, not even one donkey, and that he had never done anything to harm any of them.

Before The Throne:

Pray for those who would reject the freedom offered under authority of Jesus Christ, preferring the bondage of sin instead. Ask the Lord to break their hardened hearts before it is too late for them to be saved. Pray that God would always keep you from the temptation to resist spiritual authority and to lead you to properly resolve any conflicts that might rise between you and your church leaders.

For Further Study:

** Prov 29:9; Isa 3:5; 1Pet 2:13-14; Jude 1:8;

(v.13) ** out of a. Num 11:5; Exod 1:11, 22; Exod 2:23; ** to kill. Num 20:3-4; Exod 16:3; Exod 17:3; ** thou make. Exod 2:14; Ps 2:2-3; Luke 19:14; Acts 7:25-27,35;

(v.14) ** Moreover. Num 36:8-10; Exod 3:8, 17; Lev 20:24;

(v.15) ** very wroth. Num 12:3; Exod 32:19; Matt 5:22; Mark 3:5; Eph 4:26; ** Respect. Num 16:6-7; Gen 4:4-5; Isa 1:10-15; ** I have not. 1Sam 12:3-4; Acts 20:33-34; 1Cor 9:15; 2Cor 1:12; 2Cor 7:2; 2Cor 12:14-17; 1Th 2:10;

Numbers 16:8-11

Rebellion of the Ungrateful

8 And Moses said unto Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi: 9 Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them? 10 And he hath brought thee near to him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also? 11 For which cause both thou and all thy company are gathered together against the LORD: and what is Aaron, that ye murmur against him?

Moses confronted Korah and the Levites who were following him in his rebellion against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. "Does what God has done for you seem like such a small thing?" This question could have been asked of any one of us. The good things of God are so numerous and so constant that we often take them for granted. Greed is part of the human nature, whether it is the lust for more money, more power or more recognition.

What had God done for Korah and his Levite followers? He had separated them from the rest of the congregation of Israel to distinguish them with the sacred honor of serving Him in the tabernacle where the glory of God rested. This by itself was a great honor. No other person, except Aaron and his sons, among the more than one million people of the congregation was able to come into the tabernacle and do the service of the Lord.

The Levites were also entrusted with the moving and setting up of the tabernacle. They were allowed to touch the instruments of worship, an act that would have resulted in death for any other. This was a serious and very sacred responsibility, but it seems to not have satisfied them.

The Levites were also given the sacred trust of ministering to the people. Perhaps this refers to the service of receiving their offerings and presenting them to the priests for the sacrifice. It is possible that they inspected the animals that were brought for the sacrifice in order to be certain that they were spotless and without blemish before taking them to the priests.

Most importantly, God had brought them near to Him. How easy it is to forget that greatest of all blessings. He has drawn every Christian to Himself. Jesus said, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44) We are nearer to God than any other people and still we are as ungrateful as those Levites were.

Matthew Henry reminds us that, "It was not long since the sons of Levi had bravely appeared on God's side, in the matter of the golden calf, and got immortal honour by it; and shall those that were then the only innocents now be the leading criminals, and lose all the honour they had won? Could there be such chaff on God's floor? Levites, and yet rebels?"

Yes! Rebels they were, and Moses asked, "...and seek ye the priesthood also?" The priesthood of Aaron was a type of the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ. "For which cause both thou and all thy company are gathered together against the LORD:" Such upheavals within the church are not taken to be against the church's leadership but are considered by God to be a personal attack against Him.

"...and what is Aaron, that ye murmur against him?" True servants of God are nothing more than instruments in His hands. Why would we fight against them? Aaron was placed in his position as the high priest, not because of anything that was good in him, but because God chose to use him to accomplish His purpose. This only highlights the fact that the rebellion was against God.

Before The Throne:

Are you aware of the wonderful privileges that God has bestowed upon you by drawing you to Christ? You have been set aside for His service with more responsibility than the Levites. You are a priest in the royal priesthood of God. Confess your ingratitude and give thanks for what He has done in your life. You can come boldly before the throne of grace. Use it. Ask how you can better serve Him in your present position.

For Further Study:

** Seemeth it but. Num 16:13; Gen 30:15; 1Sam 18:23; 2Sam 7:19; Isa 7:13; Ezek 34:18; 1Cor 4:3; ** separated. Num 1:53; Num 3:41-45; Num 8:14-16; Num 18:2-6; Deut 10:8; 2Chr 35:3; Neh 12:44; Ezek 44:10-11; Acts 13:2;

(v.10) ** and seek. Prov 13:10; Matt 20:21-22; Luke 22:24; Rom 12:10; Phil 2:3; 3John 1:9;

(v.11) ** against. Num 16:3; 1Sam 8:7; Luke 10:16; John 13:20; Rom 13:2; ** what is Aaron. Exod 16:7-8; Exod 17:2; Acts 5:4; 1Cor 3:5;

Numbers 16:5-7

God Knows His Own

5 And he spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even to morrow the LORD will shew who are his, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto him: even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near unto him. 6 This do; Take you censers, Korah, and all his company; 7 And put fire therein, and put incense in them before the LORD to morrow: and it shall be that the man whom the LORD doth choose, he shall be holy: ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi.

Korah, Dathan and Abiram had challenged the authority of Moses and the priesthood of Aaron. They had assembled two hundred and fifty men of renown to support them in their mutiny. Their assertion was that all the people of Israel were holy and there was no reason why only Moses, Aaron and Aaron's sons should hold all of the secular and religious authority.

After falling on his face before the Lord (There is no reason to suppose that he did this before the people but more than likely in the privacy of the tabernacle), Moses came before Korah and his followers with this proposal, which we can assume was told to him by the Lord. They should all come to the tabernacle the next day with their censers filled with burning incense and present themselves before the Lord. God knows who are His and would clearly show them who was holy.

Paul quoted from this passage when writing to his disciple, Timothy. "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." (2 Timothy 2:19) That God knows His own people is a seal of assurance for His people everywhere and in all ages.

Moses gave the insolent mob until the following day so that they could reconsider his offer. Approaching the Lord in such a way as he had proposed was very dangerous. "And Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD, when they offered strange fire before the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai,.." Everyone of Korah's followers were well aware of what had happened to Nadab and Abihu.

Nevertheless, if they still wanted to test the authority of Moses and Aaron, they could come to the tabernacle on the morrow, and the Lord would choose the man or men who should be holy before Him.

Those who would rebel against God's chosen leaders should consider what Samuel had said to Saul, "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king." (1 Samuel 15:23) There is no one in our churches who does not know that God despises witchcraft and idolatry, so let them be aware that rebellion is equally abominable to Him.

Still, there will always be those who resent spiritual authority. Jude warned those to whom he wrote his epistle, saying, "I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not... 8 Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities." (Jude 1:5, 8 )

Moses' warned Korah and his followers with their own words from verse 3, " take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi." They did not know what their rebellion would cost them.

Before The Throne:

Continue to pray for those who have a rebellious spirit in your church. Pray that your pastor would seek the wisdom and guidance of God when confronted with such people. Pray for peace and unity to be the cement that holds your church together.

For Further Study:

** the Lord. Mal 3:18; 2Tim 2:19; ** who is holy. Num 16:3; Lev 21:6-8, 21:12-15; Isa 61:5-6; 1Pet 2:5-9; Rev 1:6; Rev 5:9-10; ** will cause. Exod 28:43; Lev 10:3; Ps 65:4; Ezek 40:46; Ezek 44:15-16; Eph 2:13; Heb 10:19-22; Heb 12:14; ** even him. Num 17:5; Exod 28:1; Lev 8:2; 1Sam 2:28; Ps 105:26; John 15:16; Acts 1:2, 24; Acts 13:2; Acts 15:7; Acts 22:14; 2Tim 2:3-4;

(v.6) ** Num 16:35-40, 46-48; Lev 10:1; Lev 16:12-13; 1Kgs 18:21-23;

(v.7) ** that the man. Eph 1:4; 2Thess 2:13; 1Pet 2:9; ** too much. Num 16:3; 1Kgs 18:17-18; Matt 21:23-27;

Numbers 16:1-4

The Leadership Challenged

1 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men: 2 And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: 3 And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD? 4 And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face:

The beginning of a sad ending for these men and their families is told here. It portrays a problem that many of our contemporary pastors are called to confront far too frequently. So, the story of spiritual rebellion is not a new one. It has been repeated over and over throughout the history of the church.

The tragic story begins within the hearts of three wicked men, Korah, Dathan and Abiram, who were among the people of Israel. These three had an uncontrollable lust for power and went through the congregation preaching rebellion to the men. "They took men and they rose up before Moses and against Aaron." There was no possible way for them to not know that Moses and Aaron were chosen by God to lead the nation. Nevertheless, they gathered together a small army of men, two hundred and fifty men of renown, to confront their leaders. This was a sin against God and not against Moses and Aaron.

The insolence and pride of Korah, Dathan and Abiram is glaringly obvious. Their claim was that the whole congregation was holy, not just Moses and Aaron. Of course, they considered themselves to be among the holiest of them all and fully qualified to lead a rebellion against God's chosen. Feeling emboldened by their supporters, they arrogantly got up in Moses' face, asking, "Who are you to elevate yourself as Israel's leader?"

Wicked men will always attack God's anointed leaders in much the same way. In order to exalt themselves, they must first destroy the esteem of those who are above them. The challenge to Moses and Aaron was nothing more than an attempt to make them look bad before the rest of the congregation. Men such as these were warned by Jesus who said, "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)

This is always a difficult situation with which pastors are often forced to deal. Many times they fail, allowing their own pride and arrogance to control the confrontation. Moses has set the example for us, however. Understanding the seriousness of those men's actions, he fell on his face. He publicly confronted pride, arrogance and rebellion with humility and submission.

Prayer is the perfect solution to every confrontation in our lives, whether it is similar to what Aaron and Moses experienced or something entirely different. Prayer quiets the heart and allows us to think more clearly in the face of our struggles. The quiet heart is much better equipped to hear what God is saying to us. The humble spirit of the one praying is more likely to trust God to solve the problem than to try and solve it himself.

Before The Throne:

Pray for the troublemakers in your church, for those who want to control everything or to rebel against your pastor. Ask the Lord to help you be a peace maker. Pray that your pastor would have the wisdom to immerse himself in prayer before confronting those who are prideful, arrogant and self-exalting.

For Further Study

** Korah. Num 26:9-10; Num 27:3; Exod 6:18, 21; Jude 1:11; ** sons of Reuben. Gen 49:3-4; 1Chr 5:1-2;

(v.2) ** famous. Num 26:9; Gen 6:4; 1Chr 5:24; 1Chr 12:30; Ezek 16:14; Ezek 23:10;

(v.3) ** gathered. Num 16:11; Num 12:1-2; Num 14:1-4; Ps 106:16; Acts 7:39,51; ** all the. Exod 19:6; Ezra 9:2; Isa 1:11-16; Jer 7:3-12; Matt 3:9-10; Rom 2:28-29; ** the Lord. Num 14:14; Num 35:34; Exod 29:45-46; Ps 68:17;

(v.4) ** Num 16:45; Num 14:5; Num 20:6; Josh 7:6;

Ephesians 4:12

Perfecting the Saints

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and preachers are given to the church because the saints are not perfect. All have sinned, all have become addicted to the pleasures of the flesh and all have learned the ways of the world. Upon their rebirth, the saints become new creatures in Christ, old things are passed away and all things have become new, but the flesh is still there and they still live under the influences of this world.

The saints enter the kingdom of God as babes that must be trained and nurtured in the way that they should go. Therefore, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and preachers are given "for the perfecting of the saints." The word "perfecting" is only used here in the N. T. and means to make an adjustment. It was used in Greek literature to refer to the repairing of fishing nets or the mending of a bone. Thus, it means to make something whole or complete.

The leaders of the church are responsible for the spiritual growth and maturity of the members. They must be taught to resist temptation, they must be taught the doctrines of the faith, they must be strengthened in their faith, they must be made to feel like they are a part of the church family, they must be helped to discover their calling and spiritual gifts and they must be encouraged to participate in the work of the ministry.

We should not misinterpret this passage to the extent that all of the work of the ministry is here assigned to the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and preachers. That is not what is meant here. The American Standard Version is a bit more accurate. "...for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ:" The perfecting of the saints should be "unto" the work of ministering. Each member of the body of Christ is called to be a minister, and it is the job of the church's leaders to properly prepare them (perfect them) for that work.

One of the reasons that the growth of our churches cannot keep up with the growth of the population is that church members want their pastors and other leaders to do all of the work of ministering. It is not possible for them to understand the enormity of the work until they have themselves become involved in it. It is the leaders' responsibility to disciple and to motivate the saints to join in the work.

When all of the saints are involved in the work of ministry, the church will also be built up in the number of members, because there will be a greater number of people spreading the gospel. As more members come into the church, it is also strengthened financially.

It will also grow in unity, because all of the members will be working toward a common goal. There will be fewer tendencies to argue over the color of the new carpeting in the church building when everyone is focused on leading the world to Christ. Worldly concerns disappear as one involves himself in the work of Christ.

The church will also be built up in knowledge, righteousness and holiness as the people set themselves to the ministering of the gospel, praying together and teaching one another.

Finally, there is the ministering to the emotional and physical needs of the members. When this is done, the church is built up in love and its unity will become very strong.

There is room for every member to increase his or her involvement in the body of Christ. Ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church. If your church leaders are not at least trying to encourage you, train you and involve you in the work of ministry, you need to either become a leader or look for a new church.

Before The Throne:

Ask God to show you what you can do to help build the body of Christ. Pray that He will unite you with at least one of the leaders of the church to be discipled for spiritual growth and in the work of ministry. Thank God for the gifts that he has given you and continue looking for ways to serve Him with them.

For Further Study

** perfecting: Luk 22:32; Joh 21:15-17; Act 9:31; 11:23; 14:22-23; 20:28; Rom 15:14, 29; 1Co 12:7; 2Co 7:1; Phi 1:25-26; 3:12-18; Col 1:28; 1Th 5:11-14; Heb 6:1; 13:17; ** the work: Act 1:17, 25; 20:24; Rom 12:7; 1Co 4:1-2; 2Co 3:8; 4:1; 5:18; 6:3; Col 4:17; 1Ti 1:12; 2Ti 4:5, 4:11; ** the edifying: Rom 14:19; 15:2; 1Co 14:4-5, 12, 14, 26; 2Co 12:19; 1Th 5:11; ** the body: Eph 1:23; Col 1:24;

Ephesians 4:11

The Gifts of Christ

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

The gifts that were given to the church are listed in this verse. Most modern translations rightly assume that the gifts were given to individuals in the church for the benefit of the church. "And truly He gave some to be apostles, etc...." (MKJV)

The office of the apostle was a limited one, ending with the death of the original apostles. Vincent's Word Studies says, "The distinguishing features of an apostle were, a commission directly from Christ: being a witness of the resurrection: special inspiration: supreme authority: accrediting by miracles: unlimited commission to preach and to found churches." An apostle is distinguished from a messenger (angel) by the degree of authority given to him. The apostle did not only carry the message of Christ but had the authority to act in the name of Jesus. This office ended with the death of the original apostles but, through their writings, testimony, and other works continues to bless the church even today.

The gift of prophecy does not necessarily include the ability to foretell future events. "But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." (1 Corinthians 14:3) It appears that in the early church, before the New Testament had been completed and circulated, there my have been a need for those who could foretell the future, however that is not one of the gifts of the modern prophet.

"God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son..." (Hebrews 1:1-2) Jesus replaced the prophets as the medium through whom God has spoken. Jesus was the greatest of all prophets and there was no more need for the ability to tell the future, because He had the final word. Many people today claim to speak words that come directly to them from God. They are merely fortune tellers disguised as Christians. A prophet should encourage people to grow in Christian faith and character and comfort the people with the prophecies of scripture.

Another important gift is that of an evangelist. The evangelist's job is to proclaim the gospel to the world. Every Christian has a measure of this gift and the duty to use it, but there are some who are especially gifted and will lead many, even hundreds of thousands of people, to Christ. The gift of evangelism is the method that God uses to call more people into His church. The evangelist is, therefore, essential to church growth.

Pastors are the shepherds of God's flocks. They watch over the congregation and keep them on the road to holiness and righteous living. They guide their people in their service to the lord, minister to their needs and oversee the various aspects of the church's ministries.

The gift of the teacher is important for the spiritual growth of the church members. He should not only teach the scriptures but also disciple the members as Christ discipled the twelve.

Each of these gifts help the church operate as a unit in proclaiming the gospel to the world. Jesus did not send His disciples to preach the word without preparing to disciple the many people who would eventually join His church. We are fortunate to have these gifts or we would have a weak faith, a weak church, and would be overrun by the false doctrines of the world.

Before The Throne:

We all have gifts that can be used to help the church grow. Ask the Lord to help you discover and develop your spiritual gifts. Pray for other gifts that you believe you may need. Give Him thanks for the gifted leaders in your church. Submit yourself to them so that you can learn and serve the Lord the way He intended you to do.

For Further Study:

** he: Eph_2:20; 3:5; Rom 10:14-15; 1Co 12:28; Jud 1:17; Rev 18:20; 21:14; ** evangelists: Act 21:8; 2Ti 4:5: ** pastors: 2Ch 15:3; Jer 3:15; Mat 28:20; Act 13:1; Rom 12:7; 1Co 12:29; Heb 5:12; 1Pe 5:1-3;

Ephesians 4:8-10

When He Ascended

8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

The measures of the gift of Christ that are mentioned in verse 7 are listed in verse 11 and explained in the subsequent verses. Verses 8-10 constitute a parenthesis referring to Christ who was mentioned at the end of verse 7. This is the typical style of writing that Paul employs, as we have seen in earlier passages.

"Wherefore he saith..." or "About whom it is said..." This introduces a quotation which Paul has taken from Psalms 68:18 and has modified it slightly to make his point. There has been quite a bit of argument about this, because the Psalm was written to celebrate the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant from Kirjath-jearim to Mount Zion in 2 Samuel 6. The Psalm celebrates the power and victory of God over His enemies. Many, however, claim that the 18th verse describes the ascension of the ark and that Paul misquoted it. To this author, however, it is clear that it is God who ascended the mount in victory.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is God. He is also the antitype of the ark. His ascension into heaven was a greater ascension, a greater victory over the enemy, than when David brought the ark to Mount Zion. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Paul was led to see the imagery in the ascension of the ark and the relevance of this verse to what he was going to say to the Ephesians.

Jesus led captivity captive. Those who were the servants of sin were set free to be the servants of Christ. The enemy of God who held His people captive was defeated by Christ and was himself placed into captivity.

Psalm s 68:18 says, "...thou hast received gifts for men." Rather than "for men," it would be better translated as "in men." The Father gave to the Son the people for His church. All that should be saved were given to Christ as His inheritance for His suffering. (John 6:37; 17:6) Paul, however, writes in Ephesians 4:8, saying, "...and gave gifts unto men." There is nothing wrong with the fact that he misquoted the Psalm in order to further explain the spiritual truth hidden therein. It is this: "All who are Christ's are indeed the recipients of the spiritual gifts, a measure of His grace. You cannot be Christ's without the benefits." The Psalmist also continues with that idea, "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah." (Psalms 68:19)

Paul then continues with a passage that has also caused much confusion. "(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?" (Ephesians 4:9) He assumes that, if Christ had ascended, He must have first descended, because He is not from this world. The "lower parts of the earth" have often been inaccurately interpreted to mean hell. There is no other passage in scripture to support such a claim. Jesus certainly experienced a separation from the Father, while He was dying on the cross. That was truly hell for Him, but it does not mean that He was cast into the lake of fire or into outer darkness or into the mythical fires of the underworld.

Jesus, who was equal with God the Father, left the comforts of heaven and descended to the earth to take the form of a servant and the likeness of man. (Philippians 2:7) He was made into the likeness of a man in the womb of His mother, Mary, and that is referred to as the lowest parts of the earth. "My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth." (Psalms 139:15)

He again ascended into the lower parts of the earth when He was buried. "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:40)

So, we can see what the meaning of this phrase is. It simply means that Jesus descended from heaven to earth, which is the lower part of creation. He ascended again so "that he might fill all things." He returned to His glorious position in heaven where is is all in all. (See 1:23 Notes)

You worship a Savior who is more than just another man or another great prophet. He is the God of all creation who descended to the uttermost position of humility and suffering for your sake. Then, He ascended in victory to the right hand of the Father. His gifts were in the people whom the Father had given Him (hopefully you are one), and to each He has given the proper measure of grace.

Before The Throne:

Praise God for the gift of life that you have received through Jesus Christ. Pray for Him to increase your faith and to make you aware of the gifts He has given you. Commit your life to serving Him with those gifts.

For Further Study:

(v.8 )
** When: Psa 68:18; ** he led: Jdg 5:12; Col 2:15; ** and: 1Sa 30:26; Est 2:18;

(v.9) ** he ascended: Pro 30:4; Joh 3:13; 6:33, 62; 20:17; Act 2:34-36; ** he also: Gen 11:5; Exo 19:20; Joh 6:33, 38, 41, 51, 58; 8:14; 16:27-28; ** the lower: Psa 8:5; 63:9, Psa 139:15; Mat 12:40; Heb 2:7, 9;

(v.10) ** ascended: Eph 1:20-23; Act 1:9, 11; 1Ti 3:16; Heb 4:14; 7:26; 8:1; 9:23-24; ** that he: Eph 3:19; Joh 1:16; Act 2:33; Col 1:19; 2:9; ** fill: Mat 24:34; Luk 24:44; Joh 19:24, 28, 36 ** Gr: Act 3:18; 13:32-33; Rom 9:25-30; 15:9-13; 16:25-26;

Ephesians 4:7

One Grace

7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

The conjunction "But..." tells us that this is a continuation of Paul's call for unity in the church and it introduces an exception. There is one body, one Spirit, one Lord etc. There is also one grace in the sense that we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; we all deserve eternal damnation; and each of us has received the same atonement for our sins through the blood of Christ. This is grace in its highest form but it is given in different measures to different individuals so that each might serve God's purpose in a different capacity.

The pure grace that is given to us through salvation has different effects on different people and carries different spiritual gifts to different people. We are one body, but we are many members with different measures of grace, different gifts, given according to God's will so that we will complement one another in accomplishing the work of His kingdom.

Paul wrote to the Roman church, saying, "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." (Romans 12:3) The grace given to him was the gift of preaching and ministering to them as an apostle. Through that gift, not through his own talent or self-righteousness, he called for the members of the church not to think more highly of themselves than they should, because the good spiritual gifts that they had were given to them by God.

The unity of the church can be very easily disrupted when certain members begin to think that they are more faithful, more gifted, or more righteous than the other members. This is a very common occurrence within the church. Twenty percent of church members do eighty percent of the work. That twenty percent often has a tendency to think that they are more important to the church, that they are more faithful to the work, or that they are in some way more saved than the others.

Paul said, however, that God has dealt every man the measure of faith that he has. We are not better than any other person in the church. Our desire to serve and our ability to serve are products of God's grace and not of ourselves. Each of us are also at different levels of spiritual maturity, and we must learn to teach and encourage those who have not reached the same level that we have reached.

The fact that each member has been given a different measure of the gift of Christ should be a unifying characteristic of the church, if it is properly understood. It should motivate us to minister to one another. Such ministry within the organization creates a strong bond of love, brotherhood and peace.

You may feel like an inferior Christian when in a room full of God's people, but you should take encouragement from this verse. Understand that God gives the measure of grace to each of us. You have exactly what He wants you to have. You have something very important to contribute to the work of Christ, even if it is just cleaning the church's restrooms so that other members have more time to evangelize the neighborhood. You are just as important as every other member and you will grow in your faith and spiritual maturity when you make up your mind to use what God has given you.

Some members have the grace to love and mentor new Christians. God has placed them in the church to minister to you. You should allow them to do what God has called them to do. Do not shy away from being helped or loved by them. You will be a blessing to them and to yourself, if you submit to their kindness.

Before The Throne:

Take an inventory of the gifts that God has given you. Pray that He will show you how to use them. Ask Him to help you grow in those spiritual gifts and in your willingness to use them. Ask Him to show you someone in the church who needs a friend to help them grow spiritually. Pray that you could be that friend.

For Further Study:

** unto: Mat 25:15; Rom 12:6-8; 1Co 12:8-11, 28-30; ** grace: Eph 3:8; 2Co 6:1; 1Pe 4:10; ** the measure: Eph 3:2; Joh 3:34; Rom 12:3; 2Co 10:13-15;

Ephesians 4:5 (cont.)

One Baptism

4 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

If there is a topic that has caused more division within the church than the topic of baptism, I do not know what it could be. The issue of worship styles and types of music has certainly been a divisive topic, but that of baptism is doctrinal and has served as the cause of many debates. We must wonder why Paul has inserted it as a reason or tool for maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Baptism is an outward expression of a person's faith. It symbolizes the repentance of the individual, his death to sin and his being raised to a new life of righteousness in Christ. (See Romans 6:1-11) Thus, it is a believer's baptism and meaningless in the case of an infant, except as a symbol of dedication by its parents. Baptism is the testimony of the believer who says to the world, "I have lain aside my sinful lifestyle and buried it in the waters of baptism to be raised again and to become a living sacrifice unto God."

Baptism is the initiation of church membership. It is the first act of obedience to our Lord and Savior who commanded that His followers should make disciples wherever they go, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost. When a believer requests baptism, he becomes a member of the church.

Of course, there are denominations who baptize by the pouring of water and others who baptize by immersion. There is little doubt, from a thorough study of scriptures that Jesus was baptized by immersion. He should be our example. Yet, to reject anyone who has been baptized by pouring is to be legalistic. There is no commandment in the scriptures that requires either method. Even though immersion seems to be the method that was consistently used, there are many places in the middle east where water is very scarce and immersion would not have been practical or even possible. Would that have made it impossible for a person to become a member of the church? No. The unifying factor in baptism is that it is a believer's baptism, a symbol that we share the same faith, worship the same Lord and Savior, have been cleansed by the same Spirit and are joined to the same body of Christ.

There is one point of contention, however, that does and should divide the church from those who call themselves the church but preach a false doctrine. I am referring to those denominations who link baptism to regeneration or salvation. Any doctrine that would make a person's eternal salvation dependent on being baptized is false. There is only one way to the Father, only one way to obtain eternal life, and that is through the grace of God and the gift of faith in the atoning work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Any church that teaches any other doctrine is not part of the body of Christ.

"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8-9) Jesus saves! You will not find salvation anywhere else. Baptism is purely a human, physical act of obedience and cannot save anyone. We are justified by faith and not by works. Anything else is heresy, and those who preach false doctrines are as lost as those to whom they preach.

When Jesus was dying on the cross, one of the thieves mocked Him. The thief who was hanging on the other side defended Jesus and confessed his sins. "But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."" (Luke 23:40-43) This thief was never baptized, but there is no doubt that he was saved by the grace of our Lord.

"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13) There is no other requirement for salvation except, of course, that the one who calls should be sincere. Each believer is then baptized in response to the Lord's command and becomes a member of His church in which all members have believer's baptism as a common bond.

Before The Throne:

If you have not been baptized in obedience to Christ but have committed your life to Him, pray about it and speak to your pastor about believer's baptism. It should be your first public act of obedience to Christ and your first testimony to the world. It does not matter how long you have been saved or how old you are. You should show the world that you have accepted Christ as your Savior and have been cleansed of your sins by the washing of His blood.

For Further Study:

** One Lord: Act 2:36; 10:36; Rom 14:8-9; 1Co 1:2, 13; 8:6; 12:5; Phi 2:11; 3:8; ** one faith: Rom 3:30; 2Co 11:4; Gal 1:6-7; 5:6; Tit 1:1, 4; Heb 13:7; Jam 2:18; 2Pe 1:1; Jud 1:3, 20; ** one baptism: Mat 28:19; Rom 6:3-4; 1Co 12:13; Gal 3:26-28; Heb 6:6; 1Pe 3:21;