Saturday, December 31, 2016

In no way alarmed - Philippians 1:28-30

"in no way alarmed by your opponents — which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me." (Philippians 1:28-30)
The early church was often under the constant threat of persecution. Waves of persecution would wash over the church bring imprisonment, torture, and martyrdom to many. Here, Paul is not talking about people who just don't like us, he is speaking of those who oppose us, and threaten us, because of our faith. Paul is urging the Philippian church to stand strong in the face of persecution; to not be quickly moved to fear by the oppressive forces around them. The way we respond to persecution and oppression has a lot to say about who we are and who they are who seek to persecute us. If we respond in fear or like aggression then we prove ourselves to be just as they are. However, if we respond in faith, showing the confidence and peace that faith brings to us in times of difficulty, then we demonstrate ourselves to better than them, not because we ourselves are better, but because the hope and foundation of our lives are better than that upon which their lives are built. Furthermore, we prove that our confession of Christ is real and His promise of salvation is true. Our faith and confidence are evidence that what God has spoken is true and that, no matter how great the persecution that awaits us, our hope of deliverance and eternal life is greater than any persecution that can come our way. In the end, our faith and confidence in Christ are evidence that those who seek to destroy us are not fighting against us but against God and, those who fight against God, do so to their own destruction.

In our own human understanding, it does not appear to be any great reward that we are granted the privilege to suffer for Christ's sake. However, when we suffer, it is not because we have done anything wrong, on the contrary, it is because God has found us worthy of His suffering. As such, it is an honor and a privilege to suffer for Christ. It is said of the Apostles, after having been beaten and released from Jail, that they rejoiced "that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name." (Acts 5:41) Persecution and suffering are not times for fretting, fear, or despondency but rather for rejoicing that God has found us worthy to suffer for Him. Jesus said, "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12) Persecution is evidence of the new creature, one who is worthy of this new life, that God has remade us to be.

Finally, Paul reminds them that he too has suffered, and is suffering, the same things as they are suffering. When facing trials, sufferings, and persecutions, it is tempting to think that we are the only ones who are suffering, It is easy to feal alone in our suffering, thinking that no one else knows or understands what we are going through. However, this is not the case. The sufferings we experience are common to all believers. Paul promised us that, "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Timothy 3:12) The truth that we are not alone in our suffering ought to encourage us and give us hope in our suffering, It also should cause us to consider how we endure our own suffering, knowing that others are watching. We ought to suffer in a way to give the same kind of hope and encouragement as Paul's confident suffering did for the Phillipian church. We all suffer, but let us suffer in a way that brings honor to God and hope to those around us,

David Robison

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Conduct yourselves - Philippians 1:27

"Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." (Philippians 1:27)
True integrity is found in how we behave when no one is looking. It is one thing to behave right when someone is watching over us, but it is another to live right when no one is watching and where no one can see. It is in these hidden places where the truth of who we are is revealed.

The grace of God has come to change us, not superficially, but at the very center of who we are. Jeremiah prophesied, "'But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the Lord, 'I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people'" (Jeremiah 31:33) Herein lies the difference between law and grace. The law can only affect us externally; it only controls us to the extent to which we remain in relationship to the law. Once we are out from under the law we revert to our old habits of sin and selfishness. How many times have we seen where young adults leave the domain of their parents for college only to give themselves to licentious and prodigal living? How many times have we seen where someone leaves a very legalistic church only to be found more bound to sin than ever before? The law tells us to be good on Sunday and when everyone else is watching, but when we are out from under the purview of the law, sin runs rampant.

The law can never change us in the secret place, that place where no one else sees us but God. Only the grace of God can change us and save us from ourselves. Paul wrote of God's grace, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age." (Titus 2:11-12 NKJV) When we listen to the law, we merely learn new external behaviors, but when we listen to the grace of God, we learn new ways of living. It is God's grace that not only instructs us how to live but also produces those changes within us as well.

The word Paul uses here that is translated as "conduct" is a derivative of the Greek word "polites" which is akin to our word "politics" and has reference to a citizen or town's person. This word for conduct has to do, not only with how we behave as an individual, but how we live as a citizen with other citizens. Our conduct is not merely a private matter but is also to be viewed in a larger corporate sense. It not only refers to our private thoughts and secret habits but also has bearing on how we related and live to others. Furthermore, it carries with it a sense of duty. Each of us has a duty, as citizens of God's kingdom, to live in right relationship and cooperation with other citizens of the Kingdom. Here, specifically, Paul mentions our duty to ensure the unity of faith, purpose, and love. As citizens, we have a corporate responsibility to one another and to the common purpose and faith that binds us together as fellow citizens. We no longer live to ourselves alone but also for the greater good of the Kingdom to which we belong. Our integrity is not only individual integrity but integrity to our duties as citizens. It requires a larger view of life that includes others besides ourselves.

David Robison

Monday, December 26, 2016

To live is Christ - Philippians 1:21-26

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again." (Philippians 1:21-26)
This is a curious statement, "to live is Christ." Here, Paul equates a verb with a noun. It would be like saying, "to drive is Henry Ford" or, "to eat a burger is McDonald." According to the conventional rules of grammar, this statement makes no sense. So what does Paul mean by this statement? Speaking of his relationship with Christ, Paul says, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Galatians 2:20) Paul understood that to live on in the flesh was to accept the calling to die daily to ourselves that Christ might live His life through us. To live requires our dying while to die brings us into eternal life. To live means to let Christ live through us.

Paul contrasts the gain that is to be ours in our death with the gains the world has to offer us in this life. Speaking of those worldly gains, Paul says, "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ." (Philippians 3:7-8) Paul realizes that the gains of this world are not to be compared with the gains that are to be ours in the resurrected life. There are those who live for the reward of earthly gains only to forfeit to themselves those gains which are of true value, eternal value, and that are with God in heaven. Jesus said, "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:25-26) True riches, true gain, and true life is found when we are willing to lose our life for Christ's sake; when we are willing to set aside our will, plans, and purposes that we might take up Christ's will and purpose; that His life, plan, and purpose might be expressed and worked through us here in this life. Those who are willing to lose their life for Christ's sake will find it in abundance in Christ.

Paul was in prison and he understood that there were two possible outcomes to his imprisonment: one was his release and the other his death. So which would he choose if the choice was up to him? It is interesting that Paul thought it hard to chose between the two possible outcomes. For most people, the clear choice would be to live. However, Paul was not so sure that was the best choice. Only those who have the hope and confidence of eternal life in the presence of God could ever view death as gain. Paul understood the reality of the life that was awaiting him upon his death. For him, living had no real gain beyond what he already had, yet his death would bring the realization of everything he had hoped for and lived for all his life. Therefore, why remain in this life while there awaited him so much gain upon his death? The only reason that Paul could consider life as an advantage was because he was looking towards the gain his continued life would bring to others. It was only by considering the needs of others that his desire to live could outweigh his desire to depart this life. This is the lesson for us today. It is only by seeing the gain our lives can bring to others that our life on this Earth gains meaning and purpose.

Paul understood that the purpose of his life was to serve others. It was this knowledge, that there was so much more for him to do and to accomplish for the faith of others, that Paul was confident of his release and his continued labor in this life. It is interesting that Paul sees his mission as not only encouraging the growth and progress in the faith of believers but also in helping them to grow and continue in joy. Some people see themselves as the policemen of the body. They are always running around telling others what they are not doing right and what they ought to do. Paul, however, was running around encouraging people to continue in the faith and to live with joy. What good is faith if it doesn't also bring joy?

Finally, Paul expected his release so that God might use the example of his life to embolden the faith and confidence of the Galatians. They had been praying for Paul's release. They had been believing for his freedom. Paul's hope was that by his release the faith of the Galatians would be encouraged and their confidence in God established. Paul's hope for his release was not his own, it was for the benefit and encouragement it would bring to those who were praying and believing for his release. Paul's life was a life spent for others. May we too live such a live.

David Robison

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Earnest expectation and hope - Philippians 1:19-20

"for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death." (Philippians 1:19-20)
Paul was in a difficult place. In his imprisonment, things were happening around him that were outside of his control. However, Paul was not without hope nor despondent due to his circumstances. Paul had confidence that he would soon be delivered from his chains. The Greek word Paul uses that is translated here as "deliverance" is more frequently is translated as "salvation." This brings to light the depth of the meaning in this one Greek word. Our salvation in Christ affects more than our eternal destination. It provides salvation for the whole of our existence. Such salvation includes our healing, wholeness, deliverance, protection, and provision. This was the kind of salvation that Paul was confident that would be his even in his imprisonment.

For what reason did Paul have such confidence in his salvation? From two sources; the prayers of the saints and the supply of the Holy Spirit. God is sovereign. He does whatever He desires and prohibits whatever He chooses. However, God has chosen to allow Himself to be moved by the prayers of His people. It is through prayer that we get to partner with God in His purpose and His work in the Earth and in each other. Our call to prayer is an invitation from God to join with Him in His redemptive and saving work in and around us. Our prayers and the provision of the Spirit are the catalyst for God in our lives.

For this reason, Paul's faith produced in him an earnest expectation and hope in the will and plan of God. Thayer defines the Greek word translated here as "earnest expectation" as "to look forth from one's post." Vine adds that it carries the idea of being absorbed in watching for and expecting something or someone. Paul's eye was upon his salvation; he was absorbed in watching for and expecting God's deliverance in his life. Instead of being filled with dread, fear, or despondency in his imprisonment, he was filled with the knowledge that God was working in his life and the expectation of God's salvation yet to come. The Greek word for "hope" can also mean to "anticipate." Paul was not just hoping for deliverance, he already anticipated it and was planning what he would do once he was delivered from prison. So confident was his hope, that he already made plans for what he would do once he was released. This is true confidence, expectation, and hope.

However, Paul's hope was not just for the future, he had hope for the here and now. While Paul fully expected to be released from jail through the prayers of the saints and the help of the Holy Spirit, he had hope in God's salvation even while he sat in jail. Paul's hope and confidence was that God would enable him to be a testimony for Christ whether in prison or out. If God's plan for him meant prison, then he was confident that he would be a witness for Christ in prison. If it meant freedom, then he would witness in freedom. Paul believed that in every circumstance of his life, God would and should be exalted.

Paul's hope was that he would not be put to shame, but what shame is he referring to? The shame of falling short of the will and purpose of God for his life. Paul had a mission from God. This mission was more that that of an apostle but also that of a believer; a mission that included bring glory and honor to Christ through every aspect and condition of his life. Paul's shame was to somehow come short of that lofty goal. However, Paul was confident in God that, through His help, he would be more than enough to meet the challenges of life and to fulfill the purpose of God for his life. Paul believed that God would provide boldness when he needed it and deliverance, even from prison, when he needed it, Paul believed that God would provide everything he needed to fulfill God's will for his life and it was this confidence that sustained him even in the hard times. Let us also have this faith in God that, whether in death or life, we too may honor God in everything we do.

David Robison

Saturday, December 10, 2016

whether in pretense or in truth - Philippians 1:15-18

"Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice." (Philippians 1:15-18)
Imagine this, that someone in your church or community that is being used by God to preach the Gospel, is arrested and imprisoned. Would you step in to fill the void and to take up the mantle and be the one to continue their work; the work of preaching and spreading the Gospel? Is so, why?

This is what happened to Paul. He was imprisoned for preaching the Gospel and, in his confinement, others came forward to take his place and to take up the ministry left undone by him. However, not everyone did so out of the same motive. Some, out of love and respect for Paul, stepped forward to continue his work and to follow his example. They did it, at least in part, to stand with Paul; to show that they too loved God and were committed to the same cause as Paul. They showed their solidarity and their agreement with Paul, his ministry, and his Gospel. However, others did so out of competition. They entered the fray, not to show solidarity with Paul, but to finally have their day in the sun. This was their chance. All the time they spent in the shadows while Paul got all the glory; this was their chance to shine. Their resentment for the the ministry and notoriety that Paul enjoyed was now free to express itself, now that he was out of commission. It was now their turn to show Paul that they too could preach, that they too could shine bright, and that they too were just like Paul.

Out ups and downs, our successes and defeats, and our advancements and retreats are all opportunities that challenge our hearts. When we are advancing, it is easy to become proud and to see our advancement as proof that we are worthy and right. However, our defeats can also breed resentment for those who are winning and advancing. After all, we are just as good as them so why do they get to glory while we are stuck in defeat? I am sure Paul faced these same inward challenges as he lay in prison. So how did Paul fight the temptations towards anger, bitterness, resentment, and judgment? By looking outwardly towards the outcome rather than inwardly at his own personal situation. Paul looked to the advantage that others were bringing to the Kingdom of God, that same Kingdom he had so long proclaimed himself. In the end, it was not his own personal advancement that mattered but the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

Here is the moral of the story. When we focus on ourselves, we give ourselves over to competition, pride, resentment, and judgment. However, when we focus on the Kingdom of God, we see reason to rejoice even in our own personal defeats. We begin to understand that our life and position are secure in God and that what really matters in this life is not who we may seem to be to ourselves and others but the work that God has given each of us to do; a work that benefits the Kingdom and the Body of Christ. The key to surviving success and failure is looking outward to the goal of what our success and failures are driving at. If we can do this then we too, like Paul, can rejoice at the advancement of the Kingdom regardless of the personal motives of those who are seeking to advance it.

David Robison

Monday, December 05, 2016

For the greater progress - Philippians 1:12-14

"Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear." (Philippians 1:12-14)
As the Roman government sought to stamp out Christianity, the more they persecuted it, the more it grew. Thinking to cause a deterrent to others, their imprisonment of Paul actually made other believers more confident and bolder in their defense and proclamation of the Gospel. This reminds me of another story from the scriptures. "Now it came about after this, that war broke out at Gezer with the Philistines; then Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Sippai, one of the descendants of the giants, and they were subdued. And there was war with the Philistines again, and Elhanan the son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam. Again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature who had twenty-four fingers and toes, six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot; and he also was descended from the giants. When he taunted Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David's brother, killed him. These were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants." (1 Chronicles 20:4-8)

There was a time when all of Israel shuttered at the sight of the giants of Philistine. None dared approach them, let alone challenge them in battle. However, all of a sudden, it is like it is open season on giants. Everyone and their brother is running around slaying giants, the same giants they used to tremble in fear before. So what changed? David! One man dared to face a giant in the name of the Lord and his bravery and success paved the way for others to take courage and do the same. David killed a giant and everyone else said, "Maybe I can do that too!"

Here is the moral of our story, the way we live our lives affect more than ourselves. Our lives can have a profound effect on those around us. Our lives can either lead others to fear and doubt or they can lead others to courage and action. The example we set can either close the door to others or open wide the door that others may walk through. We must always remember that people are watching us; they are watching to see if what we confess is really true. We say we can "do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13) but does our life bear out the truth of what we confess? When we take up faith and do what we can only do in Christ, then others are encouraged to do the same. When we venture out with courage and do what seems impossible, then the impossible becomes the possible to others. Let us be people who open doors for others. Let us be those who declare a new season of giant slaying. Let us be people who cause others to take up courage and faith and live the life the were meant to live.

David Robison

Saturday, December 03, 2016

And this I pray - Philippians 1:9-11

"And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." (Philippians 1:9-11)
The Greek idea of "abound" means to be more than enough, having love in excess, and even "super-abounding." Paul's prayer and God's desire for us is that our love would grow to the point where it is not only enough but where it resides in us in excess. Our progress in this Christian life is to be judged by the degree to which our love for God and our love for others continues to grow and abound. Paul reminds us that, "faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Love is not blind and love does not exist apart from judgment. Love must be a discerning love. Paul prays that as our love grows, so ought it to grow in knowledge and discernment. Not everything is to be loved and not everything is to be praised. The Greek word translated here as "real knowledge" can also be translated "full knowledge." It represents more than a cursory knowledge, it speaks of a knowledge that had been developed and honed to a depth by which we fully understand a subject or idea. Full knowledge takes intentionality in developing. It takes time and effort to search out and understand. Often we live by what we feel or what we imagine rather than by what we have sought out and come to acknowledge as true and right. Furthermore, many times we simply accept as true what we have been taught or what other people think and espouse as being true but we never search for the truth ourselves. We must take the effort to learn and understand truth for ourselves; the truth that is found in Christ, His word, and His kingdom.

The Greek word translated as "discernment" comes from a root word that means to  perceive. It is not enough to have full knowledge, we must also have accurate perception and judgment. Paul writes, "But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil." (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22) Knowledge is not enough, we must also be able to judge between good and evil, clean and unclean, and useful and destructive. Speaking of his own life, knowledge, and perception, Paul writes, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." (1 Corinthians 6:12) It is one thing to have the knowledge that all things are lawful for us, but we must also have the judgment and clear perception of things to understand that somethings are not profitable for us.

The purpose of full knowledge and perception is not so that we might judge the intents and actions of others but that we might judge the intents and actions of ourselves. Knowledge and perception is meant to be a protection for us by allowing us to see and understand those things which are profitable for our lives and those things that are not. Knowledge and perception teach us to love what is good in our life and hate what is in use that is evil. The goal of such love is that we might be pure and blameless at His coming. Love that is built upon knowledge and perception is a love that motivates us to change; to repent from those things that offend God and to adopt those behaviors that are pleasing to Him. It is a love that does not seek to please ourselves but to please God.

Finally, we must remember that all knowledge, perception, and understanding comes from God. Even our willingness, ability, and endurance in the process is a gift from the Holy Spirit who lives in us. This process of growing in love that is built upon knowledge and perception is a process that is owned and initiated by God. Our participation in this process is fueled and sustained by the Holy Spirit within us. And the fruit that is born in our lives comes to us through Jesus Christ who is our hope. While our participation with God is essential in this process, the process begins, is sustained, and ends in Christ. It is only in Christ that we may bear the fruit of rightness which is the result of love that is strengthened upon knowledge and perception.

David Robison

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

How I long for you - Philippians 1:7-8

"For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:7-8)
It is only right that Paul feels in what way towards them? Is it in feeling that God will perfect them until the day of Christ Jesus as mentioned in the previous verse, or is it in feeling such intense love for them as mentioned in the next verse? I believe it to be the latter. Also, in what way is it right for him to feel this way? Is it out of faith or out of some other motive? What is interesting is Paul's next thought, "because I have you in my heart." Darby translates this thought in a unique way among all the other translators. He translates it as, "because ye have me in your hearts." (Philippians 1:7, Darby) Personally, I believe that this translation makes more since, at least as to how the sentence is constructed, and it helps the sentence to flow better and to yield a simpler meaning. It is right and just for Paul to have such love for then since, after all, they have expressed such love and concern for Paul and for his work. More than that, in all that Paul has been through, they too have endured, and as his love for them has endured through his hardships, so has their love for him endured throughout all of their own hardships.

They, Paul and the Philippians, have a special bond one with another, not just a bond of love, but a bond of community; a bond that is formed through shared experiences. His hardships and theirs has taught them a level of grace and has brought them close though their mutual participation in that grace. It is easily to feel bonded with someone who has gone through things similar to you and who has found their strength, endurance, and joy in the same place and person(s) as you have. You both knew what it meant to suffer and you both understood, through experience, what it means to be sustained by the grace of God,

This word for partakers is a contraction of a word that means "union" and one that means an "associate" or "companion." It implies that they are more than friends, companions, associates, and fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. It implies that they have joined together for a common cause, a common experience, or a common suffering in Christ. It is one thing thing to have friends in Christ, it is another to join with them in a common pursuit, vision, and purpose in Christ. This was who the Philippians were to Paul. While they were all believers in Christ, they were united in their common mission and suffering for the Gospel. We often talk about unity in the Body of Christ. Perhaps the unity is best achieved when we use the grace of God to participate together in the development and growth of the body among us and in the advancement of the Kingdom of God around us. Perhaps, if we feel isolated and at disunity with one another, it is because we are not invested with each in the common work of Christ. Paul said that it is through our union in purpose that the Body grows and bears fruit to God. "From whom [the head] the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:16) Unity can only be found in action, not in being.

David Robison

Saturday, November 26, 2016

will perfect it - Philippians 1:3-6

"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:3-6)
In Paul's greeting to the Philippian church, Paul is emphatic about his love and care for each and every one of them. Paul uses the same Greek word (or their derivatives) four times in repetition to emphasize his point. He says that his love and care for them is in "every remembrance," at "every time," with "every prayer", and for "every one." Paul was fully invested in the Philippians, not only as an apostolic worker on their behalf, but as a fellow participant in the Gospel and kingdom of Christ. Paul's letter is more than a momentary show of concern, it is the result of a daily remembrance of them, unceasing prayer for them, and an enduring love for them individually and corporately.

Paul and the Philippians had very little in common. Paul was a Jew, raised in the strictest observance of their laws and traditions. Paul was raised to believe that he, and his people, were the only chosen ones and that the gentiles were to be forever excluded from the commonwealth of Israel. The Philippians were gentiles, raised without any benefit of the understanding of God's previous revelations in the scriptures and prophesies made before Christ. They were godless in their morals, ethics, and philosophy. Their God's were many and bore little resemblance to the one true God. However, even given all these differences, Paul found commonality and unity in the Spirit with these gentiles because they had something in common that was of greater significance than their differences: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our participation in the Gospel breaks down the walls that divide us. In the Gospel, though we are different and our heritage is varied and unrelated, we are made to be one people in Christ. We, who were many, have now become one. We have been joined together in a Gospel where,  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise." (Galatians 3:28-29)

When we first come to the Gospel, God begins a "good work" within us. What is important to understand is that, our salvation experience, is not the end of that good work, but only the beginning. Salvation is not an event that happens and then we go our merry way, but it is the beginning of a journey and a process of being transformed into the image of Christ. While being born again is essential to our new spiritual life, it alone is not sufficient to bring us to where God desires to take us. Salvation alone is not enough to bring us to "the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at [the] full-grown man, at [the] measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ; in order that we may be no longer babes," (Ephesians 4:13-14 Darby) Salvation is just the beginning and, once having started His good work, God wishes to bring it to a conclusion.

This conclusion of the good work God has started will take a life time of walking with God. We will spend the rest of our lives learning of God, learning from God, and learning obedience to the things He asks of us. This process is begun by God, sustained by God, and completed by God. However, it's beneficial aspects in our lives also requires our participation with God in the process. Paul reminds us to, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13) While God initiates the process, our participation in it is required if we are to reap the benefits of the process. Our spiritual growth does not happen without our participation in that growth. It is essential that we work with God as He works in us to produce in us His image and His likeness.

David Robison

Sunday, November 20, 2016

bond-servants of Christ Jesus - Philippians 1:1-2

"Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:1-2)
Paul is writing from a prison cell in Rome. His apostolic partner, Timothy, is with him, although not in prison himself. Some have described Timothy as being a young pastor of one of the early churches. However, there is no evidence that Timothy was ever a "pastor" or a local leader of any of the early churches we know of. Eusebius, in his book on ecclesiastical history, never includes Timothy in any of his lists of bishops of the early churches. As far as we can tell, Timothy was an apostolic worker with Paul in Paul's ministry to the churches in Asia Minor. Later, when we read Paul's letters to Timothy, where He says to Timothy, "As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith." (1 Timothy 1:3-4) we understand that Paul did not leave him behind to "pastor" the church but to complete the apostolic teaching in the church that Paul himself did not have time to complete.

Paul describes himself and Timothy as "bond-servants" of Christ. This is interesting in light of Jesus' words to His disciples. "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15) While Jesus says He does not call us slaves (the same Greek word Paul uses that is translated, "bond-servant"), Paul calls himself and timothy bond-servants. How can, or should, Paul call himself a bond-servant when Jesus does not but rather calls him a friend? The key to understanding this is to understand an Old Testament tradition. "If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for  six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment... But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently." (Exodus 21:2, 5-6) Paul and Timothy's subjugation to Christ as a bond-salves was not by coercion, force, or duty but rather voluntary our of their love for their master. While the love of God had set them free, their love for God bound them to Him in eternal servitude. They had committed their lives to serving their master out of the their boundless love for Him and His boundless love for them.

Paul writes to those who are in Philippi and, almost as an after thought, to the overseers and deacons as well. It is important to note that Paul does not write to the leaders of the church, although he includes them in his letter, but he writes to the church in general. I have know churches where any prophesy or spoken words, other than simple encouraging words, had to be first submitted to the leadership for judging before being presented to the church as a whole. However, this does not seem to be Paul's approach to addressing the church. It is interesting that in addressing those who ruled over the church that he does not call them leaders or pastors but overseers. The role of the rulers of the church were not so much to lead as it was to oversee. The church functioned according to the "proper working of each individual part" (Ephesians 4:16) while the elders in the church simply oversaw what went on. Their job was not to control but to watch and to step in when some correction of protection was needed. It seems to me, in many of the churches I have been involved with, that we have become so enamored by leadership that we end up losing sight of the body itself. Everything is delegated, or abnegated, to the leadership and little is left for the body to do as little authority is left to the body to exercise. I wonder at times, if our leaders became overseers, how that might change our churches and restore purpose and responsibility back to the body itself?

David Robison

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Peace be to the brethren - Ephesians 6:21-24

"But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts. Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love." (Ephesians 6:21-24)
We live in a highly connected world. Sometimes it is hard to remember that back then they did not. It could be months in between communications and years between visits. Many people to whom Paul wrote had never met him or had met him only once. Having heard that Paul was imprisoned, many people prayed and hoped for his safety with out ever knowing if their prayers were having an effect or if their prayers had found the object for which they prayed. For them, it was a great joy to receive Tychicus and hear the report of how Paul was fairing.

Paul closes his letter by praying that they would find peace along with love and faith. It is interesting that Paul often holds these two virtues together: love and faith. Love without faith is weak and often misdirected. Faith without love can actually be destructive to those to whom it is directed. Both are required and necessary. They are as two sides of the same coin. More precisely, one is the action and the other its conduit, as Paul says, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6) Love is to be the conduit through which faith works.

Finally, Paul speaks of those who love our Lord with a love that is incorruptible. An incorruptible love is one that does not fade, grow cold, or diminish by degrees. Some people start out read-hot but end up lukewarm, or worse, stone cold dead. Our love for God should ever be increasing and is something we should guard as precious treasure. Anything of value must be tested, and so with our love for God. Our love will be tested but it need not fail. Our incorruptible love for God is at the center of our life with God and our life with each other. It is what sustain us and gives us the power to love others, even the unlovely and unlovable. Let us not grow cold in love but ever be those who stoke its flames to a full burning fire.

David Robison

Saturday, November 12, 2016

With all prayer and petition - Ephesians 6:18-20

"With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak." (Ephesians 6:18-20
We are to be constant in prayers and petitions. Many of us know this, but few of us do this. Moreover, how does one pray at all times and with all prayers in our busy and jammed pack lives? The key is in understanding what Paul means by "all times". The Greek word used here for "time" does not mean the sequential passing of seconds, minutes, hours, and days but refers to discrete moments or opportunities in time. Darby translates this verse as, "praying at all seasons, with all prayer and supplication in [the] Spirit." (Ephesians 6:18 Darby) God is not asking us to fill every waking moment of the day with prayer, rather, when opportunities arise or when the situation requires it, to be ready and prompt to pray. Each opportunity we face, each decision we must make, and each movement of testing that comes our way are to be filled with our prayers and supplication,

Paul speaks of "all" as in "all prayer and petition" he means to indicate that there are various forms of our relationship with God of which prayer and petition are but two. Paul is encouraging us to use all forms of voicing our needs and concerns to God, be they asking, begging, or something else. Prayer is not to be rote or simply a static discipline we have with the Father. Payer should be dynamic and applicable to the need at hand. All forms of communing with the Father are to be pursued as needed. In fact, the Greek word for "prayer" can also imply "worship". Worship is a powerful force with God for it says, "Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, To bind their kings with chains
And their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the judgment written; this is an honor for all His godly ones." (Psalms 149:6-9) Worship can be a powerful weapon in our time of need. Furthermore, we must elicit the help of the Holy Spirit, praying in the Spirit, for it is the Spirit who "intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." (Romans 8:26) In our time of need we have not been left alone but have the agency and help of the Holy Spirit within us who not only enables us to pray but also prays for us as well.

When Paul says, "with this in view," he is speaking of our need to prayerful in all seasons and in every occasion. Another translation would be, "With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:18 NIV) Knowing our need for prayer, we must always be on the alert, ready to pray, and praying with all perseverance. The Greek word for "alert" means both to watch and to keep awake. The opposite of sleeping is not being awake but watching. Remember what Jesus asked his disciples when He found them sleeping while He was praying, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Mark 14:37-38) Those who are asleep have no idea of what is going on around them nor the battle that is raging against them. We must be people who are awake and who are watching in prayer that we might see the reality around us and perceive the things that require our "all prayers and petitions." This take a decisive action to watch and a perseverance in prayer. Those who slumber will not do this but those who are awake will not be caught off guard. Some of us need to hear the works of Jesus when He said, "Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die." (Revelation 3:2) Now is not the time for sleeping.

Our prayers are not only to be for us but for all who are seeking to live Godly in Christ. We are in this together and we need each other. We all need the encouragement, love, and support of each other. We need, not only our prayers, but the prayers of others on our behalf. Praying for each other helps to divert our focus from ourselves and helps us to grow in relationships with our brothers and sisters. Far too often, instead of praying, we judge. I remember one time I was staying with a couple and saw their family situation and thought, "What a mess!" That night, as I lay in bed, God spoke to me and said, "If you loved them you would pray for them." I was convicted that, while I was good at judging other people, I was not very good at praying for them. We all go through difficult times. We all have issues and areas in our lives that still need the sanctifying power of God to cleanse us. However, what we don't need is the judgment of others. What we do need is their prayers. Let us be people who not only pray for ourselves and then judge others, but people who love and pray for all.

Finally, Paul asks for prayers for himself. However, instead of asking that his chains be removed, he asks that he might have the strength in God to fulfill the mission God had called him to. In praying for our needs and wants, we must not forget to pray for the things God wants. What is it that God wants in the Earth? What is it that God wants in our lives? These are the things we too should be praying and supplicating God for. We must pray, not only in the will of God, but for the will of God. Jesus taught us to pray, "Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven;" (Matthew 6:10) not our will or kingdom but God's will and kingdom. We must learn to pray outside of ourselves; for our brethren and also for what God wills. This is the kind of prayer that delights God and that moves mountains.

David Robison

Friday, November 11, 2016

that you will be able - Ephesians 6:13-17

"Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:13-17)
Once again, Paul encourages us to take up the panoply of God; taking unto ourselves the full armor, utility, and instrumentality of God. What is important to understand is that the time to do this is not when you find yourselves in the mist of the evil day. When everything is assaulting you, it's not the time to be looking for your armor. Armor must be put on prior to the battle, not in the midst of it. Also, the armor is not something you put on and take off. We are to be continuously robed in the armor of God. Only then we will be properly prepared to meet whatever may come our way. It is also interesting to note that our call is to stand. I have known some people who always seem to be looking for a spiritual fight. They are always assaulting something or trying to cast something out. Paul is not telling us to be running head-long into the battle we think we should be fighting, but rather to be prepared to stand should the battle come our way. Paul's words to us are like the Boy Scouts' motto, "Be prepared." You needn't go looking for a fight. Trust me, it will find you. Therefore, be prepared.

To gird oneself is to be ready for action and for service. Jesus tells us to always be prepared for whatever may come our way. He also tells us to be ready at a moment's notice to obey our master's wishes. "Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately." (Luke 12:35-36 NKJV) Truth is essential to our preparation to act. Without truth we are easily lead astray. Without truth we fail to understand the true nature of life and the world we live in. We fail to understand the importance of being ready and what is at stake by our obedience to Christ. To properly see the world and to be ready to answer God's call we must shed the lies of the world and surround ourselves with the truth of the Gospel.

While, here, Paul references the breastplate of righteousness, in other places he refers to it as the, "the breastplate of faith and love." (1 Thessalonians 5:8) I believe that this is because faith and love equal righteousness. Remember the words of Paul when he said, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6) Righteousness is nothing more than faith working through love. It is also interesting to note that righteousness can be a defensive weapon.Remember when Jesus said, "the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me." (John 14:30) Righteousness removes all the hooks in our heart by which the enemy can grab and yank us around. The enemy comes around looking for those in who he has place, but righteousness closes the door and keeps him out. How powerful is righteousness to our ability to stand!

The phrase, "the preparation of the Gospel of peace" has always been a bit enigmatic for me. Is the Gospel of peace the preparation or are we to shod our feet as the preparation for the Gospel of peace? Here are two alternative translations that may help us to understand this verse. "Be ready with the good news of peace as shoes on your feet." (Ephesians 6:15 BBE) "as well as the shoes of the Good News of peace-- a firm foundation for your feet." (Ephesians 6:15 Weymouth) Along with these translations, we have the prophetic words of Isaiah, "How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" (Isaiah 52:7) I think what Paul is saying is that we should ever be ready to share and take the Gospel of peace to those who need it. To "be ready in season and out of season." (2 Timothy 4:2) Furthermore, we must always remember that it is a Gospel of peace and not one of condemnation and alienation. We are to bring the message of reconciliation and peace with the Father that is for all who place their hope and trust in Him.

The shield Paul refers too is a large shield the size and shape of a door. It is meant to protect our whole person. So what are those fiery darts, or missiles, we are to protect ourselves against? Primarily they are the lies and accusations of the enemy. Jesus told us, "Whenever he [the devil] speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44) Similarly, the angel tells John that the Devil is, "the accuser of our brethren." (Revelation 12:10) Faith enables us to recognize the lies of the enemy. It helps us to distinguish the false accusations of our enemy from the conviction of the Holy Spirit. In this case, faith is more than trust, it is a belief and an acknowledgment of the truth we have been taught by Christ. When we believe His truth, we will not be so quick to buy into the lies the enemy tries to send our way. This is critical to our life with God because, "the truth will make you free" (John 8:32) while the lies of the enemy only brings bondage.

Paul speaks here of the helmet of salvation while in another place he identifies it as, "a helmet, the hope of salvation." (1 Thessalonians 5:8) The key here is that a helmet is meant to protect our heads and, in this case, our thoughts and reasoning. Our hope is empowered as we fill our understanding with the truth and knowledge of God. As we meditate on the salvation of God, we crowd out the other thoughts that diminish us and that bring worry and anxiety to life. Many people get caught in the cycle of replaying over and over in their minds the slights, worries, failures, and fears of their life. This constant rehearsing gives power to those thoughts and can for a stronghold in their mind that is difficult to tear down. This is why Paul encourages us, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." (Philippians 4:8) These are the things that accompany our salvation and, even while we may not see them presently in our lives, they are the hope of our salvation. These are the things we should fill our minds with, not the lies and deceit of the enemy.

Finally, Paul tells us to take up the sword of the spirit. In both the Greek and Hebrew language, the word for Spirit is the same as the word for breath. This verse can also be translated as the "sword of the breath." As odd as this might sound, it is a perfect picture of what John describes in revelations as he sees, "From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron." (Revelation 19:15) Truly the sword of his breath. What is important to note here is that, as important as it is to think right, taking up the helmet of salvation, it is equally important to speak right, using the sword of His breath. If we speak doubt, fear, and resignation, then we give place to those things in our life. However, if we speak the truth with all its hope, faith, and assurance, then we empower the truth we believe to become effective in our lives and the lives of those around us. Solomon tells us, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit." (Proverbs 18:21) Our words are seeds that produce either life or death depending on the seeds we sow. When we take up the sword of the word of God and learn to speak the same things as God speaks then, not only do we reap a harvest of life, but we also plant seeds of life on others as well. Our speach is powerful and we should use it as the weapon it is.

David Robison

Monday, November 07, 2016

Our struggle is not - Ephesians 6:12

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12)
There are many things that seek to rattle our cages. As we go through each day, we often find things that seek to oppose us and derail us from our faith and consistency with Christ. However, far too often, when we try and war against these forces, our contention is misdirected and aimed at the wrong actors. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. Your enemy is not our spouse, your coworkers, your neighbors, or those of your family. Far too often these people become the recipients of our war against those things that seem to upset us, but they are not the problem, They are the unfortunate ones who are the closest to us so they are the ones who receive our frustration, our rebuffs, and our aimless flailing against our ever present opponent. Our unfortunate misdirection of force only serves to hurt those near us and perpetuate the influence of the enemy in our lives. We need to learn that people are not our enemies but rather our enemies are more powerful, unseen, and ready to exploit any weakness that may be in us for their own ends.

Paul mentions four things, or classes of influence in our lives, which we do and ought to struggle against. The first is rulers. Darby translates this as "principalities". These are chief rulers; those given authority over specific domains. They were created as rulers, given both permission and empowering to rule by their authority. They hold sway over large areas and large groups of people. They may even be seen to govern over specific sins, such as drunkenness, and certain maladies such as leprosy and mental illness.

The second is powers. These are those who have been given power and authority to act by the principalities they server. Darby translates this word as simply "authorities." There exists a host of minions doing the work and bidding of various principalities. We can think of these as the many demons who serve and work under the authority of higher ranking and ruling principalities of demons. These can be compared to the little foxes that Solomon refers to. "Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes." (Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV)

Third are the world forces of darkness. Darby translates this as "universal lords of darkness," The Greek word for "world forces" is a combination of two Greek words. The first is the word "kosmos" which indicates all of this created realm, and especially this world. The second word can be translated "to seize or retain". I believe that this phrase refers specifically to Satan as the ruler of this world. It is curious that this word is translated in the plural and perhaps includes the many antichrists of which John says, "Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour." (1 John 2:18)

Lastly, Paul names "spiritual forces of wickedness." There is a whole host of non-corporal beings that are at work in the unseen real whose mission is wickedness. It is not simply that their mission is to spread wickedness, but their mission is to menace, scheme, and agitate those who are seeking to live a godly life. They are bent on our destruction and our derailment from the abundant life God has for us. What is most important to learn is, these forces are not seen but invisible. Those we can see are not the enemy. If we live our lives fighting against people, we will one day find that we have been fighting the wrong forces and we will only fight to provide the enemy greater access and place in our lives. Our fight against people will only serve to increase the influence of wickedness in our lives. We must look beyond the human origins of our disturbances to see the unseen forces at work behind them. Then we must learn to fight a spiritual battle while we leave unmolested the people around us whom we previously accused as the source of our agitation. We must learn to fight the right fight and to oppose the real source of power that is against us.

David Robison

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Finally, be strong - Ephesians 6:10-11

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil." (Ephesians 6:10-11)
The Greek word used her in "be strong" means to be empowered or to acquire or increase in strength. It implies a process where by we go from weakness and inability to strength and ability. What is important to note is the means by which we are to grow in strength and to be empowered in our inner-man. We are to be empowered in the Lord. It is only in relationship with the Lord that we can be empowered to face and defeat the forces that are bent upon our destruction. We cannot find such strength in ourselves, our material possessions, or in anything this world has to offer. Our only hope of victory, our only source of strength in the battle, it found in and flows from the Lord.

God's strength is to become our strength, The Greek word used for the "strength" of God's might implies action. It can be translated vigor. The word used for God's "might" can also mean forcefulness. The strength of God is shown in action, It is not enough to be strong, but we must use that strength to overcome the schemes of the Devil. We are strong in the Lord, but we must put that strength to work in our daily lives. At times we must be vigorous, forceful, deliberate, and active in our stance and opposition to the enemy. As we learn to be strong in the Lord we must also learn to use that strength to be forceful.

The Greek word for "full armor" is an interesting one and one from which we get our word "panoply" which Webster defines as "a group or collection that is impressive because it is so big or because it includes so many different kinds of people or things." Here its application is made in reference to the full armor worn by the Roman solders, but its application is wider than that. It can refer to the full instrumentality of God. It is the full tool-box or complete set of skills we have in Christ. Here Paul gives a list of some of those things. However, I believe that this list was not meant to be exhaustive but simply an illustrative list. For example, for some they could add scripture memorization to the list. Others could add worship. Still others, fasting. The point is that we need to take the sum total of God's armor, the tools He has given us, and the skills we have developed along the way that we might apply them to the wiles of the enemy so that we might continue to stand in our faith. We need all God has to offer us. This may mean learning new skills, taking up new tools God has for us, and putting on more armor to protect our lives. All of it is needed and we need to daily dress ourselves in the panoply of God.

We need the panoply of God to guard against the wiles, scheming, and trickery of the Devil. The idea is that we do not always know when and how the enemy will attach. He uses trickery, slight of hand, and surprises to try and catch us off guard. Therefore, we must always be ready; always dressed in our armor; always having the tools and instruments of God in hand and ready to use, It reminds me of the scene in Nehemiah where they were building the wall while under constant threat of the enemy. It is said that, "those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon." (Nehemiah 4:17) They did their work with one hand while carrying their weapon with the other, Even while working they were prepared to fend of the enemy if necessary, In the same way, we must live our life always ready, always having our weapons in our hands, to stand our ground against our enemy.

Finally, we are called to stand. We are not called to chase after the enemy or to look for demons under every rock. Fear not, you need not search him out, he will find you. Our focus must be on our own lives. We need not worry about the devil. We need not be so consumed with looking for him that we loses sight of the life God has given us to live. We must live our lives, but live them prepared. When trials and temptations come, we will be ready for them and able to meet them with the strength and panoply that God provides. Our life is not meant to be a life of constant battle, but a life constantly prepared and ready for battle. In the end, we are called to stand; stand firm in our faith and continuance in God.

David Robison

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Masters, do the same - Ephesians 6:9

"And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him." (Ephesians 6:9)
When Paul instructs masters to "do the same" what is he talking about? Certainly not obeying their slaves. The "same things" are those things that are done "with good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men." (Ephesians 6:7) Masters should live their lives towards others, including their slaves, with good will. They should be kind and considerate of the needs and dignity of those they master over. Specifically he mentions giving up threatening them. This Greek words means to be a menace to someone else. Other places Paul instructs them to be fair and just in the treatment of their slaves, "Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven." (Colossians 4:1)

At the heart of Paul's instruction are two important concepts. First is the Golden Rule. Masters are to treat their salves as they themselves would be treated, with kindness, consideration, fairness, and justice. We would not like having someone over us yelling and threatening all the time so why should we do it to those under us? When we do wrong, we would like mercy for ourselves so why are we so quick to want to punish those under us when they do wrong? The Father has told us that, "you shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Leviticus 19:18) In other words, love others in the same way you would like to be loved.

Secondly, while we may be masters over slaves, we ourselves are the slaves of our heavenly master and He will judge us as slaves the same way they judge and treat our slaves. How can we plead mercy from God when we don't extend it to others? How can we require obedience from our slaves when we don't offer it to our master in heaven? Just because we are masters does not mean that God will judge us differently from our slaves. In this since we are one with our slaves and even greater than them in judgment. If they fail to obey human masters they will receive temporal punishment, but if we fail to obey our heavenly master, our punishment is eternal. We can only rule over and mange other people correctly when we understand our master and allow ourselves to be properly managed and ruled by the supreme master of the universe. We too have a master and we too are slaves, so let us not think of ourselves as being superior but as being in common with all other humans in receiving grace and mercy from the one who rules the universe.

David Robison

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Slaves, be obedient - Ephesians 6:5-8

"Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free." (Ephesians 6:5-8)
In Paul's day, slavery was a well established social institution. However, slavery in the Geek/Roman period differed from our own period of slavery in some very significant ways. First, slavery then had little or no relationship to racism. Those who were enslaved were not enslaved because their masters believed them to be inferior or created for slavery, they were most often enslaved as the result of being conquered in war. Part of the spoils of war was then the right to enslave those you concored. This is also the second major difference between slavery then and that of the past several centuries. The slave trade that supplied slaves to America and other nations was itself supplied by black tribes in Africa who would kidnap those of a rival tribe and sell them to the white Europeans for transport and sale to America. In Paul's day, slaves were made slaves through what was then a noble act of war and the right of the victor to enslave the conquered, where the slave trade of recent past was the result of the complicity of both Africans, Americans, and Europeans in the lustful pursuit of money. In saying this, I am in no way justifying slavery, but we must be cautions not to judge and understand slavery in Paul's time based upon our own recent experience with slavery.

Similarly, Paul is not justifying slavery. He is acknowledging it as the normative state of the world he and many believers lived in. Slavery existed and it would be centuries before it would pass away. Many of the first converts to Christianity were slaves and Paul's main focus in these verses is not to address the issue of slavery but to address those who were slaves and those who were masters and to give them instruction as to how they should relate to each other; both in the context of their existing relationship as slave and master and in their existing relationship with God. To Paul, it was more important to address the spiritual condition of the individual first, before addressing the ills of the culture around them, for Paul knew that, if you changed the heart of the individual, then eventually you would change the culture in which they lived. Today, there are few of us who remain as slaves. However, there is much we can learn from Paul that can be applied to our work lives where we serve the will of our employers.

In instructing slaves, there are several things that Paul teaches, all which address issues of the heart. First is that they should obedient. This Greek word means to listen to. Slaves should be attentive to the commands and direction of their masters. This involves an active listening that turns into corresponding action. A useful slave does not need to be instructed in every last detail of what he is expected to do. He hears and understands what his master is saying and then proceeds to carry out his commands. For example, there were times when I asked my kids to do the dishes. When I came back, the dishes were done but the kitchen was still a mess. Some people only do the letter of what was asked, but others understand the bigger picture and the fuller since of what was wanted. These are those who are most useful to the masters and to those who employ them.

Secondly, Paul encouraged  slaves to have sincerity of heart. This Greek word means to have a singleness of purpose. Why do you do the kind of work that you do? For some, their work ethic is a calculated attempt at "climbing the corporate latter." The importance of their work is not as important to them as the importance of their getting ahead in life. They don't work to achieve the collective goals and purposes of the company, they work for their own individual goals and purposes. Their obedience is not singular, that being for the welfare of the company, but duplicitous, doing their work primarily for their own personal gain. If we work with singleness of heart, as unto the Lord, then our own growth and promotion will not come from our own efforts but from the Lord.

The Greek term for "eye service" refers to someone who must constantly be watched over. I remember a time when I asked someone at work to accomplish a task. A while latter I came to check in on them and they were just sitting around doing nothing. I asked them about the task and they said they said they had an issue that they did not  know how to resolve, but instead of asking or trying to resolve the issue, they just stopped working and did nothing. Some people I can give a task to and I know they will find a way to get it done. Others I must constantly watch over to make sure they are on task and focused on the job at hand. The useful slave is the one who works even when no one is watching.

Men-pleasing is the constant focus of those who seek to ingratiate themselves in the estimation of others. They do this not for a noble reason but for their own personal gain. To them, the work is not as important as their own personal gain. In my company, it is important that people take ownership in their work; that they buy-in to the vision and mission of the company. That they see their labor as being important in the overall operation and function of the company. They need to see themselves, not just as an employ, but as a need and valuable part of a larger enterprise. The useful slave is not one whose only interest is themselves but one who finds meaning and purpose in their participation as part of a large whole. They work, not only for themselves, but for the good of all involved in the corporate enterprise.

Finally, Paul encourages slaves to perform their work with good-will towards those who benefit from their labor. For us this would be our companies and our customers who use our goods and services. One of the hardest places to find yourself at work is to be disgruntled in your labor. It is hard to perform our work well when we are bitter, angry, and dissatisfied with our bosses, our company, and the work we are asked to do. This is where we must ask God for strength and grace to do well at our jobs and to do well with a good heart. This can be extremely challenging and I have faced these challenges more than once in my carrier. One of the keys to overcoming disgruntlement at work is to understand that we not only labor for men but that our service is unto God. When we labor well, it is the same as if we labored for the Lord. We may not receive the rewards of our good labor from our bosses and our company, but we will from the Lord. We must not place our hope on our bosses kindness, the comfort of our jobs, or the corporate culture of our companies, our hope and joy must be always in the Lord. Whether or not our earthly masters recognize us, reward us, or treat us kindly, if we labor as unto the Lord, we will receive our reward.

David Robison

Friday, October 21, 2016

Children, obey - Ephesians 6:1-4

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:1-4)
Paul has finished given instructions to the husband and wife, now he turns his attention to the children. It is interesting that Paul feels free to talk directly to the children rather than telling parents what they should communicate to their children. This is because, even as children, we have our own relationships with God. Our relationship with God is not filtered by, or intermediated by, our parents, rather we relate directly to God in both our prayers, worship, and obedience. As such, God asks us to choose, as free moral agents, to honor, respect, and obey the parents that God has given us. It was God who created us in the womb and it was God who determined who our parents would be and, as such, He asks us, in an act of obedience to Him, to honor and obey them.

When Paul uses the phrase, "in the Lord", he is not saying that we should only obey our parents if they too are in the Lord, but that our obedience and honor for our parents should flow as a natural result of our relationship with God. It is only when we are in right relationship with God that we can properly understand and respond to His commandments to honor and obey our parents, even if they themselves are not in the Lord. I knew a woman whose parents were harsh and fought against her relationship with Christ, yet she found solace in testimony of apostles who rejoices because, "they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name." (Acts 5:41) It was her relationship with Christ that gave her the grace and strength to love, honor, and obey her parents who were less than charitable to the things of the Kingdom.

We are living in a time when there is an all-out assault on the traditional family of a husband, wife, and children. We are told that families comes in all stripes and flavors and that no one sort of family is to be preferred over another. We are also seeing the in-reach of government into the family in ways that diminish the role and authority of the parents over their families. Young girls, who cannot take an aspirin in school without a parent's notes, can get an abortion without their parents ever having to know. Laws have even made it illegal for public libraries to disclose to parents what kinds of books their children are checking out of a library. Public figures are telling us that it takes a village to raise a child when God designed it to be a family that raises a child. When government and other cultural forces work to erode the bond between parent and child, a structure that God created in His own wisdom and purpose, then our culture begins to unravel and our nation rushes forward in decline.  The key to a strong and lasting culture and society is the relationship between parents and children and the strength of the traditional families. So important is this intra-family dynamic that before the final coming of Christ God has promised to, "restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse." (Malachi 4:6)

Honoring our father and mother not only ensures the longevity of our society, but it also promotes our own prosperity in our lives. The Greek term for "obey" means more than simple blind obedience. It has the idea of listening to and heading, not only their commands, but also their teaching and wisdom. This is more than just obeying their rules but also conforming our lives to the lessons and principals we have learned from them. There is wisdom in learning from an older generation. Solomon writes, "Hear, my son, your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching; indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck." (Proverbs 1:8-9) Living long on the Earth is of little consequence if we have not also learned to live well on the Earth. What is the use of living long if we live in failure, brokenness, and trouble. If we listen to and heed, not only our parent's commands, but also their wisdom and teaching, then we will have a life worth living and our end will be prosperous.

Paul warns fathers not to provoke their children to anger. This does not mean that mothers do not do the same, but on balance, fathers are more susceptible to this fault. This particular Greek word means to "anger alongside" and it is an anger that springs up where a relationship should be. When fathers are always fault finding, always demanding, and always setting the bar so high that it is impossible for a child to reach, then the end result is anger between them and their child. I remember a time when one of my children asked me if they could do something and my immediate response was, "No!" but then I paused and asked myself, "Why not?" I realized that my automatic answer to everything was no. I was not taking the time to understand my child and to see if there really was a way they could do what they wanted to do. I was stunned and realized that if I continued in this manor the end result would be trouble and distance in my relationships with my children. That day I decided to think before I responded. Often we don't intend to provoke our children to anger, but we do so because we fail to see the patterns in our life that are destructive and not caring and nurturing towards our children.

Finally, fathers are told to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. This requires that we first embrace the discipline and instruction in our lives. How can we communicate to our children what we have not first appropriated in our own lives? Secondly, it may require us to raise our children differently then we were raised. I've known fathers who sought to raise their children as they were raised only to find rebellion and anger arising in their children; the same anger and rebellion they had to their rather when he raised them that way. We are not called to raise our children as we were raised but to raise them as God would have us raise them. Peter writes of the, "futile way of life inherited from your forefathers." (1 Peter 1:18) Not everything we learned growing up is worth passing on to our children. Our goal should not be to make them like us, but to make them like Christ; to raise them in a way that Christ may be formed within them and that they may be conformed to His image, not ours. This may take a break from what we know and how we were trained, but it is worth it to see the Kingdom of God birthed in them and God's will done in them as it is in Heaven.

David Robison

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

As their own bodies - Ephesians 5:28-33

"So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband." (Ephesians 5:28-33)
This is an interesting verse, especially in light of how some interpret the words of Jesus when He said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:39) Some have misconstrued these words of Jesus to mean that we must love ourselves before we can love others. However, Paul's observation is that we already instinctively love ourselves. The problem is not in learning how to better love ourselves but in learning how to love others as we already love ourselves. Here Paul is simply restating the golden rule as taught by Jesus, "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12) Or. as my mother would say, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The point is that we should treat our wives as we would wish to be treated. We should treat our wives with the same care, nurture, and attention we give to ourselves. In fact, our love for our wives should be even greater than our love for our neighbors, for she is a member of our own body. While we are called into harmony with our neighbor and into unity with our brethren, we are called to be one in body with our wives. Therefore they deserve first place in our love and they deserve to be loved even as we love ourselves. For, in truth, if we truly love our wives then we are truly loving ourselves as well.

One of the keys to loving our wives is perception. The Greek word for "hated" can also be translated "detest". How we look at our wives will determine if, and how, we will love them. Some men come to the place, for whatever reason, where all they see is the bad in their wives. They become fixated on their faults and short comings and forget why they fell in love with them in the first place. All they see are the things that irritate them and have they forgotten that which once drew him to her. Even where there are real failings in her life, his perception of her is to detest her rather than to extend Christ's love to her in a way that will help her to grow and overcome the issues in her own life. He becomes a man who demands perfection instead of nurturing growth in her and in their relationship. If we can learn to see past each other's failures then we can see the image of Christ that dwells in each other and we can then learn to cherish and nurture what is good and right in each other rather than always focusing on the bad in each other.

Paul says that, for this reason, a man should leave his father and mother... but for what reason? That the two of them, the man and the woman, might become one. To be "joined," in the Greek, means to be "glued" together. The reason a man is to leave behind his family is so that he might be adhered to his wife and that the two of them may form their own family, creating a new family out of two individuals. The process of becoming one requires that two be joined together. It requires a focused relationship where two lives intermingle to where all aspects of their lives become shared and held in common. A man cannot maintain his feet in two separate camps. One foot in his old life and one in his new. He must be "all in" and fully committed to his marriage and his wife, even to the forsaking of old relationships that would seek to distract or divert him from his primary mission of becoming one with his wife.

Paul's reference to this great mystery always baffled me. What was they mystery he was speaking of? This verse immediately follows him speaking of a husband and wife becoming one. Is this the mystery he refers to? If so, then why say he speaks in reference to Christ and the church? Here are some alternate translations to this verse that might help us to better understand what Paul is saying.
"This is a huge mystery, and I don't pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church." (Ephesians 5:32 The Message) 
"This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one." (Ephesians 5:32 NLT) 
"That is a great truth hitherto kept secret: I mean the truth concerning Christ and the Church." (Ephesians 5:32 Weymouth)
I believe that the mystery that Paul is referring to is God's plan to restore mankind back to Himself through the person of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, we are reconciled to God and, together with all the brethren are made one in Christ and one with the Father. This mystery, that we should be one in Christ, was hidden from the beginning of time and only reveled in the coming of Christ. However, although this truth was hidden, it was foreshadowed through the marriage relationship that God inaugurated in Adam and Eve. Marriage is an example of the kind of oneness that God intends for all of us; a oneness with each other and a oneness in Christ.

Finally, Paul summarizes his thoughts concerning husbands and wives: husbands are to love their wives as themselves and wives are to respect their husbands. It is interesting here that Paul does not repeat his words that wives should submit to their husbands. Here he conflates the ideas of submission and respect. The Greek word for "respect" literally means to be frightened, but is most often used in the context of awe and reverence. Respect is the key to submission. No one will submit to someone they do not respect or, if they do, they will do so only begrudgingly. When we belittle each other and practice fault-finding with each other, we loose the since of awe, reverence, and respect we have for the other person. However, when we look to see the good, the noteworthy, and the amazing image of God in others, then we can stand in awe of who God made them to be and it  becomes easy to submit one-to-another. Submission, as an act of love, always begins with respect. We must learn to cultivate respect for one another if we are to grow in love for one another.

David Robison

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Husbands, love your wives - Ephesians 5:25-27

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." (Ephesians 5:25-27)
On balance, Paul, in his letter to the Ephesian church, devotes far more space to instructing husbands to love their wives as he does instructing women to submit to their husbands. I believe this is for two main reasons. First, because, for most men, loving their wives does not come naturally. Men can be very task focused leading them to pursue their goals, hobbies, and carriers with singular focus. Men also tend to compartmentalize their lives. They have their work life, the leisure life, their church life, and their home life. Sometimes, if men are not careful, their pursuit of things, like their carriers, can occur at the expense of other things in their lives, such as their spiritual life and the family life. Men need to be reminded frequently not to disregard one for the other and to remind themselves of what really matters in life.

The second reason Paul spends more time exhorting men to love their wives is because, as the head of the household, God holds them ultimately responsible for what happens in their families. In speaking of the fall of mankind, Paul writes this of the woman, "And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression." (1 Timothy 2:14) However, he writes this of the man, "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam." (Romans 5:14) It was the woman who was deceived but it was Adam who sinned. God places the greater part of the culpability for the fall of mankind upon Adam then He does upon Eve. More instruction is given to men by Paul because of the greater responsibility they face for their family and the greater judgment they will receive for their failings in their families over those of their wife.

So how are men to love their wives? Paul shows us by reminding us how Christ loves the church; Christ being a figure of the husband and the church that of the wife. Paul reminds us how Christ gave Himself up for the church and asks men to do the same for their wives and their families. This Greek word used here for "gave" means to surrender, yield over, or to give to another. Men are asked to surrender their life for the well being of their family. They are asked to choose to give themselves to their family above all other duties and obligations they might have, even above their work and their church. This word can also mean to betray, bring into prison, or to hazard. Men are to betray their other pursuits and desires for those of their family. The are to hazard all other goals for the goal of a godly, joyful, and secure family. They are to imprison their wants and needs that they may pursue the wants and needs of their family. All this Jesus did for us and, as men, we should be willing to do the same for our families.

Jesus not only gave up His life for the church, but He loved her with action. Jesus said of Himself, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45) I have meet many men who are passive and disengaged at home. They live at home to be served and not to serve. You can see it as their wife busies herself with cooking, cleaning, and raising the children while her husband sits around watching TV or pursuing one of his other many entertainments and hobbies; never raising a finger to help his hard working wife. A man who does not serve is a man who has not yet come to understand Christ in truth. If the very Son of God came to serve us, are we too great to serve others ourselves? Especially those of our own family? Yes, a man may work hard at work, but that is no excuse to turn a blind eye to the needs of their wife or family when he is at home. After all, work will one day come to an end and all we will have left are the relationships we have formed and nurtured in this life. Jesus said, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36) The same could be said for the soul of a man's family.

Jesus not only loved the church with action, but He also loved her with purpose. He loved her that He might present her to Himself as a pure and spotless bride. This Greek word for "present" means to stand beside or to exhibit. Jesus is looking forward to the day when we, as His bride, will stand side-by-side with Him in glory; when we might be exhibited to all of creation as His pure and spotless bride; as that which above all things He prizes and loves. To this end, He ministers tirelessly through His words and by washing us with His love. Here's the point of this for us men: men, what kind of marriage do you want to have? What kind of relationship do you desire to have with your wife and children? We can have what ever kind of marriage and what ever degree of relationship with our family we desire, if we will work to produce it through our actions, words, and love. As men, if our marriage isn't great, that's our fault. If we lack a depth of relationship with our wives, then we need to do something about it. Jesus doesn't just sit around hoping things in the church will get better, rather He is actively working in the church through His love to bring about change and to build a greater bond of love and fellowship with her. We can have what every kind of marriage and wife we desire if we will just devote the time, effort, and faith in the pursuit of our marriage as we do in many of our other pursuits. It's time for men to get off the couch and learn to love and serve their families. If we will do so, then we will find the blessings in our marriage and families that God always intended for us to have.

David Robison

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Wives, be subject - Ephesians 5:22-24

"Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything." (Ephesians 5:22-24)
This is a difficult scripture to understand, especially given our present culture and our modern world view. Typically, this scripture is either simply ignored by the modern church or is declared to be written for a bygone age where women were systematically repressed by the prevailing views of a primitive culture. Some have fought against this scripture and some men have fought against their wives using this scripture as proof of their lordship in the home. However, given all this we still must deal with what Paul wrote and seek to understand how to apply it to our lives today.

Several thing stand out to me in this scripture. First, is that the word "subject" in verse twenty two does not exist in the original Greek but is implied by its use in verse twenty four. Verse twenty two literally reads, "Wives, unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord." Certainly, subjection is implied, but more than that is the idea of being subject to "your own" husband as opposed to other male figures, such as someone's else's husband, your father, or even a pastor or priest. The goal of a marriage is that two individuals become one. When one listens to voices from outside their marriage, voices that seek to lead them into a separate life from the one they have been joined to in marriage, their incitements destroys the oneness that marriage seeks to bring. This does not mean that a couple, or even an individual, should not seek counsel from time to time, nor that they should avoid relationships outside of their marriage, but their devotion and submission should first be to their marriage partner, not some third party. One example may help in understanding this point. I once knew a couple who ended up in divorce. Once of the key areas of contention was Sunday afternoon lunch. The wife's family held the tradition of always getting together as a family for Sunday afternoon lunch. Even after getting married the wife insisted that her new husband attend the family lunch every Sunday against her husband's wishes. Her submission to her family was greater than her submission to her husband and it was a contributing factor to the demise of their marriage.

Secondly, wives as asked to submit to their own husbands as unto the Lord, but how does one submit to the Lord? Our submission to the Lord is voluntary. Christ came and set us free, then He asks us to submit to Him that we might walk in His ways and according to His will. Our submission to the Lord is of our own free will. We are not bound to submit nor are we forced to submit. Jesus calls to us, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) We submit to His yoke and burden, not because we are forced to, but because we choose to. This scripture should never be used by husbands to force their wives into submission. Paul never told husbands to make sure their wives submit, but rather he asks wives to choose submission to their own husbands as a voluntary act of their free will. It is something for them to choose rather than something to be demanded and exacted from them. Furthermore, a wife's submission is not blind submission, submitting to every whim of her husband. A wife is under no obligation to submit to participating in sin or in anything that would degrade them or dishonor them for our submission to Christ would never bring us hurt or dishonor. We should never offer submission to anyone or anything that would lessen, destroy, or tarnish our submission to Christ.

Third, Paul says that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. Some have interpolated this to mean, "leader," but these are actually two very different concepts. Speaking of Jesus, Peter said, "This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner." (Acts 4:11 KJV) Most translations translates this as Jesus being the "corner stone" but the actual word used here is the same used when Paul speaks of men as being the head of the woman. The head of the corner, or the corner stone, defines the building that is to be built. It is the point from which all measurements are taken and from which every wall is compared. Paul similarly writes of Jesus saying, "And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." (Ephesians 1:22-23) Jesus, as the head of the church, defines the church just as the husband as the head of the woman defines the family. When the church looses contact and relationship with Christ, it ceases to be the church. When two people living in a marriage live separate and competing lives, each trending to their own way and own desires and will, they become merely two people living under one roof rather than two people who are one. It must also be mentioned that, even though Jesus is the head of the church, He does not make all the decisions for the church nor forces His views and will upon the church. The church has great latitude in what it does, how it organizes itself, and how operates. Jesus is not the dictator of the church but the defining corner stone for the church. So ought husbands to be to their wives, not as dictators and lords, but as a common point from which all relationships within the family are measured.

Finally, Paul reminds us that Jesus is the savior of the Body. In describing Jesus as our savior, Paul is speaking of more than just the fact that Jesus saves us from hell and damnation. This is more clear when we understand that, even to a Body that has already passed from death unto life, Jesus is still their savior. To be a savior is to protect, keep safe, help make whole, and to benefit the ones we are watching over. Paul writes, "we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:15-16) It is under the headship of Christ that the body grows and flourishes. It is under the protection and care of Christ that the Body is free to grow in the graces and blessings of God. It is under the lordship of Christ that each individual member of Christ finds their place in the Body. So should the husband be as the head of his family. Jesus reminded us that, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant." (Luke 22:25-26) To be the head is to be the servant of all. Those whom we lord over should be the benefactors of our authority, not ourselves. Wives are not called to submit to a husband whose will is destructive, harmful, or in anyway injurious to her or their children. A husband who acts in such a way is not the savior of the family but a destroyer instead. However, when a husband exercises his headship for the benefit of the family rather than himself, then submission is easy and its fruit sweet.

David Robison