“He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, ‘Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’ And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly,” Luke 19:1-6. If we could hear Zaccheus, himself, relate his conversion to Christ, it might very well be this three-part statement, “He saw me, He welcomed me, He changed me.” He Saw Me. “When Jesus came to the place, He looked up...” (Luke 19:5). When most saw Zaccheus, they would have been filled with such disdain and disgust, it would have been hard for them to see anything more than the short, rich, tax-collector he had become. From the statement made from the crowd, it becomes painfully obvious that “a man called by the name of Zaccheus” is no more than “a man who is a sinner,” (Lk. 19:7). For all who knew him, this was the summation of all they saw in Zaccheus, and for all they were concerned, was all anyone else needed to see in him as well. But Jesus saw more. When Jesus looked up at the short, rich tax-collector in the sycamore tree, it must have shocked and moved Zaccheus to meet someone who saw the bigger picture of Zaccheus’ life. The name, Zaccheus, means “pure.” This despised and viewed traitor among his people was once an innocent little baby. He had parents who loved him very much and named him, “pure”, with the hopes he would live a pure and holy life before God. But somewhere along the way, that innocent child with the hopes of being rich in righteousness, grew to develop a sinful heart full of such greed he would be willing to destroy his very reputation in order to become rich in worldly wealth. When Jesus saw Zaccheus, He saw the whole picture, and looked with such compassion and sympathy, that He saw a pure heart that had become lost along the way in the sinful world it grew up in. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost,” (Luke 19:10). Jesus not only looked at Zaccheus in sympathy of what he once was, but in hope of what he could become again. He Welcomed Me. “...He looked up and said to him, ‘Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house,” (Luke 19:5). Being a chief tax collector, it is most likely Zaccheus had heard of the shocking reception for Jesus a certain tax collector named Levi held, where a huge crowd of tax collectors and sinners were the primary invited guests. This gathering sent shock waves through the community prompting many to question the preferred company of the prophesied Messiah. “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” (Luke 5:30). Given the excitement in the actions of Zaccheus, running ahead of the crowd and climbing a tree to make sure he wouldn’t miss getting a good view of Jesus passing through, you can picture the wonder and enthusiastic curiosity running through his mind. “Would Jesus welcome someone like me in His presence too?” Imagine the excitement it must have filled him with to find Zaccheus would get the best seat in the city to see Jesus, even better than the seat he found in the sycamore tree he climbed to get a better view. He would be seated right next to Jesus in his very own home! He Changed Me. “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham,” (Luke 19:9). In the house, Zaccheus was undoubtedly a captive audience for the message Jesus gave him. While we don’t have the words of Jesus recorded for us, we can get a pretty good idea based on the fact the primary reason He is in Jericho is because He is on His way to Jerusalem, and He has previously revealed to His disciples what was going to happen there. “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again,” (Luke 18:31-33). The compassionate, welcoming message of forgiveness of sins and the nature of the Kingdom of God was too compelling for Zaccheus to pass up and it changes him. “Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much,’” (Luke 19:8). What a wonderful day of salvation it was for Zaccheus and how wonderful it continues to be for all who will be open to hear the message of good news today! Let us learn from this encounter with Zaccheus how we may be effective in helping sinners find salvation. When we see sinners, let us, like Jesus, be willing to see the whole picture. Sinners are so much more than a quick title summarizing the current events in their life. There is an entire story of a pure soul that became lost who Jesus is seeking to restore again. Let us see them this way as well, and welcome them, as Jesus did, in our presence that we may share the good news of salvation. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost,” (Luke 19:10).
The Greek word “ekklesia” is translated in various parts of Scripture, depending on the translation, as “church,” “congregation,” or “assembly.” This word, like so many words in our modern English language, has more than one use. For example, a book is something that you read, with words on pages in between covers. However, we also say that we are going to book a flight on an airline, or book a reservation to eat at a restaurant. And, we also have been known to speak of “booking it” to run very quickly so as not to be late for an appointment. So it should come as no surprise that this term is no different.
As it turns out, “ekklesia” has four uses, and I want to spend some time going over each one of the four and making some points about what they mean for us as members of the church, as well as how the church functions as the assembly.
To begin, we must understand that the first use of the word goes back to its simplest literal meaning, as well as its root in Greek culture. While the term seems to have originally referred to a specific legal assembly, over time it came to mean any gathering for the purpose of city governance, (“But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly.” – Acts 19:39) and from there it went on to describe any general assembly of people. We find in the Scriptures it being used in this way to describe the nation of Israel: “This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us.” (Acts 7:38)
Such was the most common (and secular, we can note) usage of the word ekklesia: a generic term to describe any vague gathering of people for any purpose. The second use varies greatly because it refers to a specific group, called out for a specific purpose. It is in this sense that we find the word appearing in Matt. 16:18, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” In the Bible, the second use of ekklesia is to describe the body of Christ, also known as the church universal, a group who could be summed up as all of those who have been redeemed. Just two places (there are several more, but let me quote these two in the interest of being brief) that use the word in this sense are in the letter to the Ephesians. “And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church,” (Eph. 1:22)
“so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:27) Clearly these verses are not talking about just one group in one city, since Christ has authority over all Christians, and the church universal, not just one congregation, is to be pure and without blemish.
Having said that, let us now address the third use of the term, which DOES refer to a local group (congregation) of people. While all the ones who make up such a church are also members of the universal body, they are set apart by identifying as belonging to a local group that meets in a specific place. One place where we find this instance is in the beginnings of the various letters written to local congregations. “Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:” (1 Cor. 1:1-2)
“And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.” (Col. 4:16) Reading these passages, there is no doubt that the church in Colossae and the church in Laodicea were different, distinct groups. They met in different locations and were made up of different people, even though they both taught the same doctrine and were both under the same authority. God’s Word is easy to understand when it comes to this: each congregation is to be autonomous, that is, self-governing. A plurality of elders is to oversee each flock. They have no jurisdiction over other groups, and no other assembly has any right to direct their business.
Perhaps everything we have looked at so far is nothing new to you. In fact, I am sure that most members know very well the difference between the church universal and a local congregation of believers. On top of that, to learn that the term ekklesia originated as a general word to describe any assembly, and not directly connected with the Lord’s church at all is most likely not a surprise. But, as the title of this article points out, there is another use for the word. A fourth use that is different that any we have examined up to this point is found in two places in the Scriptures that I know of, 1 Cor. 11:18 & 14:34. Here is the text: “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part,” (11:18) “the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.” (14:34)
Explaining the difference here might take some time. The easiest way to do so is to answer the question, “Are you in the Wellsburg church of Christ today?” I would answer yes, in the sense that I have (for more than three and a half years now) associated with this local congregation, and thus worship and serve God as a member here. However, the answer is no, in the sense that as I sit here writing this at my desk, I am by myself and in my house. I am most definitely NOT in the Wellsburg church of Christ. Please understand that I am in no way trying to say that our building, or any building for that matter, has some kind of holiness or significance. The church is the people, the members. The reason why I would say no, that I am not in the Wellsburg church of Christ, is that I am not currently assembled together with my brethren for a common purpose.
Some might be wondering at this point what exactly is the assembly, or to put it differently, when is the church assembled and when is it not? The key to answering this question, as well as any subsequent questions (such as when women can speak, etc.), is purpose. When we have purposed to ALL come together for one reason, THAT is the assembly, the fourth use of ekklesia. For us here, at the times we have set aside for Bible study, we are NOT all together, are we? Yes, we are all technically within the building, but make no mistake: we are NOT ALL together for one purpose. We separate into various classes, each with its own teacher(s) and lesson plans, each studying decently and in order. Even if we all happen to be going over the same Bible verses and principles, we are not assembled, no more than a high school full of students is assembled while they are in their different English classes, History classes, and Math classes.
I know that many try to teach that this distinction does not exist, and therefore they hold no Bible classes in the church building. Their argument is that it is still the assembly, and thus must be the church’s common activity of worship, so therefore women must keep silent, and so on. But taking such a position, really, is arguing that a person/group of people can worship accidentally. It argues that even though I have come, NOT to worship but to study in an open discussion format, and NOT to assemble with the whole church but just one class, deliberately keeping others separate, I am in reality worshiping God; doing so without my knowledge or consent.
Ask yourself: can someone worship on accident? The answer is obvious. When we assemble as the church, we worship the Lord. Our purpose in coming together makes all the difference. Assemble with the saints, in spirit and in truth!
Generally, we are very diligent to teach and reteach what the Scriptures have to say regarding worshiping the Lord. You will likely hear dozens if not hundreds of sermons throughout your lifetime regarding singing and how it is what God has authorized, how mechanical instruments violate the silence of the Scriptures, and how we must sing with emotion and understanding. Many times lessons are also taught regarding prayer, its role and importance in our lives, and about just what the Lord’s Supper means. Yet one aspect of our worship often does not have much said about it: the collection for the saints.
The command is given in 1 Cor. 16:1-2.
“Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.”
Just doing a quick read through of those two verses, it seems like such a simple command, but it is something that so many cannot seem to follow according to what God has written. Perhaps the most obvious ways that this passage, and the command to give as a whole, is taken out of context and twisted are when religious groups take up collections multiple times a week, use other methods for raising funds like bake sales or car washes, and use the money for purposes not authorized by the Bible. Is it any wonder that so many in the world have become jaded and suspicious of religious organizations, thinking that they are just trying to make money, instead of having a genuine interest in the lives and souls of those around them?
The idea of someone trying to use the gospel to make money is nothing new; such individuals are described in 1 Tim. 6:3-5.
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”
Sadly, people disregarding God’s authority when it comes to giving and the support & work of His Church are not going to go away anytime soon. False teaching has taken hold, and thus will continue to spread; our duty, then, is to boldly teach the truth as much as possible.
Yet as I stated, those are just the most obvious ways that this command is being taken wrongly. There are other ways that we may fall short, ones that we do not see being done on a daily basis by those in the denominational world. First of all, let us refer to 2 Cor. 9:6-7.
“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Again, most of the time, we do not have an issue with teaching and following part of this passage; we stress that in giving, it must be done cheerfully, a free will offering. But as much as we teach about not giving grudgingly, how often is it mentioned about doing so as one has decided in his/her heart? This really gets to the heart of the matter when it comes to how we are to give.
1. As we have prospered, so according to our income and ability
2. As we have purposed in our hearts, decided beforehand
Just those two principles outline what our offering to the collection for the saints is to be. Answer the simple question (and only you can answer it): How much have you prospered? Be careful not to think of this in only terms of a paycheck. How much has God blessed you over the past week? It is according to that which you should be giving. In addition, whatever you choose to give, have you purposed that in your heart? When & how did you decide what you would be giving? It should be something that you knew and planned before ever stepping a foot into the assembly. Hastily grabbing whatever you might happen to have on you out of your wallet/purse/whatever… does that really seem like purposing to you? If we are honest with ourselves, we recognize that it seems like just the opposite, a last-minute afterthought, not even a decision. Really, this thought goes back to every instance where an offering was made to God; during the age of the Patriarchs and under the Mosaic Law, they gave to the Lord first. What was intended for God was set aside, and then they provided for themselves. Do we truly think that He wants any less today? Paul commended the Macedonians for their generosity as such:
“For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints-and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” (2 Cor. 7:3-5)
Since we are talking about each person giving of their own accord, as they individually have prospered, no one but you can say whether you are giving as you should. There is no set amount, as the passages we have looked at tell us the concept of tithing, that is, ten percent, found under the Old Law, is not repeated in the New. So while no one else has a right to tell you what you should be giving, God’s Word very clearly commands us all how we are to be giving.
One aspect that I have not touched on yet is found in 1 Cor. 16. This giving, the collection taken up for the saints, was and is to be done every first day of the week. When it comes to studying the Scriptures, we harp on the Lord’s Supper and how it was observed on the first day of the week, and thus we, by God’s authority, remember Christ’s death on every Sunday. It would be plain to us that someone who only partook of the bread and the cup once a month was not following the Bible, yet do we adhere to the same strictness when it comes to the collection? If not, why not? The verse even says, “the first day of every week,” so why do so many not take that seriously? Trying to rationalize or justify things is something that we human beings do on a regular basis, but understand that the Lord has spoken. Do not try to get around your responsibility to His Church.
Please know that I am not saying all of this in an attempt to increase the collection numbers or to browbeat anyone. This issue is one that sadly is not touched upon nearly as much as other parts of God’s Word, yet it is a command for all Christians, and as such deserves our attention and obedience. At its core, giving of our means as we have prospered is about thankfulness; being grateful enough to the Lord to give back a portion, trusting that He will take care of us. The amount does not matter. What matters is that it is given willingly, on each first day of the week, and that we have put thought into what we will give to God.
Once given, that collection is for the saints- to further the cause of the gospel, and care for members of the Lord’s Church that have need. Without members giving willingly, cheerfully, how is the Church supposed to function? Each of us is important to this, no matter how much or how little we have. Contribute in giving, in singing, in praying, and in everything by giving God the glory!
Have you ever run into problems with computers or electronics? With how prevalent they are in our world today, and how often errors tend to occur, I am sure that you have at least a few times. When bugs & glitches rear their ugly heads, we might react in some different ways, ranging from smacking the device to just getting up and walking away, but generally, at some point we end up consulting the “Help” tab or the user manual to see how we can fix the problem. What comes next is referred to as “troubleshooting” and takes us through various methods to determine the source of the problem and then getting things working properly again.
First, we probably check to make sure the machine is plugged in to a power source or has batteries. Then, once that is known, we need to see if it has been turned on or not (leading to much embarrassment in a lot of cases). Then the questions get more varied. “Is there paper in the tray?” “Are there paper jams in any of the compartments?” “Is the toner or ink empty or installed improperly?” “Do you have the correct device driver installed?” The list goes on and on from there. Hopefully after a few minutes you find the trouble, hit the right buttons, and everything is running smoothly once more. It seems very tedious, but we have to make sure to ask all the pertinent questions to know for sure that we’ve fixed what was wrong rather than just cover up a symptom.
Let’s apply that same line of thinking to our lives. Likely the way in which we go through a similar line of questions is when we are getting ready to head out the door, either to work or to worship services or anywhere. Mentally we go down the list, checking to see that we have our keys, our wallets/purses, any tickets or papers we might need for the day, our Bibles, and also verifying that we have turned the stove off and locked the door. You have probably done the same thing at work, whether it is an accounting error like a typo, or a miscommunication between a driver and a foreman. You need to find where things got mixed up and set it right in order for the workday to continue. Otherwise, everything will be off-kilter.
But rather than talk about troubleshooting various areas of one’s life in general, I want to focus on spiritual things. For example, say that lately you have not felt very close to God. You believe in Him, and know what the Bible says, but just feel distant and even helpless. In order to do something about it, first you must determine why you feel that way. Has your faith been shaken by something you went through in the last couple days? The Scriptures teach us that our faith will be tested: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
Next, consider your recent activities. How much time have you been setting aside for the Lord, so you can dwell on spiritual things? Perhaps the reason why you feel distant is that you have been distant, having been too busy with work and hobbies to focus your mind on God and His will. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:7-8) When was the last time you prayed? Have you been resisting the devil? Do you study the Bible every day? Every week? One more thing: it is possible for someone who is diligently serving God to still feel far from Him, because we get into our heads and create feelings not based on facts. Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, “This was according to the eternal purpose that He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.” (Eph. 3:11-13)
If you have closely examined your life, studied God’s Word, are active in obeying His commands, and yet STILL feel like you are not close to the Lord, remind yourself that His grace allows us to have fellowship with Him. Through the blood of Jesus we can have confidence to know we are His children and can count on Him always!
Another specific example might be this: you attend worship services and Bible studies regularly, and yet you find yourself sitting in the pew on a Sunday morning not able to focus on what is being said and really getting nothing out of the service. You leave without being encouraged or any different than when you came in. There are a lot of ways to describe such a situation, like being stuck in a rut, but ultimately it is up to you to do the “spiritual troubleshooting” and figure out why you are not growing as you should. So, why could it be that you are not getting much if anything out of worship? The most obvious theory is that you are too distracted by the things of this world. Are you thinking about what you had for breakfast or what you might have for lunch? Do not let any plans you made for later take away from what you need to be doing in worshiping the Lord. Pay attention to the words of the songs; be certain that you are not just going through the motions. Put your heart into it! “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.” (Heb. 13:15)
However there could be another reason why it is hard for you to focus during services and feel like you are not being spiritually fed like you want to be. Consider the people around you; yes, while salvation is on an individual basis, we have brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we must assemble and share in fellowship toward God. How are your relationships with them? “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matt. 5:23-24)
A similar warning is given in 1 Pet. 3:7; “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” The simple message is this: if we are not taking care of our lives and relationships then it will affect us spiritually. Our prayers will be hindered. Troubleshoot yourself and find out what is going wrong, so that it can be fixed!
Have you ever made plans and been very particular about how you want them to turn out? For example, planning birthday celebrations for a loved one; you rent a place to hold a party, order food, buy decorations, invite guests, and make yourself busier than you ever have been? Many times the family member in question would not care about little details, as long as they can see the thoughtfulness you put into honoring them and wanting to celebrate, but it means a lot to you! You want everything to be just right- yet how often does that happen? Usually there are at least a couple mix-ups or other problems that make the reality not quite what we had pictured in our heads. The decorations are not the right color, or several invited guests cannot make it, or the food is cold; it’s always something, right?
The good thing is, in this life, most of the time the little details do not matter much. Oh, we might get caught up into thinking that they do, but that is what the Lord told us to avoid; He said to not worry about day-to-day things and instead seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Yes, in this life, we thankfully do not have to sweat the small stuff and worry about anything being perfect. Because we know that in this physical existence nothing is or ever will be perfect. As a result we ought to have patience and be flexible, adapting to change- so long as that change has only to do with the physical and not the spiritual, not the gospel. So what if our friends are running an hour behind schedule? It is not the end of the world. A name misspelled has not, to my knowledge, ever killed anyone.
Understand that building things, events, and even people up in our minds to some unrealistic standard will only hurt us in the end. Know that God tells us that time & chance happen to all, and that no one knows what the future holds. Make plans, sure, but do not be surprised (and certainly not upset) if those plans change or end up not happening at all.
All of that being said, there is one thing that we can look at which did, by its very nature, HAVE to be PERFECT, and that is the life of Jesus the Christ. What I mean by that is this: Jesus, who He is, what His life on Earth was, how it happened, how He died, everything, had to happen just so. It all had to be a certain way, and it was. Let’s explain in detail.
First of all, Jesus had to be born. I seriously doubt that anyone would debate that for any real length of time. Yes, He had to be born, but not just any birth: He had to be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”) Jesus had to also be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) during the time of the Roman Empire (Daniel 2:40-44). We could go on and on, but you get the picture. These points regarding just His miraculous birth also apply to the rest of His life and His death and His resurrection as well, in that it had to fulfill all prophecy concerning the Christ. If Jesus had been born, lived, died, and even rose from the dead, fulfilling just some or most of the Old Testament prophecies, then none of it would have mattered.
Secondly, we must mention the manner of Jesus’ life on Earth. There certainly is a lot that can be said: He came from a lowly birth, was said to be nothing special to look at, and lived humbly as a servant. Yes, His life is the ultimate example of serving others. But what is the one thing that is pointed out above all others regarding the life of Jesus? The fact that He was perfect, that He was innocent, without sin (Heb. 4:15). What if this “little detail” was off? What if Jesus was miraculously born, lived a life of service, died, rose again, and ascended into Heaven, only He was guilty of a sin or two? I submit to you that none of it would have mattered. His life HAD to be perfect because His death HAD to be perfect. If He sinned, how would He have been any different from you or I?
Now we might say, “What about His death?” Did Jesus HAVE to die? Well, yes, clearly He did; He prayed to the Father that there might be some other way, but the Father said no. It was established that there must be a perfect sacrifice to take away the sins of the world. Furthermore, it was established as to what kind of death He would have to endure (Gal. 3:13). Again, speculating, what if that changed? What if Jesus was born, lived without any sin, but after so long just ascended back into Heaven without dying? Then in that case He would not be our Savior. Is it any wonder He commanded us to remember His death (Luke 22:19-20)?
Of course we know that things did not end with Jesus dying on the cross; He rose again on the third day. But- and stay with me here- what if He hadn’t? So Jesus was not raised from the dead, He still freely offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sins, right? Wrong. If He had died, even being without sin, and not risen again, His death would not be special at all. Understand that individuals die without sin all the time; I speak of course about young children. No, it was not enough for Jesus to die. He had to be risen, as He promised, on the third day. And even His resurrection had to be just so- it had to be bodily, not just a spirit, AND He had to rise to never die again. If Jesus rose from the dead, and then lived on a normal life to one day later naturally die, He would be no different from the widow’s son (1 Kings 17:22-23) or Lazarus (John 11:43-44).
So beyond His birth, more than His life, and in addition to His death, Jesus had to never die again; He had to ascend into Heaven. What if He had not? What if He had risen and remained on Earth? Well, for one, that would make Him a liar; He said His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). No, He had to go back into Heaven, promising that He will one day come again to claim His own.
I say all of this to make what point, you might be wondering. Simply: we cannot pick and choose. It all had to happen, exactly the way it did, for very good reason. We cannot say that His death is more important than His life, or his birth any more significant than His ascension. Everything about Jesus had to be (and was, and is) PERFECT. God knew what He was doing when He designed the scheme of redemption. Know that so much of what we plan will never be perfect or turn out exactly as we want it to, but with God, His plan is perfect. It all came together just as it needed to. Thanks be to God for such a Savior!
In 1 Timothy 6:11-16 it says, “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”
So what is, according to scriptures, the good confession? That phrase in today’s religious climate might make us think of some rehearsed ritual where certain words have to be said in exactly the right order because of centuries of tradition. Well, to take a good look at the question, we must examine the context of not only this passage but others that describe confessing as well.
To begin with, in the above verses Paul (inspired by the Spirit) tells Timothy that the good confession he made before many witnesses about the eternal life to which he was called. So what did Timothy confess? He confessed to the grace of God, the blood of Jesus which had forgiven his sins and called him to eternal life. Also, please note that this same passages mentions that Christ himself made the good confession in front of Pilate. But Jesus never committed sin. He died for our sins, not his
So what does it mean when it says that He made the good confession as well?
Again, to correctly find the answer, we have to look at the context, which in this case is Jesus on trial before Pilate. In John 18:36-37 it says, “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’ Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’”
Looking at what Christ said, what is it that He confessed? He confessed that He is a king. We also see in the accounts that He told Pilate that Pilate had no authority over Him except for what God had allowed, showing that Jesus has actual authority. Now it is clear what is meant by “the good confession” It means confessing that Jesus is the Son of God, the King of Kings, that He is who He says He is. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, for us now this means confessing that He died for our sins and rose again- confessing our faith that the gospel is true. All of this is simply the logical conclusion to believing that Jesus is the Son of God.
So often we bring up confession when it comes to conversion, and for good reason- we see that it is a step in God’s plan of salvation. “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:8-9)
“So everyone who confesses me before men, I also will confess before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32-33)
There is no doubt in reading & understanding the Bible that confessing who Jesus is and what He has done is essential. God wants us to believe in Him and He wants us to be willing to admit to it publicly! No wonder that making public confession is seen before one is baptized into Christ “And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he replied, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.” (acts 8:36-38) What use are we to the Lord if we are too afraid to confess that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for us, the very foundation of our faith?! This brings me to my final point, which is that confessing Christ, confessing our faith, and sharing it with others is NOT something seen & done only once prior to baptism. As Christians we should be confessing Christ daily! So why don’t we? What makes us so busy that we cannot mention our trust in the Bible, or scares us so much that we dare not let it be known that Jesus is God? Perhaps our pride gets in the way. Maybe we listen to Satan when he tells us that it would just be easier to keep things to ourselves. Either way, we let opportunities pass us by that we should be jumping on to let others know about salvation through Christ.
Remember what Paul said: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Rom. 1:16-17) Bear in mind that this is the alternative; if we do not confess God, if we do not confess faith in Christ and His power to save, then we are ashamed of Him!
Have you, in your life, made the good confession? You must to become a faithful child of God. And after being reconciled to Him, you must be willing to confess your faith!