Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap.
What exactly does it mean to mock God?
The Greek word used here in this verse is,
mukterizo (mook-tay-rid’-zo) specifically having to do with the nostrils,
to turn up the nose or sneer at, to mock
Merriam-Webster defines the word,
to treat with contempt or ridicule
to jeer or scoff at
to defy or challenge
Mockery always finds its source in an attitude of pride. To have an upturned nose, and to look down upon someone or something. There are several occasions in the Old Testament where God responds to this kind of prideful mockery.
Zephaniah 2:8-10 (God pronounces judgment on Moab and Ammon)
“I have heard the reproach of Moab and the insults of the Ammonites, who have taunted My people and threatened their borders.
Therefore, as surely as I live,” declares the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel, “surely Moab will be like Sodom and the Ammonites like Gomorrah—a place of weeds and salt pits, a perpetual wasteland. The remnant of My people will plunder them; the remainder of My nation will dispossess them. This they shall have in return for their pride, for taunting and mocking the people of the LORD of Hosts.”
2 Chronicles 36:15-16 (The Fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar)
Again and again the LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to His people through His messengers because He had compassion on them and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despising His words and scoffing at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD against His people was stirred up beyond remedy.
Notice how verse 16 says, “despising His words.”
To mock God does not always mean blatantly ridiculing His divine character or Holy name.
More often, it has to do with making a mockery of His statutes and principles by disregarding His wisdom and instructions and thereby showing contempt for His Word. Whenever we turn our nose up and scoff at God’s Word, or when we attempt to oppose and defy His will, we are in essence mocking His very nature.
We are assuming that we’re able to establish our own kingdom, to pursue our own endeavors by whatever means we deem necessary, and without all the hoopla of having to adhere to some rigorous moral standards.
The Word of God makes clear that we are to exemplify His goodness in all that we do, so that it may go well with us and that we may prosper. There is an established paradigm.
However, if I am able to achieve my own success by way of selfish shortcuts and treacherous dealings, then I didn’t have to bother myself with some ‘divine dictator’ or ‘religious rulebook.’
If such were possible, then I will have made a mockery of God’s Word.
He says in His Word, “it must be done this way,” but I do it my own way instead.
For instance, let’s say that I’m a hotshot business investor, and with the goal of growing my own company name, I’ve seen fit to lie and cheat and backstab, in order to come out ahead of the competition and acquire the most profit. By all outward observation, it would appear as though I’ve prospered. That my selfish ambition and greed has paid off. I will have managed to achieve personal success and accomplish my goal, even if it were at the expense of others. After all, what’s that to me, now that I’ve gotten what I wanted all along?
My way has paid off in the end right? No.
Let’s go back to Galatians 6:7
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap.
Here, Paul writes of a divine principle that is universal and unchanging. This truth is communicated by using an agricultural understanding of sowing and reaping. Whatever type of seed a person chooses to plant, this is the same type of crop they can expect to harvest. One should not plant vineyards of tomatoes and expect to harvest bushels of strawberries instead.
You may be sure of this, that whatever is sown and cultivated, this is what shall be reaped.
Keep in mind that this analogy was given in a time well before the conveniences of grocery stores and fast food shops. There weren’t options on every corner. This is also why seasons of rain and harvest times were so important. The simple fact was that whatever you reap is what you will have to eat.
This Scripture begins with a warning, “Do not be deceived.” Obviously, this implies the potential of falling into deception and error. How might one become deceived in this? The answer is found in the latter half of the verse, which gives the example of sowing and reaping. In the process of agriculture, the cause and the effect are not immediately evident. There is always a lapse in time between the sowing and the reaping. Between that which is buried beneath the soil, and that which manifests to the surface.
A person might be able to fool themselves for a time, into believing that sowing seeds of selfishness and unrighteousness will yield more benefit than sowing seeds of sacrifice and servitude for the sake of God’s will.
But this is not so. As we see in the following verse,
For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.
The Greek word used here for ‘corruption’ conveys the process of decomposition which takes place in death. Paul is saying that the one who sows in order to satisfy their flesh, will from the flesh reap the corruption or decay of death. It is fleeting and empty. Worthless.
On the other hand, the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap life which is everlasting. It is eternal. Priceless.
Therefore, sowing is very similar to investing. Whenever someone chooses to make an investment, the wise decision is to invest in something which appreciates in value, rather than depreciates.
Sowing to the flesh is investing into that which is and perishable and passing away. There is no lasting substance.
The wicked earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness will reap a sure reward.
Notice the stark contrast.
The Hebrew word used for deceptive is
sheqer (sheh’-ker) deceitful, falsehood, fraudulent
that which deceives, disappoints, or betrays
The wages of sin are deceitful and fraudulent. Although they typically provide a measure of instant gratification, they will inevitably disappoint and betray the one who trusts in them. They promise, but cannot deliver. In the end, they always take more than they ever give.
Whereas, the one who sows in righteousness will reap a sure reward. It is certain, guaranteed.
These men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives.
Such are the ways of all who are greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.
Notice that those who are plotting an ambush for the lives of the righteous, actually end up losing their own blood.
See, you assume you have succeeded in taking something, that it has added to you, when the truth is, it has actually robbed you. It is not gain but loss.
Judas Iscariot thought he was making a good investment when he betrayed Jesus for the thirty pieces of silver. Yet, once he realized the worthlessness of those coins in light of the sin he had just committed, he attempted to return the silver and then went and hung himself.
A life is built in the same way a building is constructed.
One brick at a time.
Throughout our lives, we make choices one situation at a time, moment by moment.
And with each of these momentary decisions, we set in place another brick.
Therefore, the kind of life and character that is built from our decision-making depends upon the countless individual choices that went into its construction. In essence, we are the culmination of our choices.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
There’s a similar idea put forth from American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”
We have this concept where we’re constantly distinguishing the ‘big things’ from the ‘little things.’
But the truth is, the big things are made up of the little things. It is by remaining consistent and faithful in the small matters, that we are preparing ourselves for the larger matters.
While it’s certainly true that some decisions have more significant ramifications than others, the focus of attention should not be so much on the decision, but on the decider.
If we are to get to the source, we must first identify the character.
Jesus Himself says,
“Whoever is faithful with very little will also be faithful with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
It’s about integrity and consistency.
As it’s written in 2 Corinthians 5:17- If you are in Christ, then you are a new creation, the old things have passed away. He has now placed His Spirit within you and He has given you a new nature.
Scripture teaches us that righteousness is something we practice, something we exercise. It must be expressed. There’s a phrase in martial arts, “You become how you train.”
Whatever individual circumstances may arise, these are simply opportunities which allow for the expression of whatever the inner nature consists of.
1 John 2:29
If you know that He is righteous, you also know that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him.
1 John 3:7
Little children, let no one lead you astray; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.
According to the spiritual, what you sow, you also reap. And what you reap, you must eat.
Therefore, you inevitably become synonymous to that which you cultivate and produce.
Now do you begin to see how sowing to the Spirit produces life, while sowing to the flesh produces death?
But what exactly does this mean, sowing to the Spirit?
Simply put, it means investing yourself in the things of God, which are Spiritual rather than carnal.
John 4:23-24 Jesus says,
”But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
Notice how the Lord specifically says that the flesh profits nothing.
Earlier we mentioned the analogy of investing. A wise man does not continue to invest into that which is worthless.
To sow to the Spirit means to walk by the Spirit.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (One step at a time)
The phrase, “keep in step” is an idiom which means to pattern or conform yourself to the rhythm or behavior of someone or something else.
The Greek word used here is stoicheo (stoy-keh’-o)
meaning to follow after, walk in order
military terminology: to proceed in a row as in the march of a soldier
As believers, we are not to keep in step, or be conformed to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2).
Instead, we are to keep in step, or be conformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
Whatever you cultivate, that is what flourishes. To sow to the flesh speaks of continually gratifying the carnal, sinful nature. It’s like the old Native American proverb, where the grandfather explains to his grandson how there are two wolves at war within each of us. One wolf represents evil, anger, envy, greed, and falsehood.
The other wolf represents goodness, love, joy, peace, kindness, and honesty.
When the boy asks which of the two wolves wins, the grandfather replies, “The one that you feed.”
Which wolf are you feeding? Which type of seed are you sowing and cultivating?
As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.
You cannot choose to sow to the flesh time and time again, day after day, and then find it a strange thing to reap a harvest of corruption in your life.
Paul goes on to give examples of what comes from the flesh as opposed to what comes from the Spirit.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I have before, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Sowing to the Spirit means abiding in Christ and in His Word.
Therefore, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
John 15:1-2, 5
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”
“I am the vine and you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.”
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.”
These Spiritual fruits will be evident in the lives of those who walk by the Spirit, who are abiding in the true vine of Christ Jesus. Notice how the Lord said, “apart from Me, you can do nothing.” The fruit of the Spirit does not originate within ourselves, but comes through Christ, the vine in whom we are rooted.
The fruit which comes forth bears witness to the inward nature.
“By their fruit you will recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”
“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
Yet wisdom is vindicated by her actions.”
to provide justification or defense for
to confirm, to substantiate
In other words, wisdom is proven by what it produces.
Each new day, we encounter hundreds of opportunities to sow seed in either one field or the other.
With every moment, every choice, every action, we are sowing to either the flesh or to the Spirit.
While this concept may seem overwhelming, the truth is, there’s actually a beautiful simplicity and peace which comes in the ability to render down each situation, each predicament, regardless of its size, and to see through the haze of confusion, to part the waters of distraction so to speak, and ask yourself, ‘What is my ultimate intention here? My motivation? Will this bring life or death? Righteousness or wickedness? Which wolf will this feed?’
And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not give up.
Here is that lapse in time again, the time between the sowing and the reaping, between the planting and the harvesting. Paul gives us an absolute, a guarantee: “In due season we shall reap, IF we do not give up.”
In due season, or at the appropriate time.
Every farmer must learn this kind of patience. They do not immediately expect to see the harvest of what they’ve sown. They understand there is a process which takes time.
Herein lies the importance of not losing heart. The phrase used here for “lose heart” is translated from the Greek word ekkakeo (ek-kak-eh’-o) which means ‘to be utterly spiritless’, ‘to be wearied out’, or ‘exhausted.’
The implication is to fail in heart.
This type of discouragement can be used to describe the weariness a woman experiences during childbirth. Before the delivery, the labor is exhausting work, both difficult and painful. Just when it seems to be unrewarded and all for naught, that’s when the baby comes forth.
2 Thessalonians 3:13
But as for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.
We are given encouragements against both of these
Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.
He who goes out weeping, bearing seed for sowing, will surely return with shouts of joy, carrying sheaves with him.
This is to illustrate the point that although there will be seasons of struggle and of difficulty, we are to remain faithful in our sowing, so that when the time for harvest comes, we may be able to reap that which we’ve sown with joy and gladness.
Despite experiencing times of trial and hardship, let us not become discouraged and lose sight of our hope.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon comments of this verse:
“They who sow unto the spirit sow in tears, for sowing unto the spirit involves self-denial, struggling against the flesh, running counter to the instincts of our fallen nature. To sow unto the spirit, is to sow in the field of obedience and patient endurance.
While for now, our tears may fall with the precious seed, our momentary weeping is scarcely to be thought of in comparison with the sheaves of exceeding glory in the land where tears are divinely and finally wiped from every eye.”
Here in these few verses from Galatians, we are given three primary encouragements: “Do not be deceived,” “do not lose heart,” and “do not grow weary.”
As believers, there are certainly times when we labor in doing good, but seem to see no real fruit. We pray, we witness, we give, we serve, but nothing outwardly appears to be producing any results.
This is why we must not judge based upon appearances.
As our Lord instructed,
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
We walk by faith not by sight. Whenever a seed is planted into the ground, it’s buried beneath the soil, out of sight. By all outward observation, it’s gone. But the truth is, although it is no longer visible, it’s still there and it is going to work, beginning to sprout and spread its roots.
Faith is trusting this process of growth even though we cannot see the results at the moment.
Although we may not fully understand the intricacies of its inner workings, we can still be sure that it is indeed at work.
The physician Luke is the only gospel writer to include the account of Zacchaeus, the short tax collector from Jericho who climbed a sycamore tree in order to get a view of Jesus.
He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received Him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Ironically, the name Zacchaeus comes from the Hebrew root word meaning ‘pure’ or ‘righteous’, but as a chief tax collector, this man would’ve been seen as anything but pure or righteous. Tax collectors, also known as ‘publicans’, were independent contractors commissioned by the Roman government in order to collect the various taxes, which included: income, land, property, commerce, etc. Rome would auction up these tax franchises, which would then be bought by a wealthy native of the province. Anything the purchaser might have collected above the cost of the franchise would be kept as personal profit. As you can imagine, this was a system ripe for injustice and corruption.
The collection agent would line their own pockets by charging an additional percentage on top of the taxes already owed. In the cases with merchants for example, the tax collector would arbitrarily assess the value of the goods being sold, and then charge an inflated payment for that amount. They were also known for accepting bribes and hush money from the wealthy upper class, who would typically be expected to pay more in taxes. So, in order to make up the difference for these underhanded tax breaks, the collector would then charge the common people even more. There was no recourse or method of appeal since these individuals were authorized by the Roman government. Basically, it was legalized extortion.
Not hard to imagine then, why these tax collectors were often socially despised and rejected by their fellow countrymen. They were seen as being in collusion with Rome, and therefore were viewed as traitors to their nation. An ever-present reminder of the foreign oppression.
Because of their close working association with Gentiles, tax collectors were thought of as ‘unclean,’ and were regarded along with the lowest class of sinners. They were excommunicated from all Jewish synagogues, and were not even permitted to testify in a Jewish legal court, since they were well known for being liars and cheats.
Earlier in chapter 3, Luke records that even tax collectors were among those coming out to John in the wilderness in order to be baptized.
Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he answered them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to.” (Luke 3:12-13)
When they ask John, “What shall we do?” He instructs them to no longer collect more than what is due.
In verse 2, we’re told that Zacchaeus was a ‘chief tax collector.’ So he was the head contractor of this franchise, the top of the tax pyramid, and therefore he would’ve had other collection agents working under him. It wouldn’t be surprising if he were receiving an additional percentage from each of their commissions as well. We’re also told from the text that he was rich.
The city of Jericho was considered as the tax capitol for Palestine. Located in the Jordan valley about 17 miles east from Jerusalem, it was a wealthy center of commerce and travel. Just as we see Jesus and His disciples passing through here, thousands of other travelers would’ve passed through this area, making their way to Jerusalem for the Passover feast.
Jericho, which literally means “fragrant place,” was also referred to as the ‘City of Palms’ (see Deuteronomy 34:3), being known for its many date-palm trees. A lush oasis with plenty of vegetation and therefore a high agricultural area, even to this day. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote of it as “a divine region, the fattest in Palestine.”
Interestingly, Jericho is considered to be one of the oldest continually-inhabited cities in the world, with archaeological discoveries dating back to 9,000 B.C. Located on the northern end of the Dead Sea, it is also the world’s lowest geographical city at about 780 feet below sea level. Because of its warmer climate, Herod the great actually had a winter palace built there for himself, which brought even more wealth to the area.
So Jericho was a choice location for a man of Zacchaeus’ profession, and we see that he had indeed been financially successful up to this point.
In verse 3 we read, ‘He was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, for he was small in stature.’
Why does he want to get a look at Jesus? To see who this man was?
A mild curiosity perhaps, to see this Rabbi from Galilee that everyone was talking about. Or rather, and this is the direction I lean, perhaps there was something deeper at work below the surface. An undefined drawing within him to this compelling source of goodness that was radiated from Christ. Maybe he has heard of the compassion that Jesus displayed even for men like Him. After all, He had accepted a former tax collector named Matthew to become one of His disciples.
Even if it were on some subconscious level, I believe there was this feeling of discontentedness, a knowledge that all was not right between himself and the Lord God.
Despite all of his acquired riches, there is something missing in Zacchaeus’ life.
There’s an emptiness.
It’s not uncommon to hear of testimonials from celebrities, who, despite all the wealth and the fame, still claim to have a pervasive feeling of discontentment, unhappiness, and unfulfillment.
So often we tend to fix our gaze on material possessions, not realizing that these temporal things can never truly satisfy.
Jesus Himself specifically warns against this in Luke chapter 12 verse 15:
“Take care, and be on your guard against all forms of greed, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
It reminds me of the superficial slogan: “He who dies with the most toys wins.”
What a sad sentiment. The truth is, he who dies with the most toys still dies, and cannot take any of those so-called toys along with him. You will never see a u-haul being pulled behind a hearse.
Due to his being short in stature, and because of the large crowd of people, Zacchaeus was unable to get a visual of Jesus. So In verse 4 we’re told that he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass by that way. This type of sycamore fig actually makes for an easy tree to climb because of their shorter trunks, which are closer to the ground, and for the way their limbs branch out in a crown-like fashion.
Surely this would’ve been an amusing sight to see. Consider for a moment, this well-known rich man, a chief publican, arrayed in his fine apparel no doubt, shimmying up into the leaves and branches of this tree. While this certainly sounds like fun to us, understand that in the culture at the time, this would’ve been seen as undignified behavior for a grown man. Think about it, who climbs trees? Children. Zacchaeus was unknowingly fulfilling Jesus’ teaching about becoming childlike in Matthew chapter 18,
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to Him a child, He placed him in the midst of them and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you shall never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-4)
I like what Matthew Henry writes about this in his commentary, “Children, when they are young, do not desire authority, do not regard outward distinctions, are free from malice, are teachable and dependent upon their parents. Children for the most part, are destitute of ambition, pride, and haughtiness.”
Onlookers would’ve undoubtedly been snickering and jesting, but Zacchaeus wasn’t concerned about any humiliation this action might’ve warranted against him. All he cared about in that moment was finding a way to get a better look at Jesus.
See, we display how valuable or important a particular thing is to us by the tenacity in which we are willing to seek after it.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
May all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; may those who love Your Salvation say continually, “The LORD be magnified!” (Psalm 40:16)
Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.
We see that this is exactly what Zacchaeus is doing here, seeking the LORD while He is near. In fact, this would be the very last time that Jesus would ever pass through this way. He is making His way into Jerusalem for what is now known as the ‘Triumphal Entry.’ Within about a week’s time, He will be scourged and crucified.
In verse 5, whenever Jesus had made His way over to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”
This is actually quite humorous to consider. Here is short little Zacchaeus perched up in this tree, and for all he’s thinking, is that now he has achieved a way to at least catch a glimpse of Jesus as He and the crowd make their way past. The last thing that was on his mind is that Jesus would somehow turn His attention towards him. He wanted to see Jesus, not to be seen by Him. Imagine though, instead of this large procession simply passing on by, they all come to a halt right here beneath this tree. And there He is, there’s Jesus. And Jesus looks up and sees Zacchaeus amongst the branches, and He calls to him by name, and tells him to hurry down, because He’s coming home with him.
The searching sinner meets the seeking Savior.
This is the first and only time we read that Jesus invites Himself to someone’s home.
Another indication that this was far more than merely a superficial curiosity on the part of Zacchaeus. There was something else at work in the soil of his heart, which our Lord fosters into life by His self-invitation.
Notice too, how Jesus uses language that seems to speak of necessity. “For today I must stay at your house.” Is this an accidental encounter?
Jesus chooses to momentarily pause His steadfast path towards the cross, in order to have fellowship in this man’s home.
And how does Zacchaeus respond?
Verse 6 says, ‘So he hurried and came down and received Him joyfully.’
Although it is Christ who initiates the interaction, and extends His own invitation, Zacchaeus received Him joyfully.
This is a perfect illustration of Jesus’ words in Revelation chapter 3 verse 20,
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)
Jesus takes the initiative. He approaches, He stands at the door and knocks. But He in turn must be received, welcomed into the home, and into the heart.
Zacchaeus received Him joyfully, or with gladness. There is a delight in truly receiving the Lord. You cannot twist a person’s arm to bring about a profession of faith. No one can be argued into the kingdom of heaven. But when the Holy Spirit is at work in a person’s heart, and Christ extends His salvation, that person does not come reluctantly, but joyfully.
Notice then, the reaction of the people in verse 7, ‘And when they saw it, they all grumbled, saying, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”
Even more surprised than Zacchaeus, are these onlookers who question,
“How can You possibly have fellowship with this wretched sinner? This traitor?”
“Don’t You realize what kind of man this is? How he’s acquired all his wealth? What he’s done to us?”
I always appreciated the scene in the old movie Jesus of Nazareth, where Jesus is invited into Matthew the tax collector’s home. We see a similar situation in which the people are grumbling, and someone asks Him, “You would enter the house of a sinner?” And Jesus responds, “I would enter any house where I am welcomed.” He goes on to say, “For I’ve not come to call the virtuous to repentance but the sinners.”
This scenario can be found scripturally in Luke chapter 5 verses 29-32,
Then Levi hosted a great banquet for Jesus at his house. A large crowd of tax collectors was there, along with others who were eating with them. But the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled to His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:29-32)
In this same situation recorded in Matthew chapter 9 verse 13, Jesus makes reference to the book of Hosea chapter 6 verse 6 when He says,
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13)
Why did the eternal Son take on fleshly humanity and dwell among us?
To seek and to save that which was lost.
Why did He offer to enter this publican’s home to be his guest, and at the sneers of the crowd, to associate Himself with the outcast?
For that very same reason.
Alexander MacLaren writes of this, “His example is our pattern. A Christian church which does not imitate its Master in its frank and continual willingness to associate itself with the degraded and the outcast has lost one of the truest signs of its being vitalized with the life of Christ.”
In verse 8, Zacchaeus stands up and says 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 restore it fourfold.”
In receiving Jesus with gladness, and spending just a brief amount of time within His presence, Zacchaeus felt the holy conviction of his sin and therefore naturally knew that he must repent and make full restitution to the many persons he had undoubtedly wronged.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon writes, “Jesus Christ did not teach Zacchaeus by going to his house that character was of no consequence. On the contrary, Zacchaeus perceived at once that character was of the greatest consequence.”
At first glance, it may almost appear as if he’s casting some doubt to his own cheating conduct. But this phrase in Greek, ‘If I have defrauded anyone” does not imply doubt to the fact of guilt, but is better understood as “wherever I have defrauded anyone” or “In so far as I have defrauded anyone.”
The Law required that the wrongdoer was to make full restitution for whatever was taken, plus an additional 20% of the item’s value. (See Leviticus 6:5, Numbers 5:6-7)
Zacchaeus is willing to go above and beyond that which the law required. This is a man who previously, so desired money that he was willing to cheat and lie and to take advantage of his own people, and therefore to be alienated and despised by society. He had a love of money. His sole desire was to “get rich”, to “make that hustle.” And that is exactly what he was, a hustler. A swindler.
In Matthew chapter 6 verse 24 Jesus says,
“No one can serve two masters: Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
What are you serving?
We see here that there is a drastic change in Zacchaeus’ priorities. A shift in his focus. Now he says to Jesus, “Lord,” that is, ‘Master’, this denotes authority, ownership. “I no longer care about the money. I’ll give half of it away to help the poor, and with the rest I’ll make four times the restitution to those I’ve swindled. It’s no longer the money that I want to serve, Lord it’s you.”
One of the chief evidences of a true conversion is a reorientation when it comes to the material world. Lost individuals live as though the material world is all there is. Their focus is set on the treasures and the indulgences of this world. While saved individuals understand of heavenly realities, and therefore set their primary focus upon the spiritual rather than the natural.
Whenever Zacchaeus stands and gives this public declaration of his repentance, he is not seeking to be justified by his works, but by his good works he will now show the sincerity of his conversion. This is not the grounds or the means by which he is saved, but this is the natural evidence of that reality, the outward expression of that salvation.
Does your life demonstrate change? Does it reflect the grace and influence Christ has upon you? Do you live as though He has saved you? Are you being conformed into His image? Or are you still that same old crook?
We know that this is indeed a genuine conversion, because in verse 9, Jesus says to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham.”
I’ve always enjoyed this play on words that the Lord uses here. His very name Jesus, or Yeshua in Hebrew, literally means ‘salvation.’ A combination of ‘Yah’ or the name of God, and ‘Yasha’ meaning ‘to save, rescue or deliver.’ This is why the angel of the Lord instructed this name to be given to Him.
“She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
So in one sense, salvation had indeed come to this home that day, the actual embodiment of salvation, the Savior Jesus Christ. And in another sense, salvation had come in that Zacchaeus had now received and entered into the source of that saving mercy and grace.
This is a beautiful revelation of the Lord Jesus. That whenever we come to Christ in salvation, He not only delivers us from the penalties of sin, but He also delivers us from its bondage, the ongoing habitual nature and power of that sin. He sets us free completely, and thereby changes our focus, our priorities, and our very nature.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Now, why does Jesus say, “because he also is a son of Abraham”?
Because although Zacchaeus was indeed a physical descendant of Abraham by birth- It was only according to the flesh, in the natural.
As the apostle Paul makes clear in Romans chapter 9 verses 7-8,
Not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants. So it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise who are
regarded as offspring. (Romans 9:7-8)
And again in Galatians chapter 3 verse 7,
Understand then, that it is those of faith who are the children of Abraham.
So it is here, as Zacchaeus professes his repentance and belief on the Lord, that Jesus now says he is truly a son of Abraham according to faith.
And lastly, the beautiful closing words of Christ in verse 10, “For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus says of Himself, that He came on a search and rescue mission.
This reminds me of when Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep earlier in Luke
chapter 15 verses 1-7
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He told them this parable: “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the pasture and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ In the same way, I tell you that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
The physician Luke is the only Gospel writer to include an account about Zacchaeus, the short tax collector from Jericho who climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus. Join me in this seventh episode of the podcast, as we take a closer look into this story to see what details we can learn from this man’s encounter with Salvation.
Are you aware that wealth does not exclusively involve money or possessions?
The truest forms of wealth are those things which money could never buy. Things like contentment, joy, love, spiritual health and well-being.
Do you realize how valuable peace of mind is? Or the ability to sleep sweetly at night?
Simple pleasures that are so easily overlooked or taken for granted.
When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. (Proverbs 3:24)
This is how someone may outwardly own many possessions, expensive clothing, and a large bank account, but inwardly be destitute.
“For you say, ‘I am rich, I have grown wealthy and need nothing.’ Not realizing that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:17)
Or how another could seemingly be lowly and in poverty, but truthfully be rich.
“I know your afflictions and your poverty- yet you are rich” (Revelation 2:9)
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says,
“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked. (Psalm 37:16)
Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fattened ox and hatred with it. (Proverbs 15:16-17)
King Solomon writes,
Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift from God. (Ecclesiastes 5:19)
Notice how it is God who not only provides the wealth and possessions, but also supplies the ability to be able to enjoy them.
This is why Paul writes in his letter to Timothy,
“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6)
According to Christ, we are to have a kingdom first mindset.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)
So where is your wealth?
In this very first episode of the podcast, we will be studying the Miracle of Jesus at the wedding in Cana, as recorded in the Gospel of John Chapter 2 verses 1-11.
He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house.
Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”
When the scribes heard Jesus forgiving the man’s sins, they asked, “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!” (Mark 2:7)
Jesus then asked which would be easier to say to a paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven” or “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk”?
According to The Wycliffe Bible Commentary:
‘This is an unanswerable question. The statements are equally simple to pronounce; but to say either, with accompanying performance, requires divine power. An imposter, of course, in seeking to avoid detection, would find the former easier.
Jesus proceeded to heal the illness so that men might know that he had the authority to deal with its cause.’
“None on earth has either the authority or the right to forgive sin. None could forgive sin save the One against whom all have sinned. When Christ forgave sin, as He certainly did, He was not exercising a human prerogative. Since none but God can forgive sins, it is conclusively demonstrated that Christ, since He forgave sins, is God.”
-Lewis Sperry Chafer, Founder & President of Dallas Theological Seminary
The paralytic had not sinned against the man Jesus; the two men had never even seen each other before. The paralytic had sinned against God. Then along comes Jesus, who under His own authority says, “Your sins are forgiven.” We may forgive sins committed against us personally, but in no way can anyone forgive sins committed against God except God Himself. Yet this is exactly what Jesus claimed to do. It is no wonder therefore, why the Jewish leaders reacted so violently at these claims Christ made.
Resolving Conflict from a Biblical Perspective
a strong disagreement or argument
a state of disharmony or opposition
synonyms: dispute, quarrel, strife, dissension, discord, division
As flawed human beings with a carnal fallen nature, it is inevitable that we will experience conflict and strife amongst one another. Just as the word suggests, conflict is caused by conflicting ideas, goals, motives, opinions, perspectives, values, etc.
Conflicts happen within our families, our marriages, our friends, and our co-workers. As individuals, we don’t always see eye to eye on certain issues and thus, conflicts arise.
Because conflict ultimately causes division- the ultimate goal of resolving conflict should be unity.
to settle or find a solution to a problem, dispute, or contentious matter.
synonyms: settle, solve, rectify, amend
Conflict resolution is the process of trying to find a solution to a conflict.
Ideally, conflict resolution is a collaborative and cooperative communication process that leads to an agreement in which both groups or individuals feel satisfied with. When conflict is resolved in a healthy way, it increases our understanding of one another, builds trust, and strengthens the bonds of our relationships.
Conflict left unresolved can eventually grow into bitterness, resentment, and ultimately even hatred. For this reason, it is best to address and attempt to resolve these conflicts as soon as they arise.
Often times, we try to avoid the issue of the conflict in hopes that it will dissipate on its own, given enough time.
However, avoidance only delays the issue, allowing it to boil beneath the surface before future outbursts.
The sooner we begin to resolve the conflict, the easier it will be to resolve.
Therefore, do not wait. Do not allow the issue to grow into something worse than it already is.
In Matthew chapter five, Jesus Himself instructs us, “come to terms quickly with your adversary.” -Matthew 5:25
So what is the source of conflict?
In Chapter 4 of his epistle, James presents this question and then provides the answer
What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?
Is not the source your pleasures that wage war within you?
You lust and do not have, so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
Did you catch the recurring theme in that passage?
Envy and jealousy are two major causes for conflicts, and these both stem from selfishness.
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving like mere men?
-1 Corinthians 3:1-3
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.
This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
A major step in resolving as well as preventing conflict, is by being thoughtful and considerate of others instead of being self-centered.
I believe this is why the New Testament has so much to say in regard to considering others above ourselves.
Let love be without hypocrisy (genuine). Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.
Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
-1 Corinthians 10:24
Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility regard others as more significant than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
Another key step in preventing and resolving conflict, is through the pursuit of peace.
Peace is the antithesis of strife, which is why we are repeatedly instructed to seek peace with one another.
Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
-Psalm 34:14 (also 1 Peter3:11)
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Therefore, let us pursue what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
Finally, brothers, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
-2 Corinthians 13:11
Therefore I, a prisoner for the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged
-2 Timothy 2:22-24
Pursue peace with all men, and sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Love thy neighbor as thyself.
The truth is- before we can ever honestly learn to act selflessly or be considerate of others, we must first learn to have the correct motivation.
Jesus Christ Himself makes it clear, that our chief motivation is to be love.
One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question to test Him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, ” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the great and first commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
“This I command you, that you love one another.”
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
Let love (agape) be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love (philadelphia). Honor one another above yourselves.
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
-1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Let all that you do be done in love.
-1 Corinthians 16:14
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Therefore I, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, being diligent to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any comfort from love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, complete my joy by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against another, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater
-2 Thessalonians 1:3
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
-1 Timothy 1:5
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful, and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good works
Choosing our words carefully.
As Proverbs 18:21 states, death and life are in the power of the tongue.
This is why we must continually be mindful of how we choose to use our words.
This will play a large part in preventing and resolving conflict.
Our speech can either be used constructively or destructively- for building up or for tearing down.
Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him.
Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.
The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked what is perverse.
There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.
For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
God expects forgiven people to forgive.
An essential part of conflict resolution is found in forgiveness.
God makes clear throughout His word, that reconciliation is such an important issue, that peace with Him and peace with others are inextricably entwined.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause will be liable to judgment; whoever says to his brother ‘Raca’ (worthless) will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to hell fire. 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.”
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”
(Jesus then gives the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant -Matthew 18:23-35)
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
“Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Conflict Resolution According to Jesus
In Matthew chapter 18, Jesus Himself gives us a step by step process for addressing and resolving conflict with a brother (fellow believer) who has sinned against us.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
The Apostle Paul confronts Peter and publicly rebukes him for acting hypocritically:
But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles, but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
In some cases, when an agreement cannot be reached by each party, the best solution is a mutual separation
So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate yourself from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right, then I will go to the left.”
Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit our brethren in every city where we have proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John, called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and left, being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
What is church?
Every time the word ‘church’ appears in the New Testament, it is translated from the Greek word ekklesia.
this is a compound of ek (strong’s 1537) which means ‘out of’, ‘away from’
and kaleo (2564) which means ‘to call’
So the literal meaning translates ‘to call out of, or away from’
The word church appears for the first time in Matthew chapter 16, spoken of by Jesus Himself
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
Notice how Jesus says “I will build My church”
So then, because church literally refers to those who are ‘called out of, or away from,’
we understand that the key principle here is a distinction, a separation of God’s people
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”
-2 Corinthians 6:14
“Therefore come out from them and be separate,” says the Lord. “Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty.
-2 Corinthians 6:17-18
I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues”
Jesus says His followers are not of the world just as He is not of the world
“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
“I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
Another word used throughout scripture regarding believers, that illustrates this same idea of being set apart or separate, is the word sanctify.
to declare or set apart as holy; to consecrate
In John chapter 17, during His high priestly prayer, Jesus prays that we would be sanctified in the truth which is the word of God.
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.”
Jesus instructs His followers to be the salt and light of the world, so that men
may see their good works, and glorify God the Father
“You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden, nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
In the book of Acts, the apostle Paul recounts his personal encounter with Christ,
and the words the Lord spoke to him
“But rise and stand on your feet, for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will show you, rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.”
In Christ Jesus, we have been washed clean of our former lives, sanctified, and justified
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
-1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who
are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness. Now in
a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of clay,
some for honorable use and some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from
these things, he will be a vessel for honorable use, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for
every good work.
-2 Timothy 2:19-21
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 Corinthians 1:2
Christ purchased His church with His own blood
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you
overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
The church is known as the body of Christ
Now you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.
-1 Corinthians 12:27
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.
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ
For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
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. 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.
Therefore in closing, it’s important for us to realize that the church is not merely a building
or a location. But that we, as believers who are in Christ Jesus, are the Church.
“We don’t go to church, we are the church.” –Canon Ernest Southcott, founder of the ‘home church’ movement in England