Stockport Evangelical Church

Stockport Evangelical Church
"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Galatians 6:9 KJV)

Monday 8 August 2016

Matthew 18 - Helpful Notes


Kingdom greatness and the danger of offences - Mt 18:1-9

Verses 1-4 (Read) “Who is the greatest?” Jesus, as we will see, now teaches the disciples a visual lesson about greatness in the kingdom of heaven.

 As a preacher of the Gospel, quite often I am drawn to John 3:3 “…except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And preachers will often emphasize that acceptance with God is conditional, that one “must be born again.” There is no other way to be a Christian than “regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5) How often do we emphasize that, “you are not born again? Then you are not actually a Christian and you will not make it to heaven because…John 3:3 Yet here we see that Jesus introduces a further and immensely important condition, humility. How many times do we say to people, “you’ve not become as a little child…don’t you know you can’t enter the kingdom until you do that…don’t you know Jesus says so in Matthew 18:3?”

This is what is required for a person to enter God’s spiritual kingdom, that is that state where God rules in the heart and mind. It is the same attitude as a child has toward a loving and wise father. An attitude of complete and utter trust, a heart that is teachable and willing to learn; a willingness to accept that you are “poor in spirit,” having nothing, knowing nothing.  James says, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6) Notice also that Jesus says that this attitude is preceded by a change of mind. "Except ye be converted…” GK “Strepho” meaning, ”to turn completely around,”  and become as little children. The level of humility that Jesus is speaking of is not something that exists in the natural man; it is completely alien to the way in which men think. How clearly is that demonstrated by the disciples themselves, who look within at their own abilities, to see whether they possess “greatness,” rather than looking to God . The pride, the ambition, the idea that you have intrinsic honour  and worthiness, must be repented of.  Am I worthy of acceptance by God? Answer: No! But that’s the whole point, it is Jesus that is worthy; that is why He is “the way, the truth and the life!”

(Read 5-6)  Whether Jesus is speaking literally of physical children, or of those people that have a childlike trust in Him and a desire to know God, this is a solemn warning against causing them to stumble. We should give every encouragement we can to others to come to God; whatever their age, experience, intellect. If you have a child that says, “I want to read the Bible,” don’t dare say, “you wouldn’t really understand it, it’s going to be above your head!” You sit down with them, read it with them and explain it to them.  Jesus said, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:16) We will look at that next week when we study Matthew 19.

The warning is, that if someone is turned from the path of trust and faith in God by you, then drowning would be a preferable option. “Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” By offences, Jesus means anything that hinders, or turns someone away from the path of God.

As the old children’s hymn puts it:

Little ones to Him belong

They are weak

But He is strong.

In fact, Matthew Henry says, “While the great ones of the world have honourable men for their retinue and guards, the little ones of the church are attended with glorious angels;” as Jesus touches on in verse 10. But let’s just go back and read verses 8-9.

(Read 8-9) Your hand, your foot; Wesley teaches that these are contextual metaphors illustrating persons that are closest to you. They could be family members, or our dearest, or oldest friend; yet if they are turning you out of the way, hindering you in your walk of holiness, then a separation must occur between them and you.  That is what Jesus is teaching. However costly it may be to the flesh, “this is the will of God, even your sanctification.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3) 

   - The parable of the lost sheep

(Read verses 12-14) This is such a beautiful picture of Jesus, once more as the Good Shepherd; not just the one that leads the sheep, but the one that saves the sheep went astray. It illustrates the heart of Jesus towards the lost, a willingness to leave His place and search out the lost and lonely and bring them home. Should that not also be our heart? Are we not above our Master, but should share the same desires as Him, in fact doesn’t the Apostle Paul say, “we have the mind of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 2:16) 

   - Discipline and prayer - Mt 18:15-20

We have been looking at how important it is not to give offence, not to turn someone out of the way. But what do we do if that happens? Well, here Jesus gives very practical advice on how to deal with matters that need discipline in the church. (Read 15-17)

·        Between you and your brother.

·        Take one or two more.

·        Tell it unto the church.

How many of us deal with sin like that? “Let him be unto thee as an heathen.” Now that doesn’t mean shun him; don’t talk to him! On the contrary, it means urge him to repentance as you would a heathen sinner; urge him to get right with God and take time to lead him to a place of repentance, using discernment as to how much time you should take doing that.

In verses 18-20 we see the unity and fellowship that being in Christ promises. He says “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Christ, according to the word is here! He is present by His Spirit. He quickens us, guides us in our prayers; ministers to us; in fact so close is His relationship to His people that “both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” (Hebrews 2:11) But I think what is being taught by the Lord Jesus here, is that there is an authority in the church, that bears His stamp.

You see the question that arises is this: what is the consequence for that brother, if they refuse to heed one person, two people, the whole church? There may be a temporal consequence, loss of fellowship (which by the way is legitimate and Biblical) but there may also be a spiritual, eternal loss.  Charles Finney once preached a sermon called “one sin persisted in is fatal to the soul.” I wonder if that could be true?  That is the context that we now turn to one of Christ’s most dramatic and sobering parables.

   - The parable of the unforgiving servant - Mt 18:21-35

There are two main objects in this parable,  that we might term:

·        The servant’s debt.

·        The fellow servants debt.

There are four main characters in the parable:

·        The servant.

·        His Lord.

·        The fellow servant.

·        The tormentors.

We read that a certain king took account of his servants. He weighed up how much money they owed him. One servant is brought to him, owed him “ten thousand talents.” An enormous sum of money, far more than he could ever pay; the equivalent of millions and millions of pounds.

Now let’s just pause for a moment; supposing that the “Lord” in the parable is the Lord Jesus Christ, what might the debt represent? Let’s go back to Matthew 6:12 (Read) Debts equates to sins, or trespasses. Just keep your finger in Matthew 6, because we will be coming back to it in a moment.

The servant, in Matthew 18:26 falls down and begs for mercy and we read that as the Lord was moved with compassion, he loosed the man from the debt. He forgave him the debt.

But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a very small debt by comparison.

Stop for a minute. What have we just been looking at? What to do if a brother in Christ sins against you! What is the very small debt representing? A very small sin!

The fellow servant asks for mercy, but the servant does NOT act like his Lord, quite the opposite; “He took him by the throat…” (verse 28) He refused to have patience with him. He threw him into prison (verse 30)

When the Lord heard about it, he is furious (Read verse 32-33) (Read Matthew 6:15) Is the parallel hard to see? Do we have to make up some complicated theory to explain away the obvious meaning of the text? Only if the particular doctrine we have decided to align ourselves with doesn’t fit. Align yourself with Christ, not particular theological theories!

The debt had been freely forgiven; yet when the servant offended his Lord wilfully and cruelly, the pardon was taken back and the debt was restored. The whole debt was now required and the offender thrown to “the tormentors” until it was paid. It would take an eternity to pay such an amount. I know only of one place that has eternal torment and that is hell.

Just in case we are not sure of the parable’s meaning, Jesus explicitly gives us the interpretation in verse 35 (Read)

Go to 1 John 2:9-11 (read)

Darkness equates to ignorance, deception and sin.

Hebrews 10:26-29 (Read) “two, or three witnesses!”

Can a Christian lose their salvation? What is the plain meaning of the text? Take it as it is, without imposing your favourite theological framework on it, without resorting to doctrinal gymnastics, and without “you have to understand the Greek etc?”

Therefore, as the Apostle Paul puts it in Ephesians 4:32, “be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”
Copyright © Paul Jennings.

Monday 11 July 2016

Matthew Chapter 17 - Helpful Notes

The Transfiguration (17:1-13) 

The Transfiguration as it is called, is not just a remarkable event, it is a highly significant event. It is a revelation, a revealing, or unfolding (at least in part) of the deity of Christ. Let’s read verses 1-2 (Read) The word “transfigured” that is used here, the Greek word “metamorpho-oe,” (phonetic) where we get our English word Metamorphosis from.

Here we have the Lord Jesus allowing some of His divine glory to shine forth. I picture it as being a bit like when the sun is hidden behind a cloud and as the cloud is blown by the breezes, the beams of the sun blaze forth and in that instant we have to cover our eyes, because the light is so strong. That which had been hidden behind the cloud, now shines forth; just as the glory of God that was hidden by the flesh of humanity, is now allowed to shine. Moses face shone too, but that was only with a reflected glory, now we see light coming from the source.

As Jesus allows His glory to shine, Moses and Elijah appear with Him and are talking with Him. This teaches us a whole range of things:

  • There is life after death. Believers that die have not perished, they exist in a separate state, in a different dimension and when God calls them, they may come forth.
  • We will be able to recognize one another in the hereafter, since Peter discerns that one is Moses and the other Elijah.
  • Christ has communion with the Old Testament saints.
  • Christ’s church is made up of New and Old Testament Believers; His kingdom includes saints on earth and saints in heaven.

Jesus says to his disciples, “Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.” Two reasons: One, because it might be discouraging to the disciples to hear they had missed such an incredible, supernatural event; but also, because it could make His persecutors even angrier. It is not always wise to share everything with unbelievers; the Bible warns against casting your pearls, those most personal; and deep doctrines and experiences, before swine. The disciples were to wait until after the resurrection before they told others. Then I guess the vision would make more sense and have a greater impact, being more of a closer resemblance to the risen Christ.

In verse 10 the disciples ask an interesting question; in essence, if you are the Messiah, how come the Scriptures say that Elijah must come first. They are asking because they have just seen Elijah and yet Christ has appeared before Him. Good question. Jesus tells them that Elijah had already come and the Bible records that the disciples understood that Jesus was talking about John the Baptist. Now here we need to reconcile an apparent contradiction. Go to John 1:21 (Read)“And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.” Here is a lesson in being over literal in your interpretation of the Scriptures! Malachi prophesied that Elijah would come first. What he meant was that a person in the spirit of Elijah would come, a mighty prophet; a preacher; an upsetter of wicked kings. That was John the Baptist. But he was not the reincarnation of Elijah, he was not the self-same person. Just be aware of that when you are interpreting Old Testament prophecy.

The Healing of a Demon-Possessed Boy (17:14-18)

In verse 14 we find a very revealing account of a demon-possessed boy. Although from Matthew’s account, I don’t see any description of him being a child. He is represented by his father, but that may not be an indication of him being a child.

“He is a lunatick.” The word indicates one who is mentally unbalanced, particularly being affected by the moon! As in “lunar!” Can individuals really be mentally, or emotionally affected by the phases of the moon? Well, speak to pet owners; why is Zippy the cat tearing around the living room like that? It’s a full moon! Nial McCrae, the author of “The Moon and Madness,” has said “Although it violates the assumptions of modern Psychology (I’m sure it’s not the only statement in the Bible that does that-PJ) belief in lunar influence persists among mental health nurses, the professional group with most enduring contact with patients.” Now, what we see here is the man’s son, sometimes falling into the fire; sometimes falling into the water. The Scriptures reveal that it is not solely the effect of his “lunacy,” but that an evil spirit is taking advantage of the son’s mental and emotional predisposition and forcefully driving him to destruction. If his affliction caused him to fall, then the devil would make sure it was towards the fire, or water; to be burned, or to be drowned. Again, it is fascinating how we see demons hiding behind genuine mental illness, or taking advantage of the person, when they are at their most vulnerable and weak.

The Challenge to the Disciples (17:19-21)

(Read 19-20) The disciples could not cast the unclean spirit out, because they lacked faith, in this instance. Jesus says, if you had faith “as a grain of mustard seed,” in other words, just a small amount of genuine faith; faith “which worketh by love” then you could do astounding things! Here Jesus uses, what we call “a proverbial expression.” He is not suggesting individuals should go around trying to shift literal mountains!

The disciples had cast out demons before, but in this particular case, Jesus says “this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”

Concerning Christ’s Death and Resurrection (17:22-23)

Once again, at this time, Jesus starts to talk again about His death and resurrection (Read 22-23) “And they were exceeding sorry.” This didn’t fit into their plans of what and who the Messiah should be! They were expecting a powerful ruler, who would kick out all the Romans and set up His kingdom on earth, in Jerusalem and restore to Israel the glory of the old kingdom. They wanted a Christ, that would come in the type and likeness of David the king; because they did not understand, that the Messiah was first to come in the type of Isaiah’s suffering servant. Isaiah perfectly captures the confusion of the Jews concerning the death of Jesus. Let’s take a look at that. Go to Isaiah 53:3-5 (Read).

Concerning Tribute (17:24-27)

(Read verse 24) Ok, so here we have in effect a temple tax. The head of every family would pay half a shekel once a year in order to pay for the service of the temple and any things that were otherwise not provided for, but were used in the ceremonies. Jesus asks Peter “of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? Of their own children or strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers, Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.” In other words, because Jesus is the Son of God, He is not obliged to pay the tribute.

It is amusing to me, how Muslims often argue that there is nowhere in the Bible that Jesus claims to be the Son of God. Here is a perfect example of one, of many places, where He does just that!

He finishes off this chapter with the words we find in verse 27 (Read).

Copyright © Paul Jennings.

Matthew 16 - Helpful Notes

Jesus Answers the Pharisees (1-4)

Once again, like the proverbial “bad coin,” the Pharisees and the Sadducees show up, “tempting,” that is testing Jesus. You will notice that Jesus rarely gives them a straight answer to their questions, because he was able to discern that these were not genuine questions, but tricks, snares; futile attempts to trap him with his own words. As Christians, we also must be aware of this. If you are witnessing to someone, do not feel obliged to answer every single question that the person has. We have to use wisdom and discernment; in fact the Bible says, “foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.” (2 Timothy 2:23) I am not ashamed to say (particularly with the advent of the internet), I have avoided a few questions in my time, for those very reasons!

We live in times where people still want a sign, they want evidence. But as Paul puts it in Romans 1:19 “…that which may be known of God is manifest…” and “God hath shewed it unto them.”

Here in Matthew 16, Jesus makes an interesting statement. Let’s read verses 2-3 (Read) *Lowring, “cast over, gloomy.” It can also be applied to a person; Tyndale translates Genesis 4:6 as “And the Lord said unto Cain: why art thou angry, and why lourest thou?”

Even a simple man can look at the sky, or the clouds and understand what is going to soon happen. How then, can the Pharisees, learned, intelligent men; men acquainted with the Scriptures, not look at the evidence and understand that the Messiah is come? Matthew Henry says, “The sceptre was departed from Judah, Daniel’s weeks were just expiring, (John Gill has the same, almost word for word) and yet they regarded it not. The miracles Christ wrought, and the gathering of the people to him, were plain indications that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, that this was the day of their visitation.”

Jesus says to them, You want a sign? The only sign you will get is the sign of the prophet Jonah, that just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish/whale for three days, so Jesus would be killed, buried and “be raised again the third day.” (verse 21) 

   - The sign of the prophet Jonah (i.e., His death and resurrection)

 The Leaven of the Pharisees (5-12)

(Read 5-7) Bless ‘em! No, Jesus makes it clear that he is speaking figuratively. He is actually talking about the doctrine of the Pharisees and the Sadducees and their false teaching that spreads like leaven; like yeast. Just a little bit of self-serving, hypocritical, flesh-exalting, Christ-rejecting doctrine, will spread through the whole church, like yeast through bread. Any teaching that says God does not need to change the whole constitution of man’s heart; any teaching that appeals to the comfort and smug arrogance of “I’m a descendant of Abraham,” I’m special, unconditionally elect; is in danger of producing spiritual baby Pharisees! Maybe that is partly why Jesus is so tough on Peter as we’ll see when we get to verse 23.

Now, the Pharisees demanded a sign; had they not had many signs? Was not every miracle a sign that this was no ordinary man? But like many, they preferred a sign of their own choosing.

   - The doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees 

 Peter’s confession of Christ (16)

(Read verse15- 16) How does Jesus respond to Peter? In verse 17 we read (Read) God was able to speak directly to Peter and reveal to him the identity of the Lord Jesus in a way that no man needed to inform him of the fact. Peter’s confession whilst short, is actually very doctrinally and theologically powerful. What he is saying is, as John Gill puts it, “that Jesus is the Christ, the Christ of God, the true Messiah…” Christ means Messiah, the Anointed one. Peter is declaring that the man standing in front of him, is the very one who has been prophesied in the Old Testament; that there is no other and that Jesus alone, is Israel’s hope of consolation.

   - "The Christ, the Son of the living God" 

 What will Jesus build His church on? (18)

(Read verse 18) Peter’s name in Greek is Petros, which means a piece of rock. Perhaps he was so named because of the robust nature of his character, as we see in Acts : 29, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Jesus is also called a Rock, as in 1 Corinthians 10:4, and here in Matthew, the second use of the word “rock” is the Greek word “Petra.”

So what Jesus is in fact saying is, You are Petros (a rock) but on this Petra (Christ THE Rock) I will build my church. “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The word “gates” in the Bible refers to authority. Just turn to Proverbs 31: 23 “Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.”  So the idea is that the authority of hell, or hades, will not overcome Christ’s church. Whether that is a reference to spiritual forces, or death and the grave itsel; we have the promise that the Apostle Paul gives in Romans 8:38-39 “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

 Jesus promise to Peter (19)

(Read verse 19) Prime verses for the Mormons and the Roman Catholic Church, but what do they mean. I believe that “the keys” are the God given abilities to open and share the great truths of the Gospel, Here termed “the kingdom of heaven.” Peter was the first Apostle to openly preach the Gospel; to the Jews, ( Acts 2:1-47 ) and then to the Gentiles, ( Acts 10:1-48 ) and ( Acts 15:7 ) There is much misunderstanding, particularly in charismatic/Pentecostal circles, of the words “bind” and “loose.” This passage is sometimes mixed with what Jesus says about binding the strong man, but I believe it is a mistaken connection. These words need a little explanation; When the rabbis interpreted scriptural commands, they "bound or prohibited" certain activities and "loosed or allowed" others. Using the alternate meanings, the passage is interpreted thus: Jesus gives Peter and the Apostles the authority to make certain decisions in regard to the life of the church (regarding discipline, circumcision etc.) and these decisions will be honoured by God. Under the New Covenant, decisions will have to be made with regard to situations (such as the mass conversion of the Gentiles) not covered in the existing Scriptures. There is also a sense in the Greek, that the decisions have already been made in heaven and that the Apostles are merely following the guiding of the Holy Spirit.  

 Jesus predicts His death and resurrection (21)

  After these instructions to Peter, Jesus begins to prophesy about His suffering in Jerusalem, His death, and resurrection on the third day. Let’s read that in verse 21 (Read) But then look at Peter’s reaction in verse 22 (Read) No, Lord…that’s not going to happen! How sad that Christ’s commendation should have led to Peter being puffed up with pride and now acting above and beyond what was fitting for him to do. How careful churches must be, when they appoint men to leadership. Always find a humble man…Peter is more, caught off guard I think, although the Lord Jesus does use a very strong rebuke with him, “Get thee behind me Satan.” So named, since he acted in the very role of Christ’s enemy; discouraging Him from going to the cross and obstructing the redemption of mankind.  

 The Cost of Discipleship   (24,26)

Let’s look at verses 24-25 (Read) Now Jesus speaks to the rest of the disciples. Let a man, or woman deny themselves; let them deny their will; let them deny their flesh and its wants. That is the first law of discipleship and I am amazed how many professing Christians won’t even accept that!  If you want to be a disciple of Jesus that is the very first thing! “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) The second law of discipleship is “take up (your) cross and follow (Him.)” We must be prepared to deny our own will, in order to do God’s will; however painful that may be; that is what is meant by a “cross.” Anything small, or great in our lives that God is wanting us to take up, at the expense of our flesh and our will. Wesley says, “we should make swift progress in the spiritual life, if we were faithful in this practice.”

After all, as Jesus says in verse 26 “What shall give in exchange for his soul?” If you are minding earthly things, instead of eternal things, then you have the wrong perspective.  

 Jesus makes a promise (28)

To finish off in verse 28, we have this incredible, prophetic statement by Jesus. (Read 28) Some have suggested that Jesus is referring to the Transfiguration on the mount, where Jesus let a little of His true glory shine forth, but I believe He is talking about the fulfilment of the prophecies that He has been making and will continue to make throughout this gospel. The increase of his church, the kingdom of God coming even upon the Gentiles and finally the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of power of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Copyright © Paul Jennings.




Saturday 2 April 2016

Matthew Chapter 15 - Helpful Notes


Confronting the Pharisees

Read verses 1-3. Hear we see the real problem concerning Christ's criticism by the Scribes and the Pharisees. They thought that they held to the laws of Moses, but Jesus points out (and does so on many occasions) that they do not. In fact they hold to many traditions and customs that Moses never required; furthermore, they lay aside many commandments and replace them with their own. They begin their complaint by pointing out that neither Jesus, nor his disciples wash their hands before they eat. This is a tradition that does not come from Moses, but from the Jewish Elders. In fact there is a story that there was a certain Rabbi, Rabbi Akiba, a prisoner, having water sent him both to wash his hands with, and to drink with his food, accidentally spilled most of the water; yet he still washed his hands with the remainder, though he had none left to drink, saying he would rather die than transgress the tradition of the elders.  

Now what Jesus does here is confront the Pharisees with the Law of Moses, in order to show them how it is THEY that are guilty of transgression and not himself. He says, “For God commandeth, saying, honour thy father and thy mother…” Jesus is quoting from Exodus 20:12. The verse implies financial support for parents, from their children, but the Pharisees basically made up a rule saying, if you decided to give a gift to the temple, then that could override your responsibility to your father and your mother, “he shall be free.” (verse 6) So they had made “the commandment of God of none effect…” by their tradition.

Jesus then quotes the prophet Isaiah. Let’s read it from the original source, Isaiah 29:13 (Read)

A classic description of a nominal believer. They acknowledge God with their mouth, but He means nothing to their heart. It is simply an outward observance, a list of “thous” and “thou-shalt-nots.” But the desires of the heart are still after the things of this world (we can see that in the Pharisees; their lust for power, status and the praise of men) their pleasure is in the practices, values and entertainments of this world; they are excited about worldly things, caught up in them, corrupted by them; religion is something they do, to appease their conscience; that’s not Christianity!

 Declaration to the Crowd

Jesus switches His attention from the Pharisees to the rest of the crowd. In verse 11 He says (Read)

He seizes upon the bedrock of many false religions, Judaism being the main one here under scrutiny. (Don’t forget, at this time the Laws of Moses had been corrupted and infected by the laws of men and Jewish superstitions). Washing with water does not make one morally, or spiritually clean. It does not remove moral, or spiritual defilement. He teaches the multitudes that it is not what goes into a person’s mouth (a bit of dust, or dirt on the hands) that defiles him, or makes him unclean. What goes into the mouth, eventually passes through the body, as Jesus points out in verse 17. So what does defile a man?

Verses 18-20 (Read) 

 Instruction of the Disciples

In verse 12 the disciples came to Jesus and told him that the Pharisees had been offended by what he had said to them. “Religious” people will always take offence when Christ’s gospel is preached; it asks too much of them, it undermines what they thought they knew, it demands they humble themselves…that is why so few people come out of religions like the JWs, or the Mormons…that’s why so few churchgoers (those that do not have the Spirit of Christ) become real Christians; because “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6)

Jesus replies to them in a very straightforward way: “Every plant which my heavenly father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.” Remember God only plants good seed. Every Institution, way and doctrine that is inconsistent with the word of God (and I don’t care how popular it is) has not been planted by God, but by the enemy.

Christ describes the Pharisees as “the blind leaders of the blind.” They are ignorant, proud and arrogant. They don’t want the truth, therefore they don’t see the truth; and whosoever follows them will not see either; they will fall into the ditch. Jesus’ instructions are very clear, “let them alone.” Stay away from them. Matthew Henry says, “Have no converse with them or concern for them; neither court their favour, nor dread their displeasure: they will take their course…” Their minds are made up, their hearts hardened irreparably.

 To the Region of Phoenicia: The Healing of the Canaanite Woman’s Daughter

In verse 21 we read about a Canaanite woman, a Gentile, whose daughter is troubled by a devil, an unclean, evil spirit. She approaches Jesus using His messianic title “O Lord, thou Son of David,” and she cries out to Him for mercy, for her daughter’s sake. We read in verse 23 that “He answered her not a word!” Maybe he was testing her faith, seeing how real her desire for him was. When Jesus eventually does reply, it is an interesting one. “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of Israel.”

This demonstrates a number of things:

  • That the Jewish people were “lost,” they needed a Saviour. Just because they were the ethnic descendants of Jacob, did not mean they had automatic redemption.

  • That at this time the Gospel was primarily, although not exclusively, being sent to, and received by, them.

Yet even after Jesus has said all this, she is persistent “Lord, help me.” Would that those who seek salvation were as persistent as this woman. Many a person turns back unfulfilled, through lack of persistence in fervent, expectant prayer! Do you actually believe that you will receive what you are asking for?

Jesus gives a further reply in verse 26 (Read) The Jews called Gentiles “dogs.” But the woman, in great humility, does not take offence, rather she uses the word to her advantage, in verse 27 (Read) And Jesus responds in verse 28 (Read)

 To the Sea of Galilee: The Feeding of the Four Thousand

Jesus leaves that area and makes his way to the Sea of Galilee. It was given that name because it borders onto Galilee. The city of Tiberias stands on the western shore, so it is sometimes called the Sea of Tiberias; same place.

Here we see another miracle of Jesus, the Feeding of the Four Thousand. Again, in verse 32 we read that it was compassion that motivated Him. How different to the Pharisees, who also fed the poor, yet whose motivation was duty, and the praise of men.

Notice, by the way, the commitment of the ordinary people. They had continued with Him for three days with nothing to eat (verse 32) See how they valued the words of Jesus and his healing touch, above their work, their employment; above their comfort and families. I believe that Jesus notices when Christians are willing to forgo the comforts of this life, to sit at His feet. And I believe He responds with compassion and care; and I believe he feeds them too!                                 


The Withdrawal to Magdala.

Christ then dismisses the multitude and leaves the area and heads for the coasts of Magdala.

Copyright © Paul Jennings.

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Matthew 14 - Helpful Notes

- The death of John the Baptist – (Mt 14:1-12)

So, just to put this in some kind of time frame, this is after about a year of Christ's earthly ministry. We see Herod the Tetrarch on the throne. The Herodian Tetrarchy was formed following the death of Herod the Great, when his kingdom was divided between his sons as an inheritance. The word Tetrarch suggests four rulers, it means literally “ruler of a quarter.” At the time of Jesus of course, it is really the Romans that are ruling! So the title tetrarch came to mean a petty prince, someone ruling a small district. The title Herod is a bit like the title Caesar, it is used of a number of Kings, ruling at different times in Biblical history. All of them seem to be morally corrupt and pretty bad kings! The Herod dynasty was supported by a group of people called the Herodians. The Herodians were a sect or party, whose power-base was in Galilee and in Jerusalem; they were marked out by a clear hostility towards Jesus (Mark 3:6, 12:13; Matthew 22:16;) Whenever they are mentioned they are connected to the Pharisees, as working in collusion with them, even though they were naturally enemies. But as Psalm 2 says, “the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed.”

Now what is interesting is Herod’s belief that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead! He obviously not aware that John had baptised Jesus and had been living at the same time, but what is really interesting, is that Herod was a Sadducee. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead! They were sort of the Liberals of Judaism, the Pharisees being the Fundamentalists of that religion.

So why does Herod act inconsistently with his professed beliefs? I think it is a simple answer; conscience. His conscience is telling him that because of his sins, God is going to bring a judgement upon him; his conscience is telling him that there is in fact a world beyond this world; a place in which his privileges will not protect him, therefore he is genuinely fearful, of that which is beyond this life and beyond his control.

Now what was the reason that Herod had put John to death? We read it in verse 3-4 (Read) John had reproved Herod for his immorality. It was not lawful for him “to have” Herodius, because Philip was still alive AND in fact, it was not lawful for either of them to have her, because her father, Aristobulus, was their brother!

Notice how John the Baptist did not compromise the truth, even before the King; and also notice what he is doing with these wicked people, whose liberal view of God allows them to do just about anything, he puts in to practice what Paul teaches in Ephesians 5:11 “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” The only way to reprove a “work of darkness,” is to reprove the person that is doing it! Otherwise, one is not being “light and salt.” Light does not blend in, unnoticed with the darkness! Salt does not remain undetectable on the tongue and Christians do not reflect the glory of God, if they do not walk as Jesus walked; or for that matter, as John walked.

Yet, is it not strange that “the king was sorry” (verse 9) There may be many that are internally sorry at the mistreatment of the servants of God, perhaps because they sense that they speak the truth and yet they will consent to wickedness, in order to find acceptance with others. It was indeed, as Wesley puts it “mysterious providence,” that this righteous Prophet was sacrificed to “the malice of an abandoned harlot, the petulancy of a vain girl, and the rashness of a foolish, perhaps drunken, prince.” But it is further proof that God’s justice is not limited to this world, but that He will repay in His own time, even eternally. Go to Revelation 6:9-11. (Read)

   - Jesus feeds the five thousand – (Mt 14:13-21)

Now you may have noticed as we have gone through Matthew, that sometimes he seems to be concentrating on the things that Jesus said and at other times, he seems to be more concentrating on what Jesus did. The structure of Matthew is quite deliberately like this. So for example, chapters 5-7 are largely around what Jesus says (being the part of the Sermon on the Mount) whilst chapters 8-9 are more what Jesus does; chapter 10 is focussed on what Jesus says, His teaching and wisdom; chapters 11-12, on what He does; chapter 13, we looked at what he taught, with the seven parables and tonight we are looking again more at what Jesus did. So it’s just interesting sometimes to step back and see that the Gospel writers are not just randomly scribbling away; there is order behind what they are producing.

Read verses 13-14. There is a word here that I think gives us a glimpse into the motivation of Jesus and His ministry; and the word is “compassion.” We see this again in Matthew 9:36 “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” Whilst men are guilty of sin, nevertheless, it is the heart of God to save them out of that sin. As Jesus Himself put it in John 3:17, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Here the Son reflects the whole heart of the Godhead in that “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy…He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities,” as it says in Psalm 103.

As Jesus healed those that were sick, we find that evening began to draw in and the disciples began to say to Jesus, that maybe the multitudes could do with having something to eat, “victuals” as the AV puts it! But Jesus surprises them (He often surprises them, and us) by saying in verse 16 “they need not depart; give ye them to eat.” Let them stay; you give them supper! Let’s just read verses 17-18 (Read) When we look at ourselves and we see the great need of those without Christ, I don’t want you to feel despondent. When I started this church I looked at the meagre resources we had, financial, physical; I looked at our lack; a lack of knowledge, a lack of experience, lack of numbers and so on. But that doesn’t really matter. There are churches that number in the hundreds, some in the thousand. Benny Hinn’s church has about 6,000 I think…and that is tiny, compared to Joel Osteen’s! Together they have millions and millions of dollars! But that is not the point. What makes the difference with the disciples, is when they heed the words of Jesus. “Bring them hither to Me.” If you bring your resources, your time, your money, your intellect to Jesus, then he can multiply and empower those resources in remarkable, even miraculous ways, I believe. I’m not preaching a prosperity gospel, there is more than one way to prosper; I am looking for things that are spiritually profitable.

   - Jesus walks on water – (Mt 14:22-33)

Read verse 23. What an emphasis the gospels put on the Lord Jesus being alone and in prayer. Anybody that has been involved in any kind of ministry; even if it is simply going and seeing an unsaved family member, or neighbour with the purpose of delivering the gospel to them, knows the importance of drawing strength from the Lord in prayer. Go to Isaiah 40:28-31 (Read)

Matthew Henry comments, “Though he had so much work to do with others, yet he chose sometimes to be alone, to set us an example. Those are not Christ’s followers that do not care for being alone; that cannot enjoy themselves in solitude, when they have none else to converse with, none else to enjoy, but God and their own hearts.”

Yes, there is a marked difference between “the Marthas” and “the Marys” in churches. Don’t be so caught up in “doing,” that you forget to choose “that good part…” Sitting at the feet of Jesus, coming away from the world and all human activity; even evangelism, preaching, helping and remember to spend time alone with God. Therein lies the power to do all these things.

Now, meanwhile as the disciples sailed in their boat, across the sea, at the “fourth watch,” (the Jews divided the night into 4 watches of 3 hours each. So the first watch began at 6, the second at 9, the third at 12 and the fourth watch at 3 o’clock in the morning.) Suddenly, Jesus appears, walking across the water. (Read 26-27) What an extraordinary sight! Yet, perhaps it is even more extraordinary, that Peter steps out of the boat and also starts to walk on the water towards Jesus. Yet when he saw “the wind boisterous” he was afraid. What is the result of his fear? He starts to sink! How steps of faith are hindered by our flesh. How the flesh and a mind set on the things of the flesh, has no part in the things of the spirit. In fact the two are at enmity with one another.

Verse 33 is very important, because we see that here the disciples proclaim Him “the Son of God” (a messianic title) and they worship Him, GK “Pros-ku-neh-o, to do reverence, adoration.” Significant, because it is the same word that is used in John 4:20 by the Samaritan woman, when she talks about worshipping God and it is the same word used in Revelation 19:4 when John describes the twenty four Elders and the four beasts, falling down before God (capital G) on His throne. A great verse to use with those that deny the deity of Christ.


   - Jesus heals many in Gennesaret – (Mt 14:34-36)

As Jesus and His disciples landed at Gennasaret, fame of Him had already spread to that country and people brought to Him all that were diseased.

John Gill says, “their care and diligence in sending messengers about to their respective cities, towns, and villages, and which must be attended with expense: for they neither spared cost nor pains, to do good to their country; in all which, they set an example worthy of imitation.”

What effort they were willing to make, in order to come to Jesus…just to touch the hem of His garment. Yet today, churches are starting their morning services later and later…because people like a lie in on Sunday; some are dispensing with evening services all together, because they’ve got work in the morning and you’ve got to have a bit of time to relax and chill out. And we wonder why we are not seeing the kind of blessings that they saw. There is much to imitate in this chapter: The boldness of John; The solitary prayer life of Jesus; the faith of peter; but perhaps we could start by imitating the single determination of the Gennaserites, to simply be, where Jesus is ministering.

Copyright © Paul Jennings.



Monday 14 March 2016

Matthew Chapter 13 - Helpful Notes

The parable of the sower

Jesus comes and sits by the side of the sea, he is surrounded by “great multitudes.” So he gets into a ship and, presumably, moves a little away from the shore, whilst the crowds assemble on the shore to hear his teaching.

He begins to tell them a story; now I think there is a bit of snobbery amongst some Christians regarding the use of parables and illustrations. I am aware that illustrations and parables can be misunderstood, but we’ll come to that presently, but you’ll see that Jesus has no problem in teaching deep, soteriological and theological truths by illustration. My only cautions would be:

  • Only use an illustration to expound Scripture; don’t use an illustration to expound a notion that you have no Biblical support for.
  • Don’t use an illustration if there is a perfectly adequate parable in the Bible that already explains your point.

Sometimes it’s hard for preachers to stick to these rules and no doubt I have been carried away in the past! But I think they are helpful.

The first parable, (a parable is a story with a deeper meaning) begins, “Behold, a sower went forth to sow;” The picture is of a man walking across his field and flinging seed in various directions. Either sowing with both hands, or sowing with one hand, but in two different directions. Now just this simple illustration teaches us some profound Scriptural truths. Does the man want every seed to produce new life? Yes. Does every seed produce that life? No. Does God want “all men to be saved and come unto a knowledge of the truth?” Since I just quoted 1 timothy 2:4, I guess the answer is yes! Are all men saved? No, because the seed falls into different soils, representing different conditions of heart. The seed is not deficient, but the heart is. In fact the Bible says that the heart is “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…” (Jeremiah 17:9) Therefore God promises “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel  36:26)

I believe that God prepares your heart to receive His word, if you will let Him. The heart, in the Scriptures, is often synonymous with the mind. It’s not just the seat of the emotions. God prepares the heart to the extent in which a person will allow themselves to be drawn. The preparation of the heart, I believe, involves conviction of sin. Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit would come “he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:” (John 16:8) However, whilst some respond to that reproving; that conviction, many do not. In fact, to use a Biblical phrase, they harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit. The result: We have a number of different types of heart.

  • The hard heart.
  • The shallow heart.
  • The divided heart.
  • The convicted heart.

The one with the hard heart is unique when compared to the others, in that his soil/heart is the only type where the seed does not remain, neither does it produce life. Why? Because the seed is snatched away by “the fowls,” the birds. (Read verse 19) “understandeth it not” means he does not consider it. So the seed does not remain, it does not even enter the soil/heart.

The one with the shallow heart receives the seed. The seed starts to produce life; Here is a big problem for those that believe in OSAS, particularly for Calvinists. C. Michael Patton says:

“According to the Calvinistic caste system, this person, whom Jesus admitted heard the word and then immediately received it with joy, could have only received the Word by having first been born again. But then, lo and behold, this same regenerated person had “no root in himself,” but believed only temporarily and later fell away (which Calvinists concede as an impossibility).”

My own thoughts are that this is a picture of one that had a very shallow conviction. In Luke 8 Jesus describes this as the seed falling on a rock; picture a rock with just a thin layer of soil, maybe ingrained in some of the cracks. This is a picture of the person’s heart. Here lies one of the problems with preaching a gospel that is only positive; as Pastor Shane Idleman put it “a mile wide, but only an inch deep!”If you only preach “God wants to give you a wonderful life…” A person may respond by believing on the Lord Jesus, but has he/she really counted the cost of being a disciple. The parable would indicate, no.  Jesus says in Luke 8:13 “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” It is the plant with the deepest root, that can stand the greatest heat; “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:3)

The one with the divided heart, again receives the seed/word and there is life. The problem this time, is that other things are growing up alongside that life. The Lord Jesus describes them as thorns.

They symbolize (verse 22) “the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches.”

Maybe you wonder sometimes why I preach a lot about counting the cost, about understanding that you will meet with persecution; about separating oneself from the world and making that dividing line really firm and clear? It is because failure to grasp these important truths, may result in a person either having a weak and inconsistent walk with the Lord; or worse, may result in them falling away from the Lord; or even worse, may result in them losing their salvation all together. That is why there is an edge to the preaching at this church, why we are not looking for approval in what we teach and preach, only approval from God. People’s souls are fortified, or compromised by their understanding of these truths and we are not playing at it.

We are looking for commitment, a teachable heart and those who will Study to shew themselves “approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

The last type of heart is the convicted heart, or convicted mind; the good soil. The individual has considered their own life, actions, sins and so on. The conviction is not just a conviction for sins; but also a conviction that there is a better way to live, maybe even a conviction that God will bring that better way. Perhaps the conviction has brought not just a desire for forgiveness, but a hunger to know God. Whatever the details, it is a heart, or soil that is perfectly suited to the seed. Both the message that is delivered and the work of the Holy Spirit are working in perfect unity (hence the importance of bringing a Biblical gospel) and the stones and the weeds are purged from the person’s mind, or heart and they receive the word and it bears fruit.

C.H. Spurgeon said, “The ground was good; not that it was good by nature, but it had been made good by grace. God had ploughed it; he had stirred it up with the plough of conviction, and there it lay in ridge and furrow as it should be.”

The result, as we read in Matthew 13:23, is a fruitful Christian life.

The parable of the wheat and tares

We have a number of shorter parables about the kingdom in this chapter as well. One such is the Parable of the wheat and the Tares. Wheat and tares look alike! In this parable we see that a field may produce both wheat and tares and there is some difficulty in identifying the one from the other. Here, unlike the parable of the sower, we have good seed and bad seed. The good seed produces the wheat, the bad seed the tares. In the parable, a servant asks the householder (who is clearly Jesus) “Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? From whence then hath it tares?” (verse 27) Jesus replies, “an enemy hath done this.” Who is the enemy? The devil. Who are the bad seeds? His servants; “Children of wrath,” as Ephesians puts it; children of disobedience; or as Jesus describes them in verse 38 “the tares are the children of the wicked one;” the problem is, on the outside, they look all nice and religious; so did the Pharisees! Frankly, we are talking “church-goers!”  The tares look just like the wheat! Every church and I don’t care how good their theology is, or how thorough their discipleship is, will suffer with tares. When Jesus plants his good seed; the devil is standing right next to him sowing his seed. What will happen to them? Jesus tells us in verse 41-42 (Read) Can we tell the difference at all? Well, one of the most obvious signs is described in 2 Timothy 3:5 They have ”a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof…” What advice does Paul give to Timothy, regarding such individuals? “from such turn away.” They are “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” So stay away from them, don’t waste a whole lot of time with them, they have been put there by the devil.

The parable of the mustard seed

We have the parable of the Mustard tree. The mustard seed being so small and seemingly insignificant, yet it grows into a mighty tree. The gospel began so small, just in Galilee and the surrounding area, yet now it fills the globe! In the same way the life of Christ may begin in our hearts and we may have much ignorance, but if we let Him, the life of Christ will fill the soul.

The parable of the leaven

Again, Jesus uses another parable on the same theme. That just as leaven is so small, yet it can fill the whole loaf; so the gospel will affect the whole world; and grace the believer’s soul.

The parable of the hidden treasure

(Read verse 44)

The parable of the pearl of great price

(Read verse 45-46) Here we have a sort of couplet of shorter parables. Again, Jesus clarifying the point of counting the cost and weighing in the balance what one may lose and what one may gain. Jesus says in Matthew 16:26 “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Questions that are rhetorical in nature!

The parable of the dragnet

We finish these parables with the parable of the dragnet. A dragnet is used by fishing vessels and literally just drags through the ocean, catching all kinds of fish and other objects. Wesley says, “Just so the gospel, wherever it is preached, gathers at first both good and bad, who are for a season full of approbation (approval, praise), and warm with good desires. But Christian discipline, and strong, close exhortation, begin the separation in this world which shall be accomplished by the angels of God in the world to come.”

What was Jesus two-fold purpose in teaching in parables? (10-17,


If I ask why Jesus spoke in parables, it’s amazing; it doesn’t matter how many times I read these verses out, or preach on them, it is almost inevitable someone will say, “so that everybody could understand what he was saying more easily?” NO! The reason Jesus speaks in parables is:

   - To keep truths of the kingdom hidden from those not seeking

     Truth and to illustrate truths of the kingdom to those with ears and hearts

     willing to listen. Read verse 15-16.

Their unbelief 54-58

Jesus does all these mighty works, he heals the sick, casts out devils; they are amazed at his wisdom and doctrine…but…

They can’t get past the fact of, “hang on, is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary?...we know his family, he’s just one of us isn’t he? You will face the same problem when you witness to your family, friends, work colleagues.

That is why Jesus says, “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.” (Read verse 58)

Copyright © Paul Jennings.