MENU

Where the world comes to study the Bible

Free Slaves For Christ

Related Media

When people think of freedom, they most commonly associate it with civil liberty. This is probably especially true for citizens of the USA. At an early age Americans become familiar with the words of the song most commonly known as “America”:

My country, tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing:
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims pride,
From every mountain side,
Let freedom ring.1 (v.1)

Our fathers God, to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing;
Long may our land be bright
With freedoms holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King. (v. 4)

Freedom can also convey many other ideas. Thus Jefferson is on record as pointing out that freedom involves, “Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment.”2 More specifically, in an address to congress President Roosevelt declared those by now well-known four freedoms:

We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.… The first is freedom of speech and expression…. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way…. The third is freedom from want…. The fourth is freedom from fear.3

Not to be forgotten as well along social and cultural lines are the famous words of Martin Luther King who looked forward to that day when freedom would so ring that, “All of God’s children … will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!’”4 King’s praise of God and the cause of freedom is a reminder and acknowledgement that true freedom of every dimension ultimately is found only in relation to the Lord. As Bowles once remarked, “The cause of Freedom is the cause of God!”5

In the following study we shall examine briefly the seemingly contrary notions of slavery and freedom, which nevertheless occur at times in parallel. Our study will close with several practical applications that support the theme, “Free slaves for Christ.”

Slavery in Biblical Times

Slavery was simply a normal fact of life for the people in ancient biblical times. As Rupprecht demonstrates in his extensive study of the subject, slavery consisted of, “The ownership of one man by another man so that the former was viewed in most respects as property rather than a person. It was a deeply rooted part of the economy and social structure of the ancient Near E. and of the Greco-Rom. World.”6 Wight points out that it existed even among the early Hebrews: “When the laws were given at Mt. Sinai, slavery was universal among the nations of the world. It was not practical to do away with it all at once. Rather, laws were given to prevent the worst abuses and evils of it from being present among the Jews.”7 It is not our purpose, however, in this study to portray the many aspects of slavery among God’s people in OT or NT times. Such would form a study in itself. Moreover, such detailed information is readily available in many biblical encyclopedias and dictionaries as well as in several individual articles and books.8

One interesting special aspect of slavery is seen in situations concerning Hebrew citizens serving as slaves to their fellow Hebrews. That Hebrews could become slaves to other Hebrews was indeed possible. As Merrill points out, “Extreme cases of poverty sometimes resulted in voluntary servitude in which a man or woman would come under the care of a benefactor who would provide for all of the needs of the destitute individual until either he had paid off his obligations or served for a six year period.”9 Nevertheless, the slave holder was to be concerned for the welfare of his fellow Hebrew—slave though he might be. Moreover, in the seventh year the slave would automatically be set free:

If a fellow Hebrew, a man or a woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, In the seventh year you must let him go free. And when you release him, do not send him away empty handed. Supply him liberally from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress. Give to him as the Lord your God has blessed you. (Deut 15:12-14; NIV)10

This law is in accordance with Exodus 21:1-4 (cf. Jer. 34:14), which nonetheless also stipulated that, “If he came in with a wife when he came in, then his wife will go out with him. If his master gave him a wife, and she bore sons or daughters, the wife and the children will belong to her master, and he will go out by himself” (Exod. 12:3-4). In both laws the freeing of the slave in the seventh year demonstrates that the underlying principle of respect and concern for a fellow Hebrew is the same, even though the earlier law did allow the master to keep the wife and children, which the slave had acquired during those six years of servitude. Moses’ exposition of the law, then, draws out a deeper principle inherent in the law— “the principle of love, for God and for fellow man, which was so vital to the covenant community.”11 By his responsible actions the master was to reflect the same type of love that God had for the Hebrews when he delivered them from slavery in Egypt and provided for their needs (Deut 15:15).

Unlike non-Israelites, native Hebrews “could not be sold into permanent slavery.”12 Nevertheless, if the Hebrew slave wished to remain in servitude to his (or her) fellow Hebrew master, whether out of love, or loyalty and respect for him, or because he (or she) enjoyed life the way it was (cf. Deut 15:16), the law provided for the present situation to be maintained permanently. In such a case, the master was to “take an awl and pierce a hole through his ear to the door. Then he will become a servant permanently (this applies to your female servant as well)” (Deut 15:17). The servant now has freely accepted slave status. Having been set free, the slave willingly desires to remain in lasting slavery and be loyal and obedient to his (or her) master.

Slave (vs.) Free

Thus we see that in the Scriptures the themes of slavery and freedom can indeed be interrelated. It should not be surprising, therefore, that these common civil and social relationships could be readily applied metaphorically to a spiritual setting. This is precisely what Jesus did on one occasion when certain Jews appeared to respond favorably to his teaching (John 8:30). Accordingly, Jesus went on to tell them that their belief in him must most definitely continue and grow even more surely: “Then Jesus said to those Judeans who had believed him, ‘If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31). Here Jesus points out the relationship between knowledge, truth, and real freedom. Tenney points out that the Greek word knowledge:

usually implies knowledge gained from experience. Truth is formulated revealed reality, which is centered in the person of Christ Himself. Free means absence of constraint and restriction, opportunity to exercise the right of acting apart from external interference. These concepts imply a progress from ignorance to knowledge, from error or misinformation or uncertainty to truth, from slavery to liberty. 13

The mention of freedom was strange to Jesus’ hearers, for they were accustomed to thinking of slavery in accordance with civil and social practices. As descendants of Abraham they considered themselves totally free (John 8:32-33; cf. v. 41). As Kӧstenberger remarks, “Freedom was considered to be the birthright of every Jew. The law laid down that no Jew, however poor, should descend to the level of slave (Lev. 25:39-42).”14 As we noted above, however, provision was made for a Jew to be enslaved, but not permanently unless he chose to do so. The point of the Levitical legislation is that the master was not to treat a fellow Jew inhumanely. Rather, the master was told that he “must not rule over him harshly, but you must fear your God” (v. 42). Because of his hearers’ reaction, Jesus goes on to clarify matters for them concerning the basic concept of real freedom: “I tell you the solemn truth, everyone who practices sin is a slave of sin” (v. 34). Jesus’ hearers must realize that he was not talking about commonly practiced forms of slavery, but slavery to sin, a spiritual slavery that produces sinful habits, which control a person. As Jesus plainly implies, without his help they would continue to do sinful deeds and be controlled by sinful habits.

Indeed, without Christ the natural man is unable to think clearly so as to know that spiritual truth that brings true freedom to respond properly to God’s standards. As Morris observes, “The man who sins is a slave to his sin and this whether he realizes it or not. This means also that he cannot break away from his sin. For that he needs a power greater than himself.”15 Such is obtained only through accepting God’s Son, Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of one’s life. Indeed, it is really true, not just for the Jew but for all people, “If the son sets you free, you will be really free” (John 8:36).

The bringing together of slavery and freedom, then, has a meaningful purpose in Scripture. It involves not only theological truth but has a most practical end. It contrasts a sinful lifestyle and its results with an ability to live a life of true freedom. True freedom does indeed involve the ability to know the Lord through Christ so as to think God’s thoughts after him and thus to discern properly the difference between truth and error. This will result in the ability to live in accordance with God’s designed purpose for man. The believer can therefore enjoy life to its fullest for God’s glory and his own good. Genuine knowledge leads to real truth and to the God-intended freedom to conduct one’s self in godly wisdom.

Those who have received Christ have had the dominating shackles of inborn sin removed. The natural man is indeed a slave to sin. In an interesting play on words and terms, Moo remarks, “As ‘slaves to sin,’ people are ‘free’ from the power and influence of the conduct that pleases God; they are deaf to God’s righteous demands and incapable of responding to them even were they to hear and respect them….and therefore incapable of doing God’s will.”16 The Christian believer, however, has had that dominating influence through the work of Christ’s death and resurrection (cf. Rom. 5:20-21; 6:4-7, 11). Accordingly, the believer, now freed from slavery to sin may freely live for Christ. All of this is possible because by accepting Christ, the believer is taken into a living union with him, the One who alone has the power to enable him to experience that life of true freedom (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:8-10; Col. 1:21-22). Such is reflected in a familiar Christian song by Koch and Craig. Having mentioned the reality of Christ’s crucifixion and victorious resurrection, the song writers declare:

And as He stands in victory,
Sins curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine,
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
…….
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I stand.17

Twin Figurative uses of “Slave” and “Free”

It is of further interest to note that the metaphors “slave” and “free” frequently appear together. A metaphor may be defined simply as an “imaginative identification of two distinct objects or ideas.18 Slave is used together with its antonym, free to depict the vast difference between being mastered by sin or righteousness.18 Thus Paul declares:

Do you not know that if you present yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either in sin resulting in death, or obedience resulting in righteousness. But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to, and having been freed from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. (Rom. 6:16-18; cf. vv.19-21)

The big difference, of course, is that although born as a slave to sin, as united to Christ the believer freely now chooses to be obedient to the Lord and be mastered by God.19 He thus is so committed and dedicated to the Lord that he desires to live according to Gods standards. The result is the assurance of eternal life with God: Now, freed from sin and enslaved to God, you have your benefit leading to sanctification, and the end is eternal life (Rom 6:22). 20 Commenting on this, Hodge remarks,

It is of God, that those who were once the servants of sin, become the servants of righteousness. …When a man is the slave of sin, he commonly thinks himself free; and when most degraded, is often the most proud. When truly free, he feels himself most strongly bound to God; and when most elevated, is most humble.21

What a blessing, then, believers now enjoy. For now they may freely commit themselves as slaves to do God’s will and so with confidence look forward to the assured hope to an everlasting life with the eternal Lord of glory: “For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:23; see NLT note). As an interesting aside, because the word “gift” is used in parallel to “payoff” (or “wages”), some suggest that Paul was “thinking of the Latin word donativum or largess given to each soldier by the emperor or imperial heir on his accession, introduction to public life or other extraordinary occasion.” 22 Despite attempts to make this relation, however, the Greek word rendered “gift” commonly refers to a gift “freely and graciously given.”23 Thus Paul closes this chapter of his work “by reminding us that, though our sin merits the sentence of death, eternal life must always be understood as a sheer gift of God’s grace….So we must never rely on the quality of our moral life itself to save us—that will always be insufficient; but genuine, saving faith in Christ will change the quality of our moral life.”24

James, the brother of Jesus and a leading member in the early church, who also reckoned himself a “slave of God” (James 1:1), declares that true faith is one that is evidenced in an active life for God. Citing Abraham’s full commitment to God even to the point of sacrificing his son as proof of genuine faith, he says:

You see that his faith was working together with his works and his faith was perfected by his works. And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Now Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness, and he was called Gods friend. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:22-24)

James is not suggesting that the justification that the believer receives at conversion, which is a judicial act whereby God pardons the believer of all his sins and accepts him as righteous (cf. Rom. 3:23-24) is by works, not faith. Rather James is declaring that a person’s salvation is demonstrated by his Christian works and walk. As Osborne remarks,

Paul [in Romans] is concerned with the issue of regeneration, James with the issue of sanctification; Paul with how a person is saved, James with how a person lives out that salvation. For Paul justification refers to that moment when God declares a person right with him, while for James it refers to God vindicating a person’s faith and showing it to be right with him, leading to the final vindication at the Last Judgment…. Putting Paul and James together, works cannot bring about justification, but works must result from justification.” 25

That Paul and James were not in disagreement as to true faith and its outworking can be seen in his challenging message to the Ephesians that true faith is one that is active, a faith that serves God and does good things for others:

For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so that we may do them. (Eph. 2:8-10)

Still further, as “slaves of righteousness” believers have the privilege of sharing the gospel message with others. Thus Paul declares that as free he willingly made himself “a slave to all in order to gain even more people” (1 Cor: 9:19). This included both Jew and gentile (vv. 20-22). He goes on to say, “I do all these things because of the gospel, so that I can be a participant in it” (v. 23). What a privilege indeed it is to so live as to be a willing, dedicated messenger of the good news of God’s free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus! For Paul, this meant the full commitment of his whole self, soul and body, not only in dedicated, faithful service, but as living in such a way as to represent Christ in a righteous manner: “I subdue my body and make it my slave, so that after preaching to others I myself will not be disqualified” (v. 27). As I have written elsewhere, in this context Paul goes on to compare himself to a dedicated athlete who is so completely dedicated not only to participation in an athletic competition and to winning, but doing so in accordance with the rules:

If athletes can strive to fulfill their fixed goals, how much more should he in his spiritual ministry…. Paul thus declares his willing self denial in order to achieve his high calling in Christ Jesus. No selfish desires, plans or ambitions would be allowed to distract him. He was totally dedicated and committed to the task for which he had been called by the Lord. He expresses another pressing concern: having shown others the way of true Christian faith and conduct, Paul is anxious that he himself would not do anything that would compromise his continuing in the ministry. 26

An interesting contrast may be seen in a comparison of Paul and Onesimus. On the one hand, Paul formerly lived as a free, yet committed Jewish Pharisee. So committed to his religious beliefs was he, that he persecuted harshly the early Christians (Acts 22:2-4; 26:4-11). Now, however, he was truly free--spiritually free-- through genuine faith in Christ Jesus and had become an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:17-21). He now considered himself a slave to all in order that he might help in spreading the gospel message. On the other hand, Omnesimus had formerly lived as a slave. He then had escaped from his master and had fled to Rome, where he met Paul and was led to faith in Christ. Now as spiritually free, Paul was sending him back to his master, Philemon. As he did so, Paul urged Philemon to regard Onesimus not just as his slave, “but more than a slave, as a dear brother. He is especially so to me, and even more so to you now, both humanly speaking and in the Lord. Therefore, if you regard me as a partner, accept him as you would me.” (Philemon, vv. 16-17).

Paul’s sending Onesimus back to his master may seem strange to modern ears, but was in keeping with his own earlier teaching on the basis of current social standards.27 Thus Paul told the Corinthians:

Let each on remain in the situation in which he was called. Were you called as a slave? Don’t worry about it. But if indeed you are able to be free, make the most of the opportunity. For the one who was called in the Lord as a slave is the Lord’s freedman. In the same way, the one who was called as a free person is Christ’s slave…. In whatever situation someone was called, let him remain in it with God. (1 Cor. 7:20-22, 24).

As Baker observes,

In 7:22 Paul reminds the Corinthians of an important theological truth. Even if they are slaves currently (and had been when they became Christians) and their prospects for release were distant or questionable, they should take heart because they were already free in the most important sense of the word. That is, they are free from slavery to sin and the world because God paid the ransom price with the life of his Son, Jesus Christ. They have become slaves of Christ now, as are all believers, a status that supersedes their economic slavery. 28

Paul goes on to say, “You were bought with a price! Do not become slaves of men.” Although social practices and theological truth are in view in verse 23, there also is moral and spiritual application. One such application is that believers should not allow themselves to become so enslaved to their fellow man that they live as men pleasers and pursue their sinful practices and habits.

Similarly, Paul tells the people in his letter to the Ephesians (6: 6-9) that both slaves and their masters should treat each other with respect and kindness. Slaves were to remember that they were to serve and obey their masters as “slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart …because you know that each person, whether slave or free, if he does something good, this will be rewarded by the Lord” (vv.6-8). Indeed,

Believing slaves should be motivated to serve their human masters well because ultimately their indenturing is to Christ alone, that is, they are ‘slaves of Christ.’ … They belong to someone who has far greater authority and far more honor than any human slave owner or even the emperor himself.29

Masters were instructed and encouraged to “treat your slaves the same way, giving up the use of threats, because you know that both you and they have the same master in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him” (v.9). Truly, “The principle of v.8 obtains for masters too; those who do well will receive the Lord’s reward—whether they are slave or free.” 30 Not only in ancient times but today as well, whatever their social status may be, believers should find their primary sense of duty in living so as to be pleasing to God, serving as the Lord’s representative so well that others see Christ in them. As Pollard expresses it,

Have Thine own way, Lord!
Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!31

These same principles are well illustrated in Paul’s words to the Roman Christians (Rom. 8: 12-15). He reminds the believers there that they no longer need to be enslaved by human passions and standards (vv. 12-13). In a forensic sense, “All who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (vv. 14-15). The NLT is certainly correct in gendering the word “spirit” in two ways. The spirit of slavery to sin contrasts the natural man with the Spirit (Holy Spirit) as, “The agent through whom the believer’s sonship is both bestowed and confirmed.”32 Therefore, not only does the believer have access to the Father, but God the Father is so honored and treasured by the believer that he can cry out through the leading of the Holy Spirit with a term of endearment and respect: “Abba.”

Jesus’ use of “Abba, Father” in his prayer in Gethsemane, just before his arrest and crucifixion, gives credence to his legitimate family relationship and to his intimacy with God the Father (Mark 14:36). Thus France point out that Jesus’ use of the term, “Abba,” “Conveys the respectful intimacy of a son in a patriarchal family. And in that sense Jesus’ use of this form of address to God is striking and unparalleled , until it was taken over by his followers.”33 Mohrlang adds, “The Spirit does more than simply give us new power for living. Deep within, moving us to address God as ‘Abba, Father…, the Spirit of God assures us that we are indeed children of God, part of God’s own dearly loved family—and that we can therefore boldly lay claim to children’s privileges.”34 Having been taken into union with Christ, today’s believers may also have such a sense of a family relationship and deep intimacy with God that they honor him, stay in communion with him, and do their best to reflect his will and standards in their lives.

Paul goes on to point out that adoption carries with it the further promise that we believers, “who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (v. 23). Truly, as believers in Christ led by the Holy Spirit, not only was this true for the Roman Christians but even now believers do not belong to Satan, they are not his slaves, but are free citizens. Even more, they have been adopted— formally become members of God’s family. As spiritually the “new birth” pictures believers’ being born into the family of God (John 3:5-7), adoption portrays them as being granted the privileged and responsible position of children of God (Gal. 3:23-29) as well as the living and assured hope of the eventual redemption of our bodies.

Applications

At the outset of our study we suggested that the word freedom is thought of by most people as civil liberty. This is particularly the case in the United States. As we have noted, such freedom is embedded in many of our patriotic songs and hymns. It is true even in our national anthem, especially in the last verse, which unfortunately is largely overlooked by many Americans and seldom sung. This verse intertwines the grounds of America’s liberty with a firm belief in God:

O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just;
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Our national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key during America’s conflict with Britain on the night of September 13, 1814. Few Americans probably realize that Key was a dedicated Christian, who was very involved in the early activity of establishing Sunday schools. 35 Freedom is related to more than civil or social matters as also is slavery. Freedom, however, can also be illusionary:

It isn’t always others who enslave us. Sometimes we let circumstances enslave us; sometimes we let routines enslave us; sometimes we let things enslave us; sometimes, with weak wills, we enslave ourselves. … No man is free if he is running away from reality. And no man is free if he is running away from himself.36

Even more basically, true freedom has a spiritual foundation. As Scherer describes it, “We find freedom when we find God; we lose it when we lose Him.”37

Longenecker appropriately points to three areas of liberty found in the Apostle Paul’s writings: (1) the believer’s relationship to God or (“forensic”) freedom; the believer’s ordering of his own personal life; and the believer’s relationship to others (i.e., social freedom). 38 Even more broadly, we have noted that the words freedom and slavery are used in the Scriptures in dealing with civil or social affairs, but are most meaningfully utilized as contrasting metaphors dealing with one’s moral and spiritual life: intellectually, emotionally, or volitionally. Thus although Peter warned his readers: “Whatever a person succumbs to, to that he is enslaved” (2 Pet. 2:19), as we noted above, Jesus proclaimed that he is the true source of freedom, “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). Under the direction of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the wise believer will use his freedom wisely. As Paul told the Galatian believers, “You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another. …But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:13, 16).

Thus as believers we are not to be self-centered, but committed to the Lord and his standards. Too often personal desires overtake us, such as the love of money, and even greed (cf. Heb. 1:5). As Paul told the Philippian Christians, “Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in true humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself” (Phil. 2:3). Paul reminds Timothy that this is to be exemplary in a Christian leader, for he should be “temperate, self controlled, hospitable, an able teacher, not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money” (1Tim 3:2-3). If our leaders are to set such an example, should it not be followed by all Christians? We all can be leaders in the sense of taking proper control of our lives. We can do this by freely submitting to the Lord as Christ’s “slaves.” That is, we should be totally dedicated to the Lord and be concerned for the needs of others, not ourselves. Jesus once told his disciples, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8). Such should be true for today’s followers of Christ. As the song writer reminds us,

He said, “Freely, freely, you have received—
Freely, freely, give;
Go in my name, and because you believe,
Others will know that I live.”39

On another occasion Jesus taught in one of his many parables that the wise and faithful servant is mindful of his master -- even while he is away—for when his master returns, he will reward the servant in accordance to what he deserves (Luke 12: 41-48). May we be faithful servants eagerly awaiting the coming of our master the Lord Jesus Christ! As Lila Morris, writes,

Faithful and true would He find us here
If He should come today?
Watching in gladness and not in fear,
If He should come today?
Signs of His coming multiply,
Morning light breaks in eastern sky;
Watch, for time is drawing nigh—
What if it were today?40

Free slaves for Christ—yes, but even more than that, we are members of God’s earthly family through faith in Christ. Far greater than the opportunity of the freed slave in OT times to remain a slave to his master, we have the blessed privilege and joy of living in daily communion with The Lord. Still further, having been taken into union with Christ, we can be conscious of his presence and have the confident hope of living in God’s presence eternally.

Are we free?—Yes!-- free from sin’s enslavement through faith in Christ’s provision of salvation for all. Are we slaves? Yes!—those who willingly commit ourselves to the Lord’s service. As we await the joy of an everlasting life in the presence of our master, let us conduct ourselves as good and faithful free slaves for Christ.

Some day life’s journey will be o’er,
And I shall reach that distant shore:
I’ll sing while ent’ring heaven’s door,
“Jesus led me all the way.”41


1 Samuel F. Smith, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

2 Thomas Jefferson, “First Inaugural Address,” March 4, 1801.

3 Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Message to Congress,” January 6, 1941.

4 Martin Luther King, Jr., “Speech in Detroit,” June 23, 1963.

5 William Lisle Bowles, “The Right Honorable Edmund Burke,” 1791.

6 A. Rupprecht, “Slave, Slavery,” in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill C. Tenney and Steven Barabas, 5 vols. (Grand rapids: Zondervan, 1975) 5: 453.

7 Fred H. Wight, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands (Chicago: Moody, 1953), 291. See further, Rupprecht, ibid. 454-58.

8 In addition to Rupprecht’s already cited article, see, for example, see S. S. Bartchy, “Slavery,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, eds. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, et al., 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, rev. ed. 1988) 4:539-46; I. Mendelsohn, “Slavery in the OT,” in The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, eds. George Arthur Buttrick, et al., 4 vols. (New York: Abingdon, 1962) 4:383-91. See also the data for the OT and NT in the supplementary volume by W. Zimmerli “Slavery in the OT,” and W. G. Rollins, “Slavery in the NT,” eds. Keith Crum et al. (1976, 829-32). Especially helpful are the observations in “Slave, Slavery,” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, eds. Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, amd Tremper Longman III (Downers Grove: 1998), 797-99.

9 Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy, The New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 245.

10 Unless, as here, otherwise noted, all scriptural citations will be taken from the NET.

11 Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976.

12 John H. Walton, Victor H. Mathews, and Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 186.

13 Merrill C. Tenney, John: The Gospel of Belief (Grand rapids: Eerdmans, reprint edition, 1989), 147.

14 Andreas J. Kӧstenberger, John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 262. Kӧstenbeger goes on to point out proper Jewish attitude standards with regard to the status of their fellow Jewish citizens as recorded in the Mishnah and Talmud.

15 Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 1971), 458.

16 Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 406.

17 Donald A. Koch and Andrew Shawn Craig, “In Christ Alone,” (vv. 6, 8; punctuation, mine).

18 Andreas J. Kӧstenberger and Richard d. Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011), 677.

19 Even were we to think of “slaves to righteousness” as being dominated by God, this would be a vast difference between serving an overbearing, even wicked, master like Satan and being controlled by a gracious master like God who desires our best!

20 For the extensive use of metaphors by the apostle Paul, see David J. Williams, Pauls Metaphors (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1999.)

21 Charles Hodge, Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), 213. Moo, Romans, 405, strongly, points out that the imperative in verse 19b means that, “We can, and must, serve righteousness because God has freed us from sin and made us slaves of righteousness.”

22 C. E. B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary, eds. J. A. Emerton and C.E. B. Cranfield (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2 vols., 1975) 1:330.

23 William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Cambridge, University Press, 1957), 887. See also Paul’s use of this term already in Romans 5:16.

24 Roger Mohrlang, “Romans,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort, 18 vols. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007) 14:110.

25 Grant R. Osborne, “James,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort, 18 vols. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House. 2011) 18: 65.

26 Richard D. Patterson, “Christians as Athletes,” Biblical Studies Press. 2013, 4.

27 For details as to those social conditions, see David W. J. Gill, “1 Corinthians,” in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, [New testament] ed. Clinton E. Arnold, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 2002- 3:139.

28 William Baker, “1 Corinthians,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort, 18 vols. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2009), 15: 109.

29 Clinton E. Arnold, Ephesians, Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 423.

30 William W. Klein, “Ephesians,” The Expositors Biblical Commentary , eds. Tremper Longman II and David E. Garland, 13 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006) 12:160.

31 Adelaide A. Pollard, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord!”

32 Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 502.

33 R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark, The new International Greek Testament Commentary, eds. I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner (Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 2002), 584.

34 Mohrlang, “Romans,” 130.

35 For details, see E. Michael and Sharon Rusten, The One Year Book of Christian History (Wheaton, Tyndale House, 2003), 428.

36 “Good Reading,” as cited in Lloyd Cory, Quotable Quotations (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 145.

37 Paul Scherer, as cited in Lloyd Cory, Quotable Quotations, 356.

38 Richard N. Longenecker, Paul, Apostle of Liberty (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1964), 170-80.

39 Carl Owens, “Freely, Freely.”

40 Lila Morris, “What If It Were Today?”

41 John W. Peterson, “Jesus Led Me All The Way.”

Related Topics: Christian Life

Bibliography

Related Media

Clowney, E. P. (1988). The message of 1 Peter: The way of the cross. The Bible Speaks Today. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Grudem, W. A. (1988). Vol. 17: 1 Peter: An introduction and commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter–Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

Hanko, Herman (2012). A Pilgrims Manual: Commentary on I Peter. Reformed Free Publishing Association. Kindle Edition.

Helm, D. R. (2008). 1 & 2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christs sufferings. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Ironside, H. A. (1947). Expository notes on the Epistles of Peter. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers.

Leadership Ministries Worldwide (2009). I Peter. Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible. Leadership Ministries Worldwide.

MacArthur, John (2003). The MacArthur Bible Handbook. Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Publishers.

MacDonald, W. (1995). Believers Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (A. Farstad, Ed.). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

McKnight, Scot (2011). 1 Peter: The NIV Application Commentary. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Spencer, Glen (2005). I Peter, A Holy Walk in a Hostile Word. Expository Pulpit Series. Wordsearch Corp.

Suetonius. The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Nero, 38; Cassius Dio, Roman History LXII.16

Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

So Great A Savior (Colossians 1-2)

The church in Colossae was not founded by Paul, but rather by his colleague in ministry, Epaphras. Nevertheless, Paul retained a pastoral interest in the church. When he heard that false teachers were pressuring the congregation, he wrote his letter to refute their errors. What the false teaching may have been is not clear, but apparently it detracted from the supremacy of Christ. Paul devoted his letter to reminding them what a great Savior they served. Though the 21st century church faces different pressures, Paul's reminder is still true. We serve a great Savior, one who deserves to be preeminent in our lives.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Christology

Colossians 1

Related Media

Part 1

The church in Colossae was not founded by Paul, but rather by his colleague in ministry, Epaphras. Nevertheless, Paul retained a pastoral interest in the church. When he heard that false teachers were pressuring the congregation, he wrote his letter to refute their errors. What the false teaching may have been is not clear, but apparently it detracted from the supremacy of Christ. Paul devoted his letter to reminding them what a great Savior they served. Though the 21st century church faces different pressures, Paul's reminder is still true. We serve a great Savior, one who deserves to be preeminent in our lives.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Christology

Colossians 2

Related Media

Part 2

The church in Colossae was not founded by Paul, but rather by his colleague in ministry, Epaphras. Nevertheless, Paul retained a pastoral interest in the church. When he heard that false teachers were pressuring the congregation, he wrote his letter to refute their errors. What the false teaching may have been is not clear, but apparently it detracted from the supremacy of Christ. Paul devoted his letter to reminding them what a great Savior they served. Though the 21st century church faces different pressures, Paul's reminder is still true. We serve a great Savior, one who deserves to be preeminent in our lives.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Christology

Lesson 63: Believing is Seeing, but Seeing is not Believing (John 11:38-57)

Related Media

August 10, 2014

There is a familiar saying, “Seeing is believing,” but in spiritual matters that is not necessarily true. Sometimes skeptics will say, “Show me a miracle and I’ll believe.” But even if they saw a genuine miracle, they’d still doubt it or look for a naturalistic explanation and find other reasons to continue in their unbelief.

As we’ve seen repeatedly, John wrote his Gospel, and especially the seven miraculous signs that Jesus performed before His death, “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:31). But not all who saw Jesus’ miracles in person believed in Him, just as not all today who read the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ miracles in the Gospels believe in Him. The barrier to faith is that we love our sin. As Paul points out in Romans 1:18-20, all people have adequate evidence of God’s eternal power and divine nature through creation, but they suppress the truth in unrighteousness. If God exists and created all things, then sinners know that they’re in big trouble. So they invent myths, like evolution, to dodge the reality of God so that they can continue in their sin.

If any miracle should have resulted in every person present falling on his face and worshiping Jesus as God, it would have been the raising of Lazarus from the dead. He had been dead four days, so that his body was beginning to decompose. But when Jesus cried out (11:43), “Lazarus, come forth,” life returned to his dead body, he was completely restored, and he walked out of the tomb, still bound with the grave wrappings. As a result, many did believe in Jesus, but in an amazing display of the hardness of unbelieving hearts, others went to report to the Jewish leaders what had happened. And, rather than acknowledging their mistaken views of Jesus, they intensified their efforts to kill Him.

In the narrative, Jesus tells Martha (11:40), “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Believing would result in seeing. But (in 11:45-46) others who saw this stupendous miracle did not believe, and their foolish hearts were darkened (Rom. 1:21). The lesson is:

If we believe in Christ, we will see the glory of God; but if we see miracles without believing we will be hardened in our sin.

1. If we believe in Christ, we will see the glory of God.

Jesus’ comment to Martha (11:40) that if she believed, she would see the glory of God, probably refers to His earlier comment (11:4), which would have been reported to Martha and Mary, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” Jesus’ aim in all that He did was to glorify the Father (17:1-5). Jesus is the revelation of God’s glory to us. As John said (1:14), “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In heaven, we will see Jesus’ glory in all its fullness (17:24).

God’s glory is His essential and intrinsic splendor. The Hebrew word has the notion of weight or heaviness, and thus refers to God’s worthiness, reputation, and honor (M. R. Gordon, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible [Zondervan], ed. by Merrill C. Tenney, 2:730). The emphasis in the Bible is on glory as the manifestation of His attributes. Thus Calvin wrote (ibid. 2:732), “The glory of God is when we know what He is.” He also observed (ibid. 2:733), “We never truly glory in Him until we have utterly discarded our own glory … whoso glories in himself glories against God.”

In this case, Martha’s faith would result in her seeing God’s glory as seen in Jesus’ intimacy with the Father and in His power to call Lazarus from the tomb. This miracle validates Jesus’ astounding claims in John 5:21, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.” He added (5:28-29), “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; …” Because Jesus raised Lazarus, we can know that He will make good on His promise to raise all the dead someday, either for eternal life or for judgment. So this miracle should result in our seeing the fact that Jesus is the author and giver of both physical and eternal life and that He has all power over death.

We should apply Jesus’ words to Martha (11:40), “if you believe, you will see the glory of God.” First, we should always join Moses in his prayer (Exod. 33:18), “I pray You, show me Your glory!” That was a bold prayer! Moses had already seen the Lord at the burning bush. He had seen God’s power in the ten plagues on Egypt. He had seen the Lord deliver His people through the Red Sea, provide water from the rock, and manna from heaven every morning. I’d be satisfied to see any one of those displays of God’s glory! But, Moses wanted more, and so should we! As we see more of God’s glory, it transforms us into His image (2 Cor. 3:18). So, always pray that God will grant you more faith so that you will see more of His glory.

Also, C. H. Spurgeon (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit [Pilgrim Publications], 59:87) applied this verse by challenging his congregation to believe God for the conversion of sinners who were as corrupt in their morals as Lazarus was in his body. We sometimes see people who are debauched sinners and think, “There’s no way that that person could ever get saved.” If salvation comes from human will power, that’s true. But if salvation is of the Lord, then He is mighty to save the chief of sinners.

John calls Jesus’ miracles “signs” (11:48). Signs point to something beyond themselves. The physical miracles point to deeper spiritual truth. As a dead man whose body was undergoing corruption, Lazarus is a picture of sinners who are dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), cut off from the life of God, and morally corrupt in His holy presence. As a dead man, Lazarus had no power to raise himself from the dead. He needed the new life that comes only from God (John 6:63). It required the life-giving word of Jesus to call him from death to life. That’s true every time a sinner is born again.

You may ask, “Doesn’t the sinner have to choose to believe?” The Bible is clear, yes, the sinner must choose to believe. But no one who is dead in their sins is able to choose to believe until the Spirit of God quickens them from the dead. We saw this in John 1:12-13, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Those who believe didn’t do so because of their will (which is not “free,” but bound in sin), but rather because God caused them to be born again (1 Pet. 1:3).

So go to the Father in believing prayer and ask Him to save those who are so dead in sin that they stink! And, Jesus’ words apply to any who have not yet trusted in Him for salvation: If you will believe in Him, you will see the glory of His love, grace, and justice at the cross. If we believe in Christ, we will see the glory of God.

2. Jesus’ miracles should result in faith in Him as Savior and Lord.

First, we need to affirm that…

A. Jesus did raise Lazarus from the dead.

John reported this miracle so that you would believe in Jesus and have eternal life in His name. But Satan always attacks essential truths. So, it’s no accident that liberal critics dispute that this miracle really happened. They argue that John presents the raising of Lazarus as a crucial event that precipitated Jesus’ death at the hands of the Jewish leaders. If this is so, they say, why do the other three Gospels omit this important event? They conclude that John fabricated this story to illustrate some spiritual truths about Jesus. For example, William Barclay concludes (The Gospel of John [Westminster Press], 2:103), “It does not really matter whether or not Jesus literally raised a corpse to life in A.D. 30, but it matters intensely that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life for every man who is dead in sin and dead to God today.” Strange reasoning!

That’s like saying that it doesn’t really matter whether Jesus was raised bodily from the dead, as long as we learn the spiritual lessons from the story. Paul refutes that nonsense by arguing that if Christ is not literally raised from the dead, our faith is worthless (1 Cor. 15:1-19). If Jesus did not literally raise Lazarus from the dead, then John’s credibility as an eyewitness of Jesus’ glory is worthless. His entire Gospel becomes just a clever fable, alongside Aesop’s fables, but not worth staking your life and eternal destiny on.

It’s clear that John is narrating an event that he saw take place in actual history. The story does not read as a concocted fable or myth. It is straightforward and realistic, with many factual details. Even Jesus’ enemies acknowledged that He was doing many miracles (11:47). They couldn’t question that Lazarus had been dead and now was alive. So Jesus’ critics who lived at that time didn’t doubt the fact that Lazarus was raised from the dead, but modern critics, living 20 centuries later do doubt it!

Thus what we have here is not a parable or a fable making some moral point. Rather, it is a historical account of Jesus raising a decomposing corpse to life. But John wants us to apply this actual miracle to our lives:

B. This miracle should cause you to believe in Jesus as your Savior and Lord; and if you already believe, to increase your faith in Him.

John views faith in Christ as both initial and ongoing. The disciples believed in Jesus in chapter 1, but in chapter 2, after Jesus turned the water into wine, we read (2:11), “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” In 6:69, Peter affirms, “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” But here in chapter 11, Jesus tells the disciples (11:15), “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there [before Lazarus died] so that you may believe.” Martha clearly confesses her faith in Christ (11:27): “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” But (in 11:40) Jesus still challenges her to believe.

Apply this to yourself: If you have never repented of your sins and put your trust in Christ as Savior and Lord, that’s where you begin a relationship with Him. That’s when you move from spiritual death to eternal life. If you do not believe in Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you are still under God’s wrath (3:36). The Bible commands you to believe in Jesus and be saved (Acts 16:31).

But, you don’t stop with that initial belief. Your faith in Christ needs to grow and it will grow as you see more and more of who He is. This miracle shows that Jesus is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. He is, as He told Martha (11:25), the resurrection and the life. He is the eternal Son of God who took on human flesh and laid down His life willingly on the cross so that whoever believes in Him has eternal life (3:13-17).

This miracle shows that Jesus can do what mere men cannot do. Religion could not raise the dead. All that the Jews could do was offer consolation to Mary and Martha. The scribes and Pharisees could not raise the dead. Even modern medicine, with all of its advanced knowledge, cannot raise to life a body that has begun to decompose. But Jesus could do what no mere man could do. He spoke the word and Lazarus instantly came to life.

This miracle illustrates our insufficiency and Christ’s all-sufficiency. One reason that we don’t trust the Lord in our daily lives is that we feel sufficient or adequate in ourselves. We may ask Him for a little help now and then, but we don’t acknowledge what He told the disciples (15:5), “apart from Me you can do nothing.”

In commenting on Jesus’ prayer life, Paul Miller observes (A Praying Life [NavPress], p. 44), “If you know that you, like Jesus, can’t do life on your own, then prayer makes complete sense.” He goes on to devote a chapter to “learning to be helpless.” When we recognize our own insufficiency and helplessness, then we cast ourselves on the Lord and our faith grows as He answers. As Hudson Taylor, the great pioneer missionary to China, said, “All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on God being with them.”

But this story is not just about believing in Christ so that we will see God’s glory, or about how seeing miracles should result in our growth in faith. It’s also a warning against seeing God’s mighty works without believing:

3. Seeing a miracle without believing results in further hardening of heart.

This account of Jesus’ raising of Lazarus is a case study in the frightening nature of unbelief. We can learn three lessons:

A. Unbelief is not based on insufficient evidence.

What further proof of God’s power could you want than to smell the stench of the rotting body as they rolled the stone from the tomb, hearing Jesus’ loud command, and then seeing the formerly dead man stumble from the tomb, still bound in his graveclothes? Yet, some who witnessed this spectacle went away to inform Jesus’ enemies so that they could intensify their plans to have Him arrested and executed!

Of course, this wasn’t the first miracle that these enemies of Jesus had witnessed. They acknowledge that He is performing many signs (11:47). They had seen the man who had been paralyzed for 38 years, who used to beg at the Pool of Bethesda, now walking because Jesus healed him (5:1-14). They knew that the man born blind, who used to beg by the temple gate, now saw because Jesus healed him (9:1-34). But they rejected both of these miracles because Jesus had done them on the Sabbath. And now, Jesus does the ultimate miracle by commanding Lazarus to come out of the tomb. What further evidence could they ask for? But their unbelief was not based on insufficient evidence.

The same is true today. We have the evidence of fulfilled prophecy, including over 300 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. We have the eyewitness accounts of His teaching and miracles. There is the evidence of Jesus’ empty tomb, backed up by the changed lives of the witnesses, who all at first doubted His resurrection, but later were willing to suffer and die because they knew that He was alive. There is the evidence of intricate design in all of creation, from the molecular level up to the global level. But unbelief due to the hardness of human hearts suppresses the evidence.

B. Unbelief is based on selfish interests.

The real heart of unbelief is seeking your own way while you leave God out. There are two groups here, representing two levels of unbelief.

First, we see the unbelief of Caiaphas and the chief priests and Pharisees (11:47-53). The basis for their unbelief is clear (11:48): “If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” They had a vested interest in the system as it was and they were afraid of losing it. If the people believed in Jesus as Messiah, they feared that the Romans would intervene and they would lose their power and their comfortable living through controlling the temple. Ironically, by killing their Messiah, the very thing that they feared came on the nation as God’s judgment when Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70.

Caiaphas, who was the high priest, was a shrewd, calculating politician. First, he discredits what everyone else had said by flatly stating (11:49), “You know nothing at all.” Then, he postures himself as being concerned for the people (11:50), “… it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” He meant, “If we really care for our nation, we’ll eliminate this rabble-rouser, Jesus.” But he wasn’t really concerned for the nation, but for his own self-interest and power.

But John shows the irony in Caiaphas’ words: as high priest he was unwittingly prophesying that Jesus would die for the nation, and (11:52), “not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” John is referring to all of God’s elect around the world. They were not yet children of God, but as God told Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:10), “I have many people in this city.” They were not yet saved, but they would be saved through Paul’s preaching, because they were God’s chosen ones. As Jesus said (John 6:39): “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”

The lesson that we should learn is that you cannot frustrate God and His sovereign purpose. You can oppose Him and for a time it may seem that you are succeeding. They killed Jesus. But, in the end, God always wins. That’s the message of the last book of the Bible: God is going to win and all who oppose Him will lose.

The second group that did not believe was the common people (11:55-57), who went up to Jerusalem for the Passover. They were not openly hostile toward Jesus, but neither were they committed to follow Him. They were just curious onlookers on the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. They were content to go on with their religious festival while they discussed whether or not Jesus would show up and what would happen if He did. But they didn’t dare take a stand for Jesus, because that would put them on the bad side of the religious authorities. So their interest in protecting themselves caused them to be passive while the religious leaders murdered an innocent and good man.

The lesson here is that to be neutral towards Jesus is to be unbelieving. Self-centeredness is the heart of unbelief. The result of their self-interest was counter-productive, in that Jesus went away, because His time had not yet come (11:54). To have Jesus withdraw from you is the ultimate tragedy! The third lesson is:

C. Even devoutly religious people can be unbelieving.

Again, there is an ironic warning in 11:55: “Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover to purify themselves.” This refers to the second group of unbelievers that we saw. They weren’t openly hostile toward Jesus, but neither were they committed. They were “good church-goers,” who went through the outward rituals, but they weren’t willing to stand openly for Christ.

I hope that that doesn’t describe you! It is possible to be devoutly religious, to attend church regularly, to partake of the Lord’s Supper, and yet not to be fully committed to Jesus Christ, especially when that commitment might cost you something.

Conclusion

So I conclude with the warning of Hebrews 3:12: “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.” The Jewish leaders asked (11:47), “What are we doing (about this miracle-worker)?” It’s a good question to ask yourself: “What am I doing with Jesus?” The options are: (1) Oppose Him; (2) be neutral toward Him as you practice your religion; (3) believe in Him as Savior and Lord, no matter what it may cost you. If you believe, you will see the glory of God in Christ. But if you see the miracles reported in God’s Word and do not believe, you’ll be hardened in your sin and the Savior will withdraw from you. You don’t want to go there!

Application Questions

  1. A skeptic says, “I don’t believe in miracles because I’ve never seen one.” How would you reply?
  2. A fellow Christian says, “If those who are dead in sin can’t believe of their own free will, how can God command them to believe?” How would you reply?
  3. If unbelief is not based on insufficient evidence, what is the role of apologetics?
  4. What are some practical ways to be on guard against “an evil, unbelieving heart” (Heb. 3:12)?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Faith, Glory, Hamartiology (Sin)

Lesson 64: Wasting Your Life on Jesus (John 12:1-11)

Related Media

August 17, 2014

This story of Mary anointing our Lord shortly before His death has had a profound influence on my walk with the Lord for over 45 years now because of a sermon I read and have re-read many times by the late Chinese preacher, Watchman Nee. It’s the last chapter of his book, The Normal Christian Life [Christian Literature Crusade], titled, “The Goal of the Gospel.” It’s also in a pamphlet titled, “Why This Waste” (you can find it online).

Nee points out that in the parallel accounts in Matthew (26:6-13) and Mark (14:3-9; Luke 7:37-39 is a different incident), all the disciples joined Judas in scolding Mary for wasting this expensive perfume on Jesus when it could have been sold and the money given to the poor. But Jesus defends Mary by replying (Matt. 26:13), “Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” Nee says (p. 186) that Jesus “intends that the preaching of the Gospel should issue in something along the very lines of the action of Mary here, namely, that people should come to Him and waste themselves on Him.” Or, to state it another way (p. 187), the gospel is “to bring each one of us to a true estimate of His worth.” If Jesus is the pearl of great price and the treasure hidden in the field, then it’s not a waste to sell everything you have to buy that pearl or buy that field. Jesus is worthy for you to devote all you are and all you have to Him.

So this is a story about how not to waste your life. It’s also a story about motivation: why do you do what you do for the Lord? Do you serve Him for the satisfaction you get when you see results? It is satisfying to see Him use you, but that’s the wrong motivation. Do you serve Him because it helps others? Again, it’s gratifying to see others helped, but that’s the wrong motivation for serving Him. The true motive for serving Christ is because He is worthy of everything you can do for Him and because you love Him and want to please Him because He gave Himself for you on the cross. We learn this from Mary’s act of devotion.

But John contrasts Mary’s act of devotion with Judas’ self-centered focus and with the evil plans of the chief priests, who now not only want to kill Jesus, but also Lazarus, whose resurrection was resulting in many believing in Jesus. So the story’s lesson is:

A life spent in selfless devotion to Jesus is not wasted, but a life spent on self is totally wasted.

This story illustrates Jesus’ words in Mark 8:35-36:

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”

Jesus repeats this idea (John 12:25), “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” Mary denied herself and “hated her life” for Jesus’ sake by her extravagant act of devotion to Him, and she gained that which would not be taken from her (Luke 10:42). Judas greedily wished that he could have pocketed some of Mary’s gift. In a few days, he would sell Jesus for a paltry sum. But he forfeited his soul.

1. You will not waste your life if you spend it in selfless devotion to Jesus.

To put it another way, to “waste” your life on Jesus is to save your life. Mary’s act reflects four components of selfless devotion:

A. Selfless devotion is costly.

Mary’s anointing Jesus with this perfume was costly in at least three ways:

1) Selfless devotion costs you financially: “Do I treasure Jesus more than my stuff?”

Pure nard was a spice that came from the Himalaya Mountains in the far north of India. It had to be imported to Israel at great cost. We don’t know where Mary got this 12-ounce jar of perfume. Perhaps it was a family heirloom. Judas estimates that it could have been sold for 300 denarii, which was equivalent to about 300 days’ pay for a working man (Matt. 20:2). Figuring $10 an hour, 300 eight-hour days adds up to $24,000! Any way you figure it, Mary’s action was extravagantly costly! Judas and the disciples, who according to the other Gospels joined him in scolding Mary, were only being sensible: She could have sold this jar of perfume, given 90 percent of the money to help a lot of poor people, and still had a sizeable amount to give to the Lord. But were they really sensible?

The Lord rebukes them (John 12:8), “For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” He was not saying that we should not help the poor, but He was saying, “I am more worthy of your unselfish devotion than all the world’s poor put together!” He was accepting the worship that Mary gave Him because she rightly saw that He is worthy of all that we can give Him and even more. As Isaac Watts put it (“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”):

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small:
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

The point is, devotion to Christ will cost you financially. If He bought you with His blood, you don’t own anything. It’s all His and He can direct you to give some or all of it for His kingdom purposes. Probably, most of us would have sold the perfume, given ten percent to the Lord, and pocketed the rest to spend on getting a later model mule! But Mary gave it all because she knew that Jesus is worth it.

Many years ago, a pastor went down from the pulpit one Sunday and watched what each person put in or didn’t put in the offering plate as it was passed. Some of his people were angry, others were embarrassed, but all were surprised. Then he went back to the pulpit and preached on the Lord standing near the treasury in the temple and watching what each person put in, including the widow and her two mites. He reminded them that the Lord watches the collection every Sunday to see what His people give.

So let me ask: Is your devotion to the Lord costing you financially? If others looked at how you spend your money, would they conclude that you must love Jesus a lot?

2) Selfless devotion costs you socially: “Do I treasure Jesus more than my pride?”

Matthew and Mark say that Mary anointed Jesus’ head, but John says that she anointed His feet. There is no contradiction if she anointed both. Matthew and Mark mention Jesus’ head because anointing the head signified kingship. John mentioned her anointing Jesus’ feet because it was the lowly task of a servant to wash a guest’s feet. In the next chapter John tells how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet as an act of great humility that we should follow.

But Mary didn’t use a towel. Rather, she wiped the Lord’s feet with her hair. Respectable Jewish women never let down their hair in public. In fact, it was considered a mark of a woman of loose morals (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 577). But Mary was so caught up with her devotion to Christ that she didn’t stop to consider what others might think about her. Like David dancing before the Lord wearing only an ephod (2 Sam. 6:14-23), Mary cast public opinion to the wind, let her hair down, and wiped Jesus’ feet. David’s fervent devotion embarrassed his wife, but the Lord stood with David. Mary’s action made the apostles uncomfortable, but Jesus sided with Mary.

So ask yourself, “Do I treasure Jesus more than my pride?” Or, am I more concerned about what others think about me? People may think you’re a zealot or a religious fanatic. But what matters is what Jesus thinks about your selfless devotion to Him.

3) Selfless devotion costs you some criticism: “Do I treasure Jesus more than my reputation?”

Judas led the attack, but the other disciples echoed his criticism. Matthew 26:8 reports, “But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, ‘Why this waste?’” They were only being pragmatic and sensible. The money could have benefitted many poor families. But instead, it was all wasted on Jesus. Or, was it wasted?

Count on it: If you give yourself without reserve to Jesus, you will be criticized and the loudest criticism will come from some church members who will say that they’re only using common sense in how the Lord’s resources are spent. When Jim Elliot set his sights on going to the unreached tribes of Ecuador, his Christian parents asked him to consider whether his gifts could be better used among young people in the United States. He replied with a scathing denunciation of the lukewarm American church (Shadow of the Almighty [Zondervan], p. 132). He went to South America, where he and four others were murdered trying to tell a lost, savage tribe about the love of Jesus. They “wasted” their lives for Jesus!

When John Paton let it be known that he planned to move with his new bride to take the gospel to the cannibals in the South Sea Islands, an old man in his church would say, “You’ll be eaten by cannibals!” Finally, Paton grew exasperated and replied (modified from John G. Paton Autobiography [Banner of Truth], ed. by his brother James Paton, p. 56), “My dear sir, you’re getting up in years and soon will be laid in the grave and eaten by worms. If I can but live and die honoring the Lord Jesus, it doesn’t matter to me whether I’m eaten by cannibals or by worms, and on resurrection day, my body will arise as fair as yours!” Selfless devotion to Christ involves personal cost.

B. Selfless devotion stems from personal love and gratitude.

Although the text doesn’t state it directly, Mary’s action obviously stemmed from her love for Jesus and her gratitude for His raising her brother from the dead. Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus (John 11:5) and they loved Jesus.

Love for Christ should be the motive in all that we do for Him. Judas postured himself as being concerned for the poor, but even if he had given some of the money to the poor, he would not have been motivated by love for Christ. People can give great sums of money to the Lord’s work, but their real motive may be that they want others to know how generous they are. Some Christian organizations cater to this by naming a building after a generous donor, or telling potential donors that they will have a plaque put on the wall letting everyone know that they donated this room.

But the Lord looks on the hidden motives of our hearts, not on our outward actions. As Watchman Nee points out (ibid., pp. 189, 190), the first question we must ask in all we do is, “Has the Lord been satisfied?” Did I do what I did because I love Him and I wanted to please Him?

We’ve seen that selfless devotion is costly; it stems from love and gratitude toward Jesus.

C. Selfless devotion flows from knowing Jesus personally.

John 12:7 is difficult to interpret: “Therefore Jesus said, ‘Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial.’” Mary had just poured out the precious perfume, so she couldn’t keep it to anoint Jesus after He died. And, how much did she understand about Jesus’ impending death when none of the disciples saw it coming? The meaning may be that Mary had not sold this perfume, as Judas and the disciples had proposed, so that she could keep it for this anointing of Jesus’ body in anticipation of His death. Perhaps from her time of sitting at Jesus’ feet, Mary had some sense that Jesus was about to die. Or, in the providence of God, she may have anointed Him unwittingly.

But in either case, Mary knew more about the infinite worth of Jesus than even the apostles did at this point. Her personal knowledge of Jesus, gained by sitting at His feet, led her to this act of selfless devotion.

If you want to follow Mary’s example of devotion to Jesus, you have to follow her example of sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to His word (Luke 10:39). Every time we encounter Mary in the Gospels, she is at Jesus’ feet—first, learning from Him; then, pouring out her sorrow to Him; and now, expressing her love and devotion to Him. You won’t love the Lord as you should unless you’ve spent much time at His feet. You do that by spending consistent time in the Word and in prayer.

D. Selfless devotion results in action.

Mary didn’t just think about this radical display of love, but then allow reason to prevail and not do it. Rather, she did it! Good intentions are nice, but it takes good actions to produce results. This story highlights three results that flow from selfless devotion: one from Mary, one from Martha, and one from Lazarus:

1) Action results in the fragrance of Christ surrounding your life.

John 12:3 says, “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” If you had walked in the door or stood outside near an open window, you would have smelled the wonderful fragrance of that expensive perfume. It was in Mary’s hair, so that everywhere she went, the fragrance went with her.

Can people smell the fragrance of Christ on you? You ask, “What does it smell like?” It smells like the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23): Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Does your home smell like that? Do others sense from the fragrance of your life that you spend much time at Jesus’ feet, worshiping Him in selfless devotion? Do your relationships at church smell like the fragrance of Christ? I am often saddened when I hear about strained or broken relationships between believers. People who come into this church should smell the sweet fragrance of our Savior on us.

2) Action results in service for Christ.

Here we’re looking at the simple statement in John 12:2, “and Martha was serving.” In Luke 10:38-42, Martha was serving, but she was hassled by trying to do it all herself and she complained to Jesus because her sister wouldn’t help. Also, as G. Campbell Morgan observes (The Gospel According to John [Revell], p. 207), in Luke she was fixing dinner for four people and was hassled by her work, but here she is fixing dinner for at least 17 people and there is no word about her being hassled. Martha had learned from the previous incident to serve out of selfless devotion to Christ. If you love Him, you serve others for His sake without complaining.

3) Action results in witness for Christ.

Here, we’re looking at Lazarus. The text tells us three things about him: First, Jesus had raised him from the dead (John 12:1). Second, he was reclining at the table in fellowship with the Lord who had raised him from the dead (John 12:2). Third, his resurrected life resulted in many coming to see him and believing in Jesus as a result (John 12:9-11). Some scholars say that these were just curiosity seekers and not genuine converts. But John doesn’t say that. He just says (John 12:11), “on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus.”

In this, Lazarus is an example for our witness: First, Christ has to give you new life before you can be a witness for Him. Granted, our transformation is probably not as dramatic as a physical resurrection from the dead! But people should see a definite change in your life after you’re born again. Second, you must spend time in fellowship with Jesus, learning from Him. Then, because our Savior came to seek and to save the lost, as you grow to be like Him, pray that God will use you to seek and save the lost. Wouldn’t it be great if we all could put our names in verse 11 and say, “On account of [Steve] many were going away and believing in Jesus”?

But this story isn’t only about how to “waste” your life by giving it in selfless devotion to Christ. The other side is here, too:

2. You will totally waste your life if you spend it on yourself.

Judas and the Jewish leaders who sought to kill both Jesus and Lazarus were acting out of selfish interests. Judas thought that more money would bring him more happiness. The Jewish leaders wanted to hang onto their power. But both parties wasted their lives because they spent them on themselves.

John tells us about Judas’ greed in verse 6: He really wasn’t concerned about the poor, but he was a thief. He had the money box and used to help himself to the funds. If Mary had given her perfume to sell and give to the poor, some of that money would have ended up in Judas’ pocket! Perhaps Judas had joined the apostolic band because he thought that if Jesus became the King of Israel, he would enjoy a nice position in Jesus’ kingdom.

But now the future looked dim. Jesus kept talking about His death, not His reign. This incident pushed Judas over the top. When Jesus came to Mary’s defense with more talk about His death, Judas decided to go to the authorities and betray Jesus. (Both Matthew and Mark place this event out of chronological sequence to connect it with Judas’ betrayal.) So for a measly thirty pieces of silver, Judas sold his soul. And, the chief priests irrationally wanted to kill both the author of life and the man who was raised from the dead because they both threatened their hold on power. Judas and the Jewish leaders wasted their lives because they spent them on themselves. As Jesus states (John 12:25), “He who loves his life loses it ….”

Conclusion

Mary’s action reveals the proper basis for evaluating your actions: Did you do what you did because you love and treasure Jesus? She didn’t do this out of duty or pragmatism, but out of sheer devotion for Christ. Mary did what she did because she had a perception of Christ that even the apostles at this point lacked. She knew that He was worthy of extravagant love. She gained this knowledge of Christ by sitting at His feet. When Jesus is your treasure, you will spend your life in selfless devotion to Him.

At a pastors’ conference, Bill Mills told about a time when he was speaking to a group of Wycliffe missionaries in South America. On the last evening as he ate dinner with the director and his wife, she told him how years before they had been assigned to translate the Bible into one of the Indian tribal languages. This is a lengthy and tedious process. Before computers, it often took as long as twenty years.

During the process, the translators were teaching the Scriptures and seeing a new church emerging among the tribe. But as they came toward the end of the translation project, the tribal people were becoming more and more involved in selling their crops for the drug trade and less and less interested in the Scriptures. When they finally finished the translation of the New Testament and scheduled a dedication service, not even one person came!

This missionary wife was angry and bitter. She had given twenty years of her life so that these people could have the Scriptures, but they didn’t even want it! Then with regard to Bill’s ministry of the Word that week, she said (in, Finishing Well in Life and Ministry [Leadership Resources International], p. 190.):

It is as though God has been washing His Word over my soul and healing me, and He has opened my eyes to see this all from His perspective. I am just beginning to realize now that we did it for Him! That is the only thing that makes any sense in all of this. We did it for God!

Mills concludes, “That is the only thing that makes any sense in ministry. We do it for Him.” The world may scorn us and reject our message. Other believers may criticize us and not appreciate what we’re doing. But we aren’t wasting our lives if we spend them in selfless devotion for Jesus.

Application Questions

  1. Where does common sense (or wisdom) fit in with extravagant devotion to Christ? Shouldn’t good stewards be sensible?
  2. What does treasuring Jesus more than our stuff look like in practical terms? Is it wrong to have a savings account? To save for retirement? To take good care of possessions?
  3. Why is your motive for serving Christ primary? How can you keep the right motive in focus?
  4. How practically can you keep alive and deepen your love and devotion for Jesus?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Discipleship, Discipline, Failure, Sacrifice, Spiritual Life

第 26 课: 属灵争战 (以弗所书6:10-20)

Related Media

6:10 最后,你们要在主里坚强,并在他的大能大力里得力。 11 要穿戴 神的全副军装,就能抵挡魔鬼的诡计。 12 因我们并不是与属血肉的争战,乃是与那些空中执政的、掌权的、管辖这幽暗世界的,以及天空属灵气的恶势力5争战。 13 所以要拿起 神的全副军装,好在凶恶的日子抵挡仇敌,并且完成了一切,还能站立。

6:14所以要站稳了,用真理当作带子束6腰,用公义当作护胸甲遮胸; 15 用平安的福音当作鞋子穿在脚上; 16 此外又拿着信心的盾牌,用以灭尽那恶者一切的火箭; 17 并戴上救恩的头盔7;拿着圣灵的宝剑8,就是 神的道。 18 在圣灵里,随时多方祷告祈求,并要为此儆醒恒守,为众圣徒祈求。 19 也为我祈求,当我开口,赐我有信息,能以自信,讲明福音的奥秘; 20 我为这福音的奥秘,作了带锁炼的使者。并祈求我照着所当说的放胆讲论。

引言

随着希特勒对权力和领土的胃口增加,他挥军横扫欧洲。好些情况,不能称那些战事为一场战争,因为德国拥有坦克和先进的军备,而有些落后的国家并没有任何装备来迎战,有些只有矛,有些更只有石头来对抗希特勒的侵略,情况完全失控。

有些被撒旦攻击的对象,情况和上述的战事相似,有些受害人甚至不知道战事正在进行,他们很容易便成了撒旦的猎物,有些基督徒却不相信他们正处身于属灵争战中。更令人痛心的是有些基督徒知道自己「处身战斗中」,既不明白撒旦的鬼计,也不知道自己有甚么武器可使用,亦不知神给我们供应了那些武器可用来抵御。

使徒保罗所写的以弗所6:10-20给属灵争战下了最清晰的定义。这段经文明明白白地告诉我们属灵争战正在进行,并且告诉我们若不使用神所赐的装备,我们会无力对抗,并会处于绝望的境地。经文不单告诉我们神赐给我们甚么武器,也给我们提示了所处战事的本质。神所赐的装备,是对抗撒旦攻击的最佳武器;当我们参详这些装备时,便可从中领悟到很多关于撒旦所发动的攻击的性质。

在这关于属灵争战的第一课,我们会集中处理战事本身,即第10至13节,让我们了解战事的严重性。得到一些有关这场战争的概括数据后,我们会仔细地检视保罗所提及的每件武器和背后撒旦的攻击策略。愿神给我们开放的心思意念去认识属灵争战和祂为我们提供的抵御方法。

旧约中的属灵争战

作为基督徒,在这里读到我们正身处于一场属灵争战,应该不会感到奇怪。在旧约最初几章经文中,已表明撒旦是神的敌人,并且他不断地寻求敌挡神、敌挡神的旨意和祂的子民。让我们先看看记载在旧约的属灵争战,再探索新约相关的资料

让我们先看看 3 撒旦是怎样发动那触目的第一场属灵争战。这场争战其实在亚当和夏娃被造以先,便早已存在。两卷旧约先知书中有撒旦敌挡神的记载:

14:12明亮之星,早晨之子12啊!你已从天坠落!你这攻败13列国的,你已被砍倒在地上1413 你曾对自己说15:「我要升到天上!我要设立我的宝座在 艾(El)众星16以上;我要坐在聚会的山上,在撒分的远坡1714 我要升到高云之上18;我要与至上者19同等。」(以赛亚书14:12-14

28:12 「人子啊,你为推罗王作哀歌,对他们说:『主耶和华如此说:「『你是完美的典范,智慧充足,全然美丽。13 你曾在伊甸 神的园中9,佩戴各样宝石,就是红宝石、红璧玺、金钢石、水苍玉、红玛瑙、碧玉、蓝宝石、绿宝石和红玉10,宝石座都是金子造的,都是在你受造之日预备齐全的。14 你是那受膏11护卫12的基路伯13,我将你安置在 神的圣山上,你在发光如火的宝石中间往来。15 你从受造之日所行的14都完全,直到在你里面发现了罪。(以西结书28:12-15

先知在这两段经文所指的明显并非地上君王,而是一位拥有更大能力的人物——撒旦。他是神所创造的天使(以西结书28:13),并赐予在神之下的最高权柄,但他仍不满足,他在神的园子——伊甸园(以西结书28:13),虽然他被造时是完美的,后来却堕落了(以西结书28:15),他拥有佳形美容、权力与权威,但他要升到高云之上,要与神同等(赛亚书14:14)。

当撒旦叛逆神的时候,其他受造物也加入他的行列敌挡神和祂的旨意。因此,在创世纪第三章中,撒旦 第一次出现时,他化身为在神和亚当夏娃管治下的另一受造物,以另一身份接触亚当和夏娃。他的诱惑被听从了,而神的话却被违背,所引致的后果不单是亚当和夏娃的堕落,而且他们的后裔也落在同样的境况

6 告诉我们「神的儿子」娶了「人的女儿」。按旧约的表达,「神的儿子」是指天使而非人类,看起来似是撒旦雇用了其他堕落的天使去败坏「女人的后裔」,因为他是神应许要打败撒旦,并将人类从罪恶中拯救出来(创世记3:15)1

約伯记所记载的事件,相信发生在族长时期。撒旦在約伯1和第2章出现的时间,很可能发生在创世记第3章和第6章以后。撒旦和其他「神的众子」(约伯记1:6)侍立在耶和华面前,撒旦质疑伯记事奉神是因为他蒙神赐福,因此,神给撒旦权柄苦待伯记,不过神也给撒旦定下界线。虽然撒旦是伯记面对厄运的起因,但终极的原因却是神。神掌管祂仆人的生命是从未动摇的。然而有一点我们必须加以留意,伯记所面对的,表面看来是自然因素,但实质是源于撒旦;再看深一层,地上舞台的背后,并不是掌握在撒旦的手中。神的旨意是指示撒旦和其他「神的众子」荣耀神。

列王紀下第6,亚兰王要攻打以色列,神将亚兰王的计划预先告知先知伊莱沙;伊莱沙则转告以色列王,因此亚兰的攻击都无功而回。. 当亚兰王得悉是伊莱沙破坏他的计划时,他派军队去捉拿伊莱沙。一个早上,亚兰的军队围困伊莱沙所住的城镇多坍。当伊莱沙的仆人早上起来打水时,看到了围困城池的亚兰军队,这惊惧的仆人冲往他的主人,并告诉他所看见的。

正当仆人被所见的吓坏了的时候,伊莱沙却非常镇定,因为他知道一些他的仆人所不知的事情,他知道天上的主宰与他同在时,就无惧地上的军队。故此,他祷告开了仆人的眼目,让他看到正在值班守护神子民的「隐形军队」。

6:15 先知的仆人清早起来, 他出去。看见车马军兵围困了城。仆人就对先知说:「不好了!我主啊,我们怎么辨?」6:16 先知说:「不要怕!我们这边的比他们那边的多。」6:17伊莱沙祷告说:「耶和华啊,开这少年人的眼睛,让他看见。」耶和华开仆人的眼目,他就看见满山有火车火马围绕伊莱沙。 6:18 敌人接近伊莱沙,伊莱沙祷告耶和华说:「请以眼瞎打击这些。」耶和华就照伊莱沙的请求,使他们的眼瞎。 6:19 伊莱沙就对他们说:「这不是正确的道路和城市,你们跟我走,我必领你们到要找的人那里。」于是领他们到了撒马利亚。(列王纪下6:15-19)

天军降下,伊莱沙祷告神使敌军眼目昏迷,结果,伊莱沙就凭他一个人将全数亚兰军队交在以色列军的手;但他不容许以色列军杀掉亚兰军队,却要给他们食物和水,并将他们送回家乡。天军常存,并响应信徒的祷告。

在历代志上,我们也可以一瞥撒旦怎样敌挡神和祂的子民。历代志上记载了「撒旦起来攻击以色列人,激动大卫数点他们。」(历代志上21:1和合本),这节经文并没有记录在撒母记下24,若非我们得到这节经文的启示,没有人会认为大卫的行动不只是错误的判断,在他愚鲁和充满罪的决定背后,我们发现了用尽千方百计与神和神的子民作对的撒旦。

最后,在但以理书中,我们来到属灵争战中最具戏剧性的例子:

3:24然后,尼布甲尼撒王吃了一惊,急忙起身,对谋士说:「我们捆起来扔在火里的不是三个人吗?」他们回答王说:「王啊,是。」3:25 王说:「但我见有四个人,并没有捆绑,在火中行走!没有受伤!那第四个的相貌好像神明。」(但以理书3:24-25)

10:10忽然,有一手触碰我,使我能用膝和手掌支持微起。 10:11 他对我说:「大蒙眷爱的但以理啊,要明白我将与你所说的话。站起来吧,因为我现在奉差遣来到你这里。」他对我说这话的时候,我便战战兢兢地站起来。 10:12 他就说:「但以理啊,不要惧怕!因为从你第一日专心求明白,又在你 神面前谦卑自己,你的言语已蒙垂听。我是来回应你的言语。 10:13 但波斯国的君拦阻了我二十一日。忽然有大君中的一位米迦勒来帮助我,因我停留在波斯诸王那里。…… 10:20 他就说:「你知道我为何来见你吗?现在我快要回去与波斯的君争战。我去后,希腊的君必来。 10:21 但我先要将那录在一本真确书上的事告诉你。(除了你们的大君米迦勒之外,没有帮助我抵挡这两君的。」(但以理书10:10-13, 20-21)

在但以理书第3章,但以理的三个朋友因为不肯向尼布甲尼撒王所造的金像下拜而被扔进烈火的窑里。当三人被扔入窑后,尼布甲尼撒王却发现窑中并非三人而是四人,并且他们没有痛苦、也没有被火吞噬,他们在火中游行。那第四个人若非主自己,亦肯定是被派来拯救神忠心子民性命的天使。

在第10章,一位天使被派往回应但以理的祷告(12节)。他告诉但以理他原本是早点到来的,但遇到「波斯国的君」拦阻他21日,米迦勒来帮助他。他预期和但以理说话后,他会和「波斯国的君」与及「希腊的君」相遇(20节)。值得我们留意的一个重点,天使积极参与人类和国家的事务之中。敬虔的天使来响应但以理的祷告,但那些叛逆的却与他对抗。还有一点值得留意的是那些叛逆的天使似乎和地上的政权和君王相连。

福音书里的属灵争战

属灵争战在新约福音书中亦十分普遍,在马太福音( 4:1-11 )和路加福音( 4:1-13 )记载了主耶稣受撒旦的试探。撒旦企图要引诱主背弃对天父的忠心,为自己的利益而独立行事。撒旦当然失败了,我们为此感恩。撒旦的计谋加诸亚当和夏娃,或许其他人身上时会得逞,但对这君王却是徒劳无功。

三卷福音书都记载了主在加大拉(格拉森)赶鬼的事迹2,但每卷福音书的记载各有独特之处,让我们更了解属灵的争战:

8:28耶稣到了对岸,来到加大拉人的地方,有两个被鬼附的人从坟茔里出来迎着他。他们极其凶恶,所以没有人能从那条路经过。 8:29 他们喊着说:「 神的儿子,我们与你没有相干!时候还没有到,你就来叫我们受苦吗?」(马太福音8:28-29)

5:6当他远远的看见耶稣,就跑到他面前拜他, 5:7 又大声呼叫说:「至高 神的儿子耶稣,我与你没有相干!我指着 神恳求你,不要叫我受苦!」5:8(因耶稣曾对他说过:「污灵,从这人身上出来!」)5:9 耶稣问他说:「你名叫甚么?」他回答说:「我名叫兵团,因为我们多的缘故。」5:10 他再三的求耶稣不要叫他们离开那地方。(马可福音5:6-10)

8:30耶稣问他说:「你名叫甚么?」他说:「兵团。」因为附着他的鬼很多。 8:31 鬼就央求耶稣,不要吩咐他们到无底坑里去。(路加福音8:30-31)

按马太福音的记述,我们得悉那群鬼是知道牠们时日有限,牠们预期基督的降临,只是遇到基督的时间比牠们想象的要早多了。他牠们和别人一样以为基督只降临一次,而非两次。

马可福音第5章告诉我们,鬼再三要求耶稣不要吩咐牠们「离开那地方」(5:10),而路加福音第8章的记载却是要求耶稣不要「吩咐牠们到无底坑里去」(8:31)。综合这两段经文,我们得出的结论是吩咐鬼「离开那地方」便是将牠们限制在「无底坑」。同样地,在但以理书里,堕落的天使的活动也似有地域疆界。假如鬼被送离所属的地方,牠们便不能再自由地敌挡神和在地上属祂的子民,而是被禁锁在无底坑里。

从马太福音我们知道那将成立的教会,会受到撒旦的攻击( 太福音16:23 )。而路加告诉我们撒旦厚颜地要求主「把彼得如筛麦子般筛掉」(路加福音22:31)。撒旦进入了犹大,透过他出卖主,把主交给那些捉拿祂的人(约翰福音13:27)。撒旦这「世界的王」(约翰福音12:31; 14:30; 16:11),尽管他费尽力气,他将会得到相反的效果,他将被各各他的十字架打败。

教会里的属灵争战

在使徒行传的开端,撒旦已被发现攻击神的子民和破坏神的旨意。在使徒行传第5章,我们读到亚拿尼亚和他的太太撒非喇为主的工作捐献,不过他们却在金额上说谎。当彼得斥责亚拿尼亚时,他把说谎的诱因归给撒旦:「亚拿尼亚!为甚么撒但充满了你的心叫你欺哄圣灵,私自留下部份卖田地的价银呢?」(使徒行5:3

使徒行传13:10 ,保罗斥责行法术的以吕马,因他敌挡福音,保罗称他为「魔鬼的儿子」。在哥林多后书第2章,保罗责备教会对饶恕一名愿意悔改的弟兄这事上保持缄默,是给撒旦留地步,他并说我们并不是不晓得他的诡计(哥林多后2:10-11 )。稍后,保罗在这封书信以「世界之神」来称呼撒旦,并称他使不信的人瞎了心眼,看不见基督荣耀福音的光(4:4)。在这书的较后部份,保罗警告撒旦和他的差役伪装作基督使徒的模样,以权威的领导使部份信徒走入歧途:

11:13那等人是假使徒,行事诡诈,装作基督使徒的模样。 11:14 这也不足为怪,因为连撒但也装作光的天使。 11:15 所以他的差役,若装作仁义的差役,也不算希奇。他们的结局,必然照着他们的行为。(哥林多后书11:13-15)

帖撒尼迦后2:1-12 当保罗谈及后来那邪恶的世代,当「不法的人」被显露,他们照着撒但的作为,行各样的异能、神迹和虚假的奇事(2:9)。在提摩太前3:6,保罗警告初入教的不可作监督,免得他自高自大,就落在魔鬼要受的刑罚里。在第4章,他警告将来有人会跌倒,离弃真道,因此需要留心「引诱人的邪灵,和鬼魔的教导」(4:1)。在提摩太前书第5章,保罗则劝勉年青的寡妇再婚,免得她们懒惰,又说长道短,好管闲事。这听起来很人性化,但保罗却把这些事和撒旦的活动连起来:「所以我宁愿年轻的寡妇嫁人,生养儿女,治理家务,不给敌人毁谤的把柄;因为已经有转去随从撒但的。」(提摩太前书5:14-15)试想,保罗指说三道四的背后是追随撒旦。现在让我们回答谁曾以说长道短,搬弄是非是邪恶的?保罗。

雅各在他的书信谴责信徒中的冲突和争闹,是属血气的互斗和这些事是从私欲而来的( 4:1-3 ),他继而指出这罪是叛逆神和使圣灵忧伤(4:3-4)。接着雅各把冲突和争闹指向撒旦:

4:6 但他赐更大的恩典,所以经上说:「 神阻挡骄傲的人,赐恩给谦卑的人。」4:7 故此,你们要顺服 神,抵挡魔鬼,魔鬼就必离开你们逃跑了。(雅各书4:6-7)

彼得在认识撒旦上学了艰苦的一课(参 马太福音16:21-23路加福音22:31 )。因此,他以领导和顺服作为背景,向其他人发出警告:撒旦是我们的仇敌,他威胁我们。 (彼得前书5:1-9 ):

5:8 务要谨守、儆醒。你们的仇敌魔鬼,如同吼叫的狮子,遍地游行,寻找可吞吃的人。 5:9 你们要抵挡他,信心坚定,因为知道你们在世上的弟兄姐妹,也在忍受同样的苦难。(彼得前书5:8-9)

记载在启示录第2-3章给教会的七封信,主耶稣经常提及撒旦是教会里诱惑和试探的来源(参启示录 2:9, 13, 24; 3:9)。启示录的其余部份描述与撒旦的最后争战和他终极被击败(特别参看第12章和第20章)。

我有一个关于撒旦极力攻击教会的理论,他和我们都知道教会被天使察看,他们从所看到的得到指示。

11:10 因此,为天使的缘故,女人应当在头上有服权柄的记号。(哥林多前书11:10)

3:8 我本来比众圣徒中最小的还小,然而他还赐我这恩典,叫我把基督那测不透的丰富传给外邦人;3:9 又使众人都明白,这历代以来隐藏在创造万物之 神里,奥秘的计划, 3:10 就是要藉着教会使天上执政的、掌权的,现在得知 神百般的智慧。(以弗所书3:8-10)

我明白当撒旦叛逆神时,一个可观数目的天使参与撒旦的行列,也有一些如 赛亚书14以西结书28 所述,是较后期才加入的。我也偏向相信启示录12:4所说那将会发生的(即以弗所书6:13所说的「凶恶的日子」),那时,其他的天使或许会和撒旦一起叛逆神。若是这样,天使在观察教会时所学的「课」的显著性,就更加明确了。当天使看到妇女们顺服丈夫(哥林多前11:10),也被提醒他们顺服神的重要性。也许约伯记第1章,撒旦不单尝试说服神,也希望说服天使,受造物敬拜上帝是出于私心。那么,撒旦努力去破坏教会就不足为奇了,因那是他给天使的信息。

按上述引述的经文和圣经的其他部份,称撒旦为教会的头号敌人是正确的。他恒常地寻找机会使信徒跌倒和阻挠神对教会的旨意和计划。

以弗所书描绘的属灵争战

保罗在以弗所书前数章经文的教导,已经铺排好信徒在属灵争战中应有的行为表现,因此保罗在第6章讨论属灵争战,我们一点也不感到奇怪。

试把自己想象为一个奴隶,作为一个奴隶,你的天地是渺小的,你的自由和对外接触受到很大的限制。当保罗所写的信在以弗所的教会里被大声读出来时,当读第1章时,你明白在创世以前,你的救恩已是神计划的一部份,继而知道神的旨意是要把你从罪中救出来,最终要将一切在基督里合而为一。你虽然只是一名奴隶,你是那永恒计划中的一员,有幸参加把荣耀归给神。透过这一章你也知道基督的大能、特别是那从死里复活的大能是超乎人类所能领略的。祂被高举高于其他的权能,向我们这信的人显示浩大的能力,万有都服在他的权能之下(参以弗所书1:18-23)。

在第二章,保罗提醒你们从前死在过犯之中,与神隔绝,过着随从肉欲的生活,按实际情况是撒旦的走卒,并在不知不觉中执行了撒旦的计划和目的,就如其他悖逆之子( 2:1-3 )。因着神丰富的怜悯,把你们从罪中拯救出来,在基督里与神和好(2:4-10)。你们原本是外邦人,与神的子民间隔断,并且敌挡神的子民;而现时在基督里,你不单与神和好,也与神的子民和好。

得救,并非成了归信犹太教的外邦人。神与外邦人和好并非使他们成为犹太人。祂与犹太人和外邦人和好,将两下藉自己造成一个新人。意即外邦人并非天堂里的二等公民,而犹太基督徒的地位并不比外邦信徒崇高。借着圣灵所有信徒成为一体,成为神的居所。

第二章指出属灵争战的一个重要原因。作为一个不信者,虽然我们未必知晓我们在撒旦的管辖和权势之下。但当我们借着神的恩典归信基督,我们便被拯救脱离撒旦的「黑暗国度」,成为「光明国度」的子民。救恩使我们不再是神的敌人,但与此同时,我们却成了撒旦的敌人。无怪乎他积极地攻击那曾是他臣民的基督徒。

在第三章,奴隶被给予一幅和神旨意和永恒计划相关的完整图画。在这里,保罗谈及神透过他揭示的「奥秘」。这奥秘是2:11-22的延伸,这奥秘就是神使犹太人和外邦人与祂和好,亦两下和好,借着福音得以同为后嗣,同蒙应许。虽然保罗已经把这奥秘向教会启示了,现在这奥秘要透过教会彰显;这奥秘同时是给天使的指示:

3:8 我本来比众圣徒中最小的还小,然而他还赐我这恩典,叫我把基督那测不透的丰富传给外邦人; 3:9 又使众人都明白,这历代以来隐藏在创造万物之 神里,奥秘的计划,3:10 就是要藉着教会使天上执政的、掌权的,现在得知 神百般的智慧。 3:11 这是照 神从万世以前,在我们主基督耶稣里所成就的永恒旨意。 3:12我们因着耶稣的信实,就在他里面放胆无惧,笃信不疑的来到 神面前。(以弗所书3:8-12)

假如教会是天使的教室,基督徒在教会里的行为,必须与神所授的「课」一致。因此,保罗劝勉信徒「行事为人就当与所蒙的召相称。」(4:1)接着在以弗所书4:1–6:9,便谈论基督徒的生活之道。那是...

当与所蒙的召相称(以弗所书4:1)3

你们不要再像外邦人虚枉的生活(以弗所书4:17)

活在爱中(以弗所书5:1-2)

当像智慧人(以弗所书5:15)

智者行事为人的特质是被圣灵充满和受圣灵的约束( 5:18 ),以互相顺服作为明证(5:21–6:9)。故此,保罗在给信徒互相顺服的指示后立即把主题转往属灵争战便不会使人感到突屹了。在这里,撒旦自己的叛逆最为明显,同时亦可预期他发动攻击。

当奴仆初次听到保罗的这封信被读出来时,他会否认为他的世界太渺小,他的顺服也太微不足道呢?若是这样,保罗的这封信应给他一个相反的教导。他正处身于一个极大的争扎、一场属灵争战里,他被召唤穿上神赐的全副军装,以确保他不被打败。假如第1-3章让我们明白到我们的救恩和祝福的根源是神的旨意和祂永恒的计划,那么第6章便让我们理解到我们和罪搏斗的来源——撒旦。

有很多的罪,看似完全人性化,但实质是源于撒旦。故此,保罗在这封信的结语,移开了撒旦的面纱,让我们能从一个更宽阔的角度看到我们和罪搏斗的影响,并且提醒我们将来撒旦必完完全全地、终极地灭亡。保罗给我们展示了救恩的起源是从远古开始;而在永恒臻至完美。他让我们知道神的旨意和神正进行的工作,让我们知道我们是活在怎样的一幅图画里,因而调节我们的生活来就神为祂的创造所定下的旨意,却不是企图说服神来就我们的意愿。

至于保罗教导顺服( 5:21–6:9 )和属灵争战( 6:10-20 )的关系,还有一点要加以说明:顺服是放弃我们的权利和放弃追求个人利益;而属灵争战并不是放弃,而是坚定不移、不后退。我们岂不是经常把这两种情况倒过来吗?我们岂不是倾向在需要坚定不移时,我们却放弃;而在应该撤退时却坚持。我们要学习那些地方当我们收到指示要坚持时,我们坚持;当指示我们要顺服时,我们顺服。

从以弗所书6:10-13的经文看属灵争战

6:10 最后,你们要在主里坚强,并在他的大能大力里得力。 6:11 要穿戴 神的全副军装,就能抵挡魔鬼的诡计。 6:12 因我们并不是与属血肉的争战,乃是与那些空中执政的、掌权的、管辖这幽暗世界的,以及天空属灵气的恶势力争战。 6:13 所以要拿起 神的全副军装,好在凶恶的日子抵挡仇敌,并且完成了一切,还能站立。

(1) 信基督救主可以被理解基督入属天的祝福(以弗所1:3),同时亦开始了与撒旦和他的党羽的大搏斗。让那些凭着信在祝福里的人,注意到我们是因信基督而进入这场战争,我们必须倚靠基督的力量作战。

(2) 教会也在这场属灵争中,人是撒旦和一群看不的天使与及属天的人,他的能力远远 我们只能看到极小部份的敌人,我们虽然看不到我们的敌人,但他们是真确地存在的,他们敌对我们的行动也是真确的。那些属天的敌人以不同的形态出现,保罗使用了不同的名词来描述:「空中执政的」、「空中掌权的」、「管辖这幽暗世界的」和「天空属灵气的恶势力」(第12节)。我疑惑我们是否有能力全面掌握那众多不同形式敌对我们的力量。我只能单单的给你提醒,天使看来有不同的等级,而启示录有关天堂的描述,当中的生物,恐怕在我们来到神面前以先,是无法明白的。(启示录5:6, 8, 11

天使有很大的权力,而撒旦看来拥有最大的权势,我们最好还是不要小嘘这力量。 过去我曾听过有一位牧者称撒旦为「懦弱的人」,我感到十分惊讶!从我们所引用的经文或是其他经文,怎可能得出如此结论呢?我们若轻视撒旦的力量,我们就低估了属灵争战的严重性,也低估了若要抵抗撒旦的攻击时,我们对神加添给我们力量的需要。我只想提醒你,那些轻看属天恶势力的,透过以下几节经文应该能纠正过来:

2:9 既是这样,主知道如何搭救敬虔的人脱离审判,把不义的人留至审判之日的刑罚, 2:10 特别是那些放纵肉欲、轻慢权柄的。他们胆大任性,毫不畏惧毁谤那尊贵的;2:11 即使是天使,虽然力量权能更大,也不用毁谤的话在主面前告他们。 2:12 但这些人好像没有理性的畜类、凭本能的动物,生来就是为被捉拿宰杀的;他们不知道自己所毁谤的,后果是败坏人的时候,自己必遭遇败坏;(彼得后书2:9-12)

1:8 同样,这些作梦的人,污秽身体,拒绝权柄,毁谤那尊贵的。 1:9 连天使长米迦勒为摩西的尸首与魔鬼争辩的时候,尚且不敢用毁谤的话罪责他,只说:「主责备你吧!」1:10 但这些人不知道他们所毁谤的,他们像无理性的畜类一样,在按本能知道的事上灭亡。(犹大书1: 8-10

我们实在不应低估我们的敌人,我们的敌人「如同吼叫的狮子,遍地游行,寻找可吞吃的人。」(彼得前书5:8)从彼得前书的经文,我们可以知道撒旦并非纸老虎,他不单止有吞噬的欲望,而且会吞噬那些没有穿上神所赐全副军装的人。

(3) 文的重点,并非撒旦敌挡神和人的每一个环节,而是撒旦与圣徒的争。 撒旦的战略是多方面的,他阻拦未信的人认识真理,他使鬼附上人身。但在以弗所书第6章,保罗的关注点是撒旦与教会的战争与及神赐予基督徒的防御装备。

(4) 在属灵争中,撒旦使用各不同的策略攻和打基督徒。 保罗所谈论的,并非魔鬼的某一个策略,而是多个策略。按记载在马太福音第4章和路加福音第4章撒旦试探耶稣的经文,撒旦暂时放弃他的诱惑,但路加清楚表明撒旦只是暂时放弃,当他重整棋鼓时,他又卷土重来:「魔鬼用尽了各样的试探,就离开耶稣,等待好时机。」(路加福音4:13)撒旦不单止使用了很多不同的方法来试探主,他并且定意只要有机会,就不停地试探祂。撒旦是一个机会主义者,他并且有无穷的「方案」。

(5) 在撒旦教会并非行正面的攻,而是透谋诡计、欺和弄虚作假的覆性攻 在加大拉,当鬼遇到耶稣时感到错愕,他们预期耶稣在最后审判时才来(太福音8:28-29)。撒旦现时的策略(直至最后争战)是使用颠覆性的方法。他使用欺诈的手段和阴谋诡计来绊倒基督徒。这是一场使用狙击手和陷阱的游击战,并非正面的攻击。

(6) 「邪的世代」将会来,那属灵争会白化,信徒面的危也随之而增加。 世代邪恶是真确的:「你们要谨慎生活,不要像愚昧人,当像智慧人;要珍惜时机,因为现今的世代邪恶。」(以弗所5:15-16)但保罗并非泛指整个邪恶世代,而是指一个邪恶的日子,据我理解是撒旦进行激烈的攻击导致主再来,同时是撒旦和他的党羽的终极被毁灭(参帖撒尼迦后2:1-12启示录12和20章)。基督徒武士的特征是警惕,故此他并没有因为没有防卫而被撒旦的诡计所俘虏,并且在终极的审判站立得稳。

(7) 基督徒所使用的武器是神籍基督所予。那是祂为属祂的在邪恶的日子带来救恩;穿上神所赐的全副军装,也就是披戴基督。

11:1 从耶西的墩必发一条,嫩芽必从他的根而出。 11:2 耶和华的灵必住在他身上──是使他有超凡智慧的灵、能执行计划的灵、绝对效忠耶和华的灵。 11:3 他必以顺从耶和华为乐,行审判不凭眼见,断是非也不凭耳闻。 11:4 他必以公平对待贫穷人,为世上的卑下人作正确的决定。他必以口中的杖击打全地,下令处决邪恶的人。 11:5 公平有如他的腰带,信德如同胁下的带子。(以赛亚书11:1-5)

59:16 他见无人代言,无人干预,甚为惊动。就亲自动手,他对公平的愿望催迫着他。 59:17 他以公义的意愿为铠甲(注:或作「护心镜」),以拯救的心愿为头盔。他以报仇为衣服,以热心为外袍。 59:18 他必按人的行为施报,分发恼怒的审判给他的对头,惩罚他的仇敌,向众海岸施行报应。 59:19 西方的人必敬重耶和华的名;东方的人也必认出他的荣美。因为他来好像急流的河水,被耶和华差派之风驱动。 59:20「必有一位保护者来到锡安,到雅各布族中从悖逆行为悔攺的人那里。」这是耶和华说的。(以赛亚书59:16-20)

当我们穿上神所赐的全副军装时,我们实际上是披戴主耶稣基督。

13:11 我们这样行,因为晓得现今就是早该睡醒的时候,因为我们的得救比初信的时候更近了。 13:12 黑夜已深,白昼将近。我们就当放下暗昧的行为,带上光的兵器;13:13 行事为人要端正,好像行在白昼。不可荒宴醉酒,不可好色邪荡,不可争竞嫉妒。 13:14 反要披戴主耶稣基督,不要为肉体安排去惹动私欲。 (罗马书13:11-14)

有些人讨论属灵争战时,常常突显了撒旦和属他的邪恶党羽。但经文并不是这样说的,在我们所读的这段经文也绝对不是这样的。按保罗所说的,基督才是那超群的,撒旦和他的仆役是敌人,而基督与及穿上祂所提供的军备的圣徒是胜利者。

(8) 指示穿上神所的全副装是一个命令。 在第二次世界大战时,我的父亲和其他人收到一封信。这封信的的开端是这样的:「美国总统向你们问安。」,相信你已经猜到这是一封征召入伍的信,总统发出的并不是一个邀请,而是一个命令。没有人胆敢把这封信置诸不理,因为这样做会带来严重的后果。

保罗关于属灵争战的指示亦是一样,保罗通知每一个信徒他们被召入伍,但那场战事并非血肉之战,而是属灵争战。他并不是鼓励我们穿上「神所赐的全副军装」,而是命令我们穿上。这几节经文是命令我们操向战场,我们不能置之不理,也不能不完全执行。

(9) 只有当我穿上神所的全副,才能肯定得到抵撒旦攻的足够保护。 撒旦的攻击层出不穷,只要他认为有机可乘便会发动攻击。故此,我们必须穿上全套军装,而不是按我们的意思随意挑选,否则我们便暴露于被攻击的危险。

保罗在以弗所书第6章透过强调神所赐的「全」副军装,暗示若不穿上「神所赐的全副军装」便站立不稳,而以弗所书第6章所列出的军备也就是我们所需要的全部军备。为何保罗那么强调要穿上神所赐的全副军装,而又没有告诉我们是那些军备?因此我得出的结论是我们所需要的军备在以弗所书6:10-20已完整地列出来;并且,若有人提出其他的军备,都是不需要的。

(10) 我们的责任并不是攻击撒旦,或把他打败;而是被他攻击时能站立得稳。 我们的工作是防御而非攻击。那些向撒旦发动攻击的,并不了解撒旦的能力,也不明白神的计划。打败撒旦的是基督,并不是我们。我们的责任是抵挡撒旦而不是铲除他。我曾听见有基督徒说要「捆绑撒旦」,也有基督徒唱诗歌的内容要把「撒旦赶出城外」;然而圣经并没有提及这样的争战,圣经只说当我们面对撒旦的攻击时,要站立得稳。

神才是这场战事的得胜者,而我们的责任是要站立得稳。在启示录中,得胜的圣徒并没有打败撒旦,当中不少圣徒死于撒旦之手(12:11)。撒旦被终极打败(20:7-10)并非经由圣徒之手,而是神从天上降下火把撒旦击败(20:9)。

12:10 之后,我听见天上有大声音说:「我 神的救恩、能力、国度,并他基督治理的权柄,现在都来到了,因为那在我们 神面前昼夜控告我们弟兄的已经被摔下去了。 12:11 但是弟兄胜过他,是靠羔羊的血和自己的见证;他们虽至于死,也不爱惜性命。(启示录12:10-11)

20:9 他们上来遍满了地面的平原,围住圣徒的营与蒙爱的城,但有火从天降下消灭了他们。 20:10 那迷惑他们的魔鬼就被扔在硫磺的火湖里,就是兽和假先知所在的地方。他们必昼夜受刑,直到永永远远。(启示录20:9-10)

属灵的争战是属神的战事,神给子民的命令是「站稳」并观看神战胜这场战事,祂并不需要人的协助:

14:10 法老臨近的时候,以色列人举目看見埃及人在后面赶來,就极其惧怕,向耶和华呼求。 14:11 他们又对摩西說:「难道在埃及没有坟地,你把我们带來死在旷野吗?你将我们从埃及領出來是怎么一回事呢? 14:12 我们在埃及豈不是对你这样說:『不要搅扰我们,容我们服事埃及人,因为服事埃及人比死在旷野还好。』」14:13 摩西对百姓說:「不要惧怕!只管站住,看耶和华今天向你们所要施行的救恩;因为你们今天所看見的埃及人,必永远不再看見了。 14:14 耶和华必为你们争战,你们只管静观。」(出埃及记14:10-14)

虽然基督徒积极参与战斗,但得胜的是神(参 5:13–6:27 )。另外,大卫歌利亚战斗时,他并没有剑,只有机弦甩石;大卫能得胜,是神赐他胜利。就是从歌利亚所说的话中,亦清楚表明大卫这年青人无法靠自己的能力战胜,而大卫的话就更清楚表达得胜的是神:

17:41 非利士人也渐渐地迎着大卫来,拿盾牌的走在前头。 17:42 非利士人观看,见了大卫,就藐视他,因为他年轻,面色光红,容貌俊美。 17:43 非利士人对大卫说:「你拿杖到我这里来,我岂是狗呢?」非利士人就指着自己的神咒诅大卫。 17:44 非利士人又对大卫说:「来吧!我将你的肉给空中的飞鸟、田野的走兽吃。」

17:45 大卫对非利士人说:「你来攻击我,是靠着刀枪和铜戟;我来攻击你,是靠着万军之耶和华的名,就是你所怒骂带领以色列军队的 神。 17:46 今日耶和华必将你交在我手里。我必杀你,斩你的头;又将非利士军兵的尸首给空中的飞鸟、地上的野兽吃,使普天下的人都知道以色列中有 神;17:47 又使这众人知道耶和华使人得胜,不是用刀用枪,因为争战的胜败全在乎耶和华。他必将你们交在我们手里。

17:48 非利士人起身,迎着大卫前来。大卫急忙迎着非利士人,往战场跑去。 17:49 大卫用手从囊中掏出一块石子来,用机弦甩去,打中非利士人的额,石子进入额内,他就仆倒,面伏于地。 17:50 这样,大卫用机弦甩石,胜了那非利士人,打死他;大卫手中却没有刀。 17:51 大卫跑去,站在非利士人身旁,将他的刀从鞘中拔出来,杀死他,割了他的头。非利士众人看见他们讨战的勇士死了,就都逃跑。(撒母耳记上17:41-51)

(11) 福音及撒旦被打与及我的防御。 耶稣在福音书中曾经多次提及撒旦被打败。每次提及撒旦被打败时,都是透过各各他的十字架把撒旦打败。当耶稣在各各他被钉十字架,并且在第三日复活,我们的救恩和撒旦被打败都已经成就了。主已战胜了祂的敌人,最重要是撒旦已被战胜了。

12:31 现在这世界要受审判,这世界的王要被赶出去。(约翰福音12:31)

16:8 他既来了,就要证明世人在罪、在义、在审判的错误。 16:9 在罪,是因他们不信我;16:10 在义,是因我往父那里去,你们不再见我; 16:11 在审判,是因这世界的王受了审判。(约翰福音16:8-11)

基督徒的防御也和福音书有直接连系,他们是真理、公义、平安的福音、信心的盾牌、救恩的头盔和神的道。在基督里和因基督的死和复活所成就的福音,把我们从撒旦的手拯救出来和防卫他的党羽所策动的攻击。

(12) 武器的性质给很多事本资料,与及撒旦努力毁灭所使用的方法。 当我们稍后研究每种装备时,我们就会发现神所赐给我们的装备正正针对撒旦的不同诡计,与及他怎样引发与圣徒的争战。因此,认识神为我们预备的装备,就是认识撒旦使我们跌倒的方法。

从广角度看属灵争战

以弗所书第6章是新约里给我们关属灵争战最详尽的处理方法,但它只是在这课题给我们亮光的众多经文中的其中一篇。除了以弗所书第6章的贡献外,让我们也参考别的经文,帮助我们研读以弗所书6:10-20:

(1) 们战胜撒旦的攻击时,通常不能明看到撒旦被打或我;反来,有些候我们战胜了,却看似撒旦得而我们败来。 当耶稣在各各他被钉死在十字架上,岂不像撒旦胜了吗?然而当我们的主表面上看似被打败时(和撒旦表面上得胜),我们的救主却给我们成就了救恩,打败了撒旦。这情况同样在一些圣徒身上发生。启示录告诉我们,撒旦和他的仆役一度为战胜圣徒而奏凯歌,但这只能说是一时失利,却成就了神的旨意,成为撒旦被终极毁灭的前奏。

6:9 到了羔羊揭开第五印的时候,我看见在祭坛底下,有为 神的道并为作见证被杀之人的灵魂。 6:10 他们大声喊着说:「圣洁真实的全能主啊!还要等多久你才审判住在地上的人,给我们伸流血的冤呢?」6:11 于是有白袍赐给他们各人,又有话告诉他们还要安息片时,等着一同作仆人的和他们的弟兄,也像他们被杀,满足了数目。(启示录6:9-11)

(2) 撒旦通常使用既自然又人性化的方法,他并不常使用异乎常或超自然的攻 你会发现我们的经文并没有把撒旦恶魔化,虽然撒旦的武器包括行各样异能神迹和虚假的奇事,但在这段经文却没有加以强调。撒旦引诱亚当和夏娃时,是使他们怀疑神的美善和违背祂的命令。撒旦攻击约伯时,他使用天然灾害和疾病。他也使用疾病来折磨保罗(参哥林多后12:7)。他利用大卫的骄傲来试探大卫(代志上21:1)。而试探我们的主时,他透过人的野心和欲望(太福音4:1-11路加福音4:1-13)。

(3) 撒旦极少正面攻信徒,他会透过别的方法,一些我们难以察是出于撒旦的途径。 只有少数的例子,撒旦会自己正面攻击人,例如他亲自试探我们的主,但很明显,这是一个很独特的例子。通常他会透过别的工具「说话」,使我们无法辨别是他正在攻击我们。在伊甸园,他透过蛇说话;他透过彼得阻挠基督死在十字架上的计划(太福音16:23)。他更常使用的方法是指示他的差役执行他的命令(参哥林多后12:7)。

我们对世界、肉体(肉欲)和魔鬼这三类对信徒怀敌意的势力,都非常熟悉。我认为撒旦经常使用世界和属肉体的情欲来攻击信徒。故此,有些时候看似试探的来源是世界和属肉体的情欲,但我们却找出罪魁祸首就是撒旦。谁察觉到大卫数点以色列民的背后因素是撒旦?谁能想象到犹大的试探,在贪婪以外还有别的原因?谁能想到亚拿尼亚和撒非喇企图误导他人的谎言,他们的动机除了贪心和希望得到别人的称赞外,还有别的?这些事件表面看来那么自然,我们又怎会预期这些事件的背后有更深层次、更险恶的来源?故此,经文告诉我们撒旦才是一些试探的幕后黑手。

撒旦乐于接纳世人间接地膜拜他和顺服他。当我们为自己的兴趣和追求满足个人的肉欲而成为他的仆役时,他开心地接纳我们对他间接的顺服。我想,实际情况是他会感到兴奋,因为他是一名大骗子,他让人以为是得到了自由,实质成了他的奴隶,他岂不乐不可支!

我并不建议把一切恶行都算到撒旦头上,或把一切的攻击、困难和试探,都推到撒旦头上。约伯并不知道撒旦是他所面对的苦难的幕后黑手,他也无需要知道这实况。他需要知道的是那全智、全能的神掌管宇宙万物和他的生命。约伯应该做的有相较「捆绑撒旦」更重要的事情,那就是相信神和顺服神。世界里很多苦难和邪恶的事件,我们都找到撒旦的指纹;但有些恶事的主因源于我们肉体的情欲(雅各1:13-15)与及我们是活在一个充满罪的堕落世界(罗马书8:18-25 )。

(4) 撒旦的攻是他自己的叛逆和扭曲产生的 简单而言,撒旦使用经过他自己包装那对事实扭曲了的观念,来引导他的攻击。他不能相信任何人敬拜神是单纯因为神是神,而是因为神的赐予。撒旦以神是人按祂的命令而行时的受益人,他不能想象神本身就是我们的奖赏。故此撒旦攻击约伯,因他认为这样做会令约伯不再顺服神。

撒旦利用掌权者的骄傲和野心来引诱他们,他这样做是基于他自己对权势的反应,他诱使那些拥有权力的独立行事,而不听从那位份比他们高的人。他呼吁我们为自己的利益行事,竭力劝告我们避免自我牺牲。他不知甚么是恩典,他只因其他人跌倒而快乐。

撒旦的观点是扭曲的。他并非全知的、也不是全能的,他的工作是以他对事物的扭曲观点为基础。罪人很容易、也毫不迟疑地认同他的思想取向、心态与动机;但基督徒却拒绝这些恶。当基督徒学效他们的主,撒旦就会感到困惑和愤怒,他无法理解为何有人会顺服神和敬拜神。

(5) 撒旦是被打人,但仍需等待他被完全歼灭 我们已提及撒旦已被各各他的十字架打败了,在这里我们再重申我们肯定撒旦被歼灭。

(6) 撒旦现时敌挡神的旨意和神的子民看似教会不利,但事上,撒旦是把神的旨意和推得更 神有意延迟将撤旦扔进火湖,任由这「世界的王」自由运作,让他在不知不觉中完成了祂的旨意。他也算是为神带来荣耀,神也使用他成为我们的益处。当撒旦给犹大出卖耶稣的灵感时,这正好是完成救恩所需要的。虽然撤旦的差役以一根刺来使保罗受痛苦,但这却成了对保罗的益处(参哥林多后12:7-10)。撒旦经常被捆锁,被神捆锁。当撒旦含恶意地进行他的工作,神却使用他,让我们从中得益处,也让神得荣耀。若非能成就神的旨意、神的荣耀或我们能从中得益处,没有一件事情撒旦会被容许进行。神和撒旦之间的属灵争战,战果是肯定的。我们经历挣扎是神永恒计划的一部份;而穿上神所赐的属灵军装来抵御撒旦的攻击和站立得稳,却是我们的责任。

结语

一场战争正在进行,这战争并不像今天国与国之间的战事(虽然这些战事是这场大战争的一部份),而是一场属灵争战,是撒旦和其他堕落天使与基督和祂的教会的战争。在这场战争中,我们的敌人是肉眼看不到的势力,这是一场隐形的战事;我们不能靠我们自己的力量战斗,必须以神所赐的力量应战。

这场战事的重点并不是谁胜谁负,因为神已经透过祂儿子在各各他十字架上之死已得胜(参 翰福音12:31; 16:11)。现时进行的战事是为了我们的益处,也为神带来荣耀。这场战事是神给天军的部份指示(参以弗所3:8-11)、也是神为祂的创造所定下的永恒计划和旨意的一部份。

这场战事最大的问题并不是「谁会得胜」或「谁能站立得稳」,问题也不在于神是否站在我们这一方,或倒过来我们是否站在祂的一方。我记起旧约有这么一件吸引的事件:

5:13 约书亚靠近耶利哥的时候,举目观看,看见有一个人手里有拔出来的刀,对面站立。约书亚到他那里,问他说:「你是帮助我们呢?是帮助我们敌人呢?」5:14 他回答说:「不是的,我现在来是要作耶和华军队的元帅。」约书亚就俯伏在地下拜,说:「我主有甚么话吩咐仆人?」5:15 耶和华军队的元帅对约书亚说:「把你脚上的鞋脱下来,因为你所站的地方是圣的。」约书亚就照着行了。(约书亚记5:13-15)

起初,约书亚并没有认出神的元帅,故此,当他近前去的时候,他问那「人」是敌是友。那名天使自称是耶和华军队的元帅,并清楚表明以色列人要跟从他。有时,我们过于热衷拉拢神站在我们的一方,取代我们站在祂那方。神是元帅,这是祂的战事,大卫很明白这点,故此他独自奉主之名面对歌利亚:

17:44 非利士人又对大卫说:「来吧!我将你的肉给空中的飞鸟、田野的走兽吃。」17:45 大卫对非利士人说:「你来攻击我,是靠着刀枪和铜戟;我来攻击你,是靠着万军之耶和华的名,就是你所怒骂带领以色列军队的 神。 17:46 今日耶和华必将你交在我手里。我必杀你,斩你的头;又将非利士军兵的尸首给空中的飞鸟、地上的野兽吃,使普天下的人都知道以色列中有 神;17:47 又使这众人知道耶和华使人得胜,不是用刀用枪,因为争战的胜败全在乎耶和华。他必将你们交在我们手里。」(撒母耳记上17:44-47)

因此我的朋友,我必须要向你询问这一简单的问题:在这场浩大的属灵争战中,你站在那一方?假如你仍「死在罪和过犯中」,你乃在不知不觉中被撒旦掌控,事奉撒旦而叛逆神(以弗所2:1-3),你正与神争战。假如你承认自己的罪,信靠基督,并且相信耶稣基督透过十字架已经得胜,你也得救,那么,你是为神争战。与神争战和为神争战的分别真是天渊之别。在这场属灵争战中,你站住谁的一方呢?

我们身处一个极危险的处境,这并不是因我们遇到了劲敌;只要我们相信靠自己的能力能站立得稳而不倚靠神给我们提供的力量时,我们就处于险境。彼得上了严峻的一课(参路加福音22:31-34)。保罗警告每位信徒自信的危险:「所以自己以为站立得稳的须要谨慎免得跌倒。」(哥林多前10:12)当神将以色列民从埃及为奴之地拯救出来,将他们带往迦南时,神刻意不赶出所有迦南人,祂定意以色列人要和迦南人争战才得到那地:

23:29 我不在一年之内将他们从你面前撵出去,恐怕地成为荒凉,野兽多起來害你。 23:30 我要渐渐地将他们从你面前撵出去,等到你的人數加多,承受那地为业。 23:31 我要定你的境界,从红海直到非利士海,又从旷野直到大河。我要将那地的居民交在你手中,你要将他们从你面前撵出去。(出埃及记23:29-31)

神并没有给予以色列人即时的胜利、也没有给予他们完全战胜他们的仇敌——迦南人。以色列人要和迦南人争战,把他们赶出迦南地,但胜利是神所赐予的,故此,祂派祂的天使打败敌人(出埃及23:20-23; 32:34; 33:2)。我们正处于属灵争战中,我们必须穿上神所赐的军装。胜利是属于神的,而我们只有靠祂的力量才能站稳。

当我们没有按神的命令参战,后果是极其严重的。在这里,我希望提醒你:大卫两次严重的罪行为他自己和他的国家带来毁灭性的后果。请留意,这两次都是大卫作为以色列的王应该出战,但他却没有尽作为以色列王应肩负的责任。在这两个情况,我们读到「列王出战的时候」,但大卫却留在耶路撒冷:

11:1 有一年春天,列王惯常作战的时候,大卫差派约押和以色列全军出战。他们打败亚扪人,包围了拉巴。但大卫留在耶路撒冷。(撒母耳记下11:1)

20:1 到了春天,列王出战的时候,约押率领军兵毁坏亚扪人的地。他围攻拉巴,而大卫留在耶路撒冷。约押打败拉巴,将城倾覆。(历代志上20:1)

在撒母耳记下,大卫不出战而留在耶路撒冷,结果他犯了极大有违道德的罪。他不单与拔示巴犯奸淫,他为了要掩饰自己的罪而设计令拔示巴的丈夫乌利亚战死沙场。大卫并非杀敌,而他是杀死忠于自己的武士。

按历代志上的记载,大卫决定留在家中(也许这和 撒母耳11 是同一事件),没多久,他就决定数点以色列人的人数,引致神审判以色列。如果我们不参战,我们就已经败下阵来。

在这篇属灵争战的学习,我最后要提出的一点:若以全卷以弗所书作上下文来理解保罗在第6章所描述的属灵争战,我的取向是我们现时处身的属灵争战,并不是一场大战或英雄行动,而是保罗在第1-3章所教导的信心和第4-6章的顺服。

在以弗所书,儿童的战线在那里?那就是他们服从父母如同服从主。奴仆服从主人就是他们在信仰上站稳;作父亲的,在真道上站稳的表现就是爱妻子和教导儿女们遵守「神的律例和指示」;作妻子的则是顺服丈夫如同顺服神;我们站立得稳就是行事为人不要再像教外人(以弗所书4:17-32),我们要凭爱心行事(5:1-6),行事为人要像光明的儿女(5:7-13),要像聪明人(5:15),要彼此顺服(5:22–6:9);这场战争实质是对神的信和顺服。在邪恶的日子我们按上述而行,我们就准备好面对那将要来的极「邪恶的日子」。

当我们在世的日子终结时,我祈求我们能像保罗所说的:「那美好的仗我已经打过了,当跑的路我已经跑尽了,所信的道我已经守住了;」( 提摩太后4:7


译者注:除特别标示的地方,中文经文采用CNET(中文版)


: 以弗所书4, 5, 6, 弟兄组讨论问题


第1部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题

教会参与了一埸属灵争战,敌人是撒旦和一群看不见的天使和天上的敌人,他们的能力远超过我们。

1. 在你的教会里,你在哪里看到和经历过属灵争战?

2. 它是如何影响你的灵命成长?

3. 描述它对你家人的影响。

4. 你采取怎样的步骤来持守你的信仰?

现在撒旦并非正面攻击教会,但通过颠覆性的欺骗、和阴谋诡计。

5. 你在哪里看到对你的教会产生负面影响的阴谋?

6. 你的教会里存在甚么教义或行为上的谬误?

7. 描述撒旦如何使用诡计,在你的教会发动属灵争战。

8. 与组员分享你曾上当或受骗的事件。             


第2部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题

我们战胜撒旦的攻击不一定显而易见,我们见到的不一定是我们战胜了,撒旦被打败;有些时候看到的却恰恰相反——看似我们败下阵来而撒旦却是胜利者。

1. 描述一个你在撒旦攻击时,倚靠圣灵的力量站稳的例子。

2. 你曾经历过看似被打败,但实质是胜利的经历吗?请加以描述。

撒旦对信徒的攻击很少是直接的,他经常通过我们可能无法识别是来自他的其他手段。

3. 你能道出几个撒旦间接攻击你的方法吗?

4. 撒旦怎样间接攻击你的家庭?

5. 撒旦使用了哪些「伪装」的手法?

6. 撒旦怎样间接攻击你的教会?

7. 当你,你的家人和你的教会受到撒旦攻击时,你采取了甚么步骤使你能够站稳?


第3部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题

以弗所 4:1-16 弟兄要在基督里合一,运用神所赐的属灵恩赐,避免诡诈,活出基督的样式。属神的人明白神所赐予的属灵恩赐的唯一目的是建立基督的教会。

1. 作为基督的追随者,你拥有甚么性格的特征来支配自己的行为?

2. 我们的呼召带来了甚么希望?

3. 保罗列出了好些基督给人的恩赐,你有哪些恩赐?请说明。

4. 神给你恩赐的唯一目的是甚么?

5. 在以下领域,你怎样应用你的属灵恩赐:

  • 你的家
  • 家庭
  • 教会

6. 组讨论 以弗所书4:1-5所列出的性格特征,有哪些方面你需要加以改善,并且会承诺立即这样做?可以请求组员来帮助你。


第4部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题

以弗所 4:17-5:8 人的生命应是圣洁、纯正、诚实和顺服。属神的人要纯洁、顺服、坦率,并在任何时候都愿作牺牲。

11. 试述保罗在以弗所书4:17-19提供了哪些和弟兄应如何生活的具体方法。

2. 成为「新人」是甚么意思?

3. 个人行为在哪些方面会给撒旦立足之地?

4. 有益身心的话会带来甚么果效?

5. 在哪些领域你要洁净你的言语?

6. 在以弗所书5:1-2,跟随基督的人应怎样生活?

7. 以弗所书5:3-4禁止甚么行为?

8. 你正面对甚么挣扎?必须诚实和具体地回答。

9. 那些不道德的,不纯正的或贪婪的人,会有甚么后果?

10. 神将如何处理那些不顺服和欺诈的人?

11. 组讨论 哪些思想和行为是你要活出保罗在以弗所书4:17-5:8的生活最大障碍?


第5部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题

以弗所 5:9-6:9 . 男人要明智、清醒、顺服创造秩序、披露诡诈,并且为神所给予的呼召而感恩。属神的男人爱他们的妻子,愿为妻子作出牺牲,按真理教导儿女,热忱地服侍主人,对待他人时,都给予对方应有的尊严。

1. 顺服结出怎样的果子?

2. 为什么我们要把欺骗者公诸于世?

3. 以弗所书5:15-21,保罗继续陈述追随基督的人必须具备的性格特征。它们是甚么?

4. 这经文教导作丈夫的应怎样去爱妻子?

5. 描述你如何实践这种对妻子的爱。

6. 按以弗所书6:4,你应成为一个怎样的父亲?

7. 你每天应怎样在主里教导你的儿女?

8. 试述「管教孩子却不惹他们的气」是什么意思?

9. 在主里管教和指导孩子,你要面对那些艰难的决定?

10. 组讨论爱妻子,愿意为她牺牲和更着意地管教孩子,你需要考虑哪些个人风险?


第6部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题

以弗所 6:10-20 弟兄要穿上神所赐的军备,才能在属灵争战中不败。属神的人在属灵争战中,不论是对抗不道德的事、欺诈和不顺服,都需要神所赐的军备。

1. 在属灵争战中谁是我们的敌人?

2. 我们在那里可以找到用来束腰的真理?

3. 为何要以公义为「护胸甲」?

4. 「撒旦的火箭」指的是甚么?

5. 信心的盾牌怎样保护我们避过撒旦的攻击?

6. 为甚么救恩被比喻为「头盔」?

7. 圣经如何作为一把剑?

8. 不论何时,我们必须做什么?

9. 组讨论在你生命的哪些领域,你经历了最严重的属灵争战?请具体说明。


第7部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题
在你家庭中的属灵争战
互联网

1. 在你的家里,你维持了哪些使用互联网的规则?

2. 你的电脑放在共享的地方吗?如果不是,你把它们放在那里?

3. 你有使用过滤软件吗?若果没有,是甚么缘故呢?

4. 你的孩子可以在自己的卧室上网吗?为什么?

5. 你的孩子有要求自己的网上账户吗?

6. 他们有自己的网上账户吗?为什么?

7. 你会在互联网上浏览甚么网页?

8. 组讨论和组员分享你所采取的步骤,让你的家人能安全使用互联网?


第8部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题
电视

1. 你有卫星电视或有线电视吗?

2. 你让你的孩子观看什么节目?

3. 你会否检查电视节目的内容是健康的、还是不纯正的吗?

  • 语言?
  • 剧情?
  • 含色情?
  • 含暴力?

4. 你怎样过滤不合宜的广告?

5. 你会选择观看甚么节目?

组讨论 有没有一些特定的节目你不容许你的孩子收看,为甚么?你容许他们观看的节目会否含有道德或灵性相异、使人反感的内容?你和你妻子所看的节目,是否也适合你的孩子收看?


第9部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题
衣着

1. 在下列场合,你女儿的衣着端庄高雅吗?

  • 学校?
  • 教会?
  • 公众场合?
  • 與与朋友交往时?

2. 她们的衣服:

  • 太紧?
  • 透视?
  • 含暗示性?

3. 在下列场合,你儿子的衣着合宜、有品味吗?

  • 学校?
  • 教会?
  • 公众场合?
  • 与朋友交往时?

4. 他们的衣服:

  • 太松垮垮的?
  • 令人不快的?

5. 你让他们在那里购物?

6. 谁倍同他们前往购物?

7. 组讨论 你和孩子之间,有没有因为他们希望穿著的衣服和你希望他们穿的衣服有所不同而出现争吵?你如何解决冲突?


第10部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题
生活方式

1. 你的孩子放学返家后,谁照顾他们?

2. 你会允许你的孩子与他们的朋友一起逛商场吗?

3. 你认识你孩子的朋友的父母吗?

4. 你容许孩子在外过夜,不回家吗?

5. 谁会帮助孩子解决学习上遇到的困难?

6. 你有否和家人每天一起祷告和读经?

7. 你的孩子听那类音乐?

8. 你的孩子有iPod播放器吗?

9. 谁替他们下载音乐?

10. 他们有自己的手机吗?

11. 他们和谁通话?

12. 他们的手机有拍摄装置吗?

13. 他们会拍摄甚么影像?

14. 组讨论 那些文化带来的影响会引发灵性上、情绪上和身心健康上的危机?


第11部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题
个人问题

请详细描述在下列领域你会采取甚么行动来保护你的家人,包括那些可能会破坏你和妻子或和孩子的关系的行动:骗局、不道德的事、叛逆的文化、媒体和不良娱乐 。


1有些人认为犹大书1:6所指的,就是这些「神的儿子」(这也是我的取向)。若是这样,这些天使被禁锁在深渊,因为他们超越了那被禁止超越的人和天使的界线。此外,他们寻求破坏神的计划和应许。

2马太的记述告诉我们当时确实有两只鬼,而马可和路加的焦点是其中之一。

3当保罗陈述主赐给教会的属灵恩赐时,这些属灵恩赐是主祂胜过了「一群被掳的」而成为「被掳」所结的果子。这「一群被掳的」显然是敌挡祂的。若不是正面、也间接指向那些与撒旦联合一起敌挡神的天使。

Related Topics: Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Men's Articles, Spiritual Life, Women's Articles

第 27 课: 属灵争战的军备 — 真理 (以弗所书 6:14上)

Related Media

所以要站稳了,用真理当作带子束腰...

引言

我经常为福音书记载耶稣禁止鬼说出祂的身份而感到奇怪。让我们先来看看以下的一个例子:

1:23 在会堂里,有一个人被污灵附着,他喊叫说: 1:24 「拿撒勒人耶稣,你与我们没有相干,你来灭我们吗?我知道你是谁,乃是 神的圣者。」1:25 耶稣责备他说:「住口,从这人身上出来!」1:26 污灵使那人抽搐一阵,大声喊叫,就出来了。 (可福音 1:23-26)

在这里,耶稣为何禁止污灵说话呢?若他们所说的并非真话,那便不难理解,但耶稣确实是神的圣者,那要来毁灭牠们的。既是这样,为何祂不容许牠们为祂的身份作见证?我相信可能有多于一个原因,其中一个原因是耶稣不希望由说谎者为祂作见证。耶稣有足够的见证人,包括:天父、旧约圣经、施洗约翰、祂自己的工作,还有祂的追随者。谁会希望由著名的说谎者来为自己作见证呢!耶稣对牠们的领袖 撒旦,作这样描述

8:44你们是出于你们的父魔鬼,你们循着你们父的私欲行。他从起初就是杀人的,不守真理,因他心里没有真理。他说谎是出于自己,因他本来是说谎者,也是说谎者之父。 (约翰福音8:44)

让我们逐一检视基督徒的属灵装备。保罗以真理作为第一件防御武器,并不让人感到奇怪。撒旦是说谎者,他透过误导和诡诈的计划来攻击基督徒(以弗所6:11)。真理是神赐给我们抵御的军备,令撒旦的谎言能够被识破并加以抵抗,以致我们能持守信仰,站立得稳。让我们留心地细读保罗有关真理的教导,这对我们的灵性健康极之重要。

带子束腰

我们穿衣时有一定的次序,首先我们会穿上「内衣」,因为其它衣服会穿在外面,我会最后才穿鞋,因我讨厌穿鞋后才穿裤子。同样地,军备也要按一定次序穿上。带子束腰是基督徒为属灵争战作预备的第一步。在圣经里,带子束腰是一个准备步骤,为其它行动作准备。

你也知道,以色列古代的衣服和今天的差异很大。他们穿的不是裤子、运动外套或套装。他们所穿的衣物,并非如今天按身型剪裁;他们的衣服是披在身上,衫长及地。一个人如果要跑而又不希望被绊倒,他需要收拢衣服,用带子束好。因此,当进行和脚相关的活动时,准备的第一步便是带子束腰。

以色列人第一次吃逾越节羊羔,为他们出埃及、进入应许之地作准备。因此,神命令以色列人吃的时候,要腰间束带,为那接着要发生的事情作准备。

12:11你们吃羊羔当腰间束带,脚上穿鞋,手中拿杖,赶紧地吃,这是耶和华的逾越节。 (出埃及记 12:11 和合本)

彼得写信给本都、加拉太、加帕多家、亚西亚和庇推尼的信徒时,也要求他们预备和作好心理准备:

1:13所以要预备心意行动(原文是束上你们心中的腰),谨慎自守,专心盼望耶稣基督显现的时候所带来给你们的恩典。 1:14 要像顺命的儿女,不要效法从前蒙昧无知的时候所服从的恶欲,1:15 却要效法那召你们的圣者,在一切所行的事上成为圣洁。 1:16 因为经上记着说:「你们要圣洁,因为我是圣洁的。」(彼得前书1:13-16).1

我相信,当保罗在以弗所书第六章谈及带子束腰,他的意思应该和彼得相同,是呼吁信徒作好心理准备。真理将收集得来的零散资料整理,过滤信息,并且判断是否符合真理和美善。

真理的重要性

圣经告诉我们为何真理对基督徒十分重要。让我们简略地看看真理在基督徒生命所扮演的角色。

(1) 我们因真理而得救:

1:13你们既听见真理的道(那叫你们得救的福音),而且信了基督;既然信他,就受了所应许的圣灵为印记。 1:14 这圣灵就是我们得基业的凭据,直等到 神之产业被赎,他的荣耀得着赞美。 (以弗所书1:13-14).

1:18他按自己全权的旨意藉着真道生了我们,叫我们在他所造的万物中,好像初熟的果子。 (雅各书1:18)

1:23你们蒙了重生,不是由于能坏的种子,乃是由于不能坏的种子,是藉着 神活而常存的话。 (彼得前书 1:23)

(2) 我们透过真理成圣,并且成长至成熟:

17:17是他(神)赐的,有使徒、有先知、有传福音的、有牧师和教师,4:12 为要装备圣徒各尽其职,就是建立基督的身体;4:13 直等到我们众人在信上和认识 神的儿子上同归于一,得以成熟,达到基督量度的阶段。 4:14 我们就不再作小孩子,中人的诡计和欺骗的手法,被他们所教导的风浪吹荡翻腾。 4:15 惟用爱心实践真理,凡事在元首基督里长进。 4:16 全身都靠他联接成长,百节彼此相助。各节既各尽其职,身体就在爱中长大。 (以弗所书4:11-16).

(3) 真理给我们带来心意更新。从未得救前的无知与虚妄,到心志按神的话语和祂的道更新:

4:17所以我说,且在主里坚持的说,你们不要再像外邦人虚枉的生活。 4:18 他们心地昏昧,与 神的生命隔开,都因自己心里刚硬,以致一无所知。 4:19 他们既然麻木,就放纵自己,贪行种种的污秽。 4:20 你们学的基督,却不是这样。 4:21 如果你们真的听过他,在他里面受教,学了里面的真理,4:22 你们所学的就是脱去从前生活方式的旧人;这旧人是因私欲的迷惑渐渐变坏的;4:23 又要在灵里将你们的心志改换一新;4:24 并且穿上新人;这新人是照着 神的形像造的──有真理的公义和圣洁。 (以弗所书 4:17-24)

12:1所以弟兄姐妹们,我以 神的怜悯激励你们,献身体为祭,是活的,是圣洁的,是 神所喜悦的;这是你们合理的事奉。 12:2 不要与现今的世界同流,而要心意更新改造,去察验 神的旨意,就是那善良、完全、十分可悦的旨意。 (罗马书 12:1-2)

(4) 真理是基督徒合一的基础。 (参以弗所4:5, 13)

(5) 真理造就和建立教会。 (以弗所书4:15, 25, 29)

(6) 真理是真正敬拜神所不能或缺的:

神是灵,所以拜他的必须用灵和真理拜他。 (约翰福音 4:24)

(7) 教会是神膏立去宣告和展示真理的途径:

3:14我指望快到你那里去,但先将这些事写给你。 3:15 倘若我延了期,你也可以知道在 神的家中当怎样行,因这家就是永生 神的教会,真理的柱石和根基。 (提摩太前书3:14-15)

3:8我本来比众圣徒中最小的还小,然而他还赐我这恩典,叫我把基督那测不透的丰富传给外邦人; 3:9 又使众人都明白,这历代以来隐藏在创造万物之 神里,奥秘的计划,3:10 就是要藉着教会使天上执政的、掌权的,现在得知 神百般的智慧。 (以弗所书3:8-10)

(8) 真理是我们不可缺少的知识;然而若非神主动成就,我们无法在祂以外自己得到 永恒的事,若不是神透过超自然的方法给人启示,人无法知晓。以弗所书所说的真理包括神永恒的计划。这计划包括我们被拣选、得救与及属灵的恩赐(以弗所1:3-14),也包括撒旦和他的党羽终极被歼灭(6:10-20),并且一切在基督里同归于一(以弗所书1:10 )。真理也启示了教会的奥秘是透过基督的宝血,神和以色列人与及外邦人和好(以弗所书2-3章),借着教会使天上执政的、掌权的得知神的智(3:1-10)。真理给基督徒一个全新的思维和行为表现,和我们仍未信前显著不同(4:1–6:9)

真理是我们从未想象过的,因为它并不属于世人的,而是从神显明出来的;它是智慧,超出人类的智慧,故此我们不能预期,我们若没有神的启示和圣灵的帮助,我们甚至不能相信:

11:33深哉, 神丰富的智慧和知识!他的判断何其难测,他的动向何其深奥! 11:34「谁知道主的心?谁作过他的谋士呢?」11:35「谁是先给了他,使他后来偿还呢?」11:36 因为万有都是本于他,藉着他,归于他。愿荣耀归给他,直到永远!阿们。 (罗马书11:33-36)

2:6然而在成熟的人中,我们也讲智慧;但不是这世代的智慧,也不是这世代必要倾灭之执政者的智慧。 2:7 我们讲的乃是从前所隐藏的奥秘,就是 神在万世以前预定使我们得荣耀的智慧。 2:8 今世的执政者没有一个明白这智慧,他们若明白,就不会把荣耀的主钉在十字架上了。 2:9 就如经上所记:「 神为爱他的人所预备的,是眼睛未曾看见,耳朵未曾听见,人心也未曾想到的。」2:10 神藉着圣灵向我们启示了这些事,因为圣灵了解万事,包括了 神深奥的事。 2:11 除了在人里头的灵,谁知道人的事?同样,除了 神的灵,也没有谁知道 神的事。 2:12 我们所领受的并不是世上的灵,乃是从 神来的灵,叫我们能知道 神白白赐给我们的一切。 2:13 并且,我们讲说这些事,不是用人智慧所教导的言语,乃是用圣灵所教导的言语,将属灵的事讲与属灵的人听。 2:14 不信的人不领会神圣灵的事,反倒以为愚笨,并且不能明白,因为这些事惟有属灵的人才能了解。 2:15 属灵的人能了解万事,却没有一人能明白他。 2:16「谁知道主的心而作他的顾问呢?」但我们是有基督的心了。 (哥林多前书 2:6-16)

(9) 耶稣基督是真理,故此离开真理便是离开祂:

8:31耶稣对信他的犹太人说:「你们若继续遵守我的道,就真是我的门徒。 8:32 你们必晓得真理,真理必叫你们得以自由。」(约翰福音8:31-32)

14:6耶稣说:「我就是道路、真理、生命;若不藉着我,没有人能到父那里去。 (约翰福音4:6)

2:1我愿意你们知道,为了你们和老底嘉人,并一切没有与我见过面的人,我是何等的尽心竭力。 2:2 他们既已用爱心彼此连系,我的目标是要叫他们得勉励,丰丰足足在悟性中彻底认识 神的奥秘,就是基督,2:3 在他里面蕴藏着一切的智慧和知识。 2:4 我说这话,免得有人用似乎有理的话欺骗你们。 2:5 我身子虽与你们相离,灵却与你们同在,见你们循规蹈矩,在基督里的信心坚定蓬勃,我就欢喜了。

2:6你们既然接受了基督耶稣为主,就当继续在他里面活着; 2:7 在他里面生根建造,信心坚固,正如你们所学的,满溢着感谢的心。 2:8 你们要谨慎,不要被人用虚空的哲理,不照着基督,而是照人间的传统和世上的小学问,把你们掳去。.…

2:16所以不可让人在饮食,或节期、月朔、安息日等各样事上判断你们。 2:17 这些原是将来的事的影子,那实体却是基督。 2:18 不可让人凭着重视谦虚和敬拜天使来判断你们。这人拘泥在所以为见过的,随着自己血气的思念,无故的自高自大,2:19 不紧接于元首,靠着他与全身筋节得以相联,而有从 神而来的长进。 (歌罗西书2:1-8, 16-19) 2

(10) 真理告诉我们撒旦的诡计和欺瞒方法,并且暴露他的错误和欺骗手段。

2:11免得撒但有机可乘(因我们并非不晓得他的诡计)。(哥林多后书2:11) 3

撒旦敌挡真理

按本质,撒旦是个说谎者,我们可以肯定地说他是个病态的说谎者( 翰福音8:44 ),就是在无需说谎的时候,他仍会说谎。他不但自欺,还会迷惑人(启示录12:9)。从起初,撒旦已透过敌挡真理来敌挡神和属祂的子民。在历史长河里,撒旦使用的战术就如圣经所显示的,让我们一起来看看。

(1) 撒旦的工作是使人无法接触真理,或不让真理传给人。

4:15那撒在路旁的:就是人听了道,撒但立刻来,把撒在他们心里的道夺了去。 (马可福音 4:15)

4:3即使我们的福音被蒙蔽,也是蒙蔽在灭亡的人身上。 4:4 此等不信之人,被这世界的神弄瞎了心眼,叫他们看不见基督荣耀福音的光。基督本是 神的像。 (哥林多后书4:3-4) 4

那时,蛇比耶和华 神所造的一切动物更狡猾。蛇对女人说:「 神真的有说『你们不可吃园中任何树上的果子』吗?」3:2 女人对蛇说:「园中树上的果子我们可以吃,3:3 惟有园当中那棵树上的果子, 神曾说:『你们不可吃,也不可摸,否则你们就要死。』」3:4 蛇对女人说:「你们一定不死,3:5 因为 神知道你们吃了以后,眼睛就打开,你们便如神明,知道善恶。」3:6 女人见那棵树的果子好作食物,也吸引人的眼目,而且渴想它能使人得智慧,就摘下果子来吃了;又给她丈夫,她丈夫也吃了。 3:7 他们二人的眼睛就打开了,才知道自己是赤裸的,便拿无花果树的叶子,编缝以蔽体。 (创世记3:1-7).

在亚当和夏娃受试探而失足的个案中,撒旦断然否定神的真理。神说若亚当和夏娃吃了禁果必死;撒旦大胆否定,并且保证他们不会死。你可曾想到撒旦在这里称神为说谎者?撒旦否定了神向亚当和夏娃启示的真理,并告诉这对夫妇吃禁果是最有益的行为。

(3) 撒旦企图透过撒播错误的教导和教义来取代真理,以此来迷惑人。

4:1 圣灵明说,在后来的时候,必有人离弃真道,沉迷在那引诱人的邪灵,和鬼魔的教导。 4:2 受了说谎之人伪善的影响;这等人的良心已经被烙了。 4:3 他们禁止嫁娶,又禁戒食物,就是 神所造,叫那信而明白真道的人,感谢着领受的。 4:4 凡 神所造的物,都是好的,若感谢着领受,就没有一样食物是可弃的,4:5 都因 神的道和人的祷告,成为圣洁了。 (提摩太前书4:1-5)

这篇经文最有趣的地方,是它告诉我们一些超出我们的期待的事情。撒旦的手段通常是间接地使人犯罪。他的方式是那么含蓄,表面看来那么好、那么公义;但他实际上是促使人犯罪,他从我们的盲点进行袭击;他的手法是透过假教师指婚姻生活应禁欲,又或许是禁止吃用某些食物。这些原是神赐给我们,给我们享用和使生命更丰富的东西,但撒旦却企图阻止我们从中得益处。更坏的是他这样做是埋下陷阱,以下的经文告诉我们撒旦怎样进行他的计划:

7:3 丈夫当用合宜的婚姻生活待妻子,妻子待丈夫也要如此。 7:4 妻子没有权柄主张自己的身子,乃在丈夫;丈夫也没有权柄主张自己的身子,乃在妻子。 7:5 夫妻不可彼此拒绝,除非双方同意,才可暂时分房,以便专心祷告,以后仍要同房,免得撒但趁着你们情不自禁引诱你们。 (哥林多前书7:3-5)

5:14 所以我宁愿年轻的寡妇嫁人,生养儿女,治理家务,不给敌人毁谤的把柄; 5:15 因为已经有转去随从撒但的。 (提摩太前5:14-15)

一对夫妇为了能更属灵,他们决定禁戒房事。他们并非如保罗的指示作短暂的分房,而是长期性的。撒旦知道人缺乏自制力,早晚会导致不道德行为。保罗支持正当的性行为,因为这不单是美好的,让人享受(但这必须在婚姻的框架下进行 希伯来13:4),而且还可避免不道德行为( 哥林多前7:2-5 )。

有些人认为年青寡妇丧偶后守寡更为属灵,过独身生活提供专心服侍神的机会(哥林多前书7:25-35)。然而,若寡妇没有委身的心志和缺乏自制力,不再结婚而维持单身,使她们陷入网罗;她们转去随从撒旦,她们懒惰、说长道短或做了一些更不道德的事情。 5

(4) 撒旦歪曲真理。他加添或删除部份内容,或谬误地应用以致事情变了样。撒旦试探我们的主时(太福音4:1-11路加福音4:1-13),他引用圣经来达到他的目的,而不是建立敬虔的行为。撒旦透过断章取义,企图扭曲经文;不过主耶稣透过指出圣经更广泛的原则来纠正他。撒旦寻求「蚊虫滤过来」,但主耶稣却指出「骆驼」(参太福音23:23-24)。撒旦的目的是扭曲圣经的教导,从而产生罪;并把神圣恩典曲解成为借口,甚至授权犯罪。

1:4 因为有些人溜进你们中间,他们就是自古被定罪受这刑罚的,是不敬虔的,将我们 神的恩典作为放纵情欲的借口,并且不认我们独一的主宰和主耶稣基督。 (犹大书 1:4) 6

(5) 撒旦的工作是使人违背真理。撒旦知道叫人违背真理,好像不让他们认识真理一样好。

7:24 「凡听见我这些话又去行的,就好像一个聪明人把房子盖在盘石上。 7:25 雨淋,泛滥,风吹,房子屹立不倒,因为根基立在盘石上。 7:26 凡听见我这些话却不去行的,就好像一个愚蠢人把房子盖在沙土上。 7:27 雨淋,泛滥,风吹,房子就倒塌了,并且是完全的毁坏。」(马太福音 7:24-27)

2:4 人若说「我认识他」,却不遵守他的诫命,便是说谎话的,真理也不住在这人心里了。 2:5 凡遵守他的道,爱 神的心在这人里面是完全的,凭此我们知道我们是在他里面;2:6 人若说自己住在神里面,就该照耶稣所行的去行。 (约翰壹书2:4-6) 7

(6) 撒旦激励人的好奇心和自我(ego),以致他们抛弃神的真理,而去追求「更高」的真理。神把「分辨善恶树」栽在伊甸园中,亚当和夏娃被禁止食用那树的果子,其它树上的果子他们可以随便吃。撒旦不单引导亚当和夏娃注意这棵禁树,并引导他们留意到那树的果子可以给他们「知识」,我们知道这「知识」并非如撒旦所呈现的那么好,我们现在明白为何神要禁止吃用这果子。不过,亚当和夏娃本要做的,是基于信神而服从神,而不是基于撒旦所承诺的知识。他们追求被禁的知识而导致全人类陷入困境。

这情况在今天仍然发生,撒旦仍煽动人的自我和好奇心。神已在基督里赐给我们真理,但撒旦却企图透过诱使我们寻求基督和圣经启示以外的知识,将我们的焦点转离真理和基督。经文一遍又一遍地警告基督徒不要追求被禁止的知识:

4:6 弟兄姐妹们,为你们的缘故,我将这些事应用在自己和亚波罗的身上,叫你们效法我们,「不可过于圣经所记」,免得你们自高自大,看重这个,看轻那个。 (哥林多前书4:6)

6:20 提摩太啊!你要保守所托付你的。避开亵渎的闲言,和那无稽的所谓「学问」! 6:21 已经有人自称有这学问,偏离了真道。愿恩惠常与你们同在! (提摩太前书6:20-21) 8

(7) 撒旦甚至在信徒中工作,使他们离开真理和煽动他们成为虚假的。(参马太福音24:24;使徒行传20: 29-30; 5:1-11)。

撒旦成功的关键

撒旦敌挡真理,到底他怎能蒙混过去呢?当我阅读创世记第3章人的堕落时,我不禁猛然一惊,撒旦竟能说服亚当和夏娃神是骗子,而他说的却是真话!一条蛇竟能说服牠的看守者那创造万物的创造主说谎,也不值得他们顺服!让我尝试解构撒旦为何如此有效地敌挡真理。

(1) 在整本圣经中,撒旦的欺哄手段都和傲慢和教条主义紧密相关,他以这方式提出他的谬误。我用了很长的时间才识别出这关连,我经常见到它,而现在我已经有所警惕。我向自己询问,为甚么亚当和夏娃宁可相信一条蛇而不信神呢?按创世记第三章撒旦试探始祖和他们堕落的描述,我们可以看到他以傲慢无耻的态度来试探这对夫妇,他竟敢驳斥神,并告诉夏娃神所说的并不真确,他暗示神是骗子而他却不是。

在約伯乔布记首两章,撒旦以同样嚣张气焰的语气来回应神。在两卷福音书关于撒旦试探我们的主的记载,他劝告我们的主要独立于神,并且声称他拥有地上万国,他爱给谁就给谁。他竟敢在神的儿子面前引用经文,并告诉祂如何应用在祂的生命和事工上,他并且胆敢要求耶稣向他下拜、敬拜他!他是那么傲慢、那么自信,就是今天,我们也会倾向相信他所说的是真理,赐予万国的权柄属他。

那些假教师可能发出傲慢天使的语言,也可能和撒旦较量。「特别是那些放纵肉欲、轻慢权柄的。他们胆大任性,毫不畏惧毁谤那尊贵的。 」(彼得后2:10)这正是教条主义导致许多人听从了假师傅所传播的不实之词,有些被鉴定为「魔鬼的教条」:

2:17 我们不像那许多人,为利贩卖 神的道,而是出于真诚,出于神的差遣,在 神面前藉着基督讲道。 (哥林多后书 2:17)

1:6 有人偏离这些,转向空洞的议论。 1:7 他们想作律法的教师,却不明白自己所讲说的,所肯定的,所坚持的事。 (提摩太前书 1:6-7)

2:1 但是从前在百姓中有假先知起来,将来在你们中间也必有假师傅,将秘密引进导致灭亡的异端,甚至连买他们的主也不承认,带来速速的灭亡。 2:2 将有许多人随从他们邪淫的行为,便叫真道因他们的缘故被毁谤。…… 2:10 特别是那些放纵肉欲、轻慢权柄的。他们胆大任性,毫不畏惧毁谤那尊贵的;2:11 即使是天使,虽然力量权能更大,也不用毁谤的话在主面前告他们。 2:12 但这些人好像没有理性的畜类、凭本能的动物,生来就是为被捉拿宰杀的;他们不知道自己所毁谤的,后果是败坏人的时候,自己必遭遇败坏;(彼得后书 2:1-2, 10-12)  9

有些时候,撒旦竟冒充「基督」:

24:23 那时,若有人对你们说『基督在这里』,或说『基督在那里』,你们不要相信。 24:24 因为假基督和假先知将要出现,大显神迹和奇事欺骗人,甚至选民也可能被骗。 (马太福音 24:23-24).

(2) 撒旦向我们的罪性和叛逆本质发出引诱,他为我们提供一些我们宁可相信的谎言而不相信真理。在罗马书第一章,保罗论及人的罪,他说人选择「用虚谎取代了神的真理」(新译本)(参罗马书1:18-25,特别是第25节)。假教师为「不敬虔」的人提供更佳借口,和更具说服力的「谎言」来取代真理:

当他坐在审判席的时候,彼拉多的夫人打发人来说:「不要管这无辜人的事,因为我今天在梦中,为他受了许多的苦。」(马太福音 27:19)

假教师不会将他们的谬误教导强加在他人身上,他们只是巧妙地调整他们的教导,为人提供他们宁可相信的谎言。撒旦能够成功是因为堕落的人希望得到他所提供的。

(3) 撒旦透过弱者的弱点捕获他们。撒旦以那些充满罪疚感的人为首要目标。

3:6 那窜进人家,笼络不智妇女的,正是这等人。这些妇女担负重罪,被各样的私欲牵引,3:7 虽常常学习,却永不能明白真道。 (提摩太后书3:6-7)

(4) 撒旦提供吸引人肉欲的信息来增强他的效率。撒旦那糟糕的虚谎不实教导,并没有非凡的智慧。那驱使听者接受的原因是因为这些教导为不敬虔和自我放纵的人提供理论基础:

2:18 他们大言不惭,说空洞的话,用肉身的情欲和邪淫的事引诱那些刚脱离妄行的人; 2:19 他们应许人得以自由,自己却作了败坏的奴仆,因为人被谁制伏就是谁的奴仆。 (彼得后书 2:18-19)

(5) 撒旦利用不同的方法吸引人的肉欲来增强他的效率。不论是撒旦提供的信息或他使用的方法,都以说服力为基础,吸引堕落和充满欲望的人,并不是倚靠真理的力量。让我们看看保罗教导真理的方法和那些假师傅如「麦迪逊大道」不费气力的推销术之间的分别:

1:17 基督差遣我不是为了施洗,乃是为了传福音,不是用花言巧语,免得基督的十字架成为空谈。 (哥林多前书1:17)

2:1 弟兄姐妹们,从前我到你们那里去,并没有用高言大智对你们 见证神。 2:2 因为我曾定了主意,在你们中间不关心别的,只关心耶稣基督,并他被钉十字架。 2:3 我在你们那里时又软弱,又惧怕,又甚战兢。 2:4 我说的话和讲的道,不是用智慧劝服的言语,却是引证了圣灵和大能,2:5 叫你们的信不在乎人的智慧,只在乎 神的大能。 (哥林多前书2:1-5)

3:14 若人建造的工程经得起考验,他就要得赏赐。 3:15 若人的工程被烧毁了,他就要受亏损。自己可以得救,却要像从火里经过的一样。 3:16 岂不知你们是 神的殿, 神的灵住在你们里头吗? 3:17 若有人毁坏 神的殿,神必要毁灭那人。因为 神的殿是圣的,这殿就是你们。 (哥林多前书3:14-17)

4:1 人应当以我们为基督的仆人,为 神奥秘事的管家。 4:2 所求于管家的,是要他有忠心。 (哥林多前书4:1-2)

「穿上」真理

真理是宝贵的属灵军备,这是显而易见的。撒旦的手段是欺诈和谎言,而真理则是我们的防御武器。假如我们「穿上神所赐的全副属灵军备」,那么,我们不单要知到甚么是真理;还要知道怎样「穿上」真理。这是我们在这篇研读的重点──为真理下定义、探讨如何「穿上」真理:

彼拉多很久以前询问:「真理是甚么?」(翰福音18:38)。他的话某程度上反映犬儒主义(cynicism)对能够认识真理的否定态度。在我们这个时代,有些人认为能够认识真理是无望的。在大选年,候选人每日都在互相质疑,我们也不禁质疑我们是否能够知道孰真孰假。圣经保证我们能知道真理,而真理必叫我们得自由。(参翰福音8:32

数个世纪以前,先知以赛亚描述以色列堕落的悲惨状态。在以色列的众多毛病中,真理极其稀有,甚至看似不存在。没有人能把这个国家从罪中拯救,故此,主亲自带来真理和公义给那些信靠顺服的人:

59:1 耶和华的手并非软弱,不能拯救,耳朵非聋,不能听见。 59:2 但你们的罪行使你们与 神疏远;你们的罪恶使他拒绝你,不听你们的祷告。 59:3 因你们的手被血沾染,你们的指头被罪孽沾污;你们的嘴唇说谎言,你们的舌头出恶语。 59:4 无人关心公正,无人凭诚实呈案。他们都倚靠假话,说谎言;他们所怀的是压制,所生的是罪孽。 59:5 他们菢毒蛇蛋,结蜘蛛网。人吃这蛋必死,这蛋必孵出毒蛇。 59:6 他们的网不能成为衣服;不能用所做的遮盖自己。他们的行为都有罪;他们犯了残暴的罪行。 59:7 他们一心行恶,急速流无辜人的血;他们的意念都是罪孽,他们打碎毁灭。 59:8 平安的路,他们不熟悉;所行的事没有公平。他们用诡诈的方法,凡和他们交易的都不熟悉平安。

59:9 因此,救赎离我们远,救恩不临到我们。我们指望光亮,却只见黑暗;等待光明,却行在幽暗中。 59:10 我们沿墙摸索,好像瞎子;我们摸索,如同无目之人,我们晌午碰撞,如在黄昏一样;别人强壮,我们却像死人。 59:11 我们咆哮如熊,哀鸣如鸽;指望救赎,却是没有;指望救恩,却远离我们。 59:12 因你晓得我们许多叛逆的行为,我们的罪作见证告我们。是的,我们晓得自己的悖逆,非常清楚自己的罪。 59:13 我们悖逆又想欺骗;转去不跟从我们的 神。我们搅起欺压和叛逆;心怀谎念,口里说出。 59:14 公平被推走,神性站在远处。是的,诚实在街上碰撞,道德根本不得进入。 59:15 诚实消失,想离恶的人被抢劫。那时,耶和华因看见没有公平,甚不喜悦。

59:16 他见无人代言,无人干预,甚为惊动。就亲自动手,他对公平的愿望催迫着他。 59:17 他以公义的意愿为铠甲(注:或作「护心镜」),以拯救的心愿为头盔。他以报仇为衣服,以热心为外袍。 59:18 他必按人的行为施报,分发恼怒的审判给他的对头,惩罚他的仇敌,向众海岸施行报应。 59:19 西方的人必敬重耶和华的名;东方的人也必认出他的荣美。因为他来好像急流的河水,被耶和华差派之风驱动。 59:20「必有一位保护者来到锡安,到雅各族中从悖逆行为悔攺的人那里。」这是耶和华说的。 59:21 耶和华说:「至于我,我对他们的应许是这样:从今以后,我加给你的灵,传给你的话,必不离你的口,也不离你后裔与你后裔之后裔的口。」这是耶和华说的。 (以赛亚书 59:1-21)

没有人会质疑保罗那基督徒军备的意象是出于以赛亚书(参 赛亚书11:5 )。当基督把堕落的人从罪中拯救出来时,祂自己也穿上了这些军备。从罗马书第13章我们认识到「穿上我们的军备」就是「披戴基督」:

13:11 我们这样行,因为晓得现今就是早该睡醒的时候,因为我们的得救比初信的时候更近了。 13:12 黑夜已深,白昼将近。我们就当放下暗昧的行为,带上光的兵器;13:13 行事为人要端正,好像行在白昼。不可荒宴醉酒,不可好色邪荡,不可争竞嫉妒。 13:14 反要披戴主耶稣基督,不要为肉体安排去惹动私欲。 (罗马书 13:11-14)

神是「真理的神」,祂不能说谎(参 31:5赛亚书65:16 ;提多书1:2)。祂差遣自己的儿子来到世上,一次就完成了将祂的真理传给人(参希伯来1:1-2; 2:1-4 )。主耶稣来临不单传递神的真理(参翰福音8:40),祂就是真理,那叫人得自由的真理:

1:14 道成了肉身,住在我们中间,充充满满的有恩典有真理。我们见过他的荣光,正是父独生子的荣光。 1:15 约翰为他作见证,喊着说:「这就是我曾说『那在我以后来的,要比我更大的,因为在我之先,他已经存在了』的那一位。」1:16 我们都从他的丰满领受了恩典,而且恩上加恩。 1:17 律法是藉着摩西传的,但恩典和真理是藉耶稣基督来的。 1:18 从来没有人见过 神,只有与父最亲近的独生子将 神表明出来。 (约翰福音 1:14-18)

耶稣说:「我就是道路、真理、生命;若不藉着我,没有人能到父那里去。」 (约翰福音14:6)

...... 你们必晓得真理,真理必叫你们得以自由。」 (约翰福音8:32)

真理是:耶稣就是神所应许的弥赛亚,祂是神的羔羊,被派遣来到世上除去世人的罪孽( 翰福音1:29 );祂在各各他为我们的罪背负刑罚而被钉十字架,被埋葬,从死里复活,证明神悦纳祂的救赎。透过相信耶稣,人不单得救,并且得到真理。就如保罗的教导:「你们学的基督,却不是这样,如果你们真的听过他,在他里面受教,学了里面的真理」(以弗所4:20-21

祂是真理,祂把「真理的圣灵」差来( 翰福音15:26 ; 16:13),并赐给我们圣经,那就是「真理的道」( 哥林多后6:7提摩太后2:15雅各1:18 ),因此我们能认识全部的真理;那是生命和敬虔不能或缺的(彼得后书1:3-4;另参 提摩太后3:14-17 )。

穿上真理的起始点是相信主耶稣基督,因祂是真理。由这起点,我们踏上那终身的成圣天路;真理使我们成圣(翰福音17:17, 19)。成圣是当我们脱去从前行为上的旧人,透过神的话语帮助,我们就会产生心意更新而变化(以弗所4:17-24罗马书12:1-2 );在真理的熏陶下,基督徒放弃虚谎,用爱心说诚实话(以弗所4:15, 25, 29);这也包括保守我们的意念,不受任何不正确的影响( 腓立比4:8),并避免各种形式的「知识」把我们掳去,转离基督(歌罗西书第2章)。这意味着我们不再说三道四,不传流言蜚语、不作无谓猜测、不倚靠神话和人的传统而转向基督和祂的话语,这代表我们要按世界的实况认清楚这个世界(箴言)。我们不单是作出表白,而要遵行真理(希伯来5:11-14翰壹2:4; 翰二1:1-4 )。那就是拥抱圣经那明确和强调的启示;而那些纯粹来自人的「真理」却要迟疑。这是说我们要自己学习真理,而不应倚靠别人告诉我们甚么是真理(使徒行17:10等;约翰壹书2:26-27)。

数个世纪以前,先知阿摩司曾预言饥荒:

8:11 主耶和华说:「日子将到,我必命饥荒降在地上我不是说水和饼的短缺,而是圣启示的终结。 (阿摩司书 8:11)

我恐怕我们是活在大饥荒中,并不是因为我们无法接触圣经,而是我们被禁止阅读它;并不是没有好的书和辅助工具,而是欠缺一颗爱真理的心,那根源是不爱主自己。让我们穿上真理作为我们军备;让我们像大卫一般渴望透过神的话语更深地认识神(119);让我们日夜都思想祂的真理;让我们的祷告符合祂的真理;让我们行在真理中,为神带来荣耀,也为我们的益处。

译者注:除特别标示的地方,中文经文采用NET(中文版)

Translated by: Jenny Pao  鲍婉玲译


1另参列王纪上18:46;列王纪下4:29; 9:7; 约伯记40:7; 耶利米书1:17;以赛亚书45:1.

2另参哥林多后书10:5-6; 11:3;加拉太书1:6-9.

3另参马太福音4:1-11;路加福音4:1-13;以弗所书6:14.

4另参使徒行传13:6-12;比较帖撒罗尼迦后书2:7-12.

5 我的一位朋友向我指出,撒旦撒播「独身」和「禁止食用某些食物」的方法十分巧妙。对那些未倾向过属灵生活的,撒旦采取不同的策略欺哄他们。在我们这个愈来愈不敬虔的文化,人们已倾向结婚不可取,而「同居」是「较佳的方法」。有些食物被禁止食用,并非因神称那些是不洁的食物,而是为了环保或动物的权益。撒旦恨不得让我们「按我们的方式而行」,只要最终我们的思维和行动按他而行。

6另参罗马书 5:18–6:14;彼得后书 2:18-19.

7另参马可福音4:24-25;雅各书1:21-27; 2:14-26;约翰二书1:1-4.

8另参提摩太前书1:6-7; 6:3-5;提多书3:9;提摩太后书4:4;启示录2:24.

9另参彼得后书2:18; 3:3-4; 约翰壹书2:26-27.

Pages