A PICTURE OF THE TRUE CHURCH PART 4
A twit I came across this week said “My therapist says I have a preoccupation with vengeance, we’ll see about that” What Paul writes in this chapter is very challenging, even for the most veteran Christian. Why? If we were honest with ourselves, we all agree that we all have people we don’t like. And as Christians, we want to believe we could never dislike someone because that would contrary to the Christian life. But as one theologian wrote we want to believe that is true but, “Like a phantom they haunt us when we’re fatigued or lonely or discouraged. It’s frustrating because we’ve presented ourselves as living sacrifices, yet the sinful actions of another person tempt us to crawl off the alter and get some much-deserved justice.”
See for us not to crawl off that alter we need to remain sacrificed. To remain submitted to God’s way instead of following after what the world would do in that situation. We must… submit and seek God for strength and wisdom to not respond in a sinful manner but with grace and truth. This needs to be extended to on another in the body of Christ, but also to those outside the covenant promises of God in the gospel.
We Are Never To Repay Evil With Evil, But Do What Is Honorable In The Presence Of All By Living Peaceably With All (v17-v18)
What Paul says is plain and straightforward. “Repay no evil for evil” This is supremely radical because it is supremely unnatural. Our condition reflex is to strike back. The world says, “Common sense demands getting even”. The biblical worldview says, “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matt 5:43-48
The plan for revenge begins with cursing. Most curses are designed to bring harm by supernatural operation. We know that doesn’t happen by speaking curses against someone, but we know what does work and that is our mouths. The greatest cursing and harm comes by the one thing that has the most influence over your relationships and social networking. How we chose to respond verbally prepares us for our next decision. If we want to obey then we must submit to what Paul pens here to have our tongues under control.
Just as James warned us about this destructive device that causes more harm than good. “If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”
We must listen to James and Paul and obey what Jesus said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matt 5:10-12
It is so much harder to bless others, than it is to curse them
when they hurt or do you wrong.
And here we are commanded by Scripture to extend an olive branch of grace to those who do evil against you and I. “Bless” means to “to speak well of” in this case those who do evil against you. It’s the English word where we get “eulogy” we are to eulogize the person who has offended us. Unfortunately for you, and me, we cannot wait until we feel like it, we must submit to the Scriptures at all times. Otherwise if we don’t, it will fester and our desire to retaliate will get stronger and stronger. When that happens! We are no better than the one who offended us, we are sinning willfully, because we know what we are to do and it’s not this. The word “evil” and “sin” are not equal. All sin is evil, but not all evil is sin. The word “evil” in the Old Testament has many nuances, as it can refer to experiences we do not welcome as something that is pleasant or good.
For example As it pertains to natural disasters such as famine and earthquakes. These catastrophes can bring upon us all kinds of bad consequences. But we don’t blame the barren crops or the earthquakes of sin. Paul here is indicating the moral realm by writing “repay no evil for evil” when we are hurt and offended we are prone to say, “Payback Time” An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth but that is how the world responds to those things. We want to win the fight in human relationships. If we are the victim we want to get even, but this payback comes with consequences….sin! In the Old Testament an “eye for an eye” and a “tooth for a tooth” Exo 21:24; Lev 24:20, was pertaining to civil justice, not personal revenge. This was also to prevent the severity of punishment from exceeding the severity of the offence. This is why Paul would write in the next chapter that civil authority “Is a minister of God to you for good. But if you curse or do what is evil, be very afraid. “for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.” It’s the civil magistrates to uphold God’s Laws, and we are to obey God here; specifically when it comes to repaying evil. This is not the way we are to respond in the Christian life. “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” 1 Thess 5:15
What does Paul tell us to do? (v17b-v18)
How is this possible? By the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life but this requires your humble submission to the Spirit, and the commands of God. “Honorable” means a genuine respect for others, including our enemies. The word literally means things “beautiful,” or “comely.” The expression here is our “conduct,” and especially our conduct toward those who injure us. This is hard to do in the Christian life but it is a command. “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
We are vessels of honor…… Rom 9:23
The gospel produces honor in us……. 2 Timothy 2:21
This is produced and formed in us by God……. Rom 9:21
The covenant of marriage is picture of honor…….. Heb 13:4
It’s the Christian’s good works and service….. John 12:26
It’s the demonstration and evidence of a transformed life. “for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord's sight but also in the sight of man.” 2 Cor 8:21. People are watching us and they know who we are. R C Sproul asked this question. “Can unbelievers see something different about us that they cannot deny, even when they slander us? Do they see that we have tender hearts?” The answer should be yes! Our forgiving, gracious behavior towards our enemies should be what is most evident by others/unbelievers. Believers are to be marked by this trait and Paul goes one step further and says “Live peaceably with all” The church is to live at peace with everyone, in a world system of rage and dishonor. This is where the real challenge lies for the believer and the church.
Do we have any enemies?
Do we have broken relationships?
R C Sproul said if we can say yes to those questions, we need to re-evaluate our opinions. Because Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matt 5:9. The making of peace should be part of our Christian character and conduct. The Scriptures warn us of a false peace, a fake peace that the false prophets of Israel proclaimed. “Peace, peace,' when there is no peace.” Jer 6:14.. Martin Luther described this kind of peace this way. “A fleshly peace, one based on falsehood rather than truth, a peace born of cowardice rather than courage.” What Luther is saying is that this is a wrong kind of peace, and because of that it is impossible to live at peace with all men. That is why Paul says, “As much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Paul knows the struggle, because we are prone to retaliate or curse those who wrong us, but Paul is saying we are to seek peace. I understand this is hard but it is what our Lord did throughout His earthly ministry. Now Jesus wasn’t a doormat for others to walk all over him, but we are to be a people who do not love a fight. People in society are offended whether you open your mouth or not, and we are not to give them reason to offend by us retaliating. As much as it depends on you, we are to be sensitive to people.
We Are Never To Avenge Wrath On Others But Exemplify Christ. (v19-v21)
Wrath and vengeance is God’s business not ours to execute on one another. (v19) Paul escalates his warning, but he does it with a term of endearment “Beloved” Paul is trying to be gentle as He warns the family of God about revenge.
When you hear the word beloved, it means I love you as your
pastor, and a punch is coming and it might hurt.
The wrath that is to come is never for you and I to take up. Paul quotes from Deuteronomy some strong language from Moses letter. “Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.' For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free. Then he will say, 'Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge, who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you; let them be your protection! "'See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand. For I lift up my hand to heaven and swear, As I live forever, if I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand takes hold on judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and will repay those who hate me. I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh— with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the long-haired heads of the enemy.' "Rejoice with him, O heavens; bow down to him, all gods, for he avenges the blood of his children and takes vengeance on his adversaries. He repays those who hate him and cleanses his people's land." Deut 32:35-43
It’s in God’s divine timing when His wrath will come, when we are injured, we are not to seek, because vengeance is a desire for revenge. And what makes vengeance wrong and evil is who undertakes it. This is God’s business because He tells us that we ought not to avenge ourselves. ”The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness.”
Our offence with be avenged but the one who is to do it God, and His punishment, His justice never punishes more severely than the sin. If it was left to you and me we would never stop until they are destroyed beyond their sin. Instead of vengeance Paul says we are to give them drink and food. That seems to an odd thing to do for those who offend us. (v20) This was the obligation for the godly man in the Old Testament. Paul quotes from Proverbs, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” Prov 25:21-22. This is a ministry of mercy, we repay evil with kindness, and when we do this we expose our enemy to God’s wrath. The more they persist to do evil, while we persist to show kindness, we increase our enemy’s guilt before a holy God in judgement or it draws them to His grace. But understand! We don’t do them good to get them into trouble, the point is that the burden and the tendency to return evil is replaced with goodness towards them. Our burden is lighter and our hands are clean of wrongdoing. It demonstrates an exemplified Christian life. That’s why Paul says “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (v21)
A prime example of this is when David would not lift his hand to kill Saul, even though Saul was seeking his life. “Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, "My lord the king!" And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage. And David said to Saul, "Why do you listen to the words of men who say, 'Behold, David seeks your harm'? Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the LORD gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, 'I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD's anointed.' See, my father, see the corner of your robe in my hand. For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it. May the LORD judge between me and you, may the LORD avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you. As the proverb of the ancients says, 'Out of the wicked comes wickedness.' But my hand shall not be against you.”
1 Sam 24:8-13
The results of David’s actions produced this in Saul. “As soon as David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, "Is this your voice, my son David?" And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. He said to David, "You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the LORD put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the LORD reward you with good for what you have done to me this day.” 1 Sam 24:16-19
This is the exemplified Christian life that Jesus desires for you and me to live. This is the exemplified life of the true church to demonstrate in a fallen world system where vengeance is on every street, city and country. Remind yourself this Biblical truth, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Phil 4:5-8
Remember this very important truth to what Paul is saying to us this morning. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.” Col 3:2-7
So, Christian man and woman….live honorably, live peaceably with all, and never take vengeance into your own hands. But overcome evil with good.