A Christmas Story (Luke 2:1-20)
Luke 2:7 – “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
We can learn some truths to live by, and model our lives by from the Christmas Story. The Christmas story is more than just a “story” it is an actual historical account of the birth of the Son of God. The truths we can learn from this account are numerous, we will just focus on a few.
The birth of the Son of God was a miraculous event that took place over 2,000 years ago in a small village in Israel named Bethlehem. There was no room for Joseph and Mary in the inn. Jesus was born and then placed in a manger. Shepherds were informed of His birth by a host of angels. They made haste to get to where the King was born. They boldly proclaimed the news of His birth in the surrounding area.
BIRTH PLACE OF BETHLEHEM (Luke 2:4-6 – And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.)
Bethlehem was a proper place for our Savior to be born because Bethlehem means “house of bread” and Jesus is the “bread of life”. (John 6:31-35 – Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.)
Christ is to our soul as bread is to our body. You cannot have a proper spiritual life without feeding each day on the Word of God. (John 1:1– In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. & Joshua 1:8 – This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein:)
Feasting on the word of God will nourish us spiritually. You have to feed your spirit like you feed your body. You should care for your spiritual life even more that you care for you physical life. (Matthew 4:4 – But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.)
It is God who gives us spiritual and eternal life. It is by the sacrifice of the “bread of life” that we have everlasting life with Him in Glory. (John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.)
God gives life to those who were dead in their sins. (Romans 8:12-14 – Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.) We are debtors to the “bread of life” form Bethlehem. Without His coming to Bethlehem, and being born to die on the cross for our sins, we would not have life. We would be doomed to stay dead in our sins.
BIRTH OF HUMBLE CIRCUMSTANCES (Luke 2:6-8 – And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.)
Jesus had a humble birth and humble beginnings. He was not born in a fancy house to rich parents. He was basically born in a barn and his first bed was a manger. He was not blessed materially growing up, He was from a poor family, the son of a carpenter.
We need to model ourselves after the humility Christ demonstrated with His life. Biblical humility is recognition that by ourselves we are inadequate and worthless. (I Corinthians 4:7 – For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?) But because we are created in the image of God we are valuable with infinite worth and dignity. A humble person sees himself as not deserving it, but being the recipient of God’s redeeming love, and regards himself as not being his own but God’s in Christ. (Ephesians 2:10 – For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.)
Jesus Christ was the only man that didn’t have to be humble. He was equal with God and sent by Him to earth. He had all knowledge and power available to Him. Yet He was the most supreme example of humbleness that has ever walked the earth. (Philippians 2:5-8 – Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.)
We need to model ourselves after the meekness and humbleness of Christ. Who though He was equal with God became the most humble man on earth. Do not think so highly of yourself that you look down on others. We are all created by God in His image. God made man from the dust of the ground. Do not let yourself become proud but seek to live a life of humility in Christ.
BABE WORSHIPED IN A MANGER (Luke 2:8-16 ) We need to worship our Lord. Demonstrate your thankfulness and love to the Lord that saved you from your sins. Worship Him in the morning when you read your Bible and pray. Worship and praise His majesty and works you see all around you. Give Him praise for the great things He has done in your life. Let others know around you how much you love your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (Psalm 7:17 – I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.)
The shepherds heard the good news of Christ and had a desire to get closer to Him. When we hear of Christ’s love, and read of His love and what He has done for us, it should make us want to get closer to Him. When you know someone loves you and you love them back you want to be close to them and spend time with them. (I John 2:3-6 – And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.)
The shepherds did not hesitate to get closer to the Lord. The Bible says “they came with haste”. Are we that way when it comes to the things of God? Do we “make haste” for the chance to get in His word, and read and meditate on His word? Do we “make haste” in our efforts to go to church? Do we “make haste” in our efforts to serve the Lord with our lives and do what His will is for us? Do you “make haste” for Christ? (Hebrews 12:1-2 – Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.)
BROADCASTING THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS (Luke 2:17-20 – And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.) The shepherds after they heard the news of the Lord and sought to find Him and then worship Him they broadcast the good news of Jesus to all those around them. (Luke 2:17 – And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.)
The shepherds were willing and excited witnesses for Christ. Are you witnessing for Christ to all those around you like the shepherds did? Are you sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to everyone you can? The Lord Jesus not only expects us to be so excited about Him that we witness to those around us, but He commands us to do it, and not only to those around us but to the whole world. (Matthew 28:18-20 – And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.)
We need to Plan to witness for Christ don’t just expect it will happen. Plan out a time to witness for Him each week. (Proverbs 29:18a – Where there is no vision, the people perish:)
We need to Prepare for spontaneous times of witnessing for Christ. (I Peter 3:15 – …be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:)
We need to be Persistent in our efforts to win souls for Christ. If the first time you share your faith with a friend they don’t get saved. Don’t get discouraged. Keep at it. Keep trying, keep praying for them, don’t give up. (I Corinthians 15:58 – … be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.)
We need to be Praying about witnessing to those around us. Don’t expect results unless you have been praying for them first. (Philippians 4:6 – Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.)
The shepherds shared the good news of Christ to those around them. They did not hesitate to share the good news of Christ. They were excited witnesses for Him. Jesus expects and commands us to be witnesses for Him as well. In our witnessing efforts we need to be planning out when we will go. We need to be prepared to be spontaneous and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes His schedule is not our schedule. We need to be persistent in our efforts and not give up. Finally and most importantly we need to be praying about opportunities to witness for the Lord. (I Timothy 2:4 – Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.)
IN CONCLUSION: We learned about the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We learned of His birthplace in Bethlehem. We saw how Bethlehem means “house of bread” and how this was a proper place for the birth of the “bread of life”. For He gives us the spiritual nourishment we need in our lives. We learned of His humble birth and beginnings. How we was not blessed materially and how that does not really matter. What matters is the spiritual.
We need to learn to model Christ’s example of humility in our lives. If we could learn to be humble like Him we could learn to serve Him more. Christ came down from heaven and humbled Himself to be born among us to die for us. He was born to die for our sins! (Hebrews 2:9-10 –But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.).
God chose to give His only Son as a sacrifice for our sins. The greatest gift ever given was the gift that God gave over 2,000 years ago. God gave His only begotten Son, so that we might have life and have it more abundantly! Christ humbled Himself to become the sacrifice for our sins because He loved us. We need to worship Christ. Show Him the honor and respect He should have. Worship Him with song, praise and how you live your life for Him. And always be willing and looking for ways to share the message of Christ with others around us.
Answer: BECAUSE “WISDOM IS THE PRINCIPLE THING”
Proverbs 4:5-10 – “Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee. Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many.”
Proverbs 4:7 – Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
Among all of the things man could get, be sure to get wisdom first; or better yet: employ all that you have to gain wisdom: part with anything that interferes with this goal, if need be for wisdom’s sake (Matthew 13:44-46 – Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.) The fact that men so universally prefer wealth to wisdom, shows the blindness of our natural heart, our old sin nature; but they whom God’s Spirit has enlightened, understand that the knowledge of the truth, and true wisdom, is far better than all the riches a man could have.
WHY DO WE WANT WISDOM? – Because of the benefits of wisdom. In Proverbs 4:5-10 Solomon list 6 benefits to wisdom:
If wisdom does all this for us, gives us all these benefits then why aren’t more of us striving to get wisdom? Why are there so many people content to be, and remain simple, or even worse, a scorner or a fool?
Illustration: Suppose you had a part-time job. You were making just the minimum wage. You made enough to have some spending money but you would like to make some more. Your boss comes up to you and says he needs a volunteer to work twice as long, working twice as hard. You think why would I do that? What is my reward? Then he says he will pay you 10 times as much to do it. You would jump at the opportunity. The reward or payoff would be worth it to you. That is what getting wisdom will do for you. It takes hard work, but the reward of wisdom far outweighs the work of wisdom. And the work of wisdom is reading and studying the Bible daily. Praying daily. We are to be in a constant state of fellowship with the Lord. The work of wisdom is seeking out wise counselors and using their advice. Getting wisdom will not be easy, but it will be the best pursuit in your life. It will be the best thing you will ever do for yourself and for those around you who are influenced or affected by your life. And the work of wisdom will soon turn into joy, and it won’t feel like work anymore. It will be what you look forward to everyday. You will look forward to your time in God’s word; you will look forward with anticipation to your prayer time. You will look forward to your opportunities to hear God’s word preached.
WHY DO WE NEED WISDOM? – Let’s look at Wisdom’s Cry to find out. (Proverbs 1:20-33)
SO WHY SHOULD WE GET WISDOM? – Proverbs 8:32-36 sums it all up beautifully. Here, wisdom herself is speaking and she says, “Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD. But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.” If we do not make it our aim to “get wisdom,” we will suffer injury, and finally death. Therefore, the command, “Get wisdom; get understanding,” is very important.
Those that reject the counsel of God reject it against themselves. (Luke 7:30 – But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.) An assurance of happiness is to all those that listen to Wisdom and obtain if for themselves. They are blessed in Proverbs 8:32, and again in Proverbs 8:34. They are blessed that watch and wait at Wisdom’s gates. Just their presence there is happiness; it is the best place they can be.
Doom is passed upon all those that reject Wisdom and her guidance (Proverbs 8:36). They are left to ruin themselves, and Wisdom will not stop them, because they have ignored her counsel, and instead have chosen and caused their own destruction to fall upon them by their own actions and inactions concerning wisdom. Their crime was very great; they sinned against Wisdom, rebelled against it by their own foolish actions, and offended it. By doing so, they sinned against Christ; they acted in contempt of His authority over their life and in contradiction to all the purposes of His life and death. According to this passage, their punishment will be very just, for they willfully brought it upon themselves (Proverbs 8:36)
IN CONCLUSION: Among all of the things man could get, be sure to get wisdom first and foremost. Make getting wisdom the top concern in your life. Getting true wisdom is far better than all the riches a man could have. Wisdom will keep us from harmful situations. Wisdom will give you grace to handle what life throws your way, and because of wisdom, you will have a good reputation of living out a Godly life. Getting wisdom will not be easy, but it will be the best pursuit in your life. It will be the best thing you will ever do for yourself and for those around you who are influenced or affected by your life. Why should we get wisdom? – Because those that get wisdom will be blessed by God. They will be able to be content and happy in whatever situation life finds them in (Philippians 4:11 – Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.) Because if we get wisdom, we will not have to endure any of the heartache brought on by our own foolish mistakes. Why get wisdom? – Because “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom”!
In A.D. 64, when Rome was set ablaze, many blamed Nero for intentionally setting the city on fire while he was in a fit of rage. Nero soon discovered this provoked the wrath of the Roman citizenry; as a result, he attempted to divert the torrent of public outrage from himself, by blaming the Christians. They were already highly disliked and barely tolerated as the propagators of what was considered “a pernicious superstition,” and the tyrant Nero, no doubt, believed that the mob of the metropolis of Rome was prepared to believe any report to the discredit of these that belonged to the sect of the Nazarene. But even the pagan historian who records the commencement of this first imperial persecution, and who was deeply prejudiced against the disciples of Christ, bears testimony to the falsehood of the accusation.
“Nero”, says Tacitus, “found wretches who were induced to confess themselves guilty; and, on their evidence, a great multitude of Christians were convicted, not indeed on clear proof of their having set the city on fire, but rather on account of their hatred of the human race. They were put to death amidst insults and derision. Some were covered with the skins of wild beasts, and left to be torn to pieces by dogs; others were nailed to the cross; and some, covered over with flammable matter, were lighted up, when the day declined, to serve as torches during the night. The Emperor lent his own gardens for the exhibition. He added the sports of the circus, and assisted in person, sometimes driving a curricle, and occasionally mixing with the rubble in his coachman’s dress. At length these proceedings excited a feeling of compassion, as it was evident that the Christians were destroyed, not for the public good, but as a sacrifice to the cruelty of a single individual.”
In the evening, it is reported, that Nero would walk through his gardens that would be illuminated by the burning bodies of Christians. Some writers have maintained that the persecution under Nero was confined to Rome; but various testimonies concur to prove that it extended to the provinces. Paul seems to contemplate its spread throughout the Empire when he tells the Hebrews that they had “not yet resisted unto blood striving against sin,” Hebrews 12:4, and when he exhorts them not to forsake the assembling of themselves together as they “see the day approaching” Hebrews 10:25. Peter also apparently refers to the same circumstance in his letter to the brethren “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” when he announces “the fiery trial” which was “to try” them, I Peter 4:12, and when he tells them of judgment beginning “at the house of God” I Peter 4:17. The persecution by Nero was intense and horrific. Many Christians lost their lives by order of Nero including the Apostles Paul and Peter. The horror with which his name was so long regarded by members of the Church in all parts of the Empire strongly corroborates the statement that the attack on the disciples in the capital was only the signal for the commencement of a general persecution.
After the death of Nero, the Church enjoyed a break from persecution, but when Domitian, in A.D. 81, succeeded to the government, the work of persecution recommenced. Domitian governed the Empire fifteen years, but his persecution of the Christians appears to have been limited to the latter part of his reign. About this time the Apostle John, “Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ” Revelation 1:2, was sent as an exile into Patmos, a small rocky island in the Aegean Sea not far from the coast of Asia Minor. It is said that he had previously survived unhurt from a cauldron of boiling oil into which he had been plunged into while in Rome by order of the Emperor; but this account, from a writer who lived about a century afterwards is the earliest record of this, and has been questioned as authentic.
While Christianity during this time, though facing heavy persecution and disdain, was gradually attracting more and more attention, it was also at the same time nobly demonstrating its power as the great regenerator of society. The religion of pagan Rome could not satisfy the wants of the soul; it could neither improve the heart nor invigorate the intellect; and it was now rapidly losing its hold on the consciences of the people. The high places of idol worship often exercised a most demoralizing influence. The vices of some of its most distinguished professors were notorious; and they enjoyed neither the confidence nor the respect of the mass of the people. But, even under the most unpromising circumstances, it soon appeared that Christianity could accomplish social and spiritual changes of a very extraordinary character. The Church of Corinth was perhaps one of the least exemplary of the early Christian communities, and yet it stood upon a moral eminence far above the surrounding population; and, from the roll of its own membership, it could produce cases of conversion to which nothing parallel could be found in the whole history of heathendom.
Paul was able to say to this church “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” I Corinthians 6:9-11. The gospel proved itself sufficient to meet the basest needs of man and the highest aspirations of him too. It revealed to men a Friend in heaven who “sticketh closer than a brother;” Proverbs 18:24, and it assured him of eternal happiness in the enjoyment of fellowship with God, it imparted to him a peace that passeth all understanding. The Roman people witnessed an awe inspiring event when they saw the primitive followers of Christ dying for Him in the fires of martyrdom. The pagans did not so value their beliefs; but here was a religion which was accounted “better than life.” You must think that the flames which illuminated the gardens of Nero supplied some spiritual light to the crowds who were present at the sad scenes; and in the unshakable spirit of the first sufferers, the thoughtful citizen might have recognized a belief in a carpenter’s son from Nazareth, was much more than that, and that is was destined to yet shake the very foundations of the world for Christ. (Acts 17:6 – And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;)
After Domitian, there was no officially sanctioned persecution of Christians, though persecution was still carried on by local governments, and many Christian leaders were put to death, including Ignatious, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Cyprian. 
When the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 A.D.) came to power he issued a decree that those who would identify Christians to the Roman authorities would them in turn be given their property. As a result of this decree throughout the Roman Empire Christians were being turned in by their neighbors. Many were beheaded and thousands more were thrown to wild animals to provide entertainment for thousands of spectators who flocked to the Roman amphitheaters.  Many Christians were burned and their ashes were thrown into the wind “to prevent their resurrections”, was the reason given by the Romans as to why they took this extra step with their remains.
The worst persecution came under the reign of Diocletian, who devoted the full resources of the military to hunt down and destroy all Christians. It is estimated that millions of Christians died during that period! Diocletian’s successor, Galerius, condemned this persecution and shortly before the end of his life ordered the end of it. Galerius was succeeded by Constantine who officially adopted Christianity as the religion of the empire; though there is no solid evidence he ever became a Christian himself. Constantine began to mix the teachings of Christianity with that of various pagan religions that had significant numbers of followers. Constantine was trying to offer something for everyone but in reality this began to hasten the pollution that had already began creeping into the church’s doctrines and practice. Also, this practice of mixing some of the teachings and traditions of local pagan religions with that of the church, was adopted by the Catholic church as a standard practice.
Genesis 50:20 “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”
It has been noted all throughout church history that some of the greatest times of expansion and growth of Christianity have come while it was under some form of persecution. If you look at the explosion of growth, mission works, evangelization that occurred after the crucifixion of Christ: what prompted the Apostles and other believers to scatter from Jerusalem and go into the uttermost parts of the world? – You would have to say that Persecution was a big factor.
Now look at the Christians of the Roman empire, while they were being persecuted and fearing for their life, would not they think of leaving this area and going someplace safe? This in turn would spread their belief and witness to this new area and spread the gospel. Under mild persecution some would leave and take the good news of the Gospel with them, but under heavy persecution most of them that could leave would leave and spread the Gospel even further and greater.
How the Lord works is something we cannot always comprehend, we just need to trust Him through the hardships and trials. Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” The Lord has a reason for everything and can used anything for the advancement of His plan, including persecution.
As a result of the heavy Roman persecution, think of all the remote locations, mountain top villages, faraway lands, that these Christians fled to, then all these places now had devout Christians living with them, testifying of Christ. God only knows of the countless millions that were saved and in Heaven today as a result of this horrific chapter in church history. God took what men meant for evil and used it for good (Genesis 50:20) and countless souls are in Heaven as a result. All those that had their lives taken and their blood spilt for the name of Christ by the hands of the Romans were not in vain. God honored their efforts and sacrifice, just as His word says, and used this dark time in church history as an opportunity to shine His light of redemption even farther and greater as a result.
The early church suffered heavy persecution, yet it flourished and grew rapidly. Times of heavy persecution are often times of great expansion in the church. Times of trial in a Christians life are often times of great spiritual growth. So too God has used times of trial of the church in general to bring about great growth in the church.
The Emperor Nero persecuted the early Christians in a devastatingly way, yet they kept living for Christ, they kept evangelizing, they kept growing, they kept doing missionary work. It should not depend on who is in charge of government, we should just keep working and witnessing for Christ. It should not matter the laws they put in place, if those laws violate Scripture we need to follow Scripture. God and His word is the ultimate authority and because of that “we ought to obey God rather than man” Acts 5:29.
Nero died A.D. 68, and the war which involved the destruction of Jerusalem and of upwards of a million of the Jews, was already well underway. The holy city fell in A.D. 70; and the Mosaic economy, which had been virtually abolished by the death of Christ, now reached its practical termination. At the same, as stated earlier, the prophecy of Daniel was literally fulfilled; for “the sacrifice and the oblation” were made to cease, Daniel 9:25-27.
The worst persecution came under the reign of Diocletian who devoted the full resources of the military to hunt down and destroy all Christians. It is estimated that millions of Christians died during that period! Diocletian’s successor, Galerius, condemned this persecution and shortly before the end of his life ordered the end of it. Galerius was succeeded by Constantine who officially adopted Christianity as the religion of the empire.
 Killen, W. (1859). The Ancient Church. New York, NY
 Paul was beheaded, and Peter was crucified by order of Nero according to the ancient historian Eusebeius
 Killen, W. (1859). The Ancient Church. New York, NY
 Dr, P. S. (2011). The Faithful Baptist Witness. Cleveland, GA: The Old Paths Publications.
 Dr, P. S. (2011). The Faithful Baptist Witness. Cleveland, GA: The Old Paths Publications.
 Dr, P. S. (2011). The Faithful Baptist Witness. Cleveland, GA: The Old Paths Publications.
 Dr, P. S. (2011). The Faithful Baptist Witness. Cleveland, GA: The Old Paths Publications.
“FUNDAMENTAL” CHURCH FATHER?
It would not be truthful to say that all the early church fathers were Fundamentalists like we think of the word today. But what is totally truthful is that all of the Fundamentals of the faith are as ancient as the church, there have been men all throughout the centuries of church history that could have been called Fundamentalists. For example, Polycarp does not write about all the specific fundamentals that we know today but concerning the ones he did write about he would be considered to be fundamental in his beliefs and teachings.
The earliest Church Fathers, (within two generations of the Twelve Apostles of Christ) are usually called the Apostolic Fathers since tradition describes them as having been taught by the twelve. Important Apostolic Fathers include Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Papias of Hierapolis.
Let’s take a quick look at, one of these men who are often referred to as, early “Church Fathers” or “Apostolic Fathers”. He was an early church leader, writer, preacher, and martyr who helped lead and shape the early church. We have recorded of him a wonderfully dramatic testimony, one in which the preeminence of Christ is illustrated, and also illustrated is the kind of dedication to living and yes dying for Christ if necessary, that is sadly, seemingly lacking in our churches today.
Polycarp (69-155) was one of the well-known martyrs of the early church, Polycarp identified as a disciple of John the Apostle. What we know of Polycarp comes from his pupil and disciple, Irenaeus (d. 202), apologist and theologian, and later bishop of Lyons, Gaul [France]. Polycarp was one of the last leaders who was won to Christ by an Apostle [John] and knew many who had seen Jesus. Philip Schaff wrote concerning Polycarp’s forceful ministry against paganism that he was denounced throughout all Asia Minor as the “atheist,” that is, “the teacher of Asia, the destroyer of our gods.” He was seen as glorifying a dead man and his messages on the teachings and miracles of Jesus, which John had told him firsthand, were convincing. Schaff reports of his letter to the Philippian church, of his focus on Christ saying, “Of Christ it speaks in high terms as the Lord, who sits at the right hand of God to whom everything in heaven and earth is subject”. 
Elliott Wright wrote, “He was the gentlest…of men…a case study in humility.” He was remembered as a man of prayer—a man who, according to one ancient source, “prayed constantly night and day” – “prayer that did not interfere with his daylight hours devoted to teaching and his night to studying the Scripture”. When persecution broke out in 156 A.D. every attempt was made to get him to recant his faith in the “cult” of Jesus. “Why, what harm is there in saying, ‘Caesar is Lord’ and offering incense and saving yourself,” the officials continued pleading, “Swear by the divinity of Caesar; repent”, but Polycarp did no such thing and instead it is recorded the following took place:
Polycarp is recorded as saying on the day of his death, “Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong“. Polycarp goes on to say “How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? You threaten me with a fire that burns for a season, and after a little while is quenched; but you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment that is prepared for the wicked.” Polycarp was burned at the stake and was pierced with a spear for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor. On his farewell, he said “I bless you Father for judging me worthy of this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ.”
Polycarp identified as disciple of the Apostle John and that he was won to Christ by the Apostle. It is often said of Polycarp that he had a forceful ministry against paganism throughout Asia Minor. He boldly proclaimed the truth of God and did not let the state of the world or efforts by it intimidate him from the calling on his life. It is also reported that though his ministry and preaching style were very forceful, he was a very humble man and gentle in his spirit. He was also a man who was very dedicated to his Savior and worked tirelessly in his ministry to the church and for Christ and was reported faithful until the end even his death. This is a tremendous example for the church today; the dedication to Christ and the Great Commission, only if all of us had the same kind of dedication. We in America and the Western World have it so easy now as compared to the early church; we need to not let this fact make us complacent or apathetic to the things of God and His calling on our life to witness for Him. We need more of the boldness and determination of Polycarp in our church today, and the desire to constantly spread the Gospel and pushed forward in spite of adversity and less of the apathy that is so, unfortunately, commonplace in churches and Christians today.
 Schaff, P. (1979). Ante-Nicene Christianity, vol. 2 of History of the Christian Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
 (Schaff, 1979)
I Corinthians 1:18 – “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
The Apostle Paul’s life falls in line with this verse he wrote to the Corinthians. For the first part of his life the preaching of the cross was foolishness to him. He could personally testify of this fact. But when he was saved, the preaching of the cross took on the power of God to him and in his life.
When discussing the Apostle Paul, one cannot over emphasize the impact he had on the growth and development of the early church. He was a critically needed Apostle and an incredibly influential one. His conversion provided an incredible testimony of the saving, life transforming power of Jesus Christ. His missionary journeys led to the establishment of churches throughout the Mediterranean world. He is known as the “Apostle to the Gentiles”. He helped widen the door to the Gentiles after Peter first opened it. He left a big imprint on the Holy Scriptures. He wrote 13 (14 if you count Hebrews) books of the New Testament. In the history of the early church that Luke wrote, “The Acts of the Apostles”, Luke devoted the majority of it to the ministry of Paul. Paul was a mighty man of God, mightily used of God, to do mighty things for God.
BIOGRAPHICAL OVERVIEW OF SAUL
Saul was born in Tarsus in Cilicia around 5 AD. (Acts 21:39, 22:3. 23:34) Tarsus was a Roman province in SE Asian Minor (modern day Turkey). Tarsus was a capital city known for its school of literature and philosophy which was said to rival the schools in Athens and Alexandria. It is said Paul most likely attended this school while living in Tarsus. (Acts 21:39 – But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus…)
Tarsus was a thriving business hub. It was a free city, and a city that enjoyed favor with Rome, so much so, that its residences were bestowed Roman citizenship. This explains why Paul could claim Roman citizenship and explains his comments in Acts 22:27-28 – “Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.”
Saul was of pure Jewish ancestry. (I Corinthians 11:22 – Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.) He was of the tribe of Benjamin. (Romans 11:1) He was born a son of a Pharisee.
Saul’s education. All the other Apostles were less educated than Paul. (Acts 4:13 – Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men…) – Saul/Paul was very well educated. His early educational opportunities were literally among the best, if not the best in the whole world at this time.
Saul’s vocation. He was also trained in tent making. He used this skill to help sustain him in his mission work. (Acts 18:3)
Saul’s religiousness. He was a strict Pharisee. (Philippians 3:5 – Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee)
Saul was a persecutor of the Church (Acts 26:9-11)
Conversion of Saul – Saul’s life and his name was forever changed as a result of an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. (Acts 7:54- 8:3 & 9:1-6)
PAUL’S EARLY CHRISTIAN LIFE AND SERVICE
Paul’s conversion likely took place around 36 A.D. His first missionary journey began nine years later. What was he doing in this nine-year time period? Knowing Paul’s zeal for God, it was a time of preparation and active service locally for the Lord. If you want to serve the Lord full time with your life as a Pastor, Missionary or Evangelist you need to have a time of preparation and local service to get you ready for that calling. So too, Paul followed this path. He was called, today men are still called into God’s service, Paul prepared, today men still need to prepare for God’s service, Paul worked locally first, today men who are called by God need to be actively working in their local church first.
Immediately after his conversion Paul begins to preach. (Acts 9:17-20)
Paul did not stay in Damascus long after his conversion. (Galatians 1:15-17) Paul went to Arabia, a desert location southeast of Damascus. It is likely Paul stayed here the greater part of three years. (Galatians 1:17b-18a – but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years)
Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem. At first the Church is afraid to receive him. (Acts 9:26 – And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.)
Paul spends five years in Syria and Cilicia (39-43 A.D.) – He returned to Tarsus, the place of his birth, and began preaching in the surrounding regions. Barnabas arrives and Paul departs the area and heads to Antioch. (Acts 11:25-26a) During this year in Antioch Paul and Barnabas preach to many people.
Paul’s second visit to Jerusalem – Paul visited Jerusalem the second time to bring relief to them. Jerusalem had been experiencing a famine and was in need. (Acts 11:29)
PAUL’S FIRST MISSIONARY JOURNEY
Paul has been preparing and training for several years for what the Lord had planned for his life. Now he embarks on his first missionary journey with Barnabas. He would take the gospel to regions that had not even heard of it yet. (Romans 15:20-21 – Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation: But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.)
As the Elders and Prophets were fasting and ministering to the Lord the Holy Spirit told them to separate Barnabas and Saul for the work He was calling them to. The Elders and Prophets then prayed and laid hands on them and sent them away. (Acts 13:1-3)
They first went to the Island of Cyprus and preached the word of God. They had John Mark with them at this time; he would go on to later write the Gospel of Mark. Paul started off going to the Synagogues first then he would reach out to the Gentiles.
Paul and Barnabas then went to the regions of Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia (46-47 A.D.) – While at Pisidia Paul accepts an invitation to speak at the local Synagogue. (Acts 13:14-16) – His message can be divided into the following points:
Paul and Barnabas then go to Iconium, where an attempt to stone them forces them to leave. They then go onto Lystra and Derbe where Paul heals a lame man and the local residents attempt to worship Paul and Barnabas. (Acts 14:8-18)
They return home from this first missionary trip and report back to the church at Antioch on how God had opened a door to the Gentiles and blessed their efforts. They set a precedent by doing this that is still carried out today by missionaries. Missionaries go out for a few years and come back to report of their work to the local churches that sent them out on how the Lord has blessed them and used their efforts. (Acts 14:27)
PAUL’S SECOND MISSIONARY JOURNEY
After some time in Antioch, Paul begins to wonder about the brethren he had won to Christ and ministered to on his first missionary journey. So Paul sets out to go on his second missionary journey. Just like his first missionary journey, his second one begins at the church in Antioch. Paul and Barnabas disagree on whether to take John Mark with this time. John Mark had left them part way through their last journey and Paul thought him unreliable. So Paul selects Silas to travel with him this time and Barnabas takes John Mark with him to Cyprus. (Acts 15:39-40)
Paul and Silas head to Derbe and Lystra again. Here Paul desired Timothy to go with them. Timothy’s mother was a Jew and his father was a Greek. (Acts 16:1-3a)
Paul and Silas were not permitted by the Holy Spirit to head toward Bithynia. (Acts 16:7 – After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.) – This should teach us to always be listening and willing to submit to the direction or nudging of the Holy Spirit in our life. Paul and Silas thought it best to go in one direction but the Holy Spirit was leading them in a different direction. They did not quench the Holy Spirits leading in their life. They were attentive to it; they were open to it and wanted to follow Him. (I Thessalonians 5:19 – Quench not the Spirit.)
We cannot cover all the events and circumstances that occurred on this second journey but we will look at what happened at the City of Philippi.
Paul also visited Thessalonica, Berea (where it is noted they searched the Scriptures daily), Athens (where Paul’s sermon on the “Unknown God” took place), and Corinth. Many were saved and baptized in Corinth. Many of the church of Corinth were saved out of deep sin. The ministry in Corinth teaches us that we should never write off anyone and consider them un-savable. God can do anything at any time. Keep praying for those who you think may be a lost cause. God can still save them out of their deep sin and He can do it up to their last breath. (I Corinthians 6:11 – And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.)
PAUL’S THIRD MISSIONARY JOURNEY
Paul’s third missionary journey, he first went to Galatia and Phrygia where he ministered “strengthening all the disciples” in those local churches.
Ephesus – Paul stayed the better part of three years in Ephesus on his third missionary journey. Paul’s efforts were greatly blessed during this time in Ephesus. (Acts 19 & 20)
Macedonia – Paul went on to preach throughout Macedonia. The Macedonians are known for their generous giving to help others even when they needed things themselves. (II Corinthians 8:1-2) – We need to model their selfless giving of themselves, the Macedonian Christians had, in our life too.
Corinth – Paul then goes on to visit Corinth. Corinth was a work that required much instruction, direction, attention and admonishing from the Apostle. Paul was hoping and praying for a good visit with them but not necessarily expecting the visit to go well. (I Corinthians 2:1-4) Paul was always looking to be “strengthening all the disciples” with instruction, seasoned with love. He would admonish sternly if that is what was required of the situation; but it grieved Him to do so because of the great love he had for the lost and those new in Christ.
Agabus prophesied of Paul’s impending imprisonment in Acts 21:10-11 – “And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”
Paul’s arrival into Jerusalem would of have been one of joyful anticipation because he wanted to be there for Pentecost. But it also would have been one of anxiousness because he knew what awaited him there. (Acts 20:22-23 – And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.)
Paul was arrested in the Temple. (Acts 21:27-31)
PAUL’S TRIALS AND IMPRISONMENTS
Paul defended himself in various trials; before the mob in Jerusalem (Acts 21:37-22:29) before the Sanhedrin (Acts 22:30-23:10) before Felix the governor in Caesarea (Acts 23:11-24:27) before Festus the governor in Caesarea (Acts 25:1-12) before King Herod Agrippa II in Caesarea (Acts 25:13-26:32) and eventually appealing all the way to Rome.
This phase of Paul’s life would prove to be a time of prophetic fulfillment. For Paul would have the opportunity to preach Jesus to two Roman Governors, a Jewish King, and the household of Caesar, the most powerful man on the planet at this time. (Acts 9:15 – But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel) – God can use a person surrendered to do His will in mighty, miraculous, and unexpected ways. We just need to be the willing vessel and let God work His will out in our life.
PAUL’S DEATH AND LASTING TESTIMONY
As the time of his death neared, Paul was expecting it. He was ready to be offered a sacrifice (II Timothy 4:3) Paul was not ashamed (II Timothy 1:12) Paul was confident (Philippians 1:21) Paul was sure of his reward (II Timothy 4:8)
Although imprisoned, forsaken by some, and knowing his death was near, Paul was still triumphant. Paul said from that dungeon cell, “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” II Timothy 4:17-18. Paul also said these powerful words in the midst of dire and dreadful circumstances; his faith never wavered, his love never ran out, his confidence never faltered, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” II Timothy 4:6-7.
Paul was beheaded in 67 or 68 A.D. Roman citizenship exempted him from torture and crucifixion. He was executed on a road just outside of Rome by a military escort.
Let’s close this out by reading Paul’s own words in II Corinthians 11:23-33 “Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.“
Matthew 28:18-20 – And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Jesus commissioned His Apostles at the end of his earthly ministry to carry on His work until He comes back. This commission not only applied to His disciples it applies to all of us today as well. We are all commanded and expected to fulfill this Great Commission. A key fundamental doctrine is that of fulfilling the Great Commission with zeal and fervency. We can see where that key fundamental doctrine of strong aggressive evangelism came from, where the DNA of that fundamental characteristic originated; and that was from Christ Himself and the example that was set by the Apostles.
“FOR TO ME TO LIVE IS CHRIST AND TO DIE IS GAIN” – Philippians 1:21
The Apostles after the close of the Gospel and New Testament records of their life, did not then live happily ever after. The Christian Church was in its infancy and was heavily and severely persecuted during the first few centuries after the death of Christ.
John the Baptist was the first in a long line of martyrs over the centuries for Christ. Those whose only crime was being a Christian who were then put to death because of that belief. These martyrs gave their whole life over to Christ, they laid their all on the alter for Him. Following their Savior, in sometimes rapid succession, many other martyred heroes died. The next one to mention is Stephen. He was one of the first Deacons. He was also a preacher of the Gospel of Christ. His death is recorded for us in Acts chapters 7 & 8. His death is important to mention because a future Apostle was there at the stoning of Stephen consenting to the death of Stephen. (Acts 7:54-8:1 – When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.)
Let’s look at the Apostles and how they sacrificed all for Christ, how they lived out the words of Paul in Philippians 1:21 – “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”. The following accounts of their deaths are either by historical records or by tradition handed down. One was slain in Ethiopia, one was dragged through the streets until he died, one was hanged, two were crucified, one upside down, one was flayed alive, one was pierced with lances until he died, one was thrown from the temple and beaten until he was dead, one was shot to death with arrows, one was stoned to death, and one was beheaded.
This kind of hard persecution of the Church of Christ continued on for two more centuries and yet the Christian faith spread in that time to the whole known world. It went into all of the Roman Empire, Europe, Asia, Africa, England, and about everywhere else in the world at that time. The church was greatly persecuted, but the church was greatly flourishing in spite of the persecution.
JESUS AND THE TWELVE
(Mark 3:14 – And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,) – Jesus called twelve men to be His disciples. He prayed before He called them. After He called them, He ordained them for His work. They did not choose Jesus; He specifically chose them for the work He had for them to do. (John 15:16 – Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.) Men are still called by Him into ministry today. We need to have open ears and be listening for that call of God on our life, and if called we need to have pre-determined to submit to what we are called to do.
Jesus called his disciples into the ministry, but they generally were not what we would consider ministry ready. They were not polished, not great orators, did not possess a lot of natural ability to do what they were called to do. But they had one thing going for them; they were called into the ministry by Jesus Christ. If He if calls you, He will equip you with what you need to succeed. Not everyone is called to preach, but everyone is called to minister for Christ in some way. God delights in using those people for his ministry which would be the last ones chosen by men for the position. This ensures God gets the glory and not the man, because it is obvious that man could not and is not dong it though his own abilities. (I Corinthians 1:26 – For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called)
Everyone was not called to be an Apostle. It is generally accepted that an apostle was one who had to have been an eyewitness to the person of Christ.
The twelve were instructed by Christ on how to fulfill their call. If you are a Christian, you have a call to ministry in your life. You need to follow the example of the disciples in that they received instruction willingly. They knew they needed to be taught and willingly submitted to the teaching of God’s word, so they would be equipped to better serve Him with their lives. (Matthew 5:1-2 – And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, & Proverbs 19:20 – Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.)
The twelve were empowered to perform their ministry for Christ. (Matthew 10:1 – And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.) The Apostles were given the power they needed to fulfill the ministry they were called, instructed and trained to do. The Lord still does this today. He will give you what you need inside you to do what He has called you to do. Men today still need to seek instruction in their call and to submit to training to equip them to do their call.
The Twelve were not well known. They were not the standouts; they were not the most popular people. They were your average everyday person like most of us are. History tells us that 11 out of the 12 of the disciples were from Galilee. The region of Galilee was generally considered less sophisticated, less educated, and less mannerly, and they apparently had an easily recognizable accent or manner of speech that would stand them out in a crowd as being from Galilee. The little girl at the trial of Jesus knew Peter was from Galilee by his speech. (Mark 14:70 – And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.)
The Twelve were loved by Jesus. All of His disciples are loved by Him. All those that believe on His name are especially loved by Him. He prayed for His disciples. He also prayed for every one of us as He was praying for these twelve men. He prayed for you and me and it is recorded in the Gospel records that He did. (John 17:20 – Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;)
The Apostles were ordinary men like you and me. They were called by Jesus into His service in the ministry. All but one lived their life for Him and His service. It is because of their zeal and willingness to give all for Christ and His work that you and I are here today to learn of Christ and have the opportunity to be saved. They helped found the Christian church. They proclaimed the Word of God with boldness and without compromise, we should do no less (Acts 4: 31 – And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.)
 Carroll, J. (1931). The Trail of Blood. Challenge Press. – Page 11
 Malone, D. T. (1988). The Apostles. Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Publishers.
I Samuel 30:8 – And David enquired at the LORD, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all.
“David enquired at the LORD” – though one could understand if David perhaps had thought the Lord may have left him, with the situation David and his men were facing, but that is where faith comes in, we need to exercise faith and put faith into practice in those situations, we especially don’t understand, and trust and rely on the Lord to provide comfort, to provide hope and to provide direction and to provide guidance as to what our next step should be.
John Wesley commenting on verse eight, on how God answers prayers said “Before (in the past), God answered more slowly and gradually (I Samuel 23:11, 12) but now He answers speedily, and fully at once, because the business required haste. So gracious is our God that He considers even the degree of our necessities, and accommodates Himself to them.”
We need to do what David did in the situation we find him in, in our text, and that is he first “encouraged himself in the Lord” – no better place to encourage yourself than in the Lord; and he then “enquired at the Lord” to get direction as to what action to take, as to how to react to all that was going on around him and how to help those around him with their reactions to the stressful situation they all were facing.
BACKGROUND: David had just left his service to Achish. He was battle weary. He and his men travelled a three days march back home to get some rest and renewal with their families. David and his men came to the town they were staying at, Ziklag, only to find it in ruins. It had been burned down and all their possessions carried off. Their families were missing. David and his mighty men it says in verse 4 “lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep.” – Their initial reaction a natural reaction.
At this low point David turns to the Lord and it says in verse six that “David encouraged himself in the LORD”. David chose intentionally to encourage himself in the Lord. Now David turns to the Lord for hope and seeks Him out for wisdom and direction as to what He should do and seeking how to ground, filter and anchor his reactions to this situation through the Lord. (Hebrews 6:19 – Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast…)
THE PROVIDENTIAL DEPENDENCE OF DAVID -After David “encouraged himself in the Lord”. He immediately sought out the Lords council and direction. (I Samuel 30:6-7 – And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David.)
Different people react in different ways to the same circumstances, because what life does to us depends on what life finds in us. Some of the people wanted to stone David, which was certainly a foolish response. They needed their leader now more than ever, and how would his death solve their problem? We don’t blame the men for being grieved, but we question them in how they allowed their hearts to run ahead of their heads.
David knew that the encouragement he needed could only come from the Lord. He ordered Abiathar the priest to bring the ephod and together they sought the will of the Lord. Saul had consulted the Lord but had received no answer (28:3–6), but the Lord graciously replied to David’s request. David was hardly in a place of complete obedience, but God answered him just the same (Ps. 103:3–10).
Commenting of this situation David found himself in Matthew Henry said this “When David was at his wits’ end he was not at his faith’s end.”
PRAYER FOR GUIDANCE – I’m sure David already had the thought to go after the people that did this great injustice to him and his mighty men. No one would have thought badly of him for doing so. But notice how David had disciplined himself to ground and anchor his reaction in the Lord and the Lords will and to submissively be willing to give the situation, and his reaction to it, over to the Lord. David prayed to the Lord for guidance first. (I Samuel 30:8a – And David inquired at the LORD, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them?)
David enquired of the Lord both concerning his duty—“Shall I pursue after this troop?” and concerning the event—“Shall I overtake them?” I Samuel 30:8. If we, just as David did in this situation, acknowledge God, we may expect that He will direct our steps, as He did David’s here, answering David above what he asked, with an assurance that he should recover all.
“Make sure you are doing what God wants you to do – then do it with all your might!” – President George Washington.
PURSUE! – The answer David submissively prayed for. Sometimes when we think we know what God’s answer to our prayer will be we still need to get on our knee’s and submissively depend on Him for the answer before we act. (I Samuel 30:9a – So David went, he and the six hundred men that were with him, and came to the brook Besor)
PROVIDE FOR OTHERS IN THE MIDST OF YOUR TRIAL – We should not walk around with tunnel vision when we are seeking to do the Lords will. Be willing to be detoured off your planned route for the day. That very detour may be planned for you by God to help answer a need you have. (I Samuel 30:11-12 – And they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David, and gave him bread, and he did eat; and they made him drink water; And they gave him a piece of a cake of figs, and two clusters of raisins: and when he had eaten, his spirit came again to him: for he had eaten no bread, nor drunk any water, three days and three nights.)
PRUDENCE OF THE PROVISION – God revealed more of His will and answer to David’s prayer as he was willing to stop and help meet someone else’s needs. (I Samuel 30:13 -14 – And David said unto him, To whom belongest thou? and whence art thou? And he said, I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite; and my master left me, because three days ago I fell sick. We made an invasion upon the south of the Cherethites, and upon the coast which belongeth to Judah, and upon the south of Caleb; and we burned Ziklag with fire.)
THE PLEASURE IN FOLLOWING THE LORD’S WILL IN SPITE OF ADVERSITY – David sought to get closer to God is his time of distress. He prayed for the Lords will and he kept on doing the Lords will even though he encountered setbacks along the way.
Charles Spurgeon said this about David in this passage of Scripture “David proved the God of truth may be trusted, and that the heart which waits upon the Lord will be comforted.”
IN CONCLUSION: David depended on guidance, grace and strength from the Lord in his time of distress. Do we do this? Do we make this a practice in our life? Is this our reaction to events like this in our life? David had disciplined himself to ground and anchor his reaction in the Lord and the Lords will and to submissively be willing to give the situation, and his reaction to it, over to the Lord.
David prayed to the Lord for guidance first. David did not rely on his own wisdom but prayed to the Lord for an answer as to what to do. Sometimes even when we think we know what God’s answer to our prayer will be we still need to get on our knee’s and submissively depend on Him for the answer before we act. David’s reaction was to pray to the Lord, it was to depend on the Lord for the answer – how are our reactions to stressful situations, are they the same as David’s was here? Or do we try to solve our own problems in our own power?
When the Lord “speaks” to us we need to be willing to immediately do what He leads us to do. Don’t hesitate once you get the answer from the Lord, pursue it to completion. Sometimes the Lord will reveal His will to us to test us to see how determined we are to follow His will (James 1:12).
We need to not always just think of ourselves when we are going through a trial. Seek to be used of God to meet others needs too. God revealed more of His will and answer to David’s prayer as he was willing to stop and help meet someone else’s needs. The Lord will bless our efforts for Him. In your time of distress take time to help others.
We need to always be anchoring our reactions in the Lord. We need to develop the spiritual discipline, like David did in this terrible situation, and have reactions to stressful events anchored in the Lord and filtered through Him and His Word. Remember to keep the Lord first in all parts of your life. The Lord will not ever leave us all alone in a problem or emotionally stressful situation, He will be there for us and ready to help us anchor our faith and our reactions in Him, just as David showed us in this passage.
CRITICISM AND A CRITICAL-SPIRIT
Proverbs 18:21 – Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
Exercising wisdom, when it comes to our communication with each other is extremely important; and if not exercised can lead to multiple problems, issues, anger, hurt feelings, tears and it will take much time to heal those wounds, if the wounds ever heal at all. A critical spirit in a man’s soul, manifested to others through the use of his tongue, can be a very destructive, debilitating, and discouraging tool used by Satan to bring down others and do much damage to them, to those around them, and the cause of Christ.
Fires don’t start out big and destructive. Fires start out small but have tremendous potential for destruction. So too are the words we say with our tongues. The tongue is a small part of our body, but it can cause tremendous havoc and problems for us and for the innocent people around us. (James 3:5-6 – Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.)
The Bible says in Proverbs 18:21 that we will eat the fruit of our tongue. That fruit could be sweet and good to the soul or it could be bitter and heart wrenching to our soul, but we will eventually eat the fruit of our tongue one way or the other. What kind of fruit is your tongue producing? Does your tongue, or your speech, or your words have a good reputation or a bad reputation? Is a critical spirit behind your words or is there an encouraging spirit behind your words?
The untamed tongue gives ample opportunity to sin. Solomon tells us in Proverbs, the more you talk the more chances you have to sin, (Proverbs 10:19 – In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.) but the less you talk the less chance you have to sin (Proverbs 13:3 -He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.) – So, watch your words, control the content of your speech, and watch for a critical spirit as you communicate with others.
The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:29 – Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. We are not to let any “corrupt communication” proceed out of our mouth. So, what is considered corrupt communication? – Lies, criticism, gossiping, rude or crude words, filthy innuendo, etc. (I Corinthians 15:33 – Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.) Our communication is to be used to edify each other, (I Thessalonians 5:11 – Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do) and our communication should not spring forth from a critical and prideful spirit.
A wise person knows what is proper to say in the situation he finds himself in. (Proverbs 10:32a – The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable:) The wise use their knowledge in the right way to help those around them. They know the right advice to give at the right time. (Proverbs 15:2 – The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.) A wise person knows when to talk and when to keep his mouth shut. (Proverbs 29:11 – A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.) The wise speak helpful words and encouraging words. They speak words that are needed and useful to those around them. (Proverbs 12:18 – There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.)
WHAT WE SHOULD NOT HAVE IS A CRITICAL, COMPLAINING SPIRIT
Criticism is the act of criticizing, it is to judge as a critic, or to find fault: to blame or condemn. Tearing down and/or criticizing fellow believers can cause a stumbling block and damage to one’s faith. We tend to judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. We should judge ourselves and seek to align ourselves with God’s Word. A critical-spirit is having an attitude of fault finding and criticism. Those with critical-spirits tend to seek opportunities to tear down others instead of building them up. Having a critical-spirit one will tend to dwell on the negative and look for the flaws when we should be looking for the positive qualities in people and look to build them up while gently teaching them and guiding them in a direction away from their flaws.
Overtime, being critical prevents one from seeing and appreciating or even enjoying their own Christian walk. A critical person is walking in the flesh, his sin nature, and not the spirit. The opposite of having a critical-spirit is having a godly-spirit, a feeling of optimism and hope because they know they serve a good and gracious God. Apart from Christ and having a solid relationship with Him, the critical person has no real basis for hope. Sometimes trying to find fault in others helps the critical person to deal with their own shortcomings. Criticism can become a reaction of disappointment because unrealistic expectations have not been met. Having a critical-spirit is wrong for a Christian. A critical-spirit affects your entire worldview, you react to faults more than you react to blessings, you criticize when you should encourage, you complain when you should instruct, you sneer when you should minister, you make fun of when you should support, you seek to tear down, when you should be striving to build up, you talk behind someone’s back when you should seek to come along side and offer help. This is the wrong way to behave as Christians. God’s Word teaches us to bear one another’s burdens and to show compassion. We must be careful not to be used as a tool of the devil to discourage or tear down others through criticism. If you are having an issue with someone, it is always better to talk with God about them, then to talk with others about them (Ephesians 4:37 – Neither give place to the devil.) We as Christians need to be encouragers, we need to be building each other up, not tearing each other down. (James 4:6 – But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.) We should ask God to reveal any areas in our life where a critical-spirit may be and seek to rid ourselves of that as quickly as possible (Psalm 139:23-24 – Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.)
SOME SUGGESTED CHANGES IN A CRITICAL PERSON AND FOR A CRITICAL-SPIRIT
First, we simply must have our spiritual eyes opened to see two truths: the heinous depth of our own sin, and the amazing grace of God’s love toward us in Christ. Spiritual sight here is not something we can will. God must give it. (James 4:8-9 – Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.)
Second, we must be deeply convinced that we can never know with certainty another person’s motives. Yes, we can see actions, and sinful actions usually must be confronted. But we must catch ourselves when we hurriedly move to open criticism of actions and of intents of performance. Yes, evaluation is often needed, but it needs to be done in the right time, the right way and in the right spirit, and it must never be done with a critical-spirit. There are so many factors beyond our knowledge that go into another’s actions. Only God sees the heart, and only His judgment will be 100 percent accurate and fair (I Samuel 16:7).
Third, when we’re bothered by another’s actions, we must pray—for both the person and our response to them, instantly and fervently. We must seek God’s face first, poor out our heart to God first, poor out our frustrations to Him. We must not spew forth sinful criticisms of others, but we must always speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Fourth, we must learn to be diplomatic and direct in confronting people one-on-one. No fake smiles where we try to call darkness ‘light.’ No repression of negative feelings, but instead, direct, tactful communication. The goal here is not to blast people or tell of all their hidden character flaws; the goal is God’s glory and the reconciliation of broken relationships. This is best done in a one on one situation, or with one other person acting as a witness. I have always been taught by teachers, by college professors, by seminar teachers, by preachers, by leaders of all stripes, it is best to criticize or correct when needed in private and to praise in public; and I have found over the many years in my life when I have been tasked with leading others, that this principle has worked the best (Matthew 18:15–19; Galatians 6:1–2).
IN CONCLUSION: Praying, proclaiming the Word, witnessing, and sharing burdens—these are four wonderful ministries of speech. How much better it is to be involved in these ministries than to be using our tongues for gossip, malicious criticism, and other sinful purposes. Let’s make David’s prayer our prayer: “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3). Matthew Poole made this comment of Psalm 141:3 “That I may not through mine own infirmity, and the great provocations of mine enemies, break forth into any unadvised speeches, or any expressions of impatience, or distrust, or envy, or malice”. We must guard our speech, make sure it is seasoned with love, with patience, with encouragement and not infested with a discouraging and sinful critical-spirit.
Proverbs 28:13 “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” – Concealment of sin delivers no one from God’s wrath, but God will show mercy to the humble penitent. Here the blessing of God’s mercy is declared to sinners, on the condition of their confessing and forsaking their sins; and this condition contains with it the idea and the duty of true repentance, without both true repentance and true forsaking you will not truly gain access to the grace and mercy of God, you will continue to live under the guilt of covered up sin.
“That covereth his sins” – that does not confess them to God, and men too, when the situation calls for it. Covering sins can also take place when one tries to justify them, or deny them, or excuse them, or try to sweep them under the rug to protect so and so, or because of “the good of the ministry”, or to protect our cause. There is never a legitimate justification to cover up sin to protect a ministry or a person, that is just greater sin, compounding sin, and making the whole situation that much worse. The best solution, the biblical solution is to man up to the wrong doing, confess the wrong doing and never try to cover anything up “for the sake of the ministry”, that is a poor, cowardly, and sinful excuse for covering up sin.
“Shall not prosper” – in the end the covering up of sin will not succeed in avoiding punishment, in fact the repercussion of covering up the sin will in the long run be greater than the repercussion of just confessing the original sin. This verse implies that by concealment of sins the person will not find mercy, but it also states that “whoso confesseth and forsaketh them”, (notice it states confess them and forsake them); it is not enough just to confess them, while still planning on doing them again in the future after you engineer a better concealment plan for your sins, but you must sincerely confess them and sincerely plan to forsake them to qualify for the next part of the verse.
“Shall have mercy” – you shall have mercy from God, who hath promised you this mercy and a pardon of the sins you have confessed. You can pray and ask for mercy from the offended person but that may or may not happen, but you will have been forgiven from God, you will have that sin under the blood of His forgiveness. Having forgiveness and mercy from God does not necessarily mean there will no longer be repercussion or punishment of your sins on earth, there most likely still will be, depending on the severity and type of the sin committed.
The folly of indulging sin – or of excusing it, denying it, or making excuses for it, diminishing it, or throwing the blame of it onto others. The Bible is clear “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper.” He will not have long term success in his endeavor to cover his sin. It will be discovered, sooner or later. There is nothing hid which will not be revealed. He that covers his sin will not prosper, nor will he have any true peace of conscience. David talked of himself as having been in a constant state of agitation while he covered his sins, Psalm 32:3-4.
The toll hiding sin takes on someone – Hiding sin can drain us of our resources. It can “eat” at us. In a sense, we have no energies to invest in the lives of others for fear of being exposed or found out. Our energy is invested in covering up our sin, not in ministering to others. A good example of this is found when one chooses to speed while driving. It is difficult to sit back, put on some easy-listening God glorifying music, and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. One’s energies are spent being on the lookout for the next police officer, who might ruin his day with a ticket at a high price. He is seeking to hide his sin, to not be found out. However, if he drives the speed limit, then he can sit back and relax. Peace is not available in deception. In fact, unfortunately, we can find ourselves frantically falling deeper and deeper into sin as a result of that deception.
The benefit of parting with sin – both by a sincere confession and a true reformation: He that confesses his guilt to God and is careful not to return to that sin again, will find mercy with God. His conscience will be eased, and his ruin prevented. The man who denies, justifies, or excuses his sins, through pride or hypocrisy, will continue under condemnation, and will not have any long-term success. But he who condemns himself, and humbly confesses his sins in true repentance and faith and works to set his sins right in the eye of the offended, will find mercy from God, however egregious his transgressions may have been.
Our Lord taught repeatedly that sin bottled up on the inside, concealed from everyone else’s view, carries the very same guilt as sin that manifests itself in the worst forms of ungodly behavior. Those who hate others are as guilty as those who act out their hatred; and those who indulge in private lusts are as culpable as out in the open adulterers (Matthew 5:21-30).
God sees the heart – Scripture tells us ” for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7. No sin—not even a whispered curse or a fleeting evil thought—is hidden from the view of God. In fact, if we realized that God Himself is the only audience for such secret sins, we might be less inclined to write them off so lightly. (Isaiah 29:15 – Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?) The Bible also declares that God will one day judge the secrets of every heart (Romans 2:16 – In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. & Ecclesiastes 12:14 – For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.)
Not only that, secret sins will not remain secret. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” – I Corinthians 4:5. In Luke 12:2-3 Jesus said “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.” Those who think they can evade shame by sinning in secret will discover one day that open disclosure of their secrets before the very throne of God is the worst shame of all. (Jeremiah 16:7 – For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes.)
Hiding sin involves the compounding sin of hypocrisy – Those who sin secretly or act and engage in hiding sin actually intensify their guilt, because they add the sin of hypocrisy to their offense. Hypocrisy is a grave sin in its own right. It also produces an especially debilitating kind of guilt, because by definition hypocrisy entails the concealing of sin. And the only remedy for any kind of sin involves uncovering our guilt through sincere confession. If you help to conceal the sin of another you are engaging in a terrible sin yourself. As a Christian you should never have anything to do with helping to conceal the sin of another; instead we should rebuke them of that sin and seek to help them and anyone their sin may have affected. (Ephesians 5:11 – And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.)
Hypocrisy will permeate the soul with a predisposition against genuine repentance. Hypocrisy also works directly against the conscience. There’s no way to be hypocritical without searing the conscience. So, hypocrisy inevitably makes way for the vilest, soul-coloring, character-damaging secret sins.
Your secret life is the real litmus test of your character – “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” – Proverbs 23:7a. Do you want to know who you really are? Take a hard look at your private life—especially your innermost thoughts. Gaze into the mirror of God’s Word and allow it to disclose and correct the real thoughts and motives of your heart. You may not like what you see, but it is by being totally honest with oneself that you make the first steps to true repentance and turning your life around to Christ.
Joshua 6:18 “And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it.” & 7:1-5 “But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel. And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east side of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai. And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few. So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.”
The command to abstain from the spoils of Jericho having been secretly violated, a curse is brought upon the Israelites, who are defeated in an attack on Ai (Joshua 7:1-5). Joshua, alarmed at the defeat, turns to the Lord for answers as to why it had happened. The Lord informs him of the cause of the disaster at Ai. This leads to the discovery of the perpetrator, his confession and then his punishment.
Achan was evidently the only offender in this matter among all the thousands of Israel—a wonderful instance of religious discipline and obedience. Yet the whole nation became implicated in the consequences of his transgression, a principal we can get from this is we do not sin in a vacuum, our sin does not only affect us; it affects those around us as well.
The fall of Jericho had been followed up by the temporary fall of Israel as the result of the sin of Achan. There are still Achan desires lurking within the hearts of men today; desires for forbidden and accursed things and sins. Desires that need to be combated and defeated through the power of Christ in the life of a believer. Sin always leads to failure, to lost fellowship with Christ and lost testimony for Him. We are going to examine the seven stages of secret sin and look at what the end result of secret sin is in the life of a believer.
DESIRE – “I saw… then I coveted them…” Joshua 7:21. The first stage in secret sin is desire. Achan first had a desire; he first coveted what he eventually took. Achan’s sin lay not in seeing the things that he eventually took, perhaps he could not help but to see them; but his sin lies in the coveting of them once he saw them. We all may see something sinful for an instant. We should turn our heads and avert our gaze after that. The sin lies in when we keep looking at the sinful thing and then begin to covet after it. (Luke 11:34 – The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.)
The pleasures of sin will be attractive to us. Christians have a great need to watch and guard their hearts from the attraction of sin. Certain circumstances and certain sins we may give into can lead to disastrous results in our life. We need to learn and to practice to bring every thought in our life into the captivity of Christ and His Spirit. (II Corinthians 10:5 – Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;)
DISOBEDIENCE – “He took of the accursed thing…” Joshua 7:21. God had warned the Israelites in Joshua 6:18 to not take of the accursed thing. Achan knew of the warning, Achan sinned willingly, not ignorantly. The fact that Achan hid what he took proves he was conscious of the sin he was doing. He knew it was sin, he knew it was wrong and he did his best to hide it from everyone. (John 3:19 – And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.)
Do you have something in your life that you do your best to hide from everyone? Do you not want anyone to find out about it? Do you hide it from your loved ones? If you are hiding the sin it means you are abundantly aware of the wrongness and sinfulness of your actions.
Do you try to keep up the appearance of godliness to those around you while keeping the secret sin in your life? This is the epitome of hypocrisy. You are putting up a show of being one thing while actually being another thing all together. You need to confess the original sin along with the sin of hypocrisy and turn to God and start living for Him like you should. (Matthew 15:7-8 – Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.) – Where is your heart? Is it right with God? Or is it just pretending to be?
The Bible tells us not to love the world. It was a love of the world and the things it could offer that led Achan into his sin. Are there elements of the world that you love? If there are, confess that to God and seek His help to rid that affection for worldly things out of your life and instead seek those things of God instead. (I John 2:15-17 – Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.)
DEFEAT – “they fled before the men of Ai …” Joshua 7:4. Sin will always lead to defeat. You cannot live a victorious life for Christ while carrying around the burden of a secret sin in your life. There may be a temporary satisfaction or a temporary victory associated with sin, but in the end sin will always lead to defeat. You cannot have true victory in your life while harboring sin in your life. Sin brings defeat, sin brings heartache, sin brings guilt, secret sin brings paranoia, and secret sin will lead to depression in the life of a believer. There is no long term good, satisfaction or upside to having a secret sin in your life. (Hebrews 11:24-26 – By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.)
DEPRESSION – “the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.” Joshua 7:5c. Secret sin in the life of a believer will lead to depression and defeat. Secret sin does not benefit you at all, it only leads to paranoia and living in perpetual concern of being found out which leads to depression and the absence of true joy in your life. Secret sin will lead to unexpected defeats in our life. Secret sin will lead to depression where it feels like everything is crumbling down around us and there is no hope and no way to get victory.
God’s hand of blessing will be removed from the life of those living in secret sin. For awhile it may go unnoticed but eventually you will cease to see God’s hand of blessing in your life. Eventually your secret sin will lead to your depression and living in a defeated and hopeless state of mind, but if you repent of that sin the Lord will begin the healing process in your life. (Psalm 32:3-5 – When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
To get a solution to depression you have to first acknowledge its cause. In the case of secret sin, you have to acknowledge it to God and confess it to Him. Then remember all the promises of God and how He has said He can help you in whatever situation you find yourself in, whether it is your own doing or not. He will always be there for you. He has promised to never leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5b – for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.)
DEBILITATION – “could not stand before their enemies…” Joshua 7:12. Secret sin leads to weakness, it leads to lack of motivation, it leads to an uncaring attitude, and it leads to a defeatist attitude. Secret sin, as it worms its way into your soul, debilitates you and leaves you unable to defend yourself from further attacks of the devil and causes you to be easily defeated in other areas of your life. One secret sin in your life is the gateway to countless other sins creeping into your life.
Harboring sin in your life breaks your fellowship with God, because the Bible teaches us that God cannot look upon sin. If we have unconfessed sin in our life our prayers go unheard, our communication line with Christ is broken.
Without a good prayer life our hearts too will melt under pressure when situations get difficult, our spirits will weaken under the stresses of life, our strength will wane, our ability to handle new attacks from the devil will be non-existent because our source of strength is the Lord, and when we have cut off that source by our secret sin we will not be able to renew our strength for what lies ahead. We won’t be able to stand before our enemy. We need the Lord and His strength in our life to be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Psalm 28:7-8 – The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. The LORD is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed.)
DETECTION – “and Achan… was taken” Joshua 7:18. Be sure your sin will find you out, no matter how skillful you think you are at hiding it, it will eventually find you out. Amongst the thousands upon thousands of Israelites at this time, Achan’s sin was discovered. Achan’s sin was found out because nothing is hidden from God. His sin was exposed to all the eyes of the whole nation. It was no longer secret, now humiliation and the most dreadful shame fell upon Achan, this shame must have also fell upon his family too. Every hidden thing will eventually be brought to light. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 28:13 “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
Joshua 7:16-18 “So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken: And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken: And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.” – It was strange that Achan being conscious of his own guilt, when he saw the lot come nearer and nearer to him, did not either make an attempt to escape or try to get grace by making a confession of the sin before the lot fell upon him.
This lack of confession shows the hardened heart that Achan had as a result of unconfessed secret sin. Keeping secret sin in your life and not confessing it and seeking forgiveness will lead you to have a hard heart to God and the things of God. Once a heart is hardened it can be a very difficult thing to get reversed.
You can imagine the moment Achan was singled out as the trespasser to all the nation of Israel. He had been found out; the secret sin was secret no more. Can you imagine the panic that must have went through him, the horror that must have instantly hit him? If only he had not coveted after that sin, if only he had not deceptively hid that sin, if only he had come clean about that sin and confessed it on his own and not had waited until he was found out, what a difference in his life it would have been.
DESTRUCTION – “And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.” Joshua 7:25. There is no way to escape the consequences of your sins. If you are God’s children He will chastise you as you sin. Yes, Christ paid the eternal penalty of your sins on the cross, but there is still earthly chastisement from Him for sins you commit. The Bible teaches us that if fathers love their children they will chastise them and rebuke them when it is needed. So too does our heavenly father love us, so He too will bring chastisement into our life as a result of our sin. (Hebrews 12:6-7 – For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?)
Not just Achan suffered the consequences of his sin. (Joshua 7:24 – And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day. )
Can you imagine the guilt of Achan knowing his sin was responsible for the premature death of his own children?
Achan did not intend anyone to get hurt from his sin. He did not intend for the thirty-six Israelites to die when they first tried to take Ai. He did not intend for his own family and children to die as a result of his sin. When we sin we do not intend for others to get hurt by our sin. We do not think our sin will affect anyone else but us, but that thought is not true. Your sin hurts more than just you. Your sin hurts and affects those that love you. Your sin hurts your family, your church and can even have an effect on your future children.
You need to keep the consequences of sin not just to you personally, but the consequences of your sin to others in the forefront of your mind. You do not ever want to experience the guilt and utter horror that Achan felt knowing he was responsible for the death of his children and knowing that his own children knew they were dying because of something Daddy had done. God forbid anything like this ever be true of anyone of us.
What will be your end? Will it be one of faith and obedience? Or will it be one of disobedience and destruction? Your future, your family’s future can be on the line all because of your secret sin. If you have a secret sin, run from it and run to the Lord and repent of it and seek His immediate forgiveness and grace only He can provide. Seek His comfort, seek His guidance and seek His wisdom in overcoming and conquering the desires in your life that may be leading you to commit your secret sin.
Secret sin in the life of a believer is destructive. (Joshua 7:26 – And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.) Secret sin can destroy your reputation and your testimony. Look at what we know about Achan, he may have been a great man up to, and except for his secret sin, but do we know him for any of that other good stuff he may have done? No! We know him for the secret sin he committed. We know Achan for the shameful sin he perpetrated, for all the death and destruction that resulted from that sin.
Guard your life, guard your decision making. Make sure you are living for God in all areas. Cleanse yourself of any known sin in your life. Carefully examine your heart and your mind, seek to find out all the sin and rid yourself of it, repent of it and turn to God. If you have a secret sin or sins in your life, confess them right now, seek forgiveness right now, seek grace while it is available, and don’t wait to be found out like Achan did. That brings destruction; seek forgiveness and receive grace from God.
The heap of stones left in the valley of Achor would be a reminder that God expects His people to obey His Word. God expects His people to live by His teachings and truths. God did not put that heap of stones in the valley of Achor just for the Israelites; it was put there for us too; to remind us that there really is no such thing as a secret sin. To remind us that God knows everything we do. We cannot hide anything from God. To remind us we need to do all we can to live our life right and good for the Lord. Harboring a pet sin, harboring a secret sin in our life does not pay in the long run and can cause much anguish and pain not just to the person committing the sin but to their family and friends as well.
Do you have a secret sin in your life? Do you have a pet sin that is unconfessed? Do you have a sin that so easily besets you? You need to get that right with God. Don’t wait to be found out. Do the right thing, don’t be an Achan and seek to hide it until you are caught, but voluntarily confess that sin and seek grace and forgiveness, and move on in your life, living it to the fullest for the Lord! (Hebrews 12:1 – Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,)