Author Archives: William Cody Bateman

The Spirits of Truth and Error

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“We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:6)

Here we are given assurance that we will be able to tell the difference in people by the way they respond to the Word of God. The emphasis is on the believer’s ability to discern a spirit (attitude or character) of truth or error among those to whom we witness.

This is important because we are told not to cast “pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6) and to “shake off the very dust” from our feet against those who will not receive our witness (Luke 9:5).

Others disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness when they are really the ministers of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). How can we tell which is which?

The spirit of truth is relatively easy to discern. Those who hear the Word (Mark 4:18-20) and receive the Word with all readiness of mind (Acts 17:11) are of the truth (John 18:37). Such people come willingly to the light (John 3:21) and ask for a “reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

The spirit of error can be more difficult to discern. Its source is Satan (John 8:44), who deceives (Revelation 12:9) and uses his servants to manipulate and mislead (Ephesians 4:14).

Some of these run among God’s family and live “in error” (2 Peter 2:18). They can be fruitless trees and “raging waves . . . foaming out their own shame” (Jude 12-13), or like “tares” among the wheat that even the angels have trouble recognizing (Matthew 13:38-40). These won’t listen to truth.

Our job is to be ready to give the answer to the one and to reject the other. HMM III

How to Please the Lord

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“Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9)

In this verse, Paul expresses the strong desire to be “pleasing to” (the idea behind “accepted of”) the Lord Jesus Christ. It should likewise be our own ambition—whatever we do and wherever we are—to please Him. This, of course, will make a difference in what we do and where we go!

The Scriptures give us a number of specific ways in which we can be confident of pleasing Him. For example: “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1). That is, our criterion should be pleasing Him—not ourselves. Similarly, we are warned that “they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). That is, our thoughts and deeds must not be governed by worldly considerations.

By suffering, willingly, for His sake, we can please Him. “If, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable [‘well-pleasing’] with God” (1 Peter 2:20).

“Without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6). We must walk by faith if we would please the Lord. This is not faith in the abstract, but specific truth—faith to believe the revealed Word of God and to act on that faith.

God is pleased with generosity. “But to do good and to communicate [to share what we have with others, for His sake] forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). This certainly includes sharing the gospel, as well as our material possessions. “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).

Finally, when our ways please the Lord, we have this gracious promise: “Whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22). HMM

We Are the Saints of Our Living God

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“Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.” (Philippians 4:21-22)

The apostle Paul typically began and ended most of his church epistles with greetings to and from “the saints.” The context in each case shows that this term was applied to all those who were “in Christ Jesus”—that is, all true Christians. The Greek word hagios meant essentially those people or things that are set aside or consecrated to the Lord. It is frequently translated “holy” and can be applied to objects dedicated to the Lord, as in Hebrews 9:24 (“holy places made with hands”).

The term is applied also to Old Testament believers. At the time of Christ’s resurrection, we are told that “many bodies of the saints which slept arose” (Matthew 27:52).

Some of these latter have been given the supposedly exclusive right to be called saints by the Catholic church. This is simply not true as the bible makes it very clear that all whom are born of the Spirit are the Saints of God! (I Corinthians 1:2)

Editor’s commentary note

Other than “St. Mary” and “St. Peter,” the best known of these may be “St. Patrick,” the so-called “patron saint” of Ireland. Patrick was certainly a very zealous missionary, largely responsible for the conversion of the Irish from paganism back in the early fifth century, and all we know about him would confirm that he was indeed a “saint” in the true biblical sense.

Although “saints” should be altogether godly and righteous as well as set aside to the Lord, that is not necessarily always how they act. Thus, special men have been called by God (i.e., pastors, teachers, etc.) “for the perfecting of the saints” (Ephesians 4:12).

Since the sole biblical criterion to be classed as “His saints” is “them that believe,” that includes us! That being the case, should we not be zealous to see that our lives are such as “becometh saints” (Ephesians 5:3)? HMM

The Incarnate Wisdom

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“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” (Proverbs 8:22-23)

The book of Proverbs repeatedly extols the virtues of true wisdom, founded on the fear of the Lord. In the eighth chapter, however, beginning at verse 22, the theme changes, retreating far back in time to creation itself, and even before.

The statements in the next ten verses, especially, must be of an actual divine Person. From the New Testament perspective, especially with John 1:1-14 as the definitive exposition, it becomes clear that the divine wisdom of Proverbs 8:22-31 is none other than the incarnate Word of John’s prologue.

The Lord Jesus Christ, indeed, fits perfectly all the statements in this particular section of Proverbs, which then gives marvelous new insight into the events of creation and the divine fellowship in the Godhead before the creation.

Note that in these first two verses, the Lord’s “ways” were prior to His “works” and that He “possessed” His Son “from everlasting.” This is the profound doctrine of “eternal generations,” whereby the Son is “brought forth” continually from the Father, forever manifesting Him in His creation.

The New Testament makes it plain that Jesus Christ is, indeed, the incarnate wisdom of God. He is the “Word” by whom all things were made (John 1:1-3). He is “the truth” (John 14:6) and “the light” (John 8:12) by whom alone men can come to God and follow Him. He is called “the power of God, and the wisdom of God” in 1 Corinthians 1:24, and He called Himself “the wisdom of God” in Luke 11:49.

All of the vaunted knowledge of the world’s thinkers and scientists is empty and futile apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, for in Him alone are found “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). HMM

Sin’s Scars

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“But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.” (Judges 16:21)

The sad end of mighty Samson, who once had been so greatly energized and utilized by the Lord, is also an allegory and a grave warning to every Christian. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15).

Satan knows our individual weaknesses and tempts us accordingly. Many Christians have fallen into sin through some Delilah, but probably many more have fallen into sin through pride, or covetousness, or compromise, or apathy.

First, sin blinds. We are commanded to grow in Christ, adding to our initial faith the attributes of virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, kindness, and love (2 Peter 1:5-7). Otherwise, “he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:9).

Then, sin binds. It may not be with chains, as with Samson, but unconfessed sin quickly enslaves its practitioners. “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage” (2 Peter 2:19).

Finally, sin grinds. Instead of the promised freedom from restraint, a sinful life soon becomes a “grind,” tedious and tasteless, like “the dog turned to his own vomit again” (2 Peter 2:22).

Samson did return to God again before his death, but he was still blind, and bound, and grinding. God forgives, but the effects of sin are not easily removed.

How much better it would be never to yield to the temptation at all. HMM

Practicing Righteousness

“Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” (1 John 3:7)

Every genuine Christian knows that part of the salvation gift is the promise of being made “unblameable in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 3:13). We sometimes have trouble, however, with the concept of present-tense holiness in our everyday lifestyles.

John speaks of the abiding Christian who “sinneth not” (1 John 3:6). Indeed, such a Christian “doth not commit sin” (1 John 3:9) because, John notes, the “seed” of God “remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” Furthermore, “whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (1 John 5:18).

It’s accurate to translate those passages with the “continuing” implication of the Greek structure (i.e. “does not continue in [the practice of] sin,” etc.). However, the emphasis is on an obvious, continuous, clearly embraced lifestyle of righteous living!

The visible transformation from a worldly conformity (Romans 12:2) begins with a desire for “the sincere milk of [God’s] word” (1 Peter 2:2), fashioning ourselves after God’s holiness “in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:14-15).

Neither are we to let sin reign in our bodies, but we are to yield ourselves as “instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:12-13). Since we are “risen with Christ,” we are to “mortify” the fleshly appetites, “put off” emotional outbursts that reflect an ungodly nature, and “put on” godly attributes so that whatsoever we do is done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:1-17). HMM III

A Bag with Holes

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“Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.” (Haggai 1:6)

This biting description of a frustrating lifestyle, penned by one of the Jewish post-exilic prophets, is both preceded and followed by this appropriate admonition:

“Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:5-7).

When a professing believer somehow never seems to have enough and his money bag seems filled with holes, it is time for him to consider carefully his ways before the Lord. After all, our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and is well able to supply all our needs.

In context, Haggai is rebuking the people of Judah for tending to their own welfare and neglecting the work of God. “Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled [paneled] houses, and this house [that is, the unfinished temple in Jerusalem] lie waste?” (Haggai 1:4).

Herein is an eternal principle. Jesus said, “Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things [that is, food and drink and clothing]. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:32-33).

If these necessities of life are not being provided, we urgently need to consider our ways. Are God’s kingdom and His righteousness really our first concerns?

We often quote the wonderful promise “my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). But we must remember that this promise was given to a group of Christians whose “deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality,” because they “first gave their own selves to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:2, 5). HMM

Song of the Rock

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“And David spake unto the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul.” (2 Samuel 22:1)

This is the first verse of a remarkable poem inserted here near the end of 2 Samuel. With certain significant exceptions, it is the same as the 18th Psalm. David wrote many wonderful psalms, but this is the only one also found in the historical books and so must have special significance. In view of 2 Samuel 23:1-2 (“these be the last words of David”), it may even be David’s last psalm, as slightly modified by him from Psalm 18, just before his death.

In 2 Samuel 22:2-3, he ascribed nine wonderful names to God: rock, fortress, deliverer, God of my rock, shield, horn of my salvation, high tower, refuge, Savior. In the midst of this unique list of metaphors appears his statement of faith: “In him will I trust.” Although this psalm flows from David’s personal experiences, these words are quoted in Hebrews 2:13 as coming from the lips of Christ in His human incarnation. Thus, the song is actually also a Messianic psalm. Its testimonies go far beyond the experiences of David, reflecting the mighty events of Christ in creation, at the judgment of the great Flood, and His work as our Redeemer. It is significant that the concluding name in David’s list is Savior, which is the Hebrew yasha — essentially the same as “Jesus.”

Two of the names (Hebrew cela and tsur) are translated “rock,” but refer to different kinds of rock. They are the same words used for the rocks from which God provided water for His people in the wilderness (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11), except that the order is reversed. One is the great rock of provision, the other the smitten rock of judgment.

Our God of creation, Jesus Christ, is our daily sustenance but first must also be our sin-bearing Savior. HMM

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