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Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 1 * BOOK 40
Paul – Our Example
We hope by now that you are so interested in the Word of God that you are studying on your own, as that’s number one priority. So many of our letters tells us that for the first time many of our listeners are studying the Word, and now are understanding what they are reading. After all, the Word of God is Truth, and the Holy Spirit has been given to us so that we can discern it. So this is our prayer and whole purpose for being here.
Now we’ll get right back to where we left off in the last lesson and that will be Philippians chapter 3 and verse 17. And here in this verse Paul makes one of those graphic statements that a lot of people just don’t like to swallow. It just rubs them wrong, and here it is.
“Brethren, be followers together of me,…”
Do you know what about 99% of so-called Christians say? “Well I don’t follow Paul, but rather I follow Jesus.” Well you know my favorite clique on that is, “Then what do you do when you come to the shores of Galilee and He keeps going?” It’s pretty hard to do isn’t it? So always remember He was God, and we can’t walk in His footsteps, but the apostle Paul is just as human as we are, and we are admonished to follow him as he follows the resurrected Christ. Also remember that I’m always emphasizing that Paul only knows Christ, crucified, buried, and risen from the dead and ascended back to glory. And it was from that position in glory then that the Lord reveals all these precious truths to the apostle Paul. That’s what makes his apostleship so unique, and this is why he can say, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that we now as Grace Age believers are to be following him as he follows Christ.
Let’s chase a few of the references down that command us to be followers of Paul. First let’s go back to I Corinthians chapter 4, and we do this just to show folks that you can spend a whole evening chasing down some of these references that tie everything together. In this first reference let’s begin with verse 16, and again remember that every word that Paul writes is inspired by the Holy Spirit. This isn’t just his personal ego coming out, but rather it’s the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and look what He says in verse 16.
I Corinthians 4:16
“Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.”
Because Paul was the one who was literally now walking in the footsteps of the ascended Lord. Not the earthly Jesus that we see so much in the four gospels, but this is the ascended Lord who has now finished the work of the death, burial and resurrection which of course then becomes our Gospel that we must believe for salvation. Now turn a few pages to chapter 11 for the next one, and he says basically the same thing. I’m always emphasizing, why does the Scripture repeat? Well it’s the same reason we repeat things today. Emphasis! If you want somebody to really get something straight, then you don’t just tell them once, but maybe two or three times, because this is the way you want it done. Well Scripture is the same way. When there is a repetition within a short period of time, it’s there for emphasis. Now look how beautifully this verse also fits.
I Corinthians 11:1
“Be ye followers of me, (now here’s the whole thing) even as I also am of Christ.”
So it isn’t that we are told to follow just the human steps of Paul, but really as he follows Christ in the realm of the Spirit, so also we do. Now keep turning to the right, and come to Ephesians chapter 5 and verse 1. Those of you who have been with me ever since we started in Romans remember that we’re always pointing out that Paul’s earliest letters were pretty much elementary, but when we started those prison epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon we took a jump up, and we get into further revelations that Paul experienced and wrote then shortly before he was martyred. And here’s one even late in his ministry, and he’s still saying the same thing.
“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; (see?) 2. And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.”
And then Paul delineates all the things that should no longer be a part of our Christian experience. So always remember that we follow him, even as he follows Christ. The next one I think I’ll take you to is in I Thessalonians chapter 1. Let’s begin with verse 5, and remember where all of these various congregations are. Thessalonica was up there on the Aegean coast of Greece just a little south of Philippi, and of course was one of Paul’s earliest congregation on the European Continent, and look what he says.
I Thessalonians 1:5-7
“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were (speaking of himself)among you for your sake. (now verse 6) And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost; 7. So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.”
And it’s also our purpose for being here today. We are to be an example now as we follow in the footsteps of the apostle who follows the Lord, and all of this is to bring honor and glory not to ourselves, but to the Lord who has bought us, and paid for us with His shed blood. There is another one in I Timothy chapter 1 where Paul tells us that he’s our pattern, our example, so let’s look at that one also.
I Timothy 1:15
“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” Paul says that he was chief. But remember, chiefhere in the Greek means, like head of a state, such as a Governor, he was first.
Paul was not the worst sinner, but rather he was at the head of the line for sinners who would become Grace Age believers, and here it is in verse 16.
I Timothy 1:16
“Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”
So Paul became our pattern and our example, and remember when he wrote these things, they were all inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. We know that Paul’s writings are not popular today, and I know some people have even gone so far as to say that they don’t think that any of his writings should even be in the New Testament. But my land, if we didn’t have Paul’s letters, we would have nothing, because here is where all of our basic truths for salvation, for Christian living, and the hope of the Church Age are all written out in Paul’s epistles. If you take that away, then we’d have nothing left. Now back to Philippians chapter 3, and reading on in verse 17. Remember Paul always promoted Grace. My land, last night Iris and I watched television for the first time in ever so long. On public television they had the three Irish tenors, maybe some of you saw it. It was a rather good program, but as soon as they started this one song, Iris said, “I bet this will get them a standing ovation,” and what was the name of the song? Amazing Grace. And I’ll tell you what, when those three men sang that song my goose bumps just jumped. When they had finished I told Iris, “Isn’t it amazing that the world just acclaims that tremendous hymn, and yet I wonder how many really understand what it’s saying.” And it is hard to understand unless you’ve read the account of the author of “Amazing Grace” John Newton.
Just to summarize it, he had been raised in a Christian home in England, he had rebelled, left home and went to sea as a sailor. Over the years in spite of his debilitating life style he became a sea captain of a slave ship, and you know what those slave ships were. They were horrible. They had absolutely no concern for human life. And with it of course, he was an intense alcoholic and very immoral. So anyway his whole life had simply hit the skids, and finally as he was getting old and up in years, he remembered what he had heard at his mother’s knee. So he cried out for salvation, and the Lord saved him miraculously, and shortly after that he wrote this tremendous hymn, “Amazing Grace.”
You know when you analyze the word he says it all. “Once I was lost.” See, that’s what most people do not realize, “That until we’re saved, we’re lost.” So old John Newton, by virtue of his lifestyle, recognized that indeed he was lost, and now he was found. “Blind.” Spiritually blind. I suppose he ridiculed his mother’s face when he was young in his blindness, but the day came, probably an answer to that dear woman’s prayers, when John Newton became a true believer. But most of all he comprehended the Grace of God. Why should God save a man like John Newton, he didn’t deserve it. He deserved nothing, but oh the Grace of God. So every time you hear the hymn, I want you to realize that even though the world may acclaim it, how many of them really understand what John Newton is trying to tell us.
But always remember it’s all of Grace, and that’s what the apostle Paul is known for. “The apostle of Grace.” I read a book some years ago and that was the title of the book. “The apostle of Grace,” it was a biography of the “apostle of Grace,” and I couldn’t put it any better. Now coming back to our text in the book of Philippians chapter 3 and let’s look at verse 17 again.
“Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
That we too can be precipitators of people believing by the Grace of God that Christ has done everything that needed to be done. Now verse 18. In this verse we find a warning, and we’re seeing it all around us today. We know that the first thing that Jesus told the disciples when they ask Him, “What are the signs of your coming, what’s the signs of the end of the age?” And the first thing that He told them was what? “Be not deceived.” In other words the warning is the world is going to be deluged with deceptions. And my goodness we’re seeing it all around us. I always have to remind my Oklahoma classes, where I suppose I can be a little more intimate in my statements than I can on television, that you must realize that even the most bizarre, the most far out false teacher will use so much of the language that we’re accustomed to hearing. They’ll use the same terminology, but they’re false from the word go.
A Scripture comes to mind in the Book of Galatians, chapter 1. Oh, they claim too to be walking in the same path that we’re walking, but as Paul delineates it so clearly in Galatians that they’re perverting the truth. And remember that a perversion is that which is good, but it’s had something adulterated added to it. That’s the whole idea, and that hits the nail on the head with so much of what we’re seeing today in the name of Christianity.
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ (and where were these Galatian believers slipping to?) unto another gospel:”
Then he comes back in the next verse and says, “It’s not really another gospel, it’s not something totally different so that you can see. It not that these people are preaching something that I’ve not heard before. No, these false doctrines use a portion of the truth, in fact a good portion. They may use 90 percent of truth, but then what do they do. Verse 7.
“Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert (add to) the gospel of Christ.”
And remember to pervert something merely means that you take something which was pure and genuine, and you add something to it, and that makes it a perversion. Remember what Paul’s Gospel was as we’ve seen in I Corinthians 15:1-4 and Romans 10:9-10 and some of his other Scriptures? “That you must believe in your heart that Christ died for your sins, was buried and rose again.” But false teachers were coming in and adding to his pure Gospel that we must believe for salvation.
So this was Paul’s admonition that the true believers there in Galatians were not to be led away with a perverted Gospel. Oh it still had the basis for what he had taught them, but now they had perverted it, and in this instance of demanding that these Galatian believers keep the Law of Moses and be circumcised, which became the perversion of those early congregation.
But we’re seeing the same thing today. These false teachers will use the right language, they use so much of the truth in Paul’s Gospel but then they also demand baptism and all these other requirements, and it becomes nothing more than a perversion. So we’re to be aware what the Word of God really says, and don’t go mixing anything to Paul’s Gospel, less we be led astray with perverting. Now coming back to the Book of Philippians again if you will. I kind of jumped the gun because verse 18 is where I probably should have used Galatians 1.
“(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, (it was breaking the apostle’s heart that these false teachers had come in. Remember that Paul was in prison when he wrote this. He’s not in a position where he can go out and confront these people, he can only do it by the written Word, and he says) that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:”
Even though they say much of the same thing that Paul said, but it’s by that perverting his Gospel that they have brought that anathema upon themselves and then they have become the enemies of the cross of Christ. Oh they think they’re preaching the Gospel, they think they are getting people on the right track, but the apostle says, “They’re not,” and they’ve caused him to weep. Now look at verse 19, and you’d think this would scare some of them.
“Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, (well that’s a King James term, but whatever, it says what it means and it means what it says. It’s their physical appetite, and that’s mostly all they’re concerned about) and whose glory is in their shame, (oh they may have outward glory, but the real fruit of their works is shameful) who mind earthly things.” Now I have to go into the next verse for a moment before I can pursue that thought, so let’s read verse 20.
“For our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven;…”
Now do you remember ever since we first started this whole “Through the Bible” series many years ago on television back in Genesis we made the distinction that every thing concerning the Jews, the nation of Israel, the Law and the Old Testament prophecies were all earthly promises? Whereas all the promises made to the Church Age believers are heavenly promises? Let me show you what I mean. Come back to Genesis chapter 26 and let’s look at verse 12, 13, and 14. Now this isn’t the only place you can find this, but this is a good example. We don’t have time to chase down all these verses that show the material wealth of these Old Testament people, especially the Patriarchs. Now here in this chapter we’re dealing with Isaac who had already been given everything that his father Abraham had. So here in this chapter Isaac has been a good manager of everything that he had inherited and has increased it.
“Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him, (Physical, material blessing. We’re not talking about Spiritual blessing here.) 13. And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew (financially and materially) until he became very great:”
See God doesn’t condemn wealth. And for Israel it was a reward for their faithfulness, because Israel was an earthly people with earthly promises, material, physical, and this is just an example of it. Now verse 14, just to make sure that you understand that we’re talking about material blessing.
“For he (Isaac) had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants, (and that meant also everything that went with it. Do you remember when Abraham sent the servant up to Syria to get a bride for Isaac? When the servant first approached the family, what did he make sure that they all saw? Those gold rings and bracelets, earrings, which designated the wealth of his master Abraham. Then all that wealth was handed on down to Isaac, and it goes to the place in verse 14) and the Philistines envied him.”
That’s nothing new is it? People haven’t changed even to this day. So any way the point that we want to make here is that all the promises of the Old Testament to the nation of Israel were indeed earthly, and they were material. They respond to the commands of God, and God responded to their obedience with their material blessings. But for us the Church Age believer today that’s not the case. Our blessings and all of our rewards are heavenly, and that doesn’t mean that God can’t bless us here on this earth, and that God can’t bless us with wealth and so forth, but we’re not to expect it. My, some of these preachers have just put it out there that if you do such and such that God is duty bound to make you a millionaire. No He isn’t! That’s not the Gospel of Grace, that’s not Christianity, our promises are heavenly!
Even though we may go through this life with absolutely nothing of this world’s wealth, so what. Remember all the wealth of glory is waiting for us, and one day all believers are going to cash in on it, and that’s why the apostle Paul will say later in this Book of Philippians, “that no matter what his lot in life was, he was content.”
Even though he was wealthy early in his career before he came to know the Lord, he pitched all that as we saw in our last lesson, and counted it but trash for the sake of the Gospel. Why would he do that? Because now the true wealth of the believers are heavenly, and those are heavenly promises. Now coming back to Philippians chapter 3. So for these people who are adulterating, and perverting the Gospel of Christ, they are doing nothing but satisfying their physical appetites, and mind nothing but earthly things. Turn back with me to the little book of Jude and we’re going to see these same kind of people that I think the apostle Paul had on his mind when he said in verse 18 that these enemies of Christ caused him to weep because they were perverting that pure Gospel of the Grace of God. They were adding to it things of the flesh and materials. Now let’s look how Jude describes them.
“Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.” Down to verse 10 we find.
“But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally…”
The natural man is tied to earthly things. So here it’s saying the same thing. These false teachers are merely concerned with the material, and they try, I suppose, to use verses from the Old Testament to substantiate their thinking, but I’ve got news for them. We’re not living under the Old Testament economy, but rather we’re living under Grace, and under Grace our whole scenario is heavenly.