Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed” (Rom. 15:30-32).
Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed (Rom. 15:30-32).
After the division of the kingdom in Israel following the death of King Solomon, the descendants of David and Solomon reigned over the tribes of Judah and Benjamin until the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon. Beginning with David, this earthly dynasty included 21 kings and lasted approximately 425 years. However, scripture records that after Solomon, only four kings walked in the steps of their father David: Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah. King Hezekiah is truly one of the great examples of faith and righteousness found in God’s word.
“I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all” (Acts 20:33-36).
At times it is necessary to give admonitions to those we love and are concerned about. There are some who may react negatively to our counsel, warnings, or gentle advice and we certainly do not want to be the cause of any Christian stumbling and falling in his service to God (Rom 14:13).
Speaking to the elders at Ephesus, Paul reminded them there were three things they should know about him and his love for them.
· They should know how Paul had served the Lord with all humility of mind while he was with them in Ephesus (Acts 20:18-19).
· The elders also knew that Paul had suffered many temptations in Asia at the hands of the Jews (Acts 20:19).
· They knew that Paul had not kept back anything profitable from them, but he had declared the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:20-27).
Paul also reminded them that he was pure from the blood of all men, because he had declared the whole counsel of God (Acts 18:5-6, 20:20-21, 26-27). The context of this message (Acts 20:28-31) gives us the major works elders in the church are responsible for wherever they serve.
· He also reminded them they must protect the flock from wolves, those who would subvert their souls by false doctrine.
The major reason Paul worked with his hands while he was in Ephesus was to be an example to the elders of the church of serving others and helping the weak. He was demonstrating Jesus’ teaching that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:33-35). These men accepted Paul’s admonition and even cried as he departed from them. They knew they would not see Paul’s face again (Acts 20:25, 37-38).
Some, like the elders at Ephesus, accept the admonitions given to them and grow from their experience, while others reject any counsel for themselves. I knew an older couple who earnestly desired to help a young married couple to learn better how to love each other and to be good examples in the church. The young people were Christians and should have applied the scriptures to themselves and grown by them rather than demonstrate bad attitudes toward each other. The husband should have known the way he treated his wife was hindering his own prayers (1 Pet 3:7). We humans do not always perceive ourselves the way outsiders do, and so the young man was oblivious of what others saw. The older couple prayed and fasted about their intended meeting for over a week, eating only bread and water and lying prostrate on the floor as they begged God’s help in their upcoming discussion. Their love for the young couple was deep, and their longing for peace in that marriage was stronger than any could have imagined. God heard their prayers and blessed the young couple to make needed adjustments, even though the admonition was not initially pleasant. What a blessing it was for those two as well as for their family in years to come.
“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).
When I was young in the faith and read the prayer of the Pharisee, I wondered how he could have been condemned if he really did all those things he claimed to do. I did not understand the heart behind the prayer. Jesus’ parable does not seem to apply to everyone-certainly not to those who genuinely follow God’s commandments. It was given especially to those self-confident souls who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others. Such were the Pharisees who made up their own righteousness (Rom 10:1-3) thereby making up their own commandments (Mt 15:1-3:8-9). The Pharisees despised others, trusting that they alone followed the “traditions” of the fathers. They despised others who did not (John 7:47-49).
The Pharisees were hypocrites (Luke 12:1) who pretended to serve God (Mt 23:23) but who in fact served men (Mt 23:3, 5). This Pharisee would have been justified for turning from extortion, unrighteousness, adultery, etc., if he had done those things for the Lord (Mt 6:1-5). He probably did give tithes of all that he possessed, but it was for the wrong motive (Mt 23:5). Therefore, all of his righteousness was as a filthy rag to God, for he did not love God (1 Cor 13:1-3).
Jesus gave the parable for the Pharisee and gave him a solution to his problem. The heart of the publican was his solution. The publican was genuinely sorry for his sin and begged God for mercy. He did not exalt himself for any reason, but sought God’s help to change. The Lord promised mercy for those who confessed and forsook their sins (Pro 28:13). The Pharisee, on the other hand, was genuinely proud that he only was “walking in the light” and had no intention of changing. There was no hope for the Pharisee. He was right in his own eyes and planned to stand in the same position forever.
Jesus pointed to the hearts behind both men. The Pharisee sought to exalt and justify himself (Luke 15:15), while the publican humbled himself before God. God intentionally abases the proud and promises to punish them (Pro 16:5). God promises to exalt those who humble themselves before Him (1 Pe 5:5-6). Let us confess our sins to Him and trust His promise to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). If we trust Him, He will do that for us.