How many will be saved? Will you be one of them?

Text Luke 13:22-30 Time 20/05/12 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church

Let's start with an interesting question. Are there lots of people who will be saved and go to heaven or will it only be a few in the end? It's a fascinating question and one that there would be evidence for on both sides, both in support of the view that there will be few and the view that there will be many.
Often with difficult questions like this we find ourselves wishing Jesus was on hand to ask. We feel certain that if we could ask him then he would give a perfect answer and we would soon know what to think.
I raise this matter because it is the question that Jesus is asked here in Luke 13:23 where we read that Someone asked him, Lord, are only a few people going to be saved? Of course, the answer he gives is not the one we might expect. He certainly doesn't give a straight yes or no – Yes, only a few go to heaven or no, more than a few go to heaven. I think it would be unfair to suggest that he does not answer the question. Rather he goes at it in quite a different way to the way that we might have expected.
I want us to consider this morning exactly what he does say and so I want us to look at Luke 13:22-30 and I want to say four things to you.
1. Understand the work that Jesus came to do, the work of teaching and dying
People have various ideas about why Jesus came to earth. Clearly here the person who asks the question has the idea that he has come as a wise man to answer questions like the one he himself poses. People liked to ask Jesus questions. However, they didn't always get the answers they expected or wanted. I think if we look carefully at the very first verse in this section we will get a pretty good idea of why Jesus came to this earth. In verse 22 it says Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.
There are two things to see there. First, it says that Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching. Then it says that it was as he made his way to Jerusalem. Here we learn that two things then
1. Jesus came to teach us the truth
He was specifically going from village to village, town to town, not answering questions as such but teaching the people. Back in Luke 4 we read how people try to detain him from this task and get him to stay with them but he says (43, 44) I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent. Luke adds And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea. This is what Isaiah 61:1 would suggest Messiah would be like. There the servant says The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
Jesus came not only to do miracles but chiefly to bring the message of salvation to this world and if we are wise we will listen to what he has to say. In these last days God has spoken through his Son. Listen to him!
2. Jesus came to die on the cross
The statement that he taught as he made his way to Jerusalem may sound quite innocent on the face of it but, of course, we know why he was going to Jerusalem. He was going there to die. It is clearer back in Luke 9:51 where we read that As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Before that, when he was transfigured Luke says that Moses and Elijah spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem. In verse 33 of this same chapter Jesus himself says I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day - for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
Jesus came to teach and preach but he is very much the man who was born to die. Any understanding of Jesus that does not focus here (eg he came as a great teacher) is very much mistaken. His death on the cross is central to who he is and what he came here to do. It is because of the cross and his death there in Jerusalem that it is possible for anyone to be saved and to go to heaven. There is no salvation otherwise.

2. Consider this interesting question he was once asked about whether only few will be saved
Now in verse 23 we are told that Someone asked him, Lord, are only a few people going to be saved? As we have said, it is a very interesting question. The questioner, no doubt, was not as clear on how to be saved as we can be now that Christ has come and not only preached but also died on the cross and risen again. However, given that some are going to be saved through Christ the question of how many are going to be saved is bound to come to mind. Are there only a few who will be saved?
Apparently this one of the questions that Jews often debated at this time. It was the general opinion of most of them, it seems, that only a few would be saved. Given that when the Children of Israel came through the desert only two of them (Caleb and Joshua) made it all the way from Egypt to the Promised Land surely those who are going to heaven will be proportionately just as few. Seeing how godless the Gentile world around them was for the most part only confirmed them in this opinion. Some of the discussions on this topic were very academic and trivial indeed.
Here is a question then. There is no simple answer to it, however. It is worth thinking about but only as far as it leads us to think about what Jesus has to say here. So let's look at Jesus's answer.
3. Hear this vital answer Jesus gave urging us to make every effort to enter his kingdom
He said to them, Make every effort to enter through the narrow door. In other words “enough of academic questions about how many will be saved. The real question is about whether you will be saved or not.” The Jews often spoke of heaven and salvation as like being at a great banquet. There was a tendency among them as individuals to assume that they would be at that great banquet. Of course, they would be there. Who else would be there, there was some room for conjecture over but they certainly would be there.
But here Jesus comes at them and he says “Don't be so complacent. Don't assume all is okay.” No, you need to make every effort to enter through the narrow door that leads to that banqueting house. It is a little bit like overhearing a conversation between some football fans about getting tickets for the big game. “Do you think there'll be a large number at the game?” says one. “I'm not sure” says another. “I think the numbers will be down this year” says a third. “No, no they'll be up if anything” says a fourth. And then you say to them “What about you? Have you got tickets for the game?” “Oh no” they say “we're not sure if we are going”. Weird.
Now something similar could be said to us. It is all very well to sit here and ponder deep questions like how many will be saved? Will there be more in heaven than in hell or less? Rather we should be saying to one another with great urgency Make every effort to enter through the narrow door. That is the real issue. Make sure that you put in every effort to make sure you enter through the narrow door that leads to eternal life. You notice the door is narrow. That means that it is not easy to get in. Think of the wicket gate that Bunyan talks about. A wicket gate is a small gate or door built into a larger one. You sometimes see them on warehouses where there is a big roller shutter that they use for lorries and a door within that so people can go in and out without opening the main door. It is through such a door we must pass to get into the kingdom. You can't drive in with a big lorry load. No only an individual can get through and as the door is narrow he has to leave everything else outside. Or think of a turnstile or the ticket barrier at an underground station. Only one persona at a time can come through and the passage is narrow. Are you making every effort to get through the door? I urge you to do so. Let go of everything else and make sure you can get through. As Jesus himself says elsewhere Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Make sure you find it. Make sure you come through.
4. Consider the reasons why he must be heeded
In the rest of the section Jesus is really underlining his main statement by giving reasons why we must make every effort.
1. Because many will try to enter and not be able to
He goes on Make every effort to enter through the narrow door. because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. There is no automatic entry through this gate. There are people, he says, who will try to get through it, who will think they are going through it but they will find that is not the case. He goes on in verses 25-27 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, Sir, open the door for us. But he will answer, I don't know you or where you come from. Then you will say, We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets. But he will reply, I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers! It is like a little parable, I suppose. There is the owner of the house which must be a reference to God. There is the house, a banqueting house no doubt, representing heaven. At a certain point the owner of the house gets up and closes the door. The door is now open – you can come in if you make every effort to do so. But soon the door will be closed. God will close it. Once that happens stand outside knocking and pleading, saying Sir, open the door for us. But he will answer, I don't know you or where you come from. You will try arguments. Jesus pictures the people here saying We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets. You will say perhaps “but I used to go to church and hear about you, I knew lots of Christians”. But he will reply, I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers! It is a frightening thought isn't it? It is very real though. How easy for someone here to get caught out. You say to yourself. I know I must believe in Christ. I know I must repent. But not today. And it may be that there will be other opportunities but still you will say not today. You refuse to make every effort to enter, to really struggle to get in. And then one day the door will be shut. You may well plead and call out but you won't get in. Have you ever been locked out? It is not nice, especially in bad weather. There you are right next to the warm house with the lights and the TV and whereas you could be making a sandwich for yourself and settling down to it you are outside in the rain. How unpleasant. It does not begin to compare with what it is like to be shut out for eternity. Or was there ever a day when no-one else would play with you or they had all gone away somewhere else, and though you were okay at first you felt very lonely in the end. Again, it does not begin to compare with what it is like to be apart from God's people forever.
Make every effort to come to Christ. So soon it will be too late otherwise.
2. Because to fail to enter is the worst disaster there can be
In verse 28 Jesus describes how in that place outside There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People weep for various reasons. You can weep for joy. You can weep just because your feeling rather emotional about something. When people weep and gnash their teeth it is because they are in agony and in anguish. This description of hell reminds us of how it will be for those who go there. They will weep and gnash their teeth when they see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, inside the house but they themselves thrown out. There can be no worse disaster. To be locked out of the house is a disaster. To be homeless is a much greater one. How sad if you have no friends at all. But to be in hell is an unmitigated disaster of the very highest order. There is no comfort whatsoever. Take care that it does not happen to you. Seek Jesus Christ with all your heart and mind and soul an strength.
3. Because today the door is still wide open
Those last two arguments are negative and I suppose they lead to the feeling by this point that the answer to the question are only a few people going to be saved? must be “Yes”. But our final argument is a positive one – make every effort to enter through the narrow door because the door is still open. Or to sharpen the argument, see that
1 It does not depend on race or religion
Jesus says in verse 29 to his Jewish interrogator People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. The Jews tended to think they were the only ones going to the banquet. We all have a tendency to be narrow minded and parochial. But no says Jesus, stop thinking that there will only be a few who are saved, just the Jews and not all of them. No, People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Race and religion in the sense of the religious background you have are neither here nor there. What matters is getting in.
2 It does not depend on rank or riches either
Jesus goes on (30) Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last. The Jews looked at the world in their day and it seemed that they were first and so would be going to heaven ahead of any others. Within Judaism the Pharisees and others had quite a high opinion of themselves and a very low opinion of others like prostitutes and take gatherers. They needed to learn that come the end of the world there would be those who are last who would be first, and first who would be last. Today people think that being rich or good looking, skilful or successful is the great thing. They too need to know that there is a day coming when those who are last who will be first, and those who are first who will be last.
You are well aware that the Olympics are coming up in two months time here in London. One of the events is the tennis at Wimbledon and the great British hope is, of course, Andy Murray. Murray is more than keen to win Olympic Gold. What is he doing to bring that about? Well, he trains, of course. An article a little while ago described what that involves.
Murray's workouts” the article says “fall into distinct categories: in tournament and out of tournament. They are equally tough. In the winter, when he is out of tournament, he checks into a gruelling tropical climate body boot camp for a month where he will exercise in hot temperatures for six hours a day.
On a typical boot camp day he will start with one hour of aerobic sprint training on an athletic track where he runs 400-metre laps at intervals of five minutes, aiming to get faster with each lap. He will also jump hurdles sideways, to improve balance.
This will be followed by a one-hour upper body weight training session in the gym where, among other drills, he ties a rope around his stomach and pulls 40lb weights using just his abdominal muscles.
A 90-minute Bikram yoga session comes next, where he stretches and performs dynamic yoga movement in a room heated to 40c, during which he will burn 1,600 calories and lose 4 litres of sweat.
His workout will be rounded off with a two-hour tennis practice session with his coach. In tennis season, his gym sessions are reduced to an hour a day but he still hits the practice court for two hours before a match.”
No if a man is willing to undergo that sort of effort for a mere earthly prize then why are we not wiling to make as great an effort to know Christ? Of course, we are not saved by what we do. Salvation is all of grace and the Lord says plainly Make every effort to enter through the narrow door. Let's do so.

Instruction and exhortations

Text Titus 3:12-15 Time 24/11/10 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church

I want us to look this week at the closing words of Paul's little letter to Titus, as found in Chapter 3 verses 12-15. Paul really has three things to say at the end – there are some final instructions, some final exhortation and some final greetings. Let's look at these then and consider the subjects they bring before us.

1. Final instructions to note reminding us of how roles change and the importance of helping

1. Remember that our roles sometimes change
First in verse 12 Paul writes As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there. Artemas may be short for Artemidorus. We do not know anything about this man at all.

Tychicus gets a few mentions in Scripture – first in Acts 20:4 where we are told that when Paul went into Macedonia He was accompanied by seven men Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy ... and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. Ephesians and Colossians were written by Paul at the same time and it would seem Tychicus was involved in delivering those letters. In Colossians 4:7 Paul tells them that Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. Paul says of him He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. In Ephesians 6:21 he calls him the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord. Again he will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. Here Paul is planning to send either this trusted brother or Artemas to Crete to carry on Titus's work. In 2 Timothy 4:12 Paul says that he had sent him to Ephesus where Timothy was and this probably points to a decision to send Artemas to Crete.

Paul wants Titus to join him in Nicopolis. There was a Nicopolis in Macedonia but this Nicopolis is probably the one on the west coast of what is today Greece and that was then in Epirus.
You have seen those films where there is a large table top map laid out in the middle of the room and people are using croupier sticks to push around symbols of armies from one place to another. It is something of a film cliché and only vaguely related to reality. It helps us to see Paul in our minds' eye, however. Winter is coming in the early sixties of the first century. Paul (we learn from 2 Timothy 4:20) has left Erastus to take care of things in Corinth and Trophimus in Miletus just south of Ephesus because he is sick. He has decided to winter in Nicopolis and he wants his right hand men with him and so he wants to pull Titus out of Crete and Timothy out of Ephesus, replacing them with Artemas and Tychicus. Of course, even as an apostle Paul could not command these men to do what he wished. In 1 Corinthians 16:12 he says of Apollos I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.
Now the point to take on board here is probably that things change. At this point Titus is working in Crete. We do not know how long he had been working there. Next he was to be relieved by Artemas or Tychicus so that he could be with Paul in Nicopolis. Our roles sometimes change. I lived my first 18 years in Cwmbran and I was committed to that place. Then I was in Aberystwyth for 3 years before coming to London where I have been ever since – first at LTS, then here (for the last 27 years). At what point it will be time to leave here I don't know. My father-in-law has just celebrated 45 years as pastor of Alfred Place! The important thing is to be a faithful servant in the Lord and to go wherever the lord leads.
2. Remember to do everything you can to help fellow believers
In verse 13 Paul says Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need. Apollos we know is the powerful preacher from Alexandria who at first only knew John's baptism but was helped to understand things more clearly by Paul's friends Priscilla and Aquila. Beginning at Ephesus he went on to Corinth where he was very popular. Zenas (perhaps Zenodorus) we again know nothing about, including what sort of law he was an expert in Jewish or Roman. Presumably it was these two who brought the letter to Titus. Paul has no specific plans for them after this duty but he urges Titus to do all he can to help them and to see that they have everything they need.
We get these sort of statements in many places and it is a reminder to us that we need to do all we can to help our fellow believers especially those who are ministers of the Word. We must do all we can. For different ones this will mean different things, of course, but we must all play our part.

2. Final exhortations to note reminding us of devotion to what's good and productive living

In verse 14 Paul comes back to what is the great concern of this final part of the letter. So we say

1. Always devote yourself to what is good
Paul says Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good. It is the reference to the need to help these Christians that brings him back to this. Some people want to take this reference in a very narrow way – as if he is just saying he wants the people to follow an honest trade. No doubt this is included but there is surely more too. As believers we must be very careful how we live. Paul had seen how in Thessalonica some had got into the habit of sponging off others as they waited for the Lord's return. Even today there are people who lead a rather strange existence where they do not really put in an honest day's work but are ministers or missionaries or whatever with no really clear role in life. That is not to say that there isn't a place for full time Christian workers of different sorts – but the norm is to be doing some regular job of work and using that money to support the work of Christ, while using our free time in various forms of Christian service. Good deeds are emphasised again and again in Scripture – things like teaching and bringing up children, showing hospitality, what Paul calls washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble (1 Timothy 5:10). Other examples would be generosity and willingness to share, helping the poor in various ways, paying your taxes and submitting to authority. James speaks of looking after orphans and widows in their distress and keeping oneself from being polluted by the world.
You should aim to let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Live such good lives among the pagans says Peter that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
2. Do not live an unproductive life
Paul adds in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives. Our lives must count for something. We cannot simply drift through life without any real aim. Rather we must constantly be seeking to be useful. Sylvanus Phelps was a Baptist minister in America in the nineteenth century. In 1862 he published his hymn “Saviour Thy dying love”.

Saviour, Thy dying love Thou gavest me.
Nor should I aught withhold, dear Lord, from Thee.
In love my soul would bow, my heart fulfil its vow,
Some offering bring Thee now, something for Thee.

O’er the blest mercy seat, pleading for me,
My feeble faith looks up, Jesus, to Thee.
Help me the cross to bear, Thy wondrous love declare,
Some song to raise, or prayer, something for Thee.

Give me a faithful heart, likeness to Thee.
That each departing day henceforth may see
Some work of love begun, some deed of kindness done,
Some wanderer sought and won, something for Thee.

All that I am and have, Thy gifts so free,
In joy, in grief, through life, O Lord, for Thee!
And when Thy face I see, my ransomed soul shall be
Through all eternity, something for Thee.

When Phelps was 70 the man who write the tune Robert Lowry wrote to him “It is worth liv­ing 70 years even if no­thing comes of it but one such hymn as "Saviour! Thy dying love Thou gavest me; Nor should I aught withhold, Dear Lord, from Thee." Happy is the man who can produce one song which the world will keep on singing after the au­thor shall have passed away. May the tune­ful harp pre­serve its strings for ma­ny a long year yet, and the last note reach us on­ly when it is time for the sing­er to take his place in the hea­ven­ly choir.”
We are not hymn writers but if we can do just something for the Lord then we have done something worthwhile.
Speaking once to the pastors college Spurgeon said to them
"I have to say to you, go forward in actual work, for, after all, we shall be known by what we have done. Like the apostles, I hope our memorial will be our acts. There are good brethren in the world who are impractical. The grand doctrine of the second advent makes them stand with open mouths, peering into the skies, so that I am ready to say, “Ye men of Plymouth, why stand ye here gazing up into heaven?” The fact that Jesus Christ is to come is not a reason to stargazing, but for working in the power of the Holy Ghost. ... We must have done with day dreams, and get to work. I believe in eggs, but we must get chickens out of them. I do not mind how big your egg is; it may be an ostrich’s egg if you like, but if there is nothing in it, pray clear away the shells. ... We want facts — deeds done, souls saved. It is all very well to write essays, but what souls have you saved from going down to hell? ... To swing to and fro on a five-barred gate is not progress, yet some seem to think so. I see them in perpetual Elysium, humming over to themselves and their friends, “We are very comfortable.” God save us from living in comfort while sinners are sinking into hell. In travelling along the mountain roads in Switzerland you will continually see marks of the boring-rod; and in every minister’s life there should be traces of stern labour. Brethren, do something; do something; do something. While committees waste their time over resolutions, do something. While Societies and Unions are making constitutions, let us win souls. Too often we discuss, and discuss, and discuss, and Satan laughs in his sleeve. It is time we had done planning and sought something to plan. I pray you, be men of action all of you. Get to work and quit yourselves like men. Old Suwarrov’s idea of was is mine: Forward and strike! No theory! Attack! Form a column! Charge bayonets! Plunge into the centre of the enemy. Our one aim is to save sinners, and this we are not to talk about but to do in the power of God."
3. Final greetings to note reminding us of love in the faith and the grace of God
1. Never forget the love we share in the faith
Paul says Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. We get a clear impression in the New Testament of the great love they had for one another in Christ. It ought to continue today. Let's not forget how many loves us – some who we've never even met – because we have put our faith in Christ. We too ought to love every believer. I watched a video this week of a believer from North Korea now living in South Korea as she gave her testimony and pleaded for her native land. Inevitably my heart went out to her. That is how it should be.
2. Never forget the grace of God we all need
Grace be with you all. This is a typically Pauline ending. How we need God's grace every day. Remember those words

O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander–Lord, I feel it!–prone to leave the God I love.

Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.

Situations and people to avoid

Text Titus 3:9-11 Time 17/11/10 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church

We are in the final part of the Book of Titus and I want us to look this evening at 3:9-11. The opening verses of the chapter have been very positive. Paul is concerned that Titus should teach the people on Crete to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men as real Christians should. He wants those who have trusted in God to be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good as These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
All this implies a commitment to upholding the Law of God. The Law cannot save us but it is to be the Christian's rule of life once he has come to faith in Christ.
Now if anything is true of Paul it is that he is realistic and he realises that upholding the law is not always easy. Even among those committed to the idea there are problems and difficulties and so in these verses he goes on to warn against certain situations and certain people. That is what we want to consider tonight then
1. Situations to avoid – what not to do with regard to the law
1. Situations that Paul does not say we must avoid
Paul does not say, you notice, the Law doesn't matter so don't defend it or argue for it or promote it. Quite the opposite. Paul is very keen on obedience and doing good as we have seen. It can't save you but once you are saved then this is how to live. We must not press Paul's words then to say that there should never be a cross word about this, never a disagreement of any sort.
2. Situations that he does say we must avoid
His point is that we should avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law. Questions about the law are bound to arise, there will be disputes and controversies of one sort or another but avoid foolish controversies he says. Avoid arguments and quarrels – wrangling and strife, that sort of thing. The reference to genealogies is similar to what Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:4, 5 ... stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work - which is by faith. Many Jews had a great interest in genealogies because of the importance of Messiah. Once the Messiah has come that subject is not so important. False teachers also used to go on about these genealogies in unhelpful and distracting ways. I think Paul brings the subject in as an example of the convoluted wrangling one can sometimes face – like an endless genealogy, some go on at length explaining away the law or setting up rules of their own that they want to impose on others.
Let's uphold the Law, says Paul, but let's not get caught up in foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law – endless disputes that do no good.
3. Examples of the sort of things that would come under this ban today
Obviously in Paul's day there were particular things that excited the popular imagination and that led to the sort of foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law that he has in mind. What about day? What sort of situations does he want us to avoid?
A number of examples come to mind
1 Think of something like what you can and can't do on a Sunday. The Law makes clear that the Lord's Day is to be special, one day is to be different to the other six. The Bible never goes into specifics on this. So we will probably all ant to avoid doing main shop or the laundry on a Sunday and we will take care over travelling and things like watching TV, playing sport or similar activities. However, it is likely that we will come to different conclusions on certain things. These issues must be thought through with care but they must not become sources of foolish controversy, endless wrangling and quarrels.
2 Something similar could be said about what you wear on a Sunday. There are a number of issue here. What about the hats question for women? Shouldn't women be made to wear hats? Some few churches will actually give you one if you don't have one. What about the men? Should they be encouraged to wear ties and suits? What about shoes? Are trainers acceptable? I was reading about a nineteenth century Baptist minister recently who caused a stir in his first church because he did not wear a white tie as was expected. Things have moved on now and it is the question of whether the minister should wear a tie at all. I don't want to suggest that these matters are unimportant but what we must avoid is wrangling over them.
3 The fifth commandment decrees honour and obedience to parents and implies that the parents should be worthy of such honour and obedience. What the Bible never spells out is some of the specifics. I think it is quite clear that the Bible countenances and encourages physical punishment where necessary but it doesn't tell you what to use and to what age or that other punishments are not allowed. The home schooling movement is a strong one but again it is not entirely clear that this has to be the way to bring children up. Countless other issues in the same category and must not be a source of wrangling.
4 Another example might be keeping or not keeping Christmas and Easter. Different Christians will take different views on this matter. Such differences must not lead to unseemly arguments.
5 Other examples would be things like TV (to have or not to have), divorce (when is it permissible if ever?), contraception, worldliness, forms of evangelism and Bible versions – all issues that have even split churches on occasions. It is not that the Bible does not have things to say on these important subjects, rather that there are sincerely held differences over some of the issues involved and they can easily lead to pointless and destructive arguments.
4. Why such situations must be avoided.
The reason why Paul is so concerned about this is because these (foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law) are unprofitable and useless or worthless. In verse 8 he says that doing good is excellent and profitable for everyone but these foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law most unprofitable and worthless. They do no good. We must therefore avoid them. Otherwise we will find ourselves getting sidetracked and going backwards in the things of God rather than making progress.
I think it is a problem that we have largely avoided in this church but we can very easily slip into it. It only takes one or two determined individuals and there have been times when precious time has been taken up with foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law. That brings us to the next point
2. People to avoid – how to deal with divisive people
Some people seem to think that everything the Bible has to say about church discipline is all found in Matthew 18 – some even narrow down further to certain verses in that chapter. In fact there is more to be said and this is one place for example. Here it is how to deal with a divisive person. Such people do exist. It is important to see the other point of view but this can be taken to extremes. I remember someone telling me about a man in their church like this. He eventually left the church and for some reason his membership was not ended. At that time they were trying to work through a new constitution to improve things. Everything came together well with few big disagreements. On the night of the church meeting where it was all going to be finalised this particular individual turned up unannounced and was the only one to vote against the proposals. The man who told me this story also told me that this man was once on jury service. Now, of course, what goes on among jurors is secret but it was interesting that the jury, despite the Judge's direction, was only able to return a majority decision – 12 to 1! Some people are just divisive. It is as if they cannot help it. So what do you do about divisive people? The procedure is made very clear here.
1. First warn them
Warn a divisive person once. Such people have to be warned. They think they are full of zeal for the Lord, most often, but they need to be shown that they are in fact simply being divisive. They are harming the cause of the gospel and Christian unity. Their supposed stand for the truth is just a pain and unhelpful. If you can get a brother or sister to see this then they have been won and it is a reason to rejoice.
2. If necessary warn them again
And then warn him a second time. It may be that having come around they revert or that they cannot really be brought to see that they are the ones in the wrong and so they need to be warned again. It's a little bit like a referee giving a verbal warning the first time and then showing the yellow card. Although I don't think this should be done in too legal a spirit. This is a rough guide.
3. If necessary after more than one warning then avoid that person
After that, have nothing to do with him. There is no pronouncement on whether this person is a Christian as such. The point is that he is doing damage to the cause of Christ and needs to be got out of the way quickly. Sometimes such people will leave of their own accord but sometimes not and they will have to be formally disciplined and put out. It is the only way, painful as it is.
4. What is the problem with such people?
Paul adds in verse 11 You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. Paul says that such a person is warped or twisted. There is something perverted about him. He is not thinking straight and no amount of argument will do any good until his thinking is straightened out. This is a rare state of affairs but it can be the case and we need to be firm in the face of it. Such an attitude is sinful – it misses the mark. When Paul says that such a person is self-condemned his argument is probably this – such a person is so sure that he is right and that everyone else is wrong that he ends up standing alone and separated from his brothers. That is in fact how it should be – not because he is right and everyone else is wrong as he may think but because he is wrong! His unwillingness to work with others is a testimony to his unworthiness of being counted among those others. What sobering thought. It stands as a warning to all of us not to fall into divisive and unhelpful ways of thinking.