A God of Peace, Not Confusion

For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33a).

Satan likes to insert a question mark where God has made a period.

From the beginning, God has sought a peaceful relationship and harmony with His creation (Genesis 1:31, 2:25). Ever since, Satan has attempted to challenge what God has established, spreading confusion among mankind (cf. Genesis 3:1-6).

By all accounts, the Evil One has been quite successful. Even if we just investigate into the various groups claiming to follow Christ we find a dizzying array of differing attitudes, doctrines, and practices. Everything from the nature of God to the nature of the relationship between Christians is disputed in some way or another. In such an environment, many despair of ever coming to the knowledge of the truth. It is easy to get discouraged; it is easy to see why many believe that we will always remain in a state of confusion.

But we do well to remember what Paul told the Corinthians. It appears that the Corinthian assemblies were quite the spectacle: different people prophesying at the same time, others speaking in different languages, often with no one to interpret. An outsider could be forgiven for thinking them all quite mad (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:23)! This was not what God intended with the spiritual gifts He provided through the Holy Spirit at this time; the Corinthians needed reminding that God was not a God of confusion, or instability, tumult, or commotion, but a God of peace. He remains the God of the “still, small voice,” and not of “the wind, earthquake, or fire” (1 Kings 19:11-13).

Even though the gifts all came from God, it was up to His servants the Corinthian Christians to use them properly and toward the right ends (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, 14:26). His good gifts could be misdirected toward a confusing commotion that was not of the truth but of worldliness and immaturity. They could use what God had given them to strengthen and build up or to weaken and tear down.

While we do well to keep these things in mind when it comes to our assemblies today, Paul’s reasoning holds true in every aspect of our lives as Christians. God is not a God of instability, confusion, or commotion, but a God of peace, and that remains true outside of the assembly as much as within it.

God is not the author of the confusion of the modern mind, religious or secular, despite what many might claim. God made known His truth through Jesus and His Apostles (Matthew 18:18, John 8:31-32, 14:6). Part of that truth was the confession that many would sow confusion among Christians, promoting the teaching of demons, leading people astray from the truth (1 Timothy 4:1-3, 2 Timothy 4:3-5). This has never been the Lord’s intent, and it never will be. Nevertheless, He does not compel or coerce. He has given us the revelation of His message through Jesus and the Scriptures; it is up to us as to whether we will abide by His message for good or whether we will misdirect His message for selfish, immature, and improper ends.

God communicated His message so that it could be understood and followed (John 8:31-32, Romans 8:29). It is lamentable to see how effective Satan has been at getting people to question and challenge the revelation of God, vaunting their own methods and idols above the ways of the Most High. But God remains a God of peace, not confusion. His message allows us to be reconciled back to Him in sincerity, truth, and love (Romans 5:6-11). Love rejoices with the truth but cannot do so at unrighteousness (1 Corinthians 13:6), and God is love (1 John 4:8). Therefore, let us entrust ourselves to the God of love and peace, finding rest in Him, and not be tossed to and fro by the challenges, questions, and disputations which come from the author of confusion, Satan and his minions. Let us pattern our lives after the God of peace, not the author of confusion and commotion!

Ethan R. Longhenry

A God of Peace, Not Confusion

God, Us, and Evangelism

What then is Apollos? and what is Paul? Ministers through whom ye believed; and each as the Lord gave to him. I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: but each shall receive his own reward according to his own labor (1 Corinthians 3:5-8).

It was evident that there were many problems within the church in Corinth. Rivalries, immorality, and strife seemed to prevail there.

Paul understood the nature of the challenges. The difficulties were not just the “surface issues,” but the attitudes underneath. One such attitude was the carnality, or worldliness, in the thinking of the Corinthians. They were focusing on the earthly and, in so doing, missing the spiritual reality!

Some of the Corinthians had taken their eyes away from God in Christ and focused them on the men around them– Paul, Apollos, and Cephas (or Peter). They ended up creating different factions in the church, each faction highlighting their “champion” (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:4).

Paul will hear none of this. In the Kingdom, Paul and Apollos and Peter, as Paul, Apollos, and Peter, do not really matter. What really matters is God in Christ and the work that God is doing. Paul, Apollos, Peter, and others are simply servants!

This lesson is as important for us today as it was for the Corinthians in the first century. It is easy to start thinking about the church and evangelism in worldly, carnal terms, and focus on personalities and results. People will line up behind their favorite preacher and/or elder. Many will place emphasis on conversions. These are very easy and natural tendencies!

But such is the way the world works, and we are supposed to turn from that (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:1-16). Jesus Christ is Lord, not us, and He is in control. It was not given to Paul or Apollos to provide the increase– if they were not able to provide the increase, how well shall we fare?

Paul uses the image of agriculture, just as Jesus did in Mark 4:26-29. In agriculture, farmers must plant the seeds and provide the best possible environment– nutrients in the soil and water. Then the natural process can take over, for good or ill: either the conditions will go well and the crops will grow, or there will be poor conditions and the crops will fail.

So it is in spiritual matters. As those entrusted with the Gospel of life (1 Corinthians 4:1-2), we must promote the message. That means that we must go out and preach the message to all men (Matthew 13:1-8, Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:18-20). After we have “planted” the “seed,” we can strive to “water” the seed by encouraging people in the message of righteousness and truth (cf. 2 Timothy 4:1-2).

Yet it is not within our power to convert anyone. That power has been vested in God’s Word (Hebrews 4:12). We are to reflect that Word in our lives and point people toward it (Matthew 5:13-16). The power of conversion rests in God’s message of salvation and the willingness of the soul to repent– not in anything regarding the preacher or fellow-servant of God.

This way of thinking is not natural for us, but it is a necessity if we will engage in the work of proclaiming the Gospel as we ought. In fact, when properly understood, this perspective is liberating. We should not focus on conversion but on proclamation– we need to get the message out and to encourage people to consider it, and leave the rest up to God. If no conversions are taking place, we would do well to consider our prayer life, our example, and the effectiveness of our presentation. But we must not conclude that our work is a complete and utter failure if no one converts, because conversion itself is out of our hands. We have done what we should have done, and it was not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

The farmer who plants his crops and does his best to fertilize and water the soil has done what he can, and if his crops fail, he cannot be held responsible. But it is the farmer who is too afraid to plant a crop or has given up planting crops who is responsible and culpable for failure. So it is with us. If we proclaim the message of God and reflect it in our lives, we have done what we should, and if no one turns to God, we are not responsible. But if we are too afraid to proclaim the message, or have given up proclaiming the message, then we do bear some responsibility (cf. Romans 1:16)!

We have our hands full with the proclamation and encouragement of the Gospel message. Let us trust in God that if we plant and water, He will provide the increase. Let us keep our focus on the spiritual reality and not get caught up in worldly perspectives on the promotion of the Gospel!

Ethan R. Longhenry

God, Us, and Evangelism

Giving Ourselves

For according to their power, I bear witness, yea and beyond their power, they gave of their own accord, beseeching us with much entreaty in regard of this grace and the fellowship in the ministering to the saints: and this, not as we had hoped, but first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us through the will of God (2 Corinthians 8:3-5).

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges in life is learning how to do what we ought to do with the spirit in which we ought to do it along with the proper motivation for doing so. This is especially true in the “religious” sphere of existence. It is quite easy to fall into the trap of empty ritualism, or for people to work with the intent to earn merit. Too many are only willing to do the commands of God that are comfortable for them; many treat religion as they perhaps treated high school, trying to figure out how to do just enough to “get by.”

While all of these forms of religious service are popular, they are not what God intends, and they cannot lead to a saving faith. If we really desire to be saved, we will have to do as the Macedonians did so many years ago: we must first give ourselves to the Lord. If we are able to accomplish that, then everything else can fall into its proper place.

Yet, as with many things in life, such is easier said than done. Giving ourselves entirely over to Jesus is a challenging proposition. It requires us to be crucified with Him, making the decision to no longer live in sin (Romans 6:1-7, Galatians 2:20). We must then live as His servants, seeking His will in every facet of our existence (Ephesians 5-6). The cost is high– the path of Christ involves sacrifice, suffering, and persecution (Romans 12:1, Acts 14:21, Romans 8:17-18). The reward of eternal life, however, will make up for it and beyond (cf. Revelation 21-22)!

It is easy to understand why the temptation is always there to promote or to live a half-hearted religion, a belief system in which you go along with God as long as it is comfortable and does not infringe too terribly strongly in one’s life. Yet we must understand that a religion without cost tends to be a religion without benefit. Jesus came to the earth not to be served but to serve, and He gave fully of Himself for us (Philippians 2:5-11). If He gave Himself fully for us, how can we expect to get away with only giving a little bit for Him?

Jesus Himself makes it quite clear in Matthew 10:35-39 that becoming His disciple is an all-or-nothing proposition. You either put God in Christ first in your life or you do not. You are willing to allow the Lord to dictate for you through His Word how you will conduct yourselves toward your parents, spouse, children, employer, friends, and others, or you are not (cf. Ephesians 5-6). You either allow God in Christ to dictate how you will use the blessings of material abundance, time and talents for His purposes, or you do not (Romans 12). Half-hearted service, empty ritualism, or reward-based work is not true service to God, no matter how much it may feel as it is (cf. Matthew 7:21-23). It is only when we first and foremost decide that we are going to give ourselves over to the Lord that we can finally begin serving Him.

Thankfully, no matter how we have lived in the past, as long as we live, we have the opportunity to give ourselves to the Lord. Let us do so and become full servants of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, knowing that if we glorify His name, we will share in His eternal glory!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Giving Ourselves