Paul’s Heavenly Perspective

Heavenly Perspective in Paul’s writings.

Bible scholars enjoy investigating and dissecting the writings of the Apostle Paul. Paul’s epistles are rich in theology and at times quite complex in thought, so they provide a simulating challenge for the enquiring mind.

However scholarship can amuse itself with analysis for analysis sake. Knowledge can feed the notion that the student holds some special place or privilege since “knowledge puffs up”. Human analysis of spiritual truth can weave its own intricate pretence of insight, while missing the very heartbeat of what Paul is saying.

This is not to say that scholarship and analysis are of no value, but they need to be subservient to the spirit and intent of the spiritual transaction which Paul intended, rather than to push us into the place of bystanders who can testify in a witness box of what we have seen, but who are observers rather than participants of the truth on offer.

Now that I have that off my chest let me direct your attention to some interesting considerations that Paul’s life deserves.

Paul stands in a unique place as a contributor to the New Testament. Specifically I refer to the fact that all of his encounters with Christ were with the risen, glorified Christ of all eternity, not with the human personality the disciples dealt with.

The human Jesus, fully God and fully man, had laid aside His glory, holding the place of a servant. So those who met Christ in that capacity were denied the immediate and compelling impact of the eternal Son of God, eternal Lamb of God, eternal Creator God, that Christ is.

Paul, on the other hand, met Christ as the glorious resurrected Lord of Glory speaking from heaven itself.
Paul went on to meet with Christ in heaven and to receive revelation directly from the glorified Christ (1Cor 11:23, 2Cor 12:3,4).

Paul’s conception of spiritual truth, then, was first and foremost from the heavenly perspective. He knew things too wonderful to be allowed to put in words (2Cor 12:3,4) and so impressive were his spiritual experiences that a messenger from satan was assigned the special task of keeping Paul humble (2Cor 12:7).

Paul writes from that rich context of spiritual insight.

The great Apostle Peter held Paul’s writings in great respect but admitted that Paul’s insights were hard to understand and were misinterpreted by unlearned and unstable people (2Peter 3:15,16).

Paul’s ministry was to the minds and hearts of men and women who did not hold the depth of revelation he enjoyed. He therefore had to input into them spiritual truths that they were at times resistant to, as babes unable to handle the stronger revelation of God’s Word but needing to be grounded in the first principles. He also had to deal with their tendency to be distracted by baser, fleshly urges that competed with their spiritual health, such as being drawn into factions, being impressed by charlatans intent on exploiting them, and so on.

Paul spent a year and a half in Corinth, able to function in full-time ministry for at least part of that time, thanks to the support from outside Corinth.

After Paul left Corinth he settled into a longer stint of ministry is Ephesus and it is believed that from there he wrote at least his first epistle back to the church at Corinth.

PAUL in 2 Corinthians and his focus on suffering, death and resurrection.

It is suggested that Paul had a strong focus on the resurrection of Christ and that focus prompted his frequent references to death and resurrection in his second letter to the Corinthians.

I disagree. Paul’s focus is not on Christ’s death and resurrection specifically, nor in comparing his own or other’s experiences with those of Christ, but simply to argue for a posture of abandonment on God, disregarding personal hardship in order to serve Christ.

Christ exemplifies this posture of abandonment in enduring the cross to save sinners.

Paul anticipates and lives a life of constant tribulation, but that is of no concern since he also lives in constant consolation.

There is a dichotomy of constant tribulation made irrelevant by constant consolation. This is Paul’s reality and it is the one he repeatedly confronts the Corinthian believers with.

2Corinthians 1:3-5 “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds by Christ.”

Paul’s picture of Christian life is of a life of blessing and comfort compensating for a life of tribulation.

Consider Paul’s repeated advice to Timothy that Christians will suffer persecution.
2Timothy 3:12 “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

(See also Peter’s reference to “fiery trial” in 1Peter 4:12, and
Christ’s predictions that His followers would be persecuted, Matt 24:9, John 15:20)

Paul clearly identified himself and his peers as targets for tribulation.
1Thessalonians 3:4 “For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.”

This is particularly poignant for Paul since his very calling from Christ identified him as set aside to suffer persecution.
Acts 9:16 “For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

Note also in 2Corinthians that Paul speaks of vicarious suffering, such that his own sufferings result in blessing to those he cares for. (2Cor 1:6,7, 4:12)

Paul shares with the Corinthians how terribly he was persecuted, to the point of despairing of life, but the consolation, deliverance and protection he always relies on came through. The key issue for Paul is not that of death and resurrection but of constancy of faith, being confident that even in his extremity God will remain faithful, as he proved to be.

Note the focus on where Paul’s ‘trust’ was placed in 2Corinthians 1:9,10, “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raises the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us:”

I repeat, Paul’s focus is not in Christ as a model of death and resurrection, but on the Christian’s challenge to trust God in the reality of a Christian life where tribulation is the turf, but consolation is guaranteed to triumph over it.

Paul’s ‘affliction list’ in 2Corinthians 4:7-12 is Paul’s assertion that tribulation fails to be a problem, thanks to God’s constant care. Rather than Paul providing a litany of evils he makes a declaration of triumph, rejoicing in ‘the excellency of the power’, being ‘not distressed’, ‘not in despair’, ‘not forsaken’, ‘not destroyed’, ‘that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body’.

This is a wonderful take on suffering and dispels the fleshly, self-preservation, narcissism of natural man, pointing to a life of victorious service to our Lord, immersed in opposition and trial, so it can be constantly triumphant over all trials right down to death itself.

The Corinthian church had been taught this perspective but quickly distracted themselves with their own carnality, dropping their moral standards, engaging in factions, celebrating their own indulgence without regard for fellow believers.

Paul not only contended with them about their fleshly distractions, but he pressed upon them the model he doubtless taught them in their presence, that Christian life is not about self, but about yielding to Christ, entering into the most dangerous and oppressive challenges, and living in triumph and effectiveness in that most undesirable context, as living proof of the gospel.

Hedonism says:
It’s My Life;
I Do What I Want;
My Comfort is Paramount;
If I suffer it must be for my good (eg: pain for health, budgeting to buy better things).

Compare this with Paul’s concept of his calling by Christ:
My life is no longer mine, but Christ’s;
I do not do what I want;
My comfort is irrelevant, and I enter a life of suffering;
I do not suffer for myself but for the benefit of others.

Paul drives home this radical view of a life of trial as a high calling with great reward, pointing the Corinthians away from appearances and to eternal riches.
2Corinthians 4:16-18 “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”


The claim is made that Paul in 2Corinthians is defending his apostleship.

I challenge that perspective as distracting the student from the bigger picture of what Paul is saying in that letter.

Paul clearly has undisputed authority in the Corinthian church and has expressed that in previous demands made and in his demands related to his planned visit. There is no reason to believe Paul’s apostleship and his role as primary authority in the Corinthian church is in jeopardy.

So the suggestion that 2 Corinthians is written in defence of Paul’s apostleship necessarily detracts from the apostolic message Paul conveys.

Primary in Paul’s apostolic message is challenge of the carnality and sinfulness of the Corinthians, which Paul challenged in several ways in 1 Corinthians (babes 1Cor 3:1, carnality 1Cor 3:3,4, drunkeness and self-indulgence 1Cor 11:21) and which he bluntly confronted at the end of 2 Corinthians (2Cor 12:20,21, 2Cor 13:5).

Another resounding message of 2 Corinthians is Paul’s description of a spiritual life, compared with a selfish fleshly life focus, of willingly and happily enduring suffering so that the promise and proof of the gospel triumphing over those trials can be lived out, as it is by Paul and his companions.

Paul embarrasses the Corinthians by pointing out that they, in their flesh, have fawned over men who exploit them (2Cor 11:20) and who were nothing more than “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2Cor 11:13), while Paul is as worthy a hero as anyone else (2Cor 12:11). This addiction to people who impress them reflects the factional spirit at Corinth that Paul challenged in 1Corinthians 3.

Finally, Paul calls them on their inherent sinfulness and challenges them to be sure they are actually saved (2Cor 13:5).

All of this is relegated to subsidiary status if the reader has been beguiled by the widely promoted idea that Paul is principally writing to defend his apostleship.

Further, the idea that Paul has to prove anything is demeaning of this man of immense spiritual stature and unique spiritual privilege (see 2Cor 12:1-7).

Let us free 2Corinthians from the shackles of misdirection and enjoy the rich spiritual food of a great man of God, completely secure in his place of authority within the Corinthian church, who did nothing less than escort them further on their struggling spiritual journey, with truth that we each need to imbibe as we make our own spiritual journey.

Note Paul’s focus on the sinfulness of the Corinthians.

“For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not:lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.” 2Cor 12:20,21

2Cor 13:2 “I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare”.

2Cor 13:5 “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”

Corinth and Laodicea Compared

The Corinthian church, as reflected by the correction Paul has to give them in his epistles, resembles the condition of the Laodicean church of John’s Revelation (Revelation 3:14-22).
That church failed to comprehend that it was “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” but rather thought itself to be “rich, and increased with goods, and (to) have need of nothing” (Rev 3:17).
While the Corinthian church may not be in a severe a state at the Laodiceans its members display a vain concept of themselves as able to indulge their passions, tolerate immorality and identify with competing factions, all to their detriment.
Something in the culture of Corinth entangled the local church in issues that needed Paul’s continued pastoral correction, as the Laodiceans needed Christ’s pastoral correction.
Local culture was recognised by Paul as deleterious to spiritual progress, as seen in his acceptance of the cultural stereotype applied to the residents of Crete (Titus 1:12,13).
Paul also recognised that external spiritual influences can subvert the faith of a whole congregation, as seen in Galatia (Galatians 3:1).
Rather than give up on such people Paul persisted in contending with them to have the truth established in their hearts.
Paul’s letters to the church at Corinth display his faithful and persistent care for the souls of the members, contending with them and even challenging them bluntly, in order to dispel from their minds ideas and practices that have a negative effect on their faith.

Enough said. Check it out for yourself and enjoy the glorious vision of Christian life that carried this great apostle through the toughest of treatment to the most glorious of achievements for Christ’s Kingdom.

Power Preaching

With so many preachers with their “hot” sermons all trying to make an impression across the western world one could get quite confused about what makes a powerful message.

In view of that, let me take you back to basics and get you looking at what the Apostle Paul declared was pretty powerful preaching.

The Right to Speak

Paul has the right to tell us what works, since his own preaching was claimed to have “turned the world upside down”.  Paul was hunted from city to city through sheer hatred from those who knew the power of his preaching and who didn’t like what he was achieving.

Paul seemed to have a way of getting his message through in city after city and culture after culture. He was able to birth church after church in places where he simply preached his basic message.

In view of the power of Paul’s preaching we ought to pay attention to what Paul instructs.  And it is worth noting that Paul instructed the early church to imitate him.  I suggest we are well advised to do that in this day, almost two thousand years later.

Paul’s Power Preaching

Paul tells us quite directly that the “Gospel of Christ” is his power message.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

Paul then explains the two basic truths of his gospel message as he continues his letter to the church in Rome.  Those two basic truths are simply that man is a sinner facing judgment and that faith in Christ saves us.  Paul was not ashamed to declare those truths.

Sinners Facing Judgment

Paul states the first basic principle of the gospel of Christ just two verses after declaring that the gospel is powerful.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” Romans 1:18

Paul uses the rest of chapter 1 and all of chapter 2 to expand on the fact that man is sinful and thus God’s judgment rests on him.  Several verses that state that truth are well known among Christians.

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one.” Romans 3:10-12

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23

We later have Paul advising that the penalty for our sin is a death sentence from God.

“For the wages of sin is death” Romans 6:23a

Paul did not shrink from revealing to people that they had a sin problem and that sin brought God’s judgment on them.  This is the starting point of Paul’s gospel message.  The good news of Christ (the gospel of Christ) is not good news if you don’t first understand the “bad news” of our sin.

Faith in Christ Saves Us

Having established that all mankind is ruined by sin and that God’s wrath rests on the whole human race because no-one can reach God’s holy standard, Paul then testifies to the wonder of forgiveness and salvation we have through faith in Christ.

“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” Romans 3:21,22

“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” Romans 3:24

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1,2

It’s a pretty simple message.  Our sin separates us from God and brings God’s judgment upon us.  Our faith in Christ saves us and brings God’s grace upon us.

Ashamed of the Gospel

The way some preachers preach you could think they are “ashamed” of the gospel Paul preached.  Many preachers avoid giving the simple, clear gospel message Paul found so effective.

I talked about this with a Chinese Christian today who admitted that in his youth he heard people preach the simple gospel Paul preached.  But today, he said, he does not hear people preach so directly.

He asked me why I thought that was so, and I suggested that many modern preachers are more interested in pleasing their audience than in pleasing God.  They preach what they think people want to hear, rather than what Paul says will transform the hearers.

Maybe, too, modern preachers don’t want to risk the opposition and challenge Paul received when he preached that simple gospel.

Fear God of Man

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom but the fear of man brings a snare.

So who you give respect to impacts who and what you are.

This is important for preachers.  If you fear God you will preach God’s truth, no matter whether the audience likes it or not.  Some will reject what you say and others will be transformed by the message.  The gospel of Christ will release the power of God into their lives to save and transform them.

If you fear man, you will preach what people want to hear, but you will have no impact on their lives.  You will also offend God and have none of His blessing and fruit in your ministry.  In fact, you will get trapped (a snare is a trap) and maybe mess up the rest of your life.  That’s what the fear of man does to you.

“The fear of man brings a snare: but whoever puts his trust in the LORD will be safe.” Proverbs 29:25

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10

Let us hear again the simple gospel that transforms lives.

Epistle of Barnabas Part 1

One of the many non-Biblical texts surviving from Apostolic times is a theological tract which is credited to Barnabas, the man who travelled with the Apostle Paul on Paul’s first missionary journey.

Barnabas is well known from the New Testament, as a Levite from Cyprus who is known as a ‘son of consolation’. His original name was Joses, but he was surnamed Barnabas by the apostles, probably in reference to his character as an encourager (Acts 4:36). It was he who sought out Paul to engage him in helping the Christians at Antioch in Syria.

Barnabas the Apostle

There appears to be several uses of the term ‘apostle’ in the Apostolic age. The term is mostly used to refer to the original disciples of Jesus who became apostles. The term apostle means ‘sent one’ and so it could also be used to refer to what we would now call a missionary. The term is used of other people than the original disciples, but it could be in the sense of missionary or sent ones, rather than as an equivalent term as applied to the twelve.

Paul refers to apostles as a functional appointment within church life, suggesting in Ephesians 4:11,12 that there is an on-going role for apostles in the church.

Barnabas is referred to by Dr Luke as an apostle, along with Paul (see Acts 14:4,14).

The Epistle

The early writers who make mention of the Epistle of Barnabas unanimously recognise Barnabas as the author. This stands in contrast to today’s scholars who hold that question in doubt. Clement affirms Barnabas as the author and so too does Origen, who treats it as equal to scriptural texts.

The original letter was written in Greek and is seen as Alexandrian in its style. The author is not named, nor is the intended recipients.

The opening verses suggest that the writer has a specific and limited audience in mind. “So greatly did the much-desired sight of you astonish me respecting you.”

The text is presented in 21 chapters, though many are very short. Rather than being a letter in the sense of Paul’s letters, it is more like a tract, presenting a set of religious teachings. The very purpose is explained to be “to perfect the knowledge” of his readers.


The letter was written after the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD, but before the rebuilding of the city in 135AD. We know this because the fall is mentioned and yet Barnabas expects the Romans to rebuild the Temple, which expectation would have been nullified by the rebuilding of Jerusalem by Hadrian following the revolt of 132-135AD.

It is commonly thought that the letter was written before the end of the first century, before the Gospels were widely circulated.

Main Emphasis

While claiming to be a gift to the reader, assisting their understanding, the letter effectively spiritualises and allegorises the Old Testament law and other Biblical elements, to support the merits of Christ. However, Barnabas fails to deliver so rousing and glorious a celebration of Christ as we find in Paul’s writings, though he was Paul’s companion.

It seems that the determination to force Christological interpretations out of Old Testament and extra-biblical sources is energised by a desire to denigrate Judaism and separate it from Christianity. The repeated import is that the Jews focused on the tangible expression of their laws, sacrifices and temple, while those things were mere empty types of Christian truth.


While there are a number of interesting thoughts proposed by Barnabas (or the author) the letter falls well short of a divinely inspired work.

One weakness is in an overwhelming inclination to apply allegorical interpretation. One could wonder if the author took anything to be literal, since the insistence on prescribing allegorical meaning as the superior interpretation is abundant.

Another problem, following that inclination, is the very forced nature of some allegorical interpretation. There is almost a sense of the delusional about the rampant impetus to make a spiritual sounding application of something which may well only be worthy of literal interpretation.

While there is an abundance of Biblical quotation the author is loose with his translations and does not take care to give clear credit to his sources. Several of his quotes are quite free and creative, imposing content into the text which is not there in the Old Testament source.

Spurious sources are also used freely. Some quotations which are presented alongside his Biblical quotes are completely unfamiliar to the Bible student. They may be based on Old Testament passages which were so thoroughly paraphrased as to lose touch with their original source. Or they may be pseudo scriptural content which he has drawn from sources which we do not readily identify.

Much is made of a Jewish tradition related to the scapegoat. That tradition is extra-Biblical, not being prescribed in the Mosaic instructions. So it is unworthy of the place which Barnabas gives it.

Unscientific ideas based on Greek mythology also find place in the letter. Of particular note is the assertion that hyenas change sexuality each year, from male to female and back again. This ridiculous idea can be traced back to Aesop’s fables and were also quoted by Pliny the Elder in his first century AD ‘Natural History’.

In the Epistle of Barnabas we see a preacher of the gospel drawing from cultural notions, rather than divinely revealed truth. In so doing he has compromised his authority and shown that his work was not inspired but simply concocted from popular cultural thought.

Barnabas Offers Much

Despite these and other negatives associated with this epistle, there is still much to gain from it. In particular, it gives us a view of the prevailing times, from outside the New Testament. We also gain insights into the themes and thinking of some New Testament believers.

In Part 2 of this topic I will take you though a review of the Contribution made to us by the Epistle of Barnabas.

Your Soul is in the Way

In a day when psychoanalysis is trendy and just about anyone who is anyone has their own psychologist we can lose sight of the Biblical realities about our inner life. The truth is that your soul gets in the way of your freedom and happiness.

What is the Soul?

Freud dissected the inner workings of the human mind with his Id, Ego and Super-ego. Many others have thrown their own two-pence worth into the ring, hoping to make much more than two-pence out of it. So the water is pretty muddy for anyone trying to understand the mind and man’s inner self.

When I studied first year Psych at Sydney University in the early 1970’s much of the course consisted of learning about competing schools of psychological thought. Each one seemed to make sense in its own right, but none could co-exist in harmony with the other. Psychology was a free-for-all game of eclectic self-determined theories and therapies. Things are even worse with the passage of a generation.

The Bible presents a very workable dissection of the human condition, given by the Apostle Paul in a letter he wrote to one of the churches he established, in Thessaloniki. In his first letter to the Thessalonians he prays that God will preserve their spirit, soul and body.

“… I pray to God that your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” Paul, 1Thessalonians 5:23b

Spirit, Soul and Body

The Spirit of a man is that internal part which enables the man to relate to God. This part is somewhat unfamiliar to us, since westerners do not give particular attention to their spirit. It may be best understood by saying that it is the internal part of us that is not our soul. Man’s conscience is part of his spirit.

The Soul of a man is that internal part which enables the man to relate to the world around him. This includes the mind, emotions and will, or thoughts, feelings and choices.

The Body is the physical and visible person.

Spirit in Control

Man was originally designed to be in intimate fellowship with God, so man was created to live out of his Spirit. The Spirit is meant to be in control of each person’s life. Note that Paul listed man’s components by itemising the spirit first. Mankind is ‘spirit, soul and body’, not ‘body, soul and spirit’. The spirit is supposed to be pre-eminent.

However, when Adam and Eve ate of forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, they chose to make their spirit secondary to the soul. They exalted their mind, emotions and will over their conscience.

Soul in Control

What we have now is mankind living out of the soul. Our mind, emotions and will demand to be gratified. We demand to understand things. We react to anything that upsets our feelings. We refuse to yield our will.

The soul is in control in humanity. That’s why the soul is in the way. The soul blocks our ability to live out of our spirit, because it won’t give up its place of executive control over our lives.

For example, consider a person who feels touched by God and who wants to drop their career and dedicate their life to Christian ministry. What are the things that their friends say to them? People will tell them it doesn’t make sense (that’s the Mind issue). People will say they don’t feel right about them throwing away their studies and career (that’ the Emotions). Others will challenge the decision and pressure the person to re-think their decision (that’s related to the Will).

The person will have their own battles with their mind, emotions and will when they sense God leading them to a radical decision.

God Separates Soul and Spirit

The Bible speaks much about our soul and spirit. Just one verse will be sufficient to show that God wants us to separate our mind, emotions and will away from our spirit.

“For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

We are not going to fulfil the perfect will of God by having our soul in command. We will live by faith and please God more, by being led by the Spirit of God.

The book of Hebrews exalts the Bible as being God’s tool for piercing into people’s lives and separating the soul and spirit.

Your highly trained mind will not make you a better Christian. Your strength of emotion or will is not an asset when it comes to living for God. You are much better off learning how to put your soul (mind, emotions and will) in their place, under the Lordship of Christ and out of the way, so they don’t interfere with your life in the Spirit.

Giving Honour

We are to “give honour to whom honour is due” (Romans 13:7). Ha! That is SO un-cool in today’s western culture. Rabid individualism and contempt for authority have bred a culture where it is obnoxious to have to give anyone respect, honour or special place.

This is not to say that it isn’t done and that in various aspects of western society it may be done well, but among many within current western culture it is not done at all. Rebellion, scorn, independence, cynicism and similar attitudes mitigate the ready giving of honour to others.

So let’s take a closer look at what the Apostle Paul instructed us to do:

“Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” Romans 13:7

Christian’s know that one of the Ten Commandments is to honour our mother and father (Exodus 20:12). We also know that there is a blessing which goes along with that commandment.

“Honour your father and your mother: that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God gives you.” Exodus 20:12

There is a promise of longevity attached to this commandment to give honour. So ‘giving honour’ is something which demands at least some serious attention.

The Apostle Paul quoted this commandment, giving it special relevance to the behaviour of children. He notes that there is a ‘promise’ attached to the giving of honour in line with this command.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour your father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise) That it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth.” Galatians 6:1-3

Unfortunately for modern Christians Paul’s reiteration of this command has skewed its application toward children, and not to the rest of us.

So I want to re-focus your attention on ‘giving honour’. I think it’s much more important than most western Christians assume it is in their daily lives.

What does giving honour look like? Many years ago when Dr Harold Dewberry was staying in my home, I asked him to pray for some health challenges we were facing. Harold is a remarkably perceptive man, in particular with use of the gift of Word of Knowledge. I have been amazed at times with the profound accuracy and effect of his use of this gift in counselling. However, in praying with us, Harold didn’t seem to get any particular revelation.

Then, after spending a good amount of time praying with us, Harold asked me a question. He asked, “Chris, do you honour your father?”

I was caught off guard. I really did not have any clear reference point on the subject, to understand the giving of honour to my father, and so I could only guess at whether I did or not. I was not conscious of giving my dad honour, nor was I conscious of denying it to him. When I explained my inability to answer clearly Harold advised that he felt prompted to ask the question, but he also did not have any particular wisdom on how to be certain that honour had or had not been given.

As soon as I could after that, I organised a series of meetings for my dad to teach. I guessed that promoting my dad’s ministry was one expression of giving honour.

Now, let me ask YOU the question. Do you give honour to your father? Do you know how to measure the level of honour you give or don’t give? By what evidence can you prove that you do or do not give honour?

My guess is that most western Christians don’t have clear answers to those questions. My guess is you’ll like to know what I am coming to understand on that topic. Keep an eye out for a post I’ll do in the next week or so, where I will share my emerging understanding. By the way – the application of ‘giving honour’ goes beyond how we respect our dad. It impacts how spouses treat each other, how Christians treat each other and how we function in the broader community.