Tuesday, January 20, 2015

PAUL’S VIEW OF HIMSELF: “High Self-Esteem?”

Self-esteem” is a concept that is very popular today, particularly in education. It is interesting to note that the United States is near the bottom in many academic areas compared to the rest of the world, but we rank number one in “self esteem.” In many cases, we are training our young people to know little or nothing but to feel very good about themselves in the process. They are being taught to stand up for their rights when they should be learning to stand up for what is right.
Even in some Christian circles, “self-esteem” is taught as a very important component of the Christian life. Some even push the idea that sin is low self-esteem, while salvation is high self-esteem. This is an extreme teaching, and it is far away from Biblical truth, but it is nevertheless out there. Following are a number of quotes from the book, Self-Esteem:The New Reformation, by retired pastor Robert H. Schuller, who ought to know better.
“…Sin is any act or thought that robs myself or another human being of his or her self-esteem … the core of sin is a lack of self-esteem…”
“Sin is psychological self-abuse ... the most serious sin is one that causes me to say, 'I am unworthy. I may have no claim to divine sonship if you examine me at my worst.' For once a person believes he is an 'unworthy sinner,' it is doubtful if he can really honestly accept the saving grace God offers in Jesus Christ.”
“To be born again means that we must be changed from a negative to a positive self-image – from inferiority to self-esteem, from fear to love, from doubt to trust.”
“Jesus never called a person a sinner.”
“The Cross sanctifies the ego trip. For the Cross protected our Lord's perfect self-esteem from turning into sinful pride.” (What? Jesus could have succumbed to sinful pride?  Heresy!!!)
These statements by Schuller are just the opposite of the truth. A person must recognize his terrible condition as a totally helpless, hopeless, vile sinner BEFORE salvation is possible. We stand before God as guilty, lost sinners, and we have no method of salvation other than to “throw ourselves on the mercy of the court” on the basis of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. God saves us by his grace, totally without any merit of our own.  "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:19-20, NKJV).
Jesus’ View of Self-Esteem
Jesus said, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:28, NKJV).
Some use this to justify “self-esteem” as Biblical, saying that Jesus was teaching that “You must learn to love yourself first so you can love others.” Is this true? Please note the following, based on the Scripture quoted above:
(1)   The emphasis is on loving the Lord first and our neighbor second.
(2)   There is an assumption that we already love ourselves. The reality is that every human is born helplessly and hopelessly in love with himself. This is stated quite well in the following quote from my longtime friend and co-worker, Ed Cardwell:  “I think some people we have known over the years suffer from too much of the world’s ‘self-esteem.’ Just ask any thug, criminal, or general meathead bully. They think they are the most important person in the world, and if they don't get their way you might just suffer severely if you happen to be in their way.” This doesn’t sound like someone who needs to learn to love himself.
(3)   Self-love is not commanded; it is assumed. There is nowhere in the Bible a commandment to learn to love ourselves. That would be like a commandment to teach our children to sin. They will sin by nature. It would be a Biblical absurdity for God to command us to do those things which we will automatically do because of who and what we are. We will love ourselves without any instruction to do so. "For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church" (Ephesians 5:29, NKJV).
(4)   Love for God and love for others is what needs to be learned. These things are what Jesus commanded, and His commands are based on things we otherwise would not do without His instruction to do so.
Paul’s View of Self-Esteem
Some say that Paul was very arrogant because he referred to himself numerous times as worth “imitating” when it comes to spiritual growth and maturity.
"Therefore I urge you, imitate me" (1 Corinthians 4:16, NKJV).
"Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1, NKJV).
"Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern" (Philippians 3:17, NKJV).
"And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 1:6, NKJV).
"For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you … to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us" (2 Thessalonians 3:7,9).
Paul did not say these things in arrogance. He had grown in the Lord to the point that he recognized he could say these things because he had learned Godly humility. He had matured, he was imitating Christ, and he knew that if others imitated him, they would also be imitating Christ. Maturity according to Paul is boasting in nothing but Christ’s grace and his own weakness. "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14, NKJV).
Paul didn't start out as a humble servant. Before his conversion, he was quite proud of himself. …though I also might have confidence in the flesh. "If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:  circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;  concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Philippians 3:4-6, NKJV).
He was the overseer at the stoning of Stephen.  "and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul" (Acts 7:58, NKJV).
He was fanatical, the haughty persecutor of the early church.  "As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison" (Acts 8:3, NKJV).  "Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest  and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem" (Acts 9:1-2, NKJV).
In grace, he was informed of his error by "…Jesus whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9:5, NKJV). Soon Paul recognized the worthlessness of his background and human achievement, and counted all these things "...as rubbish, that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:8, NKJV).
Once his view of Christ was proper, Paul's view of himself began to decrease. This continued as he got older. Paul’s view of himself diminished and his dependence on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ increased. Notice the common thread of GRACE than runs through the three steps in the progression of Paul’s view of himself:
(1)   Paul begins by recognizing himself as the very least of all the apostles. He knew he had persecuted the church “ignorantly in unbelief.”  "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; (High self-esteem?) but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief (I Timothy 1:12-13, NKJV). For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me " (1 Corinthians 15:9-10, NKJV).
(2)   Next, he recognizes himself as “less than the least of all the saints.” Not only did he see himself as the least of the apostles, but now as less than the least of all believers. "To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8, NKJV). He became more and more aware of his own worthlessness as he saw the magnificent grace of God at work in his life. If we humans were already righteous, there would be no need for the grace of God.
(3)   Finally, near the end of his life, Paul recognizes himself as “the chief of sinners.” "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief" (1 Timothy 1:15, NKJV). By comparison to the righteousness of God, we are nothing but helpless, vile sinners, and each one of us should see ourselves as “the chief of sinners.” That is quite an indictment of self, but it illustrates the tremendous grace of God. "…But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more…" (Romans 5:20, NKJV).
Only by the grace of God was Paul able to be a humble and effective servant of God, although he was the least of the apostles, the least of all the saints, and the chief of sinners. While in his depravity, man thinks he is higher than the highest, better than the best, greater than the greatest. Paul’s self-evaluation is the exact opposite:  lower than the lowest, worse than the worst, less than the least.
Other key Scriptures touch on this topic of self-esteem:
"For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith" (Romans 12:3).
"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells…" (Romans 7:18).
The only Scripture that has both the word “self” and the word “esteem” in it is Philippians 2:3.  "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself" (NKJV).
"…greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world" (I John 4:4).
"Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God" (2 Corinthians 3:5, NKJV).
"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (I Corinthians 15:10, NKJV).
Paul knew he could take no credit for what God had made of Him. He was privileged to be a choice servant of the Lord, to lead many to Christ, to pen roughly half of the New Testament, yet he could take no credit. It was all by the grace of God.
Self-esteem is not a Biblical concept. We need Christ-esteem, not self-esteem. Proper “self-esteem” is not self-esteem at all. It is Christ-esteem. Paul did not have “self-esteem,” but he had “Christ-esteem.”
"He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30, NKJV).
"…that in all things He may have the preeminence"  (Colossians 1:18, NKJV).
"Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1, NKJV).
Paul described himself and others as:
(1)   "servants" - from the Greek word which means "under-rower."  An "under-rower" was a slave and an oarsman who served in the lowest level of a ship.
(2)   "stewards" - from the Greek word for "house manager." The steward of a household supervised the affairs of a household and was held accountable for the affairs of a household by the owner or master of the house. This word emphasizes responsibility.
Jesus Himself, the great Creator-God of the universe, practiced humility. "And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:8).
Based on the teachings of Scripture, we need to remove all of this “self-esteem” nonsense from our vocabulary and from our teaching. We need to see that the grace of God is sufficient to deal with all of our sinfulness, and that an emphasis on “self” ultimately results in pride and arrogance, which will lead our Christian lives in the wrong direction.

Monday, January 12, 2015


Luke 7:39 NAS
by Ed Cardwell

The word ‘IF’, though one of the smallest in our English language, has often been acclaimed the biggest word in the dictionary. That may very well be true in a practical sense, because even the simplest of decisions, contingencies, and eventualities often hang precariously upon the uncertainty implied by this single two-lettered word. As we have all become painfully aware, much in life pivots on this one-syllable instrument of communication.
Throughout the Scriptures this one word introduces an almost limitless parade of intrigue and fascination. In Luke 7:36-50, for example, we read the fascinating story of our Lord’s acceptance of an unlikely invitation to dine at a Pharisee’s house. While there He was attended by a woman of ill repute who had found in Him her living Messiah. He had lifted her burden of sin and guilt, and had thereby filled her heart with unspeakable joy and gladness. As He reclined at table she came in behind Him, as was permitted by custom, and attended Him in reverent service while pouring out her soul with tears of thanksgiving.
The Pharisee, reclining at table across from Jesus, observed her intimate actions, and knowing who she was, said to himself:
IF this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”  LUKE 7:39 NAS
On the surface of it one may wonder whether this Pharisee named Simon is on the threshold of a great discovery. Is he searching out this man wondering whether or not He is a prophet? Or is he giving Him the benefit of the doubt waiting to see the outcome?
Our key to the penetration of the Pharisee’s thoughts lies in the exactness in the Greek of that smallest of words ‘IF’. We are unable to feel its force in the English, but in the original it speaks volumes!  Let us examine the word more closely so that we might gain added insight into what the Holy Spirit has preserved for us.

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There are primarily three different classes of ‘IF’s in Greek, each one introducing a conditional clause. Each has its respective form and carries its particular power and weight to the meaning of the statement:
CLASS I – The ASSUMED-TRUE Condition. This condition was used when the speaker assumed, or wished to assume, that his premise was TRUE. The grammatical construction is simply the introduction of the Greek word ‘if’ (eiv) at the beginning of the conditional clause followed by a verb in the indicative mood (in the same clause).

As an illustration we have the case of the Temptation of our Lord in Matthew 4. In verses 3 and 6 the Class I condition of ‘IF’ is used both cases:
IF You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” vs 3 NAS
IF You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down.” vs 6 NAS
Satan’s objective was the nullification of the plan of salvation. His strategy was to lure Jesus out of His self-imposed human character as an obedient servant of God and into His rightful character as Lord over nature, but without first going to the Cross. The leverage the Tempter uses on this occasion is the assumed fact of Jesus’ deity. Satan insisted that the Lord make His rightful demands upon the ‘IF’, or better interpreted, ‘since’, or ‘it being true that’ He was the Son of God.
How this passage comes alive to us today with all the intensity of a great drama!  How we can more readily see the infinite pathos of our Lord’s suffering in order that His work FOR US might be fully accomplished.
CLASS II – The CONTRARY-TO-FACT Condition. This condition was used when the speaker assumed, or wished to assume, that his premise was UNTRUE. Let us look at three illustrations:
a.       A simple example would be the declaration made by both Mary and Martha in John 11. In addressing Jesus upon His arrival, each said in turn:

“Lord, IF You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Joh 11:32 NAS
The condition is Class II, contrary-to-fact. We can, of course, surmise this by the context of the narrative. We know that Jesus was not there when Lazarus died; He tarried beyond the Jordan. But had we been unaware of these added circumstances we could have made the matter certain by reading the passage in the original. There we find the special Class II grammatical construction (eiv [ei] + past tense of a verb in the indicative mood + a;n [an]).
b.   Another illustration can be found in our Lord’s declaration in John 15:22 and 24. This statement concerns the meaning and result of His coming to earth – to bring the glorious light of Truth and thus to expose sin in all its hideousness, so that men might see their desperate need and thus be drawn to Him, the True Light.
IF I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin.” vs 22 NAS
IF I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin.”  vs 24 NAS
But our Lord DID come and He DID speak to them; and He DID work among them the works which no one else did. So the condition presented is stated contrary-to-fact; and the net result of the unreality is revealed by our Lord in verse 22:
“But now they have no excuse for their sin.” NAS
In this case, as well as in example ‘a’ above, the meaning is plain from the whole context. But again the Greek grammatical construction of the sentence (eiv [ei] + verb + a;n [an]) confirms the conclusion with certainty.
c.   A slightly less obvious example is found in John 5:46. Jesus says, in addressing His skeptical Jewish audience:
“For IF you believed Moses, you would believe me .” NAS
Our Lord is not leaving anything open to conjecture here; the simple Greek grammatical construction (eiv [ei] + verb + a;n [an]) proves the existence of a conditional clause the negative reality of which is assumed. They didn’t believe Moses. They were idolaters. They were a self-initiated elite who had long since lost the true meaning of being the children of Abraham. They flatly rejected Moses. OTHERWISE, Jesus was saying, you would believe me.”
CLASS III – The UNDETERMINED-FULFILLMENT POSSIBLE Condition. In this condition uncertainty is implied, with the possibility of fulfillment. In Scripture the use of the Class III is far more frequent than any of the other conditions, but two examples will suffice:
a.   In the story of the Temptation in Matthew 4, referred to above, we have an illustration of the Class III condition in verse 9 where the Tempter says:
“All these thing will I give You, IF You fall down and worship me.” NAS
Satan was hoping for fulfillment, but doubt encompassed the issue. The premise was neither a question of being True (Class I) nor Untrue (Class II), but remained, at least to him, a possibility of fulfillment. The uncertainty in such cases is often clear, but should the context leave us in doubt, the original once again comes to the rescue with the Class III construction in Greek:  eva.n [ean] + subjunctive mood of the verb.
b.      Another interesting example of the Class III condition is found in Acts 5:38 where it is contrasted with a Class I condition in verse 39.
The wise Gamaliel seeks to restrain the Council’s murderous intentions against the apostles. He challenges his colleagues to keep their heads cool in this matter:
“And so in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, For IF this plan or action should be of men, it will be overthrown.”
“But IF it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”
In the conditional clause in verse 38 we find the Class III construction – Doubt, but Possibility. But in verse 39 we find Class I – Assumed True.
Gamaliel assumes the validity of Christianity, at least for the sake of his argument, and he puts the alternative (that these activities under discussion are only from men) in the realm of uncertainty. We cannot conclude absolutely that Gamaliel was a Christian nor that he was leaning in that direction; he may merely have wanted, as some suggest, to score a further point against the Sadducee contingent of the Council, whose opposing political and religious influence was suffering embarrassment at the hands of the apostles. On the other hand, neither can we rule out his leaning toward the apostles’ faith at this time, for we read in Acts 6:7 that “A great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” NAS  Also early tradition includes Gamaliel by name in that innumerable company of saints. If so, it would be this contrast in conditions of Class III (verse 38) and Class I (verse 39) that gives us the first hopeful hint at such an eventuality.

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Now, having examined the three possible conditions, let us return to our story in Luke 7.
The woman who is attending Jesus is a woman who has been deeply shattered by a new and keen awareness of her sinful state; she is now, however, rejoicing in reverent jubilation that He, her Messiah, has brought to her a new life and a lasting hope, and that without measure. By her presence and by her attendant adoration she is a living testimony to all those reclining at that table that this great Personage has a special attraction for those in great need. Sinners whose lives have become hopelessly shackled to the bonds of sin and degradation need only appeal to Him. And this woman! How animated is her intense display of thanksgiving! What a message to all who are witnesses!

But does the Pharisee hear her testimony?  Does he accept her witness?

By no means! He has a closed mind. He welcomes any shred of evidence that might point to Jesus as a fraud. How revealing is the statement by Simon – to himself:  “IF this man were a prophet…! How intimately we are able to peer into the abyss of his darkened heart and at once learn of his sad condition (and that from his own thoughts!) - that he is a man ruled by pride and overcome by spiritual blindness.

(His ‘if’ statement in Luke 7:39 is found in the original to be Class II – his premise is assumed UNTRUE!  He has, to his own peril, already concluded in his heart that this man IS NOT a prophet. To give evidence and weight to this conviction he reasons to himself further that:  “Otherwise, this man would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” NAS)

Why do such men reject this Jesus? Why do they deny Him? How can they ignore all the evidence that points to His deity?

This Pharisee has judged Jesus through the eyes of one who is confined to his fallen nature, devoid of all spiritual insight. He imagines that his Guest must conform to the contrived and futile standards of spiritually impoverished men, who compare themselves to one another to establish their goodness. He is the ‘natural’ man (1 Cor 2:14) who finds nothing worthy of adoration in Him, but only contempt, and he is, therefore, utterly repulsed by what he observes.

The Pharisee’s mind had been prejudiced by the sundry doctrines of humanism of his day (as is true in our day).  As examples:  We exist by the chance occurrence of ‘favorable’ mutations, ie, we are brothers of the boulders and we are cousins of the stars [evolution]; there is no God outside of ourselves; there is no life after death nor is there a day of judgment awaiting us; and, for the ‘religious’, there are many ways to God. The list is almost endless.

Salvation had come to Simon’s house – in Person!  Oh, how many would have given anything to trade places with Simon! But our Lord chose to visit him. Because it was at Simon’s house that a great sermon was to be preached. But Simon didn’t think that the message was for him. There is no grand reception, no hint of appreciation. He is thankless, cynical, and proud. For he was blinded by his pride and trapped in unbelief, and thus did not recognize this great hour of his visitation – that the full embodiment of the Love and Mercy of the great God of the Universe had left His home in glory to come down to dine before Simon at his very table.

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Additional Scriptural passages which contain the conditional ‘IF’ are given according to Class:

CLASS I:  Mat 5:29, 30; Mar 3:26; Luk 12:26; Joh 8:46; Act 4:9; Rom 7:16, 20; 1Co 7:9; 2Co 3:7; Gal 2:14; Col 2:20; 3:1; 1Th 4:14; 2Th 3:14; 1Ti 3:5; Phm 17, 18; Heb 2:2; Jms 1:5; 1Pe 1:17; 2Pe 2:4; 1Jo 3:13.

CLASS II:  Mat 11:21, 23; 12:7; 23:30; 24:43; Luke 7:39; 10:13; 19:42; Joh 4:10; 5:46; 8:19, 42; 9:41; 15:19; 18:36; Act 18:14; 26:32; Rom 7:7; 1Co 11:31; Gal 1:10; 3:21; Heb 4:8; 8:4; 11:15; 1Jo 2:19.

CLASS III:  Mat 6:14, 15; Mar 1:40; Luk 17:3(2), 4; Joh 11:25; Act 9:2; Rom 2:25(2), 26; 1Co 5:11; 2Co 5:1; Gal 5:2; Col 4:10; 1Ti 1:8; Heb 13:23; Jms 2:2; 1Pe 3:13; 1Jo 1:6, 7, 8, 9. 10; 2:1; 3Jo 10; Rev 3:3; 22:18, 19.

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1. Some scholars identify four Classes of conditions, the fourth being a further division of Class III. This further distinction is most often hazy, is never found in its full form, and has been characterized as a highly ornamental and little used construction. It is therefore omitted here from discussion.

2. Because thought is not always expressed in the most clearly defined forms, the student of the New Testament is met throughout with sundry mixed, implied, and elliptical conditions and grammatical exceptions. All of theses insure that one will never master the language entirely and that he will never exhaust the innumerable challenges presented by these variations.

3. It must be emphasized that the condition itself of Class I and II is concerned only with the statement, not with the actual reality or unreality of the matter.