St Johns Confirmation/Baptism Service

On Sunday evening 22 November Bishop Gary Bedderson joined us at St Johns Church, Bothasig as we celebrated the confirmation of  Danielle Lomas (16) and saw Tashwill Josephs (15), Wendy Punt (15), Dion Eaby (17)  and Maia D’ Almeida (16) baptised as followers of Christ. It was an incredibly exciting and emotional celebration as we heard the tale of Gods work in each of their lives in the weeks leading up to the celebration. We heard how God had brought each of them uniquely into his family through his Sovereign Grace. Many of the congregation members had been used as instruments in being part of their coming to faith and an understanding of the gospel. We are praying that each of them will become multipliers of the gospel in the generations ahead and be part of transforming our suburb for Jesus.

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The most misquoted verse in the Bible

judging others Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1) is probably the most misquoted verse in the Bible.  This verse is being quoted many times by those who are for same-sex partnerships.  The typical comment on Facebook is: “Who are you to judge?  After all didn’t Jesus say, Judge not lest ye be judged.”  The assumption is that Jesus says we should never condemn another’s lifestyle as we are in no position to judge or evaluate.

Is that what Jesus meant?  Absolutely not.  Jesus was speaking against hypocrisy.  Jesus said in the rest of the passage:

For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:2-5)

Jesus said that by passing judgement on others or condemning others, his listeners just showed that they knew what was right and wrong behaviour.  Therefore they would be held accountable to that same high standard and we really condemning themselves.   Jesus said, “So you know what’s right and wrong, I will hold you to that very same standard.”

The Apostle Paul said the very same thing in Romans 2:

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.  We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.  Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? (Romans 2:1-3)

Some of the Romans, who condemned others, were practising (v1) “ the very same things”.

Human Nature

Are these verses not so true to human nature? We tend to be critical of everyone except ourselves.  We are often in a state of self-righteous indignation over the disgraceful behaviour of others – especially in our Facebook updates.   We gain satisfaction from condemning in others the very faults we excuse in ourselves.  Sigmund Freud called this “projection”, but the Bible calls it hypocrisy.  Jesus and the Apostle Paul argues that in becoming moral experts and condemning others, we only show that we know what’s right and wrong, and thus condemn ourselves more; as we “practise the very same things”.

You who condemn Jacob Zuma for the Nkandla money scandal: are you always meticulously honest in all your financial dealings?   You who carry on about corruption in government: Have you ever taken something not yours; misused work time; or influenced others in some way to your benefit or your children’s benefit?  You who condemn homosexual activity: Are you always 100% faithful to your wife – sexually, emotionally, and socially?  Do you never lust after other women?  Do you never view porn on the internet?


But please don’t misunderstand what Jesus said.  Jesus is not saying we can’t make an honest assessment of people based on their behaviour and lifestyle, as Jesus said in the very next verse:

 Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. (Matthew 7:6)

One has to make an assessment of another to know if that person is a “dog” or a “pig”.  Later on in the same passage Jesus says:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  (Mathew 7:15-17)

Recognise them by their fruit

Jesus said we can look at people’s fruit or lifestyle or behaviour or priorities or speech and make an informed assessment as to their spiritual condition.   Jesus said we can recognise or distinguish people based on their fruit.  Indeed, it’s a vital activity to identify, for example, “false prophets.”  Jesus and the Apostle Paul were not saying that we can’t make an evaluation of people based on lifestyle, but rather that we must not be hypocrites.  We must not condemn others for the very same things we do, as we only incur more judgment for ourselves.

So yes, Jesus says we can judge people according to their fruit.


Written by Andre Visagie, originally posted here.

Perspective - Of first Importance

For what I received, I passed on to you as of first importance…”1 Corinthians 15:3

As Christians we don’t often think about the gospel as a ‘tradition’ – indeed that word may make us feel quite uncomfortable when it comes to talking about Christianity. We are accustomed to using the word ‘tradition’ with reference to man-made religion and to speak about the gospel in terms of ‘relationship’ rather than religion or tradition. And at one level of course this discomfort about the word tradition is quite understandable. For did not Jesus Himself rebuke the religious elite of His day because they held onto their religious traditions and so doing set aside the Word of God (see Mark 7:6-8)?

What Jesus had in mind was of course religious rules that were man-made and which had become more important than what God had said. Properly understood however there is a sense in which the gospel itself not only can but must be thought about as a tradition. And it is this that Paul has in mind when he described the gospel as something which he had received and which he had in turn passed on to them. If we think about it carefully we realise that this language (receiving and passing on) is language describing tradition, gospel tradition - a tradition which Paul considered to be of the first importance not only for the Christians in Corinth but for all Christians everywhere.

First and foremost, Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that the gospel was thus not something which he had made up. Rather it was something which he received. Paul was a gospel preacher, but he was certainly not a gospel inventor. This is the point that Paul is driving home when he uses the phrase “according to the Scriptures” in verses 3-4 of 1 Corinthians 15. The gospel that he preached and which the Corinthians believed was a gospel that began with God and His Old Testament promises, promises which would be fulfilled in the Christ who would die for our sins and rise again on the third day. In other words, the gospel has its own content, a content which is determined by God, not by us. And this means of course that no-one, not even the apostle Paul, has the right to change the content of the gospel. And this is a matter of great importance for us to remember in an age in which the content of the gospel is so unpopular.

Second, Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that the gospel had to be received as it is, not as they would like it to be. The gospel which they received from Paul (verse 1) was the gospel that Paul had received (verse 3). Paul had preached it to them just as it had come to him and they were to receive it in full just as he had preached it to them. And so it is for us. We may not pick and choose which bits of the gospel we will receive or which we will reject. People may not like to think about themselves as sinners or to talk about sin, but the gospel tells us that we are and that Christ died for our sins. People may be sceptical about the idea of the resurrection of Jesus but the gospel declares that He rose again on the third day. Indeed for Paul, this is a matter of first importance, for he tells the Corinthians that it is this gospel alone which has the power to save and that it is this gospel to which they must hold firm (verse 2). According to Paul, to believe a gospel which is different from the traditional gospel, the gospel that was received and passed on is to believe in vain (verse 2)!

Third, and this is something of the very greatest importance for us to understand, the way in which this gospel about the death and resurrection of Jesus is powerful to save in every generation is by it being received and preached so that it might be received and preached. The gospel we have today is the same “according to the scriptures” gospel that Paul received. It is this gospel and no other which still saves people today. It is this gospel which has saved us if we have indeed received it, believed it and taken our stand upon it. But this gospel which we have received must in turn be preached by us so that it may be received by others. When Christ died for sins and rose again, he did it not just for one generation of sinners but for all, Paul, the Corinthians, for us and for the generations that are yet to come. Every new generation is the guardian of this same gospel which we have received. And the best way to guard the gospel in our own day it is to proclaim it so that others might hear and believe and proclaim.

Written by Mervyn Eloff. Originally posted here.


Cape Town Women's Convention 2015: A Wealth of Wisdom

Ask any Christian woman what she thinks of the Proverbs 31 woman and the honest answer may look like a grimace. For who can even hope to compare to this fictional woman who seems to be the archetypical perfect woman, wife and mother? This woman is the very reason many Christian women avoid delving into the book of Proverbs, for there she sits, right at the end, mocking our every attempt at wisdom in daily living. Or so it seems.

Yet, on 30 May 2015, the truth of the last chapter of Proverbs was clearly and articulately explained by Hayley Tubman at the 2015 Cape Town Women’s Convention (CTWC). Without a doubt, of the 900 women who braved the cold and rainy weather to attend the event, hundreds left with a lightness and joy in their hearts, finally fully understanding a passage that has long bogged them down. 

The CTWC has always been an incredible experience of community, growth and understanding for the women of Cape Town, and this year was no different. Under the leadership of Alison Eloff, the convention offered women of all walks of life a place of unity.  Gathered together at St James Church, Kenilworth in Cape Town, all 900 women enjoyed beautiful singing ably led by Desire Swanich,Glenda de Cooker and the music team. What a joy it was to listen to voices raised in praise of Him who brings us together. In addition to the beautiful songs that we sung together, we were blessed with songs of praise and reflection from the talented Michelle Botha, Nicole Van Blerk and Tertia Hendricks. At the beginning of each session, we were also encouraged with testimonies from women who continue to give praise to Jesus, despite great hardships in their lives.  Thanks to Suzette Savides, Mary Lumsden and the team who worked tirelessly to provide our lunch, our stomachs were well fed. The hour lunch break gave the women plenty of time to relax and chat together, sharing both joys and burdens in the light of God’s Word. And while our stomach were well-fed, our minds were given a feast of understanding as Hayley Tubman took us through the book of Proverbs, revealing the overall themes of wisdom and folly in such clarity that we closed the day feeling inspired and refreshed in our understanding of God’s Word, His wisdom and His will for our lives.  

An event of this magnitude takes many hands, and I for one am very grateful for the many volunteers who helped make the 2015 CTWC another wonderful experience of growth and community amongst God’s people. If you missed the convention or would just like to listen to the excellent teaching, click on the links below for all three talks. Otherwise, see you next year for the 2016 Cape Town Women’s Convention!

Talk One: Wisdom in a World of Fools - The Beginning of Wisdom | Proverbs 1: 1-7

Talk Two: Wisdom in a World of Fools - The Call of Wisdom | Proverbs 8: 1 - 36

Talk Three: Wisdom in a World of Fools - The Life of Wisdom | Proverbs 31

The Good to many

“For I am not seeking my own good but the good of the many…” 1 Corinthians 10:33

Taken out of context, this important statement by the Apostle Paul is hard to understand for it raises a number of questions that cannot be answered on the basis of the statement taken by itself. For example, is this statement simply a description of Paul’s own pattern of life or is it a prescription that every believer in Jesus must follow? What precisely does Paul mean by ‘the good’? Why should ‘the good of the many’ outweigh the good of the individual? Does such a statement not fly in the face of individual rights? And if so, should such a point of view be supported? Where does God fit into the equation since it is surely impossible to talk about ‘the good’ in terms which do not refer to what God calls ‘good’? Placed in their context in 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 however, Paul’s words are quite simple to understand and are of the utmost importance for each believer and for every local church.

First, we note that Paul qualifies the ‘good of the many’ with the words ‘that they may be saved’. The ‘good of the many’ for which Paul is working hard is the salvation of the many through faith in Jesus Christ. Since Paul himself is however already a saved person, his own ‘good’ cannot refer to his own salvation, but must refer to something else. This potential confusion surrounding different uses of the word ‘good’ in the English translation is resolved by noting that the word that Paul uses here literally means ‘benefit’ or ‘advantage’. Paul is thus saying that in all things he does not act for his own benefit or advantage but for the advantage of the many, namely their salvation through Christ.

Second, we note that the ‘many’ in this paragraph refers to a wide variety of people whom Paul identifies as “Jews, Greeks, and the church of God” (vs 32). Thus in all his actions, Paul is thinking hard about the salvation of very different people groups and more particularly about what it would take for these various groups to hear and accept the gospel message. Paul’s primary concern as he tells us in verse 32 is that he does not want to cause anyone to stumble because of his conduct. The word ‘stumble’ that Paul uses here refers to someone being caused to turn away from the gospel or to not believe the gospel because a deadly obstacle has been put in their path. For those opposed to the truth, the truth itself can be an obstacle, but Paul is not talking about that here. He is referring to behaviour with regard to disputable matters such as food and drink which, while not a matter of right or wrong in themselves, could for a variety of reasons cause people either to reject the gospel or to turn back from following Jesus. In such matters Paul was always quick to give up his freedom and his rights for the gospel good of others. Notice that Paul includes the ‘church of God’ in the list. He does this because he is concerned not just that people begin as Christians but that they finish well.

Third, we note Paul’s overarching concern for the ‘glory of God’. The paragraph begins with Paul reminding the Corinthians (and us) that all things, even the so-called ordinary things of life, can and should be done for God’s glory. This is a wonderful truth, one that reminds us that all of life is worship to God. This was one of the great truths rediscovered at the time of the Protestant Reformation and is one of the reasons why we can describe ‘ordinary work’ as a calling. But this reference to the glory of God is very important in the context of Paul’s statement that he wants to ‘please everybody in every way’ (vs 33). It limits what we understand by the verb ‘please’ and tells us that Paul was not a person pleaser in the wrong sense of those words – simply saying or doing what made people happy in an attempt to be liked by them or to have an influence on them. And it reminds us that though Paul was keen to compromise on non-essentials, he would never do or say anything that was contrary to what the Lord had said or that would bring dishonour to the Lord’s name. Paul’s pleasing of people had to do with his willingness to compromise on his own personal freedoms for the sake of the gospel, not on the gospel itself.

In conclusion then, we should note four key lessons from this brief but important paragraph of 1 Corinthians: First we learn that the Glory of God is paramount and that we are to live for God’s glory in everything we do. Second we learn that the salvation of people is of great importance to God and that we are to do everything in our power to act for the ‘good of the many’. Third we learn that our personal freedoms and rights are not nearly as important as we think they are. Indeed on a scale of importance the salvation of others is far more important than us having things our own way in life or at church. Like Paul we should be eager to give up our rights and preferences for others. Fourth, we learn that this gospel way of life is not an optional extra but a fundamental calling. Like Paul we are to live for ‘the good of others’ because this is precisely what the Lord Jesus Himself did, setting us an example to follow for the glory of God and the salvation of the world.

Written by Mervyn Eloff. Originally posted here.

Six Characteristics of a Healthy Church



I’m sure you know of the couple who woke up one Sunday morning and the wife said to her husband, “Get up or you will be late for church!”  Her husband replied, “I really don’t feel like going to church and I don’t like the church people that much anyway.   Give me 3 reasons why I should go this morning.”  The wife responded, “Number 1:  Church is beneficial because your hear God’s Word.  Number 2: The people at church actually care for you.  3.  And number 3: You’re the pastor!”

It sounds like that church may not be the spiritually healthiest church around – at least not the minister!   Of course we should not expect perfect churches because churches are made up of sinful people.  We are forgiven, but not sinless.   God doesn’t call Christians and churches to perfection, but he does call us to make progress.

The Church in Corinth was certainly not a perfect church and it had a number of issues and challenges.  As we come to the last chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he makes some closing remarks and we see what Paul considers what’s necessary for a healthy church – a church that’s progressing.   How do you and your church match up?

1. Zeal for evangelism

v15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first convertsin Achaia

Originally Paul went to Corinth in the province of Achaia and told people the truth about Jesus’ death for sins and subsequent resurrection.  Stephanas and his household believed the gospel and were the start of the church.  Here is an important observation: there is no other way to grow the church than through evangelism.  The church grows as people hear the gospel, repent of sin and believe the gospel.  All other methods of growth are false, deceptive and wrong.  Many churches seek to grow by presenting an entertaining programme or by watering down the gospel.  Without the continued, faithful proclamation of the gospel (in big groups and small conversations) there can be no real church growth.

2. Devotion to serving

v15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints

No-one asked or appointed Stehanas’ family to serve, they just did.   They ministered in Jesus’ name to others in the church. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 Paul pictured the church as a human body with its different members all having different abilities and functions working for the good of the one body.  Jesus served us so we serve each other.  Note: in the Bible all Christians are called “saints”.

3. Respect for godly leaders

v15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and labourer.

As Christians we are told to submit to Christ as Sovereign King.   In the future the Bible says that every knee will bow before Christ – either in worship or terror.  Paul also wrote in chapter 14:37 that they should submit to him as Christ’s Apostle.   Here we are told to submit to godly leaders in the church.  The church cannot be made up of people all trying to do their own thing.  Marriage is a good illustration.  If both spouses pull in their own direction it is a recipe for divorce or an unhappy marriage.  Husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  Wives are commanded to submit to their husbands in the Lord.  Marriage, like a ship, simply can’t have two captains.  So too the church.  We are called to submit to, i.e. voluntarily place ourselves under the authority of, godly leaders.

v17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

Many people today don’t want to submit to anyone – it’s a characteristic of the age we live in.   Yet, as Christians, we humbly submit to those over us in the Lord.   We give them the recognition they deserve.  Are you willing to receive instruction from your church leaders, even rebuke, if necessary?

4. Desire for fellowship

v17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours.

I’m sure you’ve experienced what Paul is talking about here as you re-connected with long-lost friends.  Normally we make friends and spend time with people who are like us, are our own age, have a similar income bracket and culture, and share our hobbies.  Church is different.  We know that the church is made up of all kinds of people.  It’s great news that Christ calls all kinds of people to be part of his family.   No-one is too bad,  too evil or too sinful.  In Christ, because we are united by a far greater reality, we are able to transcend income-brackets, culture, background and personal likes.  We are brothers and sisters in God’s family.

v19 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. 20 All the brothers send you greetings.

In those days there were no designated church building and the church met in houses.   The church in Ephesus, meeting in the home of Aquila and Prisca, sent “hearty greeting” or literally “many hugs” to the Corinthian church.  They were far apart but their fellowship in the Lord was strong.

V20 …Greet one another with a holy kiss.

This simply means that they should greet one another warmly in a culturally appropriate way.   In our context, Paul would have written, “Give one another a hearty handshake!”  It was also meant to be a “holy” kiss.   That meant that if there were any issues between people that caused them not to greet, they were to sort it out, so that their greeting could be holy.  Fellowship is an essential part of Christianity and not an added-extra.

5. Commitment to love Jesus demonstrated by holiness

v22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.

What does Paul mean by, “has no love for the Lord”?  Can he see into his readers’ hearts?   The word “accursed” comes from the Old Testament word meaning “devoted to God” – normally devoted to God for destruction.   Accursed means to be under the judgment of God

According to the Bible, humanity is divided up into two groups.  (a) Those trying to earn their own righteousness and (b) those who accept the righteousness that comes from God.  The Bible says that those who try to earn own rightness before God are under the judgment of God, or accursed.   But those that accept the rightness of God that comes through faith in Christ are the total opposite, they are blessed.

Paul writes at the end of his letter, “Some of you listening to this letter being read out don’t love the Lord!”  How does Paul know?  They’ve shown it by their actions and attitudes that Paul had written about earlier in his letter.  Some were living in sexual immorality and didn’t care about it.  Some were giving their allegiance to idols.  Some were using the Lord’s Supper as an opportunity to get drunk and thus bring dishonour on Jesus.  Some had forsaken the gospel that was preached to them.  Some believed that this life is all there is.  Some created factions, divisions and disunity in the church.   These Corinthians demonstrated by their sinful lifestyle and ungodly attitudes that although they were in the church, they had no love for the Lord.   They thought they were blessed, but Paul says they are under God’s judgment.

V22 Our Lord, come!

Paul is not referring to the second coming, but that the Lord (Jesus) should come in judgment against those who would defile his church.

6. Passion for sound doctrine

v13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

The imposters and so-called “super-spiritual” Christians were saying that Jesus is not enough and the gospel is not sufficient for Christian living.  Paul, however, says, “Stand firm in THE faith”.  There is only one true faith, one sound body of teaching and one sure foundation.  In the midst of a world that would change the gospel, reduce the gospel, or add to the gospel, Paul instructs, “Stand firm in the faith.”   Is the preaching of God’s Word the main focus of your church service?  Do you listen more than you sing?  Does your pastor explain the Bible and remind you of the gospel each Sunday?


Written by Andre Visagie


The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position or standpoint of the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa


St. Thomas Heideveld Mission Trip to George

Do you get excited about - kids hearing the gospel; a church reaching out to its community; Christian teenagers being trained in ministry; churches working together in gospel partnership? Well then you would have loved to be at Christ Church George (formerly St. Philips) in the first week of October this year. Six teenagers and two leaders from St. Thomas Heideveld met up with a teen and a leader from Emmanuel PE to run a holiday club with Christ Church volunteers.

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Over the course of three days the kids who came heard the gospel presented clearly as we celebrated Christmas in October and learnt who Jesus was through the stories surrounding his birth. As normal the message was reinforced through quizzes, silly games, talks, crafts, worksheets, dramas, and through the testimony and example of the leaders. Children from Christ Church itself as well as many from the community heard the gospel.

Coming from St. Thomas we are used to opening our gates and having a flood of children pour in during the school holiday. We discovered things are a little different in George. Rev Shaun Hunter had to work hard to advertise the club, through local schools, in shopping malls, and even in an interview on local radio. But that exemplified the attitude of the members of Christ Church that we met, eager to reach those in their community with the momentous news of Jesus Christ. So much so that their weekly kids club is run by two of their ‘recycled teenagers’ (now enjoying retirement) who are convicted that God wants children to hear the gospel and that he commands his followers to tell them. They will be able to follow up the children that we made contact with during the week.

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At St. Thomas we regularly give our senior teenagers the opportunity to serve at the holiday clubs we run in Heideveld. However the mission in George stretched and developed them further than ever. Firstly they needed to work cross-culturally. Coming from the Cape Flats to the suburbs of George they had to think about how to relate and communicate in a different cultural context, and how they could remove all barriers to the gospel. Secondly we trained them to take responsibility for their own small groups, to reinforce the message of the day, get to know the children, and encourage them personally. Serving the Lord out of their comfort zone really forced them to trust him and develop the gifts he’s given them.

Finally although none of the teams from the three churches knew each other beforehand, and came from different backgrounds, we were instantly united as partners in proclaiming the Gospel of our Lord. Members of Christ Church put us up for the week, baked cakes for the kids, and will do the follow up work. The children’s and youth workers from Emmanuel PE put together the club material. The teens from St. Thomas led with enthusiasm and skill. It was great knowing that as we served, prayed, taught and played together we were one family engaged on our Father’s business.

Please join with us in prayer for:-

 - the weekly kids club at Christ Church and their work of discipling children

 - the continued growth of young leaders from St. Thomas and Emmanuel

 - many more gospel partnerships between church families to reach the lost of our country

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Perspective - Christian Growth

After the Rain

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3vs18)

There could hardly be a better metaphor to describe the Christian life than the metaphor of growth. In contrast to religion which is formal and sterile, authentic Christianity is alive and vibrant. And the reason for this difference is not hard to find. Religion, at its heart, is based upon nothing more than human ideas and traditions; authentic Christianity is based upon a living and growing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is this living and growing relationship with the Lord Jesus that Peter has in mind when he exhorts us, in the passage quoted above, to grow both in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The appeal is an important one, one that is worth taking time to consider.

First, it is important to note that Peter not only expects believers to grow, he commands us to grow. At first glance this may seem rather odd, for, as we are told elsewhere in Scripture, it is God alone who gives growth (see 1 Corinthians 3vs6). On closer examination however, we see that Peter is not denying that God gives spiritual growth; he is simply reminding us that God’s grace and work in our lives requires a response on our part. Thus, at the very beginning of 2 Peter we are told that in Christ and through His Word, God has given every believer all that he or she needs for spiritual life and growth (2 Peter 1vs1-4). Growth comes about by “divine power”. But, immediately after this description of God’s power at work in them, he urges them to make every effort to grow, and indeed, to be eager to do so (2 Peter 1vs5-11) For Peter, God’s powerful work in us does not negate our work, it makes our work possible and fruitful.

Second, it is important to note that Peter urges us to grow both in grace and inknowledge. In this, Peter is reflecting a very important truth, one that was personified in the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. John tells us in his gospel, that Jesus, the Word made flesh, came from the Father, “full of grace and truth” (John 1vs14). His grace and kindness was seen in the way that He dealt with people and of course supremely in His death in place of sinners. But at no point in His dealings with others did Jesus ever compromise on truth or act in a way that undermined the righteousness of God. Indeed He went to the cross so that both the grace of God and the truth of God could be established. It is therefore hardly surprising that Peter should encourage believers to grow both in grace and knowledge (truth). This growth will involve knowing Christ better through the truth that is found in the Gospel, the very great and precious promises of 2 Peter 1vs4. And as we get to know Christ better through this Word of God in the gospel, growth will involve our being made more and more like the Lord Jesus Christ, experiencing His grace in our lives and extending His grace to a lost world.

Third, it is important to note that this growth is in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Outside of Christ there can be no spiritual life and thus no spiritual growth. And once again it is John’s gospel which helps us to appreciate this truth. John tells us that on the eve of His betrayal and death, Jesus spent time teaching His disciples. Among other important truths He reminded them (and us) that He is the vine and that His disciples are the branches and that no one can bear fruit unless they “remain in Him” (John 15vs1-2). Once again this is the image of a living, growing relationship – but it is also a declaration that all true spiritual life and growth can be found only in Christ. In Peter’s words, Jesus is Saviour to His people. This means that it is only as they come to Him and put their faith in Him that they receive the gift of true spiritual life. But Jesus is also the Lord of His people. Thus it is only as they continue to trust in Him day by day that they will continue to enjoy this life and grow in their relationship with Him.

Fourth, we note that all the glory and the praise for this growth goes to the Lord Jesus Christ and not to us. We are responsible to grow and to make every effort to grow. It is within our power and responsibility to study God’s word and to pray so that by God’s word and by the powerful working of God’s Spirit we may grow into the image of Christ. But in the end, it is absolutely true that God is the One who gives growth. And so as we grow in our relationship with the Lord we find ourselves humbled by His grace and full of praise for His work in our lives. To Him alone be the glory in Christ Jesus, now and for ever! Amen.

Written by Mervyn Eloff

Seeing People God's Way

Seeing People

In 2 Corinthians 5vs16 Paul makes the very striking statement: “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view”. The statement is made in the context of Paul’s urgent appeal to the Corinthian Christians (and of course to us) to understand the times and to see both ourselves and others in the light of two divinely ordained events. The first of these events, described in 5vs10, is the future day of judgement, a day on which “we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ” to give an account to the Lord “for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad”. Commentators are divided about the exact nature of this judgement. Is it the judgement of believers with a view to the giving or withholding of rewards for service done to Christ, or is it a more general day when all will be judged according to God’s righteous law? On balance it is probably correct to say that Paul has the general judgement of all people in view and that it is precisely the threat that this day holds out for the unforgiven person which motivated his urgency in his appeal to them to be reconciled to God. As a believer, Paul knew what it was “to fear the Lord” (5vs11), and because of this, he took both the reality and the seriousness of divine judgement to heart, especially for those who though created in God’s image and thus accountable to Him, were nevertheless ignorant of His love.

The second event, referred to in 5vs14-15, is the death and resurrection of Jesus. “We are convinced”, says Paul, “that one died for all…” Later in the paragraph (5vs19-21), Paul spells out the great significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. By His death Jesus dealt with the guilt of sin with the result that sin is no longer counted against believers in Christ. But by His death Jesus also dealt with the hostility that existed between people and God because of sin so that through Jesus, we who were God’s enemies can now be reconciled to God. Because of the grace and love of God in Christ, a wonderful exchange thus takes place – “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (5:21). As Paul says elsewhere of Christ, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4vs25).

According to Paul, these events - the death and resurrection of Jesus in the past and the Day of Judgment in the future – should have a radical effect on the way in which we think about ourselves and others. By nature, we see and evaluate ourselves and others from a worldly point of view - in terms of gender, personality, appearance, relationships, gifting, socio-economic status, culture or occupation to name just a few. By nature, and perhaps also as a result of present cultural pressure, we shy away from conversations that encourage people to think about their relationship with God. We may believe in Jesus, but we are reluctant to talk about Him to others. But, says Paul, those who have come to see the truth about the love of God shown in Christ to a world which is under His judgement cannot think or act in this way any longer. As Christians we know what it is to fear the Lord (5:11) and we know the love of Christ (5vs14). As Christians we are convinced that Christ died for all so that no one need remain unforgiven and at enmity with God. And thus as Christians, it is essential that we no longer see people from the world’s point of view, but from God’s point of view and that we therefore “try to persuade men” (5vs11) about the truth of the gospel and implore them on God’s behalf: “be reconciled to God” (5vs20). What is more, the burden we feel for those who are lost is itself a God–given burden, for Paul reminds us that as we speak for Christ to a lost and dying world it is as if God Himself is making His appeal through us!

What an extraordinary salvation Christians enjoy – sins forgiven and relationship with God restored. What an extraordinary privilege we have, to be Christ’s ambassadors holding out His saving message to a world in need. And how urgent the task, for as Paul concludes: “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation”. May the Lord grant that each of us who name His Name, may come to share His burden for the lost, seeing them not as the world sees them but as God Himself does.

Written by Mervyn Eloff

As we forgive those who have trespassed against us...

forgiveness murray 540

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15

These are challenging words from the Lord Jesus! Everyone has been hurt by someone. Everyone will be able to think of a relationship that has become fractured, tense and difficult. This relationship may be with someone in your place of work, your family or even in your church

And yet here, in his famous “sermon on the mount”, Jesus Christ stresses just how important inter-personal forgiveness is. Notice, he goes so far as to say that “if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Does he mean that our forgiveness from God is earned by us being forgiving of others? Is this salvation by works?

No. Why would God have sent his one and only Son to die on a cross if we could instead just earn salvation by being forgiving of others? We are forgiven and saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. In the words of William Temple: “The only thing we contribute to our salvation are the sins from which we have to be redeemed.”

What Jesus means in these verses is that those who have understood the nature and extent of God’s forgiveness will, in turn, be forgiving towards others. And, when you downright refuse to be forgiving towards others; when you shut out any consideration of attempting forgiveness, it is a very worrying spiritual sign. It may be that you have never have really opened your heart to God’s grace and forgiveness.

Just like gauges on the dashboard of a car tell you what’s going on under the hood, so someone’s willingness to forgive others tells you what’s going on in the heart. Of course, the car doesn’t derive its life from the gauges! But the gauges show the state of the engine. Our spiritual life emanates from our union with Christ, but when we show no forgiveness in our lives, it calls into question whether there is union with Christ at all.

So, if you are struggling to forgive someone (and it will never be easy!) the key starting point is to remember, reflect on and immerse yourself in God’s forgiveness of your sin, through Jesus Christ. Consider your own sins against God and the massive debt he cleared for you when he died on the cross. This debt far outweighs anything that anyone has ever done to you. This is what Jesus was driving at in his parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35).

In his book on the Lord’s Prayer, the great puritan Thomas Watson puts it better than I ever could: “[Our forgiveness of others] is a sign of God’s forgiving us. It is not a cause of God’s forgiving us, but a sign. We need not climb up into heaven to see whether our sins are forgiven: let us look into our hearts and see if we can forgive others. If we can, we need not doubt but God has forgiven us. Our loving others is the reflection of God’s love to us. Oh, therefore, by all these arguments, let us be persuaded to forgive others. Christians, how many offences has God passed by in us! Our sins are innumerable and heinous. Is God willing to forgive us so many offences, and cannot we forgive a few? No man can do so much wrong to us all our life as we do to God in one day.”

We must also remember that God’s forgiveness through Christ does require repentance on our part, as the wrongdoers. We will only be reconciled to him if we repent and believe the gospel (Acts 2:36-39; Colossians 1:21-23).

So too, in human relationships, when the wrongdoer refuses to repent this will put a limit on our forgiveness and reconciliation. Sometimes we are not even able to speak to the wrongdoer (they have died) sometimes we don’t know who they are (an unidentified criminal has harmed you) or sometimes they just plain refuse to admit any wrongdoing. In these situations we will not be able to complete forgiveness and reconciliation. In his very helpful book “Unpacking Forgiveness” Chris Brauns makes this point: “Forgiveness is a figurative handshake. You cannot shake hands alone. For forgiveness to happen, you need to seek out the offending party (or the offended party if you are the offender), extend your hand, and pray that the other party will offer his or hers to you.”

Nevertheless, even in those situations where our forgiveness and reconciliation is limited, even in those situations where the other party does not “offer the hand”, as Christians we must still strive to be gracious and merciful. We must still be praying for and seeking out opportunities to heal the divide. Yes, God’s reconciliation with sinners is dependent on them turning and trusting in Christ, but consider God’s gracious and merciful activity in the first place: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

A few areas to consider:

  • As we celebrate twenty years of democracy in South Africa we may be reminded of the divisions that remain in our society. Thankfully, these divisions are no longer enshrined in the laws of the land but there may be lingering scars of apartheid in our relationships with people of different races. With this in mind, who do you need to forgive, or seek forgiveness from?
  • Patterns of confession, repentance and forgiveness should be a feature of Christian marriages. Tension, bitterness and distance creeps into marriage when couples refuse to forgive and reconcile. You may need specific counseling help in walking through forgiveness and reconciliation as a married couple.
  • In church life, Christians are sadly prone to withdraw or paper over the cracks when a relationship has gone bad. The Bible has excellent help for us in this area. It urges us to live as a united, open community in which sin is honestly confronted and, God-willing, genuinely dealt with.

One thing’s for sure, this is not an easy area. You’ll need to be asking God for his grace, spending time in his Word and seeking counsel and advice from other Christians around you.

As we strive to get this right we can be encouraged by the “beatitude” from Jesus: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). As we see the tension, division and rancor that is so evident in our society, wouldn’t it be great to be a truly distinctive, forgiving and loving community?

Written by Murray Anderson

St Peters Church,  Fish Hoek