Workers of Iniquity Or Steadfast Men And Women Of God
Ephesians4,11-14: And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure and stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes."
Genesis 11,4: ... 'let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top reaching heaven. Let us make a name for ourselves, so that we don't get scattered all over the world.' "
Genesis 11,8: "Yahweh scattered them thence all over the world, and they stopped building the city."
Deuteronomy12,8-11: "You are not to do as we do here today, everyone as he sees fit, 9 since you have not yet reached the resting place [city] and the inheritance the Lord God is giving you. 10 But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from your enemies around you so that you will live in safety. 11 Then to the place [the city and temple] the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name- there you are to bring everything everything I command you: your burnt offerings...."
Psalm 46,4-6: There is a river whose streams bring joy to God's city, it sanctifies the dwelling of the Most High. God is in the city, it cannot fall; at break of day God comes to the its rescue. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms are tumbling, when he raises his voice the earth crumbles away.
2Corinthians 6,16: "The Temple of God cannot compromise with false gods, and that is what we are- the temple of the living God [a place, a temple in a city for his name, not a "den of robbers," Jeremiah7,11 and Matthew21,13. We have God's word for it:] I shall fix my home [city and house- temple] among them and live among them; I will be their [one!] God and they will be my people."
Ezekiel22,4: "You are become guilty in your blood that you have shed; and have defiled yourself in your idols which you have made; and you have caused your days to draw near, and are come even to your years: therefore have I made you a reproach to the heathen, and a mocking to all countries."
Ezekiel22,6 NJB: "Look! In you the princes of Israel, one and all, have furthered their own interests at the cost of bloodshed."
Matthew7,14-15: KJ "Because strait is the gate and narrow the way [not iniquitous] which leads unto life, and few are that find it. 15 Beware of false prophets, which come in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravening wolves."
Matthew7,22-23: KJ "many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 and then I will profess unto them 'I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.' "
Matthew23,13- 15: "But woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men [work of iniquity]: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are enetering to go in [another work of iniquity]. 14 Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye devour widows houses [another work of iniquity], and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore ye shall recive greater condemnation. 15 Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves [work of iniquity]."
Matthew23,23: "For you tithe mint and rue and every herb and yet neglect justice and the love of God."
1Timothy6,3ff: "If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and undestands nothing. He has unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything our of the world."
1Timothy6,11-12: "But as for you, O man of God, flee from these things [v.4 cravings for controversy and quarrels about words, and v.9 greed]. Pursue righteousness, godliness [reverence, piety towards God] faith. love, steadfastness [the faith virtue of holding fast to salvation, perseverance, "sufferentia," NIV "endurance"] gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called [seize it, struggle to hold on to it, catch-snatch it away beforr you or it falls into the wrong hands, Rev.12,5]and about which you have made the good confession [at baptism] before many witnesses..."
1Timothy6,18-19: "They [the rich] are to do good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous [in contrast to salvation, let it slip through your hands a little, don't grip wealth so tightly, share]. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."
2Corinthians11,4-7: "For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a diffferent spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough [cfJohn5,43]. 5 Indeed , I consider that I am not the least inferior to those super-apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed in every way we have made this plain to you in all things. 7 Or, did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God's gospel to you free of charge?"
Revelation18,4-5: "Then I heard another voice from heaven say: 'Come out of her [Babylonian, 'city of man' church, of whatever denomination, run by workers of inquity, making slaves of God's people], my people, so that you will not share in her sins [greed, self interest, lust for political power, no saving faith] so that you will not receive her plagues; 5 for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes [against all biblical teachers since the end of the first century]. Give her back as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion of her own cup [the cup of her own judgment: v. 24 "In her was found the blood of the prophets and of the saints, and all who have killed on the earth" as in Ez.22 the shedding of unjust blood defiles a city and people].
Like the cup of the princes of Israel, Ezekiel22, 4 and 6, the cup of the Babylonian Christian church is overflowing with judgment and defilement for all the innocent blood shed by its "princes."
Revelation18:15 Babylonian church system enslaves people [2Co.11,20 below], by buying and selling the "bodies and souls of men." (NIV)
2Corinthians10,12: "For we dare not class ouselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves [using their own names, John5,43 for which they are readily accepted]. But they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves [more iniquity of building man's city], are not wise."
2Corinthians11,12-14: "And what I do I will continue to do [preach for free], in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do [without pay]. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen [workers of iniquity], disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it's no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds."
2Corinthians11,20: "For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face [works of iniquity]. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that."
I'm preaching "Building Up Ourselves Or Jesus' People?"today. Workers of iniquity build themselves but the truly faithful build up the body, build up every member of Jesus' church, by exhorting, by preaching the whole gospel, by prayer for healing and deliverance, and by exposing any darkness that blinds His blood bought people. The goal is that we all would become mature faithers, mature servants of Him and each other, not passive children tossed to and fro by workers of iniquity, using Jesus' people to build up themselves.
To such folks Jesus will whom Jesus will say "I never know you."
Satan was the first worker of iniquity, right there in the garden, Genesis3. He convinced Eve that God didn't say and mean what He did about not eating from the tree of Knowledge of good and evil. And so Eve "ate" the apple, wanting to know like God knows, as if that were possible.
And then Eve convinced Adam to do the same
Satan would have made both Adam and Eve his disciples if God hadn't stepped in and corrected them all.
The modus operandi of workers of iniquity is to build themselves up, and then make disciples of themselves, not Jesus. This ensures their bottom line, their wealth and materialism, all of which comes before serving God.
I don't want to give away this whole three part sermon, but at Matthew23,15 we see it at a glance. Jesus blasts the scribes and Pharisees, workers of iniquity, for making disciples of themselves, of their special interest group, making folks "twice as fit for hell" as them.
One of the commentators long ago and far away said it just right, the "more converted more perverted." (H.C. Holtz cited by Expositors Greek Testament, Biblehub.com)
More off track.
This is what all cults do, all bad churches, all workers of iniquity. Since Satan with Eve. Instead of building up the name of God and God's people, and announcing the kingdom and building his city, they build themselves. This is their prevailing iniquity, all done in the Name of God.
And sometimes God steps in. Or, He lets the iniquity heap up and up on its workers, unto judgment: "Not everyone who says to me Lord Lord" will get into heaven. "Oh we did this or that for you and built this and that in your name." No in judgement Jesus says "No you built yourself, workers of iniquity, I never knew you."
God kicked old Adam and Eve out of the garden. And put them to earning their keep from the ground, by the sweat of their brow. This was part of their correction and punishment for going off course.
Genesis1,27-28 tells us that before they sinned, God had a higher purpose for humanity, representing Him and His rule:
"God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, "be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
Man was going to be sort of be like God. God would rule man, and humankind would rule the earth. Sort of like God, not God, or gods ourselves, but rule under Him.
But no worker of inquity is satisfied with ruling just as a man, over nature and creation, but still under God. They want to just be God, not sort of like God. They want to rule in their own name, like God does, not as stewards of God, simply using His name. They pervert God's order by aspiring to be God themselves.
I preached a related sermon not quite a year ago The Three Levels Of The Pride of Life, available vermont.cam.org/users/tobin-hitt. The first level of pride is trying to stand on our own. This primarily consists of taking security in our possessions. Churches these days take great pride in their possessions.The biggest church possible, the highest steeple, if you can keep it up, and not sell it at a discount to an even richer church. "We're rich. We have need of nothing..." This is what many churches in this last church age are saying.
This is how Revelation3,17 depicts the last church age church. We 'are rich and have need of nothing.' But God says you are "poor, miserable and naked." And they don't even know it. Pride in possession leads to iniquity in the way a many churches are run. Only the party line, city slickers, only the rich and powerful, same temptation hit the first church in Jerusalem, then in Galatia, then Corinth, then Ephesus, fall in with the party line, with the powerful, with the wealthy, with the prevailing political faction.
The second level of pride is boasting and showing off. Have you ever seen that in church? This second level of pride leads to the iniquity of having very few leaders in the church, just the show offs, the boasters, the insiders who set up their hierarchy, their mutual admiration society, that requires that they boast about each other rather than God. "Very reverend so and so" is coming to preach....but the voice of the prophets, evangelists and apostles are shut out. No simple and humble folks preaching, just the insiders, all saying the same thing, the gospel du jour. That's iniquity. And Jesus will say "I never knew you."
The third level of pride is a Satanic level, like Dr. Faust who makes his deal with the devil. This is the level of pride where workers of iniquity, of hierarchy double down on their pride and open themselves to all wickedness, saying one good thing to deceive people, and then doing wickedness, using God's house as cover. Psalm26,4 says don't even sit down with people who say one good thing at the table, and then get up and do a wicked thing to you. Such church iniquitors have taught the politicians their best game.
At this third level of pride, under the able employ of Satan, he always has work to hand out, folks will do whatever wicked thing to raise themselves, to build themselves, and their religious brand and group above Jesus. Just join us and drink our brand of gospel, and it will go well with you. Jesus calls such folks "false prophets," ravenous wolves," not averse, like the princes and priests in Ezekiel's day to shed blood, to get their iniquitous way.
This desire to play and be God and these three levels of iniquity just repeats itself in human and salvation history. First build a tower, a temple for your own name, up the heavens, the higher and more fancy the better. Then strut and and act like gods, making a name for yourself, building a fleshly kingdom, a fleshly city, trying to improve the Word of God and His true order that He gave us:
Genesis11,4ff: "Come let us build for ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the world earth." They tried to pervert God's plan to scatter us, his plan that we rule as stewards and multiply. Instead chose to build their own city, own kingdom up to heaven, all to be our own gods.
Genesis11,6 tells of God's counter plan: "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this [using their tongues to serve themselves rather than God], then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come let us confuse their language so they will not understand each other.
In our modern days, the world is again building its own city, it's own humanity, own heaven, as if we humans were gods, and were going to live for ever in the flesh. The UN is going to do heaven. The banks and globalists are going to do it, the richest of the tech gurus, the biggest churches, the Illuminati are going to do it, the socialists and communists are going to do it. This political party..."
No, Jesus will do it! After judgment, after He washes this world in judgment, after that he'll inaugerate his 1000 year reign.
Before that God waits till we have our belly full of the failures of our own city, our own temples, our own empires, churches, kingdoms, our own heaven, our own names.
It's all the iniquity of man. Some human idea and brand of heaven on earth might start out with an air of good faith, but it's not the Word of God. It's basis and genesis is human pride. And pride always leads to wicked acts of iniquity, to meet deceptive ends, which always justify the means: "better that one man die than whole nation fall."
But watch out you all Christians who just love to go along with the crowd of iniquitors. Our Jesus, our Advocate, is not dead. He rose and he's not coming as a suffering servant this next time but as king of kings and Lord of Lord, and our judge. You like crookedness and going along with the crowd? Well he will be instituting his straight path unto everlasting life, His kingdom, despite anyone's crookedness.
Make straight the path of the Lord- because he's coming back some day soon.
From Scattering And Evil To Be My People And Build My City
God took no pleasure in scattering Adam and Eve out of the garden. Or, the fact that after them humankind only got worse, more iniquitous.
Here's how it got worse. An evil angelic corps, came down from heaven, the "nephilim," the giants. These were spiritual giants from heaven. They mated with the daughters of men, Genesis6,4ff, and so humanity got more iniquitous, more supernaturally evil. Not everything supernatural or spiritual comes is good from God.
Jesus said about workers of iniquity: "ye are of your father, the devil." John8,44. I do street ministry and on the street for better or worse people often say the truth about where they stand with God. Many say "hail Satan!" when they see and hear the Name of Jesus. They know perefectly well who their father and Lord is, who is the progenitor of their acts, their mental inspiration, their god.
They are his disciples, his workers, sometimes it's unconcious, but often they are conscious of it, and enjoy it.
Satan worker of inquity N. 1 and the nephilim, workers n. 2.
Genesis6,5ff: The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord was grieved that he had made man on earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the Lord said, 'I will wipe out mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth- men and animals..."
God Starts Over With Righteous Noah
So God does just that, except Noah.
God starts over with righteous Noah and his family, and a few animals on the Ark. And they survive the cleansing flood. Then Noah rightly and promptly builds an altar and offers a rightful sacrifice in thanksgiving for their salvation. Everything is going on the straight path of God again. The Lord accepts the sacrifice made in faith. Then God re-orders creation, seedtime, harvest time.
Blessings for humankind are again on the way, big time.
At Genesis9 God blesses Noah and his sons. It's powerful and good thing to get blessed by the Lord. But we still have to live and act according to those blessings. God then makes a word based covenant with all creation. He again gives humankind all creation to rightly rule over, and agrees not ever to destroy it again. His covenant words are short and simple: don't eat meat with the lifeblood still in it (v.4); don't shed shed human blood (v.6); be fruitful and increase in number (v.7).
God then gave them the sign of the rainbow for remembering his words and his new mercy.
Everything is cool again between humankind and our one God.
Righteous Father Doesn't Mean Righteous Son (Ezekiel18)
But then Noah gets drunk. And one his three sons, Ham, looks upon his father's nakedness while drunk. Ham literally "gazed upon his father with satisfaction" as the Ryrie Study Bibles puts it. Oh my, that doesn't sound good. Sometimes, we need a scholar to make any sense of the bible. Oh my, what iniquity, a son violates his righteous father.
Ham is the father Cush. And Genesis10,8 tells us that Cush is the father Nimrod. Nimrod is a violent and proud man, that tower-to-heaven-maker, founder of "Babylon," the prototype of the evil human based city.
From there, Nimrod went to the land of Assyria where he built another great city, Nineveh, where Jonah didn't want to go and preach salvation for all.
At first Adam and Eve had a sort of righteousness there in garden, and fellowship with God by the mere goodness of their creation. But they both had no idea how precious that righteousness and fellowship with Him was, until they lost it.
They just had it, and just didn't appreciate it, like Pastor's kid sometimes.
Then after the fall God spied one righteous man, Noah, and got rid of all the bad apples, gave them a few words, a brief covenant. But this didn't work for long, because soon Ham worked iniquity against Noah, and the curse of sin, comes right back.
And at Genesis9,25, the righteous man Noah, curses Canaan son of Ham.
Sin is iniquity, and it breeds more iniquity, in families, down through the generations, in society, in churches, wherever.
But we know the blood of Jesus frees all humankind from all curses, futile conduct (drugs, gambling, sexual immorality etc etc) passed down in families (1Peter1,18) or wherever.
After Noah Only Personal Faith Makes A People And Builds God's City
So after Noah God changes his tact with humankind
How was he going to keep humankind, not just one righteous person, in contact and have fellowship with Him, and get some sort of obedience, get people to work for Him, building the right city so to speak?
Being in the garden didn't guarantee fellowship and obedience. Nor did one man's righteousness. Neither did issuing His word to Noah, and starting all over with all creation.
Workers of iniquity were crouching at the door, and snuck in. Took that righteousness and fellowship from humankind.
So God, if I could speak for him, had to have a new and steadier connection, fellowship, with humankind by way of two principal means:
1. The personal faith of Abraham, father of the faithful, Genesis12.
Now it is very interesting that at first Abraham had no biological sons with His wife Sarah, the gal of the promise. His son with Sarah came later, after biology, the natural, failed them.
The natural had also let Abraham down. He had a son with the slave gal Hagar, Ismael. This was not the best or the highest expression of God's will. His wife Sarah got real mad and jealous of Hagar. It was her idea, but she got real mad and jealous. Go figure!
And Abraham was satisfied that Ismael inherit all the promises, and told God that (Genesis17,18). But God said Issac would inherit it all, Issac, the son of God's promise.
So Sarah and Abraham warmed to the revealed word of God, Genesis17,19. Issac was the son of God's promise, God's word, son of faith, supernatural son, better than natural sons.
So Abraham laughed to himself, being a hundred years old (v.17) just as Sarah did. But then Abraham acted on God's promise of Issac. And so he and Sarah, only 90 years old, got Issac. A son by personal faith, not just biology like Ismael. Faith like this steers us right and away from iniquity, praise Jesus, makes us righteous and gives fellowship with God. You got that? If so, I'll stop preaching..
So in Abraham, there's a new type of sonship born, a new type of fellowship, beyond biology, above the natural, that leads not to iniquity but to the fulfillment of man. Biology lead to iniquity in Ham, but personal faith of Abraham leads to, supernatural sonship and obedience, to straight paths and salvation.
So the means to fellowship with God after Abraham was faith, confidently acting on the promises of God, again and again (Scott).
2. The second means to fellowship was the promised land, a new place, a new land of the faithful, a new city, a new nation.
It's all there in the utero of Genesis12,1 "The Lord had said to Abram, 'leave your country [Haran], your people and your father's household [leave the natural and move on the land of faith] and go to the land I will show you."
Leave biology, leave the unhloy place, and with faith and go to a holy and promised place.
Abraham left by personal faith, by hearing the voice of the Lord personally, didn't know where he was going.
Deuteronomy12,10-12 updates Genesis12,1 and adds the idea that this new place is Jerusalem. It took the people of Israel a long time to find the right place, 40 years in the desert before they got into the promised land, and 400 years to get to the right city in Israel. Shiloh was the first city in Cannaan in which Israel settled. Just worshipped there in a tent. But Jerusalem, 'place of peace,' was to be the site of their permanent temple and permanent city, permanent righteousness and fellowship.
Even when we know the Word it takes faith and time, for the promises of the Word to come true, so persevere, wait, hold on.
Even after the example of Abraham, all Israel was not ready to live by personal faith, like Abraham, nor were the gentiles. But the word of Genesis12 said all nations would be blessed in Abraham in His seed. His seed began in Christ, way later, the first human who fully lived by personal faith, who said "not my will but yours be done," trusting-faithing that he would rise.
But for the 1200 years before Christ Israel needed a law to be their teacher. So a law was given them because of "transgression," because of iniquity, while they waited for the promise of Abraham's seed, their messiah, their Christ, their seed of Abraham, Galatians3,9.
Part of that law was the sacrificial cult in God's permanent place, in his city, in his temple, his house, in Jerusalem. His law, his presence in the city, and his cult would be his people's stop gap protection from themselves and all workers of iniquity around them, Dt.12,10ff:
"But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord is giving you as an inheritance [a separate place], he will give you rest from all your enemies around you [workers of iniquity, descendants of Ham including his son Mitstraim, Egypt, from whom they had been delivered, and Ham's cursed son Canaan who preceded Israel in the land of his namesake] so you will live in safety. 11 Then to the place the Lord your God will chose as a dwelling for His name- there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts and all your choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. 12 And there rejoice...."
Law, Cult, Temple, Some Day Light Of Nations
By the 7th century BC, about 500 years after the law, and about 200 years after the Jerusalem Temple and cult, God's people, God's Israel, were also given the mission of being 'the light of the nations,' as Isaiah49,6 puts it.
They had the light of God, the Spirit in that city, in that temple, but not the light of God in them. They lived in the place of peace, but didn't have personal peace in themselves, like we faithful Christians do. They needed a messiah and savior for this peace and light in them.They needed the light of the world, Jesus, before they could guide the world in the right path as the light of the nations.
Looking back on the story of His people, the Apostle Paul sees that they needed more than a law to stay in fellowship with God, and avoid iniquity, but a personal faith, a faith like Abraham's that preceded the law. They needed personal faith in their messiah, their Jesus, light of the world, to have the peace and new birth of the Holy Ghost inside them.
A people that have seen a great light, that are on the straight path of the Lord. By faith they don't get in the way of God as he builds His city, His place of permanent peace, His Zion which will be ours too. We don't get in His way by building up his people, by teaching the whole gospel, by not building up ourselves and our denominational kingdoms, but by lifting His Name on high. "If I am lifted up , I will draw all people unto me."
'There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the most High dwells [Jerusalem]. 5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. 6 Nations are in an uproar, kingdoms fall, he lifts his voice, the earth melts."
Jesus will judge and transform the earth, not us.
In the end says Psalm46,9 Jesusalem will be delivered from all workers of iniquity, nations in an uproar: "he makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear [he renders ICBMs and bomb carrying drones useless], he burns the shields with fire."
This is what Jesus will do. End all iniquity, all Nimrods, and by his judgment institute peace.
And all Nimrod's weapons, all his human hunting tools, all Babylon's violence, all his iniquity will be totally destroyed, so that Jerusalem once and for all will be a place of peace, safe from all workers of iniquity.
Israel Place of Peace And Safety From Iniquity Becomes Iniquitous Herself
But Judah prior to the Baylonian exile in 586BC, in the 7th and 8th century BC, is acting just like workers of iniquity nations around her. She was double dealing, playing Babylon, by making side deals with Egypt, though God in the late 7th century says ally with Babylon. She has filled the temple, God's house (remember he actually lives there, God is Spirit) with idolatrous images of false Canaanite gods on the interior walls. There also offering children to the native Caananite God Molech, just outside the walls of the holy city. Iniquity and more iniquity, judgment heaping up.
There's also the worship under the lustful spirit of the Canaanite Baal, just the people Noah cursed, on every high hill.
Jeremiah32,34-35 sums up a Judah's situation. She has the promised city, the temple, with God inside. She has the law, the cult, the priesthood, the kingship, and yet she is just as violent and idolatrous and lustful as the workers of iniquity that surround her.
We Christians can minister to someone cussing and fussing in our faces. But when people become like Judah in the 7th century BC there's not much that can be done. God had given them everything, save a messiah. But still they were idolators, still full of iniquity, drifted and then turned away from God.
You see idolatry is more than a word we use in church. Idolators are folks who actually start worshipping foreign gods, like sex, drugs and money today. When someone has a god, they really have a god. Like Oprah says when people show you who and what they are, trust them, believe it.
I know folks who worship money. We all know folks like this, and there are poor folks who worship money too. And one of these worshippers, in my minds eye I see that person eating their money. That's how much they love it. That's what they spiritually consume, that's what they like. That's what they digest. That's who and what they are, a money worshipper.
I thought this was a strange image, a person eating money, until I remembered ol' John the Revelator had to eat the little scroll, the little book, so he could finish prophesying and writing the big book of Revelation, Revelation10,10. In the spirit realm, we are what we eat.
Anyway, Judah was consumed with idolatry, worshipping fasle gods. They might have formerly been on the right path, worshipping the one true God, but they have been steered iniquitous, and they now got other gods. Not sort or mayby other gods, other gods in fact. Iniquity doesn't mayby lead to other gods. It does lead to other gods.
Look at the drugs trade today and the money involved in it. The drugs trade is firstly the worship of money by those who sell, the quicker and the dirtier the better. And it is also the false god of foolishness, to those who use.
All manner of iniquity is being done to please these two false worldy gods, money and foolishness.
Not much can be done for a person who has a false god. Oh yes seek your medical and all treatment, and take your prescribed medicines, methadone, what ever. But like 7th century Judah folks with other gods have to switch back to the living God of Israel. No one can serve God and money. It's one or the other.
Serving the god of money leads to all manner of iniquity and idolatry, no matter if you call yourself a Christian or whatever. You worship money, that is your god, one or the other. I'm not saying that changing back to the God of the bible is easy, it won't be, but all iniquity has consequences to our spirits and souls, all the way up to worshipping false gods. And going to church once in a while is not going to free folks from the false gods of money and foolishness.
Judah, like any modern church can, has become just as idolatrous as her living in the dark iniquitous neighbors from Canaan. Jeremiah puts it this way:
"They set up their abominable idols in the house that bears my Name and defiled it. 35 They built high places for Baal in the valley of ben Hinmon to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech [native Canaanite fertility god], though I never commanded, nor did it enter my mind, that they should do such a destestable things and so make Judah sin." (Jer.32,34-35)
So Judah, God's most blessed tribe, and most blessed place, goes off course.
Judah has everything- city, temple, presence of God, law, sacrifice king. Just like this last seventh church age. Church has has everything, but her often her leaders are just as idolatrous as the workers of iniquity that surround them.
Ezekiel22,4 puts it this way:
"you have become guilty because of the blood you have shed and have become defiled by the idols you have made [both innocent blood and idols defile the land]. You have brought your days to a close, and the end of your years have come [it's judgment time]."
Then at verse 6, NJB, zeroes in on the chief characteristic of every worker of iniquity: self dealing rather than service to God's people:
"Look! In you the princes of Israel [Priest and Kings, all leaders], one and all, have furthered their own interests at the cost of bloodshed."
Workers of iniquity build themselves up. Make disciples of themselves, all to get rich and powerful, and will do almost anything to keep what they got.
If they can't get their way by deception, flattery, bribery, or other corruption, there is always shedding of blood, Nimrod's way, Babylon's way, hunting down people. God hates unjust violence, especially in His place of peace, his Jerusalem, the place in which his people were told to go, where us Christians are going, to peacefully reign and rule forever.
So judgement came to Judah in the form of the destruction of the temple in 586BC, and the end of kingship with king Zedekiah led off in chains. She didn't have personal faith of Abraham, or the the personal faith of the prophets sent to correct and guide her. She hadn't seen the light.
So she suffers the judgment and correction of 70 years of exile in babylon. Well if you're going to act like your iniquitous neighbors might as well go live there.
And Post Exile Occupiers Bring More Iniquity
So Judah suffers 70 years of Babylonian exile. No expected messiah staved off this correction. And so some of Judah comes back, not all. And folks are determined to rebuild the temple and do the cult better this time. And the high priest Ezra exhorts the people to get back to the word.
But Judah is after exile much like she was before it. She is still surrounded powerful workers of iniquity. Now the Greek Empire begins ruling in Judah by 332BC. This libertine culture became a lasting spiritual threat to Judah, take Israel off course, towards philosophy, away from the Word.
Then the Roman empire in the decades before our Jesus. Rome too will work its iniquity, dividing and conquering, by a client ethnarch half Jew, half Canaanite, the Romanized Indumaen, 'Herod The Great.'
By the time of Jesus, the faithful of Judah, were divided and conquered by their own religious infighting, as much as by Rome. There were many special interest religious groups in Judah at the time. These groups divided Judah and conquered Judah, all by themselves.
First the Saduccees, the temple ruling, priestly class, since about 170BC they didn't even follow the right lineage of priests, the line of Zadok (Ezekiel43,15). This led to the seperatist community at Qumran. At first the corrupt priests were busy to bribe the Greek rulers, and build themselves up. But then they likewise bowed to Rome. Because one or way or another these Sadducees had to keep that high priesthood, that one office of power left in the post exile Judah. LIke churches today, businesses, one way or another got to keep that political and economic power. No matter that the priests of Israel had become workers of iniquity watering down the faith and light of God's Israel.
The Saducees of Jesus' day didn't believe in resurrection, thought it was imposssible. They were workers of iniquity who made the temple into a 'den of thieves,' told the 'just pay your required sacrifices, keep the temple bank going, keep us ruling over you.' And by the way 'what good could come out of Galilee.' City slickers.
There was also the "zealots" who were violent and wanted to overthrow Rome, in the place of peace. Jesus would have none of their violence, "live by sword, die by sword." Told Peter "put down that sword."
There were the Pharisees who had added oral law to the written, neglecting the larger matters of love and justice, using their externally pious nature to attract converts, the more converted more perverted.
There was the Qumran sect, probably Essenes, the closest in lifestyle and theology to Jesus, but they didn't apparently want to announce the kingdom or the messiah, the community became their kingdom and messiah. So they were largely withdrawn to the northwest corner of the Dead sea, sort of monastic, inward looking. Jesus only mentions them once at Matthew23,10 when he forbids that anyone call his dicsciples "teacher," a referance to the "teacher of righteousness," the big dog at Qumran.
Their iniquity was to take the people away from God, Jesus-Father, as their teacher.
The Iniquity Of Competing For Adherents
These groups in Israel were also competing for adherents, for money, which of course leads to iniquity, and boasting and deception. Just like today's churches all competing for the same limited number of tithers, not working together according the many offices in the church according to Ephesians4,10: Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers, and all manner of deacons.
All these groups, mostly in Jeruasalem, were chasing down and trying to recruit and proseletyze and solicit anyone in Judah, for the sake of generating income. Workers of iniquity building themselves. They all dissed and dismissed and did their best to ignore and minimize Jesus who wanted to gather them as the messiah was prophesied to do, like a mother hen gathers her chicks, but the workers of iniquity, the special interest religious groups, wouldn't let him!
Not one special interest religious group took Jesus' side, not one took up his cause! Because they were all had their own cause and themselves to build up. No wonder he never joined any group, they all had their brand, their mark of iniquity.
Now iniquity also opposed the spread of Christinaity too outside Jerusalem too.
There were the non believing Jews at Iconium, modern day Turkey (Asia Minor) working iniquity. They too were competing for supporters, for tithers and poisoning the claims of the Apostle Paul and Christians, John14,2ff:
"But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers [Christianity began as fight among the Jews] 3 So they remained a long time speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. 4 But the people of the city [believers and non] were divided; some sided with the Jews [who did not believe] and some with the Apostles [who were all Jewish, and did believe]."
This is divide and conquer learned from Rome, which always resides in the iniquitous heart of man. "How I longed to gather you up..." said our Lord.
In other words, the people of Israel, the light of the nations, and Judah, prophesied birthplace of the messiah, gatherer of all peoples, place of peace, eternal city, had become over run with workers of iniquity, for hundreds and hundreds of years.
And it all came to a head in the violent rejection of Jesus, the biggest work of iniquity in the history of humanity.
Workers Of Iniquity- Case In Point Of Pharisees
Matthew23,15 is a key verse: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more a child of hell than yourselves."
We know that Jesus here at Matthew 23,15 is clearly aware that the scribes and Pharisees are working iniquity against him. They have mocked him, thrwarted him, dogged him. We know he thinks they are workers of iniquity per Matthew7,15: "beware of false Prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves."
He refers to these false prophets as "workers of iniquity" at Matthew7,23.
Have you ever been pursued and wildly recruited by a religious group? Like these extra pious Pharisees. They will "cross land and sea to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him a twofold more a child of hell than yourselves." This is the way all iniquitous religious groups operate. They want you, and your income.
They will take your psychological profile if you let them, and then push all your buttons. Try and break you down psychologically. They will spread your past sins, call you names, accuse of this or that. There's no limit , if you don't give the money they want, or go under their non biblical hierarchy.
Flatter or threaten, whatever works, as Br. Ryrie puts it when he explains what Paul went through in Corinth in the face of a group of Christian Pharisees. We'll get to that.
I'm starting a mission, and folks are so used to the sort of the cultish and hierarchical hard sell of some modern churches, that promise the moon, anything in exchange for that money. So they expect me to sort of hard sell them on Zion Pentecost Mission, and push them around, follow them home recruiting, like it's Godly behavior.
No I'm not going to follow you home, flatter and threaten, you're free and you are made in the image and likeness of God. For freedom Christ sets us all free. I'm not going to take you on that newbie roller coaster, of weird love bombing and hyper recruitment, and baby sit your dog type of thing.
I'm all for Godly love, but sometimes love bombing recruitment in churches is sort of weird, sort of 'we'll love you if you let us run you life and your check book for you' type of thing.
I love meeting new folks, but love bombing can be coercive. I'm not going to promise to solve all your problems or meet all your social needs.That's cultish, it's iniquity, it's the Pharisees of old.
No, Jesus is our Lord and master. He and his word will answer your questions. He'll be your Lord. He'll tell what and when and how to give. Oh I trust He'll give me a word in due time for you, I trust, and I'll share it with you. He migth have you come for healing and deliverance, and all the rest, but we don't do ministry in iniquity, to catch people to our ourselves. Any fisherpeople out there? You know what catch and release is.?
When I go out fishing for souls, it's catch and release, catch and release folks to him, not the iniquity of making disciples of myself, not making "captive servants" of our brands and churches, as one preacher puts it.
It's His mission, His church, His Spirit, His people, His life, His Word. His straight path, and we all, leaders first, best stay on it. "To who much is given much is expeceted."
I'm interested in working with folks who want to be fit for the kingdom and for the rapture, not recruits who want to become disciples of this or that pastor, or church, or denomination, just more fit for "Sit down, be quiet, and empty your wallet, or get out."
That's not the gospel.
It may be unspoken, and or hinted at, or denied vehemently, said with a smile, or a sneer but that's one of the messages that God's people are hearing from modern workers of iniquity.
Whereas Jesus said "Come to me all you who are burdened and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
One thing iniquitous leaders old and new won't do is meet anyone as an equal human being. No they have ot be competetive and put you down for the down for the sake of that hierarchy and the bisiness model. They have to keep that pious sounding upper hand, and their 'reverend and very reverend' title. This is iniquity. The church Jesus founded is not hierarchical, it's conciliar. It's about prophets, apostles, evangelists and pastor-teachers and all manner of deacons working together, Ephesians4,10-11.
Now the Pharisees were known as the pious ones of the day in Judah and Israel. This was clearly the most numerous group, and politically powerful, and they were not all bad. Theirs was the prevailing movement of the day, and led to the Rabbinic form of Judaism. Just as Pentacostalism is the prevailing movement of our day, for better or worse. But as Jesus says they were agressively looking for converts, working iniquity.
In contrast, Israel and Judaism has never been real aggressive about converts, and still isn't. From thousands of years of experience they know pagan converts just bring scanadal when they don't really convert. Paul says "don't lay hands on folks too quickly" which is sort of similar. This is to their credit, Jews to this day are not very aggressive about recruiting folks.
But in the decades before Jesus John Hyracanus, the last of the Maccabean High Priests, was an agressive recruiter to Judaism (Ellicott's Commentary For English Readers, citing Josephus; Ant. xiii. 9, sec. 3). The Maccabees were great men of war. They were not ever meant to be priests, but that's where the only power for Jews in in Judah was after the Babylonian exile.
The historian Josephus reports that Hyracanus offered the Indumeans, Canaanites nearby, like the Herods, the choice of death, exile or circumcision. All painful choices. Even Rome, the new occupiers, thought this was too much and put a stop to it.
Barne's Notes on The Bible (Biblehub.com Mt.23,15) helps us to know that in Jesus' day there were two types of converts in Judaism: 1. Proselytes of righteousness, full joiners, baptized and circumcized, and participants in the cult; and 2. Proselytes at the gate, those who approved of Judaism, and renounce paganism, and participate to an extent, but weren't baptized or circumcized.
This typology sometimes controls Christian churches today. You have the folks that feel mortally guilty, at the risk of being ranked out, if they miss one service, full joiners. And there are folks who come a couple of times a month, with less privileges. But God's word says "One faith, one Lord, one baptism, One Spirit," and nothing about how many times a week we have to go to church to be considered faithful. Making the faith too hard, or too easy, is just another work of iniquity.
Matthew Henry's commentary on this Matthew23,15 is mighty insightful. Using Matthew23,15 he describes the iniquity of the Scribes and Pharisees in this way:
"The scribes and Phariees were enemies to the gospel of Christ, and therefore to the salvation of the souls of men. It is bad to keep away from Christ ourselves, but worse also to keep others from him. Yet it is no new thing for the show and form of godliness to be made a cloak to the greatest enormities. But dissembled piety [knowingly saying one thing and knowingly doing another] will be reckoned double iniquity. They were busy to turn souls to be of their party. Not for the glory of God and the good of souls, but that they might have the credit and advantage of making converts. Gain being their godliness, by a thousand devices they made religion give way to their wordly interests. They were strict and precise in the smaller matters of the law, but careless and loose in weighteir matters."
Building Ourselves Or God's People
Contrast this self interested party business with the travels of the Apostle Paul for the salvation of souls, 2Corinthians11,25-26:
'Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked: night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in dangers, from rivers, dangers from robbers, danger from my own people, sdanger from gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at seas, danger from false brothers. 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all churches. 29 Whos is weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?"
Praise Jesus for the Apostle Paul takes the salvation of souls personally, not making another socioreligious and cultural faction. And before Paul, Jesus also studiously avoided joining any of the groups of his time. These are very simple statements, but they contain huge insights. All the leaders of the religious special interest groups hated Jesus and Paul, simply because they wouldn't join their groups, because they knew "the more converted the more perverted."
The Apostle Paul realized this from his former way of life as a Pharisee. He was that more converted more perverted Pharisee, killing Christians. He saw the light, some time after approving of the killing of Stephen, and exchanged his special and personal interests for service to Jesus and the whole gospel, and the salvation of souls. I know you are getting this, and sooner or later are going to jump for joy, when you realize your freedom in Jesus.
Workers Of Iniquity At Corinth- Apostolic Delegates Sent By 'Super Apostles'
So having that testimony, of being "that guy" the Apostle Paul is going to be really sensitive to whomever is sent by folks in Jerusalem to churches he founded. And he's going to be very hawk-eyed as to any whiff of pharisaical iniquity, and making disciples of mere men, and mere groups and factions.
Paul's conversion and his Apostolic service as founder of the church in the Roman province of Galatia and at Corinth are key to understanding the conflict that arose when Apostolic delegates were sent from Jerusalem by the so called "Super Apostles." (2Corinthians11,5 and 12,11). The "Super Apostles" " were Peter, James, and John.
Paul assessed these Apostolic delegates to be workers of iniquity, even tagged them "false apostles." 2Corinthians11,13: "For such men [greedy apostolic delegates] are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ."
Background Why Paul Rejected Apostolic Delegates As Workers of Iniquity
Paul was the 13th Apostle, picked by Jesus out of the ordinary course of the other twelve. In contrast, these apsotolic delegates are not equal to the twelve apostles picked by Jesus before he died and rose, or equal to Paul. This is the basis of Paul's heated defense of his apostleship in 2Corinthains10-13.
Paul was chosen after the twelve as an Apostle picked out of the ordinary course by the risen Jesus. He also was a prophet, in that he directly experienced God in the person of Jesus, and was then commissioned by Jesus, and then vehemently, and in every way possible, did what all prophets always do, reveal and stick to the priorities of God.
So all this is to say that Paul did not see himself as necessarily associated, or under the authority of any other apostle, or group, or any other human being for that matter. Nor did he see himself as inferior to Peter, John, James, "the pillars" of the Jerusalem church per Galatians2,9, but every bit their equal. These pillars, these "super apostles," most eminent apostles, sent these apostolic delegates to Corinth.
Prior to Corinth, Paul founded the church in the large Roman province of Galatia (Asia Minor- modern Turkey) on his first missionary journey. Paul beat back a similar Jerusalem faction in this region right from the start, that wanted non Jews to have to get circumcized, as well as baptized.
But for Paul grace from God, and personal faith and the personal faith of adult water baptism were the only initial acts of obedience and salvation (Mark16,16). No circumcision for gentiles was necessary.
Peter, one of the Jerusalem "pillars,' wavered on this issue, and wouldn't eat with the gentiles in Galatia, under pressure from folks that argued that one pretty much had to become a Jew to become a Christian. Then at the Jerusalem Council a little later he agreed with Paul.
But according to 2Cor.3,1 it's likely he, or James, or John, or all three together sent these apostolic delegates, with their letters of commendation, the false apostles to check up on Paul in Corinth. Peter wavered back and forth whether a gentile has to sort of become a Jew to become a Christian. This is not true then, not true today, although we love the Jews, and learn much from the Jewish base and biblical perspective, we gentiles don't have to keep the Mosaic law.
This serious disagreement about circumcision led to Paul and Barnabas going to Jerusalem to meet with the leading apostles, the "pillars," Peter, James, and John, the "Super Apostles" to decide this question. When they got there, Acts15,5 says "some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said 'it is necessary to circumcize them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.' "
In other words, the fact was many Christians in Jerusalem are still entrenched in the Jewish special interest faction mode, the mode of the Pharisees.
Now we saw above in our case study of Pharisees that they were very keen on recruiting folks to their group, for the sake of greed and political power in Jerusalem. And Christianity, which began as a sect of Judaism, is likely to take this pharisaical root, of religious groupiness, of professional piety, of protodenominationalism, of joining political and religious power. But this is iniquity, off course.
Such a course threatens to take hold and define Christianity everywhere. To put it another way Christianity at first was threatened by a Pharisaical Jerusalem based denomination threat, whereby it would forever be just another Jewish sect, among many. Yes Christuianity began as a Jewish sect, but it was not God's will that it stay that way. This reduced point of view, the circumcision of gentiles viewview, and requiring gentiles to follow the law of Moses would have stifled, the Jerusalem denominational headquarters view would have ruined the true spread of the gospel in the Greco Roman world. This was the iniquity coming from Jerusalem, and Paul knew it and was going to put a stop to it.
Remember Christian Pharisees at Acts15,5 clearly had some favor in Jersualem otherwise why would other just like them have been sent to Galatia (supposedly unauthorized) and later to Corinth?
And in fairness and defense to Peter and James and John ministering there in Jerusalem, these Christian pillars in Jerusalem were clearly going to pay the biggest price for their decision to view Christianity as more than a Jewish sect. Thus, James was martyred in 62AD by Herod Agrippa.
The similar difficulty that Paul had in both Galatia and Corinth tells us that many powerful people, both Jewish Christians and non Christian Jews didn't trust Paul at all. And they knew Paul had first killed Stephen, then saw Jesus, then lead the charge against circumcision and then lead the charge against the Christian church being led pharisaiacally and hierarchically from Jerusalem.
Paul's enemies in Galatia and Corinth essentially want Christianity to be Jerusalem centric. This is why "spies" (cf. Galatians2,4) or delegates first to Galatia and then to Corinth, were sent to these churches Paul founded.
At Galatians2,7-9, after the Jerusalem council, Paul depicts Peter's area of service as geared toward the circumcized, Jews, and Paul's to the uncircumcized, gentiles. But Peter at Acts15,7 makes the claim that 'in the early days God made a choice among you [before Paul], that by my mouth, the gentiles should hear the word of the gospel..."
Peter here claims here that he was first to preach to the gentiles. 1Peter2 is an amazing ode to our one new priestly humanity, once we gentiles were 'no people' now were part of God's one new gospel people. This backs up Peter's claim that he did lead the inititial charge of preaching to the gentiles. 1Peter2 says that gentiles and Jews are now equally a holy, a priestly, and a new gospel people. This is some very high biblical cotton here in 1Peter2 for a Galilean fisherman.
But we know historically speaking that Paul got to Rome from Acts 28, the most gentile of gentile cities. Legend says Peter was there too, or entombed there. This is legend. But the history of Acts tells us for sure Paul was there. Paul was actually there per the Jerusalem council accord which Galatians2,7-9 tells us was that James, Peter and John would take the gospel to the Jews, and Paul and Barnabas would go to the gentiles.
This division of apostolic labor is not that simple, as the scholars remind, because Jews were all over the Greco Roman world. And Paul's strategy in each town was to establish a beach head in the Jewish synagogue, and then to rally the gentiles. So the division of ministry, Paul to gentiles, Peter, James, to the Jews was not as clear as the Jerusalem accord Paul describes might seem.
But the fact is Paul letters to Galatia and Corinth became scripture. And scripture clearly assesses that the phraisaical spies sent to Galatia, and the apostolic delegates, false apsotles, sent to Corinth were working iniquity to the Christian gospel and to him.
Having said all that, we can now say Rome was the most gentile of all the gentile cities. We know from Acts that Paul and his appeal to have Caesar hear his disturbing the peace charge that Paul was literally bound and determined to get there. And he did get there, in accord with the Jerusalem council that he would go to the gentiles, and they to the Jews, and nobody in any church needed to be ruled over by the Jerusalem pillars, or their delegates.
Paul wanted to make sure the Roman church was on the sure footing of the gospel just as intensely as he wanted to make sure that the churches in the region of Galatia and at Corinth, also a predomanantly gentile area, didn't become Pharisaical, legalistic, or Jerusalem centric and hierarchical.
Paul founds the church at Corinth (with Priscilla and Aquila, Acts18) after the agreement at the Jerusalem council that he would go to the gentiles.
We are getting to the end of the background here, so stay with me and we'll all understand why Paul thought the apostolic delgates in 2Corinthians were taking the church there off course.
Have you ever heard the phrase "losing the war but winning the peace." Now the Pharisaical Jerusalem faction of the initial church lost the war over gentiles being circumcized and following the law of Moses. James and Peter and perhaps John, the "pillars" stood tall, right there in Jerusalem against reducing Christianity to a Jewish sect. They could have very easily have backed down to the Pharisaical presure, but they did not. The same Pharisaical Christian faction in Galatia lost this war at the Jerusalem council, but they rose up, again in Corinth hoping to win the peace.
So after the Jerusaelm council Paul goes off to found Corinth, a predomiantly gentile city in keeping with the Jerusalem council accord, but sure enough before long Pharasaical-like factions, Pharisaical recruiters, are the first and number one problem there 1Corinthians1,10-13:
"I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloes' people that each one of you says, 'I follow Paul,' or 'I follow Apollos,' or 'I follow Cephas,' or 'I follow Christ.' 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucidfied for you? Or were you baptized in tha name of Paul?"
2Corinthians3,1 suggests that these false apostles of 2Corinthians12,11, were sent with letters of recomendation from Jerusalem, from the so called pillars of the church there [James, John, Peter Galatains 2,9].
These same "pillars" had just a short time before agreed to Paul's face that gentiles did not need to be circumcized or follow the law of Moses, and now they are sending apostolic delegates to check up on Paul?
"Are we begining to commend ouselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recomendations to you [like false apostles, like the good teacher Apollos], or from you. 2 You yourselves are our letter of recomendation, written in our hearts to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts."
Apollos, an able teacher and good speaker, probably also came with recommendations from Jerusalem to fill in teaching when Paul was out of town ministering to other churches. We note that Paul takes pains not to call anyone by name a false apostle. I don't think he had anything persoanlly against Apollos, or the apostolic delegates, who were probably very bright and well trained, probably with Pharisaical backgrounds just like him. But Paul was rejecting the beginings of a Jerusalem hierarchy, a city slicker based church, that was going to change Jesus and the gospel.
And the situation in Corinth is even more tumultuous because it seems we know of no designated pastor in Corinth. It seems likely that the church first met at Chloe's house, a woman. 1Corinthians1,11. As it did at Lydia's house in Thyratira, and Nympha's house.
It really strange that while modern Christianity is so focused on pastors, Paul never once mentions a pastor in Corinth, a church that clearly needed one. He is their prophet and apostle and evangelist, and pastor in effect, but this lack of a day to pastor, this lack of a proven teacher outside of the apparently still suspect Paul [he killed Christians, he's weak, can't preach] may have alarmed the apostolic delegates who prevailed on the pillars, on the "Super Apostles" to send them from Jerusalem.
So Paul is way upset. He suffered and beat back this Jerusalem Pharisaical faction literally spying on their freedom not to be circumcized throughout Galatia. He wins the war against this faction, and now he's faced with the same Pharisaical like faction coming from Jerusalem with letters of recommendation from the "pillars" who just agreed to leave Paul alone as to gentiles.
And these apostolic delegates have their factions, or are creating factions. We remember here that this factionalism was deadly to the church in Jesus' day. It killed Jesus. Jesus could not gather His people, as the messiah was specifically prophesied to do, because each group, had their own path, their own word, their money making and poltical philosophies, their own iniquity, rather than the straight way of the Lord's word.
And now the Apostle Paul, minding his own Apostolic business in Corinth, is faced folks sent from this very same divided Jerusalem, and they come with the same competitive, envious, and murderous spirit that killed Jesus.They want to kill Paul's ministry, and take t for themselves.
City Folks Versus Country Folks
And these city folks are here dividing the Corinthian church Paul, the country preacher from Cilicia, founded. From the Jersusalem persepctive, Corinth is out in the ranches, in the country. Their first iniquity to destroy the ministry of Paul is to raise a critical spirit against him, by making fun of his rudimentary speaking style. These city slickers, who supposedly knew better, were going to oust him from his postition as chief teacher in Corinth.
But to do that- they have to deceptively take the people away from the simple universal bases of the gospel:
"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit, into one body- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free- and we were all given one Spirit to drink." 1Corinthians12,12
You alert watchers of The Preaching Hour will recognize 'that one Spirit to drink' as an excellent referance to the table of the Lord referance to drinking the blessed wine, the risen blood, the everflowing Spirit, that brings communion according to 1Corinthians10,16. But don't let me get off track.
Paul is mad that these apostolic delegates are moving the people away from Ephesians4,5: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." Away from the unity he exhorts at 2Corinthians13,11: "be of one mind, live in peace."
God is simple. Christianity is simple. Jew or Greek, woman or man, slave or free, we have a sin problem and a repentant faith in Jesus and the faithful washing of the baptisms are the answers to that problem. One Lord, one faith, one faithful baptism, one Spirit, one salvation. And yet religious folks are forever trying to make it more complicated than it is. They got to keep it churchy, philosophical, or super spiritual, whatever new iniquity or business paln they can dream up dream up, so they can tie up folks, heap on more rules, or be forever changing the rules, or making them up as they go, or heaping up dogmas. That's the way it goes.
False teachers all try to build themselves up, each one more important than the other, than the guy before, all more sophisticated, all more knowledgeable than the other, all to fool folks into thinking they are learning when they are really being newly chained at the nose.
Same old story of iniquity. We saw that Satan improving on God's word. Nimrod and Babylon building a tower into the heavens, improving on God's plan.
Well these false apostles were making names for themselves, and charging big fees for their preaching (not as much as you'd charge a Wall Street bank mind you, or the flagship state university in state that is strapped for funds an plagued by rising tuition). But oh these delegates had such new insights, they were well worth the extra money, while Paul was out of town any way. But you can count on it- in every age false apostles leave God's people just as passive, just as captive, just as silent, and just as burdened, whereas they should be building up Jesus' people to be bold servants of God.
At least Paul mentored some men of God under him, like Timothy and Titus and Silas. A false apostle only wants lackeys around, got to control everything, won't share God's pulpit, God's honor or the Spirit's largesse with anyone. The best thing I have every done as a pastor was to put up people to preach in God's house, when the Lord told me too. Put up folks who didn't even like me, oh well, God wants you preach anyway.
Because our gospel is one body (1Cor.12,12), one Lord, one Faith, one Spirit, one baptism, One Jesus, and as Paul said we have been given a spirit of freedom, not slavery to religious men. As Paul said to the Galatians "for freedom Christ set us free."
2Corinthians11,20 points out that the iniquitous game of the Apostolic delegates from Jerusalem, false apsotles, is to put people back into the slavery of fleshy religion:
"In fact you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you ar takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that."
Now come on people! Paul and the Word And the Spirit are trying to rile us up and out of our Babylonian iniquitous church slumber. Come out of that slumber, come out of your Babylonian church, Revelation18,4, come out of your your factional, personality driven church, whatever denomination or non denomination it is.
Iniquity Is Not Always Blatant
False apostles, false shepherds are not always blatant about how they work. But we don't lose our common sense. We don't give away our spiritual gut, just because a someone can string a story and sermon together. So what, Paul is saying, if they can preach.
To be effectively deceptive these false apostles, workers of iniquity, have to change something about Jesus, or His gospel and take folks away from the true and right Spirit of God. 2Corinthains11,3ff:
"But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning [did God really say that?], your thoughts will be led astray from a pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you recieved, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super apostles..."
So Paul is once again withstanding Peter, one of the super apostles, once again fighting back against Judiaizers who have morphed into the divisive apostolic delegates, out of town know-it-alls, pretty boy preachers, coming with a different gospel, a no cross gospel, a gospel that makes Christianity in effect, by custom and culture, a mere Jewish sect, run from Jerusalem no less.
Now before you think that our modern churches are beyond all this- you just look- so many modern churches they move toward the city slickers, the more educated, toward factions, toward doctrines from headquarters, the three ring binders and away from the word, toward success rather than witness, toward a busines model rather than "they overcame him by the Word of their testimony and the blood of the lamb."
Iniquitous leaders led the sheep astray by flattery and threats, Galatians4,16-17: "have I become your enemy by telling you the truth [about Judaizing and enslaving people]. Those people are zealous for no good. What they want to do is alienate you from us so that you may be zealous for them [give big]. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you [Paul is complimenting their intelligence, and generosity, and ability to discern." Charles Ryrie depicts the strategy here as flatter or threaten to get what they want, money and power.
Here are the seven sins, seven iniquities, of the false apostles:
1. They attack Paul personally as weak and timid, "ad hominum" attacks, the stuff of politics, the world, the deveil and the flesh, 2Corinthians2,1ff;
2. They start pretentious arguments, and philosophise, 2Corinthians10,5-6;
3. They boast, compare themselves with themselves, commend themselves, 1Corinthians10,12 and boast of the labors of the pillars, "the labors of others." (v.15);
4. They preach a different Jesus, not Christ crucified, 2Corinthians11,4 with a competetive spirit, and and a polished easier gospel;
5. Their interest in money is a burden to Corinth, 2Corinthians11,9: "And when I was with you and was in need I did not burden anyone, for the brothers from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way."
They boasted about how great they were as preachers so Paul boasts that he preaches for free, v.10, and has no plans to change this practice.
This keeps them from Paul's level of teaching;
6. They are hypocrtites, claiming to be apostles 2Corinthians11,13, one of the 12 or hand picked like Paul;
7. Enslaving people by imposing city slicker church structure on them, proto denominationalism, that always is first concerned with the bottom line and the gospel after that, 2Corinthians11,20-21. This is to strong arm God's people and take advantage of them.
Paul boasts that he's too weak and timid to do that!
Antidote To All This Iniquity Is The Steadfastness Of The Person of God
The iniquity of these self interested false apostles, with their self interested different gospel, long on eloquence and polish, long on personalities and factions, and short of gospel substance and unity continues to this day.
In 2013 the Evangelical Calvinist John MacArthur wrote a very necessary book, Strange Fire, whereby he sees the whole Pentecostal movement and it's leaders, as self intrerested "super apostles" as iniquitous.
I don't think greed and building up oursleves and raiding other factions and leaders competing with each other is confined to any one church or movement, early middle or late in the history of the church. It's never left the church. I think iniquitous modern ego trips and false gospels and personality cults are being spread all over the body of Christ regardless of what brand of church is espoused.
So what's the remedy of all this iniquity by church people, by leaders and by Christians?
One Body Remedy
As to the church, the body of Christr has to re-focus on the revealed basis of Paul's remedy, of living and defending the one whole gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts20,27), propagating one Lord, one Faith, one baptism, One Spirit, one body, in which lives and breaths no longer as man or woman, Jew or Greek, slave or free. This dictates the realization that as a group we are just servants of him and each other, with different gifts, different offices, but all servants. Equal servants, one in Spirit, under one Lord, with an equal honor that comes from our faith.
Individual Loyalty To Jesus Above All Else
Part of the antidote to iniquity in the church, and its Pharisaical ambitions and factions and personality cults, is a renewed individual commitmment by each of us is to take our eyes off our roles in a church, and put them back on our individual loyalty to the Lord above all else.
The Lord brought to my mind 1Corinthians6,19-20. Here Paul casts the requirement to flee sexual immorality in terms of our bodies and everything about us now being owned by Jesus. This fleeing immorality is simply part of our loyalty to him personally, not just for the redemption of our bodies, but because Jesus filled our body with his one Spirit: "You are not your own, for you were bought with a price [his blood, his death]. So glorify God in your body."
Which is easier for us leaders and Christians to do, glorify God in our bodies, by fleeing from sexual immorality, or fleeing from teaching and living iniquity in leadership and our witness? My sense is they are both about equally difficult, both primal anti ego stances based on personal loyalty to Jesus for the new life he gave us, and which now live in us.
So if we say with Paul that we are no slave to sexual immorality, why can't we even more loudly proclaim that we are going to live our faith and exercise our leadership without inflicting any iniquity on God's people?
This parallel between fleeing sexual immorality and keeping the straight path of the Word in our leadership and our witness also works in that Paul talks about spouse not depriving each other of sex in marriage, 1Corinthians7,5.
In marriage each partner has a right to this type of physical affection. Jesus is the bridegroom and the church is the bride, a Spiritual marriage so to speak. So if spouses have physical rights in marriage, how much more do we all have faith rights not to be deprived of the sound and straight path teachings of Jesus, to be free from iniquity from leaders who defraud His people of the clear biblical principles of salvation.
Who are we, any one of us, to defrauding God's people of sound doctrine, defraud them of their right to be treated as honorable members of his body, defraud them of the brother and sisterhood of our one faith. Oh my "whatever you did unto the least of my brothers and sisters you did unto me" Jesus said.
That is to say that not one of us Christians has the right to enslave our brothers and sisters by false doctrines, false discipline, false religious customs, thereby buying and selling their souls, using them to make oursleves great and rich and powerful, Revelation18,13. This is iniquity.
Paradox of Leadership Is That Workers Of Iniquity Are Often More Acceptable Than Men And Women Of God
And the paradox of leadership is that true leadership is in the Name of Jesus, as his servants, but the Word says, Jesus himself says, and experience demonstrates, that world accepts us, loves us, when we come in our our name, and the name brand of our churches, the name of the Pharisaiacal power group of the moment, John5,43.
We are told at Colossians3,17 to do everything only his name, which often brings us the world's rejection! It's easier to do iniquity.
But if we do everything in our own Name, building up oursleves, and that of the brand of church, we may be accepted and loved, but we sure are going to be bringing iniquity. Iniquity is easier.There's just another paradox of the Christians faith.
But, everything done in his Name, according to His word and Spirit is our straight path of leadership and teaching and living as a Christian.
We Lower Ourselves To Elevate Others And Stay Steadfast
We even become like Jesus and Paul, Paul who lowered themselves in order to elevate the people he served: "Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God's gospel to you free of charge?" 2Corinthians11,7.
Likewise Paul's answer to the false apostles is his requirement that each of us grow to be a man or woman of God and stay that way, 1Timothy 6,11: "but for you, O man of God [womanof God] Flee [quarrles, greed, envy, v.5 the idea that 'godliness is a means of gain.'] these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness [piety-reverence towards God], faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness."
Steadfast, keep on doing the things we know to do, living the Word, checking our egos, serving people, forgiving, blessing, guiding, fleeing greed and immorality, taking hold of our salvation once and for all. I'll save that taking hold for another day, it's worth another hour.
But to wrap this sermon up steadfast means getting increasingly serious about our own salvation, and that of others too while there's still time. Because it's later than we think. Serious doesn't mean or ornery or obnoxious, it means get more thankful for the salvation we have, more full of praise.
It means we sober up spiritually and realize what we don't build ourselves up and pull others down in the body of Christ. That's just iniquity, that's just defrauding our brothers and sisters, who have the right to be treated with honor and dignity. No we build up every member of his body. We equip for active mission service, not passive immaturity.
And in so doing we build Jesus up. And defend his word and his coming coming, and by thi steadfast service we get filled with Him and stay filled, ready to meet Him when he comes.
Have you been filled with Jesus. have you got the baptism in the Holy Ghost? He traded his blood so that you could have His Spirit and be steadfast. Not just committed, and decisive, praise Jesus, but one who has the power to hold on, when you have no more strength of your own. Power to build up people, while the workers of iniquity are tearing them dow.
Filled with His Spirit. And the rivers of the Holy Ghost start to flow, and so in some small way we make straight paths for city of God, for the coming kingdom of Jesus, for Zion's festivities for all the faithful, who have seen the light of the world, and are so joyful to be part of the royal seed and harvest of Abraham, and his people the Jews, light to the nations.
Oh praise you Jesus, we are your one people, blood bought, blood redeemed, mayby not all together numerous or powerful, but willing to serve in the coming days of your presence.
That Psalm110,3 is our prayer (with an assist from Frank Frangipane): That we "Your troops will be willing on the day of your battle [judgment]. Arrayed [dressed] in [your] holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn [in the endtimes] you [faithful troops] will receive the dew of your youth."
Steadfast people always got some dew of youth in them, whereas workers of iniquity are old and sick at every age.
Praise your name Jesus, that's what steadfast people do.
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...