What Is the Basis of God’s Blessing?

James asked:

For the Christian, What Is the Basis for Blessing? Below is your comment on Proverbs 10:6. For us in the New Covenant, what is our blessing based on? Pls throw more light on this. “Blessings are on the head of the righteous: This was especially true in the context of the old or Mosaic covenant, where God promised to bless obedience and curse disobedience (Deuteronomy 27-28).”

Proverbs 10:6

Blessings are on the head of the righteous, But violence covers the mouth of the wicked.

  1. Blessings are on the head of the righteous: This was especially true in the context of the old or Mosaic covenant, where God promised to bless obedience and curse disobedience (Deuteronomy 27-28).
  2. Violence covers the mouth of the wicked: Instead of blessing, violence will come to the wicked.
  3. “But it is simpler to take it as the man’s evil, written, as we say, all over his face.” (Kidner)

Galatians 3:13-14

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Ephesians 1:3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

Under the Old Covenant – the Mosaic Covenant that God made with Israel first at Mount Sinai – God specifically promised Israel that they would be divinely blessed for their obedience and divinely cursed for their disobedience.

Under the New Covenant – the covenant that Jesus enacted by His sacrifice at the cross – Jesus bore the divine curse in our place, and we are divinely blessed in Jesus. Jesus is the basis for divine blessing, received by faith.

Divine blessing: Blessing that comes directly, specially from God.

Consequential blessing: Blessing that comes as a consequence from obeying God’s will and order. God is still behind this blessing, but in a different way; it is the blessing that comes from operating the way our Creator designed us to operate.

What is the difference between Jewish and Hebrew, and which came first?

Hebrew definitely came first. I’d have to do a little more research, but I’ve heard that the term Jewish comes from identification with Judah, and the tribe of Judah. Remember, there was a time when the 12 tribes of Israel separated into two kingdoms. The Northern Kingdom was called Israel and the Southern Kingdom was called Judah. Eventually the Northern Kingdom of Israel passed away. There was a time when Judah represented the people of God in its entirety. Even before the Northern Kingdom fell, godly people from the Northern Kingdom came and emigrated down south to the Southern Kingdom. But that’s another story. The term “Jewish” comes from the identification of the tribe of Judah.

Now, Hebrew. From my understanding, scholars are a little bit uncertain where the term comes from, but the best guess is that it refers to someone who has crossed over the river, which would mean the Euphrates River. This is a reference to Abraham. As far as the Hebrew people are concerned, Abraham was the first Hebrew. He was the first one to cross over the Euphrates River as an immigrant to the land of Canaan, under God’s direction and under God’s choice. I can tell you for sure that the term “Hebrew” goes back to Abraham. It looks like “Jewish” probably came from the kingdom of Judah, though maybe one of our viewers is better informed than I am on that. That’s the best understanding I have on it. Hebrew would definitely be an older term. The Israelites were called Hebrews before they were divided into tribes. Abraham was a Hebrew before he ever gave birth to Isaac, and so on.

Was Laodicea composed of “professing Christians” that were spiritually shallow?

Do you think that Laodicea was comprised of professing Christians that were content with shallow spirituality? Jesus’s words are so harsh, it leads me to doubt their status as believers.

I think you’re asking a very good question here. I’m going to turn to the relevant passage you’re speaking of here, concerning the church of the Laodiceans. In Revelation 2-3, Jesus spoke seven letters to seven churches of that day. But Jesus was speaking not only to the particular churches of that day, Laodicea, Smyrna, Ephesus, Philadelphia, etc. Not only was He speaking to the churches of that day, but He was also speaking to all churches in all time. There are things for us to learn from every one of these seven letters to the seven churches of the book of Revelation.

Now, the letter to the church in Laodicea is the last one. And this is what Jesus says to that church, after introducing Himself:

Revelation 3:15-19 – I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy and have need of nothing’ — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked — I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.”

There is reason to question the salvation of many of these people who made up the church at Laodicea. The words of Jesus are so strong, so forward, and so pointed in this passage. The warning is so severe that it makes us think that maybe some of these people are not saved at all.

Here’s what we need to understand: there is a distinction to be made between churchgoers, and actual born-again Christians. There are people who can be churchgoers, but they’re not actually born again. They’ve never really put their faith in Jesus Christ. They may like church, they may like the society of other Christians, they may enjoy the sermons, they may enjoy the worship, or whatever it may be. But it is possible for people to be church attendees, and not to be born again themselves. That may be the situation here.

Now, this could get into the issue that many people want to talk about; we’ve talked about it before on the Live Q&A. Is it possible that some of these Laodiceans could or would lose their salvation? I will leave it at this, without getting into that whole controversy. I don’t think there’s any dispute that someone, who by all appearances is a believer, can end up going to hell. You can question whether or not they were a believer to begin with, or whether they lost their salvation. That’s a debate that is worthy to have, but I’m not going to deal with it today.

The essential question is this: there are people who give an appearance of being part of the community of believers at a church, but they’re not. Their lukewarmness in Laodicea, their corruption, and their pride was a huge difficulty for the Laodiceans. It was their straight away pride. This is what they said, and I’m reading to you from verse 17– “I am rich and become wealthy and have need of nothing.”

That didn’t describe their actual spiritual state at all, because Jesus said, “And you do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17b)

These were people who were self-deceived about their spiritual state. This is the thing to take very seriously. When we read these severe warnings in the Scriptures, we should not take the attitude that it was written for somebody else. It’s easy to think, “I’m good. I don’t have to worry about that.” Friend, that’s the wrong attitude to take. We should not take the attitude that says, “Look, I’m a believer, and I can never lose my salvation. So, this doesn’t matter to me.” No, we need to take these as definite, pointed, clear warnings to us to remain in the faith and to walk right with our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Will the prayers of many “speed up” a prayer request?

What is the purpose for asking others to pray for you, if God hears your prayers? Will the prayers of many speed up the prayer request in a way?

We have no doubt that there is benefit in having other people pray for you. I’ll tell you how we know there’s no doubt: Paul asked others to pray for them. I find it fascinating that not only did Paul ask other people to pray for him, but Paul said, and I’m paraphrasing things from different places in Paul’s letters, “I know that things are going to turn out well for me because you are praying.” In other words, Paul didn’t think of prayer as just a holy exercise that does some good. He didn’t infer that it doesn’t really mean anything before God, or that it’s sort of a nice self-therapy. No, Paul believed that God answers prayer, and that it was important to have people pray for you.

Why is this so? It seems to be a principle in God’s kingdom that the more united God’s people are on something, the more effective it is in His Kingdom, or for the advance of His Kingdom. There’s a passage in the Old Testament that gives an example of this. Leviticus 26:8 says, “Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight.” The principle is not mathematically consistent; it doesn’t work the way we expect it to work. The second number that God gave in that promise is exponentially greater.

In other words, if I unite with another Christian, believing in prayer about something, something happens in the Spirit that I don’t think I can fully explain, but is true. There’s some way in the spiritual realm that the power of our prayers is not doubled but increased by ten or twenty times. This is the outcome of getting God’s people together in agreement for prayer. There is tremendous power in gathering God’s people together in agreement for prayer.

Often when we do prayer meetings, there’s very little real agreement in prayer. And this is what I mean by that. This is what I mean by that: there’s one person praying, which is fine, and everybody else is very passively listening. Maybe their thoughts are someplace else, or maybe they’re checking their tablet for something to read. Or maybe they’re just thinking about what they’re going to pray as soon as this person stops talking. Quite often there is very little active agreement in prayer with those who are listening.

Brothers and sisters, this is the principle of prayer meetings that I think we need to reconnect with and emphasize all over again. If I’m in a prayer meeting, and you’re praying, I need to agree with what you’re praying. First of all, we need to actually agree on this thing that we’re praying together about; it’s not like you’re saying, “I want us all to pray that I win a million dollars in the lottery.” I don’t think I can agree with you on that prayer, so I’m not going to enter.

But let’s say you’re saying, “My mom doesn’t know Christ yet. She really needs to know Jesus Christ. Will you agree with me in prayer?” Yes, I’ll agree with you in that prayer! And in that prayer meeting, as you pray, I’m not just passively listening. I am actively agreeing and saying, “Amen.” It doesn’t have to be out loud, and I don’t have to shout, but it’s a very active engagement. I’m thinking about what you’re praying, I’m agreeing with it in my spirit, and maybe with my voice — there’s nothing wrong with that. I am actively involved with your prayer. Then, when it’s my turn to pray, if it’s something we’re in agreement on, you’re actively involved in my prayer. When God’s people do that together in a prayer meeting, exponentially powerful things happen in the Spirit.

In a sense this might be an incomplete answer, because I don’t think I can fully explain to you why this happens, but I can explain to you that this principle is true, and it’s spoken of many times in the Scriptures.

​Is it wrong to ask my Pastor for biblical guidance when I do not agree with some of his other statements?

This is a bit of a difficult question to answer because I don’t know the nature of your disagreement with your pastor’s other statements. Let’s just pretend that it’s a very minor disagreement, that we’re not talking about big issues but relatively minor issues. You should definitely be asking your pastor for Biblical guidance. Absolutely. But my question is this: if you were to have a profound disagreement with your pastor about serious issues, why are you still there? What are you still doing there at that church?

Ideally, I believe that Christians should belong to a congregation. That’s the ideal; it’s not always possible for people to do that. It doesn’t always work out. But I don’t think that there’s any question that it’s God’s ideal for the believer to be a part of a local congregation.

People ask, “How do I pick a local congregation?” No matter what church you pick, there will probably be some things about that church that you don’t like. Can I let you in on a secret? I served as a pastor over a congregation for 28 years, at three different congregations. In those years, there were things about my own church that I didn’t like, things I wanted to change and that I worked on changing. The idea that a pastor looks out over his church and says, “Everything here is exactly the way I would like it” is false. It just doesn’t work like that.

If you’re going to go to a church, there are going to be some things about which you disagree. This is what you need to do: You need to find a group of believers around you, within a practical distance, with whom you would agree on most things (not all, but most things), and commit yourself to that Body.

It is worth it to ask that pastor for biblical guidance. If you would never ask for biblical guidance from a pastor, I would question whether he is your pastor at all? It just kind of seems natural to me that your pastor would be someone you could ask for biblical advice.

What was it that God was so pleased before Jesus’s ministry and crucifixion?

After 30 years of Jesus’ life, and before His public ministry, God said, “In Him I am well pleased.” What was it that God was so pleased about even before Jesus’ crucifixion ministry?

What a wonderful question. What was it that pleased God the Father about God the Son? I’m going to give you an answer, which I hope you don’t think is joking or flippant. I’ll answer it with one word. What was it that was pleasing about God the Son to God the Father? Everything. Absolutely everything was pleasing to God the Father. That’s really the right way to see this. Everything Jesus was, and everything Jesus did pleased His Father.

We read in Romans 3 that sin means falling short of the glory of God. Not once or in any way did Jesus ever fall short of the glory of God. Everything about God the Son — His thoughts, His actions, His motives — all of it pleased God the Father.

Now, you could say that God the Son progressively pleased God the Father. As He progressively fulfilled the plan of God the Father, we see that God the Father was pleased at the fulfillment of the plan. That’s not to apply that there was anything incomplete; it was just not yet finished. Those two concepts are similar, but not the same. There wasn’t anything lacking, just some things were not quite yet fulfilled. Everything Jesus did was perfectly pleasing to God.

Let’s consider the reason why God the Father made that statement at the baptism of Jesus. By the way, that would have been a spectacular scene. The reason why God made such a dramatic statement about Jesus was that the purpose of John’s baptism in general was to demonstrate that a person was a sinner and needed forgiveness. Jesus, because He identified with sinful humanity, agreed to be baptized. But Jesus Himself had never sinned. That’s why God the father did for Jesus at His baptism what He never did for anyone else: He proclaimed from Heaven, “This is My Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

​Can God fill an unbeliever with the Holy Spirit?

Yes, it is possible for God to pour out His Spirit on someone who is not yet a believer. Now, let me be careful with this. It’s not promised. We would regard that as an unusual work of God. But sometimes God does some unusual things. And so, without regarding it as a promise that God would do such a thing, we can say that sometimes God does this. Here’s an example of this. It’s not a perfect example, because it’s from the Old Testament, but I think it’s still a pretty good one. Saul, the king of Israel, was filled with the Holy Spirit when he was not a believer. We find a couple occasions of that. They even made a proverb in Israel about this, saying, “Is Saul among the prophets?”

God can do this for an unbeliever, but it’s not promised. God promises to fill believers with the Holy Spirit, and to bestow the Holy Spirit upon those who ask Him. For unbelievers, that is not a promise, yet it’s possible. If it happened, it would be what I would call an unusual work of God.

Does the Old Testament phrase “The Angel of the Lord” refer to Jesus?

Most of the time, yes. There may be a few occasions where the phrase “The Angel of the Lord” is used of a being who is not Jesus in what we would call a pre-incarnate appearance. Being the Son of God and God the Son, we know that Jesus’ being did not begin when He was miraculously conceived in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit. His being existed before that. He’s eternal!

Therefore, the being of God the Son, seems to have made several appearances in the Old Testament. In many of those appearances, He’s referred to as the Angel of the Lord. So again, most of the time, yes: I would say it is a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus. Anytime you have a being with a physical appearance in the Old Testament who identifies as God in some way, then that’s Jesus in a pre-incarnate appearance. We know this because no man has seen the Father, and because the Holy Spirit has no material form. Therefore, it must be a manifestation of God the Son before He was conceived, which added true humanity to His deity in Mary’s womb.

What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth?

Jesus uses that phrase in John 4, where He meets a Samaritan woman and talks about worship in spirit and in truth. I’m going to reference my text commentary on John 4, using the free Enduring Word App. Here’s what my commentary says:

To worship in spirit means that you are concerned with spiritual realities, not so much with places or outward sacrifices, cleansings and trappings. In other words, it’s not just all about the ceremony, and the material things; there’s a true spiritual dynamic to your worship.

To worship in truth means you are worshiping according to the whole counsel of God’s word, especially in light of New Testament revelation. It also means that you come to God in truth, not in pretense, or in a mere display of spirituality.

To worship in spirit implies a contrast between spirit and material. Sometimes we make worship all about material things. I’m not saying that the material doesn’t matter at all in worship, but we must consider something higher than the material as we worship God. It’s very important for us to understand that there needs to be a spiritual dynamic which goes beyond the music being played, beyond the room you’re in, beyond the lighting or the sound system. There has to be a spiritual connection with God.

To worship in truth, I would say first that it needs to be in accord with biblical truth, but secondly that your heart has to be true before God. You’re not faking, you’re not pretending before Him; you’re coming before Him very honestly.

How do you stay biblically meek in the face of a deliberate false prophet?

I would say that you don’t take any personal offense at the false prophet. If someone is functioning as a false prophet, their real sin is before God. And yes, it offends us. Yes, it bothers us. Yes, we want them to stop. If we have any place in church leadership or influence, we should do what we can to get people to not listen to such a false prophet. But their real offense is before God. We don’t have to take this personally. We can try to expose the falseness of the prophecy; there’s nothing wrong with that. But then we can really leave it to God to deal with that person.

We often get frustrated that God doesn’t deal with people the way that we think he should. We see all the damage this person is doing against God’s church and against His kingdom, and it’s frustrating. I understand that. But let me just remind you of something. If God willed it, he could strike that person down in a moment. I’m not saying that God doesn’t will you to speak out against them. I’m not trying to imply for a moment that God isn’t saying that people shouldn’t stand for what’s right. I’m just saying that if God wanted to take that person from the face of the earth, He could.

That should not make us passive in the face of error, but it should add a dimension of our own real peace and trust before the Lord. We don’t have to feel for a moment that it’s all on us to fix these things. Their false prophecy is against the Lord, and the Lord can and will deal with them. This does not exclude whatever way God would want us to deal with it, but ultimately, it’s in God’s hands.

​Is the Sabbath fulfilled or abolished?

That’s a good way to phrase it. Yes, it’s fulfilled. We don’t describe the Sabbath as being abolished. No, it’s fulfilled in Jesus Christ. That’s the very clear teaching of the New Testament. We don’t keep the Sabbath as ancient Israel did, but that’s not because God has destroyed the Sabbath. It’s because God has fulfilled the Sabbath in Jesus Christ, and it’s in Him that we have the Sabbath rest. We have freedom in Jesus Christ.

If you would like to observe a ritualistic Sabbath, you have all freedom in Jesus Christ to do so. Don’t be shy about it; you can do it. God bless you in that. Just don’t think that Sabbath-keeping, as the Jewish people did it under the Old Covenant, is required for the body of Christ today universally. If you want to do it, you have complete freedom in Christ to do it. As Paul says, One person observes the feast or the new moon or the Sabbath, and another person doesn’t, but let each one be convinced in his own mind (see Romans 14).

We have freedom in Jesus to do it, but the important thing is that we stop trying to justify ourselves in any way or to earn it. We rest in the salvation that’s given to us in Jesus Christ. That is Jesus fulfilling the Sabbath. It has been given to all of us in Jesus Christ. I do hope you’re enjoying that. I hope that these words of Jesus give you comfort: He said, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (see Matthew 11:28-30). What a beautiful statement. I hope you know His rest.

I’m not trying to say that there aren’t difficult seasons in the Christian life. Of course there are, but overall, even in the difficult times, our general Christian experience should be marked by a wonderful sense of peace and rest and joy in Jesus Christ. I pray that you would have that in your life.

Should a woman choose between an abusive marriage and consequences of divorce?

The Bible doesn’t seem to specifically talk about abuse like it does divorce. Should a woman choose between an abusive marriage and consequences of divorce?

Your question is very good. Let me say this straightforwardly: No woman, Christian or not, should stay in a home where she’s being abused. Then if I could say another word: Husband, if you are abusing your wife, if you are mistreating her in any way, that’s a sin, and you need to repent. You need to get that right. You need to give your wife all the grace and all the room and all the healing she needs to be restored from such a thing. There is never a reason for a husband to be abusive towards his wife, either verbally abusive, or physically abusive.

Now, of course, it is possible for a wife to be verbally or physically abusive to a husband as well. I’m not trying to apply for a moment that that is not possible on both sides. It certainly is. But there’s no place for that kind of treatment in any marriage. If you’re too angry, go take a walk around the block; just don’t react in an abusive or violent way at all.

I would say to anybody in a marriage who is suffering abuse, you don’t need to stay in that home.

Now, regarding what God says about marriage and divorce: You would need to sit down with a pastor who knows your situation, and who knows the Scriptures and who can discern these things. It may be that the abuse you suffer is such profound evidence that the person you’re married to is not a believer, no matter what they say. Listen, being a believer isn’t merely a matter of what you say. It’s also how you live. Maybe you would have grounds for abandonment by a believer, but it’s possible, at least in theory, for someone to use that justification wrongly.

These are things that can’t be dealt with at a distance. It requires a wise counselor or pastor, or just a godly man or woman who knows the Scriptures and who knows your situation in truth and can counsel you with the wisdom and the grace of God.

I do want to stress that every woman – and every man, but I’ll just speak to it as if it’s a woman — has the right to feel safe in her home. How sad it is when the place God intends to be a place of healing and refuge instead becomes a place of fear and domination. It shouldn’t be like that. God wants to do so much greater in our lives and in our marriages.