Tag Archives: Paul

What About the Rich?

Christians and riches–can the two coexist?  Can a Christian be rich?  These questions can bring all kinds of responses.

Some people try to bind poverty as the only way a true Christian can live. Others claim that the only way to show you’re a faithful Christian is if God’s making you rich!

What is the truth?

In I Timothy 6, Paul shoots some advice to a young preacher–some advice on how to deal with the topic of riches.  This apostle told his son in the faith that there were some who did not consent to the “words of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Timothy 6:3). One of the ways they did not agree to Christ’s teachings was that some “supposed that gain is godliness” (6:5). There were some people back in the first century who believed that getting rich was a sign that God was pleased with them. The same philosophy exists in many religious organizations today, and is referred to as the “prosperity gospel” or the “health and wealth gospel.”

Is this a valid view of riches? Paul sure did not think so!

The Holy Spirit, speaking through Paul, tells Timothy to avoid those people. He says this in no uncertain terms: “from such withdraw thyself” (6:5). He’s telling Timothy, as well as us today, that we’re to stand separate from such people, because they’re in error, not agreeing to the words of Christ.

Paul said that true gain (riches) comes from being godly and being content with what we have (6:6). We weren’t born with money in hand, and when we die, we can’t take it with us. Because of this, we should be content with the food and clothing that we have.

Are you content with the things you own?

But what of those who seek to be rich? Should the Christian seek after earthly treasure?

Jesus spoke of such things many times, all of which are well stated in the words “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [material needs] will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). The one who wants to follow Christ won’t put his focus on gaining money and riches, but on gaining heaven. The ones whose desire is for money are in trouble–“they fall into a temptation and a snare” (I Timothy 6:9). Immediately afterwards, God says “the love of money is the root of all evil” (6:10). Those who covet after money have “erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Being rich is not a sign of God’s approval, but neither is it a sign of his disapproval. The Bible shows what happens to those who put their focus on material wealth instead of spiritual wealth, but does that mean it is wrong to have money?

No it does not.

What this does mean is that the rich are to “not be high-minded, nor put their trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (I Timothy 6:17). The rich are to “do good” and “be rich in good works, ready to distribute” to needs that arise (6:18). This is to be done so that they may “lay hold on eternal life” (6:19).

Jesus commands that those who follow Him must lay up “treasures in heaven” and not “treasures upon earth” (Matthew 6:19-20). This is talking about priorities. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). If seeking money is your goal, your heart will be on earthly things. If you are seeking primarily after God, all of your physical needs will be supplied (Matthew 6:33).

What better life could there be than knowing that all of your needs will be taken care of here on earth, plus knowing that after death, you will have a home in heaven? It’s not wrong to have money, but when that becomes the priority in your life over following God, your soul is in jeopardy. Where are you seeking treasure?

-Bradley Cobb

Bible Q&A – Did Paul Receive the Holy Spirit by the Laying on of Hands?

Question: Ananias was sent to Damascus in Acts 9 to lay hands on Saul of Tarsus (later the Apostle Paul).  One of the reasons he came was so that Saul could “receive the Holy Spirit.”  So, did Saul receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands?–L.F.

There are several opinions from scholars as to what this means. Some insist that it is the literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit being given to Saul of Tarsus—prior to baptism—by Ananias laying hands on him. Others say basically the same thing, except they say it was the gift of miracles being given to Saul prior to his baptism by Ananias laying hands on him.

When Luke uses the phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit” or “full of the Holy Spirit,” miracles (usually inspiration) are always under consideration. Examine them for yourself: John the Immerser (Luke 1:15), John’s mother, Elisabeth (Luke 1:41-45), John’s father, Zacharias (Luke 1:67-79), the apostles (Acts 2:4), the apostles again (Acts 4:31), Stephen (Acts 6:5, 7:55-56), Barnabas (Acts 11:22-24), Paul (Acts 13:9-11), and the Iconium disciples (Acts 13:52-14:1).

Understanding this, let’s now look at the evidence to come to a rational, biblical conclusion to this potential conundrum.

First, Jesus said that the purpose of Ananias’ laying hands on Saul was so he would receive his sight. That was seen in verse 12 of this same chapter (Acts 9). There was no indication in Jesus’ words that Ananias was going to give Saul the Holy Spirit.

Second, the only result of this event shown in the Bible is that Saul received his sight. After he put his hands on Saul, the Bible only records that Saul received his sight. It says nothing about him receiving the Holy Spirit. If we look at Acts 22, where Saul (who is also called Paul) is telling about this very event, we see that he doesn’t even mention the Holy Spirit at all—but he does mention receiving his sight again (Acts 22:12-13).

Third, the ability to pass on the Holy Spirit was only available to the apostles. This is shown in chapter 8, verses 14-18. Ananias was not an apostle, and so—unless he is classed as an apostle—the evidence is against his being able to pass on this gift.

Fourth, Saul was lost in his sins when Ananias laid his hands on him, and was not a candidate to receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not been baptized. This principle is seen in Acts 8:15-16. Acts 22:12-16 shows that he was still lost in sins after Ananias laid his hands on him. The Holy Spirit was promised only to those who were the obedient servants of God (Acts 2:17-18, 5:32).[1]

Fifth, Paul makes it very clear throughout his life that he did not receive his apostleship from any man. Miracles (the gift of the Holy Spirit) and the ability to pass them on were “the signs of an apostle” (II Corinthians 12:12). Paul states that he was “an apostle—not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead” (Galatians 1:1). All of the apostles received their miraculous ability direct from heaven (Acts 2:1-4, 4:29-31). Paul would be no different.

Sixth, we see no record of Saul performing miracles until years later. The first time we read of Saul (now called Paul) doing any miracle is in Acts 13:9-11. This is the first time where Paul is said to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Now, this does not mean that Paul was unable to perform miracles prior to Acts 13, but it is supportive evidence that he did not receive the Holy Spirit when Ananias laid hands on him. There is no evidence that Saul was able to work miracles before that event.

Seventh, it took the testimony of Barnabas to convince the apostles that Saul was really a disciple of Jesus Christ. You might ask What does that have to do with anything? If Saul of Tarsus had the miraculous abilities given by the Holy Spirit at this point, it would have been very simple for him to prove to the apostles and other disciples that he was a Christian. But instead, it took Barnabas speaking on his behalf. Though not conclusive, this evidence seems to indicate that at this point Saul did not have the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit.

Since the evidence implies that Saul did not receive the Holy Spirit when Ananias laid hands on him, what exactly did he mean when he told Saul “Jesus…has sent me so that you might…be filled with the Holy Spirit”?

Ananias’ mission was to heal and baptize Saul—to bring him into the family of God and Christ. As we’ve seen from other passages in Acts (2:17-18, 5:32), the Holy Spirit was only given to those who were servants of God, and who obey Him. Ananias came to help Saul become spiritually acceptable before God, and thus also help him become a candidate for the reception of the Holy Spirit. It was preparatory work.

[1] The example of Cornelius, who was a faithful servant of God under the Patriarchal Law, will be dealt with in the notes on chapters ten and eleven.

[NOTE: the answer given above is taken from our upcoming book, The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts]

-Bradley S. Cobb

The Sufferings of Paul Didn’t Stop Him…

Have you ever noticed how many people are willing to just give up when they face even the slightest hardship? This same attitude is pervasive in the church today. There are those who almost seek reasons to skip the worship assembly. If it is raining, they won’t go. If there is family visiting, they won’t go. If it is night-time, they won’t go (even though there are people who would gladly pick them up and bring them). If they have a sniffle, they won’t go. How about looking at what the apostle Paul endured, and then see if you really have an excuse.

The apostle to the Gentiles listed just a sampling of the hardships he endured in II Corinthians 11. He was beaten so many times that he had lost count (verse 23). He was thrown in prison often because of his faith. He was in danger of death from the time he first became a Christian, and it was a constant threat (see Acts 14:19-20). He was beaten with whips 195 times (II Corinthians 11:24). He was stoned, left for dead. He was in perils everywhere he went: in the cities, in the wilderness, in the sea, and among false brethren. Yet, after suffering through all of those things (and many more not mentioned) he still went about preaching the word of God.

Paul wouldn’t let being publicly beaten keep him from worshiping God, yet many brethren today think a sniffle is a viable excuse to God. Paul made it a point to worship with the saints wherever he went, even if it meant the possibility of being stoned to death; yet many brethren think God will overlook their skipping services because they have family over and “have to” entertain them. Those with that attitude don’t understand Romans 8:18, “The sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us.” If Paul saw what you are doing today, would he be pleased or disappointed in you?

-Bradley Cobb

Paul’s Self-Portrait

The inspired apostle Paul wrote thirteen letters that are preserved for us in the pages of the New Testament.  In them, he gives various details about his life.  These are like pieces of Paul’s autobiography.   In writing to the young preacher Timothy, Paul took the time to explain just why he was so thankful to Jesus Christ.  In doing this, Paul (with words) painted his self-portrait.

He first was thankful to Christ for counting him as trustworthy and making him a preacher (Timothy 1:12).  Since Paul is writing to his “son in the faith,” it is obvious that he is trying to impress on Timothy the great blessing of being a preacher.  How beautiful are the feet of those that preach the gospel of peace (Romans 10:15)!  Paul’s thankful that he’s been given the opportunity to teach others.  He painted himself as a man who knew the blessing of proclaiming God’s word.

After expressing his thankfulness, he explains some of the reasons why he is so thankful.  Previously, Paul was a blasphemer, one who spoke against Christ and, by extension, God.  He was also a persecutor of both Christ and the church (Acts 9:1-5).  In addition to those, he was also injurious to Christ and the church, causing them untold harm and speaking evil of them.  But even after having done all of these things, Paul received mercy from the Lord.  He says that the grace of the Lord was “exceedingly abundant.”  This shows that not only is the grace of our Lord plentiful, but that it is far more than we could ever conceive.  The mercy shown to him made him extremely grateful to the Lord.  He painted himself as a man unworthy of being a preacher, but also painted himself as a man blessed by God’s forgiveness and mercy.

Paul then explains the reason he received that mercy and grace: Christ came into the world was to save sinners.  Paul declared himself to be the chief (or greatest) sinner (I Timothy 1:15).  Paul here paints himself as a humble man, knowing the terribleness of the deeds he had committed.  He expresses that this grace was extended to him to show others the exceedingly abundant mercy of God and Christ (I Timothy 1:14).  It was to show the longsuffering of Christ (I Timothy 1:16).  It was done to be a pattern or example for all future believers: If Christ could forgive Paul–the chief of sinners–and show mercy on him, they could receive mercy as well.  Timothy was reminded of this so that he could then proclaim this truth to others.  Paul painted himself as a man blessed by the mercy of God.

Paul’s self-portrait becomes clear in this passage.  He paints himself as a thankful man, blessed to preach the gospel.  He also paints himself as one who knows he was unworthy because of his sins.  This shows the humility with which he described himself.  He then brightens the picture, painting himself as a recipient of  God’s monumental grace.  Paul’s self-portrait shows an extremely thankful man who knows the importance of the mercy and grace shown to him by God.

That is the apostle Paul.  On multiple occasions, however, he told people to follow the example he left (I Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17).  Are you following the example of Paul?  You have been given the opportunity to teach others.  Are you thankful for those opportunities?  The more important question is “Are you taking advantage of those opportunities, or wasting them?”  You have been shown mercy by the Lord.  Are you continually thankful for it as you should be?  Thank God for His mercy and His gospel!  Thank God for allowing us to teach others!

–Bradley Cobb