What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The sinner who is largely ignorant of himself and passive in the hands of those with whom he associates is symbolized in the lost coin. People can be lost not only in dens of iniquity but also in good homes and churches (Revelation 3:14-17). The Garden of Eden was the most conducive of environments, but it did not guarantee that man would live God's way of life. This does not negate the value of a godly home (Proverbs 3:33). Such a home obviously gives a person a far greater advantage in learning how to live God's way of life compared with an ungodly one. This illustration teaches that, even in a good environment, a person may still be lost.
Unlike the lost sheep that wandered away and became lost (verses 4-7), the coin's lost condition is due to the carelessness of another. The coin is lost because it had fallen from its intended place, just as sin always lowers a person and never lifts up (Proverbs 14:34). This negligence of another reminds us that the sin of one person can bring tragic, spiritual consequences upon another. As an example, the backsliding dissenter almost always takes others with him, because it is sin's nature to take others down with it (II Peter 2:1-2, I Timothy 6:3-5, 20-21). False teachers and church dissidents put many coins on the floor spiritually.
The coin becomes useless and unclean, just as a person does through sin. While lost, the coin is essentially worthless. Likewise, an unrepentant sinner is useless to God and of no benefit to others. The apostle Paul was a lost coin, as it were, until he met Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-6). Sin destroys our value in service to both God and man; we become useless.
If the coin fell on the floor, it fell onto one of the dirtiest places in the house, making it unclean. The woman's sweeping of the floor indicates it was dirty. This defilement of the coin shows what sin does to a person: It pollutes, thereby defiling him (Titus 1:15-16). The only spiritual cleansing agent that will cleanse away the filth is the blood of Jesus Christ (I John 1:7-9).
Several things are involved in the woman's searching for and eventually finding the coin. Her motivation to find the coin is due to the value she placed upon it. She also suffers from the loss of the coin, while the coin, of course, feels nothing. The woman represents the church through which God works.
In the eyes of God, the sinner, represented by the coin, is not only a suffering being, like the sheep on whom He takes pity, but he is also precious, created in God's image and assigned a part in the accomplishment of His plans. In the illustration of the sheep, the lost person is viewed from man's perspective—he is one who suffers and therefore needs salvation. In the illustration of the coin, the lost person is seen from God's perspective—he is one who has great value, the loss of which God feels. In considering this, we should realize the great effect of sin upon God's glory and interests.
The lamp represents both the Word and the Spirit of God (Psalm 119:105). Both shed light on the plight of sinners and give solutions to their problems. Spiritual illumination enables the church to see how to help sinners who cannot see their fruitless condition. Just as the woman has to sweep the floor of debris, the church must make its surroundings clean and pure by sweeping away the filth from its domain (Isaiah 52:11). Doctrinal corruption makes it hard to see through the debris of false teachings. Today, doctrines have been so corrupted in mainstream Christianity that it is impossible to find spiritually pure teachings within it.
That the woman seeks the coin diligently shows a dedication to looking cautiously and continuously (Ecclesiastes 7:25). She is not haphazard in looking for the coin but organized and systematic, and she persists in the job until it is completed. Sadly, there are always those who attend God's church who work vigorously and earnestly for a short time then quit.
Finally, the whole illustration depicts her as enthusiastic, hopeful, and joyful in her responsibilities. This is the attitude we must have as we do God's work in preparation for His coming.
Martin G. Collins
Parables of Luke 15 (Part Two)
2 Timothy 2:10-13
The apostle gives this warning directly to God's children. Despite how we may personally relate to Him in how we live, God cannot deny what He truly is. We may be highly variable in our attitude and conduct because we are lackadaisical and tolerate human nature having its way. We may yield to this world's influence on us and backslide into the same careless way of life that dominated us before God called us into His church (Ephesians 2:3). Yet, our God and Savior is constant and faithful to what He is. His character and purpose never change. God loves, and because He does, He also judges. Does not Proverbs 13:24 instruct, "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly"? Our Savior will not overlook this need in us.
Sometimes His discipline can be very stressful (Hebrews 12:11), but that is the cost of following Him where He leads. He will act as He truly is regardless of what we personally think or fail to think or whether we allow Him to be closely or only marginally involved in how we live our lives.
This world's nominal Christianity has so wrongly overemphasized God's grace that it makes salvation assured if we will only accept Jesus Christ. However, it does so without equally teaching that we must meet the responsibilities that God also clearly reveals. We must faithfully walk to the Promised Land. To keep our part of the New Covenant, we must live His way of life to be prepared to live in the Promised Land.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Accepting God's Sovereignty (Part One)
We have now reached one of the most solemn and fear-provoking sections of Scripture. We need to understand that this passage is written to Christians, not to the world, and what it threatens is facing any Christian who does not choose to believe that God is serious. God is thundering at His own children because some of them have become insipidly blasé about what He has done for them and have ignored the help that He makes so readily available to them.
This does not mean that everybody who heard this message was in that perilous spiritual condition. It was given, however, against the backdrop of some having already departed from the church, and it uses them as examples of what not to do, for the purpose of warning the others about what those who left are facing. To determine just where he stands, each person has to examine himself in light of Paul's instruction.
Yet, some who heard this message had regressed so far that they were on track to apostatize, which means "to depart from the faith." This subject is Paul's major motivation for writing the letter. He first introduces it as early as Hebrews 3:12: "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God." "Departing" is the Greek word aphistemi, meaning "to remove" or "to instigate to revolt."
How far had people departed? Hebrews 10:25 gives a clear indication by Paul's use of the word "forsaking" regarding assembling on the Sabbath. The Greek word means exactly this: Some of the Hebrews were not missing just an occasional Sabbath service but had abandoned attending Sabbath services entirely for extended periods, if not altogether. This accounts for the strength of the apostle's message.
A similar passage in II Peter 2:20-22 reads:
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."
Peter speaks of apostasy here. He says it would have been better had they never known the way of righteousness rather than know it and then turn from it. Jesus said of Judas that it would have been better for him not to have been born (Matthew 26:24). The same end faced those who had forsaken assembling together on the Sabbath.
I Timothy 1:19 contains a vivid illustration of apostasy, saying that an apostate makes shipwreck of his faith in God. Having escaped the world, he returns to it and soon finds himself on the rocks, being beaten to death by the waves of life. As mentioned earlier, a person does not apostatize in one giant leap. Just as the Israelites obtained the Promised Land step by step, so apostasy occurs step by step. One goes forward, the other backward. If the backslider takes appropriate action, he does not have to lose his faith.
John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Power: Our Shield Against Apostasy
A series of scriptures will highlight the world's danger to us. The apostle James writes: "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). This epistle is written to a Christian congregation. Even as the Old Testament shows Israel to be a spiritual adulteress to God through the people's disobedience following the making of the Old Covenant, so are Christians—as part of the bride of Christ, having made the New Covenant—spiritual adulterers when they unfaithfully disobey.
James is not saying these people are lost. He is warning them that they are heading in that direction because they were backsliding, having already been unfaithful. The unstated, yet clear cause of their being drawn back is the world, as if it were the seductive temptress of Proverbs 7.
James' counsel is that we cannot straddle the fence between God and the world. He is expounding the "no man can serve two masters" principle. These two relationships—God and the world—frame a black-and-white issue; this war has no neutral zone. A person cannot pursue his self-centered, worldly ambitions and still remain loyal to God.
The apostle uses the word philos, indicating something dear, which the New King James Version translates as "friend." He is stressing an affectionate, emotional attachment. Interestingly, The New Testament in Modern English by J.B. Phillips (1959) renders the warning as, "You are like unfaithful wives, flirting with the glamour of this world, and never realizing that to be the world's lover means becoming the enemy of God!" Seen this way, James describes them as silly, immature children, thoughtlessly gambling away their futures in the Kingdom of God.
I John 2:15 adds a refinement to James' warning: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." The Greek word translated as "love" is agapao, which suggests a reasoned, determined love. Thus, John's counsel stresses willfulness rather than mere affectionate attachment. In comparison, one could even describe philos as an unbidden "puppy love," but agapao—never.
John is saying that we should not have intimate fellowship combined with loyal devotion to the world. Our relationship to it must be a more distant, hands-off one. We certainly must live and do business within it, but we have to fight to keep it from becoming the focus of our way of life. The spiritual reality is that, as we might say today, "The world stands ready to eat us alive." It chews Christians up and spits them out. If permitted, it can trash spiritual realities that may once have been cherished hopes and dreams.
Galatians 6:14 provides another guiding principle to hold dear: "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." This is an example of Paul's spiritual outlook and maturity regarding his relationship with the world. As far as any relationship between him and the world is concerned, the world is dead and crucified, and so is he to it. It is vivid imagery. How much willful devotion can a person have in a relationship going nowhere because both parties are "dead" to each other?
John 15:18-23 adds more about why the world is dangerous to a Christian:
If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, "A servant is not greater than his master." If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also.
This is the fruit of the carnal mind's persistently disobedient attitude shown in Romans 8:7. The whole worldly system is anti-God. Even though the Christian world patronizes Him, in reality, it hates Jesus Christ, and therefore it hates those who truly follow Him. There is a simple reason why this continual reality exists.
Paul had renounced the whole worldly system. It no longer had any appeal to him; he was, in effect, dead in relation to it. However, the world's pressure never ends, which Paul notes in Romans 12:2, "Do not be conformed to this world." The Greek more correctly reads, "Stop allowing yourself to be fashioned to the pattern of this age," or as the J.B. Phillips translation puts it, "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold."
This is the danger we face when we allow the world to become too important. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. The world subtly but inexorably manipulates us into conformity with its thinking, its value systems, and therefore its attitudes and conduct. If we are alert and truly guarding against an invasion of worldly attitudes and practices, we will soon be able to notice when others relapse into following the course of the world.
The persistent influence of the world is a reality because Satan, the god of this world, is its driving force (II Corinthians 4:4). The world is Satan's medium, through which he broadcasts his propaganda and disinformation. By confusing people about what to believe, he intends to manipulate humanity. Satan's pitch to mankind is aimed directly at exciting human nature's self-indulgent cravings.
Due to this Satanic effort, even though we are converted, we are apt to become misinformed, lackadaisical, disinterested, and discouraged. We must be aware of it and absolutely resist it. The apostles' advice about avoiding intimacy with the world is a form of the proverb, "Evil company corrupts good habits" (I Corinthians 15:33). Friendship with the world corrupts.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Two)
Sadly, this is the direction that the church is prophesied to move as the end approaches. A fairly close parallel exists between the Laodicean and Ephesian conditions. Laodiceans are essentially without a proper feeling for God and His truths, and it has reached the point where they feel as though they no longer need them.
None of this means, though, that Laodiceans are lazy people. They are rich and increased with goods, and people do not become wealthy by sitting on their duffs. Revelation 3 suggests that their strong feelings and vigor are for the wrong things, and certainly not godly things. Therefore, they are without proper convictions concerning the things of God. They are apathetic, drifting, and spiritually blind. How difficult is it for a blind person to navigate through a world loaded with obstacles of all kinds? They must step very gingerly for fear of running into things, and undoubtedly, they would run into things.
The Laodicean is not making progress toward the Kingdom of God. He has stopped and in many cases—just like the Ephesians—he is sliding backwards. He must overcome his apathy for the things of God and begin to care deeply for the things he claims to believe.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today
Find more Bible verses about Backsliding:
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