Jurong Outreach

"whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ."

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The Old and the New

“And he spake also a parable unto them: No man rendeth a piece from a new garment and putteth it upon an old garment; else he will rend the new, and also the piece from the new will not agree with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old wine-skins; else the new wine will burst the skins, and itself will be spilled, and the skins will perish. But new wine must be put into fresh wine-skins. And no man having drunk old wine desireth new; for he saith, The old is good (Luke 5:36-39).”

In this parable the Lord is explaining to his hearers (and us the readers) of an important principle of the New Testament.

The important principle raised here pertains to the difference between the old covenant and the new. In the context we learn that Jesus and his disciples were feasting at the residence of Levi, whom Jesus had just called to follow him.

The Pharisees and scribes observed the event (what were they doing there anyway? Were they invited too? Not likely) and grumbled about Jesus and His disciples. “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners (Luke 5:30)?”

In response, the Lord said, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31-32).”

Unwilling to back off, the Lord’s detractors tried to raise a different point of contention, this time with the Jewish custom of fasting. “And they said unto him, The disciples of John fast often, and make supplications; likewise also the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink (v. 33).”

The Lord patiently corrected their way of thinking.

“And Jesus said unto them, Can ye make the sons of the bride-chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come; and when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, then will they fast in those days (Luke 5:34-35).”

To emphasise this truth, Jesus told the parable we have just read about the old and new garment; the old and new wine-skins.

The old and the new covenants are distinctive and cannot be allowed to mix together. Moses was the mediator of the old covenant; but Jesus the Son of God is the Mediator of the new covenant.

“But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second (Heb 8:6-7).”

This new covenant is superior to the old made with the children of Israel at Sinai.

“For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, That I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers In the day that I took them by the hand to lead them forth out of the land of Egypt; For they continued not in my covenant, And I regarded them not, saith the Lord (Heb 8:8-9).”

Paul uses the covenant relationship of marriage to clearly help us who live on this side of the cross to understand the difference between the old and the new.

“Or are ye ignorant, brethren (for I speak to men who know the law), that the law hath dominion over a man for so long time as he liveth? For the woman that hath a husband is bound by law to the husband while he liveth; but if the husband die, she is discharged from the law of the husband. So then if, while the husband liveth, she be joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if the husband die, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she be joined to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God (Rom 7:1-4).”

Let this fact sink in: “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead…”

The old must not be allowed to alloy with the new. Today it remains pervasive in the religious scene to find so many people insisting on keeping the Ten Commandments, using mechanical instruments of music in worship, the wearing of special garments, etc.

These things ought not to be. We are commanded to worship God in spirit and truth (Mat 4:24). This must mean that we are to worship God not only in sincerity but according to His word (cf. John 17:17).

The new covenant, effected by the blood of Jesus Christ, is the only covenant in effect now. “For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him that made it. For a testament is of force where there hath been death: for it doth never avail while he that made it liveth (Heb 9:16-17).”

We cannot return to the abolished “law of commandments contained in ordinances (Eph 2:15) to learn how we can approach God and worship Him acceptably. We cannot mix the two covenants together, choosing from each elements that meet our fancy while disregarding the rest.

If anyone desires to return to the old law as justification for how we worship today, let that person be aware of the warning from the apostle:

“Yea, I testify again to every man that receiveth circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law (Gal 5:3).” In other words, we are not at liberty to pick and choose. If we would use mechanical musical instruments and other old covenant practices. we are then obligated to offer animal sacrifices, visit Jerusalem three times yearly to keep the feasts, etc.

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Embarrassed by Suffering Brethren?

Think of a scenario: you are with a group of unbelieving friends whose company you really enjoy and you have asked along a Christian sister to join you. This sister took the occasion to share the gospel with your friends.

But your friends laughed her for being ‘superstitious’ and ‘backward’. What would you do?

Would you ask her to stop talking about the gospel, that it’s ‘not the right time’? Would you join her to try to reason with your friends out of the scriptures? Would you be embarrassed by her attempt to share the gospel with your friends at a social gathering where everybody was just trying to have a good time?

Paul wrote to Timothy, saying:

“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God (2Ti 1:8).”

Not only are we not to be ashamed of the gospel, we must not be ashamed of brethren who suffer for the cause of Christ. Not only are we not to be ashamed of brethren who suffer for the cause of Christ, we are to partake of the afflictions of the gospel.

Paul goes on to commend Onesiphorus:

“The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain (2Ti 1:16).”

What did this disciple do that was so commendable?

Paul recalled:

“…he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me (2Ti 1:17).”

Onesiphorus was not ashamed of Paul’s sufferings; he was a partaker of the afflictions of the gospel by helping Paul out in his times of need.

Paul was imprisoned in Rome, awaiting trial before Caesar (cf. Acts 28:11-31). It was a difficult time for the apostle. Anyone put in that position would need physical, emotional, mental and spiritual support.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul made a poignant statement: “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge (2Ti 4:16).”

Notwithstanding his sense of loneliness and abandonment, Paul remembered the grace and mercy of God through the ministry of Onesiphorus. The latter diligently sought out Paul.

He did not know where Paul was kept and made the effort to look for him. Having found Paul, Onesiphorus ministered to Paul’s needs. This would come in the form of providing him food, clothing, blankets and other material necessities.

It could also be in the form of companionship, visiting the apostle whenever he could to talk, to share, to pray together, to learn from the apostle.

Things are not likely to take such drastic turn for us today. Yet it remains possible that we could be ashamed of brethren who suffer in any degree for the sake of Christ. In the imagined scenario above, how would you respond?

Most of us can quote Romans 1:16-17. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith (Rom 1:16-17).”

What do we understand about not being ashamed of the gospel? Are we not ashamed to share the good news with those who are lost, regardless of what they might say or do to us?

Are we not shamed of brethren who do in fact attempt to share the gospel? Onesiphorus was not ashamed of Paul’s chains. Will we be ashamed of a brother or sister’s boldness in speaking out the truth of God?

If we have ever been ashamed of the gospel of Christ and brethren eager to preach it to the lost, let us repent of it. We may not be the ones actually mocked or persecuted for preaching, but we can be partaker of the afflictions of the gospel by lending support to brethren who suffer for the sake of Christ.

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Suffering for the sake of Christ

Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians while he was in prison. He suffered greatly for the cause of the gospel yet we find him in good spirits. He comforted the brethren by assuring them that God has turned his imprisonment into something positive. Here we see Romans 8:28 in action.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28).”

Instead of hiding in fear and discouragement, many Christians were emboldened to preach the gospel because of Paul’s imprisonment.

“But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear (Php 1:12-14).”

Paul was well aware that not everyone harboured a pure motive. Some had ulterior motives for preaching. Nonetheless he rejoiced that many were doing so out of good will and love.

“Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel (Php 1:15-17).”

Suffering for the sake of Christ and His gospel can turn us in two opposite directions. One is to display greater fervency and courage as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote to His protégé, Timothy:

“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully (2Ti 2:3-5).”

After the murder of Stephen, Christians found themselves the targets of persecution by Jews zealous for the traditions of their fathers.

“And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles…As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison (Act 8:1, 3).”

The early church demonstrated this spirit of resilience and courage under persecution. They did the prudent thing and left Jerusalem yet without renouncing the faith. Instead, they carried the gospel elsewhere.

“Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word (Act 8:4).”

The other direction suffering for Christ could turn us is discouragement, indifference and, eventually, giving up on the faith. We cannot possibly count or even guess how many have lost heart and denied Christ. What we do know is we do not want to be among that number.

How did Paul and the early Christians do it? Why did they maintain their faith in the face of severe persecution? The key is revealed by the apostle in his first inspired epistle to Timothy.

“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day (2Ti 1:12).”

“I know whom I have believed.” Paul knew the Lord; he was in a right relationship with the Saviour. This relationship can be maintained only by obedience. As we are aware, in order to obey we must know what to obey.

The only way to know what to obey is to pay careful attention to the word through disciplined study and rightly handling the word of God. Many students of the Bible, though they gain in knowledge yet they do not take the step of obedience.

“…persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” Paul placed his complete trust and confidence in the Lord, with whom he was in a right relationship. Come what may, the trusting, obedient Christian will endure hardship for the Lord’s sake.

On the great day when the church is gathered unto the Lord, we shall rejoice with an everlasting joy. But first, we must endure.

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That in Nothing I Shall be Ashamed

Paul’s Expectation and Hope

Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians while he was in prison awaiting trial before the Roman emperor. He suffered greatly for the cause of the gospel yet he was not demoralised.

The apostle revealed his earnest expectation and hope. “…that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death (Php 1:20).”

In whatever circumstance he might find himself in, Paul was determined that his primary concern was not his welfare but the glory of His Lord, Jesus Christ. He was determined that he would do nothing that would cause him to be ashamed before Christ.

The heavy trials and sufferings he was going through, the threat of impending death hanging thickly over his head—Paul had decided that all these would not break his faith.

Whether we are aware of it consciously, we sometimes worry about the cost of obedience. Will it cost me a career opportunity? Will it cost me a relationship that means so much to me? Will it hurt the feelings of my loved ones? Will I lose face?

Regard for Men’s Opinions

We read in the book of John of certain believers in Jesus who were worried about what their belief would cost them.

“Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42-43).”

Many leaders of the Jewish people heard the words of Jesus, saw the signs He performed and believed. While they were intellectually honest, they were nonetheless morally dishonest.

They were fearful of what open acknowledgement of Jesus as the Messiah would cost them. They could lose their social and religious status as leaders and members of the Sanhedrin and be driven out of the synagogue. This would mean great shame.

They feared losing the esteem of the people as a result of being put to public shame. “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

We will be very much ashamed indeed if we are more concerned about the opinions of men than obedience to Christ.

The Lord Jesus was not ashamed to call us His brethren. “…he is not ashamed to call them brethren (Heb 2:11).” Can there be any reason at all that we can be ashamed of Him?

Fear of Suffering for Christ’s Sake

The apostles suffered for the cause of Christ. They were arrested and beaten for preaching Christ but they rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name (Acts 5:50-41).”

The early church suffered for the cause of Christ. Saul was throwing them into prison but “they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:3-4).”

No one enjoys suffering. Suffering is widely perceived to be a shameful thing. People suffering in poverty are sometimes despised for no other reason than that they are poor. Others convicted of crimes and serving prison sentences are regarded as shameful; many of these convicts and ex-convicts carry with them a heavy sense of shame.

But it is not so for the saints suffering for the cause of Christ. The inspired apostles—men who suffered greatly for the Lord—assure us that there is no shame in suffering for Christ.

“If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified…Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf (1Pe 4:14, 16).”

“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day (2Ti 1:12).”

What a glorious statement! “…for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

The Lord has blessed us with a new year to serve Him. As we launch forth into 2018, may we resolve as the apostle Paul did, “…that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Php 1:20-21).”