Gospel Gazette Online
Vol. 16 No. 7 July 2014
Page 3

A Bag with Holes

Rodney Nulph

Following the captivity of Judah by Babylon, God allowed a remnant of His people to return back to Jerusalem. At the time of this return (which took several years 536 B.C.-444 B.C.), there were three main literary prophets chronicling the events; Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (the books of Ezra and Nehemiah also deal with the return as well).

The Book of Haggai divulges that the people had neglected the expense, time and effort to build the Temple (God’s house). Thus, God, through Haggai, warned the people, “consider your ways” (Haggai 1:5, 7). Not only did the people fail to build God’s house, but sadly, they had taken the time, spared no expense and were living in their own lavish houses (Haggai 1:4). Haggai’s primary message is that life without God is not worth much. In fact, Haggai likened life without God as simply “earning wages to put it into a bag with holes” (Haggai 1:6b). Consider the futility of such. Always running but getting nowhere! When we fail to put God and His Word first, life falls apart. There are certainly things in life today that are simply “a bag with holes.”

Denominationalism Is a Bag with Holes.

Tragically, the religious world has become much like the local ice cream shop; pick the flavor that suits you. While that philosophy may be fine for a choice of ice cream, it will never do for spiritual matters! The world needs to be taught that Jesus only ever authorized one church (Matthew 16:18-19; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4, et al). One can put all the denominational feelings, sincerity and attempted spirituality into a bag, but it will leak out of the holes that are therein! God’s plan from the start was never different sects of religion (Ephesians 3:10ff). In fact, it breaks the Savior’s heart to see men divided religiously (John 17:20-21).

Disguised Christianity Is a Bag with Holes.

Unfortunately, there are far too many “Sunday morning Christians.” Folks, who on the outside, appear to be pious sometimes are inwardly very poisonous. These same ones seldom get involved in the Lord’s work, but they are usually the first to complain about the work that is being done. Hypocrisy has always been a problem among seemingly religious people (cf. Matthew 6:16ff; 23:1ff). We must diligently guard against “play acting” by “examining ourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5), by seeking “pure religion” (James 1:27) and by keeping our “eyes” clear (Luke 6:41-42).

Disobedience Is a Bag with Holes.

Some have bought into the false notion that as long as one obeys parts of God’s demands they will be saved. However, Jesus made it abundantly clear that partial obedience is disobedience (Matthew 7:21ff)! Obedience is the key to salvation (Romans 6:17-18; Philippians 2:12, et al).

What a vivid picture, someone scurrying diligently to gain life’s blessings, only to be putting them in a bag with holes. The persons who live their life without sincere, scriptural obedience is no better. How are you living your life? Is your life a bag with holes?

Divided Judaism

Rodney Nulph

Division in the realm of religion is nothing new. There will be divisions as long as men exist. Religion seems to be a “breeding ground” for sects and divisions. When the Law of Moses was given at Mt. Sinai, God was clear in what He demanded (cf. Exodus 20). There was no room for personal opinion or preference. However, as time passed, mankind began to “slice” away and “add” to the Law. As these additions and subtractions became more widespread, people began to divide into groups or sects of Judaism. These divisions were political and theological in nature. Apart from the Bible, we have little information historically regarding these divisions. There were four major sects of Judaism in the First Century: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes and the Zealots. The Bible mentions only three (Pharisees, Sadducees and Zealots), but Josephus, a Jewish historian, gave some insight from an historical perspective, which divulges more about these groups.

The Pharisees prided themselves on being “people of the Book.” They attempted to ensure that every “jot and tittle” were meticulously obeyed. This mission was a noble one indeed. People of the Book and meticulously obeying all of God’s commands does not make one a Pharisee! The Pharisees were not content just keeping the Law, but they made a “hedge” (traditions) around the Law of God and made these traditions as authoritative (often more authoritative) than the Law itself (cf. Mark 7:2ff). They also had a major hypocrisy problem, “…they say, and do not…” (Matthew 23:3b).

The Sadducees were most likely made up of wealthy aristocrats. Josephus penned that “they were able to persuade none but the rich” (Josephus, Flavus. Antiquities, 13.10.6.), meaning among other things, they had a small following of their peers, whereas the Pharisees were backed by the masses. The Sadducees believed the Pentateuch and vehemently opposed the oral traditions of the Pharisees. The Sadducees debated the Pharisees on many points such as angels, spirits, eternity and the resurrection.

The Zealots were compelled to change the world by force. They were the “guerrilla force” of their day, forcing people to obey. Unlike the Pharisees, the Zealots offered no new conception of the Law; they were not out to interpret it, just to fight for it and to assert all that it demanded. Due to their forceful nature, they were feared by Rome. This group obviously hated Rome and desired to overthrow its power. A particular “bone of contention” was taxation; in fact, to the Zealots, taxation was equal to slavery.

The Essenes were an isolationist group that resembled the monks of the middle ages. Their life was one of self-denial for the performance of virtuous acts. They had no money, no luxuries and no pleasures of love with women; they sought contentment away from the world. They resided in communal groups and stressed holy living away from the influence of sinful society.

Sadly, division in religion has always been a problem. However, we must remember that God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33); therefore, when man is divided and confused religiously, the sole blame lies at the feet of him – not God! God gave clear instructions as to what He demands of humanity. Will we be divided as the Jews were, or will we seek the unity that pleases our King (John 17:20-21)?

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