Differing Weights

“You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a heavy and a light.You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. You shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure, that your days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.For all who do such things, all who behave unrighteously, are an abomination to the LORD your God” (Deut 25:13-16).

When I was in Togo, West Africa, several years ago, I found out that because of the color of my skin the goods and services that I purchased were likely to cost me up to 4 times more than for an African. One day I asked a Togolese young man why that was. He responded to me, “If I go to your country, things will cost more for me also, No?”

I never answered his rhetorical question, but within my heart I thought, “No.” We do not have two price tags on items at the grocery store in the United States (by the way in Togo most goods are purchased by bargaining in the local dialect). We normally sell a motorcycle at a fixed cost, perhaps with some room for negotiations.

Deuteronomy 25 commands absolute equality in commerce. No taking advantage of people who have more money, and no taking advantage of people who have less money. Everybody must be treated equally. We must not pull out of our bag one set of weights for certain folks, and another set of weight for others. Our weights must be honest and have integrity.

That command does not mean that we cannot give gifts to friends and family, or give bargains and sale prices on commodities. However, it does mean that even in sale prices, those items ought to be honestly sold as well.

And the command is tied to a blessing and a curse. Honest weights brings blessing, and different weights brings a curse.

In the U.S. we have a government agency that oversees weights and measures. Its purpose is to maintain honest weights and accurate measures. It may be that this one factor has brought significant prosperity to the U.S. as many generations of immigrants have come and been blessed to buy and sell in an honest and honorable economic system, for the most part.

I am reminded of two young men from our church in Quebec who set out to start a woodworking business together. Their first contract was with a large ski resort in the area. They were so happy for the contract that they bought the wood, made the items, and delivered them. But they were never paid. That one business venture was their only business venture in woodworking. They went out of business and had to find other jobs.

Yes, economic integrity does matter, and it either subverts or lifts up the entire culture.

T4G, theological education, and the continuing Great Commitment Resurgence

The current gathering of 7,500-8,000 in Louisville, Kentucky for Together for the Gospel (T4G) displays a work of God among His people. It seems to be the direct result of the long and hard fought battle for conservative theology among the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) seminaries in the 1980s and 1990s. Now, 20 years later, a new generation of students have graduated from SBC seminaries, transforming the landscape of churches all across the U.S.

The Conservative Resurgence among Southern Baptists had a transformative impact on the SBC seminaries. A conservative swing among these seminaries was particularly felt by the mid-1990s. With more conservative approach to biblical interpretation came a greater emphasis on biblical approaches to fulfilling the Great Commission. Now, rather than emphasizing “Seeker Sensitive” churches, church leaders are becoming more “Scripture Sensitive.”

As biblical scholarship became more conservative, the Calvinism-Arminianism debate also resurfaced. In 2012, as a response to this impending division, President of the SBC Executive Committee, Frank Page, named a Calvinism Advisory Group who crafted a well-balanced report upon which all on the committee could agree. They decided that the fulfilling of the Great Commission was too important to allow disagreement over election to disrupt SBC unity.

Today, approximately 20 years after the Conservative Resurgence greatly reshaped the six SBC seminaries, the landscape for the gospel looks dramatically different. A new generation of students has been trained in what are now half of the largest seminaries of the United States.

The success of this year’s T4G conference provides a mile marker as to the impact of this Conservative Resurgence. Between 7,500 to 8,000 seminary students, pastors, and church leaders are right now gathering in Louisville, Kentucky, to discuss the importance of being “Unashamed” about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We are witnessing a new movement toward biblical evangelism that has become prominent in the last 5-10 years. Thank the Lord for His sovereign moving in history!

Lessons from Daily Evangelism

Lately I have been thinking about the difference between daily evangelism and weekly evangelism. Paul, as you may know, practiced daily evangelism according to Acts 17:17:

“Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshippers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be present” (Acts 17:17).

Its one thing to share the gospel once a week, but it is quite a different thing to share the gospel every day!

One spiritual discipline that I have imposed upon myself is the discipline of organizing and leading a weekly evangelism team. This habit has been one of the most beneficial things that I have done. It has kept the Great Commission in the forefront of my thinking and Bible study, and has taught me many valuable lessons:

Here are some lessons from leading a weekly evangelism team:

  1. Being reminded weekly of the rejection that Jesus faced when He was on earth, the rejection that He promised we would face, and the rejection that he called blessed in Matt 5:11-12 and Luke 6:22-23.
  2. Being reminded weekly that there are lost people who (a) have not heard the gospel, (b) are really interested in the gospel, and (c) are immediately ready to receive Christ when He is presented to them!
  3. Begin reminded weekly of the power of the gospel to change lives, as well as the existence of many people who have either (a) drifted from the Lord or (b) are altogether disinterested in the gospel.
  4. Being reminded weekly that the Great Commission is important and non-negotiable.
  5. Being filled with an unspeakable joy after times of sharing the gospel.
  6. Building amazing bonds of Christian love and unity with others through sharing the gospel with them.

While these lessons are concrete and incredibly important, there are perhaps different lessons to be learned when involved in daily evangelism, as was the Apostle Paul:

  1. Difficulty sleeping because individuals and specific conversations come to mind about those with whom we share the gospel that very day.
  2. The urgency that is created in our hearts (a) to motivate us to daily evangelism, and (b) which fills our hearts through involvement in daily evangelism.
  3. The urgency that leads us to seek daily evangelism opportunities further multiplies to evangelizing many times a day, as the Lord gives opportunity (since we begin see opportunities all around us that we may not have noticed before).

Whether weekly evangelism or daily evangelism, the commonality is intentionality. We must be intentional about obeying the voice of our Savior, who said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).

“40 Lashes for the Wicked One”

Was God foreshadowing His own Son’s crucifixion event when He gave the law that the wicked be given 40 stripes? I wonder how Paul felt when he read Deut 25:1-3, knowing that he had received 40 minus one stripes according to that passage five times from the Jews. According to the Law of Moses, these stripes were reserved for him who was “a wicked one”—paradoxically, he who was acquitted was called “a righteous one.”

“If there is a dispute between men, and they come to court, that the judges may judge them, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked,then it shall be, if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, that the judge will cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence, according to his guilt, with a certain number of blows. Forty blows he may give him and no more, lest he should exceed this and beat him with many blows above these, and your brother be humiliated in your sight”(Deut 25:1-3).

Imagine when God was inspiring Moses to write these words. Him to whom one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day, could look ahead 1,500 years and see His only Son scourged according to this regulation.

So according to Deuteronomy 25, in order to be scourged, Jesus, whom the New Testament Scripture calls “the Righteous One” on several occasions (Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; 1 John 2:1), must needs be found “wicked”! The “Righteous One” had to be condemned as a “Wicked One” in order to deserve the 40 lashes from the Jews. And so He was—and so He did!

Further, was it not for this reason that the preaching in the Book of Acts highlighted that Jesus Christ was, in fact, a righteous Man. Perhaps Stephen said it most emphatically:

“You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit; as your ancestors did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They even killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it”(Acts 7:51-53).

The response of the Jews against Stephen was to gnash their teeth at him, cast him out of the city, and stone him.

Yes, Paul was also stoned for preaching the gospel. Yet he also received the “forty minus one” five times from the Jews. Hence, Paul was tried by a Jewish court in five cities. And five times they found him to be “wicked” versus “righteous”—even though he was living by faith! Therefore, he was given the “forty minus one” five times by the Jews.

Here is Paul’s explanation of these occurrences:

“From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned”(2 Cor 11:24-25).

How can we wrap our minds around these things? What are some lessons to be learned?

  1. God’s sovereign authorship of His Word is amazing. It is amazing that God allowed His only Son to be beaten as a wicked man, taking the stripes that we deserved.
  2. Understanding the context of Deuteronomy 25 gives us a deeper understanding of how powerful it was that the apostles referred to Jesus as a “Righteous One.”
  3. Paul was also treated as a wicked one because he was an ardent evangelist. Five times he received from the religious authorities the punishment of a wicked one. His persecution foreshadows a massive amount of persecution for the gospel in world history since Christ gave the Great Commission to His followers.
  4. Stephen and Paul were divine examples included in Scripture to show us of what it means to “follow after Christ” (Matt 16:24) and be “imitators of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).
  5. We who practice (and perhaps teach) evangelism in the current time, ought to remember what Paul went through to prioritize the spreading of the gospel in his day. The difficulties that Paul encountered were not outside of God’s sovereign plan!