“PILLARS” – Part 2
PAUL A PILLAR: “And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bounds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me…” – Acts 20:22-24.
The Lord made Paul a pillar and his stand had a stabilizing influence on others, and has yet even down to our day. He was certainly concerned about other’s standing. This attitude is most powerfully expressed in I Thessalonians three; read and consider. I also appreciate the way he said it in Galatians 2:5. “To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” Some fail to stand for the whole counsel of God, because they have not laid hold of the truth of the Gospel. They do not know. Others fail to stand because the love of the truth has not fully taken hold of them. I am so glad Paul stood when those that seemed to be pillars showed some instability.
THE MAKING OF A PILLAR: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all you care upon him, for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” – I Pet. 5:6-11.
From the epistles written by Peter, and God’s record concerning him, we find several good lessons on how pillars are made. Although Peter had proven unstable, yet passing through much suffering, the Lord had made him strong. He seems to write from experience in expressing the best attitude for becoming a spiritual pillar. That is, committing (4:10) submitting (5:6) and casting all our care upon Him (5:7). As we learn to rest upon God’s exceeding great and precious promises, we sense our pillows becoming a pillar. This is beautifully illustrated in Jacob’s experience at Bethel – Gen. 28:11-22. For us, because of faith’s dependance upon God’s Word, we find our place of rest is also a place of security. Cushions become columns. It seems Hannah said it well in her prayer and praise of I Samuel 2:1-10; consider and feast.
In the times that Peter had said no to the Lord, it is evident that he was being taught to say yes (Mk. 14:29,31). Peter had boasted in self-confidence that he would not be offended, and said, “I will not deny thee in any wise,” When Jesus foretold His going to the cross, Peter began to rebuke Him saying, “This shall not be unto thee.” When God was showing Peter that the Gospel was going to the Gentiles, Peter first answered, “Not so Lord.” Thank God, in each of these he learned better. These each had a part in his stablishing, strengthening, and settling. In becoming a pillar, Peter was lifted, gifted and sifted, and we are also.
LIFTED: In Matthew 14:22-33, we read of Peter and the disciples being saved from a watery grave. We read of them being out in the ship in the midst of the sea, and they were tossed with the waves: for the wind was contrary. They were troubled when they thought they saw a spirit walking on the sea. But Jesus spake to them saying, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” It is so comforting to listen to Him speak such to us when we are tossed and troubled.
Those words seem to soothe and satisfy the disciples, except Peter. He seemed to want more; he talked to Jesus saying, “bid me come to thee on the water.” Because of this he had a special experience with Jesus. I believe the Lord appreciates those that invite His invitation to step out on faith. Some may think of Peter as one who stuck his foot in his mouth, or really stuck his neck out, and had his lack openly manifested before the rest of the disciples. Although this is true, nevertheless the rest of them did not have the experience that Peter did. They, so to speak, just played it safe. Peter actually “walked on the water, to go to Jesus.” While it is true that when he saw the wind, he began to sink and cried out to the Lord to be saved, he was also caught by the outstretched hand of Jesus and brought into the ship personally. How wonderfully lifted was he. It is by the saving hand of Jesus that we are lifted from the guttermost to the uttermost.
We can joyfully sing “Love Lifted Me.” “The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifted up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he hath set the world upon them” – I Sam. 2:7-8. If any man be able to spiritually, uprightly stand, he must be divinely “lifted.”
GIFTED: As God would use us to bring others into spiritual benefit and stabilizing in fluence, He would make us realize that we are “gifted” as stewards of the manifold grace of God (I Pet. 4:10-11 & Eph. 4:7-15).
Jesus asked the question recorded in Matthew 16:15, “Whom say ye that I am?” V. 16, “Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, The Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which; is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose shall be loosed in heaven” – Mt. 16:16-19.
Peter is thus gifted with the precious privilege and grave responsibility to act in harmony, to conduct himself in agreement with the will of heaven. He had been intrusted with some of heaven’s valuables. Keys are symbolic of authority, but be it remembered that what Peter, the disciples, and even the church are given, these express representative authority (Mt. 18:18-20). Our apostle Paul was given some wonderful keys for the church, but it is only Jesus Christ that is said to be the one that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth.
Peter was later to greatly exercise this gift in turning the gospel key at Jerusalem (Acts 2:14-36), and in verses 37-41, we see the results: then at Samaria (Acts 8:14-25), again acting in harmony with heaven. Even in the case of Simon the sorcerer, also in Caesarea in the house of Cornelius, he once again used the gospel key to open a door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 10:23, 34-43), and the results, verses 44-chapter 11:1.
Shortly following Peter’s confession of Jesus being the Christ, the Son of the living God, and Jesus telling him how blessed (fortunate, favored or privileged) he was, we read these words. “From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those things that be of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” Mt. 16:21-25.
When Peter began to rebuke Jesus, Satan was evidently speaking through Peter’s flesh. It is a mystery to us how this could happen if we do not see the two natures in the believer. How could he, who had made so profound confession, received such blessed enlightenment, and given gracious responsibility, do such a thing? We know that the carnal mind is enmity with God. Satan will operate through the flesh, use human sympathy to discourage us, and try to drive us back from doing the will of God. Jesus in verses 24-27 shows the importance and necessity of judging our own flesh. If we allow the self-life to rule in us, we will do the bidding of our adversary, and suffer loss of eternal profit. One of the hard lessons in the development of true pillars is total rejection of anything from the flesh (our fallen nature). This gives us the reason for the sifting.
SIFTED: “Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both unto prison, and to death” -Lk. 22:28-33.
Peter did not know all that was in his heart; neither do we. Although Satan had to get permission to get at Job and Peter, why was it allowed? Even though we may be wonderfully lifted, and richly gifted in being made pillars, these do not exclude us from being powerfully sifted. The lifting and gifting are part of that which makes the sifting necessary. The Apostle Paul found this to be true also – II Cor. 12. But praise God, the shake-ups no matter how rough they may seem, serve to remove the chaff (that which pertains to the flesh). These also show where the real substance is, proving the value of that which cannot be removed. There is much to be considered on this subject, yet not covered here. I do thank God that when all the sifting is over, we will finally come into the full realization of our lifting and gifting. Then full overcomers will be finally set as pillars in that everlasting temple.