by Mike Ratliff

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV)

Proof that these are Laodicean times, that is, lukewarm, man-centered, not fervently God-centered times in the “visible church” is always found in points of contention. One such point presents itself here in which a “mega-church” pastor has gone public that he is “gay.” How this is “handled” by the “visible” church will be interesting indeed. I see the division between genuine Christianity and man-centered, Laodicean “christianity” becoming even more defined through this. I also agree with my brother Ken Silva in this that there will probably be even more well-known so-called “christian leaders” come out of the closet soon. However, if we focus too much on the apostasy all around us my brethren we can become very discouraged, therefore, as the writer of Hebrews says in the passage above, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

Let us focus in this post on a word from v24 in the passage above that the ESV translates as “stir up,” which is παροξυσμον; the Accusative, Singular form of παροξυσμός or paroxusmos. We get our English word paroxysm from this word, which means “a fit or outburst.” The Greek word παροξυσμός, in turn, is made up  of a root, ὀξύς or oxus, which means sharpen, irritate, or incite, and the prefix παρά or para, which pictures movement toward a certain point. Therefore, παροξυσμός gives us the idea if impelling, inciting, or rousing someone toward something.

This word can be used in either in a good sense or a bad sense and we see both in the Word of God. It is used in the good sense in the passage above in which believers are encouraged to provoke one another to love and good works… Let us obey this.

On the other hand, the Word of God also uses this word to speak of sharp contention, or even an angry dispute such as Paul breaking away from Barnabas o in Acts 15 over the issue of taking Mark with them on their missionary journey. The παροξυσμός was so sharp between Paul and Barnabas that they split up (Acts 15:36-40).

We find this word again in Acts 17:16 in which Paul’s spirit was παροξυσμός in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. He became incensed with how truly pagan the city was. Now, think again of the so-called pastor “coming out of the closet” mixing what is not Christian with what is Christian. This is impossible. It is only pagan and God will not tolerate it, especially when it is mixed in and blended with His name and worship. Consider this a παροξυσμός from me to incite each of you to become totally incensed against this sort of thing and not allow it to stand and be called Christian. When we use παροξυσμός this way it is literally “a sharpening,” so figuratively, consider this a spurring, a stimulation, an encouragement to each one reading this to seek ways to be an encouragement to other Christians, to impel others to do right in any circumstance. We should both look for ways to show our love and concern for the well-being and spiritual life of others as we stand firm against all apostasy.

If we will do this then we will be what we are supposed to be in this world as Christians.

Soli Deo Gloria!

13 thoughts on “Provoke

  1. Mike,
    Thank you for these posts about the true church. I read all your posts since your trip in one sitting, and plan to go back over them in order to examine whether or not the church we attend is one to stay in or to leave. So far the pastor preaches straight from the bible every Sunday, and the associate pastor examines scripture and presents it to the best of his ability (we’re going through Revelation and are on Laodicea (I hope I spelled it right) this week and next at least. He spoke also about the cold/hot/leukwarm and mentioned the churches today just as you have mentioned. I so far have been comfortable with the teaching. It’s fellowship now that I’m eyeing as well as discernment and stands taken on tolerating sin…provoking. It is a Baptist church, but I am told it’s more Reformed than the typical. I know they have systematic style theology classes and others. I’m watching (as is my husband). Our children sure are learning much more at the current church than our former “PEACE” plan…get outta the boat and walk across the room and “spiritual formation/missional” church we once attended. It takes time (almost two years already) to trust again! I have so much to learn!


  2. @Mike, I thank you for the latest articles. I am preparing a bibletstudy for a housegroup and when I was reading today your articles is was an encouragement that I am on the right track with the topic I am preparing.


  3. Mike,

    thanks for this posting. I am left with one question, however, is the pastor a homosexual hiding within a monogamous heterosexual marriage or a Christian who struggles with same-sex temptations. Neither your post nor the newspaper article sheds any light on this issue.

    Speaking as a celibate Christian who stuggles with same-sex desires, I know the Church has a most difficult time with the issue of besetting sins in the lives of believers.

    As for myself, I believe all sexual activity, in thought, word or deed, outside of a life-long, monogamous heterosexual marriage is outside of God’s creative intent (more simply, sin). Sexual activity in the Church youth group is sin. Sexual activity in the Church singles ministry is sin. Adultery in the congregation is sin. Divorce is sin. Internet pornography is sin. All are examples of how we far we can walk from God’s creative design, even as believers.

    I am one of multitudes of Christians who believe the above and who struggles with same-sex desires having not ever experienced desire for females. I want to assure you we are committed to God in the midst of this struggle. We may never be rid, in this lifetime, of this besetting sin; but, rest assured we will see Him one day face-to-face not on the basis of our thoughts, words or deeds but based on His grace and mercy shed upon us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is too bad we cannot stuggle more publically in the Church with the “why” questions, with the shame of a besetting sin, and with our feelings of lonliness rather than being sees as a group who sins is most repugnant or at best an apostacy.


  4. Richard, all of us are tempted by all sorts of evil through our flesh. Some of these are indeed besetting sins and seem to have a very deep hook into us and we must fight and struggle with these things our entire lives. No argument there. What I see in this sorry mess though is a huge helping of hypocrisy and outright paganism pretending to be Christian.


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