The Spirit of Man
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

We have been studying the book of Proverbs for quite a few weeks. At the present time we are in the second section of the book of Proverbs, which begins with chapter 10 and concludes with chapter 22, verse 16, the section known as The Personal Proverbs of Solomon . There are some 375 of them, and we have looked at a great many of them, selecting certain principles which are taught within the book and then gathering around that principle the proverbs which are related to it. We said that after we had done that, there remained a number of proverbs which we had to consider together as special texts; that is, they had to be considered individually. We referred to them as special texts because they have been used by ministers down through the ages to preach some tremendous messages which God has been pleased to use for His honor and for His glory.

We do not expect to bring any tremendous messages on any of these texts because we will not be treating them in the same homiletical manner as some preachers have, but we call to your attention that they are specific verses which have been greatly used of the Lord for specific purposes. We ask you to open your Bibles to Proverbs, chapter 20, because we want you to notice with us verse 25:

Proverbs 20:

25 It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make enquiry.

We read the verse again so that the words might be fixed firmly in your mind that you might be able to think about them fully and completely. Notice:

Proverbs 20:

25 It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make enquiry.

The Seriousness of Vows

Notice the word vows . That will tell you immediately what we are talking about. We are talking about the responsibility of the believer in relation to vows. We might say that we are talking with you about the seriousness of vows. As you look at that verse, if you are the average thinking person, you are a bit confused about what it might mean because of the word devoureth, which you find right in the middle of it: “It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy…” You might wonder just how you could devour that which is holy, so I think it would be wise for us to look at that word devoureth. Let me call to your attention that it comes from the Hebrew word yala , which means “to blurt out” or “to utter inconsistently.” So you see, it is not talking about eating something; it is not talking about devouring something as you might devour food. Rather, it is talking about your blurting out something or uttering something inconsistently. The thrust of the verse deals with the danger of speaking rashly in relation to holy things. If you learn the significance of that, you will have learned a tremendous lesson.

In order for you to be able to grasp what the Holy Spirit would have in mind, we are going to suggest that we look at some other renderings of this particular verse, noticing first the Amplified rendering, which reads: “It is a snare to a man to utter a vow rashly and not until afterwards inquire whether he can fulfill it.” You get the point. Men sometimes utter vows and they do not think until after they have uttered the vow whether or not they have the ability to fulfill the vow which they have made. When that happens, of course, they are ensnared and in trouble, facing a very real problem which they sometimes do not have the know-how to deal with.

Another rendering that is of significance from the New English Bible is, “It is a dangerous thing to dedicate a gift rashly or to make a gift and have second thoughts after you make the gift.” Sometimes in the heat of an emotional upheaval, you may feel led of God to make a gift toward a certain enterprise, and after you make it, you wonder how in the world you are going to fulfill the gift that you have made. You have second thoughts about it. God says that it is a dangerous thing to dedicate rashly and then have second thoughts about it.

Another suggestion by way of translation is from the Living Bible : “It is foolish and rash to make a promise to the Lord before counting the cost.” When we read it in that rendering, we are reminded of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave a parable concerning the foolishness of the man who attempted to build a house without first counting the cost that was related to the building of the house. It would be wise for us, in the consideration of vowing, to count the cost.

Solomon's Thoughts on Vows

I would like to suggest to you that Solomon, who is the author of the book of Proverbs, had some very dogmatic and serious thoughts on the subject of vows. Turn with me to the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 5, and notice something else that Solomon had to say on the subject of vows. You are aware, I trust, that Solomon is the author of the book of Proverbs, as well as the book of Ecclesiastes. Notice verse 1:

Ecclesiastes 5:

1 Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.
2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.
3 For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words.
4 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.
5 Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
6 Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?

Solomon is suggesting that when people go into the house of God, they should be more ready to hear than to speak. There is a real emphasis upon the purpose of our gathering together in what we call church services today. The purpose of our gathering together should be to hear the Word of God, for that is the purpose of our gathering together. Before we respond to what we hear by making some rash statement with our mouth, we should give careful consideration that we are not hasty to utter anything before God.

This is one of the reasons—I hope you will not misunderstand what I am saying—I do not believe in invitations at the close of services which are not directed by the Holy Spirit of God. We do not have a great many invitations here at Abilene Bible Church, and one of the reasons that we do not is that I do not feel that we should unless the Spirit of God specifically directs that such should be done. I would not say that every time we have an invitation, we are Spirit directed. We endeavor to be, but I would say to you that we are not going to have invitations here when we do not feel that the Holy Spirit of God is directing us in the invitation, for in the many years I have been in the ministry, I have had to deal through personal counseling with multitudes of people who have responded to invitations under the pressure of the preacher, under the pressure of the moment, under the pressure of the song, and they have not been able to live up to that which they promised when they responded to the invitation. They have been terribly confused, and they have sometimes taken months of counseling with the Word of God to put them on a level footing where they could even begin to think about walking with the Lord.

The reason that I don't want you to misunderstand that is that I don't want you to go out of here and say that I do not believe in invitations, and I do not want you to go out of here and say that I am opposed to them. I am simply saying, Beloved, that we need to be careful when we enter the house of God. Look at verse 4 and notice again what Solomon said:

Ecclesiastes 5:

4 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it [if you make a vow, pay the vow ]; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.

Before we get through, you will understand that we are not talking about vows that are made irrationally and vows that are made inconsistently with the Word of God, for God would not hold you to such a vow. You would be making it in ignorance, and He would be violating His own Person and violating His Word if He held you to a vow that contradicted the Word of God; but when you do make a vow after careful consideration, then defer not to pay the vow because God looks upon you with disfavor if you do not. As a matter of fact, Solomon said, in verse 6, that it is better that you not vow than if you vow and not pay. Better to make a mistake by not responding to the invitation than to respond and not meet it. Better to make a mistake in withholding what is God's due than to promise God what you can't actually pay. A good bit of advice is found in verse 6, where we read:

Ecclesiastes 5:

6 Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin…

Not by making your vow, but by making an excuse for not paying it is indicated in the next statement. Notice what it says:

Ecclesiastes 5:

6 …neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?

This statement that this was an error is not a suggestion that you made your vow in error and therefore you are asking God to excuse you from it; it is an excuse you are giving. You may vow in all sincerity, but you are trying to squirm out of it by saying that it was an error. This is what displeases God.

Vows in Relation to the Age of Grace

Having looked at Solomon's very strong thoughts about the subject of vows, I would like to suggest to you that if you are familiar with the writings of people in this age of grace, you are well aware that there are many people who have very strong feelings today. Some folk are so imbued with their strong feelings about vows that they have seen in writings and I have heard them say that vows are not to be made in this age of grace, that vows are inconsistent with the age of grace in which we live, that vows were related to the old economy; they are not related to the new. I would suggest to you that there is not a verse anywhere in the New Testament where the making of vows is forbidden, and if this is true then it would behoove no person to say dogmatically that vows have no relation to this age of grace in which we live.

Some individuals feel that vows are so inconsequential that the least said about them the better, and so they are not interested at all if anything is being said about vows. I think it would be wise for us to know what the Word of God has to say about them in relation to this age of grace in which we live, so may I suggest to you that though vows are not forbidden in the New Testament, they are mentioned only in those passages of Scripture which we refer to as transition passages of Scripture, such as the Acts of the Apostles, which are historical passages of Scripture describing the transition from the age of law to the age of grace—the Acts of the Apostles which is describing the transition from the age when men lived according to the Mosiac Commandment and the age of grace, when men live according to the New Covenant, not written on tables of stone, but written upon the fleshly tables of the heart as the New Covenant.

If we are going to consider together these particular statements that will help us to understand what a vow is in the New Testament in this new age of grace, I think it would be wise for us to recognize that the word vow , as it is used in the Acts of the Apostles, and the word vow , as it is used in the Old Testament, mean exactly the same thing. We call that to your attention for a purpose which we will make clear in a moment. The Hebrew word for vow is the word neder , which means “to promise or to give something to God.” That is what a vow is.

In the New Testament the word for vow is euche, which represents a wish in which a prayer is involved; that is, a desire which you express to God in the way of a prayer, or if you want to put it very simply, make a promise to God in prayer. This puts upon it a spiritual significance, and it gives it an importance that a promise that you make to an ordinary individual would not have.

Since vows are not mentioned in the New Testament except in this transition period, are we to assume, as some people say, that though vows are not forbidden in the New Testament, they have no place in the believer's life? I would like to answer that question by suggesting that you turn to II Corinthians, chapter 9. I suggest to you an area in which we are very plainly told that vows are permissible. As you look at this passage of Scripture, you will not find reference to a vow, but you will find described for you an area in which vows may be made today in the this age of grace in the area of giving. Notice verse 7, where we read:

II Corinthians 9:

7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

If you are familiar with this chapter you will know that the Apostle Paul was gathering a collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem because they had undergone a famine. He did not want to put on any high-pressure tactics when he arrived, so he wrote to all the churches to which he was coming and said in so many words: “Seek the mind of the Lord about it. Make a vow in relation to it. Have the money ready when I or my representative arrive because there will be no collections when I come.”

When he said, “There will be no collections when I come,” he meant there would be no going around persuading people to give. They would have already vowed within their hearts what they were going to give and would have it ready when it was asked for.

You may be wondering why I am using the word vow when it is not used in the Scripture. The reason is that the word purpose is used, and the word purpose comes from the Greek word proaireomai , which means “to choose for oneself before another thing,” “to make a choice about something, putting it before something else.” This constitutes a vow. I have fifty dollars. There is a need. Here is another need. Maybe I have some personal needs, but this spiritual need which is presented to me touches my heart and I say to the Lord, “Lord, I am going to give You this fifty dollars. They have not taken the collection yet, but when they do, Lord, I am going to give You this fifty dollars.”

Before I make that vow to the Lord, I think about the things that I want to do with that fifty dollars. I would like to buy some clothes, but the Lord has spoken to my heart, so I am putting this spiritual need before the clothes. One of my children wants a stereo. I would like to use that toward a stereo, but the Lord has spoken to my heart, so I say, “Lord, I vow to give You this fifty dollars. I purpose to put Your need before the needs that I have mentioned.”

I go home, and someone asks me, “Are you going to get some new clothes?” “No, I am not.” “Well, I thought you had the money saved for them.” “I did, but I made a vow to God. I have got to keep that vow.” One of the children who wanted the stereo says, “Am I going to get the stereo?” I would say, “Well, you came pretty close. It was between clothes and a stereo, but you haven't got a chance now.” “Why? Don't you have the money?” “I have it, but it doesn't belong to me. I purposed in my heart I would give it to God. I vowed a vow to God, and I must keep my vow.”

Look again at verse 7:

II Corinthians 9:

7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly…

Don't you see, Beloved? You do vow in this New Testament age. You will recall when Jacob left home in Genesis, chapter 28, God was good to him. He was scared to death when he left, and God encouraged his heart. He said to God, “God, you have been good to me, and if You will continue with me (he wasn't trying to bargain with God), I promise to give You a tenth of everything I get while I am gone.” A lot of people take that passage of Scripture and say that is reason enough for tithing. I would like to remind you that tithing is not mentioned in the New Testament any more than vows are mentioned in the New Testament except in those transition passages of Scripture.

If you want to make a vow to give a tenth of what is yours to God, that is between you and God, and the Lord bless you for it; but don't tell the man who lives next door to you that he has to give a tenth because if he does on the influence you have given him, he might be speaking rashly. He might not be able to give a tenth, and you would be forcing him to make a vow that he could not keep and in so doing would create a snare for him. You see, every man purposeth in his heart what he should give.

I can't leave you too comfortable, so let me suggest to you that maybe you ought to give more than a tenth. Maybe you ought to give 99 percent. I don't know. I don't have any idea, but don't vow to give 99 percent if all you can give is five per cent. Don't let anybody trick you into making a vow. Don't let anybody trick you into making a flesh sin by speaking too rashly in relation to this area in which a vow is justified in the New Testament.

Faith Promise Giving

Some folk call these pledges . Some folk call them faith promises . I don't know that it makes a whole lot of difference what you call them. I like the phrase faith promise better because of the succeeding verses in this chapter. Glance at verse 8:

II Corinthians 9:

8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
9 (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.
10 Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)
11 Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.

Since we don't have time for an exposition of that paragraph, let me say to you to boil it down into a few words, Paul says, “If you don't have it, God can give it to you.” That is why I like a faith promise. You can make a promise by faith, believing that God will supply the amount of money that you have promised to any given project that bears the name of Christ. When you look at your own income book, you may say, “I can't do it,” but when you look at God's resources you say, “I can.” Whatever way you make your vow, be sure, Beloved, you make it on the basis of what God is expecting of you and no one else; otherwise, it will be a rash vow.

Vow to Dedicate Your Body to God

There is another area in which vows are encouraged in the New Testament, and it is in the area of dedication. Turn to Romans, chapter 12. I am using this word dedication with a full realization that it is not an accurate word, but it is a word that everybody uses, and because everybody uses it, I want you to understand what I am talking about. There is a great theological discussion raging in our age as to whether the believer dedicates or consecrates—whether the believer consecrates and God dedicates. That is why I am saying that this may not be a wise choice of words, but it is a word with which most people are familiar. Look at verses 1-2, where we read:

Romans 12:

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

In the sense of our text, I would like to suggest to you that the Apostle Paul is urging believers to make a vow concerning their bodies as to the use to which they will be put—whether they will be used selfishly for themselves and the accomplishments of their own ends, or whether they will be used for God and His glory.

Please recognize that we are talking about a body. A body is a pretty tangible thing. You see before you speaking to you, a body. It wouldn't win any contest for physical beauty, but it is a body. You can see it. It is not a spirit; it is a body. If we had the time and anyone doubted it, you could come up and touch it and see that it is a body. It is tangible, and I want you to see that because I want you to realize that God is asking for something here. He is not asking for a spirit. He is not asking for a heart. What is a heart? “Oh,” you say, “it is what pumps the blood through the body.” Yes, if you are speaking physically, it is. If you are speaking spiritually, it is where the ability to comprehend the things of God is described. There was a time in the Old Testament when they would use the heart to describe that particular area that you might not like to think about. Did you know that in the Old Testament there was a time when God said in some of the Psalms that the seat of your comprehension of spiritual things rested in your kidneys? That is so, and it is not that it rests in your physical kidneys, but there was a time when it was thought that the basic emotions of life were in the kidneys, so that term was used to describe a spiritual truth. I want you to realize that I am being very literal, and I am taking time to draw this out to emphasize the literalness of it. God is asking for your body here, and He is asking you to make a vow about your body.

You may be saying, “I don't see that word vow anywhere in that passage of Scripture.” That is right. You don't see that word vow , but you do see the word present : “I beseech you, brethren, that ye present your bodies…” The word present is from the Greek word paristano , which means “to stand beside God.” I rather like that. You know, in this world in which we live, everybody has got to stand. Oh, you may not want to, and you may find some way to keep from taking the stand that you ought to take, but everybody has to take a stand. Sometimes we use the phrase, “Stand up and be counted.” We may not want to stand up and be counted, but we are counted because we don't stand up.

What is the Spirit of God saying? He is saying, “I want you to take your stand by Jesus Christ.” He is not speaking to unbelievers; He is speaking to those who have already received the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice what He said: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you take your body and stand by God, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

What are we talking about? We are talking about a vow—a vow about your body. I made a vow many, many years ago that this body of mine would serve the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, yes, I have been a Christian quite some time, but I made a vow that this body of mine would stand beside God in every conflict in which God might be engaged. That isn't easy, and that is the reason that I emphasize again, don't speak rashly when you make this vow. The reason that I say it is not easy is because of what you read in verse 2:

Romans 12:

2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

I want you to notice two words in that verse. One of them is conformed and the other is transformed. I don't want you to get mixed up. A lot of people do. They think the word transformed describes their responsibility, and it doesn't. There is not a person in the whole world who can transform himself. I say that this vow is not an easy vow because of the word conformed . This word conformed comes from the Greek word suschematizo , and this word means “to shape or fashion like something else.” It is presented in the negative here, and it is saying, “Don't shape or fashion your body like the world. Don't be conformed to the world.” Remember, the world here is not talking about the grass, trees, and the rivers and the brooks. It is talking about the world system. Once you vow that your body belongs to the Lord, there will be some areas in which you will have to take a stand in relation to the world system, refusing to be conformed to it.

Only God Can Transform Your Life

There is something that concerns me. I don't like being a freak. I like to keep up with the styles, and some of the saints think that I overdo it, but that doesn't bother me. But, Beloved, I am a bit concerned in this age in which we are living that some folk are forgetting that when we have vowed that our bodies belong to the Lord, there are certain areas in which we must refuse to conform. We do not need to get on a soapbox and make an announcement about it; we just need to politely refuse to fashion our lives like this present world system. I am concerned that a lot of Christians seem to have forgotten it. As a matter of fact, they have been duped into thinking that unless they do conform, they will have no witness and no testimony. That is not so.

There is one last word in that text that I would like for you to notice. It is the word transformed , and it comes from the Greek word metamorphoo , and it speaks of the same thing as our English word metamorphose speaks. It means “a complete change.” It is the change that occurs when that little ugly caterpillar turns into a beautiful butterfly. Only God can do that, and I would like to emphasize that only God can transform your life. You can vow that God shall have your body. Then you can refuse to conform to the world system and trust Him to transform your life.

May I say a word to you old folks who are so concerned about your children, some of their activities and some of their actions. I don't say, don't be concerned, but I do plead with you: Don't try to transform them. The biggest mistake that a parent can make is to try to transform his child. You can't do it.

You can conform them, and sometimes a paddle properly shaped helps in the conformation, but you can't transform them. I think a great many parents get mixed up in what the Word of God has to say and feel that their responsibility is the responsibility of transformation. It isn't. It is a responsibility of praying that the Holy Spirit will transform that which has been vowed to Him.

Satan Provides Snares

Go back to Proverbs, chapter 20, and notice verse 25 again because there is one other thing that I would like to say to you about this particular verse:

Proverbs 20:

25 It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make enquiry.

I would like for you to notice the first part of that verse, where we read again:

Proverbs 20:

25 It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make enquiry.

Notice the word snare , as I suggest to you that the Devil never likes for you to do anything that will encourage your Christian growth, so he will provide plenty of snares into which you may fall. This word snare , in the Hebrew text, comes from the word mowqesh , which describes an animal trap—a trap into which an animal will fall.

The word snare is used in the New Testament, and it comes from the Greek word pagis. It means exactly the same thing—“an animal trap.” A hunter who builds a trap into which an animal might fall is not going to go out and write a sign in their language, “This is a trap.” He is going to camouflage it very carefully. The Devil never comes about a believer, waving a flag and saying, “I am laying a snare for you.” There wouldn't be any point in his doing that. He lays the snare, and because you and I are not sensitive to the Holy Spirit and following where He leads, we fall into that snare.

There are two snares mentioned in connection with making a vow. One of them is the rashness that is spoken of in Proverbs, chapter 20, verse 25, to which we have already referred, when we speak before we think, when we speak before we have adequately laid the matter before the Lord and sought His will and His purpose. That is the reason, when I make a suggestion that I would like to see you do certain things, I say, “I don't want you to decide now. I don't want you to make a decision now. I want you to go home and pray about it. I want you to seek the mind of the Lord about it and then make your decision because too many decisions are made in the rashness of the flesh and a snare is laid which amounts to a trap where you are ensnared by Satan and your effectiveness is ruined.”

The other trap that Satan lays is doubting. The statement, “after vows to make enquiry,” is the reason I am using this word doubting here. One of the snares that the Devil uses to entrap sincere believers, after they have made a vow about which they have carefully prayed, is to cause them to doubt, to cause them to have second thoughts about it, to cause them to wonder if they really should have made the vow they did.

Notice what is recorded in Romans, chapter 14. May I remind you that the discussion involved the idea of some questionable things, the idea of whether you were or you were not going to do a certain thing.

The only suggestion that the Spirit of God makes in this chapter is that every person be fully persuaded in his own mind on the basis of the Word of God, not fully persuaded because Joe Temple thinks it's the right thing to do, not fully persuaded because Joe Temple thinks it isn't the thing to do, but fully persuaded because of what you find in God's Word.

If, after you are fully persuaded on the basis of the Word of God that you should make your vow, you doubt that what you've done is right, you are sinning. Look at the last two verses of Romans, chapter 14:

Romans 14:

22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

That last statement has been tremendously overworked and applied in a variety of ways, but the main thrust of that statement is that if you cannot do by faith what you promised God you would do, then you are sinning. “…whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” The Devil doesn't want you to promise God anything, and if he can keep you from promising to God sincerely, then he will attempt to ruin the effectiveness of your vow by causing you to doubt.

He doesn't want you to promise God anything, so in order to cause you to fail, he will, through some emotional experience or some overpersuasive speaker, cause you to make a vow rashly that you cannot keep, and when you fail, you tend to throw up your hands and say, “What's the use? There's nothing to it. I tried, but I failed.”

Beloved, don't devour that which is holy.


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