In the third part of this series, Understanding What Christ Did, we studied the part of the apostle Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome (now referred to as the Biblical book of Romans) that dealt with the significance of God’s salvation for His children, that He delivers through Christ.
As we continue our journey through this letter, we find Paul shifting his Holy Spirit-inspired focus to the eternal prize awaiting God’s children:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is revealed to us. For the anxious longing of creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subject to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will also be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth until now. Rom. 8:18 – 22. NASB
What Paul is pointing out, is that when Adam and Eve corrupted themselves through sin, God levied the consequential penalty upon the entire earth and its inhabitants – in addition to our progenitors.
The perfection of the Garden of Eden is now denied to the human race until the children of God receive their reconciliation and resurrection at the end of time; and all the rest of God’s creations await that moment as well:
And not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Rom. 8:23 ESV
The children of God already possess the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – the ‘first fruit’ of our heavenly transformation; and they are all assured of the consummation of that transfiguration.
God has given us a hope that does not disappoint. It does require our faith – bolstered by the love of the Spirit of God:
For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Rom. 8:24, 25. NKJV
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Rom. 8;26, 27. NASB
So in addition to strengthening our faith, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with a heavenly effective prayer language that we do not understand; but Jesus does comprehend it, and He takes up those prayers, and stands in intercession for us as well. Thus, we are well equipped to be able to cling to the salvation promise of God:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be confirmed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He justified, these He also glorified. Rom. 8:28 – 30. NKJV
God has always had a plan for your total and absolute redemption. Your part in that redemptive process, is to accept His plan by placing your faith in who Jesus is, in what He’s done, and do your best to walk like He walked. When you do that, God has got you covered:
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? Rom. 8:31 – 35. NKJV
The answer to that last section is my all-time favorite scripture in the entire Bible. Indeed, it is my anchor text for this blog:
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 8:37 – 39. NKJV
Nothing can stand in the way of you receiving God’s love (except unrepentant sin)…
Remember that the overriding purpose of Paul’s letter was to unify both the Jewish and Gentile followers of Christ, within a strong gospel foundation. Paul now addresses the Jews specifically:
Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved… Rom. 9:27 NASB
Paul is recalling God’s promise to Abraham to cover the earth with his descendants; however, only those Jews (the ‘remnant’) who embrace Christ will be awarded His salivation.
Paul goes on to contrast what has been the Jew and Gentile pursuit of salvation:
What shall we say then? The Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone. Rom. 9:30 – 32. ESV
As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” Rom. 9:33 NKJV
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Rom. 10:4 NKJV
The Gentiles pursued their salvation by faith. The Jewish ‘remnant’ must do likewise. The majority of the Jews unfortunately, tried to earn their salvation through works – rejecting Christ (the ‘stumbling stone) as was prophesied they would, 400 years before they did, by the prophet Isaiah. (Is. 28:16 – quoted by Paul above).
So then, Paul gives both the Jews and the Gentiles the clear path to salvation, i.e. for keeping their eyes on the prize:
…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Rom. 10:9, 10. NKJV
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved. Rom. 10:12, 13. NKJV
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Rom. 10:17 NASB
So it all comes down to faith, a faith gained by Holy Spirit inspiration when you hear the gospel.
Paul then directly addresses the Gentiles, warning them not to yield to self-righteousness; because it was the Jews’ unrighteous rebellion against Christ that gave the Gentiles the opportunity to receive the gospel. Paul did not want the Gentiles to adopt the prideful attitude that they were ‘one up’ on the Jews:
Now if the first handful of dough offered as the firstfruits [Abraham and the patriarchs] is consecrated (holy), so is the whole mass [the nation of Israel]; and if the root [Abraham] is consecrated (holy), so are the branches.
But if some of the branches were broken off, while you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among them to share in the richness [of the root and sap] of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches and pride yourself at their expense…remember it is not you that support the root, but the root [that supports] you. Rom. 11:16 – 18. AMP
Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith.
So do not become proud but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God; severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness.
And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. Rom. 11:19 – 23. ESV
God’s love and mercy knows no bounds. All He asks, is that you keep your eyes on the prize…
Goodnight and God bless.
November 30 2013 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
In the second part of this series, Unified By Faith, we continued to examine the apostle Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome, (now known as the Biblical book of Romans). In the section of the letter that we looked at, Paul was explaining the centerpiece of God’s salvation through Christ – that is, having faith in who Jesus is, (the Son of God) and what He did.
Having a better understanding of what it is that you are having faith in, always strengthens faith. So today, we will look at the section of Paul’s letter that brings a greater clarity to what Jesus did and what it meant.
First and foremost, God sent Jesus so that He could undo the sin of Adam and point you heavenward: Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men– Rom. 5:12 NKJV
But the free gift is not like offense. For if by one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.
And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.
For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Rom. 5:15 – 17. NKJV
…as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom. 5:21 NKJV
Through God’s clemency and grace, He struck down your Adam-derived death sentence through the free gift of Jesus Christ; and the suspension of your sentence is eternal.
Well, if Jesus has already done all this work for us, are we then free to sin at will?
Shall we continue to sin so that grace may abound? Certainly not!
How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
…that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in the newness of life. Rom. 6:1 – 4. NKJV
…our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Rom. 6:6, 7. NKJV
For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey its lusts…but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law but under grace. Rom. 6:10 – 14. NKJV
Jesus died for all of our sins for all time, and those who receive Him have, at that very moment, total access to that transformation of righteousness – literally becoming new men and women in Christ.
As a new creature in Christ, we are asked to walk as best we can, in a new way, God’s way – being doers of the word and not hearers only. (James 1:22)
However, the flesh will not give up on its cravings; and there will be moments when we are weak-willed and give into them. Yet we can always tap into the resurrection power of Christ to help us stand in opposition to sin, to keep our transgressions to a minimum; because God promises us that He will always provide a way out of our predicaments. (1 Cor. 10:13) When we do slip, we can turn to God with confession and repentance…
God wants us as far away from sin as possible because He knows that it is so destructive:
Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? Rom. 6:15, 16. NKJV
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 6:23 NKJV
God has a much higher road prepared for you to walk on:
…you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to one another – to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. Rom. 7:4 NKJV
Paul goes on to write about how the law itself is not bad, and that its job is to show us our sin – so that we could see the need for our salvation. He uses his own personal struggles with sin to emphasize his point:
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Rom. 7:14, 15. ESV
So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. Rom. 7:17, 18. ESV
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. Rom. 7:21 ESV
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. Rom. 7:24, 25. NKJV
We can see then that the Mosaic Law was intended to be a spiritual standard, wherein one’s total obedience to it would guarantee a 100% righteous state before God.
However, there is a continual war within us – between our spirit, which can and wants to obey the law, and the Adam-sin-tainted flesh, which relishes rebellion against the same.
God is showing us His mercy, in bringing to us one of His mightiest spiritual warriors, and revealing to us Paul’s struggles with his own humanity. Our loving Father in heaven is showing us the need to apply mercy and compassion to everyone, ourselves as well, and lay condemnation aside.
God knows about our internal tug-of-war. Even when we seek to be in obedience and advance His kingdom, the voice of Satan is ever-present in our flesh, trying to convince us to do otherwise.
When we do slip and fall, we gain nothing by condemning ourselves. (Remember how Jesus refused to condemn the adulteress?) We have only lost a skirmish, not the entire battle. Christ is at the helm; and the lost skirmish is wiped out through our confession and repentance that connects us with His blood of redemption.
Indeed, Jesus leads us to victory in the battle: There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Rom. 8:1 – 4. NASB
What a God! What a Son! See the word ‘now’ in the beginning of that scripture? God has already freed those from the condemnation of sin who received Christ and placed their faith in His death and resurrection. And that condemnation has been removed for every transgression we have committed or ever will commit, as long as we try to do our best to walk in the spirit and emulate Jesus.
We have actually met all of the Law through the efforts of Jesus on our behalf; and we walk presently in the new found freedom of God’s new and final covenant – through Christ. Moreover, Christ Himself empowers us to live that spirit-filled life. We only have to exercise our free will to make the right choices:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Rom. 8:5, 6. NKJV
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile towards God, for it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Rom. 8:7, 8. ESV
In other words, when we set our minds on going after the ways of the world, we rebel against God, and death is the guaranteed outcome. Praise God that He showers those who choose Him and His ways, through His Son, with His love, mercy, and grace for all eternity:
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of God, he is not His.
And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Rom. 8:9 – 11. NKJV
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. for you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba Father.”
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. Rom. 8:13 – 17. NKJV
When you accept Christ, you are filled with the Holy Spirit – cloaking you with the righteousness of Jesus, which wipes all of your sins off of the heavenly ledger. And, you become adopted sons and daughters – bathed in love and joy, along with a little suffering as well, because the enemy will now declare ‘open season’ on you, as he tries to tear you away from the arms of your Savior.
However, what did Jesus tell us? “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” John 10:27, 28. NKJV
That’s what Christ did…
Goodnight and God bless.
November 23 2013 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
In the first part of this series, Unifying The Church, we saw that the apostle Paul wrote a letter (that we know now as the Biblical book of Romans) to established churches in Rome to unify the Jewish and the Gentile followers of Christ. To facilitate this, Paul’s letter contained his Holy Spirit-inspired treatise on the essential theological foundations of Christianity.
We left off where Paul was beginning to develop the all-important center of those foundations – the necessity of having faith in God’s gift of salvation through Christ Jesus. Indeed, the last scripture we looked at was this: Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Rom. 3:28 NKJV
That scripture looks like it diminishes the validity of the Mosaic Law, but is that really the case?
Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. Rom. 3:31 NKJV
So, the law is valid, yet it is impossible to be in perfect obedience to every letter of it. That impossibility is what points to our need for Christ, which allows us to be perfect in our obedience – vicariously through His righteousness. Realize too, that Jesus only bestows that righteousness upon those who have faith in who He is and in what He’s done.
We cannot earn our salvation. It is a gift of God’s grace; and if it is a gift, then there can be no exchange. Salvation is not something that we do; it’s what God does. Faith is the vehicle in which we receive the gift of salvation. Faith is not a doing; it is a being and a having.
Faith is not something that we produce. It is a gift that we receive from Jesus Himself, when we accept Him as the living Son of God: …let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith… Heb. 12:1, 2. NKJV
Christ gifts us with faith in order to nurture our relationship with Him for all eternity. He gives us faith; and God uses our acceptance and use of that faith, to ‘justify’ (from the Greek word dikaioo, meaning ‘to make innocent’) us in His eyes through the ‘propitiate’ (from the Greek hilasterion, meaning ‘an atoning victim’) act of His Son on the cross.
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Rom. 4:3 NKJV
How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised but uncircumcised. And he received a sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still yet uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also… Rom. 4:10, 11. NKJV
For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be the heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. Rom. 4:13 NASB
Thus, it was through Abraham’s belief (faith) in God that purchased the blessing of faith for all future descendants (everyone) who would open their arms to receive it by coming to Christ:
Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised up because of our justification. Rom. 4:23 – 25. NKJV
Faith is what unifies us as children of God. It is the centerpiece of God’s covenant promise:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Rom. 5:1 – 5. NKJV
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Rom. 5:6 ESV
…God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Rom. 5:8 – 10. NKJV
God is love. He is merciful. Therefore, Love is merciful. Even when we are enemies of God, enslaved to the ways of the world, He opens His arms through the arms of His Son, and scoops up everyone who is willing to be the recipients of His love.
In His limitless mercy, He sacrificed His Son so that we could be transformed, washed clean of those enslavements by His grace, so that we could become the children of God who will spend eternity with Him, in His complete love.
Goodnight and God bless.
November 16 2013 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
The apostle Paul left the region of Macedonia in the winter of 57 A.D. for the Grecian city of Corinth, where he would stay for three months. This time interval would conclude Paul’s third missionary journey; and while in Corinth, Paul wrote a letter to the churches planted in Rome – the letter now known as the Bible book of Romans. (We don’t know who it was that originally planted those churches.)
Paul has been preaching for over two decades at this point, and God has continually strengthened and clarified His message through him. God is now using Paul to help unify the churches in Rome, some of which consisted of Jewish followers of Christ, and others consisting of Gentile followers. Paul now brings a far greater depth of understanding of God’s plan to both groups by writing an extremely detailed exposition regarding the gospel.
Indeed, the Book of Romans could be called the ‘bedrock’ of Christian theology.
Paul begins his letter by referring to the gospel and Jesus’ place in it:
I Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead.
Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among you also are the called of Jesus Christ… Rom. 1:1 – 6. NKJV
Specifically, Paul is asserting that he is a true apostle of Christ, that Jesus’ human side was descended from King David and that He has fulfilled all of the prophecy that the Holy Spirit has inspired the prophets to write – which points to the fact that He is the Messiah. In addition, we are reminded that God resurrected His Son through the Holy Spirit, and at that moment, Christ came into His kingship.
Finally, God is telling us, through Paul, that we, like the original apostles, have been granted the grace of God through Christ in order to be apostolic ourselves – equipped to spread the gospel to the entire planet.
One way to empower our outreach for bringing to fruition a unified body of Christ, is to be sure that we ourselves persist in being aware of the power and purpose of the gospel and remain obedient to it – so that we stay on the right side of God’s judgment:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Rom. 1:16, 17. NKJV
Our obedience allows us to take on the righteousness of Christ as our own – opening the doors to our salvation. The reference regarding ‘salvation for the Jews first’ is referring to the salvation promise that God made to His original children. The Jews then, were to spread that ‘new covenant’ message to all peoples. (‘Greek’ in this context means ‘Gentiles.’)
Alas, most of the Jews pooh-poohed the gospel message.
The final part of this scripture consists of a quote from Hab. 2:4, used to demonstrate to us that those who are ‘just’ (made innocent), are made that way by having faith in the Son of God.
God has laid out His will for all to see. Therefore, those unwilling to receive the salvation message are without excuse:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. Rom. 1:18, 19. ESV
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. Rom. 1:20 NASB
Thus, God has left identifiable and irrefutable aspects of Himself within everything that He has created; and He placed a ‘knowing’ of this truth in everyone’s hearts – whereby He calls each of us to Him through His Son. However, there will be many throughout the ages that will remain stiff-necked, with hearts of stone that refuse to answer that call:
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Rom. 1:21 NASB
Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Rom. 1:22, 23. ESV
Instead of seeking God then, most people turn to some form of idolatry – and that always results in severe consequences:
Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them, but give approval to those who practice them. Rom. 1:24 – 32. ESV
Just as in the days of the apostle Paul, there live today those who are staunchly opposed to God – addicted to their perverse transgressions and worshiping those who practice them alike. Yet God keeps an open invitation for them to change their hearts and seek His salvation. However, if they persist in their rebellion, God steps aside, and lets them sow the seeds of their own destruction. (He does not violate free will.)
We must not join in a union with those who are hell-bent; for their outcome is surely not one that we want to share:
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.
We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Rom. 2:1, 2. ESV
But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness – indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. Rom. 2:5 – 11. NKJV
The latter is not a place where we want to be. This is serious stuff. Everything that you do brings consequences – regardless of your place of birth, or of the nature of your genealogy.
Paul goes on to address the Jews specifically, telling them that though they were given the Mosaic Law, but they must go beyond just knowing it; they must practice it in order to be made ready for salvation.
And, because God does not discriminate, He imbued the souls of the Gentiles with the knowledge of right and wrong as well. So, they too must answer for what they do with that knowledge: (Dt. 30:14)
…for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature, do the things in the law, these although not having the law, are a law unto themselves, who show the work of the law written on their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ… Rom. 1:14 – 16. NKJV
(Listen up! Paul is about to share the core message of the new covenant.)
The ultimate consideration regarding salvation is about what one must have in order to be reconciled with God – to be in unison with God as His child. That which you must have is not the law. (This is where Paul begins trying to unify the Jews and the Gentiles):
Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Rom. 3:20 NKJV
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith.
This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Rom. 3:21 – 26. ESV
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the law. Rom. 3:38 NKJV
The Mosaic Law showed us what perfect behavior would look like. In so doing, it also demonstrated to us the impossibility of perfectly meeting all of its dictates, because of the weakness of our humanity. Thus, it pointed the way for our need for a righteous Messiah to remove that burden – One in whom rested the cleansing for our sin burden. And that cleansing that facilitates our unification with God, that we as members of the church of Christ enjoy, is given to each and every one of us who place our faith in the blood of Jesus…
Good night and God bless.
November 09 2013 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
In the first of this two part series, God Equips Us To Evangelize, we learned how God did just that. Now, in the final part of the apostle Paul’s letter, God tells us how to strengthen ourselves – not only for evangelizing, but for all facets of our Christian walk.
He begins by instructing us to refrain from keeping willful bad company:
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?
For you are the temple of the living God. 2 Cor. 6:14 – 16. NKJV
(‘Belial’ is another name for Satan.)
Next, Paul urges us to keep our hearts as pure as possible:
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Cor. 7:1 NJKV
We can best do that when we leave ourselves both vulnerable and obedient to the conviction of God. It’s His way of nudging us to return to His path when we have slipped back into the ways of the world:
For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 2 Cor. 7:10 NASB
Responding to God’s conviction (with confession and repentance) allows us to put our transgressions behind us.
We are also strengthened in our walk when we keep our focus on just how much our Savior has done for us:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich. 2 Cor. 8:9 NKJV
The Son of God Himself came down from heaven, cloaked Himself in our frailties so that He could experience the poverty of our flesh, and then He lovingly gave up His own flesh to transcend death, so that we might be saved and enriched by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Paul now takes a little detour here and asks the Corinthians to support the church in Jerusalem – simultaneously teaching them (and us) about the principles of godly giving:
He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. so let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 2 Cor. 9:6 – 8. NKJV
We cannot out-give God. When we give, we are doing God’s work; and God ensures us that He will always provide the resources we need to do so, regardless of what our present circumstances may suggest.
Paul goes on to assure us that whatever task God has given us to do, regardless of whatever spiritual opposition we encounter, He has got our back:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ… 2 Cor. 10:3 – 5. NKJV
And that’s a good thing, because spiritual opposition is all around us:
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.
Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. 2 Cor. 11:13 – 15. NKJV
It’s those satanic works that we have to be on the lookout for; and we can recognize both the worker and the work by their fruits. (see Matt. 7:15 – 20.)
As Paul brings his letter to a close, he reveals to the Corinthians that he himself had been spiritually transported to heaven itself to receive the word of God. And because his revelations were so grand, Paul said that Christ had placed a ‘thorn in his flesh’ (the nature of which he does not reveal) in order to keep his privilege of carrying around the thoughts of God in his head from filling him with pride.
Paul appealed to Jesus to remove this ‘thorn’ but Jesus denied his request, as He replied: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9 NKJV
Cling to that the next time your walk with Jesus seems difficult…
Good night and God Bless.
November 02 2013 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
At the end of our final post on 1 Corinthians, What Happened On The Cross, we segued into Paul’s preparation for writing his fourth letter to the church at Corinth, (his first and third letters were lost to history) which is now known as the Bible book of 2 Corinthians. It was a letter to encourage the faithful congregants in who they were in God, and that He duly equipped them to carry the gospel message to others. Paul opens his letter with a benediction:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2 Cor. 1:3 – 5. ESV
We do in fact face persecution from the world because of our commitment to walk the ‘narrow way,’ yet we are ultimately comforted by our Savior Himself, for that commitment. And it is because we have these combined experiences, that we are able to draw from the well of Christ’s compassion within us, and share that with our brothers and sisters in Christ, who struggle to keep that commitment.
Paul shifts to the body of his letter, whereupon he defends his behavior and ministry with a message that applies to all followers of Christ:
For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us – by me, Silvanus, and Timothy – was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.
Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who has also sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 2 Cor. 1:19 – 22. NKJV
Paul is pointing out that his preaching has been consistent all along – speaking the truth about God’s fulfillment of all the promises that He made to us, through Jesus. He also speaks of his mandate, which is to evangelize – the same mandate that all Christians have. Thus, we are also anointed by God and sealed with the Holy Spirit, in order to carry that out.
Paul continues describing his ministry, (which is our ministry as well):
Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life, leading to life. 2 Cor. 2:14 – 16. NKJV
We are all ‘Pauls,’ God-equipped to spread the gospel – bringing life to the new children of God, and bringing the reminder of the brief vapor of life remaining, for those who refuse to embrace Christ’s salvation. Just how well are we equipped? Check this out:
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Cor. 3:4 – 6. ESV
But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 2 Cor. 3:7 – 9. NKJV
For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.
But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 2 Cor. 3:11 – 14. ESV
Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Cor. 3:17, 18. NKJV
Powerful! So just who are you? You are a child of God – empowered by Him to minister the gospel, to bring others into the kingdom of God, by filling them with the message of the new eternal covenant. That covenant is the promise of salvation through Christ, that is the promised transcendence of the old Mosaic covenant. God has chosen you to bring the liberty of His Spirit to the willing. And they too will join us, as God transforms us into our final glory.
Notice that I said the ‘willing;’ there are those whose hearts will remain hardened:
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 2 Cor. 4:3, 4. NKJV
[The 'god of this age' is that same old troublemaker (Satan) who first showed up in the Garden of Eden.]
So, there will be some people who decide to cling to the world instead of Jesus. It is not up to us to force the message upon them. We can only pray for them and hope that their heart will soften before it stops beating. Our hope remains for those we may still reach, because we know in our spirit, the vital value of the gospel:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outer man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are not seen are eternal.
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Cor. 4:16 – 5:1. NKJV
Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident…For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Cor. 5:5 – 7. NKJV
Again, who are you, you wonderful child of God? You are an inner growing glory, being prepared by God Himself for your eternal date in heaven. If you latch onto that, you will be filled with mountain-moving faith. Others will see your glory as a beacon that will draw them to the love of God through Jesus.
Witnessing Their divine magnanimity, we recognize all that is being done for us by the Father and the Son:
For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose on their behalf.
Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 2 Cor. 5:14 – 19. NASB
Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us; we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor. 5:20, 21. NKJV
One more time. Who are you? You are a child of God, basking in His love and the love of His Son – who died for you, so that you could become a new eternal creature who can enter into the presence of the Creator of the Universe, because you are draped in the righteousness of Christ…
Goodnight and God bless.
October 26 2013 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
This installment is the last of our series on Paul’s letter to the church of Corinth, now known as the Bible book of 1 Corinthians. Let’s dive right in:
…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to be present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of time. 1 Cor. 15:2 – 8. NKJV
Thus, Paul begins making the case for the first and most important event at the cross: that of Jesus’ salvation death and resurrection – of which there were many witnesses. Indeed, Paul makes that salvation connection next:
…Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.
Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet.
The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 1 Cor. 15:20 – 26. NKJV
Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him (God) who put all things under Him, (Jesus) that God may be all in all. 1 Cor. 15:28 NKJV
When Christ was transformed at His resurrection into this new God-Man existence, He became His Father’s agent of Man’s resurrection. Jesus is the first fruit of the ‘resurrection harvest’ of humanity, at the end of time. He guaranteed resurrection for God’s children by wiping out the spiritual death, (which ultimately results in physical death as well) brought on us by Adam’s original sin.
That cleansing is only available to those who accept Christ’s invitation for salvation – which frees God’s children from the ravages of time and death. Given that this is so, Paul now attempts to get the Corinthians to clean up their act and prepare themselves for Christ’s return:
Do not be so deceived and misled! Evil companionships (communion, associations) corrupt and deprave good manners and morals and character.
Awake [from your drunken stupor and return] to sober sense and your right minds, and sin no more. 1 Cor. 15:33, 34. AMP
Paul then tells them how God will make it possible for them to rise from their graves:
The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.
It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust, the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.
…flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption.
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality…then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor in not in vain in the Lord. 1 Cor. 15:42 – 58. NKJV
Wow! Christ’s work at the cross enables us to be resurrected as both righteous, and transcendent of the Law. We get a new body, made in His image, which never wears out! Our physical sufferings are a forgotten memory, and we stand ready to enter into an eternity of the unimaginable; and it’s all about The Love…
Such a deal! Makes a great case for connecting with our God through Jesus, yes?
(Well, because our message today was a quite a bit shorter than usual, I’m going to insert a short historical segue that will lead us into the Bible book of 2 Corinthians:
The date is approximately 55 A.D. Nero is the present ruler of Rome.
Paul paid a second visit to the church of Corinth which did not work out very well, although we are not given much details about the ‘why.’ He then returned to the city of Ephesus, whereupon Paul sent the Corinthians a ‘tearful’ letter – implied to be one that expressed his disappointment of their spiritual state, as well as his dismay over the manner in which they received him.
Unfortunately, just like Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, this tearful letter was lost as well.
During Paul’s stay in Ephesus, he preached against idolatry – the outcome of which produced a loss of revenue for a certain silversmith who fashioned and sold pagan idols. The silversmith stirred up a the unbelievers to riot against Paul.
Paul left Ephesus and traveled to the region of Macedonia. He wanted to return to Corinth, but he first waited for a report that was to come from his brother in Christ, Titus. Titus sent a good report, informing Paul that the Corinthians were happily waiting for his return.
Paul’s first response was to send a letter to encourage the faithful – a letter we now know as the Bible book of 2 Corinthians.)
Good night, and God bless.
October 19 2013 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
The church that the apostle Paul planted in the city of Corinth, (a Greek city under Roman rule) experienced an influx of Christian and pagan ‘leaders’ who corrupted the spiritual foundations that it was based upon. Paul wrote a letter to the church to try repair this corruption. We know that letter today as the Bible book of First Corinthians.
We’ve listened in as Paul taught against creating confusion in the church by spreading unscriptural ‘philosophies,’ (pawning them off as the word of God) taught against letting one’s ego take precedent over God’s word, and he clarified what it means to live in God’s ways, with regards to sexual morality – which essentially means to get married first!
Now, Paul addresses how to carry on a church service in a way that honors God. The first item that he addresses is ‘Communion’ – the taking of the Lord’s Supper. Paul had received reports that the wealthy Corinthians had been getting drunk off of the wine and ate all of the bread, leaving nothing behind for the poorer parishioners. Paul is not happy:
…do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing?
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat, this is My body, which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the covenant in My blood. This do often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. 1 Cor. 11:22 – 26. NKJV
So, it’s a good thing that we celebrate Communion often, so that we keep in fresh remembrance all that Christ has done for us. Conversely, Paul then shares just how damaging it is to take Communion in an incorrect manner:
So then whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in a way that is unworthy [of Him] will be guilty of [profaning and sinning against] the body and blood of the Lord.
Let a man [thoroughly] examine himself, and [only when he has done] so should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discriminating and recognizing with due appreciation that [it is Christ's] body, eats and drinks a sentence (a verdict of judgment) upon himself. 1 Cor. 11:27 – 29. AMP
Thus it is necessary to ‘examine ourselves’ for un-confessed and or unrepentant sin before we take Communion. We need to go to God in prayer first, and get those transgressions pardoned; and then we are free to partake. If God then also decides you need a little chastening for your disobedience, take comfort in knowing that it’s strictly to keep you on your heavenly path:
For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. 1 Cor. 11:31, 32. NKJV
Paul is saying that if we would just watch ourselves, and try to tow God’s spiritual line to the best of our ability, we’d find ourselves in a lot less trouble.
Paul then shifts his focus, and begins to talk about the ‘gifts’ that the Holy Spirit empowers us with, in order to bring us closer to God within a church setting. After all, the Holy Spirit’s prime mission is to bring us to a continual deepening of our understanding of God, of His word, of His love for us, and of His redemption, (that comes with a deeper understanding of His Son as well). You can feel the Holy Spirit at work in you in those moments where you experience an unction to seek God on a deeper level.
The Holy Spirit commenced the outpouring of His gifts onto the followers of Christ, on the day of the Pentecost that was celebrated, just days after Jesus ascended to heaven.
Paul lists the gifts of the Spirit for us, tells us what they are for, and illuminates for us the proper practice of them, in order to nurture the church:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord, and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 1 Cor. 12:4 – 6. ESV
One God, one Son, and one Spirit – all working together to bring these divine gifts to you. Why?
…the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all. 1 Cor. 12:7 NKJV
The manifestation of the Holy Spirit is a gift given to everyone. It is not a supernatural increase of a natural ability that you already have; it is God Himself working through you.
Paul goes on to list all nine of the gifts of the Spirit: (See 1 Cor. 12:8 – 10.) Let’s look at them in detail:
THE WORD OF WISDOM
This has been presented in two ways. One is as an imbuing of power for a heightened understanding of the wisdom of God, in order to bring to others a greater comprehension of that same wisdom, and how it applies to the specific situation that it has been manifested for. A second belief states that it is a prophetic word from God regarding the future.
THE WORD OF KNOWLEDGE
This pertains to a gift of revelation about a present fact that could never have been made known in the natural sense. It is a message from God that may apply to a situation or to a person, and it is usually related to an immediate need.
THE GIFT OF FAITH
It is a Holy Spirit injection of faith that bolsters the recipient’s faith far more than their normal grasp of it. It is a faith that is assured of God’s ability to accomplish the impossible – which indeed opens the door for God to do just that, for a specific situation.
GIFTS OF HEALINGS
Notice the use of the pluralities. Different people can be gifted with a healing movement of God through the Holy Spirit, in order that they may be used for bringing a supernatural healing to others in need. It may manifest as an immediate complete healing, or, it may be a healing ‘boost’ which ensures a favorable outcome during a physician’s intervention.
GIFT OF MIRACLES
This is where the Holy Spirit works through the recipient so that they may perform a supernatural act that defies natural physical laws.
It has been defined as a sudden spiritual revelation, in a particular moment, for edifying or comforting a congregation or a particular congregant. A second definition calls it a revelation given to the recipient in order to see what is truly in the heart of another – often used to help the receiver lead that other to Christ. The final definition is that of a revelation of things to come.
DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS
A supernatural ability to distinguish between the presence of the Holy Spirit and the demonic spirits of Satan – especially to be able to differentiate which spirit is motivating another person’s thoughts, speech, or actions.
SPEAKING IN TONGUES
This Spirit-filled gift allows one to speak in a language in which they did not formally speak – just as we saw happen with the apostles and the other disciples who made up the first church during the festival of Pentecost.
A variation of this gift allows one to speak in a ‘heavenly language,’ often unassociated with any known language – known as ‘praying in the Spirit.’ It is used mostly to augment the efficacy of our private prayers.
INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES
Within the church service, sometimes one is allowed to speak out in the aforementioned heavenly language if the speaker believes that they have a message of God intended for the congregation – but only if there is one present who possesses the gift of interpreting what is spoken (it could even be the speaker himself) so that the congregants can benefit from the truth brought forth by the Holy Spirit.
Paul then addresses all of the gifts:
All these [gifts, achievements, abilities] are inspired and brought to pass by one and the same [Holy Spirit], Who apportions to each person individually [exactly] as He chooses. 1 Cor. 12:11 AMP
So, it is the Holy Spirit who decides who is to receive a gift of the Spirit, and when. Thus, if you don’t receive one the gifts that another receives, (e.g. speaking in tongues) don’t sweat it. It may not be your gift; but it doesn’t make you any less of a follower of Christ:
All do not have gifts of healings do they? All do not speak with tongues do they? All do not interpret, do they? 1 Cor. 12:30 NASB
Whether one possesses a particular gift or not, no one in the kingdom of God is unimportant:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 1 Cor. 12:12 – 14. ESV
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,”…On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. 1 Cor. 12:21, 22. ESV
…so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. 1 Cor. 12:25 – 27. NASB
Going back to the gifts of the Spirit, Paul tells us that the exercise of them is meaningless unless it is grounded first in love:
Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts… 1 Cor. 14:1 NKJV
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 1 Cor. 13:1 – 3. NKJV
(Paul’s reference to giving his body to be burned is his way of saying that he would sacrifice himself rather than renounce Christ.)
Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love. 1 Cor. 16:13, 14. NKJV
Well then, God has told us that love needs to be our driving force in our Christ-like walk; and to help us do that, He now tells us, (through Paul) just what love looks like:
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Cor. 13:4 – 8. NKJV
Now Paul tells us of when the gifts of the Spirit will be done away with:
But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away…For we now see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 1 Cor. 13:8 – 10 & 12. NKJV
Some church denominations believe that the gifts of the Spirit died with the death of the apostles. Personally, when I read Paul say ‘when that which is perfect has come,’ it tells me that the gifts will not go away until Christ, the Perfect One, returns – which will do away with the need to augment our connection with God, because The Connection will be with us.
Until that time, they have a place in church as long as they are being used to profit all the parishioners, and not for edifying the user, or to create chaos or offense:
For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 1 Cor. 14:33 NKJV
Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 1 Cor. 14:26 – 29. NKJV
Let all things be done decently and in order. 1 Cor. 14:40 NKJV
Church is the place where we gather together with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and hopefully with potential believers that we bring to church with us. It is a sacred place where we worship our God and His Son, (God provided us with the how, when He gave us the psalms), where we get to know God and His purpose (provided to us with His word), where we encourage one another to live out that purpose, and where we bring comfort to those who are currently struggling with that.
We do church in the manner that God has shown us, a church that we’d be proud to bring our mother to – to meet God and His children…
Good night and God bless.
October 12 2013 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
In part 2 of this series, Sex, Marriage and Divorce, we examined God’s views on those very things, as revealed to the apostle Paul – who penned in a letter to the church in Corinth to help them clear up any misunderstandings in these areas. Continuing in this same letter, (now known as the Bible book of 1 Corinthians) Paul shifts his focus to how a follower of Christ can advance the kingdom of God, by making them familiar with his own example.
The first thing he talks about is his apostleship: Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? 1 Cor. 9:1 NKJV
Paul goes on to say that he, as a laborer for the gospel, is entitled to sustenance from the church; however he sets his privilege aside, as well as any thoughts that he might have about it, because God compels him to share the gospel – with or without reward:
For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! …I have been entrusted with a stewardship. 1 Cor. 9:16, 17. NKJV
Moreover, Paul says that he goes to great pains in order to meet people where they are at, in order to get them to see the value of their eternal salvation:
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became a Jew in order to win Jews. 1 Cor. 9:19, 20. ESV
To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. 1 Cor. 9:22, 23. NASB
We ‘partake’ of the gospel when we accept Christ as our Savior – coming to Him in sincere confession and repentance, and we partake when we share that saving love with others as well.
Finally, Paul shares with us how he shuns temporal glory, as he maintains his Christian discipline in order to receive his eternal reward: And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. 1 Cor. 9:25 – 27. NKJV
Anyone who wants to advance him or herself into the eternal kingdom must discipline him or herself to live by the word of God. Paul now shifts his focus to address this, by speaking to one of the church of Corinth’s most flagrant violations of this discipline – idolatry. This came to Paul’s attention because the Corinthians sent word to him, questioning him about whether or not it was acceptable to eat meat sold from pagan temples, (knowing that often the meat was offered up to false gods before being sold.
Paul first warns them against making idols out of themselves:
Now about food offered to idols: of course we know that all of us possess knowledge [concerning these matters. Yet mere] knowledge causes people to be puffed up (to bear themselves loftily and be proud) but love (affection, goodwill and benevolence) edifies and builds up and encourages one to grow [to his full stature].
If anyone imagines that he has come to know and understand much [of divine things, without love], he does not yet perceive and recognize as strongly and clearly, nor has he become as intimately acquainted with anything as he ought or as is necessary. 1 Cor. 8:1, 2. AMP
But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 1 Cor. 8:3 ESV
What Paul is saying is that all divine questions are correctly answered through the application of love, not knowledge. Otherwise, one winds up as an egomaniac – void of spiritual discernment. Paul then addresses their specific question by contrasting the fullness of God against the emptiness of idols:
Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one…the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. 1 Cor. 8:4 & 6. NKJV
Paul is reminding the Corinthians (and us) that God is the Creator of all things, and that He created them through His Son. (see John 1:1 – 3.)
And then, because Paul knows that many of the butcher shops are located within the pagan temples (because of their high consumption of sacrificial meat), he tells them not to be concerned (because the meat itself is spiritually neutral) unless they specifically know that it was previously offered up to idols. If the food is questionable, he instructs them not to eat it, so that they do not encourage ‘new believers’ to unwittingly transgress against God:
…will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. 1 Cor. 8:10 & 12,13. ESV
[This reminds me of God's warning to the prophet Ezekiel, when He told him that he was placed as a watchman over Israel, and if he did not warn someone when they were in danger of transgression, and they then went on to commit it, Ezekiel would be held accountable. (see Ezek. 3:16 - 18.)]
Obviously, we are our brothers’ keeper…
Paul then reminds the Corinthians of the transgressions of idolatry committed by the Hebrews, during their exodus through the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan – in order to reinforce the destructive consequences of their practice of the same:
…all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ.
But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 1 Cor. 10:1 – 6. NKJV
Paul is saying that the Hebrews were favored by the guiding presence of God, and of the Spirit of Christ – in that God parted the Red Sea for their escape, He fed them with bread (manna) from heaven, and by the fact that they drank water that He supernaturally drew forth from rocks. Yet in spite of all these miracles, they rebelled against God, and consequently the first generation of these rebels perished in the wilderness.
Thus, Paul is telling the Corinthians not to be cavalier with respect to their obedience to the commandments of God. He specifically cautions them against committing idolatry, sexual immorality, and grumbling against God – (i.e. not to be cocky, thinking that they are above sin):
Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands [who feels sure that he has a steadfast mind and is standing firm], take heed lest he fall [into sin]. 1 Cor. 10:12 AMP
God is telling us to avoid being complacent in our God walk; He is letting us know that we should always continue to examine our thoughts and actions to be sure that they are in alignment with His will. Along these lines, Paul tells the Corinthians that they will be subject to temptation (the devil plays no favorites) just like everyone else on the planet. Yet, he goes on to teach them that they can escape temptation, if they lean on God when it strikes:
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Cor. 10:13 NKJV
You know who is behind all temptation. One of those temptations is to lure us into participating in worldly (pagan) ways; and Paul reveals to us the nature of what that means:
…the things, which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. 1 Cor. 10:20, 21. NKJV
Finally, Paul lets us know how to walk on the high road instead:
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. 1 Cor. 10:31 – 33. NKJV
Advancing the kingdom by walking the walk…
Good night and God bless.
October 05 2013 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
In part one of this series on 1 Corinthians, God Does Not Teach Confusion, we read over the apostle Paul’s shoulder as he was writing a letter to the church that he planted in Corinth – which he sent to clear up some of the disturbing misconceptions that were being taught there. He first addressed divisions within the laity, based upon what was being taught by the individual preachers that these divided groups were following.
We now continue to peer over Paul’s shoulder as he continues to write this letter. In that letter, he changes the subject matter of his admonishment to the church, now dealing with the practice of sexual immorality within the church. Paul begins by telling the church to expunge any who practice such acts if they do not cease and repent; otherwise, others in the church will see the lack of consequences as an approval of that behavior.
In addition, Paul says that these matters should be worked out within the church rather than dragging church members through civil proceedings:
When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? …Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 1 Cor. 6:1 – 3.
To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. 1 Cor. 6:7 ESV
It is important to make the distinction here that Paul is referring to judging what another person does, and not who he or she is. Paul then goes on to tell them exactly what those behaviors are, that require a judgment against their perpetrators – solely for the purpose of getting the willingly sinful and unrepentant brothers and sisters in Christ, back on track:
Or do you not that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, not the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Cor. 6:9 – 11. ESV
Thus, we also see that Paul is reminding them to hold fast onto what Christ has already achieved for them. Next, Paul brings his focus back solely to sexual immorality, and why it is such a grievous sin.
(But first, let’s examine another scripture for God’s definition of ‘sexual immorality’: Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Heb. 13:4 NASB
God’s gift of ‘godly sexual union’ is one that is to only take place within the perimeter of a marital union between a man and a woman. Anything that occurs outside of those dictates, constitutes sexual immorality.)
Paul brings further Holy Spirit-inspired revelation:
The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord and the Lord for the body. 1 Cor. 6:13 ESV
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!
Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against is own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Cor. 6:15 – 20. NKJV
So what Paul is showing us, is that our body is to be dedicated to sacredly serving God; but if we add immorality to our union with Christ, we desecrate God, Jesus, and our holy merger with them. Paul knew that the tendency for our flesh towards sexual immorality was strong; so he went to far as to recommend that we dedicate our service to God within a practice of celibacy. Yet, he knew that many could not resist that urge, and so recommended marriage for those who struggled:
But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body but the wife does.
Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer, but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 1 Cor. 7:2 – 5. ESV
So wise, this God of ours. He knows of the strong pull for sexual union between a man and a woman. (He put it there!) God says we can have that union – in a monogamous marital relationship. We also see that we are to give over our control of our flesh to our spouse, and vice versa, so that we can explore the path to an intimacy that is rewarding for both. Finally, God tells us that because the commission of this union is of such paramount importance, we should not withdraw that right from our spouse, as a means of control, or the devil will use that to turn the eyes and heart of our spouse towards a different direction…
Paul then addresses Satan’s greatest tool for the destruction of a godly household – divorce:
A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. 1 Cor. 7:10, 11. NKJV
Divorce should never be an option – unless one of the spouses is an unrelenting, unrepentant adulterer, abuser, or one who abandons the other. (Paul is talking about married people wherein they both are followers of Christ).
Paul then speaks to married couples whereupon one spouse becomes a follower of Christ but the other doesn’t follow suit:
To the rest I declare – I, not the Lord [for Jesus did not discuss this] – that if any brother has a wife who does not believe [in Christ] and she consents to live with him, he should not leave or divorce her… 1 Cor. 7:12 AMP
(Paul is alluding to the fact that this particular instruction is Holy Spirit-inspired, even though Jesus Himself did not address this specific situation.)
And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. 1 Cor. 7;13, 14. NKJV
The marriage is sanctified by God – even in the absence of the faith of one of the spouses. Paul continues:
But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart, a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether or not you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether or not you will save your wife? 1 Cor. 7;15, 16. NKJV
So, if an unbelieving spouse is adamant and unrelenting in their will to divorce, the believing spouse is freed from trying to impede them, and is set free from the bindings of that marriage. Furthermore, they are not responsible for the future spiritual status of the fleeing spouse.
For believing couples in marriage however, God’s dictates are quite clear:
A wife is bound to her husband by law as long as he lives. If the husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she will, only [provided that he too is] in the Lord. 1 Cor. 7:39 AMP
(Obviously, the scripture works both ways; regardless, the widow is to seek to marry within the faith.)
There you have it…
Goodnight and God bless.
September 28 2013 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »