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Christianity Oasis Ministry has provided you with this True Christianity book with True Christianity lesson. This True Christianity study and True Christianity story with True Christianity lesson looks at the True Christianity message and asks what does True Christianity mean, what is True Christianity, why is True Christianity important, what is the True Christianity message and how does True Christianity affect you. True Christianity is essential in the Christian walk. Understanding the True Christianity message is very important and learning about True Christianity can help you to overcome the worldly whirlwinds. Let us delve into this True Christianity lesson with True Christianity message in this True Christianity book, shall we?


 

CHRISTIANITY OASIS

PRESENTS

PURITY PUBLICATIONS

TRUE FOUNDATIONAL CHRISTIANITY


BY  KENNETH B. ALEXANDER

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PREFACE
INTRODUCTION
GOD THE TRINITY
THE FATHER
THE SON
THE HOLY SPIRIT
ONENESS OF THE TRINITY
MAN: SPIRIT, SOUL AND BODY
THE SOUL
THE BODY
THE SPIRIT
FAITH
AN EXPOSE ON DIVINE REVELATION
THE TRUTH
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS AND MORE
GOD'S PROMISES
OLD TESTAMENT VERSUS NEW TESTAMENT
FINDING TRUTH IN THE BIBLE
IDENTIFYING THE SPIRIT OF GOD IN US
IS THE BIBLE OUTDATED AND IRRELEVANT
PAUL'S EPISTLES
SEA OF FORGETFULNESS
SPIRITUAL FATHERS
SPIRITUALITY: ROMANS 8
TESTIMONY
WHAT IS SALVATION
THE EARLY CHURCH MODEL
THE LORD'S PRAYER
THE LORD'S PRAYER IN CONTEXT
ANALYZING THE PRAYER ITSELF
WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM OLD TESTAMENT MEN OF GOD
THE SON OF GOD
WHAT PLEASES GOD
WHAT THE OLD TESTAMENT MEANS TO US TODAY
THE SABBATH

 

 

PREFACE

 

The author thanks the following for help in compiling this work. Pastor John Robert Stevens, deceased; Pastors Gary and Marilyn Hargrave; The Living Word, a fellowship of Churches (thelivingword.org); Pastor Matthew Walcoe; many true believers I have been associated with over the years; and The Libronix Bible Study System;

To you I dedicate this work of God.
  
Author: Kenneth B. Alexander, BSL, JD, Ministry
Enoch1122@yahoo.com

 

INTRODUCTION

 

These are a collection of articles written under the hand of the Lord to reveal the proper spiritual foundation for all believers, to reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom of God and to show how one can enter the highest level of the coming age of Christ’s rule on earth. The road to perfection, which is what God longs for, is a narrow road. Few there be that pass on it. Christ said: “Enter ye in at the strait [narrow] gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in there Because  strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Well you say I am a born again Christian and have accepted Jesus as my Savior. Isn’t that enough to get me to heaven? The answer is that what we call “basic salvation” is just the beginning to a real walk with God. Yes you that have saved will obtain a measure of eternal life. But beyond that are many things you must learn, which things involve a continuing salvation process that brings you into perfection; and not necessarily after you physically die.

More than anything God is after a relationship with you like He had with the first humans in the Garden. There He spoke face to face with them in the cool of the night. The first humans were babies in their overall spiritual development and God had much to teach them. We who are saved are in much the same place. God has much to reveal to us and much more He would like us to become. He desires us to become Sons of God, like the first Son Jesus Christ. Together Christ and His brethren, us, form the Father’s family that He longs for.

At the last supper Christ made it clear to His disciples that they had much to learn when He was gone He would send the “helper”, the Holy Spirit to teach them many things. He said: “When the Helper [ Gr. parakeets, one called alongside to help, comforter, advocate, intercessor] comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27). “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the  Helper [paracletos] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).

Christ was not speaking to babes here. He was speaking to disciples who had been with Him for 31/2 years; they had cast out demons, healed people and done other mighty works. But Christ said He had more to teach them, through the helper that was to come, the Holy Spirit. Christ’s ministry was within a 30 mile radius of His home yet he wanted the gospel to go to the end of the earth. He wanted His disciples to do greater works than He did (John 14:12). He wanted the disciples to reduplicate themselves and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20).

What is often overlooked about Christ’s ministry is that He came to bring the Kingdom of God to the earth. When asked by others how to pray His suggested prayer was short and to the point. After instructing the multitude to Honor His Father He said: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven….” (Matthew 6:10). Christ was the personification of the Kingdom of the earth. Most of His parables began with “the Kingdom of God is like” or “the Kingdom can be compared to” or “can be likened to”. Christ’s forgiveness of sin was simply a prerequisite to the Kingdom that was to come. Since there can be no unrighteousness in the Kingdom Christ had to forgive and remove sin and remove it in preparation for a new age.

Christ also made it clear in His parables that not just anyone, even if they came in the name of the Lord, would automatically enter His Kingdom. In Matthew 7:21-23 he said: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness”. Those rejected actually did miracles in the name of the Lord but were rejected. There are many more parables and teachings along that line in the Gospels.

This book is an attempt to present the Word of the Lord in what may seem to be a new and different way. The book teaches what God really wants from His people in these end and beginnings of time. At this time the realm of the spirit is merging with the realm of the physical forming what will be Christ’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Since the road to complete salvation is a narrow road it behests us to consider very carefully our individual walks with the Lord to ensure that we are really doing His will. Many Christians and others walk believing they have something from God when in fact they don’t have enough.

The parable of the 10 virgins illustrates this beautifully. All 10 were virgins and were close enough to the bridegroom to know that He was coming. However, when the time came 5 of the virgins discovered they did not have enough to enter and were left out. We don’t want to delude ourselves into believing that just being saved or doing great works in the name of the Lord is enough.

In this day Paul said that Satan masquerades as a religious spirit. Paul warned of false apostles who were deceiving people, He said: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). The charismatic preacher you may be following may very well be one of these deceitful workers.  

With great humility I present this work to you. It is by no means complete. Neither is it necessarily made to be read cover to cover. However every point and every article is confirmed by the Bible which is the guide to our feet. This has all been revealed by God Himself through other men of God. The writing may not be as eloquent as you would think. Paul said of himself: “For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (2 Corinthians 10:8-10).

God Himself said (through Isaiah) said he would speak through a stammering tongue. Moses himself stuttered. God said: “So the word of the Lord to them will be, Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there,” That they may go and  stumble backward, be broken, snared and taken captive… Indeed, He will speak to this people Through  stammering lips and a foreign tongue” (Isaiah 28:10-14). Therefore when reading this book pay more attention to the message than the way it’s presented. I can assure you, after much prayer and waiting on the Lord, that it is the word of the Lord for you today. Please apply it as such.

 

GOD THE TRINITY

 

In this article we will not waste time convincing you that there is a trinity of persons that make up the One God. The scriptures themselves, as we shall see, make this abundantly clear. Webster's Unabridged Dictionary defines Trinity as: "The union of three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in one Divine head or the three-fold personality of the one Devine being". It is also defined "as a group-of-three or triad". The first indication that God is more than one Divine being is found in Genesis 1:26: "Let US make man in OUR image (emphasis added). Therefore God is a triune being as man is also a triune being, spirit, soul and body. Let us examine each personality/expression individually and then see how each part works in a total and complete oneness with the other parts.

 

THE FATHER

 

He is the so-called first person of the trinity of God (Webster's). He is the creator (Genesis 1:1). He is the one who raised Jesus from the dead (Galatians 1:1). He is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:3). 1 Corinthians 8:6 says of the Father: "there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him" (creation is from the Father but made for the Son). The Father knows all things (1 Peter 1:2). He has and bestows glory (2 Peter 1:17). We relate to God the Father through the Son (Colossians 3:17). "every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:11).

Perhaps it is easier to understand this first person of the trinity as a Father of a family. There is also the Adoptive Fatherhood. This is the redeeming relationship that belongs to all believers, and in the context of redemption it is viewed from two aspects: that of their standing in Christ, and that of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in them. This relationship to the Father is basic for all believers, as Paul reminds the Galatians: For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith' (Gal. 3:26). In this living union with Christ they are adopted into the family of God, and they become subjects of the regenerative work of the Spirit that bestows upon them the nature of children of God the Father. Because of their new standing (justification) and their relationship (adoption) to God the Father in Christ, they become partakers of the divine nature and are born into the family of God.
 
John made this clear in the opening chapter of his gospel: “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right (authority) to become children of God - children born, not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God' (John. 1:12, 13). And so they are granted all the privileges that belong to that filial relationship: if a child, then heirs is the sequence (Rom. 8:17).
 
God is the perfect Father. It is under this relationship of Father that brings out the tenderness aspects of God's character, his love, his faithfulness and his watchful care. It also brings out the responsibility of our having to show God the reverence, the trust and the loving obedience that children owe to a father. However intimate, rich and warm-hearted his love, God remains God, majestic, amazing and awesome. But He can also manifest qualities of anger, jealousy and destruction. He disciplines us for our own good. Hebrews Chapter 12:4-11 puts it this way:

"You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, "MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES." [Job 5:17; Proverbs 3:12]

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?

For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness". (et sq)
 
The Father is also the recipient of the labors of His Son, and we as Sons, in the bringing forth of the Kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 15:24-25 says: "then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He [the Son] has abolished all rule and all authority and power" and made all His enemies the footstool of His feet, so God can be over all, in all and through all. The main thing to remember is that the Father is our perfect Father, loving us each in a personal relationship that surpasses all understanding. And that as His family we are one with Him and each other even as the Trinity is one.

 

THE SON

 

The Son is the Word of God, the “logos” in Greek. He has been with God the Father for eternity as He is the vehicle through whom the creative powers of the Father were exercised. The Apostle John puts it this way:
 
"In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He [Jesus] was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ". (John 1:1-12, 14, 17).
 
Since the beginning, the spoken Word of God (logos in Greek) has caused all things to come into being. The Bible itself is the Word of God in written form.
 
The Son came to forgive all people their sins but that was not an end in itself. It was so they could receive His nature and, like Him, also become Sons in the Kingdom of God. Hebrews 2:10 confirms this: "For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing MANY SONS to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings" (emphasis added). The Son came to offer the ultimate sacrifice on the cross that we too may partake of His and the Father's nature-to become like Him. "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be LIKE HIM, because we will see Him just as He is" (John 3:2, emphasis added).
 
The Son came to initiate a New Covenant between God and man (hence New Testament). Hebrews 9:11 explains: "Now the first [old] covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation;” The Old Covenant, made between God and the Nation of Israel through Moses, was conditional. That is to say God agreed to bless Israel as long as they were obedient to Him and followed all His laws. He made a provision for the forgiveness of sin, through the blood of bulls and goats, but the provision was temporary in that Israel had to come at least once a year to have the forgiveness applied again. There were other sacrifices that needed to be made to forgive certain types of sin (Leviticus 1-7). The Old Testament sacrifices were but a “type and shadow” of the perfect ministry Christ was to initiate.
 
The New Covenant was unconditional, not depending on works and sacrifices. It was fulfilled through grace (unmerited favor) by faith in the Christ who made the perfect eternal sacrifice on our behalf.
 
And what is this New Covenant? "You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (2 Corinthians 3:1).
 
Jeremiah, Old Testament prophet, speaks prophetically of the New Covenant: "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them, "declares the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people" (31:31-33; quoted in full in Hebrews 10:16-17).
 
Thus where the Old Covenant offered only temporary forgiveness for sin, the New Covenant was eternal; the laws of God were written on man's heart. It therefore became impossible for man to sin since his old nature was changed into the sinless nature of Christ. This is why Jesus said that He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it to its very jot and tittle. Christ was the embodiment of the Law of God in that He did nothing but what He saw the Father do; we likewise partake of this promise through grace.

 

THE HOLY SPIRIT

 

The first reference in the Bible to the Holy Spirit is in Genesis 1:2: "The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the spirit of the deep, and the SPIRIT OF GOD was moving over the surface of the waters" (emphasis added). As Christ was the Word of God, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God. The Father and Son are also spirit and the Holy Spirit is that Spirit which emanates from God and does His work throughout the earth and the universe. Although we will here be referring to the Spirit as it manifested in the New Testament, it is safe to say whenever a reference is made to the Spirit of God in the Old Testament it is, the Holy Spirit being spoken of.

The purpose of the Holy Spirit, as it pertains to us and Jesus Christ, is discussed most frequently in the Gospel of John. In John 15:5-15, Jesus Says: "But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, 'Where are You going?' "But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper [the Holy Spirit] shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine, and will disclose it to you". The Holy Spirit does not minister on His own initiative but, as Christ, is the representation of the Father on the earth. The Holy Spirit takes of Christ and ministers the things of Christ to us.
 
Thus, the Holy Spirit is our helper (Paraclete in Greek). He will help us by revealing the things of Christ to us. Remember, Christ had a limited ministry of 3 1/2  years and He ministered in an area not more than a short distance from Nazareth His home town. He had more to tell us while he was here, but at the current state of the disciple’s growth they could not bear such truths then. So He sent the Helper to guide us into ALL the truth.
 
The Holy Spirit also came as the Parousia, the presence of God. Suffice it to say that anytime we feel God's presence, receive a revelation of Him, exercise a gift of the Spirit as prophesy or worship in the Spirit, all of this is initiated and directed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is one with the Father and Jesus Christ, but the Father has turned all things over to the Son and the Son is at His right hand. Christ went away, out of physical sight, so He could send the Helper, a manifestation of God, to guide us in our Christian walk.
 
The Book of Revelation is full of references to the Spirit. Also Christ teaches us that “The Father seeks worshipers that worship Him in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). It was the Holy Spirit that fell on the many on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-8). And in Romans Chapter 8 Paul focuses on our spiritual relationship with God; it is the Holy Spirit to whom he is referring. Of course Christ said that when you have seen Him, you've seen the Father. When we are aware of, and walk by the Spirit, we are also walking with the Father, Christ and the Spirit-- they are one.

 

ONENESS OF THE TRINITY

 

Jesus fervent prayer, recorded in John 17, speaks of the oneness of the "Trinity", and explains that we too are to be one as they are one. Verse 20-21 state: "I do not ask on behalf of these alone [the 12 disciples He was speaking to] but for those also who believe in me through their [disciples] word; that they may all be one ; even as you Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us" He goes on: "the glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one as we are one; I in them and You in Me that they may be perfected in unity Father I desire that they also, whom You have given Me be with Me where I am, so that they may see My Glory (John 17:22-24). The Helper will guide us into God’s and Christ's ultimate vision of perfection by being one, spirit, soul and body, with the three-fold Trinity of God.

 

MAN: SPIRIT, SOUL AND BODY
 
INTRODUCTION

 

Mankind is a triune being, spirit, soul, body (1 Thessalonians 5:23), just as God is a triune being (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). We will examine each aspect of the natures of mankind (men and women) below. However, we must realize from the outset that, although all humans have these natures, most of humanity is not using the three parts according to the divine intention. Our spirits, as our only means of communicating with God, who is a Spirit, are often buried beneath our soul or body so that the spirit has very little domination in our lives. Our true life, the only real source of life, is our spirit’s communication with God through our human spirits with His Spirit. It is the spirit that should dominate the other areas of our lives here on earth and in the age to come. Our soul life and our bodies must come under the dominion of our spirit; today for most of us the opposite is true to the point that most are not even aware of the spirit aspect of their nature. We are happy when the soul and body are satisfied by the many means available-religion, legalism, worldly goods and money, our intellect, happy or sad emotions, food, lust, pleasure of all sorts and anything temporal we see around us. In truth we are never fully satisfied with these pursuits as the feeding our souls and bodies does nothing but temporarily satisfy our craving human natures. The spirit is eternal. It is on the spirit, not the soul that we must feed. We cannot know God through our souls, only through our spirits.
  
We will begin our discussion with the soul and body, and address the spirit last. An understanding of the soul and body is necessary to more fully understand the role of our spirit.

 

THE SOUL

 

The soul is actually who we are in our humanity. The soul is the seat of all of our functions as humans. It contains the emotions, the intellect, our individuality, our desires, and our will and is in fact the switchboard for human expression either as fallen man or, more perfectly as an expression of our spirit. It is in that sense mutable; it can be controlled either by our earthly desires or our spirit. When controlled by our earthly lusts, the Bible calls the soul the “flesh” or “flesh nature”. In Romans 8:3-4 Paul says: "[God] condemned sin in the flesh [our unperfected souls] in order that we do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit". In Galatians 5:16-23, he distinguishes between the deeds of the soul (flesh) and the deeds of the Spirit.
 
The deeds of the flesh (soul nature) are first clearly defined by the Paul: "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
 
Then He defines the deeds of (fruits of) the spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control". In Romans 8:14 he distinguishes between the domination of the human soul and the soul led by the spirit. "For all who are being led by the Spirit, these are the Sons of God" or put in another way all those whose spirit is dominating their soul and body have the ability to hear God and walk in His ways.
 
By our minds we cannot know God the Spirit. "For the mind set on the flesh is death but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace" and get this "because the mind set on the flesh is HOSTILE to God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even ABLE to do so" (Romans 8:6-7).
 
This is not entirely our fault. Beginning with the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden, God subjected creation to futility, a cursed, futile state, separated from God (Genesis 3:17-19). Paul notes this by saying: "For the creation was subjected to futility not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it" (Romans 8:20). Futility in the Greek (called vanity in the King James Version) means nothingness, worthlessness, emptiness, objectless, useless, perverse, foolish, idle, vain and false. Everything we see with our physical eyes and participate in on the natural realm is temporal (temporary) and under the curse of futility.
 
However this futile state was not meant to be permanent: Creation, according to Paul was subjected to futility "in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Romans 8:20-21). And who are these children (Sons) of God?  They are those who are led by the Spirit. Those whose souls and bodies do not dictate the course of our lives but whose spirits dominate, subjecting soul and body to do the will of God. We can be those spiritual Sons here and now, in this earth. Many taking part in the first resurrection will not die but be resurrected (Matthew 16:28; John 8:52; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27). The seed of life is sown as a corruptible soul and is raised an incorruptible spirit. When we enter into knowing Christ after the Spirit we will have a body that directly responds to the spirit, just as the body now responds to the soul and vice versa. There is a body of the soul and there is also a body of the spirit. (See 1 Corinthians 15:42-45).

 

THE BODY

 

Like our souls, our bodies must also be subjected to and led by the Spirit. It is the body that ultimately expresses what is in our soul or spirit here on earth and in the Age to Come. Even in resurrection we shall have a body. "It is sown in a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power" (Romans 42-43). In 1 Corinthians 15:44-46 Paul goes on: "So also it is written [in Genesis 2:7] that the first man Adam became a living soul. The last Adam [Christ] became a life giving Spirit; the first man is from the earth; the second is from Heaven".

The body plays a major part in expressing the spirit. It expresses the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians Chapter 12). It is a vehicle for exercising worship. We form relationships with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ through our bodies; we communicate verbally. Christ himself came in an earthly body, although His was obviously in subjection to the Spirit. The Spirit can even quicken our mortal bodies. "And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also QUICKEN YOUR MORTAL BODIES by his Spirit that dwells in you” (Romans 8:10).
 
The body is limited when subjected to the soul. The soulish body feels and reacts on the emotional, not Spirit, level. It is limited in time, space, and ability to move from one place to another. The spirit body will be absolutely unlimited and could be a million miles away instantly, and tune in immediately to anyone, anyplace. Phillip was translated to Ethiopia in an instant; Elisha could even hear the enemy King’s battle plans discussed in his bedroom; Elijah and Enoch were translated to the Spirit realm, never experiencing death; Paul was caught up to the 3rd Heavens; Jesus would appear or disappear suddenly and He would perform miracles. Imagine having even earthly bodies that can do these unbelievable things!
 
More importantly, in the Kingdom of God, we are promised that we will not suffer sickness or death. All the sickness of the human body can be traced to the condition of our soul which is not controlled by God but by other forces. Christ cured sickness by expelling the evil influence causing it. All of medical science cannot do this. Since they are going about their attempt of healing through technology created by the human mind, as advanced as they seem to be, they cannot really control or stop sickness. God, through the Spirit, does have these answers.

 

THE SPIRIT

 

We have met the spirit in the preceding sections. But what is the realm of spirit and how can we recognize it? How do we walk by it? We must understand that our spirit is a distinct part of our nature, as viable as our souls and bodies. It is controlled easily by our will. In other words, if we cause our spirit to be focused on God, in time it will connect with His Spirit and you will be aware of it and aware of Him. The spirit works according to laws, just like our human bodies and souls. In the natural plane, if you touch the stove, you will be burned. It is a law. You cannot walk through walls; it is a natural barrier. But the Spirit works by laws also.
 
Some Spirit laws are applicable also in the natural realm. For instance, if you seek hard and long enough you will find what you want. If you want to be rich, just seek that goal and eventually you will attain it. If you want to be successful in life i.e. the good job, big house, expensive cars, be persistent and you will eventually have these things. Whatever you set your heart on, and persistently pursue, you will find. More important for the Christian if he/she seeks after an understanding of their spirit, and do not give up, they will find it. In the Spirit are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
 
We all have a human spirit within us but in many it remains unquickened and in a sense asleep. The spirit itself, when recognized through Christ or not, is unlimited. When our spirits are free, they can go anywhere and do anything within or without our imagination. Sometimes spiritual persons feel distant because their spirit is free and not necessarily connected with their bodies at all times. We’ve all heard of out of body experiences and were familiar with the colloquial term “free spirit”. When our spirits are free they can become disconnected with bodies for a moment. Most of us, however, are not aware of our spirits. Therefore we are completely unaware of God, despite how much intellectual prowess we have. The intellect cannot know God.

However, for Christians, and those who desire to walk with God, just being aware of our spirit nature is not an end in itself. The spirit can only be truly effective when it is directed by God. It is through the spirit we can obtain eternal life. Just having an undirected spirit gains nothing as an undirected spirit is open to many things that are not God. A free undirected spirit can easily become deceived as there are many voices (spirits) in the earth. As John said in his Epistle: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets [false spirits] have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world” (1 John 4:1-3).

This is actually a truly effective test for what is of God and what is not. There are many voices and many religions and philosophies. The only test as to their validity is whether the teaching identifies Jesus Christ as the Son of God. As harsh as this seems, this simple test eliminates many of the world’s major religions (the people are not rejected but the religion or philosophy is). It is only through our spirit in connection with the Spirit of God that we can make these distinctions and thereby know the truth. As Jesus pointed out: “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many” (Matthew 24:11). They will mislead those who do not have the spiritual discernment to discern the true from the false.

Our conscience can deceive us as well. Our human conscience is neither Spirit nor God. Many rely on their conscience to dictate what is right or wrong or to lead them in living a “moral” or “righteous” life. The human conscious leads only to dead works whereby we believe we are pleasing God when in fact we are not. Scripture says: “the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, CLEANSE YOUR CONSCIENCE FROM DEAD works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14).

Since we all have a conscience, and we sometimes allow it to rule our moral sense of things, there could be six billion separate consciences (concepts) dictating as many moral values. Moral standards are nothing more than deep-seated opinions that govern our sense of right and wrong. Unless our consciences are sanctified from these dead works (our human moral values mean nothing) and brought into the living works of Jesus Christ, we will not obtain what God wants for us. Our human consciences are a barrier (wall) to knowing God. Only God knows what righteousness is and our doing right or wrong must be according to His standards, not ours. The right thing to do, according to His word, is to have faith in Christ and believe He fulfilled the Law of God for us.

Many Bible scholars apply their entire lives to the study of God’s word by their intellect. However, the mere study of the word by the human mind does not come to know God; the effort is a dead work (John 5:39). The Pharisees of Christ time were the most religious appearing people of the day, similar to some of our ministers of today. Yet Jesus said they were “of their father the devil” (John 8:41-44). A man can write a commentary of the Bible, interrupting what he thinks it means, yet that commentary can be obsolete before the ink is dry. God’s Word is ever changing as it applies to us. It is a living Word meant to be real today, not what someone thought of it yesterday. Since the Word is Spirit, it can only be spiritually discerned. Jesus said: “My words are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). God’s word is spirit and conveys spirit. Human words can only convey ideas or impressions not spirit or life.

Neither do our human emotions lead us to God. Religious movements based on emotional expression were considered to be an expression of the Lord (Pentecostal movements, Quakers etc.). The Spirit has its own set of emotions: love, joy, peace, longsuffering etc. It may express itself as dancing in the spirit as David did, or it may be quietly communing with Him. However, to correctly express spiritual emotions has to begin in the spirit, not the soul or body.  
 
In order to come into an awareness of God’s Spirit one must desire it above all else. Jesus said: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46). One must feel emptiness in this life and want something more. They may have tried different religions or philosophies, but to no lasting avail. A meeting with God is a personal experience; He is your personal Savior.

One method to become aware of Him is to wait on the Lord (Isaiah 40:31 KJV). It is like meditation but meditation involves being passive and letting anything that presents itself into our consciousness. Waiting on the Lord is aggressive; the body is relaxed but the spirit is focused on God. If you do not know how to focus your spirit, use your imagination and express a faith that it will happen. The Spirit can be focused by our will and our faith. This is called the “fervent prayer of listening”. If you are presenting some problem you have in life to the Lord, believe you will receive an answer directly from God and you will. If you do this often enough you will suddenly become aware of a still, small voice in the background of the clutter of your mind that rings of truth and is in fact the voice of the Lord.

Elijah the prophet had such an experience, described in the scriptures. While on Mt. Horeb (Mountain of God) he experienced the following: “And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and STRONG WIND rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an EARTHQUAKE; but the LORD was not in the earthquake; And after the earthquake A FIRE; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him” (1 Kings 19:11-13). We look for God to appear in great and mighty occurrences but many times God is not in the great things. He shows us things of the Spirit with a voice like a whisper.

As you develop this intense listening skill, that voice will become louder and louder until you are aware you are actually hearing from God himself on a regular basis. As this progresses, suddenly the things of the Spirit will become more important to you and you will began to manifest in your daily life what is being revealed to you. Finally, the Spirit will begin to dominate your desires, thinking, actions etc. You will be living by the Spirit, being led by the spirit. He then becomes your priority, your first love. When the Spirit becomes first in your life, everything else you need or want will be given to you anyway. However, our wants and needs will change the more the spirit begins to take dominion in our lives.
 
Sound scary or spooky? It isn't. It's wonderful. You are still in control; it’s not like some mystical experience where you are carried away from yourself. You still have your free will. God wants freewill offerings; otherwise we would be like the angels, born to do his will. If you follow the spiritual walk, you will not only have fulfillment in this life but in the Age to come, resurrection life (Luke 18:29).

 

FAITH

 

Faith is the simplest reality we have in our walks with God, yet it can seem complex to the human mind. “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).

Faith is a reality that it is entirely invisible. It cannot be seen or touched, as are things in the physical realm. It cannot be explained theologically in that most theology comes from the intellect. “His thoughts are not our thoughts” (1 Corinthians 1:17). Yet it is one of the most powerful forces in the universe and works in both the natural and spiritual worlds.

To illustrate faith in the scriptures consider the following. “A man came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a  lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.  “I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him” (Matthew 17:14-16). And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” “And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out? (Matthew 17:18-20).  And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to  this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you” (Matthew 17:20). “The mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds” (Matthew 17:14-20).

To a righteous man faith is essential in his walk with God. “Now that  no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11; Romans 1:17).

The writer of Hebrews explains faith as opposed to the Mosaic law. Under the Mosaic law, before Christ’s appearing, righteousness was acquired by adherence to a set of laws, sacrifices and rituals. Ritualistic righteousness was a type of faith in that the sinner had to believe the sacrifice of a bull or goat would cleanse the sinner. But the cleansing was not permanent. Additional sacrifices for sin had to be made time and again. Priests were the vehicles of this temporary deliverance and continually presided in the temple performing these sacrifices. (see Leviticus Ch. 1-7). All of this proved that man could not, in and of himself, become righteous in God’s eyes except for only short periods of time.

The coming of Jesus changed all that. He didn’t really introduce a new concept. Faith had been available for centuries. Abraham exercised the principle of faith thousands of years before Christ. Abraham did not receive righteousness through the law or good works but through faith.
 
What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh?  For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.  For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”  Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. 5 But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.  So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works saying, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, And whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom, the Lord will not reckon sin. (Romans 4:1-8). Abraham made many mistakes and did not always follow God completely. Yet because of his great faith he was considered righteous by God, irrespective of his works.

Romans goes on to say: Is this blessing then pronounced upon the circumcision, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say, To Abraham his faith was reckoned for righteousness. How then was it reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision: and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while he was in uncircumcision; that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be in uncircumcision, that righteousness might be reckoned unto them and the father of circumcision. (v 4:9-12).  

What the scriptures are saying is that faith and the obtaining of righteousness are not dependent on our works, however good, but of faith through grace. Righteousness is thus not obtained by working towards it but receiving it from God as a free gift.

Jesus made this very clear when He appeared bringing the New Covenant. “Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, When I will effect a new covenant With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;  After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, And I will write them  on their hearts. And I will be their God, And they shall be My people. “And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, And everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ For  all will know Me, FROM THE LEAST to the greatest of them. “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, And I will remember their sins no more.”  When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete.  But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. (Hebrews 8:7-13; Also Jeremiah 31:33-34).

Thus no longer does man have to be righteous according to a code of conduct. He is made righteous simply by believing that by faith in Christ he is made righteous. By exercising faith in Christ, righteousness is simply imputed to him. It becomes part of his nature, written on his heart for all time. Over time faith will completely transform that man into the exact nature of Christ, who was without sin.

Christ through the Holy Spirit has provided us tools to exercise while we are on the way to becoming perfect (1 Corinthians chapter 12). One of these is the gift of faith (I Corinthians 12:9). A believer can use this gift, among others, to assist in the forming the Body of Christ. A mature believer will possess all the gifts but not yet being perfect does not preclude the Christian to exercise the full force of any gift, including faith. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are also given to the church to perfect these gifts and ultimately the Body (see Ephesians Chapter 4).

Ultimately, without faith it is impossible to please God. And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). God is not pleased with our works. He calls our works we do to please him filthy. For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our  righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; (Isaiah 64:6). Therefore, attempting to do righteous works, no matter how well intentioned does not earn us points with God; actually the opposite. He rejects them. Only faith will suffice.

Faith can be the basis of the greater works that must occur in order to usher in the Kingdom of God. There will be mountains to move, miracles to be done, nations delivered, problems solved to name a few but only through faith will they be accomplished. The wisdom of man will never prevail; he only creates more problems than he solves. Faith in our Lord can accomplish all things-right!

 

AN EXPOSE ON DIVINE REVELATION

 

Matthew 16:18 is written in the context of Matthew 16:13-19. The meaning, when considered in view of the scriptures therein, is clear but is often misinterpreted.

Jesus begins his discussion with the disciples by asking “Who do men say that I am?” (v.13). The disciples answered by saying some thought He was John the Baptist, some Elijah, some Jeremiah, and others one of the prophets (v.14). Apparently the speculation as to who Jesus was prevalent among the multitudes.

Jesus, expecting the disciples to have more insight than the multitudes, than asked “Who do you say I am?” (v.15). Simon Peter, the boldest of the disciples, spoke up and said “You are Christ [Messiah] the Son of the living God” (v.16).

Jesus said to Peter: “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona [son of Jonah; a man]: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. Christ was saying that Peter the man was blessed because man, flesh and blood, had not revealed this to him but God. Sarx, among other meanings, is the Greek word for flesh, meaning the physical body or nature whether of man, beasts, fish or birds. Blood, Haima in Greek, means, among others “the blood of the human or animal body” or “the life force of man”, as opposed to the divine.

The word “reveal” is “Apokalupto” in Greek meaning: “to remove a veil or covering, exposing to open view what was before hidden” (see also Apokalupsis meaning revelation, one of three words in the NT referring to the second coming of Christ). Therefore Peter, a man of flesh, had spoken what was formerly concealed, exposing it to open view. He revealed what was in essence the coming of the Lord Jesus. This “revelation” did not come from man but was revealed by the Father in Heaven (from the spiritual realm).

Christ said further: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter [a stone], and upon this rock [large rock, bedrock] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”. (Verse 17).

The word “Peter” is in Greek “Petros”, a stone. The rock referred to in the scripture (“upon this rock”) is Petra in Greek which means a large rock or bedrock. What was this bedrock? It is the subject of this entire series of scriptures. The BEDROCK is the REVELATION from the Father to human flesh (Petros the stone). Webster’s Dictionary defines revelation as: “The act of revealing or exposing…a striking disclosure not before realized…God’s disclosure of Himself to His creatures; an instance of such exposing or disclosure…that which contains such disclosure, such as the Bible [the word of God], referring to the example of the Book of the Revelation of St. John” the last book of the Bible”.

Thus it was the revelation of Christ coming from the Father that would be the bedrock upon which Christ would build His church, not Peter the stone! Thus, the idea that Peter was the first pope of the universal (Catholic) church is false. God planned to build His church on the bedrock of divine revelation not on one man.

This revelation of Christ is the foundation upon the true church is to be built. Many other scriptures confirm this.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him. (John 14:6-7).

Paul said: But I certify you, brethren that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12).

And: “Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith (Romans 16:25-26).

Also: “ The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:  (Revelation 1:1).

The divine revelation from God is the only road to the way, the truth and the life which is Christ. His Kingdom is not of this world. It is built upon the continued revealing of the mystery of Christ hidden from ages past, but revealed to His Sons.

And to him to whom who the revelation comes, he will be given the keys of the Kingdom (which is Christ) and whatever he binds in earth shall have already been bound in Heaven (the spiritual realm where God dwells) and whatever he loosed the same (see Matthew 6:10 – “thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven”).

Imagine the misinterpretation of some major religions that this set of scriptures meant that Peter was the first Pope. One must wonder whether it was innocent misinterpretation or misinformation in order to give the church legitimacy by using the name of the beloved disciple. At least we who respond only to what we hear from God by revelation know the true answer.

 

THE TRUTH

 

Many people seek after the “truth” of creation. They seek the truth in order to explain their existence on the planet. They seek to counter the seeming futility that exists on the earth by finding the elusive concept of truth that explains everything. All or nearly all, religions are expressing a quest for ultimate truth. They believe ultimate truth will explain how they are to function on the earth and tell them right from wrong-how to act. However, as will be seen below, truth is not a concept apart from God. Truth is a person. Jesus Christ is the truth and the way and the life.

The “I am” statements in John 14:6 describe what Christ is to us. He is our way, truth and life. They are not separate concepts outside of Christ. He “IS” these things. Those of us seeking the way or path to God need only know Christ because He is the way. Those of us seeking truth need only know Christ because He is truth. The same is true with spiritual life. Thus those three concepts, the way, truth and life, are a person—Jesus Christ.

Many of us seek to know the truth or truths such as wisdom and knowledge as truths apart from ourselves. The Gnostic Christian sect believes truth comes through an accumulation of secret knowledge. The Buddhist seeks truth through deep meditation into one self as revealing of the ultimate truth, a state of being called Nirvana. Many other religions seek truth as revealed by principles of great leaders such as Confucius, Krishna, Mohammed, etc. Truth to them is always a concept separate from a God-head; a tangible quality that exists apart from our experience. They tend to exalt principles such as wisdom, knowledge, true sayings and truth according to our own consciences and concepts of morality. None of these concepts, which are obtained only through long seeking and study, are really the truth we are seeking. The truth is contained in and is that of a person, Jesus Christ. The real truth is Jesus Christ the perfect combination of God and man. Know Him and you know the truth. He is the living embodiment of it.

Many say they want eternal life so they seek it by doing many good works they think will please God. But God is not pleased with the works that originate from our own concepts of good. We cannot please God by doing good things. Only by being led by the spirit of God do we please God (Romans 8:14). When we know Him, and are being led by Him, we have eternal life.

Many say “What path or way should I pursue to please God?” Should I be a missionary? Do miracles? Become a hermit or a nun? Should I be a pastor or a leader in my church? You may become one or all of those things but these pursuits will not bring you to an awareness of the truth or a free pass to heaven. Jesus was very clear on this:

Christ spoke about those who did great works to please God.
 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21-23). These were those who attempted to obtain life through their own methods; the result was that all Christ required was that they “knew Him”. We must know Him in order to please Him.

There are those who strive to keep the laws of God, like the 10 Commandments. It was proven in the Old Testament that Israel, with all its efforts, could not keep even the least of the commandments or Laws of God. them. This fact led to the inescapable fact that something more was needed on order to know truth and become righteous. Jesus Christ had to come into the earth into the earth to keep the commandments for us so that we no longer had to strive to do them. Christ came so that these laws would be written on our hearts; so that truth would become part of our nature. Only as we appropriate the nature of Christ, eat his flesh and drink his blood will we have those laws “written on our hearts” (Hebrews 10:16-17; Jeremiah 31:33).

How do God’s laws get written on our hearts? Since all these qualities exist in the man Christ we are open to be open to receive His nature. Our own nature must experience the transformation into His nature so that we become like Him. Then we know truth-we become the truth as He was.

How do we get to know Christ in this intimate way? Seek Him and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking until the door opens (Luke 11:9-13). Christ’s gift of grace is available to all. Just remember it is not separate from Him. He is truth. He is God. And it is His good pleasure to give it to us because He loves us.

 

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS AND MORE

 

The Law of the Old Testament (the Torah) was brought by God for a different purpose than most understand. The writer of Hebrews and the Apostle Paul make this very clear. Below is a summary of the Old Testament Jewish Laws and a discussion of the importance of these Laws to the ancient nation of Israel and to our lives today.

The Old Testament of the Bible conveys the history of the physical nation of Israel from the standpoint of God. In order to reveal His nature to the Israelis, God promulgated laws upon which the monotheistic nation was to govern itself both as a nation and as the individuals within that society. God made a covenant (contract) with the people of Israel that if they obeyed these laws their lives would be blessed by God (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). But He also warned that if the Laws were disobeyed there would be serious consequences Deuteronomy 28:15-68). The 10 Commandments were ten Laws that were part of over 600 laws that God enacted for the Israelites in the Old Testament (See Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy for the entire law). The laws covered everything from criminal law and punishment, civil laws, laws regarding the sick and dead, laws regarding foods, how to treat a stranger or your neighbor, animals, possessions, sex, offerings for sin and many others. The laws were both spiritual and practical. Provision was made within the laws for the removal of the consequences of breaking these laws, either intentionally or negligently, by sacrifice (see Leviticus Chapters 1-7). Since man seemed unable to obey the laws, he had to come to the priest periodically for cleansing of their sin, usually through animal sacrifice. Man had to be cleansed from sin since the consequence of only one act of disobedience (sin) resulted in death in God’s eyes. Romans 6:23 makes it clear that the wages (consequences) of sin is death. The single sin of Adam and Eve led to their ultimate death, and the death of all mankind (Genesis Chapter 2).

The most well known of these various laws are the 10 commandments. They are as follows: Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them… Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain;…Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:  Honour thy father and thy mother:…Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s. (Exodus 20:3-17 King James Version).

As we know from the writings of the Old Testament, Israel could never fulfill God’s law. Thus, through the law, without forgiveness, all men were condemned. The Law was enacted not necessarily to test Israel but to show them that they had sin. Without some plan of redemption man was therefore doomed to condemnation due to his sinful nature. The law was man’s teacher that, in himself, he could never please God. The Law showed man he needed something greater than this Old Covenant to be able to be righteous before God. The impossibility of being able to do the law is apparent in the scriptures. Jesus said that even looking upon another with lust has already committed adultery? Who is never anxious, unbelieving or otherwise sinful in our actions and thoughts? Who is able to love God with ALL his heart and his neighbor as himself? (see Matthew Chapters 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount). Christ said our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, who were Hippocrates,, acting as if they were righteous when in fact they were not (Matthew 5:20). Trying to do the commandments and be righteous in ourselves is meaningless to God. God says our own righteousness is not impressive but rather repulsive to Him. Isaiah 64:6 says: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;”. 
 
The Apostle Paul himself recognized that in himself he was utterly incapable of doing God’s will. As he writes in Romans 7:18-24:  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.  Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in  my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (NKJV). So even if the eminent Apostle Paul could not control his own flesh, without help from some other means, neither can we.

So then the law which we cannot fulfill becomes our tutor leading us to Christ and the New Covenant where, through Christ, we are able to fulfill the law (Galatians 3:24). Christ said that He did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. Through Him the law would be fulfilled to the last “jot or tittle” (Matthew 5:17-18). The Law would not be fulfilled through human effort; Israel proved that. It is fulfilled through Christ our eternal high priest. Since we couldn’t do it, it was either condemnation for sinful man or redemption by a perfect Son Jesus.

Under the New Covenant we are free from having to try to walk in the law, including the “10 commandments” in our human efforts. Does this mean the Law is irrelevant? No. The Law is promise of what we are to become under Christ’s New Covenant. In the Book of Galatians Paul chastises the Ephesian church for going back to trying to do the law in themselves rather than having faith in a Christ who had already fulfilled it for them.

Therefore through Christ our sins are forgiven. But that is only a means to an end. If we are forgiven, even if we stumble, our forgiveness allows us the opportunity to be one with God which has always been the ultimate goal.

Fulfilling the law yourself not only negates the need for Christ, it also gives man the glory, not God. Our righteousness comes by grace, a free underserved gift. Man says “Look what I’ve done. Aren’t I a good person? God says no, only my Son is righteousness. Scripture says: “THERE is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned ASIDE; together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one” (Romans 3:10-13; Psalm 14:1-3, 53:1-30).  

So righteousness comes by faith, not by doing the law (Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:6). The law, including the 10 commandments, were but a type and shadow, symbols of things to come (Hebrews 8:5), i.e. Christ and the New Covenant. The construction of the temple, the Passover lamb, the priestly sacrifices, the Jewish feasts all were symbolic of the fulfillment in Christ.

Paul was openly critical of the Galatians for turning back to thinking they had to follow the law to become righteousness (the Law includes the 10 commandments). He says: “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:1-5).

Paul goes on: “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE righteous man shall live by faith.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “HE who practices them shall live by them” (Galatians 3:10-12; Deuteronomy 27:26; Habakkuk 2:4; Leviticus 18:5).
 
“Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Galatians 3:21-22).

So for our purposes, all our efforts to keep or do the 10 commandments are dead works and filthy rags to God. We will do them, but only when they become part of our nature. Remember the Old Covenant was our tutor to lead us to Christ; to let us know we needed Christ. When He came, He delivered an entirely new covenant.

The New Covenant is: After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, And I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, And they shall be My people” When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear (Hebrews 8:7-13; Jeremiah 31:33).

In order to walk in this New Covenant, without falling back into Old Testament legalism, we must have our consciousnesses cleaned by God. Hebrews says: “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, CLEANSE YOUR CONSCIENCE FROM DEAD WORKS to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14). We all have a conscience that we believe guides us into right or wrong actions. We always try to do the right thing i.e. follow the 10 commandments. But our natural consciences do not lead us to the “right thing” according to God. It leads us into trying to be religious, following the does and don’ts of the law. Every church has its own set of laws telling us falsely that if we do these laws we will “go to heaven” (don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t dance, come to church every Sunday, discipline yourself to read the Bible, discipline yourself to pray and on and on). The only “work” we must do id believe Christ. He will, or has already done the rest for us. Then our works coming from a faith in Christ are no longer dead works but living works.

We inherited our human consciences from Satan, when man fell in the Garden. Satan himself is a religious spirit. Our fallen nature causes us to do dead works. Dead works include doing things we think are right to appease our consciences’. If we don’t pick up the Bible for a while, our conscience convicts us and out of obligation we start to read. If we haven’t prayed, our conscience convicts us and we begin to pray. If we haven’t “witnessed” to someone in a week or gone to church, our conscience tells we should get with it. These feelings are not from God. Our own feelings about right and wrong are very deceptive. We must move by a revelation from God. The works our consciences tell us to do not merit favor with God.

The most important of the commandments under the New Covenant is:  “for if you are living according to the flesh, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being LED BY THE SPIRIT of God, THESE ARE SONS OF GOD (Romans 8:14). We must walk by the spirit, not by our flesh inherited from Satan.

There is much more to say on this subject which is discussed in detail in the Books of Hebrews, Galatians, Romans, 1&2 Corinthians etc. Suffice it to say that trying to do the 10 commandments in ourselves will never work, nor will our best efforts to be pleasing to God. We don’t “get to heaven” by doing the best we can. We get there by dwelling where Christ is, in the Spirit realm, where Christ is at the right hand of the Father. The Law only foreshadows what is to come. Israel in the Old Testament typifies those of us who walk in the SPIRITUAL ISRAEL in the end time.

 

GOD’S PROMISES

 

God’s ultimate plan is that Believers become Sons of God, like Christ the first-fruits. God didn’t limit the number of Sons that He intends to bring to birth. It is his plan to bring many Sons to glory. Hebrews 2:10 says: “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing MANY SONS TO GLORY, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings”.

John talks about being like Christ: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, WE WILL BE LIKE HIM, because we will see Him just as He is (1 John 3:2).

What we have received from God so far is not enough. He must meet us so that we can be like Him and have His righteousness written on our hearts. Let us demand an end of partial fulfillment—of seeing through a glass darkly, of knowing in part, and of speaking in part. We must put away the childish incompleteness (I Corinthians 13:11–12).

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48; Deut 18:13). As Christ was perfect before the Father, so we too are to be perfect like Christ and like the Father.
 
“And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4)

Christ came to make us perfect like Him. He is the author and PERFECTOR of our faith.
 
“And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised,  because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39-12:2).

Christ has provided the means wherein we achieve this perfection.
 
“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the  knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by  craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians  4:11-15).

Note that we grow up “into Him” in that our old flesh nature is completely done away with and we become His righteousness. He is the head and we are His body. Together we are made perfect before the Father.

This doesn’t happen automatically happen only when you die and “go to heaven”. This is to happen right here, right now on this earth. Matthew 6:10 states, as part of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10).

What we call Heaven is the spiritual realm where God, Christ and the angelic beings reside. It is a realm largely invisible to us. God wants to merge the natural and spiritual realms together and thus bring forth His spiritual Kingdom on earth. Nothing in so-called “heaven” is imperfect now that Satan has been cast out. That same perfection is to come to earth to those who are perfected and to all those who believe. To those He reckons righteousness as He did to Abraham. (Genesis 15:6).

In Revelation John speaks of the Holy City New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea [of humanity].  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev 21:1-2).
 
“And he carried me away  in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God having the glory of God” (v. 21:10-11).“and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (v. 21:27).

The Holy City comes down to earth from God’s spiritual Kingdom and is set up here on earth with no unclean thing in it. Many believe that a new physical temple will be rebuilt in Israel heralding this new day but that is not the case. It will be a spiritual temple comprised of the mystical Body of Christ wherein God can tabernacle (dwell). “I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev 21:22).

Here are only some of the real promises of God: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle [presence] of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,  and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Rev 21: 3-40.
 
“He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son (Rev 21:7).  
 
And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed;  And they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it” (Rev 21:22-26).
 
Then he showed me a river of the  water of life, clear [bright] as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads (Rev 22: 1-4).

This same Kingdom was prophesied by Isaiah 3000 years ago and 1000 years before Christ: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing And her people for gladness.

“I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people; And there will no longer be heard in her The voice of weeping and the sound of crying.  “No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, Or an old man who does not live out his days; For the youth will die at the age of one hundred And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred Will be thought accursed.
 
“They will build houses and inhabit them; They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit. “They will not build and another inhabit,
They will not plant and another eat; For as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people, And My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands. “They will not labor in vain, Or bear children for calamity;
 
For they are the  offspring of those blessed by the Lord, And their descendants with them. “It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. “The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will do no evil or harm in My entire holy mountain,” says the Lord (Isaiah 65: 17-25).  

In case you are thinking that this fulfillment is for the Jews only, think again. These promises and hundreds more documented in the scriptures are available for all, Gentiles and Jews alike. Under the New Covenant initiated by Christ the Jews are in the same footing as are all human beings (see also Romans chapters 9-11).

"For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But  he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the  Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:28-29). The Sons of the Kingdom are the true “Spiritual Israel” that will inherit God’s promises – Jews and Gentiles alike.

Therefore, our purpose in God, and His promises to us are that we become like Christ, in the earth. Without that we have little righteousness to give. God does not honor human righteousness; in fact He says it is to Him as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). All our good works, acting like we think Christ would act, philanthropic gestures, sermons etc. are of no delight to Him. He only delights in those who do the will of Him, not those who are doing what they think His will is. And if we walk in the Spirit with God we will inherit promises beyond our comprehension, those of which it is said: “eye has not seen, ear has not heard”.

 

OLD TESTAMENT VERSUS NEW TESTAMENT

UNDERSTANDING BOTH

 

The difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament has to do with the new and old covenants that God made with His people. However the New and Old Testaments must be viewed as one continuing saga of God’s dealings with mankind and His ultimate search for a people He could call His own. The nation of Israel was His chosen people in the Old Testament. After Christ, a new covenant was instituted. While the Old Covenant concerned only the physical nation of Israel the New Covenant included all peoples on the earth including Jews and Gentiles. Under the New Covenant all who accepted Christ’s offer became the spiritual Israel, now God’s chosen people.
 
The Old Testament (Old Covenant) is the agreement God made with man up until the time of Christ. This was the Jewish Torah, a collection of some 600 laws that were to be followed by physical Israel. God agreed to bless Israel as long as they followed His laws. Israel agreed to worship only the one true God and to otherwise follow His Laws. The New Covenant was instituted by the coming of Jesus. It was an agreement that righteousness no longer came by obeying the Law but by faith in Jesus and His resurrection.  
 
The Old Covenant that God made with his people Israel, who were in the wilderness after having been delivered from Egypt by Moses, was also called the Mosaic covenant.  It included laws (including the 10 Commandments) that the Israelites were to keep in order to please God. The people’s contact with God came only through the Levitical (or Aaronic for Aaron the original High Priest) priesthood. The priests came only from the tribe of Levi.  
 
The Old Covenant included cleansing and forgiveness (atonement) for sin. In order to atone for sin, a person had to appear before the priests, confess his/her sin and be forgiven and cleansed by the ritual sacrifice of an animal. When the man/woman sinned again, they had to go through the same process (see generally Hebrews Chapter 9-10, Leviticus Chapters 1-7).
 
Hebrews 10:1 states: "For the law [the old covenant], since it was only a shadow of the good things to come [the new covenant] and not the very form of things, can never ...make perfect those who draw near". "For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin" (verse 4). And "Every priest...offering time after time the same sacrifices can never [permanently] take away sin" (v.11). It's obvious that the first covenant was faulty. The sacrifices did actually work in that God accepted the sacrifice as sufficiently pleasing to Him to forgive sin however it was only a temporary solution. The people had to continue to come to the priests to be cleansed. The sacrifices did not forgive the since once and for all.
 
The law also contained specific requirements as to how Israel was to live as a community together. It included criminal law and punishment, laws on how to treat your neighbor or a stranger, dietary laws, laws regarding disease, treatment of animals, festivals and worship. All in all there were more than 600 separate laws applying to every aspect of the lives of Israel individually and as a nation.
 
However, it became evident that Israel was unable to keep these laws throughout their history. When they would fail, God would judge them and send other nations to conquer them, cause droughts and other catastrophes. When there was a good King who was pleasing to the Lord and Israel began to follow the Lord again, they were blessed. When there was a bad King Israel would fall away from the Lord and displease God. One of the main laws Israel violated continually was the prohibition against following the gods of the surrounding pagan nations and intermingling and intermarrying with them. Israel, during times of apostasy, would actually build and worship pagan idols. There were periods when the idols were torn down only to reappear a few years later during the reign of another King. The pagan god Baal was constantly worshiped. Israel also constantly failed to keep the other laws. The Old Testament records the blessing/judgment cycle which went on for hundreds of years and the reasons for God’s judgment.
 
Then, you ask, of what relevance did or does the law have to those of us who walk with Christ by faith? The law was an example to us that man in himself cannot follow God’s laws. That necessitated the coming of a Savior, who was both man and God, who did follow the law. Christ clearly said He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. By sacrificing Himself on the cross, He became an acceptable sacrifice to God. By doing so, that one sacrifice was pleasing to God, as were the sacrifice of animals were under the Old Covenant. Christ’s sacrifice was permanent however. This was the New Covenant instituted by the shedding of His blood, as the blood of the animal sacrifices temporarily forgave sin. There had to be blood and death in order to forgive sin. As the sin of the people was transferred to the animal that was then slain, so the sins of the entire world were transferred to Christ, who died and was resurrected.
 
Thus the law of the Old Covenant) was "our tutor to lead us to Christ so that we can be justified by Faith" (Galatians 3:24). In other words the law was given to show us that we were all sinners, could never follow the law, and therefore had to be delivered from that sin by Jesus Christ; by the new covenant in His blood. Our own efforts to please God through our works were no longer accepted by God.

The Old Covenant was also a copy of what Christ would offer as a permanent sacrifice. “Therefore we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at  the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, …Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve  a type and shadow of the heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:1, 4-5). We can learn much by understanding the various means with which sin was dealt with in the Old Testament. These were actually a detailed examination of what Christ accomplished here with one sacrifice. Other requirements, such as the temporary temple, were a shadow of the permanent things to come.
 
In the Old Testament people were judged by the law. As Paul said: "... the law is not of faith; on the contrary he who practices them [the commandments] shall live by them (Galatians 3:12 citing Leviticus 18:5). In other words, if you are living by the Law, you are responsible to keep all the law all the time. Break one law or commandment and you are condemned; since if you live by the law you will be judged by the law. Paul summed it up in Romans Chapter 7:
     
I [Paul] am of flesh, sold  into bondage to sin. For what I am doing,  I do not understand… for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.  But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  I find then  the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.  For I joyfully concur with the law of God in  the inner man,  but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of  the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?
 
So even Paul, perhaps the greatest Apostle, struggled daily with his flesh nature. According to the law he was constantly a sinner, breaking the laws of God. In frustration, he asks the question “what is the answer for my dilemma?” He concludes that his only solution is Christ who fulfilled the law thereby providing for us a new nature that was able to fulfill the law.

The terms of the New Covenant were actually prophesied in the Old Testament by Jeremiah hundreds of years before Christ’s appearing: "This is the covenant I [God] will make with them: After those days I will put my laws on their heart And on their mind I will write them And their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more." (Jeremiah 31:33-34; Hebrews 8:7-12; 10:16-17).
 
Christ said He did not come to abolish the law (the Old Covenant) but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). Whereas the sacrifice of bulls and goats could not literally fulfill the law, Christ did by His one sacrifice on the cross. He became a permanent high priest who, at the right hand of the Father, had absolved all the sin of the entire world. Where the shedding of the blood of bulls and goats had temporarily absolved sin, Christ's shedding of blood on the cross permanently removed it for all who call on His name in faith.
 
"For He , having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time "sat down at the right hand of God" (Psalms 110:1) "waiting from that time onward until His enemies become a footstool for his feet" (Psalm 110:1). "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified". Again this was done through faith, not by obeying a set of rules (Hebrews 10:14). At this time, the laws that we used to attempt to keep through our own efforts are now kept through us automatically by having them written on our hearts. We enter into his rest; the old struggle is abrogated forever (Hebrews 4:1-11).
 
There is one more covenant in the Old Testament that we must make mention of. That is God's covenant with Abraham, which preceded by centuries the Mosaic covenant. In Genesis 17 we read: "I will establish my covenant between you [Abraham] and Me And I will multiply you exceedingly. ...As for Me behold, My covenant is with you, And you will be a Father of a multitude of nations" (Genesis 17:1-5). As proof of Abraham's acceptance of that covenant, God initiated the rite of circumcision (v. 13-14) among others. The New Covenant does not abolish this act but changes it to a "circumcision of heart".
 
This covenant between Abraham and God did not end at the initiation of the New Covenant. It was an eternal covenant. The promise to Abraham was that through his seed all the nations of the world would be blessed. Abraham was called “The Father of Faith”. His faith was reckoned to him as righteousness. The New Covenant was all about righteousness through faith. Therefore, all those who are Christ's are heirs to the covenant God made with Abraham. "And if ye are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise" (Galatians 3:22).

Therefore, knowing about the Old Covenant can do nothing but deepen our relationship with the Lord. It gives us greater appreciation for what Christ did for us. Wherein before Christ mankind was condemned under their violation of sin, through Christ they are forever justified. They no longer sin since the man of Christ has the Law written on his heart.

 

FINDING TRUTH IN THE BIBLE

 

In Christianity, and in fact in any search for the truth, one must look to the Word of God to gain understanding of the truth. You must seek it and find it but God promises that “if we seek and keep on seeking” we will find”.

One thing we learn quickly is that truth is not special knowledge or wisdom or concepts separate from God. Truth is not a thing or a state of being—it is a person-Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of John he quotes Jesus as saying: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (v. 14:6). In order to understand truth, we must keep this “definition” in mind. Nowhere else in the Bible is “truth” defined. It is not a moral concept; it is not doing good so you can “go to heaven; it is not a philosophy; it is not a set of church doctrines and it’s not found in your conscience. It is found in Jesus Christ, in His nature, His body and His blood.

In order to walk in the truth, we must walk as He did. This does not mean walk in some imitation of Him, like doing what you think Jesus would have done in a particular circumstance. We must have His very nature, written on our hearts as He did. Only when we have fully appropriated His nature, and done away with our human nature, do we know truth. When that occurs, we will BE like Christ; we will also BE the truth.

Therefore, it is only in a change of nature, our human nature into His divine nature, that we will find truth. The Apostle John said:

“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, WE WILL BE LIKE HIM, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). And: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

We are, as true Christians, are in a process of spiritual nature change.

Paul outlined this process in his letter to the Corinthians. Change of nature means resurrection, as Christ was resurrected.
 
“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming” (vs. 15:20-23).

“So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable [literally corrupt] body, it is raised an imperishable body; 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. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth,  earthy [made of dust]; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly” [the Spirit reality of Christ] (vs. 15:42-49).

We inherited the human nature from Adam at the fall of man, the original sin (Genesis 3). Since sin is death, that one act of disobedience subjected all creation after the fall to a nature subject to death and sin. At that time, all of creation was subjected to futility (Romans 8:20-21).

Paul goes on: “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot  inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will 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 imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality (vs. 15:50-53).

We’ve said all this to say that: Truth exists only in Christ. In order to know truth, we must become like Him, not just after we die but in this life. Truth is not a concept separate from Christ; He is truth. We may seek and cry for understanding of truth but we will never know it unless we EXPERIENCE IT (different from knowing it) in Him. It will happen in the “twinkling of an eye”. And some still alive in this world will also be changed, never experiencing death.

Paul said: “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH is swallowed up in victory. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Co 15:54-56; Isaiah 25:8; Hosea 13:14). This is truth. To dwell in Christ’s and resurrected, imperishable body.

To become like Christ, and thereby know the truth, we must be “born again” in the Spirit. Christianity today uses the term “born again” to reflect the state of anyone who has been “saved” that is has received Christ as their Savior. This is not being truly “born again”. Christ describes a total experience of actually being completely born again with a new nature, displacing our human nature. Christians who claim to be born again just because they have accepted Christ are mistaken. Basis salvation is only step 1 in the process of receiving the nature of Christ in its totality.

Jesus said in response to a question posed to Him by a Jewish Pharisee Nicodemus: “Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [from above] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water [symbolic of the Word of God] and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again [from above].’ “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:3-8).

So how do we conduct this search for truth? Very simple. We seek Him, to know Him and the power of his resurrection.

Paul said: “That I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may KNOW HIM and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship [participation in] of His sufferings,… in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:10).

Since all truth resides in the person of Jesus Christ, we must seek Him in order to know Him, so we can become like Him.
 
Paul said: “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I PRESS ON toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8-14).

“Knowing Him” is knowing Him as a husband knows his wife. It is an intimate relationship between you and God. When you have this you will KNOW and thus experience the truth.

Another scripture refers to this knowing and the search for Him:  “So let us know, LET US PRESS ON TO KNOW THE LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth” (Hosea 6:1-3).  

Our searching is a pressing on to the relationship God has planned for us with Him, resurrection life, an imperishable body, eternal life in His Kingdom. This is truth.

How do we seek? One way is through prayer. Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6. “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.  ‘YOUR KINGDOM COME. YOUR WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.  ‘Give us this day our daily bread.  ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]” (Matthew 6:9-13).

In Luke 11, the disciples asked Jesus how to pray. Jesus quoted the Lord’s Prayer. But He went further. He showed them by a parable that one must be persistent in prayer (seeking, searching) and not to stop praying until you have received of what you asked (Luke 11:1-13). It is not even necessarily a searching; it is an asking. He who seeks finds; he who asks receives.

Heaven is not some faraway place we reach only when we die. It is a state of being. Jesus said that we should pray that His Kingdom come both in “heaven” (the spirit realm where God lives) and in the earth AS IT ALREADY IS in heaven. The kingdom is all around us. We just need to seek God to bring it down to become real to our senses.

Paul said: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind [be intent on] on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).

This is truth. We don’t look for it using natural resources in a temporal world. Jesus, the person, is truth. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. God said “Heaven and earth may pass away, but My words will not”. So let’s seek him while He may be found.

 

IDENTIFYING THE SPIRIT OF GOD IN US

 

God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must do so IN SPIRIT... (John 4:24). This is a very literal truth. It does not mean we give God “spirited worship” nor does it mean that we worship Him spiritedly with our soul or body. We must worship literally with our human spirits.  Since God is a spirit we cannot relate to Him through any other medium.  
 
Man/woman is a triune (3-part) being comprised of spirit, soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). We cannot relate to God with our soul or our body by themselves. We cannot relate to Him intellectually, through our emotions, or with our good works; these are part of the dead soul nature. However, within each of us there is that part, our spirit, that can communicate with God one on one. Few are aware they have this within them. The main reason is that the spirit of man is buried, beneath his soul and body, and is rarely able to express itself. The spirit does not control our soul and body as it should. We are controlled more by our intellect, emotions, feelings and our bodies.
 
When man was banned from the Garden of Eden, his spiritual contact with God ended. In the Garden, spirit contact with God held the preeminence over man’s soul and body. This spiritual relationship with God was preeminent (Genesis Ch. 2-3). When the separation between God and man occurred, because of the original sin of Adam and Eve, that spirit relationship ended, and men began to live in subjection to his soul. Now man had to call upon the name of the Lord (Hebrew Qara) which means to seek God and worship with altars (Genesis 4:26).
 
Man/woman became aware they were naked, became fearful (soulish), and hid from God. A predominance of the soul had begun in their lives. That state has progressed throughout the generations until today the soul, which is comprised of the emotions, the mind, the intellect, seat of passions, anger and pleasure etc., has become completely preeminent. As the soul became the dominating force, the body became the channel of expression of the soul. You see today an "acting out" of these soulish qualities including greed, lust, power, murder, idolatry, commercialism, and the like. Thus, our current state has very little manifestation of God in it (love, joy, peace and the other attributes of the Spirit) (see Galatians 5:16-25). Our spirit is buried and our soul and bodies run rampant.
 
Christianity, and most other religions, seek as their ultimate goal a return to their God. Unfortunately this cannot occur until our human spirits are awakened and become able to relate to God's Spirit. This is sometimes referred to as "restoration" (Acts 3:21). It is the time referred to in the Bible as when God (Christ) returns and sets up his government on the earth (Isaiah 9:6 "...and the government will be on his shoulders"..). That is the time when the Spirit takes back its former dominance over all things including our soul and bodies.
 
Now we mentioned that man is a triune being. If man has reached the place where he is aware of his spirit, and it begins to take dominance, what happens to his/her soul and body. The soul is a kind of neutral switchboard that responds to whatever stimuli it receives. If it receives energizing from the spirit, it responds and generates according to what the spirit is doing. If stimulus from the body or the flesh nature is received, it responds that way. Many refer to this phenomenon as the old man (the soulish man) and the new man (the spiritual man). The old man responds soulishly to non-spiritual impulses (lust, greed, hate) while the new man is the man of spirit and responds to God.
 
In the new man, the soul emanates goodness, love, kindness, concern for others, in short all the spirit qualities of God Himself. That is why when we gain this spirit awareness, we should feed IT and deny the other responses. In this way we allow the new man to grow. In time the new man will dominate our lives. As for sin or evil, bad thoughts etc, because your new man is so strong, you will not even want to do the other. As John put it in 1 John 4:4 "greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world...", referring to the strengthened, quickened and powerful Spirit that is in you.
 
Perhaps the most revealing Chapter in the bible on the Spirit is in the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, Chapter 8. Chapter 8 follows Chapter 7 wherein the Apostle Paul recognizes that he is unable to control his conduct. Although he might want to do good, he finds himself unable to do so in his own strength (Rom 7:14-25). He concludes the chapter with the plea "who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (v.24)
 
In Rom. 8:5-6 Paul says "For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [or the fallen nature] but those according to the Spirit the things of the spirit". And "...the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God for it does not subject itself to god, for it is not even able to do so..." (Rom. 8:7). Therefore all the intellectualizing about the things of God are fruitless, as the human mind in its current state cannot ever understand the Spirit because it does not have the ability to do so.
 
Who are the ones who have a spirit to spirit relationship with Him? "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God those are the Sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). Christ was a Son of God because of how He walked.  He did nothing on his own initiative but He did only what the Spirit of the Father led Him to do (John 14:7-15). Therefore, in Christianity, the appearing of the Lord on the earth was not just to forgive sins. His was to restore this spirit to spirit relationship between man and God, so that doing righteousness, goodness and love became the natural thing to do; it came from God, through our souls down to our bodies ending in the will of God being done "on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10).

We are made ultimately in the image of God. God also has a triune nature. God is one God, because the parts exist in complete oneness, but have their manifestation as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Explaining this would take another whole article but for purposes of this discussion, as it relates to us: The Father is the Creator. He has His expression through the Son (Christ) who is the Word of God, the 'logos' in Greek. Jesus said his words were not His but the Father's and so they were. Jesus was speaking the Father's words through His complete oneness with the Father. The Holy Spirit, the third element of God's triune nature, was sent to the believers in Christ after Jesus had been crucified, because when crucified He went away to sit at the right hand of the Father and become invisible to us here on earth. The Holy Spirit's purpose was to lead believers into "all the truth", a deeper knowledge of Christ and ultimate perfection to a mature man. At the end of it all, Christ delivers the perfected Kingdom over to the Father so God becomes in all and through all.
 
How does one get an awareness of his/her own spirit? To start, believe you have a spirit, the ability to connect with God. Ask God for an awareness of it -ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking. Eventually it will, or should be, quickened to you so that you have experienced a spark, no matter how small, of God. It will be a "still small voice" but distinguishable from all the other voices that vie for attention in your mind. Once you hear it keep at it to make it sharper. Strengthen it, develop it. It’s yours, your right to have this - God is more than willing to give it to you. This will at sometime become a necessity because scripture says that the knowledge of the Lord will cover the entire earth, as the waters cover the sea. It will be this Spirit knowledge, knowledge of God that will dominate. There will be no more need for you to be taught to know the Lord for all will know Him.
 
And through this knowledge, your entire spirit, soul and body will be preserved blameless for an eternity of joy in His Kingdom.

 

IS THE BIBLE OUTDATED AND IRRELEVANT

 

In this evil and perverted age, man has grown too smart for the Bible. It is, according to some, contradicted by history, by evolution, by science and human independence and intelligence. However, as we shall see, the Bible is not outdated and irrelevant. It only appears that way to those who have no eyes to see or ears to hear, as in the days of Jesus.
 
As David said (speaking to the Word of God) "Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge” (Psalm 19:2). So it is with the Bible. A better title for this topic would be: "Is This Present World Outdated and Irrelevant". It is filled with violence, corruption, genocide, wars, immorality, impurity, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, dissensions and factions, drunkenness, false religion and all matter of evil. (See Galatians 5:19-21). And after all of that, many still cling to the idea that the human way is the only way. The Bible teaches that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control should reign supreme in the earth (Galatians 5:22-23).
 
There is one problem common to all people who sneer at the Word of God. God did not intend for all to understand its contents. Most people have no eyes to see or ears to hear. To them it has not been granted to see the true meanings of the Scriptures (Ezekiel 12:2, Romans 11:8). In His calling of Isaiah to be a prophet (Isaiah 6:9-10), God said: "Go and tell this people: 'Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.' "Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Lest they see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed."
 
In Matthew 13:11-14, Jesus himself said: "To you [the disciples] it has been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, but to them [the people] it has not been granted. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled (and He goes on to quote Isaiah 6:9-10, above).
 
God is not logical as we perceive logic. He does as He will, irrespective of our feelings to the contrary. He is God! He is, however a God of love, justice and the only source for true righteousness.  

As for the great knowledge and achievements of the world: Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15). Jesus said that he who loves the world more than Him is not fit for the Kingdom.
 
Those who choose to call the Bible irrelevant have the disease of not seeing or hearing God, both absolute prerequisites to understanding the Bible. Only revelation will open it up to them, by reading the book with faith and an open heart, instead of rejecting it out of hand.
 
Jesus once asked the disciples who men were saying He was. They responded John the Baptist, Elijah or Jeremiah. The Lord then asked Simon Peter directly who he thought Jesus was. Peter responded that "you are the Son of the Living God". Jesus happily said "Blessed are you [Simon Peter] because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but My Father who is in Heaven" (Matthew 16:13-17). Peter had had the necessary revelation that the "men" did not have.
 
Then there is the old argument that since the Bible was written by mere fallible men, it can't be true. Therefore, they say, the Bible is just one more myth designed to give man comfort in his daily tribulations. The Bible WAS written by fallible men, untrained and uneducated, fishermen, farmers, sheep herders, tax gatherers etc. There are many reasons to call them "mere men". But God chose such men in order to glorify Himself. These men knew it wasn’t them doing the work but God.

He chose these weak and fallible things of the world to confound the mighty.
“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were  not many wise according to human standards, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). "for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will; but men moved [inspired] by the Holy spirit from God (1 Peter 1:21).
 
In Romans 16:25-26, the Apostle Paul states: "Now to him who is able to establish you by [the] gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings [Bible] by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations may believe and obey Him” (See also Ephesians 3:3-10).
 
The living Word, as opposed to the dead word is described as: "living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do [God] (Hebrews 4:12-13). No wonder people reject the Bible-even their innermost thoughts are laid bare before Him.
 
The Bible is the living word of God. It is not mere words. The letter of the Word kills but the Spirit of the Word conveys life (2 Corinthians 3:6). Man's writings convey only emotions, ideas and "facts". God says: "My Words are spirit and they are life" (John 6:63). It is not even necessary to understand everything we read in it. It is not necessary that it conform to our views of history or science, because it is the Word of God, all we need to know now to walk with Him. We don’t just read it. Since it is Spirit, not words, we read and drink in the Spirit that changes us into the image of Christ, living water.
 
Spiritual things are foolishness to men who don’t believe. In 1 Corinthians 2:12-15 the Apostle Paul says this about man and the Word of God: …a natural man (literally "unspiritual" man) does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one". Therefore for those who cannot accept the Bible are foolish.
 
However, even the foolish cannot err on the road to righteousness; God has made it so simple. God says of the path of righteousness: "A highway shall be there, and a road and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool shall not go astray (Isaiah 35:8). The Bible is the road map to uttermost salvation.
 
God leads us slowly and gently like a true shepherd. This is the way to learn God: "Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people… But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little (Isaiah 28:9-13, NKJV version). He is not willing that anyone get lost or left behind, so He makes His word very clear to the believer.
 
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that WHOEVER believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16, emphasis added). The gift of God was to the whole world. If everyone would seek God to receive a revelation of salvation then all would be saved. It's a gift. You need not to work for it; only receive it. By grace, not works, have we been saved. Under the New Covenant (New Testament) Christ will teach you how to do the impossible. You will fulfill the law not by striving to be good but by receiving Him. The instructions are there, right in the Bible. Read it and take the Spirit into yourself.

 

PAUL’S EPISTLES

A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE APOSTLE'S LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES

 

Paul was first of all a bond- servant of Jesus Christ. He was also an Apostle of God. Bond-servant, Douios in the Greek, a word meaning “one who is in a permanent relationship of servitude to another”. In Paul’s case his absolute servitude to Jesus Christ was without question. to Jesus Christ. The Hebrew term is also used in the Old Testament describing the Elijah-Elisha relationship and the relationship of the prophets and some Kings to God.
 
Apostle, or Apostolos in Greek, means “one sent or an ambassador”. It is used in the New Testament to mean “one sent by God as an ambassador of Christ”. It is a special, seldom used word in Greek which gives it a connotation of one who was sent with a special message. Paul was sent by God to spread the Word of the Gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. He received the Gospel he preached not from man but through a revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12). He was unique in that the 12 original Apostles walked with Christ for at least 3 years, and received their Word from Him, quickened by the Holy Spirit after the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts Chapter 2). Paul also got his ministry from Christ but from the resurrected Lord.
 
Paul, before he met the Lord, was what he called a “Pharisee of Pharisees”. The Pharisees were a sect of Judaism who demanded strict adherence to the Mosaic Law. They became so preoccupied with the detail and nuances of the law that Israel was overburdened by trying to follow a law they were not even familiar with. They exalted the form of obedience causing it to prevail over matters of the heart: “man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Their religion fostered social advancement while looking down at the “sinners” who were beneath them. Therefore they were the ultra religious, legalistic, self seeking leaders of Judaism in that day.
 
Paul studied under a high ruler of the Pharisees and after years he became a well known Pharisee himself. He actively persecuted the foundling Christian Church, capturing and participating in the murders of some (Acts 8:59-8:1). He was much feared by early Christian converts.
 
However, on his way to Damascus, to persecute a Christian movement there, he had an overwhelming face to face meeting with Christ Himself. He was actually struck blind by the experience for three days (Acts Chapter 9). When he was recovered he began to preach Christ to the people of Damascus. (Acts 9:19-21). Christians were amazed and skeptical, that one day he was a violent persecutor of Jesus but suddenly was supporting Him. He was so effective in his Word of Christ that the Jews sought to kill him but he escaped. Paul retreated into the Arabian Desert, learned the Gospel (the Good News) from Christ himself and thereafter became a most effective Evangelist and ambassador of Christianity, an Apostle.
 
Paul occupied the next 17 years in three separate missionary journeys during which he started churches throughout the Grecian world, Asia Minor and eventually Rome. His epistles are actually letters written to the various churches he established and oversaw. They contain the basic principles of foundational Christianity that we refer to today. His journeys are summarized in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles and in Paul's various epistles.
 
Paul was severely persecuted by the Jews and others during that time. In II Corinthians 11:23-33, Paul states that he was whipped with 39 lashes by the Jews 5 times, he was beaten with rods 3 times, he was stoned (with rocks), shipwrecked, in hunger and thirst and sleepless nights, encountering all the dangers on the road from robbers etc. and imprisoned many times. In addition he had the constant pressure of the oversight of the many churches he had begun who were in a period of great persecution at that time. He was finally imprisoned by the Romans in a dungeon for many years and eventually beheaded by the Roman Emperor Nero. But not before being able to preach the gospel in Rome, along with Peter and Luke, and to start a church in Rome. The Epistle to the Romans was written to the church at Rome.  
 
The epistles he wrote (those that are preserved for us today) were as follows: two to the Corinthian church, to the Galatians in Galatia, to the Ephesians, to the church at Philippi, to the Colossians, 2 to the Thessalonians, 2 to Timothy his confident and bond-servant, one each to Titus and Philemon and to the Romans. There is dispute as to whether Paul was the author of the Book of Hebrews; some say it was written by Paul, some say Barnabas and others Apollos. There is so far no conclusive evidence as to who the author is.

Here we briefly identify some of Paul’s writings however each of his epistles should be thoroughly studied as his writings form the foundation of the Christian Church today.  
 
The epistles were written by Paul were not written abstractly but addressed specific issues that arose in the churches he founded in the various locations. Many were written to counter false spiritual influences that had infiltrated the churches, causing them to turn from the gospel Paul had preached. For example the Epistle to the Colossians opposes no fewer than 5 or six separate influences that had began to corrupt the church (see Col. Chapter 3-4). Therein he identifies those groups who would regulate behavior, food intake, advocate worship of angels, physical debasement, exaltation of visions and saint worship. But in opposing these negative forces Paul is again able to reinforce the gospel of Jesus Christ, which remains a foundation for us today.
 
Paul addressed other problems that allowed him to again emphasize the true Gospel of Christ. The Gnostic sect of Christianity was particularly prevalent during those times. The Gnostics taught that it was a “secret knowledge” that brought perfection, not Jesus Christ. So were the Judaizers who advocated a form of Christianity still requiring some Jewish ritual such as circumcision. However, in the crucible of problems, persecutions, doctrinal disputes and hardships came forth a word that set forth nearly all of foundational Christianity that we refer to today 2000 years later.

In The Epistle to the Galatians Paul addresses those who came into the churches teaching that Christians that, in addition to serving Christ, should also adhere to the Law of Moses including practicing circumcision. Paul condemned this practice saying: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministers to you the Spirit, and works miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:1-5). Thus he distinguished the ministry of Christ as being obtained through faith, not by obeying the former law.

In his epistle to the Philippians Paul again describes the freedom and grace of God that makes one free from the old law. He also identified Christ as a bond servant. “ Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not [important] to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8).  

Paul knew our battle was not against man and his pronouncement of false doctrines. He knew the true battle lay elsewhere. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world-forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).

He then taught the Christians how to put on the armor of God to resist and defeat those spiritual powers. “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:10–17.

In his epistle to the Romans, Paul brings forth two critical points. In Chapters 2-4 and 9-11 he explains the Kingdom and Christ’s salvation in relation to the Jews. First, the Jews were God’s chosen people in the Old Testament but after Christ introduced the New Covenant, salvation was opened to the Gentiles (all non-Jews), which had the effect of putting everyone on equal footing. Despite having crucified the Lord of Glory, God extended forgiveness to the Jews just as He extended the same to the Gentiles, and to the whole earth. The concept of being a Jew radically changed from the Old Testament definition, Paul said: “he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God”. (Romans 2:28-29). Therefore the decidedly Christian thinking that the Jews are still God’s chosen people, and that the New Jerusalem will be set up in Israel, is a false concept. Now the true Jew is one created by the Spirit of God by faith, a spiritual Israelite in a spiritual Jerusalem.

Second, in Romans, Paul explains the Spirit realm as opposed to the flesh of men. Man was subjected to the fallen nature of Adam after the Fall and sin became a part of his nature from then until now. In Romans chapter 7, Paul recounts his own battle with the flesh nature, and acknowledged his own powerlessness against sin in himself. He says: “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members (Romans 7:19-23). He finishes the description of his dilemma with: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body  of this death? (vs. 24).

In Romans 8 he answers his own question. “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:2-3). He goes on to point out that man cannot know God through his natural mind but only through the mind being renewed to be the mind of Christ through the Spirit (v. 5-8). Those who walk in the flesh cannot please God (v.6). Unfortunately, this applies to much of Christianity today.

The Christian sometimes thinks he can be justified by his good works but the truth is he can only be justified through his faith in Christ. The good and lasting works will come through this spiritual relationship, not vice versa. You cannot please God with good Works. Christ said: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21-23). No amount of good works, unless done according to the Spirit of God, are of any avail.

Paul says of the earth then and more so now: “For the creation was made subject to vanity [literally futility], not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Going back to the fall of man, God subjected creation to a futile state. Futility is variously defined as a state of no importance, trifling, untrustworthy, ineffective, and useless and denoting that the state of man is vain and his strivings unjustified (Webster’s Dictionary). However, God did not subject it to that state without a way out. He did it in hope that the fully manifested Sons of God would come along and release creation from that hopeless state (Romans 8:20-210.

Finally he identifies the Sons of God (plural) as those who are led by the Spirit of God (Rom 8:14). He prays that we be “adopted” as Sons, grafted into the vine of the chosen people Israel. “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory” (Hebrews 2:10). Christ is the first fruits but many Sons, like Him, will come forth; those who know the voice of the Lord and be led by Him.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul again contrasts the Spirit man from the natural man. In advocating that we speak not the words of man’s wisdom but the wisdom of God by His spirit (v.13). He goes on in his rebuke in verse 14: “the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Christ spoke to the multitudes, knowing they had no eyes to see or ears to hear what He was saying. “Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Elijah, which says, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive” (Matthew 13:13-14). God give us eyes to see what is ours in the Spirit realm and ears to hear what Christ is speaking to us!

Paul took the gospel of Christ where it would not have gone otherwise. The majority of the original Apostles remained in Jerusalem for many years converting Jews. Paul went to the ends of the known earth. He traveled widely in some of the most demonically possessed nations in the known world including Greece, Macedonia and Rome and its provinces. He taught beneath the great Greco-Roman architectural wonders that pervaded the earth at that time. He spoke in ampatheaters and in people’s homes and small gatherings. Wherever he went he ministered the gospel despite his frailties as a man.

 

SEA OF FORGETFULNESS

 

We all experience feelings of guilt, often over things we have done in the past. Those memories come up at any time and have a tendency to wipe us out, at least for the moment. We tend to see those past acts through a veil of guilt that most often are a distorted view. It is Satan and his cohorts that bring these memories and resulting condemnation. We forget what Paul said in Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”.

When we receive Christ into our lives, at that point all sins are forgiven. However, we don’t see the complete manifestation of it in our lives instantly. In fact, when Christ was resurrected, Satan was defeated but we see him raging for the next 2000 years. We must appropriate all of Christ’s provision to be “saved to the uttermost” (Hebrews 7:25). This is God’s eternal purpose. He wants our repentance to be through and to bring forth fruit in our lives. It is not manifested in our lives the minute we are saved; it takes time and many dealings of God to fully manifest His nature in us. We may have days in which we will flounder with this level of repentance; but if we will set our course and go after it with faith in our hearts, God will meet us.

That is the reason God sent His Son to die-to completely deliver us from our sins here and now, not to be delayed until we physically die. This is His eternal purpose. We see that He ever lives to make intercession for us and He is able to save us to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25). To the uttermost is completely, perfectly, thoroughly. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). This becomes the objective of our repentance.

One area of sin that seems to hang on is the oppression from our past. Although we seek God over and over, it just doesn’t seem to disappear and we remember it just at the wrong moments, even when we feel completely on top. It has a way of knocking us down so that we have to repent again and get up again. What we must have is a complete and total deliverance from those guilty memories or condemnation. We cannot have total faith if these memories are lurking in our closets.

God is able to once for all deliver us in that area. By providing total salvation to the uttermost, in reality He has already cast all our sins, including our guilt, into His “sea of forgetfulness”. However, we need to be delivered even from the effects of that sin so that it doesn’t manifest in our lives in any manner.

Although the exact term “sea of forgetfulness” does not per se appear in the Bible. The term is derived from the following scriptures. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their [our] sins Into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19.
 
“They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:8-12, 10:17; Romans 11:27). “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

We need to seek God and repent deeply to remove those feelings of guilt from us. Having guilt is as much a sin before God as is murder or adultery. As long as we have guilt, we are not walking in His full provision. Visualize it. Go before God with your sin of guilt and visualize him casting it into the sea of forgetfulness. Then it will no longer be a part of your nature.
 
“Behold, “Do not call to mind the former things,  Or ponder things of the past. “Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:18-19).

When we are able to forget the past God has an opportunity to do something really new in our lives. “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that god has prepared for those who love him” (Isaiah 64:4, 65:17; I Corinthians 2:9).
 
When God justifies, He blots out the memory and the reality of the transgression, and we become the righteousness of God by faith (II Corinthians 5:21).

There is one more method whereby sins including guilt (see Leviticus Chapter 6 for a discussion of the guilt offering) were and are removed. In the wilderness, Israel celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). On the Day of Atonement, the sin for all of Israel was forgiven, forgotten and sent away, until the next year. The sin was put on the goat of removal (Azazel goat). The process was this:

“He [the high priest, Aaron] shall take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the doorway of the tent of meeting. “Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat. Then Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot for the Lord fell, and make it a SIN OFFERING [and slay it]…. Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. “The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:7-9, 21-22).

This process has application to us today. Since Christ became our high Priest through the New Covenant, he is able to cast our sins on the now symbolic goat and send them far away for eternity. As the forgiveness obtained in the wilderness was only temporary Christ’s sacrifice is once for all time. The process is still the same. We visualize our sin [guilt] being put on the Azazel goat and watch it being led far away, never to be seen again.

We can be delivered from our guilt past and present. God takes it away and remembers it no more. We too must remember it no more. As we appropriate more and more of His nature it will be natural for us not to remember.
 
“THIS is the covenant that I will make with them After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, And on their mind I will write them,” He then says, “AND their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 8:10, 10:16-17; Jeremiah 31:33).

We must remember that after Christ’s victory on the cross all condemnation was removed from the human race. The condemnation and judgment did however remain with Satan who is already condemned to a fiery hell. His only tool is to attempt to transfer his condemnation onto us, just as our sins were transferred to Christ. We must resist this. We must remember that when we begin to feel condemned it is not our condemnation but Satan’s. It is his. If we believe his lie that it is really ours we stand in jeopardy of going down with him. We must remember we have been sanctified and forgiven. The evil one has already been judged.

 

SPIRITUAL FATHERS

 

“…if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in  Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.
Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. (1 Corinthians 4:15).

Paul was a spiritual Father. He gave birth to the Corinthian church and fathered it as the members came into the maturity of Christ, as a natural son grows up under a natural father.

1 Corinthians 4:15 (above) contains the word Father two times. They are different words in the Greek but when read together they describe the relationship Paul had with the church. The first father used is the Greek word “pater”. This denotes a natural father but its spiritual meaning is much deeper. The word is from a root signifying a nourisher, protector and an upholder; one with an advanced knowledge of Christ (1 John 2:13). It also refers to God as the creator and in I John 2:14 we read, I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. In this chapter, John addressed the children, the fathers, and the young men, repeatedly.

This word denotes the continuing relationship a father has with those who have been born anew (John 1:12-13). Paul referred to himself as a wise masterbuilder. According to the grace of God which was given unto me as a wise masterbuilder, I laid a foundation; and another buildeth thereon. But let each man take heed how he buildeth thereon. For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-11). The father is the masterbuilder; the sons build on that foundation. (Vine’s Expository Dictionary, pp. 1865).  

The second reference is “gennao” which means to beget. It means the physical begetting of children. Spiritually, it is used as:
“the act of God in the birth of Jesus Christ (Acts 13:33, Hebrews 1:5 & 5:5). “the impartation of spiritual life by a gospel preacher” (1 Co. 4:15; Philemon 10) “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness which belongs to the fullness of Christ”  (Ephesians 4:13). “impartation of God’s divine nature to the believer (John 3:3, 5:7; 1 John 2:29; the New American Standard Key Word Study Bible).

Thus Paul defines his ministry as a spiritual one of begetting (birthing) believers into Christ and his continuing relationship of fathering. As John said:” I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning” (1 John 2:14).

Paul was bringing out an important truth. Paul was a father, and he had a sense of responsibility for his people. A father is responsible for what he begets or creates. Old wisdom recognized this principle: If you saw a man drowning in a river, you should not rescue him. If you rescued him and were responsible for saving his life, you became responsible for him. From that time on, he became your charge. Therefore, you would have to take him home and feed him; your children could go hungry while you fed a stranger that you had pulled out of the river.

Paul said, “I exhort you to be imitators of me” (see above). He said for the Corinthian church to be a responsible father just he was. He says by inference to be responsible in the relationships you have. Whoever one begets he is responsible for. That is one of the things that drive a spiritual father. He knows that he has begotten sons in the Spirit. He has become a spiritual father to lead them. He may scold them, drive them, push them to give and to work, and push them to care for one another and to love one another, but he does this because He loves them. Paul spoke a Word from God that created something in their hearts. When he saw what grew as a result of that word he knew that he was responsible. So we are responsible for one another, even to our spiritual fathers, to create them into a deeper Father ministry.

The Father is the progenitor. “I [Paul] have planted; Apollos watered; but God has given the increase. So that neither the planter is anything, nor the waterer; but God the giver of the increase (1 Corinthians 3:5-7). The Father does not exalt himself with his spirituality with spiritual pride. He recognizes his ministry as an essential part of the body of Christ but no better or less than the ministry of anyone else. It is God who causes the growth. We are, whatever our ministry, His vessels.

A spiritual Father is a combination father and mother. The father side is a co-creator with God, and through His Word, he brings to birth a son of God. The father also experiences the travail of birth. He trains, disciplines and imparts his sons into a deeper relationship with Christ. His mother side is also creative. That side nourishes, protects, intercedes, covers and loves the son, much like a mother in the natural realm. The mother side is also aware of the responsibility to discipline. A true Father does not spoil the offspring as to make the son dependent on him; he constantly points the son towards God and to his more important relationship with Him.

The writer of Hebrews said this of discipline that the Father must administer: “MY son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or faint when you are reproved by Him; FOR THOSE WHOM the Lord loves He disciplines And He scourges every son whom He receives. It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of our spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:5-11). The spiritual father on earth takes the role of the heavenly Father. 

Also “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:12-13).

How do we as sons relate to our spiritual fathers? Expect a great deal from them but learn from them so you too may walk as a father. Sons, expect more out of yourselves. Expect to learn the voice of God for yourself so as not to put undo pressure on the fathers to do it for you. This kind of demand and expectation produces growth. Paul said to be imitators of him. So must we towards our spiritual Fathers.

Remember the 4th commandment, the only one of the 10 Commandments with a promise: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you” (Exodus 20:12. So also we honor our spiritual Fathers so that we may receive life.

 

SPIRITUALITY: ROMANS 8
 

TEACHING FOR THOSE BORN ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT

 

Romans Chapter 8 is basic teaching for those who desire to walk with God in His Spirit. "God is a spirit and those who worship must worship in SPIRIT and in truth” (John 4:24). It makes sense that if God is a spirit, the only way to truly relate to Him is through the realm where He lives-the realm of the Spirit. Paul teaches in Romans 8 how to do it.
 
In order to fully understand Romans 8 it is a good idea to read Romans 7 first. In Romans 7 Paul struggles with his own human nature and concludes "...nothing good dwells in me... for the willingness is present in me but the doing of the good not" (Romans 7:18). Then, in verse 24: "wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?” Paul answers his own question: "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ has set [us] free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). The Mosaic Law could not bring righteousness but only God could, under the New Covenant (Testament), through our Lord Jesus Christ (verse 3).
 
Sometimes we think we serve God with our minds but according to Paul that's not true. He says "the mind set on the flesh is death but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile [enmity] toward God; for it does not subject itself to...God, for it is not able to do so" (Romans 8:6-7). And then: "for if you are living by the flesh you must die, but if you are putting to death the deeds of the flesh you will live” (Rom 8:13).

In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul innumerates the deeds of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit. The deeds of the flesh are: “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.  

Contra, the fruits of the Spirit are: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit”.
 
Paul goes on to identify the Sons of God: "for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:13-14). Walking in sin and in the flesh is death, while the Spirit is alive. The only true Sons of God are those who are totally and completely led by the Spirit of God. “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by  his Spirit that dwells in you. (Rom 8:10).  
 
Paul goes on to explain the eternal purpose of the sons of God and creation. "For the anxious longing of creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of He who subjected it  in hope that the creation itself would be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (the Sons who are being led by the Spirit of God) (Romans 8:20-21).
 
In speaking of futility Paul is referring back to the beginning when Adam and Eve sinned, were removed from the Garden of Eden, and placed in a world where the ground yielded thistles and where man would live by the sweat of his brow etc. (Genesis 3). Futility (translated vanity in the King James Version) is defined variously as: vain, empty, fruitless, worthless, a nothingness, a worthlessness, devoid of truth (the Devil is the lie), frustration.
 
That is the state of the Earth currently; that same state of futility. God, through His sons, are destined to overcome this present state of futility and fill the earth with the presence of the knowledge of God. Tall order! So we groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons and the redemption of our body (v. 23). As sons, God causes everything to work together for good for us called to his purpose (v. 28). Once we are fully manifest, it is we who will release creation from its divinely imposed state of futility.

As proof that we don’t have to wait for this until we “die and go to Heaven”, Paul says the Spirit can even transform our current bodies. “ But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you (Rom 8:11). The same is true of the rapture theory. Why would God take us away from the earth, just at the time we are to do our most important work? Jesus said: “"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). Unfortunately this doesn’t happen automatically—it is created by the Sons through faith and resulting works.

Hebrews 11:3 states: “By faith we understand that the worlds [ages] were prepared [framed] by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible”.  The Sons and the prophets prepare, create and frame the age to come, just as did the men of faith enumerated in Hebrews 11. It does not happen automatically while we are away on a cloud in heaven. It happens because Sons make it happen.
 
“The Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force [not a physical but a spiritual violence] (Matthew 11:12). The Kingdom is coming on this earth and the same will of God will be done here, as it is in Heaven (the Spirit realm where God lives). We, as those here on earth at this time, must make that happen, not be passive bystanders. We are not waiting on the sidelines waiting for the rapture or to die and go to Heaven. We are to be active participants in the bringing forth of the will of God in the earth, at this time.
 
"For those He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son"  (v.29). Imagine. We are to be conformed to the image of Christ, who is our first fruits, the first born of many brethren.  Hebrews 2:10 says there will be many Sons brought to birth. “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. And this can happen here and now on earth, for all those who walk by the Spirit. We have an overwhelming destiny in Christ. Let's fulfill it together.

 

TESTIMONY

 

It seems as if Christianity today has an incorrect, unscriptural view of what real testimony is. Testimony. Revelation 19:10 says: “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Today’s Christians consider testimony to their confession to a believer or non believer about how they were saved and/or were brought to Christ. They go on to describe what they know Jesus and how their salvation experience has changed their lives. Used in this matter testimony becomes a rather benign expression of facts and opinions which do not contain the real power and authority of the spirit of prophecy that has the power to create. Actually it seems as if some use their “testimony” to convince someone else to accept and be saved, or to convince themselves of the validity of their own salvation experience.

Actually prophecy is the speaking of the Word of God in all its power and authority. It was the Word of God that created the entire universe. The Noah Webster dictionary, 1828 defines testimony, as it applies to spiritual matters as follows: “6. The Book of the Law, the Torah; 7. The gospel which testifies of Christ and declares the will of God; 9. The Word of God; 10. The laws of precepts of God”. The dictionary also states that testimony is equivalent to a declaration and/or manifestation of something spoken.  

Since the testimony of Jesus is supposed to be prophecy, then what is prophecy? Prophecy is defined in the same Dictionary as: “a foretelling, prediction or a declaration of something to come”. Actually these definitions do not capture the true meaning of prophecy. Prophecy actually has a creative aspect. Hebrews 11:3 puts it this way: “Through faith we understand that the ages were framed [prepared, created] by the word of God, so that what came forth was not made of anything that does appear” In other words the purpose of our testimony is to create or bring into existence things which do not yet appear.

God made creation from nothing visible by simply speaking it into existence (see Genesis 1). He said “let it be” and it was. So it is by prophecy of the word of God. It is literally creating something out of something that does not appear; speaking it into existence if you will. In Revelation 1:1-2 John says: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw”. What John was seeing and communicating was something not then visible but by his act of speaking it he was creating it into something visible. He was framing an age or framing what was to come through his testimony.

Jesus Christ was the word made flesh, the “logos” in Greek, the testimony of the Father on the earth. John says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He [Christ] was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:1-3). So Christ was the word and through this word (the spirit of prophecy) all things came into being. This is true prophecy. All things came into being through the word of God, Christ the Son of God.

John the Baptist testified of the Christ that had not yet appeared but who was to come. “This is the TESTIMONY of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”  Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”  He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said” (Isaiah 40:3; John 1:19-23).

John was sent to create the atmosphere for Christ to appear i.e. to “make straight His way”. John the Baptist goes on to say: “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold,  the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! “This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ “I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” John  TESTIFIED saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. “I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ “I myself have seen, and have TESTIFIED this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34).

John’s testimony was of a coming Christ not yet visible and it was His testimony who announced the Lord’s appearance at His baptism. His act of faith, baptism, brought forth his testimony that he had baptized the Christ who was to come and now was here. After he saw Him (Jesus) he testified that yes this was the Christ now on earth in human form.

If testimony is actually the speaking of the word of God then our testimony is both powerful and comes forth with authority. Hebrews 4:12 says: “For the word of God is living and  active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart”.

The word is powerful to the point of bringing down strongholds. Paul says: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).

We can then safely conclude that testimony is a far cry from witnessing to someone in the street or church in the hope of convincing them to accept Christ, be saved and go to heaven. Nor is it the story of how we were saved. The word of our testimony should bring the person to whom we speak it to his/her knees by the power and authority generated. Our testimony should create in someone something that he does not yet have. If we are to be real Christians, Sons of God, on the earth let’s be honest. Our words, our testimony should be freighted with the same power as Christ’s were. They should contain the power to create (or frame) a new age.

 

WHAT IS SALVATION?

 

Salvation is an experience that all Christians must have in order to walk on with God. It is a gift of God bought for mankind by the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. The oft quoted scripture of John 3:16 says: “For God so  loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”. Salvation is eternal life and, as the experience is expanded, a lot more.

In this article we will refer to initial salvation, which is the first experience an individual can have in Christ. We will also go further to explain a greater degree of salvation that is available, that is salvation “to the uttermost”. Salvation to the uttermost is the obtaining of the state of perfection that is available from the Lord and leads to a resurrection from the dead, as Christ attained as the first-fruits Son of God. Salvation to the uttermost is the obtaining of that same resurrection obtained by Christ so that Christ becomes the first of many brethren that become like Him in every respect.

In principle, initial salvation is very easy to receive. The only requirement to receive salvation is: “that  if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and  believe in your heart that  God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; (Romans 10:9).

Thus there are only two requirements: BELIEVE in your heart and CONFESS with your mouth. Simply mouthing the phrase won’t help. You must really believe in your heart. Then by the confessing of that belief you immediately receive God’s eternal gift. It doesn’t completely manifest itself at that time but you do receive the entire gift of grace at that time.

The word salvation is used in both the New and Old Testament. In the New Testament, the Greek word is “Soteria”, which means deliverance, preservation and salvation. In the New Testament the word is used in many contexts but always denotes the personal and eternal deliverance granted by God, through His Son, to those who accept His conditions of salvation (Acts 4:12; Vine’s Expository Dictionary).

Surprisingly, the term is used more frequently in the Old Testament than the New. This proves that salvation was not suddenly initiated by Jesus physical appearance on the earth, but was available throughout Biblical history. The Hebrew words for salvation are “yasha” meaning “to deliver” and “yesha” denoting deliverance, rescue, salvation, safety, welfare. These words are used in the Old Testament well over 150 times—it may mean save, saved, saves, savior, deliver, avenger, safety and victorious. Jesus’ name came from Yasha and Yesha. His name Yehoshua or Yehoshua literally means “the Lord is salvation” or “Messiah” (New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries: Updated Edition).  
 
Salvation is the basic tenant of Christian faith. Receiving salvation is the beginning of a believers walk with God. But basic salvation is only that: a beginning. Salvation is an ever expanding experience, for those who want to go on with God. Hebrews 7:25 says, “Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near to God through Him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them.”

Therefore there is basic salvation and there is being saved to the uttermost. Basic salvation means that by your faith and confession you will be saved from the condemnation that comes upon the evildoers or those who do not believe. Salvation to the uttermost means you will manifest the entire gift from God which includes resurrection life and being conformed to His very image.

Thus God’s entire plan of salvation goes far beyond the initial acceptance of Jesus Christ as your personal savior. When we are first saved we are, in essence, newborn babies in Christ. Following salvation, we must learn how to walk and function as mature Sons in Christ. Maturity of His Sons is Christ’s ultimate goal.

Ephesians Chapter 4 explains this process to maturity: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the true knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16).

The goal of Christ is that our salvation experience expands to that of a mature man, to the point of becoming the fullness of Christ. This is not accomplished in a vacuum but within a body which itself grows into a collective unit of mature Sons that function together in the unity of the Spirit of God. Since this does not happen automatically upon initially receiving Christ, Christ has given His “Sons to be” gift ministries who will help guide us into all of His fullness, identified in Ephesians 4 as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (shepherds) and teachers.

Much of Christianity today does not understand the level of salvation that is available to them. They feel that it is sufficient to bring someone to the altar and have him/her confess Christ as Lord. Most churches conduct what are called “altar calls” where congregants confess their sin and accept Christ as their Savior. Christianity calls this forgiveness “saving” the soul for Christ.

Many churches measure their success by how many people they have “saved” in this matter. So called evangelistic efforts seek souls they can save and feel comfortable that once the soul is saved he then has all the essential elements to be able to die and go to heaven, avoiding the fires of hell. However, in most churches, there is little or no follow up to this initial experience, There is little effort to bring the saved individual into deeper and deeper levels of knowing Christ. As a result many “saved souls” believe they have something they don’t really have as they leave the altar and continue to live their lives as they were but, believing that since they are saved that they have acquired some kind of security in the afterlife.

Actually a real walk with God is a continuing and expanding salvation experience. A Christian who is just saved still deals with sin in his walk on a continual basis. A saved Christian often finds that he has to continually return to Christ to seek forgiveness for each sin as it rears its ugly head in his/her life. And there are some sins the saved Christian just cannot seem to overcome no matter how many times he repents. So saved Christians go through life crippled in a sense as the sin never seems to completely abate. This situation is not so much the weakness of the flesh as it is not realizing the entirety of what Christ did for us on the cross.

There are two distinct aspects of what Christ did for us by His death on the cross. First, He forgave mankind of their sin and no longer held their sins against them. A Christian is forgiven no matter how much he stumbles and falls short. God is always there to uphold, revive and forgive. However this state of being tossed to and fro by the effects of sin was not His entire purpose for mankind. He not only wants to forgive sin but to remove it entirely so it is no longer and ongoing problem.

Salvation is actually a 2-step process leading to complete perfection. The first part is the part of salvation that forgives sin. 1 John 2:1-2 says: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate [intercessor] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation [satisfaction] for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world”. Therefore under the first part of salvation, we can commit sin, even inadvertently, and God will forgive us through Christ. Actually He has already forgiven us for all the sins we have committed and will commit in the future if we remain with Christ. However, as we shall see, continual repentance is not required for forgiveness.

In order for us to fully understand this principle of removal of sin we must look to the Old Testament for the type and shadow of what Christ was later to fulfill in His flesh. Yom Kipper or the Day of Atonement, which occurs within the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, is a type and shadow of the roles of sacrifice and the removal of sin. Christ was the ultimate sacrifice in that in one act He removed the sin of the entire world. In the Old Testament forgiveness and removal of sin was no less real, but was only a temporary measure.

The Day of Atonement is the most significant day in the Jewish experience. It is mandated by God in Leviticus 23:26 and described fully in Leviticus 16. The literal translation of Yom Kippur is “Day of Atonement”. Biblically and liturgically it is also known as Day of Judgment and Sabbath of Sabbaths. Atonement literally means reconciliation to God after the bond had been broken by sin. It means, in a broader sense in Hebrew, ‘purge,’ ‘cleanse,’ ‘expiate,’ ‘purify,’ ‘wipe on or off,’ ‘cover,’, ‘justify’ etc. The literal meaning of the word is simply “at-one-ment”, i.e., the state of being of one or being reconciled, so that atonement is actually reconciliation to God.

The most important ceremonial aspects of the manifestation of atonement in the days of the Old Testament involved the High Priest, two goats and a bull. This ritual helps us understand what Christ actually did on the cross. This has great significance to us today.

At that time the Jews had constructed a temple (tabernacle) in the wilderness as a prelude to the great temple that was to be built in the Promised Land by Solomon. The temple was constructed into three main areas or divisions: the “outer court”, the “Holy Place” and finally the Holy of Holies, the most Holy place. No one entered the Holy of Holies except Moses and the High Priest once a year on the day of Yom Kippur (for a fuller description of the Holy of Holies see quote from Hebrews below). A veil separated this most Holy place from the rest of the temple.

A ritual occurred on the Day of Atonement which literally cleansed the Jewish people from all sins they had committed the previous year. This Old Testament ritual is actually a representation or type and shadow of the eternal sacrifice that Christ was to initiate. As we can see below, salvation, as represented by the Day of Atonement, included the two aspects of Christ’s sacrifice for us. The following are a summary of the events which led to the Atonement in Old Testament times. (see Leviticus 16 for a description of the entire process).

There were two goats and a bull involved. The bull was slain as Atonement for Aaron the high priest so he would be ritually pure to carry out the rest of the atonement for the people. After that the first goat was sacrificed for the defilement of the temple by Israel. This represents the first part of Christ’s sacrifice for us. The first goat was slain and sacrificed as forgiveness for the sins of Israel. Forgiveness is only the beginning of what Christ did for us. It is the first step.

The second goat remained alive. It was brought before the Lord where Aaron the priest became the vehicle of God to transfer all of the sin of Israel for the previous year to that goat. This was an actual occurrence. The actual sin of the people was taken by Aaron and transferred to this second goat. The goat was then led outside the camp and disposed of in some way. This is a type and shadow of what Christ did on the cross. While on the cross God (the Father) transferred all of the sins of mankind onto Christ. By the actual sin being transferred onto Christ it was in reality removed from mankind, once and for all.

Thus Christ did not die only for forgiveness of sin. He died to remove sin completely. Many Christians live like the Old Testament Israelites lived. They keep coming to the High Priest or Christ continually to have their sins forgiven again. We, even as saved Christians, still have sin in our lives and we feel the need to continually seek forgiveness each time we think we have sinned. We don’t realize that Christ has already removed all of the sin from our lives and those of humanity in general.

Paul the Apostle realized this principle at work in his life. He laments in Romans 7:  “For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold  into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.  But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me” (Romans 7:14-20.

To break down what Paul is saying is that in his own fleshy nature he is unable to do the Law (the commandments of God) or to please God. He knows the law is spiritual since Christ said He did not come to abrogate the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17-18). So Paul finds this duality in himself in that he desires to be righteous but still finds himself constantly warring within himself between the two natures. However he finally realizes that the sin that he struggles with on a daily basis is not his own sin he but comes from an exterior source, the sin dwelling within him, separate from his own being.

What Paul realizes is that Christ, on the cross, removed sin from the earth. With the sin removed, then the evil that seems to be within him does not belong to him. So if he does something, or lives a certain way, he realizes that it is the sin who is doing the acts, not him.

You may correctly ask that if Christ removed sin from the world entirely why does it still seem to be present in our lives? To understand this we must examine closely what Christ did on the cross.

The answer has to do with the ruler of this world called Satan. Satan is also aware of the principle of transference God used to transfer mankind’s sin to Christ. When the sin of the world was removed, Satan was not removed. He was condemned. Although he was defeated on the cross he remained on the earth and retained all the evil and sin which had been transferred away from humanity to Christ. Knowing that the time for his inevitable destruction was near, he set about to delay this from occurring. He did this by trying to transfer his own sin, condemnation and evil back to man and try to convince man he was still sinful. This is perhaps his most successful scheme in delaying the manifestation of the Kingdom of God. If man, although already made sinless by Christ, accepts Satan’s evil as his own he is identifying and bonding with the devil and is at risk of experiencing Satan’s own eternal condemnation. Therefore mankind must realize that they have been made totally clean and sinless by Christ and realize that the lie that we are still sinful beings or have sin, is a lie of the enemy accomplished by the transference principle. The sin we think we still have is not actually us but is a lie of the enemy (Romans 8:1).

Paul goes on to say: “I find then the principle [law] that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh  the law of sin” (Romans 7:21-25). Paul ultimately sees that the sin with which he struggles is not his own sin but sin which has been transferred to him from the outside, from the accuser, and does not belong to him at all. This may seem a technical point but upon this realization rests our heritage in Christ to live in His kingdom without any sin at all.

The Book of Hebrews more fully describes this experience. Hebrews introduces the New Covenant of Christ where righteousness is written on our hearts so that we receive a nature incapable of sin, as Christ’s was. Under the Old Covenant of the Old Testament, deliverance from sin was only temporary and had to be done over and over again. There was never a change of nature that made sin impossible. A better, more permanent, sacrifice was needed. So by Christ’s once and for all sacrifice on the cross he made available a provision whereby man could appropriate a nature like unto His, which would be forever incapable of sin.

This New permanent Covenant is stated in Hebrews and reproduced here: “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them [the Old Covenant], He says, “Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, When I will effect a new covenant With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers  On the day when I took them by the hand  To lead them out of the land of Egypt; For they did not continue in My covenant,  And I did not care for them, says the Lord.  “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel  After those days, says the Lord:  I will put My laws into their minds, And I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, And they shall be My people.  “And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, And everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ For all will know Me,
From the least to the greatest of them. “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, And I will remember their sins no more.” When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear” (Hebrews 8:7-13; Jeremiah 31:33 et. sq.).

Under the New Covenant the laws of God are written on our hearts rendering sin impossible. What we could not do in ourselves, as evidenced by our failures under the Old Covenant (applicable to the ancient nation of Israel) Christ did with one perfect sacrifice acceptable to God. It will further no longer be necessary for us to teach one another to know the Lord for we will all know Him. Having this sinless nature we will thus be like Him in every respect. This is salvation to the “uttermost”. He has saved us and He has delivered us by one sacrifice.

Through the true salvation experience we will come to “know the Lord”. In God’s mind, He is looking for a marriage relationship with us, just as we come to “know our wife/husband” in the natural realm. God says: “And I will make them lie down in safety. “I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice,  In lovingkindness and in compassion, And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord” (Hosea 2:19-20).

“So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth” (Hosea 6:3).

Receiving full salvation means a “pressing on” to know Him more. Every day we seek the Lord to expand our salvation experience. As we do so, He provides more and more light to show us the way. Isaiah 28:13 describes how the Lord will lead us:
 
“So the word of the Lord to them will be, “Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there”.

God wants us to return to Him with all our hearts. “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “Return to Me with all your heart, And with  fasting, weeping and mourning; And rend your heart and not  your garments.” Now return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil” (Joel 2:12-13).  

We must be diligent every day to seek the Lord. He is happy when we do this: “I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me (Proverbs 8:17).

We must seek Him with all our hearts in order to obtain this gift of entire salvation.
 
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
‘I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will  gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.”

Therefore there are actually many levels of salvation; there are many mansions in the house of God. Wherever you stop seeking the Lord for more, you will stay where you are. Dying is not a magic way of receiving salvation. What you have obtained on earth will go with you, be it good or bad. By continuing to expand your salvation experience you are eligible to receive and manifest, as Christ, everything pertaining to life and Godliness in this age and in the age to come.

With this New Covenant experience we are literally “born again”. Basic Christian thought is that once you have received Christ you are immediately “born again”. This has become a catch phrase for the Christian movement. But being born again is not a trite statement used as a synonym for salvation. It is a literal rebirth into a new age of the Kingdom and the spirit.

Although it can happen in one great experience, more likely it will happen through a continual, daily, unfolding experience. Actually being entirely born again is the day we become mature in Christ and stand with His entire nature perfected in us. This happens as our spirit is continually perfected by the working of God in our lives. The obvious difference is that when we initially accept Christ, we are mere babies in the things of Christ. There is a maturing process that must go on throughout our lives. The baby must grow up.

Too many feel the initial acceptance of Christ is enough for us to be reborn and then receive our reward in heaven when we die. So many feel entitled to simply wait for that time confident they will appear prefect in Heaven after their physical death. That is not the truth. There are many in Heaven right now who are not perfected and are waiting for their full fulfillment. Hebrews 11:30-40 makes this clear. After remembering all the great men of God who died in faith in Hebrews chapter 11, the writer of Hebrews notes that they all died without receiving the promise. The writer of Hebrews states: “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. None of those who died in faith will be made perfect until we are made perfect. This confirms Christ’s statement that the first (those who have gone o before us) will be last and the last (us) will be first because we must become perfect first before them.

Also the Book of Revelation speaks of the souls of the dead in Christ crying out for fulfillment from under the altar. When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.  And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord,  holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed. (Revelation 6:9-11).

Dying and going to Heaven is obviously not the ultimate answer. We on this side of the veil of death must become perfect before those in heaven can have their fulfillment. This goes beyond simple salvation. It involves a process of becoming perfect right here and now in this earth. If you doubt this, remember the words of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Right here, right now. on earth. We need not wait. We should press on to the full calling of Christ, until the veil of death is rent and the spiritual and earthly realms become one. That is salvation. That is fulfillment.

1 John confirms that we are to be like Him when he appears: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He  appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). And where does Christ appear? He appears here on earth at His second coming. He will appear to many Sons who have become like Him. As Hebrews 2:10 says: “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings”. Christ was therefore the first fruits of many other Sons who would also be birthed through his sacrifice.

 

THE EARLY CHURCH MODEL

 

By the early church we mean the church of the 1st and possibly the 2nd centuries after Christ’s ministry. The early Apostles, Prophets and disciples established the order. The writings that compose the New Testament were written by 1st century ministries. They contain the essentials of Christianity including the organization of the church.

Ephesians 4:11-13 presents an overview of the church at that time:
“And He gave  some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the true knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ”.

The early church was not concerned with programs or “slick” performances in order to attract members, as some are today. Their focus was not making money to carry on their ministry (many times Paul worked without pay for the church (see 2 Corinthians). The early church was primarily concerned with focusing on knowing Christ through the Spirit. The 5-fold ministries (see above) were there to guide the people into a true knowledge of Christ until they were fully mature.

The early church moved in things that are no longer recognized by the majority of denominational churches today. Take the gifts of the Spirit for example. The gifts were given by the grace of God to be exercised in the church. Paul said of the gifts that they were “manifested [by] the spirit for the common good” (1 Co. 12:7). “The gifts are: gift of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues and interpretation of tongues. Each member had a unique manifestation of one gift or another so the whole Body of Christ could be built up. The most well known churches today are the ones who “do” exercise the gifts. Imagine if your church could do miracles, heal the sick or prophesy God’s creative Word. There is still a valid provision available for this. It is not something that has been done away with in our modern age.

The early churches were actually started by a gift ministry, usually an apostle. He laid the foundation for the true church. His ministry was confirmed by demonstrations of the power of God. Many churches today “have a form of Godliness but deny the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5). The majority say the age of miracles is past. But that is not true. They are right in the Bible still ready to be exercised by those who ask.

The real church is actually the “Body of Christ”. Christ is the head and the members are being conformed to His image day to day. The body of Christ becomes a habitation of God, like the Old Testament temple was.

Paul said: “And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Eph 1:22-23).

Also: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of  His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Col 1:24).

Peter identifies this: “you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

The church, as His body, is to be conformed to His very likeness; to the likeness of Christ who is the firstfruits. . God wants to bring many Sons like Christ to birth or maturity. “For it was fitting for Him for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory”… (Hebrews 2:10).
   
And in 1 John: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be  like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (v. 3:2).

This is all meant to happen not when we die and go to “heaven”. It’s meant to happen on this earth. The Lord’s Prayer says “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). So that should be the first priority in every church, but it is not. The focus of most churches has been dispersed into many good activities which do little to bring forth Sons in His likeness. The early church was organized to become the cradle where the Sons were allowed to develop. The doing of many great works does not qualify. Those who came to Christ said “didn’t we do many mighty works in your name?” Christ said “go away I don’t know you”. The true spiritual knowledge of Christ is the thing that gets us into the Kingdom.

How was the early church, the cradle, organized? We’ve already mentioned the gifts of the spirit, tools to mature the Sons. First ministries are ordained and sent forth to lay foundations for other churches (Acts 13:1-5). Note it doesn’t say they were sent forth to save; it was “to make disciples of all men”. Being a Disciple is a state far beyond elemental salvation. The Lord personally worked with His disciples for 31/2 years. To make disciples of men they have to learn many things, most importantly the voice of God. Romans 8:14 says that “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God”. Too many churches are led by their programs, sometimes planning weeks in advance, leaving no room for God to move. The Catholics, for example, have their missals planned years in advance. The most important thing in a church is to facilitate the moving of God. He most times moves in ways we have not planned.

The direction of a church is not governed by one man or a church board which rules over the finances and the doctrines to increase membership. In the early church elders or bishops were chosen by existing apostles, prophets and the gift ministries according to the will of God after fasting and prayer. They were not necessarily chosen by ability to bring a good sermon but by their spirituality and calling. They were not elected; God chose them, working as He always does through human vessels (Titus 4:1-11). The same with the rest of the ones compromising the church. They are set in the Body as it pleases God; they are not voted in, they need not prove anything; there is simply a witness from God, confirmed by 2 or 3 that the person is called by Him and should be set in the Body. The church belongs to the Lord and it is paramount that His will be ascertained and carried out.

The services are conducted with the following priorities. Worship is probably the first. What can we give God that He doesn’t already have? Just worship and thankfulness. True worship is a worship in the Spirit, as God is a Spirit, and those who worship Him must do so in Sprit and in truth (John 4:23-24). True worship is spirit to spirit contact with God where we give and receive while loving and adoring Him. Too often in today’s churches what is called worship is a performance by a choir or a musical group with the congregants watching and listening to the show. Worship, loving God, is meant to be with all our hearts, minds and souls. It is in the worship that we receive what we need from God and give Him what He wants (1 Corinthians 14:15, 26-31).

Prophecy is essential. Prophecy is the speaking of God’s word to edify and build up the Body. Each member, not just the super spiritual, can prophesy one by one. This strengthens the individual to hear the word of God and then to speak. Prophecy is preferred over tongues. You don’t need to be a prophet to speak His word; prophecy is a gift of the Spirit available to all. (1 Corinthians 14: 4-6, 23-25). What seems like chaos at first glance is carefully overseen by the elders. They assure everything goes according to god’s will. When the leading of the Spirit changes, it’s time to move on with more worship, exercise of other gifts or a word from God that teaches and imparts (called a sermon today). One hard and fast rule is that everything is done to edify the Body (1 Co 14:12-26).

One unique thing about the early church was that the spiritually and truth of the ministry was confirmed by the exercise of God’s power. This also is a gift given to the church. Many non-believers today complain that if you are really a Christian, why can’t you walk on water, or heal people or raise the dead like Jesus did? Those acts, both by Jesus and the early church, were done to confirm the legitimacy of the doctrine taught. Too many churches today do what are called “dead works”. Paul, when speaking of the apostate said: “having a form of godliness but  denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:5). All churches today have a form of Godliness but rarely do we find life changing works of power being done. And according to the scriptures that we confess to believe, these works of power are available through the gifts.

Of course love is the highest level a church can attain to. When the church has love all the gifts and ministries are done away with. God is love and when we purely love we are like God. Paul’s exhortation on love is worth reproducing here. It is to be compared with the factions, disagreements, doctrinal disputes, jealousies, egos and the like which seem to be a part of churches today.
 
But  earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way. “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of  prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have  all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of  prophecy, they will be done away; if there are  tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away (1 Co 12:31, 14:1-10).

Many churches today focus on how to make the church more prosperous, more palatable to the masses or suggest a new and different doctrine to satisfy the people. None of the things mentioned above will in and of themselves necessarily accomplish those goals. We already have many modern, technological and innovative churches. But how many do we have who are exercising what the early church proscribed? It says that the wise servant takes things both new and old from his treasure chest. What an opportunity we have today to expand on what the early church did. As long as we adhere to the original intent, the possibilities are endless. With God filling the church with an outpouring of His Spirit will attract congregants. The minister will feel fulfilled. The people will be in awe. And if we really believe the Bible, cover to cover, then God has shown us the way to enter into His Kingdom which will fill the earth, with or without us. Wouldn’t you like to be a part of it? When the knowledge (not head knowledge) of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea? When the government rests on His shoulders, not on the shoulders of dictators and corrupt governments? When He alone is exalted? When the multitudes stream to the mountain of the Lord for counsel, wisdom, knowledge and worship?

We must understand that this early church manifestation is not only for the days gone by. It is attainable-here and now. Not for the exaltation of the church or the ministry but for the exaltation of Christ and the Father. When we make Him the focus of our church and our lives, He gives us all we need so that we needn’t worry about finances, what sermon to bring, how to counsel and deal with the people, having a better church building or any of the temporal things which are here today and gone tomorrow. All He wants is our attention and love. By freeing us of the unimportant things (remember Mary who was doing many things while her sister sat at the feet of the Lord) we are able to do the one thing that really mattered.

How do you start such a revolutionary (to today’s world) church? Studying of the scriptures is one place to start. It is full of information about the early church, mostly from Paul, who started Christian churches before there were any. Who underwent severe persecutions for doing so. Who laid the foundation that is part of our Bible for us to be guided by? After 95 C.E. (A.D.) there has been nothing added to our Bible. That is because it is complete in and of itself as written 2000 years ago. It is all God wanted us to hear. Why not try what was done shortly after Christ’s death? It’s got to be better than what we have now in the earth. And it’s the door into His kingdom which will appear on earth as it is in heaven.

 

THE LORD’S PRAYER

 

The "Lord's Prayer" is the deepest prayer contained in the Word of God. The Lord God himself was teaching us how to pray and what to pray for. It is something that should be studied in depth. The following words will only skim the surface in understanding the prayer. Since it was spoken by God on this earth, in the form of Jesus Christ, it can only be an eternal Word of God, its expression continuing to unfold forever. It as applicable to Christians today as it was when it was spoken.

 

THE LORD'S PRAYER IN CONTEXT

 

We must first see that the title "The Lord's Prayer" is actually a misnomer. In the context in which it was spoken, Jesus was teaching his audience how they (not He) should pray. In one case (Matthew 6) He was speaking to the multitudes in His Sermon on the Mount. In the other instance, (Luke 11) He was speaking only to His disciples, in response to their inquiry "Lord, teach us to pray". So technically, the prayer may properly be called the "disciples prayer" or even the "multitudes prayer". No matter what we call it, let's first examine the context and the background in which it was spoken.
 
The prayer is spoken only twice in the Gospels, in Luke 11:2-4 and in Matthew 6:9-13. In Matthew, the Lord was speaking to the multitudes, which included a mix of people including some believers, some undecided and some who were there for the curiosity factor.
 
In Matthew 6, during the Sermon on the Mount, He addressed the topic that true believers should not be hypocrites, as the religious leaders of Judaism were, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. He told them that the Pharisees did "good deeds" in order to be seen by man and gain the favor and respect of men. He instructed them not to pray as the Pharisees did, with vain repetitions and long prayers, thinking they would be heard for their many words. By praying in public, on street corners and in synagogues, they were again seeking the favor from men, not from God. Jesus told the crowd to do good deeds in secret, and to pray in secret, and that the Father would then reward them openly. And as they were praying to the Father in secret, in v.9-13, he told them what to pray in secret; that was Lord's Prayer.
 
In Luke 11, Jesus spoke the words of the "Lord's prayer" in a different context. There he was speaking only to His disciples. He spoke in response to their inquiry of "Lord teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1). So the Lord answered them. He said "This is how you are to pray". Thus came the Lord’s Prayer recorded in Luke 11:2-4.
 
In this case, however, He gave the disciples additional guidelines in how to pray, guidelines He did not give the multitudes (Luke 11:5-13). Following His speaking of the prayer recorded in Matthew, He spoke to them another parable as further instruction on how to pray. He said: “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet  because of his persistence [shamelessness] he will get up and give him as much as he needs”. 
 
Jesus was teaching them the principle of persistence in their prayer. He showed the disciples that even if God is your friend, that fact alone does not give any special inside track on getting prayers answered. He pointed out that real persistence means asking God and seeking God (the Greek words are "ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking" (see New American Standard Version of Luke 11:9-10). The point He was making, knowing man as He did, that too many will give up if the answer does not come quickly enough for them. They will wonder why God didn't answer their request and not be persistent long enough to get the answer.
 
Jesus goes on to liken persistence to shamelessness. Often if a person wants something bad enough he becomes shameless in his pursuit of it, not caring how he looks or what others think. His mind is set on only one goal and will do whatever it takes to obtain it. .  
 
Jesus goes on to note that you must go to God in prayer with a faith that He will give you what you are praying for. Their faith was to be like that of an earthly Father. A human Father will not give his son a stone when he asks for a fish, then "how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask (and who keep on asking”. (Luke 11:11-13). The answer will come even if it's in a form that you not agree with, or worse, will not perceive it as the answer at all.
 
Therefore, in Luke 11, The Lord had given the disciples a complete response to their inquiry regarding prayer. Of course, the same principles apply to us as well, 2000 years later.

 

ANALYZING THE PRAYER ITSELF

 

Volumes could be written and myriad words could be spoken about the "Lord's Prayer". It is, however, a prayer that God really will answer. When praying this prayer you are seeking "His Will", not your own. Too often we pray for personal blessings or other things that God may not be concerned with at all. He is concerned only with His own will, which in the long run will benefit us more than our whims of the moment. Let's examine the prayer, one line at a time, from Matthew 6:9-13.
 
1. Hallowed Be Thy Name
 
First, (v.9) starts with "Our Father who is in heaven Hallowed be Your name". This verse teaches us how to approach God in prayer. We must approach Him with worship and reverence in our hearts.  Words synonymous with "Hallowed are (from the Oxford Concise Thesaurus): worshiped, honored, Holy, sacred, consecrated, sanctified, blessed and revered. We approach Him in worship, in a recognition of who He is, how glorious He is, that He is the all in all, the Holy Father who created the heavens, the earth and us. In approaching Him thus, we are recognizing that He as God, can do anything, including answering our prayer. In a word we Glorify the Father before asking anything.
 
2. Thy Kingdom Come
 
Verse 10 begins with ..."thy Kingdom come..." Therein, God reveals His entire purpose for the earth and His involvement in it.  He wants to accomplish in the Earth what already exists in heaven. It is only in the Kingdom of God that "His will" will be done on earth. And He does not want us to wait until we "die and go to heaven" - He wants His Kingdom to BE ON EARTH, just like it is in heaven.
 
What is the Kingdom? As stated above, it is a place of continuous joy, blessing and all the other attributes or fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The Kingdom is an eternity of blessing existing both on Earth and in Heaven. Jesus did it in heaven by, after resurrection, obtaining authority over all of creation. It is up to us, His elect, to manifest on earth what He has already accomplished, in the Spirit realm, where He and the Father reside as one.
 
3. Thy will be done, On Earth As It Is In Heaven
 
In Verse 10 Jesus says: "Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven". What an audacious request! As we you look around us in this age we see anything but God’s will being done. The world is under darkness and futility, cursed from the time of Adam and Eve (see Genesis 3; Romans 8: 20-21). How then is it possible that God's will is to be done on a corrupted Earth, as perfect as it is done in heaven? The answer is that only God can do it. That's why we are praying for it. We are recognizing that we cannot do it in our own futile efforts. No man/women or multitude could possibly accomplish this, only the unlimited God.
 
As Paul puts it (Galatians 5:19-21) the deeds of the flesh done on Earth by the corrupted human nature are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, and carousing. Contrast this with the deeds done in Heaven, in the Spirit realm, where God lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Quite a difference! We have a big job ahead of us. We must pray that God change both this present world and you/me. It is done by Christ through us. All we can really do is to pray for it, as the Lord has told us to do, then walk in it when He answers.
 
4. Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
 
Many think this verse means to give us our physical food each day. While it may mean that, it means much more in the context of walking with God. Jesus said: “I have meat to eat that you know not of. My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work” (John 4:32, 34). Christ is our daily bread our true spiritual nourishment (John 6:48-51). He is the bread of Heaven, and God’s Word, like bread, is the spiritual staff of life (Matthew 4:4). When we are praying for bread, we are praying for Christ, our spiritual subsidence. He is the “way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Like communion, we partake of Him, His body and blood. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. (I Corinthians 10:16-17).

Therefore, by partaking of Christ, our spiritual bread, we grow in Him and become more like Him. And we still get fed our daily meals on the physical plain.

5. Forgive Us Our Trespasses (Debts) As We Forgive Those Who Have Trespassed Against Us (Our Debtors).

We are asking God to forgive us our sins, which are many and are constant. There are sins we commit that we are not even aware of. But God in His mercy has given us Christ, who is able to forgive sins. “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (Matthew 9:6).  In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: (Colossians 1:14). If we do not allow Christ to forgive us our sins, we can hardly forgive someone else.  Sometimes it is more difficult to allow Christ to forgive us our sins or to forgive ourselves through His provision, than it is to forgive others. We are harder on ourselves. However, we must remember: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Forgiveness of sins is crucial in our walk with God. If we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven. “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15).
 
How deeply do we forgive? There must be a limit. “Peter came to the Lord and asked, “How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times?” Jesus replied, “Until seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21–22). In other words, there is to be no limit to our forgiveness of the sins of others.

Christ came to save the entire world (John 3:16), including the evil and the good. He would that not one would perish. If we love only those who love us, do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5:46). His grace is so great that “He causes the sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and the rain to fall upon the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45). Christ even said of those who had beaten him, whipped Him, falsely accused Him and pounded nails through His hands and feet and left Him to die on a cross: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). If we are to be like Him, we must be able to forgive others to that degree. How do we do that? We pray; the Lord’s Prayer. Although we are unable in ourselves to do these things, with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

6. And Lead Us Not Into Temptation but Deliver Us From Evil

Temptation is all around us, especially in this present age. Around every corner, we are tempted by this or that. John the Disciple said: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abides for ever. (1 John 2:15-17). You may say “I am not tempted by this world”. However, we are tempted where we do not even know we are tempted. Satan is the God of this world and smarter than any of us; he deceives the whole world. “Unless those times be cut short, there will be no flesh saved alive” (Matthew 24:22), because the wrath of Satan is to deceive and destroy the whole world.

The wicked are tempted and drawn to it. They have no defense against temptation, save a set of human morals and their will. However, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  “Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41). Our wills are not enough to save us in the face of temptation, neither are our religious convictions. We must pray, as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew what He had to go through, but He recognized that His flesh was weak. He prayed, in his weakness, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me:” (Matthew 26:39).  If our Lord had to pray in order to gain the strength to complete His final trial, so we who are imperfect have much more need to do the same thing.

This prayer of temptation is two-fold. First, He promises us He won’t lead us into temptation in the first place. We can even form wicked plans in our minds and God will frustrate them if we are His. For those who have fallen into evil for whatever reason, He is able to deliver them from it. God looks on the heart, not the outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7) and even in the midst of evil or extreme temptation, He sees our heart and is able to manipulate circumstances so everything turns out all right.’ all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.’  (Romans 8:28). Therefore in the midst of extreme circumstances beyond out province to solve, rather than despair and condemn ourselves, we pray. God is able to solve the problem and even turn it to good.
 
7. For Thine Is The Kingdom and the Power
 
“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen”. Some recorded versions of the prayer do not include this last sentence in verse 13. But it a solemn reminder of who and what God is. The Kingdom of God “is His”. It is for us, but all for His own glory. It is His power that created the heavens and the earth, it is His power that delivered His Son from the dead and it His power that delivered us from the Kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). We will always remember that. We will not be like Satan who, although created by God, wanted to take His place. We will inherit the Kingdom, not by our own righteousness, but by His. He will always receive the glory. We will give it to Him. We will throw any crowns we receive at His feet (Revelation 4:10). We will worship Him forever.

 

WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM OLD TESTAMENT MEN OF GOD

 

The question is asked by many Christians today, that is what we can learn from Old Testament characters and stories. The principle thing we can learn from Old Testament "characters" [these were not characters but men upon which was the Spirit of God] is that The Old Testament contains primarily prophecy about the coming Messiah. In John Chapter 5, Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day. They claimed they knew the Scriptures. Jesus said to them: "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me" (John 5:39). The Old Testament must be read with revelation from God (which the Pharisees did not have) in order to understand what the prophets, Kings and anointed men were really speaking about. If you study carefully, you recognize that they speak to us, we who are destined to become Sons of God like Christ.

One obvious scripture that speaks of the Christ is The Book of Isaiah Chapter 53. Isaiah was one of the most prolific and visionary of the Old Testament prophets. Born of the priesthood, God met him and commissioned His to speak His words to the people and to kings. Isaiah saw God and was commissioned (sent) by God to speak His word to the people. (Isaiah Ch. 6) This he did for over 50 years. In his writings he speaks of many futuristic matters, clothed in what seems to be contained in a history of Israel during the time around 700 B.C. In chapter 53 he records perhaps the most accurate picture of the coming suffering servant (Christ) that appears centuries later in the person of Jesus Christ. This chapter should be read by all Christians; it should be included in full here but see the following excerpts: "He [the Messiah] was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him," (Isaiah 53 3-5. And: "But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him" (v.6). Further, "By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living, For the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due?" (v.8). "But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief [literally "He made Him sick]. But He will see His offspring [us], He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand". (v.10)

More can be said of Isaiah. He also prophesied visions of the coming Kingdom of God. His poetical verses speak of a new heaven and earth where saints will no longer be hurt. He says: They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord As the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9). This is the Kingdom of God. Also see Chapters 60-66 as he tells of the coming glory of the Lord and His defeat of the enemy. In Chapters 41-45 he speaks of the protections afforded the servants of the Lord and the promises they will return to the Promised Land through many difficulties. The entire book is rich with poetic, visionary references depicting Israel at the time and of the coming spiritual Israel who will inherit the Kingdom of God and rule and reign with Christ. For instance in chapter 42 He describes Christ, and His servants and saints who will follow as follows:

Behold, My  Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My  Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. “He will not cry out or raise His voice, Nor make His voice heard in the street. “A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. “He will not be disheartened or crushed Until He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law [instruction].” Isaiah 42:1-4

Moses was also a type of Christ. He was a deliverer of people as Christ is our deliverer. He delivered physical Israel from Egypt and led them towards the Promised Land. The entire Torah, Books of the Law (Torah) including Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy describe the type and shadow of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. Although the books seem to be about antiquated practices of animal sacrifices, the building of an ancient temple and the disobedience of a people there is meaning behind the rituals that speak of Christ’s great eternal sacrifice. The rituals and sacrifices initiated in Leviticus were a type and shadow of the coming of the one who would make the ultimate sacrifice, Christ (Hebrews 8:5).

The Old Testament (old covenant) preceded the New Covenant (Testament) initiated by Christ. Where under the old covenant the law was written on tablets of stone, in the new covenant God's law was written on man's heart, the latter being eternal, the former temporary (Hebrews 8:7-12 quoting Jeremiah 31:27-34). Moses also warned Israel of the consequences of Israel's disobedience and their blessings if they followed the Lord (Deuteronomy Chapters 6-7). We see today the chaotic state of world affairs which, if boiled down, are consequences of people, leaders and nations failing to walk with God. Even the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, accomplished by God through Moses, is indicative of Christ the deliverer. "Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked" (Psalm 82:4 see also Isaiah 46:4, Psalm 59:1, Isaiah 37:20, Matthew 6:13, etc.). There are almost 400 references in the Bible to deliverance.

King David was a man who followed God and was called "a man after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14). David made many mistakes, like us, but where man looks to outward appearance, God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). David expanded the territory of Israel to an extent not seen in physical Israel theretofore or since. He judged many nations by exacting victory over them. He was anointed King long before he became one, and hid in caves many years before his calling was fulfilled. We face a similar situation now. John says: “beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2).

Perhaps the most misunderstood Old Testament principal that is still applicable to us today was spoken by God to Abraham, long before there was a nation of Israel or a law of God. God rendered Abraham righteous not by his good works but by his faith in God. What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?  For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.  For what does the Scripture say?  “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted [imputed, credited, reckoned, counted] to him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:1-3). Likewise, we are reckoned righteous by our faith in Christ.

There were many righteous and wicked Kings during the time of Israel before Christ. Some followed God and were blessed and some forsook Him and were cursed. The "good Kings include David, Solomon (David's son), Hezekiah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jotham, Jehu, and Josiah (see 1 & 2 Kings). The evil Kings who were ultimately responsible for the captivity of Israel by Babylon in 586 B.C., include Saul (Israel's first King after the Judges), Jeroboam, Rehoboam (who was responsible for the separation of 10 tribes of Israel separating from Judah), Baasah, Elah, Ahab and Jezebel, Jehoram, Manasseh, Jehoiakim and others who "did evil in the eyes of the Lord’. From these we learn the importance of following God and shunning evil. Most "bad Kings" turned to pagan idol worship prevalent among the nations surrounding Israel. We still have idol worship today exemplified by our cars, our buildings, our "toys", our hobbies, our jobs-the list is endless. If we put God first in our lives, we will have those things and more without having to seek after them. Also, through the works of the ungodly Kings we see the extent of God's anger towards those who are put in positions of authority and pervert that authority, similar to leaders today both religious and secular.  

No list of prophets is complete without discussing Elijah and later Elisha. Elijah called himself one "who stood in the presence of the Lord." (1 Kings 17:1). From that position he created a drought, resurrected ones from death, cured diseases, proved the prophets of Baal false and slew many of them, anointed Kings, advised rulers, and probably most importantly trained his replacement Elisha. Eventually, Elijah was taken by God and did not see death (like Enoch). In leaving in a chariot of fire, and seen by Elisha, Elisha received a double portion of the spirit that was on Elijah. He immediately parted the waters of the Jordon River, slew 30+ youths who insulted him (thereby insulting God), and purified bitter (poisoned) waters. He deposed Kings, made an endless (until she ran out of jars to fill), supply of oil to a widow, resurrected the dead, prophesied the deliverance of Samaria (part of Israel at that time) during the time they were under siege and starving, and anointed Kings.

At one time, the King of Aram was fighting against Israel. The King understood that Elisha knew his secret battle plans and was advising the King of Israel of the same. The King's servants told him that "Elisha tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom" (2 Kings 6:12). Therefore the king sent a mighty army to where Elisha and his attendant were to kill Elisha. The following scripture exemplifies the authority and perception possessed by Elisha and is recorded in the Book of 2 Kings 6:15-20:

"And when the attendant of the man of God rose early and went forth, behold, an army surrounded the city, with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he [Elisha] said, Fear not, for they that are with us are more than they that are with them. And Elisha prayed and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his [the servant's] eyes that he may see. And Jehovah opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw; and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha". And so Elisha "prayed to the Lord and said, Smite this nation, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha. And Elisha said to them, [this is not the way to the City; follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek [to the right place]. And he led them to Samaria. And it came to pass when they entered into Samaria, that Elisha said, Jehovah, open the eyes of these men that they may see. And Jehovah opened their eyes, and they saw, and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria" (at that time part of Israel). Following being led into that trap the Aramites never again bothered Israel. This is indicative of the authority that we can have through Christ who is able to make all things possible.

We learn that many times, in the midst of our unsolvable problems, that there is actually a deliverance if only we could see clearly in the Spirit. We see that "those who are with us are more than those against us" (2 Kings 6:16). Legions of angels were available to Christ as he hung on the cross. We too have angelic protection. God is on our side. If only we had absolute faith in what we cannot see with the natural eye and learn to see things clearly as they are in the spirit.

Before he was to die Elisha met with the King of Israel. He told the King shoot an arrow and then declared that arrow was to represent Israel’s victory over Aram. Then Elisha said to the King to, "take the arrows," and he took them. And then he said “Strike the ground with the arrows," and the King struck the arrows on the ground three times and stopped. The man of God became angry with him and said, "You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it. But now you shall strike Aram only three times." (2 Kings 3:14-19). We learn that when God tells us to do something, we should do so with a violence, zeal, i.e. strike the arrows until they are only broken wood and feathers. As John the Baptist once said: "the kingdom suffers violence and the violent take it by force" Matthew 11:12, meaning of course a spiritual violence, not physical violence.

There was Samuel, the first real prophet in Israel during the time of Saul. It was Samuel and his "school of prophets" who had the real authority in Israel at the time. Samuel and his prophets lived at Ramah in Israel. Once, after King Saul had been rejected by the Lord, Saul came to inquire of Samuel. Although he came angry at God and Samuel when Saul came into the atmosphere of the school of prophets, because of the atmosphere created by the prophets there, Saul began to himself prophesy. All Israel was amazed and said "Is Saul also among the prophets?" (1 Samuel 10:10-11). What Samuel and the sons of the prophets actually did was to control the spiritual atmosphere around Israel so that even when enemies came into their presence, the enemies were influenced by what the prophets had created. Samuel actually communicated with the Lord, from a young age. He knew God's will and as a prophet created it.

While searching for a replacement King for Israel after Saul, he came to the house of Jesse. Jesse paraded his 6 sons before Samuel, all of whom were ruddy young men, strong, direct descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and probably in the natural realm able to be fine Kings. But Samuel rejected all of them, asking Jesse if he had another son. Jesse responded that yes, he had a son in the field tending sheep, but who was very young. After bringing the son to Samuel, the Lord told Samuel that he, David, was the one to become King of Israel. God, through Samuel, looked past the reasonable and looked on the heart. David became the greatest King in Israel. A study of his Kingship (ministry) showed his heart of humility and compassion despite the wars and thousands slain by him and the mistakes he made. Even in taking Bathsheba in adultery, and having her husband killed, God turned it to good as Bathsheba became the Mother of Solomon, who reigned in Israel for more than 40 years and was known as the wisest man in the world at that time. We learn that if we follow God's ways completely we will have blessings beyond our expectations.

Hebrews Chapter 11 looks at the great men of faith of the Old Testament including Abel, who made the first acceptable sacrifice to God; Enoch, who was translated without having died; Noah, who judged the entire world by his act of obedience in making the ark; Abraham, the Father of faith, who believed God and received a son of promise and was willing to sacrifice that son to God; Isaiah who was sawed in two for believing God; Jeremiah who was cast into a well and persecuted for prophesying that Israel who was to be taken captive by Babylon; Daniel who was imprisoned for 11 years before he was delivered and became a ruler in Egypt who saved the  world from starvation; Gideon the ordinary man who became a mighty man of valor and defeated a vast enemy army with only 300 men; Samson, Debra, Joshua (took possession of all of Canaan) are also mentioned there. The writer of Hebrews said of them: "All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them" (v. 13-16). Nearly all the Old Testament prophets died a violent death and were persecuted for proclaiming the Word of God, all in faith and anticipation for what they could only see at a distance. We upon which the end of the ages has fallen can look back at them and learn what God requires of us today.

We should also mention Jonah as a type of prophet who experienced circumstances that has lessons for Christians today. Jonah was called by God to speak a word to Nineveh, a warning that God was going to destroy the town and its entire people. In its day, Israel and Nineveh were in the midst of a racial struggle. Ninevehites were not allowed in Israel and were generally despised, much as the blacks in this country were in the early 20th Century. Jonah so considered the Ninevehites to be inferior to himself, (although we'll find out the real answer below) that he immediately went the other direction, away from Nineveh, boarded a ship to Tyre and tried to run away from God. We all know he was swallowed by a big fish, was in its belly for 3 days and was finally belched up on the shore, bleached white. Only then he went straight to Nineveh and warned them of the wrath to come. Surprisingly, and disappointedly to Jonah, the entire city (so large it was a 3 day journey across) repented in sackcloth and ashes, even the animals. God saw this and decided not to destroy Nineveh.

This made Jonah mad and he went into the desert to sulk. "And he prayed to the LORD and said, "Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. "Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life." And the LORD said, "Do you have good reason to be angry?" (Jonah 4:2-4).

The truth was that Jonah knew the nature of God and knew that He was compassionate and relenting of evil. He had a suspicion that Nineveh would repent and God would save them. Hating Nineveh as he did, he tried to escape the action that might save Nineveh. And he was right; when Nineveh was spared, Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry" to the point of wanting to die rather than face this perceived injustice. (Jonah 4:1).
 
To teach Jonah something about compassion, God caused a large plant to sprout, which shaded Jonah during the day, and he loved it. However, that night God caused the plant to wither. The next day Jonah was again displeased with God and begged to die (v. 6-8). However God said (v.9-11): "Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?" And he said, "I have good reason to be angry, even to death." Then the LORD said, "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work, and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. And should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?" Thus, Jonah was taught a deep and personal something about the nature of God.

What can we learn? First Jonah ignored God's word and tried to flee it. He suffered the consequences as we also suffer the consequences of our disobedience. Jonah let his own personal feelings get in the way of God's word. It took a disaster for him finally to obey God, which he could have avoided if he had been obedient. Jonah was a prophet who spoke the Word of God and had a personal relationship with Him. God probably sent him because of his effectiveness. He was se effective and his words so strong Nineveh repented, just as Jonah knew they would. This is not what he wanted to happen so he became angry and begged to die (have we ever been upset with God?). God rebuked Jonah for his lack of compassion, like us who would rather have it our own way rather than God's way.

God also used prophets of the Old Testament to reveal His very personal feelings about things. Take the prophet Hosea. The Lord told Hosea to go and marry a “wife of harlotry” (a whore) and caused him to fall in love with her. As this wife, named Gomer, became unfaithful to Hosea God told Hosea that was the way He God felt when Israel abandoned Him and went after other Gods. God made Hosea feel His own pain. Thus God explained it would be because of the pain Israel caused Him he would allow Israel to be destroyed by outside enemies. Yet in all of that, God promised to eventually restore Israel and give them yet one more chance (Hosea 1:1-11).

So, yes we can learn from the "characters" or better men of God from the Old Testament.  We can learn through God's dealings on their lives, their miraculous acts they accomplished through faith, that they were common men like us. And that yes common men of today can communicate directly with God and perform great acts in His will. They, as us, were given marvelous gifts in order to accomplish God’s will in the earth. Those of old accomplished God's will in the earth at the time they lived and were willing to suffer it all and not see the fulfillment of the promise. We have the opportunity to actually see the fulfillment of their dreams in our lifetimes. We must remember that it is not only the memories of these great men that can be a help to us in this day but we can actually use their departed spirits in our quest.

As the Writer of Hebrews said: "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:1-2).

 

THE SON OF GOD

 

The Son is the Word of God. He has been with God the Father for eternity. He is the vehicle through whom the creative powers of the Father were exercised. Since the beginning, the spoken Word of God (logos in Greek) has caused all things to come into being. The Bible itself is the Word of God in written form. The Apostle John puts it this way (John 1:1-12, 14, 17):

“In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ".
 
The Son came as the literal Word of the Father in flesh form on earth. The Son came to forgive all people their sins but that was not an end in itself. He came so that He could become an eternal vehicle through whom man could receive His Godly nature. He was the first fruits of many Sons like Him to be born. "For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing MANY SONS to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings" (Hebrews 10). The Son came to offer the ultimate sacrifice on the cross that we too may partake of His and the Father's nature-to become like Him. "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be LIKE HIM, because we will see Him just as He is" (John 3:2, emphasis added).
 
The Son came to initiate a New Covenant between God and man (hence New Testament). Hebrews 9:11-28: "Now the first [old] covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh [under the Old Covenant] how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
 
The Old Covenant involved ritual animal sacrifice for the temporary forgiveness of sin The Old Testament was but a shadow of things to come. “And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant.... For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year [in the Old Testament] Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him". (Hebrews 9:15).
 
And what is this New Covenant? "You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart (2 Corinthians 3:1). Rather than trying to do the will of God that will is written on our hearts. God changes us into doers of the law.
 
Jeremiah, Old Testament prophet, speaks prophetically of the New Covenant that was to come centuries later through Christ: "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt,… But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I WILL PUT MY LAW WITHIN THEM, AND ON THEIR HEART I WILL WRITE IT; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE" (31:31-33). Thus where the Old Covenant offered only temporary forgiveness for sin, the New Covenant was eternal. No longer was man under the bondage of being required to fulfill a law that he could not fulfill in his flesh. Now with Christ’s complete sacrifice, the laws of God were written on man's heart. This is why Jesus said that He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it, to its very jot and tittle. Christ was the embodiment of the Law of God in that He did nothing but what He saw the Father do.
 
So too are we to become “like Christ” in every way. We will no longer sin since it will be our nature not to sin, whereby under the Old Covenant it was our nature to sin. Christ has taken all our sin to the cross with Him. All who abide with Him will be one with Him and His righteousness forever.


WHAT PLEASES GOD


As Christians we are all trying to do the things that we think pleases God. Most often we think we must strive to be righteous, to obey His commandments and do good works. We do our best to resist temptation and are always intent on “doing the right thing”. We read the words of our Lord, such as those spoken on the Sermon on the Mount, (Matthew 5-7), and attempt to measure up to those requirements to the best of our human abilities. We go about “witnessing” to non Christians attempting to convince them to accept Christ and “be saved”. We build great churches and attend elaborate services, believing that we are pleasing God by such endeavors. We give our money and our time “doing God’s will”. Yet, after all of that, we sometimes feel unfulfilled in all our efforts and we feel we still fail to live a righteous life. We constantly repent of every wrongdoing we consider to be sin and are forever seeking God’s forgiveness for our perceived wrong acts. Finally we throw up our hands and feel that if we have tried hard enough to be good that God will make up the difference when we die and find a place in heaven. What we don’t realize is that often we are concerned about doing things of that God is not concerned about and that His true purposes for our lives escape us.

Solomon aptly described everyday life as “Vanity of vanities,” [futilities of futilities] says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” [futile] (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2; 12:8). The book goes on to state: “And I set my mind [heart] to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven. It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with. I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind…. And I set my mind to know wisdom and to  know madness and folly; I realized that this also is  striving after wind. Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain” (Ecclesiastes 1:13-18). Many of us saved Christians feel the same at the end of the day and if we don’t, we are living our lives with our eyes closed.  

We must conclude that all the works we do, even if well intentioned, don’t please God as we think they should. The truth is that God is not interested in our many works or our attempts to be righteous and do the right thing. As a matter of fact, God hates our human attempts to be righteous in ourselves. Isaiah 64:6 says: “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; ”We all  fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, “.

If God is not pleased by our many labors done with the purpose of pleasing Him, what does please Him? The ancient Israelites learned the hard way that, even though they were the chosen nation of God, that they could not please God by trying and failing to fulfill the Mosaic Law they were subject unto. Time and time again God punished them as a nation because of their inability to follow the Law. Likewise we today try to follow what we think are the laws of Christ and continually fail.

What man can really fulfill Christ’s teaching? Who among us can control our thoughts that so continually turn to sin? Who can really love his neighbor as himself? Who can prevent anxiety about material things such as money or housing? Who does not, on occasion, judge or criticize another. And who can, in himself, be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect. The Sermon on the Mount seems to require these things of us and we miserably fail at them every moment (see Matthew 5-7).

We must conclude that the first step in pleasing God is to have faith. There is nothing else we can do. Without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). But He doesn’t even allow us to use our own human faith, which often is nothing more than optimism. Faith itself is a gift from God, not something we have naturally (1 Corinthians 12:7-8).

Abraham, called the Father of Faith, did many things wrong in his life. Yet, because of his faith, God reckoned his life righteous. Abraham also did many things right and he amassed a fortune due to God’s blessing and gave birth to Isaac the son of promise. But God didn’t weigh Abraham on a scale, balancing the things he did right against those he did wrong. It was Abraham’s faith toward God that made him righteous and pleasing to God (Hebrews 11:8-9; see Genesis generally chapters 12-22).

The one thing that pleases God as it concerns our lives is having His Son formed fully and revealed in us. Paul said:  “when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me” (Galatians 1:15-16). God does not want us to continue on the treadmill our own futile attempts at righteousness but he wants to reveal His Son Jesus in us. This involves a spiritual transformation and actually becoming Christ, with His divine nature. The scriptures bear this out.

1 John 3:2 states: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is”. The only righteousness that pleases God is the righteousness that exists in His Son and it is His will that we obtain that righteousness.

Paul said: “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,” (Philippians 3:8-9).  True righteousness comes not from ourselves but comes from God. He imparts righteousness to us by faith through His spirit. Paul goes on to say: “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I  press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are  perfect [mature], have this attitude; and if in anything you have a  different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; (Philippians 3:13-15).

Christ’s goal is to bring many Sons to glory, Sons of God just like Him. “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:10). Further: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (Colossians 13:12).

In order to be pleasing to God we must undergo a complete transformation of our human nature. Our best is never good enough, try as we might. Christ’s purpose remains clear: “Therefore you are to be perfect, as you’re heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

How do we become perfect and obtain the perfect nature of God? Many think that simply by being saved we will go to heaven and automatically become perfect. This is not scriptural. Even the great men of God who went before us, as listed in Hebrews 11, did not become perfect by dying in the Lord. Hebrews 11:39-40 states: “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided  something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect”.

In other words all those who have gone on before us are waiting for us to become perfect before they can obtain their promise of perfection. They cry out, from under the altar, in heaven: “I saw underneath the  altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the  testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O  Lord,  holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9-10).

As God has said, the last will be first and the first will be last (Luke 13:30; Matthew 19:30; Mark 10:31). The martyred men of God were the first will be the last group to be perfected because their perfection depends on ours who are the last.

How do we obtain this perfection? Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [from above] he cannot see the kingdom of God… “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of  water [the word] and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again [from above].’ “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:3, 5-8).

The current Christian world would have you believe that simply being saved constitutes this complete born again experience. That is not true. Salvation is only the first step. In salvation your sins are forgiven but beyond that we must be born again or born from above into the Christ nature in order to please God.

Romans 8 discusses this spiritual walk in detail. Paul says: “If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised  Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:10-11). Note that Paul says the life will be given to our mortal bodies. That means our mortal bodies can be perfected while we are still on the earth, not after we die.

True Sons are known only by what do by the Spirit of God. “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God….The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are  children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:14, 16-17).

It is also by the Spirit that we overcome the divinely imposed futility discussed above. Paul said: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will 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 together until now” (Romans 8:20-22).

Scripture is clear that we can neither know God nor worship Him except by the spirit because God Himself is a spirit. Jesus said: “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4: 23-24).

It should be abundantly clear that we in and of ourselves we can do nothing to please God except to walk with Him by the spirit. What can we give Him? He already has everything. What can we build for Him? He already dwells in a heavenly temple of glory. He created everything in the first place. He says: “For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills. “I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine.  “If I were hungry I would not tell you, For the world is Mine, and all it contains [the fullness thereof]” Psalm 50:10-12).  

He does not honor our efforts to please Him by any amount of good works or well intentions. The Father’s Son Jesus Christ pleases Him. That’s what He said on the day Jesus was baptized. “My Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). As we set about to become the righteousness of the Son, not having a righteousness of our own, He will give us the delight of our hearts.
 

WHAT THE OLD TESTAMENT MEANS TO US TODAY


In short, the Old Testament contains the history of the Jewish nation, their laws, blessings and tribulations. The Old Testament represents the Old Covenant (agreement, contract) between man and God; the laws that man should obey to merit favor with God. This Old Covenant passed away with the coming of Christ who initiated the “New Covenant” (New Testament) with man.

The Old Testament (now called “The Tanakh” by Jewish people) was loosely divided into three parts: The Law which was instituted by Moses and carried out by the Levitical priesthood under Aaron; The Prophets who were God’s mouthpieces to the people; and The Scriptures which included the Psalms, Wisdom books, and other stories applicable to God and the progression of the line of Kind David, leading to Christ.

The most important thing about the Old Testament is its application to Christianity today. The Old Testament speaks largely of events which occurred on a physical level to God’s nation Israel. Everything that God did on the earth during that time was to and through the nation of Israel. Israel was the first monotheistic religion to appear in the world. God dealt with them as a physical nation on the earth.

When Christ came, He spoke of spiritual things and thereafter all fulfillment was on a level of the spirit realm, where God and Christ dwell. No longer did Israel possess the exclusive favored status they had in former times. God’s promises were extended to all peoples Jews and Gentiles (non Jews) alike. However, the Old Testament is valuable to us today in that it reveals the nation of Israel in circumstances familiar to what believers and the earth face today. The Old Testament reveals many spiritual principles we can apply today in the day of the Spirit. The Old Testament and its many stories and circumstances are symbolic of and a type and shadow of what we face today as believers and nations of the world.

For one thing, the Bible contains hundreds of references to the birth and ministry of Jesus Christ, the messiah who was to come. These were accurate predictions of Christ’s life centuries before He appeared. Christ Himself said the following to the Jewish religious leaders of the day: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is  these that testify about Me” (John 5:39). The “scriptures” spoken of were the Old Testament. The Old Testament was a testimony of Christ. Many Old Testament scriptures are quoted word for word in the New Testament, by Christ and the Apostles.

So how does the Old Testament apply to us today? To answer this we must go to the Book of Hebrews which contains the most accurate descriptions of the relation between the Old Testament and the New.

In Chapter 7 of the Book of Hebrews the writer discusses the eternal priesthood of Melchizedek. Melchizedek appeared to Abraham as a priest and a King of Salem (meaning peace). Christ, as our high priest, did not come according to the old Levitical priesthood but was descended from the eternal priesthood of Melchizedek. The old Levitical priesthood was faulty in that it did not permanently eliminate sin, but required Israelites to come at least once a year (The Feast of Tabernacles, the Day of Atonement or Yom Kipper) to have their sins forgiven. They also came many times to offer live animals to be sacrificed to atone for their sin see Leviticus 1-7).

Whereas offerings on animals and grain were offered as sacrifice in the Old Testament, Christ was offered as a sin offering once for all, an eternal priesthood. Hebrews says: “For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and  exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He  offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever” (Hebrews 7:26-28).

There is also a distinction made between the Old Temple of God made by man (Solomon’s temple) and the true tabernacle not made with hands. Now the main point in what has been said is this: “we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens [the realm of God] a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle [literally sacred tent], which the Lord  pitched, not man” (Hebrews 8:1-2).

The first temple, as we said, was faulty. Hebrews first describes the first temple and its implements of forgiving sin (vs. 1-5), then he goes on to say:

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but  through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through  the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant’ (Hebrews 9:11-15).

The Old Testament is a copy, a type and shadow, a physical representation, of the New Covenant. It provides in detail what the sacrifice of Christ really entailed. “And according to the Law [the Old Covenant], one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, A MERE COPY of  the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:22-24).  For the Law, since it has only a shadow of  the good things to come and not the very form [image] of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near” (Heb 10:1).

So it is clear that the Old Covenant applicable to all Jews until the coming of Christ was inadequate since it never permanently forgave men of their sins. Man could never in and of themselves live a sinless life. The Old Testament is full of times when Israel turned apostate, worshiped other Gods and lived in the way of the surrounding pagan nations. Each time they strayed they were judged by God on a physical level by being conquered by other nations, by bringing of famines and pestilence and other calamities to punish Israel for her sins. This inbred inability to walk in God’s law brought the need for Christ. The Law was thus our tutor to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Otherwise man would have perished because of his Sin. Romans 6:23 says: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Christ once for all banished sin and opened the door for an eternal salvation. Christ came to fulfill the law for us. He said: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:16-19).

So how did God hope to accomplish this in sinful man? Hebrews explains: “Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, When I will effect a new covenant I will put My laws into their minds, And I will write them  on their hearts. And I will be their God, And they shall be My people. When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear (Hebrews 8:8-18 quoting Jeremiah 31:33 et sq).

We conclude then that man cannot do the will of God so it was necessary for God to send Christ to fulfill it for them. But His ultimate idea was for man also to be able to follow His law. So, under the New Covenant, He promises to write His laws on the heart of man. This means that man acquires the nature of Christ Himself who is unable to sin. It becomes no longer a struggle between the will of God and our old nature. It is a new life; born again into the world of Spirit. And this does not necessarily happen when we “die and go to Heaven”. It happens now as we become those who experience this change of nature.

The Old Testament is a veritable treasure chest of keys and principles applicable to us today as we seek His Kingdom. It is more alive today than it was at that time. The entire book, according to Christ, speaks of Him. No Christian can be a real disciple or Son without having read, digested and applied principles enumerated in the Old Testament. Read closely, it actually contains the nuts and bolts, the details of how to walk with God in this age. The lives of the prophets who did walk with God in the Old Testament are instructive to us in how to walk. David teaches of the works of and love for God as it should be. Daniel, Isaiah and Ezekiel give dramatic descriptions as to the coming Kingdom. Israel teaches us obedience and the consequences of disobedience. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes teach us wisdom. Ruth faithfulness; Ester courage; Song of Solomon the deep, bride/bridegroom relationship we are to have with Christ (the Bride of Christ). The examples are endless.

Those Christians who disregard the Old Testament are missing a whole side of what Jesus wants to reveal to us in real life examples. Remember the Old Testament is a shadow of things to come; literal events which occurred that can cast light on some of the things we go through. Remember, it was the same God. Who can neglect a Word spoken by God?
 

THE SABBATH


The Sabbath is traditionally a day of rest both for the Israelite nation and Western and some Eastern culture. Most of Western culture has traditionally treated one day a week as a day off from work, after laboring for six days. In the West the day has evolved to be on Sunday. The Jewish, and some Christian sects, celebrate the day on Saturday. The Jewish Sabbath starts on sundown Friday night and ends sundown Saturday night. Islam has no Sabbath per se however Friday is celebrated with special prayers. In many places there is generally no religious connotation attached to the day. However to those following one faith or another it does have religious significance and is a day the day believers attend church, temple or other religious gathering, be it Saturday or Sunday.

Below we will discuss the Sabbath, which had its origins in Judaism and actually dates back to Biblical creation. However, as we shall show here, it has a much greater meaning beginning in Judaism and later in Christianity. Finally we will discuss the great Sabbath rest reserved for the people of God as they enter into that great Sabbath of the Lord in His Kingdom for eternity.

The basis of this one day of rest goes back to the beginning of mankind according to the Jewish and Christian Bibles. The word “Sabbath” is derived from the Hebrew verb “shabbath” meaning “to rest from labor”, the day of rest. It is first mentioned as having been instituted in Paradise, when man was in his innocence. In Genesis Chapter 1, God gave an account of the six days of creation. In Genesis 2:1-3 God said: “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made”.

There is no further mention of the Sabbath in the Bible until Israel was formed as a nation in the wilderness, after their deliverance from Egypt. There is no evidence that the Sabbath was observed by the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac or Jacob). Neither is there evidence, secular or Biblical, that a Sabbath was observed by the Israelites in Egypt. Neither is there any evidence that Egypt as a culture had a Sabbath occurrence per se although they celebrated many festivals and convocations for their many gods. Details of Egyptian polytheistic religious observances are beyond the scope of this article as is whether the Israelis participated in them.

The first mention of the Sabbath with respect to the nation of Israel occurs in Exodus 16:23-30 where it is mentioned with respect to the gathering of the manna. This event occurred before the giving of the Ten Commandments where observance of the Sabbath is made mandatory. Exodus 16:23-30 says: “Now on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, then he said to them, “This is what the Lord meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.” So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul nor was there any worm in it. Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. “Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the sabbath, there will be none.”

As usual the people did not believe Moses and “It came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions?
“See, the Lord has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day”. This is the first inference that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, as Jesus later confirmed in His teaching. “Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28).

The nest mention of the Sabbath is as a part of the 10 Commandments the Lord gave Moses on Mt. Sinai. “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11). This is the first indication that the Sabbath is to be a holy day dedicated to the Lord.  

The Lord enacted strict regulations applying to observance of the Sabbath, even upon threat of death for violation of the law. Moses said: “Then Moses assembled all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and said to them, “These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do: “For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a sabbath of complete rest to the Lord; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. “You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the sabbath day” (Exodus 35:1-3).  

Also the Sabbath was recognized in connection with appointed feasts and convocations such as the Feast of Passover. “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord’s appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations—My appointed times are these: ‘For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the Lord in all your dwellings” (Leviticus 23:2-3).  

Moses also spoke of the Sabbath in times that Israel was disobedient and in captivity by foreign lands. “You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste. ‘Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. ‘All the days of its desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it” (Leviticus 26:33-35). Moses is saying the land will observe the Sabbaths but the people in captivity will not during their period of punishment.  

There is also the day in Jewish history that God declared to be an eternal ordinance that has become known as the Sabbath of Sabbaths, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kipper) which occurs once per year at the end of the New Year celebration known as Rosh Hashanah (Day of Trumpets). On this day all of Israel was cleansed from all their sins from the previous year. During that day the Lord emphasized the holiness of that particular Sabbath more than all the others. He said: “This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you; for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord. “It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute.” (Leviticus 16:29-31).

Throughout the history of Israel the people disobeyed God and suffered just punishment for acts such as worshipping pagan Gods, not caring for the poor, disregarding the plight of widows and orphans, speaking of falsehoods by the priests, moral breakdowns by marrying wives from pagan nations and most serious turning from the Lord and disobeying His laws. Profaning the Sabbath was one such serious offense which caused the Lord anger.

The Sabbath was made for man. It was to give him a physical rest as well as giving him a day to reflect on his God, thereby renewing his strength for the upcoming week. Doing laborious work on the Sabbath broke down the rhythm that was to govern the society. In God’s eyes it is important enough, for the benefit of society, that He required death for its violation (see ante Exodus 35:1-3). The land, which was to be given rest on the seventh year, also suffered as farmers profaned this requirement and tilled the land seven years resulting in the depletion of the land. God, like the true Father He is, punished not for punishment sake but to teach man the wisdom of His laws. The Israelites were His people and He cared for them.

Isaiah had the clearest picture of the meaning of the Sabbath. He foresaw the Sabbath as a time to delight in the Lord, from speaking your own word and honoring the Lord. He didn’t see the Sabbath as a legalistic obligation but as a delight. In Isaiah 58:13-14 he said: “If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot From doing your own pleasure on My holy day, And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, And honor it, desisting from your  own ways, From seeking your own pleasure And speaking your own word, Then you will take delight in the Lord, And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

The entire chapter of Isaiah 58 has been called “The Fast Which God Has Chosen”. It could also be called the “Sabbath God Has Chosen”. He ties fasting to the Sabbath in that in both cases fasting or observing the Sabbath it is not performing the physical act in a legalistic way but in a spiritual way wherein we give of ourselves and what we have to the Lord and each other. In 58:6-8 he said: “Will you call this a fast (or Sabbath), even an acceptable day to the Lord? “Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke? “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? “Then your  light will break out like the dawn, And your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the  Lord will be your rear guard”.

This is true righteousness and it originated, and is irrefutably tied, to our Lord Jesus Christ. Remember how He announced Himself in the beginning of His ministry? “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “THE Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:16-19). What better way for the Messiah to reveal Himself on the Sabbath than to publicly lay out His ministry for all to see and hear.  

Christ essentially abolished the religious and legalistic observance of the Sabbath during His ministry, though not it’s meaning as expressed by Isaiah, ante. Jesus was constantly persecuted by the Jewish leaders for violating the Sabbath according to the Law of Moses. On one occasion He was teaching in the synagogues on the Sabbath. “And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God. But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? “And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 13:10-16).

On another occasion “Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to  pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? “Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break [profane] the Sabbath and are innocent? “But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion [mercy], and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent” (Matthew 12:1-7).

Jesus was also condemned by the Jews for healing a man who had been ill for thirty-eight years on the Sabbath (John 5:5-16).  The Pharisees argued with Jesus over another healing on the Sabbath. Jesus answered: “for this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. “If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath?   “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:22-24). Jesus later healed a blind man and again the Pharisees argued: “Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath” (John 9:13-16).

Jesus argument was that because of the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees they did not keep the commandments themselves but would condemn a man for doing good even though technically breaking a Law of Moses. By attempting to literally keep the Law of Moses, but not doing it inwardly, Christ was pointing out that keeping the letter of the law was not the point. The point was that the Jewish Holy men lacked the basic purposes of the Law which were compassion, mercy and love. Jesus went so far as to say of the Pharisees: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he  speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  “But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me” (John 8:44-45).

Being the day God rested from all His labors He expects His Sons to enter into that same rest. Hebrews points out that ancient Israel did not enter into that same rest because of their disobedience. The writer of Hebrews warns us of the same fate: “Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “AS I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has said  somewhere concerning the seventh day: “AND God rested on the seventh day from all His works” (Genesis 2:2); and again in this passage, “THEY shall not enter My rest.” (Psalm 95:11). Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua [in Greek Jesus] had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:1-11).

Therefore the Sabbath in the Kingdom of God boils down to whether some will enter into the Sabbath rest of the Lord which He has prepared. The Sabbath in the Old Testament was a type and shadow of the rest we are able to enter into today if we hear His voice. Ancient Israel failed because of disobedience just as Adam and Eve failed for the same reason. Christ opened up the New Covenant so that all have opportunity to enter into His rest if we are willing.


 

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