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Russ Brewer

Russ Brewer

Rescued from the domain of darkness, transferred to the kingdom of the Son. Undershepherd of Grace. Husband of Corinne. Father of three. Chew-toy to Zeke...

Website URL: http://www.thegracetabernacle.org E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Philosophy of Ministry - Part III - Church Leadership

Monday, 02 August 2010 21:02 Published in Ministry

The Leadership of Christ’s Church

In the New Testament God’s shepherds are called by Him (Galatians 1:15-16) and entrusted with the Gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:4) whereby the shepherd is gifted by God to teach people His Word (1 Peter 4:11) and be ministers who reconcile people to God (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).  The Bible gives several names for those who are to care for God’s people. In 1st Timothy 3:1 these men are called “overseers.” Men who are appointed by God to manage the church are also called “undershepherds” in 1st Peter 5:4 and “elders” in Titus 1:5. These three terms are synonyms of each other (1 Timothy 2:13, c.f. 3:1) and are all used of men who are spiritually appointed by God (Acts 20:28) to shepherd His flock. Men who have received this spiritual appointing of God are recognizable by their obedience to the specifications as given in 1st Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Only those who have this spiritual equipping and the desire (rather than having to be persuaded) should be elders (1 Timothy 3:1). When such men have been identified, and examined, they are to be ordained by the other elders (1 Timothy 4:14, 5:22).

The elders serve as a team of co-laborers in the cause of Christ who carry on the shepherding (1 Peter 5:2) and managing (1 Timothy 3:5) the congregation with oversight according to the will of God (1 Peter 5:2). They join together to “bear the burden of the people (Numbers 11:17). These men teach (1 Timothy 2:2) sound doctrine (Titus 2:1) and exhort and reprove as necessary (Titus 2:15). They have charge over the church (1 Thessalonians 5:12) and are responsible to the Lord for their decisions (Hebrews 13:17). Thus all elders are God’s servants who function as pastors.

While the role of these shepherds is given to us in various places in scripture, one of the longest delineations of a pastor’s duties is found in the Lord’s condemnation of the failures of Israel’s priests, listed in Ezekiel 34. In this passage, the Lord condemns the priest’s failure to shepherd His flock and He declares that He will replace their office with one that is in the line of David (Ezekiel 34:23-24). The Lord explains their specific failures in Ezekiel 34, verses 2 through 4.

In verse 2, the Lord says that those shepherds were feeding themselves but not feeding His flock. Feeding God’s flock is the primary responsibility of the shepherd. Note the primary purpose of teaching as explained above under the heading of “Worship.” This teaching is the food for our souls. Jesus said in John 6:48 that He is the bread of life, and those who feed upon Him abide with Him in active faith (6:47 c.f. 6:56). This is why pastors are mandated with teaching the Word to God’s people so that He might nourish them. Jeremiah 3:15 states when God’s sheep are truly hungry for Him, He will send them shepherds “after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.” Paul exhorts Timothy to teach the word of God accurately because only God’s Word can bring a person to become adequate and equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). Paul even gives the evidence of accurate teaching: a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5). Those who are faithful to God are put into service (1 Timothy 1:12) and will have to give an account of their ministry to Him, not to the men they serve (1 Thessalonians 2:4).

Sadly, not all shepherds are faithful with this task and some teach a doctrine contrary to the sound teachings of God (1 Timothy 1:6-7). The teaching of these unfaithful teachers are as wind (Jeremiah 5:13) with tragic results. Ezekiel 34:5-6 depict the course of a flock without a shepherd—they are scattered and become food for every beast in the field (Ezekiel 34:5). They roam away and are left alone to perish (Ezekiel 34:6).  Because of this, if the pastor is unfaithful to the pure teaching of scripture, he undergoes a harsher penalty for failing to teach and obey the scriptures (James 3:1).

Ezekiel 34 goes on to further indict the pastors for their spiritual failure. God condemns them in verse 3 for gathering to themselves the material blessings of life while their own sheep are impoverished. As just explained, the pastor’s job is to feed the sheep and must have a heart that is content with what he has (1 Timothy 6:6). It is a tragedy when some “pastors” fleece God’s people, enjoying the comforts of this world, while the sheep are struggling spiritually and financially. Yes, the Lord has directed the minister of the Gospel to earn his living from the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14). Yet the ministry of a pastor is not for gains in this world, and while we ought not to muzzle the ox while he is threshing (1 Corinthians 9:9) and the workman is worthy of his hire (1 Timothy 5:18), at the same time God’s servant never is financially greedy (2 Peter 2:3) or “peddling” (2 Corinthians 2:17) the Gospel for sordid gain (Titus 1:11).

Returning to God’s condemnation of the unfaithful pastors in Ezekiel 34, the fourth verse gives the most specific duties a pastor should be doing. Looking at these duties through the lens of the priest’s failure, the Lord says, “Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost…” Carefully re-read this verse—the Lord gives pastors very tangible tasks that extend far beyond preaching and teaching. Pastors are to strengthen the sickly, heal the diseased, strengthen the broken. In the course of a pastor’s typical week, this will have a variety of manifestations: meeting with the broken hearted, bearing with people during suffering and trials, bringing God’s truth to bear in specific seasons of pain, identifying spiritual illnesses and applying the spiritual cure, etc.

In this passage, the Lord also says to bring back the “scattered”. In every church there are people who ebb and flow in their attendance. Often pastors can lose patience with these kinds of folks and dismiss them as a lost cause. But we have to remember that God gives us the mandate to pursue them. The Lord Himself said the healthy sheep have no need of the physician, so He would focus on the sick (Matthew 9:12). It is the sick who are scattered, who do not prioritize the things of God or follow Him with faithfulness. Often a pastor’s heart does beat for these scattered sheep—but sometimes the other, healthy sheep don’t have the same heart. They occasionally complain that these pastors focus too much on the “new people” or the ones who are “never there anyway” or on “numbers.” There needs to be a balance here—the pastor should never seek to build his own kingdom, and likewise, the “healthy” in the congregation should not begrudge the pastor for focusing upon the more needy. Indeed it is the healthy in the church who should also join in and minister to the scattered. What a glorious and powerful light to the world that would be!

Ezekiel 34:4 finishes with the Lord’s condemnation upon the priests for not searching for the lost. Again, this was the focus of the perfect Shepherd’s ministry who declared in Luke 19:10 that He came to seek and save the lost. Indeed, this is a direct reference to the tasks of the good shepherd given in Ezekiel 34:16 which says, “I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken, strengthen the sick.” This is God’s heart and passion for His lost sheep and when the pastor’s heart beats with God’s heart, he will likewise pursue the lost.

Often, though not necessary, a specific elder carries a larger portion of the ministry and sets aside his means of income and is supported by the rest of the body of believers (Galatians 6:6) so that he may focus his efforts and energies to equip the church for ministry (Ephesians 4:12, 16). His ministry is not a job, nor is it a career, but rather it is a life-task of serving God and the church throughout each day, week, month, and year. Even when there is only one man like this at a church (typically called “the pastor” or the “Senior Pastor”) we must understand that normally this man is not the sole leader church and the church is not his. Off-hand comments such as “my church is such-and-such” or “where is your church?” are indicators of the underlying incorrect assumption that the church is ours. It is not. The church is Christ’s body and He is its head (Colossians 1:18). It is God’s household (Ephesians 2:19; 1 Timothy 3:15). The Lord is the one who builds it (Matthew 17:18; Hebrews 3:3—Christ builds it; Hebrews 3:4—God builds it), causes it to grow (1 Corinthians 3:6—God), prunes it (John 15:2—the Father), strengthens it (Colossians 1:11), and brings it to perfection (Philippians 1:6). None of these things can be truly orchestrated through the will or actions of man. The Bible clearly teaches that unless the Lord builds the house the laborers work in vain (Psalm 127:1).

 

The Purpose of Worship

Jesus declared that God’s people would worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24)—that is, that they would worship God in their spirits according to His truths. Worship must captivate our hearts, it must feed our souls, and it is true worship when it is in accordance with His truth. Worship is giving God adoration and praise for things that are true of Him. If what is being proclaimed is not true, then it is not worship. Likewise, if what is being proclaimed is not praising Him, it is not worship. It is fundamentally not man-centered, but rather God-centered as the elders lead those in attendance to give God the glory, honor, and praise due Him (1 Timothy 2:7-8). Worship recognizes who He is and what He has done and offering to Him our lives as worship (Romans 12:1). All parts of the church service (and all of our lives) must be a continuous offering of the sacrifice of praise to God from our lips (Hebrews 13:15) and from our hearts with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28).

There is continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament regarding the primacy of God’s people focusing upon the Lord and His word. In both the Old and New Testament, God’s people assembled before the Lord to learn His statues (e.g. Deuteronomy 1:6; Nehemiah 8:1-8). In the very first recorded worship assembly of the Jews, Moses and Aaron gathered the Hebrews before the Lord. Exodus 4:30 says, “And Aaron spoke all the words which the Lord had spoken to Moses.” The next verse shows the people’s response, “So the people believed…then they bowed low and worshipped (Exodus 4:31).” A similar event occurred in Exodus 24 where Moses recounted the words of the Lord (Exodus 24:3) and the people committed themselves to obedience (Exodus 25:7).

Deuteronomy 4:10 repeats this same idea, God tells Moses: “Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children (Deuteronomy 4:10).” Throughout scripture the people assemble before Him to accomplish two primary objectives: 1) to learn of His word and 2) to sincerely obey it with their whole lives. Note the following examples: Exodus 19:7-8, 24:1-7; Leviticus 8:5, Leviticus 9:6; Deuteronomy 5:27; Joshua 1:16; 2 Chronicles 34:14-33. The idea of God’s people gathering together before Him is carried through to the New Testament. Paul urges Timothy to “give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, and to teaching (1 Timothy 4:13).” Repeatedly Paul exhorts Timothy to pay attention to his teaching and doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6, 11, 16, 5:20; 2 Timothy 2:15, 3:14, 4:2).

God’s people often went astray in the Old Testament when they failed to know the scriptures. For example, in Hosea 4:6 God rejected the leadership for not accurately teaching God’s Word, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being my priest.” God promised His supplicant people, “I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding (Jeremiah 3:15, emphasis added).” Jesus, when speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well disassociated the entire Samaritan nation from God when He said their worship was invalid for their lack of knowledge of God (John 4:22).

Why such an emphasis upon teaching the scriptures? So that we might be obedient to Jesus’ final command to teach the world “to observe all that I commanded you (Matthew 28:20).” Jesus’ commands are given to us in the Word of God. Paul said that he was a steward, literally a galley-slave, of the Word of God (mysteries of God) (1 Corinthians 4:1). In the next verse, Paul declares that he must be found faithful to this calling (1 Corinthians 4:2). Paul is simply a servant of Christ, obeying the Lord, like Christ the Lord spoke about in Luke 17:10, “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.”

Not all activities of mankind that calls itself “worship” is true worship. There are accounts in the Old Testament where people gather together for “worship” in a manner that does not please God. In Exodus 32, the people assembled before Aaron and said, “Come, make us a god who will go before us”—the people, dissatisfied with the time-table of the true Lord, demanded a God who met their desires. Then Aaron began working on a golden calf. When it was finished, they had a remarkable event, “So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink and rose up to play (Exodus 32:6).” What did the Lord think of this behavior? Exodus 32:9 says, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.” What was the Lord going to do about this? Exodus 32:10 says, “Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them.”

God spared the people of Israel, but apparently Aaron’s sons didn’t get the message because Leviticus 10 records their sinful demise. Nadab and Abihu decided to modify the manner in which God was worshipped yet the Lord had already spent considerable time giving Moses clear, step-by-step directives regarding the modes and methods of acceptable worship. Ignoring the prescriptions of the Lord, Nadab and Abihu took it upon themselves to offer “strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded (Leviticus 10:1).” Presenting “strange” offerings was banned in Exodus 30:9. Although Nadab and Abihu apparently attempted to “worship” God, their disregard for His Word while worshiping displeased the Lord and resulted in their death. Leviticus 10:2 says, “And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.” Korah and his family perpetrated the same kind of rebellion in Numbers 16 which records their uprising to lead the Jews in worship and then their literal downfall as the ground broke open and consumed them alive.

Clearly from these examples, not all that activities that are proclaimed as “worship” are pleasing to the Lord. In Acts chapter 8, Simon the Magician was a man who was amazed at the power of God and even became baptized as a follower of Christ. Sadly, however, he is another example of an outward follower who didn’t truly worship. Simon ultimately received this rebuke from Peter, “You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God (Acts 8:21).” It was a matter of his heart. Indeed, God condemns the Jews in Isaiah 29:13 for not worshipping God with the proper heart: “Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.”

The point that “not all worship is true worship” is further underscored in John 6:14 when the people are wildly praising Christ to the point that they wanted to make Him king. They were ecstatic with emotional zeal (John 6:15). Yet the next day Jesus tells them their motives were muddied (John 6:26) and that they actually didn’t even believe in Him (John 6:36). Clearly, their enthusiasm in John 6:14-15 was motivated by something other than worship and exaltation of Him or God. Likewise, in Jeremiah 2:19 the Lord condemns the Jews because “the dread of Me in not in you.”

True worship centers upon accurate truth. Consequently, right teaching is the foundation of true worship. Why? Because we cannot worship what we do not know. Man is separated from God and apart from divine revelation, without God’s revelation we do not know what pleases Him. There is no true worship apart from scripture. Even in the Old Testament days, if a gentile wanted to worship the true God, they had to come to the Lord as a proselyte. They could not just climb up some hill and begin praying to God. They needed to be right with Him through the sacrificial law in accordance with His prescriptions for valid worship.

Some people might say that worship needs to be updated to meet the needs of the people. Some people might say that changes should be made to the worship service to reflect the changes in society. Even though cultural modes of worship are secondary to scripture, church leaders must be careful in what manner they change how the people worship God. 1 Kings 12:25-33 tells of how King Jeroboam sinfully altered the worship to meet the needs of the people. He said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.” And like Aaron centuries prior, Jeroboam led God’s people astray in an attempt to facilitate their worship. He put unqualified people in leadership (1 Kings 12:31), he catered to the people’s tendency to laziness in worship (e.g. not to go all the way to Jerusalem to worship), he capitalized upon the people’s lack of knowledge of the law (e.g. apparently they didn’t know or were inclined to violate the first commandment in Exodus 20:4 not to make an idol). And although he acted like he was trying to help the people to worship God, his intentions were to gain power (1 Kings 12:27). Although the people followed his leadership, he was not led by God but rather his own heart (1 Kings 12:33). His policies appealed to the masses, but they were abhorrent to the Lord.

Just because something seems right to us does not mean it is right before God. In Jeremiah 6:20 the Lord condemns their fancy worship services that are not centered on Him and obeying Him. Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord asks why they are so fixated on bringing imported frankincense and sweet cane before Him. It’s as if they felt that expense and luxury would somehow impress God. But the Lord answers, “Your burnt offerings are not acceptable and your sacrifices are not pleasing to Me.” Why? Because ultimately the character and teaching of the prophets and priests were centered on preaching peace (6:14), ignoring the ancient and good way (6:16), and not listening to the words of God (6:17, 19).

Likewise, in John chapter 4, Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that the Samaritan way of worship was invalid. It was invalid because the Samaritans rejected all the books of the Bible except for Genesis through Deuteronomy. Since they had set aside the Word of God, their worship amounted to an ignorant, man-made attempt to worship God according to their wisdom, but not according to the truth of God. This underscores the point that the worship service needs to be founded upon solid teaching because not all “worship” is true worship (John 4:22). In order for worship to be valid, it must align with God and what He has taught in scripture.

PART I

The Purpose of the Church

(Click here to return to Contents)

A few short words need to be stated about what the church is and its purpose. The church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:23) and subject to Him (Ephesians 5:24). It consists of members of Christ’s body (Ephesians 5:30) who have been born-again and regenerated (John 3:3), who have confessed their sins (1 John 1:9), who have called out to the Lord (Romans 10:13), and who have submitted to Him as Lord (Romans 10:9). Members of Christ’s body meet locally in assemblies to commit to fulfilling Christ’s purposes for His people. The Bible indicates that believers assemble for the purpose of worship (John 4:24), glorifying God (1 Corinthians 10:31), instruction (1 Thessalonians 4:1, 1 Timothy 4:13), fellowship (Hebrews 10:25), evangelism (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8), and service (Hebrews 10:24).

When believers commit with one another to regularly meet so as to fulfill these functions, they have become an organized local church. An organized church brings together many members of Christ’s body. Each member of the church has been distinctly gifted by the Lord (Ephesians 4:7-12). Christ gives them gifts based upon the present need so that each person might serve His people and fulfill His purposes both for their individual lives as well as the universal church. By being committed together, an organized local church provides the structure necessary to truly work out the will of the Lord in that community. Due to rare circumstances, a believer might be uncommitted from a local assembly for a time, but one’s ultimate spiritual efficiency and productivity is linked to one’s involvement in the body of Christ.

Several facets must be present in order to be classified as an organized church. 1) It consists of biblically qualified elders/bishops (Titus 1:5; 1 Tim 3:1-7) (the Bible uses the terms interchangeably: elders who shepherd in 1st Peter 5:1-4; bishops who shepherd in Acts 20:28). The actual number of elders may vary, except that virtually every reference to the leadership of the church is plural (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Hebrews 13:7, 17) thus indicating there should probably be a plurality. Elders are to submit to the leadership of Christ and administer His will in the spiritual lives of the congregation (1 Peter 5:2). 2) Its members submit their spiritual lives to the leadership of the elders (Hebrews 13:17). 3) The church meets for the purposes noted above, namely worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service. 4) It honors the ordinances set down by Christ to administer believer’s baptism and communion (communion Matthew 26:26-29, 1st Corinthians 11:23-26; baptism Matthew 28:19). 5) The church honors the Lord by adhering to the doctrine and teaching of the scripture (1st Timothy 4:13); including all orthodox theology (Titus 2:1) as well as purifying doctrines such as church discipline (Titus 3:9-11). All of this should be performed in a manner that worships and glorifies the Lord.

Philosophy of Ministry - Introduction

Monday, 02 August 2010 20:54 Published in Ministry

Introduction

 

A Philosophy of Ministry is an organized statement of purpose for why the church exists and how it is to serve the Lord. It is a document that can serve the church in developing a particular vision statement for the church as a whole, as well as for individual ministries. The Philosophy of Ministry helps streamline the activities of the church by presenting a guide which helps determine if a ministry or method appropriately fits into how the Lord is working in His church.

Having said this, we hear talk of the importance of developing “a philosophy of ministry” and certainly every church and every pastor should have an idea of working action plan. A more probing question, however, should be asked and that is: “What is God’s philosophy of ministry?” How does God want His church to run? Since scripture does not command us to write down a philosophy of ministry or to establish a vision or purpose statement, nor are we commanded to pray and find out our specific “vision” for “our church”, the primary goal is to obey what God wants us to do. It would seem then, that any philosophy of ministry should really just distill what God has said to do and how it should be done.

Specific details and their timing will differ from ministry to ministry and setting to setting, but although the environment and circumstances vary, God’s overall purposes and intentions for the church will encompass every ministry situation. Likewise, each pastor and/or church develop their own set of beliefs and values about what is important and how ministry should be conducted. Thus while all philosophy of ministry statements should simply distill and reflect the teaching of scripture, they are to help explain and flesh out how that works in the lives of the church or individual.

The following document consists of several parts. These parts represent my current thinking regarding what God's Word has given regarding the leadership and direction of His church. I'd be glad to hear your feedback and thoughts. They are constantly being updated as I grow in my understanding of God's Word.

Warmest Regards,

Russ Brewer

Baptism

Monday, 02 August 2010 15:00 Published in Verse Lists

Baptism

This document is a constant-flux work. That means, it's not hard and fast, but always changing shape. Not that I am changing my views on baptism, but rather I'm constantly adding to and strengthening this document. Therefore, it reads very rough. It's a mixture of verses, conclusions, citations of other works, seminary notes, etc. While it reads very choppy, I think it's quite helpful, which is why I have included it for the world wide web. Enjoy and drop a comment at the end...


Quick verses:

Luke3:3

Ezek 36:25,26

Baptism is not a sacrament:

1) Sacraments in themselves convey grace to people, without requiring faith from the persons participating in them (Grudem, 966).

Baptism is by immersion:

1) The word means “dunk” or “immersion”

2) Mark 1:5 (NKJV) 5 Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.

3) Mark 1:10 (NKJV) 10 And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.

4) John 3:23 (NKJV) 23 Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized.

5) Acts 8:36-39 (NKJV) 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” 37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.

 

Baptism is a symbol of union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.

 

“It is a picture of going down into the grace and being buried. Coming up out of the water is then a picture of being raised with Christ to walk in newness of life. Baptism thus very clearly pictures death to one’s old way of life and rising to a new kind of life in Christ. But baptism by sprinkling or pouring simply misses this symbolism (Grudem, 969).”

“The amazing truths of passing through the waters of judgment safely, of dying and rising with Christ, and of having our sins washed away, are truths of momentous and eternal proportion and ought to be an occasion for giving great glory and praise to God (Grudem, 969).”

1) Romans 6:3-4 (NKJV) 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

2) Colossians 2:12 (NKJV) 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

Grudem furthers the point by noting that water is often a symbol of God’s judgment. The Lord destroyed the world through the flood waters (Gen 7:6-24), He drowned the Egyptians in Exodus (Ex 14:26-29), He cast Jonah into the sea (Jonah 1:7-16). Thus when a person is baptized into water, they safely come through the judgment of God because of the merits of Christ whom they have not been united to in His death and resurrection. Thus Peter can say in 1 Peter 3:21-22 "There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him." (NKJV)

Is there any actual benefit of baptism?

“All obedience to God by Christians brings God’s favor with it (Grudem, 953).”

It brings joy and blessings to the believer.

It brings joy and blessings believers feel when they obey God.

It brings a clear conscience towards God in these matters so that we don’t have guilt every time the word is mentioned.

The Holy Spirit works through our obedience to increase our faith (Grudem, 953).

Increases our understanding of Christ’s death, resurrection, and our uniting with Him (Grudem, 953).

Lowers the our love and the power for sin in our lives (Grudem, 953).

Increases our experience of the power of “new resurrection life” we have as children on God (Grudem, 953).

Gives us greater assurance of our salvation.

Gives us greater union with other believers (Grudem, 953).

Gives greater assurance of our salvation to others who are watching (Grudem, 953).

We develop greater spiritual maturity.

Baptism symbolizes and proclaims the fact that an inward change has occurred (Grudem, 978). It puts the world on notice that so-and-so has died to their old ways and now is united with Christ in everything He is doing.

It is the exercise of obedience.

It is the exercise of faith.

It has a cleansing and purifying effect:

Acts 22:16 Ananias told Saul: "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’" (NKJV)

Who Should Be Baptized?

Believers:

Colossians 2:12 "buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." (NKJV)

“Baptism is the outward sign of inward regeneration (Grudem, 970).”

“Only those who give a believable profession of faith should be baptized (Grudem, 969).”

“Only those who have gives reasonable evidence of believing in Christ…” should be baptized (Grudem, 969).”

Since it is a symbol of those beginning the Christian life, it should only be given to those who have in fact begun the Christian life (Grudem, 970).

In the examples of scripture, only those who believed were baptized:

Acts 2:41 "Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them." (NKJV)

Acts 8:12 "But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized." (NKJV)

Acts 10:44-46 "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered," (NKJV)

Acts 10:47-48 "“Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days." (NKJV)

Acts 16:14-15 "Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us." (NKJV)

Acts 16:32-33 "Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household. And when it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, “Let those men go.” So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.” And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city. So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed." (NKJV)

1 Corinthians 1:16 "Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other." (NKJV)

Infants are not to be baptized:

Galatians 3:27 "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (NKJV)

Paul was not speaking to a bunch of infants, he could not have said this and would not have said this if infants were baptized (Grudem, 970).

The same thought for Romans 6:3-4 "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (NKJV)

If Paul could not say these things for infants as he could for adults, then those who believe in infant baptism must say that baptism means something different for adults as it does for infants (Grudem, 971).

Some would say that baptism is a sign of entrance into a covenant community, but the NT does not speak of baptism in this fashion (Grudem, 971).

 

The Roman Catholic View of Baptism:

Baptism is necessary for salvation

John 3:5 "Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (NKJV)

Titus 3:5 "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit," (NKJV)

Ephesians 5:26 "that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word," (NKJV)

The act of baptism itself causes regeneration

Baptism is how the church bestows saving grace upon people.

 

The Necessity of Baptism:

Catholics will quote Mark 16:16 to prove we must be baptized to be saved: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Yet this verse does not speak at all about those who believe and are not baptized. The reason a person is condemned is because they do not believe in Jesus Christ (Grudem, 981).

Thief on the cross is an example of a person who was not baptized but saved. Some say he was saved under the Old Covenant but Heb 9:17-18 says the New Covenant was begun when Christ died and Christ died before the thief on the cross did (Grudem, 981).

Thus “Baptism, then, is not necessary for salvation. But it is necessary if we are to be obedient to Christ, for he commanded baptism for all who believe in him (Grudem, 981).”

 

The Age for Baptism:

How early? When they are able to give a believable profession of faith with a life evidenced by new life in Christ (Grudem, 982).

 

Who Can Baptize?

In light of the priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2:4-10), in theory anyone can baptize. But Grudem offers the following considerations:

Since baptism is a sign of entering into a relationship with the church, then it should be done within the fellowship of a church.

This will enable all believers to rejoice with the person.

This will strengthen the faith of the rest of the church.

This will give a concrete welcome of the church to the person into their fellowship.

It will help safeguard and protect the ordinance of baptism.

It will help ensure the person is well taught and fully understands the meaning of baptism.

Having said that, often it will be administered by a person who is recognized as capable of representing the church in the above matters, often the clergy.

But within that context, the clergy/elders can give oversight to the process while allow for another person to baptize: e.g. the parent, the person who led to the Christ, etc.

 

Other Issues:

Baptism of the Holy Spirit:

“‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit,’ therefore, must refer to the activity of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the Christian life when he gives us new spiritual life (in regeneration) and cleanses us and gives us a clear break with the power and love of sin (the initial stage of sanctification) (Grudem, 768).”

Other references include:

The key verse is 1 Cor 12:13 that indicates that baptism of the Holy Spirit is for everyone.

This verse should be understood to say that we are baptized into the Spirit, if Paul wanted to say “by the Holy Spirit” he would have used upo (Grudem, 768).

“The day of Pentecost was the point of transition between the old covenant work and ministry of the Holy Spirit and the new covenant work and ministry of the Holy Spirit (Grudem, 770).”

“The Day of Pentecost was certainly a remarkable time of transition in the whole history of redemption as recorded in scripture (Grudem, 772).”

“Though it was a ‘second experience’ of the Holy Spirit, coming as it did long after their conversion, it is not to be taken as a pattern for us, for we are not living at a time of transition in the work of the Holy Spirit. In their case, believers with an old covenant empowering from the Holy Spirit became believers with a new covenant empowering from the Holy Spirit (Grudem, 772).”

Baptism of Fire:

In the context of Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16, both are set in the midst of passages referring to judgment and consuming fire. Thus while the baptism of the Spirit (Matthew 3:11) is the renewing life given by the Holy Spirit, the baptism of fire is the consumption of the wicked (e.g. the Pharisees and Sadducees (and any unrepentant) with whom John was talking).

Baptism for the Dead:

1 Corinthians 15:29 "Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized (who gets baptized? New converts. Why are they converting) for (upper – because of the testimony and witness) the dead (i.e. believers who have died), if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?" (NKJV)

15:29 What does this verse mean?

View 1—Unbelievers who were approaching death who wished to convert requested to have vicarious baptism performed on their behalf (Calvin, as cited in Thiselton, 1243).

CON

a. Seems more conjecture that deduced from textual analysis.

 

View 2—It refers to vicarious baptism.

PRO

a. The normal reading of the text (Conzelmann, 275).

CON

a. There is no historical evidence of this happening routinely in the 1st Century church.

b. This takes on a legalistic, magical approach of the kind that Paul normally condemns (Godet, 385).

c. A practice such as this would have provoked much stronger words of condemnation from Paul.

View 3—It refers to baptizing the dead before burying them (Beza cited by Godet, 386).

CON

a. Neither syntax, context, or lexical meanings support this view (Thiselton, 1242).

View 4—Those who are baptized after contemplating the death of martyrs (Jonathan Edwards as cited by Godet, 387).

CON

a. uJpevr never has this connotation (Godet, 387).

b. Paul could have used pisteuvontev instead of oiv baptizovmenoi (Thiselton, 1243).

View 5—It refers to those who request baptism just prior to their own death.

CON

a. uJpevr doesn’t readily imply this interpretation (Godet, 388).

View 6—It refers to those who die as believers through martyrdom.

PRO

a. Fits the context as verse 30 discusses the danger of the apostles (Godet, 390).

b. Several biblical passages indicate martyrdom Christians endured (Acts 7:58,

CON

a. This strains the meaning of tw~n nekrw~n (Thiselton, 1242).

View 7—It refers to unbelievers who, seeing their loved ones in Christ die, convert in order to be with them at the resurrection (Thiselton, 1248).

PRO

a. Fits the meanings of all the lexical/syntactical meanings of the words.

b. Fits the context.

c. Fits the practical method of how many people come to Christ (Nicoll, 931).

Conclusion: The clear meaning of the passage, at first glance, seems to indicate that some people were being baptized on behalf of the dead, to serve some vicarious purpose. However, such an aberrant view would have elicited harsh words from Paul. View 6 has some merit but ultimately a reader would not have readily understood this (unless it was true in their church). View 7, however, applies mostly normal renderings of the lexical meanings of the words of this verse and is also quite logical. On that basis, View 7 answers the most questions and solves the most problems while still being doctrinally viable. View 7 is the preferred view.

Verses on the Deity of Christ

Monday, 02 August 2010 14:55 Published in Verse Lists

Verses on the Deity of Christ

(note that the best verses are the "Power Verses" towards the bottom of this document)

The New Testament uses terms, ideas, and allusions that were exclusively for YHWH, the LORD:

Please note that in the Old Testament, the English words "LORD", "YHWH", and "Jehovah" are all translations of the same word in the Hebrew text. Also, the most common verses that clearly declare Christ’s deity are listed on page 14. I have not listed them first because normally those who are  opposed to Christ’s deity have all kinds of smoke-and-mirror attempts to discredit them. Consequently, this document begins with rock-solid declarations of Christ’s deity that are lesser known, but extremely powerful. The clear, power verses are towards the end.

In the Old Testament, the prophet Zechariah says that they will look upon YHWH whom they have pieced, yet that was done to Jesus.

Zechariah 12:1 --1 The burden of the word of the LORD concerning Israel. Thus declares the Lord who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him:

A few verses later, the LORD (YWHW) still speaks:

Zechariah 12:10 --10 “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.

But in the New Testament, we of course know that it was Jesus who was crucified. The Jews themselves understood that this was a fulfillment of Zech 12:10:

John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. 36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”

 

**Note that the Jehovah’s Witness New World Translation says: “…they will look to the One whom they pierced through…” The change of “Me” to “One” is clearly designed to hide this declaration of the Messiah’s deity because it is quoted and applied to Jesus in John 19:34-37. We need to understand, that in Zechariah 12:10, there is no grammatical reason or textual reason to translate this as “the one”. The Hebrew word for “one” and “me” are different. Zechariah 12:10 just simply uses the Hebrew word for “me” not “one”. The translation “the One” is simply incorrect and would have been marked as wrong in any basic Hebrew class.

 

The Hebrew word we are discussing is as common as our personal pronoun “me” in English. The word for “Me” in Hebrew is the pronoun “ y !” which is pronounced “ee”.  As is often the case with languages, in Hebrew, these pronouns are attached to words and the ending affects whether the word is in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person. Spanish is similar: amo = I love whereas “amas” means “you love” etc. While these look relatively similar to our eyes, they are clearly different words and anybody speaking Spanish is universally aware that they are significantly different from each other.

 

So back to our text, in Hebrew, when the pronoun “ y !” is the 1st person pronoun. 12:10 in Hebrew says yl^a@ (pronounced a-lee). Like Spanish (one word “amo” =  two words “I love”), the Hebrew yl^a@ is in essence two words, or at least two ideas communicated through the root word and the end attached to it. The word la (without the “ y !”) is the Hebrew marker of direction, often translated as “to” or “toward.” In this instance, it is with “ y !”  or “me”. Yet the New World Translation translates this simple “me” pronoun as “one.” The 3rd person singular pronoun “One” in Hebrew is the pronoun “o” which is “o”. Since the Hebrew says yl^a@, the whole clause is translated phrase “look upon Me” because there is no other possible meaning. If the Hebrew text were to say “they will look upon the One” it would have been ola@ (pronounced a-lo) – notice the “o” on the end which is the 1st person plural pronoun. This may seem similar to our eyes and ears, but they are quite different in Hebrew. Just as the English words “he” and “her” are similar in spelling, they are still very dissimilar in what they mean.

 

While all of this might seem very technical, it is actually very simple Hebrew. The New World Translation has just wrongly translated this passage. The verse contains the word “me” and not “one” and there is no way to justify translating any way other than, “they will look upon Me with-whom they have pierced…”

 

 

God promised that He would come in the form of His Messiah in Isaiah 43:10

Isaiah 43:10 “‘You are My witnesses,’ declares the LORD,
And My servant whom I have chosen,
So that you may know and believe Me
And understand that I am He.”

 

John the Baptist was prophesied to precede the coming of YHWH.

Malachi 3:1 “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.” (YHWH)

Zahcarias cited this verse when declaring that his son, John the Baptist, was preparing the way for the coming of the Lord: Luke 1:76 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways.”

 

Jesus cited the fulfillment of this verse in regards to Himself in Luke 7:27 when He declared that John the Baptist was more than a prophet, but the one who would clear the way for the coming of YHWH.

 

God purchased the church with His own blood

Acts 20:28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

Job looked forward to the day that the God, the Messiah, would stand upon the Earth in John 19:25-26:

Job 19:25-26 “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
Even after my skin is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh I shall see God.”

 

In Isaiah 6, the prophet Isaiah saw a vision from God with the following description:

Isaiah 6:1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.

This message given to Isaiah at that time is quoted in John 12:40 when speaking about Jesus’ ministry and peoples’ lack of faith in Him. John then clearly shows that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory when he says in verse 41 “These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him.”

Thus John clearly states that the prophet Isaiah had seen Jesus in the temple in His glory.

Then in John 17:5, Jesus says “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” – Clearly referring to the kind of glory that Isaiah saw in Isaiah 6:1.

Finally, in Revelation 1 John has a vision where He sees Jesus once again in His glory. This is what John said:

Revelation 1:12-17 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last…”

The connection is this: Isaiah saw Christ’s glory in Isaiah 6. The apostle John explains this in John 12:41, that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory at that time. Jesus later prays to be restored to His former glory in John 17:5 and thus the apostle sees that former glory himself in Revelation 1:12-17. Truly extraordinary!

 

 

 

In Ezekiel 34:22, the LORD says that He will judge the between the sheep:

Ezek 34.17 “And as for you, O My flock, thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats.”

Ezekiel 34:22 --22 therefore, I will deliver My flock, and they will no longer be a prey; and I will judge between one sheep and another.

Yet Christ alludes to this very same incident but says that it is He that will do it:

Matthew 25:31-32 --31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory , and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne . 32 “ All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats…”

 

In Isaiah 45:23, YHWH declares that every knee will bow to Him and every tongue will swear allegiance to Him, but the New Testament applies this to Jesus (Note the Greek of the NT and the Septuagint is clearly a running quote usually using the same vocabulary, grammar, and word order—except that Paul clearly modifies Isaiah 45:23 to point to Jesus):

Is 45:23 “To Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.”

Phil 2:10 Phil 2:10-11 “…at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Chris is Lord…”

 

In the Old Testament, YHWH was the only person who could give life and take it, yet in the New Testament this is said of Jesus:

Deuteronomy 32:39 “See now that I am He, and there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and gives life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can deliver from My hand.”

Even though Deuteronomy 32:39 says that only YHWH can give life, Jesus says that He too can give life: John 5:21 “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.”

Just as in Deuteronomy 32:39 YHWH secures those who are in His hand, so also Jesus uses the same imagery of protection for those who are in His hand: John 10:28 “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” 

In Zechariah 14:9 it is said that YHWH shall be king over all the Earth

Zechariah 14:9 --9 And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one.

Yet Christ is spoken of as the King over all the earth:

Revelation 11:15 --15 Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.”

 

Both Jesus and YHWH use the same "I am the first and the Last" terminology of themselves:

Is 44:6     “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.”

Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Rev 22;13  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

 

God promised that He would come in the same state as the Jews and in their affliction He would save them by His love and mercy. Though speaking of the Old Testament, it is also prefiguring Christ. It establishes the principle that God is our Savior, sending the Angel of His presence. It is God speaking in Isaiah 63:8 and it is God who came and saved them in Isaiah 63:9:

 

Isaiah 63:8 For He said, “Surely, they are My people, Sons who will not deal falsely.” So He became their Savior.

 

Isaiah 63:9 In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.

 

And it is Jesus who came from the presence of God to be our savior:

 

John 1:18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

 

John 6:57 “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. (NASB95)

 

God promised that it would be “His own arm” that would be the agent of salvation and redemption. This is much more than a description of God being the behind the scenes force for salvation, but rather it is God Himself who will procure salvation:

 

Isaiah 59:16-20 And He saw that there was no man, And was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, And His righteousness upheld Him. He put on righteousness like a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle. According to their deeds, so He will repay, Wrath to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies; To the coastlands He will make recompense. So they will fear the name of the Lord from the west And His glory from the rising of the sun, For He will come like a rushing stream Which the wind of the Lord drives. “A Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,” declares the Lord. (NASB95)

 

The Old Testament promises that we shall know He is YHWH when He opens the Jew's graves:

Ezekiel 37:13 --13 “Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people.

 

John 5:21 “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.

 

John 6:39-40 “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

Matthew 27:51-52 --51 And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;

 

Isaiah prophesied in chapter 8:13-15 that the LORD shall be our sanctuary and He will be a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over. Peter applied this verse directly to Jesus in 1 Peter 2:5-8.

 

Isaiah 8:13-15 “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread. “Then He shall become a sanctuary; But to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, And a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. “Many will stumble over them, Then they will fall and be broken; They will even be snared and caught.” (NASB95)

 

But Peter ties this prophecy of the LORD to Jesus:

1 Peter 2:5-8 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. For this is contained in Scripture: “Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “The stone which the builders rejected, This became the very corner stone,” and, “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

 

Quotes from OT speaking of God are ascribed to Christ

Hebrews 1:10 --10 And, “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Your hands;

 

Neither God the Father or Jesus ever change:

Ps 102:27 “But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end.”

Mal 3:6 “For I the Lord do not change.”

Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

 

Question: How can a being that has been created never change? The very act of coming into existence means a change. Thus, Jesus was never created, never came into existence, He always was and always will be.

Isaiah 40:10-11 Predicts that YHWH the chief shepherd will come with a reward. Yet according to 1 Peter 5:4 Christ our Chief Shepherd will appear:

Yet in the Old Testament, they were awaiting YHWH to bring their reward:

Isaiah 40:10-11 --10 Behold, the Lord God will come with might, With His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him And His recompense before Him. 11 Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.

1 Peter 5:4 --4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

In the Old Testament, YHWH is called the Shepherd in Ezek 34

Ezek 34:11 ‘For thus says the Lord God: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.

 

But in the New Testament, Jesus is called our Shepherd:

 

John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

 

 

 

In the Old Testament believers are commanded to fear God, yet in the New Testament believers are commanded to fear Christ.

Psalm 33:8 says, “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.”

Ephesians 5:21 says, “Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”

 

A sin is an offense against God. Only the person who is offended can offer forgiveness to another, yet Christ forgave sins by his own authority. Thus if only God could forgive sins because sins are against God, then Christ is God:

Luke 5:20-21 --20 Seeing their faith, He said, “ Friend , your sins are forgiven you.” 21 The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?”

James encourages to endure until the "coming of the Lord" which can only mean Jesus, but then in verse 10 he cites the prophet's own example who "spoke in the name of the Lord." Since the prophets spoke in the name of YHWH, and they are to await the coming of the Lord, it is such that Jesus was YHWH in the Old Testament speaking through the prophets.

James 5:7 --7 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.

 Christ is the one who sent the OT prophets

Matt 23:34  I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

We are the sheep of YHWH  (Ps 95:7) and we are Christ’s sheep (John 10:11-17)

Psalm 95:7 --7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice,

John 10:11-17 --11 “ I am the good shepherd ; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep . 12 “He who is a hired hand , and not a shepherd , who is not the owner of the sheep , sees the wolf coming , and leaves the sheep and flees , and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 “ He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep . 14 “ I am the good shepherd , and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father ; and I lay down My life for the sheep . 16 “I have other sheep , which are not of this fold ; I must bring them also , and they will hear My voice ; and they will become one flock with one shepherd . 17 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.

Total acts of creation are applied to both God and Jesus:

Speaking of Jesus, John 1:3 says, "All things were made though Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made."

Col 1:15-17 "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things and in Him all things consist."

Heb 3:4 says that God created everything, "For every house is built by someone, but he who built all things is God."

 

In the Old Testament, God is often called our redeemer. He is also often called our redeemer in the New Testament. Yet this term is likewise used of Christ.

 

Psalm 78:35 And they remembered that God was their rock, And the Most High God their Redeemer.

Isaiah 41:14 “Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 44:6 “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me.

Isaiah 44:24 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, “I, the Lord, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself And spreading out the earth all alone,

Isaiah 47:4 Our Redeemer, the Lord of hosts is His name, The Holy One of Israel

Isaiah 48:17 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go.

Isaiah 49:7 Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and its Holy One, To the despised One, To the One abhorred by the nation, To the Servant of rulers, “Kings will see and arise, Princes will also bow down, Because of the Lord who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen You.”

Isaiah 54:5 “For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the Lord of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth.

Isaiah 54:8 “In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” Says the Lord your Redeemer.

Isaiah 59:20 “A Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,” declares the Lord.

Isaiah 60:16 “You will also suck the milk of nations And suck the breast of kings; Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.

Isaiah 63:16 For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us And Israel does not recognize us. You, O Lord, are our Father, Our Redeemer from of old is Your name.

Jeremiah 50:34 “Their Redeemer is strong, the Lord of hosts is His name; He will vigorously plead their case So that He may bring rest to the earth, But turmoil to the inhabitants of Babylon.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—

Titus 2:14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Christ is the image of God

2 Cor 4:4  the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.

 

Jesus does the same things that God does:

John 5:19 “…for whatever the Father does, these things he Son also does in like manner.”

 

In Isaiah 54:5, the prophet says that God is our husband, yet in the New Testament, Christ is our husband. The two are synonymous.

 

Isaiah 54:5 “For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the Lord of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth. (NASB95)

Revelation 21:9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”(NASB95)

Ephesians 5:32 This mystery is great [in the context of marriage]; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. (NASB95)

In the Old Testament we are told that the LORD will bring New Covenant to the people. Certainly, the LORD had brought other covenants to the people Himself. Yet we are told that Christ brought the New Covenant. Consider the following:

Gen 17:1-2 "I am the Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly."

Thus God said through Jeremiah and Ezekiel:

Jer 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah

Ezek 34:25  “I will make a covenant of peace with them, and cause wild beasts to cease from the land; and they will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.

Notice that in the New Testament who actually brings the covenant:

Luke 22:19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying,  “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying,  “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

 

 

The Lord promised that the people of Zebulun and Naphtali would rejoice in His presence.

 

Isaiah 9:1-3 But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; They will be glad in Your presence…

 

This was fulfilled and referenced in the ministry of Jesus:

 

Matthew 4:12-16 Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a Light dawned.”

 

Job declared that only God walks upon water, yet we see Jesus doing just that twice in the New Testament.

Job 9:8 Who alone stretches out the heavens And tramples down the waves of the sea;

John 6:19 Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened.


Jesus’ Claims to Be God

Jesus said He could do the same things as God

John 5:19 --19 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “ Truly , truly , I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself , unless it is something He sees the Father doing ; for whatever the Father does , these things the Son also does in like manner .

Jesus commanded the people to honor Himself in the same way they honor Jehovah:

John 5:23 --23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.


Jesus made Himself equal to God

John 10:33 --33 The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”

Jesus said seeing Himself was the same as seeing God

John 12:45 --45 “ He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me.

Jesus said He is in the Father and the Father is in Him

John 14:9-11 --9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip ? He who has seen Me has seen the Father ; how can you say , ‘ Show us the Father ’? 10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father , and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative , but the Father abiding in Me does His works . 11 “ Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves .

John 14:20 --20 “ In that day you will know that I am in My Father , and you in Me, and I in you.

Christ says the He is the Alpha and Omega and to those who overcome, he shall be their God

Revelation 21:6-7 --6 Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. 7 “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

Christ said that He and God are One

John 17:22 --22 “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one.

Jesus taught that He had the authority to forgive sins that were committed against God.

Mark 2:10 --10 “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins ”—He said to the paralytic,

Jesus said He was with God before coming to the world:

John 6: 62 “What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?”

 

People in the New Testament understood that Jesus was God:

Mary calls her Savior “God”

Luke 1:47 --47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

**Note: Luke uses the terms God and Lord interchangeably to refer to Jehovah and Jesus in the first chapter of his gospel. He uses tou kuriou (too kurioo) to describe the temple of the LORD (1:9) and the Angel of the LORD (aggelo" tou kuriou) (angelos too kurioo) in 1:11—both being references to Jehovah of the Old Testament. Then Luke uses the same word of Mary when he says she is the Mother of the Lord the kuriou in 1:43, clearly the same word in the Greek. Mary's prayer was that she may magnify the LORD (kurio") who she was the mother. Finally, this was also used by Luke when saying that John the Baptist would go before the kurio" to prepare His way in 1:76. There are other way’s of saying “lord” in Greek that didn’t include deity, yet Luke clearly chooses the Jewish notion of LORD (as used throughout the Septuagint, which was the Greek version of the Old Testament that was the predominant Jewish text at the time) and interweaves that divine word throughout his gospel to refer to Jehovah and to Jesus.

 

The people say to themselves “God has visited His people” Luke 7:16

Luke 7:16 Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and, “God has visited His people!”

People worship Christ as God. Peter will not let anyone worship him because he is only a man (Acts 10:26) yet Christ let people worship him. (Matt 2:11; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 28:9)

Acts 10:26 --26 But Peter raised him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am just a man.”

Matthew 2:11 --11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Matthew 8:2 --2 And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

Matthew 9:18 --18 While He was saying these things to them, a synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.”

Matthew 14:33 --33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

Matthew 15:25 --25 But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”

Matthew 28:9 --9 And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.

 

Thomas acknowledges that Jesus is God

John 20:28 --28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

 

Throughout the book of Acts, healings are interchangeably attributed to Christ and God

Acts 3:8-10 --8 With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God; 10 and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Acts 9:34 --34 Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed.” Immediately he got up.

Acts 15:12 --12 All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.

 

Paul proclaimed Christ as God

Acts 17:18 --18 And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.

 

Jude calls both God and Jesus Lord in Jude 4,5,14,17, 21,*25

Jude 4 --4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Jude 5 --5 Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.

Jude 14 --14 It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones,

Jude 17 --17 But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Jude 21 --21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.

Jude 25 --25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Jesus is called Immanuel meaning God with us Matt 1:23

Matthew 1:23 --23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

 

Certain aspects of Jesus can only be true if he is God:

Jesus was with God before (i.e. eternity past)

John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

 

Christ, as God, has a throne forever Heb 1:8

Hebrews 1:8 But of the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, And the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.

The builder of all things is God Heb 3:4

Hebrews 3:4 --4 For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.

God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus 1 Thess 4:14

1 Thessalonians 4:14 --14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

 

Yet through Christ all things came into existence:

 

Colossians 1:16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.

Paul says in 1 Tim 6:14 –16 says that Christ alone posses immorality, yet we also know that God possess immorality too. If only Christ possesses immortality, and God is immortal, again it is because Christ is God: 

1 Timothy 6:14-16 --14 that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.

1 Timothy 1:17 --17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Joy Despite Economic Turmoil

Saturday, 28 February 2009 14:31 Published in Blog
The Lord actually wants us to have a better quality of life. Jesus said in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” This abundant life, this joyful life, only comes when our soul is brought to Life with Christ’s life—that Christ Himself abides in us. It is a profound truth that until a person’s dead heart and soul are brought to life by Christ, they will not truly know what true, lasting and enduring joy and peace can be. That certainly was the case for me. Perhaps the breaking of people’s hearts in these harsh economic times demonstrates that for some, their spirituality was not truly a work of Christ, but of their own mind/childhood/upbringing/culture.

Paul talks about this growing abundant life in Philippians 1:9-10 where he says, “And it is my prayer that your love may about more and more with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” We see from these verses that 1) Our love must grow 2) Our love will grow in knowledge 3) Our love will also grow in discernment 4) Application of that growing knowledge and discernment leads to a growing recognition of that which is morally right (and by extension also that which is morally wrong) 5) Recognition of that which is right leads to purity and blamelessness as God’s Spirit directs our way. This purity and blamelessness here is not the groaning of a killjoy, but rather, as Hebrews 12:11 says, it is the peaceful fruit of righteousness. The fruit of blamelessness is an increasing sense of peace and joy, even if life’s trials come our way.

Some folks might find these concepts elusive, and at many times they have been out of my own grasp. But I have learned, in my own walk with Christ, that diligence and faithfulness in these fields does in fact yield the harvest of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When there has been a famine of these in my life, it has always been because I have stopped breaking up the hard ground of my own soul and have stopped planting the seeds of the Word of God and stopped growing in knowledge/discernment and stopped applying that knowledge and discernment to life, that my life might turn and align with the ways of God, the ways of His purity and His blamelessness. Psalm 16:11 says of God, “In your presence is fullness of joy.” Life can be joyful and abundant, but that joy and abundance is not found along the paths of the world, but rather in the sphere of God and His holiness.

Have I arrived in all of this? Not at all, I write as a learner, not a master. These are just some reflections from my time with the Lord this morning. And I’m trying out this “facebook note” thing.

Grace and peace,

Russ

Total Transformation to Joy

Tuesday, 03 March 2009 14:30 Published in Blog
When a person comes to Christ, their life is radically and permanently changed. They have been transferred from the domain of darkness, to the kingdom of light. This is more than just a positional change; it is the beginning of a total transformation of a person’s heart/mind and soul. This change is evident in Colossians 1:9-14 which we will be studying soon at our Tuesday Night Shore Café (http://www.thegracetabernacle.org/GraceLife/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=91&Itemid=374).

Five times in three verses, Paul uses the word “all” or “every” (Greek ‘pan’ or ‘pas’) to speak of the total impact of the Gospel upon a person’s life. Just as marriage totally transforms every aspect of a person’s life, likewise our relationship with Christ transforms every aspect of our lives.

Colossians 1:9-14 recounts Paul’s prayer for this young Colossian church that has relatively recently embarked upon the path of Christ. Paul, the faithful shepherd, cares for this young flock and has been burdened for them in prayer. These verses reveal the content of his prayers which is all about total transformation.

Paul prays that they would gain the knowledge of God’s will for their lives with “all” spiritual wisdom and understanding (1:9). He prays that their walk with Christ would please Him in “all” respects (1:10). And since this transformation cannot hope to happen in our own strength, Paul adds in verse 11 that he’s been praying that they would find God’s strength, that He might grant them “all” power by His glorious might that they might attain to “all” steadfastness, patience and joy.

The Gospel has a total impact of Christ. In another place in scripture, Paul says that we ought to “work out” our salvation (Philippians 2:12)—not with the sense of working ‘for’ salvation (for salvation can only come by the grace of God through faith in Christ’s death on our behalf – Ephesians 2:8-9) but rather the Greek wording behind Philippians 2:12 speaks to how our salvation impacts every aspect of our lives. Thus, Colossians 1:9-14 unpacks what Philippians 2:12 says in brief = the Gospel is to have a totally transformational impact upon our lives.

And all of this is where the joy in Colossians 1:11 comes in. What robs our joy? It’s when we live by our law, the world, or our own flesh. While these paths may have a temporary sense of fun, ultimately they are paths which draw us away from Christ and the source of joy (Psalm 16:11). Thus, as we are transformed by Christ, we have the inner light of His joy within us as we abide in fellowship with Him.

Okay, well at this point, my daughter has joined me on the bed with a bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup (I’m still recovering from yesterday’s outreach and apparently got a bit sick). Plus, there’s a foot of snow outside, I should go and enjoy it with my kids. We’ll leave the contradiction between me being sick and playing in the snow for another day!

Grace and peace,

Russ

Living By the Spirit: Colossians 1:9-12

Tuesday, 03 March 2009 14:28 Published in Blog
Healthy babies grow and it brings such exuberant joy for parents to watch the development of their little gifts from God. Parents excitedly record and boast about how their baby is holding their head up for the first time, or when they roll over, or as they are starting to get up on all fours. Not to mention their glee when they first scoot along or begin to “cruise.” We delight in the nature growth of our children.

Likewise, there is a delight to God in our own, spiritual growth. Once a person places their faith in Christ, healthy Christians grow. We see this progression of growth in Colossians 1:9-12 where Paul lays out a progression of spiritual growth that is exciting and clarifying for the life of a new believer. Growing in God’s will > Wisdom > Understanding > Walking > Bearing Fruit > Good works > Increasing knowledge > Strengthened in Christ > Giving thanks.

In verse 8, Paul commends the Colossians for their “love in the Spirit.” God’s Spirit is in the process of training us to walk with Him and Paul explains in verses 9-12 how he constantly prays that they would grow in “spiritual wisdom and understanding.” The word “spiritual” here is the Greek word pneumatike and it speaks to the idea of one who has received God’s Spirit and lives according to their relationship with Him. That is, one who is governed by the acting force of God’s Spirit upon their life.

The experiences we encounter and the responses we give to life, by God’s Spirit, teach and train us in what is pleasing and useful to Him. Though we cannot see or hear God’s Spirit, we can sense and perceive His Spirit through our inner relationship with Him. It stands to reason, then, if we are to learn to walk with the Spirit, then God must teach us the “what’s” and “how’s” of this relationship with Him so that we might live in full, consistent surrender to His Spirit.

Some people improperly believe that we should shut down this inner interaction with God because God “does not work like this any longer.” More commonly today are those who believe that our emotional impulses are really God’s Spirit communicating with us. The first are often driven by the flesh because they no longer seek God’s presence in their lives. The second are often equally driven by their flesh as they improperly attribute their emotional reactions to the Lord. Both extremes are wrong and both extremes fail to understand the process of how God trains us to discern what is His Spirit and what is our flesh.

The primary classrooms where we learn to discern between the promptings of our flesh and the Spirit are trials and testing where God guides us assess the results of what we have done. Scripture calls these results “fruits” and gives us several passages which guide us to assess the fruit of our actions to determine their origin (e.g. Galatians 5:19-23, James 3:15-18,etc.). The overall teaching of scripture is that the fruit of the Spirit’s working through us will produce attitudes within us and conditions around us that are characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Likewise, when we have been governed by the flesh, our actions will produce “fruit” which is characterized by impurity, division amongst God’s people, following the world, etc. Results that include division, wrath, etc. are those actions that were prompted by the flesh.

The challenge for God’s people is to learn and be trained by the course of life so that we are able to discern the difference between operating by our flesh and the Spirit, hence being pneumatike that is, governed by the Spirit and not by our flesh. This training process can only happen gradually as we encounter various situations, respond with various responses, and over time discern what produced love joy and peace versus what produced enmity, discord and anxiety. In my early life, I was so often discouraged by my own spiritual failures, but what I didn’t understand was that each success and each failure was an opportunity for me to learn to discern the source of my actions and overtime, God used these lessons to bring me along the progression of becoming increasingly governed by the Spirit rather than the flesh. Each failure showed me that since the fruit was bad, the source was my flesh. Each success showed me the reverse. Each was important in my growth in Christ because each taught me over time to cease operating by the flesh in how to operate by the Spirit. These are lessons and truths I’m still learning now as I evaluate my own life in light of its fruit.

Like with my own experiences, I find that so often when people come to Christ they are so discouraged by their slow growth in Christ. As was the case for myself, it is possible that they have been so fully immersed and enslaved to the world, and the influence of the Spirit may be so foreign to our souls, that it takes an exceedingly long period of time for us to learn to uncouple our enslavement to the world, and to slowly wash and purify our hearts and minds with God’s Word and prayer. This person may be frustrated with their own slow growth in Christ because it takes a long time, requires much thought and meditation, and is inherently fraught with failures along the way. Yet their path must be walked and the sooner they can learn the skill of following the inner promptings of Christ and not their flesh, the sooner they will walk in the peaceful fruits of righteousness.

Well, at this point, my kids are up, bouncing around, and it looks like the my day has begun.

Grace and peace,

Russ

A Messy Bathroom and Being Filled with Spiritual Wisdom

Tuesday, 10 March 2009 14:26 Published in Blog
Colossians 1:9 "For this reason sinced the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spirutal wisdom and understanding." What an encouragement it must have been to the Colossians to have read this verse. The apostle Paul himself has put them on his personal prayer list. This probably was a huge moment in the life of the Colossian church. Paul goes on to explain the content of his prayers as asking that God might fill them with the knowledge of His will with all spiritual wisdom and understanding. Being “filled” is the Greek word plyrothete which means fill, or fulfill much the same way as in English. Likewise, can also mean to complete. Here in this verse, Paul sets down what ought to be the heart prayer of us all—that we might be filled; filled with the knowledge of God’s will and filled with all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

I love the imagery here that Paul uses as he prays for the Colossians. He asked that they woudl be "filled" with knowledge of God's will and all spiritual wisdom and understanding. Being filled means being completely full. I think of a completeness and a soundness in my understanding. I think of a fullness and completeness of that which is of God and the absence of that which is of this world. I think of filling my bathtub, which is right now partially filled with kid’s toys, but if we were to fill it with water, as the water level rises, and if we never shut it off, it would eventually rise and overflow so that even the plastic sharks and boats would flow out of it because it is so filled with water. There would be water everywhere, and my wife would think I'm nuts, but the bathtub would be filled.

The person who is filled with the knowledge of God’s will with all spiritual wisdom and understanding is so overflowing with pure wisdom from God in part because they have been filled with the waters of God’s wisdom and partly because those waters have cleansed and pushed out the impurities and thinking of this world. And this is God’s will for us, that we be filled with the cleansing, soul-refreshing wisdom and insight that comes from fellowship with our God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Well, the natives have awoken and I've got to get on with the day.

Grace and peace,

Russ
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