Ye Must be Born Again

Ye Must be Born Again

© 2021 by C. O. Bishop

John 3:1-21

Introduction:

We have been studying through the Gospel of John, and, so far, we have heard very little of the teaching of Jesus. We have learned Who He is, and a little of Why He came, and a tiny bit of What He can do. But now we are going to hear the first of His private teaching…not in secret, by any means, but the individual to whom this teaching was directed came to Him privately, by night, so, evidently, Jesus gave him a private audience…or, at least, perhaps just His disciples were there.

It is worth noting, that, at the tail end of chapter two, there were a great number of people who believed in Him, because of miracles (plural) that He did. Evidently some things had happened beside just the clearing of the temple and the miracle of the wine, that John simply did not tell us. At any rate, we can see that His fame was already beginning to build, and He was wary of the people, knowing how unstable they were, so, He did not commit Himself to them.

But a man named Nicodemus came to Him:

1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Nicodemus

We are only told a few things about Nicodemus: He was a member of the sect of the Pharisees, and a “ruler” of the Jews. Some have declared him to be a member of the Sanhedrin, but the scripture does not actually make that clear, though there is some evidence to that effect. At any rate, he was well educated in the scriptures, and was looked up to as a teacher, (v. 10.)

He came to Jesus by night, apparently not wanting his fellow Pharisees to know about his visit…or possibly he didn’t want anyone to know: maybe he felt it would damage his credibility as a teacher and a ruler, if he was seen to be consorting with this “odd street-preacher from Galilee.” I don’t know his exact motive. I think, because it does not say “ …he came over one evening…” as if it was just an evening visit, we can at least surmise that it was a visit “under cover of darkness.”

He began by flattering Jesus a little, saying, “We know you are a teacher sent by God, because no one could do the miracles you have been doing unless God is with him.” Jesus wasted no time with small talk: He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you…” That is Jesus’s preface to uncomfortable revelation: It means, “Listen! this is the rock-solid truth, friend:

Jesus went on to say, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus dropped the small talk too, and protested the physical impossibility of going back and being born over again. He said “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot go back into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?

Jesus said something even more challenging: He said, “Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” That alone must have stumped Nicodemus pretty badly, as there was nothing in the Old Testament that could have taught him this truth. But Jesus pressed on: He said. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: So is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

Water? Spirit? Wind?

It is tempting to guess that the “water” in this passage is in reference to baptism, and there are sects who teach just that: they insist that you cannot be saved without water baptism.

Others guess that, because of the following verse, contrasting what is born of the Spirit with that which is born of the flesh, that the water must refer to the sac of amniotic fluid present in the gestation of all mammals. But neither is supported by the rest of scripture.

To begin with, the Apostle Paul stated clearly that baptism was not even part of his mission…not that he didn’t approve of it nor that he didn’t practice it…it was simply not part of the core issue. He said “Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the Gospel…” Further, every time the question arose asking How to be Saved, the answer was “Believe the Gospel!” Many of those followed up with baptism, but that was not part of salvation…not part of being Born again.

Finally, if it referred to the amniotic fluid, it would have been pointless to make the statement at all, since every human, along with every other mammal, already has that experience. So, what are the other possibilities?

Water of the Word

Ephesians 5:26 gives us a clue, saying that Christ cleansed the church “with the washing of water by the Word.”  In John 15:3, Jesus said to His disciples (not including Judas Iscariot) “Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you….” (Judas heard all the same words that the rest had heard…but he was not clean…He never believed.)

Finally, in 1st Peter 1:23, it says that we have been “…born again…by the Word of God…” So, if the cleansing of Salvation was accomplished by the Word, and the re-birth itself was by the Word, and the Word is called “water” in Ephesians, I think it is safe to assume that the Water in John 3:8 is also in reference to the Word. Jesus said in John 5:24, “…he that heareth my Word and believeth…hath everlasting life.”

Wind and the Spirit

The Greek word for spirit is “pneuma,” literally meaning “breath, or wind.” And, the passage about the “wind” being unseen is using the same word as the word for “spirit.” But the context clearly shows that He spoke of the natural wind, saying “you can hear it, but you don’t know where it came from, nor where it is going.”

We can see the result of the new birth in a person’s life, as the Spirit transforms them, but we are blind to the Spirit Himself, and can only go by what we hear and see. The fact remains, however: no one has ever been saved apart from the Word of God, and no one has ever been saved apart from the Spirit of God.

But HOW?

Nicodemus had a genuine desire to understand. He said, “How can these things be?

Jesus replied rather sharply; saying that Nicodemus ought to have understood it. He said, “You are a teacher of Israel, and you don’t understand this? We are telling you what we know and what we have seen: If I have told you earthly things and you don’t believe, what will you do when I tell you heavenly things?”

Then Jesus brought up a lesson from Numbers 21:5-9, because He knew that Nicodemus was familiar with that passage: He compared Himself to the bronze serpent on the pole, which Moses had lifted up in the wilderness. (As you may recall, judgment had fallen on Israel in the wilderness, because of sin, and God sent thousands of migrating vipers to cross paths with them and deliver judgment. Many people were bitten, and many were dying. They asked Moses to pray and ask God to take away the judgment of the serpents…but He did not: He told Moses to make a bronze serpent and hang it up on a tall pole where everyone could see it. (Bronze stood for judgment.) They were called to look at that serpent if they were bitten by one of the snakes. If they turned to God’s solution, admitting that the real problem was sin and judgment for sin…if they looked, in faith, to that serpent, they would not die.)

Jesus said that as Moses had lifted up that serpent, so He Himself must be lifted up, “That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

I think Nicodemus could understand that one. He knew of the bronze serpent. He knew the story completely, and had probably already observed that the ones who looked to the bronze serpent did not die, but nothing was said about instantaneous healing from the bite. It just said “…he shall not die.” And he knew God had kept his promise. Those bitten, who looked to God’s solution for sin (which included both Judgment and Grace) did not die.

Jesus went on to explain more thoroughly, with the more commonly recited John 3:16…I don’t want to go there today, but I do want to point out what He said regarding judgment.

The Basis of Judgment:

He said that those who believed in Him were not going to be judged, but that those who did not believe were judged already, because they did not believe. And the basis of the judgment was their response to light: He said that light has come into the world and that people as a whole, prefer the darkness, because their deeds are evil… and the light would reveal them for what they are. Those who will come to the light are those who will “do truth:” they want more light, and the light reveals them for what they are, as well…and the yare approved by God.

There is an interesting sidenote to this:

  • Every single one of us starts off in darkness! (Ephesians 5:8)
  • Every single one of us starts off as an enemy of God: God says so! (Romans 5:10)
  • Every single one of us starts off as a child of wrath, according to Ephesians 2:3.

So, we cannot claim that “some people are good to start with,” nor that “some people are just bad.” The whole Human race is tarred with the same brush called sin. Romans 3:23 says ALL have sinned and come short of the Glory of God. Each person then, has to choose how they will respond. Jesus may have been hinting to Nicodemus that he needed to step out of the darkness. To us, however, it is not a “hint:” it is a command: “Walk as children of light!” “Walk in the light as He is in the light!” No longer associate with the unfruitful works of darkness: you were in darkness, but you responded to the call of Jesus and came to the light. He took your Judgment at the Cross! You trusted in His Grace and in His Blood for your salvation. You were born again at that moment, whether you knew it or not, and now you are a child of light.

Aftermath

We don’t know a great deal more about Nicodemus: we know he spoke up once in defense of Jesus in a venue that may indeed have been a meeting of the Sanhedrin, though, again, it doesn’t say so. We also know that Nicodemus and another rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, were the ones who approached Pilate and asked permission to take away Jesus’s dead body and prepare it for burial. Evidently Nicodemus had become a genuine believer. There was some risk involved with associating with Jesus, even in death. But that seems to be the last reference to his involvement.

So, what is your “legacy” going to be? What is the “after” story in your life? Are you going to choose to consistently walk with Jesus? Or is it mostly just an entertaining way to spend a Sunday morning?

I pray that all of us will grow in the intensity with which we love the Lord and desire to serve Him. I want my life to have eternal value. I trust that you have a similar desire.

Lord Jesus, fill us with a desire to walk with you and to learn the work you have assigned for us to do. Draw us into a pattern of faith and obedience that will transform us into your likeness. Cleanse our lives so that you can live through us, and we can serve as your ambassadors.

How Should We Live?

How Should We Live?

© 2020 C. O. Bishop

1st Peter 2:11-25 Galatians 5:16-23

Introduction:

We saw last week that there are “changes coming,” for all true believers. No matter who I was in the past, life is not going to be just as it was before. I have a new heritage, and a new Master. It is obvious that things are going to change. So, we need to think about what will change, and how.

We saw last week that there were things destined to be “laid aside and left behind” as we press forward to walk with Jesus. We also saw that there was an expectation that we would begin to display a “family resemblance,” since we have been born again—“born from above,” as some of the passages say—and specifically, we are born into the family of God, as His real children.

Now Peter goes on to admonish and exhort the believers to “live up to” the calling they have received. I can’t lose my position in Christ, but walking with Him does require some attention as to my response to the world around me: without that attention to my walk, I will constantly stumble, and fall back into the mess of my old habits and responses. So, Peter gives fair warning against this trap:

Abstain from Fleshly Lusts

11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

He prefaces it all with the fact that as long as we are in this World, we are literally “strangers and pilgrims:” travelers, nomads…just “camping out,” here; seeking a home not in this world, but in that which is to come. The song, “This World is not my Home” is correct: we are “Just passing through!” But it is so easy to forget that fact. Peter warns us to not forget, but, as strangers and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against our souls.

The goal is that our lives should reflect the truth and grace of God before unbelievers, so that, when they speak evil of us (as He says will happen,) they will eventually have to confess before God that our lives(the Greek word “anastrophe,” translated “conversation,” here, means our “way of life”) and our works actually have shown the truth of our testimony, and that they have rejected and persecuted us without cause…and in so confessing, they will Glorify God in that day—the “day of visitation.” Our reputations should be built upon the truth that people can see in our lives, not just what we say is there. This is the importance of a living testimony, which is expected to agree with our spoken testimony.

If I consider, for a moment, the phrase, “Abstain from fleshly lusts,” I might also step over into Galatians, where the “works of the Flesh” are listed. These are what the lusts of the flesh produce, if I allow them in my life. The word “lusts” simply means “strong desires, and isn’t even always a bad thing, though we use the word that way almost exclusively.

The Lusts Produce the Works (Galatians 5:16-21)

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

I find it fascinating that the “works” (plural) of the flesh (verses 19-21) are listed seventeen strong, with an eighteenth item that is a “catch-all” phrase: “and such like”. The list is literally twice as long as the nine-fold list in verses 22, 23, and that last item extends it to include everything that the human heart can imagine. And it is plural: if I am partaking in any of these, then I am in the flesh; it’s as simple as that. Any one of these marks me as being “in the flesh.”

But the next “list” is half as long, and it is singular: it is not a “smorgasbord” from which you can choose what you would like to exemplify. It is a “nine-fold” fruit (singular), or a single fruit with nine aspects, or characteristics, and all nine aspects, or characteristics, have to be present or it is not the Holy Spirit who is producing it.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Notice that last bit? “Against such there is no law…?” Why is that even an issue? It is because the whole context of the book of Galatians is the separation of Law and Grace. If you are walking in the Spirit, then the Law will have no effect on you because it does not touch the things of the Spirit. That is why God can freely tell us, here in 1st Peter 1:13-15, to submit ourselves to Civil Authority.

Civil Authority

13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

As a general rule, believers are to cheerfully submit themselves to human civil law. Is there a possibility that the law of man can “cross the line,” so to speak, and be in direct conflict with the Law of God? Surely there is! But it is actually pretty rare. Usually civil laws are made to protect the law-abiding people from human predators and to protect their personal rights against those who would take them away. It is a rare thing for the laws of man to require us to do something that is wrong, or to forbid us to do something God says we are to do. But it can happen.

A week ago, we received the news that our governor had mandated “no more than 25 people in church gatherings.” That does not force us to disobey God, though it might have made us work harder to obey Him: we were willing to split the services to keep below 25. But the ruling also said that enforcement was at the discretion of local Law enforcement; so we called the local police chief, to see what he would require, and we were told that he has no intention of enforcing such a mandate, and that if he comes here it will be to worship with us, not to act against us.

So, we obeyed the law, and simultaneously obeyed God. And, in the process, we allowed the local law enforcement to see that we are not in rebellion, which strengthens our testimony with them, whether they are believers or not.

We virtually always have an option to not disobey God, and still be obedient to the law. In the unusual event that there is literally no avenue of escape without bringing down the judgment of an evil, ungodly employer or government, then that becomes our option: we can lose a job, or our belongings or our freedom or even our lives as the final option. Believers have made these hard choices for virtually all of human history.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not go into the furnace because they disobeyed God, but because they obeyed Him. Daniel did not end up in the lion’s den because of dishonoring God, but because of honoring Him. Daniel submitted to every ordinance of Man until the ordinance clearly required him to ignore God, and even then, he was in his own home, praying toward Jerusalem, not out on a street-corner, haranguing crowds of unbelievers in the name of the God of Israel. He was quietly obeying God when they came in and arrested him. We need to keep these examples in mind.

16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

We are truly free in Christ: we are free to serve Him, but we are not free to use our “liberty” as a way to cover sin. We are free to serve and to suffer, as the servants of God. We are not free to use our freedom to damage someone else unnecessarily, nor to express self-will and rebellion cloaked in a show of “piety.”

Honoring Man, while Honoring God

17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

Notice that there was no hint of “backtalk” here: they were to extend respect and honor to all those around them. They were to commit themselves to the Love of the Brethren, in keeping with Jesus’s command in John 13:34, 35, and to fear God above all human authority, and yet, to honor the human government. He goes on to give some examples:

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. 19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

Is it possible that we will suffer grief in return for good behavior? Certainly it is! And, if that is what really happens, then God is glorified by that suffering. But if we are “off in left-field” doing things God has warned us not to do, and end up being punished for our misdemeanors or infractions, then it does not honor God…it dishonors Him. I have heard of Christians losing jobs specifically because they are Christians…and, in anti-Christian countries, people are imprisoned or even killed because of their faith. In those cases, they have honored God by their obedience and their suffering.

But when I have also known believers who were jailed for tax-evasion, or theft, or other crimes, they were not suffering for their faith: they were being punished for wrongdoing. And that does not honor God. Is it possible that the government will use your taxes for evil purposes? I can just about guarantee that they will! When Jesus paid taxes to Caesar, was Rome using that money to promote godliness? Of course not! And yet, we are told to pay our taxes, and not be rebels. We are to take Jesus as our example:

21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

Whole books have been written about what it may mean to “Follow his steps:” I am not going to spend a lot of time on the subject, but I do think we should at least look at this particular context to see what is in focus, here:

In the first place, the subject in this context is the concept of “suffering for doing rightly.” Jesus certainly did nothing but “good, righteous works,” showing compassion and kindness to the poor, and holding the privileged and wicked religious leaders accountable for their sin. However, this passage is not suggesting that we all quit our jobs, and walk around attempting to imitate Jesus in His earthly ministry: I have no gift of healing, nor of any sort of miraculous sign-gift. So I can’t imitate that portion, but I can imitate His righteousness and I can strive to learn His Word, so that I can offer the same message of Hope which He offered.

22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

We can at least see that we are to trust God for justice, not other humans, who are flawed individuals, just as we are. We can also see, obviously, that we are especially to abandon the kinds of wrong behavior that could get us in trouble with civil law, because there is no glory to God in suffering punishment for unrighteousness. Dishonesty and a vengeful, sharp tongue are both mentioned as things Jesus did not exhibit.

But for believers, it goes further, as Jesus judges the hearts, not just the outward actions. There are people who teach that “unless there is an outward action, it isn’t sin.” Sorry…that is simply not true. Every man who is honest with himself knows what it means to “sin in his heart.” And, it is interesting to note that the specific sin Paul addressed in Romans 7 was covetousness! (What part of your body do we use to commit Covetousness?) It is specifically a sin of the heart and the mind! Jesus judges the heart, not just the outward actions!

What is the “Goal” of our Salvation?

24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

We are dead to sins, that we should live unto righteousness. That is the goal!

Now, this last phrase, “by whose stripes ye were healed,” is a direct quote from Isaiah 53:5, but the conclusion is strictly New Testament: We could not be “dead to sin” in the Old Testament. But, according to this passage, along with Romans 6 and Galatians 2, we believers during the Church Age truly are dead to sin, as we died with Christ, and the result is supposed to be that because we are alive to Righteousness and alive to God, we should live for God.

25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

This final passage reminds us that the letter was originally to Jewish Christians: the gentiles were seldom referred to as “sheep,” but the “lost sheep of Israel” was a common theme. In one place, only, John 10:16, Jesus said “16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” I believe in that reference he is talking about the Gentiles who would respond in faith: In the Church Age, there truly is one fold and One Shepherd. The Jews who had strayed from the God of Israel were considered “the lost sheep” of Israel. The Gentiles were simply considered to be foreigners and heathen. In fact, the word “gentile” simply means “heathen.” So these who had once been “lost sheep” of Israel had been returned to the shepherd and “overseer” or “Bishop” of their souls. The word translated “bishop” is “episkopos,” meaning “supervisor” or “overseer.”

We gentiles have been born into the family of God, and He is truly the Shepherd and the Bishop of our souls as well, but we were not the lost sheep of Israel. We did not “wander away from God:” In fact, regarding the lost world, in Matthew 7:23, Jesus said “I never knew you! Depart from me ye workers of iniquity.” He does not say, “I once knew you, but you just wandered off and got lost: too bad!” He says he never knew them. We were born as sinners, just as the lost Jews were born as sinners. That is where we all start out!

This is probably a good time to be reminded of what Jesus says about us who have become His sheep: John 10:27, 28 says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them Eternal Life, and they shall never perish.” Also, in John 6:39, he said “this is my Father’s will who sent me, that of all He has given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” As a gentile believer, you will never become a “lost sheep.” He will keep you for eternity. You have been placed into a new relationship with the Savior, and it is entirely dependent upon Him, not you!

We are His forever! Now we need to learn to walk with Him!

Lord Jesus, allow us to walk with you and reflect your holiness as a testimony to the world that has rejected You. Teach us to walk in Your footsteps!

The Believer’s Security (Part 2)

Introduction to Peter’s Epistles:

Security of the Believer (Part 2)

© 2020 C. O. Bishop

1st Peter 1:2-5

Introduction:

Last week we began a study of Peter’s first Epistle. We didn’t even complete the second verse, because there was so much information packed into the words themselves. Today we will continue and attempt to finish the first five verses, as Peter continues his greeting to the recipients of the letter. Remember that you are among the intended readers.

Security of the Believer, (continued)

As you recall, we had underscored about thirty key words in the first five verses:

Chapter One

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.


The Terminology:

We only got through the first thirteen of those key ideas, last week. Let’s read on! We saw that, in the first two verses we have the security of the believer introduced. And we were only halfway into verse two! The next concept is “Grace:” so we will start there, and continue.

“Grace:” this word can be easily misused, so we want to think carefully about it. It means “unmerited favor.” We might use it in a variety of ways, but the key word, there, is unmerited favor. Unearned favor. One might do something special for one’s employer and be rewarded by the bestowment of honor, or by particular privileges…but in those cases, the honor was earned.

I did not and cannot earn the honor that God has bestowed upon me; to be made an ambassador of Christ…to be made a real child of God. To be seated with Christ in the Heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6 says if you are a believer, you are already there!) and so much more…I haven’t earned any of those. That is why it is called “Grace.” Keep that in mind, when you see that word in scripture. It is not a “feeling” type word, as in “that was so gracious!” It is a fact! It means “I did not earn this, but it was given to me anyway, in spite of my not deserving it!”

“Peace:” There are several kinds of Peace in the believer’s life: the initial one is the fact that you are no longer “at war with God.” You may think that you never were at odds with Him, but Romans 5:10 says that all of us were initially the “enemies of God.” But, the day you trusted Jesus as your Savior, that “Peace” became a permanent reality. You have Peace with God, because you have been justified (declared righteous) by faith. (Romans 5:1 is a positional truth.) We are encouraged to seek the Peace of God in our daily lives. (Philippians 4:6, 7 is a conditional truth.) We are to seek to make peace with other people and to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers…” which is probably that same kind of peace.) But please notice that all peace is dependent upon prior Grace. The Biblical order is always Grace and then Peace, as a result of Grace..

“Blessed:” The Greek word here is “eulogetos” meaning “to speak good words”…this particular aspect of “blessing” is the voice of worship, giving blessing back to God, not a “conferred blessing.” When He blesses us, we benefit. When we bless Him, we also benefit, and draw closer to Him in worship and praise. This idea can also be used to bless other humans, in which case it is not worship, but genuinely wishing good for them. We are commanded to bless them that curse us. That is this word. (There is another Greek word, makarioi, which means “happy, because of God’s approval.” When Jesus preached the Beatitudes: that was the word He used, there. “Blessed are the poor in Spirit,” etc. That is a different concept.)

“Lord:” The Greek word “kurios” is translated “Lord,” virtually every time it is used. It literally means “Master,” and “Lord,” but was often used casually, in about the same way as we say “Mister, or Sir.” Both of those English words came from English and French words, meaning “Master, or Lord.” Regarding Jesus, it is not a casual term of reference: We are not simply politely saying “Mister Jesus.” He is literally our master, our creator, our owner… our Lord: the One to whom we owe honor and obedience and loyalty and Love. It is the exact same meaning as the Hebrew word “Adonai.” It has nothing to do with deity; it means “master.”

“Mercy:” This is the “reverse” of Grace. Grace was “God giving me what I don’t deserve.” Mercy is “God not giving me what I do deserve.” I have earned the full wages for my sins! That is what I deserve! Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death:” meaning, “that is what I have earned and deserve.” Not giving us those “wages” is Mercy. It goes on to say, “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” We have not earned that! That is Grace! I need both the Mercy and the Grace of God. Without both of those, I would have no hope.

“Begotten Again:” This is a key issue. The idea, here, is not just a “trendy thing to say,” as it has become over the last fifty years, but a reality! You were born again the moment you trusted Jesus as your Savior, whether you knew it or not. You became God’s real child, through that new birth. The word “begotten” is the same idea as the word “sired”…in that He not only “claims” you as His own, but, as he says in 1st John 3:9, “His seed remains in you.” At a spiritual level, you are His child, genetically. The New Man, your new nature, is literally the child of God. Your old nature could never approach God, even if it wanted to. Now you can approach Him in confidence as His true child, because you have been “begotten again.”

“A Living Hope:” The word translated Hope, here is “elpida” and it just means “hope.” The word translated “lively” in the KJV (or “living,” in most of the newer translations) is “zosan.” (“Zoē” means “Life,” in Greek.) So what is our ‘hope”, and why is it a living hope?

Hope has essentially a three-part definition, in scripture, as well as in “just plain English:”

  1. The happy confidence of good, for our future. (This is how God wants us to feel and think toward our future: not the hopeless, despairing, defeated thoughts of unbelief.
  2. The ground, or evidence on which that confidence rests, (our hope rests in the character of God and the truth of His Word.) and finally,
  3. The Object of our confidence (in our case, it is Jesus. He is the one toward who we direct all our hopes. He is our only Hope.)

And it is a living hope: it is to be realized in our lives, now, not sometime after we die. In John 17:3 Jesus says, “…this is eternal life; that they may know Thee (present tense), the One True God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.”  We are to be “knowing Jesus” on an experiential basis all the time, not “just hanging on and waiting to die,” to get out of our distress. In John 5:24, Jesus says we have eternal life now! Present tense! 1st John 5:11-13 says that God wants you to know that you have eternal life…again, present tense. It is a living Hope! And the Person who is our hope lives in us; and that miracle is called the “hope of Glory!” (Colossians 1:27.)

How did we enter into that Living Hope? By faith! How do we maintain that hope? Also by faith. Faith is not a “force,” nor is it a “feeling.” It is something you choose to do. Faith is believing God enough to act on that belief.  The root word in Greek is “peitho” which means “being persuaded.” But “peitho” can also be translated “obey” as it means “persuaded to the point of action.” Faith is not just mental assent, but “an obedient response to a revealed truth.”

“Resurrection:” Greek “anastasis.” This literally means “a rising up from” or “a standing up out of” death. An argument frequently brought up by unbelievers is that “Jesus wasn’t really dead…just passed out.” Or, on the other hand, claiming that the many medical revivals of “those who otherwise surely would have died, but who rose up to once again enjoy good health” are the same as what Jesus did. Jesus was dead…not in a coma. His body cells were dead. The reason for the three day “limit” was that at four days, he would have begun to decompose, and the prophecy of Psalm 16:10 stated clearly that he would not experience corruption (decay.) Lazarus was in the grave four days: and the bystanders warned Jesus that he would be stinking by this time. God says he can easily bring a truly dead body back to life. Don’t mistake “revival” for resurrection. Revival is only a renewal of life: resurrection is a restoration of a truly lost life.

“Dead:” One thing to keep in mind when reading scripture is that there are three kinds of “death” called out in the Bible:

  1. Spiritual Death (first recorded in Genesis 2:17 compared to Genesis 3:7-12. The sinning couple were separated from God the moment Adam ate that fruit.)
  2. Physical Death (Adam died physically, 930 years later. (Genesis 5:5) His spirit and soul were separated from his body.)
  3. The Second Death. (Eternal punishment, separated eternally from God, in the Lake of Fire. Revelation 20:14)

Do you see what all three have in common? All have to do with some sort of “separation.” Physical death requires that the spirit and soul (the non-material parts of the human) are separated from the physical body. It is not just “flat-lining” on a heart-monitor. We all start off “spiritually dead,” separated from God. There is a “modified form” of this death, which can be experienced by believers: when we are in sin, we are separated from fellowship with God, although we can never again be separated from either His presence or His love, forever. But when we are in sin, we are no longer pleasantly aware of either His presence or His love, and are effectively living as if we were spiritually dead. Resurrection, for us, will mean a permanent, conscious reconnection with a body that can never die, a Savior who will be visibly, physically with us, and the permanent escape from sin and destruction. In Jesus’s case, it was a permanently resurrected body, and a never-again-to-be-separated connection with the Father. It is utter mystery to us that the Immortal One died at all! It is utter mystery that the eternal Unity of the Godhead was temporarily separated, for our sake. But it is a fact. And it will never be repeated.

The Inheritance

“Inheritance:” We are not told a lot about the inheritance, but the following points are important to remember:

  • We have this inheritance in Christ, because we are joined to Him eternally, and are part of His family. (see verse 3)
  • The Inheritance itself is eternal (1st Peter 1:4; Hebrews 9:15)
  • The Holy Spirit is the “earnest” (down-payment) of that inheritance (Ephesians 1:14)

Notice that the next four descriptive words or phrases are all in reference to the inheritance. It is:

“Incorruptible:” We usually associate this idea with an absence of moral corruption, but the idea here is that our inheritance cannot rot, mold, or by any other means, deteriorate. This is about our inheritance. It has nothing to do with “reward,” to be discussed later.

“Undefiled:” There is nothing negative about your inheritance: there is no “seamy side,” unlike our present lives and experience. It is untouched by any sort of destructive or polluting influence. Again, this has to do with your eternal inheritance…not your current condition, nor your eventual reward.

“Fadeth not away:” Your inheritance will not be affected by time. It does not wither, or oxidize, or die on the vine. It is eternal, just like Jesus. He is the heir: we are joint-heirs with Him, and the inheritance we have is ours through Him.

“Reserved in Heaven for you!” The inheritance is yours and it is reserved for you! This is not like an earthly hotel or airline “reservation” which may be accidentally “double-booked,” or “sold out from under you,” leaving you with nowhere to go. God’s “reservation” of your inheritance in Christ is for you eternally. By the way, I have been using the word “eternal”, a lot: the Greek word for eternal is “aeoneon” and literally means “to the ages of the ages.” Some unbelievers have claimed that it therefore does not really mean “forever,” but rather only “a very long time.” The problem with this idea is that the exact same word is used to describe the eternality of God! So, we (and our inheritance) are “only” going to last as long as God does! And, I think that will be sufficient!

Finally, the last phrase I want to address in these five verses, is about the believers, not the inheritance:

The Believers

As believers, we are:

“Kept by the power of God!” Why is this so important?  Because there are those who claim that “Well, you are saved by faith, but you are kept by works!” Let me share with you: if at any point, my salvation is dependent upon my works, then, ultimately, it is entirely dependent upon my works, because, I can guarantee you, “My works are definitely the weak link!” But, if, on the other hand, I am “kept by the power of God unto salvation,” as this verse clearly says, then how much more secure can I feel in my position in Christ?  How much more confidence should that give me regarding my future and my current service, knowing that I literally cannot lose, and I absolutely cannot be lost? It is hard to even grasp the concept, because, from human perspective it seems not only illogical but impossible. But that is also true regarding the rest of the Gospel! The entire plan of salvation is unthinkable from human perspective: How can God become a man? How can there be a virgin birth? How can the blood of His sacrifice have any effect on a sinner like me? How can I have the righteousness of Christ applied to my account, through His blood? And, because of the human “disconnect” from the truth of God, we must enter in by faith: But we are kept by the power of God!

“Through Faith:” This was and is the avenue of approach. God’s Grace is what saved us, and His Power is what keeps us (Compare Ephesians 2:8, 9) Faith is simply the avenue by which we are required to approach Him. (Hebrews 11:6Without Faith it is impossible to please God.”)

“Unto Salvation:”   We are kept “unto salvation.” Our inheritance is reserved in Heaven for us, and secure, because we have been declared to be the children of God, through the new birth, and we are also eternally placed into Christ by the Holy Spirit. (1st Corinthians 12:13) The end result of all that we experience, all that we hope, all that is promised, is Eternal Salvation. We have it now, but we don’t feel it, necessarily. It is ours now, but we don’t see it. The day is coming when it will be visible and tangible, and, in every way a part of our permanent awareness. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish!” (John 10:27, 28)

Conclusion: The “Helmet” of Salvation

In case it had not occurred to you, the security of the believer is the “Helmet of Salvation” described in Ephesians 6:17. This Knowledge and Faith that we are Eternally Secure in Christ, is what gives us the confidence to walk with Him and to serve Him, knowing we cannot fail. The Helmet of Salvation protects your mind from the attacks of Satan.

Spend some time mulling this over: Consider how it affects your relationship with God and with the World around you, knowing that you are eternally secure in Christ, and that He is eternally your Lord and Savior…the Master of all things.

Lord Jesus, we are so limited in our understanding of who you are! Please open our eyes to the spiritual realities surrounding us and allow us to see the world through your eyes. Raise us up to serve you in faith and confidence.

Born Again! What Now?

Born Again! What Now?

© 2019, C. O. Bishop

1st Peter 1:23-25; 1st Peter 2:1-5 cp. John 1:12, 13; John 3:3, John 5:24

Introduction:

We often hear people talk about being “born again.” Even secular writers and singers will use this phrase, usually only to describe some sort of life-changing experience or epiphany. But the question we want to address is, what did Jesus mean, when He told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.”?

What does it mean when the Bible talks about being Born Again? Is it just religious talk for becoming a church-goer? There was no church, as we know it, in Jesus’ time, so it can’t have been as simple as that. Nicodemus was already a staunch, important member of his synagogue.

How does a Person become Born Again?

In John 3:3, Jesus told Nicodemus that unless he was born again, he could not see the kingdom of God, let alone enter it…and he addressed both ideas…seeing the Kingdom of God, and entering it. Nicodemus had no idea what Jesus meant. Jesus explained that a person would receive eternal life by believing in the Son of God.

In verse 14, He reminded Nicodemus of the mass invasion of venomous snakes threatening Israel, as a judgement for sin, under Moses. God commanded Moses to make a bronze serpent (bronze is a symbol for judgment, in the Bible) and to hang it on a pole, up high, so everyone could see it. If a bitten person looked to that bronze serpent on the pole as God’s solution for the snakebite, they would not die.

In verse 15, Jesus concludes that, in the same manner, people who look to HIM as God’s solution for sin, will not die…that “Whosever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” He reiterated that truth in verse 16, saying that This was God’s Love being offered to the whole world. He also pointed out (in verse 18) that whoever chooses to not believe is already condemned, not “waiting for condemnation,” and that the issue is the unbelief. Remember, the folk who were bitten by the venomous snakes were already bitten…and without help they would die. Those who looked to God’s answer to sin, lived…those who rejected Him died.

In verse 36, the writer concludes that, “He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

Does that really answer the question of “how” a person can be born again? Actually, yes, it does, but it is spelled out more clearly in John chapter one. John 1:11-13 says that “He (Jesus) came unto His own and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on His name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Now, that passage will bear some examination:

  • Who were these people, called “His own”, who rejected Him? It was the nation of Israel. As a Nation, they emphatically rejected Him, at Jerusalem. Were there individuals who received Him as their Savior and their King? And even some Gentiles who recognized Him as the Promised Messiah of Israel, and who willingly chose Him as their own master and Savior? Yes, of course there were! And those few who received Him are the ones to whom this passage refers! So what does it say about them?
  • It says “to them gave He power to become the Sons of God”
    • The word “power”, in this passage, is translated from the Greek word “exousia”, meaning “authority.” Those who received him were given the authority to do something, much as one who has become a member of an organization has the authority to enter into a secure building where they are assigned to work. But in this case, the thing they are authorized to do is to “become” a “Son of God.”
    • The word “become,” in this passage, is translated from the Greek word “genesthai.” That word, even in modern Greek, means “to be born!” They were given the authority to be born again!
    • And, interestingly, the word translated “sons” is the Greek word “tekna”, which literally means “born ones”…we would say “offspring”. But the Scottish language has a word, “bairns,” which is an exact translation of this word. It literally means “born ones.” There is a different Greek word that means “sons,” in the sense of “heirs.” We will talk about that one a different time.
  • “To them that believe on His Name.”
    • These people are listed as those who believe on His Name. They have placed their trust in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ for their salvation, just as those people who were snake-bitten placed their trust in the power of God and looked to that bronze snake on the pole.
  • Finally, he says that those “born ones” were not born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
    • Not born of blood: this is not a flesh-thing…it is a spirit thing. Your “blood-line” is not in question. Your spiritual father is in question. At one point (John 8:44) Jesus pointed out that his antagonists, the unbelieving Jews, were not children of God, but of Satan. They were behaving like their spiritual father.
    • Not born of the will of the flesh: this is not the result of two people cohabiting… no physical interaction affects this. And there is nothing “accidental” about it.
    • Not born of the will of man: This is not even human in origin. It is from God.

So the idea of being “born again,” as Jesus expressed it to Nicodemus, is entirely the result of God offering eternal life on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ, to those who receive Him as their Savior. It is completely personal, in the sense that it is not a “group activity.” It is addressed on a one-by-one basis, as each person sees himself or herself as a lost sinner, needing a Savior. The people in Jerusalem, in Jesus’ time, were indignant that He saw them as sinners. They saw themselves as “the best of the best,” and just about as perfect as people could be. And, honestly, Nicodemus was right up there with the best of them…but Jesus told him that unless he became born again, he was lost.

What is the Result of Being Born Again?

We already saw that believing in Jesus as one’s Savior is how one becomes born again. But what is the result?

John 5:24 makes a promise, with no disclaimers, no qualifiers, no “ifs, ands or buts.” Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death into life.”

Notice that He lists two conditions to the promise:

  1. Hear His Word: You do have to hear the good news that Jesus died as full payment for your sins. No one just comes up and shakes His hand and says, “Hey, I’d like to join your group!” That is effectively what Nicodemus seemed to be attempting to do. But Jesus told him that there was something that had to happen, first.
  2. Believe on the One who sent Jesus. Ultimately, we either place our trust in God’s solution for sin, or we come up with some sort of “do-it-yourself” plan of salvation. God’s solution is the preaching of the Cross: in 1st Corinthians 1:17, 18 we are told that the preaching of the cross is how God saves people. They either believe the message or they don’t. So, if we decide to “circumvent the cross,” and find some other way to approach God, then we are not believing on Him who sent Jesus to the Cross…we are believing that our own wisdom exceeds the wisdom of God.

So, if those two conditions are met: we have heard the message, and we have chosen to believe God, rather than believing some other source, then what does the promise hold for us? The Promise has three clauses:

  1. We have eternal life…that is present tense. Notice that it does not say, “…he that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me will someday have eternal life…” It says “…hath everlasting life!” Now! Not “someday, if you are good.”
  2. We will not ever be condemned by God. This is future tense: He does not say, “…is not condemned now, but, brother, he’d better stay outta trouble!” He says “…shall not come into condemnation!” There are no disclaimers, no exceptions, and no escape clauses!
  3. Finally, he says that we have passed from death unto life. In English, this sounds as though it is a past participle, meaning that something “has happened at some time in the past.” But, in fact, it is perfect tense, meaning that it “happened at some time in the past with permanent results for the future.” In contemporary language, it means “It’s a done deal!” There is no way of becoming “un-born-again!”

These are tremendous promises. There are some who try to short-circuit the promises, saying, “Well, you know, if you continue in sin, God will still reject you!”  Or, they might say, “Well, you are saved by faith, but you are kept by works!”  (I have heard both of these statements.) To say such a thing makes Jesus a liar! He did not offer Himself an escape clause, or any way for Himself to renege on His promise. He made a solid promise, and all He asks us to do is step into the promise, by faith.

And the results are eternal.

What Now?

What do we do once we havebeen born again? Is that all there is to it? “I’m saved, so now I can kick back and wait for Jesus to come?” What does God say that He wants us to do?

Turn to 1st Peter 1:23. We are going to read from verse 23 through into chapter 2, verse 5.

He says that we have been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which lives and abides forever. Do you remember someone referred to as the Word of God? A Person, called the Word of God? If you remember John 1:1, we read there that “In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God….” and then, in verse 14 of the same chapter, we saw that “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of Grace and truth.” So, Jesus is the Word, by whom we have been born again. We heard the Word, received and believed the Word, and as a result, we have been born again, by the Word of God, who is living and abiding forever.

And what does He say to do about that? Read on into chapter 2: he says for us to lay aside our petty gripes, and politics, and hypocrisies, and (see verse two) “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby.”

Feed on the Word!

God wants to feed his babies! He insists that they be fed on His Word! That is why we only teach from His Word, here at True Hope Christian Fellowship. His Word is “sheep food,” and we are called to feed the flock of God! But every believer is called to deliberately, and personally go to God’s Word to be fed!

  • If you don’t have a Bible, we will get you one!
  • If you can’t read, then you can go where the Word will be read publicly.
  • If you have trouble understanding, then you must go to where someone will teach you at your own pace, and explain at a level where you can completely grasp it, and continue to repeat it until it sticks!

You, personally, are called to feed on God’s Word. Your teachers are called to feed you, but you have a personal calling to feed on God’s Word…and why? So that you can grow thereby…that you will grow, spiritually, as a direct result of feeding on God’s Word. That you will become stronger, and healthier, and able to feed others, as well.

What are the Long Range Results?

Look just a bit further: verses 3-5 point out the long-range results.

Since we have tasted of the Lord’s Grace, and have approached Him as the “Living Stone” on which all of God’s kingdom is built, we have also become the “living stones” of His temple, throughout the whole world. He indwells us, individually, in the person of the Holy Spirit.

But as a group, He says that we are the Temple of God (1st Corinthians 3:16), and, here in this passage, He says that we are “a spiritual house, and a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ!”

Now, if that sounds mysterious to you, then I’d say that you need to feed on God’s Word until you understand not only what it means, but what your part in that “spiritual house and holy priesthood” really is. What does it mean when it says that you are a priest? What does it mean when it says that you are to offer up spiritual sacrifices? You need to learn these things.

But, right now, the only question you have to ask yourself, is “Have I been born again? Have I really trusted Jesus as my savior? Have I placed my trust in His blood sacrifice as full payment for my sins?”

Then, if you are sure that your trust is in His finished work at the Cross, and not your own works, then the next step is to feed on His word. He commands us to desire the sincere milk of the Word. We will try to whet your appetite, here, but the best way to get hungry for God’s Word is to actually feed on it! The more you eat, the stronger your appetite will grow.

Conclusions and Decisions

When you first heard the news that Jesus died to pay for your sins, you had a decision to make: “Will I believe in Him, trusting in His finished work at the Cross, or not?”

Having made the decision to receive Him as your Savior, you now have a decision to make, every day: “Will I set aside everything else, and deliberately spend time reading God’s Word, so that I can grow…or not?

The results of both decisions have eternal results. The decision to believe the Gospel, and receive Jesus as your Savior resulted in your being born again, eternally secure as God’s Child.

The decision to feed on God’s Word, resulting in the growth you experience here, will allow you to serve, and do the things God has called you to do, here on earth.

And that will result in eternal rewards.

The decision is yours, every day. What will you do?

Lord Jesus, stir our hearts to desire to feed upon your written Word, so that we can be molded into the likeness of the Living Word. Raise us up to be the men and women of God that you have called us to be.

Prayer and Pedigree

Prayer and Pedigree

© C.O. Bishop 6/23/2018

Colossians 1:9-14

Introduction:

Last time I was with you we were introduced to the book of Colossians, as Paul addressed the believers at Colosse. We also saw that it was intended to be a circular letter, to be delivered to all the other churches, as were the other epistles.

We ended in Colossians 1:8, where Paul affirmed that he did not know most of these believers, but had received a report of them from Epaphras, who evidently had led many of them to Christ, and continued teaching them. Epaphras had told Paul of the faith and love of the believers at Colosse. Paul was thrilled at the news, and gave thanks for them.

In verse nine we see Paul praying for the recipients of the letter…and, his prayer can include us.

Paul’s Prayer—Conditional Truth

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:

Paul prayed for quite a list of things, here. He prayed:

  • that they might be filled with the Knowledge of God’s will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding
  • that they would “walk worthy” of the Lord, unto all pleasing
  • that they would be fruitful in every good work
  • that they would increase in the knowledge of God
  • that they would be strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power
  • that it would result in all patience and longsuffering, in them, with joyfulness, and
  • that they would be giving thanks to the Father.

So: seven items on Paul’s prayer list at that point in time…but he applied it to a lot of people. Notice that none of the seven included financial security, physical health, or safety and comfort. It all had to do with their walk with God: our condition as believers. Shouldn’t that tell us something about God’s priorities?

Doesn’t this give some clues about the sort of things we should focus on in prayer? It is fine for us to ask for the things that concern us the most, but, perhaps we need to re-focus our concern, so that we pray for the things God wants for us.

Paul listed seven things:

  • He wanted us to be filled with the experiential knowledge (from the Greek epiginosin) of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Not just to “know facts,” but to experience the reality of God in our lives. The only way that can happen is if we are focused on the Person of Christ as the central figure in our lives. And the next thing it should affect is our behavior:
  • He wanted us to “walk worthy” of the Lord unto all pleasing. To behave ourselves in a manner that is fitting for the children of God, one which will honor the Lord, and please Him. There are many times when believers behave poorly, and bring shame to the name of Jesus. That should not be our experience. We are to “live up to” the Name of the One we have been called to serve. Will we fail? Surely we will, but the result of “Christ in you” should be obvious even to those who consider themselves our enemies. The fruit of the Spirit should be so prominent in our lives, that even when we fail, people will tend to remember the general trend of good
  • The result of the inward change in our lives is to be a continually increasing fruitfulness, in a life spent doing good, rather than self-centered behavior.
  • The other predictable result is that, as we continue in right behavior, we will also continue to get to know God better, experientially, through Bible Study and Prayer, and through an obedient walk with Him.
  • He prayed that we would be strengthened with all might, according to God’s Glorious power. I’m fairly sure this is not talking about physical strength, but rather spiritual strength, with which to serve God, and stand against our spiritual enemies.
  • He wanted this strength to result in patience, and longsuffering with joyfulness. We are to be strengthened in such a way as to endure the hard times of life, with joy, not collapsing in fear or despair.
  • And the overall result of that miraculous change in our lives should be that we are equipped to give thanks to the Father in all circumstances.

The Pedigree of the Church—Positional Truth

12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

Here, Paul begins to list some facts about them and us, which are completely true about us simply because we are in Christ. But notice he has changed pronouns, here. He now says “us”, not “ye” (“ye” is the plural “you” in old English.) All of the following are true of all believers, because we are in Christ:

  • He has made us fit (that is what “meet” means in old English) to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light (past tense.)
  • He has delivered us from the power (Greek exousia) of darkness (past tense.)
  • He has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son (past tense.)
  • We have redemption through His blood (present tense.)
  • We have forgiveness of sins (present tense.)

Notice that none of the above list is just a potentially true statement. There are no qualifiers. There is nothing to detract from the full weight of the statement regarding our position in Christ!

From the moment you placed your trust in Him as your savior, God has already made you completely worthy to be a partaker of all that he has in store, along with all the believers in the history of the world, in the kingdom of light that is yet to come. Do we “feel worthy?” I can’t speak for you, but I surely don’t feel worthy. This is a prime example of the fact that our feelings are not accurate representations of reality. God’s Word is Reality. He says that we have been made worthy—fit—to be partakers in all that Heaven and eternity holds for the believers of all ages.

God has already delivered us from the power (the Greek word is “exousia”—meaning “authority”) of darkness. Here, again, I don’t feel “delivered.” I still see the effects of the darkness of this world in my own life, my thoughts, my desires, my words, and my actions. Are they better than they were 45 years ago? Certainly! But, the fact is that I was just as “delivered” from the power—the authority—of darkness at the moment I first believed, as I am today. I am still being delivered from the ongoing power of sin, but the darkness that bound me and in which I was once lost and blind and helpless, has no further authority over me at all, unless I choose to disobey God and go back to “running my own life”. The enemy has no further authority over me, but he can intimidate me into submission, and persuade me to sin.

God has already translated us out of the darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son. The word “translate,” here, could mean to transfer, or to move over, from one place to another. It is used three times in Hebrews 11:5, regarding Enoch being taken to heaven without dying. Here, in Colossians, God says that we have already been moved over into God’s Kingdom, as well. In Ephesians 2:6, he makes it even more specific, saying that we were resurrected with him, and have ascended with Him, and are seated in the throne with Him…already! These are positional truths, all true about us simply because we are in Christ.

We already have redemption through his blood…present tense. We are not waiting, hoping that somehow the redeemer will count us worthy. He did it all at the Cross. As we have noted before, there are three Greek words used, collectively, to communicate the idea of redemption:

  • Agorazo, meaning “bought in the marketplace.”
  • Exagorazo, meaning “bought out of the marketplace”…taken off the market.
  • Lutruo, meaning “bought for the purpose of being set free.”

All three of these words are used in the New Testament, and are translated “redeemed”, or “redemption”, because that is what Jesus did for us, at the Cross: He paid the price for us in the marketplace of sin, where all of us were enslaved, and He took us out of the market, permanently, for the purpose of setting us free. And all of this was completed at the Cross. We have only to step into that reality by faith, knowing that we have truly been set free, and that Sin has no more dominion in our lives.

Finally, He says that we already have the forgiveness of sins…present tense. In 1st John 1:9, where we are told to confess our sins to God, and that he is “faithful and just, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” the issue is the restoration of fellowship: this is conditional truth, which has to be dealt with on a moment-by-moment, day-by-day basis. The forgiveness referred to, here in Colossians, is the positional truth that we have already been completely forgiven of all sins; past, present and future, thus securing our position in Christ.

Do you see the difference? The one act at the Cross could only happen once, and had to be sufficient for all sinners, for all time. The forgiveness we seek daily, in confession, has nothing to do with our position in Christ, but only affects our fellowship with God. He says, “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” Fellowship is what is in question, there, regarding our walk. It affects our “condition”, as a believer.

What do we do with this concept?

If I have believed the Gospel, trusting in the once-for-all price that was paid for my sins (as well as those of the whole human race) then my position is secure. I have been born again, as a legitimate child of God. I am forever in Christ.

But I am expected to grow in that relationship with Christ, learning to walk with him in a manner which honors Him, and which attracts others to Him. As I live, day to day, I will certainly (frequently) stumble and fall, especially as a new believer. I should be growing more stable, and less likely to fall, but the possibility of failure is always there. I still sin.

What happens when I stumble, and fall into sin? Am I “un-born again?” No, that is just as impossible as my being “un-born” as a natural human. But I have become soiled…I need cleansing. So I go to God and confess my sins, and He cleanses me. It is that simple. Then I go back to learning to walk with Him.

In fact, the seven things for which Paul prayed, regarding us, in the previous verses, are all part of that growing process. Review them, and put them into practice!

Lord Jesus, fill us with your Grace, and the knowledge of your will. Teach us to walk in a way that pleases you, and draws others to you. Fill our lives with the good fruit you desire in us, and make us able ministers of your Grace.

No Condemnation (Part Three)

The Spirit of Adoption

© C. O. Bishop 1/21/16 THCF 1/24/16

Romans 8:14-27

Introduction:

We have studied the book of Romans over the last several months and we are currently in the middle of the eighth chapter. The key point in Romans eight is that “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus….”

But there are various ramifications to the fact that there is no condemnation awaiting us. One is that, as believers, we are all indwelt by the Spirit of God. Another is the fact that we still have our old sin nature, and a constant battle of vigilance, as we learn to walk steadfastly with Christ.

But a third aspect of our new life in Christ is a subject that sounds familiar (because we use the same word in our culture) but which actually is much more profound than seems immediately obvious. This is the subject of Adoption, and along with it, the Spirit of Adoption.

There are numerous points made in verses 14-27. I am going to touch on just 15 of them:

  1. We are already the Sons (Greek huios… “heirs”) of God.
  2. We have …present tense… the Spirit of Adoption.
  3. The Spirit assures us that we are the children, (Greek tekna: born-ones) of God.
  4. Because we are the offspring of God, we are his heirs, but specifically “joint-heirs” (as opposed to co-heirs; which we will discuss later.)
  5. We believers will all inherit in Christ; but how much we inherit is conditional upon how we serve and “suffer” with Him. (This is not asceticism, by the way. The word “suffering” is associated with the concept of submission, not specifically pain.)
  6. There is Glory coming for all re-born believers, to one degree or another.
  7. That Glory will be revealed when the Sons of God are announced and presented publicly.
  8. The whole creation is waiting for that moment, because the whole creation labors and groans under the curse of God, and cannot escape it until the time appointed by God.
  9. The World will enjoy freedom from the curse after the “Adoption” (Greek huiothesis: the placement of sons) which will occur at the redemption of our physical bodies.
  10. We live and suffer through the indignities of this life in hope of the coming release.
  11. That release is NOT yet seen …we live by faith, hoping in the promise to come.
  12. The Holy Spirit indwells us, helping us to bear the infirmities of this life, and its trials.
  13. We don’t even know how to pray, or what to ask, in prayer.
  14. The Spirit prays for us, speaking the true needs of our hearts before the throne of God
  15. God calls us Saints!

Now! That is a lot of information! Let’s break it down, idea by idea:

Who or What is the “Spirit of Adoption?”

The “Spirit” of whom Paul speaks, in the context of Romans chapter eight, is the indwelling Holy Spirit, not the human spirit (compare verse 16), nor our modern usage of, say, “getting into the spirit of things”. He says, in verses 14 and 15;

14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

He is talking about the same thing that he said in Ephesians 1:13, 14, where he says that we have been sealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest, (or “down-payment”) of our inheritance until (there’s the “time clause”) the redemption of the purchased possession…” There in Ephesians, we can see that we are not yet in full possession of our inheritance, in the most practical sense; but we have the indwelling Holy Spirit as a continuing token of the coming fulfillment. Here in Romans, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit as a promise of our coming “placement as sons”. It is the same idea, but in a different context.

Galatians 4:6 echoes this concept, too, stating that “…because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father.’” Here in Romans 8:16, 17 it says,

16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

We are sons, and heirs, but we are not yet in a position to use all of our prerogatives as sons. Galatians 4:1 says that “the heir, so long as he is a child, differs nothing from a servant.” Until the day when God places us in full authority and honor, with Himself, we’re going to struggle along in this flesh, looking and feeling just like all the other people in the world.

The Holy Spirit keeps us safe until that day, and He reminds us constantly of who we are in Christ. So, then; why is he called the Spirit of “Adoption?”  I thought we were to be born again as the children of God, not adopted, as if we were homeless puppies at an animal shelter. Well, unfortunately, we haven’t got an appropriate word in English to serve as the equivalent of the Greek word that is translated “adoption.”

What’s Hard to Understand about Adoption?

Let me preface my answer with the fact that “It isn’t what we might have expected it to be!”

Remember that, from God’s perspective, we are the Sons of God now (Greek huios) …already heirs, and already in perfect standing with Him. But we have very little authority, with good reason. We are too immature to safely use the authority of God, so He measures it out carefully, in small doses, and we live by faith, relying on His Wisdom, His provision, and His Grace.

Notice, too, (verse 16) that we are the “children” (“tekna”: off-spring…born-ones) of God. We are not waifs whom He has graciously rescued off the street, bathed, fed and clothed, and accepted as simply being his wards. “Offspring” (born-ones) means that we are his own progeny. That is what the new birth is all about. We are His legitimate children, not someone else’s kids for whom He has simply accepted responsibility.

Adoption, Then and Now:

In our culture, “adoption” virtually always means “legally taking charge of someone who is NOT your offspring, and accepting all future responsibility for their well-being, as well as (usually) affixing your name to them.” That is all great, and a wonderful, honorable thing, but, in most cases, a simple glance makes it obvious to anyone that the adopted child is not your “offspring.” (They don’t look like you!) But here’s the contrast: anyone who has been “born from above” is literally the offspring of God, whether they are really cognizant of that fact or not. To one degree or another, we will look like, act like, and smell like Jesus!

The New Testament word translated “adoption”, here, is the Greek word “huiothesis”. It means the “placement of Sons.” It is a reflection on the Greek and Roman practice of publicly recognizing one’s heir, so that all the people would know that that particular Son held the authority (and riches) of the Father. There was usually only one “heir”. All the others were “sons,” in the usual sense, but this one was the head of the family. With very rare exceptions, the heir was a natural son of the father. Adoption, as a rule, was only applied to one’s own offspring. And, in fact, in the Biblical sense, God only “adopts”, or, “recognizes as heirs”, those who have already been born as his children. No one else is eligible. (Remember, back in verse 9, he said if you do not have the Holy Spirit, you are simply not his.)

No “Universal Fatherhood of God”

Here’s something else to consider: we were not children of God before being born of God. (How can I say such a thing? Aren’t all people the children of God? Everyone assures us that this is the case.) Well…not everyone! Jesus told the Jews of His time (who called themselves the children of God) that they were not the children of God, but of Satan! He said (John 8:44) “Ye are of your father, the Devil!” That is pretty strong language! But Paul echoes it in Ephesians 2:2, 3, saying that we were “the children of disobedience”, and that we were “by nature the children of wrath, even as others”. The Bible does not teach the “universal brotherhood of man”, nor, most emphatically, the “Universal Fatherhood of God” Those are pious-sounding falsehoods taught by false teachers, to blur the perception of our need for redemption. Jesus said “Ye must be born again!” and “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” We have a terrible need, with terrible consequences for failure to meet that need.

All the “predestination” passages we can read are only true of us because we have been born again. We are now predestined to become like God. We are now predestined to be glorified as the heirs of God. We are literally His children, and (though it is not always readily apparent in this life) we are joint-heirs with Jesus. I am told that the word “joint-heir” is a legal specification, and is different than “co-heir.” I was a “co-heir” with my brother and sister. All the inheritance from my Mother was divided equally between us. But being a joint-heir means that all the inheritance in Christ is equally mine…not to be divided. All that the Father has given to Jesus is mine in Him. That is the advantage of being a “joint-heir.”

In terms of “glory” and “rewards,” though, it is apparent that equality is not the norm. When “awards ceremonies” occur in school sports programs, not every player gets the same awards. But: every player has the recognition of having participated. They were on the team.

1st Corinthians 3:10-15 makes it clear that not everything we build into our lives will stand the test of the “refiner’s fire.” Much of what we count valuable will simply burn away, leaving only what was done in us by the Holy Spirit as having lasting value. There is a bit of a rhyme, saying:

            Only one life; ‘twill soon be past! Only what’s done for Christ will last!

Our salvation is never at risk: That is definitely something the Holy Spirit has done in us. But our reward and eternal honor may very well be endangered by sloppy living as servants of God.

What About Suffering?

“…We suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

The Biblical word “suffering” does not mean “pain”, necessarily: it means “allowing Jesus to do in us the work He needs to do.” When Jesus came to John the Baptist, and John hesitated to baptize Him, Jesus said “Suffer it to be so for now…” The meaning, of course, was “submit to this: allow it to be the way I say.” We are to allow in our lives the things God decrees, and accept them as a way of glorifying The Savior…willingly accepting the burdens He assigns, and glorifying Him in them. Paul says,

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

We do already have the first-fruits of the Spirit (because He lives in us), but we are waiting for the “Placement of Sons”—the “adoption”—which will only occur when we get our new bodies.

19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature
[creation] itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body
.

The reason the whole earth is waiting for that day, is because, from earthly perspective, it will occur at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom: When Jesus finally reigns on Earth the curse will be lifted. Peace will reign for the first time since the fall of man. Predators will become herbivores. That’s what we will see the “leopard lying down with the calf,” and the “lion eating straw like an ox,” etc. We will receive our new bodies at the beginning of the tribulation, or thereabouts, actually, as far as I can tell, but the tribulation is anything but peaceful. The world will see the heirs of God for the first time at the beginning of the Millennium.

Therefore, in this life, we go ahead and suffer, to varying degrees. Philippians 1:29 says “for unto you it is given on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on His name, but also to suffer for His sake.” In this country we have had a pretty easy time, whether we recognize it or not. But all believers, wherever we live, are looking forward to the same Blessed Hope. We are hoping to see the return of the Bridegroom, and we lift our heads expectantly, trusting in His Word, as opposed to our own eyes or public opinion. We see the increasing ruin around us as a symptom of the approaching Day of the Lord, and we hope more strongly in His imminent return.

24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

And we don’t wait alone: we are not left to our own devices: we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead. We can count on Him to know what is really best, and to pray for us and with us as we struggle to walk with God. Paul says,

26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Notice that it does not say “groanings which cannot be uttered in English”. It says “…cannot be uttered!” There are people who attempt to use this passage as a justification for “tongues” being used as a prayer language: Sorry, but, that is not what it says. The Holy Spirit knows the real needs in our lives, and He prays accordingly. I am honest enough with myself to admit that I frequently don’t even know what to pray. This passage confirms it, and tells me that it’s OK: God the Holy Spirit does know, and He takes over and gets the message across. I don’t hear it, or see it, and it does not result in my speaking in some other language. It is the Spirit of God, interceding before the Throne of God, on behalf of a Child of God. And he identifies those children—all of them—as Saints. That’s pretty deep stuff. God declares that you are Holy before Him, and set apart for His Service. Take that seriously, please! It is a precious truth.

Conclusion

What can we do with all this? Perhaps the only result of this teaching is that, as believers, we may accept the truth that we have each individually been “born from above” as the literal children of God, through faith in His shed blood. We have been created anew in His likeness, and we should expect to begin seeing His attributes in our lives. We should expect to resemble our Father. He says we are already holy to Him, and we are each, individually, called to His service.

We are frustrated, as was Paul, by the sin that still so easily besets us, but we can recognize that God has made a separation between ourselves and that old “Sin nature”: He is no longer concerned with it. He wants our new nature to come walk with Him, and learn His ways.

We can trust in God’s Holy Spirit to continue to lead us, and comfort us as we struggle and learn, and as we are grieved by the sin in ourselves and in the World. But we can also live in Hope, looking forward to our final release, relief and reward, in Him.

Lord Jesus, make real in our hearts the truth of Your Word, and teach us to live by faith. We look to You, moment by moment, for our strength and sustenance, as we live by faith in Your Name.

What Do We Know About Death?

What Do We Know About Death?

© C. O. Bishop 10/13/15 THCF 10/18/15

Romans 5:12.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Introduction:

We have already seen our old condition and our old position as lost sinners, separated from God; and we have seen how God saved us. We already have seen that we were once enemies of God by nature: But how did we get that way? How did the world get to be such a mess?

We can see the beauty of the creation in the world around us, but there is a cruel reality hidden in all that beauty: virtually every living thing depends on the death of some other living thing, in order to survive. In fact, with the exception of green plants, which are capable of photosynthesis, thus making food from sunlight and water and mineral nutrients, all living things are utterly dependent upon the death of others to survive; in fact, even those green plants grow better with some dead things under their roots. And there are even carnivorous plants, which, though they can carry out photosynthesis, still consume insects as part of their diet.

Death is simply a stark reality for every living thing. Everything dies. We try to avoid death as long as possible, clinging to life, calling it self-preservation: in fact, every living thing strives for self-preservation, some more vitally than others. There are some plants, which, if cut off, both the root and the upper plant will die—neither can survive without the other, and neither can regenerate the lost part. Others may spring up from the roots, but the upper part, once severed, will die. Still others will aggressively seek to create roots, if they can reach the ground.

Years ago, I was given some willow logs, with which to make violin blocks and linings. A large limb had fallen during a storm, and the homeowners were happy to have me take it away. I didn’t have time to process it immediately, so I cut it into sections a few feet long, and tossed it on the ground, near my shop, expecting to get back to it soon. This was not a pile of green twigs; it was heavy sections of log, perhaps 10-12” in diameter, with rough, thick bark. But a few weeks later I noticed that it looked as though grass was growing all over those logs, so I went to see what it was. Every square inch of the upper half of each log, exposed to air and sun, had sprouted tiny willow leaves, processing sunlight and water. And when I turned the log sections over, the whole underside of each was covered with white roots, reaching for the soil. That is real vitality! The plant was doing its best to survive the twin catastrophes of the storm and my chainsaw.

But, if life is so precious, and if every living thing strives to stay alive, how did death come into the world? And why? Perhaps we need to answer some general questions concerning death, before addressing the specifics:

What is Death?

 

What is Death? (And what is it not?)

We have seen earlier, that spiritual death is the separation of the human spirit from God, and that physical death is the separation of the human spirit from the body. That is a nice, clinical definition, but it doesn’t really answer all the questions surrounding death. Besides, there is a third kind of Death, called “the second death”: it is eternal separation from God in eternal judgment, in the Lake of Fire. We don’t like talking about that, or even thinking about it, but that is separation, too…of the permanent sort. Now, let’s consider what Death is not:

  1. Death is not “cessation of existence.” We tend to see death as the “cessation of life”…and in some sense, that is true…but in reality, the human spirit does not cease to live, any more than the angelic spirits cease to live. They, like we, are created beings, and, like them, we have a beginning point somewhere in time, but no real end…just a destination in eternity. We have a choice about that destination…they did, too. Some chose to rebel, and are eternally separated from God. Everything that was good in them withered away, leaving only the sin. We call them fallen angels, evil spirits, or demons. They were not offered the grace of God, because they sinned while knowing God face to face. We sin ignorantly, never having seen God, and knowing virtually nothing about Him. That does not relieve us from responsibility; it only makes us eligible for God’s Grace, if we choose to accept it. Grace is a gift from God. It cannot be earned, and is never “deserved”. But it can be actively sought, and willingly received.

 

  1. Death is also not “natural”. It was not God’s original intent, nor was it a necessary part of the “cycle of life”, as the popular saying is today. We were created to be with God and like God throughout eternity, in fellowship with Him. Our real nature is eternal…and we can choose to be eternally with God, transformed into His likeness; or we can choose to flee from God, deny His existence, or even to actively, deliberately rebel against Him, maintaining our separation at all cost: and that can become our eternal state—separated from God.

 

  1. Death is not a “friend”. 1st Corinthians 15:26 says Death is the last enemy that God will destroy. But, for us, Death is a powerless enemy: God says “Death has lost its sting.” For believers, Death is “graduation day”…we leave our body and go directly to be with Him. The Grave has no victory over the believer’s life. We do not go down to “dusty death”, as Shakespeare wrote. Death, for us, is a shadow, at worst. Psalm 23 speaks of “walking through the valley of the shadow of death”…Notice: walking (not “falling”) through (not “into”) the valley (not “the pit”) of the shadow (not the “harsh reality”) of death. Death is not a friend, nor is it comfortable, but it has lost its ability to harm the believer.

So: How did Death Begin?

Romans 5:12 is a critical doctrine because it clears up several errors in human thinking:

For one thing, there are folk who believe that there was an earlier creation in scripture, before the one detailed in chapters one and two of Genesis, and that it was destroyed by God. They claim that to be the origin of all the fossils. They use this notion to try to reconcile what they think is scientific evidence with what seems to be scripturally obscure truths. They are saying that there was once a whole world of animals and people that all died before Adam was created, and that world was destroyed, so that the Creation we read about in Genesis 1:1-3 is a “start-over” rather than a real “Beginning”. But, if that were so, then Romans 5:12 is not true. Do you see why?

Romans 5:12 states unequivocally that Death came into the world through the sin of one man…Adam. That one man, a created individual (with no parents, just a Creator), was given the authority to make a decision, in Genesis 2:17—he was told that he must not eat the fruit of a certain tree, and that if he did so, then he would die on that day. He did eat, and he died spiritually that very moment—fellowship between God and Man was broken…Man was spiritually separated from God. Later, his spirit was separated from his body, as well, which is what we call physical death.

I am reasonably certain that he did not understand (nor do we) the incredibly diverse and horrible results that would spring from his decision to disobey. The whole human race was plunged into sin, and Death entered the world, as a part of the curse. Prior to the curse, there was evidently no necessity for death at all.

But, how could all the death that supposedly happened in the destruction of the earlier creation have occurred, if there was no death in the world until Adam’s sin? The two ideas cannot be reconciled. There either was death before Adam, or there was not. There cannot be a world full of dead things, and the fossils of dead things, etc., and never have been any death.

But: if the “old world” that was overthrown in 2nd Peter 2:5 was specifically, and simply, the world before the flood (which is exactly what it says it was), then it all makes sense—and the fossils everywhere are the result of that cataclysm, not a separate, much older creation.

As a race, we are far too anxious to try to “reconcile the Bible” to modern science. Why should we do so at all? Why not do the reverse? Recognize that God is true and every man a liar by nature, then try to reconcile the science to the Bible. The people who study geology and paleontology with that idea in mind consistently discover that the Genesis Flood answers the questions of the Geologic Clock very satisfactorily. People who go with the reverse in mind have already decided the Bible is not true, and are looking for “proof”, so of course, they will find it.

There will always be those who reject the account of the Genesis flood out of hand, but, as a rule, those same individuals consistently reject ALL Biblical truth as fable. Unfortunately, the fact is that a “natural, random-chance, evolutionary, Mother Nature and Father Time” world-view and the Biblical Creation view, with a sovereign God and a fallen Creation are mutually exclusive. They cannot both be true…they could both be false, or the first could be true and the second fable or the first a lie and the second the truth. But they cannot both be true. You have to choose.  It has never been a case of the “geologic clock” lying…it has only been a case of people consistently (and/or deliberately) misreading the “clock.”

Why did Death happen?

One thing we find out in Ephesians 3:10, 11 is that God had a purpose when he began the creation…actually, probably several purposes; but one thing we are told is that the entire “human experiment”, for lack of better term, is specifically intended to demonstrate the manifold Wisdom of God to the angelic hosts, for all eternity, and (Ephesians 2:7), throughout eternity,  to show the riches of God’s Grace to all created beings, in his kindness toward us through Christ.

Perhaps to some folk that won’t mean much, but it did, to me. Knowing that God is using my life to demonstrate His own Wisdom to the angelic beings all over the universe makes all my inept muddlings seem a little more worthwhile. It seems to somehow add some eternal purpose to life.

We see the tragedies in life, and they are very difficult to reconcile with what we know as the Goodness of God. But we are less than toddlers, in terms of comprehension: we have no idea what is really going on in life. The harder things get on this Earth, the more important it becomes to know the God who holds the future, and to not lean to our own understanding, desperately hoping that we can somehow stave off disaster.  God clearly says that disaster is coming. For example, we are commanded to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem”, and yet we are told that at the end, when Jesus returns, Jerusalem will be under siege as never before, and ready to be destroyed, overrun by its enemies.

We are commanded to spread the Good News of the death and burial and resurrection of Christ—the Gospel of salvation through His blood…but we are also told that few will believe it, and that the majority will choose to ignore the message or attack the messengers.

We can see, both scripturally and experientially, that the World, as a whole, is an Enemy of the God who created it. We can see that things have not improved over the ages—that the crucifixion would be just as likely today as it was 2000 years ago.

The coming Judgment is completely just and righteous…as a race, we deserve the coming destruction. As a race, we have emulated the sin of Adam, and followed in the steps of Cain, Esau, and Balaam. And, true to form, sin never affects only the sinner—there are always those who suffer the consequences of our sins, who were not the perpetrators…collateral damage, if you want to call them that. Our children, though guilty of their own sins, will also suffer the results of ours. A drunk driver doesn’t destroy only himself, but people in other cars, or pedestrians, or his own children, who are in his car and are destroyed with him. This is an eternal principle: while no one is punished for someone else’s sin, we are all affected by it.

The fact of the matter is that, spiritually speaking, the whole race was “in Adam” when he chose to sin. We all sinned with him. We didn’t just inherit his sin nature; we fell into sin with him, and have proven it on an individual basis, ever since. “Death passed upon all for that all have sinned.”  Notice that the sentence is past tense: “…for all have sinned….” It does not say (present tense) “for all sin…”, though that is also true. The fact is, we sinned with him. But, what else can we learn from this passage? (There is a good side to this story:)

It was Adam, not Eve!

The other (less important in some ways, but still common and destructive) doctrine unseated by Romans 5:12 is the idea that Eve brought sin into the world: She absolutely did not. Was she involved? She absolutely was. But did she have the authority to make a decision for the whole human race? No! Only Adam had that authority. This passage, along with others, states clearly that Adam’s sin, not Eve’s, brought the destruction we see around us. (So don’t blame women!)

In fact, if we go back and read the record in Genesis 3:1-7, we see that nothing at all happened until Adam ate the fruit. It does not say that Eve sinned, and ran off to cover her nakedness with leaves, and then Adam followed her example. It says that after Adam ate, “then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they saw that they were naked”…etc. Why is this important?

Two Races of Man: “In Adam”, and “In Christ”

Perhaps it is a small point, to some, but Adam became the father of a fallen race—the whole human race. It was strictly his doing that brought about the fall. The theological term for this idea is called the doctrine of “Federal Headship.” Adam is the “Federal Head” of our fallen race. Jesus eventually headed up a new Man. The old Man is fallen: the New Man is not. So those who are born again through Christ are part of that “new Man”. And the new man did not come through the old man, but through the Woman.

The woman was physically separated from man before the fall…and, though she was affected by the fall, and involved in the fall, the “Seed of Woman” (from Genesis 3:15) was to be the Savior of the World. I don’t know whether that connection is theologically important, but it is there, and it seems worth pointing out. Jesus, as the only human without a human father—truly virgin-born—is the “Seed of Woman”, in the fullest sense.

In 1st Corinthians 15:22, the distinction between the two races is made clear: “all in Adam died…all in Christ shall be made alive.” The issue of position—location—is before us again. There are two possible positions for a human: to be still “in Adam”, where they were born, or, having been born again (also called “born from above”), to be “in Christ”. If they are in Adam, they are still dead in their sins, and separated from God: if they have been born again as a child of God, they are “in Christ” and alive forever. That is a pretty sharp separation, there! It is literally the difference between life and death.

What about You?

If you have chosen Jesus as the blood-sacrifice for your personal sin, and placed your faith in His finished work at the Cross, then you are “in Christ”. The facts of Romans 5:12, though completely true in you, have also been set aside forever. God has imputed to you the righteousness of Christ, you are sealed in Him, and you will spend eternity with Him.

If you have doubts about where you stand with God, please speak to anyone here in the church. The Scripture is abundantly clear: you do not have to wait until you die to find out whether you have eternal life: You can know today.

Jesus said, “He that hears my Word, and Believes on Him who sent me, HAS everlasting life!” You can choose to place your trust in His blood this moment, and know that you have eternal life, because He promises that it is so.

Please choose life!

Lord Jesus, give us Your Grace for salvation; Your Grace for living; and Your Grace for day by day Service: for the sake of your Glory. Amen