Posts Tagged ‘security of the believer’

Don’t Miss Out on God’s Rest

Don’t Miss Out on God’s Rest

© C. O. Bishop 3/10/17 THCF 3/12/17

Hebrews 3:1-13

Introduction:

1Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

Perhaps the first thing we need to do is look at the significance of some of the words used, here: It is interesting to me that the writer addresses his audience as “Holy Brethren”.  “Holy” means set apart for God’s purpose. We are no longer slaves to sin, but neither are we our own masters: we are not free agents but, rather, we are ambassadors for a Holy God. We have a job to do: we are to be about His business.

What about the word “brethren?” It just means brothers, of course…The writer was a Jew, and he spoke to other Jews, so, it is possible that he used the word “brethren” only in that regard, but it seems doubtful. They were familiar with that use, of course, but this goes a little deeper. All those who have placed their trust in Jesus as their savior have become brothers in Christ. I think that meaning more closely follows the intent of the book. Furthermore, it supports the concept that this book is to all believers, even though the primary audience was the Jewish believers of the first century church (pre-AD 70.)

He says that we have been made partakers of the “Heavenly Calling”. Give that one some thought: in what way are you a partaker of the heavenly calling? Is that a reality in your life? In Romans 8:29, 30 Paul makes it clear that every single believer is called to God’s service…how are you responding to that heavenly call? Perhaps this will require some soul-searching…. In my own case, I have to ask, do I spend more time concerned with the things of God, or am I primarily interested in my own things…my own needs and interests? Something to think about.

Apostle” means “sent one”. Jesus was sent by God to do a specific job—to offer himself to God as full payment for the sins of humanity. He completely fulfilled all the prophecies concerning himself, some over which he would have zero control if he were not God incarnate, though some people have argued that he artificially engineered the “fulfillments.” Many were utterly outside his control as a human. He was God in the flesh, fulfilling His OWN Word. He could literally pick his place of birth, his parentage, etc. He was sent to do the will of God, the Father and he fed on that reality. He said “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.” (John 4:34)

The “High Priest” was the only one who could enter the holy of holies, with a sacrifice for the nation, and approach the throne of God. And he could only do so once a year. Jesus is the High Priest upon whom our lives depend. Either his sacrifice, presented before that Holy God, is sufficient, or we are forever lost. The writer is telling us to give this some thought…consider who we are dealing with. Jesus carried out his ministry with absolutely flawless faithfulness. Then the writer compared the person of Christ to Moses, who was also faithful:

Jesus is better than Moses

Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.

Moses was also called faithful. But he was part of the creation, while Jesus was the creator, thus worthy of greater honor.

For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.

For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. 

A further point is made, that, relationally, Moses was still a servant. Jesus is the only begotten Son: the heir of all things, as well as the creator of all things. He is literally “God in the flesh”.

And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;

But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

 So, as sons of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus, we are encouraged to not lose sight of who we are in Christ: part of the household of God. And, he exhorts those who are dabblers, still uncommitted, to make a decision before it is too late. For every opportunity, there is a closing date: a “pull-date”—a time after which the offer is no longer valid. And, to all who play games with the Gospel, claiming faith, but never committing themselves, he warns that the result can be eternal loss. He uses Israel as an example, saying that unbelief is why the first generation, who left Egypt with Moses, failed to enter into the land. (Notice, here, that the land was not a picture of salvation. It was a picture of the rest-relationship with God. They had already been under the blood of the Passover, by faith; and they had already been through the Red Sea, again by faith. But when they balked at entering the land, he said, “Fine, then: you can’t go in.” So, in spite of the fact that they were saved by faith, they lost their opportunity to enter into the joy of that relationship, because of unbelief.)

The Second Warning: “Harden Not your Hearts”

Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,

Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:

When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.

There seem to be fairly harsh warnings throughout the book of Hebrews…and while some might be simple warnings against failing to enter into the rest relationship, others are clearly warning against eternal perdition…being lost forever. Since that has already been ruled out for the child of God, one must read more carefully, and then we can see that some of those who originally received this epistle had never committed themselves to the sacrifice of Christ, but were simply “along for the ride”, thinking that, “if it doesn’t work out, I can always return to the Mosaic Law, the Levitical priesthood, and the sacrifices thereof.”  But, since the real sacrifice now has been made, the earlier ones which were only pictures of the coming Lamb of God, no longer have any validity. There is nothing left, to which they could go back…it is just an empty shell, now.

While we, as believers should take to heart the warnings of this book, we need to see that the sternest warnings, here, are to those who have failed to place their full trust in the blood of Jesus at the Cross. There is no threat of a believer losing his or her salvation. We are secure in Him. But those who pretend faith are not only not secure, they are in special danger as having “neglected so great a salvation”, and having “hardened their hearts” (the first two warnings.)

10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.

11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)

Notice that is says “they have not known my ways”…not that they once knew them and simply slid back into their old ways. This is a critical difference. To those who are lost at the Judgment of the Living Nations (Matthew 25:31, ff ), Jesus says. “…I never knew you.” It is possible for a believer to continually live in the flesh and never learn the “ways of God”. But it is not possible for God to address a true believer and say, “I never knew you.”

Seven Rests from the Word of God:

(So, what is the “Rest” offered here?)

There are at least seven “rests” mentioned in scripture:

  1. The rest of God himself after the Creation,
  2. The rest offered to Israel in the land of Canaan,
    • The rest given to the next generation of Israel in the land of Canaan,
  3. The rest demanded for the Land
  4. The rest offered to Ruth in the book of Ruth,
  5. The rest Jesus offered to unbelievers, “Come unto me and I will give you rest,
  6. The rest Jesus offered to believers, “Ye shall find rest unto your soul…”
    • The rest God offers for the believer in Christ’s labor and rest, today.
  7. Eternal rest in Heaven.

Some of these are very similar, and I will not try to “surgically” separate them, but some are very different, and God says so. Those I will attempt to explain:

  1. When God rested after completing the creation, it was not because he was tired. The word used is “Shabbat”…from which we get the transliterated word, “Sabbath”. It means to cease from our usual labor, or from labor in general. It means “rest”, in the sense that we mean when we say “give it a rest!” (Stop doing that, now…)
  1. God offered rest to his people in the land of Canaan: They were already believers, having trusted in the blood of the Passover, and having passed through the Red Sea under the cloud of God’s presence. But they were offered “rest” in Canaan. Rest (in the sense of “relief”) from persecution, rest from poverty, rest from the desert. It was a picture of the Rest in Christ, to which the New Testament believer is invited. As demonstrated in their lives, it is entirely possible for a believer to miss out on that rest. The next generation entered into Canaan, but we see in subsequent passages (Psalm 95) that there still remained a “rest” for believers to embrace—Canaan itself was not the promised rest…it was only a picture of the promised “rest.”
  1. God demanded “rest” for the land. The land was to be left fallow every seventh year, and allowed time to regenerate. Israel did not follow this command, and, after 490 years of disobedience in this regard, were cast out of the land for 70 years, to make up for the 70 missed “Sabbaths” of the land. Interesting fact.
  1. Ruth was offered “rest” by Naomi. Ruth was working to support herself and Naomi, by gleaning in the fields. She had no security, as a stranger to Israel, and there were no “social services” offered. A widow, especially a foreign-born widow, did not have much hope in that society. (Their “welfare system” was limited to the gleaner’s rights.) But, she had placed her trust in the God of Israel (Boaz said so, supplementing her own statement of “Thy God shall be my God.”), and Naomi asked whether she might seek “rest” for Ruth, in the form of marriage, so that she had some security. The remainder of that story is as fine a holy romance as one can read. That was “rest,” in the form of security and blessing.
  1. Jesus offered two “rests”, in Matthew 11:28-30. The first was offered to those who labored and were heavily laden (unbelievers). He said “Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” This is the rest that is conferred upon us in salvation: it is a free gift.
  1. The second is different: He said “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. This “rest” is not a free gift; it is a product of an obedient relationship with the Savior. It comes as a result of walking with Jesus. “Ye shall find rest unto your souls.” It is only available to saved people, but not all saved people experience it. This is the primary “rest” discussed in Hebrews 3:7—4:11, although the “rest” involved in salvation is also alluded to. (In similar fashion, peace with God is a reality for all believers (Romans 5:1), but the Peace of God is offered on the conditions of faith and obedience. (Philippians 4:6,7)
  1. The final rest offered in the eternal state is described in numerous places in scripture, but notably in Revelation 22:1-3. “…no more curse”. We yearn for that final rest, and it is guaranteed to us: but we can experience God’s Rest in this life as well.

Departing from the Living God.

12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

Is it possible for a believer to “depart from the living God?” In the same sense that the Prodigal Son left his father, yes, it is possible. But it is important to remember that all the time the Son was on the road, going or coming, he was a son. All the time he was feeding those pigs, and wishing he could eat their food, he was a son. And had he died there, he would have been a dead son: not a dead pig! His human father did not know where he was, so, from his perspective, he was dead…they were separated. (Death always is a separation of some sort, in scripture.)

But when he woke up and realized his own folly, he headed back to his father’s house. His Father saw him coming, and without hesitation, ran to meet him. He confessed his folly, and fellowship was instantly restored. The consequences of his sin remained…he was penniless. The remainder of the father’s fortune was still going to the elder son.

But his position as a son had never changed. Only his condition had changed. We see similar results in a Church-age believer’s life, in 1st Corinthians 3:10-15. There are those whose life-work will be lost, because it is entirely of a temporal nature (having no eternal value), but who will still be saved, themselves, though as one escaping through flames.

13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

On the other hand, let’s consider the alternative: were there people who lived in Egypt, and saw the plagues, who were impressed enough to obey Moses, and sacrifice a lamb? And who ate of that lamb, and followed Moses out of Egypt? Even followed him through the Red Sea? And, were terrified at Sinai, hearing the trumpets and voices, and seeing the smoke? And ate of the manna, daily, but somehow still never placed their trust in the living God? I have no way to know for sure, but my experience with churches today tells me it is entirely possible that there were people at that time, as well, who went through all the motions, but never knew, nor desired to know the living God as their savior and God. How can we know this?

During the Earthly ministry of Christ, there was one for sure (Judas), and likely others, who saw all the miracles, heard all the teaching, and ate the loaves and fishes, etc., but who never believed. (Definitely true of Judas!) And, during the Church age there have been many who attended church all their lives, sang the songs, prayed the prayers, took communion, listened to the preaching, and in many cases, went into the ministry themselves, but never believed the Gospel. I have met some of them. Peter warned against them (2nd Peter 2).

I have known some believers whose spoken testimony confirmed that for years they “played along”, living like a believer, but knowing, all the time, that they were living a lie. At some point they realized the deadly danger they were in and repented: they changed their mind about the pretense they were maintaining. From that point on, their perspective had changed.

There are others who pressed on with their smug self-will, certain that they were leaders of the blind, and that all these “sheep” were simply misguided fools. I have known pastors who outwardly seemed model Christians, but who eventually confessed that they did not believe the Bible. I cannot explain that, but it is true…and, from testimonies I have heard, it is not even all that uncommon.

The Deceitfulness of Sin:

Notice it says that their hearts were hardened “through the deceitfulness of sin”. Why is the sin called deceitful, rather than the sinner, in this passage? Because the sinner is being deceived by their own sin nature. Jeremiah 17:9 states that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”. The blood-circulating pump that is the physical heart is not the issue. That one either pumps blood or it doesn’t. The deceitful “heart” in Jeremiah is the old sin nature of the New Testament. This is the “evil heart of unbelief” warned against in verse 12.

God seldom uses the word “heart” to refer to the pump—he uses the word to denote the seat of emotions and intellect—the soulish part of the human trichotomy. We are a three-part being: body, soul and spirit. And the human psyche or soul, is contaminated with sin. (The Greek word is “psuche”…that is where we get our word “psyche.”)

Your old nature doesn’t “go away” when you become a believer. In fact, it is frequently referred to as “the flesh”, just as the soul is sometimes referred to as the heart. But you were given a new nature. That is why Jesus called it being “born again”. You have a new nature. That new nature is completely holy, just as this passage suggests, and it is truly “made in the image of God” in righteousness, as well as true holiness. (Ephesians 4:24) That is one reason I can say with assurance, that, if you have been born again, this passage is to you! The book of Hebrews is for you, as a believer. The seven warnings are to a specific group spelled out in the book: those who have not been born again, but who are pretending faith. But, to the believers, he addresses you as “Holy Brethren!”

However, because you are a believer, you need to especially be aware that your old nature is still extremely deceitful. You have had all your life to practice “listening to your heart”, as we are so often told to do. We have to deliberately practice listening to God instead of our hearts. People say “Your heart won’t lead you wrong!” But, in fact, the opposite is true. We have to constantly soak ourselves in God’s Word, so that we are less likely to be drawn away by our old sin nature.

Conclusion:

There are four things we should be able to “take away with us,” here:

  1. If you have been born again, God counts you as holy, and righteous, and as His child.
  2. If you have been born again, you have a job to do…a heavenly calling: you are God’s ambassador.
  3. If you have been born again, there is a rest you are invited to enjoy, and warned not to miss out on.
  4. If you have been born again, you have two natures, and one of them (the old one) is very deceitful. There is a war going on, and the enemy’s best weapon against us is that old sin nature…our deceitful hearts.

So…what do we do about it? We choose daily to walk with God, and saturate ourselves with His Word, so as to minimize the effect of our old nature. We pray, we worship, we fellowship with other believers around the person of Christ. We pray for and look for opportunities to do our jobs as ambassadors of God. We study to equip ourselves for that work, and keep our testimony clean so as not to be disqualified for service. All this we do under God’s Grace and under the guidance of His Holy Spirit, who indwells us and keeps us through all our lives.

Lord Jesus give us the Grace to continually walk with you and not to miss out on your daily blessings through sin and inattention to our jobs. Teach us to live in such a way as to draw others to you, not drive them away. Teach us to rest in you. Amen


Hebrews Chapter 2: First Warning

Hebrews Chapter Two: the first of Seven Warnings

© C. O. Bishop 1/22/17; THCF 1/29/17

Hebrews 2:1-4; Genesis 6:14-22

Introduction:

As we mentioned in the past weeks, along with the many exhortations to genuine believers, and the seven comparisons that are made to demonstrate that “Jesus is Better”, there are seven warnings given throughout the epistle to the Hebrews, which are directed specifically to those who are “along for the ride”, but have not received the Messiah as their savior. They aren’t sure, perhaps, or at least, are not committed.

There are many teachers who attempt to make this a warning to believers against losing the eternal life they now possess. The obvious problem with that is that if that “Eternal Life” is really eternal, then it cannot cease; so the only person who can “lose” eternal life, is one who never possessed it to begin with.

I hope to demonstrate what the warning really is, and to whom it really applies. Interpretation has to precede application; so, before we can rightly apply God’s Word to our lives, we need to understand what it actually says. In chapter two, here, we see the first of the seven warnings to the uncommitted; to the “dabblers”.

Don’t let the Message “Slip” Away from You

Hebrews 2:

1Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

Given our exalted position in Christ, (provided we have actually crossed over into His life… John 5:24 says that we have crossed over from death into life) and, given the fact that Jesus really is superior in every way to the messengers who were sent to the patriarchs, it behooves us to give special attention to His Word. That is true for all believers…but the “warning” included here is not to believers. This is the beginning of the first warning in the book of Hebrews.

All of the Epistle is to the Hebrew “professing believers” of the Apostolic Age, but among them were evidently (as today) people who, while they professed faith, had never actually placed their faith in Christ as their only hope. They still were “half-in, and half-out”, feeling that they still had the option to go back to Judaism “if things don’t work out”, or if they changed their mind.  (The intended audience becomes increasingly apparent, as the warnings intensify.)

This sort of thing is common today among Gentiles, as well, because people “go along” with a church; perhaps, just to “see how things go”.

There are several problems with that approach:

  1. Ultimately, a person who is “half-in” is not in at all.
  2. An unsigned contract is completely invalid. A signed contract is completely binding.
  3. If you put on a uniform, it does not make you part of the armed forces…and if you take it off it does not get you out. In the same way, acting like a believer does not make you a child of God, nor does failing to act like one take you out of God’s family.
  4. The unseen danger is that when one “acts like a Christian”, one can convince oneself that he or she is “just as good as any other person”, and conclude that they are in a secure position because of their works. No one is saved by works. Saving faith produces works, but the works do not produce the relationship vital to salvation.

So, the warnings in the book of Hebrews are specifically to those who have known the truth, but have neglected to do anything about it: they are “dabblers”—dilettantes—those flirting with God, so to speak, but not realizing their own lostness. They are repeatedly warned to not fall short of saving faith.

I have “direct-deposit” for most of my pay, at work; a void “pay-check” is still given to me, every payday, including all the appropriate information regarding taxes, other withholdings, and employer contributions, etc., but it is non-negotiable—the money is already in my checking account, so the paper is only a notification. On the occasions, however, when a bonus is paid (which is not part of our hourly wages), it is not done by direct deposit: the check they give me is a live, valid paycheck, and I have to go deposit it myself. I have to take special care that I don’t lose that check. If I don’t get it endorsed and deposited, it will be worthless to me, though the payment was made to me in good faith. If I let the check “slip” into a drawer, or out of my pocket into the trash, I have lost a large sum of money that would have had real worth to my wife and to me.

We can do the same with the message of salvation. Jesus has “written a check”, so to speak, in the amount of “Eternal Life”, and signed it with His own blood, at the Cross. It is made out to “Whosoever Believeth in Him.” Each recipient is required to “endorse” that check by Faith. God then “deposits” Eternal life and, in addition, the righteousness of Christ, to the believer’s account. (In the Scriptures, this is called imputation. Abraham believed God, and God “imputed” righteousness to Abraham. We studied about this in Romans chapter four.)

When we say, “Well, I’ll think about that,” or “I’m just not ready for that, yet,” then we acknowledge that we heard the message, but that, at least temporarily, we are choosing to reject both the message and the gift…and, consequently, the Giver. The check remains un-endorsed, and the transaction is incomplete. The writer warns to not let that happen.

Don’t Neglect the Gift

For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;

How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;

The issue here is not about “neglecting” a plant, so that it finally withers and dies, but neglecting a message—neglecting to respond to that message. In any human organization, there will be people who are “along for the ride,” but not committed to the cause, so to speak. The military calls them “weekend warriors.” In any local assembly, it is possible for people to fool one another, and there will always be those who secretly feel that “I’ve always been a Christian! I’m certainly just as good as anyone else here!” They are fooling themselves and others, but not God.

That sort of thing is possible at a local level, and a horizontal level: human to human. We can fool people. In the Body of Christ at large, however, only God is keeping the records, and it is impossible to fool God; He knows each heart. He warns against such duplicity, and lets those people know that they can wait too long…that, if they are not “on the Ark when the door closes”, they will be lost, along with the world. He warns them to not miss out.

Don’t Miss the Boat!

In Genesis 6:14-22 we see a very peculiar foreshadowing of Jesus the Messiah. (Read it.) That Ark, which Noah built, parallels the person and work of Jesus in several ways:

  1. The Ark was built according to God’s instructions
    1. (Jesus fulfilled God’s prophecies to the letter.)
  2. The Ark was built to endure. (Those animals and people were in there for over a year!)
    1. (Jesus’s ministry and work is permanent.)
  3. The Ark was big enough to accommodate all that would be in it.
    1. (Jesus shed his blood for all.)
  4. God knew who was going to be in the Ark …but they entered by choice.
    1. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, and invites all to come to Him, but he knows from eternity past the ones who will respond in faith.
  5. The Ark withstood the flood of judgment and rose above the judgment.
    1. (Jesus bore the judgment for our sins at the Cross and rose from the dead.)
  6. The Ark had only one window, looking up. Noah could not see where he was going.
    1. (Our only information regarding our future is with God. We can only look up.)
  7. The Ark was coated inside and out, so as to be impervious to both the water outside and the filth inside. (What do you think those animals were doing during that year?)
    1. (Jesus was impervious to the Judgment and also is not affected by our unrighteousness. Our sin cannot sabotage God’s Grace.)
  8. The Ark had no sail, oars, nor rudder. Noah was utterly dependent upon God as to the outcome.
    1. (We have no means by which to control our eternal destiny. We have to trust God.)
  9. The Ark had only one door; only one way in or out…and God closed and opened the door. Noah couldn’t close it, and Noah couldn’t open it. God closed and opened it.
    1. (We have only one entrance into God’s Grace, by faith, and He says He will never lose us, nor leave us.)
  10. Everyone inside the Ark was safe…not necessarily comfortable, but definitely safe. Everyone outside the Ark was lost: regardless of age, health, intelligence, or even morals: they were lost because they were outside the Ark.
    1. All in Christ are safe…regardless of works or any other issues. All outside Christ are lost, because they have not believed in Jesus. (John 3:18)

When we read all that the scriptures have to say about Noah, we find that he spent 120 years building the Ark…and that he was a preacher of righteousness. We assume, then, that those around him had heard the warnings. They knew the purpose of the Ark, and the reason for the coming judgment.

They may have believed that he was just a smelly old man with odd ideas about life, and may have thought, “Well, I’m obviously a better man than you are, buddy! If God is in the business of “saving people”, He’d choose me over you!” Or, it is possible that they actually heard and considered the call Noah made, but ultimately put it off too long. One way or another, we are told that Noah had no control over the door. Only God could close it, and only God could open it.

The only choice Noah and his family really had was whether to get aboard. They did, and the rest is history. Once God closed the door, the only comparison that mattered was the location of the individuals being compared: they were either inside or outside the Ark. That is true today, as well. There are unquestionably people who are better humans than I am, who reject the Grace of God, because they are convinced they don’t need it. They think it is a “crutch”, or something.

But God’s Grace is far more than just a crutch. It is the only antidote to the lostness of the human race. As a race we are lost in sin. Turn to 1st Corinthians 15:22. There are two positions, or “locations” listed here: Everyone is either “in Adam”, where, it says, “all die,” or they are “in Christ”, where, it says, “all shall be made alive.” My position “in Christ” is the only thing that makes me acceptable to God. That position is perfect, though my condition may vary all over the scale. Do you suppose Noah and his family may have been afraid or seasick, or claustrophobic, aboard the Ark? Very possibly they were. But did it affect their position? Absolutely not! All the other issues are irrelevant to the question of eternal life. My position is secure: I am in Christ. I am part of the Body of Christ. So, how did I get there?

Where’s the Door? How do I get in?

Jesus promised that the “way in” was to place my faith in Him. In John 10:7, He said that He is the door…the “way in”.  In John 3:16, he said “…that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The way to become part of the body of Christ, according to 1st Corinthians 12:13, is to be placed there by the Holy Spirit—baptized by the Holy Spirit, into the Body of Christ. This happens (whether one knows it or not) at the moment of salvation… at the moment one chooses to believe the Gospel, and place his/her faith in Jesus’ shed blood as full payment for sin.

While it is entirely possible to “fake it” on earth, and fool Christians, it is absolutely impossible to fool God. There are no false brethren in the Body of Christ at large. But there can be, in a local assembly.

I have a friend who will tell you very plainly that he faked his faith for 15 years, until it suddenly dawned on him that he was in deep trouble. He was lost. He repented, and placed his faith in Jesus as the blood-sacrifice for his salvation, and has been serving faithfully for the last 40 years or so. There is no question that such things happen. The problem is that we can’t tell for sure who is who, and they can even be fooling themselves, and be convinced that they are Christians, for a variety of reasons. The seven warnings in this epistle are to that sort of person.

God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

The writer continues to point out how much more harsh the consequences may be for those who knew the Gospel, and had heard the apostolic teaching, in person, and had seen the miracles of that age, if they ultimately failed to heed those warnings. Jesus had issued very similar warnings to the Jews in Jerusalem, and Judea and Galilee. (Matthew 12:21-24; 23:29-39)

A person who hears, understands, and rejects God’ plan for the redemption of lost humanity is in deeper trouble than one who simply never heard it, or who heard such a garbled version of it that they never understood. And, a person who pretends faith, through a self-made piety, is in deeper trouble still.

Think about it this way: a person who is not in the service (say, the US Navy), and who walks aboard one of the warships that come to this area for special occasions, is there as a guest. He or she is treated completely politely and cordially. But when the ship leaves the harbor, and the visiting opportunity is over, it is expected that they will have already gone ashore. If they were to stow away, and were later discovered, they would be taken off the ship, probably by a Coast-Guard vessel, or, if they were still in inland waters, possibly a sheriff’s patrol boat, and they would be charged with trespass. I don’t know how serious the results might be.

But… if they had also dressed themselves in the uniform of a first-class seaman, and claimed to be a member of the US Navy, there would be a much deeper investigation, and probably far more serious charges. They would at least be charged with impersonating a member of the Armed Forces, and possibly with espionage.

So the writer is putting forward his first warning that some of the professing believers among that first generation of Jewish Christians might want to stop and think about the nature of their real relationship with the Messiah. He is warning them not to “neglect the message”, but to step all the way into that relationship by faith.

What about those already “in Christ?”

As a believer, who truly has placed his/her faith in Jesus’s blood sacrifice as full satisfaction of God’s Law, you need not fear that God will ultimately reject you: Your position in Christ is completely secure. Jesus promised that of all those whom God has given him, he will not lose a single one.

These warnings are not directed at you. But! The exhortations in this book are to you! There are encouragements, teachings and promises, here, that are specifically to those who already belong to Christ. As we study together, we will try to learn how to apply them to make them applicable to our lives, both individually and collectively.

 

Lord Jesus, help us to rightly divide the Word of Truth. Help us to correctly understand your Written Word, and correctly apply it to our lives. Make us the Men and Women of God that you have called us to be.

Amen!


What is Sin Without Law?

What is Sin without the Law?

© C. O. Bishop 10/26/15 THCF 11/1/15

Romans 5:13-21

Introduction:

We have already addressed how sin came into the world, but, as we are about to see, there is a slight theological issue there: Since the Mosaic Law was not given for another 2500 years or more, what are we identifying as sin? How can we say something is sin, if there is no law to break?

In fact, perhaps we should briefly address the question of “What is Sin?” In the first place, the Greek verb “to sin” (hamartano—the noun is hamartia) means to “miss the mark”. The New Testament offers four clear definitions of sin, which, collectively, cover every type of sin:

  1. Sin is the transgression of the Law. (1st John 3:4)
  2. All unrighteousness is sin. (1st John 5:17)
  3. If a man knoweth to do right and doeth it not, to him it is sin. (James 4:17)
  4. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)

We are not given a list of “seven deadly sins”, or “nine nasty no-no’s” to avoid: we are given principles to live by and principles by which to recognize sin. We need to learn those principles and, on the basis of that learning, avoid sin because we want to walk with God. This is only possible for those who have been born again; born from above; born of God.

When I had only one nature, I could not please God, because the only thing I had to offer was already fully contaminated. I had already broken God’s Law and could not “un-break” it. I had fulfilled all four of the above definitions. What little I knew of God’s Law I had openly broken. I had wallowed in unrighteousness, and schemed to commit more. Things I knew were right, I had failed to do. And I certainly did nothing out of faith. I was a sinner, plain and simple.

But, in this passage, Paul speaks specifically of the Law, and is pointing out that “the Law” the Jews considered to be the “end all” (the Mosaic Law) did not even exist at the time of Adam. So, then, what was the problem? How could people be in sin?

What Law?

13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

The Law spoken of here, in verses 13-21, is the Mosaic Law. But Law, as a principle, existed before the world began. The Law, as given to Man, existed from day one of Man’s existence—but in very limited form: Genesis 2:17 “…but of the tree that is in the midst of the Garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt NOT eat, for in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.”

That is the principle of Law, sometimes called the Law of Sin and Death. But Paul is presenting a narrower scope, here: he is talking about the law of Moses, given by God at Sinai, and inscribed in the rock, literally by the finger of God.

There were things in that law, given through Moses, which had never before been addressed. Some of those things actually became capital offenses, whereas before that day they were non-issues. We need to keep that in mind as we read.

Death reigned from Adam to Moses, because of sin…but not sin as the Jews thought of it (transgression of the Mosaic Law). That Law had not been given. Death reigned, first, because of sin inherited from Adam, and second, because it was rampant in the life of every human, to one degree or another. We can read the Old Testament account and see individual examples, to ascertain that evil was abundantly present.

Paul is not suggesting that the Law initiated man’s slide into sin. It only highlighted it, and made it abundantly clear that something is terribly wrong with the Human Race. (A radar trap does not make you speed, nor do traffic cameras make you run a red light. They only reveal that you were speeding and/or that you did not stop at a light.)

Why does Adam’s Decision affect Me?

15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

There is a contrast and a similarity drawn here: The similarity is that in each case one individual made a choice as a representative of a huge group of individuals. We might not like that fact, but it is true. It can be true is a positive sense or a negative sense, even today. When a man or woman chooses to emigrate from the place of their birth, to find a better place to live, their children and grandchildren in generations to come will reap the benefit of that decision, good or bad, regardless of whether they were aware of the decision. But other decisions have lasting too:

I know a man who was the youngest of eighteen kids by one Hispanic couple. The couple was in their sixties by the time he and his next older brother were born, and, at a very young age, the two boys were left with a much older brother to raise, while Mom and Dad travelled, for their remaining years. The two toddlers had no choice in that matter. Another thing about which they had no real choice, is the fact that their older brother had, along with his wife, made the decision to speak only English in their home. So, by the time they were grown, my friend and his next older brother were the only ones of the original eighteen siblings who did not speak Spanish, and they were fairly bitter about it, as it meant they could not even converse freely with their own mother and father, who were in their nineties by that time. The choices we make affect others. That is simply a fact.

When General Lee surrendered to General Grant, it affected every single individual in the United States, for better or worse. Some members of the Confederacy may have insisted upon continuing the war after Lee’s surrender, but the fact is; the war was over—whether they believed it or not—and if they kept fighting they simply became murderers. They had no choice in the matter. There are many such tragedies in history, but it all began with Adam.

The choice Adam made affected all of his progeny, including you and me, whether we like it or not. You had no choice in that one. But concerning the choice Jesus made, to go to the cross as the representative of the whole Human race, and to satisfy the righteous demand of the holiness and justice of God, you actually do have a choice. You can choose to join him there, by faith, to eternally be found in Christ: or you can reject the opportunity, and stay where you are: in Adam.

And, as the choice of Adam brought death to all his progeny, the choice of Christ brings life to all His progeny—all those who are born again by faith in His shed blood.

Further Contrasts

Paul further explains the contrast, showing another difference between the choice of Adam and the choice of Christ.
16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.
17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

Adam’s one sin brought sin and death to the entire human race, who were not even born yet. He made that decision ignorantly, not having any understanding of the results, nor of the personal God against whom he had rebelled. Jesus knew from eternity past ALL of the sins of ALL of the human race, and ALL of the monstrous evil that would occur because of sin…and chose, before he created the world to become the sacrificial lamb that would erase that sin, and heal the world.

The result of the offense of Adam was universal, even in the lives of people who never heard of him…they are lost sinners. The result of the gift of Christ is only universal in the sense that every single person who receives him as Savior will definitely be saved. But not everyone receives him when they hear the good news…and not everyone even gets to hear it. Jesus did make it clear in John 5:24 that whoever does hear it, and believes it, HAS everlasting life. Eternal life is immediately and irrevocably given to them. They are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and He, the Holy Spirit, immediately begins housecleaning and renovations.

Notice too, a small change in wording. The result of Adam’s sin was that Death, as a principal, “reigned” on planet Earth. The result of Jesus’ choice was not that Life reigns on planet earth (it still does not), but that His people reign in Life. The word translated “reign”, here is the Greek verb “basileuo”. When we get into the next chapter, we will see that we no longer have to sin. We are told to not allow sin to “reign” in our lives (same word), but we are to rule over sin.

In Genesis 4:7 we can see where that same offer was made to Cain, but he rejected it. God said “sin lies at the door, and its desire is for you (to control you), but you shall rule over it.” You are to reign in life. We will address that again at a later time, as it is also mentioned in Revelation 5: 10, as well as in other passages.

18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

Verse 18 makes it clear that the gift was given “to” the whole human race. But verse 17 makes it clear that not everyone actually receives it.

19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Finally the contrast is completed in verses 19-21: the one act of rebellion brought death and destruction as all humans became sinners: in contrast, the one act of obedience brought Eternal life and grace and righteousness, as righteousness was imputed to (“placed upon the accounts of”) all who believe in Him.

Choose your Ruler: Sin or Grace

20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

Verse 20
could be misunderstood to say that “more sin brings more grace”. I have read of people in our age that actually teach this. They claim that the way to experience the fullness of God’s Grace is to deliberately wallow in Sin. (Remember Romans 3:8? Paul had already been accused of teaching just that…he said that their “damnation was just.”) People who teach that perverse doctrine are in deep trouble with God. It would be similar to suggesting that if you want to really appreciate how good it feels to be healthy, try getting as sick as possible—become a drug addict. Then you will see how good it is to be healthy. That is an abominable idea.

Honestly, when you see the human wreckage that is the result of such folly, you can be glad that they have “done your homework for you”. You do NOT have to experiment with that foolishness to see the results. You can learn from the mistakes of others, and stay healthy. The same is true for a rebellious spirit. If you see the result of sin in other’s lives (especially those in the Word of God, where someone is clearly telling you that “this is the sin, and this is the result”, you can choose to learn from their example and escape the judgment under which they fell. At work, or in society at large, we can see people who rebel against God, against the Law, and against any other authority. And, in general, it results in some sort of bad consequences. One can see people losing jobs through foolish rebellion, or immorality, or drug abuse, etc. If it continues, they can lose their freedom for all those same reasons. And, left unchecked, it will cost them their lives.

But what verse 20 actually says is that God was not caught short: He did not have to “go scrape up some more Grace” because of the magnitude of human sin. He knew it all from the beginning, and His Grace reached out to remove all the wreckage of our failings.

Paul concludes the idea of the transition from Adam to Christ, from Death to Life, asd from Sin to Grace, in the last verse of chapter 5:

21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

Notice it does not say that “Satan has reigned”, but that “Sin has reigned, unto death”. The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the Psalmist says…and that has always been true. But the people have been enslaved to Sin. At the Cross, Sin was deposed from the throne of the believer’s life, and Grace was put in its place, through the righteousness of Christ.

Sin is no longer to be allowed to rule in the life of the believer—Grace is the new master, by the authority of Jesus Christ. And, yet, this is something about which we are expected to make a choice, every moment of every day.

Are you willing to allow God’s Grace to rule in your life? Then you need to start looking at the scripture to find out what that means. If you want to read ahead, you can begin looking at Romans 6 to see how that concept works. We’ll discuss it more next time.

Lord Jesus, we thank you for the work you accomplished at the Cross, and we desire to walk more deeply into the river of your Grace and Love. Teach us to live by your Grace.


Justified by Faith

Justified by Faith—What Then?

© C. O. Bishop 9/27/15 THCF 10/4/15

Romans 5:1-11

Introduction:

We have been studying the book of Romans, and have just completed chapter four, where we examined the question of “What saved Abraham?” We were able to determine that it was definitely faith that saved Abraham; that God definitely accounted him righteous based strictly upon faith. We saw that we are saved by the same means. When we placed our trust in Jesus as our savior, we became children of God, and were permanently counted righteous by the Holy God who had once condemned us as lost sinners. The righteousness of Christ was posted to our individual accounts as we trusted in Him.

That is our foundation: the righteousness of Christ. The rest of the epistle to the Romans is building on that foundation-stone, the Person of Christ in the individual’s life. So, the first thing Paul addresses is that particular aspect of our new life in Christ.

We ARE Justified, and we HAVE Peace with God

5

1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

Therefore (on the basis of all that we read in chapter four) being justified (declared righteous) by faith (not works), we have (present tense) peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Now there is an awful lot in that verse alone! Notice this is peace with God. Peace between us and Him; He is no longer condemning us as lost sinners, as in Romans chapter three. We are no longer at war with one another. (Did you know that you were an enemy of God, by birth? Take a peek at verse ten, down below! It says that “when we were enemies” he died for us!) But now, we have peace with God through our Lord (Greek; “kurios” — master) Jesus Christ. Later on we will look at a different kind of Peace—the Peace of God. But this Peace is peace with God.

This is a positional truth: my position has changed: my location has changed, so, as a result, my standing has changed. I am now in Christ, so my standing has been changed from “dead in sins” to “alive in Christ”. I went from being condemned by God as a lost sinner to being declared righteous by that same Holy God, on the basis of faith in the blood of Jesus. I went from being an enemy of God by natural birth, to being a child of God by spiritual re-birth. I have peace with God, and it cannot be lost. Romans chapter four states that God will never again impute sin to me. He sees me as permanently righteous. Where? How? In Christ, through Christ, by means of Christ. (By the way, in case anyone is wondering, “Christ” is just the Greek form of “Messiah”— the anointed one.)

Consider, then: my standing has been permanently changed to being “In Christ”. But what about my “state?” My condition? My condition can change from day to day, or even from moment to moment. In fact, the Peace of God, that we mentioned a moment ago is completely conditional. It depends upon my “state”, not my “standing”. My standing is permanently perfect in Christ. My state varies wildly, like Oregon weather. But, in reality, my “state” or condition only has two possibilities, as well. I am either in fellowship, or out of fellowship. There is no “in-between.”

We will address the issue of fellowship more fully as we read more.

We HAVE Access to God

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

In Hebrews 10:19-22, (turn there) we see that we are invited to “draw near” to God “through the veil, that is to say, His flesh”.  Remember the tapestry they called the “veil” in the temple? It was a thick opaque fabric that hung from floor to ceiling (60 feet tall), between the Holy of Holies and the rest of the Holy Place. Only the high priest could enter there, and that only once a year. There was no other approach to the Ark of the Covenant; the Mercy Seat—the throne of God. And the priest had to go under the veil to enter.

When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. The way was opened for any believer to enter. We are told in Hebrews 10 that the veil represented the body of the Messiah. When he died, the veil was torn; and the way to God is open. We are to enter through that veil: through his broken flesh at the Cross. There is no other access to God. The access we have, initially, at salvation, is by faith in Jesus and his shed blood. The continuing access we have as believers is by the same means. The reason we can speak in prayer, and know that God hears us, is because we have access to him via the Lord Jesus Christ. We enter His presence in the sure knowledge of his sacrifice giving us access to the Father. This is why Jesus said (John 14:6) “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” He meant it quite literally.

This is both a positional and a conditional truth. Because I am in Christ, positionally, I have access to God, and He will never condemn me. He is literally my Father, now; whereas, before I was in Christ, He was only my creator. He is available to me regardless of my condition. But, if I am not in fellowship with Him, then I still cannot approach Him in prayer without confessing my sins. Psalm 66:18 says “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear me.” It is not that He cannot hear me; it is that He will not listen, if I am in sin.

1st John 1:5-7 states three things:

  1. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all
  2. If I say that I have fellowship with Him, but I walk in darkness, I am lying. I can’t have fellowship with God when I am in sin…when there is unconfessed sin in my life.
  3. If I walk in the light as He is in the light, I can have fellowship with him (and with other believers.)

There are two uses of the noun “light”, in scripture. One is in regard to natural light—photons—physical light. The other has to do with spiritual light; moral light—the continuing knowledge of God. Jesus is the Light of the world in the second sense, and will someday be the light of the world in the physical sense as well. I think the scripture makes it clear in Genesis that He was originally the physical light of the world, but gave that function to the heavenly luminaries on the fourth day of creation. They will not be needed after the New Heaven and New Earth are in place. The Lamb will once again be the light.

So: for the moment, the light in which we are to “walk” is the light of God’s Word, illuminated by the Holy Spirit. We are told that if we do not walk in the light, we cannot have fellowship with God. (By the way, this is an eternal truth. There has never been a time when a person could be in sin and have fellowship with God. Amos 3:3 indicates that two cannot “walk together, except they be agreed”.)

We have access to God by faith. We come to him, knowing that we are saved, but still sinners. We approach through confession (1st John 1:9) believing that he will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Then we can bring our worship and praise and thanksgiving, or make our petition, praying for others or ourselves.

It helps me to remember the proper order of things when I think of the admonition that we are to “cast” our cares upon Him. (1st Peter 5:7) Using the letters of the word “CAST” in an acrostic:

  • C (Confession)
  • A (Adoration—worship, praise, etc.)
  • S (Supplication…intercessory prayer, prayer for mercy, blessing, specific needs, etc.)
  • T (Thanksgiving)

Now: does my prayer have to take this exact form? Of course not. But if I am hiding sin in my heart, I need to be aware that God does not obligate himself to listen to other issues. The sin issue must be dealt with first. After that, we are free to bring our thoughts and concerns to Him. By the way, this is how we receive the Peace of God. (Philippians 4:6, 7) “Be careful for nothing, but in every thing, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God, and the Peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Do you see how that is a conditional Peace?

He gave a command: “Be anxious for nothing, but in every thing, by Prayer…”  Do you see how, if you do NOT obey the command, you will not receive the Peace? So, the condition was obedience…obedience to a specific command.

Before we move on, let’s compare the two ideas; position and condition: When we say that salvation is “positional, not conditional” do we mean that there are no conditions to be met in order to be saved from our sins? No—there were two conditions: Jesus said “He that hears my words” (there’s the first condition) “and believes on Him who sent me” (there’s the second condition) “HAS everlasting life.” There’s the promise. But the fact is, after having met those two conditions (hearing the Gospel and believing in it), there are no more conditions. The transaction is permanent. And our standing in Him is secure forever, because it is unconditional. My state is another matter, entirely, and depends on how I am responding to Him right now.

But our future is secure, and we hope in the Glory of God

We Hope in the Glory of God

We know that the Glory of God is what sustained the nation of Israel during their flight from Egypt; in a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. His glory stood between them and the pursuing army the night before they crossed the Red Sea. His glory filled the tabernacle, so that none could enter, on the first day is was completed, and His Glory shone from Sinai, filling the sky and air with thunder and dark clouds. Later, that same burning glory shone from the newly completed Temple that Solomon had built.

The disciples were witnesses of his personal glory: God the Son, in His glorified body, on the mount of transfiguration. We will be transformed to be like him, in our new bodies. And, today, the hope of his glory now sustains us, as we live in a life that is not particularly glorious, and is sometimes filled with grief and pain, disease, and death. We know how life got that way, and are looking forward to seeing the end of the story, as we have already been told how it ends.

We Glory in our Hard Times

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

Meanwhile, knowing the glory of God, in the dimmest sense, we ourselves can, and should glory in tribulations, knowing that the hard times we now endure will have wonderful results; increasing our patience, building experience, and deepening hope. The hope we have in Christ affects us in a positive way, not negative. Even if we hope for things we do not live long enough to see, we are not made ashamed, because it results in the Love of God flowing through us by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Consider how many millions of God’s saints have lived their whole lives in hope of His coming, knowing it would happen, but not knowing when…just like you and I. In fact, even the Old Testament believers were looking for the coming Messiah. Job said “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand upon the earth in the latter day…” Job lived about 2000 years B.C.! And he was living in hope, waiting for a coming Redeemer. The effect upon his life was that he trusted God in the hardest of times. His testimony was good, and he has eternal reward.

But where did we start out?

Remember Where We Started

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Paul briefly reminds us that it is specifically through Jesus’ death that we have access to God. He says that we had nothing to offer—we were without strength. And, as a final reminder of our real (former) position outside of Christ, he reminds us that we were not “innocent bystanders”, but decidedly ungodly. We were not “nice little misguided waifs”, but hell-bound sinners!

We would find it a hard decision to deliberately give our life for someone else. All our training and nature says “preserve self at all cost”. Even if we could see that the person involved is a valuable, righteous person, and a good man, to boot, it would be hard. Military personnel receive rigorous enough training that they might do so. A parent might do so, for a child; or a spouse for his or her partner. These are all examples of responding to the need of friends, family, etc. But Jesus did not die for “good people”, or for his friends—he died for bad people, his enemies: us.

What is the Result?

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

So (Paul’s logic continues), since Jesus deliberately died for us when we were lost, rebellious, hell-bound sinners, how much more, now, as the children of God, will we not be kept by Him? He did the hard part of the work to save us when we truly were of very questionable value. Now, since we are the literal children of God, He sees us as being of unquestionable worth… not because of anything we have done, but because of the new creation He has made in us. He will not lose us under any conditions. Paul says that as we were reconciled (permanently) with God through his death, we shall (continually) be saved by his life. As a result, we rejoice in God, through Christ, because we now have that reconciliation. He has declared us righteous, and we are already reconciled to God…whether we feel that way or not.

Jesus spoke briefly on this subject, too: He said that He knows His sheep, and they hear His voice, and they follow Him, and He gives them eternal life, and they shall never perish.

Do you see why this is a critically important doctrine to a believer? Paul is making a point of letting us know the logic of and the security of the believer’s standing with God. He is arming us against the creeping, whispering fear that comes to the believer and suggests, “Well, now you’ve done it! God will never forgive you now! You promised Him you would never do that again, and here you are again, wallowing in sin! You may as well just give up!” (From whom do you think that attack is coming? God is giving you the defense against that attack!)

If you understand that Jesus died for you when you were an enemy of God, and utterly lost, and that as a re-born child of God, you are infinitely more precious to God now than ever before, then you should be able to see that He will never allow you to be lost. He will continue to keep you in Christ, and will continue to shape your life into His own likeness, rebuilding you to be to His Glory.

Let’s daily learn to trust Him more, and allow him to shape us in that way.

Lord Jesus, give us the Grace to trust in your mercy, and in your Love. Teach us to walk with you by faith, and to be a blessing to those around us as a result. Help us to grow to be the men and women of God that you have called us to be.


Revelation 22:19

Regarding Revelation 22:19

© C. O. Bishop 3/5/15 (In response to a question)

That is a pretty hard passage, if taken as a single verse; to treat it carefully, I want to begin a few verses earlier…let’s look at Revelation 22:16-20. Also, it is important to remember that this is God’s Word…not just a dream, or anything. So it ALL has to be true, and it ALL has to hold together. We can’t just take bits and pieces and interpret in light of our opinions.

The Context:

In the previous one and a half chapters John has described the vision of the Holy City. 22:15 is the final comment about it. We saw that all those who previously rejected Christ (and who have subsequently been judged guilty and cast into the Lake of Fire) are permanently excluded from fellowship with the Living God, which is the whole character of the Holy City—eternal fellowship with God. No believer is ever characterized by his sins, in God’s eyes. He said of Israel, (Numbers 23:21) “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel”. (Really? This is immediately after he had destroyed a whole bunch of them because of sin!) This is the position of the believer with God. He does not see us as sinners, and never will.

The Invitation:

In verse 16, the narrator shifts back to a point of view from which he addresses the whole book, just as he did in the introductory passage (1:3), where he established the blessing of God to all who read (or hear) and respond in faith (faith is an obedient response to a revealed truth). He makes a present day invitation to all hearers to “come”—this is the invitation of the Lamb and the Bride (the present day church) to unbelievers, to come to Christ, in repentance and faith. It is not the same as verse 20 where Jesus says “Surely I come quickly”. This is an invitation to “whosoever will”. Notice, too that the hearers are ordered to continue to repeat that invitation: “Let him that heareth say ‘come.’” (That’s us! This is the final command to be a witness!) The Bride can only say “Come!” while she is still on earth. This is our day to serve. This is our opportunity to work with Jesus in “holding forth the Word of Life”.

The Warning:

Then comes the warning: The contrast to the blessing of 1:3, and the invitation of 22:17, here in 22:18, 19,  is the consequence for those who do the opposite; those who do not come, who do not believe, and who do not obey by faith.

No believer would deliberately add to the scriptures, I think (hope): especially these tribulation saints who are already risking dying for their faith. And that brings us to an important point. Part of the curse is one that can only occur during the tribulation. How can the plagues of the tribulation (those written in Revelation) occur at any time other than during the tribulation? They are all specific to that seven-year period.  That makes me think that the warning is specific to that time, as well. Another part of the curse could happen at any time: we will address that next:

We want to consider what the “Book of Life” is: I am not assuming that it is the same as the “Book of Life” in 13:8—that one is called the “Lamb’s Book of Life”, and contains the names of all the saved. The one at the Great White Throne judgment, on the other hand, in 20:12-15, seems to be the same book as this one in 22:19. I believe that book to be simply the “book of the living.” I may be mistaken, but consider this: At the Great White Throne, who is there?

Only the lost and only the dead are present to be judged (20:12). Death and Hades gave up their dead; the sea gave up its dead. Which dead? The unrighteous dead…the resurrection of the righteous had already happened, and the living wicked had just been destroyed (20:9). This is the final sentencing for the unrighteous dead, from all generations, all the way back to Cain. So, all of the righteous are alive and eternally saved, while all of the lost are dead, and awaiting eternal judgment. This is the final cleansing, in chapter 20.

The Conclusion:

After the Great White Throne, we saw the Holy City, and the eternal state of the righteous, with God. After the vision of the Holy City, the narration returns to Christ. No more future vision, but a present invitation, and a warning.

The warning is evidently primarily to unbelievers, particularly to false teachers. The threat is not that “a believer may be removed from the Lamb’s Book of life”, but that “a person who tries to alter the content of God’s Word may lose his physical life” as a result…be “removed from the book of life”, as in Chapter 20.

If it is a believer (I suppose it is possible) then they are simply taken home. Remember Balaam: he was a genuine prophet, but he went after the money, and helped the Moabites and Midianites corrupt Israel—so when Israel destroyed their enemies, he died with the enemies. But that did not change his position. The saddest thing, to me, is that the only legacy Balaam is remembered for is the evil he did. Virtually no one remembers that he was a genuine prophet, and a man of God. This is a heavy warning for pastors today, too. If we fall into sin, then that is what will be remembered by the World. Is repentance possible? Sure…but the consequences are permanent.

The evidence is strong that the only ones to whom the rest of this curse will actually happen are the unbelievers of the time when the plagues occur…the tribulation years. Otherwise it would be difficult for any of those plagues to be inflicted on them; as they are mostly world-wide plagues.

My conclusion: believers are safe in Christ, and unbelievers are already condemned. (John 3:18; 1st Corinthians 15:22) That is how I see the passage. The invitation is to unbelievers to repent and escape that judgment. The warning is stern, but does not threaten a believer.


The Promise of the Spirit

The Promise of the Spirit

© C. O. Bishop 2/14/15 THCF 2/15/15

Galatians 3:14, 5:16, 22, 23; Ephesians 1:13, 14; John 14:16; Hebrews 5:11-14

Introduction:

Last week I had intended to explore the Promise of the Spirit more thoroughly, but we ran out of time; so today we will go on with that same topic, as it is introduced here in Galatians, by the Apostle Paul.

Paul introduced the Promise of the Spirit as a contrast to the Curse of the Law, here in Galatians; primarily because these believers were being harassed and seduced by false teachers who were persuading them to turn away from the pure Grace of the Gospel and depend upon their own ability to keep the Mosaic Law. He showed from the Old Testament that the Law had always been a curse to those who could not or would not keep it. He reminded them that the Jews had never been able to keep it, and that, as we saw elsewhere, the only thing that had ever saved them from the inherent curse in the Law was the Grace of God extended through the sacrifices.

The whole concept of Grace, and how it is intertwined through all the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation is a pretty amazing study. We somehow have gotten the idea that Grace was a new thing at the Cross. There is a reason why, in Revelation 13:8, Jesus is called the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the Earth”. He is the Lamb!  He was the Lamb, pre-figured in the Garden when God clothed Adam and Eve in the blood-stained skins of the first animal sacrifice. He was the Lamb, when Abel came by faith, bringing a blood sacrifice for his own sins. He was all the lambs at that first Passover, when all Israel huddled under the Blood of the Cross, still wet on the lintels and doorposts of their homes. When John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and called him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World”, he was pulling together all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, and showing how they were concluded in Christ. Those old sacrifices could only cover sin, not take it away; the Blood of Jesus finished the job, and took away Sin. That is why He is also the Lamb in the account in Revelation 5:8-10.

He provided clean vessels into which he could pour His Holy Spirit. And we embrace that promise by faith, today. Whether the new believer knows it or not, he or she is indwelt by the Holy Spirit the moment he or she believes the Gospel, placing his or her trust in Jesus’ finished work at the Cross. This, again, is pure Grace. By the way, this aspect of God’s Grace is new! The Old Testament believer had no such privilege. Only some of the prophets seem to have had the indwelling Spirit, and even for them it seems to have been a temporary arrangement…or, it could have been at least. David prayed and asked that God not take away the Holy Spirit, in his prayer of confession (Psalm 51:11). But, to you, and to me, the Promise is secure: Jesus said that the Holy Spirit “…will be with you forever” (John 14:16.)

There are certain things that are definite results of the indwelling person of the Holy Spirit, and will be true of every believer at all times, regardless of circumstance or behavior. There are other things which simply should be the result of His presence. Let’s look at both.

What Is the Result of the Gift of the Holy Spirit?

  1. He is the Seal of my position in Christ until I get my new body. (Ephesians 1:13)
  2. He is the Earnest of our inheritance—the “down-payment” if you like. He, Himself, is the promise, and yet He is also is God’s guarantee of the eternal promise of redemption. (Ephesians 1:14)
  3. He is my Advocate before the throne, praying for me when I don’t know how to pray. (Romans 8:26)
  4. He (along with the study of His Word) is my Defense against bad teaching, and the traps of Satan, set for unwary believers. (1st John 2:20-28; Galatians 5:16-23)
  5. He is my Guide: the one who leads me into all the truth of God’s Word. (John 16:13)
  6. He is my Comforter: the one who encourages my heart in times of trouble. (John 14:16)
  7. He is my Bodyguard and Commander: he makes the Word of God the “Sword of the Spirit”; He is the one who makes the Written Word function as the Living Word: alive, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12)

A person with the seal of the Holy, Living, Spirit of God dwelling in him, is permanently free from the guilt of sin before God. He or she need never again fear condemnation from God. But: that believer is also constantly convicted of sin, and reminded of the need for forgiveness and obedience every time he or she falters. We are drawn to confess and renounce our sins, and so to have our fellowship restored, because the Holy Spirit does not abandon us when we sin: He loves us and draws us back to God. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be with us forever. That is a pretty precious promise all by itself! We need not worry that God will forget his promise and take back His gift.

In Psalm 51:11, when David prayed “…take not thy Holy Spirit from me”, he was speaking from the perspective of one not living in the Church Age. He did not have a permanent promise of the indwelling Holy Spirit (as we have), and, because of the sins he had committed as God’s servant, he feared losing that special, spiritual privilege he treasured as a prophet of God.

fear the loss of fellowship, because of sin. I fear displeasing the God who saved me. I fear displeasing the God who has become my true Father, through re-birth. But I know by His promises that I do not need to fear abandonment. His promise stands on record: (Hebrews 13:5), “I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you.” That’s the promise of God, through the Spirit.

All the things listed above are simply facts: they are true of every believer whether or not he or she is in fellowship with God, whether or not there is unconfessed sin in his or her life. They are positional truths, true about you because you are in Christ. But there is so much more available on a moment-by-moment basis, which is not just positional—it is also conditional. It is conditional upon being in fellowship with God, obedient to his Word and His leading. It requires confessing and turning away from sin. These are things that should be the direct result of the Gift of the Holy Spirit, but which are tragically lacking, much of the time, in most believers’ lives.

What Should be the Result of the Gift of the Holy Spirit?

In 1st Corinthians 3:1-3, Paul told the church at Corinth that they were carnal Christians—not spiritual people— and babies, though no longer mere natural men, either. In Hebrews 5:11-14, he told the recipients that they had become babes, needing again to be fed milk—baby-food— instead of adult fare. Why? What had happened, there, that left those believers in such a shameful state? Were they not indwelt by the Holy Spirit? Certainly they were! But, as he succinctly pointed out to the Hebrews readers, “…strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who, by reason of use (practice), have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:14) So, there is a matter of practice, exercise and experience, here…A person who is indwelt, but not filled with the Spirit of God, is behaving (and thinking) exactly as if he were not saved at all. And even when we are walking with Him, it still requires practice—exercise, as Paul called it—to gain strength and maturity in one’s walk with God.

The Holy Spirit can only guide someone who is actively walking with Him. And, over a period of months and years of daily choosing to walk with God, applying the Word of God to your life, and being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, one can actually grow stronger. It gets easier to walk. Is that a surprise? It shouldn’t be.

Walking, for an infant, is nearly impossible, but within a few months, crawling has begun, and a few months later, walking is not only possible but expected. There comes a time, very soon, when, if a child is not walking, then the parents will be very worried, and will consult a physician. Paul is reminding the Hebrew Christians that they are long past the time when learning to walk should be an issue…he says that they should have mastered walking a long time ago and be teaching others. Instead, he says, they have again become babes, and have to have someone spoon-feed them the scriptures. They are not able to feed themselves, let alone feed others. That is a very sad statement …and still completely applicable today.

Led by the Spirit

In Romans 8 we see that if we are indwelt by the Spirit of God, then we are expected to be led by Him. That is the normal Christian life. We are not supposed to be wallowing in sin and self-pity, amidst all the usual baggage that seems to follow us today. We are supposed to be led by the Spirit.

Give some thought to how a baby human learns to walk: he or she does so primarily by instinct, but also by encouragement from those around him or her. Each one is different. Some learn quickly, some more slowly. But each learns by doing, and success only means getting up and walking again, each and every time we fall. How different that is, from the life of a baby antelope, for example: In the case of the antelope kid, it only has a few minutes to a few hours, at most, to gain enough strength and coordination to not only walk, but to move quickly enough to keep up with the herd. It learns to walk instinctively, and likewise learns to feed instinctively. Predators follow the herds, hoping for an exposed or weak baby. Survival is entirely dependent upon the individual’s ability to become strong and fast, in the shortest time possible.

In the case of a human baby, most parents will continue to support a weak or developmentally disabled child regardless of cost, and will not abandon that child to predators of any kind. In the case of the baby Christian, Jesus will never abandon you; but you are in danger of harassment and damage from enemies, so long as you neglect to walk with the shepherd. If you hope to have a happy, fruitful walk with your Savior, you need to be doing just that: walking with Him!

What Happens if We Do Walk with Him?

I don’t like to jump ahead, but in this case it seems right: the answer, spelled out by Paul in Galatians 5:16, is that “If you walk in the Spirit, you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”

Let’s take a sample problem:

Let’s say I am out of fellowship with God because of sin, and I know it: Let’s say that anger is the issue, because of how someone at work is treating me. So, eventually, I come to the realization that my anger is not helping the matter, and, in fact, is feeding on itself, and I am getting worse; I am beginning to curse under my breath, and am hating my tormentors. What solution is there? I am not being led by the Spirit, and am not walking with God. I am not being obedient (Jesus said “love your enemies and pray for them that despitefully use you…”), so I am not experiencing His Grace and blessing. How can I change?

The first step has already happened: I am recognizing that there is a problem in me, not just in those who are mistreating me. But the next thing is to do what God said to do: confess my sin. (“What? I’m not sinning, they are!”) Until I confess that I am sinning, and see it the way God sees it, there is no cure. God has a solution for sin, not “problems”. What was God’s solution for sin for the whole human race? It was Jesus’ blood at the Cross. And all I had to do to appropriate that Grace to my own life was to confess my need for a savior and place my trust in his finished work, at Calvary.

But now, though I have already been washed clean at Calvary, I am again looking at a pair of very dirty feet attached to my own already-washed self. They need to be cleansed, through confession. What sin am I confessing? First, I am confessing the anger. God commands that I put aside anger. He calls it by several different names, but all with the same root cause. In the Old Testament, in Psalm 37:8, He commands “Cease from anger and forsake wrath. Fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” My anger had already begun to fester into a desire to return evil for evil, even if only in words. So the anger is beginning to bear the fruit of evil. In the New Testament, Ephesians 4:31, he says “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice”. Notice how he uses a whole nest of ideas, all in the family of anger, to point out a weakness in my character. I can’t say, “Well, that wasn’t anger, it was frustration.” Sorry…that is just a euphemism for anger. Things aren’t going my way, so I am frustrated…angry and distressed, perhaps, but still angry. Irritated? Annoyed? Miffed?  Hey, how about this one: Righteously indignant! Really? In this condition I want to call myself righteous? No, I need to see that the anger itself is sin, and that it has already resulted in evil thoughts and hurtful words.

So, I confess my sins, placing my trust in his promise to forgive, and God is faithful (just as he promised) to forgive my sins, and cleanse me…again.

Then I set out to walk with him. I obey Him by praying for those who I think are mistreating me, and asking for God’s mercy in their lives. I focus my attention on His blessing and his command to bless them. I look for ways to be a blessing to them. So there is a practical outworking of His Love and Grace toward them. If there are people I have hurt with my words, then I go to them and confess as well… “I said things I had no right to say. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

Will I stumble again? You can count on it! But perhaps next time I will get up a little more quickly and toddle on, rather than wallowing for so long in self-pity. Meanwhile, there is much to be done.

Jesus told Peter, “If you love me, feed my sheep.” I can seek to do that. He says we are to serve our employers as if we were serving him (which we are.) I can seek to do that as well. He commands, “Husbands, love your wives….” so I can give attention to that. He gives many commands in the New Testament that contribute to a walk with Him, and none that cause me to fear his rejection. “Love one another…Let not your heart be troubled…Be anxious for nothing….” Etc. We are given the Holy Spirit to enable us to serve, as well as to give us the will to serve.

Although we will spend more time on it at some later date, it would be well to examine the Fruit of the Spirit while we are talking about the Promise of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22,23 is stating a contrast to the works (plural) of the Flesh. Paul states that “the fruit (singular) of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, Temperance; against such there is no law.”

I would only point out two things, here, in closing:

  1. The contrast, here, is between “works” (things we do by choice) and “fruit” (things borne out by virtue of character). An apple tree does not bear apples because it tries to do so, but because it is its nature to do so. We would be astonished if it bore any other fruit. So the fruit of the Spirit is what normally results when a believer is in fellowship with God.
  2. The other is that the works are plural, while the fruit is singular. Though all the works of the flesh came from the same corrupt source, the list is interminable—in fact, the list ends with a catch-all phrase to indicate there are many more: it says, “and such like”. If you think your pet sin is not mentioned in the Bible, think again. That is where it is listed. All unrighteousness is sin, whether it is specifically named or not. There are things we may reject as a culture, that God does not condemn, but there are principles by which we can recognize a specific practice as falling within the wider scope of sin, and a work of the flesh.

Meanwhile, the Fruit is singular, though nine aspects are listed. Each of the nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit is only a part of the whole. The whole fruit is either there or it is not. This is not a “fruit smorgasbord” from which we are to take our pick. We are to walk in the Spirit and the result should be the fruit of the Spirit, not the works of the flesh.

Lord God, help us to recognize our sins, and confess them. Fill us with your Spirit, and rule in our hearts. Make us the Men and Women of God you have chosen us to be. We ask these things in order that we my honor your Son, Jesus. It is for His sake and His glory we ask these things in His Name. Amen