The Living Water Throughout Time

Living Water, Throughout Time

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 7:37-39 (compare Jeremiah 2:12, 13; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Psalm 46:4; John 4:14)

Introduction

We have talked about this subject, before: probably five years ago, but we need to address it again. There is a rather “obscure” concept brought up several times in the Old Testament, without much explanation. It is sometimes used in such a context that it seems it could have no particular spiritual interpretation.

In its most common usage, the literal meaning of the Old Testament phrase “living water,” is just “flowing water.” (In other words, a stream; not a stagnant pool, a bucket of water, or, as stated in Jeremiah 2:13, a cistern.) Often the people were told to wash something in living water, or to do some ritual “over living water.” In those cases, it seems the context would make “flowing water” the correct understanding. But how about in Jeremiah 2:12, 13?

12 Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord. 13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

God says it was a “two-part” sin that Israel was committing. They turned away from God, who was the source of “living water.” And, they made for themselves cisterns…and (ironically,) the cisterns were cracked, and couldn’t even hold water! What is the comparison he is making?

“Living Water” or Cracked Cisterns?

The water in a cistern might have begun as clean rainwater, but it was caught on a roof, perhaps, and we funneled into that tank we call a cistern. Whatever debris was on the roof will hopefully be washed off before we begin channeling the water into the cistern, but traces will still be there. And, with time, whatever impurities were included will build up. If any of them were biological impurities, (bird-droppings, insects,bacteria, etc.,) they will multiply. That tank of water will be pretty unwholesome, and probably pretty unappealing.

So, when Jeremiah makes that comparison, he may only be saying that the LORD is a source of constantly replaced and completely healthful flowing water. In contrast, whatever is in the cistern is questionable at best. And, of course, even in that context, it is clear that He is not talking about ordinary “water,” but something of spiritual significance. Because of what we see in the rest of the Bible, it also seems that there must be a much deeper, much more significant meaning to the phrase “living water.” But whatever God is offering, it is far to be preferred over whatever they have stored up for themselves in their cracked cisterns.

The Power and Limitations of Living Water

In Ezekiel 47:1-12, (read it!) we see the vision Ezekiel was given regarding the temple in the Millennial kingdom. Water is flowing from under the altar, and one stream heads off to the east, toward the Dead Sea. On the way there, it cleanses everything it touches, and it produces Life everywhere it goes. The places that are not touched by this water remain lifeless and sterile, and remain a source of salt, but will not support life. But the Living Water flows all the way to the Dead Sea, and the Dead Sea is no longer Dead!  

What was once literally dead, with virtually nothing surviving there, is to be healed by these living waters, and not only will it be made “livable,” but it will swarm with life! It will be commercially fishable! So, a “picture” is beginning to appear, regarding the power and the limitations of “living water.”

Every piece of ground it touched was cleansed and began to produce life. Plants and trees grew all along the banks of this water. Fish could live where that water flowed. The water was clean and healthy to drink. But anywhere the water was not allowed to touch, that land remained unfruitful and dead.

So, what else do we know about that River coming out of Jerusalem?

The River From the Altar

Psalm 46:4 “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.”

There is no question that this passage refers to the Temple. Probably the first thing to observe, then, is that, currently, there is no River flowing out of the Temple Mount. But, as we will see elsewhere, there will be such a river!

There is, however, a brook, off to the east, called the “Brook Kidron.” The name “Kidron” means “Turbid: thick with roiled sediment.” (Even the particular word translated “brook” means a choked creek in a narrow ravine…not a “pretty little stream, running across a lovely, sunny meadow.”) So, we have a tight little ravine, with a muddy creek running in the bottom of it, whose waters are “turbid: thick with roiled sediment.”

There is also a tributary to the Kidron, draining the valley of Hinnom, to the south of the city…which used to be the city garbage dump. It was the place they threw the carcasses of criminals and of unclean animals. That place was so foul that it became the “mental image of Hell,” to the Hebrew imagination. The place was called Gehenna, because everything about it was a picture of the eternal lostness of the unrighteous dead.

The Current Path of the Brook Kidron

So, the Brook Kidron flowed from somewhere between the Mount of Olives and Jerusalem, through a nasty, narrow ravine, down to the southeast corner of the old city, and it was joined there by whatever water drained Gehenna. Then it turned left and flowed pretty much straight to the Dead Sea, across salt-flats, marshes, and desert, but never producing much in the way of life. And, of course, once it reached the Dead Sea, there was no further life at all. The Dead sea has no outlets. Once the waters reached the Dead Sea, there was no way out of that “end-result.” I hope you are starting to see some “pictures,” here.

Throughout the Old Testament, we see that when the priests cleansed the temple, they threw the filth into the “brook Kidron.” When they broke down the idols, they threw the pieces into the brook Kidron. The Kidron seems to be a kind of  “Condemnation Creek;” it is joined by the drainage of their idea of hell: Gehenna, and then it winds its way across the desert, down to Eternal Death. In short, it is beginning to look a great deal like the condition of the Lost Human soul!

How does any of this apply to the question of Living Water?

Jesus offered the “Spring of Living Water”

In John 4:14, Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the City well, outside Sychar. He offered her a Spring; a source of Living Water, which He said, if she drank from it, would “well up unto eternal life.”

Initially, she was thoroughly confused by His offer. She wanted that water, but had no idea how to get it. But eventually, she believed in Him and found that she had drunk from that well. Does it say that, specifically? No; it says that she wanted to “drink from that well,” but she did not know what He meant. Afterward, it says that she and many others “believed on Jesus:” they placed their dependance on Him as their Messiah. And, here in John chapter seven, we are going to see what He meant.

“Come unto me and Drink”

In John 7:37-39, Jesus made a very public offer to “anyone who thirsts,” to come and drink.

37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, {Pentecost! What a great connection!] Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Jesus said, “as the scripture hath said…” He may have been referring to Isaiah 58:11, where God promised that the people would be “like a well-watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Or He could have meant the passage in Proverbs 10:11, saying that the “mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.

But He pulled together all the Old references to Living Water, in this verse, and was kind enough to let us know exactly what He meant, so that we are not coming up with “Human-tainted explanations” of all kinds. It says that he spoke regarding the Holy Spirit, “…which they that believe on Him should receive.”

How does this apply to the Old Testament Prophecies?

Two weeks ago, during Bible Study, we saw that the “best commentary on the Word of God is the Word of God.” In this case, in spite of the “etymological fact” that (in the Old Testament) the phrase“Living water” possibly “just means ‘flowing water’,” we can see that “flowing water” cannot possibly be what Jesus meant, here in John 7, nor in John 4, because He said it would result in a flowing spring from within the person, providing eternal life. (Plain old “flowing water” can’t do that!)

Possibly even the water in Ezekiel 47 has some special properties, though it does not specifically say so. Flowing from under the altar would seem to hint that it might, at least. And the fact that “everything lives, when touched by that water” seems to hint that way, too. That River will be flowing out of Jerusalem, during the Millennial Kingdom, fulfilling Psalm 46:4.

We also see, here in John 7:39, that Jesus was specifically referring to the indwelling Holy Spirit. That relationship between the Believer and the Holy Spirit did not begin as a “normal” state of affairs until the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. With that explanatory note, let’s go back and look at the other passages again:

Looking Back

In Jeremiah 2:13, if God is the only source of spiritual life, namely, via the Holy Spirit having an effect, even on the lives of Old Testament Believers, then “storing up spirituality” was an exercise in futility. There is no “vessel”, certainly not a cracked cistern, which can hold a store of the Holy Spirit, nor even the effect that He has on a life. It has to be renewed daily! Turning away from the true source of life to find some sort of man-made self-sufficiency, is a pretty terrible idea. But people still do it today!

If the stream in Ezekiel 47, coming out of Jerusalem, is a “picture” of the “Living water” of the Indwelling Holy Spirit, then both Psalm 46:4 and Ezekiel 47:1-12 make a different kind of sense than we first understood (just knowing that there will be a physical river flowing out of Jerusalem.) What if those passages, too, are in some way linked to the living water of John 7:36-39? What if they, too are at least a “picture” of something far beyond just “Physical water?”

Back to the Riverbank

We saw in Ezekiel 47, that the water went from ankle deep, just 500 yards outside Jerusalem, to swimming depth in less than a half mile. And then we see that Ezekiel was taken back to the riverbank on dry ground, to consider what he had seen.

A Living Timeline

I would like to take the liberty of seeing a “picture,” here: when we first became believers, although we already were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we were also very immature: we were only “ankle-deep” in the Stream of Life being offered to us.

Time passed: and, as we grew, and learned to walk with the Lord, the stream reached our knees, possibly pointing to our prayer-life, or our heartfelt worship of the Living God.

More time passed, and it says the water reached the loins. (Some translations render this as “hips, or waist…and the Hebrew word is mothnayim, which probably does just mean “hips or waist.”) But I like to think of it as how we begin to reproduce as believers: That we are created to bear permanent fruit, in leading others to Christ. (Remember, there is only a “picture,” here: perhaps I am not seeing things clearly.)

Sometime later… “Afterward

But the next thing we know, at so,me point in our growth, the water is over our depth: we can no longer “wade” in this water: we have to swim. And usually, when a person is swimming, only their head is visible. They are fully suspended in the water they swim in.

Now, I fully recognize that I am “taking liberty” with the text. I don’t often do such things, and I don’t want to cause any confusion. But I would like to observe a few more things, tracking the idea that somehow, this River may be a picture of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of a believer.

Final Observations

The first thing to see is that the angelic messenger took Ezekiel back out of the flow and stood him on the riverbank. It is always possible to become a “castaway;” still saved, still indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but in terms of service, “set on the shelf.” Standing on the riverbank, looking out across the vastness of God’s Work and His love, and wondering why we feel so dry!

The next thing to see is the result of the free flow of that water. We see that it cleaned out the Kidron, because it provided a new source: a new headwater! It washed away the vile flow from Gehenna, and, though it still turned and flowed toward the Dead Sea, it produced life all the way there, only missing the places where it was not allowed to flow, and the end result was that instead of the eternal death of the Dead Sea, the Dead Sea was brought to life, and Eternal life and Eternal value was produced in its place. Death has lost its sting!

What about Us?

This is what is supposed to happen in the believer’s life! We have a new Head (Jesus!)…a new source of life (Jesus!) And that life should overflow through all of our old life-course, transforming it into a fruitful garden for God, producing new life at every turn, offering sustenance and healing to everyone around us. The places in our lives where we “hold back,” not allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us, will simply remain dead and unfruitful. But the end result, regardless of all else, will be the eternal life that Jesus promised. That is where the River is Going!

Jesus gives a River of Living Water. How we choose to use it will depend upon the individual. Some press deeper, feeding on the Word and growing in Love and Faith. Others “dabble around in the shallows,” never really desiring to become more like Jesus: never truly desiring to be transformed by His Grace, His Word, His power. And many of us are in between, vacillating between zeal and apathy. We run at a fitful pace, sometimes sprinting ahead, then being frustrated when it turns out that the Lord was going a different way. Sometimes we lag behind, and then we are prone to attack by spiritual predators.

Results

But Jesus said that River of life, that Spring of Living Water was supposed to change us, springing up unto Eternal life. If that isn’t happening, then we need to examine ourselves to find out why.

If you have received the Lord as your Savior, then His Living Water should be flowing out of you to all those around you. And the Flow of that Living Water in your own life should be cleansing and renewing life in all parts of your life.

What changes us?

God says His Word, by the Holy Spirit, is the one agent guaranteed to change our lives. He also commands that “as newborn babes,” we are to “desire the sincere milk of the word,” that we may grow thereby.”

Many of you have already seen the Word and the Spirit transforming your lives or the lives of those around you. None of us are finished with that process. We are called to press on, get off the Riverbank, and get into deeper water…quit wading, and learn to swim!

Lord Jesus, draw us along in your path, following closer to you, and learning to walk as You walk. Transform our lives into Your likeness, and teach us to thirst for your presence, the only source of the Living Water.

Salvation, Faith and Baptism: What does the Bible Say?

Faith and Baptism

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

Linked Concepts

Salvation:

Ephesians 2:8, 9;

Faith:

John 6:29; Acts 16:31; Romans 3:25;

Baptism:

1st Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:3, 4; 1st Peter 3:21;

Introduction:

Because this morning we have a baptism to conduct, we are taking a short “side-excursion,” to teach on Faith and Baptism: The two concepts have been linked from the beginning of the Church age, but are also frequently misunderstood, and wrongly taught, as a result.  This morning, before we actually baptize anyone, we hope to connect the two concepts carefully and scripturally, to clear up questions believers may still have.

Salvation: By Grace, through faith, or, by Grace through faith plus something?

Ultimately, this is probably the key question: How does God save sinners? We read about Abraham, in Genesis 15:6, and find that when Abraham “believed God,” God reckoned his faith as righteousness. We find this repeated and amplified in Romans 4:3. We are saved by Grace, through Faith, plus nothing!

In Ephesians 2:8, 9 we get our key verses describing how we are saved: “For by Grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” But the information regarding faith is much more widespread, all through both the Old and the New Testaments. In our Wednesday night study in Numbers, we saw the complaint God had against Israel. It was that, in spite of His numerous signs, and proofs and provisions in their lives and well as the judgments on Egypt, etc. they did not believe Him.

Romans 1:16 says “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.”

Romans 3:25 specifies that Jesus has been set forth as the propitiation (the satisfaction of God’s righteousness and justice) through faith in His blood.

In John 6:28, 29 the Jews asked Jesus, “what work shall we do that we might work the works of God?” His answer was “This is the work of God, that ye believe in Him whom He hath sent.”

In Acts 16:31, Paul and Silas answered the Philippian Jailer’s question “What must I do to be saved,” with the clear statement, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.”

One may point out that most of these early believers followed faith with water baptism. True! But salvation occurred the moment they believed!

Two Ordinances

As believers, we see that two ordinances have been given to the Church: Water Baptism, and The Lord’s Table. We explain the nature of the Lord’s Table every month when we take communion, but we haven’t talked much about baptism. Both are an outward testimony of something that has already occurred inwardly, and a physical, visible demonstration of a spiritual, invisible reality.

Testimony of The Lord’s Table:

Through the symbols of the bread and the cup, Communion testifies that “Jesus died for me! His body was torn and broken for me, and His Blood was shed for me!” As believers we take part in communion to testify of His sacrificial death, until He comes. That means we also express our confident assurance that He is indeed returning!

When we celebrate communion, we are testifying that Jesus’s blood was the full payment for our sins. (Remember the Passover Lamb: the people who placed themselves under the blood of that Lamb for protection against the Wrath of God, did not just “stand there and watch:” they each ate of that lamb!)

We eat (as we were told to do) as a commemoration of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the whole world. By faith we are laying our hands upon that sacrifice, and claiming it as the substitute for our own lives. And in doing so, we honor Jesus before the world, proclaiming His death until He comes.

Testimony of Baptism

Two kinds of Baptism

There are two types of baptisms taught in the New Testament: one of them is absolutely necessary for salvation, but has nothing to do with water. The other does involve water, and is in no way required for salvation…but it does stand as a matter of obedience, even if we don’t fully understand it.

Baptism by the Holy Spirit

Turn to 1st Corinthians 12:13. This chapter is entirely given to understanding the gifts of the Spirit, and how He, the Holy Spirit, builds the church by giving appropriate gifts to each believer. He makes the choice as to who will do what task, and, just as individual cells in a body are not given the option to choose their individual tasks or locations in the body, believers are given their assignments by God, the Holy Spirit. (We also saw this in our study in Numbers, by the way.)

Without going into a lot of detail about the gifts of the Spirit, this verse, in the midst of the larger passage, tells us a key point: every single believer has been “Baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ.” That is what makes you a “Member” of the Body of Christ.

Membership and Baptism

When we talk about “Church Membership,” this is the only kind of membership God ever addresses. Every member of the Body of Christ is expected to find a local assembly of like-minded believers and attach themselves to that assembly and serve there, as a functioning part of the Body of Christ. Every member is to function as a member.

Some churches have a “membership roll,” as if they are a country club, or something. No such idea is suggested in scripture. Some churches literally require that you be water-baptized (again) into that church, for membership. This also is unbiblical.

Some require that you be “vetted” by their governing board, and deemed “worthy” to be a part of their organization. I personally find that repugnant: If Jesus’s Blood at the Cross, which made me clean enough to stand before a Holy God, and address Him as Father, is not enough to make me “worthy” to be in some human outfit, then I don’t belong there!

(Is there “church discipline” in the Bible? Yes, but it has nothing to do with membership. We will discuss that at another time.)

Baptism by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ is the only kind of baptism necessary for salvation, and it occurs the moment you place your faith in Jesus as your Savior, even if you are unaware that it is happening. So, let’s talk about the otherkind of baptism: water baptism.

Water Baptism

First, let’s address the actual meaning of the word, “baptize.” The Greek word for “baptize” is pretty much just “baptize.” Our problem is that when the first English Bibles were being published (particularly the King James Version which was “authorized” by King James, the monarch of England, and the head of the Anglican Church,) since they had to not contradict the Church of England, the translators could not write in the actual meaning of the word for baptism.

The Church of England (scarcely removed from Catholicism at the time) was practicing baptism by sprinkling, while the actual meaning is “to dip!” The Greek word “baptizō”means “immersion!” The intensive verb “baptizō” is the most frequent derivative of the root “baptō”, which is translated, and is always translated “Dip.”

In the Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, by Lawrence O. Richards (pp. 100-101,) under Baptizō, it says: “Baptō is the basic verb. It means ‘to dip in’ or ‘to dip under.’ It is often used of dipping fabric in a dye. Baptizō is an intensive form of baptō. From early times it was used in the sense of immersing.”

So… had they consistently translated the word to what it actually means, John the Baptist would have been John the Dipper! But when Jesus “dipped” the sop in the cup, and passed it to Judas, the word “baptō” actually was translated (“dip”); and no one calls that a baptism!

Baptism is Immersion for Identification

So, the concept involves immersion, and the result of that immersion is to fully identify the thing being dipped, with the substance it was dipped in. The sop Jesus gave to Judas was permanently soaked in whatever was in the cup. Cloth dipped in a pot of dye is permanently identified with that specific pot of dye. In fact, all the cloth that came through that specific pot is together identified as a specific “dye-lot.”

According to 1st Corinthians 12:13, if you were born again through faith in Jesus’s Blood, then The Holy Spirit has immersed (baptized) you into the Body of Christ: you are permanently identified with Him in every way. And so is every other believer. We are all from the same “dye-lot!”

Jesus came to John the Baptist to be water baptized so that He would be identified with John’s message: John preached the Gospel of the coming Kingdom—the promised “Kingdom of Heaven,” which is the 1000-year reign of Jesus on earth. Jesus is the Promised King! So, He was identified with the Promised Kingdom through that baptism.

Baptism is Obedience

We practice water Baptism for the same reason as we practice Communion: we were told to do so! Communion commemorates the reality of the Gospel, applied to each believer. Baptism commemorates the fact that the Holy Spirit has already placed us into the Body of Christ.

He has already immersed us into Jesus, so that we are fully identified with Him, forever, in every way. We practice water baptism once, as a believer, to testify of our new position in Christ. It is not how we “join a church,” or “repent of our sins” or any other such thing. This is a believer’s baptism. It is a public testimony of what already happened.

What happens if you don’t get baptized? Nothing, as far as I can see: But Jesus commanded the Eleven to go into the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

There is a spiritual “chain reaction,” there, which requires that this command, called the “Great Commission” be our marching orders, just as it was for the eleven. And that includes believer’s baptism. So, even though we may not really be sure how it works as a testimony, we do practice water baptism by immersion. We do not require it of anyone, and we only offer it when it is requested.

Is Baptism necessary for Salvation?

People sometimes protest that 1st Peter 3:21 “…clearly says baptism now saves us!” In the context, though, Peter was talking about the people on the Ark with Noah, who were “saved by water.” Those people were permanently separated from the lost world around them by the flood, because everyone else died in that flood: they were saved from that judgment by God, through the Ark, which is a terrific picture of Jesus! Peter says that “in like figure (a “similar picture”) baptism now saves us…”

What kind of Baptism Saves us?

(And how could it save us? Do you really think getting “dunked in water” can separate you from God’s judgment of the world?) No, it can’t! But getting placed into the Body of Christ can and does! “All in Adam die, but all in Christ shall be made alive!” 1st Corinthians 15:22)

This verse in Peter is in reference to the Baptism of the believer by the Holy Spirit, into the Body of Christ. The same is true of Romans 6:3, 4, where it says that we’ve been baptized into the death and burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. No water was involved in either case!

It is interesting to read 1st Corinthians 1:10-17, where we can see how the Apostle Paul felt about water baptism. He saw that water baptism had already fostered divisions among the brethren: (“Paul baptized me!” “Well, Apollos baptized me!” …etc.)

How did Paul feel?

Paul said he was thankful he had only baptized a handful of them, and concluded that “Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the Gospel.” Paul did practice water baptism, but it did not have a very high priority in his mind. The reality (being baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ”) came about through the preaching of the Gospel. Water baptism was just a picture of the real thing: a testimony that it had occurred.

Water baptism does not require any special clothing or ritual; no oath-taking nor any other such thing. Upon public confession of faith in Jesus, and in His finished Work at the Cross, a believer is fully qualified for water baptism, as a step of obedience and a testimony of the new birth.

We will proceed on that authority!

Lord Jesus, teach our hearts and minds, and use this service to strengthen our commitment to You. Raise us up to walk with You and to work with You.

I am going to have the two applicants give their own testimonies now:

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.

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.

To Whom is the Promise of God Given?

To Whom is the Promise Given?

© C. O. Bishop 2/28/15 THCF 3/1/15

Galatians 3:15-18; compare Genesis 13:15-16

Introduction:

We have talked about the Promise of the Spirit, and our need to embrace that Promise. One thing that has always bothered me, in the following few verses, is that, from my human perspective, it always seemed that Paul was playing a little “fast and loose” with the grammar of the promise of God to Abraham, in Genesis. But I know that this is God’s inspired Word…Paul was doing exactly as he was directed. I also know that God is God, and He certainly has the right to comment on His own Word. So how can I resolve the question?

The Septuagint vs. the Masoretic Text

It recently occurred to me that, in modern times, we have always only had two real sources for the Old Testament scriptures: The Masoretic text (which is Hebrew and Aramaic, and the most recent example at about AD 200)— and the Septuagint (a Greek translation from about 140 BC.)

We might think, “Well…maybe a lot was lost in the Translation!” (as is frequently the case in translations), but this question was checked by hundreds of scholars over the last several hundred years, translating (again) the Hebrew into Greek to see if their translation matched the Septuagint; and, the reverse: translating the Greek Septuagint back into Hebrew, to see if it came close to the original language. All these exercises were done for two reasons:

  1. Believers earnestly want to know what God’s Word really says, and because
  2. Attacks are frequently made by the enemy and we feel forced to defend the Word of God.

Yes, the translation exercises showed the reliability of the two texts. And, in 1948, when the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the caves at Qumran, the scholarly elite were filled with Joy; some because they were sure that these texts (including most of the Old Testament, in Hebrew and Aramaic,) would prove the unreliable character of the Bible, and others—believers— because they hoped exactly the opposite. As it turned out, over the years, as these scrolls were painstakingly opened and preserved for posterity, but carefully studied, as well, the scrolls strongly supported the accuracy and reliability of the Bible.

So, What Did Jesus Read? What Did He Quote?

Perhaps the strongest support for the Septuagint is the fact that virtually every single Old Testament quotation in the New Testament, whether quoted by an Apostle or by Jesus Himself, is quoted from the Septuagint… word for word. That is the reason the New Testament (for example) says “a virgin shall be with Child”, when they could have translated the Hebrew to mean “a young girl”. The Hebrew word (“alma”) does mean, “young girl”, but is usually used to mean a young girl who is not married and not sexually active. The translators of the Septuagint understood this, and chose to use the Greek word “parthenon”, which specifically means “virgin”, when they could have used the word “korasion” which simply means a “young girl”.

In light of that, one could either say, from the perspective of an unbeliever, that the translators (all 70 of them) had made a serious error, trying to prove the virgin birth (this was completed 140 years before Jesus was born: the translators had never heard of Jesus), or, still as an unbeliever, that Jesus and all his disciples deliberately chose to use a flawed translation, trying to prove it. Either response relegates the entire New Testament to the trash-heap, as one has to prejudge the translation to be false and prejudge Jesus to be a deceiver.

To a believer, though, this is powerful evidence that Jesus fully approved the Greek translation of His own Word…He quoted it! And so did Paul.  If Paul was the only one who used the Septuagint text, we might be tempted to think he was manipulating the meaning, here. But Jesus was very consistent in its use as well, and with similar results. My conclusion is that there are doctrinal points that were not specific enough in Hebrew, and God has made it clear in Greek. It might, in fact, be evidence that the Septuagint is an “inspired translation”. But all we know for sure is that Jesus used it constantly, as did his Apostles.

So, what is the difference? Does it matter which “Bible” Jesus quoted? I think it probably does! Let’s see what Paul had to say:

The Covenant—the Promise

15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.

Paul is appealing to human law: he says, if a contract has been signed—an agreement made—you can’t start “adding things later”, or changing the terms of the agreement. Much more so, the covenant of God: God will not change it, because He is Holy and Righteous, and because it is His Word. We cannot change it because we have no authority to do so. Paul points out that it would violate both the principle of Law and of Promise, to alter a covenant after the fact.

16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

To whom was the initial promise made, in Genesis 13:15? It was made to Abraham, regarding the land. And, in response to Abraham’s faith, it was extended to a lot of people. But the first giving of that promise was made to Abraham “and his seed”. In normal English, I would have interpreted that to mean his offspring, however few or numerous they may have proven to be. In Hebrew that would seem to be true as well—the words in Genesis 13:15 and 13:16 in Hebrew are identical (“zera”…seed.) As far as I can determine, the Hebrew word for “seed” is used the same as the English word—it could be singular or plural, depending upon the context. But in Greek, there are at least three different forms, and just as Jesus did, Paul was quoting the Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.

But:  in the Septuagint, the word for “seed” in verse 15 is specifically singular! I looked up the Greek word used in Genesis 13:15 in the Septuagint, and, as a matter of fact, it is the exact same word that Paul used in Galatians 3:16 (“spermati”). I never would have understood this point without God bringing it to light: in English, the plural for seed is not always “seeds”—we say “I set aside 100 pounds of wheat for seed.” And we would mean that this wheat was being saved for planting, not eating. But Paul points out that, at least in this case, God meant the singular—the promised “seed”—the person of Christ.

But the word used in Genesis 13:16 is a different form of the same word, and is commonly used as a plural or substantive, meaning a large quantity (“sperma”), meaning “seed—and lots of it”. The particular promise of the land and blessing, then, was not initially to the whole family of Israel, but to one single offspring: Christ. The specific promise regarding Abraham’s offspring being so numerous uses a different word form.

There is a third form of the Greek word for seed (“spermasin”) that is specifically plural, referring to a numeric plural. That is the one Paul pointed out that God had NOT used. There is no question that Paul was making a valid point; again, because he quoted the Septuagint.

Why does this matter?

To Whom Was the Promise Given?

The initial promise, of course, was to Abraham. But the portion that said, “…and thy seed…” used the specifically singular word for “seed”, and, as we see in Galatians, that particular seed was not in reference to Isaac (who wasn’t born yet), but to Christ.

Since I do not easily read Greek, but rather have to look up every word, as a rule, I would not have caught this detail. And since I don’t even own a copy of the Septuagint, but had to find a copy on the internet that I could read and compare to the Greek New Testament (which I do own), I definitely never would have known that there was a detail I was missing without God commenting on His own Word and showing us something special.

So why is that so special? Because, if the Jews had been correct in assuming that all of the promises were to them because they were Abraham’s offspring, then those promises could not be applied to me unless I became a Jew. In fact, even then they would not apply, because I am not his offspring at all, by nature, and becoming a Jew would not change that. But…if, as Paul states, the promises were to Christ, then they can be applied to me, if I am in Christ.

The promise is both narrowed and broadened in that one explanation: it is narrowed from “all the Jews” to “just the Messiah”. It is broadened from “only the Jews” to “anyone and everyone who places his or her trust in the living Christ.” Paul underscores this “positional truth” in another passage; 1st Corinthians 15:22—“all in Christ shall be made alive”. If you are “in Christ” then the promises will be to you.

Are there specific promises given only to the Jews? Yes, I believe there are. I do not believe that the Church has “replaced” the Jews in the plan of God. Their promises are virtually all physical, earthly blessings. Ours are, without exception, spiritual, heavenly blessings. And a Jew who embraces Christ steps into a new relationship. Just as the Levite, who had no inheritance in the land, but whose inheritance was the person of God and the priesthood of God, the person whose life is hidden in Christ trades the earthly and temporary for the heavenly and eternal.

So; the question Paul is exploring here continues to be the relationship of Law to Promise—Law to Grace—Law to faith. His answer comes in the form of a question: “Which came first?” The answer is that the Promise came 430 years before the Law. His conclusion is that the Law could not change the Promise. By choosing to trust in Christ and his finished work at the Cross, we sidestep the curse of the Law, and embrace the eternal Promise of God. Paul goes on:

17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

Paul argues that, if the Law changed the promise in any way, then the promise is broken. But God does not break his promises, and the Law, coming far later, has no authority to change or set aside the promise.

By the way, remember that the Promise was an entirely one-sided covenant made by God…there was nothing for Abraham to do: no further conditions to meet. He had already been declared righteous by God. How? By Grace, through faith; and God made the unconditional covenant of the Promise, with no way for Abraham to fail.

Remember we have talked about how a serious, binding covenant between two Jews was made? The two parties brought a sacrifice, and split the pieces of that sacrifice, and together walked between the pieces of the sacrifice, calling God as their witness that they were bound by the terms of the contract.

But in Genesis 15, God did not allow Abraham to walk with him between the pieces of the sacrifice. He allowed Abraham to see, but not participate, as He himself walked alone through the sacrifices. Does that sound at all familiar? Doesn’t it strike you as significant that Jesus walked alone through all the trial of Gethsemane, the trial and the Cross? Alone, into the Grave, alone in the Resurrection and the Ascension…but invites us to join Him there, by faith? He has invited you to see, but not to participate, beyond faith. You do NOT earn your salvation in any way.

God bound Himself to the Covenant…there was nothing for Abraham to do, to fulfill “his part of the agreement”. It was entirely one-sided! There was no way that Abraham could fail, somehow negating the promise. The condition (Faith) had already been met. Abraham had already been declared righteous, and the Promise was secure. Does that sound familiar? We have already been saved by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8, 9). Peace with God has already been established (Romans 5:1) and the promise is eternally secure.

Paul’s Conclusion

18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

If the inheritance was somehow switched over to being accessible through the Law (instead of promise) then the promise would have to be set aside…and it was not. The Law and the Promise are not working at cross-purposes. They are working together.

Paul first points out what is common knowledge—that the Promise was given apart from Law. He pointed out that Abraham had the promise nearly half a century before Law was introduced. Then he concludes that inheriting the promise is also not connected to Law, but to Grace and Faith, just as it was in Abraham’s case.

If you want the promise of God to be applied to your life, look to the one who inherited them all…Jesus! If you have received Him as your savior, then the Promises are already yours, because you are in Christ. But, how do we experience them?

On a day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis, we experience the full blessing of God through faith and obedience. We regain fellowship through confession (1st John 1:9), and maintain it by simply walking by faith (1st John 1:7). As the Holy Spirit points out things in our lives that He wants to change or eliminate, we can say, “Amen, Lord”, and give those things to Him as an act of Worship, or we can scream, “NO! That’s my favorite!” and cling to our own way. As we give our lives over to Him, bit by bit, we grow closer to Him; we understand more of His perspective, and we learn to walk more consistently.

A baby learning to walk is very unstable. But eventually he or she learns to walk reliably, and seldom stumbles. This happens through practice, as the child grows stronger and gains a better sense of balance. We can do this, too! We can:

  • Practice confession and obedience—that is how we regain fellowship and walk with God. And it takes perseverance and practice.
  • Feed on the Word of God to grow stronger and healthier.
  • Pray for God’s leading, so that we will be sensitive to His Word.
  • Fellowship with other believers. This is how we learn the joy of walking with God.

Press on, my friends! It is worth it, every step of the way!

Lord Jesus, we ask that we may partake in the Divine Nature through the Promises available to us in You, as we fellowship with You and with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Make us the Men and Women of God you have chosen us to be. We pray these things so that we might be to your honor and glory.

Perfected by the Flesh?

Are You Being Perfected by the Flesh?

© C. O. Bishop 1/7/15 THCF 1/18/15

Galatians 3:2-7; compare John 3:17, 18

Introduction:

You may remember we talked about the truth of the Crucifixion, and the fact that the Galatian believers had once been obedient to that truth, having placed their faith in it, but now were being disobedient to the truth of the Gospel, because they were shifting their faith from God’s Grace to their own works. They still believed (to some extent) that they had been saved by faith, but they had become convinced by false teachers that they had to add works to faith in order to “really be saved”, or, perhaps, in order to “stay saved”. I remember a woman from a particular church (I have no idea what sort; as a brand-new believer I made little distinction between one church and another) telling me that “Well, you are saved by faith, but you are kept by works!”

I had just been given a New American Standard Bible, at the time, and had just read Romans 6:23, so I recited the fact (quoting the NASB) that the “free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus.” She disputed the word “free”, saying that “it only says ‘gift’”. I was puzzled, because I thought “if it isn’t free, then it isn’t a gift!”, but I opened my new Bible, and showed her that it did say “free gift”. She glanced at it, then looked at the cover and said, “Well, that’s not the Bible!” (I had never run into that argument, before, either…apparently they admitted no other translation beside the King James Version…which is sad, because, in the first place, it cuts out every other language except English, and, in the second place, it denies that there will ever come a time when English as it was spoken 400 years ago might be sufficiently obsolete that we require a new translation in order to readily understand God’s Word.)

Since that time, I have repeatedly run into people who were adamant that unless you somehow prove that you are worthy of salvation, deserve salvation, or have earned salvation, then Jesus’ blood and Grace will not save you. So, who should we believe?

Scriptural Evidence

This sort of question was plaguing the new believers in the Galatian churches, too. The legalizers told them that Jesus’ blood was not enough, and gave them “logical” arguments to back their claim. But, God’s Grace is not dependent upon Human Logic. God’s Grace is dependent upon the unchangeable character of God Himself.

Who should they believe? The legalizers came to them looking good and sounding good. Paul had come looking very beat-up and half-blind, besides. He preached only Christ, and appealed only to the written Word of God. They claimed they did, too, but they insisted on turning aside to human reasoning, in order to back up their conclusions.

I knew a man who insisted that “Jesus only died for the Elect”. When I pointed out 1st John 2:2, where it specifically states that He died for the sins of the whole World, he would say something like, “But think about it! That doesn’t make sense! Why would he pay the price for the sins of people who he knew were going to reject him?” The fact is; I do not have to “make sense” of what God clearly says: I only have to preach it faithfully. But, Jesus himself explained that particular idea (John 3:17, 18): He said “God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the World through him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned; he that believeth not is condemned already, because he has not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God.” The sins of the Whole World were paid for at the Cross. The “Whosoever will, may come” promise is true! But those who refuse it are already condemned; not waiting to be condemned. As an unbeliever, I was already headed for Hell. When someone shared the truth of Jesus’ Crucifixion, burial and Resurrection with me and (eventually) I believed it, I was saved by God’s Grace…nothing else.

Paul is turning their eyes back toward God’s Word. He offers proof from the scriptures, that the Gospel they had received was the whole truth, and sufficient in itself to save them. He also reminds them of what they had experienced before the legalizers arrived. They had already been born again, and they had already received the Spirit before the Legalizers ever arrived. He asks them, then, in verse two:

2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Paul confirms that these believers had received the Holy Spirit and implies that they themselves knew this was true. He then poses the question, “How was it that you received the Spirit: by keeping the Law?” Obviously, as lost sinners—Gentiles, to boot—this was not what had happened, nor could it have happened. They knew nothing of the Law, nor had they made any attempt to keep it. And in addition Paul had preached the Gospel of Grace—the Cross of Christ; he certainly did not preach the Law. He contrasts the concept of Law-keeping with the opposite—the hearing of faith. They knew three things:

  1. They had originally been offered that true Gospel, as Paul preached it;
  2. They had believed it, and
  3. They had received the Holy Spirit,

ALL without works—just by Grace, through faith. As we have seen earlier, that is the only way that anyone in the history of the world has been saved: it has always been by Grace, through Faith. There are no exceptions. Now, with that truth as the backdrop, Paul holds up their current error to show it for the folly that it is:

3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

He says, in effect, “How can you be such fools as to think that you could begin by the Holy Spirit, but improve upon your position through your own works, and somehow, through your own effort, “perfect” your relationship with the God who gave his life to save you? You imply that His works were not enough, but that— somehow—yours are!  What incredible folly!”

In fact, as I think of it today, it seems utterly blasphemous to suggest that “Well, poor old Jesus made a nice try, but He really couldn’t manage the job! So I’ll just step in and show Him how it should be done!” That is incredible arrogance, and actually denies the Deity of Christ, because if God, by definition, is All Wise and All Powerful, then Jesus could not be God in the Flesh, and fail to accomplish what, from the Cross, He claimed to have completed. When He said, “It is finished!”, that statement included the purging of all the sins of the whole world. Otherwise his original mission statement (John 3:17) was false. He said “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the World through him might be saved.”

We need to turn our eyes to God’s Word, and believe Him. Paul turned the Galatian believers’ eyes toward God’s Word; Paul was the faithful witness, and the Legalizers were the false witnesses. All through this letter, Paul reminds the believers of Old Testament truths that pointed to the New Testament realities of the Church age. Let’s follow the rest of Paul’s argument:

The Negative Evidence

4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.

Now, I am not absolutely certain what “suffering” he is referring to, here, but I suspect that they had been mistreated for their faith by unbelievers, both Jew and Gentile. In the book of Acts, we read of riots and revivals happening nearly everywhere Paul and his entourage went. We can see in Hebrews 10:34 that at least some believers had their belongings confiscated by civil or religious authorities because of their faith. And those in that passage endured that indignity joyfully, knowing that a greater reward was coming. (We see these changes coming in our own society, and are fearful because of it.)

These in the province of Galatia evidently had suffered for the name of Jesus as well, but now had doubts as to whether the name of Jesus was sufficient. I am reminded of Peter’s comment in Acts 4:12. He said, “…neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved!” The evidence is clear: Peter preached the name of Jesus as the only means by which we must be saved. When Paul was in Philippi, the jailer asked “what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30, 31) Paul’s answer was “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved….” He did not add any sort of works to the mix, though it might have been tempting, since Paul was in prison, with bleeding whip-marks on his back, and manacles on his hands and feet. But he added nothing to the truth of the Gospel. We are saved by faith in the Christ of the Bible—the God-in-the-flesh, only-begotten-Son, Lamb-of-God who takes away the sin of the world! That is who Paul had preached, with the results being riots and/or revivals, virtually everywhere he went.

The revivals began small, as he first offered the Gospel to whatever Jews were in a town. If there was a Synagogue in town, he began there.  It took ten Jewish families to begin a synagogue, so there had to be at least that many, or there was no synagogue. Within those synagogues, there were usually a few Jews who responded in faith, but the majority of them rejected the Gospel.

Eventually, those who rejected the good news rose against Paul, accusing him of heresy. (Remember: he faithfully used the Old Testament to demonstrate the truth of the Gospel…they had no excuse for not believing the Word; they just didn’t like his conclusions.) At that point, upon their rejection of the good news, he would turn to the Gentiles of the region, who were generally more receptive. But, to the angry Jews, that was not acceptable either …and that is when the riots began. Sometimes things got really rough, so that he had to leave town almost immediately, both for his own safety and that of the new believers. Sometimes the Gentile civil authorities ignored the fracas; sometimes they joined in persecuting the believers. Occasionally, God used the civil authorities to defend the believers (same as today), but not often.

So, perhaps some of these believers had been persecuted for their faith; I can’t say for sure. But, you see, they would never have been mistreated by the Jews for trying to keep the Law—that, in fact, would have pacified them, which is why Paul asks, “Did you suffer all that for nothing?”

Even today, people of most of the world’s religions are not under attack—it is those who actually believe the Gospel and trust in the person and name of Jesus Christ who are universally maligned. What does that tell you about your faith? If all the enemies of God, religious and secular, condemn it, then I have to conclude that it must be a good thing: God’s enemies have become my enemies; which means I have been moved to a position with God. (Give that some thought!) There are four means by which we usually judge a person’s character:

  1. What they do: this is easiest to see, and usually pretty accurate.
  2. What they say; compared to what they do: (Do they match? If not, why not?)
  3. Who their friends are: Who are they most comfortable with? (“Birds of a feather…”, etc.)
  4. Who their enemies are: Who is it that can’t stand them? Would I rather be amongst their enemies or their friends?

Paul is stating that the persecution they have received is evidence of the truth of the Gospel, specifically because it was unjust persecution for faith, not for evildoing. (There have been modern-day cults who claim they were persecuted for faith, but the historical fact is that they were persecuted for immoral deeds that they committed as a result of their beliefs.)

The Positive Evidence

5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

On what basis does God administer (the Greek word means “supply”) the Holy Spirit to you? By what means is He working miracles among you? Notice that in this verse the three verbs, “minister”, “work” and “do” are all present tense. I checked in the Greek, to make sure, and it turns out they are all present tense in the original as well. Why is that important? Some commentators believe that Paul is only reminding them that when he, Paul, was among them (past tense), they did not receive the Spirit by obeying the Law, but by believing the Gospel. And that is certainly true. However, that is not what he is referring to, at all, here: Paul is not there, and is not doing anything among them…but God is! The people who believe the Gospel still receive the Holy Spirit in Paul’s absence, both then and today. They do not do so by keeping the Law, and never have!  Paul goes on to show from Scripture that this has always been the case:

6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

This is not the only place where Paul uses this argument, citing Abraham as an example (see Romans 4:1-25). In both cases, he is referring to Genesis 15:6. God called Abraham out to look at the night sky: He said, “Try to count the stars! If you can count the stars, that is how many your progeny will be!” It goes on to say that Abraham believed God and God accounted it to him as Righteousness. He imputed Righteousness to Abraham on the basis of faith. Paul says:

7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

Bear in mind that the Jews thought they were the children of Abraham, because they were physically of his lineage. Jesus himself debunked that idea, saying (John 8:39) “…if you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.” I am sure that was a shocking idea to the Jews, and utterly offensive, as their whole hope was in their physical kinship to Abraham and their own keeping of the Law. But Jesus was warning them that their bloodline was not enough to save them. In fact, in that same passage (v. 44) he told them “you are of your father, the Devil, and his works you will do…” (Yow! Do suppose that might have gotten their attention?)

8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. (My emphasis….)

This one is actually referring to Genesis 22:18. Remember back in Genesis 22, Abraham had proved his faith, at least thirty years after the initial promise back in Genesis 15, by attempting obedience, in offering Isaac as a burnt offering, as commanded. On the basis of this attempted obedience (remember, faith is an obedient response to a revealed truth) God made an additional promise—the beginning of the Good News that we preach today. All nations have been blessed at one time or another and to one degree or another, through the person and work of Christ, the “Seed of Woman”, also identified as the Seed of Abraham. And all, in varying degrees, have at some point eventually rejected that blessing.

But faith is on an individual basis: Do you remember Rahab? She was a member of an already condemned nation. She was commended for her faith; and through her initial faith and obedience, her whole family was salvaged out of the destruction of Jericho. Ultimately, she married a Hebrew man named Salmon, and the two of them had a son named Boaz. Does that sound familiar? Not only was Rahab saved by faith; she was entered into the genealogy of Christ, just as we are saved by faith and are placed into the Body of Christ.

Paul’s Conclusion

9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

Paul concludes that the blessing of God—His Grace, in fact—is entirely dependent upon faith, not works, as he points out in Romans 4, since the Promise Believed was thirty years earlier than the obedience which brought the blessing of the Promise Expanded. Abraham had enjoyed that blessing for 30 years before his ultimate test came about. And now the Grace of God is extended to the whole world, through faith. Do you desire the blessing of God? Then enter in by faith.

We are admonished to understand our new position in Christ, and not allow false teaching to deprive us of the blessings of Faith.

We are reminded that, while Godly behavior (obedience) is the expected result of Faith, it is never achievable by the Flesh. Righteousness (a right standing with God) in both salvation and service, is attained by faith, not works.

Faith always results in Godly good works, but good works are not always from faith. They could be from vanity, self-will or even false teaching.

We have to examine our motives and make sure we allow the Holy Spirit to rule in our lives. Later on, (Galatians 5:16) God makes the promise that if we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the Flesh. Let’s strive to see that fulfilled in our daily lives.

Lord Jesus, Help us to walk with you by faith, obey you by faith, and examine our motives in all things. Help us to mature as believers, and become the men and women of God you have called us to be. Amen.