Where is the “Holy Spirit of Promise?” Where is the Lord God of Paul? Ephesians 1:13

Ephesians 1:13

phs3I am not sure whether it was Calvin or Charles Finney that said, “We must understand that the New Covenant sustains the same relation to the Abrahamic Covenant that the fulfillment of a promise does to the promise itself.  The Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant are not identical, but the New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant.” (I have the statement in an old notebook of mine and so I am not sure of its source).

 

The New Covenant, that is quoted so often and dwelt on so much, is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant to those who receive it.  It is manifested by the Holy Spirit taking up His home in the human heart and having the human recipient literally immersed in all that the Holy Spirit is, and engrafting His law there in the spiritual DNA of the recipient.

 

Methinks, prophetically and realistically, the time has come when we should feel utterly compelled to consider these promises in the present tense, and only to pray for them as an overdue and unclaimed reality. We need to take hold of them for their glorious intrinsic worth, and for the winning of the nations of the earth. God only blesses us in order to bless others. The fullness of the blessing of the gospel is only seen in the immersion of God’s people in the power of the Spirit. These promises were not due in Abraham’s day.  They were promises made to Abraham and to all the Old Testament saints concerning the world’s future good, and the future good of Abraham’s descendants, i.e. ethnic Israel.

 

phs4Concerning Abraham and the Old Testament saints, the Bible informs us that they, “all died in faith not having received the promises but having seen them afar off”.  (Hebrews 11:13)  And again in Hebrews 11:39, 40, “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”  It is clearly declared to us in the infallible word that these promises are due to us and available to us in a higher sense than they ever were or possibly could be to Abraham and the Old Testament saints. The Kingdom needs to be taken by force, and taken now.

 

The Abrahamic covenant is not abolished.  The Abrahamic covenant has not been completely fulfilled to date.  Some silly folk think that the Abrahamic covenant was fulfilled when Christ came, and thereafter complete, and/or therefore abolished, inferring that Israel has no future purpose in God’s plan. How quaint!  This means that God wasn’t being serious when He used the word forever. Tosh to that one! The Abrahamic covenant is not done away with, set aside or fulfilled. The Abrahamic covenant cannot be set aside until all the nations of the earth are blessed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

 

We need to add that this universal outpouring will then continue till the end of time in this world system as we know it.

 

This brings me to todays offering.

 

May I tread on a few toes? Please? Not that I want to tread on anybody’s toes at all – and I am not trying to be confrontational about stuff.  However, I know I will go where some will not want me to go, in as much as what I want to say is not commonly agreed to in the Christian world. I have a personal deep conviction to share today. Some will love it and shout “Hallelujah!” because they profoundly agree, yet I suspect some might stop half way down the first page and vow never to read my stuff again. Some may read it and think, “Tut! What on earth is the fuss about?” So; May I take the risk? Pretty please? Most Christians will agree with the body of my thoughts, but the qualifying introduction is the bit that might upset a few.

 

My opening gambit, you see, is this:

 

phs5Every true Christian is born again, from above by the Holy Spirit. That cannot be doubted. Most of my readers will “Amen” that opener. Also, and this is where some of you might hold your breath, I believe that every individual Christian, without exception, is divinely promised and is qualified to receive through faith, the promise of the Father, the “promised Holy Spirit,” i.e. the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Master said, “You shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you.” The baptism in the Holy Spirit is stated to be all about spiritual fire, power and authority. This Holy Spirit baptism is every believer’s inheritance. John the Baptist cried, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” The Baptist’s statement explicitly indicates that Jesus Christ would literally immerse believers into the living water of the Holy Spirit. That’s the good news.

 

However, I believe that it is clearly and self-evidently not factual to say that every Christian has received the Holy Spirit in the way and the manner He is promised in the passages of Scripture concerning the baptism in the Holy Spirit. That’s the bad news. Many Christians have a practical status quo in the spiritual life that is contradicted by the perspective that we are about to negotiate.

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If it is argued by any that, “It all happened at conversion,” I will as graciously as I can step back and leave my protagonists to their sad and very mistaken delusion.  Of course, I need to insert a caveat and say; I believe that it is possible to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit in the same moments of conversion. I know quite a few who received their baptism in the Spirit in that manner.  That would be, however, the rare exception and definitely not the common rule. (The need for Peter and John to visit Samaria after Philip’s series of meetings makes that clear.)

 

There are still huge swathes of Christians, and many denominational niche’s where the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the elephant in the room and remains a mere academic Bible College debate and an intellectual exercise.  I am talking of the practical need and the divine provision and I promise I am not even attempting to be doctrinally swanky or supercilious. The baptism in the Holy Spirit should be the normal experience of all Christians. That is my conviction.

 

The separation of “Tongue Talkers” (as they were initially called) from the main body of believers, they having been ejected from churches of all denominations a century or so ago, has in these days completely reversed itself. Not that the intellectual study of the subject has been settled and agreed by all – far from it. In these early days of the twenty-first century we now have the “Tongue Talking rejects of orthodoxy” sitting generally in the driving seat of evangelism, church building, and world winning aggressive and robust spirituality. There are of course exceptions, as there are to every rule. The all-round solid theology and church building praxis of Pentecostalism in general has long killed off the superficial “Tongue Talker” epithet, and the situation is so reversed in the passing of a century that today “Full Gospel” Christians, whether they are wrapped under the Pentecostal packaging or fly under the charismatic pennant, are the folks who have been more successful in keeping the message pure as ever whilst adapting their church praxis into twenty first century acceptability.

 

ph8For anybody out there who thinks I am talking “tosh” let me put the whole stack of cards on the table and disabuse the non-charismatic masses that, by strict definition, “tongue talking” is only a tiny drop of icing on the top of a huge mountainous cake of spiritual enduement for what God imparts in the mighty Holy Spirit baptism. I will not and dare not trivialize the “tongue talking” in any way whatsoever, it is one of the vital organs of the indwelling Spirit – but there is much more than that. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is one of the paths of access into walking like Jesus walked. An “Acts 10:38 lifestyle” is what we are talking about and aiming for.

 

The real point of my thoughts today is a practical one. And this is where I might upset a few folks. It is this writer’s conviction that many Christians have never received the Holy Spirit in any higher sense than the Old Testament saints who had actually been justified by grace through faith and experienced, to some degree, the presence of the Spirit.

 

There! I’ve said it and feel I cannot retract it.  Many Christians, experientially, have nothing more than some of the Old Testament saints. I feel it in my bones that some of my readers will want me taken out at dawn to read the last rites over me before having me shot for those words. I am talking about the real O.T. saints, of whom the Bible says, “They all died in faith not having received the promises” (Hebrews 11:13).  Many Christians have not received the baptism in the Holy Spirit – or many other God given promises – that are part of their inheritance because of ignorance. By that I mean lack of knowledge and understanding. I do not mean that anybody necessarily has a bad attitude as the word “ignorant” can sometimes mean in today’s usage of the word. It may be bad biblical teaching, or even no teaching at all that precipitates the “non-desire” for the Holy Spirit baptism.

 

phs1The New Testament experience should have us all walking where the likes of Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah and Daniel, along with many others never walked. However, many Christians do not even walk near the places those men walked. New Testament blessing should take us well beyond Old Testament extremes. The prophets told us that there was a “New Covenant” coming; a new kind of relationship with God through the Holy Spirit, and a new commonality where the weakest member of the Kingdom of God would be even greater than John the Baptist whom Jesus taught us was the greatest among men.

 

The apostle Paul noted that, “after we believed we were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13).  Most evangelical and non-charismatic or non-Pentecostal Bible teachers, preachers and writers refer to this “sealing of the Spirit” as if it was the new birth. I believe that explanation to be a complete error.  I promise I am not referring to mental gymnastics to prove, “My theology is better than yours! Tadaa!”  What I am talking about has down to earth practical ramifications that can transform one’s spiritual experience and perceptions. I am talking of an enduement of the Holy Spirit and power. I am talking about the anointing of the Spirit.  I am talking of something that would make Daniel and Elijah jealous. A quiet, sedate walk with the Master with no outward manifestation of anything supernatural is not justified. We each need to know, understand, believe and apply the teaching of the baptism in the Holy Spirit (and all the promises of God) in order to take a firm hold on what God wants for our lives both individually and corporately.

 

Once converted, the baptism in the Holy Spirit needs to be a priority. See what Paul said when he met the “about twelve” disciples he met in Ephesus (Acts 19). It was his first primary thought there: “Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?” The baptism of the Holy Spirit is only one of those promises. Some would say it is the most vital promise for any Christian to appropriate. Others would say that it is the one promise that opens the whole bank of God’s purposeful promises. It can, indeed, be logically taught that the Baptism is the umbrella promise that has many more promises embedded within its outworking.

 

I insist that believers in the Old Testament possessed the Holy Spirit. I also believe that they had the anointing of the Spirit that fell upon some in order to bring the miraculous and the divinely supernatural into this time space world.

 

Watch this:

 

phs01We need to understand that the Spirit of God is stated as being “in” the believers throughout the Old Testament. There is the classic verses of 1 Peter 1:10 -11 (NASB) that says, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow” (The Bold font and italics are my action of course). So clearly, we know that all Old Testament prophets had the Spirit of God dwelling within them. I have been taught nearly all my Christian life that the Spirit of God was “within them” while they prophesied, but was not “within them” at any other time. For me, that is not a biblical proposition made plain by the text.  The Old Testament prophets had what Christians hold dear. There is further evidence below.

 

“And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? (Genesis 41:38. KJV).  Some may argue that a heathen idolatrous Egyptian Pharaoh may have used the terminology with a different meaning; nevertheless it is how Joseph was perceived by the Egyptian monarch. It suggests that there was much more to Joseph than his ability to dream his own dreams, and interpret other’s. He had a demeanour of character and gifting that spoke of the presence of Almighty All-knowing God to those that knew him. This presence was part of his character. That screams “indwelling Spirit” to me. From what we know of Joseph, it would seem that, indeed, the Spirit of God did actually dwell within him. He could interpret the butler and baker’s dream at the drop of a hat. The anointing is seen to be at his beck and call when necessity required. That’s what I call an “indwelling.”

 

phs 20“You shall speak to all the skillful persons whom I have endowed with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister as priest to Me. (Exodus 28:3 (NASB)) A large body of men who worked on building the Tabernacle were “filled with the Spirit” in order to facilitate their task. That is what I have always been taught. But the Spiritual wisdom they were given is nowhere suggested to have been given only for this single task. It could just as well have been their lifelong gifting and occupation.

 

“I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship.” (Exodus 31:3 (NASB)). Bezalel was a greatly blessed man. He was filled with the Spirit. Exodus 35:31 states the same phenomena, adding that God actually called Bezalel by name to the task. Again, I add that I have always been taught that this gift was given to Bezalel just for the building of the Tabernacle and then rescinded when the Holy Tent was completed. And yet, again, I add; why should that be a valid conclusion when it is not stated anywhere in the biblical text? I think evangelicals have always made that presupposition to differentiate and make clear that the Holy Spirit experience of New Testament believers is “superior” to and separate from that of Old Testament believers.

There are, however, a good number of statements of scripture that ensure the understanding of the Holy Spirit presence being different after Acts 2 in the life of all believers that totally preclude the need to “make up some differences.” If, as I suspect, the men who worked on the Tabernacle in the wilderness with Moses were Spirit filled in a very practical way all their lives through, that fact – presupposing it to be a fact – in no way prejudices the superiority of the New Testament faith experience when compared with the Old.

 

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“So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.” (Numbers 27:18 (NASB)). Can anything be clearer? The Spirit of God was “in” Joshua. Joshua was a man of faith. Added to the Spirit being “in” Joshua, we have “Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; …” (Deuteronomy 34:9 NASB). Joshua the son of Nun was actually “filled” with the Spirit that was “in” him. That filling, we are told, was because Moses laid his hands on him.

 

Ezekiel 2:2 (NASB) says, “As He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me,” And 3:24 (NASB) adds “As He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me.” I Peter 1:10-11 above refers to a continual indwelling of the Spirit with the Old Testament prophets, suggesting to me, that these two statements of the Spirit “entering” Ezekiel are referring to a supernatural experience for a particular moment.  Ezekiel 11:5 referring to Ezekiel’s experience of the Spirit of God “falling” on him has echoes very much of the baptism in the Holy Spirit as referred to in Acts 10:44 and 11:15.

 

From 1 Peter 1:10-11 we would understand that Micah had the Spirit of God dwelling within him, but when Micah 3:8(NASB) says: “On the other hand I am filled with power— with the Spirit of the LORD and with justice and courage to make known to Jacob his rebellious act, even to Israel his sin,” It sounds to me to be the language that acknowledges an external anointing that has imparted power to the prophet, giving him power and courage in ministry. Micah was conscious and clearly aware of the external anointing of the Holy Spirit on his life and prophetic activity.

 

Nebuchadnezzar knew no better when he referred to Daniel as the man “… in whom is the spirit of the holy gods.” (Daniel 4:8, 4:9 & 4:18). Belshazzar used the same terminology in 5:11 and 14. Even though Nebuchadnezzar was a self-deifying person with deep anger and mental problems. And Belshazzar was a mindless hedonist till his last hours of life, their understanding of Daniel, having met him, speaks loudly.

 

phs2So; we have clear evidence that to some degree, no matter how less and no matter how different the relationship to the Spirit of God, Old Testament believers did indeed have the Spirit of Yahweh within them. Any discussion about the Spirit only being in a chosen few and “not in all,” have no biblical justification for their opinion.

 

Note also, that as well as “The Spirit indwelling,” we also have the “Spirit coming upon” Old Testament believers. That anointing of the Spirit that caused ordinary men to do things that were extraordinary and supernatural.

 

For instance:

 

Judges 3:9-10 (NASB) “When the sons of Israel cried to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel. When he went out to war, the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, so that he prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim.”  An anointing that raised Othniel into Judgeship, and precipitated him supernaturally winning battles.

 

Judges 11:29 (NASB) “Now the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, so that he passed through Gilead and Manasseh; then he passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he went on to the sons of Ammon.” Each Judge was raised up by Yahweh Himself. Sovereignly and –as far as human sight is concerned, seemingly totally random, yet, we understand that nothing Yahweh does is random.

 

ph6Judges 13:24-25 (NASB) “Then the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson; and the child grew up and the LORD blessed him. And the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.” Samson was often moved by the Spirit of God throughout his life. I often pray, “Oh that You, Holy Spirit, would stir me as you stirred Samson!”

 

Judges 14:6 (NASB) “The Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily, so that he tore him as one tears a young goat though he had nothing in his hand; but he did not tell his father or mother what he had done.” It was the anointing of the Spirit of God coming upon Samson that gave him whatever was necessary to tear a Lion in two.

 

Judges 14:19 (NASB) “Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of them and took their spoil and gave the changes of clothes to those who told the riddle. And his anger burned, and he went up to his father’s house.” In 14:6 the Spirit of God helped Samson kill a lion, here he was inspired to kill 30 Philistines.

 

1 Samuel 10:6 (NASB) “”Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man.” It was, of course, the Spirit of God that inspired Saul to prophesy when he was in the same atmosphere of the prophets and musicians of the School of the Prophets. This prophetic word of Samuel’s was fulfilled in 1 Samuel 10:10.

 

1 Samuel 16:13 (NASB) “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.” There was no killing of the bear or slaying of the lion by David until the symbolic anointing of Samuel which precipitated the real anointing, i.e. “the Spirit of the LORD coming mightily upon him. Note also that the Spirit of the LORD came upon David mightily, from that day forward. That phrase informs us that this one off anointing never left him throughout the rest of his life.

 

phs 301 Samuel 19:20-23 (NASB) “Then Saul sent messengers to take David, but when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing and presiding over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul; and they also prophesied. When it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they also prophesied. So Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they also prophesied. Then he himself went to Ramah and came as far as the large well that is in Secu; and he asked and said, “Where are Samuel and David?” And someone said, “Behold, they are at Naioth in Ramah.” He proceeded there to Naioth in Ramah; and the Spirit of God came upon him also, so that he went along prophesying continually until he came to Naioth in Ramah.” It almost suggests that Saul was prophesying involuntarily. The atmosphere of music and the prophetic dance greatly influenced the moving of the Spirit in those first days of the schools of the prophets that were mentored by Samuel.

 

2 Kings 2:9 (NASB) “When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.”  Elisha’s unique and classic request of Elijah was in reality a cry for a double anointing of the Spirit of God. His request was granted. It is a wonderful study into the rationale of Elisha’s request, and the biblical meditation as to whether Elijah granted Elisha’s request or whether it was Yahweh. The conclusions from such a study are more than edifying.

 

2 Chronicles 15:1 (NASB) “Now the Spirit of God came on Azariah the son of Oded,” And Azariah thereafter prophesied very forcefully.

 

1 Chronicles 12:18 (NASB) “Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, who was the chief of the thirty, and he said, “We are yours, O David, and with you, O son of Jesse! Peace, peace to you, and peace to him who helps you; Indeed, your God helps you!” Then David received them and made them captains of the band.” This was a soldier, not a “professional” prophet. The Spirit anointed whom He willed for prophecy just as He does in the New Testament and in the church today.

 

What does all the above show us? It exemplifies the fact that Old Testament believers had the Spirit of God dwelling within them, and it also shows that the anointing of the Holy Spirit was a “common” occurrence in the prophetic activity of the Old Testament.

 

Having stated my conclusions concerning the relationship of the Spirit of God to believers in the Old Testament, we now want to seek out the biblical explanation and definition of how and why a New Testament believer has what the Old Testament believer’s – even the prophets and men like Elijah – did not have, nor could have.

 

phs40We start at Abraham. A fuller biblical appreciation of the promises given to Abraham can illumine our hearts on this issue making us open to take more of the Spirit of God in our lives and to step more easily into the baptism in the Holy Spirit which is the inheritance of every true Christian and always has been since Acts 2.

 

The concept of being “saved,” as in being “born again,” is not used in the Old Testament, however, faith is. Justification is never mentioned in the Old Testament, however, Genesis 15:6 says that “Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness.” That is as clear a biblical commentary on the definition of justification without the word being used that one can think of. It may say in the New Testament that faith is the gift of God, but that does not mean it was not the gift of God in the Old Testament. God Himself gives people the faith that saves them. It may not say that Noah repented of sin, and claimed Yahweh as his salvation, but I defy any bible reader to even suggest that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” to mean anything else but that he went through the dynamics and experience of what we call “conversion” even if Noah would have thought we were talking a foreign language if we suggested that word to him. The fact, Enoch walked with God,” could not have been possible without Enoch exercising faith that gave him access to fellowship with God, in exactly the same manner as it does with the New Testament believer. Hebrews 11 and the “Hall of faith and fame” tells us that these things are so. Faith activated Enoch, Noah, Abraham and many others. Faith is a gift of God that can only be exercised by willful choice. One cannot exercise faith ignorantly or unconsciously.

 

So I ask: If Enoch could, by faith, walk with God and not see death, if Noah could find grace and know that final judgement was coming for his generation, and if Abraham could know clearly that it was right that he should leave “the culture of civilization” and set out to create a whole new culture and civilization, how “insane” does it sound to an unbelieving cynic when Christians say, “We have more than the Old Testament believer’s had?”

 

Is there anybody left out there reading these lines? Or have I lost you all?

 

phs 70I believe the New Testament is superior to the Old. I believe the New Covenant is a spiritual ministration of life while the Decalogue of Sinai was and still is a ministration of death. I seriously believe the New Testament Christian has more than the mightiest Old Testament prophet, but …!  And it is an extremely large “BUT!”  Jesus said to the woman at the well that the day was coming, “and now is,” when folks would worship God in Spirit and in truth.” It is statements like that in John 4, as well as Christ’s remarks about the kingdom members being greater than John, and not forgetting the promise of Jeremiah 31 that settles the issue as an incontrovertible fact. The “indwelling” of the Holy Spirit is what separates the very nature of the New Testament believers’ relationship with God from the people of faith in the Old Testament prior to the first advent of Christ.

 

I am, however, not sure that the commonly held explanations of the distinction between Old Testament and New Testament believers is sustainable in the light of close inspection.  I really believe we should re-examine our convictions about what this difference actually is.

 

“I live with the indwelling Spirit. I have what Elijah, Isaiah and even Moses never had” is what many non-Pentecostal charismatic Christians declare. But is that really true? And for the millions upon millions that have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, surely we are vastly under valueing, misunderstanding, and under utilizing what God has given to us.

 

Old Testament saints were “saved,” (i.e. made righteous in the eyes of God) not by works of law, but by faith as in the covenant Yahweh made with Abraham. There has NEVER been any other way that a human being could be received as righteous before God other than “by faith,” meaning “faith alone.” In other words Abraham, together with all that were saved (i.e. those that were “in faith”) before and after him in the days of the Old Testament, were declared righteous before God because of their faith in Yahweh, and the expectation of Messiah’s coming.

 

Let it be understood that the ceremonial law was a continual rehearsal and a practical demonstration of the New Testament message. It was quite literally a shadow of the Gospel, and it clearly says in that, “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’”  Paul literally calls the words of the covenant with Abraham, “the Gospel.”

 

phs 60The difference then between the old dispensation and the new, does not lie in the fact that under the old dispensation the saints were saved by works, while under the new they are saved by grace. It is essential that it be noted and kept as a fundamental key to understanding the entire Bible: Everyone who was, is and in the future will ever be “saved” was, is and will be only and ever be saved by grace through faith in Christ.  But, in the days of the Old Testament, prior to Christ’s first advent, the Holy Spirit was neither promised nor enjoyed to such an extent as He is promised and enjoyed under these Gospel days.

 

What Abraham and the Old Testament saints did not receive was that measure of the Holy Spirit that constitutes the New Testament Gospel message, and produces the sanctification of the whole person, body, soul and Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23).  Those promises cascade down through the millennia, from Abraham, and through Abraham to Christ, and through Christ and by Christ to the whole Church of God.  Now remember the Holy Spirit is to be received by simple faith in these promises.  “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matthew 9:29). “As it is written, ‘the just shall live by faith’ (Romans 1:17).

 

In the 12th chapter of Genesis, we have the first mention of the covenant that God made with Abraham, even though the word covenant is not mentioned.

  • “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)
  • “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations.” (Gen 17:4)
  • “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” (Gen 17:7)
  • “Since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him”. (Gen 18:18)
  • “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Gen 22:18)

There were two things promised concerning the covenant made with Abraham.

  1. Earthly Canaan or Israel was promised to the natural descendants of Abraham, i.e. ethnic Israel, vis a vis the Jews.
  2. There was also a blessing promised through Abraham to all the nations of the earth.

This covenant was not only made with Abraham, but as we shall see, this covenant was also made with all the nations of the earth through his seed. This is the blessing that has now come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ. We are assured this is true by consulting Romans 4:

  • “For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” (Romans 4:13)
  • “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure o all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” (Romans 4:16)

To detail the situation further, the apostle Paul says that those Gentiles who had faith are of the seed of Abraham, and that he is the father of us all.

  • “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.” (Gal 3:7)
  • “So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.” (Gal 3:9)
  • “…that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Gal 3:14,29)
  • “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal 3:29)

Language could not be clearer. Paul clearly includes gentiles in the blessings imparted by the covenant made with Abraham. Paul confirms that if they are Christians, then they are “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.  Further in Galatians 4:28, he says;

“Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise”.

 

Here Paul affirms that the Gentiles are as absolutely within the promise made to Abraham as Isaac was.

 

Ephesians 2:12-22 declares that the Gentiles inherit all the promises of spiritual blessings made to Abraham and the fathers.  Here, there is absolutely no distinction between Jews and Gentiles.  All who have faith are entitled to all the promises, apart from the land being promised solely to ethnic Israel.

 

The real point to note is that this promise of blessing is not merely that Christ should be of Abraham’s seed, but that the promise was made to Christ through Abraham.

 

“Now the promises were made to Abraham and his seed.  He did not say, ‘and to seeds’ as of many, but as of one, ‘and to your seed’, which is Christ.  What purpose then does the law serve?  The law was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.”  (Galatians 3:16 and 19)

 

“That the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus”. (Galatians 3:14)

 

This blessing, then promised, was not Christ himself, but the promise was first given to Christ, and then through Christ to all the nations of the earth. This means that we can soundly declare that this promise to Abraham and to his “seed,” and through Christ, (i.e.Abraham’s seed) to all the nations of the earth, is the Holy Spirit Himself.

 

Throughout the Old Testament, the prophets seem to have had their prophetic eyes focused on this all the time.  The scriptures, when scoured for these promises of the Spirit, reveal the promises as one unbroken chain pointing out this particular blessing everywhere, starting with Abraham right through to Christ Himself.  Sometimes, it was promised in allegorical language, where the Spirit of God is represented as water, wind or fire.  But in most situations, the prophets promised the Holy Spirit by name.

 

“Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is counted as a forest.”  (Isaiah 32:15)

 

For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.”  (Isaiah 44:3)

 

“As for Me”, says the Lord, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants”, says the Lord, “from this time and forevermore”.  (Isaiah 59:21)

 

“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, says the Lord, I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”  (Jer 31:33)

“And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.”  (Jeremiah 32:40)

 

“Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh.”  (Ezekiel 11:19)

 

“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:27)

 

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”.  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:38-39)

 

“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”  (John 14:16-17)

 

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.  However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”  (John 16:7, 13)

 

“And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”  (Acts 1:4-5)

 

“That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”  (Galatians 3:14)

 

We can now plainly see what the great blessing under the eye of divine inspiration was. The great issue of an outpouring promised to Abraham is avowed in the passages notated above. And the list above is by no means an exhaustive one.  These passages demonstrate that the gift of the Holy Spirit in the process of Salvation was indeed the “promise of the Father.”  This was the promise to all nations who followed the words and believed the promise of Yahweh. Messiah was coming, and He would appear in the power of the Holy Spirit. In His death and resurrection, the people of faith would become the body of Christ, and as He was in the world with full access to the sensitivities of the Holy Spirit, so would His body, the church do and be likewise.

 

This is why Ephesians 1:13 clearly refers to the Spirit of God as the “Holy Spirit of promise”. This is verified in other places.

 

“That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14)

 

“He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water” But this Jesus spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive.” (John 7:38-39)

 

 

We conclude that the Holy Spirit can only be received by faith.  Seeing and knowing the truth is not faith in  itself.  Acknowledging truth is not faith per se.  These things might assist us to have faith, but are not intrinsically faith itself. Faith is an act.  Faith is believing in, divulging to, and compliant with our whole being to the influence of God and His Word.  Faith is actively feeding our voluntary powers to the direction, tuition, stimuli, and rule of the Holy Spirit. On the authority of the whole of scripture I assert my belief that this is the only potential route to receive the Holy Spirit, and to continually be the recipient of the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.  Knowing truth about Him is not faith, nor is it receiving Him.  We can know all kinds of truth about the Holy Spirit and still reject Him.  This happens often.  No matter how profound or concentrated our understanding is, simply apprehending the truth about Him is neither faith nor receiving Him.  Only when we perceive and realize His offers of guidance, it is faith that grabs a holds the offer and yields up our absolute total being to His Lordship.

 

The baptism of the Holy Spirit needs to be sought after and received immediately, by faith, by the worldwide body of Christ.  All preparation on our part to receive Him and all delay, no matter how serious we may think we are in seeking and preparing to receive His fullness, is self-righteous and rebellious.

 

Sorry it is so long today. But …”Here endeth the lesson.”

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Post Script:

I have many note books that I have gathered into my library. They are filled with notes of people I have met, sermons I have heard, books I have read and quotations I have never forgotten. Occasionally I insert a few thoughts of my own that – to me at least – are original. Some of the above has been cooking within me for over 30 years.

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A Spiritual top “C” of a Scream from my Heart

“For this reason . . . I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.”  (Ephesians 1:15-16)

“For this reason . . .!” How I pray for the same reasoning of Paul.

“…I too join with others.” This man was not a loner but a man of fellowship, interaction and human compassion.

“Having heard of the faith that is rampant among you . . .” He was among them for three years or more and now hears the anecdotal news that growth in the Spirit of faith is evident.

“ . . .and the love you show to all the saints . . .” This man had heard that the Christians in Ephesus had grown into a major subculture of Asian society. There was community, love, fellowship and the application of the full force of their experience of Jesus Christ. There was a wonderful ever increasing impact of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“…cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.” He thanks God for each person in the church in Ephesus and Asia. He also mentions them in his prayers. Note that there is no way Paul’s prayer for them was a “God bless Ephesus. Amen.” Moment. And even though the explanation of the prayer is only 15-23, I cannot believe that it was only the minute or two that it takes to read. Paul did not say prayers – he prayed. He did not cry out –he groaned. He spoke in tongues more than any of the church in Corinth, and it seems the glossolalia was wild and widespread there. We are talking of a man who knew how to touch God and catch His ear.

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The nature of Paul’s Prayer

How I ache, and I do not mean figuratively, when I catch what this man Paul says about prayer and relating with God as a whole. I have a chronic belly ache of a desire to penetrate heaven in the same manner.  If his mere written explanation of what he was praying about has fed and inspired the church of Christ for two millennia, what on earth would it have been like to have been a fly on the wall and to watch and listen to him actually do the praying.

There! My readers have caught me out! Perhaps that is why I don’t quite see it as I should! I say, “What on earth,” when the truth is that this little Jewish man is undoubtedly in heaven and touching God’s throne as he groans from the deepest recesses of his spirit the cause that he is prosecuting with God Himself. It’s not a case of; “What on earth!” It’s more a case of; “What in Heaven!”

He has just explained in the most glorious language, in a way that would humble the greatest poets and dazzle the likes of Shakespeare and Goethe, that these Christians have been chosen, loved, blessed, redeemed, pre-destined and purposed for such wonderfully heavenly ends that God has received great pleasure in planning it all and bringing it all about (Ephesians 1:3-14). He says that because he has heard that all over Asia, as well as in Ephesus, the recipients of his missive are walking in faith and love to such a high degree of grace, he is stirred within.  He therefore states, “For this reason … I cease not to mention you in my prayers.”

He is just about to tell us exactly what it is he prays for in the hearts of these people (Ephesians 1: 17-23).  One would have thought after those first fourteen verses that there would be very little need of prayer for them. However, having told them what they have fully received, he now prays that all that they have will be enriched and quickened by the power of God. They have much! Yet Paul passionately prays that they have more.

The spirit and attitude of this prayer (Ephesians 1:17-23) is a phenomena. It is a crash course into how to see heaven move and people on earth enriched.  The openness!  The freedom in the Holy Spirit!  The breadth of vision, and paradoxically the narrow focus he has for the growth and enrichment of his spiritual children in Asia is astonishing. The likeness to Christ’s attitude towards his disciples in John 17 is breath taking.  Paul wants his children to go further than he himself had gone.

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My desire to pray like Paul

My desire to pray in this manner and spirit keeps me awake at night.  Oh to see people, places and things as God sees them. And then to pray about them accordingly.  There is so much to open up to in the kingdom of God.  What hinders?

It is this writer’s deep conviction that there are vast oceans of biblical truth that are just plainly hidden, masked over, and/or avoided because of human arguement, manmade theological systems that are clung to as infallible, and/or false conceptualisations about holiness and grace, and especially inhibiting opinions about hearing God for revelation. Why? Oh why do so many around the world talk and act as if they had the monopoly on truth without the slightest evidence of its power or authority?  Why is prayer more of an intellectual or even academic exercise as opposed to a spiritual battle?  Why are the bloody issues of spiritual warfare reduced to clichéd three point glass case sermons and long drawn out liturgical prayers instead of agonising times in the Holy Spirit? Why has Almighty Yahweh been stuffed away in such small boxes that the sinners that need him as well as the Christians that claim they have found Him don’t know where he is to be found.

And make no mistake about it, this writer fully identifies himself as being one of the people he is referring to.  God have mercy on us!

 Weak theology of the Holy Spirit a chronic widespread failure

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“No!”  I am not talking about the cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, or the Christadelphians.  I am referring to the mainstream evangelical world in general – a cosmos of which I am party to and a fully paid up member of .  Labels are not helpful overall.  I have been to some Anglican places of worship and found them to be more alive and heavenly in word, worship and relationships than most others.  I have been to some Pentecostal and Charismatic churches and thought I was in a morgue.  In 2014 I find that it has become almost an absolute that the sign over the doorway is no indication whatsoever of the status of the church and the people that are within.  I find, almost comprehensively, that when a weak and insipid approach to the person and work of the Holy Spirit is held by believers (especially those in church leadership), the subject of anything revelatory or supernatural becomes a debated, electrified, barbed wire fence to overcome, rather than a free flow of living water from the inner man as revelation is supposed to be.

With a weak theology of the Holy Spirit, and a non-experiential explanation of where Christians stand concerning the third person of the triune Godhead, mental gymnastics and 400-year-old theological systems are put on the table to defend a status quo that is powerless in the realm of the Spirit.  In fact, this writer seriously asks the question; is it in the Spirit or of the Spirit at all?

The Pentecostal outpouring that began in 1900 was more than a change of emphasis or sermon subject manner.  It was revelation of how important an intimate knowledge of whom the Holy Spirit is, as well as feeding us as to the whys and wherefores of His presence in the Christian’s renewing of the mind.  Oh, how heavily does tradition and denominational creeds tie our hands and hold us back? One cannot march forward when one is up to one’s thighs in slow drying cement. How often do traditions that are sometimes held as more important than biblical truth, gag us and cause us to stumble as the grave clothes of Lazarus did when he left his premature tomb.  Lazarus had been given a whole new life.  He had been given strength to run, jump, shout and praise God in free worship.  Yet he could not move properly because of the simple linen strands that had been tied tightly around him in the true traditions of death.  His speech was impaired, his walk was reduced to the pathetic efforts of a sack race, and his arms were rendered useless. Note also, that the people were in amazement at this blind gagged helplessly bopping man, and he no doubt would have been left longer in that bondage until Christ Himself intervened with, “Take off the grave clothes.” It required the very people who had bound him up with manmade grave clothes, to set him free.

In my travels and experience of recent years this pathetic description is exactly how some pockets of the church are today.  Creeds, artificial priorities and protocols that were relevant and correct in previous generations are now nothing but restricting grave clothes.  Even the theological declarations of four and five hundred years ago are clung to with great determination, yet without any desire to move forward in the truth of God’s word.

The Holy Spirit was a greatly ignored person in previous generations.  New chapters and re writes of the theology of previous centuries have been required because of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that commenced at the very start of the twentieth century.  There are so many ministers and bible teachers outside of the Pentecostal /Charismatic domain that seem to, at least in this writers perspective, resolve all of Christianity into states either of outdated theology books that were written centuries ago, or by writing off the move of the Holy Spirit as an insignificant whim of a few blind to the fact that there are over six hundred million worldwide who are enjoying the Pentecostal truth and experience. One famous Reformed Theologian speaks to his church on the internet giving reasons and a “theology” as to why the Charismatic movement (he doesn’t seem to mention the Pentecostals – he undoubtedly considers them too insignificant) are utter heretics. He has no concept at all that it is not a debate about who is the best writer, who can argue the best for his corner of theology, or who are these strange people who talk in tongues. He is addressing his criticism to the person of the Holy Spirit.  The Lord Christ Himself said some very serious things about those who blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. He defined that form of blasphemy as the actions of those who were calling a work of the Holy Spirit a veritable work of Satan.  It is a line of criticism that I have heard this reformed theologian take at least twice. May God have grace on him!

Parochial Vision of different Denominations, Streams and Movements

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I am painfully aware of the parochial nature of movements, streams and denominations and how easy it is to believe that what God is doing in “my garden” must be a clear indication of the emphases, doctrines and prophetic words that are going on with everybody else.  It was an utter shock when I started crossing denominational borders many years ago and discovered that many streams were moving in a very different direction than the one I was an integral part of.  I discovered that what God was putting on the heart of Denomination A was nothing like the fresh outpouring that Stream B  was experiencing.  And movement C was also having doors opened in some other direction that A and B weren’t even aware of.  And it would be a downright sin to say that any of them were incorrect or not “in the Spirit.” How varied and vast is the kingdom of God! How creative and multi-faceted is the King of that kingdom. How narrow can we children of God become while we swim in such a huge ocean.

In the midst of all this, while some corners of the church are expanding and having Salvation visit their house, I discover that those who stick in the hallowed theological archives and traditional protocols of previous centuries die slowly, and that their creeping paralysis that is obvious to the outsider seems to be completely ignored by the adherents on the inside.  They feed on incipient death and sing songs of thanks while they rot and perish. “This is how we’ve always done it!” is the mantra.  “If it was good enough for the great man of God centuries ago (or even in the last generation), it is good enough for us.”  My experience is that the dying churches tend to blame the wickedness that is out on the streets for preventing people from crossing their thresholds.  I believe the truth is that an ineffective practice of their ineffective theology of the Holy Spirit stops them from hitting the streets in an effort to bring folks in.

Revelation is here. The Holy Spirit, having been sought after and rediscovered as an integral part of the Christian life is a revelation that is seen out on the streets. Creative far-reaching evangelistic efforts, worship models and in depth discipling programmes are simply the offshoot of churches walking in the fullness of the Spirit and the so called Pentecostal experience.

The Questions that must be answered of the twenty-first Century Church

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There are many questions and issues of practical importance to the church of the twenty-first century, questions in which multitudes of Christians are enveloped in deep interest. I believe these issues are the fruit of a generation of people that know nothing else but the fullness of the Spirit and the power of God in their normal Christian lives.  Many issues such as penetrating a so called “Post Modern Society” with the gospel, how to model healing in the power of Christ in the midst of what is probably one of the most cynical generations that the west has ever known, how to confront ungodly laws that the present secular generation announce as moral and even good. It is not more academics and studious debaters that are required for the cause of Christ but a new breed of leadership that move in the wisdom and revelation of Jesus Christ. These issues lie at the very foundation of social morality and Christianity in this century. The whole scenario will never be settled into progressive and consistent growth without Christians instituting fundamental inquiry and biblical exploration of people of the Spirit moving in the wisdom and power of God. It is obvious to my eyes that those people that break out into this battlefield get criticised, ostracised and downright demonised for stepping out of the norms of mediocrity.

As the mighty Charles Grandison Finney once proclaimed, we need to immerse ourselves in the wisdom of scripture, meditate in an abandoned manner and not be afraid of changing the status quo of evangelical paradigms.  Having rewritten the parameters of our paradigms “yesterday,” we need to reconsider that ground taken even today. Only God’s truth is unchanging. However, it is this writer’s conviction that there is much truth that is so hidden by our traditions and ancient protocols that we are blinded by the fog.  We were saved to model Christ in the generation in which we live, and Christ was ever original.  We were made to think like Him. The renewal of the mind as besought of us by Paul in his epistle to the Romans is at its very root a plea to make us think.  We are renewed by thinking in Godly ways things that we have never thought of before. It will do us all a whole lot of good to think, to develop our paradigms by chewing over the concepts of scripture, and to robustly challenge and re-examine the stuff we hold dear. It it turns out that our world-view does not stand up to robust questioning and biblical scrutiny – perhaps we should not have held it anyhow.

God designed that the very fabric of Christian growth, development and maturity should require thought, more thought, and even then to think again.  There are concepts, truths and models so thickly woven into the warp and woof of scripture that it demands profound application and thought to get the juice out of it.  There is always more, no matter how much we have drunk.

A Personal Confession of being stuck in the Traditions of Men

I am NOT attempting to suggest that I have attained or matured to the very issues I am bringing up – far from it.  There are more people that I know personally who would stop reading these thoughts simply because it is I who am writing, than would read on to hear my heart. My call is to think, act, debate and pray as did the man who wrote this letter to the Ephesians.  The gospel cannot be preached or taught without the demand on its recipients to think and change. Nobody in the world needs to think the same as I do, but everybody needs to think and think hard to walk humbly with God.  Concisely, to think and think hard is the very thing that Paul is about to pray for, in the words of Ephesians 1:17-23.

The Never Changing demand for Change

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Paul is about to pray that they rethink their entire position before God.  What they have (1:3-14) is not enough. They need more of God. We all need God at this moment more than we have ever needed Him before. Ask God for more. That is what Paul was asking for himself in Philippians 3, and that is what he prays for the Ephesian (or Asian) believers in Ephesians 1.

I cannot in anyway assert that I have finalised or set in concrete my own faith, my theology or my understanding of God, the gospel message or my purpose after 45 years. I don’t see how I ever could. The thought that I could ever land at a place in God where I cannot move forward, refine my vision or perception, or even tweek my theological precepts must surely be ridiculously impossible. We have examples in the Bible of men who saw things that were weird.  Because these men are accepted as pillars of the faith, and their writings are part of the canon of scripture we accept them without a blink.  Elijah took charge of the weather. Elisha asked a silent woman what he could do for her and when told by someone else that she was childless he nonchalantly threw out, “This time next year you shall have a son.” Micah says that he saw Yahweh get up off His throne and come marching over the hills and valleys to the gates of Jerusalem. Ezekiel saw God on a mobile throne and was so astonished by what he saw he was ill.  Jeremiah inappropriately went all the way to Babylon simply to bury a belt. Peter said he heard the Spirit tell him to contradict the letter of Moses and the Old Testament.  John saw “seven spirits of God.” I cannot for the life of me picture these men as argueing about book based theology or spiritual philosophy. They simply met God, sold their souls to love and obey Him, and then within the parameters of that love and obedience thought as freely as they could and listened to everything that was whispered to them from heaven, no matter how much it seemed to contradict the religious status quo of their day. I know that theological treatises have governed the doctrine and the belief system of the church for two thousand years, but this man Paul just left as a bagful of his letters, and a doctor that we know of wrote a long letter to a man called Theophilus explaining a little bit more about the man from Tarsus. Neither Christ, nor Paul or Peter systematised their belief system, but because of incipient carnality and legalism, followed by the dark ages where rules, laws and ungodliness ruled the church, when the Reformation took place the leaders were forced to systematise their grasp of truth because they were seen as anti-social behaviourists that were in danger of hell-fire.

To Hear the Voice of the Spirit

To truly be in the Spirit people will be listening to God more than listening to the books that they have read. They would do what God said whether or not it towed the party line. Many modern Pentecostals and Charismatics have no idea whatsoever of the condemnatory things that was said re their speaking in tongues, believing that God could heal the sick and the invitations to utilise the gifts of the Holy Spirit in church meetings. They were persecuted – mostly by “soundly taught” evangelicals. However they pursued their vision, aligned themselves with God and pursued Him.

This is what we refer to as “Moving in the Spirit;” “Flowing in the prophetic.” ”Swimming in God.” This is the biblical model of life in God.

We also have people who decry and belittle those that reach for the power of God simply because they have not read the same books and imbibed the same theology. “Those “tongue talkers” have little theology and even less education!” I have heard folks say it! Tell me where academia stands with the things of the God, and in the power of the Holy Spirit before I cast any remark.

Only God Himself can be set in His knowledge of all things. We have an eighteen ounce brain and have the arrogance and audacity to even think we have properly grasped Him. Everything about us is finite, apart from the eternity he has placed within our spirits. Finite minds, with finite thoughts, and finite understanding, put together with finite faculties to comprehend anything must, by self evident extrapolation, need to be in a constant state of learning, growth and development. How is it conceivable to be anything else?  I am willing to learn more and I strive to apprehend more of Him with every day of my life. There are some aspects of my faith and belief system that have drastically altered over the years, but there are some pillars in my body of belief that the more I question them, research them and robustly challenge them, the more I believe them.

The need to Change Perspectives and Paradigms

The revelation of new aspects of the faith must actually change views and opinions once held fast.  Through years of prayer, counsel, bible reading, study and meditation my views concerning the baptism in the Holy Spirit, Healing, the gifts of the Spirit and Prophets and prophecy have become more vital and more deeply entrenched in my understanding, as essential issues within the church worldwide. There cannot be any end to this process can there? At what possible point could we ever cry, “Enough! Enough! I know enough!” I will even assert that f

Or the very reason of our finiteness, we will still yearn to know more after this life. In fact Isaiah informs us that when Christ is seated on the throne of David, when the curse is removed and the Lion lies down with the lamb, and the resurrected saints are on the planet in their resurrection bodies, people will still be streaming to Jerusalem to hear God’s word and be taught by Messiah King.

Consistency does not mean never changing

Consistency is stereotyping intimacy and openness with Christ, not setting down on paper our theological hobby horses in concrete. God does not change. The core message of the gospel cannot change. The Bible cannot change. Anything else is a matter  of thrashing out how these truths can be understood and believed on from generation to generation. Change in us all is an absolute necessity!  True change is constituted by being open to Christ and His word and nailing every flash of truth and light we see in scripture by illustration or analogy to our psyche. Viewpoint must alter, insights must deepen and orthodoxy must be checked out, brother with brother – leader with leader. We need to think deeply of the holiness and strategy of Christ in order to win as many as we can of this generation.

The more I see, understand and know of God and His word the more I need to change my responses to the call for obedience. Once upon a time I cried like a baby and took what the British Educational system referred to as the “Eleven plus” exam. I was nervous and shaking with fear. Questions of simple addition and the breaking up of verbs and nouns was a mountain I shakingly had to climb. Seven years later, my age, maturity and knowledge of mathematics had increased leading me to calmly address myself to what was then “O” level GCSE. The more knowledge a person has the different answers and responses one can deliver. It MUST be the same in the realm of the Spirit. The human dynamic of growth and development is the same whether in the field of academics or in the realm of the Spirit of God. With this rationale we hace to say that nobody “in Christ” need be afraid of changing ones views.  A fear or abhorrence of such a practice is ungodly. It precludes development and growth in so many spheres of the spiritual life.

Paul’s mind was broad, open and energetic. However, nothing was as active as his ear to God and his verbal expressions of what he received from heaven. Even Peter said that some of his sayings were hard to understand, and Peter had gone through three years training with Christ Himself.

All the above is a lengthy expression of my frustration of my pathetic prayer life and my eager desire to utter things in the Holy Spirit that God would move to answer.

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Revelation of Direction in the Will of God

 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” Ephesians 1:1

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A work entitled: “Divine Revelation.”

Because of what Christ said to the apostle Paul at the moment of his conversion, the man from Tarsus was aware that it was God’s will and statement that he was to be a slave (Greek doulos) and  servant, or, using a more comprehensive word, an apostle of Christ.

Yet, when he starts the Ephesian letter with, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,” I am not sure whether or not he is saying that he is an apostle by the will of God, or that he is writing this particular letter by the will of God. I am confident however, that either denotation could be correct.  This man was converted by revelation from heaven – as are we all who have put our faith in Christ, and he was established by revelation. Even his letter writing was under the blanket umbrella of, “revelation.”

As Paul came to the end of his letter to the church at Rome he makes a striking remark: “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past” (Romans 16:25). I say, “striking,” because of the intrinsic meaning of the sentence. Follow me in my sequence of thoughts as I explain:

  • All converts need establishing in their faith.  This means they require a few, “i’s,” to be dotted and even more, “t’s,” to be crossed in the mind and thought processes, as well as the overall attitude to and understanding of the faith. Details of the faith and all its implications need to be grasped as firmly as possible. Faith is something people might be challenged to die for.  For these kinds of reasons, a person’s new found faith needs to be set in “understanding concrete.” Faith needs a full rationale and applied intelligence to its concepts and practicalities. This is being, “established in the faith.” Modern Christian terminology uses the verb, “to disciple,” to describe how to establish somebody in the faith. The meanings of, “being discipled,” and, “established in the faith,” are synonymous.
  • Not wanting to insult the intelligence of any of my readers, but I need to state the obvious – not so obvious to some – that He who gave the faith and facilitated a person’s conversion needs to be left to finish the work of establishing that same faith. It is the same current of electricity that switches on the light that keeps the light burning. Paul said to the Philippians that he was, “Confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you shall perform it to the day of Jesus Christ.” But how does God establish our faith? Yes a mentor, or a teacher, needs to deliver the word, and demonstrate the word in practice to establish that word, but the gospel, and the Holy Spirit Himself are the divine “Establishers.” Revelation brings a person into the Kingdom of God and revelation keeps that person walking in the light.
  • “By my gospel.” The normal terminology of twenty first century evangelicals is that the “gospel” is simply the appeal to the unbeliever. I have been often asked by pastors and church leaders when itinerating around the world and invited to their church to speak, “Will you be preaching the gospel? Or will you be addressing the believers?” To which my standard answer is, “I will be preaching the gospel to believer and unbeliever alike!” The entire revelation of Christ is the gospel, not just the appeal to be converted. The repetition of the sacred truths of Christ’s first advent, and the expectation of His imminent return and Second Advent, should initiate and/or nourish faith and affirm new found lifestyles in the hearts of believers and unbelievers alike. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing…”
  • Paul then defines his gospel in this verse by explaining it as, “the proclamation of Jesus Christ.” It is the full, unadulterated, undiluted explanation and declaration of the who, what, where, how, when and why of Jesus Christ that straightens out people’s lives, and in so doing straightens out the world.  One might say that He is definitely being declared around the world in all the churches on the planet. I respond to that statement by suggesting that we need to work at declaring the message in the same manner and on the same grounds as how Paul defined it. In the midst of the purest declarations, God has promised to accompany the word preached with signs and wonders running alongside the message.
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Another piece of art work entitled “Divine Revelation.”

When Paul arrived at Thessalonica for the first time, he was there over two weeks (three Sabbaths) and was run out of town by severe death threatening persecution. But such were the constituent elements of the message he preached and his confidence in that message and power with which he preached it (1 Thessalonians 2:13), that, even though he, the father of their faith left after such a brief period (15 days at the most), the church stood, as his two ensuing letters confirm. I personally have never heard preaching that has had such an incredible impact on anybody.

You would then ask me, “Are you saying that you have never heard sound preaching?” A pox on that thought. It may be that some vital elements are missing from certain flavours of evangelical Christianity, but that is not necessarily my issue here. My point is that Paul states, “… and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past.” My concern is the phrase “according to the revelation.” It is revelation by the power of the Holy Spirit that secures a rock solid faith when the truth is declared. My thesis is that the statement of Romans 16:25 is not merely saying that the gospel has arrived to us by the revelation of the Old Testament and the first advent of Christ – although that is definitely true – but that it was taught under the auspices and inspiration of the direct and personal revelation that constituted Paul’s intimate reception of the message. People are converted and established by revelation. The more the gospel is delivered from a heart and head filled with revelation, the easier it is for the listeners to grasp the message. Christianity is a thing of the Spirit. Academic attainment is a thing of the mind. Revelation received in the human spirit of preachers needs to be assimilated by the mind and then delivered under the projection of revelation. Revelation in the human spirit teaches and trains the mind and makes us spiritual people. Books written by an academic mind also trains the recipients mind and makes us academics. Much of Christianity in the west treasures the academic far above the spiritual. This is ungodly.

  • The fact that we read in the book that Christ’s advent (both first and second) was predicted by revelatory prophecy since the time Adam left Eden, as well as the fact that I understand the gospel in my academic thinking and declaration, does not mean I am emulating Paul. Paul declared his message, it being a personal revelation to himself. It is the “proclamation that is according to the revelation.” The very proclamation and all its why’s and wherefores need to be declared from the fount of revelation in the heart of the person doing the declaring. This is the definition of New Testament ministry. The gospel needs to be revealed, as opposed to being merely academically understood, in order to be declared in a manner that fully emulates Paul. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 is the authority on this issue. The Thessalonians were not gullible to receive Paul’s words as the word of God in the person of Saul of Tarsus whom they knew as Paul; they had good grounds for believing that what he said was divine. And for Paul to refer to such a concept infers his own confidence that what he delivered to them was the revelatory word of God revealed to him by Christ Himself. Anything less is not New Testament ministry.
  • How was Paul himself established in his message?  “For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:10). What are we to deduce from this? We may say that, “It was different for Paul.” We may say, “Paul was called and chosen for a unique purpose!” And, for a short distance, I would run with the statements and agree with that perspective. But on the issue of revelation I feel that I am diluting scripture if I concede the imperative need for personal revelation to every Christian alive on planet earth, especially those that minister the word. Ministers of the gospel must be carrying the message in their hearts more than it is in their head.
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In the first sermon I ever heard from the man I consider my mentor and father in the faith, TB Joshua, back on 2001, he made a remark which frankly has always screamed at me since I heard it. He said, “How much of our Christianity comes from what we have been told by others? How much of our walk with God has come from being taught by books or other man made means of learning? And how much of our relationship with God has been revealed and/or initiated by God Himself?”  Understand that neither TB Joshua nor I are in any way shape or form against listening to teachers, preachers or pastors. God forbid!  Neither do I want you to think that any book reading or course of study is incorrect. That should not be said, because it wouldn’t be true. The three questions were intended to challenge all who heard him to get more from God’s own mouth. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” That scripture carries weight to all of humanity.

Our whole being should constantly ache for revelation by God’s own enlightening.

There are other statements that aid our understanding of the role of revelation in the life of Paul.“But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.” (Galatians 1:15-17)

No matter how much we claim that “Paul was a special case,” which indeed he was, if we utilise that fact to excuse ourselves from the need for personal revelation, and the imperative of our waiting on God for His personal tuition and understanding, we are clearly wrongly dividing the word of truth.  You and I, samples of the “ordinary” Christian person on the street, the  typical John Doe of the church, are still called upon to seek God and His revelation. To leave the discovery of revelation for the pastor’s, prophets, teachers, apostles and evangelists is a horrific backward step that verges on the Old Testament practice of, “Don’t venture anywhere until one has heard the prophet, priest or king speak.” Jesus Christ, of course, is the ultimate Prophet, Priest and King. In the New Testament every believer is to receive with meekness the engrafted word of truth, we can all intercede by prayer for others (i.e. the priesthood of all believers), and we are all to reign in righteousness. I know the smoking flaxes and the bruised reeds of church membership that need counselling, prayer and shepherding through some basics of life, but revelation through God’s Word and by His Spirit is the daily bread that God sets before the believer through all of life.

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Revelation is a Light in the darkness

Paul refers to his conversion as God being pleased to reveal Christ “within Him.” It was one of the basic qualifying factors that equipped him to preach to the gentiles. When he had realised that the hand of God was on his life since birth, and that he was called by grace and not be deserving character, it gave him a healthy perspective of who and what he was in Christ. In plain modern English, when Paul talks of grace here, it means he was called for no other reason than God decided he would call Paul. It was all revealed, uncovered and shown to the man, Saul of Tarsus.

It is revelation that enables Christian’s to talk about the moving of the Holy Spirit and the concrete realities of Jesus Christ in such a concrete fashion.

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“Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ” and made so by Revelation.

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” Ephesians 1:1

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Paul was converted by revelation. Every single person who has ever been converted to faith in Christ can make the same claim. They “saw the light,” and received it as if that message had come direct from heaven. That’s revelation. However, Paul’s revelation was somewhat different than most. He is not the only person I have heard of who was converted by what they saw as well as what they heard, i.e. by what they were externally experiencing as well as by what they were internally processing.

I remember the late John Wimber’s story of a lady in Anaheim who lived alone, and had no experience of Christianity in any shape or form. She was an all round, genuine twentieth century secularist. One evening as she arrived home from work while changing from work clothes to home wear, she heard a gentle voice say out loud in the bed room, “Mary! It’s time for you to get to know me” (I cannot remember what the real name of the lady was.). Somehow, she knew it was Jesus Christ speaking to her. She was shocked, but pleasantly so, and was not in any way afraid or concerned of an invisible man’s voice in her bedroom. She attended one of Wimber’s meetings that very night for the first time, explained her story, and was led to Christ. That’s what revelation of the invisible does, and that is what it is for.

I have met people in Africa who were brought into the kingdom after meeting Christ in a dream or a vision. Sometimes, the explanation sounded like neither dream nor vision, but a meeting of two people face to face entering into deep discussion, where the resulting understanding and faith, followed by a radical change of life, not omitting the instant disappearance of the person whom they had met, suggested strongly that they had encountered an angel, or even Christ Himself. That is revelation of the invisible. It is revelation by personalities normally invisible, momentarily stepping out from behind the curtain of invisibility to be revealed and to reveal.

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Saul of Tarsus was a Christian despiser, and therefore a God hater as he made his way north to Damascus. He was looking for blood not God. He was thirsting for death not life. He had come with a message of annihilation for believers, not words of edification and life. His eyes could see, but he was blind. The revelation of Christ that threw him to the ground made him blind, yet, from that moment, he could see better than he had ever done before. By a revelation of Christ he was a changed man in an encounter that persisted just a few seconds.

In one single moment, in neither dream nor vision, nor even a trance, Jesus Christ Himself, literally and physically appeared to this man in such blinding light that it knocked him to the ground and took away for a while what was, hitherto, his perfectly sound sight. It is as if, in Paul’s conversion, God was exhibiting the classic traits and process of divine revelation to man. What are these standard ingredients when people receive revelation? We see it all in the three different accounts of this huge moment that impacts not only the progress of Christianity, but all of mankind as well. See Acts of the Apostles chapters 9, 22 and 26.

  • The substance of the revelation is the light that came from heaven. This light flashed around Saul and was obviously traumatic.  It is made all the more striking because the appearance of the light struck him about noon (Acts 26:13). The brightness was greater than that of the sun. At this initial moment of time, he does not know who or what is shining around him. It is scary and very strange. (Acts 9:3-4. Acts 22:6. Acts 26 12-14)). Revelation is commonly a sudden surprise of differing gradations on the spiritual “Richter Scale”. Be it a major or minor revelation, when it comes, it has the capacity to change a person for the better, and to facilitate that person’s capability of handling their circumstances and communication with others. It is God stepping out of time into a person’s arena of life. It is truly what Christianity is all about. It is a revelation of the invisible.

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  • Note that revelation from heaven can knock one to the floor. In retrospect he knew the light was from heaven (Acts 26:13). Did he discern that fact immediately? Saul fell to the ground (Acts 26:14). And notice it does not state that he fell off a horse or donkey as portrayed in much artwork of the scene (Acts 9,22 or 26). Not only was it revelation that floored Saul, but it was the divine glory of the person of Christ that took him down (Acts 9:3-4. Acts 22:6).

John the apostle had walked and talked with Jesus for around three years. He even lay on His bosom at the last supper, and spoke to him face to face, man to man. Yet when he encountered the risen glorified exalted Christ he also, just like Paul, hit the deck (Revelation 1:17). Revelation from heaven can have a profound impact in the immediate that may even seem negative (i.e. Daniel was pale in Daniel 7:28, and another time ill for several days (Daniel 8:27). Paul was totally blind and, “off his food,” for three days after this revelation. However, the goal of revelation when properly received is always positive for the long term purposes of the kingdom of God. It may be paralleled as major surgery being performed by Doctor Jesus Himself. It is surgery of the spiritual kind. It is not primarily applying the surgical knife to the flesh, but first and foremost the divine knife of God’s word that circumcises the spirit, the real heart of man. (I have, however, heard testimonies of many people whose health took a turn for the better after receiving the revelation of the truth of the gospel. And when God heals hearts, and lungs and other organs of the body, there are no ugly keloids afterwards.)

The realities and faculties of body, soul and spirit need time to convalesce and realign in the purpose of God once a person has been so wonderfully stopped in their tracks by the Almighty. Albert Einstein believed that light has some kind of physical substance. In the same vein I believe spiritual revelation has substance – I do not mean physical substance (Parhaps! Who knows?) – but in the realm of the spirit, the reception of revelation impacts the human spirit, and the mind needs to come to grips with the newly discovered reality. Psychological readjustment and reconstituting is the twenty first century term for what we are discussing.

  • There is always a word, or a message with any revelation from God. Somehow the substance of what is seen, heard, smellt, touched or tasted by the spirit has to be digested by the mind and perfected in the resulting message, or declaration of what has been revealed. The message to Saul on the Damascus Road begins with the calling of his name twice; “Saul, Saul.” By which we understand that the revelation is a personal communication from whoever was speaking to Saul. The revelation came in a language Paul understood, ie: Aramaic (Acts 26:14). God always reveals Himself to people in a way they will understand. Divine revelation will always draw the recipient to Christ, it will glorify Christ and facilitate the recipient to be more established in their faith in Christ, or even, as in Saul’s case, actually bring them from unbelief to faith.
  • “Why do you persecute me?” the voice asks. By this we understand that the blinding light is enshrouding a Person who has come to deliver this revelation, and this encounter is One to one. We of course, having the privilege of reading the Bible through, are fully aware that Saul was seeing and hearing the glorified Christ. But at this early moment of the interaction, Paul is shocked into a querulous state of mind that couldn’t grasp why he had been stopped, or by whom (Acts 9:4 Acts 22:7), although I don’t think it took him more than a few seconds to discern who it was.  Whatever the experience or learning curve of a revelation, whether deep, deeper or deepest, it is always to prepare a person for the future and what they may encounter, whether that future encounter is with heaven or hell. God knows all things. This verbal revelation is completely embedded in the reality that the person and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ is the sum and substance of all revelation. In as much as all revelation is a prophetic statement from God, the testimony of Jesus is the very spirit of prophecy.
  • Paul’s hearing was intact even if his sight was not. Who did he perceive was speaking to him? One of the Christians from Jerusalem now living in Damascus? Somebody he knew personally who was a Christian? He was persecuting Christians. He had come with letters of authority to round up as many Christians as he could and see them incarcerated or killed (Acts 22:4-5). Perhaps one of the Damascene Christians had heard about his mission and had come to confront him before he arrived in the city (Acts 9:4). He knew it was not sun stroke causing hallucination, for the men that were travelling with him also heard the sound and saw the light at the same moment, but could not interpret what the “noise” was saying (Acts 22:9). Perhaps it was nothing more than Paul’s travelling companion’s inability to understand Aramaic. They knew enough to know it was real, but not enough to know what was said. No hallucination here! The lesson is to submit to the manifestation of a divine revelation, but never ever suspend one’s critical faculties. Think hard and heavy – and biblically. Understand deeply, widely and spiritually. It is Christ-like to keep one’s mind in gear no matter what is happening to you in the touch-down of the revelation. Saul has all faculties on “Red Alert,” as in his blindness he seeks to pierce the darkness by investigating the whys and wherefores of his predicament.
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Getting Back to Basics I suppose.

By the time Saul was to stand on his feet he would understand the full tsunami that had swept him into the kingdom of God.

  • Saul asks the reactive question with a sentence that is not quite so easily understood. If he had simply asked, “Who are you?” That would be obvious and straightforward. It is a natural question wanting to know who it was that had knocked him to the floor by just appearing. But what he actually says is, “Who are you, Lord?” Was this just a mark of respect to whoever it might be that would stop him thus in the middle of the road in such a mysterious fashion? Or did he know immediately that it was Christ? Whatever the answer to that question may be, it is certainly a response of immediate submission to the voice that challenged him and the person who had arrested him (Acts 9:5). Theologians, of course, are quick to tell us that the word “kyrios” is the Greek word used for “Lord” in Paul’s question. But it is not always so. Daniel the prophet always asked questions as he saw apocalyptic visions of animals warring, and strange beasts rising out of the sea. In his case there commonly seemed to be angels standing nearby (as they do), as if they were waiting for him to ask for more. Saul of Tarsus was doing the same thing here.
  • “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5). One would have thought that after this line there was no more to say; “Revelation complete!” But this was the opening of the doors to Paul’s heart, and there were other seeds to be planted in his mind even at this, possibly the most defining moment of Paul’s life. This line was the initial soul shaker. This statement of Christ was the first words in Saul’s re-creation. This line had so much embedded within its’ words, especially if, as many preachers and teachers seem to promulgate, Saul realised in the flash of light that it was Jesus Himself talking to Him. If they are correct, then we need to critically note that:
  • It meant that Jesus of Nazareth whom he knew had died, was actually now alive.
  • It meant, therefore, that Christ had been resurrected from the dead.
  • It meant that heaven’s population, and especially its’ King knew the motivation behind what he was doing.
  • It meant that although he believed “The Lord our God is One God,” that Christ Himself was integral with, yet separate from the Father in the Godhead. This fanatical pedantic Jew had in one line given an appellation to Jesus Christ that all Jews utilise when referring to Yahweh. In simple language, Saul was acknowledging that Jesus was Yahweh in the flesh.
  • It meant, therefore, that he, Saul, was persecuting those that understood the truth, and was himself in doing so, believing a lie.

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  • It meant that even though he was killing and imprisoning Christian people, he was actually persecuting Jesus Himself.
  • It meant that Saul’s entire understanding and motivation towards God had been incorrect. He realised therefore, in that moment, that he was utterly wrong in his motivational reasoning as taught by his Pharisaic tenets of belief.
  • It meant that an entirely new world view had to be negotiated and absorbed by Saul. “Paradigm shift required!” seems to be a mammoth understatement.
  • It meant that the theological absolutes that he had been killing for were only part of the story, and because it was only part of God’s full testimony, he had hitherto mixed up a lot of “lying variables” in with the “truth talking absolutes” of God’s nature and word.  He realised in the blink of his now blind eye that without all the absolutes revealed externally by God Himself, we are left rudderless in a sea of conflicting ideas about righteousness, justice and right and wrong, issuing from a multitude of self-opinionated God seekers that only have half or even less of God’s statement to mankind. Saul of Tarsus was happy to kill people, as were other Pharisees in previous days, for the sake of the God of love. Oh the pain when Saul discovered he had believed a lie and killed for that lie. Yet, amazingly,  Christ had not come to him in judgement or in vengeance to kill Paul for Stephen’s death. Somehow, Christ who is God, had utterly ignored “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
  • It meant that the man who contentedly looked after the coats so that their owners could kill “that no good, lying follower of the way, Stephen, for claiming to see Jesus alive in heaven with his own eyes,” was defending a lie and attempting to kill the truth when Stephen was stoned.
  • He had just been blinded by the light of the glory of God that surrounded the Lord Jesus. When Paul later wrote, “God who commanded light to shine out of darkness has shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” he was explaining what was, for him, the physical literal truth of his conversion (2 Corinthians 4:6). This verse infers very clearly that the most important aspect of Saul’s reception of this revelation was gentleness, meekness, love, acceptance and tenderness. This, above all, was the factor that dissolved the murderous thoughts and attitudes that he had carried to Damascus. Saul was now a new creation. Somebody needed to shout, “Take off the grave clothes.”
  • Consciously or unconsciously, Saul of Tarsus was fully under new management.
  • We have more of the dialogue of Christ revealed in Acts 26 than we do in Acts 22 or chapter 9, each line of which teaches us much.
  • “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” A goad, in simple terms, is a spear head stuck at the end of pole that farmers used to prod their oxen with to keep them walking in a straight line when ploughing. An Ox-goad was so sharp that it was used as a weapon in warfare (Judges 3:21) when proper weapons were unavailable to Israel. These incredible words of Christ to Saul could mean only one thing; Saul had heard the gospel and fought against it previous to this moment. Each time he heard the gospel truth he kicked against it and refused to submit. When the goad of the claims of Christ bid him change his direction, he ignored the spear point of the ox-goad. For Jesus to use these words tells us implicitly that Saul of Tarsus had possibly heard Jesus speak in the days of His flesh. In short-and in plain English: Saul had heard and understood and felt the call of God to submit to the gospel. Each refusal hurt him and caused Saul’s heart to harden. For that reason Jesus declares, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
  • Acts 26:15-18 gives us the full answer of Christ to the question, “Who are you, Lord?”  Jesus did not waste a word. “Now get up and stand on your feet.” Meaning, “There is no time to waste Paul! Life is too short! I’ve got lots for you to do! Up and at it!
  • “I have appeared to appoint you as a doulos (slave)” (Acts 26:16). There is Saul’s apostolic commission. Let him who would be master of all make himself servant of all. These words were predictive of something that would not properly start for perhaps a decade, but the seed was planted in His  spirit by the Darling of heaven Himself at those opening moments of his conversion.
  • “To appoint you as a servant and a witness of what you have seen of me” (Acts 26:16). Every time Christ appeared to Saul after this initial meeting, there was revelation. Revelation of all kinds of things that were relevant to building the kingdom of God in people’s lives and situations.  Saul of Tarsus was to see much more of Christ, and have a much renewed mind concerning all things spiritual.
  • “to appoint you … a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you” (Acts 26:16). This is God’s commitment to have ongoing revelation and understanding as Saul progressed the kingdom of God wherever he went. Saul was to spend his entire life being shown things from heaven. His revelatory gifting would come first hand from the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself.
  • “I will rescue you from your own people and from the gentiles” (Acts 26:17). This is the bad news. He is clearly told at the very point of conversion that he will be in need of rescuing. The need to be rescued will be so great that it will only be God Himself who could do the rescuing. That is news that is as good as it is bad. But who will he need rescuing from? Answer: “Your own people (the Jews) and the gentiles”. I may need correcting, but in my mind once you have accounted for the Jews and the gentiles there is nobody else on the planet to account for. Jews and gentiles comprise the entire world. So we have the once murderous Saul being informed by Christ that the entire world will be against him for the things he will see and know and discover of the person and glory of Jesus Christ. Such a phenomenon has never been known before except for . . .  eh! . . . Oh yes! . . . except for the Lord Jesus Himself.  This means that before Saul of Tarsus even gets back on his feet, God had chosen him to be Christ like in several aspects of life that would permeate Saul’s total personal identity.

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  • Paul’s commission was defined by Christ in all its breadth and depth with parameters that cannot be mistaken.   1. To open the eyes of both Jews and gentiles. At that moment Saul was blind, yet could see clearer than many.  2. To turn the world from spiritual darkness to spiritual light. 3. To turn all he ministered to from the power of Satan to the power of God. 4. In ministering in this manner it would lead them to receive the forgiveness of sin. 5. The forgiveness of sin would facilitate a place among those who are set apart and made clean by faith in Christ. (Acts 26:18)
  • The words of prophetic revelation from Christ to the ex-murderous Pharisee was about a personal assignment given by God’s own choosing to Saul (Acts 22:10). It was to be an assignment that would take the rest of his natural life to fulfil. That assignment was, in effect, his call to apostleship and rejection. Paul would have to wait three days in darkness until that assignment was explained to him in even more detail.
  • Further confirmation of the assignment was, by Christ’s own direction, explained by another man (Acts 22:10. Acts 22:14-16). I believe we need to note the importance of Ananias saying, “You will witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.” It is my consistent and persistent thesis that the true gospel has something to see as well as something to hear.
  • A key ingredient to this glass case example of a revelation, and the illustration of how to respond to such, is Paul’s statement, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” He did both what Jesus instructed him to do, as well as what Ananias enjoined upon him. Submission and obedience to what he believed to be of God was to be his life’s hallmark from that moment on.
  • Ananias told Saul clearly that, “the God of our fathers has chosen you to know His will and to see the Righteous one and to hear the words from His mouth.” He whom Saul had met on the Damascus road was to be revealing Himself to Saul many times in the future. It seems that whatever Christ had been saying to the other twelve apostles during the three years or so of His earthly ministry, was to be abbreviated yet strongly imparted into Saul’s heart and mind throughout the rest of his life.
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All the above was what was pummelling the punch bag of his tenaciously held beliefs in a single moment after Jesus had spoken a few phrases to him. And make no mistake, it was not only Saul’s belief system that was being ripped apart and restructured, but at the very deepest level, Saul’s understanding of himself, his personal identity and self image was immediately under a huge seismic mind quake that was to ultimately bring  a new name along with it.

Without doubt, some lifestyles need a traumatic U-turn in order to step into the will of God and none less than a man with a murderous proclivity on grounds of religion. The invasion of God’s love shed abroad in Saul’s heart by the Holy Spirit is truly, heavenly Electro Convulsive Therapy. It might not be electricity per se, and it may or may not cause “convulsions” literally, however, it clearly ploughed through the thought processes of a previously unrestrained evil mind of violence and hate. Never mistake deep religiosity and mere outward piety for calm serenity. Outward shows of godliness can be easily manufactured. It is when the outer skin matches the peace within that Christ is seen to reign.

The moment came and passed. The revelation of what was utterly unperceived invisibility to Saul was a moment of such greatness that it impacts humanity even in the twenty-first century.  That is what divine revelation does to people and for mankind.

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