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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God?  Lavish?  (Ephesians 1:7b – 8)

“He is so rich in his kindness towards us that He lavished ( poured out, showered, abounded, super abounded)  towards us in all wisdom and prudence (intelligence, understanding and insight)” (Ephesians 1:7b-8 My own translation). 006 Ephesus  Get hold of the concept.  God has been and is being lavish.  Being lavish is just His nature. He cannot be anything else apart from what He is, i.e. lavish.  As an adjective, “lavish,” in this context could mean luxurious or elaborate; perhaps affluent and even sumptuous is appropriate. Other words that one could use are costly, opulent, splendid, or regal.  As a verb it plainly means that something has been given and/or somebody has been endowed in a profoundly generous measure or with extravagant volume with a gift of whatever nature. When God “lavishes” grace upon us we need to assimilate the fact that He has deluged upon us freely and unstintingly an enormous heap of blessing and strength.  When one trusts Christ it is like a Tsunami of goodness rushing in and flooding our lives.  It is a Krakatoa type volcanic explosion of love and blessing that has erupted from the very heart of God impacting on all that a person has or is.  God has lavished His practical and tangible love upon us.  It’s no wonder Jesus referred to it as th “Gospel.” When used in secular historical documents the word means “The almost too good to be true message.”   It has to be said that whatever it is that Paul is struggling to explain to us in Ephesians 1, it is something that God has lavishly shovelled into our lives in a manner that suggests that it is randomly and extravagantly generous. It is so huge and has such a broad impact on people that Paul has to invent a new set of adjectives and nouns to paint the picture clearly.  It is so excessive in its measure I could even imagine the legitimacy of declaring that it is God’s random acts of lavish kindness, inasmuch as He has poured it out in the same plentiful generosity on literally anybody who believes. Not that God does anything at all that is random, but what He has given us in Christ is so full, voluptuous and dynamic and can be received by absolutely anybody who believes the gospel, that to us humans it looks as if it is totally random. I, personally have met men who were killers, murderers and hatefully violent in their earlier lives, and yet, when I met them and spent time with them they were the gentlest and deeply Godly people. Bank robbers and muggers turned to Christ are glorious trophies of the results of God’s lavish expression of lgracious kindness.   God is lavish in His love towards us.  In Greek it is “perisseuo.”  “Peri,” as in “periscope,” means all around and comprehensive.  Perisseuo means to exceed all limitations, to go far beyond what anybody would or could expect.  That is God for you!   And, as if this was not enough, intense power is added to this idea of God being lavish in the way He deals with us and saves us, by the added data that informs us that God intelligently and wisely thought the whole thing through, and with His infinite understanding and prudence decided to lavishly give.  What we have in Christ is truly beyond what we could reasonably expect and well beyond normal comprehension of what is reasonable behaviour.  I have in my life heard several songs, read one or two books and heard quite a few sermons entitled, “Love Beyond Reason.”  That is exactly what we are talking about here.  However, Paul is striving to put a system of reason, a body of thought and rationale behind his explanation of the fact that God has come looking for lost humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. It would seem – and this is the logic of scripture – that the worse we became the more lavish were His attempts to win us.   I know all these excessive superlatives sounds like pink and fluffy poetry, like majestically noble sentiments that could never be practically implemented or carried through, but I swear to anybody reading these lines that I am utterly understating the rock hard truth. This thing is bigger and better than any human mind has ever got their head around. It’s all about the character of God. The divine character in the eyes of the unbeliever is dull, boring and apathetic about most things. But that is a far removed from the truth as the east is from the west.   God made this planet in the midst of a universe with billions and billions of stars. I would say that is lavish. Wouldn’t you? In the entire expanse of earth, He made two people to live on it. Now if any reader does not consider that extravagantly lavish we need to sit down together and come to some agreement about the definition of language and the meaning of words. God promised Abraham that the entire planet would be blessed because of him. Is that lavish, or what?!  Joseph got up one day in a prison that he had been in for many years, and that night, before he went to bed he was the second most powerful man in the world. Surely that meets anybodies criteria for a lavish divine blessing.   There are instances and examples of God’s lavish attitude of giving right throughout the Bible. It is for the assurance of faith and the understanding of the believer that Paul tells us how lavish Heavenly Father is towards all men, but especially those that believe the gospel, Believing the gospel gives us access to more grace. How gloriously lavish is that!

The Entire Package of the Divine purpose is wrapped up in the Person of Christ (Ephesians 1:7)

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”  (Ephesians1:7)

 

00001These papers are all under the heading of, “Revelations of the Invisible.”  The entire first chapter of Ephesians is a series of statements that the apostle Paul swears to as being just plain straightforward facts.  These are facts that read as if Paul had been reading God’s own diary or notebook. It is as if the man of God from Tarsus had been given a copy of the divine project file.  God is invisible. His plans are therefore invisible.  They are undoubtedly cryptically mentioned here, there and everywhere within the Old Testament.  The description of God’s plans, pleasures and pass-times is nothing short of downright remarkable. In God’s dealings with Paul, and his dealings with God, Paul came to grips with the entire vista of God’s dealings with mankind. I would say Paul saw it all from A to Z, however, I believe it is more accurate to say that he understood what God was doing before the first A of time and after the last Z.  The man who wrote Ephesians 1 had a mind and a spirit that was utterly at home and thoroughly domiciled  in the purpose of God, the mind of Christ and the unleashed power of the Holy Spirit.

 

The sequential points of logic in Ephesians 1 are so straightforward they can be missed.  The opening verses explain to us God’s motives, thoughts, ideas and plans about how to save mankind and renew them so that they can live eternally with God in glory.

 

It starts with the statement of how God has blessed the Christian with every blessing that it is possible for God to give us, and all those blessings are encapsulated, wrapped in and embodied in Jesus Christ (1:3).  To do this He chose people by name, before He even founded the world (1:4).  His aim in choosing each Christian was so that each one could be presented before Him, not sinless – but blameless nevertheless; not intrinsically holy of themselves, but because they have received every heavenly blessing through Christ, they are made holy for the same reason. This is all accomplished and activated by God’s love that is actively moving towards us. That blamelessness and holiness is what allows us to walk and live before Him, invisible though His presence may be. The Christian lives “before Him” and it is that fact that sets them apart from others.

 

In order for this to happen each Christian has been predestined  us to be adopted into the Divine family by Jesus Christ Himself, simply because Jesus Christ was not only fully man, but fully God. We meet God through Him. We own God and are owned by Him through Christ.  We are adopted into the family of Father, Son and Holy Spirit through our relationship with Christ.

 

00002All this is being done because it gives God great pleasure, and therefore He has willed it to be so (1:5).  This is so wonderful that when properly perceived and understood all of creation will praise the very weight and authority of His grace.  While this whole process is in dynamic motion, the Christian is made to be accepted in the beloved Christ (1.6).  To be accepted into the presence of God blameless and holy (1:4), it requires that the human being who is a Christian needed to be bought from the domination and control of the devil and translated into the “ownership” of Christ, the blessing of Christ and the divine family. That purchase is referred to in Jewish terms as “redemption.” That redemption was fought for and purchased by Christ’s blood which was spilled for man’s salvation in the passion of Christ.  That gloriously kind and gracious act, perpetrated on behalf of humankind, gives Christians the forgiveness of their sins to the same depth of the riches of God’s grace – and that is deep-Deep -DEEP!  (1:7)

 

All this was not randomly or thoughtlessly activated, but with eternal forethought, forward planning and meticulously detailed love, it was utterly lavished on the Christian in all the eternal depth and breadth of God’s wisdom and prudence. No rubbish here! No mistakes here! It all happens from the deep and purposed well of God’s will, His plan, His intention and His own end.

 

All this amazing invisibly thought out plan God has made known to us. This is what Paul refers to as the mystery of His will; a will that was intended according to God’s own delight and pleasure which He had planned and purposed within Himself. It started before time had begun. It has taken since creation to bring His purpose thus far. It will be fulfilled as far as it extends within time right upto time’s end, and then continue on throughout timeless eternity (1:9).

 

When time has reached its fullness and end (assuming that time’s fullness refers to its end) God the Father will gather together in one glorious and wonderful unity all people and things that are in Christ (1:10). “Things in Christ,” refers to things in heaven and on earth, things we see and things that we at present cannot see, and it will all be those things that are “in Christ.”

 

In all this, the Christians true inheritance is revealed. It is a fixed, settled and eternally permanent inheritance. This inheritance has been predestined according as God has purposed. The inheritance is huge and magnificent. It is planned solely according to His purpose – God’s purpose, and God purposes everything according to the advice and counsel of His own will and intention.(1:11)

 

00003It takes those first eleven verses of radical heavenly revelation while Paul tells us who and what God is, how and why he makes plans, and in what manner He labours to bring His will about before he mentions anything that humankind can do to appropriate his place in this breath-taking eternal plan and purpose.

 

It is all “to the praise of His glory” to… who? “Those who trusted in Christ!” and Paul’s generation was the first generation to step into this plan.

 

The glorious revelation is that this plan has been being worked out and implemented since Adam and Eve strutted across earth’s perfect garden before human sin was a factual element of man’s existence.  Even though the entire working of the power of God is within each Christian, the only part that man actually plays in the process is to hear the message and believe it, and then to have the entire process guaranteed by the down payment of being sealed with the holy Spirit who had been promised long before through the prophets. That sealing is an act of God as well (1:12-13).

That sealing of the Spirit, this writer believes to be the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  It is the reality of that baptism which is the earnest, the guarantee of the fulfilment of the inheritance which is to sustain the believer until “the redemption of the purchased possession,” meaning the resurrection to life in a new and immortal body.

 

When the plan of God reaches that stage of fulfilment it will be to the praise of His glory beyond any praise that man has given to God hitherto.

 

That is the plan.  It started pre historically and will not be complete until post history. Its length, breadth, height and depth is beyond finity and goes to the most extreme parameters of infinity. This thing we call Christianity is a God thing, a Christ thing, a Holy Spirit thing that is bigger than any of us can properly measure. The more I read scripture and meditate upon its truths, the bigger the whole plan and purpose seems to become. All glory and praise to the Lord Almighty.

 

The incredible revelation that is startling to most people is that all people have to do is to LISTEN to the gospel message, the word of truth that brings salvation and BELIEVE the message as received. By all means the message should be checked against the scriptures and discussed and thought through, but the message is that the whole kingdom and purpose of God is wrapped up entirely in who Jesus was, what He did, and what God did in raising Him from the dead, and then to practically implement the dynamics of that faith by emulating the love, life, morality and spirit of Christ Himself. Love Him! Hear Him! Follow Him! Emulate Him! Trust Him! It’s all about Him. There is nothing and nobody else to hang our thoughts or faith on. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Everything that mankind is blessed with in the gospel is all summed up wrapped up and packed up in the person of Jesus Christ.

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When, in numerous parts of the New Testament we are told that the believer has the various aspects of salvation, “in Him,” that is, “in Christ,” it is a statement of how the person, the man Jesus Christ came to give us a full revelation of God. Christ is the full and total revelation of God. When we are talking of the “Big Picture” of God, we are talking of the Lord Jesus Christ. All He said, did and was is a relevant and ever contemporary revelation of His Heavenly Father. Christian scholars refer to “General Revelation” as in what we can see of God in creation, and “Special Revelation.”  Special revelation is all about concepts and facts that we would not generally know if God had not revealed them to us in the Bible. What God has revealed to us in special revelation needs to be received, believed, and applied. The ultimate of that message is the gospel that saves.

 

Moses wrote, “The secret things belong unto Yahweh: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).  What is revealed needs to be held tight and meditated on in order to nourish our faith and understanding of His ways. We all desperately need revelation, both from the Spirit and from the Word.

 

Revelation directly from the Spirit of God comes internally. In the usual Hebrew idiomatic way Isaiah relates revelation to hearing the preached word and believing it.  “Who hath believed our report?  and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”  (Isaiah 53:1). It is by the Spirit that prophetic people receive the word from heaven The prophet Amos declares, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he reveals his secret to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7).  It is by the Spirit that Peter understood that Jesus was “the Christ the Son of the Living God.”  Jesus, undoubtedly with a smile of joy on His face, declared, “Blessed art thou, Simon son of Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto you, but my Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 16:17). Paul’s constant elucidation of his authority was that his understanding of Christ and the gospel was not learnt by book reading or college lecturing. “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery” (Ephesians 3:3). The New Testament apostles and prophets continued to be tutored after Christ’s ascension. Although they would have heard the gospel from Christ Himself in the days of His flesh, Paul talked of the whole arc of New Testament truth, “Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:5).

 

All Christians should be recipients of spiritual revelation by the active agency of the Holy Spirit Himself. We know this is a fact because of the words he used when he prayed for the Christians at Ephesus, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him” (Ephesians 1:17).  We are certain that what was stated and promised to one Christian is a blanket statement of divine intent for all Christians of all ages.

 

The regular interaction with the written word should also cause faith to sprout and spring, for faith comes by Hearing and Hearing by the word of God.

 

This vision and overall insight into God’s plans and purposes, His mind and mentality, His incremental revelation as well as His absolute declaration of things is all there in the Old Testament.  Talking of the prophets and the Old Testament  writers Peter, a man who walked and talked with Jesus for over three years later wrote, “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12).  It cannot but bring a sense of deep reverential awe to those who realise that by reading the scriptures, including Ephesians, we are delving into the very heart of God. We are getting our minds around revelations of the invisible.

“In Love He Predestined us” (Ephesians 1: 4b-5a)

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Imagine a long procession of people. It is a mile long celebration of music, dancing and joy. It is not proceeding down a long straight road but through a series of winding corners and avenues where, at times it seems that the procession actually has turned in the opposite direction from when it started. To take the picture parable even further, none of those taking part in the procession have ever walked down the streets of the processional route before. It is all new to them. The creator and sponsor of the procession, however, is hovering above the walkers in a helicopter. From that height he can see every street planned for the route, every turn between the starting point of the procession and the finishing line. He can see where the road narrows and where it broadens; he can see where the crowds of spectators are too thick to allow some of the processional floats to pass. He can see the entire thing from beginning to end continually. By his radio mike he can send messages to turn, pause or even rearrange the marching order because of the narrow roads and the crushing spectators. He can plainly see what is coming and causing addenda’s to the plan. He can see ahead what is happening before the people in the procession have a clue. He can see things happening that some have not yet seen. He can give instructions by radio to stop, move faster, or even change route, and the people in the procession would not even have a clue as to the whys or wherefores of the procession creators mind. To the man on the street receiving instructions he may even think, at times, that the organiser has lost the plot and giving completely arbitrary instructions. From the helicopter he is out of the ground level sense of time and timing, he is visually present at the end and completion of the procession as the end of the group are just starting.

This a crude parable picturing God who lives outside of time and how He knows the beginning from the end of all things.  It is only a partial illustration as the organiser in the helicopter is still in our time and space world. It also falls down on the concept of God being present in the time space world with each person. But it does open our eyes to the beginning of the picture of how God knows beforehand what is happening, and yet at the same time allows us to live and breathe and move in our own free will. Follow me as I conclude from my parabolic picture that:

  1. With God all time is current and the vast expanse of past, present and future is “Now!” This is because He is outside of time looking in.
  2. Therefore all God’s plans and purposes that seem so long in being fulfilled, having been in the process of being worked out from the moment time started and not being completed until time ends, are actually with Him contemporaneously conceived and fulfilled in eternity.
  3. The Divine plan and purpose to sum up the entire procession of creation in Jesus Christ is therefore known to Him fully even before the procession begins. The plan and the purpose was created in eternity, put into a linear development in the time space world, and then is ultimately completed back in the realms of eternity.
  4. Outside of time, yet looking in on time, God can see all other forces outside of the procession of life and the human existence. Some are working both to support the procession and to make the walkers experience closer to the procession creators master plan for us all.
  5. Others, of course are plotting and planning to not only mess up the procession but to get it to flow down the wrong streets at the wrong corners, and even to get some people out of the procession before their time. But the procession creator sees it all and plans and speaks ahead of obstacles happening.
  6. Those things that seem sequential and in a linear order of occurrence are actually seen by God in one plane of eternity.
  7. As the plan was conceived outside of time in eternity past, and will come to complete fulfilment after time in eternity future, God sees the whole thing as processed and done, and deals with us accordingly in our experience of our personal incomplete process.
  8. The parable above, of course, means that his forces have been made privy to some of the outcomes of personal situations and are ministering to those who are heirs of a full and successful processional walk to ensure that the fulfilment is on target. (Hebrews 1:14)
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Ever Increasing Light

Therefore knowing beforehand every single solitary decision made by every human being in advance of it being even thought of never mind being made, God predestines the heavenly homes and mansions prepared for the successful processionists. It’s a done deal. Heavenly Father knows the end from the beginning, that is why there are mansions already prepared for those who have not yet even joined the procession.

For these reasons, if God had chosen us before time began, and He did, it is logical that Paul now refers to us as “predestined.” In fact, “chosen before time began” is a straight forward euphemism for “predestined.” But the apostle has further revelation to share with us on the subject of being predestined.

  1. The whole process of predestinating us was God’s action springing from His great and boundless love.
  2. As well as being predestined by being chosen, blessed  and purposed to be holy and without blame, God has actually taken great steps to legally adopt every believer, making us part of His family through the Lord Jesus Christ.
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Predestination is a complex issue to get hold of, and this writer concedes that he has sat in many and participated (in his early days) in a few debates on the subject, and only properly understood about ten percent of the material discussed in them. One cannot argue with the concept of the believer being predestined, but it is the qualifying thoughts around the issue that tend to complicate and confuse.

We must firstly rest solidly on the fact that neither our being predestined as part of the elect, nor God knowing all things before they happen interfere with man’s life of free choice. That is vital to the understanding and the very self evident ground of any discussion on predestination and election. As Berkhof succinctly puts it: “Foreknowledge and election are not inconsistent with free agency.” The fact that God knows and has therefore chosen some does not in the slightest interfere with a person’s free choice, and neither does it mean that He has flatly or wilfully rejected any. The scripture plainly tells us that God is not willing that any should perish but that all may come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Each true believer was chosen to eternal life, that election was based upon the foreknowledge that God gained when He saw that in the perfect exercise of human freedom of choice, they would be induced to repent and choose to put their faith in Christ.

Without the above paragraph being understood and noted as a precursor to being “predestined before the foundation of the world,” the concept could be held as if God chose some and rejected others without reference to their own series of choices by free will. From that misunderstanding many misinterpret the dreaded “P” word in the Bible and then project untrue statements from that basic fault line of understanding. Supposing that Predestination and Election suggests that the elect will be saved no matter how evil they are in heart no matter what they choose to believe is ridiculous. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to salvation via repentance.

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It is because bible teachers do not always lay these principals of understanding out  when predestination is first mentioned that the biblical teaching on Predestination switches Christians off forming their own solid opinion. I have met Christians, young in the faith, who, having heard a few random statements from the pulpit on the subject of Election, start to believe from the “teaching” that there is absolutely no chance or possibility of  the salvation of the non-elect, omitting to stop at the fact that God knows who the elect and non-elect are – but we obviously do not. I have even heard in my time from some Christians the belief that  teaching “predestination” is an encouragement to the elect to live in sin, knowing that their salvation was sure, and vica versa that non-elected people would be driven to desperation, on the ground that for them to make efforts to be saved would be of no avail. But if we do not know the names and numbers of the elect, how could any such thing be true. The ridiculousness of some statements that people make to prove Calvin or Arminius to be right or wrong are breathtaking. It’s a creation of a severe mental mind field if the whole picture is not presented to the Christian who is young in the faith. Just to be clear, in case there is anybody reading these lines who has never entered into the discussion  concerning where God’s sovereignty and man’s free choice meet: The predestination of the elect to salvation could not, and never will convert the predestined elect irrespective of their character, nor does it put the slightest obstacle in the way of the salvation of those not predestined.

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There is no fatalism in the bible teaching of predestination or election. Islam has convictions concerning inscrutable Allah. Neither Jew nor Christian believes in an inscrutable Yahweh. God has laid His will and purpose down in scripture. As we plough on through Ephesians it will be crystal clear that God has revealed the intricacies of his purposes and plans for mankind. There is no inscrutability in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The biblical statements on election are grounds for all of mankind to give thanks. It is no use fighting with God over something that is not understood if one believes they are rejected from God’s embrace of love. God says to everyone, “Repent!”  One cannot have issues with God concerning something that is left for you to choose. If all of humanity were lost, God would be still forever be just. Why? Because He has made the way to salvation plain to all.

I believe it was Charles Finney in his remarkable sermon entitled “Moral Insanity,” who declared how people’s general argumentative response to Election exhibited the madness of the human heart, and its utter opposition to the terms of salvation. The fact that God foreknows all things, and has designs in regard to every event that has ever taken place on the planet, large and small, is never turned into an excuse for remaining passively in wait for God to save us.  Passivity in the realm of the spirit is never correct. Many people just want excuses to falsely justify disobeying God.

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I want to tell the whole world plainly that the question of whether you are to be saved or not is totally left to your own personal decision. You are left to your own devices and choices and to the exercise of your own freedom, as if God neither knew nor designed anything in regard to you, even though it is quite the opposite that is true. When one hears the Gospel declaration to repent and believe in Christ, one is free to believe or otherwise. What will you choose? That is the issue that one’s heart needs to deal with, not, “Am I predestined?”

It was Charles Haddon Spurgeon who said that when God starts bringing people to birth with a large letter “E” on their back (E for Elected) he would thereafter preach only to the elect; until that happens he would preach to everyman with all his might in the assurance that the elect would believe.

God is right and true and just in all things. The Lord is good and everything He does is good. Being predestined and planned for by God Himself is an inspirational and exciting truth of scripture. Every attribute of demands that predestination of the elect is true.

If age is one of the attributes of a human being then eternity must be an attribute of God.  God grows no older, and was never younger than He now is. He was the same age now as He was before time began. There is every probability that if ever, when ever in the ages to come, we leave time and enter into eternity, we will discover that eternity has its own attributes that reduce talking of time and age to nonsense. However, God has put eternity in our hearts and he Himself lives in eternity, therefore he must know all things before they happen.

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God knows all things. He has always known everything. His infinite capacity for knowledge is filled with the knowledge of all things to be known. Omniscience is a plain and straight forward attribute of God. He has eternally possessed this infinite knowledge. Every thing that ever was, is, or is to be known has been known by God from eternity to eternity. It has always been known to God. If anything has not been known to Him God would be neither infinite nor omniscient. So it is plainly reasonable that He knows who would be saved and who would not, before the foundations of the world.

We also need to see that God exercises a universal hand of providence over all events that have, are, or will ever occur in worlds seen and unseen, past present or future and in any other dimension. There are things and events that come about by His direct intervention and will. There are other happenings in all worlds that take place contrary to His own will or active participation. These are events that are under his providential patience, in so far as He permits or suffers them to take place. God leaves humanity to its free choice in most of these occurrences and does not intervene, interrupt or prevent them.  In the end we will see that all bad things, shocking things, atrocious things will in God’s plan and purpose be seen to somehow bring goodness and virtue. Even the repentant dying thief on the cross next to Jesus had the worst possible situation anybody could have, in which the most positive thing happened. Having lived a life that would have proved to many that he clearly was not one of the elect, he comes to faith only minutes before passing into eternity. The observations of man cannot prove or disprove who the elect are.

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All who are converted, sanctified and saved, are made so by God’s own direct agency; that is, God saves them by securing, by his own agency, their personal and individual holiness. All of Adam’s race who are or ever will be saved, were from eternity chosen by God to eternal salvation, through the sanctification of their hearts by faith in Christ. In other words, they are chosen to salvation by means of sanctification. Their salvation is the end and their sanctification is the means. Both the end and the means are elected, appointed, chosen; the means as really as the end, and for the sake of the end.

The subject of the predestined elect, whether understood properly or not, is plainly implicit in the teaching of the Bible as well as explicit. To deny it involves a denial of the attributes of God. Even if it were not mentioned so clearly in the Bible, the fact of predestination would still be ungainsayable and inferred from the vary attributes of God Himself.  (Matt 20:16. Matthew 24:22. John 13:18. John 15:16 and 19. Romans 8:28-29. Romans 9:10-15. Romans 11:5 and 7. Ephesians 1:4 and 11. 1 Thessalonians 1:4. 1 Thessalonians 5:9. 2 Thessalonians 2:13. 1 Peter 1:2. Revelation 17:8.

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Because of God’s infinite goodness and love it follows, that He must have chosen the best end of all things, and the best means of achieving those ends. He is God after all. The fundamental reason for the predestination of the elect is therefore an integral part of the greatest good of the universe. This has all been planned, systematised so as to be effective in a linear time and space world, and effected by the omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence and loving wisdom and graciousness of the eternal God. It follows, that the highest good demanded it.

So, we are to bless God for having blessed us with everything heaven has to bless us with, just as He has chosen us in Christ to be Holy and blameless before Him, because He lovingly predestinated us. The long sentence from Ephesians 1:3 through to verse 14 gets broader and fuller of meaning as we read on. It simply oozes with revelations of the Invisible.

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“That We Should be Holy and Without Blame Before Him” (Ephesians 1:4)

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We are saved by God’s grace to follow after Him with all we have, and in so doing we become in practice, before men, what we have already been made in a single moment of time before God – that is holy and without blame. God wants us to be holy and blameless as we stand before Him, that is the stated will of God here in the early verses of Ephesians. As the Christian is belonging to Christ because faith in Christ has positioned him as being “in Christ,” it follows that wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we are standing “before Him.”

We are in His presence to a greater degree than we were before we were converted. God is omnipresent. It is impossible to go anywhere where He is not. But there are degrees of the manifestation of His presence. In the most general degree everybody who has ever lived existed in the presence of God. But, there is “close,” “closer” and “closest” when we are discussing being in the presence of God. The ultimate of closeness as far as human beings are concerned was when Moses was so close, for so long in the presence of God that he literally came down Mount Sinai shining with a brightness that was disconcerting to all who looked at him. He covered his head like the Elephant Man so as not to offend people. There is the presence of the Holy Spirit “falling” on people in the book of Acts. The Christian in repentance and faith has brought their self into the immediate presence of God. In the presence of God there is a manifestation of God’s holiness.

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We are “in Christ” so that we “should” be holy. That is the exact wording of verse 4. It cannot just be referring to God declaring us holy from heaven. “That we should be holy” implies self evidently that there is something we have to initiate to own the holiness that the verse is referring to. This suggests that a person could be a Christian, solidly and truly “in Christ,” and yet not be holy.  We know we are made holy by the blood of Christ, and that is a fait accomplit achieved by God alone. The word “should” automatically implies a conditional holiness that depends on our heart condition, not on God’s declaration over a new convert.  It needs to be added that the conjunction between the words, “holy” and, “without blame,” could also possibly suggest that one could be holy, and yet not be free of blame. What on earth does this mean?

We desperately need to define our terms to make sense of this statement concerning the purpose of God for our lives.

We have hitherto defined the sentence that starts in verse 3 as an exhortation to bless God because He has blessed the believer with every blessing it is possible for heaven to give. He has poured out these blessings upon us in the same attitude as when He chose us before the foundation of the world, i.e. before time began, so that we may be holy and blameless before Him. These statements in Ephesians’ opening salvo of words from heaven are the intrinsic essence of the purpose of God for every Christian.

Holiness, for the uninitiated, is basically meaning to be set apart from the world the flesh and the devil. I am aware that millions of Christians would define being “holy” as living a morally good life, and yes, I believe that being spiritually and morally upright is part of the parcel of being holy, but it clearly is not the intrinsic meaning of the word. The basic gist of being holy is to be set apart as God is, to be unique as God is. None of us can be as “holy” as God is of course, because He is intrinsically holy. He is holiness itself. But it is the issue of (to use the “old school holiness movement” cliché) “being in the world but not of it.” The Christian is saved and called to be separate from those cultural norms that are common in the world that the bible labels as ungodly. That means there has to be a lot of thinking and discussing going on within Christian circles in order to sort out what is worldly and what is not. Having defined what is holy and what is not we can then adjust our world view and cultural norms accordingly

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What is of the world and what isn’t is at two levels. There are things that the Bible tells us is moral and immoral. Murder, sex outside of marriage, theft, idolatry etc, are universally acknowledged as wrong and ungodly. Whatever cultural norm you are in, those things are condemned as sinful practices in scripture. They are ungodly and absolutely so. But there are other “cultural” rights and wrongs that could be unique to one or several cultures and seemingly strange to other. The culture of a people is defined by what they consider normal and socially acceptable. For instance in most evangelical quarters in the USA drinking alcohol marginalises people from many churches. It is generally seen as utterly wrong within that culture. In Germany however, unless things have changed in the last few years, an entire fellowship, including their pastors and leadership often go en bloc for a lunch with alcoholic beverages at a local Bier Keller. So what may interfere with one’s testimony in one place may not bring criticism or blame in another. There are, of course, many more instances I could have selected.

I remember in my college days at Bible College. Many of the Swiss Christians brought crates of wine, and some of them even brought drinks that were much stronger than wine. They were strong spirit filled young men.  I remember also that within the same year’s students there were some spiritually mature young ladies from the USA who were very fashionable wearing “mini-skirts.” (I am referring to the late sixties and early seventies. The Americans questioned  the salvation and character of the Swiss because of their penchant for wine. The Swiss thought the Americans were equally godless because of the way they dressed. It took long hours of debate and discussion, as well as getting down to relate with each other as brothers and sisters in Christ before each group simply accepted each other as normal. Swiss cultural norms would condemn some things that would be acceptable in the USA. That principle dominates Christian cultures all over the world. The main motive for being careful in all these things is not to give offence to people outside of the faith.

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We want to receive revelation in these pages, and none is needed more than on this subject of personal holiness which, according to Ephesians 1:4 is an integral part of the purpose for which God has chosen us and saved us. The purposes of God for us concerning holiness need to be aggressively engaged with in order to be prepared to go where God wants to take us. The degree to which we step into holiness could very well determine the degree to which we are vessels meet for the Master’s use.

I am more than aware of the biblical teaching of imputed holiness.  This is that glorious concept of biblical statements that let us know that in Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross, the Saviour became sin for us that we might be the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthisns 5:17-20). This means that when I approach Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus and in faith, God responds to me as He responds to Christ, not as if I am the sinner that I once was before I turned to Christ, but literally as I am “in Christ.”

It is a wonderful and uplifting truth for the Christian that he/she is the very righteousness of God in Christ through faith. It is in itself quite a transforming idea once believers have settled themselves in their newly discovered faith. That aspect of God ascribing Christ’s righteousness to the Christian is generally referred to as “imputed righteousness.”  To impute something literally means to attribute or ascribe to someone something as being theirs. God Himself imputes Christ’s righteousness to those who chose to have faith in Christ. In the biblical sense, therefore, “imputed righteousness” means that God has attributed righteousness to a believer vicariously before Him simply because the believer has put their faith in Christ. The believer is then seen by Heavenly Father as being “in Christ” as He has wilfully declared that His righteousness belongs to the believer. It is a wonderful biblical truth.

But it is only half the story!

Can I therefore be a Christian and rest assured of my imputed holiness, yet carry on lying, cheating, swearing and doing a whole raft of things that are plainly neither Godly nor Christ-like? If one lives in such a manner one does not need a University Doctorate in Theology to see that something would be plainly out of synch’ in the believers’ relationship with God for those who would act in an ungodly way.

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It cannot be argued against when I say that repentance, as the Bible presents it, includes living holy (i.e. imparted holiness) as well as standing in one’s imputed holiness.  How can I say such a thing? Simply because repentance, by definition is a change of choice, purpose and intention for life that is in line with the invite of the gospel and the dictates of the intelligence leading to ever increasing and ever deepening choices, purposes and intentions that aligns the believer with the plan and will of God for their lives. Repentance is a turning from a settled state of sin with all its corollaries and actions, to a state of holiness (imputed as our standing before God) that is by exercise imparted to us by God’s grace, enabling us freely to choose righteousness, and Godly actions and motives in all that a person says and does. It is a complete about turn from a wilful deliberate choice of dedication to self and selfishness, to deliberate choice of dedication to Christ. I may have repented on a Monday, but the impact of that repentance must empower me every day for the rest of my life to pursue Christ, or it was not true repentance. When Jesus preached, “Repent for the kingdom of God is near,” He did not mean, “Repent for today while I am here. You can carry on living your old life tomorrow when I have moved on.”  The repentance Christ calls for is the repentance that determines to turn from one direction away from God, and commence the consecration to God having turned 180 degrees, continuing in that new direction in pursuit of Christ until one’s last breath. That is the intention and the purpose of Repentance and conversion. Anything short of this is not true repentance. Anything less than that makes one’s conversion questionable!

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That this is the truth cannot be doubted or debated by Christians. The only debate and discussion is, “How can I step into a greater degree of holiness, and a greater measure of sanctification?”  We were saved to be holy. Period! Yes, there are many other aspects of following Christ that do not come directly under the heading of holiness, but holiness  is obeying what His word says, even when the Bible instructs us to do things that are not directly integral parts of that holiness. Tithing, praying, attending the gathering of the saints,  – these things may not constitute holiness in themselves, but obeying Christ in everything He said is indeed part of that imparted holiness that needs to be sought by every believer.

Being holy, I believe, is arrived at by the same dynamics of being happy. One cannot sit down and aim at being “happy.” One labours to fulfil a purpose, a call or an achievement, and in so labouring and/or achieving one is made happy. In exactly the same way one needs to pursue Christ and to love God with all one’s heart and mind and soul. In that way one cannot miss becoming holy. The process and the dynamics of the sanctification of the human soul cannot NOT be effected. To love, pursue and obey God in faithful abandonment is in itself holiness.

Christianity is an experience with God in Christ, and an engagement with the Holy Spirit. The church of Christ is not an intellectual or academic organisation that sets out to be intellectually superior and then argue with the world until they believe in Christ. Most western pastors that are known as “powerful men of God” are incredibly intellectual and powerful in arguement and strong theological opinion. I don’t have any arguement with such a character. But far too many “powerful men of God” in the western world are not powerful as Paul or Peter was, i.e. rich in revelation, discerning in what they hear from heaven, easily stepping into the realm of the miraculous, and depending on things revealed to them much more that things learned in the natural. Too many are rich in academic learning yet without the revelation of the invisible and the manifestation of the miraculous. To go even further, many in the west have had the expectation of the miraculous knocked out of them by the very academic streams that they laboured in.

It is never love or power, grace or works, miracles or character. It is always, love and power, grace and works, miracles and character. These issues need to be seen into much deeper than is commonly received across the body of Christ world-wide. It is revelation that facilitates spiritual sight. It is revelation that saves and builds the church.

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“Blessed With Every Spiritual Blessing”? Really? (Ephesians 1:3)

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But hold on a minute!

If this writer is so positive and affirmative of the reality of what Ephesians 1:3 says we have, would he not pardon the man on the street who occasionally visits places of worship and sees so many Christians in lack, or in a sorry state of health, or an even sorrier state of mind – and then would be moved to cast aspersions on the integrity, or even the veracity of the whole Bible; especially Ephesians 1:3? The answer is, “Yes!” This writer has every empathy with such a view of the outsider. But Christianity is based, built and bonded by revelation, not by the empirical evidence of the shortcomings of Christian people. The book is the primary witness, if you will; the Christians are the secondary witnesses.

I know that there will many folks who are not Christians who would fiercely debate that last sentence. I know there are many Christians who would debate that same point. How many Evangelical pastors have I met who stand against the miraculous on the grounds that they have never seen a miracle. To them, it seems logical to assert that if they haven’t seen a miracle, therefore there cannot be miracles happening today. But that is denying the revelation of scripture. When pastors say such a thing to me I answer that it is like saying, “I hear what God has said, and I believe the Bible. But because I have never seen a miracle I cannot believe God is performing the miraculous anywhere else on earth.

THE TEACHING OF THE WORD IS WAY BEFORE THE TEACHING OF EXPERIENCE

We must absorb what scripture says first before we look at the template of the Christian life presented to us by Christians we know of. The Bible is the plumb line of what is true. The scriptures are the spirit level of God’s truth. We see in the Bible the normal Christian life and the normal Christian Church life. But we must take note that the truely normal Christian life is not the life lived by normal Christians. Even the most honourable Christians may be a few degrees off perfectly vertical. Christians must know that they are being watched by the world and judged as being the plumb line of truth, but they are not.

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The Bible teaches that the Christian model is a life lived in health, prosperity, and peace, with lots of friends and dear relationships in the church which is the body of Christ. The biblical model of a Christian in scripture is one of joy and peace, where their godliness is such that the world is constantly challenging or questioning those things they hold to. The life lived is such that it attracts some to entertain thoughts of conversion, or to argue and persecute them. The model of family is one of peace and wholeness.  So what do we do when we see that so many Christians live lives that seem so far short of what we would all say is “the biblical norm?”

To look the roaring lion of the truth squarely in the eye, what do I do when my own life does not measure up to what we believe it should?

Let’s be even plainer; why is there lack in the lives of some Christians?  Why after two thousand years, is Christianity still in the minority? Why don’t we see more of these blessings as perceived in Ephesians 1:3? Why are churches filled with those who are blind, deaf, dumb, maimed, and demonised? Why are there Christians who believe the Bible and still have huge life restricting issues that dominate them?

We will certainly be giving the answers to those questions that the letter to the Ephesians itself gives us. But just a few  tit- bits and one liners of bible truth to placate our many questions at this moment.

IGNORANCE OF THE INVISIBLE IS A THIEF, A MURDERER AND A DESTROYER

Knowing Christ, walking with Him, and entering into the ways and manifestations of the Holy Spirit is out and out warfare. Many people are saved late in life with huge emotional problems, many unresolved youth conflicts, unhealed experiences of abuse of all kinds, and demonic bondages that restrict and bind. To walk in purity with Jesus Christ demands hard and violent renewing of mind, attitude, practices and ways of relating. No one resolves them all at conversion. I have heard of many issues that were healed literally the moment a person became a Christian. I have heard of people who couldn’t sleep properly for years, and slept perfectly well from the first night after they trusted Christ. I have met some who were bound with different kinds of bondages and habits that simply disappeared from the moment they exercised saving faith in Christ. But there was still a huge amount of progress that was needed in many other areas of their lives. I have no idea why it works like that but it does. There were two friends of mine that were converted the same weekend that I was in the Pentecostal Church in Manchester. They were both foul mouthed and heavy smokers.  From that first moment of conversion one of them ceased smoking quite without effort, but struggled with the bad language for quite some time. The other cleaned up his language instantaneously and I never heard him use profanity again, yet he was in total anguish concerning his fight to stop smoking as his friend had done. Everyone receives Christ the same, yet experiences the power of God differently. I have no idea why it occurs like this,

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God gives us millions of pounds worth of blessing. The fact of the matter is, however, that Christians generally struggle on the practicalities of withdrawing those blessings across the counter from the Bank of Heaven. How to withdraw something from heaven that God has promised and blessed with somehow seems so complex to many Christians, and so easy to such a few. God’s promises are the plumb line. The experiences of Christians are no plumb line to measure against.

By all means emulate and pursue those who seem to withdraw from their heavenly account more than you do, yet never be afraid to allow the scriptures to confront you about getting into the principles of faith.

REVELATION HAS TO BE FOUGHT FOR

The Christian life is a fight. Christianity is a battle. Jesus said that He would build His church and the gates of hell would not be able to stand against it. The church is the people. The fact that the gates will not stand against the church means that it is the Christians who are the aggressors. We are the initiators of the battle. No fight, no ground gained. No aggression, we lose ground.

The world is like a conveyor belt processing people for hell. People who are converted to Christ are still living in the midst of the conveyor belt. The conveyor belt runs downward. The Christian is fighting and, to change the analogy, running upwards. It is not helpful to be running upwards at 50 miles per hour if the conveyor belt is running downwards at 60 miles per hour. To gain ground we need to be more aggressive in our godliness that the world is in the godlessness. Our aggression of love, peace and faith needs to be greater than the conveyor belt to hell.

This is simply one of a macro of reasons as to why many Christians seem to have less than God’s best.

If we don’t know we are promised more, how can anybody be expected to desire what they do not know is there waiting to become ours? If we graze constantly on those scriptures that give us peace and tranquillity to rest in, and cause us to become quiet and withdrawn within our Christian huddles, it is no wonder that a deeper understanding of the faith never arrives.

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Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” This means that the word not only puts us at peace  about the posture in which we are standing when still, but it enlightens us as to where we are going at the same time. There is revelation for where we stand as well as revelation for where we are moving forward. There is the rest of standing where we are, and there is the fight of taking territory in the kingdom of God. Too many Christians rest where they stand. There is nothing wrong with that in itself. Too few fight or go forward! That revelation is often a challenging one.

To repeat the principle but from a different perspective; there is the rest of faith and there is the fight of faith. Hebrews 4:9 tells us that, “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.” And how we thank God for that rest! But we are also told to, “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). The sad fact of life is that many Christians are fighting on issues they should be resting on, and resting on issues they should be fighting on. Some are fighting on the issues like, “assurance of being saved,” when God wants Christians to rest on such revealed fact of scripture. Others are resting on issues of sickness and suffering without fighting against such circumstances.

And so we see yet another reason why we don’t see some Christians living in the fullness of what God has blessed them with.

There are many other contributing factors why Christians live beneath their heavenly privileges. Many other shall be addressed as we continue to seek for Revelations of the invisible.

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