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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The Secret – Hidden yet Hinted at by the Prophets – is now out on the Streets in Glorious Technicolor. (Ephesians 1:9)

“God has now revealed and made known to us the mystery and secret of His will and plan which is in harmony with and according to His own kind intention and His good, merciful and benevolent pleasure which He ordained and purposed in Himself.”  (Ephesians 1:9.  My own translation)

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Nobody could talk like this prior to the day of Pentecost.  Nobody could make this assertion before Peter stood up to preach to that huge mass of humanity and reap 3,000 people into the kingdom in those opening moments of the birth of the church of Jesus Christ.  Oh yes!  It was explained and demonstrated in the person of Christ.  It was declared and manifested in every moment of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.  The complete whole was deposited in the mind and the understanding of all those who followed the Master and imbibed the things that He said and did.  But it was not theirs properly until that mighty wind blew on the 120 in that upper room (Acts 2:4). Nobody could truly say, “I have it!  I understand it!  You too can have it!  I give it!” until that definitive moment when tongues of what looked like purifying fire from heaven sat on the napes of those on whom the Holy Spirit fell.  It was so deep and profound, so heavenly and eternal, so momentous for the cause of humanity’s existence that they couldn’t speak their own language to declare it.  It was a series of utterances that the Spirit of God Himself uttered in the new homes He had just moved into.  The secret of past, present and future and the actions of God was out on the streets. It was for all nations and races of people.

 

Yet what had happened was so much a shaking of the status quo of the invisible cosmos also that languages that belonged to angels, principalities and powers were used.  It was indeed a secret that had been hidden in God from before the foundation of the world. It was a secret of such gigantic and time shaking proportions that had been hidden since time began, yet now it was open and being widely discussed and debated by every Tom, Dick and Jacob that was in Jerusalem. It was so astonishing that 3,000 people went to bed that night (if they went to bed at all that night) knowing God more intimately than Elijah, Isaiah or Jeremiah had. The very least of them was now greater than even John the Baptist had been.  We can make that assertion simply because Jesus did. Something new and so revolutionary had happened. No man or woman had known this truth in any previous generation.

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This secret is exactly what is explained throughout these first eleven verses of Paul’s missive to the Ephesians. God was out on the streets. His word was to be discussed and responded to by all who heard it. It did not shake the world because of the great preachers, or the great budgets or advertising campaigns to grab people’s attention. It shook the world because every person that was converted was walking in a new life, a new power, a new insight into what life was all about, and a new and glorious understanding about Jesus Christ.

 

The Old Testament prophets saw it.  Somehow they knew He was coming.  Yet, 1 Peter 1:12 says concerning the writing Hebrew prophets, “To them it was revealed that they were serving not themselves but you, when they foretold the very things which have now been openly declared to you by those who, having been taught by the Holy Spirit which had been sent from Heaven, brought you the Good News. Angels long to stoop and look into these things” (Weymouth Version). They knew it, but they surely could not envisaged that the common folk on the street could be filled with the Holy Spirit by the thousands, that the intricacies of Bible prophecy concerning Messiah would be a comfortable discussion amongst children of all ages and intellectual capabilities. The Prophets saw and explained, yet could not have perceived the true depth of what they were saying.

 

Somehow, like Caiaphas in the days of Christ, who prophesied how that it was necessary that “One man should die for the people,” yet had no understanding of the power and the truth of the words he spoke, so spoke the likes of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Micah. Caiaphas had no clue of the depth and the power of the insight that his words afforded to others that heard him.

 

Professors and academics of Old Testament Theology differ and argue like a bad day in the House of Commons. It is the mist that covers the entire substance of the study of Old Testament Theology; Who knew what? How much did they know? How much could they say without understanding all of it?  From a New Testament perspective, when we read Isaiah 9, and those first few verses of chapter 11, and then browse through Isaiah’s so called servant songs and Isaiah 53, we could uneducatedly surmise that Isaiah knew as much as Paul did – almost.  But they spoke in plain language what must have sounded to their students like riddles, cryptic beyond decoding. He would reign in power and glory, yet almost in the same breath He would suffer and like a lamb before the shearers is dumb He would open not His mouth.  What sort of a nonsense riddle was that to people who had never met face to face with the glorious wonder that was Jesus Christ? How could it please the Lord to bruise Him, and in so doing how on earth was He to bare our pains and sicknesses?

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Having encountered the Spirit of the living Christ and engaged with the only source of a legitimate understanding of Who and What Christ was in the pages of scripture in both the Old and New Testament it is as plain as the noses on our faces. There are literally millions – nay, surely billions – who are completely au-fait with the language of being “In Christ,” “filled with the Spirit,” “Baptised in the Holy Spirit,” and being His disciple. It is so straight forward and assumed by Holy Spirit enlightened people around the globe that intelligent scholars argue as to how much (or how little) they understood what Messiah was coming for to do. Some academics exclaim how full was Isaiah’s and Ezekiel’s insight into the whys and wherefores of Messiah, yet fail to give us a clue as to why the academics of Israel in the days of Christ new so little that their ignorance sent them to hell and prevented them from being converted.

 

It was a secret, but now it’s utterly open to the world.  The picture Paul gives us in Ephesians 1 is that God has always been in an ecstasy of delight with the depth and breadth and height of God’s plan manifested in Christ for the entire planet of every generation since He rose from the dead.

 

The secret is that the entire cosmos, seen and unseen, near and far, large and small, throughout all time and beyond time has been made by, and exists for, and will be consummated through the person and work of Jesus Christ, all accomplished through the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God the Father.

 

That’s it! That is the secret! It is all about Christ! And though it was channelled through the Jewish nation, and although God has a plan still to be fulfilled through the Jewish nation, the impact of this secret is intended for all people everywhere of every generation who hears the good news.

 

Jesus Christ died to correct every wrong that has ever been committed. Jesus rose from the dead to ensure that the Gospel, although may start with issues of forgiveness, must continue and be energised by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven and manifesting in power and glory in radically improving people’s lives, healing them, speaking prophetically into their futures and sealing and locking them in to a sure and certain hope for eternity.

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We need to grasp the nettle and understand that God has now revealed and made known to us the mystery and secret of His long held secret will and plan. It is a plan which is in complete harmony and oneness with His own infinitely kind intention. It is all summed up in this gospel message which is the straight forward demonstration of His good, merciful and benevolent pleasure which He ordained and purposed in Himself. And it’s all aimed at anybody who calls them self human.

 

On top of all this, the most glorious thing about it all is how we know these things. It is nothing but the revelation of the Holy Spirit on issues that are invisible to us. They are historically behind us by 2,000 years. They are spiritually invisible to us. They are Biblically hidden from us in what seems to the unconverted like cryptic coded messages that defy proper understanding. Yet to the man and woman in Christ it is in such plain straightforward language we are almost tempted to defy the world to attempt to misunderstand it. To the open minded Christian one literally needs help to misunderstand it. Jesus Christ is indeed Lord of all. The world needs to be made fully au fait of this open secret.

 

 

 

 

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The Opening Salvo of Revelation that Creates the Context of the Whole Letter

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ.”  (Ephesians 1:3)

Radically Wild Revelation

This verse of scripture singlehandedly, even as a standalone statement, lifts Christianity where millions cannot see and where some ministers do not want to go. This opens the door to the glorious freedom we have in Christ. This is a statement that lifts the Christian’s hopes and expectations beyond what the vast majority of believers even dream about. This verse is a phenomenal revelation of a truth declared from heaven that is invisible and unheard of to most bible readers.  Its content is so radical and unmentioned by so many ministers and preachers that when it is discussed and considered in its naked raw power many cannot swallow its truth. The truth of it is too much for some to even accept.  It is a revelation that paradoxically answers a thousand questions towards understanding New Testament truth, yet raises a thousand more questions concerning the spiritual life in Christ. This is revelation on issues that are invisible and non measurable to us, at the same time that it is tangible and powerful to many.

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The Paradox of having to get hold of what we already posses

In order to throw out a few skeletal brush strokes to explain what I mean about questions and answers, let me say further that Ephesians 1:3 tells us that we have  been given everything in Christ that we would ever need in life, from things visible and tangible like prosperity, provision of whatever we need in life, healing, health, deliverance, and guidance, right through to assurance, peace, grace, faith and every non- measurable Christ-like characteristic that comes to us as fruit of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. We have been flatly and graciously given everything we need. That is a glorious biblically sound statement.  But then comes all the ominous questions, queries and quandaries as to why so many Christians live in lack, bondage, confusion and anger with frustration. That is where the problems start in trying to understand why some facts of life seem to contradict the truth of scripture. I write these pages with the absolute conviction that the issues a paradoxical and not contradictory.

The Revelation that God has given all He has to give

My own paraphrase of what we read here in Ephesians 1:3 is, “We bless God and praise Him; He who is both the Father and the God of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us, and has openly given to us every spiritual blessing that He has to give, and it is all inclusive and part of the parcel of what we inherit by faith in the person of Jesus Christ. It is all and sundry of what Christ carried in His life, gained in His death and burial and forcibly took hold of in His resurrection and ascension. God has done it all already. It isn’t  that He is doing it, nor is it a promise that He is going to do it, but it is a plain and straight forward statement that He has done the act and finished the giving of all He has to give. “We have it all!”” I know that my paraphrase is much longer than and much more expansive than the original language but that is the exact contents of the original in Lannon’s Expanded Bible Paraphrase.

“Christ has done it all!” Yes! But the “all” of scripture is more than the “all” of man

It is a statement that takes the normal English evangelical preacher’s plank of truth that, “Christ has done it all,” further than we normally see and perceive it. This is a remarkable statement that should catapult our faith and expectation sky high. This is revelation of the most challenging nature. This is apostolic defining of a Christian’s position in Christ, the understanding of which sorts the spiritual pioneers from the withdrawing settlers – the Christian warriors from the “I’m a Christian!  There’s nothing else to know?” brigade. This separates the SAS soldiers from the Boys Brigade beginners and the Lamborghini speedsters from the old buckboard travellers. Ephesians 1:3 is a veritable mountain of a revelation concerning the vital substance of authentic Christianity.

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The Christian Status Quo is this: There is no Status Quo

This verse virtually makes illegal the very concept of any kind of status quo for Christians.  It reveals that the normal godly status quo for all Christians is nothing short of a perpetual state of transformation. Just in the same way that scientists believe that the universe is continually expanding, this verse puts the human expectations of what is ours through Christ in an ever expanding world of faith, prayer and re-examination as to what Christ has purchased for us in His Passion. Whatever you lack, Christ has conquered hell to get it and brought it under His masterful control, only to be violently apprehended by us through faith and an aggressive understanding that defies the rationalisers of this world. We have all of heaven’s potential as well as its assets simply dumped on us with a note from heaven stating, “It’s all yours. Take it and enjoy!”  If it’s good, God has given it to us.

Christ did not defeat the devil by the “skin of His teeth

Jesus Christ is the very darling of heaven.  His holiness, purity and  obedience to God through an intense thirty three years of life, where every conceivable temptation and evil was unsuccessfully thrown at Him, is what Christians sing, dance and preach about. His life and death was the complete overthrow of evil.  For this purpose was the Son of God manifest, that He might destroy the works of the evil one (1 John 3:8). Christ did not overcome the devil by “the skin of His teeth.” It wasn’t like some football match or athletics race where it was a close thing until the very last minute. It was never two equals in combat and … oops! In the last minute the devil tripped and Jesus just fortunately managed to win by some stroke of good fortune, or as we say “by the seat of his pants.” A pox on that idea!  It’s just a total lie. When we look at Christ we see the Mighty Conqueror in plain view. Satan was not narrowly beaten by a hundredth of a second like some Olympic sprinter. The devil was utterly crushed.

All His blessings are spiritual blessings

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Walking alone through the present day streets of Ephesus

The blessings of God, i.e. every blessing that heaven can afford,  belongs to the believer. It is the Father’s will to give us the kingdom and all the blessings of the kingdom. Every blessing you have received is a spiritual one. The spirituality of any blessing is determined by the one who is doing the blessing and not on the constituency of the blessing itself. Who can say that the idea given to Noah was not a spiritual blessing? There is “nothing” spiritual about a wooden boat – is there? Yes indeed! The Ark was a spiritual blessing to all those  whose lives were saved by it. Who can say that the discovery of water in the desert was not a spiritual blessing to Hagar in Genesis?

When you or I can pay our bills, buy our food and sleep under a roof – who can say that it is not a spiritual blessing that we have received and are enjoying.  To those that have their faith grounded in Christ, every blessing that heaven affords is theirs.

It is God’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom

Because of Jesus Christ, every single Christian that has ever lived was and is blessed with every spiritual blessing that exists in the infinite creative mind of our Heavenly Father.  He has withheld absolutely nothing. These blessings come to us by faith. They are ours and all contained in the package of salvation, because they are all “in Christ.” Those blessings are our possessions and we need to grab them by faith in order to see them manifested.  These blessings, as offered, are presently invisible and unseen, and to millions of people utterly unperceived.  What is required is personal revelation to see what is promised and waiting for us, as well as the faith that acts on that revelation and takes the blessing from the future into the present, from the invisible to the visible, from the possible to the actual. There is a fight of faith and we need to get stuck into each battle for each blessing as whole heartedly as we can. God Himself wants us to experience His blessings in an ever increasing deluge of His love.

In issues of faith the Christian is the aggressor. The devil is on the defence.

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Christians become Christians by faith in Christ. There is no other manner of becoming such a one. Being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Christians have been blessed and have access to every single blessing that heaven holds by the proper offensive use of the same faith that saved us. That’s the plain truth. God could not give us anymore if we wanted it. It is heavenly blessings received by faith.” We have it all, and yet millions are not even sure they “have” anything. Our faith is a weapon to use on the offensive against all things evil and Godless. The gates of hell shall not prevail against us. Nobody attacks by their gates, they defend behind their gates.

In a nutshell millions of Christians have been satanically tricked into being defensive with their faith. We are called to attack.

Ephesians 1:3 is the wallpaper to the entire epistle

When one reads this line of scripture (Ephesians 1:3) one just has to stop and mull it over. It is so positive, so heavenly, so serene and so overwhelmingly clear about God, life and our circumstances that without any other background or qualifying context we could make a very wrong conclusion about the man who wrote it and what he is attempting to present to his readers. Ephesians 1:3 doesn’t need a context to be understood, it is the context in which the rest of Ephesians needs to be understood. We have everything there is in life, in Christ according to the third verse of Ephesians 1.

The Light that shines from the bleakest darkness

For any person to write so assertively, utilising such absolute terminology most people would think that it could only have been created by a man who has been born in luxury and ease, living on the resources of untold wealth and comfort, a person who is loved and treasured by his family and friends.  “It must have been written by a person who has nothing in his past to feel bad about, and is just the recipient of gifts, vast amounts of money, comfort and ease in every single aspect of his existence.  In fact, surely he lives in an ivory palace in a secure room where nobody can get to him or touch him. The man is living in a cocoon of dreams and naiveté. I have never seen anybody that is so totally and overwhelmingly blessed.  Is he serious about what he writes?”

However, just in case there are any readers who are unaware of the man who famously wrote these words originally, allow me to disabuse you and explain that he who wrote the third verse of Ephesians one had been an accomplice to multiple murders and imprisonments prior to him seeing this revelation, a man who had grounds to have more regrets than most for that reason, a man who had his erstwhile friends chasing him wherever he went  in order to trash his beliefs and his work based on this revelation, stone him to death, punish him, persecute him and kill him. This man had wrongly been sentenced to floggings and beatings, had been shipwrecked three times and was seriously “up against it” in the process of living.

To the limits of endurance because of Ephesians 1:3

On top of all that, these words were written whilst he was in a prison. Not a modern “all mod cons” prison but a filthy, dank Roman prison without glass in the windows (if there were windows at all, that is), without toilet, running water, electricity or – worst of all – toilet paper. This man was in prison for seriously helping masses of people and seeing thousands of lives radically benefitted by what he brought them, namely:  the revelation of Ephesians 1:3. By external judgement, millions of people today would say that the man who wrote these words had experienced the worst traumatic encounters and injustices that any man could go through and still live. Such a man was the apostle Paul. He spent the early part of his adult life persecuting and murdering Christians and getting praised for it by mankind, and then spent the rest of his life persecuting the devil and doing all he could to bring people to faith in Christ. Those that previously loved him because of his hatred now hated him because of his love.

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Paul’s exultation in his torture, on the basis if the revelation of Ephesians 1:3

The Apostle Paul wrote this most glorious aspect of his understanding of life in a letter by which he intended to explain and deepen the faith he had brought to the readers in Ephesus and throughout other cities of Asia to whom copies of the letter were sent. This statement in Ephesians 1 verse 3 is key to the entire belief system and message that the document delivers overall.  That is why it is the opening statement after his greeting!  He will not leave his readers wondering why or how he could say things like this after he had followed Christ and finished up scarred, maimed and tortured. In fact those very scars were part and parcel of what he exulted in and blessed God for.

So what on earth, or in heaven, did Paul mean by such definitive phraseology? We need to define this declaration, for faith’s sake.

The Cosmic impact of the truth of Ephesians 1:3 becoming  actual

This verse tells us of the weight of Christ’s life, His suffering, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ’s death was so comprehensive in its ramifications that the whole of creation felt the impact. Nature was impacted (It went dark at midday and rocks were broken asunder).  Hell lost the right to keep imprisoned the righteous dead who were led captive by the Saviour to the presence of the Father. The dead were impacted (some of the righteous dead even followed Christ in the wake of his triumphant resurrection and walked about Jerusalem immediately after his rising) and the devil and his demons were impacted. The destiny of the world and indeed the entire cosmos was impacted. The universe was never to be the same again.

The resurrection of Christ means all authority and power to bless is His.

The most significant thing that was impacted was heaven itself and the manifestation of the will of the Father in Heaven. Everything that heaven has or had influence over was brought into subjection to Christ who now lives in the power of an indestructible life. Invisible to our physical eyes it may be, but solidly concrete reality is what it is. Every promise that God ever made is said “Yes” to by those in heaven. Every great and precious promise that can be found in the Bible, God Himself says, “Amen” to. Read 2 Corinthians 1:20.  Some of these biblical statements brings to the surface our confidence in the scriptures – or otherwise disbelief in the face of God’s profound generosity.

Every promise that God ever made is “Yes” in Christ and “Amen” in Him.

The final teaching point for us all with Ephesians 1:3, is that if you can find a promise uttered by God in the Bible, it can be prayed over and brought to manifestation. This is God’s encouragement toward us to enter into all He has to give humanity. He has blessed us with all He has. He has given us the very unfathomable riches of Christ, and then says to us, “Take it by faith!”

Christ’s own outlook was utterly outward as He died on the cross. It is the depth and purity of His selflessness that impacted the universe in such a comprehensive manner. It is faith that takes hold of all He has given us.

The truth of Ephesians 1:3 is revealed in the Old Testament.

We can only say these things because the New Testament tells us the substance of these remarks. Paul and Peter had only the Old Testament to imbibe. Today we have concordances and cross reference Bibles that link thought, doctrines and concepts together, and that’s wonderful.  But in the days of Paul all they had was the meticulously hand written Old Testament. So when the apostle came to town, did people just say, “I don’t know where Paul has got these incredible statements from. Perhaps we just have to believe that God told him, and leave it at that?” The answer is obviously a rather emphatic, “No!”

The people at Berea are praised in the text of Acts for checking from the Hebrew Scriptures whether what Paul said was true. In other words, just as it is with twenty first century preachers, so it was in Paul’s day, he had to preach the bible (such as it was in the days of Acts) and justify everything he said from it.

The big question for us therefore is this: Where was Paul’s biblical justification for writing Ephesians 1 verse 3? What verses or series of verses brought him to this marvellous revelation?  What meditation transported him to this, one of the most sweeping mind openers of the New Testament?

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Paul had the same access to revelation that we have.

This was a Jewish preacher who had visions of heaven and was taught his faith from the mouth of God Himself.  Paul’s leadership, even amongst all the apostles was sublimely authoritative. The real leaders of faith in this world have always been people who harnessed, and put into practical use, the intangible, unseen power of God, together with the bald statements of scripture, and then applied their hands and feet to their findings, making their very revelations the seminal conception point of a hitherto unborn opportunity.  They have then converted their invisible yet tangible endowment of power into forces and impulses of thought that created life and faith in the hearts of those people with whom they worked.  They turned prostitutes into towering women of grace, bitter and twisted legalists into trophies of God’s love and empathy, violent mobs into soundly converted loving churches. Sick and dying people were claimed from the cusp of the dark abyss of death by Paul’s preaching. This is what happened after Paul had seen outrageously glorious things in Christ and then put his discovered findings to the test to find out how true they really were. It was a glorious discovery that facilitated Paul to see how the spiritual impacts the physical.  All that is physical came out of the spiritual.

Ever expanding revelation aids ever increasing faith.

Those Christians who are afraid of new ideas, clinging tightly to those things they heard at the point of their conversion and will not listen to anything more are doomed before they start. Never has there been a time more favourable for ground breaking pioneers than the present. True, there is no wild and woolly world of heathenism and witchcraft to be conquered, as in first century, but there is a vast world of dead benign Christianity that needs overhauling, like psoriasis on the skin of the church that needs severely scraping off and new healthy cells to be engrafted in its place. Spiritualism and spiritual aberrations in people’s life caused through drug abuse are getting more and more common.  Atheistic churches are on the increase, though are clearly not growing anything like as fast as their adherents would like us all to believe they are – nevertheless,  they are the extreme fringe of a world that needs to see some Holy Spirit manifestations  in their midst, ministered by characters similar to Paul. There are seeds of biblical truths both practical and heavenly, both motivational and devotional that needs to be rediscovered, replanted, and nurtured till they blossom in this present world.

The dreams of breakthrough are invisible, yet concrete seeds of reality.

The greatest achievements have always been, at first, and for a season, nothing but a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn. The bird waits in the egg and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams and the ideas that gestate in those dreams are the seedlings of concrete reality. The whole course of things in our lives, when correctly observed go to teach us faith in Christ. We need only obey the dream He plants within us, and believe the words He speaks to us. There is guidance for each of us, and by humbly listening, we shall hear the right word.

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INTRODUCTION – Revelations of the Invisible Modelled. (Matthew 16:13 – 27)

2. General-Revelation

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Christianity is a thing of the Spirit. To us, the world of the Spirit though tangibly real, is invisible. But God has revealed the world of the invisible to us. He has explained how the invisible interacts with the visible, how the spiritual world touches the physical and vica verca. God has made it crystal clear and conceptually easy to understand  as to our role in that clashing of worlds, and where one inter mingles with the other. This is Christianity at its purest. Following Jesus Christ is walking with revelations of the invisible.

I have a statement to make in these pages with which I do not want to be misunderstood. The church of Jesus Christ is built on revelation. “Nothing Radical!” you may say with raised eyebrows. But I mean revelation direct from heaven as opposed to book learning, and lecture noting. And do not think by that remark I am against book learning, or taking notes of lectures on the subject. I am in my 65th year as I write these words and was converted the day after my 19th birthday and one of the biggest regrets of my life, amongst others, is that I have not read more than I have, and didn’t keep all the notes of every sermon and lecture I have ever heard. So please don’t think I am against reading or study. God forbid.

What am I saying? I think I may be able to distinctly explain by ruminating through what happened with Jesus and the disciple in Matthew 16. This account that took place over a few moments in the life of Christ is a template for what I am saying we need more of. Follow me closely!

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Christ retired for what seems like a recreational vacation for a short while with the twelve disciples. We have no idea how long this retreat lasted or what other subjects were discussed other than what the text here explains. They were in the area, or the suburbs of Caesarea Philippi, about 25 miles North of Capernaum. It was a good distance away from their normal stomping ground, so perhaps they could have time to themselves and a lecture time together. Times of reflection and meditation are clearly a vital ingredient of the Christian life and following Christ. One needs to inhale of the Spirit and chew over and digest what is received.

Christ asked the disciples questions while on this break from the pressures of the crowds. Jesus asked people quite a lot of questions that are recorded in scripture.  But here in the midst of tuition, Jesus asks them about issues concerning Himself. This is quite a remarkable observation. Questions cause people to think. At this moment in time together with the twelve Jesus asks two important questions. Both these questions concerned the essence of the person of Himself. One was a question concerning the status quo out in the world and the religious views of the masses concerning him. The second question was extremely direct, asking for their own convictions concerning His identity.  Question one was; “Who do men say that I, the son of man am?”(Matthew 16:13)

In order to give credible answers to Jesus, the Saviour must have expected the twelve to have had their ears to the ground when out in the world. These men had given up all to follow Him, so whatever the people around them in the world thought of Jesus would impact on them and their own relationships in their social and commercial world.

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The answers offered from the disciples were varied. Apart from Peter’s response later in the dialogue, we are not told which disciple said what. We do not know whether one disciple gave all the answers, or several of them volunteered each individual answer. There were only four proffered responses. Perhaps this suggests that there were eight of them that simply had heard nothing, or perhaps they were afraid to say what they had heard. The first reply was simple. “Some say that you are John the Baptist,” (16:14). This was hardly a well studied response and was probably made by nominal Judaists who rarely attended the synagogue or mixed with spiritually minded people or those with religious interests. If anybody had got to grips with those that followed the Baptist they would have known that John was seen and known to have immersed Jesus of Nazareth into the waters of the Jordan River during his campaign of repentance preaching and baptising by total immersion in the River Jordan those that believed his message. Baptizo is Greek for “Immersion.”

So it does not take much mental agility or exercise to discern that there is no way that it was possible that Christ could be some reincarnation, or premature resurrection of John the Baptist. The dress sense and the message of the two preachers were also so opposite as to be unrealistic. On these grounds we declare this to be the opinion of the “unspiritual religious,” the non committed Jew, the wishy washy Hebrew who loved to claim membership of a Synagogue that he never attended. The outer fringes of Christian activists have many of a similar outlook and practice today. There are simply millions of people in the world who are, “in the church,” but quite definitely are not “in Christ.”

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Some also said that Jesus was actually Elijah returned from heaven. Now even though this also was untrue, at least there was a little more thought and application of scripture behind it. Malachi 4:5 informs us “”Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives.” Those days seemed to be grave and serious in Israel. With the fiery and giant influence of John the Baptist, and then with the powerful manifestation of that great light that Isaiah had prophesied about in Galilee, perhaps the great and terrible day of the Lord was imminent. Elijah performed miracles, so does this man Jesus. Elijah impacted the whole of the nation, so has Jesus of Nazareth. Elijah healed the sick and defended and healed the oppressed and Christ was doing the exact same thing. According to Malachi that day could not arrive until Elijah had been returned to Israel to rebuild family relationships with the Hebrew people. But the rough garb of both the Baptist and Elijah was totally unlike Jesus of Nazareth. The wild nature of Elijah whose family descent was utterly unknown was unlike the Nazarene whose mother and siblings were known as well as his geographic domicile.  On top of all that, according to the man from Nazareth, He was preaching Good News (Evangelium) not the great and terrible day that Malachi’s statement suggests.

We declare this to be utterly wrong also, as if my readers did not know. I am not examining each claim because I think the readers of this page do not know the errors of what people were saying about Christ, but to attempt to illustrate how these erroneous conclusions about Christ had been arrived at, and how it came about that any of them seemed even vaguely credible to the genarel populace of the time.

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Others said he was “Jeremiah.” How strange! Jewish paradigms, no matter how many Judaistic sects and movements there were amongst them would never have any truck with theories of “re-incarnation,” and there were some, like the Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection. But those who saw the power and supernatural grace and words of Jesus and did not have the revelation of their own scriptures to even think He could have been the Messiah, could only conclude, because of their Jewish heritage, that somebody had risen from the dead to do what Christ was doing.

This would have been the traditional fundamentalist perspective. They believed Christ was a prophet, yes!. But because of their disbelief that they could have been living in the day that would see the long awaited Messiah, they had to point to well loved and treasured characters from history to justify the presence of a miracle working prophet amongst them in their day. These were the “miracles are not for today,” people.  These were the “cessationists” that believe that what God did, and what God said in the past is how we hear from God nowadays, and that it was not Kosher for anybody to speak with such authority and power in their generation. On top of that Jesus had not been to any of their colleges or sat at the feet of any of their revered Rabbis. So He was either a heretic or a resurrected prophet from ancient times. Perhaps they perceived that the passion with which Christ spoke reminded them of the scriptural word picture of Jeremiah. Certainly the mistreatment that Jeremiah suffered at the hands of his countrymen was similar to the mistreatment handed out to the son of Mary. But no! Christ was He of whom Jeremiah prophesied .

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Then somebody else suggests that Jesus was “one of the prophets.” This suggests that after having named Jeremiah, the same remarks I have made about how that conclusion was arrived at was continued in the same vein contined with each of the other major and minor prophets. They would have selected some characteristic of each of the writing prophets of the Hebrew Bible, and then concluded that “This man Jesus is like that!” and so jumped to the faulty conclusion that, “Jesus was Isaiah come back from the dead!” “No the Nazarene is more like Daniel!” “You are both wrong, He is too much like Amos to be anybody else.” And so on.

There was more biblical intelligence about the “Jeremiah” and the “one of the prophets” rumours, but it has to be said that it was clearly the natural mind of the Hebrew people of the day flailing around in their dank religiosity spewing out these suppositions.

Jesus, having heard the discussion of the opinions of the general masses, then asks, “But whom do you say I am?” (16:15) The book does not say so, but I am convinced there was at least a moments silence as hearts and minds thought deeply as to the Saviour’s question.

Then out it came. “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” (16:16). It was, of course, famously, Peter that spoke the words. When Peter declared this to Jesus, the Master did not just say that it was a great bit of learning that Peter had been studying over, and by his answer had passed the test. Neither did the Lord suggest that it was a great piece of logical deduction.  Christ’s response was emphatic.  “Blessed are you Simon bar Jonah. Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father which is in heaven. You are Simon (Reed) but you shall be called Peter (petra – a small piece of rock – a pebble if you will), and on this rock (Petros – an immovable stone), i.e.  (i.e. Revelation received as well as the confession and declaration of that revelation) I shall build my church.”

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There is the account from which I want to make several conclusions.

  1. Note that there was no vision, no angelic visitation, nor and thunder in the sky. It was one amongst twelve thinking seriously about a question asked by God Himself. The light that was switched on, the answer concluded and the statement given was revelation from heaven.
  2. There is nothing more intellectually stimulating, paradigm shifting or mind renewing than true and genuine revelation from heaven. It is more spiritually transforming than the best of book learning or sitting at the feet of the wisest of teachers.
  3. The church is built not on empirical stages of learning per se (that is learning in an academic setting with academic concepts of Christian belief), but on revelation from heaven that teaches understanding in the mysteries of the faith.
  4. “On this rock I will build my church.” What does this mean?
    1. I utterly reject and see as preposterous the suggestion that the rock on which Christ built the church was Peter. History tells us it was not true. Plain straightforward linguistics tells us it cannot be true. Anglicisation of the usage of the word is that Simon would be called Petra ( a small rock or piece of rock) and on this  Petros (an immovable giant boulder of a rock) I will build my church.
    2. This means that the Petros (rock) upon which Christ would build His church was  the profound conviction, confession and declaration of the deity of Christ, and/or
    3. It meant in a more general term that the church would be built on the outflow of revelation received from God and thereafter taught to the believers.
    4. Whether it is b. Above as is generally held by the greater number of evangelicals, or c. that is the general principal behind b. The vital importance and necessity of Revelation must be clearly noted.
  5. The vitality and power of heavenly revelation to the individual believer means that the church worldwide in its fundamental building dynamics it requires:
    1. By revelation received, questions asked of us by God Himself.
    2. Meditation around the person of Christ will breed a spirit of revelation within the believers’ heart.
    3. A sensitive ear to what Heavenly Father is saying. God speaks to the ears of our hearts, not the physical ears in our head. Hearing God is a norm presumed by many biblical characters. “The Lord said to…” in the Bible is so often glossed over as a perfunctory part of the text. It is the secret to revelation to hear what God is saying.
    4. Meditation! A meditative mind that thinks through the questions that God poses us, and questions on issues posed by scripture is as important as breathing.
    5. Revelation that has the potential to change paradigms and build Christ-like character.
    6. Revelation that points to a future destiny for the recipient of revelation. Peter was undoubtedly forever changed because of this revelation received from heaven.
    7. Revelation that gives people something to die for if necessary, and builds groups of believers into a solid church.
    8. Blessing! Over and above everything else Christ declared Peter to be blessed that he had a mind, an eye and an ear that heard what Heavenly Father was saying, saw what Heavenly Father was doing, and thinking things that Heavenly Father was thinking.
    9. Courage that comes with the revelation. One requires courage to declare such revelation that contradicts the convictions of most.
    10. Originality of thought. One needs to be able to think outside the box to receive such revelation and then to live in the light of it.
    11. Spiritual mindedness. What Peter heard from heaven and believed was not even seeded by sermons he had heard or “books” that he had read. There were no human sources at all in the communication of the revelation from heaven. Revelation is not learned from flesh and blood, but from God alone.
    12. A spiritual mind. Revelation is a thing of the Spirit. It is not mental, emotional, academic, or even, primarily intellectual. It comes from the realm of the spirit, spoken by God, and thereafter processed by the mind and its mental processes.
    13. Revelation may be initiated by thinking on the errors of men’s ideas first. Answering the answers of mankind that one instinctively knows is wrong can lead to arriving at raw truth.
    14. Godly motives. One cannot hear God clearly with carnal or sinful motivations. Motive is everything.

This is the very basic and simplistic reason why we need revelation.

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