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.”

phs 50

 

 

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.

Like Saviour Like Saint. (Ephesians 1:18-23)

1Jesus was fully human. He never ceased being the fullness of the Godhead even when he was a microscopic egg fertilised by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary while she was still a virgin. However, from the moment of conception onwards He was – and still is – fully human. There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). Yes indeed! There is a man in the glory. “This man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who has built the house has more honour than the house” (Hebrews 3:3). It is God that builds the house that Hebrews is talking about. The moment He ceases to be man, He ceases to be head of the church. “This man, because he continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood” (Hebrews 7:24). He is a man who will never die again, and lives forever in the power of an indestructible life.

 

This man became flesh like all humankind, excepting that the egg in Mary’s womb was fertilised miraculously from the direct action of the Holy Spirit. The egg became a child in the womb just like the readers and the writer of this article. He went through the bloody mess of human childbirth, just like people do.  He became a toddler. He learned how to talk, walk and make Himself understood. He grew. He developed. He learned things. Luke 2:51-52 educates us to Doctorate level about Christ’s humanity when it tells us about his growth from the age of 12 onward: “And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued to be in subjection to Joseph and Mary, remaining always obedient to them. His mother was carefully storing, keeping and treasuring all these incidents and sayings in her heart. And Jesus grew and kept advancing and increasing in wisdom, grace and stature, becoming wiser and more mature, and in favour with God and all the children of men.” (My own translation cum paraphrase)

 

Jesus did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, yet he humbled Himself throughout His life as any man who submits to God would humble himself. He consciously and wilfully submitted to His mum and His supposed earthly father.  He never leaned on or exercised His omniscience, omnipotence or omnipresence throughout “the days of His flesh.” Even during and after His baptism in the Jordan and the descent of the Holy Spirit, He was human and fully identifying with fallen man.  Many in the crowd who saw Him in the Jordan with the Baptist could not tell who He was because He came “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” That phrase simply means that He was not shining with glory and/or heavenly light. Outwardly He looked like any other person. John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Christ and remain on Him. Even the son of God, deity incarnate, could not and would not preach or heal any sick person without being endued with power by the Holy Spirit. But Luke 2:51-52 above, as well as the Gospel account of what happened after His enduement with the Holy Spirit reveals to us that His actions and responses are all those of a human being finding His way through life.  There was no change made in the nature of Christ at the baptism. His entire existence since conception has never altered. He has always been and will always be totally human concurrent to Him being the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in a body. His enduement of power had the same dynamics and purpose as that of the redeemed 120 in the upper room in Acts 2. Throughout the pressures of the temptation in the wilderness, like all people, He had to bring to His mind the teachings of scripture and fight the devil armed with His faith in those inspired and inerrant words. Why would He who was God need to bring the scriptures into the fray if He was not fully human? All His quotes against Satan comprised of His own command for Satan to leave, with that command substantiated with the statement and logic of scripture. He was man, dependent on His practical knowledge of the Bible. In the gathering of many and the selection of the twelve disciples, He shows Himself as fully man in the process of decisionmaking. In the healing of the sick, as well as the wisdom He imparted to all He ministered to, the whole body of the biblical text showing His thoughts and actions leads us to conclude that His life was filled with the questions and challenges that is the lot of all humanity.

 

2My point in all this is that the Lord Jesus, living in this time space world with a linear existence needed to understand and be motivated by a sure and certain knowledge of what He was doing “tabernacling” among men, and the full purpose for which He had come. He needed to know the full details of his relationship with God His Father, and the nature and extent of the power and grace that was granted Him in order to fulfil whatever the plan and purpose for His life was. These three issues are fundamental to all human life no matter what terminology we use. The why, what and how of life comprises everything.

 

And the personal “what, why and how of life” is exactly what Paul is praying for in the last verses of Ephesians 1. For these reasons the prayer of Ephesians 1 has to be one of the most powerful sequences of thought and spiritual logic in all of the epistles. The straightforward lucidity of its content and the goals for which the apostle prays seem to this writer also to have fitted the life and motivation of the Saviour.

 

Paul told the Ephesians that he was praying that they would see clearly three things.

 

  1. 3The “why” of their life in Christ. All Christians need to know and be aware of the certain hope of what they were called to be.  I do not mean simply: “We live with God forever.” We cannot ignore that thought, but we need to have some vision of our destiny in time as well as in eternity. In plainer English, the prayer was that they would see their future destiny as plain as could be possible, both, in this life and the next, to the degree that would content and mobilise us. The clearer human beings are with their goals and their sense of destiny in this life and their reception in the embrace of Christ in the hereafter, the more productive they obviously become at whatever it is that they are called to. Paul prayed that the eyes of their understanding would be opened to see and grasp what was “the hope of their calling.” It is all about an understanding of life in Christ with a mature outlook and expectancy in the process of serving Him.

 

  1. The “what” of their life in Christ. The defining of who and what they are in Christ and the overall grasp of their relationship with God greatly pours action and strength into a person’s faith. Paul wanted the Ephesians to know what were “the riches of God’s inheritance in the saints.”  Whether that phrase refers to the pleasure that God has in those who are redeemed by the blood of Christ, or whether it refers to God Himself being the riches of the Christian’s inheritance, the overriding issue is that Paul wants them to be in tranquillity of heart and peace of mind as they revel in the rock solid relationship of love and acceptance with their heavenly Father.

 

  1. Then “how” of their life in Christ. The third thing Paul prayed for was that the Ephesian Christians would know and fully understand the greatness of God’s power that was available to the believer both within their mortal frame and in the surroundings of their circumstances and pressures in this fallen world. He goes on to explain clearly that all Christians are walking in and with the same power that raised Christ from the dead. The inference is, of course, that even though they were walking in love to all people and proving their faith to the point that the population could see Christ in them, nevertheless they were living beneath their full privilege in Christ as far as the resurrection power of God was concerned.

 

4The wisdom of the prayer is startlingly perceptive. It is all about seeking the God initiated plan for each of us as individuals. It is a prayer that is asking that the joy both divine and human for all parties involved in this relationship is filled with the pleasure and long-term purpose of their mutual existence together. It is a prayer for them to see and understand the active and available resurrection power that is “running the show. It is the manifestation of the resurrection power that leads the Christian on in triumph.  The power that has fallen on the Christian, just as the dove alighted on Christ at the Jordan River, reveals a comprehensive motivational and edifying series of factors that enables a Christian to walk with God and take authority over evil. It is all there in the substance of the prayer.

These three key motivational factors that need to fill the Christian’s life, whether they aware of it or not, are basic to human existence. Even though these three factors may not be seen as succinctly and as authoritatively as Paul sees them, nevertheless they are aspects of knowledge and understanding that are basic for all Christians.  Every Christian who is truly born again should have some grasp of these three issues no matter how small. I think it is possibly because Paul understood how these three issues were vital for the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus that caused him to pray this way for the Asian church – and possibly for every Christian that he ever prayed for.

Jesus also made much of these three issues in His own life, and when they are mentioned they are not only motivational in the mind of Christ, but they comprise the very gospel that Christ preached.

The “Why?” of Christ’s life.

Jesus Christ plainly stated, and was heard to say, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). How’s that for knowing the equivalent of the hope of His calling. Some would say, “But it is Christ that does the calling!” Yes! But the Father’s will was His calling. Jesus was crystal clear and pointedly detailed in explaining why He was here. Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1 was asking Heavenly Father to open the eyes of the understanding of the Asian believers so that they could talk in such equally concrete language concerning the hope of their calling.

When it comes to knowing His own destiny and calling, Jesus said in the early days of His 3 years of activity, “Destroy this temple and in three days I shall raise it up.” He knew what He had come for and what He was to do. He was on a mission, the details and goal of which were clear to Him. Paul prayed for the same kind of revelation to come all Christians in Asia.

I don’t know whether it is right and sober to expect to see our future direction and mission as clear as Jesus did, but if I could see my own call and future with just a minimal of Christ’s own perception, I would consider myself blessed.

The overriding point is that Jesus knew by revelation where He was going. Do we? We can, by prayer have a taste of that kind of revelation, even if it is only a few crumbs that we taste.

He told the disciples plainly what His “end” was to be like. I put the word “end” in inverted commas simply because it is the world’s normal perception that death is the end. For the Christian, it is actually the beginning.

The resurrection was part of the intelligent revelation Jesus had to motivate His actions. He plainly said that He had power to lay His life down and then take it up again. He also said that He had to die and then return to the Father in resurrection power and that if He did not go through such experiences He would not have been free to send the Holy Spirit.

“I am come that you may have life, and have it in all its fullness.” Yes indeed! The Master knew exactly why He was amongst us and why He was sent. He definitely felt an imperative about His mission and purpose, for as a 12 year old He explained to Mary and Joseph that He had to be about His Father’s business.

5The “What?” of Christ’s life.

Jesus Christ was enveloped and clothed with the sure and certain knowledge of who and what He was. “I and my Father are one,” He said. Around the table of the last supper He was recorded as saying, “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father.” In John 17 Jesus talks of the glory He had with the Father previous to His incarnation. His food, He said, was just to do the will of He who sent Him. In the intimacy of His knowledge of His Heavenly Father, He was aware He had been sent.  “As my Father sent me, so I send you,” is what He declared in the upper room discourse. He knew He was sent and absolutely so.

The “How?” of Christ’s life.

By what means was He to bring into being the hope of His calling out of the riches of His inheritance in the Father? After the descent of the Holy Spirit that remained upon Him, and immediately thereafter led Him into the wilderness to be tempted, Jesus later stood up at the synagogue in Capernaum, read the opening verses of Isaiah 61 about the Spirit of the Lord being upon Him, and definitely claimed that the verse referred to Him.  His filling and anointing of the Holy Spirit was the how to the entire kingdom of God, and the entire ministry and life of Christ. Jesus said, “If I am casting out demons by the power of God, then know that the Kingdom of God has arrived among you” (Luke 11:20).

Jesus Christ was tempted in every way such as us. He never faced anybody’s crisis for healing, deliverance or the need for some prophetic guidance without having to trust in Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit to provide the means, the word, the healing and/or the insight. He never drew on His deity, that is, His pre-existent omniscience, omnipotence or omnipresence as a man in the days of His flesh prior to His death. He was fully God, but came as a man. For that reason He came to identify with us, and live fully with all the restrictions that humanity lives with.

Christ Himself knew the hope of His calling. He knew fully all the whys and wherefores of His mission.

All this is to affirm that the the desire of the prayer of Paul in Ephesians 1 is relevant to all believers today, and fascinatingly enough, was a prayer for factors of life that were also relevant to Jesus Christ Himself.

6

 

 

Wise, Full of Insight and Knowing God yet Paul Asks for more in their lives.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you might grow in your perfect and thorough knowledge of God.  (Ephesians 1:17)

000 In Christ 1


This verse is a suitable case for dissection and analysis. Paul lived and breathed in the realm of Holy Spirit revelation. What he was writing has been received and been declared as divine revelation for two millennia. The context of the prayer he discusses from verse seventeen through to the end of the first chapter explains a lot about His motivation and drive in the area of prayer and his logic that perceives what needs to be prayed for. This is indeed revelation of the dynamics of things in the spiritual realm. So; I suggest some sermonic bullet points and relevant explanations for the headings.

 

PAUL  ASKS

Hey! Hold on! Just a few verses earlier in this chapter, verse eight to be precise, Paul had said that God had already abounded toward them (and, as fellow Christians  it means that God has also abounded to us) in all wisdom and prudence and that He had actually made known to them and to us the mystery of His will. Now he is praying that the recipients of his letter would receive the “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.”  It is for this observation that many have asked; “Doesn’t that make this statement of verse 17 somewhat contradictory of what has gone before?” Not at all!

 

It is true that all true born again Christians already have the wisdom and prudence of God seeded in our spirits. These things came as part of our package deal of salvation when the Christian repented of his or her sin and exercised faith towards Jesus Christ.  Here, Paul is praying that what has already been seeded and planted in our spirits will become the dominating and ruling factor in our mental and attitudinal disposition as that seed is cultivated by the washing of water by the word and the renewing of the mind as the Christian positively engages with the word. The apostle is praying for a release and manifestation into the realm of the visible, temporal and physical world what is already present and alive in our spirit. It is that “Deep, Deeper and Deepest” principle raising its head again. There are degrees of growth, measurable levels of development that differ in us all, yet the seeding in the human heart of the Spirit of God makes a level playing field for us all to journey in.  In plain English, there is no variableness in what God gives the believing heart, but there are huge variations on the hearts of believing humanity when considering hunger and desire for more of God. What God does to and for man is absolute and uniform. Man’s response to His word however has as many degrees and variations as there are Christians who have ever lived.

 

So the apostle is asking God for something. This is interaction with God. This is a fervent seeking of a personal Divine transaction. This is a one to one, face to face exchange with the Almighty. This is the occupation in which Christians should by rights be world leaders.  Those who say they love God and believe that Jesus Christ is alive and that the Holy Spirit dwells within them should be effortlessly proving to a watching world how alive and personal God is by their dialogue with Him, the answers to prayer that they enjoy and the radiance of the light of Christ in their entire demeanour.

 

Notice that Paul does not pray that God will give them more and more temporal “things” such as affluence, physical strength, and all things visible. That is without doubt the ultimate manifestation, of the gospel in a person’s life, and indeed these things were lavishly seen in the life of the apostle Paul. There is, however, the incredibly sure and solid foundation that needs to be placed in a person’s life and faith in order to bring out such fruit, i.e. a spirit of revelation and wisdom in the knowledge of God Himself. What Christians have received in their hearts from God when they were converted needs deepening, chewing over, meditating on and absorbing.  Paul is asking that these people will have an ever-deepening experience of understanding more of their relationship with God through Christ and the Holy Spirit.

 

It should be made plain. The Christian life is not a continuous life long struggle to get more faith or more anointing, or to get closer to the Lord. We already have these things in their glorious fullness as per Romans 12:3.  We just need a fuller and more comprehensive revelation of what is already ours. If we could only see clearly what we have in Christ  there would be no holding any of us back. But what we have in Christ is infinite and widespread in one’s spiritual vision and constantly needs to be expanding.

 

Understanding this aspect of biblical truth takes a lot of frustration and doubt away from the hungry heart.  It is much easier to release within us something we already have than to try and attain something we don’t have. Through Christ, we are already blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. All we have to do is appropriate what is already ours through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-3 ). Peter also tells us the same thing when he stated that God has given us all things that pertain to life and Godliness. We have it absolutely, but we need more of it. It is a paradox most glorious!

 

PAUL HAS HEARD OF THE LOVE AND FAITH OF THE PEOPLE TO WHOM HE IS WRITING

Paul is not praying blindly. “Somebody I know in Asia needs prayer, Paul. Could you pray please?”  No! It is simply not that sort of general, blanket praying.  Whether we are talking of small numbers or huge crowds that need prayer, the principle is the same. Whether it is a group of twelve meeting in the catacombs somewhere, or whether it is the Christian population of thousands worshipping in  many churches in a widespread area, Paul has absorbed certain facts about the Asians (assuming it was not just the Christians in Ephesus). This facilitates and enables the apostle to  pray intelligently, prosecuting their case before the throne of God. The apostle informs us that he has heard of their faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ and love towards all of God’s people. These facts, together with anecdotal accounts of how their love and faith were being expressed induced him to unceasing thanksgiving on their behalf. He thanked God for these people because he owned them as a father to their faith. He is excited at the fruit of the gospel in their lives that has birthed such practical love. For those reasons he continually makes mention of it in his interaction with the Almighty to the end that God might give these people more of what they already are experiencing.

012 Ephesus 2e

PAUL KEEPS ON ASKING

Repetition and persistence are basic to a true life of prayer.  Paul continually gives thanks for their testimony, and he also continually prays for them to have a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.  Some prayers can be uttered once and left in His almighty hand, but Jesus also encouraged us to ask and keep on asking, to knock and keep on knocking, and to seek and keep on seeking. Character is built through persistent prayer. I am not referring to vain repetitions. I am referring to diligent heartfelt faith filled prayer. Intimacy with God does not just happen, it is built. Power in prayer does not happen it is built by consistent perseverance.

 

PAUL KEEPS ON ASKING GOD

It is not that there is any virtue in the “saying of prayers”. There is a difference between “saying prayers” and “praying.” The point to be made here is that prayer is dialogue and engagement with God Himself. If it is not an exchange between God and the one praying, biblically speaking, it isn’t prayer. It isn’t the saying of a learned prayer per se. It may be a heartfelt cry of the heart that is read from a page, but it must be a confrontational eyeball to eyeball period of time with God Almighty Himself. This is how we are taught to pray in scripture. Whether it is spontaneous outbursts of words, or long rehearsed phrases, or even written prayers is a total irrelevancy. It needs to be the whole person meeting with God. The more fully we put our body, soul and spirit into engaging with him, the more fully we will see in the spirit and have things revealed.

 

PAUL ADDRESSES GOD THE FATHER IN THE NAME OF CHRIST

Prayer is approaching Heavenly Father through the mediation of Christ our Savior by the power and intimacy with the Holy Spirit. The biblical idea of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is not something just to debate in the classroom or lecture hall. There are practical applications in the revealing of the Godhead. Nowhere does it impact more than in the approach of the believer to God Himself.  Paul addresses his prayer to Him who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his prayer is for manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

 

PAUL KNOWS THAT HEAVENLY FATHER IS THE SOURCE AND INTRINSIC FOUNTAIN OF ALL GLORY

With this thought, we see something that is profound in Paul’s understanding of the nature of the Character and Being that is God Almighty.  His descriptive language in verse 18 of God the Father is that He is the “Father of glory.”  He is not merely “the glorious Father,” but the Father who is the origin and infinite fountain of all that is meant by “eternal glory.”  Compare the words, “the Lord of glory,” in James 2:1 that are used concerning Christ. The verse suggests to me that the “glory” in this verse involves the thought of Christ being the true Shekinah presence of God, in whom the true glory of the Godhead shines forth and who is intrinsically within Himself the true “Glory of God.” However, no matter how beautiful and true that inference may be, its inference appears far-fetched to be applied here in Ephesians 1. Paul is referring to the Person of the Father rather than the Son. It is yet another component of the engaging issue of dividing the word correctly when considering One God yet three Persons.

 

The Father of glory, or better still “of the glory,” is a unique phrase. We have, indeed, other such phrases as “Father of Mercies” (2 Corinthians 1:3), and “Father of Lights” (James 1:7). One does not necessarily need a degree in theology to unmistakably recognise that those verses are referring to our Father who is in heaven. On the other hand, “the King of Glory” in Psalm 28:5, “the God of Glory” in Acts 7:2, and, “the Lord of Glory” in 1 Corinthians 2:8 and James 2:1 are when studied  phrases where “the glory” seems certainly to be the Shekinah of God’s manifested presence, and in all cases but this one, that glory is a direct reference to Christ the Son. Nevertheless “the Father of the glory,” seems a phrase different from all these phrases referred to above.

 

I see this terminology as having a dual meaning. Firstly, that Heavenly Father is glorious and magnificent in His own person. I do not mean that Christ and the Spirit of God are not glorious, God forbid, yet I do mean that the term “the Father of Glory,” refers to Heavenly Father’s personage.  To this writer the term “glory” must mean something mysteriously visible in the “appearance” of the Father.  The visible manifestation of God as a cloud, or as fire is referred to by the Hebrew word, “Shekinah.”

 

Secondly, I also see an inference of meaning that I do not insist upon, yet I confess it also dominates my mind as I read the verse.  I see in Paul’s statement that, “the Father of glory,” is Heavenly Father being referred to as “the Father of the glory that is manifested in Christ.”  I am suggesting that the “Father of Glory” means that He is the Father of the glory of the incarnate Deity in Jesus Christ (see John 1:14).  This visible Shekinah and weight of the glory of God is, in 2 Corinthians 4:6 referred to as “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” I have noticed in reading Jewish commentaries and articles both old and new that they often identify God’s Word with the Shekinah glory of God.  The prayer that continues through to the end of this chapter quite clearly connects the knowledge of the glory of God that is part of the believer’s inheritance with the exaltation of our Lord in glory.

 

 

ZZZZZ jesus feetPAUL ASKS GOD THE FATHER FOR MORE OF GOD’S SPIRIT IN PEOPLE’S LIVES

Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all seen in initiating the activity within the human heart that bursts open with Paul’s prayer, and they would be seen to be active in the divine activity of deity when Paul’s prayer is answered. Paradoxically the desire and goals of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1 are the same as the reason and ground for him making the prayer.  The grounds and rationale for Paul to be bowing the knee and making the prayer is that the recipients of the letter have reportedly experienced God the Father enlightening their minds with his Holy Spirit. This has caused and motivated the people to embrace Christ as He is revealed in the Gospel message. This, in turn, leads towards a more solid understanding of their obtaining everlasting life, and the setting forth of God’s glory.   Those grounds for prayer are identical to the goal and purpose of the apostle’s intercession. It’s a dynamic circle of logic.

 

 

 

PAUL KEEPS ASKING FOR THE INCREASE OF GOD’S BLESSINGS UPON OTHERS

Wherever the reader is in God – there must be more than what you have. There is always more. God is infinite, His love and power is infinite, and I read nowhere in the Bible of a limitation set upon humankind restricting what the grace of God can do in a person’s life. Whatever blessings one has received, even when referring to the most blessed person on the planet (whoever he or she may be) there is always more. Paul the apostle is driven to earnestly pray for more in the lives of the people to whom he wrote this letter.

 

PAUL ASKS THAT THEY MAY HAVE MORE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

There are gradations in the receiving of and utility within the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the desire of this writer that he may experience an ever increasing manifestation of the Holy Spirit in his life.  There is always more of the Holy Spirit to explore, be guided by and thus to experience. The word of God and it’s revelation to the heart always has precedence over any experience.

 

PAUL ASKS FOR THEM TO RECEIVE A PARTICULAR MANIFESTATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

We are talking of character building wisdom and revelation. Yes! There is natural growth and character development. There is natural understanding and insight. That is the sort of wisdom and understanding that comes to even the most Godless person with the passing of time. However, here we are talking of divinely imparted gifts and characteristics that are communicated by the Spirit of God. Whether this impartation of gifting comes chronologically before character, or vica verca, or whether they are both given and developed concurrently is something I will leave for the psychologists to conclude. There is one Holy Spirit, but there are many manifestations and ministrations  of that Spirit. He is, after all, omniscient, omnipotent and infinite in the variety of His own operation. Paul asks that these people be given a spirit of wisdom and revelation. That is only a narrow choice of the awesome variety of Holy Spirit manifestations. It is what is needed to build character that would be fitted to face and cope with the onslaught of persecution and physical temptation similar to that which Paul endured whilst he was in the vicinity of the folks whom this letter was sent to.

 

PAUL ASKS FOR THEM EXACTLY WHAT ISAIAH 11:2 STATES RESTED UPON MESSIAH

Isaiah 11:1-3 is an amazing description of what facilitated Christ to meet all the satanic onslaughts and temptations  that militated against Him in His life and during His passion. The NIV expresses it this way:

 

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears (Emphasis mine)

 

It is these lines that teach us that when Paul states he is praying that the readers of the Ephesian letter will receive a “spirit of wisdom and revelation,” he is clearly referring to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Paul was using the same phrase that Isaiah used and it was clearly referring to the same person of the Holy Spirit that is referred to in the previous line. “The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon Him.” That line is self evidently referring to the Holy Spirit. The next line is dealing with an expansion of what has just been written; “The Spirit of wisdom and understanding.”

 

Paul is asking that there will be a manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the same manner as He was manifest in the life and dealings of Jesus Christ. This is deep and expansive praying, the results of which would have impacted the readers.

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PAUL ASKS FOR A SPIRIT OF WISDOM

Paul desires that God would give to them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of him. Despite my own explanation above that Isaiah 11:2 fully justifies Paul’s usage of the phrase as referring to the Holy Spirit, it is a fact of life that when properly received the wisdom and revelation that comes to people  seems very much to become part and parcel of the warp and woof of their character. In other words, even though  the phrase refers especially to the Holy Spirit being the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that Paul refers to, in terms of its result in people’s hearts and understanding, I fully understand why many claim that the phrase refers to the human spirit being dominated by wisdom and revelation. The dominant usage in scripture of the word “spirit” is to refer to either the Spirit of God (as in Romans 8:10, or the spirit of man as referred to in 1 Thessalonians 5:23.  However, the word spirit can also describe a mental disposition or a settled attitude of mind. This is the same kind of thing that we mean when we refer to “team spirit,” or to “School spirit,” or the “spirit of a game.”  Although Isaiah 11:2 forces us to conclude that the term specifically refers to the Holy Spirit, the verse makes perfect sense with all three of the above meanings of the word.

 

PAUL ASKS FOR A SPIRIT OF REVELATION

It is illogical, and, dare I say,“Impossible” to receive a revelation of something that does not already exist. The Greek word that is translated “revelation” here is “Apocalupsis” which means “a disclosure.” It comes from a root word that means, “to remove the covering,” or “a revealing of something that was hidden” and “an opening of a curtain that previously hid something from view.” Paul is not praying for the Lord to give them something new, or anything that they did not, at that moment, already have in their possession. The apostle is praying for them to receive a revelation of what is already theirs in Christ. The presupposition is that they have received more than what they are aware of at that moment. A fortune of spiritual wealth has been deposited in their account, and even though their lives are plainly expressing love and faith, they are utilising pennies when God has developed a huge fortune.

 

For the recipients of Paul’s letter to receive “A spirit of revelation” meant that there would be an act of the Holy Spirit, as well as activity of the human spirit that would receive the God dispensed understanding, insights and ever deepening revelation that both opens up the true meaning of the scriptures, and facilitates the renewing of the mind for Godly living.  The Spirit of God accomplishes this by the removing of the covering, or veil of natural ignorance (Psalm 119:18. Luke 24:45), shining into the receptive human mind, and allowing it to see what before it saw not. This process would be facilitating an understanding of what was previously non-perceptible. The Spirit of God continually wants to reveal what is sometimes new objects of spiritual value, sometimes new excellences in objects before known. Thus the Spirit works not only in the beginning of faith and spiritual knowledge, but in its further progress he lets in new light into the mind, and removes some remaining degree of natural darkness.

 

 

THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM AND REVELATION WOULD BE THE MEANS OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH

The point of the letter and the prayers within the letter is, of course, ministry that would be a causative factor of growth in Christ.  All ministry of the word, and all true ministry by men of God is first and foremost to bring the unsaved to faith in Christ, and to bring the converted person toa deeper understanding of God’s wisdom and revelation.  When every other motive and purpose for preaching and teaching the gospel  has been discovered and explained, these two purposes are the ultimate source of motivation for a person’s ministry of the word.

 

 

PAUL ASKS THAT THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM & REVELATION WILL LEAD TO A DEEPER KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

God can be known by man. God wants the whole of mankind to know Him. I do not mean to “know about God” like one knows “about the moon, or the sun.” I mean that one can know God in the same way that one knows their spouse, or their children or friends.  It is an engagement of friendship, dialogue and purpose. This is what Paul is hungry for in the lives of the Christian people to whom he was writing. This knowledge of God is personal and intimate. It should be the desire if one who has their human spirit illumined by conversion to know God ever increasingly better.

 

Would that I could consistently pray with the insight power and wisdom of the Apostle Paul. Would that others would pray for me as Paul did for the Ephesians.

 

 

reflections on Christ - crucifixion

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit – a foretaste of the Entire Inheritance of the Kingdom (Ephesians 1:14)

The Holy Spirit who is God’s deposit, earnest and pledge, guaranteeing that He will give is the inheritance that was promised us, until the acquired redemption of those who are God’s purchased possession, and we acquire possession of it, to the praise and extolling of his glory.  (Ephesians 1:14. The Lannon Expanded Version)

 

aaaaa1The gift of the Holy Spirit is the seal of God on a person’s conversion as well as the earnest deposit guaranteeing the recipients that Christ is to return to redeem the possession He has purchased. Verses 13 and 14 of Ephesians 1 informs us that this is a fact.

Non-Pentecostal Christians claim that being born of the Spirit is simultaneously being sealed by the Spirit, and that being born of the Spirit is the pledge that guarantees Christ’s coming to redeem them.  Claiming this as the biblical truth makes a nonsense of the meaning of verse 14. The verse clearly states that the guarantee and confidence  comes from experience of the sealing. How can it be a guarantee of something if there is no clear experience of the sealing.  The Bible is down to earth as it speaks from heaven, and when it talks of a known and certified deposition made by God, pouring out His Holy Spirit upon us, it is not using western rationale that logically works  out the theology of that “sealing” as a theological concept. God stabs through the man made nets and cobwebs of theology with the dagger of experience, and the sword of sensient experience.

Wind, fire, tongues and supernatural prophecy was the sealing in Acts 2. Unlike the non-pentecostal non-charismatic Christians on the planet who justify their sealing of the Spirit by referring to scriptures like, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His,” and then logically saying that if I have was born of the Holy Spirit, and if everybody born of the Holy Spirit “has” the Holy Spirit, that must mean that Ephesians 1:13-14 is talking about me.

It is this writers conviction that even though it is true that one must have the Holy Spirit if one is born of the Holy Spirit, that possession of the Holy Spirit is not the sealing of the Spirit that Paul is talking about here. Verse 13 says that folks in Ephesus were sealed, “after that” they believed.  A direct translation of the Greek is “having believed, you were then sealed.”

In the gospels Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” but He still commanded them not to leave Jerusalem until they had been baptised in the Holy Spirit. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is the sealing. It is the definitive experience that locks the believer into knowing he is owned by God and is experiencing the Holy Spirit.

Once the Pentecostal outpouring started catching fire all around the world, Christian ministers, who up to that point of time had never dared to bring up the subject of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, suddenly started declaring that what happened in Acts 2 was a one off, and through that sort of federal experience that the 120 had, everybody who has ever received Christ since is “obviously” baptised in the Spirit. But if that was even slightly leaning towards the truth, how come they still needed Peter and John to pray over the converts in Samaria? If every believer is baptised in the Holy Spirit why did Paul ask the believing disciples in Ephesus if that had “received the Holy Spirit since,” they “believed?”

I suggest that the utility of the sealing of the Spirit is exactly what happened in the house of Cornelius in Acts 10 and 11. If they had claimed to be saved, Peter would have had a problem with the doubts he had at that time about gentiles becoming Christians. But the Holy Spirit fell on them as He did on the disciples at the beginning in Acts 2. It was that seal of the Spirit, that deposit of the very Ruach of God that settled it for Peter. The sealing made it experientially a non  negotiable fact. Gentile Cornelius was justified by faith in Christ and truly converted. A fact that may have been argued against, but for the experience of the baptism. And note, the rest of the leaders were ready and willing to argue with Peter about the weird claims concerning gentile conversions until he told the story of the sealing baptism of the Holy Spirit.

I know that Reformist pastors will claim me to be a heretic when I say that it was the experience that seals thebeliever, and it is the experience of receiving the baptism that causes the believer to know He is guaranteed by the foretaste of heaven and the Spirit filled existence.

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Baptism means immersion – total immersion.  Baptism into water, suffering or death cannot be entered into without all the senses of body soul and Spirit knowing about the experience.  How is it then possible that human being that is immersed into the Spirit of God not know whether He is sealed or not.  Those that claim that conversion to Christ is the sum total of it all, and that to labour the  doctrine of the Holy Spirit or the baptism in the Spirit is to detract from the evangelical truth that, “it’s all about Jesus,” are playing with fire.  It was “all about Jesus” until we arrived at the last supper and John 15. There was the promise of “another comforter,” and the Person whom we claim the gospel is all about referred us to wait  on Him, in fact He commanded the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they were baptised in the Holy Spirit.  The plain inference explicit in the words of Christ is that we cannot make our message “all aboy Jesus” until we are immersed in the Holy Spirit that clothes us with the same power that Christ lived with and walked in.

In fact to take my case further, it is a fact understood in evangelical minds that Jesus never preached nor performed any miracle until He had received a the Holy Spirit falling upon Him at the Jordan river and “remaining upon Him.” The gospel message is all about Jesus because He was anointed by the Holy Spirit, filled with the Spirit and arguably baptised in the Spirit at the Jordan river.

As the late the great George Canty used to say; “We have to make our theology fit the biblical facts and history, not the other way around.” I remember Mr Canty relating a sermon concerning Solomon’s temple when the Spirit of God filled the temple and floored the entire priesthood in the plain view of king and public. It was a seal of God’s blessing on the building raised to the glory of God. It was sealed in the psyche of the nation because it was sensibly experience by all the nation that was present. That story is a type, a picture or prophetic illustration in the Bible of Acts chapter 2. The baptism in the Holy Spirit fills our bodies beyond our spirits.

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not an allegory, or parable, it is a factual indwelling within the entire human frame. It is the reality. Non-Pentecostals pooh pooh what I am saying because of phobias about the word “experience” or the thought of God being so incredibly tangibly imminent in our time and space world. Like toe woman at the well in John 4 who was filled with traditional religion when she said, “we know that when Christ comes He will teach us all things.” She was happy to think of the almighty all knowing Messiah as being in the future, She could justify the status quo of boring “natural” religion while they read the Pentateuch revealing the awesome supernatural planting and roots of her faith.  Christ’s answer was, “I that speak to you, am He.” God was not to be relegated to the distant past or the even more distant future. He was physically present in the here and now.

Christ is in Heaven, seated at the right hand of the majesty on high, but where two or three are gathered in His name He is present by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is here in order to clarify more and more  all the whys and wherefores of the gospel being “all about Jesus.” And let all my readers take note that the moment we make the message from any other construct besides the person and work and character of Jesus Christ we have missed the mark.  We need the Holy Spirit more and more to facilitate us seeing the purity of the truth of the gospel. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is all about power and the demonstration of the healing, saving, delivering, prophetic power that was in the very air that Jesus breathed. Oh to be more Christ like.

If theology is truth (and some so called Christian theology is far from truth) it must teach us who and what God is, and what He does and will do. The word of truth is not just a mental wrestling with abstract concepts squeezed out of the Bible that cause questions and debates  but a bold and anointed telling of who Christ is, and what He does, But it needs the anointing in order for it to be told as Jesus and Peter and Paul told it. The anointing is a euphemism for the over flow of the Holy Spirit in a persons life, an overflow fuelled by a mighty baptism in the Holy Spirit.

The baptism in the Holy Spirit will always and ever point to Christ, identify what is of Christ, and exalt Christ with a true description of who He is. This baptism  would shake people, buildings and cultures and still does.  The one distinguishing feature that the Holy Spirit gave John the Baptist in order to reveal Messiah to the masses, was a statement comparing John with the Messiah. The Spirit told John so clearly that He could declare it to the masses: “I baptise you with water, but He shall baptise you with the Holy Spirit.”  That statement was the only public statement that we know of that God gave John to assist the recognition of Messiah when he would finally come face to face with Him.  It was after the event of the baptism that the Baptist revealed that God had told Him that Messiah would be the one upon whom He would literally see the Holy Spirit descend and remain.

aaaaa3The gift of the Spirit is not only a seal for present and public assurance of a person’s conversion, but an earnest, first fruit, or instalment, a pledge that the rest shall follow in an eschatological frame of reference. It is also a vindication of the historical prophetic writings of the coming of the Spirit upon all flesh.  The Holy Spirit turns the black and white accounts of the gospel message into glorious technicolour, and facilitates the manifestation of the miracles that Jesus performed in the here and now of the twenty first century.

The seal of the Spirit not only gives us the full assurance of the full and glorious inheritance to come, but He gives us a right conception of its nature and being. It demonstrates for us the nature of the provision God pours out on those whom he takes as his heritage, his peculiar people.  It is a taste of heaven that the Holy Spirit brings and seeds within us.

The gift is “until the redemption of the purchased possession.”  My studies into the Greek phraseology assures me from three different sources that the word translated “until” literally means that the earnest of the Spirit is actually a contribution toward the result described.  In other words the gift of the Spirit and the degree to which that gift is cultivated and utilised tends to bring to realisation the fulfilment of the promised inheritance.

It  needs to be said that the word redemption in verse 14 is not quite equivalent to the same word used in 1:7. In verse 7 we have redemption as a purchase that is made and settled. In verse 14 redemption refers to an event to come. We are the possession of Christ by the purchase of His own precious blood. But His full ownership of us and possession of us in resurrection is future, and it is that future even of resurrection that is here referred to as the “redemption of the purchased possession.” The meaning is the completed redemption – the full and final deliverance of the Lord’s heritage from all sin and sorrow, from all the evils and disorders of this life. “Neither men nor angels are qualified to apprehend the glorious excellence of God in an abstract way; it needs to be revealed, exhibited in acts and operations,” as will be seen when Christ redeems His purchased possession.  Then it will all be to the praise of His glory.

 

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Hearing Believing and Receiving are the means to Having (Ephesians 1:13)

“And you also were included in Christ after listening to the message of truth, the gospel, the Good News, the glad tidings and the Evangel of your salvation and saving health.  Having also believed in the Messiah, you were afterwards marked in him with a seal, receiving a sign that you were identified and  owned by Christ, – that long ago promised Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of holiness.”  (Ephesians 1:13 My own translation – paraphrase cum expanded interpretation)

 
aaa1And here we have it at last!  The access to all the blessings and graces explained in Ephesians thus far, is fully encapsulated here in verse 13 of the first chapter.

 

In the opening greeting Paul wishes grace and peace on the saints “in Christ” and “at Ephesus;”  yet he fails to explain how the recipients became saints.  In verse three he exults in the fact that God has blessed “us” with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ.  So whatever a saint is they have become saints by the same means as Paul did, for he identifies himself as one of the saints, i.e. he states that God has “blessed us” not “blessed you.”  So we have what is to us in a modern bible three verses written, and we know that whoever the saints are, and whatever they have done, or achieved in becoming a saint they have grasped all the blessings heaven can afford.

 

The next line (verse 4) is joyful simply because the saints have been chosen by God Almighty to be holy and blameless in God’s presence.  Every statement it seems is a statement of blessing that is incredible in it’s magnitude and depth.  But by verse 4 we still are not told how to become one of these saints that inherits this list of promised blessings.

 

aaa2Verse 5 tells us that every saint “in Christ,” according to God’s pleasure in choosing them, has been predestined to be an adopted son of God through Jesus Christ.  Yet the apostle still has not written what we need to do to enter into these mammoth statements of God’s lavish love, heaped on these saints that are “in Christ” and “at Ephesus.”  Verse 6 tells us what we instinctively understood from verses 3 to 5 that all this lavish outpouring of God’s goodness on these saints brings great praise to God and His glorious grace that has been freely given in Christ. We know it has been given, and that it has been given through the person and work of Christ, but not one single nuance is given to us explaining how anybody who reads this letter can also enter into this fellowship and family of God and His people.

 

He continues to explain the benefits of being “in Christ” as if the “how to partake” issue is not even on his agenda.  Verse 7 continues that we “have” redemption through Christ’s blood, which is defined as the “forgiveness of sins,” and that it is all done through the riches of God’s grace.  By the end of verse seven he has the readers mouth watering.  One would be foolish not to want these blessings that he is talking about in the letter  full of revelation concerning the blessings and realities of the cosmos that is to us invisible.

 

aaa3He has done these things with infinite forethought and planning, and in prudence and wisdom has effected this glorious plan of eternal blessing in His own pleasure and joyful will (verse 8). Verse 9 tells us that God the Father has happily made known to us the mystery of his plan and purpose for all of humanity that is “in Christ.” In fact God’s entire purpose is wrapped up in Christ.  However, we have poured over the first nine verse and the author has still not told us what it is that we are supposed to do to take hold of these blessings that seem to be rolling off Paul’s tongue.

 

The apostle is establishing the fact that “saints” have these blessings as in personal ownership. It is a position, a status of being blessed.  It is a platform that all saints stand on.  It is not a plan for a few. It is quite plain that whoever the Saints are, and whatever they have done to qualify them as Saints, these blessings are theirs simply because they have been made saints.  “But Paul!,” I ask, “I am salivating at the thought of this incredible concept of a heavenly outpouring of love. I want it!  Tell me what I must do to own it in the same way as these “Saints in Christ who at at Ephesus.”

 

aaa4Even in verse 10 he continues. It is as if he has closed his eyes and has received a vision. Saul of Tarsus, now Paul of Christ, explains how all these tangible blessings poured out on the Saints from the invisible world where Christ is will lead, and are leading to the summation of the entire universe when it comes to consummation in Christ. Things on the earth, under the earth, things seen and unseen will all come together in glorious unified submission to Jesus Christ.

 

He still has not finished his description of what the “saints” have entered into. Verse 11 referring to himself and the Saints as part of the same group, he declares that in Christ “we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”

 

These people have, to put it bluntly, inherited God Himself. The person of Jesus Christ and all He is and has done, every blessing and every strain of power and authority is theirs.  But still the reader is left with their tongue hanging out. “How do I also gain this inheritance?” is the cry of the first time reader.  It is as if the apostle is tantalising the reader hanging before their nostrils the sweetest smelling gift ever conceived.  He offers to the spiritual taste buds of his readers the most nourishing and delicious flavour of truth ever seen by man. The texture of the proffered gift is so lovely to the touch it almost has us in anguish waiting for the “How to…” of this status he refers to as “sainthood.”

 

aaa5Verse 12 stops us in our tracks. He begins to satiate the thirst for the knowledge of Christ. He talks of this homogenous group of saints as being “the first to put our hope in Christ.”

 

What?

 

Is that it?  So we are to put our hope in Christ? But how do we initiate the dynamics of this future hope – for the word “hope” surely suggests a future expectation.

 

The hope and expectation Paul refers to must be the fulfilment and climax of all these things that he has just explained that every saint of God owns.

 

aaa6So we are still asking the question: “How do I get this hope within me? How do I get to own these blessings that boggle the finite nature of our human thought processes. How do I become a Saint.

 

And then we arrive at verse 13.  Oh how glorious is the answer to our long awaited question.

 

The only criteria here stated is that we listen to the message, believe the message he is telling us, and then being sealed by receiving the Holy Spirit as promised long ago by Joel.  How much more simpler could the means to “sainthood” be achieved.

 

aaa7The word Gospel, or Evangel literally means “Good News.”  I am not wanting to insult the intelligence of my readers when I say that ”News” is something that has happened – i.e. something that has historically taken place and is relevant to this current moment.  The news is that Christ has paid the debt of man’s sin. There is nothing more for God to do in relationship to saving mankind.  It is done!   One of Christ’s dying cries was “Tetelestai!” In plain English the word means: “Finished! Complete!” The gospel message means that the work on God’s part is complete and all we need to do is pro-actively believe and receive.  Once a person believes and receives the fullness of the message, they are the recipients of the mind boggling list of blessings that we read of from Ephesians 1:3 through to 1:12.

 

The message of truth is the word of our redemption. The word used for “redemption” in the Greek (Apolutrosis) literally means the liberation procured by payment of a ransom. It also refers to a “releasing effect” (Thayer). It is used ten times throughout the New Testament (Luke 21:28.  Romans 3:24 & 8:23,  1 Corinthians 1:30.  Ephesians 1:7.  1:14. & 4:30.  Colossians 1:14.  Hebrews 9:15 & 11:35.).

 

It is made totally clear from Matthew 20:28 as well as Mark 10:45 that the price paid for our redemption was the life of Jesus Christ, referred to in Colossians 1:14 as the blood of Christ.  Hebrews 9:14 tells us how this redemption impacts eternity and is intended to purify the believer from all iniquity (1 Timothy 2:14) and bring us to a place where we serve completely the living God.

 

aaa9The message therefore is the recounting of the facts and the implications of Christ’s life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and glorification in heaven. That  is the message.

 

The message cannot be believed until it has been heard. And Paul says that people cannot hear it properly unless it is passed on by someone that God has sent in order to reap the harvest. After having heard and believed the message, the believer is sealed by the Holy Spirit. Non Pentecostal or Charismatic Christians tend to believe that the “sealing” of the Holy Spirit is the process of being born again by the Spirit of God.  My Pentecostal teaching has taught me to believe from my heart that because the text says  that “after you believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,” it cannot possibly be referring to the conversion experience of new birth. Being born of the Spirit cannot, for that reason refer to entering the kingdom, but refers to something that takes place after conversion while one has already become a believer.  Evangelicals that do not believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit have no concept of how to explain this phrase and so they teach and preach that it is referring to conversion. In holding cessationists beliefs (i.e. that tongues and the baptism of the Holy Spirit have ceased) they are forced to have to hold to that conclusion.

 

aaa8It is my conviction that this statement by Paul refers to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Baptism in the Spirit was the normal expectation after people had been converted to Christ.  The word translated “sealed” (Sphragizo) means “to stamp” with a signet punch or ring, or some kind of personal mark. The apostle is obviously referring to the marking of a person’s spirit with the Holy Spirit baptism.

 

The being clothed upon by the Spirit of God was the outward proof that established not only the recipients faith, but facilitated the confidence that people were truly converted.  The baptism was an outward show of the ownership by Christ.  The receiving of the Holy Spirit in this manner was a phenomena promised long ago in the scriptures.  The Holy Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of the promise, because he is often promised in the Old Testament as in Isaiah 32:15.  Ezekiel 36:27 and Joel 3:1.

 

One cannot be baptised in the Spirit unless one is already born again.  The time between conversion and Holy Spirit baptism could be some kind of nano second, months or years later.  Sadly some born again Christians die without even believing that there is such a divine promise as the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This writer is convinced that, even though millions are converted and make the Pentecostal experience a point of controversy, proper New Testament normalcy cannot be entered into outside of being immersed in the Spirit.

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The Purpose and Goal of the Entire Universe with Your Name on the File (Ephesians 1:11)

“In him, as before ordained, we also were chosen to be united with Christ as God’s own possession.  We ourselves have an inheritance from God as well as us being His heritage, having been predestined, foreordained, and had our way marked out beforehand – that is, we were chosen in advance.  This was all according to the plan of him whose might works out everything as He intends in conformity and agreement with the counsel, purpose and decision of the design of his own will.  He does everything He wills to do.”  (Ephesians 1:11 My own expanded paraphrased translation)   xxxxxxxxxxxxx1

 

This is the crunch line after the phenomenal statement of Ephesians 1:10.  This plan that was created in the mind of God before the stars and the galaxies were made, has a sharp arrowhead point aimed at the very centre of our hearts.  The irresistible statement of Ephesians 1:10-11 is only ever downplayed by Bible teachers because it seems too breathtakingly good to be true.  It is astonishing in its claim of personal intimacy and relationship with the believing Christian all being premised on the fact that God chose each one individually “twenty billion years BC” (That is a Lannonism euphemistically referring to a point of occurrence before time had begun). Each individual true Christian, born again of the Spirit of God, is a part of this huge and intergalactic plan; an “inter eternity and time” project.  In other words, the bullet of eternal life that was fired your way actually had your name written on it.  The concept, from start to finish, is bigger than any project ever discussed by man.  Could anything be more revelatory about those things that are invisible?  Could anything be more awe inspiring than being told that we are part of an infinitely larger cosmos than the one we consciously living in.  This world is not our home.  We are just passing through!  Could anything be invented that would bring more dignity, self worth, or purpose to a human life?  God is on your case and before you were even born, He had a reservation in His Father’s house with your name on the door and your initials on the towels.  Truly, our lives are hidden with Christ in God.

 

To say that true Christ believing Christians have struck gold the day they chose to believe is rather an understatement.  God chose us to be united and one with Christ.  No Christian is sinless, but they are blameless.  By faith in the blood of Christ, and what it achieved for us, we become God’s very own possession and part of His family.

 

The Christian has an eternal inheritance in God and all His promises.  Awesomely, concurrent to that, the Christian is the very heritage of God Himself.  It is quite mind blowing to the degree that I am not at all sure which is the greater blessing, for us to have all that God has promised (and there are rafts of rather startling promises) or for us to be God’s own heritage by His own will and choice.  We are blessed a billion times over with the former truth, and a billion times again with the latter.  Surely we are just doomed to a life of blessing and victory in this relationship that we have with Christ Himself.  The only thing that stops us singing and dancing with delight is the brightness of the light of this revelation – it truly blinds us to a mental numbness that can hardly take it all in.  It isn’t pink and fluffy poetical language that sounds nice and tickles the ego as well as the ears, these are the hard and concrete facts of the gospel as the Apostle Paul presents them.  This is Paul’s blinding revelation of the invisible. Indeed! The light of this truth is so bright it almost burns the spiritual retina out of its socket.

 

Moreover, we can’t get past these statements of wonder without stopping for a moment to chew on that giant word “predestination.”  This word has been a rallying call for polemic and polarisation in the body of Christ for centuries, when it has to be screamed from the rooftops that neither the Lord Himself nor Paul meant it to be any such thing but an elation inducing truth that inspires faith, destiny and motivation.  It is supposed to inspire us with faith, dignity, boldness, and determination.  “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” said the Lord Jesus.  The words are softened in most people’s minds because it was Jesus as a man, in the days of His flesh, speaking these words to men He had only met some three years previously.  For that reason most people understand that the choice that Jesus is referring to was something similar to  a football manager who has eighteen or nineteen players lining up for his team and from them he decides, “I choose Frederick in goal, and Charles as the striker,” and so on.  The assumption is that the manager has been watching the players in training all week and picks whosoever he thinks is “on form” and playing well “at the moment.”  However, that is as far as the east is from the west from the truth of what Jesus meant.  Jesus did not just decide as if He happened to be passing Peter one day and startled, stopped to utter, “Oh yes!  He looks like a good leader with potential!  I think I shall choose him!”  No such thing!  The point is that Jesus chose Peter and the others before Abraham was born or Adam was created.  His choice was made prior to time being created and instituted (or should it be “implemented?”).   xxxxxxxxxxxxx3

 

The choice of Peter, just as God’s choice of anyone who has believed on Christ to save them, was in perfect harmony with the activation of God’s plan and purpose set firmly before time even began. Ephesians 1:10-11 says so clearly. Oh!  How great is God!  He knew my name before a thousand generations before me were even a twinkle in their respective mother’s eye.

 

God’s thoughts were perfect.  His plan was faultless.  His intentions gave Him great joy and the performance of those intentions gave Him unbounded delight.  It was the good pleasure of His will to give us the Kingdom. And it is all wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ and a person’s relationship with Him, conceived, brought to birth and development by faith in Him and His word.

 

The only reason there are heated discussions about God “predestinating” Christians is the concept of God “choosing some and rejecting others.”  However, that is not in the ring for discussion.  As finite beings we cannot conceive of the Almighty predestinating some without rejecting others, because that is simply how finite beings would be moved if the election of Christians was in their area of culpability.  A pox on that thought however!  We must start with the knowledge that God is as vast as eternity itself, and that He actually lives in eternity, i.e. outside of time.  That is why God cannot age.  He is the same “age” now as He deals with your life, as He was at the beginning of eternity (Can eternity have a beginning?) as He will be at the end of eternity (Can eternity have an end?).

 

Because of this vast eternal nature and being of God, we have to conclude that his knowledge of all things is as eternal and without beginning or end, just as He is.  Anything that can be known – is known by Him.  Whatever we discover in terms of knowledge, whatever it is, God Himself has known it always.  He didn’t learn it, He did not have to read up on it. He made all things and He  knows all things.  He couldn’t be eternal and omniscient if there was any falsehood in my statement here.

 

Because of His omniscience, His omnipotence and, His omnipresence we cannot but conclude that He is present in an omnichronological sense.  (I apologise! I have made that word up for the simple reason that I have never heard another word that expresses the fact that He is in all time, with all people.)  God rules the universe in a way that is present in all events on the planet, and throughout all time on the planet.  His active presence is there in every moment that ever did, ever is, or ever will occur in the entire universe. He is Yahweh. That name means what He was, what He is, and what He shall be is never ending and never changing. He is everywhere at once in our time space world.

 

xxxxxxxxxxxxx2In some of these events he is actively present and directly at work.  Other stuff takes place under the umbrella of the description of “providentially occurring.” This means that Some stuff is allowed to take place, good, bad  and/or ugly without it being anything to do with His wishes or will.  People do some things that God neither approved of nor sanctioned. He very rarely, if ever, strikes people dead for those things, but when wrong things are perpetrated like murder, starting wars, stealing or destroying, the world has to live with those consequences whether it is restricted to one person losing their money and so cannot buy food, or destroying a nation and having millions of people displaced and starving. That is just the way the world is and it has absolutely no bearing on the divine culpability apart from Him having given all men the freedom to think, choose and act as they will – just as He does.

 

Because He is eternal, He must foresee all things. He knows the day that your great great Grandson will be born, and He knows when He will die.  It does not  however, necessarily mean that He has predestined such moments.  Many people die before their time.  There is a difference between foreknowing and predetermining.  God foreknows everything.  God has not, however, predetermined everything. To handle these facts we need to hold tight of the truth that the Almighty Yahweh is infinitely good and plans and plots benevolence, kindness and goodness towards everybody on the planet. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

 

With these facts as the backdrop to any assertions concerning those who are redeemed we need to say that, according to these verses we are ploughing through in Ephesians chapter 1, those who are saved are saved by God’s personal action and volition. He chooses and actively converts.  It is this writers conviction that He is actively working to bring all people to Christ.  Repentance is given by God. Conversion is an act of God. Faith is injected by God.  Christ Himself becomes our sanctification.  It is all of Him. But, God grants all of mankind the freedom to choose. In the light of biblical truth, it means that to choose Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Saviour, or to reject Him is clearly the most important choice that any person can ever make. xxxxxxxxxxxxx4

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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