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.

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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)

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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.

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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

Praying for Those Already in Overflowing Blessing

For this reason, ever since I first heard about the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all God’s people everywhere,I have not stopped giving thanks to God for you, remembering you in my prayers constantly.  (Ephesians 1:15-16)

 

aaaaa1I am sure that anyone who believes in the power of prayer would pray for folks in trouble, folks that are ill or are being buried by some negative circumstance. Christians receive prayer requests for folks in needy scenarios all the time. It is the Christian lifestyle. “Tell me, what can I pray about for you?” Sickness, loss, lack and bereavement are all situations that need prayer and the power of God to sustain folks through hard times.

 

However, when we hit Paul’s discussion of prayer in Ephesians 1 we have a totally different concept. The first fourteen verses are highlighting the gloriously wonderful context of the true faith that existed in the hearts of the people to whom the apostle was writing. He highlights truths that are embedded into the life of all true Christians. The believer is chosen, blessed with everything God has to give, purposed for glory and purposed from before time began. The believer has forgiveness, clearing out the past; redemption, being owned by God, and having the status of family member; and the empowering of the Holy Spirit to walk in the high calling of God.  It is all absolutely glorious. On top of all that, the reports have come to Paul that the practical outworking of these truths is wonderfully self evident in the lives of those to whom the letter was sent.  At the end of all that information, we have Paul’s instant response. He thanks God for them and ensures that he remembers them all in his prayers. This is revelation that informs us of things happening in the invisible spiritual cosmos. Because of their experience in Christ, and because of the obvious outburst of grace and Christ-like love in them all he needs to pray for them, along with giving thanks for them.

 

I believe Ephesians was written as a “round robin” to many of the churches in Asia minor, or to use modern terminology – the area we know as Western Turkey. There are several reasons why I hold tightly to this hypothesis.  One of those reasons is that I am given to understand from many academic volumes that there are quite a few manuscripts of the epistle where “at Ephesus” in the very first verse is missing. I am told that those that have the Ephesian location missing are among the oldest manuscripts extant.  Another reason that causes me to hold to my “circular newsletter” theory is this section of the epistle in verses 15 and 16 of the first chapter.  The language suggests that he is addressing people that he has not met but only heard of, when indeed he had spent three years in Ephesus. If he had lived in Ephesus and never circulated throughout Asia or met the other fellowships, it makes it legitimate to picture the apostle talking about having heard of the people’s faith and their love for God’s people everywhere, having not met them. It stands to reason that he was the father and the witness to the impact of the gospel message on the Ephesian population, but the disciples and others sent out from Ephesus also birthed churches in Colossae, Thyatira, Pergamos,  and other cities within biblical Asia.  If this letter was to be read throughout all the churches in Asia, there must have been some thoughts of the apostle of the Christians he knew of, yet had never met. The theory of academics is that there were several copies written and then as Paul’s workers attended differing congregations they would fill in the name of the city where the church was that they were visiting.

 

Paul had people reporting to him all the time.  Having heard of the grace of God working in the province as a whole, as people were filled with faith and love, he set himself to pray for them. In fact, the language he uses suggests that he was constantly in prayer concerning them. How does one pray for those that are obviously grounded in their faith and witnessing the love of Christ in their lives?  This brings to our attention several thoughts.

 

aaaaa2The important issue to imbibe is that Paul did not pray for the Ephesians because they were in crisis or having problems – in fact, the letter suggests that it is for reasons that are quite the opposite to lack, need or illness. He commended them for their love and faith, having told them in the early part of the chapter all that they had in Christ, and from that platform of understanding he postures himself to pray for them to experience more of what they have already got.  It is necessary, I believe, to grasp the idea that there is more to being saved and walking with God than just getting our sins forgiven, wonderful though that is.  The new birth translates us into the kingdom of God, which is infinitely greater in wonder and benefits than even the greatest finite mind can ever comprehend. We need revelation to understand what salvation is in all its fullness, and this letter supplies us with that revelation. Conversion and being born of the Spirit is marvellous, but walking with God has even more superlatives to be heaped upon the concept of being “saved” to really understand the process.   We need to have a clear view of how the kingdom of God functions and then follow the principles behind the divine promises given.  The more we can experience it down here on earth, the more glory we bring to God.  This is called spiritual growth.

 

Everything big starts little.  This growth in God does not take place automatically, neither does it happen all at once. We are progressively being changed as we renew our minds – assuming renewal of the mind is our greatest priority.  Mind management is the first priority of the overcomer.  All Christians are the same in their born again spirit but there are many different levels of understanding and accompanying victories which we should be manifesting in our lives.  This is why every Christian on the planet can correctly say that Ephesians 1:3-14 is the exact truth of their derivation, status and divinely ordained goal in life, and yet some can turn out to be mighty world changing apostles, and some can simply cruise and remain so bland and ineffectual. One only gets out of a relationship as much as one puts into that relationship.  It is with these things in mind that Paul prays that what these Asian Christians had in their spirit and were exhibiting in a life of faith and love, will be openly and ever increasingly manifested  in their flesh. Whatever one’s experience of God is or has been, there is always more. However deep one has gone into the Spirit, there is always deeper and deepest to explore.

 

For these reasons, this prayer Paul is about to detail to us is powerful and valid for every Christian. One would be wise if one was to make this prayer personal to one’s self. It is powerful and ever so far-reaching in its conceptual insights.

 

Paul’s giving of thanks is part and parcel engrafted into the warp and woof of his prayer life. Thanksgiving is a vital nutrient in the interaction with God that prayer is intended to be. “I will enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise,” reads Psalm 100:4, suggesting that God welcomes those that come to Him in a genuine state of thankfulness.   Philippians 4:6 instructs us similarly.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  To put it succinctly, Paul does not think that prayer is legitimate without a period of thanksgiving mixed in with the petitions.

 

“For this reason” he begins.What reason is he referring to?  Everything listed in those first fourteen verses, together with the fruits of their faith that have been reported to him. The apostle is overjoyed at the clear evidence of a real and solid faith. He is so happy that he has been thanking God ever since he heard. He is selflessly rejoicing in the intervention of God in the lives of the Asians and he sees clearly that the momentum needs to be maintained. How can he influence the momentum of Godliness when he is so geographically distanced from them?  Paul is filled with the solid factual and concrete concept that distance is not a barrier with God.

 

“I have not stopped giving thanks for you.” This is a revelation of one of Paul’s deep secret for maintaining the gifts of grace and power that sat upon his life. Thankfulness for anything that is God given was the lifestyle of the apostle. Praying was a lifestyle. Remembering people in his prayers was the air he breathed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The nature of Paul’s Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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My desire to pray like Paul

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

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

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

 Weak theology of the Holy Spirit a chronic widespread failure

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

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

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

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

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

Parochial Vision of different Denominations, Streams and Movements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Personal Confession of being stuck in the Traditions of Men

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

The Never Changing demand for Change

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

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

To Hear the Voice of the Spirit

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

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

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

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

The need to Change Perspectives and Paradigms

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

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

Consistency does not mean never changing

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

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

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

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

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“Heavenly Places” and “The Heavens”

aaa2I have a picture I need to share.  In fact, it’s more of a video cum movie than a picture.  It’s a running video scene that in my heart and in my mind’s eye is as clear and succinct as anything could be. However, I have a problem.

 

Have you ever read Ezekiel’s first chapter?  It’s obvious that what the prophet saw was clear, clean and, to him, well perceived and  easily understood.  He knew what he saw.  And, he knew that what he saw was a clear statement to mankind as any could be.  No problem!  Until he puts quill to parchment!   We then have a mysterious cryptic 28 verses to unravel.  It’s the chapter of the “Wheels within wheels,” and the living beings going straightforward in different directions, with four faces, yet never separating because their wings were touching each other continually. There were eyes in the wheels, and the spirit of the creatures was in the wheels.  Draw a pencil sketch of that if you can!  I have seen, through the years, something like half a dozen attempts at a pictorial presentation of Ezekiel’s vision. They have all been wonderful, yet each of them, to my mind, failed in some aspect of the whole of Ezekiel’s text.  Ezekiel saw it, and I am convinced that he was satisfied with the description as he wrote it. However, it seems that without some heavenly revelation, we can’t seem to get to grips with all that he saw that day by the River Chebar.

 

Ezekiel leaves us with a description that we cannot properly image. It is like describing the colour red to a blind man who has never seen.  It is comparable to explaining in sign language to a profoundly deaf person, the difference between a C major chord and a C minor. We need some deep revelation.

 

I am in no way comparing my visionary insight with the weight and inerrancy of Ezekiel. God help us!  What I am saying is that seeing something so clearly, and writing these words after having written what is below, I have edited and discovered that I have not painted my word picture clearly, yet it is what I see.

 

To plot my route from the start, I leave you with the nine hooks that I want to hang my thoughts on.  Nine hooks that will let you in to where my heart and eyes have been in my hunger for revelations of the invisible. It is all about each time that “the heavens” or the “heavenly places” is mentioned in Ephesians:

 

  1. Ephesians 1:3    The Locus of the Glorified Christ
  2. Ephesians 1:10  The Prophesied Future  Harmony of the Heavens and the Earth
  3. Ephesians 1:20  The same Heavenly Power that Enthroned the Risen Christ reigns in the Christian
  4. Ephesians 2:6     Christ and the church are in the same Locus in Heavenly Places
  5. Ephesians 3:10  The Universal Display of the Wisdom of God Displayed Cosmically Through the Church
  6. Ephesians 3:15  There are Family’s in Heavenly Places just as there are on Earth
  7. Ephesians 4:10  The exaltation of Christ is such that His Glory is Higher than the Heavens
  8. Ephesians 6:9    The knowledge of things in the Heavens should Govern our conduct on Earth
  9. Ephesians 6:12  The struggle of life is primarily won or lost in the Heavenly places

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There is no such place as a singular “heaven” in Ephesians!  No!  I am not going heretical!  Heaven, and/or its environs appear nine times in the epistle that we are at present trawling through, but it is always stated as a plural!  “The Heavens” is the truer translation, even though, because of western mindsets it is often translated as “heaven.”  It is  used sometimes in the singular in the New Testament, and centuries of religious tradition in Europe have nailed it into our psyches.  “Heaven” and “Hell” seem more stark and better understood when expressed in the singular.

 

The word in the original Greek is “ouranous” when it is singular and “ouraniois” when its plural. “Ouraniois” is in Ephesians three times.  But then there is “epouraniois,” translated as “heavenly realms” or “heavenly places,” suggesting a view of “the heavens” that is differentiating the areas of its “real estate.”  Perhaps the plural noun and adjective is referring to different dimensions or levels of heaven.  Paul said he was taken up “to the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2).  What is the significance of three heavens?  Are there only three?  Without doubt Paul wrote Ephesians after the experience he refers to in 2 Corinthians 12, and perhaps that is what influenced him in using the plural terminology. Revelation can change the language of a person.

 

There are times when we read scripture and accept, almost as a cliché, some of the most remarkably profound and revelatory statements. I am talking specifically about one area of these profundities today.  What should we think and believe about heaven?  It has always challenged my conceptual thinking whenever I have had to engage with the phrase, “in heavenly places” in Ephesians.  What are “heavenly places?”  Is it geographically located?  How is it that I am here as well as there? (i.e. “at Ephesus,” “in Christ”(1:1).  See also Ephesians 2:6)   And how should this dual locus impact my life?  I have often wondered if I even understand the phraseology of “heaven” correctly.  Follow my trail of questioning thought as I engage and grapple with the scriptures on this issue.

 

I have chosen to use the word “locus” on this page simply because even though I personally am convinced of a physical dimension in the heavens, I quite understand that many of my readers might not.  To ensure I do not lose you on my journey I am using “locus” as opposed to “location.” Locus meaning  a centre of power  or activity of control that may or may not be geographically physical.

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Ephesians 1:3    The Locus of the Glorified Christ

As first mention of the “heavenlies” in the epistle  at only the third verse, this phrase seems simple enough; elementary even:  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:”

 

What is this statement all about.  One would not have thought there was any issue or struggle in getting hold of this line. First of all the phrase, “who has blessed us” in the original Greek is in the aorist tense which means that there was a point in time when all the blessings that he refers to were given to us. Not bit by bit, but the whole package was given in one moment.  As we read on in the first chapter we will see that it was given at the believer’s moment of conversion.

 

This means that Paul is discussing blessings that need to be understood, discovered and enjoyed. They are definitely not to be asked for. They have already been given. Christians are not heading for victory but coming from victory.   I believe that “in heavenly places” in 1:3 is referring to the very place from where believers receive the grace and specified gifts that comprise “every spiritual blessing.”  This is the entire point of this opening statement of Paul’s missive.  This is logical also when seen in the light of the New Testament in general.  “In heavenly places” is where the ascended, exalted Christ is at this moment, and where believers are also as per Ephesians 2:6.  The Christian is incorporated “in Christ.”  No problematic mental gymnastics are needed!  It makes total sense. “In heavenly places” carries the meaning of actually being in the spiritual realm. Christ is there. We are there because we are “in Christ.” The fullness of the blessing that is in Christ is given from heavenly places and landed in our spirits, in our lives on planet earth.

aaa7 The Believer is in Christ

In contrast to the present earthly realm, which is the locus that human beings are sentiently aware of, the “heavenly places” are declared to be the experiential reality of the believer’s environment whether we sense it or not. There are four times “In heavenly places” occurs in Ephesians. When each statement is seen in its context and in their combination, it is clear that Paul is speaking about real places which are beyond earth’s atmosphere and/or in a parallel dimension to where we physically exist.  We know for certain that the region designated as “heavenly places” is the very locus of the ascended Christ in His present state of exaltation.  The “heavenly places” are an authentic reality in which believers currently share a throne along with the Saviour.

 

Wherever Christ is, so is the Christian.  If I place a photograph of myself inside a book, and then send the book to the moon with a NASA astronaut, wherever the book goes the photo goes, simply because the photo is in the book.  In exactly the same manner, the believer is, “in Christ.”  Wherever Christ goes, so does the believer.  Do not be fooled into thinking that because we are on planet earth and Christ is in the heavens that Paul must be using some poetical pink and fluffy statement to make us feel good and closer to Jesus.  The born again Christian is in a spiritual, nevertheless real way, conjoined to the living resurrected Christ. The Christian was crucified with Christ, died with Christ, buried with Christ and resurrected with Christ.  We shall also see that Ephesians 2:6 tells us that all Christians are now seated with Him in heavenly places in Christ.

 

In Ephesians 1:3, Paul is eulogising God the Father for all that we have received in Christ.  What we have he defines as “every,” or “all” spiritual blessings that have descended upon us from the heavens, and it is plainly described as every conceivable blessing that heaven has to give.  Therefore, we logically extrapolate that if Christ is in heavenly places, and we are in Christ, we are seated with Him, together in heavenly places.  This straightforward logical extrapolation is confirmed when we get to Ephesians 2:6.  Those multifarious blessings from heavenly places belong to us as an unearned inheritance, and they are given in order to impact our physical existence here on earth.

 

I find it difficult  to withhold from the ever growing conviction within me that these heavenly places are geographical, if not in time, at least in space – somewhere – somehow.  What drives me to push this?  When Moses, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Daniel and John saw into “heavenly places” none of them struggled to explain what they saw, heard and touched  – even tasted.  They simply “saw” it: and independently in different cultures and different generations saw the same things as each other.  When Moses was told to build the Tabernacle in the wilderness he was told to construct it “exactly” as he had seen it in heaven. What he saw he remembered, and what he remembered was a tangible measurable form of a tent.  He glimpsed it in heaven. It is a wonderful glorious mystery.  For these reasons it is wise to think long and hard before we simply cast a judgement that it was only spiritual language explaining invisible abstract spiritual concepts.  None of the Hebrew prophets talk abstractly.

aaa8 The Graphic Biblical Sketch of the Heavens

The biblical picture is plainly laid out for our carnal minds to chew on and assimilate.  The heavens are the eternal dwelling place of God the Father.  Jesus taught us to pray; “Our Father who is in Heaven” (better translated “in the heavens,” or “in heavenly places” (plural)).  “Heaven” is the English noun, “Heavenly” is the English adjective.  It is from this “place” that the Son of God descended to become incarnate (John 3:13, 3:31, 6:38 and 6:42).  Up to this point of the developing picture we may conceive it as something spiritual and non-physical.  However, the risen Christ was physically tangible.  He was touched and proven to be physical, and he ate in the presence of people.  The physical resurrected Christ left us.  In Christ’s ascension He literally “passed through the heavens” and into glory (Hebrews 4:14 Revised Version), and then, in sequence “ascended far above the heavens” (Ephesians 4:10) and was made even “higher than the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26). The risen physical flesh and bone Christ stepped into the heavens. At that point Christ sat down on the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens (Hebrews 8:1).  Peter tells us that Jesus is “on the right hand of God” having gone into heaven (1 Peter 3:22).  Since the day of Christ’s ascension into heaven, recorded for us in Acts 1, this has been the scenario of His intercessory life, activity and ministry (Romans 8:34.  Hebrews 9:24).  He lives there in the power of an indestructible life interceding for the church (Hebrews 7:16).  These heavenly places are the places from which the Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost (1 Peter 1:12).  One of these places is where Paul was caught up to not knowing whether he was in the body or out of the body (2 Corinthians 12:2), which suggests that the “third heaven” was so literal and tangible, Paul wasn’t sure that he was out of the body.  This is the place from which the angels minister  to those who shall be heirs of salvation (Matthew 18:10.  22:30. Revelation 3:5.  Hebrews 1:14).  It is the place from which Christ will come to receive His saints at the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16.  Philippians 3:20-21) and from where He will thereafter descend with His saints and holy angels at the moment of the second advent (Matthew 24:30. 2 Thessalonians 1:7).  It is, throughout the depths of eternity’s measurements, to be the dwelling place of the resurrected saints in glory (2 Corinthians 5:1).  Can we read these writings and not graphically picture a setting that seems geographical?

 

In Heavenly Places Now.

Yet even having said all this, it is now, at this moment of our earthly present that Paul tells us that our citizenship is in heaven – not future tense, but a present possession.  We are now citizens of heaven.  The Christian in the here and now is primarily and importantly a citizen of heaven – a citizenship that carries a greater priority over earth’s citizenship (Philippians 3:20).  Our conduct down here is to be modelled on our citizenship in the heavenly places, not the other way around.

man in praise

Reverting back to the text of Ephesians 1:3 then, it is from “heavenly places” that He dispenses the sum total of all the glorious blessings which He died to give us.  The major mental picture that I am struck with is that heaven is an alternative locus, physical or otherwise, (in another dimension?) where the believer possesses a literal stake and resides in the Spirit contemporaneously with Christ.  Whether it is physical in the sense of length, breadth and height, or, whether it is a physical world beyond our physical reality, we cannot be sure – yet.  The universe is governed both morally and physically from the heavens.  The heavens themselves are the serious, legitimate and very real  “engine rooms” serving the entire cosmos.  It is Yahweh’s “residence.” This is an incredible revelation of the invisible.  The physical cosmos was created and spoken into being from within the spiritual cosmos. It is the unseen eternal God, in the unseen heaven, who spoke the temporal earth and the temporal stars into being.  If the physical is therefore contained within the spiritual, the laws and requirements of the spiritual cosmos obviously have priority.  The physical is temporary. The invisible is eternal. Oh to know more of the “heavenly places!”

 

English Bible translators seem to struggle to achieve a definitive translation of this phrase into the Queen’s English.  “In heavenly places” is in the King James Version as well as the ESV, ASB, and NASB.  That is the most commonly used term probably because it has been in circulation since 1611, if not before.  Other versions vary the image with things like “in the heavenly realms” (plural) (NIV, NLT, NET Bible.), while the ISV has it “heavenly realm” (singular).  The Holman Christian Standard Bible just translates it, “the heavens”.  The authoritative Darby Literal Translation has it as, “The heavenlies.”  The Aramaic Bible in plain English calls it: “heaven,” as does God’s Word translation.

 

We are, therefore, by Ephesians 1:3 introduced to an incredible adventure of biblical revelation concerning the nature of the blessings in a Christian’s life that come to us from the heavens.  Indeed, the whole adventure concerns our very relationship with heavenly places in the here and now.

 

 

Ephesians 1:10  The Prophesied Future  Harmony of the Heavens and the Earth

“That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in the heavenlies, and which are on earth; even in him.”

 

In the use of, “in the heavenlies,” in Ephesians 1:10 one finds a conformity, as well as a contrast between “the things in the heavens” and “the things on the earth.”  The heavens are understood to be a part of the created reality (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth).  The things “in heaven” and the things “on earth” are to be brought together under the headship of the exalted Christ in the fullness of times.  “The dispensation of the fullness of times” is referring to the end of the present order of things when Christ will rule supreme for a thousand years, referred to by theologians as “The Millennium”.  Clearly, the heavens are as substantial as the earth, and are together to be brought into oneness under the authority and rule of Messiah.  Jesus Christ is Lord of the heavens and the earth.  In the fullness of time God the Father will bring all things together “in one” in Christ.”  This has always been God’s plan and purpose and it will be accomplished.  This means, to put it bluntly, that anybody who does not have Jesus Christ as the pre-eminent Lord of their life is entirely out of focus with the eternal purpose of God.

 

The Joining of Heaven and  Earth

This statement involves the marriage of the divine transcendent heavenly realm with the earthly material reality.  It is worth noting that what comes under Christ’s headship are “the things in the heavens,” implying that “in the heavens” refers primarily to living beings in the uppermost part of the created order (angels, archangels, as well as cherubim, Seraphim.), since it is the contents of the heavenlies which are involved. I understand this to mean that things will be as they were with Adam before the fall of man, when the heavens and the earth seemed to have met in those moments after Adam’s creation before the serpent interfered with the human existence.

 

God, will have all things volitional and non volitional, all life forms and non-life forms, everything that is animal, vegetable and/or mineral brought together under the influence and rule of Christ, whether in the heavens or on the earth. Then we will experience the heavens and the earth functioning in complete oneness and harmony. It cannot however happen until Christ has returned and is reigning on earth. The curse will then be removed from creation.  No more thorns!  No more sickness! The Lion will lie down with the lamb, and even the wild bears will become vegetarian along with the lions.  Children will play with the asps and be totally safe. The story of Isaiah is clear. The ravages of sin will be removed from both the physical as well as the spiritual cosmos.

 

It is not that God, or Christ is not the Lord at this moment of time.  Indeed Jesus Christ IS Lord, not just will be or was.  The statement of Ephesians 1:10 looks forward to the end of time as we know it when all final divine judgements are complete and the new heavens and the new earth will be in place; when the earthly and the heavenly will be in glorious harmony and symphonic interaction. The heavenly paces will still be heavenly places.  The earth will still be the earth; but all people and things in one will become harmoniously one with the angels and beings in the other. The resurrected human contingent will interact freely and gloriously with the eternal angelic society.

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Ephesians 1:20 The same Heavenly Power that Enthroned the Risen Christ reigns in the Christian

“Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.”

 

In the prayer of Ephesians 1:15–23, “in the heavenly places” is used to refer to the heavenly enthronement of the exalted Christ by Heavenly Father (1:20-21).  The prayer itself is offered by Paul on behalf of the recipients of the letter, that they may be granted spiritual insight and knowledge into three areas of their knowledge of Christ:

  1. The hope and expectation of God’s calling  on their lives(1:18),
  2. The glorious riches of His inheritance in and among the saints  already given (1:18), and
  3. The exceeding greatness of His power towards the believer (1:19).

The Same Power that Raised Christ from the Dead

The really exciting and inspirational contents of the apostle’s prayer concerns the power that God Himself exercised when Christ was raised from the dead, taken to heaven and enthroned in glory.  The point is that the power of heaven that worked in the resurrection, ascension and enthronement of Christ is exactly the same power that flows towards the Christian.  In order to express this accurately, the latter phrase of Paul’s prayer points are paralleled by a fourfold demarcation of this power, which God is now investing towards and within those that believe, with what He did for Christ:

 

  1. God “raised Him from the dead” (1:20) in the same way that He raised the Christian from being spiritually dead. It is the same action and the same power.
  2. God “seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies” (1:20).  The Christian is empowered and given authority in the same way that power and authority was given to Christ. The same action and power was used towards us.
  3. God “subjected all things under His feet” (1:22 quoting Ps 8:6). All Christians have more authority and power in the Spirit than they could ever imagine, just as power and authority was given to Christ.
  4. God “gave Him as head over…the church” (1:22).

Separating 1 and 2 from 3 and 4 is verse 21, which contains a further insight into the Saviours exaltation and glorification.  This exaltation is described as “far above all rule, authority, power, lordship, and every name named, not only in this age but in that which is to come.”  There is nothing and nobody with more power and authority in the universe than Jesus Christ.

The LORD said to my Lord “Sit at My Own Right Hand

The allusion to Psalm 110:1 in the phrase “set him at his own right hand” full of revelation since this psalm was understood to be gloriously Messianic because of Christ’s own explanation. The phrase, both here and in Psalm 110:1 is to be understood as a statement of divine power and supreme authority invested into Messiah by Yahweh Himself.  According to the enthronement imagery of Psalm 110:1, this authority is given to Christ at His ascension, exaltation and His being enthroned in Heaven.  Simply because the phrase “set him at his own right hand” is understood as an investment of authority (being made both Lord and Christ), there is no necessity of a purely symbolic (i.e. non local) meaning for the following phrase “in the heavenlies.”  Thus, the phrase still maintains here the idea that emerged from its use in Ephesians 1:3 where the heavenly realm is contrasted to the earthly, but it is not “spiritual” in the sense of transcending the present “material” world.  Rather, “in the heavenlies” or “in heavenly places” carries a geographically local sense, in that it is the place to which the resurrected physical Christ ascended and where He now resides at the right hand of God where all power and authority is invested in Him. We have a physical and resurrected man in the glory – so why should not heaven be seen as geographical.

 

As an incidental, “By the way,” this is similar to the picture drawn also by 1:10 where the phrase “in the heavens” is in contrast to “on the earth.”  This similarity between the heavenlies and the earth is further supported by the fact that here in 1:20 a few manuscripts read “in the ouraniois” (the heavens) for “in the epouranos“  (“all heavenly places). This is the reason why this writer believes that “ouraniois” and epouraniois are completely interchangeable.

 

This has to be said to be one of the greatest passages in the New Testament concerning the power and authority God has invested in His children. We see clearly how the believer is sharing in Christ’s throne, and partaking of the power and authority which Christ’s throne represents, and is commissioned to use both that power and the authority.

 

There is no place in the New Testament that we are told to ask God to do something about the devil. It is the Christian believers who are supposed to be  doing something about combating the devil. This is because Christ’s delegated authority has been given to the believer over all the works of the enemy. The prayer in Ephesians 1 is for the church to walk in the full revelation of this idea.

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Ephesians 2:6     Christ and the church are in the same Locus in Heavenly Places

“And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

 

In 2:6 “in heavenly places” occurs in a context where the present state of believers is contrasted with their previous state before conversion and faith.  “And we, although we were dead in trespasses and sins, He (God) made us alive and has made us live together with Christ—by grace you are saved—and He has raised us up together (“raised us up together” one word. 2:6) and seated us together (“seated us together” one word. 2:6) in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.”  Why did God do these incredible things for us?  “In order that He might demonstrate in the ages to come the exceeding riches of His grace which He lavished upon us in Christ Jesus.” Our victory in Jesus Christ is dependent on our dependency on Christ and not on ourselves.

 

The Authority of the Believer

Here the fuller implications of the previous occurrence of “in heavenly places” in 1:20 can be seen.  It is not Christ alone who is raised and seated in exaltation “in the heavenlies” but also now believers participate in this exaltation and dominion with Him, as the three single-word verbs with the Greek prefix:“together” in 2:5–6 indicate.  We were quickened together with Christ, raised together with Christ, and seated together with Christ.  Once again, these three terms are in the aorist tense, meaning it has happened to the believer whether they know it or not.  We cannot escape this truth by suggesting that such participation in the messianic experience is merely anticipatory of the age to come as some would suggest.  Christ has been exalted over all angelic beings, “not only in this age, but also in the age to come” (1:21), and so too have believers been exalted “in” Him.  And we have to keep in mind also that 1:3 makes it clear that the blessings are a present reality for believers.  These revelations of the invisible become so exciting and faith building when seen in their combination. The actions of God towards the believer that are biblically explained in the aorist tense are gloriously faith building.

 

Again, in a fashion completely consistent with the previous uses of “in heavenly places” in 1:3 and 1:20, a sense of locale is present in the term in 2:6.  As “in the heavenlies” is where the ascended Christ now is, exalted to a position of universal sovereignty, so also “in the heavenlies” is where believers are, because they have entered a state of participation with Him.  We follow in the train of His triumph. Surely we are just condemned to a life of victory. In the entire Greek vocabulary there is not only the location of our seat in the heavens, but the power and authority that issues from Christ’s own throne. It is only because of Christ’s authority that is delegated to the church  that all things, including the demonic realm are placed under our feet (Ephesians 1:22-23).

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Ephesians 3:10   The Universal Display of the Wisdom of God Displayed Cosmically Through the Church

“To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.”

 

The phrase “in the heavenlies” in 3:10 clearly maintains the sense of location and locus that we have noted in the earlier verses.  The context of the statement of 3:10 is where Paul has just referred to himself as “the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles.”  He then begins another prayer, clearly on behalf of Gentile Christians just referred to in 3:1.  He interrupts himself mid prayer, with another concentrated theme and is distracted in order to discuss his apostolic mandate as a steward of the mystery of Christ and the church,that had been revealed to him and had become such a major part of the message he preached (3:2–13). The subject and the particulars of the church were all a mystery in the Old Testament. There are prophetic lines that we can now see were referring to the church, but they were not clear enough revelations for the Old Testament prophets to understand.  The content of the mystery he is referring to is made known in 3:6; it is that part of the gospel for which sections of Jewish communities that he visited actually wanted him dead.  It was that “the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the church, and fellow-sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” that gave Paul so much persecution.  In the New Testament every detail of this mystery is revealed, even to demonic powers. God’s church is like a city set on a hill for all the world to see.

 

This is actually an expansion of what he writes about in 2:11–22, of the Gentile incorporation into the church.  The Gentile Christians are to be regarded as complete equals with the Jewish Christians in the benefits and blessings which result from their relationship to Christ. The dividing wall has been broken down in Christ. The injunctions to evangelise, or to preach, and “to make all see” in 3:8–9 are best understood as the implementation of the Great Commission. The gospel is for all people of all races (3:8).  It is a glorious factual insight getting to grips with the content of the grace given to the Apostle Paul.  The revelation of all this was, “to the intent that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenlies through the church.”

 

Principalities and Powers both Angelic and Demonic know God’s Wisdom through the Church

Paul is revealing that the demonstration of the church in its life and ministry shouldactually instruct both angelic and demonic powers in the features and forms of God’s infinite wisdom. As far as the devil and his hordes are concerned, this demonstration is not to instruct them, as if they were to repent, but to ensure that at their final judgement, they shall know the heart and mind of God in the dynamics of His final assessment.

 

Leaving aside, but only for a moment, these “rulers and authorities” mentioned here, it is clear that the phrase “in the heavenlies” is intended to convey their location.  However, the fact that they are “in the heavenly places,” must not restrict our view that their activities are only within the parameters of those realms, for they serve the “prince of the power of the air.”  Whoever and whatever these “rulers and authorities” may be, they are located in the same general region as the exalted and enthroned Christ along with believers by virtue of incorporation “in” Him.

 

Thus at this point in the development of Paul’s understanding of “in the heavenlies” within Ephesians, it becomes clear that “heavenly places” does not describe the exclusive realm of the exalted Christ and the church. We know that is true because these regions are also the domain of “the rulers” and “the authorities.”  1:20-21 makes it totally clear, however, that Christ is exalted “far above” them all.

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Ephesians 3:15   There are Family’s in Heavenly Places just as their are on Earth

“From whom the whole family in the heavens and the earth is named,”

 

The next reference to the heavenly realm in Ephesians occurs with the use of “the heavens” in 3:15.  After concluding in 3:13 his digression on the mystery of Gentile incorporation into the church and his ministry in the proclamation of that mystery, Paul resumes his prayer in 3:14.

 

This prayer is addressed to the Father, who is then described further by the problematic qualifications of verse  15 : “from whom every family (“every fatherhood”) in the heavenlies and upon the earth derives its name.” What do we do with this cryptic phrase?

 

The apostle is referring to those that have been made righteous through faith in both the Old and the New Testament, those that were alive in Paul’s day, and those that were already in heaven. The prayer is also relevant to every believer that has lived since the day Paul first put quill to parchment in writing this letter.  Believe it or not, this is the only time in the Bible where the term “family” is used to denote the saints of God. “Family,”  however is obviously inferred in referring to others as “brother,” or “sister,” so we are not surprised at all when we see the word.

 

Family means a Fatherhood

As far as the meaning of “heavens” is concerned, the meaning is quite similar to that in 1:10, where the same twofold division of the cosmos is mentioned.  In 1:10 the headship of the exalted Christ brings together “the things in the heavens and the things in the earth,” while here the “heavenly families” are linked to earthly families through their common dependence on the Father.  The idea of the universal fatherhood of God over those in faith, which 3:15 implies, would admirably suit Paul’s thesis of Jew-Gentile equality within the church.

 

If this verse is interpreted as I have suggested above, “the whole family” refers to all that is, and all those that are in submission to Christ as one single universal family of faith.  If interpreted as “every family in the heavens and in the earth,” I see it as referring to all races on earth that are in Christ, and the families of angels, archangels, Cherubim and Seraphim in heaven, as well as whatever other life forms created by Yahweh exist in the heavenly realms..

 

As far as the meaning of Heavenlies in the context of 3:15 is concerned, it must be concluded that the term has essentially the same meaning as in 1:10, where it refers to the highest peak of the created universe.

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 Ephesians 4:10   The exaltation of Christ is such that His Glory is Higher than the Heavens

“He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all the heavenlies, that he might fill all things.”

 

The heavenlies occurs again in 4:10, in the middle of the section which contains the quotation from  Psalm 68:18 and the apostle’s revelatory comments on it.

 

Christ’s Descent into Sheol

It is plain to see in this graphic use of the term merely another instance of the localized sense of “heavenlies” as in 1:10 and 3:15, as well as it being virtually synonymous with the previous local sense of the phrase “in the heavenlies” in 1:3,1:20; 2:6; and 3:10.  The descent represents Christ’s departure from the heavenly zones, while it does not state that the heavenlies are the goal of the ascent.  In the ascension of Christ the heavenly realms are merely passed through in transit. They are an aside, as it were, and the ascension simply allows the inhabitants of the heavenly realms to watch and stare in awe and wonder at the risen Christ.  Ephesians makes it clear that He wilfully left the heavenly realms.  It is clear that because of the ascension leading “captivity captive,” that the descent is not restricted to the earth, but to the depths of sheol.  One understands that the phrase “the lower regions of the earth” in 4:9 is inevitably influenced by the cosmology one assumes to lie behind the Apostle’s thinking.  My assumption is that the descent referred to in Psalm 68:18 is referring to Christ’s descent into Sheol.  His ascent is the leading of every righteous human spirit since Adam, held captive in Sheol until Christ was raised from the dead, who were then led into heaven in the train of Christ’s triumph.  Romans 10:6–7, confirms my line here.

 

The cosmology thus far discussed throughout Ephesians has been totally two-tiered. The distinction is consistently made between earth and the heavens only. The only place in the letter that would contain any sort of allusion to hell is 4:7–10.  Even the evil “powers,” which are often assumed to be consigned to the underworld, are located in the “air” (2:2), or “in heavenly places (6:12). Christ’s triumph over the powers of darkness may have been accomplished at Calvary but His descent into Sheol was just as necessary an action in the realm of the spirit. In the course of His victorious ascent, He passes through the heavenly regions en route to His exalted position “far above all.”

 

The phrase “led captivity captive” refers to Jesus liberating the Old Testament righteous from the restrictions of Sheol to the liberty of glory. Old Testament people who died, both righteous and unrighteous went to a place that the bible tells us is in the centre of the earth, called in Hebrew, “Sheol.” In most translations it is the same word that in Psalm 16:10 is rendered;”hell.” The Old Testament saints could not enter the presence of the Lord simply because the atonement of Christ had not been completed. It is in that sense that they were captives. Messiah, therefore had to descend to sheol in order to release them, and then ascend with them in company. He died for believers that were present and future, as well as from before the day of His resurrection.

 

Christ’s Ascent Above the Heavens

The ascent “above all the heavens” in 4:10 matches the exaltation and enthronement of Christ “in the heavenlies above all rule and authority and power and dominion,” in 1:20.  The final words in 4:10, “that He might fill all things” resonates with “the fullness of Him that fills all things” in 1:23.  In light of these couplets of similar language, one can see clearly that the cosmology as set in Paul’s thinking was absolutely clear.  He does not use the term “in heavenly places” in 4:10 to describe the terminus and “end of journey” of the ascent, but “far above all the heavens.”  How glorious the thought! 

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Ephesians 6:9   The knowledge of things in the Heavens should Govern our conduct on Earth

“And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in the heavens; neither is there respect of persons with him.

 

The Major motive Behind Luther’s “Haustafel”

Martin Luther wrote a commentary on the book of Ephesians.  In it he listed family duties in the home and referred to those duties as  the “Haustafel,” meaning literally “House blackboard.” In German Christian circles “Luther’s Haustafel” is a common point of discussion.  The final occurrence of “in the heavenlies” in Ephesians is in 6:9, at the close of the Ephesian “Haustafel” (5:21–6:9).  After addressing slaves in 6:5–8, Paul turned to the masters and in a single verse (6:9) summarized their responsibilities to those over whom they exercised “ownership” and authority.  The single rock of rationale given to slave masters for forbearing with threats to one’s slaves was that, “the Lord is in the heavens,” and “there is no respect of persons with Him.”  The heavens is used here in an exhortation to designate where the exalted Lord is—a clearly locational meaning.  From this superior position the almighty impartial Judge, watches over the activities of both slaves and masters and by implication will hold each accountable for their attitudes and actions.

 

It is precisely this spacial or positional contrast between the exalted Christ (in heaven) and believers (on earth) that is needed in Ephesians 6:9 to emphasize Christ’s sovereignty as impartial Judge.  This contrast would be obscured if “in heavenly places” were used, since the meaning developed previously emphasized the locus of both Christ and believers “in Him.” Thus “the heavens” was the writer’s obvious choice for 6:9. It is even clearer in nearly all English translations use the singular “heaven” in this verse.

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Ephesians 6:12  The struggle of life is primarily won or lost in the Heavenly places

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

 

Demons in Heavenly Places

In one sense the “heavenly places” in 6:12 is the most revelatory use of the word in the entire letter. While the concept of angelic “powers” dwelling “in the heavenly places” was introduced in 3:10, they were not at that point expressly identified as evil.  However, here in 6:12 the “powers” located “in the heavenly places” are described as “the world-rulers of this darkness” and “the spiritual (forces) of evil.”  The phrase refers primarily to the realm of the evil powers rather than to the locale in which believers are fighting.  But it is not rational to interpret this text in isolation from the remainder of the letter.  In 1:3 and especially 2:6 “in the heavenly places” denotes the location of the exalted Christ and also of believers because of their union with Him.  Believers are in one sense still on earth; but it is true that they are presently “in the heavenly places” also. We now discover plainly that this is where the evil powers with whom they struggle are also located, according to 6:12. This is a stark but wonderful revelation.

 

When one compares 6:12 with the description in 2:2 of the “archon” of the evil powers it seems that the sphere of influence within which these wicked powers are active extends down to the earth and the world of humankind.  It is not limited to earthly global regions. This raises the possibility that “in the heavenly places” is a more comprehensive term than commonly thought.  It is possible that it bridges the extremes of both the earth and the heavenlies: in some sense. Is it more like a dimension than a place?

 

Christians in Heavenly Places

The imagery implied by 6:12 and the remaining context is not that of (evil) spiritual forces placing humanity “under siege,” isolating them from the heavenly regions and forcing them to fight to “break through” and establish contact with the divine realm.  On the contrary, believers are already seated “in the heavenly places” in Christ, united with Him (2:5–6); no “charge through enemy lines” is necessary.  Yet at the same time believers are called on to fight (6:11–14). The victory over the forces of evil has not yet been completely won.

 

Christ in and Above the Heavenly Places

In spite of any theological difficulties raised by the placing of the evil powers “in heavenly places” according to 6:12, such a conclusion is consistent with statements made elsewhere in the letter (e.g., 2:2; 3:10).  Furthermore the assertion that the evil powers are to be found “in heavenly places” favours a local sense as the general meaning of the phrase throughout Ephesians.  The realm to which Christ has now been exalted (and believers in Him) is not presented as in strict isolation from the remainder of the created universe and totally transcendent.  Rather the evil powers whose sphere of influence includes the earth itself are present “in the heavenly places” as well, and in spite of prior assertions concerning the subjugation of the powers to the exalted Christ (1:10; 1:20; and 4:10), their ultimate defeat appears as a future event, a defeat assisted by the spiritual battle entered into by the church.

 

There are four ranks of demonic forces mentioned in Ephesians 6:12.

  1. Principalities. These seem to be the field marshals, or rulers in Satan’s hierarchy. The word is “Arche” and considered by some scholars to refer to fallen angels. Archangels for instance seem to have responsibility over entire nations.  The “Prince” over Persia referred to by the Archangel Michael in the book of Daniel is my main strand of logic that I stand on re this.
  2. Powers. The word is actually “exousias” meaning, “authorities.” I suggest these are they which infest human thoughts and emotions.
  3. Rulers of the darkness of this world. The cosmic rulers. I need light on this one.
  4. Spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. This is the wicked spirits that defile things in the earthly atmosphere.  There purpose is to destroy all that is of Jesus Christ. They hinder God’s work, blind people’s minds, beguile, mislead and deceive people, tempt mankind, buffet Christians, and attempt to corrupt all that goes on in the church of Jesus Christ.

All demons flee at the name of Jesus. All demons must submit to the authority of Christ delegated to the church.

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

“In Christ” (Ephesians 1:3)

000 In Christ 1

We are dressed in Christ‘s holiness.

Christ is all in all and Christ has all in all. If we, by faith, have Him who is all in all, we therefore have all in all through Christ. Faith as the currency in the realm of the spirit is what takes its possessions from the realm of the spiritual and brings it into the realm of the physical. But faith can only take what it knows it can take. If the person with faith in Christ has no idea of the fullness of what has been given to them, how can one believe for what they do not know about. All that Christ received and achieved in the realm of the spirit in the days of His flesh by His Passion, death, burial and resurrection is also the constituent ingredients of the inheritance of the believing Christian. What Christ received in the realm of the spirit had a huge measurable and tangible impact on the earth in the physical.

In Christ’s earthly life time the Holy Spirit “descended upon Him” (Matthew 3:16. Mark 1:10. Luke 3:22); The Holy Spirit then “sent Him” (Mark 1:12), “led Him” (Matthew 4:1. Luke 4:1) not only for forty days in the desert but for the rest of His life with us. After the temptation in the wilderness Jesus walked in the “power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). It was those experiences of Christ that precipitated the Master referring to Isaiah 61:1 as a quote relevant to Himself (Luke 4:18). Jesus of Nazareth was anointed by the Holy Spirit to do all He did (Acts 10:38). He offered Himself through the Holy Spirit, and was raised from the dead by the Father (Galatians 1:1), Himself (John 2:19) and the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11 NLT).

000 In Christ 2Because of the Spirit of God alighting on Jesus and remaining (John 1:33) He was anointed like no other before or since. He entered into the fullness of the blessing of God by His obedience. What was promised to Abraham, as well as the full blessings that accrued to the person that perfectly kept the law of Moses was heaped upon Christ. In the context of the Great Commission Christ told us that all authority in heaven and on earth was given to Him through the power of His resurrection. Christians are to enter into that power and authority to whatever degree they choose to believe in.

The message therefore, to all Christians, is that we need to know we are “in Christ.” Get to understand as much as we can about the full nature of salvation. Get to know as many of God’s promises that can fit into one’s memory, and then fight through faith to attain all that God has promised for us. It is warfare of the most violent nature – but that violence is also in the realm of the spirit. There is no physical violence whatever. The fight is in the realm of the invisible. By revelation of what is available in the realm of the Spirit, one can then learn how to wrestle in the realm of the invisible and fight for what God has promised.

Through faith in Christ, the apostle Paul explains that we are “in Christ” and seated with Him “in Heavenly places.” What is His can be accessed through faith by those that believe.

What belongs to Him belongs by inheritance to us who believe and is legitimately ours. Yet, our tangible experience of those blessings is dependent on the appropriation of them by the faith that Heavenly Father has given to us, as well as the gift of the Holy Spirit. We believe in order to possess our possessions. We align ourselves with God in order to enter into the same realm as Christ lived. When we move by faith we are moving in the same dimension that God moves in. We are held in His hand and, to change the analogy, we become part of His body. Because we are part of His body, and because we are striving to align ourselves with the heart, mind and purpose of God more and more, we are, by definition in the realm of the Spirit, “in Christ.” The fact that the Christian is “in Christ” has ramifications that are truly astonishing. Personal revelation on the issue of the believer’s position “in Christ” organically creates radical changes to perspectives on life that many Christians have. It makes the difference between a mediocre Christian, and a Christian with a spirit of excellence. The more one understands their status of being “in Christ” the more the mind is renewed and comes into the momentum of receiving more and more revelation. A man of God does not just happen, He is built. Revelation into the whys and wherefores of God’s purpose does not just happen, it is built. Moving in the Spirit and appropriating God’s promise does not just happen, it is understood and fought for in God.

000 In Christ 4

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To be “in Christ” reminds me of the analogy that captivated me in one of the books that are published under the authorship of Watchman Nee. It was a book I read first in the late 1960’s. The analogy was of the believer in Christ being like a blank piece of note paper placed into a book. The book represents Christ; the individual believer is represented by the slip of paper. The book is closed with the paper held tight within its pages, paralleling the believer being closed and embraced in the love of Christ.  The book then, in Watchman Nee’s analogy, is posted from Hong Kong to London. Wherever the book goes, the paper goes, just as the Christian goes where Christ goes. If the book is sent from Hong Kong to Her Majesty the Queen in London, as the book enters her presence, so does the piece of paper. What happens to the book happens to the paper. The experiences of the book are shared by the experiences of the piece of paper. In exactly the same way the Christians life is hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). Whatever blessings belong to the book, belong to the piece of paper. The book and the piece of paper are one in figure, yet factually and literally. Just so, all those Heavenly blessings that belonged to Christ because of all that is intrinsic to Him and His life, becomes accessible to the Christian by the grace of forgiveness, redemption and adoption. Such is the heavenly privilege of a person being “in Christ.”

To be “in Christ” is to be resting in a fixed position through faith. It is a position that does not alter by negative experience or positive. It is an absolute – a fixed point in the life of the Christian.

To be “in Christ” is to be an inheritor of every single blessing that Christ carries. If a person is “in Christ” they have access to all He has promised and delivered in His lifetime. Every promise that God ever made is “Yes!” in Christ and “Amen” in Him.

To be “in Christ” is a defining relationship status that guides us through life, the understanding of which relationship causes growth, development and maturity..

To be “in Christ” gives us the very aroma of the life of Christ. We literally carry the presence of the Lord around with us.

The concept and factual revelation of a Christian being “in Christ” does not only speak peace and assurance to the believer, it also adds extra lines of truth to the rationale of the Christian being blessed, and in full receipt of every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. What I mean is that if the glory of heaven resides in Christ, the omnipotence of heaven resides with Him, and giving grace to those heirs of salvation are so rampantly generous in Him, then when we “own” Christ by faith, we have all that He has. Having all of Christ means we have all of the blessings that heaven affords. Hence Paul can write the words of Ephesians 1:3.

000 In Christ 3  Who_I_AM_IN_Christ_Youth Bookmark