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

Ephesians 1:13

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

This brings me to todays offering.

 

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

 

My opening gambit, you see, is this:

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Watch this:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

For instance:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Post Script:

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

The “Why?” of Christ’s life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5The “What?” of Christ’s life.

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

The “How?” of Christ’s life.

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

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

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

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

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Open Your Eyes to the Light (Ephesians 1:18)

“… a spirit of wisdom and revelation… the eyes of your understanding being opened.” (Ephesians 1:17b-18a)

OK! OK! This is a big one!  And it is something we need to understand thoroughly in order to understand ourselves as Christians and how a spirit of wisdom and revelation functions.

eye1In the same way that the human body has two eyes to see things physical, so the human spirit has eyes with which to perceive things spiritual.  The eyes in the head, of course are part of the five senses of the human experience; touching, tasting, feeling, hearing and seeing.  There are parallel spiritual senses that assist us in our experience of, as well as our engagement with God who is a Spirit.  This writer is convinced that this is not just metaphorical concepts and language to help us understand a few “abstract” spiritual concepts, but the literal language of the spiritual world that helps us to see invisible realities.  “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).  “We are the aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15) “The hand of the Lord was upon me” (Ezekiel 37:1).  “Unless a man is born from above He cannot see the kingdom of heaven” (John 3:3). “Having ears, they hear not” (Psalm 135:17).  In the account of Dives (the rich man) and Lazarus that Jesus shared in Luke 16, even though both the characters were dead and had left their respective physical bodies, they could see each other, hear  and speak dialogue. We know also, for certain, that the concept of touch and taste is explicit in the rich man’s request for Lazarus to touch Dives’ lips with cold water. All that is missing in the account is anything to do with smell. All this helps us to make sense of Paul’s phrase; “the eyes of your understanding being opened.”

 

When things physical, like the five physical empirical senses were created, they were modelled on already pre-existent spiritual senses such as are intrinsic to the angelic nature and the realm of the spirit in general. These senses, even though to angels they are also empirical, yet not physically tangible to us, are not things that we could do a test tube analysis with in order to prove or disprove them. Beings in the spirit realm may well be able to prove or disprove spiritual realities.  The cosmos of the realm of the spirit was there before anything physical was created. The physical came out of the spiritual. For that reason I hypothesize that the five physical senses are modelled on life and existence in the realm of the spirit.

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The self-evident presupposition that Paul makes in Ephesians 1:18 is that there are spiritual truths and realities that the recipients of his letter, no matter how advanced they may be as Christians, do not understand. There are things that they cannot see, hear, taste, touch or feel in the kingdom of God, in the realm of the spirit, and they need to have their spiritual eyes opened in order to grasp them.  The ability to hear with the physical ears and yet be utterly deaf with the spiritual senses is a phenomena I fully acknowledge in myself continually, and plainly see in many other Christians.  I take great comfort in the fact that I see this involuntary closure of the eyes of the understanding in the original twelve apostles.  Even when they were “under-graduate ministers” under the tutelage of the Master Himself, the eyes of their understanding were horrifically closed and oblivious to the most important revelation that Christ shared with them. It was only via Christ’s resurrection, His breathing on them, and then the mighty baptism in the Holy Spirit  that they were catapulted forward with a visionary understanding that facilitated a whole new world of revelation becoming plainly visible to them.

I am not referring to their interpretation of the cryptic apocalyptic visions of certain parts of the Old Testament. Neither am I referring to their insight or lack of it in interpreting Christ’s parables. I am referring to the numerous times that Jesus explained that He was going to die and rise again on the third day. There were a few cryptic moments when a little thought was needed in order to grasp the Master’s prophetic predictions, but on the whole, Jesus told them plainly in simple language. In fact it was so simply stated that even a child would need assistance to know how to misunderstand it or fail to see it. The disciples heard of His passion and resurrection both in parabolic form when the scribes and Pharisees were about, and in plain language when they were alone with Jesus. Two or three of them heard it in strange situations where it was confirmed from outside sources. For instance Peter James and John heard Elijah and Moses discussing His departure from this life in the moment of Christ’s transfiguration.

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We all need to increase our vision of God and the salvation He has given us. No matter what you have seen yesterday, you need to have your eyes open even wider today – and you will still need those same eyes open the next day if you are walking in new places. Even the places visited many times have different people and obstacles to engage with and we always need to see as Christ sees. Constant vision of the spiritual eyes works with the same dynamics as the physical.

To have walked through life over many years, and then to see something so clearly that would have changed one’s life for the better if one had seen it in one’s youth or many years before can be seriously traumatic. To realise one’s blindness to something that is later seen to be so simple and straightforward can be shocking.

When I suggest that the death of Christ and the effecting of the atonement for the sin of mankind is conceivably one of, if not the most important event that has ever taken place on planet earth, I am sure all readers would agree. The revelation of the naked Christ nailed to the cross was more revelatory of the full character of God Almighty than the earthquakes, the fire and the trumpets at Sinai, as well as the deafening voice that shook the ground when He spoke to Moses. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was even more important than His own world transforming teachings.  Yes!  Indeed!  What He taught has left the world spellbound for two thousand years and has influenced people of all cultures and religions, yet, what He achieved when He shed His blood in His Passion changed the face of the divine dealings with humanity throughout all eternity.  My biblical understanding of who Christ was and what He accomplished in Gethsemane, Pilate’s hall, Calvary and the open tomb leads me to declare that the passion of Christ was the peak of all history and future, and the highest mountain of influence that impact on every human being that has ever lived or  ever will. When Jesus Christ cried, “It is finished,” – one word in the original; “Tetelestai”- it eclipsed not only the physical world but changed the layout of the spiritual landscape too. The entire universe was forever changed.

 

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Faith in Christ’s atonement for sin saves people, whether they fully understand it or not. It is not the highbrow philosophical and academic teaching of the atonement (wonderful though that may be), but the physical fact in this time-space world that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and then rose again and ascended to heaven sending its tidal wave of cleansing and renewing right around the globe transforming those who believe in Messiah Jesus.  Understanding the depth of atonement or not, when a person of any intellectual status or none asks Christ to save them, the fullest extent and impact of the atoning work of the Saviour begins to work to its fullest extent within their lives and without.  The atonement, as well as being organic to the entire Christian lifestyle and outlook, is profoundly organic throughout the whole of the scripture. It is in the warp and woof of both Testaments whether it be in type, in allegory, parable, or straightforward declarations of New Testament teaching. It is in the DNA of all that God’s Word teaches.  Atonement is everywhere in the book and not just highlighted in the best “proof texts” for preachers.  The atoning work of Christ, as per His absolute deity, smothers the entire New Testament series of biblical presuppositions.  The truth of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice seeps inveterately from the law, the prophets and the psalms – and then is made plain, and flows freely in the gospels and the epistles.  It is even sung about in heaven throughout all eternity in the book of revelation.

See it this way: We have anecdotal legends of how Peter and Paul died.  Nobody has bothered to tell us a single word as to how Paul’s protégé Timothy died.  We do have legends about the death of the apostle John and other biblical martyrs.  We have treasured historical documents telling us how a thousand and one heroes in the world died.  However, with Jesus Christ it is more than a little different.  What He did in his death and resurrection, and how He died, as well as the reasons why He wilfully entered into His passion are even more important than what He taught by precept. And that is saying something huge! Jesus Christ was not a martyr. He wilfully gave His life to save people.

Why am I prefacing today’s thoughts with these various declarations?  Simply because from Christ’s own lips came the defining statements with unmistakable clarity of what He had come to do, and how He was to achieve it. He explained it so simply, and yet, when it finally occurred, how is it that the disciples did not seem to have the slightest clue?   And this, even though they had heard it and must have discussed the issue many times over previously.

We are pursueing this on the grounds that we are talking about receiving revelation from heaven and practically, how we get it – as well as, what to do with it when we receive it. I am about to explain to you how the greatest revelation ever given to man was uttered to twelve or so men, who heard it clearly enough to repeat it and write about it at a later date. However, in those early days as they walked with Christ, they heard this truth with profoundly deaf spiritual ears. I apologise if that sounds bizarre, but you will see as I explain how they heard the truth, and how they sometimes responded to what they heard in a way that proved that they truly heard it – yet it is also concurrently provable that they did not understand a single syllable of Christ’s plain language. It is a phenomena that continues to this day in the likes of you and I.

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JOHN 1:29

To start gently we have those two disciples who stood with John the Baptist when he pointed at the Master and declared, “Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the whole world” (John 1:29). Any Jewish mind knew that when “lambs” were mentioned in connection with the removal of “sin,” nothing but sacrifice and death could have been meant. Nothing but physical torture and death are in the offing for a lamb that is taking away sin. Yet John was pointing at a human being. A sudden statement “out of the blue” like that may have stunned the two disciples of John, who immediately left the Baptist to follow the man at whom John was pointing. We may forgive them at this point for not letting those significant words penetrate their hearts and minds. Perhaps the sacrificial aspect of John’s declaration was superceded by the thought that the man the Baptist prophet pointed at was “Messiah” Himself. For that reason we will not be too hard on the first couple of disciples for not making a mental note of “The lamb … that takes away the sin,” as uttered by Elizabeth’s only son. It was, after all, the first time that any such remark had been spoken so directly. However, there was more to follow.

 

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JOHN 2:19-21

A little later, in John 2:19-21, we hear Jesus uttering those gloriously cryptic words, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.”  Once more, we gladly forgive the disciples for not grasping the nettle of Christ’s words in the grip of their thought processes.  The twelve later remembered it and understood it after the resurrection and their receiving of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  For that reason, I think they heard Jesus’ words clearly and just wrestled with what they heard for three years or so as to what He meant in His angry cry.  For the disciples in those arly days of being tutored, it was like struggling with the hardest of cryptic clues that accompany the Times crossword. Destruction of self by the hands of the Jews was inherent within Christ’s words.  However, whilst people were trying to perceive of the vast temple being destroyed and raised again in three days, nobody’s mind could see what the Master truly meant.  Something dead and buried is what He states, referring to Himself, but all that heard Him were staring at the mammoth stone structure and trying to image its fall. “Razed to the ground” as it were, is intrinsic to the interpretation that the understanding of the audience was striving to take hold of in their translation of His declaration. Resurrection was startlingly explicit in His thrust.  “Get rid of me if you will, but I shall rise again.”  To you and me, reading the story in the twenty first century, it is a no brainer.  We need help not to see the true meaning of His words. However, His words were not understood by those who were present with Him, no, not even his trainee students – the disciples. They remembered Christ’s words for over 36 months without knowing what He meant.

 

 

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John 3:14

Later, we have to assume that the disciple John, must have been nearby, or perhaps he had discussions with Nicodemus that we are not told of, as it is clearly recorded what Jesus said while He was alone with the Pharisee from the Sanhedrin.  ”As the serpent was lifted in the wilderness, so shall the son of man be lifted up.” (John 3:14)  It may have been getting clearer and clearer with every reference that Christ made to His passion, but this one was even more cryptic that the one in John 2. The serpent He was referring to was the brass serpent attached to a pole that Moses quite literally hoisted up on a pole.  I have noticed through the years, that most artists who draw the scene of the brazen serpent for books and art galleries present the serpent as hanging on a cross and not just an upright pole.  People who were dying of snakebites at that point of time in the wilderness were instructed only to see the brass snake and they were immediately healed of their poisonous bites (Numbers 21:9). Just a look at a brass serpent held up on a pole seems so fantastically unreligious, especially to Jews of the days of Moses. The statement of this account referred to by Christ gives us an almost bottomless depth of understanding for us in the days of a 66 volume bible. It is a Christ authorised phenomenal piece of typology. Sin came via the serpent in Genesis 3.  Christ became sin for us says Paul (2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ only became sin for us when He was nailed to a cross for all to see. The look of faith to the crucified Christ saves sinners and justifies them as righteous before God.  There it is! A perfect picture of atonement accomplished! Atonement from the mouth of Christ, implicit in His teaching as early as John’s third chapter. There really is no other way to understand the Lord’s language. (Although, I am aware that there are some academics who propound Christ’s lifting up in order to draw all men to Him is referring to His resurrection and ascension. This writer considers that perspective to be a violent travesty of this biblical historical analogy. The typology of the serpent points to the crucified Christ as opposed to the resurrected Christ).

 

We have then, in the first three chapters of John’s gospel, one statement by John the Baptist, and two made by Jesus Himself, that clearly point to Christ knowing why He had come to tabernacle amongst men, and how He would affect the saving of many through His death and resurrection.  When we try to read these accounts in “real time,” as it were, it developes into an astonishing display of spiritual deafness and blindness on the part of the disciples.  Oh! How we need the Holy Spirit to show us this stuff. Our issue, and the important observation to make, is that the disciples who were present heard the words but were completely lost as to the meaning of Christ’s prophetic explanation. The “eyes of their understanding” were tightly closed. Having ears, the heard not. Jesus talks of His death and resurrection, yet have not the slightest clue as to what He is talking about.

 

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JOHN 6:51-56

In John 6:51-56 there is an amazing public address that Jesus gave in the synagogue where He says quite clearly, “I am the Bread of life.” In His address He states “The bread I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Paradoxically, this being the clearest of his comments so far is also the one that was so much more hidden from their eyes that many disciples and followers left Him because of it. The sermon about drinking His blood and eating His flesh so shocked them that they just refused to get to grips with any other interpretation but the horror of cannibalism. How blind they were!

 

It seems that thus far in the life of Christ, His use of analogy, parable or prophetic crypticisms is the real reason that His statements concerning His passion, abuse, death, burial and resurrection were not so much misunderstood as plainly not listened to. Nobody seemed to have the slightest clue as to the weight of what Jesus was predicting. To put it plainly, the eyes of their understanding were closed tight. They seemed to have a spirit of foolishness and blindness as opposed to the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that Paul was praying the recipients of his epistle to Ephesus would receive.

But then, as I try to check the chronology of my several copies of various scholar’s “harmony of the Gospels,” it gets ever more astonishing as Jesus talks ever more clearly as the days passed by.

 

eye10MATTHEW 16:16-21

In Matthew 16:16-21 revelation flows so rich and free, so thick and full that the thoughtful Bible reader cannot be but somewhat shocked at what the disciples heard with their ears, thought with their minds, but were blind to in their spirits. To cut it short, Jesus had pushed the disciples to meditate on the question of who He was.  Peter cries out,” You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  The Master confirms that Peter’s words were an absolute bona fide revelation directly received from heaven.  Revelation does not come any deeper than this one. He even tells Peter that the future church itself would be built on that rock i.e. the power structure of Holy Spirit revelation. Yes! It was the rock of the revelation of the deity of Christ! However, it was also the rock of revelation itself; revelation from God that nourishes the faith and understanding of the believer’s spirit. We all need revelation concerning the character and nature of Christ. We all need revelation. Full stop!  His church is built on revelation.

 

 

Some revelation somehow begets more revelation, and this was one of those occasions.  On the basis of Peter’s momentous opening of the eyes of his understanding, the scripture tells us more. From the rock of this revelation of the essential deity of Christ, Jesus announces that the “keys” of the kingdom would be given into the hands of man.  That is, keys of revelation and understanding.  Immediately after having been traumatised with such a promise, Peter is told by the man who is God, that with the heavy metal armoured jacket of relationship with Christ,  that there will be given him revelatory keys that will open the doors and prisons allowing people into the kingdom of God. He was also told, in the context of the whole twelve, that authority in the realm of the spirit would be given so that whatever they, together, bound on the earth would already have been bound in heaven, and whatsoever was released in the earth would already have been released in heaven. The jaws of the twelve must have dropped, and the quizzical scratching of the head with twisted faces must have made the scene quite humourous. This momentous moment that the twelve would each remember for the rest of their lives was not the end of this revelatory feast.

Incredibly, having just told the twelve, truths they would have wanted to shout aloud to everybody they met, Jesus then “strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ” (Matthew 16:20). The day would come when they would be sent into the world to tell the nations and the entire planet; but for now they were to remain quiet about the factual truth of Christ’s character and nature.

Now we get to the main thrust of our subject in these pages. By that I mean that we are discussing “the eyes of our understanding being opened,” and how desperately illogical it seems when the eyes of the understanding just do not see.  “From that time on Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”  No parable!  No cryptic play on words!  No prophetic analogy or mystic saying!  At last the word comes straight, true and to the point.  “Jerusalem … suffer many things … be killed … on the third day be raised.” Language could not have been plainer. One would have thought that the trauma of such news would have made its mark on the memory of the twelve forever. Would it be at all possible that this information could be forgotten?  Could it even have been put on their mental backburner?

What makes their blindness even more chronic is that the text does not say that Jesus explained it all once, and then left it.  It says in Matthew 16:21 that from that time Jesus began to show them how he must…” Why is this important? For several reasons.

  1. “He began” tells us that His explanation was repeated and explained His death multiple times. From that moment, now that they believed He was the Christ, they were ready for the “full monty” of the gospel message. Christ came to die for the world in a most excruciating manner. He knew it and He told them.
  2. “He began to show them.” He began to demonstrate and illustrate to them the rationale behind His death. What can this mean apart from the sharing of the scriptures. I cannot even begin to believe that He showed them by drama or story. He would have done, over a prolonged period of time, exactly what He did on the Emmaus road in Luke 24. He began to show them from the scriptures everything that was going to happen to Him, just as in Luke 24 He interpreted for them what had already happened to Him.
  3. One cannot but conclude that over a none-specific period of time, possibly a day or two, or equally possible until the night before He died, Jesus repeated and repeated, over and over again, exactly what was going to happen to Himself.

The point of this entire thought is that they seemed clueless immediately after the death of Christ as to what to expect. Why was that?

I am aware that no academic has ever put together an authoritative and incontrovertible chronology of the gospel accounts. I have several on my shelf. Each of them differ. The one I am using, arrived at by a Catholic Priest (Monsigneur Enrico Galbiati of MIMEP),  helps me to perceive how bizarre is the ignorance and fear of the disciples as they hid between Calvary and the morning of the open tomb.

Piecing all the scriptures together where some or all of the disciples were present to hear the prophetic explanation of the path Christ was to walk down  just read through the following:

eye11LUKE 9:30-32

“And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him.” (italics and underlining mine)

 

MARK 9:9-10

“As they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man rose from the dead. They seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead meant.…”

 

MATTHEW 17:22-23

“While they were going about in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of man is going to be turned over to the hands of men, and they will kill Him – and He will be raised again on the third day. And they were deeply grieved and distressed.”

 

JOHN 10:11, 15, 17, 18  

“The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” John 10:11

“Even as the Father knows me and I know the Father and I am giving my life and laying it down on behalf of the sheep.” John 10:15

“The Father loves me …because I lay my life down for the sheep.” John 10:17

“No one takes it from me, on the contrary I lay it down voluntarily. I have authority to lay it down and have authority to take it back again.” John 10:18

 

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We are promised that there is no special effects in this photo. Utterly intrigueing.

 

On His route to Jerusalem He takes them aside again.

 

MATTHEW 20:17-18

“As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”

 

 

LUKE 18:31-34

“Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. “For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.” But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.

 

Here at last we have a profound, yet mysterious explanation as to their incomprehension at the death and burial of their Lord and Mentor. The various versions have it as:

“The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.” (NIV)

“But they didn’t understand any of this. The significance of his words was hidden from them, and they failed to grasp what he was talking about.” (NLT)

“But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.” (NASB)

 

eye13Should we conclude that the disciples’ prejudices were so strong, that they could not – or would not understand the things that Jesus said as literal? Were they were so intent upon the prophecies which spoke of Christ’s glory, that they overlooked those which spoke of his sufferings?  We all have presuppositions and biases that prevent clarity of understanding and perception – and not only to do with things spiritual and biblical.

 

Or was it that they listened all dazed and confused and could not absorb what the Master had said?

 

I believe it was Pascal who said, “We must learn to love Divine truths before we can understand them.” Another writer states: “Toward everything which is contrary to normal human desire, there is produced in the heart a Blindness, which nothing but a miracle can heal.”  Was this the issue that caused the eyes of the understanding of the disciples to be closed?

 

The Syrian and Persian translations say that, “Not one of them” understood what was said. It is a phenomenon. Catastrophically it is a phenomenon that, if one was subject to ithe syndrome, one would not be at all conscious of the frailty that submitted to the principle. If every aspect of his passion was unintelligible to them, it suggests that they did not understand Him in any one point of His many repeated explanations.
It tests our own understanding and powers of perception. We are told that they neither knew the things which were spoken, nor the very meaning of them.
It seems that Luke was unable to say strongly enough how entirely hidden from them at that time was the sense of these straightforward and plain statements.

 

I used to have a problem with the thought that God could by the power that is His, cause truth to be hidden from anybody at all. But there are clearly spiritual things that are hidden from millions of people no matter how diligently. In this I do not only mean that truth is hidden from those who wilfully choose not to have faith in Christ, but even in zealous and prayerful Christians. Revelation is a spiritual issue, not a mental or academic one. I think it more likely that satanic power hid the meaning of Christ’s words from them. However we see the phrase that the “meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what He was talking about,” we need to forcefully appreciate that spiritual blindness is a phenomenon in the realm of the spirit, and nothing to do with any academic learning difficulty.

 

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My conclusion is that they heard the statements with their physical ears, and retained Christ’s statements in their memory, yet ignored and unconsciously rejected what they heard as unnecessary and superfluous because of the life, the power, and the vibrant aggressive grace that overshadowed the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus. How could a man that changes the weather by His order, raises the dead by His call, and expels leprosy by his touch ever have to face death? It must surely be some parable, or cryptic heavenly symbol that we do not have to know!  How could He who has power over death be subject to the very same medium of death?  His words referring to Him dying and rising again must be something secret and mystical known only to Him. For that reason, we disciples will carry on and follow Him as if we had not heard anything. Those statements do not seem to have any meaning to what we are seeing and experiencing with Him while we live in His presence and follow Him. See how He rises in popularity and significance! What has death and burial to do with all this life and attraction of the people?

 

And so, the words of the most important revelation given to man was buried, ignored and consciously forgotten as it sunk deep into their subconscious. The words drifted away into forgotten insignificance until He rose from the dead and thereafter sent the Holy Spirit in Person to nudge and whisper and provoke all the words of Christ into their full grandeur and prophetic significance.

 

Luke 18:31-34 was not the final count of His explanation to the twelve. We also have:

 

MATTHEW 26:2

“”You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.” Is it possible that Jesus could have spoken any plainer. I think not!

 

MARK 14:8

“She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for the burial.”  This verse from Mark gives us insight to the strong probability that the crucifixion occupied Christ’s mind continually. The thought of it incessantly overshadowed Him. He lived constantly under the darkness of His oncoming Passion.

 

What is strange that the cynical unbelievers knew and remembered exactly what He said about resurrection.  Matthew 27:62-66 shows us this:

 

“The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers, go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.”

 

Unbelievers were hard at work attempting to prevent Christ’s statements from coming to pass, while His devoted followers, at that moment of time seemed to have utterly blank recall concerning His predictive prophecy.

 

We need to earnestly pray the spirit of Paul’s prayer that God would grant us all a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, the eyes of our understanding being opened. God save us from spiritual eye blindness.

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Literally Seeing the Unseen (Ephesians 1:18 – 23)

I pray that the eyes of your understanding may be opened and enlightened and flooded with light in order that you may know and understand the confident hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.  (Ephesians 1:18)  

 

 

FightingI hold to the presupposition that what Paul prayed in the context of his letters was exactly the right thing in the will of God. That is deeply, in the Spirit and full of God’s wisdom and the mind of Christ. I believe that because of what he wrote in the first 15 verses of Ephesians, the people to whom he was writing were not lacking in grace nor general spiritual understanding. The recipients of this letter were what we would refer to as “mature believers.”  They had been birthed into the faith in the deep mists of satanic fires of persecution, as well as the equally deep cloud of the divine fires of the miraculous, comprising deliverance and healing as well as the prophetic word – all issuing from Paul’s ministry, and undoubtedly from some of his team.  It is also plain that the recipients of the letter were spiritual enough to be loving people in the most practical way, and generally living life to a high degree of consistency with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul had received news from trusted people that they were people of God and expressing faith in a widespread number of circumstances. All this data makes the contents of Paul’s prayer something of great significance.

 

 

He was asking God to open the eyes of the understanding of these people. Because of the persecution of Paul as revealed in Acts chapters 19 and 20 and 2 Corinthians 1 and 2 and the concurrent “great door and effectual”  that was opened to him (see 1 Corinthians 16:9), Asian and Ephesian Christians saw heaven opened and satan attacking right from their first moments as Christians.  The open door was a threshold of liberty, power and the warm reception of those that were converted as expressed in Ephesians as well as in 1 Corinthians, and the heat of the battle in the invisible world concerning the preaching of the gospel in Asia was obvious to the newly born again Christians. Simultaneous to a remarkable move of God, where the whole of Asia (modern Turkey) had heard the word, in the midst of this peak of apostolic ministry there was an equally remarkable astonishing demonstration of threats and near death experiences made towards Paul and his associates. It is hard to conceive of the main body of Christians being kept clear from such attacks. It is my opinion that the Asian church generally was persecuted in those early days.  These people undoubtedly “grew up” in Christ quickly.  All that goes before in Ephesians chapter 1, and all that follows throughout the epistle explicitly informs us that they knew and understood lots of things that suggest they were mature in the faith.

 

 

Many philosophical and theological questions spring up in the mind of the thinking Christian whose life is lived in such an environment. Profound existential and teleological questions become the daily mind food of the newest converts as well as children and youth who come to faith. There are huge challenging queries concerning causality and the direct activity of God in the midst of life threatening persecution. Phenomenally, two thousand years of Christian history demonstrate clearly that in the midst of such a “death to all Christians” atmosphere, people of faith just flourish.

 

 

It is clear that Paul was not duped into believing that because these people displayed such all-round spiritual maturity and faith they did not need prayer. Such people in such circumstances require constant prayer and encouragement. The apostle was actively supplying that covering.

 

 

It is the twenty-first century, and in our somewhat cossetted westernised cosmos and culture, we get upset at the expression of anti-Christian activity as seen from governments and the odd story in the media. There are however corners of the globe where persecution of the same kind as what faced Paul and the people of God across Turkey is rampant as I write. North Korea is understood to be the worst in the world for their level of atrocity and persecution towards Christians. It is persecution addressed at people for no other reason than their faith in Jesus Christ. The pseudo deity worship of their president Kim Jong-Un leaves no room for any other religious understanding. It has considerable similarity to the “Ceasar is Lord” demand of New Testament Roman culture. Reports suggest it is even worse than Nero’s anti-Christian atrocities. Christians there live under what is to us in the west, unimaginable pressure in every aspect of life. The regime of religious intolerance forces Christians to meet in secret. Many are reported as not even being free to tell members of their own family of their faith. Threats of horrific labour camps hang over all believers. Public executions have even been filmed. Should we believe that anything less occurred in Asia and Ephesus after reading 2 Corinthians’ first chapter? Western Christians need to bow the knee and pray in a similar fashion for the fifty to seventy thousand Christians imprisoned in labour camps in North Korea, as well as divine protection for workers and contacts in that country who are known  to provide relief and shelter for their brothers in Christ. There are 300,000 Christians in North Korea in a population of twenty four and a half million.

 

 

Paul does not ask God that people have intellectual brilliance in such a hellish set of circumstances. Neither does he pray for a surge of philosophical academic learning to handle such a swarm of anti Christian arguments. No! What he asks for is that the eyes of their understanding are opened. It is visions of, and an understanding of God’s purpose for their own lives in the midst of these seeming contradictions of their faith. It is the perception that enables them to see their worth in the eyes of God. It is also Paul’s own passionate prayer that they understand that even in the worst persecution, God’s power working towards them and within them is the same power that raised Christ from among the dead and set Him far above all Principalities and powers in the entire cosmic universe.

 

 

The words are passionate, the perception behind the words are deep and overcoming.  Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1 is not in the scripture for any lightness of reason. It is a masterclass in intercession, love for others and general selflessness. God help us to emulate Paul not in his words only, but in his voluntary joyful slavery to the Lord Jesus.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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