Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Moving Beyond Culture and Tradition

Moving Beyond Culture and Tradition | BaptismForLife.wordpress.comI’ve come to a point in my relationship with God that demands an extensive self-examination of just what I’m doing and just why I’m doing it. To put it another way, I’m asking myself, “How much of what I do in my relationship with God can I prove is what He wants done in His word?”

No matter how much we might desire to be a part of, and contribute to a “church fellowship,” or body of believers, we all have personal responsibilities assigned to us by God Himself as individuals. If our church culture and tradition is getting in the way of our responsibility to worship the Father and His Son properly, then it’s time to take a good, hard look at our traditions.

In Spirit and In Truth

The “One Sent,” Jesus, The Christ of God had an interesting exchange with a Gentile woman at Jacob’s well near the Samarian city of Sychar. It is interesting to note that just in speaking with her, Christ was parting with an established tradition of the Jews

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. (John 4:7-9)

Though it was not traditional for Jesus, a Jewish man, to speak with a Gentile woman, the two had a very revealing exchange about a spiritual type of “water” that Christ was sent to this earth to give to all of humanity. This conversation culminated in Christ revealing Himself to her as the true Messiah, and telling her what His Father in heaven required of those who desired to worship Him.

 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.” (John 4:19-22)

In verse  20, she speaks of traditions of worship established by the two cultures regarding the “place” where one should worship. It was a very important subject for both groups at the time, but Christ told her that neither tradition would endure in the times that would come. Then, in verse 22, He speaks of a deeper issue that revealed which culture was actually worshiping the true God, His Father in heaven, and in this case it was the Jews who were doing it more correctly. Why? Because they knew who the true God was, and that He was the Creator of the entire universe as He had revealed Himself in scripture. The Samaritans worshiped Him as one of many local deities, in this case, they saw Him as the “God” of the land, this mountain, Jacob’s well.

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)

Verse 23 is key. Jesus says the hour has now come for true worshipers to worship in spirit and truth because He, the Messiah, is here! The Greek word translated “true” is  alethinos (G228). It means real, genuine, not fictitious. True worshipers are always striving to refine their worship of God that it might be more pleasing to Him — not to themselves, nor to other men, organizations, cultures, or established traditions, and societal norms.

So the genuine “worshipers” — the word, proskunetes (G4353), means an adorer — are always refining their worship. Their adoration of the Father is becoming more and more pleasing to Him in spirit and in truth. Spirit is from pneuma (G4151), a Greek word most are fairly familiar with, and “truth” is a different form of alethinos. This word, alethia (G225), means, “The unveiled reality lying at the basis of, and agreeing with an appearance … truth, as evidenced in relation to facts” (Zodhiates).

Moving On

In Acts 10:1-35,  Peter was told that he had to “move on” from a tradition he had believed was rooted in truth when God “unveiled reality” in the truth that “God shows no partiality.” The idea that Jews, “God’s people,” shouldn’t have anything to do with Gentiles was shown to be a fable in facts presented to Peter in a vision direct from God, and in reality, through the obvious conversion of Cornelius.

Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?” … Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” (Acts 10:28-29, 34-35)

When the “Holy Spirit fell upon all those Gentiles “who heard the word,” Peter could not deny this proof of God’s calling and they were baptized (Acts 10:44-48). Even so, it was apparently hard for Peter to move on from Jewish tradition, as evidenced in Galatians 2:11-14 when he had to be sternly rebuked by Paul for separating himself from Gentile converts. But in order to worship in spirit and truth, Peter corrected himself and moved on.

Moving Beyond Culture and Tradition | BaptismForLife.wordpress.comSo it must be with all of us, if we consider ourselves to be “true worshipers.” We must be willing to examine our culture, our traditions, and our practices, just as Peter was forced to do, and discard what we cannot reconcile with the Word of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 admonishes us, “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” By implication, we should also let go of that which is not good. As Christians, we must constantly “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). Dare we think that we will never be required to change even some of our most closely held traditions, even if it may be painful at times, to become “true worshipers” worshiping “in spirit and truth”?

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:18)

We are being transformed to look and act exactly like Jesus Christ. Whatever we’ve been doing that does not conform to that glory is going to be left behind, and is worthy of being left behind. To worship the Father in spirit and truth, we must learn to move on.

The Tapestry of Pentecost: Our Temple Body

weaving a tapestry. Image credit: freeimages.com

We wrapped up last week’s post talking about the Greek word naos (G3485), translated “temple” and referring to the inner part of the temple. In the physical temple, the right to enter this sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, belonged to the High Priest alone. So reading 1 Corinthians 6, we see that our bodies are the temple for God’s Holy Spirit.

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

How highly must God think of your body as a vessel for His spirit, if He calls us each naos, the same word used to refer to Jesus Christ’s physical body. We are a holy place for Him, purchased by and belonging to Him. And we are infinitely more valuable to Him than the gold in a physical temple. We are His dwelling place.

God’s Temple

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:4-13)

We are given gifts for the profit of the entire body. Each of us individually, in our own bodies, are temples of the Holy Spirit. We are also members individually of the body of Christ, which is greater than any physical temple.

“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” (Acts 17:24-25)

This is what Paul says when speaking to people in Athens. It is much the same thing Stephen says in Acts 7:46-50. In both verses, Greek word for temple is naos. For me the lesson is clear. Human hands can build all the glorious temple complexes they want to build, but God is only interested in one thing – individual human beings who He can indwell through His holy spirit. Think of all the wealth of the ages that has been expended on huge temples, church buildings, and edifices, in human efforts to “glorify God” in material things, and all according to the thoughts and ways of man. We’ll put more gold in the temple (the pharisees loved the gold of the temple), maybe add a little more elbow grease to polish it up and make it nice and shiny for God, more sweet-smelling cedar wood, a higher offering, more money, crystal chandeliers, or in OT times maybe a fatter calf. But what does God really value? And what does He really want from us?

“Reverence My Sanctuary”

The answer to this question all begins with Jesus Christ, the One foundation.

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. (1 Cor. 3:11-18)

We all need to be very careful how we regard the temple, or sanctuary, of God, both in ourselves, and in others who are part of His temple. We must all be responsible with the trust God has placed in us, and be on guard because we can come to regard ourselves as “wise,” and with the best of human intentions, bring harm to the rest of His church.

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you[a] are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor. 6:16-18)

This is another caution against any type of defilement, or pollution, of His temple, the naos where He dwells in us. It reminds us of our individual responsibility to God, to Jesus the head of the body, and to our brethren. For me personally, this study has provided the greatest incentive to overcome, and reconcile with brethren that I’ve ever run across. In Leviticus 19:30 and 26:2, there is a command that reads, “You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I am the Lord.” I’ve always looked upon this command as it refers to the physical temple and church, but in light of what we’ve seen so far, can we also reverence (stand in awe and respect of) what God and Christ are doing in one another? Can we look upon our relationships with each other in this light? Each of us is a naos to God and Christ, a holy dwelling place for Them and a sanctuary for their spirit. The temple made up of our bodies is something He values so highly that He is willing to put His own DNA (the Holy Spirit) in us and re-write us from the old man into the new.

So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately. Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35)

Here we are reminded of the command to “reverence my sanctuary” by the command “love one another.” We need to have love and respect for each other as vessels of the Holy Spirit of God. The indwelling of His Holy Spirit is what sets us apart as a holy, sanctified people. We are all sanctuaries for the indwelling of the holy spirit of God.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:5-14)

What is God Looking For?

We’re still looking to answer the question, What kind of “temples” does God want to indwell? Isaiah 66 begins to answer this quite nicely, and with wording that connects us back to the fact that God “does not dwell in temples made with hands” that we saw twice in the book of Acts.

Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word. (Isa 66:1-2)

God is looking for a people to plant the Firstfruit into so that the harvest can continue. He wants us to walk humbly before His throne, and to respect His word which expresses a way of life that He expects us to live. God wants a people He can dwell in, and a people who will go to the effort to make themselves a habitable sanctuary for Him in the way they treat and think about themselves and the way they treat and think about their brethren. And even though we are not perfect, and we make many mistakes, the greatest mistake we could make is to give up. The churches of God are not in the greatest shape today. Everywhere we look there seems to be stagnation and gridlock. How hard is it for churches today to live in peace and walk in peace! They have to establish committees just to decide whether to recognize each other as churches or to organize an outreach program. But I don’t, and you don’t. Each of us is responsible for our own outreach program. You can extend the right hand of fellowship, make a call, send a card, pray for a brother or sister in the greater body of Christ, and you don’t have to wait for permission from a church group.

Conclusion

weaving a tapestry. Image credit: freeimages.com

In this series on the tapestry of Pentecost, we’ve seen a weaving together of different elements from the whole history of the plan of God.

  • The waving of the first sheaf of grain when Israel entered the promised land.
  • How that foreshadowed Jesus Christ as the real wavesheaf – the first fruit in a spiritual harvest.
  • How the waving of that sheaf before God started a 50 day countdown to Pentecost – the feast of the firstfruits of God – produced by him through Jesus Christ in the called out ones.
  • How the promised gift of the holy spirit (given through Him to the church) was made available to humanity by and through the first fruit.
  • Then we have the physical body of Christ as our example and forerunner – the original temple (naos) of the holy spirit.
  • Followed by the fact that each of our bodies is a temple of the holy spirit. Individual sanctuaries and vessels for the indwelling presence of the holy spirit of God and Christ.
  • And the promise that because it all worked for the First sheaf of the harvest – so it will work for all of the first fruits … Christ said, “because I live, you shall live!” and He meant it. That’s a promise to all of us.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. (Jas. 1:17-18)

The feast of Pentecost is one of those great gifts of encouragement sent down from the Father of lights and Jesus Christ to each and every individual temple of Their Holy Spirit. I hope each of us considers our responsibility as temples of the Holy Spirit, vessels containing the great gift given to the church on the first Pentecost, and that we use it wisely in the hard times we’re living in the church today. May we all become better habitations for Their indwelling, and treat all of the individual sanctuaries with the reverence that God commands. Update: read the other posts in this series Part One: The Tapestry of Pentecost: Wave Sheaf and Firstfruit Part Two: The Tapestry of Pentecost: The Holy Spirit

The Tapestry of Pentecost: The Holy Spirit

Last week, we ended with John 7:39, which reads, “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.” Christ explains this idea further in John 14.

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that it may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot receive, because it neither sees it nor knows it; but you know it, for it dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:16-18)

These verses show that Christ and the Holy Spirit are so closely linked that the presence of the Holy Spirit in us is just like He Himself being right inside of us. A good friend of mine has spent a lot of time with a man named Dr. Ward, who has likened the Holy Spirit to God’s divine essence – His DNA if you will – and said that the conversion process is like DNA replacement therapy that results in our old man being made into a new man.

Reading on in verse 19 of John 14, Christ tells His disciples, “Because I live, you will live also.” What more inspiring and encouraging re-assurance could He have given them at this point? Then they went through the agonizing experience of seeing Him crucified, followed by the hope generated by His resurrection, and His appearance before their astonished eyes in Luke 24:49, where He repeated the promise of John 14.

The Second Thread

This brings us to Acts 2, and the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit.

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)

As the people heard the disciples speaking in different languages, some wondered “Whatever could this mean?” While others mocked and said, “They are full of new wine” (Acts 2:5-13). So Peter began to explain what the events of the day really meant. We’ll skip ahead to verse 29 to save space.

“Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:29-33)

Here we see that the Wavesheaf, the First of the first fruits, was given this great promise from the Father to pour out upon the called out ones who would become a part of the harvest of the firstfruits. And just as it was for the nation of Israel when they first entered the promise land, all of this bounty was given from the pure grace and generosity of God.

So we have element 2 in our Tapestry of Pentecost, the fulfillment of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. But there’s another thing given by God to each one of us that makes it possible for us to link with Him and His son in the most spiritually intimate way possible. And the prototype, as we might expect, was again shown to us in Jesus Christ Himself.

A Third Thread

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”
But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. (Matt 12:1-6)

The word for temple in this verse is the Greek hieron (G2411) which refers to the entire temple complex. Zodhiates defines it as, “often including not only the building, but the courts and all the sacred grounds or enclosure.” This is the word that is most often used when referring to the physical temple complex in its entirety.

John 2:19 clarifies that what He was referring to as “greater than the temple complex” was Himself. The word He uses here to call Himself a temple, though is naos (G3485), not hieron. Here, it refers not to a material temple, but simply an ordinary human body that the Father had given to Him as a means to an end.

The word naos comes from naio, which means “to dwell.” Zodhiates’ definition reads like this: “The temple itself is the heart and center of the whole sacred enclosure called hieron (2411). The naos was the Holy of Holies. The Lord never entered the naos during His ministry on earth, the right of such entry being reserved for the Jewish priests alone.” Another online concordance adds that naos refers to “the sanctuary, which contained the holy place, and the Holy of Holies.”

So the spiritual temple – naos – that was Christ’s body was said to be greater than the physical temple complex – hieron. As a reminder, this was the body of the Wavesheaf, the Forerunner, the Firstfruit, our example. A physical vessel, with a full measure of the Holy Spirit. That makes the third element in the tapestry of Pentecost the human body.

This aspect is such a large topic that I want to devote an entire post to exploring it. Check back next week for part 3 of “The Tapestry of Pentecost.”

Update: read the other posts in this series

Part One: The Tapestry of Pentecost: Wave Sheaf and Firstfruit

Part Three: The Tapestry of Pentecost: Our Temple Body

The Interactive Book: Fellowship With The Word Of Life

As we head into the Days of Unleavened Bread, having kept the Passover last night and looking forward to a fine fellowship meal this evening celebrating our coming out of sin, we can all echo the words of Paul.

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:7-8)

The goal is to become unleavened with sincerity and truth. We sincerely want to be taught of God, and and we want His truth to dictate the course of our lives. One of these precious truths is the revelation of God’s plan of salvation for mankind in the Holy Days.

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts. ‘Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.

‘These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times. On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.’” (Lev. 23:1-8)

The word “feasts” can also be understood to mean “divine appointments.” It’s like a VIP invitation from God to assemble for fellowship with Him. In verse 6, the phrase “you must eat unleavened bread” carried the ideas of to burn up, consume, and devour – indicating that there is to be a zeal about what we are doing.

Unleavened Teachings

In the introduction to this series, we began in Isa 55:6. Before we go back there, I’d like for you to think about this question, “What’s wrong with us, as we begin to celebrate the days of Unleavened Bread?”

We’re leavened, brethren! We can’t even avoid being leavened. It’s all around us in this world (there is even physical leaven in the air we breathe). But spiritually, the prince of the power of the air – the god of this world, who influences everything that goes on down here – has control of entertainment and media … the perfect forum for him to promote his anti-God agenda. And we can see, and drink in any and every form of violence, immorality, and other forms of aberrant, ungodly behavior … and made all the more attractive by the “beautiful people” who perform, and by clever writers, who insert humor at just the right times.

In this country, we even legislate immorality today. The more anti-Christ and anti-God it is, the more protected by law it is. You can be thrown into jail for preaching what the Bible says about morality, marriage and family values today – for teaching your kids healthy, Godly, Biblical principles of life. We are immersed in leaven, and the more we try to “fit in” with the society around us, the more leavened we become.

Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Is. 55:6-11)

So the question for us, at least one of the questions, during this Feast of Unleavened Bread is, “What kind of return on His investment am I giving to God?” Between now and the next Feast, how interactive am I going to be with this Book, the only really unleavened teaching on this planet? These days of Unleavened Bread are about coming out of this world, renewing our baptismal commitment to God, and turning our backs on the old man, the past, our Egypt.

Fellowshipping With Christ

In last week’s post, we ended with 1 Cor 1:9: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Did you catch that, brethren? We are called by God the Father into His son’s “fellowship,” literally partnership, social intercourse, or benefaction. This last word, “benefaction,” means the act of conferring a benefit. God and Christ actually offer us the benefit of interacting with Them in true fellowship by Their divine invitation.

The apostle John seemed to have a special relationship with Jesus Christ, and a unique way of expressing that in writing. We usually go to the gospel of John when we speak of this, but today, I’d like to go to his first general epistle.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life (1 John 1:1)

I’ve spent a great deal of time studying this word play between “the Word” – Jesus Christ – and “the word” – the Bible – that our hands handle right now. How do we “handle” the word of life? Do I keep it way out at arm’s length? Do I hold it sceptically? Or is it just as an academic exercise or a piece of“classic literature?” Or do I give it more serious study, and think, “Boy, it’d be nice if I could do that” … and then give up when I run into “love your enemies.”

Or do I hold the Word of life close to my heart? Could this day be another turning point in my life, and in my relationship with God the Father through Jesus, the Christ? Am I going to give Him that return on His investment?

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. …
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:63, 66-69)

Judging by his reply here, Peter apparently got the point of Jesus’ statement, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” and that His words are words of life (John 14:6). Jesus Christ, the Word of God “became flesh and dwelt among us” with the mission to give us eternal life (John 1:14; 10:10).

“The Interactive Book” series:

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Key To Scripture

Part 3: Fellowship With The Word Of Life

Part 4: Judgment and Friendship

Part 5: A Personal Call

Part 6: Working Out Your Own Salvation

The Interactive Book: Key To Scripture

We talked in last week’s introductory post about how meticulous Christ was about fulfilling every jot and tittle of scripture concerning Him, that He did all this to please the Father, and that there was real personal interaction between them.

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. … I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:19-24, 30)

Christ is the Key

How many of you know who Andrew Jukes is? He wrote several books that have made the rounds in the Church of God groups, The Names of God being probably the best known of them. About a month ago, my wife started reading another called The Law of the Offerings, and she ran across a quote that she knew would hit me right where I’ve been living for the past 20 years or so. At the bottom of pg 12, Jukes writes, “Christ is throughout [the Bible] the key to scripture. He is the one great idea of the Bible. Know Christ, understand God’s thoughts about Him, and then you will understand the Bible. We are in the dark because we know so little of Him.”

Because of my early Church of God teaching, I would have called this man, who wrote books about the Bible in the late 1800s, “unconverted” 25 years ago. Today, his comments seem very spiritual: know Christ, understand God’s thoughts about Him, and then you will understand the Bible. You see, it’s not just a study of Christ … not just “give yer heart to Jeeesus!” It’s a study of God the Father’s view of Jesus Christ – how They relate to one another, Their history, Their mutual sacrifice, and the rewards Their faith have produced for the church today.

It’s interesting that what Jukes emphasizes is “God’s thoughts about Him.” That’s scripture, brethren. Not just a man’s, or a church’s opinion – not Roman Catholic or Protestant thoughts about Jesus, but His own Father’s thoughts about Him. Brethren, what are God’s thoughts about His son today … right now today, nearly 2,000 years after His human life ended in crucifixion? What does God, the Father want us to be doing “in fellowship” with His beloved Son?

Great Gifts

I’ve used Matt. 28:18 a lot to show the regard God has for His son, and I don’t see any good reason to change that. “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” This is as true today as it was when Christ spoke these words, and if a great gift like this was given it was given by a great Giver.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:5-11)

Here is another passage showing the high regard God the Father has for His Son, and another gift given by the great Giver. And like every gift that this Being gives to His Son, there is an incredible extension to mankind through His Son’s name.

In Acts 4:7 we find Peter and John in a familiar fix. They had used the Name of Jesus Christ to heal a lame man, and they had told the people “His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all” (Acts 3:16). And that violated the code of the human bureaucracy of the day.

And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” (Acts 4:5-7)

It’s amazing to see the similarities in the way human societies develop their systems of controlling the people. The U.S. Government is getting more and more like this every day under the rule of similarly-minded control freaks. Anyway, the Department of Miraculous Healings in the Name of Jesus Christ determined that Peter and John had violated the code, and they threw them in the slammer overnight to cool their heels, then the next day, they convened a hasty trial.

And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:7-18)

Gift of Fellowship

Something else that the Father gave Christ was “the promise of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:29-33). So from the point of this giving onward to the end of the age, anyone who receives the gift of the spirit receives it through Christ. This sort of makes the words of John the baptist take on new life for us. “He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt. 3:11).

“Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has shed forth this which you now see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’ “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:33-36)

The Holy Spirit isn’t all the Father gave. The Greek word for “Lord” here is kurios (G2962). It means, owner, master, ruler. Christ, or Christos (G5547) means anointed … and this Christ was anointed to perform many more offices and functions for our benefit. To the extent that we buy into His authority in these offices, we can interact with Him as He serves us by performing them.

In Ephesians 1, we find yet another great gift given to Christ by the great Giver which benefits us.

Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Eph. 1:15-23)

Do we really believe this? God’s gift here was to make Jesus Christ my Head, and your Head. This is indeed a gift, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as the gifts God has given to His son to benefit us. It’s truly amazing when you understand how much love and regard the Father has for us that He actually blesses His son with all of this … and it’s all there so He can serve us and care for us.

Makes you wonder why anyone would resist or reject this, but I’ve run into some angry resistance to the idea. For some reason, people think they can somehow get to the Father without going through the Son.

Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:22-23)

We are called by God the Father “into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). “Fellowship” is from the Greek koinonia (G2482), and means “partnership, participation, communion, according to strong’s, it literally means “social intercourse, or benefaction.” That sounds a whole lot more personal than “pray, stay, pay, and obey.” God wants to take us into His confidence, “to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:9). He wants to give us good gifts, to interact with us as He reveals deeper and deeper truths.

“The Interactive Book” series:

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Key To Scripture

Part 3: Fellowship With The Word Of Life

Part 4: Judgment and Friendship

Part 5: A Personal Call

Part 6: Working Out Your Own Salvation