4Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. (Job 2:)
1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom 12:)
Again we have the word transfigured translated a bit differently. It's in our mind that everything begins. I have a theory that we are all made up of three individual factions. Psychiatry defines these parts as something like parent, adult and child. And I suppose these descriptions aptly describe what I see. I know for myself that my misdeeds and my bad behavior can begin at any of three stages. First I have my thoughts. If I think of something, and I dwell on that thought, I begin to feel like doing whatever it is I'm thinking about. Then there are times I have a feeling without having a thought (which usually comes about upon waking up during the night). The feeling brings on the thought, which intensifies the feeling. These are two stages leading to bad behavior, which is the third and final stage. I suspect Adam and Eve were spending a lot of time looking at the forbidden tree, and the longer they thought about it, the more they considered its attractions, the more they salivated and desired to partake of what that tree had to offer. But they never allowed themselves to act on their thoughts and feelings because of the fear of punishment. Then comes someone with the words they needed and wanted to hear; someone who can override their fear and logic, allowing them to add the final touch, the completion of their evil deed.
In today's culture we have no social or legal factors to stop us from what we want to do. We can kill our unborn, we can be just as blatantly immoral as we want, and we can blaspheme and deny the Lord with impunity. None of God's laws still stand. The only laws we now have to obey are the laws of the land, which are now null and void because there is no way of enforcing the few laws of consequence that remain. It is in fact a "do your own thing" agenda we live by, which was the cry of the 70's.
In my time, as a youth and before, there was, if nothing else, a call for morality and obedience to God that came from all the pulpits. Doctrines my not have been correct, but the ability to see the need for purity was present, if not overdone by the addition of rules and regulations not mentioned in the Word. Today this call is all but ignored for fear of chasing off the few remaining "believers" who are needed to keep the church and its building operating.
Three parts of our being: There are three opportunities by which to refrain from committing sin. As mentioned, Adam and Eve apparently used their last line of defense until that line had been violated, and they no longer resisted the great pull they were feeling to eat of the no-no tree.
Wouldn't it have been better if they stayed farther away from the tree altogether so they wouldn't feel the strong urge to partake of it?
Paul, in the preceding verse, tells us we should step back even farther than feelings and change our thoughts to those that are appropriate. Paul tells us:
8Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. (Phil 4:)
14But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1Cor 2:)
We should think on those things that have merit. The more we think of those things we want to avoid (but in our heart we really want to be given permission to do), the farther we stray from the peace and assurance God provides those who think on Him.
I know for myself that I feel away from God when my mind drifts into the carnal part of my nature. At times, and those times are far too many, I feel so unworthy that I am unable to pray because I know I'm not doing what He wants me to do. A small child is this way as well. The child who has done wrong will hide from his parent for fear of punishment. Or, as in my case, it's not fear of punishment I feel, but the feeling I have offended the One I most care for and about. A child will experience this same remorse, if that feeling has been instilled in him or her.
Who we are begins with our mind. If we don't renew our mind and strive to put on the mind of Christ, we will not attain to the perfection God wants and demands of us.
There's another word very much like, and with essentially the same meaning as Transfigured used in the Bible. The following are some verses that incorporate the word, here meaning to "Partake, accept, eat." There are other verses that use these words, such as when Jesus said to eat His flesh, and where we're told to partake of His table. But I find these are not the same words as used here, I had hoped they would be in order to lend credibility to what I'm pointing out.
In clarification, when I do a study such as this I rarely include words that have the same meaning as the word I'm investigating, even when that word is identical in meaning. I look for exactly the same word, with no variation, in order to make sure I get as truthful an understanding of what the Bible is saying as possible. Here in this study of the word Transfigure I've deviated from this rule and I'm including the word Transformed because they overlap. But when I do this, I let you know so you can follow my reasoning, and so you can exclude my additional findings if they don't fit your needs.
Again, the verses following use the word Transform, not Transfigured:
13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2Cor 11:)
We're looking here at people who have transformed themselves into the ministers of righteousness. They pose as godly people, as people who have a pipeline to God, and who may very well know the Bible better than any of us. They are the ones we listen to, who we learn about what God wants of us. Jesus said we can know these people by their fruits. But because of today's laxity toward morality and the acceptance of so many false doctrines, we no longer know what fruit to look for in our leaders.
When an agent is trained to infiltrate the enemies lines and bestow damage from within, they are taught far more about the people, the culture, the history and the thinking of the people they desire to destroy than do those people who live in that country. When the terrorists who flew the airplanes into the towers were being prepared for their mission, they were living here as fully respected citizens, and it was in this country they learned what they needed in order to do us damage. Then, to complete their mission, they used our own equipment, that being airplanes, against us. When we watch those people who are undermining the Church, those on TV who are attempting (with great success I might add) to diffuse and dilute our understanding of Jesus and the Bible, we can see that they are highly educated and have memorized the Bible and commentaries and the like far beyond the knowledge of those behind the pulpit. But their aim is not to promote God or the Bible, but to destroy the faith of those who are seeking understanding. I find it amazing the number of people I talk to who have their favorite preachers and theologians who's words they cling to. They trust in what they hear from these people, and not what the Bible tells us. This is a dangerous practice, and it leads to being drawn to those people described in this passage above.
19Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) 20For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Phil 3:)
Here the word transform is interpreted as "change." Take a careful look at what's being said here. Again we have Paul saying we will be like Jesus. There's a lot of resistance to this concept in the churches. The words are there, and they're being preached. But the understanding of those words are minimized for fear of sounding pious and self-glorifying. If we understand what God desires of us, and what He has in mind for us, we will strive for the perfection He demands of us rather than being content in this world and its immediate pleasures that do not satisfy.
In the traditional view of the Gospels a lot of questions have to either be left unanswered, or they must have some form of explanation given to them that does not fit the Word of God, leaving a person to run into blind alleys and fanciful beliefs.
In the very beginning of John we read: "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." We assume this to mean that Jesus became flesh, and that He was preexistent. And I'm not arguing the point. That is not my purpose here. But what if this is saying that God became flesh, through the Holy Spirit (and we see that God the Father is spirit)? Jesus said that everything He said and did was the Father doing it through Him. And we're told that we are to allow God to work through us, and that our words should be God's words as they were the words of Jesus.
Jesus died to the flesh, and in the flesh, so that we might attain to the Spirit (planting of the seed at His crucifixion) (John 12:24).
5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (John 3:)
This is an interesting statement that we might easily pass off as insignificant, if not obvious. Jesus related the born-again process to the wind, and like the wind, a spirit can not be seen or detected. Does this have any connection with what Jesus is saying here? Let's take a closer look at the wind:
7And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Gen 2:)
22And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: (John 20:)
BREATH - From H5395; a puff, that is, wind, angry or vital breath, divine inspiration, intellect or (concretely) an animal: - blast, (that) breath (-eth), inspiration, soul, spirit.
[The following are the same word as breath above, interpreted differently.]
16For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made. (Isaiah 57:)
4To whom hast thou uttered words? and whose spirit came from thee? (Job 24:)
BREATHED (as Jesus did on His disciples) - From G1722 and (to puff; compare G5453); to blow at or on: - breathe on.
8The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (John 3:)
1And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:)
11I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: (Mat 3:)
In order to make this study as complete as possible, I'm including other verses that have used this same word in one form or another. These inclusion are as follows:
21Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: (John 20:)
7And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Gen 2:)
22All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. (Gen 7:)
2As God liveth, who hath taken away my judgment; and the Almighty, who hath vexed my soul; 3All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils; 4My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit. (Job 27:)
4The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life. (Job 33:)
13Who hath given him a charge over the earth? or who hath disposed the whole world? 14If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; 15All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust. (Job 34:) (Read this again carefully.)
10By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened. (Job 37:)
20Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron. 21His breath [Same word as "Soul"] kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth. (Job 41:)
22Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of? (Isaiah 2:)
5Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: (Isaiah 42:)
The forgoing is by no means an exhaustive study of the word "breathed." I've merely tried to keep together those words that might be of interest somewhere down the line.
There is one thing worth mentioning here, a paradox I find to be rather odd. In the second chapter of Genesis above, where God breathed the breath of life into Adam, the word for "breath" is the same one we're looking at. However, the word for "breathed," that is, the giving part of this action, is another word entirely. Rather than the word possessing the full aspect of life, it can be translated as "Inflate, expire, scatter, disesteem, kindle, snuff, give up, cause to lose life, seething." To my way of thinking this puts a rather different slant on what God had in mind for Adam when He created him. Add to this that the very name Adam means in the Hebrew "Hypocrite, common sort, of low degree." Then add further how the word for "man" is the very same word as Adam, it causes one to stop and think, does it not?
11He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, THE GLORY AS OF THE ONLY BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:)
Returning to the Word, let's see what else we can learn from this mysterious portion of Scripture:
WORD - G3056 - logos, From G3004; something said (including the thought); by implication a topic (subject of discourse), also reasoning (the mental faculty) or motive; by extension a computation; specifically (with the article in John) the Divine Expression (that is, Christ): - account, cause, communication, X concerning, doctrine, fame, X have to do, intent, matter, mouth, preaching, question, reason, + reckon, remove, say (-ing), shew, X speaker, speech, talk, thing, + none of these things move me, tidings, treatise, utterance, word, work.
Early in this study I said the Hebrew is a very vague language that can be interpreted many conflicting ways. Here is an example of how even the Greek can be, and often is as confusing as the Hebrew. We read the Word became flesh. First we have the word itself: what does Word mean? As we see here the Word means many things. It means thought, it means communication, it means something said, or reckoned, or preached. Luckily for our purpose this word, unlike the Hebrew words we've come across, means something in the same realm of understanding, that being communication. We don't have to decide if the word means yes or no in any instance as we've seen in the Hebrew. Take note how the word also means "Work" (Mat 5:16; 16:27; John 4:34; 14:10).
Just what aspect of this ambivalent word did the Word become? Let's examine it a little closer:
4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Mat 4:)
18Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. 19When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. 20But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. 22He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. 23But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Mat 13:)
There are some important issues worth examining here. First we see that the Word is "Word of the Kingdom." We find that when Jesus came up from the water at His baptism He immediately began to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom. When He sent his disciple out, they were to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom. Here Jesus says the Word is of the Kingdom. Elsewhere, which we will be seeing, Jesus says His Words are not His own, but the Father's. After we look at the basic aspects of the word "Word," we'll be seeing some other aspects of the Word that applies, not only to Jesus, but to us.
As we study this word, keep in mind that part of what we're looking for is to see just who, or what the Word is. It's not wise to neglect the truth just because we have heard a certain story or doctrine all our life. When we've heard something over and over it becomes fact to us, even when that "fact" holds no element of truth whatsoever. Consider the theory of Evolution that has not only turned into unquestionable fact in the world, but has made great inroads through the churches as well.
This parable of the Sower and the Seed has been repeated so many times that many people know it by heart. The problem is, though it has been memorized, it has not been understood. Consider carefully what Jesus is saying here, and in many other of His sayings. If we want to be certain that we are part of the good ground, we have to examine ourself to see if we're bearing "fruit." If we bear no fruit, we are not part of that fertile soil.
What is fruit? Do you know? Is fruit works? According to the Mainline churches it isn't, but I read that it's our works, along with our words that will be judged. Jesus said the world will know we're His disciples by our works. But if we work, the church won't accept us. Interesting paradox, don't you think?
Is fruit the workings of the Holy Spirit within us? Is fruit part of the nine gifts of the Spirit? Is fruit the degree to which we have allowed the Holy Spirit to take over our lives? Is fruit the product of love working in us? Just what is fruit? If you're like me, you either do now, or you have wondered, and maybe even fretted over this word fruit. I still do, not being sure just what fruit Jesus is talking about. I suspect that when I begin producing that fruit, I'll know what fruit is. Or maybe I am now, but because I don't know what it is, I don't recognize it. There is one thing I've noticed about fruit, and that is how no one seems to know what it is, nor questions it, but assume they are fully producing all the fruit that the Lord requires.
Another part of this parable, of Jesus Words that I find people ignore, is the call to understand the Word. I spend every bit of my time (relatively speaking) trying to understand the Word of God. Yet I realize that I have hardly scratched the surface of understanding. Yet I see people, Christians they're called, who have little interest in the Word, and they believe they understand it. Then on the other end of the scale, I find many (putting it mildly) preachers and theologians, with their years of intensive study, who know the Bible upside down and backwards, as did the Pharisees, yet they don't understand it at all. In fact their learning has caused them to miss understanding by several miles. Yet they consider themselves to be the "experts" to which we must all harken.
Back to the word "Word."
33And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. 34But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples. (Mark 4:)
Elsewhere Jesus told His disciples (when they were alone) that the reason He spoke in parables is so people would not understand what He was saying. From every pulpit I've heard that Jesus spoke in parables so people could understand what He was telling them. I find a conflict here, do you?
When we're alone with the Lord, just us, Him, and the Bible, is when He expounds the truth to us. We don't find the truth in commentaries, in sermons, or even in Sunday School. It's a One on one experience, given to us by and through the Holy Spirit.
13Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. (Mark 7:)
31Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:)
37I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. (John 8:)
The Word of God is made ineffective because of traditions and doctrines. What we see here is a good example of this very thing. Jesus said "If you continue in my Word." We in the churches teach that just belonging to a church makes one a disciple, and therefore a holder of truth, and free. What about the "If"? What about the many other "if"s in the Bible we skip over as if they were something placed there by mistake or just to fill in space?
Jesus is talking to people who know the Bible of their time better than any of us will ever know it. Yet these same people had no place for the Word. They believed they knew the Word, but they didn't live what they knew, they didn't "continue in His Word," so therefore they misinterpreted what they had seen. The Word of God can say whatever we want it to say. This is evidenced by the thousands of conflicting doctrines in the Church, all using the same words to support their beliefs. Someone is wrong. And that someone might very well be you, or it might be me. Evidence of correct interpretation is not in what we say we believe, but in what we do about what we say we believe. If we move, the Lord can guide us. If we remain still, we go nowhere, and we learn nothing.
46I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. 47And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. (John 8:)
14Ye are the light of the world. (Mat 5:)
We have two issues to examine here. First we see that Jesus said the Words He speaks we will be judged by. If we dismiss His Words, or misinterpret His Words to provide for ourselves a liberty we have not been given, then we will be judged according to what Jesus said, not what we think He said. We would be far better off having misinterpreted His words on the side of caution, than on the side of liberty.
The second issue presented here is what Jesus said of Himself, and of us. Jesus said that He is the light of the world. He isn't saying He is the Word, but the light of the world. Is that the same thing? Maybe. Or maybe that isn't important. But there is something important that we have to pay heed to. Jesus later said that we are the light of the world. What Jesus is, we are to be. We've seen how what He preached, we are to preach. We are to spread the Word, as He presented the Word to the world. We're not to hide our light, nor to remain silent, even when being light and spreading the Word endangers our health and life. Is this taught today? Of course in those churches called cults this is expected and demanded of their members. But what about your church? Are you expected to get out there and shout the Word from the housetops? Or are you permitted to hide your light under a bushel basket and still claim the same rights and privileges as the martyrs?
I've witnessed an interesting thing in the churches I've attended. I can't think of a single exception where this is not true. The people in the congregation, too shy or frightened to tell others about Jesus or to proclaim the Word as were told to do, are given permission to merely assist those who are doing the work with their financial support to missions. Do you find this true of your church? Have you wondered about this principle and practice? Do you agree with it? Do you think Jesus is going to accept this explanation when we have to stand before Him and explain why we have been ashamed of His Name?
We are to be as Jesus was. And we're to do what He did, and to carry on His mission. If you agree with this statement, keep it in mind for what follows:
17From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Mat 10:)
5These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. (Mat 10:)
12Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. (John 14:)
16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:)
Here again we're told that a true believer will not only do what Jesus did, but more. And we're given a list of some of the things the true believer will be doing. Can you do any of these things? Can your pastor? Do you know of anyone who can? We hear of some TV figures who supposedly can do some of these, and we've seen periods of time such as during the Later Rain movements when such occurrences were known (or at least supposed) to have happened. But from what I've seen of these modern day miracles, I tend to have my doubts. But whatever the case, I can't do any of them. Is that a sign that I'm not a true believer? I hope not, but it just may be so. I have my doubts about my faith. I don't think I would have been able to take as many steps on the water as did Peter. I'm counting on the Lord to strengthen my faith, although I fear the methods He might use to do so. It might be a guillotine or a cross I'll have to face, as has been the case with many others who have had their faith tested. I'm not married, so I know He won't have me sacrifice my firstborn.
The main thing I want to point out here is that Jesus has reserved, and is establishing a body of people who are and will be carrying out His mission in the same way He carried out the Father's mission. And the way this will be accomplished, is, not with Adamic creatures with human frailties and lusts, but those who have risen above their nature and taken on the nature of Christ. Is it conceivable that those who continue the Lord's work, such as the Apostles and the 144,000, will also be considered the Word of God?
We read in the above passage that the signs listed will follow those who believe. By this we might assume that someone who produces such fruit, that is, they are able to heal the sick, raise the dead, and other such works are true disciples of Jesus. However, in the 7th chapter of Matthew we read of someone who can do exactly this, and all in the name of Jesus, yet that person is condemned, and Jesus said He didn't even know him. Another such example is prevalent in many of the churches. These people believe that the sign of being one of the Lord's flock, in possession of the Holy Spirit, is being able to talk in tongues or other such signs. For myself I can't buy this. But then again I may be just protecting my own interest since I do not, nor have I ever spoken in tongues. Because of my lack I don't want to believe this is a requirement. Am I one with itching ears, deluding myself? Maybe. But then again, I've seen people who can talk in tongues and do somersault in the isles that don't seem to have the slightest interest in the things of the Lord other than their gymnastic skills and their ability to shout hallelujah.
48He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. 49For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. (John 12:)
40He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. (Mat 10:)
Again we find Jesus placing us in His stead. Those who respond to us negatively are in fact doing so to Jesus, thus to the Father. Because of this we might suspect that we, as did Jesus and the Apostles, might be extremely careful that we speak aright and not distort the Words of God, or claim that our words are the Words of God. We might also suspect that we, and especially pastors, teachers and the like would be careful not to use vain, empty words when instructing their listeners. But is this what we find in the churches? Or do we instead find the sermons filled with empty and vain words with a sprinkling of God's Words, usually in the form of entertainment, being preached? I have heard sermons where the preacher spoke for nearly an hour, and used just a half a verse from the Bible. What do you suppose the preacher talked about? What kind of reaction do you think he received from the congregation?
1In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. ["Level, true"] (Mat 3:)
John was sent to prepare the way for the Lord, to cause people to repent and make themselves ready to receive their Messiah. If a person wasn't prepared, if a person hadn't made their paths straight, then they wouldn't recognize their Messiah (Luke 7:29-30). Part of that preparation was (and is) the same as the preparation the Levitical priesthood was instructed to do before entering the Tabernacle, and that was to check themselves out for imperfections in the laver, and there to wash off what they see; then they sacrificed for themselves by which they had their sins covered. Without putting ourself in a "right position," that is, make our self righteous before the Almighty God, we can not be in His presence.
We are to be announcing that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. We are to be preparing ourselves, and others for the appearance of our Lord. Are we doing this? I don't think so, I think the churches are propagating and trying to establish themselves and neglecting the Church, the poor, and the unsaved.
"The Kingdom of God is at hand." What does this mean? This is what we should be preaching, the message of the Kingdom. But as I see it, no one even knows what the Kingdom of Heaven is, leastwise is anyone preaching it.
35And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. 37Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; 38Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. (Mat 9:)
17From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
18And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 19And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. (Mat 4:)
18As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. (John 17:)
15And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:)
We are to be farmers preparing the crop, the Church, for harvesting. The laborers are few, and it seems to me that there are essentially none in the fields today. There's lots of people out there trying to bring the crop into their own barns (denomination), but none working to prepare the harvest for the Lord's barn.
Another metaphor Jesus uses is that of fishing. As we see here, those who were called left their jobs immediately and began their training so they could help the Lord in His work of helping and preparing the people. We find, and we even hear from the pulpit, that this is our job. Are we doing it?
2In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:)
While we're to be preparing for the Lord's return, He is (has) prepared a place for us. Is He up on a cloud somewhere laying bricks do you suppose? I don't think so. I've covered this subject many times before, so I'll spare you that here.
21He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. 22Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. (John 14:)
Notice the stress placed on keeping the Lord's commandments. What commandments, what words is He talking about? It seems to me the most I hear of His commandments are that there are no commandments, and all He wants of us is to take a bath, and maybe show compassion for one another. How many people who wear the Christian moniker is doing any more to show compassion for others, especially those outside their own denomination, than is anyone else in the world?
Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father will make their abode with us. I see two things we might consider. First, if it is true that Jesus is returning to Spirit from which He came, and that the Father is, and the Holy Spirit is already spirit without question, then are we saying the same thing when we speak of one or the other?
In the last two chapters of Revelation we see where God makes His abode with mankind. We also see how He made His abode with Israel in the wilderness and at the time of the construction of Solomon's Temple. Is this significant? What's more, if we're to have a part in this arrangement, what must we do? According to much of what I hear, there is nothing I have to do in order to participate. Jesus did it all.
6I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. 7Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. 8For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. (John 6:)
14I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:)
Take a very close look at these words of Jesus. What is being said here is utterly missed by most of the preachers I've ever heard. The words are read, and talked about, but the essence of the words is neglected:
"Which thou gavest me out of the world." Jesus didn't just walk up to some strangers and ask them to follow Him. These men were selected by the Father before Jesus ever saw them. They had been prepared for this moment, and when the moment came, they dropped everything and followed Jesus (for a prefigure of this event, see 1Kings 19:6-21, and Jeremiah 1:5). There were some who wanted to follow Jesus, that Jesus either discouraged, or He refused altogether. It's possible this is because they hadn't been chosen, and they hadn't been prepared. This is one big problem with the churches today. They're calling people into the congregations, but they're doing little to nothing to prepare them for being a disciple of Jesus. This is like bringing students into Kindergarten and not preparing them for the first grade so they can continue their education. In Kindergarten the newbies are being told they now have all they are required to possess in order to enter the Kingdom of God.
"Thine they were, and thou gavest them me." The twelve disciples belonged to the Father. They were given to Jesus. They were the possession of God the Father. Part of the requirement of being a disciple of Jesus is that a person belong to God. We can't just go out and find someone on the street and make them a disciple. They must be a possession, and they must be called. Of course we have the admonition that "whosoever will" can be accepted, but this does not mean the whosoever will's will be part of the Elect of God. I suspect a person could strive for such a position, and possibly attain such a position, who am I to say? But we find there were those who were doing as the Apostles were doing, even healing the sick, and Jesus said for the disciples to leave those people alone. They were doing the work of the Kingdom, even though they were not part of the Kingdom. Also we see there are those who will be doing "Wonderful works" in the Name of the Lord, but Jesus rejects them, and tells them He never knew them.
Although we can't expect to make disciples of others, neither can we try and decide who is chosen by God, who belongs to God, and who doesn't. It's our job to bring everyone who will into the sheepfold. Jesus will pick out who are His and who are not. This, to a degree the churches are doing, bringing people to the fold door. But the churches should also be feeding the flock, which they are not doing. They think they are, but all they're doing is providing pablum in a cold bottle.
One of the men given to Jesus by the Father is one who Jesus called a "devil," and He knew Judas was a devil from the beginning. Another of Jesus' Apostles was never a disciple of Jesus during His earthly walk, and that is Paul. No one would have expected Paul to have been called, nor does it seem that any of the disciples would have ever expected Judas to be the one to betray Jesus. Peter would have never believed he would deny Jesus. We can't judge others, nor can we even judge our own standing, as has been shown by Peter, and the Eleven as they cowered in an upper room after the crucifixion of Jesus.
"And they have kept thy word." These handpicked disciples have "kept" the Word, not just heard the Word. This is an important factor that we must take into consideration. It's in the keeping of the Word that we find a place with Jesus in His flock. When Jesus is telling His disciples He will now call them "friend," He is talking to those who have given up everything and followed Him through His valley of trial. He was talking to men who had kept His commandments, and who would continue His work when He departs this earth. He is not talking to the masses, but to His Elect. And even considering these important factors, Jesus still continued to add to His statements the essential ingredient of "If" you do thus and so. When we grab every promise for ourself that's written in the Book, which we're so prone to do, we deceive ourself and close the door to the truth.
7Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. 8For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. (John 6:)
14I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:)
Now they know all things. If you knew all things about Jesus, and of God's plan; or if you knew just a little bit about God; wouldn't you have a driving thirst for more? Of course you would. If a person lacks that thirst, to me it's a sure indication that the knowledge of God is absent in that person's life. If a person is not absorbed by God and His Word, then how can they call themselves part of the Lord's flock, and expect the blessings that belong to those who love and follow their Lord?
We think having a general knowledge that Jesus lived, that God is real, and that Jesus died for the sins of the world makes us a full-fledged Christian, a follower of Jesus. Not so, not by a long shot.
As Jesus pointed out so many times, one sign of a true disciple is that he or she will be hated by the world because they are not part of the world "just as I am not part of the world" Jesus tells us. Part of this investigation is where Jesus came from, and what He was before He came to earth. We see here that whatever He was, we will be also. We are a citizen of the same world Jesus came from, and ascended to. Does this match your understanding? If we are a part of Jesus' world, then we should be acting like it, acting and thinking like Jesus, and providing for ourselves treasures in Heaven, and not be stashing away goodies for our pleasure here on earth. If we're doing this, preparing for life elsewhere, then the world will hate us. If the world doesn't hate us, then just maybe we're not on the right road.
17Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. (John 17:)
20Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:)
"Thy word is truth." We see here that it's the Father's Word being spoken of. Does this then mean the Father is the One who became flesh? Nothing even close to this is proven here, just a point of interest.
"As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." As Jesus was commissioned by the Father, so we, the disciples of Jesus, are commissioned. Note how those so commissioned were "sent out into the world." They (we) were not commissioned to settle back in front of our TV sipping cool ones imagining ourselves to be more privileged than others because of our status in the local churches. There is an expectation that comes with that commission. Are we being taught to fulfill that commission?
"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word." Here is where we, you and I come in. This is the open door that invites us to participate with the Apostles, and to be a part of the blessings. Those who believe on Jesus. The big question is, what does this word "believe" mean? According to the churches, believing means signing a card, fulfilling some tasks (in some cases, not in all), and giving verbal assent to the fact that Jesus is who He says He is (whatever that might be, few people bother to find out). As we look at the Apostles and the early Christians, we find people who sacrificed everything for their belief. Today spending a couple hours in a pew each week is considered great sacrifice. Until we know, and accept what Jesus defines belief to be, we're just wasting our time pretending to be a believer. What believer means today is not having faith in God, or even in the Bible, but having a dedication to the denomination and the local body we belong to. I don't think this is the form of Belief Jesus is looking for.
"That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us." This is a very heavy statement, one that should not be passed over lightly. Jesus is saying the believer, the ones who are chosen (here being the Apostles, but as we read a bit earlier, that also means those who believe because of their words) will be one with God the Father, as Jesus is one with the Father. There is a strong belief in the Trinity with many of the churches. This is nowhere taught in the Bible. It may be intimated in a few places, but these intimations are far from valid evidence. They certainly do not stand the rigors as a doctrine that would divide the Church the way it does, or give a person a reason to feel they are a believer because they accept this tenet. To believe the Bible, the places that indicate that the believer, the follower of Jesus, will be like Jesus, strikes too close to heresy for most people. It is a hard concept to swallow. But all through the Bible we find this preached heavily, too heavily to toss to the wayside. By making Jesus something separate from us, by making Him an idol that we place up on a high shelf as something beyond our ability to attain to, we open the door to the weak doctrines that abound in the churches today. Can we be like Jesus? Not on your life. I could never be like Jesus. Nor do I suspect you could ever be like Jesus. We're Adam, we're dust. We're sinful creatures that just can't do right in spite of all our best efforts to do what God wants us to do. Our best efforts are like filthy rages. But Jesus died to pave the way so He can make us like Him, just as we see in the Apostles. The Apostles were men as we are, they were not special creations. Whatever they can attain to, we can attain to. Are they like Jesus? No, I don't think so. But Jesus will have those who have overcome their nature. I can't see it being me, but He will have His body, those who will have attained to His condition, but only with His assistance through the Holy Spirit. None can do right on their own, no, not one.
Those who make it to the throne, who will rule and reign with Jesus, will have done so completely by the works of Jesus, not on their own. But neither will they resist that assistance, which I am so prone to do.
"That the world may believe that thou hast sent me." A follower of Jesus has a responsibility to show the world that Jesus was sent by God the Father. How are we to do this? Jesus said that our good works will be evidence of our discipleship, and our love for one another is another such sign.
Jesus said in Matthew 5: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." In the 17th chapter of John we read: "These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:" Why did Jesus seek to be glorified? So He could glorify the Father. Now we read in the passage at hand:
"And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me." Jesus is giving His disciple His glory? How much more can one expect than to not only have in one's possession the glory that belongs to Jesus, salvation, eternal life, the Holy Spirit of God within us, and the gifts of all Jesus was able to accomplish? Yet what is it the churches offer, promise in fact? They promise blessing here on this earth, just as long as you pay them tithes or buy their merchandise.
Jesus had a reason for giving us His glory. What is that reason? What is the reason for Jesus having placed Himself in jeopardy in order to produce a body of followers who will finish His work? So there will be just that: people to finish His Work. What is the work Jesus came here to do? We read that Jesus, from the beginning, preached the Kingdom of Heaven, and He did all He did in order to glorify God the Father. And this is the task given to the body of Jesus, to glorify the Father. And part of this glory is in the good works we perform and the love we show others.
"That they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." Again we see the reason we, the disciples of Christ, are glorified, in a repeat of what we read earlier. Here, however, is an additional reason, and that is so we might be made perfect. Perfect in the Greek means "Finished, complete." The question might be raised, what is complete? How can we tell what a complete, a finished person is? For the answer to this question we must look at One who has reached that condition, who of course is the Son of God, Jesus. In order to fully recognize that such a condition is attainable by humans, products of Adam, we need look no farther than the Apostles of Jesus.
Adam was dishonorably discharged from the presence of God because of his lack of completeness, his imperfections. We can not expect to reenter the garden as long as we retain the same problems Adam was punished for. And no, the sacrifice Jesus made did not blind the eyes of God to our sins as is imagined by so many. His sacrifice (of His only begotten Son) simply cleared the way for our becoming all we can be without the added weight of Adam's sin. And it paved the way for the Holy Spirit to guide us into all we could never attain on our own.
What does God expect of us? We read here that He expects us to be perfect, which we know to be an impossible task. Yet this is precisely what He demands of us. In order to better understand what perfection is, and if it is obtainable by mankind, it would help if God provided us a clear-cut explanation as to His meaning. Is there such a thing? Yes, I believe there is:
In Matthew chapter 5 we read: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." How perfect is God? In order to pass the Cherubim with a flaming sword, all we need do is attain the perfection of God. Simple enough?
17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: (Eph 6:)
11And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. 12His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 13And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. 14And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 15And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations (Rev 19:)
This to me is rather an exciting passage of Scripture, filled with colorful metaphors and deep meaning. Let's see if we can get a handle on just what John is seeing:
"The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." As we move closer to the Book of Revelation, to the end times, we find ourself closer to the entrance of the Garden of Eden. One of the things we're researching here, besides what the skins were made of that Adam was given to wear, is the who or what the Word of God is. In this verse Paul tells us the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit. What is the sword of the Spirit? In Hebrews chapter 4 we find: "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
Thus far we've found that the Word is anything but Jesus Himself, as far as His flesh is concerned. He was the bearer of the Word, but so are we to be. We've found the Word to be the Spirit of God. And here we discover that the Word is like a sword.
"And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True." We might well assume that the person on the white horse is Jesus since it certainly fits His description. However, so does it describe those who have overcome by the Word of the Lamb. Therefore, it might be the overcomers, those who will sit with Jesus on His throne.
"And in righteousness he doth judge and make war." Again we have what describes Jesus, as well as those who will rule and reign with Him.
"His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns;" It's hard to get around the concept that this is Jesus, nor will I try. And it's difficult to attribute the first part of this description to any other than Jesus. However, the second part of this verse could very well be the entire body of Jesus, along with the Head of Christ, that is, the overcoming Church Jesus is the cornerstone of, and that He has established for Himself.
Jesus said that the overcomer will receive a crown of life. If this "person" is a many-membered person, then that would mean many crowns, would it not? We see this with the Beast of Revelation as well. The Beast wears many crowns, and this we know means there are many kings making up the kingdom the beast rules over.
"And he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself." Who has a name written that no one knows but himself? In the second chapter of Revelation we read: "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." Could it be that this is the person riding with the one on the white horse, part and parcel with that One?
(There's so much I'd like to say about this, and what it will lead to, but I've already taken so many side roads on this "short" study of a pair of skin coats).
"And he was clothed with a vesture ["Clothes, garment, robe"] dipped in blood." Now we run into some complications. We find that the person on the horse is clothed in a garment dipped in blood. Of course we know that the blood referred to here is that of Jesus. But would it say Jesus dipped His clothes in His own blood? Somehow that just doesn't follow in my way of thinking. Let's see if there might be something that will clear up what is being said here:
13And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 14And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. (Rev 7:)
Again we find what appears to be a combination of the body and the Head of the body.
At this point I picture an army of saints, of overcomers if you please, who have been prepared to be in the presence of the Lord, and of God the Father, in battle array, led by their Commander, their Lord. This is the picture so far, but the picture is not yet complete:
"And his name is called The Word of God." We now have a clear picture of just who the Word of God is. I think there can be no mistaken identity here. We know that if there was anyone who might be called the Word of God, it is Jesus. But then, the question might be asked: Was Jesus the Word of God in His incarnation, that is, when He was the incarnation of Whoever the Word is? That is to say, we know that Jesus is here called the Word of God, but is it possible that the invisible entity which is God became flesh, and this through Jesus, and from this incarnation Jesus was able to pass on that acquired Spiritual element to His body? Just a thought. No need our playing theologian and pretending like we have all the answers rolled up in a neat little package that doesn't fit the mailbox. The truth lies in odd places. We have to look under every fallen leaf if we expect to find all the pieces.
"And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean." With this verse it's hard to get around the understanding that those following the One on the white horse is an army, and probably an army(s) of overcomers. This army is dressed in white. We saw earlier that these white garments were dipped in blood. Here we read: "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." (Rev 19:7-8)"
We see here that it's the bride, the Church that's spoken of wearing the white linen garment. And we see that she was granted the right to wear this cloak of righteousness, because she had made herself ready. Yes, the Lord is the one who clothes the bride in white, for she couldn't do so herself. It's not in man's nature to make himself righteous. But we see that it's the bride who made herself ready, not her waiting around for the Holy Spirit to do all the work as is taught so often.
"And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword."A little bit ago we saw what this sharp two-edge sword is, and that is the Word of God. Jesus said:
34Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. 37He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. 39He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. (Mat 10:)
We find that the sword Jesus brought, the sword of His mouth, which is the Word of God, is not designed to make us comfortable as it would appear by listening to sermons. The sword, the Word is intended to separate those who are truly dedicated to the Lord from those who are merely taking the convenient way, the popular way, or the profitable way to what is offered by the Lord. His sword of the Word, the Bible we hold in our hands, will not only divide the Church from the world, but it will slice off the undedicated from the true worshippers. One way you and I can tell who is and who is not a true follower of the Lord, who has taken up their cross, is by how much time, and how much pleasure a person dedicates and derives from the Word of God. We find many people interested in and dedicated to the church as an organization, and even to the people attached to that organization. But those actively seeking, and hearing from the Lord will, in my opinion, be thirsting for the truth of the Word as well. And the truth is not the same thing as the doctrines taught by the church one attends, but it is something that is given, as stated earlier, One-on-one with the Holy Spirit.
Here are some more verses speaking of the sword, some of them you've already seen. But it should do no harm to see them again in this new context.
16Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: (Eph 6:)
11Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. 12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (Heb 4:)
12And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; (Rev 2:)
16Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; (Rev 2:)
Have you noticed that Paul, in the second verse above, has essentially brought us back to the entrance of the Garden of Eden? Let's take a backward glance at where we came from, and where we are hopefully headed.
22And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. (Gen 3:)
Notice the reason God placed the Cherubims with the sword at the entrance to the garden. It was to keep that unregenerated, that sinful creature He created from eating of the Tree of Life. Does God want the man to live forever? Obviously He does because He sacrificed His only begotten Son for just that purpose, so people could "enter into His rest." But He's not going to take those to be with him who still desire to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That would be anticlimactic. If we seek to eat of the tree of life, we have to learn to turn our back to the tree of knowledge, and to turn a deaf ear to the serpent who still lives among us, chewing on dirt, which Adam (mankind) is made from.
Unless you think God just has some interesting stories He wants to fill His Book, the Bible, with, then it should be clear that there is something we are to learn from this story of Adam and Eve's eviction. I don't think it's a story that serves no other purpose than to give the unbelievers ammunition with which to try and shoot down the reliability of the Word of God. This being the case, that God wants us to learn from this episode, and the rest of His Word, how we can once again enter into His rest, then let's examine what we have so far:
First, we have the Word of God. We find that the Word is, if nothing else, a sword. And the sword we learned earlier is the Spirit of God. Taking these together, and realizing that Jesus is that door, is it possible the entrance to the Garden of Eden, which I believe to be the New Jerusalem (which should clue in those who have read others of my long, drawn-out studies as to where the Garden of Eden is), is by way of the cross? If the sword the Cherubim holds is in fact the Word of God, then what is the Cherubim? But that's another story, not something that pertains to this study (aren't I mean?)
61When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? 62What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? 63It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:)
Still looking at the word "Word," we've discovered that it's Jesus who is the Word, but the question remains: was Jesus the Word before the incarnation of the Word? or is Jesus Himself that incarnation? Here we see that it's the Word that gives life. Another question left unanswered is just what Jesus means when He speaks about ascending back to where He came from. What was He before He descended, and where (and to what) will He ascend to? There's been a lot of commentaries written and sermons preached on this subject, but I don't think very many of them, at least that I've heard, have gotten it right. But again, this is not the topic we're looking at here, so I'll leave these questions untouched.
36But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. (Mat 12:)
11But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. (Mark 13:)
40He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. (Mat 10:)
1What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? 2Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. (Rom 3:)
11Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. 12For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. (Heb 5:)
10As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (1Peter 4:)
In a perfect world, if every one of us who bears the name of Christian, did as we are instructed to do, we would be as Paul and say nothing but what the Lord instructs us to say. In fact, it would not be us speaking, but the Lord speaking through us. Because of this, as it was with Jesus, if a person rejected us and our words, they would be in fact rejecting God who was the One delivering the words through us. Unfortunately far too many Christians are like me and have their mouth open most of the time speaking our own words and not the Words of God. I like to be the cut-up, to make jokes, and to spread levity. And in fact it appears I'm fairly good at this much of the time. But this ability causes my words to interfere with the Words spoken through me. Yes, I do still have those occasions when I can tell it's the Lord who has taken over my mouth and not me saying what I speak. But I also know the Words that come from God have been fairly well made void because of the other words, my own words, that cause me to appear less than an oracle of God.
Many people consider themselves to be an oracle of God when they talk church doctrine. When they speak, they think their words are the words of God Himself. They feel their spouting doctrine is the deliverance of life itself. If we, the listener, do not accept them and their words, we have rejected God, and are therefore doomed to an eternity in hell. I suspect you've met such people. I suspect also that such people as these have turned away many people from seeking the Word of God by their arrogance, presenting a picture of the Christian, therefore of Christ, that is considered unacceptable. We, as oracles of God, must present the loving, compassionate nature of God (in our lives) if we are to win souls to Him.
An oracle is an utterance, especially an utterance spoken by God. The Greek word for oracle is "Logios," which I suspect you recognize as being derived from the word "Logos." Logos is the Greek word for "Word," which is the word we're investigating. When Solomon built the Temple, the chamber in which the Ark of the Covenant rests is called the "Oracle." The oracle is where a person goes to hear the Word of the Lord. We are to be just such an oracle. A person should, as they did with Jesus, be able to come to us and hear nothing but the wisdom that comes from God. Solomon was such a person. And so were the Apostles oracles of God. Unfortunately, as I described of myself, our ministers have become nothing more than entertainers, using their own words to hold the interest of his or her listeners. The meat of the Word is lost in the fact that the one who is supposedly the one the Lord uses to instruct His people, is busy spinning yarns in effort to hold the attention of the people, and to insure the retention of his job. As Paul says, this ought not to be so.
To the Jews were given the Word of God, and by having received the Word, they became the protector of the Word, and the disseminators of the Word. Instead they held the Word to themselves, and they refused to demonstrate the Word they had been given in their own lives. Rather than showing compassion, which is a demonstration of who God is, they used the Word to give themselves a superior attitude toward themselves. Because they had the Word of God, and the Temple, the House of God, they thought of themselves as special in the eyes of God. And of course they were. But part of the responsibility of being special in God's eyes is that such a person have humility as well as compassion, whereby God is able to present Himself to the world. We must retain none of our own glory if God's glory is to shine forth from us.
The Words Jesus spoke was not His own, but they were Words given to Him through the Holy Spirit. This is no different than it is with us. We're to be the mouthpiece so-to-speak of God. Have you ever been talking to someone and found you were saying something you had no intention of saying, nor had you considered, and the person you were talking to experienced some form of transformation? That person either began to cry, or felt relief, or they became joyful, and said "I needed to hear that." And in your mind you think "What did I say?" I suspect this has happened to you as it has to me. At that time it might well be that you had become an oracle of God. The person you were speaking to was comforted, or given instruction by God through you. If a person experiences this too often, as happened to me long ago, it can easily go to one's head. Then the Words of God becomes of no effect. I believe this is what happened to many of those given such a gift, including the gift of healing, in the early days of what we now call the Latter Rain movement. There were miracles being performed, and there were messages presented that brought people to their knees. I suspect those people so used allowed their gift, something that was bestowed upon them in spite of their unworthiness, to go to their head, and that gift was taken away from them. But they being unable to relinquish their position in the community provided by the gift, turned their attention to play-acting the gift, and making the activity of God into a farce. Add to this the cluster of people who have gained materially from such a person's gift, including their family, who refuse to surrender to the fact that God is no longer with them, and we have what we see today in many of the churches.
We have ministers today who see the position of pastor and other such occupations as nothing more than that, an occupation. It's their job. They pretend to be hearing from God, and they pretend to teach the message God has to present, and they pretend to understand what God has said in His Word; but in fact they are merely doing janitorial service under the guise of a holy man.
Preaching no longer brings people to their knees at the alter, therefore they no longer bother to build alter rails in church, except for those churches that use such a rail for their liturgical rituals.
We will be judged by every word we speak. This, I believe, is intended for those who call themselves Christian. No need to judge those who have never claimed to have taken on the linen robe of righteousness, who have never claimed to know and to honor the Words of God. Have we allowed ourselves to speak the Words of God? Of truth? Or, if we've spoken of God at all, did we merely preach the doctrines of our church, words that have no better use than to divide the body of Christ and to condemn those who disagree with us?
17For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. (2Cor 2:)
21Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: (John 20:)
First we find Jesus breathing on those He is sending out in His name to preach the Gospel. Later, in just a few days, the Holy Spirit will descend (there's that word again) upon them. Why did Jesus breathe on these men? Earlier we saw that in the beginning God breathed into Adam the breath of life and he became a living soul. A creature that lives and breathes, but is still mortal. If, as the experts say, Adam was then given an eternal soul, why did God say he would die? and why would he be told he had to eat of the tree of life if he expected to live forever? It's too easy for us to get bogged down in the conclusions drawn by those who proclaim themselves the ones in the know, and not bother to think for ourselves.
Now we have man breathed on again. Jesus is now in a resurrected state. The breath He has at this point may well be different than it was just a few days before (mere speculation on my part). This, as we've seen, is not the giving of the Holy Spirit, which will come a few days later. But could this be symbolic, if it serves no special function, of God breathing in a new life above and beyond the breath that Adam had been given, a breathe that only allowed him, mankind, the ability to function? Adam became a living soul. The Apostles became the Spirit incarnate. No doctrine intended here, just thinking out loud because I don't really know why Jesus breathed on these men. Maybe someday I will be given to know.
16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
45And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. (1Cor 15:)
As we can see, we've once again returned to the beginning of the creation of man. We've taken a circuitous journey outside the Garden, and discovered there is a Second Man, Jesus, who has opened the door to our once again reentering the Garden, the presence of God. Through Jesus we were made a living soul, then through Jesus we have the opportunity of becoming a quickened (alive) Spirit. Unlike with Adam, where death and mortality was our inheritance, through Jesus we have an option. We can reject the gift of the Holy Spirit if we choose, or we can, in unbelief, accept in word only and not in deed ("Faith without works is dead"). For those who accept the offer of eternal life, there are requirements to be met, just as there were requirements given to Adam, and to the every one of the patriarchs, and to the Apostles. We're taught that a free gift must have no attachments to it, otherwise it is not free. Yet we read that in order to obtain this free gift we must be born again, be baptized, we must repent, we must take up our cross and follow Jesus, we must abandon everything about our own life, we must leave family and friends, we must expect to be persecuted, and a few more "musts" that those who say a gift has to come without attachments have overlooked. Then on top of this those who say the gift must have no attachments, attach the requirement that a person agree with their Articles of Faith, words that have nothing whatsoever to do with what Jesus said about the obtaining of eternal life. Then (and especially in bygone days) there was attached the demands that one can't go to dances, or movies, or smoke, or wear certain clothes, or drink tea, or have any other form of worldly pleasure. This reminds me of the Pharisees who demanded that even Jesus agree with and obey their added requirements while sidestepping the Word of God. However, with the Pharisees at least they made no claim of anything being free other than their nation, that at that very time was under the bondage of Rome.
Yes, God offers His gift to everyone, but there's a field of thorns and briars that lay in the path to obtaining that free gift. We see this pictured in the free gift God gave the nation of Israel. The land was to be theirs, they didn't work for it, nor did they do anything to deserve God's precious spot of the world. But look at what they had to go through in order to obtain, and to retain that gift. David was given the gift of faith, and of the kingdom of Israel to govern. But again, the life David had to lead before he achieved that gift few of us would want to endure. The Apostles were told they will rule and reign with Christ. Examine their lives and see if their gift was without thorns and thistles. When we offer gifts to those we love, if they don't take care of the gift we give them, if they don't appreciate the gift, how prone are we to offer that person gifts in the future?
While we're on the subject of grace, though it be another side trip here at the end of this study, let's see what grace looks like from God's point of view, at least as best we're able to accomplish such a feat.
The word Grace means "Favor, precious, pleasant." This is the definition of grace in the Hebrew. However we are mostly concerned with grace as it is seen from the New Testament, therefore the Greek version is more befitting our circumstances. In addition to the above, the Greek word used for grace incorporates the idea of "Gratitude, acceptable, benefit, gift, joy, liberality, thanks." Here we see that gratitude is a part of the grace process. We are to be thankful for all things we're told, not just the things that suit our pleasure. The Israelites in the wilderness did not appreciate the provisions afforded by God, so they were allowed to die out and not be given what they were offered by the grace of God (Ex 32:13). They had to prove themselves worthy of the gift they were promised (Ex 16:4; 20:20).
Grace is not an institution of the New Testament but rather grace is a continuation of what was established with the people of old. Our grace is a provision given the patriarchs of the times even before the flood. Let's take a look at what the Bible has to tell us about grace:
7And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. 8But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. (Gen 6:)
We're told that we can't work for grace, that is, to merit grace. It is given to us in spite of our not being worthy of it. And, although I don't agree that one necessarily follows the other, I do believe that as a premise this is true as it applies to us in the Church age. We say we're living in the "age of grace." With that concept in mind, let's consider what a grace period is like in the natural world. If we're given a grace period, it's usually because we have made some kind of commitment, and for one reason or another, for a period of time, we are unable to fulfill our commitment. I think of a person taking out a loan on their house. Then after the forms are signed, and we've gone for a length of time faithfully making our payments, the one who loaned us the money sees that we're willing to pay, but unable to do so at the moment, they give us a grace period. I don't think such a period of grace would be offered someone who has a poor history of fulfilling their promise, their contract (their covenant), do you?
Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. He didn't find this grace because of something he promised to do in the future, when he is in Heaven. God gave Noah grace because he had proven his faithfulness to God. Then after he was given this grace, he had to work for 120 years building the means by which he was to benefit from the grace he had been freely given. Does this bring any picture to your mind?
Grace, in the natural world, and I suspect in the Spiritual world as well, is not given to someone who sees no need for grace. Grace, as I see it, fills in the gap between what we have to do, what we have been given to do, or what we promise to do; and what we are capable of doing. When a baby learns to walk, we hold the toddler up in order to give him or her the support they need in their struggle to do what they desire to do for themself. But we only give the minimum of support needed, not wishing to be a crutch for the child that takes away his initiative and effort. Our purpose is to help the child do for himself, not to do away with his struggle altogether. I think of the grace Jesus gives us in this same way. There was something mankind, meaning us, couldn't do. We couldn't cleanse ourself, because we are too dirty, and whatever we touch becomes unclean. Jesus lifted us over the hurdle that was impossible for us to pass, thereby enabling us to run unhindered the race put before us. But it seems to me that far too many Christians feel Jesus did everything, from start to finish, and therefore we don't have to do anything for ourselves. Once a long time ago I was riding my bike and came upon three men pushing a car that had stalled, uphill, in the middle of a very busy highway. I got off my bike and began to push on the car with the intent of lending a hand to someone I felt was in need of help. In a short time I discovered that the two men pushing the car from behind had stopped pushing, leaving me to do all the work. I guess they figured as long as I was willing to do their work, they'd rest. This little scenario has helped me to better understand how we humans operate. We figure if Jesus is willing to do all the sacrificing for us, we'll just slack off and let Him do it all.
3And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand. 4And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. (Gen 39:)
Of course it's Pharaoh who Joseph found grace with, but as we will see, it was God who put it in Pharaoh's heart to have the this favor toward Joseph.
We hear that Joseph was a kind of Christ in a prophetic sense, and that Pharaoh was a kind of God the Father. I can see this, and as we will witness in a little bit, even Jesus found grace with the Father.
16For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth. 17And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name. (Ex 33:)
We think grace is a New Testament concept that has come about because of the cross. But we can see that not only Moses, but the entire nation of Israel was given grace. The nation of Israel did not perform according to their contract (which part of, as mentioned here, was to be separate from the world), so their grace was essentially made of none effect.
God said He knows Moses by name. God places a very high value on, not only His own name, but on our name as well. Is it possible that at least a part of what God means by saying He knows Moses by name is He sees Moses as an individual rather than as part of a group of people? It appears as if God saw, and treated the people of Israel as an individual, a single person. If one person sinned, the entire nation suffered (consider Achan in Joshua chapter 7). We see how even the slightest infraction of God's law required a person to be put out of the camp until the situation was rectified, and even picking up sticks can bring the death penalty. We, the Church, have to rid ourself of every bit of leaven in order to remain steadfast and known "by name." We read in the first three chapters of Revelation that there was, is, and will be churches that have not kept their garments unspotted, and what God will do to them.
21And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer. 22And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight. (1Sam 16:)
Again we see a king showing grace (favor is the same Hebrew word as grace) to someone who is favored in the eyes of God. And like others who are highly favored in God's eyes such as Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, the Apostles of Jesus, and many others, they who are favored had to endure prison, abuse, fire, and other undesirable conditions because of having been favored and shown grace by God.
10But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. 11To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. 12By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand. (1Peter 5:)
If the entire passage above is speaking about the same thing, then we see that suffering is part of the gift of grace. This has been shown in so many other places in the New Testament, and demonstrated in the lives of those afforded grace, that it's really an inescapable concept. But in spite of how clearly this is expressed in the Bible, it is entirely missed in the traditional churches. When we set our eyes to see only one thing, we can easily miss what is right in front of us. I find this characteristic especially true of me when I read a newspaper or anything on a written page. I adjust my eyes, so to speak, on text of a certain size. Because of this I don't see the big, bold headlines, or the titles, or anything different than the size text I expect to see. Many times I have to return to the beginning of a story in order to check out what the topic of the story I'm reading is because the words aren't corresponding with what I thought the story was about. I know I'm not alone in this practice because I see the same thing happening in scientific findings (evolution being one), governmental decisions, and especially in church doctrine. How about you? Do you ever have this problem?
39And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. 40And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. (Luke 2:)
How easily this is missed. The grace of God was upon Jesus as a child. Does this seemingly insignificant statement conflict at all with some doctrines you've been taught? It does with some of mine that I grew up with. Did Jesus need grace? We need grace because of our sinful condition. But Jesus? Of course we see that the word for grace has a broader application than what we accept of it. The grace God had on Jesus might have been that of favor. However we must, at the same time we accept this concept, accept it for ourselves as well.
7And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2Cor 12:)
This statement made by Paul is interesting for many reasons, and is worth giving a lot of thought to. I'll only look at a small aspect of it here: The first thing I notice, though it is of no significance to this study whatever, is the many English words used to describe a simple word used in the Greek. When Paul said "I should be exalted above measure," the word he used is huperairomai, which carries the meaning of haughtiness, feeling superior to others. In other words, he would have not been humble. I show you this in order to help demonstrate the problems that arise when trying to translate from one language to another, and why it's so important to investigate what the is actually being expressed in the original language.
Where did Paul get the information he was sharing with the churches? It appears that at least part of his information came from revelations God had given him. We see all through the Bible where people have had revelations unfolded for them, and I suspect there have been many of you who have had things revealed to you as well, as have I, that were not necessarily as dramatic or important as those shared with the Apostles and prophets of old. But even small revelations given to us are strong evidence that God is still at work showing us the way, and how we should walk it.
"A thorn in the flesh." What the Greek actually means is "a point or prickle (figuratively a bodily annoyance or disability)." How many people do you know, or maybe even yourself, have some disability that seems unbearable, but they say they wouldn't have it any other way because that disability, or that pain keeps them spiritually in tune with the Lord? Sometimes the bad things that happen to us, and to others, is a gift from God, unrecognized and unappreciated.
The thorn, this problem Paul had to deal with, was in the flesh. This could mean a physical handicap such as Paul's eyesight, that is assumed, or at least supposed to have been failing; or it could have been something fleshly, such as a temptation he had to continually fight that kept him in touch with his carnal nature so he didn't feel overly Spiritual. For myself, I know I have a problem with feeling overly good about myself, and as spiritually superior when I've gone a time without having yielded to temptation. Perhaps there are some of you who have this same problem. Carnal temptations have a way of keeping me humble, and often feeling down on myself believing I should be above such things. I need these, and I cry out to be relieved of these temptations and attractions. Yet at the same time I recognize how these things are needed in order to keep me humble, and to give me trials I must have in order to be an overcomer. Having a burden taken off one's shoulders may feel good for the time, but the strength that's required to carry a burden is built by carrying that burden. The longer we are without burden, the less able we become to carry that burden. And when we have strength to carry our own burdens, we then have the strength and understanding needed to carry the burdens of others.
The "Messenger" God sent Paul was an "angel," the words being the same in the Greek. The word also means "Pastor," or someone who delivers a message, or brings tidings, another word for news. The word for Satan is the Greek form of a Hebrew word that means "an opponent, adversary, accuser." Although the Greek word is capitalized, causing it to appear to be a name, in fact the word in the Hebrew had no such distinction, seeing as there were no capital letters in the original Hebrew. Paul, as we can see, had a lot of opposition during his career, coming from every direction. The hardest attacks on him came from his own people, the elite of his nation, one of which he had been a strong part before his conversion. We read in 2Corintians 11:11-15 this from Paul: "But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." And in 1Corintians 5:5 Paul says this: "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?" Satan's job is to test us and demonstrate to us our sinful nature. I have no doubt but that both Adam and Eve felt above sin, and believed themselves perfect, until they were tempted and fell into what they believed themselves incapable of doing. We see this in Peter as well, he had to be shown that he was fully capable of doing that thing he felt least apt to do. Paul did not have to be turned over to Satan, but it appears he may have needed to be constantly reminded of his lower nature by Satan, something that would have nagged Paul no end. Remember, Paul was one with great aspirations for himself, being a "Pharisee of the Pharisees," trained by the greatest of instructors of his time. He was heading for the top of the heap, and he was putting all his effort into that quest. His nature was to exalt himself to the sky. I assume he didn't automatically lose that nature when he was converted, and now that he was an Apostle of the Apostles, doing more for the Kingdom of God than anyone else, it's easy to see how he could be in need of a "thorn in the flesh" to keep him humble.
Take note that the ministers of righteousness, those who are teaching us how to live for Christ, could very easily be angels sent by Satan in disguise. Satan, and those who act like Satan, would have no power over the Christian. We would run from them on sight. But Satan's job is not to make us like himself, as wicked creatures, but to bring us away from God and cause us to feel godly, and be seen as godly, but in fact be just far enough away from godliness to keep us from the Kingdom. If he can succeed in doing this, and have us to have influence over others to keep them from the righteousness necessary to be with God (tares as Jesus called them), then he has gained more workers for his purpose. The more active we are in the church, the more respect and credibility we acquire, the more people we can keep from the Lord, all the while feeling they are special in God's eyes. To get a good picture of this very thing, we need look no farther than the Pharisees, one of which was Paul before his conversion. They thought they were godly people, all the while they were in fact serving the devil.
"My grace is sufficient," God told Paul. What grace was given to Paul that was sufficient? Isn't the thorn in the flesh part of the grace Paul received? How about being stoned to death, and imprisonment, and shipwrecked, and the many other things he endured in his efforts to do the will of God? Are these part of the grace he received? Didn't we read earlier that grace, at least a part of grace, is suffering with the intent of making us strong?
Have we cut grace short of its function? And if we have, what will that shortcoming lead to at the time of our judging?
9And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, 10And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. (Acts 7:)
Though it wasn't stated in the Old Testament account, here we see that the favor given to Joseph was in fact provided by God. This is God's grace. What did Joseph have to endure because of this grace? How about being hated by his brothers? Then being sold into slavery? How about being falsely accused, then imprisoned? Notice how many of those so blessed by God have not only suffered physically in order to build up their Spiritual nature and cause that person to be more reliant on God, they also had their reputation besmirched and/or destroyed. They had to be sent to the pits, be humbled, before they were allowed to be exalted in the eyes of man. Joseph is an excellent example of this very thing. His position with his father, being the youngest of the children, and his dreams caused him to be arrogant, and a tattle-tale to boot. He needed some humbling. David and Daniel didn't have this humility problem, even with their special gifts coming to them early in life. But even they had their humbling experiences and their testings. We read where Jesus grew up under this same situation, becoming respected in the eyes of his friends and his neighbors. He apparently didn't receive His testing until His ministry. But He did have his testing. And so will we.
17To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 28And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. (Luke 1:)
49And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? 50And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. 51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. (Luke 2:)
This last passage you've already seen, and I've commented on it already. I place it here because it fits with the first verse so well.
Mary was highly favored by God. As we've seen, this word favor is the same as the word for grace. Mary was given grace by God. There was nothing she did to merit the grace given her. She was doubtless too young to have proven herself in any way. Some believe she was herself virgin born and from a family of righteous people. I find evidence of this nowhere. But that is of no importance, certainly not to this study.
Mary had to deal with some very unusual conditions and situations being the mother of the Son of God, and the manner in which she conceived. I don't suppose she lived a normal life because of this position she had been placed in. I suspect she had problems trying to figure out just how to raise this boy, her firstborn. And while she was raising Him, she was raising other children who were very unlike this one special child. We see in the Bible that there were times she manipulated a situation in order to make her life, therefore the life of Jesus, conform to the norm of the day. Yet there was the marriage at Cana where she convinced Jesus, in spite of His indicating His objection to doing so, to turn water into wine. Did Jesus give evidence of His ability to perform miracles before His baptism? By this incident it would seem so. If this is the case, then Mary and her family must have had some interesting experiences as Jesus was growing to maturity. In some spurious books it is said that Jesus turned things into birds and caused some havoc amongst the other children. This of course is farfetched. But did He do anything out of the ordinary? Jesus said He only did what the Father told Him to do, and that He was without sin. This tells me that He was no different as a child than He was during His recorded ministry. So saying, I suspect He didn't turn stones into pigeons.
Another assumptions made, and taught from every pulpit I've ever heard from is that Mary was looked down on, as was Jesus, because of Jesus being conceived out of wedlock. I see no sign of this, and in fact I see strong indications that direct the truth to be elsewhere. First, when Jesus was born, Joseph and she were married, and Joseph probably married her immediately after he was informed of her pregnancy. Add to this that because of the taxing of the people, Mary and Joseph were not where anyone knew them during the birth of Jesus, and after His birth, they went into Egypt for a time. It might have been two or more years later that the family returned to Nazareth. No one would have known but that Joseph was the father of the child. Then we have the time the people said they knew Jesus because He had grown up amongst them. These people were putting Jesus down, as had occurred all through the ministry of Jesus. They named Jesus' brothers and sisters, indicating that they considered Him one of the family, as were all the others. And if anyone had a sneaking suspicion that Jesus was not born legitimately, you can be sure the Pharisee would have blasted that news all over the headlines, and that scandalous information would have caused the people to turn from Him in spite of His miracles. Add to this the fact that adultery was a sin worthy of stoning, as seen with the woman taken in adultery, this would have increased the condemnation placed both on Mary and on Jesus. In times past, and until very recently, a child born out of wedlock, even though it was from no fault of his own, was outcast, and he was not allowed a place in society. Today the mores of the world have changed so we forget what it was like in the days of Jesus. Again, we wouldn't have to look under fallen leaves and turn over jots and tittles to find evidence of Jesus' supposed illegitimate birth. The clues would be written in bold ink, and in every chapter of the Gospels.
16As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. 17Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. 18But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (2Peter 3:)
Most of us are taught that when we receive Christ we are given a full blast of God's grace. There's nothing we can do to gain this grace, there's nothing we can do to lose this grace, and it's full grace that can't be added to or diminished. As I read the above verses, this is not the picture I see Peter painting. He seems to believe we can grow in grace. There are other passages that seem to indicate this as well, but as I said earlier, this is not a study on grace.
Peter also indicates that people "wrest (wrestle) with the Word of God." They can't figure it out "to their own destruction" he adds. Why can't people understand the Word of God? Could it be because they try to force the Words of God to conform with what they want to believe? That's dangerous thinking, don't you think?
We've seen that grace might very well be a little different than the way it's taught in the churches. But whether I'm right in this observation or not, I think it unwise to do anything short of striving to do our best to make the grace of God grow, and to have it's fullest effect through us. But I needn't say this, because those who are satisfied with the minimum, or what they believe to be the least needed for what they're after, will not do anything for God above what they absolutely have to (according to what their itching ears have heard). And those who have truly been converted will be striving to please God in every way, and they won't care where the minimum is, seeing that they are reaching for the top rather than trying to avoid the bottom.
5And when the camp setteth forward, Aaron shall come, and his sons, and they shall take down the covering veil, and cover the ark of testimony with it: 6And shall put thereon the covering of badgers' skins, (Num 4:)
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:)
21Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. (Gen 3:)
In case you had forgotten, the subject of this study is the coats of skin given to Adam and Eve by God. We're looking into what those coats were composed of.
In the first verse above we see that the Ark of the Covenant was covered with a skin wherever it was taken. No one was to see the Ark or the other items that composed the inner workings of the Tabernacle. Although the Ark itself had another covering before the badger skin was placed over it, many of the other implements and such only had the outer badger skin to conceal them. We learn, as is commonly accepted, that these skins and what they concealed is a picture of the Messiah, of Jesus. No one seems sure as to what this outer skin was composed of, the guesses running the gamut of speculation.
The Word was made flesh. Just who the Word is, again is speculation, however the most popular consensus by far is that the Word is pre-incarnate Jesus, who appeared to the world in the flesh, that is, having skin to conceal Him, just as depicted in the Ark of the Testimony. Whether Jesus was in fact the preexistent Word spoken of who became flesh, or if it was God Himself presenting Himself in flesh in the person of Jesus is not pertinent to this study. Nor would it benefit us to know for sure what is the truth of the matter. As with so many of the doctrines that we use to divide the Church, this concept of Jesus being the Word is used to sheer off those who are supposedly doomed to hell from those who are considered righteous before God. The truth is, as I see it, that nothing has been said in the Word indicating that such a belief is an imperative, or even something to be considered. But then neither is learning what the skins were that God used to clothe Adam an Eve important in the scheme of things. Interesting to me, but of little importance.
I've provided a lot of ideas, facts and speculations leading to the identity of the skins our forefathers were given to wear. I don't see as how I've proven anything, nor was that my purpose in this study. At the same time I don't consider it wise to merely accept everything we're taught, and assume those things not mentioned are of no importance. My hope is that you have learned something in this study that will help you understand the Bible, your purpose here on earth, and as a Christian a little better. And that you have come to recognize the need to delve into the Word with the intent of seeking the truth, rather than merely search for what you already to believe to be fact.
Is the skins given to Adam and Eve made from some animal sacrificed by God to Himself? Is the skins this flesh that binds us and prevents us from being what God intended us to be? Or did you perhaps come to some other solution to the question of what the skin may be?
There's one thing about life in general, and especially about the Word of God we can be sure of. The best way to be sure you're wrong, is to be sure you're absolutely right.
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