fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

Spiritualizing Israel

Spiritualizing Israel by Julie McAllen

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” 20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ. (Matt 16:13-20)

Peter was blessed, not because of his heritage as a Jew, but because he understood the foundation of a relationship with God is built upon wisdom and revelation from heaven and profession of Jesus Christ. Peter wasn’t handed any literal “keys” but was now being trusted to unlock mysteries in the Old Testament previously hidden from his sight. The flood of understanding given to Peter was the unveiling of the spiritual realities hidden in the new covenant. Upon receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter was given revelation to connect Joel’s last days prophecy with his present awakening (Acts 2:16-17; Joel 2:28-32). Those gathered in the upper room were being prepared for the end of the system under which they lived. Their challenge would be to share the good news of a spiritual kingdom to those who remained veiled under a very literal, old law covenant. What the literal eye and ear had not seen or heard had just been revealed to the church by SPIRIT (1 Co 2:7-10). God had used the old covenant with its physical attributes to tutor these Israelites into Christ and His spiritual kingdom so that they might become teachers to their fellow Israelites first and then unto Gentiles even down to our day.

As the last days of that old covenant with Israel were coming to her end, Jesus often spoke in parables which at times left them confused. His words are rich in symbolic language to describe His kingdom. He calls His follower’s sheep, Himself a shepherd, a rock, and the bread of life. He likens the kingdom to hidden treasure, a pearl, and a mustard seed. He even describes His love and pain for Jerusalem as a hen gathering her brood under her wings (Matt 23:37). I don’t think He meant to sound like a literal chicken. After their baptism in the Holy Spirit the disciples more fully understood the spiritual significance of His illustrations. Take for example the fig tree which Jesus had condemned in Matthew 21:18-22. If Jesus used a literal fig tree to symbolize ancient Israel for those already familiar with Him as the seed and true Israel of God (Hosea 11:1; Matt 2:15), is it that far a stretch to suggest they accepted the promise in Micah 4:4 of each one “sitting under their own fig tree” as a symbol of peace made possible to those under Christ, the prince of peace? Or were they out looking for the perfect tree to sit under? They came to understand that under the new covenant, Christ restores a relationship with YHWH, not through a religion based on the old law covenant but as a new creation in Christ Himself. Though first century disciples of Jesus lived under harsh conditions, those “in Christ” knew the peace of God which surpasses understanding. They also understood their trialsome earthly lives were not the final destination as they focused on treasures in heaven and looked forward to citizenship there with Christ. As Jesus warned, they would always have the poor with them, but under the law of love, they were reaching out to the widows and orphans unlike the religious leaders still looking for their Messiah’s arrival according to their own acceptable signs while missing the kingdom in their midst.

Some today are expecting very literal fulfillments of prophecy and have criticized interpretations that “spiritualize Israel,” but even the Ryrie’s Study Bible commentary agrees that “the curse on the tree is an illustration of the rejection of Israel, a nation unfruitful despite every advantage.” Is Charles C. Ryrie, Th.D., Ph.D. and dispensationalist spiritualizing the old testament in regards to Israel?

The dispensational view promotes that “Israel always means Israel” and thus throughout the Bible when reference is made to “the Israel of God” the interpretation is given to the ethnic nation of Israel with promises left to be fulfilled in the land of Jerusalem rather than in any allegorical, spiritual sense.  In contrast, the concept of a “spiritual Israel” is the belief among some Christians who assert that the church, or body of Christ, now replaces natural or ethnic Israel as “God’s people.” This is known as replacement theology. Dispensational and replacement theology both agree that the church belongs to God, but one teaches that the church exists within this dispensation of time (the church age) until the completion of God’s timetable of world events of which natural Israel plays a key role, while the other believes the church has replaced Israel. While both dispensationalist and replacement theology respect the covenant God made with His people Israel, one group says the covenant was replaced, while the other says it is still valid, yet “on hold.” And thus, questions arise as to what “Israel” means when referenced in the New Testament. I can understand how this literal system of interpretation by dispensationalists is appealing since it neatly lays out the answers by putting distressing current events in the Middle East into the grander scheme of God’s purposes offering the hopeful expectation of Christ’s return there, but does “Israel always mean Israel?” Did the New Testament writers ever present terms such as “Israel” or “Jew” in any allegorical, symbolic, or spiritual sense? What do you think?

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. (Romans 2:28-29)

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; (Romans 9:6)

I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. (Revelation 2:9)

This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. (Gal 4:24-26)

When the apostle Paul wrote about the two covenants in question, he referenced the women who produced Isaac and Ishmael as allegory with Hagar representing the Mosaic Law and Sarah representing “the Abrahamic covenant, the heavenly Jerusalem, the Spirit, and freedom” (Charles Ryrie Study Bible commentary on Gal 4:24-31)

This is not the only place in which Paul used old covenant concepts and introduced their meaning to those born under a new covenant by the spiritual circumcision of the heart. In many other places, Paul replaced the old with the new.

Quoting from Exodus, Leviticus, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Paul says to the church in Corinth they now are the temple in which God dwells (2 Cor 6:16) He further adds that these Gentiles have become “sons and daughters” of their Father YHWH due to this new covenant. The literal temple in Jerusalem was still standing and literal “sons and daughters” that could trace their heritage back to Abraham were among them, yet Paul skillfully connected the Scriptures to encourage these brothers in Christ about spiritual realities that were now theirs under the new covenant. Earlier in the letter Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the surpassing glory of that new covenant over the first one that had been established through Moses and the natural sons of Israel.

Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, 6 who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

7 But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? 9 For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. 10 For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.

12 Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, 13 and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:4-18)

Paul was an Israelite with an unveiled face. Though as a circumcised Hebrew brought up under Law, he persecuted the Spirit-born church, God saw fit to “unveil” his eyes on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). God filled Paul with His Holy Spirit and then used him to connect the shadows presented in the Law and bring them to light in Christ. Did Paul “spiritualize” the Scriptures? Significantly so!

What is circumcision? (Ro 2:28-29; Phil 3:3)

Who are Sarah and Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael? (Gal 4:21-31)

Where is God’s temple? (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16)

What kind of armor do we put on? (Eph 6:10-18)

And of what nature are our weapons? (2 Cor 10:3-4)

Was it just Paul or did other New Testament writers ever “spiritualize” literal Old Testament references?

Zacharias, being a righteous priest in the sight of God, would have been very familiar with Malachi’s prophecy. That is why when the angel Gabriel appeared informing him about Elizabeth’s pregnancy, he quoted from Malachi,

“Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.

“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.” (Mal 4:4-6).

Elijah was the subject of Malachi’s prophecy concerning “the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord” and this is what the angel Gabriel is recorded to have said to Zacharias concerning the child that was soon to be born to him.

And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16-17)

The angel Gabriel had just “spiritualized” an Old Testament prophecy and attributed it to Zacharias’ son, John the Baptist, but he was not alone in this. Jesus also spiritualized the Old Testament prophecies concerning Elijah and attributed them to John and Himself.

John was expecting someone fitting the description of what he’d read in Isaiah’s prophecy. He looked forward to the fulfillment of such passages as Isaiah 35:5-8

5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened
And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
6 Then the lame will leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.
For waters will break forth in the wilderness
And streams in the Arabah.
7 The scorched land will become a pool
And the thirsty ground springs of water;
In the haunt of jackals, its resting place,
Grass becomes reeds and rushes.
8 A highway will be there, a roadway,
And it will be called the Highway of Holiness.
The unclean will not travel on it,
But it will be for him who walks that way,
And fools will not wander on it. (Is 35:5-8)

And while in prison John inquired of Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” (Matt 11:3)

Jesus chose to answer with that familiar passage in Isaiah as proof that He was the expected Messiah within John’s own generation.

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. (Matt 11:4-5)

The kingdom of God surely was at hand and Elijah had already come to restore as promised. Are we to expect another? When I read Isaiah 35:8, for example, I read it with my “new covenant eyes,” trusting that by Spirit I have “eyes to see and ears to hear.” Therefore, I’m willing to accept that the highway to Holiness laid in that generation is not a literal road any more than literal horses come out of the sky.

For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Matt 11:13-15)

Those who were stuck on seeing a more literal fulfillment of the “Elijah to come” missed the spiritual sign, but his disciples shaken by the religious leaders who insisted on literal fulfillments brought their questions directly to Jesus and asked,

“Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” And He answered and said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist. (Matt 17:10-13)

In the last days of Israel’s old law, those who missed the spiritual significance of Elijah also missed the parousia of their King. They remained in the “natural mind” and therefore mocked those who pointed to the resurrection, ascension, and soon return of Christ in judgment against fruitless Israel (2 Tim 3:1-9). Jude 17-19 describes those mockers as “worldly-minded, devoid of Spirit.”

I would not say the danger lies in spiritualizing the scriptures then; to the contrary, it’s in taking them too literal.

Jesus Himself took literal accounts from dealings with Israel and made spiritual application to His listeners. The reaction to His words back then is the same as today. Some took offense, but others were enlightened by the allegory. For example,

48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”

59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” 66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:48-69)

The religious Jews were very accustomed to literal interpretation, but Jesus often spoke in parables. Those who followed Him asked Him directly for the interpretation. Nicodemus secretly went to Jesus and inquired to understand His words of “Spirit and Life.” When Jesus plainly stated, “you must be born again,” this member of the Sanhedrin took it literally. He imagined a man would have to re-enter his mother’s womb in order to see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus knew YHWH spoke to His people of earthly things, but as the perfect son of God noted to this Israelite man, “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12)

It remains an everlasting spiritual kingdom, not part of this world, in which one must be born of Spirit to see, enter, or begin to comprehend. Has anything changed for those who’ve come to the reigning King Jesus Christ throughout any generation? If Jesus, the apostles, Zacharias, John the Baptist, and the angel Gabriel agree that prophecies were fulfilled spiritually in the first century, is it correct for Christians today to “spiritualize” the Old Testament to make it understood to those entering the new covenant?

The literal-minded disciples constant inability to understand Jesus’ claims to be put to death in fulfillment of scripture is evidence that they also had difficulty connecting old testament prophecies to their own critical time. Therefore, Jesus “spiritualized” the Old Testament story of Jonah in the whale to illustrate His coming death, burial and resurrection (Matt 12:38-41) making it applicable to the generation poised to witness it.

From the time Jesus began His earthly ministry, the Jews were in a transition period of living under the darkness of the old law covenant while being transferred into the kingdom of His Son (Col 1:13). Transition periods are often met with confusion and we have the record of that in our Bibles. The immediate hope for those following Jesus was the ending of the old law covenant and a rescue from those persecuting them. God had spoken to their fathers through prophets but now, during the last days of Israel, was speaking through Jesus Christ (Heb 1:1-2). That same letter to the Hebrews proposed that the new covenant, under which they served the High Priest Jesus Christ, would COMPLETELY REPLACE the old covenant.

When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. (Heb 8:13)

If the first covenant was “becoming obsolete” and “soon to disappear” by the writing of this letter to the Hebrews (64-68 AD) why would God have an agenda to bring it back as if the “church age” were just a hiccup in his plan? Is His plan to restore the kingdom and old covenant in Jerusalem or did it never end? What does “soon to disappear” mean? Is that “soon” to us now or was it “soon” two thousand years ago to the intended audience of that letter?

Peter likened himself and the disciples to “living stones” being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood of which Jesus Christ himself is the chief cornerstone (1 Pe 2:4-10). Was Jesus literally a stone? And was Peter saying that the disciples would be stacked like bricks to form a literal house of prayer? As if to clarify for those still fixed on literal interpretations, Peter clearly states they formed a “spiritual house” as “living stones.” Not only was Peter using symbolic language to describe the new spiritual temple of God, but notice how he also referred to himself and Christ as being in the priesthood! According to Numbers 3:6-10, only those of the tribe of Levi participate in the priesthood. In fact, the New Testament writer of Hebrews restates it for our benefit.

And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; (Heb 7:5)

Can Peter and the others trace their line to the tribe of Levi? How about Paul? He said he performed “priestly duties” now that he was in the new covenant (Ro 15:16) but he was from the tribe of Benjamin. And what of the High Priest Himself, Jesus Christ? What tribe was He from?

Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? 12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.
14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.
(Heb 7:11-14)

By the writing of Hebrews, the priesthood had already changed. “What further need is there” for a restoration of the Levitical priesthood? So why would God be gathering literal Israelites right now to comprise a future 144,000? What would be their function? Furthermore, if they must fit into the twelve tribes of literal Israel outlined in Revelation 7:4-8, is there any man on earth today who fits the description and can trace his blood line back purely to just one of the tribes? The family records having been destroyed in 70 AD make this task “literally” impossible.

If the keys of the kingdom were given to Peter, the highway to Holiness was laid, hearts were circumcised to designate God’s chosen people making their bodies temples in which He would dwell, and Elijah had already come in the first century, then why do some in our 21st generation insist that a remnant is yet to be gathered out of present day Israel?

I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 “Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE.” 4 But what is the divine response to him? “I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL.” 5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. (Ro 11:1-5 quoting from 1 Kings 19:10-18)

If you received this letter back in the church at Rome when it was written, what would Paul’s use of the term “at the present time” mean to you? Would those reading it in 57-58 AD think Paul was speculating about a remnant yet to be gathered in the 21st century? Or would they take it literally to mean “at the present time?”

Paul was relating that in times past God had kept a faithful remnant among His people despite widespread apostasy. In Paul’s “present time” it was the Spirit-born church who had been taken out of the larger group of the fruitless Israelite nation whose temple was poised to be left desolate. These few in number were the firstfruits to God. Were these literal virgins following a literal Lamb standing on a literal Mount Zion? (Rev 14:1-4) I think it’s safe to admit that there’s a lot of “spiritual” language in the New Testament. According to the words of Christ at John 4:35-38, the harvest had already begun starting with the twelve tribes of Israel (James 1:1, 18). If the remnant referred to a group yet to be gathered in our present time or at a future date, wouldn’t we expect them to be called the “last fruits?”

In conclusion, I am in agreement that there exists a “spiritual Israel.” I do not, however, agree that this remnant is being gathered in our time. I believe it already saw a first century fulfillment for a special purpose when “spiritual Israel” was taken out of “natural Israel” to comprise a symbolic 144,000. The “spiritual remnant” or Israel of God of the first century is a part of the larger Spirit-born church taken out of every tribe and tongue which no man can number and will endure throughout eternity (Rev 7:9; Matt 16:18)

His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. (Luke 8:9-10)

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

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May 31, 2012 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Inerrant Word of God

The Inerrant Word of God by Julie McAllen

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

Have you ever had someone encourage you to stop using your Bible in favor of their preferred translation? Discussions over translations can make a simple soul feel like they have to go through seminary in order to come to Jesus. It can sometimes leave a person questioning if they know the truth at all when they doubt the Bible in their hands. People ask, “if the word of God is infallible, then which one is it? WHICH translation is the correct one?” Well, I’m just a simple soul that didn’t go to seminary so I’m not qualified to tell you, but I won’t let that keep me from sharing some thoughts on the subject.

When we read our present day Bibles we have the Apostle Paul and other writers to thank. This was their service. But the church existed BEFORE those written letters. The church existed before Paul because we know before he was a Christian he persecuted the church. But what did Paul say about his role within the body?

24 Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness (Col 1:24-25)

Paul informs the Christians in Colosse that he is a “servant of the church” to present to them the word of God in its fullness. What Bible was he presenting to them? Obviously, there were not any to be seen. But isn’t it interesting to ponder that the church existed before the Bible?

How changed it is today. We send out missionaries with Bibles in hopes to establish churches, but that is not what was going on in the first century. The church was established first and then God called Paul and others to write a Bible. Their letters became the New Testament. The people who originally received those letters already belonged to Christ, but they did not have the word of God in its fullness. Today we have those letters neatly categorized into chapter and verse. We can choose from hard cover, soft cover, leather bound, red letter, large print, thin line, wide margins, concordances, cross references, commentaries, and translations galore!

But those are BIBLES. The Word of God is something else. And it is the word of God that stands forever.

I will use the Bible to explain what I mean, but really, THE WORD existed before any printed or digital Bible. It is the WORD that is eternal, not the BIBLE–regardless of the availability or preference of translations.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Was there a Bible? No, just “the word.”

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Was there a Bible? No, just a man of flesh and blood who spoke so powerfully that guilt-ridden sinners saw hope, legalistic religionists gave up their place, people were healed both physically and emotionally, and families were divided because of this word. They were not arguing over KJV, NASB, or an NIV were they?

The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. (John 6:63)

This man SPOKE the word. He claimed to be the one who SPOKE the universe into existence, and brought children to birth by this word. Whether it is SPOKEN or WRITTEN, the word only brings one to life if the ETERNAL SPIRIT enables it to happen. This is the inerrant word of God (Is 40:8), not a particular translation. I can testify that even in what is considered to be a “wrong translation,” God saw fit to speak life into me and others I know. It was His Spirit we heard. Didn’t Jesus say that even the rocks would cry out if no one else testified? If God can use a rock, surely He can use a Bible.

Keep in mind that the work of evangelism before the printing press was mainly done ORALLY and localized letters. There was no great distribution of Bibles. People’s hearts were opened and the Spirit descended upon them when they HEARD the words of Life–not transferred by an accurate translation of neatly categorized chapter and verse, but by Spirit-born believers who related what they knew from their own receiving of it.

Jesus prayed that we would also believe through their message. When he prayed “your word is truth,” he couldn’t have meant any particular translation, for the Bible as we know it was not even available. No leather bound, red letter, wide margin, 5 ribbon bookmarked, concordance, cross-referenced, introduction to each letter, Premium edition NIVs were to be seen (hint, hint, my birthday is coming up and I need a new Bible).

Yet Jesus prayed…..

17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,
(John 17:17-20)

How were converts to Christianity made after this prayer? With a Bible in hand???

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. (Acts 10:44)

Something happened to Peter that gave him boldness to speak, but who REALLY gave the testimony?

And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. (1 John 5:6)

26 “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. (John 15:26)

Written or spoken, it is the Holy Spirit who still testifies.

Whenever the “New Testament” mentions “scriptures” it is referring to the “Old Testament.” Notice what Jesus himself said about those scriptures.

39 You diligently study the Scriptures (Old Testament) because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39-40)

Do we receive life from having the best Bible or by coming to Jesus? While on earth, Jesus, who is the WORD and the TRUTH was not received by all was he? He went first to the Jews, who DID have a written testimony of his coming, yet not all received him to become children of God (John 1:12). Was it a problem of translations? No, Jesus confirmed that the scriptures were true. They testified about him. Paul used those same scriptures to establish the fact that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah, yet the written word was not enough to convict everyone. Neither is it today. People can read any preferred translation you shove at them and yet not receive a testimony from the Spirit.

I am thankful for churches and missionaries who hand out Bibles and Christian book stores that offer a wide selection of translations, but ONLY GOD can distribute His Spirit to those whom He chooses to show mercy….like Paul. Did someone thump a Bible on his head? If you know his story on the road to Damascus then you know why a humbled Pharisee could now testify to the Corinthians in this way.

1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:
“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. (1 Cor 2:1-10)

Looks like the Spirit got a hold of Paul and gave him a testimony. It’s still done this way today.

As for the Bible, I am THANKFUL for those who were called as servants to WRITE it.

This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. (John 21:24)

We write this to make our joy complete. (1 John 1:4)

My joy is complete.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

May 27, 2011 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Armor of God

j0178865Each day we’re caught in the middle of an ongoing spiritual warfare – whether we know it or not. Satan and his demons manifest themselves in one way or another. We can’t see them and we don’t know how, but they are there – delighting in helping make wrong choices. They strive to help us to disobedience and rebellion. This is ongoing – everyday…the “norm” for the enemy. Eph 6:10-12 – “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers and against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” 

 The apostle Paul spoke about a spiritual armor we must put on so that we can be prepared to fight back. Just as we wake up in the morning, brush our teeth and get dressed, our morning routine should also include gearing up with the spiritual armor. In fact, gearing up for the day is an act of obedience. Just as a loving parent orders her child to wear a warm jacket before going out to play or school, God also directs us to put on the armor for protection. Eph 6:13 – “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm”.

God’s Spiritual Armor – Ephesians 6:14-17 – “Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace, in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the work of God.” 

The first three pieces of armor (girdle, breastplate, footwear) were worn continually on the battle field. The last three (shield, helmet, sword) were kept ready to use for when fighting began.

 “Girded with Truth” (Verse 14) – girding involved pulling up the loose material as preparation for the battle. The tunic (underneath the armor) the soldiers wore was loose and a potential danger if hanging material was not girded. Imagine a soldier being tripped by loose material hanging? This armor symbolizes truthfulness; how many times have we “tripped” in our walk with God for not girding ourselves with truthfulness?

Breastplate of Righteousness” (Verse 14) – the breastplate was made of heavy leather or other heavy material that covers the full torso, thus protecting the heart and vital organs. Righteousness is synonymous with holiness; God is Holy (Rev 4:8). Holiness is a chief protection against the enemy because unrighteousness and righteousness cannot co-exist.  John 3:20 – “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that he deeds will be exposed.”

Shod with Gospel of Peace” (Verse 15) – soldiers’ boots had nails on the bottom of the sole to grip the ground while in combat. The gospel of peace pertains to the good news that, through Jesus, believers are reconciled or at peace with God. When we’re at peace with God, we feel an assurance of being in union with Him. This assurance, in itself, is cause for joy and contentment. It in this assurance that we can stand firm with our feet anchored in the ground, knowing God is on our side.  It is through this gospel that we also draw unbelievers to God’s message of salvation. 1Peter 3:15, 16

 “Shield of Faith” (Verse 16) – a size of a shoulder’s was about 2 ½ by 4 ½ feet, which covered the entire body. Heb. 11:1 defines faith as, “the assured expectation of things hoped for though not yet beheld.” This piece of the armor refers to complete trust in God, his word and his promises. It’s through trust in God that we choose obedience over temptation to sin. Part of fighting a spiritual war means that we battle with things that are unseen; when the obvious doesn’t appear before us, do we fight with “an expectation of things hoped for?” Trusting in God means that we surrender all control to Him, knowing He will lead us to victory in all circumstances.

 “Helmet of Salvation” (Verse 17) – the helmet protected the head, which was a major target for the enemy. Opponents know that one blow to the head can cause a soldier his life. This verse is not talking about attaining, but rather having the assurance of salvation that has already been achieved through grace.  The enemy wants nothing more to discourage or cause doubt our own salvation. A believer’s feelings about his salvation may be damaged by doubt, confusion or discouragement (satan’s weapons). Having the assurance of salvation is an essential part of the spiritual armor one must wear daily because blows of doubt and discouragement to the head may be fatal.

 “Sword of the Spirit” (Verse 17) – Heb 4:12 “The word is alive and exerts power and is sharper than a two edged sword). The sword is the only weapon a soldier actually uses in combat, all the other parts of the armor are only used for protection. It is with the sword that a soldier can pierce through the enemy and stop the conflict. All conflicts, hostilities, battles and confrontations can be put to an end with such a weapon as God’s Word. God’s word also helps in the offense to overcome strategies that promote untruth, confusion and separation from God.  Jesus himself demonstrated how important it is to know scripture in Matthew Chapter 4.

 Our assailant is going to take advantage of all opportunities to attack; sometimes he doesn’t wait for an opportunity, but creates ones. In obedience, let us put on the spiritual armor before we go to carry on our daily lives. Praise the Lord, who equips us with all we need to come out victorious.  May your spiritual armor daily include Truthfulness, Righteousness, Gospel of Peace, Faith, Assurance of salvation, God’s word.

August 10, 2009 Posted by | According to Scripture | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Receiving the Gospel

j0438317GALATIONS 2:11-3:25

 

First things First. WELCOME BACK, SANDY! We missed you and praise God that you arrived back safely.

We continue our second week in the study of Galatians. The theme of the study is the acceptance that salvation is obtained only through faith in Jesus Christ and not in works. In his letter, the apostle Paul reproved the Galatians churches (Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe) with a strong message because they were turning away from the true gospel of Jesus Christ to a different gospel Paul did not preach.

1Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. 2It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain.  Paul continues to defend the gospel of grace. He relates the details of his visit to Jerusalem after his conversion and offered proof that the message he proclaimed was identical to that of the apostles.

11But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.  This was a period of darkness for the spreading of the gospel because influential believers such as Peter was helping to spread the confusion of the doctrine of salvation and the apostle Paul had strong counsel him. Peter had withdrawn from Gentile (non-Jewish) believers to fellowship with Judaizers, despite knowing they were teaching a different gospel. Peter was guilty of sin by choosing to correlate with men he knew were in error and because of the harm he caused his brothers and sisters in Christ. We do know that Peter did adjust his thinking because he speaks about God’s saving grace and obedience in his first and second letters. We can learn so much from Peter!

16nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. Paul was very knowledgeable of the Law. He was passionate enough to persecute those who opposed it. The purpose of the law was so 1)remind God’s people they were sinners, 2)remind them they needed a savior, 3)foreshadowed the better things to come. Under the law, God’s people were subject to legalism, self-sufficiency, rituals and man-made redemption (which was only temporary). In the NT “In Christ”, believers achieved justification, forgiveness, grace, empowerment and freedom.

By adding good works to the gospel of grace by faith, it devalues and belittles Christ’s death for us. Grace refers to “unmerited favor”. If we are saved by the good works we perform, then Christ’s sacrificial death would not have been needed. 21″I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
More importantly, the gospel of grace opens the way for believers to be in God’s presence. With the Law, God’s people can only approach God through priestly intermediaries. Being we have been redeemed through the blood of Christ, we can enjoy being in God’s presence through prayer, worship and praise. The law could never do this!

19″For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20″I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.  By accepting the gospel, Jewish Christians were free from trying to perfectly keep the law while at the same time being condemned by it. Before our conversion to Christ, we lived for ourselves; we were working hard to earn our salvation. However, when Christ lives in us, we become Christlike.
1You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?  3Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?  4Did you suffer so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain? 5So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?  Apparently, this was a message the Galatians took a while to accept because Paul used strong words to reprimand their way of thinking. He also raised thought-provoking questions to help the see the seriousness of their thinking.

Paul continually declared that no one is made right with God by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. Many times we fall prey to sin and yet feel burdened that there’s nothing we can do to make us right with God. That’s true – there’s nothing we can do. But having faith in God’s grace and trust that he will pardon us from sin (once we have repented in our hearts) will make us right. Continuing to strive to attain salvation by works is admitting that we don’t trust in God that He is capable of cleansing us of our sins. Faith in God means that we have total trust in His grace to forgive and redeem us.

Thanks, again Sandy for a great lesson today!

June 14, 2009 Posted by | Expressions | , , , , , | Comments Off on Receiving the Gospel

The Gospel of Grace

Galations 1:6-24

How well do you know your faith? Can you defend your conviction when false teachers distort Scripture?

 j0433423

As we start a new study in Galatians, the theme for this week’s lesson harmonizes with events happening this month of June. The Cult Awareness classes, taught by Carl Mickens, begin this week at First Baptist for six weeks. Brenda Lee, author of Out of the Cocoon, will be featured this month on WE TV, where she will be profiled with three other cult survivors. What’s extraordinary about these events is that both Carl and Brenda give their testimony to being ex-Jehovah’s Witness. I have taken Carl’s classes last year and he emphasized the importance of being firmly rooted in your faith. Brenda stresses the same. Unfortunately, many people get caught in the teachings of false doctrine because they were not knowledgeable of Scripture. I must admit, this was my demise 20 years ago when I had become a Jehovah’s Witness (I left the Watchtower organization in 2003). I had little knowledge in Scripture and fell prey to false teachings.

 

This was the problem in the churches in the Galatians region and Paul wrote them a letter to correct their way of thinking. In fact, this letter to the Galatians was probably Paul’s most severe letter because the problem dealt with the gospel that was being preached. Some Christians in those churches were teaching that salvation is attained by works. Jews who converted to Christianity taught that believers must still uphold the law of circumcision to attain salvation. The message of grace was being distorted by this “new” gospel they were preaching.

6I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;   7which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  9As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!  10For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

 

During Paul’s first journey to the Galatians churches (Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe), he preached that salvation was by grace through faith in Christ alone. However, converts that Paul led to Christ were falling away to false teaching. Paul accused them of turning from the God of grace to another gospel, and their message was perverting the gospel of grace. He denounced them by holding them accountable for their false teachings, which would bring them eternal damnation and separation from God. These were strong words that Paul used; he needed to make the point across that they were in spiritual danger.  Paul then reasoned with them that the gospel he preached did not come from man, but rather a revelation from Jesus Christ. He emphasized the fact that he didn’t consult with people to know the message to preach, but rather the Holy Spirit directed his ministry and the message of the gospel.

11For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.   12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.  13For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it;  14and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.  15But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased  16to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood,  17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.  18Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days.  19But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.  20(Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.)  21Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.  22I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ;  23but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.”  24And they were glorifying God because of me.

 

Wow! There is so much application for us today. I guess this study really hit home to me because it took me back to a time when I was not very knowledgeable of Scripture. I honestly thought the only way I can ever learn the truth about God is by having someone sit down to teach me; bible book by bible book, verse by verse. But that’s not what Paul was emphasizing to the Galatians. I know better to allow the Holy Spirit to guide me as I read God’s word. I spent 20 years in ignorance and now that I’m no longer subject to false teachings, I make every effort to reinforce my knowledge of the gospel’s divine origin. It’s so easy to get entangled in something we don’t know because it sounds convincing at the moment. This was the issue in the Galatians churches.

 

It’s so important to understand the gospel of grace. So many people know of God’s grace but refuse to accept it as gospel because it’s easier to accept the idea that one should earn their salvation by works. We live in a society where we’re taught that nothing comes free – everything has a price and should be earned. This is why it’s so difficult for some to accept that Salvation can never be earned through any works…it’s a gift…God’s grace. Isn’t it terrible that some people cannot accept a gift from someone without wanting to give them something back in return? Others feel a self-reproach or suspicion when someone does something nice for them for no reason at all. We’re created in His image and He gives to us freely. With that being so, shouldn’t we accept freely and without guilt? This is what the gospel of grace is all about! Accept God’s gift of Grace and reject any teachings or false notions that we must work to earn it. 

 

Thank you, Joyce, for walking us through this lesson.  WWP also thank for your leading us in class these past few weeks and look forwad to your visit again soon! God Bless.

June 9, 2009 Posted by | Expressions | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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