"ARISE" is a journal to be published on a quarterly basis. Its aim is to serve as a vehicle for the expression of the Body Of Christ as it relates to present truth. The articles provided are mostly from those of us fellowshipping in the Tampa, Florida area. "ARISE" also publishes pertinent articles of similar concern from those abroad consistent with our general purpose and calling. So now receive the word with all readiness of mind and examine the scriptures every day to see if it is really as we say.
This sixteenth issue of "ARISE" features:
I. "Projecting God's Image" is an excellent paper provided by Brother Terry Crisp. He and wife Tykie live in Dawson, GA. They publish monthly studies on kingdom truth.
II. "No Man's Land" comes from a good friend and able minister, Brother Art Groesbeck. He and his wife Becky and family reside in Syracuse, NY.
III. "Under God's Authority" is provided by the author of the ARISE publication. He with wife Melissa and baby Nicole Anna live in Valrico (Tampa), FL.
IV. "The Whole Truth" comes from a close friend and good teacher,
Romeo Corsini. He and his
wife Christine live in Brandon (Tampa), FL. They have three beautiful little girls.
V. "From Creation To The Consummation" is made available from our dear friend, Brother Jack Jacobsen. This is the fourth of sixteen chapters collected from his dissertation for a doctorate of philosophy degree. Jack and his wife Marjorie has taken residence in New Port Richey (Tampa), FL area. They are originally from Minneapolis, MN.
VI. "Words" is an yet another inspired poem provided by the able hand of Lori Renee Inge. She and her husband Michael Ray minister "present truth" to many across the country. They reside in Cape Coral, FL.
This marks the end of four years of printing and we thank all who have joined us in spirit to trumpet the precious truth of God's word for this day and age. We especially thank all of the many fine ministers who have provided such fine insight and have shared for our spiritual edification. We pray that the journal continues to provide fresh, invigorating and liberating principles found in the Lord Jesus Christ and the One whom he called Father. Let this publication challenge you to venture into a closer walk with God and be led as sons of God!
We thank the Lord for the fellowship of the brethren and pray that we all may grow in grace to have that "covenant relationship" as we learn to prefer and submit one to another, Jesus Christ being the head of all. I am especially grateful to my beautiful wife Melissa who has sacrificed as I laboured in providing this publication to the readers. And how could I forget our daughter,.... oh what a tremendous blessing...I have never dreamt that a baby could bring such happiness! How wonderful are the works of His hand.
In His Service
Timothy D. and Melissa Carroll (**Please note new address on front page)
"A R I S E" is free to all as God's way is "Freely you have received, freely give". We trust God to lay it upon the hearts of those He chooses to provide the means for printing and sending out this journal. Please write if you are interested in receiving the journal on a regular basis. Additional copies available upon request. Notification of change of address is appreciated.
Fellowship meetings currently held every first and third Saturday evening in
Contact numbers list: (813) 653-3711; (813) 653-1604; (813) 651-0334.
Projecting God's Image
Isa. 60:1-3..."Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising".
In Isaiah's prophetic utterance, we gain unique insight into "the Day of the Lord", when the church of Jesus Christ shall visibly and experientially become God's luminary in the earth. In Revelation 21, John witnessed the identical scene, described to him as "the bride, the Lamb's wife... that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending down out of heaven from God, HAVING THE GLORY OF GOD" (verses 9-10). That this great city IS the bride should be obvious to even the most casual reader; but that it represents the restored church at the end of the age should be apparent by comparing it with Matt. 5:14-16: "YE ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. A CITY set upon a hill cannot be hid... LET YOU LIGHT SO SHINE BEFORE MEN, that they might see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven"! Praise God! Verse 23 of Rev. 21 says, "and the city had no need of the sun, neither the moon, to shine upon it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them that are saved shall walk in it; and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it". This is the glorious destiny of the saints of the Most High, that they might collectively radiate the light of God unto the nations of this world, shining brightly in the regions of darkness, and dispelling the powers thereof. In that marvelous hour God will remove the present day reproach from the church, and restore her to a place of dignity and respect before the eyes of the world. Unlike "old" Jerusalem (which, because of her idolatrous harlotry became incorporated into "Mystery Babylon"), the "new" Jerusalem shall be a purged and purified people, "prepared as a bride adorned for her Husband" (verse 2)!
Interesting to note is the beginning statement in chapter 21. Before John was privileged to see this corporate projection of divine light from the bride of Christ, he heard these words: "THE FORMER THINGS ARE PAST AWAY. And He that sat upon the throne said, BEHOLD, I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW". Glory to God, the time will surely come when all things shall be made new concerning the church; that is; she shall be completely restored to her original glory and virtue. All previous expressions and manifestations shall pass away, as they are swallowed up by "a more excellent way" (I Cor. 12:31)! Paul said to the Corinthians, "whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. BUT WHEN THAT WHICH IS PERFECT IS COME, THEN THAT WHICH IS IN PART SHALL BE DONE AWAY" (I Cor. 13:8-10)! We thank God for the "in part" realm, even though it has been filtered through the limitations of the flesh. Gifts of the Spirit have operated, and words of revelation knowledge have come to us through sometimes carnal, earth-bound vessels. We are grateful that God has ministered to our needs in times past, regardless of how crude or imperfect the vessels may have been; but we also thank God that He is perfecting a people who shall be devoid of the human element, so that the river can flow "clear as crystal", uncontaminated by the flesh! When that happens, "the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind" (Isa. 65:1)!
While it is exciting to see the end from the beginning, we must understand that there is a process by which all things come about. Little by little, God is bringing forth "a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27)! That this is not an instantaneous act should be indisputable from the fact that there are yet "spots and wrinkles" to be removed; nevertheless, the work begun shall surely be completed, all to the glory of God!
In order to understand the manner by which God is transforming His Church universal, we should examine His work in the INDIVIDUAL. For it is through the perfecting, or maturing of the individual that the perfecting of the Church comes into view. There is no way to separate the two; for while it is essential for the individual striving for perfection to be involved with the Church, the perfected, glorified Church shall be comprised of perfected individuals!
How is it then, that the individual is transformed? Let us begin by examining the foundational text of II Cor. 5:1-18: "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; BEHOLD, ALL THINGS ARE BECOME NEW. And ALL THINGS ARE OF GOD, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ..." Using the same language employed in Rev. 21 concerning the NEW CORPORATE CREATION, Paul says, IF ANY MAN...", speaking in the SINGULAR, INDIVIDUAL sense. He continues by saying, "If any man be IN CHRIST, he is A NEW CREATURE..." I am extremely blessed by the rendering of this passage from the New English Version: "When anyone is united to Christ, THERE IS A NEW WORLD; the old order is gone, and a new order is already begun. From first to last, this has been the work of God"! Hallelujah! I like that! The Williams translations has it, "For if anybody is in union with Christ, he is the work of A NEW CREATION; The old condition has passed away, a new condition has come. This has all originated with God"! Praise unto God, our NEW WORLD originated IN Christ Jesus, bringing to an end the old order of lifestyle, and ushering in "a new and living way" (Heb. 10-20)! We are presently witnessing the departure of our old condition, which is "corrupt according to the deceitful lusts", and the establishing of the new, which "after God is created in righteousness, and in true holiness" (Eph. 4:22-24)!
What does it mean when he speaks of our being "IN CHRIST"? He is referring here to the initial work of transformation, being placed in the family lineage of Christ; that is, being "BORN AGAIN, not of a corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever" (I Peter 1:23)! This is the first step in the process of transformation! As Jesus so simply stated to Nicodemus, "YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN"(Jn 3:7)!
Eph. 2:10 tells us: "For WE ARE HIS WORKMANSHIP, CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS UNTO GOOD WORKS, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them". This is a wonderful truth, one that we should meditate long and deeply upon: "HIS WORKMANSHIP"...not the product of our own efforts, or the results of our own efforts, or the results of our own self-improvement. We are what we are "by the grace of God" (and, may I add, WE WILL BE WHAT WE WILL BE BY THE GRACE OF GOD, as well)! And what is the ultimate intention of this deeply internal work of God? Paul says that we were "CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS... UNTO GOOD WORKS"! This coincides with what we read in Matt. 5:16..."Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your GOOD WORKS, and glorify your Father"! God is working in us mightily, that there might be a PROJECTION OF LIGHT, the very life of God in the form of GOOD WORKS shining through us unto all creation!
Those of us who have experienced the new birth can surely testify that the work of God within us has initiated a dramatic change in our lives. "Old things are passed away, and behold, all things are become new". And yet, we can also attest to the fact that there is still a work to be fulfilled. Phil. 1:6 says, "Being confident of this very thing, that He which HATH BEGUN A GOOD WORK IN YOU will perform it (the marginal reference says, "will finish it") until the day of Christ". Not only by this scripture, but also by the way of experience, we know that God has surely STARTED this good work in us (for "it is God which worketh in us both to WILL and TO DO of His Good pleasure"; Phil. 2:13); but likewise, there is still plenty of evidence that there is more to be accomplished, ere the work of our Creator is complete (we should see that LEGALLY the work was complete at Calvary, when Jesus said, "IT IS FINISHED"; EXPERIMENTALLY, however, the work is still being fulfilled in His Body). This is not meant to discourage us; for there is a consolation in this passage, an assurance that He shall also complete the task which He set out to perform! He is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Author and the Finisher of our faith! His precise craftsmanship shall be fully exhibited for all to see, when He at last puts the final touches to His Masterpiece! Praise God!
We learn a little about the process of transformation in II Cor. 3:18... "But we all, with open face beholding AS IN A GLASS the glory of the Lord, are CHANGED INTO THE SAME IMAGE FROM GLORY TO GLORY, even as by the Spirit of the Lord". Here then is the procedure by which the Spirit of the Lord changes us: as we simply BEHOLD HIS GLORY, we are miraculously "changed" INTO THE SAME IMAGE (the original word used for "change" is Gr. #3339, "METAMORPHOO", meaning, "to transform"; from whence we get our English word "metamorphosis", a term used to describe the process a caterpillar undergoes as he is transfigured into a butterfly). Note well that this change is "from glory to glory", revealing a PROGRESSIVE CHANGE, rather than an instantaneous one.
As we enter chapter 4, this process is described in greater detail. Giving special notice to verse 6, we read: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, HATH SHINED IN OUR HEARTS, to give the LIGHT of the knowledge of the glory of God IN THE FACE OF JESUS CHRIST". I would draw your reverent attention to one word in this passage, which gives us the key to understanding here. It is the word "LIGHT". While there are seven different Greek words translated as LIGHT in the New Testament, this particular word is used only twice, and is employed exclusively in this chapter. It is the Greek word "PHOTISMOS" (#5462 in Strong's), meaning ILLUMINATION. The other place Paul uses this word is in verses 3-4, where he said, "but if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the LIGHT ("PHOTISMOS") of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them". It should be pointed out that this word PHOTISMOS is where we get our English word "PHOTOGRAPH"! What a tremendous perspective this gives us concerning God's internal work of transformation!
Thousands of years before man ever discovered the principle of photography, God had incorporated it into His divine scheme! Based upon the same method in which the natural eye operates, this is a brief description of how it works.
When God created man, He endowed him with the ability to relate to the world around him through the sense of sight. Man's visual surroundings were impressed upon his mind via the human eye. This sense-organ was a gate by which light passed, recording the information gathered upon the "tables" of man's understanding. Photography takes advantage of the principle, in that it is the process by which a tangible object or scene has it's image transferred by the use of LIGHT. As light shines upon the object, it either absorbs or reflects the light. If the light is absorbed, the image appears to be dark. If it is reflected, it gives the appearance of brightness. When viewed through a camera, those impressions are received through the opening of a shutter. As the light passes through a lens (a magnifying glass), those characteristics are transferred at the speed of light, and impressed upon a sensitive strip of film in the back of the camera, producing what is called a "latent image". This latent image is more commonly referred to as a NEGATIVE. Finally, the NEGATIVE is reversed through a chemical process called DEVELOPMENT. Once the picture is developed, it bears an exact replica of the original image.
Is not this the manner by which God first made Himself known to each of us? Before, when we dwelt in the realm of darkness, "THE LIGHT OF THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL OF CHRIST, WHO IS THE IMAGE OF GOD" SHONE IN OUR HEARTS! It was "the light of the KNOWLEDGE of the glory of God" that radiated from the countenance of Christ, as we beheld Him in the Gospels "with open face, AS IN A GLASS" (II Cor. 3:18). As a result, it produced A NEGATIVE WITHIN US; that is, as we saw ourselves the glorious life of Christ in all of it's purity and righteousness, it revealed the sinfulness of our own corrupt hearts! That initial exposure reproduced the image of God within us, but it was His image IN REVERSE. Nevertheless, God took the effects of the negative, and DEVELOPED His image within us through the power of the Spirit, so that we were changed into the same image "from glory to glory"! Praise the Name of the Lord!
This is how we come to bear the image of the Lord. As Christ reveals Himself to us through the Gospels, we can then put on those same attributes. I John 3:2 says, "but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is". This is the blessed hope for all of His people, that we should come into the likeness of the Son of God. I John 4:1 says, "as He is.... SO ARE WE"! As Christ is "the brightness of (God's) glory, the express image of His Person" (Heb 1:3), we, in like manner, are to be the express image of His divine Person in this world! This is a process, requiring many appearings or visitations of the Lord, so that we might portray Him as He actually is! No single photograph could fully describe His many expressions!
When Jesus first appeared to us, we beheld Him as SAVIOUR. This was the way He chose to reveal Himself to us initially (so that this relationship would always be preeminent). The light of His image as SAVIOUR shining upon our hearts compelled us to testify that this Jesus is the Saviour of the World! The evidence of this fact is seen by the change that it has brought into our lives! His PHOTOGRAPH as SAVIOUR is framed within our hearts as proof! Wondrous as it is, we soon discovered that a single photograph is not sufficient to fully transform us into His image. Later, as we studied the Scriptures, we saw Jesus in a different light. Not only did we see Him as SAVIOUR, but we began to see Him as Christ, "the anointed one". A new relationship dawned upon us as we "with open face" beheld "as in a glass the glory of the Lord"! We, as a result, were CHANGED into the same image, through THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY GHOST!
All through our walk with God, He has "shewed Himself alive after His passion with many infallible proofs" to us, IN RESPONSE TO OUR NEEDS. When we needed healing in our bodies, the LIGHT of the glorious Gospel shone in our hearts, revealing Christ as HEALER. We could then exercise faith in Him as the Healer of all our infirmities. When we needed PEACE, He photographed His image as the Prince of Peace upon the tables of our hearts, so that we might have the peace of God ruling in us! Whatever our need was, He brought clarity and understanding to us by "enlightening the eyes of our understanding", in order to manifest Himself to us in that particular aspect! Ah, dear friends, this Christ whom we serve is as multi-faceted as a brilliant diamond, shining with a new and different luster as often as we behold Him!
From various angles and perspectives, He has photographed His image in our spirits. Each appearing in it's appointed time has given us a greater understanding of His glory, that we might truly see Him as He is! As each fresh revelation of His Person comes, it is placed in it's perspective order, IN RELATION TO THE OVERALL PICTURE. This produces, in due season, a process called ANIMATION.
Allow us at this time to reflect upon a brief portion of history. During the 1800's, the techniques of photography were in the making. The first rough but permanent photograph was produced in 1822. About the same time (1824), with no apparent connection, studies were being made into the optical characteristics of objects in motion. Investigative experiments were performed, using drawings of objects in various stages of motion. The pictures, hand drawn, were mounted on the rim of a disc and observed through slots on a similar disc, mounted on the same rotating shaft. As the disc revolved, it seemed to bring the still images to life. The capacity of the invention was obviously limited to a short cycle of motion; however, this crude experiment established the principle of animation.
As studies continued in both fields, by 1860 they were incorporated into one. By taking a series of photographs, showing them successive phases of a cycle of action, scientists were able to produce the effect of animated activity. For the next 34 years, inventors improved upon the procedure until finally, Thomas Edison emerged from his laboratory with a device which he called the Kinetoscope. This peep-show machine was the first presentation made available to the general public of animated photography, in which people could look through a peep-hole and see motion pictures. As the viewer peered through the opening, a magnifying glass concentrated his gaze upon the photos as they moved in rapid succession. It was an instant success!
It is this same principle that God uses in bringing His image to life within us! As He photographs the various facets of His character within us, His image is animated before our very eyes! He begins to "shew Himself alive" to us through successive pictures, as we catch glimpses of His manifest presence! Every new revelation serves to extend His divine expression, adding a greater comprehension of the full cycle of His motion! Hallelujah! God is moving within His people!
Recently, however, the Lord caused me to understand that there was something greater than simply BEARING THE IMAGE OF CHRIST in our hearts; yea, even greater then merely having that image animated within us. What was it? It was PROJECTING THAT IMAGE INTO THE WORLD! Is there a difference? Most certainly there is! Let me emphasize here that it is absolutely necessary for us to bear this inward image of Christ, and to have that image animated; I would not want to leave the impression that that is not a vital factor in the scheme of things. We must remember that it is "CHRIST IN YOU" that gives us "the hope of glory" (Col. 1:2). But at the same time, we must understand that God has not given us His spirit for our enjoyment alone! There is a work that He has ordained to accomplish in this world, during "the times of the restitution of all things" (Acts 3:19-21); and this awesome task cannot be fulfilled without THE MANIFESTATION OF CHRIST IN HIS SONS! His word has declared it!
After the invention of the Kinetoscope, Edison realized that because of the nature of his machine, it's viewing audience was greatly limited. It was restricted to one person at a time, looking through the tiny aperture. Putting his creative ingenuity to work once again, he set out to produce a means of projecting the internal image without, so that multitudes could behold the image simultaneously.
Through the combined efforts of the inventive community, and their persistent
labors to create a more excellent product, there emerged one of the greatest
wonders of modern technology. On Feb. 13, 1895, two French inventors applied
for a patent for their "Cinematographe", a mechanism which operated
on many of the principles of the Kinetoscope, but cast the image upon a screen
by reversing the direction of the light through the magnifying lens. Only nine
days later, Edison came out with his "Eidoloscope". Thomas Armat furthered
the technique with the invention of the "Vitascope", which improved
on the quality of the picture projected, and slowed the shutter speed for a
more realistic motion. Each invention made way for even greater inventions,
until today we have the ability to project a moving image through the airwaves
around the world! (Our admiration for this modern-day miracle does not condone
the wickedness for which it is often misused). Through the use of satellites,
a message given by the President from the Oval Office can be transmitted around
the world, so that every eye can see it at the same time! This is nothing short
As in the natural, so in the spiritual. Looking back to the Gospels, we see our heavenly prototype, Jesus. In the first chapter of the book of John we read, "IN HIM WAS LIFE; AND THE LIFE WAS THE LIGHT OF MEN. AND THE LIGHT SHINETH IN DARKNESS; AND THE DARKNESS COMPREHENDED IT NOT" (verse 4-5). For the first thirty years of his earthly sojourn, He bore the image of the Father. He was "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15), and, as we have previously stated, "the brightness of His glory, the express image of His Person" (Heb. 1:3). He was "THE TRUE LIGHT which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9). He was the Light personified in human form! And yet, for that length of time, He was only recognized and admired by few. "He was in the world, and the world knew Him not" (verse 10). In due season, however, at the appointed time of the Father, He emerged from the "darkroom" of testings and trials in the wilderness, FULLY DEVELOPED IN THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT! From that point on, He not only BORE the image of the invisible God, but PROJECTED that image into the world! John said, "and WE BEHELD HIS GLORY, THE GLORY OF THE ONLY BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER" (verse 14). It was the pure light of God's divine life that shown from Him; not just a reflection, but an emanation of glory that radiated from His being! Praise God, that makes me feel like shouting!
Jesus openly demonstrated the glorious life of the Father...manifesting before the whole world His attributes and expressions. HE WAS THE PERFECT PICTURE OF GOD MANIFESTED IN THE FLESH (I Tim. 3:16)! Once, when Philip inquired of Him, saying "Lord shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not seen Me, Philip? HE THAT HATH SEEN ME HATH SEEN THE FATHER; and how sayest thou then, shew us the Father?...Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me: or else believe Me for the VERY WORK'S SAKE (Jn 14:8-11)! Jesus was telling him that the evidence of the father's presence is seen in the WORKS PERFORMED. This is the way God's heavenly light is projected into the darkened world of fallen humanity!
In the conception of Christ, we see that "in Him dwelleth all of the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9). When "the power of the MOST HIGH" overshadowed Mary's womb, all the fulness of God was magnified, concentrated in that tiny heaven-sent Embryo. Imagine that, if you will! This brings back memories, when, as a young boy, I would play with a magnifying glass. I learned that by holding that glass at a certain height, I could reduce the rays of sunlight to a tiny spot. I could actually "capture" the sunrays with that object, condensing the power and the energy of the sun, insomuch that simply by focusing that beam of concentrated light upon a leaf, or some other combustible material, I could actually create a fire! Quite possibly, you have done the same! Well, this is exactly what took place in the immaculate conception! The full power and glory of God Himself was concentrated in Mary's virgin womb, so that in due season, He would start a fire upon the earth (Luke 12:49)!
After thirty years of rigorous discipline, "learning obedience through the things He suffered", totally subduing the will of His humanity, the LIGHT that was within Him was MAGNIFIED through His body, this time PROJECTING THE IMAGE OF THE FATHER UPON THE SCREEN OF LIFE! Rather than concentrating the light, though, HE DISPERSED IT THROUGHOUT THE WORLD, as He "went about DOING GOOD, and HEALING ALL THAT WERE OPPRESSED OF THE DEVIL; FOR GOD WAS WITH HIM" (ACTS 10:38)! Hallelujah! He was GOD'S ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SHOW!
This then, is the pattern left for us. Our heavenly conception was the result of the LIGHT of the glorious gospel of Christ shining in our hearts. The transforming power of the Most High was magnified "as in a glass", concentrating and photographing His divine potentialities within us! With each new visitation of the Lord, there is an ANIMATION of His life inside of us, developing a more complete and entire expression of His person! It is in this manner that we come to BEAR the image of the Lord. But before there can be a MANIFESTATION of that life, there must be a subduing of the flesh, a yielding of our members as "instruments of righteousness", so that OUR BODIES may be used as PROJECTORS.
Returning to our text in II Corinthians, chapter 4, we resume our reading in verse 7: "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us". What is the treasure Paul refers to here? Why, it is 'the LIGHT (photograph) of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" which has shinned in our hearts! This "treasured" photograph of God's glorious face is generating an EXCELLENCY OF POWER within these earthen vessels of ours! Looking at this word, "EXCELLENCY" (Gr. #5236 in Strong's), we find that it means, "TO THROW BEYOND THE USUAL MARK; TO SURPASS, or SUPER-EMINENCE". There is a SUPER-EMINENT, SUPER-ABUNDANT POWER AT WORK WITHIN US, changing us from "glory to glory"! And this divine energy is producing a vision in our hearts, as it did Paul's, to "press toward THE MARK FOR THE PRIZE OF THE HIGH CALLING OF GOD, IN CHRIST JESUS" (PHIL. 3:14)!
Continuing, we read: "We are troubled on every side, but not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; ALWAYS BEARING ABOUT IN THE BODY THE DYING OF THE LORD JESUS, THAT THE LIFE ALSO OF JESUS MIGHT BE MADE MANIFEST IN OUR BODY. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh..." (II Cor. 4:8-11). This "sentence of death" in ourselves is necessary in mortifying the deeds of the body. For, you see, it matters not how much we have seen the light, but HOW MUCH THE LIGHT IS DEVELOPED in producing "a vessel of honor"! Once God reveals His light to us, we enter into a time of testing and tribulation. This serves as a "DARKROOM" for us, a place for our DEVELOPMENT.
The "darkroom" has a two-fold purpose within us: it brings DEATH to the old nature, harnessing our appetites and desires; while it GIVES LIFE to the new nature, strengthening and rejuvenating us, conforming us to the image of the first-born Son. And so it is written, "For which cause we faint not; but THOUGH OUR OUTWARD MAN PERISHETH, THE INWARD MAN IS RENEWED DAY BY DAY. For our LIGHT AFFLICTION, which is but for a moment, WORKETH FOR US a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; WHILE WE LOOK NOT AT THE THINGS WHICH ARE SEEN, BUT THE THINGS WHICH ARE NOT SEEN: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (II Cor. 4:16-18). In the midst of our "light" afflictions, we are to "look...at the things which are not seen". As we all, with open face behold the glory of the Lord, God works an exceeding and eternal weight of glory in us! In this process, the flesh is subdued, releasing the light from these earthen vessels, manifested in the form of GOOD WORKS! Glory to God!
We are told in scripture to "do all things without murmurings and disputings: that you may be blameless, harmless, THE SONS OF GOD, WITHOUT REBUKE, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, AMONG WHOM YE SHINE AS LIGHTS IN THE WORLD; HOLDING FORTH THE WORD OF LIFE" (Phil. 2:14-16). This is God's intention in this hour, that we might become THE PERSONIFICATION OF LIGHT IN THE WORLD, the projector of truth and righteousness in the earth!
We have seen Him as JESUS the SAVIOUR, and as a result, were BORN AGAIN. WE have seen Him as CHRIST the ANOINTED ONE, and were baptized with His Spirit. We have now come to the third great and glorious appearing, when He reveals Himself to us as LORD OF ALL! Even now, He has already begun to shine the light of His supreme sovereignty and Lordship in our hearts, so that we bow in humble adoration before Him, confessing that "JESUS CHRIST IS LORD", to the glory of God the Father! In this wondrous appearing, we come to acknowledge Him as COMPLETE LORD OVER EVERY AFFAIR OF OUR LIVES! We surrender ALL TO HIM, dying out to every vain and self-centered ambition, that He might become LORD OF ALL TO US! As we behold Him as LORD, there comes a metamorphosis in our lives as we enter the darkroom of great tribulation. There is an identification with His Lordship, thus raising us up into a new experience with Him, WHERE WE SHALL SIT WITH HIM IN HIS THRONE (Rev. 19:16)!
Some two thousand years ago, our precious Lord came into this world as DIRECTOR and LEADING ACTOR in THE GREATEST DRAMA EVER FILMED! In this great portrayal of the Father, He employed a cast of thousands, including the devil and all of his angels! Against the backdrop of heaven, hell, earth, He filmed this epic saga of the only hero that ever lived, died, and rose again! Never a movie has had a more captive audience, or cost as much to produce. Never a love story has involved more heart-rending passion; never a mystery has had a more intriguing plot, or a more surprising ending! At the conclusion of the first set, it appeared as if our REDEEMER-HERO had been defeated; and yet, on the third day it was clearly seen "having spoiled principalities and powers, HE MADE A SHOW OF THEM OPENLY, triumphing over them in it" (Col. 2:15)! At the beginning of the second set, our HERO is appearing again...but IN ANOTHER FORM. This time, He is manifesting Himself as THE SAME CHARACTER, but as A CORPORATE MAN. He is presently gathering actors from every age and generation, who will assist in playing His role, "the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:23)! When at last the stage is set, and this old world is at it's darkest hour, the curtain will drop, and God's sons shall be manifested in the blackness of night as an ALL-STAR CAST of thousands, yea, ten thousands of saints, with CHRIST leading the procession! Truly, as one dear brother has so aptly put it, this climatic stage-production shall be "THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH"!
No Man's Land
There is a place in God that is to the exclusion of all else; a place where there is no struggle; a place of entering into rest.
The Lord brings is to this place by the way of the wilderness where He humbles us and tries us that we might see what's in our hearts. "And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or not. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live." (Duet. 8:2-3).
It was also said of Israel, "I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown." ( Jer. 2:2). God takes his called out ones first to a place of separation; a place of preparation, if you will; a place of processing where we forget everything the Egyptian and the type it represents has taught us; a place of temptation where we learn to depend totally upon the Lord our God. And we learn not to tempt Him by saying; "Is the Lord among us, or not?" (Ex. 17:7).
It is a wilderness, a "no man's land" in that no man can survive there, only God can sustain life in this place. Man will have to die there, because no natural seed can grow in this environment. It is a place not sown. It is a place of the supernatural only, a place of no longer looking to the natural or carnal realm of reason. The temptation that must be overcome is to do so. It is a place where God's higher thoughts and higher ways must prevail. It is the beginning of the laying aside every sin that so easily besets us that we might run his race with patience. It is the place of growing in grace, and in the knowledge of Him. It is the place of entering into His kingdom.
This place is desolate, in that it must be a place not sown, a place where the seeds of man's carnal reasoning and man's ways which have gotten him much recognition in the flesh, will not prosper.
This is the highway of God Isaiah spoke of "and an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:" (Isa. 35:8-9)
It is a desolate wilderness but through kingdom principles sown by God, it blossoms like the rose. The only thing that grows there is that which comes from heaven even the Word of God. Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. This principle was seen in the manna rained from heaven. Notice it did not come up from the earth, which was desolate, which even if it is able to produce bread it can only sustain temporarily. But the Word of God sustains life eternally. Bread speaks of the earth realm, the realm of man -- what we have so long perceived as life, but the ends thereof are death.
God has to remove us from our familiar surroundings, all that we have come to know life to be, even as He did starting with Abraham. Abraham was removed from the land that he was familiar with and from his kin from whom he had taken counsel all his life, to a place that God would show him -- a place apart where God would become his counselor, his sustainer and his reward, based upon God's promise and not on Abraham's merit.
Moses experienced the same thing in that when he realized his calling to deliver his brothers from the hand of Pharaoh, his attempt at doing so ended in failure. He first had to be removed to the backside of the desert for a time of emptying out of all that he had become in Egypt. We too must experience a separation, a wilderness experience, an emptying out of all that we are, that we might be filled with all that He is. We must experience that time of testing even as our Lord was driven into the wilderness and tempted of the devil forty days. Remember, "for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." (Matt. 16:23). So he tempts us to think even as we have learned as man to think not in some way that is unfamiliar to us at all.
But God is taking us in a way we have never gone before. This is why we must learn the way of life in the wilderness. Life in a place where life is not possible without God being the source. The way we have known, the way of man, was a way whereby we established ourselves; the effect being pride and self exaltation, envy and strife, works of the flesh, all the result of not knowing God as our source through the subtle deception of the evil one.
The key reason for our removal to the wilderness and its desolation is that we might see how we relate to it. You see when we enter the kingdom, we enter as a desolate place ourselves, or we enter as a part of the mixed multitude which must die in the wilderness after they have served their purpose along with those who are tempted to turn back with them.
Those who try to enter the kingdom believing they have somewhat to offer it are deceived and will be used to deceive. The earth is cursed and the fruit of it. The Lord said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6). Paul stated at Corinth "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." (I Cor. 2:2). The Apostle Paul also said to the Church at Corinth, "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (I Cor. 3:11).
Let's look at our Lord Jesus Christ for He alone is our pattern. He was driven by the spirit into the wilderness, immediately after His baptism in Jordan, to be tempted of the devil. But prior, even at His birth, it was spoken of Him in the Old Testament, "For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground:" (Isa. 53:2). A tender plant, a root out of a dry ground, the planting of God, the condition of the earth and man in general was as dry ground, desolate, a wilderness, if you will, relative to the things of God; the condition of the creation was as a wasteland.
Our Lord was born into a situation where there was death all around Him relative to the life and creation of God. He was the first born of creation, a new creation. I submit to you that our Lord rose from the dead when He left Mary's womb and as He grew in wisdom and stature, not receiving anything from man but only from the Father and not perceiving His needs to be supplied by man but through man and by God. He sought not the honour of men and so was honoured of the Father.
He walked in resurrection life, the life of the Father all the way to the cross where He displayed that this life has the power over death and is life where life is not possible, even in a wilderness. Even has He stated in John 6:57, "As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." He did not receive his life or sustenance from the wilderness realm of man, which had produced only death. He has the true life of the Father, the true light and could not be deceived by the realm He was in. To put it another way, He had the power over death, hell and the grave. And His message to us is "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me and I in him." (John 6:56). That is to say, "as the Father sent me, so send I you", and as I live by the Father, he who finds their life in me has life eternal. This is life that cannot be derived from the earth realm. It does not begin with us and is not sustained by us; it only comes by and through God.
Another aspect of the wilderness and how it pertains to us individually, is that we must become one. We must become barren in order to become fruitful. I have heard it said, and know it to be true, that Abraham's greatest asset was Sarah's barren womb and their inability to bring forth life. So, any fruitfulness out of their dry ground, had to be the result of the promise of God and Abraham's belief in the God who promised. You see, to a woman being barren was considered to be a curse from God. Woman is a type of the earth, the place where the seed is sown. God cursed the earth in Adam, "thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee", and to the woman, "in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children," more thorns and thistles.
Since Adam until the birth of Jesus, man has produced only thorns and thistles. God the Father brought good out of evil and blessing out of a curse, when He brought His intended new creation out of the desolation of the old, or, original fallen creation.
When the Spirit of the Father planted that Heavenly seed in Mary, He brought life out of death. She saw the impossibility of it in that she said, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" (Luke 1:34). This could have nothing to do with man; it must be a virgin birth. The Lord looked "And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him." (Isa. 59:16). The best Mary could do is to say, "be it unto me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38).
The best we can do is to say "be it unto me according to thy word" and know that the ability to bring forth life out of our barren wasteland is not of man, but of GOD. To God be the glory!
Paul, the Apostle, said in Philippians chapter 3, "that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." He explains, prior in the same chapter how he is to accomplish this, by counting all of his earthly accomplishments as dung, all that he had thought gave him credibility, all that caused him to walk in pride before his fellow man, all that had gotten him earthly rewards he knew he must give up that Christ might become his exceeding great reward.
He realized his need to become barren and naked before the Lord, that the Lord might make him a fruitful garden and clothe him with his righteousness that he not be found naked or clothed with the aforementioned works of his flesh. Listen to what he said in verse 10, "that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his suffering, being made conformable unto his death". Notice that the power of his resurrection takes place through knowing him, prior to the fellowship of his suffering. This knowing comes through the Word of God being planted, "one plants, another waters, but God gives the increase." This seed is life in and of itself, because it's the Word of God. We cannot add to it or take away from it, all we can do is look to the Father to make us a fruitful field and a tree planted by the rivers of water instead of a dry twig out of a dry ground.
This is resurrection power, when life comes forth where no life is.
The suffering spoken of is the result of being in the flesh but not walking after the flesh, according to the systems and dictates of men. The flesh suffers and is crucified when it cannot earn, before men, its reward. It suffers when it cannot be perceived as its own sustainer. The flesh suffers when it cannot operate by a set of outward rules or laws whereby it can be responsible for and receive credit for its own accomplishments rather than, "looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of its faith". The religious systems of man can produce nothing but thorns and thistles. They are only an attempt to bring God down to our earthly level. When God the Father wants to bring us up to a heavenly level and the flesh can have no part in the matter, it must be crucified. "For he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;" (I Peter 4:1).
This is not of works of the flesh, but of the grace of God. This is not for our glory but to the glory of God. This is to the suffering of the flesh in that it can receive no glory. As it is written, "and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day". (Isa. 2:11).
Our source is no longer the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but the tree of life. We cannot partake of both even as in the beginning, "And 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: therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden (pleasure), to till the ground from whence he was taken" (Gen. 3:22-23).
Here, in the beginning we see a principle, and that principle is -- We can only realize our life and wisdom from one source. When we are deceived, and partake of the wrong source, there is death and separation from the true source, until we realize our state of barrenness and our inability to bring forth life through tilling the ground; and we cannot partake of both trees, -- "Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils". (I Cor. 10:21).
Our exaltation in the kingdom of heaven does not happen by applying the same principles we learned in the kingdom of darkness. So the crucified walk is walking in a realization of our wilderness state, bringing our flesh into subjection to the spirit, that the life produced in it might be of God, eternal life. "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Isa. 40:29-31). To humble yourself before the Lord, that you might be exalted in this manner, is taking up your cross daily, being made conformable unto his death.
Man is a wilderness and in his efforts, he can only bring forth thorns and thistles. Operating in the way of Cain, the earth will not yield her strength unto him. The earth is cursed for his sake, that through barrenness he might come to know the fruitfulness of God.
Let's see now how this wilderness, or what I call, "no man's land" principle applies to the body of Christ corporately. Isaiah, after responding to the Lord's call with, send me, asked the question, how long, "and he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, and the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof". (Isa. 6:11-13).
This was the reply to how long the people would hear and not understand and see but perceive not. It was not that the people were deaf or blind physically. Just as when the Lord spoke to the unbelieving Jews, He said you can not hear because my word is not in thee. Our Lord said "it is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me". (John 6:45).
Even as with Peter, when he was asked who Jesus was, and he replied, thou art the Christ the son of the living God. This was not perceived on the level of man, which was not capable of life nor fruitfulness on a spiritual level; the Lord responded by saying flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto you, but my Father, which is in heaven. All men were barren in terms of their own ability to produce anything for the kingdom of God. This had to be a work of the spirit; "not of blood, nor of the will of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God". (John 1:13). This must be a work of grace, plus nothing, not an accomplishment of man lest he boast in his deception that in himself he has reason to glory.
I fear that much of the body of Christ has been deceived through the doctrine of freewill and have not heard the words of Paul to the Galatians. "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth , crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh" (Gal. 3:1-3).
Having begun how? In the spirit, NOT by decision! Oh it may have brought us to a decision, but it was a decision initiated by the Spirit of God. And yes, it was a decision of the will, but it was the result of God bringing forth life in our barren earth, by His Word through the Spirit. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:" (Eph. 2:8).
Why can't it be of ourselves; "Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph. 2:9). If we can't see this vital principle pertaining to our initial salvation, how we were barren and desolate and unable to bring forth anything where it pertained to the Spirit of God, then we will never understand Isaiah (6:11-13) and its application to the church as a whole.
Hidden in these passages is a great truth for those who have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying unto the church. The 6th chapter of Isaiah had its historical application pertaining to natural Israel as well as an application to the twelve disciples in the calling out and establishment of the church from among men. It yet has an application to the body of Christ in the end time pertaining to the removing of man and his carnal mindset, that we might grow up into the head, which is Christ Jesus, no longer being double-minded, causing confusion in the body of Christ.
But coming to a true understanding of what it means to take up our cross daily, walking in true humility, knowing that while we are dead, yet we live, yet not us but Christ lives in us. And the life, (the fruit we bear), we now live in the flesh, (this desolate place unable to offer a sacrifice pleasing to God), we live by faith of the Son of God. Prior to our regeneration, we lived and walked in faith in our works and abilities to please God as the Jews did under the law and the rest of the unregenerate world does through religion. These are the ways of man seeking to share in God's glory, which He will not share with another.
When I was a boy growing up, I remember the phrase -- God helps those who help themselves. It sounded reasonable to me in my unregenerate state, but I have found that scripture knows nothing of it. As a matter of fact, more rightly put, God helps those who can't help themselves, but only when they have come to realize it and cry out to Him.
So men are to hear and not understand, to see but not perceive until the cities that man built are wasted. Man's concepts, doctrines and creeds that result in the gathering of men around a name other than His name will not be established. Isaiah chapter 6 goes on to say, and the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. Just as He forsook Israel as a whole and took out of her for himself a people, a remnant, the twelve disciples, not circumcised of the flesh, but of the heart, He is taking out of His church as well, a remnant. The Lord speaks of this remnant in verse 13 saying, "But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance therof." So there is a tenth that is a people; a people who have realized they are dead in Christ; a people who shall rise first, the true tithe unto God. A people who are trees planted by the river of living water, who bare fruit in their season, but only after they cast their own leaves, their own covering, their own self attained glory.
This people is the city that God built, void of the ways of man, "which has foundations whose builder and maker is God." (Heb. 11:10).
In Isaiah 28:20 it is written, "for the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it." In other words, man will not be allowed to be comfortable in what God is doing, he will not be at ease in Zion. For the Lord will root him out with all his carnal thinking that continues to deceive and be deceived. An all that will be left is that which God ALONE ESTABLISHED, THAT HE ALONE WILL BE GLORIFIED.
To sum it all up, the Lord is not looking for a few good men, like the Marines. He had choosing out a people who have come to know their utter desolation and inability of themselves to do anything in God, a people who have gone outside the camp as the Lord before them. They are rejected of men, because they are void of man's thinking. They have one source, the tree of life, they will not be deceived into eating also from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because it has worked its purpose in their lives.
They have seen and known the travail which God has given to the sons of men to be exercised in Eccl. 3:10. They have believed God that they are no longer sons of men but sons of God and know that God the Father is the supplier of all their needs. Though they may come through man and this natural realm, man and this natural realm is no longer their source. They are no longer exercised in that realm of works, to humble them and judge pride and self exaltation. They, through God, have entered into a rest. No longer is their life lived to the satisfying of fleshly desires such as seeking the honor of man, or their own glory, but seeking the Kingdom of God and his Righteousness, realizing that God is glorified in His great grace.
Surely there is a no man's land and it is a people established by God in God, to the praise of the glory of His grace. "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose." (Isa. 35:1).
................ Art Groesbeck
Under God's Authority
From nearly the beginning of time man has strived to govern himself, yet to no avail. Man forfeited his dependence upon God back in Eden as he sought to serve himself, departing from any divine guidance and rule. He was overtaken by the spirit of pride and rebellion, desiring to exalt his position of authority above the stars of His Creator. He was overmastered by the spirit of independence wishing himself to be like the most High of the universe. Since that time, the effect of Adam's sin has crippled humanity. Rather than having a spirit which is God-oriented or concerned with God, man's spirit has ceased to dominate and exercise control over his conduct and behaviour. He has been totally influenced by the soul which is basically taken up with self.
Down through the ages, God has dealt with the lawless nature of man, showing him what happens when he is left to govern himself and do as he pleases. "And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.... And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly.... And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." Here we see wandering man coming together, united in purpose to accomplish the same goal. To produce with his hands, to build a city and tower and to make himself a name. Nowhere in the text do we read that they had been summoned by God. We do read, however, an old familiar theme of man, "let us make.... let us build.... let us...". Not to our surprise, we see this same vein today as many religious build their institutions, organizations, programs and activities while striving to make a name for themselves. This does not suggest that we become idle, complacent or at ease, but it does mean that we cease doing what we want to do out of our own desires!
Permit us to explore the subject of God's divine rule and examine just exactly what it means to be under His authority. First, we will develop a baseline by reviewing several examples under the Old Covenant, thus providing us with a pattern of thought in how God ordered His affairs when dealing with His people. Then we shall proceed with the New Covenant and continue to look at the arrangement in which God guided His people. Last, we shall look at the government of the Church and how it ought to operate or function today.
The Old Testament is filled with numerous examples of God's authority ruling
the hearts and affairs of men, some of whom we shall make mention. At age seventy-five,
Abram left his homeland upon the command of the Lord. Whether this was the very
first time the Lord had spoken to Abram is not provided in the text and is left
to the reader. Nevertheless, Abram was obedient to the voice of the Lord to
leave country, kindred and his father Terah's household. This servant of God
was a wealthy man, yet he never let his natural possessions take priority over
his vision, which was God-ward. He was a man of worship, erecting an altar for
personal worship in every new city he entered, with one exception which was
Egypt, a land which would hold his children captive for four hundred years.
God spoke to Abram that He would make of him a great nation and bless all the
families of the earth. At age eighty-six, the handmaid of his wife Sarai had
given him a son named Ishmael. Then at age ninety-nine God named him Abraham,
since he was to become a father to many nations, as well as changing the name
of his ninety year old wife to the name of Sarah as she was to be a mother of
many nations. One year later the Lord opened the womb of Sarah to give birth
to Isaac. Great blessing would be upon Ishmael, yet the covenant between Abraham
and the Lord would be established with Isaac. In everything that Abraham would
do, God was always with him, he had been blessed in all things. And so it is
said of those who love God - "If God be for us, who can be against us"
(Rom 8:31). Abraham was a servant of God, a man who withheld nothing from God,
including his own son. He believed what God had said to him and it was counted
to him for righteousness. He obeyed the voice of the Lord. He was in submission
to his Lord, who exercised complete dominion over his life. ABRAHAM WAS A MAN
GOVERNED BY GOD'S AUTHORITY.
As his father Isaac, so also Jacob was a man subject to God. From his mother Rebekah's womb, he coveted the blessing of God. Although he tricked his father in pronouncing upon him the blessing owed his brother Esau, Jacob was still a man of whom the Lord had said "And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest..." (Gen. 28:15). He was a man who had wrestled with the Lord from heaven, or as another has stated, "The struggle was more than a physical contest: it was a spiritual bout between two diametrically opposed wills, the human and the divine". At the end of this struggle, Jacob sought this man for a blessing who asked Jacob, "What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men...." (Gen 32:27-28). The name Israel means: prince of God, or upright with a subjector. Another had said it means 'him whom God rules'. Indeed, Jacob had received a new nature, he no longer was to walk according to his old ways and habits. JACOB WAS A MAN SUBJECTED TO THE ONE WHO RULES, HE WAS A MAN UNDER THE GOVERNMENT AND AUTHORITY OF GOD.
Likewise, Jacob's son Joseph serves as another under the authority of God. The story of Joseph was that he dreamt that he would reign and have dominion over his brethren. His brothers envied him and had conspired to slay him. Instead, he was cast into a pit and sold to a company of merchants. In turn, he was sold to an officer of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Yet, the Lord was with Joseph and made all that he did to prosper in his hand. This young man was favored both by God and man. However, he refused to be enticed by the officer's wife and was innocently cast into prison. While in the king's dungeon, the Lord continued to be with Joseph, showing him mercy, giving him favor and causing him to prosper in whatever he did. Yet, he desired to be released from this horrible place, as apparent by his words to the chief butler. Yet it wasn't to be his time of release. Scripture states, "whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him" (Ps. 105:19-20).
Two years had transpired and now the time had finally come. Pharaoh, troubled by a dream, was informed that a Hebrew man in his prison could interpret it for him. Joseph did, and at age thirty was released and given charge over Pharaoh's entire house and land of Egypt. (Interesting that it was the same age as that of qualification for the Levitical priesthood, a number which today represents maturity and the fulfillment of time. A person must first be tried by the word of God before being placed in and walk by the governing authority of God). Joseph was a man of discretion and wisdom. In fact, Pharaoh acknowledged that this man was one having the Spirit of God. After seven years of plenty, then seven years of famine began to cross the land. Joseph began to open all the storehouses to meet the needs of the people. His father Jacob learned that corn was in Egypt and sent his sons there to obtain food. At first they did not recognize their brother Joseph (named Zaphnathpaaneah), nor did he disclose his identity to them. After several events, he revealed himself to all eleven of his brethren, stating "Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life....... So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God..." (Gen 45:5-8). Joseph was a man of great authority and power over Egypt. Yet, JOSEPH WAS A MAN GOVERNED BY ANOTHER, A MAN UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF ALMIGHTY GOD.
After Joseph died, the children of Israel were fruitful and increased in the land. The new king of Egypt became concerned and reduced them to a race of slaves. In due time, God raised up Moses of the house of Levi, who was brought up by Pharaoh's daughter. Moses led them out of the land of Egypt to serve their God. Thus Moses serves as a prefigure of Jesus Christ our Lord, leading people out of their bondage and enslavement to sin, corruption and death. At this time, we begin to see that God was no longer only dealing with an individual but with an entire nation, "Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me" (Ex. 4:22-23). An entire family of people, the offspring of Jacob, were to be set apart for God's own purpose and pleasure. They were to be under His authority and divine rule. Over time, Israel began to serve strange gods and refused to submit to the God who had demonstrated mighty wonders and had delivered them from their former bondage. Only those who would serve and be under the Lord's rule would be considered His people. Moses put forth the mandate, "Who is on the Lord's side? unto me" (Ex. 32:26). Likewise, we today are charged with the words of Jesus, "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad" (Matt. 12:30). MOSES WAS A MAN THAT WAS WITH GOD, A MAN WHO GATHERED OTHERS TO THE LORD'S SIDE, HE WAS A MAN GOVERNED BY GOD.
Joshua, who succeeded Moses, led the children of Israel into the land of Canaan. The children of Israel at that time remained faithful to the Lord and was governed by Him. However, the generations after Joshua's death sought to govern themselves, but without success. They desired to be like the tribes surrounding them, serving other gods. They departed from the only true and living God. Having left the rulership of divine authority and lordship, they became slaves to their own unrestrained wills and desires. They became unwilling to hear from God for themselves. God extended grace by raising up judges to govern in His stead, yet they continued to forsake the Lord as "every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6). JOSHUA serves as another example of A MAN UNDER GOD'S DIVINE RULE AND AUTHORITY.
God's people would continue to experience His blessings when taking heed to the instructions from the appointed judge of that time. When they departed from it, then God's favor would be removed. The prophet Samuel served as one of Israel's judges. He was a honourable man, a man of God, a man who never used his appointed position of authority for self-gain or to exalt himself above the people. Never to build a kingdom or to make a name for himself. But with the heart of a servant, he ruled as a prophet and priest out of wisdom and love. You ask for what purpose? To unite the people to their God and to bring them to the place of His authority. Samuel was a man whom God had chosen to judge or rule the children of Israel, to govern them in God's stead. He never forced himself upon them, nor was he a prophet based on any self claims. His very presence, nature and character was what restored Israel's union and relationship back to God. SAMUEL SERVED THE PEOPLE TO BRING THEM BACK UNDER GOD'S AUTHORITY. HE WAS A MAN GOVERNED BY GOD.
Over time, the people refused the only true invisible and eternal King to govern their lives. They wanted a visible person to rule them like all the other nations. So God gave them the desires of their heart. He gave them a king whom they had asked for, thus the name Saul. A man who would fit the image, a person of commanding appearance, a man of charisma. A man who appointed to himself those who would serve around him, a man who would take a tenth of their flocks, a man who would force himself upon them, a man to govern their lives, a man set between the people and God. This was the life of Saul. Sadly, most Christian's today are as God's people of yesteryear. They have chosen for themselves a temporal king in the place of God. And how do we know this? Because as it was then, even so is it now that "the Lord will not answer them". Just take a survey and ask when was the last time God has answered one of their prayers. Just look and see how Christendom desires to be like the world, with their strange images of God, music "dove" awards, continued observations of traditional customs, and the like! God forbid. The will of man governs out of fear by placing demands upon the people while constantly claiming their position of authority. The will of God governs out of liberty and peace, never to lay any other burden on the shoulders of men and women than the yoke of our true master, the Lord Jesus Christ. And how do I know this? Because I have searched the scriptures whether these things are so. Because I have seen and met those who are as forceful as Saul and those who are as genuine as Samuel. Because I have tasted of the good word of God and the powers of the age to come! THOSE SERVING GOD WILL ALWAYS GATHER AND BRING PEOPLE UNDER HIS AUTHORITY, NEVER THEIR OWN! Those teaching otherwise do err both in scripture and spirit.
So, down through history the children of Israel, whether under the rulership of kings such as Saul, David and Solomon; or direction of prophet's such as Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel; Israel was in constant opposition to divine rule and guidance, they were opposed to the authority of God, they had shunned that responsibility onto another. Thus, the Old Covenant serves as a shadow of things to come, it provides us with a pattern of thought in how God ordered his affairs among his people. To quickly rehearse the order thus far: 1) Every man knew God and was under His authority; 2) Man desired to self-govern himself; 3) God dealt with individuals, placing them under His authority; 4) God began to deal with a nation; 5) The people refused to submit to God; 6) God appointed men to govern the people and bring them under His authority; 7) The people desired to be ruled by a temporal king rather than be under the authority of the Eternal King; 8) God continued to place those who would stand before Him under His authority and presence to speak in His stead and govern the people, turning them back to the only true government and authority --- GOD!
Nearly four hundred years passed since the Lord's prophet Malachi had sought the people for repentance. A man was to be sent from God whose name was John, the Lord's cousin, son of Zacharias and Elisabeth. He came to bear witness of the Light, though he was not that Light himself. His own confession was that he was not the Christ. He was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "make straight the way of the Lord." He was the one to say of Jesus, "He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose." Scripture states, "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, 'Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.' Then he suffered him" (Matt 3:13-15). John was appointed by God and had to fulfil his call. The same was true of Jesus. It became them both to fulfil all righteousness. His baptism was an act of fulfillment under the law, not an act to fulfil some format of ordination. This was the baptism in which John operated. Water baptism was a form of cleansing, although the Lord needed no cleansing for He had no sin. But as under the law, Jesus needed to identify with those who were cleansed. Jesus did not come to abolish the law but rather to fulfil the law. John both saw and bore record that Jesus was the Son of God. He rejoiced because of the bridegroom's voice. John's ministry and delegated authority would decrease as that of Jesus would increase. John recognized that "He that cometh from above is above all." John accepted his appointed place in comparison to that of Christ, he did not hesitate to be subject to Jesus. HE WAS A MAN PLACED UNDER GOD'S AUTHORITY.
"And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt 3:16-17). Now, it does not say that the Spirit had descended in the form of a dove. It says, that the decension of the Spirit was as that of a dove. It came down in a peaceful and graceful manner, not forceful and overbearing. The scripture also states that it was "WHEN he was baptized" he went up straightway out of the water. HE WAS A MAN UNDER THE PERFECT AUTHORITY OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD.
Jesus was a man led of the Spirit. He demonstrated this in the wilderness when tempted of the devil. "If thou be the Son of God" invited the adversary. Though addressed as the Son of God, Jesus responded "man shall not.....". He was the Son of God, yet he humbled himself and took the form of a man, making himself of no reputation. Jesus was a man who spoke not of himself, nor did he seek his own glory. Those who make claims to their ministry, their teaching, their apostleship, their authority, their, their, their.... speak of themselves and are in search of their own glory and praise of men, whether they admit it or not. He that speaks of himself seeks his own glory. Yet, true servanthood, true instruction, true church planting and true governing is apparent by the character and nature of a person, by their very being, by who they are, without having to make any self-claims. It is a natural extension of their person and speaks for itself!
Jesus was a man that did nothing out of his own self desire or personal ambition. He said, "I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things....... for I do always those things that please him." (Jhn 8:28-29). He never did anything based on his own authority. He always pleased the Father. Jesus was a man of absolute authority. "Never man spake like this man" said the officers when sent to arrest him. He had authority on earth to forgive sins, all authority was given to him in heaven and in earth, authority to cast into hell, authority to lay down and take up his life, and authority over all flesh, even raising the dead! HE WAS A MAN ALWAYS UNDER DIVINE AUTHORITY.
With confidence and authority, he called Simon (Peter) and Andrew as they were fishing, "Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men." Likewise, he called James and his brother John and they left to follow him. Scripture states, "And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes" (Mark 1:22). Later, he saw a publican, named Levi (Matthew), sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said, "Follow me". Matthew immediately rose up and followed. These were not invitations nor decisions for men to make. It was an obligation which must be obeyed. There was no choice in the matter, it was a response to a divine call, to absolute authority. The Bible tells us that he gave his disciples authority against unclean spirits, authority to heal all manner of sickness and disease, and authority to trend on scorpions (i.e., rebellious people; ref. Ezk 2:6). He chose twelve to be named apostles, not to give them a title but rather to indicate their function or calling. These were called to serve him in a unique way, but only after they had walked with him does he send them forth in this new capacity. THESE MEN WERE SUBJECT TO THE AUTHORITY OF GOD.
When Jesus saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion. They were as sheep having no shepherd. They were scattered abroad, always searching, always wanting, always in need. They needed rest to their weary souls. King David stated, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake" (Ps. 23:1-3). David never lost sight that the Lord was his Shepherd. HE WAS A MAN AFTER GOD'S HEART, A MAN GOVERNED BY GOD.
Most Christians are constantly seeking for truth in all the wrong places, wandering about from church to church to find a new experience, always in need, scattered about, looking for a man set between them and God, having no true Shepherd of the soul, no divine authority over their lives. As stated by one brother, "The problem with people today is that they have a relationship with church rather than a relationship with the Lord." And another has said, "Teachings, miracles, and blessings, important as they may be, are not ends in themselves but only a means to bring us under His authority."
Afterwards, Jesus appointed another seventy and sent them forth into every city and place. These men were not sent by the apostles but rather by Christ himself. They were commissioned by Christ, ordained of God and sent forth. Some regard the theory of apostolic succession as the only means of qualification and authority in which a person can be blessed before they are sent forth to minister Christ. According to this thought, modern apostles have received their authority down through the ages from an apostle before them, which in turn received from the early apostles, which in turn received from Jesus Christ. Basically, it is believed that the apostle is the primary channel by which God expresses His authority upon earth. The authority of the apostle would be transmitted to an individual by the laying on of hands and the blessing pronounced for their work in the ministry. If a person believes to have a calling from God and wish to leave their church, they must first receive the approval of this apostle. If the apostle believes that the person has not heard from God, then that person is made to believe that they are in error. And if they do leave the church? Well, they are then considered as having rejected the authority of the ministry and are labeled as rebellious, mavericks and such.
Now let us clarify, lest anyone leave this study has misunderstood us. We believe that God clearly uses the method of divine impartation and the laying on of hands. It is scriptural, honourable and still valid for our day. Examples include the apostles having appointed elders in every church and commending them to the Lord and the apostles having appointed seven men of honest report and full of the Spirit and laying their hands upon them (ref. Acts 14:23; 6:3-6). Timothy also received his gift by prophecy and the laying on of hands, though not from an apostle, not from the apostle Paul who had fathered him, but rather from the eldership (ref. I Tim 4:14). The lesson is simple, no man, whether apostle or elder, can take this glory upon himself, the honor and glory belongs solely to the Lord.
However, to imply that a person's ordination must follow the pattern of "apostolic succession" is entirely foreign to the Word of God. Some try to exchange the terms and definitions by replacing the position of an "apostle" with any one of the so-called "five-fold" ministries yet their teaching is basically the same as stated above. But listen to the words of the apostle Paul, "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ......But when it pleased God..... and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.....But they had heard only, that he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith..." (Gal 1:11-23). Paul did not receive his office from man but God, nor did he get confirmation from one of the early apostles to receive their approval, public or private! As for the Old Covenant, it was written for our example, instruction, and serves as a tutor. However, Paul said, "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster" (Gal 3:24-25). While it has principles which serve as a shadow of good things to come, the observance of its various methods and order of administration can never contribute to the very image in which we aspire nor can it make us perfect.
Man cannot ordain himself into the ministry, nor can he bring the calling of God upon his own life. Jesus said, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you...." (Jhn 15:16). Thousands upon thousands are so-called ordained ministers of God. They have the documents to prove it. I too have a little card indicating that a ministry recognized my calling and had ordained me. Does that piece of paper qualify me for ministry? A million times no. The Lord Himself can only ordain a person. A man cannot take such a high and holy calling upon himself. The writer of Hebrews stated, "..no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee" (Heb 5:4-5). No man can take this function upon himself, he must be called and anointed of God. God called Aaron and made him a minister unto Himself in the office of a priest. (ref. Ex 28:1). Likewise, Christ did not take this honour upon himself but rather was called and ordained into the ministry by the Father - "TODAY HAVE I BEGOTTEN THEE!" And Christ has called and honoured us. This is the order or pattern found in the scriptures. I must insist that Hebrews, chapter 5 says nothing regarding the ordination of ministry, nor is the doctrine of apostolic succession to be found in the Bible. To suggest otherwise presents a major problem with what is taught in the Word of God. To suggest otherwise would mean that many saints recorded therein must have been misinformed by God.... they missed the so-called pattern! Noah, Abraham, Daniel, Paul, even Jesus.... they must have missed it! God forbid. Those who teach such things are in grave error and have applied their own reasoning to holy script. As sons of God, we must learn to let inspiration lead and interpretation follow.
The same thought applies to the doctrine of "covering". Hear the precious insights of J. Preston Eby, "We have heard much over the past two decades about having a "local group for a covering," whatever that is supposed to mean. This so-called "truth" usually refers to a pseudo-spiritual submission to men calling themselves elders, or shepherds, who desire to lord it over a flock or other men's lives, and tell others what they can and cannot do. They esteem themselves spiritual enough to discern for everybody else what the will of the Lord is, though they themselves are missing the point entirely. My brother, my sister, harken to the words of the prophet Isaiah: "Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, BUT NOT OF ME; and that cover with a covering, BUT NOT MY SPIRIT, that they may add sin to sin" (Isa. 30:1).
COVERING! By many this term is used to mean that each believer, being a "dumb sheep," needs the "covering" protection of a group, or fold, presided over by men who are "shepherds". Every one is in "submission" to someone higher in the pyramid, until the whole structure becomes one vast hierarchy with just a few men or one man at the top. Each "shepherd" of a local group is "in submission" to some other higher "shepherd" and all these are ultimately submitted to an "apostle" somewhere in the world. Some rule more strictly than others over their "dumb sheep," but in general the individual believer is taught that he cannot trust his own ability to hear from the Lord, or understand the Word of God, or order his own life, but must look to his earthly shepherd to hear from the Lord for him. In many cases one dare not change jobs, move from one place to another, marry, go on vacation, or make any other decision without checking it out with his "shepherd" or the "elders." The counsel of the "shepherd" in many cases MUST be followed! Women have often been told that they must always obey their husband's wishes, even if he requires something illegal or immoral! Some are instructed as to how much of their means to "give" to the "body."
In some assemblies if a prophecy is to be given, the one who has heard from the Spirit Himself is required to gain permission from the 'pastor' or 'elder' or 'shepherd' in order to prophesy. If permission is granted, that one is then required to leave his seat, march down front, take the microphone, and then prophesy. By then I think that the Spirit's message would be, "Quench not My Spirit and touch not My prophets." Such false shepherds instruct God's people, "Submit to church government - NO MATTER WHAT!" "Obey your leaders - even if they are wrong!" "Don't judge the ministry!" "God placed the ministry over you. You don't second-guess their decisions. They are God-inspired!" Are YOU victim to this kind of "inspired teaching"? If so, danger is stalking your eternal life. Isn't it time you asked yourself, "What is behind such totalitarian rhetoric?" The tactic is simple. You are being intimidated. Through raw and robust fear tactics, you are SCARED INTO OBEDIENCE TO MEN - not to God. Your mind is being conditioned to accept - without thinking and without reproof - everything such preachers say. You are being brainwashed to behave like spiritual zombies. The mind of Christ in you is being raped!
Now, not all who teach "the covering" are that extreme, but for many the half has not been told. There is a great emphasis on the term "covering" as being necessary for each member, for protection from harm and deception. If we do not have this "covering" of the local fellowship, or elders, or shepherds, then, we are told, we cannot discern the will of the Lord, cannot understand the Word of the Lord, will be overcome by our adversary, will fall into sin or delusion, or the present world system will destroy us. I am frankly appalled at the shallowness, gullibility, and lack of spiritual discernment and maturity among the people of God, for they give heed continually to the voice of such strangers, but the voice of the Good Shepherd they do not know. Why are the children of God so ready to blindly accept every subtle and plausible teaching that is thrust at them, without earnestly seeking the help of the blessed Spirit WHO ALONE HAS BEEN SENT TO GUIDE US INTO ALL TRUTH. Any preacher today who can come up with some fantastic notion can corral God's people under his authority, and the more fantastic the notion the more people run after it. I do not hesitate to tell you that I know of no greater deception that has entered in among the Lord's sheep during the past 20 years than the error of the "covering" teaching." - endquote.
Whether an "apostolic covering", "church covering", or "father covering", the same idea applies. Some have the opinion that without such a "covering", you have no right to the ministry, without such a "covering" you are not a son! Let us comment on this absurdity. The principle of "fathering" is honourable and ought to be found among those of maturity, as they pour their lives into raising others. I've had such a person over me many years ago while living in Pennsylvania. Likewise, Paul had likened himself as a "father" to Timothy as he birthed, nurtured and provided for him until he came of age. However, Paul never suggested that he was this man's "authority", delegated or otherwise. In fact, Paul always purposed to present all as a chaste virgin TO CHRIST, never to himself! He rebuked such a childish notion as the church of Corinth contended over whether they were of Peter or Apollos or himself. He asked, "Is Christ divided?" So why, I ask, do men continue to DIVIDE CHRIST?
This leads us to the question of church government and how it ought to operate or function today. First, let's define the word "church" for it comes from the greek word "ekklesia", a common noun, compounded from the elements ek, meaning "out", and klesia, meaning "called". Joining these together, we get the meaning of this word "church" as "out-called" or CALLED OUT. The usage of this word "church" in the context of scripture determines its meaning. As such, any reader would find that: Jesus builds his church, not man; a church is not a building or physical structure; the children of Israel were called out of Eqypt, a church separated unto the Lord; a church will often come together to share or rehearse all that God has done for them; a church can be a mob of unbelievers gathering for a specific purpose; the Holy Spirit may set several overseers or bishops to feed a particular church and Jesus Christ is the Shepherd and Bishop of our soul who is the head over all things to the church. (It is worth noting that those overseeing and feeding others must be blameless, watchful, attentive, sober, of good behaviour, hospitable, apt to teach, not fond of money, not quarrelsome, but lenient, pacific and one that controls his household ideally).
So how ought the church be established and how should it function? "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also Christ...... But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him...... And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way......" (I Cor. 12). So what exactly does this all mean? First of all, we are told that there is only one body, not many. There are not bodies within a body, but ONE BODY. Paul said, "there is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope (expectation) of your calling". This is an important point that we dare not miss. There is but one body and therefore but ONE CHURCH, though it consist of many members.
Paul goes on to tell us that God "HATH SET SOME" in the body who would operate in a certain capacity. Some perform one function, some another. No one chooses their place in the body, for God reserves this entirely within His providence. It is futile to usurp a function we are not divinely empowered to serve. Likewise, it is unproductive when we do not exercise the function in which God has fitted us. All must deeply seek to discover their call and ask God's grace to fill it. God will use a person in the body as He sees fit to benefit others. A person cannot boast in their calling above another for they had nothing to do in obtaining it. When Paul states that God "hath set some" in the church, he is simply stating a fact. He is not outlining a church hierarchy or governmental authority. If that were the case, most assemblies have been stuck and cannot get past the third office; they are still waiting for the fourth and fifth, namely miracles and healings -- which precede government! Although we do thank God for sending forth ministry that moves in the midst of the church, let us not lose sight that where two or three are gathered together in his name, Christ is in their midst. Let us not forget that He is the Apostle and High Priest of our faith.
When Paul left Ephesus he made no provision other than commending them to God. God would be faithful to send them ministry from time to time for further edification. In the meantime, the overseers continued to feed the group of believers. They also were not impressed with titles and positions. They discerned whether a person be truthful or a liar when claiming to be an apostle. A persons title and position means nothing. Jesus taught that we are not to seek special distinctions or titles, "Be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, Christ; and all ye are brethren" (Matt 23:8). He also opposed special leadership positions, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so..." (Luke 22:25-26). After all, a man is not what he is because he wears a title or job description. A man is what he is because of what he is. If a man truly has a pastor's heart, it is obvious by his concern and compassion for the people. A PERSON'S MINISTRY IS EVIDENT AND EXPRESSED THROUGH THEM.
Regarding ministry Paul also said, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph 4:11-13). Even though the ministry is good and blessed and will continue to function as such, it can never bring an individual to full maturity in Christ. The text reads that this can only be accomplished by the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Therefore, the purpose of New Covenant ministry is to function out of the Christ within to serve God's people; to edify and encourage; to guard, gather and ground in truth; and to bring one another into covenant relationship; but never to interfere with and function as God's direct authority over a believer.
AS SONS OF GOD, WE MUST LEARN TO BE LED BY THE AUTHORITY OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD, WE MUST COME INTO FULL SUBMISSION TO OUR ONE TRUE FATHER AND HIS SON JESUS CHRIST!
The Whole Truth
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not" (John 1:1-5).
The beginning was the truth spoken by God who was and is and is to come. He inhabits the truth, the truth has always been with Him, and the truth is God. Therefore, Pontius Pilate asked a very crucial question when he somewhat rhetorically said, "What is truth?", "Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all" (John 18:37-38). After all, if truth is God and God is truth, should it not be extremely important to us to discover just what truth is? Consider that truth has always been because it is God. All that is needed is for it to be discovered. Therefore, let us be searching for it. Truth will not change to accommodate us that we might agree with it.
I am saddened each time I hear individuals clamor for their individual 'religions' to "keep up with the times." I'll hear them say such things as, "This is the 90's. The church needs to adapt to the changing times if they want to keep the flock from scattering." The truth, once found, is there to be agreed with, not to be threatened. "I refuse to believe in you until you change to my way of thinking!" This would seem to be the approach of many minds that are insensitive to the spirit of God. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). So it is that by Him, by Christ, do we come unto the Father, that is, by who and how and what He is. We cannot go about wanting things to become our way in order for us to call it right. Right is right and truth is truth whether we believe in it or not. All that was created by God, that God called good upon creating it with His spoken word, was made to be agreeable with Him. And indeed, all things agree with Him. Yet, I find fault with the leadership of many of these people because they do not teach the flock the simple concepts of righteousness. Religion has become a political way of life and not a search for the living God who is eternal and therefore the only thing that matters. Without Him, what does it matter to have anything or to achieve anything? They might say, "But we love God. We believe in Him." The devils say so with fear and trembling, also. "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19).
Let's say an original painting on canvas that hangs in our family room is the entire truth. It is a painting of a scene such as a Parisian street with the Eiffel Tower in the background, a cafe, a flower shop, a dress shop, apartments and people walking about in the foreground one of which is a woman in the center of the painting, holding a parasol. There are many other details in the painting that are of interest. One might say it is a painting of the Eiffel Tower and that would be partially true. Another might say it is a painting of a woman holding a parasol in a Parisian street. Still another might say that it is a painting of the cafe scene in France, etc. None of these are the whole truth but they are aspects of the one same truth, of the entire painting. If I listened only to the one who focused on the Eiffel Tower then I would have an incomplete version of the painting. It is upon encountering all the impressions that I can begin to piece together the whole painting.
Let's say that someone tells me that the painting was of a man walking in the middle of a Parisian street holding a parasol. If I act upon my trust of that someone and his opinion then I would walk away thinking that the individual in the center is a man. The person may just be giving me his impression based on his memory or he could be referring to the woman as a man, the species, only a female. According to what I think when I hear the word 'man' I would assume that it is a male man; I could go off into my own new sect believing that it is ok then for a man to wear dresses, while the very person who told me the picture was that of a man disagrees with me, unaware that it was his error in not seeing the painting carefully to know it was not a man but a woman in the center of the painting. If on the other hand I study the painting diligently as I ought and I discover that indeed it is the picture of a woman, I then could conclude what my own eyes see. It is the same in faith and trust where it concerns the word of God. We listen to those we trust and trust that they have given us the truth. Yet all are fallible. It is upon assembling together, not in religions or sects or cliques, but in searchings of the truth that we can piece together the whole truth. Hebrews 10:25 "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together". Acts 17:11 "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." Paul was there preaching to the Bereans, and they, not taking the truth lightly, searched out the scriptures to make certain that the truth remained unadulterated rather than opinionated. The most glorious thing about truth is that it will not leave us nor forsake us. It will be found by us! Jeremiah 29:13-14 "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD".
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).
Peace comes from the discovering of the truth. Will we have lived and died only to find out that we believed in the wrong thing? Will we have lived and died only to discover that all that we held on to was in vain, pointless, useless, and served only to satisfy our temporary flesh? What the truth does to us who find its many aspects is make us realize our sense of unity and agreement with God, our completeness in Him, and that gives us our purpose, our destiny, our calling, our belonging. We know who we are because we have peace with God and have found His truth. Not the truth of a man who has given us his impressions or opinions; but the truth that has come to us as a reward for our diligent search. We do agree with God. It is in us to agree with Him. He has made us to agree with Him. "In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness" (John 1:4-5). This is a remarkable statement. In all that darkness, in all that unbelief, the light is always there shining, waiting to be discovered. How many people could be finding that same light if we could shine our light onto them! "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee, For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee" (Isaiah 60:1-2). We must not be selfish in our search or in our finding. There is darkness out there and the Lord encourages us to join him in shining that light of His that lights every man. "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9).
"And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not" (John 1:5)
The unregenerate spirit is blind. He cannot understand what he is looking at unless it agrees with him first. The spirit born from above can see and comprehend what it sees because he is willing to accept what God reveals to him because he trusts God to be his understanding. "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5).
So then it remains for us to ponder truth. Just what is it about truth that needs to be sought? Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Amongst so many aspects to this painting of God's truth is this large portion: the character and nature of Christ. All the fruit of the Spirit, all the Beatitudes that Jesus spoke about, and all the "additions", add up to the greater part of the truth: if you want peace with God, success in your endeavors and peace in your heart, be like Christ.
"Finally, 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" (Philippians 4:8).
"And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity" (2 Peter 1:5-7).
"Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you" (Philippians 4:9).
"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick: and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:4-16).
Sometimes it will take you realizing that meekness and silence is the way to receive a rebuke. Sometimes turning the other cheek may mean allowing someone to lord it over you. Sometimes it may mean that you let another boast of himself or herself and hold your thoughts in your heart. Sometimes it may mean that you might have to face the mirror to find the truth, making you search out your own heart to discover that you have no room "to talk." Sometimes you may have to forgive to be forgiven. Sometimes you may have to forgive. At all times, we must be searching our hearts to allow the Spirit of God to reveal to us what needs to be considered for repentance. This way of Christ gives us a magnificent glimpse into the full measure, and the great stature and the whole picture of the truth of God. We must not ignore the leading of His Spirit that is always aiming to better us for His sake. Ignoring the constant responsibility to do a Christ-like check list of ourselves is only admitting to pride. You won't ever know the heighth you've reached until you look down.
"The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?" (Obadiah 1:3).
You can be very entrenched in Him and still find out that you are more proud than the person who does not know Him. The search for His truth, for Him, must be constant, continual. No greater way has been shown us than from this lesson: "Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:36-40). God inhabits the praises of His people and to love your neighbor is to love Jesus Christ, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Let us find and admit to the truth without excuse but with relish and joy because each time we find aspects of it we are closer to its entirety and we are discovering God!
From Creation to the Consummation - Part IV
We begin this fourth chapter with Noah, his family and the animals from the Ark. After spending so much time in that large vessel, it felt good to get out on the dry land. The beautiful thing which Noah does is to build an altar. We read these words, "and Noah built an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean animal, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar;" Genesis 8:20. This pleases the Lord, and He makes a new covenant with Noah and his sons. The directive of the Lord is that they are to be fruitful and to multiply and to replenish the earth. An entirely new era begins. The ninth, tenth, and eleventh chapters of Genesis covers this new dispensation. The main people involved are Noah, his sons, Ham, Shem and Japeth with Nimrod and Canaan, mentioned later. The prominent events are the building of the tower of Babel, the confusion of tongues, the scattering abroad of the people, and the beginning of the nations.
Some Bible scholars have called this era the beginning of human government, or a government of man with God left out. The history of secular humanism can be traced to this new beginning of man after the flood. The one command which God gave to this human government was the command for capital punishment. Genesis 9:6 states, "whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man." And while man has substituted life-imprisonment for capital punishment, yet God has never rescinded this command. Hence, the breakdown of modern law enforcement and general laxity among our populations in the world as well as in our own country. But God established capital punishment for homicide.
In time after Noah and his sons with their families had disembarked from the Ark at Mount Ararat, they began to migrate back some 500 miles southeastward to Babylonia, the pre-flood home. And it appears that 100 years later, they are scattered. But the established of human government begins here in this familiar land. The descendants of Ham, Shem and Japheth are given in the 10th chapter of Genesis. In Genesis 10:2-5, we read of the descendants of Japheth, in Genesis 10:6-20, we read of the descendants of Ham, and in Genesis 10:21-32, we read of the descendants of Shem. The descendants of Japheth went northward and settled around the Black and Caspian seas; and became the progenitors of the great Caucasian races of Europe and Asia. Descendants of Ham settled toward the south zone of the nations. They settled in south and central Arabia, Eqypt, eastern shores of the Mediterranean, and the East coast of Africa. Canaan, son of Ham, and his descendants, settled in the area which later became the home of the Jews. Shem settled in the central zone of nations. This would include the Jews, Assyrians, Syrians, and Elamites. However, this dispersion of Noah's descendants came after God caused a confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel.
One of the interesting people mentioned in Genesis is Nimrod, a mighty hunter. He is a grandson of Ham, born not too long after the flood. His father was Cush, and he stands out as an enterprising person. His fame as a mighty hunter could mean that he was a protector of the people at a time when the animals no longer tame became a menace to the people. One of the early Babylonian seals is a king represented in victorious combat with a lion; this could have been Nimrod. In order to control the spreading races of people, he seems to be the inspiration behind the tower of Babel. The Hebrew word, Maradh, means to rebel and from that hebrew word, we get the name Nimrod. Nimrod basically was a rebel, a man to do his own thing and in rebellion to the Will of God. He is the founder and first king of rebellious and idolatrous Babylon. (Scripture mentions more of Nimrod and Babylon in I Chronicles 1:10, Micah 5:6, Zechariah 5:5-11, Revelation 17:3-6, and Revelation 18:24.) And this rebellious Babylon continues until the judgment of God. Rebellious Babylon is the first of the serpent's seed. And so, in the Plain of Shinar, south Babylon, a tower of rebellion is begun.
The eleventh chapter of Genesis has a very thorough description of the building materials of Babylon. Since there is neither building stone or lime used on the clay or alluvial soil of Shinar, so the bricks would have to be used for stone. Bricks made from clay and baked in a fire would suffice. The slime was bitumen and large quantities of it was at the city of Hit, about 140 miles away. The desire of the people is described in Genesis 11:4, "and they said, go to, let us build a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth".
History tells us that the principle building in every ancient city was its temple. The chief feature of a Babylonian temple was its state-tower or ziggurat. The remains of these towers are the prominent sites in these destroyed cities. Early travelers have identified the vitrified brick near Babylon as Birs-Nimrud; supposed to be the tower of Babel. Early studies of these remains have supposed that these prominent temples were built as step-pyramid, 300 feet square at the base and about 300 feet high above the foundation with a stair case going from terrace to terrace. This type of structure was found even in early Sumerian times; Sumerians being ancient people of Babylon and of non-semitic origin. The notable words of the builders were these: "let us build a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven". Some translators believe the words, "whose top may reach unto heaven" should be translated, "with the heavens at its top". They believe that this is a reference to the so-called science of astrology (Zodiac pictures). And so as modern man of the twentieth century get more involved with astrology, so man of today is foolishly doing what the builders did in the days of Nimrod and the building of the tower of Babel.
A finding by archaeologists discovered the E-Temen-an-ki, which means the House of the foundation platform of Heaven and earth. This finding had much bearing on the people who built the Tower of Babel previously. These people built these towers for religious use in their cities. Their cities were described as having a wall which is 14 miles long and 136 feet thick. The city was reached by the Gate of Ishtar with its 575 enameled dragons, bulls and lions. The street which led from Ishtar's gate went past the royal palace to end at the temple of Marduk. Marduk was creator and king of the universe. Also found was the decorated palace of Nebuchadnezzar with its large banquet and throne room; 56 feet wide and 168 feet long. The hanging gardens were contained in the city. Found were 300 cuneiform tablets, relating to the distribution of oil and barley to captives and skilled workmen.
God lets man go so far in his rebellion against the rulership of Almighty God in the affairs of men. We read in genesis 11:7-9 these words, "go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called 'Babel'; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth; and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth".
One may speculate what universal language did they all speak before the Lord confounded the language and created various languages. Some commentators suggest the common language bond was Hebrew. One Jewish scholar who is also a believer in the Lord Jesus as Messiah stated that the language of Heaven is Hebrew. He based this on the account in the Book of Acts when God spoke to Paul in the Hebrew language; see Acts 26:14. Will we one day all speak again the one language? Some have quoted the passage in Zephaniah 3:9. That verse says, "for then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent". That verse is prophetic as it points to the ultimate supremacy of Israel over all the earth as this world is brought under the rulership of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, as God confused the one language at the tower of Babel, so He will create a unity by ushering in a one language for all the people. No longer will the people live in a state of Babylonian or Babel, which means to confuse or confound, but will replace modern Babylonian with the Kingdom of God.
The tower of Babel is re-inacted, generation after generation, as man seeks to have a one-world government to usher in a utopia. After World War One, man sought to create a League of Nations. This league was to enforce world law and order, to stop nations from fighting, to rule out arms and to have world peace. All these dreams faded into nothingness as Hitler and other dictators arose and the world entered a second world war.
Again, an attempt was made in about 1945 to create the United Nations with the initial meeting in San Francisco, California. Again, we have seen the failures of this United Nations, as wars have been fought continually since its inception. But man will never learn that there can be no peace until the Prince of Peace comes. And the Bible predicts with deadly accuracy that this present evil age, with all its machinery for a world government, will end with a war in the Middle East, called the Battle of Armageddon. While we may see this politically, so it is in the religious and economic realm. The Bible says in Revelation, chapter 16, 17 and 18 that all realms will come to nought.
As mentioned earlier, the political will end in a world-wide confutation. Chapter 17 speaks of the fall of religious Babylon and chapter 18 speaks of the fall of economic Babylon. The fall of political Babylon is spoken of in chapter 16. One Bible commentator figuratively uses the idea of brick and slime as what man tries to do to build a human government without God. And not only a human government but a religious system without the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Bricks, he says, are people who are fashioned to all be the same in the religious forms which man has devised. The slime is what keeps the bricks, or people together; and slime represents to him our rules and regulations that the religious systems have invented as they operate outside the realm of the Spirit of Christ. And so man, politically, economically and religiously, have sought to have uniformity by putting us all in their molds, heating us with the pressures of conformity and then placing us in a system with the slime of their regulations to make an invisible and visible tower of confusion in these last days.
And so, with the confusion of languages, man began to go in different directions from Babylon. As mentioned earlier in this chapter, the descendants of Shem went more to the East, the descendants of Ham went more to the South and the descendants of Japheth went more to the North. Some scholars state that from the time of the flood to the dispersion of the descendants of Noah after they were confounded at the tower of Babel, this was a period of about 200 to 300 years. One source of information made an interesting observation, regarding Nimrod after the confusion of languages at Babel. This source stated that Nimrod later resumed work with the re-building of Babylon. He is credited with the creation of three more cities which are nearby. These cities are Erech, Accad, and Calneh. He not only built them, but he consolidated them into one kingdom under his own rule. The cities and the kingdoms were very small, but this was the beginning of Imperialism. And this activity may have well been the model of the spirit of imperialism, which came into full fruition in the development of man's ambitions for his glory, greed and selfish ambitions.
Perhaps this is what Paul saw as he said many years after the families of Noah were dispersed, "God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him; and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us;" - Acts 17:26-27.
To be continued.................Dr. Jack E. Jacobsen