Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Can That Faith Save Him?"

As we are preparing to move to another state, I have been quite busy and have neglected posting on this blog. For that I apologize. I pick up here with a look at a portion of the word that I believe is in great need of proper interpretation.

James 2:14-26

In 2:14, James writes “What is the profit my brothers, if anyone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” Then in verse 24 he adds, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith only.” It has appeared to me over the years that this portion of the New Testament has been greatly misunderstood and misused by many true believers in Christ. I believe the reason is threefold: 1) not adequately knowing the writer and the recipients of this letter, 2) not paying attention to the context of this portion, and 3) the unwillingness to accept the fact that “by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works that no one should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

The Writer and the Recipients:

It is generally accepted that the writer of this letter was James, the flesh brother of Jesus (Matt. 13:55), and not James, the son of Zebedee (Matt. 4:21), one of the original twelve apostles, nor James the son of Alphaeus (Matt. 10:3). He later became an apostle (Gal. 1:19), and one of the leading elders in the church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17; 15:2, 13; 21:18). Most also agree that the time of writing was somewhere around 45 to 50 A.D. [Note: This would have been before any of the writings of the apostle Paul.]

James, having been a flesh brother of Jesus, was a Jew who became a Christian through faith in the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, it may be helpful to understand something of the struggle that was taking place within the church around the time of James’ writing concerning the clear distinction between the old covenant and the new covenant. To do so, I would now like to insert a portion of the Bible from Acts 15:1-21 and Galatians 2:11-14:

And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren. And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: ‘ After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; so that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the LORD who does all these things.’ Known to God from eternity are all His works. Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath” (Acts 15:1-21).

Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I (Paul) withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews (Gal. 2:11-14)?

It is not difficult to see or understand the struggle that was going on at this time. I have added the highlights to emphasize the clarity and simplicity of the gospel versus the Jewish influence that was still with some of the apostles. Martin Luther denied that the Book of James was the work of an apostle and called it an “epistle of straw”. I don’t believe we should go that far because “all Scripture is God-breathed” (II Tim. 3:16). At the same time, the Bible itself teaches us that there was a time when some of the leaders in the early church were still having a hard time completely doing away with the old covenant, that which was “becoming old and growing decrepit and near to disappearing” (Heb. 8:13). Accepting this may help us to understand why James wrote as he did and also to receive and enjoy his epistle for the purpose that God intended.

James writes to the “twelve tribes in dispersion”. He is not writing to the church in general as Paul did in most of his writings, but specifically to the Jews who had become Christians and were scattered throughout the nations. Much of the tone of this book is that of warning and even rebuke, probably out of James’ concern that having became Christians through faith in Christ, they were not living and walking according to their new life nor manifesting its fruit.

The Context:

To study God’s word rightly, it is always important to look at a given portion within the context in which it was written. There is a tendency for us to sometimes read a part of the Bible and decide what it means neglecting the verses which led to it and those that follow. This quite often leads to error.

In chapter two, James gave warning concerning the respecting of certain people over others, making distinctions based upon personal preferences, and called this sin. He warns that this kind of judgment of others could bring judgment upon themselves and then follows with “What is the profit my brothers, if anyone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” Herein lies the contextual problem: as soon as we hear the language of “faith” and “save”, we think of our initial entrance into God’s kingdom by God’s Spirit entering our spirit through regenerating faith. The question is not can we be saved by grace through faith alone at the time we first turned our heart to the Lord and were born of the Spirit based upon the perfect work of redemption accomplished by Christ on the cross. This is made more than clear in too many other portions of God’s word (see the last section: “Saved By Grace Through Faith”). The point here is “judgment being without mercy to him who has shown no mercy”. In chapter 14 of the Book of Romans, the apostle Paul also deals with this same matter of judgment upon those who judge others. Then, starting with verse ten he says, “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the LORD, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God’. So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” (vv. 10-12). Although our eternity with God is secure based upon our faith in Christ and His perfect redemptive work, there will still be a time of judgment at the judgment seat of Christ at His second coming, in which the believers will be judged according to how they lived as children of God. We will all “give an account” of ourselves to God. In Revelation 22:12, the Lord Himself says, “Behold, I come quickly, and My reward is with Me to render to each one as his WORK is.” In First Corinthians chapter three, Paul writes of a “saved, yet so as through fire”, regarding Christians who are attempting to use the wrong materials in building up the church (vv. 12-15). In summary, our initial regenerating faith in Jesus Christ gives us eternal life and guarantees our eternity with God. But it is our living by faith, a life of faith, that will render a “well done good and faithful servant” when our master returns.

James is not discussing the initial regenerating faith of the saints, but faith in action, a living faith, a useful faith, a fruitful faith, a faith that produces works, works of faith. It is a practical and practiced faith that gives when there is a need (vv. 15-16), acts in absolute obedience to God even when it seems to be most unreasonable (vv. 21-23), and chooses to care for the interests of God’s kingdom over their own (v. 25). It is a faith that makes us right with God (righteous, justified) not only positionally and for eternity, but in our daily life with all of its choices and activities. It is a work-producing faith, a faith that works together with works that perfect our faith (v. 22). In this sense, we are justified by faith and works, that is, works of faith.

God desires and intends that His children would not only enter into His kingdom by faith, but would also daily and moment by moment live, move, and act in it by faith. The apostle Paul said, “We believe, therefore we speak” (II Cor. 4:13b). Are we able to speak to others of the salvation which is in Jesus only? Do we have much to say in the meetings of the church? Or are we able to chatter endlessly about many other things and become silent when it comes to divine and eternal things and ministering to one another for building up? If so, it may be that our faith is not a very living, operational faith. There is a whole chapter in the Bible that speaks of those who acted by faith. By faith so and so did this and by faith so and so did that. Ask yourself, by faith, what have you done? What are you now doing by faith? Paul said, “We walk by faith, not by appearance” (II Cor. 5:7). Could we honestly say that our lives are characterized by a walk of faith action, verses a walk of appearance responses? Are we building our lives upon deceptive sinking sand or dependable water walking? Do we have mountain moving faith or are we being hindered from following the Lord by mountains? Should not we all be included in the “faith chapter”? I encourage you to take some time to soberly consider that by faith, what have you done, and by faith, what are you doing. If you come up short, go to the Lord and confess. Go to Him and be filled. Go to Him and remain in Him and start practically living and walking by a faith that produces and results in God glorifying works.

One last note before I conclude with the last section. As James goes on from this matter of faith and works, in the very next verse he again talks about judgment: “Do not become many teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive greater judgment” (3:1). Verses 14 through 26 are sandwiched between two verses regarding judgment. We should now be able to somewhat understand this portion of the word having studied it according to its context.
Saved By Grace Through Faith:

It is unfortunate that some would misunderstand and misuse this portion of James at the great expense of denying the wonderful fact that our initial salvation and our eternity with God is completely based upon the perfect redemptive work of Christ on the cross and our receiving this free gift by grace through faith. In order that we may never confuse this matter with James 2:14-26, I now conclude this study with some of the many wonderful verses regarding the way of salvation as a free gift through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.

He who believes and is baptized will be saved. (Mark 16:16a)

Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:50)

Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. (Luke 8:12)

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17)

And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. (Acts 2:21)

But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they. (Acts 15:11)

And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30-31)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. (Rom. 1:16)

What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness. (Rom. 4:1-5)

He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. (Rom. 4:20-25)

That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Rom. 10:9-10, 13)

Even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Eph. 2:5, 8-9)

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. (II Tim. 1:8-9)

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:4-5)

To copy or download this document, click here.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Spiritual and Spirit-Filled (Part Seven)

God the Father so loved the people of this world that He sent His Son through incarnation to accomplish redemption by crucifixion in order that He, as the Spirit, could come to live and dwell in all those who truly believe. This is called salvation; this is God's new creation. Salvation is not to make bad people good. Rather, it is to make dead people alive. Ephesians 2:5 says that "we were dead in our offenses" and that God "made us alive together with Christ." It is the Spirit that gives life (II Cor. 3:6)! Salvation is not that some day we can make it to this nice place called heaven. In fact, Ephesians 2:6 says that we are already "seated together with Christ in the heavenlies." It is in the Spirit that we now have access to the Father (Eph. 2:18).

Having been made alive with Christ, we are to walk in the newness of this life (Rom. 6:4) and serve in the newness of the Spirit (Rom. 7:6).
Having been seated with Christ in the heavenlies, we are to set our mind on the things which are above (Col. 3:2) and have a walk that is according to our heavenly citizenship (Phil. 3:16, 20).

We are to be holy in all our manner of life because God is holy (I Pet. 1:15-16).
We are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48).

May we be clear and never for a moment forget that only by the Holy Spirit can we be holy in all our manner of life and only by the Spirit can we be transformed into the perfection of God's glory. Dear brothers and sisters, we must not only be born of the Spirit, we must also pursue to live spiritual and Spirit-filled lives. As God's new creation, we will then be living a heavenly life on earth as we prepare to spend eternity with Him. Praise be to God!

Now we will continue with our third installment of the Spirit in the New Testament from Galatians through Revelation. Enjoy!

*The Spirit is received out of the hearing of faith. (Gal. 3:2)
*The Christian life begins with the Spirit. (Gal. 3:3)
*The Spirit is received through faith. (Gal. 3:14)
*God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts. (Gal. 4:6)
*We are to walk by the Spirit. (Gal. 5:16)
*We are to be led by the Spirit. (Gal. 5:18)
*Godly virtues are the fruit of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22)
*We are to live by the Spirit. (Gal. 5:25)
*If we sow unto the Spirit we will reap eternal life. (Gal. 6:8)
*We were sealed by the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 1:13)
*In the Spirit we have access to the Father. (Eph. 2:18)
*We are to be strengthened with power through the Spirit. (Eph. 3:16)
*Christian oneness is of the Spirit. (Eph. 4:3)
*We are not to grieve the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 4:30)
*We are to serve/worship by the Spirit of God. (Phil. 3:3)
*Love is in the Spirit. (Col. 1:8)
*Joy is of the Holy Spirit. (I Thes. 1:6)
*We are not to quench the Spirit. (I Thes. 5:19)
*Sanctification is of the Spirit. (II Thes. 2:13)
*Renewing is of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5)
*The Holy Spirit speaks. (Heb. 3:7)
*The Holy Spirit makes things clear. (Heb. 9:8)
*Christ offered Himself to God through the eternal Spirit. (Heb. 9:14)
*The gospel should be preached by the Holy Spirit. (I Pet. 1:12)
*It is by the Spirit that we know God abides in us. (I John 3:24)
*It is by His Spirit that we know we abide in Him. (I John 4:13)
*The Spirit is the truth. (I John 5:6)
*We are to pray in the Holy Spirit. (Jude 1:20)
*The Spirit speaks to the churches. (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22)
*The Spirit with the bride of Christ calls for all to come. (Rev. 22:17)

Hallelujah for the Spirit! Oh, that we all would be spiritual and Spirit-filled children of the living God!

To copy or download this document, click here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spiritual and Spirit-Filled (Part Six)

It is a strange and unfortunate thing that among all those who have been born of the Spirit of God through faith in Jesus Christ, very few seem to be living daily spiritual and Spirit-filled lives. Why is this? Well, a whole book or volumes could be written on this matter and the reasons could be somewhat endless. But I believe at least part of the problem is, that to many, salvation is the forgiveness of sins with the hope of heaven someday, instead of forgiveness of sins in order to live the spiritual, Spirit-filled life of a new creature in Christ. We were first saved by receiving the Spirit that we might go on to live the rest of our lives living, walking, being led by, and being filled with the Spirit. Does this describe your daily life? If not, don't be condemned. But then again, don't be content. Seek the Lord. Repent. Search the Scriptures. Open your heart and your life to the Lord. Refuse to accept a life that looks very much like those without Christ. Pursue the Lord. Confess your sins. Hunger for the presence of God. Don't make excuses for yourself: I'm busy, I have a family, I have a job, etc. These things are not the problem. Our heart is the problem. What do we love? What do we put first in our lives? What occupies our heart, our thoughts? What are we living for? What is our hope? I believe if we are willing to deal with these questions in an open and sincere way with God, we can then go on to pursue to live spiritual and Spirit-filled lives. That being said, let's continue with some of what is known of the Spirit in Acts, Romans, and First and Second Corinthians.

*Jesus gave commandment through the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:2)
*Power is received to be witnesses when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. (Acts 1:8)
*The disciples were all filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:4)
*The Spirit enabled them to speak in different tongues. (Acts 2:4)
*The Spirit was poured out at Pentecost. (Acts 2:17-18)
*The poured out Spirit can cause people to prophecy. (Acts 2:18)
*The Holy Spirit is a gift received by repenting and being baptized. (Acts 2:38)
*Being filled with the Holy Spirit causes people to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31)
*Sometimes the Spirit is given through the laying on of hands. (Acts 8:17-18)
*The Spirit can speak very clear and specific words to lead us. (Acts 8:29; 10:19-20; 13:2; 20:23)
*It is possible to be caught away by the Spirit. (Acts 8:39)
*The Holy Spirit can fall upon people as they are hearing the word. (Acts 10:44; 11:15)
*It is possible to foretell future events through the Spirit. (Acts 11:28)
*The Holy Spirit may send us out. (Acts 13:4)
*The Holy Spirit may forbid us at times to speak the word of God. (Act 16:6-7)
*The Holy Spirit appoints overseers for the church. (Acts 20:28)
*Jesus was designated the Son of God according to the Spirit of holiness in His resurrection. (Rom. 1:4)
*God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 5:5)
*The law of the Spirit of life has freed us from the law of sin and death. (Rom. 8:2)
*We are to be mindful of the things of the Spirit. (Rom. 8:5)
*The Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. (Rom. 8:11)
*The Spirit gives life to our mortal bodies. (Rom. 8:11)
*By the Spirit, we are to put to death the practices of the body. (Rom. 8:13)
*We are to be led by the Spirit. (Rom. 8:14)
*The Spirit witnesses to us that we are children of God. (Rom. 8:16)
*The Spirit intercedes for us in our prayers. (Rom. 8:26)
*The kingdom of God is in the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 14:17)
*Love is of the Spirit. (Rom. 15:30)
*God reveals wonderful things through the Spirit. (I Cor. 2:10)
*The Spirit searches the depths of God. (I Cor. 2:10)
*Spiritual things can be spoken in words taught by the Spirit. (I Cor. 2:13)
*We are God's temple in which the Spirit of God dwells. (I Cor. 3:16)
*We were washed, sanctified, and justified in the Spirit of our God. (I Cor. 6:11)
*The Spirit operates to distribute spiritual gifts to the members of His body. (I Cor.12:11)
*In the Spirit we were baptized into the Body of Christ. (I Cor. 12:13)
*We have been given to drink of the Spirit. (I Cor. 12:13)
*The last Adam (Jesus) became a life-giving Spirit. (I Cor. 15:45)
*The Spirit has been given to us as a pledge. (II Cor. 1:22)
*The New Testament ministry is a ministry of the Spirit. (II Cor. 3:6)
*The Spirit gives life. (II Cor. 3:17)
*Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (II Cor. 3:17)
*The Lord, the Spirit, is transforming us. (II Cor. 3:18)
*Fellowship is of the Holy Spirit. (II Cor. 13:14)

Oh, that the Spirit would be so much more to each one of us daily and moment by moment. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all!

To copy or download this document, click here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spiritual and Spirit-Filled (Part Five)

It seems that once I get on this matter of the Spirit, it is hard for me to leave it. But I believe there is good reason for this. Consider that the Spirit is called "the Spirit of truth" (John 14:17; 15:26) who teaches us and reminds us of all that Jesus has spoken (John 14:26) and even guides us into all truth (John 16:13). Consider that, "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard and which have not come up in man's heart; things which God has prepared for those who love Him", are revealed to us through the Spirit, even the depths of God (I Cor. 2:9-10). Consider that it is "by the Spirit" that we are to put to death the practices of our body (Rom. 8:13). Consider that we are to be led by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18), live and walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25), and serve by the Spirit (Phil. 3:3). This alone should impress us greatly with the importance of the Spirit in our Christian lives.

But there is much more. In fact, the Spirit is mentioned about 225 times in the New Testament. With that in mind, and with the hope that we would all have a greater awareness and enjoyment of the Spirit in our daily lives, I have decided to spend the next three lessons listing part of the 225 verses concerning the Spirit in the New Testament. We will begin with the four Gospels, go on to Acts through Second Corinthians, and finish with Galatians through Revelation. So here we go!

*The birth of Jesus was "of the Holy Spirit". (Matt. 1:18-20)
*When Jesus was baptized, the Spirit came upon Him. (Matt. 3:16)
*Jesus was "led by the Spirit" into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. (Matt. 4:1)
*Jesus cast out demons "by the Spirit of God". (Matt. 12:28)
*Jesus walked "in the power of the Spirit". (Luke 4:14)
*The Spirit of God was "upon Jesus", having been anointed to preach the gospel. (Luke 4:18)
*Jesus "exulted in the Holy Spirit". (Luke 10:21)
*The Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. (Luke 11:13)
*Blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is the only unforgivable sin. (Luke 12:10)
*When being persecuted, the Holy Spirit teaches us what to say. (Luke 12:12)
*Jesus baptizes in the Holy Spirit. (John 1:33)
*To enter into the kingdom of God, you must be "born of the Spirit". (John 3:5)
*God is Spirit. (John 4:24)
*The Spirit gives life. (John 6:63)
*The Spirit is for drinking and will flow out as rivers of living water. (John 7:37-39)
*The Spirit is "the comforter" given by the Father to be with us forever. (John 14:16)
*The Spirit is the "Spirit of truth". (John 14:17)
*The Spirit teaches and reminds us of what Jesus has spoken. (John 14:26)
*The Spirit "testifies" concerning Jesus. (John 15:26)
*The Spirit "guides us into all truth". (John 16:13)
*The Spirit declares to us the things that are coming. (John 16:13)
*On the evening of the resurrection, Jesus breathed into His disciples for them to receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22)

I would encourage us all to print out this list to read and pray over it. Meditate upon each verse. Let the Spirit of the Lord impress upon us who He is and reveal to us His operation in our lives.

Lord, I pray that we all would have a greater appreciation, clearer revelation, and intensified realization of Your Holy Spirit in our lives. Glory be to God! Grace be with you all.

To print or download this document, click here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spiritual and Spirit-Filled (Part Four)

God desires and intends that all those who have been born of His Spirit would then go on to live spiritual and Spirit-filled lives. But according to my observation (and I'm pretty sure most of you would agree) it appears that very few Christians live the kind of life they were saved to live. The apostle Paul said, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20). How many of us can say this with a good conscience or even have a good understanding of what this really means? To the saints at Corinth Paul wrote, "And I, brothers, was not able to speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to fleshy, as to infants in Christ" (I Cor. 3:1). Although they had been sanctified in Christ Jesus and were called saints (I Cor. 1:2), they were not living spiritual and Spirit-filled lives. How about us? First John 2:6 says, "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk even as He walked." Are we walking as Jesus walked? What kind of walk did He have? John 8:28-29 says that He did nothing from Himself and that He always did the things that were pleasing to His Father. Is it possible for us to live such a life? The word of God commands that we do.

I write these things with no intention to bring condemnation, but with the hope of spiritual conviction that would lead to a spiritual and Spirit-filled life. So how can we live this kind of life?

First, we must see that we are tripartite (I Thes. 5:23). This means that God made us with three distinct parts: a body, a soul, and a spirit.

Second, it is crucial that we understand the condition of each part as children of God.

1. The body is called the body of sin and the body of death (Rom. 6:6, 7:24). Sin dwells in our mortal bodies (Rom. 6:12; 7:17). Nothing good dwells in this body of flesh (Rom. 7:18). It is in need of redemption (Rom. 8:23), and will one day be transfigured to be conformed to the body of God's glory (Phil. 3:21).

2. The soul is the psychological part in which we think, choose, have and express emotion and moods, get offended, criticize, judge, etc. It also has been damaged by sin and therefore needs to be renewed and sanctified and fully transformed from one degree of glory to another by the Spirit of the Lord (Rom. 12:2; I Thes. 5:23; II Cor. 3:18). It is called the old man which was crucified with Christ when He died on the cross (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 2:20).

3. The spirit is that which God created in us so that we could not only have fellowship with Him, but even become one with Him (I Cor. 6:17). It is a lamp to contain the Lord who is light (Proverbs 20:27). At the time of our initial salvation, it was our human spirit that was born of the Spirit of God (John 3:6). It is the place where the Spirit of God gives us the sure testimony that we are His children (Rom. 8:16). It is in this spirit that the only true worship takes place (John 4:23-24).                                                                       

In summary, our spirit is the regenerated dwelling place of God, our soul is the crucified old man in need of daily transformation, and our body is the dwelling place of sin that awaits its redeeming transfiguration.

Third, we must learn how to let the Spirit in our spirit become our dominating part.


I intend to clarify this matter in the forthcoming lessons.

To copy or download, click here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spiritual and Spirit-Filled (Part Three)

When did you get saved? How did you get saved? Is so and so saved? These are very common questions asked by many true believers in Christ. By "saved", they are referring to the time in which through faith in Jesus Christ, someone is born of the Spirit and becomes a genuine child of God. At that moment, their human spirit is regenerated by the Holy Spirit and they become a new creation in Christ. But this is just the beginning. It is a birth. It's the beginning of a race.

To the Galatians Paul said "having begun by the Spirit...." That was the beginning of their Christian life through faith in Christ. But Peter writes in First Peter 1:9, "Receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your soul." Paul's point in Galatians is that as our Christian life begins by receiving the Spirit through faith, it should also continue to be a life of living and walking by the Spirit by faith. This, and only this, constitute a true, spiritual, and Spirit-filled Christian life; it is the way of growing unto maturity and running well to the finish, that is, "the end of our faith."

In the previous lesson I began to list some verses that substantiate the fact that having experienced the "beginning" salvation, it is then crucial to continue to live a spiritual and Spirit-filled life to the end. I now continue.

Second Timothy 4:7-8
Close to the end of his life, Paul declared that he had "fought the good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith." It was based upon this, that he had the assurance he would receive the crown of righteousness. It was not just his initial salvation that gave him this confidence.

Hebrews 2:1-3
Here, the writer warns of drifting away by neglecting so great a salvation. It is possible to be truly saved and not give adequate daily attention to the salvation we have received. This is a serious and sober warning.

Hebrews 3:7-4:11
In using the children of Israel as an example, the writer warns the New Testament believers concerning falling away from the living God because of an evil heart of unbelief. The issue is not the loss of salvation, but of fully entering into a Sabbath rest. In fact, we are exhorted to be diligent to enter into that rest lest we end up coming short of it as did those who died in the wilderness.

Hebrews 5:10-6:1
The concern in this portion is not for initial salvation; it is for the growth and maturity of the saints. It is not normal for those who have been saved for some time to remain on a diet of milk and be dull of hearing when it comes to the solid food of the word of righteousness. It is crucial that we are all brought on to maturity.

Hebrews 12:1-2, 14-16
Having begun the race of the Christian life, we must now run with endurance by putting away every encumbrance and sin and by keeping our eyes on Jesus. If not, we are in danger of falling away from the grace of God and giving up our birthright as did Esau.

James 1:12
The crown of life is promised to those who are approved by testing as they endure trials while loving God. How different this is than the common thinking among many Christians that we are guaranteed the crown of life because of our initial salvation. That is not what the Bible teaches.

Second Peter 1:10-11
Peter charges the brothers to be diligent to make their calling and selection firm. It is this diligence that will keep them from stumbling and enable them to have a rich and bountiful entrance into the eternal kingdom supplied to them.

Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26-28; 3:5, 11-12, 21
In his apocalyptic and prophetic writing to the seven churches in Asia, John gives a very clear and strong message that reward is not given just because you are a believer in one of the churches. Reward is given to those who overcome not only the obstacles to their initial faith, but to everything that would hinder them from growing up and running well. How much overcoming is needed once we have been born of God and started the race of the Christian life!

Revelation 22:12
The Lord's reward when He comes is given based upon our work (by the Spirit by faith). Our initial salvation secures our eternity with God. But it is a spiritual and Spirit-filled fruit bearing life that brings reward when He comes.

The verses listed in this and the previous lesson should be adequate to show us that having been born of God and having started the Christian race, it is crucial and essential that we continue to grow up and run well. To be content with our initial salvation and assume that all will be well when the Lord returns is ignorance of the truth and negligence of the clear word of God.

Having seen the great need to live a spiritual and Spirit-filled life, we will continue in the coming lessons to see how such a life can be lived.

To copy or download this document, click here.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Spiritual and Spirit-Filled (Part Two)

If you have not read the previous post, please do so. It presents some crucial questions that we must ask ourselves if we are serious about following Jesus. It also gives us some indicators to help us know if we are, or are not, living a spiritual and Spirit-filled life.

Having been born of the Spirit does not guarantee that you will live a spiritual and Spirit-filled daily life. It is hard to deny that this statement is true based upon the word of God and our own experience. Yet some believe otherwise. They basically think that if you are genuinely saved, you will live a spiritual and Spirit-filled life, and that if you are not living a spiritual and Spirit-filled life, you are probably not even saved. Once again, I would say that both the Bible and our own experience indicate otherwise.

This matter has caused much confusion to many dear believers in Christ, and Satan has taken advantage of this confusion to hinder and stumble their walk with the Lord. What must be understood is that the Christian life basically consists of a birth, growth, and maturity. It is likened to a race with its start, course, and finish. The birth is the start, the growth is the course, and the maturity is the finish. If you are not growing well, it doesn't mean that you haven't been born. If you are not running well, it doesn't mean that you have not started the race. Being born does not guarantee that you will grow well and mature. Starting a race does not guarantee that you will run well and finish.

The Bible gives many examples and teachings to clarify and substantiate this understanding:

Note: So as to avoid unnecessary debate, I will not include the parables of Jesus at this time, which I believe give clear illustrations of this truth, and will go to the more direct examples and teachings in the epistles.

First Corinthians 1:2-7, 11; 3:1-3
Paul was writing to the church of God in Corinth, to those who had been sanctified in Christ Jesus, to the saints who in everything had been enriched in Christ and had confirmed the testimony of the Lord. Yet, he was not able to speak to them as to spiritual men. They were still fleshy infants in Christ who were not able to receive solid food and were fleshly as indicated by the jealousy and strife among them. Having been begotten as children of God, they were lacking in proper growth.

First Corinthians 9:24-27
Paul spoke of himself as one who was running a race to receive the prize of an incorruptible crown. He was aware of the possibility of becoming disapproved or disqualified if he did not continue to run well. He exhorted the saints to do the same.

Galatians 3:1-5
Paul addressed the Galatians as those who had begun their Christ life by receiving the Spirit by faith. His concern was now with their wrong understanding of how to be perfected. Perfection is related to growth and maturity and is to be accomplished not by the works of law through the efforts of the flesh, but by the Spirit through faith.

Galatians 5:1, 4, 7
Speaking to those who had been set free from the law by Christ, Paul realized they had fallen away from this grace and were no longer running well. Having begun the race by the Spirit by faith, they were now attempting to run according to the works of the law. Paul was laboring to set them back on a proper course.

Ephesians 1:1; 5:15-18
Writing to the saints in Ephesus, Paul did not charge them to be born of the Spirit, but to be filled with the Spirit. Being born of the Spirit is our initial entrance into the kingdom of God. Being filled with the Spirit is for our daily walk as children of God.

Philippians 2:12-13
There is the initial salvation of those who are born of the Spirit through faith in Christ. There is then the working out of a further salvation with fear and trembling according to God's operation in those who are now growing unto maturity.

Philippians 3:7-14
Paul himself, as one who had obviously been born of the Spirit and had entered the race of the Christian life, was now pursuing toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of Christ Jesus his Lord. He clearly recognized that he had not yet obtained the prize or been perfected, so he strongly pursued that he might attain the goal of the Christian life. As such, he should be an example and warning to us all.

Colossians 2:8, 18
Here Paul warns the saints to be careful not to let others carry them off as spoil or cheat them of their prize by wrong and deceptive philosophies and teachings. Satan has many tactics to hinder the growth of the saints and frustrate them in the running of the race. We must be aware of his strategies and know how to fight against them.

In order to keep this lesson from getting too long, I will continue and finish it in my next posting. Grow to maturity! Run to the finish! Grace be with you all.

To copy or download this document, click here.