Rediscovering NT Christianity – A Purpose Driven God

This is the first in a series I’m writing on Rediscovering NT Christianity. This article is available for download here

Many of us have read the popular title by Rick Warren, “Purpose Drive Life”. Unfortunately I am yet to read it, but I’ll like to tweak his title to apply to this writing. I have heard many people say “God will reveal what he has purposed for me” or “What God has purposed for me will surely come to pass”. We seem to think that God is yet to reveal that purpose, and that some special time will come when we will be made aware of it. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint a lot of us, but God’s purpose for us has already been revealed. We are only meant to conform to that purpose, and I’ll explain why by touching on one of the facets of that purpose – the body of Christ.

Let us start off by asking ourselves these questions. If the God we believe is really an omniscient God, how come he didn’t know that Adam could fall to the temptation of the devil? Or did he? If he did, then if Adam had passed the test, what would God have done? Would there have been the need for Jesus Christ at all? Did Christ only exist for the purpose of saving us from our sins, or God had a purpose for Christ far greater than we can all imagine. These for me are about the most important questions that we as Christians must answer to be able to truly understand the purpose of man on this earth, and by extension the purpose of our faith.

God’s Mysteries Revealed

This is why the epistle of Ephesians is such an important one (and part of the reason why we should spend more of our time reading the NT than the OT). Like I mentioned in a previous post, its the only letter Paul wrote to a church which didn’t attempt to deal with any particular problem that the recipient church was facing. It is full of such theological weight that many of us read it without fully assimilating it’s implications for our faith. I encourage you to take the time to read that book again, alongside Colossians and Hebrews. It is the epistle that explores God’s purpose for our redemption, a purpose which existed before the foundation of the earth.

Paul always spoke of certain mysteries. Of these, he often said though it had been given directly to him by revelation, other apostles and prophets of his time had also received these same mysteries. These then became the vision that drove Paul’s ministry. However, he states clearly that these mysteries were totally hidden from the prophets of old, who wished they could look into them as well. These mysteries were hidden nowhere else but in God himself, and obviously it will only take God to reaveal them.

And he made known unto us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment, to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Eph 1:9-10)

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus (Eph 3:2-5)

Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me; to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph 3:8-11)

Paul here mentions 3 mysteries hidden to the prophets of old.

  1. When the times have been fulfilled, everything will be brought under one head, Jesus Christ our Lord.

  2. The promises of Abraham are available to both Gentiles and Jews through a living body called the church, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

  3. The world, spiritual and physical is intended to see the many-sided wisdom of God through the same living body called the church. This ETERNAL PURPOSE was again achieved in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You can see the amazing plan of God. Christ and his church are everything. When God sought to achieve his purpose on this earth, he made that purpose happen through Christ, and that to make that purpose clearly visible to the earthly and heavenly places, he chose the church to display that purpose. From the three above, it is obvious that because everything is IN CHRIST, THROUGH CHRIST and UNDER CHRIST, the church is nothing without Christ. However, what is even more shocking to me is that God’s wisdom can only be displayed in the church.

Let me use this example to display the implications of these mysteries. We know scientifically that decisions are taken by the brain, and communicated to the rest of the body for action to take place. In the same way, God’s intention and design is that when Christ being the head thinks of something to do, his Church will act it out. This is what we mean when we say that Christ is the head of the church. We don’t only mean that he is the say “General Overseer” of the church, but that he is the source of direction for the rest of the body to act.

And this is exactly what the Ephesian epistle seeks to communicate to us – our relationship to Christ as his body (Colossians talks about the supremacy and headship of Christ over his body amongst other things). That we are in a very privileged and powerful position, being the body of Christ. Our role is to seek out what the head wills, and do it. However, no part of the body acts alone, but always in coordination with certain other parts. To grasp something, the arm must move toward the object, and the nerves and muscles exerted for the fingers to clasp the object. The biceps and triceps are then flexed to lift the object up, and the purpose is achieved. I hope the doctors will excuse my ignorance of human anatomy, but I believe this is basically what the human body does, and the church is no exception.

The Manifold Wisdom of God

But what exactly is the manifold wisdom of God? Hmm, that will take me a whole book to delve into, but I’ll summarise it in three ways, though they are actually more than three.

  1. God intends the Church to be the bride of Christ, spotless and holy as Christ himself. (Eph 5:27; Rev 19:7-9). Just as Abraham sent his servant to bring a wife to Isaac, so has God sent his Holy Spirit to bring the Church to Christ.

  2. God intended and has created a new family, in which he is the Father, Christ the eldest son, and the church his younger brothers. (Ro 8:29;Heb 2:10,19;5:8). We have a direct relationship with him, again possible only through Christ. That is why both Gentiles and Jews have to come under the church. Check out what Paul said “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God” (1 Cor 10:32). In fact, the world even awaits our revelation as the sons of God, and until then will continue to groan in the pain that it does. (Ro 8:19-23).

  3. God has always intended to dwell within and among men. It’s the reason why we individually and corporately are his temple (1 Co 6:19;3:16). This conforms to the new Jerusalem, where the writer of Revelation writes “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them’” (Rev 21:3). When you continue reading, there it is stated clearly that there no temple in that city: “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev 21:22). Can you guess why? Because the church which is part of Christ will be with Christ then. Christ will be joined with the church, which will in turn be joined with God. No temples needed. Hallelujah!

Purposed Before Creation

Liberating and empowering as this purpose is for us – a purpose which became Paul’s burning passion – it was a purpose that existed before man was created. The apostle calls it an eternal purpose, and that is why he says it was hidden. That is even more amazing to me. That means that even if Adam had not sinned, the church will still have come into being somehow, existing in, under and by Christ solely for the purpose of displaying God’s wisdom. Oh, and Paul cannot be accused of introducing teaching that Jesus did not teach. Christ himself said that his kingdom was prepared “since the creation of the world”. Let me show you some places where this “before/since creation” concept exists.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world‘” (Mt 25:34)

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be adopted as his sons …” (Eph 1:4)

This purpose was given us in Christ before the beginning of time …” (1 Ti 1:9)

If Adam Hadn’t Sinned

So now, we come back to answer the million dollar question. What if Adam & Eve hadn’t sinned? How does Christ and the church fit into the picture? Do you remember that apart from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, there was also the tree of life in the garden? Well, what did Jesus Christ say about that same tree of life in Revelations 2?

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev 2:7)

Well, a tree of life can only give eternal life. And therefore when man had fallen to sin, God had to prevent access to that tree, so they don’t stick to their sinful nature for eternity. Therefore they would have been given eternal life from that tree. Now note who is making the promise here. Jesus Christ himself. He is the one who will give it to them – again salvation in, through and by Christ. They would then have become the founding members of the church.

Implications of God’s Purpose

We can see that God had already determined his purpose for our creation and inclusion into the body of Christ. His overriding concern is for Christ and his body, the church. And therefore, it is obvious then that God’s purpose is intensely a corporate one. God is not going to reveal a separate purpose for you, apart from a purpose that fits within his eternal plan, a purpose centered around the church. The church is the reason why Christ came. If this is so, then the following observations can be made.

  1. Salvation is not about us the individuals who are saved by Christ. I know that our gospel and everything else that we teach today is so individualistic, but trust me, you were not saved for your own salvation’s sake. You are saved to take an active part in building up that body alongside others to make manifest God’s wisdom.

  2. Because of the unfortunately individualistic twist which church scholars trace from the D.L. Moody line of preaching, most Christians see the church not as the end itself, but just a point for gathering Christians who have been saved. We see our main mission as saving the whole world, which has shown evidence historically of producing very weak Christians. We don’t realize that it is within the church that transformation really happens, and every avenue must be explored to make that transformation be visible to the world. That is how the world will see the wisdom of God. Christianity has always been about “calling out from among the Gentiles a people for himself” (Act 15:14). Its the same thing God told the Israelites when he saved them from Egypt – “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles wings and brought you to myselfout of all nations, you will be my treasured possession” (Ex 19:4-5).

  3. It is because of the truth that God wants to dwell within his people that it’s painful to observe the mindset of Christians regarding the church building, as if God still dwells in buildings (this is exactly what Stephen tried to tell the Jews which incited their anger to kill him – “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men.” (Acts 7:48) ). The 1st century Christians understood this so well through Paul’s ministry, that it has been established historically and archaeologically that they never built for themselves church buildings, but simply used their homes or any available meeting spaces (a natural consequence of this was that they met in small groups, allowing them to also pay more attention to individual maturity). It’s only when a Roman emperor (Constantine) decided to nationalize Christianity that he commandeered existing temples for the Christians and built new ones as well, that set us on this path of decline.

  4. Because everyone is to be actively involved in building up Christ’s body, simply because that is the eternal purpose of God, it’s again painful to observe the separation between clergy and laity. We have created an artificial split between those who may serve God, and those who may just watch the show. It is a natural consequence that once you put some people in charge and not just give them guidance roles, but tell them that they are supposed to do all the important work in the church, then everyone else will relax. If there is one thing we all agree with, growth comes from directly experiencing an activity. No matter how many lessons you give a student, if they do not have the opportunity to practice it (and I mean practice it in the most important organism to any Christian – the church), they will never be a well-rounded student. The same is true of the church. If we only sit on the pews everyday and only a handful of us do any spiritually related activity, we are not displaying the wisdom of God – that he lives in everyone and is capable of using everyone.

I’ll leave you to ponder the rest of the implications of adopting such a mindset towards God and his purpose for you. However, I hear people say very often that where there is no vision, my people perish. The problem with contemporary Christianity is not that we don’t have a vision. Au contraire, there is an abundance of vision. The only question is whether this vision is defined by ourselves, or its the eternal purpose that God had designed before the foundation of the world.

Understanding that the church is God’s central eternal purpose on this earth made me see why Christ said this:

I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them”(Mat 18:19-20)

When a group of people gather under Christ’s headship (i.e. where he is the brain and they are the body) and are focused on his already predetermined purpose, they are walking in the mind of God. Therefore, whatever they as a group (not individuals) wish for concerning that purpose WILL BE DONE, because it already is in line with God’s vision. No wonder Paul said that “WE have the mind of God” (1 Cor 2:16), not “I have the mind of God”.

Our vision must not be individual, but corporate. It must not be from us, but from God. And finally, we must understand that God’s vision was predetermined before the foundation of the earth, and we can only conform to it, not dictate new terms to him. Or else we will heal the sick, raise the dead and do more than Mother Theresa did, but God will tell us he doesn’t know us because we pursued our own purpose.

** For an indepth discussion of the eternal purpose of God, refer to “From Eternity to Here” by Frank Viola, “So Beautiful” by Leonard Sweet, or “The Stewardship of the Mystery” by Theodore Austin-Sparks, which is available chapter by chapter at http://www.austin-sparks.net.

Inheritance! What Inheritance?

This article is available in pdf format here

I don’t know how many of us actually have actually taken time to digest Galatians 3, but it is one of those chapters that made me go like “Wow!!!”. I believe it behoves us to go into the implications of the content of that chapter and how they affect the hope and faith we have, against that which God had predetermined from the foundation of the earth. We’ll start off by looking at a passage from that chapter.

The Gospel was First Preached to Abraham?

The Scriptures foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you’” (Gal 3:8).

The first wow comes from realising that the gospel – the good news – did not originate from Jesus Christ on his earthly mission, but rather was in existence way before that, to the extent that it was preached to Abraham. Wasn’t the gospel about Jesus Christ? How did Abraham understand the gospel announced to him then, if there wasn’t as yet the one to bring it into fulfilment? The basis of our modern faith is Christ’s work on the cross that redeemed us from sin and brought us to the Father. But what was the basis of his faith? If “we who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Gal 3:9), then how similar or different is ours?

The key to understanding this is found in the same Galatians 3, this time in v 16.

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds’, meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed’, meaning one person, who is Christ” (Gal 3:16).

It important to note that in most of the passages in the NT where the word “promises” are used, it does refer to the promises God made to Abraham. In fact, most of the passages containing this word are misapplied in contemporary Christianity to mean some prosperity that God has promised for those who have faith in him on this earth, without recourse to what God has already told our “father of faith”, Abraham.

But back to the point. These promises were spoken to Abraham when God called him out of his father’s house in Ur. God promised to give a certain land through which all nations will be blessed to Abraham and to his offspring. He was to “take possession of the land”.

He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it” (Ge 15:7).

A Stranger in His Own Land. Promise Fulfilled? Not Yet.

But we find that Abraham lived in tents and as a stranger on the land even when he had finally arrived there. He never built a city, neither did Isaac nor Jacob. Even God acknowledged that fact.

The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” (Ge 17:8).

The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day” (Ge 18:1)

To understand this stranger-in-your-own-land behaviour of Abraham, we have to ask why there is always the attachment of the offspring to the promises, and not just to Abraham, Isaac or Jacob alone. As Gal 3:16 says, it was because that offspring is not a plural one and no ordinary singular one as well. He is the Christ himself. Note that the Israeli nation, though they have inhabited the “promised land” for so many years, have had periods long of total exile from their own land. Indeed, they themselves continue to wait for a Messiah who will grant them total unconditional reign over that land and over the earth. And in that same wise, until that offspring has come, that land will never belong fully to Abraham (and to all who are heirs with him of that promise). It is this offspring who shall bring the promise to fulfilment.

The writer of Hebrews does a brilliant expose on this particular issue in 11:8-10, and it is one that every child of Abraham, everyone who lives by the faith of Abraham, must continuously imbibe.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign land; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb 11:8-10).

The inheritance of a city is what Abraham looked forward to, and he looked forward to it by faith alone. It simply wasn’t one he could bring about. Only God in all his wisdom and power could. And obviously he never gained this promise, but he determined to live like a stranger on this earth until that promise was brought to fulfilment by He who had made it. And he was not the only one who lived by faith in the promises, however all those who shared in this faith with him had one thing in common – they were looking forward to a country of their own.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have the opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Heb 11:13-16)

So we see that Abraham and these men of faith were waiting for a city that God Himself will build,a heavenly city. What city is this city? Where is it and what is it like? The only city in the Scriptures that match this criteria is the New Jerusalem, described in Rev 21. I’ll encourage us to take the time and read all of it, but verse 1&2 of it says:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Rev 21:11-2).

This was their inheritance, and everywhere that you see the word “inheritance” or “inherit” especially in the NT, you should have this picture in mind. This was their privilege and their honour – to be found in the city of God at the end of the age of men. Let us look at some examples.

As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance (Dan 12:13 – which was spoken to Daniel at the end of all the visions he received from God).

Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified(Ac 20:32 – Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders)

who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:14 – Paul talking about the Holy Spirit the Ephesian disciples had received by faith).

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:28-29 – speaking of their future inheritance)

He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son” (Rev 21:7 – declaration of God to John in his vision about the heavenly Jerusalem)

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world (Mt 25:34 – Jesus separating the sheep from the goat in his judgement on his throne of glory”

Note that inheriting this city is only an extension of the millennial reign, in which these same overcomers will rule with Christ over the whole world, physical and spiritual.

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge … and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Rev 20:4)

Christ and the Inheritance

So then, did Christ teach about this inheritance of a kingdom, of an eternal city? Did Christ promise the reign in that kingdom (not just entry into it) to his disciples? What did Christ preach at all?

The stage was set for what Christ was to do on this earth even before he entered the world from Mary’s womb, when the angel appeared to her concerning the son she was about to give birth to.

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end”.(Lk 1:32-33)

And so, Jesus carried the message of who he was and what he was bringing to us who believe in his message. Let’s take a look at what he preached at the very beginning of his three year ministry, right after being tempted by the devil in the wilderness.

From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’” (Mt 4:17).

Jesus began by calling people to repentance. But you will observe that the call to repentance is not for repentance sake, but for a purpose – because of the kingdom. You see, the gospel has always been about the kingdom. It is not about Jesus’ death and resurrection, it is not about redemption from sin. It is not about healing and miraculous deed of Jesus, neither is is about healing us and providing us with daily bread. These wonderful themes aforementioned are the process through which the purpose is achieved – God’s ultimate plan of sharing the reign of the world physical and spiritual with His called out people (‘eklessia’ or the church) in a kingdom whose capital is the new Jerusalem – the one Abraham was looking forward to. The fact that the kingdom Abraham looked forward to is the same one Jesus has prepared for us can be seen in the light Mt 25:34 and other places, which states that the Kingdom was prepared for us “since the creation of this world” or “before the creation of the world” (Eph 1:4; 2 Ti 1:9). It is no wonder then that Jesus himself calls His gospel “the gospel of the kingdom”.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Mt 24:14)

It will interest you to know that there are more than 50 references to the phrase “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven” in Matthew alone, not speaking of the other Gospels. In fact, when Peter was beginning to wonder what exactly they were following Jesus for, he got a clear and straight answer reminding him not of gaining repentance from sin and eternal life, but an inheritance in that Kingdom. He didn’t tell Peter of the process, for Peter was already part of those who were following me. He was telling him of the purpose – the kingdom.

Peter answered him, ‘We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’” (Mt 19:27-28)

You see, the Jews have always been a strong-headed people who prided in their position as children of Abraham, children of the promise. And Jesus’ message never changed that promise, or made a different promise to them. Have you wondered why there are a so many of the parables which talk about the kingdom of God (“the kingdom of God/heaven is like ….”)? The Parable of the Weeds, the Parable of the Net, Parable of the Mastard Seed, Parable of the Talents & Pounds, Parable of the Wedding Banquet, Parable of the Ten Virgins etc? And neither did the Jews misunderstand Jesus’s message in relation to the promise, for they had come to know and believe he was the Anointed One, the expected king who was going to bring about the kingdom of God.

While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” (Lk 19:11).

All this belief culminated in the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem described in the Gospels. In fact, the Jews of his day are the direct opposite of modern Christian – they had a good glimpse of the purpose (though not completely), but were completely thrown off tracks when Jesus expounded the process by which they may enjoy that purpose – repentance, faith and obedience to God through a renewed life offered by Jesus alone. On the contrary, we are caught up in different stages of this process, and I honestly cannot say that much for our appreciation of the purpose – the kingdom.

Implications of the Inheritance Life

If we are to be called true children of Abraham (Gal 3:7), then the examples in the life that our father Abraham lived should become cornerstones of our faith. And therefore it behoves us to look at certain characteristics of the life of our “father of faith”, that we may apply these to our own. Because I guarantee you that we cannot have it any easier than he had it and still be fit for the inheritance.

  1. Be ready to live like a stranger on this earth – As we have already established, Abraham lived as a stranger on this earth, this same earth that will be given back to him to rule over when Jesus returns. We as Christians cannot set our goals and priorities on what the worldly also desire. We must fully understand that although we are in this world, we are only waiting for our heavenly city and until Christ returns, we can only wait in faith and in His earthly representative’s power – the Holy Spirit. We should expect the world not to understand us for living like this, because they have not submitted their lives to the Holy Spirit that quickens us. If we endeavour to build our cities now, we will gain the world’s approval alright, but I believe I don’t need to state the obvious when it comes to God’s own.

  2. Be ready to suffer for your faith – Not because God hates you, but because as Frank Viola put it last week, God intentions grow the “human spirit but frustrates the soul and bids death to the flesh”. Between the time God called Abraham and blessed him, till the time he gave birth to Isaac was 25 years. It was such a long time that he was tempted to get the blessing through some other means – through Hagar. Of course that wasn’t God’s plan, but it shows us the importance of total reliance on God for the fulfilment of his own promises to us, something that our rebellious soul hates.

  3. Be ready to loose much for your faith – Related to the theme of suffering is loss. Here was Abraham, missing the company of family, friends and familiar settings. And these losses do not preclude the loss of the comfort of religious institutionalism. Just as Abraham was called out of his comfort zone, history has continuously shown that true spirituality does not breed well in the institutions of the day, which tend to exist for their own self-perpetuation.

    Also this loss could be also very personal. Take the case where Abraham was prepared to lose his son, knowing that God was capable of providing again through resurrection (Heb 11:17-19). Little did Abraham know that the real sacrifice was yet to come in the form of “the seed” – Christ.

  4. Become a friend of God – I’ve heard the popular song “I’m a friend of God”, and I’ve had cause to ask myself how I am a friend of God. We will all agree that friendship does not just form in the air. It is based on sharing a mutual concern or love or participation in something, and our friendship with God is definitely not about our interests, but His. If we are truly friends of God like Abraham was, we will be busy about building his kingdom, not ours. The one thing most important to God on this earth is the church which is to be the bride of Christ (if you doubt that, take some time to digest the book of Ephesians), and we better become active participants in building it, not warming its pews. Oh, and I don’t mean the church buildings, but his organic church, composed of them that that are gathered in his name.


If you study this gospel of the kingdom and it’s attendant Spirit produced lifestyle, it makes you understand the dearth of true spirituality in the church today. And it is not surprising, given the condemnation that Paul pronounced on those who preach any other gospel.

Conclusion

If you study this gospel of the kingdom and it’s attendant Spirit produced lifestyle, it makes you understand the dearth of true spirituality in the church today. And it is not surprising, given the condemnation that Paul pronounced on those who preach any other gospel.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really on gospel at all. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: if anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Gal l:6-9)

Today, the gospel we hear keeps “motivating” us to build our cities on this earth. They keep telling us that what is good for the world is good for us as well. The pulpit has become the stage for teaching philosophy and management skills, all wrapped up with a semblance of Jesus Christ. Even though Paul reminds us to “set our heart on things above” (Col 3:1), we have woefully turned it upside down. As for those who keep to the reformist theology, they unfortunately only continue to harp on the processes as individual in their own right, and fail to see their connectedness to achieve that ultimate purpose.

Or is it because of this?

As for the prophets who lead my people astray, if one feeds them, they proclaim ‘peace’; if he does not, they prepare to wage war against him” (Mic 3:5).

Apostle Paul’s Heart Desires – Are we Living Up to Them?

Theodore Austin-Sparks said that the mere existence of epistles after the Gospels points out the fact that Christianity is not a single event that happens to you, but a lifetime of progression in knowledge, which should lead to further obedience. That underpins our discourse today and I hope we come to a “unity of the faith” on this matter.

The Apostle Paul was indisputably instrumental in the early church and it’s growth. Even as he went about doing his work, his heart’s desire was to see certain traits in the churches that he had either founded or at least had spent considerable time working in. This desire is expressed in his prayer of thanksgiving when he heard of two traits in these churches – Faith and Love.

Paul’s Thanksgiving

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers”(Eph 1:15-16)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love you have for all the saints – the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth.” (Col 1:3-4)

We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess 1:2-3)

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.” (2 Thes 1:3)

As you may have observed from these passages, he talks about “faith in Christ Jesus” and “love for the brethren”. One may ask what was so distinct about these that he continuously looked out for them in the members of these churches (and I believe wherever else he went). There are quite a number of reasons, but we will look at only a few.

Why Faith?

Because faith is the foundation of our relationship with Christ. You see, when we love someone, we want to please them. Heb 6:11 says without faith it is impossible to please God. That means God himself has shown the way we may show love to him – by faith in Him. Christ’s atoning death on the cross achieves a certain double edged benefit for us.

  • In the negative sense, it sets us free from sin and it’s ultimate punishment, death.(Ro 6:3-14; Heb 2:9)

The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the live he lives, he lives to God.” (Ro 6:10)

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour, because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”. (Heb 2:9)

  • In the positive sense, it brings us into fellowship with Christ himself and the Father, a fellowship that existed when God created man. (I Jn 1:3; 1 Cor 1:9; 1 Pe 2:9-10)

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 Jn 1:3)

The first benefit had to come, to enable the second one. God could not have fellowship with sinful man, but since Christ has become the intermediary for us, we are able to approach God now and our fellowship with him is now restored. When the Scriptures say that Abraham walked with God, it does literally mean that. Simply put, he was a man of faith not in anything or anyone else, but God alone. We cannot clothe God when he’s naked because he never is. We cannot feed him when He is hungry, because he never is.

What determines our fellowship with God is faith. Even our ability to take advantage of Christ’s aforementioned work is again only by faith. Nothing else suffices. There is nothing else we can do for God besides that.

Why Love?

Because love is the basis of our relationship with each other. Note that we are talking about “love for the saints”, not the rest of the world. Many Christians today engage in some good deeds for their communities and those in need but who are not a part of the saints that they share fellowship with. Though this is commendable, their real first responsibility is to the saints (Gal 6:10). In fact, in Jn 13:34-35, Christ says the basis upon which the world and by extension Himself will identify his disciples is through the love the disciples have for one another.

The fellowship described previously is a fellowship akin to family. God becomes our Father, and we his sons. Check out what Jesus told Mary when she met the risen Christ on the third day:

.. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”.(Jn 20:17)

Now imagine I claim that God is my Father and you also claim that God is your Father. By simple logic, we are siblings, right? But I withhold the use of a spiritual gift which will build you up simply because of some personal problem I have with you. That is not a family in sync. That is hypocrisy, pure and simple. That’s why James had some strong words for those who saw their brother in need but only told them “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed (Jas 2:16).

It is therefore not surprising that Paul is overjoyed to find these traits in them. These are the things that show growth, and signs that we should all look for in our lives, those of our fellow Christians and in our churches. Not growth in numbers, as wonderful as that may be.

Paul’s Prayer

Having thanked God for the exhibit of faith in Christ and love for the brethren that he had witnessed in these disciples, he goes on to pray for something additional, something which I believe is the source of these two traits in the first place – he prays that they may know Christ more. He believes that their faith and love will abound more not just in “gnosis” – knowledge – but in “epignosis” – what the Strong’s dictionary defines as “recognition, that is, (by implication) full discernment, acknowledgement: – (ac-) knowledge (-ing, -ment).”

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.” (Phil 1:9-10)

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and his incomparably great power for us who believe”. (Eph 1:17-19)

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” (Col 1:9)


When men have come to that discernment of Christ, then they can be deemed to have become mature in Christ. Until then, they are still babies. This same word “epignosis” is the basis again of the word “knowledge” used by Paul in describing the reason why God gives us the ministries of apostle, prophets, teachers etc.

to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:12-13).

The new life experience as a result of repentance and faith in Christ was never the end in itself to the disciples of old. It was only the beginning of a process, the purpose of which is that we “attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”. And this can only be achieved through the discernment of Christ’s supremacy, His superiority and his position as the foremost of all things in heaven and on earth, God having purposed that everything be summed up in Him. This is what Paul describes as “the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (Eph 1:9-10)

This is not just a knowledge that we have, it is knowledge that we experience. It is knowledge that moves us into a life of faith and love without limits. When you’ve caught this vision of Christ, you don’t need any motivational message or any other gospel. Christ himself and the attainment “of the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”, becomes your passion. Nothing on this earth holds you back any more.

Now this knowledge and the work that it does in our lives Christ can only be granted by the Holy Spirit working within us. That is why them that continue to walk according to the flesh are unable to discern Christ, and therefore are unable to please Him as Ro 8:7-8 tells us. This is why Paul yearned to see further increase of “epignosis” in the disciples, which will only make their “love to abound more” (Phil 1:10), and obviously their faith as well. His hope, his prayer, his mission was that by making this knowledge of Christ’s supremacy real to them and they accepting it, he may then be able to present fully rounded, mature and perfect men to God as the evidence of his work.

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” (Col 1:27-28).

For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy” (1 Th 2:19-20)

Conclusion

It is interesting to note that this yearning of Paul’s was consciously transferred to those who had close fellowship with him in the glorious burden of service to Christ. See what Epaphras, the elder from Colosse’s prayer day and night was for:

Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured”.(Col 4:12)

2 Cor 10:4-5 is a very well known passage in the arsenal of the modern day Christian, and I’ll like us to draw the curtains by taking a very good second look at it. Note my emphasis in bold.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:4-5)

Although the word “knowledge” here refers to “gnosis” – the simple form – and not “epignosis”, one cannot ignore the fact that the strongholds that we are fighting are not “devils”, “witches” and “enemies” as we Africans always postulate in our sermons. Though there is no doubt that these strongholds are from the devil, the strongholds themselves have to do with issues of the mind – arguments, things that stand against the knowledge of God, thoughts etc. The battlefield has always been in the mind, and until we are “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Ro 12:2) so that our minds and hearts are filled with the gnosis and epignosis of Christ, the devil will continue to hold sway over us. In fact, any preacher who spends most of his time teaching you more about the devil, witches and “enemies” than filling you with knowledge of Christ and his supremacy and sufficiency, and must be discounted as a false preacher. Trust me, in Ghana even our dailies are filled with such false doctrine from “great” men of God.

If we continuously bring men to Christ only so that they will fill the church seats and be utterly ignorant of Christ, we are only doing the devil a service. Because until men are “perfect in Christ” (not “perfect” by their own measure), they are useless to Him when he returns. If we want to see more faith and love in our churches, we must first see more knowledge of Christ in them. There is no short cut.

How NOT To Be a False Prophet

Many will wonder why this article is titled this way. I mean, apparently there is an explosion of the word of God on the African continent, if you haven’t noticed. But the answer is simple – having heard a lot of sermons, I find it painful, if not appalling, that very few have stuck with me. I’ve had to downrightly condemn a lot of contemporary sermons as falsehood. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get on the high horse of super morality or spiritual knowledge. On the contrary, there are certain underlying principles about the word of God which enable us to discern when what we are hearing is NOT the word of God. As I always state, my writings are only an attempt to unearth just a little corner of the truth – the rest is up to God himself to reveal to us as we earnestly seek to know Him (Heb 11:6).

Conventional wisdom always informs us to tackle anything starting from a definition of the purpose, after which we define the process. Therefore it behoves us to first establish the purpose of the word of God, after which we look at the process that it seeks to achieve. We’ll look at the well beaten passage of 2 Ti 3:16-17 to help define the purpose.

Scripture Leads To Righteousness

All Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Ti 3:16).

Isn’t it interesting that the four cardinal uses of the word of God are all related to “straightening” or “guiding” us in the right way i.e. through teaching, rebuking, correcting and training? This training is done to teach us righteousness, so that we will be equipped for every good work. But how does knowing righteousness make us “thoroughly equipped for every good work”. Because according to Heb 5:13-14, that is the only means by which we know the will of God , and stay away from evil.

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use, have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Heb 5:13-14).

Righteousness Shows Us The Will of God

Remember what the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden was called? The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What has this got to do with the above passage? The cardinal sin of the human race is our drive to establish our independence from God by deciding that we know what is good and what is evil i.e. we make our own choices. This nature of independence does not go away when we are born again, and must continuously (“by constant use”) be made to submit to what God defines as good or evil. That is when we will be said to be doing the will of God. Therefore, being trained in righteousness is knowing and doing what God says is good, not what our flesh, the world or the devil says is good. According to the above then, it is very dangerous to continuously feed on milk because then we will never be able to discern the will of God and do the same.

The importance of the word of God in achieving this maturity and perfection cannot be overstated, given the Apostle Paul’s command to the elders of the Ephesian church – a church he had started and nurtured – when he was about to leave them on another of his journeys.

Now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among those who are sanctified” (Ac 20:32)

Here, the image of building a house or structure is used to describe the process of maturity, which should ultimately lead them to their inheritance – an inheritance which was promised from the foundation of the earth, to all spiritual descendants of Abraham – the inheritance of sonship with the Christ in God’s kingdom (Lk 22:28-30, Heb 12:28, Ro 8:17-20, Ro 8:29). This inheritance is described in several places of the New Testament as the hope of true disciples, and Ro 15:4 gives us clearly how by the “word of His grace” we have that same hope.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.” (Ro 15:4).

Doing God’s Will Brings Perfection

The above notwithstanding, God wants us to arrive at the point when His will becomes perfect for us, not just good; “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom 12:2). Then we would have achieved what Jesus Christ told His listeners on the mount; “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). We would then have joined the ranks of the Abraham and Job, who were described as blameless (Gen 17:1, Job 1:1).

Having done these righteous acts – acts which are according to the good, pleasing and perfect will of God – we would then be qualified to be a part of the wedding feast of Christ and his bride – the church.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints”(Rev 19:7-8)

It is interesting to note that the bride is adorned with our righteous acts i.e. we all will be wearing our righteous acts on that wedding day – I shudder to think of what will happen to those who do not have any. I believe the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matt 22:1-14) holds the answer to the latter. As I’ve said before, the parables that Jesus spoke were not just stories, but things that will happen before, during and after he comes. He was only revealing the future.

I believe that by understanding these underlying foundations of what God’s will is for us and how He intends for His word to achieve it, we can by the guidance of the Spirit of God determine clearly when a certain “good news” (the word Gospel means “good news”) may not be good news after all.

The True Prophet

Because of this vision of God for the work that His word is supposed to achieve in us, it then becomes very essential to have this as the basis of understanding and expounding the word of God. Because of the fallibility of man and the tendency to only look at our circumstances when we come to God, there is also no doubt the tendency to twist the word of God to our advantage. This was what motivated Paul to strongly warn his “son” Timothy about the discharge of his duty as an apostle to the church in Ephesus – and it immediately follows in 2 Tim 4 right after stating the source and purpose of the word of God in the previous chapter as we’ve seen above.

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Tim 4:1-2 (emphasis mine)

The true prophet of God seeks to present the ever unchanging purpose and vision of God in all it’s different lights, and rejects any inclinations to water down or misrepresent that purpose. As a result, they teach with:

  1. great patience – because their aim is to make that vision as clear and comprehensible as possible. Such people are not in the business of numbers, but of ensuring that those over whom they are shepherds become “men of service”, such that together with their sheep, they “all may reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”. (Eph 4:11-13).

  2. careful instruction – because nothing of that vision should be left out. As much as it lies with them and is within their power as the Spirit enables them they, like Paul, would have been deemed NOT to have “hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God” (Act 20:27).

The False Prophet

On the contrary, it is VERY easy to become a false prophet. In fact, we are living in an age where the false prophets far outnumber the true ones and are making the loudest noise with their own version of “the word of God”, and I live in full confidence of the fact that until God intervenes, there is only going to be more of them. And it is simply because they are in the business of telling us what our ears want to hear. Immediately after warning Timothy about how he should preach the word of God, Paul adds that:

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”(2 Tim 4:2)

Many of such men are busy in the enterprise of gaining worldly accolades and fame and they have totally abandoned the way of truth. I think we forget that the way to God is always a narrow one, and only a few find it. It is for such men that this was written:

For as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” (Phil 3:18-19)

I have made reference to some of these so called “words of God” in some of my previous posts, but one such “gospel” which is on an unfortunate ascendency is the so called “motivational gospel”. This gospel has become so widespread that even our “good old” traditional protestant churches are being swallowed by it. To start with, I find it very glaring that most of the passages that refer to the purpose of the word of God place little emphasis on “motivation” or “encouragement”. There is rather an abundance of “teaching”, “rebuking”, “correcting” etc. Secondly, where we are encouraged by these passages, they are to motivate us to run the race of faith, whose evidence is in absolute obedience to God. We should be motivating ourselves to set our minds heavenwards, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Col 3), and work towards preparing our garments of righteous acts that will be given back to us to wear at the wedding of Christ and His bride. We should be reminding ourselves that our citizenship is in heaven, not on this earth (Phil 3:20-21).

You see, when a people keep their focus on this life and it’s pleasures, and continue to teach, encourage and “motivate” only in the direction of “God is here to solve your problems” and “God is here to make you rich” and “Your enemies are out to destroy you”; when a people’s total focus is on being the “head and not the tail” even more so in their business and social endeavours; when a people live for the day when men will acclaim them as having been “great” men “blessed” by God; when people will go to the ends of the earth to proclaim their faith but live in a neighbourhood where their poor next door neighbour is even afraid to approach them, I beg to differ that such persons have the word of God dwelling within them.

Instead of reminding these poor souls who come to warm their pews every Sunday of the glorious authority and rule that awaits them in Christ’s future kingdom (2 Ti 4:7; Mt 19:27; Rev 20:4-6), of building them up into men of service (Eph 2:11-13), of allowing them to serve one another with their God given spiritual gifts (1 Cor 14:26;1 Pe 4:8-11; Col 3:16) we find these prophets only talking about how God will bless them on this imperfect earth marked for destruction by the same word of God.

Instead of reminding them of their calling to do good works (Eph 2:10; Tit 2:14; Rev 19:8) and above all to display the love that is the ultimate mark of our discipleship (Jn 13:34-35), they are busy in protecting the unscriptural institution called “the clergy” and building marvellous church buildings, forgetting that the people are the church. Instead of feeding the sheep and laying down their lives for them (Jn 10:11-12;2 Thess 3:7-9), they are busy feeding on the sheep (Ez 34:3; Phil 3:18-19).

Didn’t God promise the land of Caanan to all those he rescued from Egypt? Indeed, if “There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children” (Ex 12:37), why did God reject all of them and allow only two out of that generation – Joshua and Caleb – to enter the promised land? And God is good, making sure that the occurrences of the Exodus were recorded for us, “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea …Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did” (1 Co 10:1;5-6). Oh the lessons we have to learn from that Exodus!

I guess some of us are waiting for the day when Christ judges our works as depicted in 1 Cor 3:11-14, before we realise that it’s about quality, not quantity. My first fear is that it will be too late and too costly to wait for that discovery. But my greater fear is that if we keep on this path of disobedience, we will not even make it to that judgement, simply because we do not have anything to bring before Christ for testing. Like the unfaithful servant in The Parable of the Talents (Matt 25:14-30), we will most certainly be amongst those “weeping and gnashing” their teeth.

The Importance of Purpose & Process

I talked with a friend about the Gospel of the Kingdom the other day, explaining what it was and how our preaching of the gospel had deviated from what the apostles preached. However one argument of hers was that people should not come to God with the idea that he will reward them with co-heirship in the kingdom, but should just serve him because he is God who created us and who has forgiven our sins and therefore demands our service. I disagreed though and attempted to articulate the importance of Purpose and Process in everything that God does (though I’d never fully though of this separation before this discussion). Finally we came to a consensus that the gospel of today was fundamentally flawed and that Christians needed to take a second look at what we preach to avoid what I call a “heavenly disappointment”.

I’m currently reading the book of Exodus, and I find it interesting the exact measurements that God gives for the building of the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Testimony etc. all the way down to the way the priests should be dressed. I’m a New Testament Christian and definitely do not live according to the Law. But from Heb 8:1-2; 9:24, God was really mirroring the tabernacle above. He knew what he was seeing above and his purpose was to replicate that here on earth, though in a less perfect way.

Heb 8:1-2 The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.

Heb 9:24 For Christ did not enter a man made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.

And if we believe in an unchanging God then we’ll understand that He is very purposeful about whatever He wants. And to conform to that purpose God always gives the process to attain it. But when a people begin to revere the process more than the purpose, we get legalistic righteousness – this is on the Pharisaic side of things. On the other hand when people totally ignore the process, then I wonder if they even know what the purpose is in the first place – and I believe modern Christianity is on this side. No wonder we’ll end up with disappointment when our work is tested against the purpose for it.

Much of Christianity today has become of two extremes; either of institutionalisation or emotional sentimentality. The former demands a by rote obedience to certain principles, a lot of them man-made and unscriptural. The latter an unrestrained display of ignorance all in the name of “Holy Spirit” guidance. Although principles and emotions definitely have their place in a Christian life, the important thing is whether that is what God really wants us to be doing.

To understand my argument with this friend, lets look at who Jesus is. I think that this is the most important characteristic of Jesus Christ – he is a King, a Priest, and a Prophet. Some other terms that could apply is “righteous ruler” or “royal priest” (1 Pe 2:9). Note Heb 6:20.

Heb 6:20 … He has become a high priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek.

Ge 14:18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High.

Lk 1:33 And he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end.

Next who are Christians destined to be?

Ro 8:17 Now if we are children, the we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Lk 22:29-30 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Eph 1:4-5 For he chose us in him before creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.

By Romans 8: 29, Christ is our senior brother and a pattern that we are to conform to. If He is king, priest and prophet, what will you his disciple be?

For His promises on our kingdom kingship, check out Mt 19:27-28 and 2 Pe 1:10-11 as well.

The destiny of Christians is to be the people of God, sharing in the nature of Christ – as kings and priests. Simple. That is the purpose of Christianity. The process is what we call discipleship (a transformation process beginning with the new birth). From hearing the gospel of the Kingdom and submitting to it’s message for salvation, to baptism by water and Holy Spirit to bearing fruit in service to God till the end of our physical life or till Christ comes for His church. Therefore in all the examples that the New Testament gives about how the apostles preached (eg. Ac 2:14-40 and Ac 13:13-48  )  the fact was always mentioned that Christ was coming to rule over the world as promised to David and reiterated by the prophets. In fact it forms the central part of these messages, with the call to repentance and faith as describing the first step of the process. And if whoever is preaching really knows what he’s doing, he will go on after people have repented and believed to teach the foundation messages (Heb 6:1-2).

The Gospel is the entry point into the purpose of God. And I believe in all sincerity that every unbeliever must know right from the start what they are getting themselves into, the rewards of it and the righteous requirements (Ro 8:4) that need to be fulfilled for that reward. Then the preaching of the gospel becomes purposeful. This is not about motivating people to become Christians because of a certain promise of a kingdom, as my friend had a problem with. God’s covenants with people of the bible have always been purposeful and motivating. When God called Abraham, the first statements out of God’s mouth after he told him to leave his father’s land were promises to make him into a great nation. He didn’t just tell him to leave his father’s house because “I’m God” or because “I have forgiven your sins”. Even Abraham with these promises, faltered along the way by going for Hagar to get a child. Even he with the greatest motivation to serve God in the world failed along the line to be faithful to God. That is why when God calls you, he gives you hope. And this hope has been the foundation of the Israeli nation over all these generations. If we are children of a better covenant, will God not do the same?

Col 1:4-5 Because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints – the faith and love that spring from hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel.

Col 1:12 Giving thanks to the father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

This is the hope on which the Colossian’s faith and love was based. This is my analogy between hope, faith and love. Hope keeps where we are going in mind. Faith is the walking stick with which we take each step towards that place of hope. Love is the test of whether we really are on track to achieve that hope. When the disciples in Antioch were despairing because of their persecutions, what did the Apostle Paul say to them? How did he encourage them to go on?

Ac 14:22 Strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God”.

He reminded them of the hope of a kingdom, stressing that there is no easy way to get there. If there was no real hope in being a disciple of Christ, then what is the whole point of it?

1 Co 15:19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

Certainly the preaching of the gospel today is an explicit example of not following the process – examples of preaching the gospel in the Bible – because most of us don’t even know the purpose of our Christianity. This confusion of purpose is the same reason that most of us don’t understand why God called us into a world visible unified church and why a denominational stance is against the will of God and is simple disobedience. And so we think however we do it does not matter.

Let me give this scenario to put a point across. While in Kumasi, I noticed that so many Methodist churches were named after John Wesley, and this was the case even on most of the Methodist churches I saw on my 5 hour journey back to Accra. My stance against denominationalism aside, I’m here just considering the purpose of the church – the body of Christ. We are called into a family where God is the Father, and Jesus Christ the first born brother. As we have established already, conforming to Christ is the purpose of a true Christian. He (Christ) alone is our purpose and every respect and honour is to be given to Him.

Ro 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Eph 3:14-15 For this reason I kneel before the father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.

Heb 2:17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

In every endeavour the purpose must always supersede the process. But as human as we are we have classically focused on the processes – what they are and how they are brought about. And this is truly a testament to how carnal we’ve become as Christians of today when Paul recognised the same tendency in the Corinthian church, rebuking them for aligning themselves with people who are only part of the process or who are a means to bring about this purpose.

1 Co 3:1-4 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, “I follow Paul”, and another “I follow Apollos” are you not mere men?

So I ask the Methodists (and not just them but Christianity in general). Why have they paid more attention and respect to the process or means rather than the purpose? Why have they revered John Wesley more than the word of God? If you don’t believe me speak to a Methodist and he will tell you how proud they are to be followers of the Wesleyan tradition – whatever that is. (Oh by the way, another example is the International Central Gospel Church branches I’ve seen nationwide, who put the picture of their “founder” on all their signboards. I could give a million and one of these.)

John Wesley came to achieve a set purpose for a set time. The word of God is revealed in portions and continues to be additional to what has previously been revealed. Do they mean to tell me that since his time centuries ago, God hasn’t given any other direction/revelation concerning the Christian life that they may live by them as well?

If there is one thing I’ve come to believe, it’s enshrined in 2 Ti 4:2: The word of God is complete.

2 Ti 4:2 Preach the word, be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.

(By the way I have a lot to say about “correct, rebuke and encourage” and I’ll do that by God’s grace in my next post.)

  1. We cannot preach it better than it was preached and written down for us in the Bible. It behoves us to ask for the Spirit’s leading to know the purpose of every word written the way it is so we can preach it the way it is.

  2. We must teach it with the 2 ingredients above – great patience and careful instruction. There shall be no haste about it’s preaching or it’s desired effect will not be realised. It is very easy for us to think that we can preach or teach the word of God anyhow and still get the same results. But the end result of such haste and disregard is recorded in the next verse.

2 Ti 4:3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

I hope none of us become either one of the “great number of teachers” or those who are eager to listen to “what their itching ears want to hear”.

The Law and Grace: Differences Between the Covenants

I find that one of the greatest confusions created by dominant Christianity today is the (un)intentional mingling and confusion of some of the foundations or truths of the covenants of the Law and that of Grace (or Old and New Testaments). I’ll try in this post to outline some of differences between them and how these understandings should influence our actions as Christians.

  1. The New Testament is based on what God “promised to our fathers” (Ac 13:32; 2 Co 7:1;2 Pe 3:4,9). It is based on unconditional promises made to Abraham (Ge 12:2-3;15:4-21; Gal 3:14,16) and repeated his immediate descendants Isaac (Ge 26:24) and Jacob (Ge 28:13-15) and also to David (2 Sa 7:11-16;Is 55:3-5). However after 400 years of giving the promises he now creates a new covenant – one based on a conditional promise (Ex 19:5) to his favourite nation Israel (contained in all of Ex 19-24). Heb 8:6 says the New Testament is founded on better promises. You see why?
  2. Both covenants had mediators, and the Old Testament’s mediator was Moses (Dt 5:4-5; Jn 1:17; Gal 3:19). However there is something unique about the New Testament. Because it is based on an unconditional promise, it means that one cannot appeal to any middle person to force compliance or fulfillment of that promise (it is self-maledictory – Heb 6:13-14,18). The delivery of that promise is based on the person’s own honour. God is forced to fulfill his sworn promise by coming down on earth himself in the form of Christ. And so Christ is the mediator of the covenant which He himself, as the word of God (Jn 1:1) covenanted with the fathers (1 Ti 2:5;Heb 12:24; 8:6; 9:15). This is what Paul meant when he said “A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one” (Gal 3:20). God himself is the keeper/enforcer of his own covenant through Christ – no middleman.
  3. The promises made to the fathers contained elements for not only Israel’s attention but for the whole world at large. God tells Abraham that “all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you”. He reiterates it to Jacob as well (Ge 28:13-15). God tells David that his kingdom will be established and will rule the world forever. However note what Moses says in Dt 5:3: “It was not with our fathers that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today”. Ex 19:5 says “out of all nations you will be my treasured possession”. The Law was given for Israel and Israel alone to follow. It could be applied to a gentile only if they had been converted to Judaism.
  4. In the Old Testament a tribe was set aside as the tribe of priests, the Levites. They alone were to offer prayers and sacrifices both on behalf of themselves and the nation under the leadership of a high priest. In the New Testament, the High Priest is Christ himself (Heb 8:1-2) who once and for all performed the sacrifice in the heavenly typification of the earthly temple with his blood (Heb 9:23-26). This is in stark contrast to the Old Testament where the chief priest had to offer blood again and again to cleanse both himself and the nation. Also the New Testament considers all its partakers priests. All these priests must act under the direction of the Holy Spirit and display different gifts and ministries in an equal brotherhood as children of promise (Joel 2:28; Jer 31:34; Eph 4:11;1 Co 12:7-11). There is no division between so called “clergy” and “laity” (1 Pe 2:4-5; 9-10) as this is just an attempt by self-serving men to use OT priesthood to confuse and therefore gain control over their fellow NT brothers (Gal 4:21-31). “If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come – one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?” (Heb 7:11). No wonder Gal 5:1 says “do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery“.
  5. In the Old Testament tithes were paid to the Levitical priesthood and they alone had the right to determine what to do with it – “I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the Tent of Meeting” (Nu 18:21,24;Mal 3:8). Abraham paid his tithe to Melchizedek, priest of the Most High God (Ge 14:18-20). Tithing began before the Law was given and the first instance of it was not to a Levite, for they did not exist then. However, in the Law God redirected it to be paid to them. The New Testament, founded on the “promises to the fathers” and not on the Law requires that we pay our tithe to our High Priest whose priesthood is “of the order of Melchizedek”. As Heb 7:9-10 says, even Levi can be considered to have paid it even when he was still in the loins of his forbearer Abraham. Because the New Testament banishes the Levitical priesthood (v 11), the already illegal “clergy” has no right to claim tithes paid by Christians to Christ as theirs. We as a “people”, a “priesthood” and a “nation” of and belonging to Christ have the right to determine what we want to do with our tithes, which could include giving “double honour” to the elders whose work is teaching and preaching (1 Ti 5:17-18). They themselves cannot claim “Levitical priesthood” and do what they want with it. I hope they realise that “when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law” (Heb 7:12) and come to repentance. Our tithing as Christians is not paid to Old Testament Levitical priesthood but to the priest “of the order of Melchizedek” – Christ. Christians must wake up and stop being deceived by the so called “men of God”.
  6. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon men and women of God, such as his prophets, kings etc (Jg 6:34;1 Sa 10:10). In those times the Holy Spirit was an influence that came upon them to do the will of God. In contrast the Spirit lives with and in men and women of the New Testament (Jn 14:15-17;Jn 7:37-38;Joel 2:28;Ac 2:4;Eph 5:18). That is why Paul says we individually are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Co 6:19) and as a group are also the temple of the Spirit (1 Co 3:16). The work of conviction of the unrepentant person is done by the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:8), therefore the Old Testament experience of the influence of the Spirit exist for anyone who comes into Christianity anew. But the new experience of the Spirit must be felt by him filling each and every disciple. He is our only source of power to do good works (Ac 1:8), the seal guaranteeing our inheritance (Eph 1:14), the One who leads us into all truth (Jn 16:13), teaches us the mind of God (1 Co 2:10,16) and binds us together into one body (1 Co 12:13) . Works done without the direction of the Spirit does not and cannot please God (Ro 8:6-8;Gal 5:16-18). His indwelling presence in every believing Christian cannot be overemphasized, failure of which only leads to “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Ti 3:5). No doubt the majority of the church today is guilty of this grave sin, with orthodox Christianity the most guilty.
  7. The Old Testament had special days and times set aside for special events – Passover, Sabbath, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, Feast of Tabernacles etc (Lev 23). However, all these were set aside with the coming into being of the New Testament, especially for us Gentiles (Gal 3:23-25). That is why Paul was concerned when he found the Galatians “observing special days and months and seasons and years” (Gal 4:10). The only sacrament of the New Testament covenant is that of The Lord’s Supper and no more. This is one reason why it is not a vital issue whether we meet on a Saturday or Sunday so far as we do not neglect gathering together to encourage and build up one another, and another reason why the early predominantly Gentile church decided to meet on “the Lord’s day” (Ac 20:7). However modern Christianity has burdened itself with all sorts of institutionalized Christmases and Easters and Lents etc. Observe that anytime God told Abraham to do something and he (Abraham) did something else in addition, trouble came out of such an action. Look at the trouble Lot brought him (Ge 13-14) when God gave a simple instruction – “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household …” (Gen 12:1). God promised him a son by Sarah, but being impatient he had to go for one from Hagar first and we all know how his descendants are suffering for that. Are we trying to write our own version of the Law? Now Christianity finds its “special days” hijacked by the world for it’s own pleasures and we are battling to explain to an unrepentant world the significance of our own self-instituted, non-scriptural “special days”. Santa Claus is going nowhere. We created him!

These are a few that I’ve discovered so far. Hope to flesh it up with more as the Holy Spirit gives the guidance. In the meantime ponder them in your head, and find out whether you are being “Lawful” or “Graceful”.

There Is Now No Condemnation! Or Is There?

Last week, I was on a trotro (public transport bus) to Osu when we got into traffic. Someone came over distributing some books for free to everyone in the bus through the window. Being the curious person that I am, I eagerly asked for one and found out that it was a devotional called “The Word for Today” from a certain Grace So Amazing Foundation based in Nigeria. It was for the month of February to April 2008.

First of all, I’ll like to state clearly that I don’t believe in devotionals. The worst of them I’ve come across is “Rhapsody of Realities” by our “almighty” Pastor Christ. They are just a waste of time and another contributory factor to the scriptural emptiness of many Christians. If you want to be a part of them that shall share the inheritance of the kingdom with Christ, there is no shortcut way to knowing God and his will except through your own diligent study, guided by the Holy Spirit. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb 11:6).

I’ve heard people say to me when I bring this up that “It’s not everyone who can easily understand the word of God the way you do”. Well first of all, I did not start reading the bible yesterday before I came to appreciate what God’s word is. I determined that I was going to know God myself. Thankfully I also learnt from men who I see everyday yearning to know God themselves. But even more importantly, what do we think the Holy Spirit is for? “But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (Jn 14:27) “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Judea ….” (Ac 1:8). How do we think Jer 31:34 – “No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” – will be fulfilled amongst us? Someone said the Holy Spirit is the most misunderstood and neglected person in our quest to do the work of God today. I couldn’t agree with him more.

But I still accepted the devotional anyway. Nowadays I’m looking for material that will increase my understanding of the word of God or that will further prepare me to denounce the doctrinal errors of today’s Christianity through a diligent comparison to the “whole will of God” (Ac 20:27). Flipping through it all I could find were stories and references to peoples books, much of it skewed towards today’s “success/prosperity” gospel. That didn’t surprise me much till I got to the very last one – April 30 – titled “Get off the guilt train!”. It had this sub-title: “Those in Christ are not judged guilty – Ro 8:1 NCV”. Now that was the killer.

Here’s are excepts of the devotional: “the strongest among us struggle with areas of weakness. But continually wallowing in guilt we you’re not only punishing yourself, you’re allowing others to punish you too because you think you deserve it. … Even Paul, who had the ‘desire to do good’ admits that sometimes he couldn’t ‘carry it out’ (Ro 7:18). The good news of the Gospel is whenever you are in Christ…[you’re] not judged guilty’ and when you repent and seek forgiveness, God’ is bound to honour His word”.

For the purposes of argument, let me reproduce Ro 8:1 here “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit” (my emphasis).

This verse of the bible has been a very contentious one. Even my NIV does not include the last section of it in the main text but as a note. According to that note, earlier manuscripts of the book of Romans does not have this appendage and so some bible translators refuse to add it. Granted, but let us look at the context of this passage and find out if it is consistent for “who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit” to be part of Ro 8:1. In fact there are so many bible verses which support the argument that the second part of Ro 8:1 is not inconsistent with the rest of Ro 8. But I’ll try not to bring in too much from those verses but focus on what is in the chapter itself on this post.

First of all, the book of Romans was written to Christians in the city of Rome. Ro 8:1-17 talks about living according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh. The first point to note here is that it is entirely possible to be a Christian and live according to the flesh or the “sinful nature”. If this wasn’t possible, Paul will not have written v 9 to Christians – “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” Why? Because it is by the Spirit that we are given the power to do the work of God (Ac 1:8) and it is by the Spirit that we know the mind of God (1 Co 2:6-16). We cannot please God if we do not work in his power and according to his will. It’ll surprises us to find out on the last day that all we did was total rubbish without the Spirit of God leading us in the power of God to do the will of God. No wonder Paul says “because those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God” (v 14). Your work will be judged by whether it was done by the direction of the Spirit and in conformity to the will of God or not. In fact almost every verse of Ro 8:1-17 points out the criticality of the “living according to the Spirit” and to speak on each one will just be a repetition. It suffices to say that “who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit” should definitely be part of v 1.

The question then is “What if it wasn’t there? What is the big deal?” It is a big deal, because looking at the way this devotional puts it (and the way I’ve seen and heard it being used before), its absence renders the verse a very strong tool in the hands of those who think that “once saved, forever saved”. Yes I agree that if you truly are in the body of Christ, then you are not condemned anymore. But the barometer to determine your inclusion in that body and therefore exclusion from condemnation must be clearly given in addition. Whenever a promise of God is stated without a mention of the conditions attached to it, the grounds are inadvertently (or otherwise) laid for error. It is one of the reasons I agree that the preaching a “quarter” gospel that we do today will only lead us into condemnation (refer to the post on “The Gospel of the Kingdom”).

Christians reading the bible today must note that most bible translators are theologians whose translation may have a slant towards what their theological beliefs already are, regardless of whether it fits into the “whole will of God” or not. But God will not accept any excuse for ignorance, which is what most Christians are today. We think that it only so called “men of God” who can have insight into the word of God to teach us. But wait! What did Isaiah have to say about that? “For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say to him, ‘Read this, please,’ he will answer, ‘I can’t; it is sealed.’ Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, ‘Read this, please,’ he will answer, ‘I don’t know how to read’ (Is 29:11-12). Note that a sealed thing can only be opened by one with authority. Todays educated Christian thinks that it’s only our “men of God” who have been authorised to teach us. What then shall the illiterate masses on our side of the world say?

How long shall we be children still yearning for milk? We must grow up or stay ignorant! It is the only way we can distinguish between falsehood and the truth of God’s word.

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, still being an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:11-14).

Quotes are from the NIV version of the bible. All mistakes are mine please, not the bible’s :-).

What Glory Means to A True Christian

 

Ro 3:22-23: “(22) This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, (23) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

 

I’ve asked myself what Paul mean by this statement recently. Obviously he refers to the fact that all men are naturally sinners who could not deal with their own sin but needed the sacrifice of Christ to do that. However my contention is with “fall short of the glory of God”. Is that to mean that men had the glory of God but was taken away from us through sin? And if that is the case does the sacrifice of Christ bring us back to a position of being raised back to the glory of God?

 

I believe that this question can only be well answered if there is a solid understanding of the gospel of the Kingdom, a brief of which is in my previous post. The gospel clearly outlines the plan of God in bringing Jesus Christ unto earth to die for us. (Ge 1:26-28; 2:9;17;3:22-24; Mt. 25:34; Eph 1:4; 2:10; 2 Ti 1:9; Rev.2:7;26-27; 3:21)

 

2 Ti 1:9-10 “(9) who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, (10) but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”.

 

Mt 25:34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world”.

 

We can see that Paul states to Timothy that God’s mind towards men from creation was that man might share in his glory. This is in fact the gospel that Jesus himself (Mt 4:17; Mt 19:27-29; Lk 22:28-30) and the early apostles preached (Peter’s example message – Ac 2:14-36, Paul’s example message – Ac 13:13-52; Ro 8:17). It is interesting to note how Paul calls this gospel the “gospel of the glory of Jesus Christ” in 1 Co 4:4.

 

Man was created in the image of God and God began to show him ways in which man will share in his glory by giving him authority over the earth. Man however failed the test that would have caused God to fully reveal his plan for him (man) when man listened to the devil.

 

However, to true Christians who are the heirs of the promise to Abraham, we can expect that God is going to restore to us His glory when Christ is come. This is the ultimate destiny of our Christian walk, the real purpose for our calling to serve.

 

Ro 8:17-18 “Now if we are children, the we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

 

2 Co 4:17-18 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

 

The glory of Christ is ultimately revealed in Christ coming to take up his throne on earth as the Son of God, the Son of David (2 Sa 7:11-16, Lk 1:32-33, Is 55:3-5) and the Seed promised to Abraham (Gal 3:14,16; Ge 12:7). However, true Christians will also be fully glorified with him because we will share in his rulership of the world. This glorification is the last phase of the four phase steps that reveal will of God towards all men.

 

Ro 8:30 “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified”.

Take note of these from Ro 8: 30:

  1. “Those he predestined” refers to all men, since it it the will of God that all men will share in his glory.

  2. “those he called” are all who hear the message of the gospel of Kingdom.

  3. “those he justified” are those who accept the sacrifice of Christ as the only way that their sins can be washed, and who go on further in obedience to be baptised in water.

  4. “he also glorified” are those who under the indwelling influence of the Holy Spirit, live their lives in service to the Lord, again in obedience to his own commands us to how he should be served. This is the most crucial part of the life of Christianity, and is what will really determine our portion in the inheritance.

     

Here we see a gradual narrowing down to those who will finally receive the promise of inheritance of the Kingdom. Glorification is a reward for our works of service done while in the body. Paul says that it is the people he has won for the Lord which he will glory in before Christ on that day. This is the work he will present before Christ to be glorified.

 

2 Co 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad”.

 

1 The 2:19-20 “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ when he comes? Is it not you? (20) Indeed, you are our glory and joy”.

 

Da 12:3 “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the starts for ever.”

 

1 Co 3:12-15 “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames”.

 

Rev 2:7 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”

 

This tree of life is the same tree that was in the garden of Eden. God would have given it to man if he had passed the test, and would have elevated him to share in His glory as the King of all the earth and everything in it. Glory is what the gospel has been all about. No doubt the early apostles laid down everything just for that glory. They put no confidence in the flesh, and considered suffering for the course of the kingdom as the norm, not the exception.

 

Ro 2:7-8 “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.”

 

Ph 3:7-11 “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. (8) What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (10) I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings becoming like him in his death, (11) and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead”.

 

But where will this glory be exercised? Rev 20 speaks of a Millennial kingdom, and God promised “our fathers” Abraham and David (Ge 12,15,17, 2 Sa 7:11-16) a land and a kingdom that will last forever. This promise’s fulfilment begins in this Millennial reign and continues into the New Jerusalem of Rev 21.

John says in Rev 21:4 “I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. …”

Jesus says in Lk 22:28-30 “You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel”.

 

In heaven after the first resurrection, the true Christian’s work will be judged for quality ie. 1 Co 3:11-15, and he will be assigned to an area of authority proportionate to his work done (refer to Mt 25:14-30; Lk 19:17-27 on how God equitably rewards his servants for work done). Christ will then return to take up his throne in the Millennial kingdom and carry on that rule to the everlasting city, the New Jerusalem, the new heaven and the new earth.

 

Obviously this glory that a true Christian will receive cannot surpass anything that we may ever receive on earth. Sometimes this makes me believe that since we are going to rule the whole creation, galaxies and stars, there must be aliens out there (and this is my personal opinion, no biblical backing please). No wonder I get emotional and angered when I hear people not speaking the “whole will of God” Ac 26:28 but a “quarter gospel”. Because knowing this is my destiny makes it ever so easy to lay down my life in conformity to the will of God and the direction of the Holy Spirit in seeking such glory (Ro 2:7; 8:13-14). No wonder someone like Paul – unlike our modern day preachers – , with the exception of the Philippian congregation, will refuse to accept being paid or offered any gifts for the work he did in obedience to God. Not that he wasn’t entitled to it, but he knew that the greater and more excellent glory is ahead of him. (1 Co 9:1-18, Ac 20:33-35; 2 Th 3:6-9; Php 4:10-20). No wonder the disciples under the direction of the Holy Spirit sold their possession to help in the church as needs arose (Ac 2:44-45). No wonder Paul, even though imprisonment had been prophesied by Agabus, was not deterred in going to Jerusalem (Ac 21: 10-11). I could go on and on. But this is not fantasy, nostalgia or madness. This is seeking after the glory of the Kingdom according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in obedience to the will of God.

 

Quotes are from the NIV version of the bible. All mistakes are mine please, not the bible’s :-).

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM?

In recent times, we (my family and some neighbours at home) have been looking again at what we mean by preaching the “gospel”. What is the gospel? It literally means “good news”, but good news about what? Is it all about redemption from sin and a place in heaven? Or is it the “prosperity gospel” of today? As for the latter I’ll reserve my shots at it for another post.

In one of our meetings, someone shared this with us “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. … For if someone comes to your and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily” (2 Co 11:2,4).

Further bible references led us to Gal 1:6-9 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let be eternally condemned!”

Granted that the context of Paul’s statements were about practices of the Law which the Galatians, under the direction of some devil inspired Jewish Christian, were being deceived into practicing as part of the requirements for eternal salvation. However, we would all agree that Paul’s words are very strong here. So we started applying the question to ourselves, asking “what is the gospel we preach?” To put that in a better perspective, “what is the gospel that the Jesus himself and his apostles preached?” That way we can compare it to what we preach and know if we are destined to be “eternally condemned” or not. Suffice it to say that most of us have known the gospel to be that God sent Jesus to die for men’s sins. But is that really all that Jesus and the disciples whose example we are encouraged to follow preached as “the gospel”? “Follow my example, as I follow the example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Co 11:1)

 

By the yearning for truth and the Spirit’s direction (who is a Spirit of truth) we have a better understanding of what the gospel of the kingdom is. Ac 13:32-33a puts it in a good light “We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.” Hmm. What does he man by “What God promised our fathers”? Let’s do a little breakdown. When Jews refer to their fathers immediately Abraham comes to mind. The they speak of Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David. Let’s make a few observations from promises made to some of these men.

  1. God promised Abraham that his seed will inherit the land on which God had sent him FOREVER. Has that happened? Israelites have even been vamoosed from their land for time and again, being exiled in Babylon, Persia etc. Until 1948, the nation of Israel had ceased to exist. We can’t reasonably say this promise has been fulfilled. Ge 12,15,17

  2. Moses prophesied about a prophet whom we must listen to. (Du 18:15)

  3. God promised David that his descendant will sit on his throne and that his descendant’s kingdom will last forever. Again the kingdom of Israel has never lasted forever. 2 Sa 7:11-16.

  4. Does “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most Hight. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end” (Lk 1;32-33) not refer then to this kingdom promised to David and to the blessing of the whole world (Jew and Gentile) by the “seed” of Abraham?

  5. There are apparently 50 or so references to the phrase “the kingdom of heaven” in Matthew alone, not counting “kingdom of God” and other such phrases elsewhere. What did John the Baptist and Jesus mean when they said “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Mt 3:2; 4:17; Mt 25:34)? When Jesus said “kingdom of heaven” did the Jews only think he was referring to something in heaven or to “the promises made to our fathers”? To a Jew, what was the Messiah, the Christ supposed to come and do? Has Jesus changed it or conform to it?

  6. How does this relate to the Thousand Year (Millenium) reign of Christ in Rev 20. Does this not reflect a physical kingdom? How is this related to what Jesus promised his disciples in Lk 22:28-30, Mt 19:27-28 and what Paul states all over the epistles, an example being Ro 8:17?

  7. What about the new Jerusalem in Rev 21. Does it not signify a transition from an earthly kingdom after the Millennial reign to a fusion of the earthly and heavenly into a city of righteousness, fulfilling the “forever” part of the promise of God to the fathers of old?

  8. So then comparing what Peter preaches in Ac 2:14-36, Paul in Ac 13:13-52 and what we preach as the gospel today, is our gospel complete and speak the whole will of God – “For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God” ( Ac 20:27)? Did Jesus Christ just come to save us from sin or he came to restore to man the Kingdom promise and to being the co-heirs to the throne of that kingdom? If its just about redemption from sin, what does Paul mean when he says “It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain” (Ac 28:20b)?

  9. So then come the harder questions follow:

    1. Isn’t redemption from sin only the beginning of the race, a race which can only be completed by proving oneself worthy of the reward of inheritance?(1 Co 9:26-27; 2 Ti 4:7-8;1 Th 2:12; 2 Th 1:5,11; Ro 8:17)

    2. If we are just to be going to heaven, what exactly are we to be doing there? (This caused a very staunch Christian friend of mine to stun me with the saying that heaven will be boring. Obviously he hasn’t heard the gospel of the kingdom and the glory attached to it, a glory of which I’ll be addressing in another post)

    3. Is what we preach really the gospel? Doesn’t preaching the beginning step as the will of God toward men and leaving the even more important part of service in obedience to be rewarded with a share in the throne of Christ, constitute deception and contrary to the will of God?

    4. Haven’t we brought condemnation upon ourselves by what we preach as the gospel today: a quarter baked one (Gal 1:9, Jam 3:1)? If we have been half preaching the will of God, is that to the glory of God or or the devil? Is what we preach from God?

I’m attaching a more detailed document: The Gospel of the Kingdom to this post which will help shed some light on this topic. Read this with a heart and mind that seeks to know and obey the truth. Then confront what you preach, whether it is in line with the “will of God”. Jesus says “Not everyone that says to me , ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Mt 7:21). Does what you preach or have been preached to conform to the will of God for men in sending His son? Don’t be surprised if it isn’t, because much of the church today is clearly not owned by Jesus Christ anymore (Rev 3:14-22). If our foundation – the gospel we preach – is not sound, what else is sound about us? Don’t be scared, encourage yourself with this – “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Heb 11:6)

I’ll end again with Paul: “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him – to the only wise God be glory for ever through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Ac 16:25-27)

Quotes are from the NIV version of the bible. All mistakes are mine please, not the bible’s :-).