“‘It is written, “MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.”‘” (Mat 4:3-4)
While I’ve enjoyed a range of ministry callings in my 45+ years as a minister of the gospel, including that of evangelist and pastor, my primary ministry gift remains in the arena of expounding the sacred Scriptures.
I do thank the Lord for giving me a place for sharing His gospel to the nations. I’ve had over 50,000 visitors on this blog alone.
Of course nothing will ever take the place of studying the Scriptures personally, yet much help can be gained by reading good Bible teachings that are offered by God’s servants.
The apostle Paul even drew attention to this in writing Timothy:
“When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments.” (2Ti 4:13)
As for my studies, in addition to various courses that I’ve designed for the CCI School for Christian Workers, I have well over 500 Bible studies that can be accessed on the web, including over 200 articles that I’ve provided in this blog alone. (Pastor Buddy’s Journal.)
For those who have an interest in which studies have drawn the most readers on my blog, here is a list of the top ten most read articles for the past two months: (Beginning with the most read and down the list.)
As for 2011, it was terrific year for Betty and me. We celebrated out 48th anniversary. Took our anniversary cruise to the Bahamas with several of our friends.
Perhaps the greatest thrill of our heart has been to watch the ministry that we parented in 1976, Christian Challenge International, continue to grow stronger and stronger under the guidance of our son Nathan.
It has been awesome to see the caliber of people the Lord has gathered to us, and to consider the strong leadership that the Lord has given to Christian Challenge.
Words could never express how so very much we are thankful for. But to give my readers a true feeling for all that we wish for your 2012, please enjoy these marvelous pictures. They can say more than I can as for our wishes for your 2012.
I do hope you have a sense of humor along with a laughing heart.
“Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” (Rev 20:6)
I was asked some time back to give a study that would include eternity to come, and the early Church’s belief in a millennium, or what is often called the 1000 year reign, or the kingdom age of Messiah. These are pretty broad subjects. I’ll limit my sharing to what I think will best help my readers.
Let’s begin with what is called the millennial age. It is in the book of Revelation that we find the subject of a millennial reign. Yet it is very interesting that the concept of a 1000 year reign is taught both in Christianity, in Judaism, in Islam, in Zoroastrianism, and in other oriental religions. Seems this idea is deeply embedded in nearly all religions.
Here we can take note of how the earliest Christian writers approached the idea of a millennium. Keep in view that these writers were the closest to the time of the apostles.
According to the Apostle John
Once again, John is the apostolic writer who calls attention to a thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth. He references the thousand-year reign six times in Revelation 20:2-7.
John seems to be pretty clear on the issue of a thousand-year time when Satan is placed in captivity. But the question that we want to answer is how did other early believers look at this idea of a thousand-year reign?
The answer is that nearly all the earliest Christian writers believed in a literal thousand-year reign. When I speak of the earliest writers, I am including second and third generation disciples. This would include those who were nearest to the apostolic age.
Here are some quotes:
#1) Papias cited by Eusebius (Papias was a disciple of the Apostle John and a friend of Polycarp; 60-130 ad): “Among these things, Papias says that there will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on this earth.”
#2) Justin Martyr (c. 160); “There was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem.”
#3) Hippolytus (c. 205); “The Sabbath is the type and symbol of the future kingdom of the saints, when they shall reign with Christ after He comes from heaven, as John says in his Revelation. For ‘a day with the Lord is as a thousand years.’”
#4) Tertullian (c. 207); “We do confess that a kingdom is promised to us upon the earth, although before heaven. Only, it will be in another state of existence. For it will be after the resurrection for a thousand years in the divinely-built city of Jerusalem ‘let down from heaven.’”
#5) Victorinus (c. 280); “The true Sabbath will be in the seventh millennium of years, when Christ will reign with His elect.”
#6) Lactantius (c. 340); “Back then a mortal and imperfect man was formed from the earth, so that he might live a thousand years in this world. So, now, from this earthly age is formed a perfect man. And, being quickened by God, he will bear rule in this same world through a thousand years.”
#7) Irenaeus (c. 180); “The predicted blessing, therefore, belongs unquestionably to the times of the kingdom, when the righteous will bear rule, after their rising from the dead. It is also the time when the creation will bear fruit with an abundance of all kinds of food, having been renovated and set free. And all of the animals will feed on the vegetation of the earth. They will become peaceful and harmonious among each other, and they will be in perfect subjection to man. And these things are borne witness to in the fourth book of the writings of Papias, the hearer of John, and a companion of Polycarp.”
#8) Commodianus (240); “The Amen sends flames on the nations. And the Medes and Persians burn for a thousand years, as the apocalyptic words of John declare. After a thousand years, they will be delivered over to Gehenna. And he whose work they were is burned up with them.”
More on The Age to Come
That there was to be an age to come that precedes the eternities of God is very much described in the Scriptures. Isaiah is replete with descriptions of that age. Rather than go through the many references, let’s consider this one;
“The wilderness and the desert will be glad, and the Arabah will rejoice and blossom; like the crocus. It will blossom profusely and rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given it the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.” (Isaiah 35:2)
Then we have the teaching of Jesus. In the beatitudes, the Lord said,
“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
This is a near quote from the book of Psalms;
“But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.” (Psalm 37:11)
An important point to keep in mind is that before the apostolic writings were collected, the Bible of the earliest believers was simply the writings of Moses, of David, and the prophets.
The Hebrew people very much believed in a Messianic age. Their Bible was filled with descriptions of that certain age.
Sons of the Resurrection
Perhaps we need to consider the word for ‘age.’ The Greek word is ‘aion.’ Aion generally refers to a unit of time. (The context determines its usage.)
The Lord seemed to have the kingdom age in view, when he said,
“The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” (Luke 20:34-36)
This statement by Jesus ties in with that John had to say about the resurrection and the thousand-year reign. He said,
“Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” (Rev20:6)
Then when John speaks of thrones being set up at the end of the thousand-year reign, Paul had this to say:
“Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the matters of this life.” (1Co6:3)
The Longings of Eternity
No matter where the thousand-year reign fits in God’s program for the ages, there has always been in the hearts of God’s people a longing for their eternal destiny.
Moses looked upon the tribal people, and said,
“Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” (Psalm 90:1)
Moses must have had a deep longing in his heart for the things of eternity. Psalm 90 is a most precious Psalm. Since Moses was a prophet he was able to see into the far distant future.
Then we have the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 30, that John calls attention to in Revelation. It is called,
‘Song of Moses the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.’ (Rev15:3)
Psalm 90 is similar to the Song of Moses in that it touches on eternal issues while reaching into the deep of our soul. We hear Moses say,
“O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” (v14)
But there is something else that Moses says that each believer should take to heart. The man of God says,
“So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” (v12)
It is this last statement that gives us pause for reflection. How is it that learning to number our days will cause us to have a heart of wisdom? It all comes back to our allotted space of time.
Moses knew that his time-space was only a moment in comparison to eternity. He also knew that God’s people needed to keep this truth ever before them. It is as the apostle said that our life is like a vapor that appears but for a moment.
Moses’ entire life was wrapped up in doing God’s will in whatever space of time had been given to him. How about you? Do you feel the same about your space of time?
In Psalm 90 Moses also marked out the general life span given to humanity. He said,
“As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years…” (v10)
Certainly some folk live beyond the eighty years. Some live much less. Our allotted space of time is not for us to know. But it is a truth none the less. We have only so much time to live. No more. No less.
Our Allotted Times on Earth
David also drew attention to our allotted days. Being a prophet himself, David wrote,
“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” (Psalm 139:16)
But David also gave us a glimpse into wisdom. He ended Psalm 139 in saying,
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (vv23,24)
David knew that he was not free from sinful attitudes and thoughts. This remains true today. Even the most godly of believers still have to bring their thought life into check. But like all true believers, David did not want anything in his life that would be offensive to a walk of holiness. (Nor should we.)
Then where David says, “Lead me in the everlasting way,” he was speaking of the ‘way of the Lord,’ that is, he wanted to keep his focus clear on God’s path of redemption.
The Everlasting Way
Perhaps we should point out that David’s Lord is the very same Lord that new covenant believers love and serve. Sometimes it is hard for us to grasp this. But when David wrote, “The Lord says to MY Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet,’” he was calling attention to the One who would be incarnate as Jesus Christ. Jesus carefully brought attention to this. So, David’s Lord was Jesus Christ, though he did not know Him by that name at the time.
Keep in mind that the term ‘the everlasting way’ always has a view to God’s redemption story. David had much more to say about this Jesus Christ whom both he and we love. In fact all the prophets wrote about Jesus. Abraham saw Him.
This is why the writing prophets described future redemptive and historical events with such clearness that it is astonishing. But they wrote in what is called ‘prophetic perfects.” This means that when they wrote, it was as though they were actually present at the time of the event. They recorded what was being revealed to them in the Spirit.
This is the primary reason the apostle said that we should never exceed the writings of the ‘prophets.’
So, as a prophet, David spoke and wrote in prophetic perfects. This is why he could describe the events of the cross with such vividness. David literally recorded the words and even the thoughts of Jesus as He hung on the cross. Notice how Psalm 22 begins;
“My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”
And so about the everlasting way, David further writes,
“Lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth springs from the earth [this is Jesus], and righteousness looks down from heaven [this is the Father].”
Then he writes,
“Righteousness will go before Him AND WILL MAKE HIS FOOTSTEPS INTO A WAY.” (Psalm 85:10-13. Caps for emphasis only.)
The Footsteps of Eternity
What did David mean about God making the footsteps of Jesus into a way? He wasn’t speaking of ‘a’ way as though there were other ways. David is speaking towards the finished work of the cross. Jesus Himself said,
“I am the [everlasting] way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)
Jesus is the Way of God. Jesus is the Truth of God. Jesus is the Life of God. It was His footsteps in the earth that opened the portals of heaven for the saving of all who would believe in Him.
Jesus walked out of heaven, into our earth. He walked our planet, loving, healing, preaching, teaching, and presenting Himself as the Messiah and Savior of humanity. He was placed on a cross. He walked out of the tomb. He ascended into heaven. And His footsteps became our salvation.
Jesus said to Peter,
“Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.” (John 13:36)
Jesus had to first enter into heaven on our behalf, bringing His own blood for the atonement sacrifice. When the sacrifice was accepted, that opened the door for all who believe to follow in His footsteps. In fact His life has become our life.
Completing Our Course
Time marches on. It waits for no man.
I was twenty-four years old when the Lord called me to the ministry. I am now seventy-one. And the older I get the more I appreciate the Lord’s adage for completing my course of life. It is so simple and yet so profound. Jesus said,
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt6:33)
Notice that Jesus didn’t tell us to seek a certain religion, or to seek to be right about everything, or to seek to make a name for ourselves, or to seek to be a corrector of everyone else.
Seeking the kingdom is a Hebraisms. It means to seek the direct rule of God in our hearts and lives. We are to do this day by day by day. This is true wisdom.
Peter understood this as well as anyone. In alluding to the Psalm of Moses, Peter writes,
“All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.” (1Pe1:24)
Thus life as we know it now is like a fading flower.
Perhaps there are questions left to ask – Is your name written in the Lamb’s book of life? Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your own Lord and Savior? Have you turned from your sinful living? Are you serving Him with a true heart of faith?
As for me, I thank you, my brother Moses. I’m on the same page as you. I agree fully with how you concluded your wonderful Psalm, when you said,
“Let Your work appear to Your servants and Your majesty to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:16,17)
This does need sober thinking. Nor does it take away from the joy of our walk with Jesus. It simply puts things into a better perspective. Are there any adjustments you need to make? Think about it. God has allotted you a space of time. What will you do with it?
Take time for this song. The Lord wants to speak to your heart.
“… the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
“We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” (Col 1:26-28)
Here are snippets from an article put out by the Associated Press, Sept 3, 2011, titled,
Study: Religious faith waning in US
According to Mark Chaves in, “American Religion: Contemporary Trends.”
“…over the last generation or so, religious belief in the U.S. has experienced a ‘Softening’ that affects everything from whether people go to worship services regularly to whom they marry. Far more people are willing to say they don’t belong to any religious tradition …
“Today, as many as 20 percent of all Americans say they don’t belong to any religious group. …. [Yet] about 92 percent of Americans still profess belief in God, they just don’t use religion as part of their identity…
According to Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
“Anderson thinks the change is better described as a shift than a decline, as people become more willing to leave the denominations or faiths in which they were raised and look elsewhere for spiritual nourishment.”
“Chaves agrees, saying churches are likelier today to consist largely of a ‘hard core’ of believers, and to have fewer casual or lukewarm members that use to swell the ranks.”
I have something else to offer about what is happening in Christendom. It isn’t about waning. It is about a rediscovery.
Christians are Rediscovering Their Identity in Christ Jesus
Regardless of what people may think, true Christianity has never been an issue of religion.
How easy it is to become distracted by the peripherals, non-essentials, with over-reaching doctrines of various groups, and with the denominational biases that have served to separate believers from one another. The religious world is not always very pretty.
This doesn’t negate that there are truly born again people in all Christian groups. But to look at any denomination as being the cause of a person’s salvation is to have a faulty view of salvation. Salvation will always be personal. Our walk with the Lord will always be personal and not because of our denomination.
A business person shared with me how unique his ‘Church of Christ’ denomination was. He said a Church of Christ member had car trouble while traveling, and that someone from the local Church of Christ took care of him. My response was simple. The one helping could have been a good Baptist, a good Pentecostal, a good Methodist, or a good Catholic. He helped because he was a Christian. The conversation ended on that note.
However, there is an issue that defines God’s people through all the Scriptures. This issue speaks to the faith of the Old Testament saint, to the spiritual freedom of the new covenant believer, to a love that fills the heart of all who have been joined to Jesus Christ. It has nothing to do with which religious group the believer belongs.
The apostle said it in simple terms -
“But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.”(1Cor 6:17).
The major indicator that a person is born again is always an intense love for Jesus.
Concerning Christ, Peter says,
“And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”(1 Pet 1:8)
Now let’s take a look at…
A Kingdom Not of This World
Pilates hears this in his conversation with Jesus –
“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be turned over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (Cf. John 18:33-38)
“So You are a king!”
“You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”
Pilate is bewildered;
“What is truth?”
So there you have it. The rest of the story is played out at the cross. In a short time Jesus will hang on a cross with a sign above His head, saying,
“Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews”
But of course the story doesn’t end here on the cross. On the day of Pentecost we hear the apostle declare quite plainly,
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ — this Jesus whom you crucified.”(Acts 2:36)
What then is the significance of the Man hanging on a cross? If that is where he is left, there is little significance to be had. He would simply be another prophet of Israel, after the trail of the many prophets before Him. This was their lot.
But of course Jesus was far from being a prophet. He was God manifest in the flesh. The significance of His ascension and glorification is that the kingdom of God has entered into its completed redemptive stage. All of eternity will rest its case on the finished work of Calvary.
This brings us to …
What makes a Christian a Christian
When a person is truly born again, which, by the way, literally means ‘to be born from above,’ this person becomes a new creature. This new creature is not only a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, but much of what relates to Jesus can be said of this new child born from heaven.
The point is that once a person is born again their spiritual center shifts. One moment they were earthy creatures, the next moment they have entered into the kingdom of the beloved Son. And this kingdom is, “not of this world.” And its center will not be found in this world.
It is this very thing that is a rediscovering by many of the nominal church today. And it is this very thing that is breaking down denominational barriers that have been in the minds of so many. And it is this very truth that is allowing believers to realize their true freedom in Christ.
When Jesus said, “I am not of this world,” he later said the very same thing about all God’s children. In His high priestly prayer, Jesus reached across time. He speaks of all who will come to Him. Jesus said,
“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”(John 17:14)
Let that statement sink in. If we were to take Scripture by Scripture about our being from above, it would simply thrill our hearts. And this is the idea.
Our hearts need to thrill over what it means to belong to Christ. The greatest need for Christians today is that of learning their true identity as heavenly citizens. We are now heavenly citizens living in earthly bodies. We have to learn what this means to us spiritually. And this is where the ‘transformations’ of the mind come into play.
It Has Never Been About Religion
Each time a believer receives a fresh revelation of his or her relationship to Jesus and to heaven, it is often like being born again, again. The effect is a spiritual ‘upward‘ renewing. What is happening is that the child of God is simply learning to think with a heavenly centering. If there was ever a key to a true Biblical faith walk in the new covenant, this is it.
The point is that the child of God has a spiritual support base that is out of this world. The problem is that we have been trained from our youth to think like the world, reason like the world, and to depend on the world’s resources, and to think religiously. Becoming heavenly minded often means going through some shake up periods.
However, when I say it is never about religion, I am not speaking of the public gatherings of God’s people. God has ordained that His people gather into flocks of His choosing. The choosing is in His hands. God places us where He wants us to be.
Passing Through Life Gates
The walk of every child of God will always be personal and under the direction of the Lord. With this in view I want to share something by way of my walk.
I pastored my first church at age 29. (I’m 71 now.) Though I was born again, my mind had been conditioned to thinking in a certain religious pattern.
Dissatisfied with pastoring, I jumped the ship. Next I find myself evangelizing full-time. But something was still amiss. I could not put my finger on it.
Leaving the evangelistic field I settled my family down for the next three years. (1971-1974) During those years my spiritual life underwent a complete renovation. I had my business, still ministered out a bit, but the Lord was using various means to precondition me to thinking ‘heavenly.’
I had to be weaned from the worldly and religious way of thinking.
The Lord brought me to a place of total surrender. My surrender went somewhat like this:
“Lord, I want to be what You want me to be. I will go where You want me to go. The rest of my life is not mine. The only thing I ask is that You tell me what You want me to do, and not send someone else to tell me.” — I had one other request. I must have my wife.
That is when it happened —- Shortly after my contact with heaven, the Lord opened a door for me that I have often called, ‘the gate to miracle land.’ The Lord was teaching me to center my whole life on thinking ‘upwardly.’
He was inviting me to enter this new sphere of service.
My wife and I began discovering an awesome world. Even with the struggles, battles, disappointments, and mess ups, this new way of living was like heaven to me.
I like to describe this new venture as a life gate. These life gates will be many in the believer’s life. Through each gate there is a transition from where we are to where God wants to take us.
Perhaps this is what Paul is alluding to in part when he says,
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2Co 3:17-18)
Becoming Kingdom Seekers
Rediscovering Christianity means to become a kingdom seeker.
Is this not what Jesus was teaching us when He said,
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt6:33)
What did Jesus say would happen if we learn to seek the direct rule of God in our lives? The Lord said if we would learn to do that, then everything else in life, that is, all our needs, whatever they may be, spiritual and otherwise would simply be added to us.
Well, enough for now. Was the article put out by the Associated Press right? Is Christianity waning, or is Christianity rediscovering itself. I think rediscovering is the answer.
What about you? What do you think? Have you experienced any life gates. I’d like to hear about them.
How about this song from my special group titled, ‘Walk On.’ (By The Isaacs)
“The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. The Lord GOD has opened My ear; and I was not disobedient nor did I turn back.” (Isa 50:4-5)
My wife and I instituted Christian Challenge International in 1976, as a School for Christian Workers. Since that time we have been able to train several hundred believers for service in the vineyard of the Lord.
The School is non-denominational and non-sectarian in nature. It is our sole purpose to introduce believers into the world of a Biblical disciple. Every course we offer has that focus at heart.
We are not a seminary nor a Bible College. While those venues are good and necessary in many cases, our School has a different design. Each of our classes meet only once a week. But it is out of these weekly classes that the world of the disciple begins to flower.
All I can tell you is that beginning with the first class of the Disciple’s Heart Training Program, you will realize the uniqueness of the CCI School for Christian Workers. (Sorry – We do not offer on-line classes.)
The motto of the School is, ‘Preparing Servants for the Nations’. What we emphasis is what the prophet stated, “He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.”
The Disciple’s Heart Training Program I, is the mother course of our school. We have had graduates from this program tell us that they gained more of a spiritual nature from this one course than they did from their entire time at Bible college. There is a reason for that. It is found in the term, ‘Biblical-Discipleship’.
Note: The Disciple’s Heart Training Program I, is a need for anyone who wishes to serve with Christian Challenge. It is also a required course before ‘The Disciple’s Heart II’ or ‘The Shepherd’s Heart’ can be taken.
Think about it. Pray about it. Do you wish to develop your spiritual life? See if the CCI School for Christian Workers is what the Lord would have you involved with.
Here is an outline of the classes we offer.
“Jesus answered them, ‘To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.’” (Mat 13:11)
“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.
“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.
“And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (Jas 3:14-18)
“Does not wisdom call, and understanding lift up her voice? … ‘To you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men. … Listen, for I will speak noble things; and the opening of my lips will reveal right things. For my mouth will utter truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.’” (Pro 8:1-7)
This is an entry that you would do well to follow all the Scriptures given. There is nothing more important to believers than to learn to draw on their heavenly life. This heavenly life is in the Scriptures as, ‘‘the wisdom from above.’
I have a deep concern for many who call themselves Christian today and yet their entire life appears as a contradiction to that term. With some the attitude seems to be, ‘I plan to be saved, I just don’t want God to interfere in my lifestyle.’ The problem is that their lifestyle is bringing ruin into their life.
It is never my point to question a person’s salvation in Christ. If someone tells me that they believe in Jesus Christ, I take that at face value. Nor do I wish to discourage anyone who is struggling over a life issue.
I know that God’s grace is greater than anything we may face in life. We all have our temptations and failures. Having a failure in life does not mean the person is not saved. However, there is an element in our salvation that needs to taken more to heart. It is found in the one word, ‘wisdom.’
Wisdom essentially means how to live. So, let’s talk about this wonderful mystery called ‘the wisdom from above.’
The Books of Wisdom
There are five books in the Old Testament that are called ‘Wisdom books.’ These books are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon.
To God’s ancient people ‘wisdom’ was a mystery. Wisdom not only meant skillful living, but it meant directives from God. Very early on the sages saw a close connection between God’s wisdom and Light, God’s power and His Word, and with a special view to the coming Messiah.
We see this in David’s prophetic writings.
“For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.” (Psa 36:9 NASB)
In this next Scripture we see the hidden Christ as the fountain of life. We also see a reflection on this, when Jesus said,
“I am the Light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12)
David knew that the true wisdom for life could only be found in the heart of God. This is why it is said that David was a man after God’s heart. Actually there were certain things hidden in God that could only be revealed after the cross. David also knew this. And Wisdom was one of the things that was hidden in God.
A Wisdom Hidden in God
God’s ancient people always connected wisdom with rightness of life. Righteousness to them was defined as ‘right-wise-ness’. Yet wisdom still remained such a mystery.
Listen to Job:
“But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the living. The deep says, ‘It is not in me’; and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’ Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for it, nor can silver be weighed as its price. It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx, or sapphire.
“Gold or glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for articles of fine gold. Coral and crystal are not to be mentioned; and the acquisition of wisdom is above that of pearls. The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, nor can it be valued in pure gold.
‘Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding? Thus it is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the sky. Abaddon and Death say, ‘With our ears we have heard a report of it.’ God understands its way, and He knows its place.” (Job 28:12-23 NASB)
Did you catch it? The wisdom of God is not an earthly wisdom. It is a wisdom that is hidden in God Himself. It is a heavenly wisdom.
Keep the term ‘hidden wisdom’ in view. This heavenly hidden wisdom is going to reappear in the new covenant writings.
Wisdom Found in Creation
The wisdom of God was also connected with creation.
“The LORD by wisdom founded the earth, by understanding He established the heavens.” (Pro 3:19 NASB)
To the ancients this wisdom from God also spoke of salvation and the coming Redeemer:
“The LORD is exalted, for He dwells on high; He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness. And He will be the stability of your times, a wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is his treasure.” (Isa 33:5-6 NASB)
Now see where Job speaks of the coming Redeemer:
“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25-27 NASB)
It is important to keep in mind that Wisdom in the Bible always connects with the very life of God.
Which brings us to…
Jesus the ‘hidden wisdom’ of God
When Adam sinned against the Lord, he forfeited his life & his wisdom connection with God. Mankind would enter a world dominated by darkness & death.
The ancient sages taught that the original light of creation was to give wisdom for humanity to live by. When Adam rejected God’s command, the light of wisdom was hidden. They taught that this hidden wisdom would only come back with the Messiah.
This is where the New Testament writings open up. Most Hebrew people would have understood what John was writing, when he said:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Himwas life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.“ (Joh 1:1-5 NASB)
To a Jewish reader all these statements about the ‘Word’, spoke to them of the Messiah.
The terms ‘light’ and ‘darkness’ are expressions that distinguish between those born of heaven and those who are yet in sinful darkness of this present world.
Pay close attention to the following Scriptures:
“At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise [worldly wise] and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.’” (Mat 11:25 NASB)
“… giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:12-14 NASB)
“…rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.” (Act 26:17-18 NASB)
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.”(Eph 5:6-8 NASB)
“To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.” (Eph 3:8-10 NASB)
“Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1Co 2:6-8 NASB)
Now we have the need to…
Draw on our heavenly wisdom
Paul explains that maturity in Christ actually involves learning to live from the wisdom that comes from above. The moment a person is born again they become a citizen of heaven. This means that all our resources in life, all our directives in life, and all our wisdom and skill in life are to come from a heavenly source.
Take note of these Scriptures:
“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:1-3 NASB)
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Mat 6:33 NASB)
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Php 3:20 NASB)
“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Eph 5:15-17 NASB)
Now keep in mind how James describes our heavenly wisdom:
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (Jas 3:17-18 NASB)
Don’t live beneath your privileges.
Don’t let others do all their thinking for you. You will often hear me say this but it is worth repeating -
- Jesus did not come to give us a better religion. And while we should thank the Lord for our placement in the body of Christ, always keep in mind that Jesus came to give us a direct relationship with the heavenly Father. Jesus came to teach us how to live from our heavenly life. -
How do I learn to live in my heavenly life? You ask! Jesus said everyone who asks, receives.
James said some other things about our wisdom from above. If you want to live in God’s wisdom, then you must be a true believer.
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
“But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
“For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (Jas 1:5-8)
So, now is the time to begin. Don’t be double-minded. Take the yoke of Christ to yourself. Do it as an act of faith.
Make a quality decision where you can say without condition, ‘Father, not my will but Yours be done.’
Out of this decision will come a step-by-step walk with the Lord. This is how we actually draw on His strength and on His wisdom for life.
Listen to this song. The Lord wants to speak to your heart.
“… that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:26-27)
The song “In Christ Alone”, was written July 22, 2004, by Stuart Townsend and fellow song writer Keith Getty. There are many Christian songs that carry the testimony of heaven. This is one of them. The lyrics of “In Christ Alone” speaks of God’s love and of His eternal covenant in Christ Jesus.
This song reaches into the deep of the finished work of the cross. If you haven’t heard the song or seen the lyrics, before you go any further with your reading, why not take time to listen to the wonderful song.
[Note: Here it is on YouTube -
The New Adam, the New Covenant, the New Creation
The finished work of the cross is a breathtaking story. The world as we know it today came about through the fall of the first Adam. The world as it will be known in eternity will be the result of the cross. Christ Jesus came into our world as “the last Adam.”
Out of the cross came a new covenant and in this new covenant came a new creation. The new creation speaks of God’s new heavenly people. All true believers have their names recorded in heaven.
Being a heavenly people may seem difficult to grasp, yet it is the story of the gospel.
The apostle explains it this way -
“So also it is written, ‘The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.
“The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.
“Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.” (1Co 15:45-49)
We are Heavenly Citizens in Earthly Bodies
Now take note of our citizenship -
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” (Php 3:20-21)
But in all this there is an issue very important to understand. Being a heavenly citizen does not mean that we discard our humanity. The change is inward, not outward. We become partakers in a new kind of humanity. Understanding your new humanity in Christ will help put balance into your covenant walk.
Many Christians are stifled in their spiritual life because they know so little about their true life in Christ. Then there are those who are driven to extremes by always seeking a new experience. This is an unhealthy place to be. It creates a restlessness that never leaves the believer.
Actually the most unstable people I have ever met, are those who continually look for a prophet to give them direction from the Lord.
Certainly God gives us mature leadership for a reason. Proper pastoral teaching and guidance can help the young grow in respect to becoming a mature disciple of Jesus. In fact we are instructed not to neglect our assembling as a called-out body of believers.
However, the primary reason that the office of prophet does not have the same emphasis in the new covenant as it did in former covenants, is because of our new humanity. No new covenant believer needs a prophet to tell them what the mind of the Lord is for their own life. There is no need. We all have direct access to the mind of Christ.
[My advice - Pay little attention to those who want to be seen as prophets. They are not worth your time.]
Listen very carefully to how Jesus describes His new covenant people;
“I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one Shepherd.” (John 10:16)
Product of the Cross
The point in this is that our new creaturehood comes about as the product of the cross. When men and women pass through the cross, they are given their Christ-like spiritual nature. Each time a person is born again there is an act of creation. One of the early writers said that when a person is born again, it is as though Christ were born again in the heart of the believer.
What the apostles tell us is that the Christian will now have in himself a longing to be clothed with his future resurrected body. We are much aware of our promised future body that will be exactly like the body that Jesus Christ now has. John says, “We shall be like Him [Christ].” (1 John 3:2)
Are you enjoying your new heavenly life?
Perhaps this little story of the eagle’s heart will help. (I’ve share it before but it never gets old.)
And, yes, it does rest on a Scripture inference.
“He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” (Isa 40:29-31)
Now for the story. See if this fits anywhere in your life —
The Call of the Eagle’s Heart
Somehow an eagle’s egg became mixed with a number of chicken eggs that had been set aside to be hatched. The little eaglet hatched right along with a brood of chicks. The eagle looked a bit different, but for all she knew she was just another chicken.
Yet something deep in the little eaglet’s heart was restless. She had this tugging in her heart that could not be explained. The eaglet kept stretching her wings. It made the other chicks look at her as an odd ball. But since chickens do very limited flying, the eaglet simply had to accept things as they were.
But it wasn’t just the stretching of her wings. For some strange reason she didn’t like the food that all the chickens were eating.
Now that was a real problem. All the other chickens continuously looked at the ground for bugs or corn or whatever they could find. But this growing young eagle just couldn’t keep her eyes off the sky.
Are you ready to fly?
So it happened. As was her habit, one day while looking up at the sky, behold the young eaglet saw some majestic birds soaring on the air currents. She couldn’t explain her feelings. Tears filled her eyes. Her heart-strings were being tugged at. Who are those birds? They sure don’t look like chickens.
She could not get her mind off of the majestic birds. What kind of chickens were they? None of the chickens she knew could fly. In fact the farmer kept their wings clipped so that they could not fly. And it was getting close to the time for the young eagle’s wings to be clipped.
And that is when it happened. One of the majestic birds spotted the young eagle and flew down to check things out. The great eagle said, ‘What are you doing in that chicken pen?’ The young eagle said, ‘This is where all the chickens that I know, live.” The great bird said, ‘You are not a chicken. You are an eagle.’
Something just went off inside the young eagle’s heart. It was like an eruption of all her pent-up emotions. She thought to herself, ‘Is it possible that I am not a chicken?!’
She began flapping her wings as hard as she could. Her feet lifted off the ground but not enough for flying. The majestic eagle said, ‘You are doing it wrong. Come here. Climb on my back. I’ll show you how its done.’
Boy was she nervous. On the majestic eagle’s back she climbed. He spread out his mighty pinions and with a lifting of his wings, off they soared, higher, and higher. The wind flushed through her feathers. How wonderful it felt.
The eagle spoke to the young eaglet and said, ‘Don’t be afraid. Its your turn. You were designed to fly.’ The majestic eagle suddenly did a backward flip and off into nothing went the young eagle. ‘I’m falling! I’m falling!’
‘No you aren’t. Just spread out your wings! You’ll see.’
She spread out her wings and instantly the wind beneath her wings began to lift her up, and fly she did. Upward and up she flew. She soared and soared and soared. The young eaglet could not believe how easy it was to fly. And, oh the view. She could see forever. The young eagle could not get enough flying. On top of everything else, the eaglet had also found a great family of eagles to be with. They were just like her.
OK, so now you know the story of the eaglet who thought she was a chicken.
No, she never went back to the chicken pen. After all, she was an eagle and eagles are birds of majesty. They are designed to soar in the heavenly places.
You can do it. You have an upward call of God on your life. Just learn to live your life in the power of Christ. Where is Christ? Christ is in you. This is the great mystery of Christianity.
Now, remember what the apostle said about our secret–
“I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Php 4:12-13)
May all the blessings of Jesus Christ fill out your life.
“And Jesus cried out and said, ‘He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.’” (Joh 12:44-46)
The questions go somewhat like this -
“If God is real why does He allow so much evil, and war, and destruction, and heartache, and murder, and famines, and disease, and rape, and plunder, and all else in the world that destroys life? Why does life have to be so empty of meaning? Is this all there is? Why does my heart seem so empty?”
Here is another question. Answer this second question and you have your answer to the first question –
“Why is there so much darkness in my heart?” (Relatively speaking. Not for those who know the answer.)
It is all about the heart. Until the human heart can discover its true connection with life, all else about life will be dismay and darkness and self-deception.
When I was a young preacher  I recall a song by Peggy Lee, titled, ‘Is That All There Is?’ I will never forget the melodrama of that song. I often used it as a backdrop for my evangelist ministry.
What made the song so sad is how well I remembered a point in my life when Peggy’s lyrics were pretty much my lyrics. Before I met Jesus Christ, I had become disheartened of life to the point of saying I was an atheist. Of course being an atheist is merely a charade for the aching heart. But that was before the Lord sought me out.
See if this song speaks of anything in your life -
The Curse of Darkness
There is none more deceived that those who will not see.
The atheist in his philosophical high-mindedness, the college professor in his anti-God, anti-morality, and the free-spirited libertarian, each are hiding themselves behind charades of self-justifying about life. When they talk about our guarantee to the ‘pursuit of happiness’, whose happiness are they talking about? They speak of their own self-serving happiness regardless of who else may get trampled in the interim.
The millionaire and the billionaire soon find that their massive abundant wealth has no answer to the deepest need of the empty heart. The movie star, the sports idols, and all the famous people in this world are left with emptiness of life, that is, until they find the true answer to life.
Even the religious world can live in a deception about life. Jesus addressed this with regard to those who rejected His fulfillment as the Messiah of God.
“In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’” (Mat 13:14-15)
Here is the strange one. Did you know that the most honest description of the lostness of man in the corruption and decay in this world can often be found with the hard-rock musician.
"A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice." Isaiah 42:3
Listen to these lyrics and you will see an honest tribute to the dark life -
Welcome to My Life
[MTV Hard Rock Version].
Do you ever feel like breaking down? Do you ever feel out of place? Like somehow you just don’t belong And no one understands you
Do you ever wanna run away? Do you lock yourself in your room? With the radio on turned up so loud And no one hears you screaming
"The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned." Matthew 4:16
No you don’t know what it’s like
When nothing feels all right You don’t know what it’s like to be like me
To be hurt To feel lost To be left out in the dark To be kicked When you’re down To feel like you’ve been pushed around To be on the edge of breaking down When no one’s there to save you No you don’t know what it’s like
Welcome to my life
Finding Your Home With Christ
Jesus came into our world to be the Savior of all who will call on Him. Heaven’s message to the earth is the message of God’s love. Yes, there are those who reject Jesus because they love the darkness. These will continue on the path of darkness. It only goes one direction.
But for all who will look to Jesus, the message is simple. Jesus said,
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (Joh 14:1-3)
If you think it is hard to find Jesus, it isn’t. All you need to do is accept heaven’s message that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, that He came into our world for salvation to all
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." John 14:6
who call upon Him. Jesus died on the cross, was buried, resurrected from the grave, ascended into heaven, and will return to the earth at the Father’s appointed time.
Here is salvation -
“But what does it say?
“THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”–that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
“… for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
“For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”
“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” (Rom 10:8-13)
And here is the question that needs an answer -
What will happen to me when I receive Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior.
What will happen is that the darkness and emptiness in your heart will disappear. In the place of darkness there will be the light and life of Jesus. He has promised to give you a new heart. You will find new thinking and a new life of discovery in Christ.
The presence of the Lord will be with you, always. He will always be as close as your heart. Just a simple prayer is all you need, at any time.
Every kind of honor and happiness was bestowed upon you, and then was fulfilled that which is written, ‘My beloved did eat and drink, and was enlarged and became fat, and kicked.’ Hence flowed emulation and envy, strife and sedition, persecution and disorder, war and captivity.
“So the worthless rose up against the honored, those of no reputation against such as were renowned, the foolish against the wise, the young against those advanced in years. For this reason righteousness and peace are now far departed from you, inasmuch as everyone abandons the fear of God, and is become blind in his faith, etc.” – The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians
The purpose of this entry is to provide a bit of education on the issues that Paul had to deal with concerning the church at Corinth. It is well worth the reading.
Let’s begin with Clement. The afore quote is from a letter of Clement to the Church of Corinth. Scholars are in favor that this letter was written by the traveling companion of the apostle Paul. When Clement wrote this letter both Paul and Peter had been martyred not too many years prior.
Paul speaks of Clement and other workers who helped him;
[They] have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Phil4:3)[Clement lived A.D. 30-100]
This letter by Clement was written either following the destruction of Jerusalem, or just prior. It was only one of several letters written by those who knew the apostles, that were read in the Churches. Clement along with Barnabas, and a couple more writings, were given consideration with regard to being placed in the New Testament canon of Scriptures. The church historian Eusebius held Clement in high esteem. (Clement is in the 1st volume of ANF and is found in the Alexandrian manuscripts.)
What were the problems at Corinth?
There were so many that it would take too much effort to try to address them all. However, there was one very serious situation that called for special concern by the apostle Paul. It had to do with the gifts of the Spirit and in particular the gift of speaking in foreign or other languages.
There is much more to this story. The City of Corinth was less than 50 miles across the Corinthian Gulf from Delphi. To the Greeks, Delphi was considered the center of the earth. There was a stone set in place that was called the navel of the earth. Delphi had the Delphic oracle, which belonged to the Earth goddess, and was supposedly guarded by a serpent, Python. (Keep the serpent Python image in view.)
At the Delphi temple they practiced a pagan glossolalia or speaking in tongues, but not in any language that could be understood. This influence of the pagan glossolalia was strongly felt not only in Corinth, but also in the entire Grecian world. (You can study this in most encyclopedias.)
The way the oracle worked was that a male prophet at the temple would receive a question from an inquirer. The question could be personal, or about government affairs, or whatever. The inquirer would be brought into the presence of a young woman priestess of Apollo who was said to have a “pythonic spirit.” The young woman would speak in unintelligible utterances, often fall out in a frenzy, supposedly through the spirit of Apollo in her, and the prophet would interpret the message.
It seems that Paul encountered this pythonic spirit at work in Philippi.
It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination [puthõna] met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling.” (Act 16:16 NASB)
The issue of gifting
It is important to understand that Paul never took away from their being a gifting from God concerning speaking in other languages. The problem seems to be that certain ones who had been to the Delphic priest were beginning to show up in the congregation, and very likely, even some of the priests and priestesses were entering.
The Christians would have been considered a threat to the Delphic oracle. In addition the Corinthian believers may have felt like they were in competition with the Delphic oracles. This was probably why Paul had to deal so much with the issue of speaking in tongues with the Corinthian church. You don’t find it in any of the other churches.
If you read the Corinthian letters with this background in mind, it will help you appreciate some of the things Paul is addressing. Listen carefully to the language:
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led.” (1Co12:1,2.)
From this we can assume that some of the Corinthian believers had taken part in the Delphic oracles. It was the spirit of divination that had led them astray. (Keep in view the term, ‘led
astray’. We are going to see it again in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. )
Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is accursed’; and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1Co12:3)
Someone was speaking by a spiritual power that declared Jesus was accursed. Paul’s contention was that the Holy Spirit would most certainly not say that Jesus is accursed. There is a vast difference between Jesus being accursed and Jesus taking the curse of the Law upon Himself at the cross. But these false outbursts of prophecies were leading the people astray.
Can a person confess the wrong Jesus?
For someone to truly make the confession that Jesus is Lord, would be an act of the Holy Spirit.
Anwk cross - Egyptian godsHowever, can someone say that Jesus is Lord and it not be of the Holy Spirit? Yes, if there is a occultic spirit involved. Paul addresses this issue in his second letter. He says it is possible to preach a Jesus who is not the Jesus of the Bible. (See the book 'The Beautiful Side of Evil by Michaelson.)
Listen to Paul:
But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (2Co11:3)
Remember the term ‘led astray.’ There it is again. Paul used it in both letters. In this second letter, Paul is coming even more strongly against the people being led astray.
Notice the background of being led astray is still the ‘serpent.’ The inference may possibly be to the pythonic spirit again. ‘Led astray’ is the Greek word phtheiro, which means to corrupt or spoil. The corrupting is a spiritual deception.
This word is used in Rev19:2, where it says,
He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting (phtheiro) the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bondservants on her.”
Paul shows how this corrupting influence works. He said,
For if one comes and preaches another Jesus who we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted you bear this beautifully” (2Co11:4)
The Corinthian group was coming under the influence of the occult. There is no other way to explain an involvement with a different Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel. You may think this is hard to do, but Church history has proven that this has always been a real danger for believers.
Clement has more to say.
Let’s come back to Clement’s letter which was written after the passing of Paul and Peter. I want to share a few notable quotes from his letter. It gives an idea of what happened to the church in Corinth, and what can happen in a church today if a spirit of occultism enters the scene.
Your schism has subverted the faith of many, has discouraged many, has given rise to doubt in many, and has caused grief to us all. And still your sedition continues.”
“The height to which love exalts is unspeakable. Love unites us to God. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love beareth all things, is long-suffering in all things. … Love admits no schisms.”
“All the generations from Adam even unto this day have passed away; but those who, through the grace of God, have been made perfect in love, now possess a place among the godly.”
“Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars of the Church have been persecuted and put to death. … Peter, through unrighteous envy … Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity … Thus was he removed from the world and went into the holy place…”
Did the Church at Corinth ever revert itself? Who knows. We do have a promise that the Lord will not lose any that belong to Him. It is possible that the Lord simply removed His people to a place of His choosing. But this is speculation
Historically there is no evidence that ‘glossais lalein’ [speaking in another language] played a continuing role in the advance of early Christianity. There have been resurgences in this area but they almost always proved to be of the occult. Paul gives the only Scriptural explanation that we can find as to why. Some find this a difficult Scripture, but it needs to be considered.
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away with.” (1Co13:8-10)
Paul doesn’t say when these things will happen. Some think he is speaking of heaven. Others think he is speaking of the apostolic era. But there is a word that Paul uses that may be the key. It doesn’t speak of heaven or of the apostolic era perse.
Listen carefully. Paul said,
But when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.” (v10)
If we stopped there, it could easily mean heaven. But Paul continues;
When I was a child, I use to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” (Vs11)
Paul is using a word here that he only uses one way. It has regard to maturity. He said,
But when the perfect (teleois) comes, the partial will be done away.”
I can’t emphasis enough the usage of this word. It is never used with regard to heaven. It means when something reaches its desired goal, or a state of maturity. What did Paul mean by perfect? It is possible that he had the transition of covenants in view.
The new covenant taking its place
Listen to this statement in Hebrews 8:13;
When He said, ‘a new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.”
The old covenant had not disappeared as long as the temple was visible. As long as the temple sacrifices were in place the former covenant was still visible for all to see. This was a special time in the changing of covenants. Many of the people were still thinking on an old covenant level. They did not have the spiritual maturity that would replace entirely the old.
The temple sacrifices offered no atonement for sin. Yet a great many of the priests had received Jesus as Lord, and still involved in temple sacrifices. (Cf. Acts 6:7)
The book of Hebrews was written not long before the destruction of Jerusalem. It was like a final warning to the Jewish people.
The prophets testimony
This brings us back to the prophet’s testimony concerning the purpose of ‘glossais lalein’, that is, speaking in other languages. God speaking in Isaiah 28:11,12, said,
Indeed He will speak to this (Jewish) people through stammering lips and a foreign tongue … but they would not listen.”
Follow through with Isaiah 28:13;
… they may go and stumble backward, be broken, snared and taken captive.”
This is exactly what happened in 70 a.d. The temple was destroyed, Jerusalem burned to the ground, and the people were taken captivity into the nations. In addition, there was no longer any visible evidence of the former covenant in place. The transition was over.
What had happened? The superior covenant was fully in place. This is likely what Paul had in mind, when he said that prophecy would be done away with and tongues would cease. These things would be replaced by something superior, that is, a mature spiritual walk with the Lord, where each child of God is able to hear from the Lord for himself.
And this is where believers today need to learn to live their life on a new covenant level. When Paul speaks of prophecy, it is likely he was speaking of a prophet sharing from the voice of God. Yet in the new covenant experience, that is not God’s best. One of the defining marks of the new covenant is that every person hears God personally. Jesus said,
My sheep know My voice, and another they will not follow.”
Notice how the book of Hebrews begins;
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” (1:1,2)
God now speaks to His people through the voice of His Son. The Old Testament prophetic ministry had come to a close. We see this on the Mount of Transfiguration. When Moses and Elijah disappeared we hear a voice from heaven,
This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; LISTEN TO HIM.”(Caps for emphasis only.)
Did not Jesus say that the law and the prophets were until John?
In the new covenant every true believer has the attending voice of Jesus speaking into his or her life. This is one of the validating factors that we have entered the kingdom of the beloved Son.
In the former covenant, you had to seek out a prophet. Not so in the covenant of Christ. God spoke through the prophet, and said,
For all will know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
Time for a check up
And here is where we need to use caution. Paul did not say that these elements of prophecy and speaking in other languages would be ‘destroyed.’ What he said was that they would be rendered useless, or, ‘idled.’ Paul was simply telling the Corinthians, not to get over-focused on these particular gifts. There is no question that the Lord can speak to us through others. But to go about seeking a prophet today can do much damage to a believer’s walk with the Lord.
I realize everyone has their own thoughts, opinions, and experiences. But in the study of Scriptures, it is important not to let our experiences determine what we believe. We must learn to be true to the Scriptures.
Everything I have shared in this entry is for educational purposes. My advice to believers today is to remain on guard against any form of occultism. Familiar (pythonic) spirits love to enter into congregations and play off as being from the Lord.
Here is your song for today. Please listen to it. It is titled, ‘In Christ Alone.’
May the Lord’s blessings rest upon you and all that is yours,