new bodies but the same minds
In the Resurrection we are given new bodies but not new minds.
- PSALM 90:10-12 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Knowing that for each of us our days are numbered, knowing full well that none of us are getting out of here alive, what is the purpose of it all? Why not, as the wise preacher asked, don't we just eat, drink and be merry (ECCLESIASTES 8:15)? Why not do that which is for the moment pleasurable and easy? Because everything that happens in life is for a purpose, and that purpose is to teach us how to be righteous, how to be godly, how to be holy. We are each day being prepared for the next life. We are being groomed, if you will, for the resurrection. Here is why we must diligently apply our hearts unto wisdom. We must learn to obey our Maker.
The apostle Paul revealed in his letter to the Philippians that the crown which the faithful believer was to receive after his resurrection was a new body. The question we will attempt to address in this Study is, what about the mind. Does the believer receive a new mind also? After his resurrection, is the believer given a mind that no longer thinks bad thoughts, that no longer lusts or envies? Does he receive a mind that no longer remembers this current life? Is every memory of this present life all forgotten and swept away?
As we take the time necessary to look, I'm confident that we are going to find that Christians are not going to be given new minds for their new bodies. Instead, it is GOD's intention that the new minds are to be made new here, in this life. Then, in resurrection, the new mind, the renewed mind, will be given a crown, which is a new body. It is in this life where we are to learn to be righteous, and holy and godly. It is in this life where we are expected to manifest the fruit of the spirit. Here is where we are told to sin no more. Here we are to learn to love even our enemies.
On numerous occasions in the Bible, we are told that we should be righteous, indeed, that we must be righteous and not sin. As our Lord Himself taught, if one's own righteousness did not exceed that righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, then they were in no way going to enter into the kingdom of GOD (MATTHEW 5:20).
To comprehend fully this most important topic, we must take the time to search and see, to ponder and consider a multitude of scripture. We won't find our way through this maize, which has been enshrouded by Church Traditions, by reading a verse or two. We must take it upon ourselves to read and re-read much of the Bible which relates to this topic. We must invest the time so as to see how the Bible presents to us the theme of our topic, and not just dwell on a few isolated verses.
Before we begin, a few important points concerning the true interpretation of the Bible should be considered. Many Bible verses can be taken and understood in two or more ways, perhaps similar to a puzzle piece. How does some particular piece fit in the scene as a whole? The mystery is often solved if we can refer to the lid of the puzzle box. Then all is made clear as we see the individual piece in its context. So with the Bible. If we can see the verse in its proper context much of the enigma vanishes away. But if we possess an improper or faulty view of the context, then understanding the individual verse can be next to impossible.
Further, when we write a friend a letter we generally presuppose certain facts which we understand that the recipient is in possession of. A third party not privy to these facts might have a very difficult time understanding certain points of our letter, if not in fact the entire letter. Thus it is with much of the Bible.
Each epistle, each gospel and book was written with the idea that the readers knew something. If we today, thousands of years after the fact, are not in possession of those same facts, then we no doubt will find it difficult to understand much that has been written. Thus, we today must try to place ourselves in their shoes, in their pews, so to speak. We must read ROMANS and the PSALMS and REVELATION as much as is possible from the perspective of the original recipients.
We shall start our quest with the PSALMS, because they give us a rich treasure concerning our topic.
- PSALM 1:1-6 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
- The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
This seat of the scornful depicts for us a group of individuals who sit around and talk arrogantly about others who happen to see and understand matters differently than they themselves do; and it further describes those who mock, deride or scoff at others with whom they disagree. Might we today call them armchair quarterbacks? They think that they have somehow been gifted with all of the answers to life's problems.
This was perhaps one of Yeshua's greatest challenges, trying to overcome the prejudges of those to whom He taught. They were so sure that the way they and their fathers had understood the things of GOD to be right, that they wouldn't even give Him a serious listen. On more than a few occasions He reproved their hard-headedness and hard-heartedness, yet usually to no avail.
This same mentality was evident among the religious leaders which demanded of the man who was born blind, whom Yeshua had healed, "Dost thou teach us?" They were the Doctors, the Ivy League graduates, those who even knew their Bible in the ancient Hebrew language. Yet they were so far off the mark of truth, they were so far removed from the correct scent, that they, in their self righteousness, actually sought to take Yeshua's life and end it.
This psalm also suggests a knee jerk reaction to the beliefs of others without really taking the time to understand why they believe what they do. Every religion is based on some thread of truth, otherwise it would have no followers. It might do us well to see what if anything we can glean from them. As Paul wrote, "test everything, hold fast what is good" (RSV 1 THESSALONIANS 5:21).
I've seen on not a few occasions where religious people with pride and arrogance proclaim how they have been baptized in the Holy Ghost, but then in almost the next breath they are deriding or belittling others of a different persuasion. They have been led to believe that because they had performed or participated in some particular Church service or altar call, that they can then pretty much live and think as they please. These aren't to be bothered with the toil of loving their enemies or forgiving those who have somehow wronged them, and any who might believe differently are labeled as heretics or cultists.
The fruit of which the psalmist speaks is produced by those who choose to meditate upon GOD's word, day and night. HIS word isn't our weekly obligation nor our daily duty. Rather, it is that which delights us. Our pleasure is its study. Our joy is its discussion. Hereby our spiritual fruit is produced, and then after our resurrection, when the congregation of the righteous is assembled, then we shall be there, with them, with Him. But if we choose to instead walk and sit with the scornful, those others whose delight is in carnal things, then we are surely destined to be blown from the threshing floor like chaff in the wind.
- PSALM 15:1-5 LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.
Who shall someday abide in HIS tabernacle and dwell upon HIS holy hill? According to the psalmist it is those who walk and work righteously. He writes that those who choose to live contrary to GOD's commandments, those who choose to live according to their own desires for gain and advantage, shall not abide with the righteous.
- PSALM 18:20-26 The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.
- I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity. Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight. With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright; with the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.
How many ways can it be said? This believer was rewarded according to the way he chose to live his life, in righteousness and cleanness. He kept the LORD's ways and statutes. He was diligent to be upright in all his dealings. Therefore, because of his chosen lifestyle, which was righteous, merciful, upright and pure, the righteous GOD would be to him, merciful, upright and pure.
Are we to suppose that any less should be expected of us? Should we today not be able to live up to at least the same standards as this psalmist did? If he was not enslaved to his sin why do we believe that we are? Perhaps we have been led astray and misguided by our religious leaders and teachers. No doubt we can be every bit as righteous as those whom scripture holds up to us as our examples.
- PSALM 24:3-5 Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Who shall ascend, who shall be seated at the feast in GOD's kingdom? Evidently not him who continues to sin, but rather him who has chosen to quit sinning. He that has clean hands and a pure heart from consciously endeavoring to walk according to GOD's word. He that has changed his ways, has repented of his sins and put on the mind of Christ. He is the one who shall find a home in the new heavens and in the new earth. Indeed, he shall become GOD's final resting place.
- PSALM 34:12-16 What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
Simply depart from evil and do good! That was the command. That was what was expected if one hoped to be found worthy of HIS goodness. HE is for us, not against us, if we are seeking righteousness. But until we turn from our own ways, our journey is like trampling though deep snow, or like swimming against the tide. When everything seems to be working against us, life is exhausting and we make little progress.
- PSALM 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Many suppose that at the resurrection GOD will magically create within the sinner a clean heart and he therefore has little or no inclination to make his own heart clean in the here and now. But his understanding most assuredly rests on a weak foundation. We would do well to consider in this psalm, which was written by king David, how GOD might have created in him a clean heart. The psalm has to do with David's sins concerning Uriah and Bathsheba. David got Bathsheba pregnant and to hide his affair he eventually had her husband Uriah killed.
In short order, GOD sent to David HIS strong reproof through Nathan the prophet. David recognized his sins and immediately responded, not with self justification but by genuine repentance. David came to recognize his own utter failing and completely and entirely changed his ways. The cleaning of David's heart was a process. It took time to work itself out, but in the end, David was better prepared for other temptations which were sure to follow.
In one of his speeches, the apostle Peter affirmed that the heart is purified by faith (ACTS 15:9). Faith is hearing and then believing that which is heard, such as what David did. He heard the word of GOD from Nathan the prophet, and he believed that word and then acted accordingly. Thus his heart became cleansed of unrighteousness.
- PSALM 103:10-12 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
Obviously, this passage presupposes the fact that this sinner has already repented and got himself right with GOD. As the psalmist notes, GOD's mercy is not towards all, but rather towards them that fear HIM. To pretend that GOD does not hold the sinner accountable for his sins is to ignore much that is written in scripture. But if the sinner has truly repented of his sin, only then is GOD willing to wipe the slate clean, so to speak.
- PSALM 119:11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
The goal and work of every believer should be to live life without sinning. To accomplish this feat, the psalmist has discovered the secret. As we treasure up the word of GOD in our hearts, as we read, and study and think upon HIS word, in that degree do we learn how to live righteously. The word of GOD is how we measure our steps, how we know whether or not we are on the right path. Scripture is our doctrine, reproof and correction that we may learn to be righteous. It is that which fully equips us for our journey through this present life.
- PSALM 119:71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
All of our experiences have the potential to teach us something. Life is intended to be a class room, a field trip if you will. Our journey here on earth is not some sort of pleasure cruise, and each experience, painful or pleasurable, we should seek to learn from.
- PSALM 119:130 The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.
Certainly, as we grope around in the dark, trying to find meaning and purpose for our lives, we can go to GOD's word and uncover the answers we need and desire. His word can always be relied upon to give us guidance. We must be determined to measure all which we believe by the scriptures. We must therefore be careful of what man might try to teach us about GOD's will for our lives. We must diligently guard our hearts as a watchman upon a castle wall, carefully eyeing every oddity which approaches. We must be attentive to anything that appears to run contrary to GOD's word.
- PSALM 119:133 Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.
It is when we fasten ourselves to HIS word that we find the strength and wisdom to avoid sin. Marching through life with HIS word in our minds and hearts gives us the victory over any sin which might chance to derail us. When Yeshua was tempted in the wilderness, this is exactly how how He faced down sin, by always calling to mind GOD's word. But it was GOD's true word, which must be in its proper context, and not rather the scripture which the tempter quoted, which was taken out of its context (MATTHEW 4:6).
- PSALM 140:13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence.
It is the upright who are destined to dwell with GOD. The one who chooses to continue in his sin has no place there. Only he that decides to rise above his failings and sins, who learns to walk according to the word, gains entrance into GOD's kingdom. But to be upright and righteous requires discipline and determination. This is the purpose for which GOD made us, so that we might learn how to be righteous.
Along with psalms, the book of PROVERBS likewise has much to teach us about learning to overcome sin and thereby being instructed so as to become righteous.
- PROVERBS 2:1-7 My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.
- For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler [shield] to them that walk uprightly.
We would do well to consider and ponder this powerful passage several times over, for it is overflowing with divine guidance for our lives. First we must receive HIS words. Then we must hide them deep within our hearts. We must desire HIS knowledge as the unbeliever seeks after worldly riches. If we are willing to commit ourselves in this fashion, then we are in a position to begin to know and understand what few have. GOD desires to impart HIS wisdom, but only to those who genuinely strive for it. HE does not cast HIS pearls before swine.
What greater treasure could possibly exist than the wisdom, knowledge and understanding from the Creator of all of life? Is this fountain of riches not worthy of our every devotion? GOD gives each of us a few short years to search out and find truth. How sad and unfortunate to see one throw away his entire life simply to obtain worldly riches and pleasures which he must then leave behind when he is called forth unto GOD's judgment throne. Rather, let us treasure up riches which will accompany us beyond the grave; riches like righteousness and the fruit of the spirit.
- PROVERBS 11:4 Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.
In this present life, earthly riches sometimes provide favor and a blind eye to justice; but when we stand before the judgment throne of GOD, they mean nothing at all. Then, only righteousness will count for anything. Then, on that day, each man will be measured by the fruit of the spirit which his lifestyle has been able to produce.
- RSV PROVERBS 11:19 He who is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die.
None of us are getting out of here alive. All men will die, someday. Therefore, it is hard to understand this verse in any way except that it is referring to living again, after resurrection. He who is steadfast in righteousness will live again, eternally. But he who chooses not to learn righteousness, he who is steadfast in his own sin, it appears that he has nothing eternal ahead for himself except death.
- LXE PROVERBS 11:31 If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
The apostle Peter quotes this passage as referring to the Day of Judgment, where both the living and the dead were to be judged (1 PETER 4:5-18). As such, we can have confidence that this is exactly what this and other passages of its nature refer to; that the ungodly and sinner will be condemned to eternal death while the righteous will be granted eternal life.
- PROVERBS 21:16 The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.
Where is the congregation of the dead? Where else but where the dead reside, their final resting place, their eternal resting place. Yeshua instructed His followers to strive to enter through the strait gate into the kingdom of GOD, for many will seek to enter but will not be able to (LUKE 13:24-28). One who just casually delves into the things of GOD will not likely find entrance into HIS kingdom. Righteousness takes determination, it demands perseverance, it requires faithfulness.
We should take note of a few other passages in the Jewish Bible before we take our leave and probe into the Christian scriptures.
- ECCLESIASTES 12:13-14 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
In the closing words of this final chapter, the wise preacher sets forth the vital importance of discovering the way of truth while one is still young. Early in life is when we need to learn who GOD is and where our place in HIS plans lie. Accomplishing that, we then have many years to see HIM work out HIS will in our lives so as to develop within us HIS ways.
Why wander around our entire lives, lost in confusion and chasing after each new whim and fancy, only at the end of life to finally think seriously about GOD and our eternal destiny. By then we have lost out on thousands of opportunities where GOD might have wrought a good work in us. Many piss away their entire lives on the pleasures and treasures of a very brief existence loosing out on eternal bliss. It is nothing other than sad, tragically sad. As the song writer so aptly put it, We "believe were gliding down the highway when in fact we're slip sliding away".
- ISAIAH 33:15-16 He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; he shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.
GOD expects HIS people to walk righteously. HE gave HIS word to help direct us and guide us in the right way. HE gave HIS spirit to teach us and remind us of HIS ways. It seems reasonable therefore, to conclude that HE does not expect us to be enslaved to sin. We are to forsake our sin and obey from the heart that form of doctrine which has been delivered us.
- MICAH 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
This here is HIS requirement. This is what the LORD expects of HIS people, that they walk and live according to HIS word. How can one who calls himself a Christian, who thinks himself a believer, expect that he will be gladly welcomed into GOD's kingdom when he has lived a life anything but righteous and godly? If we are not just and merciful and humble then what kind of a believer are we?
Let us now consider and ponder the Christian scriptures, for they proclaim and extol the very words of the captain of salvation, the author and finisher of faith. He was the firstborn into the new creation, the first who was begotten from the dead unto resurrection, the firstfruits of them which had fallen asleep.
John the Baptist first points the way.
- MATTHEW 3:8-12 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
- I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Is not this fruit some of the same fruit of which the apostle Paul wrote, that of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, patience, meekness and temperance? And is not the possession of this fruit how one avoids the axe? According here to John, those who do not learn to acquire these fruits are evidently destined to be destroyed, but those others who are found to be in possession of them will be gathered together into GOD's kingdom.
Some of them in John's audience had thought that they would be able to gain entrance into GOD's kingdom simply because of who they were, descendants of Abraham. Many today fall for a similar lie, thinking that they will find access into HIS kingdom because of their membership or allegiance to some particular Church or Religion. I don't read that supposition anywhere in scripture. Entrance is gained by learning obedience, by becoming righteous and godly.
In the midst of this account which was first given by Matthew, Luke inserts the response of John's listeners who each asked, "What shall we do then?" (LUKE 3:10-14), what shall we do so as to be saved from destruction, what shall we do so as to gain entrance into GOD's kingdom? Luke tells us that John answered back that they should give to those who asked, that they should not be greedy or dishonest, that they should not be abusive to others and that they should be content with what they had. In a nutshell, that they should be righteous, that they should live love.
Nothing is said here or elsewhere by John or any of Yeshua's apostles about being saved by the formula which today's Church proclaims. Isolating a few passage from the rest of scripture, they have too often misunderstood and thus misrepresented the true Christian message which Yeshua set forth. To be saved and thus be found worthy of entrance into GOD's kingdom requires a lifestyle change. It requires one to live holy and godly and righteous, not to just mentally imagine that we love GOD. To truly love GOD is demonstrated by our obedience to GOD, not by declaring publicly or privately, "Lord, Lord" but then not doing those things which He commands.
Only on one single occasion did Yeshua ever speak of His love for the Father, and on that occasion the context was His obedience to GOD's will for His life (JOHN 14:31). So with us. Let us quit talking so much about how much we love GOD and start showing it by our obedience to HIM.
Next let us consider the personal teaching of Yeshua Himself.
- JOHN 4:14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I [Yeshua] shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
Is not this water which Yeshua promised to give, is it not GOD's words? He says later that the words which He spoke were spirit (JOHN 6:63) and just previous to this occasion Yeshua had declared that "he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him" (JOHN 3:34). This repeated correlation between spirit and words should not go unnoticed. It is the words of truth which cleanses us, it is the words of truth which makes one free. We are not cleansed by a touch of the magic wand, neither at our conversion nor after our resurrection. Nor are we made clean by some Church service or function, be it absolution, communion or whatever else they invent. Rather, we are made clean by our continual adherence to his words, indeed, we are made free by our learning to obey His word.
- MATTHEW 5:19-22 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
- Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Do we claim ourselves to be Christians? Are we followers of Yeshua or not? If He is indeed our Lord, then it seems to me that we should heed His words. Here He states most emphatically that one's righteousness is how it is determined whether or not he gains entrance into GOD's kingdom. Yeshua doesn't then go on and declare that one can live the life he chooses and then in the resurrection he will magically be made righteous. No, He states in the most absolute and emphatic terms (considered below) that one must control even more than his actions, he must learn to control his very thoughts.
Concerning His comment here about one accusing a brother of being a fool: if someone is endeavoring to teach us the truth of GOD's word, and we dismiss him as a crackpot, if we blow him off as some sort of heretic, then we may well be locking the door upon ourselves. We could be shutting out GOD himself. We might be closing our eyes and ears to what the spirit may wish to teach us.
Hence, we are then in danger of our own complete and utter destruction. We may even be committing the unforgivable sin, which is to refuse to hear and consider true doctrine, true reproof and true correction. We cannot be forgiven of sins we have not repented of, nor of our wrongs which we have somehow in our twisted logic justified. (For further reading on this topic see the Study, The Unforgivable Sin).
- MATTHEW 5:27-30 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Time and again Yeshua drilled home this important point that His followers must learn to control their thoughts; that or else they were in danger of perishing. It should be noted that simply noticing a woman's beauty is not the sin. The sin is the lust, wanting to have or possess her. One may admire his neighbor's restored 57' Chevy or an athlete's amazing abilities; there is no sin there. But when one becomes envious or covetous, that is the sin.
Religion wishes to cover or hide from us anything which might prove desirous and thereafter cause us to sin. Many Muslims completely cloke their women from view, other religions don't allow even a pin stripe down the edge of their car, while most protestants discourage the drinking of any alcohol, even in the wine of their communion.
Perhaps the better method is not to prohibit these things; that is the easy route which produces no fruit. The profitable way is to allow them and learn to enjoy them but not to let them lead us into sin. Herein are we made perfect. Forbidding the presence of anything which might tempt us cannot perfect us, but self discipline does.
- RSV MATTHEW 5:43-48 "You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
- For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Neither Yeshua nor any of His apostles ever suggested that His followers were someday all going to be made perfect after they got to heaven. No, He always proclaims that one must be made perfect in this present life. And how were they to be made perfect? Evidently it is at least in some degree determined by one's own actions. Obviously, each individual was expected to make the determined decision to either love or hate, to either pray or persecute, to either receive another or reject him. These are Yeshua's admonitions for those who seek an entrance into His Father's kingdom.
- MATTHEW 6:14-15 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Do we ourselves make the conscious effort to forgive others? Then we can no doubt expect forgiveness for ourselves. But if we refuse to forgive those who have in some way wronged us, then should we be expecting our own forgiveness? It seems not.
There are two aspects of forgiveness, two sides of the coin, so to speak. If I am wronged by someone, I can declare to GOD that I forgive them; that I hold no animosity against them; that I have no grudge with them. Thus my heart is clean towards the matter and I can go about my business harboring no hard feelings. Howbeit, if the person who wronged me has not come to me himself and admitted his wrongdoing, if he has not genuinely asked to be forgiven, then, though I have forgiven him vertically between myself and GOD, I cannot forgive him on a horizontal plane, between him and I. The wrongdoer can not receive forgiveness for some sin which they have somehow justified (see MATTHEW 5:24).
- MATTHEW 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
What exactly is this treasure of which Yeshua speaks? What kind of treasure is it that can be stored away today, either on earth or in heaven? Our treasure is that which we hold most dear, that which occupies our thoughts, that which we generally dwell upon. Which of our accomplishments are we most satisfied with? Which of our possessions do we prize the most? Is our treasure something which we will take with us when we are resurrected and enter into the new heavens and the new earth, or is it some earthly possession which we shall leave behind, which will decay and rot away? Are our treasures the fruit of the spirit or are they they the accomplishments and acquirements of the flesh?
- MATTHEW 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Thus our Lord commands, seek first GOD's kingdom and HIS righteousness! This should be our first priority, this should be the primary thing which motivates us each morning as we awake and arise to meet what the day has in store. Do we want to foremost learn to know and obey HIM or do we get out of bed so as to acquire or accomplish some other less important, less vital, less enduring thing? Yeshua, the author and finisher of faith, instructs His followers to seek these things now, now in this present life while the whole world around us is still our class room.
- MATTHEW 7:1-5 Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
It is a serious error here to suppose that Yeshua was dissuading believers from judging the actions of others. An error because elsewhere He instructed them on how to judge others. Even in this very chapter of MATTHEW (considered below), just moments after telling them to judge not, Yeshua taught that individuals can be measured by their fruits, for "by their fruits ye shall know them". This of course in itself requires scrutiny and judgment.
When we tie this passage in with those that came before (6:2, 5, 16), and then those that follow after (7:5, 15-20), we see that He was dissuading them from judging as the hypocrites judged, as some of the scribes and Pharisees judged. The judgment of the religious establishment was often censorious and mostly based on their flawed perspective of what was right.
Yeshua elsewhere taught that judgment was due, even necessary, if it was based upon the proper criteria (see JOHN 5:30 and 7:24). The error which He was endeavoring to correct here was the hypocrite attempting to extract the tiny splinter (a minor infraction) from his brother's eye all the while that there was a huge beam (his whole complicated theology) blocking his own vision.
Yeshua never suggested that it was improper to judge any action as sinful or righteous. Many scriptures are intended to be the rule for our own right conduct, thus we can measure most any action so as to know whether or not it is a sin. Lying, stealing, adultery, these are all sins and we should, indeed we must eliminate them from our lives. Then, once we have escaped from our own sin, only then is it possible for us to see clearly enough to help our brother wiggle free from his.
- MATTHEW 7:15-27 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
- Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
- Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
There are good trees and corrupt trees, good fruits and evil fruit. There are those who hear His words and doeth them and there are those who hear His words but doeth them not. It's all in the doing, the obeying, not just in the hearing. The doing produces the good fruit, the hearing does not (see ROMANS 2:13).
Notice that those who were true believers were not those prophesying, nor those exorcising devils, nor even those doing good works. The true believer was him who was producing the good fruit, no doubt the fruit of the spirit. This is how we can both measure ourselves and our companions.
Yeshua was warning them that at the Day of Judgment, when many would be expecting to sit down with Him in GOD's kingdom, that they were instead destined to be cast out. He was attempting to get them to turn themselves around and live godly righteous lives, and not for them to think that they were saved just because they thought that they knew Him. This powerful lesson is equally well suited for us today.
- LUKE 6:20-38 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
- But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
- But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
- For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
- But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
Some of these commands seem like pretty tall orders, but we would do well to keep a few things in mind. First, we should consider the times in which they were spoken. It was an era when Yeshua Himself was declaring the kingdom of GOD, knowing that in a few short years this nation and many of its people would be swept away by a horrible conflict which was to ensue.
In addition, we should read these lines with the mindset of the Resurrection. What real difference does it matter if someone robs us of some possession when compared with our own resurrection. If my turning the other cheek helps me to obtain eternal life, as well as perhaps my abuser, all is well worth the offense. Consider Yeshua's own abusive treatment so as to make salvation available for all of mankind.
Again He commanded them to judge not, which like in Matthew's account, meant an unrighteous judgment. Obviously we must be able to judge between right and wrong if we are then to forgive the wrongs.
Finally, we should remember that our Creator is very able to control events in our lives, as Paul noted, "all things work together for good to them that love [obey] God" (ROMANS 8:28). HE can easily keep us out of danger and help us to avoid those reckless and foolish individuals who might cause us harm. But if we occasionally need a good slapping on the cheek, so be it.
- MATTHEW 12:33-37 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
- But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
Yeshua points out that if the tree is made good then its fruit will naturally be made good also; and so it follows, that if the tree is made corrupt then it only stands to reason that its fruit is going to be corrupt. Of course He is speaking of a man being made either good or corrupt and his fruit following in his wake. In the Day of Judgment every man was going to be measured by his fruit. Had he cultivated the fruit of the spirit or had he not?
We usually, or at least eventually speak from the heart. Many people learn to guard what they say, but sooner or later their speech reveals and exposes their true inner self. Once again we see that it is our own doing which makes us what we are. It is our own heart, our own words, that hidden purpose within each of us which renders us either righteous or not.
- ASV JOHN 6:63 It is the spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life.
Yeshua's very words were spirit! That is quite an astounding statement. If GOD's spirit was giving Him the words which He spoke, then it was in fact GOD himself who was speaking. And these words of GOD were intended to give the recipient life, indeed, if they were believed and acted upon, they would render eternal life.
Words really affect only the mind, thus it is in the mind where we are cleansed and made ready for HIS kingdom. As far as the Resurrection is concerned (which is the context here, see verse 39-40, 44, 47, 50-51, 54, 58, 68), there is no profit whatsoever in the things of the flesh. Bodily exercise profiteth little (1 TIMOTHY 4:8) because someday, after his resurrection, the believer will receive a new body. But he will not get a new mind. The mind is renewed (renovated) now, every day we dwell and mediate and act upon His words; every day we grow in faith; every day we learn to cultivate the fruits of the spirit.
- JOHN 8:31-37 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed....
The freedom of which Yeshua referred here, is the freedom from sin. If they would be free from their sin, then they must continue in His word. Disciplining themselves to continue in that word they will become His disciples; and then after having learned the truth, only then could they become free from their sin. Obviously, to become free from sin requires more than simply praying about it. We must consciously learn His word. We must, as disciples, as disciplined ones, become determined to apply His word in our lives.
This is nothing other than the doctrine, reproof and correction Paul wrote of (2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17). We continue learning from GOD how to believe rightly. In that process we are reproved when we thereafter believe wrongly. But in due course we are corrected to the right way when we choose to change and come back to believing rightly again. This whole process is instruction in righteousness, that we might learn to be righteous. This is the primary purpose for our lives upon earth. Everything that happens is for the purpose of teaching us something, that we might be made righteous. Not by the tap on the head with a magic wand after our conversion or resurrection, but by our faithful, lifelong adherence to his word.
Was not Yeshua declaring in the above passage that anyone who does not free himself from sin will not be able to abide together with Him in GOD's house? Some of these in His audience thought that because of who they were, their religion, their denomination, or their nationality, that because of these things that they were guaranteed or at least assured a place in GOD's kingdom. But Yeshua taught that their assumption was wrong. Only those who freed themselves from the sins of the flesh, by continuing in His word, had eternal life awaiting them.
- MATTHEW 15:7-11 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
Recalling the words of the prophet, I don't think that Yeshua could have stated the case any plainer. Their worship service was all pointless; their prayers, their morning services and their Bible Studies accomplished nothing at all because they based it upon their Church Traditions. Religion is too often concerned with the flesh; touch not, taste not, handle not (COLOSSIANS 2:21) when instead it should be concerning itself with the heart, with the mind.
Yeshua's religion, the true faith, was not so much concerned with the flesh as with the mind. He continually exhorted His followers to clean up their minds, then the acts of the flesh would fall in line. Make the tree good and then the fruit would be good also. First make the inside of the cup clean, then the outside will also become clean (MATTHEW 23:26), or put another way by Paul, "unto the pure [in heart and mind] all things are pure" (TITUS 1:15). Thus, one is plainly defiled by what issues forth from his mind. Yeshua continued.
- MATTHEW 15:17-20 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. (MARK 7:15-23)
"Do not ye yet understand?" Yeshua asked His disciples, perhaps in exasperation. This is why we also must be determined to continue in His word, because our minds are so dense, sometimes dense as rubber, that many times truth just bounces off. Howbeit, the holy spirit can soften the mind up by gentle encouragement; and if that fails, a baptism by fire may do the job. Life is full of experiences which GOD oversees. HE can order any series of events to work upon us to help us see more clearly HIS truth. As we remain receptive to HIS workings, we gradually are changed, even transformed.
- LUKE 9:62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
We must be single minded in our response to GOD's word so as to become fit for HIS kingdom. If we are to learn anything, we must be willing to continue long enough to get our minds around whatever it is GOD is trying to teach us. If we don't persevere we will not likely succeed. But the spirit of GOD can help encourage us. We are not in this alone. GOD is right there with us, arranging and re-arranging things in our paths so as to see us through. If we slip and fall we must get back up. If we wander off the path, we must find our way back again. Life is for learning. It is a journey where every step can bring us closer to the truth, closer to our Creator.
- MATTHEW 18:35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
How rare it seems that this lesson is learned. Many behave as if they can hold onto grudges against their friends, family or acquaintances and still expect to find forgiveness for themselves in the kingdom of GOD. GOD is not going to allow a bunch of pissed off people to remain in HIS kingdom. Yeshua's parable means nothing at all if it doesn't teach us that we must learn to forgive now, in this present life.
- LUKE 11:27-28 And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
Yeshua taught that those who hear the word and then after that hearing keep and obey it, that if they follow through with it, then they are the blessed ones. Today's society preaches that those who fly around in private jets, or those who live in high-rise penthouses and those who marry beauty queens, that these are the blessed ones. Yeshua had a very different religion. His religion looked beyond this earthly existence into and beyond the Resurrection.
- LUKE 12:15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
How simple is this concept and yet how little it seems to be understood. Too many spend up their allotted time here on earth chasing after everything but the only needful thing, the truth. Take heed and beware! Yeshua tried His best to penetrate those thick skulls, but too rarely did He seem successful.
Even today's church goers too often center their lives around the things of the flesh. They have their over priced cars, their over sized houses, their golf carts and speed boats. But at the end of the day, at the end of their lives, too often they find themselves without any understanding of their Creator or what had been HIS purpose for their lives, lives which they have now wasted away on trivial pursuits. Understanding our Creator should be the driving force throughout our lives. These other entertainments should be only that, an entertainment. They should never become our purpose for living or existing.
- MATTHEW 19:16-21 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
- He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. (MARK 10:17-27)
"Blessed are the poor" was Yeshua's words on another occasion. Who today really believes this. Few it seems. Of course the times in which Yeshua and His disciples lived and moved were much different than our own, for they were on the brink, the very threshold of another era. Their whole world was going to come crashing down around them in a few short years. Most everything which everyone possessed was going to be lost in the great conflict of A.D. 70. One might as well sell it and give the proceeds to the poor rather than have the Roman armies come and confiscate it.
Not so for us today, yet the principle still holds true. If some possession or recreation is holding us back from devoting ourselves towards an understanding of GOD, then we would do well to dispose of it, to cast it aside, to not look back nor grieve its loss. Physical things are usually easily re-acquired but a true knowledge of GOD is rarely unearthed.
- MATTHEW 22:11-14 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: and he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.
Many were called unto GOD's heavenly banquet but few of those were found worthy and thereby chosen to enter and remain. This garment which the man in the parable didn't have was no doubt a robe of righteousness (ISAIAH 61:10), the white raiment which was given to those who overcame (REVELATION 3:5). Thus, not being found righteous, this one, perhaps weeping and gnashing his teeth, was cast out of the banquet hall into outer darkness.
Evidently, in the resurrection the King was going to make His rounds and examine His guest to ascertain whether or not they were righteous. If so, all was well. But if not, if they had not cultivated the fruits of righteousness, then they were to be taken away. Again, GOD is not going to allow a bunch of pissed off people to remain in HIS kingdom.
- MATTHEW 22:36-40 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
If one is willing to obey these two commandments then he is well on the way to achieving righteousness. We would do well to measure each thought by this rule. Does this action which I am contemplating demonstrate my love for GOD and/or my neighbor, or does it not. When I am cut off in traffic do I raise a clenched fist or do I instead breathe deep and let them pass along on their way? Perhaps GOD has thrown that situation in my path as a test so as to demonstrate my progress. Everything that happens in life is for the purpose of teaching us something. Let us not lose the lesson, even if we loose our temper.
- MATTHEW 23:27-28 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
It's what's within that counts. Yeshua recognized that on the surface, these religious leaders looked righteous, looked godly, but what lie within them told a very different story. Most of us have often heard the quote, "Still waters run deep", which means that when a person is able to be calm and quiet during times of turmoil, that is a good indication the he has a lot of depth to his soul. A passage which comes to mind along these lines is PSALM 46:10, "Be still and know that I am GOD". Building our lives upon the solid foundation of HIS word, having learned to trust HIM, we aren't so easily driven off in panic or desperation. We can have great calm in an ocean of doubt.
But these religious leaders from the passage above were not calm nor composed. They were full of the worst kind of anxiety; fearing and dreading that they would loose their position and property if they did not somehow dispose of this trouble maker from Galilee. They had no faith nor confidence in GOD as their guide and overseer because they were accustomed to taking matters into their own hands. They could not look to GOD to solve their problems because their lives ran completely contrary to HIS will.
- MATTHEW 24:46-51 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
- But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This servant's past, good or bad as it was, was not going to guarantee what his future held. At the time when his Lord returned, where was his heart then? Was he still faithfully carrying out his Lords wishes, being led by the spirit, or had he again become enslaved to sin, the works of the flesh?
Contrary to popular teaching, Yeshua didn't ever intimate that an unrepentant sinner's lifestyle was going to be overlooked or forgotten. He instead warned that, as with this one, the sinner will be put out with the other hypocrites. This word hypocrite has to do with an actor on the stage who is playing an imaginary roll. In like manner, this servant in Yeshua's example was attempting to convince everyone into believing he was something which he was not. Howbeit, his true self was to be shown and known in the Resurrection.
- JOHN 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Why would we mortals need to be taught and reminded concerning the things of GOD, unless there was some use we were going to make of it? Don't we need to know and remember so as to heed the message? Don't we need to learn obedience as our Lord did (HEBREWS 5:8)? Don't we need to learn how to discipline our bodies as Paul did (1 CORINTHIANS 9:27) so that we are not among those cast out of the heavenly banquet? Isn't this why the comforter, the holy spirit was sent, so that men could learn to be godly (TITUS 2:12), so that they could learn to be righteous (1 JOHN 3:7), so that they could learn to be holy (1PETER 1:15)?
Life is for learning, not for lounging. Our creator designed this world so as to teach us. HE placed us here so that we might understand HIS ways. Whatsoever we see, hear, smell and touch is for the principal purpose of communicating to us spiritual truths. We would do well to be awake and aware during our time here and reap what we can of those eternal fruits.
- JOHN 15:1-6 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
- Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
It all has to do with bearing fruit. That is the purpose, that is the intended consequence of our lives. If no fruit is produced then the branch is eventually disposed of. But in the event that some fruit does indeed appear, then the branch is cared for so that it can produce more and better and greater fruit. And what is the key to the bearing of this fruit? It is simply to abide in Him, in His words. Thus when we abide or remain in His word, then we are cleansed and fruit naturally develops in our lives.
In our quest to understand how it is that in the Resurrection we obtain new bodies but we retain the same minds, we now turn to the teaching of Yeshua's disciples, to those who sat at His feet and heard Him expound unto them these great truths.
- ACTS 13:39 And by him all that believe are justified [being made righteous] from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.
Some suppose and teach that when one first believes the gospel and becomes a Christian, that then at that moment he is instantly made righteous. But if that is the case, then why all of the teaching and exhortation, and warnings about the necessity of becoming righteous of which we have been reading? The meaning of the verbs in the above passage, indicate that the one who believes is not instantly made righteous, but rather is in a state of progress, for as he continues to believe then he is being made righteous.
Obviously, one is not magically changed at the point of his confessing to believe in Jesus. There is still a lot of work to be done. Being made righteous is sometimes a long row to hoe. It takes time for a tree to grow and produce the desired fruit.
When Paul wrote in ROMANS that "by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous", the text indicates that his simple meaning was that these believers shall some time in the future be declared righteous, no doubt at the Resurrection after their day of judgment. After they had achieved righteousness then they were to be recognized as righteous.
Believing is indeed the key, but believing is a process, not just a thought. We believe because we have learned to trust. When driving along on a country road and approaching a bridge which has a sign which tells me the the weight limit is so many tons, do I screech to a halt because I don't believe the sign? No, I trust the sign because I have crossed bridges many times before and the bridge has always held fine.
So it is with the things of GOD. We need to gradually learn to trust HIM; we have to learn to trust HIS word. Faith is hearing and then coming to believe what we have heard. Faith is believing the road sign at the bridge, trusting the words. Hence, faith is obeying that which we have heard (ROMANS 10:16-17). Righteousness is the natural outcome of a life of faith, a life of learning to trust GOD.
- ACTS 14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
If they were to enter into the kingdom of GOD, then they were going to have to get there by running the course which was laid out before them. They were going to have to play the hand dealt them and thus they were going to need to choose the right way. Indeed, they were going to have to continue in the faith. The word tribulation has a very remarkable origin. Richard Trent gives us some interesting background in his work, On The Study of Words, from page 7;
- It is derived from the Latin 'tribulum'- which was the threshing instrument or roller, whereby the Roman husbandmen separated the corn from the husks; and 'tribulatio' in its primary significance was the act of this separation. But some Latin writer of the Christian Church appropriated the word and image for the setting forth of an higher truth; and sorrow, distress, and adversity being the appointed means for the separating in men of whatever in them was light, trivial and poor from the solid and the true, their chaff from their wheat, therefore he called these sorrows and griefs 'tribulations,' threshings, that is, of the inner spiritual man, without which there could be no fitting him for the heavenly garner.
Thus, the tribulations with which men are faced and called upon to endure, can be for one's own profit. There is a familiar saying which I think often rings true, "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger". Sometimes our journey is easy, as a down hill stroll, but then at other times we face towering peeks, cliffs and sheer ledges. Only with our hand clasped firmly in His can all be successfully surmounted and overcome. As young David well knew during his flight from king Saul, "He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places" (PSALMS 18:33). David learned to completely trust GOD.
In the following passage, Peter reminds his fellow apostles and disciples that GOD purified the first Gentile converts by faith. Only after our realizing the true meaning of faith, that it is not some mysterious mental power that allows us to move mountains, heal lepers and handle snakes, but rather that it is simply hearing and then obeying GOD, only then can we make sense of where and how it is used in scripture.
- ACTS 15:9 And [GOD] put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Their hearts were purified by faith, which is hearing and then obeying that which was heard. It was all in the obeying. The grace of GOD offered them the words to hear, but they had to themselves make the conscious decision to either obey or disregard that word. The seed is planted, implanted, but the cleansing comes from obeying.
- JAMES 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
These believers were instructed to consider their temptations, their trials and tests, as a joy, because these things were all for the purpose of accomplishing something. Their life experiences were intended to produce within them patience, so that they could then become perfect and complete. This is life's purpose, to make something out of us, to create in us a new person. We are being made ready for that other life, that eternal life in the new heavens and in the new earth.
- JAMES 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
After these trials and temptations have accomplished their task, and the fruit is produced, and after the believer's resurrection and examination before the throne of GOD, then being found worthy he shall be awarded the crown of life.
- ESV JAMES 1:21-22 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Thus, they were encouraged, even warned to put away from themselves any sinful work and instead open themselves up to the word of GOD. Meekness suggests being coach-able. There was to be no reluctance but rather a strong desire to be taught and then faithfully to carry out those instructions.
They were to receive the words of GOD which were implanted within them, that engrafted word, which was able to save their souls. This implanted word is the doctrine, reproof and correction which instructs us on how to become righteous. It is that which cleanses and makes us perfect. But one must obey that word, not just hear it. We should not deceive ourselves into thinking that we need not cease from our sins. If we hope to ever be found worthy as we one day find ourselves before HIS throne, we must learn to become righteous.
- JAMES 5:7-9 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.
For the readers of James' epistle, truly the Judge was indeed at the door: the return of Christ was so very near. But for us also, we must demonstrate patience as we wait for our own fruit of righteousness. We must have no grudges. We must not grumble one against another. Again, GOD is not going to allow a bunch of pissed off people to remain in HIS kingdom. We must continue laboring in this field of learning, that we also may produce that fruit which is required in that next life.
- 1 THESSALONIANS 3:10-13 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
- 4:1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.
Paul's hope and prayer for them was that when they stood before GOD's throne at the return of Christ, that their hearts would already have become established as unblameable and holy. This they were to achieve in this present life, if they continued to faithfully walk according to HIS word.
It should be noted that Paul expressed his concern that something was lacking in his reader's faith. Faith is simply learning to obey GOD, thus it is a growth, something that takes time to fully develop, as Paul recognized in his second letter to the Thessalonians, quoted further below.
- 1 THESSALONIANS 4:3-7 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.
To "posses his vessel" means simply that they were to learn how to control the desires of their own bodies (see ASV) so that they would not succumb to carnal lusts. Whenever a person is moved or motivated by carnal desires, there is a real danger that a fellow believer is going to end up getting hurt or defrauded in some way. Too often, people become stepping stones or rungs on a ladder for those who are willing to sacrifice anything so as to have their desires realized.
We should seek that others are enriched by us and not that we are enriched by others. Paul tells his readers that they have been called unto holiness. Holiness is entirely in the mind, in the renewed mind, in the transformed mind.
- 2 THESSALONIANS 1:3-9 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;
- so that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
- seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
Again, Paul's expectation was that their faith was to grow, even exceedingly, and that their love was to abound. They didn't get saved and then just sit around waiting for Christ's return. No, they were actively engaged in life so as to grow spiritually. They were children becoming men, they were students becoming teachers, they were athletes becoming Olympians.
Because of their patience and faith, Paul anticipated that they would be counted worthy of access into GOD's kingdom. But those others, those who obeyed not the gospel and instead followed after their own carnal desires, might well be punished with everlasting destruction from the Lord's presence, which no doubt means that they were to be banished from GOD's kingdom.
The gospel of which Paul alludes to in the passage, is not only that which is written upon the pages of our Bibles, but as Paul earlier made reference (1 THESSALONIANS 4:9), it is that which they had been taught of God, to love one another. It is the implanted word along with the written word. To obey GOD's word cleanses us and frees us from our sin. Then, as we grow spiritually, the fruit of the spirit springs up within us, marking us out as being worthy of our calling.
This Church at Thessalonica had understood the gospel and had therefore turned to GOD from idols, but the Church at Corinth, of whose letter from Paul we will consider next, seemed to be in a constant state of wavering, still seeming to be in the death grip of sin.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
Are carnal Christians going to be allowed into the kingdom of GOD? Are those who envy and cause strife and divisions going to be seated at the heavenly table to dine and drink with Christ? I don't see how. At the very best these carnal Christians were considered babes in Christ. They were not to be seated at the banquet table with the adults, but perhaps instead placed in the highchair, bibbed and bottle fed with milk. They are untaught and unskilled and undisciplined. During their earthly life, they did not grow and mature spiritually but instead sat in their own poop, so to speak, crying and snibbling about they knew not what.
Paul offered a possible resolution for these who were deserving of the rod.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 5:5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Paul wrote here of delivering one of their Church members over unto his adversary, hoping that the tribulations which the sinner would then be faced with, would perhaps cause in him a repentance, a change of heart and mind, so as to at least save him at the day of judgment. This would no doubt be his baptism by fire. Paul continued;
- CNT 1 CORINTHIANS 5:6-8 ....Are you not aware that a little leaven is leavening the whole kneading? Clean out, then, the old leaven, that you may be a fresh kneading, according as you are unleavened. For our Passover also, Christ, was sacrificed for our sakes so that we may be keeping the festival, not with old leaven, nor yet with the leaven of evil and wickedness, but with unleavened sincerity and truth.
This festival is no doubt that which was awaiting them in HIS kingdom. There, there was to be no evil or wickedness allowed, but only sincerity and truth. Now is the time to "clean out then the old leaven". During this earthly life is when we are instructed to become clean and pure, with this present mind of ours. Though our physical body will be discarded at our resurrection, our renewed minds will surely carry us forth and onward into HIS kingdom.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 5:11-13 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
If fornicators and drunkards were not to be allowed into the believer's earthly banquets, why would we assume that they would be allowed into the heavenly banquet? Will not these be thrust out, out into outer darkness, where there was to be weeping and gnashing of teeth after they realized all that they had forfeited for petty earthly treasures and pleasures? Lest they didn't understand, Paul goes on to make his message as plain as it could have been made.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 6:9-11 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
Paul plainly wrote that they should not be deceived! Each of these individuals who chose to live contrary to GOD's will, was not in any way shape of form going to inherit the kingdom of GOD. Fortunately some of Paul's readers had indeed repented and changed their ways, been washed and cleansed, but evidently others had not. Others still remained unclean.
How then were the some washed? How were they made clean of their sin? Surely not by water, whether it be from the rushing River Jordan nor by the priest's sprinkled drops of Holy water (see JEREMIAH 2:22). Rather, they were made clean by the words of GOD, by being baptized with holy spirit and/or with fire.
It is not usually an instant washing that endures, but it must be a continual washing, one that generally takes place repeatedly over a period of time. We must continually come to the fountain to drink, we must continually receive doctrine, reproof and correction so as to be instructed in righteousness. We must leave behind the bottle and the bib, we must climb down from our highchair and begin to live as men and women of GOD. We must learn to stop crawling around on the floor and begin to stand tall and erect, running that race which has been set before us.
This being the obvious case, if then a believer who was formerly cleansed from his sin, returns and once again becomes a thief, or a drunk, or some other abuser, are they still clean? Are they forever clean regardless of the life they choose to lead and the things which they decide to do? Will they still be welcomed into the kingdom of GOD with open arms? I don't see how. How could they still be judged faithful, and honest, and true on their day of reckoning when they were not? How could they be given a crown of righteousness and be seated alongside other believers who did remain faithful and true to their Lord? Rather, it seems that they have disqualified themselves from the contest.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 9:24-27 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate [exercises control] in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
- I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under [control of] my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway [disqualified].
Here it is, laid out before us as plainly as need be. If we are going to strive for the mastery, then we must learn to exercise control. We must learn to keep control of our physical desires and bring them into subjection to the will of GOD. Otherwise, we shall no doubt be disqualified, castaway from our calling, from our incorruptible crown. But all of our self discipline and control has to do with this present life. It is in the here and now where we learn to obey, where we learn to be righteous. This is the training ground. This is where our metal is purified. This is where our mind is renewed.
The apostle then recounts for them how that many years before, in the wilderness, their fathers had failed to enter their own promised land because they had themselves failed to live righteously.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 10:6-14 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written,
- The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
- Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world [era] are come.
- Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it [endure]. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
"The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." Is this not what we find so prevalent in much of our culture and society today? What consumes and defines many is their fine dining and recreations. They talk excitedly about the latest new restaurant to open or the current sport of the season, or the most recent American Idol. Little is ever said about GOD or HIS word. How sad to see them piddle away what little time GOD has given them on such trivial and petty undertakings and amusements.
Thinking that we stand in good stead with GOD will not cut the mustard. We must demonstrate our righteousness, if to no one else but to ourselves. We must not lust, not fornicate, not tempt Christ, nor murmur. All that we do must be to the glory of our Creator. Life can be so full of fulfillment and understanding if we will but heed HIS call and obey HIS voice.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
We must all eat and drink and do, but in that eating can't we at least thank our Creator? Can't we try to see HIS hand in our routines and affairs? Everything that happens in this life is for the purpose of teaching us something. Can we not see it? Can we not learn from it? I was taught once that coincidences are GOD's way of remaining anonymous. HE is always there, at work, just usually behind the scenes.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 13:8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
These prophesies, tongues and knowledge refer back to the first and second verses of the chapter. The fruit of the spirit which the faithful believer produces shall no doubt endure beyond the grave, while the manifestations of the spirit were to pass away, being no more useful after the Resurrection.
Speaking in tongues is not a fruit of the spirit. Neither is prophecy nor healings. These can all be faked and often are. Thus, it is the fruit with which we should concern ourselves. It is love, joy, peace and the others of which we should be seeking to possess, for it is these which will be looked for at the judgment seat of Christ.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 15:1-2 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory [hold fast] what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
Paul insisted that his readers hold fast that which he had taught them, otherwise, their salvation was on shaky ground and they might even be believing to no purpose. He declared on more than one occasion that it was absolutely necessary and required that their minds retain the words of GOD.
But for what reason? Why don't we just all get saved and then wander or drift around aimlessly for the rest of our lives, until our resurrection when GOD supposedly is going to change us into heavenly beings, or something? Unfortunately, this seems to be what many Christians end up doing. Not realizing the necessity of renewing (renovating) their minds with the word of GOD in the here and now, so as to develop the fruit of the spirit, they wind up wasting away their entire life.
Let us next consider a few enlightening passages from one of Paul's letters to Timothy.
- 1 TIMOTHY 4:7-8 But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
This is an excellent display of the truth we are endeavoring to set forth in these pages. Paul was instructing and encouraging Timothy to exercise, to train himself to be godly.
Physical exercise is ok, as far as it goes, and of course health is much to be preferred over illness. The five senses of our physical bodies are critically important for us as receptors, so as to learn how to obey GOD and how to love and forgive our fellow man. As such, we should do our best to maintain this temporary vessel and make it as vital as possible.
But our real effort and emphasis should be on renewing our mind, for we shall someday receive new bodies but these minds we are stuck with. Our bodies are simply tools we use to develop our minds. Perfecting our bodies is not the goal of life but rather its perfecting our minds. Thus, our minds must be worked on, exercised now, renovated now. This is what builds within us godliness. This is what the life to come is going to be all about.
- 1 TIMOTHY 4:16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
Only in the mind can we take heed unto the doctrine which we have received. This is how one is saved, by hearing and then obeying, by continuing in this doctrine. We aren't going to be saved by an altar call, or by water baptism, nor by receiving the last rites. Only by faithfully continuing, by being led by the spirit, by receiving doctrine, reproof and correction can we have confidence that we shall be found worthy of a place in HIS kingdom.
- 1 TIMOTHY 6:11-12 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
The phrase follow after means more than that. It suggests some thing which Timothy was "to seek after eagerly, to earnestly endeavour to acquire". Paul was instructing him to earnestly endeavour to acquire righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and meekness. Here is where our treasure should be. These are the things which will come along with us into HIS heavenly kingdom. As the apostle wrote, this is how one holds on to eternal life.
Next we will look at some passages from one of Paul's most interesting and illuminating epistles, entitled 2nd CORINTHIANS.
- RSV 2 CORINTHIANS 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
"From one degree to another." The process is gradual and continual. When we become a Christian we are not immediately changed into this righteous, godly, flawless creature. No, we must continue in the faith, we must daily read and re-read, we must learn obedience and we must learn how to control our thoughts. This comes from the LORD working within us and then for us to respond by renewing our minds to HIS working.
GOD is not content to have us continually wallowing in our sin until the Resurrection when, as is commonly taught, HE is going to change us into sinless holy saints. No! All that we have read indicates that we are to be changed now, by persistently renewing our minds to HIS word.
- 2 CORINTHIANS 4:16-18 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction [thlipsis, tribulation], which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
"We faint not". The phrase directly connects this verse sixteen back to verse one, "Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not", and that word therefore connects this whole section even further back into the third chapter, which we have already touched upon. This here is such an astounding section of scripture we must cause ourselves to pause for a few moments and reconsider more deeply its context.
Let us reach back again all the way unto the seventh verse of chapter three, where Paul writes of the glory of the old covenant, which he reminds them, was to be done away with. He recognized the temporary nature of that covenant because the glory which shone in Moses' face after he received the covenant, likewise faded away. This is no doubt why Moses put a vail over his face (3:13), so that those Israelites would not become conscious that the old covenant was only temporary. Moses only got re-charged when he went back in before the LORD and removed the vail.
Howbeit, even in Paul's day when the Jews were reading their Bibles, they still found it hard to admit that the former Mosaic covenant was not permanent and that it was destined to be done away with, in essence, they had a vail over their own faces, which was hiding that truth from them (3:14). It was only if and when they turned to the Lord that the vail was removed and the temporary nature of the old covenant was realized (3:16).
But contrary to what many today believe and teach, this new covenant was not yet in effect when Paul wrote this epistle. This is why it was his hope (verse 12). The new covenant is not even in effect today, at least not here on this earth. It is a spiritual heavenly covenant, taking effect only after the Resurrection, in the kingdom of GOD, in the new heavens and in the new earth (see the Study, Old and New Testaments).
This is why Paul could write that he and his associates fainted not. This was the truth which they had discovered that gave them strength to not loose heart. It was all about the Resurrection. Was it not Paul's assurance that he too, even all them of like faith, would be raised from the dead just as was Christ? "Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you" (verse 4:14).
This is precisely what Paul lived for. This was his inner strength. This is what kept him going when everything around him seemed to be coming apart, when all of his troubles and distresses and persecutions appeared about ready to overcome him, he was renewed by his knowledge of the Resurrection. Thus, the things which were seen (from 4:18) which were temporary, was death, while the things which were not seen, which were eternal, was the Resurrection and all that it entailed, including the new heavens and the new earth.
Death is seen. It is a bleak and harsh reality as we consider our loved one, breathless, cold, pale and motionless lying there before us in his coffin. But the Resurrection is not seen, it is invisible, yet just as real, perhaps even more real, at least equally as real as death. Our loved one will hopefully be given a new body and the one already decaying before us will return to the ashes, from whence it came.
Though our outward man, our fleshly body begins to die from the day that we are born, yet the inward man, the new man, the new creation is being renewed and re-charged day by day. Everything that happens in life is for the purpose of teaching us something. Every affliction and tribulation is for the express purpose of achieving for us an eternal weight of glory. Thus, Paul instructed his readers not to dwell on physical things which seemed to burden them down, but rather to consider the eternal fruit which they produced.
This light affliction achieved for them not just glory, but "an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (RSV). Whether GOD sends this affliction, or whether it is the result of one's own failings, the end result can be the same, eternal glory.
Paul continued writing of this source of his strength into the fifth chapter of his letter, speaking of his earthly house being dissolved while his "house not made with hands" was eternal in the heavens (2 CORINTHIANS 5:1). He writes of being found either naked or clothed upon with this heavenly dwelling (5:2). Was he not alluding to being clothed in righteousness? Is this not the inward man which is being built one brick at a time, one stick at a time?
Then Paul closed this whole section with 5:10, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad". This I think states the case pretty conclusively. I don't see how any reader can doubt the meaning of Paul's plainly written words. If one chooses to learn obedience and live according to the truth of the word, then he will be clothed with righteousness. But on the other hand, if one chooses to live contrary to the word, to deceive and defraud his brother, than he shall receive the reward which he justly deserves.
- 2 CORINTHIANS 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
If one is in Christ, then he is becoming a new creation. He is beginning to think new thoughts, he is beginning to have new desires, new passions, new hopes. Our hearts are now becoming focused upon heavenly things, not earthly things. We are becoming spiritually minded rather than carnally minded. The old desires which formerly enslaved us are in our past and the new way is beginning to be spread out before us.
- 2 CORINTHIANS 7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
In scripture, spirit can refer to GOD's spirit or it may refer to man's spirit. In this epistle, see 2:13; 7:13; 11:4 and 12:18 where it refers to man's spirit.
The lesson which we would do well to take away from the above verse, is that as we cleanse ourselves from all filthiness or defilement, we are at the same time perfecting holiness. Isn't this the sum and substance of what we have been trying to display in this Study? We, as Christians are expected to cleanse ourselves.
We must not hang all of our hopes for resurrection on the assumption that because we have confessed Christ as our Lord and Savior and now regularly attend Church, that we have fulfilled what is required. We must become cleansed, we must learn to bathe ourselves. We should no longer be infants that need a sponge bath. We must jump in and vigorously apply the Lava soap where needs be. As we do that, we can have confidence that within, in the inner man, we shall become holy, godly and righteous. In this way we shall develop the spiritual fruit which shall sufficiently clothe us in the new heavens and in the new earth.
- 2 CORINTHIANS 13:9, 11 For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection [improvement].... Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
As Paul closed this wonderful epistle, he prayed for their improvement, their perfection. This must be referring to their perfection in this life, in their earthly body, with their present mind. As we have seen, believers are instructed in scripture to invest their time and energies to be perfect in this life, for after their resurrection GOD is not going to re-make them into some kind of saintly creature where they will not be able to think bad thoughts or have evil desires? If we are expected to be perfect now, it is no doubt because that is how we will find ourselves when we are resurrected.
Paul's short epistle to the Galatians also has much to teach and enlighten us concerning the struggle of the believer over his impulse to sin and the necessary fruit which GOD's expects each believer to produce.
- GALATIANS 5:13-26 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
- This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
- Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
- But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
These of Galatia had miss-thought, as it seems many Christians do even today, that their liberty as Christians meant that they could live as they please. Paul sought to correct this fatal error by declaring that a war was consistently being waged within the believer, between the flesh and the spirit. Liberty was only theirs if they chose to be led by the spirit.
On one side of the ledger are those who persist in doing these works of the flesh, for whom there is no inheritance in the kingdom of GOD. But on the other side of the ledger are those who, because they are willing to be led by the spirit of GOD, are therefore producing the fruit of the spirit. For these and evidently only for these, there is reserved an inheritance in GOD's kingdom.
Paul clearly taught that those choosing to be servants of the flesh shall not inherit the kingdom of GOD. And even further, if they are thus led, if they still choose to commit these works of the flesh, then they evidently do not even belong to Christ, they are not Christ's. And if so, if they were among those who called Yeshua "Lord, Lord", but then did not those things which He commanded, were they still going to be allowed into the kingdom of GOD? I don't see how.
Howbeit, if they persisted in these works of the flesh there, in the new heavens and in the new earth, then they no doubt were to be driven out, with tears and gnashing of teeth. But if one chooses to be led by the spirit, then they will be naturally producing the fruit of the spirit. These are the ones who genuinely belong to Christ. This is the fruit by which a true believer is recognized.
- GALATIANS 6:8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
What else does this passage tell us except that those whose lives are centered and absorbed with and by those works of the flesh reap only to themselves corruption. Their hearts are set on earthly treasures, they mind earthly things. But, on the other hand, those who learn to be led by the spirit, those being baptized by the spirit, then producing the fruit of the spirit, these and evidently only these, can expect to reap life everlasting.
- RSV GALATIANS 6:15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
This new creation is all about the mind of the individual being disciplined to obey the implanted word of GOD. Physical acts like circumcision mean absolutely nothing. Prayer mats, water baptisms, Bible Studies, these by themselves cut no mustard with GOD. The only things which really count is the fruit of the spirit which is produced by those who learn to obey GOD and be led by HIS spirit. This is a believer being created anew. This is GOD at work within us, making us ready for HIS kingdom. This is us being created all over again, as new creatures.
From Commentaries on Paul's epistle to the Romans has come much which only clouds and enshrouds this important subject concerning the believer's victory over sin and his overcoming the works of the flesh. By isolating various passages from their natural context, many preachers and teachers have inadvertently adulterated and corrupted many truths of Paul's letter. We trust that when the reader cuts himself loose from Church Traditions and honestly considers and ponders this epistle with his new perspective, that he will finally see it fit perfectly with the rest of scripture.
The more correct interpretation of ROMANS, along with all of the other Christian writings (New Testament), comes when the student rightly understands the true meaning of grace and faith. One might choose to consider the two Studies, The True Meaning of the Grace of GOD and Through Faith.
- RSV ROMANS 1:17 For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live."
If we want to live again, in GOD's kingdom, then we must become righteous. This is only accomplished by faith. But faith is not just some award or reward given for simply declaring publicly that we believe in Jesus, or GOD. Faith grows by each of us day after day reading, hearing and obeying those words of GOD. This transformation takes time to work. Fruit takes time to grow and must therefore be given that time.
- ROMANS 1:28-32 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
GOD gave them over, but HE did not necessarily give them up. HE let them run their own way, their own course, knowing that at some point they might turn and recognize their miserable state and awake to righteousness. Everyday as they were enslaved to the works of the flesh, they remained worthy of death; even though GOD may have suspended that sentence.
This is the course many of us also were following. But at some point, at some time, we awoke to a new way. We pulled out of our deadly spiral, we changed our hopeless trajectory of sinning and made the decision to try HIS way.
One of the keys which surely unlocks the door to our eventual resurrection, is that we begin to recognize HIS goodness. We notice, we consider and ponder the creation within which we live; we marvel at how we are wonderfully made. We recognize HIS hand in our deliverance, in our healing and in our awakening. This is to a great degree why GOD has made the world as HE has, to demonstrate HIS own glory, and power and righteousness. HIS creation majestically reflects HIS goodness, HIS omnipotence and HIS wisdom.
But for some reason or another, many people come slowly, even reluctantly to this realization. Paul continues,
- ROMANS 2:4-13 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
Some people choose to respond to GOD's goodness with heart felt repentance. Others seem to think little or nothing of HIS goodness and instead treasure up for themselves indignation, wrath, tribulation and anguish. These are not necessarily punishments from the hand of GOD, but rather the natural outcome of the lifestyle which the sinner had chosen.
The word tribulation carries with it the idea of affliction or distress from external pressures. Howbeit, some tribulations can produce favorable results and are even associated with being the believer's access into the kingdom of GOD (see MATTHEW 13:21 ACTS 14:22 ROMANS 5:3 2CORINTHIANS 1:8-9; 4:17 1THESSALONIANS 3:3 REVELATION 7:14). Thus, tribulations are not simply the penalty for an ungodly life, but rather they can be the natural growth and outcome from living life, which the saint and the sinner both experience.
The whole world is our classroom and every experience can be for our learning. The question is, do the troubles which confront each of us day by day, those troubles which can tend to box us in with seemingly no way out, do they cause us to reach out to our heavenly Father, or do they cause us to turn away from HIM? Do they lead us to repentance or do they lead us to impenitence? To obedience or to disobedience? To faithfulness or faithlessness?
- ROMANS 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified [made righteous] by faith without [apart from] the deeds of the law.
Paul came to understand that a man becomes righteous by faith, by hearing and obeying that which he has heard. All his life Paul had thought that righteousness came to man by his adherence to the Mosaic Law, but he eventually realized that righteousness was larger than what the Law could produce. He realized this when he saw the resurrected Yeshua on the road to Damascus. Being crucified, Yeshua was cursed according to the Mosaic Law, but the startling fact that He had been resurrected was irrefutable proof to Paul that Yeshua had been declared by GOD to be righteous.
Therefore, Paul realized that however Yeshua had accomplished His own righteousness, that was how it was to be done. No one else had ever been resurrected, and so Paul knew that Yeshua had discovered the key to righteousness and to resurrection. That key was faith. Not the faith which the Church today proclaims, a blind ignorant dumb faith, but the faith of Christ, a faith which comes from hearing and then obeying that which was heard, which is a profoundly different religion than the Church today proclaims.
- ROMANS 4:6-8 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without [apart from] works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
Is righteousness imputed apart from works? Evidently so, for that is what the verse plainly says. But with what kind of works are we dealing? Paul had just written that Abraham was not made righteous by works but by believing, yet doesn't believing necessitate obedience, an obedient response to some promise or command? James wrote that it did when he said that faith without works was dead (JAMES 2:17). The reader may wish to refer to the Study, The How of Believing.
Paul and James are in perfect agreement if we realize Paul's context here in ROMANS. He was confronting certain in the Church at Rome, some of whom were teaching that every convert must abide by the Mosaic Law in order to be saved (3:19-31) and Paul proclaimed that this is just not the case. Faith, apart from the works of the Law is how one is saved, but faith does not live in a vacuum. Faith is often born and grows out of good works because faith has its roots in our obedience to GOD.
It is not as if faith is on one side of the ledger where an individual only proclaims that he believes, while all works are on the other side of the ledger regardless of what kind of works they are. Rather, we have faith when we obey GOD, which more often then not requires some kind of action on our part. Howbeit, the works of which Paul spoke which were not producing righteousness in some of his readers, were carnal works which ignored and rejected the spirit of GOD. Faith was often described simply as faithfulness, faithfulness to carry out the will of GOD. This is what Abraham did, this is what David did, and this is what Yeshua did.
Paul's use in the above passage of a portion from David's psalm (PSALM 32) was not so as to describe a person who simply confesses Jesus as Lord and then has all of his sins automatically and instantly forgiven. When one goes back and reads this entire psalm, which many of Paul's original readers no doubt knew by heart, he will see with Paul that David was acknowledging the forgiven sins of one who is not deceitful and has genuinely acknowledged and confessed his sins and transgressions. GOD's mercy is not for the obdurate or impenitent, but rather for those who were endeavoring to learn to trust in the LORD, indeed, "Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart" (PSALM 32:11).
A sin or iniquity cannot be forgiven apart from the sinner acknowledging his sin. First he must repent, change his whole attitude and direction. He must become so sick of his sin that he is willing to loose anything to loose it. Here is a soul with which GOD can work. Here is one of a contrite heart. Here is one whom can now be forgiven, whose sins can finally be covered and erased. Here is a man finally beginning his journey along the long and winding road towards righteousness.
- ROMANS 4:25-5:1 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification [righteousness]. Therefore being justified [made righteous] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Faith is the process whereby we have come to realize that Yeshua actually died on the cross two thousand years ago; and further, that GOD Almighty raised Him from among the dead and seated Him at HIS own right hand. Coming to acknowledge this, we can each receive for ourselves forgiveness for our own sins and ultimately resurrection into HIS kingdom. No longer need we be at war with GOD, fighting HIM every step of the way, but now we are at peace, knowing that HE is on our side, working all things together for our good.
- ROMANS 5:21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
Adam disobeyed GOD and death, the end of life, entered into his world. Initially, one of his animals had to die as evidently a substitute sacrifice, from which skins for clothing to cover their nakedness were given to both him and Eve. Other of their livestock were then routinely sacrificed with Abel offering from the firstlings of his flock of sheep. Cain took death to its ultimate level when he murdered his own brother.
From the tragic occurrence of Abel's death, everyone no doubt came to realize that eventually they also were going to die and few probably conceived of a resurrection afterwards. Thus, sin reigned in death because what does it matter how we live our lives if we are all just going to end up dying anyway? But if there is indeed a resurrection, if there is a day and place of judgment with eternal consequences, then how we live our lives matter immensely.
Yeshua, the promised seed, was eventually born and grew up into manhood. Unlike Adam, He obeyed GOD to die. This was necessary so that GOD could raise Him from among the dead and others could therefore believe and know that GOD not only raised HIS Son but could resurrect them also. Hence, mankind no longer needed to fear death, nor disregard or discount the consequences of his own life, because now he could have confidence that GOD was going to some day raise him also from among the dead and reward him for how he chose to live his life.
Thus, now grace can reign through or by way of righteousness unto or towards eternal life. Grace is GOD's favour shown in some fashion. It may be words of exhortation and comfort or it might be a chance encounter with some person, book or other experience. Whatever the fashion, GOD's grace or favour is for the express purpose of the recipient becoming and remaining righteous. Thus, it only reigns if its object ends up becoming righteous. The final result of GOD's grace helping a person to become and remain righteous is for his own eternal life.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid....
Translators usually render this passage (ROMANS 6:1-2) so that it runs contrary to the rest of the epistle. By simply moving the question mark around where it suits them, they can radically change the meaning of Paul's statement. Knowing that the original text had no punctuation, we are not held fast by their rendering. The reader is responsible for himself to decide which if either was Paul's intent.
The principal question before us here, is, does GOD's grace abound towards an individual even though he sins, or, does GOD's grace abound towards an individual if and when he chooses not to sin? The entire chapter, indeed the whole epistle if not much of the entire Bible is a call to sin not. We obtain grace from GOD through our obedience to HIM, therefore, if we wish for grace to abound towards us, we must learn to not sin anymore.
That they were "baptized into His death" (6:3) means simply that just as He was willing to do anything, even die, so as to obey GOD, so they too must be willing to do whatever it requires so as to likewise obey GOD. In this way they could be cleansed from their sin and could now walk in newness of life (6:4).
- ROMANS 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is [was] crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
Looking forward to our own resurrection helps us to recognize that the old man within us has for all practical intents and purposes died with Christ. This hope that we shall someday be resurrected and stand before the throne of GOD, "Who will render to every man according to his deeds", helps and motivates us to see the body of sin de-activated. "Henceforth we should no longer sin."
"He that has died" (6:7) is he who realizes and has the mindset that apart from resurrection, all of life is pointless. All of man's desires and accomplishments for material things and carnal gains are absolutely futile and without purpose, apart from the resurrection. This awakening frees us from a desire to sin, a desire to envy or lust, of strife and of selfishness. Thus we can now have peace with GOD, no longer being at enmity with HIM, rendering "fruit unto GOD" and no longer "fruit unto death" (6:21-23).
This is what is expected of us, now. This is what GOD anticipates of our new lifestyle. HE does not see us as hopelessly enslaved to sin, but instead that our sinful impulse is to be rendered inoperative, inactive. Church Tradition would have us believe that we are incapable of overcoming our impulse to sin, and that we must routinely come to them and receive our forgiveness and absolution by taking communion, or some other sort of contrivance which they have invented so as to obtain our attendance and contributions to their causes.
Thus, within the Church we are never really free from our sin, and we are still held captive by it, still chained to the dungeon walls so to speak, with the prison priest or clergy stopping by on occasion to throw us a few crumbs to nibble on. This is really all that their communion service accomplishes for the attendee.
- ROMANS 6:11-14 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
Paul instructed his readers that sin no longer had dominion over them, and that if they were alive to GOD then they needed to be dead to sin. That was only going to become a reality if they were willing to yield themselves unto GOD instead of unto sin. The purpose of this yielding is that the Christian might become an instrument, a useful tool, for righteousness. We must learn to become righteous tools of GOD, otherwise we are of no use to HIM. We must become vessels unto honor, "meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work" (2 TIMOTHY 2:21).
One of the questions we hope to be answering in these pages is, Are Christians being fashioned as tools for the Master's use for this present life alone, or are we being prepared as instruments for that life which lies beyond the grave? This is that which is our ultimate quest to understand here.
- ROMANS 6:16-23 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
- I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
It is to a great degree dependant upon a conscious effort on our part. To whom or to what do we yield? Have we learned to obey the gospel or are we still at war with our Creator? Some readers may be anticipating the seventh chapter of ROMANS where many have misunderstood Paul's intention, thinking that he is saying that we are helpless and incapable to overcome our sin. We have examined that most enlightening chapter in the Study No Condemnation? and so will not need to take the time to re-handle it in this present paper.
"What fruit had ye then?" What fruit did we produced when we lived in sin? And what fruit will we come to produce as instruments of righteousness? The fruit of the one way is simply death and corruption, while the fruit of the other way is holiness and ultimately everlasting life.
True, eternal life is a gift from GOD, but gifts are usually handed out to those who have somehow shown themselves worthy. We ourselves are more likely to give gifts to those who will use them for the purpose to which they were intended, rather than give them to those who might carelessly toss them aside and discard them. Note Yeshua's parable of the Ten Pounds (LUKE 19) where those who wisely stewarded what was entrusted to them gained more, while he who failed to make proper use of the master's property was dealt with rather harshly.
It seems quite apparent that if one wants everlasting life, then he needs to become holy, he needs to produce the fruit of righteousness. Plainly then, sin's wage is death. But if we receive the gift of GOD, which to a great degree is HIS word, which is continually implanted within our hearts, then we have access to eternal life. To receive that word is to believe that word, to obey that word and see it eventually produce the fruit which the Master intends and desires.
- ROMANS 8:5-9 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
- So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
Thus, to be carnally minded is death, plain and simple. But is Paul speaking here of physical death and resurrection life? When we consider the very next occasion where Paul made mention of living and dying (8:13), yes I think that we can confidently affirm that he is indeed speaking of physical death and resurrection life. We should therefore do our utmost to train our minds to be led by the spirit so that we can acquire life and peace.
It further stands to reason from the passage quoted above, that if one is not minding the things of the spirit then he is evidently not Christ's. They who mind carnal things have not subjected themselves unto GOD. These are they who might find themselves baptized by fire rather than by the spirit, for they refuse to be subject unto the spirit. But those who learn to subject themselves to the spirit of GOD will just naturally develop the fruits of that spirit.
- ROMANS 8:12-14 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
Those who subject themselves unto the spirit of GOD are therefore readily led by GOD. These alone are able to develop the fruit of that spirit. Evidently, these alone have been adopted by GOD as HIS sons and daughters. But those who refuse to learn how not to sin, it seems will perish. Howbeit, those who discipline themselves to control their bodies and learn righteousness, shall live again.
- ROMANS 12:1-3 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world [aion, era]: but be ye transformed by the renewing [renovating] of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
- For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
This may be the most pronounced statement in the scriptures that the mind is meant to endure beyond the grave. Paul instructs them to not allow themselves to be conformed to that present era, but rather to be transformed. This word transformed is translated from the Greek word metamorphoo and has a meaning of being changed into another form, as with a moth to a butterfly. Our English word metamorphosis is related to it. This is the new creation, where the individual is being changed from the old man into the new man.
And how is it to be done? By renewing the mind, by renovating or remodeling the mind. This renewing of the mind is simply learning to control and direct one's thoughts to the will of GOD. It is being subject unto and led by GOD. This is done by merely changing the way in which we think. Changing our habits, training our minds to think HIS thoughts, to act and re-act in righteous ways. Thus, we are instructed to learn to think! Think what GOD would have us to think. This is the mind of Christ, these are the thoughts of Christ.
Howbeit, Paul also encouraged his readers to think not more highly than they ought to think. Each of us has a different measure of faith according to how much and what kind of grace (favor) from GOD we have received. That favor is given so that we might accomplish our given task which the Master has committed to our trust. To run smoothly, the household needs many different kinds of servants, but no single servant is any more distinguished than another. All are needful and necessary. There is no room for boastfulness here. No room to laud one person's faith over against another's.
- ROMANS 13:9-14 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
- And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
Thou shalt not, and thou shalt. It is about what we ourselves choose to do. We shall either lust or we shall love. Which we decide to do is what determines our armour. Are we to be clothed in righteousness or are we clothed in darkness? For Paul's readers, their day of judgment was at the very door. They were indeed on the threshold of a new and different era. In a few short years Christ was going to return and commence that dreadful day of judgment.
That day, the great day of GOD's wrath has now come and gone, but even so, for each of us there will come a day of judgment, a day when we each shall stand before Christ's throne either approved or disapproved; when we are found to be either vessels fit for the Master's use, or vessels flawed and useless.
- ROMANS 14:10-13 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
- So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
After resurrection, each person will either stand or fall as he gives the full account of his own life to GOD. Did we learn to obey the gospel or did we reject HIS words of grace? Did we repent or did we remain impenitent? There, before Christ's judgment seat, all men shall be equal. There will no longer be the rich and the poor, the weak and the powerful, the glamorous and the sickly. We shall each be stripped of our earthly adornments and find ourselves either clothed in white robes of righteousness or we shall be found naked, as were our first parents when they were discovered hiding amongst the trees of that garden, vainly attempting to cover their nakedness with fig leaves.
Let us now move on to Paul's most interesting letter to Titus and consider a couple of passages there.
- TITUS 2:11-14 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world [aion, era]; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
To what purpose does Paul remind Titus that they were to renounce ungodly and worldly desires and instead live soberly, righteously and godly? Because, Yeshua was purifying unto Himself a people who were zealous of good works. Our question continues, were they being instructed to live righteously in that present era so that it could all be forgotten and swept aside at their resurrection? Or were they to learn to live godly, so that at the resurrection they would already be prepared for the good works which awaited them in His kingdom? Is it not obvious that Yeshua was purifying unto Himself an earthly people who would after their resurrection be able to accomplish good works in His kingdom?
No doubt this purifying continues even now, still in this present era. We are still being taught, we are still being purified, we are still being made ready for that work in that kingdom, in the new heavens and in the new earth.
- TITUS 3:3-7 For we ourselves also were sometimes [at one time] foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
- But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have [had previously] done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
How did they change from being foolish, disobedient and deceived into being righteous? How was it that they were once serving lusts and pleasures, envy and hateful into being righteous? Surely not by the touch of some magic wand. Evidently the change came after their conscious decision to obey, to be obedient to the washing of regeneration (renovation or re-creation) and renewing of the holy spirit. What is this but the renewing of the mind, the new creation, the new man? They were made righteous, but not before they were washed and renewed. Thus they shall someday be made heirs in that new heaven and in that new earth.
- TITUS 3:14 And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.
Obviously we learn in our minds. But why? For what purpose and to what end? If in heaven we are all going to be magically changed into these godly righteous people, why are we instructed to learn to be so now? Of course, the simple reason is, because we need to learn obedience now. We need to become fruitful now. This is why GOD created this world as HE did, to give us all that we might need so as to learn HIS ways; so as to teach us how to love, how to forgive and how to act, righteously.
The fruit of the spirit is the by-product of us obeying the spirit. As we learn to live (and think) righteously, then we become molded unto godliness. When we are presented with a choice to go either left or right, to obey our own desires or follow where the spirit is leading, then we develop habits which eventually lead us in the direction we are bound for, which is either eternal life or eternal death.
Paul's three short letters to the Churches at Philippi, Colosse and Ephesus have an abundance of insight into our subject, to which we now turn.
- PHILIPPIANS 1:9-11 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
They were to be without offence till the Day of Christ, the Day of Judgment. Obviously, that would take some mental effort. They were going to have to make the conscious decision on a daily bases to not offend others. They were going to need to be, as much as lieth in them, sincere. The Greek word for sincere, heilikrines, means to be "found pure when unfolded and examined by the light of the sun". This was entirely the result of their love abounding, more and more.
As such, they would then be filled with the fruits of righteousness. What are these fruits of righteousness? When one faithfully lives in obedience to GOD, he grows into righteousness and subsequently will produce righteous fruit. This fruit which he then produces is the fruit of the spirit, which is brotherly love, inner joy and peace, longsuffering or patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self control. These are the treasures which the righteous believer will take with him into GOD's kingdom, so as to accomplish the work which awaits him there.
- PHILIPPIANS 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus....8-9 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.
Paul admonished his readers to let the mind or disposition, which was in Christ, to be in them also. They were instructed to think as He thought. They were to be humble as He was humble, during their earthly life. They were to be obedient as He was obedient, in their physical bodies. And then in the next life, in the kingdom of GOD, in the new heavens and in the new earth, they were no doubt to be exalted as He was exalted.
During His life on earth, He was a Man among men. He had it all together, being in perfect mind and body. Nothing seemed beyond His grasp. He could defy the physical laws of nature by walking on water, calming a storm and feeding thousands with a few fishes. He could heal any illness or disease, even raising those from their graves back to life. There is every reason to believe that He was even immortal, dying only if He chose to die.
So His decision to allow Himself to be nailed to that tree was not the same as it would have been for you or me. A decision like that for us would only be choosing to shorten our miserable lives, because we are all going to eventually die anyway. But for Him, the choice did not have to be made. He could have lived on indefinitely. But He looked beyond this world and this life. He trusted GOD to raise Him from among the dead. This was His faith in GOD. This is the faith we are instructed to imitate. His faith is our example, the template and pattern through which we are to be made righteous.
- PHILIPPIANS 3:15-21 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
- (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
- For our conversation [lifestyle] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
Evidently, those who persist in walking after the flesh are the enemies of the cross of Christ. This is because everything which Christ accomplished on the Cross, was in complete opposition to the desires of the flesh. To the senses, there was nothing wise or profitable accomplished by His crucifixion and death upon the Cross. To the senses, He threw away His young life for nothing. But the senses does not recognize the Resurrection, and it was the Resurrection which made His decision to allow Himself to be crucified the wisest choice any man had ever made. This to a great degree is what the faith of Christ entailed.
Thus, for those who persist in walking after the flesh, their end is destruction. Their god is their belly. Their glory is their shame. They mind earthly things. Here again are the two opposing forces over men's lives. Man is either being led by the spirit or he is being led by his carnal desires. They are either being obedient children of GOD or they are being children of disobedience. He is either producing the fruit of corruption or he is producing the fruit of the spirit.
We shall someday receive new bodies to accompany our renewed minds, but will those who still retain their old minds of corruption need new bodies? To what purpose if their end was only destruction? Is not GOD wanting today to prepare our minds for our new bodies, when both body and mind will be new in the new heavens and in the new earth? The new body is the prize which is to be awarded at the end of the race of which Paul referred to at the beginning of this section (verse 14). All may run but all do not receive a prize. So run that you may obtain.
- PHILIPPIANS 4:8-9 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
Thus they were to think! But think obediently, not disobediently. They were to think honestly, justly, purely and lovingly. Obviously they were then to be honest, just, pure and loving. But why? Why strive to discipline our minds to think this way, if (as many teach) when we all get to heaven, we are going to magically be made-over so as to have all these traits? No doubt, we will need to be found possessing these qualities when we finally arrive there, in His presence, in HIS kingdom, before HIS judgment seat.
This is indeed what the Day of Judgment is going to concern itself with; with what fruit we have developed; fruit unto GOD or fruit unto death (ROMANS 7:4-5). The Day of Judgment is for judging. It is not, as some teach, just a place for handing out rewards to all and any who show up. No, a thousand times no. It is where and when we and all, both the dead and the living, will be judged for how we all choose to live our lives now.
- RSV COLOSSIANS 1:9-10 And so, from the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
The reason for this knowledge and wisdom and understanding, is so that the believer might lead a life which is worthy of the LORD. Obviously, walking worthy of our calling is what pleases our Creator, because these good works are the very reason we were created anew (EPHESIANS 2:10). Thus, the good works which GOD inspires us to pursue and accomplish, are the vehicle by which we bear the fruit of the spirit.
- COLOSSIANS 1:21-23 And you, that were sometime [once] alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
- ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.
The big word in this passage is of course, if. Once alienated from GOD because of their wicked works, they were to be reconciled, they were to be holy and unblameable and unreproveable, but only if! If they continued in the faith. And if not? What then? If they returned to their old ways, the ways of their old man, what then? Obviously they were in danger of being alienated all over again.
It always begins in our minds that we become enemies, at enmity with GOD. But if we continue in the faith, producing the fruits of the spirit, then in HIS kingdom we can have confidence that we will be presented as holy, faultless and blameless.
- COLOSSIANS 1:28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.
The arena is the mind. The class room and the field trip is this life. One is only to be presented perfect there, in HIS kingdom, if here, in this present life, he heeds the warnings and teachings of scripture. If he learns his lessons here, then entrance there will be an easy task.
- COLOSSIANS 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
Here it is commanded as plainly and briefly as I think it can be stated. And why set our minds on things above now; now while we are still in these earthly bodies? Paul's explicit answer comes just two verses later.
- COLOSSIANS 3:4-10 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify [Put to death] therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: for which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: in the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
- But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
Put off all these now! Put them off now, in this life. Never are we told in scripture that we needn't be concerned with our sinning because someday, when we all get to heaven, GOD intends to wipe the slate clean. Rather, we are told that the slate needs to be wiped clean now. All of these earthly sins begin in the mind of the old man. But the believer is to put on the new man, in the mind, in one's thoughts and thinking and action. Hence it becomes the renewed mind, it becomes a new creation. Paul continues.
- COLOSSIANS 3:12-14 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
This is the mind we will need in our new bodies, in HIS kingdom, in the new heavens and in the new earth. GOD is not going to allow a bunch of pissed off people to remain HIS kingdom. Instead, HE seeks those who have learned to be holy, merciful, loving and forgiving. Christ is preparing a home for those who are kind, humble, meek and patient. Those who fail to produce the fruit of the spirit, shall no doubt receive the reward which they have earned.
- COLOSSIANS 3:25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
This is one verse which many who think that there will be no judgment would like to erase from their Bibles. He that doeth right shall receive for the right and he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong. The right and the wrong are done in this present life, in this earthly body. This is the training ground, this is where we learn to either obey GOD and are led by the spirit or where we continue impenitent, obdurate and remain enslaved to our sin.
Not that any of us have arrived at the completed faith which Yeshua attained, but that is our goal. That is to what we are instructed to reach out and strive for. That is what we are to seek after. Our treasures are to be there, not here. There may be further molding and polishing of our natures there, but we are not told that in Scripture. We are only told that we must become perfect now.
- EPHESIANS 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.
Before, in times past, before they learned to be led by the spirit of GOD, these believers lived and thought carnally, along with everybody else. Similar to a sport's fan at some stadium or arena, they were lathered up with enthusiasm for they knew not what. They moved and ran with the crowd, with the herd, with the other children of disobedience. They were what we might call fanatics.
Today, practically everyone seems to live for the weekend, to seek after the pleasures and treasures of the flesh. They are attracted to the sportiest car, the most prestigious house, the most leisurely job. Few have room in their busy schedules and troubled lives for the word of GOD. Few seem to be laying up for themselves treasures in heaven. Few seem to be willing to count all physical treasures and pleasures as dung.
Howbeit, all earthly accomplishments will someday be wiped clean as with an eraser on a chalkboard, and then a new list of accomplishments will be itemized. What are you now? or What have you become? or What have you made from the life I gave You? might be what we are asked then, as we stand naked and small before HIS throne. This is a serious business with which we are concerned. Each reader should take it to heart and consider deeply scripture's message.
- EPHESIANS 4:17-24 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
- But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation [lifestyle of] the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Our former walk, which was at enmity with GOD, a walk against the spirit of GOD, was a lifestyle of disobedience. Our understanding was darkened because of our ignorance and blindness. Thus we gave ourselves up, and GOD gave ourselves up, to the works of the flesh. But by some miracle we finally responded to GOD's grace and goodness, and began our transformation from the corruption of the old man to the righteousness and holiness of the new man. Thus we began to learn how to become followers of GOD.
- EPHESIANS 5:1-8 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
- For this ye know, that no whoremonger [fornicator], nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes [once] darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.
Once again Paul reminds his readers that no idolater who is in bondage to the works of the flesh, has any inheritance in GOD's kingdom. "Let no man deceive you with vain words!" It is truly unfortunate that the English word describing Christ's love for us is the same word describing a fornicator's passion for his lover. How clouded and distorted for a young man or woman to think of their own sexual desires as love.
In its proper place, sexual desires are no worse or better than any other desire, but to think of them as love has shipwrecked many a life. A young couple believes themselves to be in love, or perhaps to have fallen out of love, but these have nothing at all to do with real love. A person may think that he is making love to his partner, but real love is not there. Sexual passion or emotional dependence is more often than not confused with real love.
Some young girl may swear that she loves some new and exciting boy she just met, willing to give herself up completely to him; yet in the end we often see that she was left worse off than before they ever met. This is not true love. True love isn't aroused by physical desires. True love doesn't vanish just because our expectations are shattered. The primary reason that this is not keenly and universally realized today is because someone, somewhere, decided to use the single word love, to describe two or more entirely different things. It is as if the enemy of all righteousness has somehow shrouded himself with this word love.
To break free from this shackle, to unmask this enslaver, we must sharply define from scripture just what true love is, and then we must measure all that calls itself love by this new standard. It will probably never happen in this world, but it can happen in our own lives. We can each learn to measure our own thoughts by this rule and therefore, for ourselves at least, avoid a lot of needless heartache.
Paul cautions his readers to not be partakers with these who are children of disobedience. Rather than an inheritance, what exactly was awaiting those who followed not after GOD but instead after the works of the flesh? What awaited them is the wrath of GOD. But what awaits the children of light? If GOD's adopted children decide to follow after and attach themselves to the children of disobedience, what awaits them then? If they fellowship with the works of darkness, what is their end then? Were they still to be saved from the wrath to come? According to HEBREWS 4:11 there is indeed a real possibility that they too shall fall.
Next let us take up a couple of enlightening passages from another of Paul's letters to Timothy.
- 2 TIMOTHY 2:16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.
Paul had formerly instructed Timothy to train himself to be godly, to earnestly endeavour to acquire godliness (1 TIMOTHY 4:7). Now he is further instructed to shun and avoid vain babblings because these lead to ungodliness. If we end up at GOD's throne as either godly or ungodly, it will be the direct result of the decisions we have chosen to make in this present life.
- 2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Everything about this passage concerns our topic, which is the molding and perfecting of the mind of the believer. Scripture, inspiration, doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness are all included so that the mind of man can be perfect, throughly furnished, throughly prepared for any eventuality. It is ludicrous to think and teach that all of this training and perfecting has nothing whatever to do with the life which is after this one.
Are we to believe that after having been told on countless occasions that we are to discipline and train our minds to think the thoughts of Christ, that then after we die, that we are all going to just be given some cloud to set upon for eternity, smoking fifty cent cigars and with no more to do than regularly adjusting our crowns?
Surely not! Surely GOD has some grand purpose awaiting us in the next life. Surely we will need, so as to accomplish that purpose, all of the disciplines, compassions and patience which we have trained ourselves to acquire in this present life. Obviously, GOD is at work within us now, molding and forming, steeling and polishing HIS new creations, perfecting us for future service, in HIS kingdom.
In the following verse from the book of ACTS, Paul recounts to the king Agrippa how he conducted himself after his own conversion.
- ACTS 26:20 But [I] shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
After his conversion, Paul had showed others the way into the kingdom of GOD. The first step was to repent. Thus they had to admit their error, their failing, their falling, as he himself had. Then, with humbleness of mind, they needed to turn from their former ways, the ways of the world or their former religion, unto GOD. Now, their lives were no longer to be consumed by earthly pleasures and treasures, nor even by religious pursuits, but rather by a search to know their Creator. Finally, they were to demonstrate their new heart, their renewed mind, by doing, doing works of righteousness, works of faith, works of the spirit.
Let us now consider one of the apostle Peter's epistles where we shall find clear and ample evidence of this theme we are considering.
- 2 PETER 1:2-11 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
- And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
- For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old [former] sins.
- Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Grace and peace, life and godliness, all are given through one's "precise and correct knowledge" of GOD. We gain all of these spiritual qualities through our mental disciplines. But to what purpose? That we might be partakers of GOD's divine nature. But why all the bother? If we are each going to get new hearts and new minds at the resurrection (as many teach), why expend all of the effort now to try to know GOD and then to attempt to rid ourselves of worldly lust?
Because it is now that our minds need to be renewed. Now is when we need to learn obedience and escape corruption. Now is when we need to add to our faith virtue, and to our virtue knowledge, and to knowledge self control and to our self control endurance. To this Peter then instructs his readers to add unto themselves godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness and to this, love.
Peter then makes the profound statement that, if these things be in them, and abound, then they shall be neither barren nor unfruitful. Howbeit, it only stands to reason that if these things be not in them, then they surely will be barren, unfruitful and blind.
Wherefore brethren, he writes, give diligence to these things, for by this way one finds the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior. By disciplining our minds to think righteously, by funneling our energies to put on the mind of Christ, by renewing our minds to the will of GOD, these are the ways we obtain entrance into His kingdom. Evidently, in that kingdom we are going to need the minds we are instructed to develop in the here and now.
- 2 PETER 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
GOD is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance". Much of GOD's efforts and energies are spent on persuading mankind to repent. But why? Why is it so important that we repent? If in the new heavens and in the new earth we are going to be made over and made anew (as many teach), then why are we so often told in Scripture that we must repent and change our ways? Is it not because that in HIS kingdom we will need to remember and know all that this life has taught us? Won't we need to know how sin corrupts, and what true repentance required, and what overcoming that sin entailed and meant?
- 2 PETER 3:13-14 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
This is perhaps why many of us have wished for heaven; we all want to go to heaven, because there, there are no tears nor sadness. There we think that we will live forever in some sort of utopia or paradise. Howbeit, the only factor we may have failed to consider, is that we might not be allowed in if we have failed to develop within ourselves the fruit of the spirit. Then, there would be the tears and gnashing of teeth of which Yeshua referred.
In the new heavens and in the new earth only righteousness dwells, not sin. Realizing this, Peter again warned and instructed his readers to diligently do whatever it took to be found spotless and blameless. They needed first to repent and then turn from their sin. They must learn to build their lives upon the word of GOD and be led by the spirit. They must drink in doctrine, they must swallow down reproof and they must readily accept correction. Indeed, they must learn to be righteous and in course, they must develop the fruit of the spirit.
Next we come to a few very important and enlightening passages where the apostle John instructed and encouraged his readers to learn to obey GOD.
- 1 JOHN 2:5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
John's instruction to keep His word, obviously means to keep it in one's mind, to think about it, to meditate upon it, hence to obey it. This is nothing other than the doctrine, reproof and correction of which Paul wrote of in one of his letters to Timothy. But what happens then? What happens to the one who does mediate upon Christ's words? According to John, the love of GOD is then perfected within him. All of this the believer is to do in this present life, so that when he enters into the new heavens and into the new earth, that then the love of GOD has already been perfected within him.
- 1 JOHN 2:15-17 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
Who abides forever? While the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life all pass away, who abides forever? Only him who does the will of GOD. And what is the will of GOD? That we love not the world nor the things which are in the world. We must seek for things which are above, we must lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, we must fight the good fight of faith, we must press towards the mark for the heavenly prize. In this way the love of the Father develops within us.
- 1 JOHN 3:4-6 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.
Many suppose that Christ's coming and resurrection somehow released each Christian from all responsibility for his sins. They conclude that because we are supposedly such weak and miserable creatures, and we could not overcome or rise above our sins, that Christ then just nailed them to His cross, or He carried them into heaven with Him, or perhaps He did something else with them.
Howbeit, the consequences of our sins are not so easily swept aside. From the passage above we can know that whosoever sins, does not abide in Christ, neither has he seen Him, nor does he even know Him. Each Christian is responsible to personally deal with his sins and indeed decimate them. GOD has given us everything we might need to slay the monster, but it is still up to us to unsheathe the sword of the spirit and do the necessary deed.
Contrary to what many teach, sin does not have a death grip on us. We are not under the spell of sin and powerless to resist it. Indeed, the ever presence of the temptation to sin is necessary so as to give us something to overcome, something to help build within us the character of the new man.
Any weight lifter knows that resistance helps to build and develop his muscles. So it is with the spiritual athlete. Everything that happens in life is for the purpose of teaching us something, for the purpose of helping us develop into athletes of the spirit, producing fruit of the spirit.
- 1 JOHN 4:12 ....If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
If they loved one another now, in this present life, then in this life GOD would dwell in them and HIS love was thereby perfected in them.
Yeshua had promised His disciples that the Father was going to give them a spirit of truth which was to remain and abide with them forever. Howbeit, Yeshua noted that the world was not able to receive this spirit of truth because they failed to notice, consider or pay close attention to it. The wording of the passage suggests a scene where one spectator is attentively watching some sport's activity while another is perhaps eying the cheerleaders or some other distraction on the sidelines (JOHN 14:16-17). Thus, if we want to benefit from this spirit of truth, then we must be active participants in the contest.
- 1 JOHN 4:17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
The word boldness is defined as cheerful courage. The only way one can be expected to posses cheerful courage on that crucial day of judgment, is if he has previously been made perfect. This perfection comes from GOD's spirit at work within the believer. That perfection is achieved by day after day adhering to GOD's word, and thereby being led by HIS spirit. Perfection is accomplished by receiving the doctrine, reproof and correction from the spirit of truth.
Let us consider Peter's other epistle also, where he again develops and expands this necessity for the saint to experience the trials and tribulations of life, that he may become holy.
- 1 PETER1:7-9 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
It seems all pretty cut and dried. The trial of their faith was all that which they were having to deal with in this present life. It was in this life that they were to develop themselves into righteous, godly, holy servants. Then, at the resurrection they would receive the salvation of their souls.
- 1 PETER 1:13-17 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written,
- Be ye holy; for I am holy.
- And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.
Peter gives us an incredible amount of insight here into the purpose of life. He instructs his readers to be sober minded now, no longer formed by their former lust, but rather they were to become holy as they obey their heavenly Father. This was how they were to pass the time of their sojourning in this life, not living in sin but by living by faith and producing the fruit of the spirit. Thus, they were to awake to the seriousness of their present lives.
Our time here on planet earth is not intended to be just a pleasure cruise, but rather a time for learning, a time for developing ourselves into the kind of vessels GOD has called us to be. At HIS judgment seat all of HIS vessels will be inspected to discover if they have any imperfections or flaws. Let us do our best to become perfect vessels that we might be found worthy to remain in HIS kingdom. It is indeed a serious business with which we deal.
- 1 PETER 1:22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.
The truth is to be obeyed now in this life. This is how our souls are then purified. We can't expect to live as we please, disregarding or half-heartedly obeying the truth, and then think that somehow it will all be overlooked and forgotten when we enter into HIS kingdom. If that was indeed the case, then why on earth are we ceaselessly told in scripture to obey the truth now, that we might then in resurrection be accepted? So much, if not everything hinges upon how we live this life, how we learn to obey HIS word, how we learn to love each other in the here and now.
- 1 PETER 4:1-2 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.
Eleven times is the Greek word which is translated suffered used in this short epistle. Thus to fully understand what Peter was trying to communicate here, we would do well to look at the other occasions where he used this word (2:19-23; 3:14-18; 4:1, 15, 19; 5:10).
There are two kinds of suffering. One is to suffer for the wrongs we have done, thus deserving what we get. The other suffering is from that which we don't deserve, being therefore unjustly treated. How does one react when handled unfairly? How does one respond when he is persecuted unjustly? Christ suffered unfairly yet He patiently endured. He was well aware that if it was GOD's intent, He could have been delivered from His unjust persecutors in an instant. Thus He succumbed and endured even unto the death of the cross.
We should remember that no one before Him had ever been resurrected (though some had been resuscitated), so His obedience to allow Himself to be crucified was grounded in absolute faith. If there had been sin in His life, He might not have been confident in His own resurrection and may very possibly have faltered. Peter encouraged his readers to arm themselves also with this knowledge. If they were to be able to live according to the will of GOD, then they must cease from living according to the lusts of men.
A vital key in accomplishing this feat, is to embrace whatever life sends our way. We must learn to roll with the punches, we must learn to flex and bow and bend as does a mighty tree in the wind. It is only a dead tree that stands seemingly firm and inflexible. If we are able to smile in the face of adversity, to patiently endure in times of uncertainty, then we are well on our way to gaining entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Next we turn to the epistle of HEBREWS. This epistle was most probable written to believers on the very eve of Yeshua's return. Some of them were tempted and pressured by their fellow Jews to fall away from the new faith and return to their former religion, the old Judaism. The writer thus warns and encourages them to endure and persevere so as to be found worthy of GOD's kingdom.
Though that day of judgment has come and gone, and though those believers which were found faithful have no doubt already been gathered together into HIS kingdom, this epistle still holds many truths for us today. How they were directed to live and conduct their lives, we likewise should imitate and follow. Many of the things which they were told to take heed of and others which they were told to avoid, we also should take note of. Though not specifically written to us, it still has volumes to teach us.
- HEBREWS 2:1-3 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip [drift away from them]. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.
As we read in this epistle, we would do well to continually keep in mind that HEBREWS was written to believers, warning them of the rapid approach of Christ's return and the Day of His Judgment, admonishing them to remain faithful and stand fast as the world around them began to fall apart. These were Jewish Christians, some of whom no doubt had been taught by the apostles themselves, and yet they are cautioned against drifting away from that which they had learned. Rather than to have drifted away from the truth, it would be better for them to get their oars in the water, so to speak, and rigorously fight the good fight of faith.
Again, many things concerning this and other passages in this epistle had to do with directing one's own mind. They were to bear in mind the things which they had heard, the word spoken by angels and that spoken by the Lord. We are left with no other understanding than that what our minds hold onto, that which we earnestly heed, this is what is going to make all the difference as to what kind of fruit we produce, and to where we end up.
- HEBREWS 2:10 For it became him [Yeshua], for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Even Yeshua Himself had to learn to be perfect. He had to experience life's trials and tribulations as each of us likewise require so as to help us learn that which GOD desires. Yeshua had to find out for Himself who He was, what was His calling and what His Father expected from Him. He had to figure out life. He had to learn to trust GOD and He had to learn to reject many Church Traditions which were readily accepted by His peers. Indeed, He had to learn obedience.
- HEBREWS 5:8-9 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.
Yeshua is the captain and author of eternal salvation. And how did He become thus? By learning obedience to the spirit of GOD. His experiences brought Him occasions where He was given choices to go right or left. His choices taught Him how to obey GOD and thereby become perfect. But He didn't learn obedience so that we could live disobediently; rather He was made perfect that He might teach us also the way into eternal salvation, which is obedience.
- HEBREWS 6:7-8 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
Even nature itself teaches us this great truth. As like rain, GOD's blessings are sprinkled over mankind throughout the entire globe. Some people go on to produce the fruit of the spirit while others seem to produce only thorns and thistles. Some men learn to become righteous while others learn not and therefore remain un-righteous. Therefore, at the time of harvest, some will be gathered into GOD's grainery while the others will evidently be destroyed.
- HEBREWS 10:26-27 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
This knowledge of the truth is first to be put into our minds. Then we are to learn to obey that truth rather than our worldly desires. Having done this we need not fear the judgment. But if we instead drift away from the truth, if we fall back into our old ways, those desires of the old man, and forget what we should have learned, then we can expect something other than a pat on the back. As Peter wrote, "For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them" (2 PETER 2:22).
- HEBREWS 12:5-11 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children,
- My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
- If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
- Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
- Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised [trained] thereby.
So much is said and revealed to us in this most interesting chapter. First, that the LORD does indeed chasten or instruct HIS sons, and second that HE instructs them because HE loves them. And further, we are told that if one is willing to be subject unto this chastening of the LORD, then he shall live, obviously live again, eternally. And even further we are told that this chastening is for the purpose of the believer becoming holy. And still further and perhaps the most significant, is that afterwards, after one subjects himself unto this chastening, that then, the fruit of righteousness is yielded.
It goes without saying that all of this chastening must be occurring in this present life, and that this present life's chastening is that which produces holiness. A believer is not made holy or righteous by being touched with a magic wand sometime after he gets to heaven. Rather, he must evidently be made holy and righteous here so that after resurrection there is a place for him there.
- RSV HEBREWS 12:14 Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Thus, without first becoming holy, no one can expect to see the LORD. GOD is not going to let a bunch of pissed off people remain in HIS kingdom. No doubt, everyone there will be loving, and righteous and godly because they first learned how to be so here in this present life.
This same message is driven home so often, time and again, that one wonders how the Church could have gotten it all so wrong for so long. Surely they would not have turned a blind eye to these truths so as to keep tethered their subjects to their coffers? We can only wonder. Because of the failure of the Church to acknowledge and teach these truths, countless generations of Christians have become retarded in their growth; they have crawled back to their blanket to contentedly suck their thumbs: all the while the spirit of truth has earnestly beckoned them to grow up, to stand and walk, to run and dance free as the wind.
- HEBREWS 12:25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven.
The Greek word paraiteomai, which has been translated here in the King James Version by the phrase that ye refuse, actually has the meaning of asking to have one near, or entreating someone to walk along with you. Thus in this passage, the reader is told to not forbid or prevent the one who speaks from joining with him in his travels. An incident which comes to mind is when Yeshua joined and then conversed with the two disciples as they walked along the road to Emmaus. When He first drew near, they were sad and bewildered because of the recent events. Yet after their brief conversation together, it was written that they were so thrilled with wonder and excitement, that their hearts burned within them.
Over the course of our journey through life, we also need someone there with us, someone teaching us and reminding us of that which we have already been taught. This we expect is the Comforter, the parakletos, the spirit of truth of which Yeshua alluded to after the Last Supper with His disciples. Everything that happens in life is for the purpose of teaching us something. We are not in this alone. It is GOD's desire that HIS children come to know and understand the truth. It is HIS desire that we become holy, and righteous and perfect.
Our final portion of scripture to consider is the book entitled REVELATION, which even though depicts events that came to pass almost two thousand years ago, still has much to teach us today about gaining entrance into HIS kingdom.
- REVELATION 1:3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
The time which was at hand was the Day of Judgment. It was the Day of GOD's Judgment, the Day of Christ's return, which was fast upon them. As these readers of John's vision approached that ever nearing day, they were instructed to keep or attend carefully that which was written therein, no doubt, as the following verses testify, so that they might overcome. As we shall learn, this can mean nothing other than that they were to be victorious in their struggle to become sinless, to overcome and break free from the shackles of sin which had once held them fast to the dungeon wall.
- REVELATION 2:5-7 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
How were they to overcome? Obviously by remembering and repenting and then doing. So also us. If we are to overcome our sin, our weakness, then we must earnestly repent and learn to do, do that which the scripture commands us to do. Lie not, envy not, lust not. Indeed, we must learn to love GOD with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and then to love our neighbor as ourselves. We must learn to forgive, we must learn to give.
- REVELATION 2:10-11 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; he that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
It should be the second death with which we are to concern ourselves. From the first death there is resurrection but evidently not from the second death. The second death is the permanent one. None of us are getting out of here alive, but sometime after death each will be resurrected for the purpose of being judged for how we conducted ourselves during our earthly life (HEBREWS 9:27). If found worthy, we will be given the crown of life. But if not, if for some reason we are found unworthy, then we may very well die the second death.
- REVELATION 2:17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
Again, it was to them that overcame. To overcome meant to be victorious, to conquer. But not to conquer an enemy from without, but rather to conquer the enemy from within. They needed to learn to conquer themselves, their old nature, their old man. The new man needed to reign supreme. Sin's dominion over the believer needed to be turned back upon itself. Rather than yielding to sin he must needs yield to righteousness.
- REVELATION 2:26-27 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
Those who were going to someday judge and rule the multitudes had to first learn to rule themselves. This is precisely what the present life is all about, learning to rule oneself, one's own lusts, one's own desires. GOD's sons are being made ready, made fit to rule. As the son of nobility, he is no doubt being groomed for his eventual responsibilities in the new heavens and in the new earth.
- REVELATION 3:5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
This white raiment is nothing else but righteousness. He that overcame had learned to be righteous and his righteousness clothed him as a white robe (see REVELATION 19:8). This book of life from John's vision is the book wherein are listed the names of all those who have had their sins erased (see EXODUS 32:32-33). Howbeit, evidently some names which had been written there are to be blotted out, white washed or erased. Names which were of those who were at one time to be included in the resurrection, were unfortunately now to be removed from the list.
- REVELATION 3:11-12 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
One is able to overcome only by his own endeavor, by his own desire. We may have help to overcome, but we are only personally overcoming if we ourselves are leading the charge. This overcoming is not accomplished by a passive participation. One must actively hold fast, he must by an inner strength kick out sin and then yield to the holy spirit. He must learn obedience. This is the purpose of life. Those who do in fact succeed in overcoming are the living stones which are built into the spiritual house (1 PETER 2:5), the holy temple, even the very habitation of GOD (EPHESIANS 2:20-22).
- REVELATION 3:21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
Yeshua overcame! He was not born GOD, but He was born a man and had to Himself learn to overcome the temptation to sin, He had to learn obedience. Thus, He has been made the chief cornerstone of the archway, even the foundation stone in the temple of GOD. GOD is even now building HIS temple with righteous stones, not those wavering fickle stones which are here today and gone tomorrow. HE is not going to build with stones which crumble under pressure, but rather those which have been put to the test and approved, fired by the pressures of life, made clean by the baptism of the holy spirit.
- RSV REVELATION 14:12-13 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth." "Blessed indeed," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!"
Their deeds follow them! What else can this mean except that whatsoever they chose to do while on earth, those deeds were going to be recalled in the next life, much like a wake behind a speed boat. As we shall read a little further down, when the books are opened, then every man will be judged according to those works.
- REVELATION 19:8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
Thus we have it that one is clothed in fine linen, clean and white, according to his righteousness. This is no doubt why the man at the wedding feast recorded in MATTHEW 22 was cast out into outer darkness. Lacking righteousness he had no place in GOD's kingdom. Obviously this righteousness is not instantly given to an individual with the touch of GOD's magic wand. It results from some effort, some endeavor on the part of him to whom it is given. Evidently as an evidence of his victory over sin, his having overcome the old man, his having learned to obey GOD.
- REVELATION 19:14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
Yeshua's armies are those who had already learned obedience, they had become clean through Yeshua's baptism, either by fire (the trials of life) or by holy spirit (the words of truth). Evidently Yeshua was going to need soldiers and servants in His Father's kingdom. These must be righteous, not envious or jealous or selfish. These are the true disciples.
- REVELATION 20:12-13 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
The dead were to be judged according to what they had done in life while on earth, their former life. Now that they had been resurrected, it was to be discovered if they had overcome, if they had attained righteousness, whether or not they were to be clothed in linen, white and clean.
It would not be just or right for GOD to judge without some bases upon which to found HIS verdict. Thus, HE allows us to go through life living as we please, but always keeping good records of our successes and failures. When the books are finally opened, then no doubt the great cloud of witnesses will be assembled to give their testimony (HEBREWS 12:1).
- REVELATION 21:7-8 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
He that had learned to overcome his own sin, he was to be adopted into the son-ship of GOD and then receive his inheritance. He that did not learn to overcome, he that neglected or rejected that word of truth, evidently was to be destroyed by the second death.
- REVELATION 21:27 And there shall in no wise enter into it [the heavenly Jerusalem] any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.
GOD is not going to allow any pissed off people to remain in HIS kingdom. HE is not going to allow people who have not learned to love their neighbor, who are vengeful, spiteful and scornful, to dwell there. Only those who have overcome, those who possess the fruit of the spirit, these are going to make up the kingdom of GOD, these are going to be the residents of the New Jerusalem, within the new heavens and upon the new earth.
- REVELATION 22:11-15 He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.
- And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
- Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
This aspect of John's revelation was so near the appointed time of Christ's return that it was practically too late for any to change their ways. If they were then unjust, they would probably be unjust at His coming. If they were still filthy, then there was probably not time to make them clean. But if they had learned to be holy and righteous, then they would no doubt be holy and righteous at Christ's return.
But each and every man was to be awarded according to what he had become in this present life. They which had chosen to obey His commandments, to them was to be given access to the tree of life. They were to no doubt enjoy the wondrous experience of walking up to and through those pearly gates. As they entered into HIS eternal kingdom, they were to know that they had finally arrived. Though many had been called to enter, only a portion of those who were called were found worthy.